See-ya supper

I forgot the bread. I forgot the insalata caprese. But I bought the oysters. And the neighbors came.

My farmers market had its monthly visit from Ruby Salts Oyster Company that Saturday, and those babies were indeed "fresh, plump, salty, juicy and good." We ate some raw and some off the grill. I don't know how this toddler could have spit out the sample he gamely tried! 

Adults kept cool with beer, while the kids were a blur of water balloons. 

Then, from the grill, hot dogs for the kids, salmon for the parents. I forgot the watermelon, too! 

And now our beloved neighbors have left the block; luckily, they've gone not much more than a mile. The kids will still be Little B's schoolmates, but no longer her virtual siblings at the house next door, where she hung when I drove Wee C's middle-school carpool these last two years, and so much more often. When C and I came here eight years ago, they were a family of three instead of the five that need larger quarters. Look how these two have grown:

Dana was probably my first close friend who is significantly younger than I am; it's my turn to be on the other side of that equation, and I always felt honored when she came to me for advice. They're the most fit family I know, and I appreciated the afternoons she served as my personal trainer. Our cats are their honorary pets. Her man Jeremy kept the bushes pruned, and was my emergency-medical consult when I thought I'd sliced my finger half off (not a doc, but an adventure racer!). We will still bike and bowl and blueberry pick with you! Come back for a snowball fight next winter, and pick us up on your Slurpee run! 


Not enough leaves

IMG_1218Almost three years ago I jumped on board a mystery-shawl knitalong posted on Ravelry by Finnish designer Lankakomero.  I used the pefect skein of Dream in Color Smooshy and dug into the many pages of charts. Tending to be a multi-project knitter, however, I lost steam, and one of those times I put down the chart, I must've failed to mark off a completed section. And, silly (lazy, overconfident) me, I never wove in a lifeline. So when I suddenly found myself running out of what should have been ample yarn well before bind-off time, I knew I was in trouble. 

I thought about trying to weave in a lifeline below the point where I'd obviously veered off course, but with the double yarn-overs, I just couldn't figure out how to be sure I'd captured every stitch. Finally I threw up my hands and bound off, satisfied that I could enjoy the piece as a lacy neck wrap without showing off the outside edge of uncountable, incomplete leaves. I didn't even take a confessional photograph for the project page, so what you see at left is what you get. Maybe I'm not such a charty gal, much as I love the look of lace – I tend to knit to relax at a time of day when I am tired, and either watching TV or stitching  and talking with friends. Glad I managed my Charlotte's Web Shawl when I only had one child, and there was also no social media to distract me! 

Movie Minute: Before Midnight

BefMidposterI loved Richard Linklater's third Jesse & Celine film, Before Midnight. Yes, I also loved Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). The films stand on their own and cohere as a beautiful trilogy visiting a couple's relationship as it evolves and endures over two decades. The two actors (Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy, who share screenwriting credit with Linklater) are certainly attractive in each film, aging appropriately (and hardly old in their early 40s!), and the setting of this last, a Greek island, in addition to its beauty, offers metaphoric touchstones with its ancient ruins and its remove from either character's origins. These are all "talky" films, but Before Midnight's conversation engages the viewer and compels further thought post-screening. Although not a part of such a couple, I could relate to their perspectives as a human only about a decade older, and as one in relationship with friends for as long, and with my brother for even longer. The film elicited chuckles of recognition, for sure – and a surprising amount of silent talking back to Celine, aligning with my countryman rather than my gender-mate. 

When I saw Before Sunrise, did I imagine these two reuniting? Probably, romantic that I'd have been. When they parted at Before Sunset's end, did I see them making a life together? Possibly; I can't recall, but I was glad for their having shared one more day. Do I want to see a fourth film? I don't think so, but I will if they make one. For now, I'm content to believe Jesse & Celine will raise their girls in one country or another, do good work in the world, and grow old together. 

Book brief: Seating Arrangements

SAcoverOften I grab a novel from the New Fiction bookcase at our neighborhood library; I found my 2012 favorite, Arcadia, that way, an unexpected pleasure. Granted, I tend to take books that sound a note of recognition, which would linger in my mind from a Sunday Times Book Review, NPR, or my guilty pleasure, Entertainment Weekly. I'm trying to take advantage of my Goodreads membership, too, and find friends' recommendations there. Despite having an older Kindle, I still like the heft of hardback. 

Two weeks ago I checked out Maggie Shipstead's Seating Arrangements (Knopf, 2012), because I remembered some positive press. New England WASPs getting married on tiny islands are not generally my thing, what with being a single Southerner, but the writing on the first page engaged me, and darned if that book didn't suck me in and keep me reading until I finished it back there at the West End branch this morning. Her prose is beautiful, and Shipstead does a masterful job of managing multiple points of view, moving between them to offer a family portrait that is unique yet universal. Protagonist Winn Van Meter, patriarch and father of the bride, went from someone I couldn't imagine understanding to a character I was rooting for as he literally and figuratively swayed in the wind. Both he and second daughter Livia, 40 years his junior, grow up over the course of the weekend the novel narrates. From whale-covered trousers to whale-blubbered beach, the details, decades and desires woven into the tale left me laughing, but with moist eyes, as I handed the volume to the librarian.

Superlatives: Character I'd most like to hang with: Dominique. Character I'd most like to hear more from: Biddy. Most honest character: Sterling. Most caricatured character: Celeste. Most throwaway character: Poppy (was that even her name?). 

From the publisher's page

Winn Van Meter is heading for his family’s retreat on the pristine New England island of Waskeke. Normally a haven of calm, for the next three days this sanctuary will be overrun by tipsy revelers as Winn prepares for the marriage of his daughter Daphne to the affable young scion Greyson Duff.  Winn’s wife, Biddy, has planned the wedding with military precision, but arrangements are sideswept by a storm of salacious misbehavior and intractable lust: Daphne’s sister, Livia, who has recently had her heart broken by Teddy Fenn, the son of her father’s oldest rival, is an eager target for the seductive wiles of Greyson’s best man; Winn, instead of reveling in his patriarchal duties, is tormented by his long-standing crush on Daphne’s beguiling bridesmaid Agatha; and the bride and groom find themselves presiding over a spectacle of misplaced desire, marital infidelity, and monumental loss of faith in the rituals of American life.


Second decade

My 10-year blogiversary went by without fanfare three months ago. With 2013 half gone, and a year of self-employment under my belt, I think the time has come to freshen up the old place and post more regularly, with the option of varying the content beyond the stitching side of life. I'm not going to change the blog's name, but I've given it a visual makeover by choosing one of Typepad's newer themes. I want to write about art and culture and family and work, in addition to the things I make from assorted fibers. Stay tuned, as network television shows used to voiceover before a commercial break. Not to be holier-than-thou, but we so rarely tune into a network broadcast around here other than PBS, that I've no idea if that plea still gets issued. We only get the networks, but more often the choice is accessing video via Netflix . . . 


1. Colvert cowl, 2. Camp-out mitts, 3. Cowld and Frosty, 4. Leftovers

If only for images, I do have some finished objects to report for the first half of this year.  I made a Leftovers vest  from the rest of my Seacolors yarn, then added some fingerless mitts from a free pattern (Rav link) I found on Ravelry. I knit a pair of cowls, each from yummy, bulky yarn: the orchid one is Three Waters Farm merino I bought on my last Maryland Sheep & Wool trek (Rav pattern link), and the magenta one Fyberspates Scrumptious I received as a gift from the lovely Sarah Phipps and her hub Taylor, Brotherman's BFF from college, who passed through RVA bearing gifts a Christmas ago. I love the cable of the Colvert pattern (link)! 

So many shawls, so little time

There went another three months! I'm still in transition, finding my feet as a self-employed worker, happily so. But knitting never ceases ~ except when I sprained my wrist last month while roller skating . . . So let's add a little recap of knits I finished in the spring and summer, shall we?

I've long wanted to knit Christa Giles's Colourflow Wrap, so I finally pulled a bunch of skeins from stash and had a go of knitting a big, double-stranded tube, merging colors as I went, including Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock Lightweight and their older Soft Rock, Knit Picks Sock Landscape and Koigu PPPM. And then it was time to cut my first steek ever.

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Easy-peasy! And with a dip in the blocking wash, I reluctantly eliminated those Koigu curls. Wee C models before we wrapped it up and birthday-gifted it to our dear friend Laura. 

Next on the needles was not a shawl, but my third pinwheel baby blanket. I made two of these last summer and was ready to whip up one more for the newest descendant ~ and namesake of ~ my paternal grandfather. This Mission Falls 1824 Cotton had  languished in the stash long enough; clearly it was not going to become a summer sweater (I've foresworn knitting those for life in these humid climes). 


In June, after three years of off-and-on attention, six skeins of Koigu were finally bound off with i-cord around 52 knitted lace squares. I got the Triple S Shawl pattern from the Brooks Farm folks at Maryland Sheep & Wool in 2009 and converted the chart to use three colors instead of four. I can't believe it took me so long that there were some unfortunate moth-chomped spots from leaving the waiting sections unsecured. I discreetly tied them off on the wrong side and blocked away:


Knitsib Frances and I had a ball this summer joining thousands of other knitters on Ravelry for designer Stephen West's Mystery Shawl Knit-along. All we knew at the start was its name, Rockefeller, and the yarn requirement of two colors. I chose from the stash again, matching some Pagewood Farm Yukon with some Madelinetosh Tosh Sock.

Every week we got a new clue; sometimes I was ready for it, more often I was not. And always I went to the Ravelry group postings to look at other knitters' images and get a sense of where the project was headed ~ it didn't remain a mystery for long. I made a few modifications to the finasl clue to ensure enough yarn to finish. The thing was done in a day shy of six weeks ~ my fastest shawl, certainly. And surprisingly lovely!

OK: one more, and I won't yet write about the two that are curently on my needles. This is the Coquille Shawl from a 2010 Knitty, which I made in some Tess' Twinkle Toes that I bought onsite in Maine that same September. Because I must've misread the specs, I didn't quite have enough yarn to make it symmetrical, but when it's wrapped around my neck, you cannot see the short end (that's also cut off in this picture). It's soft and warm, and that's what matters as winter approaches!


A baby was born in December . . .

 . . . and I made her a quilt.


Just about a year ago, quilter Elizabeth Hartman, who blogs at Oh, Fransson!, offered her billboard quilt concept as a quilt-along in a series of instructional posts. Intrigued, I cast about for the words I might use in such a quilt, or a recipient for whom I could start a new project. I didn't ponder long, as a dear colleague had recently shared her expectant status with us; surely the coming baby girl could use a quilt. I queried mom-to-be Caroline as to nursery color plans, and the neutral-loving curator unwittingly offered a perfect background for some patchy letters. Off to the LQS I went for some Kona Ash, abubdant scrappage already in house for the letter piecing. 

As I enjoyed the process, I excitedly shared progress pix with the rest of our team and offered this as our staff gift to Caroline. Amusingly, we had an exhibition at the time, Martin Johnson: FORward, that included a piece that hugely reminded me of my own work-in-progress (but I can't find a shot of it in this online slideshow).We all signed the sheepy panel on the back of the quilt and presented it to Caroline in December, about a month before her due date. Baby Meriwether surprised her parents the next day! 


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New dress, new job

Good Lord, how do I let three months pass without posting? Actually, I know how easily family time and work and home management and volunteering and reading and making and this internet fill up my days. I remember six years ago when I was waiting for Little B and moved into my VisArts job at 25 weekly hours ~ the building wasn't yet ronovated, my office was upstairs (where Digital II is now), social media was not part of my job duties, and we had no online registration. And I blogged about three times a week, for the fun of it as well as to meet the standards of the blogring. Remember those? What an explosion the blogosphere has seen in my nine years of writing here! 

The responsibilities of my position grew as well, and as much as I enjoyed meeting them, the challenges of doing so in a 30-hour week, with two kids at two schools, finally prompted me to take the step I've considered for more than a year, and move into self-employment. I realize I may end up working more than 30 hours a week, but those hours can include ones when the girls are asleep. My non-profit salary won't be hard to match [she writes optimistically], and I am actually paying less for better health insurance that includes the dental I didn't qualify for as a less-than-fulltime employee. I still love the Visual Arts Center and will continue to support it as member, visitor, and student. And the girls have another ArtVenture week there at summer's end.

I have some interesting prospects percolating, I met with my first client this week, and colleagues are generous with offers to guide me into this new venture. First, though, I'm actually taking a summer sabbatical, joining the kids in experiencing some unplanned days to rest and recharge. We've never shared a summer break in my parenting decade! I will be musing on my business plan and designing my website, but I will also pick more blueberries, harvest volunteer tomatoes, ride bikes, bake brownies, and read a novel or two. We also have a house asunder, as Wee C moved back into her own room, dispersing my sewing studio, and the music room needs to share space as my home office. Files and fabric are piled on every floor, destined for new homes that aren't yet ready. But we'll get them set, if I can make like Mary Poppins and convince the small fry that *snap* the job's a game! 

And that new dress? I whipped it up over Memorial Day weekend, which we spent on friend Susan's farm away from the usual distractions. I grabbed some Kaffe Fassett quilt fabrics from that other stash on my way out the door, in case I felt like sewing. I also took my machine and a book that I cannot find to note its title here, due to the aforementioned fruitbasket turnover of fiber supplies. Here it is:

Loose and cool, with deep pockets! The yoke and straps (as well as the unseed pockets) are two different fabrics, what with having to use fat quarters. Lotsa purple topstitching! Already my friend Lizzi asked me to make one for her. Guess I can also take in sewing . . .


Sister shawls

I listed Little B's Little House Shawl earlier, but when I finished a second one for Wee C, the girls agreed to a photo session. The blue one is almost identical; I just changed up the lace patterning a bit. Its yarn is BFL from Wooly Wonka Fibers, another dyer with Virginia roots (Anne & I even worked together back in the 1990s). This fun, quick knit of a skein of sock yarn makes a great gift for a girl. Customizing is easy and fun. Thanks again, Joanna!