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Key West!

(If you’d like to skip my commentary and just see the pictures, here’s a link to the slideshow. It should be noted that we had 4 different photo-taking devices with us, so the pictures aren’t in any sort of order, and I haven’t captioned/described any of them. But if you just need some tropical beauty in your day, click on through.)

Last week at this time I was swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a short swim, because we didn’t want to get any more sunburnt, but it was very, very warm out. And this morning I woke up to snow. Sometimes Mother Nature is cruel.

We were in Key West for 4 nights and Miami for 2. Most of the pictures are from Key West. You can tell the Miami ones mostly because they’re skyline shots. Key West doesn’t have any buildings taller than 5 or 6 floors (OK, there might be a hotel with 10, I’m not sure).

I’ll try to post pictures I didn’t already Instagram. And I’ll try to get them in chronological order, at least roughly.

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We did a lot of walking in Key West, especially to the beach.

 

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The water was shallow pretty far out in many places. It was great for wading in, and particularly refreshing after the hot walk.

 

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Need a tropical water pic?

 

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As expected, we saw strange-to-us plant life, like this bush where the “flower” petals were actually leaves. There were red and pink varieties of this all over, and they were beautiful.

 

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Unexpectedly, we also saw a lot of chickens.  Seriously. They were all over Key West. Some in people’s yards, some just wandering the streets. If you view the slideshow you’ll see a few pictures of a mama chicken with half a dozen chicks. They were everywhere.

 

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If you go to Key West, you have to eat at Sandy’s Café. Wonderful Cuban sandwiches. It happened to be on our way back from the beach.

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This was the view from our second hotel. Seriously. Touted as a “pool view.” True. Just… the view from the pool is the ocean, so…. It was awesome. There’s a daily sunset celebration just to the left of this photo on the pier. We skipped it both nights we stayed nearby, but got to see a little of the crazy from our hotel room (I believe there was a unicyclist one night, and a flame-blower another).

 

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Our second hotel was right on Duval Street, which is the place to be a tourist in Key West. Tons of shops, restaurants, and bars, including this one. The bars were busy just about 24/7.

 

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This was our second hotel. Our room is hiding on the left behind those umbrellas (we were on the second floor). This was a really nice place (though we loved our first lodgings too, for very different reasons).

 

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We took a sunset cruise, which was really nice. The staff was excellent and offered to take pictures, replenish drinks, etc.

 

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We could have chosen to experience the sunset as pirates, but we chose not to. This is the Jolly Rover, and every time it sailed by, it would set off cannonball sounds. Much fun.

 

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Sunset on the Gulf, anyone? As a side note, this is where we’d like to retire. It’s an island off of Key West, and home prices start around $2.5M. So, you know, once I get that teaching job, we’ll start saving away. Right….

 

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This was taken from the pier where we swam in the ocean. This is totally the wallpaper on my dual monitors at work right now. Go ahead and be jealous.

 

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On the trip back to Miami, we stopped to take pictures of Old Seven Mile Bridge. The pictures didn’t capture the awesomeness of this engineering feat.

 

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We had lots of fun taking panoramas with my new iPhone. This was also at Old Seven Mile Bridge.

 

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We also stopped for a picture with the giant lobster statue. For reals. We were pretty sure that this was the cause of the accident that delayed our travel down to Key West. Side note: this was taken on Thursday, and you can barely see my sunburn, and you can see that I obviously didn’t really tan while in Florida. But it was warm and I definitely got my share of Vitamin D.

 

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Miami was nothing special. But, one our way back to the hotel from Walgreens, we happened by this one-story house where there was an honest-to-goodness peacock walking around on the roof. It’s very hard to get a picture of a peacock on a roof; this was the best we can do. But you can imagine the awesomeness/absurdity of the scene.

 

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And, so I don’t leave you with that peacock picture, here’s one of us. I made that dress, by the way. It’s super comfy and I want to make a dozen more. But that’s for another day.

I’m missing so many details, but that’s what I can do for now. My arms and legs (below the elbows/knees) are peeling and I no longer itch. That sun allergy on my legs is nearly gone; it’s lingering on my right leg a bit but it looks much better. Lots of shaving and exfoliating and moisturizing going on.

If you ever plan on going to Key West, ask me for restaurant recommendations and places to stay. I’d recommend doing just about everything that we did. It was a wonderful trip. I really wish the forecast wasn’t for 5-10″ of snow tonight. I’d much rather be swimming / hanging out near the pool and eating fresh seafood. Oh, the fresh seafood…. Don’t get me started on the gloriousness of that. Poor land-locked Minnesota doesn’t have a chance for competing in that regard.

Life is pretty much back to normal now. We’ve unpacked and done all our laundry and loved up on the kitties. And now I’ve blogged the trip, so it’s truly over now. Sad. But wonderful. Great memories.

Sunrise

The other day, just before leaving for work, I noticed this beautiful sight:

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The sun was just kissing the tops of the now-bare trees, turning them a nice blush/peach color. My camera could not fully capture the beauty of nature.

Then, as I was waiting to turn left onto the main road, something in the sky caught my eye. It looked like large gold glitter falling in the air. It was actually a flock of small birds; the sun was hitting them just right to make them appear golden, and as they flew through the air, moving about on the currents, it looked like God was having his own party complete with confetti/glitter.

I had a smile all the way to the bus stop.

Sawdust everywhere

About a month ago, we started to make forward progress on that other built-in for the family room. The pieces had been sitting in our bedroom since last October or November, just waiting on one last coat of poly. We finally got that taken care of, and then spent some time drilling the holes for the shelves. This was not very complicated for the smaller bottom units that will have doors, but for the top units that are bookshelves, it was a little more complicated. It was more complicated because I didn’t want adjustable shelves; my symmetry-loving mind wanted all of the shelves to be the same all the way across. This took some finagling (and math!) but we got it taken care of.

After that, we assembled each individual unit (3 upper, 6 lower). That took us a day or two.

Last Sunday, we assembled the larger units (2 lower with 1 upper), and then installed them all. Getting everything level and even and so forth took a lot of time, but it was definitely worth it. Now, these pictures might not look like much, but we really are very excited about them.

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View as you enter the family room. The unit is flush with the wall that the door closes onto, so while it seems a bit claustrophobic right now because we’re used to the empty space, we didn’t actually lose any space overall compared to the original layout (link below).

History: when we first moved in, how it looked for a long time, and what it looked like for the last year. Also, the first unit as it was when we moved in, assembly, installation, framing, and in use. Can you tell I’m proud of the work we’ve done?

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The bookshelf tops have a beadboard backing, which we will also use for the center panel of the doors on the bottom (and the whole other built-in will have doors that will match).

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Doesn’t that just look like a ton of space for books? The top shelf is just 8″ tall, which should fit all of our serial paperbacks. The next one is 10″, and the bottom two are 12″. There are enough holes in the bottom units for one or two shelves at avariety of vertical locations, to fit all of our stuff.

Next up? The face frame. Then we can install the trim in the whole room! I’ve been waiting for that for quite some time (more than a year, actually, since I painted all of the trim last July while the state was closed down). Then we might switch our focus to the basement bathroom for a while, which really is a great indoor/winter project.

Looking at these pictures reminds me that I need to keep looking for replacement side tables on Craigslist – the ones we originally got match, but are a little too big and not terribly practical (I’d really prefer ones with a lower shelf or a door, more nightstand-like). While I wait for other people to respond to my emails, I might just do that.

The orchard looks different somehow…

A few weeks ago, , and I went on our annual trip to the apple orchard. Only, well, you see, we didn’t exactly go to an orchard. If you know the whole long history of our orchard trips (check out the “orchard” tag if you want the details), you’ll remember that we went to Sponsel’s for ten years, until it closed. Last year we tried a new orchard, which was nice, but wasn’t enough to get us to come back this year. Add in this year’s weather patterns that meant the apple crop was early, and some crazy September schedules, and, well, things changed. It was mid-October before we all had a free weekend at the same time. took on the task of planning things, and came up with several options. I wanted to do a corn maze, because I’d never done one before.

Well, we ended up at Sever’s Corn Maze just south of the cities. Barely any apples in sight (though they did have apple cider, and I had an apple with hot caramel as my lunch), but lots of other fun things.

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Honest to goodness, there was a camel. That wasn’t even the most exotic of animals.

That’s right, there was an exotic animal petting zoo. This resulted in sticking her hands into most of the cages while got upset about the map of the maze being eaten. It was all in good fun.

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I don’t remember what these are called, but they were cute. In an Australia sort of way.

Thankfully, not all the animals were exotic.

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You know I needed a picture of a rooster.

 

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We did complete the maze and found all of the clues to spell the secret word. It was more fun than we thought it would be. Maybe next year there will be more apples on our orchard trip, but for this year, we had a good time.

An unusual (for me) craft

Just a quick post today.

I don’t usually do non-sewing fabric crafts. I mean, why play with fabric and not sew, when I can sew? Anyway.

While I was cleaning my house for ‘s visit last weekend, I pulled the cover off our Ikea Grundtal Magnetic knife rack. had one at the townhouse, and liked it enough to install it in our new house. You can see it in its native habitat here.

I’d seen a couple of examples where people had recovered it (just one example), and I decided now was the time for me to tackle it. I found some cute kitchen-related fabric that totally doesn’t match the kitchen. I’ll change it again when we repaint the kitchen. You know, in a few years.

Anyway, just one fat quarter (I had to cut it across the diagonal, so most of the FQ is now scrap) and some double-sided tape (just to keep it in place until the cover was reattached, which is held in place with really strong magnets – it’s not going anywhere). 10 minutes.

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The rest of the knives were in the dishwasher. Usually this rack is full. Also, I highly recommend a pair of kitchen shears like this, that are only ever used for food and kept food-safe (in terms of cleanliness).

 

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Silverware-themed fabric!

 

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Ta-da!

Like I said, pretty much a one of a kind project. I’d really rather use my sewing machine. But with just a few minutes to spare, this was a fun project.

Weekend in Duluth

About a month ago, and I went to Duluth for the weekend so he could run another half marathon. It was a very small race, as the main event was an inline marathon. I don’t have any pictures of the race because I was there cheering alone, and when presented with the choice to clap for or take a picture, I chose to cheer.

Later that day, we went to a craft fair that happened to be going on. We forgot to bring cash, so we didn’t buy anything, but we did happen upon a cute area to take a short hike in. I think I got in more than 20 flights of stairs that day, thanks to this little ravine.

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Unassuming.

 

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Pensive

 

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Reflective

 

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Exploring

 

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Falling

 

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Growing

 

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Rushing

Some calming “white noise” for you, recorded by at the scene above.

We had another nature adventure this weekend, but I thought I should get these pics out there first. Tuesday or Wednesday, perhaps.

Twin Cities Marathon and 10 Mile

Last Sunday, as I mentioned previously, was the Twin Cities Marathon and 10 mile. ran the 10 mile, and did the marathon. I picked up on my way to meet up with after his race – usually I am much too late to see him finish, but this year we were really close. Like just a few minutes, maybe less. Even if I had gotten there earlier, there wouldn’t have been any pictures, because it is just a mad house down there. Something like 7,000 runners plus all their families and friends. Cra-zy.

Once we got warmed back up  – he forgot to bring gloves and it was mighty cold out there that morning – we drove over to Minneapolis to cheer on . I only took pictures at one of the stops we made, mostly because it was so pretty there. I didn’t bring the camera with us, so these are all taken with my iPhone. I’m pretty pleased with the quality, all things considered.

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Great fall day for colors!

 

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There she is! In the middle in the white shirt, just in front of her pace group (the balloons).

 

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A provided water and a hug.

 

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Just behind where we were standing was this cute little path down to the river. We had some extra time, so we decided to explore.

 

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The iPhone isn’t really set up for macro photos. Oh well.

 

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They were standing about 10 feet apart before this. I told them to stand closer and act like they liked each other. This is what I got.

 

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Random….

 

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Gorgeous paved path.

 

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Gorgeous unpaved path (taken 180* from the previous picture).

 

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Lovely Mississippi.

AMANDA and I went exploring down the unpaved path, mostly to try to figure out what seemed to be a barge or something on the river. We never did get a good look at it – the closer we got, the denser the foliage was. Eventually we got a better look while driving over the river on our way to the next stop. In the mean time….

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This fence was truly part of the wildlife.

 

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In multiple places. Two became one.

 

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Amazing.

 

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One last shot of the fall colors.

For those who want to know, completed the 10 mile in 1:24:12 (unofficially), which was a pace of 8:21, exactly the same pace he ran the Duluth half marathon a month ago. completed the marathon  in 5:51:32 (unofficially). She has some pictures on her blog and a play by play of her run (multiple posts, actually).

Mini Deck Revamp

Last week, I shared that we recently purchased a new patio set and were waiting on a rug to be delivered. They’ve both been delivered and are set up. I’m calling this a mini revamp because 1) I didn’t order the umbrella yet, 2) everything will get put away / wrapped up for winter this coming weekend, and 3) the deck itself needs some love. But, I’m pretty pleased with how things are looking so far.

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The new patio set and rug.

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Close-up of the patio set. The color is a little off in this picture, but color-correcting it didn’t work. The lighter color is kind of “greige,” and the bottom is medium-dark brown. The “greige” is kind of the color of untreated weathered wood.

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We’ve got potted plants and whatever else we could find helping to un-crimp that far end that was at the center of the rolled-up rug.

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So the blue of the rug is slightly off from the blue on the house, but I don’t care. The umbrella I picked out is, theoretically, the same orangy color that’s in the rug. We could have gone any number of ways with the whole set up – I wanted something kind of bright that wasn’t blue, and this is what I settled on. Prince Charming went along with it, perhaps proof that he was coming down with something, because he always has opinions about things like that.

While the sun wasn’t brightly shining, it was as sunny as it was going to get, so I took some pictures of the paint job on the outside of the house and some exterior projects we worked on this summer. I’ll save that post for tomorrow. In fact, I uploaded enough pictures to Flickr that I  might blog every day this week. Try not to have a heart attack over that. 😉

I’m such a tease

[Editor’s Note: My apologies for not blogging sooner. I was having trouble with WordPress and only got it fixed today. And now I seem to have forgotten all of the things I wanted to tell you. Sorry!]

We have a lot of projects going on, and it seems like some of them will never be complete. The house painting is complete, but I haven’t taken official “after” photos yet, you I’m only going to show you bits and pieces of that, as well as pictures of what else is happening in and around my house.

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A house finch built a nest in one of our oak trees this year, and had four babies (two boys, two girls). They learned to fly by taking short trips from the tree to the house, the house to the garage, the garage to the fence, etc. They were quite playful once they got their confidence. It was a lot of fun to watch them. Of course, now that they know how to fly, they’re never here.

 

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We had to install a fence around all of our vegetable gardens because some very hungry bunnies made meals out of all of our sprouted plants. We ended up re-planting mid-July, so our gardens are very far behind (except for the squash, which the bunnies didn’t touch). Some of the climbing plants are doing really well with the fence, and it has me dreaming up where to plant things next year to take advantage of it.

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Don’t do what we did. Don’t install one of the fence supports right through the pipe for the irrigation system. You will get a sink hole, and you will waste lots of water until you figure out what’s going on. In our defense, the pipe shouldn’t have been there (it had bowed significantly from the straight line we thought we had put it in). Prince Charming did a great job of fixing this and our irrigation system is really working well for us.

 

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This picture was taken about two weeks ago, so you can imagine that this buttercup squash is about three times bigger and has turned darker green. We have maybe five or six more squash growing in at least two varieties (a big rainstorm washed away part of that planting area, and I’m not sure what survived and what didn’t, so the harvest has been a bit of a surprise).

 

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Prince Charming really wanted to grow watermelon this year, and so we did. It decided to travel outside of where we wanted it to be. The sedum seems to be tolerating this overgrowth, but there aren’t any fruit growing yet, so we’ll see how they do when that happens. We’ve only had a few flowers, so we’re not sure if this will actually produce anything this year.

 

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As part of prepping the house to be painted, we removed the mail slot. It had been painted over the last time they painted the house, and it looked awful. I got most of the paint stripped off, but there’s still a lot of elbow grease needed to get it to the point where I can put it back on the house. It’s going to look awesome and shiny by the time I’m done with it. (Those awesome hinges? They relate to a picture further down.)

 

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The house got painted, and the company we hired did an awesome job! The trim is so crisp and the lines are perfect and our house looks absolutely gorgeous! I’m glad I went with the super white color for the trim – it really helps the house look cleaner, more taken care of. And the blue is such a wonderful shade. I was a bit nervous that it would be too bright, but it’s perfect, and will hopefully retain enough of that color as it fades.

 

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When we took the old lights off of the house, I threw them away because they were in that bad of shape. Didn’t even put them on Craigslist for free. They were also small and cheap and ridiculous. These are the new ones. We picked them out quite a while ago, and I was hoping to find them on sale, but we ended up getting them full price at Menards while they were having their 11% rebate days. The bottoms are open, so it will be easy to replace the lightbulbs (unlike their predecessors, which had to be taken apart). We also put light sensors in between the bulb and the socket, so they turn on at dusk and off at dawn. That is super awesome.

 

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We picked out a chandelier for our dining room quite a while ago (at least a year), but didn’t buy it. Again, I was waiting for a sale. Thanks to This Old House and eBay, we got this open box one for less than 50% the original cost. It’s exactly the one we picked out. I went a little light crazy that week and also bought lights for the basement bathroom remodel, again on eBay, for mega savings. No pictures of those though – they won’t be installed for a while. That room needs help.

 

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I finally settled on a color to paint my bathroom (white, which I then totally revised thanks to This Old House, but that’s beside the point), so I took off the frame and door for this cubbie that’s in my bathroom. They were painted white, but were pretty beat up. Those hinges in the bag with the mail slot? They were holding the door to the frame. I know this picture doesn’t look very pretty, but I got most of the paint removed from the door and frame and they’re looking great.

 

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Of course, I can’t just be working on one bathroom remodel. I’m working on the basement one too. This room is in need of some serious help. See all that patching there? There had been water damage at one time, and the tape at the seam in the ceiling and also at two of the inside corners had to be completely removed. I did that inside corner all by myself, I’ll have you know. Prince Charming helped with the ceiling one – that was trickier. What this picture doesn’t show you is the huge pile of paint that I scraped off of the walls, which I still haven’t cleaned up. So much work to do in this room before I can paint. At least the colors are picked out for that. This room is going to look awesome when it’s done. Unless you’ve seen it already, you don’t even know how bad it is. It’s something you have to experience to fully grasp.

 

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And, because I couldn’t leave you with the previous picture as the last one, I’ll share this one of a manicure from a week or two ago. I still hate removing confetti/glitter, but it was a really fun manicure.

Hopefully I’ll get better at posting now that I’ve fixed WordPress. Keep your fingers crossed!

Just a small weekend project

Not really. I don’t know how you spent your holiday weekend (assuming you’re in America), but we wrapped up the digging portion of that front yard project we started last week. We were probably halfway done by the time the weekend started, so we had plenty of time for other things, too, like watching TV while it poured rain, and going to Home Depot for the tool we built (pics at the end of the post).

If you don’t remember what it looked like when we started, go back and check out last week’s post (apparently I’ve become a one-post-a-week person post-student teaching). I’ll wait.

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Well, this is what it looks like now. Actually just after we took these pictures, we pulled up all that black plastic too. The hated, dreadful black plastic.

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Maybe this picture gives you a better sense of size. The depth varied between maybe 4 inches and 8 inches, and deeper in some parts, like where we had to dig up at least 3 (maybe 4) stumps of bushes. Didn't even know those were there. We're not the only one who has killed a few bushes on this property.

 

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See that large pile of rock? That's next. It's going away (thank you, free section on Craigslist), but first we have to sift out all of the dirt (we need it to fill the area back in) and non-rock stuff.

Cue the other weekend project, the rock sifter:

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Some 2x4s, screen, and a Craigslist saw (and some other stuff too), and you have this beauty.

 

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Prince Charming designed it to match the dimensions of our handy wheelbarrow. The rocks fall off the top to the side, while the dirt sifts through into the wheelbarrow.

Don’t get it? You can watch a video of it in action here. There are plenty of similar creations by people who want to do the same thing.

So, we’ll start working on that tonight. Maybe we’ll remove that stupid plastic edging, too. I will be so happy when we remove the last piece of that stuff from this property. That and the black plastic and rocks. Hate them all. Didn’t even know I had such passionate feelings until we moved into this house. At any rate, give us a few years, some time to get the rest of the irrigation system installed and the landscaping figured out, and you’ll never know that our whole house had been surrounded by rock beds.

As a side note, the vegetable gardening project continues, with some pretty good success. Some of the plantings have died, and some having sprouted yet, but that’s OK. We’ve already learned a lot, thanks to life (torrential rain storms erode a certain garden area – who knew?) and library books (don’t mulch right away – whoops). I’m going to start my herb garden indoors this week, and I might start a few replacement plants for those that have died. I won’t keep them inside so long that they get leggy like the first batch, though. Just want to give them a little bit of an edge.

Funny thing – we thought we’d killed our rhubarb plant last year in the midst of all the damage done with our irrigation system project. Um, nope. It moved. About five feet away, to the middle of one of the squash patches. Ripped that baby out (it was interfering with the watermelons). Not as much wandering as the lamb’s ear had done (that migrated easily 30 feet around a corner), but surprising nonetheless.

Lastly, my public service announcement for the week: apparently Friday is National Donut Day. If you have a Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts nearby, you obviously don’t life in Minnesota, but here are some coupons anyway. Wouldn’t want you to miss out on that. Last Friday was National Wine Day, which required a trip to the store to purchase something to celebrate with (there was, oddly, only red wine in the house, which I don’t drink, and one bottle of port that was too expensive for me to crack open with no plan). Anyway, I don’t want you to miss out on Donut Day. That would truly be a sad day.

Undoing

So, and I started on yet another “little” house project yesterday. Some background first.

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There's this odd-shaped garden off of our odd-shaped driveway. When we first moved in, it was mostly empty, save for one hosta, a shrub, and a giant mound of mulch.

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I think this garden made much more sense before the fence, because it's a continuation of the garden along the side of the garage. Alas, with the fence there, some of that continuity is lost. Also, it leaves a very awkward, small space to mow.

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Prince Charming's grandma helped us out with some ground cover plants that worked well in full shade. I worked at leveling off the awkward pile of mulch.

That was the first summer. Then just… extrapolate 3-ish years’ worth of growth, because all I did past that was weed. Apparently I didn’t even take any pictures. At the end of last season, I’d pretty much decided that what I had going on wasn’t good, so I ripped everything out except for the hostas and the bush.

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Which meant we were down to this.... Not exactly a show-stopper front yard.

It did take me quite a while to come to a conclusion about what we should do and then commit to it. But, eventually, the decision was made to turn the area back to grass. The hostas would be saved and replanted elsewhere, but that was it.

So last night, we started working on it. By this time, almost all of the mulch has turned to dirt, so there’s a pile of dirt mounded up on top of  the requisite 6″ of rocks and then the dreaded black plastic. did the digging and removing of dirt/rocks (all the way down to the black plastic, which will also be removed), while I worked on weeding and moving plants. Most of the hostas were pulled up last night and temporarily planted in pots, because they will be planted elsewhere in the garden but that area needs some work, and I thought it would be best if they didn’t have to deal with the trauma of being transplanted too often. The other plants all went in the yard waste bin.

Our neighbors across the street were out gardening / preparing dinner (the grilling guy is out grilling again, after a hiatus), andstruck up a conversation about this next project of ours. They thought we were just moving hostas around or something, but explained that we were returning the area to grass. They seemed slightly horrified by this idea, but assumed we would be keeping that bush. You know, the less than pretty thing that is awkwardly placed kind of near a corner. We explained that we weren’t, which horrified them more. We offered the bush to them, and they thought for sure we would just move it somewhere else on the property. Clearly they don’t realize how many bushes I have removed / killed on our land (I can count at least ten, and there are still at least 6 that will die one day). To make this story shorter, since the wife has the week off of work, today while we are away, she is over at our house removing the bush and taking it to its new home.

How awesome is that? Free bush removal! I’m also amused at how horrified they were that we would just kill a bush. Um… it’s just a plant. I promise there will be no ill effects on the world (a slightly smaller amount of oxygen is being added to the atmosphere, but I think we’ll survive). There are so many reasons to turn that area back to grass that I have no regrets about this decision. Also, I kind of hate bushes, especially evergreens (they  make me itch). The larger grassy area will be so much easier to mow than what we’ve got going on now. And it’s not like there isn’t plenty of other areas that are landscaped. Plus, the area is mosty shaded by a large oak tree that drops all of its leaves onto the garden every fall. That makes it very difficult to maintain and it’s really hard to rake in a garden. All in all, this is definitely better, even if our neighbors don’t think so.

No updated pictures of progress, because we have lots more work to do before there’s anything worth showing. But I thought the story was worth telling anyway. Tonight I’ll remove the remaining two hostas and pot them like the rest, pull up the rest of the plants, and keep on weeding (it loosens up the soil which is fairly well packed, making ‘s job easier). Might have a picture by next week, and hopefully we’ll have grass before the end of the summer. The large area in front of our house that died over the winter has taken to reseeding well, so we’re doing something right.

What a weekend!

Well, while I did get a little work done on my TPA on Friday night, it wasn’t much, and I didn’t touch it the rest of the weekend. It’s “due” Tuesday, but let’s just not think about that, OK?

I don’t think I mentioned on Thursday that the transition back to “regular life” from student teaching has been rough on me… physically. I heard a lot about other student teachers who cried on their last day, and… yeah, that’s not me. That’s not to say I didn’t adore my time at the school, but crying in public really isn’t my thing.

At any rate, however, the transition has been difficult, as student teaching generally involves being “on” with a high level of energy from at least 7:30 – 3:00, and then I generally sat on my couch from 3:30 until 10:00, went to sleep, and started all over again the next day. It was exhausting, in a good way. Well, my regular life consists of sitting in a cubicle from 7:30 – 4, bookended by an hour long bus ride, and then a completely unpredictable evening. My restless legs started getting bad the last two weeks of student teaching – I was very tired at this point, which aggravates the situation. But things have been even worse since, with restless legs starting to kick in as early as 6 pm almost every single day. Driving me crazy. Plus I haven’t been able to fall asleep until at least 12:30, if not later.

Well, Saturday I finally made some strides towards fixing that situation – I slept in until a luxuriously late, ridiculously lazy, 11 am. I made up for my laziness by working hard the rest of the day. ERIC and I worked on our garden for most of Saturday and part of Sunday.

Some background….

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Two years ago, this is what the garden along the back of the house looked like. There was a patch of dirt with no edging (surprisingly, an improvement over the parts of the lawn that are edged), a sprinkler hose, and... some random stuff I planted (tomatoes, cilantro, and cucumber from what I can pick out, perhaps some lettuce too).

If you remember, we weren’t too keen on that whole manual watering of our gardens thing, and decided to install an irrigation system ourselves. It has been a ton of work, but will be worth it in the end.

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Here you can see the trench we dug in the back part of the house for the irrigation. You can see that the garden area went unused last year, as it took us all summer to do this digging.

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By the time we were finished with the irrigation system, it was fall and our neglect of the grass and all the trauma and left us with this beautiful situation. Good thing it's in the back of the house and all fenced in, right?

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After a lot of hard work on Saturday, this is where we got to. The ground is mostly leveled out and we should be able to plant grass soon. The garden bed is slightly raised and edged out with the bricks that will eventually edge the entire property's gardens. I wish I had taken a picture up close, but I ran out of time this morning. Prince Charming also got his hot pepper garden prepped for planting.

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Sunday morning, I planted his hot peppers and mulched around them all (a first for us - hopefully it will drastically reduce weeds). And then we turned on the sprinkler system. It works! Sunday evening Prince Charming prepped the rest of the beds and we got them planted with most of our seedlings. We still have one tray of seedlings left, some of which are flowers, and then some seed packets of things to directly sow. I had to leave in order to catch the bus this morning, so I don't have pictures of all of them yet, but I should tomorrow or Wednesday.

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While spending all that time outside, I noticed a bird nest in my favorite tree. It's pretty small - that big trunk is probably only 3 inches in diameter. I prune this tree every year, and can say that this is the first time there's been a nest in this tree in the 3 years we've lived here.

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Also, the butterflies were out and very happy that our lilac bushes are blooming! I got a ton of pictures. I don't think we'll have to worry about getting the flowering vegetables pollinated.

Sunday was not only Mother’s Day but also ‘s 30th birthday. It’s actually probably going to be birthday week for him, since the gifts I ordered are all arriving this week sometime between today and Thursday. We drove up to see his mom for the dual holiday, and then stopped in to visit Emma since we were a mile away.

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Hello, sweet girl! She slept almost the entire time we were there, despite the fact that she was supposed to wake up to be fed. She was having nothing to do with that. She might be better at sleeping than I am!

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How precious is she!

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I swear, she looks exactly like my sister.

That was a fun time.

Tonight we’re taking out for his birthday (which was Friday). Hopefully I’ll be able to get some work done on my TPA when we get home, but I’m not concerned. There isn’t really a penalty (for me) for not finishing on time, so I’m not going to work my butt off to get it done in time. Sorry, but I have a life going on, which included starting back at work full-time right after finishing up student teaching. And we’ve got this big contract thing at work going on that I’m going to spend the rest of the day working on, and that really does have a deadline and people will not be happy if things don’t get done on time.

More pictures of our garden later this week. Until then, if you’re bored, you can browse through the rest of the pictures that didn’t make it into this post from the last week or so, which include more pictures of Emma, our garden and butterflies, and all the patterns I purchased in the last three months and didn’t have time to catalog until last week (, those probably interest you more than anyone else – feel free to request to borrow any of them).

So… how are you?

I’m great. Well, maybe great isn’t the right word, but I am ecstatic to not have to do any homework or go to class (just pretend you don’t know anything about all of the work I still have to do to get licensed). I loved student teaching. Adored it. Miss my kids tons. Wish I was there. I know not everyone has a good student teaching experience, but mine was great. I had an awesome cooperating teacher, and while my school certainly wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t so messed up to the point that I wouldn’t take a job there. In fact, it’s still my number one choice for places to work, not that there are any jobs there right now. Maybe there will be, maybe not. Definitely within a few years – at least one retirement in the works. Until then, hopefully one of the other districts near me will have an opening.

We had an awesome party last weekend to celebrate ‘s graduation, my “program completion,” and ‘s upcoming birthday (Mother’s Day this year). prepared an amazing taco bar, brought more beer than we knew what to do with (and balloons that is enjoying a great deal), and there were more people at our house than we’d ever hosted.

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The moms and their spouses, eating tacos and enjoying the festive decor.

Oh, my sister also gave birth to my niece just over a week ago. I was there, and it was amazing. And Emma is beautiful and perfect and adorable.

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Welcome, Emma Hope!

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Me and Emma in her first hour of life.

A few weeks before Easter, asked me to take pictures of her with her boys (before the baby was born). We took some in my backyard, and then went to the park near my house for the rest. If we had waited a few weeks, it might have looked more like Spring than Fall, but the weather was actually quite enjoyable, despite what the pictures may look like.

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Joey really liked to talk to the baby.

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Joey also liked the playground.

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Well, Joey liked everything about the playground except for another kid who was trying to be helpful. Grant enjoyed himself too.

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My favorite picture of the day.

After a week of pure laziness, I’m starting to get back into the swing of being productive with my time in non-school-related ways, like weeding our garden and pruning the hedges, or working on the rest of the stuff for my license.

But I’ve really got to get to work on that licensure stuff. The big deadline is May 15th to have my TPA finished. Would you like to know more about the TPA? (No, you probably don’t.) Basically we have to submit two 10-minute videos and somewhere around 25-30 pages of write-up about the lesson planning and evaluation of said lessons. After I get that submitted, then I need to get my electronic portfolio ready, which is not in the best place right now, though I did get it started before student teaching, so I’m not starting at square one. I also need to take my two exams, the content area and the pedagogy (science of teaching).

After I get that done, my university can recommend me for licensure, I can fill out the forms, get my fingerprints taken, pay the money…. And when that’s done, I can start applying for jobs (because I need to at least be able to say “license pending”).

And lest you think I’m just going to be able to hop right back into blogging after a three month hiatus, I wouldn’t hold my breath. I got into the habit of blogging in my head because I didn’t have time to do it for real, and that seemed to meet my needs. Unless, of course, I have pictures of something that I want to show off. I’m sure my mojo will come back, but for the time being….

Happy Thursday!

Christmas projects are so much fun!

I have to tell you that I am so thankful for my co-workers today. They have been really supportive about all the time I need to take off to be in the schools, and then they want to hear all the stories, and even though making it through the program means I’ll be leaving them, they are still encouraging. (That said, of course there are plenty of days when I want to hurt them, but right now, I’m feeling the love. Between the Celexa and getting to be in a middle school two days a week, my mood has majorly improved lately.) By the way, yesterday was just as awesome as Tuesday – I am LOVING my time in the middle school!

But, I promised you pictures, didn’t I?

First off, the pillows! (See what I mean about it being sunny the other day? Lovely!)

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The fronts

The patterns were in the latest American Patchwork & Quilting magazine. You can see their versions here, but you have to get the magazine for the pattern.

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Pillow #1 - not my favorite only because of the gathered panel that doesn't match perfectly (yes, there's technically green in the bottom print, but it just seems out of place). I love the other three fabrics though. There were supposed to be buttons on the middle (non-gathered) panel, but the snowflake buttons I have just disappeared on the business of the ornaments print. Sad. Korben has been enjoying knocking them off my cutting table, a different one every day.

 

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My favorite, and Prince Charming's favorite too! I have been dying to use that center print for years, and still have some left that I will use judiciously. So cute!

 

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You wanted a close-up on those skaters, didn't you? How can you not be in love with them? You can't.

 

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The backs. (They have invisible zippers at the bottom, so both sides are usable.) Matea just wouldn't leave the frame. You'll see these pinwheels again in a bit.

How about some details?

Christmas pillows detail shots

Top to bottom: close-up on the pleats, the gathered panel (I didn't like the instructions given, and if I use this design again, I'll do it differently), and the matching prints for the borders of the pinwheels.

And now, a project that went much faster, and involved math! (Also, a sneak peek at our dining room that I still haven’t shown off. Bad blogger!)

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A Christmas table runner! It fits the table perfectly, with just two or three inches at either end. I used the rest of the pinwheels that I'd made for the backs of the pillows. You can tell that I didn't do math when I originally made those up, since all 9 were supposed to be the back for one pillow. I mean, I was planning on cutting them down, but not that much, and in the end I couldn't bear to do it. (Sneak peak: in the background, our new buffet, and in the foreground, our new dining table. I promise I'll show them off soon, and tell you about all the work we did to get them to this point.)

 

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The binding is in the same line as many of the prints, and even shows up in one of the pinwheels. The red border is the same as I used on the pillows. Print-on-print pinwheels are a little bit harder to see, but I tried for as much contrast as I could get. There are red and white pinwheels, green and white pinwheels, and dark print on light print pinwheels. Each is technically unique, though each print appears twice (I made my favorite no-waste half-square triangles). The back is some green felt I had stashed. Everything, in fact, is from stash. Absolutely nothing was purchased for the pillows or the table runner (except for two invisible zippers in the right color/length). Go me!

I almost don’t need a tree, these are so cute!

Last night I went to JoAnn and bought some fabric to make two fun and flirty yet winter-appropriate skirts. I was so sad to put away my summer clothes – all the fun dresses and skirts I’d made are no longer right for the season. It took me forever to find darker prints and things that weren’t overly floral, but I finally did it. Skirts are so quick to do, and I love making them. I know, I’ve got a ton of other projects to do too, but self-made winter clothes are a goal and I want at least some of them to be fun. Not everything has to be boring and “perfect for student teaching” (as in, browns and blacks, sedate, nondescript and/or classic blah-ness). I got some cute beads too – I think I’d like to make some more jewelry. The early sunset lends itself well to my hobbies, which are all indoor crafts, but now that the semester is almost over, I’d like to spend more time with ERIC, which means not spending the whole evening upstairs sewing or doing homework, but hanging out with him on the couch in the basement. Beading is perfect for that. I can stay busy, but we can be together. Plus, I’ve got a new plan to make jewelry to match clothing that I make, so that I’ve got outfits (or parts of outfits) ready to wear. It seems smart to make jewelry to specifically go with an item of clothing (especially necklaces), and it’s always nice to have things that coordinate with a newly made item of clothing.

Absolutely Giddy

I can barely express how wonderful yesterday went at the middle school. I was a bit nervous that though I used to like middle schoolers, I wouldn’t be as enamored with them. It’s been a few years, you know. Well, there are some middle schoolers in the program when I tutor on Mondays, but mostly they stay separate, and they’re absolutely crazy and there’s no structure. Anyway. The only disappointment I experienced yesterday was in remembering that I will be student teaching in a high school, not a middle school. Heartbroken about that.

I’ll try to keep this part short. The teacher I’m working with put me to work right away. I recorded assignments, separated them out for grading, recorded oral interviews with at least 12 students who struggle with writing, paired up with some students for partner work, and generally enjoyed myself thoroughly. I wish I was there today. When I was leaving the building, I thought to myself, “This is what I was meant to do.” I haven’t had a moment of clarity like that about teaching. I really felt called to youth ministry, and when I decided to change careers, I made the choice of teaching rather rationally. I knew I’d be good at it, and I knew I’d enjoy it. But yesterday, it was … more certain. “This is where I should be. This is what I should be doing.”

Bonus: It was light out when I left the house, and light out when I returned home. So very awesome to see sunlight. Plus, I took pictures for you! I think I’ll save many of them for Friday – there are only so many hours in the day and not nearly enough time to get everything done. Here’s how sunny it was: I barely had to do anything to these photos other than crop them. Awesome! (I promise that’s true for the other pictures, but the ones I have to share today are blurry, because I was taking them myself, in my bathroom, of… myself. Not the best recipe for pictures, but I was way too lazy to get out the tripod.)

Today, you just get to see a knitting project I finished. I completed it within 3 days, actually, which is always fun. This yarn was sitting near the top of the giant Ziploc bag of yarn to give away, so it doesn’t exactly put a dent in what I have stashed away, but that’s OK. I have destashed a significant amount of yarn recently, so I’ll give myself a pass on this.

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Black (which doesn't photograph well - good thing it was a sunny day!) with strands of silver woven throughout.

I had originally made myself a hat out of this yarn (which had no tags and I never recorded what it was, so it’s officially mystery yarn – I assume it’s a blend of partial acrylic and something else, as it was part of my attempt to find yarn that doesn’t make me itch). It was a lovely winter hat – double-stranded for extra warmth, cables (that you couldn’t see because it was black), it fit well…. The problem was, it was itchy. Like, really itchy. Red forehead itchy. So, I gave it to , who seemed more than happy with it.

So, what do I decide to do with this yarn that makes me itch? Make a cowl, of course! I know, wrong decision. But I only had a little bit of it (somewhere around one skein). And the pattern looked so… comfy and fun and easy (Ravelry link to the pattern called Marian). It was a nice, fast knit. Seed stitch is the same as doing 1×1 rib, just with an odd number of stitches instead of even. It’s boring, but with the big needles and fluffy yarn, the texture is really nice. And it’s really squishy.

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You can almost feel the squishy-ness.

I couldn’t make gauge with the circular needles I had, so we did some math and I cast on extra stitches, and then a few more to compensate for people’s complaints that theirs were too small. I decided to just knit until I ran out of yarn. Well, that I did. In fact, I had seven stitches left to bind off and was left with three inches of yarn. Oops. Ripped it back one row, re-did the bind-off, wove in the two ends, and it was done!

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I know, I know, not the most professional photo. It seems too long. And I did the moebius twist in it, but it seems like it's too twisted.

Unfortunately, I think I over-compensated, or ended up knitting looser than my gauge swatch (probably the latter). And, um, it’s still itchy (duh). Can one wear a cowl with a turtleneck? That seems… redundant. This may need to be gifted away to someone with less sensitive skin. I really want to make another cowl, in something that won’t make me itch, but I’m not sure it’s actually an article of clothing I can pull off. It just seemed… awkward. Any thoughts?

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Maybe doubled-up?

On Friday, I’ll share pictures of the Christmas sewing I’ve completed recently!