Thursday, May 21, 2015

Not My Gift

Dear Mom,
Painting watercolors is clearly not My Gift, but as MelissaWhoSpins told me, it is good because it is not fiber-related. Something inside me has shifted and I've gone from being tickled when something sort of turned out okay totally by accident, to being discouraged because the paintings don't always turn out okay.

Maybe my standard of what is okay has shifted.

I still have lots to learn. This is good. I like learning.
For me, a Big Part of that learning is knowing when to keep going and when to quit. And to be patient and let the paint dry, goshdangit.

This landscape was a class project a couple of weeks ago. It went through an awkward teenage phase and I really didn't like it, but then I fussed about and somehow by mistake it all worked out.
Next up…
I got this far on this and was happy enough with how it looked to be scared that I would ruin it before I finished.
Olive was lending moral support. She is never too far from my fingertips. I love that.

Such was my fear that I didn't touch that painting from last week's class to this week's. Today I got it nearly done and then it needed some teacher intervention/correction/rescue attempt. When I got home I made another attempt at finishing touches. I think I need to call it quits on this one and know I learned from it.

I may need to reproduce this same image, much the way I obsessively painted all those pears, and see if I can get it right. Or I'll just fuss this one into a sodden lump of wilted paper.


Monday, May 18, 2015


Dear Mom,
It is nearly noon on Monday as I write this. I am puttering, still in my jammies (but wearing an apron!) and because I've crossed many things off my To Do list, I am rewarding myself with a fresh pot of tea and some blog catch up time. We had a busy weekend and sitting here in my quiet house feels good.

It is that time of year when keeping on top of the outside and inside work is overwhelming and feels impossible. We've had a string of wet, humid days and yesterday, even though I knew Olive would be tracking wet paw prints in, I could stand the condition of the kitchen floor no longer and mopped it. I think it took at least an hour to dry. I know it is cleaner that it was yesterday, but it looks like a floor that dried in puddles and prints.

The busy weekend really started on Friday. I taught my knitting class on Friday morning, got home in time to take Olive to an appointment for laser therapy on her elbows, then picked you and your garden tiller up on the way home (scaring Olive with the tiller handles hanging over the back seat). We dropped off the tiller, headed to The French Seam to take advantage of their Birthday Sale- I got fabric for another Factory Dress and buttons for a sweater- and then home to till up the garden.
Knowing that rain was coming, I did manage to get the vegetable garden planted on Friday evening. I was a sweat-soaked, limp rag when I finished. My glasses were sliding down my nose, sweat was dripping in my eyes and when I showered, my clothes peeled off in twisted clumps.
Carrying on with my 'Keep it Simple' approach, I only planted tomatoes and green beans this year. In March I planted potatoes in big containers and added cabbage on top, knowing the cabbages will be harvested before the potatoes are ready.

After all that I should have fallen asleep as soon as I sat down. I must have been running on an adrenaline burst or something because I stayed up very late. I finished a sweater and stayed up to watch the newest episode of Outlander as soon as it was available for viewing  On Demand at midnight.

Here is the sweater, freshly blocked and finally dry. Knitting with cotton is never my favorite thing, but this Rowan Handknit Cotton is agreeable. My hands are ready for wool, though. I've been contemplating shawl patterns that I can knit using my marigold dyed handspun.

This sweater is  a basic raglan cardigan. I made a sort of hybrid neckline- taking some of the stitches out, crew-neck style, right away, and then decreasing the rest in a gentle v-neck slope.
I picked up the button/neck band and mitered the corners, adding 2 stitches, every other row, to the outer corners and decreasing one stitch on the "inner" corners every 3rd row. It worked out as I'd hoped it would.
The stitch pattern is "Wildflower Knot Stitch" from one of the Barbara Walker Stitch Treasuries. I've used this in sweaters before. It is one of my favorites. Here are some close-ups of the buttons I purchased on Friday. Aren't they perfect?!
You can see, in that first photo, and in this next photo, that my flower garden is coming along. The peony, no longer blocked by the hot tub, is thriving. It should start blooming soon.
I've had to put some temporary wire fencing around the garden to keep Olive from running through and bringing mud in. The nasturtiums are sprouting in the planter beneath the bird feeder. It looks like I've just lost one english daisy- everything else looks healthy and my marigold and zinnia seeds have sprouted. I have had thousands of safflower seeds to weed. I wish the birds were just a little bit neater. I use safflower seeds in the feeder because the squirrels don't like it. Having that feeder right outside the kitchen window in enchanting and I was treated a week or two ago with this:

A pair of rose breasted grosbeaks were guests for a few days. I was hoping they would stay for the season (I'd already named them), but I think we were just a stop on their spring migration.

Okay. One more thing and then I really should get dressed! Writing this blog post was interrupted once when Olive accidentally-on-purpose opened the storm door and ran out to chase our neighborhood fox. I must not have had the door locked firmly. Luckily she did not run far and is not built for speed. I am sure I was a sight to see frantically chasing after her in my jammies and apron with leash in hand. Thankfully, she fell for my desperate shout of "car ride" and the view of her leash pin my hands and came running. I guess she is also proving that the laser therapy is working, because she did not come limping back after that effort.

I have more watercolors to show you, but I'll save that for another day.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Dear Mom,
My visit to The Fiber Event in Greencastle a few weeks ago inspired motivated me to get spinning. I have 3 rather large boxes of roving to get through and have more coming once the angora from Duncan is processed.
I finally finished spinning the wool I dyed with marigolds last summer. It's not that there was so much of it to spin; I just needed to buckle down and spend time spinning it.
There should be enough to knit a shawl. I ply-ed it to take advantage of the gradient shades.

The next bundle of roving I pulled from the stash was one that I dyed in the workshop I took at Tabby Tree a long time ago….

 Oh my. I see from THIS POST that I took that workshop 5 years ago!
Oh well. Five years ago I would not have been able to spin that roving into something this lovely. I think this just might be the prettiest yarn I've spun so far.

I am so enamored with it that I am taking its picture wherever I think it will look prettiest. It is only the fear of having to explain myself to a neighbor that has stopped me from draping the yarn in the lilac bushes.

Friday, May 1, 2015

This week in Watercolor class….

Dear Mom,

I think the actual painting looks better than this scanned image. I am still amazed that I am able to paint anything at all, and therefore have no objectivity. Someday, I may very well look back at what I've shared here on the blog and be extremely embarrassed. Until then I'll celebrate the paintings that don't wind up as scrap paper or in the recycling bin.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hot Tub Time Machine

Dear Mom,
Over the last winter, when our hot tub coughed up its last breath and My Hero decided it wasn't worth fixing or replacing, I immediately started plotting out what I would do with the space while trying not to look too pleased to be rid of the thing. Not that I minded having it- we had lots of fun with it- I just didn't enjoy the view of it out my kitchen window.
My Hero loved that hot tub after hockey games and on winter days.

Our Young Man and his friends filled it to capacity and over-flowing on occasion,

and we will never forget the harrowing episode when the guinea pig escaped and hid out under the hot tub.
And Patsy jumped in and enjoyed some spa time, too!

Once the hot tub was hauled away, My Hero took apart the deck underneath. I was expecting to see a network of chipmunk tunnels and a warren of rabbit nests, but the dirt was black and ready for planting.
I decided to clear out the overgrown and undesirable perennials I had growing in the space between the house and the hot tub and start fresh. And I had the inspiration to ask for your expertise to help me plan the space.
My Hero and I relocated the bird feeder into the new garden spot. Now I'll be able to bird watch from the kitchen and porch. I planted nasturtium seeds in the planter around the base. And I've rescued all the surviving hopscotch stones the kids and I made all those years ago to use as paths to the hose spigot, bird feeder and across the garden. (I'll need a way through to cut and tend all the flowers I am imagining!)

The area was finally cleared on Sunday afternoon, and on Tuesday we were ready to plant. The weather was perfect.
You alerted me to the fresh delivery of perennials to our favorite nursery and we stocked up on Foxglove, Delphinium, Tickseed, Shasta Daisy and English Daisy, Forget-me-nots and Hollyhocks, Cranesbill and Pincushion Flower and snap dragons. 
I moved a Stella Daylilly and left the Peony and Sedum where they were. We planted some of the zinnia and marigold seeds I'd harvested from last year's garden and added some purchased 4 O'clock seeds to fill in some gaps. My plan is to add some spring flowering bulbs this fall into the spots occupied by annuals.
It took us several fun hours of team work to get it all planted (we imagined ourselves a surgical team) and cleaned up.  I am looking forward to watching this garden mature and envision masses of cut flowers in the house.

When I got up this morning I was almost afraid to look out for fear that all our tender plants had been eaten down to the nubs but the rabbits, or carried off in great clumps by some wicked perennial-eating vulture. Happily, all is well and looking invigorated.

Between demolishing the deck and prepping and planting this garden, My Hero and I could use a long soak in a hot tub.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gentle sign of Spring

Dear Mom,

They aren't as exciting as those first croci, or as obvious as the forsythia in bloom, but there is just something about pussy willow branches that make my heart sing.  

We had our first spring thunderstorm this morning and I came home from watercolor class to nap under a quilt while the heavy rains fell.

What I love is near at hand.
-Theodore Roethke


Saturday, March 21, 2015


Dear Mom,
The calendar says spring, and so does my front yard! Right on schedule, a few of the  100's of crocus bulbs I've scattered throughout the front lawn over the last few years started blooming on Tuesday.
 There are a few snowdrops, too, but they don't show up as well as those bright yellow croci.
Seeing those blooms gives me hope. 
I think we had more winter after the Groundhog saw his shadow than we had in the months before. It was wearing me down. 
However, the longer winter did give me more opportunities to wear a sweater and cardigan combination that I love. The dress is The Factory Dress from Merchant and Mills. I ordered my pattern from Purl Soho. This pattern went together like a dream and the dress fits exactly as I hoped it would. I splurged on some really nice wool from The French Seam. The pattern, fabric and I all got along fabulously. When a suitable spring/summer fabric presents itself at the shop, I will make another dress.
I then knit a cardigan to wear with the dress. The pattern is Tiramisu and I knit it with Shepherd's Wool,  color "Milk Chocolate". This is one of those colors that can look brown or grey, depending on what it is next to. The sweater knit up very quickly and the design is very easy to wear- a practical, pretty sweater. I've cast on for another in a cotton yarn.
Here is the combination, on me.

I found some sweater tights at Target that look nice and stay put. I had a pair of fleece-lined leggings - warm and comfy!- but they were sadly lacking in anything resembling elastic in the waistband! Of course this is something a person doesn't know until she wears them and I had a rather interesting day keeping my leggings up.  By the end of that day had some serious concerns that they would be around my ankles before I could walk from the shop to my car. I was thankful for the long coat I was wearing and imagined myself in the middle of the street with a puddle of leggings at my feet and white legs exposed. I did make it to the car- crotch at my knees. Since then, some reinforcing elastic has been added to what was an empty casing at the waistband of those leggings.
 I had to laugh a few days later when I opened up a new pair of tights.
 The label on these tights boasted a "comfort no-bind waistband". When I pulled them out of the package, the waistband was about the circumference of my thigh. Maybe smaller. (Actually the words 'small' and 'my thigh' do not belong in the same paragraph, but you get my meaning.) From one extreme to the other. The miracle of spandex allowed them to stretch enough to fit around the location formerly know as my waist, and at least I had no worries that this pair would be overcome by gravity.

It comes as a great surprise to me to find myself painting. I thoroughly enjoy the escape into watercolors  and look forward to the class every Thursday morning. I nevereverever thought I would be holding a paintbrush and making any Thing. I may even be spending more time with watercolor paints and brushes than I am with my knitting. This shocks me. And scares me just a little. I have piles of failed attempts, but I do want to share two things that turned out well enough that you won't need to play that kindergarten game where you ask the child to "tell me about this picture" because you have no idea what it is she painted.

I think part of the appeal to painting, for me, is the total escape.I am exploring a new world of things to learn. I feel No pressure to produce anything for anyone and feel an enormous thrill when something actually turns out. The escape is especially appreciated and the NEED for it is possibly explained when I take a step back- our Young Man celebrated his 21st birthday and our Young Lady has taken the SAT, ACT and is, as I write this, on a college visit with My Hero. Time marches on. As it should. I remind myself that All Shall Be Well and that God's plan is perfect. And my energies are better focused on creative pursuits than worrying about stuff. Maybe I felt the need to paint that fledgling robin for more reasons than the date on the calendar.