Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend (whew!)

A great Thanksgiving weekend!  We had a yummy meal at my mother-in-law's (with my mom too!), a great visit with Paul's brothers and their families (including the twins at their first Thanksgiving), a successful trip to the mall on black Friday (more on that later) and a whirlwind trip to New Jersey on Sunday.

Yes, you read that right.  We went to New Jersey, for the day, on Sunday.  The Sunday at the end of the busiest travel holiday weekend of the year.  It was the last drag racing event of the year for Paul, usually scheduled two weeks earlier but postponed for some reason.  Leading up to the trip, I kept asking Paul if he was sure he wanted to go.  Because, you know, the traffic could be (read:  will most assuredly be) horrendous.  He said "yes" every time I asked.   I must have asked a few times too many because he eventually said, "You don't have to go with me, you know." But,  he wasn't going with Rob and it was a 4 hour car ride (on a good, non-holiday-horrendous-traffic day) and I wanted to keep him company.  I just didn't want us both to be miserable when we got stuck in traffic at the end of  long day of racing.

So..... off we went very very very very very early in the morning:

 The trip down to Atco was entirely pleasant.  No. Traffic. At. All.  We got there in the expected 4 hours.
It was "Buick vs. Ford Day"

Unfortunately, Paul was having trouble with his timing and was out in the first round so we were back on the road by 2:30pm.

So, I guess his unfortunate-ness was sort of fortunate for our driving situation.  We took some alternate routes to avoid the New Jersey Turnpike (drove through some scary parts of Trenton, but the beautiful town of Princeton) and some accidents closer to home, so we made it home in 5 hours, by 7:30pm.  Not bad really.  All that belly-aching and whining and worrying for nothing. What else is new?

And did you know there is a Mercerville, NJ (in Mercer county!)?:
I have no idea why these things thrill me - probably because I never saw my last name anywhere when I was growing up.

One of the things I like about going to the races with Paul is that there is usually lots of down time for knitting and reading.  So I worked on another pair of Christmas Mukluks.

AND, I read my newly acquired Nook!

I got the bare bones version which happened to be $20 off on black Friday only -- and I used my birthday money.  Hence, a trip to the mall that I swore I was not going to do on black Friday.  We went at around 4pm, which was apparently a good time to go, as there were no lines at all in Barnes and Noble.  I had done my research so I knew what I wanted and I was in the store all of 5 minutes!

And I LOVE. IT.  It is very light and the screen is big enough and it's so portable (fits right in the pocket of my knitting bag) and great.  Of course, I had to purchase a book so I got the most recent Janet Evanovich book:  Explosive Eighteen: A Stephanie Plum Novel (Stephanie Plum Novels)  --- that's the link to the physical book.  Here is a link to an e-reader version:Explosive Eighteen: A Stephanie Plum Novel  Loving the book - very fun, funny and exciting as always.  And the saga of Stephanie choosing between Morelli and Ranger continues. [Jan, I'm going to figure out how to lend this to you since you lent me the last one!  Hey, you can borrow my Nook!]

In knitting news, I'm on my 4th pair of Mukluks, which is my final pair, since I revised my plan --- I realized the babies would not keep them on their feet.  So I'm making them thumb less mittens that have the string between them so you can put it through their coat and they won't fall off and get lost.  Like this:

  The pattern is in 60 Quick Baby Knits, which has a million (ok, only 60) great patterns in it for babies and toddlers.  I think I will be using it a lot for my new niece and nephew, but also two new cousins. You can get it at The Spinning Room! And there are many small projects that would be quick to knit  for the holidays.

However, all that is being put on hold since I need to knit a shawl for a January class I'll be teaching. Have to get the sample knit up and down to the yarn shop asap so people will see it and sign up.  It will be the Daybreak by Stephen West.  That's a link to the pattern but here is a picture:
Pretty, don't you think? Mine is also going to be purple-y (of course) but it will also have some light and dark blues and teals in it).  I have a tonal purple and a self striping yarn:
*This is NOT what the colors look like in real life. I really need that digital photography class...
I think it will be great. WIP (Work In Progress) pictures to come.... but beware, I'll be knitting it really fast so the pictures might be blurry.  Ha!

Finally, a few pics of the car.  Just because I was trying to be creative:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Slipper Bottom Update

The Tulip "Slick" that I used for traction on the bottom of my Mukluks is NOT working out. Thanks to Kathy L., who wisely inquired as to if the Slick would be felt through the slipper because it is hard...... YES! You can feel it and it's not terribly comfy. Although it does have somewhat of a massaging property. Might be ok for adults but kids might not like it do much. Also, because the slipper is knitted in garter stick on the bottom, and therefore very bumpy, some of the dots gave fallen off! Ugh - kind of a disaster all around.

So, I'm off to Jo-Ann's/Michael's to get the kind of paint that dries sort of dull and puffy rather than hard and shiny. I had heard that it didn't last as long, but that's ok--- it can always be re-applied right? I'm trying to avoid using the fabric that has the non- slip tread built into it. While it is a great option, I'm terribly impatient and it would take me a long time to do since you have to hand sew it into place.

I'm not giving up on the Tulip "Slick" though--- I'm going to use it on Paul's felted slippers to see how it works. Since they are felted the bottoms are thicker and more dense so he shouldn't feel it.

Ok, so that's the update -a review of the other paint will be coming.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Take Two, Take Three, Take Four

Take Two:  Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Filling
Hmmmm...amazing what that non-stick spray can do.
The second round of pumpkin bread came out better -- in more ways than one.  First, it came out of the pan.  I mean right out of the pan.   No shaking the pan, using a knife around the edge etc.  Two and a half words for you:  non-stick spray.  Second, it tasted more flavorful since I found pumpkin pie spice.   Yummy.  I still haven't gotten the maple extract, and my cream cheese "filling" was more like a "puddle" but that's because I fiddled with the recipe and tried to cut it in half and it's hard to add half and egg so I just added a whole egg and that made it thinner so it just sort of ran over the batter rather than sit in the middle.  The next one (the one I'm bringing to Thanksgiving) will be perfect.

Take Three:  Mukluks (aka The Knitted Slippers for Christmas Project) 
Pair #3 almost done!
Take Four:  Book Lights

This is it!!!!  THE one.  The BEST book light.  Ever.  After three other duds, the fourth one was the charm.  Which I knew it would be.  The Might Bright book light is what I used to have and should have just been my go-to light to begin with.  But this one is even better than the one I used to have.  The neck is long and flexible and stays anywhere you put it (my other one had a long extending neck and the light swiveled, but those two mechanisms broke after a lot of use -- which is what got me into this dilemma in the first place) .  And it lights up both pages of the book. LOVE.  IT.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Last Leaf

The last leaf on the tree outside our dining room.  Everything looks so stark now.  But look how pretty the empty trees look against the late afternoon sky and the sunset....

(My focus leave something to be desired)

But, we are absolutely ready for winter now...

Fingers crossed.  This plow Jeep has been limping along for several years (that's what you get for $400). Luckily Paul is the handi-est guy ever when it comes to motors, so he has been able to do whatever it is he does to keep it running.  The top is new (to us -- Paul got it from a co-worker who just happened to have a 1960 jeep top in his yard).   Paul thought this would help when he has to plow when it is snowing.  He still thinks this despite there being no windshield.  I'm a little skeptical.

Speaking of pictures being out of focus (back up there where I said the picture of the sunset was out of focus), I'm on a mission to learn to take better pictures with my digital camera.  Somehow I just couldn't get that one of the sunset in focus, no matter how many pictures I took and how steady I thought my hand was.   I found two books on Amazon (one is not out yet) that I'm thinking of getting:
The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos: The Best Techniques for Showcasing Your Handmade Creations

Shot Doctor,The: The Amateur's Guide to Taking Great Digital Photos

Any other suggestions?

And here is Phoebe, sitting in front of the fire that isn't there, hoping it will be there.  That is where she always sits when the fire is going.  Not in her little bed (to the left).

And in knitting news, I'm on to my next Christmas projects:
An almost finished pair of Mukluks.  One of at least 6 pairs I'll be making (I hope).  Cute huh?

Finally, when I had my yarn shop, I put out a weekly email and I always included some sort of quote at the end.  So, I thought I'd try to do that here, too.  Wa-la!:

Saturday, November 12, 2011


....and lots of finishing and something I love and something I don't love so much.

I love fall.  Love. It.  So many pretty colors, crisp, cool air, apple crisp and pumpkin! You may remember in a previous post that I was on a quest to find a pumpkin muffin.  Today, I made Pumpkin Bread with Maple Cream Cheese Filling .  I know!  Sounds yummy right? (that link is to a website called Just a Pinch and has lots of recipes!)

The recipe involves layering the pumpkin bread batter with a cheesecakey like filling:

 The house smelled SO. GOOD. while it was baking and looked so yummy as it came out of the oven:
 Unfortunately I couldn't find pumpkin pie spice or maple extract, so mine didn't come out quite as flavorful as it could have.  Or quite in one piece.....
 I have no idea what possessed me NOT to spray the non stick pan with non stick spray.  Maybe because the pan is supposed to be non stick!

But I was able to piece it back together...
... and cut a piece to make a nice blog picture...

All in all, pretty good.  Still tastes nice and pumkin-y and the cream cheese is nice and sweet and cream chees-y (but not maple-y even though I used maple syrup instead of extract, as the recipe suggested).  I would make it again but use the extract and the pumpkin pie spice (and non stick spray).

While the bread was baking, I was getting lots of knitting finishing done.  "Finishing" involves seaming knitted pieces together, weaving in all the ends, putting on buttons etc.  I take on finishing jobs through The Spinning Room and seam sweaters for those who don't want to.  So, today, I finished seaming Ethel's pretty sweater (no pics since I didn't have her permission) and knitting the collar (which you can only do after some of the seaming is done).  Then, I seamed, and crocheted edges on, my Boogie Vest which I finished knitting last night:

 I haven't blocked it yet so the neck opening looks a little wonky (crooked).

I also finished Paul's felted slippers!  Here is one slipper from his last pair:
 That's right --- loved 'em so much that he wore them all the time and right through the bottom.

Here they are pre-felted (put in the washing machine to purposely shrink them):
 To give you an idea of the difference pre and post felting, here is an old slipper next to the new one:
 Pretty funny huh?  They look like clown slippers before hand, since they are sooooo huge.

And here they are, post-felting, enjoying a cozy sit by the fire (drying by air, not the dryer):

AND a few days ago, I finished my Mukluks!
 These are very cozy and warm knitted slippers (not felted), made from a chunky yarn. I used Kathmandu Chunky, a nice tweed-y yarn with wool and silk and cashmere (mmmmmmm..... cashmere), and I used two colors because I only had one ball of each color and one ball was not enough for a pair.
 I love. Love. LOVE them!  So warm and comfy.

Ooh, and I finally tried a non-skid sole treatment and I think it will work.  I used fabric paint and put it on the bottom in little dots:
 The results is a plastic-y, rubber-y feel and I think it will be a great non-slip option.  I think I'll put it on Paul's slippers too.

Now, on to something I love.  My little, portable speaker for my i-Touch:
My i-Touch has a speaker built in, but you have to turn it up very loud to hear it well enough (if you don't want to use the earbuds) and then the battery runs down quickly.   I listened to some podcasts while I was knitting and baking today and it was just great. (That's the Spilled Milk Podcast on the screen -- a short, funny podcast about food -- lots of fun.) It's amazing the sound that comes out of that little thing.  So great.  Love. It.

Here are some options on Amazon if you are interested:
GSI Super Quality Mini Hamburger Capsule Speaker - for iPod/MP3/MP4/Computer/Laptop/Notebook/Audio/Gaming-Devices/PDA - Black

Satechi SD Mini Portable Pocket Speaker for iPhone 4, iPod Touch 4G, SanDisk Sansa Clip Plus, BlackBerry, HTC EVO, DROID, Samsung Wave and Galaxy S

X-Mini II Capsule Speaker (Black)

Something I don't love so much?  Cheap book lights.  I'm on my third one that I will test out tonight.  The first one was $1.  Yes, $1.  What was I supposed to expect?  It was horrible and barely lit up one page, nevermind both pages the book was open to, like it should (in my opinion).  That's what I get for a Dollar Store purchase.  The next one was $4.  I went out shopping saying I was going to go to Barnes and Noble to get the ones I've gotten there in the past.  Nice and bright, long lasting etc.  But, I was in another store and saw this one, so I thought I'd try it.  It was a little better, but still pretty horrible too.   That's what I get for a Wal-Mart purchase.  I said to Paul, " I knew I should have gone to Barnes and Noble."  So, we were in Target today - can you see where this is going? - and saw a $7 one.  Don't ask me why (see quote from previous sentence), but I bought it.  I just thought, "It has to be better.  The package says it light up 2 pages. And it costs more."  I'm not terribly optimistic though, because when I went to put it on a book, the length of the post from light to base is awfully short and I'm not sure it will do what it promises.  So, now I'm $12 in, which is what I would have paid if I went to Barnes and Noble in the first place. Der.

Wow, who knew I could go on so long about book lights, and my refusal to just go to Barnes and Noble?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Babies, Books and Bling (the knitting kind of bling)

A few weeks ago, I started my new 1/2 time job -- nannying my new niece and nephew!  Paul's brother and his wife welcomed Michaela and Benjamin on July 28 (which is also their dad's birthday!).  For months before they were born, their parents were searching for a day care provider.  They were having trouble finding a place that had two infant openings, as well as part time openings.  They were also having trouble with the idea of leaving the babies with strangers.  As they knew that I was selling the yarn shop, they jokingly asked if I would be available.  Much to their surprise, I said I would think about it!  Then Paul and I talked about it.  Then I decided to do it.

What a difference from being a social worker and owning a yarn shop!  All my "work" stories for Paul are now about poop.  And how cute Benjamin and Michaela are.  And while, at times, things can get a little hairy --- when both are screaming and I'm triaging who needs me first --- or when they both poop at the same time (yes, that happened) ---  they are very sweet and it's been fun getting to know them.  Stay tuned for more on this...

In other news, I just finished reading Mad River Road by Joy Feilding (Mad River Road: A Novel).
 OMG.  So. Suspenseful.  It made me uncomfortable.  But I loved it.  I haven't read a Joy Fielding book in a long time.  They are always suspenseful.  For some reason I don't mind suspenseful books (maybe because I can put them down and resume reading whenever I want) but I can't stand suspenseful movies. Kind of hard to turn off a rented movie and go back to it later when you are watching it with someone else (ok, unless I'm with Paul and he would be his usual patient self -- but still, a little annoying of me).  I went to see the "new" Cape Fear many years ago in the movies and I almost left the movie theater because the suspense made me so uncomfortable.   Robert DeNiro hanging onto the bottom of the car that drove hours away on the highway -- then him calling out the guys name (can't remember it - see? I blocked it out) in that sing-songy voice. Remember that?  Want to know why I can't stand the suspense?

Many years ago....
When my sister and I were old enough to say goodnight to our parents downstairs and put ourselves to bed upstairs (I think we were10 & 12....ish)... One night, my sister said goodnight and ran ahead of me to go upstairs.  I finished saying goodnight and went to go upstairs, and my sister jumped out of the living room right near the stairs and scared the heck out of me.  I screamed so loud, my heart was beating so fast.  Ooooh, I was so mad at her.

The next night, she ran ahead of me again.  This time, I knew she was there.  I told her not to scare me.  That I knew she was there, so she better not.  Then I made a mad dash for the stairs to try and get up them before she jumped out, but to no avail.  She jumped out and scared me just as badly as the previous night.  Even though I knew shew as there.  And she did it for a few more nights.  And I still got scared.  See that?  Suspense.  Right?????  THAT is why I can't handle suspenseful movies.  Still. After all these years.  It's all her fault.

Aren't you glad you asked?  Go read that book.  It's good.

And now, I'm putting this link in here to my Knit Picks wish list, so that I have a chance to win some items from my wish list from KnitPicks.  I'm drawing the line at sharing it on facebook (that is also an option, in addition to posting on my blog, for winning).  Click on it if you like, but don't feel like to you have to.  Really.  Unless you want to buy me something from my wish list.  There's always that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Storm Periphery and a review!

Remember that "storm" we had a week ago Saturday?  Up here, we got about 3 1/2 inches.  They had predicted we'd get up to 12 inches.  Sort of a bust, but it made us hurry up and get things ready -- firewood, tune-up for the plow Jeep etc.  So that was good.  It wasn't good in Connecticut where my family and many friends live.  Or in Massachusetts where other friends live.

For the past 10 days, we've been on the periphery, watching what was/is happening to everyone.  On Monday, Paul drove out to Lee, Mass to lend our generator to Rob (his racing buddy).  No generators to be found in his area since the power outages were so widespread.  I've been watching my facebook page and email for all the postings from friends and family who have had no power and how they are handling it all.  It's been so frustrating to not really be able to help from so far away.  Except to offer a place to stay to my mom  and sister.  My mom took me up on it this past weekend, after a week of staying with her brother, then my sister, who also didn't have power but it was better to be together with no power. And one free night at the casino (to take showers and decompress!).  My sister decided to stick it out with no power.  She finally got power back yesterday (9 days later...).  My mom still doesn't have power.

I have to say, while I have an account on Facebook, I don't utilize it a lot for communicating, except occasionally and to post my blog.  But this week, it was so easy to see that it was a great way for people to stay connected (those who had cell phone service that is - yes, even the cell towers were down) and ask for/offer help.  The utility company in CT really seemed to have dropped the ball on the response and power is not expected to be back for everyone until this Wednesday.  It was so frustrating for me to hear the stories of days and days with not one sign of a utility truck or tree cutting truck.  No word when they'd be coming.  I can only imagine how it was for those actually living it for the past 10 days.  I think the light is being seen at the end of the tunnel (pardon the pun), though, and my fingers are crossed it will all be resolved very very soon.

On to my book review!  The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield is a book that I was referred to on another blog that I read, Yarn-a-go-go.  Rachel Herron (also an author - Wishes and Stitches: A Cypress Hollow Yarn (Cypress Hollow Yarns)) was told she HAD to read it.  She did and then passed along to her readers that we HAD to read it.  So, I did.

It was a wonderful book. Like the blog that referred me to this book, I don't want to tell too much and spoil some of the events, but I'm going do my best to tell you in other ways why it was a great book.  In a nutshell, a preacher and his family drive south for their annual summer visit to family but end up staying for a while due to certain circumstances.   Terrific writing, drawing you in right away to the story.  Lots of humor, hidden in unexpected places.  I found myself laughing out loud many times.   And while there are funny parts, there are also some sad, heartbreaking parts and some suspense.   We see many different relationships developing and evolve, between children and adults, as well as between adults.  The author is so good at describing the characters as well as the setting and atmosphere and again, it just draws you right in.  A real page turner - I couldn't put it down.  Loved. It.

If you think you might like it, you can purchase it here on Amazon for a pretty good price!:

Let me know if you read it and if you like it!!!!

P.S.  How do you like the blog so far?