Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Here's the Way It Is...

She says she's going to blog more. Yeah right. She also promised me she'd brush me everyday. Ha! I heard the computer keyboard clacking, but I think she's just wasting time googling obscure trivia.

Ok, she did brush me twice last week. Better than nothing. But blogging? Not gonna happen, at least not just yet. Frankly I wish she would start up again, because I'm tired of her telling me all the stuff she usually writes down. All I want are more cat treats. Not too much too ask.

Maybe she'll read this and follow my good example. If not, well, I'm not to blame. I tried. Those other slackers that live here didn't even lift a paw.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Crazy Daisy

This little flower in my front yard doesn't seem to know that it's almost November in Wisconsin, and that we are having a doozie of a windstorm today - and maybe a little snow tonight.

Hope springs eternal...

And coming soon - a return to regular blogging - really!

Hope does spring eternal after all...

Monday, July 05, 2010

What Would You Do??

I seem to be having a problem with insects this year. First earwigs invaded the mailbox, and now this.

I got rid of the earwigs with the hose, and then spritzed the mailbox with bug spray so they wouldn't be tempted to return. The wet weather we're having has made them even more prevalent than ants. They are everywhere. And I don't like them. At all.

And now I have this lovely, perfectly round paper wasp nest. Right above the back door! Last week it was only as big as a golf ball. And actually, I wondered if it was old, because I didn't see any wasps around. Different story today. It's now as big as a softball, and every time the back door is closed, it sends them swarming out of the nest. I didn't get stung, but I figure it's only a matter of time before they get me, or a visitor, or one of the cats.

So they have to go. Later this evening, I'll douse the nest with spray, and again tomorrow morning for good measure. I hate using spray, because I feel like I'm being poisoned too, no matter how careful I am. I don't even like putting on mosquito spray, because it always seems to get in my mouth. But some times, it has to be done.

To end on a brighter note, here are all three kitties, sharing a peaceful moment in the sunshine. They usually don't get this close unless they're huddling together for warmth!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June is Busting Out All Over!

With all the rain we've had the past few weeks, my jungle of a backyard is even more lush than ever. The vegetable garden was taken over this year by the hollyhocks, and it's just lovely.
I was a bit worried, because last year all the hollyhocks seemed to be washed out shades of yellow and pink. I thought maybe they were all spent, and it was time for new seed. But this year they came on with these brilliant shades of magenta, fuchsia, and coral, as well as pink and yellow.

And this evening while I had the cats out, I took Rollie for a little stroll, and we were quickly berated by a pair of robins. Seems we were getting too close to their little ones - in my Mulberry tree, perched right above the mailbox...

This has to be a second batch. I never saw any little ones from an earlier hatch, but with all the other cats in the neighborhood running loose, I guess I'm not surprised. I hope these three, or four, can make it.

So that's June - all green and growing and full of life!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Three Good Things for Monday

Mondays are hard. I never seem to leap out of bed on Monday morning, all bright-eyed and ready for another week. Today, as usual, I had to drag myself out of bed, and I started off thinking about what I didn't accomplish over the weekend, and what I had in front of me for the week.

Today was a timecard day, which isn't difficult, just time consuming. And then our maintenance guy's computer wouldn't work, so it took a while to get that going again, and then another computer had issues, and one of the databases I needed to work in wouldn't let me log in. So even though it was quiet because half the staff was gone today, it was a bit of a challenge.

Usually on a Monday I come home and crash, and if I can find the strength, I pick up the knitting needles and stare at TV for the evening, or take a bath, and maybe go to bed early.

That's a routine I'd like to change, but it's going to take some time.

For the past few weeks, I've been catching up with Crazy Aunt Purl's blog. I started reading it a few years ago, after her interview on the Knitpick's podcast. But starting with the current pages for that time period was like walking into the middle of the movie. I had to go back to the very beginning, and wow, is that woman prolific! After reading for a while I had to take a break. For the past few weeks I've gone back to it and finally got caught up to the present day. Whew.

One of the things Laurie does periodically is list "Three Good Things" which helps put a positive spin on the day. So I thought I would borrow this in my attempt to start turning Mondays around. Here goes!

1. Crock Pots - this is an especially good one for Monday. If I come ready to plant my face in the sofa, the last thing I want to do is cook. But yesterday I managed to get that piece of brisket marinated, so this morning I slipped it into the crockpot, and when I got home I had a wonderful, succulent supper, and all I had to do was heat up some veggies and I was good to go. Yum!

2. My Three Cats - I will try really hard not to put them on every "good things" list, but they do have to go on the first one, or they will stop speaking to me. They are in the living room now, waiting for me to give them treats and my undivided attention. All weekend Lily was very cuddly and ready to snuggle up every time I sat down, and she's so sweet all the time.

3. Air conditioning - last summer I got my air conditioner replaced, and I decided this year that I am not going to feel guilty about using it. It's a luxury I didn't have when I was growing up, and I know a lot of people who deliberately don't turn their air on until it is suffering hot. Not me. Don't get me wrong, I love having the windows open and feeling the breeze, but not if that breeze is humid! Even having it run a little bit helps get that humidity out of the house, and helps me sleep better, and that's a very good thing.

So there - three good things. You know what? It does help!

I'm off to the sofa now...because who can resist this smile?

Friday, June 18, 2010


There’s a cow in my fridge! Well, not a whole cow, but the largest piece of beef that I’ve ever worked with.

One of my favorite restaurants serves a really good Texas Brisket. The meat is lean and tender and very tasty.

I’ve found several recipes for slow-cooked brisket, and I wanted to try cooking some on my own. But when I asked at the local grocery, which has a pretty good meat department, they told me that they didn’t get regular brisket from their supplier, only the corned beef variety. I needed to check with an actual butcher shop.

Now there is a meat market in the next town, but I would either forget to stop, or only remember about it when they were closed. And I figured it would be kind of pricey, so I put it out of my mind.

But it’s Farmer’s Market season here in Wisconsin, and one of the local beef farmers comes to our weekly event in the park. I was surprised to find brisket on their price list, so I asked them to bring some. Yesterday I picked it up, and I had a choice of three different sizes. The biggest package looked the trimmest, so that’s what I got – one big six pound brisket! It’s in the fridge thawing right now, and it’s even too big for the 9X13 cakepan lid.

I’m going to cut it in half and try one recipe this weekend, and then refreeze the other part for the next time I have a chance to cook. Some of the recipes I’ve found do actually call for a six pound brisket, but I’m just a little leery of cooking the much meat all at once. It might just fit in my large roasting pan, but that’s way too much meat for just me! It might be great for a party, but I’m not planning a party any time soon. Plus if the recipe I try is no good, then I’ve wasted it all. Besides, I don’t generally “light the oven” when it’s hot enough to run the air conditioning.

“Light the oven” is a hand-me-down phrase from my mom. We never had a gas stove or oven, but she had one back in her Pittsburgh days, so even when she pre-heated our electric oven it was “lit”.

I’m going to try my first recipe in the crockpot and see how it turns out. If it’s even half as good as what I've had while dining out, I’ll be happy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

So Much to Do...

I feel like I’m behind in my yardwork. Of course, this is true, because there is always more trimming, weeding, transplanting, and mulching to do. And it’s been raining since last Thursday afternoon, so even when it’s not raining, it’s too wet to mess around outside.

And this time of year, when there’s so much outside work to do, I always get behind on my inside work. Yesterday I was doing laundry, and looking at the piles of clean linens that needed a place to live, and clothes that need ironing, and the ironing board that needs a new cover, and it was very overwhelming. My quest to make a place for everything that’s necessary is not going so well. Even with the extra storage space in the Klik-klaks, and a small linen closet, there are still sheets and quilts and other linens that don’t have a home.

Clearly, it’s time to get busy – again!

Last night I cleaned out my bathroom cupboard, and put all the extra toiletries and such in a box to be stored in the basement (I may never have to buy lotion again). I also started a box for rummage or donation, and when I was done, I had moved some of the items that shouldn’t be in the linen closet into the bathroom cupboard where they belonged, and still had half a shelf empty. I still have more to move out of the linen closet, but maybe then I can at least get the summer sheets and the rest of the towels put away properly.

On the knitting front, I finished Rusty’s cat bed, and started the fulling process. I washed the bed on hot, then rinsed in cold. I saved the water from the first wash, and sent it through the hot and cold again. Then I dried it in the dryer at the high setting, which I don’t think I’ve ever used before.

The photo is pre-fulling. I didn’t measure, but it doesn’t look like it shrunk much this first go-round. It does feel very nice, and it’s still plenty big enough for Rusty, but it’s nowhere near stiff enough to hold a bowl shape.

I also managed to pick up stitches and start the pouch on the Wonderful Wallaby that I’m making for my friend Jenny’s little girl. The yarn is "Wisdom - Inspire" (discontinued) self striping, and although I initially thought the lavender stripes looked too gray, overall I think it’s looking very pretty. This will be my third Wallaby – all three have been toddler size. One day I’m going to make one for myself, even though I don’t like pouches and I don’t always like hoods. They’re just fun to knit!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Knitting in Fits and Starts

I’d planned to spend most of the Memorial Day Weekend Knitting and relaxing. For the most part, I did just that, but it was not always the success it could have been.

On Friday, I started looking through old knitting magazines, and checking on Ravelry to see which projects were popular or how they were interpreted by other knitters. I found a simple scarf pattern that I realized would make a nice Christmas gift. I perused the stash, and decided to use up some more of the Unger Shades yarn. I cast on and knit away, the scarf growing almost 8 inches the first evening.

On Saturday, I was invited to my sister’s house for a cookout. I packed my little knitting bag with two small projects – a pair of baby booties not yet started, and yarn and needles to make more washcloths. I really wanted to work on the booties, so I found a comfy lawn chair in the shade (it was almost 90!) and cast on. I’d finished the base of the first bootie and picked up stitches for the sides, when I realized that I’d brought a set of needles that were a size too small. If I kept going, I’d end up with a cast iron boot, stiff and inflexible, and not very appealing.

So I put that project aside, and picked up the washcloth cotton. No problems there, and after eating and cleaning up, I finished the cloth and headed for home.

Back to the scarf. I worked a few more rows on Sunday, and by Monday it was over a foot long. However, although I loved the subtle color changes, the look of the yarn itself was not good. There were a few places where either a thick spot or thin spot in the yarn stood out, looking very “beginner knitter”. And the fuzziness of the yarn had a matte look to it, instead of a shimmer. But the worst thing was that the fuzzy yarn seemed to be a magnet for lint, cat hair, perhaps even dust. It looked as if I had used the scarf as a duster before I even finished it! Not the best look for a potential gift.

On Monday, I found the appropriate size needles and got the baby booties moving again. Then I ripped out the scarf, and pondered. I was trying to clean up the living room of knitting debris, and I came across the leftover blue wool from my cardigan project. I decided that these two yarns together would make a great KittyPi. I found pattern and needles and set to work. By the end of the day I had worked to the last increase round, and it was finally looking like a good use for the Unger Shades. After all, if the yarn attracts cat hair, why not use it for a cat project?

I still would like to make the ribbed scarf, and I’m sure if I mull it over for a while, the right yarn will present itself. It usually does!

Monday, May 03, 2010

In the Spotlight!

I'm very pleased and excited to tell you that my knitting has been featured on not one but two websites this week!

The first is a new website that was established to help Etsy Artists promote their shops. This site will be promoted on the social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I think that's great, because I keep hearing on the Etsy teams that such promotion is necessary for boosting sales, but I just don't have the time or desire to tackle such a task. I'd rather knit!

For the launch of their website, from now until May 9, they chose my shop to help represent their Pets category. My catnip toys are one of my bestellers, and I love making them. I'm very pleased about this. Thanks!

The other website is a great blog by "CreativewithClay", another artist on Etsy. Charan has a beautiful blog, and once a week he has a color theme. I was able to offer up something for this week's theme, which was Mustard Yellow. Check it out!

These moments in the spotlight give me a nice affirmation that what I'm making is appealing and well-liked, and those are compliments I'll take anytime!

Finally, here's Rusty, who says "Thank goodness she doesn't think I'm mustard yellow. I'm pure Butterscotch!"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In Case You Were Wondering...

…about that funny looking color change in my blue sweater? Mentioned in this blogpost...

And I said I’d talk about it later? Ok, well, now is the time. But first, I want to point out that everything else pictured in that blog post has been finished! Progress, yes indeed.

But about that sweater…well…

I bought that yarn probably 20 years ago. I can’t even remember where. I never bothered to check the dye lots before I started this started project, because I knew better than to buy yarn in different dye lots. Really I did.

Except that I also like bargains, and chances are this yarn was from some bargain bin, and I bought it knowing that the dye lots were different, but thinking I’d use it for two smaller projects, or for weaving, or who knows what. Back in those days, I bought yarn for a variety of reasons, without any real plan in mind.

Fast forward to the present, and I decided that this yarn’s time had come, and happily wound the first hank into a ball and started knitting away without brothering to check the tiny labels.

It’s a rookie mistake, and I can’t believe I made it after all these years. And if you look at the photos, it is noticeable. And I don’t have enough of either dyelot on it’s own to make the sweater. And I surely wasn’t going to rip it out anyway. If I ripped it out, I wouldn’t be reknitting it, that’s for sure.
So I’m knitting on, and chalking it up to experience. I never intended for this to be a sweater to be worn any place special – just something to keep warm in and wear around the house. And who knows, maybe those blues will bleed into each other over time, and a few warm water soaks. Or maybe they’ll get worse.

I’ve started the sleeves now, and the one thing I did do was check the labels now, so that each sleeve will at least be the same, even if they don’t match what’s already been knit.

The yarn, by the way, is Twitchell Mills 2-ply wool. It’s got a rough texture, rather rustic compared to all the fine wools produced today. But I know from the test swatch that it will soften and bloom with washing, and will turn into a very nice finished garment. Not something you’d want next to the skin, but perfect for a cardigan to keep out the chill. I started this sweater last July, and what I should have done all along was make myself knit two rows a day. I would have finished it long before now. I’ll have to try that sometime, and see if it really works!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Rethinking My Knitting Priorities Yet Again

The Knitting Olympics have come to a close, and I must admit, I didn’t achieve the successes that I’d hoped for.
I did make a lot of catnip toys. That was one success. 30 catnip toys more than stuffed a half gallon canning jar. I did get one project ripped out; part of Ravelry’s “Aerial Unwind”. Now that yarn can go back in the bin until I decide to make something else.

But I didn’t finish even one of the Nordic Knitting projects that I’d lined up to work on during the Olympics events. I’m almost done with the Selbu Modern hat, and will probably finish it up in an evening, now that the pressure is off.

What pressure? Well, the pressure of being tied to one or two particular projects, and not having the freedom to work on whatever I liked. There were several projects that I wanted to work on, but because they were already started, they really didn’t fit in with the Ravelympics rules. One was a pair of socks that was in the home stretch. They had been on the needles for months, and a few more days wasn’t going to matter that much. But they nagged at me, and I finally broke down and finished them. Even though that kind of broke my Ravelympic spirit, it gave me a sense of accomplishment. And it made me consider my knitting priorities.
And right now, my priorities seem to be these:

1. To knit for the Etsy Shop, and the Craft Barn. I thought that maybe time away from “production knitting” would be a good thing, but it wasn’t. I like knitting things for the shop. It’s fun. There are some projects that I can knit over and over and over and I never really tire of them. Or if I do I can take a break and come back to them another time. And I have new ideas that I want to try, and experiment with, and see if they will sell.

2. To finish the two sweaters on the pins for myself. I have a wool cardigan more than half done, and a mohair/wool pullover that needs some attention. The cardigan is more than half done, and the pullover is coming along. I’d like to at least wear the cardigan a few times before air conditioning weather gets here!

3. To knit to use up stash. I don’t intend to buy any new yarn this year (well, ok, I did buy 10 balls in January, but with a particular project in mind). I’m still working on getting the stash organized, and it’s a little sad to think of yarns that I bought 20 or more years ago still sitting on the shelf. So I’m trying a First In, First Out plan of attack when I can. The wool for the blue cardigan was an example of that. Perfectly good yarn, purchased 20 years ago, and why hadn’t I used it sooner? It will make a wonderfully warm sweater.

4. To knit for gift giving. I really need to get moving on this. My plan for Christmas 2010 is to make a variety of items – socks, hats, bags, scarves, etc, and take them all in a big basket to the Christmas gathering, and let the family pick out what they would like. That way I still have fun the fun of making gifts, without the anxiety of “will it fit”, “is it the right color”, “is it something they will like”. I thought that putting together a nice stockpile of items would help see me through any gift giving occasion. But I need to get moving to make it happen!

Now that we are tilting toward Spring, I feel the need to make changes. To be more organized. I think reviewing these knitting priorities will help me keep my goals in sight, and not feel so overwhelmed by all the projects I take on. We shall see!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ready, Set, Knit!

It's not as if I don't knit every day, unless I'm very ill. But starting tonight, the knitting will be special. Why? Well, I'm competing in the Olympics! The Knitting Olympics, that is.

The idea of the Knitting Olympics, which will run concurrently with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, is to knit something personally challenging, whether it be trying a new technique, making a complex pattern, or perhaps even designing a project from start to finish.

Two websites are hosting the event. The Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, coordinator of the original event, has a link where folks can sign up and list their goals.

And on the Ravelry website, there's an entire forum, with 30 events, dozens of teams, and over 6,000 participants.

My challenge will be to make as many Nordic style stranded knitting projects as I can during the 17 day period. There are also a few little projects that will fill in, and it should be a full schedule of knittin, with my day job and routine chores packed in alongside. Right now I have four projects set up and ready to go, casting on during the opening ceremonies. I may choose different projects along the way, but I'm hoping that not only will I get to enjoy some two-color knitting, which I love, I will also eliminate some stash, which is also very important. More about stash busting will be forthcoming.

I'm hoping of course to take photos as I go, but I might not have another blog post until the Olympics are over, at the end of the month. I want to fill the time with as much knitting as possible. Of course, that may not always be possible, but here's hoping!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Where Did This Come From?

Ok, I know I have my forgetful moments, just like the next person, but today I was flabbergasted.

I was on a search today, for a box of yarn that seemed to have gone AWOL. It was yarn I was trying to sell on Etsy, only it wasn't stored with my other Etsy items. In fact, I couldn't find it anywhere. I searched all over upstairs. I searched downstairs where I try not to put yarn anymore. I even went over to the storage unit and searched there, although I was pretty sure I wouldn't have put it there. Pretty sure.

The missing yarn never turned up, and my only conlcusion was that I sold it last September at my sister's garage sale. Either that, or it's going to appear when I least expect it. Like that's never happened before.

While I was looking through boxes and totes at the storage unit, I found several balls of yarn to bring back. I've been getting more of the stash inventoried, and these balls had companions all present and counted for up in the studio. I also brought back a box that seemed to have a few projects and a lot of loose needles in it. I could get those put away too.

When I got the box home, where it was much warmer, I emptied it and put the items where they belonged. And at the bottom of the box, this project was hiding.
I have no idea when I started this. Probably right after I got the book "Fair Isle Mittens & Gloves" by Carol Rasmussen Noble. The book was not with the project, but I had photocopied the pattern pages, and I recognized where they came from. The glove was about 3/4 done, and approaching the top of the snowflake. The stitches had been placed on a long circular needle, as if I needed the DPNs, and switched to this for the time being. About a third of the stitches had been pulled off, which made me cringe a little.

The needle was a #2, and I couldn't believe I would have knit this fine shetland yarn on #2 needles. What was I thinking? That couldn't be right.

Even though I had plenty of other projects going, I decided to get this one back on track. I pulled out some #1 needles, transferred the stitches, and figured out where I was on the chart. I knit a few rounds, and realized that yes, I really did need the #2 needles. I switched over, finished the hand, made the pinky, and the thumb ribbing.

I wonder what made me put this project down? Was it because I was approaching the tricky part, the finger ribbing? Did I have to stop and work on something more urgent? I don't think it was because I got bored. I love stranded knitting, and usually can't stop knitting once I get going.

Whatever the reason, it makes me feel a little sad. Sometimes when a project is abandoned, there's just no hope of getting it going again. There were two other projects in the box. One I've already ripped out, and the other will probably follow suit. I'm glad I was able to rescue this project, and I can't wait to see it completed. I think the gloves will be beautiful, and I'm looking forward to wearing them, maybe even yet this winter.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day of Knitting - Report

Yesterday's "Day of Knitting" spilled over into today, but since I didn't start until the afternoon yesterday, I figure it's still a day's worth.

As for progress - I made two catnip toys, and finished the baby booties.

There are no new photos of the cardigan, or either of the two dark hats. They don't look too much different, although each one is a little longer than yesterday.

This hat was started yesterday. It's a Machault Cap, or Voyageur's cap. I need to complete it by the early part of February, so that's why I started yet another project!

And today, the inevitable happened. All I did was go upstairs to put away the leftover yarn from the baby booties. While I was up there, a single ball of wool in an open box called out "knit me" and like Alice in Wonderland, I had to obey! At first, I was only going to pick out some yarn that would go with the wool. Then I was only going to start the hat, and see what the combo looked like. Well, then I was off and running, and except for a lunch break, I worked on this until it was finished.

I used my food scale, and kept weighing the remaining ball of yarn, to see how I was doing. If I ran out, I was going to have to add a different yarn, or rip the whole thing out and make something else. I switched to garter stitch when I had about 12 grams of yarn left, and when I cast off, I had less than a yard left. See, that's knitting serendipity - when it all works out - and there were no preconceived ideas about what to do with the yarn, so designs, just take off and see what happens. Sometimes it's a disaster, but when it works, it's really great!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Day of Knitting

Happy New Year, a little belated! It has been very busy at work since returning after the Christmas holiday. I have been given additional finance work to do, and still want to get my own budget in line, as well as dozens of other tasks that are piled on the desk. I was hoping for a week or two of calm to get organized, but that didn’t happen.

So while work is chaos, I’ve decided that my at-home time will be as relaxing as possible. That’s why today is going to be a “Day of Knitting”.

I have so many projects going, and rather than work on only one, I’m going to set out several, and rotate through them, working a little on each, and see how much I accomplish.

Today’s lineup includes:

A hat for my brother. I made myself a night hat for cold evenings. It’s lightweight wool, and gives just enough insulation to keep the chill out. My brother can use one too, as his house is pretty chilly most of the time.

A black stocking cap. This is a repeat order from an Etsy customer. Black is a little difficult to work on at night, so I’m glad the sun came out today!

A cardigan for me. I’ve shown this project on the blog before. I wanted to get this finished to wear this winter, but there hasn’t been enough time to work on it as I’d imagined. So if I can make some progress on it this weekend, all the better. And we'll talk about that color variation later...

Baby booties. These were also requested – several pair in several colors.

Catnip toys – a constant project – love making these and using up my leftovers!

A Red Voyageur’s Cap – yet another special request. This is a historically accurate version of a Machault cap, worn by French fur traders and others during the 1600’s. I do like making these, because they are so basic, yet a piece of history. And warm, too!

That’s the lineup so far. I may add another project or two as the day goes on. Most of these are at the stage where they’re not difficult, which is good when doing rotation knitting.

Tomorrow – a progress report!