The Coziest Himalayan Summit

When I used to think of a Himalayan Summit, I didn’t think cozy. My thoughts would go to ice and avalanches and crampons. Leave it to Bijou Basin Ranch to defy conventional thinking though and completely revolutionize what I think of when I hear the words “Himalayan Summit’. Now, I think of this…

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50% Tibetan Yak + 50% Merino Wool. Let me tell you, it doesn’t get a whole lot softer than this!

I also think of this amazing assortment of goodies that the wonderful folks at Bijou Basin Ranch sent me when they kindly sent me the yarn for review…

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I always feel so spoiled — like I’m not just getting yarn to review, but a care package from friends with this shop send me goodies.

The yarn was so soft, in fact, that I actually chose to wind it the old fashioned way, just to spend a little more time with it in my hands…

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This yarn is a limited edition colorway called Crab Nebula dyed by ModeKnit for Bijou Basin Ranch. They’ve been partnering up with indie dyers the past few years in order to get some really unique, very fresh colorways. This colorway was so pretty ‘as is’ that I opted for a very simple pattern, my first ever Sockhead Slouch Hat. It’s a free pattern on Ravelry that I’ve seen knit up hundreds of times and it was about time I got around to knitting it for myself. This fabulous yarn was the perfect match.

After winding my yarn I discovered that the US 2.5 needle was literally the one needle size greater than a US 1 (I have never had the need for anything lower than US 1) that I did not own in circulars. I ordered some ChiaoGoo interchangeable tips and cords just to try them out.

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I started with what I believe was a 14″ cord, thinking it would be similar to the 16″ ones I’m used to, but it was a little tight, especially in the ribbing. I didn’t want to fight with my equipment, so I went back online and ordered the 8″ cord and waited for it to arrive.

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The 8″ was so much better! I had already purchased the 30″ for magic looping the crown, so I knew I was all set. I though the Chiaogoos were a great needle with smooth, easy to secure joins, nice sharp tips, and very comfy in the hands. Well worth all the hype I’ve heard from knitting friends. Between the needles and the yarn, I simply flew through this knit.

And voilá!

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Finished in no time flat!

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I’m especially impressed that there was so little pooling in the colorway. And I really just adore the vivid blues and oranges — the colors just POP.

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It’s a super, super slouchy hat, as the name of the pattern implies. Pair the nice long folding brim with the 50/50 yak/merino blend and this is simply a heavenly hat — so soft and so warm. Gah! I just love it!

I tried very hard to discourage the sproingy haired bandit from stealing this one. I went to great lengths with all sorts of shenanigans…

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So far, my plan has been working and I’ve managed to keep this one in my own hat stash.  It helps that I hung it up on a rack that she can’t reach. Keep your fingers crossed for me because this is the coziest Himalayan Summit I can imagine and I think I want to keep it all for myself!

 

Many thanks to Bijou Basin Ranch for sending me this yarn for review!

 

 

 

 

Autumnal, Just in Time for Winter

Around the middle of last month, I saw a call for test knitters from Melissa Schaschwary who happens to be the woman behind Dandiliongirl Designs. Since the move, I’ve cut way back on the tests and reviews I’ve volunteered for just because it’s been busy around here and I don’t like to take on projects that I can’t guarantee delivering on in a timely manner. This was a cute hat though and a yarn I had in my stash and I’ve been a long time admirer of Dandilion Designs, so I threw my name in the ring. I was delighted to be selected and included.

As soon as I got the pattern, I got knitting…

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It was so much fun I just flew through it, editing & notating as I went like a good test knitter. And around this spot, I realized my gauge was super tight and the fabric was going to be too stiff for a good slouch. I knew I had to rip back and go again and, you know, pay attention to my gauge, like a good test knitter.

I was over halfway through the skein, though…

img_8515So rather than rip it out, I just started from the opposite end and knitted off from the remainder of the ball and off the old version of the hat. I was being a little antsy about the knitting and lazy about the ripping. It worked and saved me time, so I’m not complaining!

It was so worth the rip! I really dug in and finished it up within a day or so and the finished product…

 

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Oh my goodness, do I love it!

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Including the faux fur pom on the top (which I attached in a totally respectable time frame for once!).

I used the recommended Malagbrigo Worsted to make the full slouchy version and it takes a bit more than a skein, or about 315yards of aran weight yarn to make this hat. I just had one, though, which was 210yards, so I made some adjustments. In the pattern, the designer opted to create a version for each yardage allowing knitters to create either a one skein version or a 2 skein version. In the shorter version, she opted to cut the folded brim, whereas I just cut about an inch from the main body of the hat for a slightly more subtle slouch. Where I live, the extra ear coverage is more important than fashionable slouchiness. It’s worth mentioning that this pattern is pretty easy to customize as it is a simple repeat and crown.

The finished hat is equally versatile and can be worn with the brim folded all the way up for a snug, cozy fit…

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Or, it can be folded for just in half for a slouchier look…

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Either way, I love it.

Unfortunately, as you might guess, so does my little model. The softness of the Malabrigo and poofy faux fur pom proved irresistible and I post photo shoot I watched as yet another finished hat was snatched lovingly from my grasp by the sproingy haired bandit. Of course I smiled as I watched the faux fur pom bounce away.

Saying Farewell to Yellowstone

Our final morning in Yellowstone was the coldest by far. We made sure the kids had a good breakfast via the continental breakfast provided by the hotel.

img_2187In case you’re wondering, to our kids the hotel continental breakfast was amazing and got 2 thumbs up.

With full bellies we made our way back into the park, but with the sun just coming up it was still in the single digits so we opted for a short repeat hike that we’d done one other day which we knew would keep us out of any possible wind and wouldn’t take us far from the car. We revisited the trail along the icy, fast-moving Gardiner River that takes you right up to the confluence with the Boiling River. The aptly named Boiling River is fed by Mammoth Hot Springs and while it isn’t literally boiling, it’s very, very hot. Where the two meet, many choose to brave the extreme temps for a soak. We just hiked and reflected on our trip and waited for the sun to make its way over the mountains.

img_2183And we watched the sun rise…

img_2152With the little American Dipper, dipping away in the very center of the river in this picture.

img_2098We walked to the end of the trail to get one last look at the Boiling River and all the vivid colors that are present around it.

As we walked back to the car, the kids paired up & walked ahead and I was left to my own thoughts…

Interrupted only by the American Dippers antagonizing each other and a Belted Kingfisher that flew past, searching the river for food. It was right near this spot that a couple days earlier we saw an snowy-white ermine with his little black-tipped tail run across the road plain as day. It was unbelievable for us because last year in Minnesota we’d tried so hard in vain to catch a glimpse of this little member of the weasel family. And here, in the weird and mysterious and magical world that is Yellowstone, he just scampered across the road in front of us as if it was nothing.

And I think that’s the thing about Yellowstone, what I’ve taken away from this adventure. Yellowstone is this place that turns ‘normal’ on its head. It’s a super-volcano in a seemingly random spot. It’s a place where rivers boil and organisms thrive in places you would never expect to find life. It’s a place where huge bison shrink and disappear in mountain forests in the blink of an eye and where wolves bound up steep ridges and have conversations across miles of open valleys. It’s a place where song birds hunt in icy rivers and ermine lope across the road, where our cars share the roads and bridges with bison and coyotes. It’s a place that on the surface is so stable and yet you can feel that deep down, there’s a constant churning within.

What struck me most, however, was watching all the animals move across the immense wilderness, this landscape that just goes on forever. It was hard for me to really grasp how these animals know how to survive in such a huge, sometimes harsh place. And as I reflect on these thoughts, I keep coming back to that first view of the wolves as they ambled along their trail traversing that ridge — some walking, some trotting, some playing and frolicking — distinct personalities clear from miles away. It struck me that as long as they were together, this pack of wolves had everything it needed just in having each other. And in that moment I felt a real connection to them because they were not unlike my little family on our little adventure across those 3043.8 miles. Packed with the essentials in our little car, we had our warm coats and the car’s heater for warmth, we had a way to get food, and we had each other. For all the weird, mysterious beauty, for all the churning deep beneath our feet, like the wolves we wake up each day fortunate to have and to be able to rely on each other. It isn’t always easy or simple, but all the rest the world throws at us we can handle as long as we’re together.

We left Gardiner well before dawn, bidding farewell to Yellowstone in the darkness with Orion looking down on us. We saw and experienced so much there, but there is so much left in this place to explore and learn that it seemed almost fitting that we should leave it shrouded in darkness, still holding some secrets for us to uncover.

The ride home was slightly intimidating with white-out conditions on and off through much of Montana and then deeply subzero temps across North Dakota and Minnesota. Of course I occupied my mind, suppressed my nerves, and passed some of the time with some knitting…

img_2166-1Finishing this Timber Bay hat shortly after arriving home.

Home.

After so many miles, finally arriving back in Wisconsin and returning to our little house, as with all vacations that come to an end, it was bittersweet. We were happy to be snug & cozy with our familiar creature comforts. I was relieved that despite a week of very cold temps while we were away, the furnace was still working and the other car still started. In fact, everything was just as we left it. It felt a little strange at first, but I think that’s only because Yellowstone changed me. I feel a little braver. Maybe a little stronger. Most of all, though, my heart grew even more to recognize how incredible my little pack is — my husband for his planning, adaptability, unyielding search for adventure, and positive attitude, our children for their patience and ability to find fun in every darn place they are (including 20+hr car rides), and, of course, Moose for his unflappable calm and unrelenting zest for napping. It isn’t always easy or simple, but as long as we’re together we have everything that we need.