Finding brightness in an otherwise dark year

Good morning and happy Saturday! 2020 is finally over and like pretty much everyone, I am really glad for that. It hasn’t been a good year. Not for anyone. Especially not for the more than 300,000 Americans who didn’t get to see the year’s end because of COVID. 

That I am even able to sit here and reflect on the past year and find any good in it is a privilege that too many people will never know. We are both still alive, we are both still employed, we are still in our home, and we are not drowning in debt. Continue reading “Finding brightness in an otherwise dark year”

It’s Jade’s Turn

Good morning and Happy Halloween! It will be an interesting night. We are never sure from one year to the next what our volume of trick-or-treaters will be. We buy the same amount of candy every year and I hoard the peanut butter cups and hand out the rest. I think we handed out everything (except those peanut butter cups) only once and I doubt that will happen again this year. I do know that Halloween and trick-or-treating as we have come to know it will be different this year, and that’s okay. I’m just glad it’s happening.
Continue reading “It’s Jade’s Turn”

Rhinebeck Memories

Good morning and happy Saturday! 

For the last week or so Facebook has been reminding me on a daily basis of all the good times I have had with friends over the years at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival. “Rhinebeck” didn’t happen this year in a physical aspect that we have come to know it, and understandably so. It would be an impossible event to pull off. No amount of safety protocols would be sufficient.

I don’t miss those crowds one bit. I do miss catching up with friends at the festival including many who are vendors. I miss our annual Men’s Knitting Retreat Meet-Up which had been growing in size every year. I miss the smell of fair food and the sound of the Peruvian musicians everywhere you go. I miss the beautiful drive down and back on the Taconic Parkway. Really, this part of New York is absolutely stunning this time of year.  

I think most of all I miss having a house full of guests, even though it was often more people than a small house with one bathroom should ever have. We would retreat back to Albany at the end of a hard day battling rabid fiber fanatics on the fairgrounds to show off our treasures and share a home cooked meal put together by my awesome husband. A large meal too, because that’s how we roll here. There have been turkey dinners, ham dinners, corned beef dinners, and enough beef stew to feed an army, fresh bread, and a bottle of New York wine (usually purchased at the fairgrounds that day) or three. All topped off with something decadent for dessert. 

Rhinebeck was more like Amazon Prime day this year, and everyone bought their goodies from the comfort of their own homes, leaving ours unusually quiet for this time of year. I look forward to being able to fill the house with friends again. 

There is another reason this house is unusually quiet now too, and I’ll have more about that next week. 

Have a great weekend!

Did she just call me a…

Good morning, and happy Saturday! I saw my first flock of southward bound geese the other night. While we still have a few weeks to go before summer is over, we are now officially in my favorite part of the season. The end. I am really looking forward to some cooler days, and even cooler nights. The constant heat and humidity we’ve had this summer has been tough.

The one thing I think I have enjoyed most this summer was Continue reading “Did she just call me a…”


Good morning and happy Sunday! It has been some summer so far, and today it is going to be Really Hot. Be careful, stay hydrated, don’t leave your kids or your pets in the car, wear your damn mask when you’re out in public and cannot maintain a safe social distance.

Last Saturday I mentioned making some progress on cleaning out the basement. Over the course of 18 years of living in this house, it has become the repository for tables, chairs, rugs, dishes, dog crates, books, and a host of other things that we wanted to hang onto for some reason. I don’t like sending things to the landfill if they are going to be useful either to us or to someone else in the near future. The trouble with that is, more stuff gets moved down there than leaves this house entirely. The accumulation of stuff over time has turned the unfinished but usable basement space into an almost hoarding situation.

My intention was to have part of the basement to have space to use the great wheel I acquired with the Cardarelle that I eventually refinished and sold, and the floor loom in need of TLC that was given to me several sears ago. Over time, another great wheel and another floor loom were acquired, and more unused stuff from upstairs found its way down there too, and…you get the idea. That usable basement space became to full of stuff to actually use. 

Upstairs, my craft room has become more multi-purpose than before, mostly with the addition of my work-from-home setup. While my violin has been neatly stored on a wall hanger making it easily accessible for use throughout the day for practice, a music stand has become a permanent part of the room and I have had to shuffle some other stuff around on various shelves to make space for a metronome and some other accessories I would need for practice, as well as space for a growing collection of related books and other materials. Managing all of that within a 10’ x 1o’ room was getting challenging, and a lot of stuff has been getting packed into the closet where my yarn and fiber stash is stored. 

One of those things stashed in that closet that would constantly have to be moved to make my stash accessible is my Lendrum spinning wheel. It folds up nicely and has a has a nice bag for storage, and is really rather easy to move in and out of that closet, but the fact that I haven’t used it in years forced me to make a really tough decision. Yes, it was time to let my Lendrum go. Some of its accessories (the bulky flyer head and the quill head) have been living with the guys at Hickory Hill Fiber Farm for some time, so I offered them the Lendrum and the rest of the accessories at a very good price and they accepted.

I also offered them the in-need-of-TLC floor loom and one of the great wheels from the basement for free, which they gladly accepted, and they came last weekend to pick up all of those things.  That left me with one great wheel and one floor loom for when that basement space finally becomes usable again. But wait…there’s more.

I recently treated myself to the heavy duty jumbo ball winder that I have been lusting after for some time. Joe Wilcox had been bringing his to every men’s knitting retreat for years and everyone who has used it has fallen in love with it. One of my acquisitions from the tag sale table at last year’s spring retreat was a standing squirrel cage style swift, which I like so much more than my wooden umbrella swift, so I gave the umbrella swift and my plastic ball winder to a friend. I’m not sure if she or her husband was more grateful for that gift. Since she has started knitting, he has become her swift, patiently holding her skeins in his outstretched arms as she winds her yarn by hand.

I have a long history as an enabler when it comes to knitting, spinning, and weaving, and I wear that label like a badge of honor. Passing on the equipment and tools I’m not using enables me to more fully enjoy the equipment and tools I do use, and helps keep my already small space from becoming overrun by stuff. 

I’m going to close this post by admitting that I sat down to finish writing it early Saturday morning with the intent to publish it then too. I was distracted by Jade’s and Halo’s excitement over the activity at the house next door. The previous owners’ adult children were setting up the remaining contents of the house in the driveway to sell off. I was curious, so I went over to take a look, but mostly to chat. After a few minutes I found myself out of the $7 that has been in my wallet for months, and lugging home a box full of various colored thread and sewing notions, and a telescope and tripod setup. I felt a little odd continuing to write a post about un-hoarding after bringing more stuff into the house that I probably don’t actually need, but given the amount of money spent on them, they’d be handy and fun to have. 

Thats all for today. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and the week!

Project Progress

Good morning and happy Saturday!

I have made some progress this week on my sweater project. During a binge of the second season of ‘The Flash’ I managed to get the front and back pieces joined together with stitch markers in preparation for proper seaming. The stitch markers are attached at roughly the same point on each piece and as I work my way up to each, I should have no extra stitches on either side before the markers. However, since they are only ‘roughly’ the same point on either side, I expect to be making some adjustments. Both pieces are the same number of rows from the bottom to where the sleeve opening begins, so ultimately, there should be no extra stitches by the time I finish each side.

I am so glad to have this sweater closer to done. It will be a while before it is anywhere near cool enough to wear. We’ve had a hell of a summer so far. The kind of summer that makes owning a pool worth all the work. Too bad we took ours down this year. The wall was rusting badly and it was only a matter of time before it failed. I’m still not sorry to see it go, but Halo and Jade might be. Running around the pool chasing each other is one of their favorite games. We have plans for the back yard now that we have more of it to enjoy, and when temperatures make working in the back yard a little less grueling, I will get started on that.

During another evening binge watching the same season of the same TV show, I managed to finish the first sock from my my ‘Firecracker’ sock yarn from Dragonfly Fibers. These colors are simply stunning, and there is nothing like a handknit sock made exactly to your foot measurements. Like my sweater though, it will be a while before I need these, which gives me plenty of time to complete this sock’s mate.

We took a HUGE leap of faith a couple weeks back and stopped crating Jade while we are out of the house. We don’t go out often, and never for long. Jade and Halo have the living room and kitchen, and all the other rooms are closed off to them, including the room where the boys still have a crate for when we are out. Luckily, Jade has been a superstar about it, so I decided it was time to take her crate out of my craft room and reclaim that space. I set up the 32″ Kromski Harp that I acquired last fall at an estate sale, and pulled a couple of differently variegated yarns to weave a simple scarf. The fabric looks pretty much like I expected it would and I really like it. The hints of purple from the warp yarn add a nice subtle touch.

That is all I have for this morning. I have to log onto work soon and join a conference call for some weekend upgrade projects going on there, and then spending some time on our basement cleanout project, which I will have more on next week.

Stay dry today. Or not. Dancing in the rain can be fun but if there’s thunder and lightning, please don’t. Stay safe and healthy too, and wear your damn mask when you’re out in public and unable to maintain a safe social distance!

Practice, practice, practice what you preach

Good morning and happy Saturday! The Albany Gay Men’s Chorus annual spring concert was supposed to be this evening. I am really bummed that it had to be cancelled but considering the state of things, it is for the best. Even if it were perfectly safe to have a large gathering, our rehearsals stopped in spring and there was no feasible way for us to continue to rehearse remotely.

Our last rehearsal was in March, and it was an interesting departure from our usual rehearsal sessions. We gathered at the Shaker Meeting House in Colonie to practice shape note singing with the Sacred Harp group that meets there weekly. Shape note singing and the Sacred Harp tradition is very unique, and my words wouldn’t do it justice, so click on the links and check it out.

Until we were contacted by our director around the beginning of May for our Why We Sing project, I hadn’t been keeping up with any vocal exercises at all. It was a struggle for me to come up with a recording to submit that I wasn’t thoroughly horrified by. I cannot tell you how many times I have sung this song. I know it well, and I rarely need more than a brief refresher with the music to perform it. Most of my struggle (99.9%) was literally me trying to do something…anything knowing that there was a camera recording me. Eventually, I got something that I felt okay about so I sent it in. 

While I haven’t been keeping up with any choral work, I haven’t been letting myself go musically stale either. When I began taking violin lessons and practicing (mostly) daily since then, I knew that improving my music reading skills as part of that would help me in chorus. I didn’t think that I had picked up that much in my time with the chorus, but as it turns out, I picked up more than I thought and that has helped me with the violin too. 

My spinning students all hear me say that learning to spin yarn is like like learning to play a musical instrument, and that it takes practice, practice, practice. I tell them to practice daily, or as close to that as possible. About 20-30 minutes, maximum, increasing the time as they get mote comfortable. Learning something new, especially something that uses your muscles in ways you aren’t used to using them, can cause fatigue pretty quickly. I started out practicing for about 20-30 minutes twice a day, morning and evening, but I typically practice only once a day for about 30 minutes now.

I also tell my spinning students to go easy on themselves. Most adults have forgotten how to be new at something and we criticize ourselves harshly when we don’t pick things up as quickly as we think we should. Building muscle memory takes time. Building competency at something takes time. And building skill at something takes time. Before I began my violin lessons and practice I had to think about what my goals were. They had to be specific and realistic. 

Red = 1st finger position
Yellow = 3rd finger position
Green = 4th finger positions

I don’t know that being able to play without the use of tape to mark finger positions is necessarily specific as a goal, but it is realistic. I have replaced the tape several times since January, and most recently removed the second finger tape as I am now learning high and low second finger positions and have been able to hit those notes relatively accurately. It was difficult at first though, as everything I had practiced up until this point was with the high second finger position, so there was new muscle memory to build. 

My progress has been slow. The dexterity and coordination of my left hand is definitely improving, as are my bowing skills, but it’s my music reading skills that improved most. I have made time for reading a part of but also separate from my hands on playing practice, and spending that time up front is helpful when it comes time to practice playing a piece. It is very much like reading through a knitting pattern before you sit down to cast on a project, which I admit I rarely do. 

We are following the Suzuki method with my lessons. Books 1 through 6 were some of the extras I treated myself too when I got my violin five years ago. There are ten books in the Suzuki violin program, and I am nearing the end of book one after just six months. It will likely be a couple more months before I “finish” it, and it will be a long time before I finish the books I have.  That has not stopped me from venturing outside the Suzuki program, which my teacher has encouraged, and I have found that other resources can help round it out.

Early on, I purchased a good deal of violin sheet music for a number of more contemporary songs that interest me, and I have pulled a few to slowly start practicing in addition to my Suzuki studies. My teacher has paired me with a  practice buddy who is at about the same level with the piano as I am with the violin. Our assignment is to learn Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, but there’s a twist. We have no existing arrangement to work from. We are working it out by ear, which my teacher had started to do with me on Sunday last weekend when we met for some in-person time for the first time since moving to the Zoom app in March for my lessons.

Yep, six months into learning to read music and I am already being challenged to learn to play something without it. It’s a good thing I like challenges, and I expect there will me more as I move forward with this endeavor. Bring them on!

That is all I have for this morning. I am heading outside to enjoy the rest of the morning before this day gets too sweltering hot to do anything but veg on the couch inside with the AC cranking. Have a great weekend, stay safe, and remember to wear your damn mask when you’re out in public and cannot maintain a safe social distance. 

On this day…

Good morning and happy Monday! Yes, happy Monday. It is possible.

It has been a rough couple of weeks as I dealt with my seemingly seasonal insomnia. As the days get longer, I have trouble getting to sleep at night and staying asleep early in the morning as it starts to get light and birds start singing. I hit my breaking point Thursday night/Friday morning and slept all day on Friday. The rest of the weekend and last night were pretty ‘normal’ as far as sleep goes for me, and I feel fantastic now. Continue reading “On this day…”

Fall retreat news and sweater progress

Good morning and happy Saturday! Yes, Saturday. I know what day it is today. That is not necessarily true for much of the last month or so, especially week/work days. They are mostly all a blur.

Today is a special Saturday too. Registration for the third North East Men’s Fall Knitting Retreat opens this morning at 10:00 AM. It is hard not to be nervous about this event considering the Covid-19 pandemic required us to cancel the spring retreat which should be taking place next weekend. Continue reading “Fall retreat news and sweater progress”