Monday, April 14, 2014

Lamb's Lace Cardigan

I am happier about this sweater than I look. I can wear it!  It fits!  It is made of Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton and is so soft I have to hold myself back from caressing it in public!

The flow of lace and the raglan shaping is impeccably arranged in the Lamb's Lace Cardi pattern.  Way to go, Christina Wall!

The pattern directions were broken up into numerous small charts for each section, which ended up prompting me to bust out the scissors and tape.  I consolidated and reordered the charts to house them on single pages.  After doing that, I flew through the knitting!  It took me 2 weeks of casual knitting time to finish this garment.  Quite a treat after the experience I had with a recent troublesome sweater.

For the moment, I am using one of the removable buttons I have from Jul Designs.  I like it because I can change it out if I want a different color.  That option makes this layering piece even more versatile!

I chose a neutral color yarn so that I could pair this with a wide variety of tops, tanks, tees and dresses.  I kind of want to start another one right away!

Thanks to Paul for the pictures.

Ravelry project link here

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Flannel and Felt Pillowcases

I made these down throw pillows a long, long time ago by breaking apart a really old down bed pillow.  Paul is allergic to down, so we didn't bother moving them to the east coast with us.  They've been stored at my mom's house for years.  I recently got them back and intended to use them in my craft/guest room.  But, first they needed covers!

I purchased cotton flannel and wool felt and set about making some covers.  I played around for a while with different shapes and layers of felt.

I had a lot of help.

A lot.
Too much, maybe.

Definitely more than the project required.

In the end, I opted for a super simple design with a back slit that allows the cover to be taken off for washing.

I settled on some poppy-like flowers for the front.  It was fun to sew something that didn't require a pattern or following someone else's directions.

(Note the cat ear in the bottom right of this last photo.  She was really into the project.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shoots, Sprouts and Microgreens

Thanks to the Winter Seminar Series at Mother Earth Gardens and the hardworking and humorous Karla and Elizabeth from Bossy Acres, Jamie and I learned how to grow shoots, sprouts and microgreens!

What are microgreens?  They are the first few inches of plant growth.  Why eat them?  They are super flavorful, nutrient dense AND something you can grow inside in the winter! Oh, and they are cute.  So, so cute.

a sampling of microgreens

Pea shoots!  You let these grow a little taller than microgreens, but the process and the concept is the same.  You harvest the plant before it gets too mature and you get a whole bunch of flavor.

Karle was our main teacher for the evening and shared a ton of expertise in the short seminar.

Elizabeth was the Jill-of-all-tasks that evening and showed us how to harvest using the "haircut" method and provided us with all of the delicious samples that could make any gardener a devotee to microgreens.

Sunflowers sprouts! The texture of these sprouts is really satisfying.  Even though they are called sprouts, they are grown in soil, which is different than how most alfalfa and other sprouts are grown.

The sprouts and green are grown really densely in a small amount of soil which cause root mats to form in the soil.  That means you are getting the most you can out of your soil.

So, naturally, I had to try it myself!  Getting started with the seeds, planted really densely.

After 3-4 days of dark, moist sprouting time:

After a few days under the grow lights, they are growing!

As you can see, this is very interesting to Fanny.  Luckily she has kept her curiosity from causing any damage.  She is keeping close watch, but hasn't tried to dig or lay on the greens.  Let's hope she keeps up the good behavior!

In a few more days, I should be ready to harvest!  This has been a fun prelude to the gardening season.  I am also toying with starting some seeds this year, since Paul and I attended a seed starting seminar and learned some of the things we need to change from our previous attempts to have more success the next time around.  Thanks for having such awesome (free!) seminars, Mother Earth Gardens!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Aquamarina Remix Pullover

It is quite possible I have been housing a batch of yarn that carried a curse.  Or, maybe I just made a series of bad choices.  I guess you can be the judge of that.

In 2012, I bought a sweater's worth of Berroco Remix and started Terra Linda.  My gauge seemed to be a pretty decent match in my swatch, but when I knit the sweater the yoke was WAY too deep.  I stubbornly knit the entire body of the sweater.  I blocked it before starting the arms and decided then that it wasn't going to work out.  So, I ripped it out and re-knit most of the body with a smaller needle.  Same problem.  The yoke still looked comically large.  Perhaps the row gauge was the issue?  I can't remember if I checked that.  In the end, I ripped it out and let the yarn sit for a while.

In 2013, I saw the Madigan pattern and decided this was my chance for a mulligan with this yarn. Poor choice, Trinity!  I knit the huge cowl neck and just past the divide for the arms.  I tried it on and decided it would be too heavy and drape too much.  Rip, rip, rip again. I should have seen that one coming.

Towards the end of 2013, I gave it another go with the carefully chosen Aquamarina. I did some serious swatching and decided this was the one that was going to work out. All was going swimmingly until my test results came back and the doctor told me to refrain from wearing, eating, or touching anything that might have red dye in it. She shared that with me while I was wearing a red shirt and working on this sweater in her office.  Gulp.  So, I took a hiatus from the sweater for about 4-5 months.

I recently came back to it, determined to finish it.  I did not want to be defeated!  And, now it's done (sort of)!

I didn't end up liking the way the turtleneck would look/feel/sit so I altered the pattern a bit and broke the collar up by knitting a twisted rib, flat collar. I had actually planned to add a crochet edge with buttonholes and buttons so that it could be a turtleneck if/when the wearer wanted that.  I imagined it would look something like the Grey Havens collar.  But, then I got done with the knitting and just did NOT want to work with this yarn any more.

I am pretty happy with the sweater in terms of the fit and the look.  I still think this yarn might be cursed.  After all of the hours invested in working with this yarn, I still don't think I will be wearing the sweater. The fiber blend is part synthetic, which means the sweater has 2 strikes against it in terms of wear-ability for me right now: the reddish color and the synthetic fiber.  I will let it linger a bit longer, but think this is likely to be gifted to a loved one in the future.

I guess you could say I got my money's worth out of this yarn since I knit it over and over and over again!

Ravelry link here

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Water Filtering with Activated Charcoal

Thanks for bearing with me while I let the Tchazo post sit front and center on the blog for a while. As we gain more distance from the loss, we are finding our new normal in our much quieter house. I have been doing a lot of cleaning and in doing so I have come to realize that cleaning is my form of burning sage. I went on a cleaning jag when we lost Jack, too and it really seemed to help me. There is something about a good deep clean that resets things and eases transitions for me. Thanks to those who shared words of supports on the post, on facebook, and in real life and to those that kept us in their thoughts. It was a comfort to have our loss recognized and to know that others understand that pets are family members, too. Now, let's shift the focus to something life sustaining, like water!

When I was evaluating what I needed to change after my allergy testing results, I started to research our city water. I found out that as far as municipal water goes, Minneapolis does a great job. There is even a local organization promoting tap water over bottles water, which I totally support. However, I also found out that to meet regulations, the city has to treat the water with chloramines. (I called the treatment center and spoke to a staff person there to verify.) For the ultra-sensitive like myself, this could pose a problem.

After I found that information out, I began to research filtration options that would not introduce other risks/exposures and that had a low cost of entry.  I settled on activated charcoal/carbon as a option that would be easy to implement and well supported in studies (this is what many filters like Britta are made out of).  Sadly, I could not find a way to filter shower water without plastic being involved, so I settled on the simplest activated charcoal filter I could find.  For drinking water, I was able to find an exciting option: Kishu charcoal!  It is a pleasingly minimalist solution:      

In the package I ordered, I got 3 sticks.  I opted for using the smallest one in a drinking glass on my bedside stand, the middle sized one in a small pitcher on the dining table and the largest in a pitcher in the kitchen.

I refresh them every few weeks in boiling water and will eventually need to buy another round after a few months.  But, when that time comes, I can use the sticks in the garden or as a deodorizer in the fridge. Win-win!

As for the taste of the water, it could be a placebo effect, but I love it!  I think it tastes really good! Plus, having a pitcher of room temperature water in plain site has meant I drink more water and that the water I am drinking is at a temperature my acupuncturist would approve of.

In the research I did, I read what the Environmental Protection Agency had to say about links between chloramine and skin issues.  If you would like to read it yourself, it can be found here and here.  You don't have to read it, though, because I can sum it up for you.  This is what I took from it, "We haven't done much research.  Skin issues are complicated.  That said, we haven't been able to prove chloramines are a problem so we are going to assume they are safe."  Well, EPA, you are right that skin issues are complicated, but I am going to make the opposite assumption.  I am going to assume the less chemicals I drink and shower in the better off I will be.  So, I am going with the filters for now.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tchazo and the 33%

About this time 12 years ago, this guy I was dating met me after work for happy hour.  He showed up with a big smile and said, “I bought a puppy today!”  On our very first date just about a month earlier, we had talked about our mutual desire to become dog owners.  It was one of the many things I liked about him. I suspect that conversation nudged us both forward in our plans, because this pronouncement of his came at about the same time I found Jack on Petfinder.  We were both 23 years old and just starting to realize the world of opportunities and choices that were before us. Fast forward to yesterday and you find my husband and I saying a tearful goodbye to that puppy. What a hard day it was, but what a wonderful job that puppy did of embracing what the world has to offer.

polaroid taken right before getting in the car to take him home, Minnesota, 2002
It seems that Tchazo was meant to be Paul’s dog since he was the only unclaimed puppy (the runt!) from the litter by the time Paul found the breeder. AND, when Paul showed up to meet the litter it was Tchazo who came right over to him and started playing tug of war with his scarf.  I am pretty sure that was the moment of no return for Paul. They were bonded instantly.  It took all of Paul’s willpower to leave him there for the few more weeks he needed before being weaned.  I very much remember the drive out to rural Minnesota when we went to get Tchazo and bring him home. Paul held him the whole way home and kept saying, “I have a puppy!  I can’t believe he is mine!”  There was no doubt in my mind that Tchazo lived his life knowing he belonged.  He was loved by pretty much everyone that has met him and, most of all, by Paul.  There was no holding back when it came to the love between those two.

photo by unknown photographer at family party, Minnesota, 2002

Dog park, Minnesota, 2003
Since Tchazo’s birth and the birth of my relationship with Paul happened at the same time, it means that for a third of my life I have called both of them my family.  Tchazo’s life has been woven with ours from the very start of “us.” We have grown so very close and shared so many experiences together over the past years. 

photo by Sally, Minnesota, 2003

Rock adventures, Massachusetts (or possibly New Hampshire), 2004

First time in the ocean, Massachusetts (or possibly New Hampshire), 2004

Our apartment in Somerville, Massachusetts, 2005

Acadia, Maine, 2008

Dog Park, Massachusetts, 2008

White Mountains, New Hampshire, 2008

At my dad's, Wisconsin, 2009

Respecting the garden "fence", Minnesota, 2010

Whitewater State Park, Minnesota, 2010

Great River Bluffs, Minnesota, 2011

Christmas, Minnesota, 2012

At my dad's, Wisconsin, 2013
We were lucky to have him for twelve years.  He staved off death numerous times, most recently with the poisonous spider bite and the crisis during our camping trip. There were a few more close calls before that, too.  Like the time when he was a young dog and decided to test his independence.  He did so by taking advantage of a leash free moment in order to run across a busy 4-lane road and then back across it again with Paul too far behind to catch him.  Or that time he was attacked by 2 dogs at a dog park and had to have a gaping throat wound stitched closed.  In the end, the thing he couldn't escape was old age. 

Sunday morning at home, March 16, 2014
His health these past 2 years has been impacted by a neurological illness that primarily presented itself in the form of ataxia.  He was a champ, figuring out new ways to control his body and tolerating the oral steroid that was needed to keep his symptoms minimized. We were really grateful that the medicine lessened his symptoms and that we got to share his life for a little bit longer. His body grew old in those 2 years but his spirit remained young.  Twelve years is a good, long run for a Weimaraner. 

sunbathing at home on his last morning, March 28, 2014
This week, he showed us signs that his system was shutting down.  We were able to spend the past 2 days steeping him in love and keeping him comfortable.  We had a small amount of hope that he would rebound, but in the end, his body was just too diminished.  He wasn't able to move on his own and it hurt him to be carried, so we were immensely grateful that we could call on MN Pets and have them perform euthanasia services at our home.  Dr. Helen was wonderful with Tchazo and the experience was calm, respectful and peaceful for all involved.  Don’t get me wrong, Paul and I were doing a lot of ugly crying, but Tchazo got the best of care and stayed calm throughout.

I am happy to say Tchazo’s life was a full one.  It was great to watch the example that he set in his approach to everything: staying positive (never being nasty or aggressive), keeping away from power struggles (he didn't engage in pack politics), soaking up the good stuff (the joys of affection,exercise, smells and sunbeams were always relished), giving it your all (with a little encouragement we could get him to do anything) and so much more.  Our loss is significant, but I am taking solace in knowing that we have no regrets about his life.  He did it up right.

Tchazo, April 19, 2002 to March 28, 2014
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