i'm in love

Insubordiknit Workshop

I've been wanting to learn how to make textured yarns for a while. I tried corespinning a couple of times, but I was pretty miserable at it and I finally gave up.

But then Jacey came to town.

Jacey's boots

And she showed me how to corespin. And it was easy! 

She also showed me how to do stacks and supercoils and tailspinning and oodles of other fun things. This is her spinning a corespun yarn with beehives.

Jacey spinning corespun with beehive

And here she's illustrating the technique for a thick and thin yarn (it's all in the wrist, yo)...

Jacey spinning thick and thin

...which you can use to make the green yarn seen here. Fun!


There was beautifully dyed Merino for us to practice with supplied by The Spun Monkey and lovely batts with add-ins and samples provided by Moonwood Farm. Thanks to both of you for the fiber! It was a real treat for me to be able to use someone else's fiber.

Moonwood Farm bags of lovely batts

It was a 2-day workshop with Jacey and handspinners of all skill levels - from someone who'd been spinning for just a week to a few ladies who'd been spinning for 30+ years. It was wonderful to walk into a room full of spinners! I felt right at home. If you're a spinner and have the opportunity to attend an Insubordiknit workshop, I can't recommend it enough.

Several of us had dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant on Saturday night. I loved meeting everyone and had the best time ever. By the end of it, my head was completely full of ideas and inspiration.

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Thank you, Jacey! You're just lovely and I'm thankful for the opportunity to learn from you.

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Dark Cycle Clothing

I saw this t-shirt on Etsy and thought it'd be perfect for Miss V, who is fascinated by anatomy and reads her DK First Human Body Encyclopedia like it was Goodnight Moon.


So I convo'd them about making it in her size and on a white t-shirt instead of red because I didn't want it to be too graphic for my 4-year-old.

V in heart shirt

It took them a couple of weeks because they had to "order a blank" (wasn't sure what that meant, but I trusted that they did!) and shrink it down to her size. I got it in a 5T so she'll be sure to be able to wear it for a long time. It was here right in time for Valentine's Day!

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I think it's adorable - especially with a cute, frilly pink skirt! Am I a dork, or what?

Got Wood 4 You

I had a great birthday! Thanks so much for all your well wishes. It was lovely.

Some nice people even gave me birthday presents - blog readers, I mean. My friend Sarah, who I met through Etsy/Twitter and lives about five minutes away, gave me some roving that I'd admired at her house a couple of weeks ago. As I was spinning it, V saw it and asked me not to sell it, but to make her a hat out of it. I couldn't say no to that.

So I made a hat from it, which I'll show you later - it's so pretty! Lots of colors. It'd be a shame to show it off in black & white.

I spun the yarn really thick and thin because I love that look and I'm going to start offering more of it in my shop. Makes great baby hats and I know a lot of photographers use that kind of handspun yarn for photography props. But I've also made a cowl for V out of it that is really pretty too and I'd like to make my own hat out of it sometime soon.

Anyway...last week I got a lovely little package in the mail for my birthday - a really cool set of double pointed needles that I'd admired for a while. Nikki is one of my Twitter contacts and she, her husband, and a few of her kids have their own Etsy shops.

Nikki's son Artemas has an Etsy shop called Got Wood 4 You - he made these DPNs out of the branches of a pear tree that fell in their yard. This is an awesome repurpose if I ever saw one.

The coolest DPNs I've ever seen

They are wonderfully crooked. I didn't have any trouble knitting with them at all - but then I love working with DPNs. They make me feel like a real knitter. And these needles made me feel like a super knitting pioneer woman.

These wonderfully rustic double pointed needles would make a truly unique Christmas present for your favorite knitter. Artemas also has lots of other really cool one of a kind things in his shop, including wooden buttons and handmade spindles.

Everybody wants to be a cat

So V is well into her 3rd month of being a cat all the time. She talks about cats non-stop, she calls the toilet the "litterbox," she calls her meals "cat food," she blows licks instead of kisses, she meows instead of talking. Aristocats runs on continuous play at our house lately.

So several weeks ago, I was on twitter and I DMd the lovely Sarah from Bit of Whimsy Dolls that if I could, I'd have her make a kitty especially for my own little cat. I love her dolls so much! Though I don't sew (yet!), my good friend Kim has made two Bit of Whimsy dolls for V and they're cute as pumpkin pie. When I didn't hear back from Sarah immediately, I came to my senses and realized what a forward/rude mama cat I am (just call me Duchess - V does)! I couldn't help it, though; it sounded like such a good idea to me.

Then, a couple of weeks later, Sarah alerted me to this. Of course I had to have one - the original - Violet kitty doll!

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V loves her! She got decked out in her violet kitty shirt and took her Violet Kitty to Chateau Elan on Saturday.

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They played on the rocks together and enjoyed the sunshine.

Then they reflected on life and wrote in their journals together.

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Ok, that last bit is a stretch, but they did make fast friends, these two.

We always have room for one more (stuffed) kitty friend at our house! V likes to line them all up on her bed and sing to them.

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If you sew and have/know a little girl who loves kitty cats, you too can have a Violet kitty in your life. Sarah also has one ready-made Violet doll in her Etsy shop today - same pattern, different fabrics, no less cute! And if you do make one (or a whole litter), please let me know - you can also post your pictures to the Bit of Whimsy flickr group for everyone to see.


When I was in my 20s, I had really good skin and not a lot of money. I used to look at the ads in women's magazines and dream of the day when I could afford all the pretty skincare products I saw there. Imagine my dismay when I developed really bad allergies (to "God's green earth," I like to say) and my skin also became super sensitive. The two may not be related, but in my mind, the skin sensitivity is an extension of the allergies.

So there went all the pretty skincare products with their petroleum (yuck) and the parabens that irritate my skin. So for years, I've been buying the big vats of cleanser and lotion that "dermatologists recommend." My problems with them are that a) they come in ugly bottles/jars and b) they last forever and I worry that they get contaminated before I can use them up.

So what's a girl to do? Enter DressGreen.

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One of the people I follow on Twitter asked for recommendations of shops that sell face lotion without all the yucky stuff in it, and that's how I ran across DressGreen's Green Tree face lotion.

I love the pretty packaging, the fact that there are no perfumes, petroleum, parabens or other ickies, and I love the 2oz size so that I can use it in a reasonable amount of time without worrying that it's gotten germ laden. Also, she shipped it really fast - I ordered it on May 5th and got it on May 8th!

The scent is wonderful too - nothing artificial, just all-natural, botanical loveliness.


Loving this dress I got from mette on Etsy. V will wear it to my brother's wedding this Saturday. Sure enough, once she put it on she didn't want to take it off. I don't blame her, really.

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I hope everyone will wish us a little luck on Friday. It's a 5-hour drive to Raleigh, NC, and, unless R can get off work a bit early, we won't be able to leave until about 8:30 or 9pm. You might not think this is a problem, but V will not sleep in the car. Not ever. When we drove down to Georgia a few weeks ago, we got there after midnight and she didn't sleep a wink for the whole 4+-hour trip. This time around, we're going to bring our white noise machine with us in the car instead of packing it (can't sleep without it), but I'm not sure that's going to help. V just doesn't want to miss a thing!


I think Zoob is the coolest toy I've ever seen. Brilliant! I want them. All of them in the world. Then I'll build my own Maya World. With a koi pond and Zoobkoi fish.  Feel free to come over - especially if you're bringing cookies (that means you, Alexis!) - I'll build you your own chair.

Do you think 3 is too young for Zoobs? Maybe. I'd like to find out, though. Check out the video.

Must. have. Zoobs.

KidsHaus' Etsy shop/giveaway

I have been reading Michelle's KidsHaus blog for a while - I like it lots! She always manages to find unique things for kids that I never would've known about otherwise. But Michelle is also a talented artist. She recently opened a shop on Etsy where she's selling her gocco prints and I thought I'd share it with you because I think they are simply fantastic.

This is Frau Bird. She would go great in V's room with her new quilt, which has similar birds on it. I like feeling of motion from her song. I think she needs to fly on over to my house.

Frau bird

This one is new - it's called roar growl. I love the words on the print and how their eyes are closed. They are such the distinguished gentlemen!

Roar growl

This one, called Blooming, reminds me of the "me book" I had when I was a kid. It's all about a friendly giraffe named Ayapap Ayam who comes to visit me (Maya Papaya), and we spend the afternoon together. This one might have to come live with us too.

I hate to mention it because I really want to win and I don't really care to increase the competition, but Michelle is hosting a giveaway on her blog. The winner receives one print from her shop. So head on over and check it out. Good luck!

Making saft, pt. 2

hang the fruit to drain

After draining the saft for two hours, it was ready to be reheated and sugared. I poured it into a medium saucepan with two cups of sugar and heated it on medium-low heat until the sugar was dissolved. That took about five minutes or so.

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In the meantime, I washed my jars, and I had a total of 4 pots on my stove. For this recipe, I'm not sure that it was necessary for me to keep the jars very hot because, even once I dissolved the sugar, the berry mixture was not that hot. If you were canning jam, you would definitely want to have your jars in very hot water until time to put the jam in the jars so that the jars wouldn't break from the change in temperature. But I did it anyway, just for the practice of handling very hot jars.

Ok, so I had 4 pots going - one had the saft with the sugar dissolving, one was a big stockpot of water getting ready to boil for processing the cans, one had 4 jars being heated, and the last one had the bands for the jars which should not be heated as hot as the glass jars. The lids sat at room temperature. It took me about half an hour to figure out that, there being two parts to the lid, the flat part that sits on top of the jar is called the "lid" and the part that screws on to the jar is called the "band." Don't ask me why I was so confused, but I was, so I thought I'd pass that little tidbit on in case I'm not the only confused person out there.

Once the sugar was dissolved, I took the jars out of their hot water bath with my jar lifter and set them on a dishtowel. That part was a little awkward for me, but I got the hang of it eventually. I used the wide-mouthed funnel and a ladle to pour the saft into each jar. You have to fill the jar so that there is 1/4-inch room at the top, so it has to be pretty full.

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There was not enough to fill a fourth jar all the way, so I just used it right away. Of course I wanted to know what it tasted like so I wasn't exactly disappointed. If for some reason you think that you will use all the saft in the two weeks after you make it, you don't need to process your jars it at all.

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Next comes the processing! You are supposed to have a rack for the bottom of your canning pot, but I don't. You could also use a cake-cooling rack. I don't have one of those either. So I used a dishrag. Not the easiest thing to use, but it kept the jars off the bottom of the pot so they didn't get too hot or clunk around and break.

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I let the 3 jars process for 10 minutes and made a small pitcher of saft from the fourth.

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It's one part saft and 4 parts water. One small jar doesn't make a lot, about 32 ounces. It was just right for two adults and one kid for dinner. 

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After 10 minutes, I used my jar lifter to take the jars out of their bath and set them back on the dishtowel.

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They should sit there undisturbed overnight to cool.

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The next day, you should check to make sure that the seals took - all mine did. When you press down on the center of the lid it should not move; that's how you know it's sealed. If it isn't sealed, you can either process it again or just use it within two weeks.

So, what would I do differently? For one thing, I'd double the recipe and probably use bigger jars. I would use 5-6 pounds of fruit and just a bit less sugar. I know it's supposed to be sweet - and I like sweet things more than I should - I'd just like it a little less sweet. But not much. The most important thing is that next time I will not use plums. Don't get me wrong - this is good stuff, just as I made it. It's very light and refreshing. And the plums were very inexpensive. But the reason I wanted to make it with plums was to revisit my favorite childhood drink, and regular black plums from the grocery store do not make the cut. They're not tart or flavorful enough. If, one day, I can figure out what kind of tree my grandmother had and have one in my own yard, then I will make it with those plums and nothing else. But, while it smelled exactly like her plum juice when it was cooking, the final product didn't taste like it. Next time, I will try mainly strawberries, but also blueberries and whatever else is available. I might even try just strawberry and kiwi for fun.

I'm already planning to make it again soon. It's such a nice, light fruity drink. I really want to make enough jars to put away for the winter. Next year I might buy larger jars at the beginning of the summer, but this year we'll just have it as the occasional treat - which I think will make it extra special. I'd also like to try it with sparkling water - would be delicious!

This recipe would be a great first canning experience for an adult or older kid. You don't have to stress out about how hot you keep your jars, you don't use so much fruit that it would be a total waste of money if the jars didn't seal - you could easily drink it all in a couple of weeks. Also you don't have to worry about things like getting the bubbles out before you seal it or adding pectins, etc. After making saft just the one time, I feel like I could make jam successfully and am planning to do so next summer.

I hope you've enjoyed these posts (here's part 1, if you missed it). If you make saft - let me know! I'd love to hear what you think.

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I got not quite 4 cups from this recipe, but it might be different if you used all berries. I used 2 pounds of plums and not quite 1 pound of blueberries and blackberries.

2.5 lbs. fresh ripe berries
2 cups water
1.5-2 cups sugar

Combine the berries and water in a large stockpot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Line a large bowl with a clean pillowcase and pour the berries into the pillowcase. Be prepared not to ever use the pillowcase for anything else again!

Tie the pillowcase to a broomhandle suspended between two chairs over your large bowl. Let the berries drain for 1-2 hours. Do not squeeze the bag or the mixture will become cloudy.

Meanwhile prepare your canning water by bringing a large pot (at least 8 qt.) filled 3/4 of the way with water to a simmer. Wash your jars/bottles and lids and keep them in a hot water bath - hotter for the jars, not so hot for the bands, lids at room temp.

Transfer strained juice to a medium saucepan. Add your sugar and stir to dissolve over medium-low heat for about five minutes. Skim any froth or scum off the top.

Using a wide-mouthed funnel and a ladle, fill clean, hot jars with saft to 1/4 inch from the top. Add lids and bands - don't screw the bands on supertight, just tight. Place the filled and capped jars in the hot water bath using a jar lifter, making sure they are completely submerged. Bring the water back to a boil, if necessary, and then start your processing time - 10 minutes. Remove the jars and let cool overnight.

To serve, mix one part saft with 4 parts water.

Making saft, pt. 1

For years now, I have wanted to try to make the plum juice my grandmother used to make but just hadn't done it. Not only did I not have her "recipe" (she didn't have a recipe either, she just made it), I'd never canned anything before and it intimidated me. When I wrote the post about it back in June, I remembered an article I'd saved from Martha Stewart Living years ago that was all about saft, a sweetened berry juice concentrate often enjoyed in Sweden and other places. I couldn't find the article in my files and I couldn't find it on her site, but I did find someone else who had made Martha's recipe. So yesterday, since my cold was on its way out, I decided I'd try my hand at it.

Saft is normally made from berries, but I wanted to make it with plums. The only problem I saw with that is that I don't have the same kind of plums that my grandmother had. She had some sort of plum tree in her back yard and she took some from the neighbor's tree too. The plums were not something you'd want to eat - too tart - but they made great juice. The plums you buy at the grocery store are decidedly less tart. I also would have loved to be able to go to a farm or farmer's market to get my fruit, but I wasn't patient enough for that. So V and I went to the grocery store and got two pounds of plums and then enough blackberries and blueberries to equal 3 pounds.

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Out of that, I rinsed 10 blackberries to give to V. She loves blackberries! I figured the blackberries and blueberries might be a little stronger than the plums and would add to the taste. They sure are pretty!

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I put them in a medium saucepan with two cups of water and simmered for 30 minutes. Here they are at the beginning...

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...and here they are after 30 minutes. Cooking, they smelled exactly like my grandmother's plum juice. Let me tell you, I was psyched!

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I had to buy a few extra supplies to make the saft. I bought a pillowcase to drain the fruit, some canning jars, and some tools (they all came together, but some of them I didn't need for this project) to help with the canning - like a can lifter. I don't have a canning pot - I just used my soup pot. I also don't have a rack to put in the bottom of my big pot, so I used a washrag. It was the best I could do. Anyway, I'm getting way ahead of myself, more on all this in part 2.

After 30 minutes, I poured the berry mixture into a bowl that I had lined with the pillowcase. I put a towel on the floor (why white? don't ask me. i'm still sick-ish and my brain is fuzzy.) in case I spilled and because the fruit would be hot so it seemed like the thing to do.

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Then I tied the pillowcase to a broom handle suspended across two chairs. This drains all the goodness into the bowl. Don't squeeze the pillowcase!! It'll make your juice cloudy. It sat like this for two hours.

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I really enjoyed making the saft and will post part 2 in a day or two. In that post, I'll show you how I canned it, tell you how it tastes, and tell you what I'll do differently next time.

Please remember to replace the speaker on the post when you leave

Guess what we found in Bristol, TN?

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The Twin City Drive-In. The internet says it was built in 1949 and that the original owner's grandson runs it today.

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It's a thing of beauty, ain't it? We are so there.

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I've been to one drive-in theater in my life. My parents took us to see Star Wars at the drive-in theater in our town. That area today has a Honda dealership on it.

Free rice

I came across the site FreeRice this morning. If you like words/meanings, it's a fun little game to play - the site gives you a word and you click on the meaning. The wonderful twist is that for every word you get correct, they "donate 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program to help end hunger."

For more info on how/why to play and who keeps track of all the grains donated, read their FAQ.

The Tie

There are many things I think about doing, but there are not so many of them that I actually do. Writing is one of these things. Sometimes snippets of conversation or ideas on an interesting situation will pop into my head and I'll think, Gee, I should turn that into a story. But I never do. So I really admire those who get up early (or stay up late!) and write. And rewrite. And rewrite again. And then put their work out there for others to enjoy. I'm also lucky enough to know a couple of people like that. One is my friend Shelli.

I'm so happy to say that Shelli has won a short story contest! Susan Breen is a writer and writing teacher. She also has writing contests on her site. Shelli has won the latest contest - the prompt was to write a short story starting with the sentence, "Why are you wearing that?" She's done a great job and, believe me, I could totally see myself in that story! Fortunately, we've recently had a similarly happy ending.

Check out The Tie.

Just because I feel like it

I know it isn't Father's Day or any special occasion, but I want to brag on my husband just because I feel like it.

I can see him right now - he's sitting in the "playroom/office," working. Today is his office day and he's been working hard all day long. He's got his headphones on and he's humming along to some song I probably hate. He's a lot more into music than I am. R believes in marriage and family and in being present in his life.

He helps with the housework, fills my car with gas, changes diapers, cleans the litter box, and watches V so I can take pictures whenever we go somewhere. He's always there to tell me it's ok. He encourages me. He listens to me when I talk. He loves to play with V and they have invented several games that I don't even know the rules to - games with names like "High Up," "Out of Control Flying," and "Wa-Pow." It's so much fun to watch them play.

He is a hard worker, conscientious. He helps people when they need it - from people he works with to perfect strangers. He works to improve himself. And even when things don't go his way, he eventually manages to find the silver lining. He's a lot more interested in politics than I am. He tells me I'm a good cook and a good mom. When we talk about our dreams, he always tells me we're going to get there.

He's a good man and I love him. I pray that my daughter is lucky enough to find a partner in life who will be as wonderful to her as her dad is to me. I am blessed way beyond these small words to have him.

Housewarming with Etsy

Oh how I love Etsy. My brother and his fiancee just bought a house and I found the cutest bird house for a housewarming gift. Is this happy or what? It's a bird bottle. It has an opening at the back - both for ease of hanging against a wall (there's a little notch for the nail) and also so you can clean out the bird house for the next year's fine-feathered family.


The person I bought it from was so kind and helpful. Ant's shop is full of pottery that she and her family and a friend hand make. Her prices are really reasonable (they're actually a little low, I thought!) and she's got some beautiful stuff.

I love this raindrop pot. It's very small - just right for collecting raindrops in to water a small pot of flowers with. It's $4.


The other thing I almost got before deciding on the bird bottle was this baking bowl. I love the colors.


All the people I've dealt with on Etsy have been really nice, but I felt that Ant went above and beyond on this order. I convo'd her to say that this was a gift and, while I certainly didn't expect her to wrap it for me, I was hoping she would mail it to my brother without the invoice, but with a short note wishing them happy housewarming. She said she would and then after she shipped it (the very next day) she told me that she had to double box it, so she went ahead and wrapped it.

She really went far beyond what I was expecting, so I want to recommend her as an outstanding seller on Etsy.

Sarah Jane Studios

October So, you've heard of Sarah Jane Studios, right? I've been planning to get a print for V's bedroom after we move, but when I read her blog this morning, I moved up my timetable. She's having a sale that she's only advertising on her blog: buy two, get one free. It's a wonderful opportunity—I'm getting three for V, including the one in this post (her birthday is in October). She is sure to love them for years to come. Once we move, I'll post some pictures of the prints in her new room. You only have until Tuesday, February 5th, to get in on this deal so see all the details here.