Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Contest

The Compadre and I will celebrate 33 years of marriage very soon now. We’ve been discussing what we should do to celebrate and are having a hard time deciding. So I’ve decided to put it to you, my loyal blog readers. We need suggestions. We don’t have unlimited funds but it doesn’t need to be free either. The Compadre doesn’t have any vacation time to spare so it needs to be either a weekend thing or an evening thing. We live in Minnesota in the Twin Cities area. Leave me a comment to this blog (a shameless way to get more comments – all bloggers live for comments!) with your suggestion. I’ll draw a name from the responses and there will be a fabulous prize! I’ll either give a skein of Schaefer Anne yarn or a $25 gift certificate to Target depending on whether the prize winner is a knitter or not. Now, in order for this to work I’ll need to contact the winner. Blogger doesn’t give me e-mail addresses of commenters so when I draw the name I’ll ask the winner to contact me with their info. I’m looking forward to lots of ideas and comments!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Friendly Fiber Folks

When I was demonstrating at the Almelund Threshing Show for my friend Deb, I brought my spinning wheel because Deb told me that there would be a group of spinners that were demonstrating next to us. There were, and I learned stuff from them. Like that my spinning is OK. Even better than OK. They were impressed by it. Who knew? I was concerned that my spinning was slow – I was told when I was at a mini class at the Weaver’s Guild that I spin with the inchworm method – and I wondered how to speed up. Answer – keep spinning, it comes with practice. Oh. OK.

One of the people I met is Carolyn. She lives rather close to me and is a friend of Deb’s. BTW, Carolyn spins at the speed of light! Last Monday Deb and I went to Carolyn’s house for some fibery playtime. Deb wanted to know how to wash a fleece and I did too. I have several fleeces that I’ve had for many years that are very dirty and need to be washed but I’ve been afraid of washing – you know – wool felts and all. Carolyn looked at my dirty fleeces and asked how long I’d had them. She wasn’t impressed with the answer, apparently leaving fleeces dirty for well, maybe, 10 years is bad for them. Procrastination usually doesn’t pay. One of the fleeces was black and the opinion was that it might be good compost. Sigh.

Deb and Carolyn washed Deb’s llama fleece and I learned the technique that Carolyn uses. It worked and the fleece didn’t felt at all. First we spread it out and looked for how much crud was in it and tried to remove as much as possible. This one was very clean and didn’t need much work at all. Then, Carolyn filled her washer with hot water and added some detergent, if the fleece is very dirty use a little more. Carolyn is a seat of the pants kind of person so there are no absolutes here. Then she added the fleece and carefully poked it down into the water, left it to soak for a while and then set the washer to spin only and spun it out. The fleece was removed from the washer and the washer was filled again with hot water but no detergent. The fleece was put back in and soaked and spun out again. Repeat the process one more time for two rinses. If the fleece is very dirty she said you might need to do the wash process more times. The fleece then needed to be laid out to dry on a screen or something like it. Deb has carded some of the resulting cleaned fleece and said that it wasn’t felted at all.

So emboldened by this success I decided to try it on my own. What better fleece to experiment with than the potential compost fleece! If I failed, well, it would still be compost. My first mistake was to look at it and decide it was just too yucky a job to spread it out and remove the crud. I just threw it all into the hot water and tried not to gag. A sheep fleece smells, well, like sheep. And this one really smelled when it hit that hot water. I used a fair amount of Orvis and soaked it for about 15 minutes. When I spun it out, you should have seen the water. It was then that I discovered that I didn’t have a black fleece but a much lighter brown one. I did two more washes with detergent – I used tide in the last two washes, and I rinsed it twice. By the fifth time the water came out of the washer it was mostly clear. That was one dirty fleece. Every time I removed it from the washer I tried to pick some of the crud out of it. Even so when I laid it out to dry there were some nasty things still in it. I’ll leave it to your imagination what those were but the word begins with s. Gag, yuck, blech!! I can’t believe that way back in my youth I actually wanted to be a farmer’s wife!

One of the other things that Carolyn helped me with is to get over my fear of my drum carder. I have a Louet Junior. It’s a very small carder and I bought it because it was much cheaper than its bigger cousins. Drum carders are expensive. This one makes a batt that is kind of like a roving. It will take me a long time to card the fleece that I just washed. The fleece is carding fine but it has a lot of vegetable matter in it – straw and such. I don’t have the patience to pick it all out and carding isn’t meant to remove it. Some does come out as I card it but I’ll be left with wool that has more VM than I like. I’ll see how it looks when I spin some. Any ideas of what I can do with the resulting yarn. Maybe a wool rug? The fleece still might make it to the compost pile!

Friday, August 22, 2008

An Interview With the Compadre

I have several blog posts running around in my mind but I never seem to get them written down. Need more discipline! Or else I need to write them in pieces when I think of things. In the interests of actually getting something posted I give you an interview with the Compadre that I did several days ago. Many of the blogs that I read have done something similar – this isn’t an original idea! Here goes!

Me: What’s your favorite thing about my knitting?

Compadre: The social network that it ties you into.

Me: What’s your least favorite thing about my knitting?

Compadre: Sometimes it takes over your life.

Me: What is your favorite thing that I’ve knitted?

Compadre: Is that baby blanket that you made crocheted or knit?

Me: It was knit.

Compadre: Then that’s it.

Me: Do you think knitters have an expensive hobby?

Compadre: Yes, well, yes. Keep in mind I don’t own a boat.

Me: Do you think my knitting is on the expensive end?

Compadre: No.

Me: Do you have any hobbies?

Compadre: Yes. Oh, you wanted elaboration? I’m a guy, come on.

Me: That’s all I get?

Compadre: Yeah.

Me: Do you have a “stash”?

Compadre: Well, I have books. I have papers from teaching, sample dialogs, grammar lessons. That’s a stash.

Me: Has my knitting in public ever embarrassed you?

Compadre: No.

Me: Do you know my favorite kind of yarn?

Compadre: No, I don’t remember.

Me: Can you name other knitting blogs I read?

Compadre: Yarn Harlot, Crazy Aunt Purl, and Miss T .

Me: Do you mind that I want to check out yarn stores everywhere I go?

Compadre: Sometimes. I get shopped out, tired of driving around.

Me: Do you understand the importance of a swatch?

Compadre: It helps you know your gauge. Do you use it to test if it’s colorfast or not?

Me: Do you read After Lunch?

Compadre: Yes I do. I get restless when you don’t update it. Your public demands frequent posts!

Me: Have you ever left a comment?

Compadre: Yes.

Me: Do you like my blogging?

Compadre: Yes, it’s kind of fun.

Me: Do you think the house would be cleaner if I didn’t knit?

Compadre: No, you’d just be doing something else instead.

Me: Do you have anything you’d like to add?

Compadre: I think the lunch lady is cute.

Me: Do you have anything that else, to say. (Blush)

Compadre: Nah.

Me: Thanks for your input.

Compadre: (Silence as he plays his computer game – did he even hear me?)

I will explain that the Compadre does have “hobbies”. He has taught, as a volunteer, for many years. This explains all the papers and lesson plans that are piled around. He also is a very avid bicyclist and he used to run a lot until his knee started bothering him and he had to scale back. But he is a very frugal guy and his expenditures cannot even begin to compare to mine in the hobby department. He rode the same bike for so many years that we (I) worried that it might fall apart! And one pair of $100 dollar running shoes per year? Ha! How much yarn would that buy? He’s the best husband ever and he (mostly) graciously tolerates my many pursuits. I love that guy!! In a few weeks we'll have been happily married 33 years!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Red Scarf Project

I've been meaning to knit a scarf for the Red Scarf Project all year. I started one last year at about this time and for some reason decided that sport yarn would be a good choice. I'm not a fast knitter and that meant that it was even slower to knit than it would have been if it had been worsted weight yarn so it didn't get done. But here it is time to think about the project again and this time I was wise and bought some new yarn from Double Ewe. Wonderful new yarn that Kelly is carrying. It's called Merino 5 and it is just yummy. Worsted weight merino yarn - soo soft. I'm loving this knit. I'm still slow, so let's hope I finish in time to send it in by Oct. 31.

The Red Scarf Project is organized to give a red (or other neutral color) scarf to young people that have timed out of the foster care system in our country. When a young person becomes 18 they are not eligible for foster care any more. Orphan Foundation of America helps them with their needs and is able to help many to go on to college. The scarves are distributed through their program and they need to be sent to:

Orphan Foundation of America
The Red Scarf Project
21351 Gentry Drive
Sterling, VA 20166

Make sure to visit their website to find out what they need for sizes and weights of yarn and all. And have fun knitting!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Different Culture

Last Friday and Saturday I had a "cultural" experience. This city girl spent two days in as rural a setting as you can get. I went to the Almelund Threshing Show. I saw more old tractors and farm machinery there than you can imagine. I think that the rule was that they had to be older than 1956. My circular sock knitting machine was made in 1922 so that's why I was there. Deb and Pete demonstrate every year at this show and several others but Deb was at the IOLI convention - the national lace makers convention - and I didn't go this year. So Deb asked if I would assist Pete in demonstrating the sock machines. Pete made striped scarves and let the kids crank them and I was brave enough to make a pair of shortie socks. I let the kids crank on the straight areas. I had a blast!! I surprised myself. I know that I like demonstrating because I demonstrate lace making for the Minnesota Lace Society but what I didn't know was how fascinated I would be by all those old farm machines. Some of them were run by steam engines and were huge. Almost scary even! At 1:30 each day there was a parade of tractors - it seemed like hundreds of them - and I abandoned Pete and went to watch it both days. Now I've been a visitor on a farm, in fact my Dad was raised on one, and the Compadre has several relatives that have or had farms but this was so cool. I've never seen things like this.

Or can you imagine this coming down the road at you!

Some of them were being driven by teenage guys with girls riding along. Can you imagine your everyday city girl riding a tractor with this name!

There were tractors driven by women, teenage girls, and even one with a baby seat! So cool.

The only thing that made me sad was that I wish I had known about things like this before my Dad died. He would have just loved it. But maybe there's a little bit of the farmer in me through him because I would be happy to go back again next year!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Little of This and a Little of That

I've just spent three weeks being crazy busy. The Compadre just shakes his head and wonders if I'll ever learn. The answer is no. I have many, many interests and I just want to do it all! I'm behind in telling you all the things I've been doing. Sometimes when it gets like that I just start over and leave out stuff that I was going to post about. This time I'll try to hit some of the high points eventually. Maybe. Depends on what I get myself into and how much time I have - oh, well, you know....

Last week, Wednesday, Miss T and I got together for a lovely time at a coffee shop where we shared our knitting stories and got to see each other's projects in real life. You should see her lace! That's what happens when you focus on one thing - as opposed to me who tries to do it all! Ha! But I spent the weekend with tractors (I'll tell you about that later - it's a whole post by itself). Anyway, we then went out to eat at one of Miss T's favorite restaurants, The Royal Orchid. I don't have Thai food very often and so I was a little skeptical but the meal was superb. I had Pad Thai and I recommend it highly. See, occasionally I'm adventurous in my eating. We then went to World Market and I bought an electric hot pot (a Bodum Mini Ibis) to boil water for my multiple pots of tea that I drink. Miss T has had one for years and loves it and now so do I! I wonder if I save on energy by using it over boiling water on the stove. I like that it shuts off when it's done so I don't have to worry about forgetting it. I just wish it was a little bigger. When the Compadre and I both drink tea in the morning we go through a big pot and the Mini Ibis doesn't quite fill it. But it'll do and maybe someday I'll upgrade to the bigger Ibis.

After Miss T and I parted, I took my Mom shopping and I fell off the frugality wagon with a resounding crash! I don't buy clothes very often but when I find short, capris and pants that fit me and they are on sale I stock up. And ditto with shoes. I did very well on the shoes. I have foot problems and can't wear just any old shoe, no, only the expensive ones will do for me! One of the pairs that I bought was a pair of Birkenstock shoes (not sandals) that started out at $190 and I paid $47. Woo, hoo! The Compadre reads this so I won't tell you how many pairs of shoes I bought, but just call me Imelda. I'll crawl back onto the frugality wagon and we'll see how long it lasts this time. Oh, did I tell you about the sale at the quilt shop?

Yes, I do still knit and I promise I'll show you what I'm working on. Just not today. Oh, and you think a blog needs more pictures than one. Well, how about a tractor.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Cautionary Tale

I've been enjoying the farmer's markets nearby. I enjoy fresh veggies so much! And the deer have discovered my garden. I had such high hopes of even having enough produce to do some canning this year. The Compadre calls the deer "the juvenile delinquents" because we have seen them hanging around the neighborhood in groups - and they are young deer. He imagines them smoking cigs and munching on our yard - you know, having a frat party. And they have the audacity to leave their droppings behind! Anyway, I digress.

I've gotten some fresh beets at the market and I love to make pickled beets. I always keep them in the refrigerator - I don't bother to can them because I eat them up so fast. The Compadre doesn't like pickled beets and so they're all mine! The recipe is super easy, it involves boiling together 1 cup water,1 cup sugar, ½ cup vinegar, 1 stick cinnamon or ¼ tsp. cinnamon . Pour this over cooked, sliced beets. Soak at least overnight and keep in the refrigerator. I sometimes add more beets to the liquid as long as it still has some vinegar taste in it. Oh, and to cook the beets just remove the greens and put them in a pot. Cover with water and boil until a fork will go into them. Then cool them under cold water until you can handle them. The skins will just slide off. Be careful the beet juice stains clothing. Someday I'm going to try to dye something with it.

Now the cautionary part of this tale is that when I made the pickled beets and was pouring the liquid over the sliced beets I was wearing birkenstocks and no socks. Need I say more. I've been a food service manager for over 21 years and I really do know better. But I've been burned enough times to know that when you're burned, you cool it down as fast as possible. So I ran to the bathtub and held my foot under cold running tap water until I couldn't stand it anymore. And the good news is that my poor little toes survived. My left birkenstock is kind of sticky though.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tall Ships

The Compadre and I went to see the tall ships that were at the Duluth harbor this weekend. We agreed beforehand that we would keep our good humor even if we had to wait in long long lines - it's a good thing we did because the lines were incredible! We waited for 2 1/2 hours in the line for the first boat and 3 hours for the other two boats. Were we crazy? You bet!

But we had fun even in line. The people around us in both of the lines were friendly and we enjoyed chatting with them. And you can't find a better place to wait in line than along Lake Superior! Everyone was polite and patient and there was only one person that somehow cut in line with her 3 unruly kids. That was at the end of the long day and even though I usually have enough patience with little kids, hers really annoyed me. I suppose I should have been annoyed at her and not at the kids though - she was at fault both for her nonparenting and her rudeness. Ah, well, we had a marvelous time and we were both exhausted at the end - standing in line is hard work!

I was impressed by how small they were! I took a picture as I was coming onto the biggest ship - The Niagara - and you can get an idea of the scale. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to come across the ocean as an immigrant in a ship like this. We were able to go underneath the deck in the Niagara and you can see how the Compadre had to stoop to walk around. He's holding onto a hammock that looks like it's right up against the ceiling! I hope there were more comfortable ships for the immigrants but I'm guessing not. By the way. There is no way on earth you could get me to climb up that rope ladder to the top of the mast. The Compadre contends that if my life or my fellow sailors depended on it I would climb it. That takes a lot of imagination on his part!