Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My latest finished object

Dear Mom-
I finished and blocked my latest sweater. I'll call it Wishbone because of the stitch detail at the neckline. The pattern is an Adrienne Vittadini design.

The actual color is more of a cranberry red. The only change I made to the pattern was to shorten the sleeves by an inch. When I make this again (because I will) I will lengthen the body by and inch and maybe the neck by another 2 inches, I think,. I'll also make the next smallest size. I have a bad habit of knitting things too large for myself.

This was a quick, easy knit. Here is a close-up of the stitch pattern at the neck-
I have a baby gift to knit and then I really should finish some things that have been abandoned for whatever reason. I also need to get back on the sock-a-week plan which seems to have been replaced by dog walking and gardening. I may need to revise it to sock-a-month.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Knit Picks

Dear Mom,
Two of my designs went "live" yesterday on the Knit Picks website.
Over the past 6-8 weeks, I've been designing, pattern writing, knitting and photographing 2 children's items for Knit Picks Independent Designer Program. It was for these patterns that I learned to chart with Excel and draw a schematic on Word. It was also for the Knit Picks website that Bonnie so thoughtfully photographed me for my "bio" page. You can see the bio and chosen photo here.

You can go here and here for a closer look at the patterns.

I had tremendous help from Mary Lee, who test knit the boys sweater for me. I think you can click on this and see a picture of the sweater she knit for a grandson. I love the color combination she chose. Mary Lee helped me to look at my words through someone else's eyes and gave me the priceless reassurance that someone else could knit what I had written. If  it weren't for Mary Lee, the sleeves would probably be too long. On top of all that, she kept her sense of humor intact despite my too many "change row 3 from this to this" and "here is another correction" emails. But we did it and I thank her tremendously, for both doing it and for doing it at lightening speed. Sharing the process with Mary Lee made it all the more fun. Way more fun.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Yesterday's Mail

Dear Mom,
Yesterday's mail brought me some very nice things.
The first was the July issue of Creative Knitting magazine, which has my fun little Hopscotch skirt in it on page 28.

It also shows my friend Carol showing off the changes she made to her "Walk in the Parka" in the letters to the editor on page 5!!!!

The other thing that arrived was this!
This is the bag o'wool, which I washed and picked to the best of my ability, and then sent off to Ohio Valley Natural Fibers to be carded into roving that I can now spin. I am amazed at how much roving that the wool became and I am now anxious to spin it and see how much yarn I can make. I wonder if there is an entire sweater in that box?  I was also pleasantly surprised at the very reasonable processing cost. I have a second bag o'wool waiting in the garage. I guess it is time to start washing and picking raw material out of it and send it on its way!  And THEN I can start playing with some of the dyeing techniques I learned at that workshop a few weeks ago!!!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Tour of the Castle

Dear Mom,
Last Friday, I felt it was time to take a look inside Queen Alessandra's castle to check on the progress and expansion of the colony.  It has been three weeks since I installed the four new frames of bees into the hive.  My friend and mentor, Melissa, helped locate Queen Alessandra two weeks ago, and I have been noticing increased traffic and activity of the bees.  My eager assistant, N, got the smoker started.  The smoke calms and quiets the bees by disrupting the alarm pheromone sent out by the guard bees.  Since we would be opening the hive up and moving frames around, we definitely wanted to smoke the bees...just a little bit goes a long way.  N also photographed our castle tour and took some great photos for me to show you!

The bees have built some extra comb which is coming out the ventilation hole of the inner cover.  I later scraped this off and added it back into the hive body for the bees to reuse. 

N and I were thrilled to see that the bees have expanded out onto the newer frames.  We estimated they have drawn out (built new wax comb) on at least 80% of the foundation and we concluded it was time to add a new super (a second floor to the castle)!

The bees were calm and cooperative.  We pulled a frame from the other side of the brood box and were excited to see what the bees have been doing.  The white stuff at the top of the frame is capped honey cells!

We did not see Queen Alessandra, but we weren't really looking for her.  It is obvious that the colony is growing and we know she is inside one of these busy inner frames laying eggs. 

I have to look in the reference books and ask a lot of questions (thank goodness for Melissa) to figure out what I'm doing.  I listen to webinars while I'm ironing!  I feel I only know 10% of what there is to know about bees...but I am just LOVIN' it! 

And the castle just grew taller!
Love, Bonnie Jo

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Photo Shoot

Dear Mom,
For the past 6 weeks or so, I've been working on a couple of patterns for Knit Picks. I thought all the hard work was done when I emailed  the instructions and sent the samples off. I was wrong.
The final part of the process turned out to be the toughest. They asked for a photo of myself and a brief bio for their website.
I stewed over the bio and wording for a little while, organized my thoughts and wrote the short paragraph. Then I set about trying to take a self portrait. With my camera held at arms length, I tried different lighting, different poses and different backgrounds. I tried not to feel dumb as I stood in the backyard and smiled at the camera I was holding. I tried to make myself look less wrinkled, and thinner. And less gray. And less like Daddy. I tried to find my "best side".

I was getting discouraged.

I enlisted the help of the Young Lady. "Take a few pictures of me with Bumper", I begged. "It is for a website."

The Young Lady has inherited her Grandpa's love of animals, and his talent for making them the focal point of a photograph.

Next, I tried using my little tripod and the self timer. I got an acceptable picture, but Bonnie came to my rescue.
She had several ideas for our Photo Shoot and was determined to take a good one that would not feature a mole, wrinkles or gray hair. She promised nothing about skinny.

We took shots of me watering the daisies with Patsy.
And pictures of me sitting on the front porch until Bumper decided to see what was going on...

And some action shots of me knitting on the back porch, which worked fine until Patsy grabbed the yarn ball and ran.
Bonnie took her job seriously. She even told me to "WORK IT" and asked about the wind machine.
Then we laughed.
And I laughed even harder when I noticed her photographer's stance.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010



Dear Mom,
For most Hoosiers, the month of May in Indiana means the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and all of the excitement that goes along with it.   But not me.  For me, it means planting the garden...which means firing up the tiller and working the soil until it is dark brown and weed-free.  Love it, love it, LOVE IT!!  I can't describe the feeling it brings, but I'm willing to bet you know the feeling....a sense of pride, accomplishment and empowerment!  It is mostly because there is just something about operating Rhonda Honda.  She may not be a full-size rototiller, but she is a power tool nonetheless.  She is my stress management therapy.  As far as power tools go, every gal should have one of these.

This year, I am planting a "salsa garden" so I can make lots and LOTS of Wendy's Salsa, which by the way, happens to be the best salsa ON THE PLANET.  Along with the tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onion, I also planted a few rows of green beans and some cucumbers.  I have never put in a garden without cucumbers and I can't imagine a summer without fresh cucumbers to snack on before dinner.


Love, Bonnie Jo

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Dear Mom,
Here are the results of Saturday's Dye Workshop, all dried and dressed up. I am unreasonably happy and excited about these bundles of fiber. I want to play with them and make some more!


Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm Dyeing Here!

Dear Mom,
If learning to spin wasn't enough, on Saturday I learned how to dye all that wool. I took a beginner's dye workshop with Rita Petteys. The class was held at Tabby Tree Weaver.

Rita's company is Yarn Hollow, and much of the hand painted roving that I have purchased to spin has been hers.

I am glad that I didn't know ahead of time that I would be called upon to:
use the metric system
weigh and measure stuff in grams
do math 
because I might have talked myself out of the class.
As it was, Rita did an excellent job explaining the process and we all carried on with no tears, tantrums or nasty dye accidents.

In class we learned both immersion dyeing and hand painting. This workshop was focused on protein based fibers which include animal fibers, nylon, silk and soy. We started with immersion dyeing and a skein of yarn. The hard part was choosing a color. Rita suggested picking the OPPOSITE of our favorite color, which in my case meant that I would be using a green dye. I chose "Golden Pear". Because if it has to be green it may as well sound tasty. Plus, the Young Lady likes green.

We weighed and calculated and measured. Our yarns were soaked and the kettles were simmering.
Here is what my yarn looked like in the pot, after it had absorbed all the dye and while it was cooling:

The only good thing about our unseasonably frigid weather on Saturday was that it helped to speed up the cooling process.

Next up we learned how to hand paint a skein of yarn. This time I chose colors that make me happy.  We covered our workspace with plastic wrap, arranged our skeins into ovals and set about painting the yarn with our chosen dyes. Literally- sponge paintbrushes were dipped into jars filled with dyes and applied to the yarn at whim. I already have a plan for my bright red and orange yarn!

Then we moved on to hand painting on roving. I tried duplicating one of my favorite YarnHollow colorways, and then painted another roving working with colors I would not normally choose. The last bit of dyeing I attempted, because I thought that it would be what I will most likely try at home, was immersion dyeing the roving. This may be my favorite result of them all, and I can't wait to spin it and see how it looks. I dyed the superwash merino roving in "Turkey Red" - a very cranberry red.

Once cooled, the dyed fibers are hung out to dry. Here is a good sampling of most of what the class produced on Saturday-

Even after spending the day on the porch on a drying rack, my fibers are still damp. I hope that tomorrow they are dry enough that I can take a good picture and show them to you. Needless to say, I am catching myself daydreaming about dyeing enough roving to spin into enough yarn to make a really special sweater. And more.....


Sunday, May 9, 2010

May 9, 2010

Dear Mom, Kim and Wendy ~

Happy Mother's Day!

Love, Bonnie Jo

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Mini

Dear Mom,
On Saturday, the 34th annual 500 Festival Mini- Marathon kicks off the Month of May in Indianapolis. I think it was twenty years ago that I walked in my first mini-marathon. It was not my last mini.

It was my second to last.

That first marathon, I walked the 13-point-whatever miles with some co-workers. The dentist I was working for at the time was (and still is) an avid runner and he convinced some of us that we could do it. So we did. It was a bright, hot day. Perfect for a nice long walk. Until you are so hot and sweaty and hungry and your fingers have swelled so much that you can't make a fist, that you start praying for clouds and a significant drop in temperature. Back then the Mini was held just before the actual race at the end of the month, started at Monument Circle and finished at the track, forcing the participants to finish the last 2 1/2 grueling miles without shade, on hot asphalt and with your legs striking the pavement at different levels thanks to the banking of the track all while suffering the illusion that the next turn was within reach when really it was a mile away. But we got to cross the "yard of bricks" that is the finish line.Since then the race has been moved to early in the month, and the route has been changed. I think they still run on the track but it is only part of the race route.

The next year, with the promise of unlimited cookies at the finish, I convinced Wendy to walk with me. She was a nearly newlywed, still living in an apartment, and we trained separately, but boasted of our training progress. This was back in the days when a Sony Walkman was the hi-tech way of taking your music with you, and I can remember walking many miles and listening to Prince's (he was still Prince back then) Batman soundtrack. I don't know what Wendy listened to. Probably not Prince.

Our Race Day arrives and it is a rainy one. Wendy drives herself to my house, and I drive us to the track. We park and take a shuttle to Monument Circle and await the start of the race. Personally, even though my feet squelched with every saturated step, I felt good. I was not hot. It became clear about halfway through the race that Wendy was not feeling the joy. At one point I decided I couldn't walk that slow anymore and told her that I would meet her just past the finish line. "Turn left through the gate. I will be right there on the right side. Don't forget. There are cookies!!!" And on I went. I ended up finishing with my best time. I know. Best of two is not worth mentioning, but still. I crossed the finish line, grabbed some cookies and water and waited. And watched. And waited.

I finally see Wendy approaching the finish line. She manages to make it to the left through the gate, but in her dazed stupor, she walked straight past me and sort of winds her way in the opposite direction AWAY from the cookies. I fought my way through the crowd, grab her and saying the only thing it would be possible for her to comprehend, shout, "THE COOKIES ARE OVER HERE!!"

At this point, a miracle happens. Wendy is able to walk at a brisker pace than she was able to manage for the last hour. She has focus and determination. I direct her to the cookie table. She picks up one cookie, and her rain soaked, shaking hand is poised to take a second cookie when.... SLAP! Her hand is smacked away by the lady managing the cookie table. I was afraid Wendy would start to cry. I don't really remember much of what happened after that. I just know we found our way back to the car, threw modesty out the window and changed into dry clothes right there in the front seat of my Mazda and drove back to my house. I think we stopped for fast food burgers on the way.

I also remember that Wendy didn't have the energy to drive home and David had to come and get her. Sadly, I have no pictures from our rain soaked accomplishment. I cannot find the photo taken when I crossed that wet finish line all those years ago. I wonder if Wendy still has hers.


p.s. Yes, as revealed in the picture, I did walk with my t-shirt tucked in and I had a cute belt in my walking shorts. Clearly, I did not know what I was doing. I do know that I wore knit pants with an elastic waist the second year. Probably still had my shirt tucked in, though!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Haircut

Dear Mom,
Pippers went from this:
To this:
And this:
So much nicer!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Graduate

Dear Mom,

She did it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Dear Mom,
Several hours on Friday were spent getting a lesson in pasta making from Brother. I also asked him to teach me how to make Alfredo sauce,because Fettuccine Alfredo is one of My Hero's favorites. So off we went, just before noon, to purchase the ingredients and look at pasta machines. Our plan was to use Brother's pasta machine, but I wanted his expert advice when I purchased my own. I went ahead and bought one, knowing that I could return it (unused, of course) if I found the process too difficult.
We did not linger over ingredients or other kitchen gadgets. Being his father's son, we had a mission to accomplish and we were sticking to it! NO DETOURS.

We returned to my kitchen, found the least girlie apron that would fit him, and set about making pasta.

"This is STUPID EASY", he tells me.

He was right.

How can it be that egg and flour can be manipulated and formed into noodles? And why don't they boil into one messy blob in the pot? A kitchen mystery, and frankly, one that I had to see to believe.

Easy, but a little messy.

I am thinking that once I am a more efficient pasta maker, I won't have quite so much mess to clean up. Plus there were two cooks.

We made fettuccine noodles, then we proceeded to make Alfredo sauce. Again, Stupid Easy. But time consuming. I am not a fan of standing over a sauce pan and stirring. But I did it, and I'll do it again.

After Brother left, I went solo and made some ravioli. (Fettuccine Alfredo is not one of my faves. I much prefer ravioli, so while I was at it, I decided to make both.) I stuffed the ravioli with spinach, ricotta and feta cheese. Next time I will add some garlic, because my combo was a bit bland. I also tried a new tomato sauce recipe. It was good, but it didn't have the zing I wanted.

After literally spending the entire afternoon cooking and anticipating the meal, I was so anxious to taste everything that I forgot to take any pictures of the end results.

We all sat down and gobbled it up. My Hero said that it may be the best Fettuccine Alfredo he has ever eaten.......
What really happened is this:
I said, " Is it the BEST Fettuccine Alfredo you've ever had in your WHOLE LIFE?" and he said, " May be."
I think it was.

And I am keeping my pasta machine.