Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tomato Growing Weather

Whew! These heat wave days and nights are tomato growing weather. My Grandfather always reminded me that tomatoes ripen the best when the nights stay warm and humid. He never minded the heat and spent hours in his large garden. I followed him around and probably pestered him with all sorts of chatter. He was a gentle quiet man we all loved. I thought of Gram, his wife, when I blocked the lace sampler scarf. She was a can-do kind of gal who taught me to knit. If she wanted something, she created it. When she sewed, she modified patterns and sometimes taped brown paper sacks together to sketch what she wanted. This attitude extended to all kinds of home decor. She hung layers of wallpaper, one on top of another (I shudder to think of scraping off all those layers) into her sixties. The only thing that stopped her was electrical wiring in lamps and that is probably a good thing. If there was a story there, I never heard it. My siblings and I were fortunate to grow up about ten blocks away from these grandparents. We spent a lot of time with them.

I'm knitting on the second sock of a pair. Yesterday I unraveled the beginning rows of the gusset to fix holes where the gusset transitions into the instep stitches. I use a Charlene Schurch method to avoid those holes. When done correctly, it works quite well but I was knitting about 9:45 p.m and was tired. So I sat down in the daylight at the kitchen table to pull the needles out and remedy the holes. I'm ready for these socks to be finished.  I know if I knit on them I can finish soon. Ah, the siren call of a new project. 

Where the Crawdad's Sing (audio) made the yoke of this raglan cardigan fly by. I really enjoyed the book and the knitting. Before the end of the novel arrived, I thought of three or four possible endings to the mystery. Owens writes beautifully of the North Carolina marsh and seashore. I'm not going to write more because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. I am still thinking about the story and characters - a mark of a good book. Currently I am reading Power and Possibility, a book of literary criticism, comment, and interviews in tandem with Crave Radiance, a poetry anthology. Both are written by Elizabeth Alexander. Reading her essay on the artist Romare Bearden, makes the poems where she references his work more meaningful. I am learning about artists I never knew existed. This week, I read an interview/discussion of poetry where Alexander stated, "we live in the word. And the word is precious, and the word must be precise, and the word is one of the only ways we have to reach across to each other, and that it has to be tended with that degree of respect." p.150 Power and Possibility  Wise wise words.

I'm linking with Kat and the Unravelers. I am always interested in what others are reading and knitting. Stay cool during this hot spell. My plan for this afternoon is to extract juice from the remaining rhubarb for a batch of raspberry rhubarb jelly. I'll make the jelly another day. This is a bit of an experiment. I did get some advice from my sister who is a jelly making expert. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Summertime and the lavender is blooming. The tomatoes are growing and the basil is lush. Other than the bunnies eating the parsley and voluminous weeds due to lots of rainfall, the garden grows well. The herbs are particularly healthy this summer. I used to weed meticulously but have adopted more of a live and let live philosophy. I weed when I have time and the temperature/humidity aren't unbearable. I'd rather read or knit than weed. I resisted cropping Oscar's garden garbage can out of the lavender photo to keep life real.

While walking the beach in Connecticut, my daughter taught me to look for sea glass. I am drawn by the soft pastel colors of glass that wash up on that beach. Something about the pieces of sea glass remind me of aging. I have been tumbled about by wind and water and hopefully some of my rough edges have worn smooth. The opaque quality of the pieces remind me that every opinion or idea doesn't have to be crystal clear. That, sometimes holding a bit of ambiguity, looking at something from several points of view is desirable. I'm sure the metaphor could work in another direction too.

Anyway, I brought home a few pieces to remind me of a happy time spent with family. While flying, I knit on these ribbed socks. The yarn is soft and plump and came from a local yarn shop. Wouldn't the gradient make a pretty hitchhiker scarf? Not that I need another scarf as the sampler scarf is finished and ready to be blocked. I pulled out the cardigan I've been working on but need a longer needle to accommodate all the yoke and sleeve stitches. I have learned my lesson about respecting shoulders and arms while knitting. Purchasing another needle is better than sore muscles. So there is my rationale for a trip to the yarn shop.

I am enjoying listening to Where the Crawdad's Sing by Delia Owens. The author's descriptions of the marsh and sea of North Carolina are beautiful. I love the way Owens weaves nature/place into the story's events and themes. I also admire her plucky heroine. With four hours remaining, I'm wondering if any of my ideas about endings will appear in the story.  I'm reading our book group selection, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. This fantasy story is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with additional brave heroines. The book, driven by action/plot is readable but I may skip ahead to the ending. Fantasy is not my favorite genre.  I will be interested to see where the discussion leads us.

Click over to Kat and the Unravelers to see what others are reading and knitting. Enjoy these warm summer days. July will come and go before we know it. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Simple Pleasures

We returned home on Tuesday. Crossing the Platte and Hudson Rivers in the same day means it has been a very good day. This trip we visited my daughter and husband and their four Connecticut kids. We had a great visit filled with the joys of their everyday life. We read to all of them and fed the turtles in a pond across the street. Kate, Jonah, Norah and I visited a sweet garden behind a library where a story was posted in stations. I read the story to Jonah. Pops and Patrick played catch with the big boys. They are baseball guys for sure.

Seeing the beach (and anything else)  through the eyes of children is such a gift. An eight year old makes a game of throwing rocks into a bucket pushed down into the sand. Then leaves the rocks to jump over waves rolling up on the shore. The five year old builds a rock tower with a force field on the beach. The three year old pushes a dump truck through the sand carrying his own water bottle. When he digs in the sand with a long handled shovel, he puts his foot on top of the blade imitating his Dad. The nine month old wrinkles up her nose when her feet make contact with sand but can be distracted with bits of goldfish crackers. Cracker crumbs in her tutu don't bother her.

As you might imagine, I didn't read blogs or knit many stitches (except in transit) on this trip. Kate, Jonah, and I did visit Westport Yarns, a cozy yarn shop not far from their home. Jonah wore his Iron Man cape and carried the Iron Man action figure. Kate kept him entertained by posing the action figure at yoga while I did a wee bit of shopping.

I continue to knit the lace sampler scarf. The sampler idea keeps scarf-knitting-boredom at bay. I put more detailed notes on Ravelry as several readers asked me about the pattern. I choose motifs with repeats of either six or twelve stitches plus one. The edges and separating lines between motifs are garter stitch. I may try a ten stitch plus one repeat and increase each side edge by one garter stitch. Or I may not. 

Although I am a day late, I am linking to Kat and the Unravelers. On this Fourth of July, I am proud to live in this imperfect country with high ideals. While I recognize my good fortune due to circumstances of birth, education, health, and work, I think about families who struggle to take care of their children, those for whom freedom from want and fear is only a dream. How can we take the celebration of this day and work with a generous spirit to make it possible for all?

Happy Fourth of July to you and yours. Enjoy and be safe.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019


The days do fly by. When I look out the window over my desk, I am sheltered by birch leaves. One morning I watched shades of green change as sun broke through the clouds. I haven't had a green sweater for quite some time. I've been looking for just the right shade of raspberry but maybe green would be a good choice for a winter sweater. It is something to think about.

In the meantime, I've been sewing. I've made many quilts but not sewed other things recently so these projects were fun. Some time ago, Kat linked to a pattern for a pillowcase dress for little girls. It was so cute and simple I made one for Norah. I also used several tutorials to sew two lined project bags. (Missouri Star Quilting Co. and Hue Loco and Darvenlee Design Studio ) Naturally I learned some things about sewing bags. The first bag is almost too small as I sewed wider seam allowances than specified. The second one is a little larger than I intended but I will use it for sweater projects. Next go around, I'll aim for a bag size in between. Bigger bags may need some kind of handle. Some makers sew them into a side seam. I will also take the zipper out of the package ahead of time to see if the folds (from being in the package) can be smoothed out. After ripping out one zipper, I managed to install it with fabric tabs on the ends. I also prefer medium weight interfacing to the fusible fleece used in the bigger bag. Makers are generous to post free patterns and tutorials and zippered pouch bag tutorials abound. Since these were trial and error projects, I used fabric I had on hand. I will say, prices charged by independent business women on Etsy are quite reasonable. The projects take materials, time, and occasional ripping.

In the evenings, I am hand stitching the binding to Norah's Christmas Quilt and knitting on the sampler scarf. This scarf is a process knit and turning out to be quite fun. Due to the variety of stitches, it may have a wavy edge. I decided not to fret about that and just enjoy the yarn and the knitting.

I listened to Transcription, yet another story about World War Two. Kate Atkinson is a good writer. This latest book provides a voice for a young woman doing war work in London and examines the tangled world of political viewpoints. Toni Morrison's new book of essays, The Source of Self-Regard arrived in my library audio requests. After listening to the first three, I realize these pieces are deep and thoughtful. I will better understand them if I read a print version so I set the audio aside.  In one of the first pieces, she comments on globalization and the movement of people around the world. She offers a very interesting perspective. I have just begun reading Power and Possibility: Essays, Reviews, and Interviews by Elizabeth Alexander. I heard Alexander interviewed on the podcast, "On Being" and find her another thoughtful voice. All these writers offer food for thought.

I love the way this lavender blooms with the two small leaves and blossoms half way down the stalk. I don't know why the plant does this but I find it charming.

Have a good week. Click on the link to Kat and the Unravelers for more reading, making, and knitting.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

This and That

Here we are almost smack in the middle of these lovely June days. My tomato patch could use more heat but all in good time. Today is bright, breezy, and cool - perfect walking weather. Sunday, in honor of Father's Day, I plan to bake my husband one of his favorite desserts, lemon bars. My Dad was very fond of good pastry. He grew up in a rural family and community of "from scratch pastry makers." Most were farm wives with plenty of eggs, butter, and lard on hand. When he drove into Omaha for his cardiology appointment, he often stopped on the way out of town to pick up several caramel pecan sticky buns from a favorite bakery/restaurant. He also loved Mom's pies with flaky homemade crust. All the shortening in the pastries didn't keep him from living into his early 80's. I'm not sure what to glean from this memory except that life is to be enjoyed and a little pastry now and then won't hurt. A good cardiologist isn't a bad idea either.

My knitting is treating me well this week. I finished Norah's little swirly hat. Looking at this photo, I notice the ribbing of the hat and sweater don't match but she isn't going to care. Who is going to notice that on a cute toddler? The hat pattern was fun to knit, a change from the typical stocking hat. I also cast on a sweater. Sometime last fall or winter I bought the yarn for a sweater I didn't knit. Although I continue to swatch, gauge is a mystery to me. This pattern calls for DK yarn but I am very close to the suggested gauge with a fingering weight yarn.  The lace inset at the neck is fun and easy to knit. So far so good.

I abandoned the audio version of The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss. The narrators, Weiss and another woman, were too dramatic with the different voices. The topic is interesting to me so I may read the print version. A narrator can make or break an audio book. I've gone on to Transcription by Kate Atkinson. The story isn't as compelling as Life after Life but Atkinson is a good writer and the narrator's interpretation is pleasing so I am enjoying the story. I read A Place in the Woods by Helen Hoover. Whew! What a hard life they lived after they first moved to the shore of Lake Superior. Establishing livable space was not for the faint of heart. Hoover reminds me of something a friend who served in the Peace Corps once said, "A simple life isn't easier." I am a fan of running water and electricity. Hoover's story reminds me not to take them for granted. I did love the descriptions of flora and fauna in the North Woods. Hoover's writing paired with her husband's pen and ink drawings is a treat. I'm almost finished with Seeds. The book is chock full of interesting information about seeds but one I read mostly during the day and not before bed. Reading during the day feels like a guilty pleasure akin to eating a favorite pastry. Maybe I should try it more often. Do you read during the day? 

Click over to Kat and the Unravelers for inspiration. Enjoy this Father's Day weekend.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Hello June

Hello June - I've missed your balmy sunshine, long evenings, and warm days. I haven't missed the weeds that come with abundant rain. Since today promises to be dry I hope to weed the perennial flowers along the fence. Saturday I replanted cucumber and zinnia seeds that were either washed away or eaten by the birds. As I walk, I'm enjoying the splashes of color from flowers in the neighborhood. They reflect the gardener's personality and tell me a little about my neighbors. My pots are planted with a lick and a promise and what is economical from the nursery. When it rains, I'll sew but that is a post for another day. I have supplies for two small projects.

The two little sweaters are finished and ready for delivery. The rose cardigan is a baby shower gift for later this month. I sewed two wee white buttons on the yoke after this photograph. The bottom rows that flipped up while I was knitting blocked out nicely. Blocking is knitting magic. I will deliver Norah's sweater in person later this month and I can't wait. The free Flax patterns, one in worsted weight and the other in fingering, make nice pullovers. The patterns are sized from infant through adult.

Since finishing these sweaters, I've had a bit of a cast on party. I made one hat for a charity donation and am swatching for a sweater. Last knit I cast on a hat to match Norah's sweater. Sunday I cast on and unraveled the beginning of a lace scarf. Since I had one skein I decided to use it for lace scarf. I meant to choose a project from a knitting book on my shelf but instead flipped through the Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary (from my shelf!) and chose a few stitch patterns to try. A lace leaf pattern got lost in the tonal variation of the darker color so I began again with the Wave Crest stitch. I'll knit until I get bored, then add garter stitch rows and perhaps pick a different pattern. I am in the mood for casual summer knitting. The yarn is lovely and reminds me of the Connecticut trip when it was purchased.

I am reading the book The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernals, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson. The science of seeds is interesting but the historical significance of different varieties is fascinating. The author mentions in the preface he has kept scientific jargon to a minimum. Well maybe. I do appreciate the glossary of terms for reference as I am not a botanist. In contrast and because none of my holds had come in from Overdrive, I listened to an unabridged version of Mary Poppins. I had never read the entire story and found it full of lively nonsense and fun.

I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers and then off to do battle with the weeds before they triumph over the flowers and the rhubarb. Have a good week.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

May Journal of Wonder

Peony - Lauritzen Gardens*
I missed posting about wonder in March and April. Sometimes I forget to nurture my sense of wonder. This cool damp May, I return to this journal of wonder with a little bit of wanderlust. More wonder occurs when I take time to wander.

This month:
I wonder why the robin chose a nesting place so high in the birch. Won't the wind knock down her nest?

I wonder how the hummingbird came to be feeding in the apple blossoms during a thunderstorm.

I wonder if wind makes the birds jittery.

I wonder if the common yellow warblers will make their mid-May appearance in the birch. They did not. They are becoming less common.

I wonder why the maples are loaded with seeds this year. Maybe the trees in our neighborhood have finally grown up or maybe (as the newspaper reported) the trees were dormant last year and so produced a bumper crop this Spring.

I wonder why this administration is promoting an open pit copper mine in a pristine area of the Arizona desert. The area is sacred to Native Americans.

This world is so beautiful. I wonder why we don't take better care of it.

I wonder why farm women planted peonies in rows in their yards.

I wonder why the sound of rain on the roof is so peaceful.

Why are scrappy projects so satisfying to me?

I wonder if Emily Dickinson would have written fewer poems if she had been trying to publish them in books.

I wonder which enterprising woman first added sugar to rhubarb.

I marvel at the few minutes needed for pale yellow iris to be outlined by the morning sun.

I wonder if this rainy spell will come to an end anytime soon.

*The Lauritzen Gardens is a Botanic Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Last week, my sister and I visited. The daffodils and tulips were finished blooming but the Peony and Rose Gardens were waking up.