Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Taste The Tater Rainbow

I've grown potatoes for years.  I'm not sure how many; I started gardening the summer I was pregnant with DD2 (so, 1997), and the garden grew and grew from there. I guess you could say this year will be my gardening 20th anniversary.

Potatoes may have been in that first garden, or they might not have shown up until a year or two later.  Point being, I'm pretty experienced at growing potatoes.

Potatoes are a staple of the American diet,  They can be boiled, baked, roasted, fried, mashed, scalloped. . . They are very versatile.  They also take fairly easily to seasoning.  And, in my opinion, they also taste decent raw.  A fond childhood memory is of eating, raw, the littlest potatoes from my grandparents' garden. Bite-sized snacks, as it were.

Despite this appreciation for, and experience with growing potatoes, it wasn't until a few years ago that I discovered fingering potatoes.  These skinny little potato morsels are awesome roasted.  A little oil, a little sea salt, your favorite herbs, a bit of time in a hot oven and you have something delicious to accompany just about any cut of meat.  Or, let's be truthful, as a nice hot snack on a winter's day.

Not only are they tasty and easy to prepare, they are easy to grow.  And prolific. I started with a few pounds of seed potatoes a couple of years ago, and I currently have over a bushel of the buggers--uh, I mean, fingering potatoes--still in my cellar from the 2016 harvest.  My 'normal' potatoes are just about gone; down to the amount I am zealously guarding as my seed stock for 2017, but I have lots and lots of fingerings left.

So far, I've grown three varieties of fingerings: Papa Cacho, Rose Finn Apple, and Yellow Finn.  A deep red skin with reddish flesh, a pale pink skin with white flesh, and a buttery yellow skin with yellow flesh.  Each with a slightly different flavor.

Last year, on impulse, I picked up a sad looking little bag of purple potato seed on clearance at the farm store.  I was quite surprised when those emaciated, unsprouted little potatoes actually grew after I planted them.  I don't remember the name now, but they are a very dark, almost black skinned little round potato with purple-streaked flesh.  I didn't get a huge yield of those (but then again, I had six 'seeds' to start with), and am saving about 75% for this year's seed.

A favorite dish this winter has become fingering and purple potatoes, mixed together into a potato rainbow of sorts, seasoned with rosemary, thyme, sea salt, garlic powder, black pepper and olive oil, and roasted in the oven until tender (roughly 40-45 min at about 400 degrees).

You know, once you get a taste of something other than your standard baking or mashing potato--the ones with the brown, white or red skins--and branch out into other potato types, it could become kind of an addiction.  I mean, not only do I have these four 'weird' varieties of potato in my cellar waiting to be planted in the Spring, I've also ordered a few more varieties to try this year.  What can I say?  Food doesn't have to be boring.  Nor does it have to be full of fat to be tasty.

Taste the tater rainbow.  You'll like it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Yarn Along 2017.4

I'm joining Ginny on this overcast January afternoon (really, this has been the cloudiest January I can remember.  January is supposed to be clear and cold, not muddy and cloudy) for this week's Yarn Along.

My Knusa shawl is coming along. I backtracked and fixed the mistake I talked about last week, but then I threw in a few more mistakes once I got going again.  A couple of them I fixed, but two of them I kind of looked at and said "oh well, this is my shawl, for me, and I don't feel like going back to fix this one."

So it's not exactly true to pattern, it's a little more eclectic.  It has also gotten to the size that makes it hard to photograph being that it's all bunched up on the cable so no stitches fall off the needles.

I'm nearing the end of the body portion and am getting anxious to start on the lace border.  I love doing lace.  Plus, after the lace comes the blocking and the wearing.  The wearing is the best part!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Thanks, Ben

This past weekend, I rendered a whole bunch of lard.  Mother-in-law had sent me home with several bags of pig fat in December, and I had put them in the freezer, knowing I was going to be way too busy until after January got rolling to tackle such a time consuming task as melting and canning all that fat.

Also in December, I happened to be reading Ben Hewitt's blog--well, 'happened' isn't quite the right word since I am a regular reader of Ben's musings and goings-on--and one particular picture jumped out at me. It was in this post, and shows a bunch of fat that has been put through a meat grinder in preparation for rendering. That picture led to me commenting on the post with a question or two about grinding the fat.  Ben kindly answered my question(s), and I hatched a plan for my frozen bags of fat.

All I needed was a large block of time, and our meat grinder.  Unfortunately we share both the grinder and the sausage stuffer with a friend of DH's, and that friend had the grinder at his house. (An arrangement that hasn't been working so well in the last few years, and DH is trying to come up with an agreement to buy out the friend's share).  So I had to wait until he was done with it, and DH had time to swing by there after work (since this friend lives close to where DH works, but about a 40 minute drive from this little place here) to retrieve the grinder.

Once I finally had the grinder, I just needed to figure out which day I had about eight hours to devote to cutting up and cooking down the fat to make it into lard.  That day finally came, and I eagerly got the grinder ready and set to work.

Wow, what a difference it makes in rendering time when you grind the fat before heating it!  It was so much faster to feed it through the grinder than cut it into chunks for the melting pot.  And once it was in the pot, it practically melted immediately.  I rendered all four bags of fat (thawed first) in roughly half the time it normally takes me to render two bags worth.

I'm sold.  I'll be grinding all future fat before rendering, not doubt about it.  3 1/3 gallons (27 pints, to be precise) of lard made in roughly four hours.  And clean up was a breeze; all I needed was some really hot water to briefly soak the grinder parts in to remove the fat, then a quick wash with hot soapy water.  It was even easier than cleaning the grinder after using it for meat.

Thanks, Ben!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

On My Toes

(Note: potentially gory photos in lower portion of this post.  Don't read if you are squeamish.)

Working with horses keeps me on my toes.  Since they are, by nature, prey animals, and prone to startling due to that nature, I need to be aware of my surroundings when I am around horses.  Not just what is there in terms of sights, sounds, and smells, but also what might occur that would cause a horse to jump and/or run in fear.

There are times, however, when working with horses keeps me off my toes.  As in literally not able to put weight on my toes; hobbling around.

Yesterday was one such time.  After having a pretty good ride on The Quarter Horse, with fairly decent leg yields at walk and some of the best canter departs to the left he's ever done, I was untacking him and brushing him out before throwing his sheet back on him and returning him to his pasture buddies for the rest of the afternoon.

One split second of in-coordination on my part, and the body brush I'd just been using on his neck slipped from my fingers and landed on the mat of the grooming stall near his left front foot.  Which caused him to puff all up in fright ("ooh, scary thing hurtling itself toward my leg, gonna trip me up and eat me!!") and proceed to jump onto the two smallest toes of my left foot.  Ouch.

Ouch is actually an understatement. He got me good in that one quick leap. Don't know how many of his 1100 pounds actually made it onto the side of my boot, but my toes hurt a lot.

But, what you gonna do?  Calmly push the horse sideways off your foot, and carry on.  I finished brushing him with the killer brush, buckled his turnout sheet back into place, and released him to his pasture mates. Then I put away my tack, swept the grooming stall, picked up the poop he'd so graciously (yeah, right) deposited in the riding arena, and drove myself home.

Home, where I hobbled into the house, hung up my coat, and took off my riding boots.  To find that yes, I wasn't imagining things during my drive home when I'd thought my left sock felt a little wet.  Evidence that made me literally say "Shit, this isn't going to be good."

this is gonna hurt to remove

I'd been here before, although it's been a few decades since the last time I'd had a horse jump onto my foot, then drive myself home and remove my boot to find a bloody sock.  That time it had been the big toe of my right foot.  I'd ended up in Urgent Care having the separated toe nail clipped off the small spot where still clung to the nail bed, and then having my toe cleaned and bandaged.  I'd been 16 then, and my mom had freaked out a little (hence ending up in Urgent Care for treatment).

This time, it's the little toe of my left foot.  I cleaned and bandaged it myself, no doctor bill needed.  The nail is still on the toe, for now, although by the coloration of it, I'm pretty sure it is separated from the nail bed and I'm going to end up losing it in the next few days.  I have that toe buddy taped to the next one for support (just in case the toe is broken, but I think all the damage is confined to the end of the toe/the toe nail).  600 mg of Motrin allows me to wear my boots and carry on with my daily chores.  Pain meds should be unnecessary in a few days.  And, if I remember right, in about six months I should have a fully regrown toe nail.  Although, judging from how much smaller the little toe nail is than the one on the big toe, maybe it will only take three or four months.  We shall see.

under the sock, I find this

doesn't look quite right

clean and protected

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Yarn Along 2017.3

I'm joining Ginny this (warm, muddy,  yucky, overcast January) afternoon for this week's Yarn Along.

Things were going well with my shawl. I completed the ninth repeat--of twelve--in the pattern, and was a couple of rows into the tenth repeat when I noticed something.  Something that didn't look right.  Something that made me go "Hmmm". Something I still don't quite understand how I managed to do because I was marking each row of the pattern off as I completed it. But, somehow, I still managed to mess up and about four or five rows back start doing the even rows as odd rows. The wrong side as if it were the right side. Meaning I pretty much was working my shawl inside out.

That pretty ridge of garter stitching in the picture below?  That's not supposed to be there.  That side is supposed to be stockinette with single row of garter stitch every eighth row.

*Sigh*.  So, I am currently carefully unknitting through the rows until I can find the point where I, literally, got turned around.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Afternoon With The Grandkids

Alternately titled: Sticks, Mud, and a Puzzle; What Else Could a Kid Need?

Last Sunday, we had K3 and Toad for most of the afternoon. They rode home from church with us, and while I was cooking lunch, they and DH worked on putting together Toad's favorite puzzle.  I have to admit, it was quite entertaining listening to the dialog between an engineer (DH) and a two year old (Toad) while they chose pieces and figured out where each piece went.

DH: "Which piece do you want to do next?"
Toad: "This one."
DH: "What does it have on it?"
Toad: "Part of the tire."
Silence while Toad attempted to put the piece where he thought it should hook to the part of the puzzle they'd all ready completed.
Followed by DH: "Tires don't go in the engine compartment!"

And the next piece. . .
DH:  "What is on that one?"
Toad: "A tire."  He proceeds to try to put it on the front of the tractor.
DH, trying to help: "Look at the treads; they're pretty big.  I think that is a rear tire."
Toad tries to put the piece where the other front tire goes.
DH: "No, look at it. The treads are big."
Toad tries five times to jam the piece into the front of the tractor.  DH finally offers him a different piece.
Toad: "This one has green."
DH: "Where on the tractor do you see green?"
Toad: "The steps for the farmer to climb on."
He proceeds to put the 'steps' in the correct spot, and grabs the same tire piece as he had before, again attempting to put it in the front of the tractor. . .
DH: "Tires don't go in the engine compartment!"

The puzzle finally got completed, all tires in their correct locations, and boy was Toad proud.

After lunch, we all put on our outdoor gear and headed out to the woods.  DH hooked the wood hauler trailer onto the tractor so the kids wouldn't have to walk all the way.  Unfortunately, the debris on the trailer from hauling in firewood on Saturday was a bit muddy. . . K3's barely worn new snow pants will never be the same.

The kids had a blast in the woods while DH cut up some recent blow-downs.  They 'skated' on frozen puddles. They tried to break air bubbles that had frozen in the ice by pounding the bubbles with sticks.  They examined woodpecker holes in trees.  They used sticks to beat pinata-style on a bunch of leaves that were still on a tree branch high over their heads.  They even talked DH into letting each of them climb the ladder to the maple stand and sit in the chair up there, 'looking for deer' like he does when he is hunting.

They had a ton of fun, most of it with nothing more complicated than a stick and some imagination.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sitting Tall and Pretty

. . . And sweating my butt off doing it!  In below freezing temperatures!  In a turtleneck and fleece vest, no coat!

Non-horse people, I know you're probably wondering what was I doing, sitting still in those temperatures and that 'lightly' dressed, that was making me sweat.

Horse people, you might have an inkling.

I was taking a riding lesson this morning, on T, the horse I've been offered to use for lessons.  The temperature in the indoor arena was still in the 20's after the cold spell we've had most of this week, and I was dressed down because I always get warm when I'm riding. Of course as soon as I get off the horse I have to throw my big heavy coat back on, but in the saddle usually a sweatshirt or a vest keep me warm enough.

Now, T's had it easy most of last year, not being ridden regularly by his owner (which was one huge reason why she said I could ride him; it will help get him back in shape sooner than her sporadic riding schedule will).  He's an honest horse, but he's also kind of fat and grumpy.  So he does his best to do just the bare minimum of what he's asked, without really putting a whole lot of energy into it.

Since he's trying to put forth the absolute least acceptable amount of effort, I really have to work hard to get him on the bit, in rhythm and with some sort of impulsion. Add to this that my trainer is trying to refine me into a more effective yet quiet rider, and she has pretty much disallowed me from using my hands as much as I'm used to and wants me to do pretty much everything with my seat now.  So in the first ten minutes of the lesson I have a horse who wants to alternately be pokey or charge ahead like a freight train. And without pulling or bracing on the reins when he wants to pound forward around the arena, I have to keep him at a steady tempo, in contact, with just my glutes, hips, and thighs. Oh, and my core.  This is really a huge core strength workout for me.

My butt and thigh muscles feel like they are being stretched and pulled like taffy.  My brain is repeating a mantra of "don't pull on the reins, don't lock my elbows, but don't drop the contact!"  My trainer is reminding me to half-halt every other stride when T is being a bully, and to use my hips to keep him going when he wants to slow down.

And then, about twenty minutes in, I'm in a sweat, but am also sitting the most lovely trot ever. A glance in the mirror as we go down the long wall confirms what I feel:  T is round and trotting, I am sitting tall and pretty and graceful, and it all looks effortless.  My brain and muscles tell me it sure isn't effortless, and my damp shirt and breeches prove it, but to the casual observer, we look like we're just floating around with no exertion at all.

That, Dear Reader, is the addiction of dressage.  To make it look so easy, so effortless, so beautiful, takes a combination of mental and physical output and a whole lot of sweat.  Every ride you start off feeling awkward and uncoordinated, but pretty soon everything clicks and for a few minutes you are art in motion.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Ten Years (Or Less!) To Go

Recently, we refinanced our mortgage for this little place here.  What was supposedly a 'quick and easy, can do it all online' process; being that we were going with the same lender that has always held our mortgage (the original, the refi in 2011 when we rolled our original mortgage and home equity loan--taken out pre economy crash--into one loan with a lower rate and shorter term, and now the new refi).  DH called on the morning of election day, being that the rates were super low in the craziness of that time, asked a ton of questions about the possibility of refinancing for a 10 yr fixed rate of less than 3% interest, and got the ball rolling.

We locked in the rate that day (good thing, because it took about an immediate jump once the election results were in), and *just* had to fill out the paperwork that was being sent to us online.  Turned out what was sent was a link to some online 'signing room' with the mortgage co. that had all our documents needed for the refinance.  All we had to do was click the link, one for DH and one for me, create a user id and password for each of us, read, sign, and initial the documents, send payment for the appraiser--who would then call us to set up the appraisal--and await a closing date.  The closing supposedly also done online.  Our rate was good until just before Christmas.

Well, apparently two married people don't normally share a computer anymore, or something.  Because DH had no problem with his link. But when I tried to use mine, from our one computer that we own, it didn't work.  All I got was messages that there was all ready an account set up and my link was invalid, so I was blocked.  Took three days to get that resolved (email the loan officer, explain the situation, request new working link.  Get response from loan officer, email loan officer back saying 'no, I am not doing this with my smart phone, I do not do anything financial over my phone only my home computer and I want a working link gosh darn it', await response from loan officer with new link and directive to 'clear cookies' before attempting to access our online signing room after DH does on the same computer).  Then there were other issues, questions, etc and the link ended up expiring before we both had signed the documents (being formerly employed in banking and having loan processing experience, I flagged every thing that didn't quite jive and asked for clarification/correction before I would put my signature on it).

Which meant emailing again, requesting new link. Meanwhile, loan officer is telling us we need to get the appraisal fee paid ASAP so that the appraiser can be contacted for an appointment, and that we can call her and pay it over the phone.  To which I adamantly refused.  Not paying anything without a written invoice that documents what I am paying for.  Guess I'm getting to be a grumpy old lady who trusts no one with her money.

To shorten a long story, we finally got the new link, got the 'paperwork' signed, and were assured that if we paid that appraisal fee right away, the appraisal could be done in time for us to close on the loan before our rate expired.  So I paid it right then. (online, secure site, and printed out a copy of the invoice and confirmation number).  We heard from the appraiser the next day, made an appointment for a few days later, and all looked good; especially as we had been assured that 1) underwriting had all ready looked at our loan (doesn't qualify for Fannie Mae because of the acreage) and approved it, 2) the appraiser 'most times has the appraisal back to the mortgage company the same day, or within 36 hours of being at your house', 3) the closing date would be scheduled as soon as the appraisal was back, 4) we should be able to close before our rate expired.

What really happened:

  • The appraiser came out, was a very nice friendly person who actually asked questions and took notes about special features of our home/property (like the fact we technically have two heat systems since we use the wood boiler but also with the flip of a switch can use a propane boiler)
  • It took a WEEK (according to the loan officer) for the appraisal to get back to the mortgage company.
  • Then, the whole thing had to go to underwriting (even though we'd been told underwriting had all ready reviewed everything and only needed a dollar amount from the appraisal).
  • We went days at a time without hearing anything, and only heard updates when DH called the loan officer
  • The day before our rate was to expire, (the last business day before Christmas) DH was told that everything looked good but we wouldn't be able to close before the deadline--because we now had new documents with actual updated dollar figures to sign and there would be a mandatory three day wait between our signing and the closing.  BUT, for a small daily fee, we could extend our rate up to fifteen days. Which, with the holidays and all that Friday and Monday "Observed" holiday business we probably would need most of those fifteen.

DH paid to extend the rate (I hated to do it, but we still saved a ton in the long term by refinancing), we finally got the new documents (with some wrong line items that I caught and insisted be corrected), we got newer corrected documents, we signed them online, and we waited to hear when our closing was.  Turned out we couldn't close online, we had to go in person (yes, by now there literally was steam coming out my ears and DH and I were barely talking to each other).  So that took a few more days because by now it was the end of December.

We closed, in person, on January 3rd.  And then had to wait 3 business days before the papers were filed and the old mortgage actually paid off.

I swear, this is the last @*$&#@! mortgage I am ever going to have.  The plan from the start has been to continue to pay the same amount each month as we were paying on the previous mortgage, and have this one paid off about year sooner than we would have if we hadn't refinanced.  The difference in interest rates is exactly 1%, but with our current balance, that one percent savings each month adds up over the life of the loan to just about a year's worth of payments.

Once the mortgage is paid off, we can put the monthly mortgage payment into a savings account.  And, possibly, DH can retire at that point. Because we originally purchased the land at this little place here as an investment into our retirement fund; planning to pay off the mortgage about the time he'd like to retire (by age 60, preferably a little closer to 55) and then sell our property and move to a smaller place--okay, smaller house, much larger acreage-- paying cash for the new home.

So, we've got ten years to go. Maybe even less.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Yarn Along 2017.2

Joining Ginny today for this week's Yarn Along.

My Knusa shawl is growing by leaps and bounds. With all the chilly weather we've been having, I cannot wait to finish it so I can wrap up in it!

Can you see the subtle stripes in my shawl?  That is because I all ready had one skein of this yarn in my stash, and decided to order more so that I had enough for this project.  Being hand-dyed and of different dye lots, there is a slight color difference between the new yarn and the stash yarn.  Rather than try to 'hide' the stash yarn by only using a little of it here and there throughout the shawl, I am using it to create random stripes.  The plan is to (hopefully) use it all up making stripes in the body of the shawl before I get to the lace edging.  Depending on the lighting, the stripes are barely there or make a nice monochromatic accent.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Where To Start?

Where to start?  Other than posting on Wednesdays for the Yarn Along, "where to start?" is how I feel right now in terms of blogging. It kind of feels too late to blog about some of our pre-Christmas activities (like making candies and fudge to give as gifts; the first time in several years that I've been able to find time to do this).  It also feels too late to talk about having all the kids and grandkids here for New Year's Eve and playing games until the wee hours of the morning. There was another mass sausage making on January 1st and 2nd, although it was only DH and our sons this year rather than the large group we had for our first-ever sausage making party.

In horse news, there have been two riding lessons taken so far this year, and I finally feel like I can correctly perform leg yield at the walk.  I think leg yield was my nemesis, my hurdle, in the last several months of 2016. So, there are horsey things to blog about.  This year is the year I had marked as time to put the Quarter Horse up for sale so that I have funds to shop for something younger and more dressage worthy. Now 2017 is looking me in the face and asking "When is the best time to write that for sale ad?"  Winter is not typically prime time for finding a buyer, not unless you have a great show horse and people want to get their next great show mount far enough ahead of show season to get to know each other and become a cohesive team before walking through that in-gate the first time.  But the Quarter Horse, at 18 and with slight navicular (and a few quirks about changes in footing) is not a great show horse.  He hasn't been there, done that, for someone with huge aspirations of blue ribbons to be interested in buying him, and at this point in his life, most likely isn't going to ever see the inside of a show ring.  He's not a horse for a beginner, and with his navicular, he isn't the horse for a serious rider/competitor either.  He needs an owner with confidence (to help him with his quirks) and some experience, who wants to ride once a week or less, or who is looking for a great horse to love on and have as a companion.  So, Spring might be a better time to list him for sale. (On the other hand, people with tax refund money in hand do tend to shop while that money is burning a hole in their pocket. . . )

Also in horse news, I have suddenly found myself being offered the use, a few times a week, of another Quarter Horse.  This one is sound (ie no navicular), but with his own quirks.  His owner doesn't have much time to ride him currently, and would love for me to keep him 'tuned up' so that he's not a brat when she does have time to ride. He is going to be my mount for lessons for the foreseeable future; we had a 'get to know you' ride yesterday and, while he feels totally different than my own Quarter Horse, I think I'm going to gain a lot from riding him.  For instance, I rode the most and best shoulder-ins of my life during our 'get to know you' ride!

Where to start? also applies to planning for this year's garden.  It's time to sit down and work up how many rows of what veggies am I going to grow this year; how many linear feet equal how much seed, and where to order that seed from?  I can say that I've gotten potatoes taken care of; there are four or five kinds in my cellar right now that I will use some of each for seed and I also, earlier today, put in an order with The Maine Potato Lady for another three varieties that I want to grow.

Where to start? is my conundrum on doing some purging and reorganizing in my house.  There are some things I know are here, but they've gotten misplaced or buried amongst the seemingly exponential growth of possessions in this house in the last few years.  There are other things that I know are here that don't need to be any longer; be it things we no longer have a use for, or outdated paperwork/documents that are no longer applicable and need to go to either the wood burner or the shredder.  I honestly think I have enough old bills, bank statements (that are beyond the age of ever being needed for a tax audit) and owners manuals of things that died years ago to fill an entire file cabinet drawer.  Oh the things now stacked in the study that I could store in that drawer if it were empty of it's unneeded contents!

Where to start? in terms of the exercise/weight loss program I sorely need to begin.  All that wonderful running and cardio and strength training and yoga I was doing went totally away as the population of this little place here shifted and shifted again since late 2013.  I miss it, I begrudge the weight and bulk I've gained (all in the belly; I'm one of those women whose hips stay small no matter what) and I'm tired of looking and feeling like a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy.  I want my exercise routine back!

Where to start? with the tutorials of sorts that I had intended to write in 2016 of things I had made and mentioned without actually describing the making process.  The bottle cap trivet made for DD2, the pattern I concocted for Dad's striped socks, other things I intended to make and write a tutorial for in the process that never even got started.

Stay tuned, Dear Reader, for there is more to come.  I just need to figure out where to start.  Or maybe I just need to jump in and talk about it as I go.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Yarn Along 2017.1

Happy First Yarn Along of 2017!  It's cold and windy and snowy at this little place here this afternoon, and now that I'm back indoors for the rest of the day, I am joining Ginny for this week's yarn along.

There has been a whole lot going on in the past week, and most of it has kept me from knitting.  I think I finally picked up my project, the Knusa shawl, again last night.  So there isn't a whole lot of difference between last week's picture and the picture for today.

I'm pleased with it so far; the body of the shawl is done in an 8-row repeating pattern that is pretty easy to memorize. It is almost a mindless knit.  Almost, but not quite, as I have had to stop a few times and unknit to correct a mistake so that my yarn overs stay lined up, or so that the garter ridge is in the correct row on a particular panel.  Honestly, now that DH is back to work after being off between Christmas and New Years, and all but one of our holiday guests have gone home (with the final one leaving for college this coming weekend), I can't wait to get all the Christmas stuff cleaned up and stored away so that I have more time to work on this because it really is fun to knit.