Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Spiced Cocoa Wristwamers

Right before we headed out of town for our trip up north, I had the realization that I didn't have a knitting project ready to go. I scrambled to match stash yarn to a pattern and came up with the Spiced Cocoa mitts (or are they wristwarmers? maybe fingerless gloves? wristers? who knows?!).

I was drawn to the pattern because of the great diagonal line and how the sections of different stitches all fit together so smartly.

Other reasons to make these included the fact that my other wristwarmers are getting a bit worn and the chilly morning bike commutes are much more pleasant when I am wearing wristwarmers.

photo credit to Paul
The yarn was purchased for a steal ($2.50/ball) at the Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival in 2014. One set of wristwarmers used just one ball of Galler Yarns Tweedy Pima.

photo credit (and pose suggestion) to Paul
The only modification I made was to lengthen the thumb by a few more rows. In retrospect, I could have lengthened it a bit more and still found them to be functional.

When I was taking pictures in the backyard, Uli kept trying to get in on the action. So, I let him. Lest you think puppies are always cuddly, I give you this evidence to the contrary. Photo also evidence that his puppy teeth have fallen out and his large and in charge adult teeth are coming in!

photo credit to Paul
Ravelry link to my project

Monday, June 8, 2015

Bibs for Baby Ryan

My friend Sarah recently gave birth to a baby boy. Ryan came a little bit early so I ended up getting this gift to her just barely in time. Sarah's last baby was a fall/winter baby so I knit her a sweater. This time, since her due date meant a summer baby, I went with a set of sewn baby bibs.

I followed the baby bib pattern from Bend-the-Rules Sewing by Amy Karol.

The front is a cotton quilting fabric and the backing is a cotton flannel. Plus: snaps! This was the first time I have used snaps so I had to get a snap setter. It requires the use of a hammer and was really satisfying to use! Now I want to make more things with snaps!

Welcome to the world, Baby Ryan!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Up North With Uli

At the end of May, we took Uli on his first trip to Wisconsin to visit family. He has experienced backyard time without a leash and a leash-free dog park, but never before had he experienced acres of land to explore.

We haven't trained him on any hunting skills, but pointing comes naturally to a Pointer.

We took multiple walks around the woods, letting him explore and training him to stay within sight of us. This involves a lot of calling him back, praising him, giving him a treat and then letting him take off again. He did really well! Recall is SO SO SO important, so we were really encouraged by how great he did.

The ferns were unfurling and the lady slipper orchids were blooming.

Uli ran...

 and ran...

 and ran...

until he couldn't run any more!

Puppy life is grand.

On this trip, we visited my dad's house and my Grandma/Aunt's house. They all have chickens and one house had ducks.

Uli's interpretation:
a few day old chicks = super scary and intimidating
a flock with a rooster = SO INTERESTING! MUST INVESTIGATE!
ducks = tasty poop

My Grandma and Aunt live on a lake. This was Uli's first time at a lake. He nearly ran off the dock before his brain computed that water is not the same as ground.

He explored a little, but didn't go in.

By all accounts, he got passing marks on this visit and is welcomed back!

Oh! And! I don't have a picture, but I have to share this anecdote from the trip. We usually stop at the Burnett Dairy Cooperative on the drive up for a snack and a bathroom break. They have a new dog exercise area there, so right after we parked, we headed straight to it with Uli. His bladder must have been really full, which will be important in a minute. As soon as he got to the grass, another dog came charging over to him. As he usually does, he went down to the ground and flipped over on his back to show submission to the dog that was charging him. Well. Remember that full bladder? It must have been too much to hold in because he let a nice, strong stream of urine out and it happened to be perfectly aimed at the other dog's face. Ah! We got him standing up as quickly as we could but visions of that scene kept popping into our minds and giving us a good laugh for the rest of the drive.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Who Rules the Roost

Our ladies made it through the winter! The winter sure is boring for chickens. They spend time in the run when the weather is warm enough and make occasional trips out into the snow-covered yard, but when there isn't anything green to eat, life as a chicken is not fulfilling. They spend lots and lots of time eating, pooping and scratching around inside the coop. Thankfully, spring is now here!

They get let out into the yard at least once, if not twice, a day to roam free and fill their bellies with bugs, grass, weeds and dirt/grit.

Camilla hasn't changed one bit. She is still the most curious, engaging and food driven of the flock. She is also the smallest, lowest on the pecking order within the flock yet bravest in running Uli off. In short, she is awesome. I suspect she might be the smartest of the flock as well, as she realizes where the scratch treats come from and makes attempts to help herself.

And, Petunia, oh Petunia. Over the winter, our flock developed a little bit of an issue. Nellie and Camilla's butts got a little poopy and it pulled out some of their tail feathers. Then, since they had naked patches on their bums, someone (not naming names) thought it was a good idea to peck at their skin and pull out any feathers that might try to grow in. Someone did that. And then someone got a set of pinless peepers.

Pinless peepers are annoying to the chicken but not harmful. There are little plastic pegs that go into their nostrils to hold them in place and blinders to make it harder to go after what is right in front of you.

She can still eat and move around fine, but the pinless peepers did seem to knock her down a notch or two in the pecking order. She is still on top, but not so dramatically so. The process of putting them on her did nothing to grow her trust in us. In her eyes, we are to be avoided if possible. Exceptions are made when we offer really appetizing treats.

It seems to be working, though, since the other 2 are slowly regrowing their feathers. You can see a peak of Camilla's naked bum in the photo below.

You know what is hard to do? Take pictures of chickens that are foraging. Especially chickens who know you are the bringer of good stuff to eat. You might get one photo like this:

But, your next photo would look like this as the chicken charges towards you:

The chickens are just over a year old now and are experiencing their 2nd summer in the backyard. However, this year, things are not the same. There is a whole new dynamic: Uli. Uli is a German Shorthaired Pointer, which is a sporting breed meant for bird hunting. We knew this when we got him, but we were hoping we could train him to accept OUR birds as family and not prey. It seems to be going pretty well. He spends a lot of time hanging out with them when they are in their run.

The chickens free roaming time does not usually overlap with Uli's outside time. When Uli naps inside, the chickens come out to play. When Uli is outside, the chickens chill out in their run. It works pretty well but takes a bit of extra juggling and attention from us to rotate them. And occasionally, there is an overlap. Like this one:

photo credit to Paul
 Paul let Uli out and went out with him to make sure nobody got hurt. Our bird hunting dog was promptly corralled under the deck but our brave little Camilla!

It doesn't always go that way, though. Uli has brave moments where he runs at them and they flap their wings and squawk, which gets him even more excited. We are hoping that we can gradually work up to them all being out in the yard while we are nearby doing yard or garden work.

But, for now, they will take turns roaming the yard and hanging out on the back steps.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Strengths, Challenges, Instagram and Rope Baskets

It really is a balance, you know. In my life and I am sure in yours too, there never seems to be enough time to fit it all in so you have to prioritize your responsibilities and do what you can to sprinkle in the lighter stuff whenever possible. For me, that means that lately this space isn't getting quite as much attention from me. I have wanted to be here. I have wanted to take more photos with my big camera. I have missed creating a record of the all of the great things (and some of the challenging things) that happen in my days. 

As I get older, I have become more aware of how far I can push myself, of how much I can ask of myself. I have also become aware of what the consequences will be if and when I push too hard or pack too much in (Spoiler: I get sick and cranky). Time and time again, it has also been made clear to me how linked creativity (by this, I mean the act of creating something) is to my happiness, to my sense of balance and to what makes me feel like myself. 

A few years ago, I took a Strengthsfinder assessment at work that put a frame around parts of myself I had never really pinpointed but that are at the core of who I am. I am not usually one to put much stock in inventories or assessments but this one really hit home for me! This assessment identifies your top 5 themes/strengths. My themes were: Achiever, Learner, Input, Responsibility, and Individualization. I've linked to the full explanation but let me do a little synopsis of the most relevant parts of these themes.

Achiever - You measure yourself by what you accomplish every single day of your life. 
Learner - You are curious and have a strong desire to continually learn new things and skills.
Input - You like learning so much, you apparently had to get it on your list twice
Responsibility - You are only as good as your word. No excuses.
Individualization - You believe in individuals rather than generalizations and spend a lot of energy observing in attempts to understand each person. 

Since the Achiever theme was the real lightbulb one for me, let me share their full explanation:
Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by "every day" you mean every single day -- workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you. As an Achiever you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. It is the theme that keeps you moving. 
Does this come across braggy? That is not my intention. What I am trying to say here is that my head is FULL to bursting with to do lists and projects and obligations nearly all of my waking hours. A little snippet from inside my head for you: I need to make sure I email that person that I said I would and do we have enough toilet paper and it really would be great to learn how to weld someday and I wonder if I forgot to do anything that I said I would get done at work today and wow there sure are a lot of weeds in the garden I can't believe I let it get that bad and it has been way too long since I have gotten together with them did I say I would host next and shouldn't I be making my own yogurt instead of buying it since I know how and it isn't too hard to do and by the way I had better write up that list of things to make for Christmas gifts so I am sure to get it done on time and I wonder what she meant when she said that and this article looks interesting and I should learn more about beekeeping and I really wish I was farther along with that dress because I am excited to wear it....and on and on and on. My brain works really hard to make sure I get a lot done and don't drop any balls in the process. It is really helpful but also demanding. Sometimes you just need a little peace and quiet, you know? I have literally told my own brain to SHUT IT! Thankfully, it is able to obey if the circumstances are right.

For someone who wants to learn, make and experience it all, it feels like there is a cost associated with choices. When you chose one road, there is another road not taken. This makes me a bit sad because it really would be great to feel like one person can do it all. But, well, that is just not possible. On the other hand, you can choose to focus on the joys of what you do get to do! I try to train myself to think that way.

So, in that spirit, I am finding myself migrating towards a new balance when it comes to sharing images and tidbits from my life online. I have been finding that I can use my slivers of time left after I work and take care of my family, my house and myself to learn and make things (and try to relax!) or I can blog. And, well, the other stuff is winning out. That is, except for in one area.

Six months ago I joined Instagram on a whim while riding the bus home. I thought I was going to use it to be a lurker and follow a few people. But, since then, I have found it to be a quick, easy and fun way to send out a little contribution to the worldwide web. It ended up being a slow and gentle segue into sharing small snippets more often there and writing big posts less often here. Don't worry, I am not going to stop blogging, but I am really loving the ease and image-based community on Instagram. If you are on Instagram and want to connect, I am @TrinKnitty 

For those that might want to see what I am posting but not join yet another site, I added a little widget to my sidebar. The widget is a slideshow of my pictures. You can click on a picture to see the caption. I am currently only using my camera phone to take and post pictures there so my photography is limited, but you can't beat the ease and seamless nature of that setup.

I should mention, I don't use Twitter, so my social media sphere is pretty targeted (Facebook for friends and family, Goodreads for books, Pinterest for recipes, Ravelry for knitting projects, a Feedly full of favorite bloggers). One of the things that I am loving about Instagram is that it allows me to put my toes in a different stream of content. There are so many beautiful, inspiring, peaceful, exhilarating, clever images coming through my Instagram feed from people that I have no real life connection to. 

For example, a few weeks ago, it seemed that a ton of people from different parts of the country (maybe world?) got taken with the same bug: the rope basket bug. And, not surprisingly, it bit me, too! I made a trip to the hardware store to pick up two bundles of rope to give it a try, playing with the methods of starting it, the length of the stitches, the thread color ending strategies and handles.

True to form for an achiever/learner, after my 2 test baskets, I went back to the store and stocked up on ropes of varying size and thicknesses. These are addictive and satisfying to make and the variations are endless! I am having visions of a rug, placements, coasters, stacking bowls, tote bags with leather handles, painted rope, naturally dyed rope, thread color variations, wall hangings...and more! Why am I bothering to list them all out?! Just go check this guy's work out.

I want to end this post by saying that while this all might add up to sound like I am ditching the blog, I am not. What I am hoping to do is feel less responsible about it. It probably won't feel any different for you, but it makes a big difference to me. I want to feel less like I should blog and more like I can blog. From now on, I will pop in here when the mood strikes, time allows and I've got something to say. I won't feel the need to apologize for being away so long and you'll hopefully be happy to see me. Here's to irresponsible blogging and poor camera phone pictures! Hmm. Perhaps it is obvious that marketing is not one of my strengths!

PS If you want to try your hand at making a rope basket, I like this quick tutorial.

PPS In a bit of serendipity, my blog widget that tracks geographic stats crashed and the data for the entire history of this blog was lost. A fitting time to wipe the slate clean, I guess. You might also notice that I reduced the content on the sidebar. The functionality of the blog lists has long been lackluster, so I nixed it. Let me know if there was anyone there you want to still read but can't find them now that I pulled the links. I'd be happy to point you in their direction.

PPPS Thanks for spending some of your precious time reading my words and giving me a place in your life whether we know each other in person or not. I value your presence.
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