Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekending: 03/31/2014

Monday came too early again this week.

I did a few food preparation things over the weekend - including making myself a really delicious berry crisp thing for either breakfast or snacks this week.  It needed a little bit of sweetener for the berries (I used frozen since there isn't much in season right now), but I think for summer fruits it'll be perfect.  A no-flour topping with toasted pecans and unsweetened coconut, and a bit of almond flour and butter to bind it together.  I also made a batch of yogurt for the week, and threw a chicken in the crockpot for broth and some extra to use for lunches.

I put in a lot of hours on my knitting pattern writing this weekend.  I got 3 smaller pieces ready to go to the book editor at the end of next month, and wrote up the pattern for the next small shawl release in my shop's Heroines clubs.  I also put in quite a bit of time working on samples - I've got a project for Jane Austen Knits 2014 that I'm working on that's just about 2/3rds finished, and I am oh-so-close on one big project for The Book as well.

Since I felt like I got a lot of other things accomplished, I allotted myself an hour or so to do something NOT deadline-related (for the first time in what seems like eons).  I've been working on a little quilted wallhanging for the month of January.  And yes, I know it's already the end of March, but that's kind of what my schedule is like these days - It'll be very early to hang up for NEXT January.

It's a new-to-me technique using fused applique with laser-cut pieces.  Pretty easy, pretty fast - comparatively speaking.  You still need to sew around the edges of all the pieces and work the embellishments.  This cute little guy is almost there - I need to add his nose and a band on his hat, plus a snowflake motif up in the upper right-hand corner.  I also need to add in some embroidery on the broom.

The piece has a little pieced pinwheel section that goes on the bottom to finish off the design.  I haven't decided yet what kind of quilting I'll do for it.  Probably fairly minimal and probably machine quilting, as I really would like a fighting chance of finishing this before January 2015.  It was a nice relaxing little break to do some hobby time for me for a change!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Signs of Spring

I know folks in the northeast United States don't want to hear me say this, but we've actually had some pretty nice weather here to herald in spring over the last week. Sunny, 60s, (mostly) light breezes.  It's that pleasant time before the windy season really cranks up here.

I top-dressed my garden beds this weekend with a bit of composted manure and got things ready to go when I put veggies in.  I'm going to give peas and spinach a go here fairly shortly - it's been at or just above freezing most nights and I have a set of row covers I can use if we get colder weather.  On tap for other warmer weather planting will be pumpkin, zucchini and cukes.  I'll put a bunch of basil in as well eventually, and some scallions.  I'm on the fence about tomato plants.  They did really well here last year - I got quite a bit of sauce - but I'm also trying to avoid nightshade plants on my diet for a while, since I think they are something I've got a bit of allergy to, so whether I want to dedicate space to veggies I may or may not use.... I'm not sure I do.

Last year, we had what I think were nightly chipmunk invasions that lopped off a lot of my plants (like all the peas, most of the spinach, 98% of my onions) while they were trying to get a foothold, so while I was originally planning to put in another 4x4 raised bed, I've decided to wait and see how things go with the addition of some bed covers and protective fencing with this year's crop.  This is only the second year I've had veggies in at this house, so there's a bit of trial and error, but hopefully I'll find a good mix of things that'll work here!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ten on Tuesday: Last 10 Books I've Read

This week's topic is the last 10 books I've read:

1. I'm going to include The Bloodletter's Daughter here since I'm almost finished it.  Set in the early 1600s, this tale intertwines the lives of a local girl (who happens to be the local bloodletter's daughter) and the mad Prince Julio, the illegitamate heir to the Hapsburg throne).  I was interested in reading this because it seemed like an interesting story line and it's also set in Bohemia, which is where some of my DH's ancestors came from.  I've been enjoying this one - it does drag a little bit in places, but the story is interesting enough I'll finish it up. I very much like the opportunity to be exposed to some historical fiction that's NOT US or UK-related.
2. Beautiful Wreck.  I can't say enough good things about this book.  I didn't think it was going to be something I would enjoy, but I have to admit that I rationed out pages so I wouldn't finish it too fast because I didn't want it to end!  The author is a knitter, so in the sections set in circa 900 in the Viking village, there's some spinning and wool preparation going on.  The book has a bit of time-travel, a bit romance, and a kick-butt heroine (although really... read it to the final few chapters and our heroine really comes into her own - I loved that!).  It also has some nods to horse-y things, which made it just that much better a book for me.
3, 4, 5, 6. Raven Black,  White Nights, Red Bones,  Blue Lightning.  Books 1-4 of the Shetland mystery series featuring Inspector Jimmy Perez.   I loved this series.  Each one of them can be a stand-alone, but really.... read them in order - I think they are best that way.  I do read a lot of mysteries, but I'll state emphatically I did NOT see the final scene coming in book #4.  I love it when the ending can still surprise me.  These are well thought-out plots, interesting characters, and a bit of Shetland birding, archeaology and crafting (as well as crofting) thrown in for some local color development.  The local islands shape and influence the mysteries for the books in these series - well worth a read if you like British mysteries.
7. Lady of Devices. A fun, lighthearted steampunk romp.  Nothing too cerebral here, but a quick read perfect for vacaation mind candy.
8.  The Opening Night Murder. A historical murder mystery, set during the Restoration period.  I was prepared to really like this one, but found it somewhat slow and a bit formulaic for my tastes.
9. City of Dark Magic. This book doesn't really fit easily into any one genre.  It's got some intrigue and mystery, and some fantasy and fantastical, and some historic fiction all rolled into one.  I had a hard time getting into this one.  It took me about 75 or 80 pages to finally pull things together in my head so I could follow along a little more easily.  Once past that tho, it's a fun story and interesting one to wrap your brain around with all kinds of red herrings and mystical sorts of concepts.
10. The Stationmaster's Farewell.     Set in the mid-19th century in the UK, another historical mystery.  This is #9 in the series and it held up pretty well despite the fact I hadn't read books 1 thru 8.  (Although I do think having had a bit of the back story for some of the supporting characters probably would have been helpful to flesh out things a bit for me.)  Entertaining, a quick read, another good long weekend/vacation read when you need some mind candy.

Monday, March 24, 2014


We had a lovely spring weekend here - so D and I took advantage of that to get some early landscaping and planting done.

We had several clumps of large, overgrown and frankly, not very attractive, shrubs of some kind in an L-shape that ran next to the deck and along where we had pasture panels by the barn.  I'm not sure what they actually were, but they were filled with dead scrappy bits and basically looked half-dead about 9 months out of the year.  D's been working on getting these cut out (several of which took being pulled out with a chain around the stump and the heavy duty 3/4-ton pickup).  We took the last load of those up to the dump this weekend, and spent the better part of a morning cleaning up and leveling the beds we now have.

The shorter end of the L, which is at my feet in the above photo, is eventually going to have a couple of blueberry bushes put in.  (There's also another short bed not seen in this photo just to my right that's slightly raised.  We are going to build this up with a deep raised bed and pop in some asparagus at some point.) The longer part of this L that extends out to the left towards the barn is where we put in three fruit trees: One apple, one sweet cherry and one peach.

We still have a little bit of work to do to finish this up - we've got a bunch of spare railroad ties that we are going to use to create a little berm along the right-hand side of the bed, and then we still need a load of mulch to spread once we do that to help contain moisture and keep the worst of the weeds out) - but this area looks SO much nicer when you pull into our back driveway. And as an added bonus, we'll hopefully have some fruit off these little guys in a few years!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spicing it up

I've been on the lookout for a good source of spice mixes that don't have any added starch.  (Most of the ones you can find at the grocery do contain a bit of a starch powder to prevent clumping).  I stumbled onto The Kitchen Imp's shop at Etsy.

She has some lovely mixes of various herbs and seasoning salt, curries and even some teas.  I picked up an Herbes de Provence, as well as a curry-spice taster set, and an herby sage-rosemary seasoning/rub.  The spices all come packed in cute little metal tins, and Melissa included a generous baker's half-dozen of recipe cards to use with the spices.

Last night for dinner, I used the Herbes de Provence sea salt and the Sage/Rosemary seasoning on some boneless chicken thighs and veggies I sauted and wow! These were fantastically good.  The herbs were nice and fresh and the mixes were balanced to give a lovely blended taste of the herbs with just enough salt to make it pop.

I'm anxious to give the curry mixes a try as well.  Melissa has great customer service.  Everything is made to order, so it's nice and fresh, and she ships out quickly.  She'll also take custom orders as well. No affliation with the store on my part, just a two-thumbs-up recommendation if you are looking for a great resource online for cooking spices.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Like most of them around here, a busy weekend, but I did find time to do some food prep for the upcoming week.  I made a small batch of tomato sauce, baked some pumpkin spice muffins, made yogurt.

About 10 days or so ago, I decided to start this autoimmune-focus diet.  I'll just hit the highlights here and not delve too heavily into the details, but basically, it cuts out any grains (or starch-based foods like potatoes), any refined sugar, a lot of dairy products, and for me, based on what I already know my body isn't fond of, I am using really limited amounts of eggs.  If you've taken the time to ever read the ingredient list on the back of a bottle of salad dressing, you'll realize that there are basically no prepared foods available since almost everything contains either some form of sugar (like corn syrup) and/or some form of starch (as a thickener or non-caking agent).

I don't think not eating extra stuff is a bad thing at all, but it has changed how I think about grocery shopping and what I can prepare for dinner.  One of the things that winds up being a priority is vegetables on the plate.  So this weekend, I hauled out my family recipe book and re-visited an old friend from my childhood.  (I'm pretty sure this one is from my Grandma Jane's repetoire, but if nothing else, I know we ate this a lot in the summers as a kid at her farm.)

What you'll need (to serve about 2-3):
2 small or 1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4" thick rounds.  (If the zucchini is large, it helps to cut the rounds in  half)
Half a sweet onion (like Vidalia or Walla Walla) sliced in 1/8" thick half-rounds.
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced.
Basil - either fresh or dried, but I like to use a lot.
Olive oil (2-3 Tb)
Salt and pepper to taste.

After heating the olive oil over medium heat to just shimmering, toss in the garlic, onions and zucchini. Stir to break up the onions and coat everything with a light coating of oil.  Cook until the zucchini and onions begin to soften, and then add basil, salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the zucchini begins to get a nice golden brown color, stirring frequently. (This entire process takes about 25-30 minutes.)

Super easy, and it goes nicely with all kinds of things, although I had it as a side to a grilled burger.  For a little extra zip, you can also add in some crumbled feta cheese, which makes a great sandwich filling with a little hummus in a pita pocket if you are looking for an all-veggie kind of lunch.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Yarnie Goodness

I realized the other day I haven't touched things in my stash in eons.  One of the nice things about having designs go off for publication is the publishers usually provide yarn for the project, which gives me an opportunity to sample things I might not otherwise try.

I had been a fan of Brooklyn Tweed's two yarn lines - Loft and Shelter - but I've been completely enthralled with the Loft fingering weight.  It seems a bit pricey up front, but it's actually got really nice yardage per skein (275 yards) and it's US-sourced, AND you just cannot beat the colors.  They are absolutely gorgeous together.

Granted, this is not the yarn to pick if you want something in neon lime green, but if you are sucker for heathery/tweedy subtly done colors, like me, then I'd recommend it for a lot of different uses.  I just finished up a lacey sweater design from it which came out beautifully. It's light and airy and the perfect extra layer for changeable weather seasons (which in New Mexico is apparently all of them).

It also works great for colorwork, so I was very happy when I was assigned it to work on my next project up in the to-be-knit sample queue.

I need to pick up a set of needles but this project is getting cast on tonight!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Since I've moved all my design and shop-related chatting from Wooly Wonka Fibers over to the shop and its new blog capabilities, I'm finding I'm missing having a place to talk about other things going on in my life, so I thought a quick and easy, free blog version wouldn't be a bad thing.  Here 'tis.

If you follow me at all on Facebook or on Ravelry, you'll know I'm currently up to my eyeballs working on a book for Interweave Press, due out in the fall of 2015.  I can't say too much about the details of it yet, but it'll be a knitting book (of course, right?) and it's a mix of men's and women's garments, plus accessories. Unfortunately, that doesn't leave me a lot of things to actually blog about on the crafty front, so I'll have to mention a few other things.

My DH has been busy clearing some very overgrown and not very attractive shrubbery from around the side deck.  I've ordered a few fruit trees and we're going to put those in this spring - they'll be close to the raised veggie beds I put in last year and hopefully will make watering easier.  I had a lot of problems with critters in the veggie beds this year, so I've opted to stick with just the 2 until I see if this year's pest prevention methods work or not.  It's been warm enough here, I'm considering putting in some spinach already.  (Crazy winter weather - we've had virtually none!)

For my reading entertainment in the evenings, I've just started The Bloodletter's Daughter.  It's set right around 1600 in Bohemia, and focused on a local village girl and the illegitimate Don Julio, son of the Hapsburg Roman Emperor, Rudolf II.  Interesting book so far, although I'm only about 60 pages into it.  I'll keep you posted.

Testing a post to check for font, photo uploads, etc.

Tour de Fleece - Week 2

I'm pretty happy with my progress for the Tour so far this year!  I've been trying to have a goal of 15 minutes of spinning a day, o...