Friday, July 27, 2007

Afternoon Delight

I thought you might not believe me if I went on about our visitors without posting a picture or two. I think this mama was here before. We have no bird feeders up anymore, but she remembered where they had been. She stood up on the trunk of this corner pine looking for seed. She and her cubs wandered around in the yard a while before taking a dip in our tiny pond; a drink was in order, too (this is a cub, below. Sorry about the bad quality of these pics - I was a bit excited).

Then Mama took a stroll through the flower bed before exiting the yard and heading down the back street.

A stop at our trash container was disappointing and she headed to the neighbors, her babies following.

She didn't find anything to eat here, and will undoubtedly visit many trash receptacles after ours.

It is a pity; how can their numbers increase when their territory and food supply is supposedly decreasing? Human beings have been building for hundreds of years on this continent and bear habitat abounds. Why are they in our cities? Why are the big cats in California cities? The bears must have something to gain by being here; food. If they didn't find food, they would leave. If they didn't get enough to raise families of 3 cubs, they would decrease in number.

I can tell you this much; our town does nothing at all to encourage the bears to take up residence elsewhere. Animal Control does nothing about bears. Biologists and naturalists in the area all say the same thing. Stop feeding them.

Well, humans will never stop feeding them, if what is meant is: don't put things into your trash that smell of food; don't hang a bird feeder in your yard; don't grow berry bushes; rake up your acorns as soon as they fall or stop planting oak trees. Asking us to deal with these wild animals is not reasonable. We have neither the skills nor the knowledge to do anything about this situation except adapt our lives to living with the bears. Our neighbors have small children who should be able to play safely in their yards, and I want to enjoy my backyard birds. Hungry bears eat small game and one mauled a dog in a nearby neighborhood recently.

Even a fence is no deterrent. Witness this bear in our yard in May; she is standing on the fence to pull down the feeder. She entered the yard from the opposite side and climbed this fence. This house is over ninety years old, as is the neighborhood. We didn't just build here. Somewhere in the mountains above us, where new housing continues, there was a place for bears. When we build to the mountain tops, bears can only come down. They really need to be moved I think, and dealt with humanely, before we build on their last remaining land on a particular mountain. America has plenty of room for bears and people.

We took down all our feeders in May, the day this bear visited at around 9 or 10 in the morning. We have been avid backyard birders for over 40 years. This is something we love. We have enjoyed having nesting pairs nearby and seeing their young being fed and maturing. When we were hanging up our nine (9) feeders daily, we also took them in each night, because bears were known to visit well after dark. Often our birdbaths are overturned when we awaken and our pond virtually empty. Now we cannot feed birds at all.

We tried putting feeders out near the patio just when we were sitting there. But the birds have left, gone elsewhere. By the time one finds our feeder again, it's time to run inside for a meal, for the phone, or something else; and then the feeders have to come in, too. That is no way to enjoy the birds, and we are unhappy about that.

These animals are beautiful, and if we truly respect them, it seems to me that we should, as a community, admit there is a problem and address it.


(I apologize for the poor quality of these pictures - I was excitedly running from one window to another in my house to get them.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Can't Leave Well Enough Alone?

So many patterns inspire me; I love what is now available to knitters on the Internet. And the books are multiplying exponentially! So, at a smorgasbord like this, what is one to do? Sample everything, of course.

I have been enjoying Mason*Dixon Knitting, and finished my first Baby Genius Burp Cloth a few days ago, and I started another Bib O'Love. As usual, you will see that I can never leave well enough alone. Something happens part way into a project - sometimes it is boredom. I just seem to want to make a little "blip" in the routine. I want to tweak the pattern, to jog the eye, to slip into the rhythm an extra, unexpected beat.

Hence the bit of red/pink/white cotton added to the regularity of the blue and white striped burp cloth below. When I first tossed it onto my shoulder (in front of a mirror) I thought it looked like blood! But my alarm soon diminished and I think that it will be just fine to add this to a stack of other cloths and bibs.

This Mission Falls cotton (below) is fantastic; I particularly love the different colors I find in this yarn. I have enjoyed making these bibs and have done countless ones for new parents. Several months ago, I saw on M*D KAL, Vivian Høxbro's Baby Beaded Bib-O-Love. Actually, I saw a picture of her bib someplace else; I copied it to my computer and kept coming back to it, and wondering, "just how did she do that?"

Finally I found it on the KAL and printed out her pattern and began knitting. "This is fun and easy!" I discovered. It knits up fast, is not boring, and is a great way to add interest to the bib, and to your day.

Additionally, this nubby yarn has a terrific texture, virtually guaranteed to hold the spill!

When you find patterns you like, try them. If you find yourself growing restless after the 4th or 5th one, I encourage you to go with your hunches about making adjustments to your knitting; go ahead and try something new. Go ahead and use something different in the way of yarns; move things, add things, change things. These pieces are your creations; from your mind and heart. Express yourself and have fun! That's the joy of knitting!


Friday, July 20, 2007

It's a Match!

This little cotton log cabin blanket went to live in Hawaii a few weeks ago when we visited there. We had a lovely dinner out with mom-to-be, a niece of my good friend, Martha. She gave birth to a beautiful pink baby girl just a couple of weeks later. I know you will agree that the blanket has a perfect home!

Now I am working on the washcloths, Baby Genius burp cloths, and bibs. What fun! I'm working up to another log cabin - they don't have to be large, as you can see. So enjoy your projects, both large and small, and enjoy the giving away, too.

So, an interval approaches, with another log cabin on the horizon for fall. What delicious fun, anticipating and mulling, and peeking into the yarn bins! What's in your knitting future?


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Long ago...and far away

I love this set of towels! I have them hanging in the guest bathroom; they're not often used, but I get to see them daily. They belonged to my grandmother who lived in Cleveland, Ohio. She bought them at Higbee's a very long time ago. Then, after her death in the 1960s, Grandpa came to live with Mom and Dad; the towels came along. He's been gone since the 1970s, but the towels lived on, with my folks. Dad is gone now, and Mom came to live with us; she brought the towels. She's in an assisted living home now, and I have the towels.

There is a set of green and white ones, too. Different, but they travelled the same path to me. Towels aren't made this way anymore, are they? Well, I have not seen them, if they are. So I will keep these and use them and remember my family and the way it long ago.

When I first became interested in cooking - real cooking - I began collecting bowls. At first, I purchased new ones I found at craft fairs, or in little galleries. But soon I came upon this large yellow bowl on an antique dealer's shelf. Oh, how sunny and bright! I purchased it immediately and have loved it ever since.

It's not that these old bowls are better; it's that another woman sat with this in her lap and, using her hands, creamed sugar and butter together for thin lemon wafers. Or lovingly placed her bread dough here to rise, covering the bowl with a floured towel. Or filled it with sweet juicy fruits cut into a summer salad and brought it proudly to the picnic. I love these bowls because of the women who came before me. It is my way of honoring those women who worked harder than I have worked; who trod the path before me, making my life easier.

My Aunt Faith tells me this bowl belonged to my grandmother, and I believe her. I want to keep it and am a little afraid to use it, as I have broken some bowls in the years since I began to collect them. My husband and children never knew Grandma so the next passing on of this won't have nearly so much meaning; and I have sons, not daughters. So somehow it's up to me to pass on her story to my sons and daughters-in-law; then they will tell their children and maybe there will be a granddaughter of mine someday who will treasure the bowl...and the towels. I hope so.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Gender-Neutral Baby Blankets

I had a deliciously soft and bulky yarn: Muench Yarns microfiber acrylic - Color: Minty, in my stash. It was manufactured in Italy, and I was just aching to use it.

It seems that more and more couples are opting for "not knowing." That is, they want some mystery to remain during pregnancy, and ask that they not be informed of the sex of their baby. This extends, usually, to the rest of their family and to their circle of friends as well. So for shower gifts, pink is not allowed, nor little sailor sweaters. Items need to be gender-neutral. So the usual colors for this option are white, yellow, mint green or aqua.

It so happens that I know of two couples who will be needing such gifts prior to the birth of their first baby. So this aqua/lime combination yarn seemed a good choice for one item. With just 5 balls (49 yds each), I hope I am going to be able to complete a little blanket. (Things of this size can be useful, even if not large enough for a crib. It may work well in a stroller or car seat.) It is working up quickly on a #15 Addi Turbo, so I will soon know. You may recognize the pattern: Basketweave, from Barbara Walker. It's a simple knit purl combination. I love the way it looks!

Another blanket on the needles uses a simple nylon/acrylic blend from Stylecraft called Charleston. It's soft, chunky, and delicious to work with; I am using a #8 circular needle and cast on just 4 stitches. Easy, because I am using that famous dishcloth pattern that has two knits and a yarnover to begin each increase row. It creates a nice islet border.

Below is another gender-neutral baby blanket; this one is lime and a multi, and just getting underway. The little diamond pattern is one I found in the Fair Isle book by McGregor; this is a better alternative, I think, than flowers, in the event the baby is a boy. The yarn: Bunny Hop (Crystal Palace Yarns). It is fabulously soft. The lime color is, in reality, bluer than you see here. At the left of the first diamond, you can see that I have lost a stitch somewhere in there, and the result is an unattractive pulling. Additionally, as in the Nina, I am still pulling the yarn a bit too tightly as I carry it along behind the Fair Isle pattern. I believe that will, with practice, be eliminated.

Where did I see comments about cats always finding your knitting when you get up for just a moment? Of course you know it's true! Blue always looks at me as though it is his rightful spot and I am the one in the wrong place.

I am also working on my 9th washcloth of a dozen I will knit for someone's baby. I want to do the same with those bibs in the Mason-Dixon book, too. (I like the pattern that's a bit different, however, by Colleen Kadleck, when it comes to the little strap that goes around the neck. The way I do it, the button becomes an interesting part of the design, rather than hidden in the soft folds in the back of baby's neck.)

Saturday beckons, there is work to be done - too bad it's not knitting! I suppose, though, it's everything else I do that makes knitting so enjoyable when I finally get to it.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Back to Basics

You see a half dozen baby washcloths above; they are tiny projects, easily tucked into any bag, ready to go anywhere. ( long as the correct needles are being used. I removed the straight Brittany needles for airplane travel, and inserted small bamboo circulars for knitting on the plane.) Whenever I learn of a baby on the way, I put these in the mail to show support for the new parents-to-be. So no matter how many I make, I am always sending them off, and in need of more. This fine cotton came from the now-closed Churchill Weavers in Berea, KY.

Do you remember the Nina Shawl I began a while back? I never intended for it to morph into another sampler, but it has. After finding the checkerboard portion enjoyable to work, I ordered two of Sheila McGregor's books; I found a simple pattern and reproduced it using the colors available to me. You can see it at the top of the shawl. Obviously, it looks like so many of the sweaters or hats you have seen that come from the cold Scandinavian countries and Scotland.

(Needed my knees to hold down the edge.)

As you can clearly see, it's a colorful pattern, but very simple. In any given row, only two colors of yarn are used. So one is not dragging along 4 or 5 different bobbins; there is not a mess on the back:

So if you are a beginner knitter like I am, don't be afraid of trying this! It is not complicated. I will be experimenting as I go along with this "Nina" shawl, and will come back to share when I complete something new.

What I have learned from knitting: there is nothing to fear but fear itself! Have fun!


Thank You!

Thank you, service men and women of the United States of America! Thank you, military families around the globe, for your support of your soldier, and for relinquishing him to defend freedom. Thank you, veterans, for all you have done for us!

Thank you for preserving our way of life.

Thank you for your courage, bravery, and dedication.

Thank you, fellow citizens, for supporting the troops and for wearing your patriotism proudly!

Thank you for flying your flags year-round in your cities and towns!

Thank you, companies and businesses, for flying our flag in great numbers!

Thank you, America, for insisting on preservation of our liberties and for standing up for freedom for all peoples around the world.

Do you know what is written in the Constitution of the United States? Do you know what the Bill of Rights is? If you are curious, you can read the words here. They may fill you with renewed pride in your country, and amazement at what our founders created for us. You may enjoy being a patriot!

Today we celebrate our country and our amazing freedom. I hope you enjoy celebrating today with your family, friends, and fellow Americans. Let freedom ring!


Monday, July 2, 2007

Where in the World???

Where have I been?? Enjoying a lovely getaway with my dear husband, that's where. The whole mainland was flyover country as we headed for O'ahu and Kaua'i.

Our son chauffered us to the Polynesian Cultural Center on our first full day - this mountain shot was taken from the back of his Jeep where I rode comfortably, albeit somewhat windblown. We thoroughly enjoyed the entire place even though we'd been there several times before, and the Luau and evening show as well.

The next day we hiked through the WAIMEA VALLEY AUDUBON CENTER and I was absolutely amazed at the beauty and diversity of Hawaii's flora.

This lovely waterfall is at the end of the trail, and people enjoy a cooling dip after the hot hike.

Our son's garden provided delight and edification.

On his fence, above, bleeding hearts and below, growing on his wall, fragrant stephanotis - in a lei, they are exquisite!

Tantalus Drive, above Honolulu, affords those willing to go to the very end of the road, an incomparable view of the city and harbors.

On to Kaua'i, for a week on the Garden Island in a cottage with a view! We watched spinner dolphins playing in the bay in the mornings from our lanai. Across the bay is Kilauea Lighthouse, at the northernmost point of the island. From there the views are amazing.

View (below) along a drive to see the Waimea Canyon.

If you look at the movie South Pacific again, you will see Bali Hai, just as in my pic above. This island is lovely and our drives were breathtaking. I hope one day, if you have not already done so, that you can see it, too. Meanwhile, I will put away our luggage and sort the remainder of my pictures (way too many!) .

Oh, yes! Nearly forgot to show you a little place - Hanalei Music's Strings and Things - on Kaua'i!

It's mostly a guitar and music shop, but has a bit of yarn, and many supplies (below), just in case you run out of things to do, and decide to knit on your vacation.

Happy almost 4th of July!