Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Comfort and Joy

Here we are on this bright crisp December day in the midst of another holiday season. The nativity set, complete with two Josephs, is in its familiar place on the mantle. Lance and the kids gave me two pieces each Christmas for several years. For some reason, he and my son picked out the second Joseph thinking it was one of the three wisemen. Eventually, my son-in-law and daughter located the missing wise man on eBay and gave it to me. This old Hallmark set brings me comfort and joy. I love looking at it and remembering the young sweet faces of our son and daughter. Now they nurture their own families through the season. I hung our stockings and finished up with my minimalist decorating which means putting out a few favorites, enough to make the house feel like Christmas. 

My daughter, the boys, and I are reading Christmas stories via FaceTime. It is fun to watch their choices change day to day and year to year. Jonah usually wants to read "one more book" and I am happy to oblige. This season he loves the reindeer and rhythm in The Night Before Christmas. The book is easy to read via FaceTime because it has one illustration per page. Familiar text is a bonus. I have become quite adept at juggling a book and a cell phone while reading. The fingerless mitts were a hit with all the boys. Jonah wore his to church and showed them to everyone who would listen, "Nebraska, my Grammy." He likes red.

Last night I knit the heel flap and turn on the first Christmas sock. The blue faced leicester and nylon yarn is going to make a wooly sturdy sock. I chose an eye of partridge heel flap to go with the exuberant yarn. This week I heeded the good advice of blog friends to knit more of the shawl before starting over with another pattern. I discovered I really like the yarn/pattern combination. Experience has taught me that ripping out projects at 10:00 p.m. is not a good idea. Now I'm adding the "knit a little more" idea to my bag of knitting tricks. Shawls are truly my comfort knitting through any season and the subtle texture changes keep this project interesting. On these early dark evenings with tea in a Christmas mug, I knit on the shawl. Yesterday I wound the second skein. The shawl is growing.

I came upon Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer at the library. Maya Angelou's work is a treasure. This is a small book to be savored - one thoughtful poem at a time. I also pulled a copy of her book, Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem from my shelf. This book was a gift from my son quite a few years ago. The ribbon book mark was on the package with a small card. Either of these books would be a lovely gift for a reader. Comfort reading to be sure.

As I link with Kat and the Unravelers, I wish you the comfort and joy this season.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Early December

This morning I rose unusually early (for me) and saw the sun come up over the horizon. What a welcome sight. After five gray days, I am ready for this bright day. The little birds: juncos, chickadees, finches, downy woodpeckers, and nuthatches keep me company. They feed heavily the day before a storm blows in and as the snow falls. Four or five pairs of cardinals frequent the neighborhood. One day while walking, I saw a group of male cardinals and several bluejays bathing in a large icy pool of water at the end of a driveway. I expect them to drink melted snow but flapping around  in the middle of the pool of icy water struck me as quite cold. I am sure they know best.

I am happy to report that Norah's Christmas stocking landed safely in Connecticut. Norah won't know the difference this Christmas. Her brothers are looking out for her though. I knit "Brother Bears" for each of the boys and Micah got an extra rainbow bear for his last birthday. He asked his Mom if I could knit a Sister Bear for Norah so "she won't feel left out." Well yes, I am sure I can - after the holidays.

This month I plan to knit more easy going projects. Often in warm weather I am searching for a shawl in white or light cream so I purchased some yarn that turned out to be a silver gray white. After the stocking was finished I cast on this shawl. I chose the pattern thinking it would be just right for this soft 2 ply-yarn. Although the texture in the fabric shows against the dark wood, the stitches are not well defined. In real life, the difference between the seed and garter stitch section is barely visible. I had a look around Ravelry and no other pattern jumped out as a possibility. This is the shape of shawl I enjoy wearing and I do prefer simpler motifs and textures. Maybe the yarn would show to better advantage with two more contrasting textures or maybe I'll stick with this pattern. Let me know if you have any thoughts.

In the meantime, I knit a cowl from scraps and cast on a pair of Christmas socks. The cowl needs to be blocked. I haven't decided what to do with it. It is rather pastel - pink, lavender, and blue - even for me.

My reading doldrums continue. I am reading The Overstory, a collection of short stories that has received good reviews. Many of the first stories in this collection (spoiler alert) contain a punch to the midsection - a suicide, death, or bad accident - that I am finding a little tiresome. The writing is good and I like the story of trees woven into the narrative so I continue to read. Maybe the time of the year has something to do with how I am reading this collection. Occasionally I pick up this book, A Vintage Christmas. It is a collection of very sweet old-fashioned Christmas stories when I need a happy, feel good read. I would like to find a first rate novel for these cold winter nights. I need to go book browsing - oh darn.

I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers and then I am going out to enjoy a little sunshine. I wish you a day of peace, love, and light. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Although the calendar hasn't turned to December, the weather is wintry. Right on cue, snow arrived the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Rain fell, the temperature dropped, and wind blew in blizzard conditions. It was a good day for a cup of tea and a healthy helping of knitting projects. Over the weekend I blocked Norah's Christmas stocking. Sunday I wove in ends. Monday evening I seamed it closed. This week I will line it, crochet a short chain for the hanger, and attach the all important jingle bell at the toe. Technically it isn't quite finished, but soon. Then off it goes with a wing, a prayer, and a tracking number to Connecticut. I don't like trusting it to the mail but I don't have much choice. In the last two and a half years, we haven't had any packages go astray so I'm hoping our record holds. Fingers crossed.

Norah's is the ninth stocking I have knitted from this old 1950's pattern that came from my aunt. She knit stockings for my three siblings and I, as well as her five children, their spouses, and perhaps her grandchildren. I told my daughter that baby names can be no longer than seven letters so they fit on the stockings. Ha. When I began knitting them for my grandchildren, I bought extra red and green yarn that is mostly gone. Extra yarn never hurts and often helps. My intarsia is flawed but the stitches are knit with love and that is what counts, especially at Christmas.

Every time I think I am more of a process knitter, I finish projects with immense satisfaction. So perhaps I am both. At any rate, Norah's hat and mittens are finished as is this shawl I knit for my sweet sister's birthday gift. I modified the pattern a bit to get a shawl of good size and use up most of the skein.  Last winter we visited a local yarn shop and each bought a skein of yarn. This is the yarn I purchased. It is absolutely lovely and it is blue. We both like blue yarn. She is a beautiful knitter and a wonderful sister to me. This shawl was a joy to make for her. The stocking and the shawl have been my knitting since September.

Now I am onto more relaxed knitting in December. I may knit one more hat for a gift this week or I may not. I have been enjoying the afterglow of a lovely Thanksgiving. This morning Jonah asked me to read the reindeer book. Since he is not yet in preschool, I read to him quite often via Face Time. What a life saver for long distance grandparenting. This afternoon I am going to get out the Christmas books so Rudolph is ready for tomorrow's chat. Next week will be time enough for my minimalist approach to decorating. 

As I join Kat and the Unravelers this week, I am in between books. I read a few essays from the collection, Aging: An Apprentice. The essays were written and arranged by writer's decade of life, that is the 40's (is that aged?), 50's, 60's, etc. Some well known authors: Jane Hamilton, Judy Blume, Gloria Steinhem, Donald Hall, Doris Grumbach had pieces in the book. Some were worth reading, many were not. I skipped quite a few. An essay called "Ripening" that likened aging to being ripened like a seed appealed to me. I prefer a positive focus.

Enjoy the rest of the week. What are you reading and making?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving Eve

Yesterday this piece of birch bark blew onto the deck. Since it was so lovely, I brought it in for awhile. Today is a day for a tried and true recipe, Butterhorn Rolls, and two new ones, Gingerbread Spiced Almonds and Cranberry Couscous Salad. Then, tomorrow, over the river (the Platte) and through the fields (corn) to my sister's home we go.

As I grew up, my family celebrated Thanksgiving with my Dad's extended family. The tradition began in 1941 with a kindness. After one of my great uncles lost his young wife, my grandmother and her sister invited the widower and four daughters to Thanksgiving dinner. My grandparents had three children. Great Aunt Elizabeth and her husband had three daughters. I think about how uncertain life must have been in November 1941 for all of them, including Uncle Henry.

As the cousins married and the family expanded, they met in various farm homes. Although there was plenty of outdoor play space, I preferred to be underfoot in the kitchen. There I listened to the women chat as they prepared the noon dinner for forty-some family members. At least one cousin was a dairy farmer, so pie was served with plenty of fresh whipped cream. One year when I was a little girl, I skipped the pie and ate a plate of whipped cream. In the early days, my grandmother and her sister would often put their silver heads together laughing and talking in German when they didn't want the children to overhear their conversation.

Later the reunion moved to a community room and we took our children a time or two. At one of the last celebrations, a new daughter-in-law brought Cool Whip. No unkind looks or words were exchanged. However, Ellen, one of Dad's cousins with a big smile and bright eyes, went to her picnic basket, pulled out a hand-held mixer, searched for an electrical outlet, and whipped up real cream. The family gathered on Thanksgiving from 1941 until 2000. The sweetest moment occurred when all the voices, young and old, sang the Doxology. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow" rang throughout the farmhouse or across a big room. I am grateful for the memory of the Thimm family Thanksgivings.

Tomorrow at my sister and brother-in-law's table, the group will include their children and significant others as well as good friends. Out of respect for those of the Jewish faith, we won't sing the Doxology and I will miss those who are not there. Still, as we gather my sister, niece, and I will be shoulder to shoulder in the kitchen. We will celebrate Thanksgiving and our many blessings, including real whipped cream on mocha pecan or pumpkin pie. Personally, I am also adding a dollop to my decaf coffee.

Although I am joining Kat and the Unravelers this Wednesday, knitting feels like an afterthought. I finished all the mitts, including a wee pair for Norah. She needs a hat that doesn't fall down over her face and I need a project for the drive to Omaha tomorrow so I cast on a hat. I have almost finished knitting her Christmas stocking. Friday I plan to take a walk and spend the afternoon pulling out the waste yarn to knit heels. Then after gentle steam blocking, I will weave in a boatload of ends, seam, and line the piece. Meanwhile I have some other yarn waiting on the coffee table for the next project. I've been looking at it and thinking of shawls.

May your Thanksgiving be rich with kindness, dear ones, and your favorite dessert. I am off to stir up dinner rolls. Happy Thanksgiving Eve. 


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wool Sock Weather

Last week we drove to Fort Worth to visit the Texas crew. While we were gone, wool sock weather arrived on the prairie. On a brisk Wednesday afternoon, we drove south through Kansas. Hawks, hunting and staking out territory, perched on fence posts, trees, or utility poles about every thirty miles. Near a rest area, bittersweet bloomed and I peeped into a tiny nest. All afternoon, the sky and light changed. Snow and rain clouds gathered in the west. By early dusk, the sky was the most beautiful gradient of grays and blue-gray lavenders layered with a hint of mauve. The colors would be perfect for a shawl. We stopped overnight in Wichita and left early the next morning in order to dodge snow and DFW rush hour traffic.

We had a nice visit with our son and his family. Thursday evening we cheered Austin at his last freshman football game. We spent the first half in the stands and the second half standing under an entry to the bleachers, sheltered from a downpour. Bundled in layers and our red Nebraska ponchos, we stood out like sore thumbs but kept reasonably dry. We ventured out when his team had the ball. My daughter-in-law and I worked a jigsaw puzzle over two days. Saturday we watched the Nebraska football game and played an impossible Sherlock Holmes game. We laughed at the complex riddles and then threw out the rules to brainstorm solutions as a group. Cooperation versus competition is not a bad thing. That evening we ate dinner at a small family owned Italian restaurant where every sauce and dish is made from scratch. Pops threw the football with Austin and I walked around the neighborhood with him. He is quite the grown up young man. Chatting with him is a joy.

A one-way ten hour drive plus more time for potty stops meant plenty of knitting time. I finished the pair of socks I began on the flight to Connecticut. This free pattern with the little mock cable is great travel knitting. I also knit two pair of fingerless mitts and began the third for the three younger grandsons. Those boys thought fingerless mitts would be just the ticket for outdoor play. Little Norah will get a pair of thumbless mittens to cover all of her fingers.

Last week, I finished reading A Warrior of the People. The story of the first Native American woman physician, Susan La Fleche and her family is remarkable. She was equally at home in Connecticut parlors and at Omaha powwows. I love her story but wish it had been written differently. The author had access to La Fleche's many journals and letters but included only a few quotes from them. I wanted to know more of her, hear her voice, and read prose that was more than a list of her many accomplishments. The book is readable though. Last night I finished Pachinko. Discrimination experienced by immigrants bears reading and continued thought. The challenges and expectations of women in the story would make a good book group discussion. Although the novel was entertaining and the characters well developed, I wasn't wowed by it.

I will link with Kat and the Unravelers. I missed them last week.

Now it is November. May your feet be warm and your Thanksgiving preparations filled with joy, gratitude, and loved ones. Welcome wool sock weather.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Rich Autumn Days

On the last golden days of October, Micah and his Dad visited us. We played in the leaves, drew pictures, made pizza, and read stories. We had a wonderful time. They flew safely home yesterday. The house is quieter as I tuck crayons into the drawer to wait for the next visit. 

Monday, the light shifted a few degrees, tilting the northern hemisphere toward shorter days. Yesterday the wind blew and the trees in our yard let go of all their leaves. Nearby, red and red/orange maples show their colors a while longer. Today is Halloween. The sky is a bright gray and November is around the corner. Autumn rhythms are rich with grace.  

Chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, juncos and downy woodpeckers are in the midst of a feeding frenzy this morning. Since migration patterns are based on changes in light, the birds probably sense this turn toward deeper autumn or maybe they are just hungry. The small red-breasted nuthatches are a new addition to our yard so I wanted to know more about them. More petite than their white-breasted cousins, their light cinnamon colored breasts are just right for autumn. The white-breasted species has a white face with a black cap while these tiny birds sport a white eyebrow stripe above a black stripe that runs across their eye. Each morning, the small birds visiting the birch and feeders are my faithful writing companions. 

I join Kat and the Unravelers although neither my knitting projects or reading has changed. I put the Christmas stocking away while I had company. That project requires quiet knitting time. While watching the early innings of the World Series, I knit the heel flap and turned the heel on a second sock so that is quite ready for car knitting. Click on over to see what other makers are crafting and reading. I recommend both Pachinko  and A Warrior of the People. Both are keeping my interest - one audio and one a hard copy. 

Happy Haunting, Happy Harvest, Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Unraveled is a good description for how I feel this a.m. Yesterday, I picked the last summer flowers and then went to the pharmacy for the first of two Shingles vaccines. Generally I have little trouble with vaccines other than a sore arm, a small price to pay for being less susceptible to illness. I planned to clean house and get groceries but may be taking it easy for a few hours. I was up during the night and don't feel well this morning. Oh boy, I try hard to keep medical issues to myself as there isn't much worse than an old lady complaining about aches and pains. I am just being honest here. We all prefer to be well and I am NOT suggesting that anyone avoid vaccines. Shingles and/or influenza are no laughing matter.

Maybe while sitting on the couch, I will finish volunteer work on a letter campaign to get out the vote. Through an organization called Vote Forward, I adopted twenty five registered voters and agreed to send a form letter along with a short personal message encouraging citizens to vote. The instructions state not to advocate for any candidate or party but to stress the importance of every vote. The goal is to communicate through a personal connection. Other than the occasional yard sign and visiting with local candidates who knock on my door, I have never campaigned. This effort seems important and something to counter the sometimes overwhelming feelings I have about the state of political affairs in this country. If I finish the first twenty five letters, I'll pick up another list. All it costs me is a little bit of time and postage.

I have a little unraveling to do on Norah's Christmas stocking. The stitch count of the yellow stitches is not correct. I was sailing along, managing all the yarn and bobbins. Then last night at 9:45 p.m. when my head began to ache, I noticed a mistake. I know I need to set this project aside about 9:30 p.m. but alas I wanted to get started on the horn. I have three or four rows to unpick, one stitch at a time. If I pulled these stitches off the needle I would make a mess. Since this is a slow-going project you will be seeing plenty of it here. These stockings are knit flat and upside down so that is the way I photographed it. My goal is to have it finished with all ends woven in, lining sewed and tacked in place in order to do a gentle steam blocking by the first of December. Time will tell. I am not quite half way through the knitting.

I am reading two good stories, Pachinko and A Warrior for her People, a work of nonfiction about Susan LaFleche who, in the late 1800's over came gender and racial prejudice to become a Native American woman physician. I've had the book since last December but put off reading it because I knew it was this month's selection for my book group. LaFleche's story and family are remarkable. The author, Joe Starita, was an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald before becoming a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska. He writes a compelling, well researched story. LaFleche kept detailed journals most of her life so he had a lot of primary source material. Starita donates all proceeds and honorariums from his talks and books about Native Americans to a foundation he created. The foundation provides scholarships to young Native Americans. I heard him speak last year and he told wonderful success stories. Reading Pachinko makes me realize how little I know of the history of Korea. The story of hard working women persisting through poverty and political upheaval as they create and sustain their family is engaging. I'm about half way through. 

Bright yellow leaves fall from the birch as I write. Two small nuthatches, dressed in delicate gray blue and light rust are feeding on safflower seeds and storing them in the birch bark. I don't often see this species in my yard so I am enjoying their company. Yesterday I noticed juncos in the neighborhood. They return for winter but I'd rather not think about that today. Tomorrow, one Connecticut grandson and his Dad are flying in for a long weekend on Thursday. My son-in-law is officiating at a wedding so the five year old, not yet in elementary school, is coming to spend some time with us. I told Micah we should rake a big pile of leaves and jump into them. We will also roll out crust and sauce up some pizza. This weekend is going to be fun.

Click to visit Kat and the Unravelers for stories from knitters across the country and then go enjoy this golden October day.