Pictures of Grandma

My grandmother is visiting for a few weeks. She is one of the most amazing people I know, and one of the most experienced craftspeople. (Which reminds me to ask her to show me how to crochet.) These days she paints, writes, gardens, reads, and works on her scrapbooks, which she's been keeping since 1935.

Over the years she's worked with dried flowers, ceramics, tole painting, mosaics, needlepoint, quilling, crochet, glass, tile, macrame, candle-making...I know I'm forgetting some, but if you can think of a craft, she's probably tried it at least once.

I love these two photos of her. I'm guessing the first one was taken around 1930 and the one with the car in the late 30s. She always dressed really nicely (great hat, isn't it?) and still won't go out without her hairbrush. It's the little things, you know. Fashion before comfort, I always say!

Now she is 88 and has slowed down only in the last couple years. Until very recenly she could run circles around me--and this after being a working mother, raising four boys, seven grandchildren, and nine great-granchildren. She says she has "lazyitis." When I remind her that she is 88, she doesn't seem to think that's it. "I'm just lazy!" she says.

But I don't think that's it at all. And I still think she has the most beautiful hands.


Blooms and Baubles

May your day be filled with blooms and baubles!


You Know You Live in the Country when...

This June marks the second anniversary of our move from a 600-square foot apartment to a 20-acre farm, and I wrote the following list shortly after our arrival here. My memory was jogged when Jaime mentioned on her blog that "You know you're in the country when five minutes after you get out of the shower, you’re outside chasing down the neighbors chickens...barefooted."

I thought that was really funny (now that I have chickens), so I pulled out the list I wrote and emailed to friends back in the city about two months after our move. (Chris, my spouse, was born and raised in Queens, making him a real bonafide New York City boy.)

Ways you can tell that we live in the country:
1. I had to put those reflectors on plastic sticks in the front yard so I can find our driveway in the dark.
2. Perry has a First St., Second St., and Third St. -- then you're out of town.
3. I drive a 1988 Ford Bronco II and a woman stopped me at the gas station to ask me what year it was because she had the same model. She thought this was very cool.
4. The busiest place in Perry is the King Kone ice cream joint. And yes, it IS shaped like an ice cream cone. [Click and scroll to 2nd row to see Perry's cone--I really don't want you to think I'm making it up.]
5. There are no stoplights in Perry (unless you count the one at the end of town where you hit the highway).
6. We throw dirty kitty litter in the grass at the edge of our yard.
7. We toss anything that will rot (uneaten food, coffee grounds, spoiled meat) on a compost pile.
8. We burn the rest of our garbage in a 50-gallon drum.
9. If a deer gets hit on the road in front of your house, no one comes to pick it up. You have to remove it yourself. I know because we had to do this.
10. It takes about five hours to mow the lawn on the riding mower. And I actually *like* mowing the lawn.
11. Bats come out of the barn at dusk every night.
12. On a clear night you can actually see the Milky Way.
13. Chris and I both have muck shoes--and wear them--in the garden. (Yes, this is the man who practically wore his combat boots to bed.)
14. Cows live next door.
15. You can make an entire salad, or even ratatouille, with vegetables from our garden (my parents' & ours).
16. Chris is learning to can fruits and vegetables.
17. I have been doing crossstitch.
18. We are going to the State Fair this week.
19. My dad is refurbishing the chicken coop so we can get some chickens.
20. I am seriously considering getting a couple of sheep, or maybe alpaca.
21. The hardware store is closer than the grocery store.
22. I know where the Feed'n'Seed is.
23. You hear train whistles instead of sirens.
24. Almost no one is ever seen talking on a cell phone.
25. There are more pick-ups than SUVs.
26. It's 12 miles to the nearest Starbucks.
27. Every room in our house (save the largest bedroom) is panelled.
28. Our mailbox is across the road with one of those little red flags you put up so the mailman knows you have mail to pick up. (This completely baffled Chris, who you may remember is from Queens.)
29. There's no cable TV out here. We had to get a satellite dish for Direct TV.
30. Nor is there any water. Ours comes from a WELL. Weird!

Well, two years later we have two llamas (with two more soon to arrive), a whole mess of chickens in a refurbished hen house (to the left of the barn in the photo above) as well as a separate shed for the chicks. I shop at the Feed'n'Seed, and not only do I cross-stitch, but I've learned to felt, spin, and knit.

We did wind up getting trash pick-up, though. The burning thing in the middle of winter--and the heat of summer--got to be a little much. But plenty still goes to the chickens and the compost pile. This is the view from our back deck (not that there are usually llamas in our backyard; generally they're in their pasture behind the barn). Sometimes I miss the city skyline...but this is a pretty nice view, all in all.

Knitting ADD

Okay, this is bad. Two projects coming off the same skein. Unfinished critter blanket creeping out of one end, a b/w striped mouse begun at the other. Well, the second end of the skein was flapping around there loose like I should do something with it.
To compensate for the inability to complete anything, I made a mouse for my parents' cat, Rambo. He lives with them next door. We needed a barn cat, and my mom picked him out of the "free kitten" box at a yard sale last year. He was then about six months old, and the skinniest, friendliest little guy you could hope to meet. Rambo (thus named by my mother to ensure his deadly mouse-slaughtering skills) commenced to endear himself to my mom and dad--following them from house to barn to shed to barn to house doggedly, purring and weaving around their legs, hopping into any available lap, and generally being as adorable as a kitten could possibly be. (Incidentally, he was also a good mouser.)

Of course, it was only a matter of months until the nights turned chilly and everyone began to feel a bit sorry for the poor little cat out in the cold at night. And then he became an indoor-outdoor fellow. I must say, cats really are master manipulators, because it was not long until Rambo had wrangled himself an invitation to accompany my parents to South Carolina for the winter--where, I might add, he was strictly an indoor guy. So now, back in Michigan, he no longer goes outside at all, and his only kills are mice such as these. What a life. And what suckers we all are for those feline wiles.

Speaking of which, here are the girls being cute. Who can resist?


Aaahhh...much better.

And now for something completely different...

Flowers I picked last evening: wild sweet peas with lavender, poppies, little hollyhocks and coral bells from my mom's garden.
I wish I could dye something this color. Like my hair.


Kittens, Chicks, & Seedlings: A Random Sampler

Dinner at the O.K. Corral. Everyone's favorite time, of course.

The kittens' favorite spot when I'm at the computer.

Emma insists that she is at least as cute as two stupid kittens.

The chicks are eight weeks old now. I think these two will be Silver-Laced Wyandottes, like three of my hens. They're getting very big.

And there are a lot of them.

In case you forgot how little they were two months ago.
They were egg-sized.

Pickling cucumbers planted June 11. Yay for pickles!

Pumpkin seedlings.

I hung the basket my mom and I planted. I'm so excited the clematis is blooming (at left). I love clematis--especially purple ones.

One final and entirely gratuitous kitten picture.


Slipper Gallery

Thanks for the great feedback on my felting! I really enjoy it; needle-felting (the dry kind) was my introduction to fiber. It takes one felting needle (you can get three for $3.50), some fiber (roving or batting), and a piece of foam so you don't stick yourself with the pointy needle. Better still, you don't need a pattern, and you can't really screw up--you can always add more fiber or felt it more to make it smaller.
This was my first pair of slippers, made for my mom from Graty's fleece.
I used a pair of her scuffs for the pattern.


I also made myself a Graty-bag.

Wool slippers, decorated and lined with Llannie fleece.


My first needle-felted basket, using wool roving.
It has tentacles.

I made this basket for my grandmother.
I used wool roving, and braided some purple roving for the edge.

She put African violets in it.

Another basket from mixed wool roving, with Graty fleece for embellishment.

There are easy felting directions (and supplies) here.
Wish I'd seen her cute ladybug before I made mine!
But here's a ladybug and rabbit I made my spouse for Easter.
You can also use a felting needle and a bit of fiber to darn socks (not that I'm this industrious, mind you). Cats like to felt (er, uh, knead), too, but it's not nearly as much of a cat-attractant as knitting seems to be.



Last minute Father's Day gift-making began at 11 pm Saturday night. I had some of Llannie's fleece my mom had spun, but not much of it...and some of the roving (blended with 30% black lambswool). I remembered a woman who made slippers by knitting directly from roving, then felting the finished slippers in the washing machine, and figured I could switch to the roving when I (inevitably) ran out of yarn.

Well, I already made Dad needle-felted Llannie slippers for Christmas, so I decided to try making a glasses case. I will preface by saying that I really enjoy needle-felting, but have never tried wet felting. (Wet hair--ugh.) But throwing something knitted in the washer, although a gamble, is, at least, not as gross as felting loose hairy fibers in a soapy tub.

I didn't have a pattern, but I took a glasses case of my own and used that as a guide. Of course, I had no idea how much it might shrink in the felting process. (Answer: Not as much as I'd hoped.) Knitting with roving worked--in the top photo you can see it on my needle (as well as how much plant life was in the fleece to slow me down). I just drafted it a little as I went along.

To ensure that the knitting wouldn't shrink too much in the wash, I basted the case I used as a model inside of it. That's what this crazy burrito is. I learned two things. (1) Don't try to felt dark-colored things with light-colored towels; use something non-linty (as I read somewhere and ignored) like jeans. (2) Murphy's Oil Soap, which I'm told has the right pH balance for felting, smells really odd in laundry but rinses out fine.

Despite two run-throughs in the washer (whose spin cycle I somehow managed to miss both times, you probably don't want to spin your knitting like I did, either), the crazy burrito barely shrank. And this was hot wash, cold rinse. (Maybe this is because llama fleece isn't very shrinky?) After two dryer cycles, I took out the shape-holding eyeglasses case, and gave it one last dryer cycle.

If you plan on felting any of your knitting, I would recommend getting a felting needle or two. They're really inexpensive, and invaluable for tucking in loose ends, tightening up seams, straightening edges, and generally fine-tuning any other weirdness that happens during shrinkage.

All in all, not bad for a last minute project. I might actually try more knitting from roving, because I really liked the resulting texture (unfortunately you can't really see in the photo where stockinette-with-yarn switches to garter-with-roving, but it happens on the bottom of the case a little below the button). The main problem--as with any wet felting--is shrinkage prediction if you're trying to make something that is size-dependent. (Yet another reason I like needle-felting: wysiwyg.)

Suzanne Pufpaff is the woman I mentioned above who does a lot of knitting from roving, then felts her projects. She has some patterns here. Maybe I'd like them in other colors (you know how I am about the pastels). Although the clogs are pretty cute. You can't go wrong with clogs!

Isis and Morgan (a.k.a. Squirrel and Moose)