The Other Gift

Much has been said about the events of this week.  The week was supposed to begin with a 5 1/2 hour road trip to pick up hubby’s gift, but this had to be postponed by almost two weeks.

In 1994, hubby and I were walking in the mall, probably picking up something for the house we had moved into a couple of months prior and in the window of the mall petstore was an Old English Sheepdog puppy.  We had previously owned another female who didn’t respond well to my return to work after taking 6 months maternity leave when our daughter was born.  Unable to retrain her to nondestructive behaviors, we reluctantly gave her to a family with kids and a stay at home mom who had prior OES’s in her life.  This little ball of fluff drew us in, just as she was supposed to and we left with pup, kennel, bowls, brushes and the other paraphenalia that goes with dog ownership.  She was an AKC pup, but we had no intention of breeding or showing her, she was to be a family pet.  We arrived home after calling the kids to the front yard and turned RagMutt loose on the kids.  Oldest son was indifferent, daughter was in love, youngest son and pup were terrified.  Though, her grooming and vet care fell mostly to me, she was hubby’s baby.

She grew much larger than female OES’s normally grow and lived way beyond her 9 year life expectancy.  In 2006, I moved to the mountains to my new job and to play a more active role in the construction of our house.  Hubby stayed in Virginia Beach with youngest son, a recent high school graduate, and with RagMutt, who by now was an old lady of 12.  They moved into a ground floor apartment that allowed large pets.  It was another year and a half later that her health and age resulted in the decision to put her down, a decision that produced tears for me in the mountains, but more for hubby in Virginia Beach.

Another year and a half passed and Jim finally retired to the mountains with me and discussions about dogs have occurred sporadically since.  Our postponed road trip is to pick up an apricot male English Mastiff pup, who will be old enough then to take from his litter.  This pup is hubby’s Valentine/Anniversary gift.

Spoiled

Yesterday was our Anniversary, 34 years together.  Would I do it again if given the chance? Absolutely.  I wouldn’t want to change anything, the kids, the pets, various houses, they are all threads in the ribbon of our life together.
Yesterday, I was spoiled!  Awakened with the question of whether I wanted to go out for bagels, not his favorite as he rarely eats breakfast, but a known treat for me.  A Valentine’s card and box of dark chocolate awaited me downstairs before we left. We spent time together at the library perusing periodicals in our choice of topics, ran a few errands together, spending time together, holding hands like young love.  We live 4 miles below Mounain Lake Hotel (where they filmed “Dirty Dancing,” and due to the drought the past few years, the lake is very low, having dried up 2 summers ago, so we took a drive up to check the lake and see the snow as they are 2000 feet higher than we, they often get more snow.
Upon arriving home, this bouquet was awaiting me.  We have young organic farmer friends who as part of their business model, sell flower shares good for 15 weeks of fresh flower bouquets during the summer, my love had bought me a share for our anniversary and our friends, Bert and Gwynn had brought me the dried flower bouquet and share card while we were out leaving it on our table for me to find.
The treats didn’t end there as we had reservations at a nice restaurant in town for a 4 course meal with a live pianist and each lady presented with a live rose and each couple with a small box of heart shaped chocolate truffles.
I felt spoiled and pampered by our day.

St. Valentine’s Day

This is a day, back many decades ago that you were excited or disappointed by the number of Valentine’s cards that were stuffed into the box you decorated in elementary school (prior to teachers insisting that every child bring a card for every other child in the class).  Not being particularly popular, my box was never stuffed very full, but I knew that I would always get a Valentine card from my Dad.

A couple of decades passed, the excitement waned as I was then a secondary educator and high school kids don’t give Valentine’s to their teachers, but I still received a card each year from my Dad.

In 1977, I was introduced to the law partner of one of my hiking buddies and I can’t say that sparks flew immediately, but we became a couple.  For Christmas that year, we went to Vermont with a ski group for my first real ski trip, having only skiied 1 day trip prior to that.  On the first day out, I fell on a bunny slope, separating my left shoulder.  Though it troubled me dressing and undressing and at night, when I was in all of my ski clothes, it was not too bothersome and I continued to ski for 4 more days, getting diagnosis and treatment on New Year’s eve after getting back home.  We went out for a drink after the ER visit then home to cheer in the New Year.  At the stroke of midnight, Jim proposed to me (with his shoes by the door in case I said no, he claims that my sking injured convinced him that I was a keeper).  Of course, the answer was yes and we began discussing when and where we would wed.  His romantic (he says practical) suggestion was Valentine’s day, saying if he ever forgot it, he would be in double trouble.

He has never forgotten, surprising me with a dozen or even two dozen roses at school, fancy dinners out with my parents watching our children, later as our kids were older, with Bed and breakfast weekends. A couple of these evenings, have been accompanied with a diamond anniversary ring and another with a heart shaped diamond heart necklace, but the first piece of jewelry, a simple band of gold hearts, placed on my left ring finger in front of our family and friends, 34 years ago today continues to be my favorite.

Blueberry Bonnet

A simple hat requiring only knit and purl skills, it is quick and can be knit with either an aran weight or double strands of sport weight yarn.   Fits a 22″ head.
Materials:

200 yards sport weight yarn (the pictured hat was made with handspun merino/silk blend for the darker blue, and handspun merino for the lighter blue)

US size 9 16″ circular needle

US size 9 DPNs or second US 9 circular for closing in top

Tapestry needle

Abbreviations used:

K = Knit

SD = Seed stitch

K2tog = Knit 2 stitches together

CO = Cast on

 Instructions:

CO 70 st holding two strands of sport weight yarn together, join in the round being careful not to twist the stitches, place marker to mark beginning of row.

Entire hat is worked with double strand.

K next 20 rows.

Join color 2 if desired and work 5 rows of SD, carry the primary color by twisting with the secondary color at the beginning of each row.

Cut secondary color.

K next 10 rows with primary color.

Decrease for top as follows:

Row 1: *K8, K2tog* repeat to end of row

Row 2, 4, 6, 8: K around

Row 3: *K7, K2tog* repeat to end of row

Row 5: *K6, K2tog* repeat to end of row

Row 7: *K5, K2tog* repeat to end of row.

Row 9: *K4, K2tog* repeat to end of row.

Row 10: *K3, K2tog* repeat to end of row.

Rows 11 and 12: *K2tog* repeat to end of row.

Cut yarn leaving a 10″ tail. Thread tail through tapestry needle and pull through remaining stitches, pull tight and secure.

Winter Brouhaha

The weather casters excitedly warned of our first major winter storm (it’s mid February already) with gale force winds, temperatures plummeting to single digits, snow.  The  snow beginning last night and continuing until Sunday morning.  It didn’t.

I awoke to snow falling, no blowing around as it is apt to do in this mountain hollow, yes we are experiencing strong wind gusts, but hey that happens most winter days and even many summer days due to our location on the south face of a mountain just east of a gap.  They did get it right about the falling temperatures however.  Today’s high of 30 was very early this morning and it is dropping like a rock into a well.  We are cozy and warm with plenty of firewood if the storm really finds us and takes out the power.  Plenty of food in the house, no need to worry.

The snow is still blowing around, but the only evidence is a light dusting on hard surfaces and mulch, maybe we will see a little on the ground before it ends, likely not, we’ve seen very little this winter.  And yet the naysayers insist there is no global warming, no climate change.  This is the strangest mountain winter that I have experienced.

Old skills, new student

First I learned to crochet.  That was 1965 at Shrine Mont, where our family gathered each year with other families who had become as close as extended family.  One of those “Aunts” taught me the skill, using cotton thread and a very tiny hook,  making simple lace edgings.  I fell in love with fiber arts at that point, getting some minimal instruction in knitting and making a sweater that didn’t fit for my first knit project, but alas, another fiber. Subsequently, I taught myself crewel, counted cross stitch and a few other non fiber related old world crafts like basketry.  Having the left handed quirk, most crafts were self taught at least until the basics were firmly ingrained, then questions to the more experienced would send me on to more challenging tasks.

The fiber art that really stuck was knitting, which has made me a “fiber snob.”  This a desire to use nice natural fiber yarns.  A side effect of this snobbery is wanting to know what is in the yarn and what you can do with it, and finally, can I make it myself.  So far I haven’t gotten  a spinning wheel, but two summers ago, I took a 2 hour class in using a drop spindle, the earliest form of spinning, sampling several fibers.  My first yarn could be sold as novelty yarn, thick and thin, fluffy and tight, many different wools spun together.  The next attempt with a lighter spindle is more consistent, though insufficient to make more than a headband.  As knitters, crocheters and spinners, we collect, trade and sell equipment until we find just the right tools to suit our personal style.  I have settled with my knitting tools with two beautiful handmade wooden sets of interchangeable circular needles, and a set of double pointed needles in the sizes I use the most also handmade wooden beauties.  Though I have one handturned crochet hook, I am less fussy about them, as I only use them now for finish work.  But spindles, I’m still experimenting with, having acquired a heavy starter spindle and having purchased three handturned lighter ones, one of which has gone on to a new home as we didn’t work well together.  The others are awaiting a new sibling that is changing hands and is in the mail to me.  The lighter two suit me well.  I have been spinning a beautiful robin’s egg blue merino top that I purchased locally from Unplanned Peacock, an independent dyer and friend.  Last night, I plied the two spindles full of near thread, making 200 yards of very fine weight yarn.  I have a newfound respect for my ancestors, who made all of their clothing by spinning, weaving or knitting, sewing their clothing from raw fiber or from hides they killed and cured.

Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family