This is the first year that I’ve been successful planning and growing a variety of winter vegetables. Timing is so critical—since I seeded or set out starts during the summer, we’ve been enjoying a variety of greens and root crops for the past couple of months. This is my harvest this morning.

vegetable harvest this morning

Although the parsnips, rutabagas (or swedes) and Jerusalem artichokes were all dug a month or two ago, we enjoyed the last of the parsnips just yesterday (simply roasted) and I’m still considering what to do with the swedes. Maybe this UK site?

I’m still not convinced that I want to be eating Jerusalem artichokes. Well-roasted so that they are nice and crunchy is my favorite so far; the “potato” salad was a dismal failure. As one of my gardening books describes it, they cause serious flatulence, and that is no joke. (BTW – these plants are a perennial sunflower native to North America.)

What a great mushroom kit! Love the packaging and the whole concept. Check them out here.

great kit for mushrooms

With such an abundance of green gage plums and blackberries, it was wine time! The blackberry cordial is always fantastic and makes a good gift. It is a recipe that I’ve used for years from Billy Joe Tatum’s book “Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook” and it can’t get any easier.

homemade wines

And then there was the failed attempt to make marbled soap! I added green tea powder and was hoping to get a pretty marbled soap with a faint green swirl as demonstrated on YouTube. Maybe the lye fermented the green tea? Apart from the disappointing nasty brown (think tea stains), my swirls only happened on the top with most of the color settling to the bottom like a brick.

marbled soap

Also, the old Singer came out of the closet, got brushed off and was put to work. Needing something to just remind me how things work again, I took a great little class and made this bag. Love it!

zippered bag


Making a Dress Form

great video on how to make a dress form with packing tape: here

beaded Citron, oh my!

I have almost completed my beaded bind-off with only a few more inches to go. On the 3rd row from the edge, I placed a bead 12 stitches apart. The math didn’t work out exactly, but who can tell? For the bind-off edge, I decided to do a K2tog, transfer the stitch back to the left needle, place the bead and then K2tog again. It’s looking pretty.

Manipulating the beads, the crochet hook and the knitting needles was driving me a little crazy. I decided a little prep time would make it all so much easier to manage. I took some heavy 20 gauge wire, made an end and then strung as many little beads onto it as I could fit.

It is easy to secure this ring of beads to my ott light setup when I’m done for awhile. My metal chart holder with magnets hangs from the ott light with some extra strong little magnets. I can preload as many as 5 beads on my crochet hook which hangs there nicely from the little magnets ready for the next bead placement.

With Black Sheep around the corner and the weather unpredictable, I may be able to wear it there and show off!

Citron Beading Adventure

Has everyone knit a Citron except for me? Well, I’m almost finished with mine.

I would have finished it by now but I decided to add beads to the edging. Another challenge and a first. I know that it’s pretty easy and I know that most people just complain about how long it takes to do it. Afterall, there are over 500 stitches on that last row!

For a great tutorial  (thank you, Caro!) on binding off with beads:

Lace, ahhhhhhh

I finished Icarus, my first lace shawl project! The blocking process took some time and I can imagine how much longer it would have taken without blocking wires. Also, I’m lucky to have a spare bed for guests that can function as my blocking board. Everyone talks about the magic of blocking lace because it’s the first time you can really see the lace pattern. So true!

I’m happy with how it turned out and I think I will wear it. That’s just it – am I a “shawl person” – whatever that means? Lace is beautiful for all ages so how is it that old ladies and lace became such a stereotype? Shawls don’t have to mean ‘delicate and dainty.’ I love that sturdy lace shawl that Tasha Tudor wore and it really looks like a shawl to get down and dirty with farm chores. (Actually, the pattern was recreated by Nancy Bush and it’s sitting in my queue.) But she was an old lady so maybe that’s not a good example. What about all those young knitters that have embraced lace shawl knitting with a vengeance? According to Ravelry, Icarus, which has been very popular, now has been knitted or started by over 2,000 people! Clearly, lace shawls have become popular with all ages.

Well, knowing how to wear a shawl is the key to avoiding the old lady syndrome. I’m not going to start a new career as a supermodel, but here is an attempt at wrapping that looks pretty good to me–sort of flung loosely around the neck, ala scarf.

For great tips on how to wear beautiful lace shawls, check out this video from the staff of Knit Picks.

Seed Starting

I think I have finally figured out how to do a good job of seed starting in the house. Even though we have a garden window in our kitchen, I would always end up with leggy starts. I realized that I could easily add supplemental light using small under the counter fluorescents that I happened to have already for a past seed starting setup.

These lights were very inexpensive and they have natural full spectrum or grow light tubes in them. We had attached chain from the screw holes by mounting a screw and wrapping copper wire around it so that the chain can slip onto it. This makes it easy to raise the lights as the plants grow and keep the lights a few inches away from them.

This is what I’ve started: Baby Nantes Carrots, Cylindra Beets, Georgia Southern Collards, White Lisbon Bunching Onion, and a Beet mix from Renee’s Garden. For good information on seed starting and other gardening topics, check out the blog Garden to Table.

PMC Exploration

I took a wonderful class this weekend on Precious Metal Clay (PMC) at Clay Space, taught by Lee Takasugi. PMC is a clay-like material that is a combination of fine particles of pure silver mixed with a binding agent. The binding agent burns away when the object is fired, leaving only the pure silver. This silver is more pure than sterling silver which is an alloy–a mix of silver with other metals. Precious metal clay is also called just “metal clay” or “art clay” and now there are several formulas, some with slower drying speeds and temperature ranges for firing. This patented material is only manufactured in Japan.

At the end of the day, we all left with at least one pair of earrings and a pendant. Everyone’s projects turned out great! Somehow each person can take the same exact materials and produce something entirely different with their own unique twist. ( Once I took a rug hooking class where we all used the exact same kit and still each one looked slightly different).

PMC takes impressions from stamping or carving very easily and fires quickly in an electric kiln. Thank goodness it’s a bit spendy to first get set up with all the materials, or I could see myself getting hooked on this. I recommend that everyone try working with this material at least once since the results are so good even for a complete beginner.