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Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving has come and gone and tomorrow is the beginning of Advent.  But before I start focusing on all the activities that come with Advent, I’d like to take a moment to remember Thanksgiving and to share with you the things for which I am thankful.

The first thing that I am thankful for is The Husband and the rest of my family.  Despite the hard time I sometimes give The Husband, I dearly love him and I am so grateful that he is who he is and that he is part of my life.  The past couple of years The Husband and I lived a long way away from my family and that meant less visits with them; I’ve missed seeing them.  So, the second thing I’m grateful for is that The Husband and I have moved closer to my family.  It is a real joy to live so close to my sister and to be within a several hours’ drive of my mom.  This means that I was able to spend Thanksgiving with all of them (more about that later).  My brother and his family still live a ways away, but they are still closer than they were before and I can meet with them at Mom’s house this Christmas.  Finally, I’m grateful for the many blessings I enjoy every day – good health, a warm home, food to eat, clean water to drink, and the ability and means to express myself creatively through writing, knitting, spinning, cooking, baking, etc.

As I said above, I was able to spend Thanksgiving with family this year.  My mom came down to Texas and spent the night with us before we took her down to my sister’s place on Thanksgiving Day.  We spent the afternoon and evening together and enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving meal of smoked turkey (organic, pasture raised), roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary and onions, steamed kale, cranberry salad, Ezekiel bread, and finally a cheese platter with fruit and individual ramekins of pumpkin brulee.   We had a good evening talking and playing cards.  There might have been a football game on and The Husband might have fallen asleep on the couch at some point, but I’m really not sure.  =)

We met up again on Saturday to go to a local fair demonstrating various homesteading activities.  There were demonstrations of soap making, blacksmithing, spinning, and cheese-making.  There was a booth selling hot cider and apple cider donuts (yum!) and a nearby tent with the cider press (shoot, missed that demonstration).  There was a working stone flour mill that was running (very cool and not nearly as dusty as I had expected) and there was a tent explaining bee-keeping with a case full of bees.  And there were wagon rides drawn by horses.  There were so many things to see and do that we didn’t get to see or do nearly all of them.  We’re definitely going to have to go back next year.

We spent the evening together and were joined by my niece who had just returned from a trip to Belgium with her orchestra (lucky girl!).  We got to see several of her pictures and the dear sweet girl brought back loads of chocolate for us to sample!  Have I mentioned how much I love my niece?  =)

The next day (Sunday), we drove my mom back up to the city where she was catching a ride with some friends back to her house.  It wasn’t as hard to say goodbye to her knowing we’d see her again in a couple of weeks and knowing that she was so close.  Then we drove home and sat in a suddenly quiet house with nothing that needed to be done, nowhere we needed to be, and no one but each other to talk to.   Ah, nap time.

So, that was my Thanksgiving.  How was yours?  I hope it was as wonderful as mine was for me; full of good food, good friends, wonderful family, and lots to be thankful for.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Wow, 2 blog posts in as many days!  The idea for this post came up last night and is entirely due to The Husband.  Let me explain.  Last night, around 9:30 pm, The Husband informed me that he had a change in work schedule and would be leaving in the morning for an overnight trip.  There weren’t supposed to be any overnights this week, so this was something of a surprise.  After a few moments of , “Really?  Do you have to?” my next comment was, “Wait!  I don’t have any suppers cooked ahead for you to take along!”  The Husband’s response was that he just guessed he’d have to eat out.  Right!  I could practically see a neon sign screaming “TACO BELL” in his head.  Now, I’m not saying that I’ll always be able to cook meals ahead for his overnights, but I wasn’t going to let it happen this soon!  So I started scrounging around in the kitchen for something healthier than Taco Bell for him to take with him, which really shouldn’t be that difficult if there is anything at all in one’s pantry or fridge.  Luckily, I had cooked off a whole chicken in the crock pot on Sunday and hadn’t used it yet.  The chicken was an organic, cage-free, hormone-free, antibiotic-free chicken, so that definitely is healthier than anything on the menu at Taco Bell.  A nice single serving of chicken went into a sealed container ready for his cooler.  Then, for a vegetable, I remembered that I had a sweet potato down in the storage bin and that was quickly grabbed and placed beside the cooler.  The sweet potato was really good sized, so I figured that and the chicken should be all that he needed for supper.  Now for the two lunches.  I had made up the Quinoa Taboulleh for our lunches on Monday and there were easily two servings of that left, so there were his lunches.  A quick look around the kitchen turned up a couple of apples should he still be hungry after the salad or need a snack.  Finally, I couldn’t possibly send him off without some kind of extra treat.  I remembered that I had bought the supplies for rice crispy bars weeks ago but had never gotten around to making them.  I quickly grabbed the brown rice crispy cereal, natural style peanut butter, and honey and got to work.  Now I know that rice crispy bars don’t sound healthy, but it depends how you make them.  The recipe I use for rice crispy bars comes from the So Easy cookbook by Ellie Krieger and are marshmallow-free.  They taste just as good (if not better!) than regular rice crispy bars.  The honey sweetens them and the natural peanut butter even gives them a tiny bit of protein.  The brown rice cereal is better for you than the regular rice crispies.  The recipe also calls for dried cherries, but lacking these I threw in some raisins instead.  I quickly pressed the brown rice crispy/peanut butter/honey mix in the pan and – voila! – I was done.  The Husband had a supper and two lunches plus possible snacks for his overnight road trip!  It might not be the most exciting supper of his life, but at least it’s healthy and filling and there is even a rice crispy bar for dessert! 

A Return to Posting

Yes, I do believe we’re settled in enough now that I can return to posting on occasion.  You’ve probably already noticed that the banner across the top has changed.  I wanted a new banner since we’re living in a new place.  I had originally intended to place a picture of Texas bluebonnets up there, but I haven’t been here long enough to see the bluebonnets.  Yes, there are plenty of pictures of bluebonnets on the internet, even some free ones, but I’d like to put one of my own photos up there.  So, I guess we’ll just have to wait until spring for that picture of bluebonnets.  In the meantime, I thought I’d use a picture of a couple of skeins from my stash.  I think the contrast of colors is nice, don’t you?

So, yes, we’re settling into our new home here in Texas.  The first couple of weeks were definitely on the warm side, but we have cooled down nicely in the last week or so.  The evenings are down right chilly!  (I will be able to wear my sweaters!)  Most of the boxes have either been broken down and put away or have been put in their permanent places.  We’ve done a lot of sorting since we moved into our new home.  We’ve discovered that we don’t need to hang onto as many things these days.  Several boxes of books have either been sold or donated to the local library.  Several boxes have also gone to Good Will.  Lots and lots of papers have been either shredded, trashed, or recycled.  It feels good to have gotten rid of unnecessary things and to have some room to breathe.  Of course, the craft room is as full as ever!  =)

In The Kitchen

Now that the house is basically put together, I’ve been back in the kitchen and cooking and baking again.  There for a while there were waaaay too many meals out or made from processed foods.  Blech.  So, I’ve already made a couple of loaves of Ezekiel bread, a batch of cookies (peanut butter cookies), and a German Chocolate cake for The Husband’s birthday.  There’s been plenty of cooking too.  Last week I cooked all of our meals, including those meals that The Husband took with him on his 2-night, 3-day, road trip (lunches and suppers)!  I wasn’t sure how much he’d appreciate that, but when he came home he said it had been nice not having to look for a restaurant and to be able to eat whenever he liked.  What he didn’t like was that some items got a bit soggy in the ice chest – especially the wheat wraps for a Waldorf Chicken Wraps (from So Easy by Ellie Krieger) and the romaine lettuce for the same wraps and a salad.  So we still have a few details to work out for him to pack his meals.  He also had with him some Curried Chicken Salad on a bed of lettuce from the same cookbook and Quinoa with Sundried Tomatoes from The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno.  Quinoa is my new favorite grain.  It apparently has the most protein out of all the grains – and it tastes great too!  =)  I had originally thought it didn’t taste good, but it turns out that you’re supposed to rinse it in warm water for a minute or so to rinse off a bitter coating that the grains naturally have.  Here’s a picture of The Husband’s and my lunch today.   It is Quinoa Tabbouleh from The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook.  Tabbouleh is usually made with bulgur, but the quinoa tastes just as good.  I think tabbouleh traditionally has more parsley in it than what I added.  The recipe doesn’t say how much parsley to add, so I just guessed and used most of one bunch of parsley from the grocery store.  It tastes great with the one bunch, plenty of parlsey flavor but not too overwhelming.  The dressing is lime juice, lemon juice, and soy sauce.  There are amounts listed in the cookbook, but I just kind of eyeballed it.  There are chunks of tomato and cucumber in the salad as well as edamame for some additional protein.  I’d definitely make this salad again.  It can be eaten either chilled or at room temperature, which is nice for The Husband while he’s on the road.

 

In The Garden

Okay, there isn’t actually a garden at my current home.  We decided to live in a complex for now while we look for a house to move to later and the complex doesn’t have garden plots for each home.  I asked for permission to create a small garden space and the landlord was incredibly kind and said yes.  So, this past weekend we went to a greenhouse and bought several small plants appropriate for fall planting here in Texas.  We also went to a typical big box hardware store and bought supplies to make a very small raised bed and the cutest little cold frame kit I’ve ever seen!  Oh, and of course we bought dirt as well.  The original plan had been to make sure that all the plants and materials were all organic, but, well, I wanted a garden immediately (that first freeze is coming fairly soon and I needed those plants established!) and the plants at the greenhouse looked healthy and I’m pretty sure the dirt, compost, and manure said they were organic.  There certainly weren’t any chemicals added to the dirt (like fertilizer).  And I’m not intending to spray my plants with anything.  So, I think we did good enough on this one, at least for now.  After much hauling of heavy material, moving things around, an hour of putting together the cold frame, and getting dirty up to the elbows, we have:  a raised and cold-framed garden!  It’s not the best picture, but you get the idea.  The frame around the raised bed is made of 8 cement blocks.  The cold frame is made of heavy-duty plastic and plexiglass.  We pushed up some dirt around the base to seal off where the frame meets the cement blocks and last night we could see moisture collecting in the frame, so it is apparently sufficiently sealed.  What, you may be asking, is planted in there?  Well, we have herbs including thyme, oregano, and two different kinds of parsley.  We also have some vegetables including Swiss chard, broccoli, and cauliflower.  The Swiss chard and broccoli should produce several times, but the cauliflower will only produce one time.  Once the cauliflower is done, I will probably plant a couple of lettuces in spring and then maybe a tomato plant once it gets warm enough to take the cold frame off.  We also got some catnip and rosemary plants and they are planted in pots and placed up front near the front door where they’ll get lots of sun and some heat bouncing off the driveway and brick wall of the garage.  Now all I have to do is sit back, watch the weather for frost and freeze warnings, water, watch my plants grow and wait for the first harvests!

Swiss chard in my garden


Changes

Things have been really busy here at our place.  The house is turned upside down and inside out and we all, pets included, are feeling the stress of living in chaos.  I’ve knit a ton of socks simply to deal with the stress (wink, wink).  Why are things so crazy here?  We’re moving!  And I don’t just mean a little move from one side of town to the other.  Oh no, we’re doing one of those really big moves where you put everything you own in a big truck and drive through several states to get to a new home.  Sigh.  I thought we were done with those moves.  Ah well.  At least this move is taking me closer to family!

So, what does this mean?  Well, I’ll probably not be blogging very regularly for a while as we will be very busy with packing, moving, unpacking, etc.  Also, we’re moving someplace that does not have gardening options, so no gardening for at least the next year.  We chose to move into a temporary apartment so we’d have some time to get used to living in the new city (and state!), determine where we needed to be for jobs and family, and where we want to be in terms of a more permanent home.  The new place has neither a garden space nor a yard for the dogs.  These are both things that we will really miss, but I think it will be worth giving up temporarily so that we have the time to find the “perfect” place to live.  Personally, I’m crossing my fingers for a house out in the country with room for a garden and some chickens!

I’d like to say good-bye to all the great friends I’ve made while living here in Utah.  In particular, I’ll miss my knitting and spinning friends from the guilds and those I met in the local yarn shops.  I’ll really miss those great local yarn shops too!  =)   We’ve really enjoyed living here in Utah and certainly enjoyed the beauty of our surroundings.   Last Saturday we packed a lunch and drove up the Big Cottonwood and had our lunch by the mountain stream.  It was cool and the sound of the stream was such a lovely backdrop to our lunch.  It was soooo beautiful!  Of course, we forgot our cameras and binoculars, again.  We could have kicked ourselves for forgetting them.  I’m hoping to take another trip up, this time taking them along so I’ll have some pictures, maybe a video and sound file, to help remember one of our favorite places here.  Take care Utah!  Hopefully, we’ll be back for a visit soon!

Summer Report

Summer is almost done, so I thought it might be time to look at some of this summer’s projects.  There might also have been a few hints from friends and family that my blog has been eerily quiet.  =)  So, time to get back to posting what’s been going on in my everyday life.

Spinning

Spinning has been on my mind a lot lately, so I guess I’ll start with that.  Tour de France was this past month and those in the fiber world know what that means – Tour de Fleece!!  Basically, the Tour de Fleece is the spinner’s version of the Knitting Olympics.  Every day that the bikers cycle their way around France, those of us who spin – well, spin!  I was a member of two teams this year – Team Sasquatch (where people who listen to certain podcasts join together and form a spinning team) and Team Raw Power (a team made up of those who enjoy working with raw fleece and wanted to incorporate that into the Tour).  So, my goal for Team Sasquatch was to simply spin for at least 30 minutes every day.  My goal for Team Raw Power was to start with a pound of fleece and process it and spin it.  There was some discussion about starting with dirty fleece, but due to some of the team members living in very humid conditions where it can take a week for fleece to dry, it was decided that the fleece could be washed before the Tour started.  Here is the pound of some lovely Cormo wool that I decided to tackle for this Tour.  It was a lovely mocha brown, but the staple length was about an inch (unstretched) so I had been spending a lot of time trying to figure out the best method of processing the fleece.  I finally decided that simple carding made the most sense since getting the short staples onto my large combs would have been a bit more of a challenge than I was prepared for.  In the end, I did try combing about an ounce of the fiber.  I loved how that skein turned out, but it really was just too much work for the amount of time I had.  The rest of the pound (minus 2 ounces, more on that later) I carded on my carder.  As for the final 2 ounces of the wool, well, that got carded with some lovely silver gray angora I purchased while at the Snake River Fiber Fair!  The picture to the left is of my drum carder.  The picture below is of the wool batts I made on the carder.  The round piles of wool are rovings I made after combing the wool.  These were all spun up into 2-ply yarns.  The combed fiber turned into a finer yarn (maybe DK weight) and the rest were spun into a heavier yarn (probably a heavy worsted weight yarn).  All yarns were spun with a long draw, or woolen.  The darker skein that you see in the middle is an extra skein I spun during the Tour of a blend of alpaca, wool, cotton, and some other fibers (lost the band) that had been sitting around since October.  I had already spun 2 ounces, so I figured it was past time to finish up the last 2 ounces.  That particular skein is destined to be knit into some lovely, warm, and incredibly soft gloves!

Knitting

Speaking of knitting …. I have been doing quite a bit of knitting this summer.  I started knitting a shawl in spring for a knit-a-long that was themed around The Fellowship of the Ring.  The first pattern in the series was a mystery knit-a-long in which one section of the pattern is released every 2 weeks or so.  The pattern was the Evenstar Shawl (designer’s blog here) and I posted a picture of the gauge swatch probably back in March.  There’s a picture of the finished shawl as it is blocking below.  I know you can’t see much detail from here, but you can kind of get an idea of how huge it is!  I’ll post a better picture of it later (when I can convince someone to model it for me!). 

Today’s Project

Finally, here’s what I’m working on today – fleece.  I got two Shetland fleeces from a lovely shepherd out in Oregon (there farm here).  These are some of the loveliest fleeces I’ve ever seen!  One was a white with bits of gray fleece and the other was a mostly gray fleece.

Here are pictures of the process of sorting and dividing the fleece into manageable pieces, soaking, and drying.  After the fleece has dried, I’ll be pulling out my carder again and processing the fleece with that.  

Our poodle, Bailey, is helping, with picking over the fleece and dividing it up, as you can see below!   

Okay, so maybe Bailey isn’t really helping so much as sunbathing!

The next picture is of the fleece soaking in the utility sink.

And, finally, there is a picture of the fleece drying on two old window screens that I found under our deck. 

I hope you all are having a wonderful summer!

Several weeks ago I told you all about my spinning guild’s challenge to do something creative with an ounce of wool.  I promised that, once the challenge was done, I’d post about the process.  Well, the spinning guild met last week to share about the challenge and to return the finished project to the person from whom we had gotten the wool.  I made sure to journal during the process, so I think I’ll just post some journal entries and photos that I took of the project along the way.  Enjoy!

April 25, 2010:

Received 1 ounce of white alpaca for my creativity challenge.  Oh boy.  This is not good since I’m not the most creative or artistic person in the world.  I could, I suppose just spin a very fine single and knit a small scarf and call it good, but this somehow feels like me chickening out.  It’s safe for me to spin and knit something, but jumping into the pool and going for something artistic or different?  Now that’s a challenge.  Time to look through my spinning books for inspiration.

Later:

I was looking through the book Intertwined by Lexi Boeger and was inspired by a picture of a sea anemone.  It was white, dark to pale pink, with hints of yellow and green.  I decided I wanted to use that color palette and to let the sea anemone/sea theme inspire me.  Oddly, this photo also reminded me of Japan, maybe cherry blossoms?  So maybe I could include some Japanese ephemera in the piece.  Later in the book, there was a technique involving spinning coils around a wire core.  Cool!  I then had the idea of what the finished project might be:  a coil bowl, maybe a sort of jar with lid, in the colors of the sea anemone.  It might be something interesting to put on a dresser and hold jewelry, change, tickets from a night out, whatever.  So, the next step is to start dyeing the fiber.

April 28, 2010:

I’ve gone through my dyes and picked out the color that most closely matches those I saw in the photo of the sea anemone.  I’ve also calculated the amounts of dye needed to make a pale shade, a medium shade, and a dark shade of the pink.  Just need to get a bucket to pre-soak the fiber in Synthrapol.

May 2, 2010:

Dyeing day!  I wound the fiber into a circle of about a 2-foot diameter and tied it to help it stay together and soaked it in a solution of Synthrapol, water, and citric acid for 30 minutes.  I then placed it on plastic wrap and painted the fiber using a sponge brush with the pale, medium, and dark shades of pink and left some white.  After I made sure that the dye had soaked in, I wrapped the fiber in the plastic wrap and put it in an electric roaster with some water in it at a temperature of around 250. I left it in there for about 40 minutes or so.  This helps set the dye.  I took the fiber out of the electric roaster and let it sit in the sink to cool down overnight.

May 3, 2010:

Soaked fiber in room temperature water for 20 minutes.  I didn’t see any extra dye in the water.   Squeezed out extra moisture and draped on a drying rack to dry.  This is a really fine roving, so it shouldn’t take long to dry.

May 4, 2010:

Spun up the fiber today.  I spun it semi-woolen and left thick and thin spots.  Also, left a bit of the alpaca undyed and unspun to be available for additions.

May 6, 2010:

I plied my single with a copper-colored thread today.  I also plied in some strips of green and dark pink fabric.  I’ll leave other bits to spin in when I’m coiling it around the wire.  I’m still not 100% sure how this will turn out, but I’m just going with it.  The plying of the fabric didn’t go well.  The fabric was too stiff to ply in easily.  I may have to fiddle with that later.  Also, the fabric didn’t feed through the hooks on my wheel very well and kept getting caught on things.  ARgh!  Frustrating.  Need to get wire from craft store.  Wonder what gauge to get? 

Maybe 11, 2010:

I spun the yarn onto the coil yesterday, lots of difficulties.  The wire (it came on a spool) gave me all sorts of fits.  It sprung off the spool and acted like a slinky toy.  Then, as I spun, it got all twisted up and started tangling itself up and tried to tangle the yarn in the mess too.  I finally had to cut the wire in order to untwist it.  It was easier to control after that.  So, I kept measuring off 5 feet or so and work with it that way.  Of course, it flew all over the place as I spun.  Luckily, there were no injuries!  I ran out of wire though, so will need to get more.  Will also try to figure out a way to control the wire better.  Oh, I’ve also decided that the thick and thin nature of the yarn isn’t ideal for a coil pot.  So, scrap that idea.  Maybe I’ll try knitting it into a scarf shape and then it can be a piece of wall art.  The needles could be left in as a way to hang it.  Interesting shaping of the wire could add some interest too.

May 12, 2010:

I finally got to the craft store for more wire.  I think I forgot to mention what gauge I ended up with (at the advice of a craft store person):  24 gauge.  It’s most typically used for beading.  Hope it works.  This time I wound the wire around a paddle of cardboard and held it in place with a rubber band.  This worked much better.  It could spin as it needed to without flying around and hitting me in the face.  So, it’s all spun up now.  Just need to set the twist in hot water for a few minutes and let it dry.  Then – what will it be?

May 15, 2010:

Frustration, again!  The gauge of the wire is too stiff to let me knit it or intricately shape it in any way!  It just keeps bouncing out of control and wildly waving around.  ARgh!    Must put away until temper is under control (stuffs project on shelf on buffet).

May 16, 2010:

Enlightenment has arrived.  The project does not want to be anything other than what it was always meant to represent/be:  a representation of a sea anemone!  It’s shape is full of movement and curves all on its own without me trying to force my will upon it.  So, it shall remain in its current shape and I’ll just tame it a bit by hanking it up and putting some ties on it so it doesn’t take up as much room while I’m trying to get it to the spinning guild meeting.  I think it would look nice as wall art or a center piece or maybe just a piece on a dresser that one can hang jewelry on.  In the end, I decided to leave off the Japanese ephemera and let it be the sea creature it wants to be.

The Garden

You know when you read a book or see a movie and it sticks with you for days?  I recently had that experience with a documentary entitled “The Garden.” The film opens with views of South Central Los Angeles.  You can see the skyline, the buildings, cement everywhere.  Then, in the middle of the monochromatic grays, a sudden burst of verdant green.   In a previous life, this 14-acre plot of green was the scene of the Rodney King trial riots.  After the riots, and billions of dollars of damage, those 14 acres were left to sit.  Some bulldozing was done, but the site was definitely not fertile or garden-ready.  In July 1994, the land was sold to a private, not-for-profit, food-distribution network to use the land as a community garden.  This community garden eventually became South Central Farm.  The idea was that a low-income family could receive a plot of land on which to garden and provide food for themselves.  The South Central Farmers cleaned up what was left behind by the bulldozers, brought in soil to cover the cement and packed dirt, and began to plant.  On a land once rife with violence and destruction, a garden was grown.  Then, in 2001, the ownership of the land came into question and the South Central Farmers were threatened with eviction.  The film is charged with racial tension (most of the farmers appeared to be of Latin American descent), political corruption, and the South Central Farmers organizing to fight for their rights.   As these farmers struggled for the right to remain on the land, and later to outright buy the land from the owner, I kept hoping for justice to prevail.  Unfortunately, greed and prejudice was the order of the day.  Even though enough money was raised to meet the owner’s asking price, the owner then refused to sell to the South Central Farmers, who then had to watch as their gardens were bulldozed in front of their eyes.  At the end of the film, several years after the conflict, the land was bare of all green and no buildings had been built – it was an empty and unused plot of land.  This film really makes one think about individual rights versus the rights of a community, greed, corruption, and racism.  It made me wonder what kind of person refuses to allow people to garden on an otherwise unused plot of land in order to feed themselves.  This documentary was gripping and I can easily understand why it was an Oscar nominee.  I give it 2 thumbs up and highly recommend giving it a try.