Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Catching up

I've been having trouble finishing things lately. I blame winter.
When I looked at this blog and realized it's been 10 months since I last wrote here, I wasn't surprised, but wondered how that time managed to blow by so quickly. What on earth was I doing for 10 months that kept me from updating at least once in a while?
After our excursion to Mississippi that took us through Mother's Day last year, I went home and back to work. I remember that part.
I went back to working in the garden, starting knitting projects that, like the rest of my life, didn't get finished and I did some reading. We might have seen a movie or two, Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes. We obviously aren't discriminating.
In late August, I had hand surgery, carpal tunnel and thumb joint restructuring, to be exact. For more than a month, I couldn't type except left-handed, which those who know me isn't something I need to be doing. I'm about as left-handed as the husband is right-handed. Together we make a whole-handed person.
After the hand recovery, it was back to work again and then the holidays and then winter and now we are knocking on spring's door, grateful for whatever sunshine we get and days with temperatures above 32 degrees F.
To alleviate the boredom and rut-inducing coma that winter brings, I've started the garden in little trays under a PVC grow light set-up the husband built that now rests on the dining room table, because that's the only table long enough to hold the contraption. In the trays are sprouts of a few varieties of bulb onions, Italian parsley and savory.
He tells me we can open the greenhouse soon and I can get some lettuce, spinach and other cool weather stuff planted in the raised bed in there, but he keeps going to work when he should be home and that plan keeps getting delayed.
A couple weeks ago, on a particularly cold and blustery day, I dug into my craft closet and found seven quilt tops in varying degrees of completion. I pulled out the one-most-likely-to-be-finished-soon and started working on it again. It had been so long since I took the lid off my sewing machine that I had to dig out the manual and look up how to thread the darn thing. Fortunately it all came back rather quickly and the Easter wallhanging is now ready to be sandwiched together and machine quilted and maybe, and I'm not making any promises, maybe it will be hanging on the wall by next month's holiday.
I have three knitting projects on the needles, Kian's blanket, Jerry's scarf and socks. I go back and forth when the mood strikes. I'm also reading. This time it's Elm Creek Quilts, a series of books by Jennifer Chiaverini about a quilting retreat and all the people, women mostly, who interact with the art as well as each other. It's light reading and goes quickly, but it's perfect for this time of year when my mind doesn't really want anything heavy and mind-bogging anyway.
I still haven't ordered Margaret Roach's new book, "....and I Shall Have Some Peace There." I'm probably going to download it to Kindle this week. I've had it on my wish list since last year and couldn't wait for publication day. The premise behind her story is so much like mine, only I haven't dropped out....yet. I think I've put off buying it because I know I'll start reading it immediately and I'm afraid I won't get back to the Elm Creek stories, but I can't wait any longer. I have to know what it was like and if I am brave enough to do something like that.
In the meantime, spring can't come soon enough and like I was this time last year, I'm ready for a few days off work for a bit of R&R. Unless we make another emergency trip somewhere to pick up a new baby, which I've already been told won't happen, I'll just have to plan my own getaway this spring.
Upstate New York sounds pretty nice right now. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Leaving Mississippi

Dear Mississippi,
I wouldn't exactly say I was a world traveler.
I've been to several states in this country, many just passing through on my way to somewhere else, and others where I intended to be awhile for one reason or another. But I never intended to visit you, let alone stay with you for quite this long. There were times when I felt you were holding us prisoner, but there were times when I was grateful for your generosity and warmth.
After all, you gave us this wonderful child to take into our hearts and to keep as ours forever.
You gave us mornings of lyrical birdsong. We got to see you at your worst when your thunderstorms forced us to buy umbrellas. We also saw you at your best, when the sun was so bright, we searched out the shade of your magnolia trees, some still carrying the last remnants of faded spring blooms. We inhaled the strong fragrance of your mountain laurel that even as the final stages of spring pollen fell on our faces, arms and in our hair, the bees continued their quest to get drunk on the last of the season's sweet nectar.
We met your people, who never hesitated to meet our eyes, smile and say, "hello, how y'all doin'?" Many even stopped to have short conversations in their deep southern dialect that left us wishing we'd brought along an interpreter.
Nothing moves quickly here. No one is rushing to meet deadlines, checking their watches to make sure they aren't late for something, or hurrying off as if there was still too much to do before they could finish their day. Do they know something we northerners don't.
You've given us so much that I wonder if we can ever repay your hospitality.
While we were anxious to gather our possessions and run back to our real lives, we will always remember the things you gave us.
You gave us your heart, and we can only hope that we left a little of ours with you as well.
You introduced us to the maintenance man painting the hotel laundry room who advised us that "goin' fishin' is the best way to see what our creator gave us."

You introduced us to nurse Linda who with her gentle hands, handed us a gift that is sure to change our lives forever.

We interacted with Trisha, who not only reset our Internet connection on numerous occasions, but always offered us a friendly smile and an "of course," when we asked to send and receive more faxes than a normal person should be expected to handle.

You showed us some of your secrets, historic houses along a meandering roadway, a bustling city that still offers a downtown movie theater as well as furniture and clothing stores. Coming from northern towns and cities where the landscape constantly changes, we worry about what you could be losing when we saw new construction moving out of the city, once rural areas where now box stores and chain restaurants lined streets so new, our GPS thought we were driving through fields when we were clearly on pavement.

We saw empty storefronts in your city, vacant city lots and buildings in such disrepair, their bricks and mortar could no longer hold up what once were sturdy walls.

Just like us, your people wear the latest fashions, designer clothes and funky accessories. They listen to the latest music on their iPods and carry cell phones everywhere they go, but unlike us they also wear smiles they are always more than willing to share.

Your strange configuration of roadways, two way access roads that suddenly turn into one way streets forcing us to find creative ways to get from point A to point B, only reinforced your laid-back attitude. How else would we have found a way to make the Jimmie Rodgers museum an inside joke or express our own styles with purchases we made at The Spotted Pony boutique?

Although we were anxious to leave, please don't take it personally. We only wanted to take our newest, most prized possession and return to our real lives - lives that will forever be changed by your generosity and kindness.

The souvenirs we take home will only temporarily remind us of the time we spent together, but what you gave to our hearts will be with us forever.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New beginnings

The aforementioned yarn shopping dilemma was resolved last week, when at a knitting conference I was faced with a fabulous marketplace where yarn was on display. I am weak, I admit, but I prepared for the temptation by saving a few dollars just for that event.
Not only did I take a couple classes so that I might move past the novice/beginner phase of knitting, but I shopped as well. The problem is, I did it bass-ackwards.
I was lured by the colors and textures all around me. I was awestruck and dizzy with thousands, maybe millions, of yards of merino, alpaca, cotton and hemp. Bamboo needles, Turbo-addis, handmade stitch markers were closing in all around me, every which way I turned. I felt like Alice caught in some sort of fiber Wonderland, drugged and drunk on color and fleece.
So I did what I assume - and hope - most other beginners do; I bought before I planned. While I suspect the correct way to start a new project is to find something to knit and then purchase the yarn, instead I was tempted by nearly 1,000 yards of rose/mauve alpaca and now I have to find something to do with it. After perusing cardigan patterns for days, I learned that I should have done two things; I should have found my pattern first, or at the very least, bought one more skein - just 300 more yards - of the hand-dyed alpaca yarn.
Needless to say, every pattern that appealed to me so far calls for at least 1,300 yards of fiber. I am one hank short. Upon the realization of my mistake(s), I did what any good knitter would do. I hung my yarn in a tree and took its picture. It doesn't accomplish anything other than to show that spring has sprung in northeast Ohio and pretty yarn looks even prettier in the sunlight, but it made me feel better.
I'll find something. I'm sure of it. In the meantime, I managed to pick up a couple skeins of sock yarn too and those will keep me busy until the perfect pattern comes along for rose/mauve alpaca.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

After the storm

The Olympics have ended and I failed in my attempt to make my granddaughter a pair of socks named Lindsay. I don't expect her to hold it against me.
After all, she only wanted a pair of socks. She had no preferences and certainly holds no judgement. I am planning to make her socks, eventually.
The project was intended to be a challenge, and I like a good challenge. But I often forget I am still a novice knitter and there is still so much to learn. It is a fault of mine, this jumping in with both feet when I am faced with something new. I want to be a veteran. I don't want to learn along the way, I want to know it now. How can I know it now?
Today I want to go yarn shopping. I have a need to visit yarn shops in Cleveland and work my way from the lake back this direction until I'm exhausted. And then I want to come home, dump all my purchases on the bed and stare at them awhile before deciding what my next big project should be.
I like having big projects and little projects both going on at the same time. Big projects take time, and lack of time is probably the biggest challenge of all. Little projects are portable and fit better into my lifestyle. But it's those big projects that bring on a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that I've learned something along the way.
It is important to tackle big things once in a while. I like reading big books, as long as they continue to be worth reading throughout. I hate it when I'm reading a really good book and then all of a sudden, it's finished and there's nothing left. I like writing big stories, accompanied with photos and all the references. I hate when the deadline says it's time to be finished, turn it in, it's over and no more edits are possible. I hate when vacations have ended, when the week is up, the last day of the month has passed and the year turns over to another. I hate endings, period.
But back to the yarn shop excursion. I said I feel a need to go yarn shopping. Yesterday, after all, was payday and it's always fun to go shopping after payday. The problem with that plan is that after the bills are paid, I find that I have a mere 62-cents left over from my meager salary. That's right, 62-cents; two quarters, a dime and two pennies. I can't buy a bag of Sun Chips from the vending machine; they cost 85-cents. I can't buy a loaf of bread, a pair of shoes or a new bra. And I can't go yarn shopping.
It's probably just as well. I have to work today anyway. I have to write a feature story, take photos and do a job that enables me to plan my life around 62-cents. And when it's finished, I'll wonder that if I'd had just a bit more time, maybe I could have done it better.
I like a good challenge.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I've been watching the winter Olympics in Vancouver since the opening ceremonies last week and have learned a few things along the way.
1. Apolo Ohno is cute and if I was 40 years younger, his poster would be on my bedroom wall. But I'm not, so instead I'm thinking how proud his father must be feeling.
2. Alexander Bilodeaux is cute too and I'm so happy he won. The elation on his face was amazing.
3. Olympians have something special that keeps them pushing when the odds are against them. Snowboarders competing with broken ribs, skiers holding onto their poles with fingers casted, skaters that get back on the ice after devastating crashes that require physical therapy. The average person might say, "this is too hard" and move on to something else.
4. I think I'm average.
I don't have near the obstacles, nor do I have the physical challenges that are involved in a competitive sport, but I'm not yet ready to give up on the socks.
The Lindsay sock is my knitting olympics project. I cast on the required 61 stitches Friday night during the opening ceremonies. I followed the directions closely for the one-inch cuff. I measured diligently to make sure I didn't go over that one-inch. I studied the chart for the pattern. When things didn't look right, I went to Ravelry for errata, found it, and continued. I searched for the meaning of ssskp. Found it. I was into the pattern chart for two repeats when it happened. I crashed. Extra stitches turned up on my needles. Knitting four stitches together on bamboo needles not much bigger than toothpicks made my hands hurt. I tried the crochet hook method and couldn't figure that out either.
By Saturday afternoon, it was evident I was failing. This sock was beating me. So I did the only thing a beaten knitter could do. I frogged. Ripped that sucker right back to string.
I examined my needles. A circular would be ideal, but I didn't have one in the right size. There are no LYS in my area without traveling and deep snow keeps me from wanting to travel. There must be a better way.
I found aluminum Susan Boye DPNs, size two. A little bigger than the pattern calls, but these socks are going to a growing girl whose feet are already bigger than mine, so I think I'll be okay.
I thought about trying a different yarn, but decided to continue on with this one.
By Sunday, I had another cuff finished and again started on the pattern. I didn't get one repeat finished before I crashed again. Big time. Dropped stitches with no idea how to fix it. Once again, I frogged. Then I put it away for the night.
Monday came. I impulsively grabbed another yarn ball from the plastic tub and decided I would give it one more go. I started again during my lunch break at work, then worked a little more at home after dinner. I came to a couple conclusions:
1. I love this new yarn. It is Ty-Dy socks from Knit One, Crochet Two. I bought it at an LYS in Salem, a little less than an hour away from my house, but likely the closest LYS to me. I will be going back. It is stretchy, machine washable and I can't wait to see how the colors work out with this pattern.
2. I can keep going, even when the odds are against me. My hands are killing me, particularly my left wrist, on which I have been wearing a brace for nearly two weeks, even before the competition began. The arthritis plaguing my thumb joints also is painful. But I figure my hands would hurt whether I was knitting or not, so I might as well get something productive out of all the pain.
3. I need more light. The lamplight is okay when there is natural light coming through the windows, but after it sets, the lamplight is not enough. I need a stronger bulb as well as a light over my head that shines down on my work. I must investigate this light issue.
I haven't gotten to the pattern yet, still working on that one-inch cuff. I'm running out of time. I am not a fast knitter and haven't even addressed the issue of heel and gusset on this pattern yet. I have less than two weeks to knit two socks around my job, my dogs and cats that seem to need constant attention, and the rest of my life.
I may not make it by the closing ceremonies, but I'm certainly going to give it a shot.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Having a ball

I hate when I lose the ball bands on my yarn.

I really do try to be more organized, but sometimes, if I start a new project away from the comfort of my lair, or if I'm just too lazy to get up and put the band in its proper place with its proper label, sample piece and description of what I'm making with it, it gets put aside for another time, which never seems to come.

That is the case with the yarn I'm working with now, a moss green worsted that is currently becoming a mistake rib scarf, for me.

I know where I bought the yarn and when. I picked it up July 2009 in a small, newly opened yarn shop in Moundsville, W.Va. called A Yarn Among Friends. I was traveling to that area with friends and after Googling for yarn shops in the area, came across the address for this one. The husband kindly entered the address into Audrey, our GPS, and she got us there without error. I love Audrey most of the time, but that's fodder for another blog.

I bought two skeins of this yarn because green is my favorite color and this particular shade of green is at the top of the list. The shade lies somewhere between olive and moss and it is soft and nice to work with.

I carried it around with me for several months trying to decide how to best display this yarn. It saw me through several socks, a baby sweater, some doll clothes and a hooded sweater for my granddaughter. And then I thought, why torture myself? I only had two balls, not enough to make a sweater or even a shawl. Instead, I thought, I will just make a scarf. For myself.

Very little of what I've made in the past year, having only taught myself to knit (okay, YouTube basically taught me how to knit, along with "Knitting for Dummies" and several well-written blogs), and on those aforementioned blogs, I managed to see the mistake rib scarf pop up several times.

I decided to give it a go, and now the scarf is nearly finished, still in time for winter weather, and I'm anxious to get it blocked and see what happens to this yarn then.

Here is what I know....
It's wool
It's hand washable
It's green
I like it.

I know that ball band is around her somewhere. When I find it, it will be when I'm looking for something else.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Small towns

High school graduates, college-bound students and newlyweds looking toward their future seem to gravitate away from the small town where they grew up. But statistics show that after a period away, usually a minimum of 10 years, most wanderers return to their roots and come home.
I never left.
To paraphrase John Mellencamp, I was born in a small town and I'll likely die in a small town. Visiting large cities is fun, but I can't imaging living anywhere else.
What many people don't know is that a major part of my income-earning job is devoted to small communities. Besides living in one, I work in many others. To do my job correctly, I have to interact with the citizens of those communities, getting to know their history, the locals and the newcomers, as well as the business owners, both new and old. One of the things that many small towns are particularly proud of is their long-time association with business owners, especially generational family-owned businesses. It is these small, nostalgic businesses that spend more money and time helping out their communities, more than huge box stores, chain stores and franchises.
Yes, it's true, small towns have small-town gossip. Everyone knows everyone else, their families and in many cases, their families' secrets. They know that great uncle Jasper was the town drunk or that grandma Blanche rubbed snuff while crocheting doilies for the church vestibule. They also know who stays out too late at the local pub every Saturday night only to repent in church every Sunday; who is sleeping with whom; and whose kids are breaking curfew while sneaking down to the woods behind the city park to have an underage smoke.
Small town people also know when a stranger is lurking around someone's house; when someone is sick and needs a helping hand; or when a death in a family results in the need for a little comfort.
Small towns have people who care. Some care to a fault, raising a ruckus at a city council or village trustee meeting. Small towns have small governments where personalities may clash, but for the most part, everyone is working toward the same goal; keeping the town peaceful and prosperous, one way or another.
I like living here. I can sit on my patio on a warm summer night and enjoy the sound of coyotes barking in the woods behind my house. I can watch herons do their nightly fly-over from the river where they've spent their days fishing. I can watch hawks circle overhead with bluejays and red-winged blackbirds fast on their tails chasing the predators away from their young. I don't need constant computer access. My telephone isn't always ringing. It is quiet and serene and the most annoying thing I might have to deal with after 6 p.m. every night is the neighbor kid who drives down the street blasting the bass on his car stereo so loud that it rattles my windows. But even that only lasts a few seconds until he's at the end of the street and on his way and my backyard is peaceful again.
This is why they nearly always come back. If for nothing else, it is for the peace, and eventually, no matter who we are or where we are in life, peace is what we are ultimatly trying to find.