Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve in the country

New Year's Eve in the country is a bit different from New Year's Eve in town. It's quieter, although there will probably be some fireworks in the distance. It's also less crowded and, well, darker. So, we're going to have a fire in our fire pit next to the river.

The plan is to roast hot dogs for supper. Then, we'll toast marshmallows for s'mores. I found peppermint marshmallows just before Christmas, and the thought of mint chocolate s'mores just makes me smile. I have my toolkit ready, with chocolate bars, graham crackers and marshmallows all set for the evening.

We don't plan to stay up until midnight. I've tested this theory before--the new year will get here just fine without my supervision.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Smart (aleck) Appliances

Our washing machine is relatively new and I think it's a bit too big for it's britches. It is a front loader and does a fairly good job of getting our clothes clean. BUT, it has a tendency to string me along with it's "oh no, really, I'm almost done" timer. It has been telling me there's just 2 minutes to go for something like the past ten minutes.

It also won't let me open the door until it's good and ready. Okay, fine, the front load system means that water could leak out if I open the door before the cycle finishes, but I'm a grown-up. Let me make that decision for myself!

My dishwasher lets me open the door whenever I want, but it gets even by hiding forks under the rack. And don't get me started on the refrigerator that beeps if I leave that door open too long.

It's Monday. Can you tell?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas traditions

One of my family's Christmas morning traditions is a special breakfast.  I may have written about it before, but it can withstand repeating. 

The tradition of mush, also known as scrapple, goes back over a hundred years in our family.  We boil a fresh ham and save the broth.  Plain yellow cornmeal is added to the hot broth until it's too thick to stir.  

On Christmas morning, I slice the mush and pan fry it.  It's almost like having French fries for breakfast.  It's delicious and I love carrying on a long line of mush eaters.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Traditions

Our family traditions include a gathering at my aunt's house.  We have a meal, sometimes brunch, sometimes a fancy dinner, but always delicious.  

The meal is followed by a reading of the Christmas story by the Cousin-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.  When the children were little he read it from a children's book, but now he reads the account from the Bible.
After that we open presents.  It's a great time, especially because the gifts are always thoughtful and often there are some handmade gifts included.  

My family is pretty awesome.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Abby the Ginormous Dog

Our dog, Abby, is a rescue dog. She was abandoned outside our vet's office and was in need of a home in the country with lots of room to run. We needed a wonderful dog. Perfect match!

Because Abby wasn't raised with livestock as a puppy, she refuses to live with the goats. She will patrol the pasture and we haven't seen a coyote since she got there. But she's more of a people dog than a goat dog. She treats our family as her "herd" and always stays close when strangers are on the property.

Yesterday afternoon, we went for a walk and Abby went with us. She lumbers along, mostly bringing up the rear and watching our backs. Once we got around to the goat pasture, she checked them out and waited for us to head back to the house. She is such a gentle companion and makes me feel so safe. Love ya, Abby!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cookie Baking Day

Today we baked Christmas cookies!  I have a pretty standard list of cookies that we make for Christmas each year.  We make peanut butter cookies shaped like mice, mint chocolate cookies and an almond shortbread type cookie. 

I also make "haystacks", from chow mein noodles and melted butterscotch chips.  My grandmother used to make them and they are delicious.

My sister-in-law, Lori, joined us and got us organized very quickly.  She's an experienced cookie chef so we were in good hands.  She put the children to work right away.  (That's my silly girl making a face at me.)

The house smells yummy right now.  Any cookie baking around your place?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Girls' Night In

What happens when the big kids go out to the movies with Dad? Girls' Night In! My eight-year-old daughter and I get to do girlie stuff, like color pony pictures, do our hair and paint our nails. We might even watch a movie in our jammies.

I love nights like this. It's a chance to spend time with just my little girl. She's always lots of fun, but there's something special about having time for just the two of us. She is full of laughter and great ideas and she's growing up so fast. I need to treasure these moments.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Choir practice

What does sock knitting have to do with choir practice?  If you are the church pianist (like I am) and the choir is singing the Christmas music to a CD, you tend to have less to do closer to the performance. 

When they started to work on the music a couple of months ago, I had plenty of parts to play in rehearsal, but now that they know the music I am just "on call" to help with a measure or two now and then.
The best part today was that I got to sit and listen (and knit!), both to the choir and to the drama.  This is a small church in a small community and yet, there is an amazing amount of talent here.  It is a joy to be a part of it.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hobbit-y Spinning Project

This is my current spinning project, a polwarth/silk blend in colors that remind me of The Hobbit.  It has forest and mossy greens, rust browns and a hint of turquoise blue.  
I'm trying to spin the singles fairly fine so my finished yarn won't be too bulky.  I haven't decided yet how I'm going to ply it, either a 2-ply or a chain ply.  

Because of the earthy colors, I think it would make great fingerless mitts or a scarf.  The final decision will probably be determined by how many yards of finished yarn I end up with. (I know, that's terrible grammar.  Never end a sentence with a preposition, kids!)

Most of my Christmas projects are done and I'm settling in for a long winter's spinning and knitting.  Thankfully my fiber stash is well stocked.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Heavy sigh...

"If money can fix it, it's not that bad."  That is a quote that helps me keep things in perspective.  Earlier this year a plumbing leak led to redoing our hall bathroom as well as refinishing the wood floors.  

Now, another plumbing problem has taken over the master bathroom.  There's some scary looking mold around the shower and, it turns out, under the house too.  Ugh!

The man who was here to look at it this morning said he could put a bandaid on it, or rip everything out and fix it right.  Of course, that's the more expensive option.  Fortunately the guys who are going to do the work are trustworthy (they built our mudroom--love it), so I know they'll be fair and honest.

The upside is that I get a new bathroom, maybe with the antique claw foot tub I love.  The right perspective is to remember that this is only inconvenient.  There are people sitting by the side of loved ones who are suffering or facing tragedies I can only imagine.  All I have to do is share a small bathroom with my children for a few weeks.  

I am truly thankful for the "problems" we currently have.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

More Spinning

I finished my first attempt at spinning yarn for socks. I love the way the yarn looks. It's fairly consistent and the pink and grey/brown color runs are nicely preserved. I think it's still a bit too bulky for my taste, about 14-16 WPI (Wraps Per Inch). I have around 315 yards. A search on Ravelry should help me find a pattern that will work. I'm determined that this yarn will be socks!

The second photo is of the current spinning project. It's a Polworth/silk blend in a green and brown colorway, very hobbit-y. I'm not sure yet what it's going to be. We are currently planning a trip to New Zealand, where The Hobbit was filmed, but we're going during their summer. Wool mittens don't sound quite right. Suggestions for this yarn are welcome.

Happy Saturday! The hobbit yarn is calling me back to the wheel...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Craft Show Shopping

I went to the Christmas Craft Show in Aiken, SC, this morning. I've worked this show with my Bede Sisters business before but didn't apply this year. (I had thought I would be having surgery this week, but managed to avoid it). It was fun to be there as a shopper only. I saw some wonderful handcrafted items, including quilts, woodcarving, baskets, and wooden spinning tops for my children.

One of the things I bought was a new weekender type bag for myself. I rarely buy things I know I could make, but I've made a similar bag and am well aware of the time and materials it takes to create one of these. I need another bag like I need a hole in the head, but I decided to splurge on this one, just because I love the fabric and the style. And it was so nice to buy from the maker herself, Nancy of Nanny Goat Totes.

Now, I need to take a weekend trip so I can show, it off!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Spinning Corner

My Kromski spinning wheel sits in the corner of our family room. I can't see the television from here, by design. I like being in the same room as my family, but I need to keep my eyes focused on my fiber, so instead of television, I listen to my iPod. For some reason, Irish music seems to go nicely with spinning. The Hobbit soundtrack is a good choice too.

In addition to music, I also listen to podcasts. One of my new favorites is Yarnspinner's Tales. It's a podcast devoted to fiber and spinning, the perfect companion to my spinning time. Today, I listened to a podcast about spinning yarn for socks. There's so much to learn; I'm going to have to listen to that one again!

Finally, I like to imagine what women of past generations did while spinning wool to make socks, mittens and sweaters for their families. I suppose they usually had a fire going nearby, for both warmth and light. We have a wood stove, but it hasn't been cold enough here lately to have a fire. So tonight I remembered something I've heard many times--there's an app for that. Sure enough, there's a fireplace app. I now have a digital fire to watch as well as crackling fireplace sounds to keep me company as I spin. Until the chilly evenings of a southern winter get here, it will have to do.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Spinning Sock Yarn

One of my goals in spinning and knitting is to spin my own yarn for socks. At SAFF (the Southeast Animal Fiber Fair) in October, I bought some ready-to-spin superwash fiber. Superwash fiber has been specially treated so that it can be washed in a washing machine without felting. I've been working on spinning it for socks.

Sock yarn needs to be firm, so it holds up well. I also want it to be fairly fine, as in not bulky yarn. All that meant it took FOREVER to spin the four ounces of fiber I bought.

I finally finished spinning the singles. Then I was faced with the decision of how to ply it-- 2-ply? 4x4 cable? Chain/Navajo ply? As usual, I had not managed to fill two bobbins evenly, and since I didn't want to waste any of the fiber, a 2-ply was out. A 4x4 cable had pretty much the same issue, even if I plied from center pull balls. Also, I like the idea of preserving the color runs (chain plying does this beautifully!), so chain plying was the winner.

Here's the result--a picture of the singles still on the bobbin, and the chain-plied yarn on the wheel:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas decorating

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is our traditional day to decorate the house for Christmas. The fall stuff gets packed away for the year and the spring decor gets shifted from the fall boxes to the Christmas boxes. That way, when January gets here, I'm all set to pack up Christmas and decorate for spring. It's all a big switcharoo!

I can hardly believe that there are just three and a half weeks until Christmas. Still so much to do, cookies to bake, gifts to wrap, socks to knit...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Almost ready!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and the big family shindig is at our house. I spent yesterday getting casseroles ready to bake, as well as baking the cornbread for dressing. Today was dessert day--pies (apple, pecan and pumpkin) and pumpkin cheesecake.

Early tomorrow morning, we'll get the turkey in the oven and hopefully have everything ready by 1pm.

Wish me luck!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Horses and Little Girls

A long time ago, I heard someone say that a girl's first love should be a horse. Horses can be affectionate, patient listeners and they never tell you that your feelings are silly. A lot like dogs, I think.

My youngest daughter is a horse girl. She likes to ride, but I think her favorite part of the lesson is the time before and after the actual instruction, when she can snuggle her horse's nose and talk to him. He nudges her pockets for treats and nuzzles her hand when she brushes him.

Whether she goes on to be a great horsewoman or not remains to be seen. In the meantime, she is saving up special memories for her future. (And, of course, she gets to wear pink boots.)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Spinner's Lap Cloth

At SAFF (Southeast Animal Fiber Fair) this year, I noticed lots of spinners, me included, with fiber stuck to their laps. This is clearly not a new problem, but it was more obvious to me this time, maybe because there were so many spinners in one place. I also saw a couple of people with fabric cloths, a bit like napkins, across their laps while spinning. Brilliant!

When I got home, I looked around online and found a few "spinner's lap cloth" type things. Several had a dark side and a light side, kind of like the Force. The purpose is to make it easier to see the fiber you are spinning--light fiber on dark cloth, dark fiber on light cloth. I decided to make my own version, with a pocket for each side. I like how it turned out.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Flu Shot Day!

Thursday was our annual flu shot day. Having come down with the flu just after Christmas, twice, I've decided that I would rather have my family get flu shots. This was the "in bed for days, with fever, body aches and terrible chest congestion" kind of flu. And that was followed by several more weeks of recovery.

So, in order to minimize flu shot trauma, we make a morning of it. The children and I get our shots then head to a store for treats and then out to lunch.

Here are the before and after pictures:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spinning Cotton

A little over a year ago I took a spinning class. (Not the kind with stationary bicycles--silly reader!). It was a beginner class on using a spinning wheel to turn fiber into string. I loved it and a spinner was born.

In one year, I went from no wheel to two wheels and I have my eye on a third. There is an astonishing amount to learn, like types of wheels, breeds of sheep and their wool, and loads of spinning and plying techniques.

Next on my list of things to learn is spinning cotton. There are other plant fibers to spin, including something called tencel which is a tree fiber. But cotton is my current challenge. I found a pretty good deal on some used cotton cards- those brush things you use to line up fiber for spinning.

So, with new-to-me carders in hand, I pulled out a couple of cotton bolls that friends had given me, probably as a joke. I brushed them into punis (a word I just learned for a type of cotton preparation for spinning) and tried spinning it. I made string! It's a little lumpy bumpy, but it's holding together.

Next, I'm going to try carding wool into rolags.

Wordless Wednesday--Caribbean

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Best Idea I've Had Lately

Sometimes my ideas work and sometimes they don't. This one is a winner. I've had vacation scrapbook supplies sitting around for months. Okay, years. My perfectionist tendencies kept me from starting. You know how that goes-if I can't do it perfectly, why start?

Time to get over it! To be frank, it wasn't going to be perfect anyway. So, here's the idea--turn the children loose with photos, scrapbook paper, glue sticks and stickers. The only rule is that they have to leave room to label who's who and where they are.

It looks like, in less than an hour, our 2008 Grand Cayman trip will finally be documented in a finished scrapbook! These scrapbook pages won't impress the experts, but I'm thrilled to pieces and they will mean more to us in the future than any "perfect" page I could create.

Have you had any great ideas lately?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fried Chicken

When I was a little girl, my favorite meal was anything, as long as it included my mom's fried chicken. When asked what I wanted for my birthday supper, I always asked for fried chicken. I have wanted to make her chicken for most of my adult life, but I failed to get her instructions before her death in 2003.

Figuring that my mother and her sister both learned to cook from my grandmother, I asked my aunt for her recipe. She kind of laughed and said that there's not much too it, it just takes a while. Here's what she told me-- flour chicken (I added a bit of salt and pepper) and brown in oil on high heat. Then, turn down the heat, put the lid on the pan and simmer for about an hour. Finally, take off the lid and turn the heat back up to crisp. That's it!

And it is heaven on a plate!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wordless Wednesday--Camel Ride

Almost Summer

A kid in the pool, a thriller novel in my bag and salt and vinegar chips on the picnic table- summer is taking over. We're trying to finish school work this week and I'm not sure who's more ready to be done, me or the children.

The repairs on the house are on hold while we wait for an official estimate. The delay is frustrating because it's so hard to make plans. If we can get our school year complete, that will be at least one thing off my plate.

We finally got some tomato plants in the garden and the flower beds are looking better. I'm also on the hunt for a good place to turn loose some mint. Mint is notorious for being invasive, but I think this family could handle an acre or two of it. After recently delivering an order which included mint ice cream, mint ice cream cones and mint bars, our Schwan man said, "I think this family has a mint deficiency." He may be on to something.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dehydrating Strawberries

I have new kitchen toy-a dehydrator!  I've wanted one for years, specifically to dehydrate strawberries, although I can envision loads of ways to use it-garden vegetables, herbs, fruit leathers.
Dehydrating strawberries couldn't be simpler.  Just wash, cut off the tops and slice.  After 4-6 hours in the dehydrator they are ready to cool and store.  I also did some bananas.  They were almost as easy. The only extra step was putting them in a bit of ascorbic acid fruit preservative to keep them from turning too brown.  If the darker color doesn't bother you, you can skip that step.

The finished berries are stored in a canning jar.  If I thought they would last more than a couple of weeks (the children love them!), I would look into sealing them with a vacuum sealer.  
We're fast approaching canning season. I'll do my best to keep you up to date on this year's progress.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Teaser Tuesday

Dan Brown's Inferno

"Fighting the sedatives in his system, Langdon raised his eyes to the spike-haired assassin, who was still striding down the hall, covering the last few yards toward his open door. As she neared the threshold, she looked toward Langdon and instantly swung her weapon in his direction...aiming at his head."

Dan Brown's new thriller, starring symbology professor Robert Langdon, is my current read.  What's on your nightstand?

Monday, May 20, 2013

It's all about perspective

This is my family room floor.  Yes, that's subfloor.  No, it's not a new decorating trend.  The toilet in the kids' bathroom overfilled, probably for a few hours and damaged the carpet in one bedroom and the wood floors in the hall and family room.  The vinyl in the bathroom had to come up so the floor could be completely dried. We'll also need to replace the cabinet due to water damage at its base.

On the upside, I get to update the bathroom and have my wood floors refinished.  As my sister-in-law says, "Is anybody in the hospital?  Is anybody in jail?  If the answer to both of those questions is 'no', it's not that bad."

It's all about perspective.

Monday, April 8, 2013


After a really warm winter, I expected an early spring. Silly me. It seems to have taken forever for the temperatures to warm up to the deep south's April standards. We had several days last week when the temperature stayed in the forties all day, unusual for early April around here.

But, the past couple of days have been glorious! We put a new swing near the river and my husband, Andy, and the children finally talked me into getting a trampoline. Maybe I've watched too many home videos on television, but trampolines just look like an accident waiting to happen. I kind of turn into the mom from A Christmas Story. Instead of "you'll shoot your eye out" it's "you'll break your neck". Hopefully, we won't need any trips to the emergency room this year.

The children are taking a break from jumping, and one is keeping me company on the porch. Apparently, moon sand hasn't lost its appeal.

Happy spring!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I Made Socks!

Okay, they're just tube socks, but I made them from yarn I spun myself. I started them weeks ago, maybe even a couple of months ago and then set them aside. Once I really got going, they were fast. I finished the first one this morning and the second one after supper tonight.

The pattern is a knit two, purl two rib, done on size 5 double pointed needles. To decrease for the toe, I knit two together, knit one until there were only six stitches left (two on each needle). I transferred them to two needles (three on each).

At that point, I found instructions on the internet for a Kitchener stitch done with knitting needles rather than a yarn needle. I'm not sure I did it right, but the toes are closed and I'm happy with them!

I'm one of those people who need plenty of practice when learning a new skill. And I have to take baby steps along the way* . I see making tube socks as a baby step to making "real socks". You know, the ones with heel flaps and gussets? Double pointed needles, you don't scare me anymore!

*Am I the only one who sees Bill Murray's face (from What About Bob?) when I hear the phrase "baby steps"?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Knitting on the Porch

I'm one of those people who love Daylight Saving Time. I know I don't actually get more hours of daylight, but I really like having more light after dinner.

A couple of afternoons ago, I grabbed my knitting bag (currently contains a sock in progress) and sat on my porch. It was warm, but not hot and the light was perfect. The big dogs kept me company, although I fear that my sock may have a permanent doggy kiss smell. Thanks for that, Abby.

In the first picture, you can see my chair, complete with project bag, iPod, and drink. The other picture shows my view, looking toward the river. The grass is still brown, but I think we'll start seeing some green peek through in the next few weeks.

This is just about my favorite time of year. How about you?