Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Weekend work

We had a fun and busy time last weekend. Sarah and Lars and their children came Friday and stayed with us until Monday. On Saturday morning Jacy, Sarah, Joan, David, Kim, and Josh went to church for the C.S. Lewis weekend. Sarah and Joan had parts in the play - they were Lucy and Susan.

They raided my closet, Jacy's closet, and made a trip to the thrift store to assemble outfits they deemed close enough to what they thought WWII-era British schoolgirls would wear.

Steve and Lars talked and watched football. They toured the town and mapped a route for Lars to run, which he did later in the day.

Sarah and I knitted some, then started on some house projects that need to be done. Sarah is a "doer" and she provided the impetus to get me moving on this work. With the aid of the girls, we got the two fireplace mantels out of the garage, and three old screens, original to the house.

Sarah and I washed the mantels and screens - they were all filthy - and Sarah sanded one mantel while I finished painting the old door for Jacy's room. Then Sarah primed the mantel, and I finished scrubbing the screens and got ready to screw the brackets to them so I could attach them together to make a headboard for our bed. Steve decided he wanted to attach the brackets (I don't know if he was more interested in doing it out of love for me, or because he could use his power drill) and that gave me the opportunity to find an old sweater I'd washed and dried to make a lovely thick woolen felt. I cut the felt into strips and glued them to the back of the screens so they wouldn't scratch the wall. When Steve and Lars put the window screen headboard in place, it was a real moment of accomplishment...

... which was great, because the rest of the projects could not be completed immediately.

Steve cut wood for Joan to paint with faux fires for the interior of the mantels.

Sarah painted the off-white mantel brown (David's choice, as it will be in his room) and I decided to leave the other mantel as is.

We measured the areas where the fireplace hearths once were, and looked at the tile we have available. Steve will cut boards to attach to the floor, and we'll tile the boards, rather than the floor.

I still need to get some bookcases from IKEA for the playroom, and we need to finish the wall in the hallway upstairs. Jacy's door has to have 1/8 inch cut off the hinge side so it will fit her doorway. But it's painted and the original hardware is back on.

We'll have to move out some furniture, re-arrange furniture, and decorate - in short, STAGE! - but not until the last week of November/first week of December. Then, hopefully, we'll be ready for the historical society's tour of homes.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

October poetry

Last night while I was adding some books on LibraryThing, I browsed a bit and found these poems in an old book, Things in Nature:

Autumn Dreams

When the maples turn to crimson
"Neath the fingers of the frost;
When the garden and the meadows
All their summer bloom have lost;
When from off the lowland marshes
Blue ethereal vapors rise,
And a dreamy haze is floating
Through the mellow, sunlit skies,---

Then I know the year is dying,
Soon the summer will be dead.
I can trace it in the flying
Of the black crows overhead;
I can hear it in the rustle
Of the dead leaves as I pass,
And the south wind's plaintive sighing
Through the dry and withered grass.

Ah, 'tis then I love to wander,
Wander idly and alone,
Listening to the solemn music
Of sweet nature's undertone;
Wrapt in thoughts I cannot utter,
Dreams my tongue cannot express,
Dreams that match the autumn's sadness
In their longing tenderness.

Thoughts of friends my heart has cherished
In the summer days gone by;
Hopes that all too soon have perished
E'en as summer blossoms die;
Luckless plans and vain ambitions,
Stranded, long ere summer's prime,
Buried, as will be the flowers,
'Neath the winter snows of time.

Yet, although my thoughts are sadder
Than in summer's wealth of bloom,
'Tis a sadness that makes better,
And is not akin to gloom.
Ah, the human heart seems purer,
Much of earth's defilement lost,
When the maples turn to crimson
'Neath the fingers of the frost.

~Mortimer Crane Brown

October's Bright Blue Weather

O suns and skies and clouds of June
And flowers of June together,
Ye can not rival for one hour
October's bright blue weather---

When loud the bumblebees make haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And golden-rod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When gentians roll their fringes tight
To save them from the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs,
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still, on old stone walls,
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields, still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods for winter waiting.

O suns and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October's bright blue weather.

~ Helen Hunt Jackson


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thirteen Moons

On Monday I listened to this audiobook for eleven hours as I drove from Virginia to Alabama. I had checked the book out of the library before I went on my trip, so I switched from audio to paper when I got home and finished the book reading it instead of listening to it.

I really liked it. I'm glad I bought the audiobook, glad I checked the regular book out of the library, and am contemplating buying the book to keep and re-read sometime.

I don't know that I'd have read it if I had not begun by listening to it. I'm very particular about audiobooks as a rule, and usually will not listen to them. However, Will Patton's voice was perfect for this story, and I was a captive audience with 750 miles to fill. I'd listened to 2/3's of the book by the time I got home and started on the paper copy. By then I had to find out what the ending would be. But at the same time, that ending was coming at me too fast. I began slowing down, absently measuring the amount of story left with my fingers as I read - now only an inch left, then 3/4's of an inch, then 1/8 of an inch, then the final pages.

Usually I avoid Southern fiction. I'm a Southerner, and I know the people and the places, the freaks and the misfits that much of Southern fiction depicts. I'm not that crazy at seeing the weirdness paraded about, nor the ho-hum "we are here in the South doing nothing but living and scratching our hound-dog, Ol' Blue, occasionally." Frazier told a good story about Will, from his childhood as an orphan "bound out" to act as shop-keeper at a frontier outpost during the early years of the U.S., to his last days as an old man during Reconstruction.

The stories within stories were entertaining, and the main story was neither outlandish nor soporific (although a cranky reviewer at the Washington Post would disagree with me - Jonathan Yardley did not like this book - and I got a kick out of his review!) Now I rather wish I'd listened to the entire audiobook - Will Patton's reading was that good. Maybe someday I'll listen to the entire book, but until then I'm savoring this one as the most satisfactory read I've had since The Thirteenth Tale, although the two books are nothing alike.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

October nights

October nights in Alabama are chilly. Last night we had a fire in the fireplace - our first since last spring - and the three youngest children parked themselves on the hearth and stayed there for about two hours. From time to time they'd cry plaintively, "Mom! The fire's gettin' low!" and I'd go in and stir it up and adjust the firewood to coax a brighter flame out of it. We burned some pecan wood Steve cut back in the spring and it sang and whistled and hummed companionably as we enjoyed the sight and smell of the first fire of autumn. (Sam decided he needed to wear the earmuffs Kelli gave Marley. Four-year-olds are afforded that kind of latitude.)


Tuesday, October 24, 2006


On Saturday morning Penny, Meg, and I went to Rheinbeck for the New York Sheep & Wool Festival. Thursday and Friday had been overcast and rainy at times, but Saturday was perfect.
Meg took a picture of Penny and me and then we entered the fairgrounds.

We bought yarn and fiber to spin, and saw a lot of animals.

Meg and I ate lamb chili and lamb ravioli - both very tasty. (Penny doesn't like lamb meat.) We all tried some fried dough, but as we had our tastebuds set for funnelcake, we didn't enjoy it much. After about three hours, and before we'd been in every building or seen every vendor, we decided we were done. We were ready to call it a day and go back to the hotel. So we did. At the hotel we knitted and ate a snack supper, read, listened to an audiobook, and finally went to sleep. Sunday morning we loaded up and headed back to Virginia.

It was a great trip and Rheinbeck was worth the journey.

As I drove home to Alabama yesterday I took some pictures of the leaves. (I was very careful - Sarah and Joan were sleeping so I had no one else to take the pictures for me.)

As my next "mindless knitting" project I want to knit a shawl out of some autumn-colored boucle wool I bought at Rheinbeck. The yarn reminded me of the autumn leaves, and I wound it into balls tonight so I can swatch it tomorrow.

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The trip to NY

Sarah, Joan and I drove to northern Virginia last Tuesday, ate dinner at Meg's - she had Tom and Karin there also, so we had time to visit briefly with them and give them some old family pictures for the wedding - then went over to Sue's. Joan and Sarah stayed at Sue's for the week, and I spent Tuesday and Wednesday there.

On Thursday morning I picked up Meg and her stuff, then we picked up Penny and her stuff. The van was packed and arranged to our liking, Randy snapped a picture of us, and we hit the road.

Meg and Penny provided us with shirts ("So you won't lose each other - like at Disney?" Steve asked) with a special logo:

Meg's sister, Wendy, embroidered the shirts. (We weren't bad, either - just sheepish.)

They also got each of us a charm for our charm bracelets. For this event it was a little silver suitcase that opens and closes and has a "New York" sticker on it.

Penny provided each of us with a plastic bin for our yarn purchases, and Meg made labels for the bins:

Our first stop was in Baltimore, MD.

Then we went to Bel Air, MD.

Our next stop was Lancaster, PA for two yarn stores. We met Jeannine at the first store, Oh Susanna.

As an added bonus, we got to meet Timothy, too. And Jeannine brought me three jars of dilly beans!

The second Lancaster shop was Kitnit.

We arrived there right before it closed. Afterwards, we went to a nearby diner, ate supper, then continued on to Allentown, PA, where we stopped at Tucker's.

It was pretty late by then, and we were tired. We drove on over to Bethlehem, checked into the hotel, and dragged all the day's yarn purchases up to our room so we could look over it and see what we had and what we still needed. Because we started our trip with two goals (visit several yarn stores we'd never been to and go to the NY Sheep & Wool Festival) we had lists. It's always more fun when I'm looking for something specific. At the yarn stores Meg and Penny were looking for yarn to make the Crayon Box Jacket and I was looking for yarn to make the Dancing Crayons Poncho. I was also looking for yarn to make the Lizard Ridge afghan.

On Friday morning we breakfasted at a nearby Waffle House, then went to Tangled Yarns in Bethlehem.

Kraemer's in Nazareth, PA was our next stop.

Penny found all kinds of treasures there, and I got a picture of her most uncharacteristically clutching a huge armful of yarn and roving:

We headed east into New Jersey and stopped in Morristown.

The ladies there told us that we needed to add Sheep's Clothing in Red Hook, NY to our list of shops to visit. We noted the address and headed to Boonton, NJ, where we visited this shop:

The shop owner, Marie, had a cute out-of-print book called Mr. Nick's Knitting that was not for sale. She also recommended Sheep's Clothing.

So we headed for New York and our last shop. The Catskills and the Hudson were gorgeous. When we arrived at the shop, it was close to closing time, but we had a very nice time browsing and shopping.

Penny was *very* happy and said many times that this shop was the icing on the cake for her. I think it was my favorite shop because it was so attractively laid out. It also carried only their own Morehouse Merino yarns, so it wasn't overwhelming, even though it was our last shop after visiting so many others.

We ended the day with supper at Red Lobster, then settled in at our hotel. Once again we emptied the van of all our yarn and spent the rest of the evening going over our considerable haul and did a bit of knitting.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Safely home

Sarah, Joan, and I are home again. After I find my camera stuff I'll upload pictures and post some of the trip.

Right now I'm in a thanksgiving mode thanking God for a safe trip, a fun week, loving children, great parents, and an unexpected opportunity to meet up with Steve last night in northern Virginia and be together before another week apart.

We had dinner at a Thai restaurant last night with Tom and Karin. Karin had never had Thai food before, but she bravely waded in and ate like the rest of us. Sarah and Joan slept for almost the entire eleven hours of our drive home while I listened to Thirteen Moons. I listened to almost 2/3's of the book, and may listen to more tonight (or read it, as I checked the print copy out of the library).

I love going on trips, but I think the best part is coming home.


Monday, October 16, 2006

The Famous October 2006 Road Trip

Tomorrow morning Sarah, Joan, and I will head to Virginia in the first leg of what will be The Famous October 2006 Road Trip I am making with Meg and Penny. Sarah and Joan will spend the week with Sue and her family, and I'll spend Tuesday and Wednesday with them also.

On Thursday Penny, Meg, and I will head north through Maryland and Pennsylvania, stopping at yarn stores along the way. On Friday we'll go east to New Jersey, then north again to New York, stopping at yarn stores along the way. On Saturday we'll go to Rheinbeck, NY for the New York Sheep & Wool Festival to buy yarn and fiber for spinning. On Sunday we'll drive back to Northern Virginia and I'll spend the night at Sue's house again. On Monday morning Sarah, Joan, and I will drive back to Alabama.

We have been planning this trip for almost a year. Our families have been encouraging and accommodating. We are ready for this time of fellowship and fun, and for a break from our usual routines.

The last 48 hours have been busy here, and I'm sure Penny and Meg are putting the finishing touches on their packing and their family arrangements for while they're gone. Right now it looks as though we'll travel in my van, but we may still go in Penny's Subaru. I panicked a little last night when Penny told me that she and Meg were talking at church yesterday and she told Meg she could only bring one suitcase and one knitting bag. I looked over the pile of gear - worthy of a Mt. Everest expedition - on my bedroom floor:
2 suitcases
1 toiletry bag
2 bags of books
3 bags of knitting
1 empty bag for yarn bought on the trip
1 coat
1 pillow
2 bags of snack foods

So I emailed Penny and reminded her that I would be driving up to Virginia in the van, and we could take that to New York as well.

I put Penny's rocker in the back of the van so we could pack around it.

(Per Penny's request I bought her an old rocking chair at an estate sale here for $5. She's already bartered with two friends in her home group Bible study to have the chair refinished and re-upholstered. She's making each of the women a pair of socks in exchange for their work on the chair. Penny moves fast!)

The girls and I brought all our stuff into the family room so I could figure out what we have and how best to fit it all into the van.

I packed the van, and we leave at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow.

We'll be home in a week, Lord willing!

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When good appliances go bad...

...there's a lot to be thankful for.

When I came home from shopping for a week's worth of frozen unhealthy foods for Steve, Jacy, David, Marley, and Sam to enjoy over the next seven days, I found that our large freezer (which is in the garage) had died. From the forensic evidence, I'd guess it died last night or yesterday afternoon. There was a stream of melting ice cream, orange juice concentrate, and beef blood mixed with the run-off from the freezer frost on the garage floor. Thankfully, it didn't stink yet.

Joan and David grabbed garbage bags and tossed the ruined food. Thankfully, there wasn't a lot because for the past few weeks we've been using the freezer more as an overflow area, rather than as a resource for storing provisions. Joan got rags and hot water and cleaned the garage floor. Thankfully, she did it with a helpful, uncomplaining attitude.

I started cleaning out the freezer section of our kitchen refrigerator. It was due for a clean-out, so I was thankful to be able to do it before I left on my trip. I stacked the new frozen food just purchased on the clean racks and in the empty bins. Thankfully, it all fit perfectly.

I'm thankful for the years of faithful service that freezer gave us. We bought it used fifteen years ago from another Marine family. They had had it for about 6 or 7 years, and they sold it to us for $150, which was a huge amount of money for us. We had four children then. As the years went by our family grew to nine children. We moved that freezer nine times. We enjoyed the luxury of making meals in advance and freezing them. We enjoyed the luxury of buying organic food in bulk through various co-ops for almost eleven years, and freezing almost a month's worth of food at a time. We took advantage of food sales, and stocked up on frozen items. Several times we thought that freezer was on its last legs, but we were always able to eke a few more years out of it.

I don't do bulk cooking anymore. I haven't been in a food co-op for 10 months. I have six children at home, but three of them eat 5 or 6 meals a week away from home. Next year I'll have 5 children at home, and two of them will still be eating quite a few meals elsewhere. Steve may eat 3 or 4 suppers at home each week. Our family food needs are shrinking, not growing. I think we'll try living with only the freezer part of the fridge for a while.

Steve will take to door off the old freezer this weekend and haul the freezer out to the street for the rubbish man to take away. And we have a lot to be thankful for.


Saturday, October 14, 2006


We had a pretty typical Saturday, which is always nice. Steve and I had coffee and read the paper out on the porch. Marley and Sam joined us. They came shuffling out cradling coffee cups and looking cute. I thought they were drinking water out of the mugs, but it was coffee! With lots of sugar and milk. And they drank every drop.

David spent last night with Will, so he was gone all day. Sarah, Joan, and Jacy left early this morning. Sarah and Joan had to work at the bookstore all day. Jacy went to Panera to study for her biology test next week, then went to get her hair cut. Diana went with her to lend her support and encouragement. My sweet baby Jane is now shorn of her lovely long hair. Her new hair-cut does look nice, and since she hasn't cut it since she was 9 or 10 she does look older - almost 18.

Steve watched football out in his man-cave. I caught up all the laundry, cleaned a little, bought some groceries at Piggly-Wiggly, and made 10 (yes, that's TEN!) loaves of Amish friendship bread. (Thanks, Glenn and Amy!) Marley and I delivered three loaves of the bread to the T's down the street, the C's across the street, and to Chuck and Kim. We wrapped and froze three loaves to take to the R's next week, and will give away three more tomorrow and keep one for us.

I read a bit in Sophie's World. Steve asked for supper to be delivered to him in the man-cave because the Auburn-Florida game was starting soon. The girls went to eat dinner at Moe's after they got off work, then came home. They volunteered to bring food for their Sunday school class tomorrow, so someone will be getting up early to bake the cinnamon rolls and sausage rolls they're taking. Steve says he'll be up early to make poached eggs, so maybe he'll be doing it. Tom called and we talked a bit. He's looking forward to Christmas break and coming home (yay!). Glenn called and talked football with Steve.

I thought I'd be watching Westerns and knitting on Dad's cardigan today, but I'm not at all disappointed in how the day turned out. And Auburn beat Florida.


Fingerless mitts

After two deliciously bad MST3K movies:

a re-run of Monk, and a re-run of House, I have these to use next week in NY if I need them:

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hayley's Poncho

Last week I started a poncho for Sam, but realized it was too girlish for him. (I really wanted to knit a Clint-Eastwood-type poncho - you know, like the one he wore in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - but I started one knit in the round with points, while Eastwood's was a large rectangle with a slit for his head.)

(Some enterprising people have designed and made THE PONCHO, but I don't have the extra money lying around to get a real wool "spaghetti Western" poncho for Sam.)

I decided the poncho would be for Abbey, but realized it was too large for her. So I asked Hayley if she would wear it and she said she would.

Today I finished putting the fringe on, and Marley modeled it. We'll package it and mail it to Hayley tomorrow.