Fall in Love

Today is the first official day of fall and I’m so excited and ready for cooler weather, brightly-colored leaves, and so many more things that autumn brings. 


For the first time, I decorated our front porch for fall. A few potted mums from the high school fundraiser; hay bales, wreath, mesh, and leaves from Michaels Arts & Crafts; and a trip to the farmers’ market for the pumpkins and gourds. 

Most years, I’m not motivated to decorate my own home for fall because I’ve already spent 2 months making floral arrangements for Michaels customers to decorate their homes. But this year is different. I’m not as stressed or tired after work. And that means I can have playtime!

Fall is also when my husband and I got married. In fact, we are celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary soon! I’ll ‘fall’ in love with him all over again. 

Have a Happy Fall!

Get Ready, Spinzilla Is Coming

 

spinzilla

I am gearing up to participate in Spinzilla. “What the heck is that?” you ask? Well, I’m happy to fill you in, because I’m so excited about participating this year!

Spinzilla is a fun event organized by The National Needlework Association where hand spinners from around the world compete in teams (I’m on Team Uniquities, a wonderful yarn shop in Vienna, VA) or as rogue spinners (as individuals) to see who can spin the most yarn in a week.  There are prizes, and of course, bragging rights.  This year, plying counts toward your yardage.  I won’t have to buy extra bobbins to store my singles!   Yay!  And I’ll have finished yarn at the end of the week, ready to be knit or crocheted or woven into something fantabulous!

Oh, it’s on… from 12:01 am October 6th to 11:59 am October 12th, I’ll be workin’ the wheels.  Um yeah… plural.  Spinners have a joke about having 2 wheels:  They mate and have babies!  I have 3 wheels and many drop spindles.  For Spinzilla, I’m sticking to my treadle wheels for speed:  an Ashford Traveler (it’ll fit in the car!) and my beloved Saxony (or Traditional) wheel my Dad made for me.

Must. Spin. This. Stash!

Must. Spin. This. Stash!

My main goal is to spin as much of my fluffy stash as possible.  I have some super wash merino (the fibers have been treated to prevent felting), alpaca, and some mystery roving that’s a lovely chocolate brown (I bought it in Kentucky while on vacation many, many years ago and the label has fallen off!).  It’s at the top right of the photo here (looks a lot like intestines, now that I think about it).

 

Samson's Fleece - check out that crimp!

Samson’s Fleece – check out that crimp!

 

I have some particularly precious fiber (from a Shetland lamb named Samson) that I’ve had as a fleece for years – we’re talking around 14 years, now, I’m ashamed to say.  I kept thinking that I’d wash it, but it was so beautiful.  It had fine crimp, which means a lot of wavy-ness to the fibers.  And it was a wonderful color.  I just liked to look at it.  My Mom had a fleece from the same shepherdess (we went to her shearing day and purchased two gorgeous Shetland lambs’ fleeces).  Mom hadn’t done anything with hers either, so we decided to finally get them processed by a mill instead of trying to do it ourselves.

 

Processed Samson

Processed Samson

So, we sent them off to Ohio Valley Natural Fibers to work their magic.  And, ta da!  We got back clean, soft, beautifully processed roving!  This will be the first thing I spin for Spinzilla.

I definitely have my work cut out for me if I’m going to make a dent in this mountain of fiber, but I plan on getting my household chores done before October 6th.  I also plan on doing the grocery shopping for the week ahead of time.  Even though it’s my husband’s birthday during Spinzilla (how dare he!), I’ve promised to spend time with him and ignore my wheel that evening.  So, that means I’ve got to put the pedal to the metal on the other days to make up for lost time!

I think I need to put myself into a training regimen.  I’ve been so busy preparing my fibers that I haven’t actually sat down at my wheels.  I haven’t spun in, uh, well, I think it’s been, well, let’s just say it’s longer than I should probably admit.  I don’t want to let my team down!  So, I must get spinning!

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.  Wish me luck!  Three cheers for Team Uniquities!

 

 

 

Jump For Jump Rings

Usually, I buy my findings but have decided to branch out a bit. Reading Mindset by Carol Dwek, Ph.D., got me to hop out of my comfort zone. I’ve seen people make their own jump rings and tried a few times, unsuccessfully. The ends of my rings would never line up because my wire nippers left an angled cut.

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I finally bought a pair of flush cutters (above) and I’m in production mode!

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Have you tried making your own findings?  I’d love to hear your adventures with wire.

Join me at the Michaels in Springfield for the Velvet Drop Chandelier Earrings class where I’ll teach you how to make jump rings in any size you desire and incorporate them into a lovely pair of earrings you’ll be proud to wear!  Registration is $15, and only 3 supplies needed; you’ll even make your own ear wires and wear these lovelies home!

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Drip Drip Drop

I have to tell you that I was flabbergasted when I opened our first 2014 water bill.  It was a lot more than we usually pay.  Then, I looked at the gallons used – 12,000!  A normal quarter for us is 7,000 or 8,000 gallons. I had to find out what was going on.  Why did we have this spike in water usage?  Our water company said that they would come out and reread the meter, which turned out to be very similar.  More on our hypothesis of what caused this later… photo

 

But here’s the thing that made my concern do a 180-degree turn and I started to feel pretty good about our family’s H2O usage:  The average family of 4 in our county uses 400 gallons of water a day.  That would be 33,600 gallons a quarter!!

 

Just to be sure (’cause I’m all about double- and triple-checking), check my math  —

400 gallons a day (7 days a week) = 2,800 gallons a week

2,800 gallons a week (4 weeks in a month) = 11,200 gallons a month

11,200 gallons a month (3 months in a quarter) = 33,600 gallons a quarter

That makes our 12,000 gallons for last quarter look tiny.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we don’t have plenty of room for improvement.  We’ll get back down to our usual 7,000 gallons – and soon!

So, what do we think caused our tsunami of water usage?  Well, we did host two separate visits from family over the holidays, which means we had extra bodies taking showers and flushing toilets (we don’t want to think about that, but it’s true!), and there were extra dishes to be washed.  I think we ran the dishwasher at least every other day (it was full each time) when we had guests.

We received a really nice compliment from the customer service representative at the water company.  She thought that we only had one person living at our address when she looked at how much water we usually use.  When I told her of our saving strategies, she praised us.

Do you want to get compliments from your water utility?  Or maybe, you’d like to conserve water because you know that lots of people on Earth don’t have access to clean water and there are too many droughts happening?  Or maybe, you’d like to save money on your utility bill?

Here are our strategies for doing all of the above:

1. We fill a 1/2 gallon plastic milk jug with stones and place it in the toilet tank.  This will displace the water in the tank and each time you flush (I know, this topic again!), you’ll save 1/2 gallon of water.  The toilet will flush just fine.  We’ve never had any problems.

2. If it’s yellow, let it mellow.  If it’s brown, flush it down.  We don’t always employ this one, but sometimes, we are able to coordinate bathroom usage.

3. During the Spring, Summer, and Fall, we use a water barrel.  It sits under one of our downspouts and collects the water from the roof.  This is definitely not drinking water.  But it is great for watering indoor and outdoor plants, rinsing out the compost container, and flushing the toilets.

4. OK, flushing the toilets with rain barrel water?  Yes!  We save gallon milk jugs, turn off the water supply to the toilets, fill the jugs with rain barrel water and pour that water into the toilet tank.  Once the tank is at its usual water level, flush away!  And we didn’t pay one cent for that water.  Some people would find it inconvenient to bring in the water from outside, but it’s not so bad.  We really get into the spirit in the Fall.  That’s when we’re trying to use up the water before the first freeze comes.  Because our barrel is plastic, we empty it and put it in storage for the winter.

5. I wash clothes in cold (saves electricity) and in the smallest water level that I can.  I don’t do extra rinses or extra long washes.

6. The dishwasher only gets run if it’s totally full.  And I always run it on the light wash, water saving mode.

7. We take quick showers and may even skip a day if we aren’t going anywhere.

8. We turn off the water when we brush our teeth. Then back on again for a quick rinse of the toothbrush.

9. For washing our hands, we wet our hands, turn the water off, apply soap and lather for a bit, then turn the water back on to rinse.

10. We put fruit, veggie, and egg shell scraps in a compost bin instead of running them down the disposal.

Click here for some more water-saving ideas from the EPA.  And here’s more info about water usage.

Hope I’ve given you some ideas to incorporate into your daily routine for saving water.

How do you save water?

Knitting Inspiration

Spring 2014 issue

Spring 2014 issue

When I saw the Spring 2014 issue of Interweave Knits, I just had to get it.  I used to subscribe but have cut down on my magazine subscriptions.  I decided that there would have to be several patterns I wanted to knit before I’d let myself buy a copy of any knit or crochet magazine.  I have  to admit that I have a library of back issues of various magazines!  But I wouldn’t dare toss them out.  I do refer to them occasionally.

This issue of Interweave Knits does not disappoint.  I’m thinking of going through it one pattern at a time and knitting them all!  It would be a big project, but I could blog about it and that would give me a boost to keep going.  Plus the patterns in this issue are so yummy!  I would also be working with yarns that I haven’t had experience with.  That’s part of the adventure.

Take a look at my Pinterest board to see my faves.  Have you seen this issue?  Which one should be my first project?  I’m thinking of a piece for spring or summer.  Maybe the Serendipity Tee by Jesie Ostermiller or the O’Kelly’s Chapel Shawl by Shirley Paden?

Luck of the Irish

The leprechauns brought us 6″ of snow today!

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It is beautiful, I must admit. But everyone I talk to, and even the plants, are ready for spring. How do I know the plants are ready?? Take a look:

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My crocuses were popping up just 2 days ago.

I’m so ready for spring that I had convinced myself that this has been the longest winter ever. But when I did some digging out of curiosity, I discovered that we had snow last year on the 25th of March! And in 1990, it snowed April 6th!! OK, I’m calling on my Irish ancestry to throw a little luck my way. No more snow (knocking on wood right now). I want spring to spring-a-ding-ding into action (thanks Tigger!).

To celebrate pi day and St. Paddy’s, I decided to try the Apple Pie with Kale and Lemon Pastry from the Veggie Desserts blog. It’s delish! And not too sweet (I used less sugar than the recipe calls for) and you wouldn’t know the kale is an ingredient by tasting it.

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Baking is one of my favorite things to do on a snowy day. I’m thinking about making biscuits. I know what you’re thinking. They aren’t exactly healthy. But they are a comfort food lovingly made by my grandmother. My Dad can whip up a mean batch of biscuits too! We’ve been known to take photos of our nicely risen “cat eyes.”

Here’s to a relaxing snow day (the last one of the season, fingers crossed) filled with piano playing, knitting, and baking. What’s your favorite snow day activity? Are you ready for spring?

Success! I Dropped A Stitch

That’s right!  I dropped a stitch and I’m happy about it. For those who don’t knit, dropping a stitch is usually not a good thing. It can be the reason for much frustration and hair pulling for beginning knitters, and can also cause them to rip out fabric that took them hours to create. Hey, I’ve done it.

But as you gain experience and confidence with your knitting skills, a dropped stitch is no longer a big deal.

I’ll show you how to fix a dropped stitch in a future post, but this time, I’m keeping that dropped stitch right where it is.

Shay Pendray, Laura Bryant, and Barry Klein on the set of Knitting Daily

Shay Pendray, Laura Bryant, and Barry Klein on the set of Knitting Daily

I recently caught an older episode of Knitting Daily where Laura Bryant of Prism Yarns and Barry Klein of Trendsetter Yarns (LOVE them!) show how to use dropped stitches to your advantage.

The scarf pattern is worked in garter stitch. It’s a great take-a-long project to work on while waiting at the doctor’s office or while your kids are at music lessons.

I chose a ball of TLC Cara Mia (Acrylic/Nylon/Rayon/Angora) that I’ve had for years. It finally told me what it wanted to be when it grew up!

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2 columns of dropped stitches so far

Don’t be nervous. But do be aware that you knit the entire scarf before dropping any stitches. See how the dropped stitch is dropped all the way down the length of the scarf?

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Bind Off edge showing the width of 3 stitches for 1 dropped stitch

Laura had a great tip that each dropped stitch will have the width of 3 stitches, so the bind off has some special tricks to it.

When looking at these photos, please keep in mind that my scarf isn’t quite finished. I have some more to bind off and stitches still left to drop. When it’s complete, there will be 4 columns of dropped stitches.  You can kind of see where the other 2 dropped-stitch columns will be on the photo above.  There are vertical indentions where the columns of new dropped stitches will be.

Get the pattern at Knitting Daily TV and drop some stitches on purpose!  And if you like the scarf that Laura shows at the beginning of the segment, that pattern is here.

I’d love to see your dropped stitch scarves. Dive into your stash and see what you come up with.

Bye Bye Sugar, Hello Veggies

I really try to eat healthy and have cut out a lot of the sugar, meat, and snackie items my family used to eat.  We’re not perfect.  But we’re discovering healthy options all the time.  (A little secret:  After I cut out 95% of the sugar I was eating, I went through a bit of withdrawal, but then my cravings for sweet things disappeared!  And I lost weight without doing anything but cutting sugar.)

Ready to make Dolce Vita Minestrone

           Ready to make Dolce Vita Minestrone

I’d like to let you in on some of the blogs I’ve been following to help revamp my fridge and pantry.

The Food Babe

              The Food Babe

 

Recently, I found the Food Babe’s blog. She’s amazing! There are lots of great recipes and restaurant reviews on her site. She has even exposed many fast food restaurants for their nasty ingredients.

 

 

 

A Must-Have Cookbook

          A Must-Have Cookbook

Veggies, Yarn and Tails is another blog for great food finds.  I gave the recipes in the Groovy Green Kitchen: Weeknight Veggie Slow Cooker by Geraldine Helen Hartman a try.  They are all delicious!  The Dolce Vita Minestrone with Whole Wheat Ricotta Scones was a soothing meal on a snowy day.  The Mac & Cheese is super creamy.  And the In The Navy Bean Soup and Rosemary Hummus were devoured by my family.  Oh, and I made the lasagne too!  Yes!  Lasagne in the slow cooker.  All of these recipes were super easy, delicious, and healthy.  I’m set to try the Rice & Red Lentil Salad and the Sunflower & Oat Machine Bread next.

 

 

Kale and Apple Cake

                             Kale and Apple Cake

I’ve been a fan of Jamie Oliver for years and receive his newsletter.  Today, he helped me discover a blog that I’m very excited about – Veggie Desserts.  Kate Hackworthy’s blog is the Food Revolution Blog of the Month, and it’s full of yummy and healthy desserts.  I’ve just got to try the Kale and Apple Cake with Apple Icing, the Kale Coconut Cream Pie, or the Cucumber and Lemon Cake with Elderflower Icing for St. Patrick’s Day.  She incorporates carrots, beets, spinach, chard, sweet potatoes, and avocado, just to name a few.  Veggies can be used to replace sugar and fat.  Did you know that  avocados make great replacements for eggs?

And speaking of avocados and eggs… I attended a raw desserts class at Whole Foods and the instructor said the same thing!  At that class, I learned how to make wonderfully creamy chocolate desserts from walnuts, cacao, coconut oil, cashews, maple syrup, and a food processor.  I made some of these treats for Valentine’s Day.  They were so delish that my family didn’t know that they were eating healthy desserts.

I look at food in a different way – ever since someone reminded me that food and drink become part of your body.  They become part of YOU.  So… basically, you are indeed what you eat.  Here’s to healthy!

Knitting: A Lot More Than Just FUN! ;-)

I follow the Veggies, Yarns & Tails blog where I found this post and just had to blog about it.

It’s true! I definitely need knitting and crochet to help me with anxiety and stress. If I don’t get some crafting into my day, I can tell a difference in my mood.

I read an article last year that talked about the brain and how it’s unable to focus on worry or stress when you’re involved in repetitive motions, like with knitting or crochet. Your blood pressure decreases and your breathing has a regular pattern about it (which helps with anxiety).

For me, not only is the act of knitting and crocheting fun and satisfying, but I also enjoy making items for others. The benefit of having something tangible that someone can use, and making them happy too, releases dopamine. Everyone feels good!

Knit On!

VEGGIES, YARNS & TAILS

fruit slices socks for post 1

I came across a very interesting article today, at the Tree Hugger site re: the many benefits of knitting.

Not only is it great for stress relief which I did know about, it actually helps in a lot of other ways, to keep us healthy.

**Click to read the post here.**

So, the next time you are trying to justify another trip to your LYS or an online yarn splurge, remember it’s not just fun, it’s so good for your health too.

That’s certainly enough of a reason for me! 😉

Happy Crafting! 

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