img_1791I have a thing for fiber–and not the type that comes in salads. I love the type of fiber that grows on bunnies and sheep, alpacas and camels. The type that you wrap hands, neck, and ears in when it’s cold.

The longer I live in New England (going on two years now!), the more I find about New England to love. Like the fiber arts culture. Every respectable town, village, or suburb around here has a well-stocked yarn store–or so it seems. The Mecca of all yarn shops, Webs, is just forty-five minutes north of my home, and I make frequent pilgrimages in that direction.

Last weekend, the New England Fiber Festival drew me, though. Because I love all things soft and fuzzy, it’s more than worth the $7 admission fee and $5 parking just to pet the angora rabbits, to respectfully not pet the clearly somewhat miffed alpacas, and to feast your eyes on thousands upon thousands of skeins of handdyed, handspun loveliness.

You can’t leave without buying something. Last year, the twins were just over a month old when we went to the fiber festival for the first time, and they were wearing tiny little handknit sweaters (which received comments from practically everyone we passed). This year, the twins weren’t wearing handknits and neither was I, but one kind woman gave Micah a handknit hat for free (!), and I bought an incredibly smooshy skein of fingering-weight yarn that will make the perfect sweater to echo the blue in Davey’s eyes.

Manny and I have been talking about purchasing an angora bunny for a little over a year, so we took the opportunity to talk to the exhibitors with angoras and to find out more about their care. The whole experience has made me determined to find a hutch, create a cozy nest, and adopt an angora or two of my own. So don’t be surprised if, in one of the next posts here, you get to meet an extra fuzzy addition to the Jacoby household.


I Calculated The Value of a (hand knit) Sock

I’m pretty sure my blog is schizophrenic. One minute it’s a parenting blog, then a diet blog, then a travel blog… I originally wanted it to be a “look at the fascinating/exciting things I’m doing and places I’m going!” blog, but I don’t do enough fascinating things for that to happen, so what you see is what you get.

Brace yourself, because I’m going full-on knitting mode.

Hand Knit Sock In Progress

I promise I’ll try to make it interesting, but if making amazing things isn’t your  jam, feel free to skip this one.

We recently took the boys to Texas. They experienced their first flight, a series of long road trips, and two weeks of visiting and sweating (June in Texas is no joke, y’all). The longest we spent in any one place during the whole trip was three days. Throw eight-month-old twins into the mix and that’s a recipe for crazy. BUT I had plenty of road trip time to knit socks.

The most knitting I get done lately is in the car, when we’re in transit. That’s the only time the boys are guaranteed to be safe (and likely asleep) that I don’t also have other pressing responsibilities. So I use that time to make things. I knit. And the very best travel knitting is sock knitting.

Hand Knit Socks Cascade Silk

I did some math. One pair of socks includes well over 20,000 individual stitches, and depending on the pattern, takes me about 10-15 hours to finish.

Which is why I laugh when occasionally (very occasionally) people ask if they can pay me to knit them socks.

The yarn for a pair of hand knit socks costs $20-$30. There’s cheaper sock yarn out there, but I won’t knit with it. If I’m going to spend 10-15 hours of my life running the stuff between my fingers, it’s going to be soft and beautiful.

Hand Knit Socks Araucania Huasco

At a modest rate of $10/hour plus yarn, a pair of handknit socks could easily cost $150 or more. But that’s assuming I would be willing to work for $10/hour. I probably wouldn’t.

This is why hand knit socks are special. You can’t buy them (unless you’ve got a pretty hefty sock budget). You can bribe a knitter, but if that knitter doesn’t already like you a lot, it’s just not going to happen. In fact, if someone gives you a pair of hand knit socks, you should reevaluate your relationship with that person and consider thanking them with coffee. Or chocolate. Or a sports car. Because they gave you a pair of priceless socks and they probably deserve it.

You can go to the store and get perfectly serviceable socks for a dollar. You can get high-end Smart Wool socks for $20, if you want to be fancy. And neither of these options requires hours of running yarn between your fingers, rubbing needles together, putting to use all the skills learned over many years of trial and error and how-to videos.

That makes it crazy to knit socks, right? I mean, who does that? Why do that? If you realize that time is the most valuable currency, why knit anything–let alone socks?

Hand Knit Socks KnitPics Stroll

For me, knitting doesn’t replace other things I should be doing (most of the time). It is my entertainment, the thing I do when I would otherwise be sitting motionlessly watching Netflix, listening to an audiobook, or riding in the car (and I’m not good at sitting motionlessly). It’s an activity I enjoy that results in actual things I can keep or give to someone I really, really like.

You can’t pay me to knit socks or much of anything else. I have no desire to open an Etsy shop to sell the things I’ve made. I can make better money taking on extra writing work.

It’s about watching that beautiful yarn run through my fingers until something priceless comes out. Watching actual things come out of those little snippets of time is fun. It’s my version of PC gaming, movie watching, music listening, time-wasting amusement. And though I’m a little biased, I consider it superior to all of those–if only because in the zombie apocalypse, I’ll be able to enjoy myself and clothe my feet.

Crunch. Crunch.

This year, I spent Christmas Eve baking homemade bread, wearing Davey in his Moby wrap, and browsing cloth diaper sites. While my dough was proofing, I started hearing something. And it wasn’t the sound of footsteps through snow–not this year. But it sounded similar. It was the music of a subculture that I’m just getting to know.

Like every other millennial, I’ve always hated the idea that I might be normal. But I didn’t think I’d end up in a weird off-the-beaten-track hipster category along with millions of my peers.

Last summer I intended to write a post about knitting. I had just finished a pair of socks I wanted to show off. If I had written the post, it would have certainly said something about how knitted socks are better than cheesecake, oversized hoodies, and flavored coffee combined.Screenshot 2015-12-28 11.34.25

Before I had the twins, I fell prey to the cloth diaper addiction. It’s a thing. Cloth diaper collecting is not unlike collecting handbags, high-end candles, or essential oils, but it’s arguably more useful and economical. It makes me different (except for the other tens of thousands of moms who also decided it’s a great idea and brought it back into vogue). It saves me money (for now), makes more sense to me, and keeps my babies’ bums comfortable (who wants to wear paper underwear?).Screenshot 2015-12-28 11.33.41

I also discovered that I can’t really get through a day without wearing my babies–at this point, it’s usually in their Moby wrap, though I’ve decided I need a soft structured carrier like a Tula. And possibly a few ring slings, for good measure. Babywearing makes it possible to cook, clean, do laundry, and even write my articles while holding a sleeping baby (they almost inevitably fall asleep when they’re wrapped). Which means that babywearing enables me to keep more of my sanity than I would otherwise.

Screenshot 2015-12-28 11.39.20

Last summer Manny and I bought a farm share and drove thirty minutes once a week to pick fruit and veggies and collect our massive box of fresh, locally grown organic goods. It just made sense. We also drive another twenty minutes out of the way to a local dairy/ice cream shop to get a couple of gallons of raw milk every week and a half or two weeks.Screenshot 2015-12-28 11.34.00

Once, shortly after the twins were born, we ran out of raw milk and didn’t feel like driving all the way to Amherst to collect some. Crisis. So we bought organic homogenized milk from the store. It was disgusting. Seriously, after getting spoiled on the super-creamy, fresh raw milk from Cook Farm, neither Manny nor I could stomach the storebought stuff. We ended up throwing it out.

For all the trouble I went to during adolescence to try to avoid labels, I’ve stumbled into a big one without even realizing it. It turns out that my particular combination of “logical” choices identifies me as a Crunchy Mom.

What does that even mean? Urban Dictionary has a helpful entry. There are even quizzes you can take to determine your level of crunchiness. Apparently I’m only somewhat crunchy because I’m not politically liberal, I like to travel by car, and most of my decisions have nothing to do with greenhouse gases or landfills.

Somehow I’ve fallen into the new trendy subculturey group of cloth diapering, baby wearing, homebirthing, raw-milk-drinking, crop-share-buying, knitting, intactivist, who-knows-what-else mothers. They call us Crunchy. The fact that I practically live in Birkenstocks (with handknitted socks in cold weather) adds bonus points in my favor. In fact, the only thing going against my crunchy status is my unrelenting love of frozen pizzas and my fairly conservative worldview, which I’m sure most hard core crunchy moms would frown upon.

All I need is a set of these bumper stickers to finalize my admission to the Crunchy club. And here I thought I was avoiding labels.

The struggle is real.

Making autumn

Handknit pumpkinsIt’s hard to complain about Guam’s failure to be fall-like when the sunsets over the ocean are so colorfully surreal, even on the rainiest days.

This evening as the sun was setting, it was windy and relatively cool. The rain had let up, and those moisture-laden clouds created a breathtaking sunset. And I almost forgot to wish there were changing leaves.

Almost. Not completely. In the last week, I’ve been doing my best to engineer a personal autumn while still loving these balmy, thundery, rainy Guam days.

I’m knitting and crocheting pumpkins.

I’m sewing things with autumn-colored fabric (and remembering why I typically avoid sewing. So many pieces. Eesh).

I’m burning my Kitchen Spice and Crisp Apple Strudel Yankee Candles.

IMG_2110 (1)I’m baking homemade bread and slow-cooking cozy homemade soup and propping my feet up while my puppy curls up beside me.

I’m feeling my baby kick surprisingly hard and thinking that I’m becoming ridiculously lazy–and that I miss doing the kind of real work that leaves you tired, messy, sweaty, and rewarded.

I’m reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in Spanish, mostly to make sure I still can.

Maybe it feels a little more like fall now than it did last week, even though the weather hasn’t changed.

Making things–with a nod to the past and the future

Small ShoesSometimes I write compulsively. Writing is my job, but I rarely feel compelled to write about car insurance or the rising trends in online education, which is the type of stuff I get paid for. When I write compulsively, I get out my trusty old spiralbound notebook (anything fancier would set the standard too high) and document things–anything that’ll help me remember, later on, the rapidly-changing life that I lived.

Now, for instance, I can look back over some of those spiralbound journal-y things and get a (rather biased and sometimes overwhelmingly emotional) snapshot of what my life was like in 2010. Or 2006. Lots of things were once earth-shatteringly important, when I was 19. Or 15. Or 12. I’d forget them entirely if I hadn’t written something about them. No one will ever read them except me. I mean, they’re not top-secret, but they’re not all that interesting, either.

And sometimes I knit compulsively, which is harder to explain. But in some weird way almost parallel to writing, it’s another instance of making sense of life and creating something tangible to remember it by. I can knit or crochet with an eye to the future and to the past, with a nod to the person who’ll use whatever it is that I’ve made, the child I once was who learned those skills, and the person I am now who’s investing time in working yarn and needles between my fingers.

I’m guessing the sentiment is similar for anyone who creates, whether it’s sketching, sewing, creating stained glass windows, or working with wood.

It’s meditative. It forces me to pay attention, to sit still and focus on one thing (like twenty-three rows of a crazy lace pattern) while letting my mind wander, in a way that the crazy Internet-distracted tendency of modern life often obliviates. Like my writing, I don’t necessarily expect anyone to think that what I’ve made is the best thing ever. It’s enough for me to know that I challenged myself, made something work, and that every inch of yarn in a finished thingy has been touched and crafted by my hands.

Lately, I’ve been knitting compulsively. Impulsively.  Maybe one day I’ll look at the little green sweater I just made for my future child, and I’ll think of the hours sitting in my little Guam home. Puppy curled up next to me. Wondering what corner of the world I’ll be living in next year. Ripping out rows when I make a mistake, then painstakingly putting it back together again.

I don’t have a name for it, but I feel like everyone needs that sort of thing.

The 70’s called…

“Hey, Steff! The ‘70s called. They want their blanket back.”

*insert eye roll and tolerant smile here*

Fridays off with pay? Yes, please. And while I’m off, I’ll do amazingly productive things with my time, like… writing five dozen product descriptions (ah, the joys of being a content writer), listening to the radio until I know the words to every song, and… this:

As I mentioned here, a lot of emotion can go into a granny square. Officially, this afghan is finished. In reality, it might never stop growing.