10 things I did on this wonderful weekend? Just 10? here goes…

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1. It started with lunch with an old friend at one of my favorite pubs. I should have gotten a picture of us but we were so busy catching up… we’ve known each other since college, were in each other’s weddings and hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years. it was long overdue and delightful.
2. I hit the seedling sale at Urban Oaks, the organic farm stand in New Britain, bringing home 5 heirloom tomato plants, a jalepeno pepper and some herbs, then I hit the little greenhouse near home and got even more.
3. I had an unexpected/unwelcome experience with a bat in my condo. Jenni came to my rescue, since I had no idea what to do. we never did find it – we know its in the utility closet and think it got into the ceiling or wall through one of the many holes. and by now, I hope its dead. said closet is still closed off…

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4. Saturday, I hit Mass Sheep and Wool with Peggy and Suzanne. Then we had lunch at Sylvester’s in Northampton (2 Saturdays in a row for me!) and hit Webs (also 2 Saturdays in a row). We had a blast! I did not buy the fleece above but tried hard to get Suzanne to (no luck).
5. I did buy this without a second thought

20140526-212835-77315386.jpg that’s 4 ounces of 60/40 Cormo/Alpaca blend from Foxfire. the last time Barb had it, I passed – and kicked myself. so it came home with me.
6. I planted my garden on Sunday.

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20140526-213021-77421785.jpg I’m more than a little proud of having moved all of that soil – 520 pounds – from car to planters in under 90 minutes. All that working out paid off (my back and legs hated me a bit on Monday – was worth it). I planted 5 tomatoes (brandywine, watermelon, Roma, black cherry and sungold cherry), 1 jalepeno, 3 Italian basils, 1 Greek basil, 1 oregano, 2 rosemary’s, spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint and lemon balm. There will be caprese salad. and pesto. and more than a few mojitos.
7. I pondered what to plant in the flower gardens in front and back, just recently cleared of big old ugly shrubs (the stump/root still has to come out in front). Decided on a hydrangea and hosta in the back.
8. I had a lovely dinner with someone I hadn’t seen in a long time, outside, on a beautiful evening.
9. I finished my Cormo Irish Hiking Scarf – also known as the scarf that never ends.

20140526-213830-77910178.jpg it ended at 82 inches and 4 inches of yarn left.
10. I sat on my patio, in the sun, knitting, drinking wine, thinking about life and wondering when the dragonflies will be back

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and it ended with this – something told me to stay outside a little longer

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Finished! Hartford Cardigan in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. Started in mid October, finished this morning – just in time to wear to a slightly chilly CT Sheep and Wool on Saturday.

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and my favorite shot:

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confession time – I took a little chance on this sweater. when I started it in October, I’d lost a few pounds since starting to work out in July. I started it in a smaller size than I’d normally wear (knowing it would just fit), going with a smaller needle. life got in the way, I lost my focus a bit, blah, blah – weight loss stalled in the fall. the holidays hit, oddly, and I really got motivated – since mid December, I’ve lost, well, quite a bit. I’m now more than 40% to my goal weight (healthy is the 1st goal, skinny bitch is the ultimate goal). in January, when I dropped the first clothing size and was quickly on my way to a 2nd, I started to wonder if I should dump this sweater and restart when I lost all the weight. friends suggested it. I was pretty far along and didn’t really want to give up (this also being the 3rd time around with this sweater – originally was to be a pullover, restarted twice before I gave up). so, I went with it. I knew my gauge was a little tight and that it might not be true to size. and it worked :-) the sweater is about 2″ smaller than it should be. it fits perfectly right now, with a bit of ease. its intended to be worn very oversized – 6-8″ of ease. if I keep up my current pace, by fall, it’ll be a great layering piece, with plenty of room.

quite happy with the sweater, not to mention this new, improved version of me. what a difference it makes!

and with that, this probably will be the last sweater I make for myself for a while (except the fair isle cardigan that’s still in progress). until I stop shrinking (!), I’m sticking with stuff where size isn’t such an issue.

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The weather, along with Carole, have me thinking about being outside. This weekend, we went from “its sorta spring sometimes” to full on, air out the house, sunroof all the way open, its patio season spring time. it was glorious! now that I can, 10 things I like to do outside (mainly on said patio):

1. Cook! it coming time to grill all the things. the indoor grill will not see the light of day again until the patio is too covered in snow to venture out there.
2. Drink my morning coffee
3. Drink wine – that is what the patio is there for, right?
4. Knit
5. Spin
6. Read
7. Nap – there is no better spot
8. Workout – its hard to get to the gym these days when its light later and its warm enough to go for a really long, brisk walk
9. Work at home – there’s good reason I do it every chance I get in the warmer months. why sit in my office when I can take my laptop outside and accomplish every bit as much?
10. day dream – that shot on top? that’s what I see when I look up from my spot on the patio. what better place to let your mind wander?

and so much more. i love being outside, no matter what season it is but having my own little spot to enjoy it makes it that much sweeter. here’s hoping spring is here to stay!

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Great topic this week – The last 10 books you’ve read. I do love to read, though I never feel like I have (make?) enough time for it. I definitely read more in the summer, when the knitting slows and I spend time on the patio, cup of coffee/glass of wine at hand, Nook in my lap, legs stretched out to soak up the sun. those are some glorious days! soon… so, the timing is perfect – I’ll share some of my good (and not so good) reads recently and I can’t wait to see what others have read – and I can add to my to read list.

Here goes – the last 10 books I’ve read:
1. Pack Up the Moon by Rachael Herron – the best book I’ve read in a long, long time. touching and heart-wrenching and beautifully written. it tackles grief and loss and family and love and forgiveness and healing. the subject is tough at times, definitely a tear jerker but one you won’t put down.
2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – a quick read – I read it start to finish on my flights home from NOLA recently. I give it a solid meh. the premise is good but beyond that, I didn’t get much out of it. mostly I remember thinking that the author got way too much gratification from cleaning her closets and making her family more organized – found it annoying and lacking in depth. not what’s going to make my life happier, that’s for certain.
3. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman – the book the tv series is based on. very different from the show, though some of the characters are recognizable in the book. great read. definitely gives you a sense of the justice system and life behind bars, at least for a well off white chick in prison for a low level crime.
4. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – another wonderful read by one of my favorite authors.
5. Adventures in Yarn Farming: Four Seasons on a New England Fiber Farm by Barbara Perry – Barb gives an up close and personal view of life on her beautiful farm, the reality of sheep farming and the work that goes into raising animals to produce her incredible yarns. loved every page of it.
6. The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting – Clara Parkes’ wonderful book on how she ended up changing careers and moving from the west coast to her idyllic Maine farmhouse to write about all things knitting (and now to make yarn – swoon!)
7. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton – see #4. I love everything Kate Morton writes. her stories are complex and unexpected, with many layers and great characters.
8. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett – loved it! i can’t remember a lot of detail in the moment other than it was a great mystery, totally unexpected ending and that I couldn’t put it down.
9. I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell – OMG, this was so much fun. half of The Fabulous Beekman Boys tells his story of working in advertising by day and being drug abusing drag queen by night. hysterically funny, real, even touching. and like I said, just plain fun.
10. The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers by Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge. The Fabulous Beekman Boys tell their story of how the came to own a goat farm (and later, lifestyle brand) in Upstate NY, learn to farm and eventually, as life circumstances change, made the move to full time farmers/entrepreneurs. light and fun and honest – another really fun read.

realizing that i’ve read all of these in the last 11 months – almost to my elusive goal of a book a month. also, I’ve read some great stuff in the last several months. looking forward to getting more suggestions :-)

what’s on my needles at the moment?

20140319-121020.jpg my Hartford cardigan – aka, the thing I want to finish before spring its too warm to wear it. that picture, of the finished right front, is from Sunday night and is now “old” – I finished the left front last night and started on the back (you first knit up to the arm holes, then divide the fronts and back, then do the sleeves separately and sew them in). its going much faster now but still a long way from being finished. and yet, i still have this delusion that I’m going to wear it once this season. though if the forecast for the beginning of spring is any indicator, I could finish it in May and still wear it. sigh… let’s hope I can wear it once, in say, early April (again with the delusions!) and then it will magically warm up and stay warm (ya know, if I keep up this sort of thinking, medication might be in order,ha!).

and the other project that’s getting my attention, mainly at work –

20140319-121659.jpg my current sock in progress. super simple, using Carole’s Picot Edged Sock pattern, in my favorite (and last skein, ack!) of Mountain Colors Weaver’s Wool Quarters in Wilderness. a great, mindless knit. that’s the first one. turned the heal and started on the foot yesterday. cruising along on size 2 dpns.

and yes, work knit. my boss and I had a conversation recently in which she said something to the effect of “you could knit during meetings like so and so”. I told her I’d love to but some people seem to think its rude (though to me, no less rude than being glued to your phone, doodling or my guilty one – fidgeting with my pen until I accidentally fling it across the room). I didn’t exactly jump on her suggestion (permission?) but I have knitted through a couple of workshops and forums when I was sitting in the back of the room and not having to participate, along with during webinars and long conference calls when I’m alone in my office and I feel like I can get away with it. it truly helps me focus, not to mention make progress on the sock. good reason to keep it stashed in my bag.

my other projects, including that fun, quick little bag that I started recently – all kind of on hold so that I can focus on the sweater. really, really want to wear it – almost as much as I want warm weather to come…

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Weekending

in a word, delightful.

low key, relaxed and to be perfectly honest, all about me and recharging my batteries. last week was long and stressful both personally and professionally (the crazies came out, OMG – by Wednesday afternoon, I was asking if Mercury was in retrograde because things in my little corner of the world were just plain f-ed up). I needed a weekend, some alone time and to spend some time taking care of me. and that I did.

Saturday afternoon, the weatherman lied. he said it was going to be 48 and cloudy, getting cooler with snow flurries moving in. he seemed right by early afternoon. i desperately needed fresh air, so I headed for Walnut Hill Park in New Britain, with a warmish coat on and a plan to do 2, maybe 3 laps around (each is a mile) before the weather turned. funniest thing – 2 laps in and this happened.

20140309-204151.jpg guessing it was 10 degrees warmer when the sun came out. i ditched the coat in the car and figured I’d do one more lap while I soaked up the sun in all of its warm, beautiful glory. funnier still, every time I got around to my car again, I couldn’t bear to get in, so I kept going. my planned 2 or 3 miles turned into 6 – I don’t think i stopped smiling the whole time. I stretched my legs, I walked off the stress, I basked in the sunshine, I breathed deep in the warm, fresh air. it was just the antidote for the craziness and the long, gray winter days lately. this time, I really liked that the weatherman was so, so wrong.

Sunday, like so much of the rest of my weekend, was a perfect combination of catching up on stuff around the house and pampering myself. i painted my nails. I vacuumed (hey, when its the first time in 3 weeks, it feels like an event). I snuggled the cats. I cooked. I caught up on stuff i’d DVR’d. I started this bag kit from Habu, in a funky combination of linen paper and silk yarns:

20140309-205826.jpg I multitasked, in the way that one does on a Sunday afternoon:

20140309-205923.jpg what you can’t see is that along with the knitting and reading at the same time, Thumper was in my lap and there was a glass of wine close at hand.

i ended the weekend reading more in bed. Rachael Herron’s Pack Up the Moon is every bit as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be and I hate to put it down. ending the weekend snuggled in bed, a great book in hand, was just right.

like I said, delightful…

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aka my NOLA Socks or better, the goofiest thing I’ve ever knit.

further proof, close ups:

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20140309-202903.jpg I admit it, I love them, silly as they may be.

as you might remember, I bought this yarn at The Quarter Stitch in New Orleans a few weeks ago. the pattern (Super Bulky Toe Up Socks – on Rav but I don’t have the link handy) called for one skein. they made anklets. with my big feet, I was afraid I’d run out of yarn before they reached my heel, so I bought 2 and figured i’d knit until I ran out of yarn. little did i know I’d end up with nearly knee socks. these actually reach well past my mid-calf. I improvised and threw in a couple of increases past the ankle to shape them appropriately. by the time I realized what I was really making, i was committed to my bulky socks, no matter how silly they looked.

they look just plain ridiculous pulled up (plus one is longer than the other, thanks to running out of yarn on the 2nd sock) so I scrunched them down when I put them on. they are purely for in the house wear (I couldn’t get them in shoes if i wanted to), making them sort of like slipper socks. no doubt they’ll be great for chilly winter days (or for wearing to bed in VT, where its always cold in the house at night). at least they’re practical.

fun too, I have to admit. sort of an appropriate “souvenir” for NOLA…

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Right now…

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end of February already? where did that go? here’s a slice of life in my little corner of the world, right now…

Watching: my shows again (all 3 of them). that mid-winter break was nonsense.
Reading: actually, waiting for Pack Up the Moon to be released on Tuesday. knitter/blogger/author/delightful human being Rachael Herron’s new novel is getting great reviews. i pre-ordered it months ago and can’t wait to dive in on Tuesday (how I love that it will be on my Nook when I open it in the morning!)
Knitting: Super Bulky Toe Up socks in the Malabrigo Rasta that I picked up in NOLA. they are fun and bordering on ridiculous – turns out each skein makes almost a knee sock. they’ll be warm and cozy and perfect for chilly evenings at home (alone, in my bathrobe, ha!)
Listening to: my Winter playlist, my current blast at high volume in the car tunes.
Planning: my container garden for this summer. yes, its too soon. i can’t help myself…
Itching to: get another tattoo. i forgot how amazing fresh ink is until I got my dragonfly. i’m thinking about putting something on my foot. now to figure out what…
Organizing: all the paperwork. its a tax time thing – time to clean out the old stuff that I don’t need and find a free shred it event.
Humming: Happy by Pharrell Williams. so catchy and upbeat! love it!
Inspired by: all things NOLA. have I mentioned my love of the place?
Surprised by: the forecast for Monday. I heard the word blizzard used. more? when even I’m sick of winter, its been a long one. also, life. its good and happy and full of surprises :-)

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20140224-191622.jpg Jackson Square in the French Quarter in New Orleans
Carole gave us another writing prompt this week – love this!

I feel…
1. Happy! I went through a rough patch, thanks to a lot of relatively minor but shitty forces coming together at the same time but I’m through it and feel like my old happy self again. its good to be on the other side!
2. responsible for my own happiness – another person doesn’t make me happy, anymore than anyone can take my happiness away. something I can’t forget…
3. Stronger! what doesn’t kill you…
4. Healthy! (knock on wood) winter is almost over with no respiratory issues – a first in a long time. i credit increased asthma meds, regular exercise and a better diet for getting through what is usually a tough time for me, health wise.
5. Thinner! the healthy habits i started last summer are paying off – you can see it in my face (as in I have one less chin) and i’ve dropped a couple of sizes.
6. Excited about what’s to come at work – so many great things happening at once.
7. ready for spring – those few days in NOLA, with sunny, 75 degree weather, put me over the edge
8. a little lazy – i haven’t been to the gym in a couple weeks, thank you travel and work.
9. like my next vacation needs to be in NOLA. I fell in love with the place.
10. the need to knit. when do i not?

NOLA

its hard to find words to describe my trip to New Orleans last week. the conference was wonderful. i learned a lot, had a very successful meeting with someone big in my field, facilitated a great workshop with providers that were so inspiring that it made me miss doing the work.

my evenings were free, just 3 short ones to get a taste of the city I’d heard so much about. i stayed on Canal Street, right next to the French Quarter. i didn’t have time to see much. not nearly enough. the first night, we took a walk down Decatur Street, just as instructed by the concierge. found a great local restaurant, where we had (strong) drinks and the NOLA sampler – i smattering of the city’s famous dishes. then we hit Cafe Du Monde for beignets and cafe au lait. fat and happy, we wandered up St. Ann St to Bourbon. i came, I saw, i didn’t get puked on – that was good enough for me. so not my scene! the next night, we got smart – we talked up the bartenders in the hotel lobby and got the real scoop on where to go to get good food, good drink and jazz – we cabbed it to Frenchman Street. we found a little club and restaurant, drank Hurricanes, nearly got tattoos, listened to jazz and zydeco and danced in the street. i didn’t want to leave. the next night, i was on my own after the conference ended and everyone else left town. i had a few hours to myself to wander. as any good knitter would do, i headed for the yarn shop i’d heard about – the Quarter Stitch. 2 skeins of Malabrigo Rasta came home with me. they gave me a restaurant recommendation, for the Napoleon House. after I wandered the French Quarter, walked along the Mississippi a bit and took in as much as I could, i headed there for a great meal in the courtyard.

somewhere in there, i fell in love. never have i been so enamored with a city. the food, the music, the culture, the architecture and most of all, the charm – i love it. i want to go back. i want to see beyond the downtown and the tourist spots. i want to experience more. i need to. I love NOLA. I can’t wait to go back.

some of my favorite shots…

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20140224-121030.jpg beignets and cafe au lait, goofing off on Frenchman Street (something about me being under the Frenchman, again), the French Quarter and the Mississippi and the sweet packaging that at the Quarter Stitch.

did i mention that I’m in love with the place? when can I go back?

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