Yarn Scraps

Because I’m a crunchy granola hippie who can’t seem to part with .. anything .. I’ve been saving yarn scraps for AGES.  We’re not talking those partial balls of yarn leftover from knitting socks, we’re talking the teeny balls leftover after I’ve taken the sock yarn leftovers to make a blanket, the bits cut off after weaving in ends, trimmed off pieces from a long-tail cast on, etc.  The leftovers of the leftovers.  I’ve kept a little yellow pail near my usual knitting corner that has slowly been filling up over the last few years I’ve been knitting.  It finally got to the point that even after squishing the contents down over and over, it wasn’t really fitting in the pail anymore and it was finally time to go ahead with an alternative use for the yarn scraps.

VOILA!  A yarn scrap ball for the birds.  Yep, really!  The scraps are mostly between 2-4 inches long and are perfect for birds to weave into their nests.  I started with a grapevine ball from Michael’s ($6.99) and stuffed it full of my yarn scraps.  I found a chunk of leftover ribbon (scavenged from a gift box at one point), weaved it around the metal support wires inside the ball, and hung it near the bird feeder in the back yard.  I can’t wait to see how it goes over with our backyard birds and I look forward to seeing some colorful bird nests!

As usual, click any photo to view larger.




Italian Letter 16 Feb 1947

So, it might seem a little odd that I’m posting these letters to the public.  Two of the people referenced in the letter (Angelina’s daughters) may still be alive and what a thrill it would be to have the internet somehow connect us.  You hear that Thia Guerrini, Rina Guerrini?  If you’re reading this, I would absolutely love to hear from you.  We’re related by marriage, and my cousins would get a real kick out of hearing from long-lost cousins in Italy.  If they were alive, they’d be in their 80s this year (2014).  It’s a long shot, but hey, you never know.

Moving on!  The letters are also interesting for their historical information.  Nellie Gasparri, (my first cousin, once removed) apparently sent a package along with her letter to her aunt Angelina.  The reply letter from Angelina is what I’ve got posted here – she enclosed a separate, smaller piece of paper thanking Nellie very specifically for the coffee since, she explains, it was something they hadn’t seen in Italy for many years since the war.  She also mentions that they’re missing many things, and that her daughters appreciated the clothes Nellie sent.  Basic living supplies seem to have been pretty scarce in San Valentino (Sorano).  There’s also mention of Nellie’s Aunt who I can assume is her mother’s sister, my grandmother, Norma Innocenti.  Just like the last letter, the same grammatical/spelling errors persist (penziero instead of pensiero, “ai” and “o” instead of hai and ho for the verb avere, and a couple various misspellings).  It’s slowly making these easier to read since the handwriting is becoming more familiar.  At the end, Angelina writes a little blurb to also thank the friend (of Nellie’s I assume?) who wrote the letter, Gina Canali.  In my translation, I added some punctuation to help with flow and took a few liberties with some of the not-easily-translated Italian phrases.  I love perfectly literal translations, but it never flows well.  Without further babble, here’s the translation, and images of the letter.  Click any image to enlarge.

February 16, 1947.
Dearest Niece,
Days ago I received your letter and even the package that you sent. I just received it and it was delivered in good condition. I can only thank you for the thought that you had for us. Your cousins Thia and Rina thank you for the clothes that we really needed because in Italy we are lacking clothes and many other things after the war. Your cousins are ages Thia 18 and Rina 17.
Dear Niece, if it’s easier for you to write American, write that way since there is someone who reads to me. As for the letter that I wrote to your aunt, I hope that she has received it and my greetings and if she writes to me again it would make me happy. I’m glad that you are in good health. As for us, my daughters and my husband are well, but for a while I haven’t felt well but don’t worry that it’s serious.
Dear Nellie I would like to know so much about you all. Make your brothers write to me too and tell me how you’re doing now that you’re left without your father. I have so much sorrow for you all. We are far away and I cannot give you any comfort. I would like to have a memory of my brother if it’s possible (a photograph of yours); it would be much appreciated. For this time, I can only greet you and kiss you, united to my family. I tell you that your aunt thinks of you always,
Angelina Guerrini.

Don’t ever forget that my address is only this:
S. Valentino di Sorano
Pro di Grosseto
Only So
Do you understand?
Greetings again to your friend that wrote the letter,
Gina Canali

(enclosure, on green paper)
Dear Niece,
I thank you so much for the coffee, here it’s been many years and you don’t see it any more and I tell you again there are many things we’re lacking here in Italy. Nellie in as much as I remember your address it’s not as it was before. Did you move? It’s been a while since your aunti wrote to me the other time where she is. I want to tell you many other things and ask you many things but I’m afraid I’ll bore you. Write to me at length and tell me many things. Again, many kisses, your aunt,
Angelina Guerrini

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End of May Mittens

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I’m REALLY pleased with how these mittens came out!  The yarn was purchased at Purls of Wisdom in Kimberton, PA with the intent to make mittens at some point.  Finally, I grabbed the yarn, found a pattern, and went to work.  I managed to churn these out in five days (worsted weight mittens go pretty quickly even in colorwork), and have been wearing them since mid-January when they were finished.  As usual, I’m super late posting these to the blog, but you know that’s nothing new.  :)

Yarn: Ella Rae Classic Superwash in colorway 15 (orange-rust color) and 19 (cream color).  Lining is Alpaca from a friend’s farm.
Needles: US 3 (3.25mm)
Pattern: End of May Mittens by Mandy Powers
-Ravelry Project Link-
Notes/Modifications: The pattern originally called for the lining to only extend up about an inch or two from the cuff.  I went ahead and used the same directions for the outer mitten minus the colorwork for the lining.  It came out a little bit wide (there is some wrinkled-up fabric inside the mitten), but not enough that it’s unbearable.  They blocked out to the perfect size for my hands!  The alpaca actually came from a co-worker of the husband’s who owns an alpaca farm.  It’s really luscious stuff and makes the mittens extra warm – perfect for the cold winter we’ve had!

Making Vinegar

The blog has been a little silent, mostly because I’ve been too busy shovelling all winter long.  Whew.  I think we’re up to #3 snowiest winter ever, and from the looks of the forecast, we’re not done quite yet though there was some loud, house-shaking thunder this morning accompanied by freezing rain.  But hey, the last two winters I think we only managed about six inches of snow each, so it’s nice to have a proper winter again.  I do like everything to be covered in snow rather than trudging around in a mushy, muddy mess.

We’ve been up to something new!  Husband found an advertisement for a vinegar making kit in a magazine and hinted about it around Giftmas time.  So, I took the hint, and it ended up being his present.  The kit, purchased from The Brooklyn Kitchen, didn’t include the vinegar mother or culture for starting the vinegar, so I had to purchase that separately.  Basically, it’s a bacteria that converts alcohol into acetic acid.  The amout of alcohol in your starter liquid (beer, wine, hard cider) is the amount of acid you’ll have in your vinegar.  You want something around 5-7 percent alcohol, so if you’re using wine, you need to dilute it by half with water, and make sure it doesn’t have any preservatives or sulfites that will kill the vinegar mother.  The mother will slowly form as a slimy, gelatinous layer on top of the liquid.  It’s totally safe and completely harmless.  It likes to work at a higher temperature (85 degrees F), but we don’t keep our house that warm in the winter, so it just takes longer, no big deal.  For more information on making vinegar, check out this link.

Husband was pretty excited to get going on his vinegar, so he grabbed a case of Yuengling Premium and loaded up the barrel which means we get a malt vinegar (perfect for french fries).  It sat from December through February and we finally bottled it February 16th.  The information told us that when it starts to smell like nail polish remover, it’s almost done.  Sure enough, that day rolled around about three weeks ago, so we let it sit a little while longer just to be sure.  We bottled the finished vinegar into two 8 oz bottles and shared one with the neighbors.  It’s not much, and we left a good bit of starter liquid behind, but the resulting vinegar for our first go is really good!  Because this was the first use of the barrel, the vinegar picked up a TON of oak from the fresh char on the inside.  We even took a chunk of the mother out to start another glass container with a botched batch of mead to make a mead vinegar.  That should be interesting!  We decided not to pasteurize the vinegar (which would kill the bacteria and allow it to be stored at room temperature) and instead are keeping the bottle in the fridge.

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Today I decided we needed a label for the bottle, so I found a template and slapped together a small label for the wee bottle (the label only measures about 4″ high by 1.5″ wide).  I found a sheet of gummed label paper we used for homebrewing and printed out a sheet of labels that we can use on future bottlings.  I’m pretty happy with how they came out!

Vinegar Barrel – The Brooklyn Kitchen – $100
Malt Vinegar Mother – Beer & Winemaking – $17.99
Label Paper – Midwest Supplies – $5.99
Bormioli Rocco Bottle – Everything Kitchens – $2.99 (We found ours at a local store for less)
Label Template – World Label – FREE
Fonts: Marshall (“Oak Aged”) – Guttenberg MF (“Malt Vinegar”) – Horizon Wide (“Phoenixville”) – Savanne (“Date, Batch, Base”)

One Local Summer 2013 – Week 24


This was the last week of One Local Summer for 2013.  Things were starting to get really busy with my photography business and I just didn’t have the time to dedicate to going to the market, finding ingredients, planning the meal, cooking, and doing a blog post.  I was purely in microwave-the-leftovers mode, and the husband was out to his ship for a longer than normal stretch.  Still, I made it to November 5th, and did 24 weeks of meals which is really pretty decent!  This particular meal is one that I only make when the husband is gone since he absolutely loathes fennel.  It’s SO easy to make and tastes SO good! Layer the sweet potatoes and fennel on the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper, bake for 30 minutes, then add the sausage on top until that’s done.  Somehow all the flavors melt together just right and it’s magic.

Now, I’m FINALLY all caught up, and am looking for ideas for meals for 2014.  If you happen to have any and want to share, please leave me a comment!

Fennel, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Bake:
Sweet Potatoes – Jack’s Farm
Fennel – Charlestown Farm
Sausage – freezer stock from Mountain View Organics
Non Local – Salt, pepper, olive oil