Thursday, July 9, 2015

Revisiting Project 333

I love Project 333. It really works for me. For those who are unfamiliar, Project 333 is a wardrobe minimalist experience. I wouldn't call it an experiment as the object is to make it a permanent part of your life, not something to dabble in. It has made me much more aware of my clothes, what I like to wear, and how it all fits together so that a wardrobe made out of 33 pieces each season makes far more than 33 outfits. If you want to know more about Project 333 follow the link.

The problem with me and Project 333 right now is that I have two daughters who work in the fashion industry. They are constantly coming home saying, "Oh, we have the Soft and Sexy t-shirts on sale right now. You should come try them out." Or "I know you've been looking for a navy skirt. We just got some in today." So this summer my wardrobe has looked more like 345. BUT (and that is a huge but) I realized the other day that I really don't wear all that is currently crammed in my closet and drawers. For instance I have a black skirt which should really reside in my costume trunk rather than my closet. I have two sets of salwar and kameez that I never wear anymore even though I find them extremely comfortable. I need to decide whether to wear them more or to pass them on to someone else. I have a brand new black lace dress that I bought three years ago and have yet to wear. It still has tags on it. I consider time to time of getting rid of it, but then I think that I might need it for ... a funeral?

And let's talk shoes. I have plantar fasciitis in my right foot. Most days it's ok, but some days it really annoys me. I have certain shoes that are better for it than others. Yet I have shoes that I keep hanging on to even though I haven't worn them since moving to Ohio. (Did I mention that I moved to Ohio? Yep, over two years ago.) I'm not sure why I am holding on so firmly to my pink Converses that have collected dust. I will admit that I own three pair of the same shoes. There's a reason for that. Two pair are still in boxes.  I bought them on clearance because I love this pair of shoes and when the current pair I'm wearing finally give out and need replacing, I don't have to search all over the world for another pair that will fit and wear like the current pair. I bought the first pair and they fit very nicely. The next time I went to the same store they had moved the shoes to clearance and they were half the price I paid for them. I decided to buy a second pair for when the first pair died. Then a few months later the store had marked them down so that I only paid $10 for a pair of $80 shoes. (I didn't pay $80 for the first pair - they were on sale and I had a coupon so they were around $50 and the second pair were $25, so for the price of one pair of shoes I got three and they are well made shoes that go with a lot in my wardrobe.)

Anyway, I have some pairing down to do and need to get back to a very functioning 33 piece wardrobe. Some things are going to have to suffer the humiliation of being sent to resale or thrift stores.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Holy Cow! She lives!

No; I didn't die. Not even close. I've been busy with life, work, vacations, and not doing too much knitting, writing, or interesting cooking. (So sad, I know). What I have learned in the past fourteen months is that when I don't blog I don't write (or knit or cook too many interesting things), so I'm back to blogging. It's a motivator for me, so I'm doing it.

What have I knit in the past year? Not a whole freaking lot. Seriously. I think I made a dishcloth, a hat, and a pair of socks. I've got another pair on the needles, but really want to knit a light weight cardigan for this autumn. I have the yarn. I have the needles. I even have the pattern. Now I need the gumption.

What have I written in the past year? Even less. I dabbled a bit on one of my knitting romance books, but haven't gotten too far. I had a few nibbles from agents, but nothing more than fifty page requests and polite no thank you's. (Can't decide if that apostrophe should be there but yous looked wrong as well.) And then Charlotte (my laptop) finally bit the dust (thank you universe for cloud back up). I have a new laptop now. A shiny Mac named Elliot. It's been a steep learning curve, but we are getting there. I still want to take a class at my local Mac store, but haven't found one that matches up with my wonky work schedule.

The work schedule has definitely changed. I was promoted to a Children's Lead position at the bookstore and am loving it, but I have a rotating three week schedule that makes planning things a bit of a challenge, but we are making it work. It does mean that I get a full weekend off every three weeks which is really nice. And I love introducing children to good books.

As far as cooking goes the most interesting thing I have made recently would have to be Fruit Loops and milk. OK, it hasn't been that horrible, but shopping has become so rote that there is nothing to write about. About as interesting as Fruit Loops and milk.

So here we go. I've brushed off the blog, dusted in the corners, and am all set to give this another go. Hopefully we will get somewhere.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My friend Elora

I love my spinning wheel. Her name is Elora. For those of you familiar with the movie Willow, the savior of the movie is a tiny curly red-headed baby named Elora Danan. My spinning wheel is not named for her. I found my spinning wheel on Craig's List listed among various household items in a moving sale ad. "refrigerator, sofa, dressers, bookshelves, spinning wheel, bicycle, ..." I contacted the seller and asked if I could see the spinning wheel prior to the sale and what kind of wheel it was and the price. The woman was enthusiastic about it and said that it was a Canadian Production Wheel and she was asking $100.  I considered it was worth a look and CPW can mean everything from a really nice single treadle upright to a ghastly falling apart worm-eaten "living room antique." I had $100 cash in my pocket but was willing to walk away if it was the latter.

The woman's house was in a very nice neighborhood with perfectly manicured lawns and not a single pink flamingo in sight. Each cookie-cutter house with their matching driveways and brick encased mailboxes looked the same. And it was one of those neighborhoods that all have the same street name. I was looking for Hidden Oaks Lane amongst Hidden Oak Drive, Boulevard, Circle, Court, Road, Parkway, and Street. I spent more time turning around and meandering down the winding roads and parkways before I finally found Lane. I started thinking perhaps I should go home. It was looking more and more like this was going to be some show piece that was glued together so it wouldn't move. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door anyway. A well-dressed woman opened the door and introduced herself a Laura.

And there she sat. I knew the moment I saw her that she was not in anyway a Canadian Production Wheel. This, my friends, was a genuine Ashford Traditional. I knew it the moment I saw it. My heart started pounding. I repeated to myself, "Don't say a word. Don't say a word."  I hemmed and hawed. Gave the wheel a slight push (it turned). Asked if I could sit down and try it (I took some roving with me.). As I played with the wheel I asked if the woman could tell me anything about the wheel. Where she got it, where it had been stored, etc. 

"Well, I bought in Canada, so it's a Canadian Production Wheel (I apologize Canadians for that assumption) and I've kept it mostly in my classroom where I taught. See, I taught third grade and we would do a session in literature on fairy tales and I would show the children how Cinderella pricked her finger on the spinning wheel. I always called the spinning wheel Ella because of the story."

That's when I stopped spinning. And had to give this retired third grade teacher a lesson in spinning wheels.  I asked her where she thought Sleeping Beauty (I refrained from correcting her that Sleeping Beauty's name was not Cinderella) pricked her finger and she pointed to the maidens (the two upright spools that hold the bobbin and fly and is part of an assembly called the "mother of all"). I then told her about the kind of spinning wheels that Sleeping Beauty would have had when her story was first written and about spindles and how they were sharp, and that she did not prick her finger on a Canadian Production Wheel.  I told the woman that I thought the spinning wheel was nice and accepted the $100 price. I clasped the spinning wheel to my chest and almost ran to my car with it, afraid she might change her mind.

I then giggled all the way home. I knew right away that her name would be Elora. El for the many years of being called the wrong princess and -lora for the woman who owned her all those years. The only things I had to do was replace the footman joint (the footman is the rod that connects the treadle to the wheel drive) at the treadle and put a new drive band on her. About a year later I had to reglue the hub as it had come loose and was wobbling.

She's a lovely wheel. She spins beautifully and she sings several different things as we spin together. Her treadle keeps beat with a soft whump-whump-whump and the wheel whirrs and gives a soft swoosh, the bobbin clippity-claps as it turns and the orifice hook tings as it hits the front support leg in rhythm. It's quite soothing and most of the time when I am spinning I don't like to listen to any music or podcasts. I do sometimes, but most of the time I like being lost in the soft song that Elora sings and I let my thoughts wonder off in various directions. It's lovely to have this active meditation and I truly enjoy the days that Elora and I spend in the attic. She's taught me about patience (especially in the early days when I was just learning and thought it was a huge mistake for having bought a used wheel) and she's taught me about love (like after I finally worked out the coordination and got my hands and feet working in different rhythms to create lovely yarn). When we moved from Florida to Ohio, the only thing in my car other than our overnight bags and the cats was Elora. I was so afraid that if I put her in the moving van she would get crushed.

If my house were ever on fire and I was told I could only go back in for two things (assuming my children and cats were safe), I would grab my laptop and my spinning wheel. Let's hope it never comes to that, but Elora is on the top of my list after my children and cats.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Summer Sweater Update Number 1

I finally (finally) got to the point in my sweater where I could put the sleeves on waste yarn and start on the body of the sweater. Finally. I'm not sure why it takes forever to get to this point. It's one of the things I dislike about top down sweaters and shawls. You cast on a few stitches. Sometimes as few as 6 sometimes as many as 50. Each row you add 2-8 stitches. The first 30 or so rows fly by and you imagine yourself wearing your new creation in a matter of days. Days, I tell you. The sweater (or shawl) is flying off the needles and you can actually see your work growing and taking shape. And then you hit the "point of oh god when is it ever going to end". And each row slogs through like you are trying to run through a quagmire. Each stitch is painfully slow and you swear it isn't growing at all. You have knit the same row at least 90 times. You wonder why you put yourself through this hell just for a sweater when you could purchase a perfectly good sweater at the mall. Your work is so dismal that you know the sun is producing 38% less light than it was the previous day.

And then, right when you are sure that you should abandon this project and go make a washcloth (because the world really needs yet another knit washcloth), you realize you have finally reached a major point in your project. For me it is putting the arms on waste yarn and joining the body under the arms and beginning the body of the sweater. You take a moment to admire the lovely row of yarn over increases along the raglan sleeve increase. You fold the sweater into shape and realize that it has definable parts of front, back, and sleeves. You smooth the lovely rows of stitches, whether they are stockinette or some intricate lace pattern or columns of cables. You are a knitter with a capital K. You can conquer this.

And then you realize that you still have at least 6 more inches until you get to do anything other than stockinette.  Perhaps it is time for a Harry Potter movie marathon.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Food pairings

This week (or maybe it was last week) Carole at Carole Knits hosted a Ten on Tuesday topic of Ten Favorite Food Pairings. I, being the total slacker that I am with updating my blog - especially when there is knitting happening, never got around to writing anything. But then I haven't done a Ten on Tuesday topic in quite some time. (Maybe something I should rectify.) However, I've been thinking about this topic all week. Maybe because I've been hungry or maybe because my mind wanders when I knit in silence. So here are some of my favorite food pairings:

1. Garlic and chicken. Actually a whole bunch of garlic and chicken. In fact my (somewhat secret, but I share it with everyone, so it isn't all that secret) go to recipe for garlic chicken is to take chicken thighs and legs (you could use wings or breasts if you want, but I like the hindquarters for this recipe for some reason), crunch up a ton of garlic (and by a ton I mean like an entire bulb for every four pounds of chicken you are cooking), drizzle a little olive oil over the chicken and then mix the garlic until you smell like you are warding off a vampire invasion. Let it sit in your fridge overnight. The next day bake it at 300°F for 3 or more hours. Your house will also now smell like you are warding off a vampire invasion and if your windows are open letting the spring air flow through, I can guarantee that there will be no vampires within a three square block of your house. I like cooking meat at very slow temperatures for very long periods of time. It makes for very tender meat that falls off the bone. Just make sure you bake this in a deep pan as it does produce a ton of fat from the slow cooking. (You're welcome.)

2. Strawberries and whipped cream. 'Nuff said.

3. Peanut butter and bananas (Ditto.)

4. Dark chocolate and old cheese. Preferably Gruyere or Gouda, but anything that is over five years is good. (Note: I've been told that this is a migraine trigger for some people, so eat at your own risk.)

5. Chocolate and pretzels. I love the salty and crunchy of the pretzels with the sweet and creamy of the chocolate. Again, my preference is for a darker chocolate, but that is my favorite. (Nutella will do in a pinch.)

6. Bread and butter. And that would be real homemade bread with real sweet cream butter. I'm not picky about what kind of homemade bread. It could be white bread, brown bread, rye bread, rustic bread, country bread, multi-grain bread, or my grandmother's honey whole wheat bread. And real sweet cream butter.

7. Asparagus and garlic. Actually most any vegetable and garlic. Zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, green beans, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber. Yeah, I love garlic and veggies.

8. Lobster and butter. In fact I have a $20 gift card to Red Lobster that I really should use soon and fix this craving.

9. Potatoes and cheese. I love to bake a potato and sprinkle it with a bit of cheddar cheese or Colby Jack. I'm not too picky.

10. Cocoa powder and chili. Yep. I like chocolate in my chili. It smooths out the burn. I also learned that if you make chili and you added too much red pepper, add a tablespoon of cocoa powder at a time per hour until the red pepper is put in its proper place. If you don't have any cocoa powder at hand (which I'm not sure why you wouldn't) you can always use 85+% dark chocolate to do the same. Half an ounce per hour.

So that is my list of top ten favorite pairings. Now, having written this all out, I'm going to remember about twenty more that I have pondered over the past few days. What are your favorite two foods that go together?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Knitting the Perfect Summer Sweater

Several years ago (we won't say exactly how many in an attempt to preserve some pride) I purchased a bunch (and by bunch I mean twenty-five hundred yards, although it might be more) of strawberry red DK weight cotton bamboo blend yarn in the hopes that it would one day be the Perfect Summer Sweater. Of course I bought this yarn when I was living in Florida and Perfect Summer Sweaters are generally only needed inside movie theaters or the freezer section of Publix (I miss Publix, but not enough to move back to Florida). Sometime one might need a Perfect Summer Sweater when one's spouse decides that it is hot in the house and turns the air conditioner down to sub-zero. Other than those few instances, there isn't much need for a Perfect Summer Sweater.

I live in Ohio now. Last summer was my first season here and while it did get hot for a few weeks, I found the need for a sweater to be much greater than when I lived in Florida. I was considering purchasing one. (OK, I did purchase a cardigan, but it is far from a Perfect Summer Sweater and doesn't really fit in with what I want a sweater to do, it was simply to replace my khaki sweater from last year.) I then remembered that I had all that luscious red yarn in the yarn bin marked "Sweaters Worths." I went to town trying to decide what kind of sweater I wanted to make.  I'd have an idea of what I wanted in my head so decided to give Amy Herzog's Custom Fit Sweater a try.

I have to say that this in ingenious. The principle behind Amy's Custom Fit Sweater is that you put in your measurements, make a good swatch of the yarn you want to use with the needles you want to use, and tell Amy what features you want for your sweater (pullover, cardigan, short sleeved, no sleeved, long sleeved, v-neck, scoop neck, etc.) and through a series of clicks and the use of a good measuring tape she creates a sweater to your specifications that first your body. No circling which size you need throughout the pattern. You don't have to worry about missing a line for just your size which you forget to do and then don't have the right number of stitches. I'd heard several people rave about the fabulousness of this program and decided to dive in. It is only $10 to get a sweater built for your body alone.

I took my measurements with the help of my daughter. I knit up a swatch including the lace edge I wanted on the bottom and at the sleeves. I inserted all of the variants that I wanted for this sweater. And then I realized that the sweater was built from the bottom up and the lace I wanted to use was built from the top down. And what I really wanted was a raglan sleeve and that wasn't an option. So I left the program. I will be back to this and I will be making a fall sweater with her program, but for now I had a different image in mind and decided to go pattern diving at Ravelry.

That's all well and good except no one really had a sweater pattern like I wanted. I found some really cute ones, and I will admit that my queue and favorites grew exponentially this past weekend. So, I took a deep breath and did (dun-dun-dun) knitting math. I know how to make your basic raglan sweater. And I knew I wanted it to be a v-neck sweater. And I know the formula for how to do that. I don't need no stinkin' pattern. (Remember this. It may come back to haunt me in a week or so.) I cast on 90 stitches (the number needed to make a comfortably fitting neck that would open into a v-neck) and turned on the Game of Thrones marathon that HBO was running all weekend in preparation for last night's season premiere. (I'm still rooting for Daenerys, Tyrion and Arya to get together and clean house.) I managed to knit the first 36 rows and it is shaping up pretty nicely. I can continue on this pat for a while until I get to the underarms and then I'll need to a a bit more knitting math so I can have the sleeves I want and have enough stitches at the end for the lace pattern. I'm planning on making an i-cord edging around the center opening and neck.

With any luck this sweater will be finished by May and I will be sporting the Perfect Summer Sweater. I'll keep you posted as to how it is going. I may even wail a bit as I go along if my math isn't adding up. If I am suspiciously quiet about the sweater, feel free to poke me and ask what's up. If you still don't hear anything then assume that I've frogged it and hoping everyone has forgotten about it. In the meantime, if you are frustrated about not having a sweater that fits you, go to Amy's website and check it out. I've only heard positive things and she has a Ravelry group that can help you if you get stuck or have questions that aren't answered on the website.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


It snowed a few days ago. I had started believing that I had somehow been transported to Westeros and would be looking at a ten year winter. Don't get me wrong. I love winter. I love snow. I love snowy days when I can sit inside with the curtains pulled back and watch the flakes flutter (or even pour) to the ground making everything crisp and white and pretty. Of course I only want to sit inside on those days and knit or read or come up here to my attic and sew or write or spin. I have enough activities that I could be trapped in my house for a few days and not get bored. I do no like driving in snow. This entire past winter I kept a close eye on when it was supposed to snow so I knew when I would have to be at work and need to drive in the mess.

Just when I was thinking that spring would never arrive, I came home and found crocuses growing in my flower beds. Beautiful purple sprigs of spring with bees buzzing all around them, happy that they could at last collect nectar. I walked around my house with it's empty beds and noticed little bits of spring all over the place. Some sort of lily was showing itself on the side of the house. Hostas are working their way to the top of the soil. The dogwood tree and maple tree both have buds on them, anxious, themselves, for spring. The winter birds seemed to have moved further north as I haven't seen any of the Canadian sparrows at the feeder in the past week. Nature knows even when we feel doomed to wear our coats, hats and mittens forever.

As much as I love winter, I am looking forward to spring this year. I'm actually wanting to do spring cleaning and air the house out. (I have the windows open today as the temperatures are supposed to get to almost 60°F.) I want to make fresh curtains for my kitchen in light spring colors (and because my next door neighbor  has taken to cooking in the buff and while he has a nice enough physique, I really didn't want to know that much about him). I want to dust the cobwebs from the basement and sweep the attic from the bits of yarn and thread clippings that have gathered. I yearn for the peonies to bloom and fill my house with their heady aroma. I will also appreciate not having to wear two to three layers of clothes, plus a sweater and a coat with hat, mittens, and a scarf just to go put something in the trashcan.

You may hear me complain when July and August come around because I really don't like warm weather. I don't like the funky smell that air conditioners pump into the house. I do not like being hot and sweaty. When I start to get whiny, remind me that fall is just around the corner and then it will be winter again. I suppose if it weren't for summer I wouldn't appreciate winter at all. It's a cycle and it is a lovely one as a whole. I am glad that I live somewhere that has four seasons. I've missed that. So bloom you little flowers. Pop your heads up all the lushness in my flowerbeds. Open up your seed pods cottonwoods. Return to the feeders all you bluebirds and chipmunks. Spring is coming!

(As a public service announcement I must tell you that according to Farmer's Almanac we are expecting a mid to late April blizzard.  You have been warned.)