Thursday, May 20, 2010

Like a String on your Finger

Like a string on your finger I'm here to remind you once again that I have moved this blog. The new blog is much better than the old blog: I'm posting more frequently, you can browse patterns in a much cleaner lay-out, and I've been posting free downloads (knitting patterns, recipes cards, etc). I've got lots of new tutorials and patterns in the works, and not just knitting either, I'm expanding to include fiber crafts, fabric crafts, and paper crafts in my pattern collections. I've also got a few kits planned. Don't miss out. Come subscribed to the new site A Handcrafted Life.

Monday, May 10, 2010

We're Moving...

No the house hasn't sold. Not yet anyway. This is a blog move. For sometime now I've been searching for a way to integrate my blog and my website. I've also had a real desire to be able to make updates and additions to my website without waiting for my web-guy to be available.

And I'm pleased to say I found a solution to both problems. I'm moving over to Typepad where my blog and my website are one seamless, beautiful unit. And where, with only the tiniest amount of HTML knowledge, I can make changes and updates to the web-content all by myself.

I've got no issue with blogger, and have always been happy here, but the time has come to move on. If you following me here, I invite you to follow me there. If you're a subscriber here, you'll have to re-subscribe over there, and I sincerely hope you will.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

This Little House: Before and After

After 10 long weeks, 13 pounds (mine), several gallons of sweat, but thankfully no tears, the remodeling project has finally come to an end. Phew! As promised, here are the before and after pictures. I've thrown in some during pictures as well.

The biggest change was turning this lonely unfinished laundry room -- that actually only housed the dryer, because there was no plumbing for the washer -- into the new second bathroom.

It involved demolishing the walls...

Adding lots of plumbing, relocating a bunch of electrical, and leveling the concrete floor

And Viola! The shiny second bathroom.

This is what adding all that plumbing looks like from the outside of the house

They had to tear large holes in the side of the house and jack hammer through the foundation

Then they trenched the drain around the house to the main drain

And installed a giant pump
Then they put the house back together, and I planted some plants and spread some mulch, and it looks better than ever.

Attached to the original lonely laundry room was a converted garage that we had always used as Dale's man-cave/office

We added a closet to make it a legal third bedroom, plus we installed new carpet and gave the room a paint job

And it's now a beautiful third bedroom, with it's own bathroom and a private entrance

The kitchen desperately needed a face lift, and that nook was destined to be the new fully functional laundry room

Note the washing machine, next to the fridge...

The washer gets a new home, the orange paint is gone, gone, gone, and there's new porcelain tile on the floorThe circa 1950's existing bathroom also desperately needed a do-over

We ditched the dingy gray tile, and the sea-shell wallpaper

We kept all that beautiful cabinetry, but painted it all, installed a new floor with a classic look, re-sheet rocked and the painted the walls a pretty soft shade of blue, and installed a new sink and vanity
This is the aforementioned nook as it existed in the thoroughly orange kitchen

The new plumbing is shared with the new bathroom that exists on the other side of that wall

We re-framed that doorway, and put up a new light fixture

And here it is, an actual laundry room complete with a washer and dryer that are now roommates

It was a huge project, and in addition to all these big changes, we also painted every room in the house, spruced up the landscaping, and packed a good portion of our stuff into a PODS which has already made its way to Minneapolis where it will remain in storage until we can join it. The house goes on the market tomorrow, and hopefully this time it will sell, and sell quickly.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The First Finished Sweater of 2010

I finally finished the Ingenue sweater from Wendy Bernard's (Knit and Tonic) book Custom Knits. I shouldn't really say finally, because in reality the sweater knit up amazingly fast, mostly.

I had originally decided to knit this sweater for my grandma's funeral in February. The funeral was back in Minnesota, and I knew it would be cold, and I wanted something both warm and something beautiful to wear. Ingenue seemed to be just the ticket and I had the yarn I wanted to use - Malabrigo Merino Worsted.

I started the sweater just one week before the funeral. And amazingly enough I had all but one sleeve finished before the funeral. I attribute the speed of this sweater to the fact that it's knit top-down, in the round, and with raglan sleeves.

But I was one sleeve short for the funeral. So I didn't wear the sweater, obviously, and sadly I set it aside for a little awhile.

Last week I finished the sleeve. And soaked, and blocked the sweater.

I honestly couldn't be more pleased with this sweater - it was so fast to knit, it fits really well, it looks like it's way more difficult than it was, and it's beautiful. Perfect!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Remodeling Project or How I Learned to Relax and Love the Mess

When we had our 2 bedroom 1 bath house on the market this past Fall it didn't sell. It's a cute little house, but 2/1 is a tough niche, and therefore a tough sell. At the beginning of the year we decided to delay our relocation back to Minnesota by a few months and make some changes to the house.

We're currently up to our necks in those changes with the intention of putting the house back on the market this Spring. The remodel includes turning an office and laundry room into a bedroom and bathroom, making the house a 3 bedroom 2 bath, and hopefully an easier sell. We're changing the nook in the kitchen which was never really big enough to eat in, into the new laundry room. We're also updating the circa 1950 (but not cute) existing bath, putting new tile down in the kitchen, and painting every room in the house.

I've been taking lots of photos of the work in progress, but mostly they're not that dramatic or interesting to look at. I think photos like these have more effect when you can show both the before and the after. But the after doesn't exist just yet so I'll save the photos for another post.

It's a big project. Mostly it's a good learning experience, and it's even a little bit exciting despite the fact that we're not going to live here when it's finished. It's also a huge mess, and a risky investment, and a real test of my patience. But I won't complain, and I'm trying to stay positive, and learn to love the mess.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cross Country Skiing: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Snow

Snow seems to be the theme around here these days. I guess it's a matter of as goes my world, so goes my blog.

We took a long weekend to Colorado last week where we visited Keystone and tried our hand at assorted snow sports. I've never visited the Rocky Mountains, and I've never skied until now. The mountains were beautiful beyond words. And the snow sports were a mixed bag.

I started on Thursday with an all day snow boarding lesson which I pretty much failed. I didn't quit, but I never successfully rode that board down even the bunniest of bunny hills. I didn't understand the physics behind the board, I didn't believe for even one minute that I would ever actually get good at the sport, and I quickly grew really tired of crashing to the ground. Snowboarding is not my thing.

On Friday I took a cross country skiing lesson at the Nordic Center, and everything about it was better. I got it, I could do it, I could imagine myself eventually getting good at it, and I didn't fall but a few times. I would have liked to ski the whole day, but I had pre-arranged other plans.

That afternoon I participated in a eco-hike on snow shoes. There's not much to learn in regards to snow-shoeing really, it's pretty much the same as walking, which I can do without much trouble, mostly. The hike was fantastic, and the scenery awe inspiring. We looked at and talked about trees, and plants, and snow, and animal tracks. I can safely say I learned more in that 2.5 hours than seemed humanly possible. (Okay, maybe not, but I learned an awful lot.) And I had fun.

Saturday saw my return to the Nordic Center. I was embracing the idea of cross country skiing so much that I signed up for a private lesson and advanced my skills on skinny skis a little bit beyond the basics. By the end of the day I could safely maneuver myself through the snow, climb a hill, ski back down said hill, turn, both to the left and to the right, and stop. That's a lot. In fact it's pretty much all you need to start and ski a little on your own.

I really loved the whole cross country ski experience. The scenery was the same as for the eco-hike - truly beyond my ability with words, so all I will say is incredible. The equipment is minimalist. It's relatively inexpensive compared to downhill skiing, and the impact on the environment relatively small. The people are swell - they share the trail, yield to one another, and give a cheerful polite warning when they're about to pass. Not that I saw but a small handful of people, but those I did see were nice. And you can wear your hand-knits while you ski. The best thing is cross country skiing is every where in Minnesota and I will be able to pursue my newly discovered winter pass time with ease next winter when I have returned home to the snow, and I intend to.

Cross country skiing truly was a perspective changer for me. Like running, it is a sport you do solo, which I love. But unlike running it's not done on the city streets in traffic (although I could take up trail running which I've considered, but that's a different post). Skiing puts you alone in the quite stillness of the snow, where you can hear your surroundings, and yourself think. It is quite and peaceful. A sport designed to do at your own pace, and for a lifetime.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Stillness of Snow

Some how the snow makes everything seem quite and still...

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Thing About New Running Shoes

There is nothing quite like a brand new pair of running shoes. Especially when they are the same as the old running shoes except better -- fresher, whiter, and gentler on the feet. Here's the thing about runners -- we find a pair of shoes we like and we stick with them, pair after pair of the same shoes. And here's the thing about a runner who hates change (read me) -- getting a brand new pair of running shoes that are the same as the old running shoes not only feels good for the feet, it isn't scary at all. And I can embrace that.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Potato Leek Soup

It's chilly and rainy here in central Texas the perfect weather for a pot o' soup.

Potato leek soup is one of my favorites--it's quick and easy and rich and creamy. I like to make this soup with either red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes, they are less starchy than russets. As for the cheese, use what you like--cheddar and swiss both work well, but I prefer to use Gruyère. Here's my basic recipe for this vegetarian classic.

Potato Leek Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 leeks, white parts only sliced and rinsed well
3-5 cloves of garlic minced
5-6 medium potatoes cut into hunks
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, stems removed
5 cups vegetable broth or stock
1 cup milk
1/4 lbs. of cheese (about 1 cup grated)
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy bottom stock pot. Add the leeks and cook until tender. Add the garlic, potatoes, thyme and toss. Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered until the potatoes are very tender. For a more rustic soup mash with a potato masher or for a creamier texture puree with an immersion blender. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, milk and chives. Season with salt and pepper.

serves 4-6 generously


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Two New Sock Patterns

I'm pleased to announce two new sock patterns! Both patterns were written for knitting the socks on two circular needles, because that's how I roll.

First up is Plain Jane - Plain Jane is a simple stockinette sock for women. The pattern has been written for knitting your socks top down on two circular needles. It is written for a woman's size 8 foot, but instructions are included for a custom fit. I recommend a jazzy self-striping sock yarn to make Plain Jane anything but plain. They are shown here in Knit Picks Felici.

Next is Adam's Rib His & Her Sock - A fantastically comfortable ribbed sock for women or men. The pattern was also written for knitting your socks top down on two circular needles. The "Hers" socks is designed to sit higher on the calf, and is therefore wider. The "His" version is narrower through the calf, and longer in the foot. They are shown here in Knit Picks Stroll Tweed.

Both patterns are available on my website. Enjoy!