Monday, April 25, 2011

William and Katherine

I have to admit, I'm horribly excited to watch Prince William and soon-to-be Princess Katherine get hitched at the end of this week.

I had a huge unrequited crush on Prince William during my formative years (what red-blooded straight girl couldn't love the blond-haired, blue-eyed poster boy for Prince Charming?), and I think Kate Middleton is effortlessly classy and elegant. I love what she's done for hats over the last few years, and I cannot wait to see her outfits for decades to come.

Perhaps -- just perhaps -- some of my excitement is also because my own nuptials are counting down, and I'm doing my absolute damndest to be a pretty pretty princess in my own right.

But I mean, come on -- who doesn't love the pomp and circumstance that goes along with a royal wedding? Granted, the pomp is definitely more appreciated by those of us who don't have to pay for it in taxes, but we have our own pomp we're taxed for. So there.

In short, raise a cuppa to William and Katherine. May their marriage be filled with years of loveliness and laughter, the same as I would wish for any newlyweds (myself included). And I hope Katherine doesn't mind if I use her as modern-day inspiration for effortless dignity and grace.

Living la Vie da Local

I've been really gearing up for the Farmer's Market season. One of the things I was really excited for moving to Colorado is that people here seem to be a little more environmentally conscious (vs. the oil-driven-everything's-bigger-in-Texas mentality). Not that there's anything wrong with Texans, heavens no -- I really enjoyed the years that I lived there. But I love the idea of a place that it's easy to ride your bike along the street (Fort Collins has a bike lane on pretty much every street in town) and find locally grown produce.

It's not uncommon to meet folks around here who have a few alpaca, or maybe even goats. My favorite yarn shop in town, My Sister Knits, has a chicken coop in the back yard with five or six egg-laying chickens.

I mentioned before that I've become more interested in eating healthy, and I've had a growing interest in buying locally. May starts the Farmer's Market season, and I cannot wait to see what's in store for us this summer. There are several around Fort Collins, and one actually started last week but only had about six stalls and not very much produce. It's still very early for anything grown in the ground, and I've been using the time to read up on what else I can do throughout the year.

I've been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (her name might seem familiar from her massively popular and very good Poisonwood Bible). It's a really well-written book about Barbara and her family living locally for one full year. If they can't grow it themselves or get it from a neighbor, they go without. They share recipes, tricks, secrets, history and details about the food industry that I had heard about, but never read in print before. (I imagine a lot of the same details are reported in movies like Food, Inc. and the like, but I have refrained from watching those movies for personal reasons.) She makes it seem manageable to do such a task, at least on a small scale. I do not have the land space to make a garden the size of hers, and I cannot keep my own chickens at the moment, but I can shop at more Farmer's Markets (now that they're open) and buy organic when I can. It is more expensive, yes, and even certified organics can be tricky. But I like the idea of having fresh food and supporting local businesses, and around here it doesn't seem so hard to do that more often. It's no longer a secret how the food industry treats animals that are being raised for mass meat production, or the chemicals they spray to kill bugs, or antibiotics they add to food that didn't need it 15 years ago. It will take some time and effort to convince major food corporations that we don't want that shit in our food or our bodies. I'm not going to spend a bunch of time preaching about this, but (as with most things) all it takes is a wee bit of effort from everyone -- or even a few more people every year -- and maybe we can make some big changes for the better.

Some Food Stuffs ....

I have been trying to eat healthier lately, for several reasons. Reason #1 is because our wedding is now 56 days away (I know the day count thanks to our Macy's Registry countdown clock ... masochists) and I've been trying for six months to trim down. I've lost 10 pounds, which is really great -- but I've been plateau'd at the same weight for the last two months. After four weeks, I got horribly frustrated and ignored my diet, gaining and losing the same two pounds -- despite my better efforts -- for the next four weeks. Now that we're down to less than two months, I'm trying again with renewed effort. I'll be happy with another five pounds gone, but will of course accept more.

Reason #2 is because it's just a good idea in general. We're doing really well at eating healthy at home (not so great when we go out, but we have done well with cutting back the amount that we eat out), and that's given me the motivation to start trying new recipes. I want to start trying at least one vegetarian option every week, and tonight is the first attempt (to be reported on later). I made a vegetable barley casserole last week that I thought was an entree -- but then I read the recipe closer and realized it was a side dish. It was very tasty, though, and could easily become an entree if you add your favorite meat-of-choice.

It's about two cups of cooked barley, and I added fresh onion and green pepper, as well as frozen spinach and corn. It was REALLY good, and I can only imagine that it's better when all the veggies are fresh.

I'm rather excited that I have some sproutlings coming up, too!! These are my snapdragons:
Super tiny. We're supposed to get rain all through this week, so I'm hoping the weather stays warm enough that they don't freeze. I also have a couple of teeny tiny chives poking their heads up, and exactly one basil sprout. Hooray for home-grown herbs!! We'll get the garden ready in the next couple weeks, and I'm hoping to plant right around Mother's Day, when we are hopefully far and away from snow season in Colorado.

I have to admit, I'm loving springtime in Colorado. When it rains here, it actually smells like rain. It's delightfully refreshing and I didn't realize how much I missed it until I smelled it again. Springtime in Houston is a fleeting time of year, and when it rains it tends to smell like humidity and mildew. I much prefer the smell here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Llamas, Alpacas and Crias, oh my!

About six months ago (has it really been that long? Pretend I didn't say that), I convinced Dear that we had to go to the Alpaca Festival in Loveland, CO. I wanted to go simply because I think the animals are cute and I knew there would be a bunch of them, and I figured it would be a great place to score some alpaca roving to spin up. I was right on both counts, but what I had not expected was that we would end the afternoon discussing whether or not we would want to keep a small herd of these animals someday.

Ever since then, I've been playing with the idea of finding an alpaca ranch somewhere nearby that I could volunteer and learn a little more about the business and the animals themselves. I finally got around to doing that, and Dear and I drove up this past Sunday to Happy Critter Farms to meet Carolyn and her herd of alpacas and llamas.

Carolyn and I had been emailing in the days leading up to our visit, so I knew that she had been nursing a preemie cria that was not bonding with its mother. She is yet unnamed and is still day-to-day, but what a sweetheart.

We learned a lot from Carolyn in the mere hour and a half we were there, and I'm looking forward to visiting more with her in the future. Besides the new cria, we got to meet Brownie and feed him some treats.

This is Brownie with Flat Stanley, a school project for our nephew. Flat Stanley was squashed flat as a pancake by a bulletin board and is now being mailed around the country and wants photos taken of his adventures. We thought Flat Stanley would like meeting some alpacas, and we weren't wrong!

We also tried to go to a Pygora goat shearing in town, but we missed the shearing by mere moments. However, the goats were cute and obviously quite itchy after being shorn. Can't say I blame her, but it was kind of cute to see her chewing herself and scratching up against anything vaguely textured (the fence, the wood post, their pen).

I have a few other blog posts that are brewing in my little ol' head, so I'll leave those for another day. Happy Alpaca Farming!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Little Seedlings

Spring has definitely sprung here in Colorado. The trees are starting to bud, tulip beds abound in my neighborhood, and the allergy-related headaches have reared their ugly head (har-dee-har-har). This also means that it's time for me to get my gardening started, which I did yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and I figured that was the perfect time for me to get my herbs planted.
Clockwise from top left, that's basil (two packets -- I accidentally overbought), fennel, chives, lavender, and snapdragons (not an herb, but I had a packet of seeds from my Grandmother and an extra pot -- I figured "What the Hell?"). I couldn't find any mint seeds, but I did find an already-sprouted plant at the Sunflower Market, so that's on my kitchen windowsill already being enjoyed.

I tried to grow herbs last summer in Houston -- I had basil and chives. The basil had started to sprout, but they hadn't quite gotten big enough to enjoy by the time we moved. I have the feeling the searing heat and the never-ending mushrooms sprouting up probably stunted their growth anyway (the chives never even sprouted). Here's hoping I see some greeniness in the next couple or few weeks!

My knitting is still stitching along. The super secret project that I'm test-knitting for Y2Knit has been started and I'm making good progress, but I still won't post any photos of that until the pattern has been published. I CAN tell you in the meantime that the yarn I was sent to make this project is quite lovely to work with. That's Laramie, from Mountain Meadow Wool and it's a lovely 100% Merino. Because of the way the yarn is milled and spun, there is still some vegetable matter embedded in it, and I get little pills as I knit along. All that means is that the yarn wasn't processed within an inch of it's life before it was spun up at the mill. The vegetable matter is usually removed when the yarn is picked or combed through to remove that type of thing; the small pills are because the shorter fibers were not removed during the same process. The only downside (in my humble opinion) about this type of processing is that it leaves it with less-than-perfect stitch definition -- which is really only an issue depending on the type of project you're knitting up. The yarn is really lovely to knit with and I think this project will come out quite nice, if I do say so myself.

In the next couple or few weeks, it will probably be warm enough for me to plant my vegetables. I haven't gone shopping for these plants yet, so more on that when it actually happens. But I am planning to at least have tomatoes and bell peppers, and perhaps also some green beans.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Never Idle Fingers

I've been thinking about things that I haven't finished so far this year, and that's a rather depressing thought -- so I decided to finish some things.

A couple months ago, I discovered an old triangle scarf I had knitted to cover my hair during the frequent rain storms in Houston. It's a lovely eggplant color and a cozy sport weight yarn, so it's VERY warm. It wasn't getting much use since we moved to Colorado, until I discovered it looked really cute as a neck scarf. I immediately decided to cast on for my long-planned second version, knit with lace weight Rowan Kidsilk Haze (the yarn equivalent to crack).

It's not a very fast-moving pattern (here's my Rav link), but I wanted the lighter weight scarf for springtime, and for the drizzles that are starting to happen in NoCo (Northern Colorado). I'm really pleased with how it came out.

This is how it wears to cover my hair in the drizzles, and then it has the bonus double usage of a neck scarf.
It's hard to tell in the photos, but it has a really wonderful halo around it -- which unfortunately gets stuck in chapstick like nobody's business. But it's worth it! Knit with about a skein and a half of Rowan Kidsilk Haze (kid mohair and silk, which makes it kind of sheeny and gives it that halo).

I'm still working away on my contented cardi. It looks like a big pink blob, so you'll have to wait for a photo until it looks less ... well ... blobby. I'm also swatching for a vest that I'm test-knitting for. There won't be any photos of that one for a while, out of respect to the designer, but know that I'm knitting on SOMETHING, even if I don't talk about it here.

In other homemaker news, I'm simply waiting for the weather to be less cold and gloomy before I plant seeds for my potted herb garden. I'm researching getting a plot in a community garden, so more on that as it develops. If I can't get a spot in a community garden in town, I'll plant in troughs in our backyard (the owner of our house probably doesn't want me to pull back the liner around the perimeter of our backyard to plant tomatoes and peppers). I WILL have a garden, and I'm secretly REALLY excited for the day we own our own home and I can plant my garden however I want.

I recently finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's What the Dog Saw, which I highly recommend. It's a collection of his articles from the New Yorker, so varying subjects, but he's an excellent writer and I now know things about hair dye and birth control (among other things) that I never even knew I cared about. I read mine on my Kindle, but here's an Amazon link, just for fun.