Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gently Rocked by Ocean Waves - DIY Baby Blanket Pattern

As I wrap blue yarn with hints of pink and green and purple around my knitting needle and pull one stitch through the other an ocean grows.
The sky is dark and the water is reflecting the stars, the moon, the whole universe.
There are shimmers of light on gentle ocean swells.


The swells rising and falling and swirling.
Cradled in the middle of it all is a baby.
A tiny speck in the vastness of everything - gently rocked, safe and snug and warm.


Materials:

3 Skeins Lion Brand Yarns Wool-Ease, Blue Mist
   (the gauge listed on label is 18 stitches by 24 rows to make a 4" square on size 8 needles)
size 10 needles

short note on yarn choice:
I chose this yarn because it is machine washable and dryable and contains 20% wool.  I prefer to work with yarns that are composed of natural fibers, but since this is a gift for a young mom and her first child I figured that utility, affordability and appearance was allowed to over ride my yarn snobbery. (And my favorite yarn store closed so for now I am stuck with Joanne's) The blankets I knit for my kiddos were made of 100% cotton and were very stiff until they had been washed a few times.

Finished Measurements: 29" x 36"

How to:


  • cast on 105 stitches
  • knit two rows
  • on the third row start following the stitch chart below and repeat the pattern set 11 times
  • so, Row 1 would be k2, ssk, *yo, k1, yo, k2, [k2tog] twice; repeat from *to last 2 stitches, yo, k2
  • all even rows are k2, p to last 2 sts, k2


  • repeat the 8 row pattern 21 times or until the desired length is reached
  • on the final repeat of the pattern, end on row 7 
  • knit 2 rows 
  • bind off knit wise on wrong side



Because of the pattern, the whole blanket is pulled into a diagonal shape and blocking is required to achieve the final dimensions.

This pattern was inspired by a pattern for a Lace Friendship Shawl I found in the book Knitting a Kiss in Every Stitch by Nicky Epstein.

Monday, November 18, 2013

S is for Slow, Saturday, Sunday and Shy

Stitch by stitch the blue yarn is becoming a blanket.  It covers my lap, warm and soft.

We have had a lazy Saturday and a slow Sunday.

The kiddos are on a train ride to California.  Every chair in the house in a straight line.  Lamb and Tiger, doll and bear, Ivory and Sylvan passengers in one giant adventure. Sylvan drives. Ivory serves tea. Ivory drives. Sylvan is the caboose.



I knit. I dream. I observe. I think. I remember.

I picture myself crouched down, peering into Ivory's face, my arms wrapped around a tiny Sylvan and scolding her: "When someone tells you that your hair is pretty, you say thank you.  When somebody says Hi to you, you say hi back.  You are being rude when you just ignore people."
She looks back at me with tears in her eyes: " But Mama, I'm shy."


I was exasperated.  I couldn't imagine that my little girl who seems to have no problem approaching strangers, dominating other mother's laps and leading gangs of children around had any shy in her.
"No Ivory, that was not being shy.  Ignoring people is rude."
I'm frustrated.  I feel like I am somehow failing at teaching proper social graces.  That this somehow defines me as a bad mom.

She still meets stranger's complements at best with complete disregard and at worst with a stare that should send the complement giver hiding in the nearest hole.  I no longer reprimand her. We have talks about saying hi back to friends, and about other folks feelings, but with strangers I smile and say thank you and we move on.

A few days ago we had our first parent teacher conference.
Her marks are great, with only one discrepancy.  Ms. F points it out and says: You can see she tested a little low here, but I'm not worried.  I know she can do these things, but she was tested by a stranger, and she is really shy."

Wait.

What?

She is SHY?

SHE is shy?

She IS shy.

We have been moving through our world in a bubble.  A bubble filled with me, and Adam, and Sylvan and a handful of friends and kids of friends and in that world Ivory reigns supreme. She is bold and confident, her thoughts and words pouring out of her like a waterfall.

I had no idea.

I should have noticed, or rather, I should have understood what I did notice.  Those strangers that approach, even if it is only for a quick complement (usually her hair), infringe on our sphere uninvited. She ignores them.  She stares them down.  She silently asks them why they invaded her space.

She is shy.  She told me so herself.

The train has reached it's destination.  The sofa has exploded into a fort.  The living room into a field of blankets.  This bubble is safe and warm and filled with love and it is perfectly fine to be choosy about who gets to come inside.



Lazy Saturday Egg-Less Muffins 

(there is no way I am going to the store to get eggs) 

1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups apple juice 
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup of oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 small apples
1/2 cup finely chopped Walnuts (I have to hide them from Ivory) 
  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • grease a 12-cup muffin pan
  • combine dry ingredients
  • add wet ingredients
  • stir in the apples and walnuts
  • divide evenly between muffin cups
  • bake or 25 to 30 minutes
  • cool for 5 minutes and then remove from the pan









Friday, November 15, 2013

My name is Heidi: I am Destroying YOUR Country

I am face down on the floor in child's pose, inches away from the furnace warm air blowing over my body, tears pooling on the floor.

Adam took Ivory to the bus stop.  

Sylvan is playing. 

I am crying.  

I have been crying and crying and crying. 

I got the day wrong on which I was to deliver the salad to the staff lounge at Ivory's school and it was the last tiny little snow flake to land on a mountain of snow and set off an avalanche.  It is rushing down and nothing will stop the force of gravity until it reaches the valley floor. 

I will be the first to admit this is one part hormones mixed in with a million other things:  The feeling of failure that has been building for months.  The feeling that I am okay at many things but not great at anything and not being able to figure out at which skill I am supposed to excel.  The years of sleepless nights.  My constant battle against the natural state of the universe - chaos.  The clash of schedules and occupations in our house hold.  At this point I want, no need, to get into the woods with an insane desperation, and Adam after having been in the woods all week wants to be home, needs to be home to finish things around here.  The weeks and weeks of it just being me.  The obsessive canning because I am terrified, all be it unreasonably, that someday there will be no more food.  The expiration of the Recovery Act. 

The thing is, I can tell you exactly the moment this started.  The moment at which the fear and self doubt started to take over.  I was digging a new garden bed that now holds garlic and strawberries in wait for next summer.   Adam in Idaho (on a job for the forest service).  The government shut down eminent.  (Yup.  That project got furloughed and thankfully rescheduled.)  The content on my Facebook feed had shifted, sure there were the petitions to remove pay for the members of congress, the bi-partisan bitching that was to be expected, but underneath it all there is a more terrifying attitude of which I caught a glimpse.  Did any body else notice it?  It haunts me.  It grabbed me and it will not leave me alone.  It is this:  according to my Facebook feed it is not those with money and influence that are ruining this country - no - it is me.  Me. ME.  

A friend liked this text.  A friend I thought I liked - liked this text.  So, I read it.  I read the comments. I couldn't stop reading it. I know the ideas and stereotypes embodied in these paragraphs are ignorant.   I took enough sociology classes, and political science classes and have enough life experience to know the absolute ridiculousness of these words and yet -

It crushed me. 

The thing is these posts keep coming:
Monster energy drinks can now be purchased with EBT benefits.  (I don't agree with the logic of this either, but in my opinion most of our grocery stores are filled with non-food items, but no one is complaining about instant pudding or white bread or lunch-ables or go-gurt or American cheese - because the discussion isn't really about food - is it?) 
The welfare mom vs. the veteran.
The us vs. them.
The responsible vs. the irresponsible. 
The worthy vs. the unworthy.

I am an EBT card at the grocery store and to some, I am destroying the integrity of this country one swipe at a time, but for this moment -

I am crying.  

I am crying because the only thing left in the garden is kale.  
I am crying because when I try to talk to Adam about this all he hears is your not good enough, you don't work hard enough - which is not what I am meaning, but what I am hearing as well.  
I have not told him about the Facebook post.  I will not. 

When Adam walks back in he says nothing - just presses is hands into  my lower back - and then pours me a cup of coffee.  I thankfully note that he is for once not offering suggestions, fixes, frustration at my frustration.  What is there to fix? 

I cry until I everything is calm. 

I am empty. 

I get up and go. 

I take the salad to the staff lounge. 
It fresh and crisp - lettuce with apples and carrots, walnuts and raisins, a sprinkling of feta and home made honey mustard dressing.  



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lessons of a Growing Season and a Jerusalem Artichoke Soup Recipe

I don't consider myself to be an experienced gardener.  

Every year is new and every year new lessons are learned. 

This year cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and Jerusalem artichokes were new additions to my garden.   The cabbage needed more sun.  The broccoli provided us with a nice dense head of green followed with crisp little side shoots for the rest of the growing season.  The Brussels sprouts resulted in cheers when I served them to my kids.  And the Jerusalem artichokes - well they did great, but dominated the sad row of tomatoes I planted next to them.  While the sturdy stalks of the sunflowers reached preposterous heights, the tomatoes barely survived.  

I know now to not plant anything close to these vigorous plants. 


Rather than having the abundant harvest of tomatoes I had hoped for, beautiful fall bouquets brightened up our living space. 



After a few light freezes, a serious cold snap was predicted and our whole family went to work.  We pulled the last few things out of the garden: carrots, Brussels sprouts, onions, tiny heads of cabbage (lack of sun), horse radish and the few remaining broccoli shoots.  We pushed garlic into the ground (a little late) and mounded leaves around sensitive plants.


And then we unearthed the Jerusalem artichoke tubers.



This spring I planted half a dozen, wrinkled Jerusalem artichoke tubers that had been stored in the bottom of my fridge all winter and they yielded an amazing bounty of roots.


It was only after we dug them all up that I went inside and leafed through the pages of my gardening books.  

How do I store these? 

They are best left in the ground, mulched heavily, and harvested when needed. 

Yikes!


  I am already composing a to do list for next spring:
     - dig more garden beds
     - thin out the strawberries
     - amend the soil (it is in desperate need of nitrogen)
     - plant more parsley
     - successfully grow winter squash (I'm done with containers and crappy potting soil)
     - more space between plants
     - plant a non dwarf variety of kale as well as my favorite Dwarf Curly Blue variety

For now we are eating Jerusalem artichokes.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup 

1/4 cup butter
2 onions, minced
1 lb Jerusalem artichokes, diced
2 potatoes, diced 
  • cook 10 minutes covered, ook 10 more minutes uncovered
1 Tablespoon flour
3 cups broth
  • simmer 5 minutes (or until potatoes are soft) and then blend
3/4 cup of cream of half and half
salt and pepper 
1/4 fresh parsley
  • stir in the remaining ingredients
(optional variation: add a few pieces of cooked and crumbled bacon as a garnish) 


Sunday, November 3, 2013

'Tis the Season

of Maple Leaves

A cold front blew the golden leaves off of the trees.  
The branches of the maple trees dark against the sky. 
The branches of other maple trees are bare against the sky.  
Our maple is a silver maple.  (A lesser maple.)
Its leaves yellowing, curling, most still clinging to the branches and some still stubbornly green.  
What leaves have fallen are curled, mixed with sticks, not the sort of leaves that beg to be piled and jumped into. 
So we rake the golden drifts that have blown into our drive way from across the street, down the alley, all across our neighborhood and pile then in our yard. 


Ivory and Sylvan laugh and shriek and jump into the pile and toss leaves into the air.
They run back and forth bringing more leaves by the arm full, the wagon full, balanced on the rakes.


Their cheeks flush and eyes shine. 
I try to remember the last time I heard this much laughter and marvel at the simplicity of this pleasure. 

of Pumpkins 

After dinner we finally pull the pumpkins onto the table. 
Sylvan and Ivory and I picked them out a week ago.  They have been shuffled around the house, colored on, grouped and regrouped waiting for an evening when Adam was home too. 
Ivory and Sylvan draw faces and we trace their lines with knives.  The seeds toast in the oven. 





















Adam blows out the candles while the rest of us are cuddled up in bed reading bed time books. 

of Halloween

"Mama get my cheese so Ivory can eat me!!"  Sylvan can barely contain himself while I unbuckle him from his car seat.  I manage to slow them to snap one picture and they are off to join the hoard of neighborhood kids at a potluck that has long since become tradition. 


As the light fades a hoard of children takes over our neighborhood. 

of the Festival of the Dead

Our silver maple has shed its leaves.  
It stands just as bare as those other maples that once were gold. 
The pumpkins sit unlit next to the front door.
It is brisk, but I shoo the kids outside.
We have passed from one month to the next. 
One season to the next.  

We make our way down town for our favorite parade of the year.  
It is the Festival of the Dead. 


Black and white, trumpets and drums, political and intensely private motivations, the living impersonating the dead - move down the street - stepping solemnly or dancing.

The skeletons of trees stand against the sky.  It is as much a celebration of the season as of life and living and all those that have lived and are remembered.