July 13, 2014

Kicking Back on Vacation!

Doesn’t every vacation begin with a list? Several weeks before our planned ten days in Connecticut, I headed a sheet of paper with the word, “Vacation.” Jim seemed dismayed when I proceeded to add a good list of projects to be undertaken on vacation. 

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By the time we got to CT and began our ten days of bliss on July 3rd, the list was impressive. Jim seemed unhappy at first and then his energy source kicked in and he kicked it…

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Together we washed all the windows in the house. Boy, did they need it. They are kind of low-end windows and they get foggy between the divided lights and the removable inner storm. Sadly, the “removable” part means cleaning each window involves removing the sashes and dis-assembling each window in addition to removing the storms and screens. It takes a while, but the results are outstanding! We washed all the curtains, too. Our bedroom sparkled. 

photo (13)Jim also re-painted the back wall of the house. It was peeling in spots and we knew we could extend the life of our paint job, if we just cleaned it up. 

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Just look at that satisfied painter with his post-painting beer!

Also on the list was trimming the bushes. I just love to trim bushes. I am perhaps a more eager than skilled trimmer. Once again, I managed to trim the power cord. It is really great that that merely shuts the trimmer off rather than cutting off the life of the person trimming. When Jim went to the hardware store to get the thing that repairs the extension cord, the guy at the store said he had done it three times. Well, that  was only my second. Just look at these bushes…

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Next up garage doors which needed a new coat of paint and the garden which needed weeding. 

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While Jim cleaned the garage, top to bottom, I scrubbed and mopped the kitchen floor. 

By the end of the week, we had everything on the list complete. 

Now, you might think we were all work and no fun, but that would be far from the truth. Quitting time was about 5:30 and that meant we hit the showers and it was cocktail time. A nice woosie strength G&T for me and some craft beer for Jim. We got dinner prep under way and then selected from any number of delightful vistas from the gazebo view of the pond to the front porch or the back patio. 

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After dinner, we sat on the front porch and read or sometimes watched something on Netflix. It was a very congenial schedule. With such clean windows, the sun got us up early and the routine continued. Luckily, we had fantastic weather everyday. Of course, all tasks were balanced with copious amounts of knitting, spinning (for me) and reading (both of us). I began a gorgeous sweater designed by Kathryn Alexander which uses 48 different colors of her hand-dyed woolen yarns and I was also spinning lace weight yarn for a Pi Shawl based on a design based on Elizabeth Zimmerman designed by MWaa Knit on Ravelry. I’ll need 1400 yards so I have a bit of spinning to do. I am, of course, using Logan for it. I think I will dye the yarn blue.  

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The big excitement was Saturday morning about 3 am when a big black bear came and attacked the garbage bin. The noise of the falling bin woke us and we peered out as Mr. Bear took first one bad of garbage, abandoned it and took a second bag which we never did find. Wish I had a picture of the big black bear!

Of course all efforts were closely attended by our fellow vacationer. He might not be much for painting, trimming or cleaning, but he sure does enjoy every meal and he is awfully cute. 

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We were very sad to return to reality, but we left a well-tended home and we will enjoy the fruits of our labors in just five days when we head up again. 

June 29, 2014

Frost Family Re-united During Alex’s Leave

Alex was home on leave for almost three weeks and it was the most wonderful time. Luckily, both Peter and Ellie were around for much of his visit and the five of us (plus Dakota) had a great chance to enjoy being a family.

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Dinner at our favorite Le Relais de Venise

We shared good food, family outings and the beautiful June sun and weather.

Alex spent a good portion of his leave making like a couch potato. As they say, you can take the Marine out of the corps, but you can’t take the couch potato out of the Marine. I guess that’s okay because the man did have a long year with much work. He deserved every minute of relaxation.

We celebrated Ellie’s 21st birthday and Alex and Peter took her out for drinks.

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We also visited another favorite restaurant and had an amazing dinner including Red Cat‘s signature tempura green beans. The only mishap of the evening was Alex had to wear his uniform. We had posed for family pictures right before we left and somehow I jammed the dryer shut with Alex’s khaki pants in it. We had to run for the train and there was nothing to be done. He looked fantastic. We got to ride the train for free and many people came up to thank him, but I think he felt pretty much on display all evening. Of course, Jim fixed the dryer in two seconds when we got home…but then it was too late.

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On our way to dinner, we visited Ellie’s apartment in Brooklyn Heights. Yes, the girl is living pretty high this summer with a pad in the Brooklyn and a two stop commute to Deutsche Bank. It was great fun to see her place and I must admit to a bit of envy.

Alex and I did have a chance to enjoy one of our favorite kayak trips down the Farmington River. After a few days of heavy rain, the river was running high and we had quite a trip! There were more rapids than our kayaks were intended to face and both of us ended up in the water, but it was a great three hour trip.

It may have been almost three weeks, but the time flew by. Before we knew it, Jim and I were driving Alex to JFK and Ellie headed to her apartment for her summer of banking. Peter is still home working at Leslie’s Pool Supply and taking Organic Chemistry. But it was a great visit and we will enjoy our memories for a long time.

In the meantime, check out my gorgeous family. I couldn’t be luckier!!

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May 31, 2014

Marine Mom

DSC04020Looking at the back of my classic red truck, it is pretty easy to get the sense that I am a Marine Mom. I am a very excited Marine Mom because Tuesday my most favorite Marine in the whole world is coming home for almost 3 weeks of post-deployment leave! It is a safe bet that I will have spoiled and smothered Corporal Frost to distraction within 24 hours. Semper Fi!

April 5, 2014

New York Botanical Garden 2014 Orchid Show

It is that time of year. Yes, spring and today truly was one of the first warm, sunny days. But, what I am really referring to is the annual New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show! I clipped the ad from the paper and it has been sitting on the counter for over a week. Probably Jim would rather poke hot needles into his eyes, but yesterday when I got home there was the sweetest blooming phal on the kitchen table and Jim gamely, bravely announced he thought we should head to the orchid show by 10.

Jim's warm up gift to me--a tiny sweet phalaenopsis.

Jim’s warm up gift to me–a tiny sweet Phalaenopsis.

The show was good. The theme was Key West, but it was at best a loosely defined theme. The orchids were amazing. I think even Jim was mesmerized by the infinite variety of unbelievable colors, flower and leaf shapes. It was an unworldly array.

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February 23, 2014

Scads of Scones!

I am not much of a baker. Maybe because I am not hugely fond of sweets and cakes and pie, but baking has never been my thing. I do like scones. A few weeks ago the New York Times had a recipe for scones. I clipped it and one Sunday morning when everyone was still asleep, I mixed up a batch of current and pecan scones.

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They were a big hit. Peter, Ellie and Jim came down to a nice Sunday breakfast with fresh baked scones. They seemed to like it.

The recipe was for Currant Cream Scones and I added the pecans on my own.

So, a couple of weeks later, I made another batch, but this time I made a double batch so Peter and Ellie could take some scones back to school. There was general clamor and acclaim.

Now scone frenzy has erupted in the Frost household. Scones are in major demand. Texts arrive on my phone during the week entreating, demanding, reinforcement of scone supplies. Much discussion takes place of alternate recipes. Ginger, blueberry, with nuts, without nuts–this is all the subject of hot debate.

Peter came home this weekend to keep me company while Jim is off visiting his mother in Florida. Scones were, without doubt, a necessity. Remembering his previous request for ginger, I checked out potential recipes. The winner was Ginger Scones as found on Simply Recipes.  

A double batch was whipped up. Scones for Peter to take back to school. Scones for the freezer for Jim when he gets home and Ellie when she next visits. Scones for tea and breakfast. We are scone replete.

Next up: Blueberry with nuts.

February 16, 2014

Wondrous Winter Weekend

Friday did it. I finally threw in the towel and called “hookey!” It wasn’t having almost made it through yet another week of snow and storm and delayed trains. Yes, Metro North declaring Friday a “Saturday schedule” with 40% of train capacity, provided somewhat of a justification, but mostly I just couldn’t stand the idea of missing more gorgeous snow! This is the BEST WINTER EVER!!

Jim and I headed up to the country Friday morning with the prospect of three nights and almost four days of hanging out at the house, playing in the snow and just enjoying the peace and bright white snow of a real wintry weekend.

This winter reminds us of the winter of 1982. The snow was so deep that the path to the garage door and the driveway was lined with piles of snow over our heads. We could actually step off the front porch roof right onto the front yard. We don’t have quite that much snow this year, but it is a bumper crop.

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There is enough snow that I got to break out my trusty roof rake.

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When we arrived Friday, the drive hadn’t been plowed and I will confess to a momentary frustration with the snow, but Jeff arrived almost immediately and we were plowed out in less than half an hour.photo (17)

We dug out the back door and the all-important access to the fuel tanks.

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Raking the porch roof is always a good workout. The snow was deep enough, just walking to rake the roof was a workout.

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After some bush maintenance and shoveling, we headed off for a walk up the road.

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Normally no one loves snow more than Dakota. He runs like a crazy puppy and loves to dig his nose into the white, fluffy flakes. But this snow is so deep, he can only walk where the snow is cleared. I think he still loves the cold, but his crazy puppy circles are confined.

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We’re all having a wonderful weekend. This is the best winter ever!!

January 20, 2014

My First Fleece–Part One

One of the big events of my year every year is the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. Always the third weekend in October, I start getting excited for the next Sheep and Wool on the way home in the car from the one I just finished.

Ellie has bravely attended NYSW for two years running with me. Without complaint she accompanies me through the show from packed aisle to packed aisle looking as interested as possible at the thousands of permutations on fiber mania.

This year her loyalty extended to getting up at 5 am and driving two hours with me from Northampton to Rhinebeck. We arrived to heavy traffic at the 9 am opening. Aside from the normal rush of adrenaline, this year was particularly exciting as I had decided to make a big commitment. After much thought as a spinner of one year’s duration, I had decided to buy my first fleece.

This was not a decision lightly arrived at. Buying a fleece would be a major step. After all, as I had pointed out to Jim, after a fleece there is only one more step back to the source for a knitter and a spinner–buying a live sheep. To prepare for this undertaking I had spent hours watching high drama and compelling videos on evaluating fleeces, washing and processing fiber and preparing a fleece for spinning. I had studied breeds and thought carefully about the properties I most valued in the fiber I had spun and what I might want to knit with the output of my spinning. The more I learned and the more I thought, the greater my anxiety. This was a big leap into the unknown.

The area where all the fleeces are displayed would be uncharted territory. Previously I had eyed the building with the fleeces with wariness and concern. Long tables ran in parallel lines the length of the structure. Each table was loaded with plastic bags spilling over with various fleeces; Primitives, Longwools, Medium wools, Alpaca. The varieties were endless. Colored fleeces in greys, browns and, of course, white added to the mix of choices. The air was thick with the smell of lanolin and unprocessed fiber. Many of the fleeces were labeled with breed, type, weight and price. Some fleeces bore ribbons and prizes from judging as well as the judge’s report cards on the quality of the fleece.It would have been heaven except how in the world could one choose? No wonder reports are legion of spinners leaving with six or even eight fleeces!

Slowly we walked the length of each table. Touching first one fleece, checking the crimp on another. We attempted to eliminate potential acquisitions. Color was a factor. I knew I wanted a white fleece. Wool type was also a factor. I wanted a versatile fleece with a fairly high micron count–softer and better for yarn for clothing. At last we chose…The fleece we picked was a Romney/ Border Leicester cross. It seemed a good all-purpose fleece. Attached to the bag was a sheet of information. My fleece came from a sheep named “Logan.” It weighed 5 lbs 15ozs–some of which was dirt and lanolin. The fleece was coated and skirted. This meant that Logan had worn a coat to keep dirt and vegetative matter out of his fleece and the unusable parts of the fleece had been trimmed away. Logan was raised on a farm in Carlisle, PA. When I took the bag brimming with unprocessed fleece up to the register, it turned out Logan was raised by the daughter of the woman who was ringing up the sale. She said that her daughter raised only dark-colored sheep for fleece, but Logan’s fleece was so nice, she kept him for his white fleece anyway. Below is the sheet of information:Wooly Wonders Farm (color)My excitement over acquiring Logan’s fleece was now only matched by a sense of great responsibility. I must do my best to honor Logan’s fleece. He had spent long months growing his fleece, it must be cared for, prepared and put to good use. It was a solemn pact.

The next step would be to wash my fleece. This was going to be a job. A very big job. I waited until I had a full Saturday at my disposal. In all the videos I had seen, triumphant fleece purchasers spread their new fleeces out and easily recognizable was the outline of the former wearer of that fleece. It wasn’t like that with Logan.

photo (18)Logan’s fleece looked like a garbled mess. Logan, like my two younger children, clearly never folded or hung up his clothes. You can’t really get a sense of how much fiber there is here in this photo, but believe me, it is a lot.

The first step in processing fleece is a good washing. Out must come the dirt from the field and at least some of the lanolin. Spinners in New Zealand are famous for spinning in the grease which means spinning unprocessed fiber straight from the fleece. This will make a water-proof garment and insure the spinner’s hands are soft and supple, but it is not good for creating yarn which isn’t going to be used in stormy weather or which is expected to take a dye. The lanolin coats the fiber and will eventually dry out and will also refuse to let dye into the fiber.

photo (17)I loaded too big pots on the stove with hot water simmering away. One pot was for washing and had some dishwashing liquid added to the water. The next pot was for rinsing.

photo 1I took Logan’s fleece in sections and let each section simmer in the hot, soapy water for about 15 minutes.photo 5

After squeezing excess water out wearing rubber gloves against the heat, I dunked the fiber into the rinse water. After rinsing, I squeezed the fleece gently and then used our trusty salad spinner to get as much water out as possible. The difference between pre-and post-washed fleece was remarkable.

photo 4Even wet the now washed fleece was white and fluffy. The kitchen was hot and steamy and smelled wonderfully of lanolin and wet sheep as I worked my way through each portion of Logan’s seemingly ever-larger fleece. It took well over four hours but by the time I finished I felt I knew my fleece intimately and I was in love with every lock of his wool. Just look at how lovely it is…

photo 3My hands were permanently pruned and ached from all the hot water. My back was killing me, but Logan was washed and laid out to dry. It would take a full week for all of that fleece to dry. And then the next step would be figuring out how to process the cleaned fiber and get ready to spin.

The next installment will cover my first spinning attempts with Logan and will feature some finished yarns. Stay tuned…

January 7, 2014

Moans and Mohs

Jim at the second pass, you don't want to see the fifth.

Jim at the second pass, you don’t want to see the fifth.

Sometimes you just get kicked in the butt by life. Poor Jim has had problems with the skin on his nose for years. He went to the doctor regularly and several years ago all was pronounced okay. In November he went back to see the doctor and they said he had basal cell cancer.

Today was the day he had it attended to. They said he could go alone. They said it would not be a huge deal. It was a whole lot worse than they ever expected. Clearly that last biopsy was wrong and his cancer has been growing for a long time. He arrived home after six hours of ambulatory surgery with his face swathed in bandages, a real shiner on his left eye and in a whole lot of pain. They did five passes with the Mohs procedure (do not click this link without a warning)–way more than usual or anticipated. He will have to have two passes of plastic surgery.

Sometimes life just kicks you in the butt for no reason at all…

January 5, 2014

PBR–The Adventure Continues

What can you say about a spouse who not only buys his wife amazing tickets to PBR , he buys two, goes with and seems to actually enjoy it? He’s a keeper.

Every January, PBR starts their new year off in New York City at Madison Square Garden. You wouldn’t think there were that many cowboys in the tri-State area, but guess again.

We had great seats and the action was unparalleled. It was two and a half hours of pure bull adrenaline. It was a fantastic afternoon and was over all too soon. Thank you, honey.

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January 1, 2014

Welcome to 2014!!

Happy New Year!!!

We woke to a sparkling winter’s day in Connecticut. There was a light sprinkling of snow on the ground and the temperature hovered just above 10 degrees. The world looked fresh and new and just the kind of day which should welcome in a new year.

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Looking out the front, the walkway stones were barely visible.

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The backyard was empty and inviting for a stroll or a four-legged romp.

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The pond is almost empty of water and the sun breaks across the tops of the trees its light streaking through the frosty air.

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  Dakota surveys his realm and all is well in his world.

The last thirteen days of break have been delightful. Long stretches of relaxation were punctuated by activity. Countless hours of knitting and spinning balanced out with a bit of cooking and family outings. We had a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a quiet and enjoyable Christmas Eve and Day with just the four of us at home, a transition from Rye Brook to the country and a good stretch of time at one of our favorite places on earth. It has been a good ending to the holiday season and a great start to a brand new year.

2014 lies before all of us with opportunity, challenge and the prospect of happiness and love. 2013 was a good year for our family, I hope the same for 2014–for our family and for our friends and extended family.

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