Archive for ‘Past-times’

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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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…

August 30, 2013

Deployment

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Alex deployed this week. His current orders state he will return in eight months. He was both very excited and nervous before leaving.

I can’t say much more about his deployment on line for security reasons, but he should be safe. He was very happy about his mission. It is quite an honor.

The amazing thing is that as he left all of his worldly possessions were either in a storage locker (including his very cute, but somewhat ridiculous white two-seater sports car) or with him in his duffle. We have so many things in our lives. Sometimes it feels like such a burden. Alex headed off like a turtle with his life on his back.

The other thing I have been thinking a lot about is that when these guys deploy, they put their lives on hold for us. They can literally freeze many of their bills during deployment. No more car payments, no accumulation of interest. Their private lives cease to exist and they are 100% devoted to their mission. That is quite a time out of normal life. It may not be the ultimate sacrifice, but it is a tremendous gift to the rest of us.

Semper Fi indeed.

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July 18, 2013

Los Lonely Boys in Norfolk

One evening which will always be transcendent in my memory was seeing Carlos Santana in concert at Madison Square Garden. We went back stage and met him, but far more amazing than that was the concert. Carlos was just plain magic. Equally magical was his opening band, Los Lonely Boys. Carlos and the boys went head to head and the sounds will never leave my brain and heart.

This explains why on April 11th when I logged on to my email at 5:30 a.m. my heart raced to see an announcement from Infinity Hall that Los Lonely Boys would be playing July 17th. I may have been the first person to purchase tickets. I sure as heck got the best tickets in the house!

A word on Infinity Hall. This is a beautifully renovated venue which seats 300 people. Our long time friend, Jack Forchette, has been involved since day one and books the acts. Jack is an amazing man. He has had one of those lives which live most often in fiction with new chapters, twists and turns and lots of unforgettable experiences. At one point he delivered our mail, but before than he was a professional baseball player, managed the group Chicago and many other acts. He could fill a book, not just a blog post. Once entering the Bertelsmann Building at 1540 Broadway, I ran into Jack heading to a meeting at BMG. The man gets around.

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Back to Los Lonely Boys. The concert was outstanding. The energy and musicianship of the three brothers was off the charts and, as far as I was concerned, they could have played for hours and hours and hours. They played a long concert. They must collapse in a heap at the end. The small venue made it seem like they were playing just for us. Don’t even start Jim on how phenomenal they were, he raved all the way home.

It was our big night out on vacation and it was a major home run. All night the music has played in my dreams. Oh, and to top it off, we ran into Jack and Dana, his wife, at the show! So wonderful to see long time friends.

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June 2, 2013

A Week Too Short…

The greatly anticipated (by me for sure) visit home by Alex has now come to an inevitable close. When I awoke this morning, I had a text telling me he was safely back in his barracks. It was a great, great week and a wonderful (in my opinion) visit–made even more special with the addition of Ferd for most of the week. But let’s hit rewind and I will share a few of the highlights.

It was a week of contrasts from the weather perspective. We picked Alex up Saturday morning in a cold, grey rain. Sweaters and long pants were de rigeur. I even had to put the heat on in the house briefly.

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March 17, 2013

Dyeing to Spin

This weekend’s project is to dye some of the new roving I just bought from a seller on Etsy using Kool-Aid. I’ve posted about this before, but the bright colors of Kool-Aide make it great fun to play with and it requires none of the precautions dyeing with chemical dyes require. It is just plain fun. I bought two balls of roving and the plan is to dye one and leave the other natural white. I will spin both balls and then ply them together to make a bright rainbow-colored two ply yarn. Just a few hurdles and this will be fait accompli. Let’s see–I need to learn to dye better, spin better, ply better–this one’s in the can.

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Happily I have every color of Kool-Aid they ever stock at our local Stop&Shop. Mixing the Kool-Aid with vinegar brings back memories of dyeing Easter Eggs. I would say dyeing Easter Eggs with the kids but inevitably after two eggs, they were done and I was alone in the kitchen dyeing eggs by myself. This is similar to the pumpkin carving and tree decorating experiences at the Frost Home.

photo (57)Next step is a good soaking for the roving. The water should be cold as one goal in all of this is not to cause the roving to begin felting. Wool wants to felt when it is agitated and heat helps the process. After about 30 minutes of soaking, it needs to be gently rung out of excess water.

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January 22, 2013

This New Obsession Makes Me Spin

I had a blogging hiatus this fall and I also had a little hiatus in spinning. I was so excited back at New York Sheep and Wool to have learned some basic spinning techniques and I was just so set to spin like crazy. Then I think Superstorm Sandy and some other tough year-end events just made December seem like the last mile of a marathon.

But all that is behind me now and I have been having a fantastic time this past weekend and this holiday weekend spinning away. It is completely mesmerizing to hold the fleece in my right hand and pinch the fiber as it is pulled by the action of the wheel onto the bobbin. My left hand is focused on drafting and the right hand is pinching and my feet are pumping back and forth. When everything is working just right it is simply magic.

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I love the qualities of the roving I have bought. I bought a variety of qualities so that I would have some to practice on and, with the better quality, a reward to look forward to. I tried to find the most unprocessed roving possible. I have both natural white and brown fleeces. They smell of lanolin and I love the feel of the lanolin on my hands as I spin it. The brown fleece has lots of particles of hay and straw in it and as I draft it with my left hand, the bits fall onto my sweats leaving little piles. It is all clean and not at all gross, it just reminds me of where this fleece came from. I have always loved finding little bits of straw in yarn as I knit.

As my left hand drafts the roving, the individual fibers sort themselves out and the roving which flows to my right hand is a collection of wispy fibers fanned out to twist into the proper weight ply. That is somewhat idealized. The reality isn’t quite that perfect yet, but there are moments when things seem to be working.

This is yet another skill which can only be perfected after much time. I see that very clearly. My yarn is not always even and the twist is not quite balanced, but I think I could spin a powerful lot of fleece into lumpy, semi-usable wool before I ever got to the point that something gorgeous came off my wheel. That said, I am having a complete blast and I do think the yarn I have made, while decidedly rustic, is gorgeous in its own way.

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Here are the four skeins I have made to date. The one on the left is the second Skein I made. The first skein is to the right. You can tell that the second is much larger and the balance of light an dark colors is better. The second skein from the right is probably the most troubled. It has some significant twist and balance issues. I am not sure how it will be to knit up. On the extreme right is the fourth skein. While the plies are thicker than I would have liked, the yarn is perfectly balanced with the twist of the plies balancing out the plied singles. It is relaxed and should be great to knit with.

My new goal now that I have learned the rudiments of spinning is to spin, ply, skein and knit a sweater from roving. A complete sweater which would be as self-produced as possible short of raising a sheep, shearing it, washing and carding the wool and then spinning it. Wonder how long it will take to get to that point?

January 20, 2013

A Lost and Lonely Blog

No apologies. Nope I won’t apologize. Why should I feel badly that I haven’t written a blog or visited my blog since Thanksgiving. That would be just short of two months ago. So, no, I am not apologizing. Just wasn’t in the mood. Had lots going on. Didn’t feel like communicating. No apologies.

I feel really badly about this.

July 21, 2012

Wonderful Ewe

Hoping to inflame me with thoughts of passionate self-expression, Jim sent me the above photo. He thought seeing the source of the object of my desire would be inspirational.

Sure was, I grabbed those needles and cast on immediately. Isn’t that what he meant?

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