Monday, January 19, 2015

Enjoying Life's Detours

Dear Mom,
We left for our scheduled haircut appointments on Saturday morning, thinking we might stop for lunch on the way home.  A rare day with Nothing else planned. We had an entire sun shining Saturday before us. Before we knew it the shadows were getting long and it was time to be home, tucked in for the evening. The hours had flown by.
We discovered a new (to us) tea room and had a delicious lunch in a charming atmosphere,

surrounded by tea pots and anglophile delights.

Our Derbyshire chicken salad sandwiches were perfect with our pot of Prince of Wales tea

 and we strategically ordered two desserts to share: an orange scone (with clotted cream and lemon curd) and an almond-y tart that I can't remember the name of…. a Bakewell Tart maybe?… so we could taste both. I purchased the owner's Scone Recipe Book and baked blueberry scones on Saturday night. This afternoon I baked cranberry scones. The recipes in this book are easy to follow, with simple basic ingredients, and the recipes yield about 1/2 dozen scones- which is a nice amount to bake and enjoy. I managed to get 8 scones out of today's batch.

After lunch we strolled a couple of blocks to a favorite antique mall and browsed the afternoon away, hunting and finding treasures. I brought home some editions of Tom Swift for My Hero's collection, a set of six coaster-sized, crocheted doilies and two things I'd been keeping a look out for.
The first is a lowly old potato masher. I had My Hero hang it on the side of the cabinet next to the sink. It now functions as a very capable dish towel hanger.

And the second "treasure" is a very old, somewhat beat up but still in working order, scale. For a long while now I've thought a scale would be an interesting "something" on my kitchen island. This one had a handsome face and was the right price. I laid a crocheted doily on it, a domed plate on top of that and my scones have a keeping place.

I think a small flower pot with ivy or herbs would look nice balanced on the scale, too. The little checked tin next to the scale was a previous antiquing find. It is an old lunch box with a previous owner's name scratched into the lid. We use it to hold Olive's dog biscuits.

 “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” 
― William Morris

Our Saturday together and lunch last Thursday in the warm home of a new friend/kindred spirit have gone a long way to re-awaken, affirm, and invigorate my love of home and home-making, the importance of hospitality and the joy in life's simple pleasures.

“The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” 
― William Morris

 “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 
― Maya Angelou


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Less time deciding =

Dear Mom,
It came to me as a revelation last weekend, I don't know what inspired the thought, but I realized I've spent too much time trying to be someone I am not. Maybe we all do this.  Trying to be better is a good thing, but comparing and contrasting and denying is such a waste of time. And wasting time is a SIN in my book. So there. I am guilty of wasting time struggling to be someone other than me. Am I having a mid-life/mid-winter/Japanese tidying crisis ?
I have a desire to simplify things (who doesn't?!) I am making peace with the knowledge that some things are the way they are because that is exactly the way they are supposed to be and darn it just step back and be happy. I am never going to live on a farm or in the woods and have willowy long skinny legs. I realized that longing for those things means I am not fully appreciating this house and my neighborhood and my  legs that work- even if they are short and…. sturdy.
I guess it took almost 54 years to give myself permission. Or I am just worn out tired.
I am happy wearing blue jeans and white shirts. With cardigan sweaters and shawls. Every day. I don't want to waste time thinking about what to wear. I like that look and it is comfortable. Less time deciding = more time for good stuff.
And aprons. I want to wear aprons. Aprons over my white shirts and under my cardigans and shawls. I just sewed the cutest dang apron and I might where it Out In Public. I'll need aprons to keep my white shirts white.

When I type the word SEW in reference to this apron I want to laugh out loud. Because all there is to sew are the shoulder seams. Then it is fancied up with some trim which was easier than turning raw edges under and sewing them down. And then I added a pocket. That first skirt I sewed in 7th grade home-ec was harder than this apron.
I found this pattern where everybody is finding good things these days, on Pinterest.
I followed the link to this web page:

 I downloaded the pattern and it printed out onto 14 pieces of paper which were then taped together, following a grid.
Now that I know this pattern is a keeper, I need to either laminate the thing or transfer it to pattern paper if the paper I have is wide enough.

I purchased this fabric with plans to make a top, but that never happened. I decided the fabric wanted to be an apron instead. About 1 1/3 yards of fabric, which I folded width-wise, is enough for this pattern. I used a fat quarter for the pocket. It took just under 6 yards of trim, with enough left to add a little lace to the pocket.
Quick and easy.  The Sewing was faster and easier than finding the trim and waiting for someone to wait on me at Hancock Fabrics last night.

Elle looks so pretty, modeling the apron, doesn't she?  Sadly, she cannot hold that wooden spoon as a prop, so we tucked it into the pocket.  (P.S. That pocket is awesome. The next apron will have a buttonhole sewn into the apron underneath the pocket so I can run my earbud wires under the apron and into the pocket to plug into my iPod.)
And here is what I look like in the apron, but I won't be showing you the back because my rear axle is not quite so petite as Elle's. Not comparing! Not contrasting! Not denying!  If I didn't have that caboose, I'd bruise myself every time I sat down to weave. I'm trying to eat right and exercise my way to a truce.

Enough about aprons. I have been on a hat knitting marathon. I am trying to tweak and perfect a hat idea and I have about one.  more.  hat.  in me before I wave the white flag.  I now have 4 hats of various shapes and sizes. The last one, the one I just finished 2 nights ago, thinking it was going to be the final pattern? Yeah. Well let's just say one should pay attention to the yarn she grabs out of her stash because gauge does matter and this hat….. the hat I thought was going to be the answer to a more elastic cast-on edge and proper fit? Way Too Big Hat. Like I said- I think I have one more hat in me.  This whole thing started as a way to use leftover skeins of yarn. Well. I did accomplish that. In fact, I've been so successful in using up those leftovers that I will be buying yarn to make what I hope is the last variation on this theme.
These hats are drying on a variety of vases and candlesticks.
Way Too Big Hat would not fit in the picture is not pictured.
This is the Mama, Papa, Baby bear of hats: 1. a long slouchy too tight hat,
2. a too loose hat and 3. a slightly too tight, much too short hat.
Will the next hat be Just Right?
Time to go cast on.
Be ready to try on another hat.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy New Year

Dear Mom,
First this happened:

On December 4th, Olive had surgery on both elbows. We are now over halfway through her 8 weeks of restricted activity. We've become much too familiar with and very good at elbow surgeries and recoveries and pain pill schedules. I am happy to report that Olive is doing very well. She wore The Donut of Despair only until the sutures were removed. Had she needed it through Christmas I would have put red bows on it and disguised it as a wreath. I hope we never need that thing again (and according to the vets, there is no reason to think we will), but it was worth every penny and much friendlier than the Cone of Shame. We give the ProCollar two thumbs and four paws up.

Then this:
My Most Favorite Little Boy saw the moose and called it a Reindeer!

And then a WHOLE LOTTA this:

And then before I could get Christmas put away, there has been way too much of this:
My Hero brought it home (and by IT I don't mean the Lysol) and I took him to the doctor. Technically NotTheFlu, (no fever), and too late for Tamiflu,- and let me interrupt my story right here and say that pretty much you need to get into the doctor to get that Tamiflu prescription about 3 minutes after you start thinking that maybe you might be getting sick, because 48 hours later is too late- the physician's assistant reassured me that the rest of the family was probably safe since we'd been living with him and had all remained symptom free and Tamiflu is in such short supply that they don't prescribe it as a preventive for the people living with The Influenza. You do see where this is going, don't you? 
Fast forward 2 days. My Hero feels back to normal. 
I do not. Happy New Year.
I decide to make the most of it and indulge myself in a day in bed, with hot tea, and knitting, and books, and Downton Abbey on my iPad. It was almost a vacation.
I woke the next morning feeling really good. Patting myself on the back for kicking it to the curb, and toasting the power of Emergen-C with my fresh pot of tea that morning, I showered and dressed and had a pleasant day. Turns out this NotTheFlu bug is a tricky devil. I woke up in the middle of the night aching all over. I could feel my toe nails and my hair hurt. This next day in bed was not quite as fun as that first day. 
Yesterday I was well enough to round up the troops and finally get Christmas put away while there were still needles left on the tree. And then I needed a nap so I could fix dinner. And then another nap so I could  stay up for Downton Abbey.
The worst of it is behind me. I hope. And we've managed to keep NotTheFlu contained to just the two of us, although I am holding my breath on that one.
While convalescing, I read two very different books. Each inspiring and intimidating in their own way. The first- Bread & Wine is inspiring and amusing and scattered with recipes and realistic entertaining advice. I am not as free spirited as the author but I did like it that she admits to things like a dirty house and fights with her pants. The second book- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is good for inspiring a person to clear out the clutter, and was worth it for the folding clothes lesson, but it is not a book for making a person me feel good about her hobbies. Let's just say that reading Susan Branch's Happy New Year post did wonders for making me feel like I might be normal.  

I did go on a KonMari folding spree when I had the strength to get out of bed.  
Look at this drawer! 
And seriously would you look at that empty space! That is an empty space in. my. top. drawer! The beauty of this method- the author has named it the KonMari method, a combination of her first and last names- is that I can see all my shirts and can take any one without disturbing the others.  
Such was my inspiration that I went on to do the sweaters in my closet.
Disclaimer: I did this on Friday. I spent Saturday and Sunday in my pajamas, basically, and Today is the first day I've needed anything out of the closet or that drawer. So far the system is working, but it has not really been tested yet. 

So what next? I've been working on a new hat pattern. It was moving along but body aches and charted fair isle are not good partners. I started this cardigan, but I know I am sick when I don't feel like knitting, and that is sort of what happened yesterday. 

Simplifying to make room for Happy Pursuits is my theme for 2015. With that in mind, this is the next book to have found me. 

I'm not far in and already know that I won't be taking anything even close to this extreme, but the author is funny and I have a feeling I can learn some valuable lessons. At the very least, her experiment is an interesting one to read about.

Be warm, be well. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Irony

Dear Mom,
My dining room.

The clutter mocks me.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Marigolds, Merino, and Mohair

Dear Mom,
Before I cleaned up the garden, and inspired by these books, I harvested a gallon sun tea jar's worth of marigold flowers with the hopes of dying some of that lovely Merino/Mohair roving I have.

 I must confess that it took me awhile to get over some of the weights and measures and science and decide to see what happened with what I have. I pre-mordanted the fiber in Alum and prepared the dye stock by simmering the marigolds in a huge stock pot for about an hour. It was still warm outside and my windows were open. Although I did not find the smell offensive, I don't think I'd want to do this with the windows closed. In other words, this is a fair weather process.

After I strained out the plant material I gently put the roving into the steamy marigold broth. I allowed it to steep for about 45 minutes. To avoid handling the fiber, I placed it into a large mesh zippered laundry bag. I am glad I did it this way because I was able to pull the fiber out and save the broth. It took several rinses before the fiber was clear of residual dye. I spun the bag of fiber in the front loader and laid it out to finish drying.

I was very pleased with the result!

 A few days later I decided to play things fast and loose (for me) and put another batch of pre-mordanted fiber into the leftover, re-heated marigold broth. Another good result- a little paler in color, but still very pretty.

 Then I really got carried away and reused the alum mordant bath on two small bundles of roving and put the twice used marigold broth into two crockpots. I let the fiber "cook" all night.  I am sure there are good reasons (probably many of them) for these crockpots to end up at the Goodwill where I purchased them. I discovered one of the reasons for one of those crockpots had to be that it gets way too hot. When I checked on my little experiments the next morning, one of the pots was sputtering and boiling over! Yikes! I was afraid I'd find a felted blob of wool inside. Both pots yielded more pretty color, and the overheated fiber has an interesting bronze color.
Crock pot 1- "normal" heat

super hot crock pot
This next photo has all 4 rovings lined up from 1st batch on the left to the super heated batch on the right.
I've started spinning that first ball. I have a bright red felted wool coat and a navy pea coat and think this yellow wool will make a pretty scarf or maybe even a scarf and hat that will look nice with both.
In spinning this blend of fibers, it is a treat to see the shimmery mohair bits with the merino and how they've each taken up the dye differently but very subtly.
You should be able to see the slight differences in this next photo. Some of the shades are a result of the dye not being consistently absorbed throughout the roving (which I like) and some is the difference in the merino and mohair.
I won't have any more marigolds to play with until next summer. I do have other things on my dye shelf in the garage to play with though!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I did squeeze in some knitting

Dear Mom,
Until I looked back through the photos downloaded on to the computer, if you'd asked what I've been knitting I would have answered "not much".  I don't know exactly how, or when, but I did manage to start and finish a few things.
First up- The Bobby Sweater from Tadpoles and Tiddlers. I've made many sweaters from this book, multiple times.  This little gansey is for a new great-nephew.  I made the smallest size and used about 1/2 a skein of Baah's La Jolla yarn.

And then, I must have been in some time warp because I can barely remember knitting this Highland Shawl with Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool XL from the Folk Shawls book.

For the yarn shop- from one skein of Berroco sock yarn- The Ananke scarf.

Up next, and with 2 skeins of Ella Rae Lace Merino, a pattern I've had in my stash for a long time.  Finally. This is Scalene, a very clever keyhole scarf. I love the yarn combination I chose, but my expectations for how much I was going to love this scarf may have been too high. I'm not sure I like it all that much. It needs to rest in a quiet place for awhile. Maybe I'll like it better after we've had a little break from each other.

And Last, but certainly not Least. I am most proud of this one.
This is some of that beautiful angora/ merino roving, spun and knitted into an original design.
Meet Mistress Tippet.
 Spinning this yarn was a dream.
 And then watching the angora bloom after it had been knitted and blocked….magic.
 Mistress Tippet was inspired by the little pink shawl that Claire wears in Outlander during the boar hunting.
While we were watching you commented on how it would be nice to have something like that to keep the back of your neck and shoulders warm but would not get in the way. One of the reasons I have to watch these episodes multiple times is because I am dissecting the hand knits. Really. Too bad Jamie doesna wear as many as Claire does, aye?
 Ahem. Anyway. I had all that pretty hand spun- and some ideas. And Mistress Tippet was born. By the way, the definition of the word tippet is : a scarf, usually of fur or wool, for covering the neck, or the neck and shoulders, and usually having the ends hanging down in front.

But Mistress Tippet takes it a step or two further. Buttons allow you to wrap and secure the ends at your shoulders for a pretty draped cowl.
 Or, you can wrap those ends all the way around, securing them at the center back, for a snugger fit.

Pretty and warm and dressy. More details for knitting and purchasing the pattern can be found HERE.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

And Then My Head Exploded

Dear Mom,
On a recent visit to the Kansas City area to spend several blissful days with a dear friend, we gloried for hours, soaking in the inspiration of Florilegium.

beads of every shape and color imaginable

This area was off limits to customers. It is The Owner/Artist's Studio area.

This display is just small selection of the beautiful ribbons available.

Everything is displayed to perfection.

This case greets you as you step in the door.

This Enchantment is beaded embroidery on a window screen!

And one display case was filled with samples of ribbon embroidery.

In addition to the ribbons and beads I've shown here, there was roving, and wool for embroidery or needlepoint, buttons, art yarn, hand painted yarns, and thousands of ideas. Gretchen, the owner, and Cathy, her employee, were extremely generous with their time and ideas, with no hesitation to demonstrate a technique or describe a creative process. We left with our heads spinning. My only regret is that Florilegium is 9+ hours away. Lucky for ALL of us, they ship orders every day!