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Archive for December, 2007

My Best, 2007

Monday, December 31st, 2007

turkishlegwarmersblog.jpgOur beloved Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (Yarn Harlot) is asking her readers a question. What is the best thing you made this year? My answer actually is the answer to two questions, one she did not ask but it’s related.

The best thing I did in 2007 was teach for Dallas-Fort Worth Fiber Fest, back in April. The best, bar none.

So the best thing I knit? I had to make a project for the fashion show, for that festival. And I made thigh-high legwarmers in 13 colors of DK-weight yarn. Four turquoise, four magenta/hot pink, three hot green, one yellow, one purple. They were inspired by the colorwork of Turkish Socknitting, though they are modern in design.

Maybe you will want to go over to Stephanie’s blog and share yours, as well?

Feeling Un-Stuck Today

Monday, December 31st, 2007

treebigwithdot.jpgBrian reminds me often (when I’m going on about how impossible it is to get control over my environment) that the house contains a finite number of objects. If we really wanted to, we could inventory and/or count every item in the house.

Today that information helped me get started. I had a real mess in the yarn storage area, which happens to be half of our living room. I did not want that sort of mess in a space I look at every day. Finally tonight I got enough energy together to start tackling it.

He is right, there are only so many items in the house. And since this is merely one room, and actually only about half of that room, no matter how many things live in all the boxes and on all of the shelves, I could eventually deal with things.

What started the decline was overstuffing of shelves with balls of yarn. They would overstuff and then a group of balls would dive off the shelf at the same time. Those balls would leave streamers of yarn ends going up tot the shelf. On the way down, of course, they would exercise the perfect swan dive and braid themselves.

I’d come into the room having missed the diving performance, and I’d have a pile of yarn balls on the floor in a crazed mess of a tangle, with strands five feet long. You would swear they had been doing a little woolly mating dance while you were looking the other way. Nightmare!

Then if I didn’t notice, and other balls did their dive from a different shelf? The weaving going on by sheer gravity was truly astonishing. And the more this happened, the more impossible it seemed that I would ever get them untangled.

Thank goodness I’m very good at un-tangling yarn when I’m not in a hurry. I started in on the shelves about a month ago. I gave in and purchased clear plastic bins to contain the yarn and keep them from diving. One cubbyhole at a time, I would untangle and rectify that particular mess.

I prefer the look of yarn on a shelf over the look of a clear bin with yarn in it on the same shelf. However, I prefer nearly anything to a woven mess rivaling the work of Arachne, where I can’t get one ball of yarn without a long untangling process.

So tonight I got through most of the boxes and got the last bit of yarn off the floor. I re-evaluated my works in progress (WIPs) and unfinished objects (UFOs). Some of those UFOs will become yarn again, because they were not working out properly. Some are back in the pending process and have gone back to WIPs.

And now I have a small box of socks that I have never photographed and therefore never worn. I found three pair of Afterthought Heel socks that just need heels, including one pair for Brian. Cool! Maybe I can finish a pair for him before the end of the year. Heels do not take that long.

My office remains a mess. My kitchen, which has two areas, has been much more manageable in the last month and I have been enjoying that. My living area of the Living Room does not have much in it, so unless I have a pile of magazines and knitting projects next to the couch (my favorite lounging spot) it’s pretty easy to keep on the tidy side.

But the office? Ugh. Here, too, there is a finite number of objects. However, paper and receipts take up a lot less space than yarn. That means more things in a smaller area. But if I could transform the yarn area from inaccessible to useable (not pretty yet but much closer) in about 4 hours? Then I can also transform the office area. Probably not in 4 hours, but I could make a lovely dent with an hour or two.

The photo today does not have anything to do with the post… it is a photo I took on Christmas day when we took a walk a few blocks from our home. This beautiful old tree has a blue dot on it, which probably means that the city is going to cut it down (there are a lot of dead-looking branches on it, though it’s hard to see what is up in the wintertime). I felt compelled to take a photo. The tree is so beautiful!

I’ve heard other phrases that help follks get unstuck. One is “Done is better than perfect… thanks to Rita from Yarn Hollow/Grand Rapids for that input. Do any of you have sayings that help you keep going when things need attention and nothing seems “perfect” to help the task get done?

Getting Un-Stuck

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

sweaterstart.jpgI have been thinking about how at this time of year I tend to get very focused on finishing things that have been sitting and waiting for a long time. I think it is because my work slows down and I have brain-space to approach things that had a little hiccup or place where I needed to make a decision.

So for some reason this year, I’m casting on new projects rather than fixing the old ones. I am not feeling bad about it at all.

I cast on for the sweater Altu and I will knit together. She wants to learn new things, which I so respect in anyone. I think right now it’s her way of reclaiming her former passion (for knitting) at a time when her kids mostly do not need her anymore. At life transition times, we have more opportunity for change and growth.

But for me… casting on, or diving in to old projects, both represent a moment where I got un-stuck. I tend to have trouble with transitions… whatever I’m doing, I keep focusing on that even when I need to change gears. This can make me late to meet a friend, and it can mean that projects for my work do not happen as fast as I might like. It’s about focus, in a sense. Focus that doesn’t change gears when necessary. Stuck-ness.

In the past, the one thing that would get me unstuck if I was really without direction, was to clean off my desk. It’s often a de-cluttering process that gets me moving, whether finishing projects, doing dishes or cleaning the desk. I have been doing a lot of house-cleaning in the last few weeks.

What do you do for yourself to get un-stuck? (I will be asking this question on my Ravelry ColorJoy Group as well, sorry if it’s redundant for some of you.) I think we can really learn from one another by sharing our own experience on this question.

Photo? It’s a sweater, can’t you tell? It’s all faith here for a while, I think…

Looks like Christmas, now.

Saturday, December 29th, 2007


It snowed today, and snowed and snowed. At 11am there was just a dusting, but by 4:00 we had over 2 inches (5cm) on this car. It was not cold, in fact most of the time it was just above freezing. It was that perfect sort of snow that they try to re-create in movies and on TV. I was glad I only had to drive about 2.5 miles.

The tomatoes I pictured here on the Solstice (mostly green at the time), were joined by 2 more fruits I found on the bush almost a week after I took that photo. The new ones are the two at far left. One just was not ready for even a gentle nudge, apparently, but the other is doing great. When I put the first batch out, only two had any sense of color besides green. I am eager to make some sort of sauce for pasta perhaps. Either that or I’ll make some greens with tomatoes, another favorite of ours.

In other news, Altu asked me to walk her through a sweater pattern. She learned to knit in Ethiopia as a young person, and made a lot of sweaters. However, they had only one thickness of yarn and you could change the gauge by doubling it. So she learned how many stitches to cast on for herself, and she learned to make up the sweater as she went, shaping by instinct and experience. She has never followed a pattern.


So Rae helped me find a sweater that would work for both Altu and me. It’s the split-neck T Shirt from Knitting Pure and Simple. I will interpret the pattern for Altu and we will knit together on our regular Thursday afternoon lunch date each week until we have finished sweaters. This could be fun!

swatchforsweater.jpgMy size needs less than 850 yards and I happen to have four skeins of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece that add up to just a bit more than that. Funny, this yarn is supposed to be a worsted weight (5st/inch) but on size 8 needles after blocking I’m getting 4.5 stitches an inch which is the gauge the pattern wants.

I did not imagine this yarn could get that gauge, so I swatched like crazy. I held it together with sockyarn, and thicker alpaca lace yarn, and added yet another laceweight to the first. In the end, when I wet blocked, I got gauge with a single yarn strand of Cotton Fleece. This is very good, that makes the project more portable.

I looked on Ravelry for other folks’ versions of this sweater. One woman used a contrasting yarn for 2 garter ridges (four rows) on both the arm edges (instead of ribbing) and the neck. It looks wonderful, so I may do that. I have lots of yarns that might be just right with this cherry red, for an edge or two.

I’m going crazy with ideas for projects. I finished another pair of really-tiny-socklets for earrings. I keep looking at tiny toy projects like the heart I made recently. I still want to embroider. I did darn some socks and need to do some more. I love that I finished those 2 pairs of socks last week.

And my singing voice is so strong right now! We don’t have a concert scheduled until a few weeks into January and I wish I were singing tomorrow. In the wintertime I often have struggles with allergies and the inevitable bugs that go around. Right now we rehearse and I sing my heart out to the two of us. It’s really fun, but I love the stage. Soon enough, I guess.

Knitting Frenzy, New Socks

Friday, December 28th, 2007

I do this every December. I have a burning need to FINISH. Of course this year has had a few more distractions than usual and there are always many, but I finished my 158th pair of socks.

I used Nashua Snowbird, a 50% wool, 50% alpaca, shrink-resistant yarn (wash in machine, dry flat). It’s a thicker yarn and very warm for winter. I would LOVE a sweater in this yarn and it’s not horribly expensive. I was very tempted to buy it on Rae’s 20% moving sale. However, right now I need to mostly knit for my business and that does not fit in the master plan as long as I am not designing sweaters.

This is not a real problem, because knitting socks took merely 2 skeins and two days of knitting. Instant happiness (doesn’t that sound like the name of some exotic Chinese food? Instant Happiness). I Love These!!!

Rae made a pair from the same yarn, same colorway. She says it’s the only pair that she’s ever had to take off because they were too warm. I wish my feet would listen, as they were cold yesterday (not wearing shoes) at home wearing these, but not as cold as they might have been in lesser socks. My feet are cold most of the year, that has nothing to do with socks. (I still love my hot water bottle, that’s the only answer I’ve found for the cold feet, though it’s not portable at all.)

I also went into the yarn area and found a pair I thought needed some work. Well, they were done other than having the ends worked in, which did not take long. Nashua Vignette, a wool tube (Icord) yarn that self-stripes and is machine washable. Footies a little loose to wear over other socks in the house. This was pair 157, which I finished knitting on September 2.


That is pathetic, my friends. I went nearly 4 months without finishing a pair. I have been focused on other things… mostly work for patterns and a good handful of gifts. It’s all good, but this year I did not knit many socks. The first year I knit socks, I knit an average of a pair every 10 days. Whew! Those were the good old days. Although, really, being a professional in the knitting business means, as Carly Simon sang, “These are the good old days” right now. Different than a few years ago, but good.

In any case, I have two new fat-yarn sock pairs to wear just as the weather turns mean. I’m delighted.

Is anyone else feeling the “I must finish everything right now” bug? It’s really big for me every holiday season.

New All-Included Kits

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Now we pause for a commercial announcement. I’m pleased to announce that I am offering kits for Sassy Summer Handbags on my shopping cart.

sassykitmelon600.jpgThe kits include one skein of my new Funky Felty yarn, clear purse handles, pattern and craft foam. All you add are knitting needles, sewing needles (to fasten the handles) and a pleasant time knitting it up.

No hassles looking for handles or the foam (which reinforces the bottom of the purse very nicely). Everything is ready to go, and pre-tested for your satisfaction.

Not only that, but you save $8 by buying the four items together at one time. It’s a quick knit, Diana can knit one in two days, so if you need a quick gift or an instant-gratification project, this will fit the bill. And once you are done with the kit yarn, the pattern specifies other yarns and even a knit handle so that you can make it again.

Click here or on the photos, and check out the three current colorways. More yarn is on order, expected in a few weeks, and I can get more colorways going. Right now supplies are very limited, this was my prototype batch.

sassykit300x300.jpgThank you for your attention to my excitement… I have wanted to offer purse kits for a long time. Let me know if there are other kits you might wish for me to offer, I’m listening.

Instant-Gratification Knitting

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

heartwithdreads12.jpgOh, my. I was mentioning to Rae the other day, on a mostly intellectual level, that knitting toys would be a great way to do a crash-course knitting class in shaping.

So I was in this knit/crochet community called Ravelry, and I was checking out the discussion group I sponsor, named (no surprise) ColorJoy. I have been delighted to see a steady increase in members, and I make a point to go and peek at projects created by folks who join my group.

Well, you know how that goes… you follow a link and then another link, and somehow you are in Japan or Australia or somewhere, and you don’t know how you got there. I found myself, in this case, reading about a knitting designer who specializes in toys, Anna Hrachovek, whose design business is called mochimochiland. (Mochi is a special sticky rice used in Japan… yum, but that is a whole different post.)

christmastreewithheart.jpgSo I found Anna’s site and I found a few free patterns, and there I was face to face with a free pattern for felted hearts. With eyes. Adorable. Now, mind you, I’m not much into cute but these are like baby animals rather than fluff. I was sold.

I knit with some leftover handspun from the remake of the “Turkish Sock Sweater” where I cut off the sleeves on the red section to make them a reasonable (but still long) length.

I finished one heart and got to the place where the top splits and ran out of red. So I found the leftover Manos del Uruguay from the remake of the sweater-turned-skirt and legwarmers… and finished that heart with the multicolored red/purple yarn.

I felted it, I added eyes (thank goodness I did all that embroidery in the 70s because I make a good french knot and the bulky yarn worked great for that). I sewed it and stuffed it. Then I looked at that Manos.

The yarn was in sweater form for at least 2 years before I ripped it out (partially). The yarn still has the characteristic kinkiness of yarn which has been through that process. I decided the heart needed to have dreadlocks. And so it does.

It now lives on the Christmas tree. I gave my heart to Brian on Christmas morning (isn’t that sappy?) and he used it as a decoration. I love it.

I tell you, start to finish even with dreadlocks this took just about an hour. The most fun I’ve had knitting in a while. (Lots easier than a mini-sock on 000 needles, though I think I love the result of tiny socknitting even better than the hearts.)

Photos: Finished heart up close. Christmas tree with heart on it. If you want photos of the before-sewing part and you have a Ravelry account, you can see my project page here, if you don’t do Ravelry (yet) you can go to my Flickr page instead.

A Soup, A Recipe

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007


It seems I often post on holidays, of food. It seems appropriate even for those who do not share the same holidays I practice.

One of the few non-knitting blogs I read is The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz. Paz not only lives in New York City, but did not grow up there. This means a view of the city from something of an outsider perspective.

Luckily that means that even though it is a food blog, we get “New York Mondays,” a repeating feature with at least one photograph from the city. Paz is a good photographer and i love that feature.

This is a normal food blog (as opposed to allergy-focused), written by someone who apparently grew up in Africa. Now, Africa is a huge place and I don’t know details other than Paz loves rice… and that is apparently tied to whatever foods were commonly served in the area of Africa where she (? I think I’ve determined that Paz is female after a year of reading) lived.

Anyway, this food blog is very interesting to me even when I can not eat the food featured. There has been bread baking, and lots of soupmaking, and talk of cilantro (Paz loves it) and plantains and beans and all sorts of other goodies from New York markets.

Then recently, a recipe for Green Pea Soup. Not split pea, but frozen/fresh peas. I love peas, they are a very good food for me right now, they are fresh and a bit sweet and filling. I figured I’d try the recipe (with lots of substitutes because of my allergies or what was in the house when I started).

Paz’ version includes bacon, potato and broth. Mine includes sliced deli turkey, white yam and water with a bit of Braggs Aminos (a not too appetizing name for unfermented soy sauce).

I got white yam at the asian market. It has a strong purple skin but the flesh is very white, and it’s a little nicer than potato, with a better texture cooked. It is not sweet though it looks a lot like the sweet potatoes that Americans call yams but which are not in the same family.

I had not tried white yam before, I did not know how quickly they would cook. Therefore, I cut mine into matchsticks and they sort of disintegrated while cooking, which worked fine but was time consuming. Next time I won’t cut them quite so small.

You can click the link to the original in the paragraph above. Or try my version, or mix them up and do what seems right. It’s very forgiving.

For the record, some people told Paz that this soup needed to be pureed in a blender. I am not at all big on blenders, and in this case I’m wondering if they were confusing this with split pea soup.

So mine, like the version Paz made, contains yummy whole veggies. Yum. It was incredibly satisfying, even for a person like me who is not fond of broth-based soups. I hope some of you will try this, it’s really easy and very filling, really sticks with you.

Green Pea Soup

1 bag (appx 500gm) frozen green peas

1 large white yam (or sub white potato), equals 3 cups of chopped matchstick pieces

2 Tbsp yellow onion, chopped very small

2 large fresh carrots (called for more but I was short)

2 liters/8 cups water (or use broth)

2 tbsp Braggs Aminos (or soy sauce, or skip if you used broth)

1/2 lb sliced deli turkey or other meat

2 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter, or use your favorite sauteeing oil)

black pepper to taste

1 Tbsp marjoram (or sub parsley)

Melt ghee/oil in pot, sautee onion until clear and soft. Add meat and cook until it looks browned in some places (for flavor). Add peas, water and Braggs/soy sauce if using, turn heat on slow simmer.

Chop carrots and yam/potato into small pieces suitable for soup (can double number of carrots, I was at the end of my supply). Add to pot as you complete chopping each one.

Add pepper to taste, and add marjoram. Cook about 90 minutes on low. (In photo, I garnished with fresh parsley.)

Holiday Finishing and Progress

Monday, December 24th, 2007

What a good day Christmas Eve has been. I woke up early for me and got my tush on the road earlier than I normally might. I was at the grocery store at noon, and the line was not bad and it seemed most were in a good mood. I chatted with a boy in line in front of me about his new toy. Fascinating.

Planning just a little ahead

I determined to get whatever I needed to get through a day and a half of cooking, without going to the health food store. The one on my side of town is notorious for cash register slowdowns and long lines so I skipped that (the people are nice but sometimes that is not enough).

Kroger suits me fine, it’s an older store on the East side. It’s very culturally mixed and “just folks.” My favorite cashier is from Africa and I try to get in his line whenever I can. They had a Santa greeting children today which kids seemed to enjoy.

Pure entertainment

At that point I was done with obligations for the day. I went to Rae’s shop because it was literally a block from Kroger (same shopping complex) and I just enjoyed being there for a while. I knit a little and did show and tell a little, and hugged a bunch of friends. Met the sister of a knitter I know socially, and that sister is from over the pond as they say, so I was very interested in chatting for a while.

The “white tornado” returns

Starting then, and until past midnight, I seemed to have an energy I have been missing since before Thanksgiving when my sinuses started acting up. I must finally be well, because I could even sing without strain today. What a nice change! I was a “perpetual motion machine” as one friend puts it, or a “white tornado” as Brian says. I was grateful for the energy.

Good food

I came home and made a wonderful soup (food post probably tomorrow, including a recipe). I felted two bags that Diana had knit as samples (had felted a bowl the day before, big fun).

Catching up on small tasks and starting large ones

I made a bunch of sewing progress… wove/darned to repair a huge hole in a favorite pair of bulky socks, which I was really missing in this cold weather. I sewed handles on a Sassy Summer Handbag that has been waiting for those handles for maybe 6 months.

I also knit a small gift for Brian. We don’t really worry much about gifts but we sort of like to have something the other can open on Christmas day… not required but nice.

I even made some progress on the goal of a clean house. I did some in the office and some up in the bedroom, and I ran a few loads of clothes. Some of you have commented on this goal of mine, and I’m checking in with you on that. Progress, but not perfection, as they say.

Fun earring transformation

Actually, the item shown in today’s photo I completed yesterday. A dance friend got me sheep earrings for sheepearrings33.jpgChristmas. They were shiny and fun but a little small for me and were missing the element of color.

I decided to add a few beads between the earwires and the sheep charm. It worked great! I think I’ll be wearing these a lot. They have a lot of different turquoises and greens in them, so they will “go” with lots of things (no need to match when there are that many colors). In the photo you see “before” at left and “after” at right.

Food for the holiday

Tomorrow Brian will put cornish hens and sweet potatoes in the crockpot when he gets up, and that will be our ultra-simple meal for dinner. I have been eating poultry/fish more because of my doctor’s insistance, and though I’m not fond of meat I really think I am feeling much better.

To reward myself for being a good girl, I am considering making a pumpkin pie or two. The down side would be that I would have to make the crust for the first time since the 1980s. I don’t enjoy that part much, I make too much of a mess and it’s the cleanup that makes cooking a chore to me.

Holiday thoughts and gratitude

So today was mostly relationship, with some food and knitting rolled in. I’d say that made an excellent day. I think it helps to have few expectations. I think it also helps to finally feel well.

I am really counting blessings today, friends. I’m thinking of all the folks in my life who really have made things nicer for me. There are so many I really love and who are a real part of my support system. I remember the years when I had precious little in the way of support, and I am filled with gratitude and contentment for the life I live now.

Finishing Things

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

I swore I did not have anything to finish. I was wrong.

tinysocks16.jpgI crocheted a colorful edging on the “hug” wrap that I made for one toddler I love. She loves color maybe more than me. It did not have to be a Christmas gift but it will be, just because of when I finished.

We went to Grand Rapids for a family function on Brian’s side. He drove and I knit. I finished an aran-weight sock today that I mostly knit yesterday.

I could knit these without looking, in the dark, in the car. There were other things I wanted to knit but they just would not work in a social setting and in the car later.

It will be no hassle to finish the other relatively soon. It’s washable alpaca/wool, and they will be much loved winter socks, very soon. I buy shoes to handle fat socks so I will be able to wear them any day I like.

I also made a handful of those mini-socks I said I’d make as ornament gifts, over the last week or two. I need to mail some off which I have not done yet, but these friends do not keep score over dates. I got in a focus on the socklets and kept going. I knit two turquoise ones and made them into earrings. They are wild, and they spin and rotate and kick my neck a bit, but I love them just the way they are.

And then I got going even smaller. I knit with darning/reinforcement thread, on size 000 US/ 1.5mm needles, a sock with a circumference of 12 stitches. These ended up being knit at 12 stitches per inch, my personal best (I’ve done 10 st/in before, but the difference between 10 and 12 is significant).

The hassle with the tiny socks is the needles. My needles are about 8 inches/ 20cm long. The sock measures half an inch across. The needles are metal so that they will not break. That means they are relatively heavy. And then at times I had three stitches on one long needle. If you breathe wrong, this means the needles fall on the floor and you have live stitches hanging out in the air for a breeze, stitches that are merely 1.5mm in size. I wear bifocals, and without a lot of light I can not see these stitches well enough to pick them back up.

I even had to do a different heel for the tiniest socklet. Normally I make a heel flap which requires picking up stitches on the sides, or I make an afterthought heel sock which requires picking up lots of stitches and which does not flatten out well when not on a foot, anyway.

I went to Rae’s shop and put myself at her mercy… she sometimes does what are called “short row” heels which look like the heels on commercially manufactured socks. I begged her to tell me how to turn a heel based on six stitches, in a short row fashion. She wrote little instructions on a tiny paper and this is my heel-turning bible for the tiniest socks.

And I listened to Rae, knit the way i was told, made a cute heel without having to pick up stitches, and finished my tiny sockie. So fun!

Oh… while I was knitting these, I was wearing a sweater with long fat wooly cuffs that were a bit too long. So what happened is that the ends of the too-long needles would accidentally stick themselves in my cuffs. And I’d move, and the cuff would grab on (after all the wool is more stretchy than the nylon I was knitting with, and more fibers were grabbing it on the sweater cuff than the sock). And, you guessed it, the stitches would be live again.

Next time I knit a tiniest sock I will wear a turtleneck only, with tightly-fitting cuffs, and if I’m cold I’ll sit on the heat vent or wear a good shawl that doesn’t reach down to my hands.

But aren’t they just as cute as a button??? I’m thrilled.

I will close with a photo that makes me smile. This is a doll scarf knit by an elementary-aged girl in my CityKidz Knit program. This girl just loves to knit. Unfortunately, sometimes my room is full of distractions. The scarf was full of very lovely short rows and seven dropped stitches (some of which are being held with safety pins and split stitch markers in this shot).

I repaired the drops for her, and will do my best to get to her house tomorrow and deliver it. I had planned to send it in the mail but misplaced the lovely piece long enough to make that not an option. Fortunately they do not live too far from me so I may venture out and make a kid smile.


The Prizes are Making their Way

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

I have no excuses and many reasons, that the prizes for my Blogiversary contest went out in three batches and some got out only a few days ago (actually I’m still waiting on one address, but the others are out). With holidays, priority mail can take longer… but I am starting to get emails that folks who won got their prizes.

I had a few requests to hear how far and wide the winners might live. I do not want to give out too much personal information, but I did find it interesting that I had three international (non-US) winners out of twelve. Super cool!!!

Here is a list of the places folks live, who won:

Haddenham, Ely, Cambridgeshire, UK

Reykjavik, Iceland

Enderby, British Columbia, Canada

Reading, Pennsylvania

Sanger, Texas

Fenton, Missouri

Berwyn, Illinois

Ft. Collins, Colorado

Grove City, Pennsylvania

Enid, Oklahoma

Ypsilanti, Michigan

Greater Lansing, Michigan

I think I’m allowed to be pleased as punch with this result. I love being part of the entire world, which is getting smaller every day because of our beloved Internet. I guess at least part of my world-citizen view shows! Or maybe this is just proof that people are people and we connect when we have interests in common… I am grateful we are able to connect this easily these days.

Thank you for making my Blogiversary really special this year.

Kristin Nicholas’ Sheep

Friday, December 21st, 2007

I just love Kristin Nicholas (though we have not yet met in person). I’ve loved her knitting design work and her color sense for years, before I read her blog. Now that I know the blog, I have learned of her other artful endeavors (paintings and illustrations, as an example). And she is a good writer. Her books are on this page if you are interested… order direct from her and get an autograph on your book.

She lives on a farm with her husband, young daughter Julia, a herd of sheep and a menagerie of other animals including artful chickens and a guard llama. Often on the blog she talks about the animals and the nitty-gritty of farm experience.

The sheep are a big part of this… she shows baby lambs when they are born, she talks about the challenges of keeping the animals safe from coyotes, and talks about how they rotate the sheep between several pastures during the course of the year.

I’m really clear I am not cut out for farming, it’s such a complete lifestyle (requiring going outdoors to work for the animals every day, no matter what the weather… not my thing). I really respect those who make the life committment to care for animals, any animals. Hundreds of sheep on a farm is beyond my comprehension.

In October they moved about 150 sheep down the road about 3 miles, and this week they moved them back. She took excellent photos of the experience, and told of the process getting the sheep home again.

The story is so interesting, I did not want it to end. Perhaps you’d like a short digression from the holiday crazies, and you can go read the December 20 post of Getting Stitched on the Farm. Or just look at the pictures…

Sun… The Comeback Tour, December 2007

Friday, December 21st, 2007


Brother Eric and Sis in Love Diana got “sun comeback tour” shirts to celebrate that Friday is the Solstice, the day our sun starts getting closer every day for six months. Yesterday I was positively blue after holding it off all season… I am ready for the sun to come back and kiss me again.

I am not a sun worshipper but I am definitely a warmth lover. These days I dress in so many layers I do not move easily. I always have a lot of wool and many under-layers. Today I saw that if I’d chosen the purple hat I knit, I would have been wearing at least 8 items I’d knit at least partially, myself. It would have been, from top down, hat, mini-sock earrings (photos tomorrow), “Turkish sock sweater” which I altered heavily, wristwarmers, legwarmers, socks, purse/bag and stole. I chose a commercial beret instead so I was merely wearing 7 things I knit upon.

I look like a commercial for handknitted items (many of which are cool in mainstream culture at least this week). I think I’m hopelessly uncool for wearing so many at once. I’ve been uncool all my life, it’s no problem to me now… but I’m really happy to have that warmth.

Warm is so much better than hip and edgy, in my 49-year-old opinion. I’m so happy to not be young anymore, it was so hard to try and fit what I could not fit. Now is better, I’m just myself and most times it’s exactly what I’d choose if I had a choice. Very nice when life works that way!

So to celebrate the sunshine which we did have today at any rate… I present you a photo I took less than a week ago. We have tomatoes we grew ourselves, ripening on the south windowsill. You see, I had one bush in a pot on our steps. When it got chilly around Halloween, I brought the pot in to the mud room to avoid frost. However, it got so cold in there that a few weeks later Brian took it into the basement.

I watered the plant dutifully but it was so cold even in the basement that it did not drink. I let the fruits stay on the plant until the leaves started drying up. Then not a whole week ago I plucked these fruits and put them on the sill.

Yesterday I realized that there were two more tomatoes still on the plant. I brought them up and put them with their buddies but they have not caught up yet.

When they get red enough, I’ll cook them with greens, or pasta and a little protein of some sort. It will be a celebration. And that will happen on a day when the sun stays up longer than it did today. I’m delighted about that part. I’m ready to give up the wool sweaters and start wearing my African and Indian clothing, and embrace 80F and above. Not today, but I’m already heading there in my mind.

Meanwhile, I still am in love with my hot water bottle. That old fashioned idea keeps my feet warm every night when I’m home after work. I take it around the house with me and rest my feet on it all night long. The best.

Happy sunshine comeback, my friends. We have passed the shortest nights of this year. I wish to toast the coming sun and warmth… and the optimism which accompanies them.

Does anyone else have a way of celebrating the passing of the darkness and moving into light? I wish I had a fireplace. Alda in Iceland writes of huge municipal bonfires on New Year’s Eve there. Norwegians(?) banged on pots and pans to wake up the sun and bring it back.

Me? A cup of tea and the hope of a nice long walk with my beloved if the sun comes out and says hello, would be the best choice. And a few kind words to the tomatoes on the ledge.

Susan hits it on the head. Again.

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

susanluksthumb2.jpgMy beloved friend Susan D. Luks, who I’ve known now for longer than any but two of my non-family friends (probably 1966-67), sometimes reads this blog. She is an excellent writer and artist (and ColorWoman), and I’m honored to have her along for the journey.

I’m right now struggling with owning up to my responsibilities for the parts of my life which I reasonably should buck up and handle… and letting go of things that I maybe once thought fit in that category but really need to be let go of.

In one area of my life I’ve learned to do this using what is called the Serenity prayer. There are many versions of it, but it comes down to… I need to take action where I can, stop trying to control what I can’t, and do my best to tell the difference between the two.

Since I went to Africa four years ago, my own version has come down to “I’m not in charge.” It is particularly easy for me to do when I am dealing with other people. I’m clear I can’t change others and in most cases I truly am *not* in charge. I’m not in charge of weather, either, or fashion, or whether people sign up for classes I offer and would love to teach.

It’s harder when it involves my own self… attitude, action, what I eat or do not eat (given food allergies which seem to change by the day), getting enough sleep, scheduling classes, etc. Sometimes I over-fuss and over-focus. Sometimes I don’t focus when a little now would save much hassle later. It’s a lifelong learning process here, I expect.

In the path between taking full personal responsibility when warranted, and essential letting go when appropriate, there has been far too much struggle. That has manifest itself as worry.

Never mind that my favorite thing to say about worry is that “Worry is not action.” Worry feels like doing something but it has no effect at all. It seems to me if I am to spend effort, I might best spend it on things that reasonably might respond to that effort.

So on this blog I write about my life from day to day. Sometimes I write far too many words and do not have/take time to trim them to a better size.

Susan read a very long post recently, and distilled out the bits where I talked about my worrying. Susan has much serenity and it’s not because she started out life as serene. She has learned it… and I expect it was not simple for her to do. I aspire to half of what she has learned in this area, over the years.

Susan wrote in my comments about a translation of a poem by “Hafiz, who was writing in the 13th century over there in Persia, before you and I were even eggs…”

Find A Better Job

All your worry
Has proved such an
Find a better

Dang. For someone I rarely see in person… she sure hits it perfectly where I am living.

Thank you, Susan.

Photos: Susan wearing her own creations… she builds the fabric from which these beauties are created. Yes, she gave me permission to show you her images…