Thursday, March 29, 2007

mermaid scales & chometz

I've been busy teaching myself to take photos of my handspun for my new venture over at etsy:
This replaces my sadly out of date handspun on my website. This blurry close-up is of "caramel and chocolate" or camel down plied with a luscious rich naturally brown soft wool. Until I learn to take a picture in focus, I don't think I'll post it!

My newest combination is just plain luck. I bought a gorgeous Cotswold fleece in the fall, and dyed it, a pound at a time, into different colors. Some colors were a light spring green, slightly darker at the tips of the locks, and a darker, grassy green. I sent them off to be carded at Stonehedge Fiber Mill because, well, everyone has limits. More than 10-20 lbs of wool? I get overwhelmed sometimes, and large quantities of raw wool in a town with hard water? Send it Away!! The boxes were (hidden,) scattered around my house. Yesterday, I got out these colors, blended them a bit, and put the two rovings together. What a deep, shiny color! To me, they look exactly like Mermaid Scales. Amazing.

The professor's sweater is coming along but the front doesn't seem to be nearly as interesting as the back. Isn't that always the way? Our recent heatwave hasn't helped. Mid 80's in March makes all the flowers bloom and wilt overnight. I've felt a little wilty too.

My Passover preparations are slow and steady. The chicken soup and brisket are cooked and frozen. (The first night seder at my house takes a lot of cooking preparation.) Every day I'm tackling something new. Passover gives me a good excuse to do spring cleaning, and since, at best, I'm an inconsistent type when it comes to housework, there's plenty to do. The cleaning helps get rid of chametz, which means: (courtesy of
–noun Hebrew.
a food forbidden for use by Jews during the festival of Passover, esp. a baked food, as bread or cake, made with leaven or a leavening agent.
a dish, kitchen utensil, or the like used in preparing or serving such food and similarly forbidden for use during Passover.

So, this is the time of year to clean off the shelves and cupboards, wipe them down, move all the pasta, flour, yeast, oatmeal, and granola bars out of the kitchen. People do this to varying degrees to observe the holiday. Some folks have entirely different kitchen set ups for Passover, and follow very careful rabbinic cleaning guidelines. Others clean up, remove the chametz (or chometz) and do the best they can to avoid all bread products, because when the Jews fled Egypt, there wasn't time for their bread to rise. We remember that by avoiding anything that rises for the holiday. I also have friends and family who may go to a seder, but their only big dietary change might be giving up beer!!

(Seder means "order," and the ritual meal has a certain order in telling the story. That's why the prayer book is called "Haggadah" which is from the verb, "Le-hagid" or to tell) It's all to remember the Exodus from Egypt, that our ancestors were slaves and we're now free. This is meaningful in the context of social action--we should always be helping others towards safety and freedom, so the discussion's always relevant. I expect civil rights, Darfur, and many other serious political issues will come up at seders all over the world this year.

While Sally is always tidying up (this is a daily occurrence here, 5 stuffed toys are on the office futon right now), I'm not... how is this dog related to me?! so I'm off to force myself into vacuuming, oven cleaning, changing dishes, and other household challenges.

I'm very excited by the number of people who seem to drop by my blog! Thanks to all of you who left nice messages about my new pattern. I'm working on my set of napkins right now. I recently found out that if you want the exact yarns I used in the pattern, you might order them online at Joann's and get a discount! (Nope, I didn't arrange that one ahead of time! :)

Monday, March 26, 2007


A new pattern...(finally, I know, took me long enough.)
Here's a machine washable and dryable idea: two knitted napkins.

Here's the totally Reversible Herringbone:

And the slightly funky, nubbly, and textured Urban Earthtone:

Knitted Napkins! Here's the LINK if you want to read more about them, or purchase the pattern for your spring holiday table!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

allergy activity

Spring is popping out all over. Our resident bunny entertains me with afternoon grass snacking visits to the lawn, positioned just so I can take blurry photos out of my office window. I love our bunny visits and appreciate her wisdom in staying in our side yard, where the dogs can't reach her!

Harry and Sally pursue garter snake hunts with a vengeance. Apparently dead snake tug of war is the newest game. (GROSS!) I'll spare you a photo of that one.

Along with the flowers, (daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, and some weird yellow flower whose name we can't remember) we are also blessed with spring's other excitements: tree pollen allergies, and Passover preparations. The professor is completely stuffy, drugged up and out of commission right now, although he did do the requisite lawn mowing while I chopped down weeds. We live in Kentucky, the bluegrass state--lawn mowing isn't optional here for 8 months of the year.

Passover is coming. While we were in Miami visiting cousins, we bought most of our K for P (Kosher for Passover) foods and carried them home in an extra suitcase, since we can't get alot here unless we drive to Nashville. I've already starting cleaning and cooking. We'll have a small seder the first night, April 2nd, with some curious friends since we just aren't able to manage travelling to a relative's house this year. The second night, we might go to a community seder in Nashville, 70 miles away.

Although I love to cook, Passover isn't my favorite holiday. It's a lot of work--spring cleaning and cooking is mandatory for this one. Since I was getting grouchy, the professor sent me off yesterday to a fiber forum in Tennessee. He and the dogs hung out at home, planted potatoes and peas in the garden, and sniffled.

I drove 200 miles to go to the forum, and when I got there, I was underwhelmed. It was a gorgeous day at a beautiful state park, but there were no signs to publicize the event. I wandered around in my car until I found it. There was only one room of vendors and activities open to the public...and aside from the friendly face of a vendor I know, no one seemed terribly social! (Well, I bumped into Charlene Schurch, author of several knitting books, in the bathroom, but she was in the middle of teaching, so our conversation was brief. The bathroom, by the way, was the cleanest public facility I have ever seen!)
I bought lunch at the state park, soaked up the views, and drove back home. It was perhaps a waste of gas, since I missed being able to sign up for classes. I'm learning some of what makes a successful event: publicity, signage, critical mass, and friendliness, to start.

One last note: You may have noticed my new map on the righthand sidebar. Peggy had one, so I stole the idea from her...thanks, Peggy! I've had 160 visits to the blog since Wednesday, the 21st. Wow! Yet...only two comments? Leave a note! Drop by and say hey! What do you think about small fiber events? Tree pollen? Garter Snakes? Spring Holidays?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

happy moments

Several folks have asked if I soaked up sun or went swimming. Alas, no...although this did save me from getting the requisite sunburn, so I'm glad about that. Since I spent many hours accompanying my husband as he did field work, I saw lots of tropical Florida scrubland at the edges of parks and highways where his butterflies have good habitat. I saw a Key Deer (no photo of that, since I was reading quietly in the car when she approached) and a lot of normal people enjoying the outdoors. I liked that slice of regular people enjoying nature like this:

caption: man and his poodle go fishing under a Keys highway bridge

Although I'm sad not to be in NYC today to help "Represent" knitters with the Yarn Harlot, I'm considering a road trip to Lexington in April to see her. It's, what, a 150 miles each way... a pilgrimage, perhaps. In the meanwhile, I'm taking a day trip of 180 miles round trip to a fiber festival in Dickson, TN, this weekend, called Southeast Fiber Forum.

Last, but certainly not least, I got a wonderful email, with this photo attached, when I returned home. This is from Svetlana in St. Petersburg, Russia. She said:

"Thank you very much for the Ruffle Boa pattern. I saw the pictures of such scarfs but couldn't find any descriptions. But finnaly found your web-site and the pattern. Here's what I made - I love it! (the model is my Mom - as soon as I've finished the boa she said "you'll make yourself another one and I'm taking this one" :) ) So, I guess I'll start working on the next one while spring is still here. "

What a fabulous note! Sally, the dog diva, and I are so tickled to hear someone who lives so far away likes our boa pattern!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

quirkiness, continued

Visiting South Florida reminded me, again, of the USA's diversity. I can't go on without mentioning this landmark in Homestead, Florida, named Robert Is Here. Robert started a fruit stand on his family's farmland when he was seven. Forty years later, he's still here. This is "just" a fruit stand the way Harry and Sally are just my dogs. {Not.} It turns out the professor visits this fruit stand every time he's in town doing research. First, he loads up on passionfruit for me, at $4.50 a pound. Passionfruit are practically impossible to buy in this country, outside of the occasional big city gourmet produce department, and they cost an arm and a leg. Not at this fruit stand, though, because it specializes in tropical fruits, so every time my partner goes anywhere near this place, he buys a couple of pounds of passionfruit for me! Huge mangoes, ugli fruit, gorgeous tomatoes and avocados...all fruits that should be eaten right on the spot, so hard to take home on the plane. As a consolation prize, we got freshly made fruit milkshakes to eat right away. Mine was a passionfruit one, of course. His was pineapple.

Key West is filled with old houses--restored and weathered, shacks and mansions with huge porches, outdoor fans, and lots of character. Most houses line up right on the street, but some, like this one, sport big gardens and serious steel bars. I didn't understand this until I watched a drunk undergraduate in a skirt hike an ornamental fence and stagger up someone's yard right to the front porch, while chugging her large cocktail in a plastic cup. I began to imagine why sane folks in Key West live on side streets, or go for the compound effect, complete with the security fences.

I never got to a beach on this trip, although we were near a lot of water. I did wander down to "South Beach" on Key West, which is the southernmost point in the (continental?) USA. I shot a photo of this grandmotherly American sitting on the seawall. She's leaning out to sea, speaking Spanish on her cellphone a mile a minute, and puffing away on her cigarillo. If I let my imagination run away with me, I'll believe she's looking out towards Cuba, leaning in to get good phone reception, and having a nice long visit with one of her Cuban sisters or first cousins.

I couldn't possibly visit the Keys without stimulating the local yarn economy. I visited the only yarn shop in the Keys, Knit Wits Key West. I got a couple of skeins of Heirloom Breeze, a skein of Euroflax (always have one around for emergency knitted gifts) and these short size 8 needles, perfect for knitwear designer hair sticks or a very small swatch.

I'll continue to amuse you with occasional photos of exotic south Florida now and again, if you'd like. I also had a fabulous note from a Russian knitter who sent me a photo of one of my designs, all knit up! I will post that soon as well.

Monday, March 19, 2007

She's back.

I'm back and I took a lot of photos. Here's the short version:
The professor did a lot of butterfly research. I even helped, in a very marginal way. Here he is, on what we concluded was the only real hill we could find in the Florida Keys:

I saw a lot of roosters. (chickens too.) Here's a huge rooster sculpture by Derek Arnold and here's a real rooster that was wandering around the Ernest Hemingway gardens. For poultry neophytes, roosters do not only crow in the early morning. Key West was filled with ardent cries of roosters on every block, throughout much of the day. I loved it--I hope it gave all the hardpartying types with hangovers a wake up call. Or two.

I finished the back of the professor's sweater (yes, I can knit wool in the tropics, even when people ask if I'm knitting a blanket. It's that big) and the sweater back took approximately a month. I fit it in between designs for work. When I am caught up on my work, laundry, etc. more will be revealed about passion fruit, travelling during spring break, and other adventures. More to come...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

it's a sign...

Well, I'm organizing myself. I'm one of these people who likes everything to be ready and it makes me have a better trip. While I'm not terribly superstitious, I do think there are sometimes signs. You know, things that boost you along at a moment when you feel a bit desperate. Ideas that pop into your head right when you need it. Don't get me wrong, I think we all create the right conditions for this stuff to happen, but even so, it always surprises me when it does.
exihibit A>

Joanne's desk...a place that you've seen before, but when it was much cleaner. I've been spending a lot of time here, and not all of it has been productive. In fact, unproductive would be the word I'd use. It's a sign. A sign I need to see something else for a change. Hopefully Florida will do that for me...although yes, the professor has already sighted a snake of the constrictor variety and two alligators while doing his research. He says the alligators were small, and he hasn't seen either a panther or a bear yet, and it's not hurricane season. I should feel relieved, apparently. He's bought me over two pounds of passionfruit as a gift and is calling me often, so at least he hasn't lost his phone yet on this trip!

I was stunned by the overwhelmingly nice comments about my hat design and hearing from Silvia when I least expected it. First, I was about on my last nerve from dog barking (a dog! a dog's outside! a person walked by! Woof! Woof!) when I read her note, which reminded me that I was?am? (apparently) a patient and kind person. Other people think so! Oh yeah, remember that?! Now I should stop yelling HUSH at the top of my lungs...that didn't help anyone calm down, anyway. I was so touched to hear from Silvia!! There were many special people in our classes, Silvia, and you were, of course, one of them. I remember your bright smile very well!

Ever since I started working by myself, I've reached out on the web and back into my memories, because in my daily life, I see very few people, and my dog colleagues are sometimes barking mad. For instance, they just killed a garter snake this weekend. GROSS! That's why your warm and human communications mean so much to me. Thank you!

I haven't figured out how to find all your email addresses via your blogs, (is that possible? any hints on that one?) but please know that I so enjoy the conversation there, in the comments.

Oh, I didn't give you the full desk perspective.
Yeah, it's a mess. Time to leave.

One last thing. I need beauty in my practical tools, and lately I've found some great joy in working with these short straight wooden needles. I may have mentioned them before:
Turn of the Century Needles --but it bears repeating.
The professor and my mom both bought me more of these this year, and I'm loving the beauty of it. They're biodegradeable, made by two artists only a state away from me, sharp tipped, and silky smooth. Fabulous for knitting swatches and small designs.
Please feel free to drop by and say hello. I can't tell you how cheering all your notes were!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

remember me?

Yes, I'm completely overwhelmed and haven't posted for a few days. However, I've met a work deadline (I set the deadline) and now have a 33 page document draft, full of photos and text. I did it in two days. Tomorrow morning, I revise.

(--you may wonder how this amount of writing and photography is done in two days? revision, smoke, mirrors, coffee, and deep a little unladylike ambition, too.) Hopefully, this endless project will amount to something I can announce to the world some day soon.

I can show you one of those mysterious "work" knitting designs that I'm always doing behind the scenes. Announcing...the grunge girl lace beanie. I was so enthusiastic about this hat that I had a hard time sending the sample hat away! If you're looking for it online, here's the story and here's the pattern.

note to those of you who know me well: No, I've no idea what a ski-boarding hat is. It took the professor a while just to explain ski-boarding...I've never even been skiing. This is how editing works sometimes. It's collaborative writing, right?

Today, because it just didn't seem like I was doing much at all, I was in the car by 7:30 AM, driving the professor to the airport. It's spring break, and he's off to collect butterfly hybrids in South Florida for his research in lovely scenic places like the Everglades. I've warned him to call often and watch out for snakes and alligators. Does everyone say this just before spring break? (I didn't think so.)

On Wednesday, I fly down to join him for a few days of R&R, away from a desk and computer. I will get to see the Florida Keys and Miami for the first time. Any must-do travel hints?

Since I'm a little tired from all the recent work and life drama around here, (not much of it is blog-public, but at least I got to think about it all on the 140+ mile round trip to the airport) I'm bribing myself with treats until I leave town. Tonight, I think dinner will be some quiet sort of omelette, white wine, and leftover apple chocolate chip cake for dessert.

Tomorrow, I'll check out a newly organized Spinner's Group at the Kentucky Museum. I was there to do some research in their collections on Friday morning and found out about this new group. I'm excited about it, and reminded of some long ago friendly porch "setting" and spinning sessions when I used to live in North Carolina. I'll hope for a few hours of spinning bliss tomorrow as reward---assuming I finish all my work revisions in time.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

new...errr..old quilt

I've finally saved my wool quilt, and, due to requests off line, here are the photos to prove it. As of this winter, I planned to fix the wool felt backing, which was all pilled and nappy. (No wonder, really, after 15 years or more of winter use!) My mom carefully brought me some 100% wool brown fabric as a new backing when my folks visited a while back. Sadly, it didn't match well. I resorted to cleaning everything while I thought about it. I took off the old felt backing to wash the wool patchwork and batting, which was very dirty. Ta Da! The felt on the inside looked good as new. I decided to reverse the backing so the new looking felt would be on the outside. Then the quilt waited in a pile on a chair in my hall for months. Yesterday, I finally fixed it, sewed it all together again, and it is on the bed.
note the wool felt backing--15 years+ old, and good as new when turned inside out.

Now, it looks exactly like it did before--and I'm sure a dog is already testing it out. I hope it's good for another 15 years, because by then, I might be ready to tackle making another wool quilt. This photo is an old one of Sally, from winter 2006, but things are just as comfy again now!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tornado alert system

I appreciate all your worry about our tornado watch. They aren't uncommon in the spring time here, and although we had a big storm last week, it's the tornado warnings we have to watch out for.
Watch means=tornado conditions might happen, pay attention
Warning means=Dang! We spotted the tornado! Get in your basement, bathtub, room without windows, ditch, or culvert, and pray now...

I'm only slightly kidding about the praying part. In the past, I've rushed to the basement with the dogs, the radio and my knitting, and then I've tried to tune the radio. Reception in the basement isn't great, but I've managed to find the only local station broadcasting alerts, weather updates, and prayers, all at once. Tornado veterans think Kentucky is "tornado lite" because it's nothing like, say, Kansas. I say, a tornado is a tornado. Scary. I hardly ever get to knit because both 40+ lb dogs are trying to be in my lap at once. I've been thinking about the people of Enterprise, Alabama; what terrible losses they've had this week. We are friends with a couple there. The tornado was within two miles of their home.

I must revise my dog warning statement, previously mentioned. Harry, as shown above, is a laid back couch hog until the storm is upon us. Sally spent an hour on Thursday cowering by my leg under the desk. Today she rushed for comfort when we heard loud thunderlike construction equipment. Harry is the amateur dog warning system. Sally is a professional.

I too, it turns out, am a professional...of a different sort. This weekend I won an award at a local art show for "Kool-Aid's Best Use." I used the handspun I dyed with Kool Aid, knit up some scribble lace, and encased it within two pieces of plexiglass. I don't have a photo of it, but Cosmos Fabric was my other entry, which didn't win. In order to go to the opening and get my award (a certificate and a tax form for the prize money--I've won enough for a nice dinner out), we missed going to Nashville to party for Purim, but as a professional artiste, perhaps now I'm suffering for my art. (haha..but at least I'm not hung over this year...Purim is a fabulous opportunity to party.)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

of cabbage and cast-iron

I finished The Faith Club and heartily recommend it. Though it examined Judaism and Christianity, the best thing it did, (and much needed) in my mind, was to express the great meaning, diversity and depth of American Islam. I studied a lot about Islam in college and graduate school and have great respect for it, but that religion's beauty is so often lost in the media terror alerts these days. My small gripes with the book are, well...small. One is theology: I think ritual, especially Jewish ritual, is underserved here, but this is based on three writers' discussion, so not everything can be examined. The last thing is an editing mistake. Instead of saying Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Orthodox Judaism, it says "reform Judaism." The capitalization is wrong. This bothers me because Episcopal is correct, Sunni is correct, but not Reform. That's an editing mistake, but it irked me.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled household program. Today, I celebrate cabbage. A fresh sweet cabbage is a wonderful winter veggie. It's always underrated. It makes great homemade sauerkraut over time, but I wanted immediate satisfaction. I made Asian Garden Rolls: (Note the damp paper towels, to keep the rice paper rolls moist til dinner time.) Contents: cilantro, tofu, cellophane mung bean noodles, a bit of chive or onion, and cabbage/carrot mixture. With hoisin sauce, it's great stuff.

Then, since once you use the cuisinart to shred all that cabbage, well, I can't help myself. I like slaw. When you make it at home, you can eat more than that one little paper cup that comes with 'que. (BBQ, of course.)

Every so often, there is a deal at a local store that I can't resist. This week, I saw an ad for a Lodge Cast-Iron 5 Quart Dutch Oven on sale for $18. Well, as everyone knows, in Hebrew, 18 represents Chai, which means Life, and it's the ultimate in lucky numbers, and well, it was also half price. What Jewish Southerner who loves to cook could resist? I use cast iron for baking bread, for stews, and it does a great job of browning meat. On days without electricity, it can make your whole meal work out well in a fireplace or on a woodstove. Once, when my oven housed live mice (gross, believe me) I baked in the dutch oven, on top of the stove, for several months! So, here's my new dutch oven, on the left, after its first seasoning. It will grow up to look like its much older sibling on the right one day, if it produces lots of good food.

The professor's sweater is growing. The back measures 17 inches long and I've been knitting on it (not obsessively, though) for 2 weeks. When it reaches 19 inches, I can start the armholes.

Our entire area is under a tornado watch for the rest of the day. Ahh, spring in Kentucky...I've learned how to tell if the tornado might be coming...a) sirens b)the sky gets greenish gray and dark and c) the dogs go nuts, leaping, pawing, and begging by the basement door. So far, according to Harry, there's no storm coming, but he'll keep me updated as conditions change. Who needs a TV weatherman? Not me...