Fall Into Autumn

If you go over here before September 8 , you might get lucky enough to get on board for another one of Anne's fantastic swaps. If you haven't participated in one of the others, you are in for a treat. Not only are there fun contests, great participators, and a fun theme but it is very well organized as well. What a great way to welcome the best season of the year!

Virtual Vacation On The Prairie

(This post is for my Virtual Vacation Swap pal, Chan. It's designed to be interactive with her gift box, to read as she opens her box of souvenirs.)

Hi Chan! Welcome to Kansas City! I actually don't live in Kansas City - I live in a bedroom community a few miles to the west. Since you're only visiting for a short time, we'll skip the usual tourist stuff and just hit the places I think you'll like.

1. I threw in some postcards to give you a taste of how pretty it is around here. The first one shows the Plaza - a huge outdoor shopping mall, designed to evoke Seville, Spain, KC's sister city. If you come back at Christmas, you can see how magical it is when it's all lit up. It's full of upscale shops, some pretty good restaurants and beautiful fountains everywhere you look This one is the best of all:

The next card shows an aerial view of my part of town. It's quite boring, unless you're into the Stepford Wives type of ambience and really like the color beige. The last postcard shows a view of the prairie. I love the prairie, especially in the fall. But unless you're seriously into grasses, it is not an exciting tourist destination. So let's head back into town.

2. Our first stop is my favorite grocery store. I told you we are boring here. But I have my reasons. You see, this is one of the only places in town you can find some hand-crafted, fair trade tea from the Trade Winds Tea Company which is located here in KC. These are not boring, even though they're from Kansas.

3. Since you like chocolate, and chocolate goes with everything, we'll pop into the Russell Stover candy store. These should be really fresh, since it's made here in KC.

We'll also pick up some Sunny Treats (chocolate-candy covered sunflower seeds) since Kansas is the "Sunflower State".

4. Chloe and Abbie will never forgive me if I don't take you to their favorite KC experience to buy a little something for Fred and Mugsy. Three Dog Bakery is another home-grown business. There's so much to choose from, but I'd recommend what my girls usually go bonkers for - the variety pack of Bark & Fetch bones. You might be tempted to try one yourself - go ahead! They're made from human-quality ingredients. I know one of the chefs, who swears they have a loyal human clientele who are on restricted diets and rely on 3 Dog treats to satisfy their sweet tooth.

5. We'll make a quick stop at the farmer's market to pick up some locally made soap. Their soaps smell fresh and light and leave your skin so soft! And I knitted up a cute little soap scrubber to go with it.

6. Now for my favorite part of the vacation: a visit to my favorite lys, The Studio. They have an incredible selection of the most tempting and decadent yarns and are such a friendly bunch of knitters. Some of my favorite yarn here is locally handspun and hand-dyed sockweight merino from Crafty In a Good Way. The colors I am sending remind of Kansas in the summertime - lush green grass and deep blue skies. Ooops! Looks like one fell into my basket, too! BTW, she also has an Etsy shop where she sells more of this goodness.

7. Finally, what would a visit to Kansas be if we didn't have a bit of Oz? There's a fun little card with a picture of the usual suspects so you don't forget us when you've gone back east.

Toto's already gone - see the note he left?

Not to worry - you know what to do....click your heels 3 times and say "There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home..."


Sunday Supper

Let's see...when was the last time I posted a Sunday Supper? 10 months ago since I actually really cooked something other than grilled salmon or chicken on a Sunday. Or any other night, for that matter. I don't mind cooking, and even enjoy it at times. And this time of year, as we inch closer to autumn, the cooking bug starts nipping at me, especially with the gorgeous summer produce calling to me.

I don't know if this dish is THAT GOOD or if Mr. Criquette is THAT DESPERATE for a home-cooked meal, but he asked for me to make this again next Sunday - and he is not that fond of meatless entrees, so that tells you something. But it's quick, easy and healthy - so, here's what I did:

Even Mr. C Likes It Pasta

For this dish, you'll need olive oil, white vermouth (or other very dry white wine), 3 small zuchinni, 5 firm-ripe Roma tomatoes, 3 large white mushrooms, 1 small jar of pesto with basil and pinenuts, 1 small can of tomato paste, Italian Seasoning, garlic powder, and sugar.

Heat up 2 tbls oil and 1/2 c vermouth in deep skillet for about 1 minute. Add the sliced zuchinni and 1 tbls Italian seasoning. saute until slightly tender ( I diced up the tomatoes while they were sauteeing).

Add in the diced tomatoes and stir so the tomatoes get a coating of the oil and vermouth.

Now add 4 heaping tbls of the pesto and stir in. Let cook while you chop the mushrooms.

Add the mushrooms, which I sliced thinly, and the can of tomato paste. Stir in and cook while you measure out the rest of your spices.

At this point, I add 2 tbls of garlic powder (I love garlic and think I get good flavor from the powdered without the hassle of peeling and mincing fresh garlic. Great for when I'm cooking something quick). I also add 1 tsp of sugar, to balence the acidity of the tomatoes. Stir in well, turn the heat down to simmer and let the sauce cook down while you start your pasta. (about 10 minutes). Then turn the burner off, cover the pan and let it sit.

Serve over hot whole wheat pasta and top with a good quality shredded Italian cheese - I used a four cheese mix that combined parmigiano, romano, asiago and feta. We had some Pinot Grigio with the pasta, which paired well with the sauce.

I will definitely cook this again soon. It was delicious, cooked up in less than 30 minutes, made enough for leftovers and I only had to clean up 1 pan, the chopping board, utensils, colander and serving bowl. Enjoy!


Knock, Knock

Who's there?
Not me. I'm playing with my new account over at Ravelry. I'll be back soon!

But to make up for it, here's a little amusement for your entertainment.


Knitting To Heal Hearts: A True Story (And Contest Results)

One thing I love about being part of the knitting community is that so many of the members give so generously of their time and talents to reach out to others when their worlds have been shattered.
One such way is the lovely new tradition of knitting prayer shawls to be given to people in need of comfort. I have the privilege to be counseling 2 very sweet kids who have recently lost their father in a tragic and violent accident. While the kids have been shielded from the details, their mother has had to deal with the entire situation and has been very traumatized. I spoke with her today, and she told me about how someone from her church covered her with a prayer shawl at the beginning of the funeral and what a comfort she had gotten from it.

Last night, the young daughter, who was very close to her father, couldn't fall asleep. She told her mother she was feeling very sad and was very lonely for her father. Her mother tucked her back into bed and covered her in the prayer shawl, telling her it would help her to sleep. The little girl fell asleep soon afterwards.

The next morning, she went downstairs smiling. When her mom asked how she had slept, she said that she had dreamed about her father. She couldn't remember the dream, but told her mother she knew that it was wonderful. She asked to sleep with the prayer shawl the following night so she could see her father again.

I cried a little when I heard this story, not just because I love this family, but also because I heard for myself the healing power the handknits we donate to strangers in need can have. Each one of you who has knit or crocheted something that you have given with the purpose of comforting someone else is my hero. Knitters truly can change the world - one handknit at a time.

So on that note, I have the winners of my Greensburg Squares contest. I went through all of your comments that said you had sent at least one square. This weekend, I visited your blogs and read about your squares. I have had a great time getting to know you all and thank each one of you for opening your hearts to these poor people who have lost their homes and their entire town.

The person who knitted the most squares was Spinning Jenny. In fact, she kind of blew away the competition because she knit enough for an entire afghan (48) and then she stitched them together and sent the completed afghan! The other neat thing is that she started her blog in response to my contest. If you get a chance, drop by and look at the great job she did!

The second place winner is Amanda, who sent 20 squares and 2 hats. How she found time to do all that knitting while attending law school is a mystery to me but I appreciate her for doing it. Hop over to her blog, scroll down and take a look at some of the other beautiful items she has made - probably instead of studying. When I was in graduate school, I'd even resort to vacuuming if it meant putting off studying, but I digress.

Next, Mr. C assisted me by drawing a name from all of the contest winners. I wrote everyone's name on a piece of paper, folded them all up, put them in a little box and asked him to pick a name. (He humored me, but secretly thinks I'm not playing with a full deck. Little does he know he's right.)

And the winner of the random drawing was the lovely bride-to-be, Cole. Cole, what with the wedding preparations and the honeymoon and such, how you will find time to knit is beyond me, but a girl can never have enough stash, can she? Everyone please go and visit Miss Cole and congratulate her, okay? And offer her your very best piece of wedding advice (or your best recipe if you can't find anything nice to say about marriage!)

And finally, I want to thank all of you who helped to rebuild Greensburg with your squares of love. I'm adding you all to my links list because YOU ALL ROCK!

SP11 Questionnaire

Hi SP11 friend! Sorry this wasn't up sooner. I'm looking forward to getting to know you. I'm really excited that you are also a dog lover and rescuer! I hope you aren't disappointed that I am a boring knitter. The good news is, that makes me easy to please!

1. What is your favorite yarn to knit with?

I can't get enough merino, especially worsted weight! I also love alpaca, soy or silk blends, and cotton/wool blends. I like use a lot of nice quality superwash wool for donation knitting, too.

2. What do you use to store your needles and hooks in?

Straights & dpn's

Crochets hooks


3. How long have you been knitting and how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level beginner, intermediate, or advanced?

I discovered knitting in Feb. 2006 and have knit almost every single day since then. I taught myself by using the books Knitting School and The Knitting Answer Book. I still consider myself a beginner because there are so many things I still can't do (such as follow basic directions) but I try to tackle something new every time I start a project. I am, however, an advanced garter stitch scarf knitter.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?

No, I don't.

5. What's your favorite scent?

For soaps, lotions, etc., I like lavender or vanilla. For my home, I like orange-vanilla candles. I get a weird allergic reaction to most floral, "clean", or heavy spicy scents.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? What's your favorite candy?

I love sweets! I like those old-fashioned peppermint sticks or pillows that melt as soon as you put them in your mouth, and chocolate candy bars like York patties, Milky Way (especially the dark chocolate kind), Twix, KitKat's, you name it. And one of my fall favorites: mixed flavors of candy corn and those little waxy pumpkin creams. Farley's makes the best ones of all - they taste like cake frosting but they're hard to find.

7. What other crafts do you like to do? Do you spin?

Since I fell in love with knitting, I have forsaken all others, but I have started an innocent flirtation with needle felting - it does involve wool, after all.

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your car/stereo play mp3's?

I love music. There is hardly any music I don't like. I love mixed CD's that have a theme, especially if they have music I'm not familiar with. In the late summer/early fall, I listen to a lot of indie, folk, blues, and rock (old and new). The kind of music that makes me feel nostalgic and energized. The kind you put on to take a road trip on a cool, sunny autumn day. And yes, my car stereo plays mp3's and I have an Ipod.

9. What are your favorite colors? Are there any colors you can't stand?

I love a lot of colors, especially rich, earthy colors at this time of year. I never like beiges or pastels and I don't like really bright colors.

10. What is your family situation? Any pets?

Married to Mr. Criquette, no kids. 2 resident dogs - Chloe is a border collie mix we rescued from a shelter, the day before she was scheduled to be euthanized. She is the "nanny" and likes to herd the cats and foster pups around and keep them minding their manners. Abbie BadBeagle showed up at a family reunion with no tags, no microchip, thin as a rail and covered in ticks. Mr. C was going to bring her to the low-kill animal shelter we work with, but I fell in love and rescued her before that happened. He didn't take much convincing. We have 2 cats - Bitsy BonTon, who we adopted from a little rural shelter 4 hours away. She was not well-socialized so she shows her love for us by growling, hissing, and paw-whacking. We love her anyway. We adopted Miss Criquette so Bitsy could learn how to act like a nice cat and have a playmate. She is adorable in every way and loved by every person and beast in our home. Although she is tiny (only 8 lbs) and not aggressive, she is the alpha animal in the pack and the other 3 all defer to her. We also foster puppies sometimes.

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?

I love scarves! I love mittens! I love hats when it is 20 or below but I like ear warmers/ski bands better so I don't get hat hair. I am not a poncho-wearing kind of person - reminds me of the 70's, Clint Eastwood westerns and Martha Stewart.

12. What is your favorite item/s to knit?

Scarves! Simple hats and washcloths are fun too. I have the yarn for a couple of table runners since I am running out of people to knit scarves for. I am forcing myself to branch out, though. I want to learn cables so I'll probably tackle Irish Hiking Scarf this winter. I'd like to knit a lace shawl, but I think I'll hone my pattern-following skills on some more washcloths first. I've been having fun with baby jackets, but don't know many people having babies to do this on a regular basis.

13. What are you knitting right now?

Sally Melville's Baby Albert jacket, and I just cast on for Debbie Bliss' Simple Baby Hat. I have many UFO's, including a scarf for Mr. C's birthday last year (he may get it for this year's bday if lucky), 2 Mason-Dixon baby kimonos, Li's herringbone pattern scarf and Yarn Harlot's One-Row scarf are just a few.

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?

I love it!!!

15. Do you prefer circs or straights? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?

I like bamboo short straights for scarves and small flat projects, circs for wider projects and knitting in the round, and Addi's for yarns that are too sticky for the bamboo. I know how to use dpn's but find them too awkward.

16. Do you own a winder and swift?

Yes. One of my favorite things about starting a project is to wind the new skeins into pretty little cakes.

17. How old is your oldest UFO?

At least one year old - it's Mr. C's scarf and it WILL be done in time for his late September birthday!

18. What's your favorite holiday?

I love autumn and all things/foods involving pumpkins with intense passion, so I would have to say Thanksgiving.

19. Is there anything you collect?

I have built up quite a collection of pumpkins (the Thanksgiving kind, not jack-o-lanterns, which remind me of clowns - ack!). I also collect rabbits (the realistic kind, not Easter bunnies).

20. Are there any books, yarns, needles or patterns you are dying to get your hands on? Are there any magazines you subscribe to?

The three books I am interested in are Interweave's Complete Book of Finishing Techniques, Debbie Bliss' Baby Knits For Beginners, and Yarn Play by Lisa Shobhana Mason. I don't subscribe to any magazines because my skills are not up to the level of the patterns that I like, but I buy the occassional Interweave to look at the pictures.

21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?

Right now, I am eagerly awaiting the fall newsletter from my 2nd favorite lys so I can try and sign up to learn to knit socks. She has promised a class on knitting socks with 2 circs. Once I learn how to do that, I'll be able to use the 2 Socks on 2 Circs DVD that my wonderful SP10 partner sent to me!

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?

Not yet, although I am a beginning sock yarn collector! I am not sure what kind of measurements this refers to, but I wear a 9 - 9 1/2 shoe with an average width.

23. When is your birthday?

November 8

24. Are you on Ravelry? If so, what's your ID?

I got my invitation last week but still haven't had time to look at it, much less post anything. My ID is "Criquette".

And as if this isn't enough info, our well-organized hostess, Heatherly, has asked us to post these additional questions for her contest, which involves sock yarn. Once I start knitting socks, I'll need all I can get!

What is the one knitting accessory you could not do without?

You mean besides this one?

I'd have to say it would be The Knitting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliffe. I love this book!

If you're heading on vacation, do you take your knitting with you? If so, how much and what type of project?

Isn't having more time to knit the whole point of taking a vacation? I take as much as I can squeeze into the car, or suitcase. In the past, it's been scarves, because that's pretty much all I used to be able to knit. Now that I am branching out into the heady world of baby jackets and washcloths, the possibilities have expanded enormously!

Where have you travelled to that you'd consider your favorite spot?

It's a tie between Bowen Island BC, Longboat Key FL, and Loch Ness.

What is your favorite knitting book at the moment? Do you own it?

It's a tossup between Baby Knits For Beginners and YarnPlay. I don't own them, but they are on my wishlist.

Do you listen to any podcasts?

No. Unless it's music, I have a hard time paying attention to conversations where I can't see the people involved.

OK, secret pal, hope this isn't information overload. I can't wait to get started! I'm excited about my spoilee, who looks like someone I have a lot in common with and who does some really nice knitting, too.


Succumbing To Harry Fever

After watching the first 4 movies in a recent TV marathon, and working with numerous crazed children who had become addicted to their Harry Potter books (I am not making this up) and making some new friends who are HP groupies, I finally decided to start reading the series, even though said crazed children have babbled about how it all ends. I will finish the first book this weekend. And I can't wait to start the second one. I may end up needing therapy. I can only let myself read HP on weekends because I can't stop and will read until 3 in the morning.

So naturally, I wanted to know: where would the sorting hat put me?

Want to Get Sorted?

a Ravenclaw!

I'm also a nerd, in case you've never noticed!


Contest News

Okay, the Greensburg Squares contest is over. I will be visiting the blogs of everyone who has left me a comment about your squares and I'll be looking for your posts to determine the winners. Good luck and please check in by Sunday night to see if you are a lucky winner!


Last Time I Looked, I Was Still Here

Although lately, it hardly feels like it. Our office manager left with very short notice 3 weeks ago, so we have been occupied with hiring her replacement, getting her replacement trained, getting used to our new office manager and still doing our regular jobs. The back-to-school rush also started at that time, so I have been a very busy bee.

But not too busy to miss out on knitting. I have continued to work on the Baby Albert jacket and have now picked up the stitches for the back. I really love working with this yarn:

I have ignored the 2 baby kimonos this past week or so because I thought that the reason I was making so many really stupid mistakes was because I was trying to knit on 3 baby jackets at the same time. So I put these down in order to focus on the Baby Albert. But I wanted a small, portable project also so I started a baby washcloth using a Leisure Arts pattern called "Elfin Lace" (although I think that's a typo and the real pattern name is actually "Effin Lace"):

I have finished it since taking this photo yesterday. It turned out to be very charming, although there are mistakes galore all over it, including the mystery of how I started off with 47 stitches and ended up with 45 on the last few rows - I looked and looked to figure it out but never could so I decided it looked just fine and bound off. I love the yarn, which is Classic Elite Premiere (cotton/tencel blend). It is so soft, it feels and drapes like a very soft wool or alpaca. I'm going to knit a pale pink one in either a windowpane or diamond brocade pattern using the same yarn.

I sent off a big box full of squares that my church knitting group made for Greensburg. We sent 54 squares, which I think is enough for one entire afghan! Laura's received over 3000 squares as of this past weekend! She's going to need some major help getting those squares all joined together. If you aren't busy on September 15 and you live within reasonable driving distance (Eldorado, Kansas is just southeast of Witchita), please, pretty please consider joining the seaming party. In case you haven't heard, the Yarn Harlot is going to be in Witchita the very next day, and you'll just be a little ways down the road, and why not make it a weekend?

Bonnie the foster pup had a sleepover guest this weekend - you'll never guess who (he's the one on the left).

For those of you who were reading back in February, this is the former Oreo (now named after Negro League baseball legend Buck O'Neill). He was one of our first foster puppies. Hard to believe he was once this small.

His family had to go out of town so we offered to let him stay with us. He and Bonnie hit it off immediately and we took them to the football field at a nearby school to run off all of that puppy energy. And Bonnie was an excellent hostess, she was very generous about sharing her toys. Of course, she assumed that meant she could grab all of his toys, but they worked it all out. It was so good to see him again. He has a great family, which is what makes it easier to let the pups go after you get attached.

In a final bit of news, I received my invitation to join Ravelry! I can't wait to check it out and get started, but with the crazy schedule recently, I may not get around to it for another month or so. It'll probably take that long for me to figure out how to use it.

So now it's off to bed, to dream of 35-hour days and temperatures that stay permanently in the 70's, with no nasty ozone or high dew points (a fancy term for humidity so high it smothers you). Stay cool.