Friday, July 27, 2007

Forgive me bloggers, for I continue to sin.

You see, I just got this email from Jessie announcing that her infamously impossible-to-obtain Yarntini yarns were now going to be available on her own online store.

I sat and waited and refreshed and took notes of my prey and waited, waited, waited until the second it was marked as available and then SNATCHED IT. Three skeins each of two fantastic semi-solid colorways.

I couldn't help myself. This yarn needed to be mine. I have enough Yarntini to put socks on all the school children in my town, but this is different. This will be shawl yarn. Very different.

Meanwhile I've also been doing some therapeutic spinning. The fibers are blue-faced leicester and alpaca, which I got at the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival. I've been working so crazily that I haven't had much time for fiber pleasure, so when I finally did come back to this, it was absolute bliss. There's something about giving yourself a break that helps you see what you love about things even more clearly. Just touching it, smelling it, rubbing it against my face, and dreaming endlessly of what it could become makes me very happy. The spinning is hardly perfect, but to me, it's wonderful.

I love these moments.

Mary had asked about the delphiniums, which you may have noticed were absent from the last picture. That's because this year's delphiniums and hollyhocks have a serious case of short-flower syndrome. Anyone know what causes this? The delphiniums were only about three feet tall this year. The hollyholcks, three feet or shorter (although there's still time for them to magically grow more before they really bloom). I can't figure it out.

So this year, the front flower garden looks like this.

I miss that enclosed, protected sense you get from having a background of tall delphiniums and hollyhocks, but...whatever. I still love these flowers and marvel at how all this grows up from NOTHING every spring.

Nature is amazing.

I've also been expanding my book horizon beyond knitting. (NO, not Harry Potter - still crafty things but ones that don't necessarily entail yarn and needles.) And in those pursuits I came across this incredible little book.

You just wouldn't believe what you can do with a simple pair of socks or gloves from Target. It's called Sock and Glove, and the author, Miyako Kanamori, is a genius. At first I tried to figure out how you could use knitted leftovers for these projects, but I realized that no self-respecting knitter would cut apart her old handknit socks. I know I wouldn't. Just go to Target and get a bag of white cotton gym socks and have at it.

Nothing is lost in translation in this book because it is based on incredibly, insanely, unbelievably clear illustrations. Tiny snippets are transformed into soft ears, funny noses, even ruffly hair. I could get in serious trouble with this book.

The other book I'm loving is called the Crafter's Companion. There isn't an ounce of knitting in here, it's about those "other" folks who call themselves crafters. Creative, curious, inspired folks who work miracles with fabric, felt, colors, and textures.

What I love is that the book isn't just a collection of ideas, it's a collection of people. Each featured "crafter" talks about her background, what inspires her, and—this one I really love—her workspace. With pictures, and then each person also contributes a project. It's well done and doesn't delve into that "look at us, we're super hip 'n' crafty!" thing, which I personally find a bit tiresome. This is another book that may cause me serious trouble, especially considering that rapidly growing fabric stash I mentioned earlier. (And thanks for letting me know I'm not alone with that one!)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

(Any idea why Blogger puts this vast, vast space between this and the beginning of my post, which I've put in a table so that the image layout doesn't drive me completely nutso? I don't know. Let's pretend it's intentional. Please use the following white space to meditate on world peace.)

Allow me to explain this one. My brother and I began a bit of an odd tradition a few years ago when we happened to both purchase the same model digital camera. He came for the weekend, and after he left I scrolled through my pictures and discovered several, um, "surprises." Pictures of my kitchen garbage, to be precise.

Of course this meant war. With each visit, each of us has tried to up the ante. We've had some failures -- for example, I discovered that when you write someone's name in your cat's litter pan, it doesn't photograph well. And we've had some successes -- like the art shot he took of a beautiful skein of my yarn with a dirty diaper sitting next to it.

But this most recent photo has topped the charts. I'd like to think that even Julia (that's Saint Julia to you) would have enjoyed seeing herself with a pasta moustache.

Summer is progressing along nicely here in Maine. I've had the nearly undescribable delight of eating like a queen straight from the garden for many weeks now. Asparagus galore, salads upon salads, sorrel soup, fresh pesto, delicate turnips, crisp radishes, but of course the piece de resistance remains, so far, the strawberries. For two weeks solid, I had some version of this every morning for breakfast.

(And in case you were curious, yes, it is possible to get tired of strawberries. But it's a wonderful "tired.")

The onions continue their steady march toward full, sweet ripeness. This year's onion harvest will be a bit of a challenge because it turns out I won't be home much in October, which is when you usually pull them out, let them cure outside for several days, and then carefully braid the long backs and put them in the cellar for storage. The reason I won't be home much is a good one. First, I'm treating myself to SOAR in Michigan—rather like taking summer school at MIT, only it's in the fall. And the following weekend I'll be launching my book at Rhinebeck.

What's that you say? Yes, you heard me right. Apparently the kind and generous knitting souls out in the universe were so receptive to the book that the Pottorians decided to push up its launch from December 4th to October 16th. It's a miracle that's also a smart and logical move, and I am absolutely thrilled. Not to mention terribly anxious and nervous, but that goes with the territory.

Last weekend I cut my first vase of sweet peas for the season. Their fragrance is intoxicating. I bring the vase with me throughout the house so I can maximize on their incredibly brief state of perfection.

This year in addition to the regular bed of tall sweet peas, I also planted some shorter, more ornamental sweet peas to climb up bamboo frames in the front garden. I had no faith that the seeds would even germinate, since I've been on the road so much. But they did. The flowers are too short and little for cutting, but they sure are beautiful.
Speaking of peas, I've been eating them too. Not the sweet peas, of course, but some delicious snap peas. My favorite meal so far had to be the salad with blanched peas, fresh thin radish slices, crumbled feta cheese, and a lemon vinaigrette. YUM.
Lest we forget, my darling peonies did return for another season. I almost missed them because I foolishly planned a trip to San Francisco during their bloom time. That's the problem with living and gardening in Maine -- you can't go anywhere in the summer without missing something that you've waited 51 weeks to see again. Oh, how we suffer.

Casey has resumed his residence on the porch, right next to the table where I've been writing for weeks on end. It's funny how he's "just a cat" but he has such a distinct personality and such fierce behavioral habits. In the winter, he insists on curling up under a thick fleece blanket on the couch. In the summer, he won't have anything to do with that blanket (for obvious heat-related reasons) and prefers the thin flannel sheet that covers the daybed on the porch. His needs are simple: If that sheet is there, and if I lift it up so he can go underneath, he is happy. Period. Wouldn't it be great if our own lives were like that?
And finally, I've decided that the fabric bug is catching. I wasn't going to say anything about my latest fabric purchase and then I noticed that Kay Gardiner did the same thing last week after she and Mason-Dixon cohort Ann Shayne sent their second book to their publisher (bravo!!). It's nice to know I'm not alone. Any other fabric hoarders out there?