Wednesday, May 30, 2007

anything for Gram

See this Gram o' mine?

I know she looks pretty harmless in this picture, but she's hot stuff and we'd all do anything for her, and we get in all kinds of (wonderful) predicaments because of her. You see, Gram caught the travel bug about 10 years ago. She wanted to go to Scotland and needed some travel partners, so my extended family packed up and trekked off with her. And that's when the travel bug bit me.

She manages to get us to go far and wide, and even to some destinations closer to home. See the picture above? That's at a casino. If you know me, you might know how unlikely I am to spend an evening at a casino. But Gram? Gram lurves the casino, so off we went because, you know, we'd do anything for Gram. Yes, I did some knitting there. Yes, I have to admit it was fun. (BTW, does anybody notice the similarity to another photo? Gram was the mastermind behind that excellent trip too.) Portugal for Christmas the year after my dad died? Yup, Gram jumped on that one too. She didn't go to Italy with us in 2004, but she did that and more with her AARP group that year.

So anyway, half a year ago, Gram had just gotten home from a tour of Russia and the Baltic states. I called to hear about her trip and ask if she wanted to come to Greece with us. "Oh no, honey, I'm getting too old for trips like this. I think I'm done with the big trips." Yeah, right. Less than half an hour later, she wanted to know how much the deposit on the trip was, and we all know where that led.

Okay, so we're relaxing at a cafe on Santorini and she pulls this little maneuver: "Greece sure is nice, but you know where I've always wanted to go? Hawaii. I've never been there and now I'm getting old, so I don't think I'll make it before I die." And then she smiles because, you know, with prosthetic knees and a triple bypass, she didn't think she'd be able to get to the Acropolis either.
Ha ha ha. We're on it Gram. Locked and loaded, Feb. 2008. Because you want to go and we're selfless like that. :-)

And since I know you're all wondering, 87.

p.s. Don't forget to enter our contest below!
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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

hat-o-rama mama

The weather has turned warm, perfect for knitting smaller projects that don't rest on the lap and give a knitter heat stroke. Combine this with a desire to stash dive in an effort to weed out a bit and we seem to have a lot of hats popping up around here.

First is this sweet baby hat was knit by my mom recently. It was her first stranded project and it turned out great. It's a Dale of Norway pattern that you may have seen on this blog before, knit in Dalegarn Baby Ull leftover from the ill-fated ladybug sweater, accented with leftover variegated Lorna's Laces sock yarn.
And here are eight hats ready for contribution to the hat collection for charity at Webs' Yarn Harlot event tomorrow. Some have been seen here as they were made and others were recently added to the growing pile. They cover a pretty broad spectrum, from alpaca to acrylic, handspun to commercially available yarn, purchased patterns to freebies to made up on the fly, stranded to wet felted (felted loose roving, not knitted first) to peg-knitted. Leah and I each have another hat on the needles now and hope to finish them by tomorrow, although they could always go to the Dulaan project if they're not done in time, as it's been a while since we donated a batch there.

Back to the hat-o-rama we go, enjoying this evening of weather that is pure perfection!
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Sunday, May 27, 2007

a new contest!

In my blog post from earlier today, I mentioned jar dyeing, felt rugmaking, charkha spinning, and weaving as some things we'd like to explore further as a result of yesterday's playtime at MA S&W. Since the foundation of this blog (and our entire lifestyle, really) is living an enthusiastic life and learning all sorts of cool stuff along the way, we decided that should be the theme of our newest giveaway.

So please leave a comment in this entry telling us what new skills/techniques/experiences you've had this Memorial Day weekend or been inspired to try in the future. (Doesn't need to be fiber-related!) We'll choose randomly from the comments and the winner will receive this set of stitch markers, made from Scott's very own lampwork beads. Many more of Scott's handmade beads and buttons are available at Glastonbury Glassworks.

This set uses glass of various transparent blue shades, rolled in crackly bits of silver foil, which took on more of a golden tone while being worked in the flame of his torch, encased in crystal for lots of depth. The pic makes these stitch markers look larger than life, so let me clarify by saying that the rings fit up to size 10 needles and the largest bead is only 3/4" long.

We'll choose the winner on Friday, June 1, at 6:00 p.m. We'll continue to have giveaways at random times in the future, so be sure to come back to visit often or subscribe in your favorite blog reader.

We're looking forward to hearing what inspired you to Live and Learn this weekend. Enjoy!
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The first day of what promises to be a superfun holiday weekend was spent at the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair. Audio entertainment for the ride was The Story of the World, Volume 1, The Ancients, read by our favorite storyteller, Jim Weiss. This recording is new to us and was both fantastic and annoying...but in a good way!...because we all kept having a-ha! moments and pausing the CD to talk about the connections we had just made. "So that's why...!"

Anyway, MA S&W was much like CT S&W - plenty to see and do, but not so much that it's overwhelming. We browsed the booths, then went back to buy some irresistible handpainted roving. Ran into some friends along the way, including Donna (and daughter Nicole) from Knit1Spin2. Jesse roamed on his own and chose to settle in with the weavers' demonstration.

Later, when I joined him there, he was showing the little guy next to him how to work the looms. I was talking to one of the women from the weavers' guild and said that we're still learning the basics of weaving. She said, "Oh, he knows exactly what he's doing and has given all the right answers!" So the weavers were kind of standing back and getting a kick out of watching him be a weaving mentor for the people who sat down on either side of him. When I asked him what happened where there was an errant strand traversing the surface of his weaving weftwise, he promptly replied that it was a "design element." That's my boy! ;-)

Eventually, we found some shade and empty chairs in a temporarily unused demo tent and hung out with our friends for a while, knitting and spinning and chatting. Leah received a purple felted pouch as a birthday gift from one of her friends. We discovered later that it exactly fits one small (sock size) ball of yarn, perfect for a mobile socknitter! Scott tried spinning on a Bosworth charkha and found it quite easy.

Even though we just happened to be hanging out, doing our thing, folks kept coming over to watch Scott and Leah spin. (Scott was working on the remainder of the merino/tencel yarn so I can finish my handspun cardigan. Leah was spinning the fiber she bought earlier in the way.) These young guys were very interested, so Scott gave them each a turn at his wheel. At one point I looked up and there were about 10 people gathered around this impromptu spinning demo. Scott loved every minute of it.

The scheduled knitting demo was well attended, so we moved our little party to the pavilion and bleachers off in the distance. Magic Hat beer has little sayings printed on the inside of their caps. The first one of the day for me yesterday said, "Always be kind to a creative mind." Will do. :-)

Some of our friends arrived at the shady pavilion with a new member of their furfamily, an agouti angora who was just a sweet and soft and cuddly as can be.

Scott and Jesse hitched a ride home with pals. Leah and I chatted some more with the oh so pleasant Leslie Wind, then headed off to Mamacate's blegger (blogger + kegger = blegger!), where we had a thoroughly enjoyable evening among all the spinning wheels and fiber and socks-in-progress and other projects and beer...and the delightful people who love these things. (There were many more bloggers and non-bloggers there, but these are a few I can remember off the top of my head.) We celebrated Lee Ann's 40th birthday, a new travel wheel, the birth of CeCe's first spindle-spun skein, and a new spinner trying out a wheel for the first time. We arrived home very tired but soooo excited to try some new techniques (jar dyeing and felt rugmaking, especially), looking forward to two more days of weekend romping!
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Friday, May 25, 2007

critterknitter, part 3

Sheesh. Remember last week, when I said we get a bit of wildlife here on our teensy patch of land, less than a mile from the business center of a 35,000-person town? First it was Bambi; then Winken, Blinken, and Nod; and today we had another encounter with this none too friendly guy.
Shovel included for scale

We've run into this dude before and I even mentioned him in a blog post last October, in the paragraph below the pic of Jesse soldering stained glass stars. I don't know if he's gotten any bigger, but he definitely hasn't become any prettier and his attitude is just as grumpy as ever. Since that curb he's on is at the edge of a fairly busy intersection, we can only assume that his primary care physician has not prescribed him the proper medication to date and he remains suicidal as well as belligerent. Scott bravely picked Sir Grumperino up on a strong, long-handled shovel and gave him a lift back toward the ravine across the street from us, where we presume he belongs, in hopes that he will find a happy place and it'll take him another six months to climb the hill and ponder venturing onto the asphalt to become a turtle pancake...with attitude.
Just so the knitterly aspect of this blog isn't totally hijacked by the critters, here I present a pair of socks knit for my mom for Mother's Day. She only received one on Mother's Day, but I knit most of the other one on the ride home from Pittsburgh. They're my usual toe-up, Widdershins gusset, mindless 2x2 ribbed socks in Cherry Tree Hill squishy soft yarn, received by me as a birthday gift from...can you guess? mom! Isn't it fun how things go 'round like that?

Today I will watch for the flock of turkeys from the woods or perhaps the fox who nests in the neighbor's slope, or maybe I'll actually get some work accomplished. Y'think?
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

the kitten clamor

Oh, okay, okay! By popular demand, more kitten pictures!

The first picture is for those of you who were concerned that the kittens didn't have enough room in their cozy tree trunk hideaway. This is Cathy, one of the animal control officers in town. She's INSIDE the tree stump. In her hand is a silver 4-foot long grabber thingy. She's using that to reach waayyy down in a hollowed out root/shoot at the base of the tree, where the fuzzyfaces were hiding. Multiple rooms and luxury accommodations in that big ol' tree stump!

Three adorable gray kittens were retrieved. They're estimated to be about five weeks old because their eyes haven't changed color yet and they were gentle as can be, even though this is the first time they were handled. Cathy says their eyes change color around six weeks and that's when they'd also be much more spitty and full of attitude if someone tried to hold them for the first time. I know nothing about cats, so I'm just going along with what she says on all of this.
While the kittens were safe in a carrier, we tried to catch the mama cat in a Have-A-Heart trap. She didn't trip the trap the first time she went in, so it was an afternoon of re-baiting, waiting and watching. We had four kids and three kittens on the porch for a little playtime in the late afternoon, which was an awful lot of fun. We kept it short because we didn't want to overdo it, and the kittens were just as precious and curious as you'd imagine. Tried to give them some kitten formula then, because they had been away from their mom for a few hours at that time, but they weren't interested. I think they were too busy finding out about life beyond the tree stump.
The mama cat was caught around dinnertime. We transferred her to the crate with her kittens and she soon settled in to nurse them. Another animal control officer came out this evening to pick the four of them up. Animal Control will work on socializing the kittens, introducing solid food, getting the mom spayed, getting everybody their shots, and evaluating the mama cat to see if she's feral or just a stray who will enjoy some TLC (we're all betting on this because she seems pretty mellow, just cautious).
They'll probably come back here in a few days to live on our small enclosed front porch until the kittens are old enough to be on their own. We're thrilled to have a few families already interested in adopting them and are looking forward to giving them lots of snuggle time until they go to their new families. They're sooooo sweet!
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a weekend in the 'burgh

Leah wanted to celebrate her 9th birthday with her Great Grandma in Pittsburgh this year. It ended up that was also Mother's Day weekend, so my mom joined in on the fun and we all headed to Pittsburgh. There was fun for the knitters and fun for the glassy guy and a Pirates win for Gram the Fan, meals with extended family, and an all-around good time. Click the album for many pics and captions. My favorite of these is our traditional height comparison between Jesse and Gram. The boy has grown a bit between 2006 and 2007!
Pittsburgh 2007

When we got back home, Leah used some of her birthday money to buy herself a pair of Crocs. They're fine shoes for showing off handknit socks. :-)

More kitten pics coming soon!
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

oh noooooo!!!!

Look at what we just found in a hollowed out tree stump 6 feet from our front door.

I guess this would explain why Kodi has sniffed the stump every time she goes out lately.

Are they not the most adorable, precious little fuzzballs you have ever seen?

P.S. No, we don't own a cat. No, we don't want to. But aren't they cute? Don't you want to take one (or three) home? Please?!
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Friday, May 18, 2007

back home

Had a great visit with Gram in Pittsburgh for a few days and have been trying to get our feet back under us since. I'll put up a photo album from the Pittsburgh trip soon, but there are a few other things I wanted to mention too, so when this beautiful creature roamed across our yard this morning and Kodi never made a sound, I was lucky enough to capture a picture for today's post. It's blurry because it was taken through the glass and screen of the window - chilly this morning. We enjoy a good variety of wildlife here on our tiny patch of land in the 'burbs, thanks to the nearby pond and the stream through the woods in the ravine across the street.

Jen at The Woollen Earth asked for proportions in my Beauties and Beasts blog entry about baking soda and peppermint oil toothbrushing powder. I can't be any more specific than to say it's to taste. I use a handful of baking soda and a barely a drizzle of peppermint oil, more if I feel like it. There are many recipes online for various toothbrushing concoctions that can give more details. I've tried some of them over the years and narrowed it down to the simplest as what works best for us. I'm going to use wintergreen oil for flavor the next time I refill the container.

Since a few folks have followed up on the CitizenRe solar power program I mentioned last week, here now is the link to sign up for a site evaluation so I'll get a discount for referring you if you eventually have a free system installed. Even if you sign up now, the only commitment you're making is for one of their people to evaluate your site, so I encourage you to read up on this option if you've ever considered solar power for your home, but been discouraged by the usual up-front costs of having a system installed.

There's been lots of work to catch up on this week, but we took a much-enjoyed break for a thunderstorm Wed. evening. Dinner was already nearly cooked by the campfire outside anyway, so when the power went out, it barely mattered. We ate dinner on the porch by natural light, as we often do, and then all spread out on the wide open floor (furniture currently out for reupholstering) for family games and conversation and playing with the dog. As usual, we talked about how pleasant the evening was without electricity and options for using even less in our home.

Oh, there's been some knitting and glassy goodness too. I don't have pics now, so I'll get them up here soon, but in the meantime, looky what I found, not too far from home: Mocha's Fiber Connection . I don't need anything, but figured I'd share the link anyway.


Edited to add: Here's a little something that I love: How To Disappear. (Keep clicking on the drawings to move through the pages.) Apparently my family has been in the process of happily disappearing for years. :-)

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

beauties and the beasts

Kodi looking regal by the tulips, adorned with Leah's handknit boucle scarf, yarn bought at Farmhouse Yarns/Hopyard Spinnery's spring clearance sale. Can you tell Kodi fancies herself a supermodel when she's not busy being a princess?

Beauty 2:
Jill at Ashland Bay, who responded in less than two hours when I wrote asking for her help in identifying the three Ashland Bay colorways used in my handspun cardigan in progress. I had figured out the peacock and blueberry merino/Tencel blends, but couldn't identify the multicolor. It's Sapphire! All fibers have been ordered and will be spun up soon. Yeah!

Beauty 3:
Remember when I told you about that CitizenRe program that should make it possible for us to get a solar energy system installed on our house? The system gets installed for free and we'd only pay for the electricity we use that is generated by it. We're looking forward to an evaluation soon, but have since discovered that we'd also get a discount if we refer people! So, hey, if you've ever thought solar was a great idea but were put off by the price, click here to check this out as someone I referred.

Beast 1:
Inventorboy with the Stirling cycle engine he and Scott have been working on for the past couple of days. It doesn't work as well as hoped...yet...but now that they're familiar with the mechanics, there are ideas of where they need to make modifications. My picture doesn't show the details very well, but this was a fairly challenging project for them both.

Beast 2:
Is Scott's left middle finger, with a thoroughly grody burned tip. I was going to put up a picture of it, but it's icky enough that I thought it best to spare you. Still, it's a little reminder that playing with molten glass is serious business, even if it is a lot of fun.

edited to add Beauty 4:
Paradise Fibers shipped my order (see above) the same day they received it. Apparently we're on a roll with vendors with top notch customer service!
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smithing and sewing

Ever since I first learned to knit socks, I've been wanting to do two socks at a time on two circular needles. I finally gave it a go, did a few rounds, and decided it's not for me. I never have a problem finishing the second sock of a pair and mostly do socks because it's a super small project, so I've decided the extra bulk and extra fiddling just aren't worth it for me. Back to one at a time I go. Isn't this Cherry Tree Hill yarn purty?

Not fiber- or glass-related, but Jesse has had a lifelong interest in blacksmithing, so we go to hammer-ins (this would be the blacksmith version of a stitch & bitch) whenever we can. This past weekend's hammer-in was at the CT Eastern Railroad Museum, where we got lots of tips about setting up our own forge and getting supplies, as well as great conversations with a ferrier and a glass/PMC artist. Bonus prize was checking out the trains, riding on a pump car, and enjoying the fiddler and guitar player's music. Jesse is soooo ready to get into blacksmithing himself now, not just watching it anymore, so we're checking into our options to do that. You can see how much he's paying attention to this friendly and informative blacksmith, with whom we spent much of the day.
Leah is now officially sewing-crazed. We used freebie fabric (from our Freecycle friend, Denise) for her first dress, just in case we didn't choose the right size or something, but it turned out great!

The pattern was a Christmas gift from Grandma, a very simple design with detailed instructions for a new seamstress. We worked through every step together. I haven't sewn anything from a pattern in many years, so I was (re)learning right along with her. She did all the cutting, pinning, and pressing, and most of the sewing. I helped her out with the curved pieces and hand stitching. Even though it's a beginner pattern, it has nice little touches, like the ties in back, the patch pockets, and the bodice being cut on the bias, which is an especially good fit since the fabric we used has a tiny checked pattern. She has worn it continually, with pride and glee.

She's ready to dive into making a second dress and has her own fabric stash from which to choose. She visited her fabric fanatic Grammy yesterday and came home with a big squeal and a bag of fabric scraps. There's some patchwork in progress and book covers in the plans too (small for her paperbacks and large for the biggies, like her current Harry Potter read), and quilted bookmarks and a halter top and shorts and doll clothes and...!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

hoeing the rows

Thanks to everybody who entered our contest at Glastonbury Glassworks! We used the random number generator to choose the winner and have emailed Dee to ask her to browse the site and let us know what she'd like. It was a lot of fun to read the entries and the messages that came with them this week. We'll definitely be doing more giveaways in the future and will list them both on Glastonbury Glassworks and this blog, so please visit often or subscribe via your favorite blog reader. Tell your friends -- the more the merrier!

I'm still happily hoeing the rows, knitting along on the Garden Patch sweater from Philosopher's Wool. In wearing my first Philosopher's Wool sweater, the Tradition cardigan, I've noticed how much softer the yarn has become with wear and how beautifully the stitches have settled in together. This Garden Patch sweater should transform considerably when I block it so the purl rows will flatten down and I'm looking forward to seeing all those yarn colors become one cohesive knit fabric over time. Already I'm daydreaming about what might be the next fair isle sweater I'll knit... :-)

Since a few people have asked, I wanted to mention that, no, we're not going to make it to NH S&W next weekend. It's Leah's 9th birthday and she requested to spend it in Pittsburgh with one of her favorite people in the world, her Great Grandma. We're aiming for MA S&W, though, and would be psyched to run into you all there!
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Friday, May 04, 2007

sharing the skills

I thought to myself for a second, "Why don't I have much knitting progress to show lately?" Then I realized the main rooms upstairs and down have had new coats of paint this week -- yeah! (We still need to work on some of the smaller rooms, stairway and upstairs hall, but good progress so far.) We had a surprise visit with an old friend on Tuesday and have been out to one place or another with friends every evening. We've also had the pleasure of helping three people join in on the fun of some of our favorite hobbies.

One is learning to sew her own clothing, following a pattern.

One is off to a fine start as a fisherman.
And one is knitting a hat as her first project.

And now I'm off to a big day of work to balance out all this playtime, with a stellar weekend on the horizon!
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