Thursday, March 31, 2011

One of my local yarn stores

stash basket

Two Saturdays ago, I ran over to West Reading to finally check out Yarn Gallery.

Yarn Gallery - West Reading, PA

They have all sorts of different yarns,

sweater sample

and notions,


and plenty of finished object samples.

wall o' yarn

I couldn't keep my hands off this stuff (photo does NOT do it justice):

bowl of yarn

yarn and samples

The famous (or infamous, depending on which camp you're in) Noro was abundant.

basket of yarn


And I just loved the look of this sock yarn display.


There are a few more pictures here, but I didn't get many this time. Lots of other customers that day, which is always great to see in a local business! But, ya know, not easy to take pictures around. :)

If you find yourself near West Reading, make some time to check it out. Not only can you get your yarny fix, but there are a ton of other great little shops (and food!) up and down the street.

some other shops on Penn Ave.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Knitting and freezer paper stencils and banjo, oh my!

I-Cord Bowl progress

Finally took a picture of the growing i-cord spiral. At this rate, I will not finish it in time to make my Easter-y centerpice bowl idea. Ah well... Next year maybe.

And this?

cabled ... thing

I started this not long after I started knitting (over two years ago) and never finished it. It was supposed to be a baby blanket, but I lost interest. Plus the cables are pretty ugly. What do I do with it? Should I frog it? Or can I make something useful out of it?

cabled thing detail

It's worsted weight organic cotton held double. Very soft. Hmmm... I got nothing. Thought about a wrap of some sort, but I'm just not feeling it I guess.

Anyway. Freezer paper stencils! Yay!


I've been reading about how amazing they are for a few years now and I have to admit: I was very skeptical.

How could something supposedly adhere so perfectly without leaving a residue? And then be able to be moved and re-ironed and used again several times?

eyes and nostrils in place

Well, they work.


Like awesomely.

cool guys in their pirate shirts


I am hooked and see many more projects in the future.

I ♥ freezer paper

more stenciling

I took a cheesy self-portrait of me awkwardly holding my banjo as I picked at it with some help from my lesson book the other day. Despite looking like a non-banjo playing fool, it feels good.

cheesy self portrait :)

I tried to learn the guitar a few times in the past, but the strings hurt my fingers and it just felt wrong in my hands. Not my banjo though. It feels nice. :)

Jenna at Cold Antler Farm is in the middle of lambing and a thousand other things, but she still managed to get the Banjo Equinox started. Upon reading the post, I realized I had accidentally ordered a beginner's bluegrass banjo book, whereas she is using the clawhammer method for the lessons. Amazon loves me right now, because I ordered the other one too.

To my utmost amusement (and my husband's) the series is called "_____ Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus" (by Wayne Erbsen), so John made sure to point out that I had the ignoramus part down. Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk.

In other news, I realized that I had fifty-one pictures of yeast breads in my Flickr photostream, and since I'm sure I will never stop taking them, they now have their very own set. Yanno, in case you ever feel like killing twenty minutes staring at pictures of bread.


And I've been doing a lot of staring out my back window, daydreaming about all the green stuff that will soon be visible out there, and all the flowery, symbolic stuff that goes along with spring.

doot doot doo, lookin out my back... window

I even started a post about all that, but I chickened out before I could publish it. I think I need to pare down the introspection a bit before I unleash it here.

Hey. Have a fantastic weekend. it's going to be chilly here, so I have no idea what we'll be doing, but I'm hoping it is productive.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A few random things

I realize the post content has been a bit lack-luster lately. I have been so busy with so many things, but most of them are not good fodder for a post. Not that an air conditioner box filled with clothing destined for donation or finally washing the couch covers aren't captivating...

This weekend we made a campfire and roasted marshmallows while we watched Supermoon rise. Then we welcomed the official start of spring the next day. Pretty good weekend, I'd say.

John's mother brought me some daffodils (which I wish I had every year and never get around to ordering).



And I finally took some pictures of the recent dining room rearrangement. It was long overdue as the placement of things in there was infuriating, but I never could quite figure out a better way to do it. I guess I have the new cabinet to thank for it, because that's what spurred me into action.


dining room with red


dining room rearranged - other side

New cabinet in its perfect little corner:

new cabinet!!!

The dishes we actually eat every meal with are now in a direct line to the kitchen. Putting dishes away is now so much easier and less time-consuming. It's the little things...

dining room rearranged!

I really like that corner now. That huge platter is from Ikea. I think I paid like twelve dollars for it. It's enamelware, so it is nice and light for hanging on the wall.

crap on the wall

New cabinet! I love old glass.

new cabinet!

The glasses and dishes aren't arranged yet, but it still is so nice to have them in their own home, instead of crammed in the same cabinet with our dinner dishes.

That's it I guess. I'm working on a boring spring post with some not-so-great pictures of all the little plants poking their heads up and buds opening and all that -- pretty much the same pictures I take every year around this time, actually.

I'm ready for it. I just hope it stays a while instead of leaping full force into summer right away. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tea. Miscellanea.

I like tea. I'm honestly more of a coffee drinker, but tea has a very special place in my heart.

Many moons ago, I bought a loose tea blend at Borders (we didn't have a Barnes and Noble in our area at that time) and fell in love. It had black tea leaves and a whole bunch of herbs and spices and was delicious hot or cold, plain or with milk and honey. Loved it.

Like all things I love, it changed in a bad way and ultimately disappeared from the shelves.

I have recreated it to some degree of success and mentioned it before in this post, and the other day I decided to mix a big batch of it instead of making it pot by pot.

making spicy herbal tea

all mixed together with black tea

tea in a jar

I even got to use one of Kimberly's adorable little hang-tags to label the jar.

In the vein of kitchen stuff, I grabbed this awesome little double boiler for ten bucks at the farmer's market on Saturday.

double boiler

I've been looking for one for years, but they are usually so stupidly expensive. This one is in great shape and was a price I could handle.

Also found at the farmer's market was a small group of simple wooden hangers for a dollar, and an intact, printed feedsack for five.

printed feedsack

This was super exciting, because it is the first printed one I've ever found on my own. Like, not shopping online, you know? They had some print prints too, but they were ten bucks and not awesome enough for me to spend any more money.

closeup of logo

closeup of ingredients

That one is going to be an ankle length half apron with some sort of cool fabric border. I wanted to use more of the fabric from my bedroom curtains, but I can't seem to find it. I didn't think I used it all for them, but I could be wrong. :(

Biggest farmer's market score? This baby:

new cabinet

It is newly built, but entirely from salvaged wood. Somebody started wiring it, so all I have to do is grab a cord kit and I can have a little light in the top.

The picture here is from when we just got it inside. It has long since been put in its home in the far corner of the dining room, but I have not gotten around to taking pictures yet. Has dishes in it and everything, I swear!

Lastly, I made myself a bouquet from some buy one get one grocery store flowers and I can't help but realize that it won't be much longer until I can cut flowers from my own back yard and do this. Spring is really coming!


Also? I am still waiting patiently for one measly machine head for my banjo since I have not been able to rig the broken one sufficiently to keep my high D string in tune. Also also? I am still waiting for my lesson book. *Ha! Right after I posted, the mail came and guess what got here today! Now for the book to magically appear.*

They should both be here soon, but not soon enough, as Cold Antler Farm is having a "Banjo Equinox" starting this weekend, where all sorts of us can tune in and have a virtual lesson group, using the very book I had already ordered as a guide (lucky me!).

Anyway, she said the details will be posted soon, so check it out with me. I am so nervous about getting started, but I also cannot wait to make some music!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One little dream came true

banjo strings!

banjo banjo banjo

On February 6th, I saw an ad on Craigslist from the 24th of January about a cheap banjo for sale.

With the way they get snapped up so quickly (and the prices they usually go for) I thought it must have sold already and was just left up by accident.

Not the case at all.

The gentleman selling it lives a little over an hour away and my car was not running reliably for a while there, so I spent an entire month corresponding with the seller via email, trying to arrange meetups and all that.

At some point, he offered to just hold it for me until we could make things work, because it was obvious that I really wanted this thing.

Finally, last Sunday was perfect for both of us, so I drove down and bought myself a banjo.

banjo preview shot

It was in need of a thorough cleaning, some refinishing, and some repairs, so of course I loved it even more. You may or may not know how I am about projects. ;)

Here's the head after a gentle cleaning. Stickers and residue gone, but some areas were too tough to get without risking damage.

much cleaner now!

And the owner opened for and had it signed by David Bromberg back in the early 80s, so I had to avoid that area entirely.

signed by David Bromberg

Parts of it were really dirty...


So here are some before and after shots, with a few in-progress shots for good measure.

First up was stripping off that black paint, refinishing the wood, and shining up the metal the best I could.

taking it apart

putting it back together

Next up was the broken neck which had already been properly repaired several times and was now in need of a good rigging. I am always the woman for those kinds of jobs. :)

broken neck

broken pieces

A little wood glue (and a lot of clamps),

waiting for glue to dry

And a few screws, nuts and bolts, and some wood putty and we were back in business!

repaired (aka rigged)

Before anybody cringes in horror about me filling in the access to the tension rod -- it was already glued over so heavily from previous repairs that I couldn't even budge the nut, and since I'll probably be replacing the neck in a few years anyway (even I am not cocky enough to think my repair will hold up forever) I went ahead and filled it in.

Anyway, I cleaned things up the best I could on the rest of the neck, and stripped the heavily glazed, 1960s Brown wood on the back of the neck, but the wood under it was just stained too deeply to brighten much.

neck detail

So I mixed up some more of that vintage-y turquoise I used on my little cabinet and I LOVE what I ended up with!

neck detail

The finished back view:

back side done

The wee pillow inside was made while I waited for various paints and glazes to dry.

The previous owner had kept a kitchen towel jammed in the back to dampen the noise, but I wanted something a little snazzier.

Once I had decided on the neck color, I instantly thought of this feedsack fabric I had picked up a while back and I just love it! And it really does cut down on the noise nicely.

banjo pillow

Here's the front:

front done

The night before I went to pick it up, the seller sent me this brief history and I just had to share.

"The banjo, probably made in the early 1960s in Korea, was bought by a 14 year old kid in 1977, who locked himself in his bedroom for two weeks straight with it. He came out picking 22 notes per second in the three-finger Scruggs style.

In 1978 or 1979, banjo hiked through Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park, was offered summer employment in Yellowstone Nat'l Park bar, but owner was still a teenager, and folks didn't go for that.

Banjo hitch-hiked across country a few years later, arriving in Yellowstone yet again. Owner landed summer employment on the grand piano in Mammoth Hot Springs dining room, but banjo did appear from time to time.

Banjo abandoned [stored] in basement of house just outside Yellowstone, in Montana, retrieved seven years later and was still in tune!

It gets murky, but somewhere the neck broke yet again, this time in a crippling manner. I was playing in a bunch of different groups.

The body and broken neck seemed to tag along with me as I moved from apartment to apartment, finally to my house here..."

One of the things I love most about older, used objects is the fact that each and every one of them has a history. While I do a lot of daydreaming about what an individual object's past might be, I don't usually get to hear what it is for real. Knowing about all its travels makes me love my banjo even more.


Now the big let down at the end of the post: I don't know how to play. I'm really, really hoping I can learn.

Playing the banjo has been a dream of mine for so many years now and I cannot believe I finally found one of my very own.