Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Boo!



The jack o'lanterns are carved and the costumes are ready. I have three and a half pounds of candy. Halloween is here!

We carved our pumpkins on Sunday afternoon and photographed them after it got dark (sorry for the blurry children!). This year we have a dragon (by the Bear), a skull and crossbones (the LB), and a chicken (by the GB, in what I presume is a tribute to the late Caramel Hen). I don't normally carve my own pumpkin; I help out but mainly observe and clean up. We tried them with candles in the backyard just to see how they looked on Sunday evening, and we'll put them out front with candles tonight when it gets dark outside.

What is Halloween like where you are? Here, we go out trick-or-treating in costumes from about six to eight in the evening, collecting candy or little trinkets (pencils, glow sticks, etc.) at neighborhood houses. Most neighbors participate, but a few will leave the lights off or even hang a sign on the front of their house letting people know that they do not take part in Halloween. We used to have a neighbor who would serve hot dogs in his driveway for kids and parents alike; he moved to Seattle a couple of years ago. Many neighbors go all out with decorations. We have our spider lights on the front gate and we'll put our jack o'lanterns on the front walk for a spooky welcome.

I think Halloween has become a much nicer event than it was when I was a kid. People don't even do the same things anymore. I don't know if it's the times, or the place (I didn't grow up here), but it's different now. We had a lot of fun, don't get me wrong, but there was much more mayhem and a fair amount of destructive behavior - pumpkins smashed in the street, eggs thrown at houses and cars, toilet paper in the trees, all kinds of nasty stuff in mailboxes. In my neighborhood, there were police patrolling all night long, breaking up large groups of kids, questioning everyone and searching bags. The night before Halloween was much worse, actually, and we always knew it as Mischief Night. You don't see that kind of stuff now, though, which is really for the best. Halloween seems more wholesome now, at least where we are.

Tonight is supposed to be very cold. We had another storm come through last night, bringing rain to us and snow on the mountain. I'm just getting glimpses of it as the clouds begin to break up this morning. It's the first real snow of the season in the foothills. Tonight, we should have our first freeze. I'm a little nervous about the cold while trick-or-treating; this morning, the weather forecast said it will be the coldest Halloween night since 1991! Scaaaary. We'll just have to bundle up and move quick.

I hope you have a wonderful Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ripples and raindrops

Hello! How are you doing? I'm well, but what a week we've been having here. We had a big storm over Tuesday and Wednesday - related to Hurricane Willa, I think - which brought us an incredible amount of rain. We had something like two and half inches at our house, which is pretty major for a fall storm, and it was the best kind of storm we could hope for in our drought-stricken area. It rained lightly, sometimes moderately, for about 36 hours, which means that the rain really got a chance to soak in. I'm hopeful that the rest of this fall and winter will bring more good storms. Miss GB had a school field trip to a nature center in the mountains during the rain and came home soaked through and covered in mud, giving me lots of cleaning and laundry, but she had a wonderful time.

We also had an unfortunate hen loss this week; one of our younger three hens, Caramel, died on Wednesday. Poor Caramel. We don't know what happened, but we'll miss her. Now we're down to three hens and would you believe old Betty is still alive? Yes, our black and white hen, the Barred Rock from the original three we started with almost five years ago. She has slowed down a bit - and hasn't laid an egg in years - but she's still trucking along. She's one tough Betty.


I've been working on a new blanket, just trying to get this silly stash whittled down. I had so.much worsted acrylic yarn, collected over the past seven or eight years since I started crocheting seriously. I like to use this kind of yarn for most of my blankets because it's durable and washable, and I can get lots of colors. Once it's all gone (someday?) I will turn to my stash of DK acrylic yarns and probably make some blankets with that too. I can't believe all of this yarn. I don't even think it's a particularly large stash as these things go, but it's a lot for me, you know? I can usually be found trying desperately to get things OUT of my house (it's sort of a passion, especially lately), but the yarn supplies crept up on me. No worries, though, I can always find something to make. This time, it's an old standby, the Neat Ripple pattern from Attic 24, which I used around 2012 to make my first big blanket - we go way back. I've also make a smaller DK baby blanket; it's such a great, simple design. My friend Jo is making one too! Hers is so pretty; the colors remind me of Neapolitan ice cream.



Mine is more of a hodge-podge, but I'm having fun with it. The colors are all in family for my general tastes, and are leftovers from various blankets of the past. I have a lot of cream, dark brown, gray and black to use up, so those are getting more repeats than any other colors. I like the look of the cream here, since many of the colors are rather deep - I think it lifts this blanket out of looking somewhat gloomy and boring. I have never really used black in a blanket before, though, so that's been a new experience. I'm not even sure why I have black yarn, actually - but that's the joy of stashbusting, isn't it? You just never know what you'll find!


I love the easy, rhythmic pattern. I started with 216 (213+3) chains for my foundation row, using a J/10 hook (one size up from the I/9 hook I continued with, to help keep the foundation loose). It's about five feet wide and I'll crochet as long as the yarn holds out. It's meant to be a general-purpose couch blanket, good for TV, reading, lounging, napping (if only...). I've been crocheting over my yarn ends, a decision I may live to regret. It's easier, and I'm enjoying not having to do all that darning right now. Ask me again in a few months...or maybe don't.


I'm really enjoying this blanket. It's relaxing, and I'm not in any hurry to finish, so I'm just picking it up when I have a little time. I try to make a stripe every day. I'm not always successful, but some days I make two stripes, so it all works out. It's really nice to have a simple, soothing project on the go again.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Dwindle days











October is my favorite month, I think. Where I live, it's the month when the weather begins to turn most noticeably from warm to cool, with often stunning changes in the weather as well as the landscape. We've just come off a prolonged period of stormy weather that brought days of cool, wet and windy conditions, our first really cold nights and the first need for the furnace (mainly in early morning and in the evening). Some years, it takes a long time to finally cool off and feel like fall, but this October has felt more normal - clouds on the mountain, brisk winds, cold mornings and crisp days.

Around here, we've been busy with school projects and activities. We've done lots of yard work to prepare for winter and we're getting ready to have some flooring replaced inside the house. Wardrobe purging continues (we've both lost some weight recently), and this morning I cleaned the freezer and got rid of some old frozen foods we were never going to get around to eating. In my spare time, I'm crocheting, mostly. I started another blanket, a stashbuster to finally get me through to the bottom of my worsted acrylic hoard. I'm using Lucy's Neat Ripple pattern, a tried-and-true design that uses lots of yarn and makes a warm and visually-interesting blanket. I've been crocheting so much that I've barely had any time for reading lately, but I would like to change that. I think there's plenty of time for both, so I've put about fifteen books on my holds list at the library. That should keep me busy for a few months at least. I can read and ripple interchangeably.

My cooking has reverted to my favorite type of foods - soups, stews, baked goods and one-pan casseroles. I went looking recently for a healthy slow-cooker version of butternut squash soup and came across this one from Gimme Some Oven, which I can't recommend highly enough. It was fantastic, sweet and savory and a little spicy. I loved the addition of carrot and apple. Seriously, go make it. I also recently made Jamie Oliver's leek and potato soup, which we all loved; we ate every last drop of it. I'v been baking things like quick breads and apple crisp. I'm still enjoying my new Mark Bittman cookbooks and looking forward to borrowing Ina Garten's new one from the library.

Yesterday, I bought what I need to try again at making a traditional Christmas cake with dried fruit and nuts. I want so badly to get this one right. But I should probably stop talking so much about Christmas. First things first - Halloween is just around the corner. Pumpkins to buy, costumes to finish, jack o'lanterns to carve!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Balloon season


Hello! I've been so absent from my blog lately and I'm really glad to be back. It's just been a busy time with school, kids' activities and events, and some household projects going on in the middle of it all. Busy and happy, which is really good. And I am so incredibly, unbelievably glad that autumn is here! It feels like a gift, I'm just so happy.

I have lots more to say about my favorite season, but I wanted to share a little local flavor today. Our city just finished hosting its annual Balloon Fiesta, which is always a fun time. Though, to be fair, we don't actually go to the Fiesta proper. Instead, we go up to a city park on high ground to watch the balloons ascend in the morning, particularly during the event known as Shape Derby, which is when the "special shapes" balloons are highlighted. Unfortunately, this year's stormy weather prevented many of the shape balloons from flying on the designated day, so we didn't get to see very many, but I thought I'd show you a little bit of what we did that morning. We go up there every year for this event, which is held on the second-to-last day - the second Saturday - of the Fiesta period, and I've shown them to you before. Some years, it's an incredible experience, like the year we got to play balloon crew on the spur of the moment when a balloon landed right there in the park. Other times, like this year, it's more watching from afar as a selection of balloons goes aloft, but it's always interesting.


There's always a fair-sized crowd up there with us. We stand, or sit, on the hill and watch the balloons rise out of the valley, just a few miles away. There weren't many people around when we first arrived, as in this photo, but it filled in quickly. People were friendly and there were lots of people visiting from out of town, which is nice to see.


The weather wasn't great. The multi-day storm was in its early stages that morning, and the clouds were just starting to spread over the mountain. It made for great views, though! Look at the sun highlighting that strip of clouds as it rolled over the peak. I think this was the last day we actually saw any mountain; it's still mostly obscured three days later, at least in the view from my house.


Meanwhile, to the west, it was looking a little bit like nighttime after the sun came out over the mountain.


I goofed up and forgot to bring a zoom lens, but I've tried cropping to give you an idea. Just above the tree, toward the left, you can see the popular Darth Vader balloon. Over toward the right, there's what we think may have been a cow-shaped balloon, but we aren't sure. There weren't many other shapes up that day, but we did see the Bimbo Bread bear, Mr. Z the giant zebra's head, and the Kissing Bees. I'm sorry not to have better photos for you. Mr. Z is a particular favorite of ours; he belongs to a family we know from school.


There were all sorts of things going on up there. We watched this man on his apparently all-terrain unicycle. He was amazingly good! I've never tried a unicycle myself but it looks very hard. This guy was just rolling around, doing his own thing. I really loved watching him.


This lady was getting bored standing around to watch the balloons, so I took her down to the playground after a while. She needed to move. There were a lot of other kids down there and she had a good time. Eventually all the balloons had ascended and there wasn't much to see from the hill anymore, so the Bear and LB joined us. Then we drove home via the bagel store for a late breakfast. Not the best sights of Balloon Fiesta, but it's a nice family tradition and we were glad to keep it going for another year. Maybe next year, the weather will cooperate more.


I did have another interesting balloon-watching experience earlier in the week. I was at home by myself one morning when I heard a whoosh-whoosh-whoooooosh from outdoors, behind the house. I ran to the window and saw a balloon descending toward the mountain. It looked like it was following roughly along the arroyo behind our house; maybe the pilot was using it as a guide, I'm not really sure. By the time I had grabbed my camera and gone out to the backyard, the balloon had moved a bit north but was still descending. I'm assuming it landed in a large park up the arroyo. There's a big open field there where balloons have occasionally landed.


These brightly-colored balloons are my favorite kind. I know it's a grainy cropped photo, but I was so happy to be able to catch it before it disappeared behind my garden wall. I could just make out the pilot, his passenger and the flame with my naked eye as the balloon passed. It was fun to have a balloon go right by the house like this. I waved, but I don't think they saw me! I'm sure they landed safely just beyond my neighborhood. Another Balloon Fiesta in the books, and now it feels like autumn is officially here (the ongoing stormy weather certainly helps; umm...it currently sounds like my roof might be the next item going in the arroyo).

Friday, October 12, 2018

Paintbox Yarns Giveaway Winner!


Hello! I hope you're having a good week. We've been busy, busy, busy here with the kids on Fall Break from school and some home repair work going on, but I plan to be back here on my blog very soon. If the weather holds out, we'll be going up to look at the hot-air balloons tomorrow (we're in the midst of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta as we speak). In my spare time lately, I've been working on a stashbuster ripple; I'll show you my progress soon. I'm very excited because there's a possibility of snow for us later in the weekend, which is just stunning - last winter was so warm and dry it felt like we'd never have wintry weather again, and here we are this year, in mid-October, waiting on a storm that should bring very cold temperatures and maybe even a little snow. You just never know! I'm happy to be having a more normal autumn, though - it just feels right to me. We have the furnace all ready to go if we need it and I'm kind of looking forward to having it kick on some early morning in the near future. Today, we're working around the house and later, picking up the Bear's car from the dealership where he he took it for an oil change. Life has been busy and kind of boring too, but the good kind of both.

I'm announcing the winner of my Paintbox Yarns Simply DK yarn giveaway today! Thank you to all who entered the giveaway. There weren't very many entries, so your odds were really good! Thank you also for the kind words about my cushion cover that I made with this yarn; I enjoyed making it and having the chance to bring you an opportunity to try the yarn for yourself.

The winner of my giveaway is Lorraine of Mama's Mercantile! I've sent you an email, Lorraine, so please look for it in your inbox. A representative from Lovecrochet will contact you via email soon and you can arrange your prize with her. Congratulations!
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