Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Counting down

I have begun my countdown to Thanksgiving dinner. The first of the pies are baked, the jam cake is iced and in the pantry and one of the turkeys is in the brining mixture. I've baked the biscuits and cornbread for the dressing, made the cranberry relish. I'm thinking hard about how to have our Thanksgiving meal on the table at the appointed time. Every year it ends up being about an hour later than I said it would be. I'm a pretty experienced cook, after all these years, but still have trouble getting everything synchronized to be ready at the same time. Especially a meal as big as Thanksgiving. I think about trying to eliminate some of the dishes, just to simplify things, but that idea is always nixed by family. Especially this year, it seems maybe too extravagant to have so much. On the other hand, I am more aware than ever and grateful for the abundance in my life. Not just food to put on the table, but a family that is healthy and happy, the new baby that will become part of the family in January, a life that is busy and productive and allows me some time for creative activities. It is so easy to fall into the habit of complaining (I'm speaking of myself here) because things are not just exactly the way I would like sometimes, but when I stop and look around, I know that I am blessed.

Barn chores don't stop for the holidays. I've been feeding twice daily since back in the fall because of the drought, though we have had some rain lately and the grass has greened up a little. Some mornings I can hardly make myself put on the coat and boots and hat and gloves to go to the barn, but once I'm there, I end up staying longer than I really need to, just observing and interacting with the animals. There's no doubt, life would be so much easier without them, but also, maybe not as interesting. I mean, look at that face. How could I wish he was not here? There's always a trade-off.

Of course, in the midst of all the cooking, I really want to sit down and knit. I started one of those scarves and it is the perfect "pick up and put down" project. No patterning, no increasing, decreasing, cabling, just two rows in one color and two rows in the other---and short rows, at that. Love it.

Well, back to it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Baby, it's cold outside!

And I love it (please don't hate me fellow Kentuckians). We even had a few wisps of snow yesterday and last night. It's about time, is what I say. Thanksgiving is next week. Yikes! Yesterday I went to the grocery and bought most of my Thanksgiving supplies, though I never seem to accomplish it all in one trip. At least this year, I've given myself some extra time to get a head start. I love Thanksgiving and having everyone gather at our house. It is usually several tables full and because there are still so many young children, it is also loud! I'm always collapsed on the couch in front of the fire by evening, but wouldn't trade it for anything.

I wrote the above paragraph much earlier this week and have been unable to get back online since. I am not very computer literate and am fully prepared for any problem to end up being my fault due to ignorance. This time, though, it was not me. As I have said before, living in the country is great, but there are plenty of compromises involved. One of them is that technology is slow to get here and often doesn't work right. That is my DSL connection in a nutshell. This week it has not worked. The first few days I though it was just the normal malfunctioning. When I got fed up enough to call Windstream, they sent someone out and he (bless his heart) cheerfully replaced my modem and (crossing my fingers) so far, that seems to have done the trick. And here is some great news for those of us technologically challenged and who frequently need help, Windstream has replaced it's help centers in India and you can actually talk to someone in America now. They even have a recording telling us that, "you talked and we listened". Amazing!

Meanwhile, I have had a rash of finishing stuff. I finished some fingerless mitts, a vest (still need to put the button on, then I'll post a picture) and a pair of heavy barn socks that have been around forever. Now I have been bitten by the scarf bug due to reading the Yarn Harlot's recent posts and my friend Lindy showing up at Wednesday knitting with one she made using Silk Garden and some of her dark gray alpaca yarn (and I just happen to have some of both). I'm thinking these might be really good Christmas gifts, depending on how fast I can crank them out. I'm casting on today.

Miss Pippi was puzzled by the snow this morning. Wish I'd had the camera with me when she came out the barn door. You could almost see her brain working on what this stuff might be.

We are gearing up for the holidays around here. Even the chickens are cooperating by producing a dozen eggs daily. (People are starting to back away when they see me coming with the egg cartons!) Right after Thanksgiving the cookie baking starts in earnest and plenty of eggs will be used, though even I can't use up 7 dozen a week.

So, here it is Friday evening again and I'm wishing for you to have a good weekend. Who knows, maybe I'll be back before next Friday, if the internet is truly mine again.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ideas or Idees?

Am I the only person around who buys magazines she can't even read, just because the pictures are so fabulous and inspirational? I subscribe to Marie Claire Idees, though I cannot read a word of French, because it is always full of wonderful projects. Often, I can guess at the meaning of a word and sometimes even decipher some of the directions. Oh, how I wish they would include an English translation so I could actually read it all. I love how they always have wonderful things made from linen-lovely natural colored linen. And there are always projects made from wool. The latest edition came today and has such great ideas for Christmas knitting and crafting. There's a whole article on holiday decorations using pom-poms! (C'est le Pompon!) I might as well confess to being somewhat of a magazine addict. I recently went through a huge stash of magazines and made myself donate them. I have years and years of the British edition Country Living (I'm not ready to let go of those!). Whenever I'm in a bookstore or grocery, I check out the magazine racks to make sure I don't miss anything! I am trying to be more selective about the ones I bring home.

I thought there would be a picture of my finished Jo Sharp "everyday sweater" to show today, but you're getting an almost finished picture instead. I actually wore it to Wednesday knitting, but decided it needed a partial do-over. It has a rolled neck and is supposed to be the same on the bottom and the sleeves, but I didn't like the roll at the bottom, so I knitted a turning row and knitted a hem. Didn't like that either. So, I have cut a stitch, detached the hem and have picked up the live stitches and am knitting downward on a knit two, purl two bottom edge. I sure hope I like this version. The bottom edge is starting to get some mileage on it already. The Wednesday knitters decided this sweater is just about as good as your favorite sweatshirt for comfort. Now that I have the bugs worked out I'm thinking about starting another. I used Jo Sharp Silkroad Tweed Aran in Brindle (it's more interesting than it appears here). It was knit from the neck down, has raglan sleeves and is an easy, fast knit. Not the most exciting sweater I've ever knit, but I'm thinking it will be worn a lot.

The weekend is here and we might have snow flurries! (That makes me unreasonably happy!) I hope your weekend weather is just what you're wishing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Homemade goodness

Today has been cool and windy and put me in the mood for warming foods. I've had the new Ina Garten cookbook, Back to Basics for more than a week and haven't had a chance to try anything, until today. Ina's books are the first ones I pull off the shelf. She never let's me down. I don't think I have ever prepared anything from any of her books that hasn't been delicious and quite a few of her recipes have become my standards (turkey meatloaf, tequila lime chicken and key lime pie just to name a few). Today I made Italian Wedding soup and it is yummy! I make a pretty good chicken noodle soup, but this may be my new favorite chicken soup. I love the little spicy ground chicken and chicken sausage meatballs and having carrots, onion, celery and spinach in there almost makes it into a "health" food, right?

I also made two more loaves of oatmeal-whole wheat bread from a recipe I got here. I made two loaves last Monday and they tasted great, but looked a little homely. I think I didn't knead the dough long enough. Today's loaves look better, but still seem a little flatter than I would have hoped. Next time I'll try slightly smaller pans. The only bad thing about me baking bread is that I want to actually eat it. I mean all of it!

Not so much knitting to show right now, though I am trying to finish some projects started many months ago and then abandoned when nearly finished. I'm finishing up two of the projects I mentioned in my very first post, many months ago. Now that's embarrassing! Pictures should show up here in the next week or two. (Just saying it here may shame me into following through.)
While working on the details for my Etsy shop, I may have done a little shopping. I bought this cute little SewBendy Henna Garden Knit Ditty. It is the cutest little orange print (had to be orange), lined with a green print and, as Susan has been saying, it is the perfect size to tote around a little project everywhere you go. And then I just happened to check out these from Betz White and had to add them to my collection of oak leaves and acorns. They arrived just a few days ago and are so cute!
I think we are going to Cincinnati tomorrow to visit with my stepson and his girlfriend and make a run on IKEA. I'm hoping to get some shelving solutions for my so-called studio. It needs some real help in the organizing department right now. A little car trip mean some guilt-free knitting time for me. Yay! Hope this weekend gives you knitting time also.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Busy election day

This has been a busy day right from the get-go. I woke up really early for me (five-ish) and kept going over my to-do list in my head until I finally just gave up and got out of bed. I thought I might slip out quietly and go vote at the volunteer fire station just up the road and beat the crowds. Ha! At 6:05 am the parking lot was full and both sides of the road were lined with cars and trucks. And the line was out the door and all the way across the parking lot! Wow! Never, ever have I seen so many people voting. I just turned around and came back home. I went back around 2 pm and only had to wait about 10 minutes, but the place was a constant stream of traffic. I love this---that so many of us are engaged this year and taking part in one of the things that makes America great. We have a choice and today many of us exercised that choice.

The time between my first attempt to vote and actually voting was filled with quite an experience. Around 8 am, I loaded the three alpaca boys into the trailer and drove over to Seldom Scene Farm because Lindy had scheduled the veterinarian to come out to castrate some male alpacas this morning. It seemed like a good opportunity to get my boys done at the same time. Dr. Keith made the procedure look pretty simple and he was great with handling the boys in a non-stressful way. In the picture they are all feeling no pain (the towels over their heads are to prevent them scratching their eyes with straw while under the anesthesia). Stormy (the black one) took the longest to anesthetize. After this picture was taken, he woke up, stood up and then wouldn't go down again until he had been dosed several more times. The boys have been taking it easy this afternoon and don't seem to be feeling any the worse for the experience. I'm really glad to have this little chore out of the way. Prince has been feeling his oats lately and trying to assert his manhood!

And, who is this? Someone else came home with us from Seldom Scene Farm. (Notice Strawberry's ears. She doesn't look very happy, but on further investigation, she changed her mind.) Grato stayed with us for a spell last year and gave us the lovely Pippi. Today he seemed a little spooked by the bells on the sheep in the next pasture, but eventually decided they weren't going to come after him and got busy on the task at hand!

Like father, like daughter! Now you can really see where Miss Priss gets her good looks.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One last time

We took the boat out for one last time yesterday afternoon. The weather was so beautiful, we felt it was just too good to pass up the opportunity. I packed a few snacks, grabbed my knitting and the New York Times and away we went! The river is very quiet this time of year. We only saw two other boats out for an afternoon of fishing. We were just looking to enjoy the sun and being on the water one more time. We cruised a little way up stream and then turned off the motor and let the boat drift along in the sunshine. It was so nice to have a chance to talk quietly, without feeling as though we should be up and working on all the things that need our attention here at the farm. (The boat was a bit of a splurge for us and we didn't buy it until near the end of the summer. Our hope was that it would encourage us to take some time to relax each weekend instead of spending the whole time on various farm projects. Honestly, I'm very surprised my husband has taken to the whole idea so enthusiastically.) We talk a lot about how to simplify our lives and how to achieve a better balance of work and relaxation. Of course, the single thing that would simplify our lives the most would be to not have any farm animals, and that is the one thing neither of us is ready to give up. So, there you go!

And speaking of farm animals, the picture shows that someone around here has been on the job! Those orange patches mean that Whitey has been breeding the ewes and, hopefully, we will have some lambs in late March. He has covered 5 ewes so far and the other 4 ewes that are in with him should be cycling any day. Now it is just a matter of watching to see if any of the ewes get re-marked and keeping my notes on the calendar up to date. One of the professors in the Agriculture department at the University of Kentucky tried to drill into our heads a favorite saying of his --"The faintest record is better than the fondest memory". The older I get, the more true that saying becomes!