Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Knitting for a New Year

I haven't been without my knitting on this trip! Before we left, I picked up some yarn that I had processed at a new mill in our area, Flaggy Meadow Fiber Works. Sean and Lori are new suri alpaca breeders that recently moved their farm and mill from Maine to Kentucky, and I wanted to give them a try.I have to say I am VERY pleased with the quality of their work, and I enjoyed a tour they gave me of their mill as well. I will definitely be sending them much more fiber very soon, and you can watch for more details of my visit on my other blog.Above is some of the yarn I had spun that I couldn't wait to put in the dye pot. It is amazing how much the quality of the fiber translates into how well it takes dye- this yarn just glows and is as silky and lofty as any I have worked with! Although of course I have umpteen other projects going, I wanted to make something that combines the bright colors I dyed, and thumbing through one of my favorite knitting books, Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters' Guide: Stories, Patterns, Advice, Opinions, Questions, Answers, Jokes, and Pictures, I remembered this project, the Nina Shawl, that I have been wanting to knit! I love the color combination shown in the book, but here and here and here are some others! The bright colors I'm working with reflect my optimism for a positive 2009. Happy New Year, friends, family, and fellow knitters! Pin It Now!


This break has been so good for us- I have never seen Robert and Mirian get along so well, and they have been really fun the entire time! Both of them are such characters with great imagination, and its nice to take more time to really listen to their stories and watch their antics. It has truly made me realize that THEY need a vacation or change of scenery as much as we do sometimes, as each has their own type of stress to deal with at school.

Above, they're working on Robert's "escape hole" that he dug while we were at Naples Beach. If I'm ever stuck in the desert and need a way to get out of the sun, I sure hope that I have Robert around!We had a wonderful afternoon and evening with my great friend Donna and her family. Here we are at Naples pier, and I'm throwing in a photo of us taken several years ago at Cannon's Beach in Oregon. We have truly had some travels and adventures from coast to coast, and we were together on my first trip to Peru as well. We always have the best laughs and conversations, and of course enjoy many of the same wines!
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Saturday, December 27, 2008


These were the only snowmen I saw today. Boy, the weather is rough down here in Florida! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Some Christmases...

Every year, or at least those since I've reached my 40's, I say "no stress this year, we'll keep the emphasis on the reason for the season and won't get caught up in lots of the other stuff." Some years we hit the mark better than others.... like the times we've served food at the homeless shelter, taken meals to a lonely neighbor, etc.This year, for whatever reason, it just seems like there were too many "have to's" to enjoy Christmas properly. We did have a lovely time with my stepson Jason and his fiancee, Crystal, and I could feel myself relaxing a bit. But, I found myself being very short-tempered with the kids and super impatient. I didn't find time to contribute in ways I would have liked. I'm sure that having our hands full with a bottle cria and other farm needs have contributed to this, which is just part of having animals and pretty unavoidable.
I wrote the above portions BEFORE heading off to Ohio for my parent's Christmas Eve celebration.... what a difference a day or two makes!My parents always find great ways to make our holiday so memorable... this year as with many we started off with a reading of the Christmas story, with our kids and neices and nephews reading from the family Bible my parents were given when they married nearly 59 years ago.
My brother Andy, always eager to contribute something creative, read a beautiful Wendell Berry poem and my brother Greg actually asked him to repeat it, he liked it so much! I didn't catch the title, but the gist of it was... "all we need is right here." We shared silly stories and memories, discussed how weird we all are (or at least some of us), the guys all wrestled, we ate tons of great food, and nobody wanted to leave. We all discussed how we feel the spirit of my brother, Mike, when we are all together (and sometimes other times as well), and of course we missed Lauren, JP, Crystal and Melody.
I'm truly looking forward to some relaxation during the rest of our holiday season, and I hope that you are able to as well. Merry Christmas! Pin It Now!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

One of my favorite days!

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the official first day of winter. Although we certainly have more daylight than many places, it is typically a gloomy time. The past few days have brought extremely variable weather (it hit nearly 70 on Friday, and is in the low 20's right now and headed for the teens!) Why is it one of my favorite days? Because the days start getting longer again.

Today the sun is shining brightly, which definitely makes me feel better! I have talked to so many people lately that are feeling down, and I know that I struggle sometimes when I don't get enough sunlight. I hope that wherever you are (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere), that you remember that after today, we can put the shortest day behind us.I'm now writing the rest of this on Monday morning, and it's only 5 degrees outside-crazy! I am so grateful for my warm alpaca garments as we continue to make very frequent trips to the barn for cria checks and bottle feeding.
With all that I have on my plate the next few days, I have to concede that my Christmas knitting is completed! (At least all that is going to get done!) Above is a pair of Maine Morning Mitts that I made from a worsted-weight alpaca/wool blend that I overdyed over rose grey- I liked the way the colors turned out. I hope the recipients enjoy their handknits! Pin It Now!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mimi's "Forever" Carmels

I am feeling much better today- how could I not be? Mirian got through her performance with flying colors (the fruit didn't fall off the bandana on her head or anything else that may have scarred her for life, and she "faked it" like the best of them on the recorder!). I got all of the Christmas presents wrapped, AND we had a beautiful female cria yesterday, SSF Silver Belle (you can check out her story here). I am a bit sleep-deprived, but this close to Christmas the parental adrenaline starts kicking in.

Thank you so much for all of your kind comments in response to yesterday's post, both here and privately. This blog is not just your traditional happy knitting or cooking blog, and as much as I do have so many blessings, it does us all good to share the rough spots at times, if just to learn that we're not alone. My faith, friends, and family truly sustain me and I hope that you are finding support from these as well.

Here's the recipe as promised. Be prepared to spend some time by the stove stirring "forever", I had knitting at hand when I made the last batch, and I don't think I ended up with any fiber in them! The recipe calls for nuts; they're good both with and without (we're already nutty enough around here... sorry, just had to say it). Since we're on that topic, I'll share my Dad's favorite quote (he is the original author)...

"There are more nuts in this world than there are squirrels."
- Bob Millat

"Forever" Caramels by Mom

4 cups white sugar 2 cups white syrup 1 pint cream

1 quart whole milk 2 cups pecans dash of salt

Combine cream and milk in large bowl.

In large cooking pan put sugar, syrup, salt & 1 pint of milk cream mixture.

Cook & stir constantly until soft ball stage. Add 1 pint milk cream mixture.

Cook to firm ball stage. Add remaining milk cream.

Cook to hard ball stage. Add nuts. Stir. Pour into buttered pan.

Set in cool place. When cold & hard, cut & wrap in wax paper.

Hide in a very secret place until ready to eat.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not a dog's life....

As I opened up the blog to add the carmel recipe, Mirian's sweet, contented picture from the other night was looking back at me so ironically. Ironic, considering just how miserable she is this morning and how hard she has tried and succeeded in making me feel really rotten, too. We put on a brave front most of the time, but the truth is that we have many rough days... days when there is a lot of pain that comes out in very mean and hurtful ways. Pain that is expressed when there is a bit of stress.... like concern about whether or not you will look like everyone else while performing in the Christmas play at school, or if the whole world will know that you don't really know the song that the entire class will be playing on their recorders (earth-shattering stress when you're 13).

There are so many times that I try to just swallow it up and give my concerns over to God, and I constantly encourage Mirian to do so, too. This does usually give me enough peace to get through to the next incident, and it's a habit we're trying to build in Mirian when she's unable to talk to one of us. It's a challenge, though, for people as emotional as both Mirian and I. Sometimes, I get really overwhelmed with lots of second-guessing, regrets, and what-ifs. Was it really the right thing to bring this child out of her birth-culture in order to have a family? Will these issues amplify as time goes on? What is the future? I'm suddenly hearing my Dad's voice (which Father is it?) remind me of the Prayer of Serenity:

God, grant me the Serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
and the Wisdom
to know the difference.

Today is the last full day of school until January 5th- wish us luck! I'm putting up a picture of one of our happy-go-lucky dogs, Yoda, to remind me that having animals was never enough for me.... I really did feel called to be a mom. I guess I'll just concentrate on getting through today and Mirian's school program tonight, IF we can get her there.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Fire is So Delightful!

Like much of the rest of the country, we've been having wintry weather earlier than usual. Last night we had our first somewhat serious stuff, freezing rain followed by a couple of inches of lofty snow... and it's still coming! Everyone was feeling rather festive, and Mirian couldn't wait to have a fire in the fireplace. (I love this picture with the fire reflecting on her face- I wish she could know how beautiful she is, but I suppose that's a challenge for most every 13-year-old girl).

We made some pomanders with tangerines and cloves, and she toasted marshmallows. There's no school today, and I have lots of projects and baking ready! I plan to make my mom's homemade caramels, as well as some Chrismas cookies.Paul always loves this weather, as he sells snow removal equipment, generators, and salt spreaders at his business. He may not admit it, but he also enjoys the challenge of driving from our remote farm to work on a snowy morning, making the first tracks to head out of our deadend road on a morning when there is no school.

I used a random number generator for the prize drawing for the alpaca socks, and the winner is....... DIANNE! Thanks to everyone for participating. I don't know who Hornblower is, but I do have a hunch and hope to confirm that if I happen to see him over the holidays.

I hope you enjoy some miscellaneous photos I took around the farm today.
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Peak Holiday Weekend

It was a full weekend, starting with Robert's play, Alice in Wonderland, Jr., on Friday night. If you're a parent, you're surely familiar with that feeling of your heart absolutely swelling with pride? It may be from the first smile, hug, a graduation, or a genuine sign of kindness. Well, I sure had it the other night as we watched Robert sing and act with such poise, confidence and humor in his role as The Mad Hatter! The entire cast did a fantastic job, very professional for a middle school production. We can't wait to see Robert in more roles, as he has always been a big ham!Add to that a farm Open House (small but still requiring work, organizing, and time), cria watch, Paul's company party, cooking, and our Huber Christmas get-together and it was a VERY full weekend. We only just tonight FINALLY got the tree up!
It seems that we always end up listening to John Denver's Rocky Mountain Christmas, I don't know why! It's kind of bad when we all know the words to, "Please, Daddy, Don't get Drunk this Christmas", closely followed by "O, Little Town of Bethlehem."

I am REALLY looking forward to a week with not so many items on the agenda (other than the looming Christmas list and cria watch). I'm loading up on podcasts and looking forward to some studio time! Hey, if you've read this far don't forget to comment by Monday night on the Wednesday, Dec. 10th post in order to be eligible to win a pair of awesome alpaca socks! So far there are only 2 comments, and someone is going to win! Pin It Now!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Buying Local

Yesterday afternoon was absolutely miserable- rain, ice, sleet, snow, wind- and I loved being out in it to go shopping in my "neighborhood". (Don't worry, Mom, it wasn't really treacherous). First, I went just around the corner to Woodford Reserve Distillery. They have a great gift shop, and I bought some bourbon balls, bourbon coffee, and other treats to put in some gift baskets for clients and friends.

Then I headed over to wonderful Midway to visit my two favorite shops there, Dragonfly Gifts and Soapwerks. I saw a few things (small, original chicken paintings) that I'd love myself at Dragonfly, but will forgo those for now. I bought some great stocking stuffers like peppermint lip gloss from Soapwerks, and love that all of Kathy's products are natural and handmade, many of which her two daughters from China have helped to make.

As the ice rained down harder, I crept over to Equus Run Winery and Vineyard. Since we're wine club members, I had a free tasting and confirmed that their Zinfandel is my favorite and best choice for other red-wine lovers on my Christmas list, especially the 2007 Reserve which is incredibly smooth and complex! Many bottles came home with me!

After that I picked up Mirian and we headed off to see the movie Twilight and do some additional shopping. (Okay, you're probably noticing that Twilight isn't meriting it's own review here!). I must admit that we did patronize the all-evil Wal-Mart, but hey! Where else could we get plastic fruit (part of the costume for Mirian's school costume next week), bread, a DS game, AND blue jeans? Either way, I am trying really hard to buy local and make as many gifts as I can this year. (That being said, check our farm blog for details on our Open House tomorrow!).

I just finished making chili using some of our own ground venison. I'm currently making the famous ginger snaps for tomorrow, this time with Country Rock Sorghum (produced by our friends, Curtis and Marti Congleton) and am also using our own eggs and some bourbon barrel aged vanilla I got at Woodford Reserve. Please come sample some tomorrow!

I'm really excited to go watch a local school production tonight... especially since Robert will be in one of the starring roles as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, JR. More details about that to come! And who says I live in the boonies? Finally, don't forget the drawing- I'd love to send you some alpaca socks, whether you live near OR far! Just comment on my Dec. 10th post! Pin It Now!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Maine Morning Mitts

A tiny bit of knitting therapy and some good rest are making me feel human again as I've recovered from our long weekend but ended up with a cold. I had hoped to finish these Maine Morning Mitts/fingerless gloves (more Christmas knitting) while on our trip, but there was hardly a down minute and when things did slow down each night, I crashed!

I recently saw these in Magpie Yarn, and learned that the pattern is available on Ravelry and here for free. Many of the Ravelry projects show it using Noro Kuryon (as is shown here), but I am realizing that many recipients may not like the fact that the two mitts don't match. I honestly think that I'll do the next pair (and I do feel sure I'll knit many more) in some handspun/hand-dyed yarn of my own.

I do think they make the perfect hand-made Christmas gift- little to no sizing involved, quick but unique, and something that anyone can use!

Don't forget to comment on yesterday's post to be eligible to win a pair of alpaca socks, shipping included. (I'll even ship to someone else, if you want to send them as a gift!)
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I've hit 2,000- time for a Giveaway!

Blogging has been so rewarding for me, and I look forward to reading back over archives a few or even many years from now. Hopefully you'll find some of the information and posts helpful or interesting as well. One of my favorite things has been seeing where YOU, my readers come from. So far between both blogs (including ) , I've had visitors from most states, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, Singapore, and Croatia!

Since I'm now at over 2,000 visits, I am giving away a pair of alpaca socks from Red Maple Sportswear to show my appreciation. I ADORE these socks, and know that you'll love them, too! If you win, you'll have your choice of the Classic Crew, Trailblazer hiking sock with alpaca, cotton, and therapeutic copper, or the Alpaca Copper Crew. Win them for yourself or give them for Christmas! We are having an informal farm Open House at the farm this Saturday and all Red Maple items will be 25% off, so come see them for yourself (though I understand it may be hard to make it if you live in Croatia).

In order to be eligible to win, please leave me a comment here that includes where you are from, and I'll submit the names to a Random Picker next Monday evening, December 15th. Keep in mind that if you receive my posts via direct email, you need to come here to the site to leave your comments. Thank you again, and good luck! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Weird and Wild Adventure

I'm SOOO glad to be home all in one piece from our final alpaca event of the season (the Belleau Wood Auction and Carolina Classic Show in Concord, NC). It was exciting from start to finish! First, we brought along an extra pussy (get your minds out of the gutter now), MB's cat Stevie-Y, who had his leg amputated the week before. MB couldn't leave him to travel, as he needed a lot of extra care and bandage changes. Seems he used up several of his nine lives when some low-life shot him. I know that God must have a plan for Stevie, as he survived at least 3 shots- the one that eventually took his leg, another that pierced his ear, and a third that went cleanly in and out of the surviving front leg.

Stevie was a model patient and traveler (except for the time that he hid himself in the cupboard and scared MB to death), and we were glad to have him along! It's very inspiring how quickly he is adapting to his loss, and he was nimbly jumping around on counters and upon the bed, where he gladly kept my feet warm!
Because we were leaving so early on Friday morning, MB and Stevie came the night before and were going to stay in the RV. We were already hooked up to the trailer and ready to pull out from the barn, and had the RV plugged in to an extension cord for heat. MB called to say the heat was malfunctioning, and then quickly called again to say that she smelled smoke! We told her where the fire extinguisher was and Paul and I flew up the hill to find that the electrical panel had partially melted due to an improper plug-in. Paul eliminated the problem by turning off several breakers and felt we were safe to still take the RV, and MB and Stevie stayed in the studio for the night.

The auction and show were successful for us, and you can read about the details here. We were extremely grateful to get good prices for our animals in this unpredictable economy, and it was reassuring that the foundation we laid for our farm/alpaca business 14 years ago is serving us well through raising top-quality alpacas.
On the way home, we began losing power going up big hills and the warning light was coming on in the coach. We immediately stopped for the night outside of Ashville, NC and were very fortunate the next morning to find an engine service provider that could fix the RV on our 3rd try. It was a long and uncertain wait, but we were able to get home in time for me to tuck the kids in and crash before my usual bedtime. Above, MB is showing off the cria that we had along, Eye Candy, to the mechanics at the first RV repair place. Below, at the semi-tractor repair place, the alpacas got lots of weird looks as we let them out of the trailer for fresh air and to stretch their legs!Thank you, Lord, for another event that ended up with a good outcome and that I can chalk up to experience, once again! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sweater Weather

I wonder how long I can keep up knitting a sweater a day? Okay, they are pretty small, small enough to use as an ornament, gift embellishment, or even for Barbie! (Guess who's going to be getting one?) You should have seen me sneaking into someone's room to try this on her!After listening to Susan Anderson's podcast with Christmas gift suggestions, I decided to knit a mini sweater from a book that I have and love, Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. Then I just had to do another, and I was pleased with the way the variegated sock yarn (Trekking XXL) looked on the sweaters.
These were really fun to knit, and I enjoyed the construction which entailed knitting two fronts, two backs, two sleeves, and then joining together at the yoke. I wish that all sweaters were this easy! Pin It Now!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Color for a Dreary Day

I was going to write about serious stuff like the topsy-turvy economy, how screwed up our priorities have become, how we've forgotten what Christmas is for, stuff like that. But, I decided instead to concentrate on something that makes me smile a little... handknit socks.
I found the pattern for these here, and originally intended to make a mismatched pair as shown on Faith's blog. I loved the way the first one I made turned out and really didn't think that the colors in the rest of the Noro Kuryon skeins would look very good, so I decided to try to match the second sock instead- I think it came out pretty well! I have a feeling that a certain 13-year-old girl for which they're made (ssshhh, they're for Christmas!) will love the bright colors and warmth of soft wool on her perpetually-cold feet. I should have enough from the two skeins to make myself a pair, though they will be completely different colors! The pile of yarn at the top is what I cut off after I cleaned up the ends. I did weave in the important ones at the beginning and end, and along the heel, but at color changes for the stripes I carried both colors for about 6 stitches and I felt that was likely enough to hold the new and old colors in place- anyone have any thoughts on that? Do you think the sock may be uncomfortable that way?

I have been knitting a ton, and we cocooned a lot this weekend and watched the Anne of Green Gables DVD's that my sister-in-law loaned us. Mirian and I cried in so many places, and of course I was ogling the gorgeous handknits throughout. What a great series! I can hardly wait to start on my next project!
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