Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thousands of Words

This post will have mostly pictures - each of which, of course, will be worth a thousand words (maybe a hundred words?).

This is what happens when a beagle smells a rabbit. Bonnie was tail-wagging happy, and determined to find that rabbit. Of course, as soon as she dove under the car, said rabbit flew out the other side, and into a neighboring yard. It took me a good while to persuade Bonnie to give up her quest.

After my long day driving between Kalamazoo and Chicago and Schaumburg, a relaxing Saturday was just what I needed. When I stepped outside in the morning, these poppies greeted me, and I couldn't help but smile. I imagine them waving and saying "Hey there! How's it going?" Next year I must plant more...

This is from one of our neighborhood walks.

And Bonnie & I took this photo today, while walking at lunchtime. I was struck by all the shades of color on these leaves. It is true that the rest of the tree was a more typical dark green, so perhaps these leaves are, in fact, not healthy - or perhaps they are harbingers of fall. In any case, they were pretty.

I took these last three photos  in the Friendship Village woods - just little bits of color and interest, during our walk.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stitches Midwest 2011

On Friday, after visiting the temple, I headed west, to Schaumburg and Stitches Midwest. This event is four days of classes and shopping, but I spent just an afternoon, browsing (and buying) at the market.

There were around 150 vendors, selling yarn, buttons, bags, needles, etc, etc. I walked through the entire market before making any purchases - such restraint! Along the way, I took just a few photos.

Took this photo solely because of the name,
Sophie's Toes
Yummy yarn
Ruth Hamann's dog

Yarn tasting? Indeed. I didn't actually knit Bijou yarn (yak fibers, I think), but instead sampled Qiviut, from Windy Valley Muskox. Qiviut is the undercoat of the muskox, is eight times warmer than wool, and is soft and luxurious. I knit with the majestic blend (80% merino, 15% qiviut, and 5% silk), and I also sampled a bit of pure qiviut. Pretty lovely!

I came away with one skein of the majestic blend (pure qiviut is a bit pricey), enough to knit a small lace scarf:

Yes, it says Qiviuk, with a 'k'. As best
as I can tell, the terms Qiviut and Qiviuk
are more or less interchangeable.

I bought some yarn from Helen Hamann (and her dog):

This sport weight yarn is 70% alpaca, 30% mulberry silk. I struggled to decide which color to buy - there were various shades of purple and green and blue that were all beautiful, but in the end I opted for this soft yellow. I bought enough to knit Rebecca Hatcher's Swan Shawl (someday).

My third yarn purchase was at Ruhama's booth, where I was quite taken by the sample Wiggle Wrap scarf. I bought the pattern, and these two skeins of yarn - although you really can't tell much just by looking at these balls. They each go through a rainbow of colors, much more than what that outer layer reveals!

Of course, don't hold your breath for any of these projects to be finished any time soon - my knitting queue is a long one...!

Although it is possible that the swan shawl just might slip up to the top of the list... 

I admired, but did not buy, lots of other yarn, leaving it for another day. I looked at kits for the Mother Bear Project, and ended up just making a donation, rather than buying a kit. (They do good work, you should check out their website.) I tried knitting with the Kollage square needles (interesting). I stayed long enough that I had to drive home in rush-hour traffic (sigh).

Mostly, I had fun, and enjoyed just looking at everything. Will I go next year? Maybe, although it seems a bit decadent; patronizing our LYS & local fiber fest might be a better use of time / money / and energy. I have a year to think about it!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rambling on the Road to Chicago

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Chicago Temple. En route, in an effort to get my head in the right place for temple attendance, I tried to listen to some appropriate talks and such on my iPod.

(I should warn you now - this post is a bit long; a 3-hour drive leaves lots of room for thoughts to ramble!)

First, I listened to an interview with Virginia Hinckley Pearce. This was episode #30 of the program Conversations, on The Mormon Channel.

Sister Pearce first came on my radar back in 1994, when she spoke at the General Young Women Meeting.  Her discussion of faith was clear and simple, and I've never forgotten it. She said
Faith means that I really believe that:
  • Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live, and they are in charge of this world.
  • They know me.
  • They love me.
  • They have a plan for my future.
  • I will obey the commandments, work hard, and trust in their plan. Sooner or later, everything will be okay.
Next, I listened to a BYU Speech, by Russell T. Osguthorpe (and let’s admit it: that is a cool name!), What If Love Were Our Only Motive? 

Again, there was nothing new or earthshaking in his talk – just the idea that love really can motivate everything we do. He said,
 ...is it possible to do everything we do out of love? Is it possible to study because we love the Lord and His children? Is it possible to be motivated by love when we take a test, read a chapter in a textbook, complete an assignment, or answer a question in class? Is it possible to love someone who has wronged us? Can love be our only motive?

...The Savior’s earthly ministry was a time of teaching, a time of miracles. He established His Church on the earth. He called the Twelve to become leaders in the Church. He taught everyone who would listen. He healed the sick and raised the dead. And why did He do all these things? He had only one motive—love. His message to us is that we need to be good and do good, but we need to do it for the right reason. This is precisely why the two greatest commandments are the greatest: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39). The motive means everything.
Then, I listened to some music, including “Someday He Will Come,” written by Tyler Castleton and Staci Peters, and performed by Felicia Sorensen. I’ll share some of the lyrics (even though, without the music, they are a bit limp and incomplete):
When He comes the world will melt away
Earthly things will slip right through our hands
Leaving just our hearts to stand before Him
Just our lives to speak for what we’ve done
What we’ve become

I will speak of Him with every breath
I will seek His spirit all my days
Everything I am I will surrender
Just to know him when this life is done
When he comes
These lyrics always remind me of the time when Aaron was teaching Lamoni’s father, and the king prayed  “if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day” (Alma 22:18).

I listened to all this, and let my thoughts wander, and considered my efforts in these areas. It is so hard to be consistent, to always do what I know I should do. These are things I know for a certainty. The challenge is remembering them, and remembering to act according to what I know.

I thought of what President Kimball once said,
When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be remember. Because all of you have made covenants - you know what to do and you know how to do it - our greatest need is to remember. That is why everyone goes to sacrament meeting every Sabbath day - to take the sacrament and listen to the priests pray that 'they may always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them.' Remember is the word. Remember is the program.
(Spencer W. Kimball, "Circles of Exaltation," Address to Seminary and Institute Personnel, BYU, June 28, 1968.)
Attending the temple helps me remember, so that at least for a short while, I’m moving in the right direction again.

It is Good.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reading in Cleveland

Last week, I was in Cleveland, on business, and had some time to read. As a result, I have not one, but two, books to review, and will get to that in a minute.

One night while in Cleveland, Marty (my boss) and Sam (a consultant from our vendor) and I had dinner at The Brew Kettle Restaurant. In addition to the restaurant, the Brew Kettle has equipment and ingredients so people can come in to brew and bottle beer for themselves. While we waited for our food, Marty showed us around, and explained how it all works (he's been brewing there for a number of years). It was really fascinating, and almost made me wish I were a beer drinker - the whole process just looked like a lot of fun!

The restaurant had a comfortable, gathering-place feel to it. There were trays and signs everywhere, from different micro breweries whose beer they served - even a sign from Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo.

I contented myself with their house-brewed root beer. It was delicious! (And now I am wondering if one could opt to brew root beer instead of beer...)

Now, for the books. Neither is a literary masterpiece, but both were enjoyable reads.

A Pug's Tale, by Alison Pace, describes our heroine Hope McNeill, and her effort to solve a mystery: the disappearance, from the Met, of Pansies, a painting by Henri Fantin-Latour. Hope narrates the tale, describing a life that sounds pretty good: a boyfriend (albeit in Africa for the time being); a dream job at the Met; a charming pug. But overarching all this is the problem of that missing painting, and the need to find it and clear her name (and save her job!). Reminiscent of Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who... series, Hope is assisted by her intuitive pug, Max.

This is a light and fun read, even if you haven't read Pace's earlier book, Pug Hill (which I have not).

Richard Paul Evans is not my favorite author - his books tend to be too sentimental for my taste - but I found that I enjoyed The Looking Glass.

This is the story of Hunter Bell and Quaye McGandley. Their past is fed to us a piece at a time, much as a fisherman carefully lets out his fishing line. (Some might say too carefully, but I didn't mind; I was in no hurry with this read.)

Hunter is a former minister, now a gambler and gold prospector. Quaye is a young girl who has escaped Ireland's famine, exchanging certain death there for a harsh life with an abusive husband in America.

Eventually their paths cross. Quaye is able to mend Hunter's broken heart, and tear down the wall he has built between himself and his God. Hunter helps Quaye to see herself as a woman of beauty and worth, deserving of love and happiness. Everything is wrapped up perhaps too nicely, but it was an enjoyable read even so.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Michgan Fiber Festival

Today, I drove up to the Allegan Fairgrounds, for the Michigan Fiber Festival. There were four in our group: Jess Wesel & her daughter; Denise Pluta, and me. We had a splendid time, and all behaved fairly well. Our goal, of course, was to Buy Yarn (with the sub goal Not Too Much).

This is the only skein I bought - it is Sea Pearl, a fingering weight, merino/tencel yarn, from Briar Rose Fibers. I went to the festival this year with a plan: buy enough fingering weight yarn to make the Camping Half-Circle Pi Shawl. Within 10 minutes, I saw some yarn that would have worked, and almost bought that. Then I liked some yarn at the Knitting Notions booth, and I think there was a third booth I considered.

Then we reached the Briar Rose booth (we'd been at the festival not quite an hour), and the shopping began. They have lovely yarn, and usually their booth is packed with people and total craziness, but today it was still fairly calm. I saw this yarn, and fell in love. Then, Jess discovered that they also had silk hankies, and she and Denise and I each bought some.

These are also called mawatas. Each one is a single cocoon, spread out into a square. These mawats have been dyed various colors (and I managed to pick out one in a color totally different from the other hankies - I'll have to try to blend that with the others).

What looks like one hankie actually can be separated into multiple thin hankies. And then, amazingly enough, you can knit with them. I have enough to make (I hope) a pair of simple mittens. The Yarn Harlot describes the process here and here. I will probably do some additional internet googling before I tackle this project...

We also helped Jess' daughter find something to buy. She was looking for an idea for her next 4-H knitting project, and settled on a kit to make a pair of lacy fingerless mitts. 

I have to tell you about the yarn that got away. After we finished going through the green building and the white building (names that are descriptive, if not imaginative), we wandered through the outside vendors, and watched a demo of sheep herding, and had a bite to eat. We headed next for the barns, where I discovered a gorgeous yarn by Maple Creek Farms. It was an alpaca / bamboo blend, called Cheyenne, I think, as soft as you can imagine. It would have been wonderful for the half Pi shawl, but - already having the lovely Briar Rose fiber in my bag - I resisted. (Note to Self: next year, look for this booth early in the game.) But, I have no regrets about the yarn I did buy. Above all, my goal at Fiber Fest is to buy yarn that I wouldn't be able to find at our local stores, and I did that again today, so I am happy.

I think I've achieved that goal each year I've gone. The first year I went to Fiber Fest (2008), I bought yarn from Knitting Notions (still in my stash), from Blue Moon Fiber Arts, and from Maple Row Stock & Wool. I used the Blue Moon Fiber yarn (Woobu) to make a shawl. I finally started a project with the Maple Row yarn:

This is the swatch I knit; now I'm working on the Cerus Scarf pattern. This is knitted lengthwise, instead of widthwise, so each row takes a long time to knit!

On my next Fiber Fest visit (2009) I bought yarn from Heritage Spinning & Weaving, and from Briar Rose Fibers (that day, their booth was utter chaos). Both are still in my stash, although I have settled on a shawl pattern for the Heritage yarn. Now all I have to do is wait for it to reach the top of my queue.

I think I did well to limit my purchases today. Really, my stash is sufficient that I could knit for a long, long time without buying any yarn - but it's good to be prepared for an emergency! Jess and I will prepare a bit more next week, when we travel to Stitches Midwest.

I have no pictures of my companions today (clearly, I wasn't operating in blogger mode), but here are a handful of photos from the festival.

Marsha Fletcher is a fiber artist. She raises Shetland sheep, and uses their wool to make her art pieces. Today she was working on this rabbit, who is nearly as tall as she is. (He's sitting on her lap in this photo.)

Isn't this a cute elephant? Unfortunately, we could only get the pattern by purchasing the two skeins of yarn required to knit him - and that was a $100 purchase. None of us were inclined to make that investment.

A rabbit with attitude


A sweet little baby alpaca

Cheese from sheep milk
I even found something for Jim!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Things to Cuddle

I recently finished up two fairly cuddly knitting projects.

The first is another Lilly Owl blanket, using Lori Emmitt's pattern.

This is slightly larger than my first Lilly owl blanket, and I tweaked the pattern a bit more. I thought the owls would stand out more if there was an additional purl row at the top and bottom, so I changed the first and last row of the seed stitch blocks to be purl rows. Truth be told, it didn't really make much of a difference, and it was rather confusing to keep straight, so I'll abandon that design element. But, I did pay attention to how the seed stitch blocks blended with the garter stitch edging, and made sure that I didn't have knits and purls side-by-side with the edges - and that looks much better than on my first blanket.

Now that I've worked out these details, I've ordered enough yarn to make a regular-sized baby blanket, and will cast on as soon as that yarn comes in. Stay tuned!

I also finished another elephant, using Ysolda Teague's Elijah pattern. The yarn is Misti Alpaca Pima Cotton & Silk Hand Paint, in the color Confetti. I was calling this elephant Confetti, but I'm told by the soon-to-be recipient that her name will be Ellie.

I did not knit this beagle! I usually dump our laundry on the bed, to fold it, and if I don't get to it right away, Bonnie loves to make herself a nest. Apparently she is equally happy nesting in the basket itself.

Our cuddly beagle has developed another quirk. When we first adopted her, she practically never barked - we think we may have heard her bark five times in the first year we had her. After Homer died, she started barking occasionally, if she was outside and wanted to come in before we went to check on her. She would occasionally bark at lunchtime, if she thought I needed to stop working and give her some attention - one sharp, indignant, "look at me" bark.

Then we came home from Mackinac Island, and she is a changed animal. During the day, she behaves as usual, sleeping on her bed in my office, or on the couch. But at night, she apparently thinks that we are not giving her the attention she needs. She barks, watches us, and barks some more.

We are trying to give her the attention she craves, without rewarding this barking. Wish us luck on this one!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Don't Kill the Birthday Girl

One of the ways I relaxed during our recent visit to Mackinac Island was by reading, and my book of choice was Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, by Sandra Beasley. It turned out to be a good choice, enjoyable and informative.

In the introduction to her memoir, Beasley writes,
"I am allergic to dairy (including goat's milk), egg, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, macadamias, pistachios, cashews, swordfish, and mustard ...

"Those with food allergies aren't victims. We're people who - for better or for worse - experience the world in a slightly different way. This is not a story of how we die. These are the stories of how we live."
Beasley's style is friendly and informative, sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes matter-of-fact. She shares experiences gleaned from 30 years of living with allergies, mixed with science and the social aspects of allergies. She describes how she learns to cope in a world where danger truly does lurk around every corner. She considers why people carry, but seldom use, their EpiPens. She relates her friend's remarkable (and successful) effort to provide Sandra-friendly cake at her wedding. She describes the awkward situations that arise in dating - especially those dates that end up at the emergency room.

She praises her mother:
"... I have to honor that there's an intimacy being created there, too, one unique to any parent who manages a child's chronic illness. My mother, the diplomat. My mother, the (un)registered nurse. My mother, the translator of cries and bubbles.

"If my child did have allergies, I'd know where I'd look for guidance. My mother, the teacher. If kids like Jennifer and I had blazed a trail, it's only because parents like her cleared the path."
I think I would like Sandra Beasley. It seems that she has found a balance in her life; she writes "My job is to center on staying safe in this world, but my job is also never to assume the world should revolve around keeping me safe." I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand more about allergies, and about living with those around us who have allergies.

My niece Emily has a daughter with multiple allergies. In the introduction to her book, Beasley refers to a cookbook by Emily, Sophie-Safe Cooking. You can order Emily's cookbook here: www.sophiesafecooking.com. Emily also has a blog, Food Allergy Thoughts, at foodallergythoughts.blogspot.com.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Falling Water

No, this isn't about a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (although if you have the chance, you really should visit Fallingwater).

It's about a scarf.

On our trip to Mackinac Island, I had lots of knitting time, and this was the perfect project - it fit nicely in my (oversized) purse, and had a simple stitch pattern. I made great progress on our trip, and then finished it up this weekend. Soaking and blocking made all the difference - the pattern really stands out on the finished scarf.

I knit this using Savoy, by Tahki Yarns, a soft blend of merino & silk. The pattern is Falling Water, by Bonnie Sennott.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mackinac Island

Jim and I, and some friends, recently spent several nights on Mackinac Island. We had such a lovely time!

We took the ferry over, enjoying the view of Mackinac Bridge.

We saw horses, pulling carriages and taxis and drays and even street cleaners.

My favorite part, I think, was biking around the island. It was so beautiful.

We had lunch at the Grand Hotel - a delicious buffet! - and enjoyed walking around their grounds afterwards.

Robin & Jim

Dominique, John,  & Shane

We enjoyed the butterfly conservatory.

We also did lots of relaxing, knitting, walking, napping, chatting, dining, window shopping.....

We loaded more pictures here, for those with insomnia. Enjoy!