Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Until Next Year

I picked up Alexia on my way home from town. Her daddy had her washed up and packed up and ready to go. Ian is packing the car and we're leaving at 5:00 a.m. for Oceanside. I just talked to my sister-in-law a few minutes ago. She says it's beautiful on the beach and recommends that we pack shorts. Oh, the change in time and place!! I grew up in San Diego and resented the warm winters. Now I'm excited to enjoy a few days of it.
My last minute knitting is done and ready to wrap - after I finish packing my suitcase. Alexia modeled it for me, and I have to say, I'm concerned about it for a three-year-old. I guess I'll have to go with Amy's saying in this case. It is what it is.
I finished the sweater yesterday, but without a dryer, I had to dry in on a towel by the fire last night. I sewed in the zipper this morning. I tried to make an NC patch but you really need a serger to make a patch. Mine looked pretty pathetic. It really would have looked cool, had I been able to pull it off.

I took my Consumer Report printouts to Sears yesterday and was out of the store in 15 minutes, $1430 dollars poorer. Opening a Sears card saved $210! I would have liked a front loader with all the bells and whistles but the laundry room it just too small. We decided to replace both machines, but delivery isn't until the 13th. From Sears I headed to the Laundromat.
Does this bring back any memories? It's been a long time since I've used one of these. I was pretty clueless but they have change machines now so not having saved enough quarters is no longer an issue. There are no signs for times and prices so I ended up having to ask other people. I left feeling quite humble. The laundromat is a way of life for many people and it's not cheap. We dismiss homeless people as dirty but getting clean isn't easy and it comes with a hefty pricetag. They're going to be my peeps for the next couple of weeks.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A High Desert Christmas

Before: This is our hay shelter after the wind storm that burned and devastated much of Reno.
After: Fred has been working on it a little at a time and Christmas Eve day he came over, got our teenage neighbors to help him hoist up the roof, and we're back in business. It's beautimus and anchored with two bags of cement and Jimmy Hoffa.
Princess Alexia.
Neighbors Carol, Myrna, Carl and Angela.
I'm glad I wasn't near that discussion, between a liberal and a conservative. I think that's what I love about our friends out here. Respect is still practiced.
Christmas Eve is our open house for family, friends and neighbors. Wait, that sounds bad - our neighbors *are* our friends. The two boys in this shot are mine - my youngest son Matt and my SIL Mikeal - who was celebrating his 20th anniversary of marriage to my daughter. Sadly I'm not a photographer and don't think like one so missed getting a shot of them together.

Christmas morning Ian and I exchanged our gifts and I slipped off to Mass. I know it sounds silly to drive that far for a church service, but this is the first time I've gotten to attend Mass on Christmas and I had my heart set on it. As soon as I got home, we lit off for Carol and Harry's to celebrate Christmas day.
They had their own open house and celebration and the absolute star was six-week-old Delia. She wasn't the grinch that stole Christmas - she was the doll that stole Christmas!! I love this photo and the look on her daddy's face. As I share my holiday with you, my wish is that you loved yours just as much as I loved mine.

However, mine did end with a bang. That would be the dryer blowing up this morning. It was cheap when we bought ten years ago, so I have to acknowledge that we got our money's worth. However, we're leaving in two days for SoCal and I will complain about the timing. We have an online subscription to Consumer Reports so I spent a couple hours researching replacements. The winner is Kenmore. I'll go to Sears tomorrow after I go to the laundromat and I'll get a Sear's credit card - that card provides about $200 in discounts. Then I'll come home and order the machines - we've decided to replace both - and have them delivered and installed when we get home. Bah humbug!

Friday, December 23, 2011

I Know What I'm Doing - Who Said That?!

I woke up Wednes-
day morning and started to knit on the baby sweater with my cuppa when the light went on. This is Plymouth Encore and at 70% acrylic, this is the size the sweater will be when blocked. I looked up the yarn online and realized that the yarn is 20 stitches to four inches, and the pattern called for 18 stitches to four inches. It was an in-town day so I eliminated two stops and added one to Jimmy Beans Wool. It's over 50 miles from here, but when I'm in town already, it doesn't feel so bad.
My trip to town started with making a date to have lunch with my DD Chris. It was the day after her final exam and so we decided to eat on campus and then shop at the bookstore. She was telling me about the video that Kiernan and Alexia had made the night before about zombies as we walked through the building. In the back, I could hear something and then something again. Finally I heard - Sharon! It was Amy! We haven't seen each other for months and were passing through space and time at that moment - an unexpected treat.
I walked into the JBW store, which was surpris-
ingly busy for its remote location, and a clerk who was clearly helping someone else asked if she could help me. I said - I need to buy some yarn. Have I come to the right place?? Sometimes I crack myself up. The lady she was helping was holding some mohair in the exact color I was looking for. The clerk looked at my pattern and directed me to the same color in Lorna's Laces.

Then I wasn't sure about the second color. I asked if she could Google school colors for UNC, Chapel Hill, just at the same time a staff person came out from the back to see if she could help. She spun around and said, I graduated from there. Can I help you? This is what I came home with and even if I only have a week to make it, I'm really excited. I want to make an "NC" patch but won't know what size until the sweater is blocked. I've never made a patch before, but it can't be too hard, right? Benita included some white cotton in the box of fabric. I figure I'll iron it to some fusible interfacing, zigzag the outline and then cut it out, right?
This is a Knitting Pure and Simple pattern. I always photocopy patterns so I can write on them. When I got home, I realized I had left my copy at the store. No problem. I'd work off the original, only I couldn't find it. No problem. I'm using the copy that Diane emailed in 2003! The other one will show up some day, but it's obvious I need another studio cleaning. If you look closely on the bottom right you will see where Charlie has nibbled on the page.
Given the baby sweater deadline, I spent way too much time yesterday on the rug but I got it done. I've hemmed all my rugs - not a fan of fringe - but decided to hemstitch this time to eliminate the rug unraveling as I'm trying to zigzag the edge.

Again, I ran out of warp and was fighting for the last inches of string. Math and I are not friends, though we have worked out a tenable relationship. This time I was just wasn't listening, or something.
I pulled it off the loom last evening and laid it on the balcony. I couldn't wait to see it.
And here it is on the floor. This is an area just inside the French doors and heavily trafficked by our three large dogs. They have battered the wood terribly. I hate to cover our beautiful floors but I hate what the dogs are doing to them. I cleaned and oiled two areas today and really appreciate the protection my rugs provide. The subcontractor who laid the floors used an inferior sealant. The rugs are a necessary patch job for now.
I washed all the rugs today, getting ready for our Christmas Eve open house tomorrow. This is an earlier rug and I have to say that I like darker colors and more reds.

Hard Boiled Eggs: I bought a dozen eggs, planning to make Deviled Eggs for tomorrow. I read several places how to make perfect hard boiled eggs and printed an AllRecipes one that include the recipe and the technique. I could not get the egg shells off. My eggs look like they had teenage acne. I had a half dozen left so went back to the internet for how to make hard boiled eggs that you can peel, I boiled the other half dozen with 1/2 tsp of baking soda, chilled them for a couple of hours in ice water, and they peeled effortlessly. Apparently it has something to do with the Ph balance of fresh eggs. If you change the Ph balance with the baking soda, you don't have to think in advance and use older eggs.

"The trick to peeling hard-boiled eggs easily is to ensure that the eggs are several days old. Hard-boiling eggs that are farm fresh will yield to eggs which are virtually impossible to peel. Buy eggs and store them for 5-10 days before hard-boiling farm fresh eggs. This is because as the eggs age, the carbon dioxide present in the albumin seeps out, thereby reducing its acidity. Research reveals that reduced acidity assists in easier peeling." I got that information here. All I know is - the eggs are peeled.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ho Ho Ho Countdown

I swore off handmade Christmas presents a number of years ago, but now we've got babies in the family and I can't resist. Believe it or not, this is a hat drying on our sugar canister. When it's dry I'll attach the tassel on top. The hat was much harder than it looked in the picture.
I'm a late starter on this present, but neither one gets delivered until New Years when Ian and I got to SoCal to celebrate the holiday with his family. I know I can get this cardi done in time, but I need to make an athletic patch to attach. That's the part that worries me.

I started a handmade Christmas from the year I was married. We lived in Pensacola Florida on Mike's corporal's pay and we were broke. I saw a Sunset magazine article where you could form thin rolls of cookie dough into the shapes of ornaments, a faux lead glass technique. You baked the dough briefly on a cookie sheet, cracked hard candies into the spaces and returned it to the oven to finish baking the dough and melt the candy into a glass-like sheet. When finished, I hung my beautiful ornaments on the tree, where the lights slowly melted the candy onto our few presents and the floor.

I continued to make handmade presents for everyone later when Mike was a student and we had no money. I remember the look on my father-in-law's face when he opened his present to find a special macrame wine bottle. Those were the materials I owned. I know he loved me because it was still around years later.
I took this picture earlier this week as I was working on my warp. I love being right here and stealing from Melissa, I'm calling it a loom with a view.
I finished up the last load of laundry and rousted Charlie from his favorite place in the sun. I got it tied on and hemstitched this morning. If I only use the leftover fabric strips, I might get it done by Christmas Eve.
It looks like a fabric bomb went off. I have strips and fabrics strewn around. I have a lot of strips cut from earlier projects so I've tried to spread the strips into intensity and hues. Other than that, there's no plan or forethought. I'm a quarter of the way done but have to be in town tomorrow. I'm not ruling out a new rug for our Christmas Eve open house - yet.
We keep our tree up a full month and I spend time looking at it every day. The chili pepper reminds me of Carol and Harry- from our shared CSA basket. The Campbell kids ornament to the right is from the Sorrentinos, the amazing couple who adopted my pregnant 15-year-old daughter's baby 25 years ago and came into our lives three years ago. The orange glass pumpkin is from Amy, a sneak buy from her on our vacation trip near Santa Cruz and the needlepoint ornament next to it was one of the last my mother-in-law was able to do.
I could take you on a tour, any quadrant of the tree. I see here the crocheted snowflake from my mother, who passed away 11 years ago. There's a little golden rooster lurking just to the right of it from Laura. This is what I do with the tree throughout this month. It's the richest tree around - rich in memories. I completely understand how this time of year is hard on people who have suffered loss.

And so, yesterday I cooked my first leg of lamb, with much help from Ian, the retired butcher. It was beyond fabulous. Tonight we had lamb pie. It was beyond fabulous. I chilled the Crisco before making the crust. I read about that in Cook's Illustrated. I nearly fainted, it was so flaky. It was beyond fabulous, or did I say that already?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Getting It Done

I crawled out of bed this morning with the realization that I had to make yet another batch of soap. I swear the part I dislike the most is making the origami paper liner for the mold. I intensely abhor that task, so once the liner is in the box, the rest is all downhill.
I hate making soap in the winter because it's cold in the garage and that's where I store my soap oils. The garage thermometer today read 40 degrees, not quite freezing, but the oils were solid. I had to cut them in order to weight them, so the pot I put on the stove looked like this. That's oil you're looking at. I made Nevada Bar today and it smells fantastic in our kitchen.
After the soap was put to rest, I went back upstairs to play more with my sample warp. I had quite a lot left so decided to pull out Anne Dixon's book and see what I could get from my twill threading in a direct tie-up and 1/3 twill. Nothing looked like her book, it all looked like rosepath. I pulled out my workshop notes and saw that the threading was for rosepath. Doh.

So I decided to get silly. I treadled right side up, upside down and you know - it does make a difference. You have to look close. The bottom of the sample actually is different than the top.
This was so much fun. I had planned two more samplers before allowing myself the fun of dish towels, but I'm not sure I can wait for two more samplers. Stupid addictive hobby.
Complicating things, i.e., my interests - Benita just sent me another box of her reassigned cottons. I have wanted to replace my first rag rug which was too loosely sett, Lautrec - sorry - I couldn't help myself. It was woven in twill, an unfortunate learning experience. I'd like to have that on the floor by Christmas Eve. I am a champ at setting unrealistic goals. I can do it. More to follow.

The placemats were another unfortunate experiment, though I have sold some. People apparently don't sit at a table to dine. I've been emailed for kitchen sized rag rugs. I seemed to have missed the cue. I'll give those a go in the new year. There's a whole new realm of craft fairs in the horizon.

I am a complete flash mob junkie so will leave you with this:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Play Day

I got caught up in the holiday frenzy about a week before Thanksgiving, which was exacerbated by the CERT training, a couple of Christmas parties, making soap and just generally making myself busy. Today I got to go play on the loom.
The tie-up is twill and I had finished the exercises from the workshop and had gone back to play with overshot patterns. I wanted to become more comfortable with a two shuttle weave.
I walked around to the back of the loom to see how much warp I had left to play with and was greeted by this. No weaver wants to see a rats nest like this! It turned out to be the thread just inside the floating selvedge so I just dropped it. It's a sampler, and after all, this is just play.
I don't want to bore you with all my samples, but I do love this picture. That strip that appears to be navy blue is actually the same blue as the samples on either side, but because I had paired it with yellow in a polychrome weave, it fools your eye. Isn't that fantastic?!!
All my work was done under careful snoopervision.

This is the final hat for 2011. I just delivered a couple to the Coop and another one that was commissioned. I'll start up again next year for the holiday craft season. I learned that I need more than 2 ounces of Shetland to make the body of a hat. This hat is cobbled together from two of my sheep dyed in the same dyes. When I first started spinning, I remember asking how much wool it would take to spin yarn for a sweater, and I'd always get the answer - it depends. It takes about an ounce more of Shetland than it does of Targhee for one hat. This I know.

My soap is doing well and keeping me quite busy. Unfortunately it's not a craft that I can enjoy while watching the television. Which reminds me - it's been two weeks now since we've disconnected the satellite. My, what a learning curve that has been, and oh my, how obnoxious are the laugh tracks of broadcast television. The HD antennae gives us free access to a lot of programs that we used to tape on the DVR, but now being cheap, we have to inconvenience ourselves to watch in real time. We used to spend a thousand dollars a year to watch convenient TV. We're in retraining.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Red Rock Rocks

Melissa was back from SoCal for a couple of days to tend to her business here. She's in the unenviable position of being my age with businesses in two states and little opportunity for retirement. We had planned a play day but realized we were both too tired to play, so we just ate at her place, played with her kittens and took a walk about Virginia Lake, which is just across the street. We had to laugh at the Canada geese *on* the lake. I forget that I have the capacity for video on my phone and am kicking myself for not catching the hilarious landings of the geese on the ice - lots of crazy sliding by them and lots of crazy laughing by us.
I decided Friday was Christmas cards day, however I had just gotten back my soap basket from Carol and Kerry who had added it to their craft fair booth and realized that I was out of lavender soap. It's quickly become my most popular bar. Since soap needs to cure for three weeks, it was the priority. I made orange cinnamon soap the prior Friday so our house smells fantastic.

We dragged our feet on Christmas cards this year. We couldn't decide if we should order from Unicef, Habitat, the Art Institute of Chicago - deer in the headlights. I mentioned to Ian that Sandy paints a card for each Christmas - she had them for sale at the craft fair we recently did. We bought from her, right here in our valley, and because she prints them in her printer, I was able to compose a Christmas note and print that right onto the card. I had more fun with cards this year than I have in years. No photo - I was able to get them done after the soap. The cards are in the mail.
Then I had CERT training for another four hours that night and another 8 1/2 on Saturday. We were doing simulated trainings and we just cracked me up. I took a picture of myself with my phone. I have no idea how anyone gets anything done with all this equipment on. I was breathing so hard I kept fogging my goggles and since I was wearing a headband, the hat kept falling off. When I did the simulated splinting of a broken leg, I put the danged hat under the guy's foot to elevate it and facilitate the wrapping of the splint, but the thumb of my right glove popped off. I was a hotshot with the fire extinguisher simulator however, and they passed me.

The trainings have come at a terribly busy time but I felt compelled to train with the other people in our valley. The second winter we were here, we were snowed in for three days. The Sheriffs department monitored us by helicopter, but it's left me knowing that we are isolated. I missed four Christmas parties and was sorry to miss every one - one for each day of training - but I knew training was important.

This is the graduating class of the Red Rock CERT team. All training is developed and standardized by FEMA as a result of their dreadful failings at Katrina. Sandy, our team leader, is in the foreground, the same Sandy as Christmas cards and bookclub. Our valley meetings will begin in January. It's not likely we'll ever wear the equipment I wore in the simulation, but it is likely we'll be asked to direct traffic and man phones, and Sandy has done both. She manned phones for the Stead air race crash when people were calling in from all over the world, looking for their loved ones. I've finished CERT Academy but have more trainings I'd like to take before I feel competent to report for duty.
My son was driving back to Oregon this morning after being here for the weekend and texted me that we had a fire in our valley - he could see if from the highway as they were going north. Indeed, we did. One thing they drilled into us during the trainings was to call 911. Don't assume someone else did, so I called 911. I don't know anything about the fire, other than it is now out because Carol's husband is on our VFD and she told Ian he was on his way home. He works full time but today was his day off. I love our firefighters!
On a positive note - Ian and I went down to Joe's open studio, which is this weekend and next. We had chatted the other night and I told him I loved one of one of his pie plates and I'd like another one just like it, but I have one I don't like. The thing is, he's an artist who has had to make functional pieces in order to make sales in our current economy. No two pie plates are ever the same - he isn't fond of production, however no one makes a stonewear pie plate like he does. So I took both my plates, the one I like and the one I don't. I thought he would be making me a new one in the future, but he traded me this one for the one I don't like. It's going to a potluck on Tuesday.

We were sorry to miss his party Friday night, but I had training. I told him that when I dropped Sandy off it was 7 degrees, and when I drove by his place, I saw the lights were still on and cars still there. He said I should have stopped in anyway. I've never lived where my neighbors are so far away and yet I feel I'm in a community.

Bonnie sat next to me in the trainings. She and her husband recently moved to our valley from South Carolina. They found the foreclosed property on the internet, there are many, and when they came to see it and learned about our fight against the corporate water rights grab, they knew they wanted to live here. They knew that a valley that could come together like we did was the place they wanted to call home. She brought tears to my eyes. We did fight, we won, we are a community, and we are home.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Fiber, in no particular order

The Christmas tree is where my spinning bench was so I have to improvise. I put my wheel and chair where Sammie is and my "happy" light, i.e., S.A.D. light sits on top of the bar stool. It takes some time to set up and break down, and the change in routine makes the dogs nuts. Charlie saw it as an opportunity to once again stake the upper ground. The dynamics of our pets is a constant source of surprise and amusement.
These bumps are what I recently dyed. I've since spun the left bump and am interested to see what the right one looks like spun up. These are all destined to be hats. What doesn't make the Coop show this month will be ready for sale next season. It's all fun.
This is where our hay shelter ended up after the wind storm that left 32 homes burned to the ground and many badly damaged. Wind here is always harsh. Mark Twain coined it the Washoe Zephyr and said it keeps office hours from 2:00 in the afternoon until 2:00 in the morning - he was right. It's why I ran in the mornings before work all those years.

The winds in this last storm kept switching directions, making sure destruction was an equal opportunity destroyer. Our neighbor Fred told Ian at the Christmas party last Friday that he could salvage it. He'll take it apart, re-weld spots and anchor it for $200. Sold! He told Ian that his heart doctor asked him at his last pacemaker check-up if he had been welding again. They can see it on his scan. He asked his doctor to help him find a dental assistants chest x-ray protector. Is that a visual or what?!
I had to take a picture of Mickey. He was fussing from the time he saw me. What are you doing? Are you going to chuck my chin? Are you going to give me extra food. Whadda ya doin? He's not named Mickey Mouth for nothing.
Ornaments on our tree are very important to me. It takes me probably four or more hours to hang them because every one has its own story. I had commented on Amanda's blog about the woven ornaments she was gifting to friends. To my surprise, she emailed me for my address. A couple of days ago I received an envelope from Prescott, Arizona. I was scratching my head, but when I opened it, I realized Amanda had gifted me. Thanks Amanda! I will save it with the note and envelope she sent in and hope that someday I have enough understanding of weave structure that I can pass this on.