another fresh start

I love that every new year we can just pretend like last year wasn’t a thing.

“I’m going to make a change! I mean it this year.”
“Let’s just start fresh.”
“A new calendar!  New possibilities!”
“I didn’t follow my resolutions last year, but I will this time!”
“Here’s to new beginnings!”

And then by February it’s all forgotten again. So consider this my little song and dance to celebrate our agreed upon starting over point. I will pretend that I will start blogging regularly! I will state that this year will be different and I will do my data entry monthly (rather than yearly). I will chose a grand knitting project that will be just for me and then I’ll never get started on it.

This sounds like a lot of excuses. But really I just know myself well enough that I accept my failings as a human. I’m a big talker, but not much of a doer.

One thing I did do already this year was to reorganize my dresser. Apparently there is a book circulating that addresses clutter and how to get rid of it. I didn’t read or even pick up the book, but I saw a snippet about it on a news show. They mentioned something about folding your clothes so that you can see every article in the drawer. It sounded like an interesting concept, but I worried that my clothes wouldn’t fit in the drawer once I refolded them. So I began slowly with the pants drawer. Everything still fits! The next week I moved onto a shirt drawer. Still fits! And I could see everything at once! It was really quite exciting. I ended up doing all the drawers and was pleased to discover that everything went back into its drawer and the new folding technique utilized the space better. Since I got this dresser six years ago, I have never been able to arrange my clothes in a way that used all the space. It annoyed me. But now all the space has been filled and I can see each sad, dull garment I own all at once. My personal color scheme is quite dreary. The one thing that I found odd about this is that your clothes are now standing up and when you take an item out, or the drawer isn’t full, the garment on the end sags. I feel like I need book ends just to keep everything in its place. Ah well, still a successful endeavor!

dresser drawers

I’ve been thinking about this blog a lot, feeling bad that I have neglected it, wondering why I continually avoid posting. Here is what I have determined.

1) Nobody blogs anymore. Nobody reads blogs anymore. If I am going to continue with this, I should do it because I want to document things, not because I am trying to entertain someone.

2) It’s so time consuming! You need a topic and photos and stuff and blah and I just don’t want to. But on the other hand, there are times when I really want to express myself in something longer than a Facebook post. I don’t know why I find it so much more of a burden to pop over to WordPress and type up a little post. I suppose I figure it out to be more polished and professional. Must it?

3) What do I have to say? That hasn’t already been said. I feel like my life is on repeat, so how do I present my activities in a new way? To me it’s the same thing again and again. Yep, I went to work. And again today. And again. And again. I don’t know how to make it fresh and relevant to the topic of “fiber”. I’m sewing modern clothes! I want to talk about that.

So, with that being said… what’s next?

snapshots around the studio

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And by “studio” I mean my kitchen.

Over the past two years I’ve gotten myself into quite a rhythm. On average I get out my dyeing and carding equipment once a month. I spend one week dyeing and the next week carding. That usually leaves me one week to get everything labeled and packed to go to my next show. When it comes to dyeing, I still don’t have any recipes. I tried to do color cards, but when I went back to repeat those colors, they came out differently. Oh well. That means I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and not worry about it too much. One of a kind (sort of) it is! By the way, I just found out that this “OOAK” thing everyone uses to describe their work stands for “one of a kind”. Huh!

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Anyway, I can’t go beyond three days of dyeing otherwise I get so bored and mentally dried up that I just pour black on everything and walk away. Day three is usually my least productive day, however this week it was my most productive. On Wednesday I had a haircut at noon, so I couldn’t get started until after that. And the first day I usually get started late because I have to get out all the pots and dyes.

My goals were quite manageable:

  1. 4 lbs of Merino for Margaret
  2. 4 lbs of Shetland roving
  3. Winnie’s fleece (approx. 3-4 lbs)
  4. Odds and ends for carding if I feel like it

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With two crock pots, three stock pots, and two roasting pans, I was able to get all of that and a little more done in two afternoons and one day. Today I have the pleasure of cleaning up the kitchen. But the living room also needs to be vacuumed, so I think it will just end up being a full on cleaning day while I wait for the fiber to dry.

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sprouting journey continues

This morning, while I was rinsing my sprouts, Rich said, “Good morning, Sprout.” Apparently it’s my new nickname.

My order from Sproutpeople came over the weekend and I couldn’t wait to get started using the new equipment. I ordered a mesh lid for my wide mouth mason jar, the SproutMaster 5×6 sprouter, and the “Beanginner” kit which included a hemp bag and a sampling of different beans. Saturday night I started some alfalfa seeds soaking and placed them in a tray on Sunday morning. On Monday I added mung beans and a seed mix consisting of clover, fenugreek, and radish. Every morning I give them a rinse and again before bed. It really is fun to watch them grow! The hardest part is deciding when and how to eat them.

Alfalfa, mung, clover/fenugreek/radish mix.

April 23, 2013
Clockwise from left: Alfalfa, mung beans, clover/fenugreek/radish mix

The sprouts have grown.April 25, 2013
Sprouting has occurred!

crazy sprout lady*

Not sure where it all began. I think it goes back to my desire to graze. And my obsession with watching and poking at things. And my desperate need to grow something edible. And the fact that Jimmy Johns stopped putting sprouts on their sandwiches. And my desire to try new things that are actually old things. And my love of collecting kitchen gadgets.

Last November, after reading through several 70s era health cookbooks from my mom’s extensive collection, I decided to give sprouting a try. Every book suggested beginning with mung beans. I wasn’t so sure about that as my only experience with mung beans had been a scene from The Office.

Michael Scott: “Okay. Ryan, you told Toby that Creed has a distinct old man smell?”
Creed: “I know exactly what he’s talking about. I sprout mung beans on a damp paper towel in my desk drawer. Very nutritious, but they smell like death.”

Even though I was somewhat hesitant, I decided to give it a go anyway. The first batch went smoothly. With nothing but a mason jar, a bit of cheese cloth, and a rubber band — and regular rinsing and draining — I had a nice batch of bean sprouts several days later. It was fun! I got to watch something grow! No dirt required! But I didn’t know what to do with them, so we just ate them raw and put some on a salad. Oh, and they didn’t smell bad at all.

sproutsSprouting mung beans. November 4, 2012

Skip over several months in the winter while the passage of time flew by in hyper speed and I forgot how fun sprouting could be… It’s April! Two weeks ago I found my enthusiasm renewed and I started another batch of mung beans. Misreading the instructions that said to distribute 2 tablespoons soaked beans among several jars, I put 3 tablespoons each (two didn’t seem like enough) in two jars. FYI, as they started to grow, I had to bring in a third jar. I ended up with a good amount of bean sprouts and I didn’t want to just leave them to rot, so I made a fancy stir-fry. The bulk of it was carrots and green beans, and I did the sprouts separately in just a bit of soy sauce. Overall it was awesome! I was so proud of myself.

Fresh mung bean sprouts lightly stir fried.Stir-fried mung bean sprouts. April 7, 2013

This success gave me just enough encouragement to move on to something a bit more challenging: alfalfa sprouts. I had bought some seeds when I first got the beans, but wanted to wait until I was a little more experienced. Apparently I determined I was ready. I used the same jar/cheese cloth method, although I noticed there were seeds that didn’t sprout. It seemed like it took a while for them to start growing, but once they did, it went pretty quick. They filled the jar! And then we happily ate them on cheeseburgers.

The beginnings of alfalfa sprouts.April 11, 2013

Alfalfa sprouts: a continuing storyApril 14, 2013

The end of the road for these sprouts.April 15, 2013

After getting a feel for it and wanting more, I went hunting online for equipment, books, resources and found plenty. One really great website I came across is Sprout People. They have great product reviews, tons of things to sprout, and informative videos. I watched many of them before I embarked on the alfalfa. I ordered a few items and now eagerly await their arrival. More on that in the future.

* as determined by Ana Brito ^.~

bird’s nest

Today seemed like a good day to do a bit of spring cleaning, which basically consisted of “washing” all the windows.  I put the blinds up on the front window, something I haven’t done for months, looked out, and saw a bird’s nest on top of the pillar under the porch roof. It surprised me! It shouldn’t have though, since I hear birds out there all the time. The best part is that they used some of the wool I stuck in the bushes. I left it there for them, so I’m glad they put it to use.

Bird's nest under porch. Used my left over wool!

a collection of things

Third event of the year behind me already! I spent Saturday with Ana (Wren & Rita) at A Knitter’s Fantasy and it was a really great day. Usually the market is rather quiet during classes, but this year it seemed that we had traffic evenly throughout the day. My lack of inventory was painfully obvious as I set up, and now after the show I am very low. The next couple of weeks are going to be very busy so I don’t embarrass myself at the Great Lakes Fiber Show. In between now and then I’ve got two camping events, a visit to Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, and major dental work. I need to do some serious scheduling.

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Remember how we bought a house three years ago this summer? We worked so hard to get it ready before we  moved in, but there were a few projects that had to wait.

front view

For instance, the bathroom is still weird (no mirror/cabinet, unfinished floor, bathtub without a shower head). The plan was to finish off the mudroom first since it needed insulation, drywall, flooring, basically a lot more stuff. However, it’s been a very sloooow process. We are now to the stage of putting mud on the drywall, so I decided to take a picture. Soon we will be ready to paint! And then eventually put in the cabinets and storage this house so desperately needs. Someday…

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And just in case you haven’t had enough updates from me, the latest issue of the newsletter is live.

letting go

Taking a break from woolly work today to deal with something I have been avoiding for a solid three years: my old bedroom at my parents’ house. Basically when I got married I just left everything where it was and moved in with my husband. I hate going down there (my room was in the basement). Everything is dusty and musty now, but at the same time it’s all the little things that represent a period in my life that is gone. I don’t want to deal with any of it.

old stuff

With my grandmother coming to stay with my parents this summer, I felt that it would be good to get my stuff out of the house. But there is a LOT of stuff. Part of me feels like one of those hoarders on TV when the psychologist takes one pen away and the homeowner shrieks in dismay. On the other hand I’m thinking, “Hell, I’ve lived without this stuff for THREE years. I do not need it!” Which is true, until I go back and look at it.

“Oh, my elf ears, I’ve got to keep those!
Hey, here is that jar of M&Ms with the lamb faces on it that you gave me that one Easter.
And my first ball of yarn! I have to keep that.” (I will definitely be keeping that)

So yes, some of these items are special. For instance, I have all of my childhood books, which Rich says I need to keep so I can read them to “Little Gwen” (someday — not now). Regardless of that, I still love the books: Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter,  the Berenstain Bears, Maurice Sendak, and Rosemary Wells, plus a few others I had picked up at school book sales. Things like that along with yearbooks and amusing school projects and family mementos will be coming with me.

One of the main reasons I left these things “in storage” is that there is nowhere for them to go at our house. You will not walk through the garage, house or basement and find a blank corner or wall. You will not stop and think, “You need something here!” And therein lies the problem. Even if I keep a mere fraction of this stuff, there is still no place to put it. The garage is full of SCA items, which require you to have your life in duplicate; future house projects like wood flooring we bought a year ago; wood working tools that can’t be reached; all of my vending hardware; the sellable contents of Rich’s uncle’s house; and so on. In the basement we have more of basically everything that is in the garage. Oh, did I mention this house has no closets? They would be full anyway, so it doesn’t much matter.

Another problem is that many of my belongings are weird and special to me, but no one else would find them useful. I don’t want to throw them away because it’s not trash, but who else wants my sand art from the Medieval Faire 15 years ago? I’m ready to move on, but will anyone else want it?  Perhaps I ought to stuff my heart with steel wool and just purge. After three years, do I really need a Madeline doll that I bought in my teens? Not likely. She is awfully cute though…

the antiques of my dreams

Here it is, friends! Post #600. I like round numbers and milestones.

Friday night I had a dream about a big antique mall (it’s a reoccurring theme). When I woke up Saturday morning I just had to go find one. I know the stuff is usually overpriced, but no one is smoking, the items are clean, and it’s an indoor adventure for a dreary day. I tried to wait until Rich had woken fully before attacking him with my proposition to go to the AAA Antique Mall on I-76, though I may not have been successful. Anyway, we headed out after lunch. It was a nice day for a drive.

I just have to tell you, this place is huge. The first time we went I looked for the back wall and couldn’t find it (that may be an exaggeration, but it felt like that). We skipped over the items in the display cases and went straight for the good stuff, or in my case, the average housewares. I’m not sure how long we actually spent in real time, but those first two rows sucked us in. Rich was looking for glass jars with clamp-on lids and I was just looking for anything.

I found a cute 1/2 pint glass milk bottle, two 1/2 gallon and two quart jugs, and two adorable individual creamers. We ended up with a family of glass containers. I also found a bright yellow Pyrex bowl and a Hazel Atlas storage jar with a spinning wheel on it. There is another item I found, but it deserves an entry unto itself, so we’ll look at that another day.

a day antiquing

Even though I want everything I find, I usually leave these places either empty handed or buying a $5 item. I’m not sure what got us so excited this time, but it was a fun day. I really just love looking at all the old things and thinking about what life was like for the people who first bought them.

a cookie recipe

In November I made a batch of these cookies for Indie Knit & Spin. Even though I wasn’t sure if I had made them correctly, they turned out great. Since I had several shoppers inquire about them, I am going to share the recipe.  It came from a wonderful cookbook that I found last fall called Wholesome Kitchen. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Quinoa Choc Chip Cookies
from Wholesome Kitchen by Ross Dobson

You will need:

½ cup rolled oats
¾ cup quinoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup demerara sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup premium semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1-2 baking sheets lined with baking parchment

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the oats and quinoa in a food processor and process until finely chopped and the mixture
resembles ground almonds. Transfer to a bowl and add the flour, baking powder, and baking
soda. Mix to combine.

Put the butter and both sugars in a separate mixing bowl and beat for 4-5 minutes, until thick and pale. Stir in the dry ingredients to make a thick dough, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Put tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once coot, store in an airtight container and, eat within 2-3 days.

Makes about 24 cookies