Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's NOT Too Hot to Bake!

We are sweltering here in the Northwest.  Where we usually have gray skys and rain, we've got 97+ degrees and bright sun.  Personally I love it.  But, we need some fresh bread.  So out comes the recipe for bread in a Crock Pot.  Simple, easy-peasy.

I'm using my Artisan Bread dough.  Just take out a hunk - about the size of a large grapefruit.  Line a crock pot with parchment paper.  Sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom and place the round dough on top.  Cover the pot and let sit for 2 hours.  Then cook it on high for 2 hours.  No muss, no fuss, NO HEAT. 

Now when the bread is finished, it will look like a dumpling.  It should spring back when you poke it and not be mushy feeling.  Some crock pots will require a little bit longer time. 

Brush the top with olive oil or a little butter. Then, for just 5 minutes, pop it under the broiler in the middle of the oven.  Watch carefully that it doesn't burn, but gets nice and browned.

Voila! Ambrosia!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Creating Yumm

I've just gotten a recipe that a lot of my FaceBook friends wanted me to share, and since FB doesn't allow file sharing yet I'll post it here.

Classic Pizza Dough from “Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in 5 Minutes a Day”

In a large 5 qt bowl, mix together well but don’t knead:
6 ½ c flour
3 c warm water
1 ½ Tablespoons Kosher or Sea Salt (large grains)
1 ½ Tablespoons Yeast

Set aside, covered loosly – not tight, to rise for about 2 hours.  Then store the bowl in the fridge.  Don’t punch down, just leave the lid on and stick in the fridge for a couple of days – or just 1 day if you’re anxious to start.  Dough will last for about 2 weeks and is enough to make 4 small pizzas, 2 loaves of peasant bread, or about 8 small Naan.

Stuffed Naan
Preheat Oven to 450 deg.

1 Naan – pull off about an orange size wad of Classic Dough.  Lightly flour a board and your hands and roll out the dough into ¼” size circle about 5” in diameter.

Stuffing for each Naan:
3 Tbsp finely chopped onions
3 Tbsp finely chopped Basil (or cilantro, or Oregano)
I added about 2 Tbsp crumbled Feta

Press stuffing into the dough. Then gather up the edges and pinch together into a ball, sealing the edges.  Place the edge side down on a floured board and roll into a flat bread to about 1/8” thick.  It’s ok if any stuffing bits come through the top.

Bake on a pizza stone if you have one, or a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes or until the Naan is lightly golden in color.

Remove from oven and brush tops with mixture of Olive oil, garlic and very finely chopped basil or whatever herb you stuffed it with.  Or just use olive oil.

Eat warm.
By the way – make lots, they re-heat nicely and if you make just one, you’ll wish you’d made more.  ;-)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tour de Fleece

The Tour de France is one of my favorite sports events to watch in the summer.  Having been an avid cyclist and racer until my knees and neck went bonky it always gives me a thrill to watch.  This year, I am spinning again with the Tour, this time with my new little drop spindle and Team Jenkins for the Tour de Fleece, put on by Ravelry.
Quite a different kind of spinning, but it appeals to my love of process.  I once used, or tried to use a top whorl spindle but never got the feel.  This year I bought a little Jenkins Delight - a cute little Turkish spindle and I've fallen in love.  We are a matched pair.  So there is something to be said about the horse matching the rider, or the dog matching the handler.  You can force something and make it work and be always fighting with it, or you can find the one that seems to fit, understand it, know it for it's strengths and weaknesses and flow with it. The little Jenkins is like that.  She has her weaknesses (she's small) and her strenghts (she's balanced perfectly); I too have my strengths (I am a detail person) and my weaknesses (I am impatient).  By recognizing this on both the part of the tool and myself, I am able to learn to use this little Delight and create something of beauty. Here is my visual record of my learning process. 

In the Beginning

Notice how the wind is uneven

Now starting to be mindful of my winding

Getting better, but still not quite right

And patience pays out

Getting toward the end

Finally, finished and off the spindle. Everything went sproing.
I noticed that my teammates cops were beautifully wound on and mine was a mess, so I started paying attention to this one minute detail.  I had to be mindful of where I placed the single yarn and how tightly I wound it on.  It was a slow process - testing my patience, coaxing me to slow my pace, take a deep breath and enjoy the process and watch as the beauty of the yarn started to twine itself together. Sometimes, I went astray - so be it.  Correct it for the next wind.  I am still getting the rhythm of it and my little Melisa Delight is there to help me through it. She stays balanced no mater what.  It's my job to keep her on track.

Hmm....kind of like my shepherding.  Jill and I are a good match.  I need to know my dogs strengths and weaknesses as well as my own in order to create the beauty of sheep herding.  Don't force it to happen, work with it.  Be patient, be mindful.  Enjoy the process.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Spinning with the Tour

The Tour de France has always been one of my favorite sports events to watch.  Secretly I've always wanted to participate in it, but as it's an all male sport - just not gonna' happen.  Light years ago, I used to bike race, but knees, neck and severe carpal tunnel prevent me from participating. So I've gotten way out of shape.  And what the heck you say, dear reader, is this all about?  Well it's about trying a new skill, fitness and expanding one's box.

I sit.  I sit and I spin. I sit and I knit, I sit and I type my blogs on my computer.  I do a lot of sitting.  I am turning into a chair.  Time to make a change.

Last week at the Black Sheep Gathering, I bought a new spinning tool.  Oh No! More sitting.  NOT!  This is a little drop spindle from Jenkins.  It's a Turkish spindle called the Delight and it is a dream.  I've never used a drop spindle before.  Something new to try.  I can stand up, walk around and move whilst spinning.  I can even go outside and enjoy the sun (which has finally decided to visit our NW).
Ravelry, an all things fiber group, has a forum for Tour de France teams - they call it the Tour de Fleece.  I decided to join the Jenkins team and have been steadily learning the ins and out of my little spindle.  And as this is about participating in a sport event, I made a declaration.  For every hour I sit and spin, I have to walk a mile - each day.  It's a happy process and a healthy one. 

I am learning so much about my little Delight - how to keep the fleece from getting away from me, how to wind on a beautiful cop (that's the yarn ball on the spindle) and mostly it's about being mindful.  Being mindful of my process, mindful of my body, mindful of my surroundings. Taking time to be joyful in the process and be proud of what I've done.  Knowing that each little step is a step toward better understanding of my spinning  journey and even the journey in my life.

It's amazing that something so small can be the tool toward the bigger things in my life.

One UFO down and ....

At last the Galadriel fleece is finished.  I started out doing a complicated lace pattern, but the fullness of the twist, just made the pattern disappear.  So instead I decided on a plain and simple piece, letting the yarn show itself.  It's soft and warm and wonderful. One down.....

Last weekend was the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, OR.  No it's not a gathering of the bad boys in the family, but the gathering of all things sheepy.  There were live sheep from local ranchers working on getting their ribbons for the best sheep, there were spinners, knitters and weavers demonstrating their sills.  And there was FLEECE!  Lots and lots of fleece, in all shades and fiber content.  BFL and silk, BFL and Alpaca, Shetland; rainbow colors, earth colors, circus colors and the list goes on.

Now, I already have a ton of unspun fleece.  And I have a lot of sock yarn (for some reason, sock yarn calls to me and I just can't resist it).  Some months ago I took stock of what I had in my stash closet; did some culling out and decided that I had quite enough sock yarn, thank you very much, and enough fleece to keep me spinning for a year.  So, I had pretty well, made up my mind NOT to go to the Black Sheep Gathering.  Then my spinning buddy and fiber addict in crime convinced me that I really should go and "You don't have to buy anything, just LOOK".  HAH!

Ok, so I lied.  I did have to buy something - well a lot of somethings.  There was a woman who was there for the first time as a dye artist.  She'd never sold her fleece before and her color sense was amazing!  The Whimsical Ewe, owned by Dana Nishimura is fantastic.  She'll probably be at the Canby, OR Flock and Fiber Festival and I highly recommend stopping by her booth. Merino/Tencel and a Merino/Silk braid in warm earthy green and golds.  Can't wait to spin those up and see how they blend.

Dycentra was there in all it's heavenly glorious colors, so I had to buy several fleeces from them. Such a joy to spin - Merino and Silk in a luscious color called Sangria. And Abstract Fibers, another favorite, in Merino and Silk in a berry  colorway.  

And then there was the sock yarn - darn! One booth caught my eye - yes, it's all about the color. Chameleon Color Works from BaaBaa Loo, one skein in soft mossy tones, the other skein reminded me of an English Garden.  Yes, more sock yarn.  What's a girl to do! I don't know if these will become socks or shawls.....or maybe I'll just drink in their colors and just look at them for a while.

So now I have 8 more 4 oz braids of woolies to spin up.  Let's see, add that to the 6 braids I already have.....yup, I think I'm in trouble - BIG trouble.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day and for me a time of remembering.  So what's this got to do with knitting or spinning, you say?  Well actually a lot.  It was my Father that taught me how to knit.  When I was in Brownies about the age of 10, one of my badges was a knitting badge.  I had no clue, and for that matter nether did my Dad - and certainly NOT my Mom (she couldn't even sew on a button). 

So we sat down and figured out the whole process - together.  He was very patient with me and we did a lot of laughing as the yarn balls rolled all over the floor and the knots got even more knottier.  But in the end, we had a pot holder - well, sort of.  Needless to say, I was hooked on knitting after that.  My first big project was a sweater - you got it - for my Dad for Father's Day.  It was from a brown Alpaca and wool skein and it took me 4 years to finish.  He wore it proudly, for at least the first day I gave it to him.  The sleeves were way too long and the body way too large.  We laughed that it was big enough for him and a friend.  I have no clue what happened to it.  I'm sure my Mother washed it in the washing machine and it shrank to doll size.  None the less, I remember my Dad being so happy and proud of me when he got it.

Since then, I have flourished with my knitting; changing my style from the old American to the European.  And, thanks to my Dad, my love of knitting continues with each project and I'm never afraid to try something new.  After all, what can go wrong, but a few extra knots and a lot of laughs.

So here's to you Dad.  Thanks for your patience, the love you gave me through those knotty times, and the joy at seeing something new accomplished, no matter what the outcome.

 Younger Dad

                                                               With Greatgrandson

        The last time we saw him as a family.  
He died shortly after this picture was taken.

We miss you Dad.
Blessed Be

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Building A Relationship - a blog about the dog

I have a good relationship with my Spinning wheel.  It took me some time to get the feel of the twist, the speed, the tension, the spinner's little quirks.  When I first started spinning with it, it was like a foreign object - separate: It and Me.  I went through many bats of fleece, cursing, before, we both finally came to an agreement that we should work together. 

Relationship - with the DOG....My Jilly, who was born and bred for working sheep. Me who is a klutz but is fairly sheep savvy.  We are working on our sheep herding relationship.  It takes time.  Yesterday, I really felt there was the inkling of a connection between us.  She is good at what she does - I am clumsy.  Right now we are two separate objects, trying to figure the other one out.  At home she trusts me, loves me, respects me.  I want that to happen on the sheep. It will happen. As with my Wheel it just takes time and a trust in the process. 

Spinning is kind of like life.  When it works, it's flows ever so smoothly - like water gently flowing over rocks.  It becomes a muscle memory.  So to with working a dog.  When it's right, it a dance, ever changing, but smooth and flowing.  Sometimes it's a Tango - hard, rough, fiery.  Sometimes it's a Waltz, gently swirling, graceful, flowing.  It's all a dance - move with the rhythm, feel the flow, get a sense of the tempo and work with it, not against it.

I love my Jilly. As my spinning process taught me about life, so to is my Jill.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

HURRY UP AND RELAX! DANG IT! spinning is relaxing, right? Knitting is relaxing, right?  Yes and no.  I have way too many UFOs!  I think I'm just a fiber junkie.  I've found a source for hand dyed fiber to spin and I've gotten several bats.  Trouble is I have 2 wheels and they are both occupied with unfinished spinning projects.  I can't help it.  I love the feel of the fiber - Blueface and silk is my favorite, but I'm fast becoming a fan of BFL and Alpaca and my latest buy is BFL and Camel.  I'm like a kid in a candy shop - way too much to choose from and it all looks good.

I don't have any projects in mind. So I've been getting either 4oz or 6 oz.  That should be enough for a shawlette or a scarf and hat.  I think it's just the process of spinning that I love so much.  The feel of the fiber as it slips through my fingers; the concentration on getting a perfect thickness. Then whether to 2 ply or 3 ply or Navajo ply.

The relaxing part is the process.  My blood pressure drops, my mind goes into Zombie land.  The not part is making the choices - which fiber to start; and the "OMG, I've got so much to finish" mind set.

I finally finished the Galadryal from Wooley Wonka.  It spun up beautifully and it's now in the process of becoming a shawl. 

My other finished project was fiber from a Port Townsend shop, BFL and silk.  I bought 2-4oz bats.  One had some soft lavender mixed in with the grey, the other was just plain.  I spun the two separately, then plied them together for a 2 ply semi worsted yarn. Don't know what I'll knit with it yet, but it's so soft!
At the moment I've got the fleece from Cupcake Fibers on the eSpinner; BlueFace and Silk in gradient greens, 6 oz.  The plan is to spin from light to dark then back to light and Navajo ply the whole thing.  That should give me a nice soft yarn that gradually goes from light green to dark then back to light.  I have  a shawlette pattern that will be perfect for it.

So how does all this translate in my life? First of all I am a child of Process.  I love the process of Anything - coffee making (I have 4 different ways to make coffee); bread baking; steeping teas; organizing anything, then organizing it again.  The product is just a bonus.  The frustrating part, the not so relaxing part,  is the "what to do now" part.  In my dog life, I love to train my dogs. It's the process of the training that enthralls me.  The end result - what do I do now part - is where I get hung up.  Maybe it just doesn't matter.  I have no goals for my dogs, I have no goals for my spun fiber. I just love the process.

Oh maybe my knitting friends - the one's that don't spin - will get some lavish gifts for Christmas this year.  Hand spun Merino/Silk in a heathery yummy deep maroon, or that wonderfuly soft Shetland in heather greens and ochers. I feel better already.  Yes, blood pressure restored to normal; mind at ease and relaxed; no more worries........well, until the next time I look at my stash.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Out Of Chaos...

We have a lot of chaos in our house.  Mainly because of the two Corgis and a Border Collie pup who knows no bounds for energy.  But...this is about yarns, and projects and STASH.

Out of chaos.....came a shawl!

I'm sure most of you have bits and pieces of yarn that you've just got to hang on to, because heaven forbid you just might need 20 yds for a stripe on a jacket, the toe of a sock, or just because you can't bear to throw it away.  Well, I've got so much sock yarn stash that I decided to turn that chaos into some kind of order.

I started off with this:
A varied assortment of Koigu KPPPM yarns, left over from a project that was never realized.  A friend and I thought we might try our hand at tapestry knitting and so bought up a basketful of the beautiful Koigu yarns.  To our chagrin we realized that what we really like to do is just knit - a shawl or socks or a baby project.  The tapestry knitting went out the window, leaving us with lots of the wonderfully colored yarns.  We divided up the skeins and this was my stash.  I could have done toes and heels for socks, but I was tired of socks and wanted something a little more challenging.

I found a shawlette pattern that was easy to do and voila!  A beautiful shawl for my shoulders while I knit or spin.  The pattern for the shawl was a bit confusing.  It was an easy K2P1K1P1 pattern with increases at the sides, but you had to pick up the pattern on the other side from where you'd left off.  With the increases, that made it a challenge to figure whether I should be knitting or purling. Chaos reigned!  I finally decided that it really didn't make any difference where I left off; I could just start wherever I wanted and create my own order.  Thus the Chaos Shawlette.
Garter stitches filled in the beginning and end of the shawl with a few rows in between the pattern.  It was a fun project. It's beautiful and warm to wear.  I could knit while watching episodes of Grimm or Once Upon a Time and if I forgot where I was in the pattern - oh well, never mind - it doesn't show and created it's own pattern.

I'd love to do another project like this one.  So I'll continue to save up my leftover bits of yarn and perhaps another day I"ll create another jewel.

What's your favorite Stash story?

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Origins of the Fiber

Ever wondered how that gorgeous bit of fluff, that you're going to spin into yarn to make your favorite (fill in the blank here) started?  Well, here it is.  Wool in the flesh and fresh out of Mum's tummy. 

Baa Baa Black sheep, yes there are 2 of them at my friends little ranch in the valley.  Yesterday, I got to help give those little lambs some bling.  Blue ear tags - right ear for boys; left ear and pink for the girls. I got to catch them and hold them while Lora did the deed.  First couple were easy to catch, then the word got around. 

Ooo...they're so soft and warm, and that wool will be dynamite when they're ready to shear.

Monday, February 13, 2012

It's a Good Day

You know it's a good day when....

You get new fiber to spin.
Wooley Wonka fibers. This one is Galadriel Roving, Extra Fine Alpaca (70%), Silk (18%), and Glitz (2%).  Sooooo soft! and the color is yummy.

And from the Cupcake Fiber Company, Blue Face Leicester and silk in soft gradient greens.  Another softie.

I've never ordered from these companies before, but I'm truly pleased with the feel and the colors.  I think I'll keep them on my list.

Can't wait to start spinning. Six oz of each. Should I start the blue or the greens....Oh Dear! Choices!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's Not JUST About the Socks.

Yes, Virginia, there is life other than knitting.  I have kept a separate blog about my dog life and have decided that it's time to merge the two.  After all, I do knit when I'm at a dog trial (insert big grin here).  However, I must say, I don't work dogs when I go to a spinning workshop - although I do miss them.

So, inserted below, you will find some edited versions of the old Dog Blog - my life with two Corgis and a Border Collie.  Beau and Jill are my constant companions in my studio. They hang out with me while I try to figure out what went wrong with a pattern and Jill is very curious about the spinning wheel.

Mostly, though, it's their quiet time.  For me, my studio is my place to reflect, to zone out, to get grounded after a frazzled day, to just hang out and look at new knitting patterns and to sit back with a cuppa' and read some of my favorite Blogs.

Welcome to my world.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Garden to Dye For

This year, I have decided to grow my own plants for dyeing my handspun.  Having never dyed before, this will be a fun exercise.  There are so many plants to choose from; although they all seem to produce mostly soft yellows, golden browns and heather greens.  Which are all my favorite colors anyway.

I also want the garden to look pretty, smell nice and not get too over grown, so I need to stay away from the 'weed-type' plants.  Dahlias and Cosmos are a must, as those are my most favorite plants. But Coreopsis and Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susans); Chamomile and Yarrow are all in the list too.  Hollyhocks are a fav also, but for some reason, I have trouble growing them.  Purple Basil and Marjoram for scent.  Nix the Bronze fennel - it runs rampant and is hard to control, even in a pot!  Indego is out as we can't grow it here in the Northwest; and Tansy, Goldenrod and a few others are so weedy that I can just go picking along the roadsides.

I just bought a book called "A Dyer's Garden" by Rita Buchanan. It's a lovely book filled with all kinds of natural plantings and a page for each plant as to how it dyes up with different fibers and mordants.  She even has garden plans; spacing and yield of each plant; equipment necessary and mordants.

Mordants:  What the heck is a mordant anyway??!!  I still have a lot to learn.  Mordants keep the dyes from fading and help in the dye process.  They are usually metals, but I learned from my spinning workshop with Judith MacKenzie, that the centipede from the Chola plant will give a brilliant raspberry color.  Go figure! A bug!

Since my plants will be ready in the summer, the best place to work my dye pots will be outside.  The little area under the side porch is a great place.  I'll have hubby, David, fix me up some work tables (old doors on saw horses) and a hot plate or two; some drying racks out of PVC piping and I'm good to go.  Nice ventilation, sun, fresh air, water and hose and I'll rig up some fencing so the dogs don't get in the way.  So it's off to Good Will to pick up some old enamel pots, maybe a hot burner or two.

Can't wait to get started.  Just a bit too early to plant, even though we've had wonderful sunny weather these past few days.  I can spend the waiting time, planning out the garden - what flowers, how many.  This will be such fun!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Garden Leaf Shawlette

This was a fun project; easy; and adaptable to any yarn.  I used my own handspun of 50/50 Merino, Silk. Spun in worsted @ 10 wpi; knitting up in stockinette @ 5 spi on a size 9 needle.

The pattern is a Tracey Withanee Design from Ravelry as a free download.

My yarn worked up nicely, although  I think that if I had spun the wool a bit finer it would have made a less bulky shawl.

My camera doesn't do the color justice. It's more like the second picture but not as yellow.  Someday I'll figure out lighting and camera settings.  But for now this is about my yarn.

This was a fun fleece to spin and it came out pretty even.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Zen of Spinning

A weekend retreat with Judith Mackenzie McCuin - shaman spinner.  Refined my worsted spinning and working on my woolen. Like anything else that I approach, I like to learn the basics first and perfect that technique, before moving on to the next step. 

It will be very important for me to keep a journal with pictures and progress, so this is the start of that journey.

Goal 1: Review Judith's DVD - which fibers are good only for woolen and which are good  for worsted. Start with easy fibers first. Then move on to the Bison and more difficult fibers.

Goal 2: Be able to consistently spin a very fine fiber AND a very thick fiber.  It's about control.
Goal 3: Start with worsted technique. Be consistent. Spin fine, to medium, to heavy and back down again.
Goal 4: Work on woolen technique, same as above. Feel the rhythm, let it become a part of my body.

Take notes from the DVDs, keep a journal, take pictures and/or make drawings.  It is very critical that I measure my progress.  Stay fresh, don't try difficult tasks when I'm fatigued.

Most of all breathe.  Fibers need air to have loft and to move - humans need air to be fresh and to move.  Fibers are living things with a soul of their own. They have their own memory, their own way of moving.  Humans have their own soul and their own journey.  Wheels, too, have a soul - each is unique, even if it is mass produced.  When we touch fiber, we change it - when we put it through the spinner we change it again. Each touch changes the fiber, yet it still wants to return to it's original state.

So this is the start of my fiber journey. Namaste.