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!