Outside, the crocus keep coming.
Planting secrets revealed: dig hole; grab handful of bulbs and toss in hole; cover with soil and see what happens.
Next in line, Puschkinia libanotica, which sometimes gets called striped squill - one of those charming little bulbs that don't deserve to be called "minor."
This planting has been rooted around in since I took the picture - I suspect the neighborhood skunk.
From the postman, on Tuesday, after a speedy four day trip from Edinburgh:
the prize from Cornflower's most recent book draw:
One Fine Day, by Mollie Panter-Downes
Just a taste: "The world had contracted to domestic-house size, always whispering to the sound of somebody's broom." It's a gem. I'll write about it once I've read it again, at a less-devouring pace.
And, thirteen years ago this evening, a baby girl, whose arrival launched us into family life and more laundry than I could have imagined. Happy Birthday, Thirteen!
A laundry marathon Monday night underwrote a knitting marathon, too, and D's We Call Them Pirates is finished -- except it's not. There's still the not-so-small issue of the lining to deal with. The pattern calls for a few inches of stockinette to line the inside of the hat, worked up from the waiting stitches of a provisional cast on. This is feeling like a test of my knitting character. Was fuzzy, sticky leftover Peace Fleece a good choice as a waste yarn for the provisional cast on? Not by a long shot. Is it hard to go back to knitting 100+ stitches after decreasing the hat itself down to 16? You bet. (Next hat, I'm doing the hem first, like here.) Do I have mixed emotions about working on a winter knit -- and hoping D actually has an occasion to wear it -- when I'm waiting so impatiently for spring? Absolutely.
Still relying on store-bought flowers -- pink gerberas, purple stock, and potted ivy this week (the new image over there on the sidebar).
Every day I have a wander through our lot, looking for signs of spring bulbs -- and so far, I've spotted nothing, which astonishes me. I don't think I've ever lived anywhere so utterly un-gardened (although, as a friend pointed out, that means a blank canvas for me -- a new experience as well). Relying, too, on virtual gardens, watching a snowdrop, or a crocus, or even an early daffodil blossom at the click of a mouse.
Out: snowdrops, far too early. And Out: the washer and dryer we bought when we moved into this house almost nine years ago. It had been a week without laundry since I’d gone to the basement to swap loads only to discover that the rug in front of the washer was soaked (the departed was a Frigidaire front loader, the granddaddy, so the appliance guy said yesterday, of all the American front loaders around today) and that a pool of water was oozing out beyond the edges of the rug, dashing the first hopes I had that the door gasket had developed a leak, and that a quick transplant would get us up and running again. (Its partner the dryer was due for another belt replacement anyway, before we hand the house over to our tenant. Every two years or so the machine would get very squeaky, and clothes would start to acquire brown streaks, from getting trapped in the too large gap between the wobbly drum and the body of the machine. Not good.) So, on the phone to the appliance repair generalist, for diagnosis #1. Off with the panel at the bottom of the washer, and I’m describing what I see: one of the pairs of pistons that support the washer’s drum has snapped clean away. Their guess: water was leaking because the drum was spinning unaligned.
I’m referred to a specialist, and another phone consult. Nope: the water’s leaking because when that part breaks (says the voice of experience, I’m thinking) it actually breaches the washer drum itself. “I could come and take a look – it’s a $65 call out fee – but you really don’t need me to… Do you have a big family?” (I didn’t, I think, when we picked the washer and dryer out – there were only two of them then, and their clothes were quite small.) “Three kids, lots of towels…” I answer. “It’s too small for you, that machine,” and before he ends the conversation (to respond to the ever louder calls of “Daddy!” I can hear in the background), he reels off a list of makes and models that would be a better match. No Mr. Washie, sadly, my machine, but countless loads accomplished since 1998 – it must have been nearly 20, if you were to measure things in the appliance equivalent of dog years.
And so, In: their year 2006 descendants, just the right size for the new user. That would be my dad, single guy, who astonished me this summer (when I told him we were leaving, and on the lookout for a family to rent our place here) by saying he’d been mulling over making a move. Not downsizing yet, per se, but making a break and catching his breath, to think clearly about where and how he wants to live next. 40 years plus worth of stuff out of the home where he and my mother raised my sister and me, he’s poised to close the sale of my childhood home in January and hang out here for a while (with plenty of room to host my sister and her crew when they visit – and us, too). On top of everything else, he’s a gardener himself (although tending more to the vegetable end of the spectrum) – so the garden will be in good hands.
We’re lightening the load here, as well -- and so Out: a dump truck load of big trash (less what was spirited away from the curb in the night) scooped up and hauled away Monday morning (we watched the big claw grab it all up and over and into the truck as we waited for the school bus), 5 bags to the charity who picks up curbside, and 4 boxes of clothes to the next family in our hand-me-down chain. The kids have amazed me at how willing they’ve been to send things on to new homes -- Tuesday it was a van load of toys and shoes to Goodwill …
… except for these, which are now back In.
Because there was another flood, of tears this time. “Right, girls, snow boots. They can be here for Christmas if we order them this afternoon.”
Nine: “But mum, I’ve got the pink ones, from Eleven.”
Me: “I gave those away this morning – they were size five, and too small, no?”
And we were back a year ago, flashing on ordering boots and the color that she so wanted only came in her sister’s size and she would have to wait a year to have them come down to her (if everybody grew at just the right speed) and the sizes run huge anyway and they finally fit perfectly even with big warm socks…
… and I was on the phone to Goodwill: Can you find them? Can I buy them back?
I’m on hold for a bit. And then: Yes – and No: just come around to the donation door before 9:00 tonight and ask for Charles; they’ll be waiting for you.
And they were.
So finally, Out: one large bag of chocolates with a shiny silver bow, to Charles and crew at Goodwill. “You didn’t need to do that,” said Charles (“Did you see the look on his face?” asked Eleven, after I got back into the van, reaching into her sixth grade vocabulary list for “Bemused.” ) “And you all didn’t need to be so great about my daughter’s boots,” I answered. “Thanks, and Merry Christmas.”
It’s been completely unpredictable, the things that set any of us off, the first signs of the mourning for the life we’ve known here in this house. A few weeks ago, a friend’s sincere “How are you?” had me in tears in the sporting goods section of Target (and not, I think, because we’ll soon be an hour away from the nearest one). After all the things Nine had gladly sent on, the boots couldn’t go. So happy that they got to come back home.
I was awake at 3:00 this morning, prodded out of bed by the can’t-argue-with-it logic of a grade school math problem:
If Nine had zero pairs of clean trousers on Monday morning (and had to go to school in a skirt – which is fine – and knee socks – horrors!) and her mother did zero loads of laundry in the past twenty-four hours, how many pairs of clean trousers will Nine have on Tuesday morning?
Off to the laundry room for me, and then on to the couch for an hour, only interrupted to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer, accompanied by my newest pair of socks in progress. I still haven’t made room to move any photos off my camera, but here (scroll down to the second pair; thank you blogger Jacqueline, and google) is what the socks will look like: it’s Scheepjes Invicta Coloris 1708, and after 2 inches of 1x1 ribbing, it’s nothing but knit, around and around in stockinette (Stocking stitch! Exactly.) while the faux fairisle works its magic. Speedy, pleasant knitting, even for the blanket-wrapped, bleary-eyed, dark of night laundress.
What’s not simple: Insurance. Mortgages. Stuff: owning it; moving it. Needing (and wanting: the line’s blurry) to be in two or three places at once.
Two books on my mind: Michael Pollan's The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Elizabeth Royte's Garbage Land. The real cost of where things (not merely food) come from, and the true cost of making them go away.
The irony of speaking three times this month on “Simplifying Christmas” during a most un-simple time in my life. (And yes, Steve, thanks for asking; I’ll put something up here; keep your eyes on the sidebar.)
Malva sylvestris. Self-seeded, and in a cozy spot not far from the house’s foundation and sheltered by a butterfly bush, unconcerned that frosts and cold have done in almost every other trace of the summer and autumn garden.
Camellia sasanqua. The first flowers of the winter garden. I don’t think there’s a day here when something isn’t in bloom.
My affection for my new boots. Walking through November puddles and piles of raked leaves.
The foot of a top down sock – when you’re past the heel and before you start the toe. Good knitting.
Laundry. Sure, you have to do it all over again before you know it. But for that brief time when it’s all done, it’s done.
These pumpkin muffins. They’re fine with raisins; they’re fine without. Dried cranberries, crystallized ginger: yum. And some days need tiny chocolate chips.
Pumpkin Muffins (Hot Cakes, Charlottesville VA)
3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups canned pumpkin puree (= a 15 oz can)
1 cup (total) add-ins (optional) (suggestions: raisins, nuts, crystallized ginger, dried cranberries, chocolate chips)
3 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in the first group. Sift together the dry ingredients in the second group. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Bake in greased mold or muffin tins lined with papers. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the muffins spring back when touched lightly.
Makes 2 dozen large muffins, or about 5 dozen mini muffins.
That picture (it’s Styrax japonicus, shot in May) has nothing to do with what’s going on outside (where it is gloomy and very wet, with rain last night and still continuing. The photo is, however, part of a list built “just one more thing” by “just one more thing,” a list that is steadily nudging me Over. The. Edge.
Our S&B group was due to get together this morning at the coffee house, in the grown up section, no less. It was not to be: the last cancellation came this morning in a 6:45 email, reporting that S had doggie flu to clean up after and a trip to the vet to work in before heading out of of town. W had a conflict with Waldorf preschool home visit (Quick, hide the older sibs’ cartoon character underwear!) M’s second boy scout camping weekend in a row was looming; (Did I mention M is very pregnant?). And me: I probably should have not been going in the first place, as I have deadlines hovering as well as an honoured house guest (“HHG”), my father in law visiting all the way from England, but I was craving the stitching and the bitching, in equal measure.
The twitchier of the two cats hid upstairs for 24 hours after HHG’s arrival – and oh, how I understand: it’s shocking to me really how much a creature of habit I am, and equally, how much the intricate routine we have holds the whole show together. Yesterday, with HHG along, it was off to the library, the grocery, the camera shop (to drop off a memory stick holding that photo, for an enlargement, for a photo show); out briefly, on my own, to pick up the enlargement, drop off soccer gear for Nine’s carpool, and pick up Eleven from school. And again, with HHG, to piano, to dance class, to soccer practice (HHG stays to watch), return to dance class, return to soccer and reunite with Seven, who had gone home with a friend from school, a friend whose older brother’s soccer practice conveniently co-coincides with Nine’s, making it possible for Seven to be delivered there post-play date for me to retrieve.
And so we all watch, as Nine’s U10 girls team scrimmages with their field mates, a powerhouse crew of U12 boys, and so proud to see them hold their own. Final score was 5-1, but as the girls pointed out, last weekend those very boys had won their match 40 – nothing (absurd, but apparently true). A moral victory on the girls’ part – or one of Mason Dixon Kay’s Civ Div Wins, surely. And so home, with HHG, Eleven, Seven, Nine and three of her ecstatic teammates, eventually distributed to their various homes. Then the rain begins.
And continues all night, through the one remaining open window in the van.
Thank you for listening, virtual knitting circle that you are.
There is, in fact, knitting going on (apologies for the lack of photo evidence): I’ve started the second sleeve on the EZ baby sweater, and I cast on for a second pair of socks, after finding myself missing having the first pair on the needles. (The lace on the baby sweater still has me counting out loud, and requires way too much concentration to be a travel with me project). Joined Socktoberfest in the socks’ honor. (I’ll do my first sock story here in the next post or two.)
Oh, and just one more thing: Over the past two weeks, with D variously in London, and Boston, and Atlanta (and me working the fax and phones here), we have just about bought a house in New Hampshire. Because we are moving. From Virginia. In January. New list: snow, wool, Red Sox …
Two working days until the garden is open. People who know appear surprised to see me anywhere other than up to my elbows in dirt: “It’s this Saturday, right? You must be busy.” Yup, pretty much.
Thing is, with all that attention going to the garden, you can guess where the is time coming from. Here’s a few hints: the kids found their school clothes in the laundry room this morning; we’re almost out of tea because we’ve been out of coffee for a day and a half; the emails from the public library are becoming less and less friendly; knitting – what knitting?
Even so, the center is still holding, thanks to a few very good things:
Caught the cat (the one with the delicate digestive system) in the act of throwing up her breakfast in a brand new place. I never would have found it without her help.
Fifteen minutes before his first soccer practice of the season, we found a pair of cleats in the front closet that fit Six. Not quite sure whose they are. Don’t care. Hoping to have the same luck Thursday with Nine.
The sock had an outing today, riding along to school, and choir practice, and soccer, and fetching Nine from a friend’s house. Didn’t actually make any progress, and it was being carried in a garden tote, but I’m sure it enjoyed the fresh air. (And may I point out that it has a heel: heel #1 on sock #1, turned last week!)
The UPS guy brought me a box. (Yeah, I caved on Knitter’s Almanac, and threw in a copy of Domino Knitting while I was at it. Note to self: update LibraryThing.) These will be under my pillow tonight, seeping into my head while I sleep. At least that’s the plan.
And out there in the garden, lovely things are happening, through no effort of my own, beyond the planting:
Left, Colchicum autumnale; right, white rain lily (Zephranthes candida).
So I woke up abruptly at 5:00 this morning and realized that the groceries had been in the car for exactly twelve hours. Had to ditch the popsicles; thankfully, it had been an unseasonably cool evening, and everything else seemed OK. (I mean, nobody else in the world refrigerates eggs, right?)
We had set off last night just after 5:00, through the back gate, to our neighbors’ house for dinner without the dads (theirs on his way home from China on business; D merely in the UK) directly on returning from the pediatrician (Eleven now has swimmer’s ear on the other side) and the pharmacy (conveniently located inside the grocery store, so you can shop while you take a number and wait for them to package things up). Guess who forgot, as she was hurrying everyone out the back door, to go and deal with what we’d left out front in the driveway? Which is why I found myself there this morning, practically sleepwalking.
We were, of course, late for dinner, and as I was apologizing, doing my best to channel Pollyanna, I remarked that, in the scheme of things, it’s not really that awful a problem to be stuck with: to be able to take Eleven to a doctor, to have the insurance to knock the cost of the visit and the meds down to co-pays. (Insert silent rant about the inefficiencies and unfairness of the United States’ health care system here.) All of which I recited to myself again when we returned to the doctor this afternoon: Six’s coach pulled him out of practice this morning after he told her (over and over, apparently) that his ear hurt. Bad ear tally so far this summer: three. At least it’s cut down on the towel-washing a bit.
This time I had the presence of mind to bring some knitting: progress, ever so slight, has been made on Six’s Cedric Diggory Memorial Scarf. D’s back now, and I’m off on my own solo excursion for the next two days – and the scarf will be traveling with me. (And yes, I’ve printed out a copy of the TSA regulations which say knitting can be carried onto a plane, just in case.) Perhaps the scarf can have its own little travelogue, like the Harlot’s famous sock. We’ll see.
Can I blame the rain from keeping me from writing for a week? Four solid days of it the week before last: so no pool knitting, and while I think I did a few more rounds on Six’s Hufflepuff scarf, mostly I was the management, keeping the crew distracted from everyone’s favorite rainy day game: “Let’s drive (insert sibling’s name here) crazy!” Eleven produced a pretty amazing chocolate cake (and endured a week of twice a day eardrops: our first case of swimmer’s ear this season).
The ironing board came out (as it almost always does) not for anything laundry related, but for the final step in creating these:
This one (Nine actually gave it to her science teacher at the end of the school year) would have been appropriate: it’s the water cycle. (Can you see it?)
The Fourth: to the pool on a hot and sunny day when it was as hard to get a chair as in church on Christmas. Thankfully we had staked out our turf early as July 4th also means that morning swim practice segues right into Swim Team Fun Day: hours of team spirit building well-organized mayhem, from donuts-on-a-string and pie-eating contests, to balloon popping (air and water), raft races and the big-kids-only finale, a race to capture and remove a greased watermelon from the deep end of the pool. The coaches and the social committee were in charge, which left me time to sit and crank out this:
while testifying to the joys of dishcloth cotton and confirming that another pool knitter had bought the Book.
And now it’s Wednesday again, swim meet night. The rain is back. Swim meets (at least by our league’s by laws) don’t get rain delays unless the bottom of the pool is obscured. Thunder and lightening, sure, but what’s a little rain when the athletes are, well, already wet? And so from 5:00 until 10:00 this evening, there we were, marinating in the irony of trying to keep the swimmers dry until it was time for them to get wet again. (Never mind the rest of us: rain coats, umbrellas, ponchos, artfully sissored garbage bags – what ever works). The towels came home not just wet, not merely soggy, but saturated, sodden, soaked through. Nothing like a bit of knitting to go with a few hours of laundry.