Friday, February 08, 2013

On The Needles Friday - Fingerless Mitts!

 I have been working on these fingerless mitts - just 1 more thumb and I am done!  Since I am using size 1 needles, it takes a bit of time, but is a fairly easy pattern.  I like the pattern - I have never done a thumb gusset before - I think it gives the thumb more comfort than how I usually do my mittens!  I am going to use this method next time I knit myself a pair of mittens - maybe!

The pattern is from March 2007 Creative Knitting Magazine.  Good news since chances are you don't have that issue - the pattern is also on-line.  They call these "Colorful Wristers" in case you want to do a search if my link to the pattern doesn't work. 
The weather here continues to be gray, gray, gray.  I have heard that this has been the most "sunless" winter in years.
Here is a photo of a random "gray" street.
But today - we had sun for a few hours.  Yeah!  I quickly threw all the pillowcases in the wash and got the pillows outside in the sun for a good airing out!  The sun is the best disinfectant!  My son and DH were recently sick and even though I already washed the pillowcases since then - I always like to give the bare pillows (and favorite stuffed animals) a good sun bath!  Blankets are on the other side.  
I hope everyone is having a good week.  To see what everyone else has been knitting this week, look over on Judy's blog for the link-ups!

Monday, February 04, 2013

Light weight suitcases are needed for plane travel

You know, I hate buying new things - like suitcases - when I have a perfectly good one already.  Case in point - that big blue suitcase over to the right.  I have had this suitcase for YEARS.  It has nice BIG sturdy wheels.  It has held up through numerous plane trips.  It is great, except... well, it is heavy even when empty.  We tend to hold onto things in my family - my Dad has had the same suitcase my entire life - it is on the small side, hard sided with a green marble finish and has cream trim.  Anyone have one of these?
For this trip I packed, weighed myself, weighed myself holding the suitcase, did the math, unpacked, repacked and repeated the process. My heavy suitcase was not helping the 50 pound weight limit at all (plus I am allowed an 18 pound carry-on and my laptop bag).  An overweight bag, by just one pound, will cost $100 extra, up to $300 extra depending upon the extra weight... each way.  Then, if you switch airline carriers mid-trip - guess what?  You pay again.  I have seen people having real problems with slightly overweight bags at airports.  
For a 3 month trip, I needed to bring all the Christmas presents (I try to keep this in mind when I shop and also try to buy very small items!), textbooks for school (that is just about the weight limit anyway - this semester my 2 books are e-books, thankfully), plus some clothes.  Some.  Just a few, seriously because by now I am past the weight limit.  No matter how I repacked - that bag was always too heavy.  At this point in time I was feeling like I should wear multiply layers of all my heaviest clothes to check-in and then zip into a bathroom after weigh-in and remove said layers and stuff them into the carry-on! When you are traveling to a cold climate, you need extra bulky clothes - maybe that idea wouldn't "fly" with airport security.

Obviously, the answer was a newer, lighter suitcase.  So not what I wanted to spend money on, especially when I already have a suitcase.  I went to all the area stores.  I dragged my sister with me to discuss the pros and cons of each suitcase.  I almost bought one, but then I didn't have my tape measure with me and not only is there a strict weight limit, but also measurements!  Ugh.  Finally, I got this wonderful brown bag at K-Mart for just $40.  My frugal self knew that paying $40 up front in the long run could well save me over $200 in baggage fees.  Plus, if you are going to spend money you might as well have something to show for it instead of paying "fines".
I picked brown because I figured it was a color that the guys would not have an issue using should we ever switch bags.  I went with the soft/fabric bag because I like the extra outside pockets to tuck things into at the last minute (although those hard cases are more popular right now - and one thing to consider - the hard cases are more waterproof!).  My carry-on suitcase is hard-sided  and blue, which used to sort-ov match my big blue bag.  I know, now I don't "match".  Oh - and my computer bag is purple floral.  Really don't match!  Seriously, if I had thought ahead a little bit, I would have ordered a complete matching set from Amazon!  

When I was shopping for a new suitcase, there were tons of "suitcase sets" on sale.  I have to say - that middle sized suitcase is worthless for airplane travel - because you are no longer allowed to check 2 suitcases on most airline flights.  HOWEVER, that medium sized suitcase is great if you do a lot of traveling in your car and need to check into a hotel.  That small bag that comes with sets makes the perfect toiletry bag for hotels too or you can use it as a knitting bag or something like that!  Buying a set is more economical because basically, you end up getting some bags for free.  Except I didn't really want to spend money for a set right now so the $40 bag is fine and I will just have mis-matched luggage.  It came with a 10 year warranty, which I stapled to the receipt and stuck into the inside pocket of the bag.  
For plane travel do yourself a favor and just have 1 big, ultra-light suitcase, plus your carry-on (all with WHEELS - I especially like the "spinner wheels" because your suitcase does not constantly fall over). Be mindful of the dimensions!  And - weigh that packed bag before you leave for the airport.
Oh - and the smaller the plane, the smaller the bag - so maybe you really will use that medium sized bag depending where you are going.  Some small planes do not allow the big bag so again, check your ticket especially if you know you are transferring to a smaller plane somewhere along your trip.  Happy light-weight travels!

Oh yes, I really do like some of these matching sets!  Luggage sets make great graduation presents!  

Friday, February 01, 2013

January Review

I know I have already shared this cute snowman couple this month, but I think this photo is very "January"!  Can you believe that it is February already?  It seems like we were just celebrating Christmas in December - at least it does to me.  Maybe it is a good idea to review January before racing into February!  I always, always dread January and think it is my very worst month of the year, but after reviewing all the fun things that we did and how the month went - it really wasn't so bad.  I need to readjust my thinking!  Each month is what we make of it, I guess!  
We had friends over for New Year's Eve and watched the city fireworks.
My son had off from school until Jan 7th.  I love having this extra time with him.  A little extra sleep, crafts, board games, no pressure from homework... just enjoying ourselves.  Still - we were both ready for him to go back to school once it started up again!
We had coffee at friends 2X and also I went out for coffee 3X with friends (much cheaper than going out to eat, but still a nice change of venue when the weather is cold).  At one coffee shop I found 10 Euros on the floor and when I tried to give it to the person who ran the shop in case the person who lost it came back - she told me to keep it!  We also went out for lunch 1X as a family (we took advantage of a nice lunch special!).
We had our snowman party!

We tried some new recipes.

Happily, this year the free ice skating rink stayed open almost to the end of January and the kids had many happy hours skating.  Here is my son with his friends.  We don't always have snow so ice skating is a nice option.

And snow!  Last year we had no snow.  Snow has to be the very best, FREE fun I can think of for kids.  They love the sledding hill.  This year my son has a sled that he really likes - you can steer it.  One of our neighbors rescued it from the trash over the summer and gave it to him the first day of snow!  How fun.  Lots of exercise, red cheeks, and "hot chocolate parties" at the park (we always bring a Thermos and snacks).  The thing to remember about city living - parents can not just send their kids out to play.  We must bring them to the park or ice skating, or...  Which means that the parents have time to socialize too.  Some days we stayed outside up to 3 hours - as long as we could still feel our feet, we stayed!

We use our candles in January because it gets dark early.  We also used our wood stove some and always draw the big, heavy outdoor shades over our windows once it gets dark - that helps keep the cold out!  All in all, we stayed toasty warm even though there were days on end with no sun.  For this I am very thankful - I do struggle accepting apartment living, but it is maintenance free for my DH and since we have other apartments surrounding us, we tend to stay warm- even our floors.
My son had his train set up - he builds all his own models that we buy for just a few dollars on E-bay.  Look at all the houses he has built so far!  The train was safely taken down for the snowman party!

One day in mid-January we went out to the mall to get some ski gloves, scarf, hat, and socks on sale (my son always seems to be growing and he has an upcoming class ski trip).  We got all of that for the price of the gloves alone if they weren't on sale.  We also had to get him some new gym sneakers (ouch!).  He has flat feet (as do many of the men in my family) which can be a bit of a problem and I always have him try on several pairs of sneakers without letting him see the price (he is only 9 but he does understand about how much things cost) and get whatever pair is most comfortable.  He really likes Fila's.  I really try hard to buy things on sale and stuff, but when it comes to comfortable shoes - I feel it is important to get what is most comfortable whether it is on sale or not. We always stop to admire the beautiful koy fish at the mall (my son's hair is not blue - they have weird lights overhead!).  The fish are very used to people and will let you pet them (there is a sign not to feed them so they are not begging for food).

One day it was just beautiful - like spring!  So my son and I hiked up the hill over looking the city.  It was so pretty up there!  PLUS - my son found 12 Euros in the dirt next to the wall.  He was so excited!

During a warm snap, we also went swimming, using our discounted family passes.  One of his friends came and the 2 of them played and played in the water.

I knit a pair of knee socks for my son (started in Dec), finished a pair of baby booties and almost finished a pair of fingerless mitts (still have to blog about that!), plus crocheted the snowflakes for the snowman party.  My son has music lessons (the accordion) 1X a week and I always bring my knitting or crocheting when I am waiting for him.

I read several book on my laptop that I downloaded from Amazon for free!  If you don't have a Kindle, you still can take advantage of the free Kindle offers on your laptop.

School started back up for me - I am taking 2 more classes on-line again this semester - Algebra and World History.  The Algebra professor said that she assigns 12 hours of homework a week, but it takes me much longer than that - I am so slow!  But so far, I am getting everything correct and I figure that slow and correct is better than fast and wrong.  I have always struggled with math - but this class is really great because there are videos to watch and if I don't "get" something I can re-watch the video.  

My son has had friends over every Friday and Saturday night this month, had a nice play date with a new friend, and 2 play dates with another friend.  The kids are all very busy so it takes a bit of time to co-ordinate everyone's schedules!  Plus - the kids meet up with each other for ice skating and snow sledding.  Combined with his homework, music practice and the stuff that we do on our own (which also includes a bit of cleaning and organizing!) - I would say he has a pretty busy social life!

Budget wise - well we were doing pretty good until the very end of the month!  I generally expect some clothing/shoe purchases throughout the winter, plus replenishing school supplies.  This month brought some sickness (my son and husband both - I swear, I have no time to be sick)  which cost extra money for medicines (I think we are up to 68 Euros this month, but I would have to check and my son needs more cough syrup if he doesn't stop this awful cough by tomorrow).  And then my son's school sent home a notice (out of the blue) that we had to send in another 39 Euros for school supplies and expenses.  This is a lot of money!  We pay money at the beginning of each semester for school supplies and expenses and I expect that - they do such a great job with the kids with that money, but I was not expecting 39 more.  And then we also replaced our toilet seat.  I know this is probably not exciting to most people, but our seat has been broken since last spring and we have been waiting and waiting for them to go on sale - finally they were on sale for 17 Euros and we went to the store the very first day of the sale to be sure to get a nice one.  No more perching precariously on the edge of the seat!  No matter how carefully you budget - you always have to allow a little extra room for things that pop-up like this! 
All things considered - it HAS been a good month, afterall (other than the sicknesses)!  But I am still happy that it is over because that means it will start to gradually get warmer!