A failed project because I can't find a tool. So many internal growls and teeth gnashings happened last night. Ok, not quite failed, but stalled. Except. The mind makes magic in the midnight hours. I woke up with giggling basal ganglia and an itch in my hands to get going.
Isn't that a marvelous feeling? Wanting to get out of bed, get everything that needs doing done so you can get your hands on that which you want to do? Yeah, yeah, sometimes that doesn't require leaving the bed, but when your work excites you, that's a level of life satisfaction that just can't be beat.
My original plan will have to wait. The piece and I pinballed, and I played with it for the last couple hours. I now have a nearly finished hat. It's an ok hat, more pleasing than my lousy photo skills (and camera) have captured, but it is not the piece I originally planned, nor is it the hat that got my brain all a twitter. That hat is still hanging out in the foggy mist of my mind, marinating. It might even be two hats.
A few things that preserve sanity: a long deep massage, a peaceful lake tour in a canoe, a hot bubbly soak in a tub so big the water covers the boobs, hours at spinning guild with Amy from Spunky Eclectic teaching the class. Guess which one I did today? Yup, the guild class with Amy. I'm all peaceful and content. Until the next news cycle.
Class today was Spinning Stupendous Singles. While she discussed energized singles - those things we all spin before we ply - and how to use them, the focus today was low twist singles. I am now a fan. We started with dyed falkland wool, first spinning and even thin single, then played with a thick and thin version. Spinning the even single was such a relaxing delight! Fiber hand just kind of hung out loosely holding the falkland while drafting hand mindlessly fed wool into the wheel and my feet just quietly treadled in slow whispers. We used the same fiber for our first thick and thin but I loved the even thin experience so much, I only did a little thick and thin so I can spin enough even thin to knit a hat. It might be a toddler size hat but that's a grin worthy thought too. I need more practice with thick and thin single but I'm pleased with my first effort. We then worked with undyed falkland just to experience how differently dyed fiber behaves as compared to undyed. Undyed flows more freely, which makes sense since the dyeing process slightly compacts fibers. We played with a few more fibers - merino yak blend, wenslydale, coopworth roving - each required different handling to accommodate staple length and ease of twist. Merino yak blend is yummy but seems to gravitate toward thick and thin rather than even thin. I didn't care for the coopworth as a singles spin, and I need more practice with wenslydale. Mine was too lightly twisted and fell apart in several places. After a lunch break, we built on our basic skills, first using two natural colors to spin a marled single (loved it!), then spinning a little sparkly into our singles. My marled yarn needs a wash to tame it into useable yarn but it came out just like it's supposed to. I haven't finished the sparkly single yet so there is no photo. But I see all sorts of possibilities and play ahead.
Sound like fun you'd like to try out? Go ahead, click on the Spinning Stupendous Singles link . That takes you to Amy's Craftsy class.
2016. Good riddance. But did we learn anything from it? Some people, I think, did, though whether they learned enough remains to be seen, and others will learn some hard lessons in 2017 as a result of 2016. I admit I go into this year with trepidation, and not just because little rascal Angus started the new year by dumping over a glass of water, leaving the wood floor behind my end table and couch (in other words, hard to reach) drenched, which led to not tending my steeping pot o'tea so it flavored well beyond full strength right into bitter and undrinkable, and how the new year starts off tends to set the tone for the rest of the year. No, there is much in our society that is upset, divided, angry, on both sides of the divide. I don't see that healing, nor even easing. That's a very uncomfortable feeling.
I will be looking for peace here at home, in my rabbitry, in my studio, in the garden, in myself. I will also join in the speaking up, though all the voices speaking up will likely not result in peace, at least not anytime soon, our differences are that great, our passions that strong. I will also be looking for little moments of silly to savor, antidotes to the daily news, balm to raw emotions. I want to focus on healthy eating - yes, even those leafy greens - as well as on stronger muscles, because those 2 things bolster a thoughtful mind, ease a troubled one. Mostly, I want to aim for hope.
I wish each of you a better year than I expect we'll get.
I love the rare times the 2 spinning guilds I attend meet on the same weekend, one on Saturday, the other on Sunday. This weekend was one of those times. The Saturday meeting, the more formal of the 2, featured a program on alpaca, the fiber. A good alpaca fleece is a joy, and it blends so nicely with angora. I spent most of the time chatting with a couple folks about bunnies, something I pretty much never get tired of. This REW fella came with me so his new person could bring him home. But chatting meant I didn't do much spinning. I did get alpaca samples, which I took home with me. Once home, I set my fiber bag down in the living room then deposited my left overs from our pot luck in the kitchen. I turned back to my fiber bag and ooops! Kittens luuurve alpaca fiber as much as I do.
Kittens? Oh, yeah, I don't think I mentioned here on the blog I adopted 2 kittens, Angus MacFluffbutt (orange and white boy) and Petunia Puffypants (white with tiger girl), brother and sister. They are 3 months old now and into everything. Sweet, fun, loving, cute... everything we love about kittens. But yeah, that into everything phase. Took them all of about 3 seconds to hone in on the alpaca samples in my bag and drag some out to chew on. I rescued the fiber but apparently Angus didn't forget about it over night, and hungered for it. This morning he delved into a pile of stuff waiting for me to figure out where to put it. At the bottom of the pile was a bag of lovely unwashed black alpaca fleece I'd forgotten about. Angus dragged it out. But that's as far as he got with it because I'm on to you, buddy. Thank goodness I am in the process of setting up - finally - a fiber studio space. Dogs and cats not allowed! Angus pulling out the bag of alpaca just motivates me all the more to finish organizing the space cause I wanna play with fiber.
Sunday's gathering was our annual holiday party with a Yankee swap. When we picked our numbers, I got the coveted number 1 spot, so got to go first. And last. I picked a package with a big pretty bow on it. Inside? Super soft mohair roving and an adorable needle felted Gingerbread Man ornament. Yummy stuff, and ripe for swiping. Sure enough, someone swiped it pretty quickly. I got to choose a replacement gift, a nice bottle of chardonnay snuggled in a handknit cabled wine cozy, a delightful gift for a wine enthusiast, which I am not. I sat back and watched as each of the remaining gifts were opened. The mohair package was once again quickly swiped. And when the last gift was opened, I got to choose again. Yep, I swiped the mohair back.
It's the memories, those of the past both near and far, as well as those in the making. My childhood memories are often vague and fleeting, and in talking with siblings, I find they are not always as reliable as I wish. Turns out "we always used to..." is more likely "we this one time...." While it took me by suprise when I realized that, turns out it's ok.
Childhood December memories for me are centered on Christmas preparations, things like stringing popcorn and cranberry garlands or crafting red and green construction paper garlands. We bric-a-bracked, glittered and glued alls sorts of decorations to hang or tape to all sorts of surfaces. A couple of my sisters were instrumentally musically inclined, so at least once we silly siblings created some kind of holiday show, directed, I suspect, by Mum.
Then there was a teenage December memory full of laughs, the year several of us all had the same idea for gifts for each other: Fannie Farmer cookbook and parakeets. And Mum was so tickled silly at the fact we'd all explode with laughter when we opened our same gifts, she'd forget which ones of us (7 of us, all girls) were involved, and in a fit of mirth would tell the recipient, then turn around to explain to another one what she'd done, only to realize she'd done it again. It was far funnier in the moment than it is in the retelling.
My favorite December memories are the years I hit on Big Ideas for Christmas gifts. The first was my first year away at college, on the other side of the country. How to get meaningful gifts for a large and growing family without having to ship or carry through an airport or spend my very few days before Christmas shopping madly instead of spending time with family? And that was the key to my solution: gather us all for a fun time. I bought tickets for all of us to see Nutcracker Suite at the Bushnell Theater, a truly magnificent place. I kept it a secret, only asked Mum to make sure everyone was at home and dressed up at the right time. What a marvelous evening that was!
My second magical memory grew out of grief. Daddy died a few days before Christmas, a holiday he loved. With my own kids ages 12, 10, and 5, I'd already prepared for Christmas that year, but the following year, facing December and the whole Christmas season seemed so daunting. I just didn't have it in me to shop, but I couldn't leave my kids without their celebration. The perfect answer: a family vacation to Disney World. I also didn't want the kids to miss out on the glorious anticipation of such a big trip, so whenever we were in a shopping line and adults would chat about Christmas plans, I'd whisper my secret to the adults and my kids would see the reaction. They knew something big was coming, just not what. I bought suitcases for each kid, packed their summer clothes, and wrapped the suitcases for them to open. Stocking stuffers were things like disposable cameras and fanny packs. They opened their presents in specific order so they would have a slow but big reveal: suitcases first (my own clothes? uh oh, Mom's lost it), plane tickets nearly last, and Birnbaum's Guide to Disney last. Lots of hopping and happy over that one. We're going to Disney?! Then came the biggest surprise. The oldest asked when are we going? I asked him "how fast can you take down the Christmas tree?" What?? We're going today?? Ohmagawd ohmagawd ohmagawd the excitement. And you bet that tree came down pretty darn fast. Daddy would have loved it.
During this season of commercialism and buying things so soon tossed aside, it's our memories that are special, that warm the heart year after year, the true gifts that keep on giving, and keep on connecting us.
In this time when an 8 year old boy ended up in the hospital because he defended his 4 year old sister from young teens hurling mulch and racist taunts at her, my list of who and what I am grateful for is very much different this Thanksgiving day. I do recognize the value of taking personal stock and appreciating the positives in my life, but we are in a seriously troubled time. Hate crimes surged in the immediate aftermath of the election. Safety nets we the people have paid for - Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid - are in danger. Cabinet post picks demonstrate our already fragile environment is a target. And then there is the on going horror of peaceful protest by Native Americans met with the ugly and unjustified militarized police action. With so much now in danger, giving thanks for my good fortune seems at best inappropriate. Instead, today I focus on the world I want to live in, an inclusive world where we the people can all give thanks for our inalienable rights. To that end, my list to give thanks for is very short. Today I celebrate both Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Everyday starts the same for me: take the dogs outside to ... well, you know. This morning while waiting for them, I heard some rustling in the bushes just a foot or so from me. Then a bird shot out of there. More rustling and all of a sudden there's a hawk hopping out of the bush onto the ground, but nothing clutched in it's claws. Then if flew off. I happen to like wildlife encounters even when they are predatory in nature, so I enjoyed this aberration to my norm. Less than 2 hours later, I was at my daughter and son-in-law's house and out the window I saw another hawk perched high in a nearby tree. It stayed for a while but left as soon as I tried to get my camera. Still, hawks having become common place again is a good thing, a reassurance that life can come back after nasty chemicals.
Towards the end of the day, The Toddler and I were a few houses away visiting with a neighbor and her teenage daughter. Suddenly the teen gasped and cried out "A bear!" We looked and sure enough, there was the town's black bear (ok, who knows if the town has one or more) gamboling about in the front yard of the house just across the small street. The bear appears to have come up through my daughter and SIL's wooded side yard then onto the other property. After a couple minutes checking out the front yard, the bear went to the back yard, where it looked over and saw us. My neighbor's 3 dogs were frolicking in the yard with us and it took each of us a minute or so to realize "jeez! Get the dogs in the house before they notice the bear." Bear just stood there watching the teen corral the dogs. As soon as the dogs were safely behind doors, the bear, as if the entertainment was over, headed off into the next wooded area. No big drama, just wow, a bear! Bears in this highly residential area are not common like hawks are, so yes, a bit of excitement for us humans. And now I know when The Toddler and I are outside, there is another big fuzzy reason to keep her close.
Hey, Mother Nature, if you're taking requests, I'd love to see a moose amble through, too.
Favorite recipe, and relate it to Thanksgiving if you can, is this week's Think Write Thursday topic.
First off, I have a problem with the concept of favorite. I don't have favorites. Of anything. I just don't see grey when it comes to like. I either like or I don't, and liking one thing does not mean I like it better than something else I like. So I can't pick just one recipe, especially for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. It's the total meal I look at.
For my ideal Thanksgiving dinner, the menu consists of turkey of course and it's gravy, bread stuffing (with onion, sausage, apple, and walnuts), mashed potatoes (real potatoes mashed not whipped with lots of butter and a hint of cream - milk if the cream disappears before I mash), mashed butternut squash, apple salad, green bean casserole, hot dinner rolls dripping with butter, creamed onions, homemade whole berry cranberry sauce, an assortment of salted nuts, sweet pickles, and at least 2 pies: pumpkin and mincemeat. That to me is Thanksgiving. And it should be repeated for Christmas. That I have been able to enjoy feasts like these is something for which I am very grateful.
All that said, there is a brownie recipe that just begs me to share, Good Housekeeping Fudge Brownies. If you like fudge brownies rather than cake brownies (and oh boy, do I), this you need to try. I copy/pasted the recipe from Epicurean but for me, butter never margarine and leave out the walnuts.
ABOUT 2 HOURS BEFORE SERVING OR EARLY IN DAY:
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 9""x9"" metal baking pan with foil; grease foil.
2. In heavy 3-quart saucepan over low heat, melt margarine or butter and chocolate, stirring frequently. Remove saucepan from heat. With wooden spoon, beat in sugar and eggs until well blended. Stir in flour, vanilla, salt, and walnuts. Spread batter evenly in pan.
3. Bake 45 to 55 minutes until toothpick inserted 2 inches from edge comes out clean. Cool brownies in pan on wire rack.
4. When cold, cut brownies into 4 strips, then cut each strip into 4 pieces. Store in tightly covered container.
Bailey, nearly 8 months old now, apparently doesn't like the little sweatshirt I put on her last night. She needed a haircut so I gave her one, but it was cold and very windy. She needed a replacement for her own coat. Her sweatshirt is a sleeve off an old one of mine. I cut little leg holes for her front legs but she is doing her best to chew the whole thing off and those little leg holes gave her a good starting point. She is chewing both sides, close to meeting in the middle. I hope it lasts at least one more night.
This is the time of year I scramble to get ready for winter. Shearing bunnies is a big part of that, but so is getting their hutches all snug and clean. Hard work but I'd still rather do that than house work or clean out the gutters. Getting ready for winter this year reminds me I really want a small herd, not the larger one of years past. For one thing, I don't need a big herd anymore. Over the years, I bred thicker, more productive coats into my bunnies so each bunny gives me plenty of foof, more than I can keep up with: seriously, well more than 5 pounds of angora every three months is ENOUGH! If you want some, I'm happy to sell you some. If you'd like a bunny of your own like the opal boy there to the left, I'm happy to help with that, too. Just click on that little "email me" link up there on the right, shoot me an email, and we'll chat.