Monday, January 30, 2012

April challenge

T S Eliot said that 'April is the cruelest month' but I really don't believe that.  It's a month devoutly to be wished for by those of us who love spring with its fresh green leaves and colorful blooms.  OK, so there's that income tax deadline thing but let's not worry too soon.

April also brings the huge month-long blogfest known as the A-Z Challenge.  Today is the first day we can sign up to play - there are already almost two hundred bloggers linked in.  Last year was my first and I had such a great time.  I met lots and lots of new blog friends and learned some stuff, too.  If you want to try it just click the 2012 A-Z Challenge badge in my sidebar.  It'll take you right to the sign-up page.  There's lots of information available there if you're not sure how it works.

There's a lot of thinking time between now and April.  I know just how I'll start the process... I'm off to bind my new little mat.  Photos tomorrow.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Wonders - J

J is for January.  It's almost time to say goodbye to this month but before I do here is what I know.

January is named for the Roman god, Janus, the guardian of gates and doorways.

Or, of comings and goings.

Now that makes sense.  We watched as the weary year of 2011 with it's awkward, angular prime number became another discarded calendar page.

We hoped as 2012 began to take its first steps.   I think twelve is a much smoother, friendlier number with all it's factors.  Yes, I look at numbers in my own un-mathlike way. 

January is also when the Year of the Rabbit

gives way to the Year of the Dragon.

The flower symbol for January is the brave little snowdrop.

We still have our flocks of snowgeese munching in the fields as they wait for spring  to leave for their breeding grounds off Siberia.

 And, true to its name, as January slowly closes it's door, another month will be standing on the doorstep.

 Comings and goings.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Stash

The other day, I opened one of the chests which hold stash yarn and was pleasantly surprised to see that the contents' level had gone down.  Not to get too excited as it wasn't a huge drop but it was noticeable.  I looked at the second chest and it, too, showed some results.  That's encouraging.

Here is my great accomplishment...Ta-da!  Drum roll please!  The Midnight Rose is complete.  I am so please with it.  This is a crummy photo of the garment but it gives the best idea yet of the color.  My camera just doesn't like purples and dark blues.  We were talking about the shadings yesterday and I decided that, in the best possible way, it's like an oil slick on a puddle.   All dark swirlings of purples, greens, and blues.  But maybe nicer to keep thinking about those roses at midnight.

This photo gives the best idea of the finished product.  I love the curviness of the shape.  It fits perfectly and looks beautiful.  When worn, it is the perfect tunic length - not so long as it appears when flat. 

I am soldiering along on my Year of the Dragon cardi...I kind of got distracted by two little projects.  One is the Nantes Hat  (Amanda Scheuzger) which is supposed to use the remainder of the pink Geisha.  I don't believe it will.  There may be enough for a tiny pair of mittens still.   And I also started this little sweater for donation: Petite Facile  by Meghan Jones.  Such an easy pullover design for a small person.  I may make a few of these...I can use some cool buttons from my collection.  Does collection sound better than stash?

I know that the Lunar New Year actually began last Monday but the celebrations last up to 15 days.  I'm counting on that to get my knitted tribute finished in time.   The New Year is a major event in our part of the world.  Yesterday, we took a play day and went out to the River Rock resort  and casino.  Not a lot of gambling for us...we fed a $5 bill into a penny machine, doubled it and proceeded to lose it all as we tested several other penny games.  Then we went sightseeing. Lots of fresh flower arrangements like the roses above in the hotel lobby - just waiting for their photo op. 

This dragon was sculpted from stainless steel by Kevin Stone specifically to honor the most powerful of the Chinese zodiac symbols.  If you have $5 million dollars, you can buy it for your own yard.  But as you can see, it is very big.  I'm standing right by its head and that front claw is bigger than I am.

I love how shiny it is.  On a sunny day it would be blinding.  But yesterday, it was a more cloud than bright sun and we saw beautiful reflections from the marina beside it.

 The head is magnificent, isn't it?

I seem to have strayed from the stash.  It was relevant, sort of.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The January Garden

The sun is shining today after a couple of days of downright nasty weather.  Much to my horror I saw a little of the dreaded 'thick rain' last night.  But today all is peaceful and bright.

I took Miss Piggy out to sunbathe on the deck of our newest bird house.  Who knows when she'll get this chance again.  Our house this year was designed with our laid-back west coast living in mind.  Thanks, Jim, it looks wonderful.  And, while, Miss P is happy, I will bring her in so that she doesn't put off prospective buyers of the latest real estate. 

While she was catching some rays, I looked for signs of spring.  I did find a few...

Some snowdrops which will need another few days of warmth.  I did tuck the leaves around them again.

A hellebore which is almost in bloom.  This is Ivory Prince...Hot Flash comes a little later.

Here is a rugosa which we took out last fall.  Or we thought we had.  Now I'm going to fret over whether to leave this plant which has worked hard to survive or just be ruthless.  I hate it when I have to make the decision all over was hard enough the first time.  Aren't those thorns wicked looking?

Snuggled up against a warm south wall are the beginnings of our wonderful bluebell show.  It'll be a while yet...I couldn't see any flower buds.

A wee columbine showing its intricate swirl of leaves.  So out of time that I can't imagine how it has managed to grow at all.

And, last, a soldierly march of garlic plants strutting down the side of the garden bed.  We had enough garlic to last until Christmas this year.  We're planning to do better next.  Store garlic is nothing like fresh. 

Now that I've fed the compost, picked some spinach and chard for tonight's soup I'll take Miss P and go back where it's warmer for me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


It's that day again.  Time to head off down the road to chat with the folks who are gathered at Patrice's place.

 Apparently, Patrice is back from her trip and Wendell is back in the barn.  For the record, I think he did a great job last week.  I've just grabbed a sock on the needles and flown in late and breathless.  Everyone seems to be chatting already...

Kimberly asks: How long have you blogged?  I've been blogging for about five years.  I started out quite shy and quiet.  I read but never commented.  I can still remember how nervous I was making that first comment.  It felt like pretty bold step.   Each year gets better with new friends I make around the world.  

Lana asks:What is the most difficult part of taking care of chickens?  Not having any chickens, I can't really answer that one.  My brother had a pet chicken when we were kids.  We lived in the town but it was OK to have the chicken, I guess.  She laid eggs for him but obviously couldn't keep up with enough for a whole family.  

Susannah asks: Would you prefer to live where it's hot or cold?  Neither one.  I'm happy right where I am.  I like to visit places where the sun shines hotter than here but I'm always happy to come home.  And, cold?  No way...I hate being cold?  

Farm Girl asks: What sort of things are you looking forward to in 2012?  I'm looking forward to seeing how my grandkids change in the next year.  Being a Grammy means I can relax and watch.  I'm also looking forward to doing more rug hooking than I  have in the past few years.  And I have plans to make a couple of quilts.  There's a lot of stash  fiber for every craft to catch up on.  

Dreaming asks: What's for dinner?  That's usually a hard question at this time in the morning.  But not today!  I'm going out for dinner tonight...a Greek restaurant in our neighborhood.  We'll be a big party of friends (about 20) so I know it's going to be a good - and noisy - time.        

Thanks, Patrice, for hosting us once again.  If you want to share in the chat just come on over to Everyday Rurality and have a seat.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Giveaway winner!

Today is the day I've been waiting for.  It's just as exciting for me to draw a winner - honest!

I had this long story prepared as a lead-in but I've abandoned it in favor of getting to the winner right away.  Isn't that why we're here?   The magic random number was 5.  The fifth comment was made by Pam over at Empty Nest.  That means, of course, that she wins the giveaway.  Congratulations, Pam! 

Thank you to everyone - I wish I had something for each of you - I will do this again.  It's so much fun.  No, I won't wait 'til I get to the next 1000!  I'll have a good look 'round for another excuse to party. 

Meanwhile, as soon as I get that postal address (email add. in sidebar), this little mat is in the mail.  I'm sure it will enjoy it's new home. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday wonders - I

I is for Itching.

 I've mentioned before that my parents had a saying for every occasion.  My mother's list was much gentler - but no less colorful - than my father's.  She had two that involved body itching.  If your palms itched, you were going to get some money.  If your feet itched, you were going to travel.  

These were sayings that I heard at least weekly as early as I can remember.  In my mind, getting money was becoming RICH.  And traveling, well, that was traveling.  You went far away.   My mother neglected to share that  the money and the travel could be very small: finding a penny or going next door.

 As a child, I loved comic books.  One of the best things about them, besides the stories, was the advertising on the inside front and back covers.  Once I saw an ad for itching powder.  Now you can imagine how exciting that was.  If I could make the itching happen, would the sayings come true?  Did I mention I was pretty young?

I still respond to an itch in my palm or my foot with hope.  I still think the money will be a worthy prize, not just buttons, and that the travel will take me somewhere exotic.  Best of all, there will be no effort to this travel or riches:  it will be like magic.  Itching can be a good thing.

*This is the last day to add your comment to the giveaway post.  Drawing is at midnight tonight (PST) and you can find the post here with all the details.   If you've already commented - you're entered. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Stash

The snow has come and is going, going...almost gone.  The snow melt is quite dramatic once the rain comes.  I know I don't have any more excuses to stay in and knit but hey!  when did I ever need an excuse?

This is the best color capture yet!

This week, I have focused on my two big projects.  And I started one little one.  First up:  the Midnight Rose Tunic.  I have one sleeve to go and then I knit on the neckband.  I feel like Cinderella's mice running around hurriedly fashioning the ball gown.  Not that there is any pressure but my own.  This is a cool weather top and  I would like to have it finished by spring so Maria can wear it.  For some reason the sleeves are slowing me down.  Or maybe it's not the sleeves fault at all? 

There is this new girl in town.  Ooh, she's red and sassy!  I have finished the back and part of one front for my Year of the Dragon cardi.  This I want to have finished before the Chinese New Year. I won't need any firecrackers!

And, on Thursday, I looked at my gifted sock skeins from Christmas and decided to wind them into balls.  OK, that wasn't the smartest idea because now I'm hooked on knitting one of them up.  I loved the blue/gray/green tones in this seems so sophisticated.  I wanted to create a pattern that would show off the tones and be just as elegant as the yarn.  This is my Sophisticated Lady pattern.  It reminds me of the 1930's when the rich gals went to parties wearing long satin dresses cut on the bias - all in these same muted colors.  Or finely tailored suits with masses of couture detailing that we rarely see now.  Add open-toed pumps and a coiffure from the best salon and some Cole Porter on the Victrola....I was born too late, wasn't I?

I hope to have most of these finished by next week...and a whole new lot of projects.  I have them in my mind but my fingers can't work fast enough.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I have been spending a lot of time with my rug hook this past week.  One thing I have noticed is how a solitary a pursuit this is.  More like quiliting and less - a lot less - like knitting.  Knitting is much more social.  But with the hooking I am in my own little world of wool bits, color and shapes.  There's lots of time to think and ponder the big questions in life.  

Yesterday I was thinking about shapes.  I was looking at the heart and wondering why I keep putting hearts in my rugs.  If you look you'll find that it's the most common motif.  Not that every rug has one but there are enough to make a tiny trend.  I decided that it was the shape of the heart as much as its meaning. 

This is my favorite shape.  I've known this since I started quilting back in the last century - just had to say that.  My favorite quilts are patchwork and usually scrappy. I have noticed that while it is easier to make squares and rectangles - and much easier to sew them together - I actually like the look of triangles better.  My favorite patterns are those based on the pinwheel.  

Which brings me to the shape of the heart.  Have you ever noticed that it is triangular?  Me neither - until yesterday.  There are a lot of reasons to use hearts in my designs: meaning, color, symmetry and ease of drawing.  But I think it's the shape.  Then I started wondering if other people had a shape that made them happy.  Do you?

Here's a completely different shape and topic.  I actually think this little beast looks hilarious.  I have no idea why but it makes me laugh.  Not so funny is the amount of shredding we've been doing in the last few days.    So much that we've burned through yet another  shredder (this is number four, I think) and had to make an emergency run to buy a new one.  Here he is: tough, capable and silly-looking.

The snow you see reflected is now at the mercy of the rain.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

First step and a challenge

Thank you to all my friends for their kind comments.  That's such a big part of blogging, isn't it?  And, now, today is the first step on the road to the next 1000.  Let's start with a challenge, OK? 

For the past two years I've been participating in the Birth Year Reading Challenge hosted by Hotchpot Cafe.   Each year, she changes it up so that we can jump out of our birth year.  I'm especially glad because finding books from that year was so hard.  I went forward in the time Machine last year to 1953 but that didn't help a whole lot.  The lists of books published are long; the list of books available are not.   So, this year we get to honor someone by choosing their birth year, hence the name: BYRC Honors.

I have chosen to honor Amy Winehouse who was born in 1983.  She had a wonderful voice in the tradition of Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin.  Great, mad talent and gone far too soon.  

The list of books published that year is long.  I have not read very many of them and I'm not too sure why.  Maybe I was too busy trying to catch up on everything before that year.  In any case, I know I won't get to all these before the end of the year either.  But I have a better chance of finding these, I think.  Click on the link above if you want to join in or just find out more.  Here's my list:

    Oh, and don't forget to enter yourself for my giveaway.  Just click on the 'Celebrating...' post in my sidebar - look way down - and leave a comment.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Celebrating with a Giveaway

    It did take a while to get to it but I have finally arrived.  This is post 1000!  It's hard to believe that I have actually written that many words.  Of course, anyone who knows me is probably not surprised.  I can talk a lot, too.

    I want everyone to celebrate along with me and so I'm offering a gift.  I have made so many friends - and hope to make more - during the five years I've been blogging.  It started out kind of slow and sporadic with infrequent posts.  I challenged myself to increase my posts per month until I got to one post a day.  That was made easier by a trip around blogland one morning.  It was just a random blog hop based on the followers of a couple of blogs I followed.  And I found some really interesting people and ideas.  And some fantastic photography.

    Last year, I participated in the A-Z Challenge and I plan to do that again.  What a wonderful way to find new friends.  And the same for all the blog-hops and blog-fests that can be found.  I will be participating in the Birth year reading Challenge 2012, too.  I love the challenge part of blogging.  Sometimes it's a challenge to write something.  Other times, it's a challenge to get around and visit everyone.  But for me, a challenge is a pleasure.  If there were none, life would be pretty boring.

    I have found friends whom I know I would like to meet up with for real.  I'm not a huge traveller, so am not likely to have the opportunity.  But never say never.  And the invite is always there for a meet if anyone is in Vancouver.  The support and encouragement from everyone is amazing.  It's wonderful to have a place to share interests with bloggers doing the same thing.

    So, did you guess what the gift is?  Yes, it's some hooking.  A tiny mat - just 6 inches in diameter - that could be a large coaster or a small hot pad for your dinner table.  The design is called 'Celtic Heart' and I remember seeing something like it in a tattoo parlor.  Just window shopping...really!  I've included two photos because I thought the first one was boring but showed the color better.  The second has a more interesting background. I hooked this one back when I was selling quite a few mats on ebay.  When that wound down, this one was left and I just packed it away with about three other items.  And then I got busy doing other stuff.  If you are interested in seeing the hooking I was doing then, you can see it all here

    If you want to participate, just leave a comment on this post.  I'll do a random number generator thing next Sunday night (Jan 22) and post the winner on Monday morning.  Let's just pretend that I did it at midnight because you all know I wouldn't actually be awake then.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012


    Hey!  It's cold here today.  More snow is promised and I don't have anywhere I have to be.  A whole day of hookin,  knittin and livin'.  And because I don't have to be anywhere, I can scoot over to Patrice's place for a chat this morning.  We're going to the barn where it's a lot warmer, I'll bet.  I've got my knitting - I can knit in a barn - and some carrots for Wendell, our host today.  I'm early for a change - maybe I'm the first guest for Wendell?

    Horses ask some interesting questions.  Here goes...

    What's your favorite kind of chili?   My favorite chili would have no meat and lots of beans,  some green peppers.  And spicy hot, please, with some cheddar shredded on top.  No sour cream.

    What do you usually do when you feel a cold coming on?  After the initial kvetching and moaning because the cold bug has caught me, I retreat to the couch and read, read, read while I enjoy  a lot of some lemon in my hot tea. That's what I would do butI haven't had a real cold for a long time now (sound of knocking on wood)  and I would like to keep it that way.  Although, all pockets are prepared for the worst.  I always have a couple of tissues at the ready just in case.  

    Rice, potatoes, or pasta?  Hmmm...I like all three.  But if I was stranded on a desert island and I could only have one it would be rice, brown rice.  It's not as heavy somehow.  I don't really eat these foods on a regular basis any more.  

    What kind of camera do you use?  I use a Fuji S2000HD.  And rarely, the iPhone camera when it's an emergency photo op.

    Are you a night owl or an early bird?  Definitely an early bird.  This morning I was up at 5.30.  I've always been a morning person - by lunchtime the day is mostly over for me and I find my energy lower in the afternoon.  By evening it's practically non-existent.  Good thing knitting doesn't take a lot!

    Wendell asks all his questions in red...I'm wondering why.  Maybe that's as close to carrot color as will show up on the blog.  I had to change the color, because it's hard to read on my black ground.  But it looks very nice on his page...and his answers are fun, too.  Just visit Everyday Rurality to see them.

    Before I go, I have a question for Wendell:  are horses very picky about their carrots?  Should I be buying them with the green tops on?  What about those pretend 'baby' carrots?  OK, that was three questions.

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    I remember!

    Picking up that hook was easier than remembering how to ride a bike.  I spent a couple of hours yesterday happily pulling wool strips through burlap.  Ah, it was lovely.

    How to do wasn't the only thing I remembered.  There was the pleasure of cutting the strips.  I hand-cut my strip because I enjoy it.  I'm a process kind of gal and prefer to do things the long - and often hard - way.  And, for me, I like the look of hand-cuts.  I remembered how much fun it is to sort through the baskets looking at all the colors and textures.  I always use recycled wools, too.  Again, it's just me and my love of irregularity and eccentricity.

     I started with a big heart.  Can't go wrong putting love in your design, right?  The background will be as colorful as I can make it with my hit and miss strips.  Actually, I confess to letting my inner control freak loose on this.  I have a really hard time being completely random.  I have tried just blindly taking pot-luck from the worm box.  It goes OK for a while but then I start obsessing about stuff like too many yellows too close together.  Then before I know it, I've made a conscious decision to hook in a purple strip.   This time I just started off selecting the colors as I go. There is a randomness in which strip within the color family I use, though.  So I think it's fitting the spirit of the design.

    What I had forgotten was how vicious the little gripper hooks on the frame can be.  Ouch!  I have roughed up skin on the heel of my hooking hand - looks like it's been sanded.  And somehow I have what looks like a cat scratch on the other hand.  I don't remember doing this and there's no cat. 

    Mainly, I am having such a good time.  Hooked all over again. 

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Sunday Wonders - H

    H is for Hook. 

    This hook was on fire a few years ago.  I used it so much that the varnish has worn off where my fingers held it.  But the fire's been banked for what was only going to be a few months and has turned into years .  Today, the sun is shining and it's cold.  A perfect hooking day.

    So, hook plus frame...

    Add a blank (almost) canvas...

    A box of random worms...

    Put some classical music on the player and let's see what happens.  I hope I can remember how to do it. I  actually have that fear.  You'll be the first to know if the fire has burned too low.   And maybe, if this works I can get Katie's mat going.  It's been on hold too long.

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    Saturday Stash

    This view was sort of expected this folks really enjoy making a mountain out of a mogul, don' they?  It wasn't a particularly welcome view, though.  I have already gifted our snow to all my bloggy friends who really love it and have none yet.  I love how the snow has collected on our improvised (circle of sheet metal) squirrel baffle.  In the fall, two of our bigger - and younger - squirrels managed to climb up the metal pole and spent about five happy moments cleaning out the sunflower seeds.  We think we have them stymied - for the moment.

    Good thing I've been knitting some warm woollies this week.  What have I been knitting?  Even better question: what have I finished?   I'll start with my only work in progress right now: the Midnight Rose tunic.  Oh, I think it's going to be so pretty.  I was making great strides and then got a bit distracted by some other stuff.    I've got the color a bit better this week (it's darker than this) and can you see the lovely tangle of cabling?  This is a fun, fun pattern.  No cable needle necessary as you never cross more than one stitch.  I do have to count, though.  Rows, the round that's a lot to keep track of as you increase and decrease at the same time in some places.

    I finished the Desert Shadows scarf and have the pattern on Ravelry as a free download.  Go here if you'd like to try it.  You'll need about 400 meters of 4ply fingering to make a scarf. 

    After I had written up the pattern, I wanted to make another test knit just to be sure.  The pattern is very easy but the writing, as always, can get lost in my translation.  So, I cast on some leftover sock yarn for a swatch.  It looked so pretty I just kept going 'til the string ran out.  I sewed on two stash buttons  which can easily slip through a dropped-stitch 'ladder'.  Now I have my Swatch Band.  It makes a neat little neck-warmer or a headband to keep the ears warm.

    In danger of becoming a UFO, these white socks begged me to finish them.  The only thing wintery is their name -  Snowberry socks.  I think, being cotton, they'll be waiting in the drawer for some warmer weather before I actually wear them. 

    Not a bad week on the knitting front.  Now if you could just bring your shovels and buckets and take all this snow away.  Please?  While I wait for you, I'll be knitting.  I have some red recycled yarn that wants to be a jacket.  Sounds perfect for a snowy day.


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