Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.4: Off The Needles/On The Needles

Another grey wintry Wednesday at this little place here.  This whole month has been more like February: grey, grey, grey rather than our typical January weather of mainly cold clear blue skies.  It really makes me wonder if February this year will be warm and muddy like March, or if our January frigidity will arrive out of order.

Today I am joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Over the weekend, I finished my Cicely shawl.  I still need to weave in the ends and block it, but it is officially off the needles.  I really enjoyed knitting this shawl.  The yarn I used, Malabrigo silky merino, was luscious to work with and the pattern is such an easy and rewarding knit.  You start with the lace edging first, which goes quickly because the rows are so short, then you pick up stitches on the long edge and your first row of 'body' is the widest point of the shawl.  It's all decreases from there!  Now I just need to learn how to wear shawls and cowls,(accessorizing has never been my thing), and I could see myself knitting many many more Cicely shawls for my wardrobe!

After binding off the Cicely shawl, I had an unintended two day respite from knitting.  Unintended because when I went to print out the pattern for my next project, a pair of Cadence socks, I discovered that it was time to replace our dinosaur of a printer (circa 2002).  It tried to print, it really did, but the results were far from legible.  Because we like to do our research before buying things, we did not rush out and buy a new printer.  Instead, DH offered to print the pattern at work for me.  What a great husband!

There is not much done yet on my first Cadence sock, just the ribbed cuff and three rows of leg pattern, but it's on the needles.  Which feels very good after waiting for the instructions to be printed (oh the woe of wanting to start on Saturday evening, but having to wait for Monday so DH could go to work!)  By the time I finish these socks and am ready for my next project, we ought to have our new printer picked out and purchased.

For these socks I'm using another skein of Malabrigo, sock weight this time, in a green color called Solis.  The picture doesn't do the color justice, it is much more green than how my camera captured it.

I'm also reading Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult.  I've only just started it, but the story line is intriguing and quite a bit different from other Amish fiction I've read so far.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sometimes I Crack Myself Up

Apparently all the meds I'm currently on must be working somewhat, as this morning I actually found myself laughing at work. It's been quite a few weeks since I've laughed about anything, once I thought about it, and I'm guessing that's probably the result of the lingering cough and what-ever-this-is that I've been battling health wise since Christmas or thereabouts.  I know I'm feeling a little more energetic the last 24 hours or so, and now I find myself with a sense of humor again, so I must be on the mend.

Anyway, this morning I learned to drive the skid steer.  I've driven tractors for decades, and am quite adept at running (and troubleshooting) a tractor and the various implements one uses with one on a horse farm. But today was the first time I had driven a skid steer.  I'm pleased to say I was given a good review once my time in the cab had ended today.  So I can add 'run skid steer' to my resume now.  Gotta love the things farming exposes you to.

You would think, given the probability of something going very wrong very quickly with such a powerful piece of equipment, that the controls would have been handed over to me in the wide open outdoors.  Perhaps in the middle of a field, where it would be difficult to run into anything while getting a feel for the joystick that steers that piece of heavy machinery.

Nope.  The skid steer was parked in the aisle of the barn, about twelve or fifteen feet from the door, when I was instructed to get in it.  A brief overview of the controls followed in the next minute or two (I said it was brief), then the door of the cab was shut, and it was totally up to me to get that thing out of the barn without destroying anything.  I had about a foot of clearance on each side of the machine, so a little wiggle room but not much.  Especially with the loader bucket protruding from the front.

So I drove slowly, cautiously, trying to get a feel for both how much play was in the joystick (not much) and how wide and long the skid steer was.  As I practically inched my way down the aisle and out of the barn, I started laughing, imagining my skid steer tutor thinking that I drove the skid steer like a granny.

And, because I am a grandmother, and I was driving the skid steer (picking up speed now as I got more confident), it just struck me as an incredibly funny and ironic statement.  Driving a skid steer like a granny!

Maybe an oxymoronic statement too. I mean, how many grandmothers can drive a skid steer?  Not to many, I bet.  So how cool am I, that I can drive a skid steer?

Sometimes I crack myself up.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.3: Re A Drop of Golden Sun

Happy Wednesday; happy Yarn Along!  I'm joining in with Ginny this overcast, slightly snowy day.

The sky outside might currently be the same color as the ground--white--but inside, it looks like sunshine bubbling up from my knitting bag.

My Cicely shawl is coming along nicely.  I finished the lace edging last weekend, then picked up stitches along the edge and began the body of the shawl.  So far I am 4 pattern repeats (about 24 rows) into the body.  Just enough that it is becoming recognizable as a shawl.  Or, at least, Toad has stopped calling it a sock every time he sees me knitting on it.  In his defense, he is only 18 months old and has mostly seen me knit socks during his short span of memory.

I am still loving the color of this yarn.  Maybe even more right now when it's so gray/white outside and the sunshine is muted.  As long as I'm knitting with this luscious yarn, though, I am in contact with golden drops of sun.

(I do apologize for putting the do re mi song in your head.  Think I'm going to have it as an earworm myself the rest of the afternoon.  And an overwhelming urge to watch the Sound of Music.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tired and Sick

I haven't been blogging as much as I had intended this month. I haven't been riding, I haven't been sewing, I haven't knit as much as I wanted in the past week.  I've been dragging. So, so incredibly tired, and nagged by a cough that comes on in a fit that leaves me nearly gagging, or with damp under britches (TMI, I know, but it's a very specific description of how nasty hard this cough is).  After two sleepless nights last week (due to coughing nearly constantly when lying down and intermittently when sitting up--but I have never been able to sleep upright) I finally took myself to the doctor.  Other than an annual physical, I rarely go to the doctor.  I've never been a person with many ailments, and typically treat all minor ones myself nutritionally or herbally.  So, to actually decide, all on my own, to seek a doctor, says something about how terrible it has been to have this cough.

Of course, at the doctor's office, I was asked all the same questions I'd been asking myself all week trying to diagnose what was wrong with me.  Headachy? No.  Nausea?  No.  Vomiting?  No.  Runny nose?  Not lately, just off and on in the past couple weeks.  Change in appetite?  No.  Coughing anything up?  No, dry cough.  Had a rolly cough around Christmas, but it went away in a couple of days.  Showed up again around Jan 8th, but only lasted a day.  Been around anyone sick? My grandson, who lives with me, came back from visiting with his other grandparents between Christmas and New Year's with a horrible cough and was diagnosed on Jan. 4th with pneumonia.

Then the typical blood pressure, pulse, look in eyes ears and throat, listen to me breathe normally and then trying to take deep breaths (every deep breath caused the cough to start up).  Ask me if I ever smoked. Uh, no, not ever (had a grandma who smoked and I absolutely hated kissing her she tasted so bad of cigarettes).  Any smokers in the home?  Smoking never allowed in my home, two of my children were asthmatic (one still is if he's around enough allergens at once).

Then tell me I probably have 'just a lingering cold' since I have no obvious signs of infection.  My temperature of 99.4 not withstanding (my normal body temp is 97.5, I kid you not).  Perhaps I am developing a little bit of asthma (due to having two asthmatic children and a mother who had childhood asthma, adult onset asthma could be in my genes). Thankfully the doctor was willing to prescribe me a couple of medications for my cough; one that is non-drowsy and I can take it during the work day, the other with codeine to help me with the nighttime cough (I have taken codeine twice in my life--best sleep ever!!)  And told me to come back Monday afternoon if I wasn't better, and we would do a chest x-ray then.  But I could tell I was expected to 'be better'.

I slept awesome that night, thanks to the codeine.  It was amazing how much more energy I had the next morning compared to mornings after the two sleepless nights. And the non-drowsy cough stuff worked OK too, taming my cough to more of a throat tickle than a lung spasm for an hour or two at a time.  I still found myself moving through my daily work at a pace slower than normal, which nagged at me.

But then Saturday I popped out not one, not two, but three separate cold sores on my face!  As if one isn't horrible enough.  And on Sunday, I woke up with my left eye swollen, eyelashes mattered, and the skin feeling like it has a slight floor burn (not a sting, but a burn).

And Monday work was difficult.  The cough did not want to be quelled by the non-drowsy cough medicine.  So I went back to the doctor.  Who took one look at me, cold-sore faced, red swollen eyed, short of breath me, and told me that whatever the cause of the cough is probably is irrelevant at this point. Because clearly my system is so overloaded that I am not fighting off germs and viruses very well right now.  So I got my chest x-ray (although I have not yet heard the findings on that, since the x-ray occurred at the lab after the doctor's office closed for the day).  And I got prescriptions for an antibiotic, an anti-viral (for the cold sores), and a steroid (to combat the inflammation in my lungs creating the shortness of breath and the cough).  Apparently being anemic (still, after 8 months of iron pills twice a day) is not doing my immune system any favors.

Meanwhile, I am still doing my horse farm work in the morning. It's just taking me an hour and a half longer than normal to get it done. I still am doing (most of) my normal housework at home. But by the time I've worked at the farm, and worked at home, I am left with no energy to do those fun, enjoyable things (horseback riding, sewing, blogging, etc) that I really want to do.

I'm tired of being sick.  And I'm sick of being tired.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.2: It's So Pretty!

Happy Wednesday to you. It's time to join Ginny for this week's Yarn Along.

I finished my snowflake dish cloth late last week.

No sooner did it come off my needles than I cast on for a Cicely shawl using the Malabrigo silky merino in the colorway Tatami that I bought in October while shop hopping.  I love the golden color of this yarn.  The color and shine are the two reasons I bought it, as it is DK weight and I have never used DK yarn before.  When I bought it I had no idea what I was going to make with it, I just knew it was going to be something to keep for myself.

And then I thumbed though the Fall 2015 issue of Taproot Magazine, and there it was: a Cicely shawl!  A perfect match for my golden yarn (I hoped anyway, as I wasn't sure it was going to swatch out exactly right).  Once I got around to casting on and making the gauge swatch, I was happy to see that it does, for me, swatch out perfectly even though I'm using DK and the pattern calls for sport weight (another yarn I have yet to use).

I am making the child size, intending to use it as a shawlette for myself since I don't really need a full-sized shawl right now.  However, as I'm working the lace edging and it keeps getting longer and longer and longer, I'm wondering if perhaps I might actually be able to wear it as a shawl.  I've gotten just 22 of 32 pattern repeats of edging (12 rows per repeat) done so far, and the thing is all ready over three feet long!  

This pattern is an easy one to memorize, and the lace is just flying off my needles.  It's 14-20 stitches per row, so a row takes hardly any time at all to complete.  I know the body of the shawl will go slower,with many many more stitches, but for now I'm enjoying instant gratification with the edging. ;0)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Going Bold

I am pretty traditional in my riding.  In terms of dressage, I view myself as a classicist, staying pretty true to the centuries old training methods, not running this way and that with the riding fads that come and go.  Along with that goes black and white tack, no bling.

That is why it totally shocked me a few weeks back when I was perusing the discounted fabric bin (usually bolt ends or miscut pieces or flawed fabrics) at Walmart, and I found myself drawn to a couple of larger cuts and saying "This would look really good on the Quarter Horse".  And by that statement, I meant that I could make some new baby pads (thin quilted pads that I use under the shaped fleece saddle pad) that actually had color to them rather than being white like the 10 other baby pads I own (I made them all, a few here and there through the years as I needed more).  Not only weren't the two cuts of fabric that I threw into my cart white, one of them was actually a print!

Oh my!  How bold is that!

To be fair, I have to confess that I didn't go all crazy with my fabric choices.  Both of the new pads I sewed up last week are pretty tame compared to some of those for sale in the tack catalogs (for those younger/trendier chicks, you know).  One is a light blue and blue zigzag print, the other is a calm aqua solid. But they're not white! so are quite a change for me.

Using one of my existing baby pads as a pattern, I cut two pieces of each fabric and two pieces of 1/4" batting in order to make two new pads.  I did the typical quilt sandwich: the fabric pieces right sides together plus the batting  on top and stitched each pad together with the exception of a 4" section I left unsewn for turning the quilt sandwich right sides out.  Once the pads were turned out, I stitched those 4" openings shut as close to the edge as possible, then proceeded to quilt each pad by sewing diagonal lines about two inches apart.  Since I eyeballed it rather than drawing on the quilting lines, it isn't perfect, but it works. This is just for me, anyway; not as if I were going to make them for sale. Lastly I did a blanket stitch on the edges.

Quick, easy, and a bit cheaper than buying baby pads.  Plus, these are one of a kind. 

doing the quilting

finished product, full size

folded to show how it would look on the horse

look at that bold blue pad! (compared to the white one peeking on the left)

the zigzag pad in use

wow, look at that crazy print; 
what is dressage coming to? LOL

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sausage Making Party

In late 2014, and again in the Spring of 2015, DH got together with a buddy of his and they made a small batch of sausage.  DH had been making venison summer sausage and venison hunter sticks for several years, but this was different; it was pork sausage.  As in Polish sausage.  Hot Italian Sausage.  And one kind that he tried to convince me was kielbasa (my favorite sausage, as well as one of the few my digestive system can tolerate--my gut has a thing about pork sausage and I still haven't nailed down which ingredient it is or if it's the pork concentration specifically), but it was not smoked nor did my belly appreciate the one taste I took of it.

This past Fall, DH started talking, off and on, about getting some more pork and making more sausage.  Lots more sausage.  The Polish and Italian he had made before, plus he wanted to try a smoked kielbasa (with a recipe I found that includes beef as well as pork in the ingredients list) and chorizo too.

Then DS2 mentioned that he would like to have make some sausage whenever DH was going to do it.  And then DS2's roommate, whose Polish grandfather used to make sausage, asked if he might be invited to the sausage making event.

So DH and DS2 began to compare work schedules and they decided that since they were both off between Christmas and the weekend after New Year's Day, that was when the great sausage making would occur. A date was set, recipes chosen, and the required amount of pork (100 pounds!!) was purchased.

Word got around, and when Sausage Day arrived, there was not just DH, DS2, and Roommate in my kitchen ready to cut, season, grind, and stuff the meat, but also DS1, DD1 and Honorary Son (DD1's boyfriend of 4.5 years), plus two more friends (and fellow college alumni) of DS2.  You could say it was a full house.  I'm glad my kitchen is larger than average.

the book with the kielbasa recipe
(and many printed off recipes for other sausage flavors)

pork butts and beef knuckle

an entire case of pork butt (64.6 pounds)

scale and seasonings 

cutting board and knives at the ready

many hands cutting pork butts into cubes

hand mixing the spices into the meat

grinding the seasoned meat

this batch will be chorizo;
note the bright orange color

the casings, soaking and waiting for use
(we used natural hog casings rather than collagen ones)

putting the casings on the stuffing tube

supporting the stuffed casing as the meat comes out of the stuffing tube

sometimes there's a blowout

lotta kielbasa

carefully hanging the kielbasa on a dowel for smoking

the smoker, full of kielbasa 
(this was it's inaugural run; it was a bargain we found while Christmas shopping-- about 60% off!)

back in the kitchen, K3 and Toad wanted to watch

twisting the Polish sausage into links

lots of links

smoked kielbasa

packaged kielbasa and Italian sausage

50 pounds, give or take, of Polish sausage

chorizo, left as bulk sausage, all wrapped up
(it's awesome in omelets)

Phew!  It was a long afternoon and evening of sausage making, but it was fun.  The engineering jokes were flying (5 engineers and one engineering student present), hands got messy, the grandkids were in and out as their curiosity piqued and waned again and again, we shared a crock potted meal of pulled pork, and everyone took home packages of sausage for their freezer.  Rough estimate of cost came to $2 per pound, which isn't bad at all if you compare it to the price of chorizo, smoked kielbasa, Polish sausage, and hot Italian sausage from the store.  And this has no fillers; every ingredient was recognizable and pronounceable.

Our sausage making party was a huge success.  Sounds like it might become an annual event.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.1 Plans

Welcome to the first Yarn Along of 2016! It is a bright, sunny typical January day (ie cold with snow on the ground) at this little place here.

I am starting out my 2016 knitting with a simple project: a snowflake dish cloth. This one is to go into my own kitchen drawer, but I just might make a few more to put into the Gift Stash for next Christmas.  Although I think I may try this pattern for the next one.  I'm not too wild about the two 'holes' in the middle and not sure why the pattern designer included them.

Other than that, I'm just contemplating and planning what my knitting projects will be this year.  I'd like to make this Cicely shawl from Taproot issue 15, and these stranded socks, and maybe a few pair of vanilla latte socks with self-striping yarn, and this pattern for cadence socks just calls to me to be made into a pair to wear with my dressage boots (get it?  Cadence.  Dressage.  They just go together.  Plus the intermittent long diagonal line makes me think of lateral work.  So therefore, they must be dressage socks.) This is the year I'm going to tackle a pair of socks for DS1's size 13 feet, I really am.

In addition to all those socks, I have a bunch of free dish cloth patterns from KnitPicks in mind, like this and this and this and. . .  :0)  Go look for yourself, there are just way too many dish cloths to stick with just a few patterns.

I'm looking forward to lots of knitting this year.  How about you?  What projects do you have in mind for 2016?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Great Expectations

So, it's 2016.  It's been 2016 for not even four whole days yet.  And, since the year is still so new, it seems that most everyone (or, at least, most every American) is spending at least a little time thinking on what they want to do differently in this new year.  Lose weight is a common goal.  Save money is another.  De-stress, have more fun. Cut clutter, become more organized, redecorate. . .   All of those are topics I saw on numerous magazine covers while standing in line at the grocery store Saturday morning.

I'm not immune to the desire to change things now that it's January.  I'm right along with the rest of my fellow Americans in hoping that this will be the year that I shed some bad habits, ingrain some good ones, be less frustrated, laugh more, avoid financial squeezes.  I want 2016 to be full of everything I'd wished I'd had, done, seen, felt in 2015 and at the same time be less of what I wish hadn't crept up on me last year (weight, clutter, stress, intermittent financial hemorrhages. . .)

However, from past experience, I know that great expectations and good intentions often fizzle before we're even three months into each year.  Then those expectations have a tendency to turn into more frustration, more stress, more weight (either due to bad eating habits, stress eating, or just the lack of energy that feeling like you're a failure can bring).

So, rather than start this year with great expectations and a to-do list no mere mortal could successfully complete in twelve short months, I'm trying to be more realistic, specific, and goal-oriented.  Instead of my typical list of Exercise, Ride, Sew/Knit/Create, Smile, Get Horses Home, this time I'm trying to break it into bite sized pieces.

For instance:

Ride has been bulleted into ride 2x per week 1st half of January, 3x per week 2nd half, and 4x per week the rest of the year.  Because life tends to get in the way of my riding (due to my habit of putting everyone else ahead of myself and then not being able to fit an hour or two with my horses into my day very often) just riding twice a week as a start will be a big accomplishment.  And hopefully once I've done that, adding a third ride will be a little easier, and then a fourth should cement the habit.  Not only does it give me a little leeway to ease into it instead of feeling like a failure that I didn't jump right into the saddle at least three times the first week of the year, it gives my family an adjustment period too--time for them to become a little more self-sufficient.

Sew: I would like to work on one sewing project per month.  I'm staying flexible on what those projects are, and how large they might be; I just would like to be more consistent in my sewing.  Also, I'm thinking this might help ease the holiday gift-making pressure next fall.  There is no reason, if I get a great gift idea in April, that I have to wait until November or December to sew it.

Knit: I would like to make several pairs of socks this year, mostly for gifts but also one or more for myself.  I would also like to make one dishcloth per month, both to bolster my own kitchen supply and to have ready for gift-giving come December.

Blog more falls under Create, as blogging is my writing outlet, and writing seems to be something I need to do fairly regularly or I just get discontent.  And, if I'm riding, sewing, and knitting on a pretty much daily basis, I'll have lots to blog about.

I do really need to lose some weight.  Not because I've gained a ton, I'm still in regular women's sized clothing (versus Plus sizes), but I've again reached the weight that is uncomfortable for me personally.  I want my flexibility back, and I want to fit into the size jeans that aren't baggy in the hip and thigh while fitting in the waist (I'm a bit thick in the waist and have virtually no hips--a combination of genetics and four pregnancies). So, I must exercise more (Ride works well here, and so does running and cross training, all of which I enjoy).  Plus, I've been dealing with anemia for the majority of 2015 without a whole lot of success, and I need to get my health back.  So, amending my diet for more iron-rich food (including more red meat/organ meat because pills and iron-heavy veggies just didn't give me the kick that eating 1/2 a venison heart gave me in November when I shot my deer) is a must and should also help with the weight loss.  I'm not shooting for a pie in the sky number here, ten pounds should do the trick, and twenty would be awesome (because then for sure I'll be back in those jeans that fit right).

Get Horses Home has been on my list for so many years it's embarrassing.  Completing this goal will be no small endeavor, but at least now I know it is not going to happen by waiting on others to assist me or by working for a paycheck at someone else's barn ( because my paycheck less board, farrier and vet costs is not leaving enough each month to ever get this project finished).  The personal budget just isn't going to allow for an major expenditure for stalls, electricity, and water in the barn, plus 5 acres of fencing and cross-fencing.  In order to bring my own horses home, I'm going to have to actually open the horse boarding/training/lesson business I've been wanting since I was sixteen.  Because it is that business that will provide the funds to support my own horse passion (and pay the loan which I will need to take out to create the infrastructure. . .)   So, I'm going to have to face my fear of rejection and start applying for business loans.  And once approved, I'm going to have to do some construction, and then marketing, in order to get this  business off the ground in 2016.

Smile is going to require quite a lot of de-stressing by way of not taking on other people's problems or responsibilities.  In other words, sticking up for my needs (both health and creative) and not allowing other people's problems (or shortcomings) take up too much of my time, energy, money and health.  Plus, I'm pretty sure if I'm sewing, knitting, riding, writing (blogging), boosting my iron levels, losing weight and have my horses finally living at this little place here that smiling is going to come much more easily and often than it has in recent years.

Welcome, 2016.  Let's see what we can accomplish together.