Monday, December 24, 2012

Last-Minute Details

5518 poinsettia 

Today's to-do list:
-cut out and count Box Tops that expire this month.
-work on that one last gift, even though it will never get done in time.
-don't eat all the chocolate cookies; after all, I told the boys they still need sprinkles!
-watch some Poirot while working on the previous three items. 
-iron blouse for church tonight.  It's red, of course! 

Merry Christmas to all my friends and loved ones, near and far!

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Vanilla Sugar

No, that's not dirty snow!
5348 vanilla sugar 

After pouring some little jars of vanilla extract, we had some vanilla beans ready for re-purposing.   I threw them in the food processor with a cup of sugar and blended it up.  The big chunks of vanilla were sifted out and processed with a second cup of sugar, and then repeated this with a third cup of sugar.  You can see in the picture how the sugar on the right has more brown bits than the middle, and the sugar on the left has the least.  We actually did a fourth pass with just a half a cup of sugar because I didn't know how much more would fit in the jar.  We mixed it all together and put it back in one of the quart jars that we used to make the vanilla extract.  Vanilla sugar!  Time to make some cookies...!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 : 12 : 12

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More than halfway through the day, I realized it was 12-12-12, and that was on my list of things to shoot for the 112 in 2012 photo group.  I didn't have anything 12-12-12-worthy to shoot and it was almost dark.  Then I realized, it's just like any other day:  the magic is there, I just have to stop and look for it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmastime is Here

Personally, I enjoyed the cool morning, with my newly finished, hand knit sweater, and a stack of packages waiting to be sifted through, presents waiting to be wrapped. 

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We usually make some of our preserves into smaller jars to give as gifts at Christmastime.  It is the perfect gift for a teacher or neighbor - consumable, not expensive enough to warrant any strong obligations, and yet very personal; not something we just ran out and got.  In addition to the preserves, this year I was inspired by this post to try my hand with vanilla extract.  In May, I purchased a pound of organic vanilla beans and split them with a friend (I think they came out to about fifty cents a piece), and bought some vodka.  Then some more, then some more.  I filled up five quart jars with Fleischmann's Royal Vodka, chopped the ends off of eight beans (per jar), split them lengthwise, and put them in the jars.  We gave the jars a little tip or shake every day for a month, and then continued to do so every now and then as the thought occurred. I read you're supposed to put extract in amber jars but we didn't have any amber quart jars; we did keep them in a very dark pantry.  I also used a few beans here and there in some of our preserves and other recipes!

Day 1
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After a few months, I decided I should try this vanilla, make sure it tastes like the store-bought vanilla (that's the standard, isn't it?).  I tried the store-bought vanilla - just a sip, almost choked!  So I figured if that's what I've been putting in my cookies all these years, I don't have a very high standard to meet!  Anyway, when we ran out of our store-bought vanilla, it had been the recommended six months of steeping, so we've been using the "homemade" stuff ever since.  Is it better?  I don't know, but I sure put a lot of thought into it.  I mean, of course it is! Tastes as great as ever.

I purchased two dozen two-ounce amber bottles from Specialty Bottle, and poured the liquid through a clean cloth to sift out the debris, and filled up my little brown bottles.  Now we have lots of little gifts to give!

By my calculations, this is Day 191. 

4131 vanilla extract, day... 191?


Thank goodness I do a little planning ahead every now and then, so I don't have to do everything at the last minute!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December Dawns

December dawns.

We began this month with the anticipation of many great things, including the hunt for the perfect tree.  After a good night's sleep, my parents, my brother's family, and my own family headed out.  Despite the lack of snowy, or really any wintry weather, in northern Colorado, and being surrounded on all sides by beetle kill and evidence of the fire, we all found perfect trees.  I'll post a picture of ours soon.

Many more good things to come.  One that I relish, real mail:  hand addressed envelopes with notes from people I know! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful

If I post everyday about things I'm thankful for, I know that will be far from original.  But I just might do it, if only to remind myself!

Today, I'm thankful for light, in all its forms.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Mittens!

I've got a new pattern out!  The Gingerbread Men Mittens pattern is available for purchase on my Ravelry pattern page here!!


A couple of years ago, I made some Fair Isle mitts for my sister-in-law and just fell in love with this technique!  There are so many beautiful patterns in the world for this project.  However, what I really wanted was a pair of mittens with gingerbread men.  Alas!  There was no such pattern.  So I wrote my own, bought some yarn, and got started on knitting them.  As it tends to do, life got busy and I set this project aside.  

Fast forward a year, and I began to work with Dianne at Windy Valley yarns, going to all the Stitches conventions.  One of my tasks as part of Dianne's team was to sit at the "yarn tasting" table and knit with all the yummy yarns, and encourage other people to try them.  As I was knitting with her merino yarn, I realized it would be a perfect match for this pattern that I had sitting at home.  I left one of the shows with a ball of cream and a ball of brown, and immediately got to work on this pattern again.  It turned out to be just the breath of fresh air this project needed, and they turned out so well.


I had a bit of yarn left over, so it would be enough to make the cuffs and thumbs in completely in either color, but I played around and made the thumbs one of each.  There's also a heart on the thumb gusset!


I was hesitant to give them away, but I knew Dianne could use them as a sample so I traded her for some more yarn - I think my next pair is going to be red and white!  As a matter of fact, I enjoyed working with this yarn so much that I purchased a few more colors so that I can make another pair of mittens from my Ravelry favorites.


This pattern includes the information needed to make these mittens including a full two-color chart for the cuff, thumb gusset, inside palm (lattice), and of course the gingerbread man chart!  You can get this yummy, fingering weight merino at Windy Valley's website.  I so enjoyed making these.  Let me know if you knit some; as most designers do, I love seeing what knitters do with my patterns! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Red. Knitting.


What's not to love?
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Stitches Wrap-Up

Thanks to Dianne at Windy Valley Muskox (and her aunts who took my Beginning Knitting class and introduced me to her) I had the opportunity to go to all four Stitches knitting events in 2012. I had not been on an airplane since before 9/11 - just no reason to, most of our family is in Colorado, and had not really gotten out of the house and away from my comfort zone in a long time.  It has definitely been a fun year!

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I wrote about Stitches West here. Partly because I didn't know what to expect, and partly because I expected it to be a one-time opportunity, I definitely spent the most time absorbing the environment and getting to know people at West. It also helped that I got to sit at the Yarn Tasting table and talk for eight hours a day with knitters, and answering yarn and knitting questions. I met Sue and Christine there, as well as Sarah Peasley and Debbie Radtke, and Kristi and Lisa on the XRX staff, all of whom have since become friends.

I neglected to write about Stitches South and Stitches Midwest.  They were both a lot of fun.  I especially appreciated the opportunity to see Lisa, Sarah, Debbie and Kristi again, and it was fun to see all the knitters at each event.  Since Windy Valley was a sponsor at each event, we got to see the Friday night fashion shows where all the vendors have their latest patterns and yarns on the runway, and we got to attend the banquet for the fashion show as well as the student banquet with a fashion show of the attendees.  I was thrilled that Dianne submitted my Little Black Capelet - only in blue, this time, for the Friday night fashion show!  I wish this were in my own wardrobe but it's a WV sample.  Time to make my own, I guess!! 

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It was nice to see Marly Bird, my hometown friend and a great teacher, at each event.  At Stitches East, I made it a point to get out and see what was going on outside the conference center at least once!  On Sunday, I went to church at St. Patrick - St. Anthony.  To get there on time, I took a shuttle to the church, but afterward I walked back through the city.  It was just starting to get a little drizzly but I stopped and took a few pictures of buildings and trees while I was out.  It was a nice, but very quiet city.  I can't imagine Denver so quiet, even on a rainy Sunday morning!  I also got some donuts at Dunkin' Donuts on my walk back - yum!

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I did not buy anything at the market this time, except for one small gift that is not knitting related and hasn't been given yet.  I actually worked a lot more this time; as opposed to February, I'm now an expert on the yarns, the patterns, and everything Windy Valley!  Oh, I did buy several balls of Windy Valley yarns, but most were gifts.  Well, maybe a couple were for me.

I made sure to take pictures of everything I could.  Last time, I posted 100 pictures from the Fashion Show, and a few pictures of food, and BFJ told me, "It looks like you're kind of obsessed with food."  Ha-ha-ha-hmm.  Methinks he did not venture too far into my set of pictures.  You can see my whole set of pictures from this trip in my Flickr account.

Most of all, it's the people I've enjoyed meeting.  I spoke with a nice gentleman from Connecticut on my flight out, whose name I never got.  I had a chance to get to know Dianne's aunt, Sarah, and hang out with Dianne more.  Thanks to Dianne, I've tried sushi, swordfish and scallops, rode on an ATV, rode a horse, rode an airplane - all this year.  She's such a fun and easy going person.  I guess that's what happens when you live in the country!  And I had real, actual, personal conversations with Debbie (all-around nice person and pattern expert), Sarah (who is always willing to share her wisdom), Lisa (who has two boys and shoots all the XRX pictures at the events) and Kristi (who shares a love for the Huskers with me).  All great girls and people I'm glad to call friends.  And then on the plane ride home I met Rosalyn, who knows nothing about knitting, but was really fun.  I told her maybe I'd cross paths with her sometime in the future, and she said, "I definitely think we'll see each other again."  Who knows! 


Sunday, September 30, 2012

one last breath of September

IMG_7536 We drove past a neighbor with a fairy ring this morning, and she was kind enough to let me loiter in her yard for a few minutes this evening, so that I could get a few pictures of it.

Ah, September.

You have been a good month.


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Friday, September 28, 2012

It's Finally Fall!

Fall is here!  The last month here has been crazy busy.  Let's see...  After I went to my mother-in-law's for a visit and some peaches, I spent a week with my cousins here.  I think I mentioned that.  The next week, my LYS and others in the area had a "yarn crawl," otherwise known as a shop hop.  I went to all 21 shops with my bff.  It took us four days - we had to keep coming back by mid afternoon to get all our kids from school, so it took longer than if we'd had some dedicated calender space.  It was a lot of fun.  I had never been to Fabric Bliss but we loved that shop, and loved Aurora.  We also enjoyed Fancy Tiger, though I've been before, and I was tempted to buy some house yarn from Gypsy Wool but we had to stamp and run in order to get the kids.  Again.  There were lots of great shops.  I hear it will become an annual event, I'm happy to say! 
 
I've also published a new pattern!  The Aisling (ASH-leen) hat is knit from Windy Valley's Majestic Blend - 15% qiviut, 80% superfine merino, 5% silk.  I LOVE hats.  I LOVE cables.  You can get this pattern from their website here.


3631 Aisling Hat

After our week together going shop hopping, my friend Amber and I decided to do some canning.  We went for cucumbers and ended up with a flat each of strawberries, plus some raspberries.  So a couple days later we each had a dozen jars of pickles, and some delicious jams.  That ought to last me awhile on the pbj front. 
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This week, I've been editing pictures like crazy, teaching knitting, helping at school.  I'm getting geared up for the final Stitches conference next month in Connecticut.  I'm doing lots of stuff with Windy Valley, my besty, my kids, and of course my wonderful husband.  I hope we have time to get some family pictures when the leaves turn!

What are you up to?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Putting Up Peaches

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On Monday, the boys and I drove down to see my mother- and father-in-law once more before school starts. On the top of my list was picking peaches.  You may remember we picked peaches a few years ago.  May I say, I am not a big peach fan (it's the fuzz) but I make an exception for these peaches.  They are delicious!  Grandma, the boys and I picked about four boxes of peaches, just the ones that seemed ripe.  We enjoyed spending time with Grandma and Grandpa, and playing with the chickens, and came home with two of those boxes.  Boy, are we enjoying them!  

On Wednesday, I made Spiced Peach Preserves from here.  I did not have cardamom but otherwise, followed the recipe pretty close this time.  I realized I must have done half batches before, as I did not recall the pot being quite so full.  And I actually had vanilla beans in my pantry, which I know I did not have previously.   

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I also have a couple of cousins in town this week, Gabe and Luke, who brought tomatoes and peaches from their own yard.  Thursday, I made a cobbler with their peaches, which was practically gone when I got home from knitting that night.  Well, what could I expect with six hungry men in the house?  I'm lucky they saved some for me!

Yesterday morning, Luke helped me can some peaches and we used these instructions.  This was my first time canning whole-ish fruit.  It was fun, much quicker than cooking down preserves, but there were no spoons to lick.  

And of course, we've eaten a lot straight out of the box!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

More on Sunflowers

In yesterday's post, I forgot to include pictures of some others who are enjoying our sunflowers! 0007 American Goldfinch
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sunflowers

Some days, I'm just too busy for words.  In the evenings, when things begin to slow down, one of our favorite spots is out on the back patio, relaxing in our green chairs, watching the bees buzz from flower to flower.  



1373 Lemonade sunflowers 2203 sunflower 2248 red sunflower 2264 sunflowers and basil

Saturday, July 28, 2012

2012 Olympics

Are you watching the Olympics? 

Last night, BFJ and I watched the first half of the Opening Ceremonies while the boys were away.  I enjoyed the pastoral scene as well as the industrial scene, but could have done without the modern era.  We picked up the boys and got home in time to see most of the athletes coming into the arena, and definitely got to see Team USA entering.  I thought the cauldron lighting was amazing!!

Today, we are enjoying the swimming and archery specifically.  Hurray! Team USA, winning the silver in archery; I'm sure it was bitter sweet for them but they're young, I think they'll all be back.  I'm furiously knitting a Starling, hoping that Phelps and Lochte will pull it together tonight and get some medals!  (My Starling will be done in time for Stitches MidEast.)  I was thinking of Jane when the Canadian girls' soccer team won their match this morning, Jane being a Canadian in the UK. 

What events are you watching? 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Is It?

Today, we went to the Colorado Renaissance Festival.  It was a hot day but we had fun.  Personally, I like being in a community, if a temporary one, where there's such a high percentage of people who know how to make things!!  I tried to travel light and only took a short lens, so I didn't get many pictures of people and costumes.  I did take a few pictures though, here are some from the day.  Can you guess what they are?  Answers at the bottom.


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From top to bottom: an astrolabe, a hammock in the making, an elephant trunk, a barn owl, and finally, the smiling camel who gave two of my boys a ride. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

High Park Fire

IMG_5778  High Park Fire aftermath 
 I've been meaning to post a picture or two from the High Park Fire devastation.  I'm thankful to say that my parents' house had absolutely no damage.  Their view has changed drastically, and the smell of fire was looming when we were there, but their home is safe.  Unfortunately, a few of their friends did lose homes, but the majority had minimal damage.  Makes you thankful for fire fighters! 

You can see the whole set of pictures I took here

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lovers' Carvings

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 ...after a family photo session; reminds me of a song. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

That Shawl

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was knitting a beautiful shawl, and a few people have asked since then whether I was going to post pictures. So at your request, I'm happy to do so.


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DETAILS

Pattern - Leaflette Shawlette by Stormy Autumn
Yarn - Adorn Sock in the Brannagh colorway from Three Irish Girls
This yarn was 430 yds; yardage noted for the pattern was 460.  I cut it really close; I had 14 inches left!

Mods - the only modification I made was to cross some of the twists the opposite way from written.  I wanted my lines to go over-and-under.  I love it, though it is a bit pointy.  I really liked the architectural quality of the cabling, and I'm glad I knit it.  However, next time I'll look for something that's a little more fabric around the arms and shoulders where the drafts get me, and a bit less down the back.  If you want any more information on this project, you can check out my Ravelry project page.

A couple more pictures:

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