Friday, April 30, 2010

Coffee and Cookies Combined!

Dear Mom,
I have enjoyed 2 glorious days off from any kind of "work" so I took the days to be lazy and enjoy the yard, the weather (knitting outside!) and baking! I baked 4 loaves of Grams' Bread, otherwise known as Mercy Watson Toast, white chocolate chip cookies that were terrible (but eaten anyway!) and then these:
Coffee Bean Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped almonds, toasted
1 cup chocolate-covered coffee beans (purchased at Starbucks, of course!)
1 cup heath bar chips

Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating well.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, beating well.
Stir in chopped almonds, chocolate-covered coffee beans and heath bar chips.  Cover and chill dough, if desired.
Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-11 minutes or until golden.  Cool 1 minute on baking sheets; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Yield:  4 dozen

These cookies have always been my favorites!!  An indulgence for me.  The kids got the white chocolate chip cookies; I ate all of the coffee bean cookies!
Much has been brewing during these past two days . . . . all of which I will share in the next coming week!  In the meantime, I can't wait to read about The Queen! And I STILL have my Alice Starmore "Reef" sweater that was properly steeked with the aid of Kim and her bottle of wine, but never finished.  It was to be for the teenager when he was 2 . . . and then the Diva . . . and then Pipsqueak  . . . . . .
Enjoy your weekend!

Slowing down, moving fast and trying to feel groovy. And some knitting, too.

Dear Mom,
Lately I have been feeling in a perpetual hurry. Mostly it is all self-inflicted and at some point this week I realized I need to slow myself down. Time to dig out some Simon & Garfunkel and remember to slow down, make the morning last. You know....Feel Groovy. Well, try to anyway.

The What I Need to Do's are colliding with the What I Want to Do's and I've become a spinning top. So much to do, where to start? I don't know why I get frantic about it, everything gets done in its time. It just doesn't always get done in the time frame that I plan on. For instance, yesterday I intended to burn off some energy getting the house clean. All was well until I found an empty retainer case (again). Apparently Patsy is concerned with her oral health, because this is the second time I've had to search for that retainer and I've lost track of how many toothbrushes we've replaced. The first retainer search ended with the retainer intact. Not so lucky this time. I scold the dog. I call the orthodontist to schedule an appointment for new retainer. While I am on the phone I decide to call Brother and ask him to till up a new garden spot. Yes, he can, right now. Outside to stake off desired location. Brother tills. Time for lunch. Brother calls to tell me something. (Can't remember what.) I ask him about making pasta. We talk about making pasta. We talk about pasta machines. We decide to make pasta, soon. I look on the internet at pasta machines. The afternoon is slipping away. On my list of Want to Do's is the Green Sweater. It has reached a point in its construction that requires me to cut the steeks and I need daylight to do this. If I don't get it done now, before the after school routine begins, it will be another day, or two, before I can do it. I stop everything and git r done. I can clean tomorrow or on Saturday when it rains.

I think the steeking process is something you might find interesting. The Green Sweater is going to be a cardigan when it grows up, but it is knitted entirely in the round in one piece, not flat or in pieces. I am basically knitting a wonky tube. To turn the tube into a cardigan with sleeves enlists the use of steeks. Steeks are basically extra stitches placed in strategic locations to be used as selvages. All the sweater shaping is done outside of these selvages. Constructing a sweater this way is faster- I can knit around in circles a lot faster than I can knit a row, turn the sweater to the wrong side, and purl back. I think most knitters can work a knit stitch faster than a purl stitch. I can, anyway. Another good thing about working in rounds is that the right side is always facing while you knit, especially helpful when working a color or stitch pattern. The Green Sweater is just plain old stockinette stitch with very little shaping and no color or pattern to keep track of. On something like this I can really get in the zone and knit at a pretty good clip.

So, back to yesterday. I had reached the point where nothing more can happen to the Green Sweater until I secure and cut the steeks. It looked like this:
a wonky tube
There are four steeks on this sweater. One at the center front, another at the neck opening, and two for the arms. 
At this point, I mark the center of the steeks with a basting yarn in a contrasting color. You can see that here:

Now for the scary part.

Assemble the necessary tools:

  1. Good light. Daylight preferred.

  2. Cheaters.

  3. Puppies sniffing at your feet are not helpful. Try to distract them, or do this when they are sleeping.

  4. Sewing machine

  5. Scissors

  6. Wine. For after you are done. I think Elizabeth Zimmermann suggests lying down in a dark room. A glass of wine is more fun.
Time to secure the steeks. There is more than one way to do this, and this time I am using the sewing machine method. This is how I did my very first steek, back in 1992, at Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp. I was smart enough, back then, to realize that I had better learn it in the presence of an expert and with supportive knitters beside me.

It seems wrong to use a sewing machine on a hand knit, but I like to use this method because there is less bulk in the selvage edge that is created. Plus, my sewing machine, Judy Jetson, likes it when she feels needed.

The tiniest possible stitch is sewed right next to the basting thread.
First on one side, then the other. Again, I use a contrasting thread so that it is easy to see. Plus, this edge will be hidden and the thread won't show when the sweater is finished.
The really scary part.
Cut the steeks. Yes. Cut that perfectly good knitting. That wonky tube is good for nothing until you cut it. Except here is the disadvantage to steeks. There is no going back once the steeks are cut. Honestly, there is no going back once you've run it through the sewing machine, because I cannot for the life of me imagine ripping out those tiny stitches and having the yarn survive. But the cutting is final.

Truthfully, this is only Very Scary the first time. Once the dizzy spell passed, I found the whole process to be liberating. I steek freely now.
So, here is Elle, modeling the sweater with the steeks cut open. The sweater has not been joined at the shoulders yet, but you get the idea.

Looks more like a cardigan now, doesn't it!

I went ahead and blocked the sweater at this point. I need to turn the steeks under and sew down some facings, and it seemed prudent for me to block first to flatten those curling edges and make the sewing down process easier. I'll join the shoulders and sew the facings and then I can start the sleeves.

So last night, I was faced with only socks to knit. Rather than do the smart thing, which would be to knit the socks or go to an unfinished project, I decided to start something new.  I cast on for this.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Temporary Insanity

Dear Mom,
It's that time of year when I go a little bit crazy. 


They are in the grass.

The driveway.

The patio.

The roof  (and soon they will be in the gutters).

Hello...they are in the chicken coop. 

And the chickens won't eat them!!

I am sitting on them.

And soon I will be pulling baby maple trees out of the garden.

These seeds are floating in the pond and glued to the rocks. 

I spied a chicken feather among the seeds clinging to the rocks...and it wasn't until I posted the picture that I realized a frog was sitting there too! 

I know this is a temporary condition.  We enjoy the shade the maple trees provide throughout the summer. 

But WHY do they have to drop SO MANY seeds?!?!

Love, Bonnie Jo

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Queen Alessandra

Dear Mom,
I spent my Saturday morning at Wildflower Ridge Honey Farm.  This enchanted farm is owned by the Barrickman family in Anderson.  I felt like I was in Heaven on Earth! 

I parked in a field with the animals!  There were sheep, a llama, and a Great Pyrenees dog to watch over them. 
The farm had its own character!  Look at this barn!

Here is the outhouse and the flower "beds".

There was a candle burning inside the outhouse!  (I actually thought of Kim while I was inside the outhouse taking pictures...I imagined that she would have been taking pictures too!)

Nearly 100 people came from near and far to pick up their bees!  The American Honey Queen, Lisa Schluttenhofer, spoke to the group.  Lisa is from Indiana and attends Purdue University.  The group was told that the bees have contracted nosema, a digestive disease.  There are chemicals available for treatment, but I will try to combat this disease by making certain the bees have plenty of syrup and pollen supplements to eat.

Finally, the group dispersed for some interaction with the bee hives.  I was sooooo excited! I finally got to put on my veil!   Mr. Barrickman took a hive apart and showed us a healthy colony of bees.

A hundred boxes of bees were waiting in a horse trailer to be taken home. Our names were called in sequence according to the date our orders were received. 

The rest of the day is a blur.  A total blur.  I was a nervous wreck.  I have been attending seminars, reading books, and talking to complete strangers about beekeeping for over a year, and yet I was scared  and on my own.  I drove the bees home in the trunk of the car.  I took the bees to the back and loaded them into the hive.  I can't even remember how I did it.  I think I made some mistakes.  Was the queen there?  I was afraid it would rain any second.  And my smoker went out. But....I did it!  I didn't get stung.  I did it

I wish I could do it again and remember what I did, so I wouldn't make any mistakes. I think I might have switched some frames around and I wish I would have looked for the queen. It started to sprinkle. But I sat and watched with fascination. The bees were flying in, out and around the hive.   I made some sugar syrup and inserted the feeder into the front. 
I met some nice people, like Tom and Melissa.  Melissa might stop by this week to help me find Queen Alessandra.  "Alessandra" is an Italian name which means "the defender or helper of mankind".  I look forward to Melissa's visit.  I feel she will be a valuable new friend. 
I have so much to learn. I wonder if the bees will recover from nosema.  I hope Queen Alessandra is strong and hearty. One thing I know for sure:  I am falling in love with beekeeping.
Love, Bonnie Jo

Friday, April 23, 2010

Matthew 5:4

Dear Mom,
On this, the most wretched of anniversaries, you must be kindest to yourself.
It is impossible not to remember what this day means, even when the remembering brings sorrow as deep and fresh as the first days. And with it the bewildering shock that we have been 5 years without him, even though we accepted the fact of our loss long ago.
I am sad for the things he is missing, and selfishly sad for the things about him I still need. I know that I have become a stronger, more compassionate person, but I have gained an almost obsessive intolerance for wasted time. I am too familiar with the phrase "Life is Short."
We've all learned to Move Forward. And we can without forgetting. I like to think we are bringing Daddy with us, and that he is enjoying our adventures right beside us. I bet he is tickled and proud.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Stop Me!

Dear Mom,
And now I am doing everything I can to restrain myself from hunting down old sheets and trying THIS, so I can make THIS.


I want one

Dear Mom,
I think I found my dream pet. You can read about it HERE.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Dear Mom,
A cloud of volcanic ash has not trapped me in Europe unable to blog. Nor am I buried under an avalanche of yarn. I've just been juggling the usual housework, kid schedules, an attempt to keep up with the yard, some knitting pattern writing and the knitting that goes with them. Throw in some hair appointments and dental visits and you pretty much have my week and not enough time for blogging. Oh. Add a home repair.

After years of failed attempts to locate and fix a leak, we are having the copper roof replaced with shingles. I hated to see the copper go, but once removed, it was clear that we are on the right track. All this activity has the dogs (mostly Patsy) on high alert.

I've lost track of sock progress. I AM working on socks, though. And writing up the pattern for them, so I don't think I am too far off my sock-a-week resolution.

This pair is almost done. Plus it is a Man's pair and that may deserve a hall pass or something. Extra credit maybe.

Isn't the yarn pretty, though?

I've also had fun knitting these:.
A sneak peak at two future patterns for KnitPicks! I'll show you more once they are online there. For now, I have been knitting the samples and writing the patterns. MaryLee has been test knitting one of them for me, giving me some peace of mind, an extra set of eyes and the pleasure of frequent emails from her.
With KnitPicks, unlike my submissions elsewhere, the responsibility for charting, schematics, and photography is mine. Last week I spent most of one school day on the computer learning how and then drawing a schematic on Word and charting a knitter's graph using Excel. I even downloaded a knitting font. Can you believe that I, Kim Wagner, did something, anything, using Excel?!!?  I just know that at the end of that day I had a bad cramp in my right shoulder. And for someone who never got past 27 words per minute in 9th grade typing class (which was my one and only business class, by the way) let me tell you that any success on the computer is a Major Accomplishment. Major. I even had to stay after school to finish the typing assignments. Yes. I was THAT good. 

We are 2 weeks away from Puppy Kindergarten Graduation. If we pass. We need to practice sit-stay and Patsy isn't too quick on learning Shake. Shake is one of the five Requirements to graduate.  Sit-stay for 10 seconds is another. I can't remember the other three. Really. If she doesn't pass, how old does a dog have to be before she is too old for PUPPY Kindergarten?

I'll leave you with the view out my front window. I would lower the blinds, but Patsy would destroy them in her attempt at Homeland Security.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Practical Beige

Dear Mom,
My bee hive and equipment arrived in four big boxes.  I felt like a child on Christmas morning, eagerly opening boxes with excitement and anticipation!  These "fragile" stickers were on the outside of each box.

It is recommended to apply a good quality coat of exterior wood primer and two coats of house paint to protect and prolong the life of the hive.  The guys and I agreed on Practical Beige because it is a light and neutral color.

So...I've been painting....

We found a location at the edge of the woods that catches the morning sun and some afternoon shade.  The Captain built a rustic stand out of apple tree stumps and aged oak planks.  He is so handy and inventive, and I love the way it turned out! With the hive in the middle, I have space on each side to set my equipment.

Voila!  It is fit for a queen!

The bees arrive on April 24!  I think I'm ready....
Love, Bonnie Jo