Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Parting ways

I’ve been working on the same shawl since February.
You’d think it would be measured in feet, or tens of feet, by now, but the length from tip to working edge is a mere 25 inches.
It’s embarrassing to admit that I finished my last project in the first days of July.
“Why are you making a shawl,” my older boy chides me. “Aren’t they for grannies?”
Well, X, I might just be a grandma when I finish this thing and at last can drape it over my shoulders.
The time has come to diverge, dear shawl.
Not for lack of interest, or amour, but for dignity’s sake.
My own — this pattern is so difficult that I often knit three rows and tear back two because I made a mistake.
Which are very difficult to catch.
Another reason I have soldiered on is that it is easier to knit what you already know so well than get into a new pattern’s stitching. I don’t have to think as I watch the movies “Frida” or “Hotel Rwanda,” my fingers just move along in the established way.
Loop over, slip, knit, knit, slip slipped stitch over ...
Alas, dear shawl, it’s time to bid you adieu.

Momma’s found a short-sleeved sweater earlier in the summer that I must confess I long to begin.
It’s called Tomato, designed by Wendy Bernard, and uses worsted-weight Dyed Cotton in #619 tomato and Organic Cotton in #82 nut.
Interweave Press published the book "No Sheep For You," where it is found.
Find the free pattern at patterns/archive/2007/06/19/tomato.aspx.
I ordered the yarn online from Blue Sky Alpacas ( on a Sunday afternoon and it was in my mailbox the next day — at no extra charge.
My knitting bag was snug this morning as I packed both projects together in my carrying bag.
I’m sure the brown shawl felt jilted.
Breaking up — it’s so hard to do.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Looking ahead to Election Day

If you want to hear some great local music, check out Terry Woolard's latest CD, "Black President: White House Under New Management."
I wrote a story about him last week (Aug. 21) for the cover of my Weekend section in the Middletown Press.
The title track is superb.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rustic fibercrafts

Yesterday, I visited the Open Air Market and Festival at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. This annual event attracts vendors of all types selling garden fruits and vegetables, honey, artisan breads and cheeses, handicrafts, jewelry, artwork, milk and so much more. I was particularly drawn to the heirloom vegetables — fat and ugly tomatoes, eggplant, beans, radishes, all of vibrant hue — and fiber arts, alpaca, goat and sheep yarn hand spun and dyed colors of the natural world.
Vivienne McGarry of Cold Goats Farm of Haddam Neck was there with two bleating sheep, showing off her felted pumpkins, apples, purses and knit shawls, scarves and sweaters. Laurie Sanford of Twin Gate Farm in Killingworth had some of the softest yarn I’ve ever felt — baby alpaca, she said, from Misti Alpaca ( and her own handspun alpaca and angora goat yarn. She, too had needle-felted items (pet rocks with silly eyes), short scarves in a rainbow of colors, children’s vests and sweaters, felted and recycled sweater purses and bags and necklaces from felt. Patricia Fortinsky of Old Lyme’s Tidal Yarns ( sat barefoot, spinning some purple roving into yarn, surrounded by skeins of her naturally dyed and handspun yarns in lemon yellow, mustard, crimson, salmon, chocolate colors.
As I fingered each item and skein, I kept thinking, “my stash, my stash,” keeping the image of that mass of yarn at home which only seems to grow fatter, then peeled myself away from each booth, buying only a knit wool pocket pouch in evergreen, punch and rustic browns, marked down in the sale bin.
Too bad this only happens once a year.
But good thing it’s now the start of Connecticut’s fair season, beginning with last weekend’s Chester Fair and continuing this weekend with the Haddam Neck Fair Aug. 29, 30, 31 and Sept. 1; the Durham Fair Sept. 26, 27 and 28; and Portland Fair Oct. 10, 11 and 12.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Berry, berry quite contrary

A representative of Lyman Orchards stopped by the office this morning to drop off a sample of its Apple and Bumbleberry pies. Also included in the package was a sample of Applesauce and Corn Relish. Ever-eager to taste test items for my readers, I sampled the Bumbleberry Pie immediately.
What is Bumbleberry Pie, I wondered, as did my son — who was more than happy to sample a generous slice of high-top apple pie.
A little research on the Web led me to discover that “bumbleberry” isn’t a berry at all, but a term for the melange of berries currently at hand for a cook about to make a pie. Whatever is in season is the best to start with, although I am certain frozen berries will suffice.
Lyman makes its pie with apples, raspberries, cherries, blackberries and blueberries.
The result is a thick, jammy crescendo of flavor balanced by Lyman’s famous browned and crackled crust.
Head over to the Apple Barrel at 32 Reeds Gap Road, Middlefield, yourself for a slice of heaven.

If you want to replicate the taste at home, I found this recipe from Good Housekeeping online:
Deep-Dish Bumbleberry Pie
2¼ cup(s) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon(s) salt
½ cup(s) (1 stick) butter or margarine, cold, cut into pieces
¼ cup(s) vegetable shortening
5 tablespoon(s) (more as needed) ice water
Berry Filling
¾ cup(s) sugar
¼ cup(s) cornstarch
2 large (1 pound) Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¾-inch chunks
5 cup(s) assorted berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon(s) milk or cream
2 teaspoon(s) sugar
Prepare Pastry: In large bowl, combine flour and salt. With pastry blender or 2 knives used scissors-fashion, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Sprinkle in ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly with fork after each addition until dough is just moist enough to hold together.
Shape dough into 2 disks, 1 slightly larger than the other. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight. (If chilled overnight, let dough stand 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling.)
Prepare Berry Filling: In large bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add apples and berries; gently toss to combine.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to lowest position in bottom of oven. Line large cookie sheet with foil; place in oven while oven preheats.
On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll larger disk of dough into 13-inch round. Ease round into 9½-inch deep-dish pie plate. Trim edge, leaving 1-inch overhang. Spoon filling into crust.
Roll remaining disk of dough into 12-inch round. With floured pastry wheel or knife, cut dough into 1-inch-wide strips. Brush edge of bottom crust with some milk. Place half of strips, about ¾inch apart, across top of pie. Place remaining strips perpendicular to first strips or use to weave a lattice. Trim ends, leaving 1-inch overhang. Press strip ends onto edge of bottom crust to seal. Turn overhang up and over ends of strips; pinch to seal and make a high fluted edge. Brush lattice with remaining milk; sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar.
Place pie plate on hot foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake pie 20 minutes. Reset oven control to 375 degrees F. Bake pie 1 hour and 30 minutes longer or until filling bubbles and crust is deep golden brown. Cover pie loosely with foil after first hour of total baking time to prevent overbrowning. Cool pie on wire rack about 2 hours to serve warm, or cool completely to serve later.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's never too hot for ... wool!

It's probably absurd to be thinking about wool in August, but I came upon this photo today and couldn't resist daydreaming ... and surfing the Web.
Below are a few fun facts I discovered while visiting a Web site designed to show you how you got that wool sweater.

How to Care for Wool
Wool should be hung on padded hangers.
You should always give wool 24 hours between each wearing.
Spots and stains should always be removed promptly.
You should always clean your wool products before packing them away for storage.
Wool clothing should always be brushed before and after each wearing.

How to Remove Common Stains
To remove ink you should submerge the garment in cold water.
To remove red wine, you should submerge the garment in cold water.
To remove butter or grease, you should sponge the spot with a dry cleaning solvent.
To remove blood the garment should be blotted with starch paste, and then rinsed with soapy water.
To remove lipstick, a piece of white bread should be rubbed firmly over the spot.

Other Wool Facts
Wool is comparatively stronger than steel.
Wool is fire resistant
Wool can absorb up to 30 percent of its weight in moisture


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Join the Russell Knitters

The Russell Knitters have been meeting at the Russell Library at 123 Broad St., Middletown; (860) 344-2528; for more than two years. We meet the first and third Saturday of every month in the third-floor meeting room from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Knitters are of all ages and abilities. Membership lessens in the summertime, so now is the perfect time to stop by with your project.

Wonderful Wallaby

Cooler temperatures today, coupled with frigid temperatures inside the office (air-conditioning’s Arctic blast) got me thinking about sweaters — an otherwise incongruous thought in mid-August. These are, after all, referred to as “the dog days of summer.”
Into my head popped (or bounded, more aptly) the Wonderful Wallaby Sweater. I made one last year (my first sweater and ambitious project) with Farmhouse Yarns in evergreen.
The pattern, which is surprisingly simple and easily adapted to children and adults and can be made with or without a hood, can be obtained at this link:
I’m still working on my brown cotton shawl, and wished this afternoon I had knitted it more ambitiously so I could drape that over my shoulders here during the workday, rather than run home and get another long-sleeved garment I hadn’t made but purchased years ago from the now-defunct Tweeds catalogue.
It’s olive color got me thinking about the Wallaby.
And how I’d really like to knit another in salmon.
Looks like after work I’ll be sifting through my stash of woolen hand-dyed yarns for the eight-or-so skeins that complete the pattern.
Try it for yourself. You’ll be soon hooked.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I took my 10-year-old to see “The X-Files 2: I Want to Believe” on Sunday night.
It was not my first choice for movies, in fact it wasn’t even on the list. I’ve been trying to get to Destinta to see “The Dark Knight” ever since I watched “Batman Begins” on DVD. I wanted to do my “homework” first. I am a huge fan of the “Spider-man” trilogy, as embarrassing as that is to admit, so I figured that while waiting for “Spider-Man 4,” I could get hooked on another over-hyped, commercially successful mega-hit.
All the planets had aligned: I had a two-hour period free, without obligation, whereby I could sneak over to the movies with X.
Then he tells me his uncle told him some harrowing scenes from the film and refused to watch it.
Despite my pleading.
So we settled on “X-Files,” which I barely knew anything about, not being a fan of the wildly successful cult hit Fox series many years ago, and its first movie, released a decade ago.
It wasn’t exactly bad — but it wasn’t good, either. And normally squirmish me had to cover my son’s eyes many times throughout and for the last fifth of the movie, because of all the potentially nightmare-inducing medically graphic scenes.
He’s in a stage where he’s nervous about everything — and afraid of everything.
B left the film still munching his overly salty, insanely expensive popcorn; satisfied with the experience — but lacking a huge plot element.
That perhaps more reflects on the film’s overly gratuitous gross-out factor than my son’s understanding of film plot.
Regardless, I left with that creepy “X-Files” trademark score in my head.
The next night I watched “Michael Clayton” at home on DVD. I couldn’t finish it that night because of successive child interruptions, so I played the last couple scenes in the morning before work.
My 5-year-old played on the couch with his cars and motorcycles patiently while I infringed upon his “Bob the Builder” TV time.
“Is that the bad guy?”
“Is that the good guy?” he kept asking, hoping to ascertain the movie plot on his terms.
Wonderfully gripping all the way until the end, the flick’s end credits ran with George Clooney taking an extended New York cab ride as he periodically looked out the window at traffic.
I gathered my knitting, my ice coffee and the DVD in the case, walking to the kitchen, drinking and reading the back of the box.
All of a sudden my glass exploded in hand, projecting ice coffee and cubes all over the floor, the table, my shirt, and most disturbingly, the shawl I’ve labored on since February.
Glass was everywhere.
Y ran into the room.
“What the heck happened, Mom?” he asked.
I couldn’t help my answer.
“I was walking by the window, drinking my coffee and a bad guy across the street but have tried to shoot me because I knew the truth of this movie we just watched!”
“The glass must have saved me!”
Y was agast.
For a second.
Then he continued the fantasy.
“I’m gonna get that bad guy with my cop car and army guy on his motorcycle!” he chirped.
We banted such nonsensical scenes as I gingerly picked up the glass shards.
It was just one more supernatural occurrence in the crazily creative mind of my 5-year-old.
And maybe mine as well.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I'm an Olympian

No, not THOSE Olympics. I'm competing in the Ravelympics (by the way if you knit and don't know about Ravelry you really should check it out - the wait to get your account set up is down to just a few days and oh so worth waiting for) in the giftknitspentathalon.

I've been slowly and steadily knitting, but now that the James is moving a mile a minute I haven't gotten nearly as far as I wanted. But a sweater vest for my grandfather is complete through the armholes and I'm patiently working on some socks.

But for the next 17 days from the opening ceremonies until the moment the torch is put out I'm in competition to get other gifts done. Here's what I'm hoping to finish:

2 kitchen towels sets consisting of at least one hanging towel and two dishclothes.
1 a-very-plain-hat
1 ninna beret
1 wrap-around-scarf oddly enough in that exact same yarn and colorscheme
anywhere between 1 and 3 pairs of Easy Mittens

yes, I'm overly ambitious, but pushing yourself to your limits is what the Olympics is all about.

Now I'm off to finish my final training session (winding of skeins into balls).

Ye ole swimming hole

The summer of 2008 has well worn our family of four's bathing suits.
A lifelong swimmer, my husband takes every opportunity he can to sneak over to the Higganum reservoir for a quick dip in the water.
Set back from the road, and down a dirt path in the woods at the end of a cul de sac, the water there is lightly rust-colored and has small to mid-size fish sharing the lake and you'll always see a number of swimmers, in pairs, singly or with children, if you stay there long enough. The water is very clean and oh so cool.
My 5-year-old can play happily in the shallow beginning portion or paddle around on his noodle. My 10-year-old swims for as long as we're there, and often begs for us to allow a friend or two to accompany him.
My favorite place to swim is Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison. When I'm with the children, we visit Meigs Point, because they enjoy walking out on the pink sandstone rocks that jet out into the water quite far. There, adults and little kids go crabbing and fishing. There's also the Nature Center, which has tanks and tanks of crabs, mice, turtles, snakes, and even a touch tank in the basement which never ceases to delight the boys. Once the season officially opened June 21, there are foods offered in the pavilion and (my guys' favorite) an ice cream vendor. You can walk on the nature trails, hunt for shells, search for crabs when the tide goes out under rocks, or swim in the salty water.
There are walking trails that connect all three beaches - West, East and Meigs Point - and if you are industrious (which I am when I am alone), you can park at either of the flanking beach parking lots and walk the entire shoreline back and forth, stopping to cool off in the water when it's needed. A boardwalk even travels the length of the center beach.
My 5-year-old loves Wadsworth Falls State Park, which is a tamer place, when he can swim or make sand castles on shore. There are lifeguards there until 6 p.m. daily and it's free during the week. Both my boys love our ritual of crossing the Coginchaug's brook which winds through the area, under a covered bridge (where we say a troll lives), then running full-blast into the water. It is very much frequented by families and the water is tested by the DEP and has not yet this year been closed for bacteria, and though it's cool and refreshing water, you do have to contend with geese that waddle their way along the beach and possibly not the most desirable water cleanliness.
And you can always take a picnic to the falls portion of the park, which is about 1.15 miles up the road toward Middlefield/Durham. The kids love to throw rocks into the falls and marvel at their sound and strength.
Last year we got a pass for Crystal Lake in Middletown, $1 through the Parks and Recreation Department, and swam there a few times. If you work as I do, it's tough to get to after you leave work and gather the children from their various daycares/camps and swim before the lake closes at 6 p.m. However, the water is very pleasant, and probably somewhere in between the cleanliness of the Higganum Reservoir and Wadsworth Falls. Last year, we sighted many ducks and even a turtle out at the ropes which mark off the public swimming area.
One of the most diverse of the area's natural places to swim has to be Seven Falls State Park on Route 154 in Haddam. There, you can picnic and grill your food, walk on the monoliths and swim in the cool pools of water that cascade down the "seven falls," (we can't count that many). Even my little one loves finding flat rocks to skip out into the water and splashing around in the water fed by the falls.
There are hiking trails there too, which means you can walk and then dip your toes afterward as a way to banish any sweat you've worked up.
The state parks incur a fee (I bought a $50 yearly pass which admits your car anytime), and the reservoir and Seven Falls are both free.
Happy swimming!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Moving' On Up

I gave notice to Y's preschool today that he would be leaving at the end of August. School begins the Thursday after Labor Day this year, the latest in many years. My 10-year-old will be going to Keigwan, a sixth grade that matriculates every child in the city. So instead of eight elementary schools, kids will be bottlenecked into one school.
It's actually located very close to the new Middletown High School, which will open this September. Some are already referring to the "old" Middletown High School as the "new" Woodrow Wilson Middle School. It's all a lot to comprehend.
So this September is a turning point of sorts for me, with both my boys going onto new frontiers. With X it was easy to skate by as each new year began at Macdonough Elementary School, knowing the teachers - and the principals - as I did throughout his six-year tenure.
Y is the last to fly the coop, and it's time for me now to "adjust," let alone each of my boys.
Sounds sappy, but I'm still growing up - alongside my kids.