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!