Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Welcome Summer

A welcome steady rain falls this morning after spectacular thunderstorms last night. The sound is so peaceful. Rain in tomorrow's forecast is a good way to usher in the summer. I love a good thunderstorm that doesn't involve property damage. Do people everywhere begin conversations with the weather? Just yesterday I greeted a technician working on internet connectivity. After saying hello, we both remarked on the gray sky and impending thunderstorm. Weather is part of life on the prairie and it is a nice neutral connection.

A week or so ago, I planted flax seeds in my perennial bed. I love the blue flowers and have tried several times, unsuccessfully, to grow them from seed. This time I spaded up the spot, added composted soil, and watered faithfully on 90 degree days. I was so happy to see seedlings push up from ground. Sunday I walked by and noticed half of what I thought were flax plants are actually volunteer tomatoes. The compost must be rich with tomato seeds because they are volunteering all over our yard. I put several in pots on the patio and they are growing better than the plants from the nursery. There is a lesson here somewhere.

This week most of my knitting comes in pink/rose/lavender shades. Funny how that happens. I knit some on the cowl from scraps. The yarn made nice fingerless mitts but this fabric feels stiff so I bumped up a needle size. Washing will soften the yarn some. I am going to knit to the end of the pale pink and see what I think. I am also unraveling a shawl. The pattern is beautiful but I have never worn it. The shawl is long and skinny with ends that wrap forever. Someone taller could wear it well but on a good yoga day I am five foot one. Our lifestyle is casual. If I can't wear a shawl to places like the farmer's market, grocery store, book group, or church, it doesn't get worn. I love the yarn and so am reclaiming it. Fittingly, I join Kat and the Unravelers, to unravel a project.

I finished reading Emily Dickinson: Selected Letters edited by Thomas H. Johnson. The letters are divided into chronological sections. Each section begins with a short description of Dickinson's life during that time period. Most letters are briefly annotated with relevant information about topics or quotations she included. The book is a fascinating view into most of Dickinson's life. Rather than reading a biography filtered through the lens of another writer, these letters are written in Dickinson's own words. As a reader, I was freer to come to my own ideas about her. This seems like a good way to learn about Dickinson in light of all the speculation about her life. The letters present a witty, intelligent, well-read woman very much engaged with her world. Late in life as her health failed and she wasn't writing poems, her letters remained rich with prose. I have been reading from this book on and off for about six months. Now I plan to read from an annotated collection of her poems.

Tomorrow is officially the first day of summer. Welcome summer reading, rainy days, warm days, long evenings, and even volunteer tomatoes. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Knitting and Reading

"What is so rare as a day in June?" James Russell Lowell

Today in Lincoln is the beautiful June day Lowell wrote about in his poem, "The Vision of Sir Launfal." I just looked up the line and don't believe I've ever read the poem. I enjoy following a line of information to it's origin. Anyway today is a welcome respite from hot days of last week and weekend. In Nebraska, we went from chilly April-like weather to what felt like the dog days of August. Still I am enjoying the warmth of sun on my back and making the most of the long light of June evenings.

This lightweight summer shawl is finished and blocked with the extra ends woven in snugly. I find the weaving in of ends rather hypnotic. As my daughter remarks, "sometimes there is something so satisfying about closure." Maybe that is one reason I enjoy knitting up scraps of yarn. Certainly scrappy knitting means extra ends from using up the odds and ends of projects. I often throw scraps I think will combine well into small bags. This week I pulled out a couple of those bags and cast on some small projects. I made a pair of  scrappy preschool sized mittens over the weekend as the temperature outdoors soared in the high nineties. This other odd little collection of leftovers is going to be a cowl. I am using the pattern for it's sequence of stitch patterns but will knit fewer rows. I don't have enough to knit the pattern as is and I prefer to wear smaller cowls that don't bunch up under my coat. 

This month my book group is reading Homegoing by Yaa Yaa Gyasi. The novel is well written. While the story of the two young African women caught up in the slave trade is quite difficult, I think it is an important story. I am reading it in small bits during daylight hours. I am also finishing Marmee and Louisa. This nonfiction work is an interesting story about two strong women coping with poverty created by lack of women's rights. Poor as they were, they were not subjected to the brutality of slavery. My next read will have to be something lighter.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers today. Then I am off to enjoy this rare June day, happy that I don't need mittens. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Summer Reading

Although the calendar reads Spring, the longer days speak of Summer and long stretches of time for reading. Growing up, I frequented the old Carnegie Library in our small town during the summer. Often my siblings and I went with our Mom. I can recall the smell of old books, the feel of the oak tables and chairs, and the cool basement where the children's section was located. Moving upstairs to check out books from the adult section was a milestone. Mom had to give the library permission for us to check out adult books a little early. Sometime around 7th grade, I exhausted the few chapter books in the children's section. I wonder if there weren't as many young adult novels in those days. At any rate, our library didn't circulate many. I moved on to Bess Streeter Aldrich and mysteries by Mignon Eberhart.

When I taught on the school calendar, I made a summer reading list each May. Later even though the program I worked in extended to year-round services, I made the list. Pondering books for the list is still one of my summer pleasures. I list a few works of fiction and poetry as well as a healthy amount of nonfiction. Often I include a classic that I somehow have never read. I decide which books I'll check out from the library and what I might buy second hand. Then, surprise, I rarely read strictly from the list. If I begin a book I don't like, I abandon it for another without any qualms. If some unlisted book catches my eye, I read it.

Currently I'm reading a book from my list, Rising From the Plains, an intertwined story of well-known geologist David Love, his family, and the natural history of Wyoming. We lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming for three years so I am familiar with wind and rock in Wyoming. I almost gave up on this book because of all the geological terms. McPhee's reputation for nonfiction is well deserved so I pushed through the first section of geology. I am glad I persisted because the story of the family and how they were influenced by the land is worth reading. In 1905, Love's mother, a Wellesley graduate with a Phi Beta Kappa key, traveled from Massachusetts to Wyoming to teach school. There she was courted by and married John Love, who went to Wyoming to work as a cowboy after being expelled from the University of Nebraska for putting a sign in a Dean's flowerbed. Mrs. Love began a journal on her trip west and continued off and on through most of her life. McPhee quotes from her writing throughout the book. Because schoolmarms were few and far between near the Love Wyoming ranch, she homeschooled her four children in Greek, Latin, literature, and mathematics. She also sewed up cowboys and hosted outlaws. David Love grew up observing and thinking about the geology of Wyoming to ward off the monotony of days working among rocks and mountains. Eventually he earned a phD in geology from Yale. I can't summarize the geological history of Wyoming but learned it is quite unique with many visible layers of rock formations. Reading is meant to stretch our imagination and knowledge, right? And never plant a sign in a flowerbed at the University of Nebraska.

Knitting on the deck has been lovely the last few evenings. After afternoon chores and dinner, I take my ice water and project to the deck, prop up my feet, and knit for an hour or so while the breeze blows in the first days of June. I finished the two pairs of travel socks, a second fingerless mitt, and am almost done with a shawl. The shawl has been easy warm weather garter stitch knitting with a little lace along the edge. Soon I'll need a new project or two, small for summer knitting, but something besides socks. Do you have a favorite summer knitting project?

Joining Kat and the Unravelers today. Thank you to my readers and commenters. I will try Karen's work-around so I can respond to comments again.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

My daughter and son-in-law are expecting a new baby in September. We are excited to meet this new little person. This couple chooses to be old-fashioned either not learning the gender or keeping it under their hats until the baby is born. As we say, a healthy baby and Mom is more important than the gender. I knit accordingly to be prepared. Last year about this time of year I finished a little bright little pullover sweater and matching hat. Earlier this Spring I knit a feminine lavender cardigan. Ravelry notes are here and here.

I have given away all previously knitted little girl sweaters to other darling babies as we have four grandsons. I knit this little hat as my husband and I visited cemeteries for Memorial Day weekend. I didn't plan to knit a baby hat on this trip but just grabbed it on the way out the door because it was a good portable project. Then as we left the peaceful rural cemetery where my husband's mother and grandparents are buried and drove north to the cemetery of my parents' graves, I thought how wonderful that this new little soul is connected to the old ones gone before. Besides loving these kids to pieces, grandparents are able to tell family stories from the past. As grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents, we re-member family, linking the past and future of our children.

Since I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers, I'll mention two books. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox was one of Micah's favorite books. It is a sweet little story welcoming babies all around the world, pointing out similarities rather than differences. We still read it together. I am currently reading a paper copy of my book club's June selection, Still Life by Louise Penny.  Last February I listened to the audio and enjoyed hearing the pronunciation of the French words. Rereading this mystery/novel I am now alert to all the clues Penny inserted into the story. I don't know that I will both listen and read the entire series but I am enjoying this version knowing what is coming to the characters in future novels. And of course, visiting Three Pines complete with Myrna's bookstore and the bistro with croissants and cafe au lait, is a pleasure.

I am back to my routine and happy to be here. But oh May - where did you go?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Home Again

I love to travel to see my family and then I am happy to be home safely. A week after the Texas trip we took off for Connecticut. We visited our daughter and her family and had a wonderful time. What's not to love about spending Mother's Day with family? We had so much fun with our three grandsons. Of course, they are growing like weeds. We took a photo to see how their height compares to mine. We will see them again in the autumn and check heights again. By then there will be another little babe and that is exciting too.

We read to all three and walked the two older ones to and from school and preschool. We played and played. My daughter and I took the youngest to the beach one morning and another afternoon we took the preschooler for a short walk in a wooded area. She said this was the first week when the woods were truly green. "Pops", my son-in-law, and the two older boys went into New York City to a Yankees baseball game. They stayed through a rain delay to watch a good share of the game. French fries carried them through the afternoon. We also watched the two older boys' baseball games, t-ball and coach pitch. Something tells me all three boys will play lots of baseball in the future.

My husband and I took a short side trip to Concord, Mass. On a beautiful Spring day we visited the Minute-Man National Park and walked the path of Paul Revere's ride. We crossed the north bridge where the colonists fired "the shot heard round the world" and tried to take a selfie with the iconic Minute Man statue. Another day we visited Old Manse, an Emerson family home, and Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott. My grandmother read Little Women to my sister and I when we were girls so Orchard House has long been on my list of places to see. The guide was excellent and personable. Many of the furnishings and artifacts belonged to the Alcott family. We had two full days in Concord, another would have allowed us to see more but we wanted the days with our kids. Perhaps another time.

I am reading Marmee and Louisa, a book written by an Alcott descendent and recommended by the guide. Louisa's mother was not exactly the syrupy sweet mother of Little Women. She descended from the May family of New England and yearned for the Harvard education available to her brother. Later she championed Louisa's desire to write. Alcott's paternal grandmother never had an education and so her son, Bronson Alcott firmly believed that women should be educated. Both of Louisa's parents did their best to educate their daughters. The Alcott family sheltered and aided two African Americans on their way to freedom when Louisa was a girl. Her father supported innovative methods for education. They were an interesting family.  

While I appreciate American colonial history, I would also like to know more about the Native Americans of the area. It was hard to find more than a few sentences about them. Perhaps the Concord Museum would offer information. We didn't tour the museum because we went in search of a late lunch and The Concord Bookshop. Don't miss this independent bookstore if you visit.  

Now it is time to plant my garden. Our local farmer's market will be open tomorrow and I imagine some venders will have bedding plants. Then I will fill in from the local garden centers. Before traveling, I cleaned out the perennial and herb beds. My husband helped me with compost and we spread three wheelbarrows of the "black gold" dirt/compost over the vegetable patch and around the beds. The bleeding heart I was given last year is blooming and the iris are just unfolding their blooms. Today I hope to dodge the rain drops to see what is coming up and how many weeds have sprung back into place while we were away. Have a good weekend. Knitting notes coming on Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Warm Texas Welcome

After being home all winter, we hit the road last week to visit our son Aaron and family who live in Fort Worth, Texas. Our grandson is growing into quite a wonderful young man. We also enjoyed getting to know the foreign exchange student living with them. That adventurous young man is from Brazil. We had a good safe road trip. The Texas crew as well as the weather gave us a warm welcome, sunny with highs over the weekend in the mid-80's. Pretty wildflowers, a pink primrose and some type of orange flower, bloomed along southern Oklahoma and northern Texas roadsides. I was so happy to have the sun on my back and face. On Sunday afternoon, we went on a walking tour/ urban scavenger hunt in and around Sundance Square. By following clues on Jacque's phone, we learned a little about Fort Worth while seeing beautiful old buildings/architecture, city parks, and sculptures. At each stop, the tour provided a puzzle to solve and pointed us toward the next stop. My husband and I had never heard of such a thing so I pass this information for anyone else who might be slightly out of touch with new fangled technology. Groupon coupons apply.

I knit a sock during the 1250 miles we drove south and north. I spelled my husband, driving a little on the way down and back but since he prefers to drive, I happily knit. I arrived home with a few inches on the second sock but ripped that out last night. I wondered if the free pattern had some errors. I checked notes on Ravelery last night and discovered my intuition was correct. (Notes on my project page.) I bought this yarn in the Fort Worth yarn store, West 7th Wool, on a previous trip so it seemed fitting to knit with it on this trip.

I am reading No Time To Spare: Thinking about what Matters by the late Ursula K. Le Guin. I am not a fantasy/science fiction reader so I haven't read her fiction. However these short essays and blog posts are thought provoking, quirky, and witty. The subjects range from her ideas about literature and publishing to events between 2010 and 2016. The essay about old age "No Time to Spare," pulled me right into the book. Animal lovers will enjoy the pieces about Pard, her cat. I bought the book at Watermark, an independent bookstore in Wichita, Kansas. When we drive to Texas, we stay in Wichita on the way down so we don't arrive in Fort Worth during late afternoon traffic. This is a good way to spend time browsing Watermark. The Fort Worth traffic part didn't work so well for us this time as we ran into road construction on I-35 but all was well. I was glad to be knitting as we sat still on the highway. Monday we left Fort Worth before sunrise to drive home in one day. Today I am happy to be home where the rhubarb is up and spring thunderstorms are rolling across the prairie. Rain and warm Spring days are welcome. What are you knitting and/or reading these first few days in May?

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Slow Spring

After one glorious warm day on Monday, the temps have dropped and the trees are dripping. Gentle rain fell last night and continues this morning. Usually by now, the flowering trees would be blooming, instead the buds are just beginning to open. This is a year of slow spring. We have slow cooking, slow knitting, and slow reading so why not slow spring? I went out this morning and the air is cool, damp, and so very fresh smelling. I hope to walk a little later. This is a season to savor. 

I reknit the border on the Lavender Shawl. I doubt anyone would have noticed the wonky lace but I am happier to have it fixed. I enjoyed playing with all the shades of lavender. The yarn with three eyelet rows came from an independent dyer who has gone out of business. In 2011, I knit an Ishbel Shawl and a pair of fingerless mitts from the yarn and saved every scrap. The dibs and dabs are part of this shawl. Other leftovers came from a yarn my sister brought me from a trip to Canada and yarn I purchased on a visit to Amherst, Mass. and Connecticut last April. Once my sister and I were going to knit identical shawls so I bought the green yarn. Neither of us finished our shawls and I have been striping the sage green into projects ever since. As we say, every project has a story. 

I cast on the Rockywold Fingerless Mitts as a KAL project for the designer's group, Blue Peninsula. The twisted rib cuff is a nice detail and slows me enough to enjoy the yarn. The mitts are a good small project for Spring. 

Otto The Owl Who Loved Poetry is a charming picture book. The little creatures of the woods listen as Otto recites lines from well known poets Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti and others. They also help him accept himself as a poet-owl. I am currently reading, In Winter's Kitchen: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland by Beth Dooley. Each chapter tells the history and current agricultural practices of a food: corn, sweet potatoes, apples, wheat, cranberries, butter and cheese, and more. This information is available from other sources but it is nice to have it collected and organized in one volume. Dooley includes short personal anecdotes about her relationship and use of the foods. The small publisher, Milkweed Editions, is a favorite of mine. 

I found this early recently opened small purple "flag" iris this morning. I see only one but more are coming. Linking with Kat and the Unravelers. What are you knitting and reading today?