Sunday, July 31, 2011


Sunday morning porch knitting finds me at an impasse with these socks -
Let's lighten this up -
Much better!  I am such a novice when it comes to photography.  Anyway - this sock started its existence as Ann Budd's Diagonal Cross Rib Sock as seen below -
Her patterns just WORK for me!  I used a heavier yarn (Blue Moon Fiber Arts Heavyweight) than called for and shortened the length of the sock.  I want to add that this yarn is special, and if you are thinking about a dense, yet soft boot sock, you might want to check this fiber out.  The colors are incredible - it's really really REALLY hard to choose from the extensive selection.  (I plan to go back and get something [s] for leg warmers). 

 I found myself at a knitting impasse this morning - a kind of a dead zone - a no going back place while struggling with the need to move forward.  Thinking about other projects.  Getting up and leafing through other patterns.  Walking around and pawing through alternate yarn.  Have you ever been there?  Maybe a change of scenery would help.  Maybe I need to get out more!  Make new friends ...
Go places -
Perhaps a "to do" list would help me manage this deadlock.  So, next week I must;
(1)  get sewing shears sharpened
(2)  make pesto while basil is primo
(3)  unload stop by the office with excessive squash
(4)  work on secret test knitting 
(5)  get Harley to the groomer
(6)  take mom to Pegasus for new Birkenstocks
(7)  send H quilt to the machine quilter
(9)  work on sister's 60th birthday gift
A good start ... let's see if it helps to keep me in line!  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

the aunties (and uncles)

I had the pleasure of making lunch for two of my aunts and uncles on Friday.  It's always good to spend time with my mother's brothers and sisters, but this was special as we had Aunt Francis, from North Carolina, whom we rarely see.  The first to arrive was my Uncle Billy, who brought flowers.  Such a sweet man!
Don't they look wonderful?  They have each lost their spouse, but they are happy to be together, trying to go forward and enjoy life on life's terms.  And the flowers were delightful - zinnias and sunflowers, down to earth, nothing exotic, simple and beautiful - 
I made that solitary bouquet into three vases of loveliness -
Soon after, Aunt Francis arrived with Aunt Carole and her husband Uncle Ronnie.
Aunt Francis is the oldest sibling -
She always reminds me of my mother - kind hearted, funny, stubborn and quirky.  Aunt Carole is the youngest daughter and she is just a peach, always willing to help, and laughter at the ready!
Her daughter is Lori, my artist cousin that I often write about here.
Anyway - I made a good hearty lunch.  We had cucumbers (from my garden) in sour cream and dill, mom's incomparable German potato salad, baked beans, a glorious antipasti sandwich and an authentic nicoise salad.  I won't even tell you how hard it was to find those nicoise olives - but well worth the trouble.
Leftovers - tender new red potatoes combined with steamed green beans, red onion, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, tuna and anchovies, nicoise olives, parsley - drizzled with homemade vinagrette.  Delicious.  But what I really want to talk about is that sandwich - that amazing antipasti boat!  I have no pictures as it was eaten so quickly,but let me tell you about it.

First off, you make the bean paste - cannellini beans in the food processor with good olive oil and fresh lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper and two cups of the bread that you have scraped from your french loaf.  TRY not to sample that concoction!  Then you begin to layer the sliced loaf.  A zucchini from the garden, sliced unspeakably thin and salted and drained.  1/2 pound of the best baked ham.  1/2 pound of glorious prosciutto - nestled between the ham slices.  Fresh parsley, marinated artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, shaved parmesan and roasted red peppers.  And believe me, there is NOTHING like the peppers that you roast yourself!

Everything goes together and is sealed in saran and weighted down in the refrigerator for a few hours.  You could substitute any kind of meat that you like - or go vegan!

We finished with a Barefoot Contessa lemon loaf - with a scoop of raspberry sorbet and fresh raspberries.  This is all that was left to bring home to Scott!
I am especially fond of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.  She goes a little heavy handed with the butter and cream, but her recipes are divine and I just like her vibe.  My mom and I used to watch her in the afternoons, while sitting with my dad at the nursing home.  Her show was comforting, and inspiring.  She always gave me something simply hopeful - the reassurance that life went on, despite the horrors of old age and disease and memories lost.  In that small room we leaned forward and listened and watched as she created magic with dollops of creme fraiche and scarlet fleshed salmon and exquisitely tiny asparagus stems.  Bon appetit!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


If my heart were a garden, it would be ablaze with gumdrop colored zinnias and azure hydrangeas and lots and LOTS of castor bean plants.  That's right, castor bean.
I love this plant, adore everything about it - from its statuesque height to its furry crimson berry sacks.  I noticed that my solitary plant was sending out new leaves today.
So crisp and shiny - almost artificial in appearance, but truly spectacular.  In years past my gardens boasted hundreds of these goliath plants.  But this year - I am down to one, which I treasure.  It shades my tiny pond, providing late afternoon relief from the sun. We had a particularly treacherous late July in the northeast, and shade plants are paramount to the health of the pond.

 Scott is working and staying in Soho, so my load is considerably lightened.  These days Harley and Bella and I eat on the fly. . . multigrain toast with sauted swiss chard, topped with fried eggs and parmesan. . . crisp cucumbers picked, peeled and covered with salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar . . . steamed squash and boiled beets drizzled with butter and ground pepper - all of these goodies picked and dug from the garden and carried into the kitchen.  

And I have been working hard to finish projects -
Pretty Monkey socks in a Cascade yarn - a project that has been languishing long enough in the knitting basket!
Do you give yourself permission to start a new knitting project just as soon as you complete one?  I do.  My sock drawer is not nearly as lonely as it has been in the past. 

Wandering out to the garden I find that the sugar baby melons are beginning to peep out from their protective coverings -
Watermelon is, hands down, my favorite summer treat. I keep a vat of it in the cooler, cut and ready to go.  There is absolutely nothing on God's green earth that comes closer to pure refreshment than that of cold sliced watermelon.  And my MD tells me that it has benefits for lowering blood pressure.  That's enough for me!
The leeks have gone to seed, but Scott likes the look of them, so I weed and mow around them (cursing and sputtering) until fall.  They are attractive to all manner of bees, which elevates them in my estimation!  I am not seeing or hearing so much the comforting sounds and sights of the honey bee as I have in years past.  This worries me more than I can say.  It should worry ALL of us.

But back in the sewing room, things are moving right along - bees, or no bees.
My plans include a plethora of place mats.
Such a fun way to use those batik scraps that have been hanging around!  I also finished a duet of face cloths for my daughter.  I went for her favorite motifs - flamingos and palm trees!
Gifts from the heart - satisfying AND practical!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

a finished quilt top

My friend Elaine invited me over to her studio where she did all of the work helped me calculate borders for the H quilt.  I had found a delicious Kaffe Fassett print and was scared reluctant to cut into it without Elaine's expertise.  Many thanks to you Elaine - I couldn't have managed without you!  Your generous nature and amazing cutting table turned this UFO into a completed top!  Yay!
This image was taken moments before the skies opened and let loose with a wonderful torrent of rain!  Harley was not asked to pose - he simply appeared for this photo!  After all, he was the one who sat out all of the cutting and pressing and piecing of the quilt - what better closure than to lend his good-looking self to the beauty shot?
I plan to send this piece, my FIRST king-sized top, to a machine quilter.  I am in Wanda's debt for introducing me to this joyful block - thank you, my friend!  I follow your blog religiously and you never cease to amaze me.
One always hopes for lighter days to follow the dark ones.  These colors lift me, help me to focus on the positive aspects of this one life.  And, as always, I've returned to my favorite - ORANGE.
A carotene table runner!  My carrots never came up this season, so I made a giant fiber substitute!  I'm still wondering what went wrong with those seeds.
I like this piece a lot.  Orange continues to be my neutral - my  inspiration, my obsession.  
When the rain stopped we took a stroll outdoors, shaking off too many days and nights of artificial air.  Don't get me wrong - I am pathetically addicted to, and grateful for, and LOST without, the central air conditioning.  But there's something so powerful about that green-ness, that SMELL of the earth when it rises to meet the rain after so many days deprived of its goodness.
I'll get back to the herb garden with my new plan to replant the herbs and flowers that I'll need for the moth/mouse repellant that I want to create.  (please don't look at those weeds!)
A finished quilt top and a healing summer rain...perfection, except for what is missing and how we continue to miss him.  On the morning that Jack died, my Madonna lily bloomed.
Pristine.  Fragrant. Breath-taking.
Signs in the universe.  All is unfolding exactly the way that it is supposed to.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

a sorrowful day

We had to say good bye to Jack Russell this morning.  He was a good faithful dog and Scott's best friend for over 14 years.  
I just don't know how to sum up nearly a decade and a half of love and devotion.  He was Scott's dog.  There was never any question about that, not ever.  In the early years he went to work with his Master every day.  The truck was his home away from home.  Wherever Scott was, Jack wanted to be.
He wasn't much of a water dog, but he went swimming with Merrilee four summers ago and seemed to enjoy the lake.
He tolerated the addition of the Harley dog and they became friends.  As Jack's health began to deteriorate this spring, Harley became very gentle and tender with his old buddy.  Sometimes he even allowed Jack to go outside first!  But not too often.
He was a sprite - a vivacious and energetic force - a wiry little porcupine who slept in our bed every night of his life.  He knew that he was loved.  We buried him in front of the barn, under the mimosa tree where his grave is protected by the fairy roses.  His spirit permeates this place.  You'll never leave our hearts, Jackie Boy.
You enhanced our lives in ways that words cannot express.

You were one of a kind.
A legend - a companion, the mexican jumping bean.  Brave, determined and true.  Rest well until we meet again.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Monday morning intentions may be the purest of the week.  Renewed energy and vitality coming off of a satisfying weekend can make for enormous plans.  I'll weed this garden, run hoses to that garden, fertilize the daylilies ... until I step out into an early morning pea soup that attempts to pass for breathable air.  The Hudson Valley humidity must be climbing to at least 500 %, and this, at only 6:30 am.   It's just damp and hot and wretched and I'm reminded why I hate the tropics.

The sewing room is the only sensible place to be today.  I've been cleaning it out in stages. The magazines have been deviling me - why is it so hard to part with Quilters Newsletters from the 70's?  Before I can discard even one magazine, I feel inclined to study intently leaf through each page, check out all submissions.  Before I knew what had hit me, I was sewing strips.
This is a fun project whose pattern I've held onto since 2006.  It should be ready for its debut tomorrow -
Orange slices - irresistible!  I'm keeping this little fabric wreath out so that I can add strips to it as well.  Sometimes I find that multi-tasking in the sewing room is the only thing that works for me.
I'm all about process.  To that end, here are two projects that are zipping along -  my Hug Me sock in Jawoll and -
(can this one pose, or what?!)

then there is this solitary creature who refuses to inspire me much at all ...
But I'm not giving up on her because I KNOW, in my heart of hearts, that this little vanilla pattern is a keeper!

Friday, July 15, 2011

discovering treasure

My BFF stumbled onto a treasure, which she immediately shared with me.  She's like that, generous to a fault.  On the outskirts of New Paltz there exists a magical place called White Barn Farm.  There is much to say about Paula and her farm, but you should probably just put down whatever you are doing and GO THERE yourself.  Right now.  Summarily.
This merino sock yarn by Bluestocking Yarns is dreamier in person, and so very soft - I found myself petting it.  Paula didn't seem to mind.  I love that she is featuring the work of local artists.
This skein was locally grown and hand dyed just down the road from White Barn.  It's a generous 200+ yards of muted  juicy wool from Full Moon Farm.  I'm thinking hat.
Paula also stocks commercial yarns-to-die-for.  This little gem jumped into my bag -
I had to leave so many of its brothers and sisters behind, but I'm reconsidering.  I might have to take another drive over to White Barn Farm and adopt some of the Jawoll siblings!  

I've been thinking about how important it is, and gratifying, to shop locally.  I want my neighbors to fall in love with the amazing resources found in our own backyards - to help sustain and bolster, to protect our riches.  To that end I am proudly displaying this sentiment on my vehicle - a first for me (I have always preferred the un-adorned bumper)
We can make a perceptible difference.  Paula's own cormo fiber will be available in a few months and I can hardly wait!  Luckily, I have projects to keep myself occupied with until then.
We haven't had any rain.  The hoses and I are reestablishing our abiding relationship-
And as always -
My efforts are rewarded!