Monday, December 5, 2011

Merriment Monday: Christmas Music!

As far back as I can remember I have been a Christmas music junkie.  The apple did not fall far from the tree with me as my mother might be the only person I know who has more of this type of music than me.  She's just had more time to acquire it... I'm not joking here, if you look at the bottom the screenshot to the right you can see I have 1.9 days of music in my Christmas playlist... just the Christmas playlist.

Can you say "excessive"?  

So, how did this ridiculous playlist come about?  Well, I guess this is what happens when a) someone loves Christmas music, b) they love all types of musical genres and finally c) they adore creative reinventions of traditional music. 

Since I can't possibly do justice to all of the music I would like to share with you in just one blog post (or several for that matter) I'll give you some of my recent favorites.  Every year (since 2007 anyway) I have made an xMix of all my favorite songs from that year.  Now, we're only five days into December here, so I don't have a lot on my list for this year yet, but I can tell good things are coming. 

 So, here's some good tunes to get you going.  All of them can be downloaded on iTunes or Amazon for your listening pleasure (Amazon link provided):

God Rest You Merry Gentlemen - Annie Lennox - A Christmas Cornucopia 

Bells of Christmas - Orla Fallon - Winter, Fire and Snow

Winter Night - Little and Ashley (Free on Amazon! on 12/5/2011)

Born is the King - Hillsong - Born is the King

Now, if you want to get some more Christmas music for yourself, but don't really want to spend on yourself at this time of year, I have a solution for you.  One way to get music is through the iTunes single of the week, which in December is the Holiday Single of the week.  All you have to do, is go to the iTunes store and scroll down and you will see it there with a yellow corner and "free" on it.  Another great way to get free music is Amazon's 25 Days of Free, which allows you to download one free holiday related mp3 per day for the first 25 days of December.  I just love it.  Yes, every once and I while I don't particularly like a song, but really, 25 free songs.  Come on.... it's a no brainer!  

So with that, I leave you to enjoy some lovely and most likely free Christmas music.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What's making me merry?

So I've been in the process of trying to write a blog post for the past week and a half without much success. Occasionally it's hard to find a good subject to write about or that I am sufficiently excited about to do it justice. This actually isn't the case for me with this blog post. The real problem this time was that I was TOO distracted by the very thing I wanted to write about (ok, I was sick too, but that usually doesn't stop me). For the past week or so this diversion has been entertaining me is a way that I must say hasn't happened in a while. One could even say it has filled my early sunset post-work evenings with a kind of merriment.

To honor this little bit of glee that I am experiencing, I am introducing a new blog theme. Finished Object Friday, Work In Progress Wednesday and the very (and I mean very) occasional Ten on Tuesday will now be joined by...

Merriment Monday!

Ok, now I can get on to the fun stuff... :-) My current source of merriment is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Yeah I know, I know, it's a video game, but honestly, I don't latch on to a whole lot of them. In my entire life there have probably only been ten or less video or computer games that I really have loved and Skyrim is definitely one of them. more than a few years ago I played The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and absolutely loved it as well, so I'm not shocked by how much I've gotten into Skyrim in just a short time.

At The College in Winterhold - outside my quarters
The game itself is just beautiful and the setting Nordic in feel and the music really fits in with the look as well. I've always been a real stickler for nice imagery and sound when I'm playing games and Skyrim does not disappoint. I would happily pick up the soundtrack and already have screenshots as my desktop background. The YouTube video below is the official trailer for Skyrim. You can really get an idea of what playing the game is like in terms of gameplay, visials and sound by checking it out.  

Although the look and sound of the game is important, perhaps one of the things I like most about the game, other than the gorgeous graphics and sound, is that you are allowed to do what you want when playing it. You want to follow the main plot? Go ahead, but you can also choose to do side quests and develop your character in interesting ways and go back to the plot later. The game itself levels with you, so you can do any quest open to you really at any time, which I find neat. Skyrim is also very rich in crafting for those that enjoy non-questing aspects of gaming.

Absorbing the soul of a dragon - they give me powers!
Well, I could wax poetic about Skyrim for awhile longer, but really, I kinda just want to dive back in to play :-) So, I'll leave you with some more screens from the game as eye candy. If you are interested in playing Skyrim, you can download it from Steam for your PC (like we did) or you can also get it for the PS3 or Xbox 360. Whatever your platform of choice, it is worth every penny!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

WIP Wednesday

Since I've been spending so much time weaving in the past two weeks I haven't had much chance to work on my knitting projects, there have been small amounts of progress nevertheless.  One project is a chemo hat for a friend's co-worker and the other thing I am working on is a cardigan with a simple lace pattern around the yoke that I started back in mid-October. 

I swear, this hat will never end!
I'm making the hat out of Nichole by the Schaefer Yarn Company in the Peter colorway and the pattern is Sock Yarn Slouch Hat by Sandra Bichlmayer.  This is the first time I've made a hat out of yarn this small; I'm knitting it on a size one needle...eek!  It is very slow, especially when I keep getting distracted by the cricket loom I'm renting until this weekend.  But.... hopefully it will come out nice and fit the person for whom it is intended.  I thought having so much ribbing would ensure that the hat could fit just about anyone when completed.  I plan to get this done in the next week so I can focus on some other projects with looming due dates.

Knitting peacefully in the park
Unfortunately, my poor cardigan is getting even less knitting time than the neglected chemo hat.  I don't think I have touched it in a week at least and that really makes me sad because I really love how it is coming out.  The pattern is Estelle by Linden Down and I received it as a very thoughtful birthday present last year.  The yarn I am using is Cascade 220 Superwash Paints in the colorway Vino which is just gorgeous (and also a very thoughtful gift).  It's not the softest yarn in the world, but it is a good workhorse and very well priced.  I really like working with it and it is quite warm.

The pattern is worked top down, so I started at the neck and during my vacation a couple weeks ago managed to churn out probably 30% of the knitting in just one week.  Currently I have divided out for the sleeves and am starting work on the body of the cardigan.  It's actually a really fun place to be in the pattern because if I slip the live stitches onto a longer needle I can try it on.  That's the beauty of a top down pattern.... you find out early on if you need to rethink things or can plunge ahead.

The neckline spread out so you can get an idea of the lace section. 
It's so simple and I just adore it.
Fortunately, when I tried her on, my Estelle seems to fit just right.  I had a friend take a picture of it one me, but let's just say it was less than flattering to me in general, so I'll have to take another and share later.  I really, really hope I can get back to my cardigan.  I always have a lot to do at this time of year, so it's hard to focus on a large knitting project for me.... but I would like to be able to wear Estelle on Christmas if possible.  I think that is a pretty reasonable goal.  Whether it happens or not is another matter entirely!  

Anyway kids, keep out of trouble I should have something new to share in a few days!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Learning to Weave

Over the past two Saturdays I have taken a rigid heddle weaving class at The Weaving Shed in Sterling, MA.  I had been thinking about weaving for quite some time and had even tried a bit if weaving this summer on my very small lap loom with help from my fellow FiberKnot, Loomatic Weaver.  The class I took consisted of two 4 hour sessions with a small group of others.  We used Schact Cricket Looms which are are great starter loom and only run about $150 each.  You could make scarves, place mats, mug rugs, and thin table runners on this type of loom.  I highly recommend taking this class.  It was a lot of fun, you make between 2-3 projects and the instructor Jen was wonderful!.  If you are interested in taking a class on weaving and are local to Sterling, MA you can check out her Rigid Heddle Weaving class listing.

The first thing she had us do was pick the color we wanted to warp our looms with.  Once I picked my usual purpley blue-green I pulled the warp (vertical strands or yarn) through the heddle.  She said that is best to use cotton as the fiber for the warp as it can handle all the rough treatment from having to beat (press) the weft (horizontal strands) with the heddle to make the weaving even. 

Then I held the end of the warp as Jen wound it onto the warp beam of the loom.  This is the only part that requires another person to help you out, otherwise, weaving seems to be a a one-person craft. 

After the warp was wound on, I cut and tied the warp onto the apron rod with surgeons knots.  By the way, surgeon knots are officially the best knot ever!  They loosen and tighten up very easily so that you can adjust the tension of your warp on the apron rod very easily.

Then I wove a header with waste yarn until the warp came together.  Finally I was ready to start my sampler project!

Wow!  Weaving is really fast!   A girl could get used to this kind of speed...

I couldn't believe just how much I accomplished in 3 short hours. Now I have a nice little woven piece that I can use as a display in my crafty space.  I'm pretty happy how it came out for a first project.

After finishing up my first project I had just enough time to warp my loom for a scarf to work on until next week.  Originally my class was supposed to be in one weekend, but because it was apparently Snowtober and we were supposed to get a fairly big snow storm starting that evening, I decided to come back today instead. Because of this, I had the benefit of being able to take my loom home and work on my scarf for a whole week rather than only having 1 night to play.  

That scarf took WAY less time than I had planned.  I finished it up in a little over one day of weaving at home.  It's came out absolutely amazing and I LOVE it sooo much!  I can't wait to wash and wear it tomorrow :D   Isn't it gorgeous?  Everyone thought it looked like the ocean.

Since I finished up my scarf during the week I basically had one class where I could pretty much start a brand new project and work the whole time.  Last week after looking at what I had made, hubbie had remarked that he liked the look of woven fabric much more than knitted, so I decided to start a scarf for him out of the leftover alpaca yarn from the hat I made for his last birthday.  

Now weaving is much faster than knitting or crocheting, but not so fast that I could make an entire scarf in 4 hours (much as I might have wanted to).  To deal with that fact, I elected to rent my loom for another week to finish up hubbie's birthday scarf and hopefully make another project for me before I have to bring my little cricket back home.  Needless to say, after two weekends of weaving classes and a lovely week of weaving at home... I am officially hooked.  I know this is a huge shock to you all.  Kindly don't hurt yourselves if you fall of your chair with this realization.  

So, more weaving pics to come shortly!  With that being said, back to more DS9 episodes and some more quality time with hubbie and his scarf.  G'night!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Homemade Halloween Costumes and Recap

So, this year I got crafty for my Halloween costume rather than just cobble something together in a very last minute fashion.  Oh, I still did things last minute... I just MADE them this time :-)

For my first foray into simple costume making I decided to make a Brain Slug.  If you don't know the reference, a Brain Slug is from Futurama. A couple episodes that contain Brain Slugs are "A Head In The Polls" and "Raging Bender."  Netflix streaming has seasons 1-6 of Futurama available to see for free, so if you have a Netflix account and want to check "A Head In The Poles" out, click on the link and you will be brought to the appropriate episode.  Hubbie and I have pretty much watched all of seasons 1-6 recently and we absolutely love the show. 

Anyway, back to the whole crafting thing!  I decided to make my slug becuase I needed a costume for the Halloween Party with my FiberKnots last Tuesday and at that point I hadn't even gotten our Halloween stuff out of storage (I was a bit behind you see).  The night before we were having dinner with my parents and the idea to make this cute little crocheted fascinator popped into my head.  I figured, what the heck, I can crochet THAT in a day!  So, I finished him up, attached him to a headband and voila!  The Brain Slug is a free pattern on Ravelry by Kerstin Batz and you can make one of these cuties for yourself by signing up for a free account and then clicking on the project link below.

For my second and actual Halloween costume I decided (given I had a whole week of creation time) to make myself a viking hat.  I made some pretty substantial changes to the pattern such as using another knitter's pattern for the horns, adding a stripe of rivets up the front and down the back of the hat in gray and adding braids a la Brunhilda :-)  Also, this pattern was designed for 3-6 month olds, so I followed another knitter's directions for making an adult sized hat which worked out, but really was far too big for my head and ended up making the horns more floppy than I would have liked.  I just love how my braids turned out!  They are probably my favoriate part of the hat.  As an added bonus it is really really warm.  I wore it at work for a bit yesterday and was absolutely roasting!  So, if i'm brave enough to wear it on a day other than Halloween I should be very nice and toasty.  The pattern for the viking hat is by Becky Veverka and is yet another free pattern on Ravelry.  The link to it is below.

As for Halloween night itself, I would consider it a success.  We had 15-20 trick-or-treaters in total, which I consider quite a few for us since we usually have about 5. I didn't get any photos of the roving minions who knocked on our door, but I did get some of the spooky decorating I did. 

I mostly decorate the place with candles because I think they are a more classy kind of spooky and set a really nice mood.  I'm always trying to find new neat Halloween candles to burn so the trick-or-treaters have something neat to look at when I open the door.  In addition to the candles I also play some fun music like "Monster Mash," "Werewolves of London," "Thriller," and "This is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas.  The music geek in me includes in some spooky classical as well with Toccata and Fugue in D minor for the organ. 

The candle above is actually one I bought last year that has finally gotten interesting.  I burned it last Halloween, but it wasn't long enough to burn the wax down and get the flickering of the light to come out the eyes.  Apparently it needed to good nights of use before it got cool.  The good news is that I'll probably be able to burn this same candle for 2-3 more years before it runs out.  Talk about getting my money's worth!

So I hope everyone had a good Halloween... I certainly did!  We finished out the night by watching the episode "Hush" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv series and an episode of Castle, which unfortunately was pretty spook free.  For some reason they decided to show the Halloween episode last week instead even though this week's was a repeat or anything.   Strange....  well, I'm off to try to avaoid eating all the candy we have left over.  Seems like that trick is on me! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lazy Cooking: Pumpkin Cake

Jane Deere, one of the foodie blogs that I read, shared a great recipe that I just had to try out last night.  It technically requires only 2 ingredients however, since we can't make things too easy... I used 5. 

Cake Ingredients:

- 1 box cake mix (I used spice cake as it is my favorite, though Jane Deere says you can use Vanilla, Chocolate, Buttered Pecan, or Carrot)
- 1 15oz can pure pumpkin
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Basically you mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until all the lumps are gone (I did this by hand and it took awhile).  Then you spoon the mixture into a well greased bundt pan and bake it at 350 degrees until a skewer or toothpick comes out with just crumbs on it.  Jane Deere recommended 20-30 minutes baking time, but I found I needed 40 to have the skewer come out cleanly.   So, I recommend that you start with the 20 minutes, poke the cake and stick it back in for 5-10 intervals until it's done so you don't accidentally overcook it. 

Rather than dusting with powdered sugar I opted to make a quick icing to dribble over the cake slices.  Consisting only of powdered sugar and water (and perhaps a little vanilla) this icing is super easy!  You start with about 1/4 cup of warm water and slowly add powdered sugar until you have a drippy, lump free consistency that you like.  I found that putting the mixture in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time to help the sugar dissolve removed almost all of the lumps without having to sift the powdered sugar beforehand.  Then all you have to do just drizzle it over the whole cake or just the individual slices.  I brought this cake to my office and the general consensus was that it was Yum!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

My little blogging hiatus is officially over!

So, life's been pretty busy, then I was pretty lazy.... but never mind about all that, I'm back!  My little fall break from blogging is over and I'm ready to catch you up on the fun stuff I've been up to.

Leicester Harvest Fair - Sept. 17, 2011

This is my second year demonstrating along with other members of the FiberKnots at the Leicester Fair.  It being World Wide Spin In Public Day, I demonstrated spinning on my wheel Elphaba.  It's pretty cool telling people all about spinning...  all the little kids are really interested in how the spinning wheels work and often they just sit there and stare at you spinning away.  This year, in addition to demonstrating on my wheel, I entered a couple items to be judged.  I submitted some handspun I had made of the summer and a photo I had taken of a frog that came out particularly nice. While I didn't win anything for my picture I did get first place for my yarn, so that made me very happy :)  The fair is always a really fun day where I get to spend all sorts of extra time with all my knitsibs.

Tower Hill Botanical Garden - Sept. 18, 2011

The day after the Leicester Fair, my mom and I took a trip to Tower Hill Botanical Garden, which is one of our favorite places to visit.  We actually hadn't been there in a few years so it was cool to see just how much the gardens had grown in that time.  While we were there, they had some cool metal art placed in the gardens. 

They were also featuring a succulent show and sale when we were there.  The succulents tended to be very small and very interesting to look at.  There were lots of cactuses and other plants featuring very thick leaves.

While wandering through this garden and by this lovely fountain, we ran into a couple people my mom knew from work, who I knew as well, so that was a really nice surprise. 

Apple Picking - Sept. 24, 2011

 This is year.... uh.... more than two.  Right! of us going apple picking.  I'm sure it's been something like ten actually, but my brain isn't working right now.  This year we went to Stowe Farm in Millbury, MA.  We got to take a couple hay rides as the orchard we were picking from was a little ways down the road. 

I think we picked a little late this year as there were lots of apples already on the ground.  Nevertheless we gathered up our bags and set back off for the second hay ride back. 

I'm trying really hard to remember to take pictures of myself so I don't just document what other people are doing but actually include myself in the group.  Not always so easy, but I think I'm getting better about it.  Luckily lots of my friends are good photographers, so I can hand off my camera with confidence.

Trip to Maine - Oct. 7-10, 2011

Mom and I went to the farmer's market in Bath on a beautiful Saturday morning.  We bought lots of produce including some from the farmer that is using some of my family members' fields on the island.  It's really nice to see the farmland actually being used instead of sitting fallow.  We got my dad a giant club of brussels sprouts... yes, I know that sounds weird, but the sprouts pop out of what looks like a giant blunt force trauma weapon.  I'm bummed I forgot to take a picture of it :(  You can learn more about Tarbox farm on their website at

That afternoon, once Brian made it to the house, we took a trip to the Sweetgrass Winery and Distillery in Union where we had a tasting for I believe just $2.50.  I tried some apple and cranberry apple wine as well as their maple cranberry smashes.  Oh my, that cranberry smash was sooooo good!  It's more of a dessert wine or a cordial that a regular wine, but it was so yummy.  I also tried their rum which pretty much knocked me on my butt, lol. 

Mom and Brian with their tasting glasses and the little of spirits to try.  Too bad one of us had to drive home!  You can check out the Sweetgrass Winery at their website

NY Sheep and Wool Festival - Oct. 15, 2011

This was me second trip to Rhinebeck, NY.  I drove out with one of my knitsibs and her two kiddos.  It was a fun but very long day.  I got to pick up some yarn I have been itching to get my hands on for awhile and I also got to meet a couple of the podcasters that I listen to every week on my commute.  In the picture below, I'm with Melanie and Deborah of the Savvy Girls Podcast.  They are absolutely hilarious to listen to and I was really happy to get to meet them both.  Thanks ladies for making my first fangirl experience a good one! If you want to learn more about the New York Sheep and Wool Festival you can check out their website at

King Richard's Faire - Oct. 16, 2011

To end my adventures, Brian and I went to Kind Richard's Faire this past Sunday.  We had meant to go earlier in October but the weather would just not cooperate.  While we were only there for a few hours, we listened to some awesome pipers and drummers known as Cu Dubh as we ate very yummy turkey stew.  Afterwards Brian finally was convinced to go get his picture taken with the hawk and I picked out a new flower wreath for my hair to match my faire costumes.

We finished the day by watching the joust, which Brian had actually never seen before.  We had a lovely time, I just wish we had been able to go with our friends the day before.  Instead, someone was gallivanting with yarn and sheep in NY.  I wonder who?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Finished Object Friday:

I know I've been a bit quiet lately.  Had loads of stuff going on at home and at work.  I should be back to doing more regular posts soon, but today I wanted to share the most recent project I have finished, which is my pair of Elegant Fingerless Gloves.  Ok, so I don't have a picture of both of them together since I haven't had time to take the final pics for Ravelry, but I do have this picture of one of them. 

I would take one of the pair now, but they are currently in the hands of a fellow FiberKnot who was kind enough to submit them to be judged at the Leicester Harvest Fair since I can't get there in time tonight to submit them myself.   I'm really excited about entering them since I love how they came out.   They are just so skooshy and warm, which is especially nice since recently it's decided to act like it's fall outside.  I also entered a skein of my merino handspun and a photo I recently took of a frog.  I'll make sure to update you on how I did after the fair is over.  Hopefully I'll come home with a ribbon or two, but who knows. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fiberlicious Friday: Madelinetosh Tosh DK

So, I started a new and fun project and it's actually for me!!!  Yeay :D  I picked up some gloriously squishy Madelinetosh Tosh DK when I was up in Maine back in July and really had no ideas of what to make with it until I came across the Elegant Alpaca Fingerless Gloves pattern on Ravelry (link to pattern below).  You can also download the pattern at the Cascade Yarns webpage if you don't have access to Ravelry.

I had a bit of time to myself last night, so I decided to cast these babies on.  For one night's work I actually got pretty far. I did make some changes to the pattern to ensure that the gloves fit me properly.  This patten makes gloves that go up to the upper arm and since I have a lovely pair of chunky upper arms (grrrr), I decided to increase the starting stitch count to 68 from the original 56.  I just had a feeling that casting on only 56 stitches would cause me much misery and frogging...  Because of this alteration I will most likely have to do more decreasing as I work down the arm since in comparison to my large upper arms, my wrists are decidedly tiny (again, grrr).  I'm going to have to just make alterations as I go to make sure of a good fit.  It should be a nice little challege withou being too difficult.  I think I can handle it :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

So Very Soon!

Lol, is it wrong to be so excited about my tomatoes finally starting to ripen?  Cause that's what's happening!  I snuck out and took a peek to see how the big guys were faring and I saw a hint of red!  YIPPEE!!

Ok, I know it's silly, but really, stuff like this just puts a smile on my face.  Since I've mostly focused on growing herbs for the past 5+ years, the concept of growing produce is just cool.  Since I seem to be able to grow tomatoes AND finally managed not to kill my basil this year, I think I'm going to try cucumbers next summer.  That is if I can find baby cucumber plants... I don't start from seed because it takes too long and I don't have the space to let them grow inside before the frost stops.  Maybe I'll try growing from seed once I have a house, but I make no promises!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The "I Must Be Crazy" Lacy Simple Scarf Update

So, after working on this scarf for about two weeks now, I am happy to report that I have not yet gone crazy and I have actually made some very good progress!  Through the prodigious use of lifelines at the beginning of each panel of lace (and in some cases, many, many more) I am almost complete with the first half of the scarf and very happy with how it is turning out.  I just have the last lace section to go before binding off.  Then I get to do the whole thing over again. Sigh... did I mention how much I hate knitting the same thing twice?

I've mostly been knitting the scarf during lunch breaks or before work with the occasional long stretch at knit night or at home on a weekend.  I find I can listen to tv when I work on it, but not very closely, so Food Network or HGTV is my background noise of choice.  I'm making this scarf for charity, so I do have a bit of a deadline and some stress about doing a good job knitting it.  I think I can get it done in time though... as long as I don't get distracted by something else for too long.  I think you might know just how easily I can get distracted by other projects.

In a frenzy to take a nice picture of my progress when it's been raining pretty much for two days, I went to a local coffee shop after work today and plunked myself down in a chair to knit and enjoy an iced coffee.   Ok... I got some quiche too, but don't tell anyone ok?  It's a secret!  I'm supposed to be behaving myself :)   On that note, I think it might be time to make some dinner, so I guess I'll finally stop chattering and show you what the completed section of the scarf looks like.  Until next time!