Let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him. (Oswalt Chambers)

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Wishing all my readers a very wonderful 2009.

It's cold here and the snow is gently falling. No serious accumulation is expected as we head into the new year. For now winter is back to normal. Michiganders have no problem dealing with a few inches of snow.

Thank you for all your kind words of sympathy and encouragement on yesterday's post.

Something happy and unexpected happened when I took my ear-splitting loud exhaust system in for an estimate this morning. Nothing needed replacing. They welded a joint back together and it cost $55! How often does that happen? I'm still smiling.

Once again life is good.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ending The Year With A Roar

Everybody has them. Brief periods in life when one thing after another happens to throw off our plans and we begin to wonder how long it will be before we can return to our normal, boring life that we failed to appreciate.

I thought about writing a happy post and not bothering to record the things that recently happened. Somehow that didn't seem right, especially since I mentioned the possibility of more weather woes in my last post. So, I'm going to briefly write about our fun weekend so all my readers can be happy they live where they live instead of at my house.

When I left off in my last post we were expecting a thaw of about 5 feet of snow packed down into ice. Saturday it happened along with lots of rain. I was able to get the car out and go to the grocery store.

Saturday evening it rained some more and we started watching the basement for water. Soon we were going downstairs every hour to pump out a drainage area just outside the back door. Then water started to seep onto the basement floor not related to spot we were pumping. The routine changed from pump to pump and then wet vac.

About 1 am the wet vac died, so the routine changed to pump and mop with big old towels.

By 3 am the rain had stopped, the temperature was dropping back down to freezing, and a very strong wind started to blow taking out the power. We were so tired we bundled up (because there was no heat) and went to bed.

We consider ourselves fortunate. The power came back on at 9 am Sunday morning and most of the water in the basement had receded by then. Some Michigan residents didn't get their power back until today, Tuesday.

After catching up on my sleep Sunday, Monday I drove to Kalamazoo and had lunch with Mom. On the way home, my exhaust system died. I have an appointment tomorrow for an estimate to fix it, but there's no question it needs to be done. I can't even hear my radio when I drive. This is not happy financial news as well as being a bother.

To end on a happy note, we're having our family Christmas Thursday. If exhaust parts need to be ordered I may be pulling up with a roar, but I'm still looking forward to it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Word for Christmas 2008 is 'LATE'

I'll put the detailed weather whine at the end of this post for readers who aren't tired of hearing about it. For now, let's just say that even if the roads were clear and safe, we can't get the car out of the driveway until there is some thawing.

Presents for our Christmas Eve family get-together at Mom's in Kalamazoo are still waiting to leave the house. Gifts from Idaho and North Carolina are waiting at Mom's until we finally have our Christmas party.

It was a no brainer decision to postpone our celebration. Daughter Heather wasn't feeling well and just wanted to go to bed. Granddaughter Kimmy needed to travel sixty miles to her dad's house. She usually goes Christmas Eve after our Kalamazoo party, but the roads were expected to get treacherous and we wanted her to go earlier in the daylight and before the freezing rain. Then, there's the little problem that DH and I can't get out of the driveway. Not that we want to get out of the driveway.

Christmas Eve and presents will be rescheduled when Kimmy returns, everyone is healthy, and the roads are not hazardous.

Brother Dave living in the boondocks of Portland, Oregon was snowed in and without power for Christmas. His gifts to the family are unmailed, but I know what I'm getting and the anticipation is making me smile.

Dave is getting socks. Large, shoe size 14 socks. And they're not done yet. One has the gusset half decreased and the other is ready to have gusset stitches picked up. This is Kaffe Fassett Regia and the colors are making them an enjoyable knit.

These socks were never promised by Christmas and everyone is OK with them not being done by then. If Dave likes his handknit socks, I'll do better next year with getting them done on time.

Sister Carrie's February Lady is done but needs a few finishing touches and a trip to the post office. I hope to mail the sweater and the socks early next week. Weather permitting.

This little gem was not late. A Christmas present from DH.

I've been wanting a small camera to carry around in my purse, and this one is perfect. It measures 3.5 inches x 2 inches and is 3/4 inch deep. I think I'm going to love it.

Detail Weather Whine
It's been a week since the last time we had the car on the roads.

We are living in the middle of a very hard ice glacier and hopefully watching for signs of melting so we can get out to the store. So far everything is still frozen solid, so I'm thinking it will be this evening at the earliest. (For those not into the Michigan weather report, it's supposed to be in the 50s by tomorrow.)

We don't have snow anymore. Thanks to the snow, rain, freeze cycle we have about a foot of heavy, slippery ice in the yard and driveway. Can't shovel it and the car is frozen into it.

Good grief! This weather is totally insane. It will be interesting to see where all the water goes once things start melting. The ground is too frozen for it to just sink in. The wet vac and pump are ready and on alert in the basement.

On the radio they were saying in town, Kalamazoo/Portage, the gutter drains are clogged with snow, ice, and leaves that never got picked up thanks to early and continuous snowfall. They're asking people to get out and clear the gutters so the streets don't flood. Doesn't that sound like a fun project?

Morale is OK around here. We're having "fun" discovering things in what used to be the back of the cupboards and the freezer isn't empty yet. Most important, we still have plenty of dog food.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Heron and the Hawk

One of the many reasons I love living in the country is the variety of birds we see.

Today, sitting on the loveseat with my laptop and wishing it would thaw, I spotted several of the larger birds that hang around our property.

This is more a snow picture than a bird picture, but that dark lump in the center is a blue heron fishing in the creek.

With the white snow on the ground for background, it was easy to spot the heron gliding in to take his position. The creek is fast running, so it never freezes.

Way up high on the property line this hawk sits and surveys all the neighborhood feeders.

I'm a bit weak on hawk id. Without a closer look it's impossible for me to make a confident identification, but I'm thinking it's a Red-tailed Hawk. If any reader knows better, please correct me.

The sky really was the color in the picture in anticipation of the sleet/rain/snow that's supposed to entertain us for the next 24 hours or more.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Officially Begins

When Kalamazoo churches cancel Sunday morning services, that means the weather is on the "totally hostile" edge of the bell curve.

For SW Michigan today "totally hostile" means temperature at zero (-18C), high winds with a wind chill temperature of -17F/-27C, and blowing, drifting snow. The salt doesn't work on the roads and anything cleared of snow fills in rapidly with the blowing snow.

Things are expected to get worse overnight.

From the National Weather Service:


There hasn't been as much knitting getting done as I'd like because I've been sore from shoveling.

There isn't going to be any more shoveling until it warms up a little, so I'm planning a knitting evening tonight instead of the church Christmas concert I was looking forward to attending.

We've kept the bird seed flowing out the door today.

Still, this Bluejay wants to know if he can come in and warm up for a while.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not Much Except Snow

The weather and road conditions are severely cramping my style this Christmas season.

We live in the country on a narrow road in the woods that's only been paved for less than a year. That's our road in the picture, running along the front of the trees on the far side of the frozen pond. If I didn't tell you that, it's doubtful you could distinguish the road from the rest of the snowy landscape.

The nearest place to do any away from home business is eight miles away. Most places I want to go are between ten and twenty miles from the driveway.

Before I can leave home I have to ask myself:
  1. Can I get out of the driveway?
  2. Do I want to get out of the driveway or would driving on the current road conditions be so stressful I'd be happier staying home?
  3. Is it snowing? Raining? Freezing?
  4. By the time I'm ready to come home, what will the roads be like? The visibility?
  5. When the snowplow comes by, it creates a deep ridge of packed down, heavy snow and ice across the mouth of the driveway. Is the snowplow going to come while I'm gone so I won't be able to get back in the driveway? It's not like there is parking in the street around here.

The skies are blue this afternoon. I should be rushing out to the grocery store to get ready for the next snow hit. For tonight and tomorrow we've been promised 100% chance of snow and the prediction is for snow everyday forward until after Christmas.

Normally I love living here. Today I'm a cranky grandma whining about the weather and trying to remember why I probably would not like living in the city. What's the cure for this? Well, cranky children usually need a nap. Maybe I'll try that.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chat Back for December 13

Answering questions from comments and email.

Jean asked . . .
Would you know where I could get this pattern, it is calling to me. The swatch you knitted looks like it would be crisper looking, more defined stitches (than the picture in the pattern) right?.

The cabled vest pattern is free from Patternworks when you buy the Bretton yarn. There are about 10 free patterns to select from. Just pick the one you want when ordering online.

Right! The stitch pattern shows up better in the pink because the yarn is a lighter color than the dark yarn used for the pattern picture. Dark colors don't show stitch patterns as well as lighter colors.

Barbara asked . . .
Would you please post what sizes the pattern covers and the amount of yarn for each?

The sizes run 36(40,44) requiring 6(8,9) balls of Bretton, 50g/145 yds per ball. It's a DK weight yarn.

I bought the bag of 10 balls to get the better price. If there's enough left over, Bretton makes wonderful warm cuddly socks or mitts.

Dorothy asked . . .
Where do you get your Opal? After hearing you rave about it so much, I really do need to try some.

Simply Socks Yarn Company has Opal yarn.

In the brief time between my trumpet lesson and my church class on Wednesday evening I went to the biggest yarn store in Kalamazoo to select brother Dave's sock yarn in person. They carry Opal and I planned on buying Opal, but once I saw this Regia it was a done deal.

Fortunately for my pocketbook, I didn't have enough time for other yarn browsing. I don't need more yarn. Really. But now that I know how close the yarn store is to the music school . . . . DANGER!

Tomorrow, Sunday, is the doggy school Christmas party. This afternoon I baked a dogfood cake to take for the dogs. My dogs tell me this is really yummy stuff.

Dog Food Cake

2 c. flour
2 (6 oz.) cans Hi Protein dog food
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
4 eggs
4 tsp. baking powder
Milk - enough for batter consistency (I used a half cup)

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes in 9 x 13 inch pan. Recipe can be "halved" for smaller cake.

Frost with whipped cream cheese.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Swatching for After Christmas Project

A little problem showed up in the mail this week - new yarn and the urge to cast on another project.

I already have three projects on the needles: Chenille, February Lady Sweater, and Karen's socks. My rule for knitting peace makes three projects the maximum I can have going at once, but swatches don't count.

Swatches are the perfect way to take care of that urge to get new yarn on the needles. Now I'm really ready to cast on as soon as my Christmas projects are done.

This yarn is going to be a vest for Mom.

Mom's request: A V neck vest to wear for warmth - one that she can throw in the washer and dryer like her hand knit socks.

The answer is Bretton, a Patternworks house yarn. 70% superwash wool, 5% alpaca, 25% nylon. The nylon content isn't noticeable, at least not to me. Having it means the vest is going to be almost indestructible and it will hold its shape, not sag, bag, and stretch like some superwash wools I've used.

The alpaca provides a subtle halo and extra softness and warmth.

This attractive pattern came free with the Bretton yarn.

As you can see from the swatch, I've decided to use it unless Mom gives it the thumbs down.

A word from 14 pound Pappy:

Hey, you think I'm a husky?

This snow is a bit much for a little dog. Let's head home.

(Picture taken Sunday, December 7.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas Knitting Updates

The February Lady Sweater for sister Carrie in North Carolina just needs sleeves.

As always, I'm enjoying knitting with the Coto Canapone. And, big relief, the yarn is working well with this pattern intended for wool.

Pattern: February Lady Sweater.

Yarn: Elann Coto Canapone. Worsted weight. 52% cotton, 48% hemp.

Color: Murano Blue.

Needles: Options #7.

Gauge: 4.5 stitches/inch in garter stitch.

Brother Dave and his SO Karen are getting socks. We finally touched base Sunday evening about size and color preference, so they may not get done by Christmas. They will get done before I start any after Christmas projects.

Karen requested "dark", so I hauled out some Opal Smoke and Cookie's Monkey pattern.

Opal yarn is perfect for gift socks because it's long wearing and indestructible in the laundry yet it's soft and warm like hand knit socks should be.

The Monkey pattern is perfect for gift socks because it's interesting, pretty, and has plenty of stretch for a good fit when the exact size needed is a guess.

Brother Dave (size 14 feet) has requested "bright" for his color. I'm headed for the yarn shop to see what I can find for him. I've never knit socks for such long feet before. Maybe I should buy two skeins just in case?

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A. in Knitty, Winter 2006.

Yarn: Opal.

Color: Smoke.

Needles: Options 2.5

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Just in case anyone is waiting with bated breath to know how much snow we got Saturday night and/or if I made it to church, the answers are: About a foot on top of what we already had and no.

In the picture, Glory is breaking the path for us on our first dog walk of the day. She's a big dog and she was plowing the heavy, deep snow with her chest. We all needed a nap when the walk was over.

This will be the second night we've had a freezing rain/ice warning. Alwen, who lives somewhere in SW Michigan as I do, wrote a post about why this is even worse than snow. Check it out here: Two Words I Dread

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Chat Back for December 6

Answering questions from comments and email.

Qutecowgirl asked . . .
Totally off topic here but do you have any tips about knitting a sweater with alpaca?

You're very wise to understand that knitting with alpaca is not the same as knitting with wool. With the right pattern and the right gauge, you can knit an alpaca sweater that's every bit as wonderful as cashmere. With a pattern not suitable for alpaca, you can create a sweater you may never want to wear.

I've written up my thoughts on selecting an alpaca sweater pattern here: Thoughts on Alpaca.

Judy asked . . .
It is beautiful, isn't it?

Some snowfalls are beautiful, some aren't. Some are cold, windy, and nasty.

This picture was taken at 2 pm this afternoon when I went out to the road to fetch the mail. It is a color picture, there just isn't any color today. There is not a bit of blue sky to be seen. It's been snowing all day - not the pretty kind with big fluffy snowflakes, but the small flake, dense snow that is backbreaking to shovel.

According to the National Weather Service, there is 90% probability of at least 4 more inches tonight with winds up to 30 mph. That means drifting. (That last detail is for my warm climate friends. Judy knows about drifting. She lives in Michigan.)

If that happens and the snowplow doesn't come down the road, it's unlikely I'm going to make it to church in the morning.

If that happens and the snowplow does come down the road, it's even less likely I'm going to make it to church in the morning. The plow will create a high, dense pile of snow across the end of the driveway and since we're not expecting temps above freezing, it will need to be shoveled before we can get out.

Laura from beautiful West Mich asked . . .
Do your dogs get those little ice balls in between their pads when you walk them in the snow? How do you handle it?

All three dogs get their foot hair, including the hair between their toes, trimmed off every six weeks at the groomers. It seems to help a lot.

We do have a problem with the cold. When it gets to about 15 degrees or below, Pappy's little feet get so cold he tries to get all four feet in the air at once and he happily lets me carry him back to the house. The other dogs' feet are a bit more tolerant of the cold, but they have their comfort limit.

We keep our outings short when it's cold. I can't carry more than one dog at a time.

Kate asked . . .
Beautiful socks! They look perfectly matched. How do you do that?!!!

This is a frequently asked question.

Getting Socks to Match is a entire blog post on the method I use.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Gail's Christmas Socks Finished

Seven years ago I signed Sunny up for puppy class with dog trainer Gail. My intention was to get her Canine Good Citizen certificate and visit nursing homes with my sweet little dog.

As Sunny matured it was obvious she didn't have the personality for visiting nursing homes. Strange objects freak her out and she doesn't like to be petted by people she doesn't know.

Dog trainer Gail describes Sunny's personality as "Queen Bee". Sunny is bossy and opinionated. Without the guidance and wise teaching of Gail, Sunny would be a very obnoxious little dog.

Sunny loves obedience class. After puppy class we went on to intermediate class and ended up in a class called "Hobby Advanced". We do some obedience, some agility, some tricks and games, all to have fun with our dogs, not serious stuff for competition.

When abused and rescued Pappy joined our family six years ago, we gave him a month to adjust a little and then started him in the beginner class.

Gail coached us in turning a nervous, traumatized dog into a loving, happy family member. Pappy has been in a "Hobby Advanced" class for five years now. His favorite part is the agility.

The dogs go to doggy school on separate nights. It's their night out with Mom's sole attention and they love it. That's 4 hours a week I spend in doggy school and the reason dog trainer Gail gets hand knit socks at Christmas and on her birthday.

I'm so pleased that there is something I can do for her that she appreciates and wears. Hope she likes the colors in this pair.

Pattern: Basic sock on 64 stitches. k1p1 ribbing for 20 rows, then k7p1 ribbing down rest of cuff and instep.

Yarn: Opal, 75% Superwash wool, 25% Nylon.

Color: Petticoat 1293

Needles: Options 2.5mm circulars.

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

More Snow

The days are so short now that when I went to take a picture of Gail's finished Christmas socks it was too dark - at 5 pm.

So instead here are some snow picture taken yesterday. Socks tomorrow.

First daylight morning dog walk.

It snowed more Monday afternoon and evening. It snowed more today, Tuesday. There is snow in the forecast for the next five days, but I'm not going to ruin the mood of the pretty pictures by whining about it.

When the temperature is warm but still below freezing, the snow comes down in big, fluffy flakes and sticks to the branches making for a beautiful world.