Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Friends, Festivities, Fun

This tiny glass duck is an ornament for the tree; it was a favor atop each heavenly cupcake (the coconut in the frosting was divine!) for guests to take home. What a cute remembrance of a really lovely baby shower!

My dear daughter-in-law was radiant as she opened gifts for the nursery. Her mother was justifiably proud, as was I. Not just proud of her, but of my special friends who went all out and showered us all with their love.

Then it was my turn to do for my friends. Each year we walking gals celebrate one another's birthdays and enjoy a special Christmas meal as well.
They came here and ate breakfast before opening gifts. I squeezed fresh oranges for our juice.

Among the foods I served was this dried fruit compote. Black Mission Figs shared the poaching liquid with apricots, prunes, pears, apples, blueberries, cherries, currants, and raisins. Lemon and orange zest and a cinnamon stick enhanced flavors. When the fruit had softened, I removed it and reduced the liquid to a syrup

We celebrated two birthdays as well. Two of us are 61, another is 62, one 64, and two have reached the ripe young age of 65. Here are the "Walkettes" showing you that we are still kicking and young at heart!

Because of the little celebration here, we put up our tree and decorations earlier than usual. Also, this is the first year Mom cannot join us for our annual tree-trimming evening. So my sweet husband took it upon himself to do most of that and I am so grateful! Everything looked pretty and festive.

This girl adorns the mantle. I worked the needlepoint hummingbird (below) several years ago - the colors prompted me to have it made into an ornament. The tiny stitches are 18 to the inch; I enjoyed making it partly because it was such a small project.

I am not certain where the little knitted sweater ornament came from, but I love it! Maybe it came from Mom's things. She was a life-long knitter and I imagine this would have had a special place on her tree. (Wish I could find the picture - it was a red sweater with white reindeer, I think.)

Wooden ornaments have long been my favorites. This little bear has a companion (actually a bigger bear) and their legs are all moveable.

Like many other folks, I have a collection of santas.

This is a transition year for our celebrations. Mom is still with us, but not with us; her dementia progresses, fear and confusion reign. She is now unable to get out for drives or to our home for family celebrations; I will miss her gentle presence. Life in a nursing home is truly bleak when one cannot look forward to outings, so I am sad about that this year.

On the other hand, we anticipate a new life, a fresh start in only a few more weeks; imagine! A baby! That is more than enough reason to be joyous and to celebrate.

I hope you can rejoice this year, too, and see the miracles that surround you. Merry Christmas!


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday Morning

My little companion, Lance, enjoys sitting in the window while we linger with coffee and papers in the morning. We read and talk and watch our birds and play with the cats. We watch the leaves turn, and fall; watch buds swell in the spring and leaves burst forth and unfold. Lance is there, too.

See the purple mug? That's my Grandma's Morning Fix mug. My son made it 6 or 8 years ago for his Grandma who had come here to live after Grandpa died. We used to joke about her coffee being her morning "fix." So, for a Christmas gift, he and his wife went to one of those places where you paint your own pottery.

After Mom went to live in an assisted living facility, the mug was left behind. I would look at it, but just couldn't bring myself to use it, even though I do love purple! It wasn't because it was Mom's mug; it was the grandma thing. I wasn't a grandma and didn't have any on the way. Because that is all changed now, and because my first grandchild will be born in February, I think that using the mug is OK. I like it.

Sometimes I bring my knitting in here and enjoy the quiet; this spot has been established as a place of peace. No TV noise in here. Rarely I take a phone call here, but mostly not. But the kitties are drawn to the places we put ourselves, and so knitting is often displaced by lap sitters who purr so enthusiastically, I can only set the knitting aside. It is a perfect spot to make headway on a good book, and it is perfect for wine and cheese and olives in the evenings. We love talking over our day with one another here

I played with this picture of Lance's face; sharpened it and over exposed it a little. He sits, usually, with all his feet quite close to one another; he is what I call composed. Often looks like a statue. The flash went off with the picture of his feet, and he wasn't pleased with that so he jumped down and left the room.

Time here is well spent. If this window seat had been available twenty years ago, it would have been empty. I never seemed to be able to take this sort of time for myself when I had children at home. I didn't know how, would have felt guilty about it. Didn't take much time to play with the kitties or the kids. Always felt I had to be going, going, going. Going and doing was easier on me than guilt about not going would have been. Of course, I didn't ponder much or dream back then either; after all, I was living my dreams of being a wife and mother. What more could I want?

Time's passage, experiences accumulated, children grown and gone; these all change a person. One looks at life from the other side at my age. The clutter can pile up in my knitting room, cookbooks can gather off their shelves on kitchen counters, autumn leaves may obscure the lawn for days, and I don't care. I am drawn to the quiet times, to the peace, to joyfulness. I am happy to exchange a vacuum for a string and make a little run through the house, kitties bounding behind. I have found books again and sit with a delicious feeling of having stolen time just for myself. If I put the book down to watch the birds a while, there is no guilt for having stopped reading; industry is not all there is to a good life.

Soon I will be adding grandmotherly activities to this list of life's joys. I know I will be ready; I will show this child the birds and leaves and chippies; we will play with the kitties; we will read all sorts of stories and maybe tell a few, too; we will think and explore and ponder and wonder and dream....


Thursday, November 15, 2007


Yesterday, I took my camera along on my walk with friends. A brief shower overnight left the streets damp and the sun didn't come up over the mountain until our walk was nearly over.

Fall colors are very late in arriving to our mountains this
Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I went on a leaf drive.
Some of the prettiest spots were very quiet places with not another car on the road.

Off the interstate, just a few minutes into the hills we came upon this tobacco barn; it's filled with drying leaves, hanging upside down. It is open on all sides for the air to move through.

Across the street from this tidy stone church is a little stream; really beautiful right now.

We drove back into the Pisgah National Forest. My husband loves to fish; he ties flies in the winter while he watches sports. He often fishes in areas designated as catch and release; that is, he returns the native, brown, and rainbow trout he catches, unharmed, to the rivers.

I love the interesting things one can find when exploring the underbrush, boulders, pools.
Deep in the forest, a haze partially obscured the far mountains. These straight tall trees are tulip (or yellow) poplars.
We enjoyed our peaceful afternoon drive. Even a brief respite like this one is enough to reset our compass, enough to remind us of what is good and true, and some of what we can be thankful for.

Friday, November 2, 2007

SAFF, Pumpkin Bread and Coming Home

The Ag Center Arena in Fletcher, NC and SAFF booths on the main floor.

Wheeeew! I am settling down. My neck and shoulders are a bit sore; my knitting is wa-a-ay behind. My cats have taken up posts on the desk, and spend too much time staring at me, alternating with head-butting and purring, all in an effort to get me away from the computer and ... Ravelry.

Dear Hubby and I managed to get out to a fund raiser for Momentum, Science and Health Adventure Park at the Dove Hangar - a wonderful evening - and we dressed up!

The first week at Ravelry was hectic; the place was bustling and I was loading projects, trying retroactively to find out exactly what yarns I used in this or that particular blanket, reading posts in various groups, and so forth.

I joined a group of folks in my geographic area. I joined a group about blogging. I joined a group of folks who wanted to talk about their own space for crafts. I joined a group of Mason-Dixon Knitting devotees. Each time I opened the computer, I logged on to Ravelry to see if I had mail; mail from "friends" or folks with patterns like mine, or folks who thought we had something in common, or folks I had contacted to say I loved their shawl or their booties or their amazing clapotis. I found favorites among others' projects and watched as some selected projects of mine as their favorite. What a great group of fiber folks!

The weather here grew chilly and I had to turn on the kitties' little warm pad; you can see they don't share well.

I finally finished loading my projects into Ravelry , not counting a dozen I have in plastic bags and am too lazy to post about. Or ashamed that I started them and didn't follow through. Or...well, heck, who cares why they hibernate on the dresser top? I loaded my knitting books into the library feature. That was fun and easy; but they didn't have all my books then. So I need to check back soon and see if the rest of my books can be loaded.

Brought in the pot of rosemary when frost threatened.

Then, I went back to flickr to load more pics and suddenly found I had filled flickr (3M was the free limit; is that megabytes? Did I already tell you this?) and would have to make a decision to BUY more space! Yikes! Was I byting off to much? Shhhh! I decided to dive right into the cyber flickr poster picture thing and for a whopping $24.95 a year, I can post all the pics I want with mega megabytes. Whew!

Last weekend, Martha and I attended SAFF at the Ag Center in Fletcher, NC. It was just fabulous! Great job by all who manned booths, brought animals and wheels, etc.; I came home loaded with yarns; an alpaca Teddy Bear and finger puppets from Peru; and some newfound friends from the fiber world.

Then I began loading flickr with additional pics of the projects already in my notebook. Pictures of the projects in-progress; pictures of the projects (usually blankets) beneath cats, pictures of cats beneath blankets; even a couple of series of pictures showing seaming techniques I have created. Then the pictures had to go from flickr into the separate pages of individual projects. Then, after I did that, I wanted to rearrange them. (This can be an endless process, I am learning!)

Ravelers were out in force at SAFF. I just had to have this yarn from a sister Ravelry addict who had a lovely booth! It reminds me of candy canes in fruit flavors. I bought her solids to go with it, too.

I saw that some project pictures in my notebook were not showing the blankets to their best advantage, not in their best light, so to speak. I dug my first throw out of a drawer and arranged it artfully on the windowseat and rephotographed it. Better! Downloaded to My Pictures, uploaded to flickr, and finally into the project page on Ravelry! (Me, from Squirrel Hollow! Well, I'll tell you that for this old gal, that is pretty good; I am pleased with what I have learned, what I have accomplished with my Ravelry membership.)

Two days ago, my dh wanted to make the pumpkin bread I had planned, so with a little supervision, he produced two of the best loaves I have tasted! Loaded with walnuts and cranberries, and devoid of bad fats, this is a really wonderful snack or dessert. Yum!

I have recently left the little group in Ravelry I joined earlier for my geographic area; left the studio space of my own group, left the others, with the exception of Mason-Dixon. I joined a new group - knitters with cats is the idea - and it's lively and fun. Don't like cats? There is a group in Ravelry for anything you can think of that you are interested in - really! If you don't see it, create your own! (Don't ask me the population of the place, but there are crowds of folks from every walk of life, many places on the planet, all ages and colors and skills and interests...I am loving it! You will, too!)

This Teddy is incredibly soft! With a baby in mind, we couldn't resist!

But, as you can see, I am also beginning to incorporate real life back into the mix with cyber life. I am beginning, with help, to control my Ravelry time. After all, I am on the fast track to grandmotherhood and the weeks are flying by!

Coming home is good for the soul. Now and then it's a good thing to reassess priorities; one can often bring things back into balance with just a little effort. Ravelry (what a ride!) and my knitting will settle into their proper places in my life, along with friends, family, community, home and garden and all the rest.

Time for bed and book and sleeping late; sweet dreams!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ravelry Anonymous

Ravelry is an organizational tool for individual members and groups, as well as a forum for exchange of information, among other things. It's a huge cross-reference library. It's a meeting of the minds and hands and fibers and colors. Sounds straight forward and innocuous.

I now have my very own place at Ravelry, my own little display booth I am hurrying to fill with projects only I have knitted. I have an online library already containing many of my knitting books. I have a space to place photos of my stash detailing yarn colors, weights and lengths if I so desire (I'd be certifiable if I attempted this); and a space for me to enter my needles and my patterns. I have a brand new Yahoo account and a new Flickr account, already 55% filled with mega-pixel pics of knitted blankets, drawstring pouches and throws. My mind is swirling with all the possibilities inherent in this new venture, and I have been rushing non-stop since receiving my invitation.

Why am I in such a rush? In a rush to post my projects and link them to my blog? To link them to my groups? To answer my Ravelry mail? To look at all 219 Log Cabin projects posted thus far? To see all the Nina Shawls? To feast my eyes on the fabulous entrelac, the Lady Eleanors that abound there? To read the profiles of knitters in my geographic area? To check out the details of the Heartbreakingly Cute Kimonos made by someone across the country? To find out who likes my Log Cabins? To learn what else is being knitted with Mission Falls 1824 Cotton? To join those special groups?

Maybe I can shed some light on this. Imagine tourists who have disembarked their cruise ships in a fabulous port that has every conceivable shop and restaurant they have ever dreamed of, with all their favorite items and all in their price range, and just one day to take it all in - wouldn't they be scurrying? Ever see wide-eyed tykes on the lawn at the Easter Egg Hunt, little straw baskets swinging from tender arms, patent MaryJanes ready to go? What about those TV shows where folks in the supermarket have their buggies and 5 minutes to load up? That is how I feel when I am in that place!

It is as if windows and opportunities have suddenly opened and everything I see is something I want to explore; as if I spent my entire life in Squirrel Hollow and suddenly find myself in NYC; every street I walk down has shops I want to enter. Each shop I enter has people with ideas and yarns and projects and smiles and answers and questions! Each person has her own booth with all her projects and her own blog. She has a life she is willing to share and tons of friends. She belongs to groups of people who share her passions and they talk freely, day and night... and they just invited me... me! (from Squirrel Hollow!) to the party!

So now you know... I can't get out of there! It's a huge labyrinth, a maze, growing exponentially, mushrooming, filling with people and projects and colors and faces and words and groups and ... and... and....well, gosh, it's...it's addictive!

OK. There you have it.

My name is Beth and I'm a Ravelry Addict.


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ravelry! OMG!

Log Cabin VI isn't going very fast; I have to work on the "other" blanket! Yes, it's a time thing. Right? You have heard this from me more than once. So why was I on the computer all day long?

Because I got my Invitation to join Ravelry! They are asking 500-800 per day; when I joined, there were 17,000 still on the waiting list! The site is huge. Well it's HUGE! HUGE!

So here I am, glad to be in, finally, and now wandering around in the biggest city I can imagine. Starting right, I get a Yahoo thingy - so I can get a Flickr thingy - so I can upload pictures of my knitting to my Projects page! All this is really, really new to this almost 65 year old.

When the pics on Flickr wouldn't upload to Ravelry, I couldn't figure it out. Wandered around a while in the "help" place and stumbled upon a live chat and barged in and asked my question. Someone wonderful asked, "Are your pictures marked private or public in Flickr?" I said "private." "Well, they have to be public to get them into Ravelry." WOW!

So back to change the settings on 14 pictures of blankets and hats. Then put my Flickr name on my Ravelry Profile page and start again to upload pictures. Voila! They appeared when I asked them; a simple click and drag brought them into Ravelry at the right times and I am off and running....well, walking pretty fast...OK! OK! Compared to the rest of the gang there, I'm crawling! But I am moving, and that's good!

I think it's a new ballgame for knitters, crocheters, spinners, dyers, etc. What a gathering place!

Meanwhile, back on the farm:

Yesterday we went downtown for shoes; Tops for Shoes is my favorite shoestore in our area. I found these two pairs of loafers that are so comfortable and classic I couldn't resist. Bought a pair of Ecco boots in black, too. So I am set for casual this fall.

Finished a wonderful book this morning, Gestures; and must go find something else to read for bed tonight. That's a delicious prospect. Ravelry has me spinning and I need to come back to earth a while. If you have an opportunity, check it out. I will share more tomorrow. Meanwhile, sweet dreams!


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Little Lovelies

There are many things in the autumn garden that are easy to overlook. This tiny trout lily is one; it's growing almost underfoot, next to the walk by the kitchen door.

When I first looked at these white flowers, I missed seeing the insects; from a distance, they are well hidden.

The marvelous, chartreuse sweet potato vine we love in our patio pots has a lovely little magenta border.

During the spring and summer, I pinch the coleus regularly to encourage it to become thick and full. But when fall arrives, I stop pinching and allow the flowers to emerge.

Now and then a picture is somewhat ho-hum; that's what I felt about these large green and white caladiums. So I played with it on Picasa and... voila! Just a bit of fun.

A lone moonbeam coreopsis blossom, nearly hidden behind a stone wall.

With the first frost, this bank of bright impatiens will sink to the earth in a slimy heap of green; the resilient rosemary in front, an evergreen, isn't really showy, but will provide my kitchen with flavor and fragrance all winter long.

These bright, cooler days are perfect for a leisurely stroll around the yard; take your camera...you may be surprised!


Sunday, September 30, 2007

By Human Hands

Just pieces on the floor for now. I have an ever fluctuating vision of this blanket. Each rectangle will be unique; the joining is still way up in the air. This cotton is the versatile Mission Falls 1894 and I love the colors. My idea is to make a very large "family" blanket that everyone can wrap up in; a blanket that can go into the washer and dryer with impunity. Not sure if I am dreaming or not, but I am going to go for it. A cool water wash shouldn't harm the colors and I really don't care if it shrinks. The idea is for it to be family friendly.

I am still working on the yellow Baby Cashmerino blanket; only realized a week ago that the baby is more than half-way to birth, but the blanket is not! I wrestled (and must be still wrestling) with a problem of what to do with a mistake I discovered. I was four or five rows beyond a place in the pattern where I transposed the 5 purl and 3 knit stitches. So the little bump that should have been, was about half, where the purls changed to knits. How I missed it...well who knows?

However, in Book 2: The Purl Stitch by Sally Melville, photos near the back show in wonderfully clear detail what one can do when you discover your mistake. "If a stitch was purled when it should have been knit, discovered many rows later," is the headline over photographs of a mistake being corrected, with directions below. Additionally, the same tutorial is on the opposite page for a stitch knit when it should have been purled. So the information was available for me to make a correction in this little blanket.

Of course, I could also unknit it all, back to the mistake, and begin again from there; this is an unpleasant prospect. I could run a piece of contrasting yarn through the row below the mistake, and then just unravel it; something I have not done before. The reasons for my hesitation about this correction are as follows: the yarn is particularly delicate and I don't want to harm it with overworking it. The yarn is also very elastic! The stitches want to return to the ball from the needles so care is required.

After time and thought, I attempted a correction via the ladder method in the above book. Several rows were involved, several stitches. I am a novice when it comes to this sort of thing, and was apprehensive about making a bigger mess than what I already had. When I had done what I thought was necessary, I found it was still not just right. In the picture above, the mistake is in a shadowy bump in the upper right quadrant. So I put it all away and have taken some time to think, again.

I have, at this point, concluded that the small mistake that remains is not worth the effort or angst to correct. Now...I imagine some of you will really be in an uproar about this. But I am not perfect, and the blanket is only about 1/6th complete; the chances that I will make another mistake are fairly great. After all, I knit in a 3-cat house and enjoy watching B&W movies while I knit. I also take phone calls, run up and down stairs to change loads in washer and dryer, eat chocolates, etc., while I am knitting.

You are familiar with the hang tags on your silk or linen clothing that warn you about slubs and other irregularities; the idea is that this is a natural part of the fabric and you are not to think it is inferior just because it seems to have some strange lumps and bumps....so, I think I can take this just a bit further and say, this blanket is knit by human hands attached loosely to a human brain that is attached loosely to the world, etc. Any little irregularities you may think you see are to be considered a sign that this blanket was knitted by loving human hands and not touched by a machine at any period in its creation.

Whew! What do you think?


Saturday, September 1, 2007

Finally Loving It

One hundred fifty one stitches cast on for this little blanket. You may have used this wonderful yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. I selected this color for my first grandbaby, and bought 10 balls of it online - a nice savings of about $2 per ball when purchased in quantity. I had already selected a pattern. I saw a lovely one from Oat Couture and persuaded my brother to purchase it in a town near his home and mail it to me. I was in such a hurry to get started! I had been waiting for what seemed to me an eternity to become a grandmother, and now it was happening!

I started the Prairie Blanket during a time we had family visiting; I knitted in the living room while trying to participate in relaxed conversation. For me, knitting and counting and trying to keep my eye on the correct line of pattern instructions, along with conversation and a glass of wine just didn't mix. A few days later, I frogged it, and began again, with the same result. So I put it away.

When I picked it up again after several weeks, I realized I needed a new pattern, and the search was on once more. I found a pretty blanket in Debbie Bliss's Simply Baby - you can see it on the cover. I thought, "I can do this, but without the colored intarsia pictures." This little blanket has a pretty moss stitch border and is divided into several panels. Some have colored pictures and some have hearts. So I determined that I would make the blanket with moss stitch hearts in every other square - sort of a checkerboard pattern. I began by reading the pattern carefully and then transferring the heart pattern to a piece of graph paper. "Piece of cake!" I thought. "This is going to be fun!"

Well, it wasn't! After a dozen rows into the heart pattern, I gave up. Just too much counting, too frequent stopping. The fine yarn has a little stretch to it, and the addi turbos are really slick. I was gripping and the yarn was slipping and counting was painful, and keeping my place on both sides of the blanket and going from left to right on the pattern and then from right to left....well, I just wasn't ready for that. I knew I would need complete quiet to work on this blanket; this project should be enjoyable, fun...and it was not.

Another frogging followed and I wrapped the yarn carefully around the ball. Picking up works in progress occupied my hands for a while. I even completed another little blanket I had started with a chunky yarn and worked in Basketweave pattern (page 16 in Barbara Walkers Treasury of Knitting Patterns).

I'm not certain just what it is about this pattern, but I really love it! It looks somewhat complicated but is really isn't; it evokes carefree country living, casualness and love...well maybe that's going a bit far.

It looks soft, and it is soft; dozens of little pillows will trap the warmth and keep baby cozy. That's one of the benefits of this pattern over one that is lace, for example, or just flat stockinette or garter stitch. I was pleased to finish this, and tucked it into the drawer with fragrant lavender to wait for the day when it would be wrapped and given away. I closed the drawer with satisfaction and it was then that I knew what I wanted to do with my very special baby blanket.

So you can see all the little tiny yellow "pillows" in the pictures of the blanket above. I have passed the point in this one where I gave up on the previous patterns. Finally I am on the right track; finally it feels right, finally it is moving along as I know it should. And finally, I am loving every minute of it!

I hope you are loving your knitting, too.