Friday, August 31, 2007

Finally, some knitting

Oh, I miss the knitting time...I could blame it on the graduate work, but to be honest, it's more like the gardening/preserving/sewing/assorted other creations that are really getting in the way. As long as I'm making something, though, it's all good. I started this baby sweater last August and promptly put it aside because I got confused somewhere with the colorwork.

When I picked it back up this August, I realized it didn't really matter if I made a mistake since it's MY design...well, sort of. The basic pattern is Classic Cashmere Sweater from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies by Erica Knight, and the colorwork incorporates a couple of designs from knitting god Kaffe Fassett's Pattern Library. Anyway, the back will just be stripes, so it should go pretty quickly now.

I love knitting this yarn, Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. At the time I started it, there were 2 babies on their way in my friendship circle. Here's one of those beautiful babies, far too big now, as you can see.

I'll just have to wait for the next baby to come along for it to be properly enjoyed! (Oh, that and finish the sweater...soon, I hope!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

When all else fails, make something

Whether you knit, sew, garden, cook, “craft,” or make “art” (the quotations are there to include all who make something, whatever your making “identity”), it’s likely that, when you make something, you are working something out. For me, it could be something as simple as a hectic week, a re-connection with the earth, an expression of passion, healing a loss, a release of pure joy.

Making something can also be a way of expressing outrage, sadness, a call for justice…even when your cause seems unwinnable. Take, for instance, The International Fiber Collaborative.

Artist Jennifer Marsh is collecting 800(!) 3-foot square panels to cover an abandoned gas station, as a means of addressing our country’s dependence on oil. She needs fiber artists to crochet, knit, sew, stitch, quilt, or patch panels for this project. She also needs donations of yarn for the gas pump handles which she will crochet herself.

Some commenters on her site have questioned the purpose of the project, with the unspoken question being, “Does art really make a difference?” I guess it depends on what you mean by “make a difference.” Does it change minds? hearts? policy?

I do believe that some art is pretty navel-gazing and self-indulgent. When I’m in a contemporary gallery, sometimes my working-class, practical Indiana background gets riled, and I start muttering things like…”These people need a real job. Don’t they have anything better to do? I can’t believe someone actually gave them a grant to come up with that. I could have made those scribbles.” (When this starts, T. knows it’s time to get me out of there before I start talking with a Southern accent--yes, in my part of Indiana, there's a distinct drawl--and walk right up to the artist/gallery owner/nearest patron and launch into a full-on, anti-elite, anti-art establishment, anti-anything smacking of bourgoeisie...well, you get the picture...rant.)

On top of that, if you’re making art about social justice, global warming, environmental destruction, and the like, I’m not going to be able to really take your art (or you) seriously if your lifestyle choices reflect no intentionality about those actual issues. Not that there’s ONE right way to live your life, but there are some things we know and can do--reduce our energy consumption, reduce our driving, eat local foods, buy fewer things--for starters. Making a movement in those directions seems imperative.

But The International Fiber Collaborative? I LOVE it. I love that the handwork of people from all around the world will make something beautiful out of something ugly. I love the irony…an abandoned gas station as a symbol of extreme dependence on petroleum. Most of all, I love what it gives me…that’s me, the one who takes her choices about how to live in harmony on this earth Very Seriously. Who speaks Very Earnestly at community meetings about the importance of This Issue or That Issue. So Seriously and Earnestly that I am quite sure that I can be just as annoying as the aforementioned self-indulgent, navel-gazing artists.

Will we “win” this issue of dependence on oil? End wars related to that dependence? Reverse global climate change before it really is too late? It pains me to be unsure…to think of my children and theirs (and yours) having to cope with the destruction wrought by mine and previous generations.

In the meantime, I can make something…yes, there’s some self indulgence there…it will make me feel a little better, but it will also mean one more panel towards that 800. Will it make a difference? It will make a difference for me. It will provide me with some hope, with a creative outlet, with a way to bring up the subject with other people, with a way to connect with others who care about the same issue.

And I can make a difference by telling other, go to the website, make a panel, donate yarn, help with the installation, go to the reception(I'm planning to--we could carpool!). Tell a friend, drive less, consume less, make a change. Do something! No, don't just do something. Make something!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Life in the garden (and other places)

The garden is alive and it is created to endure just the way a human being comes into the world and lives, suffers, enjoys, and is mortal....Is the cycle any easier to accept in the garden, than in a human life? Both of them are hard to take! In both cases, there is a sense not only of obligation, but of devotion. (Stanley Kunitz, The Wild Braid).

And so, no matter how preoccupied with self this human life, the garden carries on, volunteering big orange pumpkins,

and one perfect carnival squash.

And continuing with its own cycle of life...

(That's a monarch butterfly on the zinnia and a bee coming in for a landing on the morning glory.)

Meanwhile, I finished my paper and promptly got swamped with work, taking DS to college, and preparing and delivering a speaking engagement in the Midwest on a whirlwind one-day trip. By the way, here's the view from DS' (temporary, tripled, intended to be a lounge) room. Not bad...

I have managed some more finished objects, all food-related, as I work to put up as much food as possible before the garden rests. I picked some Saturn peaches and some MORE blueberries at Hurd Orchards a couple of weeks ago, and made peach/blueberry preserves from Gourmet Preserves.

Then, last weekend, T. and I spent some time in Buffalo for her birthday. I can hear're saying, "Why Buffalo?" First, Delaware Park is an amazing place to have a picnic of homemade scones with blueberry jam, pasta salad with fresh tomatoes and home grown tomatillos and herbs, and melon/cherry tomatillo honey fruit salad.

Second, the Albright-Knox Art Museum is a premier contemporary art museum.

Third, the Niagara Riverway bike trail. We biked from Riverside Park in Buffalo, up through Tonawanda to where the Niagara River meets the Erie Canal. Some industrial sections, but mostly very charming.

And's rose hip season!

We picked rose hips along the trail, and since I've never used them before, I'm trying out different recipes. A jam with honey recipe from a very old used book...a little too sweet. Then Euell Gibbons' (raise your hand if you're old enough to remember his Grape Nuts commercials) barely cooked recipe, which will be good for getting our Vitamin C in the winter, and definitely tastes like it's good for you, if you know what I mean.

Finally, one from The Neighborhood Forager, still in progress, which looks promising. The rest will be dried for tea. I hope to pick more throughout the fall.

So those are some of the obligations and devotions in my life at the moment...Next time, a knitting-related post...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Give up your gym membership

Wanna get in really great shape? Today I got quite a workout and it didn't cost me anything! Here's what you do.

Change from work clothes to cycling outfit. When the big boss says, as he sees you wheeling your bike out, "I hope you don't get caught," ignore the gray sky and nod confidently.

Head home on your bike. Ignore the flash of lightning. It's really far away anyway. When the cyclist at the stoplight next to you says, "Oh, I feel rain," put your handy dandy new Pearl Izumi cycling jacket on as you smile and say, "Yep."

When you get to the bike path, notice that you're barely moving, even though it feels like you're biking as fast as you possibly can. Ignore the gusting wind and pelting rain and the fact that the jacket only covers your torso.

Briefly consider stopping someplace. Realize that your home is only a mile away, and there's really no other place to stop between here and there.

Ignore the flashes of lightning and peals of thunder getting closer. Push from your mind the fact that your laptop is in your non-waterproof pannier. There's nothing you can do about either.

Head back onto the street towards home. Shoot the evil eye at the backed up line of cars, especially that one car who is inching into the intersection. Wonder why they're all in such a hurry to get home, since they are not the ones getting drenched to the bone.

You're in the home stretch. Pour on the energy and get home in record time.

Make yourself a nice homemade pizza with fresh peppers, locally grown heirloom tomatoes , locally produced feta cheese, and some corn on the cob fresh from the South Wedge Farmers' Market.

Read Jack Bradigan Spula's post at and be reminded why you bike.

Stop blogging and go finish your research paper.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Get your Walk Score

Want to improve your quality of life?

Walk more, drive'll become physically and emotionally healthier, reduce carbon emissions, get connected to your community, and support your local economy. Here are some great tools to give you more reasons why and tips on how to make it work.

First, move to a walkable neighborhood. Go to Walk Score to find out if you already live in one! The site tells you how far it is to libraries, grocery stores, coffee shops, and more.

My neighborhood scored 77 out of 100...I already knew it's walkable, but who doesn't love a score to validate one's own opinions? (Why do you think those Cosmo quizzes are so popular?)

For more information on reducing driving, check out the Carbon Conscious Consumer button in the sidebar, and take the Downshift Your Driving challenge.

And to really motivate you, check out the Gas Calculator on the sidebar over at RocBike and see how much money you could save by giving up or at least minimizing your car commute to work.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

That's what friends are for

I have a paper due at the end of this week, so with everything else going on, there won't be much time for posting. I will post some quick pictures or thoughts every so often in the meantime.

Today's theme is in the title...

Playing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" with you at the South Wedge Farmers' Market.

Willingly and cheerfully sitting in a box when you run out of chairs.

Loving your baby and giving you a break.

Remembering the Titanic (the movie version, of course).

And being grateful you made it back to dry land for a nice rest.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Blog-o-sphere and other important social commentary

If you're not up on the knit blog-o-sphere, first, what's wrong with you? Even if you don't knit, there are some really good writers out there...check the sidebar for my favorites.

Second, allow me to provide you with a couple of updates. Ryan over at Mossy Cottage is no longer doing the Dulaan project, which I wrote about here. Sounds like there's a story behind most relationships that end poorly. Rochester knitters, any suggestions for other "knitting for others" to occupy ourselves with over the long cold winter?

Annie Modesitt is a designer I've long admired and a teacher I've had the privilege of learning from. Her husband has a rare form of cancer and they are currently at Mayo for treatment. I admire how she has let loose with the full range of emotions she's experiencing, from grief to fear to downright black humor.

I also admire--no, I'm amazed--how she still takes the time to talk about anything else in such a difficult time. Her thoughts about the movie Hairspray are quite to the point. I too loved the movie, and on one hand, I thought John Travolta was amazing. On the other hand, what would it have been like to have a woman in that role? Aren't women allowed to fully express themselves, regardless of size? Why was it okay for adolescent Tracy, but not for adult Mrs. Turnblad, to be played by a woman?

Or, why not stick with the premise of the original version, which cast Divine as Mrs. Turnblad? There are lots of fabulous drag queens out there, and that casting rounds out the anti-oppression messages of racism and sizism by taking on gender conformity as an equally oppressive social problem.

Don't let all this overly-earnest commentary dissuade you from seeing the movie! Musicals should be fun, and it is! I happen to like it even more when they have something important to say as well, a la West Side Story. And Hairspray actually does. If only we COULD solve racism with signing and dancing...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

We Are Fa-mi-ly (say it with me)

I'll just hit the highlights of our week in Cape Cod...

Happy campers (that's DD and her wonderful best friend, both charming and well-mannered young women, delightful travel companions)

Humpback whales up close and personal

I'm not strong enough to resist the proverbial sunset scene

Strolling our favorite secluded beach (and I'm NOT telling you where it is!)

The famous COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) Show and Tell, the culmination of Family Week.

More soon, including thoughts on the movie "Hairspray," another guest essay, touching on sexism, cycling, and SUV's, over at RocBike, and vacation knitting, when I recover from vacation and its ugly aftermath.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Virtual garden tour

Click here for a photo tour of my garden, on the date of the NOFA-NY organic garden tour.Here's a sneak preview, because I love the hidden mystery of beans.