Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another snow day

I guess I got my truly snowy day and white roads. It's been snowing since about 9:30 this morning. (NB: I'll never get tired of photos of this road (although some of you might).)

Just in time for my completed Fetching mitts. I knitted these from some Malabrigo in my stash (I don't know the colorway) on number 9 needles, as the pattern suggests.
I worked an extra repeat of the cabling at the wrist and omitted the picot bind-off. I really like these-- they're so soft and were a really quick knit-- but they're way too big for my tiny child hands. So I think I'll make another pair for myself on size 8 needles and give this pair away. Even though I think this colorway doesn't really do the cables justice, I may even be able to eke another pair out of the leftovers from this skein. That would be truly thrifty.Also thrifty and a perfect snow day activity-- homemade bread. This is honey oatmeal bread from the little spiral-bound cookbook that came with my mixer. Yum. More snow photos on Flickr.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Real Winter

Yesterday I took the horse to my friend Karen's place for our weekly Tuesday morning group ride over hill and dale. The sky was grey and thick and it was bitterly cold. We mounted up, and the dog was left behind in the trailer to wait this ride out as there were a couple of excitable babies (baby horses-- sometimes called "greenies") in our group of six. We trotted away from the barn and all the horses felt as though they might explode; they snorted across Pony Creek and up the hill to the big field full of holes where a house will be built soon. Full of anticipation and joy at being out.

The snow came slowly at first ("Nothing but flurries!" said George) but soon big wet flakes came quickly, blown horizontally by the wind. Little mounds of frozen white built up on the brims of our hats and in the soft spot between my horse's wither and the saddle pad. Moving through, it seemed as though the wind was swirling us along with the snow.

Then Karen's hearty laugh from behind me, "I can't see anything!"

"Me neither!" Snowflakes burning in my eyes.

"I'm just looking down at my pony's withers and trusting him to guide me home."

"Me, too." The horse tossing his head like he's carrying the queen through that snow. Proud and full of hot air, prancing along.

When we got back to the barn everything was coated in thin and airy snow and the dirt roads were beginning to turn white (I love it when that happens). I let the dog out of the trailer-- he always looks a little yellow against that white white-- and we jumped in the truck and drove the horse home.
When I got back to my home, there was not a spot of snow on the ground. It was like the ride in the snow never happened, but for my chapped face and lips. The snow may not have changed the day at my house, but it did make me feel like hunkering down and getting some quilting done. So, although it took me a while to get here, I present block 6 of the quilt-along. I'm really digging the batiks in these two, especially the smaller squares in the block on the right. *By the way, that Grady photo at the top was taken last February, but you get the idea. I hope we get some truly snowy days like that this year!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Catching up

I spent some time this week doing some catching up on AmandaJean's quilt-along. I'm still not quite there, but here are the blocks from week 4. I wish that I was better at piecing and could have made the four pairs of half-square triangles on each side of the blocks (in the background charcoal color) out of one triangle. But this is not the first time that I have tried and failed to make that type of measurement work out. So this will have to do for now. And here are the blocks for week 7. I like that a lot of these blocks have a very diagonal energy to them. I think that's what might end up making my quilt work. I have a couple of ideas for setting these blocks in the finished quilt, and I'm looking forward to trying them out when the 12 weeks are up and I have 24 blocks.
But right now I have some more catching up to do. Week 5's blocks are in progress, and week 6 and week 8 still remain to be done. Happy weekend, all!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Foxhunt Friday: Hilltopping from the Turnpike

The photo above doesn't have anything to do with yesterday's hunting, but I've always really loved the lived-in look of that barn on the corner.

Yesterday was colder than Tuesday and Wednesday were, so I was a little worried about how Joshua would behave. A cold snap sometimes makes a horse crazy or excited. But he was a perfect gentleman for the whole meet. We met at 10 am (gotta love those later meets) at a farm on the Snickersville Turnpike past Sam Fred Road. The country really opens out down there, with large, more manicured farms and more stone walls than you find over our way.

The field was a good Thursday size, about 4 in the first flight and maybe 10 hilltoppers. The two old men on chestnuts were there with their flasks, constantly asking, "have the ladies (point with opened flask here) up front been adequately served?" They do this on Thursdays instead of golf, and one of them has a wife who is honestly named "Queenie". She is very nice.

All this is to say that there was the usual constant chatter from one saddle to another. But there was also a moment when we came up a hill and checked on the top and everything seemed so very clear and still. Almost transcendent. Then an airplane passed high over head and we looked up to trace its path and then almost immediately back down as we heard hound music in the woods below us.

The pack chased two foxes at once, moving in the same direction. Then one fox split off and ran right beside us in the woods below a dam. We heard him (bigger than a squirrel, smaller than a deer) but didn't see him or know it was him until the pack doubled back in our direction and we ran that fox for a good long while. A run like that is joy on the wing.

Those are the two moments that I hope to remember from yesterday: the still, clear one followed by the free, winging one. I think those are the types of moments that I seek in my life as a whole, too. Moments when I'm myself, in focus, immersed in a world fully realized.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Postage stamp runner

So after the fun that I had with the last table runner, I decided that we could use another one for year-round use.

I also decided to let myself off the hook on all those postage stamp blocks that I was making. Those suckers are way too much work to make a whole quilt out of them-- my congratulations to those who have managed to do it! Luckily, the fourteen blocks that I had finished already went together very nicely as a long-ish table runner. The whole thing with borders came out to about 20" by 55". This runner also gave me another chance to practice my continuous machine quilting. I got to use some variegated King Tut quilting thread that Santa put in my stocking. I think it's color 918, Joseph's Coat. I really love the effect-- and this thing came out of the dryer seriously crinkly and nice.

It feels so good to have such a nice end product, but it also feels good to let go of the (self-imposed) expectation that I had to make the whole quilt. More photos on Flickr.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Trees in two colors

I'm sitting here waiting for the chimney sweep to come and inspect our flue so that maybe we can light a warming fire tonight. It's bitter cold here and windy, desolate and bare really. All the greens and blues in grass and water are greyed out, and the wind has swept the world flat. I'm not a huge fan of this time of year, but the grey light of the short cold days does make for really good photographs of tree silhouettes.

For some reason I'm a little bit obsessed with the shapes of the trees, especially against a background of sky. It could be the elementary school art class where we were taught to draw nothing but (fairly realistic for an eight-year-old, I'll give the teacher that much) trees for weeks on end, but I think that there are few things more beautiful.

The two-color tree silhouette also inspired our Gocco-ed holiday card this year, a take on this photograph. I love how the red ink from the "peace" message sneaks up into the rest of the picture, more or less in certain prints -- it's the same way that I like to think of peace sneaking into my life, more or less on certain days.

Stay warm, friends.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Christmas Cobblestone

Since my husband was working so much this fall, I had plenty of time to work on this secret Christmas gift for him. It's Jared Flood's Cobblestone sweater, from the fall issue of Interweave Knits. I love how the fit is very streamlined, with the side garter-stitch panels and shoulder-hugging garter-stitch yoke.
I also love that the sweater was knit in the round, from the bottom up, so there was very little seaming involved. I think he likes it, only he might wish it was a little less orange. This yarn, Plymouth Tweed color 5313, is a little bit color-shifty in different lights.

And here's a photo to show what a good sport Brian was to model for me today. It was about 28 degrees this morning in the country and *windy*. This is what we wore for the weather and what Brian wished he could model today, instead of his thin-ish Christmas sweater-- look at the pup squinting his eyes in the wind.
P.S., I wish that I could capture a good photo of the capped waves that roll across the pond on a windy day like today -- it's really a sight to see the whole top of the water shift from north to south. Today we watched the white geese pushed swiftly across the surface as soon as they landed, and we followed the farm rule of "no riding horses when there are whitecaps visible from the barn".

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year! Be sure to eat some money.

So the end of 2007 got away from me, but here we are at the beginning of a whole new year. I wish you all health, happiness and luck in 2008. We're hoping that these collard greens (with cornmeal dumplings, yum), hoppin' john, and black-eyed peas (because apparently hoppin' john is always dry) will help to send good things our way this year.

These are all from recipes in the January 2008 issue of Gourmet, which pays homage to late Southern chef Edna Lewis. I tell you, her essay on "What is Southern?" made my mouth water and renewed my interest in the lives of Southern writers like Carson McCullers, Truman Capote and Thomas Wolfe. January may be the month of Southern food (and authors) at our house.