Previous month:
February 2017

FO: Hyacinthus Armwarmers (aka, Frenchy Mitts)

Helical stripes!

Helical-Stripes_Knit-Mitts_knitorious_5

  Helical-Stripes_Knit-Mitts_knitorious_4
Helical-Stripes_Knit-Mitts_knitorious_4

These are my Frenchy mitts. I purchased the yarn in New Orleans' French Quarter at The Quarter Stitch, and did much of the knitting while watching Versailles on Netflix.

(I really enjoyed Versailles the TV show, by the way -- it's absolutely gorgeous -- and now I really want to visit Versailles the Palace! I've never had a burning desire to go visit France before.)

Helical stripes! It's the most magical, wonderful way to knit stripes in the round!

Helical-Stripes_Knit-Mitts_knitorious_3

I am very happy with these and love the neutral colorway. Now that we've crossed the threshold into Spring, I'd like to think there won't be reason to wear them for several months...


Weekending: Happy Spring!!

I walked up to the coffee shop yesterday morning and spotted this on a sidewalk block out front.

Web_20170319_105503

Spring is in the air! And oh so very WELCOME!!

And also to you... Whether you've been more or less reading since I began this blog on the First Day of Spring 13 years ago, or just landed here today... you are WELCOME and I THANK YOU!! I never imagined that blogging would bring so much to my life, but the friends I've made because of it are some of the best of my life. I've learned, grown, traveled, laughed, cried, quit smoking, and accomplished so much more because of it. I just can't imagine what my life would be like right now if I'd never begun typing...

_ _ _ _ _

I took it pretty easy over the weekend, leaving the house only once for the afore-mentioned walk and late yesterday to the grocery store. I did a little bookkeeping, helped Kate finish her taxes...

My main project was a new dress for Gin!

Web_20170319_184354
Web_20170319_184354

Web_20170319_184418

I went back and forth about snaps vs. buttons. It's been a while since I've done either, and was having a hard time remembering exactly how to do snaps... so decided on and chose some cute vintage buttons. Then I grabbed some fabric to make a few practice buttonholes and discovered that there's a problem -- some gears or cams are not quite right because it goes up on one side and down on the same side. I suppose I could have manually shifted the fabric, but that's just asking for trouble. I really wanted to finish this dress, though, so went back to the snaps and figured it out!

Web_20170319_184432

I just loved the little flower fabric to line the bodice, and decided to use it for contrasting patch pockets, too!

Web_20170319_184442

While there are a few sleeve variations included with the pattern, the cap sleeve is probably my favorite!

I've had the fabric for just over a year. I fell in love with it when I saw it in an Instagram post, tracked it down and located a source or two, and bought both woven and knit yardage -- this is the first thing I've made with it!

_ _ _ _ _

Web_IMG_20170319_151125_294

The kids were over for a while on Sunday afternoon. Gin's hair is getting long!!  ;)

Web_IMG_20170319_151408_729

Jun was a bundle of energy -- and imagination (with an assist from Aunt Kate)!!

How was your weekend??


Randomly on a Friday!!

ShamrockFirst of all, HAPPY ST. PADDY'S DAY!!

Secondly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my brother MICHAEL!!

Thirdly, HAPPY 12TH QUIT-IVERSARY to ANN, CLAIRE, my sis KAREN, and ME!!

Now then...

Remember on Christmas Eve when I did a little sewing (like you do?)?

Web_20170315_101941

I finally finished the last panel on Wednesday, possibly definitely while procrastinating about another task. Whatever. I'm so happy to have that project done, and I love how it turned out!

Web_20170313_112150

The -10 lb milestone was indeed achieved this week! One of the things I've found helpful is the new Weight Watchers website and app and, in particular, the recipes I've found there. There hasn't been a dud among them! I'd run across a few "soup for one" and "soup in a jar" recipes that I'd wanted to try, and finally did that this week. This one is a mash-up of a couple because of what I had...

Chicken e Pasta e Fagiole Soup for One

2 tsp. reduced sodium chicken base
2 oz. cooked chicken breast
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 cup shredded carrots (uncooked)
1/4 cup cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 oz. fresh fettuccine, chopped

Layer ingredients in a pint-size mason jar. Close jar & refrigerate until ready to use.

Fill jar with boiling water (about 2 cups). Stir well, until soup base is dissolved. Close jar and let sit for 3-5 minutes.

Web_20170313_112230

That's a quick, make-ahead, 4 SP lunch! Actually the one you're looking at is more like 7 SP because I accidentally quadrupled the amount of pasta!! Ooops. It was hearty!

Look at THIS:

3-17-17

Spring is volatile in NE Wisconsin. According to Intellicast, the record high for the last half of the month is 81F on March 27th (2007), and the low is -5 on March 24th (1974). The average is about mid-40s and we've been well below that, but thankfully there's been some sunshine (not today... gigantic flakes of snow fell on me this morning).

Last but not least (definitely the cutest)...

Web_20170315_163412

After I finished sewing the curtain and going out for lunch, then finally buckling down to do the task I'd been avoiding, I spent an hour or so watching these two on Wednesday evening. Instant mood lifter!! That arm around Gin... killing me!! The emotional growth and awareness that Jun's been displaying... also killing me!! I can tell that he's starting to think about things -- cause, effect, consequence -- and modifying his behavior (trying, at least!).

One of the sweetest moments was just before I got ready to leave. Ali was changing Gin on the bed, Jun was there too, and Ali was talking to me about Gin's little rash. Jun rolls over, puts his hand on Gin's chest, and sweetly asks, "Does that hurt you, Gin? Does that hurt?"

And now killing you, too! Haha! Have a great weekend!


Who are you?

I've been pretty busy and/or under the weather and/or grumpy and/or uninspired, so didn't really think too much about today's Think Write Thursday topic about heritage -- Irish or otherwise.

Then I read this sentence in Carole's post and laughed out loud:

As a researcher once told Dale when he was trying to prove that he is a Mayflower descendant – if you look too closely into this you might find out your family story is wrong.

My comment:

Haha! Yeah. Grandma always talked about a great uncle who’d done the research and traced back to Sir Francis Drake… but, um, I acquired a copy of his research and it was Sir Barnard Drake… CLOSE but no cigar (definitely a sailor, but kin?)! I still have a soft spot for Sir Francis, tho.

I've been involved in family history research for almost as long as I can remember, more -- particularly in the years immediately following the birth of a child -- or less. The aforementioned Grandma Blum was supportive and helpful (oh, I miss her!). I had a subscription to Ancestry.com back in the days of dial-up modems and was equally excited and frustrated when things like census images began to be available for online viewing. Excited because YAY, frustrated because DIAL-UP! OMG, I would finally get a page to load and then zoom in and/or move the page and it was pure AGONY to wait while it reloaded... you had time to go to the bathroom or throw in a load of laundry while you waited!

Now it's easy -- sometimes too easy, I fear. There's a lot of inaccurate information out there with no research or sources to back it up, and people willing to accept it. I know first-hand how important it is to DO THE RESEARCH... follow the trail, don't settle. As I recently remarked to a friend who was exasperated with the repetition of given names in her research:

I have a bunch of Peters. Peter and his son Peter and his son Peter and... there was even, in one family, a son Peter who died at a young age so another son was named Peter and, just in case (?) ANOTHER son was also named Peter! I found them referred to as Peter Jr. and Peter Jr. II on land documents!! Muddying the waters even further, brothers Jr. & Jr. II's wives were SISTERS!!

I'd originally thought that Peter Jr. married Eva, then, after Eva's death, her sister Mary... NOPE. Two brothers, both named Peter, married sisters Eva & Mary.

Later, Peter & Eva's sons -- John, Paul, Jake & Peter (of course) -- married sisters Bena, Tilly, Lillian & Rose. John & Bena were my great grandparents.

Anyway, there's a lot of English and German -- I've always thought more German. I've made Grandma Koenig's Apple Kuchen recipe since I was able to slice apples, and her dumplings, as made by my Aunt Arlene... well, it's been years and I still remember how delicious they were (my mother never made them). Her mother had come from Germany as a young girl and never spoke English. I made sauerkraut and pickles with my dad, and I ate Grandma's sulze with Grandpa Blum (learning that at butchering time, nothing was left to waste!). Grandpa Blum's family arrived in New York from Germany in 1855; Grandma's family from England before the Revolution.

A couple of years ago, for Christmas, Rusty & I each spit in a tube and sent them off to Ancestry DNA.

Here's my snapshot:

Ethnicity

My ethnicity estimate shows:

  • Great Britain - 69%
  • Europe East - 13%
  • Europe West - 5%
  • Italy/Greece - 6%
  • Scandinavia - 2%
  • European Jewish - 2%
  • Finland/Northwest Russia - <1%
  • Caucasus - <1%
  • Middle East - <1%

Rusty's, on the other hand:

  • Ireland - 32%
  • Great Britain - 27%
  • Europe West - 20%
  • Scandinavia - 15%
  • Europe East - 5%
  • Finland/Northwest Russia - <1%

So, I guess, kiss HIM! He's a bit more Irish!! 

Read other Think-Write-Thursday contributions here. To sign up for the weekly prompts, click here.


Right now!

Anticipating... Two weeks One week (time flies!) 'til the First Day of Spring!! I'm doubtful that it'll actually feel like spring, but we march on.

Celebrating... Major progress on a big catch-up job! I "celebrated" yesterday by clearing the Christmas detritus, among other things, off my worktable. There's more to do in both of these areas. Moving forward.

Drinking... Tea -- gigantic mugs of Tazo ZEN, and a daily SPORTea from the coffee shop. Also Campari-Orange -- with splashes of gin and club soda.

Eating... We're still cooking at home. I can't remember the last time we went out! I've found some really good recipes on the Weight Watchers site (and am also right around -10 lbs right now).

20170311_083544
Enjoying... This lovely African violet that Rusty picked up on a whim the other day. It's on the kitchen table cheering everyone up!

Hoping... that the tax thing isn't too brutal this year. With the political shit storm happening right now, the task is even more distasteful than usual. What am I paying for...?

Knitting... Helical stripes! I'm on mitt #2. There's also a gnome on the needles, two polar bears with one eye between them (finally getting ready to embroider some eyes). Truth be told, there's an overwhelming jumble (okay, teetering pile) of knitting on my table that's needs attention -- at least two half-finished hats, the remains of several finished projects, and I just don't even know...

Looking forward to... Spain. I'm so happy that we'll be there to help celebrate Mack's 12th birthday!! Las Fallas is gearing up in Valencia now and Ann has been posting the most amazing pictures of light displays and things happening in the city! One of these years, it would be fun to visit during that time. It's so incredibly beautiful... and it all goes up in smoke!

Planning... Guest room renovation... and whole-house shaping up/clearing out! Watch for it this summer.

Reading... Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry (pages), The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (ears).

Sewing... Well, my first attempt at an Alabama Chanin-style dress for Gin was a bust, but I'm ready to try again! Kym was kind enough to share a couple of inspiring Pins with me and now I'm jazzed again. Gin's 1st birthday is coming up in May, and I think I'll shoot for that.

Watching... Marcella. Intense!

20170308_065854

Remembering... Just last week, when I arrived for work at 7 a.m. and it was light in the sky! Thankfully, it will soon come again. (Not a fan of DST.)

Wondering... What's up with you right now!?


New tricks!

Rooting around for some travel knitting that would be suitable to take on the plane (project-of-the-moment on long, straight, aluminum needles gets packed in the checked bag or left behind), I wasn't really coming up with anything that wasn't at a fussy stage.

The first pattern for A Year of Techniques was set for release on March 1st. Though I hadn't yet signed up, all of a sudden I had a yearning for knowledge! I knew the March project required a Zauberball and a set of DPNs, which I already had... ready, set, go!

The pattern is Hyacinthus Armwarmers by Jen Arnall-Culliford and the technique is helical stripes -- knitting spiraling stripes in-the-round. No jog!

Web_20170310_080526

That's neither the Zauberball that I had in mind nor the needles that I began with! My Zauberball was pink & green & white... great colors, but not what I want for armwarmers. Instead, I found a great neutral colorway called DOMINO while I was at The Quarter Stitch in New Orleans. Also, because I know that my knitting is tight on DPNs, I decided to go up a needle size... but my knitting is different with these stripes... so I ended up ripping it all out and beginning again with a size smaller. I like it much better.

Helical stripes! I want to knit them all day! That little bit of yarn is to hold the thumb stitches, and that's my next step. I'm just letting the yarn flow as it may, so sometimes it's more contrasty and other times there's some muddy water.

I think I'm going to use that original pink/green/white colorway to make a helical striped hat for Gin!

And speaking of new techniques, Craftsy is kicking off National Craft Month by offering all classes for under $20I've recently enjoyed a couple of classes about fitting & sewing knits.

Knit-1200x628

Sale ends Monday, March 13th!


Dear March,

We're over a week in already! I spent the better part of the first week in New Orleans, having a blast with my sister. It's a good thing, too, because -- though there are some lovely things to celebrate this month -- it's mostly going to be about nose-to-the-grindstone work of one sort or another, almost all of it leading to TAXES.

I can tell you that I'm really looking forward to the coming weekend. When my day off is on a Monday instead of the usual Wednesday, it sure is a long ways 'til Saturday!

I am looking forward to Daylight Savings Time -- well, not really, but if we have to play around with the clocks, I like the "springing forward" a lot more than the "falling back."

Book Club is coming up in the middle of the month. We read (I listened to) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Heartbreaking, sad, beautiful, uplifting.

My brother's birthday is on St. Patrick's Day, my 13th blogiversary on the First Day of Spring (YAY!!), and an overdue hair appointment a couple of days later (my hair is getting super long) (and also, I've noticed, a bit more "shimmery") (you might call it "gray"). Heh.

And, March, you're also all about The Quit. I smoked my last cigarette close to midnight on March 17, 2005, then tore up the rest and threw them in the trash. The End.

I can't believe it's been a dozen years! And with numbers like those... well, let's just say that I'm more than happy to be spending that money on DOING things and GOING places these days rather than turning it into ash & trash. (And remind myself of that whenever I might begin to feel a little guilty about so much doing and going on).

And, SPRING!! I know you, March, you are volatile. Here in NE Wisconsin, I've experienced everything from blizzards and ice storms, to 70s and bare-toe days over the years. It's looking pretty chilly in the current forecast, and it sure has been windy and dramatic these past few days, but also very beautiful.

I'll take whatever you've got, March. Let's do this!!

Love, Vicki


The Big Easy

Wow. Wow. Wow.

I left Green Bay on Tuesday - Fat Tuesday - bound for New Orleans, with a stop in Chicago. It was very foggy in Green Bay and there was a lot of turbulence on the first leg of my trip. (I learned that later flights from Green Bay that day had been cancelled.) I don't know if the pilots tried to get around it, or what, but we ended up arriving at O'Hare 15 minutes late and I had less than an hour to make my connection to begin with -- others had even less time. Anyway, I wasn't the only one sprinting through the airport -- luckily, the shuttle was perfectly timed -- and I made it! The waiting area was empty, the sign said "final boarding," and I was the last one to get on the plane. Whew!

20170228_142453

I arrived in New Orleans at around 3 p.m. and took a cab from the airport to Ann's Airbnb in the Warehouse District... well, almost. I had a few minutes to kill before she could leave her conference, so found a nice place nearby and sat down for a beer. It was 80F outside, so a little sit down with cold refreshment was quite welcome.

20170228_220656

20170228_220656

I arrived too late to see any parades, but I did see some floats from the taxi -- on the freeway, heading back to wherever they go, with plenty of people still on board!

Back at the Airbnb, we put our feet up for a few minutes and contemplated options for dinner. We ended up at Restaurant August, on the recommendation of one of Ann's friends. It was a lovely dinner in a beautiful space. We (and everyone who dined there that evening) were served a special dish to welcome us -- the most unusual and amazing brown butter custard, topped with cauliflower puree, with a crispy/roasted bit of cauliflower on top of that, all served in an eggshell and presented in an egg cup. It was just a spoonful or two or three, and so unusual not to mention delicious. Ann & I split a hot appetizer on the recommendation of our waiter (we'd been considering only cold options) - potato gnocchi with blue crab, black truffle & parmesan (turns out, I like truffles just not truffle oil) (same thing with almonds vs. almond extract); our entrees were "breaded" flounder with wild mushrooms, shrimp & crab fat, and roasted Mangrove snapper with tasso crab rice & pepper roasted oyster; for dessert we split grapefruit Pavolva with pistachio meringues, local honey (from an apiary on the "north shore" -- of what, I asked -- of Lake Pontchartrain), and rosemary ice cream. Oh, and cocktails! Mine was The Girl from Ipanema (cachaca, oolong tea, lemon, vanilla & sparkling wine) and Ann's was La Pasion Caliente (Cabeza tequila, lime, cilantro, jalapeno & passionfruit). That's a meal to remember!

And then... BOURBON STREET!! I don't have a lot to say about that -- it was crazy, packed, and fun. Not my normal kind of scene but, you know, when in Rome... or New Orleans!

Ann still had a conference day on Wednesday, so I had the day to myself... and a plan.

20170301_100442

I took a walk to Stein's Deli, recommended by Mary on an earlier post, grabbing a coffee at French Truck Coffee on the way.

20170301_100442

Seriously, the internet -- whether a blog or Facebook or Instagram -- is just the best thing these days when a person is traveling and looking for recommendations. I was not disappointed -- Stein's was amazing. I took a number of panoramic photos on the trip, and this was the first from my seat at Stein's, awaiting my delicious turkey sandwich. Atmosphere and people watching... where it's at!

20170301_100442

From Stein's, it was a just a little slide to the left on my way back for a stop at the Needlework Vault. That was a fun shop -- three very chatty ladies, one of whom was formerly a policewoman. I found a little yarn and also a small New Orleans-themed cross-stitch chart.

20170301_100442

On the way home, I spotted the unmistakable triangular tip of a shawl draped over the back of a chair on the monument above and, of course, needed to investigate further! Turns out, I was in Margaret Square, admiring the lovely shawl (and amazing hairstyle) of Margaret Haughery, known as "The Bread Woman of New Orleans" and "Mother of Orphans," among other things.

20170301_114100

Did I mention the weather? Wednesday was also 80F with the dew point at 72! I took my second shower of the day before noon!! Then I walked up a flight of stairs to the roof where I took this 360 panorama of the view. You can see the Crescent City Connection right about in the middle. The "mushroom" building that appears on each side of the photo is called Plaza Tower, and has been vacant & unused since 2002. It's a bit of an eyesore -- okay, fine, it's downright ugly -- full of toxic mold and asbestos.

20170301_100442

We hoofed it everywhere, as neither of us rented a car and, as established, it was 80 degrees on Wednesday & I'd already taken two showers, so I decided to explore my transportation options before heading out again, and settled on mass transit. Bus and trolley stops were nearby, plus there was an app and a $3 day pass. I hopped a trolley and set out for the French Quarter -- destination The Quarter Stitch. That's a lovely shop and, of course, I found a few more things to buy -- including a souvenir fleur-de-lis needle gauge, some 8" US 2 DPNs, and a Crazy Zauberball.

Yes! I jumped! Thanks to Mason-Dixon Knitting and A Year of Techniques, I am knitting helical stripes. (More about that later... it's so cool!)

I hopped a trolley for the return trip, but my inexperience as a user of mass transit showed as I missed my stop and, la-di-da-di-da, ended up riding to the end of the line! I hopped off and got back on and was only 40+/- stops and an hour late meeting Ann. It was a nice main-drag tour of the Garden District, though!

We'd planned to go to a concert at Lafayette Square on Wednesday evening, but nothing was happening when we showed up -- it's possible that it was cancelled due to the threat of thunderstorms. It's not like you can't find music & food in New Orleans... so we did a quick little search and ended up at Killer Poboys at Erin Rose. Hello yum.

20170301_181532
20170301_181532

20170301_214728

We also did some club-hopping and dancing! I may even have had a seat on the "LOVE TRAIN" that snaked through Fat Catz...

Thankfully, Thursday dawned much cooler and less humid. We'd wanted to go on a tour of some sort, and decided on bikes. Andrew was our most excellent (and truthful) guide on the Queen of the South tour at FreeWheelin' Bike Tours - a little bit of history, a little bit of architecture, a whole lotta fun.

20170302_143717
20170302_143717
20170302_143717

From the moment I knew I was going to New Orleans, I knew I wanted to eat at Emeril's -- it makes me think of Maddy because she was such a fan of his TV show -- and that's where we had reservations for dinner on Thursday evening. It was just a bit more casual than Restaurant August, which suited us, but the service was just as fine or better -- Herman & Tim stood out and were most helpful & attentive. Ann & I shared Emeril's New Orleans BBQ Shrimp appetizer (served with a delicious petite rosemary biscuit), Ann had drum and I had swordfish, and it was free banana cream pie day, so we split that for dessert. Oh, cocktails: I had the "Grasshopper" -- not the ice cream version -- it was made with Hendrick's gin, cucumber water, lime juice, wheatgrass, and jalapeno simple syrup (yes, it had some zip!), and Ann had a Moscow Mule (she'd never had one before).

We hung out a little closer to home that night, having a beverage and then catching a free comedy show at The Howlin' Wolf.

We started slowly on Friday. Ann had to deal with a little stomach bug in the wee hours of the morning, and thankfully that's all it was. Eventually, we headed out for beignets!!

IMG_20170303_155906_404

And a really good sandwich, too, but BEIGNETS... at Cafe Beignet! We went to the Royal Street location because if it's good enough for Alton Brown... oh, so yummy.

Ann had an order from Addy in Spain for Cheez-Its, so we were in need of a grocery store... we contemplated taking Lyft to a big box store, but prices were still pretty jacked and those would be some pretty expensive crackers! We stopped and asked a pedicab driver if there were any full-size grocers nearby and we ended up getting a ride to Rouse's. She stocked up on things like peanut butter, cereal, and snacks (I'd already fulfilled an order for a couple bottles of maple syrup), and then we carried it all back to our flat -- stopping for refreshment on the way!

Our final restaurant destination was Peche on Friday evening. This was the most casual of our "fine dining" establishments. We'd been shown directly to our tables at Restaurant August and at Emeril's, and made it a point to arrive early at Peche in order to enjoy the scene and a drink at the bar. I had a delicious cocktail called Morris Day (Nolet's dry gin, thyme, grapefruit, lemon & tonic) and Ann had the Gintilly Shakedown (Hendrick's gin, ginger, cucumber, lemon & cava). Actually, I had two.

IMG_20170303_155906_404

IMG_20170303_155906_404

And oysters!! I'd never had raw oysters before... so that was interesting, and good! Meanwhile, Ann had struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to her and we got on so well that we invited her to join us for dinner. Turns out she's originally from Michigan, is a knitter and omni-crafter, and her husband was our bartender! We chatted & laughed & ate the most amazing food -- a collection of shared small plates including steak tartar, caviar, snapper collar, fish sticks, and tuna spread. And also wine.

Ann and I talked about going out for a bit more music & dancing, but we were pooped by the time we got back...

And I had to be curb-side, waiting for my cab, at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday morning! Ann's departure was a bit later, but she had a lot of packing to do.

20170304_054037

When I checked in at the airport in New Orleans, there was a message at check-in that the flight from Chicago to Green Bay was overbooked and I had the option of possibly taking a later flight in return for a voucher. And that's exactly what I did. I had knitting, an audio book, and all day. I was more than happy to take a travel voucher (and a few meal vouchers) in exchange for my seat!

20170304_091031

Too early to return? There's SO MUCH left to do!! We didn't go to a single museum and didn't hear nearly enough music!

Meanwhile, Ann informed me that next year's conference is in Nashville! And as I spent the day at O'Hare, Kate was busy booking our flights to SPAIN!!

What's that they say??   A rolling stone gathers no moss...