Monday, January 29, 2018

Sock it to Me

The weathermen were just messing with us. 
It did warm up for a while and rained and rained and rained, but tonight we'll be back in the thirties(F)brrrr. 
So we're still doing winter knitting.

I learned to knit with Sr. Bridget in first grade. Yellow wool, tiny needles. Every stitch a tongue biting struggle. They were so tight they might as well have been glued to the needles. And when, mysteriously, my ten tight stitches took off on their own and grew to thirteen, and fifteen and nineteen tight stitches, I was sure I'd be in trouble.
Until I hit on a cunning plan.
If I knit two tight stitches together, almost biting my tongue off in the process, at each end of the needle for a few rows, I could get back to the legal limit and hope that Sr. Bridget wouldn't notice the bulging edges in the illegal part.
It made a very nice bonnet for my doll.

New adventures in the needle arts awaited in third grade. Knitting on four needles - 
But heartscald lay ahead. Getting the hang of stitches in the round wasn't bad, the problem lay in turning the heel. The rest of third grade is a blur.
Such childhood trauma sends you to the therapist's couch in adulthood so I obliterated it from my brain.

 But there was no getting away from knitting. It was all around me - my mother, my granny, my aunts, the neighbour ladies - were all avid knitters.  Every baby ever born got a hand knitted matinee jacket with matching booties and hat. My mum knit my navy cardigan for school and every other jumper I wore.  Woe betide the hapless child (me) who happened by as she embarked on a new project. Wool came in skeins which had to be wound into balls. I'd have to stand in front of mother's chair with both arms extended.  She'd drape a skein over my wrists and tell me to hold it taut while she wound it into a ball. But never fast enough for me, convinced as I was that one more minute of such torture and my arms would fall off. I'd eye the skeins still to be wound and groan. Begging for mercy didn't work. I was young and healthy and she assured me that this would build character.

Auntie Ita, on the other hand, made knitting fun. Not really our aunt but a friend of the family, I spent many afternoons at her house. She showed me how to knit fancy tea cozies and hot water bottle covers, perfect gifts for mums and grannies and aunts at Christmas. She also let me help her to knit teddy bears and other stuffed animals for childrens' charities. 

Little by little I came to love knitting especially when I could choose my own patterns and yarn.

The big breakthrough came when I decided to knit myself an Aran sweater.  Here's a close up of the pattern.

I think I was 18 when I knit it and I still have it all these years later. It is without a doubt the oldest piece of clothing I own.
All those honeycombs, cables and diamonds make Aran knitting much more interesting than just simple plain and purl. Because you can see the pattern forming, it also seems to go faster, and of course everyone thinks you are so clever for being able to do it! What they don't realise is that anyone who can knit plain and purl can make any of those complicated looking designs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, winter weather. 
A friend comes over one day and wants me to teach her how to knit. It's one thing to do it, quite another to teach it, but, with a little refresher course from Google, we're off to the races.
Scones and cups of tea are consumed, the problems of the world are, if not exactly solved, thoroughly discussed, and before we know it she has the basics down and is knitting up a storm. Would that I'd caught on that fast in first grade!

She comes another day to knit and, so that I'm not sitting idle while her needles fly, I go digging among the artifacts, knowing that if I dig deep enough, there's a sock project I abandoned several years ago that could be excavated and finished. And wouldn't I feel like the clever girl then!

And so it came to pass. I finished the sock. It's a little on the ginormous side since I'm a lazy knitter, and a loose one, never bothering to check my guage. It would be a better fit on Finn McCool but nothing daunted, I'm calling it a slouchy sock - you know, the ones that puddle around your ankles when you're wearing leggings? Yeah, those ones. The yarn is a heathery blend of greens and purples and it knit up quickly and I did feel like a very clever girl. I'll feel even more like one if I finish its partner, hopefully in a lot less time than the first. Because what use is one sock to anyone, with the possible exception of Long John Silver?

I'd better hurry though. The window for doing wintery things, like knitting, is closing fast.
Meanwhile Finn McCool is waiting for his second sock.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Cold Bare Boughs of Winter

It's Winter in Florida, something that hasn't happened in quite a few years. So many in fact that there are those among us who, in that string of mild winters where we never put our shorts and sandals away, foolishly donated much of our lingering winter clothing. 

Bare boughs of winter
This year such coats and jackets as escaped the purge are all out of mothballs. Sandals have been replaced by real shoes, sweaters are back in use, our necks are wrapped in scarves, out heads in woollen caps,our hands in gloves, and thank God for woollen leggings!

By the time I don enough layers to brave the outdoors I look like Johnny Forty Coats - tights and top, trousers, sweater, zip up fleece, mittens and scarf, all bundled up inside a lined winter jacket (dug out from the furthest reaches of the closet) and can hardly squeeze myself through the door.  Okay, I'm exaggerating, but only a little.

There's no sympathy from our north dwelling children. They laugh, they snort, they harden their hearts. 

We used to be tougher than this but years in the sun have diluted our blood and turned us into wimps. The house is warm but still at night I pile on the blankets, the wooly socks and my precious - the hot water bottle. In spite of all this, as long as I can keep my toes from freezing, we're happy to be getting a winter. It does break the monotony of endless sunshine (this is where the children stop snorting and start growling). It also probably bodes well for our blueberry patch which has not produced more than a handful of berries these last few years for want of at least a month of cold weather. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Before winter set in
December flew by with its pants on fire. It always does that, just to spite me 'cause it knows I'm never ready for the holidays but this year it was something different. Unscheduled adventures of the driving/automotive variety. Early in the month the OC was driving, not far from our house, when someone, who we can only surmise was blind in one eye and couldn't see out of the other, turned left into a side road right in front of him, completely failing to yield the right of way, crashing into the side of his car and sending him and themselves to the hospital. He was hurt but managed to climb out on the passenger side. His car was wrecked but he, by some miracle, when I reached the scene, was walking around, spitting nails and refusing to climb on a stretcher until I was there to transfer everything from the remains of his car into mine. An automated system built into his car had called the fire and rescue service and he had called me. That was a nerve wracking five minute trip.

  No bones were broken and he got out alive but, instead of the usual holiday preparations, we embarked on a dizzying round of two nights in the hospital with hourly pokings for blood, tests, scans, MRIs,  visits to doctors, chiropractor appointments, phone tag with insurance companies and sadness at losing his all-time favourite car. 

 But we're so glad he's alive to suffer through all that. How close he came to not being was scary.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How was your Christmas? Ours was quiet. No crowds of returning swallows and chicks, just a quiet day, dinner with our friendly neighbours and phone calls with those far flung chicks. Are we really half way through the first month of the year already?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Breaking news: Winter, when she comes at all to Florida, does not linger long. Usually just until we re-accustom ourselves to real shoes, layers of warm clothes and piles of blankets. Now that we've got it down
the weathermen say it's about to warm up! Go figure. There'll be no complaints from here about the heat for a long while, no matter how hot it gets!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Wishes

Wishing all my bloggy friends Peace, Love and Serenity this Christmas.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Seeing Stars

It almost has the sanctity of a tradition. Each year, in January, I promise myself that, this year, I'll make a big dent in the pile of half-made quilting projects. The clock is ticking louder these days and there's more sand in the bottom of the hourglass than in the top...and I shudder to think of the fate of my beloved UFOs in the event of my kicking the bucket too soon. Unceremonious transportation to the nearest charity shop? My bones rattle at the thought.

It lasts a month, two in a good year. Then I get sidetracked by life, books and other such distractions and, God help me, actually add a few to the pile because babies will be born without first enquiring if their timing fits with my quilting schedule. Because when a baby is born in the family I make a quilt. That's just the reality of it. Those babies are often toddling around by the time they get their quilt but, eventually they do. And usually before they leave for university.

2017 was a good year. Finished two on the list in two months and then pfft! The next nine months flew by and suddenly it was Thanksgiving. 

That's a Christmas tree skirt up there made for our firstborn many decades ago. She had mentioned that she wished it was bigger. "No problem," I blithely said. That was a year ago, almost. And here I am, panicking in November when I could have been chipping away at it slowly and calmly throughout the year. But where's the adrenaline rush in that?

 I started making stars. By chain piecing, components for eight stars were done in a blink.

Look at that sweet four patch in the seams on the back. No one will ever see it, but still it made me smile!

I figured 8 should be enough. Ohio Star is such an easy pattern (take note Pam!)
and so pretty, I was elated at my cleverness, even standing in mute admiration of this for at least 30 seconds....

before a snarky voice in my head broke my reverie with "Hey Genius! You'll be waiting light years to see a star like that in the heavens!" 

What? I blinked. I groaned. I muttered furiously under my breath. I ripped. I re-sewed. 
One - star - at - a - time. 
If I was having such difficulties aligning star points, better not to compound the problem by chain piecing, an advantage only if done right.

It soon became apparent that eight stars would not a satisfactory firmament make, wider circumference and all.... I was loathe to tackle more stars after the pitfalls I had encountered. Maybe I could make something different, an easier, quicker block like Churn Dash. A nod is as good as a wink but 
 eight churn dashes later I knew it would have been better to stick with stars. No turning back now though. It was December already.

The original pattern long gone, I was flying by the seat of my britches.

 And my head was starting to hurt.

I can do quilts. But round quilts? Without a pattern? Maybe not. A lesson in humility.  

"You can do it!" the OC encouraged, simultaneously shaking his head at how I constantly get up to my neck in hot water. I soldiered doggedly on.

And then life interrupted. Spur of the moment plans to go north to keep sister-in-law company while she recovers from surgery.

A little bit of hand wringing, then soothing words from Daughter who knows me too well (the shame of it!) and wasn't expecting to see her tree skirt this year anyway, maybe not even in this lifetime.

(Now I have to be better next year.)

Here's a peek before I fold it all up.

 It'll be at the top of the UFO list for 2018.
Feel free to yell at me month by month to make sure it makes it off the list by next December.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


It rained today. 
All day. 
Mother Nature humoring those who still can't get their heads around Thanksgiving by the pool. Normally I would not be writing today. I'd be juggling the mashed potatoes, the creamed spinach, the stuffing, the gravy, the cole slaw, the sweet potato casserole, the orange-cranberry sauce and the pies, timing everything to be ready at the same time, while the OC performed grill magic on the turkey in the sunshine. 

But today  - no sunshine, no children, no grandchildren, no neighbors or friends, just us two. So we made a daring decision - eat out. First time in 47 years. I hope my mother-in-law was not watching from up there. She'd surely think I was sinking to new depths. 

We did make pies though. You gotta have pies - Sweet Potato and Bourbon Pecan. 
I don't think we'll make a habit of it. I can still hope for a few Thanksgivings, before the jig is up, where we might, by some miracle, have all our children and grandchildren around the table once more. 


Overheard at the library recently...

"How are you?" said she.

"Grateful," said he.

I stopped in my tracks.  Most of us are not looking for a full organ recital when we ask that question, but what a better answer than the usual "Fine thanks," or "Great thanks, or "Been better," or "So-so."
I think I'll adopt it.
 I don't always remember to be grateful. So much easier to have a little moan.
And there's a lot of moaning going around in recent months.
This was a one-word reminder that there is as much to be thankful for as there is to moan about.
Accentuate the positive.
Count our blessings

Want to know how I am today?


 Thanks for asking.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Next Stop - Everest

  Today's photograph is from Mt. Hood, Oregon where I recently visited Youngest Son and - are you ready?

Got high. 

Really high.

Calm down now.

Not that kind of high.

One Sunday we hiked the trail around Trillium Lake which has a wonderful view of Mt. Hood. It was a beautiful day, blue skies, puffy white clouds, high fifties/low sixties - so delicious we went back on Monday when it was more peaceful, no crowds, no shouting children to shatter the stillness or scatter the fish.

Mt. Hood from Lake Trillium

My plan was to take photos, his to catch fish. He settled on the shore and cast his line. I sat on a nearby rock and watched a while. An eagle swooped down with a loud splash mid-lake, soared up again, then flew towards us. Maybe he'd drop his fish on us? No fish were biting and we agreed that an eagle dropping a trout on his head might be my fisherman's best chance of catching one.

It was cloudier than it had been on Sunday, but still delicious. However, after half an hour of sitting I was in danger of turning to stone so up I got to move around, stamp my feet and warm up. I'd make a terrible fisherman.

I spotted another trail leading off into the woods and decided to explore. YS, ever hopeful, stayed on the shore. The trail was wide and cushioned with pine needles, greenery all around, some already glowing red and gold.

After parallelling the lake for a bit, it turned away from shore, heading steeply upward.

 I think I may be descended from forest-dwelling gnomes as walking in the woods always blisses me out. My earliest memory of anything similar was the haggard behind my granny's house. I remember, as a little girl, collecting kipeens (little sticks) for kindling among those trees with her.

The woods at Cratloe were another favourite childhood haunt. I loved it so much we got married in the tiny chapel there. The Little Blister still goes there to run (in the woods, not the chapel) She claims it feels more like church to her than church.

Our California Girl lives in Redwood country, the silence in those ancient groves so hushed and reverent the loudest sound is that of a pine needle drifting to earth.

And where YS lives are more woods with more plush, piney carpet underfoot and a cathedral-like hush.

So there I was, getting high in Oregon.
It must be in the DNA.

The trail was seriously steep now, up and up, away from the lake, turning back on itself in a series of esses, taking me ever higher. In school, in Irish language class, we had a story once about how a donkey, not considered the brainiest of animals, nevertheless had a clever way of climbing a steep path - not by going straight up but by zigzagging from one side to the other. I have used that information often since those long ago schooldays. The Mag would be gratified that it made such a lasting impression, but also puzzled that I remember nothing else from that story.
Zig zagging my way upwards I became aware of a humming sound. Traffic? Impossible. Then I realized it was the sound of my ears preparing to explode.

At each new bend I told myself  'Just to this bend, then, if there's an amazing view, I'll turn back.' Kind of like reading a good book where you keep turning just one more page. I wasn't yet high enough for the amazing views, just more trees, crowding in on all sides, more steep trail ahead and air that was thinner by the minute. On I went, up and up. No strolling now. When I heard the sound of pounding I stopped again to listen. It was only my heart.

By now I was channelling Cheryl Strayed, having recently loved 'Wild,' her account of hiking 3000 miles, skyhigh, on the Pacific Coast Trail, alone. Parts of that trail are there in the Mt Hood National Forest. And yes, it did occur to me that traipsing off up a strange mountain, alone, might not be the smartest thing I'd ever done but, I rationalized, anyone willing to climb this high surely has loftier motives - the beauty, the peace, the views and the exercise - than assaulting daft old ladies.

 Upwards and onwards, totally focused, huffing and puffing, just being there, on the trail, no worries, no past, no future, just now, the path before me, the trees all around.

An hour into my hike, just when I thought I might actually reach the summit, my cell phone buzzed. It was "Where are you?" a peevish voice asked. He's ready to leave, fishless, dispirited, and I'm an hour above him. If only I had wings I could jump off the trail's edge and land beside him in a matter of seconds.
But no wings, not even a parachute, only Shank's mare.

I gaze longingly at the next bend in the trail. Who knows what heights I might reach if left to myself ? But common sense (I do have a little), and the YS persuade me to turn around

 In my next life, I plot, on the downward march, I'll be a serious hiker - stout boots, rucksack, flashlight, water, camping gear, maps, a plan - all the things I don't have now. High above the madding crowds I'll breathe pure, ferny air, eyeball to eyeball with the tops of the tallest trees, looking down on ribbony roads and rivers and shining mirror lakes - taking amazing pictures. I'll have a small cabin there with '"clay and wattles made" a wood burning stove and a neat stack of wood by the door. I think the OC could be talked into joining me. Someone would have to chop the wood (not me!) and someone would have to cook (not him!)
We could leave the aggravations of the world below. Family and friends would be welcome to visit as long as they were willing to climb and leave their 'devices' at home. But, come to think of it, the latter might be a deal breaker for the OC. Hmm. Some compromises might be necessary.

Meanwhile my phone is buzzing again. I walk faster, surprised at the mountain-goat nimbleness of my knees, down down down, snapping quick photos of a flower here or a leaf there, almost falling face first into a soggy ditch in my eagerness.

  The world down below forgotten, this is my reality for now.
High as a kite on  firs and ferns and fantasy.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

A New Approach

November always gets me remembering my early days of blogging. Especially NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) and how, for a couple of years in a row, I actually did it - a blog post every day throughout November. And now some lazy, uninspired person has crawled into that space I used to occupy. A person who can't seem to manage one blog post per month, never mind every day.

I drove to the doctor's this week and all the way there (an hour) I wrote the most scintillating blog posts - in my head. They frown on people writing while they drive almost as much as they frown on people driving while inebriated so, of course, by the time I got home again, all my brilliance had evaporated.

I started blogging, more than ten years ago, as a way to practice writing. You know what they say - you've got to be disciplined and do it every day, not just when the spirit moves you. Because the spirit is fickle and can't be depended upon to show up. Back when there was still a lot going on in my life I was more disciplined. A busy life and a houseful of children provides plenty of writing marterial even the aggravating parts. Not Pulitzer stuff by any stretch but at least words to paper, at least some action. Now, with that houseful all grown and flown, life is busy in a different way, filled with the things we didn't have time for way back then.

My lightbulb moment came on my drive to the doc. As well as loving to write, I love taking photographs. Why not pick a photo from my overflowing and constantly added to collection and write about it, maybe not a post a day but perhaps one per week? 

Sounds like a plan.

Watch this space.

Note: This photo doesn't have much of a strory. It merely provides a little of what passes, in Florida, for Fall color.