Sunday, December 30, 2007

First Book Recommendation

I have always been a reader, but I've tended to neglect reading for pleasure lately in favor of knitting, and also because I do so much job-related reading of literature. I have, however, begun to pick it up again, thanks to a library committee assignment and to discovering the availability of inexpensive free audiobooks through my library consortium that I can listen to while spinning. Aren't MP3 players great?

Keep in mind that I read good literature all the time. At the present time I'm rereading Wuthering Heights and Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees because I'm going to be teaching both of them in January. I want to be able, however, to recommend some books that are just a good read (or listen), even if just for entertainment purposes. I am going to provide Amazon or Barnes & Noble links wherever possible, but I recommend a visit to your local public library first. Save money for sock yarn!

My first selection is Mary Higgins Clark's Mount Vernon Love Story--a novel about, of course, George and Martha Washington. I had the audiobook. Although it is obvious that historical research forms the background for this book, the reader should note that this book focuses on a personal relationship which we can factually know only from the outside. Nevertheless, we are reminded of facets of the personality of the first President that we don't usually think about. For example, it is hard to visualize that stern face on the dollar bill as belonging to someone with the reputation of being the best dancer in Virginian society. Somehow that fact seems more interesting than mythological stories about chopping down cherry trees. Coupled with the story of the two lovers is the story of Washington's love for Mount Vernon and the land. From some other history I have read, I know that he was a statesman, a general, and, above all, a farmer, and his pride in the estate forms a backdrop for the story of the marriage. I must admit that I enjoyed the book also because I've walked the grounds at Mount Vernon and stood on the porch and looked across the Potomac. For me, the beauty of that magnificent home made the narrative even more real. (By the way, the tale mentions a purchase of spinning wheels and a spinning house where the textiles for the estate were evidently processed although I'm sure many of the finer fabrics were imported.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christmas Surprise

As I was waiting for the service to begin last night, my childhood best friend arrived with her brother's family. She had made a quick trip back home, sans hubby who was recovering from some surgery, to see her nieces and their families who were coming home all at the same time with their little ones for Christmas. We enjoyed the services together and got in a few minutes of visiting. What a wonderful blessing!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Probably the Last FO of 2007 and a Christmas Wish

This is the Knitting Pure and Simple V-Neck Raglan from Noro Silverthaw. I finished it on December 21, but due to our family Christmas on the 22nd, I didn't get it on the Wooly Board until last night. I know that it looks short and wide, but it doesn't look that way on my body--probably because the body is also short and wide. The fabric is wonderfully soft and cozy. My only complaint is that the yarn had lots of knots. I spit-spliced, so I hope that the wool-angora-nylon blend holds.

Merry Christmas!

As I said, we had our family Christmas on Saturday. Our DD and her family arrived safely in spite of an early-morning ice and snow storm. Our DS and his family are local, so they were here, too. We had two baby girls at the cruising stage, and the two 4 yr. olds were sitting at a children's table nearby. They had a blast without so much adult supervision. It's amazing how entertaining children can be. Watching the little ones try out various unfamiliar tastes at the table was the greatest sort of fun. Then, of course, there were the presents and watching the kiddies have fun. I'm glad that we got to share. Both families moved on to dinners with the other side of the family today, and then they'll have their own Christmas Day at home.

DH and I drove to the nearest city today, ate a nice breakfast at The Cracker Barrel, watched other people frantically trying to finish Christmas shopping (and felt superior), had lunch at Red Lobster, and drove home. We did run into an old friend who used to live here, so that made the day special.

Tonight will be the Christmas Eve candelight service at church. I always need this one--quiet, beautiful, peaceful--music and communion. I particularly need it because Christmas is always a bittersweet time--my father died at midnight on Christmas Eve a number of years ago. It's at this time I remember the Christmases of my childhood, being carried to the living room on his shoulders on Christmas morning to see the tree and the presents, and the special Christmas that he carried me into the backyard in my coat and footed pajamas to sit me on the seat and adjust the chain length on the swingset that he had welded for me from pipe. I hope our children and their children will remember the special things. . . . Thank you, Daddy!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Better than Knitting--or Anything Else

--a sleepy 4-year-old tucked into bed after a bedtime book and a Bible story.
--the lights from a Christmas tree.
--a sleeping baby on my shoulder for an hour.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cheap Thrills

Both my husband and I are the children of older parents, which means that our parents were young married adults during the Great Depression. In fact, my mother’s family homesteaded in a dugout in New Mexico Territory in 1906, and the other parental units were not exactly rich to begin with either. In fact, our families actually made it through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl quite well, managing to stay employed and get ahead even though they worked very hard. However, we both grew up relatively frugally on a pay-as-you-go-basis although we really never wanted for anything.

This tendency toward economy has not always carried over into our daily lives. I do not can vegetables because I can get them more cheaply at the supermarket even though I occasionally break out into a batch of pickles or jelly. I no longer wash and reuse aluminum foil. Actually, with a microwave I don’t use much foil. I gave up the little plastic “shower cap” food covers for plastic wrap long ago. I drive a mid-size SUV with a lot of bells and whistles and leather seats, but I bought it used. (Before I get jumped on, I need a vehicle that can haul freight back for our business when I go to nearby cities.) We have a number of satellite channels. As empty nesters, we pretty much go out when we want to, order what we want at a restaurant, and otherwise try not to count pennies too much, but in truth we do not go too far from our heritage--otherwise, guilt takes over. So we tend to economize in ways that probably don't matter too much, but make us feel better. Occasionally we go on a real spending spree. Our latest? We finally have trash bags with drawstrings! We’re currently having a little celebration every time the garbage goes out. Do we know how to have fun, or what?

Our family has grown in the last two or three years. This year, we finally got our efficient woodburning stove from our previous house installed in our fireplace, which means that we can no longer hang this many stockings from the mantel. My DH picked up this old (and fake) brass coatrack at the local salvage yard. I think it works very well. Now I just have to fill the stockings. My goal for after Christmas is to take time to embroider the names on the ones that don't have them. I haven't been able to keep up. I think I may spring for a Santa hat for the top as well.

Actually, the coat rack gives me a thrill. I think every young woman of my age was inspired to some extent by the old Mary Tyler Moore show and that nifty apartment in Minneapolis. She had a brass coatrack that I always envied but didn't have the money to buy back then when a beginning teacher's salary didn't buy much. Now I don't really need the coatrack--I use it to hang sewing projects in my sewing room--but it's nice to have a celebratory use for it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

No "Visible" Knitting Content

What have I been up to as far as knitting goes? Well, I am knitting madly a few rows at a time on the Noro Silver Thaw sweater. It is going very smoothly--the wool/angora/nylon blend feels great going through my fingers. The yarn does have more knots to deal with than I would prefer.

I'm getting more and more practice at knitting continental-style. I am also knitting another pair of socks for my DH. I ordered some Kroy in what I thought would be a variegated gray--the color was "Glencheck," I think. Well, they are coming out even more solid than the last gray pair. However, since I am worried about being a little short of yardage on these, I'm going to use some bits from my leftover sock yarn stash and do something a little bit crazy with the heels and toes. These are going rather fast because I'm knitting the Kroy on 2s--tried 1s and the fabric was too stiff.

Ravelry--I'm finally exploring the possibilities. I have not listed my stash, primarily because I don't have much of one other than sock yarn, and we all know that "sock yarn doesn't . . . yada yada." I'm listed as panhandlejane.

Otherwise--Most of my Christmas shopping is done except for stocking stuffers. The tree is up, the houses are on the mantel, and this afternoon I will place the Christmas cat. (This is my private ceremony. For some reason, no one else in the family is interested!)

School--This blog would be much more entertaining if I could tell stories from school. However, the combination of federal privacy laws, professional ethics, and living in a small town keeps my lips zipped and my fingers off the keys. This is the time of year--the end of a semester--when I want to throttle some students who are choosing not to work and hold on to others and not let them go because they are such a pleasure to teach. I have the privilege of dealing with young people as they step, sometimes shakily, over the threshold into the adult world. Some of them have the support of loving families; some of them are already carrying responsibilities far beyond what anyone could expect; some of them have backgrounds that not only do not provide support but even drag them down. I can really count my own blessings. (Note: I am writing this on Saturday morning. You should have heard me venting my frustration on Thursday afternoon. Right now I'm in the mode that moms of preschoolers experience during nap time. "Aren't they cute when they're asleep" is pretty much the same feeling as "Don't they look great in those caps and gowns or prom dresses and tuxes or ____uniforms.")

Every year the invitation people or the cap-and-gown people sell too-expensive senior T-shirts, usually along the lines of "13 years in school and all I have is this crummy T-shirt" or something like that. This year I am told that the T-shirts just say "DONE!" Sometimes understatement is an effective diction choice.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Special Day

Today is our 30th wedding anniversary! We celebrated quietly yesterday because we were afraid the weather was going to be too bad to go anywhere today. For us, "quiet" means a trip to Clovis, NM for lunch at Chili's. Yesterday, though, my husband closed our business for the 1/2 day we are open on Saturdays, and we went earlier in the morning. We cruised through pawn shops and secondhand stores, found a place on the way there that had gasoline well under $3.00, found a ball of Magic Stripes at Hobby Lobby for $1.36 (sock stash enhancement), and finished up a little Christmas shopping. We were home by 1:00 p.m., even allowing for the time zone change. He napped, and I knitted. When you get older, it doesn't take much to make something a real celebration!

This is NOT our wedding picture, but obviously we have known each other a LONG time! We were much cuter then.

I am so thankful for my DH. His steadiness is often what gets me through difficult times, and like everyone else, we have faced those. He is absolutely dependable, and I really don't deserve him. We both came to marriage a little later, 28 and 31, and we have been blessed with beautiful children and grandchildren. We have a nice home, a business, and I have a teaching career. We are blessed indeed.