Saturday, February 25, 2012

Making Jam

When I took the last jar of raspberry jam from the shelves in the spare bedroom closet I knew it was time to make another batch.  Saturday is often baking day, and today was no exception.  The orange/cranberry loaf was ready to go into the oven just when the 15 Saskatoon muffins came out.  It was still only noon hour, so lots more could happen today.

I got a gallon ice cream pail of frozen raspberries from the freezer in the garage.  That's the freezer for fruit, with a few other things: two turkeys, a bag of chicken breasts and some bags of home grown vegetables.

Using the 12 quart pot I melted the raspberries gradually, and then added 16 cups of sugar and one lump of butter to keep it from foaming too much.  This mixture boiled for 25 minutes, and then I added one pkg of "No Sugar Added" pectin, just for insurance (because sometimes boiled jams are quite runny, not that we mind.)
So here by 2 p.m. is the fruit of my labor: 9 pint jars of jam, and 1 one cup jar (for giving away).

So, for not too much effort today we have 15 healthy (low fat and low sugar) muffins with lots of berries in them, one good sized loaf of cranberry/orange bread (what Jim calls "that nice bread") and enough jam (without additives) to last a few months, depending on how many jars I give away.  Wouldn't you like some?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Like Magic

Knitting always seems a little bit like magic to me.  Yesterday morning there was just a ball of yarn and some needles.  This evening there is almost a whole sock.  (It helped that I couldn't sleep anymore after 3:30 this morning, so I got up and knitted!)

I was going to cast on the Double Heelix sock pattern, but decided to make this plainer pair for our dear son-in-law first.  Dear daughter #2 and family are coming for a visit during spring break, and I like to have something hand made for each of them when they arrive.

The D.D. #2 gets the "Skew Socks."  For the dear granddaughter I'm making a cute pink cotton jacket with white flowers.  So I thought the DSIL could use a pair of socks--same pattern and yarn that I made for the grandson in December (which he loves.)  I bought the yarn at Mary Maxim some years ago, at their tent sale one summer when we happened to stop there on just the right day.  And the dear grandson will probably get a jean vest.  I've had a pattern for decades and finally cut one out yesterday.  We'll see how it turns out, if it's good enough to give to him.

The red heart table topper was the first of many that I made from a quilting pattern.  The pattern has a wide outer border with scalloped edges, but when I made this first try with the pattern I was using scraps and didn't have enough eyelet for a larger version.  These were the table toppers that I took along as "hostess" gifts on our trip in 2009 when we visited so many of my cousins.

Here I'm modelling the completed shawl.  Jim took the picture for me.  The picture hanging on the wall is one I took in 1995 just north of Churchill, Manitoba when we went to see the polar bears.  There are interesting lichens on the rocks, and, fortunately, no bears in sight.

The snow forecasted for the weekend has already begun.  We're debating, should we drive to southern Alberta tomorrow or early Sunday morning?  We'll see what the weather's like tomorrow, and then decide.  One thing in favor of Sunday morning is that there's hardly any traffic on the roads at that time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Finish

Last night I finished the shawl for Hilda.  Here's a photo of it being blocked on the spare bed.  It's still on the Denise needles with the longest cable possible.  I did that to give the edge some stability while it was being blocked.

When it was completely dry I  bound it off loosely.  It's not quite as long as I would have liked, and somewhat wider than I preferred, probably due to my change in the needle size from U.S. 11's to
U.S. 9's.  But I still think it's very pretty.  What doesn't show up in the photo is the little bit of sparkle throughout as the yarn included a small percentage of metallic.

I started this shawl on January 17, and finished a few other projects in the meantime.  We plan to go down to Southern Alberta this coming weekend and plan to see her then.  I'm happy that it's finished and can be given to her then.  We just have to hope that the heavy snowstorm predicted for Saturday/Sunday doesn't materialize!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Must Be the Weather!

We've been enjoying mild afternoons that feel spring-like.  The overnight lows are still well below freezing.  This morning the thermometer registered -14ºC, which corresponds to +10F.  Not exactly balmy!  But this afternoon we're up to +7ºC, or +44ºF, which in Alberta in February qualifies for a great day!  And that's not the first afternoon this week in that territory.

That must be why I've been on a "spring-cleaning" binge this past week.  It started when I saw a neighbour doing some deep cleaning, came home and got down on my hands and knees and started scrubbing the linoleum.  Well, that felt good!  I really, really enjoy a clean house.  So I did some more scrubbing on Monday.

Tuesday and Wednesday are teaching days, so no big cleaning projects happen.  But yesterday was the day for it to happen!

First thing in the morning I hauled everything out of the back hall, including the shelf and rack for hanging jackets and the rack for setting up shoes and boots.  Jim helped me move the washer and dryer away from the wall.  I took down the shelves and quilt racks that are up for decoration.  But I couldn't find any paint roller handles, so I went to the Home Hardware at 9 a.m., bought some paint, tray liners and rollers and got to work.

First I painted the ceiling.  What a difference!  How encouraging!  Fresh, pure white.  Then I washed the walls with TSP and painted them.  Somewhere along in here I cooked dinner and took off enough time to sit with the Dear One and eat it.  Then I scrubbed the floors and painted the baseboards.

Poor Dickens had to stay outside all day because if I let him in he would surely put his paws in the paint, if not his nose or tail.

Late in the evening I put his food and water dishes back, put his kitty litter where it usually is and his pink cushion on top of the washer.  He's confined to the back hall every night, and settles right down until breakfast time.

This morning I worked at putting everything back: rehanging the shelves (something of a hassle), carefully cleaning the racks for coats and shoes, rehanging the coats and arranging the shoes and boots, screwing the outlet covers back onto the walls, and cleaning the cupboard underneath the sink.

Everything in there is as clean as possible.  What a treat!  Now let's see, which room is next?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Not Much

Not much unusual happening lately.  Regular teaching, reading, knitting--almost finished with the lacy shawl.  I want to finish that by this weekend, because the following weekend we hope to see our friend and give the shawl to her.

I'm also eager to start knitting the "Double Heelix" sock pattern from, but won't start that until the shawl is finished.

Yesterday we had a meeting of the town quilt club, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.  I spray basted this wall hanging together and got started quilting it.  It's a Lorraine Stangness design and kit which I bought two years ago.  I figure it's time to finish it and have it hanging somewhere by the time spring arrives.

We're enjoying a milder than usual winter here.  Jim is able to work outside or in one of the greenhouses almost every afternoon.  And I've gotten myself out the door two mornings this week for a brisk  2 1/2 mile walk, minus my walking partner, who is stuck at home with a broken ankle.  She's doing well, but it will be a while before she can even put some weight on it.

Grammilou's Bookshelf
I want to recommend an excellent book that Jim and I have just finished reading:
The Social Animal by David Brooks, subtitled "The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement."  Extremely well written, very interesting ideas and insights.  This book will help you understand yourself, the people in your family and workplace, their motivations and idiosyncrasies. A very worthwhile read.  I heartily recommend it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

I Promised....

I promised to show the shawl I was working on, and then didn't post for several days.  I'm sorry!  This is what happened: early Tuesday morning Jim came down with the violent flu that our DDIL had the previous Saturday.  I went to sleep downstairs in the guest bedroom, very worried that I would be next--worried because I have to teach violin lessons on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I was fine----until 15 minutes after the last lesson on Wednesday when I started feeling yucky.  It was my turn!

By the end of last week we were both feeling a lot better, and also feeling as if we had missed a lot.  Now we're back up to speed and enjoying our sunny February.

Here's a picture of the shawl at an early stage.  There are eight sections to each row.  I was finding at the end of the row that I had made a mistake in counting somewhere along the way, and the pattern wasn't working out.  So I finally got a bright idea: I marked off each section with a safety pin for a stitch marker.  That way I found out at the end of the section, not at the end of the row that I had made a mistake.  It made a lot less "backward" knitting!

Here's the shawl this afternoon.

Because I am knitting on U.S. #9 rather than U.S. #11, it's much smaller than it should be.  So I'm extrapolating the pattern to make it longer.  I'm already up to Row #97, whereas the pattern bound off at Row #86.  I will keep on knitting until the ball of yarn is used up.  Then I'll have to decide whether or not to order another ball.

We hope to see our friend the last weekend of this month, so I'd better decide pretty soon.  Blocking the shawl when the knitting is finished will, of course, add a bit to the overall length.

I think it's very pretty.  It's extremely light weight--it is lace, and the yarn is partly metallic, so there are little sparkles throughout.