Wednesday, September 24, 2014

All That Wool



Dear Mom,
Remember last spring, when I took all that beautiful angora fiber from Duncan, your adorable rabbit, and some black alpaca that was given to me, and some gorgeous mohair (another gift) to the Fiber Event to be dropped off for processing?
Well, it's here.
And it is beautiful. 
And boyohboy do I have my spinning "work" cut out for me! (okay, we all know it isn't work.)

I chose to have half of the angora blended with some coral merino wool, and the other half blended with a teal merino wool. Both blends and 80% merino/20% angora. More angora than that and the garment would be too hot to wear. The mohair was also blended with merino, but with white merino so I can dye it if I choose, and see the shimmer of the mohair against the merino. That will be fun to play with. The black alpaca was blended with a peacock merino. The color is gorgeous. 

I've already started spinning the coral. It is a dream to spin.
This is the coral blend (obviously) with the mohair blend behind it.

And the teal in front of the peacock.
Getting an accurate color photo of these blues was tricky.
 This is the best I could do.

The heavenly mohair/merino blend

Olive says, "ACK! Where are you going to put all that stuff?!"
"Just don't block my view!"
Lots of squirrel watching out there.
Love,
Kim

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Kitchen

Dear Mom,
Okay. The last time I showed you the kitchen, the back splash looked like this:
and the island looked like this:
And now?! The island has been painted and the backsplash has a decoupaged collage of vintage cookbook pages and kitchen advertising!





I even covered the outlet and switch plate covers.

                                      






I even decoupaged some pretty fabric into the drawers- no more ugly, self-sticky drawer liners!

Mod Podge has come a long way. I used a furniture specific formula that can be washed after several coats and time to cure. I took a leap of faith, doing this, and got that sick "I am making a big mistake" feeling when I was a small way into the project. But once I finished the collage on that first section, I was in love.
I had a great boost in supplies when MelissaWhoDoesNotKnit offered me her grandma's collection of clippings and recipes in exchange for a pair of hand knit socks. Otherwise, it would have taken me forever to get that wonderful assortment! I love the personality my new back splash adds to the kitchen. And the paint color on the island turned out better than I dared to hope. When I look at those "before" pictures, I am amazed at how washed out things looked.

It would seem that most of my creative efforts have gone into the kitchen. And yes, it did take a lot of time and energy, but, there has been some knitting. And spinning. Stay tuned!
Love,
Kim

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Starts and a Finish

Dear Mom,
School has started, projects are nearing completion and others are finished with great satisfaction.

The Young Lady started her Junior year of High School and I was able to take a First Day of School photo on the front porch. A clear sign of Growing Up-  the Starbucks Light Vanilla Frappuccino in her hand.

A week later we moved The Young Man back to IU for his Junior year. On the hottest, humid-est move-in day, for us, so far. With the longest walk from vehicle to dorm, for us, so far. Thank heaven his room has AC and we only had one flight of stairs. After making several trips back and forth, laden like pack mules, and still faced with transporting the really bulky, heavy stuff, we decided to risk our parking spots to pull into a drive meant for Official Vehicles Only to do a quick unload, thus cutting our walking and carrying distance in half. Since mine was the vehicle with said Heavy Load, I pulled into the drive with My Hero and the Young Man standing by. They unloaded onto the sidewalk in record time and I almost as quickly pulled around and began a new hunt for a parking spot. I lucked out and got a spot even closer than my previous one! My Hero babysat the load on the sidewalk while I was parking and the Young Man took a load to his room. As I approached My Hero in his perch on the sidewalk, I saw him signing a clipboard and handing it back to two camera wielding folks. When I got to him, he flashed me a huge smile and proudly stated that he was "going to be on a website somewhere".  Last week, the Young Man forwarded this photo from one of IU's Facebook pages.
Yes, there he is, in a garage sale rescued dorm chair, with the mini fridge. 

While we were moving in, I noticed several resourceful people pulling collapsable wagons loaded with belongings. We are going to have one of those for the next move. 
*******
After 20ish years, our backyard barn was an eyesore. We needed a new one, and one with a bit more useable space. After unloading and dismantling the old barn, and storing all its contents in the garage, we finally got the new, cute little backyard building painted and reloaded. This one has two sets of doors- one for easy access to the things kept there, and one for John, Dear to drive in and out. We are calling it our cottage because it is probably the closest we will ever coming to owning one!

We've really accomplished a lot of home improvement projects this summer. The kitchen facelift is almost complete! I can't wait to show you how it looks!
Love,
Kim

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fast Forward

Dear Mom,
I don't even know what happened to July, and if I don't hurry up and post something, August is going to be halfway over.
Thank goodness for the photos I take with the intention of blog posts or I might not have a clue of where I've been and what I've done.

There was this adorable, very hard-working girl raising money to redecorate her room….
her glasses were practically steaming up with her efforts

A baby blanket off the needles and sent to the mother-to-be….
This is Churchmouse Yarns Picot Edged Baby Blanket pattern
and KnitPicks Comfy Worsted Yarn
And I finished Ivar, which might just be my new favorite cardigan.

I used Baah Yarn, La Jolla, in "Poison Ivy". This yarn is wonderful.

And I sewed another dress to coordinate with a cardigan I knit in the spring. 


Let's see. What else?
The kitchen cabinet project is marching along. We are almost done, with just the bit over the fridge and the kitchen desk area left to do. I painted the ends of the cabinets blue and I am considering painting three sides of the island a darker shade. And can you see that little bird stenciled there by the chickadee cookie jar? I gave serious thought to painting the back splash with chalkboard paint. Thankfully, I taped some black construction paper up there to get an idea of how it would look and I did NOT like it. So, we will keep things as they are unless and until I get a better idea.

My vegetable garden has been producing abundantly. My freezer is stocked with green beans and I am eating these yellow pear tomatoes like they are candy.
We took a last trip to Shipshewana to visit our favorite Bed and Breakfast before the owners retire. The weather for our stay could not have been better. Actually, our weather all summer long has been nearly perfect.
Sunset over the cornfield.

And I got brave and veered out of the cookbook to make a better peanut butter cookie.
Here is the back story on these cookies, and then I will tell you what I did. Which is not at all scientific.
When MelissaWhoSpinsButDoesNotKnit was here one Saturday so we could collectively try to figure out how to make her borrowed rigid heddle loom work, she mentioned some extra specially delicious peanut butter, made locally, and available in special shops and the farmer's market. I don't even LIKE peanut butter very much, but when she mentioned pretzels and white chocolate, trying some of this peanut butter found its way to the top of my to-do list. You and I went and bought some on the following Tuesday. You got the cranberry dark chocolate version and I stuck with the white chocolate pretzel variety. Click HERE to link to their website. Anyway, we got home with our crack peanut butter. As I took another spoonful, I said to you something like "wow, this peanut butter would make a good peanut butter cookie" and you just looked at me like why would you use a 7 dollar and 50 cent jar of peanut butter in a cookie but instead of saying that you just sort softly and slowly said, "or you could just put pretzels and white chocolate in you peanut butter cookie dough".

Me: "…"

So I did.

Here is the basic recipe that I used for the dough:
1/2 c butter
1/2 c crunchy peanut butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 c flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t salt

Mix butter and peanut butter; add sugars and mix well. 
Add egg and beat well.
Sift the dry ingredients together and add to peanut butter mixture. 
This is where I veered off the cookbook page….
I threw in a fat fistful of broken pretzel sticks and half a 12oz bag of Nestle's white chocolate chips. I did NOT chill the dough.I did not mold the dough into balls and dip them in sugar. I did not flatten the dough with a fork. Instead, I used a scoop to plop the dough onto silpat lined cookie sheets and baked them at 375 for 12 minutes.

It made less than 2 dozen cookie, though, which is good if you, like me, would probably just keep eating them until they were gone even when everyone around you has enough will power and restraint to walk away after 2 cookies. Like I said, they were good and I don't even really like Peanut Butter cookies.

The Young Lady starts school on Wednesday and we move the Young Man back to campus next week. As much as I dislike setting my alarm, I am ready to get back into a routine and on a schedule again. (And an alarm is a small price to pay for a daily dose of alone time.) WOOHOO!

Love,
Kim

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Starstruck

Dear Mom,
 I can now cross "Meet Diana Gabaldon" (author of our beloved Outlander book series, creator of Jamie Fraser) off my bucket list!
My friend, ConniecallmeSassenach and I drove on Monday morning from her Michigan cottage up to Traverse City, where we met up with my good sister-in-law, Cheryl and her neighbor, Sheila. We had lunch, window shopped, freshened up, and were in line at the Opera House in downtown TC by 6pm for the Event. The Opera House is beautiful. We had a very pleasant evening talking with the fellow Outlander fans around us, watching a trailer for the TV series, and listening to Diana talk. Some of her talk/ answers to questions was stuff we'd heard before, but we did hear some new tidbits and got to listen while she read from the new book. The way Diana read the passage made us interpret it slightly differently than we'd read it - with more humor. I would say that was the most magical part of the evening for me- listening to her read. She patiently and very graciously answered audience questions- questions I am sure she has answered 100s of times. I was too shy/ not brave enough/ too starstruck to ask anything, even though I had a mental list of questions prepared.

We then waited in line to have our books signed and got our pictures taken with her. And as much as Connie and I would have liked to gush all over her and tell her about how excited we were when we read the part where Jamie knits, or say something that would stamp us as the Best Outlander Fans She Has Ever Met and have her say she wants us to wait 'til she is done with the book signing so she can come and hang out with us and talk over a glass of wine and get our email addresses and become our new Best Friend, we really didn't have a chance in the book signing line to do more than have our picture taken. I did manage to squeak out a "Thank you for sharing your Gift with us" before moving along and letting the next person in line have their turn. It was all run very smoothly and efficiently, which is good, because the parking garage closed at midnight and we were very near the end of the line. She has literally had to have signed 10s of 1000s of books and while she was very kind, I doubt that she would want to do anything to make it take any longer than it did and out of respect for her, we didn't want to do that to her either.
We made the drive back yesterday, getting home a bit after 4pm. I almost immediately took a restorative nap, with Olive, making everything right with the world again - If you can discount the pile of dishes in the sink and the thick coating of dog hair on the floor. It is clear that my family needs tutorials in "How to Efficiently Load, Run, and Unload The Dishwasher" and "The Vacuum Cleaner and Why We Use It". It is also clear that I Am Needed Here. (even if sometimes they probably don't think so and would never admit it.) Today, and for the next few days, I'll be catching up on what didn't get done while I was on my whirlwind adventure. But definitely worth it. Definitely.
Love,
Kim


Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Special Thank You

Dear Mom,
I got a package in yesterday's mail with a special Thank You from Elaine for the Suri Silk and mitten kit I sent to her. I honestly did not expect to be thanked- my thanks was in finding good homes for the yarn. But the kind note and generous gifts that Elaine sent in thanks are worthy of a blog post.
She hinted at sending something special for Olive, and in the package was a bright red polka dot scarf- perfect for a shiny black dog!
What was completely unexpected, and absolutely touched me to my core, was these hand knits!
A couple pairs of boot toppers and a head warmer! In my experience, it is a rare thing for a knitter to receive hand knit gifts. I feel honored and very special. I told Elaine that I am not in any hurry for winter weather to get here, but when it does (because we know it will) I will be sporting these at first opportunity. Thank you Elaine!

Love,
Kim

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Paper, Scissors, a Shot Glass and a Hole Punch

Dear Mom,

After 23 years of love and use and sunshine and abuse, our kitchen cabinets are in desperate need of freshening up. These also being the years of paying for college tuition, new cabinets are not an option. Plus, I reallyreallyreally like my tiled countertops and I've been told that they cannot be saved if/when we replace the cabinets. Soooo, My Hero and I have been sanding (him), staining (me) and polyurethane-ing (me).  We are working in small manageable sections which means we can get each bite digested every weekend, but it also means a regularly disheveled kitchen and cleaning up sawdust over and over and over again. And not having things in their place makes me a little edgy. Keeping my eye on the prize. It'll be worth it in the end. And, I have to say, the refreshed cabinets look better than I even imagined would be possible. That helps. A lot.
The first weekend we tackled the worst appearing cabinets on the island. They were very faded by the sunshine. And last weekend we started working our way around the upper cabinets. While waiting for the last coat of polyurethane to dry I put my mind to considering shelf lining paper. I'd used that self sticking liner and did not want to use that again. I wanted something prettier than plain and googled "lace edged shelf paper" or something like that and in my fall down the internet rabbit hole, found a site that had a quote from one of the Little House books and instructions for cutting pretty shelf paper. (I guess Ma Ingalls had Mary and Laura making pretty shelf paper in one of the books. Frankly, they had me at Little House.) Such was my inspiration that I cannot find that website to share it with you. I pretty much immediately stopped googling and gathered my supplies.
I used scissors, brown craft paper (you could use newspaper or white butcher paper or whatever you think would be nice for lining shelves), a hole punch (I am pretty sure Mary and Laura did not have a hole punch.) and a shot glass. (I know for certain that Ma Ingalls would not allow a shot glass in her house, so Mary and Laura did not use one of these either.) I used the shot glass to draw a round edge. You could make pointy edges. Mary and Laura probably made pointy edges.
I folded the craft paper in half and half and half, again and again and again, until it was about 2 inches wide and then started cutting and hole punching the end- like making snow flakes or paper dolls.
So when it was unfolded, I had a lacy looking edge. I did not want to drive myself crazy by trying to make them all the same. It was more fun to try different things for each one. Also, I don't have one of those fancy crafty scrap-bookin' shaped punch things, but if I did, I would have tried using it.
I then trimmed the depth and width of the paper to fit my shelves.
Here is a photo with the paper on the shelves, and the shelves loaded, but before the cabinet doors went back on:
And here is a photo with the doors on the cabinets:
We have a ways to go before we are finished, but so far so good!
Love,
Kim