Sunday, June 30, 2013

June Book List

Books Read in June

077 - 01  Currant Creek, by RaeAnne Thayne (6/2)
078 - 02  Wild About Harry, by Linda Lael Miller (6/2)
079 - 03  All I Ever Wanted, by Kristan Higgins (6/2)
080 - 04  Anyone But You, by Jennifer Crusie (6/2)
081 - 05  Invisible, by Lorena McCourtney (6/4)
082 - 06  Presumed Guilty & Keeper of the Bride, by Tess Gerritsen (6/8)
083 - 07  The Earl's Intended Wife, by Louise Allen (6/8)
084 - 08  The Case of the Confirmed Bachelor, by Diana Palmer (6/8)
085 - 09  Lady Gone Bad, by Sabine Starr (6/10)
086 - 10  Baby Bonanza, by Maureen Child (6/11)
090 - 11  Once Upon a Winter's Eve, by Tessa Dare (6/11)
091 - 12  Armed & Fabulous, by Camilla Chafer (6/16)
092 - 13  The Earl's Inconvenient Wife, by Ruth Ann Nordin (6/16)
093 - 14  One Hot Cowboy Wedding, by Carolyn Brown (6/17)
094 - 15  Swept Away, by Mary Connealy (6/20)
095 - 16  Desperate Measures, by Kate Wilhelm (6/23) AUDIOBOOK
095 - 17  Anathema, by Colleen Coble (6/24) 
096 - 18  Starting Now, by Debbie Macomber (6/26)
097 - 19  Starlight, by Debbie Macomber (6/28)
098 - 20  Fire Song, by  Catherine Coulter (6/29)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday's WIPs

I am almost finished with the Hecate shawl that I've been working on in the Fall Behind. I have a couple of contrast rows to do (you can see that I've started them), and then the picot bind off. Of course, I'll also have to block the shawl, but I have plans on how to get that accomplished. I will admit that the original plan was to beg one of my knitting friends to do it for me (well, she did say that she likes to block projects!), but I think I will be able to use an empty classroom in the church to lay it out. I'm getting excited to have this project finished. I really love working with my handspun, and I'm looking forward to wearing the shawl to show it off.

I wasn't going to cast on the next project until the shawl was finished, but I changed my mind. The Summer Tea Shirt KAL started in my Wednesday night group, and I didn't want this KAL (Knit A-Long) to turn into another Fall Behind for me. Unfortunately, it looks like it's going to be a Fall-Behind even though I cast on with the group, just because I'm having some problems.

My first attempt of casting on was using a pair of size 6-29" circulars. The circulars were just too long, and it was stretching out the cast-on stitches, making it very uncomfortable to knit. So I frogged it and tried again.

For my second attempt I used size 6 dpns. I prefer dpns, so this was good - except that I was getting some horrible ladders where the needles met each other. So I frogged again.

My third attempt was on again on the size 6 dpns, but this time I arranged the stitches differently. I had each section of the sweater (left back, sleeve, front, sleeve, right back) on a different needle. This helped me prevent the dreaded ladders, but it meant that each dpn started and ended with a yarn over. Yarn overs at the end of needles is not fun knitting, in my book. So I frogged.

My fourth attempt was back on circular needles. I went out and bought size 6 circulars, in a 16" length. This worked like a dream - and was actually what the designer recommends in her pattern. Go figure! I was able to make quite a bit of progress. Enough progress to realize that I didn't like the way the material was draping. It was just too loose, even though I had perfect gauge for the pattern, and I wasn't happy. So after a bit of debating, I frogged again!

The bottom sweater is on the size 6 needles, with perfect gauge.
The top sweater is using a smaller needle (size 5). I don't have gauge, but I'm much happier!
 I cast on a fifth time, using a size 5 circular. Now, I wish I could say that I had learned something from all of my earlier attempts. Unfortunately, I decided that since I didn't have a shorter size 5 circular, the 29" would work this time. It didn't. I frogged.

At least I skipped trying to do it on the dpns, instead opting to go ahead and buy yet another knitting needle. And the sixth time is a charm, because the sweater is coming out beautiful! Another two or three rows, and I can separate for the sleeves. 

 I really want to try it on, so I've ordered some Try-It On Tubing from Machine Knitting to Dye For. This is a narrow tube that is designed to easily slip through your stitches so that you can try on a project. Since the tubing is 2 yards long (it also comes in a shorter 1 yard amount), you don't have to worry about dropping any stitches off your circular needle. I hope it comes soon so that I can see how this sweater is going to fit! (Wouldn't it be horrible to have to frog it a 6th time because I made the wrong size?)

 I did start one more project. I picked up a couple of new tatting shuttles (I still can't find my tatting box anywhere!), and I'm working on a bookmark as a thank you gift for one of my church ladies.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ten Things I Want to Do This Summer

1.   I want to spend a lot more time outside, heat permitting! We had such a good time knitting in the park for WWKIP on the 15th, and I would like to go back to the park to just sit and knit and enjoy the outdoors.

2.  My aunt is down visiting, and it's the perfect excuse to do some "tourist" activities. I want to visit Bok Tower. We usually go in December so that we can also get in to the see the mansion decorated for the holidays. But just spending time in the garden would be wonderful.

3.  I also want to make a trip over to Sarasota. We could visit a couple of yarn shops, window shop in St. Armand's Circle, maybe even fish off the pier where I used to take the kids when they were little. Maybe I could borrow Josh for a few hours, now that we're back in touch.

4.  I want to bike more often. And take walks. In fact, I really want to get into the habit of doing either a hour-long bike ride or walk at least three days a week.

5.  I want to go to the beach. I haven't spent the day on the beach in a really long time, which doesn't make sense considering I live in Florida. Actually, I'm going to adjust this, and say that I want to spend a day at each of the local beaches: Jupiter Inlet, Riveria Beach, Boynton Beach, and Bathtub Reef near mom's house.

6.  Another activity I never do anymore, even though I have year-round access, is to go to the pool. So this summer, I want to get into the habit of going to the pool instead of sitting inside my tiny apartment.

7.  I want to garden this summer. My patio has been neglected lately, so I need to clean it up and get some plants. I want basil again, and mint, and some flowers.

8.  I want to warp (and then finish!) a rug for my kitchen and matching placemats for the table. Summer in Florida is hot, so even though I want to spend more time inside I know that I have to plan activities that take advantage of air conditioning!

9.  I want to barbeque. I like cooking on the grill, and even though I don't eat meat anymore I could still do some wonderful grilled veggies! (Hmmm, there is a grill at the pool...)

10.  I want to get my office cleaned out and organized. My boss takes a long vacation during the summer, and this would be a great time to finally get the job done.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I couldn't resist!

I love this "wool knot" nail polish from Sally Hansen. Now all I need is to learn how to apply it properly. I miss having my daughter around to paint my nails for me.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Next time, it's a $3 buy-in

I think I've used this as my Friday Favorite before, but I really enjoy mahjong with the girls. Amazing Grace was tonight's hostess, despite having just gotten back from a trip to visit a sick friend. We tried to convince her that we could do without the dinner portion of the evening, but being Amazing Grace she had a meal ready for us anyway. We ended up playing 5 games (I won twice!), and it was wonderful to be able to play "for real" instead of as beginners needing to stop for help frequently. Of course, the best part (other than my having won two games!) was getting to spend the evening chatting and laughing and sharing with friends.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Off the needles, on the needles

The Rockfall Sweater is finished! I can't believe that I was able to knit this up in just under 6 weeks. Knitting with "thick wool" (aka worsted weight) and "giant needles" (anything over a size 3) makes the project seem to go so quickly. That, plus the fact that this was a really fun knit to do at knit nights.

In this picture, my friend Sharon is modelling even though the sweater is a little too big for her. (She's even tinier than you are, Sweetie!) Everyone has agreed that it turned out beautiful. The way the lace portion angles gives the otherwise plain sweater a fantastic look.

If I had more self-control, I would try to finish some of the many UFO's (UnFinished Objects) already on the needles. However, the Wednesday night group has just started a KAL for the Summer Tea Sweater, by Vera Sanon. I've cast on in Sensations Cuddle yarn, in Turquoise. The yarn label claims to be perfect for baby and kids; I'm putting myself in the kids category because I think it will be perfect for a sweater I intend on wearing often. (It's acrylic, which means easy care on laundry day.)

I have also made a little progress on the Hecate Fall Behind. I'm on the last chart. This chart is a little easier to memorize each line, so I think I'm going to be able to work on it while talking with other fiberistas with a minimum of tinking (knitting backwards to fix mistakes). The more I get done, the better I like this shawl. Once it's blocked, it going to be beautiful. I've already talked with a friend about the possibility of having her block it for me, so the blocking might actually get done!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Practising Gratitude

This week's Ten on Tuesday topic is "10 Times You Felt Grateful Last Week." This is a really good topic for today, since I really need to stop and take a look at the good things that are going on. I've been focusing too much on the negative aspects of my life the past couple of days, which is never a good thing. And there is so much to be grateful for!

1.  I had to mail out 91 packets at work, and unfortunately we don't have a postage meter. So it meant a trip to the post office for stamps. The packets ended up needing $1.52 in postage, which meant I had to put a combination of 5 stamps on each envelope. As I was standing at the counter working on this, a woman in line commented that I looked like I had a lot of work to do. To my surprise, she then asked if she could help. So she put stamps on envelops until it was her turn to be waited on by the postal workers. Then, to my even greater surprise, she came back to help finish the job. Her explanation was that she would have felt bad leaving me to do it all by myself. I had never met the woman; she didn't attend the church I work for; and she had no reason to help me. But I am very grateful that she took the time to help a stranger.

2.  I'm grateful to have the opportunity to go out to dinner with my daughter and enjoy her wonderful company.

3.  I'm grateful that my oldest has found a good job, which she started on Friday. I'm also grateful that her boyfriend got the teaching position in a great private school. I can stop worrying about the two of them.

4.  It sounds silly, but I'm grateful to have discovered that Pollo Tropical offers a vegeterian version of their TropiChop. It is so hard to stay on my diet, even though I know how much better it makes me feel, because I have to plan all my meals ahead and cook everything at home. Knowing that I can go to the drive-thru if I don't want to cook makes the situation so much easier.

5.  I'm grateful every time I go to a knit night (which includes the Saturday morning group). The friendships that I have found in the groups mean so very much to me, and I love all of the fiberistas. Without them, I'd probably just hole up in my apartment and become that really weird old lady that the neighbors gossip about.

6.  I'm grateful for all the volunteers who come in regularly to help me at work. They're more than friends; they're my second family.

7.  I'm grateful for my Nook, and for the daughter that talked me into getting it last year. I love that I always have something to read, even when I can't settle down and have trouble figuring out what I want to read. With over 400 books at my fingertips, there's always something to read. The Nook was a lifesaver this weekend, when I ended up on the couch miserable with a sinus headache and a fibro flair-up. And I'm grateful for the public library, which lets me download books onto the Nook when I discover that none of the 400+ books I already own interest me at that moment. Most of all, I'm grateful that the Nook prevents anyone from seeing what I'm reading, which ended up being a series of slutty romances with no redeeming quality to them.

8.  I'm grateful that Josh and his family tracked me down, and that I'll get to see them again next weekend. I haven't seen Josh is almost 9 years. He was such a cute little boy. I always considered him one of my kids, and I think about him often. He's 18 now, and I'm looking forward to seeing him all grown up.

9.  I'm grateful for Missy Gray, and the way she always knows when I need to cuddle a bit.

10.  I'm grateful that my son friended me on facebook. Even though he doesn't live very far away, I don't see him nearly enough. Our schedules are just too different, and neither one of us are big on chatting on the phone. Now I'll be able to touch base with him a little easier.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cookbook Review

I found a cookbook at the library that I really like. It's Allergy-Friendly Food for Families from the editors of Kiwi.magazine. Each recipe has very clear labels (colored tabs along the sides of the page) indicating if it is gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, and/or soy-free. I can immediately see if it's worth looking closer at recipe, or if I should skip it because of it's gluten or dairy content. More importantly, the recipes are "real-life" friendly. Most of the ingredients are things I can actually find in the local grocery stores.

I'm looking forward to making zucchini boats (filled with homemade hummus), black bean burgers, and no-cream coconut pie. I may even try the tofu-stuffed pasta.

If you ever need to go on a restrictive diet due to food allergies or sensitivities, this cookbook is definitely worth looking at.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Since I mentioned the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens yesterday, I thought I would share a few more of the photos that I took on my visit in April.  My daughter was very proud of the gardens, and justifiably so. I tend to think of New York as busy sidewalks and tall buildings, or underground subways filled with interesting people. I don't expect extensive gardens that rival the gardens down here in tropical Florida. 

 The 52-acre botanical garden is just a few blocks away from my daughter's apartment (lucky girl!) near Prospect Park. It was founded in 1910, so it's been around for a long time.

 My favorite garden was the tulip beds. When I lived in Kentucky, I planted ever-so-many tulip bulbs in my yard. (I'm tempted to say hundreds of bulbs, but that would be an exaggeration. It only seemed like hundreds because I'm not really a big fan of gardening -- I just liked the tulips!)

The pussy willow plants in the Japanese garden also brought back a lot of memories for me. As a child, pussy willows always meant spring. I remember my mom having vases filled with the fuzzy blossoms throughout the house.
 And of course, we saw the cherry blossoms in bloom. Every year Brooklyn Botanical Gardens has a Cherry Blossom Festival. Maybe next year I can time my visit in order to attend with my daughter.

 Even if I don't make the Festival, I know that the Gardens will be on my list of places I have to visit again.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Saturday Snapshot

One of the cherry blossom trees in bloom
 at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden,
 taken during my trip to NYC in April.

Friday, June 07, 2013

You're just a text away

I don't have a picture for today's post, unfortunately. Which is really silly, since my favorite thing for today - my new iphone - has a very convenient built-in camera. And with the data plan and new app that lets me blog from anywhere, you would think that I would have lots of pictures. Give me time to get used to the phone, and I'm sure I will.

I am having a lot of fun with the iphone. I love how easy it is to text now. (Until this phone, I was still using a numeric keypad and pressing 1 over and over to get to "C", then again to get back to "A" and then giving up and just calling my kids and leaving a voice mail  rather than texting them to call me when they got off work.) Now I can even include pictures with the text messages. It's fun!

Yesterday I went to dinner with my daughter. She had come over to the apartment to wait for a package, so I treated her to dinner when I got home. Nothing fancy, just Pollo Tropical around the corner from me. (I can have their vegetarian TropicChop, so it's one of the few "cheap" restaurants I can eat at.) I always have a great time with Becka. We call her the Drama Queen, but it's not in the negative connotation. She's one of the best story-tellers I've ever had the pleasure to talk with. She notices the most ordinary things, and can portray them so that you can see the beauty or humor that she saw in them. Her people skills are amazing as well, and she's always got story or two from the people she's met recently. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed dinner with her.

Toward the end of the evening, she pulled out her phone to check her messages before we headed home. Naturally, my new iphone came out as well. Just for fun, I sent her a text and soon we were texting back and forth and giggling at our silliness. (Oh, if only I had a picture of us sitting across from each other and interacting electronically!) Too soon we had to put an end to the evening, and the silliness, and actually go home.

As we were walking out, still laughing at how ridiculous we had been texting each other across the table, we noticed another family. All four - mom, dad, and both kids - had their phones out texting back and forth just as we had been!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

It fits!

The Rockfall sweater I'm working on for my daughter isn't really my first sweater. Although I try to forget it, back in 2010 I knit the Riva sweater. Although I did swatch, the sweater came out way too small for me. It seems that you have to measure yourself as well as the swatch in order to figure out what size to knit. 

Anyway, last week I pulled the Riva out of storage and decided to try it on before finally giving it away. I was so happy to learn that it finally fits me! Knitting is so much more fun when you can wear the items you make!

(And sticking to the gluten-free/casein-free/no meat diet is so totally worth all the inconvenience.)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

"Everything is Almost Done," or "Nothing is Actually Finished"

I feel like I really have my knit on lately. Sorry, even as I typed that sentence I could hear my kids in my head, shouting "Stop, mom. Don't ever say that again!" But seriously, I have several projects that I'm working on that I am really happy with.

The Mince Pie Mayhem socks that I started in  February (has it really been that long?) are amazing. I love the crossed cable pattern, even if it does mean that these socks are not a take-to-knit-night project.I just have one foot and two toes left to finish, and then they can be gifted. These really should have been finished by now, except I got side-tracked by a new project. (Yes, I admit I am a knitting ho. There is no monogamy in my project relationships; I am too easily seduced by a skein of luxurious fiber or an interesting pattern.)

It was a sweater that seduced me from my sock-knitting. Yes, a sweater. I don't normally knit sweaters. But I had the yarn in my stash, a very soft and shiny Bamboo Wool from Moda-Dea that I had won in a knitting event a few years ago. Since there was a sweater's worth, I let my oldest daughter pick out a pattern. She chose the Rockfall Sweater by Mari Chiba featured in the Spring 2013 issue of Knitscene. It's a very simple seamless sweater knit from the bottom up. The asymmetrical  lace at the neckline adds the perfect amount of interest to an otherwise plain sweater.

Since I don't normally knit sweaters - in fact, I don't normally knit with worsted weight wool, preferring the thin sock or lace weights - I was surprised at how quickly I made progress on this project. I started it on May 2nd, and I have 2 more rows left before I bind off and kitchner the armpits.

By the way, just in case you think I'm playing favorites with my children, I have a sweater's worth of the same yarn,  in black, to knit my younger daughter a sweater as well.

There's one more project that I've been working on pretty regularly. This started out as a knit along (KAL) with a couple of girls in my Thursday night knitting group. It's the Hecate by Kirsten Kapur. Of course, the first girl (Charity, our resident shawl expert) finished her shawl before Sharon or I even had the chance to cast on. So our knit along became a follow along. I thought I was making good progress, even though I was splitting my time between the shawl and the sweater, but Sharon just finished her shawl. So the knit along turned follow along is now a fall behind.

I really am loving both the pattern and the yarn. I'm using my own handspun yarn for this shawl, and despite the fact that it is often splitty and tends to be unevenly spun in places, the yarn is beautiful to work with. When I started out, I wasn't sure about my choice. Sharon convinced me that the colors went well together, and she was totally on the mark. I've seen Charity's and Sharon's finished and blocked shawls, so I'm really looking forward to getting this done.

Finally, here is an updated picture of my Never-Ending Sock Yarn Blanket. Can you believe that I started this thing back in 2008? I've finally passed the halfway mark, but there's still a lot of squares to go. (The left side is even, although it doesn't look like it in the picture. I hadn't realized that it was folded under a bit when I took the picture.) To date, I've knit 696 squares out of an estimated 1054 needed.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Ten on Tuesday - Planned bike rides

The official Ten on Tuesday topic today is "Your Favorite Ice Cream Toppings." Considering that I can't have ice cream anymore, having given up dairy in favor of feeling healthy, I thought I would do a different Ten on Tuesday topic.

Although it's raining and I won't be able to go biking today -- and I wasn't able to go biking yesterday because of the rain -- here's my list of 10 Planned Bike Rides.

1.  Riverbend Park, Jupiter. I love this park!

2.  Coolsa Park, Boynton Beach.  This park has only a 1 mile trail, and isn't nearly as beautiful as Riverbend. However, it's much closer to home so I can take my bike there after work for a quick ride instead of having to wait to have a full day to spend at Riverbend.

3.  Okeeheelee Park, West Palm Beach. This park is a nice compromise between the first two parks, both in size and location. If I get good at biking, I might even give the mountain bike tracks a try.

4.  Starbucks on Gateway Blvd. This would be a nice, quick ride just down the street to meet the girls for knitting on Saturday morning.

5.  Barnes and Noble, Congress Ave. A little further than Starbucks, and without the added incentive of fiber friends, but it would be a nice ride.

6.  FroYo, Congress Ave. Taking a bike ride to get frozen yogurt probably means I can't count the ride as exercise. Plus I'm not eating dairy anymore. Of course, there is a Smoothie shop in the plaza so I could go there instead. Then it's still exercise PLUS a treat!

7.  Midway Road, Port St. Lucie. This is a wonderful landscaped road near my mom's house with wide sidewalks that just begs for leisurely bike rides.

8.  Singer Island. There are two parks on either end of the causeway between the ocean and the inlet. I will probably wait for the off-season (I'm not ready to share a road with all the tourists), but I would love to start at one park and make my way down to the other end of the island to explore the second park.

9.  Dyer Park, West Palm Beach. This is not my favorite park, but it has the advantage of having a (slight) hill. When I get a little bit better at riding, it would be nice to give this a go. Plus it would give me an excuse to use my 3 speeds.

10.  Myakka State Park, Arcadia. When the children were little, we used to camp in Myakka quite a bit. It was great hiking the trails, so I imagine it would be even better exploring with the bicycle.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Yum! Curry!

Red Tofu-Veggie Curry

Since April 1st, I've been on a gluten-free/casein-free and meat-free diet in an effort to get a little bit of control over the fibromyalgia. It's difficult to know what 'research' to believe in. Some studies show that the gluten and/or dairy are causing the inflammation and pain associated with auto-immune disorders such as fibromyalgia; other studies say that once-again Americans are getting caught up in a health-frenzy - and embracing the gluten-free lifestyle - with no real evidence to support it. My personal opinion is that there was enough evidence to make it worth trying. I'm at the point I would walk around on my hands all day if it would make me feel better for even a little while. (Thinking about it, that would probably give me a whole new outlook on life.) Now that I've spent two months avoiding gluten, dairy and meat protein, my opinion is that this diet is limiting, difficult to stick with, and definitely worthwhile. I've been more active and happier lately. The times I have given in and had a brownie or something with cheese, I've been miserable (and miserable to be around). One of the things that I find funny is that when I was growing up, my grandmother always insisted that I needed to give up bread because I was allergic to wheat. Who knew that she would be as right about that as she was about iced coffee?

As I learn more things I can eat, it's easier to do without the things I'm not allowed. One of my favorite meals has become coconut curry. It's so easy to make, and you can vary the vegetables depending on what's available at the farmer's market that week.

Coconut Curry

1 Tbs. red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbs brown sugar
Vegetables, chopped (onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers, etc)
Firm Tofu, sliced and well-drained (press the liquid out of it -- trust me on this!)
1 Tbs. fish sauce

Empty can of coconut milk into a large saucepan, and heat to simmer. Mix in 1 tablespoon of red curry paste (use more or less, depending on how spicy you like your curry). Add in the basil and brown sugar, and simmer about 10 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, I like to stir-fry the veggies in a little olive oil. Add the vegetables, tofu, and fish sauce to the sauce and continue to simmer about 15-20 minutes. Serve with rice.

Instead of tofu, sometimes I throw in peeled shrimp since I can still eat seafood.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Riverbend Park

Riverbend Park is located on Indiantown Road in Jupiter, Florida, just west of I-95 and the turnpike. It's easy to get to, has great parking, and miles of trails and waterways to explore. It's such a wonderful park, it's amazing that it is still uncrowded and peaceful. Mom and I found our way to the park almost by accident the first time. We had intended to meet up to knit and chat at another park but found that it was so crowded the police had literally closed the entrance to anyone else. I remembered having gone to Riverbend a few years ago, and we decided to check it out. On an impulse we rented bikes (only $10 for the day), and a new obsession was born.

Since that first trip, I've made it back to Riverbend Park almost every weekend where mom and I spend hours exploring the 15 miles of trails. We've seen deer, raccoon, owls, peacocks, woodpeckers, and many other birds and animals on our adventures. We've gotten better at avoiding trees, lakes, and other so-called-stationary obstacles. Both of us have our own bikes now, and we both continue to carry our knitting in the baskets although we have yet to actually stop and knit at the park. We haven't gone kayaking down the river yet, but you can bet that it's on our To Do list.


Saturday, June 01, 2013

Saturday Snapshot

It's been a while since I've shared a picture of my cat. Although Missy Grey loves attention and has devoted her life to cuddling, she is not at all cooperative in having her picture taken. But I have a new toy, my iPhone, and I think Missy is finally resigning herself to the inevitable paparazzi tendencies of her owner.