Soft & Comfy Fingerless Mitts

Posted by Rachel Smythe on October 26, 2016 in Crafting, Critters, Seasons |

Here we are, well into Fall, and I just finished my first pair of fingerless mitts.


I promised myself a pair back in September, when the weather turned colder, and I thought a pair of these would be just the thing for early morning dog walks.


Our mail lady wears a similar pair, and she was the one who first got me interested in them. Since then, I’ve found all sorts of uses for mitts. My favorite use, of course, is wearing them while knitting somewhere cold – like the ice rink. It’s wonderful. You’re able to have both warmth and dexterity, which is a useful thing.

Also, they’re cute.

If you knit or crochet, you’ll find an endless supply of patterns for these – ranging from plain to fancy. For this pair, I wanted something very simple. I was going to be using a very special yarn that a friend had given me last Christmas. She has her own sheep and had had their wool professionally spun into yarn. Out of the bounty, she saved me a hank. I was thrilled, but a bit intimidated. The yarn sat in my stash for nearly a year as I wondered what to do with such a precious item. I didn’t want to make something that would wear out quickly (like socks sometimes do). And, I wanted it to be something that showcased the rustic quality of the yarn – something I found very appealing.


In the end, I chose something simple. I found a pattern called Soft & Comfy Fingerless Mitts and cast on – using larger needles than recommended because I have large hands. (In hindsight, I don’t think that was necessary. I could have stuck with the smaller needles, and everything would have been fine.)


The resulting mitts knitted up in just three days – a fun project with just a bit of challenge in the thumb gusset which kept things from getting monotonous. Otherwise, very simple stuff.

And very satisfying, too. I walked the dogs while wearing these this afternoon, and they were just the thing. They’ll carry me comfortably through the remaining days of fall before  we move into mitten weather.

From the dining room table, thinking how nice it is to have a friend who owns sheep,

Mrs. Smythe

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The New England Air Museum

Posted by Rachel Smythe on October 23, 2016 in Family, Out & About |

My father is an airplane enthusiast. He flies radio-controlled planes. He reads books about planes. He watches films about planes. He knows a lot about planes. So, going through the New England Air Museum with him was an experience in itself. He knew something about everything, and everything interested him. Even the engines interested him. I learned a lot of truly interesting things with him by my side. And, his slower pace forced me to stop and read placards I might not have read otherwise. So, if, like me, you don’t know much about planes, do yourself a favor and go to this museum with someone who does. It will really enhance the experience.

Here, my father steps into the cockpit of one of his all-time favorite planes (if I remember correctly) – the P-47 Thunderbolt.


And, here I will give another bit of advice – go to this museum, if possible, on a weekday, off-season. With fewer people, you’ll get more attention from the docents. They’re more than happy to talk with you, and they know a lot. Plus, if they find out you have a special interest – like my dad did with this plane – they can be very accommodating.

Another tip – if you have a panoramic setting on your camera, don’t forget to use it. Some of the planes displayed are HUGE (like this B-29 Superfortress).


And, this museum is pretty big, too. There’s so much to to see – three hangars worth of planes, a children’s area, and various other exhibits. We packed a lunch and divided up our plane viewing with a meal in the canteen area (which has tables and vending machines). If you aren’t as passionate about planes, it probably won’t take you as long to see everything, but we were at this museum literally all day.


(Here, my father demonstrates his paper airplane construction skills. Ginger, especially, was impressed.)

Finally, don’t forget to stroll around outside. There are more planes on display – and some beautiful trees, too.


(I don’t know what my Dad said to the girls just before I took this photo, but they thought it was hilarious.)

From the dining room table, so glad the girls got a chance to learn a little more about one of their Grandpa’s favorite things,

Mrs. Smythe



A Chicken Massacre…almost

Posted by Rachel Smythe on October 20, 2016 in Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Seasons |

Don’t worry – this story has a happy ending. But it almost didn’t…

A couple of days ago, I was sitting in our back yard with my back to the woods. I had the chickens out, and they were rifling through the garden, enjoying themselves, while I alternately knit and read.

Every so often, I would stop to admire the trees.


Or, I would stop to admire my knitting.


Or, I would stop to admire the chickens.


And then, in the blink of an eye, a hawk swooped out of the forest, and landed on one of the chickens. It happened so fast, I was momentarily confused. I thought it was one of the other chickens who had done the jumping (we have one that looks remarkably hawk-like). But then I noticed that the thing that just landed had a four foot wingspan. Then I screamed. I shouted something inane, like “You get out of here”, and leapt out of my chair.

Thankfully, the hawk listened. I think it was as surprised to see me as I was to see it. It flew back into the woods. Meanwhile, the victim of the assault popped up and ran all the way back to the chicken yard. That chicken came through the attack with nothing more than a scratched comb. Talk about miracles.

When I went back to the garden, this is what I saw.


So many feathers!

Since then, we’ve altered our chicken habits somewhat. If the chickens are out in the yard, we’ve decided someone has to be attentively watching them – not knitting, not reading, and not taking photos as I was. Additionally, CPT A is working with Kipper – our Australian shepherd mix – in hopes of training him to be a “chicken guardian”. Kipper is always on the alert, and I’m confident he would not have been surprised by a descending hawk.

From the dining room table, so glad that this story had a happy ending (I’ve gotten ridiculously attached to those chickens),

Mrs. Smythe

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Crazy Gourds, Fair Isle Socks, and a Blue Egg

Posted by Rachel Smythe on October 16, 2016 in Crafting, Critters, Garden, Seasons |

Fun things we’ve seen around town this week:

This bird statue.


We saw this outside the vet’s office (where we were getting a booster for Kipper’s Lyme vaccine).

And these pumpkins.


These were outside the pet and garden store we frequent.

Back on the home front, I finally finished up the pair of socks I was making (seen here on Pepper). They’re from a pattern put out by Patons: The Fair Isle Sock.


These were a lot of fun to knit. The fair isle portion went surprisingly fast. I used a basic worsted wool yarn – Valley Yarns Northampton –  leftovers from a sweater I knit last year. I did add reinforcement to the toes and heels, so hopefully these will be as durable as they will be warm.

We’ve had a couple of below-freezing nights now. I’ve been watching my flowers nervously, knowing that we’re at the tail end of the growing season and realizing that their time is short. The afternoon before our last freeze, I expected to have dead and shriveled flowers by morning, so I went outside and gathered an enormous bouquet.


To my delight, the garden survived,  and the flowers are still going strong. It looks like we’ll have at least another week of color in the front yard, for which I’m grateful.

And, while I’m on the topic of color, our Easter Egger chicken laid her first egg this past week.


The color is always a mystery with these birds. They can lay pink, blue, or green eggs, but you don’t know which it will be until they start laying. Looks like Mabel is a blue, though this photo doesn’t do the color justice. It’s really a very lovely, soft blue.

And, finally, the entire family participated in a Crop Hunger Walk this afternoon, spending a pleasant hour winding through Forest Park in Springfield with a small mob of other people. This photo gives you an idea of where we are at foliage-wise.


I think this has been one of the prettiest Falls we’ve had since moving here. The colors are so vivid and the weather has been quite nice. I would guess this is our “peak week”, though. We’ll see how things look this time next week, after the forecasted rain has swept through.

From the dining room table, getting ready to pick up the knitting again – this time I’m making a vest,

Mrs. Smythe

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When Your Sister Visits New England…

Posted by Rachel Smythe on October 12, 2016 in Chickens, Critters, Family, Out & About, Seasons |

If your sister comes to New England (as mine did this past week), you’ll almost certainly want to show her a good time. You’ll want her to see all of the charming old homes, the foliage-packed back roads, the historic spots, and the fun shops. Of course, you can’t squeeze everything into just one visit, but you can make a good start, which is exactly what we did.

But first, we introduced her to the dogs…


and the chickens.


The dogs loved her – even Manny, who is not known to be friendly with strangers. (I was actually shocked at how much he liked her). The chickens ramped up their laying while she was here, and we had fresh eggs nearly every morning. The only animal who wasn’t smitten with my sister was Mr. Wa. He hid out in various places around the house during her entire visit, finally making an appearance the afternoon she left. Cats.

Once we’d gotten the animal introductions out of the way, we drove to Old Sturbridge Village…


…where the scenery was so pretty, I took more photos of trees than people.

Then it was off to Yankee Candle where it snows every four minutes.


(We were picking “snowflakes” off of each other for hours after that).

The weekend rolled around and we drove into Boston for a visit to the Aquarium.


The touch tank was probably the highlight. The crowds were thick, but my sister was impressed and had a great time. Then it was just a quick walk to Boston Harbor for some quality people/boat watching.


And Sunday? Sunday it rained. So, we went bowling. (Ginger’s idea).


This was actually one of my favorite days. We had such a good time, I’ve made a vow to bowl more often in the coming months. Heck, I might even join a league!

And for the final day? We drove up into the hills to a pumpkin farm.


The weather took a decidedly cold turn that day, but we managed to eat ice cream anyway.

And now the visit is over. We’ve returned to our usual routine. Today, rather than visit something scenic, I mowed the lawn.

(Where was my sister when I needed her?)

Her visit, though, (besides being a nice chance to spend time with family) was a great reminder of the fun and beauty that surrounds us here in Massachusetts. I loved seeing everything afresh through my sister’s eyes. It was a lovely, lovely week.

From the dining room table, so glad my sister came for a visit,

Mrs. Smythe

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