Rain Can’t Dampen My Spirits…

May 17, 2013

Although its difficult to do much of anything in the yard because its rather soggy, I know my trees and the new plants are drinking up this delicious rain.  Besides, look what I found in the mail box today!


Anything that isn’t a credit card or refinance offer is welcome, but nothing beats a package wrapped in brown paper. Its a real parcel right?

Okay, opening the brown paper wrapped package and finding out there are gift wrapped gifts in there beats them all :o)


But my birthday isn’t for another nine whole days! I guess I should wait huh? I put them under the Gift Tree:


(What?? I know its really a Christmas Tree, but it works – I can resist opening them while they are there)


If all else fails….

May 16, 2013

You have to be more than just a little crazy to garden in Oklahoma; the only thing you can predict here is that the weather will be unpredictable. But since my glass is usually half full, I’m loving our rain, and mild temperatures and I feel so sure that I’m going to have lots of fruit & veggies, and this time, my mailbox flowerbed will last more than one season.

I went to check on the mailbox flowerbed – I just wanted to see if there were puddles after the showers because I don’t want my new plants to drown. Look what I found….


International Mail!! Don’t you just love when you find something in the mailbox, and you know right away it isn’t junk mail or a bill? I turn the envelope over and over – checking out the foreign stamp, and wondering how many places and hands it passed through on its way to me. Finally, I get to the kitchen table, fix a quick mug of tea (not quite enough patience to brew a pot) and sit down to open my surprise.


Yeay! Cress seeds!! All the way from Sweden. Now I can grow something on my windowsill and if the weather turns against me outside, I’ll still have a lush green patch indoors…. and I shall have the finest egg salad sandwiches ever :o)

Fruits of Our Labour

May 15, 2013

I got a good workout carrying a watering can full of a solution with feed & bug protection to each of the nut & fruit trees at the bottom of our yard. This stuff is expensive, but I used it on the peaches last year and they did much better despite the drought. I’m late with the treatment but no choice since I’ve been recovering from a shoulder surgery. In fact, I think this is the first time this year I’ve walked all the way out here and inspected our little orchard.

All three apple trees have teensy fruit on them:

Apple in May

But there’s only a few treasures on one of the two peach trees:

Peach in May

The largest pecans have tassel-like flowers – are they flowers? I don’t know. I’m hoping that these will give us some nuts at last. We planted the pecans as 12″ twigs about 12 years ago, and babied them as best we could; I’d like to see some fruit from our labour……

Pecan in May

I Must Have Been Gone a Long Time….

May 14, 2013

because my garden is sooo overgrown and kind of broken. Well, after getting very busy, an ice storm or two, and the drought, and the heat and the drought and the heat. I must be crazy to try to garden again, and even crazier to try to make enough time to keep track of things here. Enough waffle, here’s what I did at the weekend:

Cleared out an area around the mailbox. Its roughly 250′ from the house so its a challenge to water, but I want a cheerful welcome when I come home and go get the mail. Besides, the mail box is kind of fugly so maybe a few flowers will distract attention from it.  Here’s my bare dirt and the first plants:

Mailbox Bed 052013

I have Indian Feather (pink), Lantana (pink/yellow), Mexican Marigold (yellow), Achillea (yellow), and Russian Sage (purple).  I added three bags of purchased dirt plus a wheelbarrow full of my own compost and now I’m laying out a soaker hose. (Wish me luck!)


Mystery Mitts KAL – 2nd Clue

January 23, 2011

Posting one clue at a time for a mystery knit is fun!

I didn’t realize that splitting up a pattern would basically necessitate retesting each portion – it’s easy to inadvertently change or overlook a detail in the process of breaking up the instructions for each clue, so the original pattern testing doesn’t guarantee accurate instructions.  No major hiccups, just a lesson learned in tracking versions of a document.

Now the second clue has been published to Ravelry FGF Group, we can post our pictures of completed clue 1:


I’m loving the shades of green in this yarn, and I’m almost regretting not saving it for socks since the yarn has a delightful, firm and springy quality that would feel marvelous on the soles. Maybe I’ll have enough left over for a pair of short socks or slippers.


My cotton gloves are soooo pretty! I find it interesting that the stripes start with a knit row, yet appear to be just a purled row. If the first row were not knit in the contrast colour, the purled bumps would have been half white/half pink. Unfortunately, purling the second row means the technique to avoid “jogs” in circular stripes (lifting the stitch from the row below and knit with the first stitch when working the second round) doesn’t work. I plan to use duplicate stitch when sewing in my tail-ends to neaten up if necessary.

The second clue focuses on the thumb gusset. The increase stitches for thumb gussets are important. It doesn’t matter if you substitute your preferred method, but you should choose an increase that can be worked in mirrored pairs if you want to create a balanced “V” shape. You should also consider whether holes in or under the increased stitches are desirable. Although Mystique has small and large eyelets, I did not plan to have holes in the thumb shaping, so I chose lifted increases. Lifted increases can be worked right-leaning or left-leaning, and they do not make holes.

Lifted increases are easy-peasy but most things knit are easier when you’ve seen someone else do it. I’m posting a video here because all of the great tutorials I normaly refer to are either a little blurry, or they demonstrate the left-leaning increase incorrectly. I only have a wee, little, basic camera so I hope this little video (my first!) is good enough to be helpful.

You may download the pattern here:Chris Abbott Ravelry Designer Page

Mystery Mitts KAL – First Instalment

January 8, 2011

This is the time of year that some of us will still be needing warm FGs (fingerless gloves), but some will already be wondering what non-wool yarn can be used to make FGs suitable for warmer weather?  I have designed this pair of FGs to be done either in sport-weight cotton, or sport-weight sock yarn.  In fact, there are lots of choices that the knitter can make throughout the project, which should make this a good mystery project.

Here are the materials I’m using for both pairs:


This is sport-weight, 100% cotton that I picked up in Tokyo. I had just received a lovely prize of stitch markers (you can see one of them in the picture) from Wendy Ganiggle and wanted yarn to coordinate with them. I’m going to make the stitch markers part of the finished FGs so they’ll be handy next time I need one (often can’t find a stitch marker when I need one). These will be totally girly-girly mitts.


This sport-weight sock yarn from Slackford Studios is one of my favourites. I really want to make me some socks from it, but while I’m finding it difficult to get anything bigger than a postage stamp knitted, I’ll stick with the FGs. See the beads? Those are optional too. I plan to use them to make the FGs row counters. These options are not added until the FGs are being finished, so the knitter may decide right at the end which way to go.

Gauge is 6 stitches and 9 rows to the inch over stocking stitch. I used a US 4, 3.5mm circular needle – mine is 40″, but I like plenty of length. Instructions will be for magic loop, which are very easy to convert to two circulars. If you prefer to work on dpns, and have questions, we can handle those easily (that’s what KALs are for).

Mystery Mitts KAL

January 5, 2011

The Fingerless Gloves Fanatics group in Ravelry has always been the most welcoming, informative, and fun group to hang out with. Last year I volunteered to be one of the designers for their Mystery Mitts Knit-Alongs, and finally the stars are aligned, and I’ll be doing just that this month!

So how does this Mystery KAL work? I’ll be posting materials needed and a few details (like gauge and needle sizes) on January 15th. Each week thereafter, I’ll post a portion of the pattern and everyone will knit that portion, not knowing what the final gloves look like until the end. The idea of KALs is that anyone unfamiliar with a knitting technique may get support from the group, and have fun sharing pictures of progress.  Oh, and the pattern will be free to members of the group for the duration of the KAL.  (Anyone in Ravelry may join – both Ravelry and the Group are free).

I plan to post pictures here each week. Although none of the techniques are especially challenging for moderately experienced knitters, I think newer knitters might like to see pictures of them (such as how to make mirrored increases for the thumb gusset).

This design will offer the knitter two choices for the glove: one uses two colours of sport-weight cotton, the other uses sport-weight sock yarn. There will be options to customize the look of the gloves in the final week. This will be fun!!

(Wot no pictures???) Here’s the pretty sunrise I saw on the morning of Christmas:

Sunrise Dec 2010

I Love Holidays – I LOVE Christmas Cake!

December 4, 2010

I’ve always thought the most precious gift you can give to others (and yourself for that matter) is time.  The holidays get me doing time consuming things just ’cause its the holidays, and I feel like I’m treating myself when I take time out to do them.  Making Christmas cakes has to be the best example of putting an exhorbitant amount of time into something that I never do at any other time of the year.  Here’s how it goes:

First, I panic as I wonder where I put the little black book of recipes – because I can’t remember the recipe, I only make it once a year.  Then I gather up some of the equipment and ingredients.  I can’t gather them all at once, there’s too many:

Xmas Cake VIII

You can’t have too much rum in this recipe, so long as you don’t put too much in all at once; so I dump all the dried fruits into a mixing bowl and toss them in a couple of tablespoons of spiced rum. (Hint: if you have some dried fruit that is really dry, you could do this night before & cover with plastic wrap). The ingredients are listed at the bottom, but this is just a guide: my original recipe doesn’t have dates in it, but I didn’t have enough raisins one year, so I used what I had rather than go back to the store. I think it is important that regular raisins form the largest proportion of the mix, and that you vary the size and colour of the fruits if possible.

I gather up decorative tins – this year I bought six for a dollar each at a local supermarket. I line the tins with two layers of parchment paper (wax paper is OK too).

Xmas Cake VII

Next chop up the candied fruit peel. I had a box of good quality peel my Mum sent me from England. I have no idea where she gets it from, but it smells of citrus fruit. I make my own for this recipe sometimes – just boil a cup of water with 2 cups of sugar and simmer strips of orange and lemon peel (no pith) for about 20 minutes. I let them stand in the syrup until cold then drain on a rack and sprinkle with a little more sugar then keep in a jar until ready to use.

Xmas Cake VI

Now chop the crystalized ginger – I snap up lots of this stuff around Thanksgiving because it can be difficult to find any other time of the year. I have to have enough of this ginger for cookies and banana spice loaf year-round.

Xmas Cake V

In go the halved glace cherries and the slivered almonds. The cherries are the only fruit that is an unnatural colour – bright red. Please, no green cherries in my Christmas cake!!! Stir in four tablespoons of the cake flour.


Dump the rest of the cake flour in another bowl along with the salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon. Usually you would sift the dry ingredients for a cake mix together, but I just stir them around with a whisk – they get more evenly mixed that way, and this isn’t a light cake so why bother with sifting? I do go to the trouble of grating nutmeg – if you think you do not like the taste, I’d suggest that you only use freshly grated, and do not taste it! Its mean’t to be blended with other stuff, not eaten alone.


Now get yet another mixing bowl – if you’re OK with beating sugar & butter together by hand, do this step in the biggest bowl you can find. I’m too much of a wuss for that, so the butter & sugar go into the standing mixer bowl. Beat them until fluffy and the colour changes to a paler shade of brown. Next mix in half of the beaten eggs. Once those are incorporated, mix in the remaining eggs and the treacle or molasses. My mixture often looks a bit messed up at this stage – don’t worry about it as everything will look better as you stir the flour in. I turn out the butter mix to my super-sized mixing bowl, then fold in the flour mix.


Now start adding the fruit mix. Stir until the flour on the fruit cannot be seen anymore, and continue adding the fruit until it is all incorporated and there is no visible flour in the mix. Now stir in five tablespoons of spiced rum.

Xmas Cake IV

Couple things you should notice with the mix – it doesn’t seem like there is enough batter for the fruit. Don’t worry about it, the cake expands when baking, and this is going to be a rich, moist, spicy fruit cake.

Xmas Cake III

You don’t want your cakes to dry out, so take some brown paper (grocery sacks or parcel wrapping paper works fine) and wrap two layers around each tin. I tie mine with string but I think I’ve used masking tape to secure in the past. Stand the tins on baking trays lined with two layers of paper.

Bake for one hour at 300 F, and another hour at 275 F. Poke the center of a cake with a skewer – if it comes out clean, the cakes are done. Now on the timing of this – sometimes I bake for another hour, if I bake one big cake, it could be for another 3 hours. There’s a certain “cooked cake” smell when they’re done, check with the skewer, rather than the clock to decide if its time to take them out of the oven.

Cakes should be cooled in the tins for a couple of hours, and then on a rack for 8-12 hours. I rinse the cake tins and line with Press n’ Seal while the cakes cool. Then I pop the cakes back in the tins upside-down.

Xmas Cake II

Grab that skewer, and poke a bunch of holes in the cake – not close enough together to break the cake up, but make sure there’s plenty near the outside edge since that is most likely to dry out. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of rum over the bottom of each cake, maybe 6 tablespoons if you made one big cake.


I’ve never been tempted to drink rum – but the aroma of the cake and spiced rum is soo good, I’m tempted to eat some now! However I know that these babies will taste better if stored for at least a month, and will still be improving 6 months from now. So wrap up the cakes (it doesn’t have to be tight, but there should be any holes in the wrapper) and pop on the tin lids. Add another tablespoon of rum per cake after two more weeks, then flip the cakes right side up. I’ll mail four of these cakes to relatives that look forward to my cake every year, and keep two to enjoy at home.



2 ½ lb raisins or 1 ½ lb raisins + 1 lb sultanas (golden raisins)

1 lb currants or 8 oz currants + 8 oz chopped dates

6 oz chopped candied peel

4 oz halved glace cherries

4 tblsp chopped ginger

6 oz slivered almonds

1 lb cake or plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 ½ tsp grated nutmeg

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

12 oz unsalted butter

14 oz dark brown sugar

8 lightly beaten eggs

1 tblsp treacle or dark molasses

Third Resolution

November 23, 2010


Now where was I?  First resolution is to get TKGA Masters Handknitting level I in the mail by year end, then continue to prioritize my knitting projects (you know, rather than starting projects and never finishing any?)  Second resolution is to take more care with my health, in particular my mental well-being.  My third resolution is to put my money house in order. 

I’m pretty sure that a dose of financial planning plus sustainable changes in my spending habits will not only help me achieve my long-term goals, but will contribute to my well-being in the short-term thereby contributing towards resolution #2 (double-dipping the benefits doubles my motivation!)

So what are my long-term goals?  I’d like to have enough resources to live in the home of my choosing and to not worry unduly about basics like eating and healthcare (I’m sure I have plenty of company).  Simple enough, except that if the track record for my family is anything to go by, my retirement fund will have to last me a loooong time – I anticipate checking out at 96 years old.  So I will try to continue generating an income after I retire from my corporate career:  I want to spend more time on my love of knitting, design and travel, and I want my supplemental retirement income to be generated from self-employed income.  The tricky part with this is, I may need funds upfront to invest in my business.  I guess my savings plan will need to consist of a source of income for my daily basics plus a fund to establish my business. 

For short-term financial sensibleness I did the usual listing of income and expenses, checked my insurance policies, and looked glumly over my 401K & Roth IRA and examined my credit card statements.  This has been an expensive year with multiple deductibles to pay for (hail storm in the Spring); a substantial contribution towards repairing the road we share with neighbours; son’s college tuition; and lowered income (tenant couldn’t pay the rent, husband’s reduced hours).  We do not have a fixed income, and we certainly do not have fixed outgoings!  I created a budget of sorts, but just to check that we don’t actually have to spend more than we earn, just to cover the essentials.  I decided to stop buying anything I do not need until credit card balance is zero and there’s enough in the bank to cover the amount I’m likely to put on the credit card by the time I get the next statement.

Well, the good news is that in just six weeks of being on a spending diet, I got the credit card paid off.  Now I want to get our emergency cushion up, but I decided that from this point forward, I get a spending allowance for something I do not need right now to survive.  This month, I gave  myself $150.  I blew half that on yarn (thanks to Slackford Studios for having a sale on one of my favourite treats) and the other half went towards reorganizing the kitchen.

I’ll be back with the results of the kitchen reorg and knitting progress soon, in the meantime, can’t close out without any pics at all, took this yesterday; perfect radishes and tasty arugula from my Fall garden:


Second Resolution (& Progress on TKGA Masters)

November 7, 2010

So my first resolution is to get my TKGA Masters level one submission completed by year end, and to prioritize finishing up some other projects. I’ve already made a little progress!

For starters, the first swatches look simple enough, a couple of inches of rib with evenly-spaced increases in the last row before moving on to garter stitch for swatch 1, and stocking (stockingette) stitch for swatch 2. However, it is quite some time since I last knit plain garter stitch, and all of a sudden, decisions as to which side of the cast on looks best with the rib, how to place my increases, and which increases are the least obtrusive anyway are almost paralysing.  I decided to just knit the first swatch, note the methods used, and knit it again using different decisions for increases etc. so I may compare. I pulled out my needles & yarn, and set to work while reading up on basic techniques in TKGA’s website, YouTube, and a couple of books……I swear I didn’t blink before I’d already knitted three inches of rib whereas the instructions stated that I should only knit two. (Sigh!) I’m not used to knitting such small rows – clearly I’m going to need to concentrate on this a little more carefully.

With my poor concentration ability in mind, I used an aid to help me make sure I spaced my decreases evenly, that each decrease would land on same stitch (i.e. all purl or all knit), and I wouldn’t knit straight past the next decrease:

TKGA Masters I Swatch II I had not repositioned the last stitch marker when I took this picture, and its easy to see that its in the wrong place. I may use this technique for larger projects because sometimes I just do not trust my own math.

I had hoped the difference between a bar increase and a lifted increase would be enough to help me decide which swatch to block, but I think I’m going to have to block both and then decide – what do you think?

TKGA Masters I Swatch 1

Uh huh, going to have to block these before I decide which to keep, aaaand will have to find a way to label them throughout so that I’ll know which is which!

My second resolution is to take more care with my health, including my mental well-being. For me, this means starting the New Year with a cleaner, more orderly house and having established a routine for spending some time in the yard. I can’t wait for Spring cleaning, sometimes I look around me and wonder how you know when you’ve crossed the line and become one of those hoarders you see on TV.

I’m starting with the kitchen. I have food stored in cupboards that are set over our central heat vents, baking trays in the dining room, and I’m pretty sure I have some canned veggies that are as old as the house (8 years is too old no matter how carefully I processed those jars). I’ve drawn up a plan and numbered the cupboards and drawers then designated what will move to each. Oh woe is me!! Now that I know I have 31 to deal with, I’m not sure I’ll get past the kitchen before Xmas Eve!

I’m happy with the results of some time spent in the yard though, lookie:

Mailbox Flowerbed

My man recycled some bricks to build a sturdy mail box holder.  Unfortunately, its not real pretty because the excess mortar won’t wash off. I’ve planted a Carolina Jasmine at the base which should cover most of the brick by this time next year.  Also, I dug up grass and added edging (with help from Son) so that we won’t have so many nooks and crannies to try to mow.  Oh, and see the pretty red coloured grasses? I believe they are Little Bluestem. I moved those from the back of my yard where wild grasses still grow – I love their colours and the way they sway in the wind and hope that they do not mind me digging them up (fortunately there’s lots more where they came from)……I’ll be back soon with blocked swatches and resolution # 3.