summertime (and knits to sell)

I have many photos to share, since there has been a long period of blog-silence over the past few months. First of all, there is our garden. We love our garden. It’s definitely a unique garden, and I’ve described it as “redneck” several times. We tilled up a piece of yard back in March/April, and planted almost right away. So, our little first-year plot has continually fought to return to its grassy state. But, the vegetables have grown up right along with the grasses, and overall we are delighted with the results. It never ceases to amaze me that these little plants, left almost to themselves with minimal guidance from us, grow and flourish and bear little vegetable treasures. It’s so much fun.

Robin made the frame for the lettuce and greens and it works great.

There are also a lot of really nice perennials on the property; it’s fun to go outside and be surprised at what has suddenly begun to bloom.The above photo is of a huge butterfly bush in the backyard.

These garden photos are from a few weeks ago. Since then, we have been harvesting a lot of cucumbers and beans, the tomato bushes are loaded with green tomatoes, and the corn is almost mature. We found a recipe for Polish pickles here.

They don’t require any vinegar or water-bath canning, and Robin says they are fairly authentic. 🙂

And now… back in the early spring I had mentioned that I was hoping to sell a few knitted items on here as a way to raise money for camp. It has taken me a while, but I am finally ready to show some photos of some recent things that I have made that are available. They are mostly warm-weather, so I feel a little bit strange trying to advertise them in July. Let’s just use our imaginations and pretend that it’s a cold winter evening, ok? I’m charging $25 per clothing item, and $7 for the dishcloths. Color choices are available if you like an item but want it in a different color, and they can be downsized for kids too if you give me measurements.  Leave me a comment if you are interested and we will make the shipping arrangements.

Cowl with cables and buttons.

Honeycomb slouch hat.

Men’s/women’s twisted cables hat.

Men’s camouflage hat (can be made into women’s too). 

Dishclothes (various colors and designs, 100% cotton).

Cabled mittens

Helix fingerless gloves (my personal favorite).

Woodcutter fingerless gloves (made these as women’s gloves but Robin loves them too).

Cabled beret.

Diamond socks (these are so comfortable, I almost kept them for myself).

Thanks to my husband for helping with the photos and modeling.

We are leaving for Young Lives camp in a week from tomorrow, taking 17 girls and about that many babies as well, for a week in the woods of New York State. Everyone is really excited.

Until next time…

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A quick post…

Just a note to say that I will be keeping my Pampered Chef fundraiser party open until April 19 or 20. If you want to order any kitchen implements that will help send the teen mothers of Young Lives (the support group I volunteer with) to summer camp, just follow this link: http://www.pamperedchef.biz/acuster84. Go to “shop online” and then enter YoungLives in the “search party” space.

And… just a few photos of a work trip to Weston, WV, and the old insane asylum there. http://www.trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com/ has more information about it. The building itself is amazing. Lisa, a coworker, and I poked our heads into an open side door and wandered a very short distance down the long, echoing hall. We looked into a doorway off the hall, one of the many doorways stretching on in a somber line. The tiny room had bars on the windows. It’s strange to try to imagine what the place must have been like in its day.

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On the road again…

I’m in Pittsburgh. My job, again. I make this trip once a month. They warned me, at the interview for this job, that “you will travel a lot.” I do. My busiest week involved a hotel stay, a drive through central WV in the middle of the night, and 1,135 hours on the road. And a speeding ticket. Whew. But, I don’t mind the traveling too much. I ate dinner in a steakhouse tonight, reading Cry, the Beloved Country over my chicken and mashed potatoes. I think the waitress felt sorry for me, which was a little awkward.

Photo catch-up time:

Posing with the Porsche which used to be in our garage and is no longer (it still exists, just isn’t in the garage anymore)…

Puppy bath time (Peter came to visit us for the weekend).

They seem to be enjoying themselves….

Then there’s Penny. She’s her own comedy show and has no idea…

Buddy with his ever-present little yellow man…

One of my favorite dog pictures of the day:

Remember the wool from this post? Here it is again.

And here is the carding machine I am borrowing from my mother-in-law. I am having the time of my life carding the wool into batts, ready to spin into yarn. I’ll show you some photos of what my batts look like in the near future. Here’s a link that explains how a drum carder is used.

Good-night.

 

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What’s blooming (and more donating options)

I have so many photos to put on this blog, and so many things that I would like to write about. And not enough hours in a typical day. Sigh… This post is just going to be a quick attempt to share with you what’s growing around our house lately, along with a plug for another way you can donate money to Young Lives (the group for teen moms that I volunteer with). I will hopefully be posting again soon with more photos, including some of my latest knitting creations to sell. For now, enjoy the signs of spring. 🙂

I had a sneaking suspicion* that the flower beds in the backyard and along the front porch were probably full of bulbs that would magically resurface when the weather warmed. I was right. Masses of daffodils are growing, along with several hyacinths.  There are some really beautiful spaces, although they need the tender loving touch of a gardener who has a lot of time on their hands.

*speaking of sneaking, look at Buddy hiding out behind all those daffodils. 🙂

Indoors, things are growing too. Robin and I made lots of little seedling starter pots from rolled up and stapled scrap paper. They work great. We just folded an 8 1/2 x 11 in piece of paper in half lengthwise, then rolled it into a tube and attached it with a staple. Then all we had to do was cut small notches in the bottom, fold them in to form a little bit of a bottom on the cylinder, place them in a wooden box, and fill them with potting soil. Robin made two wooden boxes and a large tray out of aluminum sheeting, and we were set to plant. 

We planted cabbage, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, onions. We covered them with saran wrap and put them upstairs in the bird room. Robin made a shelf across the window, where they will get sunlight for a majority of the day. And… they are growing! They are my babies. My highlight of the day is coming home and checking the plants to see how many more tiny green stems have emerged.

Here are the tomatoes.

I’m having a few fundraiser parties the beginning of April to help the Young Lives girls (the teen mom group that I volunteer with) go to summer camp in August. I have never had a Pampered Chef party before, and always tried to avoid them because going to parties of this nature make me feel guilty. Like I must use my limited finances to pay for things that I might not necessarily need, so that the hostess of the party doesn’t feel bad. However, despite all this,  I am having a Pampered Chef party on April 11. 🙂 It’s a fundraiser, and the money goes to a good cause, so I don’t feel guilty inviting people or asking them to consider purchasing something. And… you can go online to purchase! So I will leave you all with a link to the website: http://www.pamperedchef.biz/acuster84. If you want to purchase anything go to the “Our Products” link, click the link below the item you want to purchase, and enter YoungLives in the fields provided (or if that doesn’t work my first and last name, not sure which one you need to enter). And… since it’s online you don’t need to feel guilty for looking without buying. 🙂

That’s all for now. Coming up soon (hopefully) will be photos of bath time with the dogs and the latest in yarn endeavors, along with a few miscellaneous things just for fun. Until then…

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Fireside time – minus the snow

Robin is reading one of his nursing textbooks. I am reclining on the couch after a nice jog and a simple dinner (yay for simple dinners on Sunday evenings…). We’ve recently started a new jog loop through the neighborhood. It’s a really nice little loop, and very quiet. Which is nice, because the route we were doing before took us past the local hospital and freeway on-ramp, and most of the time we felt like getting run over was a not-so-distant possibility. This jog was much more calm. One thing, though, that disappoints me about today is the lack of snow we are seeing here. Weather.com got my hopes up last week: “Significant snow accumulations likely.” Now friends from farther south are posting photos on facebook of lovely winter-scapes. And we have nothing – nothing except the crocuses in the front yard with their confused, lovely little  yellow flowers.

I went snow tubing Friday night, with some of the lovely young ladies from YoungLives, the group for teen moms that I volunteer with. It was great fun. I love being with them; they are full of energy and excitement about life.

Robin, along with a group of the nomads (who still live in Shepherdstown, even though none of them live with us any longer), spent a good portion of last Saturday  building this beautiful woodpile. It’s the beginnings of our supply of wood for next winter. They did a great job. Afterward, we had a big pot of chili, and cornbread and tea, together.

The pace at work has been picking up dramatically for me. I’m finally out of training, and a full-fledged foster care social worker. Some days I really enjoy it, and it makes me feel alive and in the place in life that I should be. Some days it just makes my head spin. It is rarely mundane, however. There are plenty of interesting encounters and stories to tell. Maybe someday I shall write a book, since a blog isn’t quite the proper place to write them all. 🙂

I finally finished a hat for Robin that’s been in the works for a long time. It’s a reversible hat, my first attempt to make one. I really like how the colorwork turned out; the hat has some fun designs. It turned out a little too large, so it’s going to need just a bit of felting. Overall I’m pretty happy with it and Robin seems to be, too.

Valentine’s Day flowers from my dearest. I do like his taste in flowers.

And… my latest order from KnitPicks.com! Yes, it’s quite a lot of yarn, but I have special plans for these pretties. The local health food/eco-friendly general store/vegetarian cafe (where we bought the loose-leaf tea) has said that they might be interested in selling locally hand-knit items. So, I’m going to try it. Starting out, it’s going to mostly be a fundraising endeavor, to raise money so that I can go to summer camp with those full-of-energy young mothers I mentioned earlier. I went last year and it was a totally worthwhile experience. I will probably be also selling items from this blog if anyone is interested. Stay tuned for updates and photos of products. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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When the knits don’t match the weather

Well, last week spring made an appearance, like an outgoing kindergartner in the school play who just cannot wait for the cue before running onto center stage. It was beautiful. I basked in the sunshine, heedless of the trees budding prematurely in Georgia that will lessen the fruit crop (according to the paper). Europe, however, is getting all of our winter and more. The cold snap has killed up to 360 people so far. What a weird winter. It’s an interesting time to be alive, I think. Although, I wonder if it just seems like there is more going on, because we are able to observe the whole world rather than just our small corner of it.

The beautiful 3 days of 60 + temperatures made me itch to knit shawls, rather than this:

But, I finally finished the honeycomb hat (which I’m quite happy with), and got to start on this shawl.

About that time, the weather decided to do this:

Which was very exciting, especially since we were planning to head down to Gaithersburg MD to watch the Superbowl with Robin’s ex-roommate. We did make it through the snow, and we had a good weekend with Ben and his family. I got to help his little sister Allie start her first in-the-round knitting project, a great pair of fuzzy, bright blue fingerless gloves. She’s a fast learner and finished one glove in a day’s time; I was really proud of her. I wish I had a photo to show you. Because lace shawls are not Superbowl knitting, I was working on a baby blanket.

I do enjoy the Superbowl, but mostly because it provides about 4 hours of uninterrupted knitting time and good company.

Robin and I also really hit it off with Ben’s family’s cat, Max. Neither of us are really serious cat people, but Max was just so dang hilarious. Flushing toilets fascinated him, as did yarn, the garbage can, and hiding under the bed. I wouldn’t mind having a cat if he would have Max’s personality.

Oh, and one more thing, I learned to use a sphygmometer (blood pressure cuff)! My future-nurse husband  taught me how. I am actually quite proud that I know how to take a blood pressure, even though it’s a pretty simple thing. 🙂

I’ve found the ultimate in knitter eye-candy, and I’m off now to do a little bit of wishful browsing. Good night.

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Of raw fiber, pyramids, and welcoming beer stores

Well, the nomads have followed the call of their nomadic lifestyle and left us for parts unknown (and known). In some ways, it feels good to have the house to ourselves again, all 6000 square ft. of it. We miss them, though. They were sweet, and so helpful around the house, and good to live with. And the grocery budget went down an awful lot. I’m not advocating dumpster-diving as a lifestyle, necessarily, just stating the facts.  🙂 They were inspiring, in a lot of ways, with their simple lifestyle and their reliance on God to provide for all of their needs.

There’s a lot of value in living a simple life. I think that’s the idea I was trying to convey in naming my blog “simply actualized.” Being in a social work program for college meant that every year we revisited Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Self-actualization is the idealized goal. It’s where everyone wants to be but few feel they can attain. I honestly feel like reaching “self-actualization” is less about striving to totally satisfy ourselves and more about what Paul was getting at in Philippians 4:11b – 12: “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Sometimes the less we have, the more able we are to be in touch with life, with ourselves, and with God. We can also realize that life isn’t all about us, and for me there’s a lot of comfort and relief in knowing my tiny place in God’s big universe.

Anyway, here’s some photos.

I bought some little jars at IKEA the other day (my first time at IKEA, it was fun). They are on the middle shelf in front of all my grains jars. Then yesterday, Robin and I went to Good Natured, the local health food/vegetarian cafe/general store. They have herbs and loose-leaf tea in bulk. We bought some tea to put in the little jars. It’s exciting. 🙂

Here you can see the labels.

And this – this I am very excited about. This is the picture I received in the mail the other day, as part of the talent swap I mentioned in the last post. I love it! Rebecca has titled it “Peace Tree.” She really is a great artist and I love the picture so much. It’s hanging in our living room. This talent swap idea has been really fun. If it inspires you at all, let me know! I’d love to participate in another one.

And this is a headband made for another talent swap. Sheree, if you read this, I apologize, but this headband has been driving me crazy! I don’t know why it’s been so difficult, it’s one of the more simple patterns that I’ve done lately. However, there was just always something wrong, and I ripped it back twice and started over. It’s finally DONE.

These next ones are photos that I meant to post for a little while but haven’t had the chance yet. They are from New Years weekend, down in southern WV with Robin’s family. His mother and I washed some wool from their sheep. I wanted to try my hand at carding it, too, but we ran out of time. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to do that in the future.

Fluffy white goodness. 🙂

And this last one is a bonus. On our way out of Lancaster City after the Christmas holidays, Robin and I graced the beer store across the way with cheesy wooden blocks that spelled “WELCOME.” We had gotten them from the annual Beiler white elephant gift exchange. The mix of old row house turned shabby beer store with country-style decor was too funny.

Good night.

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