Posts Tagged ‘family’

Midwest Travels with Son and Sock

February 26, 2017

Michael and I spent a busy few days in the Midwest last week, visiting a college for Admitted Students Day, driving about 600 miles, and exploring the Windy City during a freakishly warm spell. The sock joined us for the journey and, like our waist lines, got bigger.

We arrived in Chicago by way of New York (more on that weekend visit in a future post) and drove southeast through wind turbine-covered farmland in Indiana to the college town of Miami, OH. Dinner at a local sports bar made for a great evening of pro hockey, the NBA All-Star Blow-out Game, and people-watching. Michael wondered if the lively table near us were faculty. He was puzzled when I somewhat cynically told him that they were too young and too funny to be college professors. “Old?!” Ah to be 18 again…

oxfordoh-sportsbar

My plan to explore the campus during my morning run was stymied by the thick fog that had developed overnight. Beautiful and somewhat mysterious…

miami-ohio-fog2

The sock made its first appearance during one of the presentations, hanging out in the back row.

sock-heel-2017

I’m not coordinated enough to knit while walking on a campus tour, and deciding to be as non-embarrassing a parent as I could, chose to keep the sock in my bag for the rest of the day.

The next day, we retraced our steps to Chicago – the turbines not such a novelty the second time around. After checking in to our hotel, we walked to nearby Millennium Park, a civic treasure. Thanks to the warm weather, hundreds of people were out and about, enjoying the sunshine, skating at a public outdoor rink, and marveling the “Cloud Gate”sculpture, aka “The Bean.”

chicago-bean

I confess the view from underneath the structure made me feel a bit queasy when I looked up and turned to see the various angles and perspectives.

inside-chicago-bean

Watching people interact with the sculpture was an unending source of amusement. Little kids were the most fun to watch, but I didn’t want to alarm parents by photographing them.

chicago-bean2

Fog rolled in overnight, this time from Lake Michigan, hanging low over the city before burning off by our mid-morning hop-on/hop-off bus tour.

chicago-fog

We stumbled upon the Chicago Cultural Center, a totally unexpected surprise. Housed in the former public library, the building is exquisite — as late 19th century public libraries often are — with inspiring quotations, soaring ceilings and domes, stained glass, and broad marble staircases. Dozens of people were seated as a pianist warmed up for a free lunchtime concert.

In a large gallery space, we wandered through a stunning exhibition of muralist Eugene “Eda” Wade’s doors for Malcolm X College, a collection of 16 sets of your standard issue school hallway double doors that are considered a monument to the Black Arts movement in Chicago.

murals-chicago

wade-murals

Another hop-off location of our day was Navy Pier where we rode the giant ferris wheel, formally called Centennial Wheel. The views of the city and lake were breathtaking — not so surprising since we were 200 feet above ground. I was too busy looking to take photos on our three-times-around journey, but Michael graciously shared some screen shots of his Snapchat video. I like the reflections in this one.

chicago-wheel

We spent the evening at the famed Second City comedy club, laughing (occasionally snorting, I admit) until tears ran down our cheeks at the six professionals who did sketch and improv comedy for 2.5 hours. Deferring again to my parental role, I did not knit during the show.

My run along the lake the next morning was crisp and fog-free.

chicago-sunrise

By the time we landed in Boston, the sock was ready for the toe to be seamed. I decided to wait until home for that final step — the Kitchener stitch requires my full concentration!

knit-socks-plane

What’s up in your world these days?

Feminism + hockey + knitting

January 14, 2017

As I sat down at last night’s college hockey game, my phone pinged with a text from Karen, Sister-in-Law Extraordinaire. She and daughter C were sporting their Pussy Hats, ready for next week’s Women’s March in Washington, DC.

kc-pink-pussy-hat

Isn’t that the BEST?! As the organized and thoughtful woman she is, Karen generously had secured two additional hats for me and Hannah. She, Chris, and family are hosting us, too. As luck would have it, I’d just cast on my second Pussy Hat.

pussyhat-cast-on-hockey

I’m making this one with two strands of Cascade Heritage in Cotton Candy. This one will be knit in the round so no seaming will be required. Earlier in the day, I’d bound off the first hat, but I’d left that one at home. What kind of a knitter seams a hat at a hockey game?!

As I pulled the yarn and needle out my bag, the woman next to me said, “You’re knitting a hat for the March, right? Where did you get the yarn? I haven’t been able to find any.” Apparently there’s been a bit of a run on pink yarn recently with many LYS and craft stores reporting shortages of the color. Knitting activists are a powerful, collective force, indeed!

Judging by the progress so far, I’m pretty confident I’ll be finished with both hats by January 21. Hannah hasn’t let me know which one is her preference. Stay tuned.

pussy-hats

Bon voyage, GAPtastic!

January 3, 2017

The greatest Christmas gift this year was the surprise return of my nephew and godson, Benjamin, who returned from a two-year stint in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in the mountains of Peru.

ben-teaching-jvc-peru

He’d led us all to believe that he wouldn’t be home until mid-January, thereby missing his sister, who is heading off to France for a college semester abroad. But there he was on the porch on Christmas morning. Suffice to say there were plenty of dropped jaws, oh-my-Gods, bear hugs, and tears of joy among the whole family.

Nora left yesterday for her nearly six month adventure in France. I was more than a bit delighted to see that she was taking wearing her GAPtastic cowl for the journey. I’d like to think that she’ll get some compliments on it while exploring the streets, cafes, gardens, and museums of Paris.

She’ll be blogging during her adventures. I’m following her and recommend that you do, too — that is, if you’re a fan of pithy writing, eye-catching photographs, and insights into new worlds by an adventuresome, inquisitive, kick-ass young woman.

Christmas Presence Redux

December 23, 2016

Can it really be six years since I wrote my Christmas Presence post?! So much has changed since then, but the essence remains.

Michael, now 18, commented last week that he hasn’t really felt in the Christmas spirit this year. Perhaps it’s because he’s been focusing on college applications, senior year schoolwork, getting to know his “Little Brother” in his new role as Big Brother. Perhaps it’s the lingering anxiety over the election results and near daily nominations of fervently anti-government people to lead major parts of our government. I feel it, too.

But I’ve been carving out moments to observe Advent, lighting the purple and pink candles and singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” before dinner, lighting the window candles each evening afternoon (let’s be honest, sunset is at 4:15), baking St. Nicholas cookies and Hungarian Christmas bread with its nutty, sweet, spicy filling.

Kevin, Michael, and I partially decorated the tree on Tuesday. Hannah arrives home this afternoon for nearly a week. The next days will be filled with cooking, music, wrapping, the inevitable last-minute shopping, and a fair bit of laughter, story-telling, and sharing. I expect there may be time for some knitting, too.

Rereading that post from 2010, I realize that my current creative juices can’t compete. So here it is again. Thank you for reading and for joining me on this journey. Sending wishes of light and hope to you and yours.

Christmas Presence

When Michael recently told me his favorite part of Christmas, I thought he said “presents,” but he continued, explaining that he really likes the “presence” — the smell, sounds, sights, anticipation, tastes, and as he put it, “the feeling you get from all of that and all the love.” Out of the mouths of babes (OK, he’s 12 but you know what I mean!).

Preparing mantel for Christmas nativity sceneSometimes traditions can feel stifling, but most of the time, I find them comforting and reassuring.  They’re like blazes on a trail, marking the way, letting you know where you are.  Even if you’re not sure where “here” is, even if you’re tired or grumpy, you pause and say “here I am. This is the place. Take note.”

Lights in the windows on the first Sunday of Advent, shining in the afternoon darkness. The next weekend, the “building” of the creche on the mantel.  It’s become a bit of a hodge-podge with figures added over the years — a toy giraffe, a cartwheeling angel, a Caribbean drummer. Note the knitted stocking, made by my mom nearly 50 years ago — with my name knit into the edge even.  She’s good!

Mantel with nativity crecheMy family has what my late cousin Sarah called “the food gene.” We like to cook, eat, think about cooking, gather for meals, read recipes, cookbooks, and cooking magazines. The Advent and Christmas seasons have lots of food traditions, of course.

spices for St. Nicholas cookies: clove, cinnamon, cardamon, cinnamon, aniseEvery December 6, the feast of St. Nicholas, my mom (also a wonderful baker and cook) would make St. Nicholas cookies.  Delightfully spicy and cut into little “bookmarks,” they are perfect for dunking — or just munching. We’re not Dutch and don’t celebrate St. Nicholas Day in any other way (no candy & toys in boots at the foot of the bed).

StNickCookiesRolledI’m sure my mom found the recipe in a cookbook or magazine sometime in the 1950s or 60s and, knowing a good recipe when she sees one, she made a batch…every year!  This year when I emailed my youngest brother to say that I’d made these yummy treats, he replied that his first batch wasn’t so great and that he planned to make a second batch that evening.  It’s not just me.  Try them yourself.

recipe for St. Nicholas cookiesWith my high schoolers having mid-term exams this week, I’m staying up late, being present, and knitting.  The wrap is off the needles, blocked, and awaiting buttons.  More on that later. I leave you with Hannah and her sister-friend Charlotte preparing the tree, another tradition.

H&CTreePeace.

Knitting by the Sea

June 2, 2016

I had the great good fortune to spend Memorial Day Weekend on my favorite island, surrounded by the sea, fresh ocean breezes, thick evening fog, and lots of testosterone. Yes, it was me, Patrick, and eight young men, ages 17 – 20.

boys-beach

A wonderful time was had by all. On Saturday morning, Patrick and I pinged back and forth from the library computers, printers, and scanners, and the notary at the bank in order to finalize paperwork for the lease on our sweet girl’s new apartment in NYC.

The library had a display of local items made from scrimshaw, including a swift for winding yarn. In addition to mending ropes, lines, and sails, whalers sometimes knit or did macrame. They also carved gifts for the women back home.

scrimshaw-swift

These scrimshaw bodkins were likely “used to separate threads or punch holes in embroidery designs.”

scrimshaw-bodkins

Naturally, I made time for my own handcrafting. The dropped stitch shawl is coming along nicely.

dropped-stitch-shawl-deck

A Very Dapper Monkey

May 8, 2014

One of Rachel’s daughters has a much loved stuffed monkey whose fur (hair? coat?) has been worn away by years of snuggling.

MonkeyBefore

Lest dear Monkey wear through completely, fearless knitter Rachel decided to create a new, soft covering for the beloved primate. She chose a deliciously soft light brown wool (merino, I think) which she made sure passed the snuggle test with her daughter. She’s no fool, especially when it comes to a pre-teen’s preferences.

She selected a pattern for a doll’s vest, measured Monkey carefully, modified the pattern, and she was off! She even learned how to make a  buttonhole — in this case, a tail hole.

Doesn’t Monkey look pleased?!

MonkeySweater

The Mysterious Power of the K-word

May 6, 2014

I had the great pleasure of attending a party Saturday night to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a friend’s “kicking cancer’s ass” as the invitation from her husband and daughters said. I’m a firm believer in taking joy in the moment no matter how fleeting — whether it’s a drowsy morning hug with my sweet husband, a brief happy dance for a successful audition by the child at the end of the phone,  a high-five for a completed homework assignment, or a prayer of thanks for… just about anything.

Something as major as 10 years cancer-free is definitely party-worthy. The house was filled with friends, laughter, stories, hugs, good food, and plentiful beverages. Since the friend is someone I’ve gotten to know through knitting (she’s taken a couple of my classes and is a quick study indeed), it was my first time meeting some of her family and friends. Being introduced as “my knitting teacher” is a somewhat weird experience — not because it’s not an accurate identifier but because of the reaction it prompts.

Putting the adjective “knitting” in front of a noun definitely changes the way people, of the non-knitting type, respond. It induces a bit of nervous laughter  and some apparent discomfort and is apparently a near-conversation killer. If I were introduced as “a teacher,” I’m quite sure the questions would flow — what age or grade or subject? where? how long? You get the picture. But a knitting teacher? The adjective has tongue-typing abilities. The Yarn Harlot was the first person to point this out to me. She’s a New York Times best-selling author (several times over), but when she explains that she writes about knitting, it’s a near conversation killer. Remarkable really.

In other news, Rachel turned this lovely work-in-progress of a few weeks ago

infinity

into a luscious infinity scarf fit for a stylish and discerning pre-teen.

RosieInfinity

A Knitter’s Christmas…Every Month

April 27, 2014

Like every knitter I know, buying yarn is one of my favorite activities. Actually shopping for yarn — looking, fondling, planning, dreaming of wondrous projects — is enjoyable in and of itself. With a new skein of beautiful merino or handpainted sock yarn, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Imagine my delight when my sweet husband gave me the gift of new yarn every month for a year. OK, OK, I hinted told him that was tops on my Christmas wish list.

On a cold, rainy April day, this little cardboard box of yummy (Vivacious DK in Deep Aqua by Fyberspates) sure warms the heart.

Fyberspace

Thanks, Patrick. xo

Sock Season

March 23, 2014

Michael played his last basketball game of the season today, so my days of knitting from the bleachers in a warm gym are over for now.

allstarsock

Given the elusiveness of springtime warmth, I think it’ll be a while before I’m knitting from the sidelines of a lacrosse field.

Special thanks to Kevin who held up the sock so I could get a shot of Michael (#3 in blue) in the background.

 

Oh The Places You’ll Knit

February 21, 2014

One of the aspects of knitting that I love is its portability. Most projects can be stuffed into a bag, ready to be pulled out whenever you have a bit of time and, for me at least, when your body will be stationary. Movement and knitting don’t work so well for me!

Think you don’t have much time? That’s another magical aspect of knitting; it can transform time. Waiting for the novacaine to kick in at the dentist’s office? That’s time enough to work a few sock rounds.

SockAtDentist

Keeping a teenager company as he finishes a paper for school in the wee hours of the morning?

HomeworkSock

How about waiting for x-rays to be developed and a cast put onto same teenager’s wrist? Trust me, I was knitting for a while but couldn’t resist a photo of cast-in-progress.

KRDcast

Or “watching” a blow-out Superbowl game with two nieces, both of whom are new knitters? Nothing finer!

NieceKnits

Add non-driving/non-bike travel (bus, subway, passenger seat, airplane, boat…) and TV or movie watching, and the opportunities are enormous!

Cool Sock, Mom

January 25, 2014

Aaaaand the bathroom pipes have frozen again despite my precautionary tactics of leaving the shower dripping and the faucets drizzling (that’s a steady stream of drips, a technical plumbing term I’m pretty sure). Apparently even these steps weren’t enough to keep the water flowing in single digit temperatures. Until I see water flowing down the walls, I’m operating under the assumption that they’ll thaw when the temperature gets close to or above freezing. Humming “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” helps.

In knitting news, I finished Michael’s first sock while waiting with Kevin at the sports medicine clinic. A wrist injury from football season is still painful at times, so the mid-point of the hockey season seemed like a good time to seek medical help!

Sock1

It looks way too small for a size 11 foot in this photo. This shot is better.

SockMichael

He’s so delighted with the finished product that he’s asked if I can finish its pair pretty soon. I’ll get right on that…assuming the pipes thaw without bursting.

Sock Travels

January 21, 2014

While you could hardly say that I lead a jet set life, I’ve had my share of short, turn-around flights over the past few years. Most were work-related as I traveled between Boston and Philadelphia to a client, generally flying down and back in the same day although sometimes with an overnight. Since I finished that piece of work, I’ve not had the occasion to travel much.

Hannah’s role in a musical at a community theatre in North Carolina this month provided me and my Mom the chance to take a brief trip for Friday’s opening night performance. My latest sock (Berroco Sox in Red Multi) joined us. On the flight to Raleigh-Durham, I knit a few inches plus the heel flap.

TravelingSock

The show, 9 to 5: The Musical, was very well done. You’ll have to take my word for it, especially since photos were prohibited and no reviews are out. And, of course, Hannah was terrific. Yes, I’m biased but I know talent when I see it!

When we arrived at the airport Saturday morning, we discovered our flight was delayed two hours because of snow in Boston. One of the great things about knitting is the way it transforms waiting into something enjoyable — or at least distracts the knitter from some of the frustration of waiting. The heel was turned and gusset begun.

TravelingSockHeel

The time-transforming power of knitting was tested a bit when the pilot announced, as we were second in line to take off, that the Boston airport had gone into a “ground delay” and that we’d be waiting for another hour before we left the ground. And he kindly thanked us for our patience, to which Mom said, “Do we have a choice?” She didn’t have her knitting — just a book, one apparently without time-transforming powers.

What really matters is we made it home safe and sound, if somewhat later than expected, AND with a close-to-finished sock as a souvenir (of sorts).

IMG_2999

 

Strange, Sacred Time

January 9, 2014

The most recent cold snap has broken and the pipes in the second floor bathroom have thawed — without bursting, again. The contractor from whom we bought our house ran pipes up an uninsulated, exterior wall and didn’t add any heat to the bathroom — duh! We leave the taps and shower dripping and put a space heater in when the wind chill gets below 10F, but that wasn’t quite enough for the recent deep freeze. Suffice to say, the water is again flowing and the pipes have not cracked. (Fingers crossed, salt over shoulder, etc.)

Christmas came and went and was lovely, if a bit strange this year. All agreed that we had an awesome tree. I think every Christmas tree is beautiful just by being, but this balsam was particularly lovely and well-proportioned even before it was decorated with our extensive ornament collection. The decorating festivities included Grandma, lots of laughs, and only two broken ornaments.

XmasTreeGiggles

We’ve entered a new part of our life journey over the past month or so since my father-in-law, who lives nearby and has been in a rehab facility for six weeks, decided after nearly six years of kidney dialysis and a failing body (multiple spinal fractures, constant pain, limited vision) that he doesn’t want to die in an ambulance or in the emergency room. He’ll have his last dialysis treatment in 10 days and will then go home where he can die in peace — without pain, surrounded by the familiar and the loved — including his wife of 52 years and his remarkable daughter and son (my sweet husband).

To be sure, it’s sad, but it’s not tragic, and in some ways, it’s a sacred time. His decision and planning, aided in large part by son Patrick and daughter Claire, have given his family and friends a gift in the opportunity to express their love and appreciation to him. It’s a gift to himself — although it may not feel that way all the time — to be able to hear those expressions, to accept them with a humble and generous spirit.

On the knitting front, Kevin was pleased with his new socks even though one is a bit too big. I took my circular scarf down to the wire — knitting during cocktails on Christmas Eve and weaving in the ends on Christmas Day. Thanks to Claire for capturing me in all my knitterly glory!

XmasEveKnitter

Ghosts in the Attic

February 15, 2011

I come from a long line of strong and crafty women. Women who sewed clothes for themselves and others. Women who knit sweaters, mittens, socks (argyle socks in the movie theater), and scarves. Sometimes their creations were practical, especially before globalization when it was cheaper to sew back-to-school clothes than to buy them. But more often they were gifts, labors of love for cherished friends and family.

My three brothers and I have personalized Christmas stockings, knit by our mother more than 40 or even 50 years ago. My cousin’s couch is adorned with small pillows, needlepointed by her mother. A childhood “flashbulb” memory of mine is being sick one Christmas morning and lying on the couch to open a gift my from the same woman, my beloved aunt and godmother, Lulla.  A handmade and embroidered felt (or maybe boiled wool) hat — red with a whimsical design.  Just beautiful.

Earlier this week, these memories and more came flooding back when I pulled a cardboard box out of the attic crawlspace as I sought the uninsulated source of the ice dams that had formed on the roof. Inside were skeins of yarn, bags of needlepoint projects, knitting needles, and patterns.

cardboard box of yarn stash

I know these treasures are more than 22 years old because most had belonged to dear Lulla, who died in 1988. Seeing these unfinished projects brought her back in a tangible, visceral way. I could imagine her carrying the “Kabuki-inspired” needlepoint handbag that’s 80% completed.  The colors — oranges, pinks — were her colors.

partially finished needlepoint handbag

Notes on the Aran sweater pattern (in her distinctive handwriting that I haven’t seen in so long)  indicated that her friend Janice would have been the lucky recipient.

fromt section of Aran sweater & pattern

Stuffed into a plastic bag along with a small box of needlepoint yarn was a project that gave me a shiver. Lulla had started a sign, destined to be framed and hung in my mother Nancy’s kitchen, I’m sure.  These two remarkable women — insightful, gutsy, politically active, funny, loving, strong, and intelligent — also shared a disdain for housework.  “Dull women have immaculate homes” proclaims a sign in my mother’s apartment.  As the attic stash proves,  Lulla had been planning to reinforce the message.

Christmas Presence

December 20, 2010

When Michael recently told me his favorite part of Christmas, I thought he said “presents,” but he continued, explaining that he really likes the “presence” — the smell, sounds, sights, anticipation, tastes, and as he put it, “the feeling you get from all of that and all the love.” Out of the mouths of babes (OK, he’s 12 but you know what I mean!).

xmasmantel

Sometimes traditions can feel stifling, but most of the time, I find them comforting and reassuring.  They’re like blazes on a trail, marking the way, letting you know where you are.  Even if you’re not sure where “here” is, even if you’re tired or grumpy, you pause and say “here I am. This is the place. Take note.”

Lights in the windows on the first Sunday of Advent, shining in the afternoon darkness. The next weekend, the “building” of the creche on the mantel.  It’s become a bit of a hodge-podge with figures added over the years — a toy giraffe, a cartwheeling angel, a Caribbean drummer. Note the knitted stocking, made by my mom nearly 50 years ago — with my name knit into the edge even.  She’s good!

Mantel with nativity creche

My family has what my late cousin Sarah called “the food gene.” We like to cook, eat, think about cooking, gather for meals, read recipes, cookbooks, and cooking magazines. The Advent and Christmas seasons have lots of food traditions, of course.

spices for St. Nicholas cookies: clove, cinnamon, cardamon, cinnamon, anise

Every December 6, the feast of St. Nicholas, my mom (also a wonderful baker and cook) would make St. Nicholas cookies.  Delightfully spicy and cut into little “bookmarks,” they are perfect for dunking — or just munching. We’re not Dutch and don’t celebrate St. Nicholas Day in any other way (no candy & toys in boots at the foot of the bed).

I’m sure my mom found the recipe in a cookbook or magazine sometime in the 1950s or 60s and, knowing a good recipe when she sees one, she made a batch…every year!  This year when I emailed my youngest brother to say that I’d made these yummy treats, he replied that his first batch wasn’t so great and that he planned to make a second batch that evening.  It’s not just me.  Try them yourself.

recipe for St. Nicholas cookies

With my high schoolers having mid-term exams this week, I’m staying up late, being present, and knitting.  The wrap is off the needles, blocked, and awaiting buttons.  More on that later. I leave you with Hannah and her sister-friend Charlotte preparing the tree, another tradition.

Peace.

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