July 28, 2009

BilVil – A Beaches Cafe

Posted in Journal tagged , , , , at 2:52 am by Jenn

This weekend I had the pleasure of dining at BilVil in North Beach, Maryland. I had the pleasure of working for Bil while I was in college.  First at Neptune’s and then at Vic’s Italia by the Bay.  He’s an awesome chef and a pretty good guy too.

BilVil opened when I was living in Belarus, but I watched the progress via pictures online.  I couldn’t wait to get home to pay him a visit.

I had taken a peak at BilVil’s menu online about a month ago and had been thinking about the Eggplant Parmigiana ever since.  I couldn’t wait to try it.  Local produce (some from his own edible garden) +  local ingredients + Bil Shockley cooking = far out flavor!

BilVil has a great atmosphere for lunch or dinner and you can dine inside or out.  We chose to dine in and were seated in what I’m going to call the sunroom.  A great room on the front of the restaurant with windows all around.

Our waitress was very polite and presented us with the menus, beer and wine lists and specials.  I decided on a glass of the house Pinot Grigio and an ice water to start, then I picked up the menu.

I’m going to have to go back at least 5 times to try everything that I want to try, but I just couldn’t get the Eggplant Parm out of my mind.  I had also decided on the Spinach with Onions, Mushrooms & Warm Bacon Dressing, but at the last minute changed my mind to the Tuna Carpaccio app.  I was not disappointed at all, in fact I was pleasantly surprised.  This was served on a bed of greens so I had my veggie after all.  The portion size was generous and definitely way more than I could eat on my own.  Michelle and I should have shared.

The entree came and all I could do was smile….it looked wonderful.  Eggplant Parmigiana with a side of pasta.  YUM.  From bite one til the last bite I was in heaven.  I absolutely LOVE Eggplant Parmigiana and NO ONE makes it quite like Bil.

We had already decided on ice cream for dessert at the Dairy Freeze up the street- however next time around I’m trying the Warm Fudge Cake at Bil’s….or the Carrot Cake….or BOTH!

So, that being said, if you are in North Beach and want a great meal cooked by a great guy (his wife Sandi ain’t bad either) stop by BilVil .  Tell him Jenn sent you.  You won’t be disappointed.

Oh, Basignani Winery’s Reisling – yeah, get a bottle!

And, just in case you don’t want to take my word for it, you can read a real newspaper review here, here, or here.

Congratulations Bil and Sandi on your success at BilVil!  I’ll be back.


July 25, 2009

Maiden Voyage

Posted in Journal at 7:35 am by Jenn

Well, today was a fiber filled day.  I started the day off combing the rest of my portion of the alpaca that Heather and I were lucky enough to be given by one of the members of the Baltimore Spinner’s Guild.  I have a pile set aside that I’m going to comb in to rolags for a friend but other than that, it’s mine all mine!

This after noon I picked up my wheel!  SQUEEEE!  My ASHFORD JOY.  I brought it home, took it out of the box and stared at it…”Oh my God, I own a spinning wheel” was my first thought and my second thought was “What am I going to spin first”.


The wheel came assembled with the exception of the flyer and the brake so I had to set that up….no problem except that one of my flyer hooks wasn’t threaded so I am a little unbalanced at the moment, but I sent Ashford an email when I registered the wheel so they should be taking care of that for me.

Setting up the brake was probably the most stressful.  I had to cut the wire and I just knew I was going to screw something up…that’s when the measure 45 times, cut once rule was initiated.  Just a little bit of OCD there.

Anyway, I decided to give Karida’s destash fiber (sorry I don’t know the name of the colorway) a whirl and I am very pleased with the results so far.  Here’s a picture of the yarn spun up on the maiden voyage.


I think I’m spinning this thin enough that I may be able to make this a 3 ply??? Hopefully.  AND hopefully the gently used Lazy Kate w/extra bobbins that I scored on Ravelry will be here when I’m ready!

This test run, determined that my wheel is female and therefore, I decided to name her Vivienne after my favorite Julia Roberts character….Vivienne in Pretty Woman.

My original thought was to name it after my grandmother and call her Belle, but then I thought about the amount of swearing I do when I spin and thought I’d better not.  I had other thoughts too, but some of those are real names that I’d consider naming a child if and when I ever have one so I didn’t want to use my names!  LOL.  I’m also not telling so you can’t use them either!  HA.  My “what if I have a baby names” are still top secret.

Here are a few pictures of my most recent yarns – spun on various wheels that I borrowed from Cloverhill Yarn Shop prior to ordering mine a few weeks ago.


The pink/brown  is my first attempt at 3 ply with an unknown fiber (pink) and  some of the brown merino from the Sheep and Wool Festival.  The other two skeins come from fiber purchased from Copperpot Woolies – Tuscan Sun is the colorway, it’s a merino/bamboo blend.  I was really pleased with the ply on the smaller skein.

These are my two favorite yarns to date


On the right is my best ply work so far.  It started as merino combed top from FatCatKnits in the Bruin colorway and ended up as a really pretty 2 ply yarn.  Kind of Renaissancey.  On the left is the 2 ply that I made from the Cormo that I bought at Sheep and Wool.  It is soft and squishy and was fun to spin and ply.  I wish I understood more about worsted vs. woolen before I spun this.  I chose worsted and I think it would have been better suited for woolen… either way, it’s going to make a great warm something.

Last but not least, here is a picture of my package #1 from my pal in the Secret Pal 14 swap.


At the top of the picture are 4 hand-dipped Yankee Candles.  I love candles!  On the left is a felting kit to make a Tulip, in the middle is a hand care kit from Mary Kay – much needed because my “picking” habit still exists and on the right is a book light which I don’t really need right now because Scott and I aren’t in the same location but come October 28th, this will come in VERY handy.  I’m a lucky girl!

Other than all that, I am taking a beaded scarf class tomorrow morning at Crazy For Ewe in LaPlata and I start work on Monday!  Someone’s got to pay for all this fiber!

July 19, 2009

Secret Pal and BBC’s 100 Books

Posted in Journal at 12:51 am by Jenn

First of all, I’d like to send a thank you to my Secret Pal for putting together a great first package for me.  I needed a little pick me up today and when the mail arrived that’s exactly what I got….a pretty pink package that contained hand dipped Yankee Candles, a Mary Kay hand pampering kit, a book light and a tulip needle felting kit.  Very much appreciated and very timely – I plan on sea glass searching tomorrow so my hands will need some pampering for sure!  Thanks Secret Pal.

I’ll post a picture later  – post pretty pink wrapping : 0

Second order of business was found on in Angie’s notes on Facebook.  I love lists so if you are a book worm go ahead, take a peek and see how you did.

The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.  How do your reading habits stack up?

Copy this into your NOTES….
Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read.
Tag other Book Nerds and Publish.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen –
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien – x
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte –
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling – x
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee –
6 The Bible – X (sections – not the whole thing) –
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte –
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell – X
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman –
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens – x
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott – x
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy –
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller –
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare –
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier –
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien – x
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk –
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger –
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger –
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot –
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell –
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald –
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens –
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy –
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams –
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky –
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck –
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll –
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame – X
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy – Tried…
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens –
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis – X
34 Emma – Jane Austen –
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen –
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis -X
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini – in my queue
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres –
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden –
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne – x
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell – X
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown – x
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez –
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving –
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins –
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery –
47 Far From The Maddening Crowd – Thomas Hardy –
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood –
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding – x
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan –
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel –
52 Dune – Frank Herbert –
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons –
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen –
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth –
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon –
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens – x
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley –
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon –
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez –
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck –
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov –
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt –
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold –
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas –
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac –
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy –
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding –
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie –
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville –
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens –
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker –
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett – X
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson –
75 Ulysses – James Joyce –
76 The Inferno – Dante – X
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome –
78 Germinal – Emile Zola –
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray –
80 Possession – AS Byatt –
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens –
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell –
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker –
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro –
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert –
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry –
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White – X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom – x
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle –
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton –
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad –
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery –
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks –
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams –
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole –
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute –
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas –
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare – x
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl – x
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo –

My score is 20.

July 13, 2009

Remembering the Outer Banks

Posted in Journal at 7:16 pm by Jenn

My family and I spent the week before 4th of July vacationing in Avon on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Here are a few photo collages from the week.

lighthouse collage

We saw three of the Hatteras National Seashore lighthouses on this trip – Ocracoke (the white one), Hatteras (with the diagonal stripes) and Bodie with the horizontal stripes.  Each one is fascinating.  Hatteras was the only one of these that we could climb up to the top of.  Hopefully in the near future with restoration, the others will be open as well.

This collage represents the rest of the vacation – awesome!


A little kayaking, a little geocaching, some beach walking and a lot of sunsets!

The house, which I forgot to take a picture of was called Windsurfer’s High, on Amberjack Court in Avon.  If the fam vacations there next year, my vote is for 5 O’Clock Somewhere.

July 10, 2009

Oh Happy Day!

Posted in Journal tagged , , , , , , at 3:14 am by Jenn

Today was a fiber filled day on many levels.  My sister and I headed down to Crazy For Ewe to take advantage of the sales and shop for our Secret Pal 14 spoilees.  We met Ellen the shop owner, chatted a bit and made off with lots and lots of yarn fibery goodness.  I won’t post pictures of the items I purchased for my spoilee because that might spoil the fun for her (in case she’s super sleuthy and has me figured out).  But here is a picture of what I purchased for myself.


On the left are 3 skeins of Noro Taiyo – a cotton, silk, nylon blend that I plan to use to make Yarnplay’s Poppy sweater.  I will use black for the body with the sleeves, top and vertical stripes in the colorway shown above.  The single skein on the right was a super lucky find and almost brought me to tears!  A couple of weeks ago Heather, Zac and I went downtown to the Folklife Festival and I lost my knitting bag.  The bag contained the second skein of yarn in this colorway, the skein I had just started to knit my SECOND sock with!  I was heartbroken.  Not only was I actually going to finish the sock, but the knitting bag was a gift from my cousin Carol (sorry Carol).  I put a lost ad out on Craigslist and filled out a lost form with the Smithsonian, but no luck – no one turned in my bag.  I also had two sets of needles in that bag one not so loved, but my favorite sock needles – my Blue Sky Alpaca – $28.00 a set needles were gone.  I’m sure someone found the bag looked inside, found no money and tossed the bag in the trash.  Somewhere out there is a homeless person with a half knit sock, expensive needles and Carol’s bag.  I hope they know how to knit!

So overall it was a great afternoon.  Ellen’s shop is fabulous.  She is wonderful and knowledgeable.  The customers were warm and friendly and stopping by to knit for a while.  We’ll definitely be joining them one of these days very soon.   I actually have signed up for a class at the LaPlata store to make the Undulating Waves Scarf –  I’m making the Heather version.  I think the class will be great.  I love knitting scarves and have been wanting to try knitting with beads so this is perfect!

Just when I thought the day wouldn’t get any better, there was a knock on the door around 6pm…UPS.


At last it was here…remember back to my post from Maryland Sheep and Wool?  The fleece we purchased and sent off to Zeilinger’s had arrived.  Heather couldn’t wait to get the box opened and if you look really close you can see the look of a fiber crazed woman in her eyes!  Seriously.

So what was in the box that weighed 11 pounds?

Right on top was what I’ve been waiting for – the combed top that we had processed from the merino fleece that we purchased at the festival.  I can’t believe we didn’t take pictures of the “before”, but here is the “after”.


Repeat after me….Ooooo…….Ahhhhh…..ssssoffft.  It’s the most beautiful milk chocolate brown color, approximately 3 POUNDS of it.  The fleece we turned in was 8 pounds!  I’m amazed at how much grease merino contains.  The noil weighed about a pound so that’s almost 50%.  The bag there in the center is the noil, which we really aren’t quite sure what to do with…kind of reminds me of dryer lint.

Now I really need to get to work so that I can buy that wheel!

At the bottom of the bag was almost 5 pounds of newly washed fleece that Heather obtained from her friend Gregory who owns a farm and invited the Baltimore Spinner’s group up for the day in the spring to participate in sheep shearing.


That’s one heck of a lot of wool.  Stay tuned for some yarn pictures.  Heather is participating in Tour de Fleece so I’m sure she’ll be spinning up some of both of these TONIGHT!

So there it is, a fun fiber filled day!  I’m off to knit and hit the sack early.  It’s a DaVita day for me tomorrow!

July 6, 2009

Secret Pal 14

Posted in Journal at 5:13 am by Jenn

It’s almost time for the swap to begin.  The hostesses are busy making matches and we should all be getting our partner information soon.

Here are the answers to my questionnaire.  I’ve also posted them at the top of the page where they will remain until the next swap – this makes it so much easier than having to scroll through tons of posts looking for the info!

Oh, and just for kicks and because I don’t like posting without a picture – here’s a fiber mosaic in some of my favorite colors!

Jenn's Photo Mosaic

Let the swapping begin.

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like? I love natural fibers.  I especially love Creatively Dyed yarns and fiber, Tess’s Designer Yarns, Brooks Farms and Copperpot Woolies (etsy).  I really don’t care for acrylic or novelty yarns.

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in? My mom is supposed to be making me a case… right now my  needles are stored in a big ziploc baggie.

3. How long have you been knitting? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced? I learned to knit when I was a young teen, but stopped when I realized it wasn’t cool.  When my husband was deployed to Iraq I rediscovered knitting and now I can’t seem to stop…whether it’s cool or not!  I consider myself to be intermediate.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list? I do have an amazon wishlist which I recently updated to include a few knitting/spinning related items.   I also have some things on my Etsy favorites – username is jmsmartrd

5. What’s your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)
I love Amazing Grace by Philosophy for bath products and as far as candles…Yankee – anything crisp and clean smelling….Sage and Citrus, Island Spa, Sundried Linen? Cotton?  you get the picture.  I’ve also recently discovered lemongrass and rosemary as smells that I’m really enjoying.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy? I do have a sweet tooth….but I try to refrain…

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?   I knit, I spin, I have just recently discovered beading!

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
I like all kinds of music.  My go to is normally country, I don’t really like the rap stuff, but every now and then it has it’s time and place.  My computer can play MP3s.

9. What’s your favorite color? Or–do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can’t stand? I love earthy colors like brown, blue and green.  I like the rich, deep colors more than pastels.  I don’t care for pink, orange or yellow, but I don’t dislike these colors….pink with brown for example…I like.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I have a husband of 4 years (anniversary is on December 3rd!) and 4 year old Spaniel Mix named Max!

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos? All of the above.

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit? Small, fast, and instant gratification seems to work best for me.  I love to knit scarves.

13. What are you knitting right now? I am knitting a Clapotis and the Botanica Medallion Cardigan that is on the cover of Vogue (summer 2009)

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts? It depends….most often yes. But I love receiving yarn/fiber that is handspun or local to an area.

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? It depends on the project/yarn, but I seem to prefer lean wood/bamboo.  I do have some addi and some bryspun that I use also.  I really enjoy the harmony wood by knit picks.   I have the circular set and those are my go to needles.  I don’t have the larger points for my circulars and I could use more of the smaller cables 24″ and under.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift? Yes,  I have both.

17. How did you learn to knit? My mom and grandmother taught me when I was a teenager.

18. How old is your oldest UFO? Hmmm…one year old.  I started the Clementine Shawlette last July and I still haven’t finished.

19. What is your favorite holiday? I really love Thanksgiving through Christmas.  I celebrate the Christmas holiday.

20. Is there anything that you collect? Yarn, fiber and more yarn and fiber.  I also like turtles and frogs.

21. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have? I subscribe to Interweave Knits, but would also like to subscribe to Vogue Knitting.  I would love the Opinionated Knitter by Elizabeth Zimmerman or any of the Yarn Harlot’s books.  Alden Amos’s – Big Book of Handspinning is also on my list.

22. Are there any new techniques you’d like to learn? Fair Isle and some of the more advanced plying techniques for spinning.

23. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements? I can knit socks, but I’m not a fast knitter.  I wear a 7.5 US with an instep diameter of 9 inches.

24. When is your birthday? (mm/dd) 06/16 – Gemini

25. I am on Ravelry as SmartChick.

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