I knit. And I cook, write, take pictures. All for one low price.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Quick! Slow down!

Thank you, thank you everyone that wrote to me. The comments and Happy Birthdays are still coming in. That's my favorite part: knowing I am surrounded by dear friends like you.

To give you some Thursday reading, here's an article from the New York Times (Of course. It's my homepage). You must go to the second page of the article to see the picture of the Icelandic knitter making a rug with giant cables on giant needles out of wool made only from sheep that she met personally.

Of course, to have caught the paper's attention, things needed to be extreme, like that rug. But don't you just want to say, Yeah? So? We knitters have known all along that slow, as in hand made, is good. We even go to sheep and wool festivals and pet sheep and buy fleeces and spin them!

I don't think I have to put a speed bump in my living room any time soon.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January 30th, 1963

Today's date is one that has more significance for me than you might think.

It's my 45th birthday, but going to school in Germany, I would never forget this date for another reason.

On January 30th, 1933, Hitler was "elected" chancellor. Exactly 30 years before I was born.
Coming to the United States as an exchange student to the State University at Albany, where I eventually got my MA in English, people would detect my accent and ask me where I was from.

The Germany I knew was a modern society where the government took good care of its citizens: mandating, for example, was the every new mom is able to stay home with her baby for one year and still get her job back.
As students, we were able to participate in protest marches, whether it was against some silly school policy (we thought) or a larger issue like acid rain.
Everyone in Germany enjoys freedom of speech, health care, a great public transportation system, free elections, all the good stuff. (It's not utopia there, or one I am creating because the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence... dont' get me wrong. My entire family lives there and I know they have their struggles just like everyone else.)

When I first came here, I was always eager to talk about my country, and tell people all the good aspects. But in most cases, when they found out that I was from Germany, a kind of shadow would run across their face.

It took me years to figure out why. Because to them, the only connotation they had with Germany was the holocaust. It made me so sad, that I as an individual could evoke such horrible connotations wherever I went. As if I had stepped right out of 1945 and no time had elapsed and we had suddenly landed in 1983. Had nobody ever read Heinrich Boell? Or seen a movie by Rainer Werner Fassbinder? As I was studying literature, I was surprised to find out how many students knew so little about the way intellectuals, writers, poets, and filmakers had been trying to come to grips with Germany's past.

I began to work really hard on losing my accent. In some cases, I would evade the question where I was from entirely. I was perpetually amazed that Jewish aquaintances would even want to talk to me...for I felt that I was carrying the guilt of an entire nation around with me. I did not deserve to be respected. One of my jokes became: "I was born guilty -- I am German, and a Lutheran!"

Of course I was so self-conscious for many years, that it took me a while to figure out how utterly gracious and forgiving people can be. As my awareness grew, more grace came my way. For that, I am grateful.

As to this date? See for yourself.

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30th, 1948.

Dick Cheney has a birthday today.

Then Ms JK Rowling decides to give Harry Potter's mom the same birthday as me. A tad older, but still. Killed by you-know-who.

Hitler, horrible violence, Dick Cheney. I keep waiting to see what might happen to me one day, but then I remember that I am just a little ant and not famous at all and I am here to spread goodwill, and grace, and thankfulness for all the wonderful people that happened to me.

For example, just last week, I found out that the Great Norah Gaughan and I share the same birthday! She told me so herself.

I hope you all have a wonderful day today, whether it's your birthday, or not!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Contemplative Knitting Retreat at Sky Lake Lodge, Jan 25 - 27, 2008

Right off, I must tell you that I am struggling to find just the right words to describe what happened this past weekend.

I had been invited to co-teach a Contemplative Knitting retreat with Elaine Yuen.

I'll start with the place.

Sky Lake Lodge:

View from my window:

People. Here's Elaine and I (I have the strong urge to crop myself out of this picture. Somehow I do not look happy. I want to tell you that I was very happy.)

Inside. This is the shrine room where we went for meditation every morning and evening.
Elaine's soothing yet strong voice led us gently through the practice.

Our circle of women.

The workshop.
We are gathered around our table. Everyone had been asked to bring a bunch of leftover yarns. This exercise was about letting go of old patterns, literally and figuratively, by letting go of these yarns. We remembered what they were used for, one by one, and put them in the middle. We heard stories that were very moving, and funny, and long, and short, all equally important. Most had an easy time letting go.
Time to reflect, time to break up old patterns, and get ready for a new adventure.

We are sorting and selecting, regrouping the yarns, gathering them in a new order, and are trying to think what to do with them.
There will be no pattern that will tell us what to make. I only make suggestions. Everyone is invited to ignore what I suggest.
Some made crazy balls, some made small butterflies of yarn, some gathered whole balls of yarn in unusual combinations of texture or color.

Gretchen's beautiful handspun next to a piece of fabric. We saw many convergences like this: the yarn had a long story, the fabric was bought last minute. By someone 200 miles away.

We have cast on. My stipulation was to cast on 50 stitches.

Hand Made.

I need help with that - can you show me?

Once everyone got used to the project they cast on, I had every knitter pass their project on to their neighbor. We were practicing non-attachment. It was a powerful experience.
We not only switched projects and yarns, we also switched needles and needle sizes.
Elaine made sure we stayed grounded and reminded us to come back to our bodies and our breath.
Hands that know just what to do.

Second day: unfortunately, we had to wrap things up.
Here are some results of non-pattern, contemplative knitting. I want to encourage everyone to do this at least every once in a while, in between projects that demand strict adherence to a pattern. It is amazing what happens.

Connie was the picture of joy when she completed her piece!

All the pieces together would make a really cool ....blanket? Wall art? Dog bed?

Handspun next to cotton with lycra next to a different handspun next to...and more interesting things to be revealed by the crazy ball.

I'll take your suggestions for naming this one! Mohair, shetland wool, ribbon, eyelash...who said it can't be done?

A lot of creative juices at work here! Lizzie came up with a new yarnover pattern.

Happy campers.

Thank you everyone for participating. I had the most amazing time. Thank you for letting me be there with you, thank you for sharing your stories, your yarn, your creativity.

Thank you to the organizers: Barbara, Dina, Elaine, Gretchen, Patrice. I feel truly blessed to have met you.

Be well!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

check this out!

This just in from the Dear Husband (he is a teacher).

Please click on this link if you don't mind.

So cool that they decided to use that particular picture to advertise the contest!


Yes Melanie, :) I was just getting my soapbox ready when the washer delivery guys showed up. They are shoehorning that thing into our little house as we speak.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

and another good thing I almost forgot.

Tall Son got a letter in the mail yesterday from WPI. They are offering him a University Award scholarship. A nice chunk would be taken off the tuition. (phew).

We haven't heard from any of the other colleges, but this sounds good. Still have to go for the need-based financial aid.

the good, the bad, and the good

  • Our night out was fun. We saw the new Woody Allen movie, "Cassandra's Dream", and liked it! It was panned by a lot of the big critics but it was a good movie. Get past the first 15 minutes, and you got yourself a little gem of a movie. Scary family relations, I tell you.

  • Crafty Girl is home with me again today, she has walking pneumonia. She feels OK, but looks a little paler than usual. That nasty cough has kept her awake at night (and mommy, too!), but now we have medicine. The pediatrician said there is a lot of pneumonia going around this winter.

  • The Home Depot had a sale, and free delivery after rebate, and 10% off if you opened an account with them, and no interest for 12 months. And a good sales person who knew what he was talking about. Our new LG washer, a front loader that is Energy Star rated, will arrive tomorrow. Good thing too. I need to wash all my handknit socks before I go on that retreat this Friday! And then some...we did go to the laundromat last Saturday, but oh boy it's funny how the laundry piles up if you don't keep up.

  • I have a feeling I'll be up on my soapbox again soon. Consider yourselves warned.

PS: the doll has nothing to do with anything. She is there to brighten your day. She is completely handmade and handpainted, clothes handsewn and knitted. She sits in my friends' living room (in Germany). I believe the quilt is handmade, too.

Friday, January 18, 2008

friday fun

The weather is a lot better than anticipated, everyone went to school this morning, and is not even sick or anything. I woke up with a horrendous headache etc. but am trying to ignore it. Must move on.

We are shopping for an Energy Star rated washer. Front loader.
I appreciate everyone's recommendations!! It helps!

Tall Son got his first response from a college. He got into Worcester Polytechnic Institute. It's third on his list of choices. That news kind of broke the ice, because now we know whatever else may happen, he has a college to go to in the fall.

Tonight, Dear Husband and I are going out to dinner for our 20th anniversary. Another reason I am trying to ignore this second cold within a week. Our anniversary is actually next week, but we are going out early, because I am teaching at the retreat in the Catskills.

Tall Son is watching Crafty Girl, they will be armed with netflix movies. We are using a gift certificate to a restaurant we got from TS for Christmas, so we are all set, and won't even have to spend any extra money.

Some days, I can't get over how good our kids are. Is he going to be horrible and rebellious during his twenties?? When will the other shoe drop?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

a very rambly post

I am hereby nominating myself to be the Most Boring Blogger of All Time.
Add my blog to the list of Most Blah Blogs.

Here I am, about to whine again about some new misfortune that beset our little family. (The washer bit the dust. It was less than 2 years old. The official diagnosis from the friendly Sears technician was "The motor is fried".)

Someone tell me there is eventually an end to all the things that can break or go wrong in one household within a time span of 2 years. Washer, dryer, car, front porch support columns, TV, hot water heater, dehumidifier, washer again. Plus tomorrow, I have to go to the dentist for a crown, to the tune of $850.-, because I lost part of a tooth just before Christmas. They patched me up so I could go on the trip, and enjoy my mother's cookies, but tomorrow is the day of no return.

I tell you, I am sooo done with things breaking around here. Including in my mouth.

There ought to be a law.

Anyway, since I am determined not to whine; after all, our general health is under control, the kids are back in school, my sinuses have calmed down....and I had a beautiful swatch fest today, I decided to show you these awesomely colorful socks.

I brought them to Germany to work on, and managed to finish them there. My mother was complaining of very cold feet. I gave her the socks, but then stole them back for this picture, putting them on the equally awesome rug. I think that rug and those sock were made for each other.

Sister, if you read this, your socks will be knitted and on the way soon. Sometime in February.

Back to what I was saying.

I don't know how many other blogs you read, but if you're like me, probably around twenty or so. I read them, and then I think, goodness I am so lame! I don't belong to any rings; I have never had a contest; I do not tag people; I don't belong to the Sexy Knitters; I have never had a poll question, nor do I have people write to me about their favorite something or other.

I guess I am just not connected. Truly. I am such a dork, I don't know how to download all those buttons that people put in their sidebars. The one button I have is not a button, it's just a picture that doesn't go anywhere. Anytime you want to jump in an explain it to me, go ahead.

Though ravelry is going really well. Love ravelry. Remember that group I started in November, the great Stash Knit Down of 2008? The first day, there were over 300 members. Today, over 1100! It's a great community over there. If you're not in it yet, get in line for your invitation!

And about the swatch fest I had today: finally after lots and lots of knitting and figuring I have a new pattern that is almost done! Yes I still do have to do an awful lot of knitting within a very short amount of time (have to make a sleeveless shell by 1/24, if at all possible), but I feel like this project, which I CANNOT SHOW YOU OR TELL YOU ANYTHING ABOUT! drats! because it is going to be in a book, is finally on its way. I am over the hump with it. It didn't want to come to be, for a long while, but today, right around the time that I had to recognize that some appliances have a very short life span, this thing jelled.

I guess somewhere in this universe, there is some kind of equalizing force at work.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I just want to check in with you quick. The kids were sick simultaneously this week starting Wednesday, then Friday morning I woke up and felt lousy. Spent all day in bed with a horrendous headache, today I lasted half a day before having to take another nap.

I was able to finish a lace stole this morning, one of two contributions to a book by Donna Druchunas. It's not blocked yet, in fact I am looking for some space right now big enough for me to block it; it's supposed to be 24 x 70 inches....in our tiny house, there is no room to spare where either a person or the cat won't need to walk (or lie down on).

But to show you some knitting, here are the socks I made for my father-in-law for Christmas. Word has it that he likes them. I made them from Austermann STEP, on size 1.5 needles. Size 9 mens.

My sinuses are killing me.

Monday, January 7, 2008

stupid things people do when they are jetlagged

By six hours.

- On the first day after they return, they have to go to the grocery store and stock up on everything, right? People who are jetlagged leave a giant package of toilet paper in the bottom of the cart, and let someone else buy it again. Then they don't realize this until 5 days later, when they need more tp.

- They walk around like zombies from about 2 o'clock in the afternoon on. Because their bodies think it's after dinner and almost bedtime.

- They leave their check book at the cash out at another store, 4 days after they've returned home.

- They drive around on an empty gas tank, because doesn't someone come by and refuel before take-off?

- They knit this beautiful lace stole for a book that it's going to be in, and they are way behind the deadline, and they think they can get up on Sunday morning and knit a whole lot and not make a single mistake. Then they have to tink the same row three times. Then they have to tink another row twice.

- They sit down and blog about the silly things people do that suffer from jet-lag, and they leave the potatoes for the salad on the stove too long and they have to have mashed potatoes instead.

There ought to be a law.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Since today is Jan. 6th, Epiphany, I will show you this nativity scene my mother owns. It was made by her aunt, who lives in Scotland.

All the figures, the sheep, even the manger, are handknitted.

I love the Three Magi. Very colorful.

I do not know what pattern was used, in case anyone is interested. But my great-aunt used a lot of Jean Greenhowe patterns, so I am assuming this is one of them.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Christmas Day 2007

In Germany, it is custom to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, by going to church and exchanging gifts.
On Christmas Day, we were taken out to lunch. Afterwards, we went to see this Catholic church.

Which was surrounded by these lovingly restored buildings from the 16th century.

The year is 1573.

This one, 1570.

Inside the church. There is a nativity scene on the left of the altar, and more shepherds and sheep on the right side.

These guys were completely handmade. They stood about 8 inches tall, the sweaters were about 2 to 3 inches long. I couldn't quite figure out how the sheep was made.

Perfect fit! I keep thinking about who the knitter might have been.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year!

We're back!!
After doing 10 loads of laundry yesterday and buying a lot of groceries -- we had eaten the pantry completely bare before we left -- I am taking a minute to say hello and Happy New Year.

I hope your holiday was as wonderful as ours. We were very glad to be able to be there for Christmas, and my dad's birthday.

On the second day of our stay, we needed to run downtown (or rather, to the center of town), to catch the last day of the annual Christmas market.

Of course there was a yarn booth! Complete with ready made socks and scarves.

They were selling lots and lots of sock yarn, all Regia as far as I could tell.
I sure wasn't even going any closer to that booth than this, even to look, or inquire about prices. I am NOT buying any more yarn until I've used up a lot of my stash! I still have "souvenir yarn" from the last couple of trips...:)

More tomorrow.