Showing posts from 2010

Knitting Blog: Beautiful Boy

I have been following Dawn (The Dawnminator) for about as long as I have been reading blogs. She lives in my home town, and writes in a stream of consciousness style that is very honest. In fact, honesty is what she probably values the most from other people. She’s intelligent and perceptive, and often very, very funny. She also recently announced on her blog that she is expecting a baby. My sense is that this is what she has wanted to happen some day in her life, but she wasn’t sure it ever would.

It’s a boy.

I dropped her a line last month telling her that I would be in her area over Thanksgiving. We made a date to meet for coffee, in a neighborhood that we both used to live in, though decades apart in time.

I decided that I had to give her my own little baby shower. I bought the baby two books, because I nearly always give board books, always with the same advice: you gotta let the rugrat chew on them. One book was about a baby’s nighttime routine, because babies love stories that ar…


We have finally realized that we need to do our part and slow down the selfish jag we’ve been on of paying down debt. We are doing our part to help the American economy by upgrading some of the technology around here.

Upgrade #1: Snow be gone

Snow removal is always of concern here as we go from one imperfect solution to another to keep our quarter-mile of driveway cleared. We’ve hired it done (the good snow plow guy is no longer in business, he’s in charge of the town’s highways), tried to plow with a truck ourselves (long abandoned, we can’t afford to keep a reliable truck going), a big snowblower (a good solution except for the first snowfall of the season), a smaller snowblower (didn’t hold up), and a garden tractor with a plow (passable).

Snowblowing has an advantage over plowing: the snow doesn’t build up at the sides of the driveway. A year with steady snow and few thaws results in a driveway that gets narrower and narrower when we rely on plowing. The edges tend to get soft as wel…

In which the author discovers some of the reasons people go to high school reunions

On October 9th, I ventured southward to attend my 41st high school reunion. Why 41st? Apparently a few people from my graduating class got together last year, and bemoaned the fact that there was no 40th reunion. They decided to organize one themselves the following year. They did a bang-up job, too; I think they could write a book about how to hold the perfect high school reunion. The main organizing tool was the Web - a website, Classmates. com, and Facebook. Facebook was the most powerful tool for finding and communicating with everyone, though there is still a long list of missing classmates.

The last reunion our class held was our 20th, and I attended it with my husband. I had a 15 month old child at the time, and was just about to quit my job to go back to school full-time to study accounting. Neither R. nor I had a particularly good time. I had few close friends in high school, and none of them were in the room. The party was in a restaurant, and it was hard to mill about and ta…

News Flash: The North Country Power Authority now exists!

Yesterday was a very, very, very, very, very big news day in my world. Here are two news links:

My husband has been part of this effort since 1996, and has served as chairman of the coalition group for the past several years.

If we were to add up the number of hours, the number of phone calls, the number of meetings over the years... I can’t even hazard a guess as to what the numbers would be.

Almost anyone who pays attention to political news these days must believe that polarization reigns supreme and that collaboration is impossible. This event proves that this state of affairs doesn’t have to exist, and that people can work together across party lines and political boundaries, and that they can be steadfast in pursuing a long-term goal over many years.

This effort has been bi-partisan. It has…

Unventing Soup

Beautiful Soup
BEAUTIFUL Soup, so rich and green, Waiting in a hot tureen! Who for such dainties would not stoop?Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup! Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!Beau--ootiful Soo-oop! Beau--ootiful Soo-oop! Soo--oop of the e--e--evening, Beautiful, beautiful Soup!Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish, Game, or any other dish? Who would not give all else for two Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup? Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?Beau--ootiful Soo-oop! Beau--ootiful Soo-oop! Soo--oop of the e--e--evening, Beautiful, beauti--FUL SOUP!- Lewis Carroll
The best part of making soup is that you don’t need a recipe - just an imagination that can combine what you have on hand.
It’s getting cooler here, with night temperatures in the 40s and fog in the river valleys in the morning. It’s time for some soup.
Yesterday was CSA pickup day, so it was also a good day to use as many vegetables as possible, to make room for the new arrivals.
My soup of the evening, beautiful soup:

Sailing Adventure sans pictures

Sailing, sailing, over the bounding main.
For many a stormy wind shall blow
E'er Jack comes home again.

Ah, yes.

Minuet is safely tucked into her new home at the Chaumont Yacht Club, but we had an adventure along the way getting there.To back up a wee bit, we’ve been keeping our sailboat in Cape Vincent this year. We left Clayton because of low water levels on the St. Lawrence River and because management of our former marina fell apart after the sudden death of its owner. We were also attracted by the lure of more ready access to Lake Ontario.

There was one little issue that we didn’t know about: the infamous waters of Tibbetts Point. You have to go through those waters to get from Cape Vincent to the lake. Tibbetts Point is where the waters of Lake Ontario enter the St. Lawrence River. There is a lot of water pouring in from a wider, deeper place to a narrower, shallower place, with the prevailing winds blowing in the same direction as the current. It tends to be a little choppy, and…

Thought of the day

I don’t know if this thought is original, but it feels like one that arose without outside assistance. I don’t take the concept of originality too seriously, though. I have been haunted for decades by the words of Lenny Bruce: “Believe me, I’m not profound, this is something that I assume someone must have laid on me, because I do not have an original thought. I am screwed. I speak English. That’s it. I was not born in a vacuum. Every thought I have belongs to somebody else.” With that out of the way, here’s the thought:
No matter how you spend your time, each day is full to the brim at its end.

Knitting Blog: Reversing Leaves Socks

Like many people, I face a constant challenge trying to find ideas for appropriate, thoughtful gifts for my parents. In my case, I like to add “useful” to the criteria, as all of my parents are surrounded by beautiful objects. I don’t think they need another gorgeous vase, and there is no room on the walls for another picture. While once in a while I come up with an idea on my own, more and more I simply ask them what they would like.
Last year, I asked my stepmom and dad what they wanted for Christmas. They answered that they wanted two things. First, they did not think an oak tree growing very near to their house was healthy, and they asked us to take that tree down and cut it up for firewood. This is a particular skill of my husband’s - R. is at one with his tool when he is wielding a chainsaw. My stepmom also asked me to knit her a pair of socks. She asked for black socks that would be taller than the usual 7” cuff, because she likes socks as tall as possible. Other than that, I ha…

Sister time

Several weeks ago, I did something I have not done before in my entire adult life: I spent a day with my sister. Just us two, all husbands and children off in different places doing different things.
The logistics that made this possible were as complicated as one usually encounters in a 21st century over-scheduled middle class American lifestyle. To summarize as briefly as possible: both of my sister J.’s daughters had nearly-simultaneous events at a SUNY campus near me. M-the-younger was attending two weeks of music camp while M-the-older had freshman orientation that started a couple of days after music camp. Meanwhile my husband had to go to Albany and J.’s husband couldn’t get leave from his job to stay up north for an extra day. He came up with the family to deliver M-the-younger to camp, and hitched a ride back home with the family of another music camper. This left me, J., and M-the-older at my house Monday morning. After we delivered M-the-older to orientation, J. and I had m…

Thought of the day

I don’t know if this thought is original, but it feels like one that arose without outside assistance. I don’t take the concept of originality too seriously, though. I have been haunted for decades by the words of Lenny Bruce: “Believe me, I’m not profound, this is something that I assume someone must have laid on me, because I do not have an original thought. I am screwed. I speak English. That’s it. I was not born in a vacuum. Every thought I have belongs to somebody else.” With that out of the way, here’s the thought:No matter how you spend your time, each day is full to the brim at its end.

Iambic pentameter: a snippet

I would like to feel, before I die, that I can read poetry intelligently. To help accomplish this goal, I’m slowly reading Stephen Fry’s book The Ode Less Traveled. The book is about writing poetry, and I figure that if I learn more about how poetry is written, the fog that descends whenever I encounter a poem MUST lift, at least a little.
I recommend this book strongly after just a few chapters, although it’s not for prudes. Fry mixes elegant language with profanity. I think the result is engaging and lively, plus I get to learn some rude British slang.
The first thing I learned that opened my eyes wide is that poetry is all about meter, or rhythm. As a quasi-musician, I appreciate this deeply. I always read with an inner voice speaking out loud, and now I know I must free this voice to be very emphatic, perhaps even aural if I’m not with company, whenever I encounter poetry.
The spoken voice is the pathway to feeling the rhythm.
Fry starts his exploration of style with iambic pentamete…

The stories that belong to me

While my blog is personal, it is not private. I've been thinking about what that means. My conclusion: I need to think about whether a story belongs to me before I blog about it.

I'm entering into budget season at work and it's going to be even more difficult than usual. Still, that's not really a story that belongs to me. It involves connections between our agency, a major funder, and a partner agency, and it is not in my job description to publicize the issues. I don't observe my boss talking about the situation publically, so I won't either. It doesn't matter how many waking hours I devote to crunching numbers and projecting alternatives, this is not really my story.

The same line of thought applies to the major project my husband has been working on for so many years. It just passed a major milestone when the New York State Legislature passed a bill this week that makes the project possible. The bill now has to be signed by the Governor, and it won'…


Sung to the tune The Waters of Babylon, the most beautiful and haunting lament I know.
By the waters and the marshes of the southern coast,We laid down and wept,And wept,At what we’ve lost.We remember birds, remember fish,And shiver at the cost.

Graduation Day

My daughter has graduated from college.

Bittersweet, but much more sweet than bitter.

This event triggered a lot of logistics, because my parents wanted to travel to the ceremony as well. Added into the mix was my convalescence from surgery. Things did not go according to plan, and we all did as well as we could with the problems that arose along the way.

The first event was to be my father and stepmother coming to stay with R. and me for two nights. They would head up to Montreal on Sunday. They arrived on Friday, and I made spaghetti and meatballs, one of my dad’s favorite dishes. As we sat around with glasses of wine after dinner, the conversation wandered to tales of border crossings. At this point, my stepmom realized that they had not brought their passports with them.

An uneasy silence descended as my stepmom and I searched the web. Conclusion: with no passports, they would be turned back at the border. Saturday morning she checked into having the passports overnighted, but the cos…

Coming up: Back to work

My medical leave is coming to an end - I’ll be going back to work on Monday.
I haven’t done as much knitting, or nearly as much blogging, as I thought I would. Twitter and Google Reader offer so many lovely distractions. I’m well informed and entertained - perhaps too much so.
I do have lots of thoughts that I could blog on, but many of them relate to family or work, and do not seem to be fit topics to expose to public view. So I don’t blog on them. And as I hold my tongue, the practice of not saying anything becomes stronger, and I say less and less.
The highlight of the 3.5 weeks of leave was (of course) my daughter’s graduation from McGill. It was a wonderful day. My husband has the best photos on his camera, and I have started nagging him to download them, and share them with me. The experience deserves a blog post of its very own.
How do I feel? Pretty good, but I am not back to exercise or anything strenuous yet. I had a scare earlier this week when i started spotting, after 3 weeks…

Baby's got a new ride

I have a new-to-me computer! And I love it.
We got a new 17 inch MacBook Pro for our daughter as a college graduation present. She needed an upgrade as her computer, a first generation 15 inch MacBook Pro, was starting to struggle a bit when she did statistical modeling on it. We timed the purchase so that her new laptop arrived when she came home for a week after her surgery. When we gave the new laptop to her, she gave me the first-gen MBP. Which, I will have you know, she bought herself. She is not accustomed to getting her computers from Mom and Dad, she has saved up her pennies and bought two Apple laptops over the years. I’m the lucky person who has inherited each of her purchases over time, though I paid cash for the first one. This lappy is a gift.
We don’t think we gave an extravagant gift. For one thing, my father and stepmother contributed towards the purchase, and are official go-givers with us. The new machine is an investment in her professional future. She NEEDS computing…

Knitting Blog: Brandywine

I have become a big fan of the work of Rosemary Hill. Romi designs beautiful knitted lace (plus sells handmade shawl pins that are elegant and unstuffy). I’ve now knit two of her patterns: the Ice Queen, and Brandywine.Brandywine is a very special pattern. When you create a bit of beauty for a friend, a loved one, or yourself, you are also contributing to a long term project. When you buy the pattern for Brandywine, $5 of the $6.50 price of the pattern is donated by Romi to a group doing relief work in Haiti. She hopes to eventually contribute $50,000, and has already given $10,500. It feels good to have a piece of the action.This project started with both a lovely pattern and gorgeous yarn. I used about half of a skein of Silk Noir, a 100% silk yarn dyed by the Great Adirondack Yarn Company.

From 05.2010 Brandywine

This yarn has so many short lengths of different colors, it would sound like a mishmash if I listed them all. Combined, the overall effect is a brownish-pinkish-purple. The …

A pause in my life

A law of blogging: the more you have to blog about, the less likely you are to have enough time to blog.

My life has been very full with work and preparations for surgery. The surgery has now happened and I have recovered to the point of being out of pain with no pain pills required. I will be out of work on medical leave for three more weeks - a pause for some reading, some knitting, and some thinking during the glorious days of May.

This past week I went to Fletcher Allen Health Center in Burlington, Vermont, and had a laproscopic hysterectomy. As usual, immersion in the alternate culture of modern medicine was an interesting experience. Every hospital is different, and FAHC is my favorite one so far.The hospital is a full fledged teaching hospital, rife with med students and residents, but without the underlying feeling of stress that I sense at Strong Memorial Hospital, the other teaching hospital that I know. Every contact that I had with every level of staff was friendly, polite, …

Meme of the Day: First order from

From Ezra Klein comes this meme (and of course he got it from someone else): "go to your Amazon orders page, and see what the very first thing you ordered from Amazon was."

It looks like my first purchase was December 5, 1998. I bought an imported recording of "J.S. Bach's Preludes & Fugues V.2" performed by John Lewis as a Christmas present for my father.

I don't know if I ever heard that CD. I bet it's a good one.

Wow. 1998. That's a pretty long-term relationship with a company.

Another milestone of parenthood: Moving day

R. and I just took two days away from our workweek to go to Montreal. No hot jazz music or luscious dinners out or very comfortable hotel rooms this time. We were there to do a job: to move our daughter from one apartment to another. This job had another dimension besides the physical labor. It marked the end of an era.

A. has been living in above-average student housing. For three years she has rented a space in a building that is in essence a private dorm. It’s been very convenient, only a few minutes from campus. The building is well-maintained and fully equipped with recycling facilities, laundry room, and a full-time manager-in-residence who has a real talent for judging people accurately on first contact. Jill decided right away she wanted A. in her building, and made it possible to rent a tiny studio that first year, plus matched her up with a roommate and a bigger, better place for her second and third years.

Now that A. is moving on to grad school, she felt ready to move out of…

Workin' on it

The word is out: to maintain weight, women need to exercise one hour per day. This is especially true if you aren’t going to live on a perpetual diet.

I’m a foodie who watches what she eats, but who wants to eat food that is delicious. I’m relatively slim for my demographic (late 50’s). I’m the person this study is talking about. And I have watched the pounds steadily increase, and the excess fat start to cluster in my midsection.

An hour of exercise per day is daunting, but it is a goal that is easy to measure. It is also a goal that sets healthy priorities for my life, from work to play.

Once upon a time, I used to get my exercise over my daily lunch hour. When I worked at a small conference center, I took my dog to work with me. He and I would go for a long walk together at lunch. Later, when I worked in town, it was easy to go for a walk throug…

Knitting Blog: The Stained Glass Shawl, Finished

I use to keep track of my knitting projects. Each project has a series of pages, with information about the yarn used, the needle size, photos, rating of difficulty, and comments. You also can record the date you start and the date you finish a project. That is how I know that I started this shawl on July 2, 2009 and finished it on March 18, 2010.

That’s 37 weeks, exactly - I started and ended on a Thursday. That’s a long time for me to have one project on the needles.

I already knew that knitting means math. Awareness of math can certainly help you look ahead in a project, and know what is coming. The end of this project drove that point home. I started with 6 stitches. Due to the inexorable growth that results from adding 6 stitches every other row in the body of the shawl and 178 stitches every other row in the ruffled edge, I ended up with 2,497 stitches, give or take a few.

This is what it looks like to work on a project that has a couple of thousand stitches or so.

I co…

Education: Response to Twitter Conversation

A few days ago my Twitter friends Lenore_Happenstance, Booalready, and ailec were bouncing some thoughts around about education on Twitter. The thread was sparked by the news of the draconian budget cuts and school closings about to happen in Kansas City, Missouri. Ailec challenged us to suggest what we think could improve the state of education in this country.

My thoughts on education are difficult to compress into 140 characters, even if I were to generate a stream of updates.

I believe in public education. I believe that it is appropriate for our society to educate all of our children in safe, technologically adequate schools staffed by well trained and dedicated teachers. I believe that teachers should be paid salaries commensurate with investment of time and expense we demand they make in their education. I pay my school taxes each year without complaint, and believe that whether or not I have a child attending school, I benefit when children are educated. They are the future of o…

Check-off list

Taxes finished and filed - check!
Reservations made for A.'s graduation ceremony - check!
Laundry done - check!
Exercised twice this weekend - check!
Spent time having fun with family - check!
Caught up on my sleep - check!
And, 70 sections of ruffle (about 1,960 stitches) left to bind off, which means 19 sections done. That's over 20%. I'll get some more knitting time in tonight as well.

Two days of sunshine - check! It's so early to get a taste of spring in these parts, but there is no doubt that a change is coming. For one thing, the maple syrup makers are having a glorious run, and are boiling sap. It seems early for maple season to be happening. Could we really be having an early spring this year?

All in all a very good weekend, though not one that leads to deep thoughts. I could use a few more days like this.

Time is ticking along

Life truly abhors an empty moment, and if you spend less time writing, very soon you will find that you have less time to write.

What have I been up to in recent days?

I've been diligent at work. This is easy to do at the beginning of the year, when year-end closing tasks lie thick all around me, and I add free tax preparation to my other duties. My ongoing struggle to get in earlier and get out earlier is starting to get easier. I find it easier to get in earlier than to shut down the computer and get out of the chair at the end of the day, but working late isn't as QUITE late as it used to be.

I was finally casting off the stitches of my shawl. This project grew in scope when I decided, at the point the pattern said to add the ruffled edging, to make it longer. I'm knitting at a tighter gauge than specified, which seems to suit the yarn beautifully, and there was too little shawl and too much leftover yarn at the designated ending point. I say "was" casting off, b…

Knitting Blog: Dragonskin Socks, a free pattern!

UPDATE: This pattern is now available as a reformatted, easier to read, free download on Ravelry. Here is the link:

And now, I am proud to present: my very first knitting pattern.

These were knit for a friend. I'm pleased to say that they fit him perfectly. R. was kind enough to model the socks for the photos.
I learned one thing: it's best to avoid bright colors if you want to patterned knitwear. I fiddled with the contrast in PhotoShop, but the pictures are far from perfect. I hope that you can see the patterning on your monitor.
Many thanks to my daughter A. for creating the chart in Illustrator for me!

Dragonskin Socks Sock design by Anita Figueras. Dragon Skin stitch pattern from page 136 of Barbara Walker’s A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns (Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1970).

Size: Men’s Large, for a foot that wears a size 11 shoe. A closely fitting sock about 8” in circumference at the instep and about 11” lon…