Thursday, June 27, 2013


(cloudy and wet this morning)
We are getting lots and lots of rain here in central Kentucky.  We're in a pattern of hot days and late afternoon or nighttime thunderstorms.  It's been really good for my late planted garden (and apparently even better for the weeds that I cannot seem to stay ahead of).  The sheep are not exactly oblivious,  more like resigned.   They pick a shady spot when the sun is out and save their energy for grazing when the clouds show up or the sun goes down.  That makes them smarter than me because I keep finding myself out weeding in the garden during the heat of the day.  My garden is later than usual this year.  May was busy and I was disorganized and blah, blah, blah ..... truth is, I'm always disorganized and nearly always later than everyone else getting my garden out, but whatever ....

Finally the garden is starting to look like a garden.  We've been in a barren spell since the lettuce and asparagus finished producing, but the next crops are coming along.  We would have been enjoying a few other vegetables, but Mr. Dandy "worked" on the garden before he moved to his new home.  :-( I found my first cucumber this morning and it will definitely be part of my lunch today.  I love cucumbers and I have very mixed luck growing them.  The dreaded squash bugs are my mortal enemies!  So far, no sign of them, but I'm sure they're lurking around, waiting for me to feel secure before they show up to humble me once again.  I've been reading that row covers might be a way to prevent the infestation, so that's on my to-do list, if it's not too late.

(Carson - my ever-present gardening companion, inspecting the asparagus forest)   

I'm trying to get motivated to take part in the Tour de Fleece again this year.  I can't decide on a project, probably because I have so many already started that I should work on instead.  I'd love to spin Olive's fleece for a good, everyday sweater.  After seeing this Soulemama post, I'm thinking I'd really like to knit Antler with some Olive yarn.  It's a style I know I'd wear a lot and having it as a reminder of Olive would make it even more special.  So .... what are your plans for the Tour de Fleece?  Are you taking part and do you have something specific in mind for the yarn you spin?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Finished on Friday

I'd love to make it a regular feature on Fridays to show a finished project that I've recently managed to complete, but I'm not quite delusional enough to think I could pull that off very often.  Today I can actually do it.  Though not the best of pictures, I wanted to post a shot of my Squam smock, if nothing else to prove to Cal Patch and my classmates that I actually did finish it!  Cal is such a fun, relaxed and reassuring teacher.  She's got this wonderful slow drawl that would make you swear she's from the south even though she's a New Englander. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong size pattern and my smock is too big, but I'm already working on a smaller size and hope to finish it up in a few days.  I think this one will be okay to wear layered over top a long-sleeve t-shirt and jeans when the weather turns cool again.  This is such a fun pattern to make and the other patterns in Cal's book, "Design-It-Yourself Clothes" look just as do-able.  Cal has made the whole project easy and with just enough detail work to keep it interesting.  With the exception of the sleeves, all the seams are French-seamed, which makes for such a tidy garment on the inside and I love the pockets. (Every top should have pockets, in my opinion.)  I'm way past the age of wearing something this short as a dress, but love the look of wearing it as a tunic with leggings or jeans.

(A not quite 5 year old me - in a mama-made dress that I remember to this day. It was yellow cotton pique with a white pique collar-and I loved it!)
The workshops with Cal and Maya at Squam have awakened my desire to sew again.  My mother sewed a lot from necessity when I was growing up.  She made most of my clothes and a lot of her own.  I loved that she took the time to sew for me and it seemed nearly magic when a finished piece of clothing appeared where there had been a paper pattern and some fabric.  She taught me to sew on her huge metal Kenmore sewing machine that was so heavy,  I couldn't lift it up from the depths of the desk-like cabinet it was contained in.  It had a knee pressure control and to this day,  I prefer that to a foot pedal.  I sewed a lot of my own clothes in high school - mostly simple straight skirts and in the summer, shorts and sleeveless tops.  Later when I had two toddler boys, I made them little John-John Kennedy shortalls (really, really dating myself here - go ahead, google it, if  you don't know what I'm talking about.)  By the time my third son was born, I seemed to run out of time and energy for sewing and except for a brief foray into quilting, I mostly used my machine for hemming skirts and pants and doing mending.  I seldom have opportunities to wear dresses these days, but I think making myself some tops that will go over my "farm uniform" of jeans will be a fun way to get back to making sewing a regular part of my creative life. Taking Squam Sling and Squam Smock got me into the fabric stores and looking at fabric on line, which is at least as dangerous as looking at yarn on line!  There's just so much to choose from these days.  I think I see a fabric stash in my future!

Monday, June 17, 2013

What's making me happy* this Monday?

Some of my friends are going to totally get this and some of you are going to think, "Huh?"  This hunk of machinery is what's making me very happy on this Monday.  Mike and I went shopping together on Saturday morning (and that is more than rare, it practically never, ever happens) and this is what we bought.  I drove the truck and trailer to town this morning, loaded this baby up and now she's all mine!  I told Mike I was pretty sure there weren't too many women who would be so thrilled to be spending money on anything called a Dixie Chopper (unless it was a major kitchen appliance and even that's a little iffy).  She's going to make one of my jobs around here a whole lot easier and faster.  I hope she's the last big mower we ever have to buy.

One more thing that's making me happy today - iced coffee.  I finally weaned myself from Diet Coke a while back (though I'll confess to a few slip-ups while on the road to and from New Hampshire) and find I'm really missing a little caffeine pick-me-up in the late morning or mid-afternoon, especially on these hot, humid Kentucky summer days.  I noticed several people pinning iced coffee recipes on Pinterest lately and decided to try it for myself.  I generally don't drink coffee, especially in the morning.  It somehow feels too acid-y for my stomach.  One of the things people kept mentioning was that cold-brewing makes the resulting coffee much less acidic.  I did a little test run last night by putting a partial bag of Fresh Market Hazelnut Cream coffee in cold water and leaving it on the counter overnight.  This morning I strained it through coffee filters several times and then refrigerated the concentrate.   I just prepared my first glass by adding some sweetened condensed milk to half a glass of coffee concentrate and pouring it over plenty of ice.  Oh, my....I think I'm hooked! (and, am I the only person who's never tasted sweetened condensed milk before?  Seriously, where has this stuff been all my life?  Given that we've cut way, way back on processed foods and sugar, I can see that I will need to be careful with this concoction!)  Anybody else tried this?

(*I've decided to start my Mondays with an emphasis on being happy.  Won't you join me?*)

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Squam Sling and Maya

(view from the workshop window)
 I know there's not much I can say about Maya Donenfeld that hasn't already been said by many others whose lives she's touched in her own special way.  She's one of the most soulful, spirit-filled women I know.  She has a special grace about her that makes you feel better, just by being around her.  I'll confess right now that one reason I hoped to take her Squam Sling class was not because I needed another bag, but because I just love spending time with her.  She and I have shared some similar painful life experience and because of that, I felt a connection, even before I met her last year.  It's been so rewarding for me to watch her adapt and grow strong in her confidence to make a new and better life for herself and her children.  One of Maya's special gifts is how she creates a setting for each class.  There are always flowers and music and special touches to let us know she's been thinking about how to make us feel safe to participate in creating something that will reflect ourselves.

As I said, I had several reason for signing up for the Squam Sling class.  I love Maya's book, Reinvention, and the Squam sling is one of the projects in it.  I also wanted to learn to design and make my own stamps (though the actual design aspect of that almost scared me off!).  Not to worry, Maya gently encouraged me through my dithering and I got the design I wanted.  I didn't finish my bag in class, but have done so since returning home and I really, really like it.  I can't wait to carry it and just hope someone will ask me about it so I can can proudly say, "Why yes, I made it -- and not only that, I made the stamp for the gingko leaf!"

(Maya and Laura-Lynn)
One of the women in the class was Laura-Lynn.  We met last year when we both took part in Thea's Spirit Session photography class.  Laura-Lynn is another one of those who became a friend, through that shared class experience, so it was lovely to reconnect with her and work along together on our bags.  The class was full of talented women, who created amazing designs.  It was so much fun to see everyone come up with such individual and unique ideas.

I finished my Squam sling and finally got the buttons on yesterday.  The natural linen was planned to be the outside (with the gingko leaf stamped design on the pocket) and the lining is the gingko leaf patterned fabric.  The bag is completely reversible.  I love both sides and think I will use it a lot .... and best of all, every time I see it, it will bring back great memories of my time at Squam.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Ahhh, it's trite, but so true.  There's no place quite like home.  Things at the farm were fine, which makes for a very good homecoming.  We got back in time to pick up Ivy and Carson from the kennel before closing and they were happy to be back home too!  I managed to wander through the garden (oh, the weeds!), take a few pictures in the setting sun and look in on all my animals.  They don't seem to have missed me much, except for maybe Ivy and Carson.  Ivy has stuck pretty close to my side and Carson has constantly been around my ankles and very "talkative".

(part of the welcome home committee)
We drove home from New Hampshire in a happy and reflective mood.  Every time we go away for this sort of adventure, we dream and conspire all the way home about ways to allow ourselves the pleasure of doing it more often.  It's so difficult to get away, but nearly always, once we do, we are able to relax and enjoy ourselves.  It's so easy to talk about simplifying , but much harder to actually implement.  I know that the time is coming when I need to cut back on the number of animals I care for each day.  The physical problems with my shoulder this past winter and spring have made me face that reality.   So, maybe it's time to start making some small start on a long-range plan.  We'll see.

Squam was wonderful .... again.  My only worry this year was that it might not live up to last year's experience.  I needn't have worried.  Though it was a different experience, it was just as wonderful and just what I needed.  I feel inspired and excited about doing some of the new things I learned.  I loved seeing the friends I made last year and feeling that connection to them again.  I made new friends that I will want to see next year (oh yes, it was good enough for me to hope to go again next year).

This was waiting for me on the cabin wall when I walked in.  I was the first to arrive and feeling my usual trepidation when placed in a situation where I am unsure who I'm going to be with and what will be expected of me.  My cabin-mates were six young women (all young enough to be my daughters) who were all close friends with each other.  Oh my!  My first thought was that I hoped they wouldn't feel as though I was going to be the wet blanket or their chaperone.  They were lovely, spirited women who welcomed me into their nightly fireside knitting sessions and made it all just fine.  They were all generous and giving, even to the point of including me in their Squam gift giving.  I now have my own special wine glass with a ball of yarn etched on it and a new knitting bag with stitch markers and stitch retriever attached to help me remember them all.  (And, quite possibly, Megan has inspired me to try paddle-boarding - no joke!)

I have more to say about my classes at Squam and the things Mike and I saw before Squam.  Once again, I've fallen in love with New England and can't wait for the next opportunity to return.

(So ...... where have you been?)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

First day

(This was the view out my classroom window today)
I arrived at Squam Art Workshops in New Hampshire yesterday afternoon and immediately sunk into a state of relaxation bordering on being comatose.  I'm sharing a cabin with a wonderful, welcoming group of young women and they have not once made me feel like I was their mother (which I am definitely old enough to be).  That's just one of the great things about this place.  We're all equal here, no matter our age, where we've come from or what we do.

Today was my class with Maya Donenfeld and it was just as I knew it would be - wonderful.  She's such an encouraging teacher and she makes it impossible for you to not leave class thrilled with what you've done.  She taught us how to come up with our own design, cut that design into a stamp and apply it onto fabric.  Then we incorporated that into our sling bags.  Each and every person ended up with a very different bag but all were equally unique and beautiful.  I didn't get my bag totally finished because I agonized so long over the design for my rubber stamp.  I cannot draw and that part always takes me a while to conquer.  I still have a little sewing to do, but I'm very pleased with it. 

Tomorrow, it's the Squam smock class and more sewing.  I'm loving stitching again and being encouraged to get past some of my creative insecurities.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bound for Squam

(every trip on our farm road involves crossing the creek)
We're on the road to New Hampshire and, oh my, it is difficult to plan on being gone from the farm at this time of year.  The mowing, the garden, the animals, the trying to think of all the possible things that could happen while we're away.  Just before leaving, I was in that stage where I was thinking it's just too much trouble and wondering whatever was I thinking when I planned this trip?  I get that way every time I leave, so you'd think I'd just give up and stay home, but I'm usually fine once we get on the road.  I will say, it makes things a little easier to be able to communicate so easily with the farm sitter.  Being able to text or call anytime helps my peace of mind a lot.

I'm so happy to be returning to Squam Art Workshops for my second session.  This year I'm taking another class from Maya Donenfeld and I'm excited to be spending time with her again.  She's one of the most soulful and inspiring people I've ever met.  I'll be sewing the Squam sling, which is a great multipurpose bag from her book, Reinvention.  I've already cut out my bag and am ready for Maya to show me how to make a fabric stamp to add embellishment to the outside of it.  Pictures to follow for sure!

The other class I'm taking is with Cal Patch.  More sewing for me, which I love because I've been wanting to get back to sewing for so long.  I think I'll be getting much needed inspiration and maybe (hopefully?) a dose of confidence in my own ability to make something that actually fits me.  I'll be making her Squam smock (she also has a book, Design It Yourself Clothes), though I haven't yet decided which length to make.  There may or may not be pictures to follow of me in my smock - we''ll have to see how it actually looks on me!

(9/11 Memorial - it's awe inspiring)
Yesterday we spent the day in New York City.  Talk about contrast between how we live and how others live!  It was hot (92 degrees!) and crowded and exciting, though Mike and I both were happy to head north toward New England at the end of the day.  I got to visit a special yarn store (more about that later) and then we walked miles to see the World Trade Center Memorial.  It's an awe-inspiring place, beautiful and somewhat overwhelming.  I couldn't help but think about all the souls that perished on that site.  I had hoped to visit the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, but though we circled the park for quite a while, there were no parking places to be found.  After walking approximately 3 miles to get to the 9/11 memorial, we decided to drive around and through the park and try to plan better on our next attempt.  We spent Sunday night in Amherst, Massachusetts and most of today in that area. We spent the better part of the afternoon at Emily Dickinson's home, which was a fascinating history lesson.

There's much more to write about, but it's so late now, I need to go to sleep.  I'll continue the "more than you ever wanted to know about road trips in New England" report in the next few days. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On bee-ing happy

(nuc box on the left - getting ready to settle bees into hive box)
Sorry.  I know that's a lame title, but it's all about the bees this time of year.

I'm beginning again and this time I've started out with a back-up ..... a back-up hive, that it.  Since starting beekeeping several years ago, I've had very mixed results at it.  The first year was fabulous, the second year not quite so fabulous and last year was a complete failure.  I'm not easily discouraged though and have decided to make another go at it.  My friend, Mary's husband, Tommy, is a beekeeper extraordinaire.  He's the go-to man to call whenever anyone in the area sees a swarm or has bees in their house siding.  He captures these swarms, settles them into a hive and then they make their way to folks like me.  Last week he brought me two nucs (nucleus colonies) and we put the frames into the hive bodies I had prepared for them.  I've been watching them all week and they seem to be doing great.  They've been busy as, well, bees.  We have lots of flowers and trees blooming at this time, so they have plenty of sources for gathering pollen.  Right now they are raising brood and when the hive is full of workers, things really get going.  I've added the second hive bodies on and when they have filled those with honey for themselves, I can then add on the honey supers and hope they will start filling those for me.  One thing we did differently this time was place the hives where I can see them easily from the studio window.  Before, the hive was under some trees and just out of sight from the house and studio.  Every year I would have one or more swarms from that hive and I never once saw it happen.  If it's going to happen this year, I will surely see it.  Surely, Shirley! (know where that comes from?)

(added second hive bodies on around midnight - won't be doing that again - don't ask!)