Sunday, September 14, 2008

Are we ready for winter yet?

This colony of bald-faced hornets managed to build its nest practically overnight ... about 150' from my front door. I'm glad that my daughter is back in school; happy that she is occupied with other activities most days until it's too dark to go outside for exploration. I've warned the lawn-mowing crew and tied bright yellow ribbons around the drip line of the tree. My garden guru and other advisors suggest that I trim the branch in the middle of the winter and burn the nest ... I probably will do that. Only because I don't want this colony to send its progeny to another tree closer to the house.

This is the east side of the nest ... sleeping late is not allowed when each member of the colony has to do its share for the benefit of the entire community.

I don't know if you've ever come across these hornets ... they build the most awesome structures, almost overnight. When we come home from an overnight trip, we will find new nests at our doorways, on the decks, on the wheelbarrow that we forgot to put away. I usually have my planet-friendly bug man treat the house and outbuildings each spring to minimize our exposure. This past year I skipped the bee treatment for a number of reasons, and this is my reward. After a lengthy telephone conversation with my bug man, I learned that the bald-faced hornets really like eating little spiders. A side effect of spraying for bees, wasps and hornets is that the spiders also bite the dust, so there is nothing around here for these hornets to eat. This year, however, the hornets have found happy hunting grounds, so they have settled in for the winter.

My bee man, my garden guru, lots of other advisors ... all tell me to stay away from the nest until deep into the winter freeze, then cut the branch with the nest and burn it. Common sense tells me that is the right thing to do, from a safety point of view. But there is a side of me that feels sad for the hornets ... the insects that are so busy finishing up this winter home have spent their entire lives to create a safe place, warm, filled with food, so the next generation can emerge next spring to find another place to do the same thing.

Observing this nest over the last week has made me think about all of the things I need to do to get my home ready for the winter. The garden needs attention before it sleeps; there are summer toys to put away; windows and screens to wash one last time before the weather turns bad; winter coats to match to hats and mittens and scarves; bird feeders to fill ... and even if I complete all of these tasks perfectly and on time, my home will still not be the model of beautiful engineering, energy efficiency, safety, warmth and good nutrition that these insects provide for their offspring. But the nest is the perfect example of what I aspire to achieve.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Who knew summer could be this busy?

I only have time for a brief brief entry ... I've been busy without much time for knitting, but I want to take a minute to share the results of my most recent KIP's: "Scrubbing Bubbles". The original "Bubbles" was created by Susan Mrenna at; a great little pattern that just cries out for individualization. Substituting nylon yarn meant for plastic canvas embroidery, I have been knitting fish as fast as I can cast on.

These little guys are wonderful for KIP (knitting in public): the fascinated onlookers can actually see the fish take shape as I work; the project doesn't require undivided attention so I can actually carry on a conversation AND knit; every now and then someone will say, "I used to knit, I'll bet I could do a project like that" ... if I've re-captured any former knitters with the fishes, they have served their purpose.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The first FO of my new knitting incarnation

When I resumed knitting late last year (after a 24 year layoff), my assignment was to make an afghan for my mom's new couch. Well, after at least ten different swatches, I still didn't come up with the right color/texture/whatever that would have been exactly right. So I took the pile of several yarns, found this wonderful pattern for at The Big Snuggly, and sat down to knit it for myself. For some reason, when I showed the FO to my mother, she thought it was hers, so it has been in her living room ever since. In fact, I couldn't even get it away from her to take a photo for my scrapbook.

But mom's on vacation, now, so I snuck in to her apartment to take these photos:

I used three yarns: Lion Brand Homespun (Shaker); Caron Simply Soft (Toast) and Caron One Pound (Bone) ... The Homespun and Simply Soft are very lofty; the Caron One Pound adds body to the fabric so the Snuggly stays put while walking from the recliner to the kitchen.

Done all in garter stitch, this is a great project for TV Knitting; the simple short-row shaping is a no brainer that creates an attractive and useful shaping.

I highly recommend this project: a great throw for each member of the family as we face escalating home heating costs next winter.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thirteenth Post on Friday the 13th

It's a good thing I'm not superstitious or I would have waited until morning. But I'm so pumped over these Tawashi Blossoms that I just can't contain myself. Unbelievably quick to knit and very cleverly designed, even though my flower beds washed away I'll still have flowers!
I'm sure the folks at Ravelry are going to get fed up with my Tawashi projects, but this is so much fun I can't contain myself. My KIP bag is loaded with supplies for more blossoms for KIP day tomorrow ... these are a totally cool and useful item. I hope to do three or four to hand out to interested passers-by!
Something awesome is coming up for us homebodies ... on Saturday, June 14, 2008, my daughter and I have main floor tickets to attend the live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion at the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. As a proud supporter of Michigan Public Radio, I always donate at both the spring and fall pledge drives. This past April, just as I was balancing my checkbook and trying to calculate an affordable gift for the season, the radio station announced a special opportunity. For a generous donation, a few lucky people could have a pair of main floor seats AND attend a post-show reception in the Auditorium lobby. Let me tell you, I was on the phone within ten seconds ...
At some point, I will feel guilty about the large price tag, but not this week. You see, June 14 is my late husband's birthday. He passed away on April 30, 2007; last year on his birthday I think my daughter and I were still in shock at our sudden loss. This year, we're a little bit better, but we also know that he would have doubled our pledge to take another couple along with us. I can't think of a more appropriate way to celebrate his life than to support National Public Radio, and to enjoy the wonderful music and unique humor of Garrison Keilor's A Prairie Home Companion. DD hopes to get an autograph from Fred Newman (the sound effects man on many of the shows); I hope to introduce her to a little of the cultural experience offered by Ann Arbor during its Summer Festival.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Everything's coming up (not roses)

Tawashi Blossoms ... delightful pattern from Rhonda White at Awesome little bit of no-brainer knitting to fill those minutes waiting in the car, at dance class, at swim class, etc. and use up those annoying bits of leftover acrylics. Thanks, Rhonda!

And ... I finally found a use for all of those tiny skeins of nylon used by plastic canvas crafters ... exactly three skeins (10 yards each) on size 9 US needles creates a delightfully scrubby scrubbie! At three skeins for a dollar at the local Dollarville, I can afford to craft all summer long. As those nieces and nephews head back to the college apartments, I can fill some gift baskets with useful stuff, for a change!

Just in case nothing in my garden blooms this summer, I can at least have a kitchen full of flowers!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Another FO or two but nothing to write home about

Well, in spite of all my best efforts to find knitting time, life has demanded quite a bit of my presence over the past several days. I did manage to find the camera simultaneously with 10 spare minutes, though, to get fuzzy pictures of a couple of Finished Objects: Every Day Any Day is from a Yahoo KAL for mid-May; Palm Tree is Monthly Dishcloth KAL for June, 2008, another lovely pattern by Andi Worthy at

Then, just for the heck of it, I knitted Daisy by Lindy (pattern can be found at Three fun knits; I'm not sure about my results on Sue Schafer's pattern found at Of course, as a continental knitter, I frequently have issues with YO both in knit and purl. I'll need to track down two or three more tutorials to see if I can become even more confused.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

I'm baaack

For just a brief post. For some reason my life seems hectic ... a state of being brought about by a major major computer crash two weeks ago. Two things never happen to me: I've never lost anything in snail mail (either coming or going); and my computers never crash. Well, the cyberfairies must have wanted to bring me down a notch or two, because while debating whether to open a particular email, the whole silly thing went black on me ... never to return. Off to the computer ER for a data dump; ship the machine to authorized service center, and borrow a computer for interim use. I've not wanted to abuse the kindness of my host (my daughter) by spending too much time on her machine, hence no blog entry for several several days.

And not much of a post today: the diva daughter has her big recital (four costume changes!!) and a houseful of aunts, uncles, cousins ... after they all leave tomorrow, we need to organize our contribution to fourth grade picnic in the park on Monday and finish the last last last homework assignment.

My own computer should return from intensive care soon; who knows how long rehab and recovery will take? But I should be swinging into a real knitting and blogging routine by the middle of the summer.

I hope to see y'all soon; I will be posting a few more pics of FOs and discussing my own knitting projects and plans. In the meantime, I'm still cedarstrings on Ravelry; I occasionally post on a few Yahoo groups.

Friday, May 9, 2008

KALs and Nikon

Left FO: Wedding Bands (Yahoo Groups Monthly Dishcloth KAL, May 2008)

FO on the Right: Coffeemaker (Yahoo Groups Shirley's Knitting Knook May 2008)

When I was a knitter in my previous life, I never thought to keep a "knitting journal" or memorialize any of my creations. Occasionally somebody took a snapshot of one of the nieces wearing a sweater or hat that I knitted, but other than that, there is no memory.

I never was a scrapbooker; all of the family snaps get tossed into a shoebox. The digital photography revolution has changed my view on that topic ... well, at least I make digital scrapbooks and mail them on disk to all of the relevant people. But combining the convenience of digital photo with a "knitting journal" is really a nifty idea. For once in my life, I have something like a physical record of the knitting that I am doing. It's rather an exciting idea, in a quaint new age/middle age sort of way.

My DH was a better-than-average pro-am photographer: if you've attended any sprint car races around the midwest, you've probably seen his pictures. From the early 80s through the mid-90s he photographed weddings, local little league games and other special events. I never put my name on the work, but I carried along the back-up camera (and lights and spare lenses and battery packs and filters and so on and so forth). And I was known to take more than one great photo and snapped several that were at least good. But since DH went to that great darkroom in the sky, I've barely been able to remember to charge batteries, let alone how to set the camera for "automatic" and let the latest in digital gear do the work.

So I'm not going to apologize for the lousy photos: I spent yesterday filling the memory card with "Crazy Hair Day" at fourth grade, and snapped the quick pics of the latest KALs ... before blocking (for all of you perfectionists, sorry. The cloths will be blocked before going into the gift bags for wedding showers coming up next month). Otherwise, I knew it would be another week before I would remember to swap out batteries for the freshly charged ones and be ready for the next event.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Dishcloth KALs -- Thanks!

For the first time since I discovered KAL (KnitALong) groups on Yahoo, I was actually able to start the KALs on the day they debuted. First up is Shirley's Knitting Knook (the Knook Knanny is in another time zone, so I am assured of a fresh day's assignment when I get up around 5:00 am); I've completed day 3 of a mystery cloth using size 6 US needles and Sugar 'n Creme worsted weight cotton in softly taupe. The second cloth is from Monthly Dishcloth group, with a May 1 cast-on; size 7 US needles and Honeysuckle worsted weight cotton in shrimp. Both of these are mystery picture cloths, a concept that is still new to me. Fun to knit, fun to block and torture into a clear picture, these projects produce a cloth that is nice in the kitchen sink (enough texture to obtain scrubbiness without tell-tale scratches on the glassware) and very nice in the bathroom. Truly soft enough for the baby's face, with enough texture to lightly exfoliate those elbows and heels.

Mostly I lurk on the groups, having been away from knitting for so long that I feel like I'm learning something new again. But I enjoy hanging out and listening to the other knitters discuss the pattern, ask questions about the technique for the current month's cloth, and sharing expertise about materials, patterns, and knitting in general.

I probably haven't said so on the many groups I'm hanging out in, so I'll use the blog to say "thanks for allowing me to hang out with y'all. I really enjoy the atmosphere, and I hope to contribute something helpful some day soon.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Zig Zag With Diamonds Cloth

April 2008 mid-month KAL from Shirley's Knitting Knook on Yahoo. This is a fun pattern based on multiple of 9; could be lots of fun in a wider format (i.e., placemat or baby blanket). Well written pattern, easy to follow a few rows at a time in the KAL format. Begun April 21, 2008; finished April 25, 2008.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dots Within Stripes

Another FO to add to the blog and Ravelry: Dots within Stripes, a Monthly Dishcloth Group (Yahoo) Knit A Long (KAL). Slip stitch pattern in two colors, I have made a great cloth that will work nicely in the kitchen or in the bath. Size 7 needles with worsted weight cotton, cast on 40 stitches, produces a generous size cloth that scrubs without scratching on your casseroles and other precious items. This cloth would also make a great spa cloth (exfoliate those elbows and knees after a long winter); or baby gift, because it is truly soft enough for baby's toes and noses.

Once again, I've bitten off more than I can chew

I've been a sahm since 1995; I still can't get used to the idea that weekends are no longer leisure time, or hobby time, or time for mom to pursue her own activities. I plunged into the world of blogging on Friday night, with two fourth grade girls happily engaged in the world of Webkins ... of course, that lasted less than an hour. Saturday morning dawned with a 9-year-old nose to toes in a bright red rash. Three hours of phone calls to pediatrician's service, consultation with Grandma (who proclaimed German measles and quarantine); finding other child's mom to come and pick her up so I could take my own child to doctor ... telephone consult with weekend doctor ...

Because child feels fine, has no real discomfort from the rash ... we are doing nothing for it, except watching.

But the adrenalin rush, the disruption of our plans for a long play day, Grandma's ominous pronouncements ... the planned projects for a knitting day went out the window.

I have to come to grips with the reality that the blog development will be a longer process than I had wanted it to be. Our crazy season is upon us: record-breaking snowfall over the past winter is responsible for many cancellations of events that have been rescheduled for the last month of school. Dancing school recital at the end of May means extra dance rehearsals, photo shoots, etc. The yard work to be done this spring is horrendous due to my own neglect last fall. So, my many future fans and faithful readers will just have to wait a little longer for a blog that might actually be worth reading.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The first of many ...

For more details on the baby blanket shown at right, check out my project page at

It's about time ...

Because I am old, I've been computer literate for longer than most folks ... even longer than many people my age, because I was lucky enough to work for one or two forward-looking employers ("you have to learn to run this thing, or we'll hire your replacement right out of high school"). But I've resisted the blogging side of life because of my intense protection of my privacy and security.

However, in the interest of becoming a more verbal member of the online knitting community, here is my blog!