First Flurries

Life moves so quickly by…we had our first few snow flurries yesterday in my neck of the woods. I feel so grateful that our fall here in Minnesota has been so warm and long (if a little dry) this year, but hunkering down for months of cold and dark is always a little painful. In summer months we have daylight till almost ten at night, but we do pay for it starting about now. As always, life has been busy and I have lots to share…

Our chocolate lab Fred is one year old today. We’ve had him since January, and is is fully embedded as a member of our family. He still likes to chew up anything left laying around, but is starting to settle down a bit, and is pretty well trained (completely potty-wise, 90% on the obedience). Here he is trying to lick peanut butter off his nose. I wonder what diabolical puppy mama would have put that there?

Going back a bit, I attended a knitting retreat the weekend before Halloween. It was just for a couple of days, but it was a much-needed get-away, and I had the chance to catch up with some dear knitting friends I hadn’t seen in a while. New this year for this particular retreat, we had the opportunity to visit an alpaca farm. Thanks to Riverside Suri Alpacas, we got to go meet some of these sweet silly animals and even hand-feed and pet some (they actually don’t really like being touched, but can be bribed with food).

I love this next picture because you can see the baby cria nursing from its mama in the background.

This retreat is one that I’ve attended several other times in the past – it’s called Minnesota Knitters’ Days and is held at a retreat center in southeast Minnesota. This year, Candace Eisner Strick was our instructor – as she has once or twice in the past – and I love that lady. She is so smart, and hilariously funny. She comes up with great ideas and is fun to listen to. Here she is with her sister and an uncommonly friendly alpaca. Candace, forgive me for putting up your photo without express permission, but you look so sweet here, and it’s not a close-up so I hope you don’t mind.

Candace has a new self-published book of socks out, and she has a novel new way of attacking heels and toes. For quite some time, I’ve been so happy with my standard short-row method that I’ve been loathe to try other “new” ones, but since I was there and since it was Candace, I gave hers a go. I actually like it! Enough, anyway, that I am willing to finish a pair this way and see how they wear before I make any further judgement, but from me that is saying a lot. Candace had asked us to work the new method as a swatch with bigger yarn, but I figured I’d be happier jumping right in, and now I have a sock almost done – this photo was taken right after I came home.

If you like knitting socks, and want to try short-row heels and toes that don’t involve the old wrap-and-turn method, Strickly Socks might just be the book for you!

On the way home from my retreat, I stopped briefly in Red Wing to shop for little souvenirs for my girls and to check out the shoe outlet, where I took a picture with the world’s largest boot. Not a great picture, but I snapped it myself with my phone as quickly as I could so as not to attract attention. It really is a huge leather boot. Red Wing’s claim to fame!

When I came home, all that I’d left behind was waiting for me and it was time to catch up. We jumped right in to Halloween (Joe got the girls started carving pumpkins and I got home just in time to help finish up and clean up the mess!) This year I had a little purple princess and a leopard. The night before Halloween, I let them try on their costumes, and the leopard had fun sneaking up on and pouncing on the princess, who did a great job pretending not to know she was about to be attacked.

Halloween itself was a magical night – the weather was relatively warm and we stayed out for hours. There were more kids than usual in the neighborhood, and it felt like a movie set or a Norman Rockwell painting. We made a pack with our close neighbors and it could not have gone better. The girls were quite pleased with their candy haul!

There goes that sneaky leopard again…

This next part really should be its own separate post, but time is short so I’m just going to get on with it. This last spring at Shepherd’s Harvest festival, I took a class on processing raw fleece into yarn, and bought three fleeces at the silent auction there. (Actually I bought four in my zeal to make sure I got “enough” but came to my senses and managed to sell one off to a classmate before leaving for the day). I’m still in the midst of processing all that wool, but am making steady progress. It is quite time consuming, and while I am learning a lot in the process and enjoying it, I’m not sure I will be so eager to do all the work myself in the future. Here are 933 yards of about worsted-weight 4-ply yarn that I spun from a Columbia fleece after washing and carding into rolags.

I’m definitely on a learning curve, and this first batch is a little on the greasy side. I didn’t understand at first just how very hot the water needed to be, and how much detergent was necessary. Also, I think I put too much wool in at once and let some of it sit too long, so the water cooled off and the grease stuck back on the wool. I realized this after most of the fleece was carded, and I was trying to spin it. Still, this yarn is just fine, if a bit rustic. I will knit myself a sweater out of it (once it has marinated in stash for a bit) and I’m sure I’ll wear it with pride It is quite lovely and squishy. There is still a good portion of that fleece waiting to be re-washed the right way – I’ve done a few batches that came out much cleaner and happier, and I’m going to spin them worsted this time for smoother, longer-wearing yarn – probably at a finer weight. Like I said, this could be its own post.

While I’m at it, I may as well show you this 441 yards of 3-ply yarn made from a shetland fleece I bought the same day. It is slightly lighter weight than the cream colored yarn above, but close enough that I could possible combine the two in a sweater (or multiple sweaters) if I wanted to do some natural colorwork. This batch was also early on the learning curve, but it makes me happy when I look at it. Really, I must do a post about the process start-to-finish at some point.

In case there is any doubt that I am a sock-a-holic, here is another toe that I started, just to make sure I had a steady supply of mindless knitting on hand…

One never can have too many socks at the ready for a sudden long car ride, meeting, or random span of waiting time. Almost right after I knit this one up, Joe said something that took me completely aback. He mentioned that he might like to start wearing hand knit socks to work. This is the man who has never been interested in wearing handknits, with the exception of the felted clogs which he wears constantly during the winter at home, and has worn out the leather soles of one pair and is well into his second. I was thrown for a surprised loop! And, silly, wonderful man, he noted that he’s probably need several pairs. I told him we’d start with one pair, but I’d happily put him in the rotation for new socks if he liked. He only wants plain dark colors, but I will cast on a pair soon and set aside the wild ones for myself till his are done.

And back to the girls…something I’ve been meaning to mention that has been taking up a lot of our time and energy – the girls have both joined the Girl Scouts this fall. Julie was invited to join an existing troop of Brownies, which meant that Sophie was very eager to join a troop too. I showed up at the organizational meeting and somehow managed to put my hand up and become her troop leader. I walked out of that meeting stunned and wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into, but at this point, I am very excited about the whole thing – it is going to be a fun adventure. Luckily, Julie’s troop leader is awesome and has been very helpful and supportive so far, plus I have a really nice co-leader who seems to fit really well with me – I like doing the behind-the-scenes organizational stuff, she is great with the kids at the meetings. Let me just say that this volunteer gig takes a LOT of time between training, troop leader meetings, actual girl scout meetings, communicating with parents, and lots of little planning and paperwork bits. Now you know what I’ve been doing with the time I would have spent blogging!

Last week, Julie’s troop had a field trip to tour the Wells Fargo bank in downtown Minneapolis. The bank has a little museum there where the kids learned about the original Wells Fargo stagecoach business in the 1800s, among other things, and then they got to go behind the teller counter and see currencies from different countries and collect a bunch of free lollipops.

I volunteered as a chaperone, so Sophie got to put on her Daisy uniform and come along for the ride. I know I’m not going to like every experience I have as a Girl Scout mom, but so far I’m all over it. I love the values, especially the all-inclusiveness – unlike the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts clearly state that they don’t discriminate on anyone for sexual orientation or religion, among other things. And yes, we’ll be selling cookies in February.

The ladies with whom I work out most week days have started our knitting group back up after a summer-long hiatus. We do a lot of talking and just a little knitting, but they are learning! Here you can get a peek of my latest finished project – it’s a beaded shawl of my own design and that I think will get its own blog post hopefully soon!

And here is a sneak peek of my next non-sock project – I’m just in the swatching stage for a sweater out of the Silky Wool yarn that’s been marinating in my stash since Julie was a toddler…it’s lovely yarn, and its time has come.

Whew! More to come….

9 Responses to “First Flurries”

  1. Vibberden says:

    Happy scouting! After 26 years (I would get my “badge” today, did they exist in that high numbers..), you can trust me when I tell you: it’s addictive :)
    Love from a danish co-scoutleader

  2. Haven’t visited in a while. Always enjoy reading about you and your daughters. I remember fondly, when my daughter was in Daisies.
    Also like to catch up on what you are knitting, especially socks. I also have to keep several wip on the needles for road travel and “waiting” times. I mostly knit by myself, so I enjoy reading other knitter’s blogs.
    I have the book Strick-ly Socks, but have not tried the techniques yet. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  3. Proud mom of Boy Scouts says:

    Not sure why you commented about discrimination in the Boy Scouts. That does not go on to my knowledge. I’m a proud parent of two scouts and couldn’t be happier with their activities and how they’re taught to treat people. Please don’t say things that you know nothing about – I’m very disappointed to read this in your blog :(

  4. admin says:

    Hi, Proud Mom of Boy Scouts and others who may be interested. Sorry to disappoint you, but Boy Scouts has a longstanding tradition of discriminating against gays and atheists. I haven’t done any in-depth research lately, but a quick google search brought me to this page which apparently has quite a bit of information about it. Correct me if you personally know an openly gay or atheist troop leader.

  5. Vibberden says:

    This must aply to The Boy Scouts of America!
    Just want to make clear that while scouts on a global scale share a number of common values, they vary a lot in their focus from nation to nation and culture to culture.
    In Denmark for one (where I am from) there are separate christian scout cores, but the biggest, “DDS” The Danish Scout Organisation, is a non-religious and non-political mixed gender organisation.
    The pledge we take specifically state (amongst other things) that “I promise to do my best to find my own belief( as well as) my own opinion and respect others’ “

  6. admin says:

    Ooh, I need to apologize. I failed to make the distinction between Boy Scouts of America and the world wide organization. Yes, I can see why people in more forward-thinking countries would have more reasonable policies. Vibberden, I like the Danish version of the pledge regarding religion – very unitarian. Thanks for pointing out my mistake!

  7. Proud mom of Boy Scouts says:

    I’ve read what you’ve had to say and am still wondering why you had to post your opinion about Boy Scouts in the first place? If you would be so kind as to remove this post and my previous post, I would be grateful. I feel it has been a waste of my time to post my opinion in the first place when you’ve obviously cut me and it down to size. I won’t be posting or reading your blog ever again, as I’ve lost all my good opinions about you :(


  8. Shelly Kang says:

    Hey, Proud mom.

    I’m sorry you’ve gotten so upset about what I said. It’s the plain truth, though. The Boy Scouts of America discriminate against gays. I would not want my girls to be part of an organization that excludes people based on their sexual orientation, which is why I was relieved when I found out that the Girl Scouts specifically includes everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and religion, among other things. I’ve made it quite clear around here that I am a social liberal – see the blog name! The thing is, keeping gay men from being Boy Scout troop leaders implies that they think maybe there is an association between gays and pedophiles – which has been clearly shown to be not the case. That, and discrimination is just wrong, in my opinion.

    I’m not cutting you down in any way. I’m simply stating the facts as I understand them and inviting you to refute them if I am wrong. If you can’t deal with that, then I think you’ve made the right decision in choosing to read other blogs.

    Nope, not going to delete your comments. You posted pseudonymously on my personal web site, which I pay to run. Nobody’s going to look up your name on Google and find your comments here. I think taking your part of the discussion down at this point would undermine the overall discussion.

  9. Proud mom of Boy Scouts says:

    I apologize for getting into this with you. I’m not sure why this struck me so at this point in time. I guess I was just shocked to hear about this. I was not aware that this went on in the Boy Scouts. I still think that they’re a good organization that offers a lot to those boys that participate. I know of some boys that without this program would not have good adult mentors in their life, maybe that’s why I got my nose out of joint. You certainly have the right to post what you want to on your own blog and I definitely will keep my opinions to myself from now on. I don’t go up to strangers on the street and throw my opinions at them, so I will not be doing that anymore on personal blogs/websites/internet – just not my style.
    Enough said :)

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