About The Country Wife Blog

Monday, December 30, 2013

Slouchy Leftover Hat

This hat was knit up rather quickly as a potential gift.  I had my doubts about its acceptability which turned out to be correct!

The hat was knit on 16" US 11 circular needles holding two strands of Bartlettyarn (which is worsted weight/heavy worsted weight) together throughout.  You could use a bulky yarn.

Cast on 64 stitches and knit in K2, P2 ribbing for 3 inches.
Knit one round plain, increasing 5 stitches evenly.
Knit plain (knit every stitch in every round) until you are ten inches (or a little more) from cast on edge.
K4, knit 2 together around.
K3, knit 2 together around.
K2, knit 2 together around.
K1, knit 2 together around.
Knit 2 together around. If necessary, continue this final decreasing until you have only 6-8 stitches left on needle.  Break yarn leaving plenty of tail to go through stitches, pull tightly and secure. Finally, weave in ends.

This is a very sturdy and somewhat slouchy hat.  If you want it slouchier, use softer yarn, perhaps some which is already bulky weight.  I carried one color throughout, adding new colors as I ran out of the previous color.  A pretty quick knit, but next time I will use metal needles instead of bamboo as the bamboo did what they do best, stick to the yarn do it does not slip off needles!

Since I rather like this hat myself, I may be wearing it out in the cold soon!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Knitting Journal--Day Six

The day has finally come:  I have completed the Christmas knitting for the grandchildren for this year...with the exception of one pair of regular mittens in dark gray and white.  Yay!  My target for getting the "foreign" gifts into the mail was tomorrow and I have gotten there!  A big weight off my mind.

Last night I worked on the gloves-with-mouse-faces-on-the-fingertips for a couple of hours finishing both cuffs, beginning of hands and all the fingers on one glove.  Today I was able to complete the remaining fingers and thumbs.  The pattern I started with  was Grinch Gloves.  I used some really lovely variegated yarn in grays, pink, lavender, purple, blue, and green. 

The pattern was very easy to knit and there were NO HOLES between the fingers to sew up.  Susan Anderson is a wonderful knit designer from the perspective. I have never knit a pair of gloves yet that did not have major holes to repair, no matter how carefully I worked them.  The only glitch on the fingers was that when I looked at the pattern numbers, they were never the same as on the gloves.

Glove with Mouse Face on Fingertip!

Finally I have a pile of completed Christmas knitting ready to go!

Most of the Christmas Knitting 2013!  Ready to mail out...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Knitting Journal--Day Five

Last night I awoke shortly before midnight after a nightmare and was still awake when the power went off just after 1 AM.  (That was NOT the nightmare...!)  Since I would then not be able to sleep I got up, found my headlamp and went to the pantry to take down a battery-powered lantern from the top of the freezer and thus being prepared, went to the Upper Regions where all my knitting doodads are located. I picked up the second convertible mitten and started on the thumb.  When that was completed I began the fingerless glove insert.

Around 4 AM the power came back on.  Time to hit the hay!

When I leaped out of the bed (well, "leaped" is a bit of a stretch...!) to answer the telephone, I discovered that Grammie-services might be needed in the afternoon.  Yay!  One of my best times.  I love spending time with the children.  They are such a delight. I wish more of them were close so we could develop a stronger relationship.  Well, from my end, I feel very close and adore them all.  From their end, they have very little opportunity to know me and their grandfather except through conversations.

Anyway, back to the subject!  I spent some time working in the kitchen then more time organizing my knitting needles, especially the short glove double-pointed needles, which I put into labeled snack bags.  The ones I needed for the remaining knitting projects I placed in my take-along tool bag.  That was very satisfying.

It turned out that the Grammie-service was not needed this afternoon, and a major snowstorm put the evening potentiality out of the question...so, home for knitting.

The first project was to throw the stegosaurus into the washing machine to felt.  After twenty minutes the major part of it was beautifully felted.  Unfortunately a lot of the stuffing moved into part of the tail, giving the tail are rather pregnant appearance as well as not felting properly.

After pulling out much of that "tail stuffing" I put the stego back into the washing machine for another ten minutes of felting.  This time:  same thing!  So, I pulled out some of the unsightly bulging, trying to shove some of it back into the body which is now rather depleted so the stego looks like it is going through a bad spell food-wise.  I decided that this guy is going to have to be it as I don't have materials to make another one and I don't have the time.  Perhaps this creature will be loved, even if it is at the end of a starvation cycle.

Next I put some Red Velvet Cookies in the refrigerator to chill for two hours and picked up the last convertible mitten and went to work.  At shortly before 11 PM I finished weaving in the last end.  These mittens are adequate but I am still not satisfied.  I may try to perfect the pattern with my knitting, but some other year.  I do have one orphaned convertible mitten....the prototype, which I may finish sometime, but now...on to the gloves-with-mouse-faces-on-the-fingertips...but that is a project for a new day.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Knitting Journal--Day Four

So things are moving right along, and so is the calendar!  Having lots of  sitting and waiting hours on Wednesday made much of the Christmas tree project seemingly fly by.  Yesterday that was completed (plus lots of laundry washed and dried, dishes washed and dried, food cooked, wood brought in for the fire, etc) and it was on to the Stegosaurus.

The Stegosaurus is from Jacob Haller on Ravelry.com.

Thinking to make it larger, I started out knitting with three strands of Barlettyarn on size 15 needles.  It was immediately obvious that I did not have enough of the same color scheme for a whole stegosaurus with that set-up so I tore it out and started again with two strands (which is what I had originally planned...!) and size 9 needles.  It went better.

Due to a friend of our family, but mostly Dear One, I went to the upper regions and camped out on the couch with my music stand to hold the directions and Life(from BBC/Planet Earth/The Blue Planet) to keep me company while Friend and Dear One had a nice visit.  I got to the row with 67 stitches just one side of what I thought was the halfway mark then went to bed.

This morning I awoke something after 3 AM, could tell I was not going back to sleep so I made some fake pecan sticky buns and finished knitting the body around 7:30...whereupon I went back to bed!  Still have feet, back plates, stuffing and felting to go.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Knitting Journal--Day Three

The second major project:  Christmas Trees for Cardboard Cones has been started.  Christmas Tree number one in green is heading toward completion.  This green tree is being knit with the Purled Christmas Tree pattern.

This project is on its second iteration:  the first one was with just one strand of yarn on size 3 needles.  The needles I picked from my needle stash were lace needles and quite pointy which, added to the smallness of the size, caused enough pain to start again with two strands of yarn held together and size 8 needles.  One strand is a green synthetic with a gold thread running through it.  The second strand is my favorite: Bartlettyarn.
Green purled tree completed on cone

A dear friend had given me two wonderful cardboard cones from some coned yarn she had previously used up, and which cones she had saved for a purpose to be determined...don't we all do that...save stuff we know we will need "some day"?  Anyway, she generously gave them to me.  Sadly, this Christmas tree was going to be way too big for those cones...would have worked great as the pattern was written, but not as I am making it, so I went to Joann Fabrics and Crafts.  When I finally found the styrofoam cone section there were only TWO left!  Just the number I needed. I said a quick silent "thank you" prayer, purchased them, and walked out of the store very very happy and encouraged.

Red and green purled tree completed
Once Christmas tree number one was completed, it was on to Christmas tree number two, which isin red and green--still the Bartlettyarn in green, and the synthetic yarn with a gold thread running through it, though red this time...and here it is above! A delightful project and very easy, just time-consuming.  I think a forest of these trees in several different sizes would be lovely Christmas decorations.  We shall see...but definitely not THIS year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Knitting Journal--Day Two

This post has been a few days coming!  Sadly, there are other things to do besides Christmas Knitting!

Since the previous post lots of things have happened/been done.  A hat and cowl sample have been knit for Joann Fabrics and Crafts.  A scarf sample has been started for Joann Fabrics and Crafts in the worsted weight yarn and needles listed on the pattern.  Since I was trying to complete it in time for the Open House last weekend and realized it was not going to happen, I found some bulky yarn and started a second sample with Lion Brand Hometown yarn.  Neither of them got much further than twelve inches in length but were a good sample of using the same pattern and getting very different results...thus a very good selling point for knitting a gauge swatch!  I delivered them for the Open House, still on the needles.  I have not received any feedback either way but have now picked up the samples and will complete them once the Christmas Knitting is complete.

As far as the actual Christmas Knitting project, I have completed the Bartlettyarns pair of convertible mittens using Ramona Flowers Fingerless Gloves pattern as a starting place.  These worked out somewhat  better than the previous pattern, though the glove part is still humpy under the convertible mitten part which I created myself.

Fingerless interior of Convertible Mittens
To make the RFFG into convertible mittens, I knit up the pattern as written, with the exception that I did a simple knit two, purl two ribbing instead of the fancier ribbings Ramona created.  (Another time I think I will try one of them but in the interest of time, I went the cheap and sure route! )  After knitting the glove as written I picked up stitches on the back of the hand, plus two on each side of the palm then cast on the same number of stitches on the palm that were on the back, minus the four extra picked-up stitches.

Back of Hand with Conversion Bag showing wrong side

Once the original number of stitches were on the needle (I used the Magic Loop method of knitting these convertible mittens so I could knit them both at once!) I started knitting around.  My plan was to knit the back of the hand stitches in stockinette stitch then knit the palm stitches with a little ribbing for three or four rows.

Back of Completed Convertible Mitten...notice the garter stitch band and the stocking stitch tip!
Well, I did knit the palm (cast-on stitches) in ribbing but instantly realized I had botched it when picking up the back of the hand stitches, so to sort of recoup things--you know, like a kitten who is walking along the back of the couch and falls off, the minute she hits the floor does a quick flip and goes off on another project as if that is what she planned to do all along--I did my own "quick flip" and knitted in garter stitch for a few rounds, then turned the work (creating a small hole which I sewed up at the end...) and began in stockinette stitch to finish up.

Palm side of completed mittens with fingerless mitts covered by conversion bag.
The final additional change I made to Ramona's pattern was to close up the top of the thumb. I thought as I was doing the final convertible knitting that I would make a matching convertible thumb top, but in the interest of sanity and time, I just added four rounds of knitting and closed it up.  Fine!  The mittens are done, and don't look too awful.  They are a tad large for the recipient, but she will grow, plus she is a heavy-duty player-in-the-snow so I think she will find them perfect as her hands will stay warm for a very long time with this Bartlettyarn.

So---convertible mittens pair number one, DONE!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Garlic Raising Project at Home!

While we were in Maine (Rangeley Lakes) in October for a vacation week, I was able to attend a garlic-raising lecture at the local library.  It was very interesting and encouraging. I love garlic!  The thought of raising it ourselves had never previously occurred to me.  As a byproduct of the lecture, all participants (nearly 20 people, many of which were garlic growers already!) received a bag with four or five garlic bulbs to plant in our own gardens!

When we got home from Maine I still had work to do to clean up the kitchen garden, which I finally did.  It was now ready to prepare for spring, AND ready to plant garlic which is supposed to be planted in October or November in this area.  That was good news as we had not passed the garlic-planting deadline.

Earlier in the fall there had been a note on our town's ListServe with someone offering $10 loads of composted goat manure.  I dredged into the recesses of my brain and remembered the name so I was able to go back into the ListServe archives and find that message.  Contacting the goat farmer was an easy thing and he agreed that he still had a pile of "compost" so I headed out in the truck.

The trip was a nice trip though the final trip up a steep and VERY narrow driveway was a bit nerve-wracking for this gutless driver.  When I got to the top into the yard the farmer told me to turn the truck around and drive it up to the compost pile cross-ways of the road.  This entailed getting VERY CLOSE to the edge of the road and a very very steep drop-off.  My heart was fluttering and my stomach was clenching, and that was before the farmer got there with his tractor and bucket to load the truck.  Well, he did a good job and gave us a nice load on top of that tarp that I had so smartly put into the bottom of the truck bed so we would not have compost forever impaled in the ridges of the truck liner.

Once home Dear One and Dear Daughter-in-law unloaded the compost (which was much LESS compost-y that I had envisioned, but which will still add good stuff to the garden) onto the garden. I was worn out from the stress of the loading up so I put off shoveling it around (with our new square-pointed shovel!) until the next day.

Finally we were ready to plant the garlic.  I gave three of the bulbs to Dear Daughter-in-law to plant in their garden, along with about a third of a bale of straw for covering it to protect it over the winter.  It was so great to get that garlic in the ground.

Heavenly Father helped things along nicely by giving us wonderful gentle fall weather, unusually warm for an extended period.  Here in mid-December the ground is still not frozen, though I think that is coming soon.

Here is the kitchen garden with a straw-covered garlic patch...with a straw-covered chive clump as well!
Straw-covered garlic, and chives, too!
Without the extended mild fall weather this would not have happened.  Now we get to wait until spring to see if anything is actually happening under the straw.  If all is well with the garlic, we should have some nice bulbs come July next year!  That would be wonderful.  These are German Extra Hardy Hardnecks.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Knitting Journal, Day One!

The title of this series of blog posts is sort of like the Creation story in the Holy Bible...day one does not necessarily mean it was all done on THAT day, just like all the stuff done on Day One in the Creation was not done in one day, but in one period of time, whatever Heavenly Father's period of time happens to be.

So, each year  I knit for the grandchildren and give them at Christmas.  Usually it is mittens but this year I decided to ask what they would actually like to receive.  This is the list:

G: convertible mittens in light green and light blue
A: convertible mittens in light blue and dark green
L: gloves in pink with some purple and mouse faces on the fingertips
T: a Christmas tree to go on a cardboard cone
A-2: a Christmas tree to go on a cardboard cone
J: a felted dinosaur
E: mittens
C: mittens
L: mittens
B: mittens

Three of the last four sets of mittens are already completed since I knitted them in January to get a head start on Christmas knitting.  The rest of the process is why I am writing this Christmas Knitting Journal....the other parts of the Christmas knitting have already been taxing in the extreme.

Having some Hilda Yates' Farm Bartlettyarn which is wooly and very thick and warm, I knit a prototype convertible mitten to see how it would go.  I found a pattern on Ravelry and knit it up true to the pattern. Her mittens/glittens are absolutely beautiful.

Sadly, this pattern did not work very well for me.  At least, I thought it was way too humpy and armour-like.  Kathy Cochran, the designer, said she had used DK weight yarn for years but had started using worsted weight yarn with the same needles which only made the glittens a little bit larger.  All her glittens were so promising but when  I used the Bartlettyarn  I was unhappy with them.  Here is the prototype I made with that yarn:
Bartlettyarn glitten closed

Bartlettyarn glitten showing fingerless glove interior of mitten

Maybe I mentioned above that the glitten feels like chain mail armour, or at least, how I imagine it would feel. I am a bit claustrophobic, so this is a problem for me.

Since this failed for my liking, I purchased some Cascade 220 Superwash in DK weight to try again.  VERY similar results!  SO...obviously the problem is with me and my knitting. Kathy's glittens are stunningly beautiful...

DK weight glitten backs...

DK weight glitten-palmside

DK weight glitten - palmside showing fingerless glove
Things I have already learned on this project to this point:

1.  The intensity of the yarn colors matters.  If you are going to go to the work to do a somewhat complicated pattern, there should be a vast different in hue so the pattern will show clearly.  No bragging rights if you can barely see the design.  Sadly.

2.  Even following a pattern exactly will not necessarily give you the results you are expecting.  This does not make the pattern wrong.  Expectations may need to be readjusted!

3.  Sometimes it is a good idea to have some kind soul try on the glitten to see if it fits on a hand more closely approaching the size of the hand of the recipient grandchild.  This can be encouraging.  Diana was kind enough to try on this DK glitten and found it comfortable and fine.  She suggested that the ribbing on the palm was the only flaw...should have been tightened up some, so when I make the second glove insert I will do it differently.  At least, I hope to do so...


Sunday, December 1, 2013

New Health Find...infused water

Last Sunday Debbie asked me if I had ever tried infused water.  Since I had never heard of it, I said so.  She said to take a nice 2 quart glass bottle and put a very thinly sliced apple of any kind (I used a Pink Lady since that is what I had) in the bottom of the jar.  Toss in one stick of cinnamon, fill the jar with water, cover and refrigerate. In an hour, pour yourself a glass of lovely lightly flavored infused water.  I loved it!

You can refill the jar three or four times.  By the time the apple slices begin to brown you might want to remove them and start with a new apple and cinnamon stick...

Since I love lemon, I tried putting a sliced lemon in the bottom of a jar along with about an inch of finely sliced fresh ginger and let it refrigerate.  That one was really good, too.

If any readers have suggestions of other good flavors of infused water, send comments!

Thanks.  And thanks, Debbie, for a treat that will most likely be a rest of my life sort of thing!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Three By Three Cable Cowl--finished two of them for The Grandmother Project

In the interest of finishing up current projects so I can get on with Christmas knitting, in the early morning no-sleeping-hours, I finished the second Three by Three Cabled Cowl.  It is knit in Queensland Collection Llama Soft Cotton, a yarn which has a put-up of 273 yards in a 100 gram ball and which is 80% cotton and 20% Baby Llama.  It was made in Argentina for KRI.  This yarn is lovely and soft, though at the end of the ball there were multiple areas where there seemed to be some dried glue on the strand of yarn.

This knitting was for The Grandmother Project at the White River Yarns shop where scarves and cowls are being knit for a group of grandmothers in Africa.  This is sort of a "sisters project" because these grandmothers are part of the Tuko Pamoja group and make beautiful baskets and other things for sale to help provide for their families.  To learn more about this group, click here.  Some of their baskets are, or will be, on sale at White River Yarns.  Also they will be at the Christmas Market with a Difference at the Church of Christ in Hanover, NH  Thursday, 7 November to Saturday, 9 November 2012.

This was a rather fun knit project, though when I put down the knitting to sleep and picked it back up, there were times when I started at the wrong row...out of 8 rows in the pattern! SO, there are a few creative spots on the cowl which is about 20 inches long in total.

The knitting was done on size US 7 needles with 33 stitches cast on.  The first and last 6 stitches of each row are knit.

The picture above shows where the buttonholes are at the end of the piece.  Some kind person has donated buttons to the White River Yarns shop so I am hoping someone will sew them on.

The skein of yarn I used made two cowls, with about 12 inches of yarn left over!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Homemade Laundry Soap

Last year M made some laundry soap from a recipe she found online.  She sent us a package with several loads' worth of soap.  It was very well received here.

Ingredients for one batch of homemade laundry soap
Over the last month or so, I have been collecting the various ingredients for the soap.  The Oxy Clean generic was harder to find.  The Dollar Store did not have it in stock the day I was there so I went to Family Dollar and found it...quite a bit more expensive than $1.00 per box!

To make this soap you need six ingredients:  20 mule team Borax--76-ounce box, 3 bars Fels Naptha soap, Washing Soda--55-ounce box, Baking Soda--2 cups, 2 containers Dollar Tree "Oxyclean"-40-ounces in each box, and Purex Fabric Sofener Crystals--28-ounce container.

Fels Naptha soap, grated in Cuisinart
In your food processor, or with a box grater, finely grate the three bars Fels Naptha soap.  In a 5-gallon bucket lined with a double (or preferably, triple) layer of kitchen wastebasket trash bags, pour in all the ingredients, starting with the Borax and ending with the grated Fels Naptha soap.  Mix well with your hands then close the garbage bags and swish back and forth until the mixture is completely homogenized.

Use 2 Tablespoons of soap mixture per load of clothes.  I found that the little scoop in the Family Dollar (the Dollar Tree was out of Oxyclean when I stopped there...) Oxyclean was just 2 Tablespoons so I can use that as a measure for each load of laundry.
Combined ingredients in triple garbage bags in 5-gallon bucket

Because I was making this soap as a demo for a "Family Preparedness Night" at our women's organization at Church,  I printed up labels with the ingredients and "Use 2 Tablespoons per load" on them, which I affixed to some zipper-top snack bags which I then filled with one-quarter cup of soap so the ladies can run two loads of laundry to see if they want to make this themselves.  It is supposedly less than $30 to make this batch.  I made up 30 snack bags which equals 60 loads of laundry and have A LOT left in my bucket.  It may just be a year's worth of laundry soap!

 Happy cleaning!

Fall Sweaters....Completed

Last year I started sweaters for E and C.  I had promised them the year before. I wanted to knit them on my Bond Incredible Sweater Machine.  I had made one several years ago for little L and found it enjoyable.  A couple of Christmases ago I made then for G, A, and L.  Finally I got started last year.

Cardigan knit on the Bond, from Yates' Farm Bartlettyarn in red and blue
In September I finished the red and blue one except for putting in the zipper.  Last weekend I was sick and did not want to share my germs with the brothers and sisters at Church so I stayed home.  I spent a couple or three hours that afternoon at the Bond and finished the front and back of the blue and green sweater.

Still not in good shape physically, I did not sleep well last night so I spent the time finishing the blue and green sweater then inserted the zipper in the red and blue sweater.
Pullover knit on the Bond in blue and heather green from Yates Farm Bartlettyarns

I have just sent an email to children to see what my Christmas knitting project should look like.  Normally I make a pair of mittens for everyone.  I decided to ask what was actually wanted this year!  New strategy....We shall see what tickles the fancy for 1.5, 4,4,4, 6,8,8,10, and 16 year olds. I look forward to knitting what they would like.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lilae Shawl Adventure

The White River Yarns shop sometimes invites people to knit samples for them.  This time the samples were shawls.  The pattern Karen gave me is Xale Lilae (Lilae Shawl) along with some lovely soft cotton yarn, which yarn I cannot name as she was kind enough to wind for me. I did not think to ask for the ball bands.

When I saw the pattern my stomach clenched!  I am not much of a lace knitter but I decided that I could give it a try.  Since I was going to be spending two weeks in Maine mostly by myself I was sure it would work to finish it in October as requested.

For ages I have wanted to get a music stand to use to hold my patterns at eye level. Now was the time!  I went to Blue Mountain Guitar and met a very nice man who had just what I needed at a very good price:  $14.95!

Music Stand from Blue Mountain Guitar
  I then went to Joann Fabrics and Crafts and found two magnetic pattern holders to put on the music stand. I needed two of them because the pattern for Lilae was two pages long horizontally.
Magnetic pattern holders with magnets, plus homemade long magnet from magnetic tape for very sturdy long magnet.

Here is Chart Two from the Lilae Shawl pattern installed on the music stand and magnetic holders. The hardware works like a charm, particularly with the long heavy magnetic strip I made with some magnetic tape and scraps of fabric.  It would have looked better if I had used some nice scrapbooking paper instead of the fabric scraps, but...I did not have any at the time.

The shawl was fun to knit, after a fashion!  When it was going well, it was great.  When I had to start over, again and again and again, it was not so fun.  When it was two-thirds done, I discovered an impossible error way back there, so I tore it all out once again, and started one last time.
One motif left of center

Left Front end, with crochet bind-off visible

Top Central Medallion with Nupps

It was interesting to learn how to do a crochet bind-off as the pattern instructed.

Even though I knit the entire thing more than once, and most of the rows, or portions of the rows, many times,  it still looks kind of nice.  When I turned it in to the yarn shop there were a group of knitters there, perhaps in a class, and when they found it was a sample, one of them said, "You won't even get to wear it!"  Not a problem, no way!  It was great experience and I learned a ton, but it is not my taste in shawls.  Actually, I don't know what IS my taste in shawls, but I will know it when I see it.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Icelandic Sheep Fleece Project

Blurry Icelandic Sheep from Apple Sauce Farm
While in Rangeley, Maine last week I was able to acquire a fleece from an Icelandic sheep.  This is a breed of sheep that has a double coat:  inner soft fluffy down, and outer longer more "fiberous" locks.  From what I have heard from the lady who sold the fleece, as well as looking around on the internet, it appears that there will be a lot to learn from preparing this fleece for spinning!

Unskirted Icelandic Fleece October 2013
Before even starting the cleaning process I have to decide if I want to spin the thel (soft undercoat) and the tog (soft, strong outer coat) separately or together.  To make clothing items for next to the skin, choosing to spin the soft undercoat separately is a good idea.  To make a nice laceweight yarn, the tog would be a good idea.  OR if I want to spin up some Lopi-like yarn for a nice cardigan, spinning them together is the ticket.  We shall see.

Since C wants to come to our house for some spinning help, I thought perhaps she would like to work on the process from start to finish, so I will probably only do a little playing around with the fleece for now.  I have already pulled off a little batch and soaked in in cold water for 30 minutes instead of washing it in hot soapy water.  It is amazing how dirty the water is after this process.  The fiber is now drying.  By tomorrow it will be ready for carding.  I might do a tiny sample of separate and even tinier sample of combination.
Tog, Rangeley Icelandic Apple Sauce Farm
Thel, Rangeley Icelandic Apple Sauce Farm
Second cuts...not something to spin

Monday, October 7, 2013

Danger, Danger, Danger---Scotch Bonnet Peppers

So, you learn something every day.  OR you SHOULD learn something every day.  Yesterday and today I learned MORE about Scotch bonnet peppers.

In Rangeley at the IGA there was a big styrofoam plate of small round peppers.  I did not know what they were but wanted some peppers to go with some refried beans and tortillas.  I asked a woman who was near the peppers if they were hot peppers.  She said she did not know...so, since there were about 20 peppers for 99 cents, I purchased them.

When we got home from the IGA, I capped one of them, sliced off a little piece and put it in my mouth.  Well, I did not actually put it in my mouth, when the pepper touched my bottom lip, I KNEW I had made a mistake!  So spicy it hurt. I am not a person who likes to throw away anything I have spent hard-earned money to buy, so I left the rest of the peppers there on the counter.  When we packed up to come back to Vermont, I put the peppers in the cooler.

Last night I decided to dry the peppers since a male friend with whom I was discussing hot peppers told me his wife dried their hot peppers and froze them.  Sounded good, to I capped them, sliced them, seeded, them, and dried them. I put them in a couple of cute little glass jars and stored them in the freezer. 

Scotch Bonnet peppers, oven-dried
After washing up and putting the compost on the porch waiting for morning, I went about my business.  Later on I was finishing a few emails before getting ready for bed, I reached up to rub my sleep-itchy eyes.  BIG MISTAKE!  Man, did they ever sting!  I washed my hands again...you can be sure.

This morning I hopped into the shower and as I turned my face up into the lovely warm stream of water I rubbed my eyes with those same hands.  INSTANT BLINDNESS!  I could not believe it.  I had already washed my hands multiple times.  Eventually the burning blindness disappeared and I was able to go about my business.

Tonight, now twenty-four hours later,  I was having a discussion with Dear One, and was very touched by something that he had read to me.  When I reached up to wipe the tears from my eyes, you guessed it!  More stinging pain!  TWENTY-FOUR HOURS LATER!  After many many hand-washings...

So, when the smart people on the internet and other places suggest using kitchen gloves when working with peppers,  I believe I will do it in the future, especially if I do not know the breed of pepper.  Others might want to learn from my mistake.
Closer picture of dried and frozen Scotch Bonnet peppers.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Rangeley Vacation-Day Four

Today we started late and ate leftovers for breakfast (pizza and Reuben--got to get back on the vegan wagon tomorrow because I am feeling less human after three days of eating non-vegan.  Very surprising.) and mostly just relaxed today.

Many rows of knitting finished, then off to the ice cream social where we each had one small dish of vanilla ice cream with strawberries, chopped nuts, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream.  Dear One made a walking tour of the whole facility while I went to look for The Shed where there were some German sausage and Kraut Specials advertised for Oktoberfest.

Sadly, I could not find The Shed but I DID find Threads Galore.  Very nice people.  There were several items I could not walk out without, including some absolutely darling note cards, which I bought.  I also bought an 8 by 8 rotating cutting board.

After Threads Galore I went to The Red Onion again and purchased some cheese-y fries and some sweet potato fries.  They were very good.  After that I burned some frozen mixed vegetables.  So glad the smoke detector was far away!  Dear One was not as thrilled with the mixed vegetables. I had been knitting and failed to set the timer.  Oops!

As I was about to get up from the computer to get back to the final 10 rows of knitting which I am committed to finish tonight, J called and gave me the help I needed to use Sibelius 6 on my computer.  I have spent an excessive amount of time putting in the notation for "Now the Day is Over" for our Class Song for Saturday's 45th high school reunion.  I started a second time because I could not figure out how to have only four bars per line instead of 10 bars per line.  Enough for tonight. MUST DO THE KNITTING!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Rangeley Vacation-Day Three

There were still a few stems of kale in the bag so today I made some kale chips.  I did not add any extra salt which made them taste better.
Kale Chips....really yummy.
Today is a day for lots of knitting.  As it happens I awoke at 3:30 AM and worked until 6:30 AM on the shawl.  Still am sure I will not get it finished today, but maybe tomorrow.

Vegetable soup for my breakfast, with some pinto beans on top.  Omelet with mixed vegetables and mozzarella for Dear One.

After a couple of hours of "White Collar" he headed out to hike another mountain and I continued on the knitting.  As of this writing I have gotten through row 18 on the second chart which goes to Row 48.  Having taken off an hour for blogging and emailing, I am back to knitting.  After a while I hope to go for a walk around the circle and on down to the lake.

Dear One hiked to Piazza Rock on the Appalachian Trail and came home a happy sweat hog.  He was ready for some Red Onion pizza so I ordered some when I went to the library to pay my fee for the garlic class I attended last night.  There had been no indication on the signage that a fee was going to be charged so I had gone cash-free to the class.  The librarian took my fee out of petty cash and hoped I would be honest and come pay. 

While the pizza was cooking,  I went to the IGA and purchased Reuben sandwich ingredients. Yes, the Reuben at Red Onion was good, but I thought I could make more than one for the same price.  This proved to be true...

The knitting progressed to almost half done the second chart (working on Row 21 of 48 when I stopped for a walk) when it seemed a good time to walk around the loop.  I discovered that nearly all the cabins are inhabited this week.  The walk was lovely with a light breeze blowing and lovely clouds in a blue sky.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rangeley Vacation-Day Two

Today was a big day!  First thing upon arising I made some fabulous vegetable soup which I had for breakfast, though Dear One ate his regular hard-boiled egg. 

Because we had read that there was a  Farmers' Market  in town on South Shore Drive which we had already scoped out yesterday, off we went.  I had recently watched a Mabel Ross wool spinning video and was edgy to find a fleece to comb with the dog comb I found.  I was hoping to find a sheep farmer at the market.

When we pulled up to the market we found five tent and five farmers. ONE OF THEM HAD A FLEECE ON HER TABLE!!!  So exciting. I made a beeline to her and asked a few questions.  She has Icelandic sheep, which have a two layer  coat.  She showed me her combs.  I think they were Louet mini combs.  Either way, they were single row teeth.  I had seen some at Halcyon Yarn in Bath, Maine when I was there two weeks ago. Seeing Joan using them with her Icelandic fleece made me wish I had gotten a pair...until I looked them up online and saw the price.  The dog comb was only ten dollars and will probably work.

Joan was willing to sell me an unskirted fleece for twenty dollars if I would come to her farm later in the afternoon.  Dear One was agreeable so we made it a plan.  Now we were free to look at the other tables.  There was some great -looking kale right next door so I filled a bag which turned out to be $2.35-worth. I was reminded of the giant armful of collards we bought in North Carolina when we were there last fall which cost  $3.00!!

Easy part of Bald Mountain Trail
After the farmers market off we went to hike the Bald Mountain Trail.  We both went: Dear One went all the way to the top.  I went up a few minutes and then came back and sat in the truck knitting on a neckwarmer I am making for the Grandmother's Project and spent the time listening to a Steve Havill detective story.

After the hike we went back to the cabin where I did a bit more knitting on the shawl then headed out alone to the Apple Sauce Icelandic Farm to choose a fleece.  I got a quick tour of the sheep and goats.

Blurry Icelandic Sheep

Mini Goat with lovely gray coat
Home again to more knitting, then off to  the Rangeley Library where there was a presentation on growing garlic in Maine.  I figured we had a similar climate so we could grown them in our garden.  Good presentation.  Dave really knows his stuff.  At the end of the evening he handed out bags of garlic bulbs to plant!  It turns out this is the perfect time for planting garlic so next week when we get home, out with the old garden and in with the prep for next spring!

On the way home from the library I stopped at The Red Onion for take-out onions and Reuben sandwich, which were very nice.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rangeley Vacation-Day One

We slept very well in the queen room on the main floor of the cabin.  There is a master suite upstairs which is really nice but not being a fan of long stairways, we satisfied ourselves with the queen room, using the twin room as an extra dressing room.

The kitchen is large and very well provisioned.  They even supplied salt and pepper as well as plastic wrap and aluminum foil!  Plenty of cooking utensils and pots.  By far it is the best set-up we have found in resort kitchens.  We will use it to the fullest extent probably.

We did go to the coffee party and found there were warm cinnamon buns and blueberry muffins to go along with orange juice and hot chocolate.  While happily munching we met a lovely young family with twin girls about 2-2 1/2 years old.  The little girls were full of personality and opinions!  Delightful to watch.  Glad we could want and not manage!

After the party we went to the IGA to pick up a very few groceries, including a very inexpensive cheese pizza, then off we went to do a little exploring in the area.  We took the South Shore Drive around the lake then turned south on Route 17 to go to Height of Land which we had heard had a wonderful view.  We found this to be completely true.  Unfortunately we did not either one of us have a camera in the truck.  No problem: we will come another day.

We then went to see where the Appalachian Trail crosses Route 4, and did find it.  Dear one is considering a hike along the Trail, but will decide later in the week.

We ate the pizza with green peppers and sliced black olives for supper along with some bean burritos after I had spent a couple of hours knitting on the lace shawl I am knitting for White River Yarns. It is due the end of October but I am hoping to finish it this week.

Vacation in Rangeley, Maine

Having just completed a two-week course in Lifestyle Choices at Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick, Maine (more on this later!), I came home for two days then we were off on part of our vacation for this year.  {Just before I went to Parkview Bob had scheduled a time share exchange at the Rangeley Lake Resort.}

Sunday after Church we headed north on I-91, picked up Route 2 East then changed to Route 16 which took us to Main Street in Rangeley about four hours later.  The first half of the trip was in glorious sunshine where we enjoyed the gorgeous fall weather.  By 7 PM it was very dark and we dropped our speed a bit as the road was VERY curvy and felt narrow with the trees right up to the road when there were not rivers or lakes next to the road.

We were grateful that the small very light-colored deer we saw were not interested in crossing Route 16.  There was one first, then many miles later three more-two on one side of the road and one on the other.  Those guys were not sure what they were going to do as we approached but then made the right decision and headed away from us.  We saw a red fox, which did cross the road but far enough ahead that there was no problem, and a possible gray fox--it was larger than the red fox but not as large as a coyote would have been, so we decided it was a gray fox. 

We enjoyed that wildlife but having had the moose hit several years ago, and noticing all the signs which said, "Brake for Moose.  It could save your life.  HUNDREDS OF COLLISIONS" every few miles, we were very watchful.  About ten miles out of Rangeley Bob said, "Moose!", and there he was, walking down the edge of the road, heading towards Rangeley, too!  Large, dark, with a huge rack.  That really helped the sluggish blood pick up speed and start rushing through our (or at least, MY) veins.

We arrived at the resort just minutes before they closed the office for the night.  We picked up our keys, a binder of info, and a map, plus an invitation to a coffee party the next morning. 

We had no problem finding our cabin, though the entrance had a "speed bump" over the culvert at the end of our driveway.  Hopefully we will not need to make a fast getaway any time soon!

Cupsuptic Cabin

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sourdough English Muffins are YUMMY!

Probably two months ago I purchased some sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour.  It was quite pricey, in my opinion, but since the purchase I have made multiple batches and shared it with others.

 Yesterday when I was clearing out some more mature containers of food from our refrigerator, I found the second container of sourdough starter that I thought I had, but had not seen in several weeks.  I did not really think it was viable but since it only takes one cup of flour and one-half cup of water to "feed" sourdough starter, I gave it a try yesterday morning.  By late afternoon there were lots of little bubbles and the starter had nearly filled the quart container!  I was so pleased.  I decided to use some of it immediately.

Looking online for The Old Geezer Cookbook, which I thought I remembered had sourdough recipes in it, I spent time searching.  It turns out not to be The Old Geezer Cookbook, but is instead The Geezer Cookbook.  After searching through it, where I found lots of recipes I want to try, I did not find a sourdough recipe I wanted use so I continued looking.

Despite the fact that we have three packages of Thomas' English Muffins in our freezer waiting to be used, I found a recipe for Sourdough English Muffins at Sourdough Home.  This link just given is the recipe I used.  I may have put in a little extra sourdough starter last night along with fresh milk, not reconstituted dry milk, but either way, this morning the batter looked really ready to use just before 6 AM.  I sprinkled on the baking soda and sea salt and stirred it in well then dumped it onto our counter onto which I had spread one cup of flour (King Arthur's all-purpose flour).  I kneaded in all that flour and a little bet more then rolled out the dough to about one-half to three-quarters of an inch thick then cut out with my round cookie cutter which is a bit larger than 3 inches.

Having already put parchment paper on a cookie sheet and liberally sprinkled on cornmeal, I placed the muffins on the cornmeal, being careful to keep them one inch apart or a little more because I did not want them to touch and cause problems. I then sprinkled on more cornmeal on top and covered with a clean dish towel. 

Letting them rise for somewhat over an hour while I was downloading a new app to my iPod, and reading a somewhat spurious article from Dialogue, I spent the time quietly as no one else was up.  When the app was done downloading and installed, and after playing around with it a little while, I noticed the time was ready to check the muffins.  They were ready to cook! 

Starting the griddle on our stove as well as a heavy cast iron skillet to heat on medium low, I got ready to do the cooking by removing the smoke alarm from the ceiling and placing it under a fat pillow on the couch.  The other "getting ready" process was to remove a stick of butter from the refrigerator and apricot jam, as well.  no reason not to be prepared for a successful English muffin harvest!

When the surfaces were ready, I buttered them just a bit to give the muffins a delicious first taste on the tongue, then carefully put three on the griddle and three in the skillet and set the timer for 4 minutes.  I turned them over then let them cook another three minutes or so.  After the first batch, I set the timer for 3 minutes then cooked the second side at two and a half minutes. 

The muffins came out BEAUTIFUL!  Split open and spread with butter and apricot jam, they are not to be beat.  Here is a picture of them:

Fresh Sourdough English Muffins!
 This recipe made 18 muffins in the size cutter I used.

 It is nice when recipes are successful...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Cream Puff Shells for Book Group

Tonight is Book Group.  This month we read My Life in France by Julia Child and her nephew, whose name escapes me at the moment.  It is a delightful book.  Having had the great opportunity to spend several months in France many years ago, I rather identified with a number of items in the book.

Usually I like to think of some kind of refreshment to make that accompanies the topic of the reading for the month.  This time I thought of making choux paste to make cream puff shells.  I thought I would take them unfilled, since so often they become soggy.

Some of the empty cream puff shells
This was all a great idea. I did make the cream puff shells (click here for recipe). I did not burn them.  I also did not go to the Book Group as the last two days have been so hot and humid that my body has rather bitten the dust and I am barely hanging on.  It is too bad, since I had some nice tuna salad, some somewhat dry chicken salad, and a can of whipped cream which would be so easy for the ladies to inject into their cream puff shell.

Instead,  Dear One will get to enjoy the puffs.  He did come home and asked about filled shells.  It was not so popular to have empty shells, and whipped cream in a can to fill himself as he wanted them.  He rather likes the pastry cream I usually (as if I make these on a regular basis---probably 3-4 years since the last time....) make, and I think he especially likes the ganache I put on the top.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.  Maybe even tomorrow as there were 48 puffs and I am relatively sure he and Son will not eat them all tonight.  I had three.  It is amazing that a 1-inch glob of choux paste on the buttered pan puffs up into about 2-3 inches across and a couple of inches tall.

Fresh Salsa, again...

A generous friend gave me two flats of BEAUTIFUL tomatoes on Saturday.  All I had given her was a  loaf of the benighted sourdough-cracked-wheat-potato and whole wheat bread.  It was definitely not a fair trade, but as I said, she and her husband are very generous.

So this morning I pulled out the Cuisinart food processor and chopped ingredients then put them together and refrigerated the beautiful salsa, after eating several spoons full!

Salsa in the Measuring Cup

Today's Salsa recipe

5 cups chopped tomatoes
3 cups chopped yellow onions (since I did not have sweet onions)
Garlic cloves to fill a 1/4 cup measure, then finely chopped
Jalapeno coarsely chopped to fill a 1/3 cup measure, then finely chopped
1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup dried cilantro (since I did not have any fresh cilantro)

Put all together in large bowl.  Stir well. Taste for seasoning (really, do that) then eat immediately or refrigerate and eat over the next few days.
Mixed Salsa

Friends are coming at lunch time so we will eat this salsa with the freshly made tortilla chips...which are calling me from the oven now!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Breadbaking...with sourdough

So, last week Dear One and I were watching Chef Brad's Fusion Grain Cooking on the BYU-TV channel which we get on ROKU.  There was a cracked wheat sourdough bread recipe which really looked good.  I thought I might make it something.

Well...sometime came quicker than I expected. I had seen sourdough starter at King Arthur Flour and I had also seen sourdough flavoring there.  They cost about the same amount of money but since the instant flavor would presumably run out but the starter could be kept alive for years..I thought I would get the actual starter.  When I was out yesterday I forgot to stop at King Arthur and after that I had my great fall in the garden so the thought of sourdough, or anything involving effort, went out of my mind.  Not so the mind of Dear One.  SO....often I went to get a one-ounce container (really cute container, by the way...!) of sourdough starter when I got just before they closed.  Stopped at Dan and Whit's to get the potatoes, then came home and started the feeding process of the starter.  This morning all looked well so I went through the two more feeding processes and have now pulled the first batch of Chef Brad's cracked wheat bread out of the oven.

These show what happens when not enough flour in the dough!

Ugly bread, but does taste good. 

Not enough flour!

Of course, I went against  better judgement and put in only the amount of flour he called for.  Well, I did put is a little more, but the dough was sticky and I was sure it needed more flour but did not do it.  PLUS  I have 1 1/2 pound loaf pans and he said this made 2-pound loaves.  Those two  little items together made a  pretty icky-looking batch of bread, but it certainly does taste good.

The second batch is rising in the pans.  This time I put in 11 cups of all-purpose flour instead of the 6-8 cups old Brad tells us to plus I divided into six loaves...four in pans and two ovals on parchment paper on a half sheet pan.  The rising is looking good.  (I also have a batch of buttery sourdough rolls from the KAF sourdough blog rising though I may be too tired to see them all the way through to buns.)

Second bath: WAY more flour