Monday, December 21, 2009

The Longest Night, The Lemoniest Cake

Here we are, solstice again. This year went very quickly for me. I enjoyed it and welcome winter with open arms, her frost underfoot, her chill silver light. Beautiful, really, when you open your eyes every so often and put an effort into seeing beyond the reddened tip of your own nose.

My favorite light during winter is the golden glow radiating from the windows of houses and shops at night. I feel a welcoming, as if each window is an invitation, a call for camaraderie. I'm taking my usual holiday blog break to spend time with my family and friends, to laugh and love in warm corners by frosted windows. If I see you pass by and peek in, I'll wave and invite you in.
Until next week, be well, be merry, eat cake.

Lemon Cake (pithy directions)
*Cream together 1 cup sweet butter and 2 cups sugar.
*Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time.
*Mix together 3 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt.
*Incorporate alternately with 1 cup buttermilk into butter mixture (begin and end with flour).
*Add 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice and lemon zest. Bake @ 300 for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. (I use loaf pans and make 2 cakes with this recipe.)
*After cake completely cools, glaze with mix of 1/4 cup softened butter, 1.5 cups powdered (confectioner's) sugar and 3 T lemon juice.
*Let glaze thicken and set before wrapping or just eat it right away like you know you want to. Makes for an excellent breakfast.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Point

This was the point, two weeks ago, right before life became a complete blur. My husband worries I've lost my mind; I am so distracted. There are too many little details to remember. More to the point, too many little details I have to remember, but don't really care about. Holiday expectations, bah.

Yesterday, in the middle of the crazy, I bought a bag of lemons on a whim. Today I'll make lemon pound cakes because I can, not because I have to. Unobligative cake tastes best. That is one thing worth remembering.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Meret


Pattern: Meret (Mystery Beret) by Wooly Wormhead
Wool: Knit Picks Merino Style hollyberry - stash
Needles: US # 7 circulars

Mystery. Who doesn't love a good mystery? The thrill, the anticipation, the cliff-hangers, the twists and turns, the set up, and finally, all of the loose ends tied neatly into place (insert rimshot here). I appreciate an exciting and well executed mystery almost as much as I love my Meret. This is one of those knit projects that you whip up on whim, actually wear out, and wait for the inevitable comment from some stranger asking where you purchased your hat. And then, instead of sheepishly admitting you made it by hand (which often times translates to "Gee, now you know why it looks odd" ), you hold your head high and declare (loudly to draw an admiring throng) "I made this!" and strut off with a springy step and a kick ass sense of chapeau style.


Boring Process Details:
Knit to pattern for size M: read ahead for start row of lace chart. Used the roll/rib combo for the band, added one extra lace repeat for the slouchy effect, blocked wet flat, did a happy dance.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Sentimentality of Here, There

I am often accused of not being sentimental, or more to the point, once I am "done" with a thing (object,person, circumstance) I am done with it completely. I do have the ability to walk away, sometimes far forevers away, from a thing I no longer need or find fulfilling. Whenever I am so accused I want to argue this simply isn't true but I can't. It is true. My nostalgia is carried within me, not in a photo or a trinket or a box of receipts. When I am struck by a wave of sentimentality, the pining comes from deep inside and it may not always produce tears, but it shifts me, moves me, affects my whole being. One such place that I will forever carry with me is the Missouri Botanical Gardens. I visited the grounds again during Thanksgiving holiday and before I even stepped out into the first courtyard, I felt a lightening, as if a corset of tension had been unlaced; I could breathe again.

This place has seen me single, engaged, married, a wife, twice pregnant, a mother, one day old, maybe ill, always dying. I have brought friends and loved ones to experience her seasons. I have mourned the loss of several of those dearest here at the lake's edge. There is no blame here, there is light. There is no vacuous chatter here, there is wind in trees. There is no anger here, there is beauty. There is no entrenchment here, there is constant change. There is no denial here, there is acceptance. These gardens look different every time I visit, but her loving embrace and tender kisses on the eyelids of my soul, bring me a peace and a sense of connectedness I rarely find elsewhere.
The Garden and her long light reminds me to live, to embrace change, because everything must change, no static thing will survive the hard frosts, the droughts, the floods, or the harvests. People forget, they want to cling sentimentally to what they once had or dreamed of having, and completely forget they are not dead; they can keep living, nurture their dormant roots and bloom once more. It is an effort filled choice each has to make for themselves, no other can give you what you need to be whole. And so, I cannot deny I am not one for mawkishness and tradition for the sake of it, but instead of unsuccessfully contriving a sense of nostalgia, I attempt to live so I find new threads of it everywhere I go. Threads that make the seams of myself hold fast, no matter what season I may face next.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gypsy Gold

My quest to capture the last golden turnings of the season was successful. As an unexpected bonus, I made a new friend.

I had forgotten how much I like horses and how much they like me.

Maybe it's my disposition that attracts them. Or maybe I smell like a root vegetable.

He was so handsome my inner Southerner broke free and I declared him "right purty." He didn't seem to mind.

'Gypsy gold does not chink or glitter.
It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark.'
Claddagh Gypsy saying

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Autumnal Rains

Received record rains a couple days ago which felled the leaves outside my window. A friend called and invited me to hike the mountain on Friday. We are both afraid to miss it, this last quiet release, the halcyon sigh of Nature donning winter.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Physics of Falling Leaves

Roman Payne wrote the title of this post, he was commenting on the suddenness of death, but some combinations of words are poems which deserve to be plucked from paragraphs and endlessly applied to listening ears.

The leaves are falling slowly here, reluctantly, dancing on the sun warmed air, slipping out of our grasp at the very last second when we exclaim Ah!, our traitorous breath launching the burnished treasures skyward again.

My need to be still, quiet, and reflective is strong now, but only because these desires are the opposite of what the fractious energies of the season promise. Life only gets busier, louder, spread out across town and country, often expecting me to be in two places at once; everyone needs something from me. In keeping with my contrary nature my response to busy weeks is to want to hide even if it has to be in plain sight. I want to pull in and float along, observing the revelry, but not fully participating. This loner behavior serves in letting me see the world around me but isn't fulfilling in a way I want right now. Maybe this year I'll participate with my whole self and allow the world to know me. Hopefully I won't be tempted to fly away on the first breath of 'Ah! There you are; now we have you!' like a leaf reluctant to end its independent adventure.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Posthumously Yours


A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man awoke in the night.

J.M. Barrie

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Coyote, A Nut, and a Tire Iron Walked Into a Bar...

The colors in the creek are the colors of my son's eyes. Green and gold and rust that in low light look brown and in sunshine look like Donegal moss tweed. We went exploring, one of our favorite autumnal activities, and the three of us each found something exciting to share. My son, our protector, outfitted with a holstered yellow squirt gun in case we disturbed any copperheads, found a millipede the size of his forearm. My daughter, our captain, steered us in the right direction, discovering a new piece of playground equipment deemed suitable for vigorous play after a thorough inspection. And I, the navigator, wandered off to daydream by the gritty bank, leaving the other two up to their own devices. Hey, I'm never voted the captain for a reason. I found something too.

On the eastern exposure of the mossy tree in this photo is a hollow, carved out by water under a gnarled canopy of roots. I slid a few feet down the bank to check it out and to my surprise there was a woman tucked halfway in there, pale and shivering. Her wet hair braided with the roots. I couldn't tell where she began and the tree ended. I instantly recognized her.

"Catherine?" Her pained eyes fluttered in acknowledgement. "Why are you under these roots and not back home in the tidy short story I just finished writing about you?"

"You tell me," she croaked, her voice as sandy as the creek side,"I just woke up here and I think I'm dying, but I don't know why."

"Oh," I offered impotently. She rolled her washed out eyes at me. I pondered the situation for a moment and added, "Well, I guess I'll have to write you into and out of this."

"Thanks, Heather," she whispered, "and don't forget the coyotes, Uncle Nut, or the tire iron, okay?" She hacked for a moment then scrunched her gaunt face and spat blood and half an opalescent shell by my foot. I grimaced and nodded, climbing back up the slippery slope.

Following my Captain and Guard to the falls, I gave the scene some thought and as other families trickled into the park after church, I snapped this pic of the kids. Why don't we focus on the cuteness of these two and not the hapless navigator whose imagination at times is crazy-making.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dreams in a Language Not My Own

On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur.
L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
Saint-Exupéry

While my friend Nicole reads my first draft, I am writing short stories. Some real, most imagined, one a combination of the two. I find that of all my passions, and my regular readers know I have more than a few, writing makes me feel most fulfilled. Even when I reread the hours worth of words I've sacrificed sleep to create, only to delete them all, I am never disappointed in myself for having done so. Inspiration rarely alludes me, especially when crafting a short story. I tend to collect them in my mind and recall them later like half remembered conversations with old friends. I simply have to fill in the details.

Sometimes a story finds me, inadvertently and unexpectedly, in a gesture as simple as a handshake or a stranger's glance. In these instances I practically fall over myself and anyone in the way to get home and write the story I've created around them. The strands of thought seem to appear from nowhere, yet they feel as if they have always been a part of me, and like the cobwebs I can't reach on my foyer chandelier, they will remain. Glittering in the shifting light of day, these fragile connections remind me to look always within my heart for that which is invisible to my eyes.

On a completely different note, I have dreamt, vividly, in French for the past few nights. Problem is, I don't speak French (other than a few phrases). Apparently I understand it in my dreams though. How random is that? Maybe I need to stop perusing so many Canadian knitting blogs before bed. My subconscious self is exponentially more interesting than my waking self and that, my friends, is just sad. I wonder what Foucault would have to say about this phenomenon? I'm going to sleep on that thought and I'll give you his theory in the morning.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hermione's Everyday Socks


Pattern: Hermione's Everyday Socks (rav) by Erica Lueder
Wool: Knit Picks Stroll in burgundy
Needles: US# 1 dpn's, 7", aluminum, with a Phoenix Feather core

One of my favorite events surrounding Hermione Granger, cleverest witch of her age, in the Harry Potter series, was the tongue-tied, hapless attentions she received from Viktor Krum, the surly Bulgarian Quidditch champion. (That was a comma-splosion sentence, sorry.) Anyway, Viktor could never pronounce her name no matter how hard he tried, usually addressing her as Hermy-own-ninny or something close. I felt for the man. I have the same problem when introduced to people who speak a language other than English and children. "Edda" is usually what I answer to in these situations.

No matter, a name is just a name and sometimes, despite best intentions, you can't seem to get a thing to come out right, or out at all. So has it been with these socks. Life blocked my every intention of finishing them in my usual two week window. I think I cast on for these three months ago. Alas, my friends, they are finally finished, and all without the help of a time turner or charm. Now who's the cleverest witch?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Awesome x Three

Kate Perry, Marketing Assistant for Knit Picks, has featured two of my knit projects using City Tweed in her blog post here. Thanks Kate! All of the projects she features can be found on Ravelry by clicking on the photostream. It gives me a warm feeling to be included with so many talented knitters.

The second bit of awesome I'm soaking up this week is an album by The Avett Brothers. I especially love the song Head Full of Doubt/ Road Full of Promise. I wish I had written it. Let's pretend it was written for me, ok?

Last bit of awesome is this exchange between my 4 year old and I while waiting at the bus stop yesterday:

him: "What's that smell?"

me: "I don't know. It is unusual. What do you think it smells like?"

him: "Like tea... and teenagers."

Poetic in a delightfully charming and odd way, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Morning of the Turn


Walking to the bus stop this morning I breathed it in, the turn of the season, each chill lung full of air an awakening. This is the true beginning to my year; the autumnal stripping off the lethargy and sloth of humid days. I am invigorated and inspired by the coming cold, the burning colors, the instinct to wrap oneself inward under layers of early darkness. When the world herself goes stumbling towards a long nap, I awake, drowsy from my summer stupor. This is my season.

Jacob and Wilhelm, the brother hawks, watched me from their usual perch in the bare tree top across from my house. I named them this year after the Brothers Grimm. I wonder if that means we are connected in some way since I've named them. They would surely scoff if they could and remind me we are all connected regardless of words. I was grateful to see them hulking there, silhouetted against the indigo line between night and dawn.

Now is the time for cassoulets and thin sweaters. Knitting and Romantic classics. Perhaps a Gothic horror. Maybe Jane Eyre? Long rambles in the piney woods, a glass of wine before bed, school parties. And curling in, looking in, summing up the year's bounties and debts. This is my harvest.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Seven is an Odd Number


I've received an incredibly thoughtful award for (k)creative blogging from the always inspiring and entertaining Left-Handed Housewife. Thank you again, Frances, I've taken your description of me to heart. Honestly, I don't usually blog these awards out of sheer laziness, but when I realized the majority of you are going to jump ship over the fact I haven't finished the socks yet, I thought I'd play along. Accepting this award means I am beholden to share seven facts about myself, which is difficult because people I know read this and I can't get away with telling you I am a secret agent working on an international cashmere goat poaching case. Good thing since that kind of sharing would surely upset Ms. Thin Mint, my super secret super spy boss.
The fine print: (which I am only posting for informational purposes and only following four steps. I'm a rebel, Dottie.)

1.Thank the person who nominated you.
2.Copy the logo to your blog (or at least into the acceptance post...).
3.Link to the person who nominated you.
4.List 7 thing about yourself people may find interesting.
5.Make your own 7 Nominations.
6.Post links to those 7.
7.Leave them all a comment to let them know you nominated them.

Get Ready.

1) I never graduated college. I took a couple of years worth of core classes, couldn't bear the boredom and hated every minute of it. I wimped out and have never looked back.The final straw in my school career was when my philosophy 101 professor accused me of cheating because "no one had ever aced his tests before". The exams were multiple choice. What a prat.

2) I tend to be overly honest, sticking my foot in my mouth more often than not, but I have come to realize people turn to me when they need help because they trust my sincerity.

3) I wish I could speak Italian. I love the poetry of it. I completed four years of French and can only curse and ask the time fluently. I guess that means I could navigate a French train station pretty well.

4) When I lived in downtown Atlanta, a drunk homeless man ran into the road and fell against the side of my moving car. He landed on his butt and then stumbled away but I was too scared to get out and help him. The witnesses just kept walking. The whole scene still haunts me.

5) I am the soccer equivalent of Bobby Knight. I actually balled my hands into fists at my son's game and shocked myself by telling him to "Just kick her and get the ball !" I should be banned from spectating for the rest of the season. It is a league of four year olds by the way.

6) I love randomly complimenting people. It surprises them and makes them think which is always a good thing.

7) I have a restless soul. I question, analyze, seek knowledge, teach myself something new every day, and still I dream of wandering the world to figure it all out. The reality is I live a small life and love it, so this restlessness pools in my imagination, and I burst at the seams with creativity because of it.

Thanks for sticking around; you all mean the world to me. Consider yourself nominated.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's the Wonder of You

I know what you're thinking.

"She's going to write about change again. Always with the change, this one. Transition this, acceptance that. Yada yada yada."

Not today. Today I'm wondering what happens after the change? What do you do then, if it's what you waited for or never saw coming, where do go from the new first step? I guess the answer to that is different for everyone. For this butterfly, the answer was to hang out on my window for an hour and watch me. I watched him too, wondering what he saw to keep him riveted. Eventually he flew off and I stepped outside to peer into the window out of curiosity. I saw me, reflected, with the clouds behind my head.

Butterfly was watching himself float on the clouds, not seeing into my house at all. I sat there for a spell, doing the same, taking in my reflection framed by clouds. I think we both liked what we saw and took the time to appreciate the wonder of it. That, in itself, should be a first step everyday, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Love Is So Short, Forgetting Is So Long*

Cloudland Canyon, after rain, summer 2009
Tonight I Can Write
by Pablo Neruda

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, 'The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.


*maybe it is the glass of wine or the moon and Jupiter dancing outside the window now, but these simple words are calling my name and I'm not sure why. Just thought I'd share the moment.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Busy As A


I am checking in because I received an email from my husband requesting I post. He even gave me topics. He must be bored. I, on the other hand, am anything but bored. Guess what I've got? Over 50, 000 words and counting in less than a month. Why can't NaNoWriMo be in August instead of November? It is quite possible 48000 of those words are total crap, but they are mine and I like 'em.

You know that squirmy feeling you get when you've worked really hard on creating something? When you pour all of your passion and heart into it, drowning in your own enthusiasm whenever you (not so casually) mention the project to friends (or complete strangers) who invariably give you the stink eye after ten minutes of your gushing? I've got that squirmy feeling- I think it is happiness*, but as I near the end of the first draft process, and prepare myself for someone to read this, I get another feeling altogether. I want to throw up.

I'm still knitting that second sock, it is mocking me from the dusty little corner I left it in. I fear it will start speaking to me when I walk by like the man eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors. I can hear it now, the merino begging,"knit me, Heather" as the kitchen lights dim and a chorus begins to sing duwop from the pantry. I need to finish that sock before it finishes me.


* I think there should be a happiness test, like a pregnancy test:
no line-depressed
one line-content
two lines- delirious
(They could sell them in two packs for the skeptics and the schizophrenics.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Open Letter


Before any of you start thinking this little blog space is all magical fairy doors and pumpkin patches, I'd like to step out of my usual habit of musing on a thing, good or bad, and squeezing every ounce of rambling metaphor I can out it. The following is an open letter that I need to get out of my system so I can face the next several months without shouting expletives so profane they cause the earth's axis to tilt ever so slightly sending innocent penguins hurtling into outer space.
Dear School,
I understand you have had funding cuts...again...and that you will be relying on donations and fundraisers to support your 17,000 pounds of photocopier paper to relay the daily messages about how your funding has been cut and you will be relying on donations and fundraisers to support... (see: Escher, M.C.)
I want this school to succeed in its mission to educate my daughter on the basics. I'll fill her in on all the really important stuff as we go, but I have to speak out concerning the latest fundraiser scheme we are being asked to participate in. Don't you think hiring a company to send home snazzy pamphlets with 3D glasses in them and scripts for the 5 to 8 year olds to beg for money per lap, then make them run on a 90 plus degree day until they drop faster than Icarus at the feet of their guilt ridden parents all of whom advocate rescuing greyhounds from mob bosses for exhibiting less cruelty? Calling it a "fun" run doesn't take the horror out of it. Fun shot, fun root canal, fun colonoscopy. Nope, still doesn't work. So do me a favor and stop manipulating my child's trust in adults, thanks.
And then, then, we find out you only get 10% of the donations. So this company, if it can be called that legitimately, keeps 90% of the money our families have coughed up. I am not good at math, I've been very upfront about that, but even I know the economics of this deal are a wee bit uneven.
I propose you send a nice email or letter for those families that don't have access, requesting a donation for specific reasons because people are more likely to let go of their money if they know exactly what their buying. Then, since you didn't hire a scamathon enticing my child with more plastic junk made by starving children somewhere, you, dear School, get to keep 100% of the monies raised. I know, it's awesome, right?! Thanks.
See you on the field,
Heather
ps- this also applies to all of the charities asking me to mail out letters to my neighbors. Sheesh.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You're Not Hopeless


So, last night, I paced, literally paced, the floor trying to convince myself not to write the really painful scene between my characters. I kept thinking up increasingly ludicrous possibilities to spare them this confrontation, but life is confrontation, right? I mean we don't just all float around in bubbles of foamy bliss all day. I realized at some point, well into the night, that I was breaking my own heart for these imaginary folks. Is that normal? So I did what I do whenever I feel sad or frustrated or restless: I quoted all of my favorite lines from Lost in Translation and stopped when Bob says quietly, "You're not hopeless."
I seriously crush on that movie because I can relate to both Charlotte and Bob; her searching, artistic nature and his jaded, mid life crisis induced depression. I will finish these Hermione's Everyday Socks one day, but not this day. This day, I am going to post boring photos of my feet, accept the fact that I am now officially a soccer mom, and try to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Twining

When you plant a dozen or so pumpkin seeds in your largest clay pot full of the fanciest soil the handsomest young man at the hardware store suggests, a curious thing happens. Every one of the many minutes a day I've stood wondering, watering, and wishing over that pot, have come to nothing. I have a pot full of fancy dirt, that has produced the scraggliest, palest, most awkward looking vines. They remind me of those angst ridden boys who flirted with me in high school. But the three seeds I happened to toss over by the wall where the grass never grows? You guessed it. Rampant. Healthy. Virile, even. The seeds I ignored have shown my high expectations and expensive dirt up. You never know the surprises that wait, hidden beneath your feet.

For all of the showy leaves and blossoms, the true magic lies in the twining tendrils. They twist and strive, reaching out for a connection; a hold on this life. Some find themselves wrapped around something pretty quickly, and they hold on tight, never giving the sturdiness of their anchor a thought. Many find, much later, the base is weak and the weight of the mature vine too much for one tendril to carry. Others get swept away, letting the growing vine carry them far from their roots. These travelers don't always have a chance to find a connection but they curl and grasp anyway because it is their nature to find the sticking place to support the vine. Even if they happen to find something far afield to grasp, they have stretched so far, these tendrils end up tangling in upon themselves. Either way, the season will change, the pumpkin will be harvested, the chill air will dry the vine, and those tendrils will be forced to let go.

Change is life. Whether you are a determined or wayward tendril, life will change and you will be forced to change with it. Let's resolve to accept our transitions gracefully, twined together by the knowledge that how we choose to live our life effects the souls of those we briefly connect with. For everyone out there losing their hold and for everyone grasping tightly to something new, I wish you peace. I've done both and will again and again. Happy first day of 1st grade, sweetie.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Again with the Math and Music

Remember a few posts ago, when I rambled on about my love-hate relationship with math? I made reference to the golden ratio (which is the perfect confluence of art and science) in the music of Chopin. While I try to get motivated and snap a pic of the sock I finally finished, check out this entertaining example of art and science that is the pentatonic scale, a language universally spoken, even if you didn't know you knew the words.


World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I've got nothing. And that's everything.

two farm pictures are in shop now

I am writing a post I try not to write. The kind that you feel obligated to send out since you have been quiet for a week. Have you ever received a phone call from a friend and after you say the hellos, you both just hold the phone in silence, interrupting occasionally with half - hearted
"Well, (long pause) I've got no news" answered with " Yeah, (sigh), me neither." but neither of you hang up? It is a comfort call, a need to feel connected, and to know we are real to someone and not forgotten. This is my comfort call to you.

(Long pause)

Well. I've got no news. (Sigh) But I have been busy. Daughter had a Fairy Tea Party that was a sugar high best fest. I am on the foot of a sock, for me, that has taken me longer than any other sock ever knit. I keep getting distracted by Per Petterson and Haruki Murakami novels. And I have slept less than 5 hours a night for the past three nights trying to write the story of the two characters that are constantly buzzing in my ear and won't leave me alone. I like them, these two made up people, but they are insistent I write it all down and I am becoming a bit obsessed in a sleep deprived sort of way. I am getting prepared for another school year, which begins a week from Thursday. I also am chomping at the bit over the many fabulous knit magazines coming out this fall. And Brooklyn Tweed has a book?! Somebody hide my credit card. Well,(yawn), other than that, I've got nothing. I think that is everything. 'Mkay, talk to you later . Bye. (click)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Farm

The kids and I drove over to Georgia to visit my Uncle Gary and Aunt Stacey. Can only one day be a constant roller coaster of awesome? Yes, friend, it can. We swam, fished, golfed, ate (oh boy, did we eat), picked apples, and toured every one of the 380 acres inside the fence plus a few more outside the fence including a hidden 27 acre lake.

Since we were with Gary, every minute of our tour was full of stories that were so funny my cheeks hurt from smiling. He is a wealth of knowledge and the unbounded excitement he has for a 250 year old pecan tree or discovering the location on the shoals of the original settlers is infectious. He is a man who loves what he does and you can't help be inspired by that.


We rode around on jacked up golf carts, sometimes going so off road that my backside only touched the seat intermittently, and went on a dusk search for deer. I was foolish enough to think this land was too beautiful to describe during the day, but then the sun began to set and the long shadows stretched out to chase us back to the house. The beauty of the night's silhouettes under the quarter Buck moon was humbling. We were in town to celebrate my mom's 60th birthday and my daughter's 6th. Both exclaimed this was the best day of their life at different points. That is a better gift than anything we could have put in a box. Thank you, Gary and Stacey!

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
Albert Einstein

Monday, July 20, 2009

Shop Update

I didn't care that it was raining and the bench was wet. A bag with 5 pounds of powdered sugar smothering a lump of fried dough gets heavy. Sometimes you have to get your pants dirty to enjoy life.


New photographs are available in my shop. Grab a coffee and come visit.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On Math and Chopin

Say it with me, ahhh divina proportione

I am sure I have mentioned before how poor my math skills are. Dirt poor. When confronted with having to do math in my head and answer out loud, my mind closes a door. No matter how furiously I knock seeking the answer, the neurotransmitters hiding behind the door insist loudly there is, "nobody home, go away, don't come back later." It hasn't helped my case that I am surrounded by a family of engineers and math teachers who all just 'get it'. They can visualize the numbers but I can't. Math is a foreign language to me.

There is hope though; if you show me math in a practical sense, I get it. Take the golden ratio or 'divine proportion', which I won't butcher by trying to explain. Aesthetically, it equals all of those perfect swirls in the sunflower up there, pleats in pine cones, crests of waves, even our own human form. According to this wiki article, the ratio is easily recognized in the works of my favorite composer, Chopin. Nocturne No. 2 in E Flat is a good example of the use of proportion, especially the sequence towards the end, which reminds me of watching the koi bubbling from the bridge at Seiwa-en, their scales shimmering beneath the cherry blossoms floating on the surface of the lake. Isn't it odd that even the happiest memories can quietly break your heart?

So, there you go, even when I finally understand a math concept, it still threatens to drive me to tears. I guess this is life's way of reminding me that the mind and the heart have to be in balance, in proportion, for contentment to exist. That is a language I am beginning to understand.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Opus Spicatum

I love to study brick and stonework. Masons combine strength, engineering, and art to create practical structures from an unforgiving medium. Some very clever masons will throw in an odd pattern on an otherwise plain wall or path. One of my favorites is herringbone. Opus Spicatum is Latin for spiked work; the technique is usually an accent since it is, structurally speaking, weak. Aesthetically speaking, for me, herringbone is especially captivating in mossy walkways leading to secret gardens, smartly cut wool suits, and knit hats.
Pattern: Opus Spicatum by Kate Gagnon (she who can design no wrong)
Needles: US #4 and 6 circular
Yarn: KnitPicks City Tweed alpaca (oh, the tweedy softness!)
Knit to pattern. For photo, hat is stretched on a plate, and wears more like a beanie rather than a beret.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When Life Gives You a Wedgie, Make a Hedgie!

To alleviate the pain of the worst haircut of my life, other than the "Dorothy Hamill" my mom subjected me to at the tender age of five (sorry, Mom, it still stings), I am focusing on this little fellow. He makes me smile every time I enter the room. After I trimmed up the uneven ends and borrowed my daughter's barrettes, the haircut isn't so bad; it just isn't at all what I asked for. Too add insult to injury, my husband came home from work and after a prolonged silence declared "wow, it makes you look approachable." I chose to ignore that.

For anyone who has suffered an unfortunate shock at the hand of another, this pattern is for you. Bad feelings instantly vanish on sight of these wee hedgies, who are the epitome of approachable.
Pattern: Little Oddment Hedgehog by Little Cotton Rabbits
Needles: US # 2 and 4 dpn's
Yarn: oddments of Knitpicks Bare DK and City Tweed in Tahitian pearl and Merino Style in black
Mods:
I can kitchener stitch with my eyes closed, but mattress stitch alludes me so I knit this up in the round. I began at the end of the pattern (the nose) and followed the directions backwards, increasing where decreases were originally written. Before I kitchenered the last 14 stitches at the rump, I stuffed him full of cotton balls. The body yarn was not thicker than the face so I knit in garter rather than stockinette to give him a textured look. I can see many more of these in my future, maybe an entire array. By the time I'm done knitting a whole herd, my hair should have grown out a bit. Ah, the promise the future holds.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Old Town


My 4th of July celebrations started early with a morning trip into Old Town before we walked down to the Farmer's Market by the creek. There are several new businesses and the owners were so gracious I had to share. These shops are all located in the 1880's buildings that supported the train depot, coal mines, gins, and mills that flourished here for many decades.
La Reunion Coffee Shop, operated by Del and Robin Howell, will be my go-to spot once my son starts preschool in the fall. I plan on spending many a free hour nestled amongst the antique furnishings, and exposed brick and beams, noshing on their excellent coffee and delicious bistro food. The shop has a wonderful island plantation vibe perfect for reading Hemingway while sipping your favorite brew.
If La Reunion takes you back in time, Wildflower Wax Candle Studio and Boutique, brings you back to the present with fabulous candles, jewelry, unique gifts items, and vintage boots. The studio evokes that perfect blend of kitsch and cool, and best of all, the items are made by local artists. Want to be an artist? Make your own candles in the studio!
Cross the street to that little tin-roofed shotgun shack I fell in love with a few months back
and welcome Judy Ellington who operates The Monkey Basket. She puts together the best gift baskets and gift items. Judy is a familiar face here and we are lucky to have her back in town again.
Congrats and good luck to all of the owners, I am glad you are here!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Holy Guacamole.

My husband's Grandmother, Gwen, sent this Classic Elite sweater kit my way when she realized she would never knit it up. Included are eleven 115 yd skeins of Inca Alpaca in a wine color, one each in eight other colors, plus a natural and grey skein of Caravan Camel. Wow. There is plenty of the wine for a long sleeve pullover for me, but what do I do with the other skeins? My eyes are bleary from searching Ravelry for hours after receiving the package. Any suggestions?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Almanac

I am a happenstance gardener, unlike my Grandpa, whose abilities are housed in his whole being because a single thumb just isn't big enough. Whole catalogs of wisdom and experience are etched in his memory as clearly as the lines on his hands. Talking to him and my Uncle Gary is like flipping through the Farmer's Almanac, except much funnier. Gary knows what fish are biting in the lake by which tree is budding out. "Old Timers say the crappie are biting when the Redbud blooms" he explains with a smile that is one half respect and one half amusement. The old timers are always right. We both subscribe to this natural science, as most gardeners do, that boils down to the fact everything is connected. Water and air temperature, moon phase, soil health, sun and shade, everything has it's place and purpose.

You would think gardening would be a simple science then wouldn't you? Basically propagating, planting, growing, and harvesting are simple, but the motions aren't enough. The difficulty of gardening is in the letting go. You plan, you toil, you hope and pray, but in the end, you have to let go because you are only a tiny part of the equation; you are not in control. Nature is in control and even though you do all the legwork to the best of your ability, you have to eventually step back and patiently wait for the outcome. Whether you are rewarded with the juiciest red tomato, or foiled by an unforeseen drought, you are the better for having trusted your instincts, listened to the wisdom of those before you, and participated in one of life's concentric circles. I am reminded of something my dad said when I was pregnant, " Don't worry about the one thing that could go wrong; recognize the miracle in the hundreds of things that go right."
I have a rocky yard so I garden in pots and small raised beds. This weekend, inspired by the surprise sunflower blooming from my compost bucket, I put some seeds in soil and will wait patiently (so not my forte, but I am working on that) to see what happens. Hopefully the pumpkins will be a reality in October despite the fact I planted them when the moon is waxing rather than waning. If nothing comes of them, I'll have learned a lesson. Either way gardening, for me, is time well spent.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kate's Cardigan

Yet another February Baby Sweater off the needles for my cousin Michelle's impending arrival. These little knits fly. In a fit of finishing up the Harry Potter series on audio book, I have been a knitting machine. I actually finished this several days ago and am also almost done with a stranded hat. I have knit so often in the past week that I have Knitter's Neck- you know what I mean. Ouch!

This cardigan is knit in the new organic cotton yarn from Knit Picks, Simply Cotton. Advertised as a sport weight, I think it is closer to fingering weight. The cotton is very soft, no splitting, and came out of a low heat dryer with out pills or too much shrinkage. I like this cotton very much, but this pattern benefits from the smooshy-ness of wool. I used size 4 needles and ended up with a 18.5 " chest circumference. The rose buttons are vintage and the hanger used in the photo belonged to my Grandmother when she was a child. Can't wait to meet you, Kate!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Old Sofa Socks


When you open your mailbox to a surprise package of Pigeonroof Studios scrappy skeins from your pal the Lady Knits, a million ideas run through your mind as to what you can do with these small amounts of awesome yarn. I needed a portable project for our road trip to Chattanooga* this past weekend and a pair of peds fit the bill. I didn't have enough of the yellow that Larkin sent to complete both feet but I remembered I had some matching brown from these socks. Voila! A quick project was born.

While sewing up the toe on the last sock I pondered what I would call these. 'Eggs on Toast' or 'Dandelion' or maybe 'Honey Bee'. I asked my husband what he thought and after a quick sideways glance (he was driving at the time) he declared they looked like an old sofa. I really could not argue. They do have that 1970's Harvest Gold vibe. I used my generic top down sock formula, casting on 60 stitches and starting the heel 4 rows after the ribbing ended.

* Trip was fantastic! Still sorting out the hundreds of pictures I took so more on this to come.
** Many many thanks for all of the Buttercup love. I was flattered silly.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Variation on a Buttercup

Pattern: Buttercup by Heidi Kirrmaier
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light "aurelian"
Needles: US# 4 circular and DPN
I am going to sing the praises of this pattern just like the others who have finished her. Buttercup is simple and, as you can see, easy to modify. I followed Heidi's variation instructions with one or two small differences:
1.I cast the stitches on for the lace panel as I do for underarms (not on a separate needle)
2. I only did 3 a-line increases instead of 6
3. I used a 16 stitch sideways garter border on the hem and sleeves.
I love this sweater. It fits well but the next one I make will not have the extra sleeve stitches which just stick out like too much fabric rather than giving a pouf. I won't do the a-line increases at all since I ended up with too much fabric across the back since there is no waist shaping.
Overall, I highly recommend this pattern. This will be my go-to fall sweater to layer over a long sleeve tee. I also find that I have much more success with garments knit in a DK or lighter weight wool. I love all of the top down designs, but most are too bulky for my frame and the warm winters here. Knit a Buttercup today, you'll be glad you did.