Archive for the ‘book reviews/events’ Category

pride

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

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so happy to wake up this morning in a nation that now ensures marriage equality for all.

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so when erica got to the office this morning and opened the shop, we had some fun creating rainbows to participate in a yarn world day of celebration.

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we found rainbows in all shades, just like the people we rub shoulders with daily.

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some are cool and sophisticated, others are warm and inviting.

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i happen to own a hand knit sweater in every color we needed, yay.

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have a wonderful weekend; i’m elbow-deep in writing a pattern while the place is quiet—i’ll be back with knitting next time!

mixed greens

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

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our area was literally engulfed in rain during the time i was in new york and for several days after my return. it was so dark and dreary in fact, that i caught myself dozing off at my desk at the most unlikely times (like 9:15 am after waking up at 7!).

it wasn’t all bad though—our garden certainly got off to a healthy start with all of that delicious rain to feed it. but the weeds also benefitted and by the weekend, things were looking more than a little bedraggled out there.

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so when the skies cleared on monday and actually stayed that way into the evening, david and i made it our business to get out to the garden for some much needed cleanup.

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when i first got home last thursday, the swiss chard were mere sprouts, an inch high with a couple of cotyledons. by sunday afternoon they were six inches tall with several sets of true leaves and in dire need of thinning. i knew if i didn’t get it done on monday, it would be several days before i would be able to get back to it and by then the roots would have set, making the job more difficult.

so first i got to work on that, gently removing seedlings that were growing one on top of the next. the largest and most intact ones i replanted all around the garden, wherever i could find space; i figure they should “take” somewhere or other. there almost can’t be too many greens  . . . says she.
(i love greens; they are my favorite garden thing and i could eat them every day. that said, i have almost no time to deal with a boatload of garden produce each day, so we shall see!)

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there were many, many seedlings that were much too small or broken to transplant; these i placed in a small basket and plunged into an ice bath inside the house to soak and wash. after our garden work was done for the night (essentially, when it got too dark to see), we made big salads for dinner and used these as an ingredient. tiny green sprouts like these are one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat—go us.

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the next thing on my agenda was pruning the tomato plants. tomatoes produce best when they have few leggy limbs to divert energy from the fruits. lateral growth should be nipped in the bud because it encourages overgrowth of leggy, nonproductive limbs. this takes some time but is SO worth the trouble, especially if you are gardening in a smaller space. i will refer you to the experts for actual advice, demonstration, and illustration of tomato pruning:
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT PRUNING TOMATOES and CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

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our basil is doing wonderfully this year as well—david interspersed it with the tomatoes and it seems very happy (unlike our previous couple of years, when most of our basil failed). you might have noticed that he also put down some black cloth to discourage weeds—something new for us. it will keep some moisture in the soil on hotter days as well and help the mounds keep their shape, too.

BTW, the mounds really showed their advantage during the rainy weeks—the soil drained very well and there was next to no puddles laying around the garden (and by extension, very few insects or nasty fungus).

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this morning i was up at the crack of dawn and went to visit the garden for some photos before the sunlight got too harsh. still damp out there, but with everything weeded, thinned, and trimmed up, the garden looked much, MUCH better.

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tomatoes looking strong and straight, with plenty of space around their stems for air circulation (the better to keep fungus away).

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potatoes growing taller by the hour—they are looking super this year as well. we plant everything in rotation except for the tomatoes (because of their growing frames, we will move them less often). this year the potatoes are in the area where i had greens last year.

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the greens kind of failed in that spot because the earth was so heavy that they couldn’t put down a good tap root. this year we planted potatoes there instead, so they could go to work breaking up some of that clay soil. david made mounds on top of them planted with onions, leeks, and some peppers; garlic is also nearby. with all the root vegetables in one place, we can rotate greens over there next year (leaf follows roots).

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on the other side of the tomatoes, closer to the back street, we have rows of squash, eggplant, beans, and greens. the squash is looking very well so far; fingers crossed that it stays that way.

we have a great variety of squashes in all shapes and colors. another vegetable i love to cook with when it’s fresh form the garden—hopefully, it won’t be long before these first ones are ready.

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look at my eggplant!! i am so pleased over this one—i would have picked it by now but i really want to take it just before i’m ready to cook it and that will be friday night, for either a thai or indian curry. my mouth is already watering. round and oblong eggplants are also on their way to go with the squash into large pots of ratatouille.

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and last but not least at the very back of the garden, my green beans have started climbing the fence—they are on their way and looking good. we just have to make sure now to keep those weekends free in late july and august for putting stuff by when it all comes to fruition.

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remember what i said the other day about those lilies? there you have it, they are blooming.

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around the corner, the dye bed is exploding with meadowsweet blooms—how beautiful are these?

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they are complemented by tansy, also in bloom—no wonder i’m almost choking on pollen, haha.

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out near the front of our yard, the yucca is heavy with flowers as well—i remember when we moved here and this plant was a single short stem; these are well over six feet in height, maybe seven.

i know that these are the best days of gardening, when all the plants are still growing and the weather hasn’t gotten to them. june is so beautiful, but july can be very, very hard on them. let’s hope we don’t have too many big temperature swings or overly dry weeks; i would love to have a successful garden year for once, haha; the last few have been discouraging.

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it’s positively inspiring, to be able to look, touch, smell, and dream on all this luscious green. and you know where i’m funneling all of that inspiration, don’t you? if you guessed ENVY club, that would be correct. excitement is ginning up over in our ravelry clubhouse—if you need a little taste of what’s to come, i highly recommend a visit there, haha. kat is bubbling over to know what we’re going to knit first—let’s keep her company while she exhausts herself guessing, haha.

signups for ENVY club will close in one week; we have some single spots and some double dip upgrades available now, but when they’re gone, there won’t be more. our yarn orders for the entire club are now finalized—get these last ones before someone else does!

 

rollin’ on the river

Friday, June 19th, 2015

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during my last few days in new york, i began to panic because i thought i wasn’t being productive enough. though i really didn’t fill my schedule with outings and distractions other than running each day, i had spent most of the week on two designs only (granted, one was fairly complex; i couldn’t even have tackled it at home, haha) and was worried that i’d been “wasting” my retreat time.

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when that sort of frantic panic sets in, there is almost nothing that will quell the anxiety and distraction of it like stepping away. reproaching my work after a break is often exactly what’s needed to give it fresh perspective, allowing the brain to stre-e-etch and work out the kinks. i know this, but i often find myself dismissing a break as an indulgence rather than a productivity tool . . .

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last saturday though, cathy offered such a great opportunity for a diversion that i couldn’t resist and the fact that it offered wonderful blog fodder made it all the more appealing—we were going bike riding with a small group from her LBS, NYCe Wheels. with the added bonus that i’d get to try out the folding brompton bike, since NYCe wheels specializes in them—as well as a variety of alternate transportation solutions for city dwellers, from electric bikes to scooters (i love that).

our ride leader for the afternoon was jim, who is very knowledgeable both about the brompton brand and about local rides

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he had completely researched, planned, and done a test run of our ride in advance and was full of helpful and fun information about our destination. he’s also really well-versed in how the bike works and how to get the most out of it. after getting each of us set up and comfortable on a loaner model, he demonstrated how to fold and unfold it handily for stops.

we rode uptown on the east drive of central park, then took adam clayton powell jr drive from the top of the park to st. nicholas avenue and rode through  through harlem, sugar hill, washington heights, and onward to our destination—the high bridge, (NYC’s oldest standing bridge), newly renovated and reopened after a closure of more than forty years.

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the city has a really great web of bike lanes and bike-friendly corridors to many outlying destinations. the ride up took about 30 minutes at an easy pace; anyone could do this, but it’s nice to go with a group so you can travel in a pack.

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this bridge joins washington heights to the high bridge neighborhood in the bronx on the other side.  everyone was out enjoying the day and this new city destination.

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we rode over to the bronx, made a small loop, then took another small walkover bridge back to the manhattan side, landing near jackie robinson park, and used this as our turning point to head back downtown along the cliffside. david and i used to do a lot of weekend rides, sometimes with a group, when we lived in the city; i miss that! we still go, but mostly in the countryside here.

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the view from the other side, a slightly different take on the river. the day was stellar for taking in the views. here on the bronx side, we are looking across the river at washington heights, with the hamilton bridge first (far left) and then the fort washington bridge beyond that. washington heights is one of my old neighborhoods, where i lived in the 1980s (when it was far less attractive, haha) for about six years before moving to brooklyn.

BTW, the brompton test drive was a treat—i thought this bike rode and handled very well; it felt a lot like a normally sized hybrid type bike, even when standing up to ride. if i still lived in the city or if david and i travelled more, i would totally save up to get one for commuting, because they are super light and handy. cathy rides hers to work each day and takes it wherever we meet up, coat-checking it as needed. it folds up small enough to go into the overhead bin on a plane or packed into a suitcase. i once went on a bike trip with someone who rode it exclusively for travel, and witnessed him climb some tough mountains in italy on it.

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once small glitch is that it’s not very easy to change the back tire if you get a flat, like our ride mate did (which is easy to do on the street). david thought that a quick-release could easily be added to the back hub, though to make quick changes more convenient.

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soon we were on our way again, having crossed back over to find access to our return street, edgecombe avenue.

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at the end, happy and a little grimy, we took one last picture to prove we survived and were still smiling about it. i turned in my bike and headed back to brooklyn for the evening. i have to admit, i did not get back to work that night as planned—i was especially beat afterward, probably from the sun.

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that day and the one before had been very hot—you can see that those pretty purple alliums had already cycled though their color phase by the time i returned that evening (wow, i’m glad i caught them at their peak!).

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for the next few days i hunkered down to work and make the most of my remaining retreat time. i did take one more social break to meet cathy and agnes for lunch one day—a girl has to eat, after all. and i’m always glad for a chance to spend time with them; they are the best!

on wednesday i packed up all of my books, yarns, needles, and running gear for the trip home that evening; i was sad to go, but looking forward to seeing david, too

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for my travel knitting, i chose to work on my lightweight shell in our new summer lace yarn; mindless enough that i can listen to announcements and pay attention to what’s going on around me, but knitting up quickly enough that i’m motivated to keep going. i was a little bit above the waist when i left brooklyn; i worked all the way through the body shaping in the airport (i was there a while), and then worked the armscye  and some shaping on the plane. i’m about one-third of the way up the left shoulder. so far i have used just 1.3 ounces of yarn, can you believe that? i wonder if i’ll be able to finish this whole project with one skein?

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hey, i’ve been having so much fun reading your guesses about what this yarn is spun from; do you want me to tell you more about it now? first of all, no one has come even close to guessing the right combination of fibers, much less the right percentages.

almost everyone thinks this yarn has linen in it and that would be . . . wrong.

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we thought about working with linen and our mill even ran a few sample skeins for us. the linen just didn’t play as nicely with the other fibers as everyone would have liked. i personally don’t mind the slubbing, but combined with the other troublemaking that was happening and the fact that we found something else that was softer, the linen had too many marks against it.

instead, we turned to another favorite fiber—hemp. now hemp is sometimes thought of as a rough fiber (and some of it is), but look here

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you can see when we put it next to the linen that it’s actually finer, silkier, shinier, and more evenly constructed, without the hairy hooks that can cause other fibers to snag and slub in blends using linen.

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plus the hemp has that great golden color, similar to the unbleached tussah silk that we like to use in our blends (that’s the second fiber, BTW). i usually prefer the wild silks for their color, but it was interesting that when we ran these test samples, we found other good reasons to stick to the more earthy tussah, rather than the cultivated white mulberry (or bombyx) silk.

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the tussah actually behaves a little more like wool; it has a bit of crimp and is less slick, so it blends more easily with the other fibers. our millers told us that the bombyx was too slick to use with the other fibers in more than a twenty percent proportion, constantly wanting to gum up and clump in the blend.

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it does lend a little extra softness, though i’m not sure that’s actually benefit with this yarn; i don’t want the fabric to be completely without body. the color is quite cool compared to the tussah blend as well; i like it ok (and we might even choose to do a shade using it), but i love the tussah.

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as you can see now, we’ve also got some merino in the mix—that’s where our gray marbling is coming from (and we will likely manipulate that coloring by changing the merino shades used). back to the photos of the test skeins, i think you can see the other reason we didn’t like the linen as much—it’s kind of hairy and not always in a good way; the hemp was much smoother while still adding some airy body to the blend.

so that’s what we’ve got: 40 merino/30 hemp/30 unbleached tussah silk—you like?

unfortunately, no one guessed the correct fiber mix or proportions and most of you didn’t even come close. karen c. came the closest, guessing a linen/silk/wool blend in nearly the right proportions, so i’m going to email her a hamsa scarf pattern. thank you all for participating though; i love having these games, don’t you?

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can you believe the color green in this photo? this is right out of the camera, friends—no photoshopping going on here. the property around the ranch is GREEN. (which reminds me—signups for the ENVY club will close soon; don’t dawdle if you want a spot!).

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while i was away, our area was subjected to a LOT of rain and it has continued since i got home. i’ve been squeezing in morning runs between the raindrops to keep up the fitness i earned back during my trip, but the yard is very soggy indeed. i know it’s been all david could do to try and keep up with the weeds, but they are just terrible this year.

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nevertheless, there is much to celebrate in the garden—like these first fresh hydrangea mops; what could be more beautiful, eh? not a mark on them and still holding their early greenish tinge; just lovely with hose huge droplets pouring out of each blossom . . .

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i have literally never seen our thyme bloom like this—it loves all the water it’s getting.

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day lilies are preparing to pop as well; if you look very closely at the green photo up top, you can see hints of yellow breaking through on those stella door blossoms.

the thing i was most anxious to see though was around back—the vegetable beds. because the timing was all wrong for us, this was the first year that i was not able to do the planting and i really feel like i missed out. by the time our soil assessment was done and david was able to get the beds ready, it was mid-may and i was beginning a heavy round of shows, classes, and my NYC trip.

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when i left he had just gotten most of the plants and seeds in, but was still setting the onions and seeding in the greens.

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ten days later, just look at these onions! and everything is so tall; the eggplant look phenomenal (of course, they re the kind of plant that could drink water all day long).

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all of our basil plants seem very happy for once, growing tall, with full leaves. this basil gigantic, which i got as a novelty has the biggest leaves i’ve ever seen, haha. they would be lovely for lining an antipasto or cheese plate to perfume it from underneath. or maybe rolled up with some kind of filling? i’ll have to ponder that one . . .

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and there are tomatoes, yay!! again, all looking very good, climbing their ropes on the scaffold frame david rigged for them.

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my very favorite thing to look at though is the showy flowering plants, like this dark eggplant with the intense bloom. this one has a long eggplant growing down below as well—one of those type that are great for stir frying. i saw some peppers forming as well, so we shall be soon eating such a dish from our own plantings.

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and of course, king of the showy vegetable flowers, the squash is blooming like crazy, in all shapes and forms. this one is an intense orangey yellow with spiky, tightly curled petals.

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on another plant, a more traditional looking flower with a wider opening and shorter petals. home to many ants, apparently . . .

ah, it’s nice to be back. i’ve got a busy few days ahead to get some things caught up, but all in all, the fort was held down very well and i’m not too awfully behind. i should be able to indulge in some garden work over the weekend; looking forward to that.

i’ll be back with a pattern and kit release on sunday—see you then.

 

in out of the rain

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

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and out again. for tuesday there were predictions of thunderstorms and rain all day, so i took a rest from running and worked instead. when no bad weather had materialized and it looked like the sun was out for good, i headed out for a late afternoon exploratory walk.

naturally it poured.
maybe i was ten or fifteen minutes away—just far enough not to see a familiar haven—and the skies opened up. luckily i was up on eastern parkway, where there are walking lanes with deep tree cover; i was able to stay mostly dry as i scampered back toward home.

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i was almost there when the storm passed and the sky began to brighten. i found myself at the gate of the brooklyn botanic garden and noticed that the ticket windows were closed—it was the free day. so i turned in, determined to make something of my walk after all.

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the botanic garden runs alongside and then far behind the brooklyn museum, kind of wrapping it with a luxurious swathes of woods, gardens, and quiet space, much the way central park surrounds the metropolitan museum in manhattan.

in fact, without saying that “brooklyn has everything that manhattan has”, well, it kinda does—and MORE. i mean that in the very best way; brooklyn has standout cultural centers, parks, museums, and libraries, as well as neighborhoods of incomparable variety—but in its own vitally unique and separate way. to make use of another possibly tired phrase about brooklyn—it’s for the people.

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all the while manhattan is doing its thing, brooklyn is across the river doing its thing; only brighter, more inclusive, and very creatively. for instance, as soon as i pass through the osborne garden—the most formal space on the property—i get much more a feeling that the whole garden environment is mine to explore as close and deep as i want.

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i walked through a gate into the woods and suddenly, i was in the thick of it—paths so narrow in some places that two people can’t pass. the density of the woods is like something you’d experience near a lake upstate and the quiet . . . totally refreshing.

back out on the main walkway again, the sun was out in full, the day was suddenly bright and sparkling with a  rain wash. i stroll by flower beds and a water garden and notice that a lot of people are heading to the rose garden. then i remember that it’s june and you know what blooms in june . . .

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oh boy, it was like fireworks in the daytime; i don’t think i’ve ever seen so many roses (and no wonder my allergies have been kicking up all week, haha).

the pictures don’t at all do it justice, but let’s just say that more IS more in this case. it’s almost too much of a good thing . . . i wonder how many jillion roses there are in there?

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this was my favorite spot in the rose garden—just crazy wild color and form.

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by contrast, the cherry esplanade around the corner is the essence of order and calm; just the perfect counterpoint and a sight for sore eyes. long allays to walk between the trees with benches each side. i was surprised to see how many visitors had stretched out to doze on a bench, succumbing to the heady mix of sun, steamy air, and pollen overload. i thought it was really cool that they felt so comfortable sleeping in a public garden.

next i walked for a while without taking any detours from the path, although there were plentiful opportunities to get into the rock garden, the japanese garden, and multiple wooded areas (see gardens within the garden).

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suddenly my eye was captured by this handsome piece and the first thought that flashed into my mind was, wow—they have a louise nevelson that they can keep outside? well of course it wasn’t; who the heck would keep one of those outside??

but can you guess what it is?

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i just love it! maybe one day when david finishes the house, he’ll make one for our yard. this would actually be a great thing to have in our community garden . . .

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and just a little further on, my favorite part of the garden began—the herb garden and food-bearing plant display. this is a small demonstration space that has just about everything from scallions to sweet corn. it’s bigger than our garden at home, but similar—a little bit of space devoted to almost everything we like to eat.

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further on, i came to the much bigger children’s garden, where kids from ages 2 to 17 can plant their own crops and care for them through harvest under the guidance of garden instructors.

BBG also offers a gardening apprenticeship for teens that requires an application, interview, and acceptance process, where young adults can learn urban gardening.

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at the very back of the property is a discovery garden, with exploratory stations and plants sized for tiny tots, with easy access for strollers.

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in order to turn myself back toward where is entered the grounds, i took a loop through the woods and came upon this fascinating structure. clearly the two are related, but how?

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like many areas hit hard by hurricane sandy a few years ago, brooklyn was left with detritus to clean up.

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moving the remains of huge trees is both dangerous and expensive in a city environment, so throughout NYC and its boroughs, creative solutions were employed to deal with the fallout. and with so many artists at hand, some really good results came out of that effort.

i took a little tour while i was there to admire the inside as well as the outside—so cool.

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the walk back to the entrance took me past the big glass house and conservatory that runs along the washington avenue side of the property. not as big as the one at the NY botanic garden, but more intimate and easier to digest as a whole structure with the eyes.

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the courtyard in front is also gorgeous, distinguished by its central fountain and long lily ponds; another quiet haven in which to grab a bench for reading, eating lunch, or having a quiet conversation.

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the courtyard leads to the administration and library building. i didn’t go in but one day, i’d like to.

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out front of that is the magnolia plaza, graced at the center with a sun dial/mandala/compass of inlaid stone. it is stunningly beautiful.

ok, i was on overload at this point and just relaying it all is making my head spin again. i’m realizing that botanic gardens are for me, like museums—doing a whole one in a day is a lot to digest. better to take them bit by bit.

i suppose this is my own fault—during all the years i had access to these world-class resources, i trained myself to make short, frequent visits of more intense looking. one of the things i loved about living in the city was the ability to do just that.

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back out on the street i saw my first full hydrangea blooms of the year in a tiny brownstone garden—gorgeous.

on a quest to secure some ice cream (the day had grown awfully warm), i also saw an old favorite of mine and david’s

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we used to stop after long bike rides to take home big slices of their amazing chocolate mousse cake—divine. boy those were the days, when i could downing of those without a second thought, heh.

speaking of the street, i need to get out and grab a few apples form the farmer’s market so i’m going to stop now; will be back in a couple of days with some knitting and more . . .

ps: will tell about the new yarn blend on tuesday. so far, only one person has come close.