Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Glass Garden Resin Class

Northfield, Minnesota is home to a great bead store called Glass Garden Beads. They offer an impressive array of classes. When I visited last fall and checked the store out, I knew I was going to come back to take a class during their next session. I checked in with my long standing beading buddy Jamie to see which one she was interested in taking. We signed up for a resin pendant class that promised to teach us the basics as well as some alternatives to bezel pendants. I had the basics down already, but was interested in the alternatives.

We had an excellent teacher and, as luck would have it, the other students canceled. That meant Jamie and I had our own private class with teacher, Heather Lawrenz. We had fun hanging out with her and picking her brain about all things jewelry related. You should definitely check out the gorgeous jewelry on her site. I especially love her Fearless collection.

Since it was just us, we got to spread out and plan the few bezel pendants we got with the materials fee as well as some of those alternatives to pre-made pendants.

Jamie was a focused student. That girl was industrious and came prepared with many bottle caps for magnet-making purposes. Her little girl is quite smitten with magnets at the moment, so she will love them.

I was really interested in learning how to pound wire to create my own open frames. After giving it a try, I am not convinced I liked making them. I much prefer wire wrapping with my soft, sterling silver wire. That thick, hard wire was painful and frustrating to work with. The end result was a bit more "organic" then I would like.

This photo is for Adam, Jamie's husband. Since Jamie is pregnant and he is big on safety, we made sure to document Jamie's use of the mask around the resin. It is pretty low on the scale of nasty chemicals, but we honored the "safety first" motto anyway.

The thing about a class like this is that you can't take what you made home with you that same day. Our goodies are at the store drying/curing for a bit before we can have them for keeps. A few of the things Jamie made are in the photo above and mine are in the photo below. We have tape around the pendants that have no backs to hold the resin in.

I also tried using a mini ice cube tray as a mold for creating some beads with dried flowers. I'm excited to see how those turned out and to try my hand at drilling holes in them.

And, as with the last time I visited the store, I was taken by the kumihimo technique. A few of the shop samples are pictured below. I ended up buying the supplies and am working on teaching myself how to make these Japanese braided "ropes." It is quite repetitive, much like knitting, so of course I am loving it.

I got a look at their next round of classes and there are already more I want to take! With all of these classes to take, how am I possibly going to have to time put these new skills to work?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

MPLS Swappers' Inaugural Swap

This is about to be the photo heaviest post I have put up in a long time. You have to see this to believe it. Paul, Jamie and I participated in the first of the MPLS Swappers events this weekend. For those not familiar with the Swappers concept, the MPLS chapter gives this explanation:
MPLS Swappers is a Minneapolis larder swap and social gathering. We trade food we made/foraged/grew ourselves, share knowledge, and have fun!
and puts forth this mission:
Share in amazing homemade food, help build community and empower others to turn their home food production from a hobby to a habit.
The event did exactly that for us! We shared amazing food, got inspiration for new things to make and spent the afternoon with fun foodie people in our community. It was so much fun to swap. We enjoyed sharing our creations with others and getting to leave with an assortment of goodies, all without taking out my debit card.

I brought: 2 bags of dried wild oyster mushrooms, 4 containers of frozen walnut pesto, 2 jars of low-sugar raspberry preserves and 4 jars of chai concentrate. Paul brought 5 jars of his pickles.

Jamie brought pickled pineapple, pickled ginger, roasted vegetable tapenade, and catnip cat toys.

After everyone got set up, our hostess Kim gave us the rundown on the swap format. First, we browsed and sampled the goods up for swapping, met our fellow swappers and ate from the potluck snack table.

The next phase was to write your name and what you wanted to swap on the tags for your desired goods.

Lastly, we swapped! It was a good format, but as is unavoidable with this kind of event, the swapping part was a bit chaotic. I think (and hope) that everyone felt good about the trading. There were some instances where people had to turn down offers due to personal tastes or dietary restrictions, so I hope nobody took it personally.

Here are some shots from the bounty of awesome goods.

Meyer Lemon Limoncello, Pistachio Pesto, Lactose Fermented Bread and Butter Pickles, Strawberry Sauce with Balsamic Vinegar

Some backyard eggs. Surprisingly, these were the only eggs present.

Blood orange marmalade and spicy Guinness mustard were late arrivals and quite popular.

Mixed spices, pickled nasturtium seeds, buckwheat granola

Lavender infused honey and 3 pepper jelly

There was so much more than I am showing you here. There were at least 30 swappers, most of whom brought multiple offerings. I was especially impressed with the selection considering March in Minnesota is generally a time where pantries are getting pretty bare.

Paul and I swapped for these treasures:
pistachio pesto
fresh pasta
plain yogurt
pickled ginger
roasted veggie tapenade
apricot jam
canned apricots
blood orange marmalade
pumpkin maple butter
natural rice krispie style bars
pecan toffee with chocolate
sprouted buckwheat granola
raspberry honey jam

Jamie also had a great haul. I didn't keep track of what she got, but together our stuff filled the dining table! Her pickled pineapple was excellent. It was such a hot commodity that not one of the three of us ended up with any. Luckily, we know how to get the recipe!

We are already talking about what we could make next time and reflecting on what people were interested in and weren't interested in. I am so glad that Kim is spearheading the MPLS Swappers group so we can continue to participate in food swapping.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Grey's Goodale

During the dark and cold month of February I became thoroughly content with watching back seasons of Grey's Anatomy on Netflix while knitting this Goodale cardigan. I cast on, knit the whole cardigan and bound off all while watching episodes of Grey's. The only part that didn't happen while cozily tucked under blankets with the drama of Seattle Grace playing out in the background was the finishing work. Hence the name I've given the project: Grey's Goodale.

The yarn is Knit Pick's Simply Cotton Organic Sport. I picked a cotton yarn for this imagining it would make a great layering piece for work this summer.

I found these vintage buttons to use along with the custom made closure. I feel the i-cord detailing on the edges gives this sweater a really polished look. Way to go, Cecily Glowik MacDonald!

The back is rather unspectacular, but the front has those snazzy pockets!

For me, the most challenging part of this sweater was finding the appropriate bind-offs to use. Since I chose to knit this in cotton, I needed to make sure that the bind-offs would have enough structure yet enough stretch to do what the pattern is supposed to do. Time will tell if I chose correctly. Also, I took a trial and error approach with the bind-offs and eventually lost track of which bind-off technique I used on which parts of the sweater. Oops.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Tisket, A Tasket, We Finished Our Baskets!

Last Wednesday was the bonus class day for our basketweaving class. We all showed up to class on a mission to finish our baskets. And, everyone did! In case you missed it, here is class 1 and class 2.

At the beginning of class 3, our baskets looked very pokey and dangerous and just a little bit like a basket.

So, we cut off some ends and folded them over, put in some handles and wrapped up the edges nice and neat.

And, we ended up with a basket that is neither pokey nor dangerous! A real basket that can hold heavy things! Let us model them for you...

I have decided that my basket's fate it to collect vegetables from my garden. It will work well because when it gets muddy and/or wet, I can just hose it off!

The only addition I plan on making is to create some sort of handle cozy/cover as I find the wood edges a little sharp and uncomfortable on my hands. All in all, I am quite pleased with the outcome and glad to have gained a bit of knowledge about basketweaving.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Double Crafternoon

What a weekend! It was full of many of my favorite things...friends, food and creativity!

Saturday I got to be a guest at a Crafternoon: Kala's Birthday Crafternoon. Many of the lovely and lively Borealis ladies gathered together to celebrate and knit. Kala is also known as Vegan Craftastic, which means there were tons of tasty vegan snacks to fuel our knitting. Happy Birthday, Kala!

Then, on Sunday, it was my turn to host Crafternoon. I like the moment of the hosting prep where the tables and chairs are all set up. Seeing all of those empty chairs ready and waiting for the guests is full of fun anticipation for me.

We had a great group, with Jill, Sally, Casey, Sarah, Missy, Jessica and Jamie. We were sadly without Meg and Cyrus this time as they are spending the year in Argentina. But, on the bright side, we had newcomers Sarah and Jessica join us this month.

We had a variety of crafts this month including sewing, jewelry making, paper cutting and, of course, lots of knitting!

Jamie is awaiting her next little one and in the midst of a major nesting binge.

Casey was working on a sweater with the loveliest of local yarns that perfectly matched the tablecloth.
Sally was stringing some beads that might show you your fortune if you look deeply into them.

With all of this crafting time, I finished my Goodale sweater. Photos of that to come later this week.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekend Treats

I sure do love me a good weekend. I wish the weekday to weekend ratio was a bit more balanced. This 5 on, 2 off schedule just doesn't allow for nearly enough afternoons spent knitting and eating treats with good friends. Catching up on all the life that happened in between now and the last time there was a chance for quality time.

It doesn't allow for enough sunny mornings at home. Days that start by waking up rested and on my own terms. Days where there is plenty of time to stay in my pajamas until long past breakfast. Days that are open for setting things straight in my home, delving into creative pursuits, cooking great food and enjoying the company of Paul and pets.

At least there is weekend after each and every week. I hope yours is refreshing and treasured even if it involves mopping the floor and grocery shopping.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Basketweaving Part 2

The basket that was started in February finally got some love again last week. Due to a series of weeks where classes kept getting rescheduled, it wasn't until last week that we had week 2 of the 2 week class. We spent the evening deep in soaked reeds.

We wove and wove and wove. And Missy and I chatted a bunch, too.

When class was over, not a single student had finished their basket. So, the 2 week class is now a 3 week class. Our class is tonight, so stay tuned for the next installment! I really hope that installment includes a finished basket.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tap that Tree

Over the weekend, Paul and I visited Fort Snelling State Park to attend the Maple Syruping event. We had gone since I've been wanting to check the park out, we have a annual sticker for the state parks and the topic of the workshop was of interest to me. I went in curious to learn about how it is done and I left after having bought 4 taps. They made it seem to easy to make maple syrup and we have a big Silver Maple in our back yard!

We watched a presentation where we learned a bunch of facts about maple syrup including a bit about the history of making maple syrup, how to tell when it is time to tap the trees, the different species of maple trees and the regions they grow in.

We went outside and got a primer on how to identify a maple tree in the winter. It is much harder than you would think being that when it is time to tap the trees, they are bare. No leaves makes it much harder to tell what you are looking at! The hint? Maple trees have branches that oppose each other, not alternate.

We got instructions on where and how to drill and learned the equation to figure out how many taps you can put in a tree without harming it. We also got to watch some bored kids pelt their parents with snowballs from point blank range.

Here is a tidbit I found thrilling: the sap only flows when it is below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Why is that so thrilling? Well, when I thought about it more, I realized that the expanding and contracting of the tree basically serves as a slow motion heartbeat, causing the sap (lifeblood of the tree) to flow to all its parts. The visual of the tree as its own organ is quite amazing to me. It didn't feel as great to realize that tapping the tree sort of makes us vampires or ticks. But, man is maple syrup tasty!

We fully installed the tap, but it wasn't warm enough for the sap to be flowing yet. We spent the last part of the workshop back indoors where we learned about boiling the sap into syrup and got a sample of the syrup the park made 2 years ago. They didn't have any from last year because the park flooded. It will flood again this year, so we were glad we went to the first workshop of the season. When things start to melt, the interpretive center has to close.

Second thrilling tidbit of the day: it takes approximately 40-60 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. The naturalist made it seem so easy, that I bought a few taps from the gift shop and left with visions of a weekend spent stirring the pot as it boils over our backyard firepit.

Enter, Dad. During our regular Sunday phone chat, he set me straight about how much heat you really need to keep it boiling. That means I would need to modify my firepit and buy a truckload of firewood or use a propane cooker instead of fire. If I use propane, that means I have to buy it. So, this "free" syrup would end up costing me 2 days of time (not including sap collection) and around $100 of propane and equipment. All that for a gallon of syrup...which I can buy from the guy at the farmer's market for much cheaper. I have that guy's syrup now. It is delicious. Oh, and did I mention that as soon as the temperature warms up a bit, you have to boil it down right away or you run the risk of the sap going rancid and you end up with nothing but barrels of nasty water. Oy!

At the very least, it was fun to learn about the process, spend a bit of time at a new local spot and get a sense that spring will eventually arrive.
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