How to Care for Handknit Wool Items

Christmas is just a couple of days away. Perhaps your sister-in-law, or mother-in-law, granny, mom or aunt thought you were special enough to knit/crochet something for this year.

First, let me say handmade/homemade is NOT cheap. Your relatives/friends are not trying to slide by on the cheap side by knitting/crocheting gifts. A skein of yarn, whether it is acrylic or Merino wool, can cost from $6 to $50+++ per skein and it will take at least 2 skeins to make a gift. Now add in the time spent to create said items and multiply by at least minimum wage. There, got it? Not cheap, is it.

Now, that being said, lets get to the care of said knitted/crocheted item. If it is acrylic, more than likely it is machine washable and dryable. Great for kids’ items.

If it is wool, or any other natural fiber, care is a little more involved. Most will involve washing by hand. This does not mean you take the item and scrub it against an old washboard. That will just cause the item to felt and shrink enough to fit your youngest child. What that means is to SOAK the item in warm, soapy water. Then rinse in cool water. Gently squeeze the water out. Roll item in a towel to remove more water. Then lay the item on a flat surface, shaping as you go, and allow the item to dry. This will take a day or two.

Granted this is a little time consuming, especially in our society where most folks want instant gratification. But keep in mind your relative/friend felt that you were knit/crochet worthy and felt in their hearts that you would take care of the item that took them hours to create.

I can guarantee you if you don’t take care of said item, you will be OFF their knit/crochet worthy list.

Merry Christmas!

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DIY….Extracts!

Most folks don’t think about extracts unless they are baking something. And if you’re out, you just run down to your local grocers and buy some. You pick up that cute little bottle of extract made by that well known spice company for about $3 to $4 per bottle. Or, if you’re into organic, you pick the one that is $11 or more $ per bottle.

But have you REALLY looked at how much you are getting for your money? I mean REALLY looked! ONE OUNCE! Let’s look at it differently. Most recipes call for 1 teaspoon of extract per batch. You are getting only 6 teaspoons for that ounce of extract that you paid anywhere from $3 to $11+++ for.

Why are you doing that when you can make it yourself??

First you need Vodka or Bourbon or other liquor that is at least 40% alcohol. Not top shelf, just the cheap stuff. A liter bottle may cost you $10 to $15 dollars. You will need 5 grade B chopped Vanilla beans(about $0.45 each, less if bought in bulk), or the zest of 1 lemon + a Tablespoon of sugar, or the zest of an orange, a handful of chopped raw almonds, etc. per Cup of liquor. Use some Mason jars and pour your liquor into the jar. Add your Vanilla beans or lemon zest or almonds, etc. For the next 2 months, give that jar(s) a shake daily. After 2 months or longer if you wish, you have your extract of choice. Just filter it through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove the solid particles and pour into jars (decorative if you wish) and store in a dark place.

Lets do some more math. You initial outlay will be anywhere from $25-$35 dollars for about 4.25 cups of extract or about $1 per ounce. That is, if you are using a liter bottle of liquor. So that liter bottle will make 33.8 ounces of extract. Multiply the 33 x $3 = $99 or 33 x $11 = $363. Now subtract your total cost to make that same amount, you will be saving $65 to $300+.

And it makes great gifts for that person you know who loves to bake.

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Poem About a Veteran

This poem was sent to me in an email. I don’t know who wrote it, but it is worth reading.

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?

Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.
For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A VETERAN DIED TODAY.”

Veterans-Day 2012

Let’s Talk Cameras

Let’s talk cameras. Or should I say, let me talk about the cameras I have had and why I liked or hated them.

When I was a kid I received a little instamatic Brownie camera. You know the kind, it used 110 film. Came with a small instruction booklet that told you to take pictures with the sun behind you so it would light up the faces of the people you were taking pictures of. It was all automatic. No manual adjustments whatsoever. I loved that little camera. Of course, I was all of 12 years old. But it was my first camera. It did, however, require film development at your local drug store.

Next, came my Poloroid. It was a big, clunky thing. But I loved it because it was instant pictures. All you had to do was pop in a large squarish film pack, take your pic, wait for it to pop out and watch the magic of it developing before you own eyes. Of course, you had to coat it with some kind of goo (film preservative) and let that dry before you could actually handle the photos much. I’ve had two of these particular cameras and the second was an improvement over the first. However, the film was expensive for these babies.

In my early 20′s, I bought my first 35mm camera. It was a Canon and it was entirely manual. I had to learn all about ISO’s, f stops, types of film, hot shoe, etc. I took many a picture with this camera, but as with all film cameras, I was never really sure if a picture would develop as I envisioned or not. I always had to wait for the results from my local photo lab. Sometimes I was very happy with the results and sometimes not. It was always an iffy thing.

In between that Canon and my digitals, I’ve owned a slew of 35mm cameras, some better than the Canon and some not. I even owned a Minolta at one time, not my favorite camera by a long shot.

Then came the digitals. I was in heaven. No film to deal with, had built in flash, moderate zoom at the press of a button, and I could see my pictures instantly.

My beginner digital was a 2 megapixel camera with a 10x zoom and built in flash. Oh WOW! I studied that instruction booklet front to back several times. I could take my pictures, download them to my computer and view them right away. I could even send them to friends and family. I owned several small, pocket size digitals before I stepped up to a larger digital camera.

My next camera was a Kodak digital, automatic and manual. The megapixels were more, the zoom was greater. It was an extremely user friendly camera. One almost didn’t have to read the manual to understand how it functioned. Manual settings were EASY to figure out and use. And the photos came out crisp, sharp and very detailed. The camera could recognize and adjust for any “shake” whether in auto or manual mode. Rarely was there a blurry photo. It even had a movie mode. You could use a CRV3 battery or AA’s, including rechargables.

Then I bought a Nikon Coolpix….12.1 megapixel, 15x zoom. Hmmmmm…It’s okay. But I wouldn’t call it the best camera I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t call it all that user friendly either. The flash is not automatic. You have to lift it manually if you think you might need it. Manual settings are okay, but the camera is so sensitive to movement that you can’t take a picture without a tripod on any manual setting. Handheld pictures come out blurry in any manual setting. I found myself using the auto mode more and more often. The photos weren’t any better with the Nikon than with the Kodak and I paid more for the Nikon. It doesn’t have a viewfinder; it only has an LCD screen. So on a bright, sunny day you can’t see what’s on the screen. You are blind shooting, hoping you get a good shot. Oh and it uses 4 AA batteries and goes through those batteries like a child eating candy. I have tried the rechargables, still uses them up quickly.

As a comparison, for the money, you get a better camera and more features with the Kodak than with a Nikon. I think you are just paying for the name with a Nikon. But if that’s your thing, then go for it.

My latest camera is a Poloroid Lumix DMC FZ70 super zoom camera. OMG! I love this camera! It has a 60X ZOOM, 16.1 megapixels, 3 inch LCD screen and a viewfinder, manual and auto settings. The battery came with the camera and it is rechargeable (came with the charger too). Pretty much straight out of the box the camera is user friendly. The manual is easy to understand and there is also a CD with additional information on it.
The only thing I didn’t care for was the photo program that you need to download from the CD in order to get your pictures from the camera to your computer via the USB cord. Yes you can take out the SDHD card and download your pictures straight from that, but that can be a pain in the bohunkus. I guess I just like using a USB cord download option.

Here are a few of my test pictures. I hope to be able to get out and get some more interesting photos next week.
Granted these were just out in my back yard, so experimenting with the zoom was somewhat limited.

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Blakeley State Park

A few days ago, hubby and I decided to visit a state park in Spanish Fort, Alabama that we had been wanting to visit, but never got around to it.

It is a large state park and is the site of the old town of Blakeley, Alabama. At one time Blakeley was comparable in size to Mobile, Alabama. It was, however, decimated (population wise) by yellow fever before the Civil War.

During the Civil War it was the site of several battles and remnants of those campaigns still remain.

There are many areas to picnic and camp. Camping is $30 a nite for RV’s. I’m not sure about tent camping. Information is available on the internet if you are headed that way and want to spend a few nights there.

I took quite a few pictures of the park and some of it’s wildlife. Enjoy.

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The Inevitable Weight Gain After Weight Loss

It happens to the best of us. We will at some point gain some weight back after losing some. For some of us it is a little weight gain and for others of us it is more. Either way, it is a depressing place to find yourself.

I have gained about 10 pounds back. And I am not happy about it. So what do I need to do about it?

First, I need to analyze WHY I gained some weight back. Did I slack off on my exercise? No. Did I go back to my old eating habits? No. Then what was it? I quit smoking!! Which, in turn, lead to the munchies…more calories, even though healthy food, added to the weight gain.

Second, WHAT can I do about it? I need to get the munchies under control. Harder than it seems, but not impossible. I need to choose my snacks more wisely. Again, difficult, but not impossible. I need to perhaps add more exercise, especially when I feel a munchie craving coming on. I need to try diversion tactics.

The most important thing I need to do is NOT BEAT MYSELF UP OVER THE WEIGHT GAIN. It’s just another obstacle to overcome and I WILL overcome it. I won’t let this setback defeat me. Don’t let yours defeat you either.

See you on the good side of healthy.

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Dear Seller…….

Occasionally, I buy things on line. Sometimes, it’s from Amazon, or Etsy, or eBay. Sometimes, its from Sears or Walmart. I rarely, I repeat, rarely have problems. BUT, SOMETIMES….I run into those sellers whose practices leave a lot to be desired.

I pay immediately. It’s simple to me. If I want to buy something, then I should have the money right then and pay right then. And I expect sellers to respond accordingly.

Let me list the things I expect from my sellers:

I expect good COMMUNICATION. If there is a problem with the item I have ordered, send me an email ASAP and give me the option to cancel that order.

I expect prompt MAILING. I pay immediately, so I expect my item to be mailed within 48 hours. I do not expect to have to wait 5, 7 or 10 days before you decide to mail my item. I should have had that item in my hands by then. I know the approximate mailing times from any given location to my location.

I expect appropriate PACKAGING. If the item is fragile, wrap it so that it will not break during transit. If it is a small item, don’t put it in a box as big as a doghouse.

I expect no SUBSTITUTES. Do Not Substitute without contacting me first. There may be a specific reason I have ordered that item and cannot accept a substitute.

I expect to receive my ITEM. Do Not think that just because it is “lost” in the mail, you are no longer responsible. Because that is not the case! I will file the appropriate complaints and charge-backs, if I do not receive my item.

Just a heads up for you sub-standard sellers out there. Improve your customer service or you will find yourself out of business.

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Tobacco versus E-Cigarette

My husband and I have been smokers for a long time…him longer than me. I have quit in the past several times and those no smoking times have lasted for a few years at a time. But I always started back…mostly due to the stress of the job (nurse).

Now we are both retired and are counting our pennies since we live on a fixed income. Every dollar is accounted for and doled out sparingly. We averaged $300.00 a month on cigarettes. That’s a lot of money when you are living on Social Security.

Last week we were running our usual errands…bank, groceries, cigarette store, etc. On the way, I told my hubby that now would be a good time for us both to quit smoking. He thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know if I can. Why don’t we try those electronic cigarettes?” Hmmm….I’m thinking this might be a way to eliminate tobacco from our lives.

After some research into e-cigarettes, we decided on Mistic brand, available at WalMart and other retailers in our area. The battery (long end of the cigarette) and the cartridge (filter of the cigarette) are heavier than a regular tobacco cigarette. “Smoking” the e-cigarette is very similar to a tobacco cigarette..without the burn, ash or smell. The cartridge has food safe liquid with nicotine, that when inhaled and exhaled, resembles actual smoke.

It FEELS like I’m smoking. It TASTES like I’m smoking. The end even lights up when I take a puff. But I have found that I am NOT puffing on it as frequently as I did a real cigarette. I may puff on the e-cig once or twice every couple of hours..just enough to get the nicotine in my system. Eventually, I will probably not be “smoking” at all.

I was worried about hubby and his reaction to the e-cigarette. He seems to be doing fine with it. Of course, he puffs on it more frequently than I do. I honestly thought he would have gone out and bought a pack of tobacco cigarettes by now. But he hasn’t. I am pleasantly surprised and happy that he is sticking with the e-cig.

Cost wise, this is much cheaper than tobacco cigarettes. It is about 1/3 the monthly cost. A $200.00 savings…HELL YEAH! I can live with that.

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UPDATE! UPDATE! I am no longer smoking the e-cig or any cig for that matter. I am officially a NON-smoker. I noticed that I was puffing on the e-cig maybe twice a day. So I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” So I just totally quit….no cigs whatsoever. Don’t miss it.

Hubby is still “smoking”, but way less than with tobacco cigs. I am not sure that he will ever quit, but at least it’s not tobacco.

How to Make a Kaleidocycle from Jelly Roll Strips

Since knitting my first Kaleidocycle, it crossed my mind that this could also be done using jelly roll strips and a sewing machine.

You will need some fiberfill and a stuffing tool. I used the flat end of a straight knitting needle. You will also need some heavy duty hand sewing thread such as upholstery thread.

First, pick 2 jelly roll strips in contrasting colors and cut them 13 inches long each.

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Place right sides together and sew a 1/4 inch seam down one side. Iron this seam open. Repeat for other side. Then turn right side out.

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Now you are going to make marks along this tube. Your first mark will be 1/2 inch. The next marks will be at 2 inch intervals. You will have another 1/2 inch remaining at the end.

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With your 1/4 inch seams on the sides, sew your first seam at the first 1/2 inch mark.

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Stuff this first section lightly. Then match your 1/4 inch seams so that they are in the middle of your tube. Place pins on either side of your marking and sew.

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Stuff the next section lightly. Having the 1/4 inch seams on the side, pin and sew along your next marking.

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Continue in this manner, alternating the 1/4 inch seams on the sides or in the middle until you have one last section to stuff.

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Stuff the last section, but do not sew across the opening. Fold in the end 1/2 inch (on the marking). Insert the other end into this folded area and pin in place.

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Hand sew the ends together using a heavy duty sewing thread. I used upholstery thread.

This will make a small Kaleidocycle, just right for a child’s hands

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So You’re Walking Your Dog This Summer

There are some things you should take into account when you walk your dog in the summer heat.

l. How hot is the pavement? If it’s too hot for you to stand on barefoot, then it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.
2. Consider going early, really early in the morning before the sun has had a chance to heat up the pavement.
3. Carry some bottled water for you and your dog.
4. Rest if need be on your walk. Observe your dog. If he/she looks tired, stop and rest a few minutes.
5. Try to walk in the shade. Look for a route that is mostly shaded. It will be better for you and your dog.
6. If you jog while out with your dog and the temperature is 80 or above, consider leaving your dog at home in the air conditioned house.

Just remember you are not the only one going on this walk. Take into consideration the comfort, health and safety of your dog.

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See you on the good side of healthy.