Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekending + last week

Cypress knees protruding from Lake Maitland.

Snowy egret in tree, Orlando.

Beautiful shot of cormorants and clouds in Big Cypress Nat'l Park

I saw a total of 30 gators. Down 18 from last year but counting and driving at the same time can be tricky.

Ever wonder why grocery store tomatoes aren't that good? Because they are trucked like this and picked while green.

View of Miami from Key Biscayne

Poor rental car. Everyone was OK.

Breaking the huddle.

Beating BH.

My attempt to capture Julian's enthusiasm didn't quite work.

More snow on Sunday morning.

What a doozie. Last week I spent 4 days in Florida on a work trip. All my appointments went well, and my downtimes were nice too. It was chilly for Florida for this time of year, I was on the beach last Tuesday in my trench coat and scarf! I flew into Orlando (one appt.), drove to Naples (three appts.), drove to Miami (one appt.) then flew home on Friday morning from there. I arrived in Pittsburgh, got a rental car, and within ten minutes of concluding my trip, I rear ended an out-of-towner who had come to the university for cancer treatments. This was a bit of an emotional ending to a draining week.

After all the rental car mess was sorted, I had the Enterprise folks drop me off at my car at the high school (Julian and the team were already en route to Kiski via bus) and I got the assistant coach and headed back up to PA for the weekend's lacrosse tournament. Talk about intense!

We won our game on Friday night with ease and scouted the team we'd be playing in the morning. Neither of us were very confident about the morning's game and we slept fitfully in the hotel that night. We pulled off a very exciting victory against Bishop Hendricken in our morning game (thanks to Julian's all-night scheming) and played a very impressive game, despite our loss, in the championship round vs. Kiski. It was a very exciting weekend, but very intense and not at all restful. It sure is nice to be home, though.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

{Yarn Along} Dyeing and a Conundrum

So here you go, the results of the yarn dyeing experiment.

I started by asking around to see if any of my knitty friends had tried this before. We're all pretty solid DIYers, so I was surprised to discover that none had and even shocked when my friend Laura responded that she had little interest in trying because there were other people know more and do it much better than we! That's not very adventuresome!

So I used this tutorial and it worked with two minor blips. I had read that the vinegar soak could cause colors to not come true. I know from experience with berries that when you wash a berry-covered dish that the soap changes the colors entirely and really messes with reds and blues. I assume the same sort of action occurs with pink and blue hydrangeas, all that ph stuff. I told Julian specifically that I wasn't going to worry too much about that because I like all colors, so as long as it was colorful, I was fine.... that was before my purple-y color scheme became brown + blue + orange. Then, all of a sudden, it made sense, that bit about people knowing how to do this better than I.

I mixed up three colors using Wilton food colors in punch cups with boiling water, about 1/2 tsp of dye each. I used violet, pink, and burgundy. I pre-soaked my wool in 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water, but I sped up the process by putting it in a pot on low heat for about 45 minutes. No overnight-ness here.

The ugly shade shifting happened immediately upon pouring the dye on the wool. {I really wish the pictures showed the colors better} Grr. I wasn't happy. I followed through with the process, wrapped it in plastic and baked it in the oven on 210F for about one hour. I took it out and it was like magic - the colors were beautiful and vibrant, and 100% absorbed. The baking wool had become so colorfast that when I rinsed it, not even one drop of water was discolored. Then I left it to dry overnight and balled it up. Voila! (I know, I said there were TWO blips but only mentioned one. The other was the fact that the only thing that smells worse than wet wool is wet wool soaked in vinegar and baked in the oven. Yeah. Julian was not keen on being an innocent bystander for the process. The house smelled rank.)

So now... here is my conundrum. I cast on my 32 stitched for my one hour mitts, but how on earth do I close the round? Am I missing something? I don't have enough yarn to be able to connect my ends. (In the picture, I just started knitting back plainly because I love the yarn so much but made myself stop, so that's why the needles are in an odd spot.) I googled the miracle loop method for doing glove fingers and what not but I have no idea how anyone could make anything in one hour using that option. Help!?

Linking up with Ginny.

Monday, March 24, 2014


This weekend wore us out.
We hiked on Saturday morning to blue heron rookery. We were tight on time and had to turn back after walking longer than we'd planned and still not seeing the birds. Watch for falling rock. Julian just kept saying, "If you hear something crack, RUN!" Then the one time we heard/saw a rock fall from the cliff, we were both too in awe to do anything but watch.

My dear cousin, Natalie, for whom the blue and green dresden pillow was made, sent me a sweet card. She and I always go back and forth to see who sees the first bloom of spring, often a daffodil. I always do, and she always claims its because she's so far north, and she always is. When we were living in Blacksburg, she was in Morgantown, and now that we are in Morgantown, she is in Wooster, Ohio, poor gal.

We had our first lacrosse game of the year and a beautiful day for it. We won 16-2 and I didn't get a single picture. This just after I told Julian that I wasn't getting enough pictures of life. There was just too much to do. Forty-six teenage boys can be demanding.

Cookies on Sunday and I planned for an embroidery lesson for a friends daughter, but they must have forgotten because they never showed. There are worse things than having the house tidy for company but not having any and eating all the cookies yourself.

Linking up with Amanda.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ten Things

Ten things you might not know about Julian and me:

  1. We met in high school but didn't date until we were finished with college. He's not a fan of this picture because his face isn't in it, but he doesn't like to be in pictures anyway.
  2. I grew up on a farm and both of his parents did. We never want to return to farming, but it is our #2 priority to get back to country life.
  3. Our #1 priority is finishing his PhD. Julian is currently a lung cancer researcher. I say currently because he is a computer scientist and they can be and do almost anything. 
  4. I'm not a type-A personality and it frustrates me that people have to tell you that they are. So what?
  5. I also don't like people who announce their pet peeves, like the fact that its a "pet" peeve makes it justifiable to not like or harshly judge a person. 
  6. I'm pretty crafty but nine times out of ten, if its something done with one's hands, Julian is better at it than me. Buttercream roses? Yep.Temari balls? Of course. 
  7. People think Julian is the wisest person ever because he never says anything unless it is profound (or funny).
  8. Julian was brought up in a family that has always bought good books. I have a hang up about buying books because I'm not sure if I'm going to like it, so I can't spend the money. If I can't get a book for free or from the library, I don't read it (unless its a cookbook, I buy lots of those). 
  9. Do you know what a cake walk is? I have won a cake at every cake walk I've ever gone to. One time in grade school, I won my best friend's mom's cake and she won my mom's cake. There should be more cake walks in the world. 
  10. We are kind of serious, but kind of joking, about wanting to redo a Model A car. It's one of those things that should wait to be done when we are retired but it is time sensitive - there won't always be old Model A parts sitting around. 
Did you learn anything new?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yarn Along and a Book Review

Like everyone said, as soon as I got my needles sorted, the Hitchhiker is flying along with ease and enjoyment. (It was a lot of green on green on green for St. Paddy's Day.) You were all so right! I love it. I keep sneaking time in to knit it, like a book you can't put down. It is just so satisfying to get another "tooth" off the needles, and I try to get at least one done a day doing here and there, though I don't put much time into it. I've got 16 "teeth" of the 42 and the yarn is very lovely. As is always the case for me, when I project is going well, I spend the whole time working on it daydreaming of the NEXT thing I'll do that is like it.

Because, maybe just maybe, someday it will stop snowing and we will have a lacrosse game (two cancelled so far), I acquired some ivory wool roving for these one hour fingerless mittens. I already have the right sized needles, I have been wanting some fingerless gloves, I need to use my cell phone during games to keep the in-laws updated, and it claims they only take two hours to make a pair. Match made in heaven, right? But I have to complicate things and explore so I'm going to try to dye the wool myself before using it. The problem with that is choosing a color... Julian says purple. Any ideas?

I've been saying I would write more about the books I'm reading. So here you go. Julian and I are reading the River Cottage Handbook #12, Booze at nights before bed. We both love it. John Wright is a hilarious person, both in speech and writing, and he gives such an inspired confidence to the DIYer, forager, or homesteader to try new things. If you have any interest in homemade infused liqueurs or country wines, its worth the read. Furthermore, it is part of the River Cottage Handbooks collection so we just had to have it. In addition to being entertaining, it has helped revive our spirits as we think of the future when we might not be stuck on a postage stamp lot in a subdivision!

 I've had this book on my "to-read" shelf on Goodreads for a while. I am glad to have gotten it through my local library, ON LOAN ON MY KINDLE. Its like magic, this whole kindle thing. I am constantly amazed. {I'm already one of those people who walks around saying, "Well, when I was young, we didn't have...}I thought Bread and Wine by Shauna Neiquist was going to be the perfect book for Lent. I was looking for something that would inspire me, and help me both reflect and prepare for the season without being so hard core "devotional". Don't judge. The trouble is that it started out really great, but as it has gone along, it has gotten more "generic-memoir" and less "Bible-truths-for-real-in-my-life". What's worse it that it includes recipes inspired by the stories but they are copied out of easily accessible cookbooks by Food Network cooks. Don't get me wrong. I DO like the book, and I DO think you should read it. The stories are heartfelt, the writing style is good, and the authors emotions strike a chord with many people. I am just a bit let down after an opening with words as awesome at this: "I am a bread and wine person. By that I mean that I am a Christian, a person of the body and the blood, a person of bread and wine....Bread is bread and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine together is another thing entirely. The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily." In summary, I'm not completely finished the book so I may think differently in the end. Who knows, for now I'm too busy knitting!

Sharing with Ginny

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Quilt show block...

 Last summer, I made a quilt block in celebration of the West Virginia sesquicentennial. I mailed it to the other side of the state and waited to see if it would be featured in the quilt that would be raffled off at the Mid-Ohio Valley Quilt Show this spring. Sure enough, it was!

My aunt and grandma went to the show {I don't think I'm going to make it} and submitted their blocks and quilts for review, too. Its pretty cool to think some total stranger is going to have a piece of me, a piece of my work. Grandma was beside herself last week that the organizers had a civil war reproduction quilt machine pieced! I was pretty disappointed myself, I think there are plenty of old timers still around, willing and able to hand quilt. Many hands make quick work, right?!

Both my block and Grandma's blocks are on the fourth row down; mine in the second column and hers last. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014


My photos always load in the blog in backwards chronological order, so imagine it differently. Saturday morning was 7am breakfast with Julian at Ruby & Ketchy's. Then he headed to the lacrosse field and I went adventuring the the local Audubon group. An adventure without one another!? Gasp! I know... I just missed him the whole time we were apart and then, when the birds had all been seen (I did log a Northern Shoveler, a first for me), I drove to the lacrosse field and sat in the parking lot with my knitting. I just like knowing that if I WANT to talk to him, and vice versa, I can. 

Saturday afternoon was spent recuperating from being windswept all morning long, Sunday was spent resting, working through a 10-minute talk Julian will give Tuesday on his research, and in the company of our good friends. I even got to play with some fun fabric. I love batiks. 

In other news, I managed to drop a plastic tub of flour our of the pantry and onto my forehead, splitting it open and making a bit of a bruise. It doesn't seem like a big deal but its put me in a bit of a funk all day. I feel like a wimp for admitting it hurts, but its not every day you get clocked in the temple with 5 lbs. of dead weight.  What's more is that its the second time this week - on Thursday, it was the gallon jug of vinegar! I was so glad I didn't get a bath in the stuff.

Another Monday already? Hmm. Despite the fact that it seems like the weekend is never long enough, I am so glad our society has decided we need weekends. Agree? It is something we completely take for granted, that we have a period of work, and then we rest.  Interesting how the world can toss that God created all things, but still manage to hang on to the "rest" part.

Weekending with Amanda.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pillow #2 Finish

Grandma's surgery went well. Thanks for all the well-wishes. I am sending her home with the two finished pillows. Here you see the one for my cousin with the one for Grandma in the background.

This pillow was hand pieced, with more and smaller pieces. It was both less frustrating and more uniform than the first pillow and I like the greater variety of prints. You can't see it from here, and I wish you could, but the background has a tiny gray dot print. I love it to bits.

The snow that caused Julian's scrimmage to get CANCELLED never came. The cold, yes. The wind, yes. The snow? No. I'm quite confident it's because I got my penguin collection put away and 25 tulip bulbs in dirt. You can thank me now, or later, the choice is yours.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Yarn Along and Spring Cleaning

I took the day off today, Grandma is coming for her cataract surgery and spending the night. One of the many great things about living in the town with the best healthcare in the state is that it draws visitors in and I love being able to care for them instead of them being in a hotel.

I got great advice from everyone last week about my Hitchhiker project. I got bamboo needles AND Julian used sandpaper to get a super sharp point. Last night at 11pm, I realized that today was yarn along day and that I should give an update but hadn't actually made progress so the two new teeth that are on the needle now are the progress made while Julian was in the shower last night - not too shabby, considering the first tooth took me 6 months. THANK YOU for your advice about the SHARP needles! As far as the books are concerned - I'm reading the Lamplighter and Bread and Wine, more about those later.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the first estate auction I have been to in years. This is a favorite past time of my mother in laws and I wish she had been able to join me. They had incredible things that brought out a hoard of antiques dealers. I was able to make off with this old cow bell and a lily shaped ice cream mold from the 1930's. The people behind me rolled their eyes and said I wasted my money. Little do they know that Julian and I have watched a zillion hours of Victorian kitchen documentaries and are fascinated by the ice cream mold, and that I grew up on a dairy farm and have a tidy little collection going of brass cow/goat/pig bells. So there.

Before my guests arrive, I will put away the penguins, the last of the red and green and winter things. Dig out the yellow, pink and orange... and wait for the snow, shrugging my shoulders.

Linking up with Ginny.

Monday, March 10, 2014

My cuddle things....

I have a weird way of speaking nonsense in that half-asleep/half-awake haze that happens between the squawks of the alarm clock. Last week, I told Julian that the bed felt so good I just wanted to get all of my cuddle things that I love in the bed at the same time and cuddle them. What does that mean?

It was nonsense but looking at several other parts of life these past three weeks, I realize that I've had a weird shift of perspective sneak up on me. In case you hadn't noticed, I've been doing a lot of crafting. I think part of it is because it is so fulfilling, when I can't be out in the garden, to feel productive. Part of it is because I need the peace and calmness of sitting in the living room with Julian, not obligated to clean or do chores, but just to be together in the quiet. But last week, I had an opportunity (and free reign from the Mr.) to indulge in a little retail therapy, and that's when I realized that my head was in a new and different place.

I had a work appointment last Thursday in Pittsburgh (read "shopping mecca" for anyone who lives in WV) and the Panera I had my meeting in was two doors down from Anthropologie (you know where this is going). I absolutley love the Voluspa candles at Anthropologie and walked in the door planning to take one home. I also always cruise the clearance section for to-die-for shoes, accessories, etc. because, really, who can afford it all at regular price? [Don't answer that.]

Once inside the store, I found myself so strongly compelled to get something for the house, and a candle wouldn't do. Candles are temporary, I wanted something that I'd still love 40 years from now. I wandered around, dug through all the bins. I organized my thoughts into a list. What do I want to buy today? What will I feel good about taking home with me on a whim? It needs to: make me happy to look at, last for a long time, be something that my children will be nostalgic about, add a little je ne sais quoi to our everyday.

I settled on these two things: leash hanger (no we don't have a dog) and egg holder. When I brought them home to Julian and was showing them off, it hit me: I'm nesting. That's what this is. I have an overwhelming urge to purge all the meaningless, and hoard all my cuddle things, all at once.

Three months ago, I was planning to pack up this house and be on our way to the next place, the next season of life. Now, we are making plans for being here another year, another Thanksgiving, another Christmas, another spring. So as I hoard and purge, craft and create, think about seeds and seasons, I will meditate on this: In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Eph 1:11-13).

Friday, March 7, 2014

This Moment - Beginning of the season

A moment from the week to remember. Doesn't it look like they are walking on the choppy seas?
 It was so cold out there, poor boys, but they kept at it. Linking up with Soulemama.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A pick-me-up and a finish.

For lots of reasons, yesterday was not the best of days. The house was pretty doleful and when it gets that way, there's not much helping it. You just have to wait it out, round the bend - peace will come, or it won't, and we move on and do our best.

I had been wondering what had become of my swap package that I was supposed to receive. We have a tricky system of getting packages in our neighborhood and a mail person that is questionable, at best. Turns out, it was waiting for the right time to show up. The time when I needed something new to feel and savor. Jess, from Fifth Lamp Down, got my name in the blog swap I participated in with Amanda @ Sweet Potato Claire. She made a wonderful woven wool bag, lined with darling floral fabric, and enclosed salted caramels and cocoa almonds, local treats from St. Paul, Minn. THANK YOU! Everything is so nice.

My homebodies stitching (from Charlotte Lyons) is finished in part. The stitching is done but the "finishing" still needs to be finished. I'm framing it in this lovely blue linen and will bind it like a mini quilt in the green and blue dot fabric. I plan to hang it on the wall but have not sorted out those logistics yet. I started in September, so five months is record time for me to finish a project! I really enjoyed it, I did. Aren't their faces so sweet?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yarn Along + Harbingers of Spring

I now have two sweet bunnies with two little capelets. I think I will put a button on the yellow one instead of a tie. Technically its not baby safe but I think it would look nicer. I've been consistently plowing through my WIP stack and have been having very positive results, but of course, crafting productivity leads to more new project inspiration!

I'm trying to go by quarters this year. I have a list of things to finish by March 23 and I am postponing the start of other things on the condition that I get the first list completed. Grandma comes in one week so I'll need to finish up my cousin's pillow to send back. The hitchhiker shawl is dying on the vine, so that will go on my second quarter list. I really struggled with it last summer - I think I need to switch to bamboo needles because the yarn is so tiny and slippery that the metal needles are more hindrance than help. Any advice?

Last in the crafting category, I was digging through scraps that I got out of my sister-in-law's attic and I came across these purple pieces. I'm pretty sure they are original feedsacks! That was a happy discovery indeed and now I need to think up something to make the most of them.

On the spring front - it all came crashing down yesterday, despite the ground still being snow covered. It was the first day of lacrosse practice (postponed one day for bad weather), I got a note from my mom that said our 16 year old goose had just laid her first egg of the season, and we got our first glimpse of the red-winged blackbird who comes a'courtin' in our back yard each year. Spring has sprung!

Linking up with Ginny.

Monday, March 3, 2014

In Like A Lion

Top: sparrow's "fingerprints," I like to call them
Bottom: The gutter has a drip and it made a lovely chandelier on the butterfly bush when the sun came out.

Well this giant snowstorm that was predicted wasn't giant at all, not for us at least, though it was rather inconvenient in parts farther south. I'm back to feeding birds on the patio step and they are cheeky devils. They are old hat at surviving single digits.

The snow storm gave us just what we needed: a day off work, a midday nap, shopping trip in the daylight hours, school cancellation but lacrosse practice still on for tomorrow (without the school cancellation, practice would have conflicted with a very important meeting for Julian), and an excuse for Chinese takeout. We may or may not have been eating shortbread in the bed until noon - I'll never tell.

(Our first few years of married life, we had a very bad habit of eating baked goods in bed - laptops on laps, covers up to our chins, Blacksburg wind howling at the windows - so we created the Bed Monster, a figment of our imaginations who comes along and eats all the crumbs that you leave behind so you don't have to worry about them. Lovely thoughts. Yes, indeed. )

Eh.... I'm off to change the sheets... good thing the shortbread AND brownie brittle are gone.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Long overdue tulip forcing
A new little bunny in the house, acquiring bunnies is becoming a trend
Quality time with friends, we tried our best to replicate Primanti Bros. sandwiches
It was a celebration that we are getting a local shop here in Morgantown
Cured meat + french fries + cole slaw + fried egg + cheese + sausage + condiments on sourdough
I think our homemade version was tastier than the original
Shortbread, snow day, incredible birding with a merganser trifecta at Prickett's Fort State Park
I discovered, and devoured, brownie brittle

** With Amanda at Habit of Being**