Friday, October 30, 2015

This Week's Color: Lavender

This week I am making a lovely lavender yarn. My recipe is 1/3 silk, 2/3 alpaca.

Here's what it looks like as I am pulling it off my Patrick Green drum carder. The silk alpaca combination comes out soft and silky and shiny:

Here's how it looks before I start spinning:

Here it is, as it is being spun on my Hansen electric spinning wheel. 

Next, I soak it and set the spin. And then, because it is a very thin yarn, I ply it to itself. We're such a bunch of geeks here that I have to vie for space with my husband's collection of computer books. He says these books are his legacy to our son. I asked if we should get them autographed, but he suggested that the author is a bit of a curmudgeon:

Next, I set the yarn up with other yarns and ponder my next project. Since I only know how to make hats and scarves and cowls, it's pretty clear what will be made next. I want to practice the cable that I learned last week, so this will be another cable scarf. And I learned last week that I need to practice on a couple of more projects with just one cable before I get all wild and try to do something with multiple cables.

So my plan is to use the deep green wool on the left, the sweet lavender alpaca/silk, and the blended purple/green that sits beneath the lavender to make a hat and a scarf. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

My Disgusting Smoothie Recipe

There are people in this world who have taken their refined pallets and come up with fine recipes for smoothies and healthy drinks and meals. I searched the library and came up with the following books. I liked them all so much that I bought 3 of the 4 books. I would have bought the 4th book, which was all about making frozen fruit smoothies, but since I will never actually follow a recipe for that, I thought it would be overkill to buy the book. So, here they are:

These books are all written by Julie Morris. She explains what a super food is and what they are supposed to help with.

We've been drinking a smoothie every day for several months now. I have no idea how to tell if the smoothies are helping, but I can at least say that I feel quite healthy and figure it can't hurt.

My current smoothie recipe:

1 cup frozen organic blueberries
1/2 cup frozen organic cherries
1 frozen banana
2+ cups of unsweetened Silk Almond Vanilla - I put two cups in and then add the fruit and then add all the seeds and powders and then I top off the container with more Silk

 To this, I add the following:

1 tbsp organic cacao nibs (raw)
1 tbsp cacao powder
1 tbsp organic chia seeds
A handful of organic goji berries
1/2 tsp beet powder
1 tbsp organic hemp seeds (raw, no shell)
1 tbsp organic golden flax seed
1 tbsp powdered peanut butter (I bought this at BJ's)
2 scoops beef protein (I bought this on Amazon)
1 tbsp shredded coconut
1 tsp red maca powder
1 tbsp cinnamon

I like my smoothies to have a little substance to them, so I don't blend them overly long. This makes them crunchy. I think most people would not like a crunchy smoothie... if not, then I wouldn't bother with the cacao nibs. After blending, I pour off half of this for my husband, and then I break out the spinach and fill the cup up with that and blend a second time. My smoothie is, as a result, bigger than my husband's. His smoothie comes out purple, mine a murky greenish purple.

I haven't calculated how many calories this makes up, but I don't particularly care. This is my breakfast. My husband eats a full breakfast in addition to the smoothie. I added the beef protein because I don't think I eat enough protein. I was also hoping it would make me feel more full for longer. It does not make me feel more full.

I tried adding dehyrated maqui berries, and they nearly killed me. The seed is like a small rock. It absolutely does not get digested. Just take my word for it. But I'm not giving up - I ordered powdered maqui berries this week.

I buy most of the ingredients (the seeds and powders) for the smoothies from I comparison shopped and concluded that buying from was less expensive than buying from the grocery store, even with shipping included.

I would not, if I were you, follow my recipe for a healthy smoothie. I'm just slogging in whatever I've got that looks interesting. My methodology, to quote an old boyfriend who felt the urge to describe my cooking style, is the "dump" method. I dump a little of this, a little of that, and if I can swallow the smoothie afterward, whatever went in the last time goes in the next.

An Ode to Beets

An Ode to Beets

No thank you.


I am attempting to change my evil eating ways, and that of my husband, and so have taken to making up a healthy smoothie every day for each of us. His, sadly, does not include any vegetables. He has historically claimed to have an allergy to squashes and squash-like vegetables. Personally, I think it is an aversion, rather than an allergy, but either way he won't eat them. And he is taking a medication that says he can't eat leafy vegetables. This leaves carrots and beets. I tried buying a big bag of carrots. Perhaps if I hid the roast beef under the carrots, he might consider eating the carrots, but as far as I can tell, I'm the only one eating the carrots.

So. That's when I came up with my best idea of all. Powdered beets. So I ordered up my latest round of smoothie ingredients from, including powdered beets, put a teaspoon of beet powder into the smoothie along with all the other superfoods and seeds and what-not, handed the smoothie to my husband, and he took one sip and declared that he could not consume the smoothie. This was a first. Mind you, I've been presenting the most disgusting smoothies you can possibly imagine, varying in color from an insipid brown to a dank looking purple, and not once has this man said a bad thing. But the beets tipped the scales. He drew the line.

Not to be outdone, I concluded that I had given him too many beets. So I cut back to 1/4 of a teaspoon. Now we're up to 1/2 of a teaspoon. This wouldn't be such a bad thing, except that tends to sell in pounds, not ounces. We'll be consuming that one pound of nasty smelling beet powder for the rest of our lives.

I couldn't help but notice that the beet industry is trying very hard to turn around public perception of their product:

For the record, I do not love beets. But I am a sharing, caring woman. So if you have been pining for powdered beets, I want you to know that I would be willing to share my beet powder. I would even be willing to send it across state lines in order to make your life just a little beet better. Just let me know...

10/27/15 - An addendum to the beet story: As my husband walks by today with his empty smoothie cup, he says, "That was one of your best." "Really? What was different?" " didn't taste like beets"

Must be it's time for me to bump up the beet allotment to 3/4 of a teaspoon... bua ha ha ha.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

This One Wore Me Out

I bought some lovely looking yarn at the Hemlock Fiber Festival this year. I needed something dark red for my cousin Kate, and didn't have anything suitable in my homespun stash. Too bad she doesn't like hot pink. This is what I bought:

The color was right, but when I knit up a cowl, it came out too lightweight, and just a bit scratchy. I can't stand scratchy. And you can't send a wussy lightweight scarf to someone who lives in New York State.

What to do, what to do?

I spent today knitting a liner for the cowl out of super soft white homespun alpaca.

It took forever, but now it's warm enough to get through a New York winter.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Giving New Life to Some Old Fiber

So, a couple of weeks ago, my friends Denise, Channyn, Linda and I got together. And we had a plan. We planned to do the thing that every fiber hoarder secretly hopes will happen at least once in her life. Yes, friends, we organized the stash. Note that this was Denise and Channyn's stash, and it is only a subset of the various stashes of which they have been hoarding. We organized the yarn, and just the yarn. While we did take the time to co-locate the bins of roving and fleece, our mission on this particular evening was to organize the yarn. And, as it turns out, you can learn a lot about of person if you touch every skein of yarn they own.

Denise had conditions for our effort. "I want the yarn organized by weight, and I want it grouped into clear plastic bins." Personally, I wouldn't have gone with clear plastic, but by the time we got through the project, it became clear why that would be an important criteria. You need to be able to see what you've got when you have multiple craft collections, after all. Also, Denise wanted each skein labelled. And she wanted each bin labelled. And she wanted each skein lovingly photographed so that she could load it all up on Ravelry. 

Oh goodness gracious. I'll cue you in on something - Linda and I had to stay overnight, because there was that much yarn. And I fell asleep at least once the next day while sorting through the yarn because there was that much yarn. And we sorted everything - even a drawer full of cast off leftover yarn scraps from previous projects.

We also had a donate pile, because somehow commercial acrylic yarn had leaked into the stash, and these girls do not use commercial acrylic yarn. 

Also, Linda and I wandered off with some yarn. So here are two examples of the yarn that I took. First, there was the Zain yarn. The Zain yarn came with a story. Denise's son Zain wanted to knit his girlfriend a gift, so he went through the yarn collection and picked out some yarn. Unfortunately, it turned out that this was not yarn, it was pencil roving. Pencil roving looks like yarn, but really, it is roving that has been pre-drafted but hasn't been spun yet. This must have caused some consternation. So I volunteered to take the roving, which I think was 15 or 20 years old, and spin it into yarn. And from there it seemed like the nice thing to do would be to knit something out of the yarn. 

So here's what got knit for Zain and his girlfriend: Two hats, one cowl, and one scarf. 

I love the scarf the most. I learned how to knit a cable this week, so if you look closely at the lighter blue green section on the right you can see my cabling. 

Channyn taught me how to block this week, so here's what the whole scarf looks like:

Next we have what I like to call "Channyn's Twine." The story on this was that Channyn had bought some fiber when she first learned to spin and she made up some yarn, but she didn't like the yarn because she said it was too rough. I swore that it was not rough, and Channyn said that if I would wear it on my head for an hour, then I could have the yarn. 

Go ahead, give me a challenge. I wore it for an hour. Please forgive my bald head. I've just finished chemo so I don't actually have much hair just now. Look at how nice and thin Channyn spun that yarn - and it was some of her first yarn! It took me a solid year to get to spinning thin like that, maybe longer.

So anyway, I took the yarn home and contemplated how to cure it. I considered plying it with a softer yarn, but that would be a disservice to the softer yarn. I finally ended up plying it with itself, resulting in the very lovely yarn below, with the nasty twine-like texture of a scratchy wool. If anyone can think of a way to use this, let me know. For now, it is on a shelf, making me itch just thinking about it.

Mama Smurf

Ahhhh. I've been spinning. And knitting. More spinning. More knitting. Carding. More spinning. More knitting. More carding.

The rule in my house is, you pick your material, and you consume it until it is all gone. So, I dug out a couple of buckets with hot pink tussah silk and hot pink alpaca. I carded them on my Patrick Green Electric Drum Supercard, 1/3 silk, 2/3 alpaca. 

This is what it looks like all carded up. Oooooh, shiny:

Then I spun up the carded fiber into yarn using my Hansen electric miniSpinner. Here's what the yarn looks like:

And then I started knitting. There were some problems along the way, because, well, there are always problems along the way. I paired my lovely buttersoft silk with a nicely colored maroon handspun yarn which turned out to be a rather harsh contrast. It's scratchy. So I tried to recover from that by knitting a hot pink silk alpaca liner for my cowl that I made. But the cowl was too big. If it was made from wool, it would have been a good candidate for felting, but it's not wool. So finally I came up with the idea of draping and tacking the cowl so it would have an area of overlap in the front. In the meantime, I made another cowl to go under the cowl (honestly, some days I wonder if I should knit at all), and that looked really good. So here's the result, two cowls and a matching hat. Layer up, my friends. I think I look like Momma Smurf.