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: