Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Knitting Progress

Dick took these photos in a bit of a hurry as we were on our way to the UPS store to overnight them.

I've finished three sweaters in the past two weeks. The first two were commissioned by a fellow member of FUSP and had to be complete and in her hands before Christmas. I thought I'd be able to finish the two on the cruise but they ended up taking much longer than I thought. I overnighted them to her on December 23 and the shipping tracker said they arrived on the 24th around 10 AM. It was pretty pricey but I had promised.

Today I finished Helena, a baby sweater I started back in October.  I was drawn to it because another member of my NJ knitting group was making one and it looked like a fun knit.  I got caught up in other projects and it languished for a while.  When I looked at it yesterday I realized it only needed the neckband, a button and button loop.  I worked on it as we drove down to Brooksville to catch a movie.  Note the rosebud button.  I think it's perfect for the sweater.  Today I got some photos and posted it on etsy.

I think my next project will be the Laughing Carrots sweater, also for a fellow UU member.  She bid on a sweater at the annual service auction.  It's coming along but still needs sleeves and a button band.  I don't think it will be finished in 2009 but early 2010 seems realistic.  I know the recipient has been waiting patiently.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day Two in the Everglades

Here we are getting info on a snake on the road during our nature bike tour in the Everglades.  The volunteer ranger was incredibly knowledgeable so we learned a lot about the flora and fauna.  Development and agriculture are endangering the area.  It's such a complex issue with many stakeholders, but it's pretty clear that we need to protect these unique natural areas in our country or they will be gone forever.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Everglades

This national park is the 3rd largest in the lower 48 states, covering 2500 square miles. Since we're staying in Homestead the closest entry point is the Ernest Coe Visitor Center.

It was rather overcast and chilly this morning but we bundled up and headed over to the visitor center in the Everglades just outside of Homestead.  We saw an excellent film about the history and ecology of the Everglades.  The ranger recommended two wildlife walks, the Anhinga Trail and the Mahogany Hammock.  They were very different.  The Anhinga trail is a half mile boardwalk through a very wet area.  It was teeming with water birds.  We don't have a long lens for the camera so we had to settle for photos of birds that would let us creep up close to them. The anhinga above was very tame.  Obviously he's very aware that he lives in a wildlife refuge. Unfortunately we were not able to get a photo of an anhinga drying its wings.  Anhingas and Cormorants are unable to waterproof their wings by producing oil the way ducks do.  They sit for long periods of time with their wings spread.

Here are two cormorants that were sitting at the side of the trail.  They allowed Dick to get very close with the camera.

There were at least 50 Black Vultures in the parking lot and the wetlands area.  They soared overhead and settled on the roofs of cars and RV's.  There was a sign in the parking area stating the birds do damage to cars.  We weren't sure if they peck at the paint or just scratch it with their claws.  Our minivan is so beat up at this point I don't think we would notice any Vulture damage.

We got back in the car and headed to the Mahogany Hammock trail which is about 15 miles further into the park.  Small changes in elevation determine what kind of vegetation grows in a particular area.  Because this trail is higher, it's much dryer allowing hardwoods such as mahogany to grow there.  The trail was a half mile boardwalk through a forest with large trees and ferns.

Tomorrow we are registered for a two and a half hour mountain bike ride through the Everglades.  I'll report back and let you know how it went.  If the weather warms up the way it is promised to do, we'll book a nature cruise for Tuesday.

On the knitting front, I've finished the oatmeal gansey and am about half way through the oatmeal striped cardi.  I have to put them in the mail tomorrow so I have my work cut out for me tonight.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm alive and well

Wow! It's been a long time.  I'm alive and well, just very busy.

I've been doing a lot of baby sweater knitting and have sold a number of them.  There was a Holiday Craft Fair at FUSP and along with selling three sweaters, I took orders for two more that must be finished by Christmas.  I worked feverishly this past week.  One is finished except for the buttons and the other is really coming along.  I don't have any photos to post at this time.  I'll get some up when I can photograph the finished projects, which has to be this coming Monday.  I am in Florida and the recipient is in NJ.  If I don't get to the post office by Monday I'll be toast.

We spent the last week cruising the Caribbean.  The trip was sponsored by The Nation magazine and there were many panels, lectures and ad hoc discussions.  Dinner table assignments were rotated each night and we got to meet a lot of interesting people from all over the US as well as a couple from Great Britain.  Howard Dean was along as well as Calvin Trillin and many of The Nation's regular writers.  Holland America always does a good job with the food and accommodations.  Since there is a major snow storm hitting the east coast from Washington, DC to Boston, we're very happy to be staying on in sunny Florida.  We're going to spend a few days exploring the Everglades and then meander up to Crystal River to take possession of the condo.  Right now the weather is sunny and 66 degrees. 

I'm going to sign off now because I have to get back to my knitting.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Paper Bag Players

Saturday we took all four NJ grands to a performance by The Paper Bag Players at the NJ Performing Arts Center in Newark.  The Paper Bag Players is my favorite children's theater troupe.  Their skits are always funny, colorful and creative.  Every prop is made of brown paper or cardboard.  This performance, The Great Mummy Adventure, consisted of entirely new sketches.  While each vignette was amusing, what caught the children's fancy was a chicken that crossed the stage at three strategic moments, each time carrying an important, that is important to the plot, item under its wing.

I was somewhat saddened to see the Victoria Theater was not filled to capacity.  Usually these shows are sell-outs.  I'm wondering if the economy is keeping people home.

Years ago I took my children to see a performance of The Paper Bag Players in Manhattan.  Now, for the past four or five years I've been bringing the grandchildren.  What fun!

Monday, November 9, 2009

FUSP Craft Fair

I'm chairing this event this year and it's already causing angst and sleepless nights. I'm sure it will be fine once it actually takes place. My table will feature baby sweaters and I'm knitting feverishly to get as many finished as possible.

Other tables will feature homemade delicacies, pottery, jewelry, paintings and knitted objects. FUSP has many talented crafters and we will also have vendors from the area who are not members.

If you are in the area join us that day. It should be fun.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Phone Rage

I surprised myself the other day and I surprised DH as well. We were on the way home from a lovely lunch in NYC with our daughter. The Blue Water Grill in Union Square is one of my favorite restaurants. We stopped in the Strand Book Store to poke around and then headed to the 14 St. PATH station. We had an uneventful trip to Newark Penn Station where we found the NJ Transit Raritan Valley Line train waiting on its regular track. I was tired and grateful there were plenty of seats. We settled in, DH with his NY Times and I with my knitting.

We seemed to be surrounded by people talking on cell phones (what ever happened to texting--at least that's not loud and intrusive). Most were engaging in long conversations. One man in particular was shouting, not talking. I found myself getting increasingly irritated. We were about twenty minutes into the trip and he just did not stop. He seemed to get louder and louder. At one point he shouted into the phone, "Can you hear me?" I just couldn't stop myself; he had given me such a delicious opening. He was about two rows back on the other side of the aisle. I turned in my seat and shouted back at him, "We can all hear you, you're shouting." DH was mortified. The man began shouting back at me saying, "I ride the train every day, it's not 5 o'clock in the morning, etc." Everyone else in the train grew very quiet. He yelled again, "I do this on the train all the time." I then lost it and lowered myself to his level as I shouted back, "I feel sorry for anyone who has to commute on the same train as you." I was shaking with rage. DH quietly asked me to stop, pointing out that my behavior was as bad as the cell phone shouter. Of course, he was right. I hunkered down in my seat and resumed knitting.

When we arrived in Westfield and exited the train, I saw the conductor ahead on the platform. I approached him and asked if NJ Transit had a policy on cell phone use. He replied that there wasn't an official policy. I told him that we had a shouter in our car and he replied that he would walk back that way and check it out.

I'm still trying to figure out what set me off. It was incredibly loud and felt as if I were being assaulted. It had been a long day and I was tired. My hearing aids tend to amplify background noise and it becomes very irritating. But, it was so out of character for me. All I can think is that, "I was mad as hell and I wasn't going to take it any more." Unfortunately I ended up "taking it" all the way to Westfield. Sometimes you just can't fix it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More Baby Sweaters and Etsy

Well, I've finished another baby sweater. This one is based on the Organic Guernsey by Fawn Pea. I've made it from wool yarn (Brunswick Germantown Worsted) that was gifted to me by a member of my church. I've researched it and it must be quite old. The mill, Brunswick Mills in Pickens, South Carolina, is long defunct. The yarn itself is in excellent condition and is springy and wooly in a pleasant way. It has flecks of green in it that don't show up too well in this photo. In keeping with the age of the wool, I've used buttons I purchased from the vintage button booth at the NJ Sheep Breeders Festival.
Here's a shot of the entire sweater.

So, you ask, what am I going to do with all of these baby sweaters? I no longer have a baby in the family small enough to wear any of them. The answer is I've opened an etsy shop. For those of you not in the knitting/handmade items world, etsy is a web site created to allow people to sell handmade and vintage items. You can see the site here: and you can see my shop here: In the meantime, six of the sweaters have been taken by a fellow knitter to sell at the craft fair to be held Thursday at her place of employment. That's tomorrow.

Since many these sweaters were made using copyrighted patterns, some of which explicitly forbade the commercial use of the pattern or the finished object, I will be donating any proceeds from their sale to The First Unitarian Society of Plainfield.

Selling items on etsy not only requires knitting skills. I'm going to have to work on my photography skills as well. Taking a good picture is really important to allow buyers to see the quality of the work. It will be a good experience for me as I really haven't mastered much more than "point and shoot" with our latest camera, a Nikon D40 SLR.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another Project Finished

Baby's First Jacket, made from Regia Sock Yarn bought at Knit and Knibble in Tampa, FL. I got the buttons at The Custom Shop in Kennebunk, ME. I'm working on a second version of this pattern using Classic Elite Alpaca Sock.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

I've been working on a number of baby items to use up stash. I took lots of yarn on vacation with me and started one project after another. I've finished a few and am continuing to work on others. It's been very gratifying.

The first completed sweater was my version of Fawn Pea's Super Natural Stripes. Mine is not natural in color or in yarn. It's three shades of Caron Simply Soft. I finished it while we were in the Adirondacks and donated it to the auction for the Adirondack Scholarship Foundation. I'm told the final bid was $25. I hope someone's baby enjoys it.

Next I used more Caron Simply Soft (can you tell I have a lot of it in my stash?) to make my third version of Reynolds Cardigan for Baby. This is a lovely little pattern, knit from the bottom up all in one piece so there is very little seaming. I love the lacy detail around the yoke.

I made another soaker out of left over yarn from the Oriental Lily Dress. I love the color combination. I plan to use it as a sample at the 15th Annual NJ Sheep and Fiber Festival on September 12 and 13. A knitting friend has reserved a booth and invited other group members to display their work. I've put together a portfolio of soaker and skirty photos and will see if there is any demand for custom work.

This is another Fawn Pea pattern called Mossy Jacket. I've made it with Lockhart yarn and accented it with Cascade Ecological Wool. This was another easy knit, from the top down. It's a heavier weight than the other sweaters and would make a nice gift for a baby to wear in the winter.

This one is from the pattern, Kindred Knits Yoked Cardi. I made some modifications including knitting the button band right into the jacket rather than adding it later and turned the finished jacket in side out. I decided the handpainted yarn looked too busy with the ribs on the right side. I also shortened the sleeves for two reasons. I was concerned I would run out of yarn and in the six month size I think the sleeves are too wide the way the pattern is written. I think it would look very cute over a little long sleeve turtleneck, don't you?

I've got three others in process. Two are knit in sock yarn which makes for slower going and the third is Fawn Pea's Organic Guernsey made in very old worsted wool that was gifted to me by a fellow member of FUSP. I'll post photos of them as soon as they are finished.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's been a while

Barn with the original sign at the entrance to Little Lyford Pond Camps

It's been nearly a month since I last posted. We've been traveling since August 19 and some of the places we've stayed have had no internet access. At other spots we've been so busy I haven't had a chance to post.

Right now we're at Ferry Beach, a UU camp on the coast of Maine. Dick is a vacationer and I'm taking a course on Aging and Saging. Mostly we're discussing the inevitability of death and how to prepare for it. It sounds depressing, but it's actually been very interesting. There are about 20 of us in the discussion group and the leader, a retired UU minister, is very well informed and skilled at group facilitation. The course is scheduled for the mornings and the afternoons are free to spend at the beach or relax on the porch. I've been doing a lot of knitting both during the discussions and in the afternoons. I haven't finished any projects but I've made a lot of progress on some baby sweaters. I'll be posting photos in the next day or so.

Last week we were at Little Lyford Pond Camps, a relatively new AMC property about 15 miles north of Greenville, ME, in the 100 mile wilderness near the Appalachian Trail. It's a former fishing and hunting camp deep in on logging company property.

Our cabin, Red Quill, was one of the newest on the property. We were told it had been a falling down shed that was carefully rehabbed by the AMC carpenter. It was furnished with two beds, a table and chairs, a small sink with cold water, propane lamps for reading and a wood stove that proved very useful when the temperature dropped precipitously over night.

Breakfast and dinner were served family style in the dining room. After breakfast each day the staff set out a buffet of lunch fixings which we used to prepare trail lunches. Each day Dick and I went on a hike and then spent the afternoon reading and relaxing in the sunshine or on the screened porch near the camp library. Although we did not use them, the camp provides canoes on all of the nearby ponds. Guests can hike or mountain bike to a pond and then take a canoe trip.

The first few days of our travels were spent at Poko-Moonshine Camp in the Adirondacks of New York State. We had a mini reunion there. Chuck, Sara, their four children and Jackie joined us. Counselors provided activities for the children and there was plenty for the adults to do as well. Chuck and Molly climbed four mountains to earn Poko patches. Carl, Becca and Katie rode horses. Dick and Molly took a mountain bike ride. There were also opportunities for swimming, boating, archery and arts and crafts. I'm hoping a family reunion at Poko will be a yearly event and that next year Chris and Becky will join us with the twins. Joshua, Raquel and Twigg would be most welcome as well.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Finally Finished

Linny in the Oriental Lily Dress

Oriental Lily is a free internet pattern. It was an easy knit. It called for a DK weight yarn but I had the Berroco Geode, a light worsted, in stash and it really knit up nicely. I would think of it as a winter dress, but the weather in Arcata is cool, even in August, and you can see Linny seems very comfortable wearing it for the farmers market on the Plaza.

Perry in Carlos aka Growling Dog Sweater

I started the growling dog sweater in May of 2008 intending to finish it before Perry turned one. Fortunately it's big enough because he's pretty close to turning two now. The pattern is called Carlos and is from the Berroco Design Team. It's knit in Berroco Comfort DK, a soft acrylic yarn.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Facebook has an application called Foo Pets. Members can choose a cyber pet to care for. I have a chocolate lab named Bupkis. Foo Pets have to be fed, watered and played with on a regular basis the same as a real pet. I'm touched by the facial expressions. You can see above that Bupkis is hungry and thirsty.

When I was in California in late May I introduced the grandchildren to Bupkis. Perry, in particular, became quite attached. Everytime he saw my laptop he would ask for "Doggy." After a two month intervel, I was quite surprised that he remembered. As soon as he saw my computer, he asked for the dog.

We've been feeding Bupkis every morning and every evening since I arrived. Here's a photo of the three of us watching the cyber dog eat, drink and catch the frisbee.

When we've finished playing with her, we pet her and then watch her settle down for a nap. The children understand that she is sleeping and they are very willing for me to close the window.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Arcata Marsh

This morning we awoke to light drizzle. After a good breakfast we set off on our bikes (with Linny and Perry in the trailer being towed by their mother) to the Arcata Marsh. The city uses treated waste water in over 300 acres of created wetlands to provide a habitat for wildlife, particularly migrating birds. The property used to be a landfill. There are walking and bicycle paths and an interpretive center.

By the time we had completed the two mile bike ride the drizzle had stopped. While the sun never fully broke through the clouds, it became bright enough for sun glasses and warm enough to walk in shirt sleeves. Perry and Linny walked quite a way along the gravel paths and were quite interested in the various birds we saw. When they finally tired their parents hoisted them into back packs.

We made a stop at the interpretive center where there were kid friendly activities and much needed rest rooms.

There were wild blackberries and a wide variety of wild flowers along the trails. Here are some of my first flower closeups:

Queen Anne's Lace

Bull Thistle

Bull Thistle

Everlasting Pea

Everlasting Pea

There were lots of wild blackberries. You can see from the green ones pictured here that taking a walk in the Arcata Marsh in a week or two will be a delicious adventure.

Here are some that were already ripe and quite tasty.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


The alarm went off at 4:45 AM. It’s my mother’s alarm clock, one I purchased for her after my father died and she had trouble waking up. For years, he was her alarm clock, never allowing her to sleep much past 7 AM. Once he was gone she began to have real trouble getting up at all. Part of that, I believe, was depression. On the other hand, she may have always wanted to sleep later than 7 but was aware my father needed her company.

My mom had trouble hearing a conventional alarm clock, something I’m very familiar with. Once I take my hearing aids out at bedtime, the world is a very quiet place. So, I bought her a clock aptly named “Sonic Boom.” I’m not sure she ever used it and as we were clearing out her apartment last June, I claimed it.

I’m invariably awake every morning by 6 AM at the latest. Most days I’m up having my coffee before 5:30. Today, in order to make a 6:30 plane to California, I had to be up at 4:45 AM. Having to be up that early always causes some anxiety. I usually don’t hear the regular alarm clock. I can rely on Dick, but I thought it would be an opportunity to try the Sonic Boom to see how effective it is. The alarm clock not only has a very loud alarm; it also connects to the bedside light, causing it to flash off and on at the selected time.

I am happy to report the clock worked well. The alarm sounded and the light flashed. It woke me up. I don’t know if it also awoke our upstairs neighbor. It was pretty loud if I heard it without my hearing aids.

The flight from Newark to San Francisco left on time in spite of heavy rain. I think it was the first time I’ve been on a large plane flown by a woman. The flight was uneventful and arrived in SF on time. I had a window seat and once we were out of the cloudy, wet New York area, the views were amazing. It’s so interesting to see how the landscape changes as you travel west across the continent.

I’m now waiting for the connecting flight to Eureka/Arcata. I had hoped to post live, but the free local wi-fi does not seem to be working and T-Mobile put me through such an ordeal to get a one hour pass that I gave up. Every time I filled out the form, it was rejected for some minor reason. T-Mobile then totally cleared the form expecting me to start over. Even with auto fill, it just wasn’t worth the trouble.

When I wasn’t looking out the window, I was working on knitting projects. I took some progress pictures in the airport. Carlos is so close to being finished:

And, Laughing Carrots is really coming along:

My goal is to finish those two and Oriental Lily before it’s time to fly home.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Last Day on the AT

Sisters at the Wintturi Shelter

Enjoying Lunch at the Shelter

I had asked my nephew Matthew to do an AT section with me while I was in Vermont. He was free the last day of the conference. My sister and brother-in-law asked to join us. I decided the section from Green Gate Road to Vermont 12 would work well because the guide book stated there was a 400 foot elevation gain if one walked from south to north. The elevation diagram on the map showed a climb at the very beginning of the hike and then a long, gradual walk down to Route 12. The section is near Woodstock, VT, not that far from Matt's home in NH.

We met in downtown Woodstock, shuttled the cars and walked up an old woods road to access the AT. It was a bit of a climb up to the trail and the insects were out in force so we stopped to catch our breath and apply insect repellent. Soon we were at the ridge line and saw the first blaze. We continued to climb, passed a lookout rock that didn't have much of a view and then started down toward the Wintturi Shelter, about .2 mile off the trail. It was time for lunch and we spent about a half hour eating and relaxing.

According to the guidebook, the shelter was built in 1994 to replace an older structure with the same name. It is named for longtime trail maintainer Mauri Wintturi and is maintained by the Green Mountain Club. It has wooden sheathing and a metal roof and would be a dry spot to spend the night. The notes on the wall are distances to spots on the trail both north and south. Every shelter has a notebook where hikers make comments or leave messages for those who might be a day or two behind them. I always like to make a note myself to commemorate the fact that I stopped there.

Leaving the shelter we expected a 3.8 mile gradual downhill walk to Vermont Route 12. At least that's what the guidebook said. Much of the walk was downhill, but near the end there were three sizable "bumps" which required uphill pushes just when we were getting tired. We were rewarded by some good views of Mt. Ascutney at the top of one of them, but Virginia in particular, felt betrayed by the guide book. And she had every right to feel that way.

We did finish and were fortunate that it did not rain on us. Here we are entering the parking lot at the end of the trail.

Virginia and Tom crossing the bridge to the parking lot

In front of the signpost in the parking lot at Route 12

Total mileage for the day: 6.1, 5.4 AT miles.

Photos from Vermont

When I got home today and got everything unpacked I discovered the downloading cord for the camera in a pocket of the camera bag. It was a relief to find it but a disappointment to realize I had it with me the whole time and could have done more blogging with photos while I was in Vermont. Oh, well...

Here are two photos of houses in Castleton. On the main street there was one historic home after another, all of them beautifully maintained.

Both of them look as if they are from the Revolutionary era. I've always wondered what it must have been like to live in a small town during that time. These homes seem to be quite substantial, owned by people of means. Still, it must have been hard to live in such a remote place particularly in the winter.

Here are some photos taken in the dining hall.

We lined up here to get the main course. Usually the line stretched out the door to the dining room.

This is the salad bar which was very good.

The main dining room was large and there was an attached sun room with additional seating space. Both rooms became incredibly noisy when full and it was hard for me to follow conversations.

I had most of my meals with old friends from the Mountain Club of Maryland. Some of these women hiked sections of the trail with me earlier this decade and it was a real pleasure to visit with them at mealtime.

After a few days in the noisy main dining hall we discovered there was a room off to the side that few people knew existed. It was so much easier to hear each other that we made this our regular meeting place for breakfast and dinner.

My accommodations, in Adams dormitory, were comfortable, but a bit strange. I was assigned to a suite with four double rooms. I had a room to myself and there were two men, also with their own rooms. There was a common living room and a common bathroom. The bathroom had two toilet stalls, two sinks and two showers. The showers had a common dressing room. None of us could understand how this assignment had been made so I went over to the registration desk to inquire. I was told that couples had requested to room together and the assignments began to get complicated so they just put everyone in rooms randomly. Fortunately the two men in my suite were respectful and we were able to give each other privacy particularly in the shower. Adams seemed to be the only dorm without a working elevator. I didn't mind climbing to the third floor but getting all the luggage in and out on the first and last days was a chore.

The dorm room was standard issue, not very different from the one I had in college back in the early sixties. It did have internet access so I was able to use my laptop.

I've noticed that beds in dorms now are raised allowing for storage room beneath them. The closet and drawer space was rather limited.

While it is good to be home, it was a wonderful conference. I'm really looking forward to the next one in 2011 in Emory, Virginia.