Fitting In – Quilter or Knitter?

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I’ve come to a huge realization this week. I don’t fit into to both of the passions of my life. I’ve reached the proverbial fork in the road.

My two passions are knitting and sewing. I love making things with my hands. ( I also love helping things to grow, but that’s so seasonal……… )

So back to my two passions. I learned to knit when I was around 8 years old. I think I learned to sew a little later from my mom. But my real learning came when we had a family move into our Northern Illinois neighborhood. The wife was a “retired” Home Ec Teacher (remember those?). She was raising three young children while her husband was flying airplanes. He was gone frequently overnight, and she needed a babysitter from time to time. I traded babysitter services for lessons in putting in zippers, learning flat fell seams, etc. I was in love. Sewing became my life – along with a few scarves and mittens thrown in.

I sewed suits, shorts, mini-skirts, and I even sewed my own prom dress. I designed and made my wedding dress. I made friends’ wedding dresses. I made bridesmaid’s dresses, flower girl dresses, and I even had a little alteration business. But, I continued to knit…..it was my relaxation……..

Time passed and I was no longer making baby clothes or bridesmaid dresses. I became an empty nester working from home over 10 years ago, and I had no one to sew for. I decide that quilting could fill that void. Now, I learned some quilting basics along the way – even made a few quilts for the kids’ beds. So, I decided that if I wanted to keep my machine busy this might be the answer. I went “whole hog” – all the bells and whistles. My husband got on board, mostly because he could build stuff to contain all the “necessary” items. I continued to knit. My husband got sweaters. Everyone got socks. I even made myself a sweater. Heck, my boss got socks for Christmas one year. The following year he got an alpaca scarf.

I went to Quilting retreats. I started to realize that I really didn’t fit in with the quilting crowd. Not that there is anything wrong with them, but I’m not real competitive, and I’m not a girlie-girl. I’m kind of a “live, and let live person”. And to go to those retreats, I had to pack a whole list of items, my sewing machine, and a bunch of stuff “just in case”. By the time I arrived and carted my stuff in, I was exhausted. I always forgot something. And then there was the head shaking……”she really didn’t read the list, did she?” they would whisper. NO, I have a full time job and my stuff is scattered all over my SEWING room. I’m a seamstress………

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I went on Sock Retreat. To go to a knitting event, you bring some sticks and a couple balls of yarn. No extension cord required.  Everyone sits in the same place.  Sometimes, it’s quiet and you simply hear the gentle clicking of the needles.  And retreaters cheer you on as you complete your item.  If you knit slowly that’s ok – you’re savoring the yarn.  If you knit quickly, that’s ok, it’s your style.  Both are OK.  I mean really OK. Waiting for an oil change? I can pull out a sock and turn the heel.  And people always ask, “what are you knitting?”.  It’s a great conversation starter.  My husband says ‘road trip’, and I think ‘sleeve’. I love the smell of wool. It brings me a sense of contentment. I’m an earthy kind of person. I don’t own any nail polish. Make-up for me is mascara, and only for special occasions. Dressing up? Add a little blush. And sheep? It’s always been a dream to have a sheep farm. In my “next life”, I’m living in Vermont on said Sheep Farm. I dream of it every time I pass the “Lucky Dog Farm” in Addison County…….

So no offense to you quilters, but I think I belong with the knitting crowd…….

Out Of Hibernation (I Wish)

As I look out my window this sunny, Spring(?) morning, I find it hard to believe it truly is spring.  Our big debate this weekend has been, do we start our seeds or wait another week?  With snow in the yard above my knees (I do admit to being rather short) and the front walkway barely discernible, I find it hard to believe we will be planting anytime soon.  This is made more credible by the fact that the weather forecast is calling for below zero temperatures yet again tonight.
Winter

My husband has warned me that we went through all the wood he had prepared for heating for this winter, and we have dipped into our reserves.  I truly do not wish for anymore snow, having injured my back shoveling, which is something I have never experienced before.  My condolences to all those with back problems – it truly is torture.  Nonetheless, I turn my thoughts to spring and planting.

I do have a plan to try and “catch up” with this curve ball Mother Nature has thrown at us North Country folk. So here’s my plan: as soon as the snow is gone (who knows when that will be), I’m going to cover the gardens with black plastic to help heat the soil.  I’m sure the frost is at record breaking levels this winter and the good earth will likely need some help.  We’re going to create a hoop house over one garden.  I’ve always wanted to do this, and we watched a show on “Ask This Old House” where they helped someone create one – cheap (our favorite word).  We’ll need to modify that idea to accommodate our existing garden but my brain has laid out a plan.  The biggest problem in my marriage is my “brain plans” and trying to have my husband implement them.  As we work through these harebrained ideas, I truly can’t understand why he can’t see what I see :-)  Men Are From Mars, or something like that? :-)

Time to crank up the woodstove, make a list of seeds and starts that we need and peer out at the trees and pretend……and maybe keep knitting that sweater that I assumed would be worn next winter.  Who knows, I may be wearing it at Memorial Day Picnics.

What’s wrong with “Recycle”?

Repurpose, reimagine, rebrand.  I’m sick, sick of it.  We started with recycle back in the 70′s and it works just fine for me, thank you very much. Also, I know what you’re thinking – “geez, she’s been gone for a while, and now that she’s back, she still has issues.”  You bet I have issues!  I have issues with waste, along with society’s sense of entitlement that is so prevalent lately.

Now back to our discussion of recycling.  My dear garbage picking husband loves to “recycle”.  He’s not a junk collector or anything; he’s a picker of truly fine items that people, who are obviously more well healed than we are, no longer desire.  He has a gift for this, which I must admit, I don’t always see.  Every once in a while he has some cloudy vision and it requires a trip back to the dump.  I haven’t told him yet, but our new dump rules don’t allow pickers in the metal pile.  I’m trying to find a time to break this news to him gently, perhaps with a glass of wine at the ready.

Well, when we were building our house, we needed a basic functional metal door for our basement access that was going to get a lot of use.  We figured we’d go cheap and replace it later.  So we headed to a discount builder’s supply warehouse and got a good quality door for cheap.  It was my hope to replace it with a door with a window to bring some light into that area of the basement.  As life would take us, our son needed to live with us for a short time while moving back East – with his dog.  So we quickly finished a room that was already in progress for him in the basement – that ugly door would be his entrance.  No time to replace it, so I painted it and it did look pretty good, but the space was still dark.  He referred to that room as the “dungeon”. Now several years later, it truly was time to replace that door.  We priced doors which caused the old one to grow more attractive even sans the window.  Yes, I truly wanted that window, however, my desire to keep my savings account in tact was greater. (I’m cheap)

Enter the garbage picker.  I usually accompany my husband on his dump runs to avoid unnecessary “finds”, but on this particular day, I was tied up.  I heard him yell from the garage, “Come on down here and see what I found at the dump.”.  There in the back of his truck was this dented, several times painted, door in its frame.  I told him to get back in the truck and return it.  He said he had a plan, and his friend Victor, who ran the dump, said we could “return” the door when we were done with it.  I told him that we WERE done with it. My dear husband made this proposal: he was going to remove the beautiful leaded glass insert, cut a hole in our old door, and put in the glass.  He said if it didn’t work, we would have to get a new door (obviously), so I would get a door with a window either way.  He sure knows how to play me.  Well, it didn’t turn out half bad as you can see.  We saved a bundle and I have a lot more light in the basement.

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Have I ever mentioned my brick project?  I make these bricks for burning out of recycled newspaper with this brick maker I got from Lehman’s.  My husband thinks I’m crazy.  We all have a differing views of crazy.

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Feeling Old AND Young – both at the same time

“Old Days……good times I remember…..”

So being a hip, young-acting, and definitely cool Grandma, I Groupon. I received a Groupon Offer for tickets to see Chicago and The Doobies in concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.  So, I forwarded the email to my husband at work – “what do you think?”,  his response – “looks cool”,  my response – “you wanna go?”, his response – “if you would like to”,  my response – “this is a yes or no question”,  his response “I’ll go with you if you want to go”.  The translation to this dialogue???? He was worried about getting home late on a work night – that made me feel old.  I bought the tickets anyway :-)

So we got to the concert.  Everyone was dressed nicely and filed in orderly.  I didn’t catch one whiff of pot.  The tatoo to person ratio was extremely low. I checked the stage – yup, there was Doobie stuff up there. I was in the right place! We sat in our seats.  I looked over the crowd.  LOTS of bald heads. LOTS of GREY HAIR.  NO ONE was texting. All that made me feel old.

So then The Doobies came on stage.  They belted out a couple 70′s tunes.  I felt YOUNG.  Still no whiffs of pot, no one dancing in the aisles.  But, I still felt YOUNG!!!!

You know how couples have these “inside comments” they can make to each other?  Well, my husband and I love the same movies, so we tend to use lines from those movies with each other.  One of our favorite movies is Romancing the Stone with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.  In one scene the characters they play, are romping through Columbia and they come upon a downed plane full of bales of marijuana and a long dead crew. Inside the plane is a copy of Rolling Stone magazine.  In the scene, Kathleen Turner is frantic and Michael is sitting on the bales reading, and he comments “Shit, The Doobies broke up”. LOL!!!! So, part way through their performance, my husband leans over to me, and whispers in my ear, “Shit, The Doobies are back together”.  Back to feeling old :-)

Then Chicago came on – AWESOME!  Feeling young again (thank goodness).  STILL no whiffs of pot, but still feeling like I’m back in High School – remembering cruising around in my friends’ cars listening to “Saturday in the Park” on 8-track.  Oops! Feeling old again.

Finally, The Doobies and Chicago performed together.  Double awesome.  So they did a close-up of one of the guys playing guitar for the screens around the stage.  Let’s just say his hands weren’t Ivory Soap hands.  So, I hear the lady in front of me (with grey hair) say to her friend, “look how old his hands are”!  I looked at my hands.  They aren’t 16-year-old hands.  They have seen their share of wringing out diapers, knife cuts from cutting up chicken, and just plain ol’ life.  Feeling OLD again. Then they played 25 or 6 to 4, and the crowd sang along.  I still knew all the words!!!!  Now I was feeling MEGA young!!!!

Then my husband leaned over and said, “I would like to leave before they are completely done so we can get out quickly.  We’re going to be tired in the morning”.    I was feeling young at that moment, and I wasn’t budging.

He was in bed by midnight and I was still humming some of the tunes.  I wanted to hang onto the young feeling for as long as I could.

Vintage, or just old stuff?

I’ll admit it: I like old, er, vintage stuff. I think George Carlin said it best, “How come when it’s my stuff it’s stuff, but when it’s your stuff, it’s sh*&?”. Well, I like my “stuff”. The thing that is nice about old stuff is that is has a story. My kitchen set has one of those stories. When we were living in a different house, and the kids were all out on their own and I really wanted a new kitchen set. This one could be “nice”. I no longer had to worry about anyone using it as a cutting board, doing science projects on it, or using it as a drop spot for books, etc. I actually wanted to use it for eating breakfast – what a concept! I knew what I wanted, but I could not find it anywhere. I combed antique shops, I garage saled, but nothing tickled my fancy.

So, on our way back from an Anniversary getaway in New Hampshire one December, we traveled through Massachusetts.  We went south on the interstate, and then headed West.  I needed to use a restroom, my husband needed to eat, so we began to search for, as he says, “a place with some local flavor”. I had my eyes peeled and then we came upon a place that had a sign that said, “Antiques, Used Furniture, Bakery, Food”.  I guess they wanted to diversify their business. When I say this place was overflowing with “stuff”, I mean overflowing.  The front porch was filled, every nook and cranny inside was filled, and in the corner of this barn like structure was a little cafe, with great sandwiches and warm hot chocolate.  As we weaved our way through the front porch, there it was: my dream kitchen set, with dripping snow falling on it.  When I told my husband that was the set I’d been looking for, he said, without reservation, that I had clearly lost it.  There was barely a finish on a few of the 6 chairs, the tabletop was devoid of any finish at all, and of course the water was running off it and had been for a while.  But I could see that this set used to be a beauty.  The legs were all pegged at the joints (no wiggles – ever), the tabletop opened to reveal a leaf that would unfold onto the table (that was in perfect condition and revealed its former beauty), and nary a scratch anywhere – beautiful hard rock maple.  We paid $125 for the entire set (down from $150) and we strapped the pieces onto the truck and made our way home like The Beverly Hillbillies.

I took the better part of 3 months to refinish that set.  But, in my opinion, it is absolutely beautiful, and the quality just cannot be matched today.  It has served us for 10 years (no wiggles in the chairs) and I am typing this blog on the table remembering……..

The hutch in the background was found not too soon after the table was done, by my oldest son and me, while antiquing.  It matches the finish I used almost perfectly and it too, has quality that cannot be matched.  And the best part is that when I dust it, I remember the day spent with my son.  I also remember my husband saying, when I called him about it, “What do you mean it doesn’t come apart? All hutches come apart.” He, and son #1 got it through the door – it wasn’t easy, but they did it :-)

I love this vintage sweater. I wear it every winter.  It’s over 20 years old.  I got when………………

PS “How come my stuff is vintage and your stuff is just old?”

An Adirondack Yarn Tasting

Yup, you read that correctly – A Yarn Tasting.  One of my husband’s former co-workers has been able to fulfill her dream of owning a Yarn Shop during her retirement.  Some may think that is a bit of an oxymoron, but to those of us that knit, we know it is indeed, a dream.

A representative from Cascade Yarns was there with an assortment of yarns, and small balls for us to take home to “sample” for ourselves.  She had some completed garments for us to inspect and of course, she answered questions.

There were ladies there from the area who share a love of fiber and creating with it.  We swapped news of upcoming fairs, shared stories of yarns that delighted, and yarns that disappointed.  We looked for patterns.

Never missing an opportunity to acquire more yarn, I told my husband I was going to “check it out”.  Well, I wandered into the shop and I began to examine every skein.  As I drove to the shop for the tasting, I counted the years I have been knitting – 47…..yikes!  It seems like I just turned 47.  Either I knitted as infant, or it’s been awhile :-)

Here’s my new “stuff”.  Two balls of bulky weight yarn for some slippers, a skein of Lamb’s Pride for sox.  The sox will probably be multi-colored as I need 1 and a little of a second skein for my favorite pattern.  So, to be thrifty, most of my sox are multi-colored.  And don’t forget my yarn tasting samples……and a couple bottles of wool wash to take care of my treasured hand knit items.

Check out Cascade Yarns at www.cascadeyarns.com  They have some great free patterns.

Happy Knitting!

The Adirondack Food Chain

We belong to a CSA (Community Support Agriculture).  This is our 3rd year.  It’s our son and daughter’s-in-law first year.  Every Saturday we get a wood box, like the one you see.  The only difference is that it is filled to the brim with all kinds of organic goodies.  Every week is something new, and always good.  Our friends Todd & Theresa run this CSA.  Check out their website: http://attwoodbarrkerfarm.com/ This past week, one of the things we got was a head of cabbage.  Now, I’m not a big cabbage fan, but waste not, want not.  So for the past year, I’ve collecting recipes with cabbage.  We had one for dinner tonight.  It was a winner!!!

Besides the cabbage, I used some red onions, beans from garden, carrots I got at last week’s Farmer’s Market, garlic from our CSA box……well, you get the picture, ‘er see the picture.

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know I belong to a Food Co-op.  I’m also into this whole Slow Money concept.  Now I have to admit that the co-op isn’t exactly slow money, it’s “slower” money.  We all unpack the truck, sort the food and do a mini-inventory.  We have a hand in our food supply. And I got the rest of the ingredients for dinner from my pantry filled with co-op food.

One of the yummy treats in our CSA box is a loaf of freshly baked bread from a local deli, Izzy’s.  The bread is, as they say, to die for.   One of the women in our co-op is the baker.  Todd & Theresa are into the slow money thing, so it’s win for everyone.  Check out what the Times Union is saying about Izzy’s: http://www.timesunion.com/business/article/North-Creek-celebrating-a-business-boom-3671937.php

I bet you’re saying, “well, this is all good, but what about protein – like meat”.  Well, we get that from Whitefield’s Farm.  Don raises turkeys and chickens, and since we’re “flexitarians”, that works just fine for us.  Don custom cut a turkey for us this week.  And he also set aside a few packages of thigh cutlets.  If you’ve never had turkey thigh cutlets, you are missing out on a superb treat!  Don and his wife also grow vegetables, sell eggs, and other things as the seasons pass.  Drop by and see what he has. http://www.fictionamongfriends.com/Whitefields_Farm.htm%20

I am happy to say, that at least during the warmer weather months, we can avoid the grocery chains and eat quite well.  Not only are we feeding ourselves, but we are feeding our community.  And that’s nice!