Monday, January 30, 2017


Dear Mom,
I've been very busy making things. Lists, menu plans and healthy dinners, and best of all, things knitted and woven and spun.
By accident, what I finished spinning last week coordinates with what I finished weaving this morning.

I try to reserve Sundays for spinning. That plan got sidetracked during the holidays, but I am getting back to it. I also try to reserve Tuesdays for sewing (once all my household chores are done). It may take weeks to finish something, but if I wait for a big block of time I'll never get started. This dress took 2 1/2 years to sew. Maybe longer. But only if you start the clock when I purchased the fabric. Good thing these things don't expire! I know I purchased the fabric intending to make a dress for spring/summer. (I am just not sure what year that purchase was made.) When that summer passed by without sewing the dress, I then hoped to have it for the next Easter. And after that didn't happen, I thought I could wear it to the Young Lady's graduation. Surgery re-arranged that plan and here I am, January 2017 and Factory Dress #2 is finished! Hemmed and pressed, ready and waiting!

I added a little lace that I purchased at an antique store to the pocket. I do love this Merchant & Mills pattern. This week I will start laying out and cutting their Top#64 pattern.

My most recently finished knitting project is this cardigan:

It is based on the vintage Sweater Wheel pattern I inherited from Aunt Betty. I've seen Sweater Wheels for sale on eBay. I made several modifications to the pattern- I knit the body of the sweater in one piece, lengthened the armhole depth and picked up and worked the sleeves from the top down, and I knitted faced button bands using Anna Zilboorg's "Almost Perfect Button holes". I really like this classic cardigan. I'll definitely make more for myself.

I 've begun a new, more thorough schedule for myself. I had one when the kids were little. Life was just easier to schedule back then, I guess. But I got away from it in the past few years. Makes sense when I think back on all the comings and goings and schedule juggling that middle and high school years brings. Now that this nest is mostly empty, I find I need that schedule again to make the best use of my days, to make time for creating and making and getting done all that needs to be done to keep this household running smoothly.
Last week I cobbled together all my lists and had fun with watercolor paints and ink to make a master   schedule for myself.
The Schedule includes exercise ( 5 days/week for heart health!) , vacuuming, specific laundry loads, bathrooms, floor mopping, plant watering, sewing, spinning, ironing- basically everything I thought of in logical, bite-sized, daily doses that I can easily manage. No more wasting time trying to decide what task to tackle. I look to my list. I get it done. And then Hallelujah! I have time to play! I have a separate notebook with the week's meal plan. When I make that plan and write out my grocery list, I include the recipe location. I wasted too much time trying to decide what to fix for dinner at the last minute. And even more time putting off housework because I couldn't decide where to start. I did all my thinking and put it down on paper. Tweaked it and made my master plan. I can still tweak things- and will need to make seasonal adjustments- but the essentials are there. Even better- I don't feel guilty for spending time at creating when I know my days work is done and done well.
I am continuing to work through the cotton fabric stash I accepted from one of my knitting students. This past weekend was very productive. Donna Reed and I wove 8 placemats and 2 table runners. That photo up there is the length of those placemats and runners before I separated them! I got smart and found 2 sets of fabrics that would be happy with the same warp and then wound enough warp for both sets, saving time dressing the loom.

Earlier in the month I wove this pretty set-

I am going through that stash of fabric quicker that I thought I would. Weaving these is almost instant gratification and I enjoy it, but I am eager to weave some nice dish towels again, soon.
All is well here at the end of the cup-de-sac. I even noticed some daffodils poking through the ground when I went out to fill the bird feeder yesterday!


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Worried Dog

Dear Mom,
We've known for a long time now that intelligence is not Olive's strength. We make concessions and know that she is as smart as she needs to be. Like Winnie the Pooh, she has some fluff in her head. Olivia Patricia Winniefred. New things are big challenges for a dog with a simple brain.

This is a worried dog.

She is separated from her Mama.

Santa brought me a Braava robot to help sweep and mop the floors.  (I've named her Florence) Don't worry, I'll still do it the old fashioned way, but Florence lets me get other stuff done while she tends to the floors.

What that really means is I have more time in Sweet Haven. (Imagine streamers and party horns.)

So, this afternoon, having thrown the sheets in the washer, I started Florence to work in the foyer and headed upstairs to gather the towels for their turn in Mr. Bosch. On a typical day, Olive is my shadow, but with the Young Lady home for winter break, Olive has been dividing her time between us. I was not concerned about my absent shadow until I heard short little distress barks. Turns out our Big Black Beastie was downstairs and the Young Lady and I were upstairs. And Florence was between us.

This is Florence.
Florence is not very big.
She is not loud. She moves slowly.

Obviously, if you are Olive, Florence has an impenetrable force field surrounding her.
It took a dog treat and me escorting her to get Olive past Florence and upstairs with her people.
At times like this I can only imagine how our other dogs would have reacted. Bumper would surely have Not Cared. And Patsy? She would either have Killed Florence or figured out which buttons to push to get her sweeping, mopping, or stopped.

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

A.A. Milne 


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

 Dear Mom,

The Best is Yet to Come!
Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Why Did the Chicken....?

Dear Mom,

Why did the chicken cross the yard in the snow?

Bonnie Jo

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Donna Reed

Dear Mom,
What I should be doing is wrapping gifts. Wrapping is one of those tasks that always takes longer than I anticipate and my back always hurts about 1/3 of the way through. In a constant effort to KeepThingsSimple, a year or two ago I ordered a Humongous roll of brown kraft paper from Uline and use that to wrap all my gifts.

Brown paper packages tied up with strings.

I set up a wrapping station at the kitchen table and have a marathon session of tape, scissors, paper shrapnel and ribbons littered and scattered about. I feel relief and deep satisfaction (and the need for a massage) when it is over and Put Away.

Right now though, my kitchen table is occupied with another project. Do I get creative points for delaying my wrap session? no. I've probably earned demerits for inefficiency when I should have  wrapped first and then finished this project later.

Donna Reed (my Schacht Baby Wolf loom) and I have been busy.  One of the ladies in my knitting class purged her stash of quilting fabrics and I adopted about 100 pounds of it. Not to quilt with, but to weave rugs, table runners, and place mats.
With your help, I sorted those fabrics into coordinating 3, 4, or 5 yard bundles. After pre-washing the fabrics, I use a rotary cutter to cut them into 1-inch wide strips. After a couple cutting sprees I had a mild epiphany and realized if I folded the fabrics crosswise, I would have the nearly the same number of strips of each fabric, but in different lengths. Generally, the fabric is 44/45" wide. No matter how many yards, they are all the same width. Cutting width-wise - not lengthwise - means I can have the same number of strips, but different lengths depending on the yardage of the particular fabric. Make sense? No more figuring out how to balance the different patterns of fabric across the length of my weaving. I can just sort them in the order of how I want them to be. I look only at the color - the designs on the fabric disappear in the weaving.

I use cotton rug warp. And dress my loom according to width for rugs or placemats.
In this case, I am weaving a rug. There are 240 threads- through heddles and reed; 1 per dent in a 10 dent reed. This is the part of weaving that I thought I would hate. It was the thing I told myself would be unbearably awful when I was trying to resist the Call of the Loom.  When I could no longer resist and started weaving, I was pleasantly surprised to learn  that I do NOT hate this part!

Once all the prep is done, the weaving part goes really fast. I cut slits in the ends of my fabric strips and loop them through each other to join them together. I also don't usually fold and iron my strips with right sides out, preferring to let the right and wrong sides of the fabric add an interesting depth of color. If I think the combination of right and wrong sides will be too washed out, I will fold and iron the strips first. Generally, though, I don't think it is worth all the extra work involved.
I hand finish the beginning and end with a hem stitch. No sewing machine involved.

And this is probably breaking some unspoken weaving law, but when they are finished I coat the backs of my rugs with 2 coats of a non-skid backing. I don't want my rugs guilty of causing any slips or sprains or strains or broken bones. Obviously, I can skip this last step when I weave placemats and table runners!

So, right now, my kitchen table is working as a rug backing application work bench. We'll eat at the kitchen island tonight.

All the leftover strips of fabric are going into a canvas bag. I'll make a crazy odds and ends rug with them one of these days.  Here is a pile of some of the placemats and table runners I've finished. I've barely scratched the surface of those re-homed fabrics!


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Skye, Fort William and Back Home Again

 Dear Mom,

 Continuing (and concluding) my Scotland trip....
 We departed Inverness and made our way to the Isle of Skye.
On the way we stopped at Eileen Donan Castle. We learned that the correct pronunciation is El-len Duh-non. (not Eye- Leen Dough-nan)

The day, as you can see in the photos, was sunny and pleasant. We ate lunch here, outside!
Things didn't stay sunny as we crossed the bridge to Skye. It seemed that once we got on the island all was heavy mist. Our plan was to drive to the Talisker Distillery for a tour. Thank goodness for the Sat Nav- this was our first real exposure to narrow, winding, single lane (but two directions!) roads with lay-by's.  We twisted and turned and climbed and prayed our way to the distillery to find that many others had the same idea on that rainy afternoon and the distillery tours were booked. Somewhat disappointing, but souvenirs were purchased. and we drove to our home in Portree, the Duirinish Guest House. The weather cleared in time for our arrival.
The guest house was an easy walk into Portree. The host was very helpful in making dinner reservations for us and restaurant suggestions. We drove out the next morning to Kilt Rock-

 and two of us spent the afternoon lunching at The Granary, shopping, and wandering around Portree.
We met the most charming shopkeeper at a gift/craft shop and shared laughs over photo id's, and how we camouflage our yarn stash. Kindred spirits.

 We departed early the next morning in order to catch the ferry from Armadale to Maillag.  Our next destination is Fort William where we stayed in the Treetops Bed and Breakfast.
Stalker Castle
Treetops sits at the foot of Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. We had a spectacular view from the deck where we enjoyed hot tea and shortbread upon our arrival.

When planning our trip, we'd included Fort William thinking we would be spending a day on the Jacobite Steam Engine- the train that takes Harry Potter to Hogwarts. Unfortunately, we didn't delve into the details until it was too late. Our journey had us in Fort William on one of the last weekends the train runs for the season and no tickets were available. Luckily, the steam engine chugged its way past the B&B and we were able to see the plumes of steam and listen to the comforting sound of the slow moving train on the rails.

Thanks to a recommendation from a young cab driver "who took his mum there" we had Afternoon Tea at Inverlochy Castle on Sunday. Having High Tea sometime on our trip was on my wish list, and this experience was more than I'd ever hoped for. I am so grateful to that young man for mentioning this- Inverlochy Castle was not on our radar.

We enjoyed our tea, on Wedgwood china, next to a warm, crackling wood fire. Heaven.

We also had a delicious meal at the Ben Nevis Inn, a 200 year old, restored stone barn. I had a lamb stew that was melt-in-my-mouth delicious. 

Our time in Scotland is coming to an end. We left Fort William very early so we could make quick stops at Stirling Castle and the William Wallace monument on our way to return the car in Edinburgh. We'd also hoped to see Castle Doune (which is used as Castle Leoch in Outlander, and was also used In Monty Python and the Holy Grail) but a road closure with no detour signs thwarted that plan.
Stirling Castle and its views were beautiful. 

 It was a short drive from there to the Wallace Monument. I did not hike up to the monument- only the youngest one of us had the energy! 
As we got close to Edinburgh we were surprised by the Kelpies- another wish list item we weren't sure how to locate. Bonus!

Edinburgh traffic and finding the rental place at the airport was almost more than our nerves could take. We were all happy- most especially our driver- when we got out of the car for the last time and turned over the keys. No dents, all mirrors intact, but very chewed up rims on the left side tires. 
We spent our last night in Scotland in Edinburgh on the Royal Mile, at the Radisson Blu. A very noisy last night. Visiting the Royal Mile by day and dining there is wonderful. Revelry continues into the wee hours, though, and is not the best place for a good night's sleep- especially when rising early to catch a flight. We had our last dinner in Scotland at Alba Nach, the sister restaurant to the famous World's End- no seats available there- dinner was delicious and another wish list item was on the menu- yummy Banoffee pie. 

And homeward bound- through the delightful, cheerful, polite airport personnel in Scotland (gentle reminders to "remove your cardi"- to arrive in Newark to the unnecessarily grumpiest, rudest, barking commands "EMPTY YOUR POCKETS!", security and customs people who made me ashamed and embarrassed and sad- these may be the first Americans someone might meet. What a horrible first impression. 

I loved Scotland. I'd like to think I'll go back someday. But there are other places I'd like to see, and most importantly, be it ever so humble, There is NO PLACE like HOME.