Monday, April 29, 2013

Warmth, Birthdays and Crocheting

What a difference a week makes!  The past weekend was filled with sun, warmth, sandals, short sleeves, breakfast on the deck, sunbathing, birthday parties, pet sunbaths on the front porch and wonderful time with friends.  While we were at a friend's backyard birthday party (Happy Birthday, Carrie!) enjoying a bonfire, our neighbors were throwing their own backyard birthday party.  We came home to some errant balloons high up in our maple tree and a strand of crepe paper in our apple tree.  Their party knew no bounds!

In between doing some yard work and taking care of other responsibilities, I made sure to spend time listening to Fanny's warm, purring belly.  She loves it when we open up the windows and give her reign of the front porch. Her world expands during spring and fall and she relishes in it.

On Sunday, a group of friends and I drove down to Jen's house in Waseca to get a crochet lesson and hang out together.  We've missed Jen since she moved too far away to attend our regular knitting group.  


Those first steps into crochet-land are humbling for skilled knitters.  The language is different.  Luckily for us, we had Kala as our tour guide.  She was a patient teacher and helped us break the codes of sc, dc, ch, hdc, etc.

Jen and Kala


Kelaine and Miles

Miles was there to keep our spirits high and check our work.


Thanks for the lesson, Kala!  I learned a lot.  Although, I am sure I am going to need further support since I still have a lot to learn before I tackle that fancy bolero pattern I have my eye on.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

100% Happy

Tchazo is 100% happy because he had a birthday recently (11!) and to celebrate, he has been getting Spot's Stew stuffed Kongs every day for the last week.  Plus, they send treats with his medicine, which is entertaining for us and eventually good for him.

Paul and I are 100% happy because we just celebrated our 11th anniversary (we celebrate the anniversary of our first date).  The server who took our pictures was battling an orange wall.  I swear we did not go spray tanning before dinner.

We enjoyed each others' company and an utterly satisfying dinner at Spoonriver.  We don't usually repeat fancy restaurant choices for our special occasions, but we did this time with no regrets.  Paul's mom had given us a generous gift card for Christmas, which we held on to for this occasion.   Plus, Spoonriver is just so darned good it is worth going back to it!  They start with perfect ingredients and then prepare them to perfection.  Spoonriver's food is the sort of food that leaves me feeling satisfied and nourished.

I've been making the most of our Sprinter season by working on a lot of indoor projects (hooray for purging and organizing!) and developing long term plans for our yard.  I have my heart set on minimizing our grass/lawn and maximizing edibles on our tiny patch of this planet.  The possibilities make me 100% happy.

Paul is 100% happy because he has been working on perfecting his homemade pizza and found a new cast iron pan method he is keen on.

I haven't been much for blogging or taking photos lately, but I have been doing my best to appreciate all of the opportunities for happiness in my life.  Sometimes this happiness stuff means letting go of worries, perfectionism and the need to accomplish a lot with each day.  I have to work at it because it doesn't come naturally to me.  Fortunately, this is an area where Paul and I complement each other.  I share my sense of urgency and my drive to accomplish things with him and he helps me remember the importance of letting things go to make time for life and space for happiness; I contribute a list of (mostly) crossed off tasks and he makes a perfect pizza and insists that we slow down and savor it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Winter That Won't Let Go

One of the amazing things about the part of the world that I live in is that it has 4 distinct seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.  That is not so much the case this year.  As the local weatherman has said, this year we have Sprinter. Evidence: On April 19th, I awoke to a backyard that looked like this:

Over the next few days, that snow mostly melted away, partly due to some cold rain storms.  Then, on April 23rd, I awoke to this:

I had regretted not grabbing my camera on my way out the door after that earlier storm, so you can bet I didn't make that mistake twice.  I  took a few shots on either side of my morning bus ride and marveled at the trees during the ride.   The world was flocked, like they do with fake Christmas trees!

It was hard not to be taken in by the beauty...even if all of this snow is robbing us of a proper spring and pushing back our growing season!

We are predicted to have weather in the 70s F this weekend.  Fingers crossed that we make some progress towards the spring we are all craving so very much.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Silk Herringbone Cowl

So soft!  So smooth!  So cuddly!

My new silk cowl made from Debbie Bliss Pure Silk is going to become a favorite; I can tell already.

I made up this pattern.  It is a simple tube made out of the herringbone stitch pattern from Barbara Walkers 1st Treasury of Stitch Patterns.  I worked 3 garter stitch bumps on both ends.  My bind off edge is a crocheted bindoff as it worked a mirrored magic to the long tail cast on in this project.

The tube is long so I can let it bunch up on my neck for a looser look or I can fold it in half for double warmth and a bit more structure.  I was tempted to keep going since I had a 3rd skein, but I stopped after 2 skeins and I think it was the right choice.

Now, fingers crossed that the weather soon gets too warm for me to wear this.  I'd be okay with that :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wasn't Worth It

Everyone swears that the way to get smooth hummus is by peeling the chickpeas.  I tried it.  I couldn't tell the difference.  My hummus was not silky smooth.  It was smooth in an average way.  I am glad I tested it so now I can just dump them in, skins and all, without feeling like I am making sub-par hummus due to lack of peeling.  Now I know I am making sub-par hummus and I am perfectly ok with that, because it tastes delicious whether it is silky smooth or moderately smooth.

For the record, this is the recipe I followed: Ethereally Smooth Hummus from Smitten Kitchen.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Smitten Kitchen Book Event

The snow has been slow to let go of its release this year.  On the day that Deb Perelman, author and blogger of Smitten Kitchen, was scheduled to appear in Minneapolis, we got yet another snowstorm (March 5th).  Luckily she was still able to make it into town and a great (big!) group of hearty Minnesotans gathered to support her.

These were the scenes on my journey from my workplace to the Minneapolis library where the event was held.  You might think these are black and white shots, but that is just the way winter looks around here.  The winter palette is full of shades of grey.

I thought the turnout wouldn't be so big since the weather was bad enough that schools were closed and a lot of people worked from home.  Luckily, the friends I went with were wise and suggested we get in line early.

The central Minneapolis library is a beautiful building, full of light and air.

Since we were in line so early, we got primo seats.  The turnout did not suffer.  The main room was filled and there were overflow rooms as well!  The evening consisted of Deb sharing the backstories of how she came to be a blogger and how the book came to be.  Most of the evening was spent in a Q & A format where we learned that she considers herself to be "gluten-ful" and thus not a great resource for gluten-free cooks/bakers.  Although she comes across as self-depracating when it comes to her photography and writing, she did own up to being meticulous about recipe-writing and testing.

I've had the Smitten Kitchen book since Christmas, but have just recently started trying out some of the recipes.  My overall feeling about it is that this is not the book I will turn to when I crave a healthy, nourishing recipe.  It is the book I will turn to when I want something indulgent and fabulous.  I think it is good to have both sorts of books on hand :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Absorba Rug in Red

"We have entirely too much stuff!", is a common refrain Paul hears from me once or twice per year.  I value a fairly minimal and uncluttered environment, so when I feel the scales tipping towards cluttered, I go on a streak of purging and organizing.  I have an easy time of purging with the exception of my crafting supplies.   I am sentimental about some stuff (vintage apron fabric scraps) and have entirely too many hobbies (knitting, sewing, beadworking, paper crafts) to be truly minimal in my "stuff".

I've tried to improve my purging skills throughout the years and rarely find that I have let go of something that I later regret.  But, that could be because most of my purging is done outside of my crafting stashes.  In lieu of getting rid of my stash by giving it away, I have recently started working through some projects that use up stash yarns.  I've been focusing on yarn that is stashed as a single or partial skein.  That is how this rug came to be.  I sorted my odd balls by color and realized I had enough of red/orange/pink yarns that I could make something sizeable.  And, with that, I made a variation on the Absorba rug!

I held together 5 or 6 strands that added up to a bulky weight yarn (approximately) and made one panel using the log cabin style.  Once it was the depth I needed, I picked up along one side and just kept knitting in garter stitch until the yarn ran out.  It isn't the most beautiful color design, but I didn't spend any money on it and I used up a chunk of my stash!

This area of our house needed a rug that would stay put and I wouldn't mind setting soggy boots on it.  It is a high traffic area, used by us and the pets.  The back door, the pantry and the pets' water bowl is all in that area.  The previous rug was too easy to fold over and scrunch up.  This one holds it own in terms of density and lack of preciousness.  I think the jumble of yarns will accept salty, snowy boot drippings without looking instantly stained and dirty.  Win from the stash!

Most of the pictures I took of the rug included at least 1 part of 1 pet.  I had to work hard to get those photo bombers out of the shots.  They like this area and they like it when I get low to the ground to take pictures.  The pantry area is where dinner and catnip come from, so that could have had something to do with it, too.  They need to stick close by in case something exciting happens.

Ravelry link to my project
Ravelry link to the pattern inspiration

Monday, April 1, 2013

Goings-on Around Here

I have a bunch of random tidbits to here we go!

We have spring fever!  In anticipation of a camping trip (still far away), we set up the tent to test out some gear the living room!

This is as close as Fanny will ever get to camping.  Although, who knows what she was up to before she was brought to the shelter.  Maybe she is a pro.

Dreaming of plants and gardens and dirt!  I attended a class about designing beautiful vegetable gardens last week and am inspired to keep working on transitioning our front yard from grass to edibles and other useful plants/bushes.

We've been able to take walks with Tchazo pretty regularly, but he still prefers to take his sunbaths inside when the temps are this low.

This week Paul hosted a somewhat impromptu beer tasting at our house with some friends.  I contributed a Gingerbread cake (I included the optional black pepper and apricots) and sampled all of these delicious brews with Paul, Tuyen and Doug.  One of these beers (Old Rasputin) tasted like a liquid version of the cake!

One of the reasons I baked that cake was to use up leftover buttermilk from Paul's most recent Meat Meet.  He is getting quite skilled at hosting these big parties by himself.  This time around, as a part of his elaborate menu, he made creme fraiche and he baked a complicated cake recipe that included candied bacon and chocolate ganache.  Thankfully I was around during the cake making to teach him the important lesson about volume vs weight measurements when it comes to baking recipes.  I think his 9 guests were quite pleased with the meal and I hear there were groans of pleasure when the cake was consumed.

I have been feeling drawn towards sewing lately and recently bought a pattern and fabric for making a dress.  I am excited about the prospect of being able to make more of my own clothes.  It is much more fun to shop for fabric than it is to shop for clothes!  I haven't started the dress yet, but I did sew some patches recently.  The front entryway rug was damaged by the rustic legs on our bench.  Hopefully these patches do the job!

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