07 November 2010

A Whole New Family

A few days ago I learned that I have a whole family that I've never met. What a wonderful surprise! As an only child raising an only child, our family is small and I've often missed having the boisterous holiday gatherings that larger families have. Growing up, we had large gatherings of relatives from my Mother's side of the family (which is rooted in TX)  that were always organized by my Grandmother. Granny passed away in the '90's and that bunch hasn't gotten together since. Another branch of my Mother's family used to have a family reunion every year, but that too has fallen by the wayside. We do still see several of them throughout the year and that is nice. We are making more efforts recently to stay in touch.

My Father's side of the family had all been in New York and we used to visit when I was younger. When my Father's twin sister and two brothers passed away, he lost touch with their families. Recently he heard from his niece, my cousin, in California. It turns out that she has three sons around my age with scads of grandchildren around Claire's age! Poof, instant family! Thanks to Facebook, we have been able to instantly connect, see pictures of each other's children and learn all about our lives.

My Father and his young niece in the 40's.
 I've never doubted that I'd stay connected to my Mother's family, but my Father's family was a mystery. It is such a great feeling to know that my Father still has a large family after all and they will be around to be Claire's family too as she grows up; what a blessing.

So to all my family: I am grateful to have you in my life and I vow to stay in touch in the years to come. I hope you will all do the same and that our children will grow up knowing a larger extended family than we did!

21 September 2010

Poinsettias for the holidays

The holidays will soon be here and it's time to consider your decorating. Poinsettias are both traditional and beautiful. This is your opportunity to order in advance and be prepared. Claire is selling Poinsettias in 6" pots in red, pink or white to raise money for her participation in the The Children's Chorus of Greater Dallas. The Chorus is planning a major tour (possibly international) in 2012 which will cost as much as $3000 per child (yikes)! Proceeds from Poinsettia sales go directly into Claire's account to help offset the tour cost. Each plant is $12 (of which $5 will go to Claire's account). That's a lot of pretty Poinsettias! Please order for your home and workplace. Ask around to friends, shops, offices and so on. Orders are due by November 1st and will be received on December 4th. Post here or email me with your order. Thanks for your support! Let's send Claire on tour!

06 September 2010

Chassé Shrug

This is a simple, quick knit for adults or children. When my eleven year old daughter was ready for something a little more than simple knitting, but nothing too complicated, we came up with the Chassé Shrug. This shrug is made in one piece with no seaming. It includes the new skills of using double pointed needles, ribbing and a simple cable. The sizing is custom, based on the size of the person and can be used with any yarn. It is written with the beginning or child knitter in mind.

Claire is an accomplished young ballerina who is going en pointe this year so she is upgrading her dance wardrobe. This simple shrug will be a nice addition.

sts - stitches
in - inch
CO - cast on
# - number
/ - per
x - times
dpns - double pointed needles
K- knit
P - purl
cbl ndl - cable needle (you can also use an extra dpn)
sl - slip
rep - repeat
beg - beginning
BO - bind off

You can use any yarn for this pattern. Depending on size of yarn and length of sleeves, you will need 1 - 3 skeins (balls).

You will start at the bottom edge of the right sleeve, work across the back and down the left sleeve all in one piece, no seams.

Determine how many stitches to cast on by using this formula: # sts / in x desired length = # CO sts (to do this, knit a small test swatch and using a ruler, count how many stitches are lined up within an inch). To determine CO length, measure around the largest part of your arm.

CO appropriate # of sts divided evenly on 3 dpns (video here), place a stitch marker near beg of round.
K1, P1 rib for 4 rounds

Begin cable pattern (determine where your cable should be by finding the center of your round and counting 3 sts on either side. Place 2 stitch markers to separate these 6 sts when you come to them). This way your cable goes up the center of the sleeve and across the center of the back.

Right Sleeve:
Round 1: K to where 1st marker goes (place 1st marker), P1, sl 2 sts onto cbl ndl and hold in front, K 2 sts from left ndl, P1, (place 2nd marker), K to end of round (video here)
Rounds 2-6: K to marker, P1, K4, P1, K to end of round
Rep rounds 1 - 6 until sleeve is desired length (we made 3/4 length sleeves, you may prefer wrist length)

At beg of next round, transfer sts to straight ndls in order to knit back of shrug flat.
Continue as follows:
Row 1: P2, K to marker, P1, sl 2 sts onto cbl ndl and hold in front, K2 from left ndl, K2 sts on cbl ndl, P1, K to last 2 sts, P2
Rows 2, 4, & 6: K2, P to marker, K1, P4, K1, P to last 2 sts, K2
Rows 3 & 5: P2, K to marker, P1, K4, P1, K to last 2 sts, P2
Continue until flat portion covers back between shoulders (get someone to hold it up for you)

Left Sleeve:
At beg of next round, transfer sts to dpns (divided evenly as before).
Continue cable pattern as for 1st sleeve until 2nd sleeve is same length as 1st, ending with round 1 of pattern.
K1, P1 rib for 4 rounds
BO all sts
Weave in yarn ends.

We will add photographs as we go along and also will note any corrections.

19 August 2010

I Hate to Cook

Well, not really, it's not my first choice for leisure time activity but I enjoy it sometimes. Claire is a budding pastry chef and keeps our kitchen humming. On vacation, I was reading a humorous article about one woman's kitchen adventures. She mentioned the I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken, published in 1960 (the only cookbook her mother had owned). I didn't think much of it at the time, but while perusing the shelves of The Book Nook in Rockport, I saw this charming little book (of course I will always find both the yarn shop and the used book store wherever I travel). It was meant to be.
 The book's illustrations are by Hilary Knight, who also illustrated the delightful Eloise. This alone was reason to own it. Reading about the 1960's housewife who had better things to do than cook is the real charm. The chapter titles include The Leftover - or Every Family Needs a Dog, Potluck Suppers - or How to Bring the Water for the Lemonade, and Desserts - or People are too Fat Anyway. There's even a helpful Household Hints section - "If your veils or lace collars get that tired look, you can crisp them by ironing them between two sheets of waxed paper."
This morning I happened upon this article in the New York Times. It appears that the author's daughter has revised and reprinted the book for its 50th anniversary. What great timing that I discovered this book this summer; I am so glad that I have the original on my kitchen shelf! So, I'm trying something new - after much wasted time trying to understand it, I think I've set up an account with Amazon so that if you are inclined to purchase The I Hate to Cook Book: 50th Anniversary Editionfrom them, I will earn a small commission. If this works and I make a little money, I will invite you over for dinner and Claire and I will cook an authentic meal from the original book!

To Market

As planned I went to White Rock Market last Saturday to look at bicycles. I didn't find the right one, but am planning to see more that they keep in storage. More tales of The Knitted Bicycle to come. Other than a bicycle, I expected to purchase some nice fruits and vegetables. Like these:

What I did not expect to come home with was a kitten. Jill (who drove in from Paradise - west of Denton) found a kitten on the side of the road as she was driving through Boyd on Highway 114. There amongst her beautiful fresh baked breads and homemade jams was a sign that said "free kitten." He took one look, saw the sucker that I am and began loudly yowling to get out of his box and be on his way. I pretended to give the situation some serious thought, but I think we both knew from the beginning what the outcome would be. In all the excitement, I didn't get a picture of Jill's wares, nor did I come home with any. I will have to visit her again at the next market.

Little kitten is home now, named Nikolas (Nick or Niko for short), he has settled in quickly and gets along well with the rest of the crew. He even has his own facebook page which Claire is kindly helping him update.

Fresh from the farm in a tomato box.

02 August 2010

The Knitted Bicycle - Part One

Taking inspiration from Magda Sayeg (Knitta Please), knitting street artist, I am beginning to clothe non traditional things with knitting. Bicycles travel and are highly visible so what better place for some mobile stitches. Claire has the most groovy '70's bicycle, it all ready has great rainbow stripes on the frame and seat, so I added some to the handle bars.  
At the next White Rock Local Market I will be shopping for one of Fred DeMetrovich's fabulous restored vintage bicycles for ME, so my next project is a helmet cover. I am starting with my horse helmet, which I will wear in lieu of a bike helmet (must be different). I am essentially making a giant hat for the helmet (photos in the next installment). A bike helmet is an odd shape and requires further study for design and shaping of a helmet cover.
My last non traditional knitted object was a steering wheel cover. It has held up well to daily use, although constant sun exposure has faded it.
More Knitted Bicycle accessories coming soon!

13 July 2010

Berry Pickin'

We went to gather blueberries from East Tx yesterday.
No,not here.


The blueberries came all the way from Blueberry Hill Farms in Edom, TX, but we only had to drive to Richardson. It was all a bit clandestine - people coming and going from a non-descript office building under the DART tracks to get their berry fix. Well worth it though, we got to savor the results of a trip to the berry farm with no bending and reaching in the hot sun, no extra miles on the car and no delivery charges. Only $20 for a huge gallon bag of hand picked the same day, fresh, organic, juicy, wonderful berries. They said they'll be back with more (let me know if you want some - I can hook you up).

Bluberries growing on the city sidewalk!

Picked fresh!

We have gone to pick our own blueberries for a few summers now, but it didn't look like we were going to make it this year. I was so excited when I received the email that the berries would be coming to us instead.  

Claire made us a pie for breakfast!

10 July 2010

Pet Food Crisis

This morning we were out of dog food. And chicken food. And now cat food. The humans are in big trouble. A trip to the pet store and feed store is in our very near future, but in the meantime, I had to get creative with the snacks. The dogs had salad which was accepted eagerly, although some was put on the floor to be sorted through.

The chickens also had salad; they were very happy at this news. These used to be the ends of a watermelon. Chickens like watermelon.

The cats got lucky and polished off the last pouch of moist food in the cupboard (it was actually puppy food, but don't tell anyone).
I'd best be off to stock up before there's a mutiny at dinner time!

05 July 2010


There's nothing like a hurricane to put some excitment into a trip to the beach. A week or so before we planned to head down to the South Texas coast to Rockport, a large mass of clouds appeared in the weather forecast. Pretty soon these clouds were named Alex. One of the storm tracking models put landfall right on top of us. We weren't going to let that discourage us so off we went. The first few days of vacation included plenty of time watching the Weather Channel. The day before the storm hit, things got wild.
This is the bay coming over the sea wall. Note the electrical transformer in the foreground. We'll discuss it later.
Being the adventurous types, we found it necessary to go out for a drive during all of this. When we came home, the garage door didn't open. (This was the first clue). Perhaps it was stuck. The quiet house, lacking the hum of the air conditioner and refrigerator confirmed the real story - the power was out. It was still light so we were not concerned, surely it will come back on soon. At dusk we decided to look for flashlights. No. Back to the HEB. After a lovely candlelight dinner off the grill (aha, not electric) we called it a night.
I opened one eye in the morning to search for small red lights on various plugged in things. No. House still quiet. Coffee maker requires electricity - not good. Maybe it will be back on when we return from the restaurant. No. Whoever decided that it was a good idea to install a transformer five feet from the bay was not planning ahead. This is a coastal town where there might be some expectation of high waves. The guys who were out all night working on it agreed that it was not such great planning. Thanks to their hard work, the power finally came on. 24 hours after going off.   
Alex ended up as a category 1 hurricane that hit about 250 miles south of us. The outer bands of the storm were quite large and covered a huge area. The high water and flooding was extensive.

These are fishing piers:

These folks didn't need a pier, they fished in the street:

The deck actually ends past the pilings:

21 June 2010

Summer Solstice


. . . the pool . . . the beach . . . backyard bbq . . . the smell of sunscreen . . . water . . . sand in your toes . . . sunshine . . . fireflies . . . green grass . . . sunflowers . . . ice cream . . . straw hats . . . lemonade . . . sprinklers . . . air conditioning . . . sandals . . . flags flying . . . watermelon . . . long days . . . childhood memories . . .

A happy first day of summer to everyone!

15 June 2010

Furry Visitors

This morning I was in the kitchen preparing blue eggs for breakfast when I heard "Mommy, two big dogs just ran across the front yard; I'm going to go see them." Next thing I knew, we had Marley and Ruby in the backyard while calling the numbers on their tags. A man answered. "Oh. we're in Pittsburgh, " he said. Immediately, visions of two extra dogs for the next week ran through my mind. I thought quickly and asked if there was a sitter. Yes. He called home. Their daughter was just getting up and would come right over. Whew! Meanwhile, the girls had a great time playing with them. Our dogs (inside) were barking madly wanting to come outside and get in on the fun.

All ended well with a short walk down the block back home. The big lesson learned is that animals should always wear collars and tags with their names and cell phone numbers! Or in the case of our dogs, beaded necklaces with said information.

14 June 2010

Flag Day

Today is Flag Day, commemorating the adoption of our flag in 1777. Yesterday we went to a Flag Retirement Ceremony at Flag Pole Hill put on by Old Worn Flag. Here's some news footage. It was fascinating to learn the customs and procedures for respectful destroying of flags that are no longer fit to fly. A grommet from each flag is cut off to keep, then the blue star field is cut away from the stripes, separating the Union from the Colonies. It is no longer considered a flag at this point and the pieces are separated and burned. Boy Scouts were there in force to honor 100 years of their organization. A traveling Liberty Bell made an appearance and we got to hear Annie Benjamin sing songs about our nation. There was even a bright orange Lamborghini. It was all very patriotic and a great way to kick off the summer season leading up to the Fourth!

13 June 2010

Blue Egg

The beautiful blue prize we've been waiting for arrived today! Celine has given us a lovely bluish green egg. She looks proud, doesn't she? Based on her age, we thought there would be eggs last month so we've been watching every day. Now we have two laying hens so we can make a proper sized omelette! We have been gettting little brown eggs from Coco (they were supposed to be white). We also briefly had eggs from Sophie, but are sad to report that she passed on to Chicken Heaven just the other day. She had been acting slow and timid which seemed to be her personality, but all of a sudden one morning she took a turn for the worse and just drifted away. Be in peace, little Sophie.

09 June 2010

Learn to Knit (or Remember How)

"I haven't the time." The days are longer and life is more relaxed. Summer is perfect for learning something new. 

"I haven't the patience." Knitting teaches patience. It can even be used as a mindful meditation practice.

I am offering individual or small group knitting lessons for adults and children. Talk to your friends about joining you. We will arrange a time that works well for all parties involved. We can meet in my home or yours or at a bookstore or coffee shop. Beginning materials and resource list are provided. The first session will consist of four lessons (one and a half hours each) over two to three weeks. Cost is $75 per person, per session. Follow up sessions consist of three lessons for $50. Leave a comment here to let me know you are interested and we'll communicate privately about details.

Consider this:

"Recent neurological research tends to confirm that mobility and dexterity in the fine motor muscles, especially in the hand, may stimulate cellular development in the brain, and so strengthen the physical foundation of thinking."

"Knitting and gardening reduce the risk of dementia in later life."

"Knitting teaches children success through persistence, concentration, control, follow-through and mastery and improves fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination and brain development."

09 May 2010

A Very Small Omelette

We were given another little egg yesterday so today we made a small omelette with a little salt and pepper and a sprinkle of cheese inside. Farm fresh and delicious; nothing from a grocery store can top this! 
We discovered Sophie in the nesting barrel shortly before yesterday's egg appeared. She was sitting on the fake wooden egg, meant to encourage laying, tucking herself in and adding straw around the egg. The wood egg was promptly removed to discourage any broodiness and not long after, a real one was in its place.

07 May 2010

An Egg! An Egg!

This morning we found our first egg in the nesting barrel! It is quite small and white, perhaps a slight tint of brown. This must be a gift from Sophie or Coco since they are the Bantams. The eldest of the others is Celine, her eggs should be blue or green so I don't think it's hers. If we receive another one today or tomorrow, we will have fresh eggs for breakfast this weekend! Hooray!