Monday, July 30, 2012

Frogs and other fun stuff...

We had some visitors two weekends ago!
My sister and three nephews
We had tons of fun going to a Valley Cats game (above), checking out the view at Thacher Park...
And catching tons of frogs from the pond in our yard...

It was so fun to have them here!

Later in the week, Paul and I went to Washington Park for the free outdoor musical they have every year.
They were performing "Cabaret", the storyline of which I had no idea was so depressing.  I've always had the impression that it was an upbeat, fun musical.  Not. At. All.  Didn't like it.  But, this year they are doing two musicals and starting this weekend, it will be "Hairspray" which we are looking forward to seeing.

Despite the musical being somewhat disappointing, it is still always a fun time.  We go early to get a good spot to sit and we bring dinner...
And knitting....
Although, I had to rip this out because I did it wrong!
And we do our usual staking-out-the-best-place-to-sit-while-trying-to-preserve-boundaries-and-prevent-people-from-cramming-in-too-close-next-to-us.  Who knew I'd have to worry about people cramming in behind me?
Knee VERY close to my head.
A well-timed adjusting of and leaning back in my chair fixed the problem!

Oh, and then there was THIS the other day:
This was flying all around our yard and street for over an hour the other day.  Flew right over my head, while i was out in the garden, several times.  I called the sheriff's department and they informed me, "They're just looking for a couple of people.  You're safe.  Just do what you were doing."  Needless to say, I stayed inside with the doors locked, especially since we have a gas pipeline that goes along our property and is the perfect pathway for someone to run through the woods!  Never heard on the news or anything if they caught them...

Then this past weekend was the much anticipated first birthday of Benjamin and Michaela, my nephew and niece whom I babysit!  It's been so exciting to see them grow over the past year.  I can finally show you the secret projects I was working on back in May (remember those?)...
Blankets!  I'm hoping they will be their most favorite-est, drag-around blankets that they never want to lose sight of.  ; )  We also gave them some books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? My First Reader , and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (I Can Read It All by Myself)  and a music CD Kidssongs by Nancy Cassidy, which has great songs! (click on any of those to go to Amazon)
The party was fun and included messy cake-eating!

In Knitting News:
The Ravellenic Games (or Knitting Olympics) have started!  This is an event on in which knitters and crocheters pick a project to complete during the time frame the Olympics take place, and try to win (virtual) medals.  It's a fun way to challenge oneself.  I've chosen to participate in a WIP (Work-in-Progress) Event, where I will complete a project I started a long time ago and haven't worked on in many months.  My Cranberry Capelet: (click there to see a finished one)
....which is blue, not cranberry.  That is the neck and the beginning of the capelet part.  I have two weeks to finish it.  More pics to come as I get further along.  It looks really weird right now.

Also, I finished competing in the Tour de Fleece, in which I wanted to spin a little bit every day, and ended up with this!:
320 yards of 100% merino yarn.  I love it.  I'm going to submit that small skein on top to the Altamont Fair for judging.  Now I have to decide what to knit with it!

In Gardening News:
What the heck is this?????
It appears to be some sort of caterpillar.  Three inches long with rice-looking things sticking out of it and a spiky red thing sticking up near its back-end.   Any of my gardening friends  (Yvette? Christine? Aunt K?) know?????  I found 3 of them on the underside of my tomato plants when I was pruning them the other day. REALLY creeped me out.  I REALLY don't like creepy crawly things.  And here I want to have a BIGGER garden next year....

In Book News:
Read another great book,Caught by Harlan Coben. (click there to order it on Amazon)  I love Harlan Coben books and this one didn't disappoint.  Always a compelling mystery/suspense story with lots of page-turning action.  Here is a bit from Amazon: "In a novel that challenges as much as it thrills, filled with the astonishing tension and unseen suburban machinations that have become Coben’s trademark, Caught tells the story of a missing girl, the community stunned by her loss, the predator who may have taken her, and the reporter who suddenly realizes she can’t trust her own instincts about this story—or the motives of the people around her."

My Latest Obsession:
Iced tea k-cups for my Keurig! (such as Green Mountain Sweet Peach Black Perfect Iced Tea, K-Cup Portion Pack for Keurig K-Cup Brewers, 24-Count).  So refreshing and easy and perfectly sweetened (sweet but not too sweet).  LOVE. IT.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A book, some fiber (the wool kind) and some other fiber (the veggie kind)

Oh. My. Gosh.  This book was SO. GOOD.

I literally could not put it down.  I stayed up really late reading it, then woke up really early thinking about it so I had to pick it up and keep reading.   I heard about this book on the Books on the Nightstand podcast.  It was one of the hosts most recent reads.  He was right in saying that you shouldn't read this book unless you have someone to talk to about it (meaning that they have read it too). So, when you read it, feel free to talk to me about it.  I'm waiting for my mom to finish reading it because she's the only other person I know reading it right now!

Here is the Amazon description of the book:
"Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control."

Seriously.  Read it.  Then call me!  Or email me!  Or write something in the comments section!

In Fibery News:
When I haven't been trying to catch up on the sleep I lost reading that book, I've been doing a lot of spinning on my spinning wheel. (Notice I didn't say "Knitting News" - I haven't been knitting for several days!)  I'm working on spinning 8 ounces of merino roving.

It starts with this:

Ok, it really starts with a sheep.  But I'm not even going there.  At this point, I have no interest in shearing a sheep, cleaning the fleece, carding/combing it, and dyeing it.  I'll just buy it ready-to-spin thank you very much.

Then I do this:

and this:

to get this:
This picture most accurately represents the color!
Then I will spin another bobbin-full and then spin them together to make a 2 ply yarn.  Results upcoming.

In Gardening News:
The beans rallied after I talked to them about their poor performance and weeded out some of the bad influences (2 plants seemed to just up and stop growing and turn yellow, so I pulled them out!)

The pumpkins are out of hand (just as my friend Yvette told me they would be!):
I can't believe only 3 seeds did all this.
They are growing up on the sides of the fencing:

I had to do some hacking away on the inside of the fence since the huge leaves were covering up my zucchini and my tomatoes.  I'm sure I'll get a thank you note from the bunnies for the pumpkins that are growing outside the fence.

Speaking of zucchini and beans, my first pickings:

I got one more zucchini after this and made zucchini bread!:
It was yummy, but a teeny bit under done in the middle (see how it's kind of sinking in the middle on the top?).  I'm super vigilant about not having dry bread/cake/cookies etc, so I always start checking for done-ness way before the recipe calls for it to be done.  I used a toothpick, but aparently not in enough places.  We're eating around that part.  I got my recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog here:  Zucchini Bread  LOVE her blog, by the way.  Lots of yummy stuff and great writing.

And the tomatoes are going to be plentiful:
Can you see all those yellow flowers?????

So, then, because I was all in the mood for zucchini and didn't have any more to pick, I bought some at the grocery store to make this Stacked Summer Vegetable Salad: (click there for the recipe)

AND I found a recipe for Grilled Beer Brined Chicken (click there for the recipe) that I tried.  Here is the chicken in the beer (Bass Ale), water, salt and sugar brine:

And the grilled result:
It was YUMMY!  Nice and moist and flavorful.  It didn't taste like beer.  There is a rub you put on it after brining and before grilling which gave it the flavor.

And here's Phoebe (taken while Paul was taking pictures of me spinning):

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Staycation Part II (The Fiber-y Part)

Fiber-y, as in wool and yarn, not as in beans and whole grain.

The first part of our staycation was crazy busy, but the second part has been more mellow.  We did take a drive up to Lake George yesterday to Martha's Dandee Creme for ice cream and shaved ice (I'm even more obsessed with shaved ice than I am with slushies - shaved ice is like a soft snow cone, where a slushie is more like an almost melted snow cone.  And I'm super excited because when we go out to a car race in Ohio in August, there is a shaved ice cart at the track.  All. Day.), but other than that we've been hanging out at home, picking away at "the list" and relaxing.

And I've been knitting and spinning on my spinning wheel.
SO.  First up is that I finished my Celes shawl to be entered in the fair:
OMG this sideways thing is so annoying...

It was 52" long and 11" wide when it came off the needles.  Then I blocked it (soaked it in water and wool wash, then pinned it out to dry using blocking wires):

I really had to stretch it to open up the lacework and get it to the finished dimensions of 74" long by 17" wide!  I. LOVE. IT.  Seriously.  So happy with how it came out.  It is now safely tucked away in a plastic bag, waiting to be brought to the fair.

And also, it is now the Tour de Fleece so I've been spinning at least a little bit every day (except yesterday, which I'm using as one of my two rest days because my hands hurt from knitting and spinning and plying so much).  Tour de Fleece goes along with the Tour de France (get it? because they are spinning their bike wheels?  and spinning wheels spin?) and the idea is to come up with a goal that involves spinning every day of the tour, with two rest days.  My goal is simply to spin a little every day to get better at it.  And a secondary goal will be to come up with a skein of yarn to submit for judging in the fair.

Here is what I've done:  First was to finish spinning some roving that I started spinning about a year and a half ago.
Spun and wound into balls, waiting to be plied together.
More just spun, waiting on a bobbin to be plied.
One strand from each ball above, plied (twisted) together.

Not plied (left) and plied (right).
After getting everything plied, I gave it a bath and hung it to dry.  The results?  My first crack at plying was BAD.  Really bad.  Totally underspun and loose.  Then I bought a book and read some tips on how to ply and my second crack at plying was MUCH BETTER!  Tighter twist and not as messy looking:
Bad ply on the left.  Good ply on the right.

A closer look.  Better on the right.  Right?

All skeined-up.  Good one on the left this time.
This was all part of my practice and getting back into spinning.  Now, I have to pick more roving (wool) that I can use to spin a skein for judging.  I can definitely say that I'm learning a lot and, really, it's just practice practice practice that makes you better.  Just like learning to play the piano.  When I was little, I begged and begged and begged for lessons and then hated hated hated practicing.  I wanted to be good right away and was very impatient with the practicing.  I've been pretty patient with learning to spin and actually, spinning is VERY relaxing.  I can sit down to spin and not even realize that a half hour or an hour has gone by.  Some people relate it to yoga.  Without the crazy pretzel poses.

What else?  Since I'm done with my shawl, I picked up the Tudor Henley again, and now I have picture for you (instead of just yarn balls):
Ready to knit from the armholes upward on the back.

Closeup of the pattern - more accurate color too!
That picture give you a good idea of the pattern I mentioned in an earlier post - it looks kind of like the waffle-y look of long underwear.  It's cruising along now, but I have a feeling it will derail a little bit once I get to the sleeves.  I should have done them first.  Sometimes I get a little impatient with sleeves.  They're long.

Two more things, then I'm done with Staycation posts.....

1) Our finished, grouted fireplace:
Love. It.

2) And this craziness:
These line-painting guys do this ALL THE TIME!  I just spent an hour looking for the last picture I took when they did this but I can't find it.  They must put the newbies on line-painting.