Monday, August 21, 2017

Denim Humpback

Old jeans sure look funny once all the denim is cut out of the seams.  Why did I do this you ask?  Well I save all sorts of things including jeans to use in different projects and I saw the cutest idea on a Finnish blog.  She posted an English version of how she made it but did not post formal templates or instructions.  I photo copied and enlarged her picture of the cut out fabric pieces and followed her pictures to make my own version.
I made a few mistakes cutting it out which I realized as I went along.  Since the design of the whale counts on using both sides of the denim for contrast, I figured out after cutting all my pieces that I should have flipped the pattern pieces for half of them.  Note to self for next time.  I also wish I'd used a less faded pair of jeans.  I was happy with my first attempt and now know where to tweak things for next time.  This will go in our baby stash.
I've also felt the need to make freezer meals for when Dave starts up the new school year.  I will buy him frozen entrees if I have a really good coupon for them because he is not much of a cook.  He prefers something he can just heat and eat but I don't like him eating processed food 4 nights a week if I haven't had time to make something with a lot of leftovers.  We had some green peppers to use up so I made a batch of chicken enchiladas and froze them.  I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier because when I normally make them, we have way more than we can eat.  I get those little foil pans at Dollar Tree 3/$1 and they're just the right size.  The sauce is a seasoning packet I get at Aldi mixed with our own garden canned tomato sauce.  Num num!  I'm trying to think of some other heat and eat things I can freeze in these pans.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fabric Fire!

Melissa, Brenda and I all got together again this summer at Brenda's "Lakefront Property" for our annual summer craft retreat.  Once again we were allowed to take over the air conditioned Craft Coop with our fabric and sewing machines.  Brenda worked on pillow cases while Melissa and I made a campfire!  I'd been dying to make this forever using this tutorial.  It was a lot fussier than I thought it would be but of course I always think everything will just take 10 minutes.  We even added a little carved heart and initials detail to one of our logs.  I am all about imaginative play and this will go into my toy and kid stash.  Later we all made fabric garbage bags for our cars and fooled around with another Modern Textiles pattern for lined zippered pouches.  More on those later.  We had a great time together, celebrated our Christmas in July as well as Melissa's daughter's birthday and Brenda fed us very well.  Every year we girls try to have a summer get together at Brenda's and a winter get together here at our house.  As usual we had way more ideas than we had time for so we'll be busy at the next reunion.  I am so lucky to call these women my friends!

2017 Contender

I finished a new bead knitted purse this weekend and I'm hoping to try once again for a rosette ribbon at the State Fair.  Last year I missed it by a gnat's wing.  I'll enter this first at the Washington County Fair this coming week where I'll compete for a yarn gift certificate.  Fingers Crossed! 

This motif was totally stolen from an antique crocheted reticule purse I saw at Glensheen Mansion this winter up in Duluth.  I took a picture of it and graphed out the design.  Instead of a tubular bag, I knit it as a flat panel and seamed the sides.  I used size 5 perle cotton, 000 needles and size 10 rocaille beads.

Just In Time For the Fair!

I finished up a few things I had sitting around on needles in time to enter them in the Ramsey County Fair.  This was the first year I didn't win a Grand Champion so my streak is over, but generally I was pleased with how I fared at the fair.
This little sweater is a free Drops design and was so much fun to knit!  It uses short row shaping and is knit from side to side.  I finished it with some pewter-looking metal buttons.  The Crazy Zauberball yarn was perfect for this project due to the slow color changes.  It was the first time I'd ever knit with it and it had a defined twist like Koigu but was tighter and more durable while still being soft.  I'll be buying more of this brand the next time I see it.  I also have the matching hat still on needles but I entered this by itself in the infant sweater lot where it won the blue ribbon.
This bib was knit with a mercerized cotton worsted--was it a Reynold's brand?  In my excitement and haste to start a new project I discarded the label as quickly as it was wound.  The free pattern uses slipped stitches for texture and dimension.  I was afraid the multi-colored busy flecks of color would hide the pattern but the slipped stitches managed to hold up to the yarn.  Ramsey County has a bib lot in their fair handbook and this little project earned me a blue ribbon and the accompanying $4.
I try to enter a baby 3 piece set every year and this year I made a baby vest instead of a full sweater.  This free pattern and the matching booties and star cap used up the remainder of the spendy wool/silk/cashmere Zen Yarn Garden I got on clearance.  The lion's share of the yarn went into the lace lotus blanket last year or the year before.  It is such soft yarn which is entirely appropriate for this next to the skin item.  This entry took the blue ribbon in it's lot.
I made another Zick Zack scarf from some Louisa Harding Amitola I bought on our trip to El Paso.  This scarf had a much cooler look to it than the red version I knit a few years ago.  My scarf won the red ribbon.
Continuing with the travel theme, I whipped up some Las Vegas themed embroidered dish towels and scored the blue ribbon.  

All these will go on to the Washington County Fair this coming week as well as the other items I entered in this last fair.  Everything else I've posted pictures of along the way this year as I completed them.  The Ramsey County Fair pays very well and I earned $69 in premiums.  IF I win a blue in every lot, I'll win $49.50 at the Washington County Fair.  However, Washington County awards gift certificates to local yarn shops to the champions and that is what I try to win every year.  I need more yarn like I need a hole in the head!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Green Sky At Night...

We had our first serious thunderstorm yesterday morning and it was all I could do to pull Dave off the deck before the hail hit.  I love a little thunder and lightening storm but I don't want any damage to my house and I got really nervous as soon as I saw that green sky behind the border cloud.  I grew up in a ranch style home next to a field on the edge of a tiny north Iowa town.  When I was 3 years old, a tornado ripped the roof off our garage but didn't touch the house and my brother and I were in the upstairs bathtub when it happened!  Hopefully that is the closest I'll ever come to a tornado in my lifetime but Dave wants to see one up close.  As soon as I got him in the house, he headed downstairs and called over his shoulder, "I'll be in the garage!"  Crazy man.  Thankfully the hail was pea to marble sized and only lasted a minute or two so we didn't have any major damage.  Even my garden is going to be OK for the most part.
Before the weather arrived, I quick ran out to take some pictures of my latest quilt while we still had some decent light.  I collected these woodland prints years ago and it was next on my jellyroll stash-busting project list. 
I backed it with a print that reminded me of marble paper in browns and greens.  I'd gotten it for $1/yard and not even with this project in mind.  The design and color scheme is almost so ugly it would go with anything, but it worked so well with this blend of woodland greens.  Once again, Stash Karma saves the day!
Over Mother's Day weekend, Mom and I quickly ran out to the Shepherd's Harvest Wool Festival.  I had more family arriving to the house later that day so we didn't stick around for any demonstrations.  We were there strictly to shop!
Every year I want to buy a new spinning wheel or at least a refurbished one and every year Dave tells me I don't need one because I "never" use the one I have, so I have to spin a little just to spite him.  I got this bag of dyed locks from Black Cat Farmstead and I think I paid $2.75/ounce for it.  I got $17ish worth and loved the colors.
I never did ask her what breed of sheep the locks came from but I love the crimp that some of the wool had.  This gal was also demonstrating flax spinning and they grow/process/promote it on their farmstead. 
I spun two singles to ply them together into a worsted weight yarn.  Here it is on the spool of my reliable old Ashford Scholar wheel.
Here it is plied and wound into a skein.  I got a scant 300 yards so maybe I'll consider knitting a pair of gloves out of it.  I don't know how it will wear or if it will fuzz up or pill.  I know they have a spinning category at the state fair but I'll have to see about the Ramsey or Washington County fairs.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Vegas, Baby!

Last month Dave and I traveled to his national bowling tournament...in Las Vegas.  I have to say, I am not a Vegas kind of girl and can think of all kinds of places I'd rather visit than Las Vegas but Dave assured me there were plenty of things to do in Sin City.
Case in point...Sin City Knit Shop which also happened to be our first port of call!  This lovely knit shop was south of the strip near our hotel--how convenient!  We stopped in very quickly on our way from the airport to the Hoover Dam.  It was such a quick stop that I didn't even take pictures of the interior!  The staff of this shop was so friendly and helpful and once they learned we were staying nearby and in town for a bowling tournament, they invited me to come back and hang out and knit.  I didn't of course because I was petrified to drive there myself and we only had our rental car for two days.  Those two days were kind of regimented as far as what we did so as to get the most use out of the car.
I bought 4 balls of their shop dyed worsted yarn, a ball of shop dyed fingering yarn, a skein of lovely tweedy Cascade slow changing fingering yarn and this awesome shop logo 3/4 length sleeve t-shirt.  They gave me that awesome needle gauge in the shape of the famous Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas sign.  They also had shop shirts that said, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" but they didn't have them in my size so I will have to check back with them because I want one.  Awesome shop.  I'd be happy to do mail order business with them any day.
We left the yarn shop and headed directly to the Hoover Dam.  We arrived and paid the $10 to park the car and were expecting to take the full tour and pay $30 each.  Once we arrived, we were told the Dam Tour was sold out for the day but we could take the Powerplant Tour for $15 each.  At this point, may I just say I couldn't help but snicker every time I heard Dam this and Dam that because I am eternally 12 years old and they take advantage of this joke!  Anyhoo, I did my homework before this trip and there wasn't anywhere you could make reservations for the Dam Tour so I suppose you just have to arrive early.  We were happy with our Powerplant tour though.  You sit in a theater and watch a short film about the Dam construction and then you're sent down a stomach lurching elevator to see the original diversion tunnels and these turbines.  I never realized we'd be on the border of both Nevada and Arizona at this location.
You're then shot back up the same high power elevators to the observation decks.  It was so bright that day and all these photos were taken on my phone so I had a hard time seeing what I was filming.  I never did get a decent shot of the entire Dam.  That crescent shaped area at the bottom of the photo is the ceiling of the turbine room we were just in.  The entire tour took about 30 minutes.  You heard a lot of information in their little spiel and they answered all the group's questions.  They were constantly counting us and kept us on a short leash.  It was interesting too that there were international visitors here because I heard German and French being spoken by different groups.  I felt very patriotic visiting the site.
This picture was taken standing on the Dam itself.  I remember watching a PBS special all about the building of the Dam during the Depression despite the dangerous and awful working conditions and the engineering wonder it is.  A coworker of mine toured the dam a few years ago and someone said they'd heard workers literally dropped over dead from the conditions but they just kept pouring concrete and the men were just buried in the structure.  Their tour guide answered simply, "That's a Dam lie."  HA!
Las Vegas is expensive.  Holy Cow is it expensive.  Like I said I did my homework and I am a tightwad.  Taxis are expensive.  Food is expensive.  ATMs are expensive.  We'd gotten a taste of this in Reno because hotels with casinos don't want you spending time in your room, they want you spending money in the restaurants and drinking and gambling in the casinos.  Surprisingly we had a refridgerator in our room so we stopped at a grocery store in Boulder City to get some snacks and Diet Coke and also to just check out a grocery store in Nevada.  I love grocery stores!  For my kitchen souvenir on this trip, I bought a bean masher since we were in the American Southwest.  This sign greeted us in the parking lot of the store which was appropriate because the heat did not mess around.  Also I thought it was cute because the dog looks like Zak!
The following day we had an appointment at the Neon Museum for our tour.  This was my absolute favorite thing we did on the trip.  Like I said earlier, I am not a Las Vegas girl.  I am not a gambler.  My drinking days are behind me.  I have no desire to pay that kind of money to see the people performing out there.  I know that makes me sound incredibly snobby but it is just not my kind of town.  I do love the idea of 1960's Rat Pack Era Las Vegas.  That Las Vegas is long gone but if you want to experience a little taste of that, go to the Neon Museum and Boneyard.  The La Concha Hotel is no more but their beautiful lobby has been saved and now lives on as the lobby for the museum.  In excitement and haste, I totally forgot to take pictures of the building so I stole this picture off the internet.
This non-profit organization collects and displays all kinds of classic Las Vegas signage in their boneyard.  They offer both day and night tours but you MUST book ahead if you want to take this tour.  The night tours are more expensive than the day tours and fill up faster but bear in mind the signs are not illuminated as they were originally wired, they are lit via floodlights.  Seven signs have been restored to their original glory.  Part of the museum's mission and fundraising purpose is to restore the neon signs one at a time but it is an expensive undertaking.  What I love about the signage is the branding and iconic legacy they immortalize.  In the picture above, almost anyone could identify the yellow four pointed star from the Stardust logo or the R from the Sahara font.
The entire tour took about an hour and distance-wise would be like walking around the perimeter of my house but you heard so much information about the evolution of Las Vegas and not just the casinos.  My only gripe about the tour is you had to stay with the guide (which is not a bad thing) but you could not back up more than 15 or so feet to take decent pictures of the boneyard which isn't a big deal unless you're fussy like me.  I took pictures constantly.  My parents went to Vegas quite a few times before us whining kids came into the picture and Mom really enjoyed looking through these because she remembered and knew quite a few of these now defunct hotels. 
Hotels in Las Vegas have a limited life span if they aren't successful so it seems.  Boneyard is a very fitting term for the museum because it is just remnants of signs and quite often these are the last remaining fragments of the hotel/casino.  This organization had a fabulous gift shop and my loudest feedback was to make it available online.  I would have bought way more stuff if Dave hadn't been there to reign me in!  All the the tacky shops on the strip sold the same stuff whereas this shop sold stuff I wanted to own or I'd give as gifts.  They are sitting on a goldmine that can benefit their non-profit organization if they open up their shop to an online marketplace.
We stayed at Southpoint Hotel which is south of the strip.  It was a lovely and affordable hotel and self contained.  By self contained I mean that there were several different affordable restaurants and eateries all in the same building.  Dave went out a couple nights to play poker in their casinos but I stayed in most nights in our room to watch PBS!  Dave teased me saying, "You're the only person I know who'd come to Las Vegas to watch PBS!" but they had a great PBS station!
After we turned the car in, we used the excellent RTC bus system to explore the strip.  Our hotel offered a shuttle to and from Mandalay Bay which was the very edge of the strip, maybe an 1/8th of the way up the total strip...for $7 each way and it left once every hour.  There was a city bus stop right outside our hotel and it cost us $2 to ride to Mandalay Bay where we could buy a 24 hour all access pass from an automated machine for $8.  I'm a tightwad and not going to pay for a $40 cab ride down to Fremont Street or $14 for a shuttle ride a few blocks to my hotel.  We walked a lot of the strip to explore the different hotels and casinos and their themes.  The city bus came along every 15 minutes so you never had to wait long when you got tired of walking.
I had to laugh though because as tropical and lush as it appeared, if you looked closely the grass was all fake! 
This was the only time we were out on the strip.  I wanted to stop in to Guardian Angel Cathedral because the architect was the same man who designed the lobby of the La Concha and I liked the sixties spacey look of it.  The rosary I bought here glowed in the dark which I thought was very appropriate for Las Vegas.  Once you get this far up the strip near the Stratosphere, the area gets kind of sketchy so we rode the bus the rest of the way to Fremont Street.  Souvenirs are cheapest there and I'll admit, there are some freaks up there but I liked Fremont street because that is old Las Vegas.  The El Cortez, The Four Queens and The Golden Nugget are just a few of the oldies that are still up and running there.
We didn't go crazy for souvenirs because we don't need shot glasses, ash trays or dice clocks but we did get a few t shirts and I was excited to go to the ABC Store.  We frequented these when we visited my brother while he was stationed in Hawaii years ago.  I bought some black lava and kiawe smoked salt and totally got hassled at the airport because I packed it in my carry on bag.  I also got 3 packages of these wonderfully tacky Las Vegas Strip napkins and my mother and I had a cream tea yesterday with them.  We felt like really classy broads!
And of course there was a little bowling!

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Kitchen Travels

Yesterday morning I turned on PBS just in time to catch the beginning of  Bea Ojakangas: Welcome To My Kitchen.  I'd seen her on Baking With Julia and I have her Great Scandinavian Baking Book but I didn't know she had a TV show.
It was my lucky day because she made a Finnish cardamom bread she called Pulla.  My sister in law's family is Finnish and their version of cardamom bread is called Nisu.  So of course today I wanted to fool around in the kitchen and make it.  I had cardamom pods I brought up here when I moved 6 years ago.  I'd gotten them to steam in milk for homemade chai but I never knew you could crack them open to get to the aromatic seeds.  The more you know!  I need to have another go at making chai knowing this!
I ground the seeds in my mortar and pestle and was surprised how menthol-y they smelled!  Hitherto I'd never really baked with cardamom and worried the bread would taste like Vicks.  The finished product was an absolute delight, both delicately flavored and aromatic.  I made a half recipe and after we both had a couple buttered slices, the rest will come to work with me tomorrow along with a stick of butter.  Today was our warmest day yet and the butter on the counter was actually soft and easy to spread.  Simple pleasures.
She also made THESE!  Mom and I ate these every morning at our hotel breakfast in Helsinki and we saw them everywhere at bakeries and markets.  They are rye pastry shells that encase unsweetened rice cooked in milk and butter.  They aren't sweet but they aren't bland or particularly rich.  They are simple and homey and portable and delicious.  We always saw them called "Karelian" pastries.  Karelia is a region of Finland near Russia.  I clipped a recipe out of the paper in Helsinki, not that it did me any good because it was in Finnish so I was very excited to see someone actually make them!  They weren't that fussy of an undertaking.
This is a linen zippered pouch version of a Karelian or Piirakka I bought on that same trip.  It resides in my knitting bag and holds stitch markers.  This pouch is terribly impractical but I was so fond of these pastries that I bought it as a pleasant reminder.  I can't tell you how happy I was to bake these today in my own kitchen!  And Dave loves anything to do with rice so he liked them too!
As I mentioned earlier, it was a lovely warm day and all the critters are coming back for the season, like this guy.  There's a plank that sticks out of the pond and there's often two turtles sunning themselves on it.  I had a terrible time getting a picture of them however.  I'd open the deck door and from all the way up there, they'd hear me and plop back into the water.
This egret has been visiting the pond.  He slowly sidesteps around the perimeter.  The frogs have started singing the last two nights and nothing is more soothing than Mother Nature's own music.

At least 3 bunnies are sleeping and wiggling in this rabbit nest out in the tomato area of the garden.  I can't believe we have baby bunnies already.  It's just out of reach of Lopi's chain and is driving her crazy.
And I have to laugh.  I rounded the corner on my baby jacket and wound the second ball of yarn.  I love the interior of the label!  These people know a thing or two about knitting!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Belated St. Patrick's

I recently finished these Almeara gloves which are beautifully cabled and Aran-esque.  I bought some Jamieson's Double Knitting yarn at the Yarn Harbor specifically for this pattern...only to be unable to make gauge with it!  I was a tad miffed.  I ended up using larger needles and some leftover worsted from my Roosevelt Cardigan.  I don't know if I'll keep them for myself or give them away because I prefer gloves with long cuffs.  Whatever I do with them, I'll decide AFTER fair season.
I shaped them up using a pair of blockers I made out of a flexible cutting board.  I got the idea here and plan to use these a LOT!
Speaking of blockers, we drove up to Fargo last month for Dave's bowling tournament and to visit my dad's side of the family.  My cousins always take us thrifting when we're in town and I absolutely love the Dakota Boys & Girls Ranch!  We walked in the door...
...and right out front was a pair of adjustable sock blockers!  I haven't had a chance to use them yet so I'll have to knit myself some new socks!
My cousin Stacy took me to Modern Textiles again and I had a list of stuff I needed/wanted.  I'd recently ordered online from them and was more than happy with the service I received.  The store was clearly doing well and that made me happy!
There are so many goodies and great ideas in every corner of this store!
And finally my latest project on needles is a baby sweater in very appropriate Irish hues!  I'm loving the side to side knitting and short row shaping!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dog Arthritis Bed and Blankies

 I spent yesterday in my sewing room and it felt so good to just dink around in there for an afternoon!  Of course I had to spend the first 30 minutes cleaning, sorting and organizing because it tends to become a dumping ground of fabrics, findings, materials and items that need to be repaired...but I digress.
 Lopi was limping around and unable to jump onto our bed or go up and down the stairs about a week into the second strike this summer.  The alarmist in me panicked because I was just sure she had hip dysplasia or something seriously awful and when you're not working, the last thing you want to do is take a dog to the vet.  We took her in and it turns out she has the arthritis in her knees and now takes a doggy NSAID every day as well as some glucosamine.  I joke every morning that she has to take her pills and supplements.  She's doing so much better and you'd hardly know she'd had any trouble.  Another recommendation of the vet was to keep her joints warm which can be a trick in Minnesota. 
 I had an idea to make a new dog bed for her and cover it with leftover Insul-Bright batting.  Striking nurses have little extra petty cash so going to Joann's just wasn't an option.  I didn't have any stuffing material so I thought about shredding up old clothes or fabric scraps.  Whenever I make a quilt there is always an 18" or so margin of batting leftover from the large queen size pieces I buy and I save everything because you never know when you might need it.  Well thank goodness I did, and I was a little embarrassed that I had so much scrap batting saved, but I used it all up!  I folded it and sandwiched and wrapped it around itself to make a padded dog bed and didn't sew a stitch so it took about 10 minutes and I used up scraps that were taking up space in my sewing room.  Win-win!
Next I wrapped around a layer of Insul-Bright to seal and contain it, blanket stitched the edges and whip stitched through the middle with yarn and an upholstery needle.  Not too shabby!  You can see in this picture how messy and cluttered my sewing room is.  I need to sew more to use up stash!
I made a large pillowcase for it out of some stash fabric and voila--an arthritis dog bed!  Zak and Lopi both lay on this and it was absolutely free! 
I made 2 dog arthritis blankets yesterday using Insul-Bright for the batting and doggy and critter prints.  Insul-Bright reflects energy back to it's source, both hot and cold, so it is ideal for cooler bags, casserole carriers, coats, etc.  I've seen dog arthritis blankets in catalogs which is where I got this idea.  We have a blanket on the couch upstairs and down so now anywhere they lay, they can keep a little warmer.  My dad is currently traveling in Israel, but were he here he'd shake his head and say, "You need to have children."
And I don't know about you guys, but I think today is definitely a macaron day.  I fancied something sweet with my afternoon coffee and they hit the spot.  I also had to make a little room in my freezer for the deals I scored at Target between my Cartwheel and coupons.  When I was single and mortgage-free, I never shopped for deals or clipped coupons and just bought whatever I wanted.  Now I play a serious saving game and actually plan my shopping trips and delight in the money I save.  It certainly served me well this summer when preparing for and actually weathering a labor strike.  Now I continue to do it and stash the savings for a rainy day.  Have a warm and sunny Minnesota Sunday!  :)