Getting into the Swing of Things Again

Well, it’s been a bit of a hectic re-entry to life in our “normal” routine. We have had lots of snow and some very cold temperatures since our return, not what one would think of for Spring weather, though fairly typical for our springtime. I had quite a few things scheduled for this week, which would have been fine if I hadn’t had the wild 4 weeks preceding this one. I’m slowly chipping away at the mutant To-Do list though.

One of the best things about coming home from Spring Break was picking up our mail. This nifty little box was waiting for me from my dear friend Bonnie Pierce.

I met Bonnie and her husband Bill at the first ever CGOA conference I went too. She was wearing one of her gorgeous Free Form crochet capes and I practically attacked her to look at it closer. I was completely on my own at that show, but Bonnie and Bill took me under their wing and included me in many of the group events they were involved in.

They even rescued my hook case that I had left laying on the table one afternoon. Bonnie and I chuckle about it every time we get together. But it has been far too long since I last got to spend some in-person time with Bonnie. Fortunately we stay in touch online thru social media and messaging.

Recently Bonnie and I decided we needed to have a piece of each other’s work. These 2 drop-dead gorgeous scrumbles are what Bonnie sent me. I’m so inspired by her work, though a little chagrined at how clunky and chunky my own Free Form efforts look. Bonnie is truly a talent with her Free Form artistry.

She is well known for her bullion stitches. Which she had tried to teach me numerous times with limited success.

This flower with the sparkly embellishment is currently my favorite bit on this scrumble. But every time I look at them I see something that delights me.

When Bonnie and I met in Portland in 2008, one of the things we bonded over was Chocolate. We both have a love of wonderful dark chocolate. She told me about a Portland chocolate company called “Moonstruck” and shared some that she had with her. It is marvelous stuff and whenever I find the brand I purchase a few bars, but it is rather scarce in Colorado.

So it is very fitting that Bonnie included some delicious chocolate in the package too. I’ve got to get my piece finished to send to Bonnie now and will have to hunt down some special Colorado chocolates to include. This might require me attending the Chocolate Festival again, sigh, the sacrifices I make for my friends.

I’ve been busy with working on developing classes since our return from our big trip. This cute little needle-felted sheep is one of them. I’m finding the needle-felting quite addictive, I think the total attention that is required is a great form of meditation. That’s been very good for me as I process everything the last 4 weeks has thrown at me and my family.

I hope you are all having a beautiful springtime. April is looking to be another fast-moving and busy month. I’ll try to keep up with the blog and (fingers crossed) to have some more videos for you very soon.

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Lamb my __ __ __!

You know that old saying? “March comes in like a Lion but goes out like a Lamb.” Not the way it is looking up here on my mountain this final week of March. Now, this really isn’t anything new for us on the mountain, we generally have an insanely cold snowy spring-time.

In fact we really only get about 3 weeks of what most folks view as Spring weather, then we are straight into Summer for about 6 weeks, another 3 possibly 4 weeks of Fall, and right back into Winter (weather if not officially the season). Which means if you do the math, out of 52 weeks in the year, we have about 39 weeks of Winter on my mountain.

Normally I don’t mind the cold. A very good thing being as I have made my home on a mountain in the Colorado Rockies at 8500 feet above sea level. But Spring is a little hard on me, I’ve usually reached my tolerance for cold and snow by the end of March.

I think it is worse this year because we had a lovely “false” spring that had me ready for the real thing, even though I knew it was all a lie. It is snowy and cold and I’m cranky.

chocolate bunny

I even ate my chocolate bunny from Easter faster than normal and that barely helped. I ended up with chocolate stains on my white T-shirt. Which means there will be stain removal work before washing that load of laundry tomorrow.

Now, feeling frustrated with winter isn’t really a crisis, and I’m trying to remind myself that there are a lot of things in my very fortunate life to be grateful for. I seem to go thru some version of spring cabin fever every year, it used to mystify me…now I just remind myself that this too shall pass. In fact, just wait a few months, I’m sure I’ll be whinging about the heat. Then I’ll be happy to have my nice cool mountain top when everyone in the city and plains is cooking in 100+F temperatures.

I’ve spent the past couple of days crocheting on samples and working on some videos. I had hoped to have something new to share with all of my lovely readers, but it was not to be the case. Besides the wintery weather I’ve had a sick kiddo, and one of those times in creative work where every task takes longer than anticipated.

Hopefully I will get my act together this week and have something for you this weekend. I’ll be headed to Loveland, Colorado for the Interweave 2016 YarnFest. Looking forward to seeing some of local yarnie friends and some that are coming in nationally to teach or have booths in the Marketplace. Should be the perfect cure for the spring-time blues.

Also for those of you too far away from Colorado to join us for YarnFest, you might want to make plans for a trip to Charleston for the CGOA Conference at the Knit & Crochet Show. Registration is live already and some of the classes have already sold out. So pop on over to the CGOA site to get signed up.

Hoppy Spring

It’s just a few short days until it’s Easter! How did that happen? Of course, the Easter Bunny sometimes has to wear his snow boots when he comes to our house. Fortunately for most of my lucky readers they are seeing warmer temperatures and flowers blooming.

I’ve been seeing a few brave flowers and leaves making an appearance down in town, but up on the mountain there isn’t much indication that winter is winding down.

Lindt Dark Chocolate Gold Bunny
Lindt Dark Chocolate Gold Bunny

Easter time is lots of fun and at our household involves the consumption of chocolate bunnies. I’ve bought our bunnies already and hid them so the chocolate monsters won’t eat their ears off before the big day. Nothing more off-putting than having an Easter basket with an earless bunny in it.

Bunnies are a great theme at Easter, but please don’t buy a real baby bunny unless you are ready to give them a good home for the next 10 years or so. Bunnies grow up to be rabbits and they require special care and attention to have full happy lives. Just like any pet you adopt.

And if you really want to adopt a pet rabbit, wait until after Easter and go to your local animal shelter. Usually a week after Easter they start to get lots of bunnies that folks realize they don’t want to keep. Sad, but true.

An easier way to have a bunny for Easter is to crochet a cuddly toy bunny. Hey, you knew I was going to fit crochet in here somehow. There are some great patterns out there for bunnies, I did a search on Ravelry for Free Bunny softie toys and was blown away by the number of patterns. Over 9 pages of patterns came up.

Image from Lion Brand Yarns.
Image from Lion Brand Yarns.

This cutie is the “Best Bunny” from the Lion Brand Website and I think he is adorable. I love the big floppy ears and generous size of the toy. Just big enough to make a great back pack friend, but not so huge that you need 5 months to make it.

He is shown worked in a fun 2 color combination, but you could make him in one solid color if you desired. Personally I am tempted to make him a bright blue or aqua.

Image from Lion Brand Yarns
Image from Lion Brand Yarns

If you are running short on time there is also this cute little Amigurumi Bunny Egg Cozy from the Lion Brand Website. What a great way to decorate a special egg for the Easter basket.

Or you could stuff the body with fiberfill and work a few more decrease rounds to close up the bottom of the cozy and turn him into an eggy shaped softie. Again I’m seeing this bunny worked in a variety of bright spring colors.

If neither of these bunnies inspire you to crochet up some rabbit friends, then take a look at the pattern database on Ravelry. You can search in a variety of ways to find the pattern that you like best.

Now get hopping, Easter will be here before you know it.

Life is Better with Chocolate

Chocs from Truffles in Paradise

I love chocolate. I also love my family. So I was very excited when I found out that the Colorado Chocolate Festival was happening Mother’s Day Weekend.  I contacted my dear friend Terie and told her we had to go.

My boys overheard that conversation and made it known that they wanted to come too. So we have all been very excited this week waiting for Saturday to arrive. The Festival actually started on Friday, but I figured I only really needed to spend one day at a Chocolate Festival. Especially since my treadmill conked out on me Wednesday.

We woke up yesterday morning to icky weather. Snowy and nasty up here on the mountain. Terie sent me a message asking if we were still a “go” for Chocolate. Normally I would have punked out with weather like that, but hey, we are talking about Chocolate here. We did decide to meet a little later than originally planned.

Herded the boys out the door and we were on the way. The top of the mountain wasn’t the nicest drive, but half way down the roads were just wet. We made a stop to grab an early lunch, since eating lots of chocolate samples on an empty stomach didn’t sound like a good plan.

Finally we made it to the Denver Merchandise Mart building where the Festival was being held. Saturday was clearly the day everyone had decided to be there. The parking lot was very full, and we ended up parking some distance from the entrance. All to the good though as it allowed me to get a few extra steps in. There was a small fee at the door for entry and then we purchased “sampler” tickets. These tickets allowed you to obtain samples from the various vendors.

I had purchased 24 sampler tickets and split them among my family. Himself is not quite as wild for chocolate as the boys and I. So he took 3 tickets while the boys and I each had 7. We also got 2 complimentary tickets for a dip in the Chocolate fountain that the boys laid claim to. As they were waiting in line for the fountain I went in search of Terie.

Terie and I
Terie and I

Amazingly, even with the crowd and the size of the venue, I found her fairly quickly. She finished making her purchase and we went back to say “hi” to my boys. When we got back to them the boys were finishing their chocolate dipped marshmallows (I was exceedingly grateful I had fed them “real” food first). My youngest was a bit enthusiastic with his enjoyment and had chocolate all over his face.

While searching for Terie I had found there was an activity area for the kiddos.  We headed that direction with the boys before Terie and I resumed our chocolate quest. There was a bouncy castle for the littles, plus an inflatable obstacle course and these big inflatable balls called “Hamster Balls”. Those were too tempting for the boys and they needed to try them. I got tickets for the boys and then Terie and I headed off to explore the chocolate options while the boys waited for their turn to be hamsters.

My purchases from the Festival
My purchases from the Festival

This was a very well attended event and the crowds made it nearly impossible to get much in the way of good photos, but I did get a couple. There were booths selling various other items beside chocolate as Gifts for Mother’s Day.  There were temptations at every turn, but I did manage to behave myself somewhat.

Jenny at Sheaberry
Jenny at Sheaberry

I couldn’t resist trying the testers at the Sheaberry booth. They had lovely lotion bars and lip balms.

My Sheaberry purchases
My Sheaberry purchases

In keeping with the spirit of the Festival the lipbalms were Chocolate Buttercream. They have a lovely chocolaty scent to them, but no chocolate flavor. I got a couple of them and added one of their Solid Lotion Bars in Lavender to my purchases.

Treats for the Dogs

There were even booths with goodies for the furry four-legged members of the family alongside treats for the humans. Terie and I stopped at one booth that had sold out of all her brownies for people, but she still had a few bags of canine cookies. I had to purchase a bag of them for my dogs.

There were lots of chocolate companies there, but I was excited about the discovering some Colorado Chocolate companies that I didn’t know about. Both of these are small companies with a specialist chocolatiers hand making all the delicious goodies.

The Lovely Marisa

Marisa of Truffles in Paradise from Longmont, Colorado. She had a beautiful booth presentation, and divine chocolates. I loved her gorgeous little sample sized chocolates so much that I decided to splurge on a little Mother’s Day gift for myself.

Open Box of Truffles

This little box of 4 truffles was perfect. Though I am really trying to pace myself on eating the chocolates I got from the Festival, these little hearts have been tempting me all day. If you want to acquire some of Marisa’s goodies for yourself you can visit her website at: TrufflesinParadise.com.

Kim at Toute Douceur

Kim of Toute Douceur from Conifer, Colorado. I did a terrible job taking this photo, with such a busy booth I had to take it quickly when there was no one standing in front of her company sign. Kim was quickly selling out of her delicious chocolates. I fell in love with her Chocolate Ganache truffle. “Toute Douceur” is old world French for ‘All Sweetness’ and Kim has aptly named her business.

Dark Chocolate Expresso truffles from Toute Douceur
Dark Chocolate Expresso truffles from Toute Douceur

When I went back by her booth to purchase some chocolates to take home with me she had sold out of the Ganache. Instead I purchased a couple of the Dark Chocolate Expresso truffles. These should be perfect this week when I need an afternoon pick-me-up. You can find Kim’s website at: www.toutedoucercustomsweets.com.

It was wonderful meeting these chocolatiers, and hearing a little of their adventures with chocolate. I’m inspired to learn more about Chocolate and how these delicious confections that I adore are created. Watch for a few more blog posts about chocolate the next couple of months.

Another Awesome TNNA Show

As some of you know, the first weekend of May (2-5th) was the TNNA Summer Trade Show in Indianapolis, IN. This is the show where all sorts of needleart craft vendors have booths that show their wonderful merchandise for the coming Fall/Winter season.

There is yarn, and tools, and yarn, and accessories, and yarn, and books, and yarn. Yeah, you can tell what I was paying the most attention to.

Most of the folks attending the show, besides the many vendors, are shop owners looking for the products they will be selling in their stores. So there really isn’t much to purchase there. It’s more a matter of talking to the various vendors about how a freelance crochet designer/teacher like myself can utilize their products. The main thing being designing with some of those lovely yarns.

Jill and Tabs on the inbound flight

I took a flight out of Denver on Friday and it must have been the TNNA flight. My friends and fellow designers Jill Wright and Tabetha Hendricks were seated across the aisle from me and one of my seat mates was a yarn company sales rep. The TNNA show is more of a working show, everyone is in and out of meetings so it is sometimes just a quick hug with friends. It was fun to have some time to visit with Jill and Tabs on the flight.

Seattle Skyline Chocolate Bar Karen brought.
Seattle Skyline Chocolate Bar Karen brought.

I was rooming at the Hyatt with Karen Whooley.  We had a great time catching up between meetings and inspiring each other. We also each brought chocolate to share. I brought my usual assortment of Chocolove bars, with extra “Cherries & Almonds in Dark Chocolate” ones to give to Mary Beth and Karen.  Karen brought a wonderful sculpted bar from Dilettante Chocolates. They are a family-owned company from Seattle that has children in school with Karen’s.

Every time I go to a TNNA show I am always a bit overwhelmed. There is so much to see and everywhere you look there is color and exciting yarn. Sometimes I think I get a bit lightheaded from all the yarn fumes.  I always go with an eye toward a particular goal for my business. This time it was to reach out to more of yarn companies there and see about using their products in my upcoming indie published designs.

I am particularly drawn to the hand-dyed yarns. The colors are always so wonderful and get my brain ticking over.  I also spoke to many of the yarn companies about US made yarns. Some companies are really working on having products that are all domestic, sheep-to-skein production of yarn. Something I am strongly in favor of as it creates jobs in our local economies. As well as being better for the environment since the yarn isn’t being shipped across the planet to get to it’s end users.

Pile of Yarn

Some of the yarn companies were kind enough to provide me with a skein or two of their products to swatch with for my designs. Fortunately I left room in my suitcase to bring those home with me. Keep a watch here on the blog as I’ll be letting everyone know when I have patterns coming out using these yarns.

In the tools department I was very excited to see that Clover has steel hooks now in their Amour line of crochet hooks. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “Steel hook” it is usually referring to the tiny hooks used for crocheting with very fine thread. Those hooks can be the culprit for many hand injuries for crocheters, because they are tiny and steel is a very cold conductive metal.

Clover Amour Steel hook

Clover now has 7 different sizes of steel hooks, ranging from Size 0/1.75mm to Size 12/.6mm. I got a Size 8/.9mm to test drive. So I’ll be writing more about these wonderful new hooks very soon.

Thera-glovesSupport Glove

One of the companies that I was excited to see at the show was American Orthopedic Appliance Group with their many styles of “Thera-Gloves”. They were kind enough to share a sample pair of their “Designer Series” gloves with me that I will be doing a more in-depth review of later this summer. They have a variety of styles of therapeutic support gloves that you can see at their website: http://www.thera-glove.com.

Speaking of hands, I’m always looking for lotions to use on my hands. Colorado is a dry climate and my hands tend to really show it.  Back in January I made a trip to Ft. Collins with one of my friends to visit the LambSpun Yarn Shop. They had nifty “lotion bars”.

They looked like soap and it was suggested that you put them in a soap dish as a way to have them available to use. I really like the formulation, but there is no way putting the bar on a soap dish will work at my house. There are boys, dogs, and a cat. Too many opportunities for something undesirable to happen to the lotion bar. Not to mention I am on the go a lot and want to be able to take my lotion with me.

Milk and Honey lotion bar

It was great to find the Milk & Honey products at the show. Davin makes these lovely lotion bars and packages them in a tin that can fit very nicely in my project bag. She had the lotion bars in 3 different scents and I loved how they are molded in a shape. The little tin in the photo is some of her “Anywhere Balm”  that is lavender/mint. This is a great lip balm and is also now living in my project bag.

By the end of Monday at the show both Karen and I were exhausted. Fortunately our flight wasn’t until 8 p.m. that evening. We went back to the hotel and had a late lunch at the restaurant, which revived us a little. Then it was time to retrieve our bags and take a taxi to the airport. As we were doing that we both got messages that our flight was delayed. We were flying out of Indianapolis on the same flight, but Karen would have to switch to another plane in Denver to complete her journey home to Seattle.

Tired but Happy. Selfie of Us at Airport.
Tired but Happy. Selfie of Us at Airport.

We headed off to the airport and decided to see what the airline folks could do about Karen’s flight. She ended up having to take a different route home. So we said good-bye at the airport when it was time for her flight. As it was, we both got to our respective homes very late that night.

The next morning I slept in late and then spent the rest of  the day unpacking from the trip and making lots of notes about my meetings from TNNA. A week later I am still feeling inspired and excited about the yarns and products I saw there.  I’ll let you know more as I test out some products and swatch with the yarns. Looks like I’m going to be even busier this year.

 

 

Andee & Jan’s Big Adventure Part 2

As you likely can guess, the Part 2 of our adventure was the drive back to Colorado.

We planned very well for our departure and managed to be packed up, checked out and on the road by 8 a.m. We were just going to make a quick stop off the highway to visit a Whole Foods to re-provision some of the food we had eaten during our stay in Reno.

Of course, it wasn’t to be that simple. When we exited the highway I managed to take us in the wrong direction (I’m great at Geometry, total rubbish at Geography), fortunately we figured out that we were traveling in the wrong direction fairly quickly and got turned around.

Driving across Nevada was as boring the 2nd time around as it had been on the first. Added to the monotone of the scenery was that a haze seemed to be hanging over everything. But we had our music and lots of adventures at the show to talk about. We reached SLC at a decent hour (the sun was still up) and we had organized well for what we needed to bring to the room with us.

We each ate something for supper then had some fun snacking on chocolate. Had a bit of a “tasting” with the different flavors I had packed for us. Jan made me watch Football. Eek!

Next morning we were up and off quickly. Driving out of SLC we finally got to see the gorgeous scenery we had missed in the dark on the trip out to Reno.  The hills were actually quite lush with lots of greenery as well as dramatic rockscapes.  Many of the trees were sporting their autumn colors too. Jan was really enjoying the scenery, but since I was driving I could only give it a bit of attention.

The highways going out of SLC are very twisty and pretty busy, which I found entertaining.  I think Jan was relieved when the traffic got lighter though.

We were having some difficulties with my I-pod player at this point so we decided to sing.  A road-trip song I know well from way back is “99 Bottles of Beer”, but it didn’t really fit for us. So we decided upon a yarn related version. We used up an hour of our travel time playing with variations of words and singing them to see how well they worked. Jan finally came up with the version that we liked best:

99 Balls of Bamboo on the Wall,

99 Balls of Bamboo,

Take one down it needs to be wound,

98 Balls of Bamboo on the wall.

Of course, I had a terrible time getting it right. I kept messing up and singing the old lyrics. It was definitely entertaining though.

We were then getting to where the terrain was opening up, and we were enjoying all the rocky scenery.  We stopped when there was a really long cargo train and took some photos.  The gorgeous stone buttes were hard to do justice to. I fixed the I-pod issue and we had our tunes back to sing with, instead of our improvised counting song.

Wyoming was adventure free until we reached Cheyenne. Once again a combination of road-work and my geographically challenged mind created a bit of interest for us.  We were still on I-80 coming into Cheyenne. We knew we needed gas soon and both of us were wanting a bathroom stop as well. So we pulled off at the first likely exit.  Could not find the gas station that was advertised on the highway signage, only spotted it as we missed the turn to get to it.

Back we went on the next highway entrance. I’m not even sure what highway this was, though I spotted signs that said we were headed toward I-25 (our route we would need for going south into Colorado).  We pulled off again and found a gas station, filled the tank and emptied ours. Then I decided it was time to invoke the Smart Phone.

I pulled up a Navigation Ap and we discovered we were actually very close to I-25, we just needed to get back on the highway we had been on and we would reach the I-25 South exit in just a mile. Yay! Back onto the highway we went.

Hmmmm….shouldn’t we have gotten to I-25 already? Look there it’s the “Sierra Trading Post” storefront. The scenery is becoming far less urban and more rural. Okay we are definitely going the wrong direction again. Pull off at next exit. Pull out Smart Phone. Yup, I-25 is back that-a-way.  And back we go.

I was never so happy to see signs for I-25 South.  Interestingly enough, once we were on I-25 the rest of the drive sort of flew by.  The traffic was heavier than I am generally used to on Colorado Highways, I think we had managed to hit it just right for when many commuters are heading home. We made it to our exit with no more misadventures.

We took a slightly different route home from the one I had taken Janet down the mountain. She wasn’t going to get to see very much more of my beautiful Colorado (until I get her out here for another visit) so we took a “long-cut” to get to my house.  It was getting on toward evening, but this route would only add 10 minutes to our drive.  Fortunately my geographically challenged issues don’t apply in my familiar stomping grounds, which meant we were in no danger of getting lost again.

We drove thru the little town of Lyons, which Jan made me promise we would investigate further on her next visit, and then took the St Vrain Canyon to Peak-to-Peak Highway. The look of delight on Jan’s face as we drove the rocky winding road let me know taking a “long-cut” had definitely been a good choice.

We stopped and took some photos at one point, and realized that there was a climber on one of the rock faces.

Red circle is where the climber is.

Looking at this larger photo you can get a feel for how big it is because the climber is just a speck.

Finally we were back home. We were tired but happy as we trekked up to the house from my garage. My family was all very excited to see us. Finally put the boys to bed and Jan and I sat on the sofa having our last face to face visit before her departure in the morning.

Morning I faced the hardest part of these visits with my dear Jan. Telling her good-bye until we will see each other again.  Of course the best part is, I have a wonderful friend who makes me laugh and loves yarn and crochet hooks as much as I.  It will be phone calls and emails until we get another chance to meet.

Oh Nom!

Okay, most of the time I’ll blog about crochet techniques, yarn, art or design news. But today I must post about my discovery of a new flavor chocolate bar from one of my very favorite chocolate companies, Chocolove.

This is their new flavor “Currants and Almonds in Dark Chocolate”, they have also updated their “Cherries and Almonds in Dark Chocolate”.

Both are organic and fair-trade products which means reduced guilt on having a chocolate binge.  Better yet, the percentage of Cocoa content is 73% adding up to less sugar in the chocolate bar, which is healthier. Total Win!

Of course the Nom factor doesn’t need to be described to those of my readers who are fellow chocolate aficionados. As for the rest of you who don’t have the love for the chocolate, I extend my pity. ;o)