Friday, March 30, 2012

Hello again, hello...
I had some trouble with Blogger last week and have been reluctant to make any new posts.  I wrote a really good post that just disappeared.  The glitch seems to be fixed so here goes.
I lead a fairly quiet life, and worry that I write too much here about weather and grandchildren and plants and flowers and knitting knitting knitting, so I took a few days off.  I was informed, however, that people worry about me when I don't blog often enough and I don't want to worry people so here's some miscellaneous stuff, beginning with some views from my back yard.
Clear, cold water in the little stream
Marsh marigolds, usually the earliest flower in the yard

The tulips and daffodils Robby and I planted two years ago are multiplying!
More marsh marigolds...because yellow really is the best color!

Pretty tulip in full bloom and the beginnings of the next variety

Bradford pear

New twigs showing the red color of spring

More pretty tulips

and now for the boring knitting stuff...non-knitters can feel free to skip this part. There is nothing to interest you here!
This little tool is the epitome of knitting awesomeness.  It was a Christmas gift from my husband.  Called "The Knit Kit," it is an airplane-friendly assemblage of nearly every tool a knitter might need, and it is just about the size of my hand.
^ On this side there is a spring-loaded tape measure, stitch/row counter, thread cutter and double-ended crochet hook.

On this side there is a little compartment that holds a tiny pair of folding scissors, needle point protectors, stitch markers and darning needles for sewing up the finished project.
It traveled with me to Europe and back in February. I SO wanted someone from the T.S.A. to question me about it, but no one even noticed it.

I had absolutely no trouble at all with my knitting on any of my flights to and from Europe. That's a very, very good thing, as I find it nearly impossible to sleep on an airplane and must have something to keep me busy while in flight.

and I close with this: 
I love this song. It breaks my heart a little, every single time I hear it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The small pond

 Pictures from my neighborhood
This early spring is amazing!  I barely feel as if I had a winter this year.  The silence of a snow-blanketed world has given way to the peeping of frogs and the songs of the various birds that summer here.  Today I have tulips and daffodils blooming, the forsythia bush is just beginning to turn bright yellow and the marsh marigolds are covered in yellow-green buds.  Robby came to spend a couple of hours with us, and we explored the marsh and stream.  He lay on the little bridge to look for fish and frogs, threw sticks in the stream, examined buds and flowers, and knelt on the banks to watch the waterbugs swim.  He was quite satisfactorily muddied by the time we finished!

 One of my high school friends stopped by last evening when he was out for a ride.  It was the first time he'd been to see our place, so we took him on a little walk.
Millrace runoff
There is an old water-powered mill on our neighbors' property.  The millpond is still there, as are the ruins of some of the old buildings, although the mill itself no longer operates.  My house was part of the mill complex when it was built in the 1840s.

The old brick power generating building

Two brothers own the property holding the millpond and most of the old buildings, and they have designated it as a wildlife preserve.  They open the millpond on Sundays for boating and fishing.
A millrace
There are interesting things to see around every corner.
Rick and Rich inspect the millstream

It's a good thing to rediscover and spend time with old friends. Rick, I'm glad that you stopped by! I hope you'll be a regular visitor here.

Finished Mystery Socks

Knitting, of course. I began this pair several years ago, decided that I was unhappy with the color, and abandoned them.  The ball band has been lost, so I don't know what yarn I used.  The pattern was of my own devising, just a basic 6x3 rib, with garter-stitch-edged EOP heel flap and French heel.   

Another pair is nearly ready for its heelflaps.  I sat in the sun for a bit yesterday and helps keep me relatively sane! :) 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring toes
  Yeah, baby...
See that? That's early spring at SunnyBrook!  Freakishly warm weather this past week has brought out bare toes and fresh red polish.
The spring flowers I've planted since we bought this house are really beginning to come into their own, multiplying and filling the lawn and flower beds.

Purple crocuses

The crocuses are blooming.  The forsythia is budding, lilies, tulips, and daffodils are up, and the grass is green.  On my way to work this week, I passed under trees that were preparing to unfurl their leaves, and the road was carpeted with red leaf-bud casings. 

Yellow crocuses

This is such a pretty time of year, and it comes JUST in time, in the course of a normal year. This year, though, we have had a very mild winter, and spring just seems to be so very early.  I am quite certain that we are not entirely finished with winter yet, but this is a welcome respite.

Petticoats and crocuses

There has, of course, been knitting.  I knit more when I feel stressed and apparently I have been a bit tense lately...I guess I'm still recovering from my vacation and have been very busy getting the store ready for our tourist season to begin in Shipshewana.

One more finished pair of socks here, the ones I began in Germany.  Opal yarn, from the old Petticoat collection, very pretty!  Basic vanilla rib with EOP flap and Dutch heel, of course. 

I've been trying, as well, to complete some socks that have been languishing in the UFO baskets, and there is a pair finished and drying on the blockers, and another pair finished to about four inches down the leg.
I have nothing profound to say today, just enjoying the spring weather, missing friends, reliving my recent trip to Europe, looking forward to a good year.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Happy feet!
 Finished socks and let's skate!
Sock Madness Forever "Dicey"

(or, what I'm listening to now...)

I finished these late last evening.  Love them!

I can hardly wait to see what the next round brings. They're calling for semi-solid or solid yarn and 90 small glass beads. Time to go stash-diving.

So, I found a CD in my car. I'm not sure how it came to be there, as I usually don't buy Sting's music.  It's not that I don't like his work: I love it, but I just never think to buy it.  It's an old CD, "Brand New Day," and it's what I'm listening to now.

There are a couple of tracks I don't care for, one or two that are ok, but several that I love.  This particular one makes me want to lace up my roller skates and dance!  Breathtaking rhythm section, soaring melody, beautiful harmonies, the Arabic flavor and the ululation of the voices...

Yes, I'm a skate geek! I spent all of my growing-up years on roller skates, and it's the only way I know how to dance.  Without my skates, I can move everything but my feet.

This one is good, too:

:) but not for skating...

Friday, March 09, 2012

Back to 'normal'...
and so I have now been home from Europe for two weeks.  I began to notice around the middle of my first week home that I was no longer feeling moody, sleep-deprived and jet-lagged.  My sense of humor was returning, and I was much less emotional. I had begun to lose the ten or more pounds of fluff that I gained through the long flights to and from.  I looked into my mirror and recognized my face and hair. :)  My knees didn't ache any more, and the altitude of the Alps wasn't affecting my breathing.  I guess I'm getting back to 'normal', whatever that is.  I wouldn't have believed that I could be so affected by travel as I was on this trip.  I guess I'm just not getting any younger.

What a wonderful experience I had!  There is so much more that I'd like to write about the countries and the people, but I just cannot find the words to convey my feelings about much of the trip.  I am forever changed by my visit to Europe, as any experience will change us, and forever grateful to my friend for making it possible... I only hope that I was at least half as good a guest as she was a host.

There has been fiber therapy to help with the readjustment.  I've begun a new pair of socks for one of my groups on Ravelry.  The group is "Sock Madness Forever".  There will be a series of challenges issued via sock-knitting patterns for the duration of "Sock Madness 6" or "SM6" as it's known in the group.  The first is well underway now: a toe-up pattern with cables with a special twist...a random method is used to determine when each cable is knit, making for a very interesting pair of socks!

Toe-up is not my usual choice, but it does have its advantages.  The heel is much different from my usual heel flap and Dutch or French heel-turn, and I've never had much luck with this technique, but I'm ready to try it again now.  The group is very helpful, even offering kilt-clad cabana boys with endless supplies of chocolate to make the trials easier.
(yes, I assume that the cabana boys are mostly imaginary, but it doesn't hurt to hope)
As of this evening, I am about two inches up the legs and have several more inches to go.  I have one more week to finish this pair. If I'm successful, I'll be assigned to a team of knitters for the next trial.  If I am unsuccessful, I will still have access to the patterns for the group, but will be ineligible for the prizes.

I finished a pair of socks on the trip:

Blockhead pattern in an old Opal Rodeo color

and started another pair:
Basic ribbed socks in Opal Petticoat
 I finished this pair for my husband in January:
Another Opal, I think this one was one of their test-dyed skeins
I suspect that I will be doing a lot of knitting with Opal yarns in the future!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

 More from Tutto: the Opal Factory
...for my yarn-addicted friends!

Here are more pictures from our visit to the Opal yarn factory and shop in Hechingen, Germany.
I've discovered through my email correspondence with Henrike Zwerger that Felix, our factory tour guide, is her brother, her mother is the lovely storybook lady who helped us in  the factory store, and her father, Wolfgang Zwerger, and other brother, Frederik Zwerger, are the two faces that appear on Opal yarn ball bands.  Tutto is a small, family-run organization, and they make my favorite sock yarn. Here are pictures from inside the factory:

This machine converted the yarn from hanks to cones, and has a special attachment on certain sections for waxing yarn to be used directly from the cones by machine-knitters.

This machine is the 'steamer'.  It's purpose, according to Felix, is to help the yarn 'relax'. : D  just like a sauna does for us.  The yarn comes from the cones and is wound into spirals on a continuously-moving conveyer belt that takes the spirals of yarn through a steam bath.  I suspect the steam also helps to make the dyes colorfast and set the twist.
From this machine, the spirals of yarn are laid onto the the big 'cake' spools that I showed in the picture of me with Felix. 
From the cakes, the yarn is taken into the machine that winds it into balls and applies the ball band. A worker inspects every ball band, makes sure the adhesive is applied correctly so that the band won't come off, and packs the finished balls into clear plastic bags. You can see the balling machine behind us here.

In the factory store, here is the Vincent van Gogh collection.  Michelle and I both bought yarn from this group...I only wish I'd bought more of these lovely colors!

A view of a small part of the factory store. It was truly a sock knitter's heaven in this room!  Opal sock yarns as low as 19.90 euro for a bag of six balls of Unicolor (around $26.50 American) and individual balls for as little as 3.99 euro!

The contents of the Big Bag O Yarn that Felix gave me.  There is every imaginable color of sock yarn here.  The pile you see stretches nearly all the way from one end to the other of my extra-long twin-sized bed at Michelle's apartment.  The ball of black-and-white yarn at the left of the picture measures about five inches across, for reference. 
I used the packing skills I've learned as a motorcycle traveler to pack for my trip, and came to Germany with just one carry-on bag that fit in the overhead compartment, and one tote bag for my purse and knitting, an extra sweater, a book to read (Teacher Man by Frank McCourt), my laptop computer, and various and sundry small items that wouldn't fit in the carry-on.  Michelle was amazed that I came to Europe for two weeks with only one small bag and a tote.  I was able to use Michelle's washer and dryer, and never had to have more clothes than I needed for up to five days.  I left all my  regular toiletries and hair-care tools at home, which meant that my hair was pretty much a total mess for the entire trip, though.
This meant that I could borrow a large suitcase from Michelle that I was able to check in for free on my flight home (the first checked bag is free on Delta).  I packed the contents of the Big Bag O Yarn into two vacuum bags, and placed them in the suitcase, so no charge to ship the mess back to the USA!  I carried one gallon-sized zip-top bag with me on the flight, filled with all one color of yarn, and spent most of the flight home untangling it and winding it into balls.

Here are the contents of the Big Bag O Yarn sorted by color and weight on the floor at home.  The pile on the right, resting on the red plastic bag, is all six-ply, or roughly DK-weight yarn, and all the rest is fingering-weight, or sock yarn.

And here is all the yarn, bagged and ready to be untangled and wound, and knit into socks and mitts and all manner of fibery goodness.
Much of this will end up as MonsterSocks and MonsterMitts.  There is no way possible that one could knit exactly-matching socks or mitts from this, as the lengths are uneven and many.

These are the full balls and hanks that Michelle and I bought at the factory store.  The three balls at top left are hers, and I'll use them to knit socks for the BEST friend EVER!
The lovely Frau Zwerger gave each of us a mini-skein of Opal with our purchases.  I think I'll use them to knit tiny sock ornaments for Michelle's and my Christmas trees.

Friday, March 02, 2012


If you should come and lie with me
and kiss my eyes and stroke my hair
and rest your hand against my cheek
and let me feel its warmth and strength
and hold it still as I then turn my face and kiss your palm,
If you should do these things and look into my eyes
and whisper words so sweet into my listening ear
and promise me the moon and sun and stars and all the oceans' bounty,
and feed me apples, sliced and moist and honeyed drinks to slake my thirst,
If you should bring to me a crown or precious stones or heavy gold
or keys to vast and hallowed halls or lands uncounted,
fields of grain or music written by your hand,
I could not care for you more then than I do at this moment,
for all you are to me is more than words
or sights or kisses soft and sweet
or sun or moon or sandy shore
and more of life than food or drink or promises of wealth or jewelled treasures rare.

So, bring me curious shells and pebbles smooth
and robins' eggs and yellow flowers
hold me close and lie with me
and kiss my eyes and stroke my hair and rest your hand against my cheek
and dance a little dance,
For after all, that's all I'll ever need.  
R.J.Y. 3-2-2012