Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas is for families

Christmas is for families. If you don't have a family, create one with your friends or people in the neighborhood. I'm very lucky I have a family that comes back home from all parts of the country.
This year we were at my cousin's house.

We have many traditions that have gone by the wayside (Santa hasn't visited us in the afternoon for several years) but one tradition that WILL NOT be denied is our cookies. Every family brings their usual cookies and some new ones. The E family brings lemon bars and the Christmas wreaths; the S family brings decorated sugar cookies, cherry bars and peppernuts and my family - well this year I kind of fell down on the job and didn't bring the C family traditional cookies. Beside all the ones listed above every family brings enough cookies to over feed everyone there.

This means lots and lots of cookies on the cookie plates. Here's 2 cookie plates being made up. All those tins on the table are filled with cookies.

Just in case you think that's a lot of cookies and how could 14 people eat that many cookies, let me should you what is on the floor next to the table.

That my friends is another bag filled to the top with more tins of cookies. If we were to eat nothing but cookies for a week, we would not have come close to finishing all the cookies.

Of course, there was the meal. My cousin does not do Christmas small. She made ham, turkey, potatoes, dressing - there was 2 vegetables, salad and oh so much more. For supper we had even more wonderful food. Yup, my family knows how to do Christmas food.

We also know how to spend time enjoying each other's company. Layla is now very firmly established in her 2's and she talks non stop (in a good way!). She found the village and spent a lot of time carefully playing with the people that were skating, the children making snow angels and when she found the horse and sleigh, Layla broke into a chorus of Jingle Bells - delighting all of us.

The week before Christmas Layla's parent took her to Shedd Aquarium and she loved the penguins. So, I decided I had to make her a penguin hat and mitten. Only problem was I couldn't find any penguin mittens so I found a good hat pattern and came up with a mitten design that would work with the hat. I'm pleased to say she loved the hat and mittens and had to show them off to everyone (I got a big hug out of the deal!) Unfortunately, my camera was in a different room and I didn't get any poses.

Christmas Eve I was watching TV - the 8 millionth sappy Christmas movies I've watched this year, and decided to make another hat for Layla. This is just leftover yarn and a real quick knit. No real pattern, I just made it up as I went.

Quick Child's Hat
Worsted weight leftovers
Size 7 needle

CO 80 sts. Working in the round, make k2-p2 rib for 1.5". Switch to knitting around and work striped for 6-7". Bind off using kitchner stitch. Make 2 pompoms for the corners.

After Christmas I love having a day to sit around and enjoy the company of my boys. Bert and Chief were very pleased with the warm weather today (a record high for Minnesota 52F) and they spent the day sleeping in the sun.

I did not sleep all day. I got up and ate twice!

I'm not sleeping. See I'm standing right here on the floor and my eyes are almost open. Me sleeping!?! Nope, not me!

If you look closely at Bert's pic you'll see the kitty afghan. It a long, fairly thin scarf like piece I made several years ago to fit on the back of the sofa. It has cats dancing across it and fits perfectly to cover the back of the sofa and protect against some of the fur that collects back there.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dyeing can be fun!

This weekend was the dyeing experiment. Friday night my friend, Sarah, came up from southern Minnesota and we planned how we were going to go about dyeing. We had sent several emails back and forth the previous weeks and Friday night decided to go with Kool-aid dyeing this time around because that meant we wouldn't have to worry about chemicals and could use regular kitchen utensils.

Before the dyeing began we did 2 things. I gave her the Christmas present I made for her and can finally post a picture of it. The pattern is in the Berroco Flicker free ebook/ The pattern is called Gurie. I made a few changes. The original was created to use 1 skein of Flicker (a wonderful, soft alpaca chain yarn). Because it only used 1 skein, the neck portion went down to only 10 stitches and was fairly short. I made it wider and longer but kept the 2 ends exactly as the pattern showed. It's a beautiful yarn and I love the design of the 2 ends. Sarah seemed to be happy with it too.

The other thing we did before dyeing was head over to Lila and Claudine's for a quick trip. Sarah hadn't seen the new expansion and me, well, I just like to go over there cause they're so friendly and have a great stock. The expansion now includes a lot of gift items. Something for everyone.

So, time for dyeing. We stopped by the store on the way back and grabbed a bunch of kool-aid.

The yarn - I had bought a pound cone of WEBS fingering weight yarn. We wound the yarn off into 50 gm skeins. We got 8 skeins and a 12gm skein. Sarah also wound off a 25 gm skein of a merino-alpaca blend she got at Lila and Claudines. All the yarn went into a bath to get it ready for dyeing. The bath was lukewarm water with a small amount of dish soap.

While the yarn was soaking, we made up the dye mixes. We had 5 colors so made 5 cups of 2 packs of the same color with a splash of vinegar and a 8 oz of water. The rest of the kool-aid, we made cups of 1 pack and 4 oz water so we could mix colors or do multi-color skeins.

With everything ready we did our first attempt.We also decided to use the microwave. 2 minutes - check the yarn - 2 minutes more - check yarn, etc until the water was clear. Most of the skeins took 3 trips to the microwave.

After the microwave each skein was allowed to rest for a few minutes then we transferred the skein to a different container without its water. Once the yarn was completed cooled, Sarah gave each skein a final wash in tepid water and a small bit of shampoo.

After it's final bath the yarn was squeezed of all its water and hung in the bathtub to dry. As you can see some of the yarn was done solid - some tonal and some multi colored.

We had a great time giving this a try and both of us agreed this wouldn't be the last time we dye yarn. Next time around we'll try the jacquard dye I buy a while back or possibly Wilton's food dye. I understand Wilton's has more ready colors available.

If you haven't try dyeing yarn give the kool-aid dyeing a try. It's fun and easy and you get to knit something totally your own. Plus, its best to try it with a friend cause we had a GREAT weekend!

While we were dyeing yarn, Chief was busy amusing us by trying to tangle himself in the chair.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I'm Dying this weekend

If you aren't into knitting and all things yarn and fiber I'm guessing that the post title took you by surprise. Rest assured, there's no terrible disease going on in my household - the dying is all about yarn. I have a friend coming to spend the weekend and we have lots of plain yarn to dye. It will be the first attempt for both of us and we've been emailing lists and instructions back and forth. I don't know what the results will be but one thing I know for sure - there will be pictures..... lots of pictures.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Christmas List

Now that Black Friday is over - Cyber Monday has about an hour to go. I decided to do a little Christmas shopping for myself. Just think of all the great and wonderful things on the Internet that I could be buying for myself. Here's a few of the incredibly wonderful gifts I will (not) be buying this year.

Racing Grannies: what's not to love about a couple of grannies chasing each other around with their walkers! (I've been thinking about buying these for a few years and each time I see them I remember back to my nursing home days when I'd have to avoid the racing grannies where I worked.)

Bacon Band-aids: you never know when those grannies will get so exited they cause an injury. To be fair, there's lots of bacon themed items available now but, there's just something about having a strip of bacon attached to your skin that gives me the giggles.

LED Faucet Light: just imagine, it's late at night and you just need to have a glass of water. Why bother to with the lights to see that you're turning the faucet to get cold water when you have the LED faucet to show you if it's cold or hot.

Dr Who Sonic Screwdriver Pen: OK, I admit it - I'm a SciFi geek. I've been a Dr. Who fan since it first started playing on PBS during the Tom Baker era.

Catnip Bubbles: Bert says if I'm posting a Christmas list he wants to add this.

Not a Llama Mug: This would be great to go along with my current knitting project "It's not an afghan".

You may have noticed several items are from the ThinkGeek website. I think its a fun site to browse but - truth be told - I've never bought anything there so I don't know how their customer service is.

I hope you have fun shopping for your loved ones and get just the right present for everyone on your list. Of course, the best present of all is one that's bought with love and not just bought because you have to!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Traditionally in my family Thanksgiving was a day of my family getting together with my Mom's sister and her family. There would be all the traditional foods, lots of laughing, and an afternoon of the guys sleeping in front of the football game while the women did the dishes and chatted in the living room.

That was the good old days. People grew up and moved away. The older generation aged and passed on. Thanksgiving changed.

This year I'm meeting some friends for a day of friendship (and no football!). We'll have some of the traditional foods, lots of laughing, and an afternoon of working on a sewing project and chatting. Then I'll go over to a cousin's house in the evening for a visit with them.These are the good new days.

Being Thanksgiving I decided to look back at what's happened this year and I can honestly say it's been a good year. Since last Thanksgiving I lost Dad but it was a peaceful passing. You can't ask for more than that. I also lost something I was glad to lose, I lost my old attitude of sitting around doing nothing and eating everything. This summer I had a mind change. I'm going to be here another 20-30 years or more and I don't want to spend them wishing I could do more. I started thinking about things in a different way. I didn't go on a diet, although I changed how I eat quite a bit. I didn't decide I'm going to lose 5 pounds a week and in a few weeks I'll have lost a million pounds and be the perfect weight. That never worked for more than a few days.

What I did do is decide I deserve to be the girl who could swim across the lake; the girl who could hop on a bike and go 30 miles just because it was a nice day. She could be very lazy but she could be very active. I liked her and she wants to come out and play. I'm giving her a chance to come back. That is a good feeling.

Since summer I lost 45 pounds. I went to New York and visited a friend. I dug out clothes from the back of my closet because the ones I was wearing were too big. I've had people come up and tell me how good I look. But more than all that, I'm starting to feel like the old me. I have a long way to go before I'm back to my "fighting" weight but this time I see this journey as real. For that I can be very thankful and and very happily say - this has been a good year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Annual Fall Knitting Retreat

My knitting group has gone on a knitting weekend the past 2 years. In my mind that means it's an annual thing and we'll be doing it "forever". We have fun. We have a lot of fun. Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon with nothing to think about but enjoying friend's company; knitting and eating incredibly good (and surprisingly healthy) food.

This year 11 of us headed an hour south to Red Wing Minnesota. We rented a house thru and were really pleased with our weekend home. It was just over on the Wisconsin side with a beautiful view and lots of room to spread out.

Knitters need lots of room to spread out because they have lots of projects going at the same time.

We had wonderful food. Being a house we could bring our own food and not worry about going out to restaurants. This group knows how to cook! Homemade butternut squash soup - chili - vegetable lasagna - and so much more. YUM!

Saturday we headed out to Riverside Suri Alpacas. A farm in Lake City. Dana has 36 alpacas and a few cows. We had free run of the pasture and had a ball bonding with the alpaca.

They all have their own personality. This little girl reminded me of a meerkat

Cute Alpaca


Some of the alpacas had incredibly huge teeth. Dana told us the teeth keep growing and they are trimmed every year. That just sounds painful to me. Back when I was an avid swimmer I dove a bit too deep in the pool and hit bottom. I chipped a tooth (and luckily didn't break my neck!) But my dentist filed the tooth down to even it out. That tooth was so sensitive for a long time, I really feel for the alpacas.

From what I've found out these teeth get long in the males. They're the fighting teeth so they can "prevent" the other males from being competition for the females. (think about it, you'll figure it out!)

 Then there was Sarah. We bonded. I stood and scratched her ears while she snuggled her head into the crook of my arm for about 5-10 minutes.After a bit Sarah decided to sit down and Rosie got in the act.

According to Dana, Sarah is so sweet that she let Rosie nurse from her even though Rosie isn't her baby. While we were there, Rosie decided she was hungry and she would not leave Sarah alone. Sweet Sarah just sat and let Rosie crawl all over her but wasn't about to be on the dinner menu.

Saturday night ended with more excitement then we planned. About midnight we heard a crackle and thought nothing of it. A few minutes later we decided maybe we should figure out what it was. One of the ladies got up and checked the other room. After making a few rounds she noticed the ceiling fan was on fire! Yup! we had an electrical fire.

The power to the light was turned off along with the fire going down to just smoke. A couple of the ladies headed downstairs to find the circuit breaker and we woke up the few that were sleeping in case we needed to leave. Circuit breaker found - doors opened to deal with the smoke fumes - the really bad smoke fumes. The owner was called and a message left cause he didn't answer and we discussed whether or not to call the fire dept. Better safe than sorry so we gave them a call and 20 minutes later we had many- many fire fighters in full gear with masks on and 2 policemen at the door. They checked out the fan with a heat sensor and declared it safe. Meanwhile the owner said he was on his way but about 1 hour to get there.

Rumors have it we giggled a lot with the firemen and the policeman said something about not wanting to come back because of a rowdy party (he was laughing at the time so we weren't worried). Everyone left around 1:00 am which meant we didn't get to bed until after 2 cause it took a while to calm down from the unplanned party.

So, we had fun. I always have fun with these ladies. They talk my language - knit. I can't wait till next year's retreat. Lucky, I don't have to wait that long to see everyone, knit night is Thursday!

Friday, November 11, 2011


Our country was created by people willing to sacrifice. Men went to war. Women and children stayed home to be sure the men had a home to return to when the fighting was over. Since the Civil War my family has served in every war with honor.

To all my family members who served and to the family members of everyone - THANK YOU!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Week of Fiber Fun- part 3 - RHINEBECK

Knitters and spinners on Ravelry talk about Rhinebeck like its the best thing in the world. It's full name is New York State Sheep and Wool Festival. After listening to that talk for a while I had to make the journey.  First off, I've been to a few other fiber fests before. Every year I go to our local one at Washington County fairgrounds. I've seen llamas, alpacas, sheep and goats. The critters aren't new to me. I've seen yarn, roving, and all sorts of fiber goodness. So, why the pull to go to Rhinebeck? For me it was a chance to see all sorts of other knitters enjoying a common love, and of course the chance to see more yarn.

My friends and I got there finally after the massively long line of cars and headed toward the critter barns. She isn't big into critters so I had to snap a few quick shots, pet a sheep or 2 and move along.

One thing I learned while taking sheep pics was the numbering system. This cute guy/gal was number 97 but the shoulder mark is a ribbon. This is a winning sheep!

More sheep

People outside the sheep barns.

The hills outside the fairgrounds were alive with fall colors.

Of course there was also alpaca with cute haircuts.

At noon there was a Ravelry meet up on the hill near the main entrance. People were milling around checking out everyone's knitwear- sweaters, shawls, hats, scarves, skirts. You name it, people knit it and wore it.

The Ravelry Mom & Dad and Mary Heather were there. Casey was there talking to everyone.

Jess was talking care of the new little one who was incredibly well behaved until I decided to take a picture. Of course there was lots of baby knitwear!

Someone gave Jess and Casey a cute little baby hat and my friend, Susan, just happen to be standing in a perfect spot to get a pic of all three.

Then there was our group. Susan and I met up with a few Rav friends. The month before I made the sweater coat I'm wearing just to bring to Rhinebeck. It's what everyone does.

Barbara's cousin - Barbara - Suzy - Susan - me

There was a dead fish hat .

Man in a kilt (he wasn't the only one)

In the afternoon there was a llama/alpaca parade.

Check out the building in the background. All that glass is the front of one of the barns. They were light and clean and filled with fiber vendors.

A dress all in lace.

After a full day of people watching, shopping and critter watching we headed home the long way. Susan's friend met us with her daughter (a delightful, intelligent and witty young girl) and we drove them home after all of us stopped for pizza. My first pizza since June and IT WAS GOOD!

Sunday Susan and I spent most of the day at her house knitting and chatting. We had a late lunch/early dinner and headed over to a BBQ place in Troy. Dinosaur BBQ You know a BBQ place has to be good if there's a uinch of motorcycles out front. The food was wonderful. It was my first BBQ since before June. Starting to see the big picture here? I decided this would also be a vacation foodwise and I ate pretty much whatever I wanted without eating too much.

After our meal we drove around Troy a little bit and I learned a bit about the town from Susan. Uncle Sam is from here. Sam Wilson was a meat packer from Troy and during the War of 1812 his meat was sent to the troops with the mark U.S. The story goes that the troops started saying the meat was from Uncle Sam and eventually anything marked US was said to be from Uncle Sam.

Sam Wilson statue

Monday morning came too soon and I headed back across Massachusetts to Logan Airport in Boston. Goodbye to mountains and the beautiful countryside.

I wasn't the only one who was tired and just wanted to get home.

The best sign in the world after a fight from Boston to Milwaukee and a 1.5 hr layover was the sign that said our flight would be on time. I was away from Chief and Bert for 5 days and I missed my boys more than I thought.

I finally got home a bit after 11pm and after major hugs and cuddles from the boys I fell into bed so I'd be ready to get up for work the next day.

Would I go to Rhinebeck again? You bet. But I doubt I'll be doing it as a yearly event. It will be a special trip from time to time. You may noticed I still haven't shown you what I bought. I haven't been home during daylight hours all week so I haven't taken pictures yet. Tomorrow I'll get some pictures and let you see what I got.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Week of Fiber Fun- part 2 - Heading to Rhinebeck

So, I took off last week and decided to have a little fiber fun. I went to Lila & Claudine's to see their new digs and then on Thursday I got up and an unbelievably early hour to get down to the airport, make it thru security and be on the plane for a 5:45am. I don't "do" morning. I amaze myself everyday that I actually get to work on time. But - there was fiber to see and friends to visit so I got up at 3:45am. UGH!

I landed in Boston, had a minor problem with car rental and headed across Massachusetts toward WEBS.
The closer I got to WEBS the more scenic everything was. Minnesota doesn't have much in the way of mountains or even hills so seeing western Mass. with its fall colors and rolling landscape was a treat to my eyes.

Soon I turned off the freeway and was headed into the WEBS parking lot. I was careful about what I spent because I have a large stash and try to get what I know I'll use within a reasonable length of time. I ended up getting 10 skeins of Valley Yarns Northampton, a skein of a beautiful fingering weight for a shawl, a pair of Knitter's Pride needles to try out their new needles and that's it. Wanna see a picture of the new stash? Tough - you have to wait!

After my time at WEBS I headed west toward New York to get to my friend's house in Troy - just outside Albany. Finally - New York here I come.

Little side note- in Minnesota we have entrance ramps to freeways that know their place. You get on it and within a very brief distance you are on the next freeway. This isn't the way things work in Mass. You get on the ramp and you are taken on a long side tour of the countryside, winding about forever until you finally make it to the next freeway. There's nothing wrong with this its just odd to get used to!

So, I made it to my friends house and we sat around talking for the evening and had a delish pasta/meatball dinner. And yes, there was knitting.

Friday, we headed out to do a little driving tour of Vermont; mostly so I could say I was in Vermont. The day started out rainy on and off and kind of went down hill from there. We drove through hills of wonderful fall colors but a lot of rain and most of the trip looked like this.....

Rain of the windshield and minimal traffic. When the rain stopped the colors were fantastic. It really is true, fall in this area is something to see! The river in this picture is much higher level than usual as the water from the August hurricane Irene.

The valleys were so foggy the long hanging clouds and fog made it look very mystical.

We drove into Bennington, VT ready to eat lunch but had to stop and enjoy several painted moose first. The restaurant across the street that says "Fine Ales" was our destination. I don't know about the Ale but the Reuben sandwich was perfect!

What's a trip thru Vermont without spotting at least one covered bridge. This one was just sitting at the side of the road with a gravel pathway going up to it. No cars going thru this one any more.

One of the truly frightening/sad/amazing sights was the small town of Wilmington, VT. They were hit hard by the hurricane and most of the town had major damage. We were cruising the Internet the night before the trip so knew things were going to look "not right" but seeing it was totally different from viewing it on youtube.
Wilmington one month after the hurricane.

I didn't get any pictures of Wilmington or the rest of the drive because the rain got so bad all my pics are just raindrops on the windshield. For a while the rain was so bad we could barely see the road. But we made it home and went to an Indian restaurant for dinner. Chicken Korma was delish!

Then came Saturday. Rhinebeck. The word makes knitters and fiber people all excited and they dream of the fun they'll have, the yarn they'll buy and the fiber critters they'll see.

We headed out for our hour long drive down the Hudson River with clearer skies and great views.

About a mile from the fairgrounds traffic came to a halt. The last mile to get into the grounds and park took us almost a hour! Could this many people actually be going to a Sheep and Fiber Festival? YUP!

We survived the drive in - found a parking place - got thru the gate and headed into the first barn we saw to check out the critters. I love the happy faces on the sheep. They just know they're here for something special and that all these people are here to thank them for the wool they grow that gives us all the hours of pleasure.

So - we made it to Boston - drove thru Mass - visited WEBS - made it to New York - drove thru Vermont flood zone - drove to Rhinebeck and survived the traffic to get in and now.......

you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see the Ravelry people - critters on parade - and some knitwear.