Category Archives: travel

Autumn home and away

We finally made it back to Italy.

I17-fonte pacile

New needy house, new needy dog, future uncertainties, and the fluctuating costs of travel kept us away for the last few years. It was all over in a flash though, and I’ve never been less interested in returning to my home country…

I17-monte amaro

But for a few brilliantly sunny days we hiked some familiar and new trails, ate some familiar and new food, and stuck much closer to the familiar little city, but in a new little house.

I like mountains. #italia #appenini #abruzzo #majellanationalpark

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We were oddly thwarted from many planned days – mountain passes closed (since just after we were there last 3 years ago!), restaurants too crowded for lunch, other places inexplicably shuttered – but we found other routes and other places and all was fine in the end.

I17-celano golle-n & tree

Even better than fine – my shredded knees kept their complaining to a minimum and I finally felt their restrictive grip released a bit for the first time in years.

(And Italy is always downright magical in terms of taking away all of my allergies and mild dairy/digestive issues…)

But there’s always one hike that flirts with going very wrong in every trip, right? One new-to-us trail that was supposed to be an easy/lazy couple hour meander suitable for infants and elderly (according to a tourist map) took a turn for the tired, sweaty, and absurd and involved mildly frightening encounters with wild boars, an unavoidable boot-sucking mud pit, and hand over hand scrambling underneath power lines.

I17-endurance

It all went tits up when the trail markers ceased and all signs pointed (inexplicably in english) for endurance in all directions. But the tourist map was still accurate for way finding, though it left the infants and elderly in the dust looking for their broken glasses.

And several hitchhikers joined me for a few excursions – the mantis population seemed to have exploded and grown to monstrous proportions.

I17-mantis

And we sought N’s ancestors and ancestral places – finally finding a house (or what was left), but not graves – most of the town was pointlessly annihilated in WWII.

I17-interior

I missed visiting with a few fiber folks and buying wool, but I ate the beast from which it comes and sipped from the same fonts.

The weather was entirely perfect, the autumn in full color, and the markets still stocked with the peaks of harvests.

But autumn is still here at home – even a bit slower perhaps – and the white throated sparrows are back, and the garden is still giving us patty pans, carrots, greens, and a few last winter squash…

It's eat or be eaten… #organicgardening #rampicante #squash #vintagependleton #wintersquash #gardening

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But we also returned to a dead boiler, yet more job rejections for me, and my need to re-enter the shitzoo that passes for public healthcare in this (currently really fucked up) country.

I17-gelato

So while my mountain sunshiny vitamin D high wears off, and I’m not making up work hours, I’m getting my nesting game on – clearing out (or at least organizing) the clutter, shaking out the woolens, considering baking a bit, debating yet again if one of those light alarm clocks is worth the clams, and knitting and spinning with more ferocity to keep my hands warm.

And snuggling with the beast.

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Woolly start to the new season

Feeling uneven from morning dental work, afternoon flu shot, a cold either minor and lingering, or just slowly beginning, catching up from some brief travel, and pressure systems changing from summery to autumny to a little summery again…

I’m usually ready to say goodbye to summer, but slightly less so this year, or maybe as usual, I’m just not willing to loose the daylight.

My favorite (and only one I attend these days) wool festival happened last weekend.

There was some sheep scratching…

Who doesn't love a good chin scratch? #sheep #jacobsheep #chinscratches #gardenstatesheepbreeders

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And oogling…

And of course, time for the dogs…

(Can you see the dog speck right of center near the top acting as gatekeeper?)

I kept to my strict budget of $30 (including parking) and came home with $3 left – again, took the penny candy approach and bought just a little fiber here and there (seen above).

And got it in mind to finally deal with some of the fiber I’ve been sitting on for years – especially this beast of a fleece (6 pounds I think?) that I’ve threatened to send out to be processed or have made into felt, but both cost money I don’t want to spend. So in the last few sunny days of the year, I’ll be picking and fluffing so I can card a little less messily indoors this winter (or just spin from the fluff and call it rustic and make a big blanket out of the mess…?

 

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Early July

I always think of the 4th of July as mid-summer, though it technically isn’t, but it’s a time to for me to take stock and get a bit more organized (I only just switched the seasons around in my closet). I’ve got the itch to purge and sell more shit though not yet the time to shoot and list it. But some things are slowing down, and I’m sitting here with hopefully the last half a numb head I’ll have for a while.

But my eyelid is numb too and I’m just going to ramble a bit with IG pics and notes.

The garden had a later, slower start – some of it due to the weather, some it due to me, some of it due to some (unknown animal) thievery while we were away. So some things needed a second and third planting, but the cooler temps and decent rainfall made things fairly easy overall so far.

Last year’s blueberries all fruited, and though they’re still just at stand-at-the-bush eating quantities, I’m thrilled about them, though we must erect some better bird netting for next year. And the gooseberry gave up enough to actually consider recipes. A few weeks ago it started to drop underripe fruit (some sort of stress, might have been a hot spell) so I whipped up a little batch of jam with it, the only three stalks of still-young rhubarb I could safely pick, and some strawberries for sweetness.

The goosed I like to get. #gooseberries #backyardfruit #organicgardening #fruit #berries #gardening #sweettart

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The main load became ice pops (blended with almond milk) and are damn refreshing.

The only lettuce that germinated was buttercrunch – which is okay since it’s my favorite – but it’s getting older now and I neglected to save a good spot to start the warm-season varieties (or just more buttercrunch), so I squeezed in a covered lane next to some fennel that’s doing well at the moment too. We had some near-death and replanting and rebound with the basil which is a good thing because we never seem to have enough. And all squashes are younger than we’d like, but persevering – one butternut volunteer I let go for shits in one of the compost bins is especially bombastic and has some toddler fruits, so fingers crossed…

And then I was ignoring the beans – those are usually my failsafes, but got hit hard from slugs? this year but survived, but I thought needed more time.

Almost didn't bother to check the bean bed… #organicgardening #gardening #beans #greenbeans #growyourown

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But they didn’t. And a batch is already in the freezer. Lesson learned from previous years to put up what can be now, and eat up now what can’t. At least to some degree – fresh green beans are not to be ignored completely. But we had several quarts of older (larger) greens (kale and chard mostly) that languished in the freezer since we knew they’d need to be cooked down and seasoned well, and I should be out there now picking the fresh young stuff for January’s dishes. And let’s not forget the tomatoes, onions, shallots, kale, chard, beets – all of those are doing well – and the peppers (jalepeno and cayenne) had a rough start but seem to be rebounding, but the garlic had a rough time – we’ll still have a decent harvest – but we need to figure out why it wasn’t robust – perhaps the late winter heat spell followed by the cool damp start to summer was to blame.

N’s new landscaping has brought noticeably more pollinators to the yard which is lovely to see (both the bees and the new flowers) and I’m still fighting the poison ivy – it’s getting better but will still need monthly vigilance and gloves. N also got one of those motion-activated sprinklers that is hopefully pissing off the feral cats enough to stay away as well as the deer, but so far the deer don’t seem to mind (or know when it’s off).

We’ve managed to squeeze in a few beach days.

And the flaming molten lava safety cone of ketchup and mustard smeared on asphalt is a perfect beach knitting project. I still don’t know if I like it, but I am committed to finishing it, and hopefully soon.

And it should be time soon to forage for invasive wineberries here… and then to think about and plan a bit better for autumn’s plantings…

And to soon reunite with an old unfinished knit.

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Crazy 8s

My manic knitting episode didn’t last long – it was triggered by the need to pack a week’s worth of projects for a trip up to the White Mountains with a rainy forcast – but all new attempts were thwarted, so I’m back to being monogamish to what’s on the needles now.

I started the Amiga a few days before we left thinking it was possible that I could be done and wearing it by July. I used US 9 needles to get a better drape (some of the others I’ve seen on ravelry with this yarn look a bit thick or stiff) but the 9s ended up being a bit too loose.

(Bamboo needles for stitch holding purposes only – just knitting one row of this cotton blend on to them took me down for the rest of the day.)

But then I couldn’t find my 8 tips. I knew with certainty that I didn’t have a current project on 8s, and couldn’t remember the last time I’d used them, and I was pretty certain I’d never used my 8 tips at all… So that project didn’t make the cut.

So I packed a small paper pieced quilt, a thrift unraveler, and 4 knits – only 1 of which was new and not yet on the needles.

On the first rainy day, I stared a cabled reflective hat for N.

Though I remembered to pack a few sizes of needles, I forgot that the old dpn packs have only 4 needles, not 5, so I started it on 3 US 8 needles, but kept dropping stitches off the tips and it was driving me bats – I added a fourth US 7 needle to the mix but by then I’d screwed up a cable too and had had enough. I thought if I re-started it on the full set of 7 dpns top-down and knit it plain I’d whiz through it and he might be able to wear it on the trip, but it was too tight on the 7s, and again, I don’t like bamboo needles unless the yarn is super slick, and I prefer doing the main part of hats on circulars and didn’t have them packed with me (and the 8 tips were still awol anyway).

So I knit, and knit, and knit on that firey sontag.

And amazingly, my hands & wrists were okay with marathon sessions, so I condensed what was likely 2 months of my painful knitting rate into a week.

My favorite color change was this brief moment of pink-grey – reminded me of things from my past, not specific and not necessarily happy, but familiar – I’m inexplicably drawn to dirty pinkish these last few years…

I took just a few breaks – one to prep a thrift cashmere tank for unraveling, and the other to shoot and reacquaint myself with the Paulie cardigan, perhaps even knock out a few rows.

I tried it on the skunk, and only after I shot it did I realize…

skunk paulie had the 8s.

Why?

I’m knitting this sweater on 2s. I’m guessing I needed said 2s (yes, for this hat likely) and put the 8s on to save the stitches knowing I’d never used the 8s and it wasn’t likely I would.  So even if I’d planned to work on it while away, I couldn’t have.

But I had one last back-up – the Paris Toujours I started in the mountains last summer.

I love it, but I didn’t work on it, but I will – I’d like to be wearing it by early fall (or perhaps I’ll knit on it during another mountain trip then).

But there was some great weather too and I managed to get on the trails a little bit – my good knee is now my bad knee and I’m dealing with pain and the clumbsiness of favoring the other, formerly bad side now – it’s still bad, but not as bad as the newly bad – I’m just grinding down on bones now, no longer receiving the sharp bite of torn cartiledge.

We did a few short woods trails, a lovely pond, and a pretty impressive waterfall.

But taking it easy was the biggest accomplishment.

And Rocco was the most relaxed we’d ever seen him at the cabin – no road in sight, nor people, or animals – he only barked twice at some hummingbirds and a scent – either bear or turkey – not a single full tantrum/rage/freakout the whole week – until spying a bichon frise 50 yards away at a rest stop on the way home.

I got some quality time with the foliage – forget-me-nots, mosses & lichens, ferns – in the few acres around the cabin.

I like moss. #moss

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(Yeah, most of that is lichen).

And ate some of it (from a food co-op, not foraged) cooked up by N and other spring tasties too…

Going up north also means going back in time to tasty spring eats again… #fiddleheads

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As well as sweets (and of course pancakes) I usually only buy up there.

We’re home to the heat and finally productive, but needy garden (though some asshole ate half the onions and squash plants), and my wrist hurts again, so the knitting has sloooooowed down once more.

 

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One from the scrap heap

I need to lighten my stash, I’ve been wanting to start some scrappy projects, and I needed a gift, so once again my mother will soon be the recipient of a project that might go very wrong, but I’ll still finish it and give it to her (like this hat).

scrapheap

On the heap are several unraveled thrift sweaters including a few that had [abandoned] intentions of becoming pussyhats, one or two from last spring or early summer, a never-ending cone of (I suspect, but I still haven’t tested) faux or partially faux, mohair – fauxhair? from the Cascine market in Firenze several years ago…

boot-redo-firenze

…a few balls of wool from the big box craft store that I got on the cheap nearly, or over, a decade ago to make into felted bags (I still haven’t put the handles on a couple I made around that time, but I do see myself eventually making more, so it’s not urgent I use it all up), the last bit of my kool-aid dyed yarn, and finally, and possibly regretfully, some novelty yarns – yes, a “fur”(must be under the other stuff in the pic) and some metallics. I kinda sorta like metallic yarns – if mixed well enough with wool, they feel okay and fancy up a handknit – I wear this batkus with a tiny silver thread that never shows up in photos at least once a week:

baktus3-restaurant

And recently unraveled this one…

Sweater parts waiting to get their kink on… #yarn #recycledyarn #thriftstoreclothes #unraveling #withsparkles

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…but I’m not so sure about gold since I don’t wear it, and I should put it in this project, but it’s just enough to make a shawl-thing on its own, so I don’t want to shortchange it. But I think I got a few balls of metallic yarns with the intention of making some knitted jewelry – ropey lariat things – but the coppery one seen above and below is fairly thick and unpleasant on its own, and most times I’d rather have a scarf, so that is no longer an intended project…

But for a long time I’ve been wanting to make some grand, chaotic, scraptacular feather & fan/old shale shawls.

A perimenopausal aesthetic has taken over and I want more drama in my knits.

I took a baby step toward this with this shawl from a few years ago that I thought I was going to sell, but have kept to use while being utterly stationary at the computer.

spring-shug or shawl

It’s made up of two sweaters – one was a blue Shetland thrifted one, and the other (I wore in the ’90s) was an Italian multicolored mohair mix that I doubled, and that was a mistake – I ran out of it before I got the length I wanted. But it’s wide, and some days I think of making a dramatic shrug out of it, or just adding more length with the blue wool, but it functions well enough for what I use it for, so best leave well enough alone.

But my mom needed a more practical scarf and I needed to finish it in a reasonable amount of time, so I’m going sideways on big, but not too large, needles with nearly all garter stitch except for a wavy-making row every 4 or so.

It now has the fun fur and hot pink silk from an ’80s skirt and it’s drunkenly teetering on the line of fuglytown…

…so it’s time for more metallics and even louder colors, right?

 

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‘Tis the season…

I’m having a moment of old computer functionality again…

This is a wrap up (mostly for my own memory notes) of things of late.

The garden is officially done – we ate baby beets and their greens for Thanksgiving and again a week or so ago.

holiday-beets

The baby carrots went down the hatches of all of us a week or so ago too.

And just in time – we had a bitter cold snap last week followed by a shellacking of ice.

Our Thanksgiving on the actual day was a pleasant gluttonous one with just the two of us and a bunch of delicious Italian courses – including ravioli with squash and sage from the garden.

holiday-ravioli

Then we traveled to the family one a week later for an Eastern European version.

(I can’t remember the last time I had turkey and mash potatoes et al, and that’s just the way I like it.)

Rocco has been on much better behavior in some areas – Thanksgiving happened without a single counter-surfing incident since he’s learned to sit in “his spot” just outside the kitchen when we’re in there.

(Step away, however, and anything is still up for grabs.)

holiday-rocco

We also had a little jaunt up the Hudson to see Andrew Bird in an old music hall and stayed in a great Airbnb with a view of the new and old Tappan Zee, only it was frigid, so I didn’t take advantage of the balcony…

holiday-tarrytown

I’ve been meaning to do a wrap-up of all of the works-in-progress I’ve got going on, as this time of the year I’m usually in the mood to bang out/wrap up/undo and move on, but when I go to dig them out, I end up working on them a bit because I could check them off if they’re done, but they’re never as close to being done as I think they are.

(Or I have a marathon day with a staple remover at work and my hands can’t knit for a day or two afterward.)

I have a few paper-pieced quilt-like things in the works.

One I completely forgot about:

And I’ll likely play with it some more, but though I thought a lot about it before I started it, I’m not feeling it as much now – I’m not feeling a lot of “craft” or art now – it won’t be a viable source of second/additional income I hoped it to be, I pretty much hate what social media has done to it, and the art side of everything still burns.

The other long-term pieced piece I was working had a bit of a message – one that though still active, has passed in the popular mind – and the other issue I’ve got with hand-piecing is quilting – I really don’t want to do it by hand, but it seems somewhat wrong to machine quilt something that has hundreds of hours of hand work? Or it can be something for the wall and doesn’t need it, but I’m not making things for the wall…

I unearthed N’s quilt that I started as a housewarming gift for his/our first house nearly a decade ago and have it near the sewing station south to finally finish this winter, but I need to clean/oil/and in some cases repair, and find new parts for, all of the machines down there…

These socks are on their way to being wearable – just on the long cuff slog now, but I can do that without any thought and minimal looking, so they should be done soon. Another pair of socks on the needles are thick and fast, but a bit unwieldy to take for waiting room knitting, etc., so I’ll probably cast-on another pair as soon as I finish the aforementioned ones – perhaps suck it up and knit a fine-gauge pair with a maddening dark and boring yarn that I would really like to wear now, but haven’t wanted to knit.

Otherwise, there’s a sweater on the needles that is 75ish% done, but hurts my hands a bit, so it has to be slow but it’s finally cold out enough to wear it, so I’m motivated to finish, and there’s a fingering-weight cardi that I sometimes forget about and haven’t touched in a year? but I’d like to get back to soon. I’m not loving the way some of my old clothes fit these days, so I need to figure out the ideal dimensions for any new projects – definitely want things longer and with more ease, but that means more yarn and longer knitting.

And I still love working on my oh-so-soft Paris Toujours, but I feel like I need to bang out the few older things first – but this has promise to be truly grand – I want all of my shawls to be bigger, ridiculously, almost impossibly bigger these days and this might start to scratch that itch (but the amount of yarn left could be deceiving since the rows are constantly increasing).

I’ve also promised a poncho/serape sort of thing for N, as well as scarves for him and another, and why has another winter appeared without a pair of mittens out of handspun for me…?

But mostly I’m still just unraveling everything – a few old projects and dozens of thrift store sweaters – making for a sneezy cloud in the basement, much bigger muscles on my winding arm, and a pleasant non-thinking calm state of mind.

 

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Not a Paris vacation

We headed north to the Adirondacks for a much needed vacation recently.

adk-weathervane

We packed up our hiking gear, the dog and his gear, and lots and lots of our garden’s bounty.

adk-tomatoes

We usually stay in the High Peaks region where good grocery and produce options are few, so we usually bring a week’s worth of food with us.

N still manages to make fancy stuff with limited ingredients.

adk-tuna tomatoes

(Tuna balsamico is a regular staple either in a sandwich on the trail or stuffed into things, or both).

adk-rain

The trip up sucked, and the weather was somewhat crummy on and off, but thankfully the cabin had a generous covered porch. And the rain brought somewhat cooler temperatures that seemed downright lovely for our heat-soaked hides.

Cabin bathroom was a wee bit humid… #fungusamongus #toilettoadstool #shrooms #mushroom #mushroominthehouse

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(And mushrooms in the floor.)

But it was cool enough to consider touching wool again, so I immediately cast on for a Paris Toujours.

adk-stitch marker

The beginning wasn’t without incident and I might go into detail later – a very minor pattern issue – and it’s a pattern that doesn’t really need a pattern anyway. And of course I forgot my stitch markers again – and I think I prefer the twist tie now…

The yarn is frogged from a thrift sweater and is kitten/bunny/puppy/mouse soft.

I ended up frogging a few more short sections from between the button holes before we left and I’m glad I did – I got nearly a foot of shawl for it and the yarn easily accepted the spit (hot air huff) splice.

adk-rocco model

The dog failed as a knitwear model.

And as a trail dog on the busier park trails – he’s still too much of an asshole to be around others – but he made a good porch companion and was so much calmer that week without kids on bikes, runners, dogs, cats, certain kinds of jalopies, mail carriers, and garbage trucks going by.

adk-porch with dog

I didn’t get much time on the trails but I got a good chunk of knitting done – the most I’ve done in months. I knocked out a heel and instep on one of the pair of yellow & teal very occasional socks, a few more rows on the last washcloth, and worked a bit on a very long-term hexagon quilt.

adk-shawl start

The weather was the most glorious on our last day and I felt like the vacation had only just begun – yes, a common feeling, but this time it was too real.

adk-shawl in sun

And now this oh-so-soft shawl has remained untouched since we returned – the garden called for too much tendon-aggravating attention and the temperature has once again soared…

Too short vacation. #sunset #latesummer #adk #adirondacks #highpeaks

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