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Catching up

After a month away from blogging, I thought I’d do a little catch up in this post.  Some knitting, some cooking, some new purchases, etc.  And I’ll even throw in a home improvement project along the way.

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Before going any further, I feel I must comment on three new books I have acquired this past month.  I think it goes without saying that I love books…and these three are just spectacular.  After reading about Apples for Jam in the blogosphere for the past couple of months I decided I needed to see what it was all about.  This book is gorgeous – I think I would have bought it for the photography alone even if I wasn’t really interested in any of the recipes.  But the recipes do sound fabulous and I am anxious to try some of them.  I love the fact that the spaghetti and meatballs recipe calls for cinnamon. 

I also picked up a copy of Susan B. Anderson‘s Itty-Bitty Nursery.  There are so many great projects in here, I especially love the cupcake hat and matching scarf as well as the pacifier holders.  Too cute for words.  It seems someone I know is always pregnant – I think I will get a lot of use out of this book.

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I finally managed to locate a copy of Jo Sharp’s Knit Issue 1 pattern book at a semi-local yarn shop.  I had seen it a while ago and liked a lot of the patterns but for some reason never bought it.  I had been kicking myself since then as there are so many basic, wearable patterns in this book that I know I would enjoy knitting and enjoy wearing.  I am happy to finally be in possession of it.  If you can still find a copy of this one, I recommend it.

A friend of mine introduced me to Southern Living cookbooks recently and I have to say I have made some of the most delicious and easy recipes from these books.  I got Easy Weeknight Favorites out of the library which I now think I might buy from my local Southern Living consultant after successfully testing several of the recipes and thoroughly enjoying them. One recipe I tried was the sweet and savory sloppy joes. I had never had sloppy joes before and found myself intrigued. Well, I am glad I picked this recipe as they were outstanding and paired perfectly with the sweet potato fries my husband and I like to make.

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I also made the tortilla pie you see on the cover of this book – again super easy and very tasty!

But of course, nothing really compares to the out of this world risotto my husband made last weekend.  Complete with chunks of carrots, celery, sundried tomatoes, and garlic – I sat down to a most perfect meal with a bowl of this and the latest copy of Runner’s World after an exhilirating 5 mile run.

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And now a word of advice…for any of you thinking about changing a chandelier that is hanging off of a pitched ceiling that is much taller than you and you don’t own a ladder, think twice before you attempt this.  I didn’t think twice and ended up standing on the kitchen table for a couple of hours while I tried to balance the heavy weight of the new chandelier while I reattached the wires and screwed in the stabilizer box thingy with the other hand (my husband was at work otherwise he would have helped…I think :)) – only to realize that the new chandelier hung WAY too high above the table.  So it was on to Lowes for extra chain that I could attach to the new chandelier, getting it to drop more.  After lengthening the chain, installing new bulbs and testing everything, the dimmer shorted out.  So then it was back to Lowes AGAIN for a new dimmer which I had to replace by flashlight because by then there was no natural light left in the house and I had to of course cut the power so as not to electrocute myself.  But FINALLY the project was completed and I was very proud of myself for having done it on my own.  I don’t think I will be installing any more chandeliers anytime soon though.  The “new” chandelier is actually a hand-me down from my in-laws, but I think it fits the room much better than our old rust colored stained glass lamp that I think dated back to the 60’s or 70’s.

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As promised last time, I am posting a photo of my most recently finished Gretel.  I love this pattern.  This is the second one I made, the first one was a gift for my sister, this one is for me, and I am thinking of making a third for my mother. I used Cascade 220 yarn for the first two and found I had just enough yarn from one skein to complete each.

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Before I go, I also wanted to share with all of those other curly-haired blog readers, that this creme from Bumble & Bumble (click Curl Conscious under Products) is incredible.  My hairdresser convinced me to buy it last time I was in for a color and cut.  I balked at the price a bit first (I am used to buying Suave from Target), but after using this stuff for a week, I am a true convert.  It really is wonderful and I have gotten several hair compliments since I have started using it.  And the packaging is lovely too!  I love pretty packaging.

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Well so much for posting yesterday as I had planned.  I should have known two days in a row would never happen.  I’m hoping a little blogging will wake me up.  I’ve been eating nothing but carbs and soft foods this week because of my stitched lip and after having another carb filled lunch I feel like I am entering a food coma.  Very, very sleepy now.  I cannot wait until tomorrow afternoon when I can get these stitches out – I am half tempted to just rip them out myself.  I am such a complainer, I know…but when something is bothering me I tend to obsess about it :)

I saw Juno and I LOVED it!  Such a great movie.  Run, run, run to see it if you haven’t already.  Ellen Page did such a good job and Allison Janney was perfect as her stepmother.  Great soundtrack too.  Definitely a DVD I will want to own someday.

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I wanted to share some more of my holiday loot too.  Vintage Crochet and Creating Vintage Style specifically. What gorgeous books. I love each book’s styling and can’t wait to try out some of the projects. I didn’t get a chance to snap some pics of Creating Vintage Style so you’ll just have to take my word for it.  Some of my favorite photos from Vintage Crochet are:

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And last but not least, my new Uggs!  I have never owned a pair, but always wanted a pair and this year I got them.  They are unbelievably cozy.  I wish I could wear them to work – I’d never have to take them off (aside from showering and sleeping of course) :)

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I met some friends after work last night for some dinner and a little shopping.  We have a new Anthropologie in our area which I think is going to be a little dangerous for me.  Although I’ve refrained considerably well.  I’ve only bought 2 things since they opened in September – not too bad.  I picked up this button-down and am in love with it.  I have a hard time with button-downs – I hate the way they can pull across the chest sometimes and leave that little gap where everyone can see your bra.  This one is perfect though – the buttons start a little lower and are very close together eliminating the problem.  I think it also helped that I bought the next size up for futher reassurance.  They only show it in green on the website, but I got it in purple.

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Next, it was on to the Bare Escentuals store where we all picked out some new makeup.  I tend not to wear a lot of makeup, but once I discovered this line, I have liked makeup shopping a lot.  I got the starter kit last year and was amazed at how effective their products were.  My favorite of their products is the mineral veil.  Lasts all day!  I got some of this last night and so far I am liking it a lot.

We also stopped in at Coach, although none of us got anything here.  Prices were a little too steep for us, but we admired.  And is it just me or have their prices gone up considerably in the past year or two?  They’ve always been expensive, but now they seem over the top expensive to me.  I still love their purses though – I’ve found some good deals at outlet stores which is definitely the place to go when shopping for anything Coach.  I am loving their new fragrance too.  I tried on some of the lotion last night and loved how it smelled.  Sometimes I think lotions are nicer then perfumes.  They give a lighter scent which I prefer.

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And then it was back through the Nordstrom shoe department where we drooled over Manolo Blahniks (that I’ll never own – I love shoes but would feel really uncomfortable wearing ones that were that expensive) and all of those fabulous Sex in the City type shoes.  Cannot wait for that movie to come out btw!  All in all it was the perfect girls’ evening and I can’t wait to do it again!

Wish me luck at the oral surgeon tomorrow…I am really hoping it is not going to hurt getting these stitches out.  I will be very relieved when it is over and done with.  On the bright side, I did discover a great yarn shop near my oral surgeon’s office that sells the Nashua Julia line used for the patterns in Kristin Knits (one of my new favorite knitting books).  I have been having a really hard time finding a shop nearby that carries this line!

As usual, I am very behind on my posting, but I wanted to wish all of you a very happy new year!  How did it get to be 2008 already?  No real resolutions for me – I’ve tried making them in the past only to break them a month later, so this year I’ve just thought of “projects” for myself.  One of which is to scrapbook the remaining pictures from our honeymoon.  Which was FOUR YEARS AGO.  We went to Hawaii and visited Maui and the Big Island, but I only have Maui scrapbooked.  I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration by reading various scrapbooking blogs and Creating Keepsakes magazine.  And I’ve also been making use of the free digital downloads from The Shabby Princess.  My first attempt at digital scrapbooking is below.  It’s a very basic layout, but now that I’ve got the hang of it I am hooked.  I bought Photoshop Elements for my MacBook, as the old version on our older PC took forever to load.  I’m finding now that I have it on the Mac, there’s a lot less swearing involved.

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In case you are wondering, I did indeed get all knitted items completed in time for Christmas.  For my sister, I knitted Gretel in gray using Cascade 220 yarn and the end result was amazing.  The cable work is unbelievably gorgeous, the hat itself has a perfect fit – just the right amount of slouch, and it’s quite toasty.  I loved it so much, that I made another one for myself in a deep purple (photo to be posted at a later date) which I think will go quite nicely with a black and white houndstooth coat I just picked up on major sale!  Now I just need a scarf to match.  I also finished a couple of pairs of mitts for my parents.  My mother got Fetching in red and my father got a Dashing-esque pair in a purply-black color.  I tied the mitts up with bakers twine because it reminded me of peppermint candy which I thought was perfect for the holiday season.

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I’m still waiting on my shipment of yarn from WEBS for the Frontier Blues Jacket from the latest issue of KnitSceneWEBS had a lovely shade of orange Rowan Cotton Rope on discount and I ordered some of that.  But I think WEBS is backlogged from the holidays as it has been a while now and I haven’t gotten the email saying my order has been shipped.  Usually they ship within 24 hours.  I can’t wait to get the yarn so I can cast on – I love the look of this sweater with the ribbon detail.

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I was recovering from some minor oral surgery this weekend (having stitches in your lip is not pleasant and it is certainly not pretty either) so there was lots of reading, knitting, and photographing going on in the house as I recuperated.  I finally got a chance to sit down and really look though the winter issue of Marie Claire Idees.  My favorite color is red and there was a ton of red in this issue since most of it was holiday themed.  I am loving it (although I love every issue).  I found a great blog that translates a lot of knitting and crochet terms into English which is great because there have been so many things in Marie Claire Idees that I have wanted to try.  Here are some of my favorite pages from this issue.

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Still lots more to share, but I’ve run out of time.  Believe it or not, there will be another post tomorrow!  Off to finish some more work before I head out and meet up with a friend to see Juno.  Before I sign off though, a picture of my new Vera Bradley bag!  I am obesessed, I admit it.  I have 4 others besides this one – I just can’t stop…I know, I need help.  But handbags and shoes are two things to which I can never say no.  Come to think of it I have a really hard time saying no to books too ;)

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As I usually do mid-December, I am starting to feel a tad overwhelmed.  There seems to be a ridiculous amount to do still and Christmas is only 2 weeks away.  Next year, when I decide I am going to handknit/sew several items to be given as gifts, I am going to reread this post and either start my handmade projects MUCH earlier or I am going to abandon the handmade idea all together.  At least the handmade by me idea…I am perfectly happy to buy handmade by others! 

I have been working on the neverending Jaywalker socks for my father.  I made a Jaywalker sock – notice that sock is not plural, I really did make just one sock – back in July and loved the look of it.  So I eventually made another one – not the mate to the first sock, but a different one entirely.  I loved that one too.  But I guess I didn’t love either one enough to knit the matching sock.  Despite all of this, for some reason I felt compelled to knit my father a pair of Jaywalker socks for Christmas and they have become the bane of my existence.  I am still only on sock number one and have just turned the heel and am about halfway down the foot.  But only being halfway down the foot means there is still so much more to knit as my father has a size 13 foot.  Last night I finally admitted defeat, and decided they would not be a Christmas gift after all but a birthday gift for him in March.  That being said, they have been shoved in the knitting basket and I think I have finally made peace with the fact that I do not enjoy knitting socks.  It is rather empowering to finally say this out loud.  I love sock yarn and I love the idea of knitted socks, but sock needles are so damn tiny and I get so annoyed by the time I complete the first one, that I have no desire to actually knit the second one.  My husband did get an actual pair out of me, but he is the only one.  And I’ve already told him, no more.  When I think of how much time I devoted to my father’s Jaywalkers I start to get tense because it means less time now for me to finish Gretel for my sister.  Ugh.  Again, no handmade gifts next year – much too stressful.

Non-stressful knitting has been all about the mitts this month!  I first tried Fetching – talk about an easy and quick knit!  I love these and have been wearing them quite a bit.  I then tried the Hand/Wrist Warmers from Last Minute Knitted Gifts and again couldn’t be happier with the finished results.  I’m actually making multiple pairs of these as gifts as they are so easy and super cute.

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And while we’re on the topic of knitting, my husband and I went to a nearby alpaca farm last weekend for an open house that they were having.  I don’t think this was really my husband’s idea of a fun Saturday, but he agreed to go for the ride and it did indeed turn out to be a fun time.  I couldn’t believe how many alpacas there were roaming around.  We got to pet them and they seemed to be very curious animals as they took turns greeting all of the people that came to visit them.  I got a shot of one curious guy who seemed to like my husband’s gloves.

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I’m hoping these next pictures will put me back in the holiday spirit.  I’ve been playing around with my new camera some more and took some pictures of ornaments we have hanging on my tree.  This first ornament I absolutely adore.  I bought it for my husband when we were still living in Brookline – this was the train we used to take everywhere.  Despite being somewhat of a slow-moving trolley, it really was convenient and just steps from our apartment.  It makes me miss city living – the restaurants, museums, libraries and shops – everything about it!  We left Boston for the suburbs a few years ago wanting to buy something.  At the time the market seemed to be at an all-time high and we thought we’d get more for our investment if we bought a single family home.  We’re realizing now though that suburb living can be a real drag sometimes.  We don’t have children so there’s really no reason for us to be in the ‘burbs, and of course the real estate market tanked shortly after we bought and if we tried to sell now I think we’d lose money.  Ah well…you never know how something will turn out until you give it a try.  Maybe someday we will trade our suburb digs in for city digs again!

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This next one is of a cardinal sitting on a branch lit up by little colored lights, although I don’t think you can see the lights – the picture doesn’t really do it justice.  But I love this ornament…we found it in a gift shop last year and this year I gave it a very prominent spot on the tree.

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And don’t cringe now, but time for some more cat pictures.  Sometimes we fear we are turning into “weird cat people” – ha!  Before these two cats, we’d never had cats before, we both grew up with dogs.  I’m actually allergic to cats, which obviously didn’t stop me from adopting two of them.  TG for Zyrtec and Flonase.  We really wanted a pet when we lived in our apartment and I was volunteering at an animal shelter at the time.  A cat seemed to be much more suited for apartment living than a dog and our black cat won us both over right away.  One look into his big green eyes and we were both mesmerized.  Ok, I am rereading this and I am thinking “weird cat people” so I can’t imagine what the rest of you are thinking.  But aren’t most pet owners obsessed with their animals?  Our cats have such different personalities too…the black one has such attitude and is so bossy, but at the same time an absolute doll.  We fall for his tricks everytime.  And the gray and white kitty (who has claimed the quilt I posted about a few weeks ago) is such a snuggler.  He cries and cries until he is picked up and hugged and he purrs so loudly he sounds like a little motor.  Total momma’s boy. 

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Looking forward to taking a vacation day Friday.  I have to bake six dozen cookies for a cookie swap I am going to this weekend and have no other time to do it!  I am thinking iced gingerbread cookies…YUM.

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Last weekend, I managed to convince my husband to help me drag the Christmas tree up from the basement and get it all assembled.  My plan was to get the tree set up and then take my time decorating it over the course of the week.  But of course once it was up, I had to put up all of the ornaments and the rest of the decorations too.  I’ve hung my wreaths, put our lights in the windows, and hung some stockings here and there.  All that is left to do is the outdoor lights.  I took the photo above with my new camera and love how it came out.  Before, any picture I tried to take in this room came out really dark and gloomy looking.  And I was always so bummed because it is by far my most favorite room in the house – it’s got the fireplace (although we have yet to use it) and my shelves and shelves of books.  It’s right off the kitchen too, so of course the easy access to food doesn’t hurt either.  The little black blob you see atop the cat quilt my husband’s cousin made for us is indeed our black cat Jack taking a little snooze. 

Speaking of quilts, I made my first attempt at quilting earlier this week.  I have a pretty big space of nothing but white wall above our breakfast nook and I wanted to add some color, but couldn’t figure out what to put there.  I went through all of my fabric scraps and pieced together this little wall quilt.  It is by far the most lazy attempt at quilting.  All I used were blocks of fabric and stitched in the ditch.  I also used pre-made quilt binding and machine sewed everything.  I didn’t even mitre the corners, I just overlapped the binding and tucked the edges in.  I’m still trying to decide if it looks neat enough to hang or if it will become a cat blanket for our two feline housemates.  Either way, I guess someone will be happy, whether it be me or one (or both) of the cats.  I think I need to take a quilting class to really get the hang of things, lucky for me there is a quilting shop in town that offers classes!  The pictures are a little blurry, but that might actually be better so you can’t see my mistakes!

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And of course, a picture of my recent yarn purchases…

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That’s all for now.  More later with pics of what I hope are soon to be finished knitted holiday gifts!

Pre-holiday madness

A nice lazy Sunday here at chez My Fair Daisy.  I’m trying to savor every bit of it as the holidays are soon upon us and there will be much to do!  Deadlines at work, homemade gifts to complete, holiday parties to attend, people to visit, and lots of cooking and baking.  All good things, but sometimes too much of good things can wear a person out!  Although I will say that two years ago I got very smart and vowed to do all of my holiday shopping online and I have done so ever since.  Much less stressful…not having to go anywhere near a mall during the holiday season – priceless.  Some places even offer free shipping during the holiday season so in my mind it is a win-win.  And of course with my discovery of Etsy this year, I know there will be incredible items to be had once I get myself organized and begin that shopping!

I whipped up a Falling Leaves Scarf (pattern from WEBS) for a friend’s birthday last week using some Caron’s Simply Soft yarn I had in my stash, before I became a yarn snob and set my sights on non-acrylics.  I have to hand it to Caron though – their Simply Soft line really is that soft and the yardage given makes it very easy on the wallet.  And the acrylic is great for not having to wonder if the person I am knitting for has any allergies that would cause them to not be able to wear the knitted item.

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Speaking of stash, or items already owned, don’t you just love it when you rediscover something in your closet that had gotten buried and forgotten?  You know – out of sight, out of mind?  Well, last weekend I finally got sick enough of staring into the black hole of a closet I share with my husband that I decided to weed through all of my crap and reorganize.  I was delighted to find a pair of leopard print ballet flats I bought two years ago while stranded in the Philly area by a blizzard after attending a friend’s wedding.  I think I got them at Nordstrom’s and I remember wearing them all of the time after I first bought them, but then forgetting about them when flip flop season hit that year.  When I pulled them out of my closet last weekend I think I might have actually squealed due to my feelings of intense joy at having found them beneath and old pair of running sneakers.  I wore them to work several times last week and have decided I like them so much that I made them part of my new blog header.

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I’m happy to report that I also made a decision on the camera buying front.  I had originally wanted an SLR camera (the Canon Digital Rebel XTi to be exact), but after considerable research at dpreview.net and reading this article, I decided a bridge camera would be better for me.  I puchased the Fujifilm FinePix S9100 and have been very satisfied so far. There was no need to purchase an additional lens as it came with a 10.7x optical zoom lens and at 9 megapixels, I notice a huge difference in the picture quality from our older, more compact digital camera.

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I’m noticing that there are only a few more minutes left on the timer for the sweet potato casserole I am baking…need to wrap this post up.  My husband is making The Barefoot Contessa’s roast chicken (I’m not kidding when I say this is the best roast chicken I have ever had) for dinner and I decided it was the perfect time to test out that recipe for the sweet potato casserole before I try serving it to anyone else.  It smells great – I hope it tastes as good as it smells!  If I don’t get a chance to post before Thursday – Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers!

So much for the Franklin County Fiber Twist this weekend.  I had plans to go Saturday, but it poured rain all day.  But no worries, we made the best of the day by taking a trip to WEBS.  As I roamed the aisles and aisles of fabulous yarn, my husband made himself comfortable and read his magazine.  You know, it’s funny…I had been to WEBS before and was amazed at the selection at the front of the store, but I never realized that there was a warehouse/discount room at the back of the store where even more fabulous yarn was to be had at significantly reduced prices.  I was wandering near the shelves at the back of the store and noticed people wandering in and out of the double door entrance into what I had always thought was an employee-only area stockroom.  But then I started thinking, you know…WEBS can’t really have that many employees working on one day.  Some of those people must be customers.  I promptly blocked the next woman on her way to the double doors and asked her and her companion “Are customers allowed to go back there?” Staring at me with dilated pupils, one of the women breathed “Oh, yes…and there are treasures to be had.  Follow us.” Feeling like I was following the rabbit down the rabbit hole, I walked behind them and crossed the threshold.  That’s when I think my own pupils started dilating and I swear I heard music (and I am fairly certain there was no music playing).  That back room is AMAZING!!! Industrial sized shelving units filled with marked down balls and skeins of Rowan, Jaeger, Regia, Noro, Debbie Bliss (I could go on and on here).  I first walked around the warehouse in a daze, then came to my senses and began stockpiling yarn in my basket.  I was perusing some Rowan chunky yarn, when I heard a shriek as three twenty-somethings crossed the threshold.  I believe the exact words of one of them was “I’ve died and gone to heaven – look at this place, LOOK AT THIS PLACE!!!”  And then I think she started running up and down the aisles while continuing to shriek.  And as I giggled to myself, all I could think was I know exactly how she feels. 

I’ve finally figured out how to create a mosaic in Flickr and put together some of my most recent photos (including photos of my purchases from WEBS).

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1. Birthday cupcakes to celebrate my 32nd yesterday, 2. Very yummy pad thai from a little hole in the wall restaurant that had the best food ever, 3. Gorgeous display outside a florist in a charming coastal town, 4. Rowan chunky purchase from WEBS, 5. Valley Yarns Northamption purhcase from WEBS, 6. Jaeger extra-fine merino purchase from WEBS, 7. Squishy 6-ply Regia sock yarn purchase from WEBS, 8. Valley Yarns Williamston purhcase from WEBS, 9. Araucania Nature Wool Chunky purchase from WEBS, 10. Partially knitted sock, 11. My two very cute kitties, 12. An adorable alpaca at an alpaca farm in Maine

 And of course I need to show my finished Juliet.  Voila!

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Pattern: Zephyr Style’s Juliet

Size: Medium

Needles: KnitPicks Options

Yarn: Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece

Modifications: None (except to make the upper torso section slightly longer)

I also had a chance to try out Amy Butler’s Swing Bag pattern a few weeks ago but never got aroung to posting about it.  I really liked this pattern.  I used Heather Bailey Freshcut fabrics as that is what I had at the time.  The pattern was really easy to follow, I’d like to make another one when I have the chance.

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Other exciting news, my boss gathered us all in our conference room this morning and gave each of us thank you cards with $500 cash tucked inside to thank us for all of our hard work in exceeding this fiscal year’s profitability goals.  I can finally order that new camera I have been lusting after!

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