Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Holiday Knitting

Cold rain blew in this morning. The skies are very gray and the outside air was damp when I filled the bird feeder. My husband and I had a quiet Christmas. We celebrated Christmas Eve with his family and then spent yesterday together. Technology allowed my three siblings and I to exchange greetings. We also had some Face Time and photos from our children.  Everyone is well and happy. No one is trying to get home in inclement weather and for that I am thankful. Yesterday, Lance and I took a long afternoon walk on a trail near Wilderness Park. If we had walked at sunset, we might have seen a great horned owl. Another walk for another day.

Since I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers, I'll write about knitting and reading. Over the weekend, I unraveled my Christmas sock back to the ribbing. After completing the gusset and some of the foot, I noticed the broken rib pattern interrupted the patterning in the yarn. If I had looked at the pattern photo that came with the yarn, I'd have knit a plain stockinette sock. Ribbed socks fit me better so they have become my vanilla sock pattern. Haste just made more time to knit with the joyful yarn. Christmas Eve day, I started over. It wasn't quite a Christmas Eve cast on but what the heck. We had the tree lights on and I had a cup of tea and cookie beside me on the end table. It is all knitting, right?   

Since the fridge is full of leftovers and cookies, I hope to cast on an Archer sweater today. The yarn has been properly swatched. Weeks ago, while knitting for Christmas, I wound the first skein. The yoke begins with an unusual construction so I've been waiting for some uninterrupted daylight hours. This afternoon will be perfect for a cup of tea and this project. My goal is to begin without errors. Wish me luck. Once the sweater is definitely a go, I'll make a project page on Ravelery. 

I am reading The Hello Girls, a nonfiction work about the young women who served as telephone operators for the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War One. The information could have been better edited but the story coinciding with women's suffrage is fascinating. After the war, a few of the women spent years trying to receive the benefits accorded to men who served in the war. I am also enjoying a Christmas gift from a good friend, American Journal: Fifty Poems For Our Time, edited and introduced by Tracy K. Smith. Smith, the 22nd Poet Laureate of the U.S. is an elegant poet in her own right. This collection includes work of poets from all walks of American life. Smith writes in her introduction, "This is why I love poems: they require me to sit still, listen deeply, and imagine putting myself in someone else's unfamiliar shoes. The world I return to when the poem is over seems fuller and more comprehensible as a result." Smith was interviewed earlier this year by Krista Tippett on"On Being." The interview is worth a listen. Smith has much to teach us.

Stay warm and dry. Enjoy this week between Christmas and New Years Day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Gentle Season

The Winter Solstice approaches. Since the snow and ice have melted, I walk later in the day, often around 4:30 p.m. As the sun sets, the sky changes colors and holiday lights come on around the neighborhood. The gentle shift between light and dark is magical.

Late Autumn*

November's end and from bare limbs
small birds keep me company.
Complex structures of hollow bone,
feathers for warmth and flight.

Winter goldfinch waits to feed.
Chickadee flits by on tiny wing.
Downy propels his body up the tree.
Juncos etch colors of the heart.

Red-breasted nuthatches arrive.
Scribes with inky black heads
tell a story common to the 
forest, now set on the prairie.

The pair records the
first December light.
Calligraphers of a journey,
gentle words for a season. 

*Copyright Jane A. Wolfe, December 2018

However you celebrate this season, I wish you peace, joy, love, and light.  As is my Wednesday custom, I link with Kat and the Unravelers

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Comfort and Joy

Here we are on this bright crisp December day in the midst of another holiday season. The nativity set, complete with two Josephs, is in its familiar place on the mantle. Lance and the kids gave me two pieces each Christmas for several years. For some reason, he and my son picked out the second Joseph thinking it was one of the three wisemen. Eventually, my son-in-law and daughter located the missing wise man on eBay and gave it to me. This old Hallmark set brings me comfort and joy. I love looking at it and remembering the young sweet faces of our son and daughter. Now they nurture their own families through the season. I hung our stockings and finished up with my minimalist decorating which means putting out a few favorites, enough to make the house feel like Christmas. 

My daughter, the boys, and I are reading Christmas stories via FaceTime. It is fun to watch their choices change day to day and year to year. Jonah usually wants to read "one more book" and I am happy to oblige. This season he loves the reindeer and rhythm in The Night Before Christmas. The book is easy to read via FaceTime because it has one illustration per page. Familiar text is a bonus. I have become quite adept at juggling a book and a cell phone while reading. The fingerless mitts were a hit with all the boys. Jonah wore his to church and showed them to everyone who would listen, "Nebraska, my Grammy." He likes red.

Last night I knit the heel flap and turn on the first Christmas sock. The blue faced leicester and nylon yarn is going to make a wooly sturdy sock. I chose an eye of partridge heel flap to go with the exuberant yarn. This week I heeded the good advice of blog friends to knit more of the shawl before starting over with another pattern. I discovered I really like the yarn/pattern combination. Experience has taught me that ripping out projects at 10:00 p.m. is not a good idea. Now I'm adding the "knit a little more" idea to my bag of knitting tricks. Shawls are truly my comfort knitting through any season and the subtle texture changes keep this project interesting. On these early dark evenings with tea in a Christmas mug, I knit on the shawl. Yesterday I wound the second skein. The shawl is growing.

I came upon Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer at the library. Maya Angelou's work is a treasure. This is a small book to be savored - one thoughtful poem at a time. I also pulled a copy of her book, Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem from my shelf. This book was a gift from my son quite a few years ago. The ribbon book mark was on the package with a small card. Either of these books would be a lovely gift for a reader. Comfort reading to be sure.

As I link with Kat and the Unravelers, I wish you the comfort and joy this season.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Early December

This morning I rose unusually early (for me) and saw the sun come up over the horizon. What a welcome sight. After five gray days, I am ready for this bright day. The little birds: juncos, chickadees, finches, downy woodpeckers, and nuthatches keep me company. They feed heavily the day before a storm blows in and as the snow falls. Four or five pairs of cardinals frequent the neighborhood. One day while walking, I saw a group of male cardinals and several bluejays bathing in a large icy pool of water at the end of a driveway. I expect them to drink melted snow but flapping around  in the middle of the pool of icy water struck me as quite cold. I am sure they know best.

I am happy to report that Norah's Christmas stocking landed safely in Connecticut. Norah won't know the difference this Christmas. Her brothers are looking out for her though. I knit "Brother Bears" for each of the boys and Micah got an extra rainbow bear for his last birthday. He asked his Mom if I could knit a Sister Bear for Norah so "she won't feel left out." Well yes, I am sure I can - after the holidays.

This month I plan to knit more easy going projects. Often in warm weather I am searching for a shawl in white or light cream so I purchased some yarn that turned out to be a silver gray white. After the stocking was finished I cast on this shawl. I chose the pattern thinking it would be just right for this soft 2 ply-yarn. Although the texture in the fabric shows against the dark wood, the stitches are not well defined. In real life, the difference between the seed and garter stitch section is barely visible. I had a look around Ravelry and no other pattern jumped out as a possibility. This is the shape of shawl I enjoy wearing and I do prefer simpler motifs and textures. Maybe the yarn would show to better advantage with two more contrasting textures or maybe I'll stick with this pattern. Let me know if you have any thoughts.

In the meantime, I knit a cowl from scraps and cast on a pair of Christmas socks. The cowl needs to be blocked. I haven't decided what to do with it. It is rather pastel - pink, lavender, and blue - even for me.

My reading doldrums continue. I am reading The Overstory, a collection of short stories that has received good reviews. Many of the first stories in this collection (spoiler alert) contain a punch to the midsection - a suicide, death, or bad accident - that I am finding a little tiresome. The writing is good and I like the story of trees woven into the narrative so I continue to read. Maybe the time of the year has something to do with how I am reading this collection. Occasionally I pick up this book, A Vintage Christmas. It is a collection of very sweet old-fashioned Christmas stories when I need a happy, feel good read. I would like to find a first rate novel for these cold winter nights. I need to go book browsing - oh darn.

I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers and then I am going out to enjoy a little sunshine. I wish you a day of peace, love, and light. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Although the calendar hasn't turned to December, the weather is wintry. Right on cue, snow arrived the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Rain fell, the temperature dropped, and wind blew in blizzard conditions. It was a good day for a cup of tea and a healthy helping of knitting projects. Over the weekend I blocked Norah's Christmas stocking. Sunday I wove in ends. Monday evening I seamed it closed. This week I will line it, crochet a short chain for the hanger, and attach the all important jingle bell at the toe. Technically it isn't quite finished, but soon. Then off it goes with a wing, a prayer, and a tracking number to Connecticut. I don't like trusting it to the mail but I don't have much choice. In the last two and a half years, we haven't had any packages go astray so I'm hoping our record holds. Fingers crossed.

Norah's is the ninth stocking I have knitted from this old 1950's pattern that came from my aunt. She knit stockings for my three siblings and I, as well as her five children, their spouses, and perhaps her grandchildren. I told my daughter that baby names can be no longer than seven letters so they fit on the stockings. Ha. When I began knitting them for my grandchildren, I bought extra red and green yarn that is mostly gone. Extra yarn never hurts and often helps. My intarsia is flawed but the stitches are knit with love and that is what counts, especially at Christmas.

Every time I think I am more of a process knitter, I finish projects with immense satisfaction. So perhaps I am both. At any rate, Norah's hat and mittens are finished as is this shawl I knit for my sweet sister's birthday gift. I modified the pattern a bit to get a shawl of good size and use up most of the skein.  Last winter we visited a local yarn shop and each bought a skein of yarn. This is the yarn I purchased. It is absolutely lovely and it is blue. We both like blue yarn. She is a beautiful knitter and a wonderful sister to me. This shawl was a joy to make for her. The stocking and the shawl have been my knitting since September.

Now I am onto more relaxed knitting in December. I may knit one more hat for a gift this week or I may not. I have been enjoying the afterglow of a lovely Thanksgiving. This morning Jonah asked me to read the reindeer book. Since he is not yet in preschool, I read to him quite often via Face Time. What a life saver for long distance grandparenting. This afternoon I am going to get out the Christmas books so Rudolph is ready for tomorrow's chat. Next week will be time enough for my minimalist approach to decorating. 

As I join Kat and the Unravelers this week, I am in between books. I read a few essays from the collection, Aging: An Apprentice. The essays were written and arranged by writer's decade of life, that is the 40's (is that aged?), 50's, 60's, etc. Some well known authors: Jane Hamilton, Judy Blume, Gloria Steinhem, Donald Hall, Doris Grumbach had pieces in the book. Some were worth reading, many were not. I skipped quite a few. An essay called "Ripening" that likened aging to being ripened like a seed appealed to me. I prefer a positive focus.

Enjoy the rest of the week. What are you reading and making?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving Eve

Yesterday this piece of birch bark blew onto the deck. Since it was so lovely, I brought it in for awhile. Today is a day for a tried and true recipe, Butterhorn Rolls, and two new ones, Gingerbread Spiced Almonds and Cranberry Couscous Salad. Then, tomorrow, over the river (the Platte) and through the fields (corn) to my sister's home we go.

As I grew up, my family celebrated Thanksgiving with my Dad's extended family. The tradition began in 1941 with a kindness. After one of my great uncles lost his young wife, my grandmother and her sister invited the widower and four daughters to Thanksgiving dinner. My grandparents had three children. Great Aunt Elizabeth and her husband had three daughters. I think about how uncertain life must have been in November 1941 for all of them, including Uncle Henry.

As the cousins married and the family expanded, they met in various farm homes. Although there was plenty of outdoor play space, I preferred to be underfoot in the kitchen. There I listened to the women chat as they prepared the noon dinner for forty-some family members. At least one cousin was a dairy farmer, so pie was served with plenty of fresh whipped cream. One year when I was a little girl, I skipped the pie and ate a plate of whipped cream. In the early days, my grandmother and her sister would often put their silver heads together laughing and talking in German when they didn't want the children to overhear their conversation.

Later the reunion moved to a community room and we took our children a time or two. At one of the last celebrations, a new daughter-in-law brought Cool Whip. No unkind looks or words were exchanged. However, Ellen, one of Dad's cousins with a big smile and bright eyes, went to her picnic basket, pulled out a hand-held mixer, searched for an electrical outlet, and whipped up real cream. The family gathered on Thanksgiving from 1941 until 2000. The sweetest moment occurred when all the voices, young and old, sang the Doxology. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow" rang throughout the farmhouse or across a big room. I am grateful for the memory of the Thimm family Thanksgivings.

Tomorrow at my sister and brother-in-law's table, the group will include their children and significant others as well as good friends. Out of respect for those of the Jewish faith, we won't sing the Doxology and I will miss those who are not there. Still, as we gather my sister, niece, and I will be shoulder to shoulder in the kitchen. We will celebrate Thanksgiving and our many blessings, including real whipped cream on mocha pecan or pumpkin pie. Personally, I am also adding a dollop to my decaf coffee.

Although I am joining Kat and the Unravelers this Wednesday, knitting feels like an afterthought. I finished all the mitts, including a wee pair for Norah. She needs a hat that doesn't fall down over her face and I need a project for the drive to Omaha tomorrow so I cast on a hat. I have almost finished knitting her Christmas stocking. Friday I plan to take a walk and spend the afternoon pulling out the waste yarn to knit heels. Then after gentle steam blocking, I will weave in a boatload of ends, seam, and line the piece. Meanwhile I have some other yarn waiting on the coffee table for the next project. I've been looking at it and thinking of shawls.

May your Thanksgiving be rich with kindness, dear ones, and your favorite dessert. I am off to stir up dinner rolls. Happy Thanksgiving Eve. 


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wool Sock Weather

Last week we drove to Fort Worth to visit the Texas crew. While we were gone, wool sock weather arrived on the prairie. On a brisk Wednesday afternoon, we drove south through Kansas. Hawks, hunting and staking out territory, perched on fence posts, trees, or utility poles about every thirty miles. Near a rest area, bittersweet bloomed and I peeped into a tiny nest. All afternoon, the sky and light changed. Snow and rain clouds gathered in the west. By early dusk, the sky was the most beautiful gradient of grays and blue-gray lavenders layered with a hint of mauve. The colors would be perfect for a shawl. We stopped overnight in Wichita and left early the next morning in order to dodge snow and DFW rush hour traffic.

We had a nice visit with our son and his family. Thursday evening we cheered Austin at his last freshman football game. We spent the first half in the stands and the second half standing under an entry to the bleachers, sheltered from a downpour. Bundled in layers and our red Nebraska ponchos, we stood out like sore thumbs but kept reasonably dry. We ventured out when his team had the ball. My daughter-in-law and I worked a jigsaw puzzle over two days. Saturday we watched the Nebraska football game and played an impossible Sherlock Holmes game. We laughed at the complex riddles and then threw out the rules to brainstorm solutions as a group. Cooperation versus competition is not a bad thing. That evening we ate dinner at a small family owned Italian restaurant where every sauce and dish is made from scratch. Pops threw the football with Austin and I walked around the neighborhood with him. He is quite the grown up young man. Chatting with him is a joy.

A one-way ten hour drive plus more time for potty stops meant plenty of knitting time. I finished the pair of socks I began on the flight to Connecticut. This free pattern with the little mock cable is great travel knitting. I also knit two pair of fingerless mitts and began the third for the three younger grandsons. Those boys thought fingerless mitts would be just the ticket for outdoor play. Little Norah will get a pair of thumbless mittens to cover all of her fingers.

Last week, I finished reading A Warrior of the People. The story of the first Native American woman physician, Susan La Fleche and her family is remarkable. She was equally at home in Connecticut parlors and at Omaha powwows. I love her story but wish it had been written differently. The author had access to La Fleche's many journals and letters but included only a few quotes from them. I wanted to know more of her, hear her voice, and read prose that was more than a list of her many accomplishments. The book is readable though. Last night I finished Pachinko. Discrimination experienced by immigrants bears reading and continued thought. The challenges and expectations of women in the story would make a good book group discussion. Although the novel was entertaining and the characters well developed, I wasn't wowed by it.

I will link with Kat and the Unravelers. I missed them last week.

Now it is November. May your feet be warm and your Thanksgiving preparations filled with joy, gratitude, and loved ones. Welcome wool sock weather.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Rich Autumn Days

On the last golden days of October, Micah and his Dad visited us. We played in the leaves, drew pictures, made pizza, and read stories. We had a wonderful time. They flew safely home yesterday. The house is quieter as I tuck crayons into the drawer to wait for the next visit. 

Monday, the light shifted a few degrees, tilting the northern hemisphere toward shorter days. Yesterday the wind blew and the trees in our yard let go of all their leaves. Nearby, red and red/orange maples show their colors a while longer. Today is Halloween. The sky is a bright gray and November is around the corner. Autumn rhythms are rich with grace.  

Chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, juncos and downy woodpeckers are in the midst of a feeding frenzy this morning. Since migration patterns are based on changes in light, the birds probably sense this turn toward deeper autumn or maybe they are just hungry. The small red-breasted nuthatches are a new addition to our yard so I wanted to know more about them. More petite than their white-breasted cousins, their light cinnamon colored breasts are just right for autumn. The white-breasted species has a white face with a black cap while these tiny birds sport a white eyebrow stripe above a black stripe that runs across their eye. Each morning, the small birds visiting the birch and feeders are my faithful writing companions. 

I join Kat and the Unravelers although neither my knitting projects or reading has changed. I put the Christmas stocking away while I had company. That project requires quiet knitting time. While watching the early innings of the World Series, I knit the heel flap and turned the heel on a second sock so that is quite ready for car knitting. Click on over to see what other makers are crafting and reading. I recommend both Pachinko  and A Warrior of the People. Both are keeping my interest - one audio and one a hard copy. 

Happy Haunting, Happy Harvest, Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Unraveled is a good description for how I feel this a.m. Yesterday, I picked the last summer flowers and then went to the pharmacy for the first of two Shingles vaccines. Generally I have little trouble with vaccines other than a sore arm, a small price to pay for being less susceptible to illness. I planned to clean house and get groceries but may be taking it easy for a few hours. I was up during the night and don't feel well this morning. Oh boy, I try hard to keep medical issues to myself as there isn't much worse than an old lady complaining about aches and pains. I am just being honest here. We all prefer to be well and I am NOT suggesting that anyone avoid vaccines. Shingles and/or influenza are no laughing matter.

Maybe while sitting on the couch, I will finish volunteer work on a letter campaign to get out the vote. Through an organization called Vote Forward, I adopted twenty five registered voters and agreed to send a form letter along with a short personal message encouraging citizens to vote. The instructions state not to advocate for any candidate or party but to stress the importance of every vote. The goal is to communicate through a personal connection. Other than the occasional yard sign and visiting with local candidates who knock on my door, I have never campaigned. This effort seems important and something to counter the sometimes overwhelming feelings I have about the state of political affairs in this country. If I finish the first twenty five letters, I'll pick up another list. All it costs me is a little bit of time and postage.

I have a little unraveling to do on Norah's Christmas stocking. The stitch count of the yellow stitches is not correct. I was sailing along, managing all the yarn and bobbins. Then last night at 9:45 p.m. when my head began to ache, I noticed a mistake. I know I need to set this project aside about 9:30 p.m. but alas I wanted to get started on the horn. I have three or four rows to unpick, one stitch at a time. If I pulled these stitches off the needle I would make a mess. Since this is a slow-going project you will be seeing plenty of it here. These stockings are knit flat and upside down so that is the way I photographed it. My goal is to have it finished with all ends woven in, lining sewed and tacked in place in order to do a gentle steam blocking by the first of December. Time will tell. I am not quite half way through the knitting.

I am reading two good stories, Pachinko and A Warrior for her People, a work of nonfiction about Susan LaFleche who, in the late 1800's over came gender and racial prejudice to become a Native American woman physician. I've had the book since last December but put off reading it because I knew it was this month's selection for my book group. LaFleche's story and family are remarkable. The author, Joe Starita, was an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald before becoming a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska. He writes a compelling, well researched story. LaFleche kept detailed journals most of her life so he had a lot of primary source material. Starita donates all proceeds and honorariums from his talks and books about Native Americans to a foundation he created. The foundation provides scholarships to young Native Americans. I heard him speak last year and he told wonderful success stories. Reading Pachinko makes me realize how little I know of the history of Korea. The story of hard working women persisting through poverty and political upheaval as they create and sustain their family is engaging. I'm about half way through. 

Bright yellow leaves fall from the birch as I write. Two small nuthatches, dressed in delicate gray blue and light rust are feeding on safflower seeds and storing them in the birch bark. I don't often see this species in my yard so I am enjoying their company. Yesterday I noticed juncos in the neighborhood. They return for winter but I'd rather not think about that today. Tomorrow, one Connecticut grandson and his Dad are flying in for a long weekend on Thursday. My son-in-law is officiating at a wedding so the five year old, not yet in elementary school, is coming to spend some time with us. I told Micah we should rake a big pile of leaves and jump into them. We will also roll out crust and sauce up some pizza. This weekend is going to be fun.

Click to visit Kat and the Unravelers for stories from knitters across the country and then go enjoy this golden October day.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Home to Autumn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good weekend. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ordinary Days

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A New Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Watching and Waiting

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Summer's End

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

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

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

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

Morning Walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane A. Wolfe Copyright 2018


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Hello September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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