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

2012 in partial review.


Blueberry picking in July.  Life doesn’t get much better.


I shook hands with Bill Ny*e!


I gave up growing carrots because of root knot nematodes (which result in carrots like those above)


But then I accidentally grew these.  Aren’t they gorgeous?


We went to Red*wood National Park.  This fulfilled a childhood dream.  Amazing.


It was the Year of the Fruit in my garden.  70+ lbs of strawberries, rivers of raspberries, and even some blueberries (but those ones at the top were picked at a PYO farm)


Diablo cosmos stole the garden show this year.  The bees loved them, as did I.


A childhood friend got married and had a potluck reception.  I adore potluck receptions.  YUMMY.  I made this lovely fruit salad with heart-shaped watermelon slices and edible flowers from my garden.


I finally graduated from college!


I did this at a county fair.  No regrets.


I learned how to make bath bombs.  And bath salts (not the scary kind).  And body butter.  It’s been a good year in the homemade cosmetics department.


My soybeans nodulated beautifully.  Lots o’ nitrogen fixing going on in those bumps (a non-nitrogen fixing plant shown for comparison above).


The garden.


Sorry for the crummy photo.  It’s dark.  Anyway, I’ve been experimenting with various terrariums.  They’re much more aesthetically appealing in real life.  Promise.


I ruthlessly battled japanese beetles.  They loved my roses, and demolished the flowers before the buds even opened.  Sigh.


Ellie and I did a lot of knitting.  And she developed some very expensive health problems (entirely unrelated to the knitting).  Fortunately, they seem to be under control and the medication itself is very affordable.


We did a great deal of cooking, baking, and eating.  These cuties are homemade ice cream sandwiches made to commemorate P’s 31st birthday.  One is chocolate basil and the other is coffee chocolate.  SO GOOD.

Raptor Release

Raptor Release

We attended a raptor release this fall.  Several hawks, two bald eagles, a peregrine falcon and other rehabilitated birds were released to the skies.  A very moving event.

We also remodeled our bathroom, I started grad school, and we traveled to Mexico and the Redwoods.  But this is a start.  Cheers, friends!  I hope to be back several more times before school resumes in early January.



Hi Friends,

I’ve been off both school and most work for the past three weeks.  It’s been positively lovely.  I realize this is probably the last time before I retire that I can simply hang out at home without worrying about work or school.  I’ve been busy cleaning, crafting, gardening and relaxing.  Here are some snippets of what I’ve been up to.

Strawberry and Lavender.  

The strawberries have been incredible this year.  I estimate I’ve harvested 30-40 lbs so far, with more coming in each day.  I’ve made parfaits, shortcake, tarts, strawberry lemonade, dried strawberries, frozen strawberries, smoothies… the list goes on.  I’ve been pawning them off on the neighbors and anyone who happens to stop by.  It’s getting a little exhausting, truth be told, but I can’t complain.  It’s the first “bumper crop” since I started my garden here and it’s a real joy.

The lavender has also done well this year.  I snip all ripe buds each evening and dry them.  I tuck them into my drawers, between my sweaters, and set some aside to cook with during the year.  Lavender ice cream or hot chocolate anyone?

I used this strawberry tart recipe and, boy, it was good.  Bake it for a crowd, though, because it’s probably the richest dessert I’ve ever made. 

I have three strawberries patches and this is the largest.  As you can see it’s taking over the garden.  It’s due for a massive  hacking back rejuvenation, which it will receive once it finishes fruiting.

The yellow lilies are blooming.

As is the ‘Coral Cove’ rose.  When the weather heats up the fragrance wafts over most of the yard! 

This is the second nest of baby bunnies in my veggie garden this year.  I ran off the first batch, but these little guys don’t even have their eyes open yet.  I believe in dispatching with them humanely, but sometimes I melt from the cuteness and just leave them be.  I’ll regret it later, but right now it’s fun to head out and pet their fuzzy warmth.

Other garden delights are coming in, including the peas, garlic scapes, greens, and herbs.

Oodles of queen bumblebees frequent the garden and they particularly love the blooming comfrey.  One of the bees is nearly as big as my thumb.  They’re working frantically to set up their nests and then they’ll incubate their brood.  Once the first workers hatch out, the queen will stay in the nest, but the only bumblebees out right now are queens.

The Oenothera is blooming.  The tag says it’s suppose to be fragrant, but I detect nothing.  Do you have evening primroses?  Are yours fragrant? 

This morning I caught the beaded moisture on the edges of the Achemilla.  It looks like dew, but it’s actually the result of “guttation” where the water pressure builds at night and pushes out through the edges of the leaf.  Cool, eh?

Pretty blue delphinium.

I think the open mouth of the penstemon flower looks like a roaring lion, complete with dangling fangs.  

Of course, there has been a bit of knitting.  After 18 months, I finished up the cabled sampler blanket.  In the end it ate up 24 skeins totaling nearly 5.5 lbs and 2 miles of yarn.  It’s going to be so nice next winter.  Until then, it’ll look nice living on our couch.  Ellie (the cat) has already laid a claim to its’ cushy warmth.

The peach tree has grown like a weed and put on a nice crop of fruit.  The fruits are about the size of a walnut.  I’m noticing some damage which I think is from the plum curculio.  Next year I’ll be ready the bag the baby fruits.

And I’ll leave you with a sweet picture of some Siberian Iris blooms.  I hope to be back again before school starts on Monday!

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So a friend saw my de*ad fish hat and wanted one with a clown fish twist.  It took some frogging, trialing, and re-knitting, but in the end I’m pretty happy with it.  I knit a full-finned tail with some heel stitch ribbing, and added a second dorsal fin.  I’m pretty happy with it overall.  (Although, heavens, you should have seen the ends!  I wove in ends for almost the entire Superbowl.)

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Silk cowl

Well, the iDye is pretty cool – an easy, mess free way to dye fabrics and yarns.  I did a blue batch first and it came out brillant and gorgeous.  However, I forgot to reset the agitation cycle on the green wash (by mere seconds!) and the green came out pretty, but pale.  Not what I had in mind.  At all.  I was pretty frustrated.  But the cowl is still silky and beautiful and it’s getting a lot of wear.

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Wooly Wonderfulness

As promised, there’s more stitching to show.

This.  This thing of warmth and beauty.  Last time I put it on the scale, it weighed in at 3+ lbs of wooly warmth.  I really, really wanted to finish it before the end of 2011 (Happy New Year, btw!!) but the blanket is a now a behemoth and the knitting is a bit strenuous.  It wasn’t fun anymore, so I took a break and I’ll tackle those borders a little more slowly this time.  One finished, three to go.

P spoiled me with 100% silk yarn (So unbearably wonderful) for both my birthday and Christmas!  A skein of the birthday yarn was immediately slotted for a growing leaves cowl.  As much as I love all sorts of wools, even baby alpaca and merino irritate my skin, especially my neck.  Oh, I still wear them, but this silk isn’t irritating in the least.

It’s just about finished.  Once it’s done it’s headed for a brilliant blue iDye wash.  I’m hoping the straw colored yarn will come out a handsome green.  We’ll see.

For the Christmas silk, P found 10 (!) skeins of affordable orange silk from a de-stashing woman on et*sy (Isn’t he thoughtful??).  I have enough of this to make something substantial.  I think I need to knit a lovely shawl.  I couldn’t find anything on Ravelry that quite suited my fancy, so I’m going to pick up some stitch pattern books from the library and create my own.

Several months ago I finished the linen washcloth/facetowel travel set.  And then I promptly put the washcloth through the dryer.  Now I have a facecloth and mini-washcloth set.  No matter.  It’ll still get plenty of use!

A friend gave kindly me a gift certificate to my favorite LYS for my birthday.  And then the shop had a holiday 50% off sale for selected merchandise.  I promptly headed over and scooped up these three gorgeous skeins of blue, aran weight, merino wool.  After the sale and the gift certificate, each skein cost me for $1 (normal retail of $13/ea)!  I can’t decide if it wants to become a big, delicious, squishy scarf or a couple of baby sweaters.  Any thoughts?

I still have several blog posts that need to go up – a Christmas recap and my One Little Word for 2012.  We leave early Tuesday morning for a week vacation to the Yucatan, so I’ll try to squeeze them in tomorrow.  If not, I’ll see you in mid-January!

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And now for something a little different

It’s no surprise a lot of knitting goes on around here.  I love knitting because it’s so portable – a few stitches on the bus, before class, while waiting for a doctor – and soon something beautiful arises from those stolen moments.  It took me several years before I was good enough that I actually liked what I made.  Most of my early projects were “frogged” over and over because, in my opinion, they weren’t worthy of existing.

But during break I have time at home which means it’s time to set aside the knitting and pursue the crafts that aren’t as portable.  I love sewing because it’s faster and the possibilities are limitless.  Unfortunately, because I’m less practiced and almost entirely self-taught, I’m not often pleased with the results.  And unlike knitting I can’t just “rip-it, rip-it” and start over.  No sir – once the fabric is cut it’s a done deal, which makes sewing even more intimidating.  But only practice is going to improve my skills, so I’ve spent some hours in front of the machine and here’s what I’ve come up with:

I’ve made two pairs of mittens using this fabulous tutorial.

Here’s P’s pair, made from his favorite sweater that finally got too hole-y to wear.

I lined them with horse print flannel because his name means “lover of horses” which gives us no end of amusement around here.  As a side note – I took scrap pieces of the sweater and needle felted them on the wrong side of the hole-y bits and you’d never know there had been holes if you weren’t looking for them.

I put these in his Christmas stocking and he said that it was one of the best presents he’s ever received – on par with the quilt from his mom and grandma.  🙂

Here’s my pair, made from a thick, felted, thrifted sweater and lined with fabric from XL wool/cashmere pants I once found in a garage sale free pile (score!!)

I needled felted on some fall-colored leaves with green yarn for a stem.  I’m not thrilled with the needle felting job – but every little bit of practice helps, right?

You’d never know from looking at them how many times I ripped sections out to sew them again.  sigh.

I’ve been dabbling a bit in making stuffed animals.  Again, the photo hides it well, but my skills are seriously lacking.  It’s cute, but it’s not what I wanted it to be.  Alas – practice, practice.

I do love this little infant-friendly felted wool tail!

I made this little wristlet using this fantastic tutorial.  It came out so cute!  It’s the first time I’ve inserted a zipper, and I’m very pleased with the results.  This cute little bag will be going with me on vacation next week!

It even has three little pockets on the inside.  If I were to make it again, I’d probably make a pocket on the opposite side to hold my phone.

P and I bought new curtains for our front room to replace the old-lady lacy ones that came with the house.  We ended up with linen I*KEA curtains that you cut to your desired length and then use iron-on fusible web to “hem” them.  As a result we ended up with lots of long, narrow scraps of linen.  I used a few of those scraps to make… napkins!

It’s my first time doing fusible applique so I was just playing around a bit.  I cut the flower and leaves freehand and used cookie cutters to outline the rest.

You can tell from the “Minnesota” napkin that there is a reason the instructions tell you to cut out your images in reverse!  Ooops!

I used this tutorial to make this adorable little fabric basket (how did people learn to craft before the internet and people’s generous tutorials??).

I found one slight error in the tutorial – when you cut the fabric for the lining it says to cut a piece 9 1/4″ x 12″.  That was too small for my basket and I had better luck with a lining that was 10 1/4″ x 12″.  Fold along the 12″ side so the 10 1/4″ sides make the opening.

I think this will live on my nightstand to catch all the little bits that land there – earrings, hairbands, etc.

I’ve still got more knitting to show you, so I’ll be back soon!

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A Few Stitches

December was a whirlwind of knitting and crafting.  I entirely lost track of all the projects, and unfortunately, many of them slipped through my fingers without being photographed.  But they all were finished, blocked, boxed, and gifted.  Most were received with heaps of enthusiasm, which is always both gratifying and surprising.  I’m embarassed to say this, but homemade gifts were… looked down upon when I was little.  But, both times and people change and I’m happy for the opportunity to make things for people who love and use them.

P’s Sweater.  It’s an Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern (Saddle-shouldered) with Kn*itpicks Tweed (70% merino wool, 20% alpaca, 10% acrylic).  If the sleeves hadn’t been too long for me, I may very well have kept it.  It’s so soft and cozy.

P’s hat.  This fall, when I asked him if he wanted a new hat, he said yes.  I was pleasantly surprised when he asked for a hat that was red and cabled!  He typically asks for things that are plain and grey (or black).  It’s a lovely splash of excitement to his wardrobe!  It’s this hat knit up in a merino wool.

This cute little bunny is knit up in a merino wool for a friend’s baby, due in early January.  It’ll soon be gifted with the blanket below.

I do love this baby blanket.  So simple yet so beautiful.

And here is where I’ll sheepishly admit I didn’t get photos of the two mohawk hats I knit for my nephews, the two princess hats (and wands) I made for my nieces, the cute little bear hat for another niece…  I do have a few more items around the house I can still photograph, so I’ll be back for another round soon.


Coming off the needles

A few things have come off the needles as of late.  That doesn’t mean they’re all finished per se, but close enough.

The calorimetry.  I must have knit and frogged this at least seven or eight times.  I didn’t like the short row holes and it took a while to figure out how to neatly finish the pattern without them.  But the ninth or tenth time was the charm.

See?  Are the turns purty?  The final time only took about two hours to knit.  This thick, toasty wool topper has been seeing a lot of playtime so far this fall.  Love, love, love it.

Ok, so this doesn’t technically qualify as knitting.  It’s the quilted blanket I’m making from my dad’s old flannel PJs.

I’m hand quilting it, so it’s going to take a while.  But now that is colder I don’t mind sitting now and then to stitch on a warm quilt.  If the applique looks familiar the birds are simply sized up from this book.  I added the moon.  I just love how the flannel squares look like a twinkling night sky with a new moon and the shadow of two birds on a branch.  It’s so quintessentially my dad.

I’m nearly finished with P’s EZ’s Classic Brooks Sweater.  It’s a merino/alpaca/tweed blend and the yarn is so soft to work with.  Love.  The arms came out a little long, but the rest of the fit is really nice.  I had to rip back the epaulets in order to lengthen them, but it’s just an hour or two away from being blocked.

The baby blanket is done and just needs blocking.  It’s lovely.  Perhaps it’sa teeny bit itchy for new baby skin, but it will make a nice lap throw for the baby’s wool-loving parents or a cover for the stroller.  Their babe is due mid-January so I have no doubt it’ll get a lot of love.

And this little lovey just needs a face.  It came out better than I was expecting.

The garden’s last sunflower.  The garlic was planted earlier in the week and will be mulched on the next sunny, warmish day.  I love planting the spring garden, I love the lushness of the summer garden, and I love putting the garden to bed in the fall.  It’s a little sad to say goodbye, but spring will be here soon enough.

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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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Babies on the way!

And new babies need handknits.

The first is a Child’s Placket Neck Pullover (ravelry link) knit in the 0-6 mo. size, for a little boy that is coming to P’s cousin.  I think it’s unbearably adorable.

The second is a EZ Baby Surprise Jacket in 100% silk with tiny ducky buttons.  It’s for a friend who is going to be surprised on the gender and so I wanted something that could easily suit a boy or girl.

I’ve also been working on an EZ sweater for P and a that cabled blanket that is going to take years to finish.  Oh, I heart good summer craft time.

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