Saturday, June 30, 2012

Slow Living: June 2012

After April and May, I feel like my life is regaining it's balance.  So I've had more time for other things.  It is pretty surprising that this is my fifth installment for the Slow Living Project (7/1/12: updated link) already.

NOURISH: Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch overpackaged, over-processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. Share favourite links/recipes/tips from the month here.

My yoga studio re-opened.  Yay!  And a friend of mine has opened her own yoga studio.  Double-Yay.  So there's plenty of organized yoga back in my life.  :-D

PREPARE: Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season. Aim to reduce dependency on store bought items especially those known to contain BPA and other suspect additives. Stocking up on dry goods when prices are low counts too.

I went to the Estes Park Wool Market earlier this month and picked up a stash of yummy fibers in preparation for the Tour de Fleece that starts today.  :-)

camel + merino

REDUCE/Reuse/Re-purpose/Repair: Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. A ladder into a strawberry planter? A sheet into a dress? Share ideas and project links here, allowing others to be inspired.

I didn't think much was going on in this category, but's it really is surprising when you stop and think about it.  We've been doing a lot of fixing around here... air conditioning, faucet, garbage disposal, car and the FOT.

Our house was built in 1974.  Which makes this toilet and almost everything else pretty much 38 years old... so we will be fixing lots of things for the foreseeable future.  :-/

F*&#ing Olive-colored Toilet

Between Hubba and I, we had purchased and tried a large number of guts for the FOT.  None of which worked.  I was ready to replace the whole thing, even though we're not ready to embark upon the whole bathroom remodel just yet.  Then Hubba asked our neighbor, The Plumber, to stop by.  He took one look at the FOT, went back to his shop and came back a few minutes later with the exact-right-part.  Sometimes it's just better to call a professional.  ;-)

GREEN: up our lives. Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.

Regarding the algae in our alpaca's water troughs: both of the goldfish have passed.  I'm not certain what's going on with the snails.  When I last scrubbed, I found only one.  So I need to find a way to get oxygen into the water without  running extension cords from the house.  Is anyone aware of a small, solar-powered bubbler?

GROW: plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? Herbs in a pot, sprouts on a windowsill or and entire fruit/vegetable garden -opt for what fits space and time constraints. Don't have a backyard? Ask a friendly neighbour or relative for a small patch of theirs in return for some home grown produce, they may surprise you!

While we aren't growing them on purpose, the weeds have been growing very well.  So now that shearing season is over, we have turned much of our attention to them and enlisted a little help from one of Hubba's colleagues.  It has been a lot of pulling and cutting with absolutely no chemical use what-so-ever.  I think we are ahead in the game again. :-)


On to the things we're growing on purpose... most of our seeds have sprouted since last time.  We have tomatoes, squash blossoms, onions, beets watermelon, pumpkin and chiles all growing well.  I think we are ready to start harvesting radishes.  Mmmm, maybe I'll try a couple later today.  :-)

Spaghetti Squash

very bold robin ate all of my nearly-ripe cherries and the rabbits have eaten all of my beans.  Grrr

I have a few plums and peaches and a ton of apples, so I need to get busy on the bird deterrent soon.

CREATE: to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. Create something as simple as a handmade gift tag or something as extravagant as a fine knit shawl. Share project details and any new skills learnt here.

I fixed my Challah Socks and cast on a Wingspan.

DISCOVER: Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Trawl libraries, second hand shops or local book shops to find titles that fill the need. Share titles/authors of what is being read this month.

This one makes me laugh... Completely out of desperation because I was behind on laundry, I discovered that an old pair of running shorts is waaaay more comfortable than my cotton walking shorts when it's 100F.  I don't know why I haven't been wearing them before.  lol.

Also The Alpaca Dog discovered that he CAN catch mice.  Every morning, while I'm doing the alpaca chores, he heads over to the hay stack and hunts.  It's pretty funny watching 95-pounds of 10-year-old shar-pei and rottweiler chasing mice.  But this week, he caught one.  Certainly there's a lesson in believing you can do something even though the odds are against you in there.

ENHANCE: community: Possibilities include supporting local growers and producers, help out at a local school/kindergarten, barter or foodswap, joining a playgroup or forming a walking or craft group. Car pooling where possible and biking/walking instead of driving. Even start up a blog if you haven't already - online communities count too! Or maybe just help out someone trying to cross the street! The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold.

Anticipation Necklace - photo courtesy Criffin Designs

I wrote a post in support of a colleague of mine who is an exceptional artist.  He's offering a terrific blog special for two more months.  You should check it out... especially if you like turning old things into new, beautiful things... which I know you do since you're reading this post.  ;-)

ENJOY: Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment. Share a moment to be remembered from the month here.

Our family has gotten so big, that we now have "All the Birthday" celebrations a few times a year.  This month, most of us made it to my parents house to celebrate 17 birthdays.  Definitely a fun time.  :-)

Hubba is at the USA Track and Field Trials for the London Paralympics.  It's been years of hard work and sacrifice to reach this event.  I'm excited, nervous, anxious and proud.  It's almost surreal that we will know for sure if we're going to London in just a few days.

Lastly, I am happy to report the that High Park Fire, which started earlier this month, is expected to be fully contained this weekend.  We haven't seen a defined smoke plume in several days.  It's been more of a general haze.

We can't see everything in the distance, but it's whole lot better than it was.

It will still be some time before this fire is completely out and the haze is gone, but containment is a very big deal.  And for that, I am very happy.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Back on Track

I have been able to get back on track with the gusset increases for my first Challah Sock.  :-)

I ripped out six rounds, threaded the stitches with a sewing needle then replaced the circular needles.  Many thanks to Sarah for that tip.  :-)

I have just a few rounds to go before I can start the heel, again. :-)

I hope you're enjoying your Fiber Arts Friday.  Please join us over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder and remember that the Tour de Fleece starts tomorrow!  There's still time to join in, if you're curious. ;-)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In Pursuit of London

I dropped Hubba off at the airport today.

He's on his way to the USA Track and Field Trials for the London Paralympic Games.

If you happen to see or talk to me over the next several days, don't be too concerned if I seem to be pre-occupied.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Back on the Mat

The months of April and May were crazy busy.

I did not travel as I expected, but the day job was crazy enough with out it.  Most of my weekends involved shearing and my yoga studio was closed while they moved to a new location.  It all adds up to me having a 6-week absence from organized yoga.  :-(

The new studio is much closer to my house, which means it takes less time to get there, which in turn means it's easier to include it in my schedule.

I can't even begin to describe how grateful I am that they were able to find a new location.  I was heartbroken over the thought that they might have to close... but only positive thoughts here...  They are open, they are closer to home, and they are still wonderful.  :-)

I also started a secondary yoga practice.  A friend of mine is planning to open a studio in another nearby town and has been offering classes at a community arts center.  She teaches a Vinyasa Flow which I hadn't done before.  I'm enjoying it quite a lot and I love being able to support my friend as she begins a new venture.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Three Years

Three years ago today we sold our cute, little house in a hip, Albuquerque neighborhood and headed north for "greener pastures."

We hadn't heard back on the place we wanted to buy, but had been assured the bank would accept our offer.  The place was a short sale and our agent told us that they can take some time.  So Hubba rented a small house about a half-hour away.  We payed way too much, but the owner agreed to three dogs, a cat and month-to-month rent.

I would be fired a few days later.... for moving... even though we had discussed it during our interview and the job required 90% travel to locales other than the city I moved from.

Naturally,  it is difficult to secure financing when you don't have a job.  :-/  It took several weeks, but I did secure another position.

We never heard back on the first house and we made an offer on a second place.

It turns out that neither of these were actually for sale.

Yes... in 2009, when all you heard about was that people couldn't sell their houses, we had a difficult time finding houses that were actually for sale.  Even when they had a sign out front, were listed in the MLS and were willing to let people look at them, houses weren't for sale.  It was the strangest feeling.

So we stayed in that rented house for much longer than we would have liked.  Until we found (and closed on) the place we currently live in.

We then built loafing sheds and corrals, moved alpacas, found LGD's one and two, birthed criabuilt a garden, and did a whole lot of other things.  We have so much more to do in order to fully realize this dream, but we have already achieved a great deal.

Technically our pasture is more brown than green right now, but our future is very bright.  :-)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Wingspan, part 3

After several weeks of competing priorities, I finally made it to Knit Night this week.  :-)

I am happy to report that the Wingspan is a very good pattern for chatting it up with my Comadres.

I hope you're enjoying your Fiber Arts Friday.  :-)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

USOC and Ravelympics

I am far from alone in being offended by the tone of a letter sent to the leaders of Ravelry by the USOC.

Being a business owner, entrepreneur, knitter, life-long fan of the Olympic Games and wife of an aspiring Paralympian, I have mixed feelings.

I absolutely agree with the issues related to trademark infringement.  I completely disagree with stating that the Ravelympics inappropriately represents the ideals of the Olympic Movement or is disrespectful in anyway.

I have not participated in the Ravelympics before and was not planning to participate this year.  However, I do plan to knit something specific to commemorate the London Paralympics, if my Husband is fortunate enough to be invited to participate.

While the first apology was also offensive, the update made me feel that the fiber community had been heard.

I know first hand the level of effort, commitment and expense required to bring yourself to the very top of your game.

Yes, it's true.  My husband is the one doing the work... pushing the miles, focusing his intention and peeing in a cup in front of witnesses.  But I am the one supporting him.

I will, of course, watch the London Olympic Games.  Because I love sport.  I love that the athletes have dedicated themselves to becoming as good as they can be.  And I love that they respect excellent performances by their competition regardless of where that competition happens to be from.

I will, most likely, be knitting.  Because that's what I do when I'm watching TV.

I would love to knit while watching the London Paralympic Games as well, but sadly there will be no domestic broadcast on the networks of NBC for those Games.


With shearing season essentially over and a few other things winding down it's time to turn our attention to the weeds.

We aren't certified organic but we don't use chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.  So we have been trying a few different things with some success over the last couple of years.  Of course, nothing has resolved our weed issue.

Ha.  Like that's actually possible.... how about this? Nothing that we've tried so far has brought our weed issue into the realm of reasonable.

Boiling water does a good job on sidewalk cracks.  Salt also works, but a lot is required and I don't want to use it in places that we intend to plant something someday.  So I've stepped the salt use down to very specific applications.

Of course, pulling works... It's a lot of pulling... and some of these weeds have stickers.  Ouch!

I have heard that vinegar works, but haven't tried it yet.

So, when faced with an overwhelming amount of weeds, what does one do?  Take a deep breath and start with the highest priority first.

These guys...

I still don't know what they're called.  I think they're sort of pretty.  They make a bazillion seeds and those pretty seed heads will be letting go soon.  They also have a huge root that is nearly impossible to get out, even with a shovel.

Hubba has done a lot of pulling over the last several days and hired a guy to help us.  I'm planning to take the pulled weeds to the land-fill because I'm certain that our composting process does not get hot enough, for long enough to kill these guys.

We are digging up what we can and then topping the remainder with a generous dose of salt.  I discovered at the end of last summer/fall that this method works really well... we just need to make sure we are diligent.

The other high priority are the Goat Heads in the parking area.

I think, technically, it's called Puncture Vine.  I don't know where the name Goat Head came from.  It's probably considered rude if you happen to be a goat.

Regardless, they are not friendly to puppy paws, wheelchair tires or hands trying to pull them out of the hard ground.

So I took a tip from a former neighbor and am attempting to smother/sweat them out this summer.

But I'm gonna need a few more tarps.  :-/

We plan to turn this (huge) parking area into something that looks less like a cul-de-sac and more like a garden you want to spend time in... this summer's major project.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Yes, Blogger.  I really do mean Comadres.

As in my Female Compadres.

It's Spanish.

Much like Comrades which means almost the same thing.  But the word I am going for is Comadres.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Garden Update: June 18th

Wow, you can really see how dry things are around here when looking near my garden...

I've been watering the garden every couple of days and Hubba has been trying really hard to keep our grass and trees watered, but clearly the pasture is suffering.

Most things have sprouted now.

yellow onions

The tomato have begun to flower, the rabbits have been enjoying our bean sprouts, 

and a very bold robin ate all of my almost ripe cherries over the last couple of days.  :-/

Gardening is what it is.  Right?  Last year we had issues with a very late frost and lots of hail.  This year, we're praying for rain.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Estes Park Wool Festival, 2012

Ahhh, the Estes Park Wool Festival where two of my favorite subjects collide.... Estes Park, Colorado and all things Fiber-y.  :-)

I had a few things on my mind for this festival... especially the cashmere goat show.  I happened upon the end of it a couple of years ago and missed it completely last year.  I could not find the schedule of events, so I missed it again this year.  :-/  But I did spy a few of them snoozing.

I was also looking for some specific yarn for a specific project.  I didn't find it, but I did find this...

wool + silk + viscose

I think it will turn into something wonderful.  :-)

I also found some special roving for the Tour de Fleece.

Corriedale Top

cashmere + silk

camel + merino



I will be spinning with the Team of Wonder again.   :-)  Of course, I just realized that most of the rovings are very nearly the same color...  lol.

The High Park Wildfire started that day, which I wrote about here.  So it was difficult to relax and spend time enjoying Estes Park, as I typically do when I'm there.

As of about 6:30 last night the fire looked like this from our place....

I think this photo is optimistic.  The fire is estimated at 52,000 acres (larger than the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland combined) and about 15% contained.  At the time I was taking this photo, the fire was racing to the north and had crossed the Poudre River.  That being said, last night was the best air quality we've had in nearly a week.

I am pleased to note that our Governor issued a state-wide ban on all open fires and private fireworks yesterday.

I hope you are enjoying your Fiber Arts Friday.  Please join us over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder.  There's always a lot to see.  :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

High Park Fire

Chances are you've heard about the High Park Fire.  It's been on the national news.

If you haven't, there's a big wild fire about 15 miles NW of our house and just outside the city of Fort Collins, Colorado... a short distance north of us.

It started on Saturday.

I saw a small plume of smoke on my way up to the Estes Park Wool Market.

There was a great view from the Wool Market and we could tell it was getting bigger each time we went outside to look...

By the time I got home Saturday afternoon, it looked like this...

It grew very quickly... 8000 acres the first day, then 20,000, then 43,000.  It is still growing but not as quickly.  The latest estimate is 46,600 acres.

This morning it looked like this...

Perhaps not so impressive, but you should be able to see mountains.

About 20 minutes ago, it looked like this...

The good news is that there are more than 1000 people working on the fire, several aircraft, helicopters and engines.  They are making progress and have a current containment estimate of 10%.  Some evacuated residents are being allowed back to their property... with proper credentials.

We are safe and expect to remain safe.  It's smokey here.  Everything smells like campfire... aside from our climbing tree which started to bloom yesterday.

Please, please, please, regardless of where you are.  Please be vigilant with your campfires or fireworks, if you're allowed to have them.  It is tinder-dry out there.  As evidenced by the fact that the Hewlett Fire, also just outside of Fort Collins is still burning and was started a month ago on 5/14.

Friends who are closer to the fire have posted their perspective too:  Independent Stitch.  Fiber Fool.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Wingspan, part 2

I haven't made it to Knit Night for the last couple of weeks... but I am enjoying the Wingspan so far.

It's been nice to take with me when I know I will have to wait... like when I had to fetch Hubba from the airport after a stormy afternoon.  :-/

So far it's also been really easy to pick up and put down.  Just the sort of thing I need right now.  :-)

I hope you are enjoying your Fiber Arts Friday.  Be sure to head over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder to see what the others have been up to as well.  :-)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Studio Spotlight: Criffin Designs

A few years ago I worked in an airplane factory.

It has become known as the good ole days around my house.  We were working on a cool product, with a young, well-funded, entrepreneurial company and the people were the best.  Seriously top-notch... as in these people are the yard-stick I use to compare all others I have worked with since.

Things didn't turn out quite as we had hoped, but the plane still lives.  A lot of us moved on, and some of us moved on to very interesting things...

Jerry and I used to work at the airplane factory together.  He was a quiet guy... at least when I was around.  He worked really hard and I could always depend on him.

I knew he was a Colorado guy, so of course his cool factor started a few notches higher than the others.  Then after we both left the airplane factory, I found out that he and his wife used to have llamas for trekking.  So the cool factor went up a few more notches.

We were chatting on Facebook recently when he shared his website with me.  All I can say is WOW!  Beautiful, incredible, modern jewelry designs made from aircraft aluminum.

The benefit of using aircraft aluminum is that he can make something large and structural that weighs only a few ounces.

So I suggested that it might be fun to do a little Q&A here on Kathryn's Brain.  :-)

Anticipation Necklace

How did the idea for Criffin Designs come to fruition?

I had a coworker who had a pair of earrings made from Phillips Head screws bonded to earring posts, and my immediate thought was, “Hell, I can do that!” so I started taking screws and bolts and Hi-Locs and rivets and anything else I could think of, and cutting the heads off then bonding earring posts to them, giving them to Mary, my wife. Some worked, most didn’t. True aircraft hardware is typically just too big to use as earrings.

However, it was after a visit to the Tucson Arizona Aircraft Graveyard that I took the leap from “nuts and bolts” into aluminum.

I have always been creative and my current position disallows that.  So Criffin Designs has been an outlet for my creative side.

I’ve always been able to manipulate aircraft aluminum to whatever specifications I needed. Could I then, instead of creating stringers, doublers and frames, create something much more finite?  Take something that no longer had purpose and give it a new history?

From that Tucson visit Criffin Designs was born, and old aircraft aluminum is now turned into jewelry that is structurally architectural and modern in design.  And since every piece would need an item number, why not name each design style after WWII and Korean War aircraft nose art, an art form created by the pilots and crews who flew America’s amazing warbirds? So instead of item number XX001, we have the Miss Behavin’ Bracelet.

Miss Behavin' Bracelet

Something our customers seem to get a kick out of is the card we provide, which shows the nose art their particular piece is named after along with the “care and feeding” instructions.

Hematite has become CD’s flagship stone. Not only is the black stone a great contrast to the polished aluminum, it’s considered the stone representing peace.  Which is a nice balance to the reclaimed military aluminum. Yin and Yang. War and Peace.

Glamouras B24 Necklace

What is a Criffin?

Criffin is actually the area in southwest Ireland where my family originated from, the Land of Criffin.

How long have you been designing jewelry?

I started playing with this stuff before the demise of that airplane factory back in 2008 but it really wasn’t until late 2010 when I got my first “gig” with a gallery in Omaha of all places.  You have to start somewhere, and if it wasn’t for that gallery, it may not have gone anywhere.

Raz'ng Hell Necklace

Did your wife think you were crazy when you proposed the idea to her?

No she didn’t! It was not something I or we set out to do, it just happened.  One thing led to another and the next thing we knew, we have a national boutique jewelry gallery carrying Criffin Designs Jewelry.

What a big help Mary, my wife, has been with this whole thing! I must admit I came up with some far fetched ideas in the beginning, in true airplane fashion, but with her help and my own keen sense of style *wink*, we have taken monumental strides in the right direction, remaining true to our aircraft heritage but retaining the glamorous aspects of what the public wants for jewelry.  I try to keep the designs simple, ordered and structured, which has to do with my nineteen years in aviation.  So the designs tend to be very architectural and they have to be something I can build since you don’t solder aluminum together like gold or silver.

Mary is my supply chain expert and list-maker.  So when I get orders of over 670 pieces, she helps ensure we have all the piece parts needed for the build, essentially eliminating surprises.

What did you think of me when we worked together?  No!  Don't answer that.  ;-)

Carolina Moon Necklace

Where can people find your designs?

Primarily the website is imagery, versus an actual storefront. Our catalog, which does include pricing, can be downloaded in .pdf form from the site. Of course you can also send me an email at

·         2400 West Main Street, Littleton, Colorado 80120

·         *  Park Meadows Mall, Lone Tree, CO
·         *  Boston Logan International Airport, 2 Faneuil Hall Market Place, Boston, MA
·         *  Water Tower Place, 835 N Michigan Ave, Ste 6000, Chicago, IL
·         *  At Block 37 108 N. State Street, Suite 130 Chicago IL
·         *  Mall of Louisiana Baton Rouge, 125 North Theard Street Covington, LA
·         *  1 Poydras Street Riverwalk, New Orleans, LA
·         *  Mall of America, 150 S Avenue, Bloomington, MN

Bright Rain Gallery
Old Town, Albuquerque, NM

Twitter: @CriffinDesigns


Prices range from $40 to $300.

Jerry has generously agreed to offer a Blog Special of 50% off retail for the next three months.  Just let him know when you place your order that you learned about him on Kathryn's Brain.  :-)

So Jerry is a Colorado guy, who used to have llamas, with roots in the Emerald Isle and designs some amazing jewelry and has an amazing partner in his wife, Mary.  I think his cool factor just went up a few more notches.  :-)

Please take a moment to visit Criffin Designs and if you are so moved, please support this terrific artist.  A portion of all profits are donated to the Freedom is Not Free organization that helps wounded US Veterans and their families.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Casting On for Knit Night

As I mentioned last week, keeping my socks straight while chatting it up at Knit Night has been a challenge.  So I cast on a simple scarf.

Knit 1, Purl 1... forever.  I thought it would keep me happy, but I strongly dislike this yarn.  :-/

Then, thanks to a suggestion that Vivian made, I thought the Wingspan would be a good solution.

So I started with some yarn I had intended for another project.  The yarn/pattern combo didn't do it for me, so the yarn has been lounging in my stash for a while.

I think this combo is looking pretty good, although with the US10.5 needles and bulky yarn, this is going to be huge... Those are 29-inch circulars!  Not really the kind of thing you want around your neck... or at least not the kind of thing I want around my neck.

So I went back to my stash and pulled out a yummy green that I wanted to make socks with... but seeing as how I (1) am having trouble with socks right now, (2) I have enough for a Wingspan and (3) also have the right size and length of needle on hand, I cast on.

Hopefully, this one will stick.

And, for just a little perspective...

Happy Fiber Arts Friday!