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Archive for April, 2009

New Recipe Category

Friday, April 17th, 2009

My theory behind this blog, is that many things/ activities are artforms, even those not celebrated as such. Costuming (even for just going to work or school) and cooking are two that are not given full respect in my own society. Here I try to celebrate those creative acts, inside and outside popular acceptance, which are worthy of attention.

Somehow I ended up a person who creates recipes. It was accidental at best. I don’t like to cook much, but I like to eat. I had so many food allergies a few years ago that I had to cook for myself or I would not be able to eat. I still cook/bake most of my own food, but things are getting better.

In the process of discovery, I have experimented with what I could make, using the ingredients I thought were not giving me trouble. A lot of my experiments were desserts and other treats.

You see, I can usually find a piece of grilled salmon without chemicals on it, even when I travel. However, finding cake or pumpkin pie is 100% impossible if I do not make my own.

(I can not have wheat, but most wheat-free alternates substitute corn and potato flours… corn is one of my worst foods. Alternately, they sometimes use nut meal, and I have serious reactions to tree nuts. I had to find my own answers, and could not buy pre-made baking mixes or treats in any city.)

So here I am, a recipe-maker. Some recipes please me more than others, but all are workable and keep me healthy. I do not share them here if I do not think at least most of you who think they sound good, will like the result. I want them to taste good even to non-allergic friends.

My first blog software only allowed me to have one category per post. Food was one option. My current software allows me many categories. So today I made a change.

Yesterday I was sharing a batch of Teff Spice Muffins (photo above) at Altu’s restaurant, and a customer asked for the recipe. I decided it was time to go back in my archives and make a category called Recipes. So that is what I just did.

(For the record, you can find any of my blog categories if you scroll down a bit on the right-hand column of this blog. When you click there, you get a filtered list of only posts tagged with that category. )

There are 22 posts in the category “Recipes.” I have been blogging since November, 2002, with a goal of 28 posts a month. I think it’s great you don’t have to dig through the thousands of posts I’ve written, just to find the recipes!

It is almost time for a weekend. Maybe you will enjoy a new recipe on one of your days off?

Isabel’s 5th Birthday

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

My little sweet friend, Isabel, turned 5 years old on Thursday. There was a bit of a gathering, with cupcakes and dress-up shoes and many of her favorite people.

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Children this age are so fresh and authentic! She is totally self-focused as is normal for this age. I sort of find it refreshing, but then again, I’m not her mother.

My favorite line? “Aren’t you excited? It’s MY birthday!” Gotta love it. She said it many times, too.

Of course, the other small person at the party was wishing that *she* could open gifts also. She was not as excited about Isabel’s birthday as Isabel was, but they both got much cake and much frosting. It worked out fine!

chippy170x170.jpgHere is my young friend in a pose with ten colors of fingernail polish. (Photo taken at my house on Tuesday, we started partying early.) I adore this child so much I could just plain burst!!!

This is the kid who inspired my creation of the original “Chippy Socks” (you can’t knit just one pair). I knit her 6 in one colorway (the ones in the photo at right) plus 2 in another colorway.

She loved those socks and delighted in choosing which ones to wear together each time she wore them . Often she picked one sock from each colorway, unmatched together on her feet.

They do not fit her any more. She swears they fit. I think they fit like clogs… on the toe and foot but not the heel. She is too funny.

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So for this birthday, I knit her more socks. I only made two socks this time, a normal pair. Mind you, she knows that most socks (that do not come from Lynn) come in pairs of two.

She really liked her new socks (she wore them yesterday, could not wait for her birthday party). However, she was confused after opening her package. “Are there any more, Lynnie?” I told her not this time… these are normal socks… where there are only two in a pair.socks167edge.jpg

I think it’s time to start knitting another full set of Chippies.

(For the record, the new pair are knit from Cascade Fixation cotton/lycra yarn, toe up with afterthought heel and two rows of picot crochet at the top to make them ruffle.)

Spring Photos (Daddy’s Daffodils & More)

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

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It is acting more like spring all the time. We had sleet several days ago, where it looked mostly like rain but made noises like ice on the roof window. However, today it was basically room temperature and sunny, and they are expecting the same tomorrow and Saturday. Of course, then we should have days and nights of rain and rain and more rain, but that is typical of this time of year.

These pictures are mostly for the benefit of my Mother, who is still in Florida for a tiny bit longer and asks about her garden when we chat. The first photo is a shot of the daffodils my father planted in the late 1960’s. Dad has been gone since 1973, but the large yellow daffodils are still coming up regularly.

Mom and I share a love of rhubarb. It is not really a fruit but we make “fruit pie” from it in these parts. It’s very tart and a bit bitter, more sour than cranberries. Love it!

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Mom has a lot of rhubarb around her house. All were originally from plants brought to Michigan from the farm in Minnesota where she was raised. This is seriously hardy and healthy rhubarb! Above is one plant, pushing through the soil.

Now comes a bit of happy springtime from my own yard. First, a wonderful photo of a robin who watched me carefully but did not fly away when I moved around a bit.

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And last but never least, my side yard looking more purple than green. The wild violets have never been this wonderful. I just can not seem to get a photo to do it any sort of justice.

There are other yards with these flowers in our neighborhood, but we have more than anyone else, and they are more dense than ever. In the foreground are some miniature very-early daffodils for contrast.

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Food as Art

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Mama Bear’s Cafe, Turner Street in Old Town Lansing, Michigan. Even the pastry was made from scratch.

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Art. What else is there to say? “Yum,” perhaps.

Lithuanian-Inspired Fingerless Gloves

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

I was the Blog Tour stop on April 4, for Donna Druchunas’ book Ethnic Knitting Exploration. I talked a bit about wanting to knit Lithuanian-inspired fingerless gloves. I made one so far, and this is how it looks right now:

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It has not been blocked yet. In fact, it is not all the way bound off (which is why you see that needle… it still has live stitches on it). I want to rip it back and re-knit the top ribbing on smaller needles. Not much,  just the top green/red/green stripes.

This was FUN! The good news for you? There is a free PDF for how to make these mitts, on Deb Robson’s blog “The Independent Stitch.” She was actually scheduled to be the stop on April 10. She continued the entry on April 11, which is where you can get the PDF.

This was much fun. I highly recommend the project. I did one mitt in less than a day, on worsted-weight yarn. Do consider giving this one a try.

More Kids’ Knitting

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Cool, Cooler, Coolest Kids

I continue to be amazed and delighted by what kids can make if we let them follow their own “star.” They can be amazing, and very unique in the projects they choose to express themselves.

Here is a project by a THIRD grader. We are talking elementary school, my friends.

Do you notice how even his stitches are? This was his second project, ever. And there were no “hiccups” I needed to fix or disguise with a sewing needle when he finished. He really does knit this well.

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This boy came to the US (in early 2009) from western Africa and I met him on his 3rd day here. He was still trying to figure out what was going on around him (it is so different here) that he was not yet speaking out loud, though he knew English. He was soaking up his surroundings silently, yet he did indicate he wanted to knit with me.

I stood behind him as he sit in a chair. We both held the needles at the same time (my hands on top of his, which were on top of the needles). I said “Up,” “Around,” “Down,” “Off.” And every time I made a motion to create a new stitch, I repeated those four words.

Then I let go of his hands, continuing to say the words for a while, then letting him work alone. It was like he was a fish taking to water, he took almost no time to learn.

Never Stop Making Stitches…

First he finished a scarf. I mean, a pretty wide scarf long enough to wrap around his neck and stay wrapped because the ends were long enough to weight it down. He avoided boredom on the scarf by changing colors many times, which created colorful stripes. Here is a photo (with another boy standing on the right in the photo, knitting what is today almost a hat).

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He was the first in the class to finish something he could wear. The whole group now sees him as a knitting leader. Sweet!

So on a very cold day, he told me he wanted to make gloves. I recommended that he might not enjoy the process of making gloves, but he might like wristwarmers. I let him try on my own pair, and he liked that idea. I let him know he could even layer them on top of other mittens or gloves on the playground.

He wanted wool. The only wool we had was some Lamb’s Pride Worsted wool/mohair, very warm yarn… in mauve.

Remember, he comes from Africa where all colors are worn by all people. I saw mauve school uniforms in Ethiopia, worn by both girls and boys. This boy decided he would like wristwarmers of this yarn and we started in.

International Awareness

Now, this is a very special classroom. There are maybe 4 kids in the room who were born in the USA, so the kids routinely ask questions that start with “In your country, how do they…”

So I just told the group that in Africa, boys and men wear all colors, and schools often use this color for their special uniforms. And the other kids said, “Oh, really?” No hassles with the color choice. Love this classroom!

Leader of the Pack

So now he has maitrishawl1-400.jpgfinished (first photo). And now, all the other boys want to do what this boy has done.

They pick the yarn they like best, and ask him how many stitches to cast on. He has the answer… and they are many in this “pack” now, seeing if they can finish their own pair.

For third grade, this is a LARGE project. Some will not finish two. I hope that most will at least finish one.

Can you see why I keep doing this work? It is the coolest thing, ever.

And There is More…

And, not to leave out another talented young lady… my student at Rae’s, M, finished this shawl.

She worked on it off and on for about a year. She was age 12 when she started, and is now 13.

It got very boring for her (this is the girl who made the Debbie Bliss baby bolero). Yet, here she is!!!

Beautiful, don’t you think? Both the girl and the shawl!

This Day is for Relationship

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

A Change of Focus

Often I work on Sundays. I am grateful for times when students are available to take my classes. This (teaching knitting) is my primary business; I have daytimes off on Tuesdays and Fridays, instead. That constitutes my weekend. Again, work is always good and I have no complaints.

But this week was Easter. Rae’s shop (where I usually teach on Sundays) was closed.

I just finished up two intense weeks. I felt as though I did not have time to think or breathe between obligations. So Sunday I took a full day for relationship and relaxation.

Two particular friends have over-busy schedules as well, and we try to connect but mostly leave one another messages for “we’ll try to connect after…” So this Sunday I celebrated the richness of my current life situation, and finally connected with those friends.

Tea Dates #1 & #2

I had a tea date with one friend from noon until almost 4. Then I went directly to tea at the second friend’s home for another four-hour luxury chat and relaxation session.

While chatting, I spent a little time knitting and a lot of time working in ends on the pile of socks I’ve knit thus far in 2009. They are all ready to wear or gift now.

Considering how many colors I like to use, stopping and starting wherever a color change would look good, I had a large pile of ends to work within the more-than-a-dozen individual socks. For example, the hot green/pink pair on top of the pile contained 20 ends for me to address. Single-color socks could have only 4.

I like handsewing, it is relaxing for me. It requires visual attention, though, and often I’m where I need to use my eyes for something else. I can knit without looking but I can not sew without my eyesight.

Today I was with friends who were also doing knitting or sewing most of the time we chatted. We enjoyed the “parallel play,” and had the best of times.

Quiet Meal with Brian

After alisabelmommydressedup400.jpgl that, Brian brought home some avocado rolls from an East Lansing sushi restaurant for dinner. I steamed some edamame (green soybeans still in the pod) and we had a simple dinner together.

Brian is so comfortable to be with. I never stop counting my blessings when it comes to our marriage.

Other Relationships I Celebrate

There are several friends I see nearly every week: Altu, Rae, April and Cynthia. I did not see them Sunday… but I celebrate them and all of my other friends who I may see less often but love no less.

The day I had, allowed me to slow down and really notice the good things in my life. I believe when it is all said and done, the most important “thing” we have in life, is relationship.

My riches are much more counted in friends than anything else. I believe this is as it should be.

And with that, here is a photo of April and Isabel in matching costumes. The costumes were a Christmas present from Arlyn/Mahtaab, who sewed them herself (one more artform here… costuming). Adorable, no?

New Yarns

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Thanks to Sharon/Knitknacks for taking this photo for me while I was out of town Friday. These are some of the yarns I dyed which are being sold at Rae’s Yarn Boutique this weekend. Her sale ends today at 5pm (Saturday). (Tomorrow is Easter and between low traffic on holidays and employees desiring that day off, it makes no sense to be open.)

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Rae is celebrating 4 years with a store (and a previous year in the craft mega-mall with a small booth). This is a sharp-cookie boss, if you ask me… she grows slowly and within her means… and she has an amazing space these days including yarns, spinning wheels, and spinning/felting fibers.

For her anniversary she is offering a sale on all yarns in stock. You pick a plastic Easter Egg after you have made your final selection, and inside that egg is a discount percentage for the yarns. You get at least 10% and up to 50%. It’s a perfect time to get my yarn, as I do not discount it myself.

The yarn above is special. The three at left and two at right are my “Resonance” sockyarn. The Resonance I dyed previously, was prepared with the “Flammegarn” (Flame Yarn) technique. The Ruby Red Grapefruit shown above (third from right) is Flammegarn.

I dyed the newer five skeins very differently. When I knit this yarn, 60 stitches on size 1 with a gauge of 31 st/4″, I got striping. I believe that if you knit this on a smaller number of stitches (I might need 48, for example, for my small foot), you will get thicker stripes. Here is the first sample I tried (I dyed 10 yards, none of the current colorways match this sample:

stripeyarn60stitches.jpg

At some point, more stitches would create a pleasant but not striping pattern (possibly a thin spiral, I have not tried it). Fewer stitches will definitely work. or a firmer gauge (say 8 to 9 stitches per inch) would also probably work.

As you can imagine, this sort of dyeing takes a great deal of care and one-on-one attention to the skein. I have to apply dye to sections of the yarn with a spoon or a syringe/squirt bottle. It does not listen to me perfectly, but it does create the look I want.

I decided to take advantage of the fact that I do one at a time. I did on-of-a-kind colorways. I do not promise any repeats. This sort of fussing can get tedious, so I look about me and think “which colors do I wish to use right now?” Doing many of the same takes the artful joy out of the process, and I can not afford to lose that spirit.

So these cost more because of the extra labor time involved. What you get for that is a skein that is truly one of a kind, both because of the special attention I gave it and the colors I chose at the moment of its creation.

Do you see the yellow labels? They say “Seize the Skein!!!” Love it, get it, or lose that opportunity. No, there will not be another. I think that is a bit of fun. Exclusive yarn rather than exclusive diamonds or something, you know?

When Rae’s sale is over, she will decide which yarns to keep for her shop. What yarns she does not choose will go on my web shop. I will let you know when that happens.

And if you are local, you have 5 more hours to get over to Rae’s and see/touch it yourself!

(For those who have been fans, I also dyed a dozen more skeins of Lynn’s Luxe, the cashmere-blend DK sockyarn I dyed once last year. Four skeins have already sold, we will see if any is left for my shop or not.)

Classes!

Friday, April 10th, 2009

I already mentioned below that next Tuesday will be my new Andean-Inspired Hat class at Rae’s Yarn boutique. Now I hope to inspire you again, this time for a Norwegian-inspired project.

pulsewarmers400.jpg

For some reason, mitered squares are in the air. Right now dozens of people within an hour from me, are knitting mitered squares out of leftover sockyarn, into wonderful blankets. It’s a great idea for a lot of reasons.

(For my non-knitting friends, Mitered squares are usually used as small square building blocks to make larger items such as sweaters, hats, and blankets. They feature a diagonal seam from one corner to an opposing corner, are usually highly textured, and are just as addictive as potato chips.)

Well, before the mitered square blankets took off, I was putzing around with mitered squares myself. It seems that no matter where you look, they use the term “mitered squares” but they use different methods to achieve these lovely design elements. I have a fascination with how many ways one thing can be accomplished.

So… I did a bit of experimentation. I came up with six different mitered square ideas, knit them one after the other out of slowly-self-changing sockyarns, added a little triangle with a small buttonhole, and made a “pulsewarmer” (Norwegian artful wool bracelet).

In my case, I decided to edge the bracelets. For the first one (orange/red/purple Mini Mochi) I used two rows of single crochet around the edge, each from a different part of the color sequence. For the second, I did one round of slip stitch crochet. I think picking up stitches around the whole thing and then binding off, would also work… or a very small knit-on I-cord edging could be wonderful.

When I made them, I realized how impossible it was to display these so that a non-Norwegian would know what they were, sitting alone on a counter. So I got out the 1/4″ soft cuttable “foamies” I often use for displays, and I made three layers at the base of the wrist, up to one layer at the fingers. I decorated with Sharpie markers, and now it’s clear what these are!

My class at Rae’s Yarn Boutique for this project, is Tuesday 5/5/09, from 6-8pm.  You will not finish the whole piece in class, but you will get all the techniques you need and a taste of how it might go. You get a good handout from me, and you can decide how/whether you will make an edging.

Any locals out there? Would you join me?

A New Class

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

I am quite taken by the amazing hats knit in the Andes Mountains, by Quechua (descendants of the Incas) men. I have 5 of these hats, and one is knit at an astounding 20 stitches per inch. They knit on wire. Wowie! (See photo of one Andean hat here, and another amazing hat here.)

andeanhatsansflaps25.jpgMost of my students would not attempt a hat on the order of the originals. Perhaps a handful would go for 10 stitches an inch on fingering weight. I wanted to do something that would honor the motifs and shape of the better hats, yet in a larger yarn.

This is the result so far. It still needs the optional ear flaps to be knit, but I love it. I was not sure how I could take those tiny elements and interpret them so much larger, but it worked. This is on worsted-weight yarn (Noro Cashmere Island and Southwest Trading Karaoke), at something like 5 stitches per inch (I have not measured my gauge after blocking yet).

On Tuesday, April 14, I will be running a one-night introduction to this hat design, at Rae’s Yarn Boutique in Lansing, Michigan. It was a way to give people the inspiration to do a small two-color knit project. I hope some of you may want to come along to class?

Yes, it will be a pattern someday. For now, I am starting with the class.

(Edited to add: The yarns used are Karaoke solid for the Turquoise, and Noro Cashmere Island for the dark/multi.)

ColorJoy LynnH in Brown (!!!)

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

It finally happened. I have always said to the women in our dance troupe, that I will wear whatever I am told to wear on stage, if: 1) I don’t have to make it myself, and 2) it is not my turn to dance solo.

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Honestly, I only solo when I dance at New Aladdin’s restaurant. For those times, I have many happy possibilities available from my own dance closet.

However, I do what I’m told when dressing similarly will be in tune with the culture of the dance we are performing. Or for that matter, when dressing alike is just plain less distracting to the audience… one wildly-colored dress in the midst of ten neutral dresses can take the attention away from the choreography.

So: two days before the dress rehearsal, somehow I did not have my “sari” fabric to wrap around me for our Tunisian group number. And neither did Marie. Now, Marie works for JoAnn Fabric and was going to be there anyway… she offered to get us both fabric that would be in concert with what the other women were going to wear. I was all for that!

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My standard line has always been “I’ll even wear brown.” And that was what I got, and what I wore. Not turquoise, fuschia, purple. Not anything remotely bright and joyful, which are the colors that flatter me best. Some girls look good in brown… yet I felt good, knowing it was taken care of with no fuss.

Nobody was quite fond of these costumes, as they defy western ideas of beauty. Perhaps this time I wouldn’t have loved the costume, even if it had been turquoise!

My under-dress was silver, my wrap was brown, and we all had matching yarn belts (this is standard for this sort of dance) which were acrylic but looked the color of unbleached wool.

(For the record, Sally made my belt and I’m making socks for her toddler in exchange. I can knit socks waiting in line at the bank, it’s a great trade. In Marie’s case, I made her some Road-Tested Legwarmers this year to test-size the curvy-leg instructions in my pattern. She’s well taken care of, too.)

Don’t blink, you won’t see me looking like this again for a while. I think the last time I remember wearing something brown was when I was a waitress in 1980.

You do notice that I was able to at least wear a purple head scarf??? I took what I could get, and that was A-OK with me.

Now, here is the last photo I have of me performing in last Saturday’s show. This one was a cane dance, one of my favorite types of dance. I’m the far right in the photo.

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Notice that we are not standing still. In order to dance with anything balanced on one’s head, one must learn to move anything but one’s head. You can see that our smiles and our canes are not blurry in the photo, but our hips definitely are in motion.

See that fringe defying gravity? It is SO much fun!!! There is perhaps nothing I have ever done that is more celebratory of being female, than this sort of dance. It’s the best.

This second costume I also did not have to sew. Our troupe has enough of these dresses for about 20 of the 30 women in the troupe, and we share between women of similar height (they are very stretchy). These dresses seem to flatter all sizes and shapes, and that is really wonderful.

This year, the hardest part of show preparation was just learning my two dances. I was thankful to the other women for making things that easy for me.

A Happy Laundry Basket

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

I love socks. I love the color turquoise. When I first learned to knit socks in 2001, it was very hard to find turquoise sockyarn. I’ve been having better luck lately, which delights me.

At our house, we do a “turquoise load” and a “fuschia/purple load” of laundry when we wash our clothes. Last time I ran the turquoise load, these came out together:

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You know, I figure this is all I need to be happy: a load with seven pairs of turquoise, handknit socks, made just for me! How much better could life get?

The first pair at left was knit in January 2004, the second pair 2003. I do have a list with all my socks numbered… I’m sometimes messy but in that area I’m quite detailed. These socks span from my 69th pair to my 163rd pair. Cool, huh?

I think I can create spring in my laundry basket. Life is good.

Health Benefits of Knitting

Monday, April 6th, 2009

CBS did a report on a morning show about the positive health effects/mental health benefits of knitting. (Yes, it can reduce memory loss, how cool is that?) They also mention crocheting, sewing, and other repetitive movement activities… but of course, knitting is my own preferred “flavor,” if you will.

I am not a morning person and I do not watch TV. (Yes, I know, I’m not normal, but I’m happy.) The internet is full of friendly people sharing what they have found…

I found the CBS link from a Portland, Michigan blog called chickswithstixs. Thanks to “chattypenny” for inviting me to their upcoming new knitting circle. I dance on Wednesday nights so will not be able to participate, but here is the information for other local folks:

Starting April 29, 2009. We will meet at Portland Public Library, every Wednesday evening from 6:30 p.m. thru 8:00 p.m.

April Surprise

Monday, April 6th, 2009

April 1, Robin and violets:

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April 1 (and 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th…), daffodils and myrtle/periwinkle flowers:

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April 6, blankets of snow:

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The news says we had 6 inches in Lansing. Truthfully, we always get some snow in April. Often it is not this much. I figure that once we get this much snow on April 6, we are done with winter and can get down to growing flowers and food.

Luckily for me, today I need not drive anywhere. It’s dyeing day at Chez ColorJoy.

Rae’s shop is having a 4th anniversary celebration starting on Thursday, and Rae asked me if I could get some of my yarns dyed up for the occasion. I hope I can move that fast!

Meanwhile, staying in is the perfect antidote to a late-season snowfall. Maybe I will start with a cup of hot chocolate. Hmmm….

P.S. I had an email asking for details on the sale. Given that Sunday is Easter, her sale is Thursday through Saturday this week. Here is what Rae’s email letter to her newsletter subscribers said:

April 9th marks the completion of our 4th year in business (5 years including our year as a booth in the Mega Mall). To celebrate we’ll be having a big celebration on April 9-11. This includes our biggest sale of the year.

I’ll be sending out another email next Monday or Tuesday with more details on the sale. For now save the date… we’ll see you next week.

If you want to be on her email list, send a note to info@raesyarnboutique.com and she will add you to that list.