Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Swatching as I go

I still have 3.35 ounces of fiber to spin, ply, and skein, but I decided to go ahead and start the Morning Surf Scarf from Spin-Off Magazine. I don't think I'm going to have enough homespun yarn to make a scarf the length I'd like, so I may look for more fiber at the Fall Fiber Festival, or I may end up using commercially produced yarn, or perhaps I'll knit a combination of the two in order to get the length I want.


Monday, September 28, 2009


At the end of the week I am heading to Virginia to see friends and to go to the Fall Fiber Festival held in Montpelier, Virginia on the grounds of the former home of James Madison. Of the three fiber events that I've attended, this might be my favorite. It's small, intimate, family-friendly, and the setting is lovely. The vendors are nice and they bring a good selection of wares to sell, and the food is delicious.

Want to join me?

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Saturday, September 26, 2009


Almost a year has passed since I bought 16 ounces of this fiber to spin. I want to get it all spun, plied, washed, and made into skeins soon so I can start knitting a scarf or shawl with it.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer: A Golden Treasury of Classic Treats

I love cookbooks and when I read about Jane Brocket's collection of recipes from classic children's books, I had to get a copy. I have a small, treasured collection of cookbooks featuring recipes from classic children's literature: The Narnia Cookbook, Mary Poppins in the Kitchen, The Boxcar Children Cookbook, and The Little House Cookbook. Our family has enjoyed reading the books then cooking or baking some of the dishes mentioned in each story.

Through the years as we've read aloud various books together, we have also made meals from the books we've enjoyed. We've had toast and tea and cakes and Turkish Delight while reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We've had fish and chips while reading Good Night, Mr. Tom. We've had homemade whole-wheat rolls and goat cheese while reading Heidi. Ms. Brocket's book looked as though it would give us more ideas and maybe even a list of a few more books we hadn't yet read.

Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer is a marvelous collection of dishes and meals from a delightful list of American and British children's books. Some of the books and foods were familiar favorites for us, but there were also a lot that were new to us. The recipes are in British measurements, but for most of them, that doesn't matter. (There is a webpage that converts British measurements to American ones.) As always, Ms. Brocket's style of writing is so engaging that she made me want to re-read the books I'd read many times before. My only complaint is that I wish she'd written a 10-volume set instead of just one cookbook!

As in Ripping Things to Do, her other book based on favorite children's books, she includes summaries and selected passages from the books she chose. These made me hunt and buy some of the books we didn't have, and begin reading them.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ripping Things to Do: The Best Games and Ideas from Children's Books

Jane Brocket has written a wonderful book compiling activities and games from a variety of children's books. Ripping Things to Do is a book I wish had been available a decade ago, when my older children were little. It's still a great book for Marley (11) and Sam (7), but my other children would have loved having it, too.

Ms. Brocket includes entertaining summaries of the books she chooses, along with snippets directly from the stories. Her list of children's books includes both British and American authors, and the activities are varied enough to please boys and girls, active children and dreamy ones, craft-lovers and athletes. Her lists of suggested materials, information books, or places to go for each activity make delightful reading, too.

From the introduction:

"The activities that made it into the book are timeless and were not chosen to be deliberately nostalgic. And even if they had been, I would make no excuses. Modern children are never short of books about children doing contemporary things that reflect the prevailing culture, but I think children need a mixed diet of influences and inspirations."

This book would make a wonderful gift for a boy or a girl, and I think I will buy a copy for each of my children to have.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fishing for Gold: The Story of Alabama's Catfish Industry

I found Karni Perez's book, Fishing for Gold: The Story of Alabama's Catfish Industry by accident while browsing PaperBackSwap one day. I requested it and put it on my 2009 reading list.

It is an interesting and thorough history, and I recognized some of the names of the people who pioneered the industry in Alabama, and those at Auburn University whose research aided the farmers. Would anyone else read this book? I don't know. I'm not a fisherman, nor am I a farmer, but the book really was more of a story than a compilation of data. It reminded me of Wendell Berry's fiction.

From the chapter, Reflections:

"Alabama's catfish industry has some unique qualities. For one, it is family-based. Alabama's farms are operated typically by the farmers rather than by hired managers. Farmers and family do much of the work themselves. This has strengthened the Alabama industry because the farmers care about their work and about making it succeed."

"...[T]he farmers want to continue living in a rural environment, on the land that, in many cases, has belonged to their family in a tradition of farming... Consider, for example, what one West Alabama farmer expresses: 'I loved the site where the ponds were built. I liked being down there. We were on a running creek with a little sand on it. I'd grown up in the prairie, and I was fascinated with the site. And I've always loved water, so I liked the idea of these vast areas of water. Back then, a ten-acre pond was a tremendous body of water, and I loved seeing that.' "

"Farmers working the land on which they live develop a knowledge of the land and a relationship with it, a feeling for the natural conditions... [A]n experienced farmer can probably walk out of the house in the morning, smell the air, and know how much his fish are going to eat. Living in rural areas, they also possess an independence and resourcefulness that comes from having dealt with and solved all kinds of problems on the farm from day to day."

(This next part struck me as something with which Wendell Berry would agree.)
"Second, Alabama's industry is also community-based. Fish production, processing, and sales all take place generally in the same communities. The farmers tend to live within a close area and see each other frequently. Most appear to be active in their communities. Often they are friends, go to church together, go to school functions together, play ball together, and watch their children play ball together. Members of the small farming communities generally know much of what their neighbors are doing. Researchers have found that word-of-mouth is a primary way in which ideas and information travel in agrarian communities, and when a farmer made money with his ponds or increased his acreage, the word spread quickly."

"Benefits occur when an industry is anchored solidly within a community. One such benefit is the informal resolution of conflicts and problems that might otherwise be disruptive and destructive to both the industry and the community. Years of associating with each other as peers in a variety of contexts tends to result in a certain level of trust."

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Monkey and Noro

After I finished the Monkey socks for Mom, I started a pair of socks for me using Noro sock yarn. I really wanted to do a different sock pattern, but we were in Florida at the time and I had no sock pattern books, no internet, and no yarn stores nearby, so I just cast on another pair of Monkey socks. I'm happy with the way the sock are turning out and now I'm thankful that I had no other sock patterns with me.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

An embarrassment of riches

A few days ago I received SIX (!) books by Anthony Trollope through PaperBackSwap. I have three other books by other writers I must read before I can begin any one of these, but like a miser with his gold, I keep bringing out the books to count and hold and dream over.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Monkey socks for Mom

Over the weekend I finished a pair of Monkey socks for my mother. The yarn is a better blue than my camera will admit, and was purchased from a vendor at Rhinebeck three years ago.

Unfortunately, the skein was short a few yards of a toe, so I brought in a substitute yarn to finish up. Mom said she doesn't mind one sock toe being a bolder blue than the other (my mom is so gracious and sweet!), and I'm sure she'll wear them with closed-toe shoes.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September weekend in Florida

Flagler Beach was quiet and beautiful. The time spent with the relatives was refreshing. It was a good weekend!


Friday, September 11, 2009

Off again

We've finished our first week of school. Now Steve, Marley, Sam, and I are off to Florida to spend a weekend with Aunt Donna. She lives one block away from the beach, so if it's not pouring I'm certain we'll be at the shore. If it does rain the entire time, we'll still have a great time visiting with Aunt Donna and the cousins.

Hope your weekend is a good one!


Thursday, September 03, 2009

One week ago today

Last Thursday we headed down to Gulf Shores, Alabama to spend the weekend celebrating Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary. Mom and Dad rented a beach house and hosted all of their descendants for four days. It was lovely.

The house was ocean-front property, with its own swimming pool. The beaches were clean and sparsely populated. The house was open and airy, and the food was delicious. We brought board games and card games, kites, sand pails and shovels, and lots of books. There were 25 of us and we spent the entire time away from cell phones, computers, TVs, and DVDs. Most of the time was spent conversing, reminiscing, and playing together. Each night we had an hour of family devotions, led by my father. Everyone agreed it was the best vacation ever.

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