Saturday, April 22, 2017

Finally Spring

I swear winter gets longer every year. Or does it just feel that way?
But spring is here, the end of the school year is on the horizon, and I'm still working on my Summer Camp shawl.
The shawl at the point were it's just miles and miles of garter stitch. I got through some of it by listening to S Town, the new podcast spinoff from This American Life. It seemed a bit slow at first, but hang in there. The plot thickens and it draws you in.
I can hardly stand to put down my Year of Stitches project. I'm not sure if it's wild and beautiful or a total mess -- and I'm not sure that I care. It's just fun to make it up as I go.

I hope that the weather wherever you are is sunny and beautiful, especially if you are marching today!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Pretty Awesome Week in Miami

I flew home from Miami today, and as good as it is to be home, I miss my daughter! Even though she has her comprehensive exams next month, she found time to to show me a lot of the city.

One morning we headed south from Miami to the agricultural area around Homestead, where I spent $21 on one piece of fruit:
It wasn't fully ripe before I left, but it was developing a texture like cotton candy and tasted very good.

We toured the home and estate of Villa Vizcaya, built in the early 20th century by an agricultural industrialist.
I snapped this photo of Rachel there. It's right in Coconut Grove, which is where she is living. It is an incredibly adorable neighborhood with lots of restaurants and boutiques. Not to mention a great bookstore.
The other very posh place we visited was the Biltmore Hotel, where Rachel had made reservations for us to have high tea. Isn't that sweet?
The tea (as in the drink) was the best we've ever had, and the food was amazing. It was the first time I've had Devonshire cream, but I hope it won't be the last.
It was a lot of food, fortunately, because we then headed off to one of Rachel's seminars. The 2 1/2 hour class flew by because her professor is so brilliant. A Cuban immigrant himself, he was discussing current attitudes toward immigrants in America. I am so touched that she brings me to her classes when I visit.

On my last day, we went to Little Haiti, which is definitely not a bastion of luxury.
It's a fascinating area. We visited the famous Liberi Mapou Creole and French Bookstore, and wandered around the neighborhood, which has the feel of a Caribbean island. Rachel was brave and ordered goat for lunch. She said it was good!

I know that many of you understand that feeling of loss when you say good-bye to one of your children. But, as long as she is happy and flourishing, I am OK.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Taking the Sad with the Good

It's Monday of spring break and a pretty busy day. For one thing, I am packing because I leave very early tomorrow for Miami, where I'll be spending a few days with my daughter.  I'm alternating packing with cooking for Passover, which begins this evening.
Among other things, I'm making Chocolate Caramel Crackers (with matzoh). It's a Smitten Kitchen recipe, so you know it's delicious.
Also delicious: Valdani embroidery thread. I blame Kat for this new obsession. She turned me on to Bonnie Sennott, who is an accomplished embroiderer and a wonderful knit designer, too. Bonnie mentioned that she used this "gourmet" thread, so I, of course, had to try it. It is indeed lovely.

Those are some good things. Here is the sad:
Keith had to put down Weeko a few days ago. She'd had renal failure for over a year and took a turn for the worse a couple weeks ago. Even after six days with the vet, she was lethargic and refused to eat. Weeko was a very anxious cat who hated the vet, so he had a vet come to the house. She passed in his arms. She was his cat. Even after living with me for a decade, she hissed at me. Still, I do feel her absence. She was just 12, so Keith wasn't ready to say good-bye.

And speaking of veterinarians ... Last weekend Seth received his official lab coat in the Blue Coat Ceremony, which marks the near-end of the third year of vet school. For a long time, he didn't think he'd go to college, so I am still amazed by how much he has accomplished.
In a few weeks he'll be done with classwork and begin his year of rotations. I was pretty darn proud. I may have even shed a tear or two. It's hard to believe that a year from now he'll be a real dog doctor.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Hugs to All of You

I am so blessed to have you all as friends. I actually cried -- in a good way! -- as I read your comments on my last post. Thanks you all so much for helping me chase away the blues. And for sharing your own struggles.
I have picked up my Vodka Lemonade sweater again, and it feels good to make progress on it. The actual color is much more yellow than this photo shows.
When I look at the large numbers of people taking anti-depressants and the long lists of titles of books to help people with depression and anxiety, I can't help but think that there is something terribly wrong with our society. For one thing, Americans work far more hours than people in any other industrialized country, and we take far less vacation. I know that this 13-week slog between breaks wore down not only me, but my colleagues and students, too.
My Year of Stitches project has been a source of joy and comfort these last few months.
Knitting -- along with our other creative ventures -- is one way to escape the high-pressure world we live in, don't you think? It's no accident that DIY and hand-made have become movements. Nor that a knit hat became the symbol of the women's march in Washington. Every stitch is a protest of the hyper-pressures of today's world.

They also bind us to other people. Another group of people who keep me afloat is the Jewish Artists Lab. You may remember that I painted a portrait of Judy Chicago as part of a project launched by my friend Pam, in which we are assembling a "dinner party" of Jewish artists. We got together last weekend for a painting round, and I did this one:
It's Diane Arbus, who is famous for photographing "outsiders." It doesn't look as much like her as I'd like, but it's close enough!

Again, my heart-felt thanks to all of you!




Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Bit of the Blues

Well, maybe more than a bit. I haven't blogged or even read blogs for a while because I've been flat-out depressed. I've always been an anxious person, but these bouts of the blues started after the surgery to fix my broken leg in 2013. I had a pretty serious post-surgical depression, and ever since then, I've had the blues periodically.

Yes, I have a doctor and a therapist, so I'm not alone in this, but still. My mother and my friends have been very supportive, too. Coffee with friends has helped.
This episode started with insomnia, and after a week of that, I found myself spiraling downward.  But today I'm feeling a little better, which is a relief.

I have been quite a homebody through this, so I have one completed sock to show:
And you can see my Summer Camp shawl in the first photo. It's a very relaxing knit.
But mostly I've been working on the quilt for the Jewish Artists Lab show, which is April 30. Clearly I'm not working fast enough.

One more week until spring break. It has been a long haul since winter break! So, I'm hoping things are just going to get better.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Farewell to Yarn Along

I was sad this morning to read that Ginny has retired Yarn Along, a Wednesday link-up she has hosted since 2010. Of course, I totally understand her readiness to move on, and I'm sure many of us with continue with Tuesday's Keep Calm and Craft On with Nicole. Still, I will miss the reading element that Ginny brought into our world.

So, it is with bit of sorrow that I post my last Yarn Along, which includes both a new knit and a new book.
Summer Camp is a shallow and long shawl designed by Laura Aylor. The solid sections are Sun Fiber Valley yarn, and the speckled yarn is from Hedgehog Fibres. Both are yummy and fun to work with. It's designed to be a mindless knit, and it is quite easy.

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven follows three fictional Londoners through World War II. Chris Cleave, who wrote Little Bee, takes on a narrative voice that has the ring of history, but I'm not far enough into the book to say if it works. The dialogue sparkles with dry British wit, so I'm encouraged by the first few chapters.

Joining up with Ginny to Yarn Along.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Class With Laura Nelkin: Swoon!

Madison may not be a big city, but it is a big knitting city. We had our Knit In this weekend, and the line-up of teachers was amazing. Saturday morning, a friend and I took a class on knitting with bead from Laura Nelkin, author of Knockout Knits.
The class was amazing. Did you know that you should never use beads on single-ply yarn? Me, neither. It's not strong enough. Also to be avoided are wool/silk blends and cashmere. I also learned that you need to use bigger beads when you are placing beads (like with a crochet hook) than when you pre-string beads.

This is the Stellanti Shawl, which was our favorite one of her samples. The beaded sections are super easy so this is definitely going in my queue. Nelkin is quite funny. She described more difficult projects as being "anti-Alzheimer's patterns."
I do love knitting jewelry, though I haven't made any for quite some time. Nelkin's samples gave me plenty of inspiration.

The class was just for a half day, so we shopped after scarfing down some sandwiches from home. It turns out that I am quite the Wisconsin shopper. The two reddish/pink skeins are going into a second Perhaps, Perhaps. They were dyed by Sun Valley Fibers (Mount Horeb, Wis.), and I cannot say enough good things about their yarns. They are stunningly beautiful, a joy to knit with, and hold up well to wear.
I could not resist the mini skeins from Ewetopia (Viroqua, Wis.). All my favorite colors in one package! I'm looking for the right poncho or shawl pattern. Let me know if you have any ideas -- though I should mention that the yarn is DK weight.

Last but not least is the gradient cake in blue and purple, which I bought to make an Antarktis out of, but now I'm thinking it would make a good Stellanti. Such tough choices.!The yarn is by Knit Circus, which is right here in Madison. Yes, I am lucky!

This seems like enough for one post, so I'll tell you about fair isle with Mary Jane Mucklestone later!