[misc] Penny Thursday

Penny, helping guard against chipmunks yesterday afternoon:

Not a bad chipmunk guard πŸ”«πŸ―

That's catnip down by her tail. No getting high on the job for her- she never does catnip when she's outside. 

The large flowerbed is looking nice:


I don't think any of that phlox bloomed last year; some critter ate off all the unopened buds... But I'm happy they are able to bloom this year. 

Vacation starts in T - 4 hours.

Cooking plans: Pasta. Egg pasta. Herb pasta. Squid ink pasta? Beet pasta? Two-colored pasta? Homemade ricotta for filled pasta. I've got to start cleaning out the freezer to make room for all the pasta I want to make.

Also, savory quick bread. I'm hosting the June bakealong challenge for the Ravelry cooking group- and I still need to pick a recipe!

Harvest and use some of the rhubarb. I'm waiting for the mint to get a little bit bigger before I rip it back (and away from other plants it's surrounding)- need to look up mint recipes.

Knitting plans: Finish the socks.

Sewing plans: More quilt blocks.

Crochet plans: Go back to Sophie's Universe?

Weaving plans: Weave... something?

Spinning plans: None. I'm participating in Tour de Fleece in July. 

Gardening plans: plant annuals, fertilize, mulch, re-edge beds, divide and move plants, re-do the outdoor fire pit... misc this and that. 

Whatever I'm doing, it's going to be awesome. I can't ever think of a time I've had 10 days off in a row.


[misc] Weekend roundup

Friday afternoon/evening was outstanding. Sunny, no clouds, 70 degrees...

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Dollar mowed the lawn while I tackled flower beds:

Prepping the flowerbed bed... 🌱🍺 🌱@upperpassbeer

Fueled by local beer, of course.

Saturday morning I went to the Hanover Garden Club plant sale and bought nearly a dozen small perennial starts. I brought them home and had them all planted by the time the rain started in the early afternoon. Then it was rain rain rain rain rain all weekend until Sunday evening. (which is why I was rushing to get everything into the ground). All the plants looked nice and perky when I took a walk through yesterday evening.

I did rainy day puttering around the house most of the weekend. I cut up several quilt block pieces for easy/fast sewing. Made a rhubarb upside down cake. Laundry laundry laundry. Got a decent amount of knitting done on my green socks. 

Now I've just got to stay focused the rest of the week. It's a short week for me... I'm taking Friday off and alllllllllllll of next week. This is my annual gardening staycation. I can't wait to do whatever I want for 10 days! 


[knitting] Green Socks

Working on something bright bright bright bright bright:

Working on the greenest of green socks. #knitting #sockknitting

The pattern is called Nomia and it's free from Knitty. This is a project I started as travel-knitting for the flight to/from Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Now I've been picking away at it during the evenings while we're watching a movie (we're going back and watching all the Marvel movies in the order that they were released- starting with Iron Man).

Everything is coming up green outside so I guess that is influencing my yarn choices.


TGIF. For reals, T. G. I. F. This week has been ugh. I had to console myself with a tiny glass of wine mid-week:

Its been a week and it’s only Wednesday. Time to enjoy a reasonable amount of wine in the porch. #winewednesday

At least the weather has been really nice- sunny and not too hot.

Going to the Hanover Garden Club plant sale tomorrow morning. Then it looks like it's going to be rainy all weekend, so lots of boardgames, baking and knitting for me. I also started thumbing through my quilt block book and picked out several designs that I can pre-cut. Got to get back to quilting...


[gardening] Mid-May Flowers

Visited four plant sales last Saturday- and was even home before noon. Picked up several things:

Visited four plant sales this morning. I regret nothing! 🌱🌸🌿🌼🌷

Planted some of these into the part-shade bed (and moved a couple astilbe and a heuchera from a poor location to the better location). 

I got a variegated iris that smells soooooo sweet:

Picked up this variegated sweet iris over the weekend. Love the green and white foliage. And it’s called ‘sweet’ because it smells like cotton candy! πŸ’¨πŸ˜Œ

I've never seen anything like it before- I love the foliage. I hope it spreads well so I can share it with people in a few years.

Speaking of irises, some very dark purple ones were the first to pop open this year:

First iris of the year! πŸ’œ

Love this color. 

Penny in the front flower bed.

Down in the new(ish) big flowerbed, some lighter purple irises just popped open yesterday:

Huh I don’t think any of these irises bloomed last year but it looks like they’re going to put on a good show this year. πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ

I don't think any of these bloomed last year. Looks like there's going to be lots of blooms this year!

Here and there, and there and here, little primrose are blooming:



Pulmonaria/lungwort in the back shade bed:

Pulmonaria blooming in the back shade bed. πŸ’—πŸ’œπŸ’—πŸ’œ #lungwort #pulmonaria

I'm trying to do an hour or two of gardening on week days after work when the weather is nice. I went through the succulent bed and ripped out weeds. All the little chicks that were knocked loose I put into a container to give to a friend:

Weeded my hens and chicks. Set aside all the chicks that were knocked loose. πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯ @ealachan, these are for yo

Found some bees at the bottom of the azalea bush sleeping on the job:

Busy as bees... napping in the sun.

"Busy as a bee" my ass. 


[misc] Penny Friday

Took Penny out yesterday:

Maybe Penny can take care of this chipmunk problem. #probablynot

We have at least three chipmunks and they've been digging up and eating the bulbs of my asiatic lilies. Between the deer and the 'chucks and the 'munks, the gardening struggle is real. Because the cats don't go outside, the chipmunks are fairly brazen and, I'd go so far as to say, haughty. While Penny was busy eating grass around the front porch, a chipmunk popped out of his hole in the front yard and was looking at us like, "What is SHE doing out here?" He still came over and kind of got all taunt-y to Penny while safely hiding under the porch. But, I don't think Penny would even know what to do if she caught him. She has 'interacted' with mice in the house in the past but those scenarios always end with me catching the mouse under a colander and then throwing it outside. Apparently, neither one if us is capable of killing anything larger than a fly.

Penny's too scared to venture away from the porch when we're outside and that's generally the area that the chipmunk thinks he's the sovereign prince of, so I'm hoping just her periodic presence and smell will be enough to... take this chipmunk down a notch or two? I don't know. I think murder is too much to hope for but maybe a scuffle or two? The question is, who would win that scuffle? Ehhhhh... [shrug]


TGIF. I have some rhubarb from a coworker, so I'll make a rhubarb-something this weekend. It's plant sale season and I'm going to hit up three local sales tomorrow morning. More garden chores around the house (beds are slowly getting cleaned up). House chores. My niece's b-day on Sunday. Looking forward to it!!


[gardening] Wild Flowers

It's still early and the trees are only just starting to bud but things are blooming.

My favorite wild, woodland flower: sanguinaria canadensis (common name: bloodroot)

My favorite spring woodland flower. #sanguinariacanadensis #bloodroot

They only bloom for a day or two. They come up wrapped in one big leaf. Their sap and root is a rust-colored red (hence the common name). The light yellow center of the flower is a bright as a light bulb. It's almost hypnotizing to me.

The grow down by the brook:

More #bloodroot. They only bloom for one day. #sanguinariacanadensis

When I was looking around for the bloodroot, I saw lots of trillium erectum (common name: stinking benjamin):

Found lots of #trillium in the woods around the house this year. All red, no white. #stinkingbenjamin

No white ones, they're all red. The past few years, I've only seen one growing in a nearby spot. This year- they seem to be in a dozen new locations! But they're a little difficult to get to for a picture- behind old rock walls, on steep banks of the brook. There was a nice healthy clump close to the edge of the lawn that I was waiting to bloom but when I went back to take a picture some days later, they were all gone, chomped down to the ground. I had to google whether or not deer eat them and they do!

The little pond we have on the property is overrun with cattails and marsh marigold. Down stream, along the brook, some spots of marsh marigold are starting to appear (I assume seeds getting washed down from the pond):

Marsh marigold down by the brook. πŸ’›

So pretty.

When I went up to pick ramps a week ago, I found some more wild, woodland flowers blooming. Tiny little spring beauties (claytonia caroliniana):

Spring beauty.

These flowers are so small- the blossoms are smaller than a dime- but they are so lovely! It's no wonder their common name is 'spring beauty'.

Spring beauty.

I also saw a few hepatica:

Hey, I did find a #hepatica, @enting3! Not as colorful as the ones you found. 🌸

I've never noticed these before but I happened to be looking for it this year. And it's worth a stop and look-see, they are so sweet as well.

There's a new flower to take a picture of every day. I love it! I'm making progress cleaning up all the flower beds- doing a little after work every day. Hopefully when my Memorial Day vacation rolls around, I can tackle some bigger projects- working on the firepit and taking care of plant divisions.


[dyeing] Dyeing Yarn with Food Coloring

I've been wanting to try speckle-dyeing yarn with food coloring for a while. I have a couple skeins of natural wool (seconds from the Green Mountain Spinnery) and a box of nice Wilton gel food colors- so I tried it over the weekend.

I gathered my supplies:

Yarn dying with food coloring

Food coloring, yarn, little blue cups to mix the dye, forks to dip into the dye and then onto the yarn.

First I soaked the yarn in water/vinegar:

Yarn dying with food coloring

Then I squeezed most of the water out of the yarn and put it onto cling wrap on a cookie sheet:

Yarn dying with food coloring

I mixed up some food coloring in little plastic cups with about 0.5 oz water. Then I dipped a fork into the colors and touched it to the yarn here and there:

Yarn dying with food coloring

You have to move the skein around, open it up, and turn it over to ensure you're getting even coverage. I think my yarn was still too wet from the soak because the colors really started to bleed and travel along the yarn:

Yarn dying with food coloring

At this point I steamed this skein to set the dye. I put a canning rack into a deep pot with an inch of boiling water and then set a metal colander on top of it. I put the yarn into the colander and steamed for about 10 or 15 minutes while I dyed the other skein. Because of all the jumbled colors on the first attempt, I used only pink, green and brown for the seconds skein.

The finished yarns (rinsed and dried). Skein #1:

Yarn dying with food coloring

Skein #2:

Yarn dying with food coloring

They still kind of bled color a bit when I washed them after steaming. I think I should use them alone for their own projects, in case they still bleed a bit of dye. I like skein #2 better- less is more.

It was a fast and easy experiment. Would be a fun weekend craft project to do with kids. But not really my cup of tea. I had issues with the steaming; at first I tried to just set the yarn on top of the canning rack but pieces kept drooping into the boiling water. It was a while (too long!) before I thought to put a metal colander on top of the canning rack.

Also, the colors ended up muddier than I would have liked. Obviously, like anything, I'm sure I'd get better if I do it a lot more but... I'd rather be knitting with pretty yarn that more skilled professionals create.


[cooking] Ramps / Wild Leeks

Last Thursday, before leaving for MD S&W, I wanted to take care of most of the ramps that I kept for myself. I really don't use my food processor much, because there are 400 parts to wash, but it does come in handy from time to time.

I threw in two large bunches of ramps and minced as-is. Then I used this for three different recipes.

Minced ramps

Recipe #1: Compound Butter

I had the foresight to take out six sticks of salted butter from the fridge before work and leave them on the counter to come to room temp over the course of the day. Theywere soft(ish) when I put them into the stand mixer:


Mix a bit on low speed. Add a scant cup of the pureed ramps and juice from half a lemon. Mix on low and then on high, periodically scraping down the sides of the bowl and pushing unmixed butter off the paddle.

Ramp butter

Looks pretty good!! This is my favorite way to preserve the ramps- the compound butter lasts for a long time in the freezer and it makes the best garlic bread. Normally I roll the butter into logs in cling wrap but this time I decided to try out a never-been-used silicone mold from the cupboard:

Silicone mold for ramp butter

Originally purchased as a mold for panna cotta but I thought it would make a pretty presentation for the butter. I scooped in some of the ramp butter, pushed it in evenly and leveled off with a knife:

Ramp butter

Cover with cling wrap, pressing evenly over the butter surface, and into the freezer to store until needed for special occasions. Each mold fit a little less than one stick of butter- I had about 1/3 cup of "extra" butter that didn't fit. That went into a little covered glass dish and we're currently using it up here and there.

Recipe #2: Chimichurri

In glass bowl, I added a cup of minced ramps, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and whisked to make chimichurri. This went into a big mason jar and into the fridge.

Recipe #3: Pesto

With the remaining minced ramps in the food processor, I added pine nuts (not toasted because lazy), parm cheese, salt, pepper. I started to blend and drizzled in olive oil until I got a consistency I liked:

Ramp Pesto

Presto! Pesto!

This wasn't a huge amount of pesto- I didn't have a lot of minced ramps left in the food processor after using so much for the butter and chimichurri but it worked out correct proportionally to the amount of pine nuts I had. The pesto was divided into three little tupperware containers.

So after not much time and effort, I had ramps three ways:

Ramp butter, chimichurri, pesto

I still have one bunch of ramps left that survived the weekend just find in the vegetable drawer in the fridge. I'm trying to come up with a new/creative way to use it. I think I might dehydrate the greens- that might be a good way to store it as a dried herb to add to salt or bread/pasta dough in the future.

I have been using fresh ramps, chopped and sauteed with ground pork and some Korean spices/seasoning, to have over rice. Last night I made Loco Moco with a ramp twist- adding a spoonful of the chimichurri to the ground beef before shaping into patties and frying the eggs in ramp butter. This was so gooood.


[travel] Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

Took Friday off work to head to the DC area for Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. It's an easy, fast, direct flight from Burlington that I've made many times. I arrived Friday afternoon and met up with my friend. We had some drinks out and then dinner in old town (oyster po' boy for me). Saturday morning we got up and drove to West Friendship, MD. We only stayed at the Festival about 4 hours (coincidentally, the same amount of time it took all my money to disappear)- it was much more crowded than last year. 

The herding demos are always a highlight:

Sheep herding demo at #mdsw. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ πŸ•

I got lots of handmade soap, buttons and spinning fiber. No yarn, which was good. Saw lots of cute sheep in the barns.

Dinner out Saturday was all the seafoods. Raw oysters, crab cakes and octopus at a new place called Hummingbird:

Last night at Hummingbird: octopus, crab cakes, oysters. Later at Hank’s: tuna tartare. All the seafoods. πŸ™πŸŸ

Then tuna tartare at Hank's Oyster Bar up at the west end of King Street. So gooooood.

Left Sunday morning and was walking through my front door by 2pm. (Pit stop at Pro Pig on the drive home, which is becoming a regular thing when I'm coming home from the airport.) Then shower/nap and loafing the rest of the evening. A weekend well-spent.


[misc] Penny Thursday

Pen-pen in my lap:

Penny. I’m getting up now. #catsofinstagram

I just told her I had to get up. She was not impressed. I keep my great american aran afghan on a couch in the craft room and do use it when I'm lounging in there. 


I spent hours washing all the ramps last night. I put some dough into the oven to proof for dinner while I cleaned them. After an hour- I checked the dough. It was in the bottom oven and I had set the top oven, so the dough was still cold. At this point, it was 7:30 and I was like, "No... no No NO!" Dollar came to see what the disaster was and I just said, "We're not having pizza until 9pm." 

As I stood at the sink stripping skin from around bulbs and dunking the ramps in water, pondering all manner of things because I've got nothing but time and thoughts, I wondered whether I subconsciously purposefully sabotaged the timing of dinner. After the first hour, I still had an hour+ worth of ramps to wash. Maybe I set the wrong oven to give myself another hour? There are so many ramps to wash. Is this what being a chef is like? Prepping food for hours on end? Wait- is that what a sous chef does? Would all these ramps be one night's worth of meals at a restaurant? I heard a theory about Westworld- that Logan's father's consciousness was put into Abernathy and that's why he flipped out last season when he saw the picture of the woman in the city- because that would mean it was his daughter in the picture. You know who doesn't get enough credit? Dave Bautista. He was really good in Infinity War. And as Drax in general...

And on and on and on. But it's all worth it when I can take this picture:

All the ramps washed and bundled. Some for me, some for fam, some for me, some for coworkers, some for me. 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱 #ramps #foraging #alliumtri


[gaming] Clank!

Tried out a new game this weekend:

Rainy day boardgaming. Trying to dungeon crawl without making any noise. #clank #clankboardgame #boardgames

Good dungeon-crawling, deck-building game. You are an adventurer exploring an underground dragon lair. Any kind of noise you make creates a "Clank!" and that can wake the dragon. The deck-building aspect is acquiring companions and weapons to help you move/fight better. Worked well as a 2-player but can accommodate up to 4. We will definitely be playing this more.


Went up the hill to pick ramps after work yesterday. Things are still a bit wet and muddy but the picking was good- I brought back two grocery bag's worth. A few were washed for supper but the rest will be cleaned today. Then it's pesto and compound butter time.

Getting excited for Maryland Sheep and Wool this weekend. I've got to sort out what I'm bringing (an empty checked bag- to bring home all the goodies), plane knitting, what handknit item I'm going to wear, etc. I've started a small list of particular vendors I want to try an see.


[cooking] Maple Walnut Scones with coconut oil

This past weekend I made maple walnut scones with a maple cream drizzle:

Maple walnut scones with a drizzle of maple cream. 🍁 #sundayfunday #baking

The recipe is here. It calls for 11 tablespoons of butter. Which sounds like a lot... because it is. This never happens but I had no butter in the house... but I still wanted scones, dammit. I do have a container of solid coconut oil, though. 

So, I made the recipe as stated but decided to use coconut oil instead. I started adding tablespoon after tablespoon to the dry ingredients... five... six... this feels like a lot... seven... ok, that's enough. I was psyching myself out, thinking the oil was going to completely melt out of the scones once they were baking in the oven and the cookie sheet would a pool of oil. I used my pastry blender to cut the solid oil into the flour, the same as I would for butter. 

I added the milk/maple syrup to the dry ingredients, mixed everything up, turned the dough out onto parchment, divided into three pieces and formed them into patties 3/4 inch thick. I have to say... I liked the texture of the dough with coconut oil in it. I find scone dough to be dry/crumbly but this was like Play-Doh in the best way possible. Just smoother and it held together better. I used my bench scraper to cut each patty into 8 wedges.

Maple Walnut Scones - before

On the left front disk I sprinkled maple sugar/cinnamon. On the left front, I brushed a bit of milk mixed with maple syrup on top. The disk in the back center I left as is.

After baking:

Maple Walnut Scones - after

425F for 18 min and they started to burn a bit on the bottom. Next time I'll bake for 18 min at 400. I feel like these needed the extra minutes because they were a little thick. Also not sure if the coconut oil made them more susceptible to scorching.

These scones are great. They definitely have a coconut aroma but they're very nice and tender and all the oil didn't leech out. I'm not afraid to completely replace butter with coconut oil now. Next up- a bundt cake? Can you "cream" coconut oil with sugar? Only one way to find out...

Oh and the drizzle in the top pic isn't from the recipe- it's 100% maple cream from a local farm, purchased during the Vermont Maple Open House weekend in March. It really puts these scones over the top.