Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring progress

Perhaps springtime is now... The star magnolia has just started to bloom and it's fragrance is heavenly. The hyacinths and daffodils are also starting to open. Yesterday was a cold 45F/7C and a bit gloomy but today was a sunny, encouraging 65F/18C. The yellow climbing rose is now pruned and attached to a new PVC trellis. I am considering changing the plantings in the part shade/sun island in front of the porch. This area has become a haphazard accumulation of random homeless plants and I need to determine a focus point for our front entryway area.  A lot of seasonal yard chores are beginning to weigh on me, especially the raking and trimming; I've got to remember "baby steps" will get it all done. Although, I do occasionally dream of having a yard crew at my beck & call, just for a few days... everything would get done much more promptly.

Spring knitting has been in hand regularly, the "Frankenstein" sock #1 is completed and fits well. The second sock is about three inches of potential. A friend asked me how long it took me to knit a sock and I had to admit I didn't know, so I'm timing "Frankenstein" sock #2. At my current rate, it seems I'm knitting about an inch an hour! Well, a fast knitter I am not... Also, I'm easily distracted but it will be interesting to give a time frame to this project; more baby steps.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Feeding asparagus

Today is chillier than the last few days at 39F/4C, but the predicted snow is less than a 30% probability (yay!) and thunderstorms are predicted for the end of the week. It's just one of those cold, windless March days with steely gray skies. Definitely a hot tea and toast day, while wearing a cozy sweater but I'm almost obsessed with making forward project motion daily. So, I try to get at least two necessary but extraneous chores done outside the usual norm of meals & general tidying.

Looking innocent so far...
Those couple of 40lb. sacks of a cow manure/compost mix I purchased this weekend were calling my name so I decided to get outside an spread the sh*t around the asparagus bed. I pulled the leaf and grass clutter back and dumped both bags into the bed. Emma beagle loves to dig in loose dirt, so I laid some protective fencing over the top. Hopefully, she will be digging in other parts of the yard, but precautions are indicated given her previous diggings. See Emma's prior dig here So far this year, she's completed an exhaustive dig under my ancient lavender bush... I'm hoping she hasn't killed it, because when I finally caught her, the hole beneath the lavender was 2x2 feet and she was yanking some of the roots out with her jaws!

On a different note, I made some delicious ratatouille yesterday from a recipe I found in Molly Wizenberg's book, A Homemade Life. I have been hooked on eggplant for some reason this year and besides thinking they look beautiful, I have been trying to find family palatable recipes. No one here has ever been an eggplant fan given that the vegetable tends to have a funky, sponge texture when we've tried it before but Ms. Wizenberg's recipe advises roasting the olive oil brushed, cut rounds of eggplant in a 400' oven before adding it to the ratatouille. Oh my gosh YUM! She also suggests serving the ratatouille over boiled Yukon Gold Potatoes, which I instead microwaved, cut in half, fork mashed and ladled on a serving of ratatouille. Simply divine! A wonderfully filling vegetarian meal with summer bright flavors, perfect for this gray time of year. You can see Molly Wizenberg's fantastic recipes here and follow her blog as well. Tonight we will have leftover ratatouille over potatoes and some grilled sausage. I love leftovers, gives me more time to knit...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A new Trellis

Today was a clear sunny, but cool day; perfect for a few yard chores. The large Queen Elizabeth climbing rose at the front of the house had definitely outgrown its current trellis by last Fall. After my knee injury, I was only able to secure it, to prevent winter wind damage, by tying the rose to the outgrown frame with nylon cord. The tallest stems were curled under the house eaves a good fourteen feet from the ground! I searched the garden stores, but none of the pre-made trellises were close to the height I needed. I had seen a simple trellis frame on Pinterest made from PVC pipe and plastic lattice, so the plan was to create one of my own.

The rose canes have started to produce 1/4 inch shoots so I pruned back the main canes about five feet. I also thinned out all the fussy little branches and crossing canes. It might be a bit early for such drastic pruning but I'm hoping for a frost/snow free advance to Spring. There is also a mass planting of daylillies at the base of this rose whose shoots are already two inches tall, so I figured it was less damaging for me to smoosh them with a ladder now rather than later.

My son Jim did the handy work with the power drill and screwed the lattice onto the two ten foot PVC pipes. It was less than a half hour job using several clamps to hold the pieces together while they were drilled then screwed. We hammered two pieces of 48" rebar into the ground then slipped the trellis behind the rose and over the rebar. We had previously installed O-screws into the house siding to anchor the old trellis and just reused them for the new improved trellis. This time we had the excellent idea to attach the trellis with zip-ties and decided we could affix the rose canes with zip-ties too. Nifty! Altogether a very successful & easy garden project, the first for this year.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Equinox

I would like to believe Spring is here but... this is Missouri and any weather can happen. Today is a sunny and very breezy day with temps 68F/20C, so I was sitting on the back steps happily knitting on the "Frankenstein sock" when a ladybug landed on my size 2 knitting needle. Well, if that isn't a sign of Spring I don't know what is... Val got a quick phone shot before my little harbinger flew away.

Being that today is also the Spring Equinox, we celebrated with a plate of fresh, steamed asparagus for lunch. It was terrifically cheap, less than a dollar a pound, at my local market. Steamed asparagus is my Spring tonic and I annually go completely overboard eating it. The small patch in our backyard is nowhere near ready to produce and I still have to throw some manure on it. So many chores to make up for that were missed last Fall! The local Mounted Police have their stable nearby and I will either haul my trog up there and shovel my own load of manure or purchase a bag or two of the processed stuff. As long as I get the manure on the asparagus patch before the heavy Spring rains, the asparagus roots should be alright.

Of course, I have been taking lots of yard and garden tours, marveling at every new shoot and worrying about those overwintered plants that are still a bunch of crispy brown leaves; like my Brunnera macrophylla blue, and the other Brunnera with the common name "Jack Frost." Since winter was exceptionally brutal this year I am hesitant to remove all the leaf clutter yet, just in case we have a stray March/April snow storm. I take heart in the fact the crocus bulbs are just starting to bloom, meaning the season is still very early, so I'm enjoying whatever pops up.

The nights are still near 40F/4C and clear. We were out in the yard about 1AM this morning hoping to see the asteroid eclipse of the bright star Regulus, in the constellation Leo, to the right of the moon. Unfortunately, aside from appreciating the brisk night, I think we only saw maybe a blink of an eclipse of Regulus; Missouri not being in the prime viewing range. We definitely could see our breath though in the cold air and it's amazing how sound carries in the stillness of night. I thought I could hear our local deer munching in the darkness across the street.

Well, I'll take warm days and chilly nights any season. I love the warmy-cold feel, perfect for a sweater and some wooly socks. There's nothing quite as comforting as snuggling under a few warm blankets either, especially during our planetary shift into Spring.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Handy little headlamp

As a joke, my son gifted Val & I with headlamps a while ago. He said we would be able to knit during a tornado or a power outage. He likes the survival perspective, having lived through such circumstances at a college dormitory, where no one had a single flashlight. Val & I sort of rolled our eyes and thanked him for his gift but we had no idea how many amazing uses we would find for our new headlamps.

As you can see from the last posting, Val is using her headlamp for nighttime barbequing. We have also decided you can knit in bed using the headlamp, as long as you aren't too tired, not to mention read. Of course you wake up with a funny red spot on your forehead from the foam backing on the headlamp and possibly dead batteries, but really a small inconvenience.

There are tons of uses for this headlamp! Like finding stuff under the bed, looking into a dark auto engine (I don't know what we look for, but we always look under the hood before going to the garage), finding that single missing shoe in the bottom of the closet, for evening walks and camping trips, as well as navigating safely in a power outage.

 My headlamp currently lives in my knitting bag at my bedside, close at hand. The longer we have these little lamps the more uses we find for them. The hands free, well lit viewing is great and as an added bonus, the lamp part tilts to accommodate lighting needs at awkward angles. They cost about $13 and come with name brand batteries. Well worth the investment if you consider the cost of electricity utilized by that lamp you left on, all night, at your bedside...

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Headlamp on for nite cooking!
In an effort to capitalize on the lovely Spring-like weather, sunny and 70F/21C, today is our first barbeque of the year. Tonight we fired up the grill for some beer brats and roast veggies. I threw together our favorite summer potato salad and with a few adult beverages we had a lovely St. Patrick's weekend grill out. I splurged on six store bought festive green cupcakes and we called it a celebration.

It was such a pleasant low key day. I trundled around the gardens with my trog and shovel initially looking for bulb shoots, then, dug up about six iris plants that were growing too close to the house foundation. Yes, I know they should be transplanted in the Fall but knee surgery impacted my yard duties. Actually, I have moved iris plants in the Spring before and as long as it is early enough, meaning the shoots are less than 6" tall they transplant well, blooming normally.

Sunday we are anticipating rain, sleet and snow, of course. So no regrets about the early barbeque.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Demolition begins

A little sunshine definitely pumps up energy levels. We've had several 70-80 degree days with sun, which simply rejuvenates your whole world outlook.

I've taken a hammer and a pry bar to the tile in the half bathroom. Remember I smashed a hole in the sink? See tho old post here Yes, it has taken 3 months to start any progress but I've been saving, comparison pricing and getting some decorating ideas on Pinterest. I've decided on beadboard to replace the half tiled walls and for cost/simplicity sake I am going to use the prefab & primed 8'x4' sheets from the home improvement store. I'll call Handyman Todd to pull the infamous sink hole sink and the toilet, so we can get the wall covering up. Should be an interesting weekend.

Right now, I'm taking a break for pie, peach specifically as today is the unofficial, but not forgotten Pi Day (you know the math formula, 3.1415). I know, any excuse for deliciousness...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Another cuppa

As you may know by now, I like my cuppa tea. Nothing like a stout cup or two every morning to start the day. I have long dreamed of someday having an pipeline kitchen system from which I can get a fresh cuppa by just a turn of a wall spigot. Perfectly steeped and hot! But dreamworld aside, I almost have perfected such a system with my favorite morning tea mug and a formerly considered, tiny teapot.

I started going nuts over Boleslawiec Polish Pottery about three years ago when it started showing up at my local TJMaxx. The bubble mugs were thick and patterned in attractive hand stamped designs. It took a while to get matching pairs but eventually I did, as well as some wonderful bowls and a butter keeper. The tiny teapot was a birthday gift that lived in my cupboard until recently, because on occasion I just don't use my resources effectively. I had this "oh, cute little, impractical pretty teapot, you are not big enough for my morning slug of tea," thought process going.

Well, as it became harder to refresh after sleep due to this long, cold winter; I was definitely sipping two full bubble mugs (16 oz.capacity) to shake off hibernation mode, it dawned on me to use the tiny teapot. So instead of crankily waiting for my second boil up, I just filled the electric kettle full once and use a teabag each for the tiny teapot and a full bubble mug. I'd be munching my raisin toast at the table, slurping down the first mug o'tea and then, completely refill the mug with the tiny teapot! How perfect can you get?! Those Polish potters at Boleslawiec Pottery had this mastered, unfortunately, it took me a couple of years to figure this out. Well, duh, it's morning and I need my caffeine... Lovely stuff this pottery and now I'm no longer cranky waiting for the second cuppa to brew.


OH! What a beautiful day, it's 71F/21C! I am trying not to hope that Spring has started, in case we really do get the snow predicted for Wednesday, crushing my joyous spirit. This has been one dragging long winter, but today it didn't matter, I sat on the porch nearly sun blind & sweating with a knitting project in hand. Not a single green leaf in sight but ohh the warmth. I just had to go poking around the gardens looking for some signs of life, even a mere shoot giving the dream of Spring some proof. I found it! Some crocus spikes, up an inch under their leafy mulch. Wha--hoo! Doin' a little Springy dance here in the front yard...

Such a good mood day... I wore a sparkly turquoise shrug with capris and sandals, so I was making turquoise rainbows on the walls when the sun glinted off my sequins. Just happy, happy. The dogs were sunning themselves on the patio stones sans coats and we were all just grinning.The doors and some windows were opened with abandon and the furnace didn't run once. 

I have got sparkles on the mind. I don't usually knit with beaded yarns but I received this skein for Christmas and it was so cheerful and springy I had to start the accompanying shawlette pattern, even though my socks aren't done yet. The yarn is Tiara by Hikoo (kid mohair, wool, acrylic) in color #008 which is a soft yellow green with sequins and clear glass beads. The pattern is inside the label. I just received my new bamboo Addi size 11/40 inch (8mm/100cm) circular needle for this project from the online FiberWild site, . What a terrific bamboo needle! So smooth and the brass join between needle and cable is flawless, simply slick. This was the perfect knitting project to start today. I wish you could see the tiny sequins and beads more clearly, click on the picture to see if that shows them off better. Otherwise, definitely check this yarn out at your favorite yarn store. It is a bit pricey ($30), but one skein is all you need for the shawlette. So I'm off knitting & whistling a happy tune for this most glorious of days.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


With all the weather events, indoor hobbies are what keeps my mind happy and creative, otherwise I would be hibernating under the duvet. The knitting needles have been occupied with this year's Spring sock. Since this is my fourth pair of socks I decided to "knit on the edge" and cobble together my favorite parts from several different patterns. Instead of creating what sounds like a potential "Frankenstein" sock, I've ended up with a interesting project which I won't mind knitting two of; which of course, is the downside of knitting an un-fun sock pattern.

I found this free Cabled Sock pattern on Ravelry which is just what I had in mind. I did it a little shorter completing only six of the eight cables. For the heel flap I tried a new stitch a Reversed slip 1, Knit 1- Row 1(WS):  Purl across. Row 2 (RS):  *Slip 1 as if to purl, knit 1. Repeat from * across. For 24 rows ending on right side. I found that bit in a Coats & Clark, Learn How Book #170-D and edition dated 1975, but is also in Ann Budd's book, Getting Started Knitting Socks. I really liked this heel flap stitch because it creates a box pattern that lays out a handy one stitch per box framework when you pick up stitches, evenly now, for the gusset. I love the heel turn magic and use the Ann Budd directions. Then it's just endurance for me to knit down the instep and the ribbing pattern helps. I also prefer to harken back to the ancients of sock knitting when finishing off my toe, I use a gathered tip; a simple historic finish to the toe decrease. So far, my first sock is coming along nicely.

I also gifted a dog coat to my terrific vet, Dr. Anne. She has helped us through various health issues with our dogs and definitely deserves serious recognition. She has pound dogs too and her older dog needs a bit of cozy warm TLC. My initial pattern was a little "winging it" with fabric and doggie measurements. I've used corduroy and polar fleece for the outer shell with batting for warmth. This is my third dog coat, and it looks darn cute. I'm hoping her pup enjoys his new outfit. Here's to keeping warm, creative and colorful for this last bit of winter.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Living with wildlife

I guess meteorologists are no longer calling our repeated returns to frigid weather polar vortices. It's just a brutally cold winter. Cold for everyone and every thing... I never wondered about what squirrels did over the winter but with such cold temps and frequent snow, I know one resourceful squirrel decided to make the move into our house.

Yeah, at first it was a scrabbling in the ceiling as the squirrel tried exiting after his one warm night inside, then he tumbled down a far wall into the basement. We grabbed a broom to herd him out without success, and just wow! squirrels have no fear if they decide to attack. Our next strategy was to create a "path to paradise" using a trail of sunflower seeds up the basement stairs to the garage & freedom. Well, once fed, squirrel-zilla found his happy place in our basement ceiling with evening trips inside bedroom walls to nestle in comfy insulation. Nerves frayed and somewhat sleep deprived, I called Handyman Todd who gallantly supplied a live catch trap to snag the critter. Little did we know squirrel-zilla was also the Einstein of squirrel-dom.... Squirrel snacked on the peanut butter sandwich bait and got out before the trap door snapped down. It took two more days before "Einstein squirrel" got hungry enough to try the now WD-40 greased trap but we got him! Handyman Todd then relocated our squirrel. What a relief! I can honestly say rodents have been scratched from my cute list.

With the brutal cold we have been indoors a lot... Passing the time getting a head start on Spring cleaning (yes, the basement post squirrel), watching movies, and playing boardgames. We hauled out Star Wars Monopoly for a retro evening of truly fierce wheelin' & dealin' with my savvy older kids. Even a few childhood card games have resurfaced  as current favorites, Crazy Eights (see here for game info: eights ), rule around here and a pack of cards now permanently resides on the kitchen table. Knitting of course, has been in hand and I shall have an upcoming post highlighting the current project soon.