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Friday, December 31, 2010

Moment of Decision and another progress shot

I'm working on the skirt of this dress. You add stitches at evenly spaced points every so many rows. For my dress I'm instructed to knit an increase row 7 times - but here I am at only 4 increase rows and look how wide that skirt is getting. I believe I will stop here and just knit down. I'm wickedly short waisted and smaller on the bottom than the size of my top would call for on any ordinary fashion sloper.

Fewer increase rows mean less stockinette knitting to do and less weight overall - a consideration with Big Knitted Projects. On this last day of 2010 it will be interesting to see how many inches of skirt I can knit.

Of course - since it's finally warming up into the 50's AND it's sunny outside - I believe I shall plant those last 100 daffodil bulbs first.

2010 was the best year of my life and something tells me I ain't seen nothin' yet. Hope you are in the same place.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Progress Shot

Brrrr. It's just too durn cold in here to write much today - but I wanted to share a photo of the Soho Dress as I begin the long decent towards the skirt hem. Looks like I have about 40 acres of stockinette to knit.

I'll be back when I'm not so blooming cold.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow plus Vacation plus Knitting = HEAVEN

 It snowed all day yesterday, making a curtain of white flutter in every window. Since it was Sunday we had our weekly pile of pancakes, for the guys, smothered in sorghum molasses, for me in regular syrup. Then it was bundle up and go out to investigate the wintery forests. I love it here in eastern Virginia, where there is an understorey of holly trees. Our West Woods has such old ones that they actually tower themselves, though they're topped by majestic pines and ancient hardwoods. I never cease to marvel at how snow transforms a forest and I always get the feeling I'm walking in a Christmas card, even if the month is February or March!
 Every branch seems like snow lace - every surface is transformed into something out of Narnia. Bundled up humans move with wide swinging arms, stuffed tight with sweater sleeves and vested tummies.
We couldn't capture this in the photo, though we certainly look snowy and happy, but we were standing beneath a vaulted holly cathedral of white topped glossy green leaves. Brrrr.

I can see out the French doors that the sky is clearing and cold north winds are shaking the snow frosting off the bare limbs in our yard trees. It's Monday. I'm on vacation. I'm just not sure how I will spend this day but I'm sure it will include some knitting. I realized last week that I'll be teaching a sock class in January in a store across the river and I don't have a sample sock for the store to display. I picked up a ball of (be prepared - hold your breath) acrylic sock yarn to knit a sample sock. I don't usually 'do' acrylic anything but this is what the shop sells. It was not too bad. It is certainly a color that I think people will be tempted by. It went fast because it was knit on #3 needles.

But today - ahh today. Today I get to bring out my Soho Smocked Dress and work on her a while. Maybe 2 inches more of smocking and I will begin the skirt. Photos coming soon.

So -  what is the Day After Boxing Day called?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Day has come - in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, and now it's gone. But it left behind the gifts of love, family, marvelous food, cozy fires, snow - oh and yes, presents! We had a leisurely morning of unwrapping gifts and nibbling on them - since more than half of our presents to each other were luxury foods; cheeses (Mango Stilton! yum!), garlic stuffed olives, smoked oysters, even boxes of sorghum molasses from a secret source only known by Santa. Everyone got at least one book (to be expected in this librarian/author family) but I got the most, since I bought one for myself.  The big surprise, though, was this book, a gift from Mr. Mindmeld LD, who told me he just asked himself ... "Hmmm. I know mama likes sweaters, but I wonder if she would like lace knitting." How did he know this was the absolute next book I planned to purchase? 
White Christmas Bourbon Fruitcake 
The rest of the day was spent puttering and nibbling and tidying for our precious Christmas guests, BH and her girls, who come every year for the same Roast Beef with Yorkshire pudding dinner. Every year I also make little bourbon soaked cakes to give as gifts to adult friends. And every year BD complains that everybody else gets the good stuff. So this year I made a great big bourbon stuffed fruitcake for the house. We made steep inroads on it and looking at this sliced wonder I think next year I will double the fruits and nuts and make 2 big cakes. Who knew these inserted treats would sink so rapidly to the bottom of the pan. I used a different cake recipe for this one - with 7 eggs in it! That may have made the difference. But I like the cake better so .... even tradition gets a little experimentation in TheCastle. 

Another tradition is BH's bourbon balls - evidently we are a tipsy family. I have made them myself in the past but this year she did the honors for our feast day desert and you can see - they were most appreciated.

There is nothing so much fun as cousins

The forecast was for snow - and it began with the tiniest of flakes around 3:30. I had scheduled dinner for 5 o'clock so that guests could get here and home before any serious accumulation could occur - which is how it all turned out - for which we thank you both, oh great weather goddess and Christmas Spirit. 

How I like my living room to look
The reprieve of snowy showers allowed us to linger after dinner with dogs in our laps and presents to stare at and think about and even a little snowy play outdoors. My house was just overflowing with love and all that is best of family. 

sadly fuzzy but sweetly snowy cousins in the mysterious dark
After a while, the cousins had to go outdoors, to talk, to play, but most of all, to be cousins - young women entering their teens and a glorious big man cousin who isn't too far away to remember those years.

All too soon it was time to say goodnight, to wave off intrepid travelers with, fortunately, scant miles to go to get home, and to snuggle back down in our cozy winter nest ... to creep up to bed early sleep ... to dream. A Very Merry Christmas.
In the deep midwinter

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wishing Everyone a Merry Christmas

A stillness filled the air on Christmas eve in the country. 

Everyone was waiting for Santa, including Socks. Because here it isn't Christmas if there isn't a dog lying by the fire. 

Here is TheQueen in Christmas red, complete with snowmen sledding pin. Thanks V!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Always Take Your Camera

Tuesday I took another day of annual leave to drive over to Richmond for a visit with my sister, who was making her Christmas trip to see our parents. She lives in WVa, works and goes to school full time so her visits are tightly scheduled. The last few times we weren't able to hook up but I was determined to do so this time. She's a consummate entertainer and she sang and danced and fiddled her way into the hearts of everyone at the AL place where Daddy lives. I, the family librarian, have all the old photos, letters, sketch books and stories from our parents' home and I wanted to deliver her share of them - lots of photos that I knew she did not have. It was a sweet visit and we made some interesting plans with Daddy for next summer.  

Mattaponi looking down stream
I've recently begun taking a different route to Richmond whenever I can. It's cross country through Caroline County and down 301 through Frog Level and Hanover Court House. It's actually shorter and quicker and there is almost no traffic on it at all once you get past Atlee Station. And it is absolutely beautiful. There's something 19th century about this meandering drive across rural eastern Virginia - what I am sure has to be the promised land. I admit it. I'm wildly partisan and secretly feel sorry for anyone who doesn't live in Virginia.There are quaint old farmhouses and mercantile crossroads that lie quiet now in our fast paced automobile-centric era, hearkening back to a time that, while not entirely unfamiliar to us, feels like it was sweeter, softer, slower. Like the Mattiponi, sluggish in it's winter coat of ice.

And if you are not in too big a hurry  and you were smart enough to remember your camera - you just mind find a surprise as you round the bend in the road. This flock was in no hurry to get out of my way and I didn't push. Instead, they just ambled along, checking out the scenery till something spooked them and they fluttered off into the woods.
A big tom and his hens
Pendleton Road 
This is my favorite little strip of Virginia road - Pendleton Road it's called and it's just west of the Sparta Fire Station. In summer it is the most cool leafy green tunnel, in autumn it's a cathedral of gold and red and in winter it's this beautiful dark and mysterious stream wending through the forest.

All it takes is sugar, corn syrup and grapefruit
Of course, Christmas isn't Christmas without Christmas Cooking - and in our house that includes Candied Grapefruit Peel. You get a surprising amount of treat from a single grapefruit and these Florida Crystals make the perfect sugar coating. But don't try to skimp on the parboiling. Gotta do it twice before you make the sugar syrup. This is one of the few candies I can actually over eat. Yum. 
Sweet and tart and citrus flavored 

I'm officially off now till 2011 - with lots of time to relax, to nap, to knit. LD will be here tonight, BH and her girls are expected on Christmas Day - It's the Hap Happiest time of the year. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Total Eclipse

I hope you got a chance to see it. So often when these celestial events occur it's cloudy or daytime or it's all happening in the southern hemisphere. Last night it was clear, if frigidly cold, and I had BD the astronomer, to wake me in time to watch the excitement. And hear it - because as the moon darkened, thousands of geese began to stir and then fly up into the midnight blackness, honking and calling and complaining. Priss barked and howled all night long, but wouldn't come inside. Jack, otoh, lifted one sleepy white head, then plopped it back down on the blue sofa and went back to sleep. 
This isn't the first time I've seen animals get upset by eclipses. Back in the long ago years when LD was in elementary school (sometime before 1986)  there was an eclipse of the sun. BD, the astronomer,  and I drove down to the mouth of the Rappahannock, to Deltaville, and watched it. As the sky grew dim and then actually dark, all the crabs and eels came up to the water's edge - as if it were full midnight. Hundreds and hundreds of eels nosing up to the sand, as if asking "What's happening? Is the sun being eaten by a dragon?"

Nature is a marvelous thing - be glad you are part of it. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Thoughts on top-down knitting - and a progress photo + Christmas Glitter

As promised, here's the progress photo of my absolutely fabulous Soho Smocked Dress! I don't know when I  have enjoyed making anything as much as I have this garment. Even if my stockinette (of which there seem to be acres) is rough and uneven. I don't care and besides, wet blocking will even out at least 50% of it. I'm particularly enamored of the graceful V of the neckline ... which will be entirely too open during the cold of winter. But I am planning a pretty lacy dickie to wear beneath it. Something fluffy and white and probably cashmere - since I have a good store of that. It will also take scarves well and the solid color will allow me to use any of my printed silk ones. 

At this point I need to try the dress on again to see how much more smocking I'm going to do. My guess is that right now I've reached the exact waistline ... but I'm thinking I'll knit it just a wee bit longer so that perhaps an inch of it will sit at the top of my hips. Anyway, I'll try it and see, even if it means I'll have to rip out an inch or so of skirt. It just depends on how it looks. And of course, that's the beauty of a top-down garment. You can try it on and make adjustments as you knit.

This is my first top-down garment. I've been curious about them for a long time - well - at least a decade - since I got interested in knitting again. I'd read Barbara Walker's book on top-down knitting but it consisted almost entirely of raglan sleeve garments.  I figured it was not for me. The directions on the set-in sleeve variation basically involved flat knitting and if I was going to do that, I figured I might as well just knit flat pieces and seam. I am one who actually enjoys finishing and sewing in ends and all those fiddly bits. I'm still not convinced about top-down knitting when it comes to stranded colorwork. It would take a heap-0-convincing to get me to knit stranded colorwork flat - even if it's just the shoulder and upper body part. Just ... ick. no thanks.

Also, Barbara Walker's directions didn't click the way Kristina McGowan's did. Her explanations are succinct, brief, and well illustrated with clear color block photos. It just all made sense. And, now that I've gotten my feet wet - I can see there are a number of top-down projects in my future. 

Of course, it is Christmas week - and I'm trying to finish a pair of socks for BD that have been on the needles so long the cable's bent into a tight curl and even boiling water won't unkink it. They're made of the thinnest stretchiest yarn and I have been absolutely bored with them for at least a year. But I am also almost finished the second sock gusset - it's time to get these off the needles. Besides, he has been short of good socks for a long time. I'll scramble with these and then pick up my beautiful dress again later in the week. Or on Christmas day. 

So. May this week be full of happy anticipation, with a knitting project up ahead. To cheer you on your way here are some more pictures from The Christmas Tree.

Ornaments dangle on long strings to fill in gaps in the tree

LD's ornament inspired by the book Here Come Raccoons by Lillian Hoban

More glittery goodness

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree

We found our tree yesterday. Tree getting and trimming was an event that was fraught with tension when I was growing up. My mother hated clutter and a Christmas tree involves heaps and mountains of clutter, giving up precious house space for something that will shed needles, tinsel and crumbs. Once her first grandchild became a teenager, she quit putting one up. We kids begged and begged to be like other families and put our tree up the first of December but she held firm for no earlier than 2 weeks before Christmas and it came down on New Years Day without fail. 

My house is smaller than hers was so I'm even stricter about putting a tree up too soon and I adhere to the Down on January 1dictum - but I love the tree - its glitter, its shimmer, its lights - and I am willing to do extra vacuuming for 2 weeks in December. In the early days I had to struggle with the desire to have a thematically decorated tree like you see in women's magazines. They're so stylish. My family adamantly refused to consider anything but our traditional family stuff and there came a day when I realized that our own eclectic hodge podge tree is the most wonderful. There are ornaments on it from the 1940's and 1950's that my mother-in-law gave me, there are the first things made by my son in Kindergarten and third grade that get packed in special tins so they don't crush or fade. There are pretty gifts from friends and some things I've bought myself. The top of the tree is decorated in the large colored glass things. The middle has all the intriguing pieces, like the little felt mouse babies, with seed bead eyes, all nestled in walnut shells, that my sister made one year - or the birds and Christmas fairies I bought from Missy when she still had her store. Each ornament in the middle of the tree is special. Everything along the bottom of it is unbreakable because I have 3 dogs with swishy tails. 

I was so tired after housecleaning, snowy woods traipsing, (we had to look a good while to find what we wanted) and decorating that I didn't exactly finish the tree - but I have all today to putter around with it. When I was absolutely too tired to do anything more, we just turned the lights down low and gazed at the colorful glittery holiday beauty. 

Some little dogs were tired too! As for any other holiday themed activity for today ... it shall be only knitting and movie watching. I'm tired. I really need a nap. And I've about wrapped everything. Thank heaven you can now buy different shaped boxes instead of just the jewelry box or the shirt box. Makes wrapping so much easier. I have succumbed to Last Minute Christmas Gift Knitting-itis - and am hurriedly trying to finish a pair of socks for BD - but I will do a few more rounds on my Soho Dress - just because I want to finish with the smocked section. Photos later on today or else tomorrow a.m.


Friday, December 17, 2010

We Got Snow!!

With all the frosty goodness you want when white flakes start to fall. It's been unusually cold this month - about 10 degrees colder than we tend to expect around here, though I well remember some Christmases in the 60's and in the 80's when we had lots of cold and lots of snow. And truly - it's only cold here, not arctic. Yesterday's pretty blanket of white tempted me outdoors for a walk with the dogs through the frosted woods.

Come walk withPriss
Best of all, the county shut down at noon so I got a long sweet afternoon off to enjoy all this whiteness and to work on Christmas presents and cards. Somehow, between now and tomorrow afternoon I have to clear off the dining room table (my Santa's Workshop) so that I can clutter it all up again with Christmas tree decorations, for tomorrow is Tree Day here at TheCastle. I always put my tree up on the weekend before Christmas. I might be convinced to put it up 2 weekends before if Christmas were on a Monday - I don't remember - but I only want the tree in the house for a short while. I like Big Trees and anything that comes into our packed, tightly arranged Castle causes enormous disruption in the traffic flow. I love me a tree but I don't want to be stumbling around it for weeks and weeks. 10 days is nice - more than that is a burden. 

Alas. While traipsing out in the woods, though, I twisted that weak ankle - the one I wrenched last week. It's not an enormous problem but it's tender and it hurts and I will spend most of today sitting and keeping it elevated and, probably wishing I were at home knitting. I really do have fuzz brain right now. 

Noble Jack
And speaking of knitting - I am moving on down the bodice of that Soho Smocked Dress - more than half way through the smocked part - and I've used surprisingly little yarn. I'm just about through Ball #7. It may be that I over bought the yarn - but this is yarn I will be pleased to have in my stash. And of course - the skirt is likely to take miles more yarn than the bodice. It flares as it falls to the hem. I'll have new photos up after the weekend.

There has been a new addition to the Bird Family - one of the library volunteers made me this dear little felt bird. 

The rest of the Bird Family is most welcoming and I'm sure they're telling this nestling all about the wonderful time she'll have now that Christmas is coming. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Will it snow?

That's what the weather dot com guys are saying and yesterday, an entire wall of bread was missing from the shelves at the grocery store. I shop at Walmart (yeah, I know, but it's closer than FoodLion and those are my only choices) which is a store that often has unstocked shelves - such a far cry from the Walmart of the 1990's - but no bread? Absolutely none? at least, along the wall that sells the white bread - which, no, I don't buy, so for me it was not an issue - but ... all of it gone? Just what sort of weird idea do people around here have of the depredations 3 inches of snow are going to cause?

Ahh well. If you're going to devote an entire television channel to weather you had better make all weather sound life threatening. Severe thunderstorms? yeah - that means wind and rain. sheesh.

I would really rather get this snow say, next Thurday night after LD gets here - but I will take snow whenever I can. I heart snow and Christmas snow is the best. It's been about 10 degrees colder this month that it often is, but this cold isn't unheard of ...just more rare than common. We're burning a lot of firewood but there's more where that came from. (says the gal who doesn't cut it, stack it or bring it in.)

Still and all - if I'm going to be home early today (which I probably will) there is some shopping I'd like to do too - actually there's shopping I was going to do - so I'll just leave early and get it done before work.

Happy Snowy Thursday - may you get extra knitting time today.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sometimes I'm Selfish

Like when I stumble  onto a Lawre's Laine trunk show in October and can't resist placing an order. And neither would you if you saw this gorgeous fabric and darling shape. This is her Bitty Bag and its intended purpose is medium project bag - but it's such a good shape and size that it could also be an elegant purse. I didn't take a photo of the inside  but it's blue and white stripped ticking, stitched all the way around into pockets.

I opened the package and pulled out the bag, but I will wrap it up again as a present for me beneath the Christmas tree. From Santa. Yes.

 I finished those fingerless mitts (I'll post photographs  after Christmas) and though I have More Christmas Knitting to do, I couldn't resist spending a little time on the smocking of my Soho Dress. Oh la - the more I work on this dress, the more I lovelovelove it. I'll knit about 6 inches of smocking and then try the dress on. I'm very short waisted - a sort of marshmallow tied in the middle shape - so the midriff detailing must be custom tailored. Happily, that's one of the features of top-down knitting.

The smocking stitch is a bit tedious. Well. Really it's very tedious but there are only a few rows of it to do. I'm slowly getting into a sort of rhythm with it and probably, by the time I've knit all I need, I'll have learned how to do it smoothly. It really is pretty on the inside too, though, this much stockinette stitch really shows off my uneven knitting. I know a good wet blocking will help but I wouldn't lay my  purl stitches open for viewing to anybody - not even my best friends. Not even  my nearly blind BD. But I do plan to knit this dress again, as a summer weight sleeveless dress and I think I'll do the smocking inside out on that one ... just to be different. 

So. Cold hath arrived. Christmas is nigh. Work is calling me. Happy Tuesday to you all. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Perfect Holiday Experience

Now and then you get the chance to have a Perfect Holiday Experience and Friday night I was the lucky one. Friends and family gathered together at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for their Festival of Lights. I've been going every year since 2006 and each year it gets better. The lights stay up till a week or so past New Year's and even at the tail end of the display it's a glorious sight, but my preference is to go before Christmas, because there's something about the mystery of being out doors in the cold darkness with acres of lighted paths, bridges, tunnels, mazes, and strangers milling about that makes me want to burst into song - and what could be more fun than to sing Christmas Carols under the cloak of glittering darkness?

We always meet up with special friends here and last year we expanded the group to include my sister and her family. This year the group swelled into a little crowd of 25 revelers. It was like having a party, only nobody had to clean her house. And this is the first time there have been children along, though, I am sure there wasn't a child in the whole garden who was as excited as I was. I'd been chomping at the bit about this get-together for weeks. Of course, coordinating a gathering of this size means you have to start organizing dates way early. But we were able to fix on a date that almost everybody could book and the it was just a matter of crossing off the days.  
This year I also had the foresight to bring along printed lyrics to Christmas carols. I would have thought, as many times as I've sung them, that I would never forget the lyrics, but it isn't so - nor is it for anyone else. But printed out in a bold san serif font at 18 points, the words are visible in the colored glow of lighted trees. Everyone seemed to enjoy singing along and of course, if somebody didn't feel very vocal, who would know if she was singing or not? It's dark. 

There's so much to see at this event - so much glitter and beauty and whimsy. The designers of this layout manage to blend good taste with humor into a perfect display of color and magic. And it's not just out doors where all this colorful beauty glows with light. Inside the enormous Victorian style conservatory is a bird and butterfly bedecked tree, probably 30 feet tall.
Also in the conservatory is an elf house, decorated inside in a different way each year. this year it is an animal wonderland with 5 trees and all sorts of furry and feathery friends. Some years there have been multiple houses, all big enough for a child to imagine living inside. They do go a little heavy with the paper whites, the one daffodil I don't care for - I don't like the scent. I'm more of a hyacinth girl. But the drifts of white are really worth seeing. Blossom Snow.
Inside the large conference building is a library - and this year, inside the library was a library - complete with Sherlock Holmes! The doll house/miniature display gets bigger every year. Some are fantasy houses and some are reproductions of real places. Just an opportunity for more fantasy filled imagining.

Having so many loved ones with me to share in this experience really is my best Christmas present. There will be other surprises, other wonderful moments, but I will be coasting on this night for the whole of 2011.

As for today, well. Today is recharging day. It's raining outside and foggy and grey when nothing is actually falling. I plan to watch Christmas movies and to knit for the bulk of today. I have a little cooking to do, but it is fun cooking, not strenuous werk. There is a Cashmere Christmas gift almost done, a Second Sock near completion, and a dress that is clamoring from the couch - "Knit me! Knit me!" it's saying.

Love me some rainy Sundays.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Somebody is getting cashmere mitts for Christmas

No - not me, alas, unless ... yoo hoo ... any of my knitting friends out there? ... I like hand knitted gifts ... wanna knit me a pair?

But right now I have set aside my beloved Soho Smocked Dress (one more row and I begin the smocking part) to do some rapid Christmas knitting and I've cast on a pair of Main Morning Mitts in that marvelous Hunt Valley Cashmere Yarn. This is more of a DK weight than Clara's pattern calls for but it only needed a few more 3 stitch repeats to make a nice, size small mitt for my dainty friend. Funniest of all - yesterday she said to me "If you're wondering what to give me for Christmas, I need some gloves." Am I psychic or what?

I am having withdrawal over setting down my Soho dress - especially since I know exactly what I'm gong to do next and I know the dress fits beautifully and I'm going into the part where fit won't matter as much - for me, fit is always about the shoulder/bust area since that's where my body deviates from standard. But the MMMs are quick knits and cashmere is always a pleasure to knit ... they'll be done in a day or two.

Of course I have the Christmas Card marathon to do next - and do not groan or pity me. I HeartHeartHeart Christmas Cards. I love to get them. I love to send them. I love to select them, draw them, address them, and most of all, I love to ponder each person as I fill out the card and send her, or him, or them, a hug and a kiss. Christmas cards are as important to me as the tree - which we will seek and cut and haul and decorate ... weekend after this coming one. Yes. We still go out into the woods and find the perfect tree. We own a lot of woods. We like spruce pines.

okay okay - I better stop nattering here and actually go knit on those mitts, but as a final word, I really want to recommend today's Knitters Review Post, where Missy C reviews her top picks for luxury one skein wonder-worthy yarns. #2 in the list, right after the hundred dollar qiviut is J's Spirit Trail lace weight Nona! 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas is Coming and Saturn is in my 2nd house

And I am so far from ready it isn't funny. And of course, when a big holiday event looms, no matter how eagerly anticipated and joyously longed for, all the rest of life goes on as well. Nothing new there. A  WHOLE lot has happened in my life this weekend, though, and I'm just not ready to sift it and pat it and shape it with letters yet. Just know it's all good. BD got a good report from the eye doctors on Monday. I still haven't drawn my Christmas card cartoon. I have zero knitted gifts finished. Three Big New Assignments plopped on my desk at work. (thank goodness, one of them is done and one I was able to pass on to somebody else) Oh yes. And Saturn is in my second House of Finances - thanks a lot Saturn. He'll be here for 2 years so I guess I better get used to him, but my goodness - it was easier when he was in my House of WerkWerkWerk - 'cause having Saturn in your house of finances doesn't mean you're being showered with dollar bills. It means you have to catch them and put them back where they belong. Yikes!

Later this week a better blog post will be written. Not today. Today I'm knitting a Christmas gift. Ta.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The S Word

Yes. Today the weather dot com guys used the S word. In spite of the fact that it was followed by Flurries and I think the words Chance Of were tucked in there somewhere, SNOW is in the air. Somewhere. And is there anything more magical than snow at Christmastime?

Ah well. I have just pulled back the curtains and I see the sky is mostly clear and a wicked bad wind is blowing outside - but even a snow tease is exciting for me. I've actually been in the Christmas mood for weeks now and I see I had better get busy and do those Christmas things that you have to start early or I'm gonna be caught off guard. Last year I waited way too long to get wreathes for my front door and almost didn't get any. I have double front doors so I need small ones and I like fresh greens and no. I don't make them.  I take plain green ones and embellish them but I don't make them. I don't enjoy it. But the fruit stand on 360 in Central Garage makes the worlds best small ones. We drive by there tomorrow and I'll stop in and get two.

And in this frosty air I believe it's time to pull out the Christmas CDs. We have about 50 of them, counting things that don't get put away every January - like the Christmas Concerto by Corelli, or Tchaikovsky's nutcracker (that happens to be on the same disc as the 1812 overture - how about some canons!) And the ubiquitous Messiah. That's an Easter piece as well, you know. But the Gene Autry and the Mills Brothers and Michala Petri on the recorder and the Vienna Choir boys of, oh, hmm. probably 1980. they come out today!

Well, well, there are a lot of things I better get doing if I want my Christmas to be everything I like. I attended the first Christmas Party of the season last night and had a delicious time. It reminded me that it's time to make my white fruitcakes and get them in their rum bath. Best get hopping.

Sweet Sweet Sunday to you all.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Trip Into the Mountains for Friendship and Inspiration

I visited J yesterday, driving to Sperryville through a suddenly winterized landscape. Hard to believe only 2 weeks ago we were still ooing and ahing over the vivid autumn colors. They're all gone now and soft grey skies etched with spidery tree limbs have taken their place. I love all the seasons, though I admit I can get tired of the extremes of summer and winter. But in December I want to see that spare combination of dark and light in the landscape. It makes me feel cozy and free to take it easy. I never feel like I can kick back in the summer but when darkness falls at 5 o'clock and the cold wind blows, I can pull into my cuddly little house with my knitting and my fire and my dogs ...and in December, a beautiful glittering tree, and feel loved. 

Visiting Jennifer made me feel loved too. We met 8 years ago, at the first KRRetreat, our eyes connecting across the room, and we knew - we were kindred spirits. We are very different sorts, but we harmonize. I'm a good bit older than she is but at this stage in life it hardy matters. She is still in the child rearing phase of life while I am now getting fan mail from AARP, so the demands on our lives are different. She lives in an elf house her architect father designed for her and her artistic eye has enhanced what was already a charming place. I can't believe I never brought out my camera once yesterday!!  We took a class on dyeing wool and yarn one spring and as we drove away she was obsessed with the idea of starting her own hand dyed yarn company while I couldn't wait to go home and teach all my friends what I'd learned. That's the biggest difference between us. But it is one of those things that only adds to our friendship

Of course, I couldn't visit J without bringing home some luscious yarns and fibers. She had a Jacob fleece that was the silkiest example of that springy bouncy fiber I've ever touched. She warned me that, spun up, it's not as soft, and I could tell there was a little scrunch to it when I squeezed a handful, but she had used it in the sweater she was wearing and it was soft enough for me. 

And then we peeked into her tubs and there was The Red. The red I was looking for last month when I was planning my Soho Smocked Dress. Bright, vivid, red without any blue and really not too much yellow, but still a warm red. Best of all, it's one of her standard colors. I can do a special order for it. She could pop it in her dye pots while she's cooking up a batch for someone else.

My picture doesn't do any justice to the color at all. I'm only including it because you can read the label in this photo. But ooo la la - this is her superwash merino/cashmere blend called SUNNA and it is luscious. I am seeing a red lacy scarf to wear with my winter coat. Yum!

And so I drove home in the winter darkness all full of inspiration garnered from J's beautiful house, her gorgeous yarns and her fantastic cooking. I just love inspiring friends.