Posted in Crafting

Elementary, Watson! or, SGAA V Begins!

This past weekend, we began our last adventure knitting our way through Sherlock Holmes’s stories over on Ravelry.  Sherlock’s Great Afghan Adventure V – aka: SGAA V – began!

Our first story is the novel, The Valley of Fear.

Now, I’ll freely admit, I’m not a big reader of the Sherlock novels.  The short stories are easier for me to keep up with, so I tend to focus on those.  However, even though I don’t usually read the longer stories, I DO keep up with the knitting!  And, voila!  Square 1 is complete!

file_small2
square #1 – The Valley of Fear

This was a really fun and quick knit to do!  We’ll be utilizing the cables and lacework we’ve used before, it looks like, and the designs are truly unique.  I’m looking forward to next month and finding out which story it’s based off of as well as the square design!

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Posted in Crafting

Matallurgy Shawl WIP

It feels like forever since I last updated.  I was trying to finish the Metallurgy Shawl before posting again … but I just can’t!  I love this shawl pattern!!!  I’ve tried to work on it daily, but between work picking up and my writing muses taking over more of late, I haven’t dedicated as much time to it as I’d like.  Still, progress is being made.

About a week ago, I finished the main body section – nothing complicated there, just some garter stitching with YOs to increase periodically until I had enough stitches.  Easy Peasy.

The edging looked to be more of a challenge, and in some ways it has been.  First, it took me a bit to wrap  my head around how the patter would work.  I’ll admit, I’m used to ‘edging’ being something that you knit back and forth on all 229 stitches at the same time.  But a quick look at the directions indicated that wasn’t going to be the case.  At some point before I started, though, I realized it would have to be knit up the side — 27 new stitches connecting to the edge of the 229 every other row.  Once I was able to visualize that (I’m more of a visual learner with things like this), most of my worries fled.

metallurgy some edging
Metallurgy shawl with part of the edging – pattern by VeryBusyMonkey over on Ravelry

That isn’t to say the pattern itself wasn’t challenging!  Still, after one time through the repeat, I’ve got the general idea.  I’m now on my fourth repeat and things are moving along splendidly!  (I did manage to drop a stitch somewhere at the beginning of this repeat which threw me off for about four rows, but I finally back tracked and sorted it out)

edging detail
Close up of edging on Metallurgy Shawl 

I’m going to be a little disappointed when I reach the end of this one, I think, simply because I am enjoying the edging pattern on it so much!  There’s a bit of a trick to it, and I have to be careful on counts to keep it lined up right, but I love the way it’s twisting around itself as I go!  In an odd sort of way, it kind of reminds me of the element stones in the movie The Fifth Element.  Hoping by the next time I feel the urge to update I’ll have it complete and be working on the next!

(Also, new Sherlock KAL starts this weekend!!!!!  Lot’s of bouncing over here for that one!)

Posted in Crafting, personal thoughts

Too Much (Knitting) Time On My Hands!

Two weeks ago, I decided to pick up Mom’s Dorothy Sayers project, to see if I could finish the project for her in her memory.  I am glad to say, things are progressing well!  I found a charting program to use which will also make written directions for the charts.  These will just need a little touching up to make them easily comprehensible and, thankfully, I can copy/paste them from the format they are generated in.  Since purchasing the program, I have charted the last two squares for the afghan as well as part of the border edge.  I am currently working on knitting up one of the squares while a fellow knitter who also knew Mom through the Sherlock knitting group is working on the other.  All in all, over two weeks things have been going well on that front!

However, this past weekend, I started to come down with a very bad head cold thanks to the boss at work, and this week has been absolutely miserable.  I don’t usually get sick, colds included, so when I do it usually ends up being a pretty bad one.  All the usual stuff going along with it, I (and my very sore nose and aching chest from all the coughing/sneezing!) will be very glad once I’m back to full health!  In the meantime, I’ve been coming to work (because someone has to be here, right?).  My job is to answer the phones, sort through the email and stuff, and type up the things the boss needs me to do for him.  He’s been down with this thing a week longer than I have, so I haven’t had much on that last front, and the emails don’t care if I’m sick or sound like the worst frog in all the world, but answering the phone over the last two days has been interesting!  Thank goodness, most people have been very understanding!  The big downside to this misery is, however, that I can’t focus on any ‘complicated’ knitting patterns.  Lace, cables, colorwork … etc., none of it.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I need to stay engaged in what I’m doing because I hate being bored.  That said, and especially at work (when I’m not writing — which isn’t happening just now because of the very bad cold), having a knitting project on hand is the perfect solution.  I just need something uncomplicated for the short term.

That said, I finished a shawl I began last year that got put on hiatus for Christmas knitting.  It will make a lovely gift for someone this year, perhaps.  Still, most of the other WIPs I have are more of a complicated nature.  (Did I mention I like challenges that keep me from getting bored?  LOL)

I’ve had some Madelinetosh in my stash that I purchased for a different project but I found an alternative after I purchased it.  MadTosh will NOT go wasted in MY house, however!

Four Elements Shawls
Madelinetosh – Tosh Merino Light: From L to R:  Antique Moonstone (BL), Cardinal (TL), Rainwater (BR), Medieval (TR)

Several weeks back, I was looking through Ravelry’s forum threads for upcoming KALs for March.  I found one for a shawl that looked interesting, and upon further investigation discovered it was part of a ‘set’ of shawls.  I purchased the group of four patterns, under the title the Four Elements, designed by Verybusymonkey, and set it aside for something to do later, down the road.  Each takes approximately 400-420 yards of yarn, one of each of these skeins, so I figured they’d make good work/travel projects.

That moment came this week.  Having finished the previously mentioned WIP, when I was home that night I spotted the pattern and yarn sitting nearby.  A quick look assured me the nature of the first one wouldn’t be overly taxing for my mind, as muddled as it is with the cloud of the cold, and I quickly plopped both bag of yarn and pattern into my ‘take to work knitting bag.’  The next day, I started the first one listed in the pattern: Metallurgy.  I chose to use the Antique Moonstone for this shawl.

metallurgy and tea
The beginnings of Metallurgy, with bonus photo of Rose Hip Tea I’ve been drinking to help with the cold!

That was on Tuesday.  As of Tuesday night, progress looked more like this:

Metallurgy Shawl 1

The nicest part of this shawl so far is that it’s all garter stitch, with some YOs tossed in to increase stitches.  The first section is a 34 row repeat of this – the perfect type of knitting that I don’t need to focus more than a little (for the YOs) and I can do while reading something on my computer or watching the live camera from Old Faithful.  (surprisingly, watching it snow there this week has been a very soothing thing!)  This photo is approximately 10 rows in.  I’m currently up to 21 rows.  The only question is whether I’ll be able to keep focusing on it today/tomorrow, or if the cold and/or work get in the way.

Still, it’s moving along surprisingly quickly.  I love the stitch definition MadTosh gives, and this color is gorgeous!  Sadly, they’re out of stock at the moment at my favorite online site. 😦

The three remaining shawls in the group are called:

  1. Dendrology – I’ll use the Cardinal for this
  2. Meteorology – I’ll either use the Rainwater or switch to another skein I have at home called Fathom (a lovely deep blue), I haven’t quite decided
  3. Geology – I’ll use the Medieval on this one

This isn’t to say that the shawls don’t have their challenges!  Some have more patterning on them than others.  I just happened to select one that has more garter stitching at the beginning.  Which, given my constant state of sniffling and sneezing, makes it easy to pause without losing my place while I make a mad dash for the tissue box …!

Posted in cooking, personal thoughts

My Favorite Season of the Year – Soup Season!

When I woke up a few days ago, I had the old tell-tale tickle in the back of my throat.  Realizing  I was probably coming down with a cold, I grabbed a sandwich baggie full of vitamin C drops as I headed out to work.  I managed to get through the day, downing a number of said drops to help whenever a ‘cough’ started (usually just the natural reaction to trying to dislodge that tickle), drinking a number of bottles of water, and having several cups of tea.  By the time I got home from work that night, there was no doubt about it.  I had one hell of a cold coming on.  Now, I don’t usually get sick in winter, so when I do it’s usually a doozy, and this was no excuse.

So, I’m at home, feeling lousier and lousier by the minute, trying to figure out what I can do about dinner that’s both easy and will help my condition.  Thankfully, I almost always have stuff on hand to make soup.

Let me digress for just a moment here.  I’m half Italian, and I have fond memories from my youth when we’d go back and visit my little Italian Grandma and she’d have soup waiting on the stove because it’s easier to adapt to finicky driving schedules than lasagna or something else.  Sadly, because we lived half a country away from them, I never really got to learn how to cook from her, but there is something to be said for it ‘being in the blood.’

The few things I did learn from her (namely pizza dough but also one or two pastas), were always a bit tricky for me when I first moved out on my own after college.  With Grandma, when it came to spices and herbs, it was always ‘enough of this’ or ‘a pinch of that’ or ‘just enough of this.’

I remember standing in my kitchen in my apartment in Montana one day trying to figure that out.  I nearly called her to ask what she meant, but instead spoke up to the ceiling above.  “What the heck is ‘just enough?'” !!!

When I moved back to the Midwest and eventually married my Ex, we watched a LOT of the Food Channel.  I did most of the cooking, though he did occasionally step in/up to do some, and we often found some good, simple enough recipes that we decided to try.  (I have one fairly clear memory of learning how to make a Bechemel sauce that Alton Brown did for some mac and cheese … NEVER AGAIN! LOL)  I learned how to do things like make soup stock from scratch — beef bones or a whole chicken, etc. — and then use it in recipes.  The only problem with that is it takes FOREVER!

At that time, I used to watch one show called ‘Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee’ or something to that effect.  It made perfect sense to me, especially being a working Mom.  So, before you know it, I’d found a few ways to speed the process up.

Now, back to my current situation.

Come winter time, I tend to make a LOT of soups.  Almost each night we’d be having some.  2-3 different soups would get us through a week and they were easy enough (especially with a slow cooker).  When the Ex left, that number dropped to two per week … but a particulary and suddenly picky Kiddo messed things up when he stated he didn’t like the Beef Veggie Barley soup I made.  *sigh*  I love that soup!  However, he DID tell me he liked the chicken soup.

My chicken soup has evolved a LOT over the past five years or so.  I pulled a Sandra Lee and relied on store bought, reduced sodium chicken broth.  Good start, right?  I still would add carrots, celery and an onion (I like mine yellow/sweet variety).  I usually let that go for 30-45 minutes, long enough to get a good start on softening up the veggies.  I eventually got beyond my Grandma dilemma and just added ‘enough’ Italian herbs and salt and pepper and a couple of bay leaves as it cooked.  One big thing time has changed: I used to cook it with several boneless chicken breasts, shredding them up later when I’d add frozen corn and peas to the soup.  Last year, however, I switched it up.  I started using Tortellini instead.  This was a HUGE hit with Kiddo.

Honestly, making this soup is so easy now, in part thanks to my grocery store, it almost seems like cheating.  In case anyone’s interested, here’s the recipe:


Chicken Tortellini Soup LadyA Style

Ingredients:

1 bag of Tortellini (there are different brands of course, and my grocery chain recently changed what they had, but I can usually find something that works.  I go for the dried ones in case I can’t cook it right away, but you could also use fresh made)

1 package of pre-cut celery/carrot sticks (I found this at the grocery store in the produce section by accident one day and BOY has it been a godsend! I don’t use them enough to make buying a whole package of celery and a whole bag of baby carrots worth it, so I get the sticks and chop them up!  Just enough for a batch of soup)

1 yellow/sweet onion (I can sometimes find this precut at the store, too, but chopping up an onion isn’t so bad)

1 bag of frozen corn and frozen peas (if you have other frozen veggies you like, feel free to use them!).  I only use about half the bag of each unless I’m making a HUGE pot in the crock pot.

Just enough Italian herbs (approximately 1/4 to 1/2 tsp is my guess, but season it to your tastes)

Some salt and pepper to taste

1-2 bay leaves

Four 32 oz containers of chicken broth (those Tetra-Pak box ones)

 

Directions

  1. Chop up the carrots, celery and onion.  Stick them into your soup pot/Dutch oven.  (sometimes I saute them in a bit of olive oil to get them started, but you don’t have to).
  2. Add 3-4 of the containers of chicken broth.  (depends how big your soup pot is!)
  3. Add in herbs, salt and pepper, bay leaves.
  4. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer over medium heat for about 30-45 minutes.
  5. Add in peas and corn and Tortellini.  At this point, I usually cook it another 15 minutes or so (read the cooking time on your Tortellini package and use that as a guide).
  6. ENJOY!

Optional additions

I like to sprinkle Parmesan cheese over my soup – a thing my fully Italian father taught me.  Kiddo doesn’t care for it, but he likes oyster crackers.  Additional flavoring, should you wish it, can be added with some garlic during the cooking process, or switching up the herbs.


And there you have it!  Chicken Tortellini Soup just like this Mama likes to make.  It’s great any time, but especially comforting when you’ve got a cold!

Posted in history, nature, personal thoughts

Living Vicariously …

When I was young — no this isn’t the beginning to the SuperTramp song! 😛

Okay, perhaps I should start this way:  I was born in New York, but raised in the Midwest.  We moved when I was 4 1/2 years old, so I really have very few memories of our time there.  Dad was a professor at the local Univeristy, so each summer for vacation we would do one of two things depending on what year it was.  We’d either travel back East to visit family (always fun), or we’d go camping out West (at the time, not so much fun but no one asked my opinion).

So, this post is focusing on the years we’d go out West.

When we first started, my Dad (being from upstate New York) and Mom (being from just outside NYC) would take us to Rocky Mountain National Park to camp.  I remember tents, horrible ’70s clothing (ah, the joys of being a child of the late ’60s …), and photos of me, my brother, and Mom standing in a field of wildflowers with the mountains behind us.  (I think that was at Maroon Bells, but I could be mistaken).  I remember trips up Pike’s Peak and traveling by an old (read: touristy) train at Silverton.  I remember getting motion-sick (stupid, twisty roads!) and looking out of the car windows to see marmots on the side of the road/mountain.

At some point, I can’t remember exactly when but I think it was around the time little brother #2 arrived, we shifted our camping visits from Colorado to Wyoming.  Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, to be specific.  And, of course, driving through South Dakota to get there.  Hello Corn Palace and Badlands, hello Mt. Rushmore.  Also, hello Devil’s Tower and the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, WY.  Hello geysers and mudpots, hot springs and thermal baths (Thermopolis further south).  Hello fishing, camping in a pop-up trailer, and snow in Yellowstone in the middle of August.  Hello Mt. Moran and Skillet Glacier.

Now, in complete honesty, I mostly hated these trips.  While we didn’t go hiking a lot, there was a lot of walking around in Yellowstone to see the geysers, mudpots, hot springs, etc., all of which were pretty boring to me when I was 6-12 years old.  Old Faithful was kind of neat, and a few of the other geysers, but at that age, you see one you’ve seen them all, so the interest waned pretty quickly.  There were Visitor’s Centers we went to that had kids’ activities in them, and most campgrounds had ampitheaters that had different programs at night which were really neat.  And even at that age, I had to admit, looking down on Jackson Lake at night and seeing the stars and moon reflected in the water with the mountains in the background was kind of cool.  I also remember waking up one morning in Yellowstone (I can’t recall the name of the campground) and looking outside to see my Mom and baby brother sitting at the table and all around us walking, happy as they pleased through the campground, were three wild/natural animals, one of which was a moose and another a buffalo.  (I can’t remember the other one, but all three were different as I recall)  Helluva wake up call, let me tell you!

By around the time I was fifteen or so, life got ‘busy’ and we stopped going camping out West.  It didn’t really bother me at the time, but as the years have passed, I realized I started to miss those trips.  Grand Teton will always be my favorite place.  There is nothing like looking out at Mt. Moran or over Jackson Lake.  There was a pretty little church up atop one of the peaks near the campground, too.  Always thought I’d like to get married there.  Didn’t happen, but I suppose there’s always a chance it could.  Someday.

In 1990, however, a sort of second chance arrived.  We’d moved to the South right after I graduated high school, and by the time I graduated college four years later, Mom and Dad were moving again — to WYOMING!  Granted, it was the opposite corner from Yellowstone and Grand Teton, but hey, it was Wyoming!!!  I couldn’t find a job (as a high school history teacher) when I graduated, so I followed Mom and Dad out there.

Now, it’s completely different living out there than it is camping, as you might imagine.  Also, never had time to get back to the NorthWest Corner of the state while I was there, but I did get my graduate degree from the University of Wyoming.  Yup, that’s right, I have an MA in Medieval History from the University of Wyoming.  No, seriously, I do!  LOL  They had it at the time and I still couldn’t find a teaching job, so I ended up doing that.  Fat lot of good it did me, but hey, I’ve got it. 🙂

The summer I completed my degree, I finally got my first real teaching job.  In Montana.  That lasted for three years, but the best memory I have of it was going to the RMMRA — Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association — meeting in Jackson, Wyoming with my Mom.  I hated giving my paper (public speaker, I am not!), but I chose to drive down via Yellowstone.  I stopped to see Old Faithful along the way because it was quick and easy to get to, and I waved at the mountains as I drove through Grand Teton National Park, even stopping at the Church to get a few gorgeous pictures, before arriving in Jackson.  All in all, probably one of my two most favorite memories of living out there.  (the other was meeting the Medieval Mystery author, Ellis Peters, down in Denver, but that’ll be a different post)

After three years of teaching out in Montana, however, I decided to part ways.  My parents were coming back to the Midwest for two years and, as I didn’t have a job lined up and needed a new situation, I came with them.  When they returned to Wyoming, I stayed, and have been here ever since.  (side note: I’ve now lived here longer than I’ve lived any of the other places I’ve been – a total of 22.5 years!  yikes!)  I met the Ex, married, had Kiddo, and often we’d talk about the mountains, Wyoming (having visited the parents there a couple of times) and Montana, but we never really went back to ‘visit’ or camp.  To this day, I’ve yet to get back out there.

In 2015, I got divorced.  As you can imagine, I was pretty down and discouraged, and I considered leaving but I didn’t want to take Kiddo from his Dad.  (and despite all that happened and how it did, I’m still friends with the Ex.  I have too many friends/family angry at him over what happened.  That left me free to focus on being more agreeable, which then helped Kiddo (or so I hoped))  I did, however, have an idea for a series of stories I wanted to write.  My best sounding board for story ideas was the Ex.  I will say, in the sixteen years we were married, he encouraged me to write.  So, we met for dinner a few times, I told him my idea, and the ideas, as they say, EXPLODED!  Over time, I decided to set the series in Wyoming because I loved living and camping there so much.  (at least by this point I could appreciate what I didn’t fully when I was a kid!)  And in one of these stories, it will take place at Old Faithful.

During the winter of 2017-2018, I was doing some reasearch on the old yet somewhat familiar geyser.  I discovered, purely by accident, that there is a live camera feed on it!  Imagine my surprise when I opened the link to see Old Faithful surrounded by snow!  (I think it was February of 2018 I found it)  This was the PERFECT scene for my story!  So each day, when I’d sit down to write, I’d pull up the livecam and have it on in the background.  Every time I was spurred on by a muse, I’d jot it down.  Slowly but surely, I’m making progress on that story.  (Sad thing is, it’s the fourth out of four and I’m still working on the first.)

Over last summer and fall, I was too busy with other things to remember to watch it, which was fine because I honestly really prefer it when there’s snow on the ground.  It was fun to watch at times, too.  I’ve seen coyotes and buffalo wandering through.  I’ve seen people skiing or snowshoing along the path.  This year, they replaced the camera with a newer, HD one, and they can now access some of the further out geysers when they go off, too.  All in all, it’s great fun to watch, and a perfect background for researching for my story as well as something nice and simple to have in the background when I’m knitting.  If you’ve ever been interested in seeing Old Faithful and can’t get there in person, I highly recommend it!  You can also track it’s (and other geysers) eruption times and patterns here.

Whoops!  It should be erupting soon, so I’m off to watch! 🙂  Enjoy!

 

Posted in personal thoughts

Mom Moments

Being the mother of a teenager can be trying at times!  Add in the fact my son is on the cusp of adulthood (read: he’ll be 20 this year, this is the easiest way to differentiate the decades right now) and a live-at-home college student, I’m sure you can imagine just how trying it can be.

Let me take a few steps back to explain.

Kiddo and I have been on our own together since 2014 when his father left.  (We’re still friends, raising kiddo jointly, but he lives across town now)  Kiddo was a sophomore in high school at the time.  That year was a rough one.  Not only did his dad and I get divorced (repressed anger, anyone?), but in January of 2015, just as our divorce was finalized (the exact day, actually), my Ex’s father, kiddo’s grandfather, had a massive stroke and passed away.

This devastated kiddo.  He and his grandpa were close.  For some of his formative years (until daycare), kiddo would spend the days with grandpa.  They went on all sorts of adventures together and shared a love of bowling.  After kiddo started daycare and then school, he still tried to find some time to spend with grandpa (who only lived a couple miles down the street from us) as often as possible.  So, yeah, grandpa’s death was pretty heartwrenching for him.  To this day, four years later, he still will occasionally get very emotional about it.  (I can’t blame him.  My father in law was a loving, hard working man.  He was fun to just sit and talk to.  He also liked borrowing my Tom Clancy paperbacks, so we had that in common, too!)

In the fall of 2016, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  Now, my parents live(d) halfway across the country from us.  We saw them occasionally on the holidays or in the summer, but we chatted on the phone and FaceTime too.  When she was diagnosed, kiddo was in the first semester of his senior year.  I went back to be with her at Thanksgiving.  Kiddo could have gone, but chose not to which was fine with Mom.  She was always the first person to say that it was his choice to make and she would rather he thought kind thoughts of her and how she used to be/look rather than seeing her in the hospital.

For a while afterward, we thought she might be getting better, but the cancer came back.  In late March 2017, I flew out to be with her and Dad.  (She was back in the hospital)  Again, kiddo opted to stay at home with his Dad.  Again, Mom was fine with that.  (She did get to talk with him briefly over my phone at the hospital and call him her #1 Cutie, like she always did. (benefits of being the oldest grandkid, I guess. :D))  He was a senior, some crap had come down at the high school at the time involving one of his favorite teachers and he was upset about that as well, no sense in dragging him to see her when he needed to focus on finishing his senior year and graduating.  Again, that was Mom.  All about doing well in school, etc.  Practical.  No nonsense.  Loving in her own stiff-upper lip kind of way.  That’s just how she was.

I flew home at the end of the week.  The next week, she took a turn downward and was brought home for hospice.  Just before Easter, she passed.  (Thankfully, one of my brothers was able to be there with Dad as well as a number of friends and their priest.)

Needlesstosay, kiddo was devastated.  And still, he opted not to go out for the funeral.  I told him over and over again this was okay.  That grandma would want him to do what he was comfortable with.  I would go, I would represent our side of things, and grandma would be fine with that.

(My Dad, on the other hand, I think would have preferred it the other way, but I cut him off at the pass.  Mom and I had a long talk about it and I agreed not to force kiddo to go if he didn’t want to.  Dad said he was more worried for my sake, but I told him I would be fine.  A crying mess at times, but fine.  And I was.  Both.)

Since then, usually when kiddo and I ‘have words’ with one another (which thankfully is rare, despite his being a teenager!), this comes up as our arguments wind down.  I think he still feels guilt about not going.  I know he still feels pain at the loss of both grandma and grandpa.  He’s also like me and we both usually end up in tears, our Mediterranean roots devolving us into an emotional state.  (Ah, well, I wouldn’t be me if I couldn’t let off a bit of steam now and again, and tears are the usual release!)

Sunday night we had one of these moments.  There’s more to it, the trigger for the argument and such, but it always seems to come back to these two events and how kiddo views them.  He’s a bit worried next time we get together with my family at how my (obnoxious) brother might view him.  I think he worries how my Dad will be, though we visited him for Thanksgiving 2017 (and kiddo got to see Mom’s grave and say goodbye) and things were fine.  I told him, if anyone tries to get on him about it, they’ll have to deal with this Mama Bear!  (When I was younger, my brother and father at times said demeaning things, treated me as if I wasn’t smart, etc.  I had little self confidence back then.  I’m much older now, I could care less how they view me.  I am who I am, no holds barred, and if they think they’ll run roughshod over my son, they’d better think again!  My brother tried it once with my Ex.  My Ex, bless him, shut my brother down with a few simple words.  (but privately told me I was right, my brother is an ass!))

I think kiddo and I are back on even keel now.  There’s still bumps in the road – because, yes, I do know what it’s like to be a sophomore in college, you know?! lol  Some things about it never change.  Like studying to take a blue book essay exam.  Like learning to organize your thoughts quickly so you don’t run out of time when taking it.  Like … well, you get the idea.  (kiddo is a psychology major and doesn’t have to usually do stuff like that.  He decided to take two liberal arts classes this semester.  I warned him, but he wasn’t listening, and now …  Oops!  He’s going to talk to the prof. about that fiasco before they meet next Monday.)

*sigh*

As much as I’d like to ease the road for him, I understand there’s no way to really do that.  I just wish he’d get over his ‘I’m a college student and I’ll do what I want!’ phase sooner rather than later so his GPA isn’t a casualty of these years!  😉

(Please note — he’s really a good kid and is having a good time in college.  He just has no real study habits, thanks to the way his school system ‘trained’ anyone who wasn’t in the gifted programs, and so he’s floundering a little.  He’ll make it through if he puts his mind to it.  He just doesn’t understand how to do that yet.)

Posted in Crafting, personal thoughts

Knitting In Memory of Mom

Like a lot of knitters and crocheters, I tend to haunt Ravelry in search of patterns or KALs and the like.  Yesterday, the woman who has been running the Sherlock’s Great Afghan Adventure MKAL series posted up the links for the next and final KAL of the series: Five.

Perhaps I shoudl back up a few steps to give you some context.

Back in 2014, my mother joined this group and started with the first afghan in the series.  She tried over the next couple of years as they worked on #1 and #2, to convince me to join her in it.  I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes, don’t get me wrong, but based on what Mom was showing me, it honestly didn’t grab me.  (Or, maybe I was simply intimidated by her.  She had this thing about embroidering her squares with little additional details which really made them pop, but when you’re the daughter and you had to teach yourself to knit at 14 because her reply to me asking to learn was, “Go read the book,” well, you get the idea)  It was one of those situations where I wish I’d known the phrase my son likes to use with me right now when I ask if he wants to do something with me that he would rather not.  “You do you, Mama Bear.  You do you.”

Like I said, I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes.  I loved watching Jeremy Brett portray Holmes in a traditional interpretation, particularly when I lived by myself out in Montana and taught high school for a few years.  Thank goodness for cable TV and A&E back then!

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Jeremy Brett and David Burke as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson

In more recent years, the Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law interpretation has been fun (I just wish there were more!), and even my son enjoys them a great deal.  When I suggest watching Sherlock Holmes, his immediate response is, “Only the RDJ version!”

I have also grown quite fond of the more modern take on the stories entitled Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

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Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock and Watson.

So, all in all, I’m a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.  No problems there.  (My favorite story is The Sign of Four.  Side note: I also liked the Young Sherlock Holmes movie that came out in the ’80s as much as the stories of Holmes as an adult!)

Late in 2016, Mom was still encouraging me to join the KAL for their third afghan in the series when she took ill.  What began as a frustrating problem with her left arm/hand and an inability to knit that evolved into dropping her ipad and other things we discovered in actuality was cancer.  She told me and my brothers not to panic, that they were going to fight it both by removing the (brain) tumor and using chemotherapy.  And for a time, that’s all I really knew about it — other than the tumor was pressing on the nerves that controlled the function of her left arm/hand and to some degree her mouth, and it frustrated the everliving nuts out of her!  (It wasn’t until the spring of 2017, my last visit with her in March, that I found out it was in fact Primary CNS Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma – the tumor wasn’t from some other type of cancer that had matastacized, but in fact originated in her brain.)

I flew back to visit for Thanksgiving (2016) and one of the first things she told me when I saw her in the hospital was, “I want you to have the bag of MadelineTosh worsted weight yarn in my stash.  You can do whatever you want with it — make whatever you want.”  (My financial situation hasn’t ever been one where I could blow gobs of money on the ‘expensive’ yarns, which is why a lot of what I make is done with what I can find at Walmart, Meijer or JoAnn’s.  Mom knew this, and she would sometimes buy me the really nice yarns or give me a gift certificate to buy some from WEBS or Knit Picks)

I remember being floored by this.  Dad was sitting with her at the time, and though he couldn’t tell one type of yarn from another, he understood the importance of what Mom was saying.  I could see that in his eyes.  Which told me they had talked about it … and I probably should have picked up on it then but didn’t (because like an idiot, I believed her when she said not to worry), her situation was more serious than she was letting on.  Anyway, after flustering around for a bit, I finally promised to take it if it would make her happy (it did) and use it for something. She also suggested (again) in a not so subtle/sneaky way that I might want to try the SGAA III.  (That was a little easier to see coming! LOL)  With little else to do at the hospital but sit with her, I grabbed needles and one of the skeins of yarn (thank goodnes she had a swift and winder at her house!) and the next day I took it and a copy of the pattern we printed from her Ravelry account with me.  She wasn’t able to knit at the time, but I think it eased her mind to see me doing so, and joining the Sherlock group for it.  I also think it eased her mind that I would be able to contact a few of her friends there to let them know her status.  Anyway, by the time I left for home a few days later, I was almost halfway through the first square of that KAL.

Now, I will admit, although I’ve yet to complete that afghan (we lost Mom around Easter, 2017 and I got too far behind and, rightly so, lost the heart to complete it then), I did enjoy it.  The people in that group, all who knew Mom, were very kind, supportive and encouraging after she passed.  That fall, when they started up the next afghan (IV), I went ahead and signed up for it.  I figured, maybe if I started at the beginning of one, I would finish it!  I had yarn, inherited from Mom (I got ALL of her yarn, needles, etc.  I just wish I’d gotten the bedroom where she’d stored it to help for space! LOL) that I knew she wanted to use for one of the Sherlock afghans, so I used that, and I managed to knit my way through the entire thing … until the very last square.  I made a mistake early on I didn’t notice — nothing too major and one I’ll leave in it — but other things left me too frustrated with it to finish.  That and it was right as my Christmas knitting was kicking into high gear, and that time of year I need ALL the time to get those projects completed for December!

But all is not lost!  I’m hoping to get back to it in the next week or two and finish it up before we begin SGAA V – the very last one! – in mid-March!  Which, as I said when I started this post, is what was went up on Ravelry yesterday.  This last afghan will be bittersweet, in a way, because it means that my direct connection to Mom through shared knitting will be complete.  At current, I don’t plan to do #1 or #2 because Mom made them and that is the ‘blanket’ I will inherit.  (My brothers and I will each inherit one of her big projects from over the years.  Sherlock 1/2 for me, the Millennium quilt she made for the next brother, and the Emily Dickinson quilt she made for the youngest brother)  There will be the possibility for some additional Sherlock thingies (potential sweaters, pillows, etc.) using the existing squares, but that requires further thought and planning, so chances of it happening anytime in the near future are low.

I went home from work last night and pulled out the yarn I’d purchased in December for SGAA V (the first one I’m choosing a yarn of MY liking for it) after getting my bonus check from work.  I couldn’t remember the exact color I’d chosen (I thought it was a dark teal, but turns out they call it ‘deep sea blue’).

 

Needles are always on hand, and I know I have the right size because I got some new favs for Christmas for myself, so I’m raring to go when the pattern releases next month!

However, while I was chatting with the group this morning, the question of ‘What will we do next?’ came up.  Each afghan takes a year to make (if you make all the squares when they come out).  The discussion eventually evolved around to other possibilities for future projects:  Agatha Christie (Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot) was one I saw that I fancy, but someone else mentioned the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy Sayers, and that struck a chord with me.

You see, back in 2016, before Mom took ill, she’d started planning out and making a Dorothy Sayers afghan.  Mom loved the Sayers books, and the Lord Peter Wimsey stories were her favorite.  I also remember her mentioning Gaudy Night over the years but other than recognizing it as a title of a book, I just never ‘got it.’  (The books just weren’t my cup of tea for time period and mystery alike)  Anyway, Mom became known in the Sherlock group for embroidering her squares, and she intended to do the same with the Dorothy Sayers afghan.  Only, she never got finished with it.  She left it with 1.5 squares yet to make.  When I asked her about it while visiting her that November, she said there were parts with which she wasn’t satisfied and she was considering redoing it.  She also hadn’t started the embroidery.

 

In our discussion this morning, I mentioned to the group about her afghan and that I was the one who now had it.  All along, I’ve wanted to finish it for her, in her memory if nothing else, and maybe do a KAL for it as well so she could have some ‘lasting legacy.’  What I’m thinking now, and several of the members of the Sherlock group are highly supportive of this, is to finish the blanket (she left designs for the last 1.5 squares and the yarn to complete it), create a KAL for it, and whatever money I raise by selling the patterns, donate to cancer research in her name.  I think she would like that, as well as the knowledge that some of her favorite stories can be shared with others.  It will also be another way I can keep that connected feeling with her, nearly two years after her passing.  I’ve no doubt she would approve of the idea (at least, the fundraising aspect of it), I just hope she doesn’t mind me sharing her interpretations of the stories she loved so much!

Tonight when I get home, I’m going to drag out the assorted squares she completed, the one partially knit, and all the patterns and yarn.  I’m going to try to sort through it all and see where we sit.  The more I think about this, the more I like the idea.  And who knows, maybe she’ll get me reading the Lord Peter Wimsey books after all! LOL