Criss Cross - Criss Cross by Isabell Kraemer. This was my second Isabell-designed project. Another beautiful, clean-lined, and wearable pattern! I have worn this a few times already, and it is just the best go-to sweater to grab on the way out the door. I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of this. The colorway "Ireland" is the perfect green for spring. It was a simple cardigan to knit, but the little details throughout made it fun, especially the charted pattern on the back. Will definitely knit more Isabell!
So here's a question for fellow knitters...this was my first project using Cascade 220 Heathers (NOT Superwash). I wet blocked as usual, and oh my goodness...the stink. The entire room smelled like,...well, let's just say "sulfur", (shall we?), for 3 days. Now, I know that wet wool smells funky, but this was by far the worst ever. I googled the issue and found an actual scientific explanation for the offending odor that has to do with chemical bonds breaking during wet blocking. (Seriously, wet wool sweaters have gas!) But anyway, upon drying, the smell went COMPLETELY away, and I aired my room out. No harm, no foul (no pun intended), BUT I really don't want that to happen again if there is anything I can do to stop it.
I have never had that happen before, and I knit another project (see below) without the odor, so I am left wondering, was it the specific yarn? Have any of you ever noticed the Cascade 220 yarns behaving this way? Or is this knitting's dirty smelly little secret???
Enough unpleasantries. Now on to pretty fringe.
Farmhouse - Farmhouse by cabinfour. I am not a shawl person, really. But I do have a childhood memory of someone (I can't remember who) owning a shawl. I thought is was so cool. No one in my family had one, so it was such a novelty to me. So many knitters like to knit shawls, but I love sweaters and didn't ever see myself using a shawl. But then I stumbled upon a fellow Raveler's Farmhouse. It was love at first sight. I was so drawn to it, but that didn't make any sense to me, because...I am not a shawl person. I looked and looked at pictures of Farmhouse for months and months. Why did I want that shawl so much???
Christmas was coming, and my kids asked me what I wanted as a gift from them. I asked for yarn. Which one, how much...they needed details. I chose 3 projects from my Favorites list on Ravelry. I showed them to my kids and told them that I wanted THEM to choose which project they wanted to give me. They held secret yarn meetings. I had no idea what they wanted me to have, but on Christmas morning I opened a gift of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, and I realized in that moment that I had been hoping it would be their choice all along. They wanted to give me Farmhouse.
This pattern was so simple to knit. Quiet, peaceful, television knitting. I learned a couple of new skills and linked to instruction videos in my Ravelry notes found here.
This was my first project to use Shelter. I love it, love it. Watching the fabric change during wet blocking was like magic! So fluffy and light and, oh I love it. (Sorry. I already said that.) My favorite is the fringe. Drippy, drapey, flowy, dreamy. I think this might be my favorite knit.
And I use it! Right now, it is the perfect layer to ward off the chill of early morning in the mountains. I really don't see myself knitting a lot of shawls, (I have another sweater on the needles now.) but I am so very glad I knit this one. Thank you, Babies! Your mama feels loved!
Joining in with the beautiful knitters over at Ginny's Yarn Along!
Ah, spring. Freezing temperatures and lots of snow. The kids keep forgetting that this is normal, living in the Rockies. I keep hearing, "More snow?!" "It's snowing again?!" "But it's spring!" Yes, spring in Steamboat.
We experienced the snowiest March that Steamboat Springs had seen in the last five years. Some days have felt like a winter wonderland. While parts of the country are getting wildflowers, we are getting icicles. If Hobbits in the Shire can have Second Breakfast, then I think it is safe to say that we in the Rockies have Second Winter.
I do love spring snows. They are noisy, unlike the still and silent snows of winter. The returning magpies and robins and woodpeckers chatter and sing and fill the valley with promises of warmth and nesting and flowers and green.
The ski mountain has closed for the season, even though there are feet and feet of snow everywhere. John took pictures of his last trip with Austin for me. (That's my Austin snowboarding a black run in the second picture.) I missed the end of the season. Quilt orders. The flu. Pneumonia. Antibiotics and inhalers. Fits of coughing and one million cups of tea. It's been an eventful month around here. It all makes me anticipate the warmth of May even more.
The foxes continue to come around every couple of days. John captured a dark red one outside of my sewing room window with his cell phone. Yes, I purposely set out some little bits of food there. Foxes, I have discovered, like apples!
Twice now I have walked outside onto the back deck to discover a light red fox standing in our yard. The first time, he looked at me curiously and sat still while I spoke to him. He marked all of the Aspen trees before he trotted away.
The second time, he stayed awhile. I told him that I had decided to name him "Foxy". John quietly slipped me some apple pieces, and I gently tossed them out onto the snow. The fox looked up at me and cocked his head to the side, just like a puppy. I told him how beautiful he was and that I was happy to see him. I tossed another piece of apple, and he ran straight to it, ate it, and then sat looking up at me, waiting for another piece. Of course, I obliged him. I told him he was welcome to come and visit any time he wanted, and I would give him a treat. Every once in a while a noise from inside the house startled him, and he darted away from the house. I called to him, and back he came, ready for more apple.
John went down to the basement where Emma was squealing over something, and said quietly, "You guys keep it down in here. Your mother is outside talking to a fox." They looked at him puzzled. What???! Ha! I wish I could have seen that!
A couple of evenings ago, Austin noticed two foxes bounding and chasing and playing in the land behind our house. Of course, I couldn't resist! I quickly grabbed and chopped an apple and went out on the back deck. I called and kissed to the foxes, and the instant I did, one of them trotted straight to the deck! (EEEEeeeeeeep!!!!) I gently tossed the apple pieces out into the yard and had a conversation with the fox, and once the second one saw that I was safe, it slowly joined the first one. It was a wee little one, and it was so curious! It looked up at me and just stared as I talked to it. Oh, I can't even tell you...SO cool!!! I want to keep them all!
The foxes come back every couple of days, usually in the wee hours of the morning while I am sleeping. I wake up to fresh tracks in the snow and the treat that I left them the night before gone. I will have to stop this once the bears wake up.
We all celebrated 14-year old Joel (14!) with a day off from school, his favorite red velvet cake and candy and presents and dinner out (his choice of The Rusted Porch) and a late night viewing of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. My sweet boy. What a gift he is! He just keeps getting taller and taller. He makes me proud.
We tried a new bacon appetizer at Joel's birthday dinner that we loved, loved. John came home from the grocery store that next week with ingredients and a request: couldn't we make that bacon appetizer at home? We did our best to recreate it, and then topped it with some added grilled chicken and had it for lunch. It's becoming a habit...
BACON JALAPENO NAAN
4 pieces of naan
Cream cheese, soft
Dried oregano leaves
4-oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
3 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
Sliced pickled jalapenos
Grilled chicken, diced (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Spread soft cream cheese on the top of each piece of naan; sprinkle each with dried oregano. Divide grated cheese evenly among the pieces of naan. Top with diced chicken, sliced tomatoes, crumbled bacon, and pickled jalapeno slices.
Bake directly on oven rack in the lower third of oven for 10-12 minutes, or until desired doneness.
Cut each naan into 6 wedge-shaped appetizer portions and serve immediately.
For appetizers, serves 6-8. For lunch, serves 3-4.
Y'all, I had to. I have received a fair number of questions since publishing my Texas post yesterday, and I can't stand the thought of there being misinformation about Texas out there. So, here we go...
Kolaches - pronounced "kuh-LAH-cheese". Pillowy, soft, salty/sweet dough filled with goodies. If you like a sweet breakfast, you order a fruit kolache. Apricot, apple, cherry, raspberry are all popular sweet fruit filling choices. Drizzle the top with sugar glaze or sprinkle with powdered sugar. Do not weigh yourself for a week. The sweet cream cheese ones are my favorite.
If you like a savory breakfast, then you order a kolache filled with ham or sausage or egg or bacon or cheese. They have come up with all kinds of interesting flavors, but my forever favorite is a simple, perfect sausage and cheese. My favorite places in Houston to get them are the Kolache Factory and Mornings Kolaches. (Shipley's will do in a pinch, but I really go to Shipley's for those glazed donuts.) Eat one. Drink coffee. Repeat until full. A well-made kolache is pretty hard to beat!
Those football games - Yes, high school football is really that big of deal in Texas. During football season, many people just pass the time all week to get to Friday night. We were the Sam Rayburn Texans (like the Houston NFL team), but our colors, mentioned in our alma mater's lyrics, were "white and columbia blue". We were living Friday Night Lights and didn't know it.
I was a member of the school's drill team (dance team), the Tex-Anns. We wore uniforms of blue sparkly fabric, white fringe, white gloves, white cowboy hats, and Revlon's "Love That Red" lipstick back in the day. Oh, and wigs. (Don't ask.) We sat next to the Mighty Texan Band(!) during the games. While I was a Tex-Ann, I felt like I really fit in better with the Band Geeks. While we Tex-Anns had to sit quietly and properly and elegantly and perform hand routines (Think *****JAZZZZZ HANDSSSS*****) in the stands during the game, the drumline was beating out cadences while the marching band was having a party in the bleachers. So.not.fair.
I tried out for cheerleader in jr. high, but I have never been the short-power-dynamo-bundle-of-energy-athelete that good cheerleaders need to be, and I was out in the first cut. I learned my lesson and opted instead to be a dancer. I found my "sport". This I could do!!!
We performed on the field every Friday night for the half-time show. My favorite was anytime that we danced to the theme of the TV show "Dallas" while wearing gun holsters and shooting off cap guns during the dance. (Texas!) We did the Tex-Ann March onto and off of the field. Really they should have called it the Tex-Ann Prance, because we looked like prancing ponies. We practiced that march for h.o.u.r.s...it is forever burned into my muscle memory to the point that I will probably be a 90-year old woman prancing the halls of a nursing home someday. Yes, I can still do it. No, I will not upload a video demonstration.
The Cotton-Eyed Joe - Oh, wow! This wins the award for the most questions! Okay, so, I looked it up and was surprised to find that there's really not very good information out there. I hunted YouTube and found a really great video of Asleep at the Wheel playing the song live and in concert. Those fiddles!!! So talented! This makes we want to get up and dance! This is pretty close to the way I heard it back in the day.
There are a lot of recorded versions out there, and they stink. Sorry, but they do. (This issue alone compelled me to write this post!) There is a Swedish dance group called Rednex that did a version in the 90's. For the love of all that is good and holy in Texas, just don't. Just DO NOT. I could cry.
With this weird new version, came some new dance steps. Slapping heels and other some such nonsense. Y'all, it is not that complicated. I had a terrible time trying to find a good, old-fashioned, simple video of a group dancing the Cotton-Eyed Joe, the way we did it. Then John reminded me that we didn't walk around with cell phones taking videos of everything under the sun in the 80's. We just enjoyed ourselves. So true!
This video shows a group dancing the way we did, but a couple of caveats...first, it's hard to actually see the dance steps because there is such a large group of people on the dance floor, and they aren't lined up in proper formation. (See? I told you I was good at dance! Haha!) But, hopefully, you can get the idea. Second, I told John I was disappointed because, rather than dancing, it looked like a lot of the people were half-dancing/half-stumbling around like they were drunk. And then we laughed out loud. 'Cause unless you are at the senior prom or at the Saturday skate session, if you are with a group of people dancing the Cotton-Eyed Joe, some of them probably are drunk. (Notice all the people dancing with beer bottles or mugs in their hands? Ha!)
Often after the Cotton-Eyed Joe, the band will play the Schottische (pronounced SHOT-ish, rhymes with Scottish), and in this video, at least, you will see a group of people in a state of utter confusion. Bless their hearts.
The cause for this confusion is either:
(a.) They don't know the dance.
(b.) They are exhausted and worn out from dancing the Cotton-Eyed Joe.
(c.) They are too inebriated to care.
Having given it a little more thought, I think the correct answer is (d.) All of the Above.
And this concludes today's Texas Public Service Announcement.
One day last week, Emma and I were doing the grocery shopping when we noticed a tall older gentleman stopped in the middle of the aisle picking up some Coca-Cola. We slowed our pace and maneuvered around the man. He looked up and smiled. We nodded, and I said smiling, "Excuse us."
He pushed his cart slowly past us and said in a sweet, deep voice, "Oh, y'all are fine!"
I froze dead in my tracks and spun around on my heels. "You said 'y'all'!"
He turned back around to face me with a huge grin on his face. "Yes, I sure did!"
"Where are you from?" I asked.
I swear his chest puffed out when he answered me. "Texas."
I thought so. Nobody (other than my own little family) says "y'all" up here. I stick out like a sore thumb whenever I say it in conversation. Hearing his deep Texas drawl was like music to my ears!
He said he lives in Texas, but owns a place here in the mountains. We talked about what we love about Texas: the history, the people, his Texas acres outside of Austin that fill with bluebonnets every spring. We talked out what we love about the Rockies: the wildlife, the recreation, his Colorado acres north of town that look out across the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness. He said he would be going back to Texas just in time to see the bluebonnets blooming and to enjoy Easter with his family.
Just as I have noticed an aching in my heart around Christmas for friends and family, I have noticed an aching in my heart for Texas in the springtime. The temperature is mild. The sun shines. The humidity is low. The wildflowers start popping out along all the highways, the bluebonnets being supreme, of course.
I am feeling it right now. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I am surrounded in every spare moment that I can find by western fabrics and Texas flags. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I have been watching through episodes of Fixer Upper. (Y'all...Fixer Upper! My question-a-day journal asked me lately what my current favorite word is, and I answered "shiplap".)
After being away for almost three years now, I am realizing how much Texas truly gets in your blood. So many things that I imagined to be "typical American" in my childhood were actually "100% Texas".
--Don't all kids pick pecans off of everything that adults bake? Because, adults reason, if a cookie or a pie or a cake can be made, it can be made better with pecans. And now I am the adult baking pecans into everything.
--Don't all kids eat kolaches for breakfast on Saturday mornings? Or at least get excited when someone walks in the front door with a dozen glazed from Shipley's?
--Don't all kids have heroes with names like "Sam Houston" and "Davy Crockett" and "Stephen F. Austin"? Don't all kids know about the brave men that fought at the Alamo, and the Texian (Yes, it's spelled "Texian".) Army that defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto?
--Don't all kids grow up eating Tex-Mex for dinner? Tacos and enchiladas and queso and fajitas and tortillas and flautas and chips with salsa? Or what about the chicken fried steak with gravy, macaroni and cheese, and fried okra at Luby's Cafeteria?
--Don't all kids dress western for school one day a year and get excited when the Trail Riders hit town to signal the start of the Livestock Show and Rodeo in the spring?
--Don't all kids line up in their roller skates and dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe at the local roller rink during the Saturday skate session? (Yes, we did the Hokey Pokey, too, but really, everybody waited for the Cotton-Eyed Joe.)
--Don't all kids spend all week at school just waiting to get to Friday, because that's when the football team plays again? And pep rallies are celebrated? And marching bands play? (Mighty Texan Band!) And the dance team in blue sequins and cowboy hats do high kicks?
--Doesn't the sky look this big everywhere in the world? I thought it did, until I went back for a short visit to Texas last year. It was like I saw that sky for the first time all over again, and I just could.not.believe it. It just goes on for miles and miles.
One of my favorite truly Texas memories goes back to Sam Rayburn High School's senior prom. Everyone was dressed to the nines, wearing their corsages, taking their pictures...until the DJ started playing the Cotton-Eyed Joe. (Cotton-Eyed Joe. I'm tellin' ya!) Then there was a mad rush to the dance floor, whooping and hollering, laughing and dancing. Student body and staff alike were dancing side by side in lines around the dance floor yelling, "B*LLSH*T!!!" Ah, yes. Only in Texas.
I am on a big Texas music kick, too. Willie. Lyle. George. Asleep at the Wheel. Especially Asleep at the Wheel. I have learned that I am a Texas Swing music fan. This may not sound like much to anyone who doesn't know me well. Thing is, I have never liked country music. Never ever never. (80's British Pop for me.) And I really don't like what some call "country music" in this day and age, but classic Texas music is all that plays on my phone these days.
Lest you think I regret moving, I assure you this is not the case. I am a mountain girl. The split second I saw the Rockies on the horizon as I drove our car behind the U-Haul, I burst into tears. I leave bits of food out for the foxes in the backyard. I saw a mama moose walk her baby across the street this morning. I cannot get enough of the outdoors here, and I cannot take the humid heat of Houston. I thank God every day that I live in Colorado. But I also thank him every day that I lived in Texas first.
One for those of you who are Texans...
And one for those of you who aren't...
And now back to the sewing room and Texas flags. And the makings of a grocery store list. I have a strong and sudden craving for enchiladas.
*Pictures of the kids are from my old cell phone and were taken circa 2012 back in Texas.
Mailin for her - Mailin by Isabell Kraemer. What a happy mistake! After finishing this sweater up, I think it was she who was meant to have it all along. It's big and over-sized for her, with its too-long cuffed sleeves. I really like the pattern, and still think I might make one for myself at some point. Her only request is that I choose a different color, so that we aren't Twinkies. ;)
Quince & Co. Lark is the yarn, and it works really well with this pattern, I think. She's been wearing it a lot around the house, and should have plenty more time to wear it this season...we woke up to snow again this morning.
Now on to a spring cardigan. Green!!!
Joining in with the beautiful knitters over at Yarn Along!
Good News: Mailin. This pattern! Beautiful, well-written, perfect. I love this sweater. Cables, neckline, thick bottom ribbing, and that sleeve cuff...just the best!
Bad News: I goofed. After getting gauge with a smaller needle than the pattern suggested, I proceeded to knit the sweater a 1/2 stitch smaller than gauge. How did this happen??? I thought the sweater looked small, but I tried it on as I went, and it was workable. I thought I would do some aggressive blocking at the end. Then I finished one sleeve. It's too small. Such.a.bummer. All the while, every time my daughter would walk into the room and see me knitting it, she would say things like, "If you don't want that sweater, I'll take it!" and "I really like that sweater!". Point taken, Emma.
Good News: So I let Emma try it on. And she's adorable in this big, over-sized (for her) cabled sweater that I was knitting for myself. "The sleeves are way too long, Emma," I say to her. "Maybe I should just rip it out and start the whole thing over." She pulls her arm up into the sleeve further and says, "I love long, cozy sleeves! They keep my hands warm!" How am I supposed to say "no" to that?! So, Emma's getting a Mailin. I tell her that I will buy more of the exact same yarn in the exact same color so that I can have my own Mailin. Then it dawns on me..."Emma! We'll have matching sweaters!!! We'll be twinkies!!!"
A look of horror comes over her face. And I have decided not to take it personally.
Joining in with the other beautiful knitters at Ginny's for Yarn Along!
I cannot thank you enough for your kind encouragements, your shared excitement, and your pattern and quilt orders after my last post. Thank you! I am feeling overwhelmed, both in a good way and in a "Did-I-really-just-set-this-in-motion?" way. So excited to move forward! Truly, thank you!!!
It has been such a beautiful winter here in Steamboat this season. So much snow! The most we have seen in a winter since moving here. We are happy to see another snow storm move in, because snow means powder, and powder means skiing. We are going every week, sometimes all of us, sometimes a few of us. After not getting on the mountain much last season, I am now getting comfortable enough to ski the blue runs again, and being 45 years old, I am super happy with this. We are learning our way around the 2,965 acres of ski runs at Steamboat Ski Resort. (2,965 acres!) We are learning which chairlifts take you where. We are discovering which runs are our favorites.
We are making memories. Like the one where someone misses the chairlift that the rest of the family gets on and has to ride alone on the one behind. (See photo #7 above. See the lone skier in the red jacket? She's me.)
Like the one where John accidentally takes us all down a steep run that most of us aren't ready for. Terror ensues. Joel skis backwards. Emma snowplows all the way down. I'm so scared my heart is pounding, and I'm ready for a panic attack. (I've finally forgiven him.)
Like the one where Austin snowboards through the terrain park, doing tricks. (Show off.)
Like the day that it was so cold on the mountain that John's beard was caked with snow and ice.
Like the one where Joel goes to the clinic because he skis downhill so fast that when he falls, he cracks a rib. (He's fully mended now.)
Like every time we forego our usual ski snacks of Clif Bars and go instead to a lodge to warm up and eat a hot meal. (There are always French fries involved. At Gondola Pub & Grill, you can get them topped with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Add Coca-Cola, and I am in a state of bliss!)
Like the soundtrack of music that plays in my head down every run. It is fun, but the very best part of it all to me is being together.
Outside it may be cold, but inside it stays warm and cozy and busy. Fabric is being cut. Quilt patterns are in my head and being put on graph paper. Tea is made. Taxes and laws and new business things are being learned. Homeschooling carries on. Popcorn is popped and movies are watched. Puppy is loved. Sweater is knit. A new normal is being eased into...if Mommy is to make quilts, her schedule has change. This will take a little time, but the kids have been so great and encouraging and supportive.
Emma came into the sewing room yesterday as I pulled fabrics for a Texas Flag, holding back a sob and sniffling. I asked her what was wrong. (Did she need something, and I wasn't there to help her???) She told me that she had been doing her Charlotte's Web reading assignment. Tears spilled out of her eyes as she told me, "Charlotte died." She buried her face in my chest and cried. Seeing her cry made me cry, and there we stood, the two of us, crying over that dear spider. I am so grateful that I get to be here with her each day. Little Dorrit comes next. There will be a happy ending to enjoy.
While we work inside, the animals work outside. The birds are starting to move around a little more. (See the midnight blue Steller's Jay through the deck railing in photo #19, third from the end?) There is a fox that walks through our yard every day, leaving tracks in the snow. I throw pieces of apple out for him to find, and he comes and digs up his buried treasure of squirrels and voles that he has hidden for himself. Molly smells him, but she doesn't see him. He is sly and only comes in the wee hours of the morning.
We are due for warmer temps this week, but I don't want them to come. Not yet. Please, Winter. Stay a little longer.
You can follow pattern and quilt updates on The Aspen Tree's Facebook Page.
C. S. Lewis quotes are my favorite quotes, I think. There seems to be one for nearly every situation, every topic, every emotion. I started dreaming about things this last year. I waited. I prayed. I started setting goals. And then I would invariably push dreamy thoughts back down. I would love to say that I am full of self-confidence, but I am not. I would love to say that I don't struggle with self-doubt, but I do.
But dreams have a way of pushing through fears, back up to the surface of our minds and demanding our attention. And so here I am. A little scared and a lot excited to share with you a new little online quilt shop called The Aspen Tree! The Aspen Tree is selling one little pattern right now, but in time (and in my dreamy thoughts) it will feature multiple quilt patterns, quilt fabric bundles, and handmade quilts to purchase from my sewing room.
Why "The Aspen Tree"? Because the view outside my sewing room is a beautiful Aspen grove that surrounds our home. In the summer the leaves shimmy and shake. In the autumn they explode in color, all golden and orange. In the winter their branches hold snow and birds and peace and quiet. I love those Aspens.
And I love colors and fabrics and quilts and what they symbolize to me: home, comfort, and love. I would be honored to share those things with you!
The first pattern available from The Aspen Tree is the Texas Flag Quilt Pattern.
This quilt was truly designed with love for my home state of Texas and for the life-long relationships that began there. Even though I am living out another one of my dreams by living here in the Colorado Rockies, I am proud to be able to say that I am a Texan! I had no idea how much my Texas roots meant to me until I left Texas. Those roots run deep, y'all! (You can read about the special people and circumstances that led to this quilt in this post!)
This patchwork quilt pattern includes fabric yardage amounts, cutting and sewing instructions, color diagrams, and star templates for baby, toddler, lap, twin, full, queen, and king sized quilts.
I will begin offering handmade Texas Flag Quilts this month. If you would like to be kept up-to-date on these, please leave a comment below, and I will keep in touch.
Thank you so much for allowing me to share this new adventure with you!
"Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again." - C. S. Lewis