Friday, February 28, 2014

This Week's Snippets

This has been a very quiet week.  The Husband left for a business trip on Monday, returning late on Thursday night, which meant that I had the house all to myself for most of four whole days!  

I spent the mornings at the sewing machine, trying to design a better mousetrap ... i.e., a custom designed doggie-carrying sling bag.  This is Version #4, which I finished this morning, and it is almost perfect.

The design is based on a bag that I bought at a local dog boutique a few weeks ago.  That bag was okay, but it needed to be a bit deeper to hold Winnie in more securely, with a better system to adjust the strap, and pockets for change purse, cell phone, etc.  As you can see from the photo above, taken in the mirror on the wall beside our front door, this bag meets with Winnie's approval.  She's completely relaxed and happy in there, and I can't wait to get out and give it a real 'road test'.

I brought my sewing machine downstairs and have been sewing at the dining table, instead of upstairs in my sewing room.  The windows in the dining room face west and south and the light in here is really good.  The sunshine today was very much appreciated as I worked, because the outside temperature has been below freezing all day.  Dorothy was soaking it in, too.

That shoebox has been on the windowsill for at least two years.  Dorothy claimed it when I unloaded the shoes that came in it.  She is in there at least part of most every day, and I don't have the heart to get rid of it.  At least it's plain brown and sort of blends in and isn't TOO obvious.

We had the weirdest snow storms on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Each morning, it was snowing when I woke up ... and the snow continued till around noon, amounting to a little over an inch each day.  Then the sun came out and all of the snow was melted and gone by dinnertime.  Both days.  

This photo was taken on Tuesday, and the view was exactly the same on Wednesday.

We had what could have been a very scary thing happen when I was in the backyard with the dogs after they had their dinner on Thursday evening.  Ruby was off sniffing stuff, probably trying to find rabbit poop for dessert, and I was following Winnie as she trotted just ahead of me looking for the perfect spot for her 'business'.  Out of nowhere, a Bald Eagle did a low fly-by over the yard, probably checking out the situation and deciding whether to attempt to have Chihuahua for dinner.  Winnie must not have been easy enough pickings with me right there, and the eagle continued on its way.  I have never and would never leave Winnie outside by herself, and this was a reminder of a big reason why this is important.

I caught this photo of Winnie earlier today, all folded up in a fleece blanket on her dog bed.

Winnie has been here for five weeks now ... such a short time according to the calendar, but I can't imagine the place without her now.  Hard to comprehend how I have fallen head-over-heels for this little dog.  Me?  I'm a big dog person ... or so I thought.  Winnie is a big dog in a tiny body, so it's all good.  No matter what her size, she is perfect for us.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pattern For Winnie's Tiny Knitted Dog Sweater

Chihuahuas like Winnie, and many other toy dogs, get cold and can need a bit of help to stay warm when it's chilly.  

This is Winnie, in her sweater that is the subject of this post.

When we adopted Winnie last month, it was cold and snowing.  While she was at the rescue and being treated for her many ailments at the time, the vet needed to get a better look at her skin and he shaved her back  in order to do that ... making it that much more important to keep her covered and warm.  (You've already seen how I made her first sweater out of a boot sock from my orphan sock pile.)

Within the first couple of weeks that she was here, I hit the clearance rack at PetsMart and bought her a wardrobe of 'house sweaters' for everyday wear (size extra small, of course).  For times when she needs to be a bit warmer, I wanted to knit her some sweaters.  Finding a pattern to fit a dog her size proved to be challenging.

Winnie is a very, very tiny dog.  She weighs four pounds, give or take a couple of tenths.  Her chest circumference is 11 inches and she measures approximately 9 inches from her shoulders to the base of her tail.  I found a lot of patterns for dog sweaters on Ravelry and Etsy that I could buy ... but I wasn't willing to risk the money on a pattern that may or may not turn out to be suitable.  I wanted a free pattern, so I wasn't out anything but some wasted time if it wasn't right for her.

I finally found THIS pattern, which looked like it would work.  The shape and size seemed to be right, but the published version of the sweater has a very complicated pattern of bones and biscuits (and something that they called Moss Stitch) knit into it ... I figured that I could eliminate that stuff and work with the basic directions to design my own sweater pattern for Winnie.

For those of you who are looking for a fairly simple pattern to fit a tiny dog, I offer you the one that I devised .... reshaping my inspiration pattern a bit and reworking some of the directions.  Because of the shaping and use of double-pointed needles, this is not a pattern for a true beginner.  If you have some knitting experience and can work basic stitches, understand knitting terms, and think for yourself, this may be the pattern for you.

Winnie’s Tiny Sweater

Soft worsted-weight yarn (this example uses Hobby Lobby's "I Love This Yarn" in 'Gelato')
Knitting needles, size 6 and size 7
Set of 5 double-pointed needles, size 6


With smaller needles, cast on 42 sts.
Work ribbing of your choice for 3” (either k1 p1 or k2 p2)
Change to larger needles
K one row.  Increase 6 stitches evenly across this row.
P one row. 

The remainder of the body of the sweater is worked in K2 P1 ribbing.  The ribs give the sweater a lot of stretch and allow it to conform to the body better than something like stockinette stitch would.  Keep to pattern through all of the increases and decreases that follow.

Increase 1 stitch at EACH end of the next 3 rows.
Increase 1 stitch at the beginning of the following rows until you have 62 sts on your needle.
Work 3 rows even in pattern.

Leg Openings:
1st row, right side:  Work first 5 stitches.  Cast off next 4 stitches.  Work in pattern across 44 stitches.  Cast off next 4 stitches.  Work final 5 stitches.
Work in pattern till sweater measures 1 inch from cast off stitches, working all three leg sections at the same time, using a separate piece of yarn for each section.
Joining row:  Work 5 stitches.  Turn.  Cast on 4 stitches.  Turn.  Work across 44 stitches.  Turn.  Cast on 4 stitches.  Turn.  Work final 5 stitches.  You will have 62 stitches on your needle and be back to working with one piece of yarn again.

Continue to work even in pattern until body section, not including turtleneck, measures 4 inches.

Shape back:
*Cast off 5 stitches at the beginning of next 2 rows.
Next row:  Slip first stitch.  K1.  Pass slipped stitch over.  Work in pattern to the last 2 sts.  Knit 2 together.
Next row:  Work even in pattern.
Repeat last 2 rows to 32 stitches.

Continue even in pattern until body section, not including turtleneck, measures 9 inches.
For next 2 rows:  Slip first stitch.  K1.  Pass slipped stitch over.  Work in pattern to last 2 sts.  Knit 2 together.
Slip remaining 28 sts onto a stitch holder.

Sew center front seam from the * rows to the top of the turtleneck.

Body edging:
Using four double pointed needles and right side of work facing, pick up and knit 35 or so stitches from center seam to stitches on stitch holder.  Transfer the stitches on the stitch holder to double pointed needle.  Pick up and knit 35 or so stitches till you get back to the center seam.  (divide the stitches evenly between the four needles, and make sure you have an even number of stitches.)
Work K1 P1 ribbing for 3 rows.
Bind off loosely in ribbing.

Leg edging:
Using three double pointed needles, with right side of work facing, pick up and knit 20 stitches around leg opening.
Work K1 P1 ribbing for 3 rows.
Bind off loosely in ribbing.

Secure and weave in any loose ends.

(If you try this and find any mistakes or inconsistencies, please let me know so I can correct the pattern.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ruby and Winnie Go To Hollywood ...

... Hollywood Cemetery, that is.

The weather on Saturday was superb!  It was sunny, warm, and a perfect day to pack up the dogs and The Husband and head to Richmond to do some preparation for our Rose Work Day at the cemetery on March 15 ... that's only three weeks from now, and I have to visit and evaluate all of the cemetery's roses before then.  With The Husband's help, and Ruby and Winnie along for company, we made great progress!  Come with me as I show you a few snippets of our trip.

I wanted to get a good photo of Ruby and Winnie together.  Here we are trying to do that beside the Crenshaw Musk Rose.

"Sit, Ruby.  Good girl!"

I couldn't step out of the photo because Winnie (our boomerang dog) kept following me, and Ruby would go with her.

This is the best I could do.

Our next stop was Presidents Circle.  Maybe I could get some decent photos over there.  

Winnie can't follow me if I put her up on this bench.

Think again.

For as small as Winnie is, she is definitely a real dog through and through ... couldn't resist the lure of some really interesting smells.

 Sometimes, Winnie and Ruby enjoyed the smells together.

"Come on, Mom, let's go."

"Wait up, we're coming!"

After wandering the cemetery for most of the afternoon, squinting at the map and making notes, all of us were tired and ready to load up and head for home.  We had visited and evaluated 49 of the approximately 130 roses in the cemetery ... it was a VERY good day's work!

(Winnie's sweater is one that I made for her earlier this week.  The basic shape of it came from a pattern I found on Pinterest that I modified to fit her.  The yarn is called "I Love This Yarn" from Hobby Lobby, color is Gelato Stripe.)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ten Years Ago Today ....

Our first grandson was born on this date ten years ago.  I can't believe that it's already been that long!

He has always been a beautiful, bright little boy ... and now he's not so little anymore.

It has been a joy to watch him grow up, go to school, and blossom into a wonderful young man.

Happy Birthday, Varmint ... Grandmother loves you more than you will ever know.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Another Way to Seal Your Paint Cans.

Do you have an empty oatmeal container?  

This is Trader Joe's Multigrain Hot Cereal, my favorite!

Do you also have a one-quart paint can, with the awful lid?  (Why hasn't anyone come up with a better design for paint cans?  The rim on these things gets all nasty, no matter how hard we try to keep it from happening.)

I realized the other day that the plastic lid from the oatmeal canister fits perfectly onto the paint can!

No more mashing paint all over the inside of the rim while pressing the old metal lid back into place.

My favorite lids are ones that I used to get from Annie Sloan stockists.  They were pricey ($5 each), but it was worth every penny to me for the convenience of painting straight from the can without messing up the rim.

Last year, though, that lid was discontinued in favor of one that has a screw-on top for pouring ... instead of the hinged lid that allows me to paint directly from the can.

Discovering this trick with the oatmeal canister lid has made me a very happy painter.  Hopefully it will help you, too.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Week That Was.

Here are small snippets of some of the things that have gone on here during the past week ... none of which seemed to warrant its own post.

1.  I have been painting a really cute hutch in my new work space (the dining room).  This change of venue brings some challenges ... Alice and Dorothy.

"This is like a big box with different compartments, Mom."

Alice:  Whack, whack

Dorothy:  Bite.   Alice:  Dodge.

Alice:  Whack, whack ... you get the idea.

2.  On Friday, we went to our friends Kim and Andy's house for dinner and game night.  Ruby and Winnie went with us ... dogs are always included in the invitation.  Winnie did really well, considering she has only been here for just shy of four weeks, and this was her first away-from-home visit like this.  Ruby loves visiting her Auntie Kim, and she can get really silly while we are there.  At one point, she was sitting upright on the sofa hugging with The Husband while we all were chatting.  I'm really glad that Kim had her iPad on hand to capture the moment.

3.  You may already know that I am a big fan of ice hockey.  Saturday morning's Olympic hockey game between the USA and Russia was one of the very best games that I have ever seen.  Both teams were evenly matched ... the hard-fought game was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation ... no one scored in the five minute overtime period ... and the USA finally won the game in the 8th round of the shoot out.  I was on the edge of my seat for most of the action.  Winnie ... not so much.

4.  After the hockey game, I spent the rest of the morning making a big batch of dog stew.  The result was 20 containers of stew in the freezer (600 grams each), which will supplement Ruby and Winnie's meals for the next two-and-a-half months.  Ruby gets kibble with water and stew added ... Winnie eats canned food mixed with stew.  My recipe for this varies, depending on what I have on hand.  Yesterday's batch contained rice, ground beef, ground turkey, pork liver (simmered and ground in the food processor), and lots of colorful vegetables (carrots, peas, lima beans, green beans, broccoli, collard greens, canned pumpkin, and butternut squash ... simmered till tender then whirled up with my hand blender.) ... stir the meat and rice into the blended veggie mixture.

5.  Speaking of food, the morning dog and cat feeding dynamics here are still evolving.  For the first couple of weeks, Winnie would wait just outside the boundary of the kitchen in the dining room while I prepared her food.  Now she comes into the kitchen with Ruby, wagging her tail, following me from cupboard to fridge to microwave.  This isn't freaking Dorothy out nearly as much as I thought it would.  I'm assuming that this is because canned cat food is involved and Dorothy rarely misses a chance at that.

Winnie really likes her big sister Ruby ... but she continues to growl at the cats.

Today started with another early morning Team USA hockey game (a 5-1 victory over Slovenia!) and now I am getting ready to paint the bottom portion of that hutch.  It's cold outside and we still have almost all of our snow from last week's storm.  Weather Guy says that temperatures here will be in the 60s by the end of the coming week.  It's enough to give a gal whiplash.

Happy Sunday, Everyone!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Day

Wednesday night at bedtime, as we were letting the dogs out to do their business, it started to snow.  This storm has been in the news all week, so it was not a surprise.  When we woke up this morning, there was a LOT of snow on the ground.  No idea exactly how much, however, because it had blown into drifts ... it looked to be anywhere from six inches to two feet, depending on where you looked.

At lunchtime today, Thursday, I bundled up, grabbed my trusty snow shovel and broom, and cleared our porch, steps, and a path through the sidewalk.  I also swept the snow off my Jeep ... not that I was planning to go anywhere, but you never know.  The snow was about 10 inches deep on the sidewalk, and it had drifted into a mound covering our porch and front steps.

While I was doing this, The Husband was in the garage working on our snow blower.  He could get it to start, but it wouldn't stay running.  I called our neighbor next door at Hartwood Winery and asked for some help.  He sent The Cavalry, in the form of Dan, their vineyard manager, on the tractor with a blade.

Dan on this tractor with its grading blade, and The Husband on our tractor with the front-end loader, had our driveway relatively clear in only about an hour.

All this snow must affect my judgement.  Here's an example:  a friend issued a dare on Facebook ... make a snow angel, take pictures, then post them for all to see.  Ruby joined in, too. 

As of now, 5:00 pm on Thursday, it is snowing and blowing again.  I wonder how much more we will get before this is all over later tonight ... please let it be over later tonight.  (edited to add:  We only received about an additional inch of icy snow overnight, which I have already shoveled and swept from the porch and steps and front walk.  The Husband is at work on the driveway.  I am thankful.)

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