Monday, December 26, 2011

Tiny Nests

On the 24th, I took a break from Christmas kitchen madness to go for a walk.  The temp was near 50 degrees which was perfect walking weather. Winter is a great opportunity to see the structure of trees and small nests which are not visible in other seasons.  Who lives in these tiny nests and how do they manage in such small spaces, I wondered? Perhaps they were occupied by migrating birds because they now appear to be empty. I'm sure an ornithologist could tell me whether or not they are occupied but I am not an ornithologist so instead I thought about tiny nests, the places we live, and the stuff we think we need to make our nests habitable.

In comparison to most other people in the world, I am wealthy. I have a new weather tight roof over my head. My home is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I have dishes to serve Christmas brunch and lovely mugs for ginger tea and coffee shop coffee. If a certain grandson comes to visit, I can load his hot chocolate with a handful of marshmallows. When I need medicine, I purchase it from the local drugstore. I have warm, clean, well fitting clothing and three winter coats. I have enough beautiful yarn to keep me in projects well beyond 2012 but that is a story for another post. My list of nest-stuff is almost endless. Most importantly, I have family and friends I dearly love and who love me back. In other words, my nest is a treasure compared to many.

Curious about the origin of the word "nest," I pulled out my American Heritage College Dictionary and discovered "nest" comes from several old languages. Like many word origins, the historical path wanders and branches ( no pun intended).  Nest comes from an Old English suffix "-sed yo" which means to sit. The word has several other connections but the one which made sense to me combines the Germanic word, "nistaz," meaning niche, and the Old English suffix" -sed." Following the path back even further, the German "nistaz" came from the Latin "nidus" nest, which in turn was made up of a combination of the words, "Kuzdho" (treasure) and the Germanic "-zd" (sitting). Thus a nest, literally means "sitting over a treasure."

Strange I know but I enjoy these adventures through the appendices of my dictionary. Now, the sun is shining and I 'm off for another walk to see what else I can discover.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Warm November

My sister knit this scarf and gave it to me as a birthday present.  She knows I love blue and often wear blues, roses, reds with blue undertones, pinks, and did I mention blue. The scarf is knit from Koigu merino wool yarn in the linen stitch. The scarf is beautiful, soft, warm, and just the right weight for chilly autumn days.

As bright October fades into gray November, I pull out hand knits and settle into my school routine. After the first crazy weeks of back to school meetings and learning my caseload, I find a rhythm working with parents and caregivers of preschool children with disabilities. In my job, I often sit on the floor, share books, blocks, and craft projects with enthusiastic preschoolers. While I dress professionally, I choose sturdy clothing which stands up to repeated washing. The day after my husband's knee surgery, I was dead tired but went to work. On my way out the door, I reached for my new scarf. Knowing the hours and love my sister had knit into the piece, I wondered if I should save it for special occasions.  However, I needed a boost that morning so I wore the scarf. Wrapping the colors and wool around my neck was like a hug of encouragement from my sister. Since then I've worn the scarf several times each week.

This past week a good friend of 39 years passed away. Dorothy was a founding member of the Crafters, a group of my friends who have met once a month for over twenty five years. Dorothy was a witty, intelligent woman who lived a rich full life. She loved and was loved by her family and friends. For many years, she made pie once a week and invited her family over after they attended church on Sunday.  If the Crafters were lucky, she made pie for us. In the last of her 87 years, she faced major life changes with grace and courage. I hope I can do the same.  Her death reminds me of a lesson I've learned more than once.  Savor every day, every hug, every walk, every hand knit scarf and every pie crust.

The day before Thanksgiving, family and friends will gather to remember Dorothy. Then I'm coming home and make an apple pie with Dorothy's pie crust recipe. The crust won't be quite as tender as Dorothy's but I'm going to enjoy rolling out my own pastry. Then on Thanksgiving, I'm going add a dollop of whipped cream to my coffee in honor of my mother and savor a piece of pie with my dear husband and his new knee. After dessert,  I'll lace up my tennis shoes, wrap the linen stitch scarf around my neck, and take a walk under a November sky.    

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Taste of Autumn


Several weeks ago, Lance and I drove out to a local orchard.  When we arrived, a pleasant teenage girl, handed us a map with the location of different apple varieties. The September afternoon was warm and bright as we walked through rows of apple trees. Families, including grandparents with grandchildren, were out enjoying the day. As we searched for Jonathan and Johngold trees, I wished all children had the opportunity to see how apples grow. We picked two bag of apples and drove home past farmers harvesting in the fields.

The next weekend, I made apple butter. As I worked, I thought about my great grandmother and how she preserved fruit in her kitchen. Sometime in the 1890's, she planted fruit trees on the central Nebraska prairie. If she made apple butter, she built a fire in a stove, used a paring knife to prepare the fruit, and spent most of the afternoon feeding the stove while stirring a kettle of apples, sugar, and spices to keep the mixture from scorching.  Instead I pushed fruit onto prongs and turned a crank to peel, core, and slice apples. Then I filled a crockpot with sliced apples, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves and plugged it into an electrical outlet.

Twice during the day, I used a potato masher to break down the fruit. After the apples and spices simmered to the right consistency, I ladled apple butter into jars, screwed on lids, and tucked it into the freezer for another day. My great grandmother didn't have a freezer. She had a cave dug into the ground beside her home. When she made preserves or fruit butter, she either melted paraffin to pour on top of the preserves or put the jars through a water bath.  Either process required more work over her cook stove.

My great grandmother and I do have a few things in common. Neither of us want anything to go to waste. She fed apple peels and cores to the hogs her husband raised in order to feed their large family. When I finished, I carried the peels and cores to my compost pile.  I'm sure my great grandmother also enjoyed the taste of autumn in warm apple butter spread on wheat toast.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Knitting is Better than TV

My son has a new friend in his life.  This seven year old boy is eager to learn new things. He approaches everything with enthusiasm and confidence as in "I am good at math or I am good at hockey.

During one of his visits to our home, I was knitting and he sat down beside me to watch. Immediately he wanted to learn to knit and asked if I had knitting books.  He picked up a book of sock patterns but decided he'd rather knit a hat and he would like it to be red.  

The next week I put a ball of red yarn and some size 9 knitting needles in a small canvas bag. When I came home Friday afternoon, I found him sitting quietly on the living room love seat.  He looked at me with big brown eyes and said, "Will you teach me to knit now?"  We sat on the couch and I used the children's knitting rhyme: "In through the front door, around the back, peek through the window, and off jumps Jack," to teach the knit stitch. He allowed me to show him exactly three stitches before he wanted the needles in his own hands.  Hand and over hand, I helped him for five or six stitches and he was off.  As with all knitters, his tension was tight, the knitting twisted on the needle, and he dropped a few stitches.  I assured him that knitting can always be fixed. When I told him this swatch could be a practice piece, he informed me he was making a hat.

All the while we were working, he was chattering about how he wanted to make hats for his Mom, my son, and his stuffed animals.  He informed me he was good at knitting and asked to take his knitting home.  Before I sent the bag with him, I made sure he understood knitting needles are not to be used as swords.  My son and I also told him he couldn't take the knitting to school. As a teacher, I don't want to be responsible for sending nuisance items to second grade.  Even after all our precautions this little guy made a very perceptive comment. He discovered "knitting is way better than TV!" Amen.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Changing Seasons

Last weekend was Labor Day.  The breeze carries a dusty autumn scent and I am wearing a light jacket on my walks. Although the trees are still green, I don't zig and zag across neighborhood streets to stay in their shade.  Instead I savor the warm sun on my back.  My son bought the "soup making trinity" of carrots, celery, and onions" and I purchased small tart apples at the Farmer's Market. Cooler days are coming.

Three day weekends are great for catching up on chores, reading, and spending time with family.  Early in the Labor Day weekend, I celebrated my sixtieth birthday. My family honored me with lunch and dessert at my daughter's home.  We went there so my grandson, almost a year old, could take his nap on schedule.  Earlier in the day, my daughter set her dining room table, a beautiful piece of furniture that belonged to my grandmother Helen, in sage green and lavender, one of my favorite color combinations.   She cut lavender from her yard.

Neither my sister or I could remember when Gram acquired the table and chairs but we both recalled many holidays and birthdays celebrated around Gram's table.  I remember carrying food to the table when I was a girl. My favorite meals were Sunday night suppers of lunch meat, white bakery bread, potato chips, and dip made of cream cheese and garlic salt.  Gram occasionally served a few carrot sticks as a nod to healthier eating. Many meals involved some version of 1950's jello. Later, my children's toddler birthdays were celebrated at the same table.

As my husband, daughter, sister, spouses, children, and I ate my birthday lunch, my grandson enjoyed cut up fruit and small pieces of meat and bread. He is the fifth generation to share meals at this table.  After lunch, the baby took a nap and we enjoyed a sinfully rich chocolate birthday cake baked by my sister. The men retired to watch the Nebraska football game while my sister and I knitted and visited with our daughters. I know my parents and grandparents would have loved the day.

I couldn't have asked for a better celebration. There was no black crepe paper or gag gifts to dump up in the landfill.  Instead my sister gave me a beautiful scarf she had knitted. My daughter and her husband gave me  a "Life is Good" t shirt which I will wear. I received a handmade card from my grandson. My husband brought me roses which I enjoyed. My son sent me a hand crafted yarn bowl for use with knitting projects.  At sixty, the season is changing but life is indeed good.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ishbel Shawl

Recently, I finished Ishbel, a lace shawl designed by Ysolda Teague who designs, self publishes and sells knitting patterns and books.  I used Nimbus Cloud, a yarn spun from alpaca, cashmere, and silk by an independent dyer.  The yarn was very soft and loosely spun making my stockinette stitches slightly uneven. Blocking smoothed the main body of the shawl and shows off the pattern in the lace border.

The strength and beauty of lace intrigues me. Although knitted lace looks fragile and is easily snagged, finished pieces have a certain strength. Empty spaces allow air to pass through creating a fabric as resilient as the women who design and knit them. 

Knitted lace emerges as corresponding increases and decreases combine with empty space. Both are important to the design. The combination reminds me of writing and reading stories. Whether I'm editing a rough draft for the first or fiftieth time, I shape the piece both by what I include and what I choose to omit. When I read a well written story or poem, I often speculate on what the writer chose to scratch out of her first draft.  This is particularly interesting when getting to know characters in a story.

Teague's pattern was well written and the charts were easy to follow.   I enjoyed the project and am looking forward to the next shawl but first I have a Christmas stocking to knit for my grandson.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Early August

Summer weather in Nebraska brings heat and humidity. Today my google weather chart says the humidity is 100%. Last night, a monsoon downpour fell while I was grilling dinner. When I walked this morning, the tree leaves were dripping with moisture under an overcast sky. The combination of light and humidity meant spider webs were visible. I counted at least 19 webs on the large blue spruce next to our driveway. An eight year old from the neighborhood was outside with his mother exclaiming about the webs. Across the street, a large web connected by long lines of silk to a tree and a car seemed to be suspended in mid air.

Other years I've noticed these webs on humid August mornings so perhaps spiders spin more webs in late summer. Although webs are susceptible to wind and those of us walking through them, the tensile strength of spider silk is greater than the same weight of steel.

My aunt passed away yesterday. She had a rich life and had been ill so her death was not unexpected. Still, I thought of her when I saw the spider webs this morning. Life is fragile.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer Milestones

Even though I teach ten days through June and July, summer bring a slower pace and days to spend with those I love. This summer feels like it has been a season of change.

My sister taught me how to paddle a kyack. One quiet July morning, J took me out on a beautiful Minnesota lake. I learned to steer, stayed upright, and am looking forward to another visit when we can paddle around the lake on our own steam.

Throughout the summer, I have spent some days taking care of E., my 10 month old grandson. When this little guy is awake, he is curious about everything. He crawls very fast and pops up and down into standing with great ease. Although he sleeps in a crib, eats in a high chair, rides in a five point harness in his stroller and car seat, he is free to move and explore the rest of his waking moments. He is healthy and fortunate to have parents (my daughter and son-in-law) with resources which allow him this freedom. When caring for him, I scoot around the wood floor on my rear end trying to keep him safe while giving him room to play. We shake paper, toot into a toilet paper tube, and roll an oatmeal box. He uses his whole body to shake noisemakers. The other day we took turns blowing raspberries, that is we stuck our tongues out between our lips and blew breath out. In between turns, we laughed from our bellies. One day I played a game of kissing/tickling his neck. When I stopped to see what he would do next, he reversed the roles in the game. When we were finished, he planted his first sloppy open mouth kiss on my cheek, a very sweet moment. When E. got tired, we sat in the rocker while I read a very short story. We rocked while I savored the sleepy little boy on my chest.

Tomorrow when I close my father's estate, my work on his behalf will be finished. Serving as the personal representative of his estate was quite a journey.

My fall semester begins on August 9 but summer is not over yet. This afternoon I'm spending some time with friends and tomorrow I'm taking my son out to lunch. I'm looking forward to hearing about his adventures as a trainer of adults. Neither one of us ever thought he would become an educator but I am so proud of the way he meets and enjoys this challenge. Friday I'm going to take care of E. all day. If the next week is quiet, I will spend time revising a piece of writing, knitting the border of a lace shawl, and reading a novel.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Warm Hands

Inspired by my sister's beautiful color work projects, I sent for a Frostrosen Mitten Kit from Nordic Fiber Arts, a shop located in Durham, New Hampshire. In July 2009, I cast on the first mitten using size 1 double pointed needles. Carrying white yarn in the left hand and red in the right, I fumbled through the project and created a rather long, lumpy mitten. At that point I considered hanging the finished mitten with a sprig of holly as holiday decor. The following winter, I cast on the second mitten and promptly deposited it into my knitting hope (as in I hope I finish this some day) chest where it remained until June 2011. Knitting two colors on size 1 DPN's appealed to me about as much as pulling a bucket of bindweed on a hot July evening.

Early this summer I carried the unfinished mitten to the deck and began knitting. I quit worrying about whether or not the mitten was too long or lumpy and enjoyed the symmetry of the pattern. Two weeks later I finished the second mitten and then washed them in Eucalan, a soap designed for hand knits. The lavender bath relaxed the stitches and smoothed most of the lumps. Laying on the table, the mittens still look a little like boxing gloves. However, the long cuffs will tuck up under coat sleeves and the tightly knit double stranded fabric will keep someone's hands very warm. The pattern is well written and the yarn, Rauma Finullgarn is good quality, strong wearing wool.

Now if I could just make peace with the bindweed in my perennial flower garden.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lavender and Larkspur

The lavender and larkspur in my garden were given to me by two friends. Once during a trying teaching assignment, a veteran teacher next door befriended me. At the time, she lived nearby on an acreage which she had landscaped by herself. As our friendship grew, we exchanged plants, seeds, and quilting projects. Even though she has moved out of state, my blue columbine and peach iris continue to grow in her western garden. Her yellow iris and larkspur bloom in my garden.

Every year, I let the larkspur go to seed and replant themselves. The seed pods are full of tiny black conical seeds which grow well in the clay soil of my perennial garden. The old friend who gave me the first seeds built a second home in a western mountain valley. Anticipating the day when she would need wheels to move around, she designed her mountain home with roll-in shower and wide doorways. In her late 70's, she now hires yard and garden help but hasn't lost her ability to speak her mind or take care of herself. In order to retrieve her mail, she drives a riding mower down a long lane to the mailbox. When the bright blue larkspur petals and sharp pointy seeds sift onto the garden floor, I admire the "can do" determination of a dear friend.

About five years ago I began attending a yoga class. The instructor is another master gardener so each week I look carefully at her yard to see new blooms. Several years ago, after experimenting with methods of plant propagation, she handed each of us a paper cup with a tiny new lavender plant. I planted the fragile shoot in my herb garden. This year, the gray/green mound is blooming profusely. When I breathe in the lavender scent, I find the fragrance much more pleasant than any commercially produced product. I also recall the teacher who encourages me to breathe deeply in order to cultivate a little extra stretch in my muscles and joints.

I love the way the lavender flower stalk has two single blossoms further down the stalk. It is almost as if the plant found a little extra space for beauty. Savoring the natural lavender scent, I vow to find some quiet space each day in which to breathe.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Humble Garter Stitch

Knitting Update: Currently, I have "Cassidy," a worsted weight cabled cardigan, waiting to be blocked and sewn together so I can knit the hood and button bands. I may finish the sweater in a cooler season. I knit an inch on some patterned socks which I started in order to learn a new cast on. The cast on went well and looks very polished. I'm working on size 1 needles so the twisted stitch ribbing is slow going. I am midway through an Ishbel shawl knit from a Slackford Studio yarn called Nimbus Cloud. The cashmere/alpaca fiber slides like butter across and occasionally off the needles. About ten rows back, I knit a stitch incorrectly so the project is waiting for repair in a day light knitting moment. Late last winter, I began swatching for a textured cowl but never finished the swatch. I knit the first of two color work Frostrosen Mittens last Spring but the second mitten is languishing in a basket. Two color work, while beautiful, is not my favorite knitting technique. However, I'm determined to finish the second mitten by knitting a few rows each evening.

This week I began teaching the Monday, Tuesday summer school schedule. The two days are crammed with student visits and paperwork. By the time, I finished this week's paperwork on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m., grilled and ate dinner, and watered the garden, I was too tired to tackle any of the above knitting projects. Instead I cast on a garter stitch shawl in Blue Moon Fiber Arts Medium weight sock yarn. A few short rows worked in lovely repetitive stitches of merino yarn were just what I needed at 9:45 p.m. Anyone who knows me won't be surprised the yarn is a blue/gray color. Garter stitch is my antidote to paperwork, email, bindweed, hectic schedules, public restrooms, and iced tea in plastic "to go" cups. The humble stitch brought a moment of calm into my day.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


My husband and I made a cemetery trip to our parents' and grandparents' graves on Memorial Day. The sky was overcast and the wind was blowing. I found the visits peaceful. I also remembered several family stories with a chuckle. My parents' first date was a ride through the cemetery. One Memorial Day, my Dad drove by a park where my mother and her sister were playing tennis. He stopped to talk to the two lively pretty girls and wanted to prolong the encounter. Not having any other ideas, he asked them to go for a ride to look at the flowers in the cemetery. They accepted his offer and my parents' courtship began.

Ten years of so before my mother died, my parents moved into a new home which was adjacent to a cemetery. When a family member asked Mom if she thought living next to a cemetery was a bit eerie, she laughed and replied she enjoyed quiet neighbors. With her nursing background, she understood death was part of life. Among other many other things, I miss her sense of humor and our walks through the cemetery with our dogs. As her arm brushed mine, we talked, laughed, and untangled dog leashes. I miss those talks about our family, books we were reading, and the bunnies nesting along the fence. When I was in the cemetery with her, she frequently remarked she didn't like gaudy artificial flower arrangements on graves. Perhaps my Dad remembered Mom's remarks when he picked someone else's lilacs from an alley and placed them in a coffee can on her grave.

My husband's mother is buried in a small sweet country cemetery. When we arrived there, a gentle mist was falling. We left a pot of red and white flowers near her stone because she loved red. Although I visited there with her one time, I am less familiar with the stories associated with that cemetery. I wish I knew more of them.

Cemetery visits are only one way to remember. As I planted my beans and tomatoes, I thought of my grandfather who always had a beautiful garden. Lilacs also remind me of him. I think of him when he was a young man in 1918 who wanted nothing more than to come home from France "before the flowers bloomed." The smell of fresh baked orange rolls carries me back to my grandmother's pink kitchen. Spending a few minutes remembering those who have gone before enriches my life.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Yard and Garden News

Two weeks ago, my husband built a raised bed frame to add to my garden space. He combined this

and this

so I can rotate the tomato crop around the garden.

Seeds for green beans, summer squash, and one hill of cucumbers have germinated and pushed up from under the ground. Noses of resident rabbits are twitching in anticipation of fresh beans. Last evening my dear husband put up the infamous "bunny fence" made from chicken wire. Because I usually fall over the fence at least once each summer, he made a makeshift gate by lapping the wire around the last corner rather than threading the stake through the wire. I'm getting older.

In other news, the blue jay couple is feeding two babes. The arborist who trimmed the tree reported four eggs but I can see only two offspring. The nest is getting crowded and Mama looks like she could use a bath.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

One Tough Mama

Several weeks ago, a pair of blue jays built a nest in the birch tree close to the north side of our house. The twig nest with its messy lived in look is well situated on a branch growing from the south side of a good sized limb. Smart bird. The location protects the nest from the north wind and weather.

After mama blue jay began sitting on the nest, we hired an arborist to remove the large silver maple tree from our backyard. The maple split because of carpenter ant damage and we were afraid it would fall on the house. We also asked the arborist to trim the birch because it was hanging all over the neighbor's drive and our roof. I requested the branch with the nest be left on the tree. By late afternoon, our gutters were clean, the maple was a pile of sawdust, the birch had fewer branches, and the female was back on her nest, albeit slightly more exposed to the weather.

Later in the week, smaller than golf ball sized hail fell and I wondered if the bird would suffer a concussion. She survived. On Thursday and Friday, glorious spring thunderstorms with wind and heavy rain rumbled through the area. This morning the male and female are checking the eggs. He flies in, she moves to one side, and they peer into the nest. Then he flies off and she nestles back down on top of her brood. I wonder if the clutch is hatching. I can't see or hear them yet.

In other news, a religious fanatic has predicted the Rapture will begin today. More rain and thunderstorms are forecast for this evening. As I write, the blue sky is dotted with cumulus clouds. Rain has washed the streets clean and filled the birdbath. I'm taking my cue from Mama blue jay. The world, flawed but refreshed by rain, will continue to turn.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Common Ground: Hovering Hawks and Prairie Wildflowers Quilt

More than choices of pattern, fabric, and color, quilts tell stories which mark time and place in which they were made. In July 1999, I began a replica of a the Hovering Hawks and Red Peonies Quilt documented in Treasures in the Trunk: Quilts of the Oregon Trail. (Cross, 1993) The quiltmaker, Sarah Ann Hazelton Gilfrey traveled with her parents from Missouri to Oregon by wagon when she was 16 years old. She made the quilt in 1865 after her family arrived in Oregon. I began my quilt simply because I admired the original piece. Choosing reproduction prints and colors similar to Sarah's, I machine pieced two blocks and set the quilt aside.

In 2001, after Mom was diagnosed with cancer, I often drove to see her. On one trip, I noticed a pair of red tailed hawks near a clump of cedar trees. I began telling her about the hawks. Each visit, she asked about them. The conversation became part of our visits and gave us something to talk about besides her illness. After her death in 2002, I finished piecing the blocks and bought the quilt pattern book, "Prairie Wildflowers," by Barbara Bracken. The following year I decided to applique the bittersweet vine, morning glory, wild rose, and wood sorrel patterns from the book in my quilt. I chose the bittersweet block because Mom loved the bright autumn vine with its orange berry. Over the next five years, I worked sporadically on the applique blocks and eventually sewed the top together.

When Dad's health began to fail in 2008, I drove to visit him. Through two years, I watched the autumn corn stubble, winter sunsets, and wildflowers blooming in the ditches. Weather permitting, I stopped to get out of the car and examine wildflowers along the road. At the nursing home, my sister and I often wheeled Dad into a courtyard where we talked about the flowers and shrubs in the garden. During the summer of 2009, I marked the quilting design on the top and basted the quilt layers together. Dad passed away in October 2010.

In January 2011, I hand quilted the piece and thought about my parents. Although my mother had a quiet strength, I never would have associated her gentle nature with fierce red tail hawks. Nor could I have predicted my brusque, strong willed father and I would have talked about flowers. Vastly different, red tail hawks and wildflowers on the quilt and Nebraska prairie share common ground the way my parents and I found common conversations at the end of their lives. In a way I never imagined, this quilt spun a story which recorded the common ground in a rite of passage. The passage was both theirs and mine.

Cross, Mary B. Treasures in the Trunk: Quilts of the Oregon Trail. Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1993.

Brackman, Barbara. Prairie Flower: A Year on the Plains Kansas City, Mo.: Kansas City Star Books, 2001.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wonder in an April Sky

In Nebraska, weather is a topic which guarantees conversations between total strangers. The changing clouds carry rain, drizzle, sleet, hail, snow, and dust depending upon the season. In the Spring, we wait for sun and hope for rain while respecting the clashing weather fronts that spawn tornados and damaging storms. Walking on windy days, I watch the changing light in the sky. Now and then I try to photograph the sky

which is a bit silly. Who wants to look at photos of the sky? Still, I find such beauty in the changing light. Several times I've charged inside for the camera, returning too late to capture the picture I wanted to save. Now, I try to savor the light and colors of the present moment. In the meantime could someone dye some alpaca yarn in the spectacular periwinkle blue, gray, and light gray sky colors of this April sky? I would like to try and knit a sunset.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

End of Winter Socks

Friday evening, I finished knitting a pair of what I refer to as "end of winter" socks. I love winter. The sunsets are beautiful, the air is crisp, and the neighborhood is quieter when it is nestled under a blanket of snow. By the end of February, I yearn for more hours of daylight and warmer sun on my face. For the past three years, I've cast on a pair of socks in a bright Spring/Summer color to carry me though the last blast of winter. This year's project was "A Nice Pair of Ribbed Socks" in a pattern by Glenna C., available at I chose Grimm's Willow Wren colorway in Blue Moon Fiber's lightweight Socks That Rock. The Easter egg colors were a welcome sight during the last gray days of winter.

The basic 3 x 1 ribbed sock fits well and is a good project to carry in my purse. I knit on them at Book Group and at Crafting. I knit on them while waiting for the dental hygienist and in the cellular phone store. I finished the socks on April 15, at the end of a snowy/rainy evening while waiting for warmer Spring days.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lucy's Desk

For the past few years, I've written from a serviceable oak desk purchased for my now grown up daughter. Although I have a good chair, the desk height did not allow me to work with my elbows at 90 degrees to the keyboard. My husband tried to buy a new desk but could not find one. After one particularly sore episode of scrunched shoulders and aching back, I moved my great grandmother Lucy's desk from our living room into my study. The antique desk, stained a dark mahogany, has a small drawer and four compartments across the back with pencil trays on either side. A writing top slides out over another narrow drawer running the width of the desk.

Lucy's mother was pregnant with her as she traveled from Wisconsin to Council Bluffs, Iowa and then west to Washington. Lucy was born in Hulda, Washington on October 4, 1879. When she was a young girl, she and her mother moved back to Omaha, Ne. In 1898, Lucy married Harry, my great grandfather who worked as a traffic policeman. Together, after the turn of the century, they raised four daughters and one son in Omaha.

When Lucy moved in with my grandparents, the desk came with her. Placed in my grandparents dining room, the desk collected stamps, mail, bills, and numerous copies of my Grandmother's car keys. After I brought the desk to my home, I opened the lid and searched the two drawers. I found four letter openers (one with a Fuller Brush man on the top), four metal hinge pins, a wooden ruler inlaid with one inch samples of twelve different woods, and my grandfather's brown leather driving gloves. Leaving the treasures in the desk, I set up a display of family photos.

Although I never saw Lucy sit at her desk, I did know her when I was a little girl. She was a tiny, proper, lady who wore a hat, gloves, and navy blue suit to church. During the week she wore cotton shirtwaist dresses and often pinned a small brooch pinned under the collar. When I sit down to write on Saturday morning, I imagine her taking out a piece of crisp stationery to write a letter to one of her daughters or granddaughters. I think she would be pleased that I find her desk a comfortable place to work.

Black Gold

I spent a few hours this afternoon digging for black gold at the bottom of the compost pile. Two years ago, I unearthed a family of moles as I dug for compost. Although I try to appreciate all critters, moles are my least favorite. I'm sure they serve a purpose and they probably make better compost. I just find them rather unnerving. This time, I stood a long handled flat shovel nearby in case I needed to deposit baby moles into the second bin.

I began by shoveling the detritus of yard and garden clippings from one compost bin into two garbage cans. At the bottom of the bin I found five inches of rich black dirt which had accumulated over two years. As I forked, shoveled, dug, pushed a wheel barrow of the stuff up to my herb garden, and then dumped and hoed it into the ground, I found another reason to care for the environment. Mother Nature and I worked hard to produce soil.

Although it is easier to buy dirt in a bag (and I should know because I've done it many times) I take great satisfaction in keeping leaves, grass, and kitchen scraps out of the landfill. I also decided a compost container with a drawer across the bottom might be a good investment.

Compost bin number one wasn't home to any moles. If they have taken up residence in the second bin, I'll try not to shriek.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Walking after work clears my head.  Weather doesn't bother me but sometimes I need a knitting or NPR podcast in order to get off the couch and out the door.  Last Friday after spending an afternoon hunched over the computer, I left the ipod at home.  Breathing deeply, I savored the neighbor's daffodils and the cool Spring breeze on my cheek. I also smiled and said hello to folks who were willing to make eye contact with me.

Four blocks from home, I heard an unfamiliar bird call.  Phoebes have been calling to each other but I haven't been able to catch a glimpse of them.  I knew the call I was hearing wasn't a phoebe but still I stopped to scan the roofs and trees. After turning 180 degrees, I found myself looking into the brown/black eyes of  a 17 inch owl.  Against a bright blue sky, the owl with a gray face appeared to be a mottled gray/brown in color with lighter flecks on the breast.  As I watched, two blue jays flew in to scold him but he did not budge from his perch next to the tree trunk. He swiveled his head once to look at the jays and then gazed back toward me. After a three or four minute stand off, I resumed my walk.

After consulting a field guide and wikipedia,  I decided the bird was either a Barred or Spotted Owl.  While Barred Owls are common to the midwest, the plumage of this owl more closely resembled  a Spotted Owl. Spotted Owls are more common to southwest United States so if he was a Spotted Owl he was a long way from his typical habitat.  Regardless, if I'd been plugged into "Poetry Off the Shelf" or "Cast On" I'd have missed the owl. Walking without ear buds has advantages.