Monday, June 30, 2014

As the World Spins...

My little spinning renaissance continues.
Mini Turkish Drop Spindle from Snyder Spindles on Etsy.
Pictured above is a teeny tiny Turkish Drop spindle that I tuck away in my purse. At only 4.25 inches tall, it is a diminutive delight to play with! So far I have just been spinning the Cheviot sample that came with the spindle, courtesy of TwinMommyCreations at Etsy. Although I'm not finding the wool to be a soft as a merino, I am enjoying how easy this medium wool is to draft. I look forward to spinning up a larger amount hopefully soon. I think it would be lovely and warm in a hat or mittens. Because the spindle is extremely light at .3 ounces, I am spinning the wool laceweight. Once I'm finished I won't have much to work with, as I only received a tiny amount, but it's been helpful for me to reacquaint myself with the nuances of Turkish spindling.

It seems as though Turkish spinning is quite the rage now. When I first began spinning, I actually learned on an Ashford Turkish Drop Spindle that really qualified as more of a boat anchor. No wonder I had such a challenge keeping my singles from breaking! That was a long time ago, though, and now that Etsy has come to the forefront of my virtual shopping space, a new spindle is never far away.
Goliath and David! Notice the hook at the top of the Ashford.
 One of my other favorite spindles is made by Etsy seller, Trindleman, and his tools are always a joy to use. Currently I'm spinning up some merino on a Cocobolo shaft with crystal arms.
Trindling while Lesson Planning!
I have 100 grams of the braid, and the first spinning captured around 25 grams. I'm spinning this in a semi-worsted manner. Originally I had planned to knit some socks from it, but I'm rethinking that plan and may instead opt for mittens.

I would love to say my wheels are seeing action, but right now they are resting in anticipation of Tour de Fleece, which is set to begin next month. Before I can get started on much more spinning, I really do need to finish my sweater, Tang, which I am knitting up with Wool of the Andes by Knit Picks. I started the project quite awhile ago, but after my mother passed away, I didn't feel like picking it up again. Now I am back at it and working on the first sleeve. I'd love to have it finished before we head out on vacation, but I know myself too well. It may be quite some time yet before I can check it off the list, but at least I'm moving ahead!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Pink Marble Palace by the Bay

It sneaked up on me. Truly, only a few years ago I am fairly certain, I could be found bent over clasping tiny hands as he delighted in his newly acquired skill of semi-walking. It couldn't be that long ago, could it? So how is it that I suddenly found myself visiting colleges this weekend, discussing the pros of one college versus another, and remembering The Big Red Barn reading sessions as if they occurred just a few days ago?

Inexorably, time manages to march on, despite my insisting it linger awhile. So this past weekend I found myself on the campus of New College of Florida, listening to a faculty member tout accolade after accolade. If I hadn't been with there with Jacob's friend and his mom, I think I might be able to convince myself that it was a dream.

The email instructed me to drive to the "pink marble palace by the bay," and so, with these colorful commands, we arrived on the Sarasota campus, remarking at how quaint and beautiful the surroundings were. 
The Pink Marble Palace by the Bay!
It turns out the pink marble palace by the bay was actually the home of Charles Ringling, of the Ringling circus family. It now houses classrooms, offices, and events for the college. 

We gathered there to learn more about New College in the dining room of the venerable house.

New College is fascinating in that the students do not receive grades, but rather a narrative evaluation of their work. That being said, the students have no trouble going on to graduate school. In fact, it is the number two ranked school in the nation for top tier graduate school admissions after the University of Michigan. Additionally, the students are mentored by their professors (10 - 1 ratio, no less) and they get to know them quite well. For these reasons, along with the smaller-sized student body of only 900, my son was quite smitten with the school.
View from the back of College Hall. The location isn't bad either!
We returned to my parents-in-law's home to stay the night and woke up early the next morning for college visit fun, part two! After a rousing drive through Okeechobee via Highway 70 across the state, we reached the campus of Florida Atlantic University just before the tour was to begin.

The university, a part of the state university system of Florida (as is New College), is located in beautiful Boca Raton, Florida, and it boasts the only ocean view college football stadium in the nation. The mascot is the Burrowing Owl, as it is a sanctuary for that animal.
Owlsley, the FAU mascot!
The campus was beautiful with lovely gardens. Liz and I spotted a gorgeous tree and found out it was a sea grape tree. Unfortunately, the tree can't survive frost, so Jacksonville is just a smidge out of its zone.

FAU boasts of quite a few amenities. The business school has its own Wall Street ticker room. The class size is on the smaller side for a state university, and it is also the most diverse campus in the state. I loved the look of the school's library!
The library

A business lecture hall

While the school is large, at approximately 30,000 students, it still had a smaller feel, and indeed, felt much smaller than my alma mater of the University of Kansas. At some point, I'm looking forward to taking my son to visit FAU's honors school, located 45 minutes to the north, in Jupiter, Florida. Called Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, it boasts a student body enrollment of just 600. 

The drive home lasted about four hours, and I know each of us was tired and our heads were spinning from the quick trip. Still, we had learned a lot. Both schools have their strengths and weaknesses. There are still many more schools we want to investigate. Yet it was a special trip, one that I will cherish in my heart for the rest of my life, and I will welcome the opportunities opening to my son, remembering how I felt at that season of my life!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Little Spindling on the Side

I've been working with my spindles some more. Every time I pick them up, they make me want to smile. My latest project has been a tiny one, as I had only a little bit of fiber in a particular colorway, but I wanted to play with a three ply, and this just looked too fun.

Two of Three
I spun up three colors of singles. A mulberry of merino, a brown of llama, and a cream of some unknown long wool. For plying I fashioned a spindle kate out of a spa basket I purchased from Amazon.
It's not fancy, but it works!
Because the yardage was so slight, I wound my singles around a smallish natural sea sponge.
The start of a small plying ball
Eventually I got all the singles wound off and was prepared for plying. It went smooth as silk!
Almost done!
After a relaxing bath (the yarn, not me), I skeined my tiny treasure. I am planning on using it in my Traditional Danish Tie Shawl which I hope to finish before I'm a decade older. It seems like that shawl is taking forever, but I suppose that's what happens when one doesn't actually knit on it, eh?

Finished, and oh, so cute!
I'm now motivated to finish up knitting some projects that have been, shall we say, relaxing just a smidge too long?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

One Berry, Two Berry, Pick Me a...

Berry picking time is one of my favorite times of the year. In Kansas I remember picking wild mulberries that grew in our backyard. Their tartness made my mouth pucker! Now that I live in Florida, my favorite berries to pick are blueberries! This past Friday I took my two youngest kiddos along and headed out with friends to the local berry patch for some serious blueberry hunting.
Yummy berries!
We were up by 6:00 and ready to go. We reached the berry farm by 7:30. Cloudy and cool, with drops of dew scattering the light around, we were treated to a comfortable and cool experience. I could hear the excited calls of the younger children who joined our expedition as they hunted their berries down, buckets tied at their waists.

Rocking the bucket look
 The morning was deliciously cool, such that isn't frequently seen in Florida in June, and I was deeply grateful for it.
Filling it up!

 Savoring the time, I slowly gathered the berries. Eventually both kiddos decided they had gathered enough. The sun was breaking through, and it was time to head back home to our studies. I finished picking just a few more and headed for the scales.
All in all, we picked only about six pounds, a far cry from my girlfriend's 21.5 pounds, but still plenty for what I had planned to do with them... JAM!

We returned home with our treasure and rejoined reality for the rest of the day. Then this morning I woke up extra early to begin the jam making process.

I remember making jam only a few times with my mother when I was a girl. Then in 8th grade my Home Ec teacher showed our class how to make grape jelly. I loved it! When we moved out to Florida, I decided it was time to start canning again, and in that spirit I gamely tackled both strawberry and blueberry jam. Each time I made a batch I learned more about canning, which eventually brought me to this morning.

With everyone else still tucked up in bed, I quietly assembled the necessary supplies. When I first started canning, I did it without any special supplies, but it didn't take long before I saw the wisdom in investing in an inexpensive canning set to preserve singed fingers.
Freshly Picked Berries Waiting for a Bath!

 I set the berries to wash in a bath and then laid them out to dry on paper towels.

Jars on the bottom
 While the berries dried I prepared the jars, seals, and lids. I don't have a special canning pot, so I utilize my large stock pot with the pasta insert and steamer basket.
Lids and seals on top!

As the jars started to boil, I began to work on the jam. I gathered up the berries, sugar (oh, so much sugar!), butter (to control foaming), lemon juice, and pectin.

By the time the household began to stir, I had jam bubbling on the stove and was almost ready to begin filling the jars.

Berries and sugar... YUM!
I did a double batch. By 10:30 in the morning all the jars were completed and the kitchen cleaned up.
Jars of Florida Sunshine and Sweetness!
I've got quite a few jars, and I'm looking forward to having jam to last for the year and to give as gifts.

If you want to make your own blueberry jam, now's a good time to pick up berries at the grocery if you aren't near an orchard. Here's my favorite recipe:

Blueberry Preserves

7 cups whole blueberries, washed
5 cups sugar (yes, 5 CUPS)
2 T lemon juice
1/2 t. butter
1 package liquid pectin (I like Certo)

Boil all of the jars and lids, being certain to leave them in the hot water until you are ready to use them.

Bring all of the ingredients to a full rolling boil and then make certain you stir the mixture constantly. When the boil can't be stirred down any longer, add one package of the liquid pectin. Keep stirring. When it reaches a full boil again, boil for one minute longer. Remove from the heat.

Take one jar at a time out of the hot water and ladle it into hot jars and seal them. Check to make certain they seal properly. If they don't, no sweat, just transfer the jar to the fridge and make certain you consume it first! As you pull the jars from your pantry to consume throughout the year, be certain to visually examine them to ascertain that the seal is still intact. And enjoy!
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:8, NIV

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sleeping Beauty

I am schizophrenic when it comes to my spinning. It seems I am either all in or all out. Lately I've been all in in a big way. Not only have my spindles been seeing a lot of action, but I finally completed spinning a project that has been sleeping for several months on my Rose!

Frankly, I can't remember when, exactly, I began spinning on this lovely lace, but I believe I worked on the first bobbin more than six months ago.

Lace Singles
 I spun the fiber (Blue Faced Leicester) with a worsted (short draw) method with my wheel set on the second highest ratio.

It seemed like it took forever! Of course, when I let the first bobbin sleep for almost half a year, that may account for why I felt that way! Eventually I settled down to business, and I quickly spun up the second bobbin. The very next day I plied everything on my highest ratio setting, and that DID take forever!
Finally plied!
I only had a small amount left on my remaining bobbin, so I did a fairly good job of guestimating my fiber. After that, it was time to skein it on the niddy noddy.

Some day I may invest in a skeiner, especially if I start spinning more and more laceweight, but for now, it's a wonderful way to run my fingers over the entire length of the yarn, noting any flaws or differences in grist.

Recently I discovered a new scent of Eucalan that I've fallen in love with.
Wrapture is Rapturous!
I first heard about it on the Craftlit podcast, but as I only go through wool wash about once every five years or so, so it took me awhile to justify buying it. I'm so glad I did! It's a delicious and decadent scent of night-blooming jasmine, one of my all-time favorites! I washed the yarn and hung it up to dry under no tension.
Because of our lovely Florida climate, it took an entire day to dry, but I think it turned out fabulous!

I'm not certain what I want to knit out of it, but I've got a few ideas, namely either Citron Grand or Salish Sea. I'm open for suggestions, though! If you have any ideas, please send me a comment!