Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Windy Wednesday


The wind is blowing a gale today. The little finches are hanging on to the feeder perches for dear life. They must have remarkable balance and strength in their little bodies. I'm having a cup of tea before I brave the wind to run a few errands. 

Whether our grandsons and I sit side by side or FaceTime, we love to read. Sometimes they request a specific title and sometimes I offer them a choice from the nearby basket of books or the stack on the coffee table. From time to time I choose books to match the season. Micah, the guy who wants new hats, suggested we read a different Christmas book this season. I admire this new adventurous spirit. Last night I read Santa Mouse, a favorite since his mother was a toddler. Once I began, I could almost recite it by heart. Soon I hope to read one of Patricia Polocco's Christmas books. Polacco writes longer texts that often combine two cultural traditions. She also illustrates her books and they are beautiful. Two of her other titles, Thank You Mr. Falker and The Junkyard Wonders speak to her experience of overcoming dyslexia. 


I am enjoying an old collection of short historical pieces called Christmas in the Midwest by Clarence Andrews. The book was published in 1984 by Midwest Heritage Publishing Company in Iowa City, Iowa. This light seasonal reading is a combination of fiction and nonfiction. The endpaper is a copy of artwork by Ted Kooser, who was born in Iowa but has lived in Nebraska most of his life. Interestingly, none of his poetry or prose appears in this book. The businesses have names that I suspect hold meaning for him. The large store on the bottom right is labeled, "Younkers," a department store that originated in Iowa but currently has locations in Omaha and Lincoln. Kooser's father worked at a Younkers in Iowa. Once I heard him read an essay about making Christmas bows at the store when he was a boy.




I am ready to knit the decreases on Micah's hat and nearing the end of the Contrail Shawl. I have never done a Christmas Eve cast-on but this might be the year. Maybe the wind will blow in an idea for the next project. 

Link - Kat and the Unravelers   

Sunday, December 10, 2017

This Season


I am sitting in my warm home feeling fortunate. The morning is cold but the sun is shining. I have hot tea in my mug, a jumble of knitting projects in two bags at my feet, and books piled up on the coffee and end tables. This past week I put out a few Christmas treasures. At the same time I stepped away from the news feeds to honor this season. As with many things in life, less is more.


I am enjoying this small collection of angels. When I was a girl, one of my grandmothers bought four little red angel/bells because she had four grandchildren. I am her oldest grandchild and can recall how she lined them up on top of her boxed television set and added one with each new baby in her family. Over the years she added angels for five more grandchildren and the first few great grandchildren. After she died, my sister and I shared the collection. Later I inherited two angels that belonged to my mother-in-law. None of these pieces were expensive and a couple of them have texture that resists dusting. The first four and the ones from my mother-in-law date from the 1950's. They all bring back memories. I remember helping my Grandfather wind garland around a gas lamp post in their front yard. I remember helping Gram wrap gifts in white tissue paper, adding what she called "seals," the early version of stickers. When I bake, I recall the cookies and candies she set out on a table on her unheated screened back porch. To be allowed to walk around the table and choose homemade goodies from tins was a treat and she treated us often.

Early last week, I knit two small ornaments because I wanted to try them. I used left over self striping sock yarn and knit one in an evening. I found the knitting a little tedious, especially the sleeves. Two are enough for now. I put the red/green/blue one on our small tree and tied the pink one onto my youngest niece's gift and sent it to her in Montana. My mother stitched the placemats and they are a treasure.


I finished the three color cowl. It needs to be washed and blocked. The Contrail shawl grows by a row or two every few days. I cast on Micah's hat out of multicolored yarn. I am improvising a pattern. The ribbing is K2, P2 and the body is a 6/2 broken rib. I'll work out the swirl type decreases when I get to the top. Christmas fudging might be required. These projects do not have deadlines. The hat and shawl are my knitting for the Knitting for Peace Project. Last year I knit the peace project cowl and enjoyed it. This year I purchased the shawl pattern and am following Christina's blog posts. She offers the pattern for a minimal price with some proceeds going to charity. I don't often buy patterns until I am ready to cast on but I wanted to support her efforts. I may or may not knit the shawl but I will be knitting somewhere on December 21. 

May you find peace in this holiday season.

 





Saturday, December 2, 2017

If you give a knitter a skein of yarn . . .


Sun streams in the south windows on this early December day. My Christmas cactus is in full bloom. I am ignoring the empty grocery list although I do have several cookie magazines stacked on the kitchen table. My holiday plan is to choose some simple pleasures to enjoy. Baking cookies to share and getting out a few treasures appeals to me. After mailing packages this week, I'll write a few personal notes to distant family and friends.

The Contrail Shawl is resting in a knitting bag as I knit on a three color cowl. The green yarn was a prize in a Ravelry Knit Along. Although the green isn't a shade I wear, the hand of the yarn is lovely. It has been sitting in a basket next to the leftover pumpkin colored yarn. As I looked at them, I thought about the Three Color Cashmere Cowl. I got out the leftover blue yarn but it is heavier than the other two. Can you see where this is going? Off I went to a local yarn shop looking for a third color in the same brand as the green. I came home with a skein of yellow. This reminds me of the  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series by Laura Numeroff. If you give a knitter a skein of yarn, she'll want to buy another. I have no idea what I will do with this cowl but it is fun to knit. Since I don't like great big cowls, I shortened up the pattern sections. I had a dickens of a time creating jogless stripes. I tried two different techniques that work well with wider stripes but the joins in these two row stripes are wonky. Someone will have to wear the cowl with the joins at the back of their neck.



In other news, Micah, our four year old grandson, decided he wants to wear a different hat each day. This is a little guy who doesn't like tags in shirts, zippers in sweatshirts, or pockets on pants. He would prefer to wear shorts under his snow pants. In his defense, he has very sensitive skin, so his preferences are understandable if a little challenging. His request for hats is something to honor. His mother said, the wilder the colors, the better. So I ordered this skein. I thought a lighter weight hat might be more comfortable for him. I hope his Dad is ok with a little pink. There is some bright orange and green to balance the pinks. I can knit two little boy hats from one skein so there will be one for his younger brother. Micah also has an older brother. I can't send two hats for three boys. If this grandmother knits two hats, she'll likely knit another and chances are she'll need more yarn.

Enjoy the weekend.



 



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Now it is November


Now it is November. Late afternoon sunlight from the west reflects into gray clouds giving the sky a hint of periwinkle. Most leaves have fallen but those remaining look like burnished copper against the bright gray sky. On Monday, my husband and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with a quiet dinner out. Yesterday afternoon we took a walk in the sharp north wind. The cold, bright, windy weather felt like November, not quite winter, but rather like the day we married. We are grateful for reasonably good health and each other. We also agree that life passes quickly.

I have an anthology of poems on my coffee table called Poems of Gratitude. I have been reading a few each day. Some like Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" are very familiar, others are new to me. The small volumne sits on top of a beautifully illustrated children's book, In November, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Jill Kastner. Just maybe I can convince my grandsons to listen to this thoughtful book about the season.

The Contrail Shawl grows with each peaceful row of garter stitch. On our April trip East, I bought two skeins of light gray yarn because I liked the fiber and the color. They were my souvenir from Webs. At home, I decided to order a skein in a darker shade and then tucked all of them away for another day. When I chose this pattern for this yarn, I wanted to knit it as written. To do that I needed a second skein of the darker color. I sent an email to Webs and could hardly believe they still had a skein of the same dye lot. As always, I am grateful for customer service in yarn stores.

Now it is November, a time for drawing in, making afternoon tea, pulling loved ones close, and giving thanks. I am grateful for you, the readers of this blog, many dear friends, and family. I am thankful for many other things including dinner in the evening and a warm home on a November day. Tomorrow we will join my sister and her family for a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner. I hope you have a warm wonderful holiday. Happy Thanksgiving.



Linking up with Kat for reading and knitting on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Scrappy


Last night I finished eight placemats. This project started with sorting and organizing the chest of drawers that holds quilt projects and fabric scraps. When I was teaching and my children were at home, I bought quite a few fat quarters. They weren't expensive and made me feel like I was quilting when I wasn't. Anyway, the cleaning project turned into a creative mess on my sewing table. Funny how that happens.

I pulled out quilt blocks that were never sewed into a quilt because they were the wrong color or size or just plain wonky. I retrieved a few fat quarters for the backing. As I sewed pieces and blocks into rectangles, I didn't worry about all points and corners matching. I just sliced and diced until the edges were straight and the mats were sort of the same size. In the past, I worked hard to piece accurately because I enjoyed precision. On this project, I cut and sewed to my heart's content and the randomness was freeing. Really, I think I need to break the quilting rules more often.


I finished two placemats before a cataract obscured my vision. On one of those mats, the backing is is wrong side out. I hadn't even noticed. I just left the mat as is, I doubt anyone at my house will turn over a placemat to examine the back side. I never would have settled for such imperfection in my younger quilting days. Another rule tossed aside.

This week I sewed backs to the fronts before hand stitching up the small opening left for turning the pieces right side out. I fused sturdy interfacing to the fronts hoping not to need any machine quilting. The placemats would hold together better if I machined quilted along a few seams. Who knows I may break another rule and leave them as they are now.

Scrappy means made of scraps - bits and pieces. It also means being fiesty or having a determined spirit. Hmm, if the scrap fits, maybe I should wear it. 

Linking up with Kat's Unravelers - not ravelers as I wrote last week. I continue to savor Eleanor Roosevelt's short pieces in My Day.  If ever there was a woman with a determined spirit, she was one. Last night I kitchenered the Shallows Cowl together. This project is that perfect match between yarn and pattern. While knitting, I listened to How The Light Gets In by Louise Penny.


Will Inspector Gamache and his friends succeed in solving the intrigue going on in the Quebec police force? I suspect it might take another book but won't know for sure until I listen to the end. I do love that quote by Leonard Cohen, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."  I'm enjoying both books.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Eleanor


On our recent trip East, we toured the Roosevelt homes and FDR Presidential Library Museum in Hyde Park, New York. The Hudson River Valley was dressed in rich autumn colors. The park rangers were friendly and knowledgeable. I felt right at home with the park ranger/retired child care provider who drove the tram to Eleanor Roosevelt's home, Val-Kill. Originally the structure housed Val-Kill Industries, a wood working and furniture making business she and two other women created to teach skills and provide work during the Depression. Some historians think Val-Kill was a model for FDR's New Deal programs. Later it became Eleanor's home. She had never been comfortable in the large Roosevelt home run by her mother-in-law, Sara. So she created this more modest place with relaxed comfortable furnishings in cozy spaces. Here she wrote, entertained family, friends, as well as the young John F. Kennedy. She also held picnics for local children from disadvantaged circumstances. 


Just before traveling, I read Eleanor and Hick. The thoughtful well written history describes the public and private lives of Roosevelt and her friend, Lorena Hickock. Roosevelt was an advocate for peace, human rights, civil rights, and children's welfare. When a reporter asked her what America should do about racism, she replied, "we should face it." In 1939 she resigned her membership in D.A.R. because the group refused to let African American Marion Anderson sing in Constitution Hall. Then she arranged a concert for the contralto with a gorgeous voice at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. She advocated for people living in poverty and stated that the function of government is to make life better for people. Truman appointed her as the U.S. delegate to the United Nations. She was an important member of the commission that wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document adopted by the United Nations. She traveled widely until just before her death in 1962. At times I wonder what else she could have done had she lived slightly later. However she used her position and resources to accomplish a great deal. Perhaps she lived in the time that was right for her. 

Eleanor was also a prolific writer, publishing numerous articles and books. I am reading My Day, a compilation of syndicated newspaper columns she wrote from 1935 - 1962. The chatty columns range from an account of dinner indoors on a winter evening to social and political issues she wanted to present to her readers. For many years, she wrote this column six days a week. And she was a knitter. In one column she wrote about the progress made on a sweater while "sitting around in a hospital." Her son had just had four wisdom teeth pulled. Several photos and videos show Mrs. Roosevelt knitting while chatting with her husband or on a plane.


As I knit I continue to think about Eleanor. My mother who became a nurse just after WW2, admired and read about Eleanor Roosevelt. Now I wish I had asked her more about those books. I am sure she admired Eleanor's indominable spirit as I do.  This week I finished the blue cowls. They need to be blocked and tucked away into the gift basket. Last night I cast on a shawl. I purchased the yarn last April on our trip to the East Coast. I have one more skein of sock yarn from last October's trip to Fort Worth. We hope next year brings more traveling to see our children. Until then, I am enjoying the autumn leaves. They are falling today after last night's heavy frost.

Linking, I hope, with Kat's Unravelers. What are you knitting and reading?

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Home and Away



I am most at home on the prairie under an endless sky. Two weeks ago, I walked among the tall grasses to enjoy the last greens of the season. While there are two or three benches on Spring Creek Prairie, I prefer to sit on the ground, eye level with the native plants. By late October the insects are mostly gone. I saw one or two sluggish grasshoppers. The wind rattled dry seed pods as it blew through the grass and over the land.


I saw a few stems of red coral berry and a little bittersweet near a draw. Just before leaving, I watched a great blue heron fish the pond. That evening I wound up a skein of sock yarn and packed my bag for the East Coast.


Since our children and their families live in Texas and Connecticut, we travel in their directions. Recently my husband fished with our son and grandson on the Texas Oklahoma border. This time the two of us flew into Hartford, CT. and drove into the Hudson River Valley before visiting family. The drive across the north central and western Connecticut into New York State was an autumn treat. We toured the FDR Library and the Roosevelt homes in Hyde Park. Although the New York Sheep and Wool Festival was the previous weekend, we had lunch in Rhinebeck, NY.  More about Hyde Park in another post.


We had a grand visit with our family. We celebrated Halloween, read books, and walked around the Point with three little boys. We walked Emmett to school and watched him in the school Halloween parade. One morning I read to Micah's preschool class. Another day my daughter took Lance and I to the beach to see the sun rise over Long Island Sound. The last morning, she put the youngest in a backpack and we went for a walk in a wooded area. The Connecticut woods were full of subtle autumn sights.


While it is hard to say "bye-soon," we are grateful for the time together and a safe trip. After all it is November on the prairie and I came home to my own tea cup.