Archive for the ‘food and garden’ Category

the shoe fit

Friday, January 29th, 2016

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ok, i never did snowshoeing before but i always wanted to try it. and yesterday i got the chance. kim knows a mountain trail that begins less than a mile from her home and so, after the kids left for school and we’d had a nice hour of morning knitting, we got into some outdoor gear and headed for the trail.

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mandatory selfie to kick things off

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there is a lot more snow here in utah thats there was last year when i visited. and tons more than we have at home (it’s been a dry snow-less winter in our area).

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we trekked uphill for a little over an hour and the first half of the journey was more open; we could have easily gone off trail to explore a bit if we wanted. one thing i didn’t realize before coming to utah for the first time is how stunningly beautiful it is—the mountains look fake here, haha.

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climbing higher, we got into some denser forest. kim was trying to get us all the way to the horsetail falls, but wasn’t sure how far it was. as it turned out, it was farther than we could manage that day, maybe a goal for hiking after the snow melts.

the woods were as beautiful as the open stretches; we were following a trail made by some kind of sled or snow mobile, maybe both. in the trees, the path narrowed a lot, taking us over little hills and what might have been rocks or fallen trees underneath.

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aren’t the trees amazing? i have a love affair with pine trees anyway, but the ones here are impressively tall and well shaped; i could tour the woods for a good long time. it was so quiet here; you could hear a pin drop. we saw a few other pole marks from skiers or snowshoers, but not many. the snow was so completely undisturbed in most places that it has a thick furring of sparkling crystals on top, like a coating if crushed sugar candy.

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this is the view from the top of our climb, which i was really enjoying, by the way. snowshoeing was much less strenuous or difficult than i’d imagined; it’s pretty easy to get up to speed as long as you dress warmly and have boots that fit well. i would definitely take this up as a regular activity if i lived someplace with snow and mountains like these. and who knows—it might be fun to explore some of our county trail system at home on snowshoes; i might try it once we get some snow.

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the trip down was considerably faster; i had to concentrate more, so i didn’t take as many photos. but as we neared the bottom, the sun was hitting the mountains just so and i got this shot. nice, huh?

i have to hand it to kim; she moved here from southern california just over a year ago and has become quite the snow bunny. i’m glad because she got me to try something i might never have done!

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it’s been a crazy week since ensemble came out—almost as soon as it was published i had to be out the door to the craftsy instructor summit last weekend.

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which a was super intense and interesting learning experience (still processing a lot of it, haha).

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since i was going to be that far west, i decided to tack on this little after trip to visit with kim’s family. they’re not all here, but you get the idea—everyone is growing up fast but so far, happy and healthy.

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cole will be getting married to and in april—hard to believe this is the same boy that held my sock for the camera during my first visit with their family!

it looks like i’m going to get to meet up with rex again over the summer during the alaska cruise i’m teaching on in july—he’s going to be working up there again this year.

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kim an i also drove to sundance one day, which i’d never been to. i’m not a skier so we didn’t do any of that but we did eat lunch there and take in the giNORmous icicles hanging all around the windows. wow. the ride up and back was breathtaking, too.

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during the week i had another rare opportunity—touring the inside of the provo mormon temple, which is open to the public for just a brief time before its dedication in march.

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the temple burned to the ground in 2010 and has now been rebuilt; the tour provides a fascinating glimpse into its history and an introduction to mormon ceremonial tradition.

we also knitted a LOT this week. i am mostly working on secret projects that i can’t reveal just yet, but also swatching for the spring collection . . . more on that when i get home.

i’m flying out today; it will be sad to leave but i’m also looking forward to seeing david tonight.

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i’m hoping he’ll have some of this ready when i get in, mmm!

doug has great news

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

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hello readers and happy new year! i hope everyone had a warm and satisfying holiday week—ours was busy, but filled with good friends and great news, the first being that we not only met our goal of matching last year’s scholarship fund, but we passed it by about $725—yay!

david and i will kick in to round that amount up, making a final total scholarship of $4500. once again, the knitspot nation has pulled together to make a really good thing happen; thank you all SO VERY MUCH!

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david and i stayed home for the holidays this year and it was nice each weekend to have a quiet few days at home. with the weather still warm for christmas, we got outside to run and bike each day, cooked some delicious traditional meals afterward, and spent some time knitting on current projects together.

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christmas eve marks the time for our annual feast of fishes. since we didn’t have company over to share the usual array of seven fish dishes, we made a simpler—though no less yummy—puttanesca dish for two.

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meanwhile, with our family rather scattered across the USA this year, my nephew put together a hilarious photo stream to which we all added our holiday preparations throughout the day. filled with pictures and video of my mom cooking for his family in maryland (peppered with too-cute pictures of baby eli modeling various holiday outfits and eating meatballs), my older brother and his wife celebrating with friends in hawaii, my sister and younger brother in texas with their families, it ended up being a really fun shared celebration after all.

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i am one of those people who enjoy the christmas eve celebration much more than christmas day, haha. by late evening we were settled at our own table with these gorgeous plates of pasta.

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just the thing to fill and warm us after our brisk evening bike ride, but not so much fuss that we couldn’t enjoy it immensely.

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my current knitting is all secrets projects, i’m afraid—things i can’t share just yet. suffice it to say that i am knitting like mad and that i think you will really enjoy these projects when they are unveiled. david on the the other hand, has been working through the top shaping of the squish me hat he started over thanksgiving.

he’s had to redo it a few times because he struggled with dropped sts. and then he had it all done, but realized it wasn’t as long as he’d like, so he ripped it back again. good thing he’s using nice yarn—stone soup DK in river rock—all that ripping and redoing did not harm the yarn one little bit. and this new batch is SO soft; i can’t get over its flannely, baby soft squishiness.

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persevering paid off in the end though—he’s been wearing it almost nonstop for the last week or so, with the cold weather that has descended.

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i think he was very glad to have it on saturday, when we spent the whole—very frigid—afternoon in cleveland, shooting photos of the ensemble collection.

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speaking of stone soup DK and the ensemble project . . . last wednesday barb brought her finished sample of the interlaken skirt to knit night to pass off to me for the weekend shoot. this one is a couple sizes smaller than my prototype and made to fit me (or whoever could wear it for the photos). we are swapping; in exchange for me keeping this one, she will take home my prototype skirt in kent DK that you saw her clowning around in a couple of weeks back.

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i took the new one home for blocking, to get it ready for the weekend photo shoot. after a nice bath and some steaming, the the fabric was light and drapey, but still had that warm, cozy feeling too—just the perfect winter skirt. i love the flare and the length that resulted from the revised pattern; it fits me perfectly now. more finished photos in a bit . . .

i just realized i lied about something—i DO have a finished knit i can show you; my slow dog noodle scarf that i completed in our festivus 2.0 gradient reds, sometime around christmas day.

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i forgot about it because it’s not blocked yet (i know; shame on me, you’d think i’d be more excited to get it done!), but my blocking space was taken up at the end of last week by another project.

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i love how the gradients work with this scarf; no matter which way you wear it, they come together to double the effect.

in the week between the holidays, i got a couple of new secret projects on the needles and underway, making excellent progress on both the knitting and the patterns. i’d like to get both of these squared away as quickly as possible so i can get back to knitting things i can share.

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also during my evenings last week week, i spent a little time each night getting started on the makings for our new year’s eve party. one night i made gluten free crispy vanilla wafers to use in a cookie crust for cheesecake.

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the next night i made the cheesecake; it’s my grandma’s recipe that she got from her nephew’s wife, who got it from her mother and it is heaven on a plate, i’m telling you—light as air and fluffy, it never feels like a brick going down, even after a big meal like the one i had planned.

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plus, with just a short list of gluten free ingredients, it was the perfect choice for our NYE dessert, since several of our guests need to be careful that way.

the only thing is, like all of my grandma’s recipes, it consists of a penciled in list of ingredients on the back of an envelope, sorely lacking in notes about method. so my cheesecake invariably cracks. i have read up on that and am trying different methods to see what works, but i won’t share the results until i get it right. i promise that when i have a successful outcome, you will be the first to know!

the day before NYE i raided the garden yet again and came in with a boatload of greens to clean and cook for the main dish—vegetable lasagne. why buy expensive frozen organic spinach when we have the good, great fortune to pick our own fresh, delicious greens??

david was especially gracious the night before to clean all the greens and veggies while i prepared tomato sauce and a series of fillings for the lasagne layers. good thing we did it that night—it took hours longer than i imagined (but totally worth getting ahead of the game)

i did take the whole day off on new year’s eve to make the final preparations. i mixed and kneaded homemade pasta dough, both regular and gluten free. then david and i rolled it into sheets and i assembled the lasagnes, layering that lovely fresh pasta with cheeses, sautéed mushrooms, sliced zucchini, and chopped greens sautéed in oil and garlic. when beckie arrived, the two of us composed antipasto platters of oranges and olives as well as cheeses and vegetables. a real feast!

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i know it sounds like a ton of work—and it is—but SO, so worth it. we made two large pans and had enough left for another small pan plus some handcut pappardelle that we will prepare sometime later this week. plenty enough for everyone to eat like kings and for us to have several meals prepared and ready to go in the freezer.

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naturally, i spent new year’s day relaxing, haha. well, knitting like nobody’s business with my feet up anyway. for me, that is a complete day off. plus, i wanted to get a sample done so i could go to the photo shoot on saturday without anything hanging over my head.

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after weeks of unseasonably warm winter weather, the weather finally turned cold here, just in time for us to spend a full day outdoors taking pictures over fifty miles from home. oh well; the show must go on, eh?

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yes, it was incredibly chilly, even raw, especially at the beach; i don’t know how everyone managed to stay so cheerful, but they did and we had not only a lot of fun, but put in an excellent day’s work as well.

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remember the skirt in stone soup DK that i showed you earlier? photographed at several sites in cleveland, we love it paired with the oculus coat as part of the ensemble collection.

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and we also love it in kent DK, this time with a dramatically large, winter weight shawl in better breakfast fingering yarn, designed by rosemary hill.

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we moved from one location to another throughout the day, from beach to bridge, capturing our little collection in a variety of moods against the city background.

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we can’t wait to show all—coming soon! look for a full reveal sometime around 1/18. and until then, stay warm!

 

are you ready?

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

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i just love this slow dog noodle wrap—light and airy, it’s great as a huge scarf over a heavy sweater or atop a wide open jacket. but it’s also a wonderfully cozy wrap to throw on while knitting or watching TV—long enough to cover my legs, but light enough to allow my arms to work. love!

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and with the mild weather we’ve been having, i can even wear it instead of a winter coat, a la mister knitspot. with such versatility—now it’s a scarf; now it’s a blanket!—this kind of wrap is wonderful to wear traveling.

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the fabric drapes beautifully and at the same time, has the deeply textured appearance of a much heavier bulky knit—without all that weight, yay.

this is a great piece to add to our wardrobe (yes, this is one i think we can share, haha).

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i could not resist casting on the scarf version with a few odd-ball skeins of the festivus 2.0 red gradients—i am adding rows here and there whenever i need a mindless project (like during a meeting or when i’m too tired to do something challenging).

we are doing very well in our scholarship fundraising—thanks to you all! last tuesday, our scholarship number was over $1800 and tomorrow i will get an update from doug. we are hoping to meet and perhaps pass last year’s final number of $4000.00; let’s make it happen!

now that the pattern numbers are final and it’s available to everyone, including LYS sales, please let friends and family know that they can help a lot by purchasing a copy (if you purchased early, please re-download an updated copy with final photos, sizes, and yardage requirements before casting on).

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i finished up the coordinating cowl last tuesday, a little late to include in last week’s post. that night i soaked it, reshaped it and set it up for drying with anne marie’s handy-dandy roller method.

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two oatmeal boxes, a couple of paper towel rolls, or the tube from a roll of wrapping paper will set you up for a lifetime of ease in cowl blocking (a couple of pieces of PVC tubing will also work a treat and won’t succumb to dampness). just insert a length of tubing at each side of the cowl and roll every hour or so until dry—it speeds up drying like nobody’s business and creasing will be a thing of the past.

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don’t the gradients look nice knitted up? in real life, the color shift are so subtle that you can hardly locate them in the three lighter shades. but then obviously when the darkest shade bumps up against the brightest one, it’s there.

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you could arrange the shades differently of course—make an ombré by working from light to dark and back or go random and mix them up continually (that’s a great strategy if you have an uneven amount of leftover yardage from a scarf or wrap project)

this is the medium size (there is one smaller size and then a long size that you can double wrap); it weighs just 2.1 ounces—a little under 200 yards total. it took almost no time to knit.

i’m hoping we’ll have the pattern ready on tuesday evening in case you need a very last minute gift! and of course, the proceeds from this one through december 31 will also be added to the scholarship fund.

the gradient sets were shipped out last thursday evening—they are landing everywhere as we speak. erica does have a very small quantity of extra skeins to offer as sets or individually; if interested, please contact her (jeevesATknitspotDOTcom).

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i’m not making a lot of christmas gifts this year, but i did try a new crafty project that is working out well so far—lotion bars. i use a lot of these; my hands really suffer from dryness both winter (from the indoor heat) and summer (working hands syndrome from gardening and sink work).

buying them has been a bit hit or miss—sometimes they are so hard as to be unusable, sometimes the scent ends up being too perfumey for me. and the ones i especially love are expensive (natch) and too big to be portable.

my experiments with making my own wool soap made me curious about other DIY products and over the summer i poked around on the internet to see if lotion bars would be equally easy to make at home. and they are—for the price of a few bars of my favorites brands, i was able to buy supplies—including a few splurges for luxurious butters—to make several batches and in the smaller size i prefer. the recipe is ridiculously easy and the results are luscious; definitely a keeper.

so i’m making several batches to add to christmas gift packages—and learning to use scent judiciously, haha (i love scented hand lotion; it’s easy to go crazy, but i want these to be appealing). my only hangup is that i can’t find an inexpensive solution for containers; my favorite options require me to buy a case of like a thousand—a few more than i really need. i’m working on it, trying to think outside the box about boxes . . .

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i spent saturday in my kitchen to prepare some nice dishes to serve on sunday, when we hosted carrie and robbie from our ohio mill, spinners of our better breakfast, chebris and cabecou, ginny, and hempshaugh yarns.

it was nice to spend the afternoon chopping and cooking some of the last garden produce into a huge pot of black bean chile, mmm. it made enough to put several buckets in the freezer for meals later on, too.

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but i didn’t stop there—i felt like having a special dessert for once; we don’t really “do” desserts unless we’re having company, so this was my chance, haha.

chocolate pecan pie is one of david’s favorites and we hadn’t had it in a long, long time. i use a recipe from one of those old 1970s product-related cookbooks. thanks to the wonder of the internet, i found it easily to share with you—click here to view.

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and while my pie crust came out a little overly done this time (drat!), the overall result was really good. this recipe can be made into dessert bars as well; the filling is gooey, but not runny.

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remember my rather pathetic looking lace shawl project? i don’t blame you one iota if you’ve been thinking it is very much less than inspiring—it’s hard to love something so homely isn’t it?

well. . .

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how do you like it now? yep, it’s all done; can you believe that this came out of that??

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i couldn’t be happier or more surprised—it’s bigger, lacier, and prettier than i expected.

oh, the magic of blocking—how can anyone disagree?

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i can’t remember now what day i finished it up, but i blocked it pretty much right away because i was dying to see what i had inside that crumpled pile of stringy yarn.

speaking of the yarn—if i may say so, our cabécou brillant lace in the champagne shade, is nothing short of spectacular for lace; i love it so much.

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it can fool you at first, seemingly dull and lifeless, but hidden inside are sparkling threads of light, just waiting for our hands to work their sorcery.

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i really enjoyed knitting this too—it may have seemed to take a lot of time, but that’s because it was a prototype and i had to rip back and re-do a couple of times. i am all set to knit another, perhaps in the chebris lace this time (i’ve been dying to get that truffe shade on my needles since it first came in). i’ll most likely use a bigger needle with the heavier lace yarn . . .

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what i love about this shawl is how papery the textures make the yarn look, though it is soft as wisps of cloud. this piece weighs in at just 49 grams—less than half of a full-sized skein.

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it could be a gorgeous wedding shawl and then be worn every day to the office and worked into a rag-and-bone club outfit, too; all that fine stitching will never just sit in a drawer.

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this piece is another that we will be including in our january ENSEMBLE collection—to be released mid-january. we are stocking up on lace yarns especially for projects like this—are you excited?

and with that, i think i will leave you till later this week; we’ll have the cowl pattern to offer  in the next day or two, plus i have a few wonderful book releases to let you know about and probably some VERY last minute knitting; happy holiday prep!

don’t forget to share about the fundraiser patterns!!

oh, you knitters!

Monday, December 14th, 2015

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you deserve flowers, you wonderful people!
when i see doug tomorrow i’ll be getting some numbers and even though i don’t know what they are yet, i KNOW they will be great. our red scarf fundraiser is off to a rip-roaring success—thankyouthankyouthankyou!

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and here are a few roses for good measure; if i could reach through the screen to hug you, i would.

saturday was a good day—after a terrific morning run in nearly 70-degree weather, i met with my afternoon class (they are working through love me two times) and while they worked away on their hem patterns, we chatted and i nearly finished up my big slow dog noodle wrap. just the BO left when i got home.

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by the time i got to the end of my blog for friday, i was chomping at the bit to knit these reds, so i caked up the yarn. and since it was so late at night, i thought it wouldn’t hurt to just cast on for the cowl i had in my head—you know, while no one was looking.

but i swear, i did not touch it after that until the wrap was completed. saturday night was another story—i bound off that evening while chatting with my friend katharine and after that, i headed upstairs for a date with the TV and my delicious red cowl project.

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late as it was (well after midnight), i dove right in and before i knew it, i had completed a half repeat of the pattern, changing shades every four rounds. isn’t the gradient amazing?

i’m not trying to tease you—your skeins are being shipped imminently. lillian and mary have been packing the ones we have, erica and david are working on the shipping labels; as soon as the rest of our order is onsite they will be on their way to you—hopefully on wednesday.

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on sunday morning, i tried out the wrap on myself like a big fat scarf and discovered that i love it—waaaay more than i thought i would. i dunno, i guess i was worried that it was looking a little grannyish on the needles, but it’s so not true, once you get it on (i love me some dramatic striping). you could totally rock this out with a cool looking jūl clasp. i know that’s what we’re going to do . . .

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after playing with it a bit, i ran a hot soapy bath for it and put it on to soak. yesterday was pretty busy all day, so i didn’t get to block it, but i changed the wash water for a second soak and then a rinse.

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one of the myriad wonderful things about natural shades is that you can soak them to fit your schedule, even if that’s a long time—they just get better and better). afterward, the fiber fairly glowed, mmm.

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anyone who fears that blocking will somehow ruin the depth of the stitch pattern is just wrong—if anything it makes it better, because clean, bouncy fiber offers much more highlight and stitch definition.

do you want to see the money shot now? of course you do and you deserve it, you wonderful knitters, you (sorry about the miserable light; it was a typically dark and overcast NE ohio day today).

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look at that—seventy six inches of bouncy, delicious wool, just waiting to wrap its arms around you. MWAH!

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remember how i was getting a little concerned about the dimensions, thinking it was going to grow all out of proportion? it didn’t; it’s a few inches bigger than the pattern estimates, but very much in the ballpark at nineteen inches wide; a great size for a cozy wrap. and because it’s knit on size 9US (5.5 mm) needles, the fabric is light and airy—not overwhelming. it can be bunched up into a scarf or draped around the shoulders.

i’m almost curious enough to knit a scarf . . . but i’m reining myself in because i have a very full knitting schedule for the next forever.

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instead, i’m satisfying myself with this cowl knit—quick and fun and fits in between all the sunday and monday tasks on my list. yesterday morning i added a second repeat while i sipped my coffee and listened to a book for an hour.

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i tried to get an accurate picture of the colors but as you can see it’s a little hard to pin down; it doesn’t happen just cuz i want it to, haha.

i had a lot on my agenda for yesterday and after working on a pattern most of the morning, i got outside to run (the weather is just too good to pass on it these days) and after a little more work at my desk, i went biking with david til dark.

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after a quick supper it was time to make soup—we eat a lot of soup in winter and since we are still picking hardy greens from our garden, i’ve been making large pots of it to put up in the freezer for later in the winter.

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last weekend i used our leeks, celeriac, and potatoes to make potato soup

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and while i was chopping those ingredients i chopped a little extra, then added a few other veggies to run a second pot with vegetable soup (david’s favorite).

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this weekend i started a pot with this colorful mirepoix and added hardy greens and beans to make ribollita, one of my very favorites.

i like the ribollita recipe from the rogers and gray italian country kitchen cookbook, but i’m sure there are as many wonderful recipes as there are great italian cooks. it’s a classic peasant soup that is intended to take advantage of what you have on hand—including leftover soup from the previous day, so the recipe is pretty much lawless. the only thing i would say is to make it far enough ahead to let the flavors meld for a few hours before serving.

this time, it came out so good. oh man, i wish you were all here to share it (it’s even better the next day). fortunately i made the biggest pot possible with the cookware i have and there was enough to eat a couple of times this week, with plenty to spare for the freezer.

another good end to a good day.

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in between all that other stuff, i’ve been steadily adding repeats to my lacy physalis shawl. i love how it’s working out; i was able to figure out a formula to do the short rows in an openwork mesh pattern so that you really have to just repeat four rows over and over. it’s one of those patterns that’s impossible to chart with the stitches aligned as they are in the work, so you have to trust the pattern (you can see that i’ve thrown in a lifeline, just in case that didn’t work and i had to go to plan B).

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but it definitely works and mine is growing. i think it will be nice if i add an option to the pattern for working the short rows in garter stitch however—for those that prefer it plain or don’t feel like a challenge. but honestly, if you are up for knitting something a little difficult that will sorta blow your mind, the solution to this is a beautiful thing and very satisfying.

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i keep showing photos of it looking awfully crumpled and well, not so pretty. because later when it’s blocked, it’s going to change a lot—it might even freak us out a bit. i think i can finish this up tonight so that when i unpin the wrap i can block out this lace—and then you’ll see what i’m talking about.

oops, david just let me know that supper is ready—ribollita and then cowl finishing and then lace knitting, here i come.

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just four rounds to go now til it’s done and this is the best photo of the colors yet!