Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Letters

I've written a few Friday Letters to recap my week, say what's on my mind, and maybe even take the opportunity to let a few things go. Join Paula here to share your own letters and read those from other "pen pals". Let's open the mail...

Dear Jack Daniel,

I'm sorry we've been apart for so many years, but I am glad we had the chance to get reacquainted. I spent some time with you back in the 70s when I thought a whiskey sour fountain at a wedding was the height of glamor and sophistication, but we parted ways and I became friendly with Arthur Guiness, Jose Cuervo (that relationship didn't last long!), and Gaspare Campari. I invited you over this week as part of my storm preparations, and even though I wish you could have pitched in to help me shovel, I did enjoy your company afterwards. I'm looking forward to spending some enjoyable evenings with you in the future.

Dear Borough Plow Guys,

Please accept my sincere thanks for not plowing my driveway shut more than once. I'm so thankful that you slowed down and took pity on this poor old woman leaning on her shovel, looking tired and sore after digging out the three-foot wall of snow. I greatly appreciate your efforts and kind consideration!

Dear Alpacas,

Thank you so very much for your warm fiber. My feet and hands were freezing this morning, but socks and fingerless gloves made with lovely yarn from you took care of those problems in short order. You've given me the strength and fortitude to face going to the grocery store when it's -4 degrees.

Dear People Who Leave Their Carts in the Middle of the Grocery Store Aisle Then Scowl at Me When I Say "Excuse Me",

I wrote last week about the cart issue, and while I haven't seen much improvement, perhaps it's time to move on to the scowling problem. If I and other shoppers say, "Excuse me", I believe that a smile, nod, or simple "I'm sorry" might be more productive than scowling at us. We all have a much better shopping experience if we're pleasant, especially because your smile may prevent me from running you over with my shopping cart. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Be Prepared

We had a small(ish) storm over the weekend that produced six or seven inches of snow. Husband John, son Justin, and I worked together on snow removal, so we had the driveway and sidewalks cleared in a pleasant few hours. I didn't do anything special to prepare for that storm since I had plenty to eat, read, and knit.

We're now awaiting another larger snowstorm that's being described as historic, epic, significant, hazardous, paralyzing, destructive, etc. I'm beginning to get a little concerned since even the National Weather Service is starting to use some of these adjectives in their forecasts, warnings, and watches, but I guess the prediction of 18-24 inches of snow and 50 mph winds lends itself to some hyperbolic language.

My other reason for concern is that I'm here by myself. John travels quite a bit for work, and is departing on his next trip today (as long as he can get out of Philadelphia airport). Several weeks ago he joked about being sure we would have some sort of major weather event while he was gone because I've managed three hurricanes and two three-foot snowfalls while he's been away, often somewhere warm and sunny.

I think the answer is to be prepared. I know how to use the snow blower and run the generator. I've prepared a big pot of soup, bread, calzones, and blueberry muffins, all things that can be easily eaten if we lose power. I have several knitting projects that I'm looking forward to working on. My phone, Kindle, and rechargeable flashlights are charging, and I have three or four "real" books at the ready.

Late last night I remembered there was one other thing I needed to be completely prepared, so I made the trip to the liquor store (along with everyone else!) to get those last important items.

Now I'm ready!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Letters

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I hope Paula feels flattered. I got there via Kym, and I like the Friday Letters idea so much I decided to share a few of my own. I often write imaginary letters or have imaginary conversations (where I say the things I'd like to actually say), so all I have to do is write them down!

Dear Bearfoot Yarn,

I love your deliciously warm softness. I think I could knit these fingerless mitts faster if I didn't keep stopping to caress you, but at the same time I'm not looking forward to finishing them, because that means I'll have to send you away to your rightful owner. Good thing I selfishly ordered two skeins so I can partake of your lusciousness again!

Dear KW,

Nobody, but nobody, gets to hurt my son. It doesn't matter how much money your father has or how privileged and superior you think you are, you absolutely do not physically harm another person, especially when they are trying to help and comfort a mutual friend. You are 21 and should have learned this long ago. I hope and pray you learn from this incident, for your sake and for the sake of those around you, but I have my doubts.

Dear Sunshine,

Thanks for a sunny day! It may be the calm before the extended storm, but blue skies are always a good thing to wake up to. It looks like a Disney movie outside my window with all the birds flittering and fluttering around, so I think the chickadees and sparrows are also enjoying your warmth. Keep it up!

Dear People Who Leave Their Carts in the Middle of the Grocery Store Aisle Then Scowl at Me When I Say "Excuse Me",

Please, please pull your carts over to the side of the aisle so those of us who are not out for a leisurely stroll through the store can get by. I know the aisles are clogged with displays of stuff that none of us need, like giant cardboard goalposts full of Super Bowl snacks and ubiquitous Valentine's candy, but I think there is still room for you to pull your cart to the side and not ignore the six-cart backup you have caused. I'll be sending you a letter about the scowling next week; one thing at a time!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - Happy!

Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is 10 Things You Are Happy About Right Now. Originally I thought this list might be a bit of a struggle, but after some thought, I think I know how to make it work. There's a big added bonus for me that just thinking about things to put on my list made me happier!

1. I'm very happy that youngest son Justin was able to get his schedule fixed after a bit of scrambling. He got notification on Friday afternoon that one of the classes he had registered for (for his last semester, senior year of college!) was cancelled because the professor was leaving. He and I searched long and hard for something to replace the cancelled class, and he ended up dropping both the cancelled class and one other one, and replacing them with two better ones. Classes start today and he will be able to graduate!

2. I'm happy that the temperature today is slightly above freezing so maybe the driveway's icy coating will thaw and evaporate.

3. I'm glad the new Decemberists album is being released today - gorgeous cover, brilliant title, and I bet the music will be excellent also.

4. I'm happy that I learned the Old Norwegian cast on and practiced it by making two Calorimetries for my nephew's girlfriend. We had talked about an alternative to hats since she wears her hair up most of the time, so I was pleased to welcome her to the family with something knitted.

5. I'm also glad that the project I started to work on while my car was being repaired on Friday is living up to my expectations so far. It's another pair of fingerless gloves and I'm much happier with the cast on than my last pair; I also love the warm fuzziness of the yarn.

6. While I wish that my car repair had been the simple, inexpensive fix that I thought it would be, I've decided to look on the bright side and be glad that my car won't be ready for another two days. This means that when I pick it up and pay the gigantic repair bill with my Visa, it will be after this current billing period ends and won't show up until I get the February bill. That means payment won't be due until March!

7. I'm happy that Kym posted about making space, and I made some! After reading her post, I went directly to the kitchen and started cleaning out my pantry. It's a built-in cabinet with four pull-out shelves, and I'm both ashamed and giddily happy that I threw away three trash bags full of aged tea, twelve-year-old spices, petrified honey, and ancient flour.

8. I'm happy that I have enough leftovers in the refrigerator that I don't have to think about what to make for dinner tonight. Smörgåsbord!

9. I'm thrilled that my furnace guy is so nice and came quickly to calm me down and assess the situation when we had a furnace pipe blow out very early Monday morning, spewing boiling water all over. It's fixable (with another gigantic repair bill); I've learned how to take apart and reset the automatic water feeder for the furnace, and I also learned how to use the Sawzall to remove some shelves that were built in front of the pipe. Quite an eventful day!

10. I'm also overjoyed that my furnace guy is recovering from cat scratch fever (really!), and feels well enough to come repair our heating system. I'm going to try really hard not to sing this while he's here for the next two days. I need to keep him happy!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

In Which an Old Dog Learns a New Trick

Looking at the fingerless mitts I wrote about here, it was obvious I needed to learn a good cast on method for a neat, stretchy edge. My grandmother taught me the backwards loop and knitted cast on methods many, many years ago. I "advanced" to the crochet cast on which I now use most of the time, but then quit learning. After lots of searching, it became clear that I needed to learn the Old Norwegian (aka Twisted German) technique. I wish I had a local yarn store or someone I could sit with to learn this, but youtube, some tutorials, and a few books from the library worked well enough.

Hooray! Eight stitches!
I'm still slow and uncoordinated doing this, but I think socks and fingerless gloves will look so much better if I cast on this way. My next project calls for a stretchy cast on of 312 stitches, so I'll get some much-needed practice. I'd love to hear your favorite cast on method(s) for a neat, stretchy edge, especially cast ons that work well with ribbing. Thanks for helping an old dog learn new and better ways!

P.S. Along with her cat hat pattern thoughts, on Monday Janelle posted a link to what looks like it might be the perfect cast on for 2x2 ribbing: Wooly Wormhead's Alternate Cable Cast On for 2x2 Ribbing. Janelle is an experienced knitter, and since this cast on was unknown to her, I'm reposting the link in case it might be useful to others. It's certainly timely and helpful for me!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - Less Bleak is Better

Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is 10 Things You Do to Make Winter Less Bleak. The gray, icy, cold weather we're having makes this an excellent topic to contemplate.

1. Light - This is often in the form of candles, but sometimes it's just opening the curtains to enjoy any vestige of sun that may be around.

2. Amaryllis - I started three this year, and while Rosa only has one bloom left, Ruby has two vibrant blossoms that opened today with two more buds to come. My third amaryllis should be making winter less dreary in another week or two.

3. Hyacinths - Last week was very desolate with really cold temperatures, so I started some hyacinths, and there will be more to come. Hopefully their blooms and lovely scent will be reminders of spring since we still have plenty of winter to get through.

4. Soup - I love soup, both the making and the eating. A nice warm bowl of hearty soup makes the kitchen warmer and people happier.

5. A Good Book - I started reading Burial Rites over the weekend, and while it's not warm, cheery, and light, it is set in Iceland in 1829. The wonderfully descriptive language that conveys the grim austerity of Iceland has made things here seem far less dire!

6. Embrace winter! - We lived in Syracuse for many years, where the average annual snowfall is over 100 inches. To avoid going stir-crazy, my husband and I took up cross-country skiing. It was a lot of fun to get out, get some exercise, and appreciate the beauty of winter.

7. Be grateful - It's possible that I may have complained about shoveling, snow, and ice on several occasions, but my sister-in-law has a better approach. She's advised me to be grateful that I am physically able to get out and clear the driveway, be glad that I can move my body, and think of all the constructive exercise I'm getting.

8. Warm socks - If my feet are warm, the rest of me is more comfortable, so get out those warm socks! Most of us are knitters, so we probably have access to these lovely items. My favorite handknit socks are toasty alpaca and I also love Darn Tough socks.

9. Tea - I start my day with piping hot PG Tips, and after that I enjoy non-caffeinated tea all day. Peppermint, Earl Grey, chamomile, darjeeling, chai - I love them all (except rooibos). This teapot should arrive here this afternoon, so I can enjoy my tea even more without making multiple pots all day!

10. Knit something warm with beautiful yarn you love - Enjoy the lovely yarn you're knitting with (cashmere and alpaca are always nice!) and hopefully the process and the product will make this winter less bitter and bleak.

What do you do to make winter brighter and better?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bad photos taken by a good mother

Oldest Son Ryan lives in Fort Collins, CO.  It's a wonderful town, and one of the biggest advantages to living there is that he can visit The Loopy Ewe in person. (He would probably name the mountains and beer as his favorite things, but The Loopy Ewe is one of mine.) He and a friend did visit this great yarn store one weekend, and he texted me to ask if 400 yards was enough to knit fingerless mitts. Of course it is, so when he came home at Christmas he brought his yarn - a beautiful skein of Colinette Jitterbug in Adonis Blue. I didn't start knitting until New Year's Eve, and then got interrupted by a multitude of other things. It finally dawned on me that he would be leaving soon, so I started some serious marathon knitting. Trying to be a good mother, I finished the mitts at 1:30 am on Saturday; the time helps explain these bad photos.

In an effort to further earn my good mother credentials, I got up at 4:00 am to take him to the airport! He's certainly worth it, but I'm definitely too old to function well on only two and a half hours of sleep. 

I am glad I had a deadline to make me finish and can now think of Ryan working on math in his chilly office with nice warm hands. In reality, he may be drinking a cold beer from New Belgium or Odell, or even whiskey from Feisty Spirits, but still, warm hands!

Raveled here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


I am not a joiner. This may be due mainly to the fact that I am an (extreme) introvert, but I think it also has to do with recognizing my own limitations. I try to budget my time and resources very carefully so I can do all the things that are most important to me, and not put myself in a position of saying yes to so much that I can't do anything effectively.

This works well for me in most circumstances, but I also realize that I may be limiting myself by not trying new things. There is a fine line between being happily ensconced in the things I love best and being stuck in a rut. I initially discounted One Little Word because I felt that I honestly didn't have time for it. My family, my work, and my life, along with the multiple health and life crises I have to deal with on a daily basis have left me with barely a spare moment. But between the emergencies, little sparks began to appear. These often took the form of words, words that made themselves known, and I began to pay attention to them. "Present" was written in bright lights, because I so often wanted to turn inward and avoid being present for much of what was happening. "Hope" was written in tiny script, because I very much wanted to have some, but it didn't seem possible. "Clarity" and "Courage" were written boldly when I could see them personified in others but not myself.

Then I received a card (for which I'm so incredibly appreciative and grateful), and in it Kym chose my word for me - Light. Light makes things visible, provides illumination, and guides our way.  Reading Kym's thoughtful words did all those things, and since then, Light has provided a necessary and welcome focus for me. I have only just begun to think about what I'll do with my word this year (there are no plans for scrapbooking!), but just having the perfect word at the perfect time has changed my mindset already.

I'm astounded at the myriad ways that we use Light; we often use it to mean illumination, but Light can also be defined as not heavy, deep, or serious. A light touch is gentle or delicate, a light heart is free from worry, light duties are those which are easily done, and we provide a source of ignition when we light a fire. I'm so looking forward to focusing on and exploring Light this year.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - Good Intentions

 I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...

Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is 10 Intentions for 2015. I do like the word "intentions" as it seems to accentuate the process of change, and be softer, more malleable, and less prone to failure than "goals" or "resolutions". My intentions for 2015 are:

1.  Practice patience
2.  Be present
3.  See positively
4.  See realistically
5.  Be present
6.  Pay attention
7.  Be quiet
8.  Learn more
9.  Accept what is
10. Take action

When I read over my list, I realized that I had written "Be present" twice, but it's a big one for me, so I'm going to leave it there both times as a reminder of its importance. This list looks like a lot of things to focus on, so I've begun to see the usefulness of one little word. I've had my word chosen for me in a most wonderful way, but I'll write more about that later.  

I want to remember that intentions are fine, but that actions often need to arise from those intentions. My sister and I still laugh about a phone conversation we had years ago when I said, "You know what the road to hell is paved with."
She replied, "No, I don't, but I do know that the road to heaven is paved with good intentions."
I was so sorry that I had to disillusion her about her misunderstanding of the saying. If only the road to heaven was paved with good intentions! Here's to good intentions and constructive actions in 2015!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Begin as you mean to go on

  • Reading

  • Knitting

  • Growing

Wishing you all much love, health, happiness, and plenty of what you need
 (and want!) in 2015!