Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Autumn Days

Ah Autumn. I do love these days. They were almost perfect for a road trip to Fort Worth. We didn't see much autumn color but the prairie skies were at their best. We drove south at a leisurely pace, taking two days. We visited Watermark, one of my favorite independent bookstores in Wichita. Breaking up the trip allowed us to arrive in good time for our grandson's Thursday evening junior varsity football game. We knew rain was in the forecast but hoped that it would either blow through quickly or hold off. No luck. As we pulled into the parking lot, the sky darkened and a strong thunderstorm with a little hail and a lot of lightning poured rain. The game was called, as it should be, because of the continuing lightning. Other than that we had a perfectly lovely visit.

Friday we took our grandson to breakfast and dropped him at school. Then my husband and I toured the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. We enjoyed several collections including an exhibit of photography by Gordon Parks. Parks, an African American (1912- 2006) born in Kansas was a remarkable photojournalist of wide ranging subjects. He understood photography was a way to fight racism and discrimination and had his work published in Life Magazine. That evening we all went out to dinner together at a favorite local Italian restaurant. We spent Saturday together, trying to cheer on the Huskers. Evidently we didn't cheer hard enough. No matter, the soups and hard rolls were delicious and the company even better. We drove home in one beautiful autumn day. Deer grazed in a tawny Kansas wheat field and we were fortunate to avoid hitting another on the highway just south of town. They are hard to see at dusk. We arrived home as a gorgeous harvest (full) moon rose in the sky. I didn't take many photos. I just enjoyed the days with family and watched the sky. My husband drove most of the miles so I knit on hats and mittens for the Connecticut kids.

Since I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers today, I'll update my same-old knitting projects. I finished Kate's Christmas Socks. She helped pick out the yarn so I am not spoiling any surprise here. I've been chugging along with this sweater. Stockinette in the round has a nice quiet rhythm and I have another two-three inches to the ribbing. I tried the sweater on again and I like the fit. I cast on Norah's hat yesterday.

This morning I am at my desk thankful to see a flicker, several chickadees, and a female downy woodpecker in and out of the birch. A few robins enjoy the small berries in the ornamental pear tree. With all the bad news about the demise of birds, I am encouraged to see these species in my yard.

I thoroughly enjoyed Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss  by Margaret Renkl. She muses thoughtfully about family stories and the natural world in Tennessee where she lives. The book is beautifully illustrated with renderings of plants and wildlife by her brother. Who doesn't like a book with illustrations? I am reading a so-so historical novel, The White Garden: A Novel of Virginia Woolf that I plan to finish. It isn't a great read but was available as an electronic library loan and I wanted something in that format for the Texas trip. 

Until next time, may the autumn sun warm your back and your heart. 


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Stitching Across Time

Granddaughter Norah was a year old in September. While cruising around the coffee table, she has been dragging her big brothers' super hero action figures (the Hulk, Captain America, etc.) with her. Her Dad thought she needed a soft doll for one of her birthday gifts. That prompted me to find two soft dolls, Raspberry Tart and Apple Dumpling (Strawberry Shortcake characters from back in the day) that I made for my daughter. She liked the characters and I cobbled several patterns together in order to make them. I cleaned and repaired the dolls to send to Norah. I also made a small quilt for her dolls.

I started with a fat quarter of a pink print from my stash. Then, thinking I'd piece a top of simple squares from flannel, I pulled out the tote containing old sewing scraps. Back in the day, I made flannel nightgowns and pajamas and corduroy robes for my children. Tucked inside the tote, I found a piece of flannel from my grandmother's sewing days. I must have acquired it when Mom cleaned out her home. Gram made my sister and I nightgowns from this 1950's print flannel. I love knowing that Gram once folded up this small bit of flannel for another day. I decided not to cut it into squares but use the whole scrap.

As I put the little piece in the washer, I held it up to my face. I'm fairly certain I caught the faintest whiff of Gram's perfume, Youth Dew by Estee Lauder. This scent carried me back to being perched on a couch in Gram's sewing room while she sewed and told us stories, sitting beside her unwinding a ball of yarn while she knitted, making potato salad in her pink kitchen, and many other memories.

Of course this fabric was a pink and white print. If Youth Dew was her signature scent, pink was her color. She owned pink clothing, pink yarn, pink dishes, pink towels, and pink costume jewelry. She wallpapered bedrooms in pink prints. She painted her old kitchen cupboards and woodwork pale pink. She frosted sugar cookies with pink icing, tinted Spritz cookies pink, and wore pink fingernail polish. I never catch a whiff of Youth Dew or see something pink that I don't remember her and the love she lavished on her grandchildren. She helped me with sewing and taught me to knit, gifts that last a lifetime.

I am sending Norah this little pink and white quilt and with it, a piece of her Great Great Grandmother's story. Someday I hope to tell her stories about Gram of the pale pink fingernail polish. If Norah wants to learn, I'll teach her to stitch and knit. For now, she is on her way with new pink shoes and her own dolly.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers today. Click on over for inspiration.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Hello October

A soaking rain ushers in October. I am glad to see both. The last day of September was a windy hot 90 degrees. Our yard and garden beds were quite dry. Besides, crisp autumn weather pairs well with a cup of ginger tea and a book or knitting. Today I happily pulled on a pair of wool socks after coming home from an errand. What about you? How is the weather in your neck of the woods?

Last week I went for one last walk through The Sunken Gardens. I wrote about the Garden last year in a post. This year's theme was "Moon River." The plantings included a lot of white, lavender, and purple flowers and foliage. The day was warm and the interesting flowers were full of bees and butterflies. These plants sported very vivid purple foliage.

This plant's foliage was such a dark color it looked almost black. The berries were deep purple.

Beautiful lavender flowers (a water lily?) floated in the ponds.

I have no idea of the names of these plants. The plantings are not labeled and the available brochure listed names of plants but no locations in the garden.

I am enjoying knitting the sweater in the photo. Last week I unraveled some rows and changed the rate of increases to lengthen the raglan line. Since I was going to rip back anyway, I also changed the cable twist. The pattern provides two options and it would have been a good idea to swatch the two. In this version the cable twists pull toward instead of away from the center. Given the weight of this yarn, this option doesn't leave a big hole in the center of the cable. The sweater is heavy and pushing the stitches along makes my right arm ache a bit. I am pacing my knitting time on it. I have been working on Kate's sock. I may cast on a shawl for some lighter weight knitting on a different needle size. The good news is the sweater fits and the tonal variations in the yarn are spreading themselves among the knitting.

I listened to Louise Penny's latest book A Better Man and throughly enjoyed the trip to Three Pines. Wouldn't we all love to visit Merna's used bookstore, drink cafe au lait at the Bistro, stroll around the square, and even meet Ruth? Penny's characters are old literary friends and she keeps this latest novel contemporary with the Spring flooding, social media, and developments in the lives of the characters. I am still reading Arctic Dreams. I am also reading a birthday gift from my sister. She gave me Late Migrations, a thoughtful collection of essays by Margaret Renkl. You may have read Renkl's writing in the New York Times. The book blends her observations of nature around her home in Tennessee with stories of family and growing up in Alabama. It is beautifully illustrated by Renkl's brother. This nonfiction work is a treasure.

I'm linking with Kat and the Unravelers as we knit and read our way into October. Happy Autumn.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

September Journal of Wonder

A house finch sits on the long arm of the bird feeder. A small birch branch swings in the breeze, repeatedly brushing the back of the bird's body. He doesn't show any visible reaction. It looks as if the branch is playing or teasing the bird. I wonder what the sensation conveys to the bird. 

Why does the contrast of light and dark draw in the human eye? 

I wonder if spiders really spin more webs this time of year or does the changing light make the webs more visible. I wonder if the ground spiders catch many insects in the small webs that appear in lawns.

What word will I choose for next year?  I am enjoying wonder and reminding myself to wonder.

I wonder how many small blank notebooks I need. A soft cover book with the face of a fawn caught my eye in a coffee shop. The fawn reminded me of a llama which reminded me of yarn so I bought it to tuck into my knitting bag. A wondering mind does wander.

I wonder if this sweater will fit. I hope the worsted weight/aran yarn doesn't make a sweater that is too heavy to be comfortable.

If animals and birds migrate over such diverse geographical areas with no regard for political boundaries, why is the movement of human beings often restricted?

Rhythm is essential to poetry. What kinds of rhythm support good prose?

What purpose do oak-mites serve?!

I see a few yellow leaves in the birch branches nearest the window in front of my desk. I wonder when they appeared.

I wonder why I don't set aside one entire afternoon for making. Surely I could skip chores and errands one day a week. Would two be possible? 

9-19-19. Is there any significance in this line-up of numerals?

I wonder if the local autumn will be colorful or if the leaves will turn brown and drop from exhaustion and heat.

I wonder what I will prepare for dinner?

I wonder how this pink-spotted hawkmoth came to be in my backyard. I wonder what other creatures might have stopped here in their travels.

I wonder how we arrived at the end of September and how this little guy is old enough for his first day of preschool.

 Joining Juliann and Chasing Stories for reflection on one word. What has you wondering today?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Last Summer Days

Summer is having one last word. The days are hot, sunny, and dry. A basil plant rebounded from the almost-dead. If I can keep it alive until the first frost, I may get one batch of pesto. I picked a few leaves yesterday to season the last garden tomatoes and pasta. Sandals and walking shorts are the most comfortable attire. As I yearn for crisp fall days, I try to remember that I will miss my sandals and the fresh produce.  

I made a batch of pumpkin scones the other day in order to have a little taste of fall. Yes, I did grate frozen butter on a sheet of wax paper so I could scrape it all into the flour mixture. The process was a little messy. The big pile of shredded butter made me gasp but the shredded butter and cream made the scones. I shaped them into a small size and tucked half into the freezer. How is that for rationalization?

This guy celebrated his ninth birthday with a LA Dodgers party. He and his brother, the Phillies fan, along with their Dad and good friend attended a Mets/Dodgers game. He requested cake pops for his birthday treat and my daughter created dairy-free cake pops. They were a hit - no pun intended. I can remember the hot September day when he was born. We waited for him all day. A big thunderstorm blew in just as we pulled into the hospital parking lot to meet him. He blew in with the storm and changed our world. He certainly has grown in the past year. 

In knitting notes, I set the sweater aside until the days cool off. I need to put it on waste yarn to check the length of the raglan increase lines. I finished one of Kate's socks and cast on the other. I also finished the Indikon Mitts. They will be as fun to wear as they were to knit. Because I can't seem to throw away any scraps, I weighed and divided the rest of the blue gray yarn. Last night I cast on another pair of scrappy mitts. Small projects make me happy on these last summer days. Knitting from scraps and leftovers challenge my creativity and there is the satisfaction of using up the yarns I enjoy.

I am reading The Shadow of the Wind, my book group selection for this month. This is a novel driven by plot and set in Barcelona in 1945. The story feels like a labyrinth with many characters and stories. It begins with the young boy choosing a book from The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Although I don't have the audio version, I think hearing the names and places would be enjoyable. I continue to read parts of Arctic Dreams and then drift off to sleep thinking about Lopez's ideas. 

As I link with Kat and the Unravelers, I hope these last days of summer are treating you well. Whether it is a taste of pumpkin, the last summer tomatoes, or a cake pop may you have whatever your heart desires. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


This morning a good friend and I had coffee in a local coffee shop. We had a lovely time chatting and making some plans for our upcoming book group gathering. She also gave me a birthday package that included some thoughtful gifts including this bookmark. The peace symbol is handmade from recycled copper wire by an artisan in a third world country. I love it. It was just what I needed today.

All is well that ends well. Last Thursday my husband underwent sinus surgery and then yesterday had a procedure done in a dermatology office. He is recovering well and I have a new appreciation for anyone who is a full time care-giver. I also think about those who live alone with no help to keep meds and care on track during the first groggy hours after surgery. We are so fortunate to have each other and good medical care. Both procedures had a good outcome. All is well but after some restless nights, we are both a little tired.

Hospital waiting time means knitting time so I knit on the first sock of this pair. I am really enjoying the Indikon Mitts. I may keep them for myself instead of putting them in the gift stash. The fabric is so cozy and the blue gray color is one of my favorites. The yarn is leftover from a sweater that I wear. I plan to follow my usual process for knitting mittens, finishing the hands and then knitting the thumbs in one sitting. This increases (but doesn't guarantee) the likelihood that both thumbs have the same number of rows.

I continue reading Arctic Dreams and am enjoying it. This is a slow read but the information fascinates me. Last night I read about polar bears. Scientists who spend their careers researching minute details of a species amaze me. This book is armchair traveling for sure. Good thing as the fragile ecosystem of the remote areas would be forever changed by heavy tourist traffic

A few tomatoes ripen on fading plants. The cucumber vines are in the compost bin. Sunset comes earlier. Saturday felt like autumn all day long. Even the warm days feel slightly different. The linden has streaks of yellow and a few maples in the neighborhood sport leaves outlined in red. If I want to visit the Sunken Gardens before the blooms freeze, I best get moving. I also need to buy tulip bulbs for two spots in our front yard.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers in these last days of summer. What are you up to in the days before the official start of Fall?

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

September Flowers

Now it is September. While sunflowers in the neighborhood droop, wild roadside varieties stand tall in late summer sun. I make the last summer bouquets of sweet peas, blanket flower, black-eyed-susans, and lavender from my yard. The bright colors remind me that everything doesn't have to match. Of course a birthday bouquet of orange and white blooms is a different kind of joy. Emmett chose the orange bouquet because he thought it was so beautiful. He is right. A gorgeous bouquet in an orange vase was delivered mid-afternoon on my birthday, Labor Day. Please excuse the messy table, I focused on the flowers and our company.

Our son was home for the long weekend and we enjoyed visiting with him. He was here to draft a Fantasy Football team with friends but I told him I knew he really came for my birthday. To humor me, he smiled. He brought a birthday gift of homemade peach jam and peach butter. The peach butter was delicious on a warm hard roll with a bowl of chili. The Connecticut kids sang to me via Face Time and my husband brought me red roses. I cast on two new projects over the long weekend. All in all, a lovely way to celebrate my sixty-eighth birthday. What will another year bring? Change I am sure - because life is full of changes.

I have a good friend who often buys yarn and casts on a project to celebrate her birthday. What a marvelous idea. Since it's never too late for a new knitting tradition, I cast on a sweater. I have had a winter raspberry sweater in mind for awhile. This yarn from one of my local yarn shops was the right shade and weight. Knitting a swatch to the correct gauge (rarely happens on my needles) is a good omen. I also bought an extra skein. This year I have had two sweater projects land in the frog pond so I hope this third time is a charm. Worsted weight yarn on size seven needles knits up quickly.

Yesterday my son drove home from Lincoln to Fort Worth. He is quite capable but I needed to knit him safely home. After tidying up and starting the laundry, I dug out some leftover yarn and worked on this mitt by Bonnie Sennot of Blue Peninsula. She designs with interesting textures. As always, this pattern is well written. The squishy fabric is soft and warm. Aaron arrived home safely about the time I finished the hand of the first mitt.

As a summer finale, I am reading Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez. History, culture, doomed explorers, biology, and geography are included in this work of nonfiction. Lopez begins by comparing the light and seasons in the Arctic to the same phenomena in the temperate and tropic zones. Did you know that astronomers in the Arctic distinguish among three degrees of twilight - civilian, nautical, and astronomical? The older publication date, 1986, and then the reissue in 2001 makes the work seem all the more haunting. I have only just begun. I am reading slowly in order to understand the rich details.

For more making and reading, click over to Kat and the Unravelers. What will September bring?