Black Dog

Just a little outpost on the web for me to ramble, post pix, share ideas, and be a part of the crowd.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

A Lazy Saturday Morning

Happy Saturday morning! It's just after 8 a.m. EST (yes, standard time--Indiana don't do no daylight savings time, no siree bob) and it's currently 36F outside. Tate went out, took care of things, and quickly came back in this morning. Connor, however, will continue to snooze until she H-A-S to go out. She's like that. But just look at this picture of bliss that's actually taking place about two feet in front of me right now, just past my monitor

Connor just let out a big huff/sigh and Tate made one of his trademark groans (for a dog his age and size, he sure is vocal when sleeping). Life around here is good, and I'm very fortunate and thankful for what we have. And I know that it's in large part due to you folks out there reading and visiting and the like. We thank you and appreciate you. From the casual reader to the regular participant--you're all very much a part of why we do what we do here!

Yesterday was a little bit quiet in these parts, but in just a week we'll be in the middle of our Grand Opening weekend. WOW. What seemed so far off when we chose the dates is now upon us. And being prime Leaf Peeper season (we're 20 minutes from Brown County/Nashville, Indiana, some of the only hills in the area and a very picturesque drive this time of year), I've heard it's hard to find overnight accommodations in the area. And no, Sarah, it's not due to our Grand Opening. But thanks for thinking we're that important. Also, good thing you released SweaterMom-To-Be from your no-yarn pact, as her final two skeins of Jamieson 2-ply Spindrift are in transit from California and will complete her "kit" for the Cottage Garden Pullover from Jamieson Shetland Knitting 2. Basically, she'll be buying yarn in just a few days, and now she doesn't have to violate the sacred oath. Oh, and Sarah--the B & F & B (Bed and Fiber and Breakfast) accommodations have stalled out a little bit with the slowing down on the completion of the upstairs of the house--as soon as we move up there, they can renovate the back area into our guest space/dyeing studio. Seriously...........that's our plan.

Now for a tiny bit of "housekeeping" (Digression here..........when I taught at the university level, I used to start every class session off with what I called "housekeeping", which meant anything that was leftover from the last session, any questions about previous information, and any reminders of upcoming important milestones--I borrowed the practice from one of my favorite professors from my graduate work, Dr. Nan Erickson, who used that practice as well and I thought it was brilliant and a great way to get loose ends wrapped up before engaging the group in new things.....Dr. Nan has been a very formative person in how I conduct myself every day, whether I'm teaching someone how to knit or just moving through my appointed rounds here; she impacts my life daily, as do all three of the key folks from my grad school days). Several of you asked for recipes for two of the desserts I prepared for Thursday's food orgy. I'm glad to share, as there's nothing I make in my kitchen that's a closely-held secret. I'd rather have you be able to create some goodness and love from the kitchen and share with your family and friends than keep a silly recipe some sort of "trump card" of my own. Again, just how I was raised.............with very sharing family, friends, professors, and other important people in my life. So here you go:

  • Colonial Pumpkin Bars--when I taught at Bishop Hogan High School in Kansas City, MO (fresh out of university), I worked for a phenomenal bunch of women, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, who served the poor in two main areas--teaching/schools and healthcare/hospitals. Hogan was (it's closed now and is a charter school in the KCMO district) a phenomenal place to teach, providing the opportunity to make a difference in a life--most of the kids came from some of the toughest neighborhoods in KC and were working hard to get out, as over 85% of Hogan's graduates went on to post-secondary education of some form, and about 90% were on scholarships (it was a GREAT academic school). The nuns there were incredible women who loved life--they worked hard, they ate well (grin), and they were devout. Again, more strong women involved in shaping me into what I am today (there is a theme here.....)

  • Depression Pudding--last fall Matt and I took a day trip over to Charleston, Illinois. We were going to visit a good friend and former department chair, Lillian, from when I taught at Eastern Illinois University for a year while writing my dissertation (in theory--it was really written in the latter part of spring and that summer, so I could graduate in August of 1996). We went up to Arthur, Illinois, for the day and we started with a meal (imagine that!). One of the items available was this incredible dessert, and I had to have the recipe. While we were shopping in the surrounding Amish settlement, I found a copy of this simple recipe book and had to have it (for the whopping price of $8 or $8.50). The day was wonderful, the company superb, and the memories are vivid. And see, yet another strong, influential woman in my life (HI LIL!).

    Speaking of strong women, here's a picture of Low Helen, holding down our washing machine last night

    For some strange reason, our washing machine has started to vibrate REALLY HARD during spin cycles (it started after Tuesday, when I pulled out another wharf rat from the water pump, so I figure the self-leveling feet are not doing their job). We got to teasing Helen about the washer and how hard it was spinning, so she went back there last night and held it down, and she was making a steady humming sound that, when coupled with the hard spinning, was hilarious and somewhat weird (the washer had HER shaking hard as well). Rude comments ensued and the rest is (typical) history.

    But we did get to play in some yarn last night. We received another large shipment (about 300 skeins) of Philosopher's Wool yesterday. I bask in the lanolin-filled loveliness that is this yarn

    Not only is it great for one of their fair isle designs, but we've got an idea for a sweater from a recent book to substitute this yarn for the suggested yarn. Helen went playing in the colors (you know it was her from the palette)

    More on this project later, but for now, I'm signing out to get ready for the day, light some candles around the house, and smile while enjoying some memories of people I've known and who have shaped me over the years. In the acknowledgements part of my dissertation, I used a quote that is attributed to Tenneyson....... I am part of all that I have met. That couldn't be any more true--from my formative years in my wild family (on both sides), to my educational process, to the nearly two decades since finishing my bachelor's, through graduate school, university teaching positions, and now ThreadBear and all of the wonderful people along the way, I have been molded and shaped by our interactions. And this includes folks out here reading and those I get to share my days with in person. THANK YOU for being on the journey with me. I am so blessed and sometimes I don't even see it. I'm glad I did today, in a BIG way.

  • Friday, October 17, 2003

    The Madness of Third Thursday

    What a great day yesterday was, from start to finish. It all began with a little bit of sacking in (I was in bed until about 9 a.m. for a change, dozin' and wakin' up). Then about 10 a.m. I started with baking bread (eventually four types--plain white, bacon bread, cheese/onion bread, and foccacia) and moved into desserts (lemon pound cake, Peach Cobbler, Colonial Pumpkin Bars, and Depression Pudding). The pumpkin bars are a recipe I hold dear, as it came from the nuns who ran the Catholic high school that I taught at immediately out of college. The Depression pudding is an Amish recipe out of a cookbook I picked up last fall while in Arthur, Illinois--it's an amazingly-simple combination of everyday items, but the end result is decadent with it's cinnamony goodness and bread pudding consistency. Mmmmmm. Then on to soups. I made baked potato soup (different from the one I usually make, but tasty), roasted butternut squash soup, corn chowder, and spicy chicken tortilla soup (oh lawdy was this one tasty!). Dinner was good, the company was fantastic, and the evening ended some time after midnight (I had to turn in, as I was beat!). I thoroughly enjoyed time with friends and actually did a tiny bit of knitting! Now do you see why I was unable to post, answer e-mails, and take care of a couple other obligations (sorry, you'll have answers).

    Let the fun and games begin! After dinner, we had a little bit of being silly and playing with yarn. Here's our good friend Lana, yukkin' it up with some of the models we received recently from Classic Elite Yarns.

    Not only is she stylin' in the three-piece ensemble, she's wasting away! Lana's had some great results with her weight loss program (TEACH ME HOW!!) and she's looking fantastic. Plus, the added benefit of being able to make smaller, faster, less-yarn-needed sweaters makes her very happy (and motivated!). Her hub Josh couldn't be left out of the melee, as you can see here

    Josh is modeling our shop model of Danny Ouellette's intriguing Easy Head Hugger Hat, done in Noro Silk Garden by the wonderful Christie H., one of our friends here in Columbus (HI CHRISTIE!!!).

    Bloomington was well represented this evening, and here's a picture of the elusive Patsy (remember her from Tuesday's entry with socks in front of her face), the wonderful Rachel, and of course Low Helen

    They were deep in a discussion of mittens, with Rachel modeling her version of the Broad Street Mitten in the inaugural issue of Knitty. Our weather is changing here, turning cooler, which makes folks think of warmer items, especially quick knits, with the holidays and gift-giving occasions approaching. Other madness included our across-the-street neighbor Dana, posing for the camera

    We love Dana for a multitude of reasons (her fun dog Radley, her fun stories, the awesome welcome card she gave us right after moving in, and more), but we are very grateful for her needle talents--she's graced our coffee table with an entire pumpkin patch!

    We love it!

    Earlier in the day we had some fun arrive, courtesy of Brown. Check out these Thursday arrivals

    That's the front end of the set of six boxes that arrived. Obviously there's new Classic Elite (more Ibis, way more Inca Alpaca, and some other goodies), there's a box of 18 more sets of Denise Needles (we were down to two sets), a box of goodies for the Grand Opening next weekend from our good friends at Cascade Yarns (a great felted bag kit and three sock kits were inside), and three other boxes of goodness from Cascade. Two of the boxes from Cascade were monstrous....see

    In there are over 60 bags (600 skeins) of Cascade 220. The french fries box contained our first batch of their Ecological Wool, a bulky-weight wool that is undyed and minimally processed (Amber swears it's the perfect yarn for Bonne Marie's very practical Ribbie Cardi--much apologies for getting her name wrong the first draft of this entry). Whew! The two big boxes remain unpacked and sit within an arm's reach of me, so I need to finish this up and get busy. Also awaiting my attention is an entire kitchen (and beyond) of dishes to wash, so guess what I'm about to go do? While you're at your desks, I'll be elbow-deep in soap suds.

    Thanks for reading, have a great Friday, and we'll talk again soon! BE WELL!

    Wednesday, October 15, 2003

    Wonderful Wednesday

    Yesterday's rain brings today's wonderful and clear skies. It's been a beauty of a day in these parts, which makes it too bad that it's just FLOWN by. But we've been busy with ordering demonic amounts of yarn, opening two nice boxes of goodies, and helping some wonderful folks with their projects while just hanging out with others (HI MARTHA! HI ANNE!). So far, it's been a good day and we're open until 9 p.m., as Wednesdays are late-night in these parts. And tomorrow brings us Third Thursday Knit Night--menu of home-made soups, home-made breads, and comfort desserts (lemon pound cake, apple pie courtesy of Marcia and the secret recipe, and a couple fruit cobblers--of course, a la mode). If you're in the area any time after about 5 or 6 p.m., do stop by for some knitting, some warmth from inside, and a good evening of socializing!

    Tuesday Follies yesterday included the inaugural edition of "The Brunch Bunch", an informal gathering of folks (meeting every second and fourth Tuesday of the month) who do fiber stuff and have mainly daytime free time. We've come to realize that not everyone can get away during the evening hours, so we decided to have a little gathering earlier in the day for those folks, to make sure we include them as well. Of course, coming to one function never zeros you out of coming to the other, so bring it on. Here's a quick shot of the table area, and some of the characters

    That's Judy in purple (furiously working to finish her first felted bag, the Harriett) and Barb in navy (wrapping up another Lucy Bag), and behind them are Anne and her daughter Martha (both sock knitters). In the other room were a host of other folks, who got to see us put up with no phone service (the lawn guy hit the line with the lawnmower and the monsoon yesterday shorted it out) and other assorted craziness. See what I mean

    That's Barb in her new get-up, a fabulous hand-knit hat (it's really an unfelted hat, but I had to gussey her up a bit). By the way, if you're a regular reader, you may find it funny to know that this is Cuzzin' Amy's grandmother (Amy is Low Helen's neice, but Helen's not related to Barb). I see the Stylin'............

    Speaking of hats, here are two wonderful finished projects that are the awesome handwork of Star, one of our newer friends that found us after we moved to Columbus. She's already made a felted hat with eyelash, a felted bag, and these felted hats, and she's moving on to additional projects now that these are done. Aren't they great!

    Bravo Star! She's also an accomplished weaver, rumour has it. She and a few others will soon be gathering to work on projects and inspire eachother in the weaving area. Matt's chompin' at the bit to get some weaving under way soon. More fiber!!!!!!!!

    Here's something different that we found at the grocery store yesterday, in with all of the Hallowe'en candy

    They're Reese's Inside Out candies. Peanut butter on the outside, chocolate on the inside. Very different, and even stickier (Matt's observation) than your regular Reese's Cups, which are short lived around here when purchased. If you're a fan of Reese's, look for these in your candy aisle for a new twist on an old friend. I'll stick with regular ones, however. I'm a traditionalist.......

    Earlier I mentioned that we had a couple boxes of goodies appear today. Once a month we should receive the latest copy of something from Lana Grossa in their Filati series. Last month it was ladies' fashions. Next month will be men's. This month it's kids things to knit! See!

    Having been a knitter for many years, I was a BIG fan of the old Pingouin pattern compilations (and I can still be found scrounging for them on e-bay from time to time). They had incredible patterns for babies (entire sets, from blankets to rompers to sweaters and more) and really nice things for kids. Well, our yarn rep said that we would love the Filati Kids books, as they are very reminiscent of the older booklets, and she was right. This is a really fun book with over 80 different ideas and projects for kids of all ages--toddlers up through pre-teens, and it's just $9.95 retail, or $8.96 from us. Here's a couple shots from inside that I really liked

    Things for babies and such, as well as patterns for older children

    I'm really liking that sweater on the left--it has incredible texture and I really like the way the pattern stitch and the welt/ribbing at the bottom all kind of blend together and aren't stark in their differences. Very smart design! I hope to see many things from this collection whipped up in the near future!

    On the way out today, I have a greedy request. Matt's mom is having "a procedure done" on Friday and one of our good friend/customers is having serious doctor visit tomorrow. If you can, think positive thoughts and send warmth their respective ways. They're both phenomenal ladies and we want nothing but good news on both fronts. We appreciate it in advance...................hurry back tomorrow for an update on my latest obsession involving wool in two forms!

    Tuesday, October 14, 2003

    At Long Last.......

    Wow, what a few days. Here I thought I'd get something done around these parts over the weekend. WRONG. But that's good, as it means other things were busy or needed attention. And it was a fun weekend (and Monday--more on that shortly). I've been up for a couple hours now (it's pushing 8 a.m., local time) and it's raining here, washing all of the small, golden leaves off from the trees across the street. It's been fun to watch it slowly grow lighter outside and to hear Columbus wake up and head to work. And it's a great Tuesday morning and getting better.

    Second Monday brings us back to Bloomington for "Sock-It-To-Me" at the local Barnes & Noble (gotta love them for their support of knitting groups, across the country). This group gathers once a month to knit socks--you can do your own thing (and many do) or you can participate in the jointly-decided group project. Several have wrapped up their Purl Lace Socks, from Socks! Socks! Socks!, which we've been working on for the past few months. So it was time for a new project, and last month it was suggested that we use the pattern in the most-recent issue of Knitter's Magazine called "Strong Heel Socks", not because of the durability of the heel but named after the designer. The article and pictures focused mainly on the garish use of color in socks and (in my opinion) glossed over the most important part of the design--that this new way of going from leg to foot is a good idea when you knit with self-striping or self-patterning yarns. Typical top-down sock construction means that you'll knit a heel flap across half of the stitches, which means you'll get thicker stripes/sections of design on the heel flap that is a stark contrast to the patterning on the other parts of the sock. The "Strong Heel" is a way of turing the corner at the ankle such that you keep knitting in rounds and working increases (so yes, you'll have slightly more narrow bands, but not the OBVIOUS ones like in the heel flap). Pictures would help, you say? OK

    That's a good side view of the sock (please enjoy Jamie's lobster socks, which I think are adorable; she said the woman helping her try on wedding dresses yesterday did NOT find them amusing......whatever) showing you how the design and stripes continue around the leg and heel and then into the foot. I really like it (of course, part of that is because of the fun Brown Sheep Wildfoot Handpaint sockyarn, and I know Stacy likes it...LOL...right, Stacy?) and it was easy to follow the directions (once you had the correction to the heel turn portion). You can see how the color rings continue around the back of her foot and the shaping includes a gusset (and it makes itself, without having to pick up any stitches--so I think this would be a GREAT design to use with new sock knitters). You wanna see the heel turn? OK

    The heel turn is similar to most I've ever done from the top down--what I've heard called a half-handkerchief heel (check out a variety of heel types here--it's a great source for you if you knit socks). I made great progress on the foot of the sock last night, so I'm ready for the toe decreases. Standard stuff, as the "magic" is in the heel turning. All in all, two thumbs up on the construction from me. If you're a sock knitter, take a second look at the article and try to ignore the overworked color socks and appreciate this for technique's sake.

    But back to the social side of last night. We got to spend time with good friends, even if some had busy schedules and couldn't make it due to having a play to attend, a class to attend, and a couple other reasons (illness for one--hurry back to health, RK). We rode down with Low Helen

    who enjoyed a chai with her knitting. I had a blast riding down and back with her and Matt. THANKS FOR DRIVING, Helen! And we had a new group member join us--please welcome Roni to the group, who was working furtively on her new scarf project (yeah, so the truth is out--we don't force anyone to knit socks--any knitting is welcomed!)

    Roni is a returning knitter and a fun person to be around, and she's always ready to pet something new on my needles and appreciates great texture. And we had a little show and tell, which Patsy took full advantage of (and is a little reminiscent of Teresa's elusive C)

    Those are her completed "Purl Lace Socks", made with an incredible colorway of Koigu KPPPM that she picked up from us awhile back. Aren't these AMAZING socks? GREAT WORK PATSY!!!! Speaking of Koigu, our skeins on hand have been reorganized by Matt on new shelves in the classroom area. Talk about a "glamor shot" of yarn

    Makes me wanna start something new...............but then again, what doesn't?

    Other projects have been keeping me off the streets, so to speak (that means I haven't been starting anything new......but that ends today). I mentioned a new yarn last week called Ibis, from Classic Elite. Here's a colorcard for it (fun names on these colors)

    I chose to make my first one in "Carefree Cordovan", but I'm looking hard at "Boisterous Black" for another one. Here's my finished version

    It uses two balls of the yarn ($7.92 each from us, $8.80 regular retail, so it's an under-$20 project--think GIFTS!) and the pattern is on the back of the ball band and rather simple knitting. I'm happy with how it looks, but OH LAWDY, how it feels--this is the one I mentioned on Friday that's got several folks in a twitter after they put it around their neck. Check out this closeup to see if the softness comes through over the web

    That's some LUSH fabric. This is some FUN fabric

    I whipped up this one on Sunday night, in about two or three hours of knitting. Big needles, fun yarns, and a free pattern. Just take one of these

    add one of these (contrast or complement--it's up to you)

    and a few hours of simple knitting (it's all garter stitch--my homage to Darryl Hannah, ok?) and you have a great accessory or a very reasonable gift (under $20 again, as the Musique is $10.80 and the Fizz is $6.12). Next on the blocks for me is this combination

    I like the warmth of the color and the good blend of the Fizz. I may work on it today, but I've also got something else up my sleeve for today that I started on the way over to Bloomington last night, while Low Helen drove. More about that shortly...........for now, I'm off to go make brunch items. Second and Fourth Tuesdays, around 10:30 a.m. until ??? (noonish) we have "The Brunch Bunch", which is just a simple daytime gathering for those who can't do evening functions. We'll stitch, we'll kvetch (see Yentala for a definition if you're clueless--and check out Monday's entry about a new Kosher Computer...I about peed myself while reading it), and we'll nibble a little bit. Today's the first one, so I have NO clue what to expect (other than a few fun folks who've said they were coming (right Mother Powell?).

    I'm well, and knit like mad!