Archive for the ‘food and garden’ Category

summer fine

Monday, July 28th, 2014

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though it’s been mostly chilly and rainy over the last few days, i did manage to get this sunny photo during a rare break in the clouds.

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as i stepped out the back door on my way to the store the other day, this little butterfly was so intent on exploring the marigolds that it allowed me to get really close up to take some pictures.

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i hovered above, snapping every few seconds until i got the money shot for you (it didn’t take long).

the garden is just buzzing with butterfly and bee activity these days. our neighbors got a hive in the spring and we are visited by their honey bees as well as a host of bumblebees, wasps, and other types.

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the result being plenty of good eating for us. i just collect produce daily until i have enough to make something and then spend some time in the kitchen on rainy days cooking it up (more on that later).

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i was kind of tied up with other matters on friday, when we opened our little retail space to customers for the first time. i ran over in the morning to “check in” and sarah put me right to work figuring out a solution for displaying our buttons more prettily, haha.

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and of course after that, it was one thing after another, tidying up this corner and that, trying our different ways to display samples and merchandise. sarah concentrated on getting all the structural pieces in place first and now we’re working on warming things up with loads of luscious samples. it’s a work in progress, so to speak.

during our first weekend, we enjoyed visits from friends who drove in from an hour or more away, as well as some who live more locally. it was a lot of fun to chat with everyone who stopped by. we’re really excited to begin having classes and yarn tastings soon.

all of this evolved so quickly that we’ve barely had a moment to really plan how it would look; one minute there was a beehive buzzing in the first floor of our house and then next thing we knew, we had an offsite space for it. and then the possibility of making a shop presented itself—well, it’s been a whirlwind month, alright. we’re pulling our look together as quickly as we can . . .

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next weekend we’ll be open during the same hours—please stop in if you are in the neighborhood for any of the hall of fame events. we are just a block or two off the grand parade route on saturday morning and only a few blocks from the hall of fame itself—come on over and say hello!

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this weekend we were also excited to be sponsoring a running event here in town! the hands for hope run was a benefit to support TIQVAH, an after school program here in canton that provides students with new learning experiences, a place to do homework, and support for making positive choices as well as healthy snacks and meals before heading home at the end of the day.

i was SO excited to run in this event and wear the shirt with the knitspot logo, but as luck would have it, i developed a bit of tendonitis in my ankle on thursday that took me down. i had to be content with cheering everyone on at the start line, pout.

i also had to sit out the pigskin run on sunday morning, a hall of fame race. thankfully though, my ankle seems to be benefitting from the rest; it feels LOT better already and i’m thinking that tomorrow morning i should be able to go walking on it, weather permitting. if that goes well, then i’ll try some easy running on wednesday, or a run/walk pattern. i don’t want to take any chances; i have a couple of big races coming up later in august and september that i definitely don’t want to miss.

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late last week i finally got my new pedal pusher cardigan into the wash for a good wet blocking.

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wow did that go nicely! the sweater blocked out perfectly to the exact size it was meant to be, both in width and length.

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and the fabric looks awesome—knit in our 100 percent corriedale confection worsted—i can’t get over how consistent and smooth it is.

and with hardly any encouragement either; i washed it in the machine on the hand wash cycle in a mesh bag, then just shook it out and laid it flat, smoothing here and there.

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this is what a beautifully balanced yarn will do for you.

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i was a little behind on getting the pockets knit up, so once i had them done, i soaked them separately in a bowl of soapy water and pinned them flat to dry on my pressing bench.

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once i figured out where i wanted them placed, i stitched one on during my class this afternoon (i still need to steam it) and will do the other on wednesday night, i think.

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i love how it looks with the pockets applied and they’ll be so useful. they totally turn this cardigan into a jacket i can run around in for a good part of the late fall and winter. with a great scarf or shawlette at the neck and a slouchy cap?? so much more comfortable than a big coat, especially in the car . . .

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doesn’t it look great form the back? the fabric has such nice drape; the consistency really shines in this view.

and i used just a little more that four skeins of yarn. while technically it’s a worsted weight, which sounds heavy, the springiness of the fiber makes an airy yarn that goes a long way and produces a garment that is light and very breathable to wear.

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now i just have to decide on the buttons. i’m down to two options—these cedar ones that i love, but which might be too big and a bit rough for the buttonholes. or some bone ones that are kind of a marbly greenish gray.

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i’m kind of leaning towards these because they’re so smooth and then also, you know how i love the hand-me-down-from-grampa look.

i decided to give it some thought while i worked in the kitchen this weekend.

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there was a lot to do—on the one hand, i had a sink full of vegetables which i wanted to turn into a pot of ratatouille.

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and on the other hand, a tidal wave of green beans to square away (these are all from a four or five foot run of climbing beans that matured in just the last few days).

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when i woke up yesterday morning to the sound of rain steadily drumming on the roof, i knew it was the perfect day to spend in the kitchen, starting with the vegetable stew. i cut up each selection into nice chunks and sautéed each one separately before adding to a pot of simmering tomatoes

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from eggplant to peppers to onions and squash, the dish progressed until it was a full pot of deliciousness that just needed some seasoning and fresh basil added. mmm.

while that simmered, i put a big pot of water on for blanching the beans and got to work taking the tops off. thank goodness for audiobooks when a tedious task is at hand, right?

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before long they were all cleaned and ready to go and once you get to that point, the rest is but a few minutes work getting them blanched and into and ice bath afterward. i ended up with three bags of plain beans and two cartons of green beans in sauce for the freezer, plus one carton of green beans in a vinaigrette for our dinner that night.

which we also ate with our little harvest of green peas. i had planted just a few feet of pea vines to see if they would grow undisturbed by rabbits. squirrels, or birds. lo and behold, they did. we only harvested one meal’s worth, but next time i’ll do more.

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tonight we’ll eat that ratatouille with some cod fish and another night, we’ll eat some with pasta. about half the pot was divided into two containers for the freezer; in january we’ll eat that and pretend it’s july again, hehe.

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i have more blog fodder, including the results of testing the sport weight confection yarn, but i think i’ll save that  for the next post. i don’t want to get boring on you . . .

good folks, good music, good eats

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

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look at this nice little haul from our garden. it’s so great to be in that season where i can go out with my colander and fill it with a variety of things for dinner. we’ve got squash, eggplant, a few okra, a couple tomatoes, a handful of peas, and some green beans—plus thai basil and a sheath of swiss chard.

i added a large onion, some shitake mushrooms, and a block of tofu and we had the perfect combination of things for a thai curry. which we cooked and ate last night, mmm-mm. how can you not have energy when you eat this way? i’m super excited to be cooking from our garden once again.

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the other day, we had a visitor—our friend hunter hammersen, author of the knitter’s curiosity cabinet books, among others and a dear sweet colleague. she was down from cleveland to do some research for her new book project and we got to have lunch while she was here. which gave us time to talk for a few hours, which was wonderful.

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her timing was perfect—we had just received a box of samples from the mill for our confection sport yarn, so i was anxious to show them to her. we had planned to have the sport version of our 3-ply corriedale confection worsted spun to about the same specifications—basically, the same yarn in a thinner diameter.

but then the mill thought the sport version might need some adjusting—maybe even a big adjustment to a 2-ply construction. i wasn’t so sure about that; i felt the two yarn weights should match in appearance and performance (and it turns out that every knitter i present the dilemma to agrees—don’t play around with the number of plies).

but i was willing to entertain the idea, so we got some samples spun.

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now the 2-ply is squishier and airier; we particularly like the one on the right, which is spun a bit tighter. but wow, the difference in texture is a problem for me. plus, a 2-ply has several other traits that will make it perform differently from the 3-ply.

then there were three samples of 3-ply yarn, each spun  little more loosely to offset some of the stiffness that the miller felt was problematic.

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the original yarn (top) with the three variations. truthfully, we all like the original yarn most and maybe the one spun just a tad looser. thanks to its lincoln lineage, corriedale fiber is a bit stiffer than say, pure merino, but that crispness provides incredible stitch definition and sheen, plus a sturdiness that merino on its own cannot offer. it still has lots of bounce; when knit on larger needles, it makes a lovely, soft fabric.

below, a swatch knit with the original 3-ply sample.

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it’s been a really busy week, so i haven’t had time to swatch the best three or four of the samples, but that’s on my agenda for tomorrow. i’m pretty sure thought that we will either stick to the original 3 ply construction or go with the next looser version.

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we showed hunter our new office and retails space, which is shaping up nicely—we are planning to be open for sales by friday, when activities are launched city-wide for hall of fame week and the enshrinement festival. we are located just blocks away from the football hall of fame, so if you are in town with a fan, please come by to say hello.

we’ll post lots more information about our opening as the week progresses . . . including contact information, hours, and any other pertinent news.

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speaking of confection, now that my monthly club patterns are published and the purple club launched, i have finished my pedal pusher cardigan prototype and i love it.

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it still needs to be blocked but i’m waiting til all my ends are tucked in (working on that now)

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and my underarm seams are sewn up (i have one done and one to go). i’ve been squaring away the finishing work during the late night hours while we watch each daily installment of the tour de france.

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my pockets are knit up but i won’t sew them on til after the sweater is blocked. since i knit the sweater all in one piece, it will be kind of hard to steam block the individual parts, so i’ll probably just steam the seams and then wet block the whole garment. once the pockets are sewn on, i’ll steam them as a finishing step. so exciting; i always love completing a new sweater, no matter what the weather (though it happens we are having a string of very cool nights).

now i just have to figure out what buttons i want to use; sarah has a whole bunch of my buttons somewhere in her sample stuff, so i have to wait til monday before finalizing that step.

i’m working on the pattern and should be able to send that to the tech editor before too long, yay.

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i’ve also been working on my cotton empreinte a little at a time, during classes and while chatting on the phone. in fact, after i finish this post, i’m calling my mom, so i’ll work on it while we talk. it’s really turning out lovely; i know i’m going to love it.

now that david’s cap is done, i need to begin a new one; i was thinking that i’d knit up the bocce cap from last winter in one of the cotton yarns next, giving me a good excuse to finally release that pattern.

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the other night we went to a wonderful party at our neighbor’s home to celebrate their retirements and the completion of some projects around their home. bruce is part of a bluegrass group so anytime they have a get-together, entertainment is on hand. i just love this photo of the group, haha; they are so much fun.

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and even more so when the women join in.

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david and i enjoyed chatting with our neighbors, and listening to music (this is him smiling)

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i worked on my oculus scarf until it got too dark. i got two more repeats done so that wasn’t bad.

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it’s such wonderfully lush piece, but incredibly light. the sweet georgia silk mohair that i’m knitting with is just gorgeous.

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norma had the yard strung with colorful lights and had set up a memory tree that we could add to by making an ornament with a favorite memory written on it.

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today i got up early to do a few things in the kitchen and then set out for my long sunday run. i’m training for a couple of half marathons that are coming up in august and september. i always do a  long run on sunday, but between may and july, i didn’t do any runs longer than ten miles. so i’ve been working on increasing and today i finally hit the thirteen mile mark again. i went a little faster than i probably should have, but it felt good.

i’m pretty sure i’m going to be feeling that tomorrow, hehe.

well, time to talk to my mom now; have a good monday. i’ll be back with more in a few days.

Purple is in Full Bloom

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

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Lately, it seems like purple is everywhere. This weekend I passed field after field of potato plants

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sprouting purple flowers.

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My dad arrived from the farmers market with this lovely bouquet in tow

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and I couldn’t get over the range of purples. Lavendar is in full bloom everywhere and I can’t pass a plant without rubbing a sprig between my fingers. It is my favorite smell and one of my favorite colors.

Did any of you see this on 4th of July?

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We had purple bursts in the fireworks display in Birmingham!

I have always said green is my favorite color, but purple runs a close second. I think because it comes in so many varying shades between red and blue. This proves true in the plants in full bloom  at the Detroit Zoo

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Since I have purple on the brain, I can’t help but take photos of the purple coming at me. In the cafe at Meijer Gardens, there is an amazing glass installation by Dale Chihuly.

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The ceiling is covered in glass pieces that range in all the colors of the rainbow, but of course we happened to sit below the purple section.

The other day when Matt and I were running errands in Detroit we passed this

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and this

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and he exclaimed, “look at all that purple!” Now I have him noticing things he never did before and the colors used. It’s like we’ve been on an I Spy game for weeks.

I’m sure that some of you remember the purple potatoes I posted a few weeks ago,

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but I forgot to mention that all my groceries were bagged like this!

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Purple is everywhere and I couldn’t be more excited that today is the release of the FIRST pattern for the FIRST knitting club shipment of Passion. Anne’s club all about purple couldn’t have better timing. Purple is the Pantone color of the year and I can’t wait to see the journey Anne is going to take us on throughout the months of the club.

The first pattern was released today and while I was writing this post, Robert the mailman brought my first squishy package.

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I won’t leak any spoilers, but OMG am I excited about the pattern and photo shoot Anne did for this project. Amazing! You can see spoiler pics of the pattern on Anne’s ravelry designer page here (look for Passion Spoiler 2014 as the cover photos).

The yarns for this club were meticulously chosen from small business owners with a passion for quality yarn and beautiful color. They are amazing! There are a few memberships left and you can read more about it here or join right now here.

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We’ll get your package right out so you can cast on with the rest of us. The Knitspot in Full Color ravelry group is BUZZING right now. Catch the fever and get your purple on here!

exquisite

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

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after all that chatting and running on i did the other day, i totally forgot to update you on the garden. i know how everyone loves to see what’s growing in our yard.

well obviously from the photos, it’s time for hydrangeas to populate their globes with little blooms; how i love them in every stage.

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first i think the entirely green ones are my very favorite and then they explode into blue-lavender worlds and i think, WOW. just wow.

and then, just when i thought i was sick and tired of pink forever, they transition again and voilà!

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i am shown to be glaringly wrong.

this year our hydrangea shrubs are the greenest green, healthy and lush and abundant, but mostly lacking in flowers. each shrub has just one bloom—but what a bloom it is.

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in each case almost vulgar in size and perfectness.

i don’t know what happened to the rest of the blooms but i gotta tell you, the ones we have are so spectacular, i don’t even care about the ones we didn’t get.

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in fact, the whole garden is in vivid bloom right now, from lilies to green beans, so let me take you on a tour.

first i’ve got photos of the vegetable patch from each of the last three sundays, to compare with previous photos taken on june 19th, less than a month ago

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first, when everything was still pretty new, before i left for denver.

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then what it looked like upon my return last sunday—we had a lot of rain and cool weather when i was gone but the squash, peppers, and eggplant all had vegetables big enough to pick.

 

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and finally, yesterday; it got hot near the end of last week and the soil was quite a bit more dry. but look at how those marigolds to the left have bloomed out

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they are tall and covered with flowers to stand guard over the squash and greens nearby.  we’ve eaten several meals so far that include squash—we pick them at a very small size to eat when they are tender and delicate tasting. today i even had enough to share with friends.

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speaking of which, the last squash in the row has climbed up into the barrel where i put one of the tomato plants and is using the tomato as a trellis to climb further (the neighbor’s bees love our garden patch).

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everything over there is starting to grow into an inseparable tangle; i love it.

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these nasturtiums have the prettiest blue-green leaves and bright red flowers, wow.

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lavender in a pot at the corner to rub between my fingers whenever i pass by.

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while most of the garden looks just beautiful, thanks to david’s careful tending, my chard patch is in dire need of thinning and weeding. i keep thinking i’ll have time to do it “tomorrow” but that extra time just never materializes.

vegetables have the w=sweetest flowers—so delicate they last only hours; a day if we’re lucky.

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at the back, the green beans are climbing vigorously up the wire fence and putting out white and purple flowers. at their feet, the bush beans are doing the same and when i peek underneath their broad leaves to take a photo

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what do i see but the tenderest of little string beans. in a day or two these will probably be on our plates at dinner, mmm.

the potatoes and carrots populating the remaining back area are starting to take over in a lush jungle of vines and feathery tops. i love when everything fills in like this because it really cuts down on the number of weeds that can grow.

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moving toward the front, we see my favorite row of the garden—i love the mix of green (radishes, eggplant), purple (asian eggplant) and gold/brown (marigolds) all in one row. the only thing that could make this better is if the parsnips i planted alongside had germinated, haha.

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back up front i see a welcome sight—a pair of nearly ripe early tomatoes. another thing that will be on our dinner plates in a couple of days (i will let them ripen completely on the vine for maximum flavor).

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circling around to the front of the house, we are in the middle of lily season. besides a proliferation of day lilies, we have a wide assortment of asiatic lilies with their extravagant flowers and scents.

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showy stargazers seem pinker than ever (i feel like they were a lot more white in other years)

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and the fuchsia gifted to us by our friend anne marie is thriving under the eves of the front porch.

for now, just keeping the status quo is reward enough, with all that we’ve got on our plates at the moment.

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the new work/retail space is coming along nicely; david has finished painting and has begun moving yarn and equipment from the existing office.

on saturday afternoon, he and i took a trip to pittsburgh to procure shop furnishings. we were going to order them online and have them delivered but when we discovered how long that would take, david said we should go pick it up in person. i was a bit dubious about fitting it all in our little car, but he thought we should try. erica betz just laughed and laughed as we drove away . . .

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i panicked all the way through the store and mentioned several times that we could still back out, but david kept saying we should try.

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i was heartened a bit when we got back out to the parking lot to see a possible plan B in the distance. i texted erica betz with a photo of our haul and she was still laughing.

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david started loading the car; i swear he must have emailed someone to ask the exact dimensions of the boxes because the length fit exactly.

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and before i knew it, so did everything else. there wasn’t a sliver of space left for sunlight to penetrate and we had to leave the hatchback partly open with bungie cords to hold it, but it was all inside the car anyway.

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on the way to and fro, i knit on david’s hat and by the time we got home, it was done except for weaving in the ends, which i did this morning.

the pattern is proofed and ready to go as soon as we can get some nice photos (hopefully tomorrow!)

yesterday was sunday, which means a long morning run for me. i wish i had gotten out earlier, but i go to bed too late to be up at dawn. i need to train for some upcoming long races, but still nursing an overly tight hip muscle, so i have to be careful. it’s slowly getting back to normal and this weekend i did my longest run in a while with good results.

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we were having friends over for dinner (i love using our new kitchen and living space for this purpose!) so when i got home and showered, i got to work on baking a pie. while i’ve been pretty happy with the gluten free crusts based on my own pastry recipe, i’ve been so happy with the results from the america’s test kitchen gluten free cookbook that i tried their recipe this time.

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first i made the filling—black and blue berry—using a standard filling recipe with a bit of thickener, sugar, lemon juice and orange peel.

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i made sure ahead of time that i had all the ingredients listed for the dough, though i did substitute their second favorite flour for the blend they recommend (i will make that at a future date). it was a very hot and muggy afternoon which made for some gooey dough, but i managed to get it in the pan with a fluted crust without losing my enthusiasm for the project, haha.

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they don’t actually list a crumb topping for pie in the book so i tried their apple crisp topping

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which is made from a blend of toasted oats and nuts ground to a flour along with gluten free flour, butter and sugar. it was really tasty, perfect for apple crisp alright, though more crunchy than i prefer for pie. i’ll have to find another crumb top to use; maybe there’s a crumb cake topping i can use . . .

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anyway the pie turned out lovely, didn’t it?

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mark just lit up with delight when he saw it, haha (sorry, i couldn’t resist that photo).

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the filling ran a bit because it was still warm, but it set up wonderfully once it was cool. next time i’ll remember to start earlier . . . these leftovers were much appreciated at knitting class this afternoon.

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and speaking of this afternoon, today it was back to work for all of us. the first USA shipment of our purple club went to the post office this afternoon—that’s a lotta packages, right? tomorrow we are doing the photo shoot with the projects and on thursday, the patterns will be ready to download. i don’t know who’s more excited, us or our clubbies.

we are just about sold out for this club but we do have a few spots left; you can still get in on the fun if you act now.

being monday, sarah was moving a bit slow today—that is until larry, our beloved UPS guy pulled up with a double shipment of yarn.

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first, boxes of cotton to restock our online store; if there’s a color you’ve been waiting on, emily and erica will have it restocked by tomorrow afternoon.

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there are also a few new goodies in this batch—a chunky, super soft textured cotton yarn that will be delicious for simple cowls, scarves, and hats.

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i’ll let sarah tell you all about that in her ravelry cotton KAL when she opens some of the packages.

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and as if that weren’t enough goodness for one day, there were several MORE boxes of new yarn from another direction entirely—this time the fingering weight of our newest addition to the stone soup family, in travertine. this is the first brown we are adding to the stone soup line; we’re hoping to do a couple of shades in this more golden brown. isn’t it lovely? the caramel and white speckles just knock my socks off.

today our friend bil came over to put all the shop furniture together (bil likes to put ikea furniture together). i think we’ll be ready very soon to do an unveiling. so sit tight and we’ll be back with you in a few days; happy week ahead!

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