Saturday, January 31, 2015

THAT Craft Show Kid...

To say that I grew up in a Renaissance Family might be an understatement. My father is an artist with many interests: 

Wood carving

Landscape Painting in oils

Instrument Building

My mother has equally diverse and amazing gifts in the crafting department:

Sewing and quilting (more on quilting in a later post)

Straw Art. 

Yes, those ornaments are made out of STRAW that was soaked, split, and ironed flat before being divided into strips, woven together and then clipped with scissors at the ends. She also made greeting cards with differently shaped flat pieces that were glued onto paper, and decorated colored eggs with straw. Amazingly tedious, yet beautiful.

We often hit the road with our parents to help them display their wares at various craft, wood carving, and art shows. A hands down favorite destination was the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival. As you may guess, it was quite the German affair, replete with the afore mentioned bratwurst, beer, and plenty of people wearing Drindlkleider and Lederhosen. If you were part of the craft show, German dress was required. In spite of the fact that I had a great dirndl that I wore for several years, no pictures of me in it have been unearthed. Too bad; I looked pretty cute in it with my long braids that won the pigtail contest one year!

The amazing thing about this particular craft show was that each crafter had a hand-picked unique talent, and no two tables had the same items for sale. In addition, it was required that the crafters actually practice and demonstrate their craft for the visitors. There were lots of people who asked questions and were invited to try alongside the experts. This was a smart practice, because many visitors were then inspired to purchase something afterwards. My brothers and I were all over this, and we learned a lot of cool crafts from the others over the course of the years that we attended. I have fond memories of weaving baskets (basket still around somewhere, but lost in a box), rug hooking, doll house furniture making, rug weaving, intarsia wood pictures (one of my brothers excelled at this), wood carving, lace making, etc. But my absolute favorite was Mrs. Straw and her spinning wheel, drop spindle, and hand cards. Our families probably made a quick connection thanks to the fact that my mother demonstrated the Straw Art.
1986! What were you doing when I bought these goodies?
Nor will you find hand cards at this price point today!
I was so obsessed with wool work that I insisted that some of my birthday money from one of my aunts go toward hand cards and roving. I think the spindle was a gift the previous Christmas. Most of the roving was spun up pretty quickly. 

I started knitting a sweater, of Mrs. Straw's description. She knit four pieces for the front and then one piece for the back, sewing everything together with blanket stitch. I experimented with knit and purl stitches, but soon realized that my spinning was pretty poor (look how thin the yarn is in spots) and that the gauge was way off. 

Thus it languished many years, except when I would knit a few rows on the back piece with the remaining yarn.

A few years ago it occurred to me that all these pieces could simply be sewn together and used as a narrow lap blanket. Sometimes it takes me a while to follow through. This November it was so bitter cold that I made a move and started sewing. Even before it was completed last weekend, the blanket was in use on my lap while driving in my car. What a comfort!

Covering up with this blanket is like the whole sheep is taking a nap in your lap: delightfully toasty!
Oh yea, my mother also knit those amazing socks sticking out at the end of the blanket. My parents have many more hobbies that were not mentioned in this post... No wonder I have no free time! I'm exactly like them!
So, get out those 28-and-a-half year old projects and finish up. Even a tenuous youthful attempt is sometimes worth a grand finale!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Spin & Knit 2015: A Resolution

Happy New Year!

I gave up New Year's resolutions a decade or two ago, but I thought I would give this year another try. My title sounds pretty misleading, since I do have one of these spinning beauties, but I'm afraid that I need to spend some time on the (recumbent) stationary bike instead. Must keep in shape for upcoming hiking adventures after all, and knitting seemed like it would be a good pairing with all that peddling. So my goal is to ride and knit 30 minutes on any day that I don't visit the gym or don't have evening orchestra rehearsal.

Looking into the Black Mountain Range at sunset. (Peru)
I gave it a whirl this evening. (See what I did there?! OK, go ahead and groan...) Instead of knitting, I ended up talking on the phone and then writing an email on my phone. So we'll have to see if there will be any additional knit items to blog about. Ready for finishing are a sweater, a hat, a crafty blanket I started as a pre-teen, a jacket, and some fingerless mitts.

I'll keep you posted, but don't hold your breath...

May 2015 be an enjoyable one for you!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Pig in a Tree

When I was a child (and well into adulthood), my father would always hang a cute little piglet ornament on our Christmas tree. I think it was from his childhood, or maybe a silly gift from my grandmother at some point. This year it did not make it to the tree, even though there was a lot of begging for it. 

Pigs in a wood.
Later, in graduate school in Boulder, CO, one of my brothers and I found a big bin of similarly sized pigs in the toy store on the Pearl Street Mall. We bought a whole bunch and then "pig-bombed" the next Christmas tree, to the delight of my father and ourselves. (No one but my dad was allowed to decorate the tree. To this day I have not decorated a Christmas tree). 

Truffle hunting.

Helping St. Nicholas
The truffle hunt continues...
After knitting all the acorns for Thanksgiving, I realized that it wasn't just a squirrel that would enjoy eating acorns. Where does jamon iberico de bellota come from, after all? 

 And I knew just the recipient who would enjoy a knit pig for his Christmas tree...

I used this pattern to knit three pigs. The first one was an immediate part of our family, complete with find the pig contests, and stress when it was not immediately locate-able... It is currently our road trip mascot in our car.

The second one did get sent off to my brother with a load of acorns for his tree. I hope his wife is not too tired of pigs. The rehearsal dinner of 2009 kind of stocked the place up with the critters!

The third pig got unleashed on my mother-in-law on Christmas night, because she was also immediately smitten with the little guy. However, for fun, we hid it (in a pretty obvious place) and are just waiting for some squeals of discovery... I wonder how long it will take... Tick-tock... It's been 4 days already...

ETA: My mother-in-law found the pig in her purse on January 30th in the early afternoon! We were ready to stage an intervention before long!

Monday, December 15, 2014


I needed a little project to distract myself with. An intense bout of tendinitis left me without the pleasure of playing the viola, knitting, or doing any sort of heavy gardening this Fall. Small decorative items seem to keep with the theme of this past knitting year, so acorns for the Thanksgiving celebration it was. Short bursts of knitting to get me back in shape, or at least not re-injure the healing.
I started with some fresh-cut bare branches in a copper vase.
Scatter the remaining acorns around the bottom.
In the end I felt like the little tree was a bit bare, so I hung them all up.
Just like eating potato chips, you need to keep eating another.
 I kept needing to make another until there were nine. fill all those bare branches...
Fallen harvest.
After Thanksgiving I added some Christmas cheer to the tableau.
I never did blog about the korknisse, the yellow one of which is hanging near the front.
And last year's Yarn Forest gets set up in different configurations every few days.
And who eats all those acorns? Squirrel, of course!
But someone else was a lot less distracted by a squirrel than me, looking away from that fine jump.
A closer look? Whoa!!! (Can you see him above too? Squirrel must not be dinner.)
I watched this amazing animal for about an hour yesterday.

Bird watching! Besides the three cardinals in the photo, there were a dozen juncos,
a few blue jays, and a few female cardinals as well. 
My friend finally flew away when some visitors in a car pulled up and were parking.
What a hoot!

For some fun squirrel videos click here and here! (Warning: cartoons!)

Linking up with Ginny today!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Two Minute Mommy Spa

For some reason I got obsessed knitting cotton washcloths last summer. Mostly I used a bee stitch pattern, but I tried a few dragonflies as well. 

 As the number of washcloths grew, I started to wonder what to do with my growing collection.

It was about then that one of my local friends expecting her first baby invited me to her baby shower. So I made up this cute basket and included some hand crafted soap, just for her.

 I included silly directions:
...but forgot to write them down so I could remember to share them. In short, this gift was "just for mom," but I predicted that she would soon be using the washcloths and soap to cleanse her new son as well. You can already tell she will be that extra-devoted mother!

Joining with Ginny's yarn along today, but sadly no book to share!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hair Harvest

I finally got around to cutting my hair at the end of August and was surprised to find another foot-length ready to be donated. So much for being retired!
The title of this post is inspired by a former student's family I reconnected with this Fall. When I taught middle school, I donated hair every two years and challenged all the students to do something similar as a volunteer project. It turns out one student took my example to heart and has donated her thick red hair on a similar two-year cycle. In her family circle they call it the "Hair Harvest!" I love it! My hair is already growing like crazy again in anticipation of the next big chop!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Peru 5: Final Thoughts

Going through my pictures again, I felt like taking one last abbreviated trip before I stop blogging about Peru and move on to the many other posts that are on the back burner. 
The Wilcahuain Ruin near Huaraz is a burial site. There are two sites a short distance apart.
There are many small alcoves inside to facilitate meditation and a place to leave offerings. 

One of the pottery artifacts in the small museum at the ruins.

Agriculture on a hillside. I love the patchwork feel of the fields.

Lupine grows wild and is also cultivated in Peru. The cultivated seeds are about the size of Lima beans and are toxic! So after the harvest, the beans are boiled all day long, then put into a burlap sack and placed in the river for two weeks. The river water washes the toxins away. Afterwards, a traditional salad is made with the beans.

Temple ruins at Chavin. This complex was inhabited by elite priests who practiced their spiritual crafts. Chavin is thought to be the "mother culture" of Peru, and pre-dates the Inca by quite a few centuries.

Typical stone masonry of the period and culture.

One of the most interesting things about this site are these acoustic canals. The people who designed the site moved the nearby river so it would flow underground canals. The holes in the ground amplify the rushing sound, which in turn enhanced the spiritual component of the rituals.

No ritual is complete without a mind-altering drink. The priests imbibed in some sort of concoction made with this cactus that was growing on the premises.

On the solstice, the priests would drink the cactus beverage, meditate in complete darkness, and at sunrise approach this carved stone stele which the light would only hit and light up on that one morning. Even without a drink, meditation, or the auditory enhancements provided by acoustic canals, I felt a magnetic force pulling me in toward this carving. There are things on this planet that defy logic, and I felt that here.

Carvings of different important totems. I believe this is supposed to represent a jaguar, which corresponds to an important constellation and the altar in front of the temple.

I wish I had more pictures of the market and all the ladies in their traditional dress. They don't like their picture taken and I was the only non-Native person present, so I just snuck a few pictures in the animal section. Those guinea pigs are ready "for the restaurant" and housed in a mesh bag. 

Galcier-fed lake surrounded by arboreo del papel, or paper tree.

Our pack animals coming up a mountain trail.

Re-adjusting the packs on the animals before going downhill again.

We found these butterflies half frozen on a very cold morning. They still moved a little and were just waiting for the sun to come up so they could fly again.

During this trip we had to hike over nine passes.  The next few pictures commemorate some these passes.


15,600 feet - the highest I have stood on this Earth thus far.

At 14,500 feet, it is always surprising to find fossils!

One of the unique traits of this trip was experiencing the immense empty valleys. Well, almost empty. Farmers leave their animals here in the dry season and their poop is all over the place.

Another magnificent valley.

When you think Peru, you often think Inca, and terraces. The Inca were not as active in this mid- to northern part of Peru, and thus these terraces were the only we got to see. They were not impressive, but nonetheless interesting to see them carved into a hillside.

Coming up to the Santa Cruz mountains. 

The Santa Cruz chain of mountains were the ones I found most beautiful.  The 45 minutes we spent resting with this viewpoint was one of my favorite memories of the trip.

As mentioned before, there were lots of animals that we encountered.  This cow followed us for about a mile.

There was a canal system that brought some of the lake water down to the villages. 

The quinoa harvest!

Saying good-bye to our donkeys at the end of the trek.

Peruvian National Flower: Cantuta
Adios Peru! I miss it and think about it daily. I can't wait for the next trip. So much for one just one "trip of a life-time!" I'm starting a new savings plan...