Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Cold Clear Winter Day

The first day of winter arrived last week Thursday and we noticed the chill in the air.

The next morning I left the house early to run a few errands, it was 24°. I wore layers of warm clothing, handknits, and gloves. I returned home to find our house toasty warm with both fireplaces ablaze. The Man said the temperature inside the house had dropped to 56° overnight.

During the cold months the wood stove insert is in daily use. It heats the kitchen and the family room comfortably. The flat-topped surface is perfect for boiling water or simmering a nice pot of soup.

When it gets really cold the Big Stove gets lit. The heat generated from this large wood burning stove heats the other half of the downstairs and all of the rooms upstairs. It generates a lot of heat but also eats a lot of fuel. Luckily we don't have to fire it up too often.

With the cold dry air the evening sky was crystal clear. Perfect conditions to watch the rocket launch from Vandenberg AFB.

SpaceX was due to launch a Falcon 9 rocket thirty minutes after sunset. We watched and listened to the live Webcast on The Man's iPhone.

12/22/17 1727 (PST). Liftoff Falcon 9. On time launch (with a 1-second window).

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017

Wishing you all
the Hope, Wonder, and Joy
that the season can bring.

Merry Christmas
SLO Yarns

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Milky Whey

I have a backlog of stories - so many stories - they're constantly swirling around in my head. It's not unusual for me to start talking, mid-paragraph. I sometimes forget that The Man can't read my mind and wasn't following along with the conversation. It drives him crazy. Drives me crazy too because I can read his mind. Sheesh, like it's hard?

Anyway, I don't want to forget about these Backburner stories ("left to simmer till they're good and ready") so I'll try to get them written and out of my head. Part of the problem of not keeping up with the stories is that daily life happens and my plans and priorities change. Sometimes by the minute. Like finding an unopened gallon of milk, six days after it's "Best Used By" date.

I went through my options to use up the milk: big pot of corn chowder, chocolate pudding (yum), or chocolate pudding pie (double yum).

I've made Labneh (yogurt cheese) with my homemade yogurt. I wonder if I could make a simple cheese with the ingredients I had on hand? Okay, no mozzarella because it requires rennet. But, hey, I could do ricotta which requires just milk, an acid (lemon juice, distilled white vinegar, or citric acid powder), and a bit of salt. I had all three types of acids in my pantry but decided to use the distilled white vinegar. I also used up the leftover Half and Half by adding a little bit to each batch.

I Googled a few recipes but decided on easy-peasy so I went with the microwaveable recipe rather than cooking on the stove. It was easy - no stirring or watching a pot - but not too quick. Using up the jug-o-gallon took about an hour. Next time I'll try making it in the Instant Pot. For me, 2 cups of milk yielded ⅓ cup of ricotta.

I ended up with 1½ pounds of ricotta and a pot of milky whey. It seemed wasteful to toss out the leftover whey so I poured it into the Instant Pot and attempted to coax more curdling but it was spent (or I wasn't doing it correctly). All I got for my efforts was warmer liquid. I tried sipping the acidic milky whey, blech, not to my liking. I poured it back into the empty gallon jug and stuck it in the back of the fridge. Let me think about it for awhile.

A pound and a half of fresh ricotta cheese. I had something delicious in mind.

The next day I made a big pot of meat sauce with elk and ground beef. Ron, The Man's brother in Colorado, generously shared his elk burger with us and I've been saving the lean meat for extra special dishes.

By the end of the day I had three pans of Lasagna. The Man dropped off the "Ready to Bake or Freeze" Lasagna to two of the neighbors and I froze our pan to bake for our Christmas dinner. The Man was disappointed I wasn't keeping it all for ourselves, "Why are you giving away all our food?"

After his Lasagna delivery The Man returned home with a medley of homemade Christmas candies, many of them dipped in dark chocolate. No more was said about giving away his food.

We're looking forward to our sweet and savory Christmas.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

All Tied Together

Remember the story about our camping trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the Total Solar Eclipse? One of the campgrounds we stayed at was called Fence Creek Campground. Remember? That first night it was just us, the National Forest Service firefighters, and a couple in a tent. The next day the couple left and it was just us and the firefighters.

And remember I learned to spin wool into yarn on my drop spindle? Remember?

Well, two weeks after that trip The Man headed back to the Sierra's for a solo camping trip and during his explorations he met a nice couple camping in a tent. Come to find out it was the same couple that had stayed at Fence Creek CG.

The Man said somehow the subject of yarn, knitting, and spinning came up. (Personally I think it's because he foisted B. Beenie on them; doesn't it look like the Husband is holding a small furry animal instead of a knitted hat?) Anyway, the Wife told The Man that she had been an active member with her local Spinning Guild and she thought I might be able to borrow or rent spinning equipment from my local Guild.

Oh my, the missed opportunity! I could have been learning to spin from someone who knew what they were doing instead of fumbling about by myself.

I knew my Spirits and Guides were talking to me, I knew this was not a coincidence. After hearing The Man's story I applied for membership to The Central Coast Weavers ("Serving Handweavers and Spinners on the Central Coast of California since 1962"), our local Guild. I knew about them, even marked my calendar for their big Annual Sale, but never got around to going. Frankly, I wasn't that interested. Until now.

Then through Ravelry I contacted a weaver and Guild member who lives in SLO. Out of the blue I sent Susan a message inquiring about the Guild. I knew I was on the right track when she wrote back and said "there are many spinners and they are a delightful group of gals". Better yet, the spinners group meet every Tuesday in Atascadero, a mere 10 minutes drive from our house.

About a week later Susan sent me a Ravelry message and asked if I was interested in a spinning wheel. Susan's friend had received a spinning wheel from the Guild as part of their Pass-It-Forward program. The item is yours to keep but when you no longer want or need it you pass it along to the next person rather than selling it.

Irene summed it up well in her email, "Susan passed your name on to me because you are looking for a spinning wheel and I have one to give."


It was love at first sight as I gazed upon the Saxony-style (think Rapunzel) spinning wheel. I had been drawn to the modern, compact wheels (looking at you Schacht Ladybug or you Louet Victoria) but who could resist this 1980's Ashford Traditional:  it's clean simple lines, the honey-gold patina on the Silver Beech wood. Beautiful.

The Man has been teaching me about the wheel, how to adjust the tension, and how the mechanical parts work (not my forte, believe you me). He scratches his head when he sees me struggling with the foot treadle, sighs, then comes over to make a single minute change. Like magic, spinning becomes effortless. I'm fortunate and grateful to have a live-in spinning wheel maintenance man.

I've been working out the kinks, literally. Sometimes it's a twisty mess.

And sometimes I'm able to make yarn, slow yarn.

(Over-) spun yarn made on the Louet drop spindle,

then plied together. First yarn.

Woolen (sorta maybe) spun on the Ashford Traditional wheel, plied on the Louet drop spindle.

Spindle spun (TurtleMade 3D Printed Turkish spindle, Snipes drop spindle), plied on the Ashford Traddy wheel.

Irene's Magical Art Batt spun and plied on the Traddy.