Thursday, December 30, 2010


Herod couldn't get near the place

The fusion of families, of people we love, of all my folks (4 in total) and his folks (they're still married to each other!), of friends who come and go unexpectedly as well as those who last, the fusion of a staunch traditionalist and his tradition-less wife, the fusion of food and many hands, and finally of plastic and Waldorf and technology and wood.
The fusion of cowboys, knights, Indians, the Queen's guard, and WWII soldiers.

The fusion of the Force (old and new movies) with the lovely Star Money candle tableau.
Does our philosophy about technology for children change now that it is infiltrating our lives a bit more, with certain 12 year-olds who now have certain devices, gifted by certain relatives? Nope.
How about plastic toys? Yes, we have them alongside our wooden ones, and they are frequently integrated by our children in their play. How else could you build a ramp for the 20+ year old matchbox cars that have survived the years of Demolition Derby, enacted in this very hallway? (Well, OK they're not plastic, are they, if they lasted this long; they are the good, old school metal variety.)
Many hands made light work of the Lego White House model.
So. Fusion. And compromise and integration and limits and boundaries. And flannel pajamas warmed up by the woodstove.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

EZ: WT*?!

and sometimes the quartet of tiny gnomes
say the heck with it, and
just take off in the red truck

I am a constructivist knitter: I like to explore new ways to create 3D forms with yarn. I am intrigued by patterns that open up new ways of thinking for me about the possibilities that exist for a certain form: sweaters knit from the top down, socks knit from the toe up, a new type of neckband, a particular shape for a hat.

That being said, let me tell you a little about Elizabeth Zimmermann (EZ as we call her in the knitting world). She is one of the godmothers of modern knitting who empowered knitters to make patterns their own, to use percentages and ratios to create garments to fit individuals everywhere, to do what is right regardless of what the pattern says. EZ hated knitting on two needles and was a big advocate for circular knitting because she loathed sewing seams. Her knitting books are fun to read because she was witty and clever, and she also did not believe that people could legitimately be allergic to wool. I love her commitment!

So her style is to give you a rough overview of a pattern and then follow this with alternatives and modifications and then a set of "pithy instructions."

Now I am deep into knitting her Seamless Hybrid sweater for Mr. Crafty for Christmas, of course, though I started it way back in the summer (ripped it out, started again, etc.). So the sweater feels a little epic right now. And I have one finger that is suffering a knitting-related injury, which is why it's great to knit both continental and European-style (though I am slower with European). This sweater is no surprise gift, he knows it's coming.

And I'll tell you right now that I am heading into unknown territory: knitting a saddle shoulder. This is the part of the sweater that comes up your upper arm and then gracefully flattens out as it heads towards your neck. EZ is leaving me completely in the cold on this one. Her pithy instructions are not nearly as pithy as I need them to be and I am at a loss about the overall concept. (I have ordered yet another EZ book through Interlibrary Loan which might help me, but it's not here yet.) Hello, EZ Help Hotline?! I am in a knitting emergency!!!! Yeah, ok so I have been knitting seriously for almost 20 years, I know my way around the lingo and yet whammo, I am humbled by the challenge of this learning experience.

Enter the Internet, Ravelry, and finally, my own Mr. Crafty. Yes, I trolled blogs, forums, posts, etc. Turned up nothing, which is embarrassing for a librarian.
Finally, my own Mr. Crafty came to my rescue. And I will admit that I was reluctant to involve him at first, though he is both a knitter and spatially excellent. We looked in detail at this post, particularly at the photos at the end. Somewhat annoyingly, though totally helpfully, Mr. C. "got it" just by looking at the pictures. *I still don't get it!* But I feel better knowing that he does and also that I don't need to face this tricky part for probably another week or so.
This is why it's good to marry your best friend, who also coincidentally happens to be good at things you're not. Like he was about to start knitting a hat and showed me this hideous yellow with a multicolored bluegreen, and I wrinkled my nose and said: "And who would you be knitting THAT for?" " I guess not." "And do you ever see me wear yellow?" "" So I helped him find the most gorgeous yarn for a hat he is knitting me (pictures will come).
little dolly for my niece
Ultimately, what really helped with the EZ conundrum was not my husband, but a complete stranger on Ravelry, TomofHolland, who kept popping up on the EZ forums as a guy who seemed in the know. He wrote me a lovely, in depth explanation of the process and I will post it soon for the betterment of knitters everywhere, who like me, may be new to saddle shoulders and need some kind hand-holding.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

and the craft was all around

birthday table setting

In all rooms, in all media, in all corners, at all times of day, some secret, some not secret, with friends, alone, with Christmas music or hiphop, while reading, at night, morning, and afternoon.
Crafts with scissors and glue.

Or just scissors.
Fabric, of course. These are going to a sweet family of three: hankies for the whole family!

So I was invited to participate in a cookie swap, a first for me. I blithely said sure, thinking I'd make a batch of cookies and bring them to swap a few with the ladies involved. Actually what I had happened upon was a cookie swap not intended for the faint of heart.

pj pants for my dear boys
shhh! secret!

(Did I mention that the instigator might have a future in roller derby? Yup, she's hardcore as well as a fellow fan of hedgehogenalia and cute little toadstools.)

So we were to make two dozen cookies for each of the participants (6 total, including ourselves), which friends, let me spare you the math, is 144 cookies total. (In laywoman's terms that translates to a metric $%^@-ton of cookies.) The idea is that you can make up little boxes for teachers and friends, etc. which on paper is totally, absolutely great and logical.

I broke it down into a half-day of dough making and a half-day of baking, followed by an hour of icing. Which worked out fine, as I had chosen a recipe for sliced cookies. But now I am faced with transport: iced cookies do not like to be squished. I have every available cookie sheet and one pizza pan covered in iced lemon sugar cookies.
And then there was my own dear sweet boy who turned twelve this week. The morning of his birthday was quite the same as the morning of his very first: rosy dawn and snowy. He was wide-eyed and curious about the world then as now, though over the years we have gotten to know his unique twinkle, humor, generosity, and grace. He loved the tricky candles that kept relighting until we were gagging from the smoke!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

versatile blogger

Thank you very much to Miss Smith for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award in a recent post. (Oh and wait, be sure to check out this post that details some crafty holiday ideas!) Really, I am a winner because you are here, reading this.

el camino, Brunswick, ME
Sometimes it's my turn to be fragile and I am today. So it seemed like an extra good idea to remember that my connections and community are broad and wide, thanks to this little thing called the Internet.

I think being versatile is a way to describe a lot of things in my life. Am I a true Renaissance woman? Probably not. But being a librarian is pretty versatile: there's a fluidity in my work on a few levels. For one, I am meeting each person with an information need in the moment. There will never be two interactions that are the same and my job is to figure out the scope of what is being asked so that I can find a source for the answer.

I am versatile in what I read. I like a good Young Adult book (Will Grayson Will Grayson, The Book Thief, My Most Excellent Year), graphic novels (The Arrival, French Milk), meaty works of literature (Cutting for Stone, Italian Shoes, The Elegance of the Hedgehog), and sometimes things that are totally fluff (here, here, and here).

I am versatile at home, but you know that already.

So here are 7 things about me, as per the instructions for this award:

1. Rats, tomato horn worms, and my basement scare me. Bats, heights, and dogs do not.

2. I am reading the new Ken Follett book right now, The Fall of Giants.

3. I have at least three unfinished knitting projects that are lying dormant right now and I have no plans to do anything with them other than occasionally finding them and feeling guilty.

4. I like sweet better than salty. But chocolate with salt is wonderful.

5. My idea of a perfect morning does not involve my family; this sounds mean, but it's the truth. I still dream of having a nanny for the mornings who would get everyone fed, ready, and nagged, and I would float down the stairs in my silken robe to administer little kisses as my family left me a quiet house in which to enjoy a cup of coffee, my breakfast, and a book.

6. The autumn is my favorite season. But I also really like winter until about the end of February.

7. I would rather knit a new pair of socks than darn them.

a little early holiday cheer
from someone who knows me well

So, now the hard part: picking a few good bloggers out there who make me smile when I see a new post waiting in my Google Reader. If you'd like to take the torch and run, great, and if not, take this as a thank you for sharing your good ideas, humor, and talents with the world (and me).
(she deals with scorpions with panache)
(versatility to the extreme)
(inspired, always)

Monday, November 29, 2010

good morning

~some halloween pictures, belatedly~
S. was Russell from the movie Up

Sometimes people around here are fragile. And grumpy. And we might jump up and down and yell and make unreasonable demands (not unlike Rumpelstiltskin). And we want to stay in bed all morning because we are so cozy, but it's a school day. One of us in particular tends towards fragility in the mornings (he takes after his mother who has always enjoyed leisurely, relaxed lie-ins): needing dad or mom (usually it's the one who's not available), or needing more cuddles to jolly him into the day. For awhile there, I couldn't get out of bed until we had had our morning snuggle because that would be a short circuit to the Rumpelstiltskin effect.

Russell is a Wilderness Explorer

To prevent this we have found a couple of things that work.

mama was the pirate Jack Sparrow,
from the Pirates of the Caribbean

Getting enough sleep to begin with is key.

on our enchanted forest walk

Sneaking up to crawl into bed with him for a snuggle helps.

the fairies were plentiful

Once snuggled, the magical conversation topic that brings immediate smiles and joy and happy demeanor, is about our favorite small (but not really so small, actually) person, Little T. We might speak about how he is learning to play football, and can say HIKE, and recall a recent video in which he was practicing some moves while wearing a nightie. Or the way his golden curls form a sort of halo around his head. Or how when he kisses (and we re-enact this for the full effect), he puts his lips on you, draws away and THEN the smack-kiss-noise comes, a bit of a delayed reaction. We love this. And just thinking of this boy must stimulate our love endorphins and is a terrific and joyful way to start our morning.
i love these people with leaves in their hair!

However, if we have missed the window somehow, and can't begin the day as above, then we have to do damage control to turn our Rumpelstiltskin back into our lovely boy before he heads off to school. Usually I go back to the wisdom of kindergarten at these moments: taking care to form the space around my boy with love while tending to his physical needs.

This morning that meant pulling up a small chair next to the woodstove so he could sniffle and eat his toast and oatmeal in a cozy place. It meant picking his clothes out (3 longsleeve shirt options, for my picky dresser) and warming them up near the woodstove. Some days it means brushing his hair for him or making a lavender footbath. It helped that I wasn't trying to get out the door to work.
So, just a few ideas for those fragile folks you may encounter in your life... They just need a little more "holding" whether it's physically or psychologically or just in the folds of your mind.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Novembrish Things

A little sewing, for Ashwood's Yuletide Fair and Artisan Marketplace of last weekend, which in turn benefitted the school. It was a tricky business to be given the parts of this advent calendar and told how to put them together, and then do it without worrying too much about realizing someone else's artistic vision. Would my idea of perfect be perfect enough? It turned out the answer was yes, as the two that I made retailed for $42 each!
Remember those little hand warmers, first pictured in last post? I used local yarn, from Good Karma Farm, the rainbow skein with a little of their green variegated alpaca blend at my oh-so-sensitive wrists. I find that I like them at this length quite a bit: knitted just up to my first pinkie knuckle makes them just a bit warmer than others I have made, but still functional for knitting or typing.
note how that central figure is slightly light in value?
amazed that S thought to convey the notion of distance and perspective that way.
note the bulgy muscles on this fellow
(Babe Ruth)

Here is a good un-blogsworthy photo of what our dining room table usually looks like, just to keep it real:
And for those of you who know our house, you may notice a different view out the window, in relation to the table! We have made a major swap in our downstairs layout. This was a brainflash that I had in the midst of feeling really awful, during a recent nasty cold, when I found myself pulling up a duvet in front of the woodstove and lying on the floor of my dining room.

A few days later, when I was turning the corner towards health again, we swapped the dining for the living room. Hello? Duh? I hear you wondering how come it took us eight years to figure this out... The room with the woodstove should also have the couch in it!

The room with the woodstove and the best nighttime lighting should also have comfortable places to sit for reading and knitting! The room with the woodstove is actually quite hot and annoying in the winter to eat supper in, when we have the stove going.
The former living room was really not much more than a glorified hallway, I never sat there, and now we sit by that big window and eat dinner together. And the slightly longer walk from the kitchen? Not a problem.
It feels like a new house.

And while I grew up with a mom who loved moving furniture a few times a year, this move of ours was a big shock for my boys who have had everything pretty much the same since we moved here. Definitely a creative endeavor and an opportunity for some deep cleaning too!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

hello dear November

Well, what am I doing that's creative these days anyway? Are you wondering this? I am.

Today I made a delicious apple crisp to the sound of pelting rain on the windows. It was so grim and cold and dreary though that there was really no way to photograph the process with any loveliness.
Before the rain though, I had been admiring the austere elegance of November. Those clean lines on the sky and the intensity of the starkness, the russet color of the oak leaves (always the last to fall down). The sky is so big all of a sudden and the clouds so swirly and serious.
our beautiful wristers
This day was a walk with a favorite friend and her four-legged rocket of blackness, Dog. The day was absolutely Novembrish, even if it was still technically October. We just caught up, as women do, enjoying the beauty and movement and company.
We kept stopping to admire things like grass hummocks or a single colorful yellow blossom.

It's that time of year when my semester's end is in sight, which is great and also *yikes*. Suddenly things are speedy just when I want them to slow down so I can get snuggled into my nest.
Tell me about how you describe your November.