A week has passed since New Year’s Day – how are you doing on your resolutions? A quarter of Americans who make resolutions don’t keep them past the first week of the new year, and more than half don’t make it past six months.
Which is why I don’t make resolutions. It’s sort of artificial, isn’t it, thinking that we can change everything in our lives based on the turn of a page of the calendar?
I have, however, started setting intentions, making plans for areas of focus for a given year. I’m trying to have it be more of a ‘what do I want to have in my life’ rather than ‘where have I failed in my life’ and ‘what should I remove from my life’ (whether that be weight, bad habits, or excess clutter).
With that in mind, I tried to have a very intentional New Year’s Day. Loosely inspired by some blogs that I’ve read on the subject of New Year’s superstitions (some of which seem very silly), I decided to do a little bit of everything that I wanted to have in my life this year.
So, I knitted. I spun. I wrote. I did some financial and career-related planning. I cooked and ate healthier foods. I organized a little. I cuddled with my cat (and my husband).
I haven’t continued with all of that every day since (well, except for the cuddling), but it feels like progress is being made. And it feels good.

What are you looking to have in your life this year?

in which theeclecticblogger74 learns something new

I always hated those writing assignments at the beginning of the school year – mostly because I usually just spent the summer with my nose in a book. Not much material for an essay there.

Even now, ‘vacation’ to me is likelier to mean something very laidback than exciting. I’d still rather spend my time reading or knitting than frenetically driving from one tourist trap to the next. (Sorry, is my cynicism showing?)

This summer, DH and I went on a family vacation with his whole family, renting a vacation home in a mountain resort in West Virginia. It’s a skiing area, so in the middle of summer there’s not a whole lot happening. And, as it turned out, we had dreary weather nearly every day we were there. Which was perfect for my tastes – as a family, we spent most of our time hanging out in the vacation house, playing games, shooting pool, or reading my nieces’ latest co-authored book. (handy linky)

And I did this:

...the first results...

…the first results…

My sister-in-law, one of my fiber enablers, who sent me my very first spindle (I now have four), brought along her spinning wheel, and I fell in love. For the kind of fiber I want to produce (three-ply sock yarn, for the curious), a wheel makes so much more sense than a drop spindle. It took me two days to spin up what would have taken nearly three weeks on my spindle.

Shortly after our arrival home, this arrived at our house:

Isn't she beautiful?

Isn’t she beautiful?

Which means that now, I can either knit or spin while watching TV – and we’re coming up on the beginning of football season, which means that I will soon be having a lot of quality time available for these pastimes. I don’t watch much TV other than PBS – except during football season. Mostly I watch the NFL, although I’ll check out the college games, too. I look at Sunday afternoon knitting time as my reward for having gotten my weekend lists accomplished. (We’ve talked about me and lists, haven’t we?)

Go Packers!

…in which theeclecticblogger74 gets experimental…

Getting maximum use out of our half-dozen rhubarb plants can be a challenge. Believe it or not, one can have too many rhubarb crisps. This year, I made a lot of rhubarb muffins, and created a recipe for rhubarb bread pudding, and found a recipe online for a rhubarb cake (with whisky cream – delish!). And I canned strawberry-rhubarb jam.

But, as the season wound down, I wanted to keep more of the deliciousness for later. Armed with my trusty search engine, I hunted down recipes for canning rhubarb sauce. My mother has always frozen her rhubarb sauce, but I don’t have the freezer space to spare. I wanted something a little on the sweet side, but still with that characteristic rhubarb tanginess, something that could go on pound cake or waffles, ice cream or pancakes, or to just scoop up with a spoon.

Here’s what I started off with: three quarts of chopped rhubarb and three cups of sugar.

just rhubarb and sugar

just rhubarb and sugar

After three hours of cooking: about four pints of yummy sauce.


look how much it’s cooked down

The final result:


three jars of delicious for winter

Why only three jars, if the rhubarb cooked down to four pints of sauce? There was a catastrophic failure of one of my jars when I returned it to the water bath after filling. Fortunately, the break was very clean, and did not involve exploding boiling water and rhubarb all over my kitchen.


Rhubarb Down!

I can’t wait for winter.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The full recipe:

Vanilla Rhubarb Sauce

3 quarts rhubarb pieces (approximately 1/2 to 1-inch chunks)

3 cups sugar (next year, I might decrease the sugar just a little)

2 teaspoons vanilla

Stir rhubarb and sugar together and place in four-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high setting for two hours, then remove lid and cook another hour to thicken slightly. Before filling canning jars, add vanilla. Ladle into sterile jars and process using a water-bath for 15 minutes. Makes about four pints.

Behold the Socks

I’m blaming the Yarn Harlot. I’d been a contented sweater knitter for years, with the occasional scarf or hat or fingerless mitt thrown in. But then I started reading her blog, and all the pictures of her amazing hand-knit socks started looking really appealing. And then there were all the fabulous patterns for socks available on Ravelry. So, a few years ago, I tried to knit a pair of socks. And I got bored and put them away. Then, I received a pair of hand-knit socks in a gift box from another knitter, and those socks, with all that inspiration, proved to be my knitterly downfall. I realized I was planning an entire week’s wardrobe around when I would wear ‘The Socks’ – so I decided I needed to try again, but this time with a more interesting pattern.

The next try at socks resulted in a finished pair in less than two weeks. So I set myself a goal of having a week’s worth of hand-knit socks before last winter.

Just about exactly one year later, I have this:

A color wheel of comfy.

A color wheel of comfy

Fourteen pairs done, with another pair on the needles and enough sock yarn for at least another eighteen or nineteen pairs. Or more.

I’m shooting for a month’s worth. Because nothing keeps my feet warm like my own hand-knit wool socks. And even if no one else sees them, I know that I’m wearing fabulous socks.

Incidentally, that very first ‘gift’ pair is in the photo, the darker green ones in the lower left. And I think they might still be my favorites.

One week of April gone by already – and I’m still wearing sweaters and using the down-filled throw when I sit on the couch.


The crocus in the shade garden – not quite blooming yet

The flannel sheets are still on the bed, and we’re still using the space heater at night. And the heated mattress pad.

More crocus - I planted these for last year

More crocus – I planted these for last year

We have yet to have a day warm enough to turn the furnace off and open the windows.


The chives – even Darwin’s Garden can’t defeat them.

But yet there’s hope.

Tarragon - the transplant survived last year's drought.

Tarragon – the transplant survived last year’s drought.

Maybe, someday, it will be spring.


Most importantly - the rhubarb

Most importantly – the rhubarb

Over winter, I mean. And we haven’t even had a terrible winter – at least where I live. No 100 inches of snow, like a few years ago, no long extended stretches of frigid cold. It’s just been a Wisconsin winter. And I’m done with it.
Which is why this shocked me:

Guys, wait, not yet!

Guys, wait, not yet!

That’s the south side of my house, and those are, yes, daffodils. We’d actually had some unseasonably warm days a couple of weeks ago, so I wasn’t too surprised at the crocus peeking up on the east side (at least, until the snow buried them again). Crocus, after all, are one of the earliest spring flowers. But I was amazed to see the daffodils. Granted, it’s the south side of the house – full sun, sandwiched between our house and the neighbors, and it’s so close to the house that the ground doesn’t really get that cold.



But it’s still only mid-February. I wanted to tell the bulbs to close back up, go back down into hibernation. There’s still a good month of winter to go.
I may be done with winter, but it’s certainly not done with me.

…is the urge to start a new sweater when one is cold, rather than to put on a sweater.

The last couple of days have brought to southeastern Wisconsin its first truly Arctic cold of the winter. When I got home from work this evening, it was a balmy 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Currently, I’m wearing not one but two pairs of hand-knit wool socks inside my slippers – because one pair wasn’t keeping my feet warm enough.

And, of course, the cold has inspired me to cast on what will be a thick, squooshy, super-warm cowl, ignoring the fact that by the time I finish knitting, it will probably not be nearly so cold out.

This is, however, Wisconsin. If I can be sure of one thing, it is that cold will come again. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some knitting to do.