Friday, February 23, 2018

The Object(s) of my Affection

I have many.  But this is the latest.
The cat's out of the bag.
I am mostly amazed that I could focus on a project this large.  Those are long rows.  I thought about the recipient as I worked on it - how we met, how our friendship grew and became so integral and important to my life, the fun we've had, how much she means to me, how special she is in the world.  It is aptly displayed before the most beautiful little bronze sculpture (center top - although you can't see it's full loveliness) created by the recipient of this shawl.  It is truly a multi-national result - pattern envisioned and designed by a woman in Argentina; named after a woman in Canada; yarn hand-dyed by a woman in Texas; knitted by a woman in New York; given to a beautiful woman in the Netherlands.

Another adorable object.

And, yet another.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

And, WHAM! It was all over.

I really couldn't think of a better intro.  It sounds way more exciting that it was.  Last Monday evening, on my way over the mountain towards the warm beacon of home, the flu struck.  It was that sudden.  I was going along, minding my own beeswax, then WHAM!  Eyes water and itch, the shivers struck.  Good gawd.  And, yes, I did get the flu shot this year.  I was down for the count for a good four days.  Not surprisingly, this was the view of my surroundings for the first three days...
Hot tea, non-challenging knitting.  LOTS of
I always know when I am under the weather - my morning tastes change from coffee to tea.  And I know that I am not 100% until I can think about a cup of joe without gagging.  As of this morning, I am officially cured.

Thanks to the thoroughly bizarre weather, the chicken yard - and all flat or near-flat surfaces - became skating rinks.  Ice and nothing but ice, as far as the eye could see.  Negotiating my way to barn and coop with 5 gallon buckets of water should have made me a contender for the winter Olympics.  I would have scored a gold, no doubt about it.  I have a couple of chickens who have pulled some tendon or other and have been mincing around, poor dears.  The ducks didn't mind the ice one bit, as they sledded on their warm tummies, propelling themselves with their webby feet. 

Because of the ice, the pups were limited to bathroom breaks on the deck.  Oh, joy.  Not that this would come as a surprise, but Lovey did her best (with a worried look) to do her business in the far corners.  PB left me little 'presents' right in front of gates and right on my path to the gates.  Now that our weather has decided to rocket into summer (forecast is 72* today), the ice has receded and I am able to let the dogs spread the 'wealth' in the back yard.  I still tote PB down the steps and do not allow Lovey to run, but at least I am not cleaning up the deck every two hours.

As a total aside, I had allowed myself to be lured into purchasing a snuggly bed for PB for Christmas, as he is a world-class snuggler and manages to roll himself into any fabric at hand.  Not only did it take MONTHS to receive this product, it was way, way smaller than advertised and would be more the perfect size for a grey squirrel.  Countless unanswered emails to the company, followed by the discovery that their phone number had been disconnected, frustrated any attempt to return it.  They have gotten terrible reviews and I am not sure if they are nothing but scammers or a small company that got deluged over the holidays and were totally unable to handle it.  Nevertheless, if you see an ad from Paw Prime, run the other way!
This was the size to fit up to 20#.
I'm back.  Miss me?  :)  By Friday, I was still slogging around, but had gotten more energy and focus back.  So I hurled myself into the yarn stash.  Holey Moley.  Four hours later, I had managed to just get through about 2/3rds of it.  With images of yarn long forgotten dancing in front of my eyes, I decided to do a rough sorting by weight, to be fine-tuned at a later date, when I was not in danger of relapsing.  I culled out two large shopping bags of old circular needles, some patterns I will never knit, and tons of partial, full and bitty balls of yarn.  They are being donated to a woman who does charity knitting - if she ever makes it over to get them.  My biggest gripe about freecycle or any attempt at giving things away for free. 

I then sat down and wound some yarn into balls.  It's official.  I have enough fingering weight yarn to knit 27 pairs of socks.
Sorry for the dark photo - ball
winder is in the foreground,
swift in the back.
These socks will glow in the dark!

Bonus yarn - for every skein
sold, a tree will be planted in Africa!
By Sunday I was feeling almost 100%, having managed to break my chronic insomnia!  I drove to a trendy and picturesque town about 40 minutes south of me, to meet one of my besties for breakfast.  We managed to get there early enough to beat the horde of weekenders who manage to suck all the beauty out of the place, Thursday-Sunday.  After breakfast and a thoroughly wonderful catch-up session, I found myself inexplicably drawn into the local yarn shop.  I needed an intervention!  I did, actually, pretty much behave myself.  But I am a victim of lovely yarn - just as I am a victim of lovely books in a bookshop.  And lovely cookware in a cookware shop.  I went in with a list and stuck to it.   (Pardon me while I dislocate my shoulder, patting myself on the back...)  My cousin - who has mysteriously vowed to make everyone in my family a handmade quilt - nicely accepted the offer of two pair of hand knit socks as a thank you.  The problem is, she is very conservative and wears only navy, grey, dark brown, and *gasp* sage green.  Why is this a problem?  100% of the sock yarn in my weighty stash is represented by the yarn you see above.  I mean, really?  If you are going to spend hours laboring over a garment, why not make sure it stands out?  Nay, shouts out its presence in a loud, clear tone!  I did manage to find some nice grey, marled yarn and that is about as conservative as I can force myself to be.

Monday, being a holiday, allowed me to work myself into a complete lather over the prospect of having to capture and contain Slimmie for his vet appointment.  He has not been to the vet since the vertigo incident, a couple of years ago.

I had made the appointment for late afternoon, thinking that it is the time for his fifth or sixth nap in his self-warming bed.  My plan?  Creep on him - all nonchalantly - spring on him, towel at the ready, and quickly wrap him like a burrito and stuff him in his crate before he knew what was happening.  Things didn't quite work out as planned - he refused to take his late afternoon nap and I had to lure him onto the kitchen island with a pile 'o treats, THEN I  rolled him quickly in a towel and stuffed him unceremoniously into his crate.  There was much screeching and howling.  There was continual screeching and howling - for the 45 minute drive to the vet and the 45 minute drive home.  He was quiet as a mouse during the visit.  My ears are still ringing.  I was very happy that he didn't need extensive dental work - my vet, bless his heart, is very hands-on and flicked the tartar off.  He does not believe in unnecessary surgery or any other treatments requiring anesthesia.  We discussed Lovey's torn ACL and I got out of there for under $150! 

I had a nice hot cup of tea when we got home to quiet my nerves, and was treated to the cold feline shoulder for about 10 minutes.  I think we were both thrilled it was over.  (Black cats are so hard to photograph!)
The cold shoulder
The warm shoulder
Now I am back to work, shoveling my way through hundreds of emails and piles of paper.  But I have something to brighten my workday - thanks to the very-talented Kristina of Pioneer Woman at Heart.  I had seen these cup mats on her blog and HAD to have one (or four)!  They were even more beautiful in person!  Even my coffee tastes better!
So pretty!

And beautifully crafted!!
Now I have to go and catch up on all the wonderful blog posts I've missed.  Perfect lunchtime reading!

Monday, February 12, 2018

That thing I can't talk about.

I have never been good at keeping secrets - unless someone confides in me and then you could not rip it from my lips.  (Yeesh.  That sounds a little brutal, but you catch my drift, right?)  I have a memory of one of my non-finer moments as a child when, not only did I let the cat out of the bag on my youngest sister's Christmas present, but I led her to its hiding place.  I was such an awful child.  Good thing I did not perpetuate those personality traits.

So it is with profound angst that I find myself dying to tell you about what I just completed, but I dasn't.  It is a gift and it is on it's slow-boat way across the Atlantic.  I am hoping, actually, that it is jetting its way...  What I can say (but probably shouldn't - let's face it, it's too late to change the stripes on this zebra) is that I finished it last weekend, then had to wait impatiently for certain blocking elements - blocking?  Who knew? - before I could stretch it into its perfect shape, let it dry and get it in the post.

If you're not already bored to weeping, I will elucidate on the intricacies of blocking.  Because I am now an expert.  Just ask me.  Once a garment or knitted item is finished, it is recommended that you get it wet, squeeze it ever-so-gently damp (NO WRINGING) and block it into the shape it should be on a flat surface.  This, apparently, allows all the nubbly bits and awkward stitches to relax and become sublime.  For my first blocking attempt, I chose a challenging project.  It involved things like 'blocking wires' and 'blocking pins' and 'blocking pin thingys'.  An aside here, the days of Home-Ec knitting is long gone.  We are now in the age of designer, hand-dyed, speckled, sprinkled, special yarn; all tonal and stuff.  With a price tag to match.  Every single piece of equipment necessary to help you along on this fine craft is expensive.  You no longer are expected to use knees, chair backs, chair arms, or the arms of a patient spouse to wind your skeins into balls.  You need swifts and winders, niddy-noddies and god-knows-what else.  I digress.

Because I am *cough* cheap as all get-out, I refused to pay some outrageous amount of money for blocking wires.  Instead, I found a great deal on a 25' length of stainless steel wire and pounced on it.  I am sure you can imagine what happened when I unpackaged it.  It shot out of its package like a cougar, pouncing on its prey.  It took me no less than a half hour to wrestle it into submission and cut it into manageable lengths.  Then there was the matter of finding a very large empty floor space that was not prone to paw traffic.  Then there were the blocking mats.  It goes on and on.  Suffice to say, a job that should have taken me 20 minutes, tops, took hours.  But, through force of will, much brute force and a sailor's salty vocabulary uttered at the top of my lungs, the job was done.  Once I get the news that it has arrived, I will unveil the end product.  It was totally worth it, if I do say so myself.

Instead, I give you the February socks:
Can there be more going on, pattern-
wise in this photo?
I have about one-third of the second sock done and, not content with focusing on one thing, I have a second pair on the needles, too. 

That is not, of course, all I did this weekend.  I came home Friday to find the entrance to the carport blocked by a giant box.  While I commend FedEx for making sure the box was out of the weather, he had plunked it in the middle of a large puddle.  Sigh.  Luckily, the contents were enveloped in a large plastic bag.

Inside?  Lovey's new bed.  Or, Bed Number Five, as we like to call it.  Her Bed Number Four was not really to her liking, it being just a tiny bit small.  It didn't matter anyway, as PB takes full possession of all objects, dog-related or not, immediately upon their arrival.  I was hoping the new bed would induce her to lie on it, in lieu of the sofa, which entails her springing up, off of her injured knee.  I shouldn't have been worried.  It is as large as a kiddie pool and takes up a quarter of our living space.  After tripping over it for a day, I turned the flat edge toward the wall just to reduce it's profile.  Bingo!  Unwittingly, I had created a nest and Lovey moved in.
Nest with a view and cozy
blanket enhancements
This has not bothered PB, as he has commandeered the entire sofa.  Which has opened up the slot next to me each morning for Slimmie.  Everyone is blissfully happy.  It also dawned on me that the reason the living room is disassembled every night when I come home, is that Lovey is so very insecure being left to guard hearth and home by herself.  I can't let PB out of his crate when I'm not home because he will whirl himself into parapalegicality (word?)  So she is left to deal with all the scary things by herself - random cars up the drive, UPS and FedEx drivers, meter reader, Angus bull.  I have decided to leave the curtains drawn to filter out some of the fear-triggers.  Poor nervous Nellie.

I dug out two oldies-but-goodies recipes over the weekend (no photos, sorry) and a new one - Reuben Quiche.  I made Blueberry Gingerbread for the barn crew (and a neighbor and a pile for the office), and tackled a Ballantined chicken.  At least that's what I call it.  You bone the chicken in one piece, then put a stuffing of your choice in, roll it up, tie it and roast it.  It's the perfect way to get the most out of your roasted chicken, but it's not a process for the faint-hearted.  I like to think of it as my 'show-off skill'.  Many, many years ago, I went to a cooking school to learn how to do it.  It's very fancy...  I stuffed it this time with homemade ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and spinach sautéed briefly with garlic and shallots, but I usually stuff it with chicken mousse, ham and pistachios.  It was fabulous!  I had my friend, Marianne, over for dinner.  She, in turn, brought me another gorgeous area rug, a lovely Christmas plate and a beautiful holiday wreath she had made herself.  She is so talented!!!  I will have to post a photograph of it.

All in all, with the exception of the weather, it was a very pleasant weekend.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Warm/Cold. Rain/Snow. Thaw/Freeze. Rinse/Repeat.

Other than doing a lot of driving this weekend, I stuck pretty close to home.  Our winter has been so frustrating so far - Arctic temperatures, followed by torrential rain.  Over and over.  My Yak Traks are a permanent part of my footwear.
Cold but beautiful.
I drove up to Vermont to fetch my mother on Saturday, as we try to get her out for a overnight adventure as often as we can.  Her bestie is my neighbor, so I am under orders to drop her off for a visit first and foremost.  It stretched on so long that I thought I might have to ransom her out of there.  We enjoyed a quiet evening with a nice dinner, a fire in the fireplace, warm dogs (and cat) close by and a couple of Midsomer Murder episodes to round off the night.  The next morning we toddled up to the local firehouse for their monthly breakfast, and then back up to Vermont.  It is not easy to live with someone who is deep in dementia.  Especially if that someone is your husband of umpteen years.

I got to try out some new recipes this weekend - my mother is a willing guinea pig!  I am working my way through my well-worn-loved copy of Enchanted Broccoli Forest.  I made a savory apple casserole that involved tart apples, sauerkraut and cheddar cheese.  It was delish!  I had everything on hand but the apples, so I made a quick and abbreviated grocery run to Aldi's, prior to picking up my mother.  I also premade my breakfasts for the week - another new-to-me recipe involving tater tots, eggs, vege and my muffin tin.  I don't have tater tots, as a rule, but had picked up a package of frozen Green Giant veggie tots. 
Sorry for the odd view.
Because of the change in weekend schedule, the barn crew got their baked goods on Saturday morning, instead of Sunday.  Apparently, the milk truck driver was very disappointed...
Salted caramel brownies
Luckily, the Arctic temps are at bay, so I could justify a fire in the fireplace.  However, Sunday was all about snow, then rain.  Then the temperature dropped like a stone this morning.  Driving is such an adventure in this weather!
Slimmie loves the combination of
the self-warming dog bed and the face-
warming fireplace.
Speaking of Slimmie Kitten, he has reclaimed his position next to me in the mornings, as Peanut finds the new couch to be the bees' knees.  I just bound off a special project that I hope to be able to share with you soon - it's a gift, so I can't let the cat out of the bag, as it were.  I am also making great strides on my February socks!
Love his white whiskers.