Mudders and Locations

Happy Friday!   I’m in a fabulous mood…  Tomorrow is 136th Run for the Roses, aka: the Kentucky Derby.   Never in its history has it been called on account of rain, so let the drops fall!  (Easy for me to say; I won’t be there to get soaked in my glad hat and fancy frock.)

And remember that you heard it here…  Paddy O’Prado to win, place or show (the only way I place a wager).  There’s an old saying in horse racing about betting on the grey on a cloudy day, and this handsome Irishman is a mudder, which is to say that like a good scrappy lad, he doesn’t mind digging deep and slinging some mud. 

He just takes my breath away.    I want to go scratch his nose and feed him carrots.   My sister had a horse that would steal a can of Slice soda; wonder if this Irish boy wants a Guinness?

While we’re not going to a Derby bash per se, we are going to the Grymes Memorial School‘s annual auction.  That’s the big deal for the weekend here.  I’m really looking forward to spending the evening with Ann and her friends and family!

So, Day #5 of Knitcroblo

Location, Location, Location

Where do you like to indulge in your craft? Is your favourite arm chair your little knitting cubby area, or do you prefer to ‘knit in public’? Do you liek to crochet in the great outdoors, perhaps, or knit in the bath, or at the pub?

Sissy's knitting corner... mine is at the far end... 12/08

Like most of these questions, there’s not a simple, single answer to this one.  Mostly, I knit from my corner of the sofa I share with the fur-girls.  However, I also knit at the firehouse, in whatever vehicle we’re in, out on the deck… anywhere.  I tend to crochet at home, because of late, my crochet projects are big and bulky.

Another favorite spot - anywhere at OBX!

I know it doesn’t ask about spinning, but I spin from the Knight’s recliner most of the time.  I also love to spin on the back deck and find the wrought iron chairs just about perfect.

So, where will you be watching the Derby?  (And please feel free to knock me off my high horse and remind me that not everyone waits all year for the Run for the Roses.) 

True to my culturally diverse lifestyle, we’ll head home to catch the end of the almost in our backyard Richmond NASCAR race.  Sunday will truly be a day of rest, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t rain on those of you going to Maryland Sheep & Wool on Sunday.  However, knowing this region as I do, I think that with highs near 90, you’d better anticipate a thunderstorm or three…

Hey! Look!

Happy Dogs on Thursday, little friday, Thankful Thursday and day #4 of Knit & Crochet Blog Week.  WHEW!

Gretchen very sweetly did a dog post for me on their blog this morning.    She did indeed cover what I had in mind, based on photos I took earlier this week.   Sis has had a great time shouting at all the wildlife moving through the woods and yard recently.  It seems EVERYTHING has spring fever!  (And why yes, that is a metal dog bowl at Sis’s feet.  She likes to carry a bowl around, for some strange reason.)

I’m using the wild card topic today, as day #4’s topic would lead me to tell you YET AGAIN that I can’t do stranded knitting to my own satisfaction…

All Tooled Up

Do you have a particular knitting/crochet tool or piece of equipment that you love to use? Maybe it is an old bent pair of needles that used to belong to someone special, or a gorgeous rosewood hand-turned crochet hook that you just love the feel of? Write about what you love it.

Whoa, Nellie!  That’s a loaded question.  I most certainly don’t have tools that belonged to anyone special, although I suspect that some of the crochet hooks Anita has shared with me may have some history to them.  I do have a whole host of gadgets I almost always have on hand.

Stitch markers by Ann

I am blessed to have a host of talented friends who keep me well-stocked in pretty stitch markers.  Even if I’m doing lace, where I prefer THESE markers, I often have one pretty marker at the start of a row, and always use one to mark the beginning of a round on a sock or other knitted in the round project. 

I also have a tape measure in almost every bag.  I like noveltly

Thankful Thursday?  Spinning.  I’m really glad I fell down the spinning rabbit hole.  Last night, I was too worn out to knit.   Luckily, it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of focus to plop down in front of  my wheel and let the fiber flow while my feet do the little bit of work.  It’s very relaxing…

Now shopping for a new wheel… That’s hard work!

One Great Knitter

Day #3…

One Great Knitter

Write about a knitter whose work (whether because of project choice, photography, styling, scale of projects, stash, etc) you enjoy. If they have an enjoyable blog, you might find it a good opportunity to send a smile their way.

I suspect it’s going to surprise Toni to see her name (and knitting and dog) here, but she REALLY inspires me. 

Photo courtesy of Toni's blog

She makes color work look effortless and as natural as breathing, which most certainly isn’t the case for me.  She makes alterations to sweaters on the fly, she cranks out beautiful socks, all while making sure Dexter and the rest of her household feel loved and cherished.  Sigh.  Go Toni!!

KnitCroBlo #2

An Inspirational Pattern

Blog about a pattern or project which you aspire to. Whether it happens to be because the skills needed are ones which you have not yet acquired, or just because it seems like a huge undertaking of time and dedication, most people feel they still have something to aspire to in their craft. If you don’t feel like you have any left of the mountain of learning yet to climb, say so!

Just see my Ravelry queue and favorites.   No?

Seriously, the pattern I most want to make time for is Julia Mueller’s Cheesehands and/or Cheesehead.  Double knitting AND color work.  I’ve never tried double knitting, but color work is definitely something I need to practice  more.  (Couldn’t find a non-copyrighted photo to share, but here’s a Flickr link…)

photo from Lion Brand

I also want to crochet a pair of socks, just because.   I don’t know that I have the skills to do such, but that’s the whole point of this post, right?! 

Have any of you crocheted socks?  If so, what pattern did you use?  Would you recommend it to a very novice crocheter?  Are the comfortable?

There now.  All caught up for the time being.   I do have other things to share this week, so there will either be some double posting or some really crazy posts that jump all over the place. 

Before I forget again, I do want to invite all of the spinners or anyone interested in spinning to Stony Mountain Fibers’ spin-in on June 13th.

Knit & Crochet Blog Week #1

I’m going to warn you that I’m going to double-post today.  I only read blogs at work during the week, for the most part, so I didn’t see this until this morning on at least three of your blogs.

Starting Out

How and when did you begin knitting/crocheting? was it a skill passed down through generations of your family, or something you learned from Knitting For Dummies? What or who made you pick up the needles/hook for the first time? Was it the celebrity knitting ‘trend’ or your great aunt Hilda?

Oh my.   This will be a refresher for a few of you, but I have new reader-friends who might enjoy this prattle. 

Anne & her mom, summer 2007

I first learned to knit in my childhood, from an aunt and a great aunt who were both grand charitable knitters.  It didn’t take.  I was more interested in dogs and tennis rackets than sticks and string.  However, somewhere in late November of 2006, Anne came for Thanksgiving, knitted, offered to teach me and I laughed at her, but she left behind a knitting virus that has only waned slightly a time or two since.

I had to refresh my memory on my own.  I spent a lot of time with  online sites, watching videos (mostly from Knitting Help), and I finally figured out that I’m a continental knitter.  Once I worked that out, the rest was history!

On that note, please offer up a prayer, good vibes or whatever sort of good wish you do for Anne’s mom.  She’s in the hospital right now, and she’s one dear, kind lady!

Little motif from Edie's class

Crochet?  Several women get credit for that.  I tried to teach myself, and sweet Mary even resorted to having her hubby make a video of her doing a special stitch I couldn’t manage to teach myself.   Rosanne kindly gifted me my first set of Boye hooks, which made the crocheting world a better place.  While I have almost no knitting needle loyalty, I crochet exclusively with Boye, except when I’m trying something new, and then I go back to the tried and true.

Then, Edie Eckman taught a class and made me fall in love with crochet and that cool, circular start (don’t even know the proper name for it) that I use for knitting too sometimes.  Last, but hardly least, Anita has also sent me hooks (Boye, of course!), patterns and more!  It takes a village to teach me to crochet…

Feel free to join me in joining the celebration a little late!

The Sparrow

This book isn’t for everyone. 

In fact, Coffeeyarn‘s Hubband warned her that I’d never speak to her again if she sent me this book and its sequel.    I can see why he’d think that; I hrmphed and grumped for days after she sent me My Sister’s Keeper.  (I hate sad endings.)

Before I get started, this book is filled with lots of Catholic and some Jewish characters and themes.  The main character is a Jesuit priest, as are several of the characters.  Rape, prostitution and more are mentioned often, so if Christianity and depravity are off-putting, you might want to skip even this review.

What I don’t think Hubband could have known is that I grew up Catholic, pondered becoming a nun, and attended an all-women’s Catholic college.  Some of the conflicts and conversations were insightful, and others struck rather close to home.

Running, running to Mom... we don't care about books!

I think the reason I was able to finish this book and call it one of the best I’ve ever read is because I knew it wasn’t warm and fuzzy, and the ending actually had more compassion and hope than much of the rest of the book.  I’ve already jumped into the sequel, and laughed out loud when the same main character dismissed the Pope as a job applicant who showed up without an appointment!

Finally, I’m back to reading heavier literature and loving it.   I don’t think you have to be open to “religious” literature to find this story compelling; if you’ve ever known REAL despair, if you’ve ever wondered why life is so unfair, if you’ve ever made a conscious choice to hold your head high and push on, you’ll appreciate this finely crafted tale.

What are you reading these days?

Tilt o Wheel!

I think the best kind of adventures are sometimes the spontaneous.  Late Friday night, Rosanne suggested that I might pop up for lunch and to swap up the completed shop sample for another to cast on.  Of course, we lunched at It’s About Thyme.  I had the steak salad and finished with the citrus cheesecake.  Heaven.  Love the wait staff there too. 

But you want to hear about the shop!  It’s very close to ready.  It’s bright, it’s cheery, and the big chair closest to the door is MINE, so vacate it when I walk in, okay?!  No, no, I’ll share.  I know my way to the back, and the chairs at the table in the classroom aren’t uncomfortable either. 

Photo from Gypsyknit's Etsy site

I can’t wait to share it with the rest of you.  There are bags EVERYWHERE, in splashes of color.  Kathy‘s Sock It bags are sprinkled all around, and I love the new addition to her line, the larger bag for larger projects.   LINK to Dog House Yarn’s blog post about the bags…

However, the bulk of our time was spent on my first visit to Misty Mountain Farm, not at all to be confused with Misty Mountain Campground.  (Oh Robin… isn’t it time to camp there again?  Gretchen needs a Rudy fix, and I think I’ll soon have a new wheel that wants to sit and spin with you…)

I don’t have photos for you because we got a special treat of which I cannot speak until next weekend or later.  (Remind me.  It’s worth the wait and I apologize for the tease.)  Because not a single online photo exists of said secret, I felt it best to be a nice guest and leave my camera in my purse.

Luckily, the internet will fill in most of the voids.  You won’t get to see Leanna at work, creating hank blanks to get dyed up for those of you headed to Maryland Sheep & Wool, but I can show you photos of the wheels I tried.

Get food and water (or your beverage of choice), because this is going to be a looooong post.  If wheels aren’t your thing, we’ll chat tomorrow.

We’ll start with the Kromski Fantasia that stole my heart a week ago.  I actually spun on the walnut version, which is dark where this one is light, and then the “swoosh” in the middle is light. 

Pros:  Smooth, beautiful and user-friendly.  The magnetic flyer attachment is fun and practical!   I was able to thread the leader through the orifice without a hook, which ALWAYS makes me happy for some stupid reason.

Cons:  Quirky as it is uniquely beautiful.  The flyer is square where others are more rounded.  (See page 3 of the assembly instructions if you really are interested.)  Even the flyer hooks are square, and slide on little pieces of leather. 

Verdict:  Oh, it’s lovely to look at.  I wouldn’t be disappointed if I’d ordered one without spinning on it, but it’s not my dream wheel.  I don’t know what it is about Kromski’s treadle braces (that honey-colored piece in the VERY bottom of the photo), but both Rosanne and I have consistently found them to put our legs in uncomfortable positions with every Kromski we’ve tried.  I did readjust my seat height and closeness before I spun on the wheel, and that helped enough that for the few minutes I enjoyed a test spin, it wasn’t bad. 

There was also a bit of a vibration at the flyer that I was aware of, but this was a brand new wheel, assembled in anticipation of next weekend’s big event.  For the price  – just under $500 – I don’t think there’s a prettier wheel on the market. 

Oh – one other thing.  The wheel AND the flyer are weighted, so that flyer will keep going forever once you stop spinning.  I had trouble remembering to keep my feet on the treadles until both hands were on the flyer.  Okay, I’m blowing it out of proportion, but not much.  Still, worth noting, as is the wheel’s striking beauty.  If ever the Knight builds me a fiber room, don’t be surprised to see a walnut Fantasia on the wall as art, if nothing else.

Anita giving a Majacraft Suzie a whirl at Stony Mountain Fibers, fall 2009

I should stop here and note how I test spin.  First, it’s all about the looks.  I open the doors and try the radio – oops!  wrong product.  I do check the baby out and try to figure out where all the nobs and such I might want to adjust are.  Then, I treadle.  If my feet and legs aren’t happy, ain’t nobody gonna’ be happy for long.  Then, after several minutes of the foot test, I move on to spinning fiber.  I like to spin fine and fast, and all the wheels I tried yesterday did that with great ease. 

I think that’s a pretty standard approach.  Do you do anything differently?

Image courtesy of Spinners Choice

Next up was a used Schacht Matchless, single treadle.  Pre-owned is truly more accurate here.  Linda, the shop owner, isn’t even sure this wheel was broken in by its previous owner.  Even though I love a double treadle, I very nearly came home with this baby.  I treadled on it in double drive, but I spun on in Scotch, because that’s what I know best, and that’s what the other wheels I tried were.

Pros:  Another beauty.  See the slips of walnut in there?  It really does spin like a dream.  If you’re going to be at MDSW, visit Linda early, because if the price she gave me – $500 – is the festival price, this baby is leaving the dance early with a happy partner, I’d bet.

Cons:  It wasn’t silent.  Again, it wasn’t broken in, but I also had trouble making the treadle do precisely what I wanted it to at the precise moment I wanted it to happen.  I know it’s rude to talk about a lady’s weight, but this wheel is hefty.  She definitely wouldn’t want to travel much, not with my back problems.

Verdict:  Did I mention I very nearly brought it home anyway?  Nothing at all wrong with this wheel, and I can see why it’s so highly praised.  The Ladybug  with her red plastic wheel is a distant memory right now.  I want to try her once more, but she really is this grand lady’s kid sister, at least in appearances.  The Ladybug is much lighter though, so…

Julia, Julia.  I didn’t love Julie & Julia the movie as much as some of you did, and I don’t even like the Louet Julia.   At $750, she’s not in the same price range as the other wheels I tried, and I’d say that’s ridiculous. 

Pros:  Lightweight.

Cons:  Priced far above her value, in my eyes.  No visual appeal, and I found her less stable (because of her weight, I’m sure) than my Bellus.  

Verdict:  She’s adequate, but really, for the price, there’s SO much more out there.  Unless you really need a really light, full-sized wheel, I can’t see why she’d appeal to anyone.

Photo courtesy of Misty Mountain

Last, but to my surprise, far from least, is the leaning Lendrum

Pros:  Spins almost silently, right out of the box.  Folds nearly flat for storage or transport.  Because of the lean, you can see the bobbin quite clearly as you spin.  Orifice hook has a great little hole, right on the wheel.

Cons:  Crickets chirping…  The lean, maybe, when I’m not spinning?  It is a little heavy, but not prohibitively so.

Verdict:  I like him very, very much.  (Yeah.  Masculine.  Don’t ask.  I don’t know.)  For the price – less than $500 – I seriously don’t think there’s a better wheel on the market, lean and all.  Anything else is going to have to out-perform him, or I’m going to join the ranks and own a wheel that tilts at spinners.

So, today Lendrum is the most likely candidate, but I still want to try a Schacht Matchless double treadle, the Schacht Ladybug again, the Majacraft Rose and I think that’s it.  I’m a little put off by Majacraft’s off-center orifices, but I love the way they look and treadle.  Still, those wheels (except the Ladybug) cost a lot more than the leaning Lendrum, so they’re going to have be THAT much better than him to make the final cut.

I didn’t talk about bobbin size.  That’s in part because nearly everything pales to my Bellus, and I will likely ply on the Bellus, so… 

Here’s a quick ranking, as to where my head is on the wheel search at this very moment:

  1. Lendrum
  2. Majacraft – but I need at least an hour with that offset orifice to know for sure if it’s a contender at all
  3. Schacht – something double treadle

Photo from Schacht

What will knock the leaner out of purchase’s way?  Beauty, frankly.  I don’t find the Lendrum repulsive, but it doesn’t make me swoon the way the Fantasia does either.  The Ladybug and the Lendrum are in the same mess.  Some days, the red makes me want to whistle, as in whistle while I whirl, not a catcall.  Other days, it makes me think cute and castle wheels don’t go together.  Still, both are top contenders, along with the more expensive, beautiful Majacrafts and the Matchless.  Go figure.

I am hoping to make it to the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival, but I don’t have firm plans yet.  We have plans Saturday evening, so that would be a very long day, and the Knight would have to drive me up on Saturday morning and we’d have to leave after a late lunch.  Sunday would still make for a long day after our Saturday night out.  My back is always a wild card too.  Are you going?

Kitchen Bookshelf

Okay, so I have SHELVES.  I have the baker’s rack with the books I reach for regularly, that cabinet over the ‘fridge with some I rarey use but don’t want to part with, and then a basket full of the pretties that inspire me…

Barbara at Moveable Feasts is having a giveaway you shouldn’t miss.  Whether you cook or just admire a lovely book of any sort, you really do need your own copy of Savor the Moment, the award-winning Junior League cookbook from Barbara’s own JL of Boca Raton, Florida.

Photo from Moveable Feasts

When we were pursuing a cookbook in our League, Savor… is one of the ones we carried around to use as an example of what we hoped to produce. 

I love Junior League cookbooks.  I like to read cookbooks, and every League cookbook I’ve had in my paws – and I think I’ve at least seen more than half ever in print – is chocked full of tidbits of trivia that made for fun reading, be it about the area, tips for entertaining, or helpful hints in the kitchen.

So, my list is going to be a tribute to the Junior League cookbooks I can’t live without…

  1. Start Your Ovens!  This is the one I give over and over.  It’s the official cookbook of the Bristol Motor Speedway.  I can’t do without those cheese straws.
  2. What Can I Bring?  Full disclosure, my sister was a member of the Junior League of Northern VA, but I’d love this book anyway. 
  3. Notably Nashville is another cookbook I can’t help giving as a gift.   The black-eyed pea dip is a standby of mine.
  4. A Thyme to Entertain is the cookbook most like what we had envisioned.  If you’ve ever been to Annapolis, you’ll love the ties to local events, and if you haven’t you’ll be planning a trip before you finish flipping through the book!
  5. Savor the Moment.  See above.  It’s a stellar cookbook.
  6. Very Virginia is but one of Hampton Road’s cookbooks, but I love that the recipes feature Virginia’s own crops!
  7. Oh My Stars! is another local-ish book, from the Roanoke League.  If you can’t get to the Greenbrier or the Homestead, you can at least try out their recipes at home, right?

Those are the ones I keep on hand, and I have another dozen or so.   Please note that the links take you the actual League’s store.  Yeah, you might save a dollar or two on Amazon, but that means the League is losing several dollars in profits.  I can assure you that every Junior League uses the funds raised through cookbook sales to better their communities, and every single dollar can – and does – make a difference.

A non-League favorite

What are your favorite cookbooks?  If you have Junior League cookbooks, did I miss your favorites? 

Weekend plans?  Well, mine are mostly League-related, actually.  Our particular group operates on what I call a school year calendar, so while I’ve already transitioned into my postion for the upcoming year, there’s still much to do.  Luckily, it’s going to rain all weekend, so I may as well sit at the computer and email the members I need information from…

I do hope your plans are more exciting and your weather will be better.

Flower Power!

Hang onto your hat.  Happy Dogs on Thursday, little friday, Thankful Thursday and Earth Day!  Sis and Gretchen have already stuck up a post on their blog, although Sis was a little confused about the name of Earth Day…

Everything happens for a reason.  I guess I couldn’t get these photos off of my photo card last week because I was supposed to save them for today, Earth Day.  I mean, what better reason to dress my dogs up as flowers, right?! 

A special thanks to Barbara and her pack for encouraging   indulging  me in the silliness that we can now all enjoy.

You can really see the glitter on this photo.  And just so you know, I do have a basket filled with all of the girls’ costumes and headwear.  These two dogs are so much fun!

For the thankful part of the post, here’s one of the many blooming dogwoods on our property.   If you’re local, the Dogwood Parade is this Saturday.  I rarely get to any of the festivities, but the Dogwood Festival is near and dear to my heart, just because a childhood friend has been the driving force behind it since she was the Dogwood Festival Queen a few years ago.

I love the simple elegance of the dogwood – of most white flowers, actually.  It does happen to be the state flower and tree, and it is North Carolina’s state flower as well. 

Happy little friday!  Anything fun going on around you?

Clean Slate

For a change, I’m enjoying the rain today.  It seems to have washed my cares away.  Thank you for your kind words and support yesterday.

My little valley yesterday seems to have put a lot of things into perspective for me.   For instance, I’m driving the Knight’s personal vehicle today – a full-sized pickup – and I’m wiping all the full-sized vehicles off of my shopping list.  (Yeah, I’m still kinda’ looking, but in a very relaxed fashion.)  Here’s why:

  • Gretchen can’t load herself into a full-sized vehicle.  Not a huge, hairy deal, but she is a terrier and likes to leap and be independent, so…

A self-loading kinda' dog

  • I was immediately behind a Mini-Cooper this morning, and I swear the thing would fit in the bed of the truck.  Since I used to work wrecks as a firefighter/medic, this does indeed give me pause.
  • Parking spaces are getting smaller – aren’t they? 
  • Gas prices and just the whole green thing.  Why drive a gas hog if it isn’t absolutely necessary?
  • Gretchen aside, even with running boards, I still feel I’m throwing myself into the cab.  I’m not getting any younger either, so do I REALLY want to do that every single day?
  • There is practically a fleet of trucks at my disposal.  I can (obviously) drive ours whenever I want, and if ever I don’t have a truck to drive, I have a nephew and friends with trucks who will willingly enough help a girl out.

Whew!  A whole range of vehicles, including what I thought was my front-runner, off the list.

Changing the subject…

The laptop, pre-milk bath

I need a new laptop.  It seems that while my poor old thang lived through the milk bath, the long-ish term effects are playing out now.  It overheats almost daily.  It isn’t shutting itself down in a hot panic anymore only because I’m aware of the problem, and when I smell that hot plastic smell, I give myself and the laptop a time-out.

I am no techie.   It’s a Toshiba, we (meaning Tech-guy and the Knight) added more memory, but that’s all I know.   The Knight is encouraging me to pick what I want, but see…  I don’t know what I want. 

Can you help a girl out?  It does need to be fairly light, so that when/if I fly again, I can take it along without stressing my back.  However, I don’t think I want tiny either, because I do type a whole lot, and while I have little fingers, I like a full-sized keyboard.

Clearly, I need storage.  I do use Flickr AND a thumb drive for permanent photo storage, but still, I clog up a lot of space with photos.  Beyond that, I have no idea at all what I want or need.

The only other detail I can share is that my current laptop screen is roughly 14″ on the diagonal for the actual viewing area.

(And since I know you’ll ask, the collage was made at Mosaic Maker.)

Thanks in advance, and use small, non-technical terms as much as possible.  If I figure out what I want, I’ll then email you to ask for techie specs so I don’t sound like the very ignorant non-techie that I really am.