Wednesday, January 26, 2022

January's End

On this Wednesday, the breeze is blowing and the air is cold. Little precipitation has fallen this month so the blue sky is welcome color in the landscape. Temperatures bounce between bitter and almost balmy. It feels like an odd sort of winter but maybe that is just the way I feel. I have made good progress with my knitting. 

Today I link with Kat and the other Unravelers to talk about fiber and reading. Two spindles of Polworth rest before plying and I had a bit of unraveling but nothing serious. The Anker's Cardigan - My Size begins to look like a sweater. I separated the sleeves from the body, knit an inch or so, and tried on the sweater. It fits which is good because this is fingering weight yarn on small needles and that yoke ribbing took some time. I left the stitches on the needle in an effort to save time. If you predicted I saved no time, you would be right. Some front stitches popped off one side of the needle. Somehow the edge stitch pulled out two rows down. I put the stitches back on the needle, fiddled with the edge stitch and knit another two rows. I didn't like the look of the edge so I pulled all the stitches off the needle and frogged down to two rows below the errant stitch. The sweater is back on track with the edge stitch corrected. I can drop down in the middle of a row to pick up or fix a stitch. I have fixed cables several rows down but edge stitches are a different story.  

I worked on the prairie shawl. Already it has eleventy-million ends but I don't mind weaving in the ends. I like closure and finishing a project. I knit in some odd pieces of a skein of Anzula that I used in another shawl. The clay color is a good addition. If you look close you can see a few rows here and there. Colors are so interesting. I pulled one other skein and a mini skein from stash and thought they coordinated well but when I knit them into the shawl they didn't go well at all. I enjoy playing with odds and ends in shawls of multiple colors. What can I create with what I have?  

I'm reading These Precious Days, a collection of essays by Ann Patchett. Patchett is a strong writer and I'm enjoying them. I haven't read the essay which Patchett used as the title of the book but I keep thinking about what those words mean to me. I'm rereading The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It is  this month's selection in my local book group. Last year I listened to the audio and it was excellent. Reading the hard-copy and knowing the story, I notice some of the subtle fore-shadowing that I missed while listening. The subject matter is hard but the story is beautifully written. Coates vocabulary choices make me think differently. Do you reread books? 

I read a little ray of hope in our local newspaper on Sunday. Our House Representative in Washington is a man who has been in office a long time. I don't vote for him but he is an incumbent and enjoys success in our district. Running as a Democrat against him is a big leap of faith. Right now a state legislator, Senator Patty Pansing-Brooks, is running in the primary in order to oppose him in November. In an article about her campaign she was quoted, "I'm going to make it a journey of compassion and hope." I'd love to see that on a yard sign. Her words made me think of Leonard Cohen's song/poem, "there's a crack in everything, it's how the light gets in." I don't know about you but these January days I am looking hard for the crack and the light. 

Stay warm and well. 

Late afternoon light 
Bread recipe that I made into rolls. I omit the seeds on the outside because they just fall off. Bake at same temperature for shorter period of time - 15 - 17 minutes.  Hearty rolls that are great for dipping into soup or slicing and toasting. 

Ravelry Links

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Of Beans and Yarn

A little snow fell Friday but melted over the weekend. Early this week, we walked in the sunshine but frigid weather has returned. Gray skies, low temperatures and wind make this an inside day. Today I link with Kat and the Unravelers to write about making and reading. I am making slow progress on the cardigan but yet another photo of a sweater yoke in progress isn't very interesting.  I'll write another story about beans and yarn.  

Monday I plied this Polworth yarn. Since I wanted to spend most of the afternoon spinning, I decided to try a new crockpot recipe for a white bean soup.  I usually use canned beans but decided to follow the recipe and use dried. This recipe called for cannellini beans. I couldn't find them. Google suggested great northern beans as an acceptable substitute. That was my first mistake. Usually I look at a new recipe and adjust amounts because I am cooking for two. Why I didn't do that I don't know. Instead I happily sauteed fennel, celery, onion, and garlic and added it to 6 c. of broth, 1 pound of beans (that is what the recipe called for) and some wheat berries. What was I thinking? As my grandmother would have said, " Enough food for thrashers." Well - maybe.  I plugged it in and went on with my day.

With a pound of beans bubbling in the crock pot, I plied this yarn. I show the yarn hanging from the pegs in the dining room because it isn't twisting back on itself. It has just the right twist and that is a first for me. The Polworth fiber from two of these braids.  

I bought them from Banshee Fiber Arts (Etsy) and separated the fiber by hue. I spun the gold and am knitting it into my Prairie Shawl. I am spinning the shades of blue separately. When I finish and calculate exact yardage, I'll decide on a project. I spun this medium shade on two spindles made by Jim Etcher of 
True Creations. They are beautifully made, easy to use and spin well.

I am also spinning on some Hipstrings Fiber that was a gift from Kat. When it arrived some time ago, I tried using it but wasn't happy with the singles I was spinning. A week ago I got it out while the spindles with blue fiber rested. My skills have improved. Saturday I even spun with it during a Zoom meetup with another spinner. This was another first for me, spinning and chatting at the same time. 

The spindle in this photo is made by 
Golding Fiber Tools and is a joy to use. It is a good spinner. My husband gave it to me as a birthday gift. I have only one Golding spindle as they are pricey but exquisitely made. Carefully crafted spindles are little works of art. These craftspersons take simple tools and create beautiful but functional pieces. That, here in Nebraska, I have access to spindles made in Vermont, New York, and Utah is one of the benefits of the internet. I have a couple of smaller spindles that I purchased from Greensleeves Spindles. I believe the maker behind this company is a woman. Kat gifted me another beautiful support spindle made by Ann Grout, a maker no longer making spindles.

After I finished plying yarn, I made cornbread to go with the soup. While the corn bread cooled, I checked the beans. By 6:00 p.m. they were not not anywhere near tender. I checked the recipe. Yes it said, cook on low and not high for 8 - 10 hours. The beans had absorbed most of the broth which had a very good flavor. In an attempt to save the soup, I added more broth and turned the temperature to high. Then I scrambled eggs that we ate with the cornbread and a little fruit. An odd meal but my husband is a good sport about such things. 

By 8:30, I pulled the plug on the crockpot. The beans were done, the wheat berries had cooked up to mush, and the soup was the consistency of sludge. Who knows what the problem was? Old beans, the wrong kind of beans, too many beans, a crockpot with a slightly lower temperature?  As Norah would have said, the crock pot was "full up" with beans. They went out in the trash today. I'm going to try a version of this soup on the stove top with different proportions!! and canned cannellini beans. The fennel, celery, onion, vegetable broth, and parmesan rind had a good flavor. Wish me luck. By the way, my sister turned me on to adding parmesan rinds to soup. When you are grating parmesan, save and freeze the rinds. They keep forever and can be added for additional flavor in soup. Put them in the soup while it is simmering and remove before serving. 

Oh - and the cornbread had an extra 1/4 cup of sugar. Monday dinner was a bit of a disaster but the yarn is beautiful.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

January Projects

I look out at a hazy blue sky and mild temperatures. After a week of bitter cold, the wind sent those days on their way, perhaps east. Six chickadees, two robins, and one nuthatch flit around in the birch this morning. Our over-the-range microwave of nineteen years quit working last week so in spite of the Covid risk, we plan to mask up and purchase a new one this afternoon. I doubt the new one lasts for nineteen years.  As I heat up leftovers in the oven and on the stove top, I think of my Mom. She was forever heating leftovers in foil packages in the oven. She often repeated and laughed at Erma Bombeck's line about running around with a frozen pork chop in each armpit. And no, neither of us resorted to that thawing method. It's a privileged life I live.  

After a few weeks of other obligations on Wednesday mornings, I am happy to be posting and linking with Kat and the Wednesday Unravelers. On New Year's Eve, I bound off the Wool Peddler's Shawl. The shawl is a generous size and knit in sport weight alpaca so it is cozy. I have several large shawls scattered around the house that I frequently wrap around my shoulders during the winter. I plan on using this one the same way. The way the pattern comes together along the spine is lovely.

This crocheted potholder is my first finished project of the New Year. I made it for a friend because she mentioned that arthritis in her hands makes using potholders difficult. She said she had one crocheted potholder that was easier for her to manage. I used KnitPicks Dishie for the first time. It's a good value and comes in bright colors. Working with cotton was hard on my hands so if I make another I'll have to pace myself. The discomfort could also come from my death grip on the crochet hook.  

I picked up the Anker's cardigan again. I love the yarn even if the knitting is slow going. I finished the ribbed sections and am working on the last yoke section of stockinette with raglan increases. The rows are long and I have fourteen to go before separating the sleeves from the body. I will be glad to reach that milestone but it's going to be awhile. It's good winter knitting. 

As for reading, I listened to the audio version of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. This mystery is a hoot. Four characters, almost eighty-years old, meet in the jigsaw room in their senior citizen community to delve into old murder cases. Then the developer of the community is murdered and they are on the case. All four are smart, capable, and wise. References about aging are humorous and tender. I enjoyed this mystery so much that I put the second one on hold at the library. I am almost finished with Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. The subject matter is not easy but Erdrich's lyrical writing and insight into the lives of Native Americans makes for great reading. She writes strong but flawed characters with compelling stories. It's been awhile since I read Erdrich's work but her first novel was a good place to begin.

From time to time, I dip into The Lost Spells, a little book of nature poems and beautiful art. Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, the poet and artist who collaborated on The Lost Words published this as a sister book. The poems are about birds, animals, insects, and trees and many would be suitable for older elementary children. Part of the introduction reads:  "Loss is the tune of our age, hard to miss and hard to bear. Creatures, places and words disappear, day after day, year on year. But there has always been singing in dark times - and wonder is needed now more than ever." Amen. 

What are you working on this January?

Ravelry Links

Red Wool Peddler's Shawl


Anker's Cardigan - My Size


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

A Cup of Kindness

The year is new and in a way, we begin again. This year I choose "kindness." I am weary of the bitterness, division, and rancor in public life but there is little to do to change it. What I can do is choose my response. So this year I choose kindness and its associated words: kind, kindle, kindling, kin, kindred. 

I begin with the origin of the word. The Old English, cynd, means origin, birth, race, family, kin. Germanic origin of kind meant natural, native, genteel, gentle, and gentry. Both the English and German words came from the Greek word or prefix gena or genesis meaning birth or beginning, thus the German word, kinder or child. The Sanskrit word for kind came from the prefix gn from the Greek. Maybe our ancestors learned kindness from their kin. 

A few years ago "random acts of kindness" were in vogue. While I think these acts are wonderful and in no way to be diminished, I am after a deeper kindness, a way of walking through the world. I am looking for kindness as a steady presence to what I encounter. This variety of kindness, at least for me, needs careful tending. 

The universe nudges me toward kindness. My daughter sent this little vase in my Christmas package. It goes nicely with my current journal. Until I have wildflowers it sits on my desk. I read this story of kindness in The Daily Good that I loved. Today I am thinking of two questions I heard or read recommended as a practice: "Is what I am about to do or say kind?" "Is it necessary?" So I look forward to this New Year with hope and kindness. Peace, joy, love, and light.