Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jelly On Toast Mitts

Pattern: Toast
Needles: US #5 dpn
Yarn: Knit Picks Kettle Dyed in bordeaux

What better way to bring the year to a close than with a finished object? I knit these mitts in a couple of days at the beach last week. They are the epitome of the type of knitting I have been creating this year: simple, relaxing, quick. I feel it is time to complete a few larger projects, and am planning several pullovers. I do hope they are still simple, relaxing, and relatively quick. I'll have a fit if they become complicated, frustrating, and endless.

I love planning knits and gardens; no matter how well laid out your plans, they always surprise you. With that thought, I look towards 2009 as a year of growth, opportunity, change, and surprise. I hope you all will continue to join me on this journey because I couldn't have accomplished anything without your support, friendship, and generosity. Thank you.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Santa Came by Boat

On Part One of our Christmas Vacation we:
- Splashed in some seriously cold waves
- Knit another pair of Toasty mitts
- Flew kites
- Decorated a gingerbread house
- Watched sunrises/sunsets
- Gathered shells
- Ate 2 pounds of shrimp in one sitting
- Should have bought 2 extra pounds
- Had lunch with wonderful friends
- Played tag in the dense fog
- Watched pelicans fly by our 15th floor balcony
- Opened presents from Santa
- Spent time with our loving In-Laws
- Wrote letters to far away friends
- Wished you were all there

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Obvious

Solstice. The darkest night gives way to the light. Tiny imperceptible fragments of light, broken into degrees, each growing increasing longer and brighter. This particular day has always seemed a bit confusing for me. Rather than the return of the light, which I know is scientifically calculable, it seems the darkest times lay ahead, at least for the next few months. But then I have to remind myself I am looking at the situation from a completely fabricated standpoint. Of course it seems darker to me as I am subject to the governing bodies decision to have daylight savings time. I have no idea what the universe is really doing do I? Or maybe I do.

When I was young, riding in the back of a station wagon with a friend, her father commented absentmindedly that the sky grows darker each second as the sun sets. I was intrigued, staring out the window at the blur of neighborhood lights twinkling behind the tall pines. I had to see for myself. I forced my eyes open, not wanting to miss a second of change, of darkness, of mystery. He was right. I could see the light change when I tried until I could see nothing but my own reflection in the glass. In this case the great mystery fell away because he stated the obvious. The obvious; that which was in front of me all of my life, yet I had never bothered to force myself to see before.
I noticed a few days ago the two hawks who watch me walk home from the bus stop at 6:55 am were still there, but they weren't waiting in the trees. They had already caught breakfast by then since I am an hour late due to savings time. The bluebirds still come at the normal time to devour my suet, but how many mornings have I missed them, wondering where they had gone, forgetting it was I who had changed. This charade all came to me in a rush tonight, not unlike that night as an eight year old so long ago. I stood in the driveway to chat with Orion and Sirius as is my wintry habit, when a great bright light shot through the blue black sky, straight through the Pleiades, over Orion's shoulder, burning out to the southwest just under Venus. Again I saw the obvious: the dead light from those dead stars, the burning light from that passing meteor, the living light of the sun reflected from a planet's surface. No man great or small can change the universe. We can study it, argue about it, try to manipulate it to suit our needs, even kill over it. Silly humans. We can only control how we see the universe and what we choose to believe about everything within it. When I force myself to look with open eyes, heart, and mind, I see the light again. I hope you do too.

I am taking a blog break for the next week and want to wish everyone who stops by here a very happy holiday season. I see I have visitors from over 30 countries now. I don't know all of your languages or customs, but it seems "You are loved and appreciated" translates in most. Be well, friends.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Best of Moms and the Worst of Moms

BEST: I've only knit two gifts this year. The first was the bookmark for my daughter's wonderful teacher and the second was a request I could not deny. It seems that if you are 3 and receive a pair of Incredible Hulk Hands as a prize for having the fortitude and prescience to potty train yourself, the next logical step would be to demand accessories. So, my loving boy asked for "Evil Hulk Socks" and has been wearing one to the point of felting it a bit as I finished the second. He loves them, I love them, we love each other, but do not be mislead; 3 year olds are cruel taskmasters. Every waking minute for the past few days has been filled with this conversation:
"Mama, finish me sock."
" I'm working on it honey."
"Mama, finish me sock. Now."
" I'm doing my best."
"Mama, finish me sock. Now. Pweese(insert tears and jutted lip here)."

Worst: My daughter writes in a journal each day at school. With each entry she draws a picture. On one she drew a strikingly accurate portrayal of me saying 'NO!!!!!!' to a drawing of herself dreaming of caroling. I have an absolute, deep, unrelenting hate for Christmas Caroling. I cannot explain it or deny it. My daughter apparently suffers a million deaths when I say no to the idea as evidenced by the six exclamation points in her picture. I was mildly bothered. Was my vitriolic response to caroling going to mess her up for life? Was I being a bad parent? But when I asked her about the picture she put the issue to rest.
" Can you tell me about this picture?"
" Yeah, I made it look like you were shouting and mean because every Christmas story has a grouchy person. Do you like the way I drew my hair? I'm the best draw-er."

So, I may be the Scroogey McScroogepants this year, but my son loves hand knit socks and my daughter already understands the import of character development and embellishment in constructing good story. My heart grew three sizes today. And I can hear Frances laughing from here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Hardest Step is the Most Important

While many of you are enjoying snow or cursing ice today, I am watching the rain fall and contemplating stone. The loud silence of fresh fallen snow is one of my favorite sounds, the ghostly shroud it gives the landscape one of my favorite sights. Of course, by the second day, the charm has turned gray at the edges and the silence broken by the grinding of salt trucks and plows. I'm south again, so rain and ice is more common than snow. The kids and I took advantage of the warmer air and hiked the trails left behind by the developer's bulldozers.

The stone you see in the stairway is what my yard looks like under the sod. This is my bit of mountain, pretty isn't she? After a long walk by the train tracks, over steep hills, under towering naked elms, and around the lake, we were tired and ready to go home. My daughter came to the stairs first. She didn't hesitate, stomped up each one, reaching the top quickly; confident to be the winner as usual. She tapped her foot impatiently waiting for my son and I.

He hesitated, stared up at the top, assessing the uneven terrain, the distance, the possible perils. He let go of my hand and went up on his own slowly, one step at a time, each footstep precisely landed. He reached the top grinning and proud, happy to arrive despite the challenge.

I watched them go up, dawdled and awed over the many colors in the first step. Oh, and look at the striations in this one, or the moss on the edges of the next. Wait, is that a cardinal chirping above? Where is he? Ok, what step am I about to fall off of looking into the sky. Hmm, I wonder what kind of stone this is, how old this piece, who put these here? What was I doing...oh, yes, climbing to the top. I'll get there, I just want to check out the view from this one for a bit. And look at the crunchy leaves on the wet soil, how delightfully they contrast. Let me get another picture. Hold on.

Now I am up top and my daughter is laying on the sidewalk tortured by the hours she has had to wait on me. My son is standing over her laughing that she will have a dirty bum when she gets up and I am still dreaming about each wondrous thing I just saw. Three very different ways of making the same journey. Is one better than the other? Of course we each think our way is the best. The important lesson lies in the compassion we have for others, allowing each to go their own way, eventually arriving at the same point together. Compassion is the most important step; you cannot reach the top with out it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How Now Brown Owl Socks

I modified my owl a bit; he seems more alert now. I'm glad I was able to inject a bit of whimsy into a practical pair of brown socks. Whimsy is meant to be shared:
Owl Cable Insert for top-down socks:
1. P2, K8, P2
2. P2, C4F, C4B, P2
3-5. P2, K8, P2
6. P2, C4F, C4B, P2
7 -13. P2, K8, P2
14. P2, C4F, C4B, P2
15. P4, K4, P4
16. K

To work this into a toe-up or bottom-up knit, reverse it ( start with row 16, and cable C4B C4F).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daily Bread

I bake these rolls using this excellent method. I mix a batch of dough in the same bowl as I store it, and pull off little bits to make rolls every couple of days. To avoid the cornmeal/pizza stone mess, I bake the bread on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I also find the dangerous practice of pouring hot water into a pan in the very hot oven a waste. The crust is very crisp and the inside soft and chewy without the burnt knuckles. I calculate each roll costs me 27 cents to make.
I want to take a moment to say thanks to all of the bloggers who are producing such lovely holiday posts and crafts. I am giving myself a break from trying to impress you with tidings of wonder and joy. My efforts would be insincere and that is so not the spirit of this space. I have found more joy in the simple things like spotting planets, fresh baked bread, and birds gathering a few feet from my window to devour my homemade suet. Tinsel and carols just aren't on my radar yet. How are your holidays so far?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Random Knitting: The Diary of A Seemingly Simple Sock

First this sock was going to be in the Hedgerow pattern. But, I kept messing it up. So I ripped back a bit and went with the good old standby, my fair friend, simple stockinette. But, I had to rip that back after a couple of inches and decrease stitches. Off and knitting again, until I saw Wazzuki's sweater. "Holy Guacamole, I love it!" I say to the computer screen. On the next random row of my perfectly plain brown sock I toss in a few purls, a few cables, and voila, I have an owl. I decide to make a cable panel down the front of the sock with wee owls. But, after my normally bright and perceptive family couldn't identify my addition as an owl, I ripped back again and just left the original bird in there. The second sock will not have an owl, or a hedgerow patterned cuff, and will take less than half the time to finish. But, it won't have a story, and that makes me a little sad. We should all have a story, born from mistakes, switchbacks, rocky roads, and finally, acceptance that our imperfections are what add interest to our otherwise simple character. Should I try to replicate the first sock or see what it makes of itself?
*Yarn is Pigeonroof Studios, gifted by the Lady many moons ago.
I swear it looks like an owl in person. I think. Maybe. Yeah.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Page 56

Meme time! Frances tagged me with the following: Grab the book nearest you, turn to page 56 and go to the fifth sentence, typing that sentence and a few others around it.

"But to be fair a lot of women might go to pieces after having a gun pointed at them, real or not. Shaking my head so that my hair, which I hadn't combed, tumbled out of its pins, I entered the kitchen, which didn't look as inviting as usual." The Importance of Being Ernestine by Dorothy Cannell

I haven't read Cannell's book yet. Did you know some people read the last page before they start a novel? Not me. I even read my horoscope at the end of the day. I fear reading it before anything has happened will effect my actions and I'll do things subconsciously to make the prediction come true. But if I read it at night I can find comfort in knowing my actions were all mine, free will and what not. I do, however, read the monthly horoscope at the beginning of each month to know if Mars will enter the 11th house of my solar plexus, or Venus and Jupiter will align with my gluteus maximus. Best not to be caught unawares there.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Dumb Stare

I am all about the owls popping up or should I write perching all over blogland. In most ancient cultures, the owl embodied both good and evil depending on the species. The symbolism of the wise old owl or the messenger of death still holds in modern times. I did find this in Wiki, which seems to me the best description of them all:
In Finland the owl is paradoxically viewed as both a symbol of wisdom, and as a symbol of imbecility, presumably because of its "dumb stare". Spot on.

Imbecility is the synonym of wisdom. The owl is wise enough to be compassionate towards the imbecile and imbecile enough to think this is wise. He symbolises the yin and yang of our humanity. I would like to think we are wise after all of these centuries of practice, but who are we kidding? We trample each other to death for a dollar, destroy whole civilizations for another dollar, and then use those bloody dollars to pay the bandits who stole them from us in the first place. I believe we can be better than this. The owl is our reminder to maintain balance, to see far beyond ourselves, and to seek the wisdom from within.