Thursday, April 28, 2011


Dear Mom,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gentle Chickens

Dear Mom,

Before I acquired my backyard chickens, I did some research to find a docile breed with a calm and patient personality.  I chose the Orpington

From the moment the chicks arrived, they were treated with gentleness.  We softly sang to them and said, "Chick, chick, chick" whenever we approached the brood box.  We spent time with them, walking slowly, talking quietly, and offering treats.  They were never chased or grabbed.  We picked them up, pet them, and released them carefully back onto the soft ground.  The chickens soon learned to recognize our voices and come running when called, always to be rewarded with a handful of corn!

We taught the curious neighbor children how to get acquainted with them.  Of course, there were times when they tried to chase them...but they quickly learned that slow movements, and clumps of grass and fresh worms fed by hand got better results!   

The girls are begging for treats from Little J
The hens have a good life and the children have a rewarding experience.  I have the joy of raising a healthy flock of backyard chickens and making some great memories with these adorable children!

Miss A and Gloria

Love, Bonnie Jo

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Eggs

Dear Mom,
We tie dyed our Easter Eggs again this year, and before they are all gobbled up I took a picture to show you how 6 neckties from the Goodwill and a couple of rejects from My Hero's closet,a little vinegar and simmering water decorated our eggs. I love the way these eggs turn out and may never color eggs with food dye again. Plus it is exciting to unwrap them and see how the patterns and colors transferred to the eggs. In the photo above, I placed each egg on top of a scrap of silk from the necktie that produced the egg design.
This one is my favorite-
But this one is pretty good, too-

I linked to the how-to for this last Easter, but I'll review here.

You need silk neckties, an old t-shirt you can cut up (or two depending on how many eggs you are gonna dye), uncooked eggs, a little vinegar, some rubber bands and a big pot of water.

Neckties must be 100% silk. The brighter and wilder the print, the better (in my opinion.) Goodwill neckties at $1.99 each are perfect for this project.
Cut open the neckties, discarding everything but the silk part of the tie. Cut the tie into pieces that are big enough to wrap around an egg. You can get several eggs out of one necktie. Wrap eggs in the silk with the right side (bright patterned side) of the silk against the egg. Cut a square out of the old t-shirt that is big enough to go around the silk-wrapped egg and wrap the egg in it. Secure the t-shirt closed with a rubber band. 
Once you've covered all the eggs you want to tie dye, place them carefully into a big pot of water. The water just needs to cover the eggs, but the pot needs to be big enough to let the eggs move around a little. Add 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar to the water. We dyed 24 eggs and I used about 1/4 cup vinegar. Slowly bring the water to a boil and let the eggs simmer for 25 minutes. Once cooked, lay the eggs out on a flat surface to cool. When they are cooled off, you can open up the wrappings and find your pretty eggs!

Hope you had a Happy (if rainy) Easter. One of the first dentists I worked for, who was a big time golfer, always said "If it rains on Easter Sunday, it will rain on the next seven Sundays". We'll see if it is true this year.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Dear Mom,
You gave us the best Dad.

Head of the House. Our Benevolent Dictator.
Businessman. Boss.

Life of the Party.


Santa Claus.


Pumpkin Pie  Whipped Cream.  The best Whipped Cream with Pumpkin Pie builder.

Coach. Teacher. Sage.


Fixer of Anything. Builder. Artisan.

Dog Lover. Dog Rescuer.


Easter Egg Finder.


My first Hero.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Moving right along

Dear Mom,
It sure doesn't feel like spring out there, but our indoor spring cleaning efforts are moving along at a pretty good clip. With the hall and stairway painted and carpet cleaned, I can now declare the upstairs to be Officially Finished. The fresh paint continued down the stairway and into the foyer and includes the half bath, so now all that remains inside are the living and dining rooms and. the. kitchen. (I need a font there to indicate a shudder.) Here's a peak at the foyer and bath with fresh paint.
We've painted over the taupe-colored, sponge-painted walls with a light wheat color. It's definitely a change, but I am pleased. Much brighter and quieter, if that makes sense.

The past few days I've been spinning more than knitting. I received the jumbo bobbin and flyer I ordered for my spinning wheel and I can't wait to try it out when I ply. I am in the process of loading up a couple of bobbins so I can do just that.
I do think my spinning has improved since taking that workshop last month. I am much more consistent. I'll see how it is after plying, but I think I am producing a yarn that is a bit finer too.

I've been knitting a little bit on the shawl I've rescued from yarn closet purgatory. This shawl is worked modularly- sections are picked up and built from previous sections. My goal is to work two sections each day, which should have this shawl finished within two weeks.
This is what I have so far, and it will be even prettier after it has been blocked!

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

book list

Dear Mom,
One of the bazillion topics we covered on our trip to and from Greencastle last Friday was books, and I think we may have stumbled upon the standard for a book's recommendation ....Would you read it again?

Over dinner and a glass of wine, we ventured into book territory. Finding a really great book is a treasure. There are books you read and enjoy, but then there are books that you hate to see end, or have to keep once you've finished them and some of those you just have to treat yourself to reading again. At least once. With all the books there are out there waiting to be read, to want to take the time to re-read a book is a true testimony to that book's worth.

I quickly grabbed my notebook and pen out of my purse and made some notes. I thought I'd share some of the titles here.

I'll put an asterisk next to the books that I've read more than once. The others are now in my book queue and were either read and loved by more than one of the group or read more than once by one of us. Does that make sense?

*The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Shogun, by James Clavell
*A Week in Winter, by Marcia Willet
*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffner and Annie Barrows
The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
*Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier
*Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett (read once, listening again)
*The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
*Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
The General's Daughter, Plum Island and The Gold Coast, by Nelson DeMille

So, there's a list. Now I'll put the question out there... What books have you read more than once?


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One of the Best

Dear Mom,
If I were to keep track of such things, Friday, April 15 would go on the list as One of My Best Days. Ever.
I, along with some of the usual suspects went to our first Fiber Event in Greencastle, IN. We felt like kids at Christmas, such was our excitement and anticipation of the day.If we had planned out each and every detail, we couldn't have made the day more perfect.

We left mid morning, in plenty of time to arrive in Greencastle when the event opened at 1:00 with a stop for lunch, and using every bit of restraint not to kick up dirt and burn rubber on the way out of the cul-de sac. Not that anyone was around to notice. But still. The idea of it was great fun and gives you a little insight to the jubilant moods in the car.

In a flash we'd arrived in Greencastle- and really is there any faster way to travel than in a carload of girlfriends?- and found a delicious, delightful tea room for our lunch right on the courthouse square and on the way to the Putnam County Fairgrounds were the event was held.
I don't know if the town had decorated the trees for the event or if Greencastle had been "yarn bombed" but several of the trees on the square were decorated with knitting.
The event itself was overwhelming in the best way. I experienced a head rush followed by a headache and at one point I thought maybe I should just sit down with my head between my knees. I even felt weepy. Not from exhaustion but from the frustration of having so much I'd like to do, so much fiber I'd like to spin, so much beautiful yarn I'd love to knit with and never ever have enough time to do it all. Considering all the temptations surrounding me, I was very prudent in my purchasing, and except for an angora goat and an angora rabbit, I left nothing behind that haunts me. Leaving the goats and rabbits behind really wasn't all that hard because:
#1. I didn't drive.
#2. They poop.

Here is what I did bring home:
Just kidding. I left these cuties behind, too.

This roving is from a local farm. I mean LOCAL. As in not far from home! Funny to drive all that way and stumble across a fiber farm that is nearly in my own backyard. This fiber is a Border Leicester/ Cormo cross, is a soft, beautiful sheep's gray and should be wonderful to spin- from Westfield Woolies.

This beautiful yarn will be this scarf.

Kauni EQ

In hindsight, I wish I'd taken a photo of the Fiber Optics booth. Kimber Baldwin's saturated colors were stunning. I lingered there and enjoyed chatting with Kimber. Kimber blogs about the day and you can see photos of her booth being set up. It was hard to narrow all those color choices down, but having the expert dyer close at hand helped me to make a decision. I bought these two skeins of Footnotes-
Footnotes- Straight No Chaser (gold) and Cabernet Nights
-and I plan on using them for this scarf.

As if all that isn't enough- and let's just pretend that there aren't already more than several pounds of roving already stashed away- I couldn't resist adding these to my spinning stash.

This is "Shimmy" from River's Edge Fiber Arts, colorway River Stone. The fiber is 65% Merino, 15% Tencel, 10% Banana (yes, BANANA!!) and 10% Milk. I love the feel and colors of this but also can't wait to be able to say I spun some banana!!
This lovely roving is also from River's  Edge Fiber Arts and is called Screaming Wild Monkeys. The colorway is called Bachelor Button, which is a perfect description of the colors. It is 70% Superwash Merino, 15 % Seacell, and 15% Banana. We spoke with the mastermind behind the fiber. She is equal parts mad scientist and artist and I say that with respect and awe.  Hers is a brain that does not rest. She Has It Figured Out and if she hasn't figured it out yet, she will.

I also ordered a jumbo flyer and bobbin for my spinning wheel from the Woolery so I can ply my yarns together into one skein rather that breaking it into two small skeins.

It took the entire afternoon to peruse the booths and then go back to select booths to make our purchases. Even having done that, it was hard to leave, and there were a couple of false starts back to the car as one or another of us decided that she couldn't leave without something, or without one last look at something else.
We stopped on the way back home at the Swizzle Stick, the bar companion to the tea room we lunched in. Another good meal, a glass of wine, good conversation and home by 9. Like I said. One of my Best Days ever.


Monday, April 18, 2011

And The Winner Is . . . .

Dear Mom,
The winner of the Starbucks coffee (and goodies!) giveaway is:
***drum roll ***

BIRDIE!!!!!!  :-)  Yipee!!!!!

Birdie, please send me an email at so that I can get some of your information!!

Spring break this week--we are going to my favorite creek slogging park.  Pictures tomorrow!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

More shawl pictures

Dear Mom,
Turns out taking a picture of the prettiest shawl I ever made is harder than I thought it would be.
My clothesline plan turned out lots of pictures like this:
I don't even want to tell  you how many attempts I made trying to get a picture of this thing hanging on the clothesline on a breezy day before I gave up. Sometimes I wonder about myself.

I ended up taking a picture of the shawl modeled by the Reliable Elle.
I am taller than Elle, so the shawl won't nearly touch the ground when I wear it.

I've spent most of the last two beautiful days outside working in the yard, trying to help the lawn recover from last summer's drought- spraying the chickweed and dandelions that are trying to take over and planting grass seed. We lost two small spruce trees and a little white pine seedling that the Young Lady brought home from school 4 years ago. I found a spot for the pussy willow I've been wanting and started cleaning up the perennial beds. I don't know if it is due to the weather or the drought or both, but it seems that things are late in sprouting up this spring.
We're continuing to move forward with our spring cleaning plan. The upstairs is nearly finished! We worked on the Young Man's room over spring break and the kids bathroom is finished, too. We've started the prep work on the upstairs hallway and stairway, but are taking advantage of the good weather to get some outdoor projects done- namely, a major fence overhaul that we hope (please, God?) will keep Patsy from jumping out. This weekend's forecast has colder temps and rain coming in, so we'll be back at it with paint brushes and rollers in hand.

All that yard work hasn't left much time for knitting. I did pull out another shawl that had just been started before getting pushed aside. My notes indicate that I started knitting it in July 09. I am determined to get this one finished, too. Not enough progress on it to show a picture, but when there is something worth sharing here, I will.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Catch a Falling Star is Born

Dear Mom,
It took about 5 1/2 years from start to finish, but I think it may be the prettiest thing I've ever knitted.
It is the Catch a Falling Star shawl from the book Knits from the North Country.

In the summer of 2005, we took a family trip to Niagara Falls. We visited the lovely Canadian side of the falls and while we were there we hunted down a local yarn shop. The Knitting Habit was appropriately well stocked in Canadian wools. It was there that I found the book and purchased enough Briggs and Little Sport yarn to make the shawl. I tried to put off starting the shawl, telling myself to finish other projects first, but the beautiful pattern and that wonderful wool wouldn't be put off and I clearly remember starting the shawl when school started that fall. As a sort of celebratory treat. I would imagine that 80% of the knitting was completed in the first few months. However. Each row of the shawl adds stitches. The instructions are written out rather than charted and reading the pattern required my complete concentration. No TV. No conversation. No stopping until the row was complete. And the longer the rows, the more time I needed to find to do that level of concentrating. Eventually, the shawl was put away and occasionally brought out for another try. I don't know how long this last stretch in time-out lasted, but I do know for certain that it hasn't been worked on since Patsy came on the scene.
Anyway, after finishing your mohair sweater I was a bit lost there for a bit. Having recently relocated all my yarn stash when we traded the Young Lady's and guest rooms, this shawl was fresh in my mind and I decided to give it another go.
I had a moment of near panic when I discovered that the sticky note I'd been using to mark my place in the pattern had lost that which made it a STICKY note and I needed to decipher my knitting and figure out where I'd left off. I took a deep breath and luckily found my way pretty quickly. In fact I had just over 40 rows left!
As I tend to do, I mapped out some daily goals, figuring that if I stuck to them I could have the shawl off my needles in a week. I did better than that and bound off my last stitch last night! The shawl is currently blocking on the only floorspace that was big enough to both accommodate its size and keep it
protected from a dog who may decide that wet wool is a great thing to nap on. I've not been able to get a good photo of the entire shawl, but once it is dry my plan is to pin it to the clothesline and hopefully get a picture that does this beauty justice.
Here, though, is a picture that shows off the lace work. I have the shawl blocking on a white king size sheet. I've used my blocking wires that aren't really blocking wires (they are stainless steel tig wires from the welding supply) and pinned them through the sheet right into the carpeting.
I've decided on my next sweater project- another vacation yarn purchase.Instead of making the sweater I originally planned for this yarn, I am going to adapt this sweater. If you've clicked on that link you may have noticed that the sweater pattern is not in English. Fortunately, the graphs speak a universal knitting language. I'll be reworking all the math anyway- the sweater is written for Lopi yarn, a heavy weight yarn, and the yarn I'll be using is pretty fine (less bulk,you know). And if worse comes to worse, Merrily Mary Lee sent me this knitting translation website. I am also inspired to finish another shawl I started a couple of summers ago. That one has way more that 40 rows to go, but its another pretty one.
P.S. If you haven't already done so, don't forget to leave a comment here if you'd like to try to win some Starbuck's coffee from Wendy!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Starbucks Coffee And A Giveaway!

Dear Mom,
It has been over a year since I became one of these.
While I am still incredibly spoiled, it has been much harder than I thought making the transition to a real working Mom.  I stay home during the days so I am always available for my children if they are sick, have orthodontist appointments, snow days, spring breaks and summer vacations.  But I am gone several evenings each week and I miss cooking big meals, attending to homework, tucking and kissing "babies" into bed.
I have earned a promotion to shift manager, I have great insurance for the family, I have a 401(k) plan that I can call my own, I can make a fabulous doppio espresso wherever I may be, and I have so many invaluable friendships that I would have missed out on otherwise.  I have also learned that, even at the age of 44, I can still learn a new "trade" (yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks!); I can draw from inner strength that I didn't even know I had and I can still make each day new, fun and full of love and laughter!

(Photo montage courtesy of iPhone---not the greatest quality but I do have lots of fun!)

In honor of Starbucks, coffee lovers and personal growth---a giveaway!!  I don't think we've ever had a giveaway on our blog and I'd like to start!!  (Bonnie Jo's win inspired me!!!)  :-) 
Leave a coffee comment and I will randomly choose someone next Sunday afternoon (April 17th) to receive 1 pound of Starbucks Anniversary Blend coffee and probably some other Starbucks goodies and surprises!!
Good Luck!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

All Done.

Dear Mom,
All done! Your mohair sweater is off my needles, washed and dry. Elle is wearing it until the next time I see you.This sweater is as light as a feather and softsoftsoft.

I hope it fits and is what you wanted it to be. I certainly enjoyed making it for you.

I rarely find myself confronted with the dilemma of what to knit next, but this is exactly where I am. Usually I am knitting away full speed ahead and planning the next project. Nothing really excites me right now. Last night I cast on April's Socks during Dancing with the Stars and knit through that sad Butler Basketball game.

This is Vesper Sock yarn- called Great Googlie Moogle. I put a purl row in there and now I don't know why I thought that would be a fun idea. I may rip back.

I'll go hang out with my yarn. That should shake off this funk. If nothing else, I know I can find a shawl that needs to be finished.....and a scarf.....and another shawl.....and a sweater......