Friday, December 30, 2011

There's an Eowyn sized hole in my house

and heart.  I've stuffed it with Steve.

sweet steve

Isn't he adorable?!  His dad is Australian Shepherd and his mother is a walking hound.   He could herd cows or hunt deer - a multi-purpose dog if you will.  My hope is that the brains of his dad will outweigh the calling of his nose when needed.

He's pretty darn smart.  He knows "sit" and is working on "shake", "down", and he understands "no" but isn't wedded to the idea.  We're working on it.  They say the hardest part of leash training is keeping a hound's nose in the air instead of on the ground.  Honestly, I have no idea how you do that.  Other than holding a treat out in front of him the whole time, Steve's nose is positively glued to the ground.

His skinny little tail bobs adorably while he scampers down a trail.  All he does is try to win Mac's favor, but it's not working.  I remember when Mac did the same thing with Eowyn.  It took a little while but finally Eowyn started playing with him (a.k.a. trying to chew on his head).  We used to call it the Mac and Eowyn Show. Maybe Mac's not done grieving yet.

Here's a favorite picture of Mac and Eowyn in action.  No dogs were hurt during the photo session.  Someday maybe it will be Mac and Steve...

i love to chew on your head

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


There's been a lot of death in my life this year.  That is death in a spiritual sense. Death to old ways of doing things, to phases of life, to friendships, etc. There have been a few births too, but mostly death.

The biggest non-tangible thing I lost this year was my self-confidence.  After deciding to leave my job of twenty-two years (all for very good self-care reasons) I was confident and secure that I could find something else with all my varying abilities to survive.  This has not been the case.  This has been a very sharp blow to my self-esteem and confidence. I've known work done with hands and heart is less valued than work done with degrees, but to have strangers look at my list of skills and not realize the experience and ability that I have is frustrating.


The second biggest loss came Monday, my sweet Eowyn died.  I found her nine years and eleven months ago one morning at work.  She was in someone's garbage at house down the street with a broken chain (an actual short lead, not a tie out chain) around her neck.  She was so skinny when my friend Mel and I put her on the porch to hold her until Animal Control could come she slipped between the rails. When they finally arrived the guy took one look at her and said, "Well, we'll take her in but she's got two strikes against her already.  She's part chow (black spots on her tongue and fluffy chow-like fur with pricked ears) and she's pregnant.  If she passes the personality test, which I think she will (she was lying on her back and he was rubbing her belly), no one wants a pregnant dog." I asked him if I could think about taking her and he said he'd leave her and if I called back he'd come and get her.

After wrestling with the pros and cons I decided to bring her home.  The peeps and I were all very into Lord of the Rings at that point and as she was blonde Eowyn seemed the perfect name. She was very submissive and sweet with the peeps.  And ravenously hungry.

The next day I brought her back to Durham to take her to the vet.  Mel and I were walking her on the street in front of where we worked and a car zoomed up to the curb and called, "Nala!" A woman got out of the car and said, "That's my dog, we've been looking all over for her! That's my daughter's dog."

"How long has she been missing?"  I asked.  I noticed Eowyn didn't look excited to see her.  No happy tail wag or straining on the leash to get to her.

"Three days!"

"I found her yesterday right there." I pointed to the house next door.

"We live in the next house over."

Suddenly I remember seeing Eowyn.  Tied on a three foot chain to a Dogloo all day, every day. "She's starving and she's pregnant."

"Oh.  You can keep her then.  She ate her last litters. We usually keep her in the basement when she's in heat."

I was absolutely horrified. I knew dogs would eat their litters if they didn't think it was safe for them, or if they were starving and I decided there was no way she was going back to them.  Even if this woman changed her mind. I told the woman I was taking her to the vet in a few minutes and needed to walk her.  She continued talking to Mel while I took Eowyn further up the street.

After a trip to the vet, where I was reassured that since Eowyn was now getting food and attention, I should keep an eye on her during her labor, but things would probably be ok.  She was right!  Eowyn was a loving, diligent, doggie-mama.  She birthed eight puppies (their were at least three different dads) and she went on to have a long, happy life.


 There's an Eowyn sized hole in my house now.  I miss the sound of her breathing (snoring much of the time), walking around the house, sleeping on the bed with me, and going for walks. She gave my life a rhythm and was very comforting when I was getting used to being "single" on the days I didn't have the peeps. She came along at a perfect time in my life. I'll miss her.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

New yarn on Etsy

On Monday I dyed ten skeins of yarn. They are finally dry, detangled, and ready to show. Here is a picture from my phone:

  Fingering yarn

 There's another blue (more muted) that went up on Etsy, but didn't fit in the bowl that I really like. I also made some new labels I'm hoping will work better than having tags flop around.
  New labels

 In knitting news, I'm working on Abyssal in a wool/silk blend I bought long ago for something else entirely. I find casting on tedious when the numbers get that large, but I'm almost done with the fourth repeat of the pattern and will soon head into short rows.

 Morgan is home from school - yesterday with a fever and bodyaches - today with a massive head ache. He's been in bed all morning and looks pathetic. I used to kind of enjoy when the peeps were little and sick (especially Morgan) because it was the only time he'd sit still and snuggle with me. Now he's too large to snuggle, but it still breaks my heart to see him so miserable.

There's been a request for mac and cheese for dinner from Chicky.  At her dad's house it comes out of a box and she reminded me I haven't made any in forever.  That's an easy fix!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another internet party where I'm arriving late, are you there already?

The amazing indie dyer and spinner Sarah and I communicate almost daily by rav mail (a.k.a. Ravelry for those of you that have lives strangely unencumbered by fiber).  We've been doing this for years and have never actually met in person. We have video chatted once, and talked on the phone a couple times when I went MIA in the wool world for a while. Anyway, she is a fabulous friend and hooks me up with all kinds of things I should know about, but don't.

Yesterday's revelation was Paperback Swap - What the wool? Exactly people, just like the name implies you exchange books (and also CD's or DVD's) for free.  Honestly, what could be better?  I heart books, but sometimes I heart impulse buys and I have a slew of books I read once and will never read again.  I signed up (easy peasy), posted 18 books, got two credits for two books and someone is waiting for me to print a shipping label and mail a book to them.  If someone orders one of your books you agree to pay the postage and mail it.  That's it.

Of course, I've already created a wish list with all kinds of cook books and a few knitting books on it. There is a tricksy part where they make new books available so if you were weak and tempted you could click that button and get exactly what you wish for immediately, but I'm not falling for that old trick.  Patience, Grasshopper.  Someone may suddenly decide to cast aside all their Jamie Oliver or Interweave Press books.  I shall wait very quietly...

While I'm waiting quietly I've been playing with some new dyes I bought.  They've got their pros and cons, but I do like the end results. The skeins working on some drying outside before they come in for the night.

Today was only a ten skein day because I had other things I needed to do before the peeps get home.  Namely burst for the first time in two weeks and get groceries.  My leg is now healed enough to run, wear pants instead of skirts, and have a small dog sit on my lap.  Mac is just as glad as I am that the healing is happening. Although he does look pretty snug on his down blanket.

mac again

And just because the Homesick Texan where I virtually live these days, posted a recipe that looked dangerously delicious I'm making Oyster Cracker Crack.  Thank you Lisa Fain, my children adore you!

Seasoned oyster crackers
1 pkg. 12-14 oz. oyster crackers
1/2 cup of canola oil
1/2 tsp fresh dill weed
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1 pkg. ranch dressing, original (do not use low fat!)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees
Mix oil with herbs and spices
Put crackers in a 9 x 13 inch pan
Pour oil and herb mixture over crackers, gently stir
Cook in oven for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally

Tomorrow when the fibers are dry there shall be pictures!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Anybody need some yarn?

I've been dyeing yarn, but not putting it in my Etsy shop.  It's been going on consignment to Cozy where it is selling well!  Who wouldn't buy scrumptious yarn if it's right there in front of them? Exactly.  Unlike the interwebs where one is reduced to choosing by descriptive words and well-lit pictures, seeing a yarn in person brings in all one's senses into play.  It's much harder to resist in person.

Here's a sample of some of my "regular" dyeing that is soon leaving my abode.  This is 100% superwash Blue Faced Leicester in DK weight.  There are 246 yards per hank.

new sw bfl dk weight yarn

More bags have been knit and felted and are waiting on their zipper insertion. I'm taking the little buggers with me next time.  Shortening a zipper is no big deal, but why do it if it's not absolutely necessary?

striped bags

There are twenty skeins of yarn out on the patio drying at this very moment.  They are all merino (none superwash) and are a departure from my regular dyeing method.  I'm pleased with the results and will post pictures once they are dry.

I'm hoping my new printer gets here so I'm not making 20 handmade labels for yarn.  My handwriting has gotten crappy due to lack of use and I hate inflicting it on others!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

More FO's!

Despite my wounds I'm getting quite a few items finished!  The leggings were done long ago but needed a proper picture.  The pattern is from tinyowlknits and they have an easy pattern to memorize and go quickly.  I finished them faster than a pair of socks.

 While I was out of commission with my back I made several of these leaf washcloths. Perfect for gifts with some handmade soap!


 And I've finished two more bags

green and purple bag 

and some yarn to split between Cozy and Etsy. The yarn is supersoft, superwash blue-faced leicester. It drinks up the dye happily and has a glorious sheen. Seen here in a lofty aran weight.

  aran sw bfl yarn

 It's going to be hard to decide what skeins will go to Cozy and which will go in the shop! Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to wound yourself making iced tea

I love a good DIY post, don't you? Here's one I like to call: How to Get Second Degree Burns Making Iced Tea.

I grew up drinking iced tea all day, everyday (except breakfast).  My mother made a huge Tupperware jug of it and it lived in the refrigerator year round.  I think we may have been the only people in Grand Marais, MN (native or transplants) that did.  My mother's recipe involves Red Rose tea bags, lemon concentrate, and a boatload of sugar.

Several months ago I started making a green tea version which I would cold brew and add a modest amount of sugar syrup at the end.  If you really want to burn the crap out of yourself making iced tea you can't do it with a cold brew.  The second important element is a glass jar - very important for this post.

First, I'm assuming you'll be taking your nice cold glass pitcher out of the refrigerator and pouring that last tidge into a glass for yourself. That's how it works at my house and how I know it's time to make more tea. Then set the jar on the counter and put in your required number of tea bags. I use six for a two quart pitcher.  Fill your tea kettle with water and put it on to boil.  Start making dinner, I was planning on chicken enchiladas with chili gravy.  Make sure your children are on task with their homework. Take screaming tea kettle and start filling the pitcher while you are listening to someone in the other room yell to you about something that's supposed to be important, but you're not sure since you can't hear them clearly. Notice a crackling sound and see the cold pitcher break and hot water come gushing towards you.

I'm a little hazy with the specifics after that because hot water was on my thighs and my steaming wet skirt was clinging to my skin.  I do remember throwing the tea kettle and screaming, "I need to be in cold water!"  When I was looking to rent a house nine years ago I thought it was important for the four of us to have more than one bathroom, in case anybody had an emergency. Case in point!

The Chickster was brave and helpful.  She was very calm while she helped me untie my skirt and get it off. I was cussing and crying, I'm not too proud to admit it.  She turned the water on lukewarm and  told me to go ahead and get in with my clothes on.  It was cooling, but the beating water of the shower really hurt.  While I was standing there crying and freaking out I was realizing that for the third Monday in a row something bad was going on with my body.  First it was a pulled muscle in my back, then my molar that had to be removed, and now burns.  Seriously, can this be over now?!

Chicky let me know when the other bathroom was free and started filling the tub for me.  I sat in the bathtub for forty minutes, other than the burns on my thighs the rest of me was freezing.  Happily I had some silver sulfadiazine cream on hand so I didn't feel pressured to head off to the ER and wait for four to six hours for an intern to come in and look at it and give me a prescription of the same thing.

At the risk of raising people's traditional ire, I will confess I've not used it.  As soon as I was out of the tub Chicky and I applied pure aloe vera gel straight out of the refrigerator.  Before bed I used a salve I made and keep on hand of beeswax, honey, plantain, and chickweed.  In the morning it didn't look too bad, I had blisters but nothing looked incredibly unhappy.  I applied the purest honey in the world, Manuka, and re-bandaged it.  Today, the blisters are bigger, but there's no sign of infection and it looks like it's healing nicely.

I'd show you a picture, but it's not attractive and more than a little off-putting.

Yes, dinner did get made.  Richard came over and he and his sous chef, Chicky, did the work while I gave directions from a chair.  They were excellent! Unfortunately, we never did have any iced tea and now I don't have a pitcher to make any more.  Why was I brewing ice tea with hot water this time?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I may have been trying to save "the good water" I buy in bulk from Whole Paycheck or Weaver Street.  Clearly I need to stick with cold brewing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A little bit of this and that

My Thanksgiving consisted mostly of knitting in front of the computer I was using like a tv. Did I mention how much I love Parenthood?  I like the characters, the amazing cast, the story line - I'm pretty much all about the Bravermans these days.  A friend told me about it and I started watching on Netflix from the beginning.  I am completely caught up now thanks to hulu, lots of knitting, and plenty of alone time.

I managed to do a little spinning too.

The spindle on the right has been Navajo plied into 88 yards of this.

I finished the second handspun/commercial yarn cowl.  Shorter than the first version, but equally cozy.

Here's a close up.

Chicky and a chicken doing some model work on the cowl.  (The chicken is a natural, isn't she?)

Here's a close up of the cowl without a chicken in the way.

I've also been knitting and felting small bags.  Here's the one listed on Etsy and I'm off to take pictures of the second.  They're turning out well - it's hard to list them.  I keep thinking they would make great gifts.

I have a freaky story of how I burned myself last night, but I'll save that for another day.  Today is all about the wool!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Curious looking at a car on craigslist

A couple weeks ago Richard told me he was looking at old BMW's on craigslist for fun. We both adore craigslist, sometimes we'll look at postings for furniture or houses and laugh our asses off at the picture, description, or the actual object itself.  Here is one example of what I am talking about.  My favorites are where the seller is yelling at you in all caps.  "PRICE FIRM. NO NEGOTIATING. DON'T CALL UNLESS YOU'RE SERIOUS. DON'T WASTE MY TIME." I wonder if anyone calls those people.

Richard refers to himself as "certified".  Certified means you are an experienced buyer and seller, you post clear pictures facing in the right direction, and you're not selling crap that should be in the trash or set out on the street for the taking.  When he comes across gems like the ones above he'll say, "they're not certified" with obvious disdain.

Anyway, back to old BMW's.  Richard found a 1991 318is about 40 minutes away.  He asked me to come along and look at it.  "I don't want to buy it, I'm just curious about it." I'm usually up for a drive in the country on a sunny afternoonm, so  I said sure.

As we were driving in the Jeep to Timbuktu, um, I mean Alamance, I asked Richard about my role in this adventure.

"What do you mean?"

"Can I be chatty? Am I supposed to be quiet?  Ask questions? Am I the good cop or the bad cop?"

"You can say whatever you want!"

"Ok. Just checking."

We get there and see this sweet little car (I did say it's cute even though that's possibly not a cool way to describe a potential man mobile). The guy selling the car and did the work on it is a BMW nut and had four or five others he was in the process of restoring/collecting.  Richard asks questions about the car, we look at the inside (very nice interior), the exterior, under the hood where the guy replaced all the hoses, etc. There's more man talk and heartwarming stories of shadetree mechanic adventure and then the guy asks if we'd like to take it for a drive. Of course, why on earth did we drive all the way out here but to ride in this little chariot?!

As we get into the car and pull the doors shut I remember my fondness for substantial car doors.    Unlike most cars now, which might be big, the steel is so thin it reminds me of riding in a tin can. The car sits low to the ground, there's plenty of leg room and as Richard turns the key the engine rumbles to life. We both look at each other and grin, "Listen to her growl!" When we get out of the gravel driveway and onto the road Richard says, "This is fantastic!" And it truly is.  We talk about how great it is, how much fun it is to drive, and how they don't make cars like it anymore. 

When we get back to the guy's house, we both tell him how sweet it is and Richard asks more questions about the shape of the car.  The guy is totally upfront and says there's a small oil leak he can't figure out, the odometer is broken but his estimate of the mileage is such and such and he shows us every mark on the body of the car.

Before we leave I walk over to the car, lean down and pet it and say to them, "I vote yes!"  The guy and Richard laugh.  Richard tells the guy he's interested, but he has to think about it and he'll call him in a day or so.

We get in the car and Richard looks at me smiling and says, "What the hell was that?  'I vote yes!'"

"You told me I could say anything I wanted!"

"Well, I changed my mind. From now on you keep quiet!" he laughed. "Now I have a dilemma, I really like the car.  I was hoping we'd get here and there would be something seriously wrong with it."

"Ah, that way it wouldn't be an issue. Now what are you going to do?"

Richard sighs, "I have to think about it."

After agonizing deliberation on Richard's part, a week later we picked up the car. Her name is Buttah because of her amazing smooth shifting ability. Right now she's getting her pin striping removed, but her favorite past time is driving on back country roads with her sun roof open.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My new favorite comfort food

I don't post pictures of food - even though I am something of a photographer. Why, you ask?  The short answer is my house is "vintage" but not "antique".  No big windows or bright interiors.  The peeps and I withstood seven months of interior renovations which did, indeed, brighten the inside. The small windows and many trees, however, inhibit indoor photography.

For my Etsy shops, I set-up my own make-shift light box, but that doesn't work out so well with food.  I take pictures, but don't like them and don't use them.  I've thought about shooting outside, but since it gets dark so early that isn't really an option these days, and I'd have to fed off cats and chickens on the picnic table.  And it's not level. Which is why we don't eat outside.  Viscous cycle.

For the time being, you'll have to rely on my taste buds and truthful love of food to convince you whatever I'm suggesting is good.  And tonight, the Night Before Thanksgiving I give you Baked Brie w/ Pasta.  If you can afford it, buy the best brie available - it's worth it. If you're like me, a foodie on a super tight budget, go to your local supermarket and buy the only brie they have (I think I might just be the only person to buy brie at my local supermarket, judging by the dryness when I opened the package). Adding EVOO, garlic, and herbs is like magic and will make it more than palatable - it will make it difficult to stop from eating the whole wheel! Trust me.

This is a Ministry of Food recipe from Jamie Oliver that is meant to be shared. The original calls for the delectable Camembert, but you can not find it at the Food Liar in Hillsborough, NC. I omitted the spinach simply because I didn't have any on hand.  I am a big fan of greens and think they should definitely be added if you have them - or are planning ahead.


(serves 4-6)
- a box of Camembert Cheese (250g)
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, pick the leaves off the woody stalk
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- 100g grated parmesan cheese
- 400g dried rigatoni
- 150g fresh spinach
1. Open the box of cheese and unwrap it. Place it back to the wooden container (Note: mine did not come in a wooden container so I placed it in a oven safe dish like what you see in the photo).
2. Score a circle into the top of the skin, then lift it off and discard.
3. Lay the garlic slices on top of the cheese, sprinkle some pepper and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.
4. Scatter the rosemary leaves over the top and gently pat with your fingers to coat them in the oil.
5. Bake the cheese in a preheated oven of 180C (350F) for about 25 minutes, until golden and melted.
6. When the cheese has 10 minutes left to cook, add the pasta to the pan and cook according to packet instructions.
7. When the pasta is cooked, add the spinach to the pan – it only needs cooking for 10 seconds or so.
8. Drain the pasta and spinach to the pan and let it wilt.
9. Drizzle with a couple of good lugs of extra virgin olive oil and add the grated Parmesan. If the sauce is too thick for you, add a splash of reserved cooking water to thin out a bit. Season with salt and pepper and give it a good stir.
10. Remove the cheese from the oven. Divide the pasta between your serving bowls. Either drizzle the melted Camembert on top or pop cheese on the table and let everyone help themselves to a lovely, gooey spoonful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The things I wonder about

When Richard and I were leaving Home Depot on Sunday (with supplies to fix my leaky kitchen sink) we saw a sofa box truck.  I don't know if they exist everywhere or just around here, but they're usually parked in a parking lot right along a road and have sofas and chairs wrapped in plastic for sale.  There's no sign, no business name anywhere.

me: I wonder how you get into that business.

Richard: What business?

me:  The Selling Sofas on the Side of the Road business.  I mean, where do you get your sofas?

Richard: I don't know how that works. Maybe they fell off a truck. What made you think of that?

me:  The guy back there with the sofas wrapped in plastic and leaning up against the side of his box truck. Do you think he takes debit cards?  Not very many people carry cash these days and that looks kind of like a "cash only" set up over there.  I wonder if he collects sales tax?

Richard: How many people look for sofas on the side of the road? Don't you usually go to a store for that kind of thing?

me:  "Hey honey, we really need a new sofa.  Let's go cruise around and see if we see one of those trucks by the side of the road."

Richard: I doubt you'd get enough impulse buys to make a living.

me: No kidding.

Best brownies evah!

Since I was stranded in bed with my iPhone last week recovering from a pulled muscle in my back, I spent quite a bit of time on the Epicurious app.  I found what looked to be an easy, quick brownie recipe with great reviews.  While in Atlanta a few weekends ago I visited Your Dekalb Farmers Market, which is a post in and of itself, and picked up a jar of Dulche de Leche.  Up to this point I'd only made my own and seeing it there on the shelf reminded me how much I liked it, and that it would be so super yummy with some chocolate!  Hence, brownies with dulche de leche!

I like my brownies moist, but not overly sweet.  These brownies are rich from all the butter and a little bite suffices nicely.  They were so delicious Chicky and I made two batches that week because they were so popular.  Both times I made the brownies I dropped dollops of dulche de leche on the top and spread it with an off set spatula. Another option, for a more candy-like top on the brownies, is to wait and spread on the dulche de leche after the brownies come out of the oven and cool.

cocoa brownies

Best Cocoa Brownies Evah!
from Epicurious

Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies

Use the best cocoa you have for these - any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process will work.

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Special equipment: an 8-inch square baking pan.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.  Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.  When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  Stir in the nuts, if using.  Spread evenly in the lined pan. Add dulche de leche by dropping a spoon full here and there and then spreading the dropped caramel lightly with an off-set spatula.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter. 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool completely on rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer brownies to a cutting board.  Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

This is Alton Brown's Dulche de Leche recipe.  It's totally worth the effort and believe me, you will find a way to use up the extra.  It's good on ice cream, cake, and straight off the spoon!

 1 quart whole milk
 12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a large, 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the baking soda and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer. Stir occasionally, but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture. Continue to cook for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean after 1 hour and continue to cook until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a month.


How to fix your car radio after 11 months of silence

Last Christmas Hazel (my 2004 Honda Odyssey) needed a new battery.  As is the case these days, when you unplug the battery the radio shuts down and you have to put in a code to make it work again. When I bought Hazel she didn't have an owner's manual and I had no idea where the code would be.  According to the interwebs it's supposed to be on a label inside the glovebox.  Nope, not there.  I looked through all my papers from Carmax and couldn't find it either.  Then I resorted to using a flashlight and trying any numbers I found on any labels anywhere I could find on the car. No luck.

On the Honda website you can type in your vehicle's VIN and I can't remember what else and they'll give it to you.  The problem with that was I was not listed as the owner of the vehicle.  So I had to wait until their very specific customer service hours and call.  The  man tried to be helpful and he suggested all the things I'd already tried thanks to the help of the Google.  Finally he said, "I'm sorry, 2004 was the year before we started keeping the numbers here in our database. My only suggestion is to take off the dash and write down every five digit number you see and try them." That's a pretty expensive option at the dealer.

I gave up trying for almost a year.  Richard and I looked up taking off the dash and it seems pretty complicated and like you could break any number of things in the process.  Yesterday was fix-it day and he was willing to try again. We did succeed in taking off the part of the dash around the radio without breaking it.  The sticking point was removing the connection for the indoor dimmer - it was locked in somehow and no amount of squeezing or pulling was getting it disconnected (it was that or the airbag button and I'm not messing with the airbag connection).  Richard went inside to look up what to do next while I decided to have one last look through the glovebox.

As I'm digging around looking for labels stuck to the inside I notice a little plastic pouch that has a card in it.  Oh shit. Guess what the card said? Radio code. I have no idea how I missed it.  I don't know how often I've looked in that damn thing!  I went in to show Richard, worried he would be mad, and he laughed so hard! His only comment was, "Now we can fix it!"

The funny thing is that after 11 months without a radio, I keep forgetting to turn it on.  At least I'll be able to listed to music through the iPod again.  The only radio I listen to is NPR and sometimes I just want music.

So really, the only way to fix your car radio is to find the code. Check the glovebox. I bet it's in there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another FO!

I've been on a bit of a giant cowl/infinity scarf jag.  They've been everywhere in the knitting world for several years, but it's gone mainstream, as they say.  There's a free pattern on Ravelry by Karen Caitlin called Eileen Fisher Inspired Capelet.  It knits up fast, is easy and there are many ways to modify it to suit your personal taste.  I finished one, as written, and am working on another.

There are so many ways to wear it!  All stretched out for a very neat, classy appearance.
oh so eileen

Or more scrunched up like a scarf/shawl, cuddling the neck and warming the shoulders.

oh so eileen

The leg warmers and shadowbox are done, but I need my model for pictures.  I'm not sure if we'll get to it today, but definitely sometime soon.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Down for the count, part 2

The continued saga of hurting my back, healing, and maybe having minions of my very own (finally!).

Tuesday morning when the alarm sounded I had to wake my bed buddy (Chicky - my constant companion and nursemaid) to turn it off.  Things I do every morning, like let the chickens down and set up their run, feed and water various animals, laundry, etc.  I had to ask for help.  Asking for help is hard for me. I hate asking and, in my opinion, there are only two ways of doing things, my way and the wrong way.  Perhaps this is one reason why minions are hard for me to find.

With sunrise being earlier, the chickens want down from the coop earlier as well.  It was already 7 am and they'd been waiting a while. I knew my only chance was to ask the boys before they sat down for breakfast. I did and there was bleary eyed confusion, but they went out and moved the ark and let the ramp down.  There's also attaching the coop, but I knew better than to ask and be flatly turned down.

After breakfast is the normal hunting and gathering of clothing.  I believe laundry should be folded and put away in drawers, but the peeps seem to prefer scavenging about the floor and various surfaces in their rooms and moaning about how they can't find what they need/want.  My previous evening's suggestion of doing laundry has come back to smack them in the face - there are no clean jeans.  I ask them to collect everything blue and start the washer, I won't be able to move it to the dryer, but I can make sure they do it when they come home and we might be able to squeeze another load in after that.  They did it almost completely without complaint!

After slowly but surely packing lunches I was pretty over being on my feet, so I drove the peeps to school and came home to rest. Ice, ice, and more ice.  Ibuprophen wasn't doing anything and I stopped taking it.  I did watch many episodes of Friday Night Lights, a comedy, and started reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  A friend told me once you start it you can't put it down and she was right!

Richard came over to check on me later in the morning.  While he was here he moved the laundry, set up the chicken run, went and fetched dinner supplies, and brought me lunch.  It was lovely.  Since we watch Mad Men together we decided to watch one episode after lunch.  It was really about all the time I could stand sitting upright in a chair - even a comfortable one.

After Richard was gone I went into the rabbit hole of Pinterest for a while and took a nap.  When Chicky arrived home I was very thankful for her company and her nursemaid abilities.  She made sure I had my drug of choice - chardonnay - water, ice, and fixed my pillows for me.  That evening she huddled down in bed with me and we watched a couple episodes of Parenthood (my new absolute favorite show) and a romantic comedy together. On my iPhone.  The boys came in and made fun of us watching stuff on the tiny screen, but it worked and I was lying down.  All good, as far as I was concerned.

I did get myself out of bed to make dinner, the peeps did the dishes, worked on laundry. I.e., got the load out of the dryer and put it on the sofa.  This seems to be the preferred gathering place for laundry. I used to put it somewhere they wanted to sit so they would be more inclined to fold it, but they just changed their preferred sitting preference.

Other than that, everything I ask them to do, they did.  Mostly without complaint.  It made me feel all warm inside, like they really were growing up and being more responsible. And they really cared. That was when the idea of them being my minions started to solidify.  Question was, would they do my bidding more easily after I was healthy since they've had all this practice?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Down for the count, part 1

On Monday I tried to finish one of our last mowing jobs of the season all by myself. There were lots of leaves and I hate raking so I decided to use the mower with a bag. The yard needed mowing and I was thinking about killing two birds with one stone. It was slow going with all the bag emptying and I was getting close to done when I started on the hill by the road. That part of the yard was still shaded and the long grass was wet; it seemed safer to push the mower up the hill from the bottom than for me to slide down the hill and into the mower blade from the top. The hill is steep at the bottom - about an eighty degree angle - and I had to push and stretch my arms out to get a decent bit mowed so it would be easier from the top when I got there. On the eighth upward push I felt a pain in my back. The next push began and ended with the mower going nowhere and me in extreme pain.

I hate it when a plan doesn't come together. I realized I'd have to bring the boys back after school to finish mowing one side of the house, part of the front yard and load the lawnmower back in the van. My back has been tender for as long as I can remember, but I've never hurt it this badly before. Taking a shower was slow and painful and I could not wait to carefully lower myself in bed and stay there for a while. Four ibuprophen and a heating pad later and I didn't feel much better. (I know now that I should have had ice on it instead.)

 The sweet Chicky came home after finding me in bed and telling her what happened, we went to the store to get dinner.   On the way up our road, we found the boys walking home from the bus. I stopped to pick them up and fill them in on the situation. They could see I was obviously in pain and we decided to go get the yard stuff out of the way. We drove over to the house and they made short work of the remaining yard and leaves. The predominating conversation on our travel was how much more convenient this would all be if they boys were driving. That thought had passed through my mind when I was struggling to get into the car earlier in the day, but in other more lucid moments I keep remembering they're only 14. I know driving is coming up, but I am not sure I'm ready for it.

 When we arrived at home I went straight to bed with my iPhone and watched an episode of Parenthood. It's our current favorite series on Netflix. I'm also hooked on Friday Night Lights, but I watch that one alone. Chicky made some awesome cocoa brownies with dulche de leche on top, prepared dinner, and brought me some food. All the peeps were thoughtful and attentive. I asked them to clean up and they managed to do most of it. I had a thrilling thought, maybe I have my very own minions!? Only time would tell.

 Before they went to bed I asked if they needed any laundry done. No response. "I won't be able to do any of your laundry tomorrow so if you need anything you should do it now." Crickets, literally. Oh, well. If they really need it they'll do it, I thought and went to sleep.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Fresh Tart returns?

I've been toying with the idea of purchasing some kitchen time over at The Durham Cookery. I took a tour a couple months ago, but wasn't sure about the logistics. I'm still not completely sure of what I want to do - other than make sweet and savory tarts, quick breads, scones, and soups - but being able to rent that space would open up some options. With the holidays coming up and no real need to eat a boat load of baked goods myself, I could rent the space once every couple of weeks and do cookies and breads as gifts, or fill orders for people that wanted some baked yummies for themselves.

Here's are a few things off the old menu:

Savory tarts - roasted potato & mushroom (with fresh tarragon and Emmenthaler)
- roasted leek & celery
- spinach & mushroom

Sweet tarts - pumpkin spice
- apple (sugar and spiced apples in custard)
- raspberry-cranberry linzer
- baked lemon

Scones - dried cranberry
- candied ginger
- pumpkin
- cheddar-parmesan

Tea breads - chocolate banana
- cardamom banana with pistachios
- zucchini
- fresh grated ginger gingerbread
- carrot cake with lime icing

Cookies - shortbread
- coconut macaroons
- toffee bars
- fig newtons

Any menu suggestions? My only reservation with making tarts is that I'd have to be very organized as I'd need to rent the bakery and the kitchen portion of the cookery. It means an added cost and maybe having one other person help to make it efficient. See? It's all the details that keep me guessing. Any thoughts and suggestions are most welcome!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

So much knitting, so little time.

It's kind of depressing to look at your WIPs on Ravelry and see how long projects have been lingering on the needles. Well, it's depressing for ME to realize it anyway. In particular, I've started on a pair of leg warmers (for me)

Leg warmer

and new gauntlets,

New gauntlet

while finding this

Giant cowl progress

and this


in my favorite knitting bag. That's a lot of knitting work to do! Yesterday was not a particularly good day for me, so I watched quite a bit of Netflix and TEDtalks while knitting the Stockholm Scarf (aka the giant cowl). Progress has slowed on the gauntlet as I've misplaced one of the needles. I'm sure it will turn up, it's just not in any of the regular places needles hide in the house. If the kitty cat found it and was playing with it, it may be long gone!

Since it's a lovely afternoon and no one is burning any leaves (yet!) I think I'll go and knit in the sun. Natural vitamin D may be just the cure for what ails me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Another FO

I finally finished Chicky's bunny slippers! The pattern hopsalot is by Tinyowlknits - her patterns are on Ravelry, Etsy, and her own website. Lots of fun patterns, please check her out.

The other exciting thing got delivered in the mail - a flitchy for processing debit and credit cards on my phone! How cool is that?

Stocking the store!

Last week kind of got away from me and absolutely nothing got listed in the Etsy shop. The interwebs and Etsy were being a bit slow this morning, but after three hours of editing and posting I have quite a bit done! Since I now have the handy-dandy widget to the left (I mean the other left) I'll not post pictures here.

The super good news is my cat is back! I'm wondering if it has something to do with the full moon. Maybe occasionally he turns into something else for a week. (I know, I read too many books with werewolves.) I'd rather imagine that than him being stuck up a tree somewhere out of hearing. It's hard to imagine him out in the wild for a long time since most of the time he's here this is what he's doing:

Cato sleeps

After days of beautiful weather it is raining (hard) in fits and starts. I haven't been exercising for a week (I wasn't kidding when I said last week got away from me) but I don't want to get caught in a downpour. I'll have to check the radar situation...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shop update?

To all of you I met and talked to yesterday at Cozy I'd like to say "thank you" for checking out my fibers! I thought today was going to be all about a fiber photo shoot and updating the Etsy shop, but as the day progresses I see how wrong I was in that assumption. Some of my yarns will be at Cozy and I'm sorting through them right now. Once I get that figured out I will start the listing process.

Add to the mix I'm starting a temporary, full-time job tomorrow (say that five times fast, whydon'tcha). I'm entering Customer Service for the holidays. Should be interesting, right? That's what I'm thinking.

In the Land of Knitting, I'm working on another hood/cowl with some rust colored, super squishy handspun I love (and have yet to finish spinning) and more of the ggh "Bali." If I had made Chicky the shawl that yarn was destined for all those years ago I wouldn't be having this much fun right now. Chicky's bunny slippers are short one ear, I think I can whip that out while I'm watching a soccer game this afternoon. Sometimes I get kind of hepped up at soccer and have been known to lose bracelets because I'm flailing my arms about and yelling. Knitting hampers this sort of behavior and while it's embarrassing that your mother knits while at a soccer game, it's more embarrassing if she's jumping up and down, flailing her arms. (It's interesting to note they're not embarrassed if I'm on the sidelines with a camera at all.)

The sweet Tiger-Cato has gone missing. I haven't seen him since Saturday night and I'm starting to worry he's stuck in a tree somewhere. I've walked up and down our street quietly listening for his pathetic "Help!" mews and haven't heard any. I'm hoping he's just pissed at me because I went away for part of the weekend and now he's playing hard to get. Here's the picture that's on my desktop after my computer turns on in the morning.


I miss that not so little Bugger!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Hood/cowl finished!

After over a year on the needles, the commercial and handspun yarn collaboration is finally finished! I am very pleased with the results too! My model wasn't feeling very well that day, as you can see in on of the pictures, but she put on one cheery face with effort.

This was designed with two thoughts in mind: keeping warm and showing off Sarah's beautiful handspun yarn. I made it very loose fitting, so even when it's up in "hood" position, if you have long hair and it happens to get worn up a lot there's plenty of room for a pony tail or bun. (Of course it will look funny in the back, but as an avid hater of static electricity it's worth it!)


When worn down it cozies up to the neck very nicely. In this picture the model is feeling very puny, but loved the cowl so much when the shoot was over she left it on. (Sore throat, in case you were wondering and she's feeling fine now).


Here Chicky is demonstrating how long it is. I love the purl rows of handspun strutting their stuff and contrasting with the white commercial yarn. It took one skein of Sarah's hand spun and one skein of ggh "Bali."


There's another on the needles already. It won't take a year this time, I hope.

Pin It

Friday, September 30, 2011

Running the gauntlet

The gauntlets are finished. Here they are, modeled by the recipient. First we have the back of said mitts.


Then the front, less seen, side.


And finally, full on "Oh!"

chicky gauntlets

She likes them, I love them. We're happy.

There's still daily spinning. Here is some blue three ply - I'm digging the way the blues look all cozied up side by side.


And yesterday's spinning, that is today's plying project (one bobbin is done and having a bath as I type).


If the temperature stays lovely, and the neighbors don't burn any plastic today, I may head out to the patio for my spinning stint. The cooler temperatures are having a lovely effect on my sleeping ability and my overall disposition. Very nice.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hand spinning

Now that all the yarn I have is dyed for Cozy, it's time to concentrate on spinning. On Sunday I dug an old roving I dyed (and didn't sell) and started spinning. Instead of filling two bobbins and plying them together for a barber pole effect, I decided to Navajo ply to try and keep the variegated colors more consistent. Before spinning, I divided the roving in half (cross-wise) so one gauntlet will have more blue than the other, but this is a girl that likes to wear different color socks so I don't think we'll have an issue. I was so pleased with the results I didn't even wash the skein before using it!

Chicky has been "borrowing" my mohair gauntlets for two winters. (Maybe it's time she has some of her own?) The other mitt is 3/4 done. I'll post a picture with a Chicky inside them when they're finished!

chicky's gauntlet

I've spun two bobbins of blue/purple roving and am letting them rest before Navajo plying them as well. I know it's not a true ply, but it's more efficient then traditional plying for me since I only have a few bobbins. And I don't have to be as methodical about spinning the rovings in the same direction to get the results I'd like. Sometimes the easy way is just fine!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Fast approaching is the 2011 Autumn Yarn Crawl. I have been invited to sell my fiber goods at Cozy in Durham for the event on Sunday, October 9. I've been spinning and dyeing up a storm and I have plenty more to do in the upcoming week or so. Everything in the Etsy shop is going too. Here's some of the new fiber.

cozy presale peek

Pin It

I'm looking forward to hanging out with lots of other fiber lovers again, it's been a while! My wheel and hand spindle will be coming along to demo. Be there or be square!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

buddha mollie

buddha mollie by freshtart
buddha mollie, a photo by freshtart on Flickr.

Yesterday Mollie did some jumping for me. Here's my favorite picture from the set.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Got wool?

Got wool by freshtart
Got wool, a photo by freshtart on Flickr.  Pin It
I couldn't actually de-stash - it's like selling a family heirloom or something. Maybe I just like my wool; we can count it towards insulating the house, right? Instead I've reopened there's roving to follow soon.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Major Yarn De-stash

I'm in the process of gathering yarn for a massive de-stash! There's some hand-dyed and spun by yours truly, lots of sock yarn, and some novelty yarns that looked good to me at the time, but I should have known I'd never use them.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Getting started...

There are a whole host of projects going right now. One is The Collins Crew another is my photography website and I've also been working on my etsy shop (see all the new stuff over on the right?). I'm working on listing some of my personal antique collection (in order to show I have good taste) and also let people know I will be on the lookout for what their favorite things are as well.

In addition to online shops, I'm heading out to local brink and mortar shops with postcards, greeting cards, and business cards in hand to see what may happen. The first shop I tried wants local buildings for the tourist trade - which I need to do earlier in the morning, as the commuter traffic starts to become an issue around 7:20 am (I already made an attempt last week).

The chickens are doing well. I let the girls out for a while this morning while I watered the garden. They are completely infatuated with blackberries. Luckily we have tons of them ripening all around the edges of our yard. Want to visit with a chicken? Hold out a blackberry and "bwaock" invitingly.

In a rare moment of brilliance, I decided to move the guinea pigs out of Erin's room and into the hutch we used when the chickens were peeps. The chickens were intrigued by this. The guineas seem happier with more sunshine and room to... sit in their houses. When they were inside they kept me (and Erin) awake at night by tugging on their water bottle, doing odd guinea pig dances in the night, and... sitting in their houses.

We're also trying to take out local food options more seriously. I didn't subscribe to a CSA this year, but I'm all about shopping at local farms and stores for as much of our food as I can. We found some great local beef up at McAdams Farm as well as potatoes, squash, cherry tomatoes, and cherries! They're open three afternoons a week and, while I like supporting our co-op, buying it directly from the farmer is cheaper and I know exactly where the money is going.

Soon I'll give an update on the trials of my bee hive. It's a steep learning curve right now!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Change of pace

After many years teaching small children (22 years)) and doing administrative tasks (16 of those same years) I decided to say adios to my job. Without any real certainty of what would come along next. Wow, you might be thinking, in this economy? I hear you. All I can say was the time had come and I couldn't do it anymore. For many reasons.

I am also a girl who worries - a lot - about financial matters so this is a really scary place to be. I'm trying to figure out a reasonable plan of things we as a family can do without, what we can do for ourselves (e.g., making our own bread to save money) and how I am going to support all of us.

Right now, I'm working on a photography website. I enjoy taking pictures of children and I'd like to work that into a job. It's going to take time to get my name out there, so that's not something for the short term. Here it is so far Rochelle Eisenberger Photography I'd love any and all feedback. I know a couple of things I need to work on, but I'm a novice so it's using up my patience quickly!

Today is going to be about putting out flyers for the kids' summer job efforts: babysitting, dog walking, lawn mowing, and weeding. We're patching things together, but hopefully it will work out!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New finds

My weekends tend to be leisurely. One of my favorite things to do is browse antique stores, yard sales, and thrift shops for good finds. Sometimes, something good comes from a local consignment shop, like my Most Beautiful Yarn Storage

Most beautiful yarn storage

or a nasty basement

family picture frame


hoosier cabinet

or my favorite shop out of town (The Ivy Cottage).

jelly cupboard

My house is pretty full of dressers, hutches, and cupboards at this point. I see good ones all the time, just this past weekend in fact (and I bought it, but it's waiting for me to pick it up). It's going in my room. Many people have little rooms attached to their bedrooms. I believe they're called walk-in closets. I have the old fashioned closet. It holds very little and for years has been the place I stash toys and things I've taken from my children for various misuses. I think right now there are a couple of Nerf guns and an old chin-up bar in there. Who knows what would happen if I actually cleaned it out. It is currently difficult to get in there because someone who shall remain nameless, but looks like this:

cato,I keep my eyes on you

runs as fast as he can every time he hears the door and dives to the very back of the mess. My closet is also the only place in my house to store my under used exercise ball. Anytime I fetch the wicked creature out of there I have to take the ball out, dig though hanging dresses, shoes, and knitting projects I'm also hiding from his paws. Honestly, he looks so harmless most of the time.

Anyway, I've branched out into smaller things too. Since I've been renting I've been telling myself not to buy pretties because "who knows where I'll be in the future." Well, I've been here for nine years (?!), so I guess this is where I'll be for a while. My bare walls are filling up and it feels much more cozy and homey. I can't believe it took so long. R had to tell me it was ok to spend money on things like that, and I had to find things I liked and felt worth it. The hunt is most of the fun! Now the giant spot over my desk has a lovely Andrew Wyeth print

the mill andrew wyeth

I found a few things on etsy I liked. This one by Kat Hannah is a favorite and I keep adding things all the time!

sea siren reunion reshoot

wilmington cabinet

Now my problem seems to be stopping. I'm justifying some purchases by saying, "Oh, someone else would love to have that. I'll put it on Etsy!" What a dangerous slippery slope this has become! Will it ever end? Maybe not. It sure is fun!