Thursday, March 29, 2012

knit a Laurel

Well that was a project with an amusing result... I started the test knit last week, for the Leaves of Lothlorien Scarflette, but quickly decided to turn it into a hat decoration instead. After all, every Laurel needs some knitted regalia...

Called it finished after completing 18 leaves. Was an easy knit, being simply all garter stitch turned back and forth with short rows to create the leafy shaping. The annoyance of getting the every-growing length of leaf and vine caught in the two yarn strands while working back and forth was solved by neatly bundling up the leaves with a hair tie. There is a bit more detail about my knitting process on my Ravelry project page.

Two cycles through the washing machine have felted it significantly, the length is shortened to 26” long and the leaves are now about 3”… The Shetland yarn softened up quite a bit after the washing/felting. I really enjoyed knitting with the Jamiesons, maybe at some point I will indulge in an assortment suitable for colorwork; I'd never tried true shetland before, and now many techniques seem a lot more functional (can you say steek... I knew you could!)

Letting it dry flat for now, and will think about what sort of autumnal hat this will best adorn. Perhaps in a past life I was a milliner, given how much I love to make hats and decorate them...

. .
a knitted circlet, and a closer view (before felting)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

random updates of gratitude

a new sign for the front door of Acorn Cottage...

One of my pals saw the door decoration that I made last week and wanted one for her own door, so that will be a small bit of dosh coming... Maybe there is a possible income trickle related to such things, I wonder? Was a fun project, and would be willing to make other custom signs for folks if there was interest...

door words from an old old tale...
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Crafternoon had a plethora of creative activities. No ribbon flower making, but knitting and painting, and some linoleum block printing... and in amongst the conversations, my dear friend B, rescuer of computers, was quietly poking away at the Acorn Cottage CPU and suddenly there were beeps! computer has sounds!! and after most folks went home, there was much useful conversation between us S & B and I about revising my website to bring it more up to date in both content and style. That conversation continued all the way to dinner at Pho Gia, for hot pho and salt and pepper squid. (I love me some crispy cephalopods)
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Yesterday, was able to spend the afternoon with my pal A, who delivered a gift bag full of treat from my Caer Lutris friends: some wonderfully exotic flower preserves, lavender and rose and elderflower, all sorts of other edible treats, and, to make my little Tool Girl heart go pitter-pat, the most teensy racheting hand-held driver, (just the size to fit my teensy paws), with six double ended bits of various configurations... Do my friends know me well or not?!

A was delightfully bouncy about her new direction: she just bought herself a motorcycle! After lunch out at the Chapel Pub, where we were able to catch up about doings in the last month, I kept her company whilst she shuttled back and forth between the bank and the bike dealer, and will admit to being rather envious appreciative of her new wheels...
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Been walking round town in the rain and the windy sunshine, getting stronger, dealing with errands, and as always looking at the bright world wherever I go... the folks at my bank branch all know me, Portland being the furthest outpost of their local branches, and I think not that many people actually go to the bank to do their business any more. I had a bit of a kerfluffle with Visa paperwork, and so asked if they could maybe help me sort it out, and with great sweetness, and a phone call from someone who spoke the right language, it was all taken care of. I so enjoy the interacting with real people, and hearing about what they are doing; they ask after my recovery and always have time for bit of two way update and chat.
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Today I braved the wilds of the NorthWest quadrant to find my way to the gynaecologic cancer support group over at Legacy/Good Samaritan. That side of the river is so different from where I live. I think that the group will be a good resource for me, and there are a lot of additional healing activities that are available there - I am particularly interested in the tai chi classes and the art workshops. There is something called "nia" which I think is a different kind of movement/music activity, and a range of other things. It gave me a different perspective, to be in a room with women who have much more grave circumstances than my own, who are also vibrant and full of life at the same time...
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

. .
look up, not just around and down...

Monday, March 26, 2012

savor the small things - waybread

In which our plucky heroine returns to the kitchen, for there are friends coming to visit...

These are delicious. They are basically almost all fat and protein, with just enough wheat to hold them together. If properly double baked till hard they keep well without refrigeration, convenient for camping, although leaving the full tin without the lid locked down in the same tent as a too smart for her own good Akita will certainly result in less backup waybread for the humans...

Crunchy Cheese Biscotti aka Waybread
(There is a lot of somewhat fiddley work to make these, but they are worth it)
4 oz cream cheese, soft*

4 T butter, soft*

4 egg yolks

8 oz sharp cheddar, grated

1 t baking powder

¼ c unbleached wheat flour

¼ c vital wheat gluten

1¼ c whole almond meal

* soft = room temp
Cream the butter and cream cheese together till smooth
Add the egg yolks one at a time, mix in completely
Add all the remaining ingredients, stir till combined
Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate at least 30 min
Preheat oven to 325F
Form dough into four rolls 3/4" thick and 2" wide
use parchment paper or a non stick cookie sheet.
- set an inch or more apart**, bake about 20 minutes
Remove from oven and let cool, reset oven to 225F
Cut cheese bars into pieces about 1/2" wide
- you should get between 50 and 60 total
Set pieces on their sides on cookie sheets,
Bake for a total of around 40 to 50 minutes,
- turn pieces over halfway through
- both sides are light golden and well cooked
Let cool thoroughly till hard and dry

Store in a tin, or serve at once
FYI, this recipe is from the Low Carb Comfort Food Cookbook, by Michael and Mary Eades

Saturday, March 24, 2012

tell me I'm pretty

y'know sometimes synchronicity is a clue by four... There is an ongoing subtext, at least for this woman, maybe for most women in our culture, about being pretty. Even someone like our plucky heroine here, who spends as little time as possible immersed in the dominant paradigm, cannot escape that tyranny.

I remember, when as a teen, having some of the peculiar teeth genetics dealt me sorted out. When the suggestion was floated to grind and cap them, to make them look more normal, my response was "why?, it is not like I am any kind of beauty queen"... had already decided by then that looks were not the coin for me to play in this life. As a young adult, being short and round and unconventional in looks was just another aspect barring me from easy intimate social interaction, like my intense shyness, or the lack of common ground, or the wonky, difficult, and/or nonexistent communication skills, or, or...

I grew up. Life taught me things, and my ability to function in the world of other people improved, rather quite a bit over the years. Eventually I learned the trick of chosen happiness despite circumstances, which is probably the most useful trick I know, even better than thingmaking. But the years of not-being-pretty, of being invisible, are part of the shape of my life. How many folks have heard me say about my beloved Smokey, when described as what a beautiful dog, heard me say "I get to be useful, she gets to be pretty"... I put all my internal cards on useful, always have, and take a fair bit of pride in the competence I have acquired over the years, in spite of the necessity that drove it.

But part of me, in the Firefly world, speaks with Kaylee's wistful voice, saying "Wash, tell me I'm pretty"...

Had an interesting talk with G about this, and his thoughts and words were of help, not simple "well to me you are pretty", but more deeply poetic and cogitated, about where beauty lives in us all, and how and when we choose to let that light out. You read in story sometimes, of the "plain" woman who only when seen in a certain way, or only when she smiles, and her beauty inside suddenly glows and is seen. All my life have intensely disliked being photographed, the visual equivalent of hearing one's own voice on tape; but my foolish loving girlself tells me to sit still and allow this, and that is how and why there are a few pictures he has taken of me where the who I am is visible in beauty.

I have nothing like the body I lived with as a young woman, gravity has shifted my curves further south, and the thick hair and smooth skin of that time are long gone. But I’d not trade the knowledge and viewpoints I have now for that young body and ignorant and troubled mind. As I now do what I can to heal from uterine cancer, and live with the results of that, I remind myself that we all are beautiful, all of us in the bright world have our own beauty. Patina is not only beautiful on objects, it is beautiful on people too
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Two very different essays that I found today, in my internet wanderings, that both speak to the confusion, both worth reading:
A Small Thank You to a Part of Myself
from Jackie Morris Artist, the blog of an amazing artist living in Wales

Pieces Of You: The hottest girl in the room isn't necessarily who you think
from a place I'd never think to look, Elle magazine blog.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Friday fragments

Despite being past the vernal equinox, last night was dipping closer and closer to freezing, and our plucky heroine rode home from dinner with friends through falling snow, the snow on the plum blossoms incongruous and lovely, the snow still on the ground when daylight again, the hens let out into a yard all blanched white and cold...
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

The improvisational shawl project is starting on the second skein of ravenwing yarn (Tosh Vintage, colorway mare), and on request from the library several of the Nickie Epstein knitting books - an interesting knitted border in a different color will be a good edge finish, and the books should arrive about the time they are needful...
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Have also been working on a test knit* of a leafy shawlette, but rather than wrap it around my neck, it seems to call out to me to become a knitted Laurel wreath, suitable for wrapping around an autumnal hat. The Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift has colors that are subtle, vivid and glowing in two shades of yellowy-green and slightly blue-green, and is very easy to knit with. It has a very different hand than the currently popular merino yarns, but feels as though it would be much more durable. Not sure if in the end I will leave the project as is, or try felting it.
first leaf, and a half, many more needed
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Another chance to visit with K and D, (in addition to the adventures getting K new spectacles yesterday, and the lebanese feast last night at YaHala), we met for sushi lunch before they drove north to Tacoma, dropping me back at Acorn Cottage on their way. It is always a treat to see D, I wish she lived closer than Ohio.
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Very soon will be time to return to my workaday world, but for now, long hours of walking continue to be part of my daily routine. This leads, inevitably, to more photography. Complex camera is slowly becoming more familiar, and will eventually become as good an extension of hand and eye as simple camera already is. Practice makes progress.
there are signs of spring
soft against the underbrush

this morning there was snow everywhere
this afternoon, delicate flowers

green-furred tree crotch

reflections caught in a tiny pool of melted snow
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

Another bit of good news, is that after much much searching I did manage to find a local gynaecologic cancer support group. Perhaps being around other women who are dealing with similar issues will be of help to me. The counselors I have talked to so far have not been very useful, and while I am feeling much more like myself again, there is a long road ahead, with many unknown twists and turns. Sometimes I wonder which is the delusion, to feel all shattered and damaged, or to feel back in my ownself and sound. I no longer know, and in that unknowing is my path forward...
~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

*there is a Ravelry group "Free Pattern Testers" where you can sign up to test knit patterns for designers. Some of the patterns will end up being free, and some for sale, but the test knitters get the patterns free in exchange for the work of testing the pattern, and giving feedback to the designer...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday tidbits

in which our plucky heroine receives Heartening Messages from round about, and is encouraged...

Not only is springtime on the way, indeed on this vernal equinox, the signs are everywhere, despite the snow on the henhouse roof yesterday morning. More flowers open every day, and the remaining fruit tree in the backyard (Bartlett pear), shows rounding buds of future blossoms. Maybe this year there will be a pear or two...

Strength returns steadily, if not as quickly as wishes would have it. There were a few transit trips last week, and with luck, and some sunshine, bicycle riding may even be possible.
≈ : ♥ : ≈

G was here for a short visit, bringing down from Emerald Keep not only an example of his latest inspired idea (a take-down longbow made from commonly available materials aka shovel handles), but a package that arrived in his mailbox addressed to yours truly... From his mother D, a beautiful cross stitch sampler with the words " blessed is the life that finds joy in the journey".

Those words ring so true, and will now be on the wall in the bedroom where I will see them every day when I waken. D has faced far greater challenges than I ever will, she is an inspiration to me, and my eyes filled with tears when I saw the beautiful handwork she made for a woman she has never met...

Sitting here writing, and eating for lunch the leftovers from our Sunday dinner out, (he arrived here so late that we ended up at the Courtyard Restaurant over at McMenamins Kennedy School). Instead of my usual choice, one of their signature burgers, I ordered the smoked pork shoulder, and G had the ribeye steak. I do not know exactly how their chef does it, but the mixed greens with my dinner, and the broccolini with G's, were so incredibly delicious that we both had to resist eating all the veg before the rest of the meal. Was pretty remarkable, 'cos the green parts are never his favorite part of dinner, how quickly those broccolini dissapeared!

Despite being only a 24-hour visit, we managed quite a bit of walkabout and picture taking (more practice for me with the complex camera)...
in sheltered warmth, vivid lime green bracts of euphorbia light up a yard

look down at your feet, tiny (white) violets are blooming

moss knows no barrier

with a stop for tasty sushi at a restaurant up in NW...
some say that crispy salmon skin is the bacon of the sea,
but the tentacular crunch of tiny squid bits is my favorite

≈ : ♥ : ≈

This morning there was a letter waiting for me, from my Dad, with this quote from Winnie the Pooh:
If ever there is a tomorrow when we're not together - there is something you must always remember.

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

But the most important thing is, even if we are apart - I'll always be with you.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday fragments + puzzleball tutorial

In which our plucky heroine discovers, as so many have before me, that the antidote for an excess of insomnia is caffeine... indeed, with a very modest amount of elixir it is possible to almost return to a former state of sassy selfhood... the rising curve before the crash... Spring is almost here, and this morning, there were goldfinches down the street, with their distinctive swooping curl of flight and golden feathers almost as bright as the daffodils splashed all round.
≈ : ♥ : ≈

Bit by bit various projects are completed, and with luck the next few days will continue the productivity. A puzzleball is a fun baby toy, (also sometimes made as a pincushion), but is currently intended as an addition to the almost finished box-o-goodies. It looks somewhat complicated, but is actually an simple, if slow, bit of handwork (easier to hand stitch than to do all those intersecting curves on the machine
The first step is to make a pattern, tracing round something circular that is a little bigger than the desired finished sphere (the lid to a quart yoghurt container was just about right). Fold that circle in quarters, to get the side pattern piece, and then fold the curved edge down along a line between the quarter-marks, to get the leaf-shaped outer piece.

Cut 12 of the outer pieces and 24 of the side pieces. Stitch side pieces to the outer ones, curved edge to curved edge, and stitch up one side of the straight edge of the side pieces. Turn and stuff the little quadrant, and stitch the open side up. Make 12 stuffed quadrant pieces. I like to hand stitch these, using a combination of backstitch and running stitch for most of the seams, about an eighth of an inch in from the edge, then use a close small overcast stitch to close them.

Stitch the corners of the leaf-shaped outer sides together in circular groups of four, making three pillow-y discs. Set one aside, for the second one, stitch all four inner corners together, and for the third one, stitch the inner corners together in two groups of two, leaving a kind of inner slot opening.

To assemble the puzzleball, slide the "solid" disc through the slotted disc, to form an X and Y axis. Then work the remaining disc, the one only attached at the edges, into position on the Z axis, and turn the pointy corners of the four little cushions towards the center.

Ta-da!! It should now resemble a sphere, and is both easy to grab with little baby hands, and a soft thing to roll back and forth when baby is bigger. The puzzleball can be left in the configuration that can be disassembled, which makes washing it easier, or the intersections can be further embroidered or embellished. I have seen pincushions with decorative buttons sewed on all the joining spots, but for a baby toy, simple and not swallowable is best.
≈ : ♥ : ≈

the upper half is a lovely cat,
and the bottom half is all cephalopod;
yes - it is an octo-puss!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

pi day wanderings

In which, for Pi Day, our plucky heroine serves a shepherds pie of Acorn Cottage scraps, sandwiched between external and internal weather...

the days lengthen incrementally, and every once in a while there is an egg in the nest box... very early Tuesday morning, in the backyard letting the hens out for the day, and a snowflake kissed the end of my nose, I walked back inside with those sky sparkles on my robe and in my hair, walked back inside to warmer kisses...

was one of the lovely weekends when G was able to come down here to visit. Not a lot of outdoor walkabout this time, and the wind and rain were quite enthusiastic in battering the windows and awnings, but there was time for me to finish the custom reflective safety vest I have been building for him, time for hours of needful talk, time to just rest quiet and safe, time to continue healing.

Mmmm sun-dried flannel sheets smell eversomuch nicer than those from the electric dryer. On the one sunny day last week, there was that one little window of opportunity, (and in accordance with secret laurel knowledge, one never passes up an opportunity) to get the laundry dry outdoors. There is no end to the simple pleasures in this life, it was a treat to feel strong enough to carry out the laundry basket, though I did take the precaution of weighing it first. A treat to be out under a sunny sky and pin the clean laundry on the line for the first time this year. And, of course, a treat to sleep between the outdoor scented sheets.
≈ : ♥ : ≈

fragments large and small,
even and uneven, held in matrix,
all in balance somehow

worn and stress cracked,
infill growth has it's own beauty,
the patina of effort and need

≈ : ♥ : ≈

Almost finished with the slippers started last year for my mother, they are made from felted knitting, and with the ever-uncertain results of that technique, came out with far too loose a top opening, so decided to add a top strap in the style of French Press Felted Slippers. Knitted garter stitch straps and felted them, added suitable vintage buttons from the ancestral button box, now to find some kind of non-slip sole to add. I plan on making a somewhat different pair for my father. The handknit socks that were a holiday gift back in '88 are worn to a ravelling, and replacements are long overdue...
≈ : ♥ : ≈

There is a story that run through my life over and over, a story I do not like. Does story happen because I look for it, does my noticing generate the tale, or is it something that is finished, and I can go on to a different track? Or is there a turning inherent in the tale, that I have somehow missed in all the previous chapters, that will allow the tale to continue on, rather than the record-skip repeat again and again. I walk in story with all senses as open as possible, to not miss whatever clues and cues there may be; mayhap this time of transition will indeed lead to new adventures and delights...

Friday, March 9, 2012

to float and not to flail

Our plucky heroine feels eversomuch better with balance between alone-time and social-time. Need to get engine turning over properly, the clutch (daily work) that kept it moving not being engaged at present. Not entirely certain about what to continue; after thirty years, mightily tired of being a housemaid, and unsure how/if it is possible to turn to skill-sharing/teaching and earn a living... currently deep in the between right now, doing my best to float and not flail...

C and I met yesterday for Chinese dinner and to see the new Miyazaki film Arietty. Was worth seeing it on the big screen, there were lovely botanical details, and the as always exquisite rain animation. The story was adapted well, being re-set in a modern-ish Japanese context and not losing the charm of the original tale. I still wish that I could have seen it either with the British voiceovers, or in Japanese with subtitles, the Disney voices never sound right to me, particularly in this very British story, and the song that they chose for the ending credits I found to be very jarring. But those are minor quibbles with a very lovely film.

Today was her birthday party, at YaHala. K picked me up early, so I had a good visit over in SE, and saw firsthand the size of adult semi-dwarf apple trees!! L allowed as if I was willing to do the work, espalier would be one way to keep trees within reach of the ground; I have no desire to be scrambling around on ladders when I am an ancient crone. There was so much inspiring vegative growth to see. Some primroses are sweetly scented - who knew? And so very breath-of-spring, the assorted recombinant crocus blossoms in their lawn! I need to do this for Acorn Cottage, it would be LOVELY to look out in the spring and see dappled color between the plum trees. According to K, they come back again and again, and not only increase but set seed, and keep adding beauty. Surely there will be a bit of spare dosh for some bulbs in the fall, and surely there will be more springs to enjoy such beauty. Fingers crossed...

Had an inspiration that my pal C needed a pocket Totoro as a birthday gift. Maybe because we went to see Arietty last night… It occurred to me that adapting the pattern I used for chocobun would be a good jumping off point. I created different ears, made a duplicate stitch white tummy, and embroidered the details. Added whiskers with my standard technique using horsehair. Took about four hours this afternoon.

tiny Totoro, about the size of a hen egg

It seems that left to my own devices I have drifted back to the things I knew so well in my youth: I knit, and make toys, and gifts for folks. I walkabout and looksee, (and now take pictures to share that). Where is my motivation to return to my workbench? I keep saying that I will, but not doing... This perturbs me. Is this part of being betwixt and between? Have I simply become lazy in my convalescence? What is the connection between my inner confusion and illness and the disorganised clutter that is overtaking my home? Can any of my former visions of the future even have the strength to be a vehicle forward? If I knew the answers to these and all the questions I dare not share here, then I would no longer BE in the between place. Starting the engine from stopped takes a great deal of torque. Ain't sayin' can't, ain't sayin' easy... I have great strength of will, once where to place the lever becomes clear...once what the next thing is begins to drift out of this mist, an internal mist on a beautiful sunny early spring day...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

art is where you find it

walking home last night, slowly, in about second gear, and the quality of all the lights, the light in the sky and and the taillights of the cars, the various lights in the laundry, just struck me as so very painterly... a kind of Edward Hopper view... I've been seeing this wash-n-dry every since I moved here, and finally managed to capture the vintage feel of the place

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

wishful Wednesday

mostly wishing for energy and inspiration, been a mighty great lack of the above round here lately...

Not that all is unwell, mind you, healing is proceeding slow and steady, sleep when she chooses to grace the cottage comes peacefully and without the nightmares that have troubled me for many years, and there are signs of springtime rising all over the neighborhood.

The last few walkabout days were also time to practice with Complex Camera, like driving a car vs riding a bike, it allows greater possibility than Easy Camera, but with much greater input. Still figuring it out, and remembering how very difficult I found learning to drive. Required much time behind the wheel, and for years I could not even listen to the radio while driving. Of course, eventually it did become easier, and now, even without a car of my own, the activity of driving is mostly on automatic reflex, allowing attention to be on what is happening around the vehicle, with tiny amounts for music and passenger talk. In time the new camera will become a similar extension of my intent. Whenever it seems that I will run out of things to see on my limited walkabouts, I invariably find something new...
ivy dreams of spring ...

patina pathways

old and new red

mosses and lichens living in harmony

words to live by...

'tis important to know
which way the wind blows...

" decide which is real
and which is an illusion..."

~ : ♥ : ~

Many good folks have shared books and movies, to keep me from going quite mad while convalescing. Nicole not only has brought me tasty food leftovers, but also a bag full of "books for the journey" which is proving very useful indeed. I am currently partway through the way of transition, which is speaking directly to the very odd state of mind that I find I am living inside of.

"It is as if you had let go of one trapeze at the circus and then discovered that there were not yet any provisions made for sending another trapeze swinging toward you. But the transition process does not depend on there being a replacement reality waiting in the wings. "
~ : ♥ : ~

In additional really good news, yesterday the errant knitting needles turned up, after being put away Someplace Safe two months ago; not in the tattered and cracked black case from a set of socket wrenches that I remembered, and that they had lived in for decades, I somehow decided pre-surgery to put them in a pretty basket-box. And to hide leave said box at the bottom of a pile of similar but empty boxes. What was I thinking? Nonetheless, all the borrowed knitting gear can be returned to my generous friends. Pictured above is "choco-bun", a whimsey made from scraps of wool yarn and two hematite beads - because sometimes it is is necessary to just be silly and knit something kawaii.