The Accidental Year of Large Projects

Somehow I’ve started 2019 off with some good progress working my way through sweater quantities in my stash. Honestly, that’s not what I necessarily set out to do, but after the good start with my Weekender sweater I started labeling my handspun and realized I needed to free up some room on my shelves  for this new handspun yarn.

What’s the quickest way to make space on shelves? Knit a lot of yarn. More specifically, knit a lot of heavier weight yarn! And there’s not quicker way to free up space on the shelves that to knit heavier weight sweaters. Enter my Milliken knit!

It was probably a year ago at about this time that I saw the pattern and thought about how nice it would be to have a cozy knitted vest for hiking. There are so many days in the shoulder seasons when just keeping my core warm is enough and in spring especially, it is so freeing after a winter trapped in a parka. I have a knit sweater made from Quince & Co Ibis, their newly discontinued Bulky weight wool/mohair blend, and it’s super warm. I don’t mean to tempt fate as we’ve seen some pretty COLD temps this year, but that sweater is almost too warm for more than the chilliest days. Yes, a vest made out of Ibis would do nicely, I thought. Somewhere during the year I acquired the yarn and then once my Weekender was done, I cast on.img_5702

This is the only in-progress photo that I have I think. That’s probably because it barely took me two weeks to complete it. The pattern is simple and fun and the yarn is as scrummy as I remember it (I’m more than a little bummed it’s disco’ed!). I followed the directions for the body, going a bit generous in the main body for a slightly longer vest, but not a ton. I knew this yarn would block out on the generous side so I didn’t want to overdo it, but I also needed to go beyond the “hits at wearer’s waist” element because that length definitely cuts my body type in an unflattering way. That’s not even considering the cold drafts I’d encounter with a shorter length — I definitely did not want any drafts interrupting my coziness! Minor length adjustment made, I’m very pleased with the results!

img_6333I would definitely recommend this knit for anyone in need of a bulky vest. It’s a quick, easy knit and I think the finished garment has really lovely designs elements. From that garter + slip stitch patterning on the front…

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To the garter side detail and little split hem.

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And the cozy cowl neck.

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There was some disagreement in my house as to whether or not I should add the cowl on to the neck. It’s an add-on after the rest of the vest is completed, so it’s one of those elements you can add or leave off very easily. Mr. Knitting Sarah was solidly anti-cowl neck, but in the end I opted to put it on and see what it looked like knowing it would be easy to rip back out if I didn’t like it.

I picked up my stitches and got to knitting on the cowl. As I knit on it, I realized I really did not want the shaping in the pattern and wondered, what would this look like if I just left the shaping out? I was a little nervous it would be unwieldy or ginormous, but again, what’s the harm in trying? This led to questions about how long to knit on it, if I was not shaping it. Oh, so many questions. I knit on. I ended up using up most of one skein of yarn and a stretchy bind-off. The stretchy bind-off was another roll of the dice because I didn’t want the collar to be crazy, but I didn’t want to be choked by my cowl neck. It worked great! Hooray for improvising as you go and always buying an extra skein of yarn for garments!

I’ve got another sweater on the drying rack already, but I’ve taken a few days off of sweater knitting while I finish up a pair of socks for my hubby and darn a few pairs, too. It seems all his socks are failing at the same time, so I need to get him sorted out before my next large project gets underway. I’m very excited to get going on it though — I’ve got three sweaters picked out already — French Braid Cardigan, Seaboard Sweater, and Cassis — and I’m happy to report they will all be knit from stash yarn! I’m hoping to make headway on them before the weather gets too warm, but I also want to get into my linen sweater quantities this summer so I’ll play it all out by ear depending on how far I get.

Suffice to say though, I’m focused and really enjoying these big projects! It’s really kind of thrilling to take these yarns I’ve been sort of hoarding for the *perfect* moment and just knitting the heck out of them and creating the garments of my dreams. The accidental year of large projects? I’m all in!

 

 

Wolf Ridge Weekender

January 2016 feels like a lifetime ago for so many reasons. My kiddos were four years younger. Moose was practically still a pup at just 3 years old. We drove a car we no longer own. Lived in a house we sold almost 2 years ago. Bear was not even a twinkle in his mama’s eye yet. So many of those familiar aspects of daily life have changed. When I stop to really think about it, it is truly astonishing.

But it was in January 2016 that my family and I took a little drive… to Montana.

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And this little farm.

Wolf Ridge Icelandics is just outside of Yellowstone National Park and my husband arranged for a stop on the way toward the park where we planned to (and did!) frolic among the wolves and bison and elk and ermine and dippers of Yellowstone. Some of the pictures are missing from the blog post — I’m not quite sure what’s going on with that — but if you’d like to read the original post, it’s right here.

We didn’t go to find the wildlife, however, until I found some special yarn.

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I had to really dig back to figure out what I’d planned to make with this yarn originally. Turns out I’d intended to knit Andrea Mowry’s White Pine. I started it at one point, but something about it didn’t *click*. The yarn actually sat wound into cakes for a year or more after I abandoned the project as I turned over and over in my mind the options I had and went about the business of other things.

At the beginning of this year, however, I decided it was time to start knitting sweater quantities from my stash. Something about spinning and then knitting my Tecumseh sweater ingrained in me the idea that if I could spin and knit this huge cozy sweater, then I could knit any sweater — from millspun or handspun yarn. It was time to stop putting off all those projects for the perfect set of circumstances, the perfectly fit body, the perfect everything, and just knit them up, wear them, and have fun with it.

And thus when our January trip to Missouri to visit Mr. KS’ family was coming up, I grabbed those caked skeins, knit up a swatch, and cast-on before we left so I could knit on the 10+ hour drive.

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And when it became clear that spinning was not going to work during our visit with the needs of the puppy, the time not spent running about with the dogs was spent like this…

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With needles in hand and Weekender inches adding up.

And by the time I got home, I was on to the sleeves.img_5613-1

There’s something to be said for that much driving and down time while visiting when it comes to progress on a big stockinette project like this. And for those wondering, you do knit the body of this design inside out so even though you get the reverse stockinette style in the finished sweater, it’s more accessible for those who are less smitten with purling. I bound off on February 4th, just one month and one day after starting it. Especially considering the mega amounts of positive ease involved, I’m pretty ecstatic with that timeline!

With all the sickness in the house this month (today we do all feel like we’ve turned a corner toward feeling normal, though — hooray!), I don’t have any modeled images of it on me, but so that I could share it without further delay, I snapped some pictures on my dressform this morning.

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It does look like what it is… a giant boxy sweater!

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The drop shoulder design really makes the body & upper arm areas extra roomy.

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 And I cannot get the color picked up properly with the camera so you’ll have to take my word for it that the light heathery-ness of the color with varying hues of white to a mid-brown have a depth that is just scrumptious. About halfway through I panicked that the yarn was too light for this sweater, but I actually think it worked out wonderfully. And it is plenty warm which is perfect for I intend to throw it on for shoulder season hiking out on the trail.

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And when I see it and when I wear it, I’m so glad to be able to reach back in my memory to that other lifetime. To the ermine hopping across the road and the wolves we had such amazing looks at in the Lamar Valley to the coyote trotting along the road to the kids in the super deep snow up in the mountains, and the little farm nestled up against the mountains where a flock of Icelandic sheep live.

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Memories in a sweater — is there a better way to capture them?

Oh, Bear

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This was the last spinning I touched. It’s been a full week. You’re probably wondering, “OMG, Sarah! Are you feeling all right?!?!” The answer, quite simply is that it’s been quite a week.

About a week ago, Mr. Knitting Sarah went from being kind of sick with a cold to pretty darn sick with a cold. The worst of his cold seemed to hit Sunday night — there was a fever and a lot of restlessness which led to our Bear, tender heart that he is, spending most of the night whining. Unfortunately, Monday through Wednesday of this past week was Mr. KS’ annual work conference and it’s one where the kids and I ride along, board the dogs nearby, and spend a couple days at the indoor waterpark at the conference center where the meetings are held. It’s a wonderful treat… unless you arrive sleep deprived thanks to a puppy’s good-hearted concerns as well as pretty certain you’re going to leave sick. Then, it’s kind of exhausting.

I don’t know how, but Mr. KS went and handled his conference well (clearly he has superpowers) and the the rest of us managed to stave off the sickness until the last day and enjoy ourselves. I played some arcade games with the kiddos day one and day three, we went bowling, and ran ragged while we had the chance — sanitizing as we went, of course, to hopefully not infect the entire complex with any germs we might be carrying along. The kiddos spent one day in the waterpark while I knit.

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I started a sock for Mr. KS since it was small and easy to carry around and it felt like a nice thing to do while he was busy working. Plus, he needs some new socks.

Also, I finished up my Milliken vest on the way down, doing a 3-needle bind-off with a pen because I didn’t have the third needle.

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You would think with the load of stuff I packed that I’d have remembered a needle for this bind-off, but I did not. In any case, this beauty is washed and drying as I type, so there will be more on it soon!

By the time we hit the road home Wednesday afternoon, I was feeling the dreaded cold setting in. I was unwell enough that I didn’t touch my knitting at all on the drive (it was also a snowstorm because it seems we can only travel in snowstorms now). There was also this…

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Bear still hates the car and awkwardly sits next to or on top of Moose a lot. It’s as heartbreaking as it is hilarious. Moose, it’s clear to see, is a very patient gent. I should mention that while Bear is riding in the car he is almost always drooling profusely so Moose emerges soaked. If they sainted dogs, Moose should be first on that list.

Yesterday, among a bunch of chores, I started a new garment project…

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Lesley in this Quince & Co Osprey that’s been in my stash for a long while. I’m knitting the top-down seamless version and my goal was to get through separating the sleeves today. Let me tell you, I managed it, but it was against great odds. Thanks wholly to this guy…

 

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Oh Bear. Bear who decided that instead of letting me get some rest last night, he would whine almost through the entire night, waking me about every 30minutes to an hour. Normally, he sleeps from bedtime to 6am with no problem. I’d have gladly slept through it if I could have, but mom hearing being what it is, I woke up for every whimper. Since he did it when Mr. KS was at his sickest as well, I wonder if it was that? Some sort of intuition? Some sort of attempt to help. I have no idea. Let’s pretend that’s it because it’s at least endearing.

Suffice to say, I awoke exhausted and much worse for the wear today, but after a brief nap this morning, I did manage to get through separating the sleeves off of my Lesley.

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And Bear, well, he thinks it’s his job to find me where ever I am and whatever I’m doing, check in with me, and play with me. Or share his treats with me. And I’m going to tell myself it’s because he’s a baby and if he was sad or didn’t feel good, he’d want me to find him and play with him. Or share my treats with him. Oh, Bear.

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Now maybe tonight he can let me sleep so I have the energy to get back to spinning (and shovel the 5-8″ of snow we’re supposed to get tonight) tomorrow. Oh, Bear.

 

Playing Catch-Up

You may have noticed some general quiet from me over here. Nothing is wrong, that’s just me doing a very poor job of prioritizing my time. Once the polar vortex moved on, we were excited to get outside.

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We found this spot — that little triangle in the lower left is a spot where an otter was entering and exiting the water. You can tell because you can see his little otter slides straight out in front of the point.

And we found some super cool icy prints…

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This one we believe is from a skunk!

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And of course there was ample sign of the mighty beaver!

We also made a quick trek out to my parents’ house where we got to play with grandpa’s “tank.”

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And then we drove back in a snowstorm.

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This photo was probably during the best driving conditions of the trip. We started out in rain, then it turned to freezing rain, and then heavy snow. Suffice to say, the trip took about twice as long as normal and the car was coated in a sheet of ice when we got home.img_5890

This photo was taken after we dug ourselves out from getting stuck trying to get in our driveway. Ah, winter in Wisconsin!

Oh, and yesterday we had another snowstorm.

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No big whoop, just another 14 inches.

Bear is ecstatic with this development.

The snow is probably another 8″ deeper now than when I took this video and, as you can imagine, every trip outside is mostly hilarious with this little dude as he tries to navigate through snow that is basically at eye level with him.

In between shoveling and school and more shoveling and and laughing at the dogs and more shoveling, I’ve been managing to get some knitting, spinning, and setting handspun yarn done. I finished my Weekender Sweater and it is washed and dried and ready for photos. And I started a new knitting project, a Milliken vest in Quince & Co Ibis.

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I missed the announcements provided by Quince & Co and was sad to hear that this yarn is discontinued. I used it for my Fairbanks sweater last year and now the Milliken vest. I’ll be sad to see this base gone, but I’m sure Quince & Co has more goodness coming, they always do!

I finished some spinning, too. I’m foggy on the timing of everything because I’ve just kind of kept on spinning, but I have this pile of handspun to photograph and share with you.

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With the return of my maiden from Schacht, I finished the singles for my 2-ply challenge over in the Three Waters Farm Skill Builder SAL.

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I had so much fun with this and I cannot wait to talk ply twist when I get into it! For those who didn’t know it, I did post up a video on prepping fiber, especially when it relates to this Organic Polwarth/Cultivated Silk blend. I have a set-up now that is pretty easy to do tutorial videos so if you have something that you’d like to see, please just let me know and I’ll see what I can do to create the content.

While I let my singles rest, I spun this bobbin.

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It’s from Nest Fiber Studio and the colorway is called Young Woman at  Half-Open Door. I had a bag of Organic Polwarth and I was gifted a second bag in the Organic Polwarth + Silk blend, so I broke both bags in half and am mixing the two. The blend may turn out to be a disaster, but I’m optimistic it’ll work out just fine. These things usually do.

I’ve got some school tasks, more shoveling, and snow pup play on the agenda for today, as I slowly work on playing catch-up here, but expect a post that is largely a finished handspun yarn dump coming up later this week and hopefully a few snapshots of my newly finished Weekender as well. I just wanted to touch base today and catch y’all up on where I’ve been. While you’re waiting, I’m answering “Ask me my top 3” over in my Instagram (@knittingsarah) stories today — pop over and ask me for a top 3 list!

 

 

 

 

The Polar Vortex and Me

It’s been big news all week — the Polar Vortex. Schools and businesses across my fair state of Wisconsin closed and the governor even declared a state of emergency for a day this week due to the extreme cold. You know when Wisconsin says the cold is an emergency, it must be bad!

At our humble abode in north central Wisconsin, I think our lowest recorded air temp was -31F and — as if to add insult to injury — during the cold we had some decent wind as well forcing the wind chill to register at it’s coldest -52F. It was cold enough that Mr. Knitting Sarah — whose motto is “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices” — even stayed home. I don’t think that in the almost 20 years I’ve known him that’s ever happened.

I left the house Monday for a lunch, but from that time until yesterday afternoon I didn’t leave the house except to scamper around the back yard with the puppy. As part Newfoundland, part Shepherd, part Great Pyrenees, Bear doesn’t mind the cold (as illustrated on this GIF from the trail last weekend).

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In fact, I don’t know that there’s much on this Earth that he’s discovered in his 13 weeks on Earth that he loves more.

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In fact, we wonder if he may in fact be part wolverine (not really, but he sure does move like one!).

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So even when it’s -20F outside, he still requires short jaunts around the yard. Moose is having no part of those shenanigans (proof of his ‘older & wiser’ status, clearly), so the job falls to me. There are worse things in life than playing with a puppy, even in subzero temperatures. Thankfully, our family has no shortage of cold weather gear.

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Of course, being (mostly) captive indoors doesn’t really bother the fiber artist in me. I worked on the sleeves for my Weekender sweater. I got all the way to the ribbing on sleeve #1. And then I tore it all out.

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My gauge was just a smidge off and when you are decreasing based on rounds, not measurements, of course, gauge being a smidge off throws the whole thing off. So rather than do a bunch of fudging mid-sleeve, I ripped it out, took the time to do the math, and now I’m back to within 5″ of being done. This kind of set-back is a little irritating, but I’d rather have the sleeves done well than doing the mid-sleeve mega fudging, so I don’t second guess or feel bad going back. Thankfully I did take good notes for sleeve #1, so I’ll be able to replicate sleeve #2 without any problem.

I’ve also been spinning away. I finished singles for my  Nest Fiber Studio ‘Hayride’ colorway.

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I fell in love with this colorway and got it from a friend willing to destash it to me. I’m excited to be working on it.

Part way through I started having some issues with my Schacht Reeves — the back maiden wasn’t holding its position and was causing pressure on the drive wheel to the extent that the screws that hold it in place were coming loose. I could still spin, but it was clearly not right and I didn’t want to cause further problems with the wheel. I emailed Mielke’s Fiber Arts where I purchased the wheel and they got back in touch with me in less than an hour. Within 24 hours we had an action plan with Schacht who will be replacing the piece at no cost as it’s still under warranty. The only bad part is I need to send the part in so they can be sure they get me a part that properly matches my wheel. “Bad” only because it means I’ll be without this wheel for an estimated 2 weeks. I was pretty bummed (and still sort of am!) to be without my “big wheel” because it’s my main wheel for spinning singles, but as Mr. KS pointed out, I have 2 other wheels and a whole bunch of spindles. I will manage (somehow).

And manage I am! I’ve been spinning away on my Jensen Tina 2!

This is Summer Palette from Three Waters Farm. I may have gone to my stash and grabbed anything with the word “Summer,” “Hot,” or ” “Heat” in the name Tuesday evening as the hinges on our door froze to the point I used a blow dryer to defrost them. Next up is “Roasted Gold” — again with the nod to all things warm, even as temps are above zero today for the first time in a week.

For those who may be missing stories of my dear Moose, I assure you he continues to be spoiled and loved…

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And to instruct me in the fine art of the nap. Undoubtedly he is occasionally bummed he has to share me with his attention grabbing little brother and when he goes back inside alone because his feet are sore while I continue to chase Bear around the yard, but I make sure he gets lots of attention and love. He is and always will be my spirit animal, after all.

I hope you all have stayed warm and busy this week, too!

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(gratuitous cute puppy picture)

Tina Takes a Road Trip

Last week my family and I loaded up the aptly named Adventuremobile (also known as our van) and headed South. Mr. Knitting Sarah’s parents live in Southern Missouri and we were off to spend a week visiting with them. Knowing we had a pretty slow, relaxing week ahead of us and we had a fair bit of room in the van, along with — you know — clothes and toiletries and dog food, I packed an obscene amount of fiber, my Jensen Tina 2, a sweater knit, and a sock knit. I was planning to spin. A lot.

We figured with our puppy, Bear, the drive would take about 12 hours. Puppies require frequent bathroom breaks and poor Bear is not a huge fan of car rides. He struggled through it with a lot of TLC from the kids…

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If you’re wondering about the towel, he is a nervous drooler, so unless you want to be drenched we’ve found towels to be a necessity.

About an hour and a half from our destination, we were making plans for the following day with my husband’s brother when the tire pressure alarm went off and shortly after we felt the tire go. On a busy interstate with almost no shoulder, rather than risk someone being injured, we called in roadside assistance.

While we waited, a very kind state trooper stopped to help out and with his coverage from behind, we were able to start work on getting the spare out. Unfortunately, in order to get at the spare this had to happen…

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There is something pretty humbling about splaying your belongings out on the side of the road. I mean, my poor Tina!!! In any case, in order to avoid too many cooks in the kitchen with the tire, I hung back in the car with the kids and the dogs until I heard from the back, “Let me go get my expert.” Mr. KS and the trooper were having trouble releasing the spare from its bizarre locking system, so I was called in as the “expert” at figuring this kind of thing out. A couple minutes later the spare was free (go me!) and shortly after that a very kind gentleman with roadside assistance showed up to help finish the job.

img_5206As you can see, the tire was pretty much toast, so when we made it to my husband’s parents’ house just a couple hours late, we were feeling thankful that nothing else had gone wrong. Tina — and the rest of us — had made it safely to Southern Missouri!

As you probably have heard me say, very few plans survive contact with realty around here. Saturday morning with the car at the tire shop getting all new tires (Happy early Valentine’s Day to us!), I settled in for a few minutes of spinning. Those 15 or so minutes were the extent of my awesome spinning week though. After all my lofty goals and ambitions and the huge load of fiber I’d packed for my quiet week of spinning, I discovered that when you aren’t in your own space and you have a puppy, spinning is pretty much impossible. Between exercise and play and trying to keep the pup out of the cat food, your time is pretty much spoken for.

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He’s probably worth it.

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All right, he’s definitely worth it.

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I like the little guy. A lot.

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And this guy, too. He’s pretty majestic and awesome (in this photo he’s watching Mr. KS try to photograph an armadillo we spotted — so focused!).

 

And they are both pretty good porch sittin’ knitting buddies, too…

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We did enjoy some beautiful weather and I managed to get quite a bit of knitting done on my Weekender sweater. In fact, I am almost done with the main body and the front up to the shoulder seam as well.

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We did take the short drive over to Prairie State Park on the Missouri-Kansas border to see their bison. In addition to the bison, we saw loads of different hawk species, had a very brisk picnic (does anyone else have picnics in 30F temps? I didn’t think so!), and took a nice walk through a freshly burned area.

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It was beautiful.

And it was good practice for this guy…

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Who is slowly learning to handle being in the car with a bit of zen and slightly less drool.

As our week came to a close, it became apparent that the drive home would be a snowy one…

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And it was. It was pretty grueling through Missouri which saw much more snow than they are used to and most of Iowa, where the weather was worse, but the roads were clear. We were thankful for the flat tire we suffered on the way down which allowed/instigated us to invest in better quality tires, something we’d been putting off because they weren’t a necessary expense. Thankfully we’d saved a few pennies to be able to afford it and the investment made the snowy trip back markedly safer.  Even when things go wrong, they often work out for the better at the end of the day.

To pass the time, we listened to an audiobook as a family, I knit on my sweater, we made a playlist and sang along, and the pups…

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Well, they figured it out.

After a long day in the car, we were all happy to get home. We ate some dinner, I sat in my chair, and promptly fell asleep.

The next day, we took the pups out to one of our favorite spots where they frolicked and played…

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Happy to be back among the land of snows and marshes and trees downed by beavers…

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And skating on murky ice.

And after that nice long walk, it was nice to come home and do some spinning after that week long, puppy induced hiatus…

 

I on my Schacht Reeves…

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And Bear chose the Lendrum.

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Tina, well, she’s tired from her little adventure. And even if Tina’s road trip ended up being for naught, we made a lot of wonderful family memories, basking in the glorious and fleeting days of the puppy while Tina stood stoically idle. Sometimes that’s just the way it should to be.