To The Glen Again

I must confess something to you.

The unseasonably warm temperatures have been a bit of a downer here at Chez Knitting Sarah. Our entire family loves winter and this longest autumn ever has been wearing on us. As we watch and listen to others celebrate the mild weather, I realize this makes us very odd ducks. There’s a tiny part of me that is a little relieved that the stress on our soon-to-be-replaced 30-year-old furnace has been minimal, but nonetheless we’re longing for snow and cold that bites at our noses & takes our breath away.

It was with this in our hearts that we made the little trek to Parfrey’s Glen. This is a small, incredibly beautiful natural area that I’ve talked about at least 2 or 3 times before here.  Over the years it’s become too crowded for out tastes in the summer, but we can usually manage to find a good day in spring or fall when it’s quiet and not congested. We thought a Wednesday in mid-November might be just right and I’m delighted to say we were right as we only ran into a half dozen other souls on the trail this time around.

This place is a great geology lesson for the kids and — at least for me — a great, humbling reminder that Earth is a big, amazing place.

img_5244From the smallest details in the rocks…

img_5249To the remnants of an ancient sea, no matter where you choose to focus your attention it is an awe-inspiring spot.

The kids, well, they love balancing on downed trees…

img_5182And the excitement of the many stream crossings…

img_5245And my husband and I love to see them having so much fun and chuckling at the inevitable exclamation when someone slips and winds up a little in the drink…

img_5246And just the quiet and the stillness of it all.

We had a little picnic at the end of the trail…

img_5239Right here in this magical spot.

And when I’d finished my lunch and was waiting for everyone else…

img_5234I was reminded that the spindle is a very, very special tool.

We hiked out way out…

And at the insistence of our youngest made a stop at the Blue Spoon Cafe for some gelato. Who can refuse ice cream after a hike? We made a quick stop at Wollersheim Winery for a couple special bottles of wine and then headed home.

It was one of those days that is a great reminder of how lucky we are. That we have both the time and money to take these little day trips, to be awed by the world around us, and to play together in the quiet of the glen again — it’s a gift that not everyone in this world enjoys. I look back and I’m humbled and thankful for the beautiful day, for the awesome place, and for our time with each other. It’s this simple perspective that propels me forward and inspires me every day.

Life Goes On

While the who’s who of the knitting & spinning world met at Rhinebeck over the weekend, the timing just happened to work out and my little family stole away for a quick couple of days up at my parents’ house to have an early birthday celebration for my daughter. She joyfully got to make her own cake (which was pink, of course) with my mom and then we let her decorate it.

img_4861This what we get for setting a nearly 9-year-old up with an entire tube of pink frosting and letting her go at it. The most ironic part: she does not really care for frosting. It’s on her own personal “warning list” of things that are too sweet and should either be avoided or eaten in extreme moderation. The rest of us, not wanting to disappoint her, ate it. The sugar coma that followed was almost fatal.

Thankfully, we could escape afterward to recover with a walk along the big water.

img_4829As you well know, it’s a favorite past time of mine. And thankfully, unlike last time there was enough beach to walk along.

img_4838And the fall colors along the shore were a beautiful backdrop, too.

img_4832And as the beach was loaded with tons of beautifully flat rocks, I may have left a few little rock piles behind. They are so good for the soul.

When we got back, the kiddos opted for some biking and running off their sugar high. And then my dad broke out his leaf blower and I pitched in with the old-fashioned rake and we created the most incredible leaf pile in the history of leaf piles.

img_4860It was… enjoyed.

(That is the understatement of the century.)

My girl got to open a couple gifts from my parents…

img_4876Including this placemat sized Stash Blaster Loom from Purl & Loop. She has such a phenomenal love for her Wee Weaver, we thought graduating to a bigger loom would be a hit. I’d contemplated a small rigid heddle, but I thought the warping might be frustrating as she wouldn’t be able to do it herself right out of the gate. If I hadn’t mentioned it, she’s a tiny bit independent. As you can see from the smile on her face, I think we chose wisely.

In between all the fun, I managed to knit away on my handspun Featherweight Cardigan…

img_4874I think I’m around 5″ past the armholes now. If the yarn holds out, I’d like to aim for about 10 or 11″ before I start the ribbing. I may have to cut that short though… we shall see. I suppose I can always go with shorter sleeves… or order more fiber…

When we got home, I plied up those mini art batts I’d spun for my daughter to weave with. They are currently in the bath or I’d share a photo of them as well. Instead, how about a picture of my next wheel spin?

img_4879Three Waters Farm’s “Black Pansies” on a merino/silk base. It’s not currently available on the merino/silk base, but you can find it in the shop on a polwarth/silk base. I grabbed it at random a couple weeks ago and started pulling it apart as an example to explain to a friend how I prep my fiber, so when it came time to pick a new spin I figured I might as well go with this since I’d already broke into it. And now I’m thoroughly excited to dig into this spin — can you blame me?!

All in all, it was just a fantastic weekend doing all the things I love to do with the people I love.

img_4839And life goes on in the most spectacular way.

Welcome to the Brrrs

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it in the past, but at our house we call the months of September through December “The Brrrs.” Partly because, you know, SeptemBER, OctoBER, etc., but also because where we live that’s the time we start feeling a chill in the air. It’s when we wake up and think, “Brrr! It’s cold!” It’s one of our favorite times of year and the mister and I celebrated last night with a little campfire in the back yard. You know, to properly welcome The Brrrs.

We talked about how the kids are doing in school, a few scheduling things coming up, the economy, and we counted satellites as they raced overhead. It was even cool enough for my favorite knitted hat. Ahhhhhh…

I’m still, yes still, fighting off whatever has decided to hang out in my respiratory system. I’m feeling much better, my energy level is back up and for the most part I feel good, but I have a lingering cough that still sounds not great. If it’s not gone or much improved at the end of the long weekend, I’m afraid it’ll require a doctor visit. I remain optimistic that it’ll be cleared up and am trying to take heart that I’ve built some crazy tough antibodies from this one. Suffice to say, despite feeling better I’ve not been at 100% and I’m still feeling a bit behind.

We did get to go for a really lovely little hike earlier in the week though…

img_4299With the natural spring right next to a small woodland, this is a park that is great for bird watching. We saw a few warblers and a cardinal family this time through. Oh, and lots of little toads — they were awfully cute! We saw the lingering signs of summer…

img_4309As well as the first signs of the impending autumn…

img_4305I’m so happy The Brrrs are back and hiking is a little more comfortable!

And really, very little says we’re beginning to tip toward autumn & winter like the fiber arts. I managed to get a lot of plying done this week, too, but because of the whole being a little slower than normal I don’t have proper FO photos ready to go quite yet. Four skeins are washed, set, and dried though (and a cowl & shawl, too!). Weather permitting, I should have those photos and stories all set to share with you next week.

I’m currently working on plying my final bobbins of that mass of singles I had spun…

img_4311Which are becoming this 3-ply of Nest Fiber.

I’ve also been sinking a lot of time into my Feel Good Yarn Co Summer Sock Club finale…

img_4313I’m at the toe of my first in the pair and I’m planning to take just a little creative license there. I’ve got just until September 14th when the knitalong is officially over, so I’m trying very hard to really cruise through them. I’ll admit that I’m really enjoying the pattern and they are going quite a bit faster now that I’ve really got the pattern in my hands & mind.

I also have a couple spindle projects going. I’m not moving mountains with progress on them, but now that I’ve actually been up to the task of cooking again I’ve been sneaking in my moments during the ‘down moments’ of making dinner.

This spindle I’m spinning some fiber that I blended on my new-to-me blending board. I still have to share that new development with you, too, don’t I?! In any case, first I couldn’t stop myself from trying out the blending board when it arrived…

img_4312And then I really just had to see how it would spin up. I can see hours of entertainment and fun ahead of me!

I’ve also been stealing a moment here and there for this spin…

img_4314These are some rolags I got a while back from Classy Squid Fiber Co. I have 6oz of them and I’ve been hoarding them partly because I LOVE them and partly because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to finish them. One day I wanted to have a quick and easy spinning project to take with me and I just grabbed my first pack of rolags here and started. I’ll figure out where I’m going with them eventually. For now, I’m just going to enjoy spinning them.

Throw in a little weeding in the gardens and the fact that I laid fresh grass clipping just outside my front window so I get the constant sweet smell of cut grass wafting through the house and I feel as though The Brrrs are off to a grand beginning here. I’m sure summer and autumn will do their little dance back and forth for a few more weeks yet, but at our house we’re celebrating each crisp breeze, each tiny shift of the leaves changing colors, and every song of the birds that are beginning to migrate south. Welcome to The Brrrs, my friends! May you enjoy each moment as much as we do!

No Plan Survives Contact with Reality

There is a famous quote that goes, “No plan survives contact with the enemy” (If you’re a nerd like me and like this sort of thing, you can read about the history of this quote here). I think of these words a lot. Oftentimes I remind myself that in my case, “No plan survives contact with reality.” It could be that I’m not a great planner (very true) or that I just exist in a position with a lot of variables that I can, must, and do work around (also true). In any case, it could not have been more true this week.

As I wrote my last post on Tuesday, I was raring to go with a million things on my to-do list before we started school today, Thursday. My blog posted, I let my son know we would be going to a local outdoor pool the kids love in the afternoon as a treat and I hopped right to the task I had to finish before leaving — getting the lawn mowed. As I finished mowing & mentally checked that item off the list — yes! — I came in and within moments my son became violently ill.

Eep.

I’ve been a mom long enough that when it comes to this type of illness I pretty much have a constitution of iron. I can be there with a washcloth & toothbrush, clean up, and will myself to stay healthy so I can act as nurse. I, however, have not been a mom long enough to lose hope each and every time that it’s a one-off fluke. Sadly, it was not. And thus, we embarked on 48hours of everyone in the family being sick to one degree or another.

Obviously the pool was out until further notice and the to-do list went out the window. We stayed home (of course) and the kids basically slept and barely moved for two days (by contrast our son generally bikes around 20miles per day). I did extra laundry, played nurse to my ‘babies’, and made quick runs out to the store for saltines and Gatorade. I managed to steal a few moments to get outside weed & tidy up my landscaping and spread out the two batches of grass clippings the neighbors had deposited in the compost area since we’d been on vacation.

Of course, a lot of time was spent just being with the kids, too, watching some TV with them. I started my August installment of the Feel Good Yarn Co Summer Sock Club…

img_4193Kate Atherley‘s Diamonds In Your Shoes is the exclusive club pattern for the month and it’s cruising along already. I’m loving her instructions for cabling without a cable needle — so handy during the summer when I’m on the go. If I don’t need to carry along a cable needle, that’s one less thing I can lose in transit.

In my spinning, I finished up my Three Waters Farm July Top of the Month Club singles…

img_4197Eventually this will be a 3-ply — I’m very interested to see it as the spindle spun singles I spun from some roalgs I rolled and will most likely be pretty unique when compared to the wheel spun singles.

In the mean time, though, I thought I’d start a little bonus heavier weight 2-ply.

img_4194This colorway is also from Three Waters Farm and is called Painter’s Backdrop dyed on Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah Silk top, 40/40/20. It’s one of the braids I took with me on vacation, but didn’t get to. This braid has been in my stash since last November so I thought it was time to spin it up.

Oh, and I didn’t share a photo yet, but these are the singles I finished on vacation…

img_4196This is Dyeabolical‘s 66 Sunset colorway dyed on Fawn Shetland. I really love the depth of color on the Fawn Shetland.

After all the less than appealing excitement of this week, I barely even remember what was on my to-do list when I was last typing away here. It feels like a distant memory. My plans definitely did not survive contact with reality. In any way. At all. And yet, the world keeps spinning ’round and ’round and the sun has risen and set each day. As everyone appears to be on the mend now, I’m here thinking about our plans for the weekend and next week. Wisconsin Sheep & Wool is not too far off either. And then there will be a trip up to my parents’ next month. And our next vacation out there on the horizon. Oh, the plans I will make that will not survive reality to fruition and the life I will lead and the things I will get done in spite of it all!

On Endings, Family, and Being Thankful

A week ago Sunday at around dinnertime, my family and I set off for our family vacation to southwestern Missouri. For some unknown reason, my phone’s GPS decided that instead of our usual route that takes us to and around Kansas City, that a more direct route through central Missouri was preferable. We questioned the route, but thought that surely some construction had made this a better option than going via Kansas City. Somewhere in southern Iowa, we turned off the interstate and headed south.

As rain poured down and steamed off the road sometime between 10pm & midnight, the road twisted, turned, rose & fell and occasionally caused us to catch air. We spooked numerous owls and other wildlife from the side of the road — including a disturbingly large eye-shine from a tree hanging over the road that I’m pretty sure was a chupacabra. We became increasingly aware that the GPS had led us on a very ‘as the crow flies’ route to our destination. I realized that along with being in the middle of no where and on some… um… ‘exciting’ roads in the middle of the night, I had no cell signal either. It was less than ideal. Alas, around 2 or 3am we pulled into my in-law’s driveway, safe & sound.

It was the first time in about five years that my husband’s whole family was able to get together and it was great to catch up. The best part, of course, was that the cousins got to meet & play & spend quality time together. Lots of memories were made and fun was had. It was as a little family reunion should be and, really, so many kudos and thanks go to my mother & father-in-law for great planning and for hosting all of us. It definitely isn’t a small undertaking to host eight people for a week in your home, including a day where four more stopped in for a few hours. Kids ranging in age from 12 to 3 were in attendance. And let’s not forget that they have 2 cats and we have a 75-lb Moose. It was a busy, busy week to say the least!

I didn’t take a ton of photos beyond the unofficially official family portrait. I was busy doing sidewalk chalk with my niece and playing baseball with my daughter & nephew and watching my son play some sort of ball game with my little niece ever so patiently. Despite some extreme heat & humidity that kept us close to home & the comfort of air-conditioning, we did take the kids swimming and on an early morning hike one morning…

img_4164What you can’t see in the photo is that the trail, of course, was laced with loads of spiders & their webs. They were not exactly crowd pleasers, but as friends on Instagram pointed out, the spinners of the world always find me.

I had brought my spinning wheel, but with all the commotion of kids I left it packed away most of the week choosing instead to work on knitting projects.

img_4136-1I started these shorty socks for my MIL the night before we left…

img_4166And they were done & given to my MIL by Tuesday.

I used Susan B Anderson’s Smooth Operator Socks pattern just because I could and I was interested to see what all the hype was about. This 16 page pattern includes step-by-step tutorials that will be especially helpful for more novice sock knitters, but it also contains a short version that’s heavily edited and less conversational. There was a time where I really appreciated her wordier approach, but these days time is of the essence and I prefer to cut to the chase. I think that this pattern provides both options makes it useful for a very wide audience.

When I finished up the socks, I hopped over to my Pebble Beach Shawl…

img_4132You’ll remember this photo from last week. It was such a fun knit — both the pattern and the beautiful handspun yarn. Having set my phone aside for the week, I have zero progress photos, but suffice to say I couldn’t help but knit away on it.

I did a teensy bit of spindle spinning when my 6-year-old nephew showed interest.

img_4185I am not the greatest at transferring my knowledge of the spindle and I really had not come prepared to share the skills with little kiddos, but he had fun learning to flick the spindle. Next time I’ll be sure to come prepared with appropriate knitting & spindle resources to let the kids try, just in case.

With the rest of the gang needing to get back to work, we spent the last couple days just with my husband’s mom & dad. I spent some time with my spinning wheel, but a lot of the time was just spent porch sitting & chatting as the temps had become more comfortable. They have a really wonderful yard…

img_4179From which to view some lovely sunsets…

img_4180And on the final night, my husband managed to call in a pair of great horned owls. We saw them fly into the trees not 50yards away and one even posed in a most ethereal way, silhouette against the very last light of twilight before flying back to the larger stand of trees in the distance. It was a beautiful way to end the week.

As we loaded our stuff and selves into the car the following morning, our girl shed a few tears sad to say goodbye to her beloved Grandma & Grandpa and their cats. Our son turned to her and said,

“Remember what we learned from The Box Car Children. You need to appreciate every part of your vacations, even the endings.”

I was at once floored by his connection as well as the profound statement. My boy, so true of heart, is so open to what life sends his way and is simply thankful for the experiences he has. It made us all take a deep breath and enjoy a flood of good memories. I hope one day we each learn to be so at peace.

On the way home, I cast-off my Pebble Beach Shawl just as we crossed back into Wisconsin.

img_4183I’ve still got to block it, but it is beautiful and makes me long for the cooler temps of autumn.

We’ll be starting school later this week so my to-do list is long for the next couple days. I’m so thankful that I was able to recharge batteries and have such a wonderful week of vacation. Good visits, a change of scenery, a few days not tethered to my phone and computer. I am refreshed and ready to go!

Up North

Last year our son really got into fishing so over the winter we decided to plan a fishing vacation during our boy’s birthday week. We found a very old-school looking family-owned resort in Northern Wisconsin that had everything we were looking for — a dog-friendly cabin that would fit our family plus my parents, a dock to fish from & where we could tie-up my dad’s fishing boat, and a lake with fish in it. And last week we packed up our little car and made the 5hour trek north to Lost Land Lake.

Reserving these types of places online sight-unseen is always a bit of a gamble because you really never know what a place is like. A couple photos online and testimonials help, but you never really know until you get there. After a quick stop for groceries in Hayward, the nearest town, we  made the 30minute drive out of all cell service to the very end of a dead-end road on which the Northland Lodge is situated. When I walked into the lodge, I was greeted with a smile and a handshake by an extremely kind lady who let me know that my parents had just arrived and then gave me a run-down of activities and amenities.

We made our way to our neat & tidy little cabin and spent the evening getting settled in. It was quite literally just steps away from the water…

img_3499And although the cabins did not have a ton of space between them, I found the resort to be very quiet and peaceful.  Despite the early morning that would surely be coming from us, that didn’t stop a certain little lady from getting her hook in the water that very night…

img_3507When you have fish at your doorstep, why wait? As the last of the light faded, we all made our way to bed for the night. Falling asleep to loons calling out on the lake, I definitely had a good feeling about the week.

And then I awoke the next morning to this…

img_3400Does it get any more picturesque?

I spent the next day and a good portion of every day doing this… img_3505I learned a lot on the boat during this trip. First, that my re-spooling of our fishing poles was a drastic improvement over the mess we had at the end of last year. Second, I am now a wizard with the palomar knot and I’m working on getting better with the uni knot. And third, the fisherman’s gloves that I have really help me get over the issues I have handling fish. I’m not proud to admit that handling them totally weirds me out, but it totally does. It totally, totally does. And these gloves actually really helped me get over that to the point that I can get in there and take hooks out all by myself. Sure, as I’m doing it I’m usually talking the fish through it — “Hey guy, I’m sorry I hooked you, but if you hold still I’ll get it out quickly and put you right back in the water, OK?” The main thing, though, is that I can actually help the kids as well as myself when we’re out and that makes the whole experience a lot better for everyone. In any case, the fish were biting like gangbusters — we caught loads of small fish, most of which we released except for just enough for a little fish fry for my son’s birthday party on Friday night.

We also brought along one of our kayaks which the kids loved getting acquainted with and Moose…

img_3501Well, he insisted on having a turn, too. He’s such a weird dog.

We also discovered something new about Moose…

img_3435We are well aware that he sometimes doesn’t understand the difference between shouts of joy & shouts of distress, so when my daughter was whew-hooing away with kayaking glee, Moose did what he thought needed to be done.

img_3443He chased her down…

img_3456Grabbed the strap on the front of the boat…

img_3457Towed her into shore…

img_3453Got himself some sure footing on land and held her there.

We’re not sure how he figured this all out since we didn’t show him how to do any of it, but I’ll admit my heart melted a little to know what great lengths my sweet pup will go to keep my kiddos safe. The downside, of course, is that once he put it all together he seemed kind of frustrated that after all his hard work both kids always wanted to instantly turn back around and go back out. He kept trying to grab them and tow them back in before they passed the end of the dock. As you can imagine, this made for a very tired Moose.

img_3490Silly, sweet Moose.

While Mr. Knitting Sarah took charge of the kayaking lessons with both kids, I stole a little time for crafting. I had packed up my spinning wheel and a couple projects when at the last minute we discovered that my spinning wheel would not fit in the car. I won’t lie, I was so sad!  Thinking on my feet because we were literally headed out the door, I grabbed a simple knitting project and my spindle spinning project to take its place. And the weirdest thing happened…

img_3504It was perfect!

I kept catching my husband watching me as I spun and then he would start chuckling to himself. Thinking he was laughing at me, after a couple days I called him out on it to which he responded, “No! I’m not laughing at you! I’m laughing at me. It’s just so hypnotic I can’t stop staring at it!” And it was — very soothing and relaxing and dare I say I actually really increased not only my comfort level with the spindles, but also my speed which was fantastic.

img_3494I managed to get through most of what remained of this 2oz of fiber and officially finished it up last night at home. This is one of my 1+1+1 projects that I thought was hopeless, that I would never finish on time. Now… there’s a chance. I’ve got the contrast color I’ll be plying with it left to go and I’m optimistic that the singles will be done by the end of the month.

I’ve been working on a lace knitting project which I knew would not fly in this type of environment, so instead I started yet another of my 1+1+1 projects…

img_2232My Hamlin Peak Cardi in Quince & Co Kestrel. It’s a very simple knit that I’ve really been enjoying. In the interest of full disclosure, I had to start over a couple times because I wasn’t being very careful about increases, but I’m on the straight-and-narrow now. I really love how simple the design is and I’m finding it a super fun knit. It turned out being a great fit for the fishing trip, too, because my hands were so incredibly dry from being in the water and worm dirt and what-have-you all day that there were times the wool of my spinning project was sticking to my hands like velcro. The linen posed no such problems. Hooray!

The birthday boy, of course, was spoiled appropriately. He picked a double chocolate cake along with some cookies & cream ice cream to follow his fish fry birthday dinner and mac n’ cheese birthday dinner. I added the trick candles because I knew his trickster nature would appreciate it. He was showered with a few new books, including a D&D Monster Manual that he read non-stop in his non-fishing time — he loves to create monsters!

img_3496He also got a couple Tin-Tin books as well as a couple new Wii games to indulge in at home. But mostly, he was happy to have loads of time for this…

img_3506And we were delighted to spend that time with him.

All in all, we had beautiful weather, excellent fishing, and many good times. The only thing missing was catching a glimpse of a black bear out in the wild which was on my husband’s wishlist. We even went for a hike through the woods thick with mosquitoes to try to see one but to no avail. Next time, I guess. Next time.

We’re home now, tanned and tired and only driven slightly mad by our share of mosquito bites. The bags are mostly unpacked. The Laundry (yes, with a capital L) is being tackled slowly, but surely. The kayak is put away in the boathouse. And the kids are sleeping in. And I’m going to sip my coffee and exist in this moment for just a little while longer…

img_3500It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.