Wednesday

[misc] Penny Wednesday

When my sister was over this past weekend, she said, "Penny's eyebrow whiskers are funny." I asked what was so funny about them and she said, "She has two that stick straight up."

Penny has two eyebrow whiskers that stick straight up. �� #catsofinstagram #antennas #catbug

Well huh. I never noticed before but it's the only thing I can see when I look at her now. I mentioned it to Dollar later and he was like, "What?" He never noticed either but now refers to them as her 'devil horns'. 

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Tuesday

[knitting] Cable Madness

Finished the first round socks for Sock Madness:

Cable Madness

Pattern: Cable Madness

Yarn: Gage Hill Crafts' Mystic, dyed naturally with jewel weed. Purchased at 2014 VT Sheep & Wool Festival.

Needles: US 1

Notes: I finished these around 9pm. I washed them, put them onto sock blockers and was going to wait for them to dry before taking pictures/submitting to Sock Madness the next day. I got into bed with iPad and started going through all the finished socks. Only so many people from each team get to move forward each round and I started to get a bit antsy. I'm on one of the slowest teams but started worrying that all the slots would fill up overnight. So I went downstairs to take pictures and submit. Then I fell asleep as soon as my face hit the pillow.

Monday

[vermont] Maple Open House Weekend

Went to visit Johnson Family Sugarhouse and their brand new facilities in Chelsea, VT this past weekend with my sister. It's only a couple towns north of my house. Unfortunately they weren't boiling but we got to see their massive equipment.

The wood fired boiler:


Boiler

If I remember, I think they can produce two barrels of syrup a day, or 600 gallons. That sounds like so much but they have help from this:

Reverse Osmosis Machine

A reverse osmosis machine that is easily 4 times the size of the first one I saw two years ago. You use it to take out most of the water from the sap and you boil what remains- it's faster and saves so much fuel, which is especially important when your fuel is wood.

I wasn't sure how the sugaring season has been so far and the answer is- it hasn't really started yet. So far this spring, we've only had a handful of nice, warm days. Ideal sugaring weather is 20F at night and > 40F during the day- that's ideal for sap to run. We're just not there yet. The season could still be good or over in the blink of an eye.

Before leaving, we were invited to stop by whenever we happen to be by and see steam coming out the chimney- that means they're boiling. Maybe I will. But just in case, I'll stock up on some syrup before leaving:

Liquid gold. Visited a sugar house today and sampled a shot of warm, fresh syrup. And replenished my maple reserves for home.

I'm pretty sure that's what my perfect pantry would look like, but I just bought a couple bottles. I'll be back for more.

Thursday

[vermont] Ruffed Grouse

Heading home this week I had to stop for this little fella strutting across the road:

Ruffed grouse

And I mean strutting. This ruffed grouse was taking his sweet time- stepping inch by inch- presumably to attract any female that might be watching. Not this female, though. I eventually grew impatient and started to crawl forward in the car. He took the hint and scooted right across the road onto the snow:

Ruffed grouse

Thank you! Good luck finding a female soon!

Wednesday

[knitting] Filler Knitting

Speaking of Nube, I went on a yarn-winding spree a few weeks ago and happened to grab my lone skein of Malabrigo Nube handspun. I started a basic 2x2 ribbed hat while waiting for the Sock Madness pattern to be released:

Handspun ribbed hat

I'll get back to it once the socks are finished but it is working up to be such a soft hat. 

Tuesday

[knitting] Cable Madness

Last Friday night the pattern for the first round of Sock Madness was released. I spent much of Friday night and Saturday knitting:

Working on a new pair of socks. #sm9 #sockmadness9

I want to do the 2nd sock with the cables mirrored but I don't know how to print mirrored pages on my home printer. I went to Staples to see if the copy center there could do it. I handed the page with the chart to the guy behind the counter and asked. He said, "Well, let's see..." He read a bit, handed me back the paper and said, "Nope. Because of that text at the bottom." I read:

Cable Madness Socks (c) 2015 Karen J. Buhr
No part of this pattern or other material may be distributed without written permission of Karen J. Buhr. Pattern is for personal use only and is not for commercial use.

He then went on to say something about not reproducing it and something else about it being illegal to get another company (presumably... Staples?) involved. I blinked. Hard. I wanted to say, "Homie, do you know how much copy-wank I've read on Ravelry? AH KNOW MAH RIGHTS!" Partly because not much of that would make sense to him, partly because this guy was on an obvious power-trip and arguing would get me nowhere.

What he said didn't even jive with the copyright text, which was so confusing to me- I wanted one page, printed backwards. I said, "But... this is just for me." Without any further trouble, he took me over to a printer and printed out a single mirrored copy of the chart. I paid the 11 cents and walked out. What the ever-loving F? Truly, I understand the concern but I didn't ask for 20 copies so that I could sell them as bootlegs on the black-knitting-market. If I wanted to do that, I'd just walk up to a printer and make the copies.

I guess I'm just bitter that the copyright issue, which I haaaaaaate reading about on Ravelry, bled over for a moment into real life. I don't want any drama or trouble on a Sunday morning while I'm sleepily running errands.

Monday

[spinning] Pre-drafting Malabrigo Nube

I'm donating 4oz of Malabrigo Nube for an auction online. I loved all the colorways when I saw them and bought quite a few when they were first released. My first experience spinning with it wasn't great. It requires a lot of time pre-drafting and otherwise preparing the fiber for actual spinning. Once it's prepared properly, the fiber is really quite nice- so soft and great colors. Rather than sending someone a brick of compact fiber, especially if they're buying it in a fund-raising auction, I decided to spend the hours pre-drafting it into perfection.

The original small, dense braid:

Malabrigo Nube

Unbraided:

Malabrigo Nube unbraided

The next step was to split it into thin, manageable pieces. You know the fiber is nearly felted when it sounds like you're tearing apart bed linens when you split the fiber into strips. I wound the pieces into little nests:

Fiber divided, before predrafting

Penny always likes to help. The next part I don't have pictures of because it was literally hours of me just listening to movies on the couch while I worked each piece. Starting at one end, I would go down the length of fiber, pulling it open to open up all the fiber. Then I would go down the length and pre-draft every inch or so, just to make sure that they fibers could slide past one another. Then I wound the fluffy, airy (finally like a "cloud") fiber into a little parcel. Repeat (for what feels like) a hundred times.

In the end, all 4oz looks like:

Malabrigo nube

Ready to spin and it will spin like a dream. Because the strands are so thin, you wouldn't have to draft much or put much twist in to create a worsted weight yarn. Personally, I would spin this all as one very thin single ply and then chain ply.

Penny literally couldn't resist these soft bundles of merino. I had to package it all up in a plastic bag after the picture so that she would keep her paws off it all.

Malabrigo nube


Thank goodness I have one last braid of Nube for me. This is the right way to prepare it, even though it's totally tedious and takes forever and I kind of resent having to do it in the first place. When all was said and done and I look down at this:

Malabrigo nube

I had to debate internally: "I'm keeping it. No, I'll donate it. You haven't told them yet that you're donating it- they'll never know! I'm donating it. No, I'm keeping it. It's so nice. I'll donate it. I'll keep it. Donate! Keep! Donate! Keep!"

Seeing how nice this fiber turned out is good motivation to prepare the last braid of Nube for myself.

Friday

[knitting] Jewel-tone Rikke

Finished a Rikke hat:

Handspun Rikke Hat

The yarn is handspun fiber that I bought at Vermont Sheep and Wool and spun back in 2008. I love the vibrant colors- especially the highlighter yellow. I just noticed that I've been working with drab and natural colors for ages. Vibrant color is just what I need at the dreary end of winter. I think I'll start adding bright neon colored yarn to my stash.

Wait- it's the first day of spring! I feel more cheerful already.

Wednesday

[cooking] Sugar on Snow

Since it's sugaring season and since there's still snow on the ground- it's time for Sugar on Snow. I had a friend over who had never tried it- and it had been years since I've had it myself. 

The premise is simple: boil maple syrup to reduce it more. You boil syrup to 235 F or, if you don't have a fancy-pants candy thermometer, you can just boil it to the softball stage. Periodically drop a drop of the heating syrup into a glass of cold water and see if the syrup holds it shape. When it stays as a ball, it's ready.

Go outside and pack some pie plates, meatloaf or cake pans with snow and bring them inside. When the syrup is ready, drizzle/pour the hot syrup into the snow. It cools so rapidly that it becomes taffy.

Here's a warm spoonful:

Sugar on Snow

Turn it over and roll it around with your utensil- it solidifies but still remains a bit soft

Sugar on Snow

Jab it with your spoon or a fork and eat. It's cold and chewy. Sooooo good. This would be fun for a party- pack snow into pans and keep the syrup warm in a fondu pot. Some people eat pickles as a chaser, for a sweet and sour experience. I would prefer to pair this with sour cocktails or beer.

If there's any leftover syrup, you can stir-stir-stir-it-up into maple cream:

Maple Cream

It will turn light in color and thicken. You can pour it into a bowl and wait for it to harden. My leftovers here got hard and not really spreadable. That's fine- you can still eat it as is (that's maple candy) but next time I might stir in a bit of butter and cream to make a spread. 

Tuesday

[cooking] Pi Day

This past Saturday was 3/14, or "Pi Day". This year was extra-special because 3/14/15 isn't going to happen again for another 100 years. Most people make pies but I went a savory route and made a quiche:

Not a pie, but a spinach quiche for Pi Day. #piday #31415

Recipe was vaguely: make a single pie crust, blind bake it. Add swiss cheese, bacon and sautéed onion, sautéed spinach with all the moisture squeezed out. Pour whisked eggs and milk over the top. Bake for 30 min. 

I would make this every weekend if I didn't know how much butter was in the crust. (It's one stick.) 

Monday

[knitting] Alohomora

Finished the first Sock Madness socks in time to qualify for team placement:

Socks are done. #sm9 #sockmadness9


Pattern: Alohomora (rav link)

Yarn: Elann Devon (discontinued)- two 50gr balls.

Needles: US 1

Nice pattern, if tedious. The great part of Sock Madness is seeing HUNDREDS of versions of the same pattern. This pattern seems to err on the large side and when knit with solid (but dark) colors, these socks make a handsome pair for a man.

Thursday

[vermont] Spring?

Well, I think Spring is finally happening. Yesterday it was sunny and above 50 F. I decided to treat the cats with an open window for a few minutes.

Sharing an open window

The first open window of the year is the only thing that can bring Murderface and Santana face to face without bloodshed. 

Snow is melting fast. Dirt roads are turning into mud. Sap buckets are on trees. Yes, it is finally Spring.

Tuesday

[knitting] Sweater Socks

I managed one more pair of worsted weight socks for Dollar:

Sweater socks

The yarn is Spud & Chloe Sweater, a cotton/wool blend, which is why I'm calling them "sweater socks". Penny gives the pair her cat butt stamp of approval.

Monday

[misc] Penny Monday

Fast weekend- made even faster from losing an hour. I spent most of the weekend knitting:

Penny wants some socks


I'm actually quite close to the toes for both. I finished Season 3 of House of Cards and we had a Star Wars marathon and watched the first three movies. We were in a Star Wars mood because our dining room table has been transformed into the Death Star:

The dining room table is now the Death Star. #x-wing #starwars

Dollar plays a miniature game called X-wing and all the ships are so awesome. So detailed and painted really well. I've tried playing and it's not really my thing. 

I went out for a ride on the VAST trails on Sunday morning. I'm still waiting for the electric start to be repaired on mine but I was able to go out on an insured/registered snowmobile, to see how I like it. I LIKE IT. We rode for 23 miles.

First time out on the #VAST trails. 23 miles. So much fun.

There are so many trails around us- and we give VAST permission to go through our property. We rode to the house and up the driveway so that I could give Dollar a spin. I was like, "This is break, this is go, this kills the engine. And go." I can't believe you don't need a special license or training. 

Here's a picture from our driveway of Dollar on the trail:

Dollar on the snowmobile

The trail goes right by the house, so it's kind of obligatory for us to have a snowmobile. Snowmobiles. We need more snowmobiles.

Friday

[knitting] Fraternal... almost identical socks

Finished a pair of socks for Dollar:

Mismatched Green socks

Don't worry, Penny. I'll make you socks next.

So these socks... are different. One wintery evening, in poor indoor light, I pulled leftover superwash worsted weight from my stash. I've knit Dollar many pairs of socks over the years and it was time to use up odds and ends. Lo and behold, I had enough green to make a proper pair. 

It was hard to see the difference, right?

The yarn looks the same under certain light

In natural daylight, I was all "awwwwwwwwwwwshit".

But up close- they are different.

You can see the yarn in the back has blue in it. Whatever, at this point I'm just hoping they're the same yarn (Cascade 220 Superwash) so they wash/wear the same. Plus, as I use up odds and ends from the stash, the socks I make are going to look progressively crazier and crazier. At least each sock here is entirely one color.

Thursday

[knitting] Alohomora

The pattern for Round 1 of Sock Madness has been revealed. We have two weeks to make the pair and so far I've got:

Alohomora

Yeeaahhh. There are some pretty speedy knitters out there- so many people have finished the pair already. I'm not stressing, though- I'm not going to hurt myself to knit as fast as possible. Plus, it would take all the fun out of the competition for me. I'm just going to trod along, try to finish in time and see what group I'm placed into.

Tuesday

[cooking] More pasta

Had a guest over for dinner last night and had to practice my pasta-making skills at home:

Successful pasta at home

Only this time I made twice as much as I made on Sunday- a four egg pasta. What a long, arduous process. My kitchen looks like a bomb went off. I used attachments for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and the results were the same as in class.

Fettuccine made at home

There was enough to cook for three people plus plenty of pasta leftover to freeze. 

All right, that's enough pasta. Time to get back to knitting. After cleaning up the kitchen.

Monday

[cooking] Perfect Pasta

Yesterday morning I took a Pasta 101 class at King Arthur Flour. For my birthday back in October, Dollar said he would buy me a class of my choice. Pasta was the only one I wanted and I had to wait 5 months to find a class that wasn't sold out.

The class ran from 9 am to 12 pm and the time flew by. I blinked and two hours had passed. The class was: watch the teacher make the dough, make your dough, roll it out, cut 60% into fettuccine and make ravioli with the rest.

Here's what I got to bring home:

Pasta 101 at @kingarthurflour. Fettuccine and ravioli to bring home!

This class was awesome. I mean, look at that pasta I made. I've only made pasta at home a couple times and it was messy and I didn't really know what I was doing and the pasta was too chewy. All of those things were explained. Any question/concern I had was answered. The instructors were great. The atmosphere of the class was great. 

Towards the end of the class, one of the instructors came through and took a handful of fresh fettuccine from everyone to boil together for lunch. A wild mushroom cream sauce was made to toss with the pasta. Add some fresh snipped chives and voila:

Lunch is the fettuccine we made with wild mushrooms. Heaven. ��

This was so good, I wanted to cry. The fettuccine was so silky smooth and tender. The mushrooms were tasty. There were fresh baguettes (of course) and butter. 

For dinner, I cooked up the pasta I brought home- ravioli for me, fettuccine for Dollar, both tossed with brown butter. We had it with some roasted salmon- which is one of his favorite foods. I knew the pasta was good when he ate it all before finishing his salmon. He was like, "Yeah. Okay. So I assume we're going to never have boxed pasta again?" Once you have fresh pasta, you never wanted to go back to the dried stuff.

Friday

[misc] Penny Friday

I think this is how we're all feeling about the never-ending frigid temperatures:

Penny in warm laundry

Penny snuggled deep into a blanket and futon cover straight out of the dryer.

I just signed up for Sock Madness 9 on Ravelry, just before the cut-off time. It seems to be a very strict, very challenging competition that starts imminently and runs through the end of May. I think sock knitting is all I'm going to be doing for the next three months. Gulp.

Thursday

[misc] Murderface Thursday

A week and a half ago, Murderface had to have one of his canine teeth extracted because of decay. Santana was missing three of hers by the time we adopted her and eventually had to have the last one taken out for the same decay that MF had. Who knows if these teeth problems are hereditary or what but Santana's track record doesn't bode well for MF.

Anyway, I brought him down to the vet on a Monday morning. He was sedated, his tooth pulled and the rest cleaned. He was awake by 1pm and we picked him up at 3. He was out of it and stumbled around for the rest of the evening- we had to keep and eye on him at all times so he didn't try to jump on things or slip on the stairs.

Here he is recovering at home:

Murderface

His diet has to be straight-up soft food for 14 days. I found some soft treats that I could give him. This is him hearing the treat bag crinkling:

Murderface waiting for treats

When it's treat time, the cats show how deserving they are by being nice and kissing one another:

Kissy Kissy

Then they eat all the treats and go back to hating and fighting with each other.

I had a quick trip to the DC area again this week. When I got home last night, the cats showed me how much they missed me. Murderface cat-loafed on my chest on the couch during a movie:

Murderface

Friday

[knitting] Super simple striped socks

My travel knitting last week for DC was a pair of socks:

Super simple striped socks ��

Pattern is just the basic sock formula from Ann Budd's Handy Book of Patterns. Cast on 68 stitches, used US 2 needles. Yarn is Sari Bamboo from Wisdom Yarns and I have a decent amount of the originally 100g ball leftover.

I was trying to take pictures of the socks just before kitty suppertime so Penny followed me around, reminding me that it was almost suppertime. 


Thursday

[knitting] Aran Afghan Square #12

The last square I've finished:

Aran Afghan Square #12

I'm in the middle of some socks at the moment, but then I'll go back to making the last three squares for the afghan. Then it will be hours and hours and hours of sewing.

Tuesday

[knitting] Aran afghan square #10

Continuing to plug away at squares for the Great American Aran Afghan.

Aran Afghan Square #10


I think I have enough yarn for 16 squares total, sewn together. I would have to buy more for a garter-stitch border but it's okay if the dye-lot is different for that; I just want to be able to complete the main body with all the same yarn and dye-lot. That should make a nice, square lap blanket. 

Friday

[knitting] Felted House Slippers

I knit/felted three pairs of House Slippers over the holidays. I gave them all away but I did make a 4th pair for me.

Pre-felting:

Pre-felted slippers

I used undyed, local wool that I picked up at a VT Sheep and Wool Festival one year.

After felting:

Felted House Slippers

They really didn't lose much of their stitch definition but they are smaller. I ran them through 2 wash cycles and they seemed to shed a lot during the process... I was starting to get worried about clogging up my washing machine and/or drainage tube with stray fibers, so I stopped.

They are really soft now. The original yarn was kind of rough and I thought it was only suitable for rugs but these slippers are ridiculously soft. They are a bit too big for me, so I'll put them into a basket and keep them as guest slippers.

Thursday

[travel] DC

Had a quick trip to DC this week. Passed by the back side of the White House:

White House security was in no-joke stay-on-the-sidewalk mode this afternoon. Didn't get to see the Prez.

Everyone had to stay on the side walk. Usually you're allowed to meander up to the black fence at the edge of the grass but everything was blocked off and security was tight. We saw several people (tourists and joggers) screamed at for setting one tippy-toe off the sidewalk. Typically this happens when the president or some other VIP is returning to the White House. Who knows- who knows when they're arriving, who knows who it will be, etc. I get on my phone and searched "where is the president", which you'd think wouldn't work, but it's how I figured out that it was the African American caucus that was coming up to the White House for a meeting. Their bus pulled up in a few minutes.

While we waited, we watched the overly-friendly, overly-fed squirrels:


Black squirrel at the White House

And this trip was my first time sampling raw oysters around the city:

Had so many oysters in DC this trip.

My new favorite food.

I brought sock yarn as my travel knitting and managed to knit one entire sock. Now I've got a couple days to figure out what to do for Valentine's Day.