Monthly Archives: May 2011

Camera-less

Read took our camera to Mexico, so all I’ve got for now is Apple photobooth. This morning I awoke with a visual reminder of just how crazy short hair can get when you sleep on it wet.

I’ll be researching cameras this week – anyone want to throw out a suggestion? I’ve been using a Canon Powershot SD, and unless I’m convinced of a good trump card I may just get another. The wishlist includes good macro and manual control options, maybe with a good wide-angle, but I don’t quite have the skills (or cash) to justify a DSL. Maybe just a souped up point-and-shoot.

Wandering through the North Shore

Edith's sun spot

After weeks of cold rainy weather we finally have a hot spell. The pets have all responded by suddenly going from “curled” to “sprawling” as they sleep.

Read leaves tomorrow for six weeks in Peru and Mexico where he’ll do some research and intensive language study. Sadly, I’m not tagging along on this one, so I took the day off work and we threw together a quick trip out of the city. This was one of those open-ended adventures where we picked a general destination but no itinerary. We drove all along the little towns in the North Shore – Magnolia, Essex, Rockport, Gloucester – and stopped whenever something looked interesting.

Houses by the sea in Essex, MA

We walked along the harbor in Essex…

Sam at the beach

…napped on the beach…
North Shore, MA

…walked Sam through neighborhoods of adorable houses and picked where we’d most like to live…

Frabjous Fibers merino roving

…randomly found an awesome yarn store where I bought some roving…

Woodman's of Essex

…and on the advice of a coworker, stopped at Woodman’s of Essex (“Best Place to Eat in MA” from Bon Appetit) for some fried clams. Woodman’s did not disappoint. We split a fried seafood sampler, chowder, and an ear of corn – all washed down with a cold beer. It was an indulgent and tasty closer to our early Memorial Day trip.

Woodman's in Essex, MA
Woodman's in Essex, MA

Yeah, we ate that whole plate. No wonder my stomach is making weird noises as I type.

The hidden costs of a good deal

Who doesn’t love a good deal?

There’s a family story that involves a 3-year-old-me and the new Easter hat I wore to church. An older lady across the aisle commented on what a nice hat it was and politely asked, “Where did you get it?”

“ON SALE!” I shouted.

Last week Read suggested that one of my steals was turning out to be more work than it was worth. I’ve been guilty of this before…the $4 thriftstore dress that just needs some tailoring, the free piece of furniture that needs fixing, the hand-be-down chair with a funny smell…

Often I’m swayed by not only a cheap price, but also the thought of remaking and reusing something that otherwise would be discarded. What about for you? At what point is the investment to fix something (in time or repairs or sweat) not worth the savings?

"Lily" yellow shirtdress

I bought this Lily shirtdress for half off because it's missing half the covered buttons...how to make covered buttons?? hmm

This most recent situation started with that LLBean wool sweater that I got for $3 at the neighborhood yard sale. I deconstructed it and was left with oodles of triple-stranded dark gray wool. I washed the hanks and stretched them to dry, then knit a test swatch with 10.5 needles. YIPES. Way too thick. I’d start overheating in any garment that heavy.

reclaimed wool

Unwashed crinkly wool (left) and washed, stretched, and dried wool (right)

The only option was to separate the strands. I had Read sit on the opposite  side of the couch – he took a double strand and I took a single – and we wound, wound, wound. The excruciating part is that the yarn gets so twisty it knots on itself, so every few yards you have to stop and untwist. One hank took a couple hours to separate. Read said he felt like Mose in that episode of The Office where Dwight makes him un-ply the building’s toilet paper to save money. He shook his head a lot, but bless his heart he kept winding.

Plain & Simple Pullover

the start of a Plain & Simple Pullover

The single-ply yarn is becoming a Plain and Simple Pullover…so far so good. Separating the strands basically tripled my yardage so I’ll get to choose a couple more projects after the pullover.

What lengths have you gone to fix, retrofit, or mend something you got for cheap (or free)? Was it worth it? Any epic fails?

Balcony Garden Update

Nothing has died in the pallet garden yet! My gardening is kind of like my pool game – I have a lot of fun playing, not scratching or knocking out a window is cause for celebration, and anything good that happens is mostly dumb luck. With gardening I estimate that there’s more than a few years between “not killing stuff” and getting plants to thrive due to any special knowledge or expertise.

The strawberries look pleased…the arugula less so…but we’re hopefully going to start getting more heat and sunshine this week.

The cats have been enthusiastic about this new piece of playground equipment.
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30-minute cowl

Unfortunately the title of this post does not refer to the length of time it took to knit this cowl, but to the length of time it existed, fully formed, in this world.

Serene stripes

Blehhhhhhhhh

It had potential. It did! The reclaimed wheat yarn and the soft earthy tones of the slubby handspun created the right balance of harmony and contrast. There was enough yarn to make an extra long cowl that would double as a hood. And I tried out a jogless striping method for the first time and loved it.

However, the reclaimed wheat yarn had lots of stops and starts, and so it littered the wrongside with knots and ugly bits of yarn. The increases around the shoulders were too fast and furious, which created funny little pleats. And the cowl was so long that when it was not in hood mode, it created an unwieldy and bulky tire of wool around my neck. I frogged the thing before thinking to take a picture, so here is an illustration of what that photo would have shown:

By the next day I’d come up with a new plan for the handspun…a little kerchief. My very first one in fact! Admittedly I’m a little late to the kerchief/shawl party. There are a ton of great patterns on ravelry, and from the lists I chose The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief.

This has already made it through 72 hours and one outing to work. I think it’s a keeper.

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First handspun shawl
First handspun shawl
First handspun shawl

Things the neighbors don’t want

Our neighbors get rid of cool stuff. So much so that I’ve generally replaced going to thrift stores with early morning walks at the turn of the month, when people are moving in and out of apartments. This year I’ve dragged home a few treasures, including…

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An old weathered wooden box with faded gray/blue paint. It holds all of our scarves, hats, and gloves…

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A solid wood double-doored console thing that serves as a media stand…

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And an old windsor chair with a broken seat, but it remains to be seen if I can fix it.

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This morning Read and I walked out the door and into a neighborhood-wide yard sale – it was like a whole year’s worth of moving sales in one morning. Amazing! It felt like a block party, but with rows and rows of $1 bins and used furniture and stacks of books. We met some more neighbors, all of whom are super nice and chill, and made plans to grill out in our shared driveway later this summer.

Combing the house we came up with $39 in cash. With our first dollar we bought some lemonade from the kids next door. The little girl had the best blond goldilocks curls and a cheery chipper voice. She also had a cold, so as she chattered away, a big wad of snot marked her breathing by moving in and out of her nose. Hahaha She remained unfazed. “These cookies have cow’s milk and these don’t! All of the money goes into this cup because it’s the money cup! We’re making a lot of money huh?!”

Thirty-eight dollars later, we had brought home…

Edith's yard sale find

 A pink collar for Edith…

Yard sale loot
An antique dresser to put at the entryway and a puffy insulated dog coat…

Deconstructing a sweater for yarn

…and a $3 XL virgin wool LL Bean sweater that I started to deconstruct for the yarn. That ball above is from just one sleeve, so maybe I can get a couple projects out of the sweater! I’ve had Calvados on my queue for a while and it would look nice in dark gray.

Yard sale season is in full swing. Have you picked up anything good lately?

Construction on the Balcony Garden

It’s no secret that certain friendships are good for certain things. There’s the coworker who understands your office frustrations. The friend you walk dogs with. The couple who’s always up for dinner and drinks. The pal you meet for coffee and knitting. The old friends who know just when to call. Each is their own sort of wonderfulness.

And yet one of my very, very favorite friendship types is the person who’s always up for a new project. I couldn’t be happier as when I’m involved in a DIT (do-it-together) adventure. Canning pickles or peaches. Making apple butter. Refinishing furniture. I go a little bonkers. Once a roommate said that living with me was like living at summer camp, which looking back, was hopefully a compliment….

So. Imagine my glee when a new friend family in our neighborhood was not  only intrigued by the idea of a pallet garden, but also wanted to help build one. And that’s just what we all did last Sunday (after eating a nice big brunch with waffles and egg/bacon casserole and coffee). We didn’t stop with the pallet, but built a potato box too. I was in heaven.

Turning a pallet into a vertical garden

From left to right: lettuce, parsley, zucchini, strawberries

Turning a pallet into a vertical garden

We'll keep it horizontal for a few weeks to let things take root, then try tipping it against the house

Growing potatoes in a box

As the potato plants grow, we'll pile in more dirt and eventually add more wood to the sides

Pea shoots

The peas are coming right along...

So – what types of friendships are you especially thankful for? And what kinds of projects do you have up your sleeve for this month?