Looking forward

The other day we startled some deer that were bedded down in a hollow near the road. It has been warm for December so it was a misty morning. They leaped up and ran up the hill turning to look at us when they were a safe distance away.

It seems like this is the time of the year that we look back too. We add up what went well and also our mistakes. Then we make resolutions to change our lives. Well I am not going to. While there is nothing wrong with New Year resolutions- they can make even the best of us feel failures. So I am not going to resolve to lose weight(even though I should) or to read 100 books(and make some of them non-fiction) or learn to crochet(although I would love to be able to). I am not even going to say that I want to make a certain sweater because if I do I will be asked how it is coming and then I might have to confess that it is under the bed in a box with other unfinished ideas.

I considered for a night joining in the January selfish knitting Kal but even that is just too big of a commitment. Or maybe me stating that is selfish–maybe I will be selfish and just be me. I really don’t want to say that I will knit for myself when I know I will knit a toy or two for kids I don’t know. Or I will see a friend with out a nice pair of mittens and I will quickly whip out a pair. And I know that I will reread Game of Thrones before I finish Dawn of Zoology(which I started 2 years ago). And I won’t stop eating chocolate chip cookies warm out of the oven in order to 10 pounds.

Take me or leave me I am 56 years old and too old to change.  The other deer in my herd might be shaking there heads at me thinking she is an odd one but thats ok. I am happy to just putter along and read whatever and knit what I want and eat chocolate.

So while the other deer look back I think I will just look forward and do my best and not set any goals that I can’t meet.

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the first walk on the lake

I was very excited on Wens. we drove to the cabin and although the lake was still open we were able to walk in the bay. I think we were the first ones to venture out in the bay there were no other footprints. It was quiet and the air was crisp with an occasional boing sound that the ice makes when it is forming. Meva had a lot of fun exploring along the shore sniffing in all the nooks and cranniesthe ice wasn’t clear like it is sometimes–I could not see through to the bottom.  But I still enjoy looking at the patterns
as we walked out of the bay I saw the expansion joint that is there every year. As the ice get thicker I will be able to look down and judge how thick it is. Right now I would guess the ice is about 4″.

the crack in the ice looks like a road carved into the frozen water. I wonder how the water knows just where the road belongs.
the air is crispy and the ice is crunchy under our feet.there is a gaggle of geese by the open water. Gaggle is such a funny name and usually the geese are honking and gaggle seems like an appropriate name for the group. But today they are silent. 

I can under stand why they are quiet when I look to the right there are several eagles a short distance away. I know not the best pictures but I was not going to walk out further where the ice is thinner.

the eagles seem to be quietly waiting for an opportunity . Maybe they will get a goose or maybe a fish. Or maybe they are just enjoying the first ice like we are

Winter at last

Christmas has come and gone – we have been pleasantly busy here on the lake. It’s been the everyday business keeping us busy. You know the normal day to day things. We had a nice X-mas with our son coming over for dinner. We shared a few laughs and a few drinks and cooked dinner. The mister and I had eaten a little earlier, since we belong to the elderly eat dinner at 3:00 crowd now. So my son and I worked on his dinner together- a grilled steak and hot peppers stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon and brussel sprouts sauted in a pan with the left over bacon. We sipped a nice Malbec wine from Chile while we sliced, diced and talked. Then we descended into the man cave. Well the man cave isn’t really a man cave its more of an entertainment center with 2 tvs one for watching cable and the other for computer link ups. 2 couches/daybeds  and 2 electronic recliners- add a heated floor, a wet bar/small kitchenette and a person could live down here. So it was down to the cave to watch a movie and then for the night’s more important entertainment—-the Green Bay Packers vs da Bears. It was a terrific game. The Packers were favored to win but after the last dismal game last week where it seemed the real Packers did not show up to play -it was hard to say what the outcome of the game would be. To be fair last week the Packers had a lot of injuries but it didn’t seem like they had shown up to play. They were distracted and missing. But the Chiefs were on the ball. They played hard and  make few mistakes. They true-ly deserved to win. But back to the Bears vs Packers, both teams played well–it was an exciting game to watch. And by the second half  we were all pretty sure of a Packer win.

Now its on to the Lions vs the Pack. Another home game so the Packers are sure to be favored. Usually I am fine with either side winning when it’s the Lions and Packers. After all I was born in Detroit but this year it has to be the Pack. I’m sorry the Lions play dirty and I don’t want to see them win. But most of all I just hope no-one gets hurt. It is too bad really because the Lions have a good team and if they could clean up their act and get the penalties under control I think they could have had a shot. Well maybe next year for the Lions. This year the Packers will go all the way.

Well enough of the sports commentary after all I am a knitter I should leave the sports commentary to those who know more than I. Right now I am hard at work…well actually if I am writing here that means that I am avoiding work(sorry Al) …ok so I am kind of working on a couple of things.

I have a couple of patterns almost done and a couple more that are still in rough draft stage. And I busily knitting so I can take some pictures to share with you. And we are taking a small break at the cabin, we needed to check on things. It is colder here and the lake is frozen in the bays but open in the middle. But we did manage to get out for a walk on the ice. I love to walk on the ice. we were the first ones to venture out on the ice in our bay. There were no other footprints in the thin frosting of snow on the ice. We explored in the nooks and crannies on the shore. And peered through the clear ice under our feet and marveled at the quiet, crisp air. The only sound was the occasional boing sound of ice forming. Looking out towards the open water in the middle we could see a gaggle of geese. What a apt name for a group of geese. It makes me giggle to think of the noise they make –geese do gaggle and honk. Several yards away from the geese were some other very large black birds that we couldn’t quite make out. But we could see 5 of  them huddled along the edge of the ice. And 2 flying. Marty commented that he wished we had brought binoculars as we watched them- sure that we were watching bald eagles. And then I remembered my camera. But even with the lens set on the closest setting I couldn’t make out what they were. But I snapped several pictures and then used the telephoto lever to zoom in some more on the digital pictures I took and then we could see the white heads and tails of the mature eagles in this crowd and could see the immature eagles without the distinctive markings. Tomorrow when we are rested I will load up some of these pictures.   They probable aren’t that good but I am always thrilled to see these magestic birds. And I was thrilled to see the eagles out on the ice but I didn’t dare walk out any further to take pictures.

Going to town

I went into Milwaukee yesterday and delivered cookie treats to my son’s office. I had so much fun– we went out to lunch at the Comet. He told me it was one of his best hangouts when he was in high school. The things a mom does not know. I guess if he had told me when he was a teenager I might have wanted to take him there to eat and then how could it be his hangout. Or maybe this is where the boys would have lunch when they skipped 5th hour class.

But this is a terrific place for lunch. We split a Cuban sandwich which was delicious- it’s pork and homemade pickles on ciabota bread. Then had an order of brussel sprouts and twice baked cheesy potatoes on the side. The cheesy potatoes were his favorite back in the day so I had to order those. And the brussel sprouts were perfectly braised in beer.  He shared stories with me and we laughed and had a great time. All too quickly it was time to drive  back to work.

Today work is having a potluck lunch and he will share the treats. I laughed when I packed up the treats yesterday thinking how I used to make treats for homeroom when he was in school. All too quickly my children grew up. But I don’t think he minds that I still bring treats for him. I have been doing it several years now starting when he worked at the shelter. Its little things like my trip yesterday that put me in the mood for Christmas. Packing a tin with cookies and brittle and even some coal(wrapped pieces of chocolate) topped with a x-mas pig. I found this funny orange pig with purple polka dots thats has the most realistic oink when you squeeze him and put a big red bow around his neck.

Then I made some mice. You know the whole ‘not a creature was stirring not even a mouse’. Well I had bought a kit for halloween and its to make candy covered pretzels. I love chocolate sweets with some salty crunch but I never got around to making these. So I pulled out the kits and discarded the skull and bat themed molds. But there were also rats and figured I would just call them big mice. Then instead of a pretzel I decided to use peppermint sticks for the tails. It was a last minute thing I wish I had thought of it before because I would have gotten hooked candy canes instead -they would have looked so much cuter. The kit is from Wilton Celebrate With Wilton – Create Beautiful Wilton Cakes, Cookies, Cupcakes & Candy With Wilton Decorating Techniques.

Here is another close up
 What you don’t think it is Christmas-sy?

On the way home I stopped at Popeyes for chicken. We love the fried chicken and red beans and rice.

And if this wasn’t a great day look what Marty worked on while I was gone.A shelf for my room. My room is a small room on the first floor. I have the day bed shown here with lots of yarn stuffed under it. My desk and computer is here and another wall of shelves that is packed full. so now I have a new shelf   and soon there will be a couple of cork boards to pin ideas on.

And last but not least here is a knit that I finished last night. I have been test knitting  this pattern. And I must say I like the shaping and the details. I think the details really finish off a design. And this giraffe is cute and full of personality.

I didn’t hear from the winner of the owl drawing so I am I had my daughter pick a number and the winner this time is Julianne. So Julianne please contact me I have an Howell the Owl pattern for you and a hand dyed yarn kit for an Owlett.

Its Beginning to Smell a Lot Like X-mas

Ok that sounds like a 8 year old boy’s funny version of a Christmas carol — but I am juvenile enough that I am going to stick with that title. Besides smells really are a big part of our memories. Who doesn’t smell cinnamon and vanilla without remembering a cookie from their childhood. Or smell lavender and think of freshly laundered sheets at Gram-ma’s house.

I said I don’t do X-mas and also that I was going to relax this week but I couldn’t help myself Sunday after watching a rather dismal football game, I had to do something to cheer myself up. So I hauled out the flour + sugar and butter + eggs and got to work. Actually baking is one of my favorite things so it isn’t work at all. I have many recipes for cookies but I wanted quick  and simple so I went to a recipe that I modified from an old Fannie Farmer Cookbook. It’s one that my mother made all the time when I was a kid. My Mom filled 3 big tins with cookies — there were oatmeal cookies and chocolate chips and if we were really good pinwheel cookies.

The great thing about pinwheel cookies is you make the 2 doughs and then roll them up jelly roll style and wrap them and throw them in the fridge or freezer. If you have them made up ahead of time you can slice and bake for fresh cookies at a moments notice. And they look fancy!

Pinwheel Cookies just like Mom’s

white layer

1/2 cup butter

2/3 cup brown sugar    1/3 cup white sugar

1 egg              1 tsp vanilla

1  1/2 cup of flour   1/4 tsp of salt and cream of tartar

cream together butter and sugar in your mixing bowl. add egg and vanilla-beat till fluffy. mix in dry ingrediants.  roll into a rectangle between 2 sheets of wax paper. set aside and make chocolate layer.

chocolate layer is the same as the white layer adding 6 TBS of cocoa powder and 2 TBS of butter. mix in the same bowl as the white(see how I saved a little cleaning by making the vanilla layer first). roll into a rectangle shape between two pieces of wax paper. Don’t worry if you don’t have a rolling pin you can use a wine bottle instead or a glass from your cupboard. Now its time for the hard part– after you have rolled out each dough into a rectangle shape take the top sheet of wax paper off and then put one dough on top of the other. Whew! now take the top sheet of paper off the 2 doughs and now roll up your dough jelly roll fashion. you need to chill the dough/jelly roll for a while (1 hour)before slicing the cookies to bake. This is where you can wrap the dough and tuck it into the freezer for a rainy day when you want cookies but don’t have time to mix them.

When you are ready to bake preheat your oven to 400*  cut the cookies into 1/4″ slices. pop them on to a cookie sheet and admire how clever you are as you admire the swirls of vanilla and chocolate then bake for 8 minutes or so until they are done.

Now you don’t have to stop here this recipe can be altered and changed very easily. My family loves orange flavors instead of the vanilla so I substitute 2 tsp of orange extract for the vanilla. I also use dark chocolate cocoa powder instead of regular. I always throw 1/2 cup dry powdered milk into my cookie doughs for the extra calcium and so I can convince myself this is a health food not just a sweet treat.

Another favorite of my daughter’s is when I grind up candy canes and substitute them for some of the white sugar. This time I added 1/3 cup of chopped up candy canes for the same amount of sugar. Every one knows that peppermint and chocolate is yummy!

Last I made a batch of ginger swirls. I made an orange layer for the outside and a ginger spiced layer for the inside by adding 1/2 tsp ginger and cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg  and used 1/3 of a cup of blackstrap molasses and took out the egg yolk to make up for the liquid. I saved the egg yolk and put it in coconut crack cookies another favorite of someone I know! This was a hit too but I think next time I will make the ginger swirls with the darker spiced dough on the outside. With the lighter dough on the outside these cookies look a little like dog treats.

I am sure that you can come up with all kinds of ideas for a swirl cookie of your own using flavors that you like. Maybe a mocha chocolate with a swirl of cinnamon. Or maybe a nut layer. Chia swirls…..well you get the idea. When you are altering a recipe though remember your ratio of fat/butter to sugar and flour needs to remain the same, but you can still play around and come up with a special cookie to call your own.

As I was writing this post and thinking about my Mom’s kitchen and the delicious aromas that filled the air as she baked—- a wonderful package arrived in the mail from my brother Tim and his family. THANK YOU. It is the best!Funny how I am reminiscing about smells of baking and thinking about my Mom and the big potato chip tins that were refilled weekly as I grew up- that this would arrive in the post this morning.

I am speechless and need to page through this right now.

I almost forgot to add that I haven’t heard from 122XXXX yet send me an e-mail so I can send you a kit. If I haven’t heard by tonight I will draw a new winner tomorrow.

Sunrise

I wanted to share my morning with you. I have been waking up slowly these days. Puppy has had trouble sleeping through the night which translate to no-one gets to sleep through the night. But how can you stay mad at her when she looks at you like this in the morning. Meva turned 6 at the end of November so she really isn’t a puppy. But she also doesn’t act like an adult. She is our best bud (even when she keeps us up at night).

I enjoy slow mornings like this they don’t happen often, usually we all head out for a brisk walk and then home again for breakfast. Mornings like this I lie in bed and watch the sunrise through the oak branches. The colors are doubled with the reflection from the lake. I keep watching for ice but we had a warm up last week that melted some of the ice. I don’t think the lake will freeze this week.

I don’t have much planned today. I can relax I have a test knit on my needles that will be worked on. And I have some reading to catch up on. And later maybe I will nap and catch up on the sleep I lost.

There is a winner

Calling out to 122XXXX you have won your very own owlett kit. please send me an e-mail so I can get it in the mail.

This has been so much fun for me that I have decided that I  must run a drawing for the next pattern too.

I am trying to decide which pattern to finish next– I have 3 that have all the notes written but they have to be edited and tested still.

there is Billy and PetuniaI am really happy with the pattern and have written the notes. I still would like to knit a mini before I give my notes to Alice to work her magic on. But I love these little fingers and that long curly pink tail. There is something about  possums — I know some people think they look like large rats but I love possums. We have one that lives in the neighbors wood pile and visits our yard at the cabin. And I think he is adorable.

Next up is another long tailed creature Mr. Monk and monk 1, 2 & 3. I know not very imaginative names. And there are probable a million versions of the sock monkey out there. But  mine has his very own pocket to keep a banana in. And the little guys are quite amusing they swing from the trees and perform all kinds of acrobatic tricks. when I was a kid there were ads in the back of comic books where you could buy a little spider monkey. I remember my brother and I trying to convince my mom that she should let us get a monkey. Finally I get to live out my dream of a pet monkey with monk 1, 2 & 3

And last but not least is the fox family. This time I am working backwards I have already done some minis and need to do the large version. The biggest of the three fox Freddie has recently decided to strike out on his own and is off on an adventure.

Thats what next for me. Let me know which guy you like best, it might influence my decision. Other than that I am looking forward to a quiet week in Okauchee watching the ice form on the lake(more exciting than watching paint dry{really I am not crazy I am really eager to see ice and all the cold it brings}).

Owls in the Snow

I am pretty excited about giving a yarn kit away to make a Owlet but unfortunately I am not very tech savy. So while I am waiting for some computer help to post my pattern on ravelry I thought I would post a picture of the some of the kits I have made this week. I think the center kit is my favorite. 

I love winter time at our cabin late at night you can hear the owls call in Gallager’s field. When there is a fresh snow fall sometimes you can track an owl. Ok about now you might be shaking your head and thinking this is one crazy knitter, owls fly how do you track them in the snow. Well just so you don’t think I am crazy here are a couple of pictures from last winter.see those marks in the snow that almost look like the angel wings that children make. Those I believe are from the wings of an owl, made when it swoops down to capture its prey. We come across these often at the cabin when we walk in the early morning. Sometimes we will see the burrowing trail of a mouse or vole and then a pair of angel wings near by where an owl captured its dinner.Once a local owl even left us a present on our deck. I heard him late at night and he was so loud calling and calling. When I got up the next morning laying on the deck was a pellet. Now you will probable go yuk when I explain that an owl regurgitates what he isn’t able to digest. So why would anyone be excited to find owl barf on their deck. Well a neighbor’s son and I later pulled this pellet apart to see what the owl had been eating and found a tiny little skull and part of a jaw bone and some leg bones.

If you want to learn more about owls Owl Brand Online Guide . You can even purchase owl pellets from this company here Owl Brand Discovery Kits – Barn Owl Pellets – Pellet Dissection.

If you want to look at my pattern go here  Ravelry: Howell the Owl Pocket Pal pattern by Mary Jo Martinek  Not a member– its free and there are tons of patterns and also lots of members who have great suggestions and ideas in the forums.

hooting and howellering

I have written in the post on Thursday that my daughter and I are finishing a pattern for an owl. well we are getting closer to releasing and I thought  that I would talk a little about the yarns I have been using for my minis specifically for the owlet. I am giving away a kit with a pattern for the owl. Included in the kit is almost everything you need to finish an owlet. You will need to supply the knitting needles and thread and a sewing needle and a little stuffing to finish.

Oh and about 5 hours of time to unwind and relax and knit.

the yarn is a sock weight merino wool blended with nylon. When I get the yarn it is naked. Ok it undyed. I take it up to our cabin and play with it out in my garden. I start a fire in our fire pit and set a pot of water on a swinging grill that I can move over the fire or off if it gets too hot. I am not terrible scientific about this–I really just play trying this and that until I get a result I like. I have a few books that I read with recipes that are written by people with far more knowledge than I have. But usually I just play combining things and using plants just to see if they willing to give up some of their color onto my yarn.

Sometimes I am disappointed and just get a pale tan color and other times the colors are vibrant and almost neon like this yellow. A pale color doesn’t do much for me. And one that is too shockingly yellow is too intense to use in my stranded knitting. So then I over dye. In the fall of this year I foraged in the morning loading my pockets with walnuts that had fallen on the ground. My pocket were like the cheeks of a squirrel gathering acorns for the winter. I dug the nuts out of the husk and put the husk in a bucket of water to soak. The walnuts I put out for the squirrels to steal away. The walnuts quickly gave up their color and in a week I was throwing hanks of yarn in the bottom of the buckets and letting them soak up the rich browns in the water. My buckets are still in the shed and I am using to over dye some of the yarn that is either too pale or too bright for my projects. some of the yarn like the one above is perfect from the get go. The golden yellow color of the dried dahlia blossoms is beautiful and I won’t alter it one bit.others like this one is enhanced by dipping the skien a second time.It allows me to tame the yellow and oranges a bit and soften them and also to create richer browns that have layers of color. I never know what I might get the same flower that I try in early summer might yield a different color in the fall. And just because a flower is orange doesn’t mean the yarn will be orange in fact it probable won’t be. My colors are not as intense as they might be if I used chemical dyes but I love them and as I knit this winter they remind me of the promise of warm days and sunshine to come.

so what do you have to do to win a kit, just post a comment or better yet subscribe and become a follower of my blog and tomorrow when we release our pattern on Ravelry I will draw one person to win a kit and pattern.

updated to note that the pattern is released now and you can find it here

Ravelry: Howell the Owl Pocket Pal pattern by Mary Jo Martinek

Hallelujah for a no shopping Xmas

Its been a bustle of activity here lately–with boxes stacked everywhere. Ingrediants for  candy is measured in bowls on the counter and dirty pots and pans stacked in the sink. I make my candy two batches at a time then I soak the pans and bowls in the sink to help the crystalized sugar melts and is easier to scrub. I made 10 batches of brittle this week. I have it down to a science I first make one batch on the stovetop and when that one is cooling on the counter,  I soak the pan in water and start a second batch in a glass bowl in the microwave. Its the same recipe that I clipped out of the paper years ago for peanut brittle. But I have altered it and refined it and it isn’t reconizable as the same recipe. Mine is chock full of cashews instead of peanuts and large flakes of coconut and has festive red dots of cranberries. Then I bath it in white chocolate and set it aside until the chocolate is firm and break it into pieces. And this year I have added sprinkles to the top in green and gold the Packer colors. As the week draws to a close I can breath a sigh of relief I have only 2 packages to finish and mail –then I am done. I am proud of myself I have avoided the stores and the maddening crowds. My knits will keep my loved ones warm and the candy is a special delicacy that they would not be able to find in even the fanciest candy store.

Its a good feeling to be done — when I go out to the grocery store and the clerk cheerily ask if I have gotten my X-mas shopping done I can reply “oh no I don’t go in for all that hoopla- I haven’t been to the mall.”

And yesterday when the lady at Ben Franklins asked me if I was making a X-mas present with the fabric she was cutting for me I was able to say “no this is just for me I have all my presents done and mailed”.

I don’t know if my way is faster but I love knitting and baking so it is fitting that I make my presents. I really am not comfortable in crowds of people trying to find a certain size or toy. Sure I still go to the store but it is a local yarn store or craft store. It is theraputic to fondle soft balls of yarn and picture a loved one in the perfect shade of blue or rose. And it is a present that gives twice because I get to enjoy knitting with it before I gift it. It really is a win-win all the way around. But as much as I enjoy it I am always happy when the last box is ready to be shipped—–

so—- Hallelujah!

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