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Making Jam

In our family, jam is more than just a sweet topping for your toast. It's a little jar of spring sunshine – preserved for the whole year. It's memory and taste and love.

Jay's Grandma Mary made jars and jars of jam every year – strawberry, raspberry, boysenberry (after her trips to Oregon). You always knew to take a few jars from the freezer when you ran out.
Knowing how my husband loved Grandma's jam, I asked her to teach me and she scoffed – “It's just the Sure-Jell recipe that comes in the box, read it yourself!”

Grandma was straight like that and that's why we loved her.

When she passed away last October, I knew that this would be the year that I got serious about jam. I bought a few boxes of Sure-Jell and waited for the first strawberries.

They appeared last weekend and I got to work.
YIP 9 Strawberry bath
Washing

Clean Strawberries
Topping

Crush it!
Mashing

Add sugar
Adding the sugar (4 cups)

Pour it on!
And pouring.

Quilty jars of jammy goodness
I'm particularly smitten with the jewel-y pink in the quilted jars – so beautiful!

The jam turned out perfectly, just like Grandma's!

PS. Really, if you want to make it, get a box of Sure-Jell and read it yourself (it's the freezer recipe)!

Big News

I've tried to write this post for weeks.

I can't figure out how to say it in a way that conveys the big-ness for me and for Blonde Chicken Boutique. This is a huge, scary, exciting step, but it's just so hard to express.

So, how about I just say it:

I quit my day job.

June 30th is my last day working in an office, for an employer.

July 1st, I wake up to…Blonde Chicken Boutique!

I'll be a full-time fiber artist, yarnie, fiberista, spinster – whatever we're calling it that week – it'll be my full-time job!

Even though I handed in my resignation a month ago, it still feels crazy and new and exciting!

This will allow me to do SO many new things with BCB, things you've asked me to do and things I've been waiting to do. More craft shows, more in-person lessons, more yarn!

As I transition into this new role, I'll be sharing more and more about the business-side of BCB: what systems I use, how I decided to go full-time, all sorts of stuff! I know only some of you might be interested in that, so instead of bore the blog readers, I'll be writing about it in a little newsletter-y thing. Sign up here if you want to learn more biz-stuff.

Thanks for helping me make all of this possible!

Spring Manifesto

strawberry

I love the changing season and I love to celebrate each of them with their own fresh, local food, flora and yarn-y inspirations.  Each season I make a little list of the pleasures I want to soak in. I call them manifestos, but they're really just love letters to the season.

Reading Havi's list of things-to-do-before-she-dies, I realized that these seasonal lists are my own little things-to-do-before-the-moment-passes. And goodness! Spring is nearly gone without a proper love letter.

I hope to keep listing these, every Thursday, as a reminder to soak it in over the weekend (and as a mid-week cheer-up).

This week,  Spring is feeling like a great time for:

  • Finding floral inspiration
  • Eating lots of strawberries
  • Making jam
  • Starting the garden
  • Sorting Easter Egg dyes
  • Baking tasty things

I did a few of these things last weekend, I'll be sharing them with you soon!

What do you like to do to celebrate Spring?

5 ways to celebrate Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

imgp2373

Sometimes I think Earth Day (or Month or Hour) is silly…shouldn't we be working on these things everyday? But I'm starting to think that setting aside one day draws more attention to the issue and gives a reason to reflect or research on changes we may already know we need to make!

I write about these things pretty much all the time, so in celebration of Earth Day, let's go over a few way to make your crafting decisions a bit more green:

1. Be a locavore! (I know it's not technically crafty, but I think of cooking and baking as crafting!)

2. Spin with recyled fiber!

3. Use organic cotton. Why? Here's your answer!

4. Work with local, small-farm materials!

5. Rethink bamboo

What are your ideas for creating “geen”? Any topics I haven't covered that you'd like me to research?

The Meaning of Green

I might be a bit obsessive.
I wish I wasn't.
I wish I was smooth and casual and je ne sais quoi.
But I'm not.  I'm excitable. And squeal-y. And a bit obsessive.
When I learned the new Yarn Forward was available in the States (it's UK-based), one that I had been interviewed for, I began stalking Barnes & Noble.
I've been 4 times in the last month, scouring the magazine racks, looking behind every title.

Yesterday, my mom and I had a bit of free time and we decided to pop into the bookstore for a cup of coffee and magazine perusal. I did my normal magazine-rack-hunting. The girl next to me set down one she had been flipping through and

Wow!
There it was, the April issue.

I called my mom over as I flipped through, and was shaking before I even landed on this page:

"Meaning of Green" in Yarn Forward 62/365

That's me, in the upper left corner!

The article is a discussion with several “ecological experts” (squee!) about what “green” means to them, in terms of yarn and fiber choices. It's a fabulous article with input from Lorna's Laces, a Rowan rep and other experts on the subject!

You can find buy Yarn Forward online, at your yarn store or at a bookstore!

Oh, and the geeking out doesn't end there. My mom and I both squealed, jumped around, hugged and celebrated! This little excitement-party happened again when I told my husband (who, for the record, does not squeal)

Winter Manifesto

Inspired by Amanda's beautiful Winter manifesto, I've started writing my own.  I'll be adding to it for the next few Fridays.

February can be a cold, hard month: full of ice and short days and a deep longing for spring.
I find there's no better way to combat the cold than to embrace the light where I find it and to look for the small moments of joy. To remind myself that there is really just one more month of winter (spring comes early in East Tennessee!), I'll dedicate myself to this manifesto.

1.  Enjoy and relax with my loved ones;

coffee

with coffee,

chocolates  52/365

with chocolates,

baking with troy 33/365

while baking,

My boys

while playing.

What do you want to enjoy this winter?

Begin as you mean to go on

hotscarf

“Begin as you mean to go on”

I heard this phrase at the beginning of 2008, on Breda Dayne’s Cast On. I was struck by it then – such a clever phrase – but never explored it. It's really lovely, so much more poetic than the idea of New Year's Resolutions and with so many more implications. Every new project that can be started with the notion of  “Begin as you mean to go on”.

At the beginning of this year, as I started work on my new website, it came to me again.
How do I want to go on in 2009? How do I want the new website to go on?

I don’t “do” resolutions. I love lists and I love setting intentions. But the concept of “resolutions” doesn't resonate for me. I'd rather remind myself on a regular to basis to learn, improve and grow.

And that, the growing, is what appealed to me in Chris Brogan’s  post about picking a word as a goal for the year. At about  the same time, Lisa Call wrote about choosing a word to set her intention.  These two posts stirred something, stirred that phrase “Begin as you mean to go on” and I began to think about my intentions for this new site and the new year.

I set intentions for nearly every day, could I expand that to a year? The intention would need to be simple; just a few, memorable words that would guide my business decisions this year. I can look at every decision and say, will this be in alignment with my intention?

So what did I come up with?

Kill it. Share it.

When it came to me I knew that's it! But, ugh, I hate the violent connotations of the phrase “kill it” or it's similar “crush it”. What I mean when I say I want to “kill it” is that I want to achieve excellence, I want to become as fabulous as I can, to learn as much as possible. But the phrase “learn it” just doesn’t have that same push, that same insistence. Is there another word that invokes this sort of insistent drive towards excellence?

As I was thinking over this excellence, I read about succulence – the state of being juicy. That’s what I want! I want to infuse my work with juiciness –  full of richness of texture and color.

It somehow goes along with “kill it”. I want to bring succulence to it, to enjoy it, to delve into it thoroughly.
I’m still unsure of the right word, something to align the ‘Kill' with the ‘Succulence'…is there anything in between?

There we go, that’s my expanded Intention for 2009: Kill it (make it juicy), Share it.

And what is the “it”?

The “it” is whatever it needs to be. The “it” is yet to come, the “it” can change. For the next few weeks, the “it” is designing the Month of Love Series, learning about video editing, launching a new video project, organizing a mill-spun line of yarns.

So this is how I'm beginning. I'm learning, infusing and sharing.

What do you want to learn this year? What do you hope to share?

Reentry and Recap – Seattle and Urban Craft Uprising

I'm a homebody. A real, honest-to-goodness, I-could-stay-inside-for-weeks type of homebody. I've built a home-friendly business (spinning and dyeing requires that I remain near my kitchen and couch!) and if it weren't for the dayjob, I might never venture forth.
Which is exactly why I insist on applying to crazy-huge, far-away craft shows.

They challenge me and stretch me and, yeah, force me out of the house. The last two weeks, nay, the last two months have been consumed with preparing for Urban Craft Uprising. I made more yarn than I ever thought possible, created a new “mini-series” (yarn with jingle bells! yarn with pompoms! Holiday Happiness!) and packed it all up and lugged it across the country. Once in Seattle, I met customers, vendors, authors! I explored, I rode busses and ferries and planes, I consumed hundreds of cups of coffee (if you'd like a coffee review, I kept embarrassingly detailed notes, which I'd be happy to share here).

So fun and so worth it, but also a little too much. I was only gone for one week but for the two months preceding I allowed my entire life to be focused on preparing for the show, keeping the Boutique stocked and fulfilling custom orders. I love being that busy, feeling the crush, buzz, but the truth is, it's not healthy. I promised myself that when I was done with the show, I would take a step back. But being away from what I love the most (you, the fiber, the color) isn't healthy either.

When I returned, I eased myself back into it. I've been away from my dyepots and my wheel and the whole business for one FULL week. I thought it would be restful but I feel all at odds. So odd, I've actually done a lot of *gasp* cleaning. Like, my whole house. Obviously, I'm not well.

I need to work on balance: yarn time and personal time. Accomplishment and relaxation.
I'm going forward with that intention.

That said, I can't leave Seattle behind without a second glance!
A quick sum up: Urban Craft Uprising was magically delicious. I brought NONE of my own display units, everything I could possibly need was donated by the wondrous Kayce, of World of Whimm.

Carissa at UCU

My friends helped me at the booth (that's Carissa above) and I met the most fabulous customers.

Yarn Hair - on a customer  31/365

Like this one, who bought the yarn on Saturday and returned on Sunday, with it as her hair. Weird. and Wonderful.

The girls (3 of my college roomates) managed to show me every good thing in West Seattle.

Bakery Neaveau 29/365

I showed myself a bit of Pike Place Market:

Pike Place

On Tuesday, while they worked, I took the ferry to Bainbridge Island

View from the ferry - downtown Seattle 33/365
(view from the ferry)


It was here that I experienced the best yarn store of my life, Churchmouse Yarn & Teas.

Churbmouse Yarns & Teas

All in all, a really smashingly wonderful trip.

It certainly consumed my life there for a while, so I don't intend to do any more shows until next summer. But I AM on the lookout for more big shows like this one (I need to get out of the house, remember?) Big enough to sink my teeth into and to push me into adventuring places I never thought I would.
With that in mind, as I sneak back into my regular routine of dyeing, spinning and blogging, can you share your favorite craft (or yarn or knitting) show?
Do you have adventures in your town that I simply can't miss?

Finding Inspiration

As the days get shorter and the opportunity for color fade into the brown of winter, I find it harder to become inspired. My TN mountains become brown, the flowers are long gone and my local farmer's market closes up. While I'm bursting with colors, ideas during spring and summer, come October, I start to worry about drying up with the leaves.

Pink shoes, brown leaves - 5/365
Day 5

There seems to be something about October that makes me want to pick up my camera. It's surely the trees and leaves and wonderfullness of fall, but I think it's also the threat of winter. More than any other time of year, I need to be diligent in searching out inspiration in the winter.

Market St - 16/365
Day 16

To combat this ennui, I give myself little challenges. In October, I challenged myself (and some Twitter friends joined me)- take a photo every day. Looking for the right shot and trying to capture it compels me to find the beauty and celebrate it.

Yarn "storage" - 15/365
Day 15

Now that the leaves are coming off the trees and it's almost dark by the time I get home from work, I'm finding it harder to find the shot. This forces me to look inward – to my cozy home, my cute pet and even my office.

To DO - 20/365
Day 20

How do you find inspiration during the ever-shortening-days? Any colorful movies or shows the light the fire?

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