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September 2009

Now That It's Cold

Brrrrrrr!  Fall -- the cold, blustery fall, as opposed to the colorful, candy-corn-and-pumpkin fall -- just blew in.  It's suddenly cold out there!  A good time to talk about . . . blankets.

When my daughter went to college, I made a blanket (Ravelry link) for her.  It's the Lizard Ridge pattern, and I made it from random skeins of Noro Kureyon. 

Lizard Ridge 001

Knitted blankets are big.  They take a lot of time -- and yarn -- to knit.  They can be very costly to make.  Let's just say. . . there's a big investment in a knit blanket.  When Erin took this blanket off to her dorm, I gave her many, many warnings.  Don't throw this in the washer!  And NEVER the dryer!  Don't let anyone sit on it in a stretch-y way!  Don't use this for sun-bathing on the Quad!  Don't spill things on it! 

Really.  Ridiculous.  I mean, she's far away at college -- and I want to surround her with good old Mom-love in the form of colorful stitches.  But.  No matter how much she values handknits, the fact is: she lives in a dorm! 

Contrast Lizard Ridge with this standard, 2-hour, tied-edge polar fleece blanket:

Blanket for kim 001

I have made at least 20 of these blankets over the past 6 or 7 years (even Jenny has one!).  They're warm, cozy, and handy to have around.  They lack the charm of the handknit blanket, but they're very practical.  I made this particular blanket over the weekend for Brian's girlfriend, who has just moved into a dorm room of her own.  I gave her no special warnings with this blanket.  Why?  Well, because you can do ANYthing to this blanket -- and it will remain in perfect condition!  You can spill coffee on it; step on it with muddy boots; have a picnic on it; drag it to the ice rink for hockey game after hockey game.  And then -- you can just throw it in the washer and dryer!

So, now that my son is a senior, it's time to think about making him a blanket.  In fact, Michelle and I have been thinking about starting a Blanket-for-your-College-Bound-Kid KAL.  But. . . I'm dragging my feet.  When I think about my son living in a dorm next year. . . and doing his own laundry . . . and changing his bedding. . . I kind of get hysterical.  Not because he'll be Leaving Home, but with laughter.  Because he just doesn't care if he lives in a cave!  I don't believe I would need to concern myself with him putting a handknit in the washer and dryer, because I don't believe he'll put ANYthing in the washer and dryer. 

Given that, maybe my time would be better spent making him a couple of extra-long, tied-edge, polar fleece blankets for his dorm room.  What do you think?

Edge Pieces

In our family, brownies reign supreme in the Baked Treats World (pecan rolls are a close second!).  Our favorite recipe is the "On the Fence" brownie from the King Arthur Flour Co. Cookie Companion cookbook.  A shiny, almost flaky top.  Deep, dark chocolate-y color (that almost looks like rich, compost-y soil).  Thick and fudge-y in the center . . . with chewy, satisfying edges.  

Over the years, I've perfected this brownie.  I special-order dutch-process cocoa and vanilla.  I melt the sugar into the butter.  I mix them by hand.  I add chocolate chips to the batter. . . right at the end. 

Brownies 001

But it's those edges -- those chewy, perfectly-baked edges -- that really "make" the brownie!  For years, Tom and the kids would eat the brownies out of the pan . . . edges first!  They would argue over who would get the corner pieces (TWO edges!), and then they would leave the the inner pieces for last.  It's not that they didn't like the inner pieces. . . it's just that they LOVED the edges best.

Tom solved this problem once-and-for-all a couple of years ago by giving me this Christmas gift --- a brownie pan specially designed so that EACH PIECE is an EDGE PIECE

Brownies 003

I made brownies this weekend, and I started thinking about them.  Brownies.  Edges.  Life. 

Brownies 004

All parts of the brownie are good.  But it's the edges that give substance; definition; flavor.  Chewiness. Find the edges.  Create more edges.  Eat from the edge of the pan.

Getting it Right. . . Next Time!

In gardening there is a phrase that's used a lot.  Right plant, right place.  There are entire books dedicated to this concept.  Basically, the theory holds that if you plant the right plants for the conditions of your particular location/soil/climate, you'll have success -- beautiful blooms, less maintenance, the heavens will part and angels will sing.  I know this concept.  I have the book.  I explain it to newer gardeners.  But, Dangit!  Sometimes I get it wrong anyway.

Fall gardening 092609 012

We used to live in another city here in Michigan -- in a neighborhood called "Georgetown Forest" . . . with (heavy) emphasis on the Forest.  I had a big yard; lots (and lots and lots) of trees; hostas; no sun.  Ever.  I dreamed of sunny cottage gardens every day.  So when we moved to our current house - six years ago -- and my new yard was half-sun/half-shade, the first thing I did was put in the Cottage Garden of My Dreams.

Big Mistake.  I have been fighting with that cottage garden for five seasons now.  Oh, it looks great for about 2 weeks every year in early June.  (Here it is in it's most promising phase this past June. . .)

Garden Jun 4 2009 015

I get seduced again and again and again by The Potential of those 2 short weeks.  I throw more plants at the cottage garden every year about that time.  But then. . . reality sets in.  This is not the Right Place for a cottage garden!  It is too sunny.  It is very dry.  The west wind sends strong breezes.  Deer and rabbits feast.  FEAST!  In short, it is a disaster by the end of June.

I have now, officially, Given Up on having a cottage garden in that particular location.  I cleared out plants this weekend.  (For you knitters out there. . . I'm "frogging" this garden!)

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I'm moving some of the plants to other spots in my yard -- where the conditions are better for them.  I'm packing plants up and sharing them with gardening friends.

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Everything must go!

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I don't know what I'll end up with next gardening season.  I have some ideas. . .  but I'm not going to rush to plant right now.  This will be my winter project:  to figure out what the Right Plants are for this Right Place.  I need to find beautiful plants for this overly-sunny, incredibly-dry, West-windy location that is, currently, a 5-star restaurant for deer and rabbits!  It'll keep me busy while the snow falls.

And, just so you don't think that gardening is all work and no fun, here's a little video clip of Brian and Jenny . . . helping me . . . this weekend.

On Color Watch

I know that Friday Means Mind Candy here at Stepping Away From the Edge, BUT with fall's arrival, I decided to do something a little different on Fridays.  I love the changing fall colors, and my very own neighborhood tends to explode with color right before my eyes.  So, each Friday I'm going to share views of the trees I can see from my house.  It'll be . . . a color watch!

Here are what the trees look like today. . . looking across the street from my front porch. . .

Color Watch 0924 001

And looking down the street from my driveway. . .

Color Watch 0924 003

And the view of my neighbor's house from the slider door in my basement (the view from my computer). . .

Color Watch 0924 004

As you can see, the "performers" are just warming up!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Making it Real

Unlike knitting, where there is a distinct line separating the "work-in-progress" from the "finished object," gardening is a continual process.  Change is constant when it comes to gardening!   That said, my big summer gardening project is pretty much complete.  As complete as a gardening project ever "is." 

This particular gardening project began last winter, when I started dreaming about what I wanted to do in my backyard.  When everything is frozen, and the sun has disappeared, and there is so much snow that you're just hungry to see grass or dirt . . .  well, that's when I start my serious garden dreaming.  By summer, the scheming was in full swing -- and I was ready to put my plan to paper.  THIS is what I wanted . . .

Garden design process back bed 002

And THIS is what I got . . .

Finished product 008

It's not quite "there" yet, but I'm pleased.  If you kind of squint your eyes and imagine. . . the plantings with a year's growth (and blooms), a swing in the pergola, and some hanging plants . . . you can see what I dreamed up.  And by planting now - in the fall - I'm getting a head-start on spring.  These new plants will set their roots and pull up nourishment in time for the long winter ahead.  And, come spring, their growth will be amazing!  Fall is actually a great time to plant a new mixed border.  You can take advantage of sales for new plants (just be careful -- not all sale plants are healthy plants!), you can mix bulbs right in as you go, and you can transplant and divide plants you already have from other areas of your garden.  (Just yesterday I "rescued" 6 astilbes who were hiding under an overgrown brunnera -- and I planted them on the far right side of the pergola.  They're going to be so much happier!)

It's satisfying to go from this. . .

Garden design process back bed 006

to this. . .

Scale Drawing 001

to this. . .

Garden design process 001

to this. . .

Rototilling the new bed 003

to this. . .

Raising the pergola 001

to this!

Finished product 001

Dreams. . . to schemes. . . to making it real!

Collecting the Evidence

I like wine.  I sip a glass . . . or two. . . every night.

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I save the corks.  I like the look and feel of them.  They're substantial!

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They're clever!  Some are like little works of art.

Wall o corks 007

They're souvenirs!  Reminders of trips, events, celebrations, and bottles of wine you just really liked.

Wall o corks 004

Over time, my cork collection has grown.  It filled several large, glass containers.  It started to get a little ridiculous.

Wall o corks 015

What do you DO with all of those corks?  Inspired by my friend, Sandie, who covered the ceiling of her wet  bar/butler's pantry with corks (SO cool!), I decided to create a Wall of Corks.  Not only would it look cool, but it could be a functional "cork board", too!

As usual, I called on my Dad -- The Mastermind -- to help me translate my idea into reality.  He installed it yesterday!

Wall o corks 014

Each cork -- and there are over 300 -- is cut in half (so there are over 600 half-corks on the wall!).  Now, in fairness, not all of the corks were from me.  My Dad contributed some of his own.  But . . . well, most of them were mine.  Tom puts it this way:  my Wall of Cork represents over $3,000 in wine consumed!!!

Wall o corks 001

Thanks, Dad!  I love it!

Button-Button-Who's Got the Button?

I love buttons!  Always have.  As a little girl, my Great Grandmother used to let me play with her button box whenever I visited.  This was an incredibly special treat for me!

Button girl

The box (you can see it behind me in this photo from 1961) was wooden and had a sliding lid -- which was cool enough all by itself!  But, the best part was inside!  The box was full-to-the-brim with buttons!  There were colorful Lucite buttons, delicate shell buttons, big-old wooden buttons, pretty-lady filigree buttons, odd-shaped belt buckles --- just all kinds of delights!  I played with these buttons for hours.  I used to sort them and line them up -- by color, by size, by "prettiest;" I made patterns and discovered interesting color-combinations.  My Great Grandmother's button box was a true treasure for me!  (And, sadly, I don't know what ever happened to it when she died.)

Anyway, I've always had a Thing for buttons!  I have a button collection of my own now, and I spend a lot of time and thought choosing buttons for my own projects.

Choosing buttons for my Tempest sweater (which is completely finished. . . except for the buttons) has been a bit challenging!  I narrowed the field down to four different styles of button. . .

Kodachrome buttons 001

and I started playing with them. . .

Kodachrome buttons 002

It's important to get the buttons "right" on Tempest.  There are a LOT of them (14!), so they need to be on the quiet side; they are unevenly spaced (more in the middle), so they need to be just the right size; and the stripes make the cardigan busy enough already, so the buttons need to be understated.

I really like the greenish "sparkly" buttons, but they are really too big to work on the small stripes of Tempest. . . and the greyish-blue don't work for me - color-wise - at all.  So it came down to these two. . . navy blue or a kind of greeny-tealy color.

Kodachrome buttons 003

And after sleeping on it, this morning, I've decided that these buttons work best. . .

Kodachrome buttons 005

What do you think?  It's not too late for me to change my mind. . . they're not sewn on yet!

In the meantime, I've begun NaKniSweMoDo #11!  It's BabyCocktails' new design -- Long & Lucky (Ravelry link).  I'm lucky -- because I'm test-knitting it . . . and using my all-time favorite yarn, Berroco Ultra Alpaca!

Peaceful beginning 001

I've just started. . . but I can tell . . . this project has its own rhythm!  It's going to be a peaceful, mindful knit.

And, heck. . .

Peaceful beginning 005

I've already got buttons picked out!


I have seasonal allergies.  FALL seasonal allergies.  The ragweed must have arrived, because I've had to pull out the arsenal.

Allergies 001

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm grateful to be stricken by such a normal, commonplace, and temporary health issue.  But.  It's hard to get anything done when you're sneezing and dripping and sneezing again!  I did get relief yesterday when I spent a couple of hours in ice rinks, watching Brian's hockey games (pollen is minimized in that frozen environment!).  But I can't stay in there forever!

On the positive side. . . seasons change!  And my allergies will subside.  Also. . . I'm not allergic to wool!  Here's a little teaser of what's to come later this week (after I find appropriate buttons).

Kodachrome finishing 002

But now, I must run.  To find a tissue.  Ahhhhh-chooooooo. . . . .

PS -- Thanks so much for supporting my Light the Night walk!  If you'd like to join in my efforts, you can read here or click on the Light the Night logo in the upper left hand corner of this page!

Cookin' Up Treats

Our dog, Jenny, is One Spoiled Dog.

More Jenny and the Chicken 008 

Past posts have shown Jenny going on special outings and playing in the lake.  But she has plenty of fun just hanging out at home, too.  She gets lots of playtime in the backyard.

Jenny at play aug 09 017 

Look at her go!  She loves to chase "flying" toys of any kind!  (Although the Chicken remains her favorite plaything. . .)

Jenny at play aug 09 020 

She gets a daily 2-mile walk with me.  (And if I haven't put on my walking shoes by about 5:00 in the afternoon. . . she gets pretty agitated . . . and starts to give me "gentle reminders" that shout HEY! LET'S GO!)

Spoiled dog 021

And Jenny likes to eat "treats."  Of any kind.  Dog treats and people treats.  It's hard to find a food that Jenny doesn't like (well, except celery. . . but she thought it was a worthy toy anyway!).

Me and jenny 003 

So, when I saw this book on the clearance table at Barnes & Noble, I bought it! 

Spoiled dog 003 

I mean, if you're going to spoil your dog. . . you might as well go all the way!  So yesterday, Jenny and I busied ourselves . . . cookin' up some treats!

First, we made Beef Crunchies.

Spoiled dog 001 

This recipe couldn't be easier!  Basically, you just cut up some lean beef, and then bake it at low heat for a very, very long time (3 hours!).  The smell of slow-cooking meat nearly drove Jenny crazy!  She laid right next to the oven for her nap!  Then, we mixed up some Basic Dog Cookies.

Spoiled dog 008 

It's kind of funny to mix up "cookie dough" with . . . chicken broth!  I really like knowing what is IN Jenny's treats, though.  I like knowing there are "real" ingredients like whole wheat flour and oats and carrots and cheese. . . instead of unknown filler and "parts" that are in the dog treats I purchase at the pet store.  Again, the key to baking dog cookies is low heat and a long time in the oven.  The cookies were hard as rocks by the time they came out of the oven and "dried out" overnight!

The finished products. . .

Spoiled dog 025 

got Jenny's mouth-watering approval!

Spoiled dog 028 

I need to store these treats up high in the cupboard!  Jenny has been known to eat through plastic. . .