Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas with Bing and Rosemary

This year my Christmas season has had very little spirit. I've always loved the holiday, and considered it my favorite. I love Nativity scenes and baking cookies. I love advent calendars. I love to wrap packages and decorate the tree. But I don't love the family drama. My kids keep telling me that everyone has dysfunction, but it is very hard to believe that when it feels like you're on the outside looking in. Everywhere there are families shopping together, getting on airplanes, piling into cars. Everyone at the grocery store is buying the makings for goodies and planning meals with family. Everyone is on a cell phone making plans. Everyone seems conspiratorial and full of giggling secrets. The radio is filled with touching Christmas miracle stories and people calling in with their holiday traditions.

I sit at home and watch Christmas movies about perfect holidays, love, and laughter and wonder what is that like? I don't remember. These days I identify more with Riggs than Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon. My attitude is more like Bud White in L.A. Confidential, and my heart feels more like Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping. My life has more in common with a sound stage full of fake buildings covered in soap flake snow than it does with all the people swept into the arms of loved ones in Love Actually.

It easier to watch Danny Kaye dance along a boardwalk beneath a false Florida sunset, or Bing Crosby sing White Christmas amidst the cardboard buildings on an imaginary war front in Europe than it is to deal with the mine field that is my life. I want to twirl around in a frothy dress and imagine that the best things really do happen when your dancing, or sing about love gone wrong on a supper club stage dressed in a black dress that outlines my curves. Everything always works out. Everyone finds their true love and the future is rosie with perfection as the camera pulls back and we leave our substitute family. The darkness closes in until all that is left is that paned window aglow with firelight and we get a final glimpse of the lovers embracing, dancing, opening gifts, or walking hand in hand up the stairs and out of sight. Its the Christmas movie equivalent of cowboys riding off into the sunset.

But for those detractors who tell me that I spend too much time living a life of fantasy. (I say if it wasn't for fantasy I wouldn't be able to survive my real life), I counter with the statement that films really can answer the big questions, solve problems and give comfort. If The Godfather is the Iching, the answer to any question (at least for men), then maybe Bing Crosby is the Iching of Christmas. He provides me with the warmth of childhood memories and the fatherly advice that I am so longing for as his voice soothes Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas.

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings

If your feeling alone this Christmas, or dragged down by financial worries, marital strife, troubled children or grief. If its taking every bit of your strength just to get out of bed in the morning. If your feeling more like you've been scrooged than blessed. Go watch Emmit Otters Jugband Christmas or Little Women. Go visit Father O'Malley in the Bells of St Mary, or Going My Way. Go spend Christmas with Bing and Rosemary.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lost in the in-between

Early December and the temperatures have dropped below zero. The cold is coming in, creeping on soft cat feet across the floor and under my nightgown. I can feel the icy folds of it laying about my shoulders. Its too early for such cold as this. Only 22 more sleeps till Christmas and I haven't even pulled out the tree.

I have entered a phase of deep ambivalence in my life. The world is going on around me and I'm floating somewhere over a vast sky of stars trying not to be afraid, trying not to worry. Trying to relax, let life move on and take me with it where it will. Like the ebb and flow of the tides, I am at the mercy of the moon.

What is this place?
I wake up, I go through the motions of the day. I feed the dogs, I cook the meals, I do the laundry. I knit. I pray. I wish fervently that my mother were here. I kick myself for not listening more, not asking more questions. Not preparing myself for a life without her, when I would be the aging woman. We've traded places she and I. I look in the mirror and I hate the face there. The lines that pull my mouth down to an ugly line. What does Mike call me? Hang dog? The frown wrinkles deeply embedded between my brows. I look down and see my mother's hands, the hands of a middle aged woman and I weep.

What if I remain in this in-between like the poor girl in The Lovely Bones, unable to move on, unable to let go. What if I wake like Rip Van Winkle, ten or fifteen or twenty years in the future and I have no idea how I got there or what happened in those intervening years?

Where did I go?
I buy cookbooks in an attempt to inspire me to cook. Fabric to inspire me to sew. Books and magazines to inspire me to read, travel, craft. I tear out pictures, recipes, patterns. Bags of wool sit waiting to be spun. Sick of looking at the wheel I have moved it out of sight. Nothing works. Only the knitting is still there and even it has slowed to a snail's pace. It is my anchor to the earth, that line of wool as I float here uncaring, just moving my hands.

Mrs Moon
sitting up in the sky
little old lady
with a ball of fading light
and silvery needles
knitting the night

-Roger McGough

*Roger McGough is a well known English performance poet, born in Litherland in the north of Liverpool. Much travelled and translated, his poetry has gained increasing popularity, especially from its widespread use in schools. A prolific writer, he is twice winner of the Signal Award for best children's poetry book and recipient of the Cholmondeley Award. McGough is an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University and an Honorary Professor at Thames Valley University. He has an MA from the University of Northampton.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Time left yet to play

Summer is fleeing without really having stopped here in Colorado long. She seems to have had other things on her mind this year, like me. She's on the run now, Autumn chasing her across the days. The prairie grass heads have turned brown and crisp like ripened wheat. The wild roses have lost their blooms. The thistles have finished and been replaced with black-eyed Susan's. Autumn is waiting just over my shoulder. I can smell her in the crispness of the nightly breeze and see her in the red tipped leaves of my maple tree. The morning sun is slower to make an appearance and lost a great deal of strength. Darkness is coming on quicker of an evening and I have already found myself slipping to the closet in search of another blanket at night.

It is frightening to see a season pass so quickly and not know how you spent it. It feels as though I just flipped the calendar page to June and here it is the first of September. It made me heartsick to pack up summer. The shell boxes, the trays of scallop shells, the bits of things I tuck here and there to make it feel like a summer cottage. I realized I hadn't seen a body of water all summer, not an ocean not even a pool. And yet, as I tucked the treasures away to wait out another winter, I was beginning to get used to the idea of autumn. Summer fades slowly to let you get accustomed to the idea of her leaving. You find yourself reaching for a sweater without thinking, or sorting through recipes with soup in mind. Summer is slow and seductive as she changes her green for gold. She tantalizes you with peaches, then pears. Apples and then pumpkins. And by the time that first drizzling autumn day arrives you're ready to greet winter with knitting and books. The urge to run away in the sun is gone, or at least curtailed for the time being.

Since money was tight and I couldn't have a real getaway, I had to get away the best way I could, escaping into films and books. In fact, this is the closest summer I've had to the ones of my childhood, when I lugged home great bags of books for the summer reading program.

I just couldn't wait to see the film Julie and Julia. Had to see it opening weekend. I'd read Julie Powell's book. I'd watched Julia Child for years on PBS. I love to cook. Besides, my name is Julie, how could I not want to read the book or see the movie? I walked out of the theater hungry. I walked out wishing I could see more Julia Child, or I guess Meryll Streep as Julia Child. I walked out wishing I'd read Julia Child's memoirs because the whole love story between her and her husband Paul was just wonderful.

So, I took myself off for a trip to France with Julia's memoir. Suddenly I found myself yearning to visit a country I'd had no interest in before. Even if I couldn't pronounce all the French, the food sounded wonderful, and Provence was now as appealing to me as Tuscany has always been. I'm feeling very Julia Childish, and inspired to spend long periods of time in the kitchen. Beth came home from a set visit with a recipe for grilled brie & pear sandwiches with carmalized onions in basalmic vinegar on walnut bread. I canned peaches and remembered the summers of canning with my mother. I feel like clutching my new bread book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice to my chest just like the girl on the cover.

I spent time with The Ugly Truth and time on the Moon and wondered if I would ever see a time with a real District 9? I bought a wand at the Renaissace Fair and wished J.K. Rowling would write a book of spells after seeing Harry Potter six. And I rediscovered my love of vampires with True Blood and Sookie Stackhouse. I spent a lot of time this summer somewhere else. With other people in other places in other worlds.

And how many times have I longed for the ability to time travel? To fix things or change things or just spend more time appreciating those times I had taken for granted? I even tried to revisit my childhood home, but that visit just proved you really can't go back. My afternoon in the dark with the Time Traveler's Wife had me rethinking that while sobbing into my purse. The book is allowing me even more time to travel or travel through time...

Tears have been a big part of my summer. Tears of anger. Tears of hurt. Tears of reminiscence. Tears of revolt. There's been no lack of water around here this summer. The hills around me are uncharacteristically green. I easily imagine myself away to almost anywhere and often have.

But now Autumn is calling me. Plying me with apples and sweaters. Whispering in my ear to come and play. Enticing me with a new box of crayons. For a while she, Summer and I will walk hand in hand, for there is time yet to play. We'll call to each other across the yards of our houses, playing hide and seek in the fading light.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Saltwater Heals

"Saltwater heals, healing referring to its various forms; tears, cleanses and heals the soul; sweat, cleanses through labor; the ocean, heals in all its forms. " ~Rabindranath Tagore

Yeah, I know, I seem to have dropped off the planet. I haven't forgotten I have a blog, in fact it has been nagging at me for a while now. Having spent the last several months sick and not feeling interested in much of anything, I've been rather lacking in post material. In desperation I posted twice about Sheldon the knitted turtle. I know there are people who blog every day about any old thing and they are often quite brilliant. I can't seem to do that. Either I'm just too Martha Stewart in my need for a theme and appropriate photos or its my lack of brilliance and clever reparte'. (I think its the latter) In any case I've set myself a high standard with cleverness and photos and sometimes its just too exhausting to contemplate.

Perhaps if I had a huge readership like Yarn Harlot , Smitten Kitchen, or KnitSpot, where fans wait breathlessly to hear from me, I might feel more motivated. The weather hasn't helped much. It is officially June and Colorado still hasn't quite said goodbye to winter yet. Very cold, damp, wet spring. All of this has me with no energy or desire for anything but sleep. I have no lungs left to cough up. This nasty bronchial bug came right on the heels of several months of intestinal trouble that at long last has a name: Ulcerative colitis. Now I'm researching ways to relieve or reverse it. During the chest x-ray to see if I had pneumonia, the radiologist said my heart shadow didn't look right. Now I've got to have an echocardiogram. I'm due for a visit to the Denver Arthritis Clinic and my mammogram, but more parts of me keep falling apart. I try not to let real life get too much of a grip on my blog life but sometimes it can't be helped. That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?

I'm still knitting of course, just slowed up a bit in order to fit in time for spinning and sewing (and coughing and running to the bathroom). I've finished nearly 2 pair of socks and 1/2 of a shawl. And of course there was all that work on Sheldon...

Here's the Hedgerow socks, one on and one off. I used a skien of OnLine super sock cotton in a green blend from my stash and they came out really nice. The pattern is fun and easy and I think the striping made lovely hedgerows in colors from winter to spring. The socks fit great and this is the most comfy sock yarn ever. I try to keep one pair of socks on the needles all the time. Either a plain or a patterned one and my sock drawer is full to bursting. Guess I'll be gifting socks next, I just hope everyone wears my size. I just finished Anne's Tidelines socks. The yarn cost me a small fortune, but the colors really do look like the colors of the sea and foam as it washes upon the sand creating tidelines.

Tidelines Socks

And speaking of the sea, I'm working my way through a scarf book that is completely themed around the ocean. I finished the first scarf, the Adriatic Sea.

Hated the yarn, actually a ribbon called Zen by Berroco. That ribbon made this project painful. Slippery, snaggy and the finished scarf is a bit too scratchy and bouncy to be comfortable. Sure looks pretty though...

Adriatic Sea Scarf

The Cluranach shawl is 1/2 finished. You can see how long it is, and that's without blocking. There will be plenty of this to wrap around my bulk and keep me very warm. The yarn is kitten soft and the variations in the shades of purple are beautiful.

Cluranach Shawl (Thistle Shawl)

It is hard to see the subtle shade variations in the photos. In fact this shawl is very hard to photograph in general. No matter how I drape it or light it the photos just come out terrible. This is the best yet, the thistle design is actually visible

I finished spinning my very first yarn! Yep. Spun the singles into a 2 ply. Washed and tied it up into skiens and gifted the yarn to Sarah for her knitting. I think it would make fantastic scarves or some fingerless gloves. Its a bit thicker than I'd imagined and bit lumpy but nice. Really nice. The Romney wool is incredibly soft, not a prickle in it. You could wear a sweater of this next to your skin and it would be lovely. I'm so proud of it. I'm working on my second batch of Romney, a lighter gray and spinning it much thinner.

I also made a huge investment in 30 ounces of Cormo cross wool from Kate at Knaackwool. I fell in love with a sweater in Spin Off magazine called The Cloisters. And, in my usual obsessive way I became determined to knit it in the same wool as the model or as close as I could get. I sent out several inquiring emails and Kate answered back right away. Her wool had just come back from processing and she had some that was nearly identical to the original.

The balls of roving arrived last week along with a sample of the original yarn from Sarah Swett. I'll take that as a sign that it was meant to be. I've also made a new friend in Kate. We exchange emails every few days.

Now if I can just spin something remotely similar. Then I'll have to dye it and then I'll have to knit it... Gee, no pressure or anything. Actually it doesn't feel all that overwhelming, it just feels exciting and fun. Something for me to sink myself hip deep into. I have hours of relaxing zen/healing time ahead of me.

Beth is busy with work. She was in New Orleans for 3 days for a visit to the set of Jonah Hex. She's the first friend or family member to visit the city since hurricane Katrina, so it was great to get the perspective of someone familiar with what the city had been like previously, and how she was now. Much of that special aura is gone, lost with the buildings that washed away. Still miles and miles of devastation. The new is too new and too fresh, in between are great holes where things are missing. Even parts of the French Quarter are propped up with scaffolds. Where the low income housing sat just outside New Orleans Cemetary #1, there lies a brand spanking new trailer park looking completely out of place. The city is quiet and many shops closed. Still, the city is warm with welcome and the people friendly and eager to chat. The food is still the best on the planet and Beth had her first fried green tomatoes. She had her tarot cards read (with interesting and creepy results) and visited Cafe Dumond each day for cafe au lait and beniets.

Sarah should soon have employment at her first salon. A whole new part of her life is about to begin. I suspect total independence won't be far behind and I will miss her very much. I've had an extra long time with my girls at home and I have to not think of myself as losing her but glory in her freedom and be thankful I had a full nest for so long.

Time to rest and sleep, maybe dream of a visit to the ocean where I could let the saltwater wash over and through me and heal me inside and out.


Monday, May 18, 2009

The Man With No Name

I promised that the Man with No Name would be making an appearance shortly, so here he is: Sheldon the Turtle as Clint Eastwood, complete with Serape' shell. I don't know if the little guy is sneaking down to the kitchen to raid the produce drawer or what, but it seems like his shells just keep getting tighter and tighter. It was painful to have to pull him out of his original and squash him into the new one.

He is missing some star buttons, one for his belt and two for his hat, but he looked so darn good in his vintage bandanna I just couldn't wait any longer to post his pics. Well, that and I'm so terribly behind on blogging, I felt compelled to put something up...

The pattern instructions didn't go quite so well this time. While knitting the shell and underpanel were exactly the same except for the color changes, the directions fell very short in explaining how it all went together. The serape was to have an open shoulder but I don't think I got that part right. There were no photos of the finished outfit or the hat to help me.

Without photos and mistakes in the written directions, I really had to wing it on the hat. It definitely has its issues (sagging and shaplessness), so we're looking for a doll sized cowboy hat to replace it with. With the hat pulled low over his eyes he starts to look a bit menacing despite the wide grin. We're trying to figure out how to give him a half smoked cigar.

Here's a shot of his tummy and you have to admit the designer really knows her Clint Eastwood. The little guy's serape even has embroidered designs that resemble Eastwoods in the film (see picture below)

One final pose for the camera, the obligatory butt shot. I don't think he needs a body double at all. Next: Sheldon as a super hero. -Tigerlily

Friday, March 27, 2009

Anatomy of a Turtle

News for updating my blog has been scarce. Seems like life has been very full and I'm exhausted by days end and yet full of what exactly? Life and it's accompanying 3 ring circus. This little guy named Sheldon has been coming off the needles in bits and pieces and I thought it might be cute to share his creation story with you. Elisabeth has a thing for turtles. She has turtles of every shape and size, including a bride and groom turtle she is hopes to use as a cake topper some day. Her favorite Pixar movie is Finding Nemo and her favorite part of the movie is the sea turtles. We've owned a couple turtles, Samson who was a runaway we found in our yard, and dear Horatio Hornblower the Sulcata, who ate my sunroom carpet and knocked over the furniture.

I found Sheldon on and bought the kit for Beth for Christmas. If you can't have the real thing a stuffed one is almost as good. Besides this Sheldon comes with outfits. Cowboy, Super Hero, Pirate... You'll have to wait for those but for now:

PART I: Sheldon is born.

The instructions for Sheldon are painstakingly detailed and while tedious, Sheldon is far from difficult. However, he is worked in the round from a very tiny beginning circle that proved a bit much for Beth and she threw him at me. Literally. So in between socks and shawls I worked on Sheldon. It took a bit to get him going and then I sailed along. First to take shape was his body, a funny legless balloon shaped thing. Stuff and add black button eyes.

Part II: How a turtle grows a shell

The shell is composed of three parts, just like a real turtle. Topside, bottom side and the very bottom, which is essentially a little cup with 4 leg holes.

Part III: A Shell is sealed

This was the most difficult part of all and one I get to do several more times for each subsequent future shell change. Doing an I-cord all the way around the shell, fastening the parts together as I went and creating that rolled edge that all turtles have around the edge of the shell. Took 4 tries at this to get it right. I had to take it out once because I failed to leave a hole for Sheldon...UGH.

Part IV: What do I do with these? Or A turtle learns to walk

Four little empty sacks remained, Sheldon's legs. Had to stuff them and then figure out where to place them on his body so they would be in the right place for the leg holes in the shell. Sew them on and stuff all of what was Sheldon's squishy insides into that very overstuffed and a bit too tight shell.

Part V: Its a Turtle, let's name him Sheldon

Don't you love his smile? I think he's happy to be here.

Coming Soon: Sheldon as the Man With No Name OR A turtle in a Serape' -Tigerlily

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Have you any wool?

There is a new baby at my house. And before you ask it is NOT another dog. Nor is it a cat, bunny, or even a hermit crab. It is a spinning wheel. I placed an ad for a used wheel on a Yahoo Spinning site and wa la! The Schacht Matchless II. Double treadle. Double Drive.

The woman who sold her to me treated her with tender loving care and it shows. The wheel is in beautiful condition and oiled to a lovely honey gold. After many hours of spinning for Margarete, the little Schacht is now going to teach me how. And, with the help of a couple of Romney sheep named Eve and Franklin, I've spun my first full bobbin of single ply yarn. The Romney is wonderful to work with and I am enjoying the spinning so much I could sit and do it all day. Well for while anyway, my legs do get tired, rather like riding a bike.

I draft. I spin. I read about sheep. Corriedale, Romney, Merino, Blue Faced Leichester, California Variegated Mutant... and of course there are all those other hairy things like angora rabbits, alpacas and llamas. And there are batts, tops, rovings, even entire fleeces!

On Ravelry, I put out a request for women in my area who were spinners, and might like to get together to spin and help each other learn. We are now meeting twice a month at the Highlands Ranch Library to spin.

While I certainly did not need another hobby, or something else to keep me busy, the thought of creating my own yarn and then knitting with it is incredibly exciting. Besides, I need all the help I can get with relaxing. If knitting is good for the heart and soul, spinning must be even more so. You find yourself just sinking into the rhythm of the wheel. Even the dogs find it hypnotic, and collapse around the wheel in a heap, watching the wheel turn or just sitting with their eyes closed listening to the hum and feeling the breeze created by my pedaling.

So I'm learning something new and expanding my horizons. I'm touching the past, reaching back even further than knitting, to the first time someone sheared a sheep, cleaned and carded the wool, and twisted it into fiber using a drop spindle....

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations. -Tigerlily

Monday, January 19, 2009

Living in a Brownelly Haze?

Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore, each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed.

No, I didn't post a Christmas entry. The holidays did not pass well. 2009 has opened in gloom and depression and the month of January has been lousy. Everywhere you look the world is brown and crisp. Even the bird feeder, which brings such joy to my life was taken from me. A violent wind blew down into our neighbors yard. She refused to answer the door, so I was unable to get into her yard to retrieve it. After dragging out a ladder and a mop handle to try and catch it up by the hanger, I discovered it was shattered to bits. I guess the mess is hers. My poor little Red Polls have been devastated by the loss and tried to make do with thistle seed during the last snow storm. Yesterday we hit the 70's and the sun and warmth was so wonderful I threw open the windows and basked in it. How I long for the color green and the light and warmth of the sun!

And why is it when you are at your most vulnerable the world seems to smell blood in the water and descend upon you like sharks? When things get like this I hole up. I've tried to keep my head down, my mouth shut and my hands busy, to do the things that need doing and those that make my heart sing. Finding laughter is a daily scavenger hunt. I got this in the mail, and it makes me laugh. Bigtime.

And when your living in a brown L.A. haze, (I always thought Buffet was saying brownelly haze) even your creativity takes a hit, and I seemed to have problems with everything I did. Knitting, the salvation of my personal sanity turned on me. Sarah's slouchy beret came out looking like a muffin, I ran short of yarn at the very end of a second sock, so the toe had to be patched together with whatever I could manage, therefore ruining the "look" of a lovely pair of black licorice socks. And I hit scrapbookers block on Beth's England photos. Work on her England album has come to a complete stop.

But what did go right came out beautiful. First, there's these socks. I don't have a name for them yet, but the yarn is lovely and makes me think of woods or chocolate. Do you see I made the toe and heel in solid brown? I'm so proud of these!

And then there is this:

The Hemlock Ring Blanket designed by Jared Flood. Knitted in Cascade Eco Wool
in a lovely shade called Latte. A perfect match for the color of the world outside, my mood, and my favorite beverage. Brown.

A lap blanket designed from a 1930's doily pattern. Just under 4 feet in diameter it is perfect for laying over your legs when you curl up to read or knit. Or lovely to drape over a couch or even across a table as I did for the photos. Living in brown is not an altogether bad thing.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine..."_--(Prov 17:22a)