Eat, drink, (garden, knit, quilt, think, fix, read) & be merry

On the Needles

Winter is blowing in fast this year – we got a hard freeze last night!  I lost only a few squash at home, but the farm was hit hard.  In preparation for the colder months, I’ve been knitting at a furious pace.  I’ve also had a low attention span, so there is an abundance of UFOs floating around our house.

The Sugar Bunny is the closest to completion, with only a few more appendages to be sewn on.  But I’m not entirely happy with how this project is turning out, and so it sits, with the legs, eyes, and tail, in the bottom of my knitting bag.

I’ve been wanting a calorimetry for a long, long time.  I found a lovely, dense, wooly green wool at the Bayfield farmer’s market this summer.  I’ve since started the project three times and ripped it out each time.  I don’t like the holes from the wrap and turns.  I need to review Cat Bordhi’s conceal and wrap, but I just haven’t gotten time.  Some day, hopefully before summer rolls around again, I’ll knit up this lovely little project and have a warm, fuzzy half-hat for my head this winter.

I’m still picking away at the Cable Sampler Blanket.  It’ll be at least a year and a half before it’s done.  But hopefully it will get done because it’d be so cozy and purty.

And here is the third try for P’s sweater.  The first one I stole.  The second didn’t fit him well, so I gave it away.  Hopefully, the third time’s the charm on this one.

This is a 100% linen washcloth and face-towel set.  I’m doing the entire thing in linen stitch, so it’s taking an eternity, but I adore the feel of densely knit linen.

And, the most recent addition: the simple, elegant Quadrature.  I modified the pattern slightly to work it entirely in the round.  It’s for a friend’s baby, due in January.  For once in my life I’m getting a head start.  This is the first time I’ve knit something for a knitter, and it’s both scary and an absolute delight.  I’ve ripped out large sections several times, afraid a knitter will notice the imperfections.  But it’s going to be a deliciously warm and delightful blanket when it’s done, and, as a fellow knitter, I know she’ll appreciate just how much work and love went into each stitch.  If it weren’t so obviously a baby blanket intended for a sweet little one, I might have a hard time letting it go.  But it’ll get so much love and use, it’s a delight to make.

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For the love of lavender

This past winter marks the second winter lavender has successfully wintered in my zone four garden.  I had an abundance of blooms this year and here is the recipe for one project.  Unphotgraphed uses included lavender sachets, bottles, sugar, baths, and general enjoyment.

First the stems had to be picked just before the blooms opened.  The buds are deep purple but they’re still buds.  I have another variety that flowered so quickly I wasn’t able the harvest in time and I had to just enjoy it in the garden.  The buds retain their color and fragrance better than opened flowers.

Once the harvested stems had dried I stripped off the buds.  It’s tedious work, but I just picked up a stem here and there for several days and managed it with very little direct effort.  Now you can use the lovely lavender for whatever you want!

I made ice cream!  I brought 2T lavender buds, a 1/3C honey, and 3 C cream to a boil and then let it cool, stirring occasionally, to room temperature.  I put it in the refrigerator overnight and strained out the buds.  I wisked 1 C milk, 1/2 C sugar, and a splash of vanilla into the cream and put it into the ice cream maker for 25 minutes.  The soft mixture is then frozen for 12 hours and voila!  Honeyed lavender ice cream.  Delightful.

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If you’re a plant nerd, you might appreciate this.  It’s a poem I wrote for an assignment in a environmental physiology class after a lesson on stomata.

An Ode to the Constant Motion of Stomata

Opening and closing

is that all that you do?

Just the regulation of gasses

and water vapor, too?

On paper it doesn’t

seem so important a chore

just opening and closing and reopening

that door.

But we’d all be in trouble

if your operation flopped

if the doors just stayed open

as if they’d been propped.

Or if those guard cells

just snoozed, never bothering to

pay attention to the signals

that let the water run through.

Yes if those stomata just lazed

on sunny afternoons

the photosynthesizing would stop

and so would our food

and so would the flowers

and the grass on barefeet

we’d all be in trouble

and life wouldn’t be so sweet.

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A sweet surprise

Early this morning I got a call from the post office.  The bees had landed!  But I had a full day at school and wasn’t able to pick up my charges until almost 5pm.  By then the post office had left four messages on the phone.  The workers seemed pretty excited, it’s not too often something this cool comes through the Saint Paul post office!

That is the same box the bees were mailed in.  When I picked them up the box was warm, humming with activity.  I was smitten.  Ellie was… curious.  But kept a safe distance.

Despite the snow flurries, P and I drove up to the farm to install the hive.  I was so nervous, but I had watched enough you*tube videos, read enough beekeeping manuals, and it went like clockwork.  

Opening the package.

The Queen!  (and a few workers)

Just pour them out.  Just like that.

That is the last time the hive will look that clean.

I survived with no stings… until I walked away and took of my veil.  When I was in the nearby garage a bee escaped my clothing and stung me on the neck.  OUCH!  Tomorrow I drive back out to make sure they’re eating the sugar syrup.  They need to be fed until the nectar flow is in full swing – sometime in June.  P and I are both excited to get our own hive next year.  So cool!

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Gettin’ Crafty

My wrists have still been sore, but putting in a few stitches here and there is paying off.  I’ll show you what I’ve been up to.  But first – seed starting season is in full swing and I’d like to present, for your winter viewing pleasure, the onion, leek, and shallot forest:

Ok, so onto the wooly and silky things.

I finished P’s new socks just in time for his solo vacation to Portland*.  He wore them out of the house for the two-day train trip.  It made me so proud.

Please forgive the poor photos.  It was night and he was leaving, so we had to make due.

I needed a good conference knit (easy, small, with stash yarn) and this Oriental Lily (ravelry link) fit the bill perfect.  I made the six month size with Knit Picks Swish Superwash Wool.  It’s adorable!  Apparently I had two dye lots on hand so the collar is a different dark pink than the rest.  Oh well.

Forgive me.  I don’t normally dress the cat.  But it’s been a long winter.  The dress was finished blocking, she was sleeping, and the next thing you know…

A few weeks ago P and I went to Michigan to pick up a car we bought on ebay (a story for another post!).  While there, we visited with two of my college roommates.  One just had a baby and one is expecting so, of course, I had to make something.  Time was short, so they each got hats.

It’s a simple newborn hat (ravelry link).  The purple is made according to the pattern.  I modified the blue one for a 3-month size and replaced the lace with a simple seed stitch brim.

The silk didn’t knit up as soft as I’d hoped.  But perhaps it will soften up with age?

That’s it for now, friends.  I wish I had more things to show you, but the cutest thing in my life right now is how the cat curls up on my genetics textbook when I’m trying to study.

*While in Portland P visited the Pendleton outlet store and bought me nine pounds of wool dirt-cheap wool remnants, some originally selling for up to $60/yard.  That man knows how to make my heart go pitter-patter.

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Winter break gave me a little time to spend at the sewing machine.  I was really hoping to make some curtains and learn to insert zippers, but that’s not what actually got done.  Here’s what did:

Borris the bear.  Isn’t he adorable?  He’s made from corduroy and bits of cotton from my stash.  The pattern is from One Yard Wonders.

I forgot to sew the eyes (buttons) on before I stuffed him and stitched up the opening.  Turns out you can’t sew buttons on when the inside of the fabric is inaccessible.  Believe me, I tried.  But I actually like him this way.  What do you think?  Is it weird that he has no eyes?

He makes the perfect pillow, especially for airplane rides.

Cute little tail

He’s a little wonky in the way amature homemade stuffed animals are, but that adds to his charm.

I also stitched up a new cloth shopping bag.  The pattern is based on an actual plastic shopping bag (yes, you make the pattern!).  It’s fully lined and very sturdy.  It’s gusseted and roomy.  I love it!  Although I cut the bamboo fabric wrong and it’s upside down.  You may not be able to tell, but as a plant geek it drives me crazy having the leaves point in the wrong direction.

The tutorial is here and is very easy to follow.

A few years ago, when P and I were dating, I scavenged an almost brand-new down comforter out of the dumpster behind P’s apartment.  It had a badly soiled corner, so I simply cut open the comforter and took out 3 garbage bags of clean down.  I’ve moved the down twice and finally did something with it!  With some down ticking (tightly woven fabric so the little pokey ends don’t come out) I sewed up a cylindrical pillow and then made a washable cover out of some stashed quilting cottons.

Here you can see the actual pillow under the cover.  I used the snap press to finish the cover.  It makes a wonderful reading pillow.  It’s long enough I can have my head on one side and use the other to prop up a book.  I stuffed it firmly so it’s very supportive.  Considering I totally made up the pattern, I am very happy with how it came out.  Don’t look too closely, though, I had to do some serious patchworking to make the cover fit!

That was fun, although it’s probably the last sewing I’ll do until summer.  Too bad, those curtains are just going to have to wait.


A little trip

P and I went on a little trip with his parents to the southwest over New Year’s.  It was so cold!  The Grand Canyon was -20F at night.  We had to shuffle a few things around as roads were closed due to some major snowstorms.  But we still had a lovely time.

We flew into Las Vegas, stayed the night, and then headed to the Hoover Dam.  Here I am with my sweet MIL under the new bridge.

And then off we went to the Grand Canyon.  We almost had to skip the Canyon because of weather, but the roads cleared and we made it.  I was so excited!

It was so cold there were few people hiking.  We had most of the lookouts to ourselves.

We spotted a few Elk and mule deer.

We stopped at Montezuma’s Castle on the way to Sedona.  A five-story dwelling built into the side of a cliff more than 800 years ago.  Wow!

There were Sycamore trees in the area.  In the summer you can feel the water rising skyward under the bark.  In the winter, though, they’re just pretty.

We took the back roads to Sedona and it was unbelievably beautiful.

We arrived at sunset and the red mountains were brilliant!

In the morning we went for a little sunrise hike

In Phoenix we visited with some of P’s family.  They had three grapefruit trees in the backyard.  We picked a suitcase full and brought them home.  That was a highlight, for sure!

I love climbing trees.  Especially when it involves food.

Some of the fruits were enormous!

Finally, on the way to the airport, we drove up South Mountain to see the city and find some Saguaro cacti for a photo-op.  I couldn’t pass up this guy with a face!

I hope you, too, had a wonderful start to 2011!

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A Homemade Christmas

We had such a lovely holiday.  We had mountains of delicious food, cookies galore, and so many dear friends and family from both near and far.  Many of the gifts given and received were both thoughtful and homemade.  Let me share a few highlights.

P and I made and decorated sugar cookies using this recipe.  So, so good.

We made mint slice biscuits using this recipe, but omitting the chocolate coating.  They’re pretty good, although they’re a lot of work.

P’s family did a holiday gift basket exchange instead of individual gifts.  It was so much fun to put together a single basket rather than running around town to buy gifts for a dozen people.  I made a basket with a “winter warmer” theme and put in a handknit scarf, brownie mix in a jar, homemade hot cocoa mix, alcoholic whipped cream, beeswax candles, and a bottle of irish cream.  It was the one of the most frequently stolen basket during the swap, so I think it was a hit!

I made the beeswax candles from beeswax I brought back from Peru.  They smell divine.

The hot cocoa mix is made using unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla sugar, salt, cayenne, and a little cornstarch.  I no longer buy commercial hot chocolate mix because this is tastier and more affordable!  The “brownies in a jar” recipe is found here.

My sister made this wonderful peppermint sugar body scrub.  I can’t wait to try it – yum!

My foster mom made these awesome pillowcases for everyone in the family.  Mine is this fantastic mushroom fabric.  I love it so!

P and my foster mom share a love of baseball, so it’s only fitting that his pillowcase is made from baseball fabric.

What were your holiday highlights this year?

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December Blooms

Tomorrow is my last final – hurrah!  It’s been a really tough class, more because of personality conflicts than academic difficulty.  That bums me out. It makes me feel like I’m failing on a personal level, which is harder than struggling with the material.  Alas.  Just 24 hours to go.

Last week the hort club had their Christmas party which included making flower arrangements.  I don’t think I should quit my day job (ha!) to become a florist, but it’s been so nice having these at the other end of the table, peeking out from the piles of books and papers.  One has sweet peas that smell divine.  Blooming flowers – what a treat this time of year.

I love daisies.  They’ve always been my absolute favorite flower.


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Knitting Wrap Up, 2010

I’m a process knitter.  That is, I enjoy the process of making something just as much, perhaps more than, the finished product.  I love how, with time and patience, a string can be become a useful, well-loved fabric.  I love how I can transform the essence of time itself, each knitted object holding long conversations, quiet bus rides, contemplative moments, tears, even holding and transforming anxious or angry moments into something beautiful.  Being more attached to the process and less attached to the product, I typically finish what I start.  There are very few UFOs hanging around my house.  And, let’s be honest, I’m frugal and refuse to buy new needles if I have a pair already, so those projects must get frogged or finished so I can move on to something else.  But this year I became a rather, uh, serious knitter.  What used to be a casual hobby became a near-obsession.  I’ll forget my keys or phone, but I never leave the house without a knitting project in tow.  Thus I now have more UFOs than ever.  And last week I got a wild hair about finishing them ALL before the end of the year.  Let’s do an inventory, shall we?

Ah, the dragonfly washcloth.  This is the most recent project, started in a moment of desperation when I needed a mindless project for some travels, but none of the others were travel-worthy.  A good hour and this will be finished up in no time.  No problem.


The thrummed mittens.  These lovelies are lined with twisted pieces of wool roving.  They’re puffy and delicious, so warm I want to crawl inside them.  I just have one thumb and general finishing to wrap these up.  I should get on it because I need these with the nearly sub-zero temps we’ve been having!


P’s sweater.  This is a funny story.  I made P a sweater earlier this year, but the neck came out a little feminine.  I decided that I liked it.  So I kept it and started another for him.  Afterall, it was unlikely I’d be able to replicate my mistake.  So I’ve been working on this for too long, all the while I’ve been enjoying my new super warm hand knit sweater.  All I need to finish is the neck and collar.  So close, yet so far away.


And here are the socks I started a few weeks ago.  As socks make such excellent travel projects, never becoming too bulky and taking a while to complete, this has been my bus knitting for the past several weeks.  All that remains is binding off.


So why don’t I just finish up all these projects?  Well, friends, it’s the fault of my Muir shawl.  This super snuggly 100% baby alpaca project has been looming all year.  It’s been ripped and reknit several times and this time I might actually finish.  But the 32 row lace repeats take forever, and I can’t travel with it because it’s such delicate knitting.  Everytime I take it from the house I mess up and have to frog several rows.  Grr.  So it’s been consuming all of my home knitting.  I only have 1-3 repeats left (depending on my patience) and final finishing.  It’s sooo close (comparatively) and I really want it done before I travel over winter break.  I think it’d make such a comforting, packable and warm shawl for a plane ride.


And then there is the top secret Christmas knitting that I haven’t even casted on yet.   Can I do it?  I hope so!  I want to start the year with a clean slate so I can cast on for the Cables Untangled Sampler Afghan.  It will be my biggest project to date!  What a process this will be.


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