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.