Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New Fur at The Pen and Hook

Fur is in this year and The Pen and Hook is now selling it. I know that spring is coming and everyone is wanting cotton, but soon crocheters and knitters will be thinking about what they can make for fall and Christmas (I can't believe I just said that.). 

In preparation for that shift in crafting, here are my new colors in Pelt and Fun Fur from Lion Brand. 

Pelt, is a more realistic looking type fur. It is made of polyester and nylon fibers which are made to look like mink, sable and chinchilla. With these, you can imitate luxury furs without breaking the bank. These faux furs would make great accessories or trims. Maybe even an amigurumi project? 

Blue Mink




Fun Fur has also made an appearance at The Pen and Hook. Trim sweaters, make vibrant accessories, or fun items for babies and children. 

Cotton Candy Stripe
Neon Orange

Lion Brand has patterns if you need ideas for these great fibers. All you have to do is create an account, if you don't have one already, and you will have access to thousands of patterns at varying ability levels. You can pin these patterns and save them to your account. It's all very accessible. Here is a really cute hat to knit with Mink Pelt:

Knitting Mink Pelt - Free Lion Brand Pattern
Here is an easy crochet pattern using Chinchilla Pelt

Free Lion Brand Crochet Pattern Using Chinchilla Pelt
A little child would love this knitted poncho trimmed in Neon Orange Fun Fur

Free Lion Brand Knitting Pattern using Neon Orange Fun Fur
People who enjoy springy colors in winter, fall and early spring would love this cowl crocheted in Cotton Candy Stripes Fun Fur:

Free Lion Brand Crochet Pattern in Cotton Candy Stripes Fun Fur

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lent Focus: Helping Victims of Human Trafficking

With the observance of Ash Wednesday on February 18, the 40-day season of Lent began. During Lent, Christians focus on fasting, prayer and alms giving. For me, Lent is a time in which to make my life more in tune with God, and to learn about what breaks his heart so that I can make it a matter of prayer and restorative action as God leads. 

During Lent we learn to bring everything in our life together. Rather than compartmentalize the spiritual, familial, career and activity portions of our lives, we learn to make life more fluid. As we do this, we find that internal conflicts - and perhaps outward as well - cease, or become less severe, and we begin to act in ways that show what we actually believe. With the Holy Spirit's help we can become more like Jesus. We become more compassionate and caring. We want to help, to make a difference. 

This year I have become more aware of the issue of human trafficking through a project sponsored by Not For Sale, a campaign that seeks to end human trafficking through providing safety and stability, empowering with life skills and job training, and creating sustainable futures with dignified work.  My denomination, along with more than 5,000 other churches, is involved in this emphasis. I happened to get involved through an email from Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, which I forwarded to my pastor. He responded by telling me to get the information in the bulletin and that he wanted me to do a couple of things in the service on that day. 

Because of the importance and urgency of this issue, I wanted to tell my readers about this as well. 

So, what is human trafficking? The Department of Health and Human Services says, "Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women."

Through my reading on the subject, I have learned that there are between 20 and 30 million slaves on the planet today. Most sources say there are 27 million and some say that is a conservative number. All say that there are more slaves in the world today than ever before. Eighty percent of these people are forced to work in the sex industry and 20 percent are forced to work as laborers. 

Last year slave traders made an estimated $32 billion - more than Nike, Google and Starbucks combined*. 

Human trafficking is not just an international problem. It is a problem in the U.S. as well. From the Rabbis for Human Rights North America, "Human trafficking, according to the Polaris Project, is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Worldwide, most slaves are forced to work in agriculture, mining and prostitution." 
The Office of Refugee Resettlement says that they also work as domestic workers, in hotels, restaurants ("What is human trafficking?"). Also, the production of certain goods that Americans enjoy, such as coffee, chocolate, and cars may be traceable to slave labor (Facts About Modern Slavery).

Here is an interesting video about the subject:

*25 Painfully Disturbing Facts About Human Trafficking

If you would like to help, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries is accepting donations here:


Of course groups like the Polaris Project and Not For Sale will also appreciate donations for their work in releasing people from captivity. If you know someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center has a 24/7 hotline to help people identify victims. 

Isaiah 61: 1 - 3

The Good News of Deliverance

61 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Scenic Wow around Cripple Creek Colorado

While Mike and I were up in the mountains during Valentine's Day weekend, we drove up to Cripple Creek and drove parts of the Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway through Victor and Florrisant Fossil Beds National Monument. Surprisingly, at 9,000 feet, we were quite comfortable in sweatshirts; and, even though there were storm warnings in effect for later that afternoon, the sun shone brilliantly over the valley. These pictures were taken on Highway 67 on the hills above the town. 

Cripple Creek area - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Cripple Creek area - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Cripple Creek area - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Cripple Creek area - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Cripple Creek area - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Cripple Creek area - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

At the time of our visit, Cripple Creek was celebrating its Ice Festival. Too bad it was so warm. Here are the melting ice sculptures. 

Ice Festival - Cripple Creek - AGS

Ice Festival - Cripple Creek - AGS

Ice Festival - Cripple Creek - AGS

Ice Festival - Cripple Creek - AGS

Ice Festival - Cripple Creek - AGS
Here are some artists working on their sculpture. They are using chain saws and ice picks to do their work.
Ice Festival - Cripple Creek - AGS

Ice Festival - Cripple Creek - AGS
Here are shots of the downtown area. Cripple Creek is a gaming town so there are multiple casinos. If you are into that sort of thing Cripple Creek would be a great place to go. If you are not, there are mining museums and a railroad. Historical stuff is more our speed but we didn't take time to do that.  We just walked around for a little bit. 

Cripple Creek - AGS

Cripple Creek - AGS

Mike in Cripple Creek - AGS

Cripple Creek - AGS

Cripple Creek - AGS
Here is a view from the road between Cripple Creek and Victor. Along this road, you can see modern mining in progress and examples of historic mining. It's an interesting route for many reasons but for me, the scenery is the best part.  

View from the Gold Belt Scenic Byway - AGS

View from the Gold Belt Scenic Byway - AGS

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A View of Forever

Did you all have a nice Valentine's Day? Because Mike and I had Monday off we decided to take a little trip and do something that neither one of us had ever done. We drove up to the summit of Pike's Peak - a mere 14,110 feet above sea level - during the winter. Last summer, Mike and I took a small herd of kids and grandchildren up to the summit and that was great. We have also traveled to the top by way of the Cog Railway. That was also fun, but we both prefer driving because it's easier to get pictures and you can also do some hiking on the mountain, or picnic, if you wish. 

On Saturday, the 14th, the temperature in Colorado Springs was in the 70's and sunny. As we were heading into the park, the forest service employee told us that we'd want to head to the summit first because the wind was picking up and he didn't know if they would have to plow. He was right. Here is what we encountered just above 12,000 feet. The wind was blowing snow from the roadside drifts over the road, and there were spots of ice and black ice. It wasn't like this the entire way up; only in spots, but if you've ever been on this road, some places are a little disconcerting because there are few guardrails and the drop on the side of the road is, well, let's just say you'd want to say some quick prayers if you ever went over. At the end of this post, I've linked to a video of 'The Foley Crash' from the 2012 Pikes Peak Road Race; you can see from that exactly what I mean.

Pike's Peak Highway - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

We finally did make it to the top and it was cold! The wind, which was blowing about 30 miles per hour, was brutal and the temperature was about 40 degrees below what it was in Colorado Springs. This is normal, actually. All of the travel information says that this is the case, even in summer. Here I am with my husband Mike. The photograph was taken by another hearty tourist. 

Pike's Peak Summit

Mike at the Summit - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

From the summit, they say that you can see forever. They are right. I think I can see my house out on the plains. Kansas is probably in the distance too. 

View from Pike's Peak- Alicia Gossman-Steeves

View from Summit - Alicia Gossman-Steeves
View from the summit - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Mike really wanted to try the world famous donuts from the snack bar. Here I am trying mine out. Since we both bake, we were trying to figure out how in the world they got the donuts to rise at such a high altitude. Here is a recipe: High Altitude Cake Donut. The only real difference I can see versus a similar recipe on Food Network is the difference in temperature for the oil. 

World Famous Donuts - Mike Steeves

Shortly after our snack, we left the cafeteria/gift shop to leave. In the parking lot, a ranger announced that everyone needed to get down the mountain as soon as possible due to forming icy conditions. We didn't need to be told twice. 

Here are some pictures of the way down. The views are awesome. 

Pike's Peak Trip - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Pike's Peak Trip - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Pike's Peak Trip - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Pike's Peak Trip - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Closing the road up - Alicia Gossman-Steeves
Pike's Peak Trip - Alicia Gossman-Steeves

Both Foley and his navigator walked away from this one; a testimonial to the roll cage.

Friday, February 13, 2015

In the Lilacs - Cozy Cowl Reminiscent of Spring

Do you hate winter because of the snow, cold and ice, yet you are trapped in a cold climate? Do you need continual reminders that spring will come and that cold, dreary weather will eventually end?

Or, are you like me? Do you love winter because it means that you get to wear sweaters, scarves and all other manner of warm accessories crocheted in gorgeous yarns in amazing colors?

Well, no matter how you feel about winter, this new cowl in my shop is guaranteed to bring needed reminders of spring plus bring you the warmth and coziness you need when Ol' Man Winter wraps his icy fingers around your abode.

I present In the Lilacs, a chunky cowl crocheted in Yak Wool:

In the Lilacs Yak Wool Cowl
This cowl is available at the Pen and Hook, my yarn and gift shop on Etsy. Like my yak yarn, blog readers can get this cowl for a discounted price by using the coupon YAK10 until February 27.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Yak Yarn is Now Available at the Pen and Hook!

Have you ever seen a yak? I have seen them at the zoo, but never in the wild. 

Yaks are found throughout the Himalaya mountain range and thrive in very cold weather. From what I read on the Web,  there are a few herds of wild yaks, but most are domesticated animals. 

They are very useful. Like cows in the U.S., yaks serve as a food source - both for meat and milk. They can be ridden like a horse; they serve as pack animals and they provide fiber for clothing and other uses. In fact, yak wool is very much like sheep wool. It is durable, odor resistant and very warm. Women in Nepal take this wool, dye it and spin it into yarn and then sell it to a coop, which, in turn, sells it to distributors all over the world. 

My store on Etsy, The Pen and Hook, formerly Writing Places, is now selling yak yarn. Each purchase of this yarn helps provide income for the women who make it so that they can help their families afford medical care, education and other necessities. The thing I really like is that these women actually work in their own homes  They do not work in sweatshops for meager pay, nor is child labor a factor.

Here is what I am selling. 

Emerald Green

Midnight Blue



I think the colors are gorgeous. Each skein is chunky weight and works up really quick. Try crocheting or knitting a warm cowl. You could even lightly felt it. Click on the links to check out more about the yarn. For those reading this blog who would like to purchase yak yarn, use the coupon code YAK10 for a 10 percent discount on your purchase. This offer is good until February 27.