Snow shoes

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Leo got us snow shoes in hopes they'd help us keep up with the girls. You know what that means, right? It's time for another hike.

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We couldn't have picked a more challenging day to try out those snow shoes. The temperatures were just around the freezing mark, maybe a little bit warmer, so the snow was sticky, wet and great for such activities as snowball fights, snow men building and fort construction. Still, it produced the most unusual snow formations atop the trees. Check this out.

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Could that look any more like a bird's head?
For some reason, we found it exceedingly entertaining when Leo would risk his own safety and shake some of the smaller trees.

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And when I didn't properly catch the first dense block of compacted snow, hitting him on the head, he thought we should do it again.

And check this out.

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Panda and Thea walking right OVER Leo as he sticks his torso through a hole in this snow formation. Yes yes yes, we know that's not the most brilliant of plans, but it does make for a good picture.

We may have found it hard to hike this wet snow.

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However, the girls, as always, were in heaven.

It wasn't all laughs and good times. We've been up to the trails of Mt Hood a few times, and we've found that Oregonians are pretty welcoming of happy dogs. It's not unusual for playful pups to come careening around corners to play with our girls and vice versa. Unfortunately, this Saturday, we met the first person who did not share that puppy goodwill. Apparently, her dog was a little aggressive, so she had her dog on leash and when Thea went over to say hi, it caused the woman much consternation.

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An angry woman in red, mutters as she walks by Leo and Thea.

Leo grabbed Thea, to restrain her and as the woman walked by Leo, she let off with a string of colorful language, leaving no doubt about how she felt about me and my puppy parenting skills. I'm not saying I fault her, I can understand that she wants everyone to be in full control of their dogs at all times, it's just that we are used to people being a bit more lax with their pups. We decided to keep Thea on leash for a while, for good measure. That is, until this sweet lab came over to play.

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We let our little troublemaker off leash and she had herself a proper playful tussle. That's more like it.

We hiked a bit more and arrived at Twin Lakes, which is completely frozen over and covered in snow.

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It looks like such a barren wasteland, after hiking through the thick forest. I bet it's just gorgeous in the spring and summer.

We had ourselves a little lunch and played fetch with the girls' water bowl.

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Hiking back to the car was as much fun as hiking to the lake. It's hard work, slogging through the heavy snow, but we aren't the type to let that get the better of us. We just break out our thermos of hot chai and sit for a spell, when the mood suits us.

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Or lean back and watch the snow fall on our faces.

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In the end, the whole lot of us made it home exhausted, but happy.

While I'm still feeling the hike today, I can't wait to go back. Next time, I hope the snow's a little more powdery, but even if it isn't, this sort of workout beats the gym, any old day of the week.

See all the pictures here.

And since someone almost always asks, the harnesses that Panda and Thea are wearing, can be found here.

Spinning for Speed and Softness

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Lookie what one of Santa's elves delivered the other day.

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Belated has never been so fantastic. Great googily moogily, I've been pining after this book for a while. It's no small feat to track this little gem down and to get a signed copy to boot, just makes me all the more lucky.

In the simplest terms, the method described has you configure your wheel and position your hand and fiber in a certain way so that the tension and twist coming from the wheel, simply pulls the fiber from your hand. The resulting yarn has just enough twist to hold together. This offers the most softness and works best done very quickly. Speed and Softness!

Of course, reading about it and executing it are two entirely different things. To start with, you are encouraged to find a good, medium length fiber with impeccable preparation. After learning the fundamental one can respond to other types and preparations of fiber with additional techniques, but first, I needed to unlearn what I've been doing.

I started by predrafting some Cotswold. I bought my fiber from Nistock Farms, who send lovely lofty batts of beautifully dyed fiber. After about 20 minutes, I had this.

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Soft? Yes. Speedy? Si. Well spun? Non.
But not too bad for a first attempt. This is about 30 yards of two ply thick and thin yarn. I really had to ply this yarn because parts of the singles are so under spun, they couldn't possibly hold up on their own, to any sort of knitting or crocheting.

For attempt number two, I decided to try a bit of my Almost Solid Sampler. I used some wool blend, in colorway, Merigold.

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This time, things didn't go so well. The singles were so underspun, they wouldn't even hold up to being worked into an Andean plying bracelet. It was fast and very soft, but definitely not successful.

After talking with the elf a bit, she mentioned my hand carders. At her suggestion, I carded up some rolags with another wool blend from my sampler.

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The colorway is Azalea, and it's a pretty purpily mauve shade. Working with carded fiber made the process loads easier.

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The resulting 68 yard skein is more even, a bit finer and just as soft.

I still have a long way to go with this technique, but I'm happily drinking the kool-aid, here. I can see how this would be a great method to master.

In other news, two pups can fit in one wee little bed, if they put their mind to it.

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Corn on the Nod

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Corn on the Nod is finished.
This little guy used one full skein of Crystal Palace Maizy in Bittersweet (dark purple) and about a half a skein of Crystal Palace Maizy in Neptune (variegated blues, purples and greens). I knit it on US#1/2.25mm needles.

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From the hem to the top of the argyle, I used one method of double knitting in which both the front and back of the knitting are knit in a single row. This produces a fabric that is double thickness, reversible and attached, so that the two sides cannot be separated.

For the striped areas, I used a second form of double knitting that allows you to knit in the round on straight needles. You knit the front on one row, then turn and knit the back. The front and back sections are not attached to each other. It's the same method I use to knit the fingers on my Hooray For Me Gloves. Once I started the shaping, on the crown and ear flaps, I separated the stitches onto two circulars and knit in the round per the standard two-circs method.

In the argyle areas, the two sides have reversed color patterns. In the striped areas both sides are identical. This gives both sides of the hat a unique but unified look. I thought I'd like the mostly purple side more, but now that it's finished, I'm lean a little more towards other side. Luckily, I don't have to choose.

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As you can see here, my seaming is a bit wonky in areas. In hindsight, I should have worked the selvage stitches slightly differently in the first double knit section, so that seaming would be easier.

Thoughts on the yarn

Maizy is a great option for people who want a plant fiber yarn with a little memory. The corn is soft and comfortable to wear against the skin and the elastic content gives the fabric just enough memory. This yarn seems to be geared towards sock knitters but could certainly be used in a variety of applications.

There are a few things about which I'd caution you. Firstly, is blocking. I have not touched iron to this fabric but I've seen swatches of corn based fibers that looked decidedly melted in spots. I would be hesitant to use this for anything lacy that would need serious blocking. Additionally, the yarn is pretty splitty which means you do need to keep an eye on what you are doing, but it's certainly manageable. Finally, this yarn is horrible for seaming. I would highly recommend subbing out Maizy for some embroidery floss for any seaming you might do. Otherwise, though, it's a great yarn and the hat even passes Leo's stringent standards for comfort.

Thoughts on double knitting

I like how even my colorwork looks with this method, and I suspect I'll use it again sometime, but I find it a slow process and wouldn't want to have to do it with any regularity. Still, it was fun to work a project in a technique I have not used much before.

It's about time

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I'm embarrassed to admit that we have not done a doggy outing since our New Year's Eve road trip. And weather has been quite rainy here which means we really haven't done much of anything outside. The girls? They were pretty stir crazy.

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We were long overdue for a run on Cannon Beach, but not before stopping at our favorite breakfast locale for some crabcakes benny. Mmmmm, tastes like heart disease. Some folks can't turn down sweets, I can't turn down hollandaise sauce.

Next to our booth was placed an interesting little item. What do you think?

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For the low low price of $195, American, you too can own this ceramic center piece. We decided to pass on it.

Once we were sated, Leo brought a little bit of bacon and eggs out to the girls while I settled the bill. We were off to haystack rock.

Because it was such a beautiful day, the beach was just teeming with happy people and lots of pups. The waves were churning and the squirrel was a-flying.

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Thea fell in love with Cocoa, a cutie with a penchant for, um, let's call it "asserting himself" upon her. This was her first time dealing with such a pushy pup, and we were pleased to see that she handled herself well; setting boundaries without holding any grudges.

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Cocoa and Thea played for a long time, and Panda begrudgingly allowed him to join in with fetch, though when he attempted to get too friendly with Panda, she didn't hesitate to put him in his place. He didn't try that again. I'm pretty sure he said something about a "party poopers."

Eventually, Cocoa's parents had to leave, but we continued to enjoy the gorgeous day.

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If you aren't going to be able to get to the beach every weekend, you gotta make the visits count.

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It was wonderful having sun after so many rainy weekends.

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When the girls were finally showing the merest hint of slowing down, Leo decided we should walk over to Haystack Rock and do a little tide-pooling

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The anemones were all vivid pinks and shocking greens, and if you looked really carefully, you could find a few starfish hiding under rocks.

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But all good things must come to an end, and as the clouds darkened the sky a bit and the temperature started to drop, we knew we'd have head home.

Our last sight, before leaving the coast was a few elk grazing lazily along the side of the highway.

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The girls slept the whole way.

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There was some knitting too. I'll post about that soon.

Green cards and argyle hats

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My dear Canadian friends got their green cards, last week, and threw a little party to celebrate. The other guests wore green in honor of the occasion and I brought some AmeriCone Dream ice cream. With knee slapping humor like that, here in the states, it's a wonder they didn't pack their lovely things and head back to the icy embrace of the Canadian snow. It was a small but rowdy festive group, and the hosts ensured there were plenty of libations.

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But I learned something very important about myself.
I
am
the
BLOCKUS QUEEN!
I admit, I may have let loose with a bit of language that was unbecoming a queen, but when one must bring the smack down, one must also bring the smack talk. I believe their is a theorem that covers this.


In other news, the Corn on the Nod hat is coming along nicely.

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I've completed the argyle section and now need to decide how long I want to make the hat before decreasing for the crown.

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