Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Jim & I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with Paul & Rachelle. Travel was complicated by Jim's attending the Michigan State Numismatic Society coin show; we ended up driving over in two cars, and then spending Thursday night in a hotel in Warren. Friday morning, Jim headed to the coin show, and I joined Paul for a session at the Detroit Temple, before heading home (other Beer family members joined the Black Friday throngs). Jim will drive home sometime Saturday, depending on how things go at the coin show.

Pictures of all the people and all the deliciousness:

Paul, Rachelle, Annie

Tim, N

M, Jim

Molly's begging was for naught. She is allergic to just about everything, including turkey (and dirt?!?), so no scraps for her...

Molly, under the table

Everyone brought something to the meal; M provided the rolls, which were both delicious and delightful:

Detroit Temple, on a beautiful morning

Monday, November 25, 2013

Another Elephant

Hm. I thought I had lots of knitting update material, but apparently I blogged fairly recently about my knitting, so all I have to offer is this:

I finished another Elijah the Elephant (this is my 7th).

I love this pattern (Elijah, by Ysolda Teague).

I love this yarn (Misti Alpaca Pima Cotton & Silk Hand Paint). (This elephant is in the color Confetti.)

I could write about what a pleasant vacation day this has been. I was able to go to Institute class this morning, and to lunch with friends, and other friends stopped by this afternoon. Jim and I actually cooked dinner, and had a pleasant evening (we watched The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit).

It also snowed some this afternoon, which was pretty to watch.

My Hitchhiker scarf now has 28 teeth.

But mostly - I'm happy about the elephant. ♡

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Changing Seasons

Tonight I offer a bit of a photo essay. The weather has been changing, and I want to remember those last spectacular fall colors.

October 22, Friendship Village

October 23, Freys Park (North end)

We have had snow teasers several times:

October 24, Freys Park

Beautiful skies:

October 25, Friendship Village

October 25, Freys Park

This is our house. That tree in front? We planted it sometime in the first few years we lived here. It's grown just a little...

November 3

November 9

It was pouring rain when I took this photo, outside the Red Robin restaurant in Portage. I was impressed that this tree still had such colorful foliage:

November 11

Last Sunday, November 17, we had terrible weather - high winds, tornado watch, and lots of rain. Trees were blown down, and many people had no power for several days. (We were very fortunate - no storm damage, no power loss.)

With all that, the leaves are pretty much gone now. Here's the north end of Freys Park, today:

November 23

And look what else happened today. It was the last day for the outdoor Farmers' Market on Bank Street; next week they move across the street, to the bingo hall. I'm guessing the vendors were wishing they'd moved indoors today!

Farmers Market, Bank Street

Robin, Jess, Jenny

Yes, that is snow you see on those fruits and vegetables.

When we left the market, the roads were a mess of ice under snow. It took forever to get home (it probably didn't help that we went out of our way to stop at Sweetwater's Donuts), but at least we made it in one piece. Before long, the sun came out and put paid to that ice.

This is in our neighborhood, just before I arrived home - and look at those two trees, still with leaves, after the storms and rain and snow. I think those are ornamental pear trees; I may try to persuade Jim that we should plant one next year...

And, last but not least, a beagle photo. Worn-out beagles need rest!

I love her paws, tucked in Just So.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Live All the Words

This week, I've been rereading Elder Hales' talk from General Conference.1 One of the things he said is that obtaining revelation is not easy; it requires that we fast, pray, study, and ponder. He was referring to the effort made by the speakers at General Conference, in their preparation. But the same applies to us, in our own search for guidance.

Referring to conference talks, he said, "What is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel." This was interesting to me - I looked at my notes for this talk, and indeed, had written down reminders of things that he hadn't actually said. (And it's good that I had jotted down those reminders, or they would be lost; my brain is not as sticky as it used to be.)

What gave me most pause was this comment:
In recent decades the Church has largely been spared the terrible misunderstandings and persecutions experienced by the early Saints. It will not always be so...

President Harold B. Lee taught: “The only safety we have as members of this church is to … give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet. There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your [personal] views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; … and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory’ (D&C 21:6).”
There are issues today that are much-discussed in blogs and other online media. I read the arguments for and against, and try to remain open-minded, and to sort out which positions I can support. Elder Hale's talk reminds me that, while I need to be informed and think things through on my own and use my brain and my experience and my own common sense, it is vital that I know and consider what the prophets have said. Their words need to be taken into account. And if their words make me uncomfortable, then, rather than simply dismissing them, I must examine myself and my course.

Elder Hales also taught
The greatest blessings of general conference come to us after the conference is over. Remember the pattern recorded frequently in scripture: we gather to hear the words of the Lord, and we return to our homes to live them.
I need to live the words. I need to fast, pray, study, and ponder, and I need to live the words.

1. LT, this is my "one thing."

Monday, November 11, 2013

November Knitting

Here is a quick knitting update:

I've completed nine months of my Sky Scarf. (I was a week or two behind in my knitting, but had kept track of the sky, and knitted madly Saturday evening, to catch up.)

My Hitchhiker is coming along nicely. I'm up to 22 points (out of the magical 42), but since the rows get longer and longer, I really don't know how far along I am. My suspicion: not very far. (I put together a rough spreadsheet, which suggests I am 28% complete.)

Finally, my newest elephant has a head:

I'm still working on my Ministry with Community Scarf, but really - it has been neglected. Oh, let's be honest - between the Hitchhiker and the Elephant, it's been ignored. Completely. When there is actual, significant progress, I'll post a new picture.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dogs and Small Boys

My nephew and niece, Jon and Laura, are moving soon, from Chicago to Virginia. This means that our two to two-and-a-half hour trip to visit them will become a ten to eleven hour trip instead. We are thrilled that they have found gainful employment, but we are sad that they'll be so far away.

Much to our delight, they came for a visit on Friday. We ate some lunch (Jon was starving), and played in the park (I think the park is the highlight for the little guys). Then we all headed to the fairground, where there are dog shows all weekend. Friday's show was sponsored by the Grand Rapids Kennel Club.

When going to a dog show, I highly recommend taking along several small boys. It will shorten your stay - we only made it through a couple Best in Group judgings - but the handlers we met were delighted to talk with M and C, and help them pet the dogs. (Admittedly, you should try to find several small boys who are also exceedingly charming.)

When we watched the hound group (my favorite, because: Beagles!), we were positioned at the far end of the ring from the actual judging. So the handlers were pretty relaxed as they came our way, and they chatted with the boys, and showed off their dogs a bit.

Here are C and one of the dogs (unfortunately, I have no great pictures of M):

Mutual admiration: C and a Saluki
These photos (also from the hound group) were taken without flash, and therefore are a bit shaky.

Elkhound, adoring his handler
(and, I suspect, waiting
for a treat)

Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen (PBGV),
just being cute

Beagles! Large (15") and Small (13")
We saw dogs being groomed, and dogs that were just hanging out. I met my first Leonberger - a good looking (albeit very large) fellow. Lots of Corgis wandering around - it must have been near time for their judging. We saw some tiny little Chihuahuas heading out, and many other breeds, all of which M pointed out with glee. (It was delightful to have M take my hand and drag me off to see some dog or other.)

We headed back home, where - surprise! - we went to the park again. After dinner, we played Farkle, and had Laura and Jon show us (again - Joyce had taught us last summer) how to play Liar's Dice. I clearly was at a disadvantage - I could not remember the rules at all (I'm sure everyone was tired of my repeatedly asking for yet another explanation, although everyone was unfailingly polite). I definitely had no clue regarding strategy! Ah well.

Speaking of dogs... I recently read Mary Oliver's Dog Songs. I generally enjoy Mary Oliver's poetry, and (as any who have read my blog will know) I am somewhat fond of dogs. Accordingly, I thought this would be the perfect book - but not so. Shortly after starting this book, I heard the quote from Oscar Wilde, "All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling," and immediately thought of the Oliver book. It is clear she genuinely loves her dogs, but the poetry is, for the most part, below the quality I am used to seeing in her work.

Still, there were some that I liked. I first heard this one on The Writer's Almanac, back in September.
How It Is with Us, and How It Is with Them
by Mary Oliver

We become religious,
then we turn from it,
then we are in need and maybe we turn back.
We turn to making money,
then we turn to the moral life,
then we think about money again.
We meet wonderful people, but lose them
     in our busyness.
We're, as the saying goes, all over the place.
Steadfastness, it seems,
is more about dogs than about us.
One of the reasons we love them so much.
I did like the pencil drawings in the book; my favorite is the cover photo of Ben, who reminds me of our Bonnie.

Bonnie, for whom life is
all about the smells

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Knitters on the Bus: Lots of Potential!

Well. Tonight I am supposed to be walking Bonnie and paying bills. I've done the former, and may yet do the latter (suggestion: don't hold your breath), but for now, I want to revisit Saturday's trip to Chicago.

At 7:30 in the morning, my friend Jess and I joined a couple dozen women from our local knitting guild, climbed aboard a bus, and headed to Chicago, and Vogue Knitting Live.

What do knitters do on a bus? A clue: it doesn't involve singing yarn songs (although there are some; if I have time, I'll come back here and add a link). Another clue: we're knitters, people! We ate, talked, and knit our way to Chicago.

There was one rest stop break, with a great photo op.

We got to the Palmer House Hotel right around nine, which gave us an hour to kill before the action started. We picked up our passes and programs, and read that there was a Knitter's Lounge, on the mezzanine, open from 9-3. Perfect!

We made our way to the mezzanine, and walked all around it, and never found the advertised lounge. We did find tables and chairs, with a view of the lobby, and opted to sit and knit and chat. (We never did find that elusive lounge.)


At 10, the Marketplace opened, so off we went. This year, we started with the artists' gallery.

First, we chatted with Ashley Blalock.

Ashley, crocheting, and happy I didn't make her pose

This is Ashley's installation, Keeping Up Appearances. It really is not a good picture - take a look at her website for better pictures, and some explanation.

Crocheted, not knitted!

Carol MacDonald creates prints that are inspired from her knitting. I bought a card with one of her prints, Potential.

Love this illustration!

I didn't take pictures as we wandered through the market (too much to see! too much to touch!), but we saw splendid things. Here are just a few of the vendors that I remember.

Tin Pan Arts - they had buttons galore, wonderful buttons, sparkly, shining, buttons. Unfortunately, I have found that stashing buttons is of limited value. Maybe I just haven't stashed enough yet, but I've never found what I needed in my button box - I've always had to head to the store with my finished project in hand. So, without a finished project, I could only admire these buttons, and then leave them behind. (And, sadly, I have neither website nor address for these folks...)

KnitCircus Yarns - Oh.My.Goodness. One of the things I had my eye out for was a gradient yarn. (You can read about and see some gradient yarns here and here.) So we were delighted to stumble across gradient yarns by KnitCircus. My favorite was a set of two skeins, each of which went through several shades of blue. So you could knit a pair of socks that would match (if you were a sock knitter), or you could knit two identical halves of a scarf, join them together, and have a scarf that flowed from one color, through varying shades, and then back to the original color. So beautiful! (I resisted this yarn. For now.)

Nerd Girl Yarns - Beautiful, gorgeous, bright, hand-dyed colors. I resisted (For now); Jess did not.

Sophie's Toes Sock Yarn - More glorious yarn. The initial draw here was a shawl, Sunstruck, knit in three shades of gray. It was squishy and classic and beautiful and I think everyone who walked by, wanted to knit it (or to have someone knit it for them). They also had Magic Balls, and a wall of shawls knit with them. I stood there for quite a while, and somehow my credit card came out and this fell into my bag; it has the potential to become a beautiful shawl:

Harvest Celebration

Two Grey Dogs Designs - How can you resist a vendor that hands out business cards with dog biscuits?

I could not resist for long. Their hand-dyed yarns were subtle colors, which really appealed to me. We left empty-handed, but I went back later and picked up two skeins of Schnauzer Snuggle (that really is the name of the yarn), in the color Smile a Pose. I don't yet know what this will become, but it has great potential:

We lunched on the mezzanine - which reminds me, I need to share a beagle story. The night before our trip, I packed some food for breakfast & dinner on the bus, and lunch at the show. Saturday morning, as I was getting ready to leave, I set my bag by the door. I went to get my coat, and came back into the kitchen, to discover Bonnie happily devouring one of my sandwiches. Her beagle nose certainly discovered that food quickly, and her chow-hound appetite knew exactly what to do with it!

After lunch, we went to one of the fashion shows (there was a show pretty much every hour, put on by different companies). We watched The Fiber Factor Fashion Show. According to their website, this "is a knitting design competition being held to find the next great knitwear designing superstar." Some of the garments were terrific, some were a bit bizarre. There was even a dog sweater, modeled on a stuffed animal. Now I'm tempted to go back and watch the previous episodes.

This year, I took a class as well, "Pinwheels and Pi Shawls," taught by Brooke Nico. She showed different techniques for starting the center of a shawl (which may come in handy with my next knitted elephant), and also explained several different architectures for circular shawls (concentric circles, rays circle, pinwheel). We knit some samples, got confused, and generally had a fine time. (Brooke has a book coming out in the spring, Lovely Knitted Lace, which might be worth a look.)

With the class ended, I rejoined my group, and we found our bus and headed home. It poured rain, so I was very glad to be able to sit back, relax, and knit.

I look at Carol MacDonald's card, Potential, and it seems to me that it captures the essence of why we traveled several hours on a bus: to surround ourselves with potential. When we see rows and racks of yarn, in varieties of colors and weights, we immediately start to imagine what we could make with it. When we see samples in booths, or on the fashion runway, we imagine how we would knit them, and what we might change. When we attend classes and workshops, we imagine how we will use that new technique.

And then we head home, knitting and talking and eating, and thinking about what we'll do next, with our sticks and string.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thanksgiving Blessing

Later this month, we will celebrate what Lincoln described as a day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

In 2007, President Eyring spoke about remembering the things God has done for us. He shared that every night, he would consider how he had seen the hand of God blessing his family, and he would record that.
I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
We try to do this all the time - to count our blessings, and to remember where they came from - but especially in November our hearts turn toward gratitude. In past years, I've shared my gratitude thoughts, but I think that this year, I will remember these things, and ponder them quietly in my heart.

A few months ago, I heard this poem on The Writer's Almanac. It seemed to me the perfect way to begin the Thanksgiving season - focusing on the ordinary blessings, that so often we overlook.
Ordinary Life
by Barbara Crooker

This was a day when nothing happened,
the children went off to school
without a murmur, remembering
their books, lunches, gloves.
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor.
And lunch blended into naptime,
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards,
one of those jobs that never gets done,
then sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea,
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch's little scraps.
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow,
preened and flashed his jeweled head.
Now a chicken roasts in the pan,
and the children return,
the murmur of their stories dappling the air.
I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb.
We listen together for your wheels on the drive.
Grace before bread.
And at the table, actual conversation,
no bickering or pokes.
And then, the drift into homework.
The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa's ridges and hills.
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss,
tasting of coffee and cream.
The chicken's diminished to skin & skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the hard knuckle of the year,
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
order themselves
into the winter night.
Here's an unexpected gift I came across today, while driving someone home after church:

Alamo Ave, near Nichols Rd

There is beauty everywhere, everywhere.

Thank you.