Saturday, 31 December 2011

Washing It Old School

It seems I've got a few more days at the parents' than originally planned. The car is gone to Montreal with my sibs over New Year's - Joe went in to visit friends, and Andrea and her BF Eric will be leaving for the Yukon in 2 weeks, and have to pack and plan what comes, goes in storage, gets sold...they will bring the first load back in a couple days, with the car.

Now I have no objection to staying here, generally. Only it's hard water. Lovely for drinking, but even with a vinegar rinse, it tends to leave a buildup and make my hair feel sticky after washing. So if I'm home longer than a week or so, I do wash it old-school, heating soft water on the stove.

In the summer I can use rain water, or distilled from the dehumidifier. It's winter now, though, so I have to melt snow. Last night you might have seen me making multiple trips outside to get snow to add to the spaghetti pot on the woodstove. Snow melts down to a lot less water than you think. And I had to skim out some leaves and things that snuck in, since there's only a few inches of snow on the ground. But I finally had a pot of warm water, and with the aid of a tub to catch the rinse water, and a measuring cup as a scoop, I did my shampoo and condition over the bathtub.

My hair feels a lot better today. But every time I do this, it certainly underscores why you used to traditionally take a bath only once a week, and even re-use the bathwater for the next person, the way my mother remembers doing it. Think of hauling in and melting 5 or 10 bushels of snow to get enough water for one small bathtub!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

New, Pretty, and Educational

It's probably not surprising that a few of the gifts I received for Christmas are fiber-related. It's going to be a fun winter.
Mom always makes something for each of us - a tradition dating back as far as I can remember, with items ranging from cross-stitched ornaments, to pajamas, to kitbags. This year the others got hand-knit socks. I make my own socks, so I got a handwoven scarf. Creamy and drapey and lovely.

There were cotton cards, and some books from Schoolhouse Press I wanted - things with historical interest and patterns and pictures for inspiration.

I've read through them all already, and can't wait to play. May use a pattern from the Haapsalu Shawl book for some knitting later this year - Joanne loved the cria, and wants it turned into some lace, so I get to do that.
At the moment, though, I have another project in progress. A shawl in a drop-stitch bee pattern, which I should hopefully get done and written up for the lace book competition.
 Now that I've finished reading my Christmas books, and we've had our turkey dinner, it stands a chance of getting done today or tomorrow...

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Cookie Countdown

Although some members of the family have little to do except doze by the stove, some of us have work to do.

Since I came down Monday night, it’s been a whirl of pine and cinnamon scents. I’m counting down to Christmas not in days left but in baking and decorating things each day.
Tuesday was butter tarts and mint-chip shortbreads, and decorating around the house Рfresh greens, stockings and cr̬che and lit village, a choir of mice, and a collection of snowmen on a cupboard, and crocheted snowflakes in the windows, mocked by the green grass outside.

Wednesday was cutting the tree, and decorating same – a process that takes 4 hours and I don’t know how many boxes of ornaments. In between we had a break by stopping by two friends who wanted extra hands for setting up looms.
Thursday – back to baking. Cherry thumprints, fruit bars, and gingerbread.

Friday: Holiday oatmeal cookies with cherries and raisins and coconut in them, and speculaas cookies, our version being crisp thin cutouts, lightly spiced. There will be lots of those, since at least half will go as gifts, and not just for our eating.  And mince tarts, and the housecleaning has to get done, and remaining gift wrapping, since people arrive the next day.
And it snowed! The lovely kind that coats everything and makes a winter wonderland.

Tomorrow the baking should be almost done, finally, only the breads to do: marzipan-filled stollen and cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning.
It always looks like so much baking, but it all gets eaten or given, every year. A sweet season indeed.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Time To Quit When...

Only a couple days left until I head to the parents' for Christmas. I've been knitting on the scarf I want finished and blocked before then, and I figure it's about 80% done. Sadly, even lace gets boring, it seems, and I started packing clothes and fiber projects for the holidays whenever I started to nod off over the knitting.

I was planning to stay up a bit later and work some more. However, I'm not only nodding off, I'm starting to get dream fragments or something. You know how sometimes you wake up from a dream and think, 'Wow, that was weird. Where did that come from?'... I was knitting along, and suddenly woke up from a brief nod with this phrase in my head: 'He seems to be under the impression that watermelons come in herds.'

No idea where that came from. But the brain that could produce that should probably not be trusted with lace anymore tonight.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Joy To The World, The Cria's Done...

I feel like this has been a terribly productive day, really. The blocked scarf from yesterday is wrapped. I went out this morning and got my Christmas cards stamped and mailed, and picked up a few things I needed. Came home and finished spinning the last of the cria, had lunch, and went into baking mode (there's a cookie exchange this week).
At 4 o'clock my kitchen table looked like this.

By 5 o'clock, it was this.

I had to wait for the icing to dry on the first round before I could make room to do the second round. So I did some plying. Give you one guess what this is.

All the cria in one lovely pile. Spun and plied. 574 grams according to my scale. A little number crunching yielded an approximate total of 2200 yards. Which means that hopefully I should have enough to do the shawl I wanted with my share. The yarn still needs a final wash, but the spinning is DONE.
Next up - something that doesn't require carding. But not today. I still have Christmas knitting to do, and cookies to clean up after.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Tale of Fudge and Other Updates

My Christmas tree is not up. I suspect it will not get done this year. That's all right, this time next week I will be trudging through the fields with Mom and the dog, in search of the perfect tree for our family Christmas, and enjoying the smell of fresh pine.
There are other things to do here, mostly involving fiber and/or food.

Friday was spinning and food at our last Fleece Spa day before the holidays. Saturday was the Metcalfe Christmas farmer's market, which yielded locally roasted coffee beans for a stocking stuffer, lavender body butter for me, and a slice of almond cranberry fudge. Sadly, the fudge was so heavy on the almond extract that a small piece gave me a sore throat, and had me checking in the bathroom mirror for signs of cyanosis (a concern largely due to excessive reading of early 20th C detective novels).
I still wanted fudge though, so I made a batch of sucre a la creme, the excuse being that I promised to bring dessert for a get-together Sunday evening. No-one complained - highly unlikely when you bring fudge that is essentially 2 parts brown sugar to 1 part whipping cream, with some nuts and things thrown in.

The cria continues to progress. I think I can fit what is left on 2 bobbins...2-3 skeins plied. The end is in sight. In between that, however, I have been knitting frantically on the first of two scarves for Christmas gifts. That got cast off last night and blocked this morning after breakfast. Forty minutes on the bedroom floor, 6 blocking wires, and some intense feline supervision later, it is drying quietly and looks pretty good.

After 40 minutes of threading blocking wires along the scarf edges while kneeling, though, I think yoga for lace knitters might be an idea whose time has come.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

O Christmas Tree

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, wherever shall I put you?

No, seriously. I've got my wreaths up on the doors, and the lights in the window, but I'm debating whether to put my tree up, and if so, where? It's not big, really. A grapevine cone formed on a tomato cage, maybe 3 feet high. Normally it goes on the sewing machine desk. However, that has become the computer desk, and not only is it short on space, but the outlet is occupied.

The coffee table trunk is out, since putting the tree there would block my view of the TV, necessitate moving WIPs, and be short on outlet space also.

There's a little table beside the couch, but that's in the cat's flightpath - I've already lost a pot and a lamp chimney that were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So far, the best possibility is the dining area bookshelf, once I clear various items off it.

I'll give it another day's thought.
In the meantime, I started seriously thinking about Christmas knitting and stuff. Whipped up a little gift certificate bag/ipod cozy for someone who's getting a gift certificate and is into science and coffee. Just to make it a little more interesting for me and them both.

Used the caffeine molecule structure from the Heterocyclic Hat pattern, but did it in straight stitches, as there wasn't space to do duplicate stitch.
Tonight I need to pick up yarn. I decided I would make lace scarves for a couple people, but there is nothing suitable in stash. Darn.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Be it Resolved

That I am going to finish spinning Joanne's cria before Christmas.

I have no excuse, none at all, not to sit down and spin for an hour or more every day, now that I'm between jobs again. And I've been slowly working on that cria since last winter. It's lovely and all, but I'm tired of it! So I have made up my mind that I will spin that and only that, do some every day, and get the stuff done, and be able to finally give Joanne her share of the yarn when I'm out there at Christmas.

Then and only then will I start spinning something else. I can look forward to that, and to having a nice pile of cria yarn for myself.

The wheel is out and I've done at least half a bobbin since yesterday. It's encouraging. Hopefully all that's required is a bit of determination.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Just Another Day in Paradise

Saturday I got to spend the day spinning at a craft fair, and then headed for the parents' for a few days, with the lovely thought that I didn't have to be back to go to work on Monday. Spent a few days just living the good life. Not that we didn't get things done, though!

There was laundry, and taking the dog for a walk (otherwise he would sleep by the fire all day). We chopped the fruit for the fruitcake - sure sign of the Christmas season.

The next day we got the brandy-soaking and the baking done, and there are now some mini-fruitcakes in my fridge.

Mom and I both finished knitting projects. I finally got my blue sweater in handspun polished off, and she finished a Christmas stocking for the dog of a little girl we know (she had been fascinated by the fact that we have stockings for all the animals as well as the people in the family).

Dad cut some trees that needed to go, Mom mulched the gardens, and did some weaving, I picked a chicken carcass and made soup, and worked on the next project - crochet this time, and started writing another pattern I want to get out soon. The chickens wandered about the yard looking for snacks and gossiping. And the cats went in and out and in and out despite the damp weather, and left noticeable traces of their presence in the mud and beggars' lice on my bed cover (the cover is there for a reason) and the steadily shrinking bag of cat treats.

Life doesn't get much better, as far as I'm concerned.