Friday, January 28, 2011

From Sheep to Cowl

Since I learned to spin almost 3 years ago, the evolution of taking fiber from a big ball of fluff to yarn, single or 2-ply, still amazes me. I enjoy the process and every step along the way. There's no better feeling of a sense of accomplishment than when you can say that you not only knit an item yourself but spun the yarn as well. My non-fibery friends can't fathom but crafters get it.

I enjoy every aspect...dividing up the bump, in this case I started with the fab color/fiber combo from Spunky Eclectic for the September '10 Club selection of Romney in Tuxedo Rose. It was the first time I played with romney and I just followed Amy's suggestion to work the long fibers to your advantage and not over twist.

Used my Ashford Traveller, double drive to get about 150yds of 2-ply, DK to sport weight out of 4 oz...which I never ever spin anything this fat...lace is queen on my wheel, thinner the better for me.

But I had a specific project in mind with a special person to knit for. A birthday cowl, Juerga by Anne Hanson, for my dear friend Sherry.

Fast knit and I wish I had more yards left to make the matching wristlets but alas I did not. Next time, I should plan on a double dose of club to get a matching set.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ode to the vegetable that is a fruit

I have always been a big fan of tomatoes...all kinds great and small. Growing up I remember my grandfather lovingly tending his tomato garden, complete with unusual staking and constant watch to combat bugs and insects tampering with the fruit yield.

Ironically, the one item that I craved during pregancy was the tomato...mostly fresh, cut up with some nice Buffalo Mozzzarella. YUM!!! So prompted by the oogling of Anne's garden of delight up in Ohio, I decided to start my own tomato stash.

After laboring over what seeds I would first purchase, I went ahead and ordered from Victory Seeds the following...mostly heirloom tomatoes: Black Krim, Caspian Pink,Cherokee Purple, Principe Borghese, and then Red Grape. I started all the seeds using the Burpee Ultimate Seeding System on October 2, and ended up planting the first seedlings in the garden 3 weeks later...all of my Principe Borgheses.

I was concerned that the roots were not very robust and opted to wait on all the other seedlings to just before Thanskgiving...BIG MISTAKE, as the only seedlings that survived were one each of Black Krim and Cherokee Purple (nice and cozy in their very own Earth Box!)

And the unveiling of my first tomato flower, Principe Borghese!

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The History of Love

Continuing with the Orange Prize challenge for the month of January, next up for my reading pleasure was Nicole Krauss' The History of Love. The author used innovative techniques to carry the reader through the storyline. First up was life shared by an older gentleman who left Europe before the height of WWII atrocities. Getting on in years without many friends, he goes to his local Starbucks so that at least someone would see and notice hin during the course of a day. Next up is a young girl of 15, who was named Alma, for a character in her deceased father's favorite book, The History of Love. With every page and narration by the two voices (interspersed by commentary from Alma's brother, Bird, who believes he might be a Messiah), another layer of a mysterious riddle unfolds.

It is difficult to write a synopsis without giving away the plot, similar to The Keep by Jennifer Egen. Suffice to say, that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and no doubt will read it again in the future because there are nuances I know that I missed during the first go round. Boris Kachka with the New York Magazine hits the nail on the head by describing this book as follows: "Emotionally wrenching yet intellectually rigorous, idea-driven but with indelible characters and true suspense." Despite the fact that we have all of our 2011 selections picked for reading group, I hope to bring this novel to the top of the list for 2012, as it would make for a thought provoking book club night.

I also read that her husband, writer Jonathan Safran Foer's novel Extremely Loud and Extremely Close, makes an excellent companion read next to The History of Love...of course, a sample has already been downloaded to my Kindle to check out the truth to the statement.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Anatomy of a Sample Knit

So as luck would have it, a couple of months ago, Anne Hanson of knitspot fame, contacted her test knitting groupies to pass along the request by Catherine at Knitting Notions for sample knitters. Catherine was looking for a number of us to knit up Anne's scrumptious patterns in her yarn for the various events she was to attend in the Winter/early Spring.

There, I was waving my hand...pick me, pick me! First up to knit was a set of wristlets, Spiraluscious, in Superwash Sock in the Tea Rose colorway.

I finished this set, very quickly, pretty much a weekend knitting project. (Shortly, thereafter I knit two more sets of Spiraluscious mitts, one in Sheepaints Bamboo and the other in Great Northern Yarns mink/cashmere.)

Then on to Anne's Sprossling Sweater. Catherine sent her Merino/Bamboo blend in the Aubergine absolute treasure to knit with.

I had tried knitting myself one last year when the pattern first came out using Dream in Color Smooshy, which I frogged as I kept getting bogged down with aligning the pattern during the decrease rows involved in the shaping...started with the back. So I thought to myself, I will start with the sleeves, two at a time, gain some knitting mojo confidence and away I went.

In just about three weeks, I was done with the completed Sprossling in the 38 inch size and literally, pretty much went straight to the post office to mail out both samples to Catherine because the temptation to keep was so great. And who says you can't teach an old knitter new tricks...steam blocked and crocheted the seams and thoroughly enjoyed both finishing techniques.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mother of all inventions

After a chance conversation about gardening in early summer with a co-worker, I discovered: the Earthbox. An Earthbox, for those who might never have heard of it, is this container that is an invention gem, which allows irrigation and proper watering to magically occur. Plus there are coasters for the bottom so if need be they can be relocated for better sun or even moved inside when frost hits. I hit Amazon just right and purchased two on special in August but did not get around to planting until the first weekend in October (it was very Indian summer around my next of the woods).

I followed the clearly defined instructions and planted in the first box, two types of peppers (early large hybrid red and a petite yellow), cilantro, dill, and my favorite herb, rosemary. In no time at all, the itty bitty plants blossomed into a jungle (unfortunately two go rounds of basil were casualties but then again they also did not last in the ground in my herb/veggie garden as well). At two weeks, the plants...well really the peppers and dill have grown so much they had to be staked!!!!

The peppers are beyond large..almost mutant. But are still hanging on the plant as, from what I understand, I will not harvest until they morph out of their very greeness.

But here's the first one budding out of the flower. Proud momma, yes, I am.

Next up, tomato escapades...

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back from Sabbatical

Well after taking a sabbatical for two years, I think that there's no better way to be back than to write a review of my most recent read, Orange Prize winning "The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver.

Told in the form of journal entries, Kingsolver tells the story of Harrison Shepherd, who is half-American, half-Mexican. The hero takes us through his life from childhood to the end of his life, living in the States as well as Mexico. By his side, entering and leaving, are a host of characters from immediate family to true historical figures. Kingsolver's words truly evoke a sense of time and place as you read. The reader is immersed in the culture of Mexico in the early 1900s as well as back in time through history because of the writings of Shepherd.

I was enchanted by the quirks of all of the clearly delineated characters with my favorite being Frida Kahlo, who invariably played an integral role in the life of Shepherd in many ways, realized or otherwise by our hero.

This historical fiction gem is definitely worth reading and I enjoyed as much as I did Kingsolver's "Prodigal Summer." Perhaps time to give "Poisonwood Bible" another chance.

And continuing in the Orange Prize Challenge for the month of January, I am currently reading "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss. My friend runs the Facebook group for the challenge where there are prizes that can be won on a daily basis. Go check it out...

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Salon

Can hardly believe that it is Sunday again! Boy did this week fly by. Unfortunately, I did not finish The House at Riverton in time for last Monday's book club but did this morning. Everyone at book club thankfully did not spoil the ending for me, and I was still able to participate. It shocked me that more people did not have a favorable reaction to this read. Here's my take...

Title: The House at Riverton
Author: Kate Morton
Rating: Four 1/2 stars
Number of pages: 471 pages
Finished: 1/11/2009
This story is composed of the reflections of a 99-year old woman who has kept secrets for most of her life. And in order for her to pass peacefully into the greater beyond, she needs to share the truth that she has kept bottled up inside. Grace was a 14-year old impressionable girl when she entered the "great house" to begin her years of servitude and loyalty. She adheres to all of the many traditions that were part and parcel of the time at the beginning of World War I in England. Although there are flashes between today's world and the early part of the 20th Century up until the mid 1920s, we know little of what transpired in the intervening years unless told to us in passing. I agree with my reading group on one point...I wish that the author explored how Grace changed her social station after World War II.
I thought that Kate Morton painted the time, place and atmosphere of both the Riverton House and London perfectly...often times, I felt as though I was with Grace, and sisters Hannah and Emmeline too. The reader knows at the start that the suicide of a famous poet was not a suicide at all, and that the two sister witnesses are linked in some way my prior events to what indeed happened. But there are even more secrets that are revealed along the way to the final ending.
If you have read, The Thirteenth Tale and enjoyed that book, you most certainly with find The House at Riverton equally riveting and a pleasure to read.

Up next, The Good Guy by Dean Koontz, apparently, this was one of Stephen King's favorite reads and thus the impetus of why it was purchased as a holiday gift for me.

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