Christmas Preparations, a Fish Food-Eating Dog, Hats, and Chickens

Posted by mrssmythe on December 5, 2016 in Celebrations, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Ginger's Snaps, Week in Review |

Ginger decided it was time to set up the creche this week.


She has four boxes of figures now, and her display spans three small tables. This is definitely one of her favorite things to do each December.

What Ginger does not like is the way the cats get involved with the scenery.


Shadow really should find another place to take her bath.

Other pets have been misbehaving too.


Manny developed a taste for fish food this week. We ended up buying three tubs of the stuff before we finally remembered to put it out of his reach.

And, I suppose if we are going to dwell on misbehavior, I should admit that I bought a box of chocolate-covered cherries for my mother on Saturday (I was getting a jump on my Christmas shopping), and broke into them before they’d even been in the house an hour.


(I’m sorry, Mom. I’ll be sure to get you another box before Christmas.)

Having finished last week’s sweater, I moved on to hats. Simple, small, wonderful hats. (It was such a relief after the many details and decision-making required for a sweater). The first hat I made used the “Comfy Ribbed Hat” pattern in Kris Percival’s book, Knitting Pretty.


I used Isaac Mizrahi Craft Skyscraper yarn in “Woolworth” (on clearance now at Michaels, see HERE), but any bulky yarn will do.

The second hat was the Daydream Hat by Red Heart, knit using Lion Brand Heartland in “Olympic”.


These are both soft, comfortable hats. Not incredibly warm (I’ll still be using my camel/alpaca blend beanie for dog walks), but suitable for errands and things of that sort.

The chickens are managing the cold so far.


But, this morning, we woke to snow, and they were a bit wary. They haven’t left their run yet, in fact, but I’m sure they’ll adjust. In the meantime, we’re looking for ways to give them some more protected (from the elements) space.


And, finally, returning to the topic of Christmas, I appreciate all of the holiday decorating local businesses have done this year. Maybe oven more so because I haven’t managed to do that much around my own house yet. This tableaux was in a nearby McDonalds:


And, as I admired it, I realized that, although you don’t necessarily need a Christmas tree at the drink station, it’s awfully nice to see one there.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for more fun seasonal decor in the coming weeks.

From the dining room table, thinking it’s about time we got to work putting up a tree of our own,

Mrs. Smythe

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The Sweater is Finally Finished! (plus some kitchen news and a birthday)

Posted by mrssmythe on November 28, 2016 in Baking, Celebrations, Cooking, Crafting, Toys, Week in Review |

Pepper’s still cooking up a storm with her Great Courses “Everyday Gourmet” class. This past week, she made Vietnamese Noodle Salad as part of the stir fry lesson.


Delicious! The kids weren’t overly enthusiastic, but I loved it.

In other kitchen news, I ended up making two pumpkin pies this past week. Neither one was for Thanksgiving.

The first was for Ginger, who wanted a pie instead of cake for her birthday celebration. On said birthday, we left to see an early showing of “Moana”, and returned to find this:


One of the dogs is evidently able to reach much farther onto the counter than I thought. Horrified, I got right to work on a second pie (thankfully, I had extra pie dough in the fridge). Crisis averted.


One of Ginger’s favorite birthday gifts was a “cake pop maker” – something she’s been wanting for a long time. CPT A found her a version that makes cupcakes and donuts as well, and Ginger spent a good portion of Saturday testing it out. These cake pops are from her first batch – a definite success.


Now she’s in the kitchen exploring the machine’s “donut mode”. From the smell of things, that’s going well, too.

Another much-enjoyed gift…a Nature Kaleidoscope Kit.


This would make a great gift for kids who are past the putting-things-in-their-mouth stage. The kit comes with an assortment of colorful do-dads to use in making a custom kaleidoscope. The best part? Nothing’s permanent! You can remake your kaleidoscope again and again, just by altering what you put in the tube. Ginger got creative and even poured in an assortment of tiny dragons (her own). This was the result:


Fun stuff.

Moving on to Christmas news, I bought a little tree to put in our front whiskey barrel. Isn’t it cute?


Unfortunately, the kids thought it was our official Christmas tree. After several days, they worked up the courage to come to me and express their disappointment. I assured them there would be a larger, indoor tree for them this year, as well. They were relieved.

And, finally, I finished The Sweater! If you remember, this yarn started out as a vest…a vest that ended up much too large for me. For the second go-round, I followed Elizabeth Zimmermann’s instructions for a seamless raglan sweater. God bless Elizabeth Zimmermann (who is now deceased, but I’m sure you follow my meaning). Her stuff fits – mainly, because you calculate your pattern based on your own knitting gauge. It’s a bit like cooking to taste rather than from a recipe – a little frightening at first, but, ultimately, very satisfying. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to finish a project, try it on, and realize it fits.


If you’re curious, I used Lion Brand Amazing – a soft wool blend yarn that comes in a variety of beautiful colorways. This one is “Mesa”.

Now, with this project finally behind me, I’m in the mood to knit something small and easily finished. Mittens. I think I’ll knit some mittens.

From the dining room table, getting ready to brew a cup of tea and get to work on said mittens.

Mrs. Smythe

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A New Hat, Geraniums, Chickens, and Old Navy

Posted by mrssmythe on November 21, 2016 in Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, libraries, Out & About, Seasons, Shopping, Week in Review |

I’m still chugging along on that sweater I told you about. The end is in sight, but, last Sunday, I took a break and grabbed a skein of Cozy Wool I’d bought on impulse at Michael’s. It was on sale. I think I paid $4. It was a great color – “Merlot” – and what really got me was the “Cozy Cabled Hat” pattern on the label. I love hats. I love cozy hats. I love cozy hats you can knit up for $4.


Be warned, though. As great as this hat turned out to be…it wasn’t much fun to knit. At times, it felt more like wrestling than knitting, and I was reminded of why I don’t often tackle cables. Cables with thick wool – and this yarn is categorized as super bulky – are especially arduous. At least I find them so. If you have discovered a secret for making this sort of knitting pleasant, please share it with me.

In other news, the geraniums at the library have managed to hold out despite the cold.


It was a treat to see them this past week, and all I can think is that they must be in a very protected area.

With Halloween well over and Christmas on its way, I thought it was time to start jettisoning the pumpkins. The first one to go went to the chickens who tore into it with gusto.


They’re such grateful little things. They love everything you give them, and they aren’t afraid to show it. It’s one of the many things I love about them.

And, finally, the Christmas decor is up at the local Old Navy – but at a price. Friday, I talked to a worker there who was assembling all of these cardboard presents.


“What a fun job!” I said, trying to make conversation.

“Hardly,” he replied, waving his hand at me. “I got a nasty paper cut.”

He had my full sympathy. Paper cuts are awful things. Especially paper cuts from cardboard.

And, it gives you a new perspective on store Christmas decorations when you stop to think that someone might have bled to put them up for you. I wish him swift healing.

From the dining room table, still raking up leaves and hoping to have them done by  Thanksgiving,

Mrs. Smythe


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A Heart-Shaped Potato, Chimichurri, Chickens, and Fall Foliage

Posted by mrssmythe on November 14, 2016 in Chickens, Cooking, Garden, Seasons, Week in Review |

Pepper’s cooking classes (she’s enrolled in “The Everyday Gourmet – Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking”) continue to go well. This week, she tackled grilling, cooking up a cowboy steak topped with chimichurri. Have you tried chimichurri? It’s amazing.

(Brief interruption to show you the heart-shaped potato we found while prepping that night’s meal).


Chimichurri is essentially a vinaigrette, and it’s delicious on steak…or potatoes…or bread. The only food we didn’t put it on was our salads. But it probably would have been great on that too. We will definitely will be making this meal again.


In other food news, the chickens have discovered cabbage.


CPT A strung a head up for them this weekend, and it kept them busy for hours. The entertainment value was high, and we’ll definitely be doing that again too.

When the chickens weren’t playing with cabbage, they were chasing Ginger.


Actually, only one of them chases her. It’s Eowyn, our Dorking. I don’t know if she thinks Ginger’s shoelaces are worms or what, but Eowyn makes sure Ginger gets plenty of exercise whenever she checks for eggs.

Yards, gardens, and public spaces continue to look lovely this Fall.

Many of the hydrangeas have taken on a pretty pink tint.


And the ornamental grasses have really come into their own,


At the library, we noticed “pools” of different colored leaves around the various trees.


That was fun.

But the maples continue to steal the show with their vivid reds.


Ginger and I thought this particular tree was so pretty, we gathered some of its leaves and laminated them.

It’s been a wonderful season.

Hope you’re enjoying a beautiful Fall, too, and that your weekend was a restful one.

From the dining room table, listening to jazz and enjoying a quiet afternoon at home,

Mrs Smythe

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More Mitts, Autumn Leaves, and Some Chickens

Posted by mrssmythe on November 8, 2016 in Brewing, Celebrations, Chickens, Critters, Ginger's Snaps, libraries, Seasons, Week in Review |

Just when you think Fall is winding up, you drive by the library and see something like this:


The Japanese Maples are in fine form and make a great subject for Prisma experimentation, as Ginger discovered.


Echoing the red and gold theme – these berries I spotted on one of my dog walks.


I’ve done some searching online and can’t identify the shrub they come from. Can anyone help?

CPT A brewed a batch of beer over the weekend. He’s working on a cranberry wheat version. The leftover spent grains went straight to the chickens, who were more than happy to help dispose of them.


(Don’t worry, there’s nothing alcoholic about them. Wheat, barley, oats…that’s about it).

On the crafting front, I finished another pair of fingerless mitts – this time for CPT A, who celebrated a birthday and had mentioned that a pair might come in handy for him too.


Here, you see them on my hands (I didn’t want to spoil the surprise). I used Patons Classic Wool and the always reliable Maine Morning Mitts pattern.

And, finally, with November has come the Christmas season – in the stores, at least. Everywhere we went last week, shops were putting up displays and decorations. Ginger snapped this shot in Anthropologie – which always does a great job decorating in any season.


Hard to believe the holidays are just around the corner…but they are. In the meantime, I’m still raking up leaves.

From the dining room table, thinking today will be a good today to get on that,

Mrs. Smythe

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