Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December Miscellany

 December is nearly over.  I took Christmas off this year. I couldn't find it in my heart to decorate.  I didn't put up a Christmas tree at home, nor did I bake a single cookie.  There was no chocolate-walnut fudge cooked or consumed in my house.
It felt pretty good!
Back to the mess next year, though.  I missed the Christmas tree.
There were some beautiful sights, even without all the trappings and tinsel.

Cardinals at the birdfeeder

A snowy path

All the time that I would have spent carrying boxes in from the barn, assembling and decorating the Christmas trees, setting out, wiring, and lighting my ceramic houses, baking, decorating, and cleaning up was put to very good use.

 A pair of socks in an old Opal test colorway, and a neckwarmer/headband in DK-weight wool.
Another pair of socks in hand-dyed wool for my niece, Dawn
I found a pattern for knee-high kilt hose knit in worsted-weight wool in the Fall, 2011, issue of 'Knitting Traditions'.  I love the look of the stockings, but I don't wear knee-high socks, and I didn't have any superwash worsted-weight on hand.
I adapted the pattern, called Borreraigh Kilt Hose, and this was the first result:

The yarn is Opal Uni-color in forest green.
I wasn't happy with the way one of the panels worked out, so I got out my pencil and re-wrote the pattern, and it turned out like this:
Also Opal Uni-color in a dark chocolate brown
This pair will be traveling to Germany with me in February as a gift for my friend, Michelle.
I wish you could see them in person...I think they turned out really well.  I'm calling the pattern Inspired because it was inspired by a truly lovely design.

My adaptations include changing the number of stitches, using a different cast-on, re-drafting and changing the spacing of the cuff diamonds, then working the cuff inside-out because I like the wrong side better, using a different style of heel flap and heel turn.
If you try to knit this pattern as published, be aware that there is an error in the stitch count!  It didn't matter for my socks, but I contacted the editor in charge of errata at 'Knitting Traditions' and the correction will probably show up in the next issue and/or on their Web site.

A Silly Story...
so, I was at the store a few weeks ago, moving some things around to make room for new stock.  I reached over the counter and grabbed a stack of merchandise to put out, walked to the display-in-progress and set up the items.  As I stood back to see how it looked, I thought, "Dang, I am having the WORST hot flash EVER!"
It was an odd one, though, focused under my right upper arm and down my right side, and it was HOT!  It didn't go away, either, and I stretched across with my left hand to feel my sweater...
and then, I remembered this.

The sign reads, "Caution! Wax may be hot!"
Yes, that is a tart-warmer, and that IS melted wax in it, and yes, yes, I DID reach across my own hand-written sign, thereby dipping my sweater sleeve into hot, melted wax.
My mom was right, I AM 'special'.
It was my favorite sweater, too. I managed to get all of the wax out of it, but I killed the sweater in the process.

Soon, a New Year. I am ready. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Library by Sarah Stewart
Illustrated by David Small
Those who know me know well my love of books and libraries.
I have always lived in a home that was filled with books. 
Books were always my first request at gift-giving times, and a stack of books was often to be found wrapped and tagged with my name beneath the Christmas tree.
The memory that may be my very earliest takes place in the tiny library in the town were I grew up.  I remember being at Story Hour, maybe three years old, sitting in a little wooden chair at a little wooden table in front of a sunny window with other little boys and girls, and coloring and cutting out a picture of an igloo.
Miss Lee was our librarian, and I suppose on that particular day she had read to us a story about children who lived in such a structure, and the 'art' project was meant to support the book.

Miss Lee...

oh my.
A tiny, ageless woman, who wore white blouses with short sleeves and Peter Pan collars, and full, pleated skirts.
She knew our families and our favorite types of books.  She knew what we had already read, and what we would be most happy reading next.
She knew our faces and names and library numbers.  It was never necessary for her to present library cards to us, for she had our very important borrower's numbers safeguarded in her memory.

Mine was 694

To this day, whenever I see that combination of numbers, I am transported back in time to happy days lost in the pages of a book.

Miss Lee had the MOST magical tool that she used to give us the greatest power in the world: the power held between the covers of books!
Her special tool was a little metal cap-thing that perched on the eraser end of her pencil.  It held tiny pink-rubber blocks with reverse-cut numbers and letters.
The little blocks were kept in a box in Miss Lee's large wooden desk.  Every day the library was open, her first task was to change them. She had a pair of tweezers with which to pluck the rubber pieces from the box and carefully insert them into the metal holder.  For each book I presented to her, she would press that end of her pencil against her well-inked stamp pad and then upon a slip of paper glued into the back of the chosen book, and voila!

Mar 6 60

My borrowed books were due back on the date stamped there.
She would reverse her pencil and use the point to write my own special number, 694, on the borrower's card and file it away to await the return of the precious book.
Miss Lee then handed the stack of books across her desk and into my eager hands, smiled, and sent me on my way.

I loved the library! I love libraries still.
I have spent countless hours in my life with my nose buried in a book. 
Even better, I have spent approximately seventeen years of my adult life doing much the same work as Miss Lee: putting books into the hands of children.

Through a series of poor career choices, I no longer work in libraries.  I miss that work every single day.  It was, with no debate, the most rewarding job of my life.
I still love books, though, and I read to my grandchildren whenever possible.  I wish I had many, many more children to whom I could read!

Yesterday was my day off.  I had a small extra job to do, but it took less time than I'd allotted for it, so I cast about for something to fill a couple of hours.
I drove to my oldest grandson's school and asked if I could do some volunteer work there.
Maybe I could help the library aide?
The school secretary handed me a form to fill out for a criminal record check (yes, even volunteers have to undergo these things to work in a school now), phoned the Superintendant of Schools office, and said I could, indeed, work in the library!


It may seem strange, but it was among the happiest two hours I can remember!
I shelved books.
It sounds silly, doesn't it?
I carried stacks of books from the shelves behind the aide's desk and placed them in their homes on the shelves, to await the next interested child.
It was like a reunion with old friends.
I saw titles that I knew so well from my nine years in the elementary school library.
I remembered finding them for the children, placing them in their eager hands, reading them aloud during class library visits.
What fun!
I even found a few stray children to listen as I read a paragraph or two aloud.
When one asked, "How do you know where the books go on the shelves?"
I explained that the number on the spine of every book is its address, like the address of the child's home.
That number tells us where the book 'lives' and how we can find it.
It was a marvellous afternoon.
I will go back and do it again as soon as I can!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Snowstorm
Yesterday was the first Big Snow for this winter. It began in the afternoon, and by evening several inches had fallen, making roads slick and difficult to travel.
My usual twenty-five minute drive home from work took over an hour.

Early evening, Amish horse and buggy

The wet, heavy snow brought down branches and broke electric lines, causing power failures throughout the area.  Service was restored to my house at around 2:00 am.
I awoke this morning to sunshine and the special silence of a world blanketed in snow.
Even the wire fences were jacketed, and every fence post had its snowy hat

A stretch of open water along my drive to work

Brilliant sunshine on icy branches

The daylight hours are growing very short, and I need my headlights for the drive home from work now.  In less than a month, though, the days will begin growing longer once again.
Spring will come, as it always does.
Until then, we have snow and the beauty of winter.
Life is good!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A single yellow flower

Because yellow is my favorite color, and it is a dark and dreary day here.
Yellow cheers me, and reminds me of good friends.

and two pair of finished socks for my grandsons.
The little ones are Ethan's, in some leftover Regia (I think) from my sister's stash. 
The larger pair is Robby's, in DK weight, I think Emu, from my stash, in Green Bay Packers colors.  He wanted house socks in orange (his favorite color), but I didn't have any DK orange in my stash, and I am knitting entirely from stash at the moment.

Nothing much new going on. Thanksgiving was very nice and I am now a year older, having turned fifty-five on Thanksgiving Day.
I qualify now for the Senior Discount at the movie theater.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks
It is Thanksgiving Day in the USA today.  The turkey is roasting, pies are baked, the cream is whipped, the gelatin dessert is cooling in the refrigerator.  In a little while the second flurry of preparation will begin.  I will have eleven here for dinner today, and the table will be full! I'm looking forward to all the good company, good food, and hugs from my grandchildren. 

This is a time to remember and give thanks for the blessings of the previous year, although I do try very hard to do that every day.  This year I am thinking much of my sister, who left us in 2010, the two dear friends I lost in the spring of this year, my mother and my husband's parents, gone so many years now.  I remember the family and friends who are far away, and the ones who are near.  I remember the sunny days of my childhood, and many, many happy times over the past fifty-five years.  It's a good thing to stop and make a special effort to do this, as we so often lose track of those we love, in our busy lives and day-to-day worries.

I am thankful for all of the wonderful people who have graced my life and for all the special and also the ordinary places I've seen.  I'm thankful for good health, strong hands, hugs and kisses, sunshine and snowfall, all the creatures of this earth (well, maybe not so grateful for spiders, but I suppose they have their place, too), for the flowers and the trees and the grasses, for lakes and rivers and especially for the little stream that cuts through my back yard.  I am so very thankful to be alive and well and able to prepare a feast for some of the people that I love.
Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Small Joys...

Someone once told me that we are never farther than three miles from open water here in Michigan.  This little lake is the site of many happy days in my life.  My uncle and his brother-in-law built a tiny stone cottage on its banks many years ago and that is the place where my family reunion has been held every summer, for as long as I can remember.

Marl Lake Sunset

Last evening, there was a particularly lovely sunset and I stopped on my way home to snap a couple of quick shots with my phone camera.  I need to remember to carry a regular camera in the car!

A delightfully tacky Christmas shirt

 Christmas colors:
...and socks colorful enough to give the shirt a run for its money.

Santa is something of a landmark in the town where I work.  He has been at the window of my little shop for many years.  This year I took him home and replaced his faded trousers with a new pair.  Last year he fell out of the window during a windstorm, and it looked for all the world as if Santa had actually fallen from the sky and died on the roof of Apple Creek Alley...we got him down as quickly as possible, so as not to traumatize any small children!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Twenty-four hours
Thursday morning.
Most of the autumn color has gone now, but this small pear tree, planted two falls ago, retains its bright leaves.
 The marsh is preparing for winter.  The grass is still green, although it has stopped growing.

In the afternoon, it began, the first snowfall of this winter.
The sky darkened and the snow fell;
great, splashing flakes that quickly covered the ground.
The ride home was white and wet and I was filled with wonder at the beauty of this fresh winter.
I must re-learn now to move a bit more slowly, to drive more carefully, to mind my steps and take my time.

There was a full moon in the night.
It cast its light on the snow-covered earth and woke me.
I burrowed beneath the covers and went peacefully back to sleep.
And, in the morning, this:
...and this:
 I love the snow.
It is a balm, a comfort, a quilt of crystal-white to cover a sleeping world as it rests and dreams, perhaps, of the coming spring.
It would be very easy to forget that winter can also be an enemy,
a predator,
a force with which to be reckoned.
Living where I do, I know that we must learn to work with winter, to prepare, to watch, to be aware of sudden changes in temperatures and conditions and even then, sometimes, humans lose their battle with the elements.
Even so, I love winter, and I cannot imagine living where it does not come in this way.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Wintry, Blustery Day 
It has been gray, cloudy, and windy, but still relatively mild for the third of November.  The skies have been pewter-colored all day, and it is lightly raining right now, with a temperature of around 48 degrees F.

I had the day off and around eighty miles of errands to run. I had not visited our local covered bridge in many years, so I stopped along the way to do a little sight-seeing.  The river is wide here, and it must have been a cold and windy trip indeed, crossing the St. Joseph River before the bridge was erected. 

 The Langley Covered Bridge has been carefully preserved over the years.  It still sees quite a bit of use, as the country road crossing it leads directly into Centreville, Michigan, the county seat.  In the five minutes or so that I spent there taking pictures, at least a half-dozen passenger cars and trucks rumbled across.

Hats in progress

Done, and done. Two "Jacques Cousteau" hats for my friends, Steve and Bob, and the Wild and Wooly Socks pattern test for Kathy Nehrenz.  As you can see, the chrysanthemums have faded considerably in the past week.

This is a wonderful pair of billboards that I pass on my drive home from work every day. 
I was a great fan of Jim Henson and his Muppets. 
I've always listed these three things as my Impossible Dreams:
1. Work for Jim Henson at his Muppet Workshop
2. Go up in the U.S. Space Shuttle
3. Sing backup for James Taylor


1. Jim Henson died
2. NASA never called and there will be no more shuttle flights now
3. James Taylor has been singing with the same group of backup vocalists for at least twenty years now.

And the other one...well, you know who you are.
The red billboard reads,
"This year, thousands of men will die from stubbornness"
Get a physical.
Stay healthy.
We care.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

You can fly...

Another song by Reinhard Mey

Lilienthals Traum (english) lyrics

Lilienthal's Dream

He knows that his journey will end here,
on this wagon bed; he hasn't ever erred.
The doctor and Gustav whisper
and they whisper about him.
Came to Stölln to fetch him home to Berlin.
Wheels hammer on the tracks,
Images running past fast:
Mother at the piano, playing Schumann's "Traemerei".
Family home in Anklam, school, failure and goodbye.
Hiding for days with Gustav in summer meadows.
Watching the storks weightless rounds,
Their rising, soaring, now understanding and suspecting:

You can fly, yes you can!
Let the wind blow from before,
Spread your wings, you'll see:
You can fly, yes you can!
First flight attempts ,the villagers laughed.
To escape ridicule, he tries only at night.
A new construction, a new technique.
The number 4771, his first patent!
Agnes by the house and garden in long black robe,
Agnes of full zest for life, Agnes, full of warmth.
Going with the children to the windmill hill on Sundays.
Seeing the world from bird's-eye view,
On giant cotton covered willow rod wings.
Summer 1891 and now he'll succeed!

You can fly, yes you can!
Let the wind blow from before,
Spread your wings, you will see:
You can fly, yes you can!

How the bars creak, how the wind sings in the wires.
How the wing gently and eagle-like swings o'er the horizon.
How the rise and fall of the air lifts his flying machine!
His legs are quite numb,
how long has it already been?
The doctor from Rhinow says the blow
Hit the third vertebra, whatever this means.
What will Agnes feel, and the children, when they'll know?
Agnes was anxious, never without fears all these years.
One can't explain this longing to fly,
one must experience it by
those three steps to the precipice
and then the floating happiness !

You can fly, yes you can!
Let the wind blow from before.
Spread your wings, you will see:
You can fly, yes you can!

A good wind from the east
on this Sunday in August.
Already the first flight floats far to the valley,
And now soaring his desire, for
The second will go still further.
But the wind tears him steeply upwards there,
standing almost still; he pulls his legs and torso up
The wind's veering him 'round, he is no longer calm,
And now he's rushing down at earth from sky.
He cannot change the fall , uncontrollably gone.
With a crashing comes the right wing.
Was he reckless? Or an accident,that he crashed?
He will never let his dream be dashed.

You can fly, yes you can!
Let the wind blow from before.
Spread your wings, you will see:
You can fly, yes you can!

Then sleep comes like a good, dear friend.
Good that he is returning home again.
This Man's first step towards flight,
It was worth it, by God's might!
Others will succeed, and man will yet
fly 'round the world ,if he wills.
And then will he escape from narrowness and bonds.
With all limits and struggles overcome!
He hears the children's voices,he feels Agnes near.
In this darkening wagon,
He is quite near to his dream now
He sees the storks flying;
sees himself in their bright round dance.
Free and weightless, knowing now,
how to soar heavenwards in the sunlight.

You can fly, you can!
Let the wind blow from before.
Spread your wings, you will see:
You can fly, yes you can!

translated by Karl S. (dec. 12,2008)
( From: )

And in German:
Er weiss, dass seine Reise hier zu Ende gehen wird,
Auf diesem Feldbett, in diesem Waggon, er hat sich nie geirrt.
Der Arzt und Gustav fluestern und sie fluestern ueber ihn,
Nach Stoelln gekommen, um ihn heinzuholen nach Berlin.
Die Raeder haemmern auf die Gleise, Bilder ziehen schnell vorbei:
Die Mutter am Klavier, von ferne Schumanns "Traeumerei",
Das Elterhaus in Anklam, Schule, Misserfolg und Zwang,
Versteckt in Sommerwiesen mit gustav tagelang
Dem Flug der Stoerche nachzuschau´n auf schwerelosen Bahnen,
Ihr Aufstiegen, ihr Schweben zu begreifen und zu ahnen:

Du kannst fliegen, ja, Du kannst!
Lass den Wind von vorne we´n,
Breite die Fuegel, Du wirst seh´n:
Du kannst fliegen, ja, Du kannst!

Die ersten Flugversuche von den Doerflern ausgelacht.
Um den Spoettern zu entgeh´n, unternimmt er sie nur bei Nacht.
Eine neue Konstruktion, ein neues Flugexperiment,
Die Ziffern 4771, sein erstes Patent!
Agnes vor dem Haus im Garten, in dem langen, schwarzen Kleid,
Agnes voller Lebensfreude, Agnes voller Herzlichkeit.
Dann sonntags mit den Kindern ´raus zum Windmuehlenberg geh´n,
Die Welt im Fluge aus der Vogelperspektive seh´n,
Auf riesigen baumwollbespannten Weidenrutenschwingen,
Sommer 1891 und jetzt wird er es erzwingen!

Du kannst fliegen, ja, Du kannst!
Lass den Wind von vorne we´n,
Breite die Fuegel, Du wirst seh´n:
Du kannst fliegen, ja, Du kannst!

Wie die Holme knarren, wie der Wind in den spanndraehten singt,
Wie der Fluegel ueberm Horizont sanft und adlergleich schwingt,
Wie das Auf und Ab der Luefte seine Flugmaschiene wiegt!
Seine Beine sind ganz taub, wie lange er wohl schon so liegt?
Der Doktor kommt aus Rhinow, und der sagt, ein hef´tger Schlag
Traf den dritten Halswirbel, was immer das bedeuten mag.
Was mag Agnes fuehl´n und was die Kinder, wenn sie es Erfahr´n
Agnes war immer besorgt, nie ohne Angst in all den Jahr´n.
Man kann die Sehnsucht nicht erklaer´n, man muss sie Selbst erleben:
Drei Schritte in den Abgrund und das Gluecksgefuehl zu Schweben!

Du kannst fliegen, ja, Du kannst!
Lass den Wind von vorne we´n,
Breite die Fuegel, Du wirst seh´n:
Du kannst fliegen, ja, Du kannst!

Ein guter Wind aus Ost an diesem Sonntag im August,
Schon der erste Flug geht weit ins Tal hinunter, eine Lust!
Der zweite wird noch weiter geh´n. Da reisst´s ihn steil empor,
Fast steht er still, wirft Beine und den Oberkoerper vor,
Der Wind schlaegt um, er bringt den Apparat nicht mehr zur Ruh´,
Und senkrecht stuerzt er aus dem Himmel auf die Ernde zu.
Den Sturz kann er nicht mehr parier´n, unlenkbar sein Verlauf.
Mit einem Krachen schlaegt er mit dem rechten Fluegel auf.
War´s Leichtsinn? War´s ein Unglueck? War´s sein eigner Fehler eben?
Nie und nimmer wird er sich seinem Traum geschlagen geben!

Du kannst fliegen, ja, Du kannst!
Lass den Wind von vorne we´n,
Breite die Fuegel, Du wirst seh´n:
Du kannst fliegen, ja, Du kannst!

Der Schlaf kommt wie ein guter Freund. Gut, dass er jetzt heimkehrt.
Ein erster Schritt zum Menschenflug. Gott weiss, er war es wert!
en naechsten werden andre tun, der Mensch wird irgendwann
Die Welt umfliegen koennen, wenn er will, und dann
Wird er sich aus der Enge der Gefangenschaft befrei´n,
Mit allen Grenzen werden alle Kriege ueberwunden sein!
Er hoert die Kinderstimmen und er spuert, Agnes ist da
In dem dunklen Waggon. Jetzt ist er seinem Traum ganz nah:
Er sieht die Stoerche fliegen, sieht sich selbst in ihrem Reigen
Frei und schwerelos, durch eigne Kunst, ins sonnenlicht aufsteigen!

Du kannst fliegen, ja, Du kannst!
Lass den Wind von vorne we´n,
Breite die Fuegel, Du wirst seh´n:
Du kannst fliegen, ja, Du kannst!

Views from the Road
Some of the things I see on my drive home from work.
What great beauty and joy lie in this Earth.
Along the edges of the clouds were wispy trailers on this day, bringing short bursts of rain.

This is a lovely time of year here in Michigan, soon to be followed by winter, which I love equally.  The mornings have been frosty lately, so snow will come before long.  Some areas near me have already had snow on the ground. 
I saw a late bluebird this morning, sitting on the swingset in the back yard.  I hope he heads south very soon!  I've put off buying birdseed and filling the birdfeeders, because feeding the migratory birds will sometimes encourage them to stay North for far too long.
Last year at Christmas, when I asked Robby what he wanted Santa to bring, he said, "Lots of food for the birds!"
He loves to help keep the feeders filled, and to watch all the birds through the living-room window.

I have three projects on the needles that are within one day of completion.
Next up, socks for Layla, Ethan and Robby, then probably something for Andrea.  I need to see if they are in need of hats and mittens for this winter.

We attended a good friend's seventieth birthday last evening.  He is a great guy, one of the 'good ones', and we've enjoyed his friendship for nearly thirty years.
I am so blessed in my friends!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Random Things
I had a lovely day with Robby on Saturday. He spent the night on Friday, and after breakfast and showers, we went shopping, had lunch, stopped for ice cream at my favorite place, bought pumpkins for him and his sisters and brother, and just generally had a wonderful time.  He is always good for what ails me!
This is a pair of socks that I'm knitting to test another designer's pattern.  The design is called "Wild and Wooly" by Kathy Nehrenz.  The yarn was hand-dyed by Destination Yarns in Cleveland, Ohio, in the "Wooly Bear" colorway. A terrific design by Kathy and a lovely color in a very nice yarn.
Wooly bear caterpillars are used by folklorists to predict the severity of the coming winter.  The darker the caterpillar's fur, the harder and longer will be the winter.
I have only seen nearly-black ones this fall!

My chrysanthemums are glorious this year, especially considering that this is only their first year in the ground. You can see some of them there behind the socks.

The weather is gray, damp, and chilly, and is predicted to stay that way for a few days. 
Time to break out the sweaters and wool socks.
Soon we will have snow.

Some things in life are difficult to bear, and we don't know how we will get through them.  This has been a tough year, with the loss of my sister, my son's family troubles,  and the deaths of two of my dearest friends.
 It is good to have friends on whom we can lean.  I have leaned very, very hard on some of you this year, whether you have realized it or not, and I want you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I value you all, each and every one of you.

You have preserved me.
Thank you.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Stormy Skies
Some pictures from a passing storm a week ago.  It was quite impressive-looking and rolled in very fast.  These three images were snapped just moments apart.

The storm brought some thunder and lightning, but blew through almost as quickly as it came, leaving only a little rain behind.
By this time last year, we'd had our first snow.

The following was posted on Facebook:

I couldn't have said it better myself.

And now for something completely different:
It has been an extremely wet summer here,
resulting in odd and unusual fungi growth all over the yard,
the likes of which I have never before seen.

This Very Happy Fellow,
who was about ten inches tall, I kid you not, 
appeared just outside the back door:
I mowed him off...sorry, guys.
His friends came to avenge him and there is a small forest of these things out there now.
I'm a little bit afraid to go outside...