Meet . . . The Problem Child

After finishing Tom's sweater and then my colorful follow-up shawl, I've been unable to settle on my next knitting project. I mean . . . I did whip up a set of dishcloths, but that was just a palette cleanser; a little placeholder while I decided on my next project. I am being very intentional about NOT getting sucked into knitting one of those charming "nice little summer sweaters" this year . . . as I too often do. (I never wear them. And I don't like working with cotton or linen.) But I also don't want to "get a headstart on fall" by lugging a heavy wool sweater around during the hot months.

What's a knitter to do?

I thought about socks. (And that's a great idea.)
I thought about cute little teddy bears. (Another great idea.)
Maybe even some Halloween witches? (I have the yarn ready to go.)

But then I decided to open up my project Time Out Bin instead!

I usually only work on one (sometimes two, but not very often) project at a time. If a project isn't going well, I usually just rip it out and let it go. But every once in a while, and especially if the project has some potential, I stick it away in a bin. (My version of out-of-sight-out-of-mind.) Anyway, I decided to take a peek and remind myself of what's in there. Maybe . . . I could try to work with some of those projects over the summer; y'know . . . see if any of 'em are ready to "behave" yet.

There are currently three projects in my bin: The Problem Child, The Poor Relations, and The Prodigal Son. (Sounds kind of like a dysfunctional family, non?) I'll introduce you to each of them over the next few weeks. And we'll see if they shape up by the end of the summer, shall we?

First, let's meet The Problem Child.


This is the start of a lovely little shawl by Ysolda Teague called Llawenydd. I don't do a lot of cable projects anymore, although I have in the past. I've been considering knitting a cabled Aran sweater, but I haven't settled on a pattern/design I'd like to actually wear. (While I do like the look of some cabled sweaters, I don't seem to like wearing them all that much.) Anyway. When I saw this little shawl (and it is just a small shawl), I thought it might satisfy my "craving" for cables, but not require too big a cabling-commitment. I cast on back in December, right before I made my visit to the Mayo Clinic. I thought it would be a good "traveling project."



I got to the cables and realized . . . NOT a good "traveling project." 

In fact, this Problem Child - so called because I have to keep a close and mindful eye on it all the time - requires silence and total concentration. I mean, the chart is clear. The directions are clear. It's all very straightforward for a cable project. But it is . . . double cables filled with moss stitch and a decrease at one edge. (Or, as Ysolda describes it herself, "two by two ribbing flows into a bold, double cable pattern surrounding diamonds of richly textured moss stitch.") Bold, indeed! A knitter must keep her wits about her at all times! No conversation. No TV. No audiobook. No wine. And lots of talking-out-loud-to-one's-self.

I stuck that Problem Child into my Time Out bin as soon as I returned from Mayo, and that's where it has stayed. Until last week when I got it out again.

We've got progress.


I've reached the half-way point of the main cable motif. The knitting has gotten slightly more intuitive, and I'm making better progress. But, being at the half-way point also means that all the cable-backs and cable-forwards will be reversed now. And, trust me, I know myself well enough to know . . .  I've got to watch this Problem Child like a hawk.

I've also reached this symbol in the chart . . . 


I've lived in fear of this symbol since the beginning. Why? Oh, here's why . . . 


(I've tried it. It's not bad. It sounds worse than it is.)

That's what I'm dealing with right now: The Problem Child.
(At least it's wool!)

How about you? What are you making this week?


(Stop by next week and I'll introduce you to The Poor Relations.)



On Looking Out

When we moved into our house . . . back in 2003 . . . I was delighted by our windows. At that time, they were much different than they are today.


(This is today, by the way.)

Each window was broken up into those little grid patterns that look so charming from the outside, but are a nightmare of dusting from the inside. (They really did look charming.) Further, our two front bay windows and the big living room window at the back of the house were first subdivided into 3 narrow, vertical panels, with each panel divided into the little grids. It looked nice, really, although it was a lot of grid.

Within a year, though, I convinced Tom that the little grids had to go. It wasn't so much the cleaning part (although there was that), but all those grids really broke up my view . . . looking out. The narrow, vertical panels remained, however.

Years later (in 2016), we replaced all the windows in the house, and it was my chance to start fresh. I had to go to the mat with the window guy . . . insisting that I wanted big, open picture windows and NO grids or panels in my windows at all. He thought I was nuts. He kept going on and on about "curbside appeal" and how wonderful the gridded windows would look from the street. He kept foisting "samples" at me . . . of all the different window grid styles I could choose from.

But those little window grids? They just aren't for me. They are absolutely charming, but I want to SEE out my windows. By then, I had created some lovely views in my yard and gardens, and we have gorgeous sunset views from the front of our house. I wanted those views to be part of my house from the inside . . . without being broken up by the grids. With gridded windows, things might look "better" (nicer? more desirable?) to people on the outside, looking in. But those grids really distort the views for the people on the inside, looking OUT.

I held my ground, and in the end, I got just what I wanted: plain, big, ungridded glass windows!


IMG_8794 2

I have never regretted my decision.

"The window has a wonderful view of the lake, but the view doesn't view itself."
                        --- Wisława Szymborska


I hope you have a wonderful week, with plenty of time for looking out . . . at all the best views.

Museum of Me: May 2022

It's the second Friday in May, and that means it's time for a new exhibit in the . . . 


When I was a kid, I loved doing pretty much all the same stuff I do now: making things, drawing and coloring, listening to music, and reading. (I also did quite a lot of "taking charge" of the neighborhood kids, convincing them to take part in my various schemes. Which I still kinda do, I suppose.) (I only hope I'm less bossy and more inclusive now. . . )


This month's exhibit is about one of those things I loved doing: Reading. 
C'mon in!
Let's talk books!


(Me, just out of third grade, reading to my sister.)

I learned to read well before I went to school. (My school district didn't have public school kindergarten, so I didn't step foot into a classroom until I was a first grader.) We did a lot of reading when I was little, and my childhood was filled with trips to the library. My mom used to tell me that I taught myself to read, which actually might be true. I have a very vague memory of just . . . suddenly . . . being able to decipher the words that I saw around me on signs, in the grocery store, in books. It was magic! By the time I actually got to school, I was such an advanced reader that my teacher didn't quite know what to do with me. She used to allow me time to read on my own, which I loved. It didn't take long, though, before lots of other kids in my class caught up with me, so my time as a "special" reader ended.

I always had a book nearby to read when I was a kid. I kept them in my desk as school for those times when I finished my work early and was allowed to "read quietly at my desk." I read in the car whenever we drove somewhere. I read waiting for dance class to begin. I read at the table (when I could get away with it, which wasn't often but I did try all the time; sometimes I wore my mom down). I read with a flashlight under the covers (my mom turned a blind eye). Sometimes I even read while wandering the aisles at the grocery store with my mom. I read and I read and I read!


(Me, just about to head into sixth grade, with my personal "library.")

Although I dreamed of having a big, "storybook" kind of library, most of the books I read were library loans. (I adored the library.) As you can see from my photo, I didn't own many books at all. And most of the books you see on my shelf had belonged to my mom when she was a little girl. But I did have a few of my own. I usually got a book at Christmas, and I lived for the Scholastic book orders at school. Still, my personal childhood library was very limited, and didn't include most of my very favorite books . . . 

Misty of Chincoteague. Across Five Aprils. The Island of Blue Dolphins. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Caddie Woodlawn. All the Ramona Quimby books. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Little House on the Prairie books. A Wrinkle in Time. The Phantom Tollbooth. The Narnia series. Nancy Drew. The Hardy Boys, too. The Childhood-of-Famous-Americans series.  The Betsy-Tacy books. The Bobbsey Twins. Charlotte's Web.  

My favorite, though? 


In third grade, I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Hermann. (I've written about her before. She's the teacher who first introduced me to the wonders of poetry, and I will be forever grateful.) One day, I got finished with my school work quickly and realized I had forgotten to bring a book to read. I asked to go to the library, but Mrs. Hermann said no -- because another class was scheduled for library time right then. I almost cried. Wise Mrs. Hermann understood, though. She pulled a book out of her desk drawer and asked me, "Have you met Pippi yet?"

I had not.

She lent me her book, right there. I was immediately captivated by Pippi. Mrs. Hermann let me keep reading, right through recess. She even let me borrow her book -- and take it home! -- until I finished. (I guarded it like it was a precious jewel.) 

And how I loved Pippi! She was Swedish, just like me. She ate pepparkakor, just like me! And she did so many other silly and fantastical things that were not like me at all. I loved every page. I wanted to hang out with her and Tommy and Annika at Villa Villekulla. (Although Annika did kinda bug me. Too prissy. Too perfect. Too clean.) I read the book (and the others in the series) over and over and over again. (I read it to my own kids, too. They were not quite as charmed as I had been. It's hard to top "Captain Underpants," y'know?)

As I was thinking about this exhibit, I realized that . . . as much as I had loved Pippi Longstocking as a child, I had never owned a copy of the book. So I went out and bought a copy for myself. (I read it again, too. It's really silly.) It was actually harder to find than I expected. It was buried on the back shelf of the children's bookstore we have in town . . . deep in the "classics" section. But now, Pippi has a place in my old childhood library. I've managed to keep most of those old books over the years, and they live happily together in a shelf in one of my living room curio cabinets.


Even though Pippi doesn't technically belong with all my old books . . . I think she fits right in. Don't you?


How about you? What are your favorite childhood books?


Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . on the 2nd Friday of each month.

And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of monthly prompts) and we can tell our stories together. 


Tales From the Garden

Hoo boy! Things are really POPPIN' out in my garden. With our sudden tropical heat wave, I've got things blooming so quickly it's making my head spin! My tulips - still in tight bud last Sunday - are opening, blooming, and dying back all in the same day. 

Enjoy them while you can. (Because tomorrow they'll just be stems!)



With things happening fast-and-furiously our there in the garden, I thought it might be time to reprise a post I did last August featuring my not-so-secret container garden formula . . . 

Winning containers = Thriller + Spiller + Filler

Check it out and do a little planning before visiting your local nursery.
Because, friends . . . It's planting time!


My mom used to knit dishcloths . . . for herself, for my sister, for my kids, for her friends, and for me. She got me hooked on using hand knit dishcloths decades ago, and I have purchased very few "store-bought" dishcloths ever since. Having a ready supply of dishcloths from my mom also meant . . . I never had to make them for myself.

All that has changed, of course.

My mom might not be around to make them for me anymore, but I still prefer them to any other dishcloth. So I've had to resort to knitting my own. . .


Every 18 months or so, I go on a little dishcloth knitting tear . . . and whip up a new supply for myself. (I find they last for a good two years before they really wear out and unravel, so this keeps my inventory steady, with "planned turnover.")

They aren't my favorite things to knit (it's the cotton), but they're quick and easy -- and if I'm focused, I can knit a new supply fairly quickly. (Especially if I'm working a slow election.) (Did you know you can knit two Ball Band Dishcloths over the course of a slow 15-hour shift?)


My favorite pattern is the Waffle Knit Dishcloth (link is NOT a Ravelry link). It's quick and effective, and it's fun to add the little blocks of color (although you certainly don't need to). Sadly, these will also be the first to fall apart, so I usually throw in some Ball Band Dishcloths, too (link is also NOT a Ravelry link). My Ball Band Dishcloths outlast all others, every time. This go-round, I also added a new pattern - Sarah's dishcloth "recipe" she recently shared on her blog (again, NOT a Ravelry link). I think Sarah's riff on the dishcloth will become another go-to favorite for me.

There you have it: What I've been knitting lately. I'm happy to have refreshed my dishcloth inventory, and I'm also happy to be finished with dishcloth-cotton . . . for now.

I've moved on to something a bit more . . . complicated. Certainly bigger. And from wool. 
Stay tuned!


How about you? What are you making these days?

And Then . . . It Was Summer

I've been griping about the lack of Spring for weeks now. It's been cold -- with plenty of rain, sleet, some snow, and continued cold. Grey, blustery days. No sunshine. It's been a real keep-out-the-winter-jackets kind of spring.

Until Saturday. When Spring finally arrived. 

It lasted . . . 3 days.


Today, full-on Summer arrives. As in mid-to-upper 80s every day this week. Go directly to Summer. (Do not pass go; do not collect $200.)

I know it won't last. Spring will be back on Saturday, with cooler and more Spring-like temperatures. But this shot of summer will create LOTS of action out in my garden. Once all that sunshine and warmth hits my just-emerging plants, things are going to EXPLODE out there! 

You'll find me hustling to get my spring garden chores done today. As things really heat up in my garden - with growth and bloom on fast-forward, I'll miss my opportunities to dig up and transplant and get to the last of those damn hairy bittercress weeds before they go to seed. If you're looking for me today . . . head for the garden.

Because here comes Summer!
(Ready or Not.)

A Little Rant to Start The Week

One of the “hallmarks” of my personality is that . . . I really don’t like to be misunderstood. This is different from not wanting to be wrong (although I don’t like that either). But mostly, I just really want to be understood.

Something happened last week that is really triggering that “misunderstood” thing in me, so I thought that maybe it would help if I ranted about it a little bit here, in an attempt to just get it out of my system, y’know? (Because, really, there’s only so much “airtime” Tom is willing to give this particular topic at this point.)


(Just a little view from my dog walk on Saturday. I love that haze of green from the willow trees in the background.) (And don't expect much from the other photos in this post. They are purely functional.)

So here’s the situation:

I live in a very dog-friendly neighborhood. There are lots of dogs, and they’re generally quite well-behaved – as are their owners. Pretty much every day - in all types of weather - you’ll see dog owners out there on the streets of my neighborhood, walking their dogs. On leashes. With poop-bags in hand. (We even have a neighborhood Great Dane. His owner walks him every day, carrying a small “shovel” and what appears to be a small garbage bag. Lucky him.) 

We neighborhood dog-walkers are a jovial bunch. We know each other, at least by sight, and if we have time (and the inclination), we occasionally allow our dogs a little “together time” out on the street. (To sniff and “play bow” a little, y’know?) We keep an eye on each other. Several of my fellow neighborhood dog-walkers have stopped me to inquire about - and offer their condolences for - Jenny, for example. 

Almost without exception, the dog-walkers in my neighborhood are caring and responsible. Some people actually leave out bowls of water near their sidewalks in the summer, for example, so dogs on walks can get a drink in the heat. And only on rare occasions do I find a “wayward poop” from another dog in my yard. My neighbors carry poop bags – and know how to use them.

JoJo and I join the dog-walking parade every day. We are very responsible. JoJo has been through obedience training, and “heels” well on leash. We stay on the street or sidewalk, unless JoJo needs to do her business (she prefers the grass for this), but I keep her just on the edge of a lawn - and I always pick up her “leavings.” I don’t let her walk through garden beds near the road. I don’t let her go more than a foot or two into someone’s lawn. I keep her out of any areas of active grass-seeding. She is always on her leash in our neighborhood.



Last Wednesday, we were out for our walk when JoJo stopped to poop on the very edge of a lawn. While she was in the process, as I was getting my bag out of my pocket - ready to pick up her mess, the front door of the house swung open, and the woman at the door started yelling at me. 

Really yelling.
I couldn’t quite get my head wrapped around the words she was yelling, but she was certainly incensed. I figured she was concerned about the poop in her yard. I waved my little poop bag and assured her I was going to pick it up.

NO! She hollered at me.


She was really, really upset.
Like, spitting-while-she-yelled upset.

I tried to be nice. I explained that I couldn’t really do anything about that right now (with my dog mid-poop), but I’d see to it that my dog didn’t get on her lawn in the future. Which apparently wasn’t good enough, because she continued to yell. I picked up JoJo’s poop, and quickly moved on.

I did scan the lawn, though, to see if there were maybe “keep off the grass” signs posted that I had missed. There weren’t.


(This is NOT a picture of the lawn in question, but it could be. The street/curb situation at that house is exactly like the one in this photo. JoJo was this far from the curb when she did her thing. I never leave the street.)

The whole thing was very upsetting.
And I've done a lot of "stewing" over this situation.

There are MANY dogs and their owners walking past this woman’s house every day.  I wonder . . . does she just watch out her window and yell at people whenever a dog walks on her lawn? Have I been doing this dog-walking thing wrong (for the past 30 years) in allowing my dogs to step onto people’s lawns? Have I been missing a law or something? What made this woman so incensed about my dog being on her lawn . . . at the very edge of the street?

The next day I contacted my city’s municipal office to find out . . . what ARE the rules/laws of dog-walking in my community? I discovered that the rules are actually quite simple (and enforced) in my community: Dogs must be leashed. Dogs must be licensed. And that’s it. 

It is this particular woman’s preference that dogs not be on her property. She has no legal footing – unless the dog is unleashed or unlicensed. Now that I know about her preference, I will honor it. But I wasn’t doing anything “wrong” or irresponsible. I didn't deserve to be hollered at. And, really, she should make her preference known in ways other than yelling at people out her door. Like with signs. (Signs that people have no legal obligation to heed, mind you.) Giving some notice would be helpful for people trying to be good neighbors; trying to do the neighborly thing.

I’d love to go back to that house and explain to the angry woman that I’m a responsible dog-owner, and that I wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. (I don’t like to be misunderstood, y’know?) I’d also suggest that, perhaps, if she really doesn’t want dogs on her lawn, she should at least put up a few signs indicating her preference, and see if that helps. Because just hollering at people? Not nice. Although effective. (I certainly won’t allow JoJo anywhere near her lawn when we’re out walking in the future!)

But I won't.


That’s it! 

I feel better now that I’ve had a chance to rant a little bit.

(I’d love to hear your thoughts, by the way. Especially if you aren’t a dog-person and have to deal with dog-walkers in your neighborhood. I am responsible with my dog-walking, but I’m always willing to be a better dog-neighbor.)

Friday Follow Up

Here we are . . . Friday already! I feel like my week is, well . . . very messed up. It feels like maybe Wednesday to me? It's because I spent all day Tuesday working an election, and 15-hour work days (even when slow) (especially when slow?) wreak havoc with my schedule, my energy levels, and my sense of time. 

But there is this . . . 


Grape hyacinths are my very favorite spring bulb . . . and I have them springing up all over my gardens right now. It delights me to see them. Flower are always magical . . . but these little guys are especially magical to me!

And . . . speaking of the election. In my post on Tuesday, I provided some basic facts about my community, and asked you to take a guess at how many people would vote in my precinct on Tuesday. One thing I forgot to mention in my post is that we have "on demand absentee voting" now in Michigan, giving every voter the option to vote by mail. And . . . a LOT of people really like that option! So in my assigned polling place (which also happens to include the precinct I live and vote in), we had the following results:

  • There are 2,364 registered voters in the two precincts voting in my polling place. (Often they will combine precincts for elections where low turnout is expected).
  • 567 total votes were cast in those two precincts -- representing almost 24% turnout. (I'm sure that sounds low, but it's actually a little higher than average for a special election.) (Consider that the national average for a presidential general election is only 60%, and only 40% for primaries. Local elections usually experience minimal turnout.)
  • BUT . . . only 59 votes were cast at my polling place on Tuesday! (Which means 508 voters opted to mail in absentee votes instead of visiting the polls.) (You can imagine how slow a day that was for us election officers! The polls are open from 7am until 8pm - 13 hours. So that translates to . . . about 4 or 5 voters per hour.)

So. I am happy to announce TWO winners for my little guessing game! (I'm choosing two winners because I forgot to mention the ability for voters in Michigan to vote by mail. I was specifically looking for a guess at how many voters would come to the polls, but your guesses may have been lower had you known there was another option for voting. My bad.) Anyway. The winners!!!

  • Dee guessed 60 voters at the polling place, and she is only 1 voter off! Congratulations, Dee!
  • Jane guessed 525 voters, which is the closest guess to the total number of voters from my assigned precincts. Congratulations, Jane!

(I'll be contacting you both to make arrangements for getting your exciting prizes out in the mail.)

Thanks so much for playing along with me on Tuesday! It was fun distraction for me all day to watch your guesses come in . . . as I read and knit dish cloths. (More on that another day, but I'll tell you that gave me time to finish one book and knit two ball band dishcloths.)


I hope you all have a lovely weekend, full of what you like best.


Tales From the Garden

Meet my springtime Garden Nemesis . . . 


Hairy bittercress.

I am currently doing battle with this little bugger ALL OVER MY GARDEN. I spend a good chunk of every day digging as much of this crappy weed out of my garden beds as I can manage. I need to do it NOW . . . before it goes to seed. Because when it goes to seed? It propels hundreds of tiny seeds in all directions! (It's very impressive.) If I can get it before it goes to seed, I can slow the spread . . . and staunch the bleeding. (This stuff is everywhere.)

If you are troubled by certain weeds, you might like to check out this super helpful weed-identification website from the University of California. Yes. I know it's California, and I don't live in California. But this weed-identification site is interactive and super easy to use -- AND most common weeds tend to thrive in all growing zones anyway. (Not all, but most.) Once I figure out what my weed IS, I can google it for my area and work from there.


Here is more hairy bittercress . . . interspersed with another of my nemesis-weeds, common chickweed. (Boo! Hiss!)

Why is it important to know about your weeds? Well, if you know which ones you've got and how to deal with them, you'll have more success getting rid of them! For me . . . with my hairy bittercress infestation . . . I know I need to pull before they seed.

I'm in a race with time.
(Wish me luck!)


Two For the Price of One!

How about a little knitting . . . and a little sewing . . . all in one post!


First, let's talk about the knitting!

It's this shawl . . . and it's pretty wonderful (especially once I got into the rhythm of that linen stitch section). I used Rowan Felted Tweed from my stash. (Kay and Ann over at Modern Daily Knitting are right when they say that any color combination of Rowan Felted Tweed will work together. I had a lot of fun figuring out my color scheme from what I had on hand.)


I really like the size! I know I'll wear it a lot when it's cold. But I hope I don't wear it much until next fall . . . 

Sometimes Tom and I have a little too much fun when doing these photo shoots. I was whipping that shawl all over the place as he was taking photos and making me laugh.


In fact, I was laughing so much - and being so goofy - that we never got a good shot of my sewing project! Which is the grey top I'm wearing UNDER the shawl . . . 


It's a Toaster Sweater (#2) from Sew House Seven, and I really love it. Although we did . . . have Some Moments together. The pattern is well designed (it's very Eileen Fisher-y), and the directions are very clear, but it's for knits . . . and that always ups the stakes. I made mine from a merino wool knit that looks and feels divine. But it was on the pricey side (so I cared a lot), and ohmygod . . . it rolled like crazy, so it was a pain in the patootie to work with. But. I wrangled it into shape and even used a twin-needle to (successfully) hem the damn thing.



That's two winning projects in one post! I'm hoping, though, that I can pack both of them away until fall. (Anyone willing to make a bet on that???)


How about you? What are you making these days?