Tuesday, July 30, 2019

July Journal of Wonder

I wonder where I can plant a bed of coneflowers in my yard. Why would I want to do this when I am tired of weeding? White coneflowers bloomed here earlier this month.

I wonder why I begin journal entries with sentences about weather and the seasons. Does the predictable variety comfort me or just ground me in the here and now?

How do Japanese beetles chewing up the leaves of a mature linden tree fit into the natural order?! What good are they? What predator feeds on them?

I cast on a shawl with leftover yarn from other projects. Why does this make me so happy?

I wonder if the cool mornings bring a touch of Fall or is my imagination working overtime?

I wonder what Native Americans think about the current immigration discussion.

I wonder about connections between ideas in my writing. Do they exist all along or do I write my way toward them?

I wonder why I enjoy knowing the names of things - painted lady, black swallowtail, black admiral, monarch, coneflower.

I wonder who first coined the word - butterfly. Why not flutterby? The one below is a painted lady. This morning while walking I saw a black swallowtail.

According to my dictionary on word origins, the word butterfly comes (in part) from the Greek word, bouyuron for butter which came from combining bous for cow with turos for cheese. The "old English word for butterfly, buterflege was probably so named because a common species is yellow, the yellow flier." (Origins by Eric Partridge, 1966, an old but useful reference.)

I wonder how grandchildren grow up so quickly. In one year, this fifteen year surpassed both of us in inches. Honestly, he surpassed me two years ago. We are proud of him. The awesome teens in today's world make me hopeful. We were happy to see him and his Mom last week.

As I try to wonder more than worry, I am joining Juliann of Chasing Stories and her group of bloggers writing monthly reflections about their 2019 word.  The wonder is I remembered to do this.

On these last few days in July, I wish you more wonder than worry.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Norah's Quilt

All of my grandchildren have Christmas Quilts. Once a long time ago, Kate and I picked out motifs for her Christmas quilt blocks. Some patterns came from quilt magazines, some from a quilt book, and some from a coloring book I bought in the 1970's. A few patterns exist on purple and white "ditto" coloring sheets from the 70's. Those would have been copied on old ditto machines with cylinders that turned and the ink had a unique sweet smell. Were some of those machines turned by hand with a crank? Who knows what chemicals we inhaled from all those ditto worksheets.

I've written this story previously -  how my son gave his quilt to his son, and my daughter gave hers to her oldest son. Then came three more children and three more quilts. Norah's quilt, the latest rendition is finished. All of them are set together differently. The set for this quilt was inspired by a quilt in the Christmas Patchwork Loves Embroidery book. I stitched the blocks, set them together, and then had the fabric sandwich machine quilted. I hand quilted Kate and Aaron's quilts but wanted these quilts to be loved and washed as well as finished in a timely manner. Perhaps machine quilting makes them a little sturdier. Norah will be in her crib this Christmas but the quilt is ready for her "big girl bed" whenever she outgrows the crib.

I finished the ribbed socks. The lighter colors looked a little frosty which was a good thing during the hot hot days of last week. I cast on a Christmas gift knit because Christmas will come. I have gathered leftover yarn for two shawls because they start as small projects. Last week during the heat and humidity, I set the sweater aside but I'll get back to it eventually.

I continue to enjoy Elizabeth Alexander's poems in Crave Radiance, reading a few each morning. My book group selection is Washington Black by Canadian Esi Edugyan. This novel is quite the story about a young boy born into slavery and his adventures after he escaped. It is well written and should prompt a good discussion at our August gathering. I am also reading The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble. Drabble is an English writer and I had never read any of her work. This main character is an older woman and part of the story is her musings on aging. Drabble writes with a dry sometimes cynical wit. I think older women characters in novels are often portrayed in the same stereotypic ways so I will be interested to see how this character evolves.  I am intrigued enough to keep reading.

I'm linking to Kat and the Unravelers. I enjoy seeing what others are reading and making.

It was me or the quilt. We chose the quilt.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tomato Growing Weather

Whew! These heat wave days and nights are tomato growing weather. My Grandfather always reminded me that tomatoes ripen the best when the nights stay warm and humid. He never minded the heat and spent hours in his large garden. I followed him around and probably pestered him with all sorts of chatter. He was a gentle quiet man we all loved. I thought of Gram, his wife, when I blocked the lace sampler scarf. She was a can-do kind of gal who taught me to knit. If she wanted something, she created it. When she sewed, she modified patterns and sometimes taped brown paper sacks together to sketch what she wanted. This attitude extended to all kinds of home decor. She hung layers of wallpaper, one on top of another (I shudder to think of scraping off all those layers) into her sixties. The only thing that stopped her was electrical wiring in lamps and that is probably a good thing. If there was a story there, I never heard it. My siblings and I were fortunate to grow up about ten blocks away from these grandparents. We spent a lot of time with them.

I'm knitting on the second sock of a pair. Yesterday I unraveled the beginning rows of the gusset to fix holes where the gusset transitions into the instep stitches. I use a Charlene Schurch method to avoid those holes. When done correctly, it works quite well but I was knitting about 9:45 p.m and was tired. So I sat down in the daylight at the kitchen table to pull the needles out and remedy the holes. I'm ready for these socks to be finished.  I know if I knit on them I can finish soon. Ah, the siren call of a new project. 

Where the Crawdad's Sing (audio) made the yoke of this raglan cardigan fly by. I really enjoyed the book and the knitting. Before the end of the novel arrived, I thought of three or four possible endings to the mystery. Owens writes beautifully of the North Carolina marsh and seashore. I'm not going to write more because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. I am still thinking about the story and characters - a mark of a good book. Currently I am reading Power and Possibility, a book of literary criticism, comment, and interviews in tandem with Crave Radiance, a poetry anthology. Both are written by Elizabeth Alexander. Reading her essay on the artist Romare Bearden, makes the poems where she references his work more meaningful. I am learning about artists I never knew existed. This week, I read an interview/discussion of poetry where Alexander stated, "we live in the word. And the word is precious, and the word must be precise, and the word is one of the only ways we have to reach across to each other, and that it has to be tended with that degree of respect." p.150 Power and Possibility  Wise wise words.

I'm linking with Kat and the Unravelers. I am always interested in what others are reading and knitting. Stay cool during this hot spell. My plan for this afternoon is to extract juice from the remaining rhubarb for a batch of raspberry rhubarb jelly. I'll make the jelly another day. This is a bit of an experiment. I did get some advice from my sister who is a jelly making expert. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Summertime and the lavender is blooming. The tomatoes are growing and the basil is lush. Other than the bunnies eating the parsley and voluminous weeds due to lots of rainfall, the garden grows well. The herbs are particularly healthy this summer. I used to weed meticulously but have adopted more of a live and let live philosophy. I weed when I have time and the temperature/humidity aren't unbearable. I'd rather read or knit than weed. I resisted cropping Oscar's garden garbage can out of the lavender photo to keep life real.

While walking the beach in Connecticut, my daughter taught me to look for sea glass. I am drawn by the soft pastel colors of glass that wash up on that beach. Something about the pieces of sea glass remind me of aging. I have been tumbled about by wind and water and hopefully some of my rough edges have worn smooth. The opaque quality of the pieces remind me that every opinion or idea doesn't have to be crystal clear. That, sometimes holding a bit of ambiguity, looking at something from several points of view is desirable. I'm sure the metaphor could work in another direction too.

Anyway, I brought home a few pieces to remind me of a happy time spent with family. While flying, I knit on these ribbed socks. The yarn is soft and plump and came from a local yarn shop. Wouldn't the gradient make a pretty hitchhiker scarf? Not that I need another scarf as the sampler scarf is finished and ready to be blocked. I pulled out the cardigan I've been working on but need a longer needle to accommodate all the yoke and sleeve stitches. I have learned my lesson about respecting shoulders and arms while knitting. Purchasing another needle is better than sore muscles. So there is my rationale for a trip to the yarn shop.

I am enjoying listening to Where the Crawdad's Sing by Delia Owens. The author's descriptions of the marsh and sea of North Carolina are beautiful. I love the way Owens weaves nature/place into the story's events and themes. I also admire her plucky heroine. With four hours remaining, I'm wondering if any of my ideas about endings will appear in the story.  I'm reading our book group selection, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. This fantasy story is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with additional brave heroines. The book, driven by action/plot is readable but I may skip ahead to the ending. Fantasy is not my favorite genre.  I will be interested to see where the discussion leads us.

Click over to Kat and the Unravelers to see what others are reading and knitting. Enjoy these warm summer days. July will come and go before we know it. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Simple Pleasures

We returned home on Tuesday. Crossing the Platte and Hudson Rivers in the same day means it has been a very good day. This trip we visited my daughter and husband and their four Connecticut kids. We had a great visit filled with the joys of their everyday life. We read to all of them and fed the turtles in a pond across the street. Kate, Jonah, Norah and I visited a sweet garden behind a library where a story was posted in stations. I read the story to Jonah. Pops and Patrick played catch with the big boys. They are baseball guys for sure.

Seeing the beach (and anything else)  through the eyes of children is such a gift. An eight year old makes a game of throwing rocks into a bucket pushed down into the sand. Then leaves the rocks to jump over waves rolling up on the shore. The five year old builds a rock tower with a force field on the beach. The three year old pushes a dump truck through the sand carrying his own water bottle. When he digs in the sand with a long handled shovel, he puts his foot on top of the blade imitating his Dad. The nine month old wrinkles up her nose when her feet make contact with sand but can be distracted with bits of goldfish crackers. Cracker crumbs in her tutu don't bother her.

As you might imagine, I didn't read blogs or knit many stitches (except in transit) on this trip. Kate, Jonah, and I did visit Westport Yarns, a cozy yarn shop not far from their home. Jonah wore his Iron Man cape and carried the Iron Man action figure. Kate kept him entertained by posing the action figure at yoga while I did a wee bit of shopping.

I continue to knit the lace sampler scarf. The sampler idea keeps scarf-knitting-boredom at bay. I put more detailed notes on Ravelry as several readers asked me about the pattern. I choose motifs with repeats of either six or twelve stitches plus one. The edges and separating lines between motifs are garter stitch. I may try a ten stitch plus one repeat and increase each side edge by one garter stitch. Or I may not. 

Although I am a day late, I am linking to Kat and the Unravelers. On this Fourth of July, I am proud to live in this imperfect country with high ideals. While I recognize my good fortune due to circumstances of birth, education, health, and work, I think about families who struggle to take care of their children, those for whom freedom from want and fear is only a dream. How can we take the celebration of this day and work with a generous spirit to make it possible for all?

Happy Fourth of July to you and yours. Enjoy and be safe.