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.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Home to Autumn

I have been away for a bit. We traveled to Connecticut and had the best week with our daughter and son-in-law and their busy family. While visiting I put my phone on silent and used it to take some photos and sent a few to our son and my sister. We shared pictures among ourselves so I wasn't behind the camera as often. Instead of checking the news and fuming over the latest event, I spent more time reading to my grandchildren, holding little Norah, playing ball, and walking a bit with my daughter and the children. I savored every extraordinary day.

We met our newborn granddaughter, Norah and once again marveled at this beautiful new little one - so welcomed and so loved. I played catch with Micah and read to his preschool class. 

We played"diggers" with Jonah and read to him for an hour at a time. We walked Emmett to and from school and played with all them on the playground and indoors on a rainy day. I hoped we helped more than upset their new routine. 

After two weeks of rainy gray weather in Nebraska, I loved seeing the sun above the cloud cover. The travel angels shepherded us out to Connecticut. We encountered no flight delays even though our connection was in Atlanta the day Hurricane Michael swept ashore. Our hearts go out to those picking up the pieces in Florida and elsewhere. 

Perhaps it was a good omen when my knitting matched the color of the sky during the early morning take-off. I cast on socks just before we left. The free pattern with the easy mock cable motif down the leg is a nice uncomplicated diversion from plain stockinette. The sock yarn has a great hand and comes with generous yardage. I knit a sock and a half so this project will go with me to Texas in a week or so.

We arrived home to gorgeous autumn days. The Connecticut foliage was just beginning to turn, a little unusual for October in the Northeast. Today in Nebraska, the crimson maples, the rich golds and bright yellows against a bright blue sky lift my spirits as I miss the hugs and shoulder to shoulder time with Kate and her family. 

After the usual returning home chores and errands, I picked up Norah's Christmas stocking. She doesn't need the Christmas quilt until she is out of her crib but should have a stocking on the mantel this year. I ordered some new-to-me bobbins called E-Z Bobs. As long as I don't make them heavy with too much yarn, they work better. The plastic sides flip open and closed keeping the yarn securely wound. The old-style bobbins constantly unwound creating even more tangled yarn.

I must go out and enjoy this crisp fall day. We are going to pull the tomato and zinnia plants that froze while we were gone. The tomato party is over but the pumpkin spice season is in full swing. To everything there is a season . . .

Have a good weekend. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ordinary Days

Last night as I drifted off to sleep, the wind began to blow. Today promises to be warm, windy, and sunny. The wind matches my unsettled spirit. Although I try to separate from the cacophony of news coverage, I find it hard to ignore undercurrents of wide division. My feeble answer is to smile and offer courtesy to fellow citizens while savoring ordinary days. This week I joined good friends for coffee and dinner in addition to completing chores, errands, knitting, walking, and reading. Monday I came out of a store and noticed a large flock of migrating birds, perhaps sandhill cranes. I waited for them to pass overhead, hoping to hear their calls. The noise of vehicles and construction across the parking lot made that impossible. Somehow in spite of our strife, the birds respond to patterns of light and darkness in each season.

Late one night, I pulled an old favorite from my bookshelf. Louise Erdrich's Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country, published in 2003, is an account of a trip to Lake of the Woods in Southern Ontario. Traveling with her baby and the baby's father, an Ojibwe spiritual leader and guide, she "reads the islands like a book." (Erdrich, 2003) They also visit a fragile island housing Ojibwe artifacts and the large library of Ernest Oberholtzer. In 1912, Oberholtzer, an immigrant of German heritage and an Ojibwe man, Billy Magee, canoed and mapped an area bounded by Lake Winnipeg, Hudson Bay, and Reindeer Lake. As Erdrich reads the island paintings and visits the Oberholtzer cabin lined with books, she explores the question, "Books: why?" as well as the importance of language to the Ojibwe culture. Small beautiful illustrations by Erdrich accompany the text. Although I have read this book previously, I am enjoying her meditation on the North Woods, language, and Ojibwe culture.

Last week I cast on Norah's Christmas stocking but am waiting for another skein of red yarn. I am not interested in playing yarn chicken while knitting a good sized intarsia Christmas stocking. Even though the yarn will be a different dye lot, I plan to use it for knitting her name and the red parts of other small motifs. I found several yarn shops with an online presence still selling the Brown Sheep Lana Loft in sport weight. Now I wonder if it might have been better to order three skeins and just knit the entire stocking in the same dye lot. Time will tell.

While I wait for the yarn to arrive, I picked up scraps of Cotlin, the cotton linen yarn I use for wash cloths. Garter stitch is always a good idea. After knitting blanket squares, I am giving in to the siren call of mitered squares. I have used this yarn enough to be fairly certain it isn't going to fade. Fading and color bleeding has kept me from knitting a sock yarn blanket. That and the amount of knitting such projects require. I admire those of you who do make those blankets. Now I wonder if my leftovers of Chickadee by Quince and Co. would knit up into a scarf or small lap blanket of mitered squares. These squares are a rabbit hole but first I have some gift knitting to do. I plan to savor autumn but as sure as cranes fly south, Christmas will come. 

Today, I join Kat and the Unravelers. What do you read and make on an ordinary day?


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A New Season

The Autumn Equinox marking the time of equal light and dark has come and gone. On September 21, the last day of summer, my daughter and husband delivered a healthy baby girl. She arrived safely via a scheduled C-section. Monday she and her Mom went home to her wonderful Dad and three big brothers who are lining up to "keep care of her." When I heard they were headed home, I suggested someone tell Norah to take a deep breath. She is loved to the moon and back. On her first evening at home, the family watched part of a televised baseball game and the five year old wanted to make sure she could see the game.

Our hearts are full of joy, wonder, love, and gratitude. I am so so thankful for this safe delivery and a new granddaughter to add to our fabulous four grandsons. Though as my daughter says, the celebration would have been the same for a little boy. The news came to us early Friday morning and by Friday evening she had a name, Norah Jane. The name Norah comes from a Hebrew word light, as in God created the light. I was surprised and honored beyond measure for her to carry my name. The name goes back at least four generations in our family. I have a niece with the same middle name. And so little Norah brings joy, love, and light to her family. 

While I was waiting for her birth last week, I knit toddler sized mittens and hat. Our new little gal has plenty of warm knits so I plan to donate this set in honor of her safe arrival. The color work was a bit of an experiment and worked out better in the hat than on the mittens. The mittens don't match perfectly although they are the same size. They are soft and snug and will keep a little one warm. I also finished this toddler sweater for later because babies grow. If this child had been a boy, this sweater would have been a gift for someone else. I will pick up three buttons this week.

While I "kept calm and knit on," I finished reading A Gentleman in Moscow. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, character development and narrative of the novel. The writer's comments and asides to the reader were very well done and added to the story. I also read a few poems from Voices on the Air by Naomi Shihab Nye. Recently she read her poems on the podcast, "On Being." Nye and her work are remarkable in many ways. She works with young people around the world. If you need your spirits lifted, read or listen to Nye.

I am joining Kat and the Unravelers this week with my knitting and reading. Kat is working on a mitred cross blanket project, seaming together squares contributed by a group of knitters. Holy cow, that is a big project.

The season is changing. Norah has arrived. Monarchs are fluttering over the zinnia patch. Last week a pair of ruby crowned kinglets stopped in the birch on their way through. When the pesky squirrels aren't chewing on our deck, they scramble up the trees to pad their nests. Soon we will travel to meet little Norah and her family. All is well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Watching and Waiting

On Monday my sister and I spent the day together. We planned to pick apples and share a picnic lunch. Although our apple picking wasn't the quintessential outing planned, we had a nice day. I had missed the notice on the orchard website stating they were closed on Mondays. Even so, the owners graciously let us pick and buy apples. The recent hot weather and above average rainfall made for abundant apples and mosquitoes. Although we dressed in long sleeves, long pants, and hats, they swarmed around us. I used a little insect repellant (I hate the stuff) on my neck and around the bottom of my pant legs but it didn't phase them at all. We picked as fast as we could and took our picnic lunch home to eat indoors. The apples are tart, crisp, and delicious. We escaped without bites. Thank goodness as West Nile Virus is reported in the area.

Mosquitoes or not, we chatted away about our knitting and our families. Naturally we talked about the baby my daughter will deliver any day. We are eager to welcome this new little child. Though there is no reason to expect anything but a safe delivery, I am a little anxious. My sister, who knows exactly what I need to hear, remarked, "We will knit this baby safely into the world." So we shall. I used to tell my son nearly the same thing when he went to school in Laramie, Wyoming. He thought nothing of setting off at 5:00 p.m. and driving home through the night. I usually talked to him before I went to bed and would tell him I was knitting him safely home. That winter I knit him a sweater. One winter evening, I knit so furiously I overshot the body length by ten inches.

My sister and I are knitting this week while watching and waiting for Baby Coconut. Last week I reknit the infamous mitten, managing to get the cable and thumb in the correct place. I ripped out the rose colored shawl and cast on in yet another pattern but will create Ravelry notes when I know it is a go. Yesterday I needed some easy knitting so I cast on a baby hat. I don't have a pattern. I adapted the color work from a free mitten pattern and am using a tape measure frequently. I plan to knit matching mittens.

I am thoroughly enjoying A Gentleman in Moscow. The story "shows instead of tells" as the main character creates an interesting life in spite of house arrest in a hotel. Call me old fashioned but the characters' good manners and courtesy are refreshing. The writing, dotted with sly humor and asides to the reader, is excellent.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers today.  I am looking forward to see what others are knitting and reading.  Then I am off to make some applesauce.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Summer's End

I walk in my neighborhood all year long. Each season brings its treasures. This summer I saw the wildflower, Hibiscus trionum, tucked in around the bottom of a street light pole. The plant is commonly called "Flower-of-an Hour" because it blooms for a short period in the morning. The stem is prickly but the cream flower with the maroon center and yellow stamen is beautiful. Blue jays flew from tree to tree with their familiar shrieks. They seemed to be checking in with each other. "I am here. Where are you?"  "I am just down the street." All summer the trees do a yeoman's work absorbing noise, dust, and carbon dioxide while giving back green color, shade, and shelter. When we moved into this subdivision in 1991, the area was being developed. Newly planted saplings now provide bountiful shade. As summer ends, the vibrant greens fade. The trees begin to let go of leaves, following a natural rhythm. 

Whether the life cycle of a tree is long or cut short by disease or storm, losing one is hard. Trees are lovingly attended on the Great Plains. Willa Cather once remarked, "Trees were so rare in this country we used to feel anxious about them." Thousands of ash trees grow in southeast Nebraska. All of them are threatened by the emerald ash borer beetle. The landscape will look very different without the ash. As I understand it, chemical treatment may extend the life of the tree for five to ten years but eventually the tree will die. The poison treatments damage the tree and need to be repeated. We don't have an ash in our yard so don't have to decide whether to remove or treat a mature tree. I understand it is a tough call. I venture into controversy when I wonder: What are the long term effects of the chemicals on ground water, or the birds that shelter in the trees, nearby pollinators, or children who play in the soil underneath the canopy? What conditions created the ability of this insect to thrive? I don't know the answers but I think the long view is worth considering.

These ideas are on my mind as summer nears its end and I unravel my knitting. I am knitting swatches and then unraveling them. I knit loosely so achieving correct gauge can be a challenge. I'd like to knit the sweater Archer. Both stitch and row gauge are critical for shaping the yoke of the sweater. I have modified patterns based on a different gauge but the construction method of this sweater makes modifications seem quite daunting. Monday evening I ripped out and reknit the thumb gusset on the second mitten. Last night I knit on the mitten only to discover the cable was two stitches too wide and ran up the side (instead of the center!) of the hand. What was I thinking when I set up the pattern on this mitten?! I unraveled it and went to bed to read A Gentleman in Moscow. I've only just begun this novel but am enjoying it. Reading about the gentle kind intelligent man is a treat.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers today as  I leave you with a poem I wrote over the course of three summers of walking. Who knows I may unravel and work on it again next summer.

Morning Walk

Walking with knives and forks clattering
in my mind, I sink into the stretch of my calf.

Air conditioners hum as the sole
of my shoe scuffs the pavement.

I nod to a runner. Chickadee calls.
Cardinal marks his territory.

I pause under trees, compare
canopy of pear, linden, and ash. 

Beneath a maple I plant my feet,
breathe into side ribs.

Rib to vein, vein to spine, breath
from breath, I meet another.

Jane A. Wolfe Copyright 2018


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Hello September

Heavy rain fell on southeast Nebraska over Labor Day weekend. The coming week looks to be just as soggy. No matter, I had a lovely birthday weekend filled with phone calls, FaceTime, flowers, and many birthday wishes. My husband brought me a sweet red and white bouquet and the Connecticut team sent very September-ish flowers. My sister knit me a pair of beautiful cozy socks.

Our son, Aaron was here for his annual Fantasy Football draft with friends so having him was an extra treat. Although the weather was warm and muggy, he and I decided a soup supper was in order. We made a pot of chili and semmel, a family recipe for a German hard roll. Although the rolls are made from basic ingredients of flour, water, yeast, and salt, the ratio of flour to water varies with the brand of flour and the day. The best way to learn is to apply one's own elbow grease and experience the heft of the sticky dough under a wooden spoon. After the dough rises it is dropped in big clumps onto a well seasoned cookie sheet to bake at a high heat. The well seasoned, battered up cookie sheet is another factor in getting the outer crispness of the bread just right. Sunday was a good day for his semmel making lesson.

This hard roll comes down from my Dad's family. My grandmother and her sisters, as well as other cousins in the same community, stirred the dough up on Saturday evenings and then baked semmel for breakfast before Sunday church. I imagine Grandma Catherine learned to make semmel from her mother. These hardy rolls supported hard working farmers and their families. My Mom learned to make them and added poppy seeds to the top so I do the same. My siblings and families like them with soup or breakfast. My Connecticut grandchildren call them "Grammy Bagels." Every family member has their preferred topping - butter, cheese, jelly, peanut butter, or honey on a warm semmel. The second and third day after baking (if they last that long) they are a little tough but quite good when buttered and warmed under the broiler. Sunday evening, the three of us ate a few and I sent the rest home with Aaron. I didn't think to take photos but loved being shoulder to shoulder with him in the kitchen. He is a great cook so I have no doubt he can make these at home.

Sunday evening I finished two mitered blanket squares that will be part of two blankets for cancer patients. A number of bloggers are making squares. My skills in picking up stitches have improved since I knit one square twice. The pattern is a bit of a puzzle. I just had to trust and follow the directions and guess what? Designers know how to write patterns. This one is written quite clearly. The squares are blocking and may take a bit longer than usual to dry in this weather. After I weave in the ends, I'll send them to Kat who, bless her, is sewing them together and knitting the edging.

While knitting on the blanket squares, I listened to two Mary Russell mysteries, Locked Rooms and The God of the Hive. The mitered squares will forever remind me of this September weekend, stirring up semmel with Aaron, and the Russell and Holmes stories. This series by Laurie King, is a spin-off from the Sherlock Holmes stories. I have read some of them - out of order - as they were available from the library. I love the library but I get a little annoyed when part of a series is missing. I haven't read or listened to this series for awhile so it was fun to return. The series begins around 1915. Mary Russell, a smart independent woman, marries Holmes and together they travel the world, have adventures, and solve mysteries.

Yesterday I played around with a sweater swatch to no avail and then picked up mittens and knit on them. Someone can always use a pair of mittens. This yarn was to be part of a scrap blanket that I am not very enthused about knitting. The project has been sitting in the basket in a closet all year. I may reclaim the unused yarn for other knitting, most likely mittens and hats. The main color of the afghan isn't in my favorite palette of blue/gray/purple/sage green.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers on this first week of a new month. Hello September.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Stitching Away

While the temperature and humidity hold on to the end of this Nebraska summer, the morning and evening light comes at a different slant. Some mornings the spider webs are hung with dew. Yesterday a front blew through so this morning feels like autumn. Grandmother Spider is busy repairing her web.

All summer I have been making quilt blocks for our new grandchild. Come December this little one will be sleeping in a crib and have no need for a large Christmas quilt. I am under no immediate deadline to finish and am taking my time. I enjoy thinking about Baby Coconut (temporarily named by her eldest brother and due in mid September) while I stitch away on the blocks. I have completed seventeen of the twenty. I will stitch the last one after Baby Coconut arrives. I need the child's given name for the block with my name and date. Come autumn, after a visit to meet this new babe, I will set the quilt together.

I finished the Petty Harbor socks. The alpaca/wool/nylon yarn makes warm soft socks and worked well with the textured pattern. I often buy a skein of Alpaca Sox yarn from a LYS in Omaha. My sister and I shop the store's end-of-the-year sale together. These socks remind me of a cold December day in a yarn shop with my sister. The summer shawl and a toddler sweater remain on the needles but haven't seen much knitting time lately. Currently I am joining some other women in knitting Mitered Cross blanket squares as a gift to a cancer patient. The construction of the garter stitch square is interesting and makes the knitting go by quickly.

I am reading several books. The Cottonwood Tree by Kathleen Cain, a native Nebraskan combines science, ecology, natural history and Cain's experiences with the trees. Most of it is quite readable. A section or two describing the science of the tree are a little technical but still interesting. The other two books are from the library. Knit Mitts by Kate Atherley is a resource with patterns as well as mathematics needed to design mittens in a range of sizes with various weights of yarn. I am always on the look out for knitting books and found this one on a shelf of new nonfiction. After listening to an episode of "On Being" podcast featuring poet Michael Longley, I requested his Collected Poems via Interlibrary Loan. Listening to his Irish Brogue as he read and talked about poetry led me to search for his work. His poems are beautiful.

I'll link to Kat and the Unravelers today. It is always fun to see what others are reading and stitching or even unraveling.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Knitting Needles

One of my summer projects was to sew a fabric case for my double pointed needles. Since becoming a dedicated knitter, I have stored DPN's (in the original packaging) at the bottom of the basket that also holds circular needles. Other than the time spent looking for DPN's and buying a few unneeded duplicate sets, the system worked well. Lately some of the packaging has worn out, letting needles slip through the wrappers. On our last road trip, we pulled off the highway and stopped so I could retrieve a needle that fell down beside the seat. 

During the past few days I made a case from supplies on hand. I did purchase some twill tape printed with a tape measure that I used to label needle sizes on specific pockets. Every time I pull out supplies from storage, I think whoever finds this mess after I am gone will say, "Well, she had a lot of good ideas." "Egad and little fishhooks," as my Grandmother used to exclaim. Gram was a sewer of all kinds of projects and had a sewing room full of interesting supplies and tools so she would understand my collection. I inherited her buttons, a few pieces of fabric, and many knitting needles. 

Anyway, my sister has a fabric DPN case, so I asked her to measure and photograph it for me. This project would have been much more difficult without that information. First I inventoried sizes, lengths, and duplicate sets of needles. Then I spent three afternoons measuring, cutting, trimming, pressing, and sewing to create the case. 

I finished it by hand stitching down the binding and attaching size labels. Hand stitching the size labels seemed like the best way not to inadvertently sew the pockets shut. Oh dear. I enjoyed the puzzle of creating and sewing the case but will say that whatever Etsy makers charge for a DPN case is a fair price. 

While sorting needles, I came upon these Susan Bates needles. Look at the prices. I remember buying one pair of these but the others probably came from my Grandmother's collection. She didn't knit much on DPN's but used them to cable.

I also have some of her straight needles in the pastel aluminum colors. I don't use them often but keep them in a small pitcher that also belonged to her. She had a set of "Tickled Pink" dishes she used everyday. Pink was her favorite color but that is a story for another day. 

I am reading the last chapter of Craeft. The author, an archeologist, traces the history of craeft and tools that enabled agricultural life in England and Wales before petroleum products came into widespread use. His ideas are intriguing and mostly readable. Some technical sections about tools were a little tedious for me. I enjoyed the section about sheep farming, spinning, and weaving as well as the story about baskets. 

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers today. May your books and knitting needles stay neatly in their assigned places and projects.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Touch of Fall

Yesterday a slow steady rain fell all morning. The sound of rainfall and gray light was meant for stories and words. I picked up The Reading Woman engagement calendar that I keep on my desk for inspiration. A generous thoughtful friend and fellow book club member gave it to me last December. The calendar is illustrated with paintings of reading women. A reading-related quote by a woman follows each painting. The art work is beautiful and the quotes range from sassy to meditative. As I considered the bright shining faces of neighborhood children on this first week of a new public school year, I read this quote by Maya Angelou,"If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young." I wish these young students a good year with time enough to read a book for pure enjoyment. I miss this wise woman but am thankful for others who write and speak today.

Ursula K. LeGuin was another wise woman. Although I haven't read her fiction, I admire her essays and short pieces of nonfiction. Her insights into life, writing, publishing, and reading are thought provoking. In February 2010, she talked and facilitated a discussion of "What Women Know" published in Words Are My Matter. She finds hope in the ways women teach lessons of being human to children and strengthen cultures by telling stories.

Kat and the Unravelers continue their reading, stitching, and story telling. I look forward to reading their blog posts today. I am knitting the foot on the first blue sock  and reading several books at one time, including Words Are My Matter. I have only begun Craeft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts, written by an English archeologist. It begins with history of a scythe and making hay. Although I was hoping to read more about the fiber arts, the book is interesting enough that I keep reading.

Today is cool and gray. As my Mom used to say, "There is a little touch of Fall in the air." No doubt the temperature will rise and today's humidity will make the afternoon feel like summer but this morning I sense the season changing. Like my wise and kind mother, I prefer autumn and winter, however I am grateful for the feast of fresh summer produce. Today's tomatoes make good soup and sauce for colder days. This afternoon's work is to preserve some of this tomato bounty. The green sprigs behind the tomatoes are herbs. Stacking them on paper towels is my high tech method for drying and saving them for winter. The system is messy but it works well. 

May you all have wise and kind women in your lives and reading as you savor the bounty of summer.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Local Gem

Why is it I forget to savor the beauty in my own community? I often drive by the Sunken Gardens located near a busy intersection in Lincoln. This garden was built in 1930-1931 on a former neighborhood dump site. The original goal of the rock garden design was to turn the land into a place of beauty. The workers, who were part of a program providing work for the unemployed, earned $6.40 per hour. They planted 416 trees and shrubs. In 2003, the Lincoln Parks Foundation raised 1.7 million dollars for renovations. The work was completed in 2005. Today the garden is planted and tended by volunteers under the direction of Lincoln Parks and Recreation.

A week or so ago on a sunny afternoon I made this local gem my destination. The park consists of three gardens: a perennial garden, an annual garden, and a healing (white) garden. There are also two reflecting pools filled with lilies, a waterfall, and two statues. Let me show you some of the beauty.

A pavilion marks the entrance to the garden. The dome consists of laser cut panels portraying the four seasons in Lincoln. Here is the view looking up from inside.

Colors and textures in the garden are a feast for the senses. The afternoon I visited many others also enjoyed the garden. I saw children looking at koi and butterflies, a woman helping her elderly mother to a bench in the shade, volunteers with hoes and wheelbarrows, and quite a few photographers. A few of them appeared to be university/college students on assignment. The garden holds beauty and space for all.  

Since I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers, I'll also write about knitting and reading. I am enjoying small projects on these hot summer days. I finished the Irish Hiking mittens and cast on some socks using blue yarn from my stash. Of course the yarn is blue. I am slowly chugging through my sock yarn (fingering with nylon) stash - three remaining. I do have several fingering weight skeins without any nylon content set aside for shawls or mitts. Whew.

I read The Girls of the Kingfisher Club, a retelling of the fairy tale about 12 princesses. In this version set in the 1920's, the twelve sisters sneak out of their New York City home to dance the nights away. Think flappers and the Charleston. This book is pure summer fluff that could have used more character development. Still a fairy tale was a good way to read myself to sleep at night. I continue to read Words are My Matter by LeGuin during the daylight. I read a piece or two at a time and then ponder the author's thoughts. 

One housekeeping note: my daughter helped me with settings for this blog so perhaps the commenting feature will work better. Time will tell.

I hope your Wednesday is treating you well. Have you visited any local gems this summer?