Tuesday, January 30, 2007

soon it begins

My oldest son Aidan is just on the brink of his formal education--he starts kindergarten in the fall. He's so excited by the prospect that the greatest compliment you can give him now is to say he is acting "just like a schoolkid." He role-plays the school day all the time--our family dinners become cafeteria lunches, drawing sessions become homework, and time at the park across the street becomes recess. I hope this enthusiasm continues once he really is in school!

But there's one part of his education that I think we'll need to supplement, and that's his education in music. My own music education was woefully spotty. I had a few private instructors teach me (first on the organ, then on the guitar), but they never followed any particular curriculum. I came away with bits and pieces of knowledge from one teacher, and a little bit of something from the next. And what I learned in school didn't fill in any of the gaps.

So, in the time-honored tradition of wanting better things for my kids, I've decided to find a good music teacher for Aidan. But where to start? There are countless private teachers in this area (with the same potential pitfalls I faced). There are schools that teach the Suzuki method, the Yamaha method, the this-method, the that-method. It's all very daunting to a musically untrained person like myself. I want a logical, systematic curriculum, but most of all, I want it to be fun for him. Much of the reason I gave up music lessons was because of being bored to tears with scales and exercises. I want better for my kid.

But not only that, he also wants to play soccer.

I live in fear of becoming one of those stressed-out families, with too many time commitments and not enough time. One of those families that never eats dinner together and only sees one another in passing from one lesson to another. I won't let us become that, but I want the kids to be able to explore the things they're interested in. It's going to be a balancing act.

The knitting is coming along just fine. No photos of the progress on Quinn, but I'm getting into the home stretch on the main part of the bag. A few more quiet evenings of work on it, and I'll have something to show!

Friday, January 26, 2007

new projects, not all knitting

I have new projects to work on these days, but the first isn't really new. The other day, I made the bold decision to start keeping my journal in handwritten volumes again.

This was a big decision for me. When my first son was born nearly 5 years ago, I abandoned the handwritten volumes and started keeping my journal on the computer. After all, I can type so much faster than I can write, and keeping the journal electronically would allow me to keep up the habit of a lifetime during a very busy time of my life. But as it turned out, I hated the Microsoft Word journal. Even though I was able to capture my ephemeral thoughts more quickly, the electronic words had no life of their own. (Ironic that I should say this at the very moment I am creating more electronic words.) Anyway, I was in Harvard Square and went to a wonderful stationers shop, where I found a delectable orange leather journal, with pages and pages of space to write. I bought a new pen and a giant cup of tea, and set about the task of writing all my personal stuff down. It felt so good! I started my first journal in 1974 and have never stopped writing since. Yum.

And more knitting projects on the horizon. I'm making a purse with the Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Aran I bought at Wild and Woolly in Lexington. I'm using Yvonne's pattern Quinn, and it's turning out beautifully so far. The top of the bag is a cabled band worked horizontally, then stitches are picked up along the edge of the band to work the remaining part of the bag.

I have to say, Rowan has just not impressed me with this wool. I've found not one, not two, but THREE knots in a single skein of this yarn! Not only that, but in places the yarn is so weak that it breaks. I'm not a tense knitter--my knitting tends to be on the loose side--so that really means the yarn is weak. All I can say is that I'm glad I got the wool on sale. I would have been mighty angry if I'd paid full price for this knotty, weakling yarn!

Not only that, I received my first shipment of Knit Picks yarn. I've read so much about it on other people's blogs that I just had to try it. I bought their merino yarn for my husband's new sweater, and spent a whopping $37 on it! The yarn is silky soft, and I can't wait to get going on it!

With the yarn for my husband's sweater, I also received enough yarn to make another tam...

Friday, January 19, 2007

snowy day

It's the tiniest of snowy days today, by New England standards. Maybe a quarter inch of wet slushy snow has fallen on the ground, not even enough to shovel. But there is something about snow, even a little bit, that makes the world slow down and become quieter. It's as if Mother Nature is putting a blanket over the world and telling you that humankind isn't really in control here. Today's snowfall isn't even to keep anyone in, but it's enough to dredge up memories and stories about snowstorms of all kinds, especially the Blizzard of '78. I wasn't in New England then, but I've heard the stories, and it gives me a healthy respect for what Mother Nature can do.

For me, though, snowy days make me really want to curl up on the couch and cover up with the Magic Afghan.

The Magic Afghan was knit by my mother probably 40 years ago, from acrylic yarns in then-fashionable shades of avocado green and harvest gold. It became known as the Magic Afghan because it used to always make me fall asleep when I wrapped myself in it. It's one of my prized possessions, and my kids are growing to love it the same way I do.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

more hats!

I finished my hats for Portia and Throsby and put them in the mail.

Portia's hat is made of wonderfully heathery purple Cascade yarn knit in the Coronet pattern from Knitty. I made just one small modification--I created a small hole in the back for Portia's ponytail to poke through, so she can wear a hat and keep her whole head warm. Now she'll have a purple hat to match the one that her American Girl doll is wearing...which was supposed to be Portia's hat, but it came out WAY too small!

Throsby's hat is a double-layer hat made from Reynolds Andean Alpaca Regal yarn in shades of black and grey. With a provisional cast-on of black yarn, I knit ribbing for a bit more than 4 inches (twice the depth of the cuff when flipped up), then knit a basic stocking cap out of dark grey. After finishing the dark grey cap, I then picked up the stitches from the provisional cast-on and knit another stocking cap going thr other direction in a lighter grey. When the second cap was finished, I turned one cap inside the other and tacked them together at the top. This hat should be wonderfully warm, which should keep Throsby's ears toasty warm when he's on his paper route!

Next on the knitting agenda is a cable knitted bag called Quinn. I'm using Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Aran in a deep chocolatey brown that I bought at Wild and Woolly's semi-annual sale. Yum!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

tempus fugit (time flies!)

Saturday was a magnificent spring day (in January?!), and the boys and I decided to wander parts of Boston to "see what we can see." I had my camera with me, so you can see a little part of our long walk. Warm and sunny, the day was a real gift.

We started our walk in Downtown Crossing, with a visit to Windsor Button to buy some size 7 circular needles. (Yes, I have a million sets of circulars, but no size 7s. And I think I'm doomed never to have size 7s, because the pair I bought disappeared as soon as I brought them into the house. But I digress.)

Just outside the knitting shop, I looked up and saw this wonderful torch. I love the Art Nouveau styling of the building number. The shopfront here is completely nondescript, but fortunately no previous renovator decided to dismantle the lovely torch.

We picked up some lunch and decided to have an urban picnic. We found a place to sit near Macy's, where we spent some time people-watching while we filled our bellies. This part of Downtown Crossing is a great place to watch people, because it is such a crossroads for the city. The kids loved watching the taxis and police patrolmen and hotdog vendors.

This is an area of real change. Longtime Boston residents lament the closing of Jordan Marsh, and more recently Filene's. Chain stores have moved in--and moved out--of the area. Some things seem eternal, like the chiming of the bells on the old Filene's on the hour, every hour. And then there are new discoveries, like the solar-powered trash compactors.

Here's a view of Washington Street heading north. Like many older cities, it's a real mishmash of architectural styles, including the 18th-century Old South Meetinghouse, generic skyscrapers, and a humble little 1970s-era CVS. Just a short walk from here is Boston's famous Faneuil Hall, as well as its hideous City Hall. Such a city of contrasts.

Look up when you're in Boston, and you'll see some interesting details.

This medallion is over the side entrance of a once-grand building whose first floor has been remodeled beyond recognition. Perhaps because this medallion was on a side street, nobody thought it worth the effort to remove in the name of "progress."

Here's one we saw later in the day, a small detail of a building on Boylston Street in Back Bay.

Sometimes this amount of detail can seem almost overwhelming, but it amazes me to think about the value that businessowners and architects used to place on detail. I think fewer people think about the longevity of buildings today, so they often aren't as willing to invest in the effort to create beauty.

Aidan shares my interest in old graveyards, so we went to explore King's Chapel Burying Ground.

Most of the graves there are from the 1600s and 1700s, though I did notice one from 2003! Anyway, we used this visit to talk about the imagery we saw on the gravestones and what they symbolized. Most are quite somber, but this one made death look quite cheerful.

This one was more somber and serious, in keeping with the many skeletons and skulls we saw carved upon the stones. If you look carefully, you can see the skeleton holding a candle-snuffer, ready to snuff out the flame on the candle. Heavy stuff indeed.

Something lighter was in order next, so we walked over the Boston Common to see what was happening (along with 99.9% of the city's residents who were out enjoying the glorious day.) A few brave souls ventured onto Frog Pond for some ice skating, but the surface of the ice refused to freeze. As some of the more accomplished skaters made quick turns, water sprayed off the blades of the skates and glistened in the sunlight.

Time to be an airplane!

Here's another part of Boston that is about to change--the Ritz-Carlton. Later this week, it will become Taj Boston, after having been sold away from the Ritz-Carlton company. Actually, this isn't really part of old Boston--it only goes back to 1927--but there is so much changing in Boston that a lot of people are getting very nostalgic. I have to admit, I'm one of them. I always fancied having "tea at the Ritz," but it doesn't sound the same to say "tea at the Taj" (though that sounds like it could have an exotic appeal, doesn't it?).

Dazzling display of cherry blossoms in January.

Delightful, beautiful, and yet so sad because the cold weather will come and shock the living daylights out of the trees. I wonder if we will have much a spring after getting this preview so early?

Our usual stop to see Mrs. Mallard and her babies, the bronze statues in the Public Garden modeled after the characters in the book Make Way for Ducklings. Douglas and Aidan seem to have a built-in homing device that alerts them when we're within walking distance of Mrs. Mallard, so we go visit her just about every time we're in town.

This time, though, we had a little drama of a quarrel between two stubborn 4-year-old girls over the next-to-last duckling, Pack. Despite the fact that Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, and Quack were all free, the girls fussed and shouted screamed about sitting on Pack. Both little girls were as cute as their behavior was horrid, but their parents laughed off their behavior, even when one of the girls smacked her mother and told her "I hate you!" Her mom saw that other parents were watching, and she simply laughed and said "see what I have to put up with?" Oh dear, her future is going to be mighty grim...

But at long last, our day of discovery came to an end. With the sun dipping low in the sky, it was time to cross the bridge in the Public Garden and head back to the car. Two weary boys and one weary mom, but it was a beautiful day. I'll remember it when the snow comes...later this week, they say!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

new year, new projects

After the dismal failure of Portia's purple hat (which ended up too small and now graces the head of her American Girl doll), I have started a new one. This one is based on the Coronet pattern from Knitty, but I made one small change. I loved the idea of a hat with a hole for a ponytail to poke through, so I added one just above the braided border. Portia wears her ponytails low like that, so I think this should suit her just fine.

I have to say, though, I don't like knitting in the round on double-pointed needles. Despite the fact that I inherited my grandmother's massive collection of knitting needles, I didn't have a set of size 8 circulars. Every place I went was sold out, so I've had to do the whole thing on the dp needles. They really slow me down! With circulars or with regular flat knitting, I can fly, but the dp needles are so awkward for me. Needless to say, I have no desire to try knitting socks....

I know I'm completely in the minority here, because I see from so many blogs that knitters everywhere love knitting socks. How many thousands of socks were knit for Socktober? How many of you have lovingly posted the pairs and pairs of socks that you've made for yourselves and your family? But I just don't get it! Apart from the dp needle issue, I would find it heartbreaking to knit something that will get worn out! I've worn holes in countless socks, and I've felt no compunction about tossing them out. But a handknit sock? I'd cry!

Maybe the appeal is the small size of the project? If that's the case, I'd much rather knit hats and scarves (can't have too many!). Next, after Portia's hat, I'm making one for her brother Throsby. His will be a double-layered hat in some deliciously soft Reynolds Andean Alpaca Regal. I made a hat for Aidan out of that yarn two years ago, and not only is it wonderfully warm, but it wears beautifully.

Now if only I could find more time to knit! I have such a backlog of projects--and my favorite yarn shop is having its semi-annual clearance sale next week. Yes, I will be one of the insane knitters queuing up at 7:00am to be one of the first in the door...