Eat, drink, (garden, knit, quilt, think, fix, read) & be merry

Wooly Wonderfulness

As promised, there’s more stitching to show.

This.  This thing of warmth and beauty.  Last time I put it on the scale, it weighed in at 3+ lbs of wooly warmth.  I really, really wanted to finish it before the end of 2011 (Happy New Year, btw!!) but the blanket is a now a behemoth and the knitting is a bit strenuous.  It wasn’t fun anymore, so I took a break and I’ll tackle those borders a little more slowly this time.  One finished, three to go.

P spoiled me with 100% silk yarn (So unbearably wonderful) for both my birthday and Christmas!  A skein of the birthday yarn was immediately slotted for a growing leaves cowl.  As much as I love all sorts of wools, even baby alpaca and merino irritate my skin, especially my neck.  Oh, I still wear them, but this silk isn’t irritating in the least.

It’s just about finished.  Once it’s done it’s headed for a brilliant blue iDye wash.  I’m hoping the straw colored yarn will come out a handsome green.  We’ll see.

For the Christmas silk, P found 10 (!) skeins of affordable orange silk from a de-stashing woman on et*sy (Isn’t he thoughtful??).  I have enough of this to make something substantial.  I think I need to knit a lovely shawl.  I couldn’t find anything on Ravelry that quite suited my fancy, so I’m going to pick up some stitch pattern books from the library and create my own.

Several months ago I finished the linen washcloth/facetowel travel set.  And then I promptly put the washcloth through the dryer.  Now I have a facecloth and mini-washcloth set.  No matter.  It’ll still get plenty of use!

A friend gave kindly me a gift certificate to my favorite LYS for my birthday.  And then the shop had a holiday 50% off sale for selected merchandise.  I promptly headed over and scooped up these three gorgeous skeins of blue, aran weight, merino wool.  After the sale and the gift certificate, each skein cost me for $1 (normal retail of $13/ea)!  I can’t decide if it wants to become a big, delicious, squishy scarf or a couple of baby sweaters.  Any thoughts?

I still have several blog posts that need to go up – a Christmas recap and my One Little Word for 2012.  We leave early Tuesday morning for a week vacation to the Yucatan, so I’ll try to squeeze them in tomorrow.  If not, I’ll see you in mid-January!

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Greatest Accomplishments

Over the past few days a f*cebook friend has been encouraging her readers to “like” her employer and post our greatest accomplishments on their “wall”.  In exchange for this modest act, the employer will donate a dollar to a wonderful charity.

I’d love to make a (free) donation to this particular charity but I can’t bring myself to swallow the bait.  Aside from feeling co-opted into boosting the FB credibility of business with whom I’ve had no particular experience, I don’t want to publicly post my greatest achievement.  It’s far too personal for the FB world.  And if I post something “lesser” and most socially acceptable, I feel like I’m denying my authentic self.  So, with that in mind, I’m going to post my greatest achievements here, and then make a donation to another very worthy charity – a scholarship fun for the kids I work with in the summer.  Having been in some of their shoes in the not-so-distant past, I know how much it means to have people believe in you.

1. Surviving years of trauma, abuse, and abandonment and coming out the other side as a compassionate human being.

2. Going to therapy and facing my demons.

3. Going back to school to finish a degree and find a better life for myself.  And succeeding more than I thought possible.

4. Choosing a spouse who is more than “not abusive and mean” but is kind, thoughtful, and endlessly supportive.  Not to mention funny and handy around the house.

5. Writing letters (and sending them) to my mom that hold her accountable for the sh*t she put me through.  Even if she never responds.

6. Learning to knit.  And getting pretty damn good.

7. Going to work on a farm, even though I was terrified and no idea what I was doing.  That job changed my life and helped me find loves that have sustained me.

8. Travelling around the world on a shoestring.  That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I never, ever regret doing it.

9. Not owning a car until I was nearly 30.  This one is just for fun.

10. Trusting myself enough to love others.  And letting myself love the kids in my life.  I don’t know how to say this without sounding weird, but here it goes: as a young child, the “love” I got from the most prominent adults in my life was perverse and harmful.  So learning how to be around kids has been hard for me.  How do I interact with them without being perverse and harmful?  I do not, in any way, consider myself a threat to children, but sometimes I worry too much about what to do, what to say, how to be appropriate.  Thankfully, this has lessened with time and exposure to other adults who are really good with kids.  I think I’ve learned a lot, and now I feel pretty comfortable with them, but it’s been a hard-won battle.

11.  Learning to cook.  And being a great bread baker.

12. Moving forward even when I want to stop.  Refusing to surrender to the anxiety and depression that haunt my mind.  Trusting myself and the future enough to keep moving ahead, even if it’s only a small shuffle.

13.  Learning how to garden and identify plants.  This gives me so much pleasure.

14. Allowing myself to dream.  Dreams are considered dangerous when you’re poor with no future, but I let myself dream anyway.  And many of them came true.

15.  Walking away from a faith that had, at one point sustained me, but wasn’t working anymore.  When it stopped being real and started being a facade, I swallowed my fear of hell and damnation and decide to try life as an agnostic.  I haven’t looked back.

This list, by no means exhaustive, is the current surface layer of which I am most proud.  To be sure, there are kinks and imperfections, and I haven’t achieved perfection in any one of these.  But they are the building blocks of the better life I live everyday.  Sometimes I weep, hard and long, when I contemplate my life had I succumbed to the statistics and uncertainties.  But for reasons I don’t completely understand, I didn’t.  In part it’s because I couldn’t, because a few people loved me and pulled me onward, because strangers whispered encouragement in my ear when I couldn’t stop crying.  In part it’s because teachers worked patiently to teach me, because pastors gently encouraged me, and because the when the sun shines it’s so very warm.  It’s because of nature and nurture, because of biology and mystery, because I had to keep moving for fear I’d freeze to death if I stopped.   But mostly it’s because a few people believed in me.  And for that I thank them daily, even if they can’t hear, even if sometimes the words get stuck in my throat and my breath is caught in my lungs.  But thankfulness, despite it all, is what feeds and sustains me.  So thank you, thank you, thank you.

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A little trip

P and I went on a little trip with his parents to the southwest over New Year’s.  It was so cold!  The Grand Canyon was -20F at night.  We had to shuffle a few things around as roads were closed due to some major snowstorms.  But we still had a lovely time.

We flew into Las Vegas, stayed the night, and then headed to the Hoover Dam.  Here I am with my sweet MIL under the new bridge.

And then off we went to the Grand Canyon.  We almost had to skip the Canyon because of weather, but the roads cleared and we made it.  I was so excited!

It was so cold there were few people hiking.  We had most of the lookouts to ourselves.

We spotted a few Elk and mule deer.

We stopped at Montezuma’s Castle on the way to Sedona.  A five-story dwelling built into the side of a cliff more than 800 years ago.  Wow!

There were Sycamore trees in the area.  In the summer you can feel the water rising skyward under the bark.  In the winter, though, they’re just pretty.

We took the back roads to Sedona and it was unbelievably beautiful.

We arrived at sunset and the red mountains were brilliant!

In the morning we went for a little sunrise hike

In Phoenix we visited with some of P’s family.  They had three grapefruit trees in the backyard.  We picked a suitcase full and brought them home.  That was a highlight, for sure!

I love climbing trees.  Especially when it involves food.

Some of the fruits were enormous!

Finally, on the way to the airport, we drove up South Mountain to see the city and find some Saguaro cacti for a photo-op.  I couldn’t pass up this guy with a face!

I hope you, too, had a wonderful start to 2011!

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Knitting Wrap Up, 2010

I’m a process knitter.  That is, I enjoy the process of making something just as much, perhaps more than, the finished product.  I love how, with time and patience, a string can be become a useful, well-loved fabric.  I love how I can transform the essence of time itself, each knitted object holding long conversations, quiet bus rides, contemplative moments, tears, even holding and transforming anxious or angry moments into something beautiful.  Being more attached to the process and less attached to the product, I typically finish what I start.  There are very few UFOs hanging around my house.  And, let’s be honest, I’m frugal and refuse to buy new needles if I have a pair already, so those projects must get frogged or finished so I can move on to something else.  But this year I became a rather, uh, serious knitter.  What used to be a casual hobby became a near-obsession.  I’ll forget my keys or phone, but I never leave the house without a knitting project in tow.  Thus I now have more UFOs than ever.  And last week I got a wild hair about finishing them ALL before the end of the year.  Let’s do an inventory, shall we?

Ah, the dragonfly washcloth.  This is the most recent project, started in a moment of desperation when I needed a mindless project for some travels, but none of the others were travel-worthy.  A good hour and this will be finished up in no time.  No problem.


The thrummed mittens.  These lovelies are lined with twisted pieces of wool roving.  They’re puffy and delicious, so warm I want to crawl inside them.  I just have one thumb and general finishing to wrap these up.  I should get on it because I need these with the nearly sub-zero temps we’ve been having!


P’s sweater.  This is a funny story.  I made P a sweater earlier this year, but the neck came out a little feminine.  I decided that I liked it.  So I kept it and started another for him.  Afterall, it was unlikely I’d be able to replicate my mistake.  So I’ve been working on this for too long, all the while I’ve been enjoying my new super warm hand knit sweater.  All I need to finish is the neck and collar.  So close, yet so far away.


And here are the socks I started a few weeks ago.  As socks make such excellent travel projects, never becoming too bulky and taking a while to complete, this has been my bus knitting for the past several weeks.  All that remains is binding off.


So why don’t I just finish up all these projects?  Well, friends, it’s the fault of my Muir shawl.  This super snuggly 100% baby alpaca project has been looming all year.  It’s been ripped and reknit several times and this time I might actually finish.  But the 32 row lace repeats take forever, and I can’t travel with it because it’s such delicate knitting.  Everytime I take it from the house I mess up and have to frog several rows.  Grr.  So it’s been consuming all of my home knitting.  I only have 1-3 repeats left (depending on my patience) and final finishing.  It’s sooo close (comparatively) and I really want it done before I travel over winter break.  I think it’d make such a comforting, packable and warm shawl for a plane ride.


And then there is the top secret Christmas knitting that I haven’t even casted on yet.   Can I do it?  I hope so!  I want to start the year with a clean slate so I can cast on for the Cables Untangled Sampler Afghan.  It will be my biggest project to date!  What a process this will be.


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I was looking for a photo on my old travel blog and came across an entry I wrote as I sorted through the documents of my 4 month round-the-world-on-a-shoestring trip.  It brought back so many sweet memories I had to post it here.

In preparation for India I finally dug out my red travelling pack, slightly damp and musty, each buckle so familiar to me, each worn and torn spot a story. As I pulled out the remnants of my last trip I found piles of paper, edges ratty. As I peaked through the pages, the memories found me. There are stacks of health papers with vaccination records, the negative HIV test results that are entry requirements for a few countries, the impromptu written Korean lessons given to me by a 10 year old girl, there are dozens of scribbled email addresses, newspaper clippings, my SCUBA certification card and dive log, city maps, train tickets, photocopied receipts for my iPod and camera to avoid import/export duties, malaria tablet instructions, a handwritten list of common travel ailments and treatments, my Angkor Wat pass, traveller’s insurance information, contact numbers, lists, visa requirements, my teaching schedule from Korea, passport photocopies, sound cues for words in a half dozen languages, long poems from Ogden Nash and Maya Angelou that I memorized on long bus rides when car sickness prevented me from reading. Perhaps most importantly I found unfinished journal entries scrawled on any available paper-like materials full of poignant moments, half written poems, and quotes from books and fellow travellers. I thought I’d post a few here. (It is my writting if no other credit is given).

Morning on a bus
driver’s feet still stiff and
Traffic thick, street clogged,
a protest.
driver stalls, bus sputters,
grandfather, granddaughter
beside me, laughing.
She, crossing a border I cannot know,
finds the quick hand of her grandfather
sharp on her cheek, flesh on flesh,
I startle, afraid to look, my fears
confirmed by her quick tears.

Things I miss most from home
– Jeans
– Hoodies
– Peanut Butter!

Quote from “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, p. 329

“…I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”

Dec. 28, 2005
Camellia Line Ferry – Busan to Fukuoka

A whisper of a girl
hand fluttering behind her,
fingers like feathers,
feet barely touching the
floor of the
boat, rocking steadily beneath us.
Her slight eyes sweep back to me,
I, lacking her stealth,
shuttle on behind her,
feet rustling the carpet

Sweet the night air,
icy the wind,
she stops at the railing,
tosses her arm in a long, lazy arch,
feathery fingers revealing
a sprinkling of lights reflected
on rippled water.
There are no words
as there is no language
between us.
Only the
boat, the
night, the
slight breathing of the
whisper girl.

“It is better to be happy in too many places than to be happy no where at all.” – Sarah Bartz

I’ve learned a lot about myself, here on the road. I’m picky, particular, rather prickly at times… I’m not as flexible as I once thought and now wish.

“You’ve raged,
you’ve raged,
far more than I
thought possible.
Keep raging,
keep raging,
until I see you once more.

Married couples bickering sound the same the world over.

“There are two kinds of truths. There are the superficial truths, the opposite of which are obviously false, wrong. But there are also the profound truths, whose opposites are equally right.” – Vinje, norwegian poet

For the bulk of this vast trip, I have not, as I expected, been alone.


His eyes glaze
(nearly nostalgically)
with the mention
of ice
(and snow)

He’s a tropical
gots the dark skin
to prove it

He’s a poor boy,
has the
to prove it.

He’d like to walk on
but can’t afford a
coat big
enough to keep him

The water’s dark
and warm
and slung in the sky
is a sliver crescent of a

“You’re a rare breed, you travelling Americans.” – a travelling Australian

Here in Dublin there are old ladies wandering the streets, pushing prams heaped with bananas. I hear their song on nearly every street, almost as if it is in bored, monotone stereo, “Bananas. 8 for 2 euro, 2 euro for 8 bananas.”

Tonight Jen, Sam and myself were watching the European version of, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire!” It was in German and the only thing I gleaned from the experience was a multiple choice question and the answer options were: Dan, Jan, Han, or the Pan. We laughed about that all night.  (they rhyme in German “Dahn Jahn Hahn or da Pahn”  Maybe you had to be there.)

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All at Once

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, even some writing, but no posting.  I’ve tried to post, writing long, rambling things and then just saving drafts because the words just aren’t coming together.

Summer is in full swing (even if the weather is acting like fall) and that means I’m bringing home extra bags of produce from the weekly markets and putting them up for winter.  I’ve canned peaches; frozen peas and beans; dried the neverending summer squash; picked and dried, jammed, frozen, and fruit-leathered pounds and pounds of blueberries and strawberries.  We’ve only seen a few tomatoes and I’m hankering for more.

Alas, P is out of town for school this week to do some labs and will return home Sunday around 6pm.  He’ll come home to an empty house since my flight for Peru leaves at 2:30pm that same day.  At least we don’t need a cat and garden sitter while we’re both away.

I’ve been missing my dad, but haven’t really felt like talking about it.  The grief feels like wallpaper now, uninteresting and uninspiring.  Sometimes it brings me to tears although mostly it sits there, like a lump in my throat, a dull pain punctuated often by small, sharp reminders that fade almost as quickly as they appear.  Is this what moving on feels like?  Giving myself permission to feel less grief is one of the hardest parts of this whole process.

I still can’t believe we’re closing on a house in a month and then we’re moving to what feels like the other side of the universe.  I’ve traveled around the globe on nothing more than a few bucks and a whim, but somehow moving my residence ten miles feels so much further.

The garden is looking good, although the late summer signs of disease are settling into our little green patch.  There is powdery mildew on the squash, some early signs of blight on the tomatoes, and the endless battle against the squash bugs.  Our tomato vines are loaded with green tomatoes that have been sulking in the cool weather.  We’ve had green tomatoes for what feels like a month now!  I’m convinced they’re all going to ripen when I’m in Peru and I’ll miss the entire tomato season.  This makes me sad and anxious, even though I know it’s not (entirely) true.

But, Peru!  I’m going for work and will be there for ten days.  Nine of which will be work, one of which will be play.  I’m stoked, although a little overwhelmed.

I’ve been vaccinated against most maladies of the not-so-modern world.  Yellow fever, typhoid, hep A.  Both my arms are sore and will be for a few more days.

This weekend is my dad’s memorial service.  My aunt called me almost two weeks ago and said, “This is the date if you want to come.  It won’t be a big deal, so you don’t have to be there if you don’t want to.”  I know this sounds like passive-aggressive midwestern-ness, but it’s not.  It’s my aunt and her inability to deal outwardly with difficult things.  She does not want this to be a big deal.  She doesn’t even want it to be a “deal” at all.  If left to her own devices, she’s probably leave my dad’s ashes on a shelf in her over-crowded basement, going down to visit once in a while.  But people require ceremony and ritual, so we’re going to go and spread his ashes with little circumstance in a small northern Minnesota cemetery where his mom and son are buried.  I have no idea how this is going to go down.  I’ve made my dad’s favorite banana bread recipe and have a 8×10″ print of him smiling big and giving the middle finger, so we’ll see what happens.  P is away and I have to do it on my own.  I am glad I feel up to this challenge.  If I would have had to be in the hospital alone for days on end, I might literally have lost my mind.  I’m also glad the chosen date wasn’t the following week when I would have been out of the country and they probably wouldn’t have waited for me to get home.

I’ve spent some time in the craft room, making potholders and a wall hanging for the new house.  I’ve been swatching for a travel knitting project, although nothing has struck my fancy yet.  

I will now be stepping away from the blog until the end of August.  I hope to return with some fun stories and pictures about South America.  Then I hope to post more about house projects, craft projects, and everything in between. 

Until Then…


On my mind


Something about spring reminds me of India. The air smells lively and interesting – a combination of sweet blossoms, warming tar, and a proliferation of people. It’s a far cry from the crisp, but plain, smell of winter. The mornings are cool enough for layers of wool but the afternoons bloom into a tan-giving heat. There are people e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.  And bikes.  And animals.  Where were they all living?  The dogs, the birds, the rabbits and squirrels and cats.  And roadkill.  All that fresh roadkill.  I keep looking out for monkeys, but haven’t spotted any yet.

I think often of that enchanting and maddening place. I miss it and yet I’m so grateful to be where I am.

(unrelated, but compelled to mention, the lilacs have leapt into action.  I first spied them at the farmer’s market this morning and their unmistakable purple spires caught me unaware and took my breath away and brought hot tears to my eyes in a train shed surrounded by people.  Oh, the lilacs, so sweet and so complicated.  They’ve erupted over fences and gates all over the city – their ungainly and jubilant chaos truly heralds the arrival of spring and the next stage of grief.  It really is the little milestones that are so. incredibly. painful.)

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Home again

Despite the best intentions of updating at least a little bit while I was away, I barely had enough internet time to pound out wee emails to P to let him know that we were still alive.

I spent eleven days driving with a friend to her new home in Alaska. I joined her for the Canadian/Alaskan Highway leg of her massive two month van trip to Fairbanks. The trip was relaxing and fun, good bonding time, spectacular mountain scenery, and lots of wildlife. We snowshoed in De*nali Nati*onal Pa*rk and were almost the only ones there. We saw bison chilling out in the mountains. We saw caribou and Santa’s house and the world’s largest weather vane. We ate self proclaimed world famous carrot cake. We ate cinnamon rolls at the “Cinnamon Bun Center of the Galactic Cluster.” I could go on, but in reality I’m staring at the clock knowing I have to work in a few short hours. I’m jet lagged and still adjusting. I should be sleeping.

More to come. Maybe this weekend.

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