Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Holes in Sweaters & Better Weather

We are slowly inching toward spring here.  Warmer temperatures, green shoots on trees, sprouting bulbs, and a sudden proliferation of birds are all good indicators, but I'm waiting for the one true sign, which for me only comes from the Eastern Towhee.  Late spring, summer, fall, and winter, he has the same call:  Tow-heeeeee! or Cha-WHEAT!  But in late winter/early spring, he changes to my favorite call:  Drink your tea!  Drink your tea!  When I hear it, I know that spring is really here.  I'm listening hard every day, but nothing yet. 

Lots of other birds around.  This beautiful male Cardinal preened in the bushes outside my office window:

His mate was singing nearby.

A Northern Flicker worked his way down a tree trunk.  See how he uses his tail for stabilization?

I caught an elusive Titmouse resting in a sunny spot. 

Tabitha watches everything with great interest.

The sunrises have been so beautiful here...

Even foggy mornings have their own special kind of beauty.

With the rain, bright patches of moss are springing up in the yard.

I love this time of transition!

In other news, I've had a pretty brutal week with knitting.  Both my new cardigan and newest pair of socks have developed holes.  We don't have moths, so I'm not sure what happened.

Repairing them will be a grim process, especially the sweater.  The yarn is dark and fine, and the youtube tutorial video is 30 minutes long, so I'm putting it off until I can face the task. 

Not one, but TWO PAIRS of hand-knitted socks went through the washer by accident this week.  One pair consisted of half acrylic and half silk/merino wool.  They shrank.  I did my best to stretch them out on sock blockers...

...but although I was able to stretch them enough to wear, the legs are stiff and loose, and they generally feel rough and uncomfortable.  The other pair was made with superwash yarn, I think, because they didn't felt.  I'll re-wet them and dry them on blockers, and hopefully it will be better news. 

Meanwhile, I'm nearly done with a new pair...

...and I'm working on inspiration in other areas, like quilting.  I'm intrigued by this new book I purchased, A Paper-Pieced Garden.  I love the idea of incorporating images of nature in my quilts without the sometimes overly fussy look of applique. 

With more muted colors and the incorporation of finely patterned squares/triangles, I think I can eventually make something that fits my style.

I've been baking lately, too.  Now, I'm a firm believer of eating REAL food in moderation, and that includes sugary treats.  But with the discovery that I gained just over 20 pounds in 2015 - ouch! - I'm having to be a little more moderate.  I've been tweaking some old recipes and have come up with some new and healthier versions.  I adore this recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.  I cut the recipe below in half and make four massive muffins.  Todd eats two, I eat two, and I feel completely satisfied.  The original recipe comes from allrecipes.com, but I've heavily modified it.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 TB baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 TB canola oil
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
4 TB chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix flours, salt, and baking powder together.  Separately, combine pumpkin, oil, egg, vanilla, and sugar.  Add dry mixture, alternating with milk.  Finally, stir in chocolate chips.

Ladle into greased muffin tins and place in oven.  Immediately turn the temperature down to 350 degrees.  Bake for about 15 - 18 minutes, until done.

It's no great "diet" food - each muffin has about 240 calories - but they're quite large and very satisfying.  It's a great treat, and these are the types of things I'm incorporating into my daily life now instead of, say, a pint of Ben and Jerry's.  It's all about moderation! 

Have a great week! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Snow Day

Snow day, snow day!  I don't care that we only got an inch...we were out enjoying it as soon as it was light enough to see.  I love walking around the property and seeing how the snow changes everything. 

After about 8 hours, the sun came out...

...and so did the cats.

They LOVE the snow.  Well, any excuse to get outside, really! 

We saw lots of wildlife, too.  Wild turkeys, picking their way around on the hill across the pond...

Deer, feeding on some fallen vines...

And so many birds! 

But a day later...no more snow.  :(  Oh, well!  Winter isn't over yet!  Maybe we'll get a little more before spring.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Look for red, instead

We're deep into January now!  Ice in the bird bath.

Camellias, wilted by the cold.

All the japonica are drooping.

A brief flourish of Carolina Jessamine before the freeze.

But there's still a lot of life and color if you know where to look.  Bright red berries on various bushes around the property.

Beautiful red leaves.

And the promise of future life:  snowdrop bulbs are starting to send up stalks.

Hyacinths, too.

The camellias will be back.  They have amazing regenerative powers!  The bushes will be heavy with blossoms within a week of warmer weather.  Here are some I picked right before the temperature drop:

I just have to focus on the color we've got instead of the general brown of winter.

I've been working on indoor projects. Several years ago, I bought a 36" x 12" canvas painting of tall birch trees at Target.  It was an awkward size and just didn't fit anywhere.  I put it away but have always kept it in the back of my mind.  Could I repurpose it somehow?

This weekend I selected a 12" quilt square pattern and made 3 squares.  I sewed white fabric around the edge and stretched it over the wood frame of the painting canvas.  I was really pleased with the final result and have it hanging in a dim corner of the living room.

It provides a nice pop of color and I am now inspired to make a full-size quilt with the same pattern.  I can see how the spiky side strips will come together to make stars.  Love!  And also love getting some use out of that old frame!  I've been really inspired by various textiles lately, like the herringbone pattern and deep maroon color of the big cowl I recently knitted.

We also recently acquired some vintage embroidery items from Todd's grandpa.  There are several table runners, a giant tablecloth, some pillow cases, and lots of napkins with varying degrees of staining.

I no longer want to fold up my projects/textiles I love and put them away and am going to look for new ways to display them around the house. 

In other news, I started a new pair of socks.  I chose a variegated yarn for the colorwork and I'm afraid that it obscures the pattern too much.

I also decided that I don't enjoy patterns with long 'floats' - that is, patterns where you have to carry yarn A for more than 8 stitches of yarn B before knitting a yarn A stitch.  See the chart below and all the white squares on either side of the bird?  I was carrying long floats (catching them in the middle so they didn't sag or snag) on either side of it for quite a while before deciding to quit.  Just didn't enjoy it.  I'm now happily working on a different project with no long floats and hope to have a finished pair before too long.

Have a great week!