Writing

The 100-Day Project

Suleika Jaouad’s note to self for the next 100 days

A birthday post from 2020 introduced Knit+ Librarian as a new artistic outlet. In those early Covid days when we were wiping groceries before putting them on the shelves and quarantining the mail for four days before opening letters and bills, I took solace from reading Suleika Jaouad’s posts. She had just launched The Isolation Journals with a goal of kindling “creativity and connection in challenging times.” As someone who only dabbles in writing rather than breathing letters and words, then and now, I stayed on the periphery reading her weekly journaling prompts and writing only sometimes. Like a wallflower in a Julia Quinn ballroom watching the quadrille with curiosity but definitely not joining the dancers. 

As Suleika undergoes her second round of treatments for leukemia, her latest inspirational endeavor is The 100-Day Project and she invites participants to incorporate one creative act into daily life, everyday; something small that gives joy but which may also blossom. Suleika will “paint one small, simple thing and call it a day—a flower, a palm frond, or a pillowy cloud.” As I already knit and read each day (Oh the joy of retirement life!), I am still contemplating what creative act I will undertake in solidarity with this courageous artist.

Photo credit: Suleika Jaouad

Knitting

Vivi KAL 2022

ten laser cut knitting stitchmarkers and gold coil-less safety pins on linen background
Vivi custom stitch markers from Olive Knits

After a wardrobe review, I admit I do not need another sweater. Having knit two in 2021 that I wear infrequently due to our continued Covid stay at home-ness, I initially decided to pass on Marie Greene’s 4th annual January Workshop KAL (knit-along).  But then I was swept up in the enthusiasm of my fellow Knit Campers’ yarn selections and color choices, plus Marie’s newest design features (my favorite) cables!

Ironically, while my September trip to Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands was cancelled, I will enjoy Danish artistry virtually with Vivi. Pattern pictures reveal a lattice of cabled diamonds gracing the sweater’s front and Danish stars decorating the sides.  Unlike the intricate colorwork of Scandinavian cousins, these Danish designs rely on subtle stitch definition against a monochromatic backdrop.  And, as always, during the eight weeks of this annual workshop KAL, Marie will share historical background, new techniques via video tutorials, and ethnic recipes for culinary exploration, as well as a large dose of “hygge” – perfect for this lingering pandemic.

Happy knitting!

Photo credit: © Marie Greene

Baking

Candy Cane Cookies

three red and white candy cane cookies on a pine tree shapped plate framed by holiday greens

I cannot remember the year I first made these almond flavored cookies but I do remember the kitchen. The front of the house, second floor apartment on 2nd Street, above the chiropractor’s (my landlord’s) office, and across the street from the Brodhead Public Library.  That gives me a three-year window of Decembers from 1976-1978.  The recipe was part of a multi-year Betty Crocker recipe club subscription (think book-of-month club only recipes) where the tangerine orange recipe box and the first 24 recipe cards were the free gift for subscribing and a thematic packet with 24 additional cards arrived each month for the next two years.

These candy cane cookies are my must-bake Christmas treat.  If I make nothing else, it will be these.  The result is a shaped cookie without the extra steps of frosting and decorating cutouts or requiring the technical skill of applying the perfect pressure necessitated for Spritz cookies.  Although I do own a Sawa 2000 Deluxe Swedish cookie press complete with 24 nozzles, circa 1985.

As we gingerly plan for another Covid Christmas, Mom and I have agreed less is acceptable.  She baked only two batches of family traditional sweets – Pecan Crisps (a double batch, of course) and Holiday Fruits – instead of the usual six varieties; to be served with her purchase of Rosettes, Pizzelles, and Sandbakkles courtesy of the St. James ethnic bakers.  With what is in her cookie jars plus my Candy Canes and a vanilla cheese cake on a chocolate wafer crust topped with cranberry glaze for Christmas Day, our holiday cookie platter should be merry and bright.

Knitting

Covid Craft Casualty

green and white knit cowl on wooden hanger
Camino de Paz (a path of peace) Cowl – 2017

In September, I was excited to learn that Christina Campbell (one of my favorite designers) was mulling over themes and working on designs for her sixth annual Project Peace knit-along (KAL).  I have been a faithful participant and my completed project list includes seven of her patterns among which are four previous Project Peace designs.  (The 2018 cowl just never made it to my needles.)  At the time, I even thought to create a Ravelry project page as a placeholder just to get ready. 

Then, as the days slipped from autumn into winter without any additional hints of her creative direction, I wondered if this year’s Project Peace might be yet another pandemic casualty.  And, on what should have been launch day, she alerted the readers of her blog that even with a new pattern created, an appropriate theme selected, and original artwork designed, her heart just wasn’t into managing a knit-along and leading a month of daily meditations.  She was “letting go” Project Peace, not for forever but for 2021.  While disappointed from a craft perspective, I applaud her honest courage.  My first thought was, with two of Christina’s designs in my project queue, I would simply substitute one for another and create my own KAL (just without the “along”.)  Then, after a bit of reflection, I decided to follow her example of “letting go” to focus on the six projects already on my needles and leave her beautiful designs for another time.

Gardening

Pandemic Fatigue: Real not imagined

The last burst of pandemic summer color

My across the street and next door neighbors each recently acquired new garden tools.  With a cordless power drill and a hex drive auger to serve as bulb bit, my neighbor to the north planted 160 tulip bulbs on either side of the walk leading to her front door.  Not to be outdone, my gardening neighbor to the west made a quick Amazon purchase for this same handy tool and scattered 80 daffodil, hyacinth and early snowdrop bulbs among her well-established perennials.  Promises of spring – that is assuming the scurry of squirrels that nests in our 80-year elm tree doesn’t dig up the bulbs as winter appetizers or the fluffle of rabbits under the neighbor’s shed across the alley doesn’t devour each green shoot just as it pokes through the snow. Normally all this activity would have inspired garden envy and set me on my own quest to add spring color.  And, last fall I would have enthusiastically joined the planting challenge but not this October.

When we first entered our global quarantine, I accepted it as an inconvenience and then joined two new book clubs, enrolled in an Impressionist art appreciation class, and participated in an earth-based meditative retreat led by French knitting designer, Solène Le Roux.  But what I am feeling today, 18 months into our shared Covid experience is a bit like the title of the 1971 S.E. Hinton coming of age novel, That Was Then, This is Now.

When mass media began mentioning “pandemic fatigue” I recognized some of the symptoms as my own but also wondered about the power of suggestion.  Then articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet validated my feelings.  The World Health Organization even has entire publication devoted to “pandemic fatigue” which is defined as:

…an expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis – not least because the severity and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic have called for the implementation of invasive measures with unprecedented impacts on the daily lives of everyone, including those who have not been directly affected by the virus itself. 

An expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis.  The validation that what I am experiencing is an international phenomenon may not be a precise recipe for an attitude adjustment but it certainly is a step toward reducing my irritability.  Getting back in the garden, if only to put things to bed for the winter, may also help diminish my pandemic fatigue.

Knitting

Yet more virtual knitting fun!

As if Knit Camp at the Coast, a virtual, two-day retreat with Marie Greene, hundreds of other Knit Camp campers, fun classes featuring  nationally known instructors, and “get-to-known each other” break-out sessions, was not enough to fill my Friday and Saturday, there is a virtual yarn crawl this weekend and next.  Through the wonder of technology (one of only a few benefits of pandemic living), 36 small shops, from distant corners of the continent, will be transformed into the viewer’s local yarn store – LYS.   From California to Quebec, Oregon to Alabama with Minnesota well represented.

logo for 2021 Have a Ball Fall Crawl

Using Zoom and Facebook, each fiber entrepreneur will share exciting new products, fun kits, bundles, and unique offerings.  And, best of all:  Prizes!  Registration is free so sign up today and join me at the Have a Ball Fall Crawl.

Knitting

Meditative Knitting – Good for the Soul

blue and teal handknit lace scarf

Released early during our pandemic lockdown, Christina Campbell’s Metanoia Wrap artfully achieves its goal of blending simple garter stitches with classic lace to create a meditative experience while knitting.  Ever the teacher, she offers a translation for the Greek title: 

‘Meta’ means life and ‘Noia’ is change … A knitted journey during a tumultuous time as our way of life changes.

Calling for two contrasting skeins of yarn, each half of the scarf mirrors the other with rippling color.  The repetitive lace segments appear different from each other but this is only an illusion since they match row-for-row.  The Boca Chica colorways in rich blue Hurricane and subtle flecked aqua Seaglass artfully capture the vibrant hues of the Florida Keys for which these limited hand-dyed skeins are named.

Knitting · Travel

Denmark – Not to Be

green grass, small stone houses, mountains, blue sky with white clouds
A picture perfect day on the Faroe Islands
Rowan Tree Travels and fibercraft

It feels like every suspense novel ever read, every film noir ever screened, this waiting to learn of what will be and will not be in our ongoing Covid saga.  This morning’s email made it official — the Rowan Tree Travel Fiber Adventure to Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands has been postponed – AGAIN.

The tour planners, Heather and Suzie, have carefully monitored EU travel requirements, health notices for specific stops along the way and they have even gone so far as to take a trip to Scotland to assess just how difficult international travel might be in these strange times.  (Suzie’s blog offers her travel musings along the way with an array of photos such that the reader can almost feel the crisp highland air.)  But in the end, with cases of the Delta variant on the rise in the US, the frequent testing points mandated while traveling, the uncertainty surrounding quarantine procedures in situ for anyone testing positive, and time delays required for laying low upon arrival, even when healthy, all became just too many variables to manage.  The fun of adventure and exploration lost to the stress of pandemic travel.  So I am no longer counting the days and will stay Minnesota bound.

Knitting

Voilà! A Trip to the Coast

Last summer while slogging through Covid quarantine days, Marie Greene and her amazing Olive Knits team organized, on short notice, a fun-filled virtual retreat that was so successful so as to necessitate a sequel.  I count myself lucky to have landed a “seat” again this year for Knit Camp at the CoastFor three days, September 16-18, I will join 100s of knitting enthusiasts in 16 unique sessions where we will learn new techniques from a cadre of talented guest instructors.  The class itinerary offers an old nemesis – socks, but also an exclusive pattern with a newly designed stitch and yoga breaks to ease muscles feeling the strain of feverish knitting.  Plus, although well out of my comfort zone but intriguing will be the workshop offered by Heather Best from sew happy janeNot Your Average Kool-Aid Dye Party.  Who knew, all those decades ago when drinking that sugary summer staple (cherry was my favorite) or slurping ice cube popsicles, that the sweet food dye filling the glass would be perfect for “creating gorgeous custom colors for hand-dyed yarns.”  Happy Knitting!

Knitting · Travel

Two months & counting the days

sheep and snow crusted rural mountain landscape
© Rowan Tree Travels

Two months from today*, I officially begin my Danish adventure in Copenhagen.  As a small tour company, Rowan Tree Travel continues to satisfy.  They have a great sense for just when I might be edging toward anxiety and need information.  This morning, my in-box held a detailed, 20-page itinerary with a link to their customized travel app (after all “…there is an app for that…”) so I can keep the details on my new phone.  The app also hosts a private messaging service to chat with my yet to meet fellow travelers and fiber-enthusiasts.

This international trip, originally scheduled for September 2020, will be a big first as I come out of our Covid quarantine.  To date, my travels have included only small jaunts — two hours to Eau Claire to visit Mom and my recent two-day excursion up-north with my retired friends, The Directors.  Certainly nothing far away and nothing by plane since February 2020.  And, while I am sure I will cope, it will be strange traveling solo which should make great blog fodder. 

Bon voyage or, as they say in Danish:  “hav en god tur.”

*Although technically my two month countdown for a Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Paris (CDG) to Copenhagen (CPH) flight began July 22.