Thursday, December 30, 2010

Before the year ends

My two, ok maybe three, remaining readers have been begging for a new post and before they become too belligerent, I felt the deserve to end the year on a happier note. Things were rough for us after we lost our little pet, but to honor his memory, we lived on holding him our hearts. Brenda Dayne's podcast on preparing for the loss of a dog with a new dog inspired us to go out and see if there was a Guinea Pig who reminded us of Jellybean that needed a home. We found one. It was as if she was placed at the pet store just for us. She arrived at the store two days before we found here. When we brought her home, we named her Jellybean and she looks just like him.

From Irish Clover

We also celebrated Mrs. Soprano's birthday in October and Nana Clover's in November. Again, my life is blessed by these two women and I am very grateful for them sharing their lives and families with me.

As for families, we had our annual trip to the woods for Thanksgiving, and we also added in a little something new. Growing up in Nashville, I always loved seeing Opryland Hotel decorated for Christmas. Little Clover has never really experienced the hotel, so this year, we added a night's stay at Opryland. He played in the snow.
From Irish Clover

He also rode the river boats in the hotel and we spent over three hours wandering the grounds looking at the conservatory and waterfalls.
From Irish Clover

Overall, the last couple of months have been a whirlwind of activity, knitting, and holiday preparations. We're relaxing a bit at home now and I'm recuperating from a very bad cold. In a couple of posts, look for a parade of recently finished knits and a reflection on the last year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


From Irish Clover

Last night, our family lost our little pet guinea pig, Jellybean. He had gotten very sick and the vet did not give us a positive prognosis. I made the difficult decision to let him go so that he didn't die alone at the animal hospital in the middle of the night, but instead, would be with us when he passed.

As a mother, this has been the most difficult thing I've ever had to do. My little guy's heart was broken and his pain was one I could do nothing about. He was filled with guilt, thinking he hadn't taken care of his pet and he was responsible. He was filled with remorse at not spending enough time with Jellybean while we had him. He became angry that God would take Jellybean so early in life.

This is the dark side of loving. It is much easier to lose something when one is not as invested. To love means to feel the pain of loss, and it is a deep aching pain. Seeing my son in a pain I could not alleviate broke me. A part of me wishes I could spare him from feeling this type of pain ever again, but I can't, no mother can, nor do I really want to. To keep him from feeling the deep aching pain of loss would also mean keeping him from the deep joys of love and I would never want him to miss the warmth of feeling love for something and to have the love returned.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Westward Bound

My laptop desktop photo at work is of the South Platte river winding through Spinney Mountain Ranch. It's my happy place and when work gets a tad bit too stressful, I look at the picture. This weekend, for Little Clover's fall break, we actually went back Spinney. The moment I stepped off the plane, I felt as if I was home.

We found the Bear Creek Cabins and booked one for the weekend. The cabin was small and cozy with a fireplace. As soon as we arrived, we had our first daily encounter with the wildlife. A mama elk and her baby meandered their way through the cabins grazing as they went.

From Colorado 2010

Little Clover was busy pulling trout out of the creek in front of the cabin, but he paused long enough to admire the elk. That night as we drifted off with a crackling fire and cool mountain air carrying the babbling of the creek through our open windows, Little Clover admitted he liked Colorado. With some luck, I'll get him hooked.

The next two days, we woke up before dawn to drive out to Spinney. Little Clover slept in the back and Italian and I watched the sun creep over the mountain tops. Spinney proved to be tough fishing the two days, but we all managed to hook into some great fish and I even managed to land my first big trout.

From Colorado 2010

This was a redemption moment for me. Not only had I lost several decent sized fish that day, but I had also managed to hook myself in the a$$ with a very teeny tiny fly, only to discover I could not remove said fly on my own and had to ask for help, from our guide. He was a very good sport about it.

Not only was Little Clover a great fisherman and a great sport while fishing a very technical and challenging stream, he proved he's also a great photographer with an eye for beauty. He snapped this shot through the car window as we drove through the mountains.
From Colorado 2010

We treated him to a Coney Island hot dog because no trip is complete without a stop to this little place. Italian enjoyed the buffalo dog while I noshed away on an jalepeno elk dog. I even gave a couple of guys a chuckle while I stood by their truck to take a picture of the restaurant.

After our two days of fishing, the rest of the trip was Little Clover's. He jumped at the opportunity to attend a murder mystery dinner at the Adams Mystery Playhouse. We were expecting it to be enjoyable. We were not expecting to have our cheeks and sides in pain from laughing as hard as we did! If you are ever in the Denver area and enjoy comedy theatre, go and go quickly! The experience was fanatastic and Little Clover even had a small encounter with the detective during the show. We are still quoting lines and will go again during our next trip.

Little Clover also wanted to see the Buffalo Bill Museum and Denver Zoo. We happily obliged and admired the view from the top of Denver's Lookout Mountain.

From Colorado 2010

Between all the hustle and bustle of the trip, I even managed to snag some knitting time on my Versatility, listening to the creek. The bamboo is my own handspun and I can see how I've grown as a spinner since I spun it. It is soft and rustic and warms my heart. If we ever make living in Colorado a reality, I think it will work well for early fall.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

In a Pickle

One of the reasons motivating us to sign up for a CSA this year was to broaden our food horizons. I hoped it would give me a chance to grow as a cook and to change my perspective on food and cooking. Instead of picking a recipe and finding ingredients sourced from all over the world, I'd be given ingredients and then would need to find a recipe to use them. I'd also have to face one of my fears - canning.

The thought of canning is terrifying to me. I don't hesitate in purchasing items canned by large factories in far away places. I figure they have the whole canning thing under wraps. Home canning, though, scares the dickens out of me. You could kill someone if you don't do it right! I've put off canning all season, opting to build our compost pile instead. With our CSA winding down to an end, an abundance of okra, and the rememberance of the yummy pickled okra from our CSA, it was time for me to tackle my fear.

I pulled out my canning kit, talked to the preservation spokesperson at the farmer's market, bought a boiling canning pot, and promptly spent the next three hours clearing trees from our backyard. When we were out of trees, I tidied up the house. My procrastination options quickly dwindled before me, and I was forced into entering the kitchen.

I read the directions. I read the hand-outs from the preservation spokesperson. I convinced myself I was capable and dove in. Stressed to the maxed and believing this adventure would end in death, I scared everyone out of the kitchen.
From Irish Clover

When the jars were filled and boiling, waiting to be sealed, Italian came back in to reiterate yet again how safe canning is. For starters, I'm making a pickle. He reminded me of the high acidity of vinegar. Almost nothing would survive the vinegar. Secondly, pickling requires cooking the pickling liquid. It's cooked. Few things surviving cooking. Thirdly, sealing the jars means boiling the jars for 10 minutes. I'm cooking again. Lastly, if the jars don't seal, then we stick them in the fridge and eat them first, as if they were leftovers. At this point, my jars were out of the canner and the first one popped shut. Oh, what a happy sound!
From Irish Clover

I told friends and family about the canning effort and asked if someone would please check on Little Clover if we suddenly stopped coming around. He's the only one in the house who doesn't like pickles. After the jars had time to rest, we tentatively tried the okra. Actually, Italian dove right in. I kept a watchful eye on him for a bit, watching for signs of illness. When he seemed okay, I tried a pickle myself. They aren't the best, but hey, we're still alive.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Club sign-ups

Last week, Little Clover proved yet again he is becoming his own person. Italian and I learned early on with him that he was almost a fully formed individual at an early age. We needed to make quick adjustments to our expectations and to our assumptions the second he showed athletic ability at the age of 6 months. Since then, our family life has been one of getting acquainted, with Italian and I setting the parameters and limits as best as we could and then making changes midstream to adjust for Little Clover's individualism. Mostly, though, we the parents set the schedule with some input from the little person.

Middle school doesn't really work this way. I thought we had our school year routine set, then Little Clover informed me he had been recruited to the Cross Country team, and he accepted. Practice and meets are now part of our schedule, with his first meet taking place last Thursday. To help his team keep a first place record, he needed to place somewhere between 20th and 30th place. With only having practiced once with the team, the coach cautioned him on running too fast out of the gate. He listened and kept to the back of the middle of the pack when the race began. As the coaches kept their fingers crossed for our runners to place in the top 30, Little Clover crossed the finish line in 8th place, helping his team grab first place. I wonder how he'll do with some practice.
From Irish Clover

Then I find out the next day, he's joined the ultimate frisbee club at school and needs to stay late on Friday. Who knew his school had an ultimate frisbee club?! I didn't even know he liked playing frisbee! All this growing up and making his own decisions is a bit hard for me to handle, so I'm focusing on what I can control - the sleeves to my sweater. With the weather cooling off (finally!) and fall around the corner, long sleeves would seem appropriate, but I'm going to buck the system and put short sleeves on this baby! It's my sweater and by golly, I'll decide what sleeves it should have.

Now, excuse me as I try to find out if Little Clover has made any other decisions about his life.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What was I thinking

I am that mom, the one that doesn't realize how something may not be a good idea until she's already committed. For Little Clover's birthday, we agreed to have a birthday party with his friends. He was allowed to invite 10 friends to his party. He invited girls and boys. We agreed to let him have the part at the barn with the horses, then take the kids swimming, finally ending with a Nerf gun battle. Yep, he had a co-ed party involving wild animals, carpooling from place to place, bathing suits, and weaponry. And it never occurred to me that there would be anything wrong with it. Fortunately, all the kids had a wonderful time and we sent them home in one piece. What was super cute was how the girls and boys didn't exactly mingle but coexisted during the party, and the boys arrived with cowboy hats. It's also amusing to me how co-ed parties are completely normal when they are little, then fall out of favor sometime around the third grade, only to become a big deal in middle school. If you get invited to my kid's party, I may not be fully with it, but trust me, your kids are safe and they'll have a good time.

From Irish Clover

Some of the party guests

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The farmer's life

From Irish Clover

We attended a canoe trip outing with our fly fishing club this weekend, and Little Clover even manned the canoe giving me time between white knuckled gripped rides down riffles to fish every now and then. The weather was beautiful and the scenery breathtaking, solidifying my desire to be further away from the city and to find a retreat on a nice expanse of land near a river.

The pull towards land has been strengthened not just by my fly fishing hobby, but by my knitting hobby as well. Most knitters will toy with the idea of spinning. Once you've fallen in love with yarn and all its wonderfulness, you may find yourself touched by curiosity around the making of yarn. Some people will cross over and actually become spinners, and spinners will almost always have at least one fantasy of owning sheep. Being a spinner, I've had this fantasy. Mine includes several sheep, a few bunnies, and at least one alpaca. This week, I got a small taste of my idyllic pastoral dream.

While at the stables for Little Clover’s weekly riding lesson, I offered to help Mr. Soprano with the horses. He grabbed a halter and lead rope to bring one in from the pasture and I grabbed another. A few minutes later, as I was strolling through the wrong pasture, I heard him call my name. I ran out of the pasture towards where I was supposed to be only to find a horse running at a gallop directly towards me. I held up my hands and said "Whoa!" The horse proceeded to run right past me. I turned and proceeded to run after the horse. At this time, I thought, “Thank goodness I changed out of my heels.” This thought was followed by, “Thank goodness I was lazy and didn’t put on my Wellies,” which was then capped with, “Oh my god, I am soooo out of shape.” The much more appropriate, “How the heck are we going to wrangle up the horses?” finally found its way into my thoughts. After 15 minutes of chasing and wrestling horses (yes, I did my darnedest to wrestle a horse, albeit a juvenile one), we finally managed to enclose the horses into a barn and get them roped up.

After this little taste of farm life, I’m perfectly content getting my yarn the old fashion way, online or at a yarn store.
From WIPs

Above is the Tudor Grace scarf pattern. I’m knitting it with my own handspun, which impressed Italian. He asked how I got the yarn to stripe, and I really wished I had an intelligent answer instead of the “I have no idea” I gave him.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Week in Review

It would be nice to say we're coming in for a landing from our birthday celebrations, but we have a few more things to be done before we get a break. I got an awesome new camera for my birthday and it's taken me two weeks to figure it out how to use and transfer pictures off of it. The nice thing is, it doesn't allow you to take pictures with the lens cap on. Just don't ask me how long it took for me to figure that one out. Without further ado, here is the week through the eyes of a lens.

Little Clover wanted to take the first pictures with the new camera. When asked if he won't rather BE the first picture taken on the new camera, he responded by...
From Irish Clover

Taking a picture of himself. The child is a genius. I love his problem solving ability and his win-win drive.

I finally did get my hands on the camera and after learning about "white balance," I was able to snag a pretty decent photo of my little guy.
From Irish Clover

Besides the standard party with yummy food and cake, Little Clover got an upclose and personal animal experience.
From Irish Clover

I think this sealed it. My kid is definitely going to be a zookeeper when he grows up. While at the zoo, I made Papa Clover and Little Clover reenact a picture with the giraffes. We had a grand time and I don't think any of use will look at giraffes the same way.

Finally, I'm in a book.
From Irish Clover

Well, my picture is anyway. Enjoy you're weekend!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Happy Birthday, not so little one

On this day, at this hour, you entered into this world, bringing with you love, joy, and happiness. You brightened the lives of those around you the moment you were born and filled our hearts with a calm, a sense of purpose, and a happiness we had never known before. You have grown in these eleven years from a little babe who laughed a lot to a big kid who laughs more. Your laughter is contagious and brings laughter to others. Your happiness has grown to touch the lives of others. Your talents are a pleasure to watch, and amazingly vast. Happy Birthday, my not so Little Clover. I (tummy) love you always.

From Irish Clover

Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Year

Well, I've made it through another year. This time of year is rather hectic for us. School starts with its usual upheaval of emotions as Little Clover advances into another year. Then, we celebrate my mom on the anniversary of her death. Once we clear these hurdles, my birthday happens, quickly followed by Little Clover's. I'm generally one blob of emotional goo, trying to just make it through August. Fortunately for me, I've got two really incredible guys who spoil me rotten. They are patient with me as I struggle with letting my little guy grow up and as I grieve and remember. They are then quick to pamper me a few days later on my birthday. This year, my birthday fell on a Saturday, so we spent the day on the river, rods in hand, fishing.

From Irish Clover

Little Clover was the first to hook into fish, showing us up as usual.
From Irish Clover

I love fishing as a family, and it was a great way to spend a birthday. Plus, I got some knitting in.
From WIPs

This is the endpaper mitts and some very wacky Trekking I didn't think I would like. It looks pretty good with the hunter green.

Monday, August 23, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, NPR ran a story about a graduate student who had a knack for finding four leaf clovers. Naturally, my thoughts turned to my mom who also had this gift. The student talked about how she didn't really think much about finding four leaf clovers until one day she was visiting her father's grave and didn't have any flowers for him, so she hunted for a clover and found one to place on his marker. She also mentioned how most people don't look, thereby letting luck just pass them by for someone else.

My mom took the time to look. I remember growing up, sometimes my dad and I would be several strides ahead of my mom. We'd turn around to look for her, catching her looking down in the grass as she slowly strolled our way before stooping to pick up the four leaf clover that just caught her eye. She would look and she would find what we just walked right past. The clover was there for whomever took the time to find and appreciate it, and my mom did. To me, I remember her almost always finding the joy and happiness in things. She took the time to look around her and see the luck the world held. It's a lesson I'm still learning, and all the four leaf clovers and rainbows my mom sends my way are little remembers to keep my eyes open, and not only look for her in my life, but also look for luck and joy.

I love you, Mama, and you'll always be close to my heart. I miss you and feel lucky and blessed to have had you for as long as I did.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Just keep knitting

From 2010 Finished Objects

This year has been one of those years where my focus has been on just getting by. I haven't had the luxury of time to focus on goals and objectives, of things I'd like to get accomplished, of striving for some grand thing to show for the year. Instead, I've been in survival mode.

From 2010 Finished Objects

Some days, I've found myself praying, "Please, God, help me get through this next hour, day, week, month, year." My hopes of finishing Rosetta Stone level 1 where nice, but unobtainable. Sure, it would have been grand to cook exclusively from our CSA this year, but reality got in the way. Yea, I would have loved to have the house completely decorated, but hey, it will still be there later.

From 2010 Finished Objects

We've been jumping from school to work to homework to sports practice to dinner to bed, only to start again in the morning. Through it all, I've knitting away, almost mindlessly, but knitting nonetheless to help keep the stress of work and home at bay.

From 2010 Finished Objects

If you keep knitting, before you know it, you'll have a few baby hats, and a pair of socks, and a middle schooler who's asking for help with his tie.

From Irish Clover

He's tossed aside his backpack with the shark on it, despite how well it served him the last few years, in favor of a new backpack with a laptop compartment, much better suited for middle school.

From Irish Clover

He'll tell you about his locker and how he has it organized, and that his locker neighbor has a fully functioning disco ball and how he thinks a Manning Fathead might be just what his locker needs. He'll still ask you though to walk him just a little way through the parking lot on school mornings. He may be in a tie and with a really big kid backpack, but he's still a work in progress.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Athens of the South

With the recent weddings in our family, I've had the luxury of seeing a lot of my family this summer, but I haven't been back home in quite some time. Last weekend was my first trip home in months, and the first time I've seen Nashville since the floods. Although the city really bounced back quickly, there are still quite a few things closed or renovating, small reminders that the city hasn't completely recovered from the flood.

Fortunately, most of my family came away from the flood with little to no damage and the lake and rivers are back to normal levels. A small storm blew through our area early last Saturday morning, leaving the rest of the day open for a potential canoe float trip down one of the nearby rivers. Italian and I had originally tossed around the idea of the Caney Fork, but the storm was moving out east, towards the Caney. We decide to stay in town then and helped push off Papa Clover and Little Clover down the Stones River. Italian and I drove off to the take out point and entertained ourselves with some casting. We would have preferred fishing, but the fish were not cooperating, so we "practiced casting" instead. We got in a lot of practice.

From Irish Clover

After a couple of hours, I could make out the canoe rounding the bend. Little Clover gave out the standard Clover whistle, I responded. Both Papa Clover and Little Clover looked a bit tired, but they also looked like they had great time.
From Irish Clover

In addition to canoing, Little Clover asked to visit the Parthenon. Built for the Centinneal celebration in Nashville, the Parthenon is a replica of the actual Parthenon in Greece, and solidified Nashville's growing reputation as the "Atens of the South." Like Athens, the Atens of the South wouldn't be complete without a statue of Athena, all 42 feet of her.

From Irish Clover

To say the statue is huge would be an understatement. She was massive. Little Clover impressed us all with his knowledge of Greek Methology as he talked through the Women in Mythology art exhibit in the lower level of the Parthenon. We have Rick Riordan to thank for that. Little Clover voraciously tore through the Percy Jackson series and requested the Scholastic Mythlopedias so he could cross reference what he was reading. His knowledge and love for the stories shone through as we walked through the Parthenon. Thank you, Rick!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Sous chef for a day

I love to cook. Cooking relaxes me and provides me with opportunities to be daring and creative, while also satisfying my love of good food. The CSA has been an excellent catalyst for expanding my cooking knowledge, but the subscription can be daunting and overwhelming. I think we are saving in food costs and we are eating out less. There is a time commitment, though, with the CSA that just doesn't exist with buying food at the grocery store. If we don't cook our weekly subscription, then we need to put it up before it goes bad. We also get what we get. There is no scaling back because we'll be out of town or have something planned one night, which means on some weeknights, I'm cooking extra just so the food doesn't go to waste.

Last week, week 13 of our CSA, I found myself too tired to be creative and I handed over the cooking reigns to Italian and Little Clover. Little Clover, inspired by Pixar, cooked Ratatouille. Acting as his sous chef, I sliced up the veggies for him. With the veggies sliced, he laid down the sauce in the pan, arranged all the veggies, seasoned the dish, topped it with parchment, and I placed it in the oven. It was delicious and wonderful; one more step in making Little Clover a foodie.

From Irish Clover

Italian, already and foodie and an excellent cook, stepped into the kitchen last week as well. I had to laugh when he pulled out the stick blender while cooking, because as a male, his cooking involved power tools. He made a creamy luscious curry squash sauce and stuffed pattypan squash. He hollowed out the pattypans and sauteed the squash with a little bit of diced eggplants, onions, garlic, and pancetta. Then he put the stuffing back into the pattypans and baked them, topping them with parmesan cheese and a cherry tomato when they came out of the oven. The sauce was drizzled over the pattypans and breaded eggplant slices. He promised to teach me how to make the curry squash sauce this week. I plan to make a huge batch and freeze them in ice cube trays, that is if I don't eat it in one sitting.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Geeking out

My inner geekiness really came out this past week. For the last few years, our local Broadway theatre house has shown movies during the summer, while they are between Broadway seasons. The lineup includes excellent family films and some incredible classics. Certain films, like Casablanca are repeated every years, and other films are rotated. This week, we went to our first movie at the theatre, Back to the Future, and I geeked out. During the scene where Marty meets 1955 Doc for the first time and enters his house, I caught myself thinking, "Hmm, I think that's the Greene and Greene house from Italian's woodworking magazine." As more of the house is revealed, I thought, "That is! That is the Greene and Green house from Popular Woodworking! Of course, I had to look it up after the movie just to be sure it was the Gamble house. Woodworking isn't even my hobby, but I love furniture design and architecture, so I steal Italian's magazines and furtively read them. Sometimes, I blatantly read them in front of him, when I'm feeling saucy. Never did I think I would get as excited about a film backdrop like I did.

We also used another film this week to fuel the budding foodie in Little Clover. Ratatouille, in addition to being an excellent film, inspires Little Clover to ask for food. This viewing, he asked for cheese and crackers instead of popcorn. Granted, he ate primarily American cheese and Ritz crackers, but every now and then, he reached for the artisan cheeses Italian and I were eating, and he liked it.

Finally, my knitting spoke to my geekiness as well. I finished the first Bartholomew's Sock and had a blast. Putting the heel flap under the heel gives the sock some cushiness, and I like the gusset placement on the top of the sock. These should be comfortable and fun socks to wear.

From WIPs

Monday, July 19, 2010


We've been busy with a few first at Clover fields.

1. Newton, our little fig tree, has produced his first fig!
From Irish Clover

Newton was a "just because" present to Italian. We planted him in the back corner of our yard, where we hoped he would get plenty of sun. He stands proudly at about 11 inches high and has been sporting five green little figs for the last couple of months. This weekend, when I peered out into the yard to check on little Figgy Newton, one of the little figs peered back at me, it's deep purple hue standing out against the green fig leaves. Being a blogger, I ran back inside to grab the camera. Italian and Little Clover followed behind allowing me to capture a rare barefoot moment.
From Irish Clover

(Little Clover still doesn't like walking around outside barefooted).

To celebrate the little fig, we ate it, and it was delicious.

2. I watched The Godfather for the first time.

Ok, it wasn't really the first time I've "watched" The Godfather. It's been on the television plenty of times while I've been in the same room, but we have a running joke in our family where Italian tells people I've never seen it. I'm pretty convinced it was a "family" movie in his household and he and his siblings have seen it many, many times over. His Sicilian grandmother told them what was really being said in Italian, and he knows the movie extremely well.

Casually watching the film while folding laundry or reading a magazine is not the same as watching the film with a Sicilian, so in one respect, I really did watch it for the first time, and unless you've seen it with an Italian, I'm willing to wager you haven't seen The Godfather either. Go find an Itailan-American, Sicilian preferred but not required, and watch the movie. It's fascinating. If you know the Italian-American well, you'll find the cultural study amazing.

3. We went to our first member night at our zoo.
From Irish Clover

Our zoo recently began hosting "Member Appreciation" nights. They keep the zoo open beyond the closing time for members only, run the rides for free, bring in a band or a DJ, allow kids to swim in the little stream and fountain area, and sell beer and wine. We had an incredible time. For starters, the zoo is great at night. It's beautiful to begin with and is even prettier in the dusk. As the air cools, the animals become more active. The tigers we've had since cubhood played and even pounced. Little Clover borrowed the camera and acted as the photographer for the evening, capturing some great candid shots. There was also something oddly relaxing about strolling around the zoo with a nice cool beer in hand. Even though it was our first, I don't think it will be the last members night for us at the zoo.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Jury is In

From WIPs

I've been a fan of Signature needles for almost two years. They are my go to DPNs and since I almost always have socks on the needles, I almost always have Signature needles on the yarn. When they announced the possibilities of Signature circulars, I became ecstatic! I had yet to find a set of lethally pointy circulars for lace knitting. I began buying lace yarn in anticipation of the day the Signature circulars would be available. That day came and went. I missed the first release by a long shot. Then the stalking began resulting in two lovely second generation sets.

They arrrived while the bohus sweater was in full swing, so I tucked the needles away into my needle case until this week when I casted on for Laurie. They didn't evoke immediate love like the Signature DPNs. I did have to work the stitches onto the needle. My first thougth was that I casted on too tightly, but I've never had that issue with my Addis. I vaguely remembered Clara Parkes mentioning something similar and the resolution of the issue, so I contacted, Signature, and as always, their customer service was impeccable. We are working out an exchange, which is fantastic. I switched Laurie over to a newer set of Signature circulars and they knit like a dream, instant love. The join is smooth and my stitiches flow smoothly across the needles.

The points are lethally pointy and feel just right for lace knitting. Since the needles are aluminum, they do not make my hands stinky like the Addi Lace brass needles. I love how Signature is a USA made product and that they are needles made by a knitter for knitters. Yes, they are a luxury item, like a beautifully crafted pen, but to me, they are worth every penny. I would rather pay more for a well crafted item made here by a small company. It makes me think I'm doing more than just buying a set of needles. I walk away with needles and the sense I am supporting a small independent business and a local economy. Also, I get to envision what the manufacturing staff thinks and says when it's time to make the needles.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bring on the rain

From WIPs

There are few things in life better than a cup of tea and some knitting on a rainy afternoon, and I had the luxury of both this week. After months of constant unending sunshine, the rains have finally moved it. Normally, I'm an optimistic realist. I enjoy looking on the brighter side of things, but as of late, it has been way too sunny and bright in my world. There is only so much sun and heat and glare a person can take before they break! I was getting tired of it always being "another beautiful day." Finally, late Sunday night, the heavens broke loose and a violent thunderstorm decended. It was musical, it was bleak, it was beautiful. The weather report has thunderstorms forcasted for seven out of the next 10 days. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

My garden is definitely happy with the rain and I'm hoping the torrential downpour will drown the little bugger of a wasp that stung me twice while I was planting some flowers. As I ran screaming like a girl into the house tearing off my gardening gloves, my hand feeling as if it were on fire, I couldn't help but think how the little snot better hope I could still knit or else I would be out for wasp blood. Fortunately, I can still knit and have been now that I've put away the bohus sweater for a spell and changed the pattern for the Hill Country Sweet Feet I'm knitting. I've treated the hot wool of the bohus to the smooth silk of Louisa Harding Mulberry. I'm trying out the Signature circulars, and so far, the jury is still out. I need to knit a stretch of stockinette to see how I love the needles.

The wasp sting didn't interfer with my cooking either, which is very important since our CSA was refreshed Saturday. Plus, we still had the squashes from John's garden (excellent fly fishing guide, and I'm not just saying that because he's great with Little Clover). Saturday, I made John and Kathy's squash casserole.

Squash Casserole
A couple of large garden fresh squashes, sliced into rounds
Onion, sliced into rings
Cheese (we used raw milk cheddar), shredded
One sleeve of Ritz Crackers, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 400(F). Grease a 9x9 inch baking dish. Cover the bottom with a layer of squash, add a layer of onions, add a layer of cheese. Repeat with a second layer of squash, onions cheese. Top with crumbled crackers. Bake for 35 minutes. Cover with foil and bake for another 15 minutes.

We had plenty of squash casserole leftover. I am not a big eater of leftovers, but the squash was a gift and we as a family are working at the adage, "waste not, want not." The squash casserole became, then, a culinary challenge. Entering the kitchen last night, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil some pasta. When the pasta was on, I heated olive oil in a pan and added some fresh garlic. I lightly crushed the small tomatoes from the CSA with a potato masher and added them to the heated oil. The tomatoes then got a heathly showering of salt, pepper, basil, parsley, and thyme. After they were heated throroughly, I added the squash casserole to the skillet. The pasta was plated, topped with the stove top raghu, then I added some herbed goat cheese, and finally topped it all with sardines. No grocery shopping was involved, the leftovers were used, and the dish tasted like a very elegant grown up tuna casserole. I'm looking forward to the next time we have leftovers.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Fishing Stories

Our family was a bit selfish this 4th of July weekend. Normally, we spend the holidays with either the Clovers or the Sopranos, but this 4th of July, we selfish took some time for just the three of us to get away. Little Clover and I are terribly introvert individuals and we've been engaged in some extroverted activities of late. I begged Italian for a fly fishing trip and you are correcting in thinking I didn't have to beg very hard.

From 2010 June Fly Fishing

Fly fishing has many desirable traits. Generally, the scenery is beautiful, consisting of mountain rivers or tight little streams. The fishing is engaging and requires skill. You have to figure out what the fish are eating and then present them with yarn and feathers on a hook and convinve them it is a bug. This is shockingly harder than you would expect. Despite having teeny tiny brains, fish are remarkably picky and can tell that you aren't offering a real bug at all. My favorite part, fly fishing is a hobby in which no one expects you to talk to them. In fact, they expect you to leave them alone and they in turn leave you alone. You can go for hours without talking to a person even though they may be standing 20 feet in front of you. This was just my conference call overloaded soul needed.

We had beautiful weather our entire stay, lots of low wadeable water, and some incredible fishing. When Italian and I first began dabbling in fly fishing, we would encounter fly fishers coming off the river after a couple of hours in the morning as we were heading out onto the river and ask them politely, "How did you do?"

They would in turn politely respond, "Not bad, I got into about 30 fish."

I would then impotlitely think to myself, "Bull$#!&."

I now know catching 30 fish in a couple of hours is quite possible, because we did. Italian, Little Clover, and I caught a lot of fish. Granted we had the help of a guide, but we also now have more skills and I think we could do it again. When the fishing slowed down, Little Clover began keeping count, and he caught 13 fish in an hour and a half, and he caught them all by himself. He found them, he hooked them, he worked them in on a fly rod, he landed them, and he released them without any help from anyone. Let me just say, I was quite the proud mama on the river. The best was watching the grown men fishing next to him walk away in amazement because he was catching 5 to their one.

From 2010 June Fly Fishing

After our "hard" day of fishing, we would spend the evenings in more introverted activities. Italian would tie flies and I would knit. Vacation knitting is without a doubt, some of the best knitting, and I was looking forward to my vacation knitting. With the bohus sweater approaching a good stopping point, I dreamt of finishing the body while on vacation and putting it away once home until the cooler weather in late September. Our first night at the cabin, I reached into my knitting bag, and discovered I'd left the bohus sweater at home. Not only would the sweater have to wait, but my vacation knitting was sitting forlornly in my laptop bag at home. Luckily, I'd just bought a Namaste bag which is generous enough to hold a project. Plus, I'd brought my Golding spindle. I practiced my spindle spinning and I think I'm working out the kinks. The Blingpaca on the spindle consists of multiple different types of fibers, all of varying staple lengths. I found that spinning over the fold was the best technique to use.
From Yarn

Now that we are back, I'm determined to finish (the body anyway) the bohus.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Happy Birthday

From Family

Today is my daddy's birthday. Happy birthday, Dad! I feel incredibly blessed to have you as my dad. I hope today is filled with much celebration. You've been a great example of strength, understanding, and patience. I love you, Daddy. Happy birthday!

In other news...
There are really only so many ways to state one is busy. I've tried the "boy, we've had a lot going on," and the direct "we've been busy," so let's just ignore the long gaps between blog posts and move along.

I had high hopes for lots and lots of leisure time this summer, which has just not been the case. We've had a few family related trips and the usual flurry of activity before and after the trip. Plus, I have this really terrible habit of overbooking myself. In short, my hopes of lounging on the sofa knitting or spinning have been dashed upon the harsh rocks of reality. I'm still making due by knitting as much as I can. I have a recently finished shawl and pair of socks to show for it.

From WIPs

The bohus sweater is still progress, albeit, the weather has not been conducive to knitting a wool sweater. There's just something about 100(F) and a heat index of 110(F) that just doesn't scream "wool." The sweater has caught me eyeing some silk, but I'm being failthful. Well, I promise to be faithful through the body. After that, though, there's no guarentee. The sweater might be a vest for a while.

The big time suck for us really has been the garden and the CSA. I anticipated spending more time on food preparation, but I grossly underestimated the time required. Thankfully, cooking is a pleasure for me and the food has been remarkably delicious. Our meat consumption as a family has also dramatically decreased, since the meats we have are large roasts or whole chickens. More planning, preparation, clean-up, and in some cases, cooking is required. With some luck, the summer weekends will open up a bit more, allowing me to do more reheating on the weekday evenings and more cooking on the weekends.

Friday, June 11, 2010

You ate what?

Conversation overheard this week after Spot dug up the onions in our garden:

Italian (to our dog): I don't understand why you insist on digging. If you're bored, then get a job like a normal person.

Italian stopped when he heard me laughing behind him. I just pictured our dog sitting in a room filling out a job application and I cracked. Italian, nonplussed replied, "What? What's so funny?"

Yes, Spot, our lovely yellow lab was in our garden again, digging away. This time, our onions suffered the full force of his mighty paws. They weren't really doing well anyway. I think I planted them too late, or too early. I'm still learning. Thankfully, we aren't relying on our garden for substinance. The CSA is feeding us and feeding us quite well. This past week, in addition to our usual loaf of bread, the CSA included garlic scapes.
From 2010 CSA

The garlic scape is the stalk and unbloomed flower of a garlic plant. You cut the scape so the plant's energy is concentrated in the bulb resulting in a larger more flavorful bulb. The scape is completely edible and makes a delicious pesto. The pesto is wonderful on a slice of homemade bread and a light crisp bottle of Torrentes wine, perfect for a picnic, which we had Tuesday.
From 2010 CSA

Our little town holds a horse show every year in June to benefit a local charity. Little Clover, being a rider, was invited by his trainer to attend with her barn and walk around the arena for the costume contest. Italian and I packed our little picnic and enjoyed the warm summer evening and the amazing horse riders. We still can't pick a winning horse, but we managed to have fun. I think the wine and food helped.

In addition to having family friendly low cost or free events, our small town post office will stay open in a mail emergency, like when that skein of yarn one needs to finish a certain shawl is sitting in the post office two hours after they have closed. Yes, if you beg, they will stay there for the five minutes and 42 seconds it takes you to drive to the post office, and they will also apologize for making you wait. I love my town.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

At least the food is good

Saturday, I went to the grocery store for the first time in three weeks, all thanks to the CSA. This is our first year ever to be a part of Community Support Agriculture, and we didn't know what to expect nor did we know if we would like it. The up front cost for us then was a bit of a gamble. It is a gamble that is really paying off.

The "farm" we support is a a collective of approximately 4 to five farms. The subscription is for a total of 27 weeks, averaging out to $30 a week. For $30, we've gotten an assortment of salad kits with radishes, carrots, peas, and greens, some herbs, braising greens, jams and pickles, bread, fresh eggs, fruits and vegetables. Our weekly pick up has without a doubt, influenced how we eat, not just what we eat. When Italian asks, "What's for dinner?" I don't answer with a protein item like, "steak" or "chicken." Instead, I reply with a vegetable. "We're having braising greens" or "We're having Mrs. Zook's salad kit" have become common answers. We've also eaten some foods I've never even seen before, ever.

Last week, we faced down a Lion's mane mushroom. This has been the most foreign food we've received, and it was delicious. It was accompanied by shiittakes and served with a steak and fresh tomatoes. The steaks came from the grocery store and did not taste nearly as good as the steaks we've purchased directly from the farm. At $8 more per pound than the farm steaks, I'm now researching the potential of joining a meat CSA.

Overall, we as a family, expected to pay more for food by buying directly from a local farm. Instead, we are finding we are paying less for food. Our $30 per week has almost completely fed us for the full week. We have gone out to eat twice in the last three weeks, when in the past, we would have had a restaurant meal at a minimum of twice per week. Our diet has also seen a shift to a vegetable focused diet instead of a meat based diet, and we don't miss the meat. We've also broken out from our eating ruts, trying new foods and discovering we like them. This week, I'll be tackling beets for the first time.

My knitting, has not been nearly as adventurous as my cooking. Maryland Sheep and Wool did pump some new and fun yarns and fibers and spindles into my stash. Sadly, they are all still in my stash. In an effort to be mynogomous (sort of), I've been knitting on the same lace shawl and Bohus sweater I began in March and February, respectively. For a few moments yesterday, there was a glimmer of hope the shawl would be complete and I could cast on something new. Then, the maniacly laughter of the knitting fates filled my head when I accepted what lay before. With just a few rows of border left, I ran out of yarn. The shawl and I are on a break.

From WIPs

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Where were we

The long blog silence was not due to overly festive St. Patty's Day celebrations that required a long recovery period. Nope. It was due to baseball, lots and lots of baseball.
From Irish Clover

We've hit the phase in Little Clover's athletic career where longer practice times are deemed necessary by the coaching staff, and his acedemic career where there is no shortage of homework. In short, something had to give to maintain sanity at Clover Fields and what gave out was the blog. Baseball season has come to end and now I've got a bit more time on my hands. Honestly, it feels as if summer vacation has started even though we have a couple more weeks of school.

The influx of time couldn't have come at a better time. We signed up for a CSA this year and we planted a garden. I'd like to conduct a little experiment on how plausible is it for a family with two working parents and an active kid to eat a primarily ecotarian diet. Yep, you heard me, "ecotarian." This Earth Day, I discoverd I am a "tarian," and the discovery was a bit of an eye opener. I've flirted with vegetarianism, but it never felt quite right. I wanted to be an exclusive locavaore, but it isn't the right fit for me either (I love seafood way too much), but being an ecotarian seems like the right fit. We are going to give it a go and the CSA and garden are a step in that direction.

This is our first CSA and we didn't exactly know what to expect. Imagine our surprise when the first week's installment included fresh eggs!

From Irish Clover

Italian braved the tornado warnings in our area to provide his family with food, and the trip was well worth it when he began unpacking the CSA bag to find shiitakes, tomatoes, radishes, greens, and eggs. We celebrated with one of the best salads we'd ever had. I cooked swiss chard and chicory for the first time in my life. The swiss chard held the lovely flavor of the butter, but the quick saute was all wrong for the chicory. That one is going to take some experimentation.

I couldn't pick up the CSA since I was out of town at:
From Irish Clover

Maryland Sheep and Wool was like a knitter's mecca. There were vendors and animals everywhere. I did eat a lamb sausage while at the festival. I couldn't resist. I also walked away with some gorgeous Blingpaca from the loop and a Golding spindle.

More info to come on Maryland Sheep and Wool and CSA week 2.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

I spent this morning with my traditional Mother's Day breakfast in bed watching "Miracle," Little Clover's favorite movie of the moment, with Little Clover and Italian, and it was perfect. I love my breakfast in bed, and I especially love having it with Little Clover and Italian right there with me. After all, they are the reasons why I get a Mother's Day at all and for me, I love having them be a part of the celebration.

In previous Mother's Day posts, I've spent time thinking of the mothers. Today, I want to raise a toast to all the people who make us mothers, to the children we have, the children we've lost, the children we've adopted, the children we've longed for but have never met, the men who have fathered our kids, the other women who have mothered our kids, to our fathers and to their wives, to anyone who has a played a part in make us mothers (step, adopted, what have you), thank you for giving us today.

From 2010 CSA

Flowers from our CSA, run by a mom and the people who make her a mom.