Snow Adventure

Many thanks to each and ever one of you who commented on my Ommegang sweater. I am happy to say that you all have given me the confidence to wear it, no matter what! It certainly is warm and we needed warm clothes this past week when we hit a new low for our area.

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This is one of the coldest weeks I can remember from the past 20 years that I have lived here, but I did not mind. I know how to keep myself busy indoors! I was able to finish a pair of socks for the husband.

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As well as a sock for myself.

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And, for the first time, I think I have been able to keep up with a mystery knit along and finish on time.

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My Follow Your Arrow 2 shawl got a nice bath.

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And then a good blocking.

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I used some new blocking wires that I got for Christmas.

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These will take some getting used to since they are super flexible. I had a little trouble pulling the shawl as taut as I usually do. I will give a more in depth report about these when I have had a chance to use them on a larger variety of finished objects. For now, I am just loving how this shawl turned out.

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Each clue was interesting and fun. I like how there is a mix of three dimensional textures and lace.

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Yes, looky there! We had a little snow early last week, at last! The boys were able to go sledding and it was a pretty good day for it, too. Then, on Saturday, we had a bigger snow event. Truthfully, this winter has been so lackluster that I think everyone had let their defenses down for this storm. We were up before the sun on Saturday to attend the elder son’s last swim meet an hour away.

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The sock and I tried to make some progress, but honestly, early morning and me don’t mix, so I only got a few rows done. By the time we were done at 10:30 am (thank goodness they did all the older boys at once in the morning so we didn’t have to be there all day), it was just a little cloudy. We drove to our favorite restaurant in the area for a post meet meal. It had started to snow a little by then, but we weren’t worried. A little snow can’t hurt us, right? Ha! At 11:30, we were done with our meal and pondering a trip downtown to hang out at a museum, but decided we would all rather go home and take a nap. At this point, it was snowing quite heavily and the streets were getting a bit slippery. It took us an hour to get to the on ramp of the highway and when we got there, it looked like this.

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Clearly, no plow had been by this road yet. After another hour of driving, we were halfway home and decided we needed a break from the traffic and snow.

So, we stopped for some gelato. We got there just before they closed due to the weather.

When we got back to the highway, the traffic was even worse. The first mile or two took us an hour of stop and go traffic on elevated bits of highway with no exits. The other side of the highway was no better. We passed miles of backed up traffic, including this nice line of 13 snow plows that were stuck there, unable to do their jobs.

It took us six hours to get home from a town that usually is just an hour’s drive away for us. And there is no way we would have made it without the husband’s awesome driving skills. We passed many many cars slipping and sliding away and also ones that had been abandoned because they were stuck. The storm took many people by surprise, including us. Thankfully, we made it home safely and the boys even thought that parts of the experience was fun, haha. After a day like that, I was glad to stay in all day yesterday and do some sewing and knitting. I’ll tell you about all that another time, though. In the meantime, I hope you are staying warm and comfy, wherever you are!

Ommegang

Today, I finally get to share with you a sweater that has been in the works for months! Ommegang, by Thea Colman.

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It’s a gorgeous tunic length sweater with lots of cables and a really cool asymmetric design. When I first found out that Thea was going to be designing a sweater using Bare Naked Wools, I was ready and eager to sign up for the testing phase. In her version, she uses Stone Soup. I opted to used their Kent DK.

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Now, this sweater is not for those who want a quick project. From collar to hem, mine measures more than 30 inches. In the round, it seems like the lower body takes an eon to knit, but the cables keep it interesting and the yarn was lovely to work with. It was light and soft at the same time and looks great in cables.

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I opted to do a mock turtleneck version, but with the recent frigid weather we’ve been having, I have been considering redoing it with the full slouchy turtleneck or even maybe a folded over cowl version. I think I will wear it a few more times first to see how I like it.

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Normally, I stay away from tunics, not because I don’t like them, but because I feel that I don’t have the wardrobe to go with them. I am not much of a boot person and leggings make me self conscious. But, I do have one or two pairs of skinny legged pants that might be ok with the sweater. In any case, I love the sweater so much that I am willing to go buy whatever pants I need to wear with them.

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The sweater is fabulously warm, which is perfect timing because we are having one of our coldest nights of the season tonight. Rumor has it that we will see negative temps tonight! I may put it on and never take it off. It looks like there is plenty more cold weather coming this winter so if you get moving, you could have one of these for yourself, too.

Thea’s patterns are fabulous. They are easy to follow and come with lots of tips on how to get a fit that you like, not necessarily the one shown on the model. Plus, they always have interesting details that are integrated into the design of the sweater without being overly trendy. For me, this is essential because if I am going to spend all those hours knitting a sweater, I want it to be fun and I want it to be timeless. This sweater is both of those things. Thank you Thea!

p.s. I didn’t take a lot of notes as I was knitting this since it was over the Christmas holidays and into January when we all had the flu, but here’s the link to my ravelry page if you want to look at it: CrafTeaMama’s Ommegang

Fighting the Winter Blahs

This winter has been quite dreary for us so far. We’ve had no snow to speak of, but lots of clouds and cold rain. Also, someone in the house has been sick four out of the past five weeks. Generally speaking, I think we are all feeling a bit low on energy and motivation. This past week, I was in need of some bright color to cheer me up a bit. So, I cast on a new shawl.

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I love this bright green. So cheerful and the yarn, a silk and cashmere blend is super soft and light. This project is a gift for a friend, but I will definitely be watching the Posh yarn updates to see if I can get some for myself. I’ll have to be quick, though, because they seem to sell out quite quickly.

This year, I have also joined two different yarn clubs. The past couple of years, I have loved getting yarn from the Bare Naked Wools club. This year, they have decided to do a blanket club, which will be fun, but I decided that would be better suited for stash knitting.

Still, I love getting surprise boxes of yarn, so I am trying out the Rockin’ Sock Club. The first shipment came early last week and I love the bright colors!

Spoiler alert!

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Toe up socks are something I do not do often, but it is great for the mind to try something new every once in awhile. Plus, there is the added benefit of being able to try them on as you go.

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I have to say that despite the fact the the sock yarns from Blue Moon Fiber Arts have no nylon in them, they hold up quite well. The yarn is very tightly spun and if you knit them at a tight gauge, they last quite a long time. Usually, I try to not knit socks with yarns that have no nylon or silk because I have had a few pairs wear out on me rather quickly. BMFA sock yarn is the exception in my sock drawer, which is part of the reason why I did not feel any hesitation about signing up for the club. This year is the club’s tenth anniversary and from what they say, there will be some extra fun things coming.

The second club I joined is a new operation: The Fiberista Club. This club is interesting because aside from choosing a color preference and a yarn weight preference, you really have no idea what you are getting. In January, I received two skeins of sport weight yarn in a gorgeous merino, cashmere and silk blend.

This month, it was two skeins of lace weight yarn from a new yarn dyer. The shipments so far have been a great value for the price and nicely packaged. Plus, there have been extra goodies in each box. Last month, it was a set of gift tags and this month, a little tote bag. After everyone gets their package, they release a pattern or two to go with the yarn. We are still waiting for February’s patterns, but I expect they will be up shortly.

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Oh, I almost forgot, I finally finished my Tea Leaves Cardigan!

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The sleeves grew a little when I blocked, so they are folded back here.

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It fits pretty well, though is probably better suited for spring weather as it lets in quite a draft. I did consider putting more buttons on so that I could button it all the way, but I like this look as well.

Aside from yarn, I have been trying to keep everyone’s spirits up and bolster spirits by making lots of soup. Last week, while the husband battled a sinus infection, I tried making my own ramen noodles.

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I used this recipe for the noodles, but made my own broth from pork belly, ginger, green onions, and a little garlic. It was super delicious. It took me two days to get this together, so not something I can make spur of the moment, but it was well worth the work. If I make it again, I will try to get some more detailed notes so that I can share them with you.

This weekend is Vday and Chinese New Year and I have done almost nothing to prepare for them. So unlike me, I know. Ah well, I suspect we will come up with something. Maybe I will make some donuts or cinnamon buns tomorrow!

So, how are you coping this winter?

Happy Bar

Let me tell you about a struggle that I have been having for years and seems to be growing worse as I get older. It is no secret that I have allergies. In my youth, I can remember weeks of misery in the spring when the trees and flowers were all blooming. Everyone was outside playing and enjoying the weather and I was inside with my box of tissues and drinking down as much Triaminic as I was allowed to have. In my twenties, the allergy thing turned into a daily misery, especially for the first hour or two of every morning. I used to joke that I was allergic to mornings and tried very hard in college not to have to take any classes before 10 am because I was in no fit state to be anywhere when I had to blow my nose every other minute. In my thirties, I finally wised up and got some medication. Can I just tell you how life changing that was? I went from practically nonfunctional before 10 am to feeling normal. It was wonderful. And still is in many ways. It took several years to figure out a routine that works for me, and I still have some bad days, especially in the spring, but it is nowhere near the misery that it once was.

Sadly, my allergy issues did not end there because once I had clear sinuses, my skin started protesting. Until ten or so years ago, I never had much issue with skin products. I could use any lotion I wanted and fragrances did not bother me one bit. I even used to wear perfume! Gradually, though, I noticed that my skin was starting to get itchy sometimes. I had little patches of rashes that would spring up, especially around my hairline. At the time, I was trying really hard to be environmentally responsible and use all natural, plant based hair products and lotions. I didn’t really stop to think that if my sinuses were allergic to plants that my skin was likely allergic as well! At the same time, I noticed that perfumes started really bothering me. Some would give me headaches that would occasionally turn into migraines and some would just make me sneeze. Now, there are times when I actually have to leave a room if someone with strong perfume enters.

Because of all these weird issues, I have to actually look for skin products that do not contain plant products, which means they are usually full of icky chemicals. At the same time, they need to have a scent that I can tolerate. As you can imagine, my choices are really limited, especially when it comes to lotions. Over the past few years, I have spent a lot of money trying out all different types of lotions and have never been able to find one that I totally love. One or two are alright, but most are not.

So, I finally decided to take matters into my own hands and try making my own. I actually got this idea from my friend Katie who pointed me in the direction of some useful websites. My first project was the sugar scrub that I featured in December. I have tweaked that recipe a bit since then and started using it once or twice a week in the shower. It’s been wonderful at relieving the dry flaky skin on my legs! No more snake skin legs for me.

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Next, I took the plunge and ordered a bunch of stuff to make my own lotion bars. Have you heard of lotion bars yet? They are basically lotion in solid form that you can rub on your skin. The bonus is that they won’t leak in your purse unless left in a hot place and you can leave them in your bags when you go through airport security since it is not a liquid. They typically have natural ingredients and are better at moisturizing. I have noticed that a lot of liquid lotions only work for a short time and after a hand washing or an hour or two, another application is needed. This is not the case with most lotion bars I have tried. However, it is really difficult to find lotion bars that have no added scents. Many include various essential oils, which I know are supposed to have some great benefits, but if they give me a headache or make me sneeze, then those benefits aren’t worth it for me. I am sure you can see why I decided to make my own.

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For my lotion bar, I decided to start with just four basic ingredients that I knew would not bother me: Shea butter, Cocoa butter, Coconut oil, and Beeswax. While I was at it, I decided to make these as green as possible and ordered only ingredients that were certified organic. The process and recipe is super simple. To make them, I weighed out equal amounts of all the ingredients and melted them together. If you have a stove with one of those warming burners, that is a perfect place to melt them.

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Then, I poured them into molds. In this case, I used paper cups.

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Wait until they are cool and firm, then pop them out.

To use, rub between your hands until the bar gets a little slippery and then massage the lotion into your skin. At first, your skin may feel a tad greasy or tacky, but wait a few minutes and your skin will absorb it. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these homemade lotion bars. I have bought and tried several other versions before and they have all been pretty good at moisturizing. However, none of them left my skin feeling as soft and silky as these bars did. After the first couple of days, I noticed that my hands were soft and felt moisturized even through several hand washings or a bout of doing dishes. I even tried the lotion on my younger son’s cheeks, which tend to get very dry and chapped, but he has super sensitive skin. Any other lotion I have used on his cheeks has made him break out in a rash. But, with this lotion bar, his cheeks were much less chapped and there was no rash. Even my husband likes the stuff and asked for some to take to work. He also commented on how it does not seem to need as many repeated applications as most lotions. Happy Happy!

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And here is another thing we love about them: they smell faintly of chocolate from the cocoa butter. Many other unscented products that I have bought tend to have not so pleasant odors. There may be no perfumes, but they might smell…odd. But, these smell great and if you can tolerate smelling a little like chocolate for 10-15 minutes, then I think you will like them.

So, I really encourage you to try your hand at making these if you have troubles like mine. Or, if you aren’t inclined to DIY, I have put some up for sale in our etsy shop: 1514Homemade. We have made two sizes, a .5oz travel size and a bigger 1.25oz handy size. I love the travel size for carrying around in my purse. The handy size is perfect for the bathroom or kitchen. We’d be happy to send you some!

Now, I have got the DIY skincare bug and have started researching how to make my own soap bars and shampoos. I am really looking forward to the next thing!

Hurry Up and Wait

My life seems to made up of two types of time these days: The majority of it is super busy times when I am juggling multiple things at once, such as when I am trying to cook dinner and teach both kids different subjects simultaneously. Occasionally, I get a little respite where I get to sit somewhere and wait for one of the kids of finish a lesson or sports game or, as I did today, sit and listen to a whole roomful of kids give presentations. These are the times when an easy portable project is super handy.

Yesterday, I cast on a sock. By the end of the younger son’s soccer game last night, it looked like this.

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No, I didn’t knit that whole sock in the back! That one was finished months ago! The blurry cuff in front of the bag was what I worked on last night.

Now, after about two hours of presentations today, it looks like this.

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That’s about two and half more inches. If it looks different to you, it’s probably because I have switched to using two circular needles instead of 4 double pointed. Over the past year or so, I have been slowly making the switch over to this method because I find it easier on my hands. I still find casting on and ribbings easier with double pointed needles, but once I get into the actual patterns, I find that circulars are not as pokey and leave things a bit more flexible.

Anyway, with more soccer games and an all day swim meet in the near future, this sock should be done in no time.

What do you do when you are waiting?

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