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.