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Friday, March 25, 2011

It's Friday Friday Friday!

And it's March 25. But would you believe it? All the weather stations are calling for snow on Sunday! Last time we had a wacko snowstorm it was in April 2007. Odd that I don't remember it, since I know I wasn't in a coma then, or basking on the Riviera. But here is proof from the old blog!   I am glad I didn't plan on doing anything this weekend beyond knitting like a mad knitting fiend to finish that baby tomten sweater.

Yesterday paid a visit to TheParents - always a very long day. Dad is transitioning into a new phase of old age and he's fighting it with every bratty toddler technique he can remember. Because it's the tail end of his life, I'm a little more tender than I probably would be with someone who had a lot of future up ahead. So for 2 hours, as he tried different ways of refusing to cooperate I just nodded and said "then we'll stay right here and take the dog for a walk.". In the end he got a little tenderness but no indulgence. and I left early enough to spend quality time with Mama, for whom I have a greater affinity anyway, and who has just enough dementia that she forgets to be an invalid and has had her healthiest winter in 25 years. I have to remember to not let Daddy suck up all my energy and time because she really deserves both and she's also more fun to be with.

I took the Picasso catalog - the expensive purchased one - we picked up at the museum last Sunday and she and I went over the whole book. She's the person who taught me to see modern art with some discernment and even pleasure. Her ability to see the world through different lenses is still, at 88, mind boggling. We had such a good time and spent an hour and a half pouring over a 20th century retrospective. It was fabulous.

And now it's Friday. Friday Friday Friday Friday Friday! and while I am not wishing my life away - I can't wait till it's  6 o'clock.    6 o'clock! 6 o'clock! 6 o'clock! 6 o'clock! 6 o'clock!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oh Baby

Baby knitting, that is. For I have set aside my What's the Point scarf to do some extreme knitting on an EZ Tomten jacket. The baby shower is the first Sunday in April - a day that seemed so far off when the invitation came, I thought I had plenty of time to whip up a little baby thing. Suddenly, March is almost gone!

I've always wanted to make one of these cute sweaters but had no children to knit for - and knitting garter stitch garments for big folk is just entirely too slow. The compressed row gauge means miles more knitting than the same size garment in stockinette. I thought I'd never finish that surprise sweater I knit for myself 2 winters ago. In spite of my process knitting personality, I do, eventually, like to come to completion.

Happily, this year several babies are coming into my life - none of them my own grandbaby - but great nieces/nephews and dear neighbors, all close enough for me to make the effort with hand knits. This particular baby garment is for a known gender - a little girl who will grace us this summer, so I don't mind knitting something a tad bigger ... no baby needs a sweater in our Virginia summers. She can wear this when the cool weather comes again. Here it is with the purl bumps showing. I hope I can piece it so that it can be worn either side out - maybe I'll even be able to put the sleeves in so the purl bumps show on the smooth striped body while the smooth striped sleeves will be on the purl bumpped body. We shall have to see. The yarn is acrylic, of course. I enjoy hand-washing my own wool garments but I wouldn't put such a burden on someone else - especially not a new mom.

Of course, my second shipment of Spirit Trail club yarn got here this week too - so there is much knitting madness to take place at TheCastle. Yes. I do know what I'm going to do with it, but the concept is buried in the brain - not out on paper yet. Definitely not a shawl or scarf. Something to look forward to sharing when I am ready.

Off today to visit the folks. Ta.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Art you creative?

Rhetorical question pun. I did the cultured thing yesterday, with BD - we drove to Richmond to see the Picasso exhibit. I must set out at the beginning that I am a lukewarm Picasso fan.  I remember my mother explaining why cubism was something worth looking at and what in the world people were trying to do with deconstructionism. Intellectually I could 'get the point'. I had no trouble, even at 11, saying "well. Aren't they clever". But.

But most abstract art, reconstructed art, even surrealistic art, leaves me unmoved. With Picasso, where my heartbeat can thump away is when looking at his black line drawings on white or cream background.  These, no matter what style he's working in, simply thrill me. This technique, more than anything else he does, expresses the vividness of his mind and his mastery over his medium. (btw - this drawing was not in the exhibit)  

With almost nothing at all, just the fewest of lines, he captured and shared all that he saw colored by all the ways he thought. These are people I might want to be. This is drawing I wish I could do. Here, the artist connects with me in a pulsing bond that I carry away like I'd take a melody from a concert. I could pour over these for hours and at the exhibit, I did stand longest in front of his simple drawings and paintings.

So much else of his work is a one look experience for me. Once I'd seen one woman with her nose sticking off of her cheek, I'd seen pretty much all I needed to, and I can assure you - I have NO desire to become her - to step into the painting. I don't care for his color choices. I could see the fun he was having in his stone sculptures but the metal statuary merely looked like cartoon characters. In fact, because this particular exhibit, from the Musee National Picasso in Paris that houses his personal collection, is such a thorough retrospective of his work, you can really see, not just the passage of the century he reflected, but also the impact he had on our vision of art, even of the world, today.  Lots of anime, video game, sci-fi and comic book art obviously grew out of Picasso's images. Transformers are surely cubist monsters stepping out from behind the canvases of post WWI France.

This tepid review of the exhibit is highly colored by my personal reaction to 20th century art. As for the exhibit experience - oh my! I am so glad I went. Truly, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Like listening to a symphony in the concert hall vs. a recorded rendition - no matter how perfect the recording, it's not the same - it's not as good. It doesn't have the impact that seeing the real thing hanging in front of you does. Breathtaking - that's the way the original piece strikes the viewer and now and then, it's how the actual art work struck me yesterday.

And besides - I got to knit all the way over and back. Almost half way through my What's the Point scarf. Happy Monday. An enormous thunderstorm with lightening is rolling in. Better log off now. Ta.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Photographic proof?

  Well. I know there is the misty green - but it doesn't show up that well in the photograph. But trust me - the tree to the right of that bulge of ground ... with dark pine trees to the right of them .... is just leafing out. Of course, this is a very familiar bit of land so I can also tell which pale dot is actually the first of the daffodils.

 Here are a few of them close up

And some crocus - which did not fall prey to the moles&voles.

Oh - and for the curious - the roast pork was perfection. The peach sauce was the exact compliment even if I did forget to put the mustard in it at the last minute. I think it would have been even better but since the dish was new to me, I never really missed it.

I cooked the dinner, my guests brought desert, which was individual chocolate cheesecakes - to die for. Pant. Swoon.
So the rest of today will be knitting and a trip to the city to see the Picasso exhibit and lots of fresh fruit and salad. After a feast like last night - a day of eating light will do me quite well.

And then it's Monday again. Whew. I need to lasso the clock and slow things down a bit!  Happy Sunday to you!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's officially Springtime at TheCastle

And I'll have to go take a photograph to prove it. My bellwether poplar tree is misty green. It is officially springtime. I have mentioned in previous blogs, this harbinger tree - tucked in a south facing rim of the forest that marks the last turn of my lane - right where the daffodils begin. No matter the date, the temperatures, the clear skies or gentle showers, when that tree turns from grey to pale green, it is Springtime at TheCastle. Yesterday's 80 degree temperatures, following several wonderful rainstorms over the past weeks, squeezed those tiny leaf tips open, to greet me with this joyful seasonal flip as I drove home ... with car windows open.

I'm not exactly ready for spring - I'm slightly weepy at the thought of no more closed in winter days of coldness and snow - days when nothing more is expected of me beyond a nap and some knitting by the window - even while I'm so very glad it's not cold any more. What can I say. I'm human and that means I'm full of contradictions. In the end, I'm always glad I live where there are 4 distinct seasons and spring & fall are my favorites. If I were in charge of the world we would have January, then April, then May, May, May, then 2 weeks of hot summer - good for swimming, then it would be September then October, October, October, November and December. I actually like the fall best because:
     1. my birthday comes then
     2. It's such a relief after the brutal summer heat  and
     3. there are so many holidays in the autumn

But Springtime is a glorious season in Virginia even if I do still long for a little more time to eat comfort foods and not worry about arm flap and short sleeves.

This particular springtime Saturday involves all the usual Saturday chores - scrubbing away at my house so that you can't absolutely tell I live in the country with dogs (and guys), washing accumulated laundry, plus a mad dash back to town to pick up something I left at work. It also includes wonderful company and a company dinner and true to TheQueenly self, I am trying out a new recipe on my unsuspecting guests.

A few weeks ago a library patron brought me a stack of last year's Cooks Illustrated magazine. I've seen this magazine in stores for years but since I am an old cook with my own style of doing things, I have never picked it up. So, while this may be old hat to many - it's a fresh new look at food for TheQueen. And wow! What a fresh new look. I cooked several recipes from the magazines and all of them were better than my own versions of pot roast, breaded pork chops and beef stroganoff.

When I gushed my effusive thanks to the library patron donor she invited me to her house to watch the show Americas Test Kitchen and again I was bowled over. The recipe that day was for slow cooked pork shoulder with peach sauce. I've been drooling over the thought of this dish for weeks now and, as pork roast is one of BD's favorites, I'm sure it's going to be a hit. And I've cooked enough of the test kitchen folks' recipes to have confidence that this will turn out well - and ... I would never ever cook that much meat for just the two of us. Poor cousins will just have to be our taste testers tonight as I haul out the roasting pan and v-rack.

So. I will report back tomorrow. In the mean time I believe I shall go start to make TheCastle sparkle. Ta.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sliding into Friday

It's been a week and a half of busy-ness since I last posted. Circulation at the library this week has been almost double any week of the past 2 months. New folk coming in wanting to explore, familiar faces with greater needs than usual. School projects. Job applications. Spring semester on-line courses. Whew. We've been swamped.

And then. I'm knitting a blue scarf. It's a gorgeous blue yarn, an interesting pattern, but ... it's just ... More Blue Stitches in German Herringbone Pattern. Not much to see, actually. Each pattern repeat makes about an inch of scarf. I've done 18. That's about 25%. Maybe if I achieve super-lightening speed this weekend I can finish another 25% but maybe not.

I have company coming on Saturday and in true TheQueen's style, I'm cooking a dish I've never made before. I don't know why I do this to people - but I'm always so inspired at the thought of cooking for Someone New, I can't bear to cook my same old same old.

And if I can get a ticket, I want to go here on Sunday:

to see this:

Monday, March 14, 2011

What's the Point Scarf

Here are some progress shots of my What's the Point scarf. One shows the front of the German Herringbone Rib and one shows its equally lovely backside. Lyra is a good springy wool yarn and of course, this bit of knitting is unblocked. When I smooth out the backside it's not quite as pretty a stitch, so if I were intending to have that as the front I'd be very careful how I blocked the yarn. But still - I always love it when a stitch pattern looks good from both sides.

And now - here it is - Monday again. March Monday. Monday Monday Monday. May all of us Virgos have a Lucky Week as Mercury snuggles up with Jupiter.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spirit Trail Fiberworks Yarn of the Month Club Project 1

In spite of the monumental stash that is stored, bagged, tucked, boxed, scattered and hidden in my house, I succumbed to the Lorelei temptation of J's yarn club this year. You may have been strong enough to resist this tempting list, but I, who had just visited her and seen the previous year's samples, could not:

March 1: One skein of "Lyra" (50% Alpaca, 30% Merino, 25% Bombyx Silk Light Worsted), 226g,
approx. 500 yards
April 1: One skein of "Orihime" (80% Merino, 20% Cashmere Fingering),100g, approx. 430 yards
May 1: One skein of "Elysium" (4 Ply 100% Cashmere DK Weight), 56g, approx. 200 yards
June 1: Two skeins of "Neith" (55% Bombyx Silk, 45% Cashmere DK), 55g, approx. 200 yards per skein
July 1: Two skeins of "Sunna" (70% Merino, 20% Cashmere, 10% Bombyx Silk Fingering), 115g, approx. 356 yards per skein
August1: One skein of "Nona" (50% Merino, 25% Cashmere, 25% Bombyx Silk Heavy Laceweight), 115g, approx. 630 yards

I made some rules for myself when I committed to More Yarn Entering TheCastle. First, the yarn has to be cast-on within 2 months of receiving it. Second, all of this yarn must be knit up by January 1, 2012. This may be a push since there's a good bit of fine, small yarn in the collection. But they all come in manageable sized skeins - accessory sized amounts. Also - I want to be true to the yarn. This is high quality stuff - I should honor it by using it. 
photo courtesy of the
Barbara Walker Treasury Project

So. The first shipment came 3 weeks ago, while I was finishing up the HCJ. It's the most heavenly blue and it's almost a solid, with subtle variations that, even when indoors, make it look like sunlight might be teasing out little harmonic colors. As usual when I have a new yarn with no specific project in mind, I began flipping through Barbara Walker and right away my Second Treasury opened up to a stitch pattern I have come back to time and again. The German Herringbone Rib. I really respond to this pattern and oddly enough, have always thought of making it up into a scarf.

Of course, that's only odd because I almost never make scarves. They don't seem like real projects to me. Also. I don't wear them. But Other People do wear them, and since I won't be keeping this project anyway - I look like I have jaundice when I wear blue - a scarf in this yarn will make a fabulous gift. I'll knit it in 2 halves so that both ends have that lovely pointed edge and weave them together in the middle. The stitch pattern is a true rib - with enough Ks and Ps that it doesn't curl on either the sides or the pointed end. Best of all - it's the sort of 6 row pattern that's easy to memorize, even easier to 'read', and yet interesting enough to keep you knitting just one more row. 

Thank goodness, since I find scarves sooooo boring to make otherwise. Here's a picture of my yarn. 

And so - Happy Sunday to you. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

A treasure from Canada

First I want to thank everyone for the sweet compliments on my HCJ - especially the reminder about the Sally M trick for turning swatches into shoulder pads. I have enough yarn leftover to knit some that will integrate perfectly!

And now I want to share a jewel from the National Film Board of Canada. I wanted to use their share code but it wouldn't publish so I'm using a youtube version.  It may be a wee bit long to insert in a blog, but it's such an exquisite film. I particularly liked the Arnolfini's Wedding Penguins - and when the penguin pony rears up on its hind legs. We have the books in the library but I had only ever seen the movie as a 35 millimeter movie. I'm SO glad it's been put onto modern delivery technology. Placing an order for the library today.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Bully Thing - Thoughts for Lent

When LD was in middle school he came to me one afternoon and said in a tearful voice that the kids were teasing him a lot. Immediately I was swollen by the Wrath of Tigress Mother with Pointed Teeth of Sharpened Steel. Fortunately, my non-lizard brain had the reflexes to ask "what are they saying?" before the matching Razor Claws of Death sproinged out of the tips of my fingers.

"They say we are too poor to have a television" was his answer - the perfect prick to my balloon of Vengeful Maternal Fury. We had long ago decided that we were going to have television-free house. Mind now - this was not a judgement on other people's homes and I didn't care how much TV he watched anywhere else. This had to do with me and what I wanted in my home. I knew what a complete television addict I was - entire days of my life could be sucked into the vortex of TV - I had been known to rearrange my schedule around the evening television listings. I just didn't want something like that to be part of the equation of our family. I had many times promised LD that when he was 18 he could buy 20 TV's and turn them on all at once... just not here... and not at that time. Sometimes he complained about it. Sometimes he would square his little shoulders, lift his aristocratic little chin, stare down his nose and say "We're the Haile Family and we don't watch television."

But that day, as the grown-up portion of my brain took over, I thought "bingo - he's about to start high school. He needs to know how to arm himself against the peer pressure that will harm him. Here is a golden learning experience opportunity."

He had just had a rather luxurious weekend with friends who lived out of state, flying up and back all by himself. I pointed out that the cost of that plane ticket would probably have paid for several televisions. I asked "so, is it true - that we were too poor to have a television?"

This was obviously not what he wanted to hear from Fierce Tigress Mother as he answered with a low sulky "no". I then asked what if we really had been that poor - how would he describe a person who would make fun of someone too poor to buy a television?

Yeah. Low-life scum. We all know that.

I also pointed out that when someone says something mean to you, especially if he does this tortuously, repetitively, you have to decide if you are going to give away your own power by letting the barbs lodge. I asked if he wanted to give away his power to low-life scum, to let low-life scum determine how he felt about himself - about his day - at all? If so, then that was his business, but for me, I wouldn't let such people control me. And hard hearted mama sheathed her claws.

This is the stuff of children. It's a hard lesson to learn. And sometimes it even comes back to you as an adult just to be sure you really learned it. Recently, I have been the recipient of endless pricks from someone who - in a joking way, of course - consistently insults me in public .. oh it's all in fun, you know ...  I don't mean anything by it ... everybody knows I have a sarcastic sense of humor ...and I'm reminded of my own advice to my son. Should I really let this woman, so friendly behind the scenes, but making me the butt of her jokes in front of other people, ruin my day? Well. She just about ruined my afternoon yesterday and I do fear she'll be the object of my housecleaning mutterings.

But it is Lent and I believe I am going to work on letting go of resentment for the next 40 days. Mind now. I am going to avoid that woman. But I think I can siphon off the sense of insult by remembering that mean people are mean because of their own pool of inadequacy. 

More photos of the Happy Chanel Jacket

It was chilly enough yesterday to justify wearing that HCJ but I felt shy about asking anybody to photograph me in it. There was hostility in the air yesterday. I didn't want my soul to be floating between me and the camera when there was bad juju in the air.  So I popped  into the staff bathroom and took these myself.

When the jacket is open (which it is because I didn't put any closures on it) you can see the shoulders are just a bit too wide. I'm probably going to take V's advice and tack some gentle shoulder pads inside. I think they'll give it a neater look. But everything else about the sweater pleases me. I like the wider sleeves - this cotton t-shirt slid easily inside without bunching up my forearms. The many many bust dart short rows make it glide over my lumps and bumps so that the hem is perfectly straight. The very short color spaces keep the yarn  from pooling no matter what the stitch count. Also, that yarn, which looked a little tired from handling it, freshened up in its wet-block. I don't think it will pill much. All together - there's a Very Happy TheQueen in her Happy Chanel Jacket.

Now it's on to my Spirit Trail Fiberworks Yarn Club yarn - which is a beautiful blue - a color I never wear because it makes me look like I have jaundice. It's quite a challenge to make something for an unknown wearer - gives me an even deeper respect for the professional designers out there. I have a strong urge to make a scarf from it in a beautifully sculpted rib pattern I found in Barbara Walker, but ... who will I give it to? Mama never goes out anymore. My sister with the gorgeous blue eyes is so hot she wears shorts and a tank top in winter!  Ahh well. I will just knit it up and give it to someone later. Serious casting on, though, will happen this week.

Happy Hump Day - let us hope it's a less Hostile day too. whew. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Finished Object at last!

Yesterday's lovely rain made it easy to settle down and finish that Happy Chanel Jacket. It's still a little damp from its wet-block so I will wear it tomorrow and get an outdoor, natural light photo. I've never yet been able to get an accurate picture of the colors. It's much brighter and happier than all these indoor photos make it seem.

This was my first top down sweater knit by winging it and I believe I made the shoulders too wide. I measured from the outside of my shoulders. ( yeah, I know, there are books out there, Barbara Walker included ... but it was checked out at the time)  The next top-down set in sleeve sweater I make I'll measure from bra strap to bra strap. That would mean doing a lot more increases at the underarm - but I think it would make the shoulder line much nicer.

Harumph. Blogger is not liking me today. I'll try to publish this but it may disappear into the great beyond.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday - Friday Friday Friday

 Don't get me wrong - this has been a nice enough work week - but I am just really really glad it's Friday now. The weather has warmed up. We're getting a little rain, after a bone dry winter - and I'm moving daffodils from my garden (that tragically infested weed lot full of blackberry, trumpet vine and wire grass ) so I can have it plowed under. I'm moving them 30 minutes at a time, after work, when there's still some daylight. The big advantage to this is that I can see where there are gaps along the lane. The pumped out swath of golden daffodils will be a sight to see next spring. Heck. It's already pretty impressive right now!

I'm also moving iris, a few peonies and some day lilies. BD has promised to dig me a nursery bed where I can store these plants till I know what I want to do with them. The iris may stay there but eventually I'd like to put the rest of the plants back in the old, significantly smaller, garden.  I know i'm going to lose some sturdy plants, but I'll save the bulk of them. Goal? Move everything by the end of March.

I've just about decided what I'm going to do with my STF yarn but I still have that lone sleeve to complete. Other Things have sucked up my knitting mojo this week but most of that has been squared away and I should be able to sit down on our (promised) rainy Sunday and finish up.

So. Happy Friday to you all - let us see if there are Finished Object photos sometime soon.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Distracting photos so you won't ask about the sweater

Dawn on the marsh
Cute baby

Because I didn't finish it. Grrr at me. I finished one sleeve but not the other. No real reason for the foot dragging - just took me a while to settle down to my knitting. I am very glad I did the decreases on the last plain knitting round before the seed stitch cuff. It's much nicer looking. I'll finish up the other tonight. No distracting photos tomorrow.