Thursday, November 1, 2012


Wow, that's how I feel about it being November!!!  I love the Autumn weather and cooler temperatures and the anticipation of the upcoming Holidays.  Even the sound quality outside is different with the leaves fallen and storm windows fastened down.

So to kick off  November, I had the girls all sign up for NaNoWriMo.  It will be a great writing experience for them.  If I will join them is yet to be decided.  I have a billion projects to complete and the thought of writing seems like too much to expect, but it could be a motivator or a catalyst for lots of productivity.

Another thing we are trying to accomplish this month is baking and packaging 24 different cookies, to give to homebound friends for Advent.  Cookies, biscotti, mini breads, and candy are on the list so far. We may even put in some little savory treats like hand pies, or mini lasagnas.

Happy November

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I have been absent from this blog for far too long.  Our summer was so busy and full of fun and then school started and......I forgot about this poor blog.  Until, that is, today when I was cruising on Pinterest and came across some freeform crochet and I started thinking about why it always sets me on edge.

Free form - in an organized version

I finally figured out that it reminds me of an overly decorated home with too many knick-knacks.  I like order and clean lines, not as sterile and angular as ultra-modern design, but even and balanced design. I have always been attracted to modern design, but have found in my own personal living space I cannot live with bare walls or white walls.  When I have had to live in such enviroments, I become messy.

What I love about crochet is it's order, and predictable outcome.  By varying where your increases are and when you place them, you can get a flat circle or a sphere.  Or by starting with just a chain and again adding stitches, again controlling where the increases are, you can make a ruffled, parabolic, 3-D structure.

With freeform crochet, the artist's usually vary the fibers and motifs and it can end up bulky and messy.  There are just too many details to take in at once.

freeform crochet

An exception I do take is freeform lace made usually with Irish crochet.
Freeform Irish crochet lace

This type of freeform feeds my need for visual order and in it I can find beauty.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Laid back gardening

Peonies freshly picked and smelling lovely, I placed them on the window ledge at the top of the stairs.   Peonies and Bleeding Heart were two of my grandmothers favorite flowers. While she preferred pink, I have planted both in white at the base of my front entry steps.

My two oldest girls and I finally finished the front walk with edging and mulch and some new plants.  Some of the plants from last year didn't make it and the lack of mulch killed others when my husband mowed and didn't know what wasn't grass.  I have more plans for the walkway, but they can wait another year. I will likely transplant a lot of plants from the back yard to the front such as Lavendar, Wooly Thyme, Violets, and more Irises.

These are all new plants I bought on clearance!!  This spot has had a tough time keeping anything alive what with getting dug up for a gas line two years ago and a greedy mower that has devoured more than it's fair share of tender young plants. I should own the fact that mulch does help the mower see where the garden ends and the grass starts.  Now finally I think these plants, if they live, will enjoy a lovely life full of sun. I am excited for the Indian Summer Rudbeckia to get full and fill out the space.

The Allium are done blooming and a dear friend who has a knack for garden ornamentation brought over a cute chicken garden stake and tied the Allium round it.  I usually cut the allium at this stage and bring them indoors for a dried bouquet. Dried Allium looks great spray painted in metallics and tucked in a dried arrangement. The Echinacea is doing quite well around the Allium and I can't wait for them to bloom.  I picked them back quite a bit this year as they had spread much further than I wanted.

My garden is in desperate need of new mulch.  But here you can see the Roses are blooming profusely!!  The Rose plant much bigger than last year.  The Salvia is doing wonderfully and is also double the size of last year.   Next to the Rose I have some Irises that need thinning again.  They are white with a deep purple border and I love how the blossoms smell like licorice.

This is a tiny miniature Rose that has come back for two seasons now.  I got it on clearance at the grocery store.  I bought three and two have survived.  It is in front of the Rose and Salvia pictured above.  I have stuck to purple, yellow, and white for the flower beds with just a spot of pink.

These Primroses were so starved for water yesterday, but have bounced back wonderfully today.  They are filling in the space so nicely.  I planted some Gaillardia in front of them yesterday and mulched


The Thyme planted between some Hollyhocks and Rudbeckia is flowering, such beautiful little pale violet blossoms.  Two years ago when we dug for the gas line I dug this plant up and moved it elsewhere.  Last summer I found that I missed one tiny bit of the original plant and it had survived and is now almost as large as the original planting.  I love Thyme in bloom, especially when all the fat bumblebees are slurping up the nectar.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

FO heaven

It has been a busy month and also a few FO's flew off the hooks and needles.  They were all small projects with the exception of this basketweave baby blanket which is finally finished and gifted to the cute little guy.  Without any planning, it coordinates with a handmade quilt that an awesome friend made for the new baby. I couldn't get any pictures of him because he managed to be hungry during sit-n-knit and only mama could feed him.  I redid the edging three seperate times, because the basketweave pattern didn't look right with just a straight border. In the end I went with a repeat of 4sc and 4dc and that seemed to compliment the pattern the best.  The yarn is so soft and cuddly.  This picture doesn't quite show the brightness of the green. It isn't neon but it is a bright springy color. I used 9.5 balls for this blanket.  The dimensions are just shy of 36x36.

    Another project that just flew off the hooks was this wonderful shawl.  It is a pattern and limited edition yarn from the yarn shop hop I attended in April.  The pattern was quick, however I did have to rip out half of the border and redo because I misread the directions. It isn't overly large but does cover my shoulders and looks great with a rhinestone pin holding the front together.

This extra-wide headband was completed in about 2 hours using front and back post dc stitches. I always get dizzy after a run or walk if I don't cover my forehead and ears.  It even happens on windy warm days.  Needless to say this has been in use constantly.  It is made from Noro in a black/orange/raspberry colorway.  There were only about 100 yards in the skein and I used all but 3 inches. The headband is approximately 5 inches tall.  The best part is my ponytail can pop out the top!

This was by far my favorite project. Urban Shepherdess is a great short-row collar.  The yarn is a single ply roving.  It is a great topper for a t-shirt or scarf alternative.  I am on the hunt for the right button.  I may end up using some sculpey clay and making one.

      These mitts were a little 2-day project.  The pattern leaflet is from Blue Sky Alpacas Traveler's Series.  The pattern is well written. I could have gone down to a size 5 needle, but then the thumb gusset would be too snug.

      Overall I am thrilled to have knocked out so many projects in the last month.  I do have a couple pair of socks in progress and a sweater just beginning.

      Tomorrow I will get my two remaining wisdom teeth taken out, so I may have a couple days to make a dent in the knitting pile!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hop Hop Hop Day 3

For our last day we visited the MPLS city shops.  First was Needlework Unlimited. They have the best crochet offerings of any of the stores we visited and their crochet samples are beautiful! The atmosphere was bright and cheerful.

Next we went to StevenBe's and what a visual experience we had.  StevenBe worked the crowd wonderfully and signed my Vogue Knitting copy!!  I was so overwhelmed there,with all there was, I didn't get to the very back where the roving was.  It was fun to find yarn in drawers and a dog sweater on a twig dog, quirky things in corners and gorgeous yarn everywhere.

Our last stop was at Crafty Planet.  They are a fabric store besides carrying yarn.  They had some local fiber artist yarns and great fabrics.  The LE yarn was bright and they had socks worked up in the yarn along with the nesting doll pouches.

I will end this post with two pictures from our first day of the event.  They really describe what we loved about our time in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  Color, Creativity, Customer Service, Local Fiber Artists, Fun, Flair, Energy, ....We can't wait until next year.

Since I have taken so much time to get this shop hop experience posted, I must say the elapsed time has caused us to take another day trip to Minneapolis because Mairin won a door prize at 3Kittens Needle Arts and a first prize at Needlework Unlimited.  We drove down to collect the prize and managed to squeeze in a visit to the Mall of America and the Walker Art Center.  Mairin is now busily knitting.  She had already completed the shrug pattern from The Sheepy Yarn Shoppe and wore it on the return trip.  It was nice to visit both shops again without the crowds from the shop hop event, and we were able to take in more of the stores offerings.  The Fab Grab Bag at 3 Kittens was super awesome.  Two of my other daughters each bought one and they loved the yarn that was in the bags, yarn they can't normally afford.  So I guess you could say we had a mini shop hop because we couldn't get enough the first time around.

Hop Hop Hop Day 2

The second day of the Shop Hop was rainy, rainy, rainy. We decided to go to all the perimeter stores and save the central MPLS stores for the last day.

We started with 3 Kittens Needle Arts.  We arrived early so we ducked in to Caribou Coffee for sandwiches and coffee.  The coffee shop was packed full so we headed back to the car to eat and worked on the driving route for the rest of the day.  3 Kittens was a lot of fun to shop in.  They had both patterns on display.  The store was well lit, great displays everywhere, and the needlework section was all in one area.  The LE yarn was Lorna's Laces in the Babbling Brook colorway.

Our next stop was The Yarn Garage. Floor to ceiling yarn describes this store best.  There were two colorways for the LE yarn and a hat/cowl pattern.  We found a large selection of blingy yarn in the back.  I bought two hanks of silk strips

At Skeins we found a friendly colorful store.  The yarn was displayed as single skeins in all colorways. At purchase the employees got as many skeins as you wanted from their stock in back.

Amazing Threads was a two level store with a very large classroom on the upper floor as was the sale yarn. We loved their displays especially their "Eiffel Tower" of LE yarn.

Coldwater Lakeside Yarn was a fun shop.  Their LE yarn was undyed Icelandic wool.  The pattern was a pillow and the yarn came with the necessary buttons for the project.  This was one of the smaller stores but so full of yummy yarn and a great sales staff.

Our last stop of the day was Shepherd's Choice in Anoka.  It was in an older building and had an upper floor/loft with roving and spinning items.  They also had a rug hooking area.  They carried a good selection of local fiber artists products.       
That sums up day two.  I was exhausted when we were done .

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hop Hop Hop Day One

I loved every minute of the Yarn Around the 4 days shop hop. I brought my daughter Mairin with and she was a great help with navigation and spotting fun stuff in all of the stores.  It doesn't hurt that she loves to knit and crochet!

 We left Manitowoc at 6am Thursday the 12th and arrived in St. Paul around 11:30am.  Then we checked into our hotel in downtown St.Paul and figured out where we would spend our first day.  We decided to get four shops in that first day:  The Yarnery, Darn.Knit.Anyway, Lila & Claudine's, and A Sheepy Yarn Shoppe.

At The Yarnery we found a friendly staff, great selection of yarns and tools, a nice sized classroom, and a great selection of books and patterns.  They are located in an area with ample shopping and dining all in walking distance of each other.

Darn.Knit.Anyway was super friendly, their classroom was large, they had a lovely fabric selection and a cozy sit-n-knit section.  They had cute duct tape flower pins/hair clips and a stunning duct tape dress at the entrance.  We loved the layered displays of sewn and knit items and the exposed brick and loft atmosphere of the shop, with views of the river behind the shop.  The parking was ample and right off the street.

Lila & Claudine's was an explosion of color.  We really enjoyed their talent in display.  They are a gift shop also and everything comingled so beautifully.  Most of the gift shop items were on the first floor.  In the lower level they had a large classroom and colorful sitting area.  If you showed your Lila &Claudine's receipt at the next door coffee shop you could get 10% off  on your drink purchase.

Our last stop of the day was A Sheepy Yarn Shoppe.  I found out from the owner that she had purchased her store and moved into her present location across the street from the original store some years ago and that the previous owner had moved to Manitowoc, WI and opened a yarn shop there.  I was so amazed when she told me this because when I first moved to Manitowoc, I found The Sheepy Shoppe my first week in town.  She has since retired and closed her doors, but what a story!!  There were two classes in progress when Mairin and I stopped in.  The class in the front of the store was working on a specific project, though I don't remember what it was.  The class in the back of the store were working on a variety of projects like shrugs and felted clogs.  The store was bright, easy to shop and had a great selection of pattern books including Rowan and Anna.

That sums up day one. We loved all the special yarns and the great patterns and the charms.  I loved that they worked  the food drive  into the shop hop.  Every shop had a great flow system for checking shoppers in and stamping/punching their passports, making the donations and distributing charms, and handing out the patterns and limited edition yarns.  They all had wonderful finished samples worked up in their shop hop pattern and at least 3 of the shops had a crochet pattern available also.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


I was searching Pinterest to find some bars to make for a luncheon at our church and ran across these  They were delicious.  I don't like Snickerdoodle Cookies, but these bars, YUM.

So I titled this post sunshine and shared a sweet bar recipe, but ugh! Life has not been so sunshiney lately. I hope it is just a sugar overload.  I have felt so immobilized this week with financial, homeschool,business,...everything! Mostly, it boils down to a big heap of organizational work.  It has been two steps forward and one step (or more) back and I am tired of it all at the moment.  Everytime this happens, of course, it means changes are coming and I know things will get better. I feel though, that I have been repeating this process, ad nauseum, for seven years and never reaching my goal because some new change comes along and I can't finish what I started.  It's the process that is so annoying.

  So this week I scored this hutch at my local Goodwill, and I am thrilled because it will get me a little further to one of  my goals.  I now have a place for books, jewelry,towels, sheets, and office supplies.  Yay!!

  Part of the disorganization is always working with piles because I have no suitable furniture.  My husband and I have gone round and round on the furniture need issue, hence, no furniture.  After 20 years of marriage, I should realize that he digs his feet in during the planning and decision phase but once the decision is made he always loves the result.  That is exactly how it went this week.  I explained again that it has been seven years with no office or bedroom furniture and we really need something now that this bedroom addition is finished.   So when I found this hutch I called him at work and he agreed it was a great price.  $100 got me dovetail joints on the drawers and they are completely made of solid wood. The entire piece is solid wood! There is inset glass in the doors and center drawer glides. It isn't the style I was going for, but it is solid and the present finish is doable until I decide on something else.

The next piece of furniture needed is a portable or hidden office like this:

This is the Incognito Mocha Compact Office from Crate and Barrel  for $999.  I have to find a cheaper alternative.  I have thought of using two base cabinets for a kitchen and putting a counter over them to make a desk.  I would take the bottom skirt off the cabinets and put decorative feet on them.  I am doing something similar in the bathroom.  I found two 12" wide upper cabinets at Lowe's. One was on clearance and the other was from the scratch and dent section with minor damage.  They are identical unfinished oak fronts and particle board for the rest of the construction.  The legs I purchased are too tall so they will have to be returned and shorter ones purchased.  I have to decide if I want to veneer the sides so that I can just stain the whole thing to match the trim in the bathroom.

This week I will be getting ready to do a little R&D for the yarn shop I want to open.  I am going to visit 14 different shops to see how diverse and similar they are and how they compare to what I wish to accomplish with my store.  They are well out of the area I live in.  Very Excited about this!!

The yarn shop idea has been in the making for 10 years now and two LYS have opened and closed in that space of time.  That makes me worry about the financial ability to maintain the shop.  I think my vision is different than the previous LYS had, but that does not guarantee success.  From a financial and retail standpoint, opening a yarn shop is not very lucrative.  So, we are making this decision as carefully as we can.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mice and Men

Well, my intent for this blog wasn't to be sporadic in posting.   However, stuff happens and here we are two weeks later!  So much for well laid plans.

The lack of internet has been the main problem.  AT&T has been out twice in the past two weeks, it took six phone calls for that to happen!

Four dozen little Scotty dog cookies and one German Chocolate Birthday cake with 15 candles were consumed in celebration of Greta turning 15.  There was also a flurry of birthday-gift making.   Mairin made Greta the bag shown above from the book "Bags the Modern Classic" by Sue Kim.  The bag turned out wonderful, but I did write a review on Amazon because the discrepancies we found in the book were frustrating.  Mairin read the instructions before she cut any fabric and also consulted me when the instructions were not clear or the picture didn't jive with the written instructions.  She then bought more fabric to make four more bags from this book.  She has gotten the first one done and gifted it.  If you are patient and not a newbie sewist this is a great little book.

Today we were invited to a friends house for a potluck lunch and a flower-crafting session.  We all brought various fixings for tacos and our host provided all the crafting materials. This is one of my absolute favorite reasons for homeschooling, pooling resources and sharing our talents.  All the little boys got plenty of fresh air and game time while their older sisters were crafting.  It was funny having 10 teen girls in one room and it was so quiet while they were crafting.
The above picture shows my four favorite flowers out of the nine that came home with us.  The supplies we used were satin, tulle, organza, beads, buttons, brads, hair clips, and pin backs.  The edges of the fabric were carefully melted layer by layer and then each layer was secured together and a pin or hair clip was affixed to the back. Viola!!  A great way to use leftover scraps of synthetic fabric.

I am making good progress on the baby blanket, it is about 2/3 finished.  I will share a picture in my next post as well as a picture of a scarf I recently finished.  Ciao

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's a vest because it has no sleeves.

"What's the difference between an orange?"  "It's a vest, because it has no sleeves."  This was the first "joke" my husband told me when I first met him.  I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever heard.  He thought it was hysterical.  So when I finished this  vest last night and asked him what he thought, he started with the joke and then told me he wasn't really fond of vests.  
This was a really quick project, maybe 10 hours total.  I used Lion Brand Wool Ease, an H hook and a stitch pattern from one of my crochet books (I can't find the exact book at the moment).  I whip stitched the front pieces to the back and edged the entire vest in double crochet.                                                           

Next up on the hook is a basketweave baby blanket made from superwash merino wool that I purchased from WEBS.  It is so soft and has a lofty feel to it.  A friend is due any day now, this needs to get done ASAP.  I still don't have any edging ideas.