Battle of the Bulge

The never ending battle — fat fighting. If you don’t think that dieting/losing weight is a battle fought mostly in the trenches, you better think again.  Just when you feel you’re making progress, some holiday comes along and sets you back, kicks you down, lands you on your all too ample butt, and gives you grave doubts as to your overall ability to conquer your enemy!

I still can’t figure out how in the world I gained weight over Christmas — Wanna hear my battle strategy???  Up at the CRACK of dawn, get dressed and walk the dogs (Tammy & Molly) regardless of outdoor conditions — rain, snow, ice, you name it, we walk in it.  The morning walk takes 25-35 minutes and is BRISK (some days faster than others!).  Then home for a cup of black coffee, and a glass of low carb soy milk (1 carb).  Off to work and a lunch mid day consisting of a salad, hard boiled egg, 2 rye crackers and a couple slices of low carb cheese.   Then a 20 minute session of T’ai Chi.  Home from work around 3:30 and then a 30-40 minute walk with the dogs again!.  Dinner is usually a low carb meatless meal, or meat/veggie/salad.  Later in the evening a snort of Brandy and a low carb dessert (usually around 10 grams) — that should do the trick — right???  The only difference is that over Christmas, I might have breakfast and a cookie here, a piece of pie there, a few mashed potatoes with dinner, some cranberry sauce.

— Christmas break ends and I can’t button up my jeans — in fact I almost put my back out trying to!  YIKES

So now what?? Same schedule, but

  • No pre dinner snack of a 1/2 glass of wine and some spanish peanuts
  • ONLY 1 small glass of wine with dinner
  • NO extra carbs at all (forget the beans in the chili, the crackers at lunch, the spoonful of peanut butter)
  • NO dessert ( very sad)
  • Add a 15-20 minute session on the Nordic Track
  • No snacks, no tastes of …, no sampling of … , no sips of …  no nothing!

As a wise man once said “Never GIVE up — Never Surrender!”

Spinning wheel — gotta go round

Let the spinning wheel turn!

Hmmm, I started spinning years (well a few decades to be precise) ago, and there weren’t many choices out there for wheels, at least ones that I could afford. I really started spinning because I was too cheap to buy wool yarn, and couldn’t stand knitting with anything else. I am a yarn snob, after all.

So for a long time all I had was a workhorse of an Ashford traditional wheel. Stained it walnut and spun on it until the wheel warped. And then the flood gates opened. New wheel, what’ll I get???? Suddenly there were more options! So I bought a Louet S-15 (the kit wheel version of the S-10) and spun on that for a while. thoughts??? Irish tension is weird and aptly named, you almost have to be high on poteen to get the tension just right. Well that wheel managed to stick around for a few years before I discovered that you couldn’t spin thin on it. Once you’ve been spinning for a while the question arises “How thin can I spin?” and the ole S-15 wasn’t helping me reach my maximum potential. So …. what next?

On a trip to Duluth to visit my son I stopped at a nice little shop near Detroit, and experienced the “Cadillac of wheels” a Schacht double treadle Matchless — to the tune of around $800 (at the time). That’s a lot of money! So, naturally, I ordered one, and sold yet another wheel on Ebay (thank God for ebay)

I can tell you, you can spin THIN on a Matchless. But, alas, it was the noisiest wheel I had ever spun on! Clack, clack, clack-clackity-clack! I had to turn the T.V. up so loud that my husband was beginning to think I had a hearing problem. It had a 3 year warranty, and I put up with the noise for about 2, and then sent the entire flyer assembly back to the manufacturer for a good ole “look see”. They did not find anything wrong — oh well, EBAY — here we come. Sold yet another wheel.

spinningstationWhat next??? — a good friend and spinner suggested that I might like the Majacraft Rose — it even was less expensive than my noisy Cadillac — so sign unseen, and with out a test drive, I sent for the Rose. No finishing to do, just put it together, give it just a spot of oil, and oh baby — oh baby, we’re talking smooth, quiet, EASY to treadle (even with those really high ratios). Heaven, heaven, heaven, heaven…..I went absolutely BANANAS — started visiting spinning/fiber shops, collecting roving from Wisconson, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon — started visiting fiber festivals, alpaca, angora … the small fiber room grew to an entire 3rd floor of the house.

And, Of COURSE — I wanted to share my joy.  Embarking on a part time career of spinning teacher at a local yarn store, I soon managed to corrupt quitgettingbuilt2e a few fiber fanatics and turn them into SPINNERS!!  Earning more income,  I realized that I should have a few rental wheels — using my trusty Internet connection I sent for an Ashford Traditional kit, finished it, and sent for an Asford Traveller kit — finished that too.  I did rent them out for a few months and then sold them to students.  THEN I began to think “wouldn’t it be nice to have another wheel? ”  since I had so much fiber, I could have several projects going at once, Ohhh and yes — I should have a few drop spindles too, just in case someone wanted to learn spinning with a drop spindle.  Do you SEE where this is going????  Soon I had 4 drop spindles,  was drop spindling to my hearts content, even managing to teach a few would be drop spindlers.  …..  Then I decided — “Electronic Spinner” — that would be good for really large projects, right — yes right.  voila — new spinning device in the house.

But I’m not quite finished, I was teaching more, earning more, and realized that I needed a lightweight, very portable spinning wheel — Yep — I got a Louet Victofarmhitchria (we call her “vicky”) — all thanks to my students taking lessons and buying roving that I hand painted.   Sadly, though, I would lose out on new students because I no longer had rental wheels.  ACCIDENTALLY — I noticed someone selling a finished Asford Traditional for the bargain basement price of $225 — snapped that up, and someone else was selling a Louet S-10 for $280 — snagged that too.  I’m done, right???

Nope — just happened to see a hitchhiker  wheel all dooded up with a farm scene — what a cool little wheel!!! Bet I could spin in the car while Lou is driving (we have an Element)  — guess what I’m getting for Christmas????

What goes up must come down
spinning wheel got to go round
Talking about your troubles it’s a crying sin
Ride a painted pony
Let the spinning wheel spin

You got no money, and you, you got no home
Spinning wheel all alonethe_merlin_tree043
Talking about your troubles and you, you never learn
Ride a painted pony
let the spinning wheel turn

Did you find a directing sign
on the straight and narrow highway?
Would you mind a reflecting sign
Just let it shine within your mind
And show you the colours that are real

Someone is waiting just for you
spinning wheel is spinning true
Drop all your troubles, by the river side
Catch a painted pony
On the spinning wheel ride

Dog and Puppy Tails

Just a word of advice for carbohydrate addicts like me, when you are on a low carb lifestyle and you suddenly get a huge infusion of them, you might just behave slightly out of character, AND you may, just possibly, be vulnerable to suggestion.  Just a thought to keep in mind

Why this admonition??  Yes — there’s a story here, and I hope that you enjoy it.

The Setup

Cute dog -- How much?

Not too long ago, just a few days before Memorial Day, I dragged my butt tome from work.  It was a Monday.  Monday’s are tough.  It doesn’t matter if it was an easy day or a hard day, Monday’s WIPE me OUT, and I come home just ravenous, asking/pleading/begging “What’s for dinner???? are we eating soon????  Sweet hubby didn’t have a suggestion for dinner that met the Monday requirements, so he suggested we go to Brennans and I could have “mashies”.  Brennans usually has a grilled steak/chops served over their version of mashed potatoes, called “Mashies” .  Well folks it didn’t take even 1/2 a heart beat for me to say YES SIR, and LET’S GO!

Oh Yeah, off we go, get to the restaurant, settle into their newly made back yard, out door dinning area, order FOOD, get a bottle of WINE.  Sierra is hap-hap-happy.  Dinner was great, the wine was great and I was feeling pretty GREAT.  Definitely a cure for the “Monday’s”.  We peeked at Brennan’s dessert menu — disappointing.  I was on a carbohydrate roll now boys, so we made a side stop to Stone Oven, and I picked out a Chinese Almond cookie with this gigantic dollop of Chocolate frosting in the center (are you getting that I don’t get out much???).  Desserts in hand we zoomed home, cracked open the Brandy and OH YES — heaven.  Monday looks ok now.

By the time I ws done with this gastronomic adventure I felt pretty good, like a Goddess, oh-ho-ho ho-ho-ho.  Feelin a litte sleepy — get ready to turn in with a good book, and Hubby shows me a picture of these CUTE german shepherd puppies.  Remember, my friends, I am feeling pretty sure of myself — “OH how CUTE, how much???” Lou emails Muddy Creek Sam (a cowboy action shooting friend — can you tell by the name??) gets an instantaneous reply.  I say “good deal”, the phone rings, its Muddy Creek Sam, giving Lou an even better deal; you have to know my husband — he NEVER passes up a good deal! Sam says “when ya commin to get her?”  Lou says — “next weekend”

No problem, we’re still in school, we’ll just drive from Cleveland to Cottageville South Carolina (just north of Charlestown) on Saturday, and come back on Sunday.  I must have been in some kinda fuge state, I just smiled and happily trotted off to bed.

The Next Morning

I have to confess to you, dear reader, that if I have the equivalent of a SNOOTFULL (or 2 or 3) and am in that “I feel just fine” state I don’t always remember salient details the next day.  After walking Molly I crawled into bed with Lou and said “Honey?? Was I high on carbohydrates last night, or did I agree to get a new dog????”  He gives me this sheepish grin and says “don’t you WANT her?”  The kicker is that the pups were born on his birthday — Fate, once more has made its presence known.

The Adventure

Hey — Let’s take Molly.  OK — you sure about that.  Oh yeah, she’ll be fine. Well, Molly does need to start taking longer trips with us, and I need to get out more, travel to exotic places, and have more experiences.  Good Idea, it’ll be fun.  Actually, it was pretty fun, tiring but nice.  Molly, as it turns out, is quite a trooper, and a good traveling companion.

Tammy's all wet -- got loose and played in the tall grass!

Get up at 5:00, walk Molly, pack the car with a crate, Molly’s bed, food for us and her, camera, knitting, change of clothes, lotsa water, COFFEE and off we go!  The weekend had perfect weather and West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina were all gorgeous.  Molly got the hang of waiting to get leashed up before being released from the car, got to nibble on lots of treats, and just generally was a calm dog.  Whoda Thunk!  Molly is the most HIGH energy dog I have ever owned, I didn’t figure her for a crack travellin dog, but she fooled me.

Lou & Sam checkin out the pond out back.

We met Katie and Muddy Creek Sam at a greek restaurant for dinner, 12 hours later.  Katie and I took Molly for a brief  ‘stretch your legs’ walk and then we had a fabulous meal, sittin outside so Molly could hang with us (and have her dinner).  By the time we got to their place, it was dark and their 5 adult dogs and 4 remaining puppies were barking their heads off!  We met Tammy — very cute, chatted for a while then went to bed.  Katie and Sam were so sweet to us, put us up in our own wing of the house, and let us keep Molly in with us, even though Sam has allergies.  Pretty Cool, and once again, Molly fooled me, totally calm, she just found a spot on the floor of the bedroom and conked out, never once tried to climb up with us.

Next morning, Molly and I took a nice long walk, super flashlight in hand, since it was DARK — this is country, after all.  We hung around for a while had coffee, visited some more, then got packed up and started on the long trek home.  Hadn’t been in the car 5 minutes when Molly — remember her?  Cool travellin dog, started barking, baring teeth, and snarling at Tammy — who was looking a little green.  I’m looking at Molly and sayin “WHO ARE YOU???”  Then I look in Tammy’s kennel, and she’s lost her breakfast, is drooling and working on getting the rest of whatever is left in her stomach up.  Auspicious beginning.

We found a Walmart, Lou picked up a roll of papertowel, and some plastic bags.  I cleaned up the mess, and put a fresh towel in the kennel.  I had the forsight to bring a couple of bedding changes, just in case.  Tammy settles down and stops droolin.  Molly is still not too happy with this ‘creature’.   We drive for an hour or so and Lou is getting tired.  I slept just fine the night before, but he only dozed.  So we pull over and exchange places.  I’m thinking after getting back on the Freeway maybe I shoulda let the dogs out???, just a passing thought, naw, they’re fine.  NOPE.  Lou’s just settled in and started to doze off when I sniffed and said “is that — oh god — ewww” — Lou’s marveling at how much of that stuff can come outa such a little dog.  So OFF the freeway, find a place to pull over — Leash up the dogs, and I’m cleaning up the mess (AGAIN).  Wipe off the puppy, put another fresh towel in the kennel.  Well, Lou is AWAKE NOW — nothing like the smell of fresh puppy shit to get your adrenalin flowin.  About now I’m starting to think its gonna be a LONG trip home.

No Tammy, I think I should have the stick, you're too young!

Though we did not have any more mishaps (THANK GOD) we DID stop at EVERY rest stop between South Carolina and Cleveland!  I DO have a learning chip.

Once we got home, I took the dogs in the back yard and suddenly Molly — who has made clear her intense dislike of Tammy — starts hopping around the back yard, runs up to the puppy, front legs down, butt up in the classic — let’s play — pose and engages the puppy in running, chasing and romping around the back yard.  I look at her and say, out loud this time, “Who ARE you???”

Go figure, who can fathom the mind of  DOG???

Over the next few weeks, Molly and Tammy are getting along quite well, Molly only reprimands the puppy once or twice a day, and it is usually just a growly bark.  They sleep together, roll around the grass together, always try to have the same toy in thier mouths, and often play tug of war with any thing long enough to tug.  By the end of the day Molly is truly exhausted; she’s finding out that being a “mom/nanny/big sister” to a puppy is tiring work.  She’s not the only one, Lou is finding out that getting up early, means going to bed early!

Dogs change your life, but usually for the better, and almost always they bring the change you MOST need!

Thanks Katie and Sam!

Confessions of a Fiber Addict

You might have noticed the Knitting Retrospective, well this is part two.

Recently my friend Shelly came over for lunch — Lou baked up a yummbly fritata (sp?) and we talked and enjoyed good food and good wine. I decided to show Shelly some (believe it or not Shel you didn’t see it all!) of my unspun fiber.

Unspun fiber lives a life of grand anticipation. “what will I become? 2-ply, thick-n-thin, navajo 3-ply, cabled, what what???” you can almost see it wiggling in its various containers “pick me, pick me”. The spinner needs to keep the fiber at bay for a while, get to know it, dream about it, think of how to use the finished yarn. One doesn’t just grab the fiber, sit down to a spinning wheel and start spinning — then you are at the mercy of caprice! With some fibers, one needs to take a little more time to mull, than with others. These things must be done “delicately” or you’ll ruin the spell!

I have a ‘fair’ amount of unspun fiber all in various stages of becoming, and almost becoming. I am a SPINNER, it is a great responsibility, the structure of the universe depends upon making the right choices, and using the right fiber for the right job. You understand??

Let’s take a journey into the sanctuary that is the fiber room. Napping in the small trunk you will find Gotland purchased just north of Detroit — it was raw and filled with the sweet aroma of lanolin, I still remember it — I had it processed and it is waiting for something special – I bought a little extra of the same type of fiber from copper moose, just to make sure I’ll have enough of it for that something special….it is currently being prepared to run through the drum carder, the first stage of becoming …… something …. special.

Resting comfortably in the BIG trunk we have some merino/kid mohair, it is still trying to recover from the emotional upset of being wrenched away from its owner during a divorce struggle and sold to a local yarn shop. As soon as it is ready, I’m thinking of something …. fine … and … lacy. Kid mohair deserves no less.

This brings me to the oddesy of the Ashland Bay Merino – 1 pound each of Merino one dyed a plum color, one with colors of the Mojave desert. This past summer I was finally ready to spin it, it would become 2 ply, 1-ply the solid plum color, 1-ply the Mojave for an interesting and subtle interplay of color, along with the satin softness of merino. I set up my wheel, chose the correct whorl, pre-drafted the fiber (this coaxes it and prepares it for the onslaught of twist) ALAS — the fiber was stripped of ALL oils, stretched, and lifeless, no crimp, no lanolin. Sorrow. I was at a loss, until my husband suggested I blend it with another fiber. As fate would have it, I had 1 pound a corriedale mix from an ohio farmer, soft, springy, itching to become yarn, and 1 pound of a dark corriedale called Twister, rich in lanolin, kinky and twisty. They both offered their individuality to bring the merino back to life. I measured out 20 g. fiber balls, 50:50 full of life corriedale, lifeless merino, it now awaits the drum carder and will become “Cherry Cordial”.

Can you see, dear reader, how the fiber starts to have a life and a destiny of its own??? This is why you must let it rest, mellow, ripen, dare I say ferment.

There are more tales to be told of life in the Fiber room, while experimenting with Brown Border Leicester and Dyed mohair, the silk hidden in the closet popped a thought into my consciousness, why not blend that with white merino and white alpaca. Another moment of magic, made possible by a generous stash of different types of fiber. Are you seeing the logic??? We must keep the fiber room full, to encourage the in-dwelling of the creative spirit

I could go on, and on, and on …… So many fibers, so many possibilities, so many colors and textures to be explored. ahhhh it is heaven for a fiber addict like me.

Knitting Retrospective

The last year was pretty productive.  I started in January 08 and kept going strong all year.  At the end of this marathon, I’ve decided to start designing my own patterns.  I often find a yarn or a roving that I spin up, and want to make it fit a pattern I’ve seen — sometimes this works out, but only after I have knit the thing 2-3 times,  and made numerous modifications.

I’ve learned a lot from Elizabeth Zimmerman, and now from Barbara G. Walker.

Knitting this year, hmmm let me count the ways

Project Picture Description
Blue Felted Bag bluebag This was from a Fiber trends pattern.  I decided I needed a smaller bag for sock projects.  It has inspired an idea for a spinning/multiple project bag — I’ll be working on that soon.  Made this from yarn that I bought at a woolen mill that was closing down.  I then dyed it — felts perfect.
Lou’s Boot Socks bootsocks Lou needed some thick socks for cowboy shootin’ I bought some yarn from Halcyon, and used size 7 and the ladder of life pattern to get these knit up — his tootsies are now toasty warm
Summer Braids Cardigan(one for me one for Jun) summerbraids1 I worked out the kinks with my cardi — made it from Kathmandu Aran collection. Turned out nice and it is one of my favorite sweaters. I made Jun’s from an alpaca/white wool blend I picked up from Sharon Allen at Ramifications (see blog roll). Jun wanted 3/4 sleeves, so no problem (less work for me!)
Summer Braids Cardigan(one for me one for Jun) junsummerbraid This sweater design and fiber was PERFECT for my daughter in law — sweet Jun.  I had to rework the neck and arms a few times to get the fit just right, but it looks PURFECT on her and she loves it.  There’s nothing like having just the right homespun for the person/pattern you’re knitting.
Brigitta brigitta1 This sweater has actually been recycled (new pic coming) The first time around I combined Frene Creek Sherino with a purple wool/poly single — too much pilling. So I reworked it with some cool blue/teal variegated yarn I picked up at Knitting on the square — much better.
November Ruffle Wrap rufflewrap This was knit from the Joseph Galler yarn suggested in the pattern, and a 2-ply beige (natural color) Merino that I spun up just for the wrap — makes it SOFT and WARM. I’m going to make another one soon! The pattern is a Kate Jackson original — knits up fast and easy, but really looks elegant
Socks for Sierra stuberrysocks I knit 2 pair with handspun superwash (that I dyed and SPUN myself), 1 with mohair/wool mix , 1 with tofutsies maybe a few others too. Here’s just one picture — I always work on socks when we’re driving around a lot, or on long trips. Socks are portable, and I have the pattern memorized, so its easy to do — Shelly introduced me to magic loop sock knitting (using a LONG circular needle) and I’m just starting to get used to it.
Croc Socks for Lou I gotta get a picture for this When we were in Wyoming at the Sheep Shed Studio, Lou insisted I buy this BRIGHT yellow super wash fiber and spin + knit him a pair of socks. I gave him one of those raised eyebrow looks, and agreed to his request. He wanted to wear them with crocs. I spun up just enought for a pair of socks — actually there is a little left over if anyone WANTS it — and over dyed the rest of the roving with navy lanaset dye — to get an olive green (kinda nice actually)
Tomten Jacket jimtomten First I spun up the wool alpaca mix called Skippin Stones for the jacket, then I knitted it. I followed a few modifications from Brooklyn Tweed, but really it didn’t need the v-neck shaping, and I didn’t do the arm shaping. Turned out great. WARM, SOFT — it even looks pretty masculine (except for the pointy head!).
Tomten Jacket nicktomten Nick had to have one too! Really I had decided to make this for Nick, and Jim saw it and wanted one too. Nicks is made from handspun as well — Pussy Willow for the body and Aggy Taw for the Trim. I liked making these!
Thor’s Toque hats My brother needed a hat — this was my FIRST pattern design. I liked the hat so much that I made 7 of em! My hat (top middle) was made from the yarn in Nick’s tomten
Spinoff Waves Scarf I used some handspun alpaca for one (no picture 🙁 ) and the white alpaca/wool mix for the other and gave them to friends for Christmas.
Sierra’s double Moss Scarf I had to have a little of Jim’s sweater for myself, so I took some leftover and made a simple garter stitch edged, double moss patterened scarf — yumm — warm.

I had the crazy notion that I wanted to make sweaters out of handspun for the entire family. I did manage to take care of Jim, Nick and Jun. I haven’t blended or carded the fiber for Hubby’s sweater yet, but I did manage to spin the wool and make one for myself too (finished in February of 2009).

Over the years I have knitted a lot of things, too many to recall. I can tell you though, there is nothing more satisfying than giving hand crafted gifts, for both parties. 🙂