Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Versatile Cowl

I am working on finishing up two sweater projects, but needed something smaller to knit on the go.  Enter: Yellow Brick Road and Inca Organic Cotton.

In the few days since I added the buttons to this cowl, I have enjoyed playing with different ways to wear it.  It is versatile and reversible!  Thanks to Paul for taking the 3 photos above.

The buttons are from Treadle Yard Goods and had originally been purchased for a sweater I have since given away.  I had 4 of them on hand but needed a 5th one to finish the cowl.  I bought them a long time ago (2 years?)  so I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get one more.  It was a close call; I bought the 2nd to last one they had!

Fanny thinks this is a cozy cowl, too.  I found her napping on it when it was still a work in progress.  I enjoyed working with this yarn and think I will likely make another project out of it.  It is really comforting to knit with organic cotton that hasn't been dyed.  That is one way to make sure my allergies won't be bothered: just remove most of the variables!

Ravelry project here

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

This and That

A bit of a catch-all post of randomness:

Frame stores are pretty!  This one made me want to cover my whole wall in frames snuggled all up against each other at wonderful angles.

Happy Birthday to Jill!  We celebrated with an art opening party, some music by The Cactus Blossoms and then some fancy donuts at Glam Doll Donuts.  It was so fun to spend your birthday together, Jill!

Legos and rubberbands are VERY entertaining.

Part of my birthday present this year was a gift certificate for a monthly homemade meal from Paul.  January, the first month, he made this gorgeous and delicious savory tart.  It had beets and onions and dill and, of course, lots of eggs and cheese and cream.  Definitely one to enjoy in moderation!  He is already kicking my butt when it comes to crust texture and quality.

I am experimenting with a homemade version of Bee's Wrap or Abeego.  For the unacquainted, these products are alternatives to plastic wrap made by coating unbleached cotton fabric with beeswax, resin and jojoba oil.  I think I probably would have just bought wraps from one of those companies except for they both use an unspecified "tree resin" which may or may not be related to my balsam of peru allergy.  I figured since I had a chunk of beeswax already, I would make a few test ones and see how I like them.  So far, so good!  I made 3 different sizes and have been using them with satisfying results.  If/when I make them again, I will take some process pictures to show you how I do it.  The hardest part is grating beeswax!  I should invest in those pellets if I am going to make a large amount of these.

Do you know what is really good?  Eucalyptus leaves in chai!  Locals can experience this delight at Namaste Cafe.  I am glad that my mom and I have plans to go there this weekend because I have been craving another cup of this chai since the day I first had it!

I forgot to show you my felted mitten drying trick: stuff it with newspaper and then stick it on a heating vent.  It's really efficient and helps set the shape you want.

After realizing that the padding on my ironing board was so spent that I was ironing the metal pattern of the stand into my clothes, I sought to replace it.  Since I didn't want to use any synthetic foam, I was grateful to find cotton batting at the fabric store.  I cut a double layer and made pretty quick work of refreshing this old ironing board.  I also bought a pressing ham.  Just try to hold me back now!  I'm an ironing maniac!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Art Shanties on White Bear Lake

After an adjustment to the location and frequency, the Art Shanty Project is back!  I haven't participated since 2011, so it was a fun treat to visit the shanties again.  And, this time, it was a whole new set of shanties!  In case you are new to the concept, let me share the mission of the project as they declare it:
"Art Shanty Projects is an artist driven temporary community exploring the ways in which relatively unregulated public spaces can be used as new and challenging artistic environments to expand notions of what art can be."
What that amounts to is a collection of fun and interactive artist created shanties on a frozen lake outside of the city in the dead of the Minnesota winter.  It brings people of all ages, from all over the place to the ice and creates a space for us to play together for a little while.

This year I met Jamie and her family for a morning visit to the shanties.  Little Violet and slightly less little Sylvia were not so thrilled about the experience.  It was pretty cold and windy, which might have contributed to their discomfort with the shanty experience.

Noah's Art was toasty warm inside and packed with people and the little clay animals they made.

The wind shanty (on the left) was quite appropriate considering how much of an impact the wind made on the "real feel" temperature that day.

A reflection shanty, literally reflective on the outside and figuratively reflective on the inside.

The music shanty had a lot of DIY instruments for people to play, which made for a cacophony of sound you could hear even before you went into the shanty!

Another shanty that announced its presence before entering it was the Dance Shanty.  I think this was the only shanty that has been a part of the project every year I have attended.  And, I am grateful for it!  Dancing around a shanty helps get the blood flowing to your toes again!

My favorite shanty this year was Ice Ice Maybe. Lea Devon Sorrentino & Kayla Campbell explain their shanty's premise:
"The Shanty’s primer high-end boutique specializing in the commodification of timelessness, Ice Ice Maybe offers the finest ice encased objects that money can’t buy."
If you found something on the shop's shelves that you thought was essential to or representative of your identity, you could bring it in to the shanty and see if they will let you take it.  I witnessed a few conversations at the checkout counter and loved how the questions asked of the customer were aimed at picking apart what purpose the item would serve, its meaning and potential usefulness to you.  After you talked it through with the shopkeeper, she would let you know if she would let you have it or keep it in the shop.  Apparently, I made a strong enough case for the spool of vintage thread frozen into an ice heart that I was only the 12th person this year to be able to take something home. That is significant because hundreds have tried and been denied the "thing" they desired.  I even got a certificate of authenticity!  

As someone who values functionality yet also values connections to the past and things with stories, I very much appreciated the line of questioning I heard in the shanty.  I felt it was a great lesson in informing our own internal conversations around acquiring stuff.  It reminds me of a William Morris quote that I love and find to be a guiding thought when I am in "purge" mode: "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Just as I was heading off of the lake, a snowstorm came through.  It was beautiful!  It made for slow driving, but since I didn't have anywhere to be in a hurry, I relished the scenery of the falling and blowing snow and the trees around me.

If you too want to check them out, the shanties are out through next weekend.  Go and play, but be sure to bundle up!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Limestone Mittens

Forgive me if I mention our Minnesota winter twice in a row, but man, it has been cold here!  I wore through my pair of felted mittens, patched them and then wore through them again this winter.  So, I decided it was time for a refresh.  5 years of constant wear out of that last pair seems like pretty solid longevity, so I stuck with a tried and true pattern by Nancy Lindberg for this next pair, too.  I think I may eventually add a bit of embellishment to this pair, but for now, they are my everyday mittens.  I doubled up with a pair of liner mittens inside these and immediately put them into use as soon as they dried!

Felting is such a fun phenomenon.  You take a monstrous piece of knitting, add a little hot water, soap and agitation and you end up with a wearable, shrunken item that doesn't look knit!  A little before and after spread for you to show some scale:



I named the project after the color of the Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport yarn I used: Limestone.  I like looking at this color in the dead of winter because it reminds me that there will eventually be green in our outdoor environment again.  Eventually.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Feel the Churn

Creativity is an asset when it comes to maintaining sanity through a Minnesota winter.  Thanks to PopSodaWalker Art Center, friends Missy and Jill, as well as a whole room full of other playful souls for bringing fun and energy into an otherwise grey and wintry evening last week.

We started with jars of heavy cream.

We added a dj and an awesomely clad organizer from the Walker.

...And a similarly awesomely clad aerobics instructor in front of a projected film of dairy cows.

Our dj and our instructor led us through a lot of shake-filled aerobics to thematically appropriate songs.

All that shaking resulted in containers full of butter and buttermilk!

We tasted our lightly salted butter on some delicious bread from Sun Street Breads and were allowed to take the rest home.

I ended up baking a caramel peach grunt with the buttermilk and shared it at my sister-in-law's birthday lunch.  The butter has been being consumed in one of the best ways possible: thickly spread on sourdough bread.

If you have never made your own butter, I suggest you try it out.  It is a lot of fun!  Shake, shake, shake!
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