Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Hard Week

Early this past week, we unexpectedly lost my husband's younger brother.  As you know, when this kind of thing happens, there is difficulty processing the event, and we stumble while trying to overcome the pure shock of it all.

This younger brother was my husband's last remaining sibling.  Although he was several inches taller and quite a few pounds heavier, he was always his little brother . . . a somewhat ridiculous statement when you saw them side by side.

As we family members connect and reminisce, there has been love, laughter and lots of happy memories directed at the man we just lost.  Lots of good stories have been shared which seem to have helped with the healing.

He was a good husband, father, grandfather and friend to a great many.  He perfected the art of putting the positive spin on most everything in life.  He laughed a lot, often at himself, and as my husband said, because of his kindness, generosity and natural outgoing friendliness, he never knew anyone who disliked him.

"Our family is getting so small," our daughter said quietly and sadly a day or so ago.  Yes, and now her uncle's passing has left a big hole in it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mother Nature Says, "Take That!"

Ha!  Methinks I may have been too vocal about
our "spring time" temperatures 
in my blog post yesterday.

Last night's low?  Three degrees.

Okay.  That's more like our typical 
January thermometer readings.

High for today?  
Eleven degrees.

High of twenty-six degrees
with a 70% chance of snow.
Yay, yay, yay!

Need rain?  Sunshine?
Want snow?  Higher temps?

Just give me a call.
 Apparently I can summon up 
whatever you want just by being cranky.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Drip, Drip, Drip

Just to add to our already strange winter weather, we are now experiencing a genuine January thaw.

This caricature would be applicable today . . . except for the fact that we haven't had enough snow to construct a single snowman yet this winter season.

While those of you on the East Coast have already had or are bracing for a significant snowfall, the piddling little amount we've had on the ground continues to melt away.

Overnight temperatures were above freezing (again) and my poor garden beds are once again bare and shivering in the extreme dampness.  We humans almost have to put on more clothing to go out in this weather in order to be comfortable than we did when the temp was below zero.  It's that darn dampness that gets ya.

On the positive side, we've not been going through much of our wood supply in the last couple of weeks, and if this snowless winter continues we may have an early spring for getting a jump start on the garden.

Plans for today are to put in some more time on the never-ending sorting/cleaning/organizing job in the unheated loft/attic.  And I must be honest and admit it does feel better working up there in 35 degree weather than when it was below zero.  Still with jackets, hats and gloves on, of course.

Happy weekend to all of you!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

We're Kinda Wild and Crazy

Here's a visual of the raucous night life at our house these winter evenings.

Papa Pea is totally involved in reading, research and going through old files.

I'm immersed in yarns, needles, crochet hooks and back issues of quilting magazines that were thrown in a stack unread all last summer.

There's always an open fire in the wood stove.

Sometimes the radio is tuned to our Minnesota Public Radio station.  Occasionally a bottle of beer or glass of wine will be present, but the jaw cracking yawns never fail to start occurring around 8:30 p.m.  After that it's a struggle to remain upright for more than an hour or so.

Good thing we don't have neighbors close enough to be disturbed by the unbridled revelry, eh?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why Did I Stop?

There was a time when my calendar was full of notations of peoples' birthdays and anniversaries.  Each month I'd send out at least three, if not several more, cards commemorating these special occasions.

And then I stopped.


Up until the last few years of her life, my mom made a practice of keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries of everyone in our very large extended family plus those of many people she knew.  She wrote out cards and mailed them so they would arrive on each person's special day.  The birthday cards for little people always contained a two dollar bill, back in the days when there were two dollar bills.  I can remember often hearing how much those cards meant to the recipients.  Even to the big people whose cards didn't contain any money!

In my defense, I think I started slacking off on this practice when cards became so darn expensive.  Not much of an excuse when you think of it.

I could have switched to using a piece of paper folded in half with the proper greeting written on the outside and a little note inside.  That would have served the same purpose.  It's the thought that counts, right?

Even now for the people I do send greetings to, it's almost always via e-mail rather than through the U.S. Mail.  But that's just not the same, is it?  Who saves an e-mail in a special box in their bottom drawer the way you would a card or handwritten note?

Note to self:  It's time to re-start this custom of remembering and thinking of folks on special occasions, Mama Pea.  Stop being lazy or falsely blaming it on a small expense.

No, I don't think I'll go back to stalking the card racks in the store, but I am going to start writing little notes so people will know I'm thinking of them.

We are all such a scattered group of family members and friends.  The mobility of our society has put sometimes hundreds, if not thousands, of miles between us and the people we care about.  Keeping a connection strong by the act of taking time to communicate the old-fashioned way on special occasions, using the mail service (or snail mail as we all refer to it now) is something I want to make a real effort to start again.

I know I certainly get a special feeling when I retrieve mail from our mailbox and find an envelope addressed to me with a return address of someone I care for.

Yep, time to fill in those names and dates on the calendar again, put pen to paper, perhaps even make a hokey handmade card, and let people know I'm thinking of them.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Make Sure Brain Is In Gear . . .

. . . before operating heavy machinery.

Or washing machines.

Went to start my third load of laundry this morning, 
poured in the homemade liquid laundry soap 
my dear daughter
keeps me supplied with.

And then noticed 
I had poured the soap right on top 
of the last finished load in the washer 
which I had failed to remove.


Well, that batch of light colored clothes
will be clean this week!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Crocheted Rug with Heavy Rug Yarn Tutorial

A few of you have expressed an interest in knowing how I make the rectangular rugs I've been crocheting with heavy rug yarn.  I first made a few of these rugs about 25-30 years ago and although they are a little worse for wear, I still have them and use them on our enclosed entry porch.  A year or so ago when I decided it was time to make some new ones, I was disappointed to discover the yarn I had used, Aunt Lydia's Rug Yarn, was no long being manufactured.

At my clever husband's suggestion, I found the yarn being offered on eBay by folks who had acquired it through estate sales, auctions, etc.  Being patient and waiting until I could get what I thought was a fair price for colors I wanted, I've now collected a good supply of it and am back in the rug making business.  (Just for our own use, that is.)

So let's get started.  The rectangular rugs I've been making are approximate 2' x 3' but, obviously, you can make whatever size you wish.  I work with two strands of yarn together, using a Size K crochet hook.  The rows are worked from right to left and you can make your rug all one color or change the colors as you wish.

Disclaimer:  I am definitely not an expert when it comes to crocheting so my directions may leave something to be desired!

Start by taking two strands of yarn, make a slip knot on your hook and start making the foundation row.

For the 2' width of the rug, I chain 50 stitches.  (Make these chains for the foundation row on the loose side.)  The wider the desired rug size, the more stitches you would chain, the more narrow the fewer.  When you have your 50 chains, chain 2 more which will be the start of the next row. 

Working to your left across the row of chain stitches, you are now going to do a single crochet into each of the loops of your foundation row.  With the foundation chain on your left, insert the hook in the first chain stitch after the stitch your 2 chains come out of.  Pencil in picture is indicating where I inserted my hook and made my first single crochet. 

Make a single crochet in each of the chain stitches of the foundation row until you get to the last stitch which looks a little different, more like a "bump."  (The last stitch in each row will look like this.)  In the above picture I've made a single crochet in the last "regular" looking stitch.  The very last single crochet you want to make at the end of the row will be in that "bump" stitch you see indicated by the pencil.

Go into that "bump" stitch from the bottom up and do a single crochet in it just as you have done in the top of each stitch across the whole foundation row.   (I'll admit getting "into" this first "bump" stitch is hard.  Following ones will be easier.)

Next, chain 2 which will actually count as the first single crochet stitch on your new row, but for the time being, let's just say you are at the end of your foundation row.  

Now let's fast forward to when I was more than halfway through the rug.  All the rows after doing the 2 chain stitches at the end of the foundation row are the same.  So the pictures now take up at those same 2 chain stitches you just did at the end of your foundation row, but farther along on the rug.  (Compare the picture above and the one below.  There is more rug underneath the row shown below, but the rows will be worked just the same.)

You've made 2 chain stitches at the end of a row. 

Turn your work around (rug will be on your left) to start a new row.  Once again, insert the hook in the first stitch after the stitch your 2 chains come out of.  (Indicated by pencil.)  That will be your second single crochet. Remember your chain 2 before you turned your work counts as the first stitch -- of the 50 -- that goes across the row. 

On each row you do you continue making a single crochet into each stitch . . . 

. . . including the "bump" stitch at the end of every row.  In the above picture, my left index finger is touching the "bump" stitch and four regular stitches.  My hook is five regular stitches away from doing the "bump" stitch.

Go into the little "bump" stitch from the bottom up and do a single crochet in it just as you have done in the top of each stitch across the whole row.  You are now at the end of another row.

Chain 2, turn your work and keep going back and forth across the 50 stitches until the rug is the length you want it to be.

Periodically, take the time to count the stitches in your row to make sure you haven't accidentally increased or decreased any stitches.  This will insure the sides of your rug remain a straight line from start to finish.

When you complete the last row of your rug, your last stitch will be in that last "bump" stitch.  To end the rug, don't make the last stitch a single crochet, but rather a simple chain stitch as shown in the picture above.

Cut your yarns and pull them through the last chain stitch to knot it off.

Now you have the task of weaving in all the tail ends of yarn that appeared where you joined a new color or ran out of one of the strands of yarn you were using.

I always add a fringe to both narrow ends of my rugs, but it's your choice as to whether to do that or not.

Actually taking yarn and hook in hand and crocheting the rug will make it much clearer and simpler than these instructions might make it seem.

If you wanted to make a much smaller sample before starting on a rug, you could use the same technique to crochet a hot pad to use under a casserole dish, for instance.

Hope this tutorial is enough to start you on your way to making some rugs that will last you thirty years!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Sneak Peek

Here's the new winter wall hanging I've been working on.

This afternoon I got it marked for quilting (which is totally invisible on this photo) and sandwiched.

Before I sandwiched it, I taped the pieced top on the wall in the kitchen where it will go, and I think I'm going to be very pleased with it.  (Whew.)

Some might not think a wreath design is appropriate now that the holidays are over, but I'm celebrating the month of January this year, feeling like it's a month long holiday of sorts, so in my mind it will add a festive touch to my month.

I used primarily blue fabrics with snowflakes and stars.  The white on white background has white dots on it which look like snow falling. 

There is so much fabric in my own personal stash that I've been concentrating on not buying more while using up what I have.  A noble idea, but it's gotten me into a bind more than once.

On this project I had to change the border (which I really liked very much on the pattern I worked from) because I didn't have enough fabric.  The piece was going to measure 38" x 38" but has been reduced to 32" x 32".  

Now I'm wondering what the hay I'm going to do for the binding when the time comes because I literally do not have enough fabric left of any that I used in the quilt top.  You'll no doubt hear me grumping and grousing when it comes time to cross that bridge.

It's going to take me a while to quilt this piece.  I'm combining hand quilting and machine quilting.  The hand quilting needs to be done first.

I based this on a Thimbleberries pattern for a red and green wreath that was gorgeous, but definitely said "Christmas."  I'm going to call mine "January Wreath" and let it bring glitter, sparkle and light to our gray, snowless (so far) days.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Strike Up the Band!

The sun has been shining all day today and at just past 2 p.m. we have hit a high of 5 ABOVE zero.  A real cause for celebration.  (Yes, it is the little things in life, folks . . . )

I was late in ordering my two 2015 calendars this year.  Didn't put in the order until the 5th of January.  Now I'm wondering why I waited so long.  I keep one on the wall here near my desk and the main one is on the side of the refrigerator in the kitchen.  I can't believe how many times a day I look to see what the date is or to check a notation (that should be) there.  Who knew I used my calendars so much?  I received notification that they were shipped on the 6th, day after my order, so where are they??

We just came up from the root cellar after doing one of our irregular regular (?) checks down there to make sure none of the veggies or apples had bad spots or were starting to mold.  Found one apple (only one!) with a bruise and tiny speck of mold on it.  Otherwise, everything looks super-doo.

We've never had cabbage keep in such good shape.  Conditions must be juuust right for them.  I brought up this beauty that weighs in at 7 pounds, 4 ounces.  (Boy howdy, that's a lot of coleslaw.)  The beets and carrots are looking good also.  There is a bucket of potatoes out in the garage utility sink where my dear husband does a quick washing of them to get off 90% of the dirt before bringing them into the kitchen.

There's no lack of good food around here, that's for sure.  I'm feeling guilty that I'm not attempting Susan's (over at e-i-e-i-omg!) challenge to herself of not purchasing any food for a year.  I do admire that gal a whole bunch.  For many reasons.  You go, girl!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Picture to Brighten Your Day

Dressed for morning chores up here near the Arctic Circle.

Fetching little thing, aren't I?
(Hey, I could rob a bank in this outfit.
'Cept with all the padding
I couldn't run fast enough to get away.)

Can anybody rival this?
If so, I want to see picture proof.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Staying Warm, Keeping Busy

Our frigid weather continues.  Overnight temps have been consistently below zero.  Monday was -21, this morning up to -6.  (Well, it is Minnie-soda, ya know.)  We have plenty of wood for our stoves.  A heavy snow cover would be much appreciated, but hasn't appeared yet.  Yesterday morning, we had a beautiful snow fall, bit it didn't last giving us only an inch of cover.

The air outside wouldn't be nearly as numbing if it weren't for the frequent high winds.  When we venture out to feed and water the chickens, bring wood to the house from the wood shed or any other task that must be done, you can be sure we bundle up to our eyeballs. Even so, we usually have to come in at least once to warm tingling fingers by the stove before we're done.

This past Tuesday and Wednesday were especially brutal with dangerous wind chills.  Schools were cancelled on Wednesday which may have been in response of parents to the just-as-bad conditions on Tuesday when there was school.

To cleanse our bodies with a good dose of oxygen and stretch lazy muscles, we've been walking (briskly) out together to get the mail each day.  Yesterday there was no wind and we both commented on how balmy a calm 6 above zero felt.  More of the cold is forecast to last through next Monday with a warm-up arriving by Tuesday.  Yay for that!

Wednesday I finally tackled taking down the holiday decorations in the house and putting up the winter ones.  It took me all day and I didn't truly finish until yesterday.

Last night I hung my new shower curtain in the bathroom.

Before putting it up, here it is on the design wall of my quilt room, done (wonky buttonholes and all) and ready to go.

And in place.  Sorry I can't get a better picture, but our bathroom is too small.  The toilet is directly across from the shower and even standing on the toilet seat, I'm not far enough away for a good shot.  (I did try.)

And the rug to match, in front of the sink, that I crocheted.

What's the next quilted project I've gotten a start (barely) on?  The above is the "winter" wall hanging I've been using in that special display wall space in the kitchen.  I originally made it for a different area before we remodeled the kitchen, and it's really too small for this new space.  Therefore, the new piece (I've been thinking about making for two years now) is my current project.  With luck, I'll spend some time working on it today!

Monday, January 5, 2015

It's HOW Cold?!

I'm happy to report we did NOT hit 40 below last night as the above image of a thermometer indicates.  Our low reading was only 21 below.  That, my friends, is way too cold without a good snow cover.  Over Friday and Saturday just past, we got 5+" of snow which caused everyone around here to breathe a sigh of relief.  Then the high winds marched in and scoured the snow off the field garden, off the raised beds, off the lines to our septic system, etc., etc.  Where did all that lovely snow go?  Mostly piled into drifts in inconvenient spots that had to be shoveled yesterday.

In the winter, we count on being able to pile snow up against our house which really helps keep it warmer.  Right now there's no snow with which to do that.  We're very fortunate that we're still warm and cozy inside, we have plenty of wood for heating and so far, water pipes and such have not been affected.  But we've already heard of others in the area that are having trouble with frozen pipes.  We need a good amount of snow if we're going to have these low, low temps.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I had a really good day yesterday doing things I wanted to do.

I've kept my canning and preserving recipes and notes I've made regarding same in a three-ring binder forever.  That poor binder was falling apart, one of the rings didn't close anymore, and I've been wanting to tidy up the contents and transfer everything to a new notebook.  Like so many tasks we put off, when I finally sat down yesterday morning to do it, I found it didn't take long at all and now all is filed away securely with easy-to-access tabs.  (Good job, Mama Pea.)

Finishing my quilted winter shower curtain was next on the list.  The only thing left to do was to put in the 12 buttonholes across the top edge where the shower rod rings attach.  I've got a slick buttonhole attchement for my computerized Janome sewing machine, but I could not get the buttonhole mode programmed in.  Arrrgh.  Now I need to contact the shop in the big city where I purchased my machine and see if they can talk me through getting things back on track.  I hope the fix will be as simple as that, but I may have to take the machine in next trip there.

Being just a teensy bit stubborn (ahem) and not wanting to have to put the shower curtain aside, I cobbled together satisfactory buttonholes utilizing a satin stitch on my older machine.  I was lucky in that the top border where the holes needed to go is a dark blue print, and I used a dark blue thread so the quasi-buttonholes just about don't even show.  All turned out well.  Except for the need to get my computerized machine back in working order.  (I can still use all the other functions on the machine, however . . . whew!)

I'll post pictures of the shower curtain and crocheted rug I made to match (which I also finished yesterday) as soon as I get the Christmas decorations down in the bathroom and the winter ones up.

I was determined to spend time yesterday snuggled under a quilt on the couch reading for a while.  I did.  For about 10 minutes before our daughter popped in.  I never did make it back to my book or couch.

The most fun of all was starting a new quilting project, but I'm keeping mum about that until I'm farther along because I'm not at all sure it's going to be a go . . . or a waste of fabric.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Knowing the house was going to be on the cool side this morning, last night before going to bed I pulled an unbaked pan of Apple Crunch out of the freezer and let it defrost on the counter overnight.  First thing this morning, I put it in the oven to bake knowing having the oven going would help warm up the kitchen.

Oh, but look!  I think a mouse (wearing Size 12 shoes) must have eaten a corner of it already.  Dang.

I'm off now to fold laundry.  It's Monday, laundry and ironing day, you know.  The clothes dryer (nope, I wouldn't even think about hanging anything outside today) is tumbling its second batch as we speak.  The heat from it is welcomed today, too, that's for sure.

Stay warm, everyone!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The White Stuff Has Arrived!

We finally got some much needed snow overnight.  Only about 3+" but we'll take what we can get.  Unfortunately, right now it has sufficiently masked the sheets of ice we have on the ground everywhere so that it's more dangerous out there than ever.  If we went ahead and plowed, that would only leave the bare ice showing again.  But as we speak, Papa Pea and a good neighbor D are out cobbling together a "drag" they are hoping might improve the situation.  They're cutting one of our big diameter maple logs (back in the to-be-made-into-firewood pile) to the proper length, and hooking it up with chains to the back of a piece of D's equipment.  They they'll try dragging the log over the snow to see if they can 1) pack it down some which might provide some "grip," and 2) possibly rough up the ice a bit.

Our temp now, as so often with a snowfall, is in the 20s, but the forecast for the coming week is back down into the deep freeze again.

It's amazing how "hushed" even this little amount of snow on the ground makes everything seem.  Not that we hear much noise back here in the woods at any time, but this morning it's like all surfaces (and the very air) are cushioned.

I haven't had the urge (somebody will eventually have to coax me with a big whip) to take down the tree or other decorations yet.  A couple of mornings ago, hubby got up a few minutes before I did and the only lights he turned on were those on the Christmas tree.  When I toddled out shortly thereafter, I commented on how beautiful the lit tree was.  He said we shouldn't be in any hurry to take the holiday decorations down, but enjoy them for a while longer.  It wouldn't take much to talk me into that.

So tell me true.  Have you taken down all your holiday decorations already?  Has the tree been stripped nekkid and tossed out the door?  Do you take your tree down the day after Christmas?  Or the day after New Year's?  Or do you wait until the spirit moves you?  Like about right before Valentine's Day?