There are times when layers are fun – chocolate cake with ganache filling – and then again when layers prove tedious – decades of paint needing to be removed.
Having received a text alerting us that our new energy efficient replacement windows might arrive in late June rather than mid-August, Richard began the arduous, time consuming task of stripping the trim from around the five large double-hung windows in our sunroom (more aptly dubbed the cloud room as it faces north.) Neither of us can remember why these windows were not stripped with all the others during our 1980s renovations. It may be that we simply got tired and thus opted to skip that important step; applied our choice of color and left the layers of old-people beige, harvest gold and sickly green which eventually checked that newer coat of paint. After stripping so much trim work we should not be surprised when the removal of eight layers of paint reveals subtle wood details but we always are. Now to start fresh with Sherwin Williams Magic Night 1201.
The potted herbs clustered around the backdoor are mid-summer hearty and offer a veritable Pantone spectrum from dusty silver sage to vibrant Genovese basil – my version of “50 shades of green.”
The basil crop is the best I have ever grown although, as to what might be different, I cannot claim credit as a variety of factors are equal – bought at same greenhouse as previous years, planted in the large Italian terracotta pot that formerly held a St. Thomas, V.I. lime tree from Dad, and tucked under the wind chimes on the left side of the doorway. Every day with easy morning sun and cool afternoon shade.
In an attempt to capture the lazy summer day in a jar, this morning’s task included harvesting and drying fresh basil. Great for aromatic hearty winter stews or tasty marinara sauce garnished pasta.
Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit!
PS – Ever the librarian, my backdoor crop in alpha order: basil, bay leaf, dill, nasturtiums (although technically not an herb but an edible flower – both leaf and blossom), oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme.
For a large portion of my professional career I managed a library cooperative. The cooperative’s life blood was meetings; meetings to discuss when to offer ebooks; when to discontinue the 16mm rotating film collection; whether or not to charge fines. You get the gist – lots of discussions about everything.
Since my days were already full of agendas, I was judicious when agreeing to anything involving yet more meetings during my sparse personal time. Even at church, I was selective. I chose activities I deemed enjoyable although some might doubt my sanity since “fun” included three stints on a bylaws committee. But, for the most part, I stayed on the sidelines of church governance. I always offered tacit support by voting at every annual meeting but then, having voted, I stepped back and let the Board members do the work. Until one Sunday (thank you Amy N.) when I realized I needed to do more.
With the next election, I moved from the sidelines to the Board, first as member at large, then as secretary, vice president and most recently having been granted the privilege of serving as president for two years which, despite Covid challenges and wonky Zoom connections, a tenure that proved very rewarding. And now, eight years after agreeing to have my name placed in nomination, I have handed the gavel to another and rejoined the sidelines of church governance. Along the way I have grown spiritually, learned more sincerely about the impact of injustice, and felt supported in the hard work of striving for justice.
Several stanzas in a prayer entitled The Grout by Marcus Harlief capture my sense of purpose as I leave the Board:
. . . Religion not only lies in the beautiful mosaic bits and pieces but also in the grout – that chalky, gritty stuff squeezed between the cracks. . .
In a mosaic, the grout holds the image together, unifying disparate pieces into a whole. The grout of a community takes years to lay and settle. Grout happens in board meetings and committee meetings and endless emails. . .
And so we pray - Hold us, O Grout. Gather us in, through time and space, and make all our broken pieces whole in community. In our multiplicity, make us one. From each of our jagged edges, give us the shape of a communal beauty.
When you buy a house there are those unexpected discoveries. A plug-less dryer, wired directly into the fuse box with an old copper penny keeping the circuit open and the electricity flowing without blowing the fuse. Very dangerous! Or green shoots sprouting in the garden bed just outside the backdoor when the last of the 1983-84 winter ice and snow finally melted.
Over our nearly 40 years of residence, this same perennial has migrated to four different garden spots as our backyard living space evolved. Each summer it provides a gentle crown of pearly purple, star shaped flowers and tasty herbs. The milder oniony zest offers lots of flavor without the tears of chopped onions.
I am vacillating as to whether or not to join Marie Greene’s six annual 4-Day sweater knit-a-long (KAL). While I do not aspire to knit a sweater in just four days, I can satisfactorily attest to the success of my previous 4-Day KAL participation. Each of my three projects, Foxtrot in 2019, Soundtrack during the summer months of our 2020 Covid quarantine and last summer’s Fireworks, resulted in sweaters that are worn regularly and (quite pleasantly) receive lots of compliments. All points in the pro column. Add to the positive list that this summer’s 4-Day pattern, Sailaway, was designed to accommodate different yarn weights and even different fibers. So while I don’t really need another wool sweater (lovely as they are), it is quite tempting to consider knitting one using a plant-based blended yarn. My previous cotton projects have been dishcloth gifts so definitely a more challenging endeavor.
While Marie’s summer designs always integrate a new stitch to hold KAL participants’ interest, the 4-Day pattern strives for simple lines should anyone actually feel the need for speed. This summer’s top-down, seamless cardigan fits that prerequisite. The knitter (that might be me) can opt for two contrasting colors on a slip-stitched yoke or a pattern with a little less fuss where the featured mini sails are revealed in just one complementary color. This version also sports a slightly taller collar and pinstripes.
Decisions, decisions – just like Hamlet, to KAL or not to KAL that is the question and then to decide, with or without buttons.
When hearing the unfathomable and sadly knowing Uvalde, like Sandy Hook and Red Lake and so many more lost futures, will be just another “notch” on America’s gun stock. Let us not just pray but act.
For the sacred souls lost,
and the hearts shattered beyond repair;
for the ways we perpetuate violence
with gun access
with toxic masculinity
with refusing to adequately fund and provide
resources for mental health
for all of us in systems of violence,
may we remember we each have
some way, however small, to respond:
our votes, our prayers,
our broken hearts strengthening our resolve
until we all do the work
of laying down anything
that supports swords and shields
and we study war no more.
Rev. Luke Stevens-Royer, May 24, 2022
For 18 years (and then another 62) we celebrated our birthdays together. Me on May 7 and Grandma on May 8. Some years, like this one, Mother’s Day is also in the mix. Twenty years ago, May 2 became our very own Gotcha Day and thus, with this celebratory triumvirate, John Lac and I continue the long tradition of angel food cake with pink buttercream frosting.
Being part of that generation that took up the mantra to never trust anyone over 30 I had trouble in the weeks leading up to that birthday but Richard (already in his fourth decade) smoothed the rough edges for me. Fifty was fun and 60 even better as I knew retirement was close and within a year I developed a detailed four-year plan outlining major tasks to be accomplished before May 2017. But 70 is being a bit of a mental challenge as I keep wondering how I suddenly got so old. I may just need more pink frosting.
Just in time for FOF, a second Little Gansey designed by Marie Greene is off my needles. This version in a deep blue green is for a new great-great niece born in December. The color gives a blended nod to my favorite color – blue and the second time parents who both love the color green. Knit in size 2-4, to let the little one grow a bit before donning this cotton, silk, bamboo, blend.
Our house was built in 1925 and moved in ‘27. We are only the second family to live here. In the 1980s, as first time home owners, we undertook a myriad of refurbishing projects. Our after work evenings and nearly every weekend were filled with stripping layers and layers of paint from wood trim or removing layers and layers of nicotine infused wallpaper, so saturated that when dampened the room smelled like an old tavern. For a few years, we tolerated ugly orange shag carpet in the former front bedroom, now our TV room, and then put in hours of scraping the black foam backing that had been glued to the maple hardwood floor. (Who glues down carpet, anyway?!?) For years, the re-telling of that year’s remodeling tasks was the biggest story in our Christmas letter. And then the house was finally ours and we were content for two decades. In 2008, we added the screened porch that is our favorite summertime room, a new garage was built in 2012 and a rain garden replaced the old narrow driveway, and our favorite builder performed a major bathroom facelift just as I was retiring in 2017.
Now, after so many quarantine days, we have decided 2022 will be a year of home projects as we replace the last of the single pane, double hung windows, remove the carpet and lay new hardwood floor in the living room, and re-finish the dining room and kitchen parquet. Unlike the 1987 remodeling when a construction manager organized the sub-contractors, these projects feel sufficiently discrete that we will coordinate the work ourselves. Although, as I continue to wait for a call back from the asbestos abatement expert, (damn that 7 foot x 10 foot section of porch linoleum under the living room carpet!) I am beginning to wonder at the sanity of this decision. I hope these blog posts will help keep me sane.
A retirement gift from my friend Amy, I re-read-Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World by Clara Parkes for this month’s Knit Camp Reads book club. This collection of travelogues necessitated a different type of discussion as we could not rely on old standby questions about character development, unexpected mystery twists, or conflict resolution. Instead, we talked about which chapter or chapters resonated with each of us. Mine were the chapters on New York and Iceland.
My visits to New York have been limited but each trip holds a Cinderella moment – meandering slowly down the grand concourse of the Guggenheim all by myself at 16, the breathtaking view at a top floor reception in the World Trade Center, my first (and only) taste of caviar in the Waldorf Astoria ballroom. As well as remembering that sense of relief when cresting the Hampton hills just north of Zumbrota on my homeward trek after a summer trip and seeing green which washed away the overwhelming vision of nothing by undulating yellow sheet metal racing and then screeching to red light stops.
Unlike the New York chapter where I could draw upon memories of real sounds and smells, Parkes’s description of her Icelandic fiber tour moved into the realm of wishful thinking but Covid dashed hopes. In 2019, I booked a Rowan Tree Travel tour to Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands but the 2020 and the 2021 September trips were canceled and I eventually opted out of the April 2022 rescheduled tour. While I recognize Denmark and Iceland are distinct countries with unique cultural differences, they share a Nordic heritage and a deep appreciation of northern clime woolens. I could easily imagine myself with Clara visiting an Icelandic sheep farm just as I had hoped to spend a day in the home of a Faroese fiber artist with Rowan Tree Travel guides Heather and Suzie. I do have one tangible connection to Iceland in the form of four skeins of yarn purchased by Amy (the same person who gifted me this book) when she was in country for a destination wedding; yarn I later knit into a Solène Le Roux Cable Promenade Cowl.
As we slowly emerge from our Covid existence, I take to heart Clara’s advice: “There is a time for sitting at home in your pajamas, watching and clicking and quietly forming connections in your mind. And, there’s a time for getting out and being with others, for reaching into the picture and becoming part of it.“