Monday, December 28, 2009

None of us had to go to the mall

My family decided to have a non-commercial Christmas this year. The rules for gifts were:
1. Handmade - if not made by the giver, then all effort should be made to purchase directly from the creator.

2. Recycled/Upcycled - my mother found a Christmas Card I sent her 16 years ago and wrote a new note in it (below my old note) and sent it back to me.

3. Used - books, clothing, housewares or ephemera.

4. Reusable or recycled packaging/wrapping is encouraged.
I'm going to share some of the results of these rules over the next few days. Since this whole thing was my mother's idea I'm starting with this gorgeous basket she made for me.

In the center is a piece of cherry tree which unfortunately cracked, but I kind of like that about it.
My sister will be getting a similar basket also, but the flu prevented it from happening before Christmas. Sis got a box full of unwoven reed (she also got a not-quite finished sweater from me, poor thing).

Mom makes some amazing baskets and you can see more of them here. She probably wont appreciate the link, but she's talented and she needs to start showing off what she can do.

Keeping with the wood theme, Mom and Dad made sets of these coasters for all of us from slices of Black Walnut. I love them and they make me think that it might be time to buy a real coffee table...

Dad made me this lovely desk organizer. He's handy with the tools. He also made sis a long narrow spice shelf out of some old crown molding.

I'm trying to decide whether to keep it at home or bring it to work where I will find a way to use it every day.

We all received lots of small handmade things that mom bought at the Twist Fair (one of the best craft fairs I've ever been to. The next one is May 7 & 8, 2010 here in Northampton), the Snowfarm Sale (An Artist's seconds sale held over 3 consecutive weekends every November in Williamsburg, MA) and the Vermont Hand Crafters Show (I must try to get to this next year - mid-November in Burlington).

I think this whole exercise made us all think a bit more about what is really important to us. Not only the act of making things ourselves for our loved ones, but supporting artists and craftspersons in their efforts to live off their own creativity. The gifts did not need to be huge, elaborate, expensive things. Little thoughtful things that will make us happy. Like these lavender sachets Mom made. I will distribute them around my house wherever there is wool (take that moths). Months from now I'll be digging through a basket of yarn and the smell will waft out. I'll think about mom and how thoughtful she was to make them. How she knows that my yarn and woolly things are important to me. And that moths suck.

Stay tuned to see how my brother, sister and I interpreted the rules.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

At least I saved on the stamps

I used to handmake all of my Christmas cards, but then one year life was too busy. I'm pretty sure I thought it was just that year and that I'd go back to making cards the next year. I did not. For a couple of years after that I bought cards and mailed them feeling all sorts of guilt about them not being handmade. Then life somehow got even busier. I continue to buy cards every year, but somehow Christmas comes and goes before I've sent them. This year was no different. I bought the most fabulous cards (along with lots of other stuff) at the Crane Paper Sale in August. Really fabulous cards that I really meant to send. But here it is December 27th and it's not going to happen. So I'm writing a blog post instead.

This whole Christmas card thing is one of the few instances when I am jealous of people with kids. They can take a cute photo and have it done into a card pre-printed with their names and just pop that in an envelope. Or they can write a cheesey letter with paragraphs about each kid and which one is in what grade or college or got a new job and the vacations they took and the funny thing that happened that time in August. I considered borrowing some kids and taking a cute photo.
None of these people are related to me.

I considered sending out photos of my cats, but no one wants to see that. And, let's face it, that would just be sad.

Do you see how hard this is?

I could write one of those cutsie letters that people send (or you could read the one my parents sent if you are on their list). I could write about things I did this year, but you can read this blog for that. I could tell you about my job promotion, but I'm not going to talk about work here. I could write about places I traveled, but that sometimes feels a little like bragging (and some of it was boring). I could tell you that there's someone special in my life with whom I will be celebrating a second New Year's Eve with on Thursday. But I'm going to keep that to myself for now.

So, another year and no cards sent. I promise I'll try really hard next year. Until then, happy holidays (whichever ones you celebrate) and best wishes for the New Year. I love you all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Farmer Dave made me cry

For the past 12 months I have split a farm share with my neighbors. Enterprise Farm in Whately, MA started their farm shares a year ago this month and we spent last winter enjoying root vegetables, apples, citrus from Florida, squash, the occasional avocado and lots and lots of greens. I ate more kale in those months than the whole of my life prior to that.

Summer of 2009 was not the best summer for local farms, but we got a box of vegetables and fruit every week and managed, most weeks, to eat it all. Traci and Audrey go to the farm to pick up our share every Tuesday afternoon and in the height of summer they brought back bunches of flowers and herbs from the pick-your own fields. This autumn we've found some new surprises in our share including barley and winter berries from a local grain farm.

I can't imagine how I lived with out a farm share before this. I almost never buy produce at the supermarket anymore. I'm eating more vegetables than ever. I've learned to cook new things. Traci and I, out of determination to eat it all every week, compete to cook 'farm share trifectas' (meals that include 3 or more ingredients from the share). I've gotten very good at making soup. I've discovered many many ways to prepare kale.

All of the produce in the summer comes from Enterprise Farm or other local farms. Almost all of it is organic or produced on farms that use minimal pesticides. In the winter some of the share comes from small farms down the East Coast that have a cooperative agreement with Enterprise.

Last week our summer share ended and the farm is taking a well deserved week off before starting the winter shares next week. Today the farmers sent out a touching and heartfelt letter to the members. I sat in my office holding back tears as I read about the effect the farm share has had on their lives and the farm. Up until a year ago they were a wholesale farm supplying supermarkets and restaurants. Just as they started the farm share last year, the market took a nosedive and stores became reluctant to buy organic produce and, instead, looked for cheaper options. Today, while many farms are struggling to survive, Enterprise is thriving thanks to the farm share members. They are fixing up their barn and building larger coolers and creating jobs. I'm so proud and happy to have been part of this. I'm supporting a farm, a family, a thriving local business which contributes to the community in so many ways. This was the line that got me though, "And after 25 years of farming, Farmer Dave says he finally feels fulfilled by his work. Without you, this simply wouldn’t be possible."

Farm Shares and CSAs are available everywhere. There are farms where you can buy meat shares. There are farms where you can buy wool shares (I've been wanting to do this for several years and I just got a raise and it's time). The best place to start looking is at Local Harvest. Everyone should do it. It will change the way you cook, the way you eat and the sense of pride you have in your own community. Plus you'll eat more kale. And everyone should eat more kale.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cleaning Day Gnome

I need to clean my whole house today. I resent having to spend a Saturday cleaning (I know it's no one's fault but mine that I didn't do it during the week, but still...). It's difficult to clean around all of my knitting projects and not just grab one, curl up on the couch and knit for a few hours. I also get distracted by organization projects or crafty ideas I have for things around the house. I've found the best way of coping with this is to start the day with a little crafty project, something quick and small, just to get it all out of my system. Something like a little knitted gnome outfit for a wine cork.

Meet the Cleaning Day Gnome. Korknisse Pattern by Saartje (of the adorable booties) done in mystery scrap yarn. The ragamuffin next door immediately requested an army of them for her new birthday doll house. I have visions of whole christmas trees covered with them. Evey Lucy was intrigued:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Bat done in scrap yarn has gone to live in New Jersey where they need all the bats they can find.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Just some little knits

I'm in the middle of knitting a gorgeous sweater for myself, but it's the sort of knitting that requires focus and focus is something I seem to be lacking lately. So I work on it in short bursts and balance it out with smaller quicker projects.

I've had lots of excuses for little projects lately. The weather turned cold and I immediately cranked out a few hats and a lovely pair of mittens for my friend Amy (which I forgot to photograph before giving to her). These sorts of projects are perfect for the mood I've been in lately. Life is busy, you know? I need little projects that I can finish quickly and feel a sense of accomplishment. A few friends have obliged that need by having babies. Baby sweaters are the best little projects because you can crank them out and when you're done you've made a whole sweater - just on a small scale.

This week I finished Roo for Bill and GL's baby Alazne. The sweater is adorable, but, seriously? Look at that face!

I used Berroco's Vintage Wool for this, which is a revelation. This stuff is 50% Acrylic, 10% Nylon, and 40% Wool, but touching it you wouldn't know it's anything but super soft wool. It knits up gorgeously and it's completely easy care - throw it in the washing machine. The only trouble I had with it was a bit of slipperiness when doing the cables without a cable needle (as I do) and when winding it on the ball winder. After winding the skein into a ball, it was a mess from the yarn slipping - straggly loops hanging off that I knew would end up making tangled nightmares while I was knitting. I rewound the ball into a new ball and it was better.

I had some leftover Queensland Rustic Wool (another superwash for easy care) in my stash and when my friend Jill had her baby girl in August (named Kathleen, like me, but they're shortening it to Katie with an 'ie') I whipped out this little top (it's Boheme by Fiddlesticknitting).

Earlier in the summer, I went through all of my unfinished projects (an embarrassing number I wont quote here....) and found this little Tomten that was finished except for one sleeve. I taught this jacket as a class at Webs in the spring and this was my class demo. I've made several of these in the past and it remains one of my favorite patterns ever. In fact, it's a sure sign of autumn when there are Tomten sightings in my neighborhood.

This Tomten has ties to several of my knitterly/fibery friends. The yarn (which I believe is Valley Yarn's Superwash) was dyed by Gail the Kangaroodyer. These were sample skeins which Gail gave to Melissa a few years ago. Last year, a few of us staged an intervention at Melissa's house and made her go through her enormous (I have a big stash, but, folks, this one was unbelievable - literally a room full of boxes stacked to the ceiling) yarn stash and get rid of things. I ended up coming home with these skeins after making a promise to Melissa that I would so something special with them. I think this is pretty special. It still needs a zipper (but zippers scare me) and then I'll be waiting for the right child to come along and claim it.

In addition to little sweaters, I made a little gift for my Dad for his birthday last month. Those of you who know him, will understand why I HAD to make this as soon as I saw the pattern.

It's done in Valley Yarn's Northampton (lovely basic wooly goodness). And the pattern is from an ebook by Leah Sutton which also has patterns for a VW Beetle and VW Bus. The construction is a bit complex, but the instructions are good and I'm impressed by the engineering/construction skills that Leah must have put into this.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I know I've said it before, but

my brother is kind of awesome. He does very cool things. Early in the summer he sent me this photo of the hutch he built for their tiny kitchen in Nederland, CO. I was completely impressed.

This morning I was amazed to open my email and find photos of the rest of the furniture he made this summer (along with getting married and going on several rafting and hiking trips). It's gorgeous and, as far as I know, made with completely reclaimed and found materials.

I'm in love with this table.

The orange pieces are from a hollow pillar he found somewhere. He's done at least 4 separate pieces using parts of the pillar.

Oh and since I mentioned it, and I've been a very neglectful sister/blogger by not posting about it earlier, he did get married in June. Regular readers will know how I feel about his new wife.

Here are some photos from the trip to Colorado for the wedding.

That's Mikey & Julie by Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, sister Lindsey and I by the same lake and Linz (a fairly awesome person in her own right) practicing her chipmunk whispering.

Mom and Dad at Bear Lake, Linz and her boyfriend Craig picnicking at Bear Lake and signs made by Linz, Craig and I to direct people to the hard to find meadow where the wedding was being held.

And here's a few shots of the happy couple and my folks at the wedding itself. There are tons of photos taken by me and others. If you're related to us or really enjoy looking at other people's wedding photos, feel free to click through and have a look.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Diamond Dave: In which I confess my terrible taste in music at the age of 15

My friend Eleanor introduced me to The Bird and the Bee last year when they came to the Iron Horse. Just two of them on stage - Greg Kurstin on keyboards and the sweet, darling Inara George on vocals. I was completely charmed. Their biggest hit at the time was probably 'Fucking Boyfriend' which sounds like a cute little synthpop song until you listen to the lyrics. By the time they wrapped up the show (with a cover of the Bee Gee's 'How Deep is Your Love'), I was hooked.

I've been listening to their latest album, 'Ray Guns are Not Just the Future', quite a bit at work and it never struck me until today that one of the tracks - 'Diamond Dave' - was actually about David Lee Roth. It should have really. I love the idea that sweet little Inara may have been a huge fan. Because (and I can't believe I'm about to admit this publicly)... I was. My very first concert was DLR himself, live at the Worcester Centrum on his Skyscraper tour. My friend Clare's older sister (for reasons still unknown to me) volunteered to drive three 15 year-old girls to a show two and a half hours away from home. Our parents (uncharacteristically for protective small town Vermont parents) let us go. Poison opened for him. They were nasty and spit on the crowd. Dave was awesome, the total showman we expected. Our little teenaged heads nearly exploded when he rode a surfboard, hung on wires from the ceiling, over the crowd while singing his cover of California Girls. When we got home we plastered our bedroom walls with posters and pages from the program. My obsession didn't last long (teenagers are fickle and I quickly moved on to more broody serious bands), but I still have the t-shirt. And, as cheesey as he is these days, there's a little spot in my heart for Diamond Dave.

Here's The Bird and The Bee doing their tribute to the man himself:

Monday, August 10, 2009

I wasn't sure it really happened until I saw it on YouTube.

I'm in Chicago, for work, and I had dinner on Friday night with my oldest friend Kristina. She suggested this little Italian cafe where we could sit outside. When we got there, we found that a company called Optimus, housed across the street, was having a big block party for their employees and vendors. They had the sidewalk cordoned off and tents set up and music blasting off the loading dock. The music was actually pretty good and we sat outside enjoying the people watching. We had some wine and some lovely calamari and sometime around when our entrees arrived things got very very weird....

Suddenly a stretch Hummer pulls up and out jumps Rod Blagojevic (the scandalous former governor of Illinois). A few minutes later he is out on the loading dock with a microphone singing Elvis' 'Treat me Right'. We have no clue what is going on, why he is there, why he is singing or if the apocalypse is near. As soon as I unfroze from the shock, I managed to get a bit of video. It's not good. I was sitting at a table eating a nice meal and really Blago isn't worth me abandoning my table for a better shot. But here it is:

Blago sings Elvis from katywhumpus on Vimeo.

You don't have to take my word for it. Better videos have been posted.

It was seriously the most random, strange thing that has happened near me in a long time. But it was even stranger than I've said so far...

At one point, Blago pulled forward another man and said it was Fabio. This person was clearly riding around in the rediculous stretch Hummer with Blago. A hanger-on, if you will. It certainly looked like the Italian romance novel cover model/touter of non-butter products. I had to wonder if Fabio had become Blago's Kato Kaelin. I found out later it was probably not him - too bad because the story would be so much better if it was.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

DC on a rainy night

I'm in Washington DC for work this week. I took myself to a movie last night and when I came out it was raining. By the time I got back to my hotel I was already soaked, so I dashed up to my room, grabbed my camera and an umbrella and went for a walk. The whole city was shiny from the rain and there was almost no one on the streets.

These photos are probably not technically great, but I like to try to push my cheap little point and shoot camera to see what it can do.

Dept of Commerce

I love how the raindrops look like stars here.

Trying to take a photo while umbrella is being dragged away by the wind... I like it though.

This and the following 4 are at the WWII memorial.

Treasury Building

Alexander Hamilton in front of the Treasury Building.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is it possible to cry from excitement?

I saw this trailer tonight, on a big screen. As soon as I realized what it was, I was sitting bolt upright with a huge dumbass grin on my face (luckily I was alone...). My eyes started to water from the excitement. Maurice Sendak, Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze. What more can you ask? I, for one, cannot wait.

Also, I have preordered this.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Terrible Yarn Eating Monster or Harmless Wildlife?

I have a zillion things to blog about including several new crafty projects, my brother's wedding and a trip to England. Sadly I am swamped and having to direct all of my blogging energy into other things this week.

But, I'm wondering if anyone out there can help me identify this crazy-ass moth that has been living on my front door for the past 24 hours? I know it's not actually a yarn eating moth, but it is a bit monster-like and I'm curious about it. It's almost 3 inches across when it's sitting still like this (click the photo for a closer look). It looks like a big piece of tree bark or a dead leaf stuck to my screen door. I'm curious also - if your camouflage was this good, would you waste any time sitting on a surface that you didn't match?