Holiday in review: Sonoma Valley

This past week, Mr Snips and I have been on an amazing trip to Sonoma Valley. And when I say amazing, I mean AMAZING. This trip was especially planned to mark a milestone birthday for me, and it was truly everything I hoped it would be.

We stayed at a sweet B&B (though it seems a disservice to call it that – it was spectacular) in a private cottage. It had a fireplace in front of our bed, and I found myself cuddled up in fronts of it several times a day, often with knitting in hand. It also served incredible three-course breakfasts which made to a great start every day.

Monday: We arrived in the early afternoon. After checking in, we headed to Sonoma Square to walk around and see what was there. After having a gander in the shops, we headed back and rested a bit before dinner. The hotel had free coffee and wine all day (you read correctly – FREE WINE) so I poured a glass and settled down on the terrace with my newest project, the Cabled Canuck (from my Monday Musing). It was glorious to be in the sunshine with wine and knitting. Glorious! We finished off the day with dinner at a local Indian restaurant.

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Tuesday: We hired a wine tour guide who could drive our rental car. This is a great idea, because you get a knowledgeable DD and you are paying less than if you rented a limo or town car. And since we were already paying for a rental car, it seemed very silly to double pay for a car. We spent all day going from winery to winery and doing tastings. We met so many lovely people. I expected a bit of snobbery since Mr Snips and are NOT knowledgeable wine conneisuers, but everyone was perfectly lovely and willing to help us find a wine we liked. The most notable purchase of the day was a pair of sweet little arrow studs I purchased from a winery. They are made by a local artist and I love them! They are simple and small. Which is perfect since BK has discovered how fun my dangly earrings are! No knitting happened after the wine tour, because there was no way to trust myself with either cables or lace, which were the only two projects I had with me.

Wednesday: We started off the day with a massage. If I hit the lottery, I would probably do that every day. We then got ready for the day and headed to two wineries. One we visited turned out to be my favorite, because of location, they had wines I liked, we had a lovely server and the place had a great ambiance. We also went back by Sonoma Plaza and did some more shopping. I spent a couple of hours tucked up in bed, watching some TV, enjoying the fireplace and working on my hat. We rounded off the day with a spectacular dinner at another local restaurant.

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Thursday: We drove over the hill/mountain to Napa Valley. We visited Yountsville, which was lovely, but lacked the fabulous ambiance of the area where we were staying. We then went over to Napa’s town center, where I visited Yarns on First. It was a great shop. They carried things I liked (like Malabrigo!) and had the store organized by color, which I thought was a nice touch. I bravely resisted adding to my stash, and instead purchased the deluxe edition of Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf for BK. It will be a few years before she’s ready to read it and learn to knit, but I’ve wanted her to have it since before she was born. Napa was a strange place; parts were lovely and parts were so under construction or vacant they looked like a scary ghost town. We had a nice lunch in the pretty part, and headed back. More knitting on the terrace ensued. We then had yet another fantastic dinner. Really, I was just overwhelmed by the variety and fantasticness of the food we ate there.

Friday: We left Sonoma Valley after the last lovely hotel breakfast and headed to San Francisco. The plan was to visit a few places there before taking an overnight flight home. We started in Union Square and hit a few shops there. We then decided to walk to the Painted Ladies which was a *horrible* mistake. We ended up in a very shady part of town – and I mean the shadiest I’ve been anywhere – and I was very scared. We turned back to Union Square and took refuge in a fabulous mall for a couple of hours. We headed back to the airport much earlier than planned and ended up with several hours to kill. After dinner and a look through every shop, we sat down. I took the opportunity to finally make it to my center panel of my Bigger on the Inside shawl and to work on this blog entry. So thankful I knit, or I would have been out of my mind at the long airport wait!

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Overall, the week was amazing. I tried lots of food I normally wouldn’t have and loved them all. The relaxed atmosphere and the very nice people made the whole thing a wonderful experience.

Monday Musing: Hat, Hat, Sock

A bit like duck, duck, goose, no?

Wow, I really enjoyed hearing what everyone was working on last week! I think we’ll continue on with the Monday Musings, with my knitting plans for the week. Please share your projects again in the comments.

I did manage to cast on my Cabled Canuck I mentioned in last Monday’s post. I’ve completed the pattern rounds once, so once more and some decreases, and I’m money! I think it could possibly be done by the end of the week. I got quite a lot done while on vacation last week (post to come about that!).

I also think I’m ready to do the decreases on my Hermione’s Godric’s Hollow Hat. I thought for sure I was going to frog this a couple of weeks ago and use a different Hermione-inspired pattern, but I worked a couple of rows and changed my mind. I’m finally feeling ok about the daisy stitch with this splitty yarn. It’s still not perfect, but certainly acceptable. I can’t decide if I want to make it a little longer to be a bit more slouchy or if I’m ready to finish it up.

And lastly, I spent most of my holiday last week wishing I was knitting a simple pair of socks that didn’t really require a pattern or thought (especially after a glass of wine…), so I’m going to dig through the stash and decide on a simple pair to start to have on tap. I’m torn between a yarn I haven’t used before and some special St. Patrick’s Day colorway is seasonally appropriate, but that I already have made one pair with. Decisions, decisions.

Hope this week brings you as much knitting time as you wish!

Monday Musing: Cabled Canuck

Monday Musing is a new semi-regular feature where I will outline the week’s plans for knitting. 

This week, all I can think about is casting on for the Cabled Canuck. I have had it saved to my favorites in Ravelry since March 2012, so I’m really overdue on getting started!

Planning my Cabled Canuck

It finally dawned on me that I have the perfect yarn in my stash to make it – Three Irish Girls “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” – a color from the 2012 (I think?) yarn club. It’s the Springvale Super Merino base. Why it took me so long to put the pattern and yarn together in my mind, I have no idea.

This yarn is a really interesting color. Most of the time, I think it’s grey. But when I showed it to Mr Snips the other night in only artificial light, it looked kind of army green. Regardless, I think it’ll be a nice neutral that will probably take on a little bit of whatever color I’m wearing elsewhere. I’m a bit of a coat fiend, so I have a few winter coat options, and I think we all know that since I’m a knitter, there are a multitude of winter accessories that I could put with it.

Now if I could just find the time to wind the yarn…

What are you working on this week?

Happy Valentine’s Day! featuring SNOW

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I hope you’re having a good day. I’m feeling especially full of love this year, since I have a little bitty Valentine!

I am generally pretty enthusiastic about all holidays. I even have one of those sweet little garden flag stands and a large variety of flags to display on it. I put out the Valentine’s one a couple of weeks ago. It really does say “Happy Valentine’s Day” across the top with cute little hearts and flowers underneath. You wouldn’t know it though, because now it looks like this:

My frozen Valentine's flag

That’s right – not just snow, but icicles, too! And the forecast this morning that made it sound like we were getting a minor snow (1-3″) today, seems to have spiraled a bit out of control. Large, heavy flakes have been falling since noon, and don’t seem to be slowing down. The roads are completely and totally covered with at least 4 inches of snow, and probably more. Thank goodness for 4WD! And this is on top of the snow we already had, which was blanketing the ground.

So… it’s looking like my Valentine’s spirit will be frozen in place until we start to thaw out (hopefully next week!). It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine to leave decorations out too far past the holiday, but it seems this time I don’t have much of a choice. The back view of the flag is almost as impressive as the front, though you can at least sort of tell what it’s supposed to be…

Back view of my frozen Valentine's flag

This winter has been relentless, and it’s close to breaking my spirit. I love a good snow day or two, but we’ve had too many to count! Though BK and I don’t have to worry about it for a few years yet, the schools are having a hard time trying to figure out how to make up all of the lost time they have had because of snow and the dangerously cold temperatures. I feel especially cheated about this year because we didn’t get a white Christmas, but it feels like it hasn’t stopped snowing since then! I’m trying to keep positive by imagining spring, and thinking of how we will once again be able to leave the house without worrying when the snow is coming or if the roads have been plowed.

Mr Snips and I will be staying inside to celebrate Valentine’s Day, where it is warm and cozy. We always stay in and eat pizza; it seems silly to go out among the crowds for a day that’s meant to be about spending time with the people you love. So regardless of the weather where you are, I hope your day is filled with love (romantic or otherwise!), chocolate and knitting. And if you’re really lucky, pizza. 🙂

How to: make a pattern minder

I am finally making some progress on my Bigger on the Inside shawl! I think I have finally found the rhythm of the pattern. And I also addressed a little niggly thing that was bothering me – my pattern minder.

A couple of years ago, I purchased a set of three pattern minders from my LYS. I knew at the time that I could easily make them, but it seemed easier to just buy some when I had a full-time job and a project on the needles where I really needed them. They came in three sizes, a small, medium and large. As I used them over time, I realized that the largest size (12.5″) was just too large for use. I always use an 8.5 x 11″ sheet of paper for my patterns, so it was just insanely big. And lately, it seems the big one was all I could locate. I haven’t seen the small one in a while, and the medium one was on a pattern that is currently “resting.” So here I was with this tiny lace pattern, and a huge magnet. I decided to make my own to make the experience a bit more pleasant.

And now I will share with you how to make my lovely pattern minder!

You will need: 

  • Magnets on a roll that have adhesive on one side. I purchased some that was 1/2″ wide and 10′ long.
  • Ribbon. I went with 5/8″ ribbon so that it was slightly bigger than my magnet width.
  • Fire! We used one of those safety candle lighters.
  • Double stick tape

Supplies for a Pattern Minder

To make the pattern minder:

  1. Cut a length of ribbon to 17.5″.
  2. Use the lighter to quickly sear the ends of the ribbon to prevent fraying. Be careful!
  3. Cut two strips of magnet to 8″ long.
  4. Place one magnet 1/2″ from one end of the ribbon. Roll the magnet down carefully so that the adhesive side smoothly attaches to the ribbon without any bumps and so that it is centered on your ribbon. Press firmly to make sure it sticks.
  5. Put a small piece of double stick tape on the end of the magnet closest to the end of the ribbon.
  6. Fold the 1/2″ of ribbon over the magnet so the double stick tape will secure it.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 with the other end of the ribbon and the second magnet.

This produces a total width of about 8 1/4″ once folded onto a pattern, which I find to be ideal for most of my projects. The 1/2″ gap in between the magnets is just enough to wrap it around the pattern, but not so much you have a saggy spot (something my old ones did).

Pro Tip (from my mom): Find a ribbon that has a pattern which will easily allow you to center the magnet on the ribbon. In this instance, the ribbon with the stitched edging was perfect, because my 1/2″ magnet fit between the stitches. This is why I take my genius mom with me when I go shopping for project supplies!!

Finished pattern minder

Finished pattern minder on my Bigger on the Inside pattern – lovely!

The best part about this is I have $3.84 in this project!! I already had the double stick tape, so all I had to do was purchase the magnets and ribbon, which I did with coupons (all the craft stores have coupons all the time). I have enough to make LOADS from these two little supplies. And I can make larger or smaller ones if I come to a project that will require something different than the standard page size – it’s endlessly customizable. I will probably buy some different ribbon in the future, just to spice it up with a bit of variety.

So there you go – so easy! If you have 10 minutes on a rainy day you can crank out at least 2 of these, and that’s if you measure twice before cutting. 🙂 Enjoy!

WIP: O.W.L. Mitts

Because I felt like I could not get enough stranded mitts, I cast on immediately for the O.W.L. Mitts once I finished up my Snowfling ones.

I’ve managed to finish the first word on the palm of the left mitten – Expecto!

O.W.L. Mittens in progress

Spot my little pirate 🙂

It is turning out really pretty. But I’m just not feeling it. The Snowfling Mitts, now those felt like a joy. These feel like a job. Like a slog. I don’t know if it’s because the yarn dominance changes from one side of the mitt to the other and that seems fiddly to change the yarn around every time. Or if it’s because I’m trying to knit two-handed and that is slow going since I am still getting used to it. Or if it’s just the pattern, because there’s no rhythm to it because the owls and the words are changing all the time. I’m continuing on in the hopes that something will be made clear, and I will want to knit on them all the time. But I’m kind of doubting it.

While I am pondering over that mystery, I thought I’d share my funny little swatch with you that I made to practice two-handed knitting. At first, I just changed colors randomly to get used to the feel. Then I started doing part of the Snowfling pattern as best as I could from memory. It turns out I selected the wrong hand for my dominant color, so it doesn’t look quite right, but it gave me chance to see how it would feel to be doing two-handed work.

Swatch to practice two-handed knitting

In weather news, it snowed 7 inches overnight, and a little bit more this morning. It is beautiful to see, but not beautiful to be out in, so we are holed up inside once again. Snow is fun a couple of times a winter, but I’ve had more than I care for now. I’m ready for spring!