Friday, August 29, 2014

Funfetti Cloth

I got tired of waiting for things to move on our house deal, so yesterday I started weaving some dish towels on my 20" Ashford Knitters Loom (AKL.) this is a sweet loom, and I have made a lot of towels on it.  This time, I used a variegated 8/2 cotton from WEBS, with a couple of warp stripes using a solid blue yarn that my friend Ellen T. had given me. I use a direct warping system that includes a raddle--if anyone wants more info on that, contact me and I will be happy to expand on that.

Anyway, I warped at 20 ends per inch using a 10 dent per inch reed, with two ends in each slot and hole.  To my weaving friends, don't bother putting 4 ends in each slot, then moving two ends to the holes--that just does not make sense! As you are direct warping just alternate slots and holes.  Unfortunately, the latest issue of Handwoven Magazine features RH towels on the cover and the author instructs you to move threads over. Gah!

Using the double sleying method I use just one thread for weft, even though doubled 
threads will rise and lower.  I have made tons of towels this way and I like the resulting fabric.  It is way easier than doubling weft threads. 

I like this fabric! I call it, "Funfetti" because it reminds me of the cake.  

By the way, if you are having trouble leaving a comment, try clicking on the name of the blog at the top of the page.  It should take you to a page where you can leave a comment at the bottom. Let me know how that works.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Capelet

I must apologize for missing yesterday's blog posting, if indeed anyone is reading this! Things are brewing on the house sale and I hope to have news soon.

In the meantime, I recently finished a crochet project that I wanted to share.  It is a little capelet to wear over my (one) dressy dress.  I'd like to wear it to our son's wedding in October, and I am pleased with the end result.  What do you think?  It was from a free pattern I found called Graceful Shells Poncho and you can see it here: My yarn was a cotton that I found in my stash, a cone of worsted weight.  No name, I'm afraid.
This blog so far has been a little of this and a little of that, as my life continues to transition.  Stay tuned--it will get better

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cajun Red Beans and Brown Rice

I have been trying to incorporate more beans into our diet, so the other night I attempted some Cajun Red Beans and Brown Rice.  Bob an I both agreed that it was a winner!

This recipe was adapted from Maureen Callahan's recipe at I used real andouille sausage but less of it, chopped my own vegetables, cut back on the salt and eliminated the black pepper- it was quite spicy without it.  I also used brown rice rather than white because I don't eat white rice!

I used Cajun's Choice Blackened Seasoning because I couldn't find salt-free, but it was gluten free, salt was near the end of the ingredient list, and it had no MSG.  

2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 andouille sausage link, with casing removed
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
1 chopped celery stalk
1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can red beans, rinsed and drained (1 1/2 cups cooked, if you started from dried beans)
1/4 cup water
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained ( or chop up 2 tomatoes)
4 cups hot cooked brown rice

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and chopped vegetable mix to pan; sauté 4 minutes. 
2.  Add Cajun seasoning, oregano, and garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. 3.  Partially mash beans with a fork. Add beans, 1/4 cup water, and tomatoes to pan; bring to a boil. 
4.  Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until thickened. Salt to taste if desired.
5.  Remove from heat. Serve over rice.

Eating more beans and having low-meat meals will help keep our budget happy and is a healthy way to eat. Enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2014


On Friday, the visiting grandsons asked if they could go to the park and have a picnic.  We were running out of time-- their mom was due to pick them up about 10:00, and it was 9:30.  We had just finished cleaning up after our blueberry pancake breakfast, but I agreed we should spend a few minutes in the park that faces our house.  I threw some berries, grapes, and bananas into a bag and we walked across the street.

I have been making it a point to try new experiences available in this area before we move away, so this activity just seemed to fit.  I hadn't eaten in the park in years.  When we first moved here 24 years ago it was a barren sandlot.  There was no real grass, only weeds.  There was no sidewalk, no fence, no trees, no pergola with tables, and no benches.  I often witnessed cars driving across the lot to get to where they were going a minute sooner.  It was a dangerous place for children to be, not that it was very inviting!

Some neighbors and I started a neighborhood association.  We were concerned about the "park" and about crime, so we met monthly, organized a crime watch, and got to know our neighbors as friends.  I have fond memories if those days!  For a time I was president, and I think we accomplished a lot as a group.  One thing that we were able to do was to work with the township to create a real park.  Using the Green Acres fund we helped design a grassy area ringed with trees, surrounded by a sidewalk and fence to keep cars out.  A lovely pergola was built with two heavy tables. We used it as a group for annual neighborhood picnics.  Then, for several years a group of teenagers used the tabletops as their private space, carving their initials into it and monopolizing it.  The teens have grown up and moved on, and the park is quiet again.  The trees have matured and it is a lovely spot.  

One of our members, Stanley, was very active in our association and was a strong supporter.  He was a friend to all, and when he passed we put a brass plaque on the pergola with his name on it, in his memory.

I found the plaque during our visit on Friday and talked to my grandsons about that sweet man who was my friend.  The plaque was dark with tarnish and was barely visible.  Some enthusiastic town painters had sloppily painted around it.  After the boys had left for home I returned to the park with a screwdriver.  I carefully removed Stanley's plaque and took it home to clean.  A couple of hours later it was back in place, shiny and legible, with a coat of lacquer to keep it shiny for another 20 years (I hope!) It's so shiny that I can even see it from my window now.  I think Stanley would be happy to see it restored.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fun With Grandsons

Three of our grandsons came over yesterday and spent the night with us.  We had loads of fun!  First we went to Atsion State Park, with a picnic lunch.  Then, a swim in the dark cedar water.

Atsion has a very nice little beach, complete with showers, bathrooms, and changing rooms.  Lifeguards, too, which is a big plus in my book.  Five dollars a car gets you in, which is a bargain.  Because the water is naturally dark (from the cedars which leach color into the water) you can only see about a foot into the water.  So Bob and I were extra vigilant watching the kids--if they lost their footing and went under, you would not be able to see them.  Scary! I was glad we had two adults to watch all three.  

We teased the kids and warned them that they had better not annoy anyone or the lifeguards would kick them out! They were really good (whether or not it was because of the warning, we weren't sure!)

After the swim we went back home and had fresh corn on the cob and hot dogs/burgers for dinner with ice cream for dessert.  The boys watched a movie before going to bed.  I think they enjoyed camping out in the newly renovated great room downstairs!

Blueberry pancakes were a hit for breakfast.

All in all, a very fun time with our boys!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Association gives this definition of the disease:  

"Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed."

How many of you have watched the funny videos of people dumping ice water over their heads in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?  Perhaps you have done it yourself.  A local radio program spent a couple of hours last week discussing how stupid this challenge was and telling people to just donate.  I think they were missing the point of the promotion.  The point is to increase awareness.  And to encourage people to donate money.

Anyone can get ALS, but only 30,000 Americans have ALS at any given time.  Not a lot of people.  This, despite the fact that 5,600 people are diagnosed every year with the disease.  The reason for such a small total number is that the average life expectancy after diagnosis is between two and five years.  In a rare number, people have lived for 20 years or more after diagnosis, which gives hope that with research a cure or at least an effective treatment may be found.  But research costs a lot and takes years, and drug companies don't sponsor research to cure diseases; they sponsor research to discover drugs that will become profitable to sell. That's why donating money to ALSA can really help.  This money will fund the vital research that can result in a life saving treatment or a cure.

As a speech language pathologist I treated patients with ALS.  Typically, by the time I was called in the patient was losing the ability to swallow.  Oftentimes they could no longer manage their secretions, which is medical-speak for "the patient drools a lot." Their speech had become unclear and slurred.  They often choked on their own saliva.  And yet their minds were still sharp--they knew what was happening to them and what the outcome would be.  There was no cure for them-- they soon would be receiving all foods through a tube in their stomach and would require help breathing.  The end does not come easily for a person with ALS.  I met some very courageous people who daily stared death in the face.

So take the ice bucket challenge.  And donate.  You may not have a hundred dollars to send to ALSA--that's ok.  Send them $25 or $10 or $5.  Because that is the only thing that will truly help.  Money for research to help this horrible disease that anyone can get at any time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oh What a Beautiful Day!

We recently got our bikes back from the shop after some much-needed repairs, so yesterday Bob and I decided to go for a bike ride.  It was a sparkling summer morning, like the summer days I remember from my childhood in Massachusetts.  There's just something about riding a bike; the scent of flowering plants, the sound of birds and cicadas, the feel of cool air on your face.  We have great local roads to ride around here with few cars to bother us.  We even saw a turkey family with a chick!  Momma was trying desperately to keep Baby out of the road, and ended up crossing to go into the woods to avoid me as I tried to photograph them. I sure wish I could show you a picture of that!

After a lovely day, I got the idea to sit in our screen room after dinner.  It is so funny--we have a beautiful screened-in back patio, all staged for showing, and we just don't use it like we should! So Bob and I grabbed a drink and we sat in the wicker rockers by candlelight and just talked.  I could get used to that!  We will have to make a habit of it.

As much as we want to be on the road we are enjoying this most lovely summer in NJ.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Update on Sale of House

Well, it has been 31 days since we listed our house for sale, and it is time to drop the price.  We have had a lot of nibbles but no bites, so hopefully this will entice a buyer.  We have hitch itch bad!

Our realtors Faith Bass and Yogi Garcia of Keller Williams are meeting with us this afternoon to update the contract.  It was worth a try at the higher price, but obviously more than people are willing to spend right now.  Let's sell this house!

I have to say, I feel like we are in a holding pattern, which affects my ambition to accomplish anything.  I did, however, just take this cloth off the loom.

It's a two harness weave, woven on my little Piccolo Saori floor loom.  I used carpet warp sett at 12 ends per inch (cloth is shown sideways.) I think it looks like little eyeglasses!  It's an interesting fabric, not typical plain weave because there are doubled warp and weft threads in the pattern.  Because of this, the cloth is a little thicker than usual with this yarn.  I do like the feel of this, and it should make nice face cloths.  Perhaps today I'll wash and dry the cloth one more time and finish it up. A good project for a summer day. 

I have added a couple of buttons on the upper right side of these blog entries so that you may subscribe to posts--let me know if they work!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Riding the PATCO to Reading Terminal Market

On Saturday Bob and I met up with daughter Kristen and SIL Jason to take the train into Philly. Kristen and Jason live about a half mile walk from one of the stops on the PATCO line, and they have been taking daily walks with these three boys this summer so that the walk would be easy for them.

It was an easy walk to the station and the ticket machine was pretty simple to figure out.

A few minutes later we pulled into the station for Reading Terminal Marketplace. It is a bit of a maze there, but with Jason leading the way we made it.  What a busy place on a Saturday!

Everyone bought food at different booths, then met to eat together at one of the tables in the center of Reading Market.  I don't eat gluten, so I decided to visit Beck's Cajun Cafe and ordered some red beans and rice. Yum!  Definitely something I'm going to start making at home.

Great day!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Journey, part 3

The decision to sell our home and move into a 400 square foot living space was not made easily.  For years I spent much of my spare time acquiring things, visiting antique shows, trolling eBay and Etsy for the perfect item. And the craft equipment! I love to make things, and the supplies to make things take up space.  A lot of space.  I have been sewing since I was a young child, watching Mom make our dresses.  Gram gave me my first sewing machine, and I loved sewing clothing and toys for the kids.  At one point I was making all their clothing by hand, and most of mine, too.

Later on, I caught the weaving bug.  My first "loom" was a rigid heddle backstrap loom. I had a lot of fun with it but decided I needed a "real loom."  So I put a notice in the Confidential Chat section of the Boston Globe, asking if someone would give me a loom.  And somebody did.  It was a Weavers Delight loom and it was all in pieces like a giant, three dimensional jigsaw puzzle.  I was able to restore it to its original glory, but, man--that loom was BIG! It had a footprint of close to 6' x6', which pretty much took up the whole living room.  After we moved to NJ I traded it for a table loom.

I have had a lot of different looms over the years, and Bob has always encouraged me to follow my passion. So it was difficult to imagine having to limit myself to small looms and minimal equipment. At present, I have the following in the motorhome, which all fit into the bunkhouse:

1) Macomber 20" 8 harness Baby Mac
2) Saori Piccolo
3) two 12" Ashford Knitters Looms (AKLs)
4) 20" AKL
5) 12" Avril
6) Ashford Sample-it Loom (ASIL)
7) Gilmore Lap Inkle

Along wth the looms, I have a stand for the AKLs (Bob made me a set of cross braces that allow me to use the stand with either size loom,) a Saori warping board, a raddle, weaving yarn, and a variety of pin looms and weaving accessories that are necessary for weaving. My Columbine spinning wheel also fits in there.

My weight limit for the contents of the bunkhouse is 250 pounds. I think I am within that limit!

I did a lot of buying and selling of looms and spinning wheels in the past couple of years, looking for just the right equipment to take on the road.  Time will tell if I have chosen wisely. I hope to have opportunities to teach rigid heddle weaving at campgrounds, thus all the RH looms.

What does NOT fit in there includes my sewing machine and serger, two bins of sewing "stuff," my marudai (which comes apart), fiber for spinning, and some knitting yarn. My needles and hooks will hang in my clothes closet. I'm hoping to tuck most of these (except for the bins) into the clothes closet and under the bed.  I'll keep you posted!

Let me tell you, it is HARD getting rid of things! All those cute little chotchkies that I collected and loved to display, all the baking pans and specialty cookware, the books, the family heirlooms, photographs, the Christmas ornaments... all had to go.  I was fortunate--the kids took much of it.  For  my precious Christmas decorations (many of them handmade) I invited the children over and handed each couple $1100 in Monopoly money for a "Survivor"-type auction.  They all wanted the tree we had, so I put a slip of paper in one box that said "tree."  They bid on bins of ornaments and decorations, sight unseen.  We had a lot of fun, and all the decorations went to new homes.

Our home of 24 years sold right away, after only 6 days on the market.  We moved into our former rental house, where the kids had been living.  After about 6 weeks of constant work (repairs, upgrades, and painting) it was ready to be listed.  We are now waiting for our buyer to appear so we can take that final step and drive off into the sunset.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Journey, part 2

Our original plan was to retire in 2015.  Last summer, though, as we were in Elkhart, Indiana visiting the RV capital of the world, we began to discuss the logistics of retiring one year earlier.  Our jobs were stressful, Bob would have enough years in the teacher's pension system, and waiting another year to gain an extra $35 a month didn't seem worth it.  It's not easy being a teacher, and being a teacher in NJ is extra difficult in these current times.  My job as a speech-language pathologist in a long term care facility was also quite stressful.  I was not even sure that my job would be there for me for another year.  So at the end of last summer, we decided to move up the retirement date to June of 2014.

With that mindset, we went to the RV show in Hershey, PA last September.

Now, we had been to this show before.  It is an amazing experience for someone shopping for an RV. With thousands of rigs present, all new, you can see everything from tiny pop-up trailers to million dollar motorhomes.  Even better for us, two of our favorite companies would have rigs present--Newmar and Tiffin.  

We had been researching for years, going to RV shows a couple of times a year just to look and ask questions.  All that research gave us an education that was invaluable.  We had a system.  One show we would focus on one type of RV only.  So at one show we only looked at class C motorhomes (the kind that often have a sleeping space over the driving area.). Another show we'd focus on fifth wheels, which are towed by a large pickup truck and have large, apartment- like living quarters.  I must admit, I did like those a lot! Bob stayed focused on motorhomes as our ideal, though, and we kept coming back to them.  And two companies stood out in all our research as having good quality rigs that weren't over the top.  These were full time rigs that we were looking at, diesel pushers for power to get up those mountain ranges out West, and would last a long time. 

So at Hershey, when we walked through a Tiffin bunkhouse model, we knew it was the one for us. I wanted the bunkhouse to use as a storage space for my looms and yarn stash for weaving. The saleswoman told us that she had just taken a 2012 Tiffin Phaeton in trade.  We saw it, it was a good price, it was just what we were looking for, and we bought it.

Next time: we sell our house and get ready to go.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It's All Part of the Journey

So how did this dream of living on the road begin? About 12 years ago I saw a picture of an Airstream travel trailer, the iconic bullet-shaped silver sided trailer that has been around for years.  People were using it as a spare guest house in their back yard.  I mused to Bob, wouldn't it be nice to have a travel trailer and be able to vacation with our pets rather than rely on family to watch them? So, on a whim we visited an RV dealership to see if they had any Airstreams.  Nope. No Airstreams, but we did come home with a small travel trailer (TT) with no slideouts.  Got a good deal on it, too. Within a year we had traded it in for one with a slideout, big enough to fit the whole family. Five years later that one was traded for a smaller, lighter model that could be towed by a Ford Explorer, our new truck.

We have been a lot of places in these TTs, north as far as Niagara Falls, west to Indiana and south to Virginia.  It got harder and harder to turn the truck back in the direction of New Jersey to go home at the end of these trips.  "Wouldn't it be nice," we would say to each other, "if  we could just keep driving and see the country?"

It was an exciting yet scary thought.  Could we do it? It would be so hard to leave the kids and grandkids, yet there are no guarantees in this life that our family will stay put where they are. At different times our children have lived in California, Chicago, and Florida.  How sad to plan a retirement around the hope that family will be close by, and have them move away.  We only get a relatively few short years to travel before we may not be able to do it any more.  There will be time enough to be housebound later when the rigors of the road become too much for us.  We sat down with a financial planner four years ago to see if this all was just a pipe dream or if it was possibility.  To our amazement, after careful review the FP told us that it was do-able.

Stay tuned for next time: we buy our motorhome and get rid of almost all our possessions.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Adventure Begins

First things, first!  To introduce ourselves, we are newly retired (Bob taught woodworking, materials processing, and technology at the High School level for years.)  He retired June 2014.  I was a speech-language pathologist in a variety of settings, from birth (Early Intervention) through adults at a geriatric (longterm care) setting.  I also retired June 2014.  We have been RVing for years, first in a travel trailer and most recently in a new-to-us 2012 Tiffin Phaeton motorhome (MH).  I love to weave, and will be taking my looms on the road in the bunkhouse of our MH.  Future blog posts will deal with combining life on the road with weaving (and maybe spinning, kumihimo, knitting, crocheting, sewing...)