Tag Archives: Blogtoberfest

Jack of All

Jack of All

One thing I’ve heard a LOT in the week since coming home from Rhinebeck: “You knit/spin?  Wow, that’s a dying art!”

Well, 6 million knitters might argue with that.  But I get what they’re saying.

But honestly, it’s hardly the only dying art.  So many things that our grandparents took for granted are forgotten skills now. Car repairs, home repairs, small appliance repairs, all these little things we just don’t know how to do in our disposable age.  I don’t remember ever seeing my parents change their car oil or fix a toaster.  Not that they didn’t, I just never saw it, and it wasn’t something they taught me or my siblings.

Today I ran up against one of those things.


As the weather gets colder, the kids have been nagging me about turning on the heat.  But I refuse to do it until I get all the windows sealed for the winter.  Living in an old house as we do, there are a lot of drafts, especially out all the original windows.  Replacing the windows would be ideal, but totally out of my budget.  Instead I put shrink plastic on them all every fall and hope for the best.  Xander has a tendency to take a sharp edge to the one in his room every year, despite my threats.  The worst offenders are the windows in our back laundry room, though.  I hate these windows, and one of my long term goals has always been to replace them.  One of the windows won’t stay shut properly, and two of the panes have had chunks broken out of them for years now, which have been patched as best as possible with packing or duct tape.  And the frames are so old and peeling so that the tape for the plastic won’t stick to them.  In a “Give a Mouse a Cookie” moment, I decided repainting the frames would at least fix that problem, so I dug out the oil primer, dusted off the frames, pried off some old hardware, and handed Morgan the paintbrush.  As always, a lick of paint made such a difference!  But it made the broken panes stand out even more.  I was going to just seal them up with silicone, or replace them with plexiglass.  Except one pane of plexi that size (12″ by 24″) was $15!!!  So no.  In a fit of “I can do it myself”, I got glass cut the right size, picked up glazing points and window compound and took a stab at it.

Remember, I have never seen anyone do this outside of a home improvement show.

First off I had to get the glass out.  Seemed like the easiest way to do so was to break them and pull the pieces out.  I put on gloves, got a hammer and a dish towel, and gave the first one a whack.  It didn’t break.  WTF?  Tried again.  Bounce.  FIVE TIMES I tried to break it before it actually went.  Who can’t break a window with a hammer?  This girl, apparently.  Because the second one took me 8 goes!!  Ridiculous.  Finally got it all out and pried out the glazing points and most of the dead glazing compound.  Then I painted all the exposed edges with the oil primer and went to make bread.


Once that had dried, it was time for the scary stuff!  The two windows face opposite directions, so one I could do from the inside, but the other I had to go out on a step stool to place the glass.  I had Morgan come out with me to hold the glass in place while I set the glazing points.  No dropsies!  It was hard to smooth out the glazing compound properly just because of angles and that stupid top window that wouldn’t stay shut, and I’d left just enough of the old compound in that the glass didn’t sit quite flush.  Grumble.  But it was in place and sealed, although I did have to back fill a little from the inside.  The other pane went in easier, as I wasn’t teetering on the top of a step stool.


Neither were a perfect job, but it’s still better than it was.  I can already feel a difference in there!


It’s hard sometimes to get the confidence to try to do these things yourself.  They’ve built up such a lot of baggage as being too hard to do yourself.  But don’t be scared.  Just like knitting skills are being preserved on YouTube, so too are repair skills.  Check out a couple of videos and then bravely go forth.

After all, glass is cheap.

The Battle is Real

The Battle is Real

(Yup, missed yesterday.  Oh well, it was almost a perfect month!)


The Battle of the Five Armies Shawl by AlterLace

This is the shawl that never ends.  Literally.

I started it a year and a half ago.  Although technically it started in July of 2014 when I spun the yarn.  But the cast on date for this bugger was January 15, 2015.  It was supposed to be a test night for a mystery knit along (basically, you get the pattern in sections over time instead of getting the whole pattern at once.)  I did pretty good for the first 4-5 clues, and I think gave good feedback to the designer.  But then Clue 6 was feather and fan stitch.  I’m miserable at F&F.  So finally I put it in time out to think about what it had done.

I didn’t pick it up again until this summer.

Somehow I made it through the F&F but then I started to run out of my handspun.  I had expected I would, so I laid in a stash of black fingering weight to continue on with.  Except I started to doubt my own judgement on the weight of my handspun, so I decided to knit the commercial stuff doubled.  Got halfway through Clue 8 before I accepted that no, this fabric was entirely two dense (and I’d gone through almost 800 yds of yarn with no end in sight) and ripped it all back to my lifeline in Clue 7 and started it over.

Finally got to the latter rows of Clue 9, and I optimistically thought that I might be able to finish it to wear to Rhinebeck.  But no, each lace row is taking me 3 hours (860 stitches per row, beyotch!), so I gave up that pipe dream.

But I am determined.  The end is in sight.  I am committed to doing at least one row a day until it is done.  I only have 8 rows and the bind-off left.

With any luck, I can wear it for Samhain.

(This is a beautiful and well written pattern, despite my whinging.  Check it and AlterLace’s other shawl patterns out on Ravelry.  She keeps promising us a Sherlock themed pattern…)

If Wishes Were Horses

If Wishes Were Horses

I spent a lot of time on my fantasy farm today.

Actually, I was in the office, working as hard as the lingering remains of my cold medicine would allow.  But a part of my brain was at the farm.


While we were in Woodstock, Nikki and I agreed that we could be very happy living in the Catskills.  Which, as it usually does, led me to look at real estate.  We have a very small budget and very big dreams, but I did find two properties that I really love.  They’re further west than I would like, but they’re both within half an hour of three college towns, which to me means library, culture and food.  The rest is up to us.

So I’ve been thinking about orchard placement, pasture layouts, greenhouse construction, shop colors, all the big and small things that might go into the place.  Being so close to so many schools, we might be able to barter room and board for manual labor, or offer studio or boarding space in exchange for design or animal help.  I even looked up internet providers for both places.

I’m finding that my criteria for the perfect place are expanding over time.  Originally, I wanted a place near the mountains, woods and ocean (which is why we were looking at Maine), at least 5 acres but preferably more, an older house with at least one fireplace, and at least one cool barn.  I have now had to add to that that it has to be int he coverage area of an NPR station and within half an hour’s drive of a UU church, preferably one with some pagan presence, or at least open to it.  As the kids get older, I’m having to worry less and less about schools.  My job, assuming I can keep it, is one I can do from home, and there are people elsewhere in the department who live far away and only telecommute, so there is precedent for it, which means I have to worry about being in a location with job opportunities.  And working from home would work well with the needs of farm maintenance!  People keep warning me about winters in the places I’m looking at.  Dude, that’s WHY I’m looking at those places!  I need decent winters!

Unfortunately, it’s not happening any time soon.  I need to get the kids through school first.  So three more years minimum.  Unless I win the lottery.  If that happens, I’m not waiting.  Well, yeah I am, but I’ll use the three years to do the renovations on the new place so it’s ready when we are.

Of course, I have to buy tickets…




I’m still sick, so have a visual flashback of last week.


signs of a knitter in residence


Morning tea in one of the two mugs in the cottage. At least it’s a cute one!


Cool ironwork on the Colony Cafe.


Looking out over the Catskills. Very Sleepy Hollow.


We didn’t even notice these carvings at first. So lovely. I’m glad we did!


Another shot of Betty the tattoo dog. She was a sweetie. For a dog.


Maxfield Parrish sky.


One of the many slate walls behind the cottage. Again, very Sleepy Hollow.


Saugerties Lighthouse. Such a lovely place. The second floor is actually a B&B! (but totally out of my price range…)


The Festival before the deluge!


Believe it or not, I didn’t get enough. I need one more skein of each.


My final haul, not including two bags of soup mix and one jar of … stuff. Kind of a dip, kind of a chutney. Thing. Yummy, though!

Okay, going back to bed now. Bye!

Back to Reality

Back to Reality

Okay, yes, I missed a day.  But to be fair, it was a long drive back from New York, and then I had to dive straight back into mom mode to get the kids to church for youth group at 6.  And the allergy attack I’d been suffering turned out to probably not be allergies after all.  Am now suffering what feels like a moderately obnoxious cold.  My sinuses are stuffed enough to make my teeth hurt.

Had to get up early this morning to take the kids to school, and figured since I was up anyway, I might as well get the grocery shopping out of the way.  Wise choice, as the store was pretty much empty and I was able to get cold medicine and throat drops as well.  Came home, unpacked everything, and then felt perfectly justified in crawling back into bed for the rest of the day to sleep and haunt realty websites looking for my farm-to-be.


Anyone got $150,000 they’d like to invest?

Three Bags Full

Three Bags Full

Yesterday was a quiet day. Intentionally.  We had nothing planned, nowhere to go, nobody to see.

So of course, the day before attending one of the biggest fiber events on the East Coast, I had a radical notion.  Let’s check out a local yarn shop!


There isn’t one in Woodstock, but there is one in nearby Saugerties, The Perfect Blend.  And it is.  Yarn and tea.  What could be better?  It was a beautiful day, so out we went.  It’s only a twenty minute drive, so we got to do some leaf peeping on the way.  The Catskills are a gorgeous blend of greens and yellows and oranges right now, the orange becoming even more dominant in the few days we’ve been here.  It was a lovely drive to a lovely little shop.  They had a nice selection of all different yarns (I will not buy laceweight alpaca.  I do not KNIT laceweight anything.  I don’t care how lustrous and soft and tempting it is.)


I did buy one souvenir skein of yarn and one Christmas present that I’m very excited about.  Nikki got almost exactly the same things I did (shared brain in action!) All in all, I think we showed amazing restraint.  Certainly more than the lady from NC who was there at the same time with armloads of yarn!

After that, we went exploring.  I kept seeing signs for the Saugerties lighthouse.  Which, hello, inland!  Lighthouse?  Really?  Yes, really!  We wound our way down to the edge of the Hudson River and then took a half mile hike out to a small Victorian lighthouse jutting out into the river where it joins with the Esopus.



As we wound our way back towards town, we came across an old cemetery and a lovely old church.  The sign read St. Mary of the Snow, and turned out, I learned through research later, that it was the first Catholic church built upstate.


I didn’t take enough pictures of this beautiful building, but I had to get the windows.  I can recognize Tiffany windows just about anywhere.  The cemetery was interesting, built into the side of a hill, with 200 year old stones that have heaved some from the winter.  It looks like a prototypical haunted cemetery.  I can just imagine how it looks at night!  This had originally served a predominantly Irish community, so Irish that many of those older stones were labeled with the name of the county in Ireland where the deceased had come from.  It’s fallen victim to the same consolidations that many Catholic churches face today (both the Victorian rectory and the nearby school were closed).  I hope the parish survives, though.

After that we came home for lunch, naps, reading and just hanging out.  Went out to dinner, hoping to beat the Woodstock Film Festival crowd, although town was starting to get a bit busy.  We came home intending to catch up on watching Great British Bake-Off, but both of us were falling asleep by the first showstopper, so we called it a night and went to bed just after 9.

Only to be woken up at 11:30 by something crashing in the kitchen.

I was the brave one who went to check it out, only to find the roll of saran wrap on the floor and half the previously untouched loaf of challah gone.  I had just said to Nikki that afternoon that I was surprised we hadn’t had critters, as this place does seem like it would be prone to them.  Little jerk just had to prove me wrong!

We were up around 7 and on the way to Rhinebeck by 7:45 with a stop at Bread Alone for croissants and coffee/tea.  We have learned through long, hard experience to get there as early as possible, but it was so nice not having to get on the road at 5:30 for a change!  We ran into no traffic and got to park right near the gate at 8:30.  In line, we ran into Deb and Kathy and the rest of the Quakertown crew, which was such a lovely surprise!  So we hung out with them until the gates opened, and then hit the ground running.

We have a system down at this point.  First the buildings, as they get crowded faster, then the barns, then any other side stalls.  We did pretty well, for a while.  WE checked out the fleece sale.  I didn’t buy anything (although it came close), but I hadn’t realized that the breed of the year this year was Gotland, so we got to fondle all the Gotland fibers and I learned a lot talking to the breeders who were there, as well as those in the breed barn later on.  For anyone who doesn’t know, Gotland is the breed I hope to have when I get my farm.  Fun fact: most people who are allergic to wool are fine with Gotland.  And it doesn’t felt much when washed!

We surprised ourselves in the food building and found a number of things we intended to go back for, including some very nice wine.  I got spit on by an alpaca.  Maybe.  Maybe she just blew really hard.  If’ I’d been wearing a hat, I wouldn’t have been after that!


Not the offended alpaca. Because these are llamas. I think.


A goat picture for my mother. They like her more than they like me. The feeling is mutual

The seal on my wallet broke when we hit the Sheepshed, though.  I had expected it would.  I knew I needed another pound of Gotland fiber from them. (Sensing a theme?  I love Gotland!)  They also had some beautiful merino/tencel and dyed merino/silk that I had to have.  But their prices are phenomenal, so I got 2 1/2 pounds of fiber for what I would normally pay for 1/2.  At Carolina Handspun, I got two braids of yak/silk which made up for that savings, but the finished yarn will be GORGEOUS.  I got goats milk soap and a niddy noddy and figured I was pretty much done, until we found the Yarns Plus stall.  Talk about bargain basement prices!  I got 1200 yds of a lovely acrylic for $25, and 1100 yds for three different colorways of tencel for $24 each.  I don’t even knit sweaters, but I will now!  At this point it was almost 1 and Nikki and I were both feeling loaded down and done in.  We stopped in one of the buildings to get beads to match the yarns we got, then went back to the food pavilion and got wine, soup mixes, dip mixes and olive oil before finally giving up the ghost.  Nikki was looking a bit dead man walking by the end!  The traffic going out and coming in was horrendous, between the festival, the leaf peepers, normal Woodstock tourist traffic, so by the time we got home, we were ready to not go out again tonight.  I’ll make up one of the soups for our dinner, and we’ve got bread and olive oil dips to snack on.  And wine.  We may definitely do in a bottle of wine.

So all in all, a very satisfying trip.  I’ll be sorry for it to be over tomorrow, but I think I’m ready to be home.


Besides, I left my ball winder at home.



I spent half of yesterday hanging out in a tattoo parlor.


Stop right there.  You can forget all the images you currently have of what a tattoo parlor looks like.  No blood red walls, no windowless rooms, no rows and rows of flash on the walls.  Woodstock Tattoo Studio is bright and airy and clean, with bare pine board floors and burlap-covered counters.  The walls are white, as is the shop dog Betty, and the images on the walls are vintage post cards and botanical prints.  Not your grandpa’s tattoo place.

I was there for Nikki, who was getting work done on her shoulder.  I’ll let her tell that story (I’ll link it, I promise).  It all started a couple of months ago when we both separately saw an article about pilgrimage tattoos and a man in Jerusalem whose family had been doing them for 400 years.  It got me thinking.  I knew she’d been wanted to get a crow tattoo.  She’d been collecting images for a couple of years.  And we were going to Woodstock anyway.  So I suggested it to her.  And then, as is always my way with something I think someone else might be interested in, I started doing some research.  There are a couple of places in town that do them, but when I saw the line work Felix does, I just fell in love.  Nikki agreed, and the rest is history.


It got me thinking about myself.  I’ve always been a “my body is my temple” sort of person.  I was absolutely phobic about surgery until I had my c-section with Morgan.  Even after that, the idea of doing anything elective to change my body seemed sacrilegious.  And then I had a hysterectomy.  And then I got cancer.  The temple had already been violated, but more importantly, my perspective changed.  As I was going through radiation, I decided that when I beat this, completely and totally, I was going to get the Queen of Swords from the tarot deck tattooed on the breast that tried to kill me.  Not a traditional one, but my interpretation of her, which is going to end up looking like Alex Kingston as Boudicea, I suspect.

I’ve also been wanting to get a phrase on my left arm.  “Intellect and Romance over Brute Force and Cynicism.”  Craig Ferguson used that to describe the main premise of Doctor Who, but my brain has latched onto it as my own life mantra.  Hopefully you can see that play out a lot here in my blog.  It’s been chewing around in my head, the need to wear these words, for a while.  So after Nikki finished today, I asked about it.  Because of the length of it, Felix couldn’t do it that visit, but I left him my details and we’re going to start laying it out.  We’re talking about coming back up in January or February for Nikki to get the rest of the shading done on her crow, and he said he could do it before or after that.  And then I will set up to get my Queen of Swords when we come up for Rhinebeck next year.  It will be five years and time.

But I don’t think I’m done.

I’ve already started thinking about getting a half sleeve on my right arm.  There’s a character in one of my favorite Sherlock fics who has a tattoo sleeve he’s grown on his arm over time, made up of elements that he’s passionate about as they develop (the most recent addition being hops vines as he’s gotten interested in brewing).  I’ve been thinking about what I would include in mine.  The things that are most important to me are my family, my identity and my faith.  So I’m trying to come up with elements to represent those.

For faith, I want a pentacle.  Something intricate and not necessarily Celtic, as I’m not necessarily Celtic.  And maybe some representation of Athena and/or Hephaestus.  They’ve been my patrons almost the whole thirty years I’ve been pagan.  The great blue heron is my totem, so maybe some of that.  For identity, I have always tied that in with my astrological sign, so some elements of that. My brother did a gorgeous drawing for me of my signs that would make a gorgeous tattoo on its own, but I’m not sure.  Pens for my writing.  Yarn for my fiber crafts.  For family, I’m not sure what I would do for my kids.  For my parents, I would do iris for my father and California poppies for my mother.  As Time goes on, I hope to add in elements from the farm.  I should probably include fannish elements as well, since they are so integral to my identity.

There’s lots of time to think about it.  But I know where I’m getting it done.

Preserve and Protect

Preserve and Protect

So, my garden didn’t perform the way I had expected or necessarily hoped this year.  I’m the only person I know who can plant 12 zucchini plants and get 3 zucchini. My pickling cucumbers went nowhere, but the slicing ones went MAD.  Do you know how much use there is for slicing cukes?  Outside of a salad, not much. I got a couple of nice stir fries from the pea pods, and the carrots loved the new bed, but the winter squash were decimated by vine borers.  I have to get more aggressive next year.  All learning opportunities, right?

But as fall settles in, I get the urge to can.  I know it’s from watching my folks do it when I was a kid.  Even though half the time I didn’t like what was in those jars (dilly beans, bleah!), I just loved the way they looked.  And now that I have both a water bath and a pressure canner, I can can just about anything.

A couple of weeks ago, I did.  I think the cat was getting nervous that he would be next.


It started with the end of my tomatoes.  They were looking scraggly and brown no matter how much I watered them, so I picked them all.  Even the green ones.  Honestly, the biggest reason I grow tomatoes is to be able to make green tomato relish.  But then we were running around to this and that, and by the time I got back to it, half the green ones had ripened and suddenly I didn’t have enough to make my relish!  Lucky for me, Jen in my running club was sick of her tomatoes and said I could help myself to green ones.  So I went over with a shopping bag and did just that.

I got a little carried away.

Turns out less than half of that would have been enough for a double batch of relish.  But never mind.  I had a long weekend, and I was going to put up food for the winter.

First I cleaned out the freezer and did a full freezer cook.  Well, I say cook.  Most of it was dump this, layer that.  I didn’t even cook the chicken I needed, instead buying precooked chickens from Costco. (They’ll be back in the story later).  I got about 30 dinners squared away in the freezer.  That was Saturday.  Sunday would be can all the things.

I started with my creole recipe.  This is the base for a shrimp creole recipe my mom gave me, and really it’s stupidly easy.  You chop up a lot of tomatoes, onions, green peppers and garlic and cook it all down, then can it.  Water bath canning seems to work fine for this, or at least I haven’t had any problems.  When it’s time to eat, heat it through, add a pound of shrimp and a tablespoon or two of Worcestershire sauce, heat until the shrimp is cooked, and serve over rice.  Easy peasy!  With all the tomatoes from my garden and some of the ones I’d gotten from Jen the ripened in the week since I got them, I got 18 pints.

Then I started on the green tomato relish.


I doubled the recipe and got nine and a half pints, in full and half pint jars.  Happy!


But I still had a lot of green tomatoes left.  I vaguely remembered from the Little House on the Prairie books Ma making a green tomato pie, so I grabbed my LHotP cookbook to look it up.  The filling was good for fresh tomatoes, but wouldn’t work for canning.  So I went to the internet and found over and over again the same recipe for green tomato and apple pie filling.  Okay, well, how bad could it be?  I got the apples and raisins and started peeling and chopping away.

By now, the fever had started to kick in.

Look at all those jars.  Aren’t they pretty?  Don’t they make you feel like you’ve done a good job taking care of your family?  (Who cares if they won’t actually eat the stuff.)  Surely there’s more that you could do.  I looked down at the apple peels and cores.  Hrm.  I bet I could make jelly out of this.  Do I have any half pint jars left?

I didn’t.  In a fit of sanity, instead of going out to buy MOAR JARS, I just put all the cores and peels in a freezer bag in the freezer.  Maybe later.

I got the dutch oven full of tomatoes, apples and raisins and was just starting to add the seasoning when it suddenly hit me.

I think this is my mom’s mincemeat recipe.

The mincemeat that I HATED as a kid.

And I had a vat of it.

I called my mother then and there to confirm.  She laughed.  Longer and louder than was probably necessary.

I ended up with 6 quarts of it.  (Although after the fact she said I only need a pint for a pie.  But all the recipes said can it up in quarts, so that’s what I did!)


But I still wasn’t done!  Remember those chickens?  Yeah, they spent all day Sunday in the stockpot, and Sunday they got their turn in the canner, this time the pressure canner.  11 more quarts.  I would have liked to have done them up in pints, but by then I was out of jars.


So now I have everything neatly stashed in my basement, just waiting to be used.  I may not be quite done.  I have beets in the garden yet that may or may not get big enough to do another batch of pickled beets with (I did the first back in July).  And if I can find cheap apples, I may do up some applesauce or apple pie filling.

But I’ll have to stock up on jars first.