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I'm never bored. If I'm not knitting or spinning, I'm gardening or reading. Always up to something!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

All is Calm



This is the calm before the crazy. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. The baking is finished, the shopping is done, the presents are wrapped. Six grandkids will be under the tree tomorrow and I'll be ready for them. I didn't decorate much this year. Just some greens I picked up at Trader Joe's, the tree got trimmed and I brought a few things out of storage. With so much unrest in the world, I really needed some peace this year. I braved the Christmas shopping madness just twice. Tomorrow we're a houseful for dinner and delight. But I'll also keep Christmas quietly in my heart and pray for peace that the world so desperately needs. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Filet Mignon - Yes, Please!

Have you ever looked at the gorgeous beef filet in the butcher's section of your grocery store and wished you could make a perfect Filet Mignon for your lover?  Never mind impressing your mother-in-law!  Christmas is coming. And after that New Year's Eve. Just the two of you, snuggled up with champagne and a lovely dinner. The kids are with grandma. Or maybe you don't have children yet. Or it's Christmas Eve and the candles are lit, the music is playing and you're wrestling with a turkey or worse? I wouldn't recommend trying this on company without a bit of experience. Come on. You're worth it! Get a couple of steaks, thick cut little beauties for the two of you and give it a try!  You need a heavy skillet that can go in the oven on high temperatures. And you need a good meat thermometer. Preferably and instant digital read one. Here's what you do. You can send me a note to thank me later.

First, in your pan (10" works well) melt some butter and olive oil together. Or use some bacon drippings. A couple of tablespoons should do it. Your filet has no fat on it so you need to add some to the pan. You should salt and pepper both sides. Then brown them nicely on medium high heat. You can tell the browning is complete when the meat doesn't stick to the pan. Like I said, cast iron is best.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. When your filets are brown, pop them in the oven. Be careful and use thick oven mitts for this. Your pan till be very HOT. Set your timer for 5 minutes. At this point you'll begin to check the temperature. If you like your meat on the rare side you'll pull them at 145 degrees on your thermometer. Decide which filet is yours and cut into it a bit. If it's too rare, put them back in the oven for another 3 minutes. Check your temperature each time. Since pork is done at around 160, you'll probably hit your sweet spot between 145 and 155. Otherwise, the meat is gray and the juices are dried up. Remember, you check a steak by cutting into it and serving it with that side down. No one will know!

My dinner last night.  A perfectly done. Filet mignon, brussel sprouts with bacon, rice pilaf. Perfect!
Stick with me and we'll roast a chicken to perfection outside on the gas grill.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mittens for 3 Little Kittens

I was reading in bed the other night, occasionally looking up to chat with bug the devil out of my husband who was actually trying to read his book. I was explaining that I was knitting mittens for the first time and that I was making a pair for each of the little grandsons for their Christmas stockings. A nursery rhyme about mittens and kittens came flowing back into my brain from kindergarten but I could only recall part of it. Do little ones actually learn nursery rhymes any more? It must have been a fairly good brain exercise if I could recall even a few lines almost 60 years later. Maybe I'll look it up and teach is to my little grandsons when I give them the mittens. So it goes like this:

                                                    Three Little Kittens

Three little kittens, they lost their mittens and they began to cry. Oh, mother dear, we sadly fear that we have lost our mittens. What? Lost your mittens, you naughty kittens! Then you shall have no pie!

Okay, there we go. Kittens crying, mother scolding and withholding food. Child abuse, for sure.

Three little kittens, they found their mittens, and they began to cry. Oh, mother dear, see here, see here. For we have found our mittens. Put on your mittens, you silly kittens and you shall have some pie, 

Food as reward. Definitely could contribute to the trend toward childhood obesity.

Then the little guys got into real trouble.

Three little kittens put on their mittens and soon ate up the pie. Oh, mother dear, we greatly fear that we have soiled out mittens. What? Soiled your mittens, you naughty kittens. Then they began to sigh.

Name calling? More abusive behavior. You're not supposed to tell kittens they're "bad". Their behavior is unacceptable.

Three little kittens, they washed their mittens and hung them out to dry. Oh, mother dear, do yo not hear that we have washed our mittens? What? washed your mittens, then you're good kittens, but I smell a rat close by.

So Mother's not doing her job, protecting the family from marauding rats and she's worried about the kids getting their clothes a bit dirty. I think my kids would think I was nuts if I tried to teach the grandkids nursery rhymes. Better to stick to the knitting. (These are being knitted from Susan B. Anderson's Waiting for Winter pattern.)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fiber Festival Finds

Daughter and I ventured north to Massachusetts last weekend, following fiber fumes. First to WEBS, America's Yarn Store. We circled the yarn like hunters after big game. We were both satisfied with our purchases, only to discover that the commonwealth doesn't charge tax on yarn. What??? And we had purchased enough to qualify for the BIG discount. No shipping. The price of gas is down and WEBS is only an hour and half away. WEBS is now my lys, just saying. I bought some Juniper Moon Farm Findley to make the Imogen Tee for next spring. I thought I was very reasonable, considering I don't spend much time in yarn stores. Then we were off to the Fiber Festival of New England, which was just a few miles away. I was looking for breed-specific roving that I hadn't spun before. I settled on 4 ounces of Falkland from Spunky Eclectic in the color "Pumpkin". I might save the resulting yarn for those cute little knitted pumpkins I saw on Ravelry earlier this year. 
We met a man at the fair who was selling lamps and candle lights made from assorted old spools and spindles from abandoned knitting mills in Lowell, Massachusetts. He included the little bulb and had slashed his prices in half. I couldn't leave without one. I added some rusty garland from JoAnn's. I love this little thing.

Though I wish the mills were still active, I love owning a little piece of fiber history.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Stitching and Sneezing

I finished my "Pebble Beach Shawl" by designer Helen Stewart after we came home from our trip. It's the medium size in Malabrigo "Indecita". I tried photographing it outside but the colors only came true in low lighting inside the house. I love the way Helen writes her patterns and will definitely try one of hers again.

Not sure if was the color of the yarn or the wine that made the going difficult on black needles. I ordered some new double points from KnitPicks in their Sunstruck wood. There should be no excuses now. I need a winter hat and I have enough Malabrigo worsted for a hat and I think I can get a cowl out of it. The color is "Velvet Grapes". It's a lot more purple and less pink than in the picture.

And I've picked up "Pour Moi" by Versaci Knits again. The wool is Knitpicks "Wool of the Andes" in camel. It's toothy and rustic but it will keep me warm when it's finished. It should wear like iron. The original in the picture is knitted in Madelinetosh Sport. If I really like the sweater I might spring for MT someday for a sweater. I don't like the idea of alternating skeins and I really don't care for the MT price tag. In my size, this would be a very pricey project.

I'm going to give cross stitching a whirl again. It's been a long time and never on Belfast linen. This is a project for sunny days, clear eyes, no wine. One good, hard freeze and my allergies should clear up. This little project deserves all my attention once it's started.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Secret Garden

 I picked up a copy of The Secret Garden for a dollar when my local library was having a book sale last summer. Somehow I'd missed reading it as a child. One at a time, I'm trying to catch up on some of the classics I missed. Last time, it was Anna Karenina. I took it as something to stay occupied while my son was having his wisdom teeth removed. That day, I felt like throwing Anna under the train myself.
Looking for something lighter, I took The Secret Garden along on our trip, reading a few pages each night before going to sleep. I know it's dated. There's some racism in the original copy I have, and that reflects the time in which it was written. I didn't allow that to ruin the book for me, though and I understand it's been edited and updated with a new voice by Briton Bailey.
I hope much of the original text remains the same. Many of us have been through tough situations, both with our own health and issues with the people we love. I believe it takes courage to grieve what can't be undone and replace sadness with hope and continue to live. Here's an except that I love - plainly spoken by a gardener in the secret garden:
 "Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, jut has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place. - Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Wild Gardens of Acadia, Maine

I wanted to stay longer. It did't matter that the ferns had turned a golden brown. Everywhere I looked was natural beauty. Mushrooms, streams troubled by landing insects into waves of glassy water. White birch, goldenrod, wild asters, lichens, reindeer moss. I didn't want to leave but the tour bus was waiting.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tending Weeds - Sweet Annie

Image result for sweet annie plant

The definition of a weed:

A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one that grows where it is
not wanted.

So, by definition, I've apparently been cultivating undesirable plants. Troublesome plants. Plants nobody wants. A couple of weeks ago, I was weeding a small area behind the pool filter that had become somewhat overgrown. As I yanked and pulled, I recognized a familiar fragrance. "Sweet Annie" - I'd been pulling out a patch of "Sweet Annie"! So I quickly dug a couple of holes in the back of my so-called vegetable patch, and dropped in a couple of handfuls of roots and stem. Last fall I bought some branches of "Sweet Annie", or Artimisia annua from a vendor at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York. I'd previously planted some seeds but never identified any seedlings. Anyway, I formed my "Annie" into a wreath with green florists' wire and added some dried Hydrangea blossoms to complete the piece. I know "Annie"  grows by the side of the road but I never found any I could cut without getting run over. Hopefully now, I'll have my own little crop of this fragrant herb. "Sweet Annie", according to Mother Earth News, is originally a native to Southeastern Europe, North Africa and Iran. It's known as "the Tomboy" of everlasting gardens due to it's plain and gawky appearance. It's a favorite of crafters for its versatility and sweet, lingering fragrance and been used medicinally since the 7th century as well. "Sweet Annie" will only become troublesome to me if I can't keep up with the harvesting.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Euptoieta claudia & Indiecito

This beautiful thing is a Variegated Fritillary (or Euptoieta claudia). She didn't get into a face off with the large bee that shared the branch of butterfly bush with her. She just elegantly enjoyed sipping and flitting around on a warm September afternoon. It struck me that her wings backlit by the sun, matched the centers of the flowerettes perfectly. When looking for color combinations for yarn dying, fiber artists frequently take a cue from nature and this is a perfect example of colors that I would never have tried to combine.

I've barely started a new project - a Pebble Beach Shawl, designed by Helen Stewart in Malabrigo Arroyo in a variegated colorway called Indiecita (Little Indian). I wasn't sure if I'd like this pattern in this particular yarn. It reminds me of a beachy, summer sunset. Another inspiration from nature. Someone said that there's nothing new in the world. All we have to do is look around and appreciate what's here.