The adventures of a knitting grandmother

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She spins, she knits, she blogs about it all.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Is the Desert Ever Green?

In springtime, though things are growing and blossoming with mad abandon in other parts of the country, the high desert of Southeast Arizona is still dry and brown, especially when very little rain has fallen in winter and early spring. The tall desert grasses of last summer are dry and crackling, and the dry mounds of tumbleweed that blew across the desert during the winter are impossible to navigate through. All in all, besides being a massive fire danger, the view is brown and drab and inhospitable.

But lo and behold, like a line drawn across the valley floor, a narrow ribbon lies.

Could that green line possibly be trees? Real, actual trees? As one hikes closer to that tantalizing line, yes, indeed, one finds the tall, massive cottonwood trees. And since the cottonwoods will only grow where there is water, we only need to look, and we find the waters of the San Pedro river, the only river left in Arizona that has been allowed to run freely on its original course, without any alteration by man.

The river and its quietly flowing water are the lifeblood of the desert. As we walk beneath the shade-giving cottonwoods, frogs leap into the depths at our approach. Many varieties of birds, not found elsewhere in the desert, chirp and sing as they flit from branch to branch or else stand at the river's edge searching for seeds or perhaps insects. They hardly move at our approach, so fearless they are.

In the course of our hike we cross the river several times. Sometimes there are logs to cross over on; sometimes our feet get wet in the cool stream. Minnows and water grasses wave in the current. There are few insects to bother us this early in the season, but lizards skittle through last fall's dry leaves. It is still, it is quiet. Few noises other than the birds and the wind in the branches can be heard. Above all, it is GREEN.

Welcome to Project Spectrum for May. Green...even in the desert.

Still Around and Kickin', Sorta

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, but it did feel like it, a bit. I've been grinning and bearing my way through a few days of the unhappy tummy stuff. Then there was Prom night last night, with all the attendant teenage angst, and the boyfriend-breakup thing angst with another one, all of which call on Mom to provide the ever ready shoulder. Then this morning there was the what-a-waste from Prom ranting, since after all the money spent (I see you all nodding out there), some prankster apparently called in a bomb threat to the building, forcing the authorities to send everyone out well before the event was scheduled to end. (Hope they catch the jerk.)

At any rate, I have still been keeping up on my Bloglines, although not having much inclination to comment -- totally my lack of energy, rather than from a lack of interesing posts on your parts. Not much knitting has been done either, since the tummy business was also complicated by work stress-issues. We have new personnel on board and I went in this week only to have everyone in turn pull me aside to bend my ear with all the little hissy issues -- he said this, she does this, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Really, folks -- small rant here -- grow up and resolve your own issues like the adults you are supposed to be.

Now it's Sunday morning, I feel better, it's a beautiful morning here, and we are going out in the fields to hike a bit. See you all later.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

So Whatcha Been Doin'?

Well, for one thing, I've been working on the Jaywalkers, round 2. I have gone up a needle size but haven't changed anything else. And it looks like they will fit this time -- knock on wood. The color sequence seems to be working better, as well. I am about 20 repeats into the leg.

I've decided that it's time to really knuckle down on the Simple Stripes Sweater. (Yes, Veronica, Grandma's finally going to finish your sweater.) I finished off the front and, rather than going straight to the sleeves, I joined the right front shoulders and am going to do the collar before I do anything else. The instructions don't tell you to do the collar until the sleeves are done and all the seams are sewn, but I don't want to do the collar in the round. I want to knit it while I can still stretch the piece out. And by the way, there are a few mistakes in the copy I printed out of the pattern. On the front piece, you leave 28 instead of 26 stitches on the holder for the front of the neck, and on the right shoulder shaping, the pattern should read "Row 1: K1, SSK, knit across" instead of SSP.

And since I haven't done so in a while, here's a sky picture for Sandy.

Many patterns are calling my name these days. I'm seeing a lot on the internet that is whispering my name and saying, Make me, make me. And yarn is thowing itself at me as well. Look, look, look, it says. I think there is going to be some serious yarn purchasing in the near future. Well, maybe not so serious. But not sock yarn. So far I am being a poster child for the SYAC. But I think that I will eventually be doomed on that as well. See, we will be doing some travelling the end of May-first half of June, and you know that sock yarn makes a great travel souvenir.

Finally, the garden is posing for April in Project Spectrum.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Knitter's Update

So I had to frog the Jaywalker sock. There was no way it was going to work. Had I been able to get it up over the ankle, surgery would have been required to remove it. So it's frogged and restarted with the Size 1 needles. But that's okay. I'm still enjoying the pattern and the yarn, and I have no intention of letting this kick my behind.

The Lacy Kerchief Scarf is just about half finished, and appropriately enough I'm about halfway through my 6 skeins of KnitPicks Shine. I'm still totally in love with this pattern and yarn as well, and I'm looking seriously at ordering more Shine in different colors. This pattern is definitely a repeater. The pattern can be found in IK Summer '05. To see another version of this scarf, check Kathy's blog here. This has been my March project for Project Spectrum.

Here is the Simple Stripes Sweater that has been set aside for a while. (It's a free KnitPicks pattern that is actually called the Last-Minute Stripes Sweater, but I've called it the Simple Stripes Sweater since I started it.) I wanted to save it for my April Project Spectrum knitting. So far, I haven't touched it this month, because the Scarf and the Sockapaloooza Socks have sucked up my time. Now the Jaywalker has me in its grip. I need to finish this soon, however, before the little recipient for this is too big for it. (And how many times do we hear that phrase in the blogosphere?)

The first rose has blossomed. From the looks of things, it will be followed by many more.

And Big Cat says, I like sitting in the open window now that it is so nice outside.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

No Guts, No Glory

First off, I want to thank "Anonymous", whose comment in my last post sent me off to a beautiful picture of a traditional Polish Easter basket. If you haven't gone to her link, please do -- it is EXACTLY what I was trying to describe. It did my heart good to see that basket. Somewhere the old traditions really are still alive!

In other news, I finally got some time off from work! I was only needed for two and a half hours Sunday morning, and then I wasn't needed for the staff meeting this morning. (Oh, how wonderful not to be needed!) So I had two mornings to sleep in and not to have to go anywhere work related. What bliss! So I did a bunch of yard work yesterday, and got the house cleaned this afternoon, after grocery shopping and a quick stop at the little mall where I got four pairs of shorts for summer and four pairs of shoes -- actually, three of them were sandals that will show off my future hand-knit socks to perfection! Then I spent time knitting in my favorite springtime spot -- the swing on the front porch.

I spent some time today working on the Jaywalkers. I really couldn't make up my mind if I wanted to do this pattern or not. I've read a bunch of blogs where it seems there are a lot of problems with the pattern being too tight. I thought about how I would do these and, knowing that I wanted to use my Size 0 needles, I decided to use the bigger pattern (casting on 84 stitches). I have done 20 patterns repeats on the leg and I think it will go over the ankle okay. If it doesn't, I will frog it all and still use the 84 stitch pattern, but go up to Size 1's. I really don't want to, though, because I don't think I will want these any looser. Definitely the smallest size would be too small! I think I will do at least 30 pattern repeats on the leg before I start the heel. I like the pattern, and I like the way the yarn looks in it. (No picture today, the camera has come up missing just now and I'm not going into that teenager's room to find it.) So I guess I'll just keep knitting and see what happens. After all, I could think myself to death wondering how to knit these, or I could just leap in and try. If I have to start over, c'est la vie, or as Margene would say, it's the process.

Admit it, even if frogging is in the future, it's still pretty darn nice to be sitting on the front porch knitting instead of sitting in a dull office at work.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Polish Easter

Many, many years ago, children, when I was a child myself, I was living in Detroit with my family and my mostly all-Polish extended family. When I was sixteen, I got my first job in the neighborhood's corner market, a combination Polish bakery and meat market. I worked in the bakery portion of the store. We sold rye and pumpernickle breads, doughnuts and all sorts of cakes and pastries. At Easter, and only at Easter, the bakery would make round loaves of rye and pumpernickle breads. Customers would be lined up out the door to buy them. And there were never enough. My mother was very happy that I was working there, because I could get the family's round loaves as soon as they came off the truck.

Nowadays we bake our own Easter bread, from a Slovak recipe coming from Joe's family. It is very sweet and rich with eggs, milk and butter. This year it was Michael's turn to bake it, and he did an excellent job of it.

The meat market side of the store sold lunchmeats, sausages, and other assorted items. At Easter, they sold butter lambs like this one, made of fresh butter with peppercorns for the eyes and nose. I would get a couple of those also for us. Nowadays, I have my own butter lamb mold and make one each Easter.

The meat market also would sell fresh Polish sausage, but we never bought that. My maternal grandparents made their own each year, filled with ground pork and garlic. Eventually Joe and I learned to make our own sausage, and still make it for Easter when time permits. (Alas, not this year.) Then we would color Easter Eggs, of course, and then would come one of the most memorable Easter moments. Every Saturday before Easter, all the Polish people in the neighborhood would take their Easter baskets to church to be blessed. The people would come to the church during the day and every fifteen minutes or so, the priest would come out and bless all the baskets that were there. My mother had a special basket just for the Easter blessing. She would pack in the round loaves of bread, the hard-boiled eggs, the fresh sausage, the butter lambs, the little jar of horseradish and even the little salt and pepper shakers -- all the foods that would be eaten on Easter morning. Then we would go to the church. We would sit in a pew and set the basket in the center aisle next to us. So many others would be there with their baskets, as well, and the amazing aroma of fresh garlic, sausage and horseradish would permeate the big church. To this day I can still recall the tantalizing smell.

I haven't been to a church that blesses Easter baskets for at least thirty years. Do any churches even do this anymore?

Since the Sockapaloooza socks are now finished, I needed to get going on some sock yarn out of the stash for the Sock Yarn Addict's Club. Since I have been knitting with purple already, and since the yard in back is loaded with purple iris, I couldn't resist the two hanks of KnitPicks Sock Memories in the Prairie Spring colorway. So I got out my Susan Bates Size 0's and cast on last night for -- look, Dipsy D! --


Friday, April 14, 2006

What Day Is It, Anyways?

Quite frankly, although I know it must be Friday, don't go by me. I've been working so much this week, and I'm so freakin' tired of it, and I really don't know what day it is. Some days I work my full 10 hour shift, and other days I work 6 or 7 hours; I have to keep my total under 60 hours for the week and it's going to be close. Just Saturday and Sunday to get through, and I finally get to have a day off! We are planning on going to Tucson for shopping purposes...Costco, Trader Joe's, and one of the yarn shops for me!! After all this work, I think I deserve a little yarn, no?

So it's been a busy week, and not just because of work. Monday was Maria's 20th birthday; no more teenager for this one! This picture was taken a couple years ago. Since she is away at school, we couldn't get together on the big day itself. Actually, we probably won't see her at all until Memorial weekend, by which time she will be halfway to her degree in Dental Hygiene.
Then Tuesday night, Annie was inducted into the National Honor Society. It was about time. She has applied many times, but for some reason was never accepted. I"m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that she never attended the meetings. And I'm sure that the fact that the meetings were held at 6:30 in the morning had nothing to do with why she didn't attend, either. What I am pretty sure of, though, is that it had something to do with the fact that she is going to graduate this May with a class ranking of #6 out of 586 students. Yay, Annie! Way to go!

Then, Wednesday night I finished the Sockapaloooza Socks. Yay for me! Thank you everyone who posted lovely comments about them. You all are so encouraging...or else you all decided to throw a party because I FINALLY finished them. ;-) I know I'm not the fastest knitter in blogland, but then I don't think most of you work the schedules I do, either. And, darn it all anyways, everyone else in the family still expects hot meals and clean clothes, to boot.

Well, even I in my sleep-deprived, what-day-is-it-and-who-cares attitude, know that today is Good Friday. And since I got off work at 12:30 (that's PM, not AM, although it felt like AM), I was able to go with the old man as he conducted Good Friday Stations of the Cross and the Communion Service - Celebration of the Lord's Passion. Roman Catholic technical terms. For those of you who may not have caught on to the fact, Joe is an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church, for almost three years now. He married our oldest son and his bride, and baptized their first child, our granddaughter. This afternoon he conducted the services at this beautiful shrine, Our Lady of the Sierras, in the mountains a short distance from our home.
He frequently conducts services here and has been doing the Good Friday service here for the last few years. Today was very cloudy and windy, but no rain fell on all the attendees. The service lasted a full two hours and was well attended by probably 60 to 70 people. The Stations of the Cross (sorry, no picture) are built up the side of the mountain and are a fairly strenous climb. Now tonight he is assisting with the same services at our parish church. He will be extremely busy the next couple of days, as well, with all the Easter services. It probably doesn't matter that I'm working both days this weekend, since he isn't going to be home much, either.

The shrine has a fantastic view looking across the valleys and mountains of the lower border of Arizona. Here you are actually looking into Mexico; the mountains there are in Mexico itself. It's a bit greener now than in this picture, but not by much, since we have had so little rain.

Joe and I wish you all a Happy and Blessed Easter.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Purple Sockapaloooza Socks

The Purple Sockapalooza Socks
Yarn: KnitPicks Andean Treasure in Lilac, about 300 yards
Needles: Susan Bates US 2's, 4 DPNs
Pattern: Openwork Rib from Sensational Knitted Socks, with an extra row of K2P2 in each pattern repeat

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Good Afternoon

I got off work early today. Lucky, lucky me!! This afternoon is just gorgeous and a person can hardly stay inside with the sun so bright outside!

So I got to do one of my favorite things. Wash the sheets and hang them outside to dry in the breeze. They dry so fast and smell so wonderful once they are brought back in. All the time I have lived in Arizona, I have hung sheets and clothes outside, just for the crisp way they feel and the good outdoors smell that they get.

Does anyone else feel the same way about this that I do?

The raised bed on the right is starting to sprout marigolds, lemon balm, oregano, and possibly some parsley.

Here is a picture of the backyard as it looks now, still kind of sparse but starting to really get going.

Some of these flowers are considered weeds out here, but who cares? They loook pretty good to me!

This last photo is of the backyard looking south from the patio. You can see the mountains over the top of the shed. It looks much better in person.

Not much knitting has been done with the work schedule what it is. Any time I have is spent on the Sockapaloooza Socks. My conscience will be clear once they are done!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I'm Tired

Or at least I will be soon. One of my coworkers took this coming week off because of a sudden emergency, so I am working her shifts as well as mine. What it means is that my next day off is the Monday after Easter at the earliest. What it also means is that I'm scheduled to work over 22 hours between today and tomorrow. Yes, it sucks. (But the check will be nice.) And maybe there will be some knitting breaks.

Not much sock progress. Things have been busy the last couple days. Plus I spent some time reading the Harlot's new book. I think her explanation of the mechanics of sock construction is brilliant -- who needs a pattern, anyhow, if you understand how the basic thing works? But I still managed to turn the heel and get going on the instep. One advantage I found to this pattern is that I don't have to measure, I just count pattern repeats to make the identical second sock. Much simpler. Plus I waste too much time hunting for my little six inch ruler. It's very accomplished at getting lost in the knitting bag.

Hopefully when I get back to the blog again, I will have some good sock progress to post.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I'm Ticked

I had a whole post written and then Blogger chose to lose it on me. Maybe it will reappear someday out of the cyber-black hole, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thanks to everyone who posted compliments on the hat family. I've memorized the pattern by now and it will be good to use for airplane knitting, appointment waiting, etc. Plus it wouldn't hurt to have a few hats on hand for the next charity KAL.

There was a good amount of downtime today and the purple Sockapaloooza sock is flying along. I'm in the heel flap tonight. It's too bad this isn't purple month for Project Spectrum, because there's plenty of purple out in the garden. The irises are so intense,they put the purple sock to shame.

Hope your spring is good and purple so far!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

40 Days Update

I finished my third hat for 40 Days For Others on Sunday. All three were made with the same basic pattern (see March 9 post), but each was made a different size. So I have a Poppa hat, a Momma hat, and a Baby hat. (Yes, Poppa and Baby are bears, but Momma is a buffalo. Let's not discuss the biological ramifications of that, okay?) Baby's hat had 72 stitches cast on, Momma's had 90 cast on, and Poppa's had 114. Baby had about 45 rows knit before the top decreases, and Momma's and Poppa's had 55.

I cast on this afternoon for the second purple sock for Sockapaloooza. I would hate to get caught finishing up late! I had some thoughts about finishing the Lace Kerchief Scarf in time for Easter, but I think it would be asking too much. As far as Project Spectrum goes, I set aside the Simple Stripes sweater to finish this month, since it is mostly yellow and orange, two colors that I don't have anywhere else. I have lots of yellow and orange in the garden, but not in the house, and not in the knitting.

One of these days I need to do some serious sidebar updating. I'm reading more blogs these days -- there's so many interesting and inspiring ones out there! It would be easy to spend a couple hours a day sitting in front of the computer.

We might get some rain here -- sure hope so. My fruit trees are getting ready to bloom. Spring seems to be spreading throughout blogland. I do enjoy looking at everyone's garden pictures. Keep posting!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

SYAC Part 2