It’s Time for Some Quiet

Whelp, it’s 2023, for better or worse. 2022 flew past like a wild wind, and while I didn’t accomplish many of my personal goals, I can’t say that we didn’t have a pretty full year. So, here’s the recap of the highlights:

Books Read: 43

I read a little bit less than my goal, but I did better than I thought I would. My top three G-rated reads were:

  • Paperback Crush. This is a non-fiction work that takes a retrospective look at the teen novels of the 70s-90s. If you grew up on Babysitter’s Club, Fear Street, Sweet Valley High, etc., this walk down memory lane is definitely worth it.
  • Kitchen Front. I’m not usually a fan of historic fiction, but I ended up really enjoying this one. Set during WWII, it follows a group of women, each trying to win a recipe contest, but the recipes must be based on the government’s wartime rations.
  • The Sweet Taste of Muscadines. A southern coming-home story with rich characters, scenery, and family secrets.

As a side-note, I read plenty of trashy romance novels this year, but that’s between me and my Kindle.

New Baking Recipes Tried: 14

While I am a pretty confident cook, I’ve never been much of a baker. I have plenty of recipes I grew up with, but I tend to get terribly impatient with baking. I did not attempt nearly as many new recipes as my set goal, but something is better than nothing, I suppose. My top two favorites were the Basque Lemon Ginger Cheesecake I saw on Food Network and the Jam Thumbprint cookies from Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking. (Yes, that sounds basic, but I ate those damn things for breakfast for a week)

Finished Knits: 9

Obviously, that is way lower than my usual year, but this queen-size beast of a blanket damn near killed me. My finished objects included two baby blankets, one sweater, two hats, one pair of slippers, one pair of mittens, and a novelty business card holder. I also won five first place ribbons and one second place at the state fair.

Places Traveled: 7

This was certainly the travel year because we celebrated a lot of milestones. G-Man graduated in 2020 amid Covid so he missed out on all the things, Bear graduated, and the husband and I celebrated 20 years. I loved the Italy Trip, and DFW Fiber Fest. Cancun was an impromptu but super-fun. Bear finally got to use the concert tickets he received for his 16th birthday…in you guessed it, 2020.

We had so many other things going on throughout the year that by the time we hit this week, I think we were all feeling ready for some quiet. Or maybe the past week of Hell has me thinking so. Yep, it’s science fair project time, my friends. That veritable torture chamber for parents. In related news, I’ll never get ice from a fast-food ice machine again:

As for 2023, I have set some goals and have my planner in order (Commit30 if you are wondering):

Kitchen:

  • Continue expanding my baking skills, both savory and sweet. I hope to try at least 30 new recipes this year.
  • Expand my pasta skills. Italy inspired me soooooo much and I would love to dive deeper into this one.
  • Finish the family cookbook revisions and re-print it for everyone. This will be a big project. Now that my favorite software is defunct, I’m struggling to find one I like.
  • Be a little more adventurous in recipes and cuisines.
  • Source more locally (I’ll talk about this in a future post).

Fiber Arts

  • Say it with me: KNIT FROM STASH. My yarn stash is ridiculous, and I’m committed to knitting from it exclusively. However, my husband is taking me to Rhinebeck this year, so…
  • Learn to spin. I received a spinning wheel last year and have been too intimidated to really get into it.
  • Finish at least two UFOs that have been languishing away.
  • Finish Bean’s needlepoint stocking.

Health/Personal

  • Fix this trainwreck. ’nuff said.
  • Less phone time. I did not realize just how much time I waste scrolling when I could be doing things that actually bring me joy.
  • Realize skincare is a thing.
  • Not use profanity during my mammogram. (yeah….we can dream, can’t we?)

So, there ya have it. I’ve posted before that I actually like setting resolutions/goals at the beginning of the year. Some years were complete busts, but some actually worked out. It doesn’t hurt to try. 2022 was amazing, but now that I’m past the busiest year I can remember, I’m ready for some quiet time to focus ahead.

After I get past this science fair bull$**t.

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Finished Knit–Bounce Baby Blanket

As much as I now fall into the “selfish” knitter category (otherwise known as “knit-worthy peeps are few and far between”), I make an exception for babies. One of my cousins is due with her second baby soon, so it was blanket-knitting time. Since I was in the mood for color, I opted for this pattern from Tin Can Knits, using a mini-skein kit from Rainbow Heirloom. Now that I finished it, I’m ready to settle into West Knits MKAL.

Pattern: Bounce by Tin Can Knits, available for purchase on Ravelry.

Yarn: Rainbow Heirloom Sweater in the Sunshine and Storm Kit

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: I followed the pattern as written but reordered the kit stripes to my preference. Rather than dark to light, I wanted a dark-light-dark effect. Otherwise, this is a super-easy pattern that is infinitely customizable, and a great way to use up mini-skeins. Tin Can Knits are known for their well-written, trusted patterns, and as always, this delivered. Overall, two thumbs up on this project.

DFW Fiber Fest 2022 Recap

Last weekend was amazeballs. After wanting to attend DFW Fiber Fest for years, I finally decided that we would finally go this year. Bean was onboard, and the husband agreed that he was not adverse to being my proverbial yarn mule for an afternoon (as long as there would be Wi-Fi at the hotel and cocktails for the remaining days).

So, knowing that we only wanted to pull Bean from school for one day, we opted to head out Thursday afternoon and attend Friday and Saturday. As such, I planned on taking classes in the mornings, meet up for lunch both days, and head back to the convention center for market shopping and socializing.

The festival was held at the Irving Convention Center, and I have to say, you could feel the joy in the air when we arrived. From the yarn-bomb decorations to the cheerful volunteers, everything added to the atmosphere of excitement of finally coming together. I felt like it was well-organized all around as a festival.

Let’s start with classes. I opted for a class called “I Hate Color Theory” by Peggy Doney, which was supposed help students learn more about color theory and complementary colors, which would culminate in the class dying a personal skein of yarn. Overall, the class had potential but seemed to suffer from technical difficulties, missing equipment, and loss of structure. I still had fun, but I think it missed the intended mark.

For my second class, I took “Love Notes to My Future Self: The Art of Keeping a Crafting Journal” by Alissa Barton. The instructor is big into artistic journaling and passed around many examples and offered materials suggestions. I’d say it was more inspirational than instructional, and we finished up with over an hour of class time left. Regardless, I had a good time and will definitely take more classes next year.

After classes and lunch, it was market time! The festival featured a huge and diverse vendor list, and I believe there was something for EVERYONE. On day one, the husband came with us and that’s when we did the most of our purchasing. Without further ado, here’s our fiber haul:

Bean picked up this bag and the matching shirt from Sharpin Designs.

She also picked out this yarn from Black Cat Fibers.

Finally, she chose stitch markers inspired by Harry Potter and Hamilton respectively. I don’t have a picture of it, but she also ended up with a skein of sock yarn a kind knitter was de-stashing during our social time.

As for me:

These gloriously Halloween-feeling skeins from Whimzee Stitches.

This set from Suburban Stitcher.

A sweater’s quantity, also from Suburban Stitcher.

A Peace, Love and Knitting kit from the Bead Biz.

Spinning Fiber from Frabujous Fibers.

Legend of Zelda and Horror Movies stitch markers.

Stranger Things-inspired project bag from All with Love. I snagged the last one. #sorrynotsorry

And somehow, the husband wandered off and came back with an Alpaca in a Christmas hat from Rancho Inca Alpacas, proving that you can’t leave him unsupervised for long.

We also picked up graphic socks and I tucked away a drop spindle for Bean as a holiday gift.

Aside from classes and the market, the festival featured other events and meet-ups, and plenty of places just to stop, knit, and chat with fellow fiber artists, which Bean and I enjoyed. However, since I didn’t want to wear both her and my husband out, we kept our days balanced.

As for hotels, we stayed at the Omni, which was not a festival hotel, and I won’t stay there again. The Westin across the street would have been a better choice, but I was late to the game in booking.

So, that barely scratches the surface of how much we enjoyed DFW Fiber Fest 2022, and we will be back next year. We ate good food, met lovely people, and got to pet all the fiber. What more can you ask for?

 

Finished Knit: Little Red Riding Slippers

Bean has been hounding me for some slippers, so I went to my default Little Red Riding Slippers since I knew I could crank them out quickly. After the Never-Ending Blanket, I’m happy lean into some instant-gratification projects, especially since I have some larger items planned for my Fall knitting.

Pattern: Little Red Riding Slippers by Drops Studios (available for free on Ravelry but SEE MY NOTES).

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick in the Succulent colorway.

Needles: US 10

Notes and Mods: So, Drops patterns once had a reputation for being about as clear as mud. Luckily, other knitters brought clarity, so I skip the pattern and use these resources:

Finished Knit: Llamalove Beanie

Pattern: Llamalove Beanie by Asha Arun (available for purchase on Ravelry).

Yarn: Petite Woll from We Are Knitters in the Spotted Blue, Ochre, Natural, Black and Cinnamon colorways.

Needles: US 9.

Notes and Mods: The pattern called for US 8, but I went up to 9 because my colorwork knitting can be pretty tight, despite my best efforts to the contrary. Easy, well-written pattern, that includes step-by-step photos of the duplicate stitch. I will say that I’m not a big fan of this yarn. It has minimal twist and reminds me of a roving texture. It’s easy to snag, and I’m skeptical on how it will hold up long-term. Other than that, I’m very happy with this project.

Finished Knit–“Feel the Bern” Cropped Sweater

Well, would you look at that. I convinced two of the Heathens to model a sweater. Will wonders never cease.

Pattern: “Feel the Bern” by Caitlin Hunter, based off of the infamous mittens that Bernie Sanders wore to the inauguration. Available for free on Ravelry with the request for charitable donations toward organizations that address food insecurity (Meals on Wheels, local food pantries, etc.).

Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca in the Cream, Duncan, Steel Cut Oats, and Potting Soil Mix colorways.

Needles: US 5 and US 7.

Notes and Mods: No real mods on this one. I wish I had gone up a needle size because my colorwork knitting can be pretty tight, but that’s what happens when you don’t swatch. I had cast-on-itis after the queen-size Slipstravaganza blanket, so I dove in headfirst. If I can’t wear it this winter, one of these two clowns gets a sweater.

 

Finished Knit–Slipstravaganza Blanket

It took nearly a year of on-and-off knitting, but I finally finished this beast of a project. By the end, there were over 1500 stitches per round on the needles, if you can believe that. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the blanket ended up being over six feet in diameter and can fit my queen-size bed. As soon as it was off the needles, I immediately cast on a sweater rather than pick up one of my many UFOs. Yeah, hopefully my mojo for those projects will come around again, but for now, I yield to burning urge to cast on all the new things with all the pretty yarn. I’m ready for cooler weather, cozy nights and relief from this endless heat.

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Pattern: Slipstravaganza Blanket by Stephen West (available for purchase on Ravelry or Stephen’s site).

Yarn: West Wool Tandem in the Norway, Glass, Aquamarine, and Brackish colorways.

Needles: US 6

Notes and Mods: As always, Stephen’s pattern is incredibly clear and well-written. The only change I made was following the option to not repeat the chevron section. I was so sick of working on this and was unsure I even had enough yarn to do so anyway.

Finished Knit: Leafy Baby Blanket

I took a break from my gigantic Slipstravaganza blanket, well, because I just need one. It’s up to about 900 stitches per round (true story) so it needed a timeout, or rather, I needed a break from the endless slog. I have cast-on-itis, but I have so many projects on the needles in various stages that I have to exercise some self-control.

Meanwhile, my cousin announced an impending new arrival, which, of course, means baby knitting. I broke my self-imposed project limit, because babies knitting doesn’t count. There’s a finite timeline for that kind of project, ya know? So, I narrowed down some patterns on Ravelry with similar attributes and let G-Man pick amongst the final contenders. Here’s what we got:

Pattern: Leafy Baby Blanket available for free on Ravelry.

Yarn: Yarn Bee Soft & Sleek Solids in the Viridecent colorway (I used about 2.75 skeins).

Needles: US 10/5.0mm

Notes and Mods: I totally forgot to start my project page in Ravelry, but I know I CO more stitches because the pattern, as is, comes out narrower than I would like, per other knitters’ project notes. I looked through other projects, and I’m pretty sure I CO at least 130 stitches. As for length, I just kept knitting until I thought I was getting close to the size I wanted, then continued out the current pattern repeat before moving to the final steps. This pattern is both written and charted, fyi. Overall, beautiful, easy pattern, especially for a freebie. I pinned the completed blanket out with my Knit Blockers and aggressively steam blocked it to “kill” the acrylic. Sending this off to my cousin, then it’s back to the blanket of doom.

Le sigh.

Off the Shelf–Recent Reads and Reviews

Alrighty, here’s a roundup of my recent reads:

 

Nonfiction–Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss

I really enjoyed Paperback Crush. It’s a deep dive retrospective of the teen fiction novels I devoured in the ’80s and ’90s. Divided up into a thematic approach, it explores the evolution of popular teen fiction and the history of the most iconic series. While it primarily focuses on the titular decades, the author has done her research and mentions how certain themes can be tracked back through the decades. Just browsing the classic artwork brought back memories, and the author’s humorous and sometimes wry tone made it a fun read.

Overall, pure nostalgia made me buy it, but I’m glad I did. Series like The Baby-Sitters Club and Fear Street made me catch the reading bug, which I still have today.

Nonfiction–Hooked by Sutton Foster

This book is basically a memoir from Broadway and television star Sutton Foster. It follows her extensive career and travels as a rising stage talent to mother and TV star, while also describing the tumultuous relationship with her problematic agoraphobic mother. While she does incorporate how her crafting projects served as touchstones throughout her personal journey, this book is still very much a memoir at its core, with crafting as thematic tool for the stories. Overall, it was a good read, but I was already familiar with and a fan of the author. Because it’s mainly a memoir with crafting as an ancillary topic, it could be misleading if you don’t read the jacket or reviews.

Nonfiction–Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off

I’d say this book is solidly for knitters. It’s a fun, whimsical and funny look at the knitting community, including how specifically diverse, strange, and neurotic we can be. As a prolific knitter who fits many of the author’s descriptions, I found it to be an entertaining, lighthearted read. So, if you are a knitter, it’s great. If not, it’s not for you (unless you live with a knitter and need a guidebook to our world).

Fiction–The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

This novel brings together a diverse cast of characters as they take a cooking class at a local restaurant. The chapters focus on their backstories, while weaving together the lessons from the class into their personal journeys and future goals. It’s beautifully descriptive, and a short, easy read if you like novels with food/cooking as a backdrop to the story. I will say that, while I enjoyed this one, I was slow to finish it. I appreciated it as a whole, but it was more of a pickup-putdown read for me.

So, there’s the recap (excluding the trashy romance novels that get me through carpool). That puts a respectable start to my embarrassingly tall TBR pile, I hope.

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

I picked up my four exhibits from the State Fair today, and clearly I’m happy as a clam with the results. However, this year has been bittersweet. Compared to years past, I saw much lower participation in all of the categories, not to mention that the fair itself had a whole lot of open space due missing vendors/rides etc. I know it’s a sign of the current times, but I miss seeing the variety of talents from the exhibitors. Anyway, here’s a recap of the projects:

My Let’s Boogie sweater won first place in the miscellaneous knitted garment category.

My Swing Left socks won first place in knitted socks.

The Baa-ble Hat won first place in knitted beanies.


And my Fantastitch Shawl won both first place in shawls and Grand Champion!

If you’ve never looked into competitive exhibitions at your local fair, it’s definitely worth checking out. From canning and quilting to photography and woodworking, there are so many ways to participate. It’s a great way to learn more about your community, and get some inspiration, especially if you are a maker.

Now, I guess it’s time to start brainstorming for next year.