Friday, June 22, 2007

Why I should still be on vacation

I know it was only a long weekend. I know I blogged about it already. But I miss it. You'll just have to bear with me as I detail why.

I have no kitchen window in my apartment. One of the reasons I like to wash dishes is because I can look out the window and my hands will automatically do the work. It's a free moment for my brain to go where it needs to. The breeze blows in and carries the scent of whatever might be out there -water, wild roses, that dark piney smell I love. I've come to associate the feel of a dishtowel and soapy water with vacation because it's the only time I have the luxury of a window.

I like to wander around a quiet, half-awake house with a cup of coffee in my hands, absent mindedly dragging my book along too... whether I read it or not depends on the company, the quiet and how awake I am. Bare feet on cool morning floors at a vacation house - one of my favorite things.

Playing hard befriends good sleep. Dropping into bed without losing the feeling of being surrounded by water, my skin feels sand-scoured and sun-bleached like line dried laundry. The whole house is silent in a very peaceful way as everyone falls back into their bodies, heavy with sleep.

Eating around one big table together. "Please pass the..." punctuated by laughter and sibling teasing. The pauses where mouths are so full of good food that no one speaks for a moment or two.

This will sound like a lecture on yankee work ethic, but I was raised to earn my relaxation - so going to camp or "upta maine" meant that work was expected, should be sought out. Stacking wood, clearing brush, painting walls, sweeping floors... some kind of domestic labor has always helped me settle in and so relax even more. I don't know what to call it - vacation nesting? Something like that.

Being at home for these things (dishes, chores, morning, bedtime) is different. Chores and movement are all routine and too familiar. I don't notice doing them in quite the same way, overwhelmed by my day, or my environment. Vacation is a chance to step outside of that. I'm lucky to have homey places to retreat to where the familiar becomes invigorating, and even luckier to have friends and family to be with in these places who feel the same way.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

And So The Summer of Socks Begins...

Today is the first official day of the Summer of Socks 2007. I know that my non-knitting readers aren't going to be very impressed, but I'm looking forward to it. It runs for the next three months, and I'm going to try to actually make pairs of socks, not just singles. Having a short attention span means that I don't get a lot of complete sets finished. Maybe this sock-a-long will change that, since there are contests and prizes involved. What this means for you is that I will be posting pictures of my progress and all the little details that can only matter to a sock knitter. I cast on a toe-up sock this morning with Knit Picks Dancing sock yarn. I'm not wild about my colorway, but I wanted to try a cotton blend yarn for a change. If it doesn't look decent after I get a little way in to it, I'm going to use the Panda Wool I got on my visit to Burlington. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Long weekend

I'm back today after three days "on the Cape" with family and friends. We planned a work weekend to transition a grandparental cottage into a more family friendly abode. Other plans snuck their way in of course, as should happen when it comes to a long weekend near water.

We painted the living room. Fresh white walls make you realize it's time to wash the windows. We unearthed 50 or more bars of soap (hidden in the bathroom for some anticipated post-depression soap shortage) and many other hoarded treasures, we dusted, we dust-binned things, we stood back and surveyed our work.

I played on the beach, I collected too many rocks. I stared at water a lot. I lay belly down with my nose at the bow of the boat the whole way out to open ocean and back, absorbing as much salty wind and sunshine as I could. We made a sand castle and caught fish for the moat, just to watch it all disappear under water. Yesterday, I was able to lie on my back in the bay, and rock in the swells as the tide came in. Lovely. I've decided to be a sea otter when I grow up.

Wildlife abounded - a flicker yelled from the old TV antenna on the cottage, we freed a fat and greedy chipmunk from the bird feeder, and saw a huge pod of seals from the boat. Horseshoe crabs suffered the indignity of being picked up and ogled, hermit crabs tickled their way across our palms.

A home cooked lobster dinner was the capstone to our work and play, followed by a walk down to the bay to see a gold and pink streaked sunset at low tide.

After two days of beach time and an entire afternoon on a boat, I still haven't adjusted to solid ground. I almost hope I don't. Three days seemed like more after being cradled by water with the wind in my face. Much like I remember my childhood summers, with days that stretched out long enough to fit everything, and being deliciously tired when I hit the pillow.

P.S. Disaster averted by Alex who caught me fishing my bagel out of the toaster with a butter knife over the weekend. He asked me if I remembered the game "Operation". I did, and I also remembered being quite bad at it. I let him wrangle my bagel. Alex will make a good Dad - he was very calm, so as not to startle me and initiate electrical mayhem. We unearthed wooden toast tongs in the sugar jar (part of the secret code storage system devised by grandparents), and those sit quietly next to the toaster now - a reminder that I might not be as coordinated (or as lucky) as I hope I am when I pull something like that.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Everyone Say "Hi, Kathie..."

Today I'd like to introduce you all to my good friend Kathie. She has recently decided to become one of us. Yes, she has decided to be a blogger.

Please stop by to visit her and say hi. I think you will find someone who is intelligent and witty, and I'm sure you will like her just as much as I do. I'm not sure what she's going to blog about, and really, she probably doesn't either. I would like her to give me a little explanation about her choice of blog title, though.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Portsmouth VS. Burlington

I don't usually pay much attention to the newspaper (sorry, Alex, but its true), but this mornings Portsmouth Herald headline caught my eye. GRANITE VS. GREEN MOUNTAIN. Apparently there is a "friendly" competition going on between Portsmouth and Burlington for tourism supremacy. Very interesting...we have the ocean, you have a lake. If you take a look here you can find more information from the Burlington side of things, or here for the Portsmouth side. I say Portsmouth, but I'm a little biased.

Friday, June 08, 2007

More PIE please

My new PIE cookbook, which I've posted about, still has not left my living room, where it resides as deliciously fascinating reading material. This has got to be the summer of pie... not only did I get to have Heather's key lime (with the best crumb crust I've ever had), but I bought that cookbook, read a history book on the American kitchen, and just saw a pie oriented movie.

I've been reading
Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America. If you grocery shop, if you have ever eaten home cooking, been a home cook, hate to cook, regularly visit a grocery store, or ever watched Julia Child on television, you'll want to read bits of this book out loud to everyone around you. Okay, I wanted to, maybe you're more polite than that. For example, lima bean sticks. Gross yes, but intriguing right? The author's style is amazingly readable and conversational, taking you directly into America's kitchens - often on the back of the food marketing industry or cooking personalities. You get a sense of the women themselves in their earnest and direct letters to magazines and newspapers. It will change the way you see food marketing (for a whole week, I felt like the products in the grocery store needed to just pipe down). It may give you hope in this nation of fast food. It will cause you to fondly recall the remnants of a 50's kitchen as they existed (or exist) in your own life. I was heartened to read that cakes and pies at the time fell under the realm of personal touch, not appropriate for box mix conversion. I am not a cake baker, but the thump of a rolling pin on a wooden board soothes my soul, and a pie never fails to impress (even if you bought the crust!).

No sooner did I finish this book, than a coworker recommended the movie Waitress. It is not a cute little movie - it's a damn good story instead, with just the right sweet and tart sentiments. The pies are wild, the characters are sometimes wilder, and none of it is predictable in the usual sugary way of romances. The women are strong and independent, life is unfair, and being a baking whiz in the kitchen does not mean you are the mother of all mankind. Just a great movie - two days later, I'm still playing it over in my head.

While we were at the movie, Alex call and left a message that was along the lines of "come and get the rhubarb from my garden right now!". And rhubarb really only has two uses - mixed w/ sweeter fruit for a pie, or blended into sauce to pour over vanilla ice cream.

Mmm, summer of pie...

Jennifer Rocks...(and the knitting isn't half bad either)

So, M has a friend from his college days that he's still in touch with, Jennifer. Now, I've never met Jennifer, since she lives in New York, but she recently did something nice for me. She has access to some books. Lots of books, apparently. Knitting books, to be specific. So, I came home one day recently to find that she had sent me some books! Four wonderful knitting books that I had been eyeing in the book store, but wasn't sure if I should buy them. I've spent the past few weeks browsing through them, thinking of all the nice things I could knit if I just had the time. I decided the other day to put the sock knitting on hold for a bit, since I'm waiting for the Summer of Socks KAL to start on the 21st, and I want the socks I have planned to count towards that. I went back to one of the books to look for a quick project and I found this:

It's a neckwarmer. I'm going to give it to my mom, since she's always about ten degrees colder than the rest of the world. It's made from a super soft blend of wool, cashmere and micro-fiber, and my lovely and talented assistant Trish, shown here modeling it, assures me that it is not itchy at all.

The whole thing only took about and hour and a half. This book may have solved my yearly dilemma about quick knitted Christmas gifts. I have a small mountain of this yarn that I bought a few years ago with the intention of knitting a sweater. I recently realized that I have enough of this yarn to make at least two sweaters. Every one I know may end up with one of these this year. So, thanks, Jennifer! That was a really nice thing.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Benny Nolan

Benny died this weekend. He was more than just a friend of the family, he was family. He and my father knew each other in high school, and Benny married my Aunt Karen’s friend Mary. Benny and Mary moved from New York to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1968. After my parents got married, they moved out there and shared an apartment with them. I was born in Vancouver, so Benny and Mary were the first people I ever knew, other than my parents. He had cancer for the last few years, but in the end, that wasn’t what killed him. They think that he had a pulmonary embolism, so in time we’ll probably be glad that he didn’t have to die from his cancer. Maybe later.

Benny and Mary stayed on in Vancouver, so we didn’t see much of them unless they came back to visit their families. They would often come to stay with us when they were back in the States. They seemed slightly exotic to me, coming from another country. Benny is the person who really gave me my “Canadian-ness”. He may have lived in Canada, but I was born there, and that was special. He said that made me more Canadian than he was. I remember that he gave me a little Canadian flag when I was probably in the third or fourth grade. He knew that I didn’t have one, and felt I needed one, because that was my country after all, and I should be proud of it. It was important to him, so it became important to me. It made me different. It made me special. What child doesn’t want something that makes them different and special? Every so often, I would get some little thing from them that was from Canada. Sometimes things with the red Maple Leaf symbol. After I got a little older, I discovered ice hockey, which really pleased Benny. I started getting things with the Vancouver Canucks logo, because of course you’re going to follow the team from where you were born. Whenever I did see him, we would talk a little hockey and commiserate on the state of our favorite teams and the NHL in general. He said that he had seen one of those huge Canadian flags outside of a fast food restaurant, and he said he wanted to get it for me. I think his intention was to take that particular one without permission, but I won’t say for sure. He thought I could use it as a bedspread, but in reality, it probably would have covered our house, not just my bed. In the end, it’s probably better that he didn’t “get” one of those flags. I rarely look at a Canadian flag without thinking of him. I never watch the Vancouver Canucks play without thinking of him.

I got the chance to visit with them earlier this spring, when they came out to visit my parents, and I’m very glad that I had that opportunity. We knew he was sick, but he was still himself, and seemed pretty good. I was glad that they got the chance to meet Mark, and even though it was brief, I’m glad Mark got to meet them too. Benny and I were standing next to each other after lunch, and he nodded over at Mark and said to me “You’ll keep this one, eh?” The fact that Benny liked him meant a great deal to me. When we had to say goodbye, it was just like any other time, with us saying we’d continue our talk about hockey the next time we saw each other. I said I would try to come out to visit someday, like I always said. It wasn’t a sad goodbye, and I’m glad for that.

I can’t claim to know him in the same way that my parents did, but I still felt he was my family. He was at least a little bit responsible for the person I am today. I can understand what my Dad meant when he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to be part of a world that didn’t have Benny in it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Cross Hatch Lace Socks

I finished the first sock in the cross hatch lace pattern, from Charlene Schurch's More Sensational Knitted Socks book. This book may be the best book ever for sock knitters, because the options are limitless. You can choose any pattern, toe up or cuff down, use double pointed needles (bad) or circulars (good), use any type of heel you like, and any type of toe you like. This was my first attempt at knitting socks toe up, and except for the provisional cast on, I liked it very much. My provisional cast on was really anything but provisional, even though I thought I was following the directions. I used a short-row heel for the first time as well, and it turned out much better than I thought it would. I really liked the pattern, and found it very easy to remember while it knits up a really stunning pattern. Pretty enough that M thought it was nice, and having seen so many socks, he can be hard to impress.

Godzilla liked them too.

He liked them so much, that he took them.

Friday, June 01, 2007

What I Did On My Spring Vacation

Along with doing many fine and fun things last week, I also took care of some stash-keeping issues. If you ask me, I really don't think I have too much yarn, but I do like to have it all where I can see it. How else will I know what I should use next? Free range yarn is happy yarn, right? M doesn't seem to think that keeping the sock yarn out on the couch (couch, floor, coffee table, bookcase...) can be considered "storage", so I went and got myself a couple of these things...drawers on wheels. Brilliant!

This one holds the sock yarn stash. I'm going to need a second one for the sock yarn since this one is already filled to capacity and the skeins tell me they are feeling a little cramped.

In fact, here's some of that sock yarn. See the blue and purple one up in the corner? That's from my trip to Burlington.

I spent some time working on the sock yarn blanket that I totally stole from
Shelly Kang. I started it by telling myself that it would be a great way to use up leftover sock yarn. Really, what it has done is get me to buy more sock yarn, because I don't have enough leftovers. Hey, I need that yarn. Stop looking at me like that.

This is what the Insufferable Horror did on vacation last week. Secure in the knowledge that someone was home to keep him fed. Isn't there some quotation about sleeping the sleep of the just? This completely blows that theory out of the water.