Archive for August, 2009


While I was down on Long Island I sat down with my mother to do something I’ve been meaning to do for ages but never really had the time or mental space to accomplish – I finally learned the basics of knitting.  I know, I know… I have a problem with collecting hobbies like some collect original issue Star Wars action figures.  But this is really something I’ve tried to do a few times, but do to various stresses and pressures it never really fully sank in, and I’d get frustrated and never finish the little piece that I started.  I think I’ve done this two or seven times already.  So instead of picking up the not-so-nice ball of acrylic yarn leftovers from the 80’s which I have tried to learn knitting with the past three times, I went to the new local yarn store in the town my mom grew up in to get something halfway decent that I could actually make an item with.

Why, oh why hasn’t anyone told me about little local yarn stores before?!  Now, I suppose I should preface this by saying that I sew.  I sew actual garments that I wear out in public (without shame, mind you), and occasionally tailor things for friends and family as long as they don’t mind my pinch-n-stitch method.  I have a fabric stash – a mighty fabric stash.  One might even go so far to say that I have a fabric problem.  But it’s all good – I’ll use it eventually right?  If the apocalypse happens, I’ll be more than prepared enough to outfit myself and my closest fifty friends for the remainder of our natural lives or fifty years, whichever comes first – this just isn’t the type of disaster preparedness that the Red Cross and federal government have been pushing in the last eight years.  But back to my point – the local yarn store may be my undoing.  The textures and colors are simply sumptuous, and if your local yarn store is worth its weight in salt there won’t be a thing in there that you don’t nearly immediately covet.  This sensualist immediately found herself in yet another version of heaven.

Wouldn’t you know that good yarn helps you to actually learn to knit as well?  I bought a hank of Cascade 220 in a grey on grey twist to make a nubby seed stitch scarf, and after only just over a week I’m down to an apricot sized ball of yarn and desperately trying to teach myself how to bind off so I’m ready when the time comes.  There are only two errors, and I figure if I take my sewing skillz and do a little applique and embroidery work, no one will ever be the wiser.  It pays to get decent materials, and somehow even through the mid-90 degree heat this past week I diligently sat in the mornings and evenings knitting away.  Thank the heavens that I have a very patient and hobby-tolerant husband.

I came to find something else – knitting can be as relaxing as many claim it to be once you get into a pattern.  No, I can’t knit and watch TV or hold an engaging conversation yet, but the blankness in one’s mind as the pattern repeats in your head is oddly soothing.  It’s almost like the meditation phase of hatha yoga where you clear your mind and focus solely on the present, taking each thought that enters your mind and letting it go.  

There is a certain peace in this.


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The Room to Grow

P&B House

I spent this past weekend visiting friends and family on eastern Long Island.  One could easily say that my time spent there as a wistful youth was not particularly pleasant, but time has mellowed old ills, and there are a few things that are there which I haven’t found anywhere else.  One of those things is the homestead of my mother’s good friends, Pat and Bill.  It takes truly interesting and unique people to make a truly interesting and unique home, and Pat and Bill certainly rise to the challenge.  Avid gardeners, weavers, rug hookers, preservers, knitters, chair caners, furniture makers and about a dozen and a half other things that I’m sure are slipping my mind at the moment fill their home and the lives of people they know with so much handmade beauty that sometimes you feel you’re going to burst at the seams with good will.

P&B Weaving Barn

At the end of the gravel driveway is a barn that contains a sampling of the diversity of these two people and the landscape they’ve created – the onions lie drying on the floor next to a chair mid-caning and a slew of antiquarian farm equipment which really makes one stop and wonder whether they actually do still get used at harvest time (and you sincerely hope they do).  You can’t help but feel inspired and motivated walking around, as everything here is tangibly infused with lifetimes of care and knowledge.  I know that when I visit here (and I always must make several trips if I find myself in the general vicinity) that I will receive a warm welcome from both the place and the inhabitants, and I will leave, albeit hesitantly, with a renewed sense of well being and the inspiration to try something new or to just embrace life to the fullest.  I hope someday I can cultivate that sort of environment to share with others that may stumble across my path.


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Cherries Sized

This question was posed to me recently by my husband while I stood in our kitchen one night last week for several hours pitting 20 pounds of sour cherries by hand (well, with the aid of my trusty OXO cherry pitter as well).  I suppose for some people it’s not.  For some people spending four or five hours on your feet preserving the harvest because fresh fruit straight from the farmers market, orchard or farm itself just won’t wait for you to “feel like it”  could easily seem like hell on earth.  For me though, the concept that I can crack into one of these babies come February when the rest of New England is braving crowds and snowstorms to hit FoodMaster or Market Basket for sickly looking, cardboard tasting produce makes it more than worth the aches, pains and occasional creative cussery that these activities immediately cause.  As far as I’m concerned, I live in an area where not making some effort to can or preserve isn’t even an option if I want to eat well, deliciously and responsibly.

I am fully aware that I impose a great deal of this on myself because of my personal choices and beliefs – but just because these things are hard work or difficult does not mean that there isn’t a little bit (or a lot in some cases) of joy in them.  Yes, cherry pitting is a pain.  However, the smells coming from a kitchen that’s preparing the hot pack fruit more than make up for it and no one can deny the beauty inherent in an old school glass jar of cherries in their own juices.  And well, the fact that I got a full pint of tart cherry juice boiled down into syrup to flavor my homemade sodas with is just the icing on the cake.

In the end, I had to answer him that yes, it is worth the effort.  After all, the most worthwhile things in life often aren’t easy and the things we find fundamentally satisfying often aren’t effortless.  I know I’ll be grinning like a fool when I pull a tart cherry pie out of the oven this winter, and everyone can’t help but taste the hot July sun in every bite.

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