Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winter Lace Shawl ~ and Christmas Crafting!

This shawl reminds me of The Snow Queen a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson.  I'm not really sure why because the snow queen wore a white robe and so it might just be because it's something opulent that a winter queen might wear.  And, really, it never hurts to wear something that makes you feel a like a queen every once in a while.

If you are not familiar with The Snow Queen fairy tale it involves the struggle between good and evil and kindness and forgiveness and the choices we make in this life and it has special meaning for me.  Not because I relate to the queen but instead to the small boy in the story who like me struggles to find his place in this world and his attitude toward family and life in general.  There are many distractions in this world that claim our attention and as a result we rarely take the time to consider what virtues are important to us and and define our life. But it is one of the most important things that we can do with our time and teach to children. Because if we don't know what is truly important to us it is more likely that we will make wrong choices along the way.

I knew this shawl would be worn at the holidays so I added a mixture of crystal and seed beads to add sparkle and catch the light.  I began by using all crystal beads but ran short and when I reassessed the effect I added in colored seeds beads because I thought the contrasting beads added a more interesting effect.  I love the finished shawl and can't wait to wear it when I make my appearance in the evenings.  I just wish I had a crown and scepter to complete the effect.

Particulars:  Trieste by Rosemary Hill (sold by Designs by Romi); US 8 needles; 3 skeins (I used 2.5 skeins) Rowan Kidsilk Haze; beads (mixture of crystal and seed beads); blocked dimensions: 40" x 80"; I knit a total of 9 triangles (instead of 10).  I found this to be an easy pattern to knit with a stunning result.  Block Dimensions 76" x 44."  Previous Kidsilk Haze shawls I've knit are: The Fleur Wrap; WillowDove; Anisette Stole, Birch.   Other designs by Rosemary Hill that I've knit are: Carson Shawl.

Christmas Crafting!

I'm still a kid at heart and love Christmas crafting because it's a time of year when you can use sparkles, doodads and glitter and the more the merrier! This year I made a wet felted Christmas tree using green and white felt and then decorated it with sequins and beads, and I am delighted with it.  It looks very jolly sitting on my kitchen counter along with a cute Grinch ornament and adds a touch of Christmas cheer to my kitchen counter.  It was very simple to make using a resist and if you are interested in how to make a wet felt project my Felt Bunny post has some helpful information and links.

We always leave town over the holidays and I also take a break from the internet so I'll take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and New Year from Steve, Simcha and myself!  Until next time, be well, love well and have fun celebrating the holidays and have fun adding some glitter and glitz to your holidays ~

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mystery Cowl ~ And Homemade Apple Sauce Recipe

I recently joined a mystery knit-along hosted by Craftsy.  And although there wasn't much mystery or too much camaraderie in this knit-along I am really pleased that I joined and love my Acacia Cowl!  

I say there wasn't much mystery because the entire pattern was disclosed on the first day and there wasn't much camaraderie because I completed the project in a single day.  To be fair this was a foregone conclusion given the bulky weight yarn.  And yet.  I had expected some mystery.  Call me naive. Incidentally because this is a bulky weight yarn and knits up super fast it is the perfect holiday speed project!  But, since I was looking for some mystery in my life that's not necessarily what I was looking for.  So undaunted I've joined a new mystery knit-along entitled Divergence starting January 1, 2014.  In preparation I have purchased the book entitled Divergent (I have no idea if this is the inspiration or not but it is a similar sounding name and sounds interesting and I wanted something fun to read anyway) and based on this mystery project description I am optimistic this time there will be moar mystery.

When I first completed this cowl I loved the dramatic impact but wasn't sure how much I would wear it.  But what I have found is this is an extremely practical wardrobe piece and I wear it almost everyday when I go hiking.  I love how it fits perfectly with my down vest and keeps my neck area warm.  It's also pretty versatile since I opted to make it longer and didn't add buttons.  This way I can simply wrap it around my neck and fasten with a shawl pin or a safety pin.  It really has become a favorite accessory for cold weather hikes along with a hat.  I also like the fact that I can wear it more dressy with a shawl pin closure draped loosely over an evening coat for an added pop of color and warmth.  

Particulars:  Craftsy Mystery Kint-Along November 2013; Acacia Cowl; US 13 needles; 1 skein SweetGerogia Yarns Superwash Chunky (colorway Terra Firma).  My modifications were:  1) I used a chain selvedge stitch for edging (slip first stitch of every row purlwise with yarn in front); 2) I added an extra repeat of pattern; and I decided not to add buttons as I will wear it with a shawl pin closure or a safety pin.  I made these modifications because I have found that wearing a cowl that fits like a smoke stack around my neck is not my best look.  

Homemade Apple Sauce ~

A new favorite autumn treat of mine is apple sauce.  Before last year I was never too crazy about apple sauce but last year around this time I purchased some at our local farmer's market and I realized how amazing homemade apple sauce tastes.  I absolutely love it and I eat by the spoonful.  One of the ways I like it is spread over toast in the morning similar to apple butter and I must credit this ingenious idea to Steve. He's forever coming up with creative food ideas and when I'm eating something he'll say to me "do you know how that would be really wonderful?" And I'll say "no" "how?"  And true to form I would never have thought of putting apple sauce on toast but for Steve's suggestion and it's really a terrific way to enjoy it.

Apple Sauce Recipe ~


4 medium tart apples (granny smith are best but I also like honey crisp)
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar (scant)
1 1/2 tablespoon organic dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (scant)
fresh pomegranate seeds


1.  Peel, core and dice apples and squeeze orange juice.  Set apples aside.
2.  Heat orange juice in a medium sauce pan and add sugars and cinnamon.  Once incorporated add apples - stir - cover - and simmer stirring occasionally for approximately 30 minutes.  Apples should be soft at this point.
3.  Remove from heat and either using an immersion mixer or a kitchen aid mixer (paddle attachment) and pulse until apple is partly pureed but still leaving some chucks of apple.  Since I like mine chunky I hardly mix it at all.
4.  Allow mixture to cool to room temperature and then add fresh pomegranate seeds to taste and then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Apple sauce is also wonderfully with latkes for those who celebrate Chanukah.  If I'm going to use it on toast I leave out the pomegranate seeds.

Until next time be well and love well and take time to play this holiday season and maybe add a little mystery to your life. Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving from Steve, Simcha and myself.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Harvest Shawlette and Other Easy Autumn Crafts ~

It's always important to learn new techniques and knit things that challenge you but sometimes it's also nice to just knit something familiar, easy and stress free.  And that's the inspiration for this Harvest Shawlette that I'm wearing which is my pattern for a single skein simple shawlette.  I can hardly claim much originality as it's more a compilation of my favorite shawl techniques learned from years of knitting shawls along with a bit of my own originality thrown in.  Nonetheless I have written the pattern out and provided a free pattern pdf download for those interested.

The pendulum does swing.  Recently I've knit a number of long skinny scarfs that are all the rage along with color block, stripes and modular shaped shawls, but I was feeling more in a traditional mood given that this is a time of year when one thinks of home and hearth.  So this shawl is a triangle shape as they have been knit through the ages.

And before I forget!!!  I really really love the yarn I used for this project and I have to thank Andi a fun blogger, prolific knitter, and great source for inspiration who writes the blog mysistersknitter because it was she who turned me on to Spinning Fates an indy yarn seller.  The yarn I used is called solar flare and has fun flecks of metallic threads that twinkle in the light adding a festive feel and although this colorway has a distinctly Halloween feel I think it can be worn through Thanksgiving.  That is if you don't mind being slightly off on your seasons, which I don't, and given my proclivity to wear Gothic style shawls can hardly be surprising.

Particulars: Harvest Shawlette free pattern download; 1 Skein Aurora (440 yrds) by Spinning Fates (colorway Solar Flare); US 5 circular needles.  This is an extremely simple pattern and is well suited to strongly variegated yarn but might also look nice with a solid color and contrasting border.  It is a true "shawlette" so please consider the finished size 46" x 16" (post blocking - merino wool will not hold a block well - and if you use a yarn that does hold a block it will result in a slightly larger version) when deciding whether 1 skein will be large enough or if you need to use two skeins and make a larger version.

Simple Autumn Craft

I always enjoy crafting at this time of year and it's an added bonus to create something that you can actually use.  This year I decided to do away with those annoying half used coffee bean packages.  My crafty solution was a mere $2.50 investment in a photographer's print (2.5" x 3.5") and an empty glass jar.  I simply glued the print on and sealed the surface using modge podge and was delighted with the result  And I was feeling very crafty and frugal until my Flickr buddy Michelle (who takes wonderful scenic photographs) pointed out that I could have used one of my own prints for a mere .41 cents.  Oh well!  I still would have chosen this cute Halloween witch that I purchased on Etsy from ElaineCoxArt!

Fun with Photography ~

Everyone has a camera these days and if you are looking for ideas to practice your photography look no further than your own back yard.  It takes patience but it's very relaxing to sit and watch for birds and with a little luck they will come and sit still long enough for you to take their picture.  This is a warbler which is a very common bird where I live in the Santa Monica Mountains.  There are some UCLA Professors who periodically come to my neighborhood to record the Warbler's song with the hope of learning their language. I told them that if the birds are saying anything unflattering about me to keep it to themselves.  

Until next time, be well and love well and remember this holiday season that it is the simple things such as sharing meals with family and friends that make this time of year so special.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Wild Wild West Gauntlets and Cowboy Baked Beans

It's hard to believe it's that time again.  Fall weather and the change in seasons are being felt even here in Southern California where some think there were no changes to the seasons.  But there are changes and the longer I've lived here the more apparent they are.  It's not just that the stores are selling corduroy pants and foil wrapped chocolates shaped like leaves.  It's the tinge of coolness in the mornings, the emergence of rust colored flora, and the golden cast to the light in the evenings.  I treasure these small changes.  Until it gets down right cold in another month or so at which point I start wondering why exactly it was that I wanted cooler weather.  

Over the years I'e found that gauntlets are one of my most used fall/winter accessory and every year I knit several pairs.  The gauntlets I am wearing today I call my Wild Wild West Gauntlets because they are inspired by my love the outdoors and the America west.  And since I was particularly pleased with this design I have written up the pattern which I've made into a free download (link below).  I hope you will enjoy making them and wearing them as much as I have.

Particulars: pattern by Claudia Bugh available as a free pdf download  Wild Wild West Gauntlets; 2 skeins Organik worsted yarn by The Fiber Company (approximately 200 yrds); US 8 circular needles and DPN.

Cowboy Baked Beans Recipe ~

Cowboys practically lived off cooked beans while on the trail.  I know this to be a fact based on my extensive reading of western romance novels.  Ahem.  Intrigued by the notion I have often attempted to make bean soup or baked beans but I've been disappointed with the recipes I've tried.  So I tossed aside my recipes and came up with this way to cook them and I was very happy with the result.  I liked the soft texture and rich flavor and hope you enjoy them cooked this way too. Incidentally, while we try and eat healthfully all the time this is probably one of the healthier recipes I've shared on the blog.


1 1/2 Cups dried Anasazi Beans (found in organic section of grocery story or health food stores)
32 Ounces Chicken Stock
1 diced fresh tomato
1 diced sweet yellow onion
2 Tbs Olive Oil
Kosher sea salt to taste


1.  Wash and sort Anasazi beans.  Not only is this variety of bean very flavorful, it requires no advance pre-soaking.  Place beans into a large stock pot and cover with water and boil for approximately 1 hour or follow package instructions for cooking beans.

2.  Drain beans from water and remove any excess water with a tea towel.  Set cooked beans aside while you perform step 3.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Saute onion in olive oil until slightly caramelized.  In a separate deep pot (oven safe with a lid and preferably cast-iron) combine cooked beans along with the diced tomato and the chicken stock (I use slightly less than a full 32 ounce container of chicken stock).  You want the chicken stock to cover the beans and tomato mixture by approximately 1 inch.  This should be enough moisture to keep the beans moist and still allow the beans to develop a thick sauce as they bake in the oven.  Lastly stir in the sauteed onion and cover pot.

4.  Bake for approximately 2.5 hours and salt to taste.  The beans should be soft at this point and the chicken stock cooked down until level with the beans.

And here's my little buckaroo.  He enjoys these beans too and ate a pot while standing on his hind legs as they were cooling on the counter just the other evening.  I hope his time spent in his crate reflecting on his actions will prevent this from reoccurring.

Until next time, be well and love well and may these days of fall be filled with color, texture and anticipation of the holidays to come.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kicking off Fall with Socks and Granola

If you've never worn a pair of hand knit socks then you just don't know what you are missing.  In fact there are some knitters who only knits socks and, while I'm not one of them, I totally get it. The appeal is partly due to the beautiful sock yarns to suit everyone's taste from classic solids to wild space dyed variegations but that alone wouldn't be enough.  It's the amazing comfort that a custom knit pair of socks provides.  I'll also let you in on a little secret.  Wearing hand knit socks at night during the Winter means you can get up in the night and have toasty toes if you need to use the "facilities."  Just saying in case some of you get up in the night.

If you have never knit socks it can be confusing trying to figure out how many stitches to cast-on and the needle size and the last thing you want to do is invest the time into knitting socks only to have them not fit. But the nice thing is that once you figure out your "formula" (i.e. number of stitches to cast-on and the needle size) it works every time and with most patterns.  For example, I wear a women's US size 7 shoe and my "formula" is to cast-on 64 stitches using size US 1 double pointed needles and begin the toe decreases at 7 inches.  But with socks there is a certain amount of "give" and my Mom comfortably wears socks that I've knit using this formula and she wears a women's US size 8 shoe.  You also want to have a certain amount of "stretch" in the cuff and this is the cast-on method I use:

How to Cast On for Socks (cuff down):

Using the long-tail method cast on stitches over two double pointed needles held together.  Carefully remove one needle and then divide your stitches onto remaining needles and join for knitting in the round being careful not to twist cast-on stitches.  By casting on your stitches over 2 needles you create extra "give" in the cast on edge that will help make the cuff more stretchy and easier to fit over your heel. 

Particulars: Embossed Leaves Socks designed by Mona Schmidt; US 1 needles; 1 skein Sundara Sock yarn.  This is a wonderful pattern and I've actually knit it three times!  The first pair I have no pictures as I gave them to a good friend before taking pictures of and the second pair I gave to my mother (blogged as Because You Can Never Have Too Many) but this pair I think I'll hang on to for myself.  I love Sundara yarns and have used it to make a number of projects including my Milkweed Shawl; Bird of Paradise Socks; and Sockamania Socks).

Basic Granola Recipe

I eat granola all year but it's particularly nice in the Fall and Winter.  I've shared recipes in the past but I particularly like this one because it's a great basic recipe that works well for a topping or snack and it has a nice wholesome crunch and nutty flavor.  It was shared with me by Kate a fellow knitter who is also a German Shepherd lover and so it's no coincidence that we met on the Ravelry forum for German Shepherd Lovers which is my absolute favorite place to hang out on Ravelry as it's a fun group of women. Kate graciously gave me permission to share her wonderful granola recipe and I know you will like it as much as I do.  For those of you who don't know Kate, she recently lost her father and wrote a wonderful tribute to his memory and if you have a chance I highly recommend you take a minute to read what she wrote as it's a beautiful testament to a wonderful man's life.  Have a hankie handy.

Basic Granola Recipe (crunchy):


2 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
1/2 cup wheat germ (or whole wheat flour in a pinch)
2 tablespoons packed dark brown organic sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (kosher - large grain)
1/2 cup raw whole almonds (I do not chop them up)
1/2 cup large flake coconut - unsweetened (found in the organic section of grocery stores or in health food stores)
1/4 cup agave nectar (Kate uses maple syrup but I like using agave nectar but either is fine)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 (or more) whole dried cranberries or whole dried tart cherries (I prefer using whole cranberries/cherries as they give a nice pop of flavor and don't seem as dried out. They carry them at Trader Joe's here in Southern California and probably most health food stores)


1.  Line a roasting pan with silpat or parchment paper and preheat oven to 275 degrees;
2.  In large bowl combine oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, almonds and coconut;
3.  In a small sauce pan bring agave nectar, oil, and water to simmer over low heat.  Pour over oat mixture and stir to combine and then  using hands squeeze mixture to form loose clumps;
4.  Spread mixture onto prepared baking pan and bake for 30 minutes.
5.  Remove from oven and stir in dried cranberries (or cherries), cinnamon, and sea salt and baking until golden about 20 minute more.
6.  Remove from oven and cool completely and store in airtight container.

To make a raspberry topping (compote) simply combine fresh raspberries, sugar to taste, and enough water to cover berries by approximately 3/4 inch.  Stir constantly on rapid boil until sauce thickens.  This can take a few minutes and it is tedious and boring so I generally stand reading a book as I stir away but find a fresh raspberry topping is worth the effort!  This topping is wonderful over Greek yogurt with the above basic granola in the morning which is how I generally enjoy it.  It's also terrific on ice cream, waffles, swirled into oatmeal or by the spoonful!

Until next time be well and love well and may you have fun this Fall decorating your home, baking wonderful treats, and knitting socks to keep you, your toes, and your loved ones warm.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kit Carson Shawl and The Outlaw

I have an infatuation with all things western so it's only natural that this shawl named for the American frontiersman and Indian fighter Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson would appeal to me.  Simcha and I spend so much time alone hiking in the mountains of Topanga it provides me with plenty of time for daydreaming and my thoughts often turn to the era when wagons rolled through these hills and cowboys rode herd and all the land was open.  For that reason I'm calling this my wild wild west shawl and chose rustic colors well suited to the rugged terrain where it will be worn.  In reality I'm sure it's just as well that I didn't live during that time as I'm not someone who appreciates rustic living enough to forego indoor plumbing.

Sometimes I take it for granted that everyone grew up with old american western movies and books and naturally understand its appeal.  But in case you aren't familiar with the genre you might try reading a story set in the american west such as  Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (which is a classic) or for something lighter perhaps try a fun western romance romp such as the Wife Lottery Series by Jodi Thomas or Texas Trilogy by Lorraine Heath.

Now Fall might not start officially until September 22nd but for me mid-August is when I start to notice subtle changes in the landscape and begin to anticipate the season and its cooler temperatures, beautiful foliage, spooky Halloween decorations and the excitement of a new unblemished college football season (I'll be rooting for my alma mater the University of Notre Dame Here Come the Irish of Notre Dame!).  It's also a great time to add a few knit pieces to your wardrobe that can carry you into the Winter and so if you haven't got anything on the needles for Fall it's time to get busy.

Particulars:  Carson designed by Rosemary {Romi}Hill (this shawl is part of a collection celebrating Romi's home in beautiful Nevada and includes a free modified three color version of the shawl on Ravelry); 2 skeins Hedgehog Fibers Sock yarn (both are sock club colorways); US 5 circular needles; I opted to eliminate the suggested rows (i.e. rows 167-170) and worked the shorter chart A border; no modifications.  This is lovely shawl with a wonderful drape as a result of the soft sock yarn I used.  I find that Hedgehog Fiber's sock yarn is a not highly twisted and as a result I'm not sure how well it wears for socks but it's soft and perfect for projects requiring drape and I'm always happy with projects that I've made using it.  Other projects I've knit in Hedgehog Fiber yarns are Asking for Roses Shawl and Mystery Socks.

PS the jeans I'm wearing in this post are Paige Denim made in America and carried by Nordstroms and I love them!

Simcha The Outlaw

Simcha is also a fan of the american west and here he is doing his famous outlaw pose.  Be warned he's got a quick draw and is a bit of a card shark so know that before you sit down to play with him!

Until next time be well and love well and have fun getting ready for Fall and if you don't have a college football team to root for, then by all means adopt The University of Notre Dame!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Simcha's Simply Scrumptious Strawberry Scones ~

I don't know if you've noticed, but so far it's been a particularly hot summer and I just couldn't bear to talk about knitting.  So instead I'm changing things up with some baking!  These strawberry scones are inspired by scones served at the Sweet Begonia Bakery in Santa Barbara, California located in Victoria Courtyard (just off State Street).  I really really really liked the Sweet Begonia scones but as I don't live in Santa Barbara what was I to do?  I had never seen anything similar in a Los Angeles bakery and I had no luck finding a similar sounding recipe.  But I was not going to be defeated and, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention so I put on my thinking cap and created a recipe that I call Simcha's Simply Scrumptious Strawberry Scones.  I do use "scone" loosely as this is a cross between a cookie, shortcake, and scone.

Any leftover strawberries can be used to make a refreshing lime and strawberry iced drink to sip as you contemplate fall knitting projects (I love an elixir made from a mix of squeezed lime and strawberry juice poured through a strainer and diluted with water and sweetened with agave nectar and poured over ice).  I currently have a ton of fall projects on the needles as it's never too soon to start!

Simcha's Simply Scrumptious Strawberry "Scone" Recipe

2 cups all purpose Flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3.5 ounces almond paste crumbled (1/2 tube) note: almond paste is similar but different than marzipan and   is generally carried by grocery stores in the baking isle next to marzipan.
5 tbs. cold unsalted butter (cut into pieces)
3/4 cup - scant - whole milk (do not substitute low fat milk)  This is a wet dough but still shouldn't be too sticky to work with so be cautious with the amount of milk added.
1 pint fresh strawberries (organic) - dried thoroughly and sliced into flat slices
rice flour or all purpose flour to dust work space
coarse white sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and cover a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
2.  Combine dry ingredients and mix in crumbled almond paste.
3.  Using a pastry cutter add butter to the dry mixture and use pastry cutter until butter is pea sized or smaller.
4.  Quickly stir in whole milk to make dough.  If your dough is too "wet" add a small amount of additional all purpose flour until it is no longer too sticky to work with.  Turn dough out onto work surface lightly dusted with rice flour or all purpose flour.  I like to use rice flour because it's very "white" and gives a nice finished bakery look to your scones.
5. Using a rolling pin roll dough into a flat circle (as if rolling out a pie crust - approximate 1/4 inch thick - makes a 13" diameter circle).  Use a knife to cut circle in half and cover one half of the dough with sliced strawberries and then fold the other half of the dough over on top of the strawberries and gently press down.  Again using a knife cut half circle into scone sized wedges and decorate tops of scones with remaining slices of strawberries (makes approximately 8 to 9 scones).
6.  Using a spatula transfer scones to prepared baking sheet.
7.  Brush tops of scones with milk and sprinkle with coarse white sugar.
8.  Bake approximately 20 minutes or until dough is lightly browned.  Cool on wire racks. These freeze well.

These are a rustic style scone (as mentioned above I use the term "scone" loosely) and go well with coffee or tea and I hope you enjoy them!

And for those who like to keep tabs on Simcha  ~

Simcha is still a high drive boy who enjoys needs hikes daily (twice) and I defy you to find a dog that likes to chase a ball more.

Until next time, be well and love well and take time to bake scones, drink crazy fruit juices and have fun this summer!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Patchwork Bird Template ~

If you've followed this blog for any time then you know that besides knitting and baking I also enjoy a variety of crafting projects including working with wool felt and I thought it was high time to share a template for a wool felt project of my own.

This sweet patchwork bird is a snap to make and can be as whimsical as you wish.  The name I've chosen is inspired by a nursery rhyme ~ The Gingham Dog and Calico Cat ~ a rhyme that made a huge impression on me at a tender age, probably due to a shockingly violent theme that I won't dwell on here.  Instead just know that scraps of fabric figure prominently in this nursery rhyme and scraps of fabric are all you will need to make this quick and fun project!

Particulars:  Free Patchwork Bird Template download (includes basic sewing together instructions); materials you will need: scraps of wool felt (I like to use hand painted wool felt that I purchase from quilting acres (Etsy) and I also like commercial wool felt by National; scraps of colorful fabric, black embroidery floss, thin crafting wire (or jewelry wire); and fill material (polyester or fleece roving).  Basic sewing instructions are on the template but once you make one you will see how easy it is make your own templates for anything you wish!  Other wool felt projects I've blogged are a broach (a favorite Fall accessory of mine); a Pumpkin Girl (Halloween decoration) and a blue bird but I've made lots of things over the years including needle books and scissor fobs including the one pictured below. Be warned though, because playing with wool felt can become addictive because there are so many things that you can make that are cute and quick to sew up!

Lastly a picture of pink poppies growing in my neighborhood simply because they make me smile when I walk by.

Until next time, be well and love well and have fun this Summer!  I'll be back shortly with a delicious strawberry scone recipe that I just know you'll love.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hitchhiking and Bike Riding in Sonoma County

This summer I highly recommend that you hitch a ride with the rest of us hitchhikers and knit this super simple and fabulous scarf pattern designed by Martina Behm.  If you are not familiar with Martina she has designed some of the very best patterns for summer scarfs that show off variegated and self striping sock yarns to their best advantage.    

I like her designs because they are modern and also simple to knit which makes for perfect summer knitting.  The equivalent of an easy summer beach read.  But even so there is always the chance of making a mindless mistake and that's exactly what I did with this pattern.  It is designed to be knit in garter stitch but due to carelessness on my part I accidentally purled across a row creating a stockinette pattern.  Rather than rip back my "mistake" I decided to incorporate it as a design element and call it a "signature mistake." I made that decision because I liked the visual interest the different texture created and so I intentionally purled a row at equal distances through the rest of the pattern.

If you haven't heard the expression "signature mistake" before it is what a knitter will tongue-in-cheek call a mistake they make and decide not to correct.  Some mistakes absolutely have to be corrected and others are more a personal judgement call.  A good rule of thumb is to objectively view the mistake and decide if a non-knitter would recognize the mistake. If not, then it generally isn't worth the time and trouble to correct it.  When you think about it the line between a mistake and a modification is really very fine and  depends upon how you view things.  Are you an optimist or a pessimist?  An optimist sees it as a possibility to personalize a pattern.  A pessimist sees it as a mistake. I'll let you guess which I am.

Particulars: Hitchhiker by Martina Behm (website: Strickmich); 1 skein Ricin Yarn (Merino, bamboo, nylon 440 yds)(colorway Clockwork (March 2013 Gothsock Club); US 5 needles; 36 pattern repeats (sharp points); and blocked dimensions: 76" x 10" (deepest point).  No modifications other than my "signature mistake" described above.  If you are looking for a similar free scarf pattern you might like the Baktus scarf I knit several years ago and blogged as Add Color to Your Summer - Knit a Baktus Scarf.  I really like Goth Sock yarns (Rainy Days & Wooly Dogs) and previously used her yarn to knit socks blogged as Halloween Socks.

A Bike Adventure in Sonoma County ~

I was delighted when Steve suggested while visiting family in Northern California that we take a bike tour of wineries in Healdsburg, California (Sonoma County).   I told him "yes, yes, yes book us!"   Two days before our trip it occurred to me to inquire exactly how long a bike ride would it be?  He paused while he looked up the information on the internet before announcing "25 miles." Now I don't know about you, but to me that sounded like a long bike ride for two people who haven't been on bikes since we were kids.

And frankly, we were incredibly lucky because we had the nicest biking tour company and the best tour guide ever who quickly surmised the situation and adjusted our bike trip to a mere 15 mile trip encompassing several wineries, a scrumptious lunch, and lolling hills at a leisurely pace that we had no trouble with at all.

And we had a blast!  There is nothing like being on a bike to relax and experience the scenery and fresh air as you peddle through gentling rolling hills with shady lanes with plenty of stops to enjoy organic gardens and, of course, the wine and olive oil tastings.  As you can see from these pictures we saw some beautiful country and gardens including the above artichoke bloom; steel bridges, and peaceful creekbeds.

Don't look too closely at us, as cycling while wearing helmets is not exactly conducive to good hair photos.

But hopefully you can tell we were having a super time because we really were.  Surprisingly we were not in the least sore from our excursion and felt great the next day.  We are definitely coming back and will shoot for the full 25 mile tour next time but on a cool Fall day.  We used Wine County Bikes tours and definitely ask for Taylor as your tour guide.

Until next time be well and love well and if you haven't ridden a bike in years (like us) this summer is the perfect time to find out where they rent bikes in your town and play tourist.  I always think a bike ride is most enjoyable if you have a destination in mind and preferably one that involves ice cream!