Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Jam Time...

No, not "crunch time," but "jam time."

Hubby bought a BUNCH of strawberries. I mean, like 10 quarts of strawberries. We froze them with the intention of "sometime" making jam or using them over ice cream. Today, a beautiful day with a good breeze, we jammed...

He brought out the jars, the lids, the berries. And I dug up my Canning Bible - also known as the "Ball Blue Book of Canning" - and looked for my favorite recipe. Don't you love the "I eat local" apron? I needed it! 

The dogs got sequestered, the pots got filled and we got to work, at about 9-ish this morning. We finished about 3 p.m. We have 40 half-pints of strawberry jam and about 20 half-pints of a "berry blend." Because we had a little batch of the frozen strawberries left, I grabbed a bag of frozen "berry blend" that I had stashed for my smoothies. 

Wowza. Was that ever (in my humble opinion) a brainstorm! As you can see, the strawberries were pretty big. We couldn't really get them to mash down properly. But I don't care. 

I had a chance to try some Young Living Essential Oils - their "Vitality" line - and put a drop of Ginger Vitality in the strawberry jam. I usually put ginger in my strawberry jam, because I like that tiny kick - it cuts the sweetness. Young Living Essential Oils is the only company that differentiates, having its oils FDA-compliant for ingestion as well as topical use and diffusing. 

As you can see, I don't skim. Hubby and I talked about it, and every time I have skimmed my preserves, I've lost a lot of the good stuff. So we just call that top layer a "mousse" and live with it. It tastes fine. Put it on your muffin and go for it. 

What we did find was that with the "berry blend" it actually "moussed" less. 

For the berry-blend batch, I switched up the oils, again using the Vitality line, but in Orange this time. It brightened up the flavor. 

Oh, and new tip!!! I ran out of lemon juice. Thanks to The Google, I found that yes, indeed - you can use LIME juice. Which I had. It's a little more acidic, so it helps the pectin along, and it's a little milder in flavor, so you don't necessarily get that sense of "lemon" in the jam or preserves. And I like lime better anyway. 

Again - half-pint jars to the ready; I like the quilted ones. Not for any other reason except that they're pretty. They're all cooling now and we'll put labels on when they're finished - probably tomorrow night after work. 

So in the pic where Hubby's scraping out the pan, you'll be happy to know that I also tossed in the recycle bin a BUNCH of phone books. Remember those? Well, for some reason, we had a bunch that we hadn't yet tossed. Out they go. I'm reclaiming the "crap-catcher" desk area too. 

I was really happy to have the 5 day (Squeeeeeeeeeeee!) Memorial Day weekend off. We got a lot done, and it was nice to get organized, feel accomplished and spend some time not having to be anywhere for once. 

I taught, of course, and we all had a blast, but overall, it was nice to have a break from the day-to-day routine. 

Hubby and I are going to take an inventory of what we have in the basement in regard to what we've canned over the past few years. Stuff in "the pit of despair" migrated a bit and we have to put it all on one shelving unit. If we have to toss stuff, we will - I did have an incident with some apple butter where the seal failed... It happens. I can salvage the jars and rings. The lids get pitched. 

As long as the seals are good, we can keep the stuff and eat it. It's stored in a cool, dark place, so it's still good to consume. 


I've been catching up on my blog-reading. I also pulled out a WIP since my office is about 80% organized. Or at least I have the piles under control. I still have a lot of work to do, but it's getting there. 

So the WIP I pulled was the February Lady Sweater - from 2013. Go ahead, smile. But anyway, it's on my list of things I want to wear sometime soon. 

This is a beautiful yarn: Classic Yarns Silk Wool DK in "Geranium" - which is actually a lovely lilac color. It actually looks brighter in the picture; it's a "dusty" lilac in person. It's a 50% silk / 50% wool blend, which has great stitch definition and a soft, soft hand to it. It is, to my dismay, a tad slippery. I'd prefer bamboo needles, but the Addis were the only ones where I could hook an extra cable length to them. 

Here's the issue...well, here are the issues... I've been knitting baby stuff and socks for a long, long time. Those are small things. 

I picked up this WIP because my left thumb wasn't happy with the sock, and yes, I know - Second Sock Syndrome. I figure I can knit on the sock at work, because it's small and easy to memorize in terms of the simple pattern. 

This is Gull Lace once the yoke is done. And I'm not "winging" that one! And the issue is that at this point in the yoke, there are 296 stitches. 

Two Hundred Ninety Six. In DK weight. This ain't no sock, folks! That's a lot of stitches. I'm at the point where I think I can start the lace pattern, but I have to have Hubby help me "size" it. You have to drape the yoke on yourself and see if the underarm area "almost" meets under the arms. Even though I've got a very long cable on this, I still have to hold onto the one part, because of the slippery nature of the yarn, so that the stitches don't fall off one end. So I'm "winging" this enough to say "If one side is 'almost' there, then the other should be fine." I have to have him help me hold it and measure it. 

The one thing I don't like is there's no schematic. I would love that. But I can deal with it, I guess. I have no choice. I'll have to show you the buttons later; they're vintage that I got as a gift. 


I have a sore rear end. We did another section of the Isle a la Cache trail - it actually goes from Romeoville up past Rt. 83. We got to Rt. 83 and I'd had it. Hey, only the second ride of the season and we did more than 16 miles. Not too bad. I did take some pics, and I have to go through them. Here's one that Hubby took of me. I have to find its corollary - I have a picture of me in basically this same outfit, 30 pounds ago. 

We figure we can work on this trail for a while. It's also part of the Centennial Trail and then hooks into the CalSag Trail. My aim is to get back to our longer rides. I find that the combo of riding and yoga are ideal for me. I find the riding meditative too. 

Not only the cadence thing (I'm getting the hang of it) - which means the pace at which your legs move while pedaling, but the trail itself. I used to try to keep up with Hubby - which is insane. He's more fit than I am and frankly,  he likes fast rides. I want to look around. 

I used to get mad. Really, I'd get peeved because I thought that maybe it's a nice thing to just talk while riding and spend time together. But we have different ideas of what a ride is supposed to be - and that's not a bad thing. It's perspective. 

Mine is this: My ride is my ride. His ride is his ride. At first, he wanted me to keep up with him, but physically - before the heart procedure especially - I couldn't do it. I just didn't have the hang of the gears (I have a 21-speed older Trek bike) and the cadence? Wasn't happening. My heart wasn't in the right shape, even though I was on medication. 

After the procedure, I was ok, but I still don't like whizzing by stuff. One thing our county and our state have done right: we have some remarkable bike trails. They're paved; they're mixed-use; they're well-maintained. Some are by the canals and some are by the rivers. 

This particular trail is between the canal and the river. We pass a shipyard, we pass through some areas of denser forest preserve, and we pass through some areas that are more open. This trail also utilizes some of the old bridges, and we see everything - deer, chipmunks, squirrels, and all kinds of birds, both flying and waterfowl, and of course reptiles and amphibians, including turtles sunning on the partially submerged logs and the odd snake in the middle of the path. The vegetation ranges from ash trees, oaks, vines, honeysuckle and those blasted cottonwoods. Seriously, whoever introduced the cottonwood to this country? Shoot 'em. We were chewing cottonwood fluff, when we weren't breathing it or having the fluffies poke us in the eyeballs. With glasses. Both of us were noticing our allergies kicking into high gear. 

As a matter of fact, on this 16.9 mile ride, we saw two - TWO - indigo buntings! We routinely see Great Blue Herons, and this time, we also saw a couple of Black Cormorants land in the river to feed. 

The trail is part sun and part shade, so it's always changing and always fun to ride. And - very few challenging hills! At least for now, that's what I want! I can wait to build strength a bit and then we can tackle the more strenuous trails. 

So you're likely to see more pictures, as I can snap them. I suppose one day I'll bring the "real" camera. I like my phone camera, but this trail is quite diverse, and there are some places where the phone camera just can't get to. For example, there are some gorgeous lilies in the swampy areas, but I can't get the zoom in close enough without it pixelating. 

Random Picture...

So Hubby got me a beautiful pendant for Mother's Day & our anniversary: a London Blue Topaz in a striking teal color. Today, while waiting for the jam to cool down, this pulled up next door... 

I'd wear this car! It's not the original color, but the restoration was amazing. It's a 1957, I think, but I didn't go out. My neighbor seemed to be in deep discussion, so I didn't want to bother him. 

They're getting the house ready to sell, and my mother has expressed interest in it. Not sure I want my mom next door, but I did tell her that I'd rather have her there than in my house. 

It's nothing personal...she feels the same way. But next door would help her. Might drive me nuts, and definitely would increase Hubby's workload... This will require further discussion and rules. And boundaries. Lots of boundaries. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Spring Cleaning...

Well, I didn't mean for it to be this long, but adjusting to the new job has been interesting. 

In a good way! 

I'm still in "learning mode" and even so, I've been able to contribute and make some positive steps toward a more cohesive organization, which is what Doc Boss wants. 

The New Job... My "office" is behind this sign.
The negative is that I've had a bit of a challenge getting onto some of the systems, and the computer is a bit different from what I'm used to. But that's ok. I'll adapt. 

So we'll see. We're on a long (like 5 days!! Squeeeeeeeeee!) break for Memorial Day, so hopefully, I'll be up and running by next Wednesday. 

My little closet is shaping up nicely. No, seriously - I'm in a closet space, but it's relatively spacious and I can work in there. I'm not in there all day, so it's not too claustrophobic, and that's a huge help. 

The work is fast-paced, but not as tense as you'd imagine. And apparently, the girls at the front desk (no, not sexist - I'm old enough to be their mother) are happy that I'm the calm type... 

I'll be calmer when I have full computer capability. 

Go Cubs, Go!...

So yes, there's this. I saw these when I went bra shopping. Bra shopping, for me, is the equivalent of swimsuit shopping for other women. I hate it. Hate it. Hate. It. 

All the cute bras are in sized I haven't seen since I was about age 11. Industrial-strength bras are usually not pretty. And they're expensive, too. 

I saw these, and had happened to hit on a "spring sale." Unfortunately - or fortunately, as the case may be - the clerk used those nifty "instant coupons" on the bras I bought, which pleased Hubby. I saved a lot of money. 

But had she let me use them on these?? That bag in the upper left would've been MINE! I don't buy "bags" the way a lot of women do, but I'd have purchased this one... Dooney & Burke. It would've been $90 with all the coupons. Still - glad I restrained myself. And so is Hubby!

Ah well -- perhaps there'll be another sale at the end of baseball season and I can take advantage of that. If the Cubs keep on the way they're going, we may not make it to the Series again (statistically, rather a rarity), but we'll be in the playoffs, which is great news for those of us still living off last year's Series win. 

Mother Nature...

Mother Nature hasn't been kind. I have yet to have my "garden yoga" class actually outside in the garden. As it is, today, we have the threat of a tornado watch, and if that does happen, I'm going to cancel the pop-up class because I doubt people will show up if the sky turns nasty. We're a storefront studio - it's not the safest place to be. Hubby says that by the time I hold the class, the "weather" (whatever that may be - we never know) may well be past us. We shall see. 
The Fields, Crest Hill, IL

This is the shot of where we practice outside. I had a hawk (red tail) join me that morning, but since it was the first nice Saturday in about 6 weeks, everyone was probably mowing lawns and getting stuff done. So nobody showed up. I bought plants, so it wasn't a total loss. But I do wish we'd have had the class outside. 

Memorial Day weekend is forecast to be half-and-half - and only Mother Nature knows which half we'll end up with. The farmers are kind of fit to be tied - the ones who've planted are either waiting for the mini-lakes in their fields to dry so they can RE-plant, or they're in the other camp: Haven't planted, and it's too wet to try yet. 

Prices at the Farmer's Markets are going to be rough... 

But - we did manage a bike ride last weekend. We did about 12 miles in the Isle a la Cache trail. This is a shot after the ride, of the old swing bridge. The trail is a nice one and of course, headwinds were both ways (thanks, Mother Nature - we love you!). But it was a pleasant day. 

I'm hoping for the chance, with that 5-day (Squeeeeeeeeeee!) break, to get in another ride. Maybe two, if we get the "good" half of the weather forecast. 

Knitting News...

Well. Lots to share. The layette went over well. The kids loved it, and there was a "reveal" of Baby's purported gender - but we quickly dashed anyone's hopes. 

My sister and I both had the "Oh, it's a girl" conversation with our ultrasounds, and granted - they were practically engraved on a rock with a chisel, since we're both old - but still. They were wrong. We both had boys. Twice. 

And we reminded the happy couple that even now, in 2017, if Baby decides to be backward or if there's the faintest shadow? "Suzie" could be "Stanley." Just sayin'... 

I did end up with extra booties - they worked out nicely, using the remaining yarn from a couple of other projects. The hat and sweater were ooooh'd and ahhhhhhh'd over and the afghan was much appreciated. They even saw that the little (a/k/a "failed") bootie would be good on a Christmas tree, so they get extra points for that. 

Mom-to-Be asked if there were care instructions. I laughed and said, "This isn't my first rodeo - check the card!" I always, ALWAYS put care instructions with my projects. Even though I use superwash wool for the garments and an acrylic/wool blend for the afghans, I still never assume. 

My only frustration is that I wish I could've gotten the greens to match. Had I thought about the afghan earlier, I could've ordered the proper yarn. But then again, this is still ok, and Encore is a hard-wearing yarn. It'll be fine. 

So I did finish a sock. Yes, I've already started the mate. And I'm relatively pleased with this. I say "relatively" because I did make this one at 64 stitches where I usually make them at 72. And I probably could've gone to 72 - the ribbing pulls in a lot when it's not on a blocker. It's a little snug (at least the first try-on was), but at least I know it's going to stay up! 

This is one of a zillion versions of a "Vanilla" pattern by My Knitted Heart - on Ravelry, and elsewhere, I think. Free. The yarn is Sirdar's Sole-to-Sole. I'm not sure of how it'll wear because I've never used it before. I can tell you that it's a bit odd on the thickness. Some of the bits are a tad thinner than others, but overall, the stitch definition is nice and it seems comfy enough. 

And I know I'm tempting the Knitting Goddesses for the second sock, but really... what's the "big deal" about Kitchener Stitch? This time, it came together like a dream, as you can see here...and this was a late-night bind-off because I was determined (at the cost of a VERY sore left hand the next day) to get the sock done. Lookee - no "ears" at the ends!

I did have some random decreases I had to put in the bottom of the heel at the gusset closing, because I'd picked up a few more stitches on one side, but all in all, the sock finished nicely and I think that even though it won't be an exact twin, it'll be a fraternal, and I like the size of the stripes here. 

And, in what may cause some folks to have a minor heart attack, I've come to a decision. 

Every knitter I know has a "criteria." We will only buy a book if we have a minimum of THREE patterns. We only by certain needles. We prefer certain brands of yarn. 

Well, my office is now known as "The Place We Put Our Crap," and since I have time, and I need to devote a dedicated space to business-building, I have to clean it out. 

And so I'm tossing knitting magazines. Don't faint. There are no places to donate - I've asked. No charity shops want them. And I've tabbed patterns I wanted to keep, and have torn them out of the mags. 

While doing that, I'm being brutally honest. "Yes, I love that sweater. Realistically? Will I knit it?" If the answer is "Yes" then it gets torn out of the magazine. If the answer is "Ummmmmmmmm" or any variant of same, then, no, I don't keep it. I just can't. 

My house is small. My kids will hold a humongous garage sale - or sell the entire house (sans valuables) "as is" because they won't want to deal with it. And I can't blame them. So over the course of the next few weeks, my objective is to clear out the space, figure out what to do with the knitting stuff, perhaps even tackle the closet to gain more room, and get some order in that room. 

And hopefully, KEEP the room orderly. I'll still use the studio for private yoga sessions - I don't want people in my house. Not that I'm ashamed or anything, but honestly, with 3 large dogs? People aren't eager to visit. And remember, Hubby works from home, so I don't need the hassle of interrupting him and having people traipse to the back of the house (where the office is). 

Here's a partial stack that's headed for the recycle bin. I will confess - I'm keeping all the PieceWorks magazines. I love fabric history and that magazine is the gold standard, as far as I'm concerned. 

Oh, and there's more. Never fear. I have 3 boxes in the "Crap" room, and I'm filling them up with stuff that I've shuffled from pillar to post for years. We're not technically downsizing, but I'm kind of in a frame of mind that feels like I can't be calm and focused when I'm surrounded by "stuff" anymore. I even (gasp!) tossed two needlework projects that a student of mine gave me. She'd inherited them from an aunt. "Realistically - will I ever complete them?" Um, no. Yes, I know how to do needlework, but I've got enough projects to last me till I'm 500 years old. I'd have to be madly in love with it to have kept it, and I wasn't. So I didn't. 

Crikey (though I'd never admit this to Hubby) -- I've got a veritable shop's worth of knitting bags/grocery bags. It's insane. And I think (whispering) that I may have enough sock yarn to keep me occupied. The only yarn I would realistically have to buy is "baby stuff" yarn, if anyone else turns up pregnant. 

Which, frankly, I hope won't be for a while, because I want to knit a few of those sweaters I pulled out of the magazines. 

Not to worry - next on the list will be the yoga articles and sequences. 

Then the music piles... Something's gotta give, folks, and I think that's me. 

Crimes Against Lasagne...

Hubby and I recently celebrated our 24th anniversary. Low-key as usual. For Mother's Day/Anniversary, he gave me a beautiful London Blue Topaz pendant set in rose gold. 

We decided to go to dinner. Now remember, I've still got the braces on, and actually had the next set of wires put on a day or two before the anniversary. So my mouth was sore, and I'm still not really chewing much of anything. 

So we ended up at what was supposed to be the 'best' Italian place in town. I can gum pasta! The specials included lasagne, and I thought that would be good. 

Ummmmmmmm. It wasn't. It was, quite frankly, horribly disappointing. Not even tasty. And cheese? 

In my lasagne, you put cheese on alternate layers with the meat. This had a whopping THREE pieces of mozzarella on top. That was it. And there was no sausage. It was straight up hamburger. It was swimming in a watery tomato sauce. 

Nasty stuff. I'm surprised because it's usually a very reliable place to eat. But not this time. 

Random Pictures...

This time, it's a two-fer. Everyone was settling in for their morning naps, and I was able to capture them all. Tippi (right) tucked herself down, and Quinn (left) is there, too - still growing in her patches from her recent surgery for the sebaceous cysts. 

I'm trying some Young Living Essential Oils on her cysts to see if they'll help heal her up. The Essential Oils for Animals workshop I went to was done by a vet and we had a short chat about basic oil use on dogs, so I'm comfortable doing this. I already use them for anxiety (which we're manifesting now, since the t-storms have started - we'll see how long they go on). 

It's interesting being at home. Tippi's been glued to me all day (t-storms notwithstanding) and Quinn's kind of like, "Hey, I'm loving this, but what're you doing here??" 

And then there's the Red Menace, Raisa. She had this whole process on her corner of the couch. Get up, circle around, sit, stand, circle, curl up, place the feet "just so" and then the tail, and then scratch, then re-set the feet, yawn, flick the ears as I focused the camera, and finally --- finally... shut her eyes. 

It's tough work being a dog in our house!