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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

knitting into the night




Only the fiddly bits are left on my Livingston pullover. I actually have finished all the knitting, including that trouble spot in the yoke I was worried about, which caused quite a bit of cussing and frustration (you can find my notes on Ravelry about my calculations). Now I just need to weave in ends and sew on buttons. I have a number of sweaters in this state right now, and instead of hunkering down and just finishing them already, I keep casting them aside for something new.

This week I've been knitting on my Gweneth cardigan, a black fingering-weight cardigan that I know will become a wardrobe staple, dressy enough for weddings and funerals but simple enough for everyday outings. At first I thought I was crazy for knitting a sweater in such dark color at such a fine gauge, but then I discovered the key: find a really good book to read and knit away! As the past few nights have drawn to a close, I've settled into bed with my knitting needles full of midnight-colored stitches and the novel All the Light We Cannot See. It's beautifully written, one of those books you hope will go on and on. The knitting slows my reading speed a bit, which is fine by me when the writing is this good. 

Last week my husband and I both read The Girl on the Train and agreed that it's an entertaining read and a decent page-turner, but nothing we'll still be talking about in a year or even a month. If you want a quick thriller, though, it's worth checking out.

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Joining in with Ginny today.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

little birds sweater


Little yellow birds keep flying off my needles with this project. I tucked it away for a few weeks to finish some gift knitting and because I was intimidated by the sleeve join and a confusing part of the yoke, but I've been working on it monogamously for the past couple days.

I am in the middle of the sleeve join right now, and it's extremely tight knitting. Like so tight I popped one of my needle tips right off the cable and my stitches sprang loose! Luckily my toddler-wrangling skills kicked into action, and I quickly captured those loose stitches before they could unravel very far. I think I've also rigged a temporary fix for the broken needle (read: I shoved it back together in a fit of frustration, and it seems to be working so far, though I don't trust it as far as I can throw it, and if it breaks again I probably will indeed throw it).

I haven't yet reached the part of the yoke that other knitters called a "head-scratcher," but I'm hoping Ravelry notes will help me figure it out.

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Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words by Malka Marom has been keeping me good company these days. I like reading about Joni's early days and her creative process. I'm also craving a plot-driven read, which I hope will be remedied soon by a trip to the library.

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I'm joining in with Ginny this week.

What are you making and reading these days? I've been knitting on a few other sweaters, baking (this week it was banana cake), and gardening. 




Wednesday, May 27, 2015

the blues






First, thank you for all your kindness in response to my reflection about my grandmother. I appreciate the support!

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Lately I've found myself drawn to blues: soft, tranquil blues and deep, bold blues alike. Maybe it's in anticipation of beach days soon to come or just the calmness of the color. Whatever the reason, blue has been on my knitting needles.

My husband is taking classes, so we have a new schedule around our house that begins at daybreak. This week I've been able to squeeze in a few rows of knitting in bed before my boy awakes. It feels luxurious to knit at dawn, just me and a cup of tea. The yarn colorway I've been knitting is aptly named "Early Light" (in Plucky Knitter's Trusty base). The pattern is Gramps from Tin Can Knits, a classic shawl-collared cardigan. It's written for two colors, but I prefer it knit in all one color.

I also can't wait to cast on a scarf for my husband out of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. I'm planning to adapt the Guernsey Wrap pattern, and I've got my eye on some handmade needles to make it.

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Some heavy reading this week: Atul Gawande's Being Mortal, a doctor's fascinating take on U.S. medical care for the aging and terminally ill. Gawande looks at how the medical system's heavy focus on trying to fix medical problems can actually shorten and worsen our lives. He urges medical practitioners and patients (that's all of us at some point) to instead focus on what makes life worthwhile for each individual and proceed with medical care that takes those values into account. It was a hard read emotionally for me, but absolutely worthwhile. I want to recommend this to everyone I know! Have you read it? What did you think?

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I'm joining in with the Yarn Along this week. 


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Alice



Her name was Alice. I wasn’t named for her, but I always liked that our names sounded alike. Alice and Allison. Our own secret code.

She made me cups of milky black tea, the way she liked it, and made a tea drinker out of me. Each morning as I pour a splash of milk into my teacup, I think of her. I think of the balls of snickerdoodle dough she kept stashed in the freezer, ready to pull out to bake a few fresh whenever she had company. She taught me how to make pies, to roll out the dough just right. She told me stories of waking early on Sundays as a child to bake pies before Mass. She was famous amongst her friends and family for her Christmas candy: peanut butter cups, divinity, chocolate-covered toffee, and more. She had a sweet tooth like me, and I feel lucky that one Christmas, just before she gave up candy-making for good, I got to be in the kitchen with her, melting chocolate and whipping egg whites.

I remember Sunday dinners at her house when I was a kid. I played in the woods behind the house with my cousins until it was time to eat, and then we’d retrieve the table leaves from under my grandparents’ bed so that the whole family—her eight children, their spouses, and a bevy of grandchildren—could gather around the table for a big meal that would stick to our ribs, most often something like a roast with carrots and onions and homemade bread, fluffy and white, still steaming as we cut it.

She taught me about mysterious things like guardian angels (hers was named Claire) and the stigmata. She told me if you prayed the rosary enough it would turn gold. She said she smelled roses the moment she knew my grandpa had entered heaven. She had an enviable faith, an unflappable belief in Catholicism, God, the Virgin Mary, and heaven. For most of her life she attended Mass daily, and sometimes when she babysat me she took me on her nursing home rounds, where she visited residents and helped with Mass.

She did a killer impression of the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz. I can easily recall her cackling, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too.” She enjoyed playing cards and drinking wine. She traveled the world—Cuba and New York when she was young and then in her older years places such as Washington, California, France, Germany, Italy, and Yugoslavia. She inspired my dream of traveling to Alaska after she told me stories of her Alaskan cruise, about the beautiful scenery and the lady she traveled with who’d packed enough underwear so that she’d just throw away each pair after wearing them. What an adventure!

She sent me a bouquet of flowers after I gave birth to my son. It was a memorable gift because so many presents were for the baby, but those flowers were for me. A congratulations. A pat on the back. A welcome to motherhood. She always said my boy looks like “a doll baby,” such a great-grandmotherly compliment.

I just caught myself writing that last sentence in the present tense. Even after a couple weeks, it seems strange to think that she’s gone. How can it be that she won’t be at the next family gathering, won’t take her seat at the poker table, won’t hug me or my son again? Her death was really the best she or anyone else could hope for. She lived a long, happy life, was independent for most of her 86 years, suffered for only a short time at the end, and was able to make the choice not to pursue treatment for kidney failure and a recurrence of ovarian cancer. Yet, even with this best-case scenario, the loss feels huge. It passes over me in waves of realization, most often in that moment between sleep and wake, a split-second of terror and grief.

The good part is that with eight children, fourteen grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren, there are plenty of people to tell stories about her, and she passed down a feistiness and zest for life that really comes out when we’re all together.

And in those moments when the loss feels like too much, well, there’s always tea, with an extra splash of milk for Grandma Alice. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

tonight, with the possibility of frost


Tonight, with the possibility of frost hanging in the chilly air, I wrapped up in my gray wool and alpaca cardigan and stepped out into the twilight. I carried a bundle of old linens to my fledgling kitchen garden and tucked my herbs in for the night, the orange and white striped sheets making it look like a middle school campout, and I secretly longed for a campfire and starlight.

As I walked through my small garden, the black-capped chickadees came to visit, gathering seeds one by one in their tiny beaks. I hugged my sweater tighter and took in the work I've done over the past few days. The strawberry plants are blooming in their new spot. The peas are flowering too, and the lettuce seedlings in the raised bed are lined up like a parade, just waiting for a cymbal crash of sunshine to spring into action. The peppermint, lemon balm, and Kentucky Colonel spearmint are growing strong already, lush green growth stark against the cinnamon-colored soil.

I picked a handful of peppermint leaves for a cup of hot tea, crushing them just slightly between my fingers so I could breathe in their fresh scent. I lingered as the darkness began to fall, returning to the house only when the sounds of a neighbor and his dog broke through my garden reverie, scattering my thoughts like seeds for the chickadees.

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I hope your night is warm and filled with simple comforts like fresh tea from the garden and the work of your own two hands.



Monday, April 20, 2015

in bloom









{from top: Angelique tulips, Japanese maple, dogwood, Tom Thumb pea shoot, herbs--yes, two-thirds are lavender, violet cake}

We celebrated all the spring flowers this week with a violet cake, picking the violets before the rainstorms rolled through one morning and letting their petals dry on our kitchen counter. We used the vanilla cake recipe from Apples for Jam, which yielded a simple, buttery cake and a sweet vanilla frosting. Definitely a recipe to pull out again and again, adding in berries, peaches, lemon balm, and mint as the seasons progress.

We filled our raised beds with soil, and now they're just waiting to be planted. I've got beans, cucumbers, carrots, peas, lettuce, chard, and flower seeds ready to go, but I need to figure out what to plant where. I'm thinking Companion Planting for the Kitchen Gardener by Allison Greer might help out (I love Allison's blog, Homesprout, and Liesl recently recommended this book on her new podcast).

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What's growing where you live? Have you been doing anything special to celebrate the seasons? We've been eating outside every chance we get. It gets so hot and humid in Kentucky during the summer, so we're taking advantage of the mild weather right now.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

sunshine and clouds



In between rain showers, my boy and I spend hours outside. He rolls in the grass and makes flower soup in his bucket, adding wild violets and dandelions that stain his hands. He throws in rocks for good measure and stirs the pot with sticks he finds littering our yard. I seem to always be digging in the dirt or clearing more space to plant. The garden is going to be a magical place this year.

Those outside hours have seeped into my knitting basket. The other day when I pulled out my works in progress I saw sunshine in the Carrie's Yellow Chickadee yarn from Quince and Co. and clouds in the undyed yarns from Kentucky's own Littledove Farm and Ballyhoo Farm. An unconscious homage to spring, if you will.

The little hats were inspired by this one, which looks like a Barley hat with a pompom to me. I love the simplicity of it, the squishiness of the garter stitch, and the whimsy of the pompom. These two just need pompoms attached!

I've also been working on a yellow Livingston sweater for my boy to wear next fall. I've just gotten to the body section and love seeing each little bird appear as I knit.

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This year I told myself that I'd read more fiction. Somehow in the past few years I've strayed from my novel-reading roots and ventured into a solid habit of nonfiction reading. There's nothing wrong with that, but I'd like a little more balance in my reading. The Namesake has been on my to-read list for years, and it hasn't disappointed. Lahiri explores the lives of two generations of an Indian family living in the U.S. and finding different ways to define themselves. I'd recommend it!

Also, I just listened to "The Living Room" from the Love + Radio podcast (via Radiolab). Have you heard it yet? Oh my, it's good. Get listening!

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Linking up with the Yarn Along today. 

What are you making, reading, or listening to this week?

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