February 2012

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What a weird winter we are having.  Its been mild and dry – and snowless.  You might remember that last year, with its 80 inches of snow, I was in my snow-loving glory.  This year, we have the complete opposite – nuthin’.  Our biggest storm this year was the nasty October storm that took out power for so long, to so many.  Since then, just one other tiny storm brought a few inches but it was so warm that it melted quickly :(

Vermont has been equally snow-less.  Coupled with my mother having her hip replaced last month, the family didn’t even talk about going up to my parents’ place for a long weekend together like we usually do.  A quick family gathering changed that – mom was doing great and ready for a weekend away and the stars had aligned so that my brother, his gf and the 2 kids and me were all free to come up.  Then we made a plan – we would go to the snow.

Enter Magic Mountain:

Not for skiing mind you, for this: Tubing!  For $25, plus a bit more for a helmet rental (and yes, you need it), you can spend the day getting towed up the hill, then sliding back down on a giant covered inner tube.  As we say in New England, wicked fun!  Wicked fast too.  The kiddos went down with their mom and dad and had a blast:  Hard to see – not so easy to get with the iPhone camera!  They were flying down the hill.

After an afternoon of this, we had managed to exhaust the niece and almost-nephew.  Not an easy feat – I learned very quickly that 2 five year olds have more energy than 5 adults put together, even when they’re tired ;-)   We spent the rest of the afternoon here: curled up in front of the woodstove, glass of wine in hand.  Of course, this makes it look for more tranquil than it actually was – I caught a picture in between small humans running by.  It was more loud and slightly chaotic than tranquil – pretty much how it goes for a family weekend.  In other words – perfect, snow or not.

Happy Leap Day!  It looks like we may get a little bit of the white stuff today, which would make the day just right…

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Fun topic this week – 10 Thoughts on This Year’s Oscars.  I watched most of it this year, except for some of the boring stuff in the middle.  and of course, I watched the pre-show on E!  I love the red carpet stuff.  On this day after (writing this on Monday night when I’m still dealing with the effects of having stayed up waaaay past my bedtime to watch), here’s my thoughts.

  1. The Help was robbed.
  2. Especially Viola Davis.  I love Meryl Streep and I haven’t yet seen the Margaret Thatcher movie but Viola Davis was amazing in The Help – how could she not win?
  3. I’m intrigued by The Artist now – I keep hearing good things about it and will have to watch it.
  4. The Tree of Life and Iron Lady also got my attention, thanks to their nominations.
  5. liked Billy Crystal but I remember him being funnier.
  6. and older looking – like so many of those Hollywood people, he needs to lay off the Botox/plastic surgery/whatever.  seriously, ick.  whatever happened to aging gracefully?  felt this way about a lot of people on the show.
  7. loved almost all of the dresses.  best dressed is a toss up between Penelope Cruz and Viola Davis.  loved them both.
  8. I liked the white dresses worn by several actresses but I admit I’m still a little thrown by it – it is well after Labor Day and before Memorial Day, after all.
  9. the one dress I really didn’t like – Melissa McCarthy.  too much fabric, weird sleeves and it did nothing for her.
  10. hate Sasha Baron Cohen.  that stunt he pulled with Ryan Seacrest was just stupid.  what an idiot.  I was annoyed by it interrupting the coverage and having to change to ABC’s coverage halfway through.

On a related note, I saw Moneyball this weekend.  loved it!  not just for Brad Pitt either, though he wasn’t hard to look at for 2 hours.  it was a great movie – heartwarming, well written.  Jonah Hill in a dramatic role was surprisingly good.  I highly recommend it.

happy movie watching!

 

 

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Its Wednesday and time for a little mid-week update on the WIPs.  I spent the long weekend in Vermont with my family, which meant a good bit of knitting time.  I brought along my Smokehouse Cabled Vest.  I started the front ribbing before I left and ended up with this much more by the time I headed home on Monday:Not so shabby – nearly 3 repeats in and getting close to the dividing point for the deep v neck.

And then there’s the Baktus: I have finally reached the halfway point, after getting to 77 stitches (totally random number – I was weighing the skein in grams on my fiber scale – I started decreasing after using half the skein minus a couple of grams for insurance).  Decreasing is glorious.  I admit, the color and fiber is fun and its a great mindless project but unless I’m with friends or watching a movie, this is boring to knit.  I need to be otherwise engaged or the row upon row of garter stitch gets to me…

On another front, there’s a great book on the Nook – Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan.  I started it last week and am already 2/3 of the way through.  Its definitely one that I don’t want to put down.  Perhaps I need to read and work on the Baktus at the same time – that would keep my attention.

Happy Wednesday!

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, today’s topic is your 10 Favorite Chocolate Treats.  Just 10?  That’s all I get?  Here goes my top 10 plus maybe a few extras.

  1. Salted Caramel Chocolate Chunk Cookies – Pictured above.  To. die. for.  So good, I only make them when I need to bake for others because if they were in my house, I would eat them all.  In one sitting.
  2. Dark chocolate sea salt caramels – sometimes, the cookie gets in the way of the goodness that is salt, chocolate and caramel.
  3. Chocolate cheesecake
  4. Chocolate ice cream – sometimes classic is best.
  5. Also, a Hershey’s Bar – again, classic.  If I need crunch, Hershey’s with Almonds.
  6. Chocolate mousse – combine it with chocolate cheesecake and its bliss.  Cheesecake Factory does one like that.
  7. Chocolate covered pretzels.
  8. Chocolate covered potato chips.  Yes, I have a thing for chocolate and salt.
  9. M&Ms
  10. Chocolate covered strawberries
  11. Hot chocolate – Penzey’s is the best, hands down.  If I’m in the mood, I like to add a splash or three of Godiva Chocolate Liquor and a little kahlua.
  12. Speaking of things better with booze, Boozy Chocolate Milkshakes.  I’m of the belief that chocolate milk shakes are made with vanilla ice cream, lots of good chocolate syrup and milk.  Add in some Godiva Liquor and kahlua and I’ve died and gone to heaven.
  13. Chocolate Cake – my favorite recipe is Smitten Kitchen’s Everyday Chocolate Cake.  Its super easy and fabulous and needs nothing but a dusting of powdered sugar, though a good thick fudge frosting wouldn’t hurt it either.
  14. which reminds me – fudge.  there’s a fudge maker at Coventry Farmer’s Market that makes me want it to be opening day right this minute.

do I have to stop?  my love for chocolate is deep and abiding.  I could go on and on…

wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day – with plenty of chocolate.

 

 

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Progress

One very relaxed weekend makes for lots of progress on the knitting, spinning and reading fronts.  I spent Saturday at home, curled up in my jammies, resting and hoping to keep a cold from setting in (so far, so good).  I finished a book – Knit One, Pearl One and started another – Maine.  Two very different reads and each wonderful in their own right.

I spun a bit:still in love with it…

I knitted like crazy on my Smokehouse Cabled Vest:I finally got to the armhole shaping.  Try as I might this weekend, I didn’t quite make it to finishing the back – about 4 more inches to go.

I did a few repeats on my lovely and mindless Baktus:The real progress on my Baktus came on this:Notice how a third of the ball is wrapped around the middle?  That was one massive tangle in my center pull ball.  I knew it was in there somewhere but happily denied until I absolutely had to deal with it.  Of course, it came at 9:45 Sunday night, when I was planning to go to bed the second Desperate Housewives was over (and yes, in one post, I’ve admitted to reading knit lit and watching DH – stopping judging! ;-) )  A solid hour later, I had it all untangled and wound neatly onto the ball again without taking scissors to it.  Incredibly satisfying, even if its not the kind of progress I had hoped to make.

Onward – happy Monday!

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I love this week’s topic – 10 Things You Can See From Your Favorite Knitting Spot.  At home, I alternate between 2 spots in the living room – couch and chair.  My big comfy arm chair is super cozy, roomy enough for both kitties and I and warm from being next to a heating vent – and as such, often leads to spontaneous naps, whether or not knitting happens to be in my hands.  For that reason, I often go for my couch, which has become my favorite spot lately.

From there, I have this view out the window:

(this was taken the morning after the freak October snowstorm but you get the idea).  From my spot, I have a great view of the neighborhood and my apartment.  Among the highlights:

  1. Ghetto Mart – I know its not PC and borderline tasteless to call it that but if go were to go in there, you’d understand.  The convenience store across the street is really something.  Rather handy for when you run out of basics like bread, milk that may or may not be past its expiration date, lottery tickets, cigarettes, knives, porn and pipes (glass vs the corncob type and clearly labelled “for your legal tobacco use only”).  You’d think I’d prefer to ignore it (or move) but I’ve discovered something in the nearly 2 years I’ve been here – ghetto mart is the center of my little neighborhood.  Everyone goes there, the employees know all the neighbors and will happily chat you up (not to mention flirt shamelessly) and they truly support the people in our little corner of the world, whether its paying a kid $10 to shovel the snow that doesn’t really need shoveling, giving a hand to a mom with little ones or keeping an eye on someone going through a rough time.  On any summer night, I can sit and listen to the men of the neighborhood gossip out front or get serenaded by our resident woeful teen hipster with a harmonica.  And they are trying to clean up and make it nicer – the icky stuff is on the way out and apparently, there’s plans for expansion and improvements.  I’ve come to appreciate its hidden charms and welcome the view from my window.
  2. The neighbors – there’s always great people watching from my knitting spot.  Lots of people walking dogs, going for a run, kids walking to school.  Sadly, it does lack the view of a Hot Neighbor like I had at my house, with no one near comparable in 2 years.  On the other hand, there’s no view of a neighbor nicknamed Ass Crack Mike either, for which I am incredible grateful.  Still, lots of interesting characters…
  3. My boys – whether they like it or not, I can keep an eye on most of Thumper and Gizmo’s antics and their favorite napping spots from my perch on the couch.
  4. My dining room – at Christmastime, I get the glow of the tree, other times the flicker of a candle lit in the dining room or the trees just outside the big windows.
  5. The tv – I tend to watch a lot of tv while I knit and have a great view from my spot.
  6. My knitting library – from my spot, I can see my bookshelves dedicated to fiber – great for inspiration or distraction.
  7. The sunrise – I have a great view of the sun coming up in morning, which makes the time I always give myself to knit before work that much more precious.
  8. My red walls – I love the color of my living room.  Its Pottery Barn Red and fabulous.  I can take no credit, as the last tenants painted it but it was one of the things that sold me on my place.  I love red.  The red of my walls is deep and rich and gorgeous and just makes me happy.
  9. My WIP bag – I hang the bag for my current work in progress on the knob of the french doors to the living room.  Nice to have it always within sight and close at hand, especially in those moments when I’m considering casting on just one more thing.
  10. Jane the dress form – Jane lives in the corner of my living room.  When she’s not actively modeling a garment, she’s draped with shawls and scarves, which is pretty and inspiring and honestly, great storage.

I hope I’ve painted a little picture of the view from where I spend some of most relaxed moments.  Looking forward to what others have to share this week.

 

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spinning nirvana

I have found the perfect pairing of fiber and spindle.  This lovely silk has been in my stash for a while: Its Bombyx silk.  I won it from Jacie a while back, paired with a beautiful Two Tails Spindle.  Gorgeous spindle, lovely fiber but unfortunately, it didn’t click for me.  Bombyx is super fine and slippery.  The spindle had a large whorl, just about an ounce and spun like a dream but for some reason I couldn’t get enough twist in it to make a stable yarn.  Jacie watched me fight with it, drop the spindle repeatedly and ultimately, chip the spindle :(   I got it back a bit later, fixed and lovely again but I was afraid to try the super slippery fiber with it, so I put both aside.

I was poking through fiber and spindle stashes on Friday night and found the lovely Bosworth Mini above.  I’m pretty sure its Pink Ivory with a Tulipwood Shaft (I have a dozen Bosworths, all inventoried in a list with whorl, shaft, weight and purchase date but sadly, not photographed or better – tagged for easy IDing so I do get them mixed up).  If its the one I’m thinking of, its weight is the sweet spot of spindles for me – 24-25 grams.  Its goes fast and long, just the way I like it (ahem).  Its one of the spindles I go for when I have a “challenging” fiber to play with – the other being my Moosie.  I grabbed the Bombyx and spindle and magic happened.  It sung!  I found fiber nirvana.  What a perfect pairing of fiber and spindle – I can get the perfect amount of twist and spin a nice, fine single on it.  No slipping, no dropping, just yard after yard of lovely yarn.  I’ve barely put it down since Friday night.

By this morning, I had this – just over half an ounce on the spindle, about a 1/4 of the fiber.  Lovely, lovely, lovely stuff.

I see another handspun silk shawl in my future :-)

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My new obsession – a simple Baktus scarf in merino/silk handspun.  I love the way the colors are flowing one to the next and the soft, drapey hand of the yarn.  No wonder I can’t seem to put it down.

Happy Friday!

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My View

The view from where I sit…

I’ve been inspired by this post, linked by someone else yesterday.  I always want to take more pictures but needed a little inspiration for different subjects – something other than the usual cat/fiber project/landscape/flowers that seem to make up so many of my shots.  I love this list of ideas and the list she posted for last month.  Great subject matter that hopefully will inspire me to get creative with both my DSLR and my iPhone camera, with its multiple apps for photo editing.

Yesterday’s topic was so timely – your view today.  I have come to think of February 1 as the start of “Grant Season” in my work world – the crazy busy months that go from mid-winter to late June (and sometimes into July) in which we are consumed with funding applications and grant writing for next fiscal year.  I’m on track for one proposal a week for the foreseeable future – and its only just begun.  So, this view – my usual, ordinary, look up from my desk view, seemed all too appropriate today when I paused to consider the months ahead.  I took a minute consider my view – of that very strategically hung picture placed above where I will spend a huge number of hours over the next few months visioning and planning and writing — and hoping that those big dreams become reality.

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I’m so excited to announce my upcoming gig – I’m teaching at All Things Fiber Camp in May.  Its been in the works for a while, so I may even have mentioned it here.  Yesterday, on my day off to catch up on many things Painted Sheep, I sent in my contract and finalized my class descriptions and things.  It’s all coming together and looks to be an amazing week.  Camp is at Ramapo Retreat in Rhinebeck, NY for 5 days in May.  I’ll be teaching dye workshops every morning and then either Spinning with Handpainted Yarns or Knitting with Handpainted Yarns in the late afternoon (rotating schedule).  Class descriptions should be going up on the site soon, but here’s a sneak peek:

Dyeing Yarn and Fiber:  Participants will learn to handpaint fiber and yarn, using acid dyes.  Techniques for various color effects will be covered, including variegated, tonal and shaded colorways.  The effects of varying the base fibers with the technique will be covered.  Participants will have an opportunity to play with color and fiber and will be encouraged to jump out of their “color box” to create one of a kind colorways.  All necessarily dyeing supplies will be provided, including acid dyes, a skein of lace weight or sock yarn, 4 ounces of BFL roving and 4 ounces of wool blend (typically merino or BFL with silk, alpaca or other fiber) roving, as well as use of dye equipment.  Participants will need to bring a large bowl or small bucket (to be used for dyeing only), towel and roll of Saran Wrap.  Dyeing is messy (part of the fun!), so wearing an apron or old shirt is helpful.  No dyeing experience is necessary for this class.  Those wishing to take this class more than once over the course of the week will have an opportunity to learn additional techniques and play with different fiber blends.
Spinning Handpainted Fibers:  Have a lovely multi-colored bit of fiber but don’t know what do with it?  Or just how to keep those pretty colors intact in the handspun yarn?  Or how to create a great effect with it and mix up the colors a bit?  In this class, we’ll talk about how to spin up a handpainted roving to get different effects like long color repeats, graduated colors, barber-poling (on purpose!) and blended effects.  This is for advanced beginner spinners and up – participants must be comfortable spinning and plying a stable yarn on wheel or spindle.  Participants should bring a wheel or spindle.
Knitting with Handpainted Yarns:  Have you ever bought a beautiful hand dyed yarn, brought it home and not known what on earth do with it?  Or worse, knitted it up and found that you hated the result?  This class will teach you how to pair up that handpainted yarn with the right pattern for a perfect marriage of hand-dyer and pattern designer, with a little help from you, the knitter!  This will be a discussion based class, with samples (the good, the bad and the ugly!), tips and techniques to create a beautiful work of art from handpainted yarn, be it your own or someone else’s.  Participants should have basic knitting knowledge and are welcome to bring handpainted yarns as well as samples of their own work for tips and suggestions.
I love to teach and thrilled to have the opportunity to do so at Camp.  It really is camp for grown ups – and I get to spend my week sharing my love of color and fiber with others and taking classes and hanging out with great people.  Lucky, lucky me!
I actually have other teaching gigs in the works (fingers crossed) that will be local to me and more regular.  It’ll be a little different from what I’m doing at Camp but still a great opportunity to share my love of fiber with others.  As soon as its in place, I’ll announce it here.  In the meantime, I’m adding a Workshops/Teaching page to my site in the next couple of days – check that out for more information on what I offer for classes and workshops.

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