Archive for the ‘food and garden’ Category

four words

Monday, August 18th, 2014

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CORN for the freezer. i bought this early on saturday at the farmer’s market, fresh picked that morning and put it up that  night after supper. this is gonna taste SO good in january and february! (or even november, haha).

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TOMATOES which i also put up on saturday night. i had thought i’d make ratatouille, but when i saw the amount, i decided squirrel them away for winter instead. there are more for ratatouille (along with fresh eggplant and squash); they’ll be ripe later in the week, probably wednesday.

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PEACHES at their perfect peak of ripeness; beckie and i took a ride to the orchard on saturday morning before yoga class and scored big time. i bought two boxes, which ended up being a lot more than i thought. after writing a pattern on saturday afternoon and sunday morning, i got to work and spent the rest of the day peeling and slicing or cutting them up to freeze.

their flavor and fragrance are so good it aches. i will leave it to your imagination what i baked with them this morning—pictures tomorrow, i promise.

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GREEN BEANS  (which technically makes it five words) which is what i’m working on now (i took a break to throw up this quick, drive-by post!). we ate some of these fresh in a nicoise salad david put together last night. salad is one of his four or five specialties (besides, of course, his special specialty, which is loving ME). i’ll freeze all of these because as you know, there will likely be more in a few days.

i’ll be back later today or tomorrow with a long post—i have lots of knitting to share and some new recipes for green beans (because when you eat them nearly every night, you need variety, right?).

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the empreinte crescent shawlette i have on the needles now in organic color grown cotton lace is nearly done; i’m hoping to finish it off in class today—isn’t is stunning? this is the forest mist shade; i love it, i keep stopping to look at it. it’s gone so quickly now that i’m on the garter section; it’s perfect knitting for the kitchen, to pick up whenever a pot can spare a few unattended minutes. a good reason to rest my ankle, haha.

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ok, that’s enough rest now—back into the kitchen for me. happy monday!

oops! i forgot to mention my NEW craftsy class will be live very soon.

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for a chance to win this class for FREE, click here. but hurry, the contest ends tonight!

did someone ask for green beans?

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

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seriously, i only planted a total of about eight feet of green beans; it just seems like acres.

last sunday i went out to the garden pre coffee in order to pick what needed picking before it got hot. uh, no worries there—we are not exactly having “hot” weather this summer. but that doesn’t stop the beans from coming and coming and coming.

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in addition to that big basket i picked, i had another three or four pounds in the fridge from the previous few days. the upside of super fresh garden pickings is that they can wait a couple of days to be put up—good for me because i’d rather spend one big whack of time in the kitchen putting up beans than do a little bit each day (not so with tomatoes; for some reason, i don’t mind doing those every day when they are plentiful).

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once i had all of them gathered together, i sorted them by size and purpose—very slender young ones for immediate eating, medium sized ones to freeze for future meals, and the bigger overgrown ones to be cut up and frozen for soup niblets (while i don’t like eating those plain, they are perfect for that use).

i know—that seems really fussy, doesn’t it? but i don’t mind; i just put on my audiobook and the time flies. normally on sunday morning i’d be doing my long run, but i have a nagging sore ankle that needs time to rest. so i’m resorting to green bean sorting. like knitting, it’s therapeutic.

fingers crossed that i can still do my half marathon in two weeks (but no worries;  i’m not insane enough to “do it anyway”).

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and it’s not all green beans and no fun—while i was outside, i also picked a lovely basket full of vegetables for a thai curry. our thai basil is growing healthy any strong; i’m so glad we were able to get some this year.

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it has that spicy bite i love and tastes so great in our fresh curry dishes. i really must make time to freeze some for winter; it is impossible to buy in our area, in or out of season.

i discovered several yummy items that are coming to maturity out there as well

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purple scallions—if you haven’t had homegrown scallions, you really should explore the option. they are one thousand percent more yummy than store bought. one square foot of dirt will produce all you need and you can rotate that area so that half are always ready to use. so worth the trouble.

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and on a  similar note—onions are just about ready; the tops are beginning to lay down, though they’re not dried out yet. still, i’ve been pulling one or two as needed. in a week or so we’ll pull them all and lay them on the porch to dry. it is SO nice to use onions this fresh.

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and probably my favorite find of the week—little carrots! omg our carrots this year are phenomenal—they love the planting mounds that david made and are growing straight and big with all that wiggle room in the soft dirt. in fact, after cooking all morning and doing some work in the afternoon, i went outside to (finally) thin those babies out. they were ridiculously crowded because i seeded them so heavily (which was necessary in other years, but not this year).

i cleaned all of the above so that when i was ready to cook dinner later, it would be all set to chop and go.

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again, i only have maybe six or eight feet of carrots planted, but in a triple row across and every darn seed i planted germinated i think. they were long overdue for thinning actually, but i’m kind of glad i waited because—after several hours of crouching in the dirt, tediously yanking and prying them out—we now have a nice haul of baby carrots for cooking and snacking.

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i planted a mix of red and orange varieties, but at the moment i can’t remember the names, sorry. suffice it to say that they are growing very well and are tasty, too, nice and sweet.

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at sunset, i sat my butt on the back steps and stretched my legs while pinching off all those tops to add to the compost pile. in other years, i’ve ended up with a range of interesting carrot shapes, mostly blunt and stunted.

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but this year, they look like they belong in a seed catalog—straight, pointy, and consistent. good enough for the fair, even . . . and they cleaned up so pretty too, totally worth the work. i love this photo, with its accents of green tips.

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and if you think that sizing green beans was a singularly odd and obsessive tic that i had going on, you are mistaken. apparently my penchant for organization extends to carrots, too. representative of a deep psychological issue i bet, but we just won’t go there.

rather than beat myself up and make a character flaw out of it, i prefer to think of it as the kind of behavior typically exhibited by designer types. or to put it another way, an excuse to waste time.

once in a while we all need a little of that. by now it was well past dark and we hadn’t yet eaten dinner so i fired up the burners and got that stir fry going. it was deLISH.

the next thing i knew it was monday morning and guess what?

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people are such fun

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

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now that my latest big secret project is off the needles (YAY), i’m finally making a little progress on my cotton bocce ball cap. i know—it’s not much but at least it’s moving forward. i hope to finish it today or tomorrow, as a treat before starting my new secret knitting. i’m knitting this with ecobutterfly cotton sport, in the chocolate shade.

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and i plan to put some rows on my cotton empreinte crescent scarf as well (that’s knit in ecobutterfly pakucho cotton lace in the forest mist shade—i love it).

i want to finish up those two items because we were able to get more of the rare and gorgeous fifo—another color grown organic cotton yarn, this time in a variety of weights and i’m itching to knit some of the fingering or sport weight. that’s right, the cotton for this yarn grows in this deep, rich, naturally occurring purple shade, how about that?

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this photo shows the lace yarn we shipped to our purple club this month. then we found more of it available in fingering, sport and worsted weights. as with all natural yarns, the color varies somewhat—and unlike dyed yarns, we pretty much have to embrace whatever we get. you can imagine how little control producers have over the color, what with the range of possible variants (weather, rainfall, soil conditions, hours of sunlight, etc).

we’ll be listing what we have in our online shop very soon; in the meantime, i want to start something with it. with the weather being what it has been (pretty chilly at night and most days as well), i may actually start a blanket, haha . . .

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the buttons arrived today for my pedal pusher cardigan so now i can put the finishing touches on that and maybe start one for david. there is going to be a pullover version with a placket and my friend anne c. has already volunteered to knit the prototype. in fact, she’s practically standing over me with a whip to write up the pattern—probably a good thing.

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while i was ordering those buttons, i went ahead and ordered some sample sets of others made from natural materials that i thought would look beautiful with our yarns. the yellowish ones are the same as my buttons but in a different color bone material. won’t they look great with an oatmeal, cream, or gray yarn?

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i love the auburn ones at the bottom right; they have a kind of maroon or cordovan color, just the perfect look for an ivar cardigan in both style and size (small buttons in natural materials are harder to find). and i found a couple variations of horn and bone that i like as well (top). it seems like supplies of these vary throughout the year, so i may stock up now to get our shops ready for fall sweater knitting.

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(sprössling cardigan in breakfast blend fingering with danger cowl in confection worsted)

speaking of the shops, we are having so much fun with our new retail space. you know, the physical shop was really just a last-minute inspiration that sprang into our heads when we saw the setup of our office space for the first time. but thanks to our terrifically creative staff, it has very quickly become a little jewel at the center of our work environment. it is SO exciting to step into our offices and see, first thing, the array of beautiful things that are the product of our work here.

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last week our signage was installed in and around the entrance and i believe next week we’ll be receiving the sign to be installed out at the street, pointing travelers in the right direction. it’s been SO much fun to talk to people who find their way here—thank you to everyone who has made the trip.

last friday, for instance we had a wonderful visit from liz, who stopped by on her way to a drag racing event in south eastern ohio. funny thing, she is actually from the area where my mom lives. we are so gonna have to meet up one of these days, haha. anyway, she wrote a VERY entertaining blog post about her trip, featuring her arrival at our shop. i just wish i had known she was here; i would have gone over to meet her.

and for the record, if any of you is coming and cannot make it during regular shop hours, please call and let us know; we can usually make some kind of arrangement to accommodate you (within reason, heh).

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(left to right: sticks and stone pullover in stone soup DK with tidal sands cowl in breakfast blend fingering; goobalini cap in cotton sport and wandering thyme crescent in cotton lace;  cluaranach wrap in ghillie sock; twig and leaf crescent in mrs lincoln’s lace)

in fact, we are totally up for ideas concerning group events. so many times, we get notes from readers and customers wishing they could take a class or see our yarns in person. if you and a small circle of friends would like to come have a class with me here, we can make that happen! or arrange for your guild to make a field trip for yarn tasting. knitting and finishing classes, project KALs, book signings, yarn tours and tastings are all on our wish list—what’s on yours?

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we are also gearing up for a bunch of early fall events. susan, barb, erica, and a couple other staffers (maybe even me, if my ankle doesn’t get better soon) will be representing at the michigan fiber festival in allegan, MI on the weekend of august 16 to 17. if you’re there, please come visit our booth and don’t forget to bring your latest knitspot project—we look forward to seeing your accomplishments. and we’ll probably want to take your picture so wear your lipstick.

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upon our return home from the festival, my new craftsy class will be released—a survey of finishing techniques that covers a wide range of tricks, tips, and techniques to help you navigate your finishing tasks and hopefully, come to enjoy them as much as i do. you might think that’s a stretch, but trust me it’s not, especially when we work together, as the craftsy platform allows us to do so well.

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and wow, the time to think about rhinebeck is really upon us now. we are working hard on getting our rhinebeck after party (RAP) event organized. this is such a warm and wonderful event; i’m really looking forward to this year’s rematch! this year, we are tackling color work and i’m so excited—this is a side of me that i don’t get to bring our that often but now that we have so many yarns in a range of shades, my inner alice starmore is clamoring to get out.

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we are going to learn about yarn choices for color work, introduce ourselves to a few different color work techniques and some history, and then tackle a color work project together. we’ll take a whole day to get started and some good headway on something we can then finish on our own—you know, that kind of knitting you never get to do at home. that will give us time to really talk while we work, too. i’m SO looking forward to it and i hope you can join us. want to know more? click here to read details about class selections and visit our ravelry threads to read the excitement that participants have shared about their experiences at the RAP.

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phew, that is a LOT going on around here, isn’t it?

and i haven’t even mentioned the garden yet . . . i think i’ll save that for the next post; i don’t want to exhaust you.

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all good things under the sun

Friday, August 1st, 2014

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i can’t help posting another photo of our tall marigolds—i find them astounding. every time i look out the kitchen window and see that mass of orange pom-pom heads bobbing in the breeze, i am SO glad we planted them! one of these days i’ll remember early in the day to cut a few for each desk in the office.

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since we had a nice sunny day today, i took some photos throughout the garden as i made my morning rounds. right underneath the marigolds, the summer squash are hanging in there—we’ve lost the zucchini plants to something, but these yellow zephyrs are plugging away, giving us a couple of nice little squashes every day or two. we’ve been eating them in everything from vegetable stew to pasta to eggs.

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and tomatoes are ripening daily now—still just a few at a time but more each day. for now, i’m letting them ripen right on the vine.

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tonight i’ll cook some into a very light marinara sauce with green beans, one of my very favorite summer dishes. last weekend i had to make it with canned tomatoes, so that batch went into the freezer. THIS weekend it will all be home grown and i plan to chow down on them; i can’t wait.

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a plethora of peppers is maturing on the plants now; i wish they would hurry up and get big so i can pick them. the first wave always takes forever and peppers won’t put out new flowers until you pick the old fruit, stubborn things. sometimes i pick immature fruits just to get things going, a sacrificial crop if you will. i’ve picked a few but i’d rather they just got big already, since they taste better when fully filled out.

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now the okra on the other hand, knows just how to play its cards; it puts out breathtakingly pretty flowers in gorgeous shades of apricot, pink, and yellow before making its fruit. they only last  part of a morning so if i’m up early, i try to get outside to see them before they wither away. trust me, it’s worth getting up for . . .

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working our way to the back of the garden . . . well, we can’t exactly get all the way back there because the potato patch has completely taken over.

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it has spread itself right out to the fence, meshing with the carrots and any green beans that had the unfortunate destiny of being late bloomers (which happened with one section of climbing beans, though i don’t know why; they came up fine on one end of the row but on the other, much later and less).

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speaking of green beans—holy cow, aren’t their flowers so pretty?

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and i’m not the only one who thinks so . . .

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the bees are almost obscenely interested in what those tiny blossoms have to offer . . .

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and so gluttonous to get their noses into it, that they don’t even care how close i come with the camera

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what is that thing they say about the tango?

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my favorite shot of the day—capturing the excellent gymnastics involved when one forgets oneself and goes into a swoon over whatever is in that honey pot.

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i think it’s time to give them a little privacy.

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back inside the house, i fired up the iron to give a final steaming to my completed pedal pusher cardigan. i stitched on the second pocket during my wednesday night class and i think they look pretty good.

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they just need some steaming to lay flat, as do the button bands and the hem (i don’t like it when the hem ribbing pulls into a pumpkin shape; i prefer it to hang straight).

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i spread the sweater body flat on my pressing table, secured it with a few pins, and used a wet cloth to steam the hem and the pockets.

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they look a lot lees lumpy afterward.

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especially when hung on the form.

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it fits great; i’m very happy with the results. it’s roomy enough to wear long sleeves or even a heavy shirt underneath, but the raglan shaping means i still get a nice fit through the shoulders.

i can’t get over how light and airy the confection yarn feels; when i think “worsted weight” i think of something heavy, but this really isn’t. it’s a great weight for a fall sweater jacket; just what i’ll be wanting when i head off to rhinebeck. i’m pretty sure this will join my stone soup highlander as a go-to sweater.

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and how about this dark chocolate color? i couldn’t decide which one i like best so david picked this shade for me and  i love it now that i see myself in this photo (i’m fond of the cookies and cream, so i would have gone with that, but it’s really too close in shade to my hair color which is not good).

now that met my secret project deadline for the month, i can spend some time over the weekend writing up this pattern to send to the tech editor. yay.

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speaking of confection, i promised i would show you a little bit about the development of the sport weight version we’ve been working on.  the last time i talked about this project, we had just received a box of sample from the mill for the various possible spinning configuration.

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i think there were five or six version in all, each spun to slightly different specs for comparison. i eliminated several of those choices out of hand, without even test knitting them—these were the ones that looked very inconsistent, and too loosely spun to wear well. there were even a couple that just looked wrong—as if the singles had not been plied tight enough to even neutralize all of its twist (which gives it a rather funky texture and may cause it to misbehave when knit into a fabric).

of the ones that i decided to test knit, we have from right to left: the original 3-ply sport which is spun to the same specs as the worsted weight, washed; the original sport unwashed; a 3-ply sport spun a little looser, and a 2-ply spun a little tighter. i swatched each one in the same knit/purl pattern as well as in stockinette.

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the original 3-ply one feels a little stiff when it’s knit on smaller needles, but what i found is that after a good soak in hot soapy water, it softens and blooms beautifully. you can tell a lot of mill oil and dust got washed away too, which helps. notice the terrific depth of texture this fabric has, even after washing; corriedale fiber is very springy.

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the stockinette fabric is very regular and cohesive, even in its prewashed state.

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the 2-ply yarn is super squishy and delicious feeling but it makes a slightly less consistent fabric. this might right itself after washing; i didn’t do that yet. we all agreed that while we love the way the 2-ply yarn feels, it’s kind of weird that the texture doesn’t match that of the 3-ply yarn.

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above and below, the 2-ply is on the left and the 3-ply on the right. a noticeable texture difference between the worsted version (3-ply) and the sport version in 2 ply would not be appealing; 2-ply yarn also tends to drape differently and pill more easily.

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the sum of those factors, plus the fact that they don’t translate stitch patterns with equal clarity, starts to make them feel like they’re not part of the same family.

plus, we have a 2-ply yarn in the kent DK, which performs very well in a 2-ply construction.

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next it was time to compare the two 3-ply versions, which were spun just slightly different. really, there isn’t much of a difference in the fabric at all, but the looser construction may result in a slightly less consistent fabric surface.

so we all decided that sticking to the original version was the best plan and now the mill is working away so we can have it in stock for fall. i can’t wait; this will be the perfect yarn with which to design the longer cardigan version of my aztec mazes pattern—a project i’ve been wanting to do for a while. the sport version will be offered in all the same shades as the worsted confection, so maybe this time i’ll go for the cookies and cream . . .

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thee are still a good number of weeks left to enjoy summer knitting and summer weaner, so i cast on a new cotton cap last week and have been working throughout the brim a few rounds at a time. this design is a reknit of the bocce cap i designed at christmas time (in blue, above) and then never published. i need to write the pattern but i totally forgot how i made it, so i thought it’d be wise to knit one in soft, sport weight cotton. yum.

elsewhere in the tangle on my knitting couch, my empreinte crescent shawl in ecobutterfly cotton lace is stalled because i got distracted with secret knitting. but i’ll be getting back to that in a few days.

our cotton KAL on ravelry has been lots of fun and very popular; all of us here have been inspired by seeing various patterns knit up in a cotton fabric rather than wool.

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barb knit this absolutely adorable cotton skirt using the organic cotton sport yarn with the kiltie pattern and making it a little longer. she took home some of our custom designed glass buttons the other night to finish it up so her granddaughter could wear it to school in a couple of weeks.

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let’s end on a really nice note (literally!)

our scholarship recipient, brandy wrote a very nice thank you note to our community to mark the end of her freshman year at college.

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whenever i hear from brandy, i am so impressed with how well she is doing and how she keeps us updated on her life at school. thank you brandy. and thank YOU everyone for making her success at school a stress-free possibility.

and now it’s time to go—very late here in ohio and david is waiting for me to join him in some TV watching and knitting. bye bye, gotta fly . . .

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