Friday, November 30, 2007

The End of November

Knitting a sweater in the month of November (NaKniSweMo) is now a tradition for me, as is the exercise of posting every day this month (NaBloPoMo). This year's sweater also meets the requirements for Norovember. This afternoon during a lovely walk by the creek, I got to enjoy it:

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Still eating our local Thanksgiving feast--this time as pot pie. We chopped up some turkey, added some steamed mustard greens and cauliflower from the farmer's market, and dumped in the detritus of the pumpkin soup. After mixing a bit of leftover gravy with some milk, we poured that over the casserole and topped it with whole wheat biscuit dough (not from a local grain source, unfortunately). After heating in the oven for about half an hour, it was ready to eat. Easy and delicious!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Still Knitting

I finished the ribbing, etc., for the NaSweKniMo project and put it on to block. Pictures as soon as it is dry.

That gave me permission to start working on the Twisted Stitch Gauntlets I've been plotting to knit.

I love the way they are coming out so far--and they are absolutely addictive to knit. Rather than the luxurious baby cashmerino the pattern calls for, I'm knitting with inexpensive Filatura Di Crosa's 501--a perfect match in both weight and yardage. Although my gauge was spot on for the stockinette swatch, my actual glove is a little longer than the pattern calls for. And, for this very long-fingered person, the called-for length for the fingers is a little short. But it all sort of balances out....

* * *

Meanwhile, Son found a cricket in the bathtub (!) and gave him a ride on his Lego raft:


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Got an April Birthday?

All these come out that month:

Lisa Lloyd's A Fine Fleece: Knitting with Handspun Yarns

Joan Tapper's Shear Spirit: Ten Fiber Farms, Twenty Patterns, and Miles of Yarn

Maggie Casey's Start Spinning: Everything You Need to Know to Make Great Yarn

and, last but not least,

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Things I Learned From Knitting (whether I wanted to or not)
(no pic yet)

I'm clearing my spring for some good reading time....

Monday, November 26, 2007

Let me not to the marriage of true minds...

...admit impediments.
--William Shakespeare

Isn't it funny that the people we argue with most intensely are also the people we love most deeply?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Feeling Icky...

...lying on the couch with the blankets and a sock filled with microwaved grains of rice clutched to my abdomen...

...but, courtesy of the men in the family, have another puzzle for you. Look for a two-word phrase of 15 letters:

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Totally Corny

After a lovely dinner of turkey soup, we played family games which involved lots of silliness (including trying to act out "tofu" in charades).

We took a break for a local snack: popcorn on the cob!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving, Locally

Yesterday, my family was invited to spend the holiday with friends in Virginia. Over the years, we've become more like family to each other than we ever would have expected.

But today, we had our own Thanksgiving feast at home. Following our tradition of the past few years, we divided the meal into parts. Often we have turkey, dressing, and veggies for lunch and then later have soup and salad and dessert at supper. But this year we did things a little differently.

* * *

At lunch, we made soup cooked in a pumpkin:

It is a great, flexible recipe that I think we'll try again next time we pick up a little pumpkin at the market. After cleaning out the inside, fill the body with chopped onions, a few chunks of bread (we used a locally produced whole wheat bread), some strong-flavored cheese, some milk, a little horseradish (we bought a jar at the farmer's market during Passover and it is still good), and a bit of mustard (alas, non local). Let it bake in the oven on a cookie sheet for a couple of hours, and serve with scoops of the softened pumpkin in the soup. Sprinkle with roasted pumpkin seeds.

* * *

I spent the afternoon asleep while David cooked a beautiful turkey with dressing. We bought the turkey from our Amish dairy provider. The stuffing was made with the above-mentioned bread, red onions and shallots and kale from the market, local butter, and homemade chicken stock from an earlier bird. Absolutely delicious!

We served it with sides of smooshed rutabaga and roasted Brussels sprouts.

* * *

We opened a bottle of cassis aperitif which we bought when we were in Quebec City. It is a perfect dessert wine all by itself...

...but we followed it up with a crustless sweet potato pie, served with whipped cream sweetened with local maple sugar. Wow.

* * *

Our non-local ingredients were going to be only salt and pepper--but we each made a goof. David put a bit of leftover champagne in the dressing, and I put a sprinkle of flour and a squeeze of lemon in the gravy without thinking about it. But still--since this is our first local Thanksgiving and a very quickly-planned fiesta, we followed our rules pretty well. And it was an incredible dinner.

And thank goodness it was good. We have lots of leftovers in the fridge!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Knitting Boggle

How many words can you make?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Crazy Noro Lady

I finished the body of the wild sweater jacket I am knitting for both NaSweKniMo and Norovember.

Since this sweater is knit with bias stripes necessitating a total of fourteen balls at some points, I had a choice whether to twist all the joins like in true intarsia--or go with kilim-style holes marching up the changes of yarn. Mostly out of absolute exasperation with the multiple strands coming off the sweater, I went with "slits":

Last week I finished the entrelac sleeves--and really got entrelac out of my system (which is OK since it is no longer Entrelac'tober).

The ends are not sewn in, the shaped sleeves are not sewn in, and the button band and collar are not yet knit--and the sweater is going to need a good blocking as well as buttons or hooks. Nevertheless--here's a preview of the whole wild thing:

* * *

The real question: Do I really see my grey self wearing this sweater?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stash and Burn Goodies

The Stash and Burn podcast had an October Socks contest--and I was one of the winners! I received a fabulous package from listener Minh. I don't really know if this is a truly good thing or not, given that I honestly have too much yarn already--but you've got to see the lovely skeins I got, and the extra-special bag they were sent in...

...complete with a little tag-holder on the ties, and a label inside. How lovely!

How about this gorgeous colorway of Artyarns Ultramerino?

And I've been dying to try out the Tofutsies sock yarn!

Thanks go to Minh, as well as Jenny, and Nicole at Stash and Burn. Be sure to check out their great podcast.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Radical Honesty

I'm almost to the armholes of my NaKniSweMo sweater. I knit a bit this afternoon while listening to a fascinating podcast--a talk show that ran during summer (yes I am behind!)--of an NPR interview with the author of Radical Honesty.

The author Brad Blanton summarizes that "Radical Honesty is a kind of communication that is direct, complete, open and expressive. Radical Honesty means you tell the people in your life what you've done or plan to do, what you think, and what you feel. It's the kind of authentic sharing that creates the possibility of love and intimacy."

Honesty is sort of my issue. I remember watching a soap opera once and saying to my partner, "If only everybody was honest with each other, there would really be no STORY here!" We watched it a few more times--but knowing that every lie led to the next plot twist sort of ruined it for us.

* * *

As I said in the post about conflict, I often don't allow myself to say the full immediate truth before I contemplate how that truth will be received by the audience. Truth can be scary sometimes. As Blanton writes, "Probably the most often used rationalization for lying is "I didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings."

The author goes on to say, "Probably the most often used rationalization for lying is 'I didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings.' I recommend you hurt people's feelings and stay with them past the hurt. I also recommend that you offend people. We can all get over having our feelings hurt and we can get over being offended. These are not permanent conditions; they are feelings that come and go." Only in relationships that I am fully confident will survive the challenge (like--at least most of the time--those with my partner and child and closest friends) do I almost always feel comfortable expressing my truth.

But maybe it is exactly that risk that leads to deeper relationships.

Blanton is a psychotherapist. He requires his patients to come clean with all the people (like family members including parents) with whom they have resisted conversations about the truth. Although it is often hard to be fully honest with loved ones, Blanton's patients explained that "right on the other side of that hard time, they were no longer depressed, they were no longer anxious--they were happier." He continues, "What actually occurs is that when you open up and share by telling the truth it frees you up from the jail of your own mind."

I'm especially intrigued by the author's statement that "sometimes it might be more honest to say 'I don't know' where it's a real opening where you don't know, and you're willing to be with not knowing; that's where creativity comes from." It is exactly that ability to listen, in a consensus-led organization at least, that allows people to both express their truths and arrive at a truth that is greater than any one person's truth.

But then Blanton says that "more often than not, when people say 'I just don't know,' it's a protest, it's a whine, it's a not wanting to take responsibility." When I think I am trying to understand the will of the group, am I at least sometimes just trying to avoid conflict, even when reaching informed consent is my job?

On his website, the author concludes that: "the focus of what I have to say is not so much some moral taboo against lying as it is that I am in favor of people having fun in their lives, and having joyful, playful lives, serving each other. I'm not morally condoning telling the truth or saying that it's immoral to lie. I'm just talking about a pragmatic thing. If you go out and tell each other the truth you'll be happier. You're better nurtured in a world in which you're telling the truth than you are in a world in which you're cowering, hiding and lying."

* * *

I keep thinking about what this means for the way I parent. At what point do I have to tell Son the full truth and nothing else? Children have an ability to say the absolute truth and fully believe pretend at the same time. Well--Blanton has a parenting book out--one I've not heard of before but am ordering right now: Radical Parenting: Seven Steps to a Functional Family in a Dysfunctional World.

* * *

Tonight: a martini made with gin, white vermouth, peach bitters, and a bit of lemon peel. Cocktail while knitting, avoiding the truth.... Sometimes I need just a bit of reprieve from the truth.

Or does the alcohol make it easier to tell the truth?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fiber Heals All

Yesterday morning we went to the Potomac Craftsmen Guild show and stash sale. Although there were beautiful handmade things there, what I was really drawn to was the cheap yarn:

I bought yarn to knit a vest (maybe this one?) and a shawl (maybe this one?)--plus enough raw silk lace weight for an as-yet-to-be-determined project.

The sale was fantastic: antique buttons, used handmade looms, old books of patterns, and lots of leftover yarn--combined with new products from gorgeous woven shawls to irresistible hand-dyed yarns.

* * *

My friend Martha met us at the show and was kind enough to introduce us to a local yarn store I had never before visited: Inez's Stitchery. Amazing! She had knitting patterns that have been in there for ages. While I was oggling the patterns for the exact Christmas stockings that my grandmother knit almost forty years ago, David called me from the other room. "You've got to see this!" he called from the cross-stitch room.

And what was there on prominent display? My father's cross-stitch pattern booklet, now out of print for 27 years:

My dad was an academic spending weeks of the summer with my knitting grandmother, my quilting other grandmother, and an embroidery-crazy wife at the beach. He sketched pictures of the seaside--then sketched on graph paper to make patterns that my business-minded mother eventually sold as patterns. Soon he turned not only the stunning physical environment but the folk craft traditions of the South into more patterns, including the ones above. While I am never shocked to see his academic books appear in libraries or bookstores, seeing his cross-stitch designs still for sale was stunning!

* * *

This evening we went to the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary of our friends Jennifer, a phenomenal knitter, and Bob, a banjo player extraordinaire. We had such a lovely time--chatting with knitter friends, getting to know new folks from the folk music scene in the area, listening to their niece yelp when the local football team scored, and watching Son learn how to play the banjo and how to yo-yo. And most amazingly, when Jennifer introduced me to one of her friends, she said, "He probably knows your father!" and asked him. He did--from many years ago, and from the academic folklorist side, not the stitchery side. Very cool.

Happy anniversary, Jennifer, and thanks again for the lovely party!

* * *

I came home and called my father. Mom and Dad got on the speaker phone (AARGH! I don't know if anyone can understand on speaker phones, but this slightly hard-of-hearing person sure can't!) and reminisced about the old days when crafts and music, and people who loved crafts and music, filled their house.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


One very cold Friday evening when I was a senior in college, something happened that left me feeling very sad and very vulnerable. I sat in my room, staring into space, until the phone rang.

A friend was calling to invite me to a party, but as soon as he heard my voice, he said, "I'm coming to be with you. I'll be there in a minute." I tried to tell him that he didn't need to come, that he should go to the party and that I was fine, that I'd see him the next morning. He wouldn't listen.

Although his dorm room was a twenty-minute walk away, in ten minutes he knocked on my door and called my name.

He walked in, didn't even ask what had happened, and put his arms around me. He was taller than I am, and much broader shouldered. He completely enveloped me, saying, "I love you with the purest love, agape. I love you and I am here for you because there is nowhere I more belong." (Yes, he was a humanities nerd--and yes, he could say a line like this and make it not sound stilted.)

This young man was skinny, muscular, and big-boned. There was nothing at all soft about his shoulders. I felt like I was surrounded by a warm cage which would protect me and get me through absolutely anything.

* * *

Last night I dreamed of all that happened that evening, of the pain as well as the profound sense of safety I felt. It has been a very long time since I have thought about all the details or the feelings of that evening.

* * *

Back when it happened for real, my friend stayed with me all night, awake for hours in the rocking chair, watching me even after I was calm enough to sleep. When we awoke, I knew I had to emerge from the cage and face the world on its own terms.

I'm not sure anyone has ever done anything kinder than what he did, this young man that, before that night, I admired tremendously but never imagined cared for me very much in any way.

* * *

I woke up from the dream this morning so sad that I was almost in tears. There are times when I just want to have my problems taken over by someone else, to have someone shield me again so solidly from any difficulties.

But that is not what we need, not if we are going to be growing human beings, not what I need, and I know it.

I look at all the things I fear are ahead for me, ahead for us as a people. I can't do it alone--and luckily, I don't have to. If we're lucky, we have people to hold our hands and offer us soft shoulders, not build cages around us. We need to walk together into the scary future with our eyes open and our hearts exposed.

Friday, November 16, 2007


"A little rudeness and disrespect can elevate a meaningless interaction to a battle of wills and add drama to an otherwise dull day."
--Calvin, in The Days are Just Packed: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection

I hate when people argue. It makes me scared. And I'm even more uncomfortable with simmering and unspoken conflict than I am with straight-out fights.

When I was a child and my parents argued, my mother would announce in the middle of a fight that she was going for a drive. An hour later, she'd be home pretending like no fight had ever happened.

I should have been reassured. I mean, everything was ALWAYS fine in an hour--with us joking over favorite meals.

But somehow, I have never gotten over the lesson I was taught that the only way to get past conflict is (in the best situations) by pretending nothing difficult ever happened--and the constant fear that this time might not be the best situation and it might lead to abandonment and the disintegration of relationships.

I don't do well at all pretending like nothing difficult ever happens. I need to go over issues until they lie dead on the doorstep and everybody has fully processed every last drop of emotion.

* * *

Conflict, when there is great respect between the participants in a disagreement, is perhaps the most productive force there is, one that can ultimately allow for not only resolution but profound growth.

I know that now. For years I hid my head in the sand if a disagreement seemed poised to bite, except when it happened in the relationships I was most sure of. But now I try really hard, and am actually sometimes successful, at making myself engage in issues that I know can lead to conflict--all in the hopes that any little battles will make all of us ultimately better people.

* * *

Today on one of my email lists I witnessed one member get slapped (figuratively) by another member whom I thought was being unfair. Thinking she was not necessarily aware of how her message was being received, I wrote her off list to explain my perspective. I was not intending to pick a fight.

She was horrified by my intervention, defensive about what she had said, angry that I wrote her off list, and sarcastic and dismissive about me. Quite a sting.

I'm off to crawl back in my sandpit for a little while.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Handmade Holidays

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

"Buying handmade is better for people, better for the environment, and better for giving truly special and well-crafted gifts. The ascendancy of chain store culture and global manufacturing has left us all dressing, furnishing, and decorating alike. The connection between producer and consumer has been lost. Buying handmade helps them reconnect. We encourage all consumers to be aware of the social and environmental implications of their purchases."

So says the website Buy Handmade, originators of this excellent challenge.

Last year I gave only my own handknitting to my closest friends and family--with the exception of my son and partner (who got a few surprises that were not really corporate but also not handmade).

This year I have plenty of hand-knitted projects in my queue of gifts, some of which are finished and some of which are not. But I also have a few books and CDs picked out for particular people.

Corporate and anonymous? Yes--books and music have all gone corporate, at least to some degree when they are put into circulation.

But having actually seen my own book go from little dream to bound copy, I've really become aware of how much the books are handmade as well. Everyone who reads an author's work finds that "connection between producer and consumer"--perhaps even more than that found in a knitted object made with someone else's pattern.

* * *


I'm just justifying...

On Saturday I am planning to go to a local handcrafts festival--and perhaps I will pick up a few extras to make up for my amazingly-off-schedule knitting plan....

Anybody on my holiday list have any requests?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I finished both sleeves of the sweater I am knitting for NaSweKniMo.

What fun the entrelac was! But, honestly, while it was a terrific amusement for as long as two sleeves last, I'm glad to be moving on.

That is, I was glad to be moving on until I realized that knitting diagonal stripes in the body of the sweater (which is knit in one piece) takes balls.

A lot of balls.

13 balls.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I woke up this morning to the first review of the book--in the Washington Post! And it is really a fabulous review, too.

Then, on my way to my knitting group, I stopped by the local Borders. Here's what they have on the shelf (and look carefully at the three black books with the little tiny title):

I'm bouncing off the walls!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dinner with the Moles

One of Son's favorites is Brian Jacques' Redwall series of books--about medieval rodents.

One of the dishes the characters feast upon--and an especial favorite of the mole population--is Turnip n' Tater n' Beetroot Pie.

We made our version for dinner.

First, boil up a mess of cut-up boiling potatoes and turnips (or rutabagas). When they are tender, mash them roughly. You can add butter or olive oil, milk or yogurt or cream, vegetable or chicken broth, or whatever you like in your mashed potatoes. Season to taste.

In a separate pot, boil beets whole. (You can roast the whole beets instead but you'll wind up with a much sweeter pie.) After the become tender, drain them. When they have cooled slightly, slip off their skins and cut into thin slices.

Saute some onions until they are golden. We took ours off the heat while they still had some texture and bite, but that is up to you.

In a deep casserole dish, put half the mashed vegetables, then a layer of the onions, then a layer of beet slices, then the other half of the mash. Top with cheddar cheese. Or some other cheese. Or not.

Stick the pie in a medium-hot oven (maybe about 375 degrees?) for as long as it takes for it to get hot throughout and bubbly on the top.

(Can you tell I am an instinctive cook? Can't I just say "cook until done"? But trust me: with this recipe, ingredient proportions don't matter and neither does cooking temperature or time.)

Serve with a good sprinkling of black pepper.


We served the casserole with roasted okra. Just toss them in a little oil or melted fat with some salt and pepper, then throw them in the oven while the tater pie cooks. One of my favorite vegetable dishes of all time. (And try Brussels Sprouts with the same treatment. Absolutely heavenly, even if you think you hate Brussels Sprouts.)

All of our ingredients were local--bought at the farmer's market or acquired from our local dairy farmer.


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