Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Yesterday was kind of a nasty day. Drippy and grey. At the farm, the mist hangs close and the calves are still getting out of the lower field through the fence behind the ha-ha. They'll need to add a second electric wire.

Still, the drippy grey feels a lot like spring. Hurry fast, friend, we're waiting.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Family Gnomes

While I was at my mom's house for my grandmother's memorial service, I remembered to take a photo of these gnomes that I made from the Wee Wonderfuls pattern as Christmas gifts.

There is a gnome representing each member of my immediate family. That's the Grandmother gnome there on the left.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Here a little child I stand
Heaving up my either hand;
Cold as paddocks though they be,
Here I lift them up to Thee,
For a benison to fall
On our meat and on us all. Amen.

A Child's Grace by Robert Herrick

My grandmother died yesterday afternoon. The poem above was the grace that the youngest child in her father's household would say when the family gathered for Thanksgiving or Christmas or another big family meal. I think that the tradition was more important to her father and to my mother than it was to her, but somehow I always think of little snippets of poetry when I think of Grandmother.

Grandmother was born in Richmond and had polio as a teenager (though they didn't know it was polio at the time). She was always tiny, and Mom told us stories of how a convalescing teenage Grandmother would walk down the street to the soda shop every day, doctor's orders, for a milkshake whirred up with a whole raw egg.

Later in her teens she met my granddaddy who, by all accounts, swept her off her feet. My mother has a set of strange photographs from that time, one of each of the young lovers in sun-dappled sepia, he in uniform, her hair with a soft front 40s curl, where they appear to be leaning toward each other through the frames. Later, after they married, Grandmother followed him around the South as he followed business, Spartanburg, Charlotte, Atlanta, and finally Houston. They travelled together on business, too, to Alaska and Indonesia. Another photo shows tiny Indonesian-dressed 60s or 70s Grandmother holding a be-umbrella-ed drink in a coconut over Granddaddy's head.

But this was all before I knew her. The Grandmother I knew was an artist who painted in oils, rich colors and abstracted landscapes and adobe Texas scenes. When I was a child, my brothers and I were required to write a letter to a family member each month in exchange for our allowances-- we called it our "Grandmother letter"-- the request, "Can I have my allowance?" would be met with, "Did you write your Grandmother letter?" Once, I wrote an elaborate note with pictures replacing as many nouns as I could draw. I was so proud when Mom told me that Grandmother took the note to her art class to show her fellow painters; after that all letters to Grandmother had to be extra-specially creative.

Several years after Granddaddy died, Grandmother moved to North Carolina so that Mom would be close. With her came the modern art collection and the clean-lined furniture that had populated her house in Texas. I saw her more often then, and as an adult. We would sit in her den and talk turkey-- she would tell me stories about her life with Granddaddy. The 'little' apartment they shared in DC one summer that would cost $3000 a month to rent now; the sad one about the beautiful brooch that he bought her that another man had had to sell during tough times.

And always word-play and music. She recited a poem about the first day of spring that I still haven't been able to find. Once, when she picked up the phone and heard me on the other end she broke into an old song with the chorus "but don't. ask. Lulu!" She asked us many times to find her a copy of her favorite love song, Skylark, which has been sung by many different crooners. None of the versions we dug up quite matched the smooth splendor of the singer in her head. And we all laughed together to the tape of a raunchy trailer-park version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas that my uncle Larry cooked up and called in to an Atlanta radio station a couple of Christmases ago.

The last time I spoke to Grandmother was last Thursday, on Valentine's Day. It was a sad call, because she couldn't really hear me, no matter how loudly I spoke. But she did say, "I think I heard you say 'I love you'. That's all I can hear. And I love you, too." She handed the phone to my mother and I could hear in the background, "Tell her I love her."

As a family, we've had some kind of tough times-- Grandmother resented being asked to move to North Carolina and gave my mom a very hard time over it sometimes. But I'm glad that my last memory of Grandmother is one filled with love. I think that's one of the best benisons that's fallen on me in quite a while.

PS to my family: Memory is a funny thing. And a lot of my facts could be wrong. After Granddaddy died, I wrote about sitting on a hard pew in a church with my cousins, and to this day I can still feel that moment from 1994. This is why I'm writing this now--trying to pin down the memories.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Quilt-along lil' gator

Here are two more blocks for the quilt-along. Most folks are all finished with their blocks and working on settings, but I still have a few blocks left to complete. I don't know why I'm dragging my feet on this, but this weekend I took down the blocks for another quilt that were hogging my design wall and threw these up. That has made all the difference in my feelings about this quilt. Seeing all the blocks up there on the wall looking awesome together is giving me the push I need to get it finished. Without further adieu: These are the week 9 blocks. I've always loved churn-dash. I used the batik on the left once before, but I think it's better displayed with these larger pieces. I like how it's really directional. And the brown one on the right because the design wall told me I needed more brown in the quilt.
And these are the blocks from week 10 of the project. I really like the one on the right, where you don't immediately realize that the colored blocks of the nine-patch are made from more than one fabric.
And here's one last thing that I finished up the other day. It's the Baby Alligator Scarf, made from a kit from Morehouse Farm Merino. The sport-weight yarn is a little stiff and was kind of full of plant matter*, but I think the stiffness really helps to make this pattern pop. Now the only question is-- Is this way too scary for a child to want to wear? It's sized for a wee little one but it even kind of freaks me out when I look at those empty eye sockets. Whew! ( I know that a slightly older kid, say 5 or so, would probably enjoy it, but I'm not sure it's big enough...)

*When I was a new knitter, I knit my first sweater from some lovely Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk yarn, with a Debbie Bliss pattern. I didn't feel confident enough to choose my own yarn to replace the yarn called for in patterns. My second sweater, for my husband, I chose to knit in Morehouse Farm Merino, mostly because the price was right. That was the most painful knit ever. I was pulling twigs and stems out of the yarn every few stitches, and after all that work, the finished product wasn't even that great-- it was stiff and kind of pill-y. The whole experience put me back quite a bit on this knitting thing. So know I know that the Morehouse Farm stuff is much better for smaller projects (for which they have several really cute patterns), and that knitting is expensive if you want it to be enjoyable.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ode to Mud

Dear Mud
You are sticky
You are dirty
You are nicer than ice.

We're spending today recovering from two days of sleet and ice. The kind where you have to remove your cowboy boots to climb carefully the stairs to your front door in stocking feet because you forgot to get ice-melt until all the stores were out. Yeah.
Here are some prettier photos from earlier this winter. We have a blue sky today, too. But no snow (yet).

Until tomorrow.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another winter hat

Yet another winter hat. I guess the bitter cold temperatures here (and wind!) make me want to knit with springy warm wool. The carried stitches in this pattern, although kind of a pain, really make this hat look great. It's very stretchy and close-fitting, too, which is nice.

Koolhaas Hat
Pattern by Jared Flood
Made in Malabrigo worsted in color: Sealing Wax (perfect name-- the orange-y edges are great)
Size: Large (man)
Needles: Size 5 and Size 8 circulars and Size 8 dpns

I have plans for this one!

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Thorpe hats, originally uploaded by singyourheart.

Remember all that nervous energy I had before the London trip? Well I turned it into these three Thorpe hats. What a great pattern! So quick and with a satisfying end product.

Absent actual human heads to model the hats (I was mostly alone at the farm today), I used a fencepost and a puppy. Brian is probably groaning at the dog photos for two reasons: 1) that I dressed the dog in human clothes, and 2) that they're human *girl* clothes! Also, apparently I can't get through a day without blogging about the dog. Sorry about that.

PS: You'll have to click through to flickr to see all of the Thorpe mosaic. I can't figure out how to fix the template.

Friday, February 8, 2008

And so [I'm] back, from outer space*

I really didn't mean to be gone from this space for so long-- after blogging for a while, three weeks' absence seems like a big thing. But I do have a good excuse. I went to London to visit my industrious husband, who has been working there on and off for several months.

I was only in London for eight nights, but the week before I left was spent worrying about leaving. Getting the house perfectly clean and all my clothes in order, sure, but also living with a general low-level anxiety about the whole trip. I'm not the best international traveller I know (that award would go to Brian, or perhaps to my friend Lura, who seems mostly okay with the three planes that it takes her to get to a small town in Mexico, but I digress).

I'm always happy with any trip that I've taken after I arrive at home, with photos and memories of all the wonderful things that I did. And I even get into a pretty good groove after about a week in any location, once I'm comfortable with my options for transportation and dining. This trip was pretty golden, though, with mostly beautiful weather (save for the pouring rain on my first day in town) and lots of great opportunities.

Remind me to tell you about the young women at the preview for Sotheby's spring Impressionist sale (which we got to see thanks to our lovely friend Ann) who couldn't choose between the two Picassos up for auction. Or about Jeff Goldblum and Kevin Spacey in Speed-the-Plow at the Old Vic. Among so many other great memories.

I didn't buy a single thing on this trip. I think I like it better that way. I did get some great photos, though. A few of the usual attractions, like the one of Westminster Abbey above, and approximately 687 of my day at Regent's Park. See below-- how gorgeous was that day?

I came home to an exhausted puppy (he went to a new 'cageless' boarding place) who had somehow misplaced both his collar tags and some of the skin on top of his nose (see below, and please ignore the random turquoise post-it-- don't know how that got there). He's spending today sleeping it off.

I'll be back tomorrow with some crafting content-- knitting is a good coping mechanism for the 'general low-level anxiety' mentioned above.

* On a side note, the title for this post is (obviously) from Gloria Gaynor's group dance function staple "I Will Survive," which seems to pop up at every wedding I've ever attended. When Brian and I got married, I tried to keep the (very wonderful) band from playing it-- I think it's the only song that I asked them not to play. I just think a song about recovering from a breakup doesn't really send the message that you want at a wedding. But then when I was in the house changing out of my dress and into my travelling clothes, what did I hear out the bedroom window (?), but this song, being played down below in the tent. Along with 150 raucous people enjoying the song and dancing manically. So maybe this particular breakup vibe is okay as long as it keeps the party going. Who knows.

A few shadows, a little sun

I meant to post this photo the very day I took it, late last month. For some reason I really love it. Perfectly describes all those snow walks we took a few weeks ago-- so cold and so grey, but also really full of light and life.