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Green Sprouts

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Some spring days try to fake me out into thinking it’s summer. That has happened recently. The sun shines brightly on the deck, the chairs look warmed and cozy, and there’s an ever so gentle breeze that bends the trees. It looks like it’s perfect for an afternoon with a book and a lemonade.

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However, once out there, my feet are cold, I need a sweater, and I’m saying “Screw the lemonade, I need some hot black coffee.” So having donned woolen socks and sweater, grabbed a cup of steaming java, I persist in moving the chair around the deck to catch the most direct rays of the sun. Yes, I know, I’m pushing it. Jumping the shark or something like that. But I do long to bask in the sun with a good book… it will happen, just with layers for awhile.

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Today a walk to the beach was truly an aerobic exercise in staying vertical against the wind. It was “refreshing”— ok- it was nippy, and I walked fast because if I stood still, I’d complain more. At WoodNeck, the windsurfers were out in full glory. Sails, black suits, full beards and huge smiles. One energized 60+ year old said the water was 50 degrees and the air was 50 degrees, so that makes it 100. I bitched about nothing after that.

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It’s true that the daffodils have bloomed and the azaleas and forsythia are full color. Periwinkle and all types of short wild flowers have started to open. Spring is really happening, just a little late and a little slower than usual.

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I’ve also noticed that I’ve got a couple of “anniversaries” that are happening right about this time. I’m marking the beginning of my fourth year of retirement from teaching at Bentley University. This is the first year that I was completely unaware of semesters, final exams and last day of classes. I’m having a blast doing exactly what I want, when I want to. The freedom is exhilarating and my list of “want to do’s” grows each day—in a good way. I’ve had the opportunity to read from my stacks of collected books as well as raid the library for some unexpected delights. I love the lack of curriculum and the full range of opportunities.

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On a similar note, I’m celebrating my second blogiversary of http://www.yarnsista.com. Two years of writing generated 99 posts, almost 6000 views and a tremendous amount of fun and satisfaction for me. It’s a place where I can write about my passions: the Cape, my life, my books, my fun with fiber and anything else that captures my attention. Taking photographs has been a new skill to work on. The iPhone camera is a blessing. It makes learning by trial and error plus lots of practice very attainable.

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I also just celebrated my first year of doing yoga. Now that is a very big deal. With the help of many compassionate, wise teachers, I have begun my practice and continue to expand it. My back no longer hurts me; I can move without aches and pain; I’ve lost weight and am much healthier than ever. All of this is exceptionally good news because I’m about half way to 122 years old, and I’d like to be flexible and balanced right up to the last breath. Three yoga classes and one Pilates class per week should help me get there.

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So all of this spring/rebirth/new growth stuff is working. I have no complaints and am looking forward to it all. Life is good.

 

Gifts

It’s not surprising that most of the gifts I give this season are hand knits, food or books. It’s how I roll. What does surprise me is how, although I really intend to give gifts that please my “giftees,” many of these goodies deliver delightful, unintended consequences to me.

My daughter Molly is passionate and compassionate about animals and how they should be treated. I have been making woolen socks for her for several years. This year she mentioned how she’d like to make sure the sheep that provided the wool for her socks and shawl were well treated. In my hunt to find yarn from happy sheep, I discovered Naushon Island, just off the coast of Woods Hole. That’s where happy sheep graze, live well, and make the most beautiful, sheepy smelling, wholesome yarn.  Naushon wool is a treat- yes, a gift—to knit. It smells sooooo good, feels so sturdy, and the natural color is a rich mocha that I loved.  To find enough of this yarn to make a shawl for Molly that is big enough to wrap up in while reading a good book, I made friends with the folks at Woods Hole Historical Society who sold me the last ten skeins of the season. This gift is the gift that keeps on giving. I got enough yarn to make myself a sweater—after the holidays.

Kate has been the recipient of many of my hand knit hats. I knit them all year round, and can seldom wait for a holiday to give them to her.  She wears them to work and in the office; they are  stacked on her desk like a sculpture. One particular hat consistently brings her good luck(a color work hat that was a challenge to make!)  She wears this hat at meetings and wears it with style.

No cookie cutter daughters in this family! Now that’s a real gift, Molly and Kate.

In the past I have made several ill fitting, weird sweaters for my poor husband.  He would wear them, but the look on his face always told me that he was being kind and that maybe this was not meant to be. But I still wanted to knit for him… Last winter, he needed a pair of mittens after we had already left the house. I had an extra pair of fingerless mitts in my coat pocket. He slipped them on and liked that they were lightweight, warm, and he could drive wearing them. He actually wanted them… But he is colorblind and didn’t realize that my purple mitts weren’t blue and weren’t very becoming on a physicist.  So I was thrilled to cast on a pair for him in black tweed and that led to a few hats, including a Fibonacci hat. Who knows where it will lead—but definitely not to a sweater.  This gift taught me to “let it go.” Amen!

Some gifts send important messages that I may or may not “get” at the time. When I was in high school, I knitted a pullover sweater for my boyfriend, until recently known as “Tom Ferguson I Hate Him”. He dumped me three weeks before the Senior Prom—boo hoo. Anyhow…I’m over that.  Here’s the unintended message in the sweater I made for him: the neck wanted to choke him (so did I) and his head was too big to fit through it (fat head…just saying). It’s too bad I didn’t hear the sweater speaking to me six months prior to the break up—it certainly tried to communicate.

And one of my most recent gifts is a knitting bag I made for a friend who has a sick kid and needs something to help with the stress. I made it out of organza, filled it with a skein of mink yarn (yes, it was humanly harvested) and a cute little pouch to keep knitting supplies. When I gave it to her at knit night, I confessed that I did purchase a box of salted dark chocolate caramels and put them in her bag… However… I ate them all. The best part of it all was that she laughed out loud about my scoffing the candy and giggled about it later. That’s exactly what I hoped to accomplish with my gift—but it wasn’t the bag, the yarn or the extras that made it happen.

So, as I’m finishing up the last of my Christmas gifting, I wonder what will happen with the other items I’m giving and, therefore, getting.  Is it better to give than to receive? Maybe both, Merry Christmas!

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Yoga Mama

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On any given Monday and Thursday at 10:15 AM you’ll find me on a mat, soaked in sweat, head to toe in a room that’s at least 90 degrees. Every muscle in this 61 year old body has been worked hard, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I am a yoga mama—who would have thought????

Six months ago I had my annual physical and asked my doctor what I had to do to get rid of chronic back pain and lots of little aches that seemed to be occurring too frequently.

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With a straight face, he asked me if I had tried yoga. I laughed out loud—do I look like I can do yoga? I can’t sit still and am unable to tie myself into a pretzel. He has been my doctor for more than twenty years and knows me well. He said to try it—it’s good for a lot of “stuff” but make sure you find a teacher you like.

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I left his office thinking he was crazy. Later that week, I told my knitting group about his advice. To my surprise, many knitters (all shapes, sizes, and ages) around the room did practice yoga and had recommendations. I began to rethink this yoga idea; my back ached while I was cogitating.

A week later I arranged for a few private lessons with the most highly recommended teacher, Kirsten. Learning some of the basics at home where I could fall over, get stuck and be completely confused was a smart move. Kirsten was compassionate AND smart. She knew her yoga and successfully convinced me that I could do it. After the first session, my back felt better, but more importantly I realized that I could actually do this and like it.

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Yoga brought new words and new perspectives into focus: breath, paying attention to my body, alignment, gaze, flow, eliminating distractions. All had relevance both on and off the mat. Every class I’m able to do something that I was unable to do the previous class. There are times when I see my shadow on the studio floor and, in amazement say “That’s me!” I don’t mean that in an egotistical way—but it really is quite a surprise for me to see myself flowing from one pose to another while breathing and working hard.

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When Kirsten had an accident and took a leave of absence, I jumped right into the next class with a new teacher, Megan. Yes, I was a little nervous. The new class was more rigorous, and it was a heated classroom. Would I like her? Would it be too hard? Would I cry? The answer is all good news. Megan pushes me beyond my comfort zone in a similar way that I pushed my students to write and think critically beyond their usual limits.

No, I’m not doing handstands yet, but every class I make progress and continue to work on my daily practice, incorporating the new poses learned in class. Making the quiet time to do this for myself has been a real gift. I do owe a great deal of thanks, not only to Dr. Tracy who first put the bug in my ear, but also to both Kirsten and Megan… and also to my daughters who both practice yoga and offered encouragement and strength through this whole process.

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I like what yoga does for me. It’s centering, quieting, and peaceful. It also strengthens what needs to be stronger and relaxes what is tied in knots. So it is with great joy that I include yoga in my life and can’t imagine living without it.

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Wandering in Woods Hole

My exploring has taken hold. I’m trying to notice what was previously missed. Woods Hole is the perfect place to do this. We’ve been in this community for more than 25 years, and there’s always something going on to stir my brains. This walk was no exception.

Yarn from happy sheep

Yarn from happy sheep

This trek started with the goal of capturing the last three skeins of yarn spun from very happy sheep off the coast of Woods Hole. Only a total of 19 were available at the Woods Hole Historical Society Shop in the spring. This was a quest for the perfect yarn to make my daughter Molly’s shawl for Christmas. The sheep are certifiably happy and treated with respect; the yarn is a delicious cocoa color and should have great stitch definition. This stop was only the beginning.

Impossible to Pass Up

Impossible to Pass Up

Had to stop at Pie In The Sky and pretend that the rum-raisin bread pudding is a healthy snack. Needless to say, there’s always a new baked goodie that calls to me from this place. I remember when Molly would buy an entire fruit pie and devour it herself with fork and spoon in hand. Kate picked up the bike path at the boat dock behind the store and roller bladed home after Science School. This truly is a little hole in the wall place that never disappoints.

View from Pie In The Sky

View from Pie In The Sky

Out of this window the boat waits to go to the Vineyard, people scramble to find parking spaces and this area has a pulse all of its own.

There’s a line of small rose bushes that border the parking lot and always seem to be in bloom. Their blossoms are small and fragile. I’m not one to remember plant names, but they remind me of the floribunda roses my Dad used to love. Easy to grow and always a treat to look at.

Delicate roses by The Fishmonger

Delicate, Yet Hardy

Woods Hole is returning to its post-tourist pace. Amen! The scientists, artists and fisherman have the place to themselves.

On the water

On the water

We managed to get through the guarded gate at Penzance Point and continue our walk almost out to the point. These estates are manicured, pedicured and well-groomed. Yet, that fussy stuff doesn’t impress me. It’s the smaller, simple stuff that catches my eye.

Nature's garland

Nature’s garland

Looking down I found mushrooms with a pattern and texture that made me pay attention. I’d love to turn the photo into fabric for a quilt! That would indeed be mixed media.

Penzance Mushroom

Penzance Mushroom

Nearby, the gunk on this stone seemed to glow and was soft to the touch. No cement here, just balance and smart architecture.

Gold?

Gold?

These poor sculpted bushes did not impress me…

Prune, prune, prune.

Prune, prune, prune.

…but this single, late blooming hydrangea will stay in my head for quite awhile.

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Seeds and Tweeds

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Surf Drive

Surf Drive

Traffic around town has lightened up.

No one’s chair or blanket is within ear shot at the beach.

And our pizza, antipasto and wings from Stone L’Oven is delivered in less than 25 minutes.

Yes, Fall is coming to the Cape.

It’s cool enough to throw on a light sweater in the morning and wonderfully breezy enough to keep the windows open all day. It smells like “back to school” but I’m not going!

Like potato chips, but better

Like potato chips, but better

I love this time of year. It’s when I make my own agenda of what I want to “cover” this non-semester and where I want to spend my energy. Looks like I’ve got a larger than usual pile of books, project bags full of knitting, writing that’s waiting to be done, and an exercise program that I’m looking forward to making a habit. I am so tempted to buy a new notebook, pencil case, and book bag, but I know I don’t need any of that. I have a Staples warehouse in my basement and a resolution to not buy the unnecessary. These are the seeds for the new season.

Beach Plums Bike Path

Beach Plums Bike Path

Being a perpetual student excites me. Going to the library or on-line to find answers to big or little questions is good for my brain and my soul. After reading The Hare with Amber Eyes, I was curious to see what the art pieces looked like as well as learn more about the author, Edmund de Waal, and his family. Working on my own writing has me looking at what other writers have to say about writing. Brainpickings has been a rich resource about writing and all kinds of curiosities. I can learn as much or as little as I choose. I’m the barometer, the metronome, and the rubric.

Stone Mama

Stone Mama

I’ve been toying with Keri Smith’s book How to be an Explorer of the World. The basic premise is to sharpen your observation skills as well as your creative documentation of what is observed. I like the invitation to find patterns in my observations, and the problem solving that goes along with it. What I don’t like is Smith’s expectation that I “collect stuff” in generous quantities…i.e. pick up 30 items of interest on your daily, random walk today. The last thing(s) I need in my life is more stuff… so I’m going to have to re-create that part of the assignment or maybe not do it (the nuns are turning over in their graves). Slowing down to notice objects, actions, behavior, ideas, questions and possible answers is a worthwhile endeavor.

Hitchhiker Shawl

Hitchhiker Shawl

Taking more photographs is a way to capture a memory, a thought, a feeling without having clutter to contend with. I like that too. It’s amazing how having an iPhone has increased my opportunity to practice taking photos. It’s always handy. I can point and click. No trip to the drug store to get film developed; it is an open invitation to practice, practice, practice taking lots of shots.

This time of year reminds me of New Years; one parcel of time is winding up, the other winding down. But after a bit, I realized that Spring is a period of renewal for me, too. Guess these observations say more about me than I realized.

Blueberries in My Thrown Bowl

Blueberries in My Thrown Bowl

The Zen of Pointy Sticks

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What A Hoot Mittens

What A Hoot Mittens

My name is Diane, and I am a knitaholic. Yes, it’s true. Give me a set of needles, a skein of wooly goodness and I’ve got happiness. Why????

Another Way Scarf/Stole

Another Way Scarf/Stole

Good question, I’ve been wondering about this addictive craft/art form. There is magic in being able to create something out of what seems like nothing. Every knitted creation starts off the same way: string finagled around a stick. There are two stitches—just two—knit and purl. Everything else is a combination or machination of these two simple actions. That, in and of itself, is exciting and infectious. It’s the complexity and pattern generation that results from repeated application of a simple rule. My hubby is exploring the same idea, but applying it to the universe. I love the connections but stick to yarn. Knitting is a big, fun puzzle with infinite solutions.

Vignetto Shawl-- lace, lace, lace!

Vignetto Shawl– lace, lace, lace!

Then, there’s the Zen element. The needles gently tap each other and create a soft, soothing tick tick tick. The stitches interlock one at a time to what has already been created… and it grows like cells. A new design requires attention to detail, and I sometimes speak the pattern as I’m knitting it:  “Knit 3, Knit 2 together, Yarn Over, Knit 1.” After a short while, muscle memory often takes over, and I’m in the “zone”. Knitting is like being in a trance.

Colorwork Hat

Colorwork Hat

Another aspect of this work that causes addiction is borrowed from Woody Allen:  “I like the eggs.” I like the product as much as the process. Having yarny creations that are one of a kind, made by me is a gift to myself. Lacy shawls wrap around my shoulders and provide warmth and so much more. Handmade socks feel a zillion times better than commercial socks; they’re hugs for your feet. My latest adventure on this woolen trip is to knit a handmade sweater that actually fits—and looks fabulous. The challenge has been a bit intimidating, but serves as another way to push through my comfort zone to find more comfort.

Treats for the Feets

Treats for the Feets

Unlike my years in Catholic school, there are no mistakes in knitting. You always get “do-overs” and can undo what you don’t like. There’s no punishment, no guilt. You just get to undo the stitches and then stitch some more. I also make it a point to learn something new from each project: a new technique, different color play, something more complicated, or a remake with improvements. I just figured out how to make a warm mitten that has an opening for one finger to do texting. I’ll be publishing the pattern soon.

Sheep Texting Mittens

Sheep Texting Mittens

My usual menu of what’s on my needles includes a pair of socks, a shawl, a sweater, a hat, blanket, and something that will be a gift. I know—why so many?  Because I like them all and can’t do just one thing at a time. All of these projects sit delightfully in their bags on the living room floor next to my chair. It sometimes get out of hand, but who cares, it’s all part of creative chaos.

Hitchhiker Shawl in progress

Hitchhiker Shawl in progress

I’d love to write more, but I really have a yen to get back to my knitting.

Yep, that's me!

Yep, that’s me!

Keeping Pace with Lace

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      Lace One-Skein Wonders

101 Projects Celebrating the Possibilities of Lace

Lace One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant (Storey Publishing) is loaded to the brim with patterns that are elegant, interesting and infectious. I kept making note of which designs I wanted to knit and soon realized that it was more than 80% of this 300 page book. Projects include hats, socks, mittens, shawls, baby items, knitting for the home, and much more.

The degree of difficulty varies from beginner to experienced. Directions are clear and the layout is user friendly. With all of the lace patterns in my stash, you’d think I had enough… but this is a book that’s I’d go out and buy right now.  Unfortunately, its publication date is September 10, 2013, so I’ll have to wait a bit.

Timing is perfect to get a head start on holiday gift projects. This book is a welcomed addition to my knitting bag. I would recommend it even it it wasn’t limited to one skein projects. It’s a winner! I will knit my way through it, and post my progress here as well as on Ravelry.