It’s been a couple of busy weeks here at Casa Pennywenny, mostly due to the heavy snow and three school cancellations that resulted in a 5 day weekend for my kids. You’d think there would be more time for crafting during snow, but when your snowblower suddenly dies, there’s just a lot of shoveling and not so much free time.
Yep, we are definitely beginning to feel like we are in the middle of a life or death battle between our possessions and our bank account. As I mentioned in my last post, just this month the garage door motor to my husband’s door died. The wheel on his garage door sheered off a few days later. The snowblower died (it needs a new belt). Jim, Jack and I ALL had to get new glasses. We found out our son will need braces (this was not so much a surprise as inconveniently timed). On top of it all, the homeowner’s insurance wants us to have a large tree in the front yard trimmed and to repair the stonework in our side walkway. The funny thing about the last is that we’ve been with this homeowner’s insurance since we bought our first home more than 14 years ago. Our first home had multiple trees that overhung the roof, sketchy front and back steps and goodness knows what else wrong, but they never asked us to repair anything. Now all of a sudden they are worried. (Maybe because I’ve already made a claim for backing into my own garage door? Probably). We also already knew that we need major plumbing work done in the kids’ bathroom sometime this spring.
In the midst of all those ongoing and upcoming expenses, I managed to get our taxes done during the first week of February and amazingly we already got our refund! So we at least have some funds to deal with all of these issues as needed. It also means I had a little fun money to spend on supplementing my wardrobe, so I bought myself a couple of cute swing dresses at Kohl’s and ordered a new pair of L’Artiste shoes online (to replace a pair of Danskos that wore out). I also found a pair of Old Navy jeans exactly like the one pair I currently own at Savers, and they were only $5.99! So between my friend’s recent gift of clothing to me, and my little tax refund splurge, I think I have enough to make my wardrobe work until it gets warm outside.
If you have ever lost a significant amount of weight, you will know the weird combination of astonishment and pure happiness that you get from walking into a clothing store and not only being able to find your size easily but also getting to pick out fashionable clothes. One thing that absolutely SUCKS about the plus sized clothing industry is that they seem to think bigger ladies want to dress like grandmas. Instead of trying to adapt the current fashions to larger sizes, a lot of companies just throw in the towel and make things tent-like with no shape. That is definitely changing with brands like Lula Roe and online personal shopping services that cater to plus sizes. But it was never enjoyable for me to head to the store for clothing when I was a size 22. Now, at size 8, I feel almost overwhelmed by my choices. I’m sure that will wear off soon enough, but man do I feel great when I shop right now! In a way, it’s a good thing that I have to stick to my new household budget so I don’t go overboard with buying new clothes.
But enough about our household budget and new homeowner problems! I have done a little bit of knitting over the past little while. My scrappy mitered square blanket (inspired by the End-less Squares Blanket) is coming along. I am on the fourth row of squares.
I do try to knit at least one square a day, but a lot of the time I knit a few because they are kind of addictive. I keep my big basket of sock yarn odds and ends in the living room and just grab a few whenever I sit down to watch TV in the evening.
I also made the Kingswood Cowl in Shibui sock to thank my knitting friend for her gift of clothing to me. It was a fun knit and I think it came out looking beautiful. My friend seemed to like it, too, when I gave it to her this week. I wore some of the clothes she bought me so she could see how well they fit and know how grateful I am.
My big news is that I finally frogged the Lillian Fay sweater in Dream in Color Classy. I was putting it off because, as you can see from the photo, I was so close to being done with it. That section of dark yarn really just killed it for me.
I finally ripped it out during the snowstorm and cast on the Daelyn sweater by Isabelle Kraemer. As you can see from the photo, I am alternating skeins using a little two skein bag that I got from my pal Lois at Knittingsmybag. I’m not sure if she ever sold them (this might have been a prototype), but it works like a charm for me.
I am also working on the second Crosshatch sock that I recently designed. It came in hand because it turns out that one of the Senseis at my karate dojo is a knitter and she asked me to teach her how to do magic loop! So I brought my sock in and showed her just the other day. I have set myself a goal to publish the backlog of sock designs I’ve made over the past year. I think there are three or four patterns that need to be polished up and released. I’ll let you know on the blog and Instagram when that happens as a few people have asked me about them.
On the baking front, not much got done this week. My son and I tried King Arthur’s Easy Banana-Walnut Bread (p.545) that was pretty delicious (we left out the walnuts because we both think walnuts taste like dirt). Sadly, only he and I actually enjoy banana bread, so it wasn’t a huge hit with the whole family. He loved it and ate almost half the loaf the day we baked it. I managed to eat a couple of small pieces before he finished the whole thing at the end of the week. I thought it was pretty tasty but I would bake it for a slightly shorter time next time to make it a bit more moist. It’s so hard working with my sketchy 1970’s mini oven, even with an oven thermometer inside. Sometimes the oven is above what you set it at and other times it’s below. It’s like the oven is just trying to screw things up!
I have also been trying to make sour dough bread but the timing just hasn’t been right. First, I have to make sure to feed the levain at the right time the night before, and start the dough while the levain is still ripe and not separated. That has turned out to be difficult this past week because of the many daytime appointments I had scheduled. Once the levain is fed, you have to wait at least 6 hours before trying to bake with it, sometimes longer. If you miss a feeding, you need to get it up to speed again. One thing I have definitely learned is that this process is too much work for me. I am going to bake a loaf to see how it tastes but I don’t think I’m going to keep doing it.
The other issue I had is that the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Book (WGBB) recommends rising the dough in a banneton, baking on a stone, placing boiling water in a cast iron pan underneath the bread in the oven to create steam, and misting the bread during the bake as needed. I don’t have a banneton or a baking stone. I also don’t have a cast iron pan that will fit into my miniature oven easily. I had to buy a spray bottle because we didn’t have a food appropriate spray bottle lying around. I know I don’t have to follow the directions exactly, and there are other rising/baking options that will work just fine (I had honestly never even heard of a banneton until this week), but the whole process is just too complicated to make it enjoyable. I’m going to stick to my regular whole wheat bread after this, I think.
What else has been occupying my time? I continue to use my Erin Condren planner every week and I really feel like it has made me so much more organized. I’ve mentioned this before (I think), but I have assigned specific chores to certain days to keep my cleaning on a schedule and it makes my housework feel so much less overwhelming. I have also started paying my bills weekly as they come due, rather than trying to pay them twice a month. It’s a little extra time to pay bills weekly, but I mark out all the different bills on my monthly overview and then put a reminder in the week they are due for payment, so it’s just a matter of grabbing the due bills and hopping online to pay them at the beginning of each week. I am also keeping track of my exercise times, my levain feedings and my monthly goals and plans. Seeing something I need to work on move to the next week is somehow really motivating me to get stuff done in a more timely fashion. Also, I try to exercise at least 5 days a week, so seeing a skipped day (it can’t be helped sometimes) reminds me I need to make it up later.
So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Whew! Seems like I’ve been busy when I write it all down like this.