Wednesday, February 27, 2019

February Journal of Wonder

February Journal of Wonder

I wonder why the first cup of morning tea tastes the best.

I wonder why the male downy woodpecker hangs almost upside down on the suet feeder when he could snack right side up.

I wonder how poets continue to be inspired.

How are voice and silence connected? When is silence voice? When is a voice completely silent?

I wonder why technology needs to be constantly updated.

I wonder why every ache and pain of the 60's sets off a clang of alarm. More wonder less worry would be better.

I wonder about the differences in bird song/voice? How did calls of distress, location, marking territory, courting a mate evolve?

I so enjoy nature books with sketches and drawings. Who decided grown-up books do not need artwork? Why not both?

Why not both/and instead of either/or?

I wonder if I could consume/use just enough and no more? What changes can I make?

I wonder why the shadows on the snow look blue in certain sunlight. (Thank you Louise Penny)

What do bluejays know about space that I do not? How do they chase each other in circles among the tree branches without nicking a wing or hitting their heads?

I wonder why it is so hard to knit two mittens or two socks exactly the same size?

Yesterday I missed linking with Chasing Stories monthly post on one little word. I'll link today.
I am also linking with Kat and the Unravelers. I am in between books. Oh the possibilities. I finished the fingerless mitts. My sister told me about this pattern. If you knit the mitts with two contrasting skeins of variegated yarn, the colorwork is easy to do. The mitts are warm and make great gifts. This is my third pair. I'm stitching away on Norah's quilt. The cold snowy weather, including a blizzard, gives me extra hours to sew. The blocks are finished so I am trimming, fudging, and unraveling as I sew the top together. I am past the half way point with three or four hours to go. 

Stay warm. Friday is March 1. I wonder if the month will come in as a lion or a lamb. I'd love lamb like weather but as one of my grandson says, "The wrinkles (icicles) are frozen." Yes indeed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tea Party

Snow fell all night and into this morning. Now the sun plays with shadows on the fresh inches. What a winter -  gentle persistent snows of three to five inches - for winter lovers. I can't imagine any winter without tea. Beside me is a cup of White Peony Tea brewed from loose leaves. Last month on a bitter cold day, I purchased several teas and a small ceramic teapot with a strainer from The Green Leaf Company, a local tea shop. I understand how tea becomes a ceremony. The process of scooping dry leaves, boiling water, and steeping tea in a ceramic pot isn't to be rushed. Steam rising from the spout carries the faint aroma of green from a warmer season. This little pot requires slow pouring so as not to spill over the edge of the lid. Time to watch snow fall and consider the hands that picked these leaves as well as the rain and sun present in my mug.

According to Google, White Peony Tea is a sweet mild Chinese tea made from unopened tea buds and the first two leaves of the plant. White tea is less processed than green tea so it contains more antioxidants and caffeine. The owner of the tea shop told me that loose leaf tea can be steeped in a small amount of boiling water for 30 seconds to remove most of the caffeine. After draining that first bit of liquid, the same leaves can be steeped for the required time. The tea that remains has a good flavor with less caffeine. Shopping local has many rewards.

This past week, I stitched two borders to most of Norah's Christmas Quilt blocks. I have four more to sew before I put the top together. This will be the moment of quilting truth. It is so easy to get off by a thread or two while stitching and/or trimming. In knitting news, I finished the raglan increases on the little Flax sweater only to have incorrect stitch counts. I frogged back and noticed my gauge measures differently in the garment than in the swatch. Ah knitting. I keep telling myself I am only getting my money's worth from this yarn. In the meantime I cast on a pair of fingerless mitts from a favorite pattern. This seems to be a winter of smaller knitting projects but then, it's all knitting, even the re-knitting.

I am listening to Louise Penny's, The Kingdom of the Blind. I enjoy visiting Three Pines and the familiar characters. What is not to like about a bistro, cafe au lait, croissants, and Merna and her bookstore? The storyline that once again has Gamache being investigated by the Surete du Quebec begins to feel like a rerun from previous novels. Penny weaves a theme through her novels so I may think differently after I come to the end. I am reading The Year of the Deer by Helen Hoover.  Bonny of the Highly Reasonable Blog posted previously about this story of a couple living in the Northwoods of Minnesota. Thank you Bonny for this suggestion. Nature writing accompanied by illustration is my favorite in this genre. I am also familiar with these woods. Even though the book was published in 1966, Hoover's insights into nature ring true. Interestingly, I have read this author in several anthologies including a favorite, Sister Earth, but never picked up one of her books.

Back to refresh my private tea party with some truly decaf herbal tea. Later I plan to pull on my boots and walk a short distance in the fresh snow. Stay warm and dry. If you are looking for inspiration, go see what Kat and the Unravelers are up to this Wednesday. If all else fails, make a cup of tea.

P.S. The rocks in the top photo come from the Atlantic, Long Island Sound, Minnesota, Montana, and Nebraska because as one rock said to another, "Peace Rocks."

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Blue Skies

I like winter. I love to look at and walk in a landscape covered with fresh snow. I like the feeling of drawing indoors with a good book, a project, and a pot of soup. I enjoy wearing hand knits. The sunsets are glorious. However - here it comes - gray days, one after another combined with the respiratory virus/infection my husband has been fighting for several weeks are wearing. Last week I bought flowers to add some color to our lives. They were a good prop for this shawl. It is lovely but difficult to photograph. I omitted the final repeat of texture because I didn't have quite enough yarn but it is a good size for a spring and summer wrap. I often am looking for a lightweight neutral shawl to wear in the air conditioning. Just think of it - air conditioning. I enjoyed working with the yarn and the pattern.

Yesterday the sky was a bright blue and I had a lovely walk. The past weekends' ice was melting and the thirty one degree air was crisp. I was warm enough. My daughter took this photo on her walk in Connecticut. I cannot lie, I'd like to be walking beside her under that blue sky. Blue skies have been scarce across the country this winter.

Enough griping about the weather. Today promises to be a little warmer with a not quite-so-bright- sky but still, it is blue enough. A good day for running errands and getting out to Yoga class before the next snowfall.

I am sewing on the quilt blocks a little at a time and have finished half of them. More later. Since being sequestered by bitter cold and ice, I finished one sock and cast on a second. I also cast on a sweater for Norah. The yarn, from my local yarn shop, is plump and soft. I am enjoying it. Setting up the garter stitch panel and raglan increases took three tries. Oy. I am sure I was distracted by the wonderful audio voice of Michelle O'Bama. Her honest straight-forward thoughtful approach to life shines through in her story. I am reading Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit. Stewart writes a rollicking tale laced with a wry sense of humor. This series is based on the career of Constance Kopp, the first woman police officer in Hackensack, N.J.* She is a funny, no nonsense, admirable heroine who champions the rights of young women. The novel is light and serious at the same time.

Joining Kat and the Unravlers before I go enjoy this brief respite from gray days. I hope you see a little bit of blue sky in your neck of the woods soon.

* Correction - NJ not NY!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

February Stitches

This morning downy woodpeckers visit the suet feeder as a gentle snow falls. Flakes land on surfaces with their shapes visible. They remind me of Mary Azarian's woodcut illustrations in the nonfiction picture book, Snowflake Bentley. Jacqueline B. Martin tells the story of Wilson Bentley born in 1865 in Vermont. He was a curious boy with a passion for snow and photography. I hoped to post a photo of the book but in the time my computer takes to download one more image I could knit the rest of this sock.

I finished the Turoa Mitts and they are lovely. The yarn was heavenly and the cable pattern fun to knit. If I make these for gift giving, I'll knit the medium size and shorten the cuff even more. I am cruising to the toe of the first Couplet Sock. The Minimalist Shawl is finished and blocking. I cast on a little sweater for Norah but the day is so gray I'll wait to take a photo. Eventually I will set up a Ravelry project page. 

When last I posted about Norah's Christmas Quilt, twenty embroidery and applique blocks were finished but set aside for the holidays. Recently I squared them up. Having learned a lesson from Jonah's quilt, I cut these blocks large enough to allow for trimming to a uniform size. My hand applique and embroidery sometimes skews the fabric a bit. In the last few days, I cut the pieces to frame the squares. Once upon a time I collected fabric to make a redwork quilt. I don't know if quilters make redwork quilts anymore but reds and whites seem to be just right for this little girl. Some fabrics are scraps from other projects, some are fat quarters, and I had two half-yard pieces so I knew the setting would be scrappy.

I made a practice square to decide on the width for border strips. Saturday I cut the narrower strips from fabrics with white backgrounds. During yesterday's bitter cold, I created a layout for the blocks, arranging the first borders around them. Next I played with red fabrics, moving them around until I was satisfied with their placement. Then I took a deep breath and started pressing and cutting. Wonder of wonders I had enough red fabric for the outer strips. Today or tomorrow I will start sewing strips to the blocks. I hope I didn't make too many mistakes because I have very little fabric leftover.

After I sew these pieces onto the blocks, I'll square them up again. The squaring up process reminds me of trimming bangs on Saturday evening - a little here and a little there - taking care not to do too much trimming. I plan to shop for some green fabric for binding and a large border around the outer edges. Hopefully one fabric will frame and tame the scrappy blocks. The reds are older fabrics so I don't think I could match them. I also need backing fabric but won't buy that until I know the final quilt dimensions. Other than motif patterns, I don't have a pattern. This is my fifth Christmas quilt and they are all set together differently.

I am listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama and it is a treat. The library must have purchased extra copies because I was #70 on the hold list and then a month later notified I could borrow it. I am enjoying learning about her early, less public years, growing up in a strong family and community. She is honest and forthright about all kinds of ideas including education, racism, sexism, marriage, and women's friendships. She nails the dilemmas of professional working mothers. She wrote her views with empathy, thoughtfulness, and a witty sense of humor. This autobiography would be an excellent gift for any older teen or young woman. I also read the hard copy of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson for our book group discussion this month. A few years ago, I listened to the audio version. I must have been quite engrossed in my knitting or cleaning or cooking because I don't recall subtle references and wording that makes it such a good novel.

If Google allows, I plan to link with Kat and the Unravelers. My unraveling today comes from an old computer and changes Google is making to their accounts. Although I've read the FAQ's, I'm not sure I understand the information. I believe the commenting feature, as well as some other widgets will be affected. I may have to enlist tech support and then find a new home for this blog. I'm sure my age is showing but I wonder why computer technology has to be constantly updated. Most often this occurs after I have finally figured it out. Ok, enough of a rant. Back to the quilt blocks on the floor near my sewing machine, technology I understand well.

May your technology be speedy while the snow falls gently on your shoulders.