a time for gathering

Joining Ginny today…

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At present I am still working on the slowest going pair of mittens – of which you see mitten number one.  Which means, I still have mitten number two to go. Sigh. More on that another day. Maybe.

As for reading, I don’t know if any of you are familiar of the Five in a Row series of homeschool/educational books by Jane Claire Lambert, but basically it works on the premise that if you read the same story for at least five days in a row, the book “will become very special to the child” (and parent, I might add) and by discussing various aspects of the story (illustrations, theme, characters etc.,) they will learn valuable critical thinking skills as well.

I used the first volume of the series with my son Sam when he was 3 and now I am revisiting it with my youngest, Tim, now 4. However, from time to time, as I’ve gained more confidence in the concept and myself, I’ve branched away from Lambert’s suggested reading list (though the books are all truly marvellous) and applied the same approach when I come across a book not on the list I feel I MUST share with my littlest.

All of that to say, these days we’re reading Frederick, by Leo Lionni. It is just one of those stories that feels like necessary reading right now.

A favourite quote:

“Frederick, why don’t you work?” they asked.

“I do work, ” said Frederick. “I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days.”

“And when they saw Frederick sitting there, staring at the meadow, they said “And now, Frederick?”

“I gather colors, ” answered Frederick simply. “For winter is gray.”

Naturally, this book offers a wonderful opportunity to talk about the changing seasons, how different animals prepare for winter, how we as humans prepare for winter and, for me most importantly, what we need to gather in preparation for winter to survive the long, dark, cold days. As much as we need fuel for warmth and food to stave off starvation, we need art, craft and beauty to feed our souls when our natural world drives us indoors, when all things green and golden seem like things of our distant past.

Now, it strikes me that this applies to the history of our lives as well and how necessary it is to gather and store the colours, the words, the veritable sunlight of our days – for the times when it all feels so very long ago.

So, that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Remembering to put aside the “real work” from time to time (Lord knows there is enough if it). Getting outside, gathering scenes from my most favourite season of all, one that seemed to zoom by this year.

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And gathering moments indoors, too. Images of harmony, joy, and celebration because these moments seem to zoom by even faster.

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Because before you know it, the boy who was 3 and sitting on your lap reading books together, all of a sudden turns 10. How wonderful is that?!

Yes, I think Frederick gets it right. To go beyond survival we must stop and savour these moments and in doing so, we gather them up for a time when they are a thing of the past but still magically retain the power to bring joy and warmth to our innermost selves when we need it most.

What about you, what are you gathering these days? What books are inspiring you to look at things a little differently? What colours and words do you want to remember? Why?  Of course, I always want to know what you’re knitting, too – that goes without saying!

Wishing you a most wonderful day!

food for thought friday

With the Beowulf discussion in full swing here, my mind is full of wonderful ancient imagery and I find myself seeing my world through the filter of this Anglo-Saxon text. It seems everything I come across in my everyday life brings to mind this magical epic that a special few of us are reading together.

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This photo you see above ? These days I want to assign it the title the spoils of battle – i.e., me vs the mess. What you see is no ordinary beaded necklace, it is a priceless, jewelled treasure received in return for my valiant and heroic efforts in housewifery and motherhood.

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And this swan block I found on the floor – likely once used as a projectile in a previous battle against foes real or imaginary (yes, that’s what living in a house of boys can look like here) – well, it brings to mind this seemingly simple phrase:

“he would seek the war-king over the swan’s road” (from the Norton Anthology of English Literature, 5th ed., p28)

In Beowulf, this use of kenning, “swan’s road”, is a kind of descriptive metaphor for the sea. But, for me, this image really stands as metaphor for my own life some days – maybe for yours too.

You see, some days life can feel so up and down, a bit like I’m caught in the swells of an emotional stormy sea. This image of a swan bobbing up and down gracefully on the waters (in my imagination anyway) reminds me to just relax and go bravely forward despite the feelings of being tempest tossed by life’s more challenging moments.

Maybe this takes free association with Beowulf a little too far, but I like it anyway, as it makes me feel I can identify with the text in a personal way – since you’re not likely to catch me battling literal monsters anytime soon!

And that, my dear friends, is the power of poetry to stir the imagination and connect our individual experiences to something larger, something shared, something epic.

Wishing you a peaceful weekend ahead, full of grace, free of monsters. xo

p.s. Since I established a little while back that I’m lousy at keeping surprises, here’s a little peek at how poetry can spark a knitter’s creativity, too. Besides, someone who may or may not be the recipient of these mittens has already caught a glimpse of them anyway. I’m hopeless, I know.

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the gift that gives

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For my birthday this year my brother, who lives too far away, thoughtfully sent me a gift card for Etsy, knowing how much we both love handmade things. Well, I held on to that gift card, just waiting for the “perfect” gift to cross my path. So, when I discovered that Camilla, of Fjord Girl, was opening her own yarn shop on Etsy called Mountain Girl Yarns, I knew that opportunity had arrived.

Foolishly thinking I could choose just one skein, I ordered three – that gift card sure helped! Aren’t they beautiful? I love Camilla’s great eye for colour, made apparent in all her gorgeous photos on her blog and now in her hand-painted yarn. The skein band reads: “Anything But Ordinary”. Most definitely.

Now, as it happens, there’s another birthday speeding my way and I’m thrilled to have this yarn to knit a little gift with – it’s the gift that keeps giving! Aren’t they the best?

Thanks to my brother and to Camilla for making it all happen.

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I know what I’m doing today – besides the vacuuming, the tidying, the cooking, the errands etc.,… and the Beowulf KRAL (knit/read along!) – what about you?

Wishing you a wonderful Wednesday!

just a little mitten love

 

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Saying a quick hello this morning, feeling a little under the weather on this cold dreary October day – though nothing that a hot honey lemon tea and some (finished!) mitten* love can’t make feel a little better.

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I’ve got some new mittens** in the works but, since they’re meant to be a surprise for one of my (reading) family members, I think they’re going to have to fly under the radar on this space. I will be posting progress on them in my Ravelry Group on Wednesday if you want to pop by to check things out and eavesdrop (or join in) on our Beowulf read and knit along discussion there.

Wishing you a wonderful start to your week! What is your day looking like?

* Mitten 11 from Charlene Schurch’s book Mostly Mittens, Ethnic Knitting Designs from Russia, modified by me to fit a child’s medium/large hand.

** You can find this pattern in Terri Shea’s beautiful book Selbuvotter, Biography of a Knitting Tradition, it’s Annemor #13.

word by word, stitch by stitch & happy co-incidences

Joining Ginny today:

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While I tend to be a monogamous knitter, it can hardly be said that I’m a one-book-at-a-time reader. I like having books all over the place where I can read a few pages here and there (or maybe more…) during the odd quiet moment with a cup of tea (because I still haven’t discovered a way to drink tea and knit at the same time!)

Lately, in no particular order I’ve been reading: The Wayfayers by Wade Davies (fascinating but slow going), Days in the History of Silence by Merethe Lindstrøm (an introspective and sad story gifted to me by a dear friend), Mindful Discipline by Shauna Shapiro and Chris White (one can never read too many parenting books can they – this one is promising) and The Worried Child by Paul Foxman Ph.D. (for the record here, that worried child is usually me in this house and I’ve found this book to be a rather enlightening and reassuring book about anxiety).

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However, I’ve also been re-reading Mostly Mittens (tons of interesting history and observations not to mention all the beautiful patterns!). I’m currently knitting a pair of mittens for my soon-to-be 10 year old (a modified version of mitten number eleven, if you’re curious).

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Having said all of that, the book I am most excited about reading these days is this translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien. Years and years (and years) ago, I had to take a fourth year level course in Old English (ours was the last graduating class required to do so) and I have never forgotten that experience. We were given a book (well, technically we had to purchase it) full of Old English texts and our job was read the whole text and translate certain passages (including some from Beowulf) on a weekly basis. In any case, maybe out a sense of nostalgia for my academic days, when I came across this particular Tolkien translation a few weeks ago, I was curious. I had heard great reviews of Seamus Heaney’s translation and so I asked my bookseller for her opinion as to which was the “better” version. She graciously suggested I do some research, to which I agreed.

Now, as luck would have it, I recently happened to “meet” not only a very talented knitter but ALSO an Old English and Medieval literature graduate on Ravelry (doesn’t that just beat all?!). So, naturally I couldn’t resist asking her opinion and she wisely suggested I read both. Needless to say, I marched right over to my local bookshop and ordered Seamus Heaney’s version and brought the version you see above home with me.

Reading this has been AWESOME. I love the words, I love the imagery, I love the drama. Talk about terrifying tales told around the fire!  so good.

Now, what I would really like to know is this: are there any other knitters out there who have an interest in reading some Old English translations? Would you like to join me in reading this? I can’t imagine there would be many people who would but I figure I’d ask anyway because you never know just who you’re going to meet on the internet!

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What about you? What have you been knitting? Reading? Meeting? I sure would love to hear about it.

Wishing you a lovely day!

food for thought Friday

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I thought I would share this quote from Khalil Gibran today, many of you have likely read it already but some things are worth reading again, don’t you think?

You have been told also that life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.

And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.

Often have I heard you say, as if speaking in sleep, “He who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, is nobler than he who ploughs the soil.
And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man, is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet.”
But I say, not in sleep but in the overwakefulness of noontide, that the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass;
And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.

Work is love made visible.

- Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

Happy weekend to you and a very happy thanksgiving to my Canadian friends! What love will you make visible in the coming days?

p.s. I thought I would share a recent book love with you, it’s Fiona’s Lace by Patricia Polacco (LOVE her!), a perfectly lovely and moving story about a young Irish family’s immigration to America and the work that saved them.

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every cloud…

Do  you remember this hat, it was meant for my youngest but look who’s inherited it….

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Me! Apparently it was too itchy for him (I think it’s fine, just for the record) so now I get to keep it.*

So, when I started another hat with Peace Fleece I thought I would hedge my bets (let’s face it, knitting with wool for children is always a crap shoot), I would add a little lining to the brim to reduce the itch factor and increase the odds that one of my sons would actually wear it (since that’s who I bought the yarn for anyway).

This is what the finished hat looks like.

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If you are interested in adding a lining to your own hats, those with a ribbed brim specifically, here’s how I add a lining to a 1×1 rib hat:

With a significantly lighter weight yarn (Peace fleece is a heavy worsted weight yarn so I choose a fingering weight sock yarn for the lining) and smaller needles than being used for the hat itself (4.5mm for the main yarn – I went down to a 2mm for the sock yarn), I use this provisional method to cast on the same amount of stitches as required for the hat pattern being used (in my case, 88 sts). Worked desired brim height in stocking stitch minus 1 or 2 rows.

Switch to main yarn and knit 1 round.

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Then purl one round. (sorry for the lighting changes, I knit and photographed this throughout the period of a couple of days)

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Now, knit your hat brim “proper”, matching the outside height to the lining height. Weave in ends. Remove waste yarn and place live stitches on smaller needles and roll the lining up inside the hat – the purl row should have created a natural fold line.

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Needles line up like this:

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Insert larger (working) needle through the main, outer, stitch as well as TWO lining stitches (as though knitting 2 together) like this:

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Knit all stitches together, it will look like this on the backside of the stitch just knitted:

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Continue these two steps all the way to the end of the round. All lining stitches will now be bound together with the main yarn. Your lining will look like this on the inside:

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Continue knitting hat as required, the lining is finished!

When your hat is all knit up, try your hat on intended (wool sensitive) wearer. Cross your fingers (a most important step!). Wait for the verdict.

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Well, he’s smiling at least, until a few moments later…

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Off it comes! Maybe I’ll just need to wait until it’s cold outside to see if this hat will stay on for good. Fingers crossed.

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How about you, how do you get your itch-sensitive people to wear wool? Got any tricks up your sleeves? I’d love to know.

Wishing you a wonderful start to your week!

* I suppose if I really wanted to give back the hat I’m wearing, I could add E.Z.’s afterthought lining (my term, I don’t think it’s really called an afterthought lining) detailed in this pattern and books (listed) – it’s brilliant!

food for thought friday

Today’s food for thought courtesy of Yogi Tea:

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Love is an elevated self – now there’s something to chew on…

Wishing you a very happy weekend, full of fun, full of love.

p.s. Marisol the Knitted Mouse pattern by Rachel Borello Caroll can be found here (available through Ravelry only it seems) be sure to check out Henri the Knitted Bear while you’re there, too.

journey to the eagle’s nest

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One morning this past weekend we went exploring a new-to-us trail in the Greater Madawaska Valley, the Eagle’s Nest, a trail which leads to an Algonquin sacred site.

Walking up the trail we saw signs of autumn’s arrival all around us, on the ground beneath us as well as in the sky above.

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The kids had so much fun spotting and showing me all the various and beautiful fungi and berries. It makes me so happy when the boys are the ones excited to show me their discoveries, rather than the always having it the other way around.

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There were many wonderful, unexpected surprises too. At about the halfway point on the trail, we came across a community of inuksuit. How fun!

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Don’t worry, Sam was careful. Did you know it is forbidden to destroy an inuksuk in traditional Inuit culture?

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As the trail wove its way through the woods we saw so many little holes and crevices that we imagined were the homes to all sorts of creatures, this one maybe for the chipmunks… I love the lichen covered “doorway”.

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And can’t you just imagine a small litter of wolf pups peeking out of these rocks in early spring?… or, more eerily, a cougar slinking out for the hunt?

Our trail followed a ledge of cliffs and every now and then we would get a glimpse of the view below.

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Until finally, we reached our destination, the Eagle’s Nest.

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The entrance sign to the Eagle’s Nest sacred site reads:

The Eagle is sacred to all First Nations People upon Turtle Island (North America). Eagle soars in the sky and sees things clearly in all the sacred directions and colours; East, South, West, North, Below, Above and Centre. Thus, Eagle’s a bird of Great Wisdom and Vision and when we visit its nest to be nourished and inspired by all Eagle represents. When Eagle flies highest he transforms into Thunderbird, the Manitou or Spirit that flies closest to Kitchi Manitou – The Great Spirit. Where Eagle exists is considered sacred; a place of power and good medicines where people may come to see a “great view” or even “vision quest” for spiritual guidance not only from Eagle, but from ALL Manitous and The Great Spirit.

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What a view! I admit I will probably enjoy it better when the kids are older and not as likely to cause my heart to skip a beat with each step they take closer to the precipice… but perhaps that is part of my own spirit quest… in any case, this was an experience none of us will forget soon.

Thank you for joining me on our journey. Have you gone on any memorable adventures recently? What did you see? I’d love to hear about it.

Wishing you a wonderful day, full of discovery.

p.s. For any of you in the Ottawa Valley area interested in hiking this trail, you can find more information (directions, trailhead, alternate access etc. ) about it here.

food for thought friday

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Something happened to me yesterday that hasn’t happened in a very long time. I feel in love with a book, the one you see above, called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

I opened this book yesterday with my morning cup of tea and just like that, I was hooked. Every moment I could find, between errands, at lunch, at the park, after the school bbq and, finally, after the boys were all asleep, instead of knitting (!) I had my nose buried deep in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society until I finished it. It was that gripping.

I won’t tell you much about this book – in hopes you will read it yourself – but I will tell you that it is an epistolary novel (like Burney’s Evelina, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, if you enjoy that form of novel writing) and share a few favourite quotes from some of the characters’ letters with you:

“I didn’t like Wuthering Heights at first, but the minute that spectre, Cathy, scrabbled her bony fingers on the window glass – I was grasped by the throat and could not let go….I don’t believe that after reading such a fine writer as Emily Brontë, I will be happy to read Miss Amanda Gillflower’s Ill-Used by Candlelight. Reading good books ruin you for enjoying bad books.”   -Isola Pribby

“Later, I came to see that Mr. Dickens and Mr Wordsworth were thinking of men like me when they wrote their words. But most of all, I believe that William Shakespeare was. Mind you, I cannot always make sense of what he says, but it will come.

It seems to me the less he said, the more beauty he made.”                                                            - Eben Ramsey

Even the acknowledgements written by the co-authors had their share of memorable words, too:

If nothing else, I hope these characters and their story shed some light on the sufferings and strength of the people of the Channel Islands during the German Occupation. I hope, too, that my book will illuminate my belief that love of art – be it poetry, storytelling, painting, sculpture, or music – enables people to transcend any barrier man has yet devised.                                    - Mary Ann Shaffer

We are transformed – magically – into the literary society each time we pass book along, each time we say, “If you liked that, I bet you’d like this.” Whenever were are willing to be delighted and share our delight, as Mary Ann did, we are part of the ongoing story of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.                                                                                            - Annie Barrows

Don’t you just love when you come across a book that you can’t put down, a book that makes your heart swell with tenderness and eyes swim with tears? Has it happened to you recently? What book was it? Please share, I’d love to know.

Wishing you a wonderful first weekend of autumn! Hope you get to spend some of it with the words you love.