Dishcloth-Palooza

Yes, the collection of dishcloths is growing, but my yarn acquisition has taken a turn for the worse. It’s all my birthday’s fault. The yarn acquisition part that is. I have already received checks for my birthday, plus I was offered a small job that pays me for the next two weeks. That’s a lot of stash/yarn money. The plans for a birthday pilgrimage are already in place. We live a little over an hour from Reno and you guessed it: Jimmy Beans Wool. This will be my first time to this Mekka and I don’t plan to leave empty handed. The rest of the birthday plans involve food and dance concert. But first stop: Jimmy Beans.

In the meantime I have been practicing acquisition skills. The other day I came close enough to a Michaels that I felt the pull of the cotton yarn. And Joann was not far away. One store matched the sale price of the other and you can see the rest of the story below:

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That’s lots and lots of dishcloths! If you know me and I like you, a dishcloth could be in your future. But this wonderful yarn makes much more than just dishcloths. It makes decorations that bring smiles to my face. The first glimpse of my silly grins came when looking at the following site: Attic24. scroll down and you will find lots more links for free projects. This woman knows color and surrounds herself with them. It makes me happy to look at her site. Enjoy.

Considering how I like dishcloths now, I find it amazing that I have done very few variations. Here is another ballband one and a relative, at least colorwise.

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Just found this post in my drafts. A bit late, but will post now so you can see my dishcloth addiction.

Needless to say, my birthday brought lots more yarn!

First Yarn

As promised a picture of my first ball of yarn. Most likely I’ll keep it as a reminder of the beginnings of my spinning career. I hope that pretty soon this yarn will look totally ridiculous and that progress is made. Last night was spent treadling very slowly and there was more success. Now I have to wonder if there is enough twist. Was knitting that difficult at first? I believe so, I seem to remember worrying about even tension. I could not knit uneven if I tried nowadays, just as people say that after mastering spinning one can’t produce an uneven yarn. But, for now, I’m only producing what I call art yarn. I’m seeing the silver lining. But without further ado, I present you with my first yarn:

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The yarn is pretty kinky in many spots, but hey, do better.

It’s our anniversary, 33 years. 33!!! It all started in San Francisco, in the county jail. Sounds better than the real story. We were both working there and an inmate introduced us. Stephen was already a lawyer then and I was doing my psyc internship with NCSL, the Northern California Service League. I should stop here before I start drowning in memories and nostalgia sets in.

Usually I’m a fan of nostalgia, but not lately. With the massive heart attack much changed. I have no words for the changes yet, but everything feels different since then. I’m wondering if Stephen notices the changes. Remembering feels different, less relevant.

One highlight of the day was a trip to the farm. An email offering basil by the pound had me drooling, or perhaps more swooning. Next to marjoram, basil might be my favorite aroma. One had to cut the basil oneself and bending over was not good for my back. Of course I had to get lots to make into little basil pies to freeze and use in winter. All I did was mix basil with olive oil and use the vitamix to get a basil paste. Here is part of their basil patch:

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and the kale patch on the way to the stand:

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The kale will be turned into kale chips with the dehydrator. So why did I only buy one bunch? Now I’ll have to go to the Saturday market after all. We arrived at the farm with 2 big bags, one was going to be for basil, the other for whatever else tempted me. We left with 5 bags full. One particular surprise was fennel. I love fennel fritters. And the price? $1 each, and they were huge. We ended up with lots of basil, kale, fennel, lettuce, arugula, beets, onions, red and yellow, zucchini, turnips, radishes, chard, and whatever I forget right now.

I’m hoping to make the fennel fritters in the next few days and take pictures for you and share the recipe. I’m new to food pictures and hope I can do the recipe justice.

The zucchinis will be spiralized and used instead of noodles with pesto or a raw tomato sauce. We are already getting tomatoes in our garden, but probably not enough yet to make sauce with. I’m still using them in salads only.

And then to top it all, a package arrived. Finally received my Amish swift, a beauty. And just in time as I was contemplating starting yet another project. Don’t judge, let me explain first. I’m part of a shawl mystery KAL. KAL being a knit along, the mystery part is that I have no idea how the final product will look like. Why would I do this as there are many patterns out there I would love to try? Because I can’t say no to anything. Saw it on ravelry and just had to join. The problem is that the new clues come out every Friday and I have been long done knitting that. Now I’m in waiting mode. Of course, there are lots of other started projects, but we will not talk about them today. My browsing found this beautiful shawl in yarn I happen to have and with needles that are new to me. My new signature needles. And I have them in the right size and length. How fortuitous is that? I was meant to knit this, right?

Have a look here and see why I fell in love. And I got to use my new swift to wind the yarn. Could life be any better? Here is where I start getting worried. Life is so good, it can only get worse. I’m obviously not one on the cheery side of life. Always looking for trouble and finding it.

Before I sign off here I would like to post a picture of the two of us (Stephen and yours truly) from a long time ago in Italy on a ferry. I’m unclear about the details of the trip, but know that Denise Anton took the picture. Our dog then: Athena. Our future: wide open, anything was possible then. Lots of great and horrific times since then.

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Happy anniversary Stephen, to us!

Spinning

Yes, yes, I know, it’s been a while. But I have an excellent excuse and some not so excellent ones. The best: a friend gave me her spinning wheel. Need I say more?

Knowing nothing about spinning or wheels or what wool or other fiber to use to spin, it’s been quite a trip and learning experience. For starters, is the wheel functioning properly? Is it an easy wheel to learn to spin with? Heck, I don’t know, never touched a spinning wheel before this.

Click here for a picture of the wheel. The wheel I have was made in 1969 by Anthony Cardarelle, I know because his name is engraved in the wood. Apparently he died a year or so later, in 1970 (?) and the Clemes brothers who had been working for or with him, continued with the wheels.

Immediately a major problem presented itself: how to re-hook the treadle to the footman.  As you can see, the picture of the spinning wheel was of no help. But a phone call later I had the fix. Lacings from a baseball mitt. Apparently this connection had been broken and was fixed with some sort of electrical wire that was way too stiff. But the leather did the trick.

Other than that I see nothing that needs immediate attention. The thick leather coming from the maiden and holding up the orifice could be renewed, and perhaps the belt could be, too.

I’ve tried spinning and am challenged beyond anything I might have ever tried. My yarn gets twisted and twisted while I am holding on to it for dear life. I’m not letting it go to the wheel apparently. Then I let the twist go into my wool and end up almost across the room and the yarn is still not on the bobbin. Eventually….

But Houston, we do have yarn. See?!

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Yes, I know, too much twist. I told you! But this is my first attempt, not that the other attempts look any different. But the fun factor is very high! Spinning, just like knitting, gets all the good hormones flowing I am so fond of.

This Saturday is a local spinning meeting and I will go, along with the wheel, and see if others find any fault with the wheel and can spin on or with it. Can’t wait to find out. Plus some suggestions how to get rid of so much twist. I tried with tension, nope, didn’t make a difference. Tried spinning slower, I mean I have been racing along treadling like a maniac, in the hopes of getting the yarn on the bobbin faster, ha…. Also, it’s hard to go slow for me without going into reverse. You see my many problems. And let’s not forget the time I actually started spinning my hair along with the wool. Oh the disasters I’ve had already. But I am still at it.

So far I have spun my knitpicks wool (blue-green), some wool (un-dyed) I had around the house from when the children were small and we did crafts together, and then plied my two attempts at spinning together, washed the whole thing and am waiting for everything to dry.

But before you get jealous, I doubt it is knittable. But it looks nice. And yes, I did let the yarn rest a day before going on to the next steps.

My knitting has suffered a little, it’s not like I split in two and can do both at the same time. I wish. Besides looking at my started socks with my new needles from Signature (check them out here), I joined a KAL making my first shawl. This shawl has been a huge challenge for me, not as big as spinning, but right up there. It must be my age and the loss of an ability to count and never having been good at following directions.

Now the farmers market is calling and a visit with my friend who gave me the spinning wheel.

Chocolate and scones

It has been a while. Life has taken me various unexpected and expected places, but it was all way busier than I could have imagined.

There was Stephen’s dad’s 85th birthday. Cooking up a storm, I totally forgot to take pictures. Stephen’s sister and I jammed on the menu. I ended up making gazpacho, veggie sushi (did I mention we are vegetarians?), chocolate truffles (rosemary, lavender, and Chambord), 2 gluten free orange chocolate cakes, ginger apricot scones, and a huge fruit platter.

This scone recipe is my favorite. OK, I will admit right now that I have never even tried another scone recipe. These are too good. Not sweet at all. Just perfect. I stole the recipe online which is good for you because you can go and make them too. Click here. I use more ginger than the recipe asks for. I made the dough the evening before, by hand, because the in-laws did not have all the equipment that would have made making dough easier. When I realized that scones existed before kitchen-aids some confidence grew inside me. I just made a roundish shape and wrapped it in plastic, cut into 8 pieces the next morning, baked it and voila! If you want to read all about the Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, go here.

A word about the chocolate truffles. I have been making them for years and as I often say: I can make them in my sleep. It is true. After massive heart attack, quadruple bypass surgery, and pulmonary embolism, the first thing I did after a 20 day hospital stay was fill a 100+ truffle order. Perhaps a bit crazy now that I look back, but very important to my psychological well being at the time. I digress, I wanted to comment on the flavors. Chambord, a very expensive raspberry liqueur, makes the most wonderful truffle filling, makes great ganache, and rounds out and enhances chocolate like nothing else. But lavender or rosemary combined with chocolate is equally amazing. It’s surprising one can’t find this mix more often.

Here is my chocolate recipe suggestion: get a pre-made sweet chocolate crust ready to be filled. Or perhaps you have a recipe already and make your own. I assume that any good chocolate cookie recipe will do. Bake, cool, or unwrap if you bought yours. If using the Trader Joe’s pound plus chocolate, and I highly recommend that brand, break off 22 squares. I know they are not really squares mathematically, but that’s the name we call them. Break them apart individually. Melt in microwave set to 50% for 2.34 minutes. Stir a little and do this again. If still not melted, try another minute at 50%. You can repeat this, but don’t go too far or the chocolate will seize and the chocolate gods and goddesses will not look kindly on you. Take 1 cup of heavy cream and heat in microwave. I do this 30 seconds at a time, two times is usually good enough. Stir into melted chocolate. All that is left, is 2 ounces of Chambord. Mix that in and pour into cool crust. You can pour this chocolate sauce through a strainer if you are the obsessive type. Place in fridge and let set. You are in for a treat!

I’ve also been struggling with incredible back pain. Long story, short: I’m on heavy duty ibuprofen and other pain meds and doing better. But for a while I was wondering. I could not even knit, that shows how serious the pain hit me. I can always knit, but apparently not.

Now excuse me while I go take some pictures of the latest dishcloths.

Chocolate

Yes, there will be knitting today. But probably nothing photo worthy. Instead I’ll bring you chocolate today, another one of my obsessions.

I love my chocolate sweet, but resist the temptation most times and just add a little milk or white chocolate here and there. Staying mostly with dark or very dark. The project for today is some chocolate bark for my FIL’s birthday brunch.

We start out with an 11 pound slab of Callebaut dark. And right there you’ll notice that there is no way we can go wrong. We don’t even have to worry about using up all that chocolate because we have at least 5 more slabs like this. But, we will not be using it all, though FIL turns 85, there will not be that many people to feed chocolate to.

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Take some organic dried cherries and chop them up, while melting the chocolate in a double boiler contraption. Most of the time I will melt my chocolate in the microwave, especially if I’m making chocolate truffles.

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The microwave method goes like this. I break down a certain amount of chocolate with a hammer. Keep chocolate in a plastic bag for that. Put chocolate into a bowl and at 50% in microwave for 2.34 minutes. Yes, that number might be my little ocd thing, but who is a knitter and not a bit ocd? I mean we can do the same stitch over, and over, and over, right? If this did not melt your chocolate, go for another 2.34 minutes. But remember, to put the micro at 50% again! Learned that one fast.

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But back to the double boiler method. Once chocolate is melted, I have a big decision to make. Alcohol or no alcohol? There will be kids at the event, but this is just a tiny amount of alcohol, so I went for it. Added the chopped cherries and then some Callebaut white chocolate chips, not letting them melt all the way. Poured everything on a parchment lined plate and off into the fridge to set.

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You are probably wondering why I’m showing you slabs of chocolate. What sane person without a business buys chocolate in these quantities? Btw, I found that Costco actually carries this chocolate on their online store. Trader Joe’s actually has some pretty darn good chocolate to play with. The one pound slabs in milk, dark, and very dark. I did a taste test and am convinced that the chocolate comes from Callebaut.

To get caught up here I’ll show you a little red riding hood cape I made for a friend’s daughter who had a baby girl. It’s blocking right now and I hope will go in the mail tomorrow. It got a bit boring to knit, but is cute. Parents are theatre type people and this seemed the perfect gift, for their daughter’s first role.

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Excuse me while I go make some more chocolate (almond bark) and knit.

Weather

The seasons are confusing me this year. Did I miss spring? Somehow summer seemed to follow winter in my neck of the woods. Then, big surprise for me, as I had given in to missing spring and had planted tomatoes et al., someone noticed and slapped some spring on us. Now, I’m not sure, but looks like summer again. I like a rhythm in my weather and watering. Back to watering and summer it is. But stop confusing me!

Last night I heard a snippet of news and that 60% of U.S. citizens don’t think that climate change will have any effect on them. Ha, keep on dreaming.

Since I’m still in stealth knitting mode I have nothing to show for my efforts. I did manage to blow it last night though. I ordered a pattern via mail: Elizabeth Zimmermann’s baby surprise jacket. Apparently it is a mandatory project if I want to keep my knitting credentials. I have the book with the pattern in it. But the book is from long ago and the pattern had me confused. The pattern I ordered is new and rewritten to make a modern and simple person like me understand it. But, I was going to cast on and knit the first 6 rows in garter stitch to get ahead and be ready when the pattern arrived. Casting on 160 stitches is not for the weak, and 6 rows of that, well, you do the math of how many stitches I did. First off I cast on with too short a tail and had to start over. I counted several times and was content that I had 160 stitches. But just incase, I started counting along as I knit the first row. But then got distracted. That’s OK I thought, I’ll count with the second row. Again, some confusion, I did not get 160, but 162. How can that be? OK, count with the third row. Yup, 162 it is. Now what? Well, instead of starting over I could just knit two together at each end or, decrease in the back. Keep on knitting I though, this can be worked out.

Then at row 6 I’m starting to have knitter’s doubt. Better look at the pattern again. Perhaps I can even knit a little further. I read and reread and there was no denying it, there were no 6 rows in garter stitch. The project immediately starts with decreases, a very important design point. Where did I get the 6 rows from? Probably casting on too much lately and some other project had these directions. Darn, there goes my good idea. I will wait for the pattern at this point. 160 stitches are a lot of time to waste.

To give you a picture today, I’ll post a finished project from a few weeks ago. I liked it so much, I went out and bought two more skeins of yarn to make two more. I knew my lys (local yarn store) had two discounted skeins just right for the project.

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It’s a cowl. A very quick knit. And fun to do.

Excuse me while I go water and knit.

Hard Times

This has been one hell of a difficult week. It started out with back ache on one side last Sunday. Monday I had to go in to see the dentist for another phase of my tooth implant. With back pain. The two hours flew by as if I was having fun. OK, could have been the nitrous oxide. But the week kept on plodding along slowly with a continuous back ache. tried heat, pain meds, from strong to weaker to in between, but nothing helped. I could sit for a little, stand up for a little, and be in bed for longer periods of time. Got nothing done! Just felt sorry for myself.

Today came the break through. And of course I probably overdid it immediately. When I don’t want to tackle my mess, I throw myself in to Stephen’s affairs. I flung papers and photos and cassette tapes (yes, he saves cassette tapes, don’t ask, it’s a long story), CDs, dust bunnies and dust buffalos, and after a few hours and repeated complaints by Stephen that he did not sign up for this, his room looked much better.

Yes, and so I did kind of, with less vigor, attack my room and all my stuff strewn around the house. To be honest, I only managed to kind of organize my yarn/sewing/craft room. There is a clear path to the table and the sewing machine. And I carried my computer downstairs into our bedroom where I keep a desk that I use as I do all flat spaces in the house, to store stuff on I don’t know what to do with.

Actually I cleared the desk top pretty well, but please don’t look behind the curtain of the closet where piles are awaiting me for sorting.

I’m hoping I did no further damage to my back because I am ready to knit.

Knitting did play a role during the week, if only to finish projects and do very little ones.

Let me introduce you to my new hobby: making dishcloths. So far I only have a picture of the first one I made. While watching the Champions League soccer match yesterday (Germany against Germany, I could not go wrong), I started and finished another dishcloth.

ImageVery unimaginative, your basic dishcloth. Here is the link to ravelry and the pattern.

A friend recently gave me a generous amount of yarn. And I have been dipping into this stash. First I used the sari silk yarn. It is a rather heavy yarn, so what to make? I decided on a skinny scarf for our daughter Liana. It was not easy to knit with this yarn, it did not move along the needles easily, but it turned out well.Image

This box of gift yarn has really inspired me. And with that I present a hat for Liana:Image

This hat pattern is here. As you can see I made a little change by adding a band at the bottom. This was a suggestion by the yarnharlot. The button was an easy find at our local Ben Franklin.

And last, but never least: socks. A while ago I finished the non-wool socks for my friend and a pair for Stephen. I’m so blessed that Stephen is willing to wear about any sock in any color I make. Image

I’ve ordered some fleece artist sock yarn recently and fell in love. By accident I ordered a color twice (tiger) and at first was disappointed. But once I knit with it I realized it was a very happy mistake. I did finish the pair of socks, but I’m having a hard time letting go of them. Eventually, perhaps when I knit a second pair, I might be able to pass them on.Image

With that, I’m somewhat caught up with my knitting adventures. There is still a backlog of pictures and projects to show you. For now, excuse me while I go and knit.

Weirdness

Yes, I haven’t been here in a while, and yes, that could be considered weird. But it’s not.

What has been weird in the knitting world to me is knitted washcloths. That’s why I always questioned my first knitting project, foisted upon me by my knitting teacher at school. Yes, it was a washcloth. Yellow with a green border, cotton, thin cotton. It was a washcloth you put your hand into, can’t remember what they are called.

My first attempt was so crooked it would be considered art nowadays. Somehow I could not control tension and probably gave up knitting for a few years for that reason.

In my grown up knitting career I knew a washcloth is something I would NEVER knit. Never is capitalized here for a reason, I really mean it. But here is the weird part, I recently knit a dishcloth. How is that any different?

I had some hesitation, remembering how I scoffed at the idea and how this is going overboard with the back to basics/land kind of idea popular today. But I kept an open mind and there is some pretty cool cotton around, and cheap at that. Resistance being futile when it comes to yarns and ideas, the first chance I got to buy cotton, I did. Next thing I knew, there was a dishcloth. The best looking dishcloth I had ever seen.

The problem of course is that I do my dishes with a sponge, but Stephen, our main dish washer here loves a dishcloth. That solved another problem for me. How could I get something I knit get dirty on purpose? Crazy and weird, but Stephen had way less hesitation than me. And before I could take a picture, it was in use. This morning I rescued it from the sink to get an appropriate picture for you. So far I have not transferred the picture to the computer and you might have to wait until tomorrow.

Promises, promises….

I’ve tried, promise, I’ve really tried today. Got out my best camera and took lots of pictures, imported them to my desktop computer and mailed them to myself. Here I’m at my ipad trying to figure out how to get the photos out of the mail and into this post. Usually I’m pretty good with technology, but this has me stumped a bit.

First I want to show you the fingerless mittens I’ve been making. These here were for our daughter Liana. The other pair I made for our son’s girlfriend and promptly forgot to take a picture. Believe me, they were good.

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I will not bore you with all my yarn pictures, but will serve them up a few a day. This here is the most intriguing. Apparently it’s recycled sari silk. Wonder how it’ll knit up. What you see here is my friend doing a crochet with it. It feels to me it wants big needles. Will see.

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Look, I only have the thumb left to do. So what’s keeping me? Cleaning and knitting on other projects today.

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Let’s face it, it’s not the weather either for these. It’s what you say? It’s almost gardening time. And so this morning started out with a trip to town. Here is my loot:

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I feel punchy and better get out of here for today/tonight.

Slime

The phone rings and the caller asks for me. Yes, speaking. K-designers here, remodeling, I’m all ears since we are on the do not call list. If you complain too early they hang up and you never get details so you can register a complaint. I engage in a little conversation. Who are you? How did you get my name? Did I sign up for something? My name is in your computer? Yeah, right.

I finally point out that we’re on the do not call list. And that I’m going to turn them in, ha. That’s when they tell me they are also associated with a non profit and therefore have a right to call me.

This is the slimiest maneuver I’ve ever heard of. They did not mention the non profit nor were they calling about the non profit. But by associating with a non profit they think they found a loop hole. If I ever had done business with them before or was planning to do business with them, this would absolutely kill it.

We did call them and complained, they weren’t even apologetic. Perhaps calling the non profit is in order.

Breathtaking!

More tomorrow, but a friend gifted me with yarn. Marvelous yarn, pictures tomorrow.