A List With One Exciting Thing and a Few Not-As-Exciting Things

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Nothing much terribly exciting has been happening around here, so today you get a list!

1) Ok, one terribly exciting thing is happening: I published my first pattern on Ravelry!  You might remember me talking about this pattern before, but if not, here is a picture of it:

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A cowl that I made to match my High Plains Poncho .  It is free for now since it is my first pattern and I’m trying to figure out how to do all this and set up PayPal.  You can find the Easy Cozy Cowl pattern on Ravelry here: Easy Cozy Cowl.   So exciting right?

**Edited to add:  the pattern is no longer free.  You can purchase it for $2.50 here:   (Look at that cool “buy now” button!)

Now, on to the not-as-exciting things:

2) I’m starting work on another design!  Stay tuned.

3) This week’s adventures with the doodlebugs involved watercolor painting, of which I forgot to take a picture, and stringing beads, of which I did not forget to take a picture:

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They didn’t want necklaces, preferring instead to just swing them around or drag them around behind them, around the house.

3) I’m still working on my Cocktails for Two socks.  They aren’t done yet though, so pictures are being withheld.  HOWEVER, I did a teeny tiny try-on thing and, wait for it……. I think they might be too small.  Don’t even get me started.  I’ll go on and on about it when they are finished and the final try-on is tried.

4) I started the Brooke’s Column of Leaves Knitted Scarf in preparation for a class on basic lace techniques.

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5) I’m reading All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr and it is very good.  Waiting in line is Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.  My sister in law sent it to me as a thank you for knitting her a third mitten to replace the one she lost.  So nice!  Thank you again, Anita!

6)  That is all.

Distractions

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My goal, albeit a very lofty goal, for this weekend was to finish my Cocktails for Two socks:

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While I made some definite progress, figuring out where I was in the pattern, picking up and knitting the gusset and working some on the foot, I kept getting distracted.  (I’m not showing you my progress yet.  I think I’ll wait until they are done.)

Distracted by the Spectral Cowl, which I saw on the Yarn Harlot’s blog.  And since I love the Yarn Harlot – she is my blogging and writing and in-general-such-a-good-and-funny-person hero – and I love a lot of the things she knits, and especially this one, and since I just got a new yarn that would be perfect for it, and since I was trying to watch a movie (Short Term 12 - very good and brought back memories from my days as a child protective services social worker) and it would have been hard to knit those socks, but easy to knit this cowl, I started it:

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The yarn is Done Roving’s Frolicking Feet Transitions in the October colorway.  Aren’t those colors so great??? Easy pattern, great for watching a movie!

Then I got distracted by the fact that I’m not thrilled with my hats and can’t locate my Downton Hat so I searched through my stash and found this to knit:

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….which I haven’t started yet, but I think soon.  Pattern is Bough by Leila Raabe.  Yarn is Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in the Homemade Jam colorway.

Then I got distracted by dinner. I made this great Chicken and Wild Rice casserole (but I used brown rice), which I forgot to take a picture of.  It was REALLY good.

Then I got distracted by the fact that the puzzle on the dining room table was almost done, so Paul and I finished it.  Almost….

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No idea where that piece is.

Then I got distracted by making more bread (there is the link I forgot to put in the post where I made the bread).  As I put it in the oven to proof, I turned to clean up and saw the packet of yeast, unopened, on the counter.  My efforts to stick the dough ball back in the  mixer to get the yeast mixed in failed miserably and I will be headed to the store today for more flour and yeast.

Ok, then I got distracted by writing this blog.  Back to the socks….

Comfort Food

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With all of this cold, Cold, COLD weather, I was on the hunt for some nice, warm, comforting things to make for dinner.  Did I say it’s been COLD?  Way below normal temperatures.  I left the house Tuesday morning and it was minus 11 degrees.  I think the high temperature that day was 8.  It’s getting a little annoying. ( And to top it all off, I can’t seem to find the right hat to wear.  I have a several completed knitted hats but none of them was just right to wear.  Either I thought it looked silly on me or it was too big.  Or it looked silly on me.  Mostly that.)  So, to combat the annoyance and the cold this past week, I cooked up a storm.

First up was Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup :

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Very yummy and warm and perfect for the weather.  Especially since it has some heavy cream in it!  I made half the recipe and tried not to put too much half and half.  But did not skip the splash of heavy cream at the end.  It was also good re-heated.

Then, I got this from Sue, a yarn shop friend:

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Sourdough starter!  I made the most wonderful loaf of crusty chewy sourdough bread.  In a pot!

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It was so easy.  Next time (because there will be a next time.  Maybe this weekend.) I will make it into two loaves and cook it on a baking sheet so I can freeze a loaf.  And yes, I could have cut this in half and frozen it, but it was way too good and we just kept heating it up and toasting it and eating it.   And yes, I should have made it on the same day I made the soup, because it would have been better to eat sourdough bread with the soup, rather than a hamburger roll.

Instead, I made it on the same day as I made this Burrito Casserole:

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I followed the recipe, mostly.  I only used one jar of salsa (instead of two) and one can of refried beans (instead of two).  And I did not use black olives because black olives are gross. (ALL olives are gross.)

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It was very yummy and I will definitely make this one again.

Ok.  So, we covered soup, bread and burrito casserole.  On to knitting!

I finished up The Third Mitten for my sister-in-law and that will go in the mail today!  I forgot to take a picture before I sealed the envelope:

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That is the picture with not enough postage and it got sent back to me so I’m trying again today with the correct postage.  That’s what I get for trying to weigh it (with my new yarn scale!) and calculate the postage based on the USPS’s kind of confusing postage calculator.

Then I knit up a dishcloth for my mother-in-law.  She loved the last one and wore it out.
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Then my mom asked me to knit a hat for her, like the one Avi is wearing in this cool a capella video. (Need I go on and on about Home Free, who are great?).  I found this pattern for her but now, she might knit it herself!

And now, there are these:

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These are my Cocktails for Two Mystery Socks that I started last January 31.  They are HARD to knit.  They are CONFUSING to knit.  Mostly because I am trying to knit both socks at the same time and they are mirror images, so the instructions for each sock at each point is reversed and different.  And every time I pick them up after not having worked on them for a while, it takes me 10 years to figure out where I am, on which sock, and what I’m supposed to do next.  I have picked them up again because The Knitter’s Brewing Company is having another mystery knit-a-long starting this January 30 which I would like to participate in because I like Knitter’s Brewing Company and Wendy’s designs (especially these Snow Dancer socks which I’ve shown you before and also really want to make).  However, I have it stuck in my head that I really should finish these other ones first.  I love them.  I love the finished product, which I have seen because my friend Lisa participated in that knit-a-long and finished them a really long time ago (over-achiever that she is – ha ha!  Anything less than a year is overachieving to me, at this point.) and they look great.

I’m wondering if I can get them done by the end of this weekend. HA!  I’ll let you know.

An Afternoon Tea

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On Sunday, there was an afternoon tea at The Spinning Room yarn shop.

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We had tea and goodies. And we knit, of course.

It was the second annual tea, being held to celebrate the new season of Downton Abbey, which we all LOVE.  Matt, from the Short and Stout tea house came to let us sample some tea and talk about making tea.

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It was fun and interesting.  And I learned that I liked green tea.  I didn’t used to, and Matt said it was likely because I brewed it too hot, making it too bitter.  You are supposed to heat the water in the kettle until it makes the simmering sound, before it boils.  That means the water is about 180 degrees and the temp at which you are supposed to brew green tea.  Green tea is sooooooooo good for you, and now I will drink it more.  Especially the kind he brought, which was Japanese Something Something (note to self: find out what it’s really called).

I thought that it would be a good idea to bring a treat to share at the tea.  You know, something that would be easy to cut into two-bite pieces and put on a plate next to a teacup.  So I made Apple Crisp Bars (this is actually a rhubarb crisp bar recipe for which I substituted granny smith apples).

A shortbread crust:

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Granny smith apples peeled and cut:

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Then tossed with sugar and cornstarch and spread on top of the unbaked shortbread crust:

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Then a buttery-oatmeal-y topping:

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Bake for an hour until nice and browned:

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If you went to the tea and are reading this, you may wonder why you didn’t see them there. They came out of the oven an hour before I had to leave for the tea.   Which apparently was not enough time to cool, because they were still warm and when I went to cut them, they just crumbled apart.  Not good.  Definitely not a good option for a nice afternoon tea and taking an elegant bite of a treat while sipping tea.  After I got home from the tea, they cut into pieces perfectly. So, they are now in the freezer and I will bring them to the knit-in on Wednesday.

A fun Sunday afternoon!  But before that was Saturday, and a busy day of teaching knitting classes for me.

First was the Two Socks on One Circular Needle class:

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I know it doesn’t look like much got done, but everyone was well on their way to knowing the magic loop technique!  They went home to practice and do their homework, and we will meet up again in two weeks to work on the gusset.

Then was another session of the popular Oatmeal Stout cowl class:

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Yet again, unique and interesting color combinations.  A busy but fun Saturday!

Then, last night I finished my Simple Chevron Stripe Scarf ! :

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A great pattern – really simple and relaxing to knit since it is only two, very easily memorized, rows.  It took me about a week and I used all but about 3 yards of a 437 ball of yarn.  I love it. And I’m tempted to knit another with a new yarn that came in to The Spinning Room this week called Indulgence Cashmere.  A really soft yarn with wonderful striping colors.  I don’t usually knit two of the same pattern unless I’m knitting gifts, but I would knit this again, with that yarn.  It’s a perfect in-front-of-the-tv pattern.

Next post: Soup! and Bread!  And probably more Knitting!

Cowboy Cookies

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I made these Cowboy Cookies (again) today and they got rave reviews (again) by the ladies in the class I was teaching at The Spinning Room so I felt the need to dedicate a post to them:

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I got the recipe from the Beekman Boys, whom, as you may already know, I just love.  I love their recipes, their cookbooks, their home products, their Blaak Drizzle, their gardening, their goats…..

For the cookies I used homemade granola:

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…..with a recipe I got here: Olive Oil and Maple Granola.  It is a small-ish cookie recipe, making 24 cookies from my cookie scoop (which is similar to this one:Norpro Grip-EZ Stainless Scoop).  At first I thought the ingredient amounts were wrong since there is a whole stick of butter, only one egg and one cup of flour with three cups of granola added.  But they turned out perfectly and disappeared very quickly at the shop.  You MUST try them. You can use store-bought granola, BUT I’m telling you, this homemade stuff is to. die. for.  And really, so, so, so easy. A little tip: don’t skip the step of adding salt to your granola.  It totally adds to the whole flavor profile (said like she’s a professional cook-er or something…).

Next up on my cooking list are some savory options:

Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup since I’m on a kale-in-my-smoothies kick and have a whole lot of kale-in-a-bag.

Beef Burrito Casserole since it just looks so cheesy, beefy, taco-y good.

Tyler Florence’s Chicken and Dumplings since it is so cold and this is just the right thing for that.  I make this recipe all the time but use stock-in-a-box and chicken breasts, instead of cooking a whole chicken and making stock from the bones, because who has a million hours to do that?  It still comes out great.

Next post: Knitting stuff.

Four and a Half Reasons Why You Need a Yarn Scale

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I got a yarn scale for Christmas and it is my current favorite knitting tool.  It is not technically a “yarn” scale – it is a Smart Weigh Digital Pro Pocket Scale with Back-Lit LCD Display.  (click there to get one on Amazon)

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Often people use them in their kitchens for measuring food.  It has a capacity of just over 4 pounds, which is plenty for yarn/garment weighing (and for food if you need it for double-duty), and weighs to a tenth of a gram.

It may be surprising to non-knitters (and maybe to some newer knitters too) that a scale is my favorite knitting tool.  But I use it for so many things.  Read on, and then get one!

1) Determining how many yards of a ball of yarn I used.  I weigh the yarn first, knit the item, then weigh the item and do some math to determine yardage.

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71.7 grams of a 100 gram/220 yard skein of yarn means I used 157.7 yards of the skein to make this cowl.  Definitely important to know when I write up the pattern for my design!

2) Determining if I have enough yarn to knit something.  A perfect example of this happened recently.  I knitted a pair of mittens for my sister-in-law for her birthday.

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And then she lost one.  After only 2 1/2 weeks.  She was so upset!  But, it happens.  Since I made this with my handspun yarn, and I’m not terrific at keeping track of yardage for that, I had her weigh her remaining mitten (she has a yarn scale too!). It was 53 grams.

Then I weighed my remaining handspun to see if there would be enough to make a replacement mitten.

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Hooray!  Plenty of yarn to make another one.  Although the berry color is in short supply so those stripes might need to be thinner.  But, hey, the eclectic look is in.  Who needs a perfectly matching pair of mittens?

2.5) Related to #2, weighing yarn while knitting is helpful if you think you might run out of yarn.  You can weigh your yarn, knit a row, then weigh it again to determine how much you use in each row.  Then you will know if you have enough to knit those last 3 row or if you have to modify your pattern to end sooner.

3) Separating a ball of sock yarn.  There is a method of making socks where you can make two at a time on one, long circular needle.  In fact, I’m teaching this class at The Spinning Room this weekend! (the class is full)  To do this, you need two balls of yarn, and often sock yarn comes in one ball or skein.  So I use the scale while I am separating the ball, to make sure they are even amounts.

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4) Making sure a ball of yarn is a full ball of yarn. Sometimes I use a little bit of a ball, with the label still on it, and it doesn’t look like there is any missing.  If I need a certain yardage I want to make sure the ball weighs what the label says it does.

There you have it!  Four and a half reasons why you need a yarn scale. In case you needed convincing….

The G-word We Must Stop Talking About

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When we last spoke, it was a week before Christmas.  Now it is almost a week past New Year’s.  So, how to tell you about the last three weeks?  Probably a list.

Top of the list is that we are yet again emerging from a germ fest in this house, and hoping it is the last of the season.  That is all I will say about the total annoying-ness of crappy germs that keep coming around and bothering us and messing with holidays and vacations.

2)  Leading up to Christmas (and the germ fest) was some finishing-of-knitting, including felting my nephew’s slippers…

Before (13″-ish long):

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After (10″-ish long):

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He put them on immediately and wore them all night. I think that means he loves them and they are the best present he ever got.  Hooray!

I also got the infamous hat-that-took-three-tries-to-make done and promptly forgot to take a picture of it.  But my brother-in-law seemed to like it.  And it fit!  He did not wear it around all day but that’s ok.

I had been working on these mittens leading up to my sister-in-law’s birthday and sent them off:

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….forgetting to take a picture of them, so thank you to Anita for taking one for me!

3) In more pre-Christmas crafts-with-the-doodlebugs news, we made Santa’s and reindeer:

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And a gingerbread house!…

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(No, I didn’t bake it.  It was a kit from Jo-Ann’s, and wonderfully easy!)

4) I baked exactly one batch of cookies this season:

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Cowboy Cookies, made with my homemade granola, which I thought were really, really  yummuy.

5) Christmas Eve was spent with my family in Connecticut and then Christmas Day was spent with Paul’s family in Albany.  Busy, busy days with lots of fun.

6) Post-Christmas/Pre-Germ Fest involved the task of removing the body of my car from the frame:

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Anyone remember this crazy contraption for installing the heater?:

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This project felt kind of like that.  At any moment I was expecting the car to fall off the jacks.  It didn’t.  Paul usually knows what he’s doing.  I usually doubt it all, the whole way through, and then wonder what I was worried/nail-biting/screaming about.

7) During the germ fest, I made 1/2 a pair of these Trillium Mitts:

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Soon to be a class scheduled at The Spinning Room.

And I finished this Zipper Scarf:

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Also a soon-to-be-scheduled class.

Then last night I started this Simple Chevron Stripe Scarf:

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Also for an upcoming class.

8) So, now that it is the new year, and to help ensure that it is germ free, I’m making these Anti-Flu Super Smoothies:

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Kale, frozen berries, pomegranate juice and flax seed (this one is without flax seed because I don’t have any yet.  I’m getting some today.).  It sounds gross, but it is really very yummy and you cannot taste the kale at all.  Didn’t I say at the beginning of this post that I wasn’t going to talk about germs any more?

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I’m hoping to have more blog posts this year and more knitting designing to show you!

Have We Met?

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Have we met?  I’m a knitter.  Right?  I’ve been knitting for a loooong time.  And for the past 7 years I’ve been knitting practically non-stop and have 288 completed projects on my Ravelry page. Two. Hundred. Eighty. Eight.  So tell me this:  Why in heck can’t a get a basic hat knitted up???????

I finished the way-too-small-because-I-was-trying-to-knit-it-tightly-and-used-smaller-needles hat:

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Then I cast on and knit 3 inches of ribbing on the now-this-one-will-fit-because-I’m-using-the-asked-for-needle-size-and-I’ve-added-some-more-stitches hat:

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It is still too &@#$-ing small.  What in the name of sheep that give us this darn wool am I doing wrong?  I have no idea.  This is a new pattern, so maybe something went wrong there.  But the cast-on number seemed about right.   So, out it comes.  Again.  Paul said I should just buy a wool hat for this person.  Yes, other knitters, he said that.  He said that, and I gasped as if he had said the worst swear word ever said.  BUY A KNITTED WOOL HAT??????  How awful would I feel that I have knit more than 288 things, especially this, and I can’t knit a simple hat to give as a gift?

To his credit, he was trying to be kind, because he saw my frustration, especially after last night where for some weirdo reason, I didn’t sleep, and he knows I’m tired and running out of time.  So his second plan was to convince me to knit the hat that I knit for him several years ago that stretches out (it has alpaca in it) and is not warm enough for him (which it would also not be warm enough for the person I’m making it for because they have about the same amount of hair).  But we think maybe with 100% wool it will turn out better.  Can you guess how this might turn out?  Stay tuned.  Last resort is an I.O.U.  Especially because I still have one more gift-in-progress to finish.  I just don’t think I can muster the courage to buy one.

I did finish the Alaska Color Homesocks for my sis:

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And on tap this weekend is to felt the slippers for my nephew.  Then it’s just the one other thing and “THE HAT”.

In crafty Doodlebug news, it was a crafty week:

A hand print wreath for the door ( got the idea here):

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Q-tip trees for Miss Ladybug and me (Mr. Doodlebug was not interested):

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And construction paper chains for the tree:

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All while listening to Christmas music on Pandora.  Which really was a marathon of waiting for Frosty the Snowman to play. (It didn’t.)

And Paul did a little more decorating:

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And it looked really cool when I looked out the window the other night when the big door was open, but I don’t think my camera really captured it:

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Some day I will get a better digital camera. (I always say that, but it’s also much more convenient to use my phone.)

Ok, off to The Spinning Room yarn shop to work for the day.  This is the last weekend before Christmas so you can only imagine what will be going on around here.  Knitting.  And also some baking.  But mostly knitting I think.  A hat, probably.

Last Weekend, Last Week, This Weekend

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The craziness of this time of year is catching up to me.  I was going to show you a post about my busy knitting class weekend that I had LAST weekend. And then last weekend happened and now this weekend is coming to an end.  I think from here on out, possibly, maybe, things may be calming down a little.  Maybe.  Possibly. LAST weekend, I taught the Oatmeal Stout Cowl class: IMG_4413 A full class of 6 people and they all got a good start! And then I finished up teaching the Colorwork Christmas Stocking class: IMG_4415 These are two of the four in-progress stockings. The next day I taught the Mobius Cowl class and apparently by the end of that one I was too tired to remember to take a picture.  A full class of 6 people and they were well on their way to completing their cowls. That weekend, there was also this: IMG_4417 IMG_4408 Which a few days later was followed by this, last week: IMG_4426 IMG_4429 IMG_4464 IMG_4467 IMG_4474 (that’s a snow angel up there) IMG_4446(2) And then I finished up teaching another class, the Kaweah Hat: IMG_4481 And somewhere in there, I was working on some Alaska Color Homesocks for my sister and things went terribly wrong: IMG_4477 I read the instructions wrong, increased in too many places and ended up with that misshapen thing up there.  So…… IMG_4478 And now one is done: IMG_4503 I know, still looks like  a misshapen mess right?  But NOW look at it: IMG_4506 Pretty cool, huh? (They are very comfy.) And also, I worked on some holiday decorating: IMG_4422 Then, THIS weekend…. I made Olive Oil and Maple Granola (granola is my new obsession): IMG_4483 so, So, SO yummy!  (Don’t worry, I will be getting back to my cupcake obsession. Hopefully this weekend.)  I made the granola so I could bring some to our friends Elaine and Steve when we went with them to: IMG_4488 That’s Elaine about to throw snow at Steve.  But here’s a better picture: IMG_4489 These two are tons of fun and we had a great time, driving up to Vermont and seeing the beautiful scenery: IMG_4484 IMG_4491 IMG_4495 (Steve pointed out all these beautiful shots to take – and slowed the car down sometimes – so I could put them on my “blog-a-roony”.) We shopped and had lunch at the store.  We also stopped at a farmer’s market (at a local elementary school) on the way up and the way back to get maple syrup and fig-wine compote.  We were the first customers, there way too early while they were still setting up, AND the last customers, holding them up while they were trying to go home.  But it was worth it (for us, and we hope for them too) for the yummy goods. Then, Paul and I made our way back to New York, while they made their way back to Massachusetts. While riding in the car all that time I worked on a Christmas hat: IMG_4498 I knit all but about an inch of this in the car.  I was almost ready for the crown decreases this morning and decided to have Paul try it on, to make sure it would fit an adult.  It was waaaaaaaay to small.  AAAAAAARRRRGH!   So, I will still finish this because I am way too far along to rip it out, and it will likely go to Mr. Doodlebug next year, because it really will only fit a child.  And here I was, thinking I was just knitting it nice and tightly so that it would fit closely and be nice and warm.  So, it was off to the yarn shop to get a new skein for another hat. On my way there, I stopped at the Altamont Community Traditions Victorian Holiday Celebration to see the tree decorated by The Spinning Room: IMG_4501 These are all hats knitting by the yarn shop customers (mine is in there somewhere!) and will be donated to Halos Of Hope. And then I came home and decorated our tree: IMG_4509 So, as you can see, things have been pretty busy.  And I suppose you won’t mind if now I collapse on the couch and watch Love Actually .

Block(ing) Party

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I have knitted several Christmas gifts but had not yet blocked them – as usual, putting off the not-as-fun part of the knitting.  Blocking involves soaking your knitted item in cool water with a wool wash soap for about half an hour to allow the water to penetrate all the fibers, plump them up, even them out and relax them.   Then, you squeeze out the water and lay it flat to dry, sometimes having to pin the item into a certain shape.

But I finally bit the bullet, decided to do them all at once, and gave them the plunge:

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And laid them out to dry:

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Now they are ready to wrap up and deliver!  After that not-as-fun task was done, I assembled a bunch of knitted items to sell at The Spinning Room for the holidays.  Of course, I forgot to take a picture of that, but if you are local and are interested in buying some handknitted items for the holidays, my items will be there as well as items from the other ladies who work and/or teach at the shop!

In other news, it was a busy week with the Doodlebugs.  There was lots of outside playing (even though it was chilly, we ran around a lot to keep warm!) along with some sorting:

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Glue, construction paper, crayons and tape:

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Making a book road:

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Then reading the book road:

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Busy weekend ahead with three knitting classes to teach!  Hopefully, I’ll be organized enough to show you some pictures on Monday….