Wednesday, June 28, 2006

the big 8

Well, finally, after 11 days of travelling, the itinerant husband came home. Hurray! Three days after that, my parents came for a visit. I was very busy being a hostess, daughter, wife, and dog-mom. I cooked a lot while my parents were visiting. On Friday night, we had roast chicken, potatoes, salad from our garden and an apple chocolate chip cake. The salad is jokingly referred to as the $800 salad, since we spent so much creating a lead-free garden. Right now, our produce is worth its weight in gold, but it is very good. On Monday night, we had some guests over, and I served homemade vegetarian spring rolls, salad from the garden with herbs, two kinds of quiche, homemade coleslaw, bread, and for dessert, homemade passionfruit sorbet, organic blackberry ice cream, and some lovely fruit salad brought by our guests. We ate well. The quiches came out really well so I snapped a photo:
The sweet one is up top: Parsnip, Carrot and Squash Crust, sundried tomatoes, basil, dill, summer savory, and one or two cherry tomatoes from the garden, along with locally produced swiss cheese, eggs and milk
Bottom quiche is the savory one: potato onion crust, swiss chard and onions, sage, thyme, and parsley, swiss cheese, eggs and milk.

Then the parents left after a good visit and we all settled into our quiet life again...interspersed with occasional barking, of course. Last week we celebrated the husband's 33rd birthday and today we celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. The husband woke up early and made me a really nice breakfast. I got to do yoga for a little while, and so far, it hasn't hurt at all! I tried not to overdo it this time. (just wait until tomorrow, I know.) I got offered a really nice freelance writing gig for a big magazine. I finished the knitting of the first of the three sweater jackets and all the pieces are blocking right now. All is really good.

It seems to me that people make such a big deal over weddings, first, fifth or tenth anniversaries or big number birthdays. The thing is, I can't figure out why. Every year, heck, every day, is a fabulous milestone! The important parts of relationships or of life are so wrapped up in the every day. A dinner with friends, a sunny day, a long walk with a dog or two. I'm so lucky to have little quiet happy days like this one. I'll leave you with a photo a friend snapped of us this past winter. It was just an ordinary day...kind of like this one. A good day.

Monday, June 19, 2006


In a fit of self-love, I spent Saturday morning spinning some Cormo wool and doing yoga. (In this, I seem to have much in common with the Yarn Harlot, except, of course, she is much cooler.) The Cormo was delicious to spin, like a very silky smooth gelato. I am spinning it relatively finely so as to stretch out my 4 oz. of roving. The yoga seemed fun, too, except that, well, I hadn't done any in a while and even as I was doing it, I felt sore. I was exercising all by myself, so as not to feel bad around all the women in my town, twice my age, who can touch their tongues to the floor or do one-handed handstands. I'm only sort of kidding here. The Yarn Harlot knows what I mean.

I woke up a little sore on Sunday, but you know, it happens, I was ok with it. I proceeded to wash all the floors in the downstairs of my house. The kitchen floor looked dirty and the wood floors in the dining room, living room, and hall needed a touch up. I'm a lackadaisical housekeeper, at best, but there were dusty paw prints everywhere. So, you know, I felt pretty sore, but I still managed to knit a ton on my sweater jacket, because of that design deadline. I can do it. I know it.

Today, I am too sore. So sore, that I became anxious, stressed and unhappy. Finally, I took a lesson from my dogs...and it wasn't how to do down-dog or even up dog. I took a tylenol (they don't do that, but...) and then I took a little snooze-ola. I shared the bed with Harry until he got hot and moved, and I woke up so calm. Still sore, but not nearly as stressed. So, I'm concluding, it's probably not all this knitting that made my left shoulder, arm and neck sore, right? No, it can't be that! It's the yoga...and the cleaning.
. Caption: Sally (left) and Harry, right, demonstrate two alternate poses for the snooze-ola on the knitting futon in Joanne's office.

Friday, June 16, 2006

duty and pleasure

I've been on my lonesome this week because the husband is (again) out of town at a conference and he's doing a bit of research collecting as well. Summer is both conference time and research season for biologists, so I have to keep my own company. Now, when I hear that someone is on their own for a week, I'd invite that person to dinner or to do something with's the right thing to do socially, and it's usually fun. I'm just saying, it's the right thing to do, in the list of duty-obligations. Right? Well, nobody's invited me to do anything. In fact, when I volunteer that Jeff is away to folks in town, no one even asks me how I am getting on by myself. The dogs bark a lot, but aren't much on the dinner conversation. Before I start the pity party with the smallest violin in the world, let me mention what really brightened me up.

I had a call from Iraq this week. One of my former students (who is now a friend, Hi Brian!) is in the military and his tour of duty in the south of Iraq will be up in July. Brian is only 6? years younger than I am, he was a senior in high school when I was teaching, just out of college. He has kept up with me for 8 years and I thoroughly enjoy his company. He can't say much about what he is doing--he's an undercover sort-- but it was wonderful to hear his voice, and to know he's all right. Let's hope that continues.
Luckily, my work duties aren't dangerous, (I'm not even teaching in the inner city anymore) but sometimes they require fortitude. Last night I finished the back of my first sweater jacket for a set of designs I am doing for Knit Picks. The yarn is a cotton/merino blend, a lovely cocoa color, but well, 18 inches of straight stockinette knitting to the armholes. Something like 28 inches total in length. I did this in about a week, and if you assume that the back of a sweater is one-third of the total, I am now one-ninth of the way through these designs. (three sweaters total) If this one-third equation is wrong, please don't disabuse me of this notion, it's making me feel calm about this enormous amount of knitting. All three sweaters, knitted twice (must be tested, you know) and their patterns are due in September. I can do this. I can do this. Right? Why am I longing for complicated lace and other projects? I --can--only-knit this. Deadline. Deadline. Argh.

To reward myself for this first achievement, I took some time to spin on the backporch this morning, while it was still cool: The dogs took some time to bark. A lot. I'm amazed that none of my neighbors have tried to shoot us yet. Sally's attraction to birds and squirrels is piercing, to say the least.

The garden's doing so well! Here's some lettuce and our second sungold tomato. (I ate the first one right off the vine.) Brian says it's 120 degrees during the day in Iraq. I hope these veggies look cooling?

Right, I've got to go back to the designing/'s a pleasureable duty, as duties go. If I'm good and get something done, I may reward myself with a trip to the library later...dang, I know, it sounds sad as a reward, but I like going to the library!

So, if anyone wants to keep me company while I'm all on my lonesome, now's the time! Leave me comments. Reassure me that I'm still here. woof. Woof.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I did it!

I did it! I drove over 530 miles home from Pittsburgh yesterday, all on my own. When I was a kid, my friends and brothers used to joke with each other and say, sarcastically, "Do you want a medal for that?" Well, yes, I do, so I made one! Since you are all such kind readers, I know you'll understand my achievement. I'd never driven so far before in one day, on my own, and I'm proud of myself!

The wedding was lovely. I met a man named Ted who does animation with puppets and a fellow Cornellian, Arlia, who does costume design for opera at the Met in NYC. It's always great to meet other folks who believe that handmade, beautiful things still matter enough to create them for a living.

I got the husband off on his business trip to the UK, and all went well on his flight from Pittsburgh. I even managed to knit a fair bit of a sweater jacket I am designing. When I got home, I received two super bits of news. The first is that Becky and Sam emailed me, even before their honeymoon, to thank me for the wonderful wedding present. That really makes me feel good--sometimes handknitted things are appreciated, and for that reason, it is worth it to take the risk and keep making handmade presents...even if sometimes, just sometimes, the recipient doesn't appreciate your hard work.

The second bit of news is that a group I'm a member of, the Association of Knitwear Designers--web address: has launched its new website. Here's the official description: The ASSOCIATION OF KNITWEAR DESIGNERS is dedicated to the promotion and accreditation of its professional members. AKD seeks to be the leading source of qualified professionals in all fields of the knitwear design industry.

Here's my page if you want to hop over and take a look. I support this group because it is a way to raise the profile of knitwear design professionals. I'm very proud of what I do as a writer and a designer, but it's amazing how pejorative some folks still are--despite the 50 million people who knit in the USA today, I hear comments like "Yes, I see lots of little knitters on the subways in New York." Yes, there are those "little knitters" who take these comments to heart... and disparage the fabulous knitting they create. I say, be proud of your skills to make things from scratch! Celebrate all the marvelous books and designs out there today...and support those professional designers and writers who make it possible.

Need more encouragement to support gorgeous knitting designs and designers? Designers buy books too...and I've been inspired lately by:
Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature
Teva Durham's Loop-d-Loop
Cathy Carron's Hip Knit Hats

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Making things...sing

Lots of you commented on the jam and canning parts of my posts. Hang on, I've to get up on my soapbox. Ahem. If you can follow a knitting pattern, of course you can make you some homemade jam. No, wait, that might exclude some, if you can follow a recipe, you can make jam. No--it goes farther than that. If you are able to drive a car, follow lab procedures, or follow how-to instructions of any kind, I know you can make jam. And it is so satisfying. Really. A while back, I wrote an article for a full color fancy magazine (that's since gone out of production, isn't that the way it is?) and I took the photos too...and it's an article I'm proud of. It was about how to can, the history of jam and preserves, and why homemade food is so great. Simply put, as Michelle Shocked says:
If you want the best jam, you've got to make your own.

Ahem. Stepping off the soapbox because the strawberries are done here and the other fruit isn't ripe yet. On to other things.
This is a linen lace table runner, designed and knit for Becky and Sam. Becky and Sam are getting married next weekend, in Pittsburgh, and I'm excited to say I will be there to see it. (Then I get to drive 500 miles home by myself, but that's another story.) I've known Becky and Sam for over 10 years. Becky knew me before I knew her; we were in a class on religious mysticism in college at Cornell, and the professor always called on me by name because he knew me already. Then, Becky went to grad. school at Duke with the man who is now my husband, and she met me again, and she's been our friend now for years.

Sam played in the Cornell Jazz Lab Ensembles with me, except he played bass and it was a jazz big band, so we hardly spoke. ..there were 20 or 30 people in that band, and we didn't talk. We made music. One night in 1998, I went to a birthday party at a pub in Durham, NC, right after I got married, and Sam was there. It took us a long time to realize, yeah, we did know each other. Once I knew he'd played in my band, well, I knew he was a good guy. He came on time, he followed through, he knew how to cooperate and blend well with others. He was a team player. I told Becky I thought she should go out with him when he asked her out. She said, "We're just friends." So, I made this zig zag lace table runner, with butterfly wing edges, to show how, through the twists and turns, we become intertwined with one another. Through time, the stitches get tighter, just like our relationships. May you have a long and happy marriage, Sam and Becky. Make music together. Remember--it's the spaces between the stitches--the rests between the notes, that make things work. Count and value those silences, too.

Here's some of the cherry blossom colored wool and alpaca I showed you a while back. It's light and lofty stuff and the color is impossible to catch, it's lavender and gray and pink and misty. Finally, something boring, practical, and totally knit for me:
A lightweight vest for summer. This is from the spring/summer 2006 Knit Simple magazine, except I didn't use a variegated ribbon, I used a gray cotton blend one. I didn't do the decreases the same way, and I didn't make some string thing to hold the two sides at the edges. I used this great couple of black gray buttons from the stash. My stash is multi-generational--maybe the husband's mother or grandmother found these buttons. Those buttons, and their unknown history? They make the vest sing.