Friday, January 29, 2016

Quick house update

For the past week, I've had workmen in the house from 8am to 5pm each day.  I won't lie and say it's been fun, but it certainly has gone smoothly and things in our bathroom/closet renovation are starting to take shape. We wanted to gut both bathrooms - master and hallway - and enlarge the his/hers master closets. I'm saving my "before" pictures for the final tah-dah, but here is a sneak peek at the progress so far.

The new shower in master (L) and Julian's closet addition (R)

Julian's closet from a different view
Hall bathtub now has light - tub going in next 
Hall bath vanity, looking into master

And the shower now has a light!

Inside master closet, looking at shower (through to hall bath) and in my nook, which will have a light and a shelf

Our new big attic access inside my closet (light got moved)

Looking through my new big closet to the part of the guest room closet that will be walled in

Looking into the "new" guest room closet 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Little Sweater and a Read-Along

I missed my window for filming a podcast this week. The framer/dry-waller is in here now and banging, clanging, thumping all 'round. In case you didn't see last week's video, you can pop over and see that. Check back here if you're interested in the podcast as I may get something put together later this evening.

As soon as I punted the Mirasol Hap'i yarn for this Lion Brand Wool-Ease, this sweater just flew. I learned (sort of) how to use the traveling jogless stripe method to get my stripes in order and lined up on the back. Consistent with many Ravelers' notes, I made up much of the pattern as I went along, just making sure I got the number of stitches right in each place.  Now the sweet little sleeves are going on and I am wondering how to finish the piece. It is 80% acrylic and 20% wool. Do I "kill" it with the iron? Block and pin?

When it is finished I will mail it off to my old Sunday School teacher. It is her daughter with whom I grew up in church and her grandbaby for whom the sweater was knit. The trick is that the momma lives in Vancouver, CA and is coming to visit at the beginning of March so I'm feeling an intense amount of satisfaction for not having to pay international postage and fill out a customs form!

On reading. I am halfway through The Midwife of Hope River. It is a good book about a woman who is helping others and leading a life of servitude to the most depraved of Appalachia but there is an undercurrent to her life that centers on running from her past. It is making me homesick for the mountains of West Virginia and I want to visit my grandmother there soon. When I do I will litter this space with photos of the place where this book is set. I only just learned from my dear friend that the author, Patricia Harman, lives and practices obstetrics in Morgantown, WV - my former home!

I was derailed from The Midwife by a book many Yarn Along-ers are reading, The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks. It is so good. Painfully, woefully, depressingly good. It makes me bitterly homesick for my life on the sheep farm and makes me angry that my home, same as the author's, is so consumed by tourists and retirees that I can not afford to live on the land that was my home. My parents sold the farm, and not for a tidy sum, the year that Julian and I were to be married. They continued to rent the house they had owned for 25 years while the farm's new owner built his gargantuan house on top of our hill, peering down on us minions below. So yes, this book stirs the pot for me.

If you are reading it, or want to, I highly recommend watching the movie Miss Potter. Rebanks discusses Miss Potter's conservation work and this sweet movie (great for kids!) really opened my eyes to her life and work beyond the books. The movie is almost as cheap to buy on Amazon as it is to rent.

Last but not least, we have bought yet another bird ID guide and I am entranced by that book these days even more than the others. The Sibley guide is exhaustive and a good resource for the finer details of birding - when you know you saw a wren but don't know WHICH wren. If you are new to birds and are interested in learning about the very most common ones you'd see on a daily basis, I highly recommend the flash card pack of backyard birds, which you can see in my pictures above.


I'm hosting a read-along of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver here and on Instagram in the month of February. The book is divided into seven "books" and with 29 days in the month, we will have four days to cover each "book" and one wiggle day to put where you need it. You could also think of it as two "books" per week, thereabouts. I'll be posting some food-for-thought about the book here on the blog each Friday and I do hope you'll join us and chime in.

You can also post about your favorite quotes from the book on Instagram. Please use #poisonwoodbibleRAL so we will all know what's what!

What are you reading and knitting? Join in for show and tell at Yarn Along.

Monday, January 25, 2016


Four days. Four sweet, exhausting, blustery, wonder-filled days at home. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Yarn Along - I'm BAAAACK

I was able to reclaim my "nest" by the window after putting the Christmas decorations away but the sunlight totally caught me off guard when I filmed the podcast. You may have to don your Ray-bans! 

I missed knitty podcast-land over the holidays and I am glad to be back! How about you? Are you back into the swing of things?

Featured Books
The Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Hartman

Featured Yarns
Lion Brand Wool Ease, in Walnut
Cestari worsted in Dahlia Red, Peach Primrose, and Ivory

Featured Needles
Clover Takumi Bamboo
ChiaoGoo "ChowGu" (means crafty lady)

Featured Patterns

Featured Folks
Ginny's Sheller @ Small Things

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

About those last minute gifts....

We ended up getting together with my side of the family on New Year's Day, which left me in a panic of handmade-Christmas-gift-making in the week after Christmas. I made the Jayne Hat and Pockets Apron for my brother-in-law and sister, but the day before we left home, I was still coming up short on the perfect gift for my dad.

At about 2pm on January 30, Julian said, "We should make your dad a birdhouse." He had just received the Audubon Birdhouse Book as a gift from his parent's for Christmas, so it was naturally in the forefront of his mind. He's always thinking and getting me out of my tight spots. That's why I keep him around.

So with another trip to Lowe's we were off and running. For the effort, it is just as easy to make two or three houses while the tools are all out, so we made another one for Julian's dad to show our gratitude for the book.

We chose the X Box, which is a birdhouse plan that is supposed to be optimal for bluebirds. It took us about three hours to make two bird houses from start to first-coat. We used a solid colored deck stain to preserve the wood, in a light color like the book recommends. The house is mounted on a piece of rebar with metal conduit slipped over the top.

With a second coat of deck stain applied in the morning, we were ready to go! I think both dads appreciated their nest boxes and I look forward to seeing what else appreciates them come spring.


Book review of Audubon Birdhouse Book

The book doesn't have many original bird house plans and some of the plans it shows have confusing instructions that skip steps. When we googled the plans, we found that these mistakes were made in the original plans for each birdhouse, so not necessarily the fault of the book but t was clear that the person who made the birdhouse for the photos was not working in concert with the person who was writing the text.

What the book is excellent for it showing the need to provide habit for cavity dwelling birds and the responsibility of being a good steward if you do. For example, it is a waste of effort and contrary to your goal to put up a birdhouse without considering the predators that may consider it a snack bar. Likewise, by building the nest boxes very specific ways and positioning them accordingly, we can play favorites among the desirable birds while discouraging our non-native, nuisance species.

Power tools are not completely necessary for building these plans but are much more helpful and the book assumes you have access to items such as a power drill and a table saw.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Heart-y little yarn along

My Conversationalist Hat is coming along nicely though it is really peculiar and nice to be working on a project without a deadline. Since the colors are red and peach, as I am knitting from my stash, I felt compelled to sneak in a few little hearts. It is quaint in addition to giving me an un-intimidating intro to stranded colorwork. I feel like so many hats are rather plain, inches and inches of stockinette and would make wonderful palettes for color work design. I have no idea at all why I tell myself that other people can do things like colorwork and cables just because they are better at knitting than me. It's just learning and practice.

What about reading, you say? I am sooooo close to the end of The Water's Edge that I am bordering on rudeness as I sneak away and ignore people and tasks to finish it up. It is at a very exciting part. I suspect I know the ending but I wouldn't be surprised by anything at this point. If you want to read it, do it now because next week I will discuss to the max, all spoilers included.

As soon as that book is finished, I will start Wildwood by Colin Meloy. Also in the queue is The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman. Have you read either of them?

What are you knitting and reading? Show and tell with us and Ginny by joining up here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

On Wheat Bread

Today, Cari @ Clever Hen Handmades asked me on Instagram if I have a favorite recipe for whole wheat bread. This question comes in perfect timing, as we have upped the whole grains as part of 2016 and said good-bye to white starches - it's killing me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the short answer is "No, but I'm working on it." The long answer is as follows:

I have made our sandwich bread fairly often, though not exclusively, for the past few years and have tried many recipes without landing on one that has it all. For starters, there was the Light Wheat Bread by Peter Reinhart. It was good once, but I never got a pleasing result again after trying it several times. Perhaps I was too much of a bread baking rookie and should try it again. It is good for someone wanting to have more whole wheat in their diet and/or a more hearty taste and texture but bad for someone cutting white flour because it is only half WW and half all-purpose flour.

For a while I went all white and had good results with this recipe. Over time, the novelty of home-baked bread wore off and we would eat less and less of it before it went stale. Julian tired of it in his lunch and the bread dried out so quickly that I really just made  a bunch of mediocre croutons. {I know, how can a crouton be mediocre? You've got me there.} If your family eats a loaf of bread a day, and you want white bread, make this one. It makes two loaves, anyway.

Deb @ Smitten Kitchen has recipes that are generally yummy and tried-and-true, but this one was hit-and-miss for me instead. Her Oat and Wheat Sandwich Bread was perfect the first time, "meh" the second time, and a complete inedible failure the last time {Remember the accidental beer bread I posted on instagram?}. I do like that it is all WW with the exception of some rolled oats that give it a good texture, but when I baked it right away it tasted like paste and when I let it sit in the fridge overnight, it turned to vegemite {the third time, but the first time was just fine}.

So here I am. Blathering on about all the recipes I don't like and not talking about this one which is doing a sort-of-fine job for the moment. I like that this one includes both nuts and oats to improve the texture and flavor. I also like the molasses adds color, though it makes the bread look done sooner than it really is.

Being whole wheat, let the bread do all it's rising outside the oven and transfer it rather gently when it comes time to bake. I've not traditionally gotten much oven spring from a WW loaf in the past.

In the picture above, it is served up toasted with cream cheese and cranberry chutney and makes for a very fine snack or breakfast, but being that I'm on day two of the loaf, it is too dry for sandwiches. Regardless of which recipe you try, I have learned to take anything that isn't enjoyed hot and fresh and pre-slice and freeze it immediately after it cools completely.

Oatnut-Wheat Bread

1 T. active dry yeast

1 1/4 cups warm water (100-110F)
3-4 cups white wheat flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
2 tbsp molasses

2 tsp salt

1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and 1/4 cup warm water (omit this step if using RapidRise). Stir and let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy.
 Stir in remaining water, 1 cup of flour, the oats, and molasses, and mix well. Add in salt, pecans and an additional 1 1/2 – 2 cups flour. Stir, adding remaining flour gradually, until the dough comes together into a ball a begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl (this can also be done in an electric mixer with the dough hook attached).

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes.
 Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
 After dough has risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface again. Gently deflate dough into a rectangular shape. Fold up the two long sides of the rectangle and pinch the seam together. Place seam-side down into prepared loaf pan. Again cover the bread with a piece of plastic wrap and let rise until well over the top of the loaf pan edge, about 45 minutes.

While the bread is proofing, preheat oven to 375F.
 Bake loaf for 35 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the bottom reads about 200F.
 Let bread rest for 10 minutes before turning out of pan to cool completely before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf.

* I use King Arthur brand white wheat, it is a bit softer than a regular hard red whole wheat flour.

Do you have a favorite whole wheat recipe to share? I'd love to try it!

Friday, January 8, 2016

My sister's apron

 Mid-November, I suppose it was, I serendipitously ended up checking out a library book, just because I fancied the cover art. Judge a book by its cover, I did, and it couldn't have been better. 

The book is about a grief- and poverty-stricken seamstress who comes upon a simple, hardworking town and appeals to the townspeople to take her in on the condition that she can sew their clothes for them. She tells them of the many things she can make with lace, beadwork, etc. and they say "no, no, we are but simple hardworking folk, we need none of that fluffery!" {paraphrased, you think?} So she agrees to make them very common clothes indeed, but in so doing becomes very depressed. Then she gets the idea to embroider the insides of the pockets of the townspeople's work wear As the book proceeds, the workers starts having visions of the far off places interpreted in the sewer's stitches and begin to experience joy. 

I originally thought that my sister would love the book as much as I did and then, that very same week, Purl Soho came out with their free pattern for the Linen Cross Back Apron. What did I have in my stash but three yards of linen that my sweet sister had given me!? So you can see where this went...

I gave her a copy of the book and an apron with pockets filled with scenes from the book. Some of which were traced using my lightbox (ox and plow, seal, vases of flowers from the mayor's wife's windowsill) and others were free hand drawn just for the sake of it (the shell, needle and thread, sunshine, waves) in keeping with the themes in the book. Because of the level of whimsy the project inspired as well as the very colorful pictures in the book, I didn't sweat too much about what item was what color. I just picked colors from my stash that worked well with the gold linen and used up quite a few scraps, as evidenced in the shell. The seal - don't you just adore him?! - is actually a light lavender but it was just right on the yellow. 

She loved it but I honestly think I loved it more. It was hard for me to give up but if ever I were to give something that thoughtful to someone I am happy it is her. She was reading the book and wearing the apron, but shortly after snapping this picture, I (in bossy little sister fashion) took the book from her and declared it needed to be read {abridged} to the whole family. I bawled like a baby and instead of actually getting to the end of the story, blubbered, "It's a good book!" and shoved it back in her arms. Julian rolled his eyes, and if thought bubbles were real, my brother would have had one over his head that read "#awkward".

Keep it classy, Amanda. 

P.S. The book is out of print but you can find a copy here
P.P.S. The apron was the most well made garment I've ever sewn. It uses French seams and the tutorial is not very detailed, {read "frustrating"} but because of the construction of the apron, you couldn't even see the back of the embroidery from inside the apron. The only way to see it is to look down into the pocket from the perspective of the wearer. Magic!


I made the Jayne hat for my sister's husband, Allen, and it was perfect and appreciated in every way.  

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Self-Care Redux

Just after writing my January post, I hopped over to one of my favorite blogs and read this. I recommend that you read it too, as it is the inspiration for this new post and a bit less higgledy-piggledy approach to my January.

1. Find a new dentist and go. (Major, life-altering hurdle.)
2. Find a new optometrist and go. (Just made the appointment. I chose the office in town that has birdfeeders for patients to watch from the waiting room. Both genius and cruelly ironic at the same time.)
3. Establish care with a local doctor.
4. Stop putting off simple things just because I hate the phone. Stressing about calling the chimney sweep is MORE harmful than actually just doing it.
5. Sweat every day.
6. Do a yard chore every day - feeling like my plants are out of control or perishing causes me a bizarre amount of turmoil. (As does fending off the vermin.)
7. Finish more projects than I start.
8. Greens and grains, daily.
9. Keep mindfully making.
10. Learn to be OK with a list just having nine things instead of ten.