Tuesday, January 29, 2013

what bliss sounds like

My parents took me to a Bluegrass concert once, when I was eleven or twelve years old.  We were living in the Ozarks at the time and I can't remember what stirred the interest, whether the band was just a novelty for the day or a distraction from the flurry of raising four young children on a law student's income.

Both of my parents enjoyed varying genres of music ranging anywhere from the classical music of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, Mozart, and Chopin; the pop music of the seventies and eighties with Pat Benatar, Prince, and the BeeGees belting from the vinyl on my mother's record player; to Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond, and John Denver lyrics she'd sing to and strum on her guitar.

But Bluegrass was new to me and immediately I was captivated with the fury of the fiddler on stage as he raced his bow across the strings of his fiddle faster than a Camaro in a Nascar race.  The banjo player used three picks to pluck away on his instrument (mom had only used one while singing "Country Roads" at home) and about midway through the concert she had to reassure me that the lady playing the piano with seemingly indefatigable ease must be faking it because fingers just don't like to sustain that kind of abuse for so long.

The music did something to me as well.  It permeated right to my core and before I knew it, I had a smile on my face the size of Missouri and toes inside my tennies that couldn't keep from stompin' to the beat.  I was happy- it was as simple as that.

Last week I found my toes doing the same thing once again. I was in the kitchen, baking up a batch of muffins right before noon, the sun that had been absent for days was finally filtering in through the window- filling even the darkest corners with light, and the Chris Thile's How to Grow a Woman cd was playing over the boom box that still manages to work after over fifteen years of use.  The muffins had twenty minutes to bake and with no one else in the kitchen but me, my toe stompin' turned into some type of forgotten jig that brought the big Missourian smile right back to my face.

How to Grow a Woman is one of Chris Thile's older albums- newer than his work from  Nickel Creek but older than the music from his current band, Punch Brothers.  I like his new stuff, too.  Check them out- you might find yourself doing a little toe stompin' of your own.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

in passing...

We happened upon this little bird's nest one sunny afternoon, hidden in the winterberry shrub.  The mockingbird standing guard nearby on the rooftop, paying close attention as we took our peeks, has me believing the nest belongs to him.   The males are territorial, monogamous, and equally involved in building the nests with their mate.

We admired the care that was given to pad this precious abode that in a few months will provide comfort and warmth to unsteady wings and expanded mouths crying to have hungry bellies filled.  Scavenged twigs, dead leaves, and bits of plastic are sufficient.  The nest is ready.  The mockingbird knows too, that the little home is a temporary one where all too soon, the mama will nudge her fledglings out of the nest.

Fly or die.  
There is no other option.

Friday, January 11, 2013

painting by numbers

" When you're a little kid you're a bit of everything; Scientist, Philosopher, Artist.  Sometimes it seems like growing up is giving these things up one at a time."
-Kevin Arnold, in The Wonder Years

Mr. Ninja asked for a little direction with his first paint by number.  I was glad to oblige and quickly remembered how much I had enjoyed these as a kid.

What childhood craft did you claim as your own?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

cold feet

This time of year, our feet must fight to stay warm.  Living in an 83-year-old house invites the frigid assault.  The biting cold slithers inconspicuously underneath the back door, the rollershades on the bedroom windows inhale and exhale their heavy sighs like an old man lulled off to sleep by the creaking of a favorite rocking chair he's needed since noon, and even the plastered walls make warm fingertips wince when touched.

To contend with the intrusion, I knit woolen socks and wear my shoes indoors (even though Mr. Hero tries not to complain about it). I learned years ago that if I'm going to be able to think straight, my feet need to stay warm- and so I'm stubborn about wearing my shoes.

Although lately, I've been thinking about the Canadians and how they are rather insistent about the shoes-staying-off-the-feet-inside-the-house rule. Blame it on all the snow they get, I guess.  We were just recently up north in Canada, visiting Mr. Hero's uncles for a week over Christmas break.  During that time, a good foot of snowfall covered the ground and it snowed almost everyday.  This winter gift provided ample fun for the boys as they built snow forts, had snowball fights and tackles, and did a little outdoor ice skating on the makeshift iceskating rink found in the field behind the uncles' backyard.

With all of the tromping in the snow outdoors, there were a lot of wet boots, hats, scarves, gloves, and clothing to deal with- and mostly all of the stripping occurred in the tiny vestibule located at the front entrance of the house.  It was easy to feel a bit overwhelmed and claustrophobic with all of the chaos, especially after trying so hard to keep all of the winter gear organized. To their credit, the uncles managed it all in stride as they dealt with the outdoor play by providing ample pots of freshly brewed tea and coffee, lots of hot soup to warm cold bodies, and good board games to sharpen our wits and skills. (Zoe walked away as champion of Risk, Seen It, Cranium, even Trivial Pursuit Jr. every single time-damn her!)

The return to our own home had me feeling a little bit guilty when I resumed my practice of wearing my shoes indoors after having spent the week going shoeless in Canada. Which led to other thoughts about slippers and compromises that would make Mr. Hero a whole lot happier this winter if I bent just a little...

Oh, what the heck! The slippers are a fast knit and sometimes it's best to follow the rules, eh?
Canadian ones, that is.

                                                                        slippers for big feet

slippers for little feet

*red socks pattern by Ingrid Hiddessen "Par 5 Socks" on Ravelry.com
*jolly rogers pattern by Camille Chang "Hot Crossbone Socks" on Ravelry.com
*house slippers from Knit 2 Together by Tracey Ullman and Mel Clark
*first three photos taken by Mr. Tailor who happily played the role of our photographer during our stay in Canada

Friday, January 4, 2013

chance meeting

morning sky

“The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped. His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air. Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass. I had just rounded a corner when his incouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight. The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest. The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” 
― Annie Dillard

A mockingbird took a short rest on the garden fence in our backyard the other morning.  He just sat there, alert, with his white tail feathers sticking straight up in the air-displaying his pride- taking notice that we'd noticed him.  And then he flew away.

That was a happy day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

from scratch

In February of last year, I was wrangled into attending a Gathering of the Guilds event by a friend.  A local church accommodated fiber guilds (knitting, crochet, hand spinning) and local artisans (quilters, jewelers, etc.) in their gymnasium to display their wares and skill. They also provided classes to the not-so-faint-of-heart and asked only for a canned good as an admission fee that would later be donated to a local food pantry.

I was on the hunt for a local stitch-n-bitch since the one I'd been attending had kind of fallen apart (they do sometimes), when my friend and I abruptly stopped to watch two hand-spinners spin wool into yarn.  The process was so mesmerizing that it was only a matter of seconds before these very kind ladies started answering my barrage of questions about the hand-spinning process:

-What is this?!
-How long have you been spinning?
-Is spinning difficult to do?
-How portable is it? (I've always liked that little feature about knitting- makes waiting in lines or sitting in orthodontist waiting rooms much more bearable).  Imagine my surprise when the spinner responded that she had brought her wheel to the church folded up in her tote!
-Are there spinning groups in the area?
-Where can one take hand-spinning classes?

I left the Gathering of the Guilds event with several business cards in my pocket and a scheme to take a hand-spinning class from the Mannings as soon as one became available- which happened to fall in June.

I wasn't very good at it (the woman at the Mannings who signed me up for the class over the phone had warned me about the learning curve).  But I had this gut feeling that with time, as my fingers and feet learned what they needed to do, the process would become effortless. This had happened once before when I was taking my first yoga class and fumbling with the awkward poses and funny names such as "downward facing dog".  Even though everything about the exercises were foreign to me, I knew that somehow I needed them and started acquiring Gaiam yoga videos featuring Rodney Yee over a period of several years.

At the beginning of November, I purchased my wheel after saving my pennies since June, and I've been having way too much fun ever since.  This post is a sample of the latest project that was made for Mr. Hero's cousin, Zoe.  Mr. Cook and Mr. Ninja wanted to dye up some of their own roving, and so we spent a morning playing with color.  It was just like dyeing eggs for Easter- except for the biting cold outside that had already warned the robins and gray catbirds to fly south until spring.

we learn about color

merino wool roving that will be dyed

Jacquard acid dyes from Dharma Trading Co.

testing color in mason jars using paper towels

this is the color combination that was used

we used a crafting sponge brush to paint the roving

the roving is made into a saran wrap "burrito" to hold in color

roving burritos were steamed for thirty minutes

lots and lots of color after steaming

handful of turquoise

looks like cotton candy- don't you think?

and she spins

*Lendrum spinning wheel ( mine was purchased from the mannings)
*Hand dyeing yarn and fleece by Gail Callahan
*Merino roving from Jerri Robinson's shop, Flying Fibers, located in Landisville, Pa
*Pattern for mitts by Cheryl Niamath, "Fetching"
*Christmas, handful of turquoise, and spinning wheel photos by Mr. Tailor.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

happy new year

 May this year be one of peace, plenty, and hope to you and those you love.
*photos by Mr. Tailor