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Archive for April, 2011


Blessed be…

Dear Jan,

K called last night with the sad news that a close friend had died after weeks of fighting to live, or perhaps more accurately of having had her friends fight for her.  A fellow resident in K’s program, this young, vibrant woman had a respiratory infection go to pneumonia and from there to a toxic systemic infection.  She leaves behind a partner and several foster/adopted children and the morass of legal questions over what happens to all of them.  That alone could fill many posts.

But for the moment my heart simply goes out to the group of friends, friends who have experienced the bonding that hard work brings, the emotional work that leads to joy and tragedy and deep learning and relationships that feel like family.  Friends who, despite their years of medical study and practice and their large intellects and even larger hearts, were unable to find the action that could save this sick sister.  Their sadness is more than a little darkened by this, though you and I know that this is sometimes the way of the world and not a person among them deserves this burden.

The woman who died is certainly not the first to leave behind a group of mourning friends, and in the chaos, both natural and human, of late there are so many who deserve our love.  But if you have a spare moment, please gather some thoughts of these grief-stricken people into your heart.

Blessed be,

Ellen

It’s a heck of a town…

(Sorry for many small pictures - click on photos to embiggen them.)

Dear Jan,

141.jpgImagine jogging up to a bench in Central Park, looking down, and spotting a Signature double point needle in size 0, just the size you yourself are knitting a pair of socks in.  Imagine the sigh the knitter who lost that needle let out when she realized that needle was gone.  True, she may have had the 5 needle set and could get by with the 4 remaining needles, but still…Signatures are special, and it was probably a heartfelt gift from someone dear to her.   It would take another knitter to recognize what this find was and to pick it up from the ground and keep it from being just a bit of metal swept up by the park staff.

113.jpgFortunately that knitter didn’t find it before we jogged back to the park bench where I’d lost my size 0 Signature dpn the day before.  And fortunately Wilson had spent many Easters looking at the ground in parks, usually for wildflowers, but this time for the needle I had lost when I took this photo of my sock in progress in Central Park.

33.jpg24.jpgWe did see wildflowers in Central Park, along with many other NYC sites on our long weekend.  As soon as we checked in to our hotel we headed over to Bouchon Bakery, where Jenny served us a fabulous meal.  You can spot her if you embiggen the photo - she is right below the “U”, taking someone’s order.  The cafe is a Thomas Keller restaurant (Thomas Keller, who gives his staff the credit for his success.  In other words, who gives Jenny the credit for his success.  Heh.)

112.jpg43.jpgThe hotel was on 7th Avenue, right next to the Carnegie Deli where we ate massive amounts of smoked fish.  We sat with Gene Siskel  - he signed his photo “I’d rather eat your corned beef than see most of the movies I do.”

54.jpg64.jpgWe paid a quick visit to the Marshall Chess Club.  Someday Wilson will have to play a game there, as other great chess players have done.

84.jpg 73.jpgAnd then we went to lunch where Karen joined us, along with Allen and Libby!  Technically we joined them, as our naivete to the NYC subway system made us late.  You are going to like Libby - and I assured her that you and Dale were far more competent than we were (this was even before the spilling of the Korean iced coffee).

92.jpgThat evening we took in Wicked. The show was really quite good, but we did not approve of the change to the end of the book.  Happier endings aren’t necessarily better endings, at least in theater. At least the New York cheesecake we had at the Carnegie Deli (we became regulars) was a happy ending for us.

103.jpgI’m sure you’ve seen photos of the marquee for the David Letterman Show, but have you ever seen the mosaic underneath that marquee?  I prefer it by far.

132.jpg123.jpgBut even better than a Broadway show and the sites of NYC was an afternoon and evening at Jenny’s, cooking up a vegan feast and feeding it to her friends - including Marie and Heidi!  They were in fine spirits.  The woman in the picture with Heidi and Jenny is Anna, another of Jenny’s buddies.

152.jpgWe couldn’t believe how quickly the weekend went and we were back on the airplane heading home.  It was as though I was painted onto the mattress this morning - all of this fun really exhausted me.

Would I do it again?

In a New York minute.

Love,

Ellen

Knitting In Situ

Dear Ellen,

dsc02572.JPGdsc02573.JPGJust thought I’d share a picture or two of my latest project on the needles.  I’m calling it my Spring Shrug, a very simple and basic shrug to go with the dress I think I’ll be wearing to Craig’s wedding.  It’s just a simple rectangle to be seamed for sleeves. I’m working in the ostrich plume feather and fan variant, a decision based on wanting some “air” and wanting a pattern that didn’t demand a provisional cast on and knitting out in both directions for symmetry.  I don’t know how far this yarn will go and didn’t want to mess with weighing it to find the half-way point.  As the great bulk of my knitting takes place in the car these days, that would have been a bit awkward.  This pattern has enough of a bi-directional  appearance that I can just knit till it looks like I will run out of yarn if I start another repeat.  I’m doing  3-stitch garter edges and 4 rows of garter stitch at each end.

dsc02559.JPGdscf1202.JPGAs you may have guessed, those shots were taken on the latest trip to Pennsylvania where we found much progress.  All of the sealant coats are on the hickory floors.  Many of the dsc02542.JPGdscf1210.JPGlight fixtures are up.  (The decorator says that lights are a home’s jewelry and really make it come alive.)  The front door stain is done (sealing yet to come) and it looks great with the door lights.  And we have front porch steps!  This will make it much more accommodating when you come to visit.  dscf1195.JPGWe are very thoughtful that way.  We spent some time with the world’s best architect and world’s best site foreman going over rough landscaping plans.  Once all of the phases are in, it will look just lovely — endemic plants, not overly-groomed, and many flowering trees — a particular weakness of mine dsc02570.JPG– sweetbay magnolia, red bud, weeping cherry, dogwood and lilac.  I was very deliberate in making sure the liriope we are putting in is the clumping and not the spreading variety!  And no yews…I truly dislike them except for the spreading ground yew.  A neighbor trotted past as we were leaving.

dsc02574.JPGWe are celebrating Easter today in our own way…stale peeps, lots of black jelly beans for Dale, DIY landscape plants and colored eggs with a long walk with Max and Ruby to appreciate nature and our blessings.  I hope you’re having fun in New York and that you found lots of eggs too!

Love, Jan

Dr. Yarn is knitting with green yarn…

110.jpgQuite a few cards and letters came in asking what they could do for knitting on Earth Day.

There are lots of ideas coming from the earthy/knitting community. To list a few:
1. After you work in your gardens and before you start your daily knitting, be sure to clean under your fingernails and return the dirt to the garden.
2. Save all the dirt you glean from washing raw wool and return the dirt to the farmer.
3. Release any bugs you find in the wool, rather than squashing them.
4. Reread Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth.” In case you have forgotten the story, it is about this missionary that never gets the hang of knitting and goes to China.
5. Always bury no longer needed knitted garments. “Dust to Dust” you know.
6. Recycle old needles instead of throwing them in landfills. For example, they can be used to make a game like pick-up-sticks or make little darts for children to play with.
7. And, of course, continue to cut up all the yarn odds and ends for birds to use in their nests. The yarn is much more comfy for the baby birds than wet earth. Although it doesn’t seem like much, just imagine how much dirt you will save by providing yarn for birds’ nests.

Dr. Yarn

New York, New York…

Dear Jan,

W & I are off to see our baby girl in NYC, and maybe we’ll get to see my nephew and my niece, too.  And better yet, maybe, just maybe, our other baby girl will make it down to spend a day with us!

Which would be very good indeed, what with all the fuss W is making about leaving our furry babies.

I’ll be sure and make a fuss over your babies if I see them.

Love,

Ellen

Bavarian knitting…

Dear Jan,

I’ll spare everyone all the shots I took of Munich and Freising and surrounds, but hey, this is a knitting blog and I’m allowed to post gratuitous shots of knitting, right?

18.jpg122.jpg151.jpgJust around the  corner from my hotel I found a shop selling yarn from Bavarian mountain sheep (blended with wool from Spain and New Zealand).  Local wool always excites me, and I bought enough to let me replicate one of the traditional jackets.  Horn buttons are a requirement, so I bought 9 of those, as well. Add in a skein of a chocolate brown and a skein of grey-brown sock yarn, and I’m set for some serious Bavarian stitching.

91.jpg83.jpg102.jpgI lucked out in my walks through town to come upon shops selling traditional garments.  Nice embroidery detail around the edges of the jackets and also along the kneesocks worn with lederhosen.

19.jpg181.jpgAnd even better luck when in an evening of Bavarian entertainment at the conference I was attending in Freising, one of the musicians allowed me to photograph his sock.  He was very amused.  I kinneared the other socks, truth be told.

161.jpg171.jpgLess traditional, but as amusing or more, was this knit chair cover in a Freising LYS.  Fortunately for my budget and my suitcase zipper, they saved me from myself by being closed on the day I had free for roaming the city.

63.jpg42.jpg53.jpgThe towers, the statuary, the shop windows of the city dressed for Easter - all were enchanting.  But the yarn stores were what made me open my wallet (and struggle to close my suitcase!).  It would be fun to go back there with you and increase the US trade deficit a bit more.

Tschuss!

Ellen

Lazy Weekend

Dear Ellen,

I have dozed through the weekend.  SO nice to have a weekend with no outside obligations.  I dozed…I knit…I watched a movie…I walked the dogs.  And I enjoyed having a chance to depressurize a bit.

dsc02535.JPGdsc02539.JPGHere’s the project I was finishing when you called last night.  I’m calling it Heart of Waves.  It’s  Judy Marple’s Heart of Wales shawl made out of Handmaiden Sea Silk in the Marine colorway.  I’m guessing you can figure out why it’s Heart of Waves for me.  It was a fun knit.  Two lace patterns are in there and you can modify the size by knitting more or less of either one.   I like the fact that I can now say I’ve both knitted lace and have done lace knitting.  This pattern has patterning on the front and back in the edge lace and only has patterning on the front for the center lace pattern, allowing it to qualify for both.  I am down to a pair of socks and the sleeves for my Australian sweater on the needles.  I need more projects.  I do need something to wear to Craig’s wedding and a friend is due in July, so good sources of inspiration there.

floor.JPGfront-yard.JPGAs noted above we didn’t go to the farm this weekend, but Dale did run up during the week to take care of some business.  He got a picture of the partially finished floor (the high shine won’t be there when it’s done…it’ll be more of a satin finish in the end) and one from the picnic area.  You can just make out the stonework on the foundation.  We’ll be up next week and are looking forward to lots of neat changes…we may even have some kitchen cabinets in place!

Have a restful week.  Love, Jan

P.S. Thanks for the advice on the kale chips…they turned out great — though one batch was certainly a little heavy on the cayenne!  The chard is good too…but begging for a chopped tomato!

A sock’s journey through Europe…

Dear Jan,

17.jpgThough I did not show any restraint at all in buying yarn (how much would you pay? But wait, there’s more!), I did hold myself to one knitting project on this trip, my second sock in the Kai-Mei pattern.  With barely an inch done on the cuff ribbing when I started the trip, here is what I landed with in Dusseldorf.

23.jpgBy the time Chris and I had finished business the next day in Copenhagen and sat down for a beer at the airport, I had made further progress.

32.jpgAnd with judicious sipping of that beer, by the time we made it to another (smaller, this time), I was even into the heel flap.

41.jpgWe might as well have made that second beer a larger one, because we never got off the ground that night.  A baggage handlers’ strike  meant we scrambled for a hotel room for all of about 5 hours sleep.  But we eventually made it to Munich, and my sock made it into the foot motifs.

52.jpgYou know from the last post that I knit on the sock while at Rohrspatz & Wollmeise, even finding the Kai Mei pattern in the sock yarn wall hanging.

62.jpgAnd by the time I was on an airplane bound for Amsterdam, the knitting was finished.

72.jpg82.jpgComing home to this almost finished me, but instead, I grafted my toes and finished the socks.  The left sock seems a titch more snug than the right one, perhaps from having pulled the right one off and on several times to fit it, perhaps because jet-lagged knitting has a different gauge.  I’ll get them blocked and see what I think then, but in the meantime am hoping I don’t have to find the ends that I wove in ever so nicely.

Summary:  Pattern - Kai Mei by Cookie A.  Yarn - Knit One Crochet Too Ty-Dy sock yarn, colorway 1631.  Size 0 needles.  I cast on 72 stitches instead of the 66 suggested in the pattern, and at my gauge 78 stitches would have been as good or better.  The diagonal pattern across the foot causes the sock to skew when not worn - not a problem, but do carefully note the sides of the sock before you start decreasing for the toe.

Now what shall I knit?  It seems there is still time for warm sweaters…

Love,

Ellen

A trip to visit the Wollmeise…

Dear Jan,

81.jpgThe actual purpose of my trip to Europe the last 9 days was several business meetings and a scientific conference, but give me an free weekend in Munich that coincides with the Rohrspatz and Wollmeise shop being open and a new priority becomes crystal clear.  A visit to Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm on a sunny spring afternoon would be a pleasant jaunt on its own; with Wollmeise yarn in the mix it becomes something of a joyous pilgrimage.

The train ride is perhaps 20 minutes or so, through beautiful German countryside.   21.jpg16.jpgArriving at the station, you have a short but delightful walk along the river, flowers blooming on either side ahead of you.  It is easy to see where the Wollmeise gets inspiration for many of her colorways.

71.jpg31.jpg4.jpg61.jpg51.jpgA few more blocks through the charming town -  the canals are romantic, the architecture enchanting, and it holds an amazing number of sheep.

9.jpg121.jpgAnd suddenly you are there, soaking up all the color.  It’s everything you imagined and more.  The intensity of the colors makes choosing incredibly difficult.  Fortunately, the shopkeepers are tremendously welcoming and understanding that your choice will take time.  They ply you with cappucinos, invite you to sit on the couches and knit with them, even take all day after your trip relaxing and chatting with other knitters.  I so enjoyed meeting a fellow American who had made the journey, Jennifer of Virginia but soon to be in the Netherlands (yes, a military family).

The humor found in the Wollmeise’s colorways is also expressed in her shop. 101.jpg 14.jpgA toy mouse made out of a skein of “young mouse” colored Merino superwash, the bathroom with the walls upon which you are strongly urged to leave your mark (can you spot mine?), and the advertising campaign decorating that wall, all speak of women who love to laugh.

111.jpgAnd laugh we did.  What a fun afternoon, sipping coffee and knitting, chatting with various women who wandered in, and hearing stories from the storekeepers about the husband who came in hunting for yarn, being coached over the cell phone by his wife back in the USA, or the women who had to make multiple trips to the ATM down the street to cover their purchases (I only made one!).  I had one moment of concern when the woman next to me went through the yarns I had piled up next to me, giving a running commentary, “yes, that one is good, good, very pretty color, good, very nice, oh, no - that one is ugly.  Very ugly.”  I was rather concerned that she was going to offend the shop.  She insisted it was a bad job of dyeing, not being coy about it at all.  Imagine my relief (and delight) when I discovered that I had been sitting and knitting with the Wollmeise herself.  No worries about offending her own talents!

And when I finally left, I admit, that ugly skein stayed behind.

I hope you have a colorful weekend!

Love,

Ellen

22.jpgP.S.  Oh, yes, you can all see what I did buy.  Do any of these strike my lovely daughters as something they covet?  Let me know - birthday’s coming!  And to my twin, she doesn’t have to choose.  There is one with her name, or rather her rank, on it.

P.P.S.  If anyone would like a few more pictures of the surrounds of the Rohrspatz and Wollmeise shop, check out my Flickr set from the trip.

Radio Silence

Dear Ellen,

I know you think I’ve abandoned you, but in actuality I’ve just been practicing good emissions control (EMCON).  Work has been a little busy of late…Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Japanese disasters, government shutdown preparations (almost a shame we don’t get to put that work to use — NOT!)…and I’ve been detailed to the Secretary of Defense’s staff to try to help figure out how to transform the DoD CIO organization.  I figure I should get double credit for the last few weeks.  Maybe they’ll up my bonus this year.

dsc02502.JPGdsc02505.JPGdscf1112.JPGDespite my long hours, we have made room each weekend to drive up to Fair Winds.  I’m pleased to announce the completion of the interior painting!!  (First go — second go will be when they come back to touch up all the dscf1113.JPGdsc02526.JPGdings and marks caused by the other contractors between now and completion).  We’ve been bold with color and the energy inside is amazing.  They’ve also started the stone work on the exposed portions of the foundation.  dscf1117.JPGWe intend to head up again tomorrow and will hopefully find the exterior trim completed as well — and this pile of hardwood nicely spread out on the floors.  It’s gorgeous random width hickory — the staining will bring out the awesome grain and give it a warm medium honeyed brown color.

dscf1106.JPGdsc02529.JPGdscf1057.JPGThe pineapple is a sign of welcome and as I’ve said, we hope people really do feel welcome here.  We have some evidence that the deer are feeling welcome.  I may need advice on how to keep them from eating all of my flowers and vegetables.  I’m told this very scarred trunk is the result of bucks rubbing their antlers…I’m thinking there’s at least one pretty good sized buck out there.  I’ll watch for shed antlers when I walk in the woods!  Ruby likes the new place.  She was pretty good about staying out of the red mud.  In the next week or two we should have top soil spread and some sod down…I’ll worry less about bringing the dogs with us once that happens.

dsc02532.JPGdsc02530.JPGThe driving back and forth has given some time to finish several knitting projects.  Here are my completed Cushy Cables Socks.  I’m writing up the pattern as the “Twisted Pair”.  It’s a good name for socks designed by a telecommunications geek.  Also finished is my Golden Shawlette which I made as part of the Stash and Burn Holden Shawlette KAL.  dsc02489.JPGdsc02488.JPGFinally, I got Primula blocked out and I really like it.  I’ll work on that pattern too…some modifications are needed to properly balance the edges, but otherwise I really like the changes I made to the pattern that inspired it, an antique full-circle coffee cloth.

Another pair of socks is on the needles, as is another shawlette…and I’m thinking about a shrug to wear to Craig’s wedding and a baby gift for a friend who finally got pregnant after about 6 years of trying.  I hope you’re having yarn-ey fun in Germany!

Love, Jan