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Yay! Winter! and knitting! and new camera coolness!

New snow on rose hips

New snow on rose hips

Already this winter is better than last.  Just after Christmas we got a couple of dumps of snow, nearly two feet of powder, good enough for snowshoes.  Best of all it stayed cold for a while, but then , that dreaded warming and quite a bit of the lovely snow melted, alas.

Winter is  my favourite time of year.  No need to have excuses to be inside listening to music, creating, designing, or escaping in a good book with a cup of tea in front of the fire.  Meanwhile the necessity of dog walking means that I still get out twice a day, one early morning, before breakfast, down the road, and the other, afternoon, in the woods, up the hill.  I sense that, when I’m out at this time of year, that there are not a lot of others out, braving the weather.  Too bad for them; for me the feeling during the day is like late at night, tranquil, when most of the world is asleep.

Last week Murphy and I did a weekend road trip to Bonney River, New Brunswick to help my cousin with some computer things.  I brought my snowshoes but I couldn’t really let Murphy off the leash because the ice on the Magaguadavic  River (those who know call it the Magadavy) and the smaller Bonney River where we walked in the woods was not reliably frozen, so I trudged for miles in my big Sorel pacs.

THe preferred boot for slogging through two feet of snow, rated for -40.

The preferred boot for slogging through two feet of snow, rated for -40.

 It’s a good workout to walk behind a dog through the snow.  From Calvin’s we walked partway down the road, looking for a place to get off and into woods.  There is a good place a bit more than a mile or so toward St. George where the old railroad used to be, but in the winter there is not a place to park so we were limited to the nearby area.  I found a ATV trail at the back of a blueberry barren that looped to the near side of the Bonney River opposite the old railroad bed.  I almost let Murph off the leash but the moose tracks had me worried.  He kept stopping and gazing off into the deep woods and I had visions of him long gone on the trail of a cranky moose.  Not a good mental picture.
Murphy meticulously examining the tracks of a moose

Murphy meticulously examining the tracks of a moose

The not quite frozen Bonney River

The not quite frozen Bonney River

The Saturday of our visit was snowy all day.  I had hopes that there was also snow three hours south but it turned out to not be.

Sunday warmed up enough that under the snow was boggy melt, enough that Murphy could drink the water pooling in our footsteps.

My helpful data entry gig lasted until noon on Monday, then a last lunch and we headed back as the temperatures were going down, again.  Home in Maine, most of our snow was gone, the driveway a sheet of ice and so cold that my little woodstove could barely keep the temp inside above 15C.  Upstairs my thermometer read 9C, inside one morning.  A hot water bottle  helps keep my feet warm.

The morning walks are a challenge when it is this cold.  My extra long scarf wraps around my face but that means I can’t wear glasses because they steam and then ice up.  I wear long fingerless gloves inside my heaviest mittens, wool socks inside my felt pac boots, full length down coat and two hats.  Thus garbed, I can walk for hours if I want but my vision is a bit blurry and the two hat thing is not my best look, so I decided to make a heavier proper earflap Fair Isle hat.  I found a good pattern on ravelry.com, The Juneau Fair Isle Hat, by Jenny Dolan that I used as a starting point.  I liked the I-cord edge and I’ve done enough two-stranded hats and mitts that I thought I could come up with a decent, warm hat.

Meanwhile, I bought a new book at my LYS (Local Yarn Store, to non-knitters) about using up stash yarn.   A Yarn Stash, is like the the loot in the secret caves of the thieves that Ali Baba followed.  I have heard there are knitters who buy only enough yarn for a project at a time, use it, then get more.  Weird, I say.  I have yarn that I bought in the 70’s (I think that ‘s the oldest) and have accumulated enough that I could probably knit my stash for a couple of years (doing nothing else) before I needed more.  But there is always something more.

My LYS is the fabulous Heavenly Socks in Belfast, Maine.  It’s a dangerous place for yarn lovers.  I have the same affinity for yarn stores as for fabric ones.  (reference my post: A change agent, lamenting change, May, 2011).  Colour, texture, possibilities.  Best of all, most things you knit can be unravelled and knit again, changed, mistakes corrected.  It’s a most forgiving art and my default activity when I  have a problem to solve in another arena.  Knit for a while and suddenly the how of constructing a pocket that works from two sides, or some other problem, becomes evident.

The stash-busting book had a tip that I wanted to try.  There is a newish item in the yarn stores called a Zauberball that has long colour changes that fade into each other.  Zauber means magic, and the book suggested making a magic ball from coordinating colours of yarn, creating a variegated ball that would stripe fairly regularly.  I had just finished a fabulous pair of socks with yarn from Good Karma Farm so the small leftover ball was the inspiration.  I don’t have lots of sock yarn so I doubled anything that was fingering weight or sport weight to match the knitting worsted weight that is most of my stash.  I lined up the colours on my desk then started roughly measuring lengths and knotting them together.  The beauty is that if you knit plain, all the knots will go to the back.

I made a BIG magic ball.  First, to try it out, I knit a scarf I saw on Ravelry, Wingspan Scarf.  Of course, my yarn is thicker than most so mine is a bit like a long collar.  Because it is garter stitch the knots show everywhere but I sewed a shell button on every knot, used big shell buttons so that it can be buttoned up and beaded the pointy ends.  I also did the yo, lace-ish version; helps with the buttons.

Angora, mohair, alpaca, and a bit of acrylic chenille in olive, purple, taupe and gold.

Angora, mohair, alpaca, and a bit of acrylic chenille in olive, purple, taupe and gold.

It’s kinda old man, 1940’s colours but I like it.

Then Hat or another pair of mitts?  I went for the hat so I could stop the two hat madness.  I knit the hat in 2.5 days, using my magic ball and natural worsted from Briggs and Little  in NB.  I started with the ear flaps and figured my gauge from them, calculated how many stitches to add and unlike the pattern, I moved the earflaps back a bit.  I also made the earflaps longer because they didn’t seem long enough by themselves, so now they are super long.  Because of my stitch count I used a 16 stitch repeat pattern that was 15 rows for the main pattern but it was getting too deep so I started decreasing with the pattern, lost six more stitches in the plain rows then did regular decreases with a tree pattern.  Someday I’ll make a plain hat (Hunh!) I finished the top with a flower, purple with green mohair leaves.  the flaps and a head band are lined with purple stretch velvet.  I paired purple mohair with a purple worsted for the cord edge and made a loop and button closing at the points of the earflaps.  The flaps are too long to have ties.  And I think flaps always look cooler, loose.

Somehow I have once again channeled my inner Mongol horde ancestry with my take on the ancient warrior of the steppes hat.

I used the timer on my new camera for the first time today.  What a revelation!  It has a face recognition feature.

Modelling my Mongol Warrior, Fair Isle Hat

Modelling my Mongol Warrior, Fair Isle Hat

The countdown to snap doesn’t start until you look at the camera.  How amazing is that?  No more rushing to get in the pic .  I wanted to take a picture of the back and had to look at the camera before I turned around.  The only hard part is figuring out where to stand so that I am in the frame.  Murphy participated as well because he was jonesing for his second afternoon walk and wanted to make sure I did not forget.

Hey, Supreme Leader, remember that patrol thing we do every day?   You walk your loop and I occasionally surprise you on the trail, remember?  Then there's cookies....... isn't that NOW?

Hey, Supreme Leader, remember that patrol thing we do every day? You walk your loop and I occasionally surprise you on the trail, remember? Then there’s cookies……. isn’t that NOW?

So now I have a super warm hat and scarf that is sort of matching, and still enough magic ball to do another…… and that didn’t even dent the stash, so  much for stash-busting.  Still I  put the idea to good use and learned more about my camera.  Now to stash bust my fabric…… that might take a decade!

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Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup

Just eyebrows today, dressed for comfortable blogging and designing

“Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.”   One statement to paint a complete picture: dramatic entrance down a gracefully curving stair, self-applied make-up, some of it askew, maniacal gleam discernible about the eyes through the slash of heavy liner and mascara, and a bizarre, over-the-top garment suitable as a costume worn to the party in The Masque of the Red Death.  The thought crosses my mind that I may be standing on that edge.  One should not be one’s own reality checker, methinks, but all my fellow fashion mavens are far away and mid-coast Maine is not a haven of style; I stand out anyway.

I ruminate on appearance, style, and dignity among other things these days as I update my wardrobe and organize myself.  It’s really about eyebrows, you see.  I’d noticed several years ago that my eyebrows were disappearing but I didn’t do much about it.  I never had any early instruction about makeup from my mother.  She wore makeup, but I wasn’t allowed to in high school when I might have been interested.  By the time I fled the nest, the style of the time was very natural(no makeup, no bra.)

I was a bit of a hard ass toward my mother and her use of makeup and hair colour.   One of my favourite aspects of life is how ironic life is.  Beware of what you criticize or where you take a strong stand because chances are you’ll find yourself experiencing the flip side.  So here I am, occasionally colouring my hair, (it’s fun! And it’s not really to cover the grey but because I don’t have enough grey yet to be all silvery and family elder-ish).  Since my colour and mini makeover in early December I’ve been doing a basic ten minute face, even though I don’t really go anywhere.  But! I’m ready.   So I learned that eyebrows are really the key.  Not enough and you look old, too much and you risk the wild old person look. So I at least have to do my eyebrows daily and one thing leads to another and most days I go the lot including lips and it takes me ten minutes.

But eyebrows are weird.  Not only do I not have enough, naturally, I still need to pluck some hairs.  And the light here is not great so I got a lighted (and magnified; that’s a scary view) mirror so I can see what I’m doing.  Still, they never look exactly the same, which I think is normal, but when is it too much, too dark, too thick?  I’m making this a daily occurrence so that I can get used to seeing myself with eyebrows but I wonder if I’m doing this properly or at all in the ballpark.  I can’t consult with Ann.  She’s way less of a girl than I am and has serious eyebrows and would never waste her time trimming and plucking.  She looks the way she looks and gets on with life.

Which leads me to Henry David Thoreau and his words,’Beware of ventures requiring new clothes and not a new wearer of clothes.’  Yah but, every day I’m newer than before.  I’m a change agent and as I become more myself I’m different from who I was.  It’s all stuff to do and play with while we’re here experiencing so-called reality.  Even our bodies, while they are vehicles for spirit (Energy? Consciousness?)and can be considered a manifestation of that spirit, still,  are ultimately cool tools for experiencing this consensual reality.  So why not have fun with the vehicle, trick it out?  The current generation has embraced that big-time, with piercing and especially tattoos.  I’m still too much of a naturalist to want to permanently mark my body but clothes are another thing.  So fun, changeable costumes.    And eyebrows.

It occurs to me that eyebrows would be a good thing to tattoo but what if you ended up permanently surprised?  I like to think that I can figure things out so surprised would be not so good……. Which leads me to dignity.  The original definitions of dignity were all about status.  My Short Oxford English Dictionary, 1964, lists as the first definition: 1. The quality of being worthy or honourable; worth, excellence, desert.  And the related, Dignify: to make worthy or illustrious, to ennoble, to honour.  ( I like the illustrious part.  Having lustre, luminous, shining bright.)  However, my Random House Unabridged (1987) lists the first definition of dignity as: 1. Bearing, conduct or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation.  And dignify: to confer honour or dignity upon; ennoble.

I think that most people endeavour to behave within accepted norms so as not to lose dignity (in the newer sense)to avoid being vulnerable to ridicule.  Worrying about the potential loss of dignity doesn’t sound like a lot of fun although by the older definition having worth and excellence are good things.  I’ve always thought that it’s best to go for the laughs and so amuse myself and if others laugh at me (evidence of undignified behaviour) then I’d planned it all along, hopefully adding some mirth to the world.

Today I’m modifying that idea a bit.  Five years ago today my mother died in the SICU of a hospital in San Diego.  I spent time with her before she ended up there, when she was recovering from her surgery, and then saw her briefly, lying vulnerable and mostly unclothed, unconscious and really mostly not in her body in the SICU.  My mother was concerned all her life with what others thought and a younger self might have judged both of those versions of herself as being without dignity.  But I’ve come to realize that dignity ( worth, excellence) is connected to the spirit and as long as the spirit is there, in the body, there is dignity.  As she was closer to not being, her dignity was also thready, but not gone until she was.  Our spirits dignify (make worthy or illustrious, luminous and shining bright) our corporeal beings.  From this perspective, everyone is imbued with dignity, illustrious beings of shining energy.  How cool is that?

So I will continue to garb myself stylishly, even if all I’m doing is walking the dog up the hill in the woods.  Maybe I’ll try some surprised eyebrows for the laugh factor…….. The idea alone makes me giggle.  And I’ll work at creating new, interesting designs for clothing to dignify the idea that life is about play and fun and what feels good.  Thanks, Little Mommy.

And I’m ready for that closeup now……

"Go On" by Polly Hunter, © Gallery FIve 1997. A most appropriate card I was given that lives on my cork board as a reminder.