baby quilt progress

We've made progress on the baby quilt for my grandson who will be born early this summer.  My girlfriends and I have a tradition of making a baby quilt for each of our children when they are expecting their first baby.  We've been doing this for 16 years, the first one being for Annie, and this one for my son's child may be the last one. We've got it down to a science: the mother-to-be picks the embroidery pattern from my iron-on transfer collection.  Next we head to the fabric shop where she chooses the embroidery floss colors and the fabrics to match the nursery.  When the transfers have been ironed onto the white squares, they are distributed to the six friends with each person embroidering two.  Next, the lattice strips and connecting squares are cut and pieced, then the quilt sandwich is basted (I used basting pins), then the quilt visits each girl for a week each of hand quilting. I've done my quilting part and handed it off with the schedule, a hoop, the quilting thread, a thimble and some needles. I should have it back in 5 weeks completely quilted and ready for the binding!

It's a bit of a secret for the kids.  They obviously know we are making a quilt, but its progress is kept under wraps. They won't see it until closer to the due date at the baby shower my girlfriends are throwing. It's a tradition of which we are all pretty proud. We've made more than a dozen quilts over these last 16 years--all different and all adorable.  This is our first charcoal gray and blue quilt and I absolutely love it!  I know my son, who has seen me be a part of so many group quilts over the years, is quite touched that this one is for his baby.  Sigh.

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a patch of blue

Spring is beautiful with it's bright blue above and bright green below, but I can't help but think it's a good thing it comes only once a year. We've been hard at work in the garden and I've got some achy muscles! The first spring clean-up and planting is always a lot of work, but soon that will slow down to summer maintenance, which is another kind of work altogether. The veggie garden is a work in progress and still a bit of a mess, but all the beds have been worked over with compost and sown with the seeds that don't mind cold soil: Purple Sun Carrots, leeks, dill, and spring onions.  The green beans will go in later as they like it to be a bit warmer. We've weeded most of the rose beds and paths and made each one a water well, and with over 50 roses it's quite a job. The brick paths that are not in full sun are covered with moss, and it's my job every year to get on my hands and knees and scrape each one clean.  I know there are chemical sprays that can do this sort of job, but we are chemical free, so it's doing it the hard way around here or not at all.  I'm not even half done, but I try to work about 5-10 feet a day. Our Valencia juice orange tree is the most prolific it's ever been.  My husband picks a basketful a few times a week then I juice them and put the excess in the freezer. This Juiceman is by far the best electric juicer on the market. I love candied citrus peel and made some yesterday following this recipe exactly.  It will stay in the refrigerator for months if we don't eat it sooner. I didn't plant all that much in the greenhouse this year. My husband wanted to purchase tomato plants since our nursery center carries all the heirlooms we love.  That just left me with planting the summer squashes and cucumbers. They will be up in no time and I'll be transplanting them around Easter.  I'm super excited about my Zinnia Queen Lime Red Heart seeds that I found at the Seed Bank last month.  They are sprouting and I'll be setting those out much later because they too like the warmer weather.  The peonies and wisteria are budding beautifully and should make a good Easter show.  The pear tree has blossomed and the apple doesn't look too far behind.  My herbs look fantastic and we've been having herb salads using half spring mint leaves and half spring lettuce leaves, similar to a Vietnamese style salad.  When the dill and basil appears, I'll be adding them to our herb salads. My favorite spring lunch is a baked potato covered with a mass of chopped, mixed, spring herbs, salt, and pepper. Before long, the warm weather will make the herbs too strong for this, so it's a short seasonal treat. Try it! On the knitting front, I've started Puntilla by Joji Locatelli using some very lovely Sincere Sheep 100% Cormo Wool fingering yarn I found at Stitches West.  The yarn has a lovely minimally-processed, lanoliny feel and is so very soft.  It's swoonworthy and one of those "special treat" yarns I give myself occasionally!

PS:  I know many of you are still buried under snow, but hang in there!

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Three Irish Girls baby sweater (and a sweet offer!)

My sea glass collection dates back from my childhood and I still manage to add to it whenever I can. Collecting sea glass is a manageable treasure hunt as it involves nothing more than a casual stroll on the sand. My collection must be known to others as I've had children knock on my door offering a sandy handful of sea glass after a trip to the beach. I've never done a thing with my collection except to admire it when I see it, but when I saw the color name of this yarn, Sea Glass, I knew I would have to have it, plus it's the color of my new grandson's-to-be nursery.  And now I'm seeing this color everywhere--you know how that is.

I purchased Springvale DK yarn from Three Irish Girls at Stitches West a few weeks back and took no time at all deciding to knit Silver Birch, a little cabled hoodie from Sarah Cooke.  The entire project was knitted bliss from beginning to end and I treasured making every stitch.  The pattern is easy peasy, and if you are an experienced cable knitter, you'll have the 16 row cable repeat figured out and memorized by row 8. If you are new to cables, this would be a good sweater to try for honing your cable superpowers.  The well-written pattern uses 3 different types of basic cables, and knitting them will give the cable novice some insight as to how cables work. The yarn is total bliss too: extremely well-behaved, luxuriously next-to-the-skin baby soft with a scrumptious hand, not needle fussy in the least, plus it's machine washable. Since it is hand-dyed, it has lively flecks of light and dark in each stitch creating a subtle mosaic of color. Go ahead, try the pattern, try the yarn, I promise you won't be sorry! Three Irish Girls are offering my readers a 25% discount on Springvale DK just so you can try it out! Use code DKBABY at checkout.  This offer is good through March 24.  You'll need two skeins to knit the 12 month size, and at least one more to make the larger sizes.  The yarn is 100% superwash merino wool and made in the United States.  It comes in 270 yard skeins.  Machine wash on gentle, lay flat to dry.   You can purchase the Sea Glass colorway here.  I also would love to see this sweater in Bells of Ireland, Chambray, Cherry Ginger Ale, Doge's Palace, Mediterranean, Ventus,  and Up And Away. When you are on the Three Irish Girls site, look through the colors first, then when you choose your color, use the drop down menu to choose Springvale DK and use the code DKBABY at checkout to receive 25% off!

I regret the pictures below don't capture the true color.  Darn iphone.  The color is not gray at all, but I include the pictures so you can see the sweater details.

The pictures above and below are of the back of the sweater and give you a look at the three cables used.  The first one is a basic cable, the second one is a diamond (or a) trellis cable, and the center one I call a whalebone cable. I imagine cables have many names for the same cable, similar to quilt patterns--different regions have different names for the same patterns.  But whatever the name, these cables are pretty basic, and are a great introduction to a newbie cable knitter.

Now these pictures show the REAL color!

I have finally slowed down knitting (for the time being) for wee grandbaby, and who will surely be the warmest baby in the world.  My son and DIL love all these mini sweaters but keep requesting them in larger, adult sizes.  I pretend I don't hear that!  For now I've got a darling Velvet Acorn pattern I'm making for my 16 year old granddaughter in super bulky Rowan Big Wool for Easter. At the same time I'm making a Joji Locatelli pattern for moi in the same sea glass color above from another FAB find at Stitches West.  Goodbye and happy knitting!

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to Healdsburg we go

We know we're lucky.  We can head north, south, east, or west and whichever way we go, we'll hit beautiful country. It could be the mountains or the coast, but whatever direction we choose, we're also certain to hit wine country.

A few weeks ago we trekked north to visit the Dry Creek area of Healdsburg.  Our famous Napa-Sonoma-Mendocino wine country is vast, so it's practical to visit only a small portion of it at a time.  

We headed north and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, and that's when I feel that the vacation has really begun.  Our first stop was to the old chicken town of Petaluma.  We stopped for lunch at yummy Topsy's and then walked to Knitterly, where I received a stern reminder:  Remember, only ONE knit store on this trip. It's a fantastic shop, so knitters, do not pass this beauty up.  Next we walked two blocks over to the famous Seed Bank.  Gardeners, this is NOT to be missed. You'll die and think you're in seed heaven, and you are.  

Good hotels, restaurants, and wineries are abundant in the Dry Creek area.  Here's the links to our two day wine tasting trip.

 Checked into Madrona Manor

then a snack and a poke around the Dry Creek General Store.  
First winery: Dry Creek Vineyard, the second oldest winery in the Dry Creek area.
A quiet day meant our host had time to give us a tour and 
share the rich history of the winery and the Dry Creek Valley.

Valette for dinner, a perennial favorite of ours.  

 Next day, lunch at the historic Jimtown Store.
Then a visit to Medlock-Ames Winery,
 Ferrari-Carano Winery for beautiful setting and gardens,
 and the beautiful Coppola Winery in Geyserville to see some props from his movies.
(Not to be confused with the historic Inglenook Winery Francis Ford Coppola
bought in the 70s and restored beautifully.
You'll find that in Rutherford, about an hour's drive away.)

Perhaps the highlight of the trip for me was a visit to
Preston Farm and Winery, another early Dry Creek winery,
completely organic with estate grown wine, produce stand and bakery.  
Don't be afraid of the seemingly endless bumpy road, you'll be glad at the end!

After a little rest, we headed to Willi's for a glass of bubbly and a plate of oysters 
before dinner at Kinsmoke for over-the-top BBQ.

Next day, before we headed for home, we walked around the town square and popped into
a lovely fabric store, Fabrications and Plaza Gourmet, a great kitchen store.
The amazing Oakville Grocery in Oakville (near Yountville) has
a little sister shop on the Healdsburg Square so I wouldn't miss that.
Also in town but not on the square is a friendly little knitting shop,
Purls of Joy.  My guy allowed me to break his rule and have a wee visit!

Naturally there are oodles of other wineries and sights to see, but with only a two night stay, we tried to keep it manageable and fun.  We enjoy lingering at wineries, poking around gardens, and getting tours when they'll give them. The wine country can get terribly crowded, so we always travel off-season, mid-week.  I hope you get to visit the Dry Creek Valley and Healdsburg.  It's a lovely little pocket of Northern California's wine country.

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