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?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Peppers, Onions, and Cukes, Oh My!

August first is half way between the summer solstice and the fall equinox. Since I retired, the day feels more like the midpoint instead of the end of the season. Teachers in Lincoln go back to work in just a few days. I remember those days well - anticipation of a new school year mixed with sadness at the end of summer days and long evenings. My good wishes go with them. Teachers go to work, often before they are required to be on duty, with goodwill and energy to prepare for their students.

Today I am grateful for the remaining summer days. Seasonal produce is delicious and abundant. Last week I stuffed zucchini with summer veggies and bread crumbs. I also baked a squash/tomato tart with zucchini from a friend and the first few tomatoes from my garden. The Colorado peaches have arrived in local grocery stores and the Farmer's Market is bursting with color and flavor. This morning I sliced up a sink full of cucumbers, green peppers, onions, and garlic. In a couple of hours, I will rinse and drain the pickling salt and water before processing the veggies in a water bath canner. Bread and butter pickles for the winter. The cucumbers grew in my garden from one hill of eight seeds. Am I ever glad I planted only one hill. This is the second batch of pickles in a week.

This little rainbow bear (with blue and a hood as per request) is on its way to Connecticut. It was fun and easy to knit. Micah will be five this month on August 8 because as he says, "Eight is great!" We won't be with him in person but are sending our abundant love. We will sing to him via Face Time and look forward to an autumn visit. Where does the time go?

I finished the infamous baby kimono. The loose stitches/ladders in the sleeves didn't even out with blocking. This is not the fault of the pattern. I have knitted it previously in a heavier yarn. I don't usually have trouble with ladders while knitting in the round. Perhaps alternating knit and purl rows with this yarn is the reason for unevenness. That is my excuse and I'm sticking to it. The soft little sweater used a generous skein of fingering weight stash yarn. It will keep some little one warm, uneven stitches and all.

Since I'm linking with Kat and the Unravelers, I will mention an audiobook, To Die but Once, a Maisie Dobbs mystery by Jacqueline Winspear. If you haven't met Maisie and enjoy mysteries, you may want to give this series a try. Maisie is an intrepid independent young woman who served as a nurse in World War One. Most of the series is set just after the war but in this story, #14, England is once again at war. The novels are more substantial than cozy mysteries and the history is interesting.

Happy August. May your produce, knitting, love, and/or reading be abundant and delicious.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Reading and Knitting Notes

Reading notes: I was intrigued by A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland. Long ago, I adopted this philosophy given to me by a good friend: "Before abandoning a book, read as many pages as you are old. After age fifty, start subtracting the number of pages to read." I am now way past the age of subtraction. Regardless, I did not find this book engaging enough to continue. Maitland excerpts from many journals of solitude/silence seekers - one after another. I was troubled by her dismissal of the difference between choosing silence in a relatively safe environment and having silence imposed involuntarily. Perhaps she comes back to this idea later in the book but I will never know. The fifty four pages I read did make me think about quiet, silence, and solitude.  Ironically I am moving on to another work of nonfiction, Words Are My Matter  by Ursuals K. LeGuin. I find her nonfiction essays and short talks beautifully written and thought provoking. Evidently silence is not in the cards for me. Just ask my family.

Knitting notes: I am working on the sleeves of the baby kimono. Usually I enjoy sleeve knitting because it means I'm nearly finished with a sweater. This little sleeve knitted in garter stitch in the round is a bit tedious and I have a few loose stitches in the area between needles. I hope a good soak and block helps or I will be using a crochet hook on the reverse side to even out the stitches. Yesterday I bought a shorter pair of double pointed needles from a local yarn shop and have been shifting stitches to different positions. Even with new needles, alternating knit and purl rows for garter stitch in the round feels fiddly. Another time I would knit the sleeves flat and seam them together. Magic looping the sleeves might be another alternative. It is not my favorite knitting technique.

I finished a hat I began for the Minnesota road trip so I have two hats to replace the one I wore inside out and mended last winter. This was an easy breezy summer knit. I also cast on the first Irish Hiking Mitten. The mitten was not good social knitting. The dark color way is pretty but hard to see in evening light. It is an older free pattern with written row by row instructions. I have knit several pairs of these mittens previously. These days I am used to more concise charted patterns. Once home, I unraveled five or six rows and straightened out the cable twists and thumb gusset.

One of my grandsons has an August birthday. He wondered if I could make a rainbow bear. Well of course I can. I plan to use the Mother Bear pattern.

I am joining Kat and the Unravelers today. What are you knitting, reading, or not reading today?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Summer Saturday

Last week we spent some days in north central Minnesota. My sister and brother-in-law have a lake home and are gracious enough to invite us to come each summer. My sister, brother, his daughter, and I did a little kayaking one beautiful afternoon. We saw a great blue heron lift off from the shallows, an osprey on a nest, and of course loons who kept their distance from us. One morning we picked blueberries at a large U-Pick blueberry patch. The bushes were loaded with large ripe berries and they are delicious. We overlapped one night with both of my brothers and some family. James and John each had a daughter in tow so we had two of eight cousins. John and his wife also brought two grandchildren. My siblings and I (the four J's: Jane, Julie, John, James - it was the 50's :-) live a distance apart from each other and all have children. John and I have grands. My favorite moment comes when we gather around the table for the evening meal, join hands, and sing the Johnny Appleseed grace. Voices of three generations, raised with joy and gusto, make my heart sing. Time together is a treasure. 

My travel knitting consisted of an adult hat and a baby sweater. My husband drives most of the miles and my sister and I knit on the screened porch while looking out at the lake. I made good progress on the baby sweater. I am now working on the sleeves.

We arrived home midweek. A couple of rains kept the trees and plants green. Today summer is at its best. I walked in warm dappled sunlight and shade. The sky was clear, the humidity was lower and the temperature was near seventy degrees as the breeze ruffled my hair. The zinnias are blooming, and my garden is beginning to produce its extravaganza of basil, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

The cherry tomatoes are ripening and other tomato plants are heavy with green fruit. My favorite summer dish of garden tomatoes, olive oil, basil, garlic, parm over pasta will be on the menu soon. Food for the gods. I hope summer is treating you to some of its bountiful goodness.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer Flowers

Monday I had a massage at Bella, a local spa. Two young women created the business in a charming older house. Customers and passersby walk through a small front yard converted to a perennial flower garden that includes a small fountain and rocks. Tulips, daffodils, and a small flowering tree greet customers in the Spring. This month glorious coneflowers, lilies, and bright campanula bloom. As I walked down the steps through this sweet little garden, three honeybees buzzed around the bright purple campanula and a large yellow swallowtail flitted among the coneflowers. At that moment, all seemed right with the world.

This small space with its shelter for honeybees and butterflies reminded me of an Emily Dickinson poem.

                     In the name of the Bee -
                     And of the Butterfly -
                     And of the Breeze - Amen!

That Emily, she had a playful way with words.

These exuberant mismatched flowers also make me happy. Last evening I worked out modifications for the rose colored shawl. I took the shape and motif from the pattern and gave the shawl a simpler look. I plan to knit two rows of flowers on all three outer edges of the triangle. I think the stitch counts will allow for two rows across the top edge. Three times, I tried to begin the edge pattern by counting backwards from the end of the row. Finally I created a chart on paper and the stitch pattern became clear. Hopefully the flower motif is more visible after the shawl is finished and blocked. If not, the lace edges will stay as a design element. As we say, knitting is a process. 

I am near the end of Anything is Possible. Strout writes well. Her characters are very human and the theme of forgiveness and reconcilation is good food for thought. I am listening to I Was Anastasia: A Novel by Ariel Lawhon. The readers, one as young Anastasia and the other as Anna Anderson, the woman trying to prove her identity, are excellent. The story of the younger Anastasia moves forward in time while that of Anna begins at the end of her life and moves backward. Chapter headings with the narrator's name and dates orient the reader/listener. I haven't found it difficult to follow but did turn it off while I charted the knitted flowers. I couldn't count opposite directions on a chart and keep track of a story moving in opposite directions at the same time. Imagine. I find the book entertaining and intriguing. When and how will the two storylines meet? I also look forward to hearing the author's note at the end of the story. 

One other note: Thank you to all who read these posts. I have had trouble responding to the comments and some have not been able to comment. I had two helpful notes from readers so maybe I have this fixed. At any rate, thank you. You make the world a friendlier, better place.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers today. Lots of interesting knitting, reading, and gardening going on these days. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Tomato Growing Weather

My Granddad often said corn should be knee high by the 4th of July. Born in 1899 on a Nebraska farm, he knew about hot summer work. After he served in World War One, he came home and found a job selling construction materials for a company called Door and Sash. He never became a farmer but loved working in his garden with an old straw hat on his head. I followed that hat around and learned to love gardening. He taught me that heat and humidity extending overnight is prime tomato growing weather. When he finished working in his garden, he sat down in an old white metal lawn chair in the shade. Dewey (as we called him) was a quiet gentle man with a quick wit. I often think of him as I garden and wonder what he thought about when he rested in that chair.

During this tomato growing weather, my handwork feels as flighty as a butterfly. I reclaimed the rose colored yarn and am currently trying a new shawl pattern. I don't swatch for shawls but just cast on and knit to see the pattern/yarn combination. I completed a bit more of the knitting but am letting it rest to see if I want to continue. In the meantime I cast on a hat that I'll donate somewhere.

Last winter I wore my favorite old walking hat inside out because it was so faded. This seems like a sad state of affairs for a knitter, so I knit a new walking hat from three strands of yarn. As per pattern suggestion, I divided a skein of fingering weight in two and then added a strand of light mohair. Both skeins came from stash. Three strands meant I knit a little more slowly but it wasn't terribly fiddly and turned out to be a good way to cope with constant turmoil of the news.

I am stitching on Christmas quilt blocks for the new grandchild arriving late in September. I cut the blocks, leaving a margin for squaring up later. To date I have finished five of twenty blocks. Quilting, like knitting, is a process - one stitch at a time. The baby won't need this twin sized quilt in his/her crib this Christmas. I just wanted to get started as I think about this new little one. The handwork is a nice break from knitting. 

I am reading Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. This book fills in the back stories from Lucy Barton's (My Name is Lucy Barton) home town. As usual, Strout's writing is excellent and I am enjoying these stories. I have just begun but am wondering how the theme "anything is possible" will play out during the book. 

Linking up today with Kat and the Unravelers.

Happy 4th of July and Happy Tomato Growing Weather.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Three on Thursday

Carol Knits often provides a weekly link for blog posts entitled Three on Thursday. I keep meaning to post on a Thursday so today is the day to give it a whirl. My three things are three grandsons and their three successful school years. These three as well as their classmates everywhere speak to hope and light. They are among the fortunate. Thank you to all the parents who get their children to school and to the teachers and administrators who meet them at the door. It takes a village.

1. Grandson A. completed the eighth grade in Texas. He grew MORE inches while throwing the shot, playing football, basketball, and the bassoon. He and his family hosted a foreign exchange student. A. contributed by sharing his home and his place in his parents' hearts and minds to help a young Brazilian feel comfortable.

2. Grandson M. completed four year old preschool in Connecticut. Early in the school year someone asked him what he was learning in preschool. He replied, "I am learning to be brave." And brave he was as played and learned with new friends.

3. Grandson E. completed first grade in Connecticut. He grew permanent teeth and a new shoe size. He learned to play the piano, read fluently, and write stories. He received a Dolphin Award because he demonstrated the four pillars of the school's motto: Be Kind, Be Safe, Be Fair, Be Gentle.

I have thought often of that motto the last few weeks. It is simple enough for kindergarteners with wisdom for all of us. Have a gentle Thursday.

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.