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Archive for the 'Africa' Category

Keep Walking

Monday, November 18th, 2013

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I love to walk and I love our earth. (I don’t love camping… so my walks are relatively short, but frequent.)

I just found an eloquently-written story at National Geographic. This man is starting a 7-year walk in Ethiopia. (I visited Ethiopia during holidays 2004-05, which makes this extra fascinating. I took the above photo in northern Ethiopia while I was there.)

An Afar proverb: It is best, when you are lost or thirsty, to keep walking under the sun, because eventually someone will see you. To be tempted into shade, to drop under one of 10,000 thornbushes, means death: No one will find you.

Keep walking. This is a metaphor for many inner journeys as well.

I loved reading this short story. I wonder how he can write like this in the middle of a powerful journey. When I’m traveling, I tend to get sucked into the moment. I’m glad he can write for us.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/out-of-eden/salopek-text

African-Inspired Knitting

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

It has been a great week! I hope that my enthusiasm pours out of this screen and into your life. Things inside me are happy right now.

The African Collection (and Travel Stories)…

When I went to Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya and Egypt) in 2004-05, I promised myself I could knit whatever I wanted to knit for that 38-day stretch. A windfall had funded the trip. Therefore, I could take it as a true vacation from my business and just knit for the pure joy of it.

Usually I knit with a mind toward what is easy to explain, or what is a good teaching project. Often I find a yarn that “tells me” what it wants to be.

I rarely just get to knit whatever is in my heart. For 5 weeks, I did just that.

I didn’t worry if it was hard to explain, or if someone might run away from it because it looked complicated. I just made beautiful things, the way I wanted them to look. (Actually, I also knit a bunch of simple socks for the joy of moving my fingers… but today I want to talk about the stars of the trip.)

Knitting Purely from My Heart

Perhaps you’ve seen these two socks before?

Kenya: Nairobi and Mombasa

The green sock at left, was inspired by gardens in Kenya. The garden I spent the most time in had many beautiful ironwork gates and walls. (It also had a 2nd floor balcony, ironically, just as the house where I’m staying in Montreal does.)

Flowers grow incredibly well  in Kenya (they grow carnations commercially in open fields, without greenhouses). This sock contains my memories of that lushness.

Ethiopia: Addis Ababa, Gondar, Bahar Dar and Lalibela

The white sock at right, was inspired by many things Ethiopian. It’s in the colors of the Ethiopian flag. At the top and on the heel, the texture reminds me of shepherd’s hats I saw in northern Ethiopia. The middle of the leg was inspired by Ethiopian baskets traditionally used as dinner tables. There was a small basket of this sort in my bedroom in Ethiopia. I referred to that basket as I worked.

When I was in Ethiopia, I made “friends” with many people who didn’t speak English, because of this pair of socks. Just by a glance, they could see that I loved their country and traditions. It was heartwarming to meet people this way.

Egypt: Cairo and Alexandria

When we were in Egypt, I took notes on possible sock design motifs. I scribbled a chart/graph and tucked it into my journals. This week I got out those journals and started transcribing the notes, changing a bit as the size restrictions of a sock leg required. And started knitting a sample.

The Actual Work

The goal is a collection of patterns and corresponding travel stories. I intend to package the patterns separately, for those who want only one or two. I’m also planning a full-project e-book of all projects and stories.

(Starting this project is why I came to Montreal, to write without normal obligations. A friend of a friend had a room to rent, and I jumped at the opportunity.)

I’ve graphed the Ethiopian Basket and Kenyan Garden sock leg patterns. I also knit a sample from the first draft of my Egyptian-inspired graph.

The colorwork is reminiscent of netted beadwork. I saw a bit of this in the jewelry collection at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. This is also where King Tut’s treasures reside.

Sketching on the Needles

I’m doing a child-sized sock to test out the ideas on that one. I usually design by knitting and adjusting as I work. I’m liking how it looks, though I’ll tweak a bit in the final design.

A Potpourri of Techniques

Above are the three fanciest of the designs which will be in the Africa collection when I’m done. There are also some non-colorwork socks, in groupings. I knit a total of 10 sock designs on the trip, and also some wristwarmers. I’m thinking that this will end up being 7 designs, at least 2 of them with 2-3 variations.

The collection includes variety in structures: top down, with differing leg treatments, no-purl flap heel and wedge toe; toe-up footies with stripes and a Crystal Heel; and a thicker-yarn toe-up sock with wrapped cast on and heel flap.

The Ethiopian and Kenyan socks are top down with heel flap and turn (one is a Dutch Heel Turn, one is a standard half-handkerchief turn). The Egyptian sock is toe up with my “start with a square” Bosnian toe and a Crystal Heel.

It’s a big project. I’m excited about it. One day at a time, it’s coming together more in my mind. When I get a full picture I’ll let you know how the patterns will be released.

I currently plan to write them as individual patterns, as well as a series with travelogue stories/ photos to go with the collection. Once I get writing more, we’ll see how it plays out.

Catch you soon!

LynnH

Summertime! Heat, Clothing as Art, and Music

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Even Hot for Me, and I Love Summer

It’s been hot enough here in Lansing, Michigan this week to slow us down a good deal. There were a few days when the City offered “cooling centers” where folks without air conditioning at home, could go so they would not overheat.

On Thursday, I took this photograph of the thermometer in my kitchen. To be fair, when the sun shines it gives a falsely-high outdoor temperature, but it was pushing 100F anyway. (For non-US readers, this is equivalent to 32C indoors /44C out.)

Clothing as Art

A few days earlier, it was warmer than most like it (but I love heat, as a general rule). I hand washed a lot of my African dresses. They are so beautiful, and so colorful! I just had to take a photo.

Notice that most of them have some sort of handwork on them. Some are hand-dyed, some hand-embroidered (or embroidered with a machine that is hand controlled).

If you have read my blog much, you know that I believe that art is everywhere. You can see artful expression in the funky old kitchen items above, and particularly in the textiles shown below.

Practicality does not minimize the artfulness in my mind! It just means that these items will wear out faster than a painting on a wall.

Roll call from front to back:

  1. Purple/blue Kenyan tunic, purchased in Nairobi, Kenya. Hand-dyed fabric, hand-controlled machine embroidery.
  2. Green/Pink Kenyan long tunic, purchased in Mombasa, Kenya. hand-dyed, hand-controlled machine embroidery.
  3. Moroccan-style dress, made in Canada, purchased on Ebay. Hand-controlled embroidery, machine-made braid.
  4. Dress of unknown African origin. Purchased in Lansing at a wonderful Mideast/African/Indian clothing store on the corner of East Michigan Avenue and Foster, half a block from Foster Community Center, same corner as Quality Dairy and Blimpies. Commercially printed commercial fabric, machine sewn.
  5. Dress from “Democratic Republic of” Congo. Purchased from an American woman born in Congo (parents were missionaries) but living here, who imports items here to sell and help loved ones make a living there, fair trade. High quality factory-made printed cotton, machine sewn, machine embroidered. One piece of the embroidery looks as if it was generated by a computer-programmed sewing machine.
  6. Long dress from Kenya, purchased same place in Nairobi, with same attributes as Tunic #1.
  7. Two Ethiopian dresses, purchased on Ebay from the same seller, last fall. The dresses include white cotton which is hand-spun, and the fabric is hand woven. The side seams usually are machine sewn although this white one is hand stitched. They typically use synthetic threads for colors so that color does not run in the wash. The embroidery in Ethiopia, at least all that I have, is hand-worked.I feel so honored to own textiles of this type! I must say, though… the writing is on the wall that it will be less available over the years. Also, the quality of the dresses I bought in Ethiopia in 2004-2005 (and gift dresses I’ve received from Ethiopian friends more recently) is better than that I can find online.

I even have more African dresses than this. I love them in summer. If you must go out in heat, they create your own shade. In addition, they don’t fit tightly so allow breezes to blow and cool you down.

They are an excellent design! Trust me, shorts and a tank top wrap you like a blanket and don’t protect you from the sun. These are the best, ever. And a woman walking down the street in flowing fabric? Fabulous.

Music and Video as Art

If you have read this far, I want to offer you a musical send-off. This video appears to be mid-1970’s (before MTV and the proliferation of videos). We looked like this when I was in High School… yup. We did.

It’s Mungo Jerry singing “In the Summertime” which is a sticky tune… it may stay in your head all day, and I expect you won’t mind at all! When you click on this, it will take you to a YouTube page. Happy humming!

Random Hint #2 – Polishing Silver

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Here is another quick tip out of nowhere:
Toothpaste is a good, nontoxic silver polish. I love sterling silver jewelry, and when I want to wear some earrings I’ve ignored for a while, toothpaste is right there and easy to use.
Just wet the silver item, and put a little toothpaste on a finger or a cotton rag. Rub gently, rinse and dry. Easy!
Perhaps finer silver needs a finer grit than this, but it’s great for everyday jewelry. Go to it and shine!!!

Image added May 1: handcrafted earrings I purchased in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in early 2005. First one unpolished, second one shiny from a quick rub with toothpaste.

Photos from Kenya, December 2004

Monday, July 26th, 2010

kenyapond

My life changed when I went to east Africa for 38 days in 2004-2005. My friend Altu, who grew up in Ethiopia, took me to meet her family. During that time we spent 1 week in Kenya and 1 week in Egypt.

kenyagiraffe

I have written several posts on my African trip and put up many photos here, over a few years. Click if you want to see the series of Africa posts. There are 45 posts in all, some have text which is not about Africa but they show photos. Many, but not all, of the photos are from Ethiopia. Few are from Kenya.

Today a friend posted a note on Twitter, with sad news about Rhinos. I decided to go peek at the photos in my previous posts and see if I had put up animal photos. I had not.

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The week before Christmas, 2004, Altu and I went on a morning half-day adventure in the amazing Nairobi National Park. It’s right outside the city limits.

Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya, a true city with crazy street traffic and big buildings. In one photo you can see a herd of hartebeests in front of what looks like a string of condo homes.

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But most of the park was wild and without a view of human occupation. We did not see zebras or baboons  but we saw pretty much everything else the Wikipedia article about the park says it holds.

I just put up 23 photos of that half-day adventure on my Flickr account. They are set up so they can be viewed as a slideshow. I have wanted to do this since January of 2005.

kenyabuffalo

Understand that some of the close-up photos are low digital quality. This was 2005, and I used my digital zoom on that now-uncool camera to get some of the photos. It still shows that I really did see these animals.

You can click on them here (or in Flickr) to see more detail, at least on the better images. To get back to this post, click “back” at top left of your screen (or hold Alt and tap your  left-arrow key lightly, in Windows; open-apple key plus left-arrow on a Mac).

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I hope some of you enjoy my Kenyan wildlife photo collection/slideshow. If you want more information about the park itself, you can read more on Wikipedia.

Woohoo! Summer!!!

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

kenyacaftanlynn.jpgHappy Warm Season

Nobody can be as happy as me today! It was really warm yesterday and it’s repeating today. Right now it’s 82F. Love it!

I think I’m a child inside. No, I know it. I remember living next door to 3-year-old twins back in the late 60’s, and those girls changed clothes a minimum of 3 times a day. My big excitement of the day is “what will I wear today?” And sometimes I end my day with “What will I wear tomorrow?”

One Non-Standard Artform

kenyadresslynn.jpgI maintain that costuming is an artform. I love clothing… colors, fabrics, shapes. I love putting pieces together. Since I am partial to four main colors (turquoise, fuschia, purple and hot green), mostly everything in my closet goes together as far as colors go.

When I decide what I will wear, I get to think about what the day holds (classes, errands) I also think of what weather we are expecting, and put together silhouettes that please my eye and feel comfortable to wear.

For me, choosing clothing for the day is usually a joy. I know that many other folks just want to be comfortable and not think much about what to wear. For me, the process of choosing makes my life more full.

Sometimes I don’t look like I planned much, I tend to put things together that others would not. There are also days when I have less time to plan ahead.

However, when it hits 82F, I wear clothes from Africa and India, for the most part. There is nothing more beautiful than flowing fabric on a warm day, if you ask me. (Flowing caftans are much more comfy in heat than too-tight shorts clinging to the body, anyway.)

Yesterday I wore a dress from Egypt during the day and a dress from Democratic Republic of Congo for dinner/concert. Today it’s a two-piece outfit from India. It is so exciting to find that the weather is warm enough again, for these favorites.

Lovely African Clothing, Fair Trade

Yesterday night, I wore my new dress/caftan from Shona. This is a group of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who make clothing one piece at a time for export. It is a unique organization because the woman who does the web work volunteers 100% of her time, and the women spend their time on sewing.

It is also unique in that all the craftspeople at Shona are handicapped in some way. Their legs do not work properly and they need crutches or braces to get around. And yet I tell you, the dress I wore yesterday was top notch and the woman who made it can be proud.

The stories of the women are online, you can read what they have gone through to become self-supporting businesswomen. They often support another family member, or more than one. In much of Africa, often a person with legs that do not work, is expected to scoot around using their hands, and they are expected to beg.

When I was in Ethiopia, these people would wear “flip flops” on their hands to make scooting around more comfortable. I wished I had brought several dozen pairs of flip flops on my trip.

I suggest you take a look at this amazing group’s website. When there was war in their area, they had to go to another place briefly, to keep working. They had to rent space in that second location until it was safe to return home. I admire these women for “keeping on keeping on,” as they say.

Please check out their site. The prices are good and the quality is also very good. I just love my caftan.

Shona Crafts from Congo -Fair Trade, Excellent Products, Good Prices

The photos above are some garments I purchased in Africa in 2004-2005. The first I found in Mombasa, Kenya and it is cotton with embroidery (probably rayon thread). The second I found in Nairobi, Kenya, and it is hand-dyed rayon with embroidery. The clothing from Shona is different, but every bit as lovely.

My Beautiful Ethiopian Dress

Friday, February 13th, 2009

You know I love clothing. I love embellishment. I love handmade things of all sorts.

ethiopianembroidery300x4551.jpgI love history. I love things from all over the world, and I wear clothing from many corners in my every day life.

I spent 38 days in eastern Africa four years ago. My friend Altu, who was raised in Ethiopia, took me home.

We spent over 3 weeks in Ethiopia, and one week each in Kenya and Egypt. It changed my life, and we have been even closer friends since that trip.

The last two days I was in Ethiopia, I determined to buy as much handmade work as possible with the Ethiopian funds I had left in my wallet. Africa needed my money more than I did, and the lovely things I could get with it were amazing in value at the time (prices for this sort of thing have more than tripled in 4 years, even with only a 10% loss in exchange rate).

The final stop we made in Ethiopia for shopping, was a small, jam-packed shop full of handmade textile items. (See photo with kids, to see the front of the shop with purple awning.)

addiscolorful4.jpg Ethiopia is justifiably proud of their cotton fabrics, and I bought as many as I could. They have dense, fluffy blankets made with four layers of handspun, handwoven cotton, and I bought a few of those.

I also got clothing, a few shirts with hand embroidery as decoration and a dress for me which was hand woven and hand embroidered. Lovely pieces. I have worn them here since I returned.

But there were a handful of dresses hanging from the ceiling, which were the most amazing quality — I knew I could not afford them. The outer fabric was hand-spun, hand-woven soft cotton gauze, so thin that the dress needed to be lined for modesty. The bottom hems were woven with synthetic colored bands, which weighted and decorated the skirt (they use synthetic so that the dyes will not run in the wash).

And then, there was embroidery all the way up the front of the dress, from hem to neckline, in the colors of the woven hem band. I was sure these dresses would cost the equivalent of many weeks’ wages. I did not even ask about them when I was buying things.

ethiopiandress33.jpg At the end of our transaction, they put my purchases in two large grocery-bag sized bags for me, and they brought us tea. This is not uncommon, we were brought tea in a shop in Egypt as well, after a large purchase was finalized. Loved it. But clearly the tea signaled the end of the transaction.

And then I had the guts to ask how much the dresses cost. And they were so affordable, it was insulting to the handworkers who made them.

I could have planned ahead and purchased a couple of them. But by the time I knew that, I had spent every last paper bill I had exchanged. I could not buy anything more.

For four years I pined over “the dress that got away.” And then a few weeks ago, when Altu returned from Ethiopia, she brought me this one.

Handspun cotton. Hand woven. Bottom hem is a deep woven colored band. there is a similar band on the wrap (called a netele). The front and cuffs are 100% hand-embroidered. The turquoise threads are metallic, the others are shiny but not glittery.

Altu knew this was the dress for me. She checked out several dresses to make sure the length was right. Her mother liked a different one. She knows that I am just plain a sucker for anything turquoise.

This one, for the record, is nicer than the ones I remember seeing four years ago. This dress is just plain amazing. It makes me want to embroider again.

Yes, I gave Altu some money (in case she could find one for me) when she left. I would have loved anything handmade. But a shiny turquoise embroidered dress? Oh, my! This is a dream come true.

I will be wearing this dress to sing for Valentine’s Day at Altu’s restaurant, tomorrow night. I will feel like the most beautiful woman in Lansing.

Some dreams come true.

It is Summer. Aaaah.

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

(Photos not Lansing… see note at end of post.)
alexandriafruitstand.jpgIt finally feels like summer in Lansing. It’s been crazy weather here as with most of the midwest states, with 50mph winds and trees tossed into the air like salad. I took a lot of photos but am too crazy-busy catching up after 5 days on the road to process them for you right now. Trees just broke in two.

They closed Mount Hope Cemetery to visitors (and several parks as well). There are unstable trees and broken branches blocking paths. I hope there is not a lot of damage to permanent structures, I can not see any from the street but it’s a very large place.
karenwalkway16.jpgSeveral grocery stores lost all perishables. Even if they have insurance, they are all hitting their suppliers hard at the same time so we will no doubt have limited frozen food supplies for a while. In fact, one of my favorite stores has a supplier which was flooded and thus their buried computer lines were rendered useless so they had a delay getting their order filled. It is going to take time to get back in order here.

I remember when I was in Africa; how people there had a sense that things can just take time. They enjoyed one another’s company while they waited for things to happen. I practiced the mantra “I’m not in charge” the whole time I was there (I did not speak any main language in any country where I visited, so I had to trust my friends to take me places and keep me happy, fed and safe… which worked just fine).

I learned from my African friends that focusing on people and relationship is something I *do* have some control over. Weather and red tape are things I must wait out. Though I have been back from that trip for over three years, I am still very much changed by that experience.

And right now, it is hotter in Lansing, Michigan than it was most of the days I was in Africa. I am really loving it. I seem to have a defective personal thermostat… my feet can be cold at 78F degrees. I love 80-86F or so. Once we get higher than that, I still am more happy than in winter but it is definitely important to slow down and dress differently.

bahardarpalmstreet.jpgI’ll be wearing African or Indian clothing today when I wander forth into society. I love those clothes, I wait all winter to wear them. I never liked summer clothing before… woven cotton shorts and T-shirts leave me cold, but flowy long garments which allow me to sort of “float” down the street? I can not get enough of them.

OK, since I am not developing broken-tree photos today I will show you summery photos of my African trip. I was in Ethiopia for 3 weeks, Kenya 1 week, Egypt 1 week… between late November 2004 and early January 2005. I went with my friend Altu who was born and raised and educated in Ethiopia, but is now a US citizen and who owns my favorite restaurant, in East Lansing, Michigan.

First photo is a fruit stand in Alexandria, Egypt. Second photo is the garden of Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa, in the Karen district of Nairobi, Kenya. Third is a beautiful street scene in Bahar Dar, northern Ethiopia, which Altu wants me to tell you is not a typical scene but definitely gorgeous.

Temesgen’s New Video

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

temesgen.jpgMy friend Temesgen is a musician who specializes in one specific style of ancient Ethiopian music. He is the house musician for Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine (see photo at right). He plays there the first Saturday of most months (sometimes messed up by holidays, for example he will not play in July).

Temesgen has a website, Temesgen.com, and he has several CDs available there as well as a new video he just released. There is also a Youtube version of it, for those who like to subscribe to Youtube contributors. I just watched it and enjoyed it very much. It is not like any sort of music I grew up with, but it’s soothing and rhythmic in a way that is more like the earth and less like a march or a polka.

I knew Temesgen’s wife Carol back when I was still teaching computer classes. I taught her how to code HTML web pages (when there were no truly functional programs that created web pages for you). But I digress. Just suffice it to say that in Lansing it seems that everyone knows everyone these days!

Do consider taking a look at a video by a man who is keeping alive a musical tradition that is dying out. And if you find this interesting, consider reading some related detail on Wikipedia (much of which was contributed to the wiki by Temesgen himself):

Tomorrow/Saturday: Altu’s 11th Anniversary

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

My friend Altu’s restaurant is celebrating the 10+1 year Anniversary of the restaurant Saturday Nov. 24. I am very excited because we have a full day of events, including music from seven acts including The Fabulous Heftones (me and hubby Brian).

She also will be repeating an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony from 11:30-4pmcoffeeceremonyforweb50.jpg. In addition, there will be special snack foods available at no cost. If you are more hungry than that, the regular menu will be available all day long.

There will be a short lull from 4pm to dinnertime. Then at 6:30-8:30 we will have none other but the incredible Jen Sygit as our musical headliner.

Jen just got back from a tour out to Boston, she’s a big name even though she’s a Lansing resident. Do not take this talent for granted!

I am very excited to have Jen at Altu’s this weekend!

Here is the musical lineup:

And from 6:30-8:30,

Jen Sygit!

jensygitbylynnhforweb.jpg

If you are out and about at all in the Lansing, Michigan area on Saturday, November 24, please take the time to stop by and say hello. I will be there the entire time we have musicians in the house.

If you have not been to Altu’s before, it is on Michigan Avenue (click for map), the last building in East Lansing. Facing it from the street, it is on the right side of The Dollar, tucked back behind a small parking lot.

At Altu’s, the food is great, the welcome warm, the music lively. Please join us in this celebration.

Disclaimer: Altu is my dear, dear friend. She took me to Africa three years ago this week. I took the photo of the coffee ceremony in December of 2004, in Gondar, northern Ethiopia. It’s the real thing, folks.

I line up the music at Altu’s restaurant and I do her website/publicity and her menus. Not on payroll, for hugs and food and occasional chances to perform there myself. The only real economic gain I might have from this announcement is possible tips if you came while I was singing.

So do humor me, come on by, and have a great time while I know I spent my time well… see you then!

More Finishing & African Memories

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

alsusoxafrica16.jpgThis is actually a photo from a few weeks back, but it is worth sharing. To be honest, the knitting is from a few years back and I just got the photo taken this fall.

Three years ago next month, I went to East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya and Egypt… yes, Egypt is in Africa) at the invitation of my friend, Altu. She wanted to take me home (she was raised in Ethiopia though she is a US citizen now) and show me where she was from. Actually, since the government changed many years ago her parents are in a different part of the country from where she was raised, but she wanted me to see Africa.

I had a bit of a miracle, got a financial windfall just in time to say yes, and went to Africa for 38 days. That’s more than 5 weeks of no work, no obligations, nothing from my normal life. I was with people who normally do not speak English though most of them knew it quite well (to interact with me when I was the focus). However, much of the time they were chatting in their primary language about many things that did not directly concern welcoming me to their world.

I spent a lot of time watching my African friends chat and laugh, tell stories and laugh some more, and truly enjoy one another. I had a lot of time to sit, observe, and often knit.

mombasaweddingdancers.jpgI knit 10 pairs of socks in Africa. Most were fingering weight, many were a standard 7″ or so in leg height. Two pair were extremely fancy, at least three colors of yarn in stranded patterning, sometimes three colors in one row. One of those pairs was inspired by Ethiopian Baskets (follow link). One pair was inspired by Kenyan Gardens. (I can not seem to find a photo of these, though Terese and Altu both express love for the design with regularity.)

By the time I got to the last week of the trip, I was running out of balls of yarn which were large enough to do a solid-color pair. I determined to make a pair of footies for Altu out of most of a ball of red, and smaller balls of yellow and white. In order to maximize use of my remaining yarn, I made a striping pattern which pleased me and determined that I would use an afterthought heel.

This pair was my 107th pair that I finished knitting. To be honest, I didn’t finish working in the ends at the time, but I did finish the knitting part. The very last bit of the knitting was completed back in the USA, in January of 2005.

cairobreadman.jpgWhen I got home I decided I might like to write the pattern for these footies. I kept the socks until the time when the pattern was written. I even started writing the pattern, and then got distracted.

And the footies sat for nearly three years. Last month was Altu’s birthday and finally I worked in the twenty-plus yarn ends and presented them to her for her birthday gift.

Altu’s foot is larger than mine… I’m an extra-small and she’s closer to a large. The photo here is shown on a sock blocker that works on my foot, so it’s not properly stretched for your viewing enjoyment. I didn’t have time to fully block the socks before I met Altu for lunch that day, so this is the best view of the socks I will ever have, unless I knit another pair.

She loved them. And since she knew they were for her three years ago, I think she was relieved to know she actually got them after all this time! More finishing, you know? It feels good.

ethiopiasun4.jpg

Photos: Altu’s sock; Dancers at a wedding in Mombasa, Kenya; bread delivery man on bicycle (bread balanced on head) in Cairo, Egypt; Market scene in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Africans are not afraid of color!).

Snapping out of it.

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

LT suggests I snap myself out of the funk I can let myself get into, with the cold weather. It’s a very good point.

I must admit that I am clear that in Lansing, we get snow every April. If we are lucky, we will get it early in the month and be done with it. So that’s my outlook today. This is the last snow of April, I hope. And next Thursday I fly to Dallas to teach there (Woohoo) and it will definitely be warmer than this week in Lansing. I will be indoors for three days, teaching. However, I don’t fly home until 6pm on Monday so if I’m lucky I can see a little bit of Dallas before I go home.

Another suggestion from LT is to post a photo or two of Africa from my trip two years ago. This is an excellent suggestion. We were there for 38 days and we actually saw rain twice, and got wet from rain merely one day on that whole trip. They do have a rainy season but we missed it.

For the record, we spent most of the trip in higher elevations and it was chilly much of the time, especially when the sun went down. Our three-day weekend at Mombasa beach in Kenya was the only time it felt hot… and it surely was over 100F those few days, at sea level on the equator.

The top photo today is in Bahar Dar, northern Ethiopia, where we went to see the waterfall of the Blue Nile. The second photo was a motel/ resort/ restaurant at a crater lake in the ridge valley of Ethiopia.

Thanks, LT!

Creature Comforts

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

It’s chilly again. the wind is wild and mean. Although I had a great Watercolor Bag class at Threadbear, now that I’m quiet and at home, I’m grumpy and cold.

Off goes the cheerful cotton Egyptian dress I got on my Africa trip. On goes the gray alpaca/mohair/wool cabled sweater that is far too big for me, but really warm and cozy. Off go the thin cotton socks my friend Julie hand-dyed for me, on go aran-weight Louisa Harding Kashmir (cashmere/ merino/ microfiber blend) handknit socks, and a pair of over-the-knee legwarmers.

On go alpaca-blend handwarmers and the stole/wrap I bought in Egypt, which even though it’s machine-knit acrylic is really really warm because it’s longer than 5 feet and I can wrap it around me fully. Of course I am still wearing my angora-blend beret here inside.

Brian made dinner (that man, he’s so good). He does a great job at steamed fish and greens (tonight it was perch and collards). I put an olive paste/sauce on my fish and though I’m not a huge fan of fish for dinner, the olives make me like it just fine. He also made “baked” (microwaved) sweet potatoes. Comfort food! And hey… when I eat, my body warms up, it understands what fuel is for.

So now the dishwasher is making its typical working noise while both of us are at our computers. I am wrapped up in all those clothes plus my gahbi (hand-spun/hand-woven four-layered cotton blanket from Ethiopia). I have a cup of tea near me (black ceylon tea with arabic writing on the package, it reminds me of Egypt). I think I’ll survive the chill!

The two things I can’t live without, are wool (and alpaca, etc.) and tea. It looks like I can make it a good night, now. I hope you are cozy, too.

Photos: Tea at Altu’s mother’s home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; tea at the Marriott hotel on the nile in Cairo, Egypt. In Egypt the tea was typically served in glass as you see it here. In Ethiopia it was usually in a cup, with spices (cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and cloves). At a restaurant they would often serve me a cup full of amber spiced water, and a black teabag on the side.

A Sunny Picture

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

Landscape near Bahar Dar, Northern Ethiopia

Since I slept through my blog-writing time on February 6, I have decided to retroactively post a sunny photograph. It has been a while since I have shown you photos of my trip in Africa (two years ago). This one was taken near Bahar Dar, in Northern Ethiopia near where the Blue Nile starts and also where there once was a great waterfall (before they diverted the Nile for electrical power).

To someone from Lansing, Michigan, this can almost look surreal. It is normal terrain in that area of the world, and strikingly beautiful, I think.