Thursday, November 24, 2011

It's hard to believe another holiday season is upon us. The other day I was looking for some summer photos I'd taken in the back yard, and having a hard time finding them. Turns out they were taken in 2010, not just a few months ago. Where does the time go? 

Thanksgiving - today's the day! Turkey, family get-togethers, and for today here in the Midwest - good weather. Not that I have anything against snow - I love it. But it's nice to enjoy one more day of sun and warmth. Last winter was a long one, and this winter will be here soon enough. Since I've been rushing through the days, it's good to have a chance to sit back and enjoy one for a change.

And the biggest rush lately has been to get the Etsy shop ready for the Holiday shopping season. I've been listing lots of new items, and I hope they will be enjoyed by many. I had a chance to go to the Mall of America a week ago, and it was so disappointing. I've really become an alternative shopper. The rows upon rows of stores there with merchandise that was mass produced seemed to lack any sense of presence. There was no heart. Maybe that sounds silly, but when I look at the shops on Etsy, I can see that the items were produced with care and love. And that's what I want for myself, and in gifts for friends and family. Something that exudes care and love, not impersonal materialism.

Back to being thankful. As always, I'm thankful for good health, and family and friends, and the lovely area where I live. And of course, the kitties, who provide constant love and entertainment. And I'm thankful that I no matter what crisis or setback may occur, there always seems to be a way out, or around, or through. That's very important, I think. We can't ask or expect to live perfect, stress-free lives. But having the smarts and the courage to deal with the stresses and imperfections will see us through just about anything. And that's worth giving thanks!

Thankful for sunshine...

Saturday, October 08, 2011


The Autumn Socks are finished, and I love them!

This is a close up of the cuff, hopefully to better show the way the shades meld together.

They are perfect socks for fall, and I will rinse them and admire them until November 2, when I will put them on and celebrate my 50th birthday. Can't wait! With socks like this, the day will be sure to be a good one. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Saturday Fun

Part of my Saturday was spent in the company of this lovely sunflower.
My brother and I drove down to Coon Valley to Norskedalen to see the Threshing Bee. I had never been there before, and the place is quite expansive. Many old homesteads have been moved to the site, and for the most part, it was like walking back in time. We saw the threshing, and corn picking, and then shelling and flailing and grinding. Lots of work just to get a little flour. It's one thing to spend time on a chore or a craft because you enjoy it, and quite another to do it because you need to survive, and feed a family and livestock.

There were also demonstrations of beekeeping, blacksmithing, butter churning, cheesemaking, lefse making and more. There was an antique steam engine turning an ice cream maker. All of the foods made that day tasted wonderful, and it reminded me again that simpler is often better.

It's difficult to live simply, and more slowly, when the concerns of the modern day are all around. Today I rushed through another busy Monday at work, made the equivalent of "instant" food, and will fast forward through commercials in a television program. The pace is frenetic. Not only fast, but frenzied. I try to grab moments of time, but they go by so quickly they don't seem to be enjoyed, let alone even experienced.

This is something to work on; to change for the better. Simplify, simplify.

I've got my work cut out for me...

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Charming Socks

I need to write about my current pair of socks in progress, and at first I wanted to say that they infatuated me, but a romp through the dictionary proved me wrong. An infatuation is a foolish love, and there is nothing foolish about these socks, or the way I feel about them. No, the word that I finally settled on is charming. These socks have charmed me.

There is a bit of serendipity here. I did not buy this yarn on purpose. I happened to stop at a big box hobby store last week, and found loads of yarn on clearance. I bought all the sock yarn, 11 balls, planning to use it for catnip toys and booties and such.

Then on Sunday, I finished a pair of socks for a friend; a pair that, while feeling nice and colorful, was not the nicest pair to make. The yarn was splitty, and it felt finer than normal sock yarn. And that afternoon I was going to a fiber gathering, and you can't go to an event like that without some mindless knitting on the needles. After much consideration, I pulled a ball of Kroy FX yarn out of the pile of sock yarn I'd just purchased, and cast on.

I knew automatically how I would knit these socks. 2x2 ribbing for a couple of inches, then switch to 3x1 ribbing. Simple and serviceable. I decided that these socks would be for me; something I could wear to work with my drab brown uniform.

I got about three inches of knitting done on Sunday, but the enchantment didn't set in until Monday. That day I was able to do a few more inches, and the leg really began to take shape, and the muted color shifts were becoming more evident. They remind me so much of crushed leaves, the kind you find when you walk along a sidewalk in the fall, and it's covered with leaves, and they've been trodden on and flattened, and the colors and textures meld together into a mosaic of brown and gold and copper.
Click to make larger

There's also something substantial about the way these socks feel. They are sturdy. The last pair of socks I knit was soft, and almost delicate in feel. This Kroy yarn, however, the typical wool and nylon blend, while not rough, feels firm and thick and warm. I'm knitting on #1 needles, but I probably could have used #2 needles and still had a decent fabric that wasn't too limp. There's something special about the way these socks feel in my hand, as if they hold a promise that they will keep me safe from winter's chill and be warm and relaxing and comforting.

And really, what more could you ask of handknit socks?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Knitting at 3 a.m.

More often than I would like, I battle with insomnia. On Monday I was wide awake at 3 a.m., so I decided to be productive. I picked up a nearby skein of yarn, and started this pumpkin cap. It's hard to see from this angle, but the orange cap has ridges similar to a pumpkin shape, and there will be a stem and leaves at the top when it's finished. I got about an inch and a half done before I got drowsy enough to turn off the light.
Although I would rather to getting a good night's sleep, knitting is a much better use of the time than just lying in bed and worrying. And there is something rhythmic about moving the stitches from one needle to the next, and the other repetitive motions that are almost hypnotic.

Cats are lucky, they seem to have no problems with insomnia!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

New Digs

This is another entry from last year that stayed on the jump drive while waiting for photos. Since then I've taken many photos, so I'm finally getting this finished!

July 2010 - Earlier this year I changed vets. It was a tough decision; I'd been taking my cats to the same clinic for the past 25 years. But a change was needed, and so far, the new vet has been very helpful.

Last month she saw Rollie for his annual checkup, and we talked about Rollie's biggest problem, which is his behavior. He is very afraid of some things, like loud noises, and strangers, but sometimes he gets too wound up, and plays too rough with the other cats, or with me. Rusty is just a big, slow-moving bumble, and when Rollie comes flying out of nowhere and jumps on him, he usually ends up getting hurt. Last year he even broke a tooth during a scuffle.

The vet's suggestion for Rollie was give him more attention, and also to get him a cat tree, so that he could have a high place to perch, and feel dominant, and a house to hide in to feel safe. 

Now, I'm not a big fan of cat trees, because most are made with carpeting, and I don't like carpeting at all. I'd pull it off all my floors if there was anything even remotely decent underneath (there's not - there's old cracked linotile from the 50's - probably the kind with asbestos in it).

I started shopping, and I found a website that offered trees in dozens of configurations, most with sisal posts and fleece covering, instead of carpet. Some were huge, with many levels and hammocks and ropes for climbing. I selected one that looked like it would work for my kitties.

It came well packed, with very easy directions, and I put it together and set it up in the living room. As soon as it was set in place, Rusty made a move and climbed into the house and gave me a look that said "Well, it's about time you did this - I've been waiting for ages". 
For the first four days it was Rusty's house, and Rollie was back on the floor, looking very put out. I'd get ready for work in the morning, and by the time I had to leave, Rusty was in the house and Rollie was sulking. I'd come home and Rusty was in the treehouse and Rollie was on the floor.
Then something happened. I don't know what. I wasn't there to witness it. But suddenly Rollie had control of the entire cat tree, and Rusty was hobbling around and very grumpy. It's been like that ever since. Every now and then Rusty gets in the treehouse, but as soon as Rollie notices, there's a tussle. You'd think that since it has several levels, that everyone could just pick a spot and get along, but not my bunch. Lily hardly even goes near it.

Eventually, I'll probably get another one for the sunroom, because I'm getting used the this one and not finding it too unattractive. The problem though, seems to be that a lot of the models on the website have very steep jumps from level to level, and my cats don't climb like kittens would. I think these trees would be great for kittens. But for arthritic old Rusty, he needs something with a bit more slope, and a bigger landing pad. And the house could be bigger. I'll have to see if I want to get this same model again, or try a different one. 

One thing I do like about this company is that you can order any piece individually, so that if your cats comepletely tear up one of the posts or levels, you can just replace that piece instead of buying a whole new unit.

August 2011 - After having this tree for almost a year, I can say it was certainly worth the money. Rollie is on it several times a day. Sometimes he charges up to the top so fast and with so much vigor I'm worried he'll tip it over, but he never has. I've been able to clean the fleece with a cat brush and the vacuum, and it's only a little worse for wear. Rusty does manage to hang out in the house every now and again, but he sticks out each opening! And I even saw Lily go on it a few times, all by herself, but as soon as she realized I was watching, off she ran. Has it changed Rollie's behavior? I think so. Look how content he is!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Christmas in July?

I've never really understood the concept of Christmas in July. It seems like a flimsy excuse to have a party, and gives big business another reason to have a sale. I think summer should be enjoyed for that it is, and leave Christmas in December.

However, any serious knitter will tell you that doing some Christmas knitting in July is a very good idea. If you intend to give knitted gifts, start them now, or else fall back on really small knitting, like headbands, washcloths, and cell phone cozies. And then worry when your best friend gives you a really stunning piece of jewelry and your gift to them is a set of knitted mug coasters. If only you had more time...

This year my Christmas in July knitting is focused on Christmas stockings. I love to make Christmas stockings! They can be so festive. They can be any size, which is great for using up leftovers or precious yarns. There's only one, so no "second sock syndrome" unless you really want to make two that match.

Some of the first items I ever listed in my Etsy shop were Christmas stockings. They followed a design that I made for all my gifts that year - ragg wool stockings in color variations or red, green, and cream. I loved making them.

I also like to make small stockings, in many little sizes, that can be used as ornaments on the tree, or hung anywhere around the house. For these, in addition to the traditional Christmas colors, I like to use other colors, and other textures. I like to hang small stockings on as many doorknobs as I can, as well as on the tree!
My challenge, in knitting Christmas stockings, is in the patternwork. I love the patterned stockings, but in multicolor knitting, this can often mean long floats of yarn on the wrong side of the work. This is not ideal for a stocking that's actually going to be filled with gifts. Corners and edges can catch on the floats and snag, or get stuck. What fun is that?

I could make fabric linings and sew them inside the stockings. But the idea of that just doesn't thrill me, even though I do like to sew. Maybe someday I will try it. Until then, my answer is to find color patterns tah only have a maximum three-stitch carry. That eliminates longer floats.
This pattern met the need. It reminds me of an overshot weaving pattern. The other thing I like about it is that it doesn't jog as the rounds change, which can be very noticeable in some stitch patters. This stocking turned out a little long, and I could have shortened the leg and the foot just a bit, but I was stubborn and knit to the end of a pattern repeat. Plenty of room for an extra gift or two!
These stockings will be going in the Etsy shop soon, even though it's not anywhere near Christmas. In addition, I'll be adding some fluffy berets, and some woolen headbands. Maybe looking at cold weather knits will help alleviate the heat!

I've already found my next simple stitch pattern for a stocking, and may get started on it this weekend. Can't wait!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oh, We're Having a Heat Wave!

I am not a hot weather person. Give me a wool sweater any day! Winter is my favorite season, following by autumn, then spring, and summer comes in last, mostly because of days like this. Hot, humid, in the 90’s or higher, with a heat index that’s well over the century mark.

This morning, walking outside at 7 am was like stepping into a bowl of hot soup. I expected to see fish in the air instead of birds. The trek from the car to the office door, carrying my three bags plus an armload of heavy mail left me feeling crushed and out of breath. Maybe I needed gills…

A week or so ago, we had two of those halcyon summer days, where you could stand in the sun and feel warm, and sit in the shade and feel cool. You could work up a sweat by doing heavy manual labor, but not by just standing outside. A light breeze was enough relief, and the open windows let in the cool night air, so you could actually sleep comfortably with a blanket on. Those two days would be my ideal summer season. If only every summer day was that perfect.

During this heat wave, I’ve been spending most of my time indoors. I would love to go out and pull weeds and tend the flower beds, but they will just have to manage on their own until the humidity drops. Until then, I’ll be trying to clean up inside, and get my sunroom ready for painting. Bookcases need to be emptied and the books moved somewhere else temporarily, while I sand, and prime and paint. And maybe by the time I get to the painting, the windows will be able to be open again, which would be very good indeed.

The flowers don't mind the heat...

But the camera does...this ethereal bloom is the result of a fogged over lens

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Fruits of My Labor

I love to garden, but it's been quite a while since I've had a big enough garden to raise enough to have surplus to "put by".

Without planning ahead, I decided this year that I would go berry picking. There are a number of patches of wild black raspberries at my workplace, and there were a fair number in the back yard this year as well. The yard berries would have been enough to have on ice cream every night, but I spent a few afternoons adding to that by picking berries after work. My canning book told me I would need 3 quarts of berries to make enough juice for one batch.

Last weekend I cleaned and cooked the berries, and added some blueberries from the store as well. I strained the slurry through a jelly bag suspended over a large bowl, and ended up with enough juice to make two batches of jelly.
It took a little work to hunt for the right jars and lids in the basement, and clean out the big boiling water canner and utensils. But as I worked I remembered just how much I enjoy it. I canned the first batch of jelly last weekend, and finished the second batch today. These will make nice Christmas gifts, if I can bear to part with them! This jelly is sweet, but has that tart bite that wild berries are know for. My favorite combination!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Daisy, Daisy....

Remember that lone daisy from last fall? Well, this is how that "field" looked not too long ago.
The daisy fields are blooming. This is the part of the yard by the driveway, and it was in full bloom over Memorial Day weekend. I've since had to mow it down, but now the daisies in front of the house and over on the west side are doing the same thing. They bloom a little later, for some reason.

I've always said that I'd like to replace all the grass with flowers, so I wouldn't have to mow. I guess these blooms heard that! They are doing their best to take over the yard. It's a little difficult though, because in some places, they are very patchy, and the grass is still putting up a good fight. I'd like to make some new beds, and try and corral them, along with some of the other prolific perennials, but I haven't gotten very far. Little by little, I guess. In the meanwhile, I like the wild, overwhelming spirit these daisies possess!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Do Not Squander Time...

…for that is the stuff life is made of. Ben Franklin
I had a really nice weekend. The weather was pretty good. I got some work done in the yard and around the house, but I didn’t go overboard and try to do too much. There were a few weekends earlier in the Spring when I worked close to 10 hours outside on Saturday, then paid for it on Sunday with total exhaustion.
It was still cool enough to bake, so on Saturday morning I made banana bread to use up a mushy banana, and threw in a meager picking of strawberries too. It turned out quite well. After years of making banana bread that I just didn’t like, I returned to a recipe that I learned in 7th grade, from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, and that’s the only one I make now.
On Sunday I made a cream cheese quiche with onion and bacon. I seem to be on a quiche kick – this is the second one I’ve made in two weeks. Both were very good!
So where does the squandering of time come in? Well, in knitting, unfortunately. I had been gifted with some needlework supplies earlier in the week, and among the needlepoint canvas and crewel yarn was a variety of colors of Red Heart acrylic. My first thought was to put the Red Heart in the box I have going to Goodwill. But then I thought maybe I would use some of the colors for slippers, and add some of my coned yarn to liven them up a bit. Or make a child’s sweater.
I spent too much time thinking about this yarn, searching for an appropriate pattern, starting the project, and then realizing what I knew all along, that it just wouldn’t be a nice finished product. And I knew this going in, so why couldn’t I stop myself?
I guess it comes from the old “waste not, want not” philosophy. Even though I hadn’t spent money for the yarn, or maybe because I hadn’t spent money on the yarn, if I could make something good with it, I would be at an advantage.
But life really is too short not to work with good yarn. So I will happily take this to the Goodwill on Friday, and who knows, maybe I will find some treasure there. Maybe not yarn, but maybe a cute summer top, or a book I’ve been wanting to read, or the perfect size teapot that’s also easy to clean.
With a long weekend coming up, there will be plenty of time to do good things: a little cleaning, a little visiting with family, and a lot of knitting. And if I squander time, I hope it’s only to take a really good nap!
Rusty is the king of naps!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Sweater

Last winter I enjoyed wearing this wool sweater around the house. It kept me warm. Truth be told, it was a little roomy, but oh so comfy.

I decided a cotton version would make a nice summer sweater. Something I could throw on if the air conditioning got too chilly, or on a cool summer evening. I wanted to make another top-down raglan, but I wanted the finished cardigan to not be so loose.

I read through the design sections of Wendy Bernard’s “Custom Knits”, and followed her formula for calculating the cast on. I decided I wanted a v-neck, and may have fudged a little on getting that started, but I figured the neck and front edging would help work ease out any jogs or width issues.

Years ago, when Lion Brand discontinued their Cotton-Ease yarn (it’s since been reintroduced), I bought up a bunch of it on clearance in two shades of blue. I picked the lighter shade, and decided that I wanted a textured stitch pattern. I didn’t see any in my stitch dictionaries that said “knit me”, but I saw something similar to this one in a photo. I charted out what I thought was an interesting texture, and knit a swatch. I even tried adding a spreckled blue coned yarn I had for extra interest, but it made the fabric too stiff. I wanted soft and drapey.

As I knit, and started shaping the neck opening, I added the new stitches to the stitch pattern right away, rather than wait until I had a full 8 stitch repeat. This still gives definition to the raglan seam lines, but does not make a jagged looking wedge of knitting.

At this point, I’m still shaping to the top of the sweater, and getting to the antsy stage. I know it’s not deep enough to cover the arms yet, but I don’t want to make too deep of an arm syce. Also, this stitch pattern is actually a ribbing variation, so its tendency is to pull in, making it look like the sweater will be way too small. It makes me not trust my calculations. I’m worried that my sweater won’t fit me, but a child instead. However, I’ve been stretching out little sections, like across the arm, and when I do that, it looks fine.
As today is the first day of summer, my hopes for finishing this sweater before fall are iffy. I’m still working on the first ball on yarn! That’s great, and means that I should have plenty of yarn to make this sweater with some left over. But it does mean I have a long way to go. And with so many other projects on the needles, I don’t want to see this one get put aside. Tonight I hope to finish the first ball of yarn, and do some measuring. So far, so good!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


The blog has been at a standstill for a while now, and here’s the reason why. I wrote the following back in January, and thought I needed to add some photos to go with it. But I stalled at adding the photos, never having the two jump drive in the same place at the same time, remembering too late at night, etc.

And since then, many really good blog entries have written themselves in my head, but I really wanted this entry to precede them, so they sat and stagnated.

So I’m finally getting this January Resolution out there, and maybe after this I can get back to the fun knitting blather…

From January -

I’ve been trying to think of how I’m going to jump back into blogging, and I guess I’d better just do it! Even though it’s almost the end of January, I’m still trying to plan out the year, in many ways. The following areas come to mind: work, home projects, money, needlework, organizing. No need to go into the work stuff here. As for the others…

Home projects: I stopped blogging in late summer because life got a little hectic. My brother Tom got started on another renovation project for me. We replaced the last of the old windows in my house with new double hung windows. This was a big undertaking, and it’s not quite finished. It’s up to me now to sand and paint the interior walls of the sunroom while my brother plans what kind of interior trim work he will make. I have the paint and other supplies; I just need to get moving.

Money: I am still trying to get my finances in order so that I can retire when the time comes and not feel panicked. I made progress last year, and that’s encouraging. There’s still a lot more to do, and changing habits is an ongoing process.

Needlework: I accomplished quite a bit last year, but I could work on knitting, crocheting, sewing, and others all day long and still never achieve all my goals. This is one area I’m still trying to sort out.

Organizing: There is still too much stuff in my house. And it’s still way too disorganized. I keep a box out all the time for Goodwill donations, and have a nice stack of boxes set aside for an upcoming garage sale. However, as I’ve said before, this is almost another hobby, and one I could work on all day long as well.

Finally: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal privacy. On the one hand, while it’s fun to share all my activities, trials, achievements, and experiences, and get feedback and encouragement, I’ve started to feel that maybe too much information is being shared. I have very few blog followers; just a few friends and relatives, so the likelihood of having my privacy invaded is small. But with the glut of social media these days, it just seems like everyone is rushing to share their most personal thoughts and feelings with a whole universe of total strangers, without realizing the potential consequences. It’s overwhelming. I can read blogs that I think are about knitting and suddenly they go down the path of child rearing, or politics, or mental and physical disabilities. And while I understand that we are not one-dimensional, it feels like someone has just blurted out some inappropriate remark or had a private conversation overheard.

All the information that we are bombarded with on a daily basis is too overwhelming; it’s giving me the desire to withdraw from the hectic, fast paced frenzy of it more than ever. I’ve been thinking about Emily Dickinson, and her reclusive life, and wondering if would work for me. Can I be a recluse with a blog? Seems contradictory, doesn’t it?

Well, I think I might just try it. After all, even though Emily was reclusive, she was a prolific correspondent. And even if I just stick to writing about knitting, and maybe throw in a photo of a cat or some garden flowers, I still should have plenty to write about!