When I was a kid we had a humongo garden in the backyard. Nice to have enough of a backyard to do that – easier in the Midwest than in the more populous areas toward which I gravitate now. These days I feel lucky to have a few blades of grass to wiggle my toes in.

Early summer garden, circa 1984

On the left, our early summer garden, circa 1984. In the middle, my sisters and I, definitely not weeding.

That backyard garden was so awesome, but at the time I took it for granted, because, of course, that’s what kids do. Memories of our garden conjure up the smell of fresh cut grass, since Dad would usually whip out the tiller to work in the garden after he’d mowed the lawn. This usually ended up being later in the day (since the lawn got cut first), so I have visions of the sky shifting to dusky hues as Dad made the rounds with the tiller, shirtless skin completely sun-burned. Always he was donning the tried-and-true cut-off jean shorts he wore for pretty much the entire summer (except to work, duh). No protective gear, though.  Nah!  Unearthed rocks flying into eyes, detaching retinas – no biggie. 

 A newer version of our trusty Toro

A kinder, gentler version of our trusty Toro

Tiller. Tiller. It’s a funny word when you think about it too much. Tiller. As I was typing above I got all nostalgic about the old tiller. It was red. I think it was a Toro (not that I know anything about tiller brands, I swear; this name just popped into my head). I went so far as to Google “old garden tiller” to find something that looked similar to what I remember. What I found is a bunch of new-fangled ones that are a lot shinier and less dangerous-looking than what I remembered. But I was small at the time, so everything looked big.

Apparently as a tot I used to run around in the garden behind Dad in the parts he’d already tilled, singing my little no-one-will-hear-me-because-the-motor-is-so-loud song of, “Runnin’ in der dirt, runnin’ in der dirt”. I don’t remember this, but I do remember my imaginary friends, Peach and Rake, who I had with me all the time at that age. Hey, my sisters hadn’t been born yet – I needed some company.

Now I can appreciate how wonderful it was to enjoy those fresh-picked, still sun-warmed fruits of my parents’ labor (heaven forbid I should help out in the garden – ever – no, the credit goes entirely to them). Corn, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, beets, melons, cucumbers, squash, cabbage, beans, radishes, onions. A couple of years we did pumpkins. Early on my mom had sunflowers growing along the back edge, too. But as I grew up, schedules got busier and the crops got scaled down, understandably. Tomatoes and beans were pretty much it by the time I was in high school.

Nonetheless – how cool is that? Now I’m gagging for a garden and I’ve got no space. Serves me right for grumbling about weeding in my adolescence. But I dream about becoming a proper green thumb – I know it’s a lot of work, but I feel like I’d be up for it. If I only had the land. Sigh.

In the mean time, I stick to the farmer’s market. There’s a great one nearby on weekends, and this morning, upon realizing we were fresh out of fruit, Bidie and I headed over there and loaded up. This is the perfect time in the season to get good deals on things that are still growing in abundance: veggies – yes, tomatoes (I looove the heirlooms) – and, oh la la, fruits. Peaches and nectarines of every variety imaginable, with samples that knock you out with flavor. We’re exploring the pluot recently, since more versions of them keep popping up to try (pluots, I discovered, are a hybrid of three-quarters plum, one-quarter apricot). Apples for two bucks a pound, mix and match – so many kinds to pick from with names I’d never heard of – all of which I wanted very much to crunch. And strawberries. Oh, the strawberries! I found myself drooling for at least a minute after I tasted the first one. We bought a whole bagful.

All of this was organic. It all tastes so much more alive than what I’ve been eating for, well, years. Each taste makes you feel like a kid, probably because that was how long ago it was before the mealy, chalky taste of produce predominantly grown from GMO seeds drowned the market. Long live real food – I’m rooting for the comeback of the underdog.

Anyhoo. We came home and had a picnic of fruit. Got out the chilled tea, rolled up the sleeves, and got down to business. As you can see, my knitting is in the foreground, waiting to be pounced upon after I get the fruit down my gob.

1/2 black cherry berry, 1/2 cran-apple zinger

Today's iced brew courtesy of Celestial Seasonings: 1/ 2 black cherry berry + 1/2 cran-apple zinger

By the by, isn’t this a great little tea pot? Put the tea in the steel strainer in the middle (for me, this is two bags), pour in the boiling water, and voila – it steeps for a few minutes while becoming an elegant centerpiece with which to top up your cup (the lower part of the strainer ends before the bottom of the pot so that the last inch or two of tea doesn’t get over-steeped if it sits there for a while). It comes with a little brushed chrome stand with a tealight holder to keep the tea candle-warmed.

I think the reason it looks so cool is because it’s European – they do make everything cooler-looking over there. This was a housewarming gift from my sibling-ishly close friends Kymber and J. Incidentally, these are the parents of Little J, plus the bun-in-the-oven/to-be recipient of my not-yet-knit baby blanket (the design for which you are helping me choose).

Right. So on the knitting front, I’m rounding the heel flap on the second Braided Cable & Broken Seed sock. That’s a fancy way of saying I’m still about halfway done with this sock, which is where I was at the time of my last post – busted.

Want to do my knitting for fall, including continuing with the Fisherman’s Sweater, but it’s still too stinkin’ hot here to do it. I know I shouldn’t complain about the weather in California, but the fall air should be smelling a bit more like college football by now, according to my Midwestern roots. I’ve been out here for five years, but I miss my seasons no less than that first fall. Boo-hoo, I live in California, where the sun shines too much. OK, I’ll stop.

My happy place

My happy place

This is my happy spot for the afternoon, a seat with a few blades of grass around it, a laptop with an internet connection (sad, but I get nervous without it in reach), my knitting, some yarn to daydream about, and my reading.

Shocker, the reading is also knitting-related: Zen And The Art of Knitting, by Bernadette Murphy. I’ve only read the first bit, but already I feel a pleasant kinship with the author. Will report back when I’ve finished it, if I can manage, at some point, to put my knitting down long enough to give the book a chance to be read.

Speaking of pleasant kinship and books, Allison and her mates at On My Bookshelf are having a book giveaway – check it out! Allison’s knit/superwoman blog, The Whole Ball of Yarn(s), is a good friend, and was the source of my learning about the book blog. Allison reviewed a few Jane Austen-related books this week (including Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, which I own but haven’t read yet) – I was beyond delighted. Hooray for Jane!

OK. Back to my happy spot, my knitting, and my chilled tea. I like it a lot.

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Nearly done! Still to finish:
tie-wrap ends, arm seams

I’m super close to being done with my Airy Wrap-Around Sweater.  It’s getting very big and fluffy as the second wrap-around flap is rounding the bend.  I stopped shy of the 55″ recommended length for the right flap, pulling back the reins at about 42″ and running scrap yarn through to hold that length while I bring the left one up to speed.  My homies on the Fitted Knits KAL (Knit-ALong) on Ravelry as well as those on this one running independently had noted that the ties ended up being way too long for most of them as written, so I’ll be prepared for the modification.  Lordy, I hope they’re headed toward being way too long for me as written, too, or else me and my thick waist will have to go into hiding with Ben & Jerry for a while to wallow in our excessive girth.

The dimensions are a little off as I model it here – without the sleeves seamed and both sides of the wrap done it’s hard to get it to sit just right – but you get the idea.   Blocking this puppy is going to be very interesting – the combo of sticky wet mohair and lace stitching will be a new one for me.  If anything it’s a bit roomy for my taste at the moment, so we’ll see how we go in getting it to hug me just right (and avoid any accentuation of the aforementioned possbily thick-looking waist in the process). 

So here I am with a weekend day, left unexpectedly to my own devices.  Oh joy!  Oh blessed event!  What shall I do with this time?  So many things on my little list of Amy-time projects, but knitting seems to always win.  I want to finish Airy, but I may save that as a treat if I can manage to get a few other things accomplished (insert reality here):

  1. Finish this blog entry
  2. Go to the bank
  3. Go to the post office
  4. Clean up my messy house

Looks like I’ve got a few craftless hours ahead of me, but I guess it isn’t all fun and games.  However – I’ve still got some time left with you here on my blog, so I’m going to roll around in it and enjoy while I can.

A few things I’m been thankful for over the the last week or two:

  • Dancing with Sissy B – The abundant joy already inherent with a nearly 2-week visit from Sissy B and her wee girls was ceremoniously trumped with a mid-week 80s night at a bar up the street.  We arrived glammed up and ready to go, ordered up our little drinkies and proceeded to wait – the DJ was late, and wherever he was, he had our tunes with him.  We were getting a bit nervous that our soujourn’s wings had been clipped.  Alas, he eventually showed up – but we were none too pleased with the weak effort of his debut, starting with mixes of lesser-known not-so-crowd-pleasing minor 80s hits that just weren’t cutting the mustard.  Just as the mutinous crowd (read: my sister and me) was on the brink of highjacking Master Mix’s booth, he came through with “PYT” – and continued with a steady stream of sister-approved, shout-out-the-lyrics, jump-up-and-down old standbys.  Much hilarity ensued, with squeals of utter delight and DJ-directed declarations of, “I love it! I LOVE it!” and “Yes! YES!”.  Even though we initially cocked our eyebrows at his unorthodox mixes toward the end – Fergie and Metallica? – we had to admit he had a pretty cool sound going.  Bon Jovi took us over the edge with “Livin’ On A Prayer”, and we left with our voices hoarse and perma-smiles plastered on our faces.  We still got it, baby. 
  • Organic produce – OK, I’m still a relative newbie to all this business of “social awareness” and “healthy lifestyles” (think Chris Farley as the finger-quote guy on SNL’s Weekend Update), but I am getting a big-time eye opener lately.  It only took 34 years.  California has definitely gotten her hooks into me, as impervious as I was initially to her Mother Earth wiles.  I had no interest in even recycling when I moved here 5 years ago, and now I’m practically an evangelist of environmentalism and healthy living.  The story of how all this happened to the most reluctant of Midwestern girls I will save for another time.  Suffice it to say – on the food front, I’m a new woman (now that I’ve put down the Cool Whip – oh, sweet, gorgeous Cool Whip – and taken a look around).  I’m in love with farmer’s markets and everything in them.  Love the vendors, love the customers, love the samples, love the smiles.  Love the prices, too – I’ve come round to seeing why it’s worth all the crunchy hype.  I was never willing to spend a dime more on something organic – not only because I’m tight with my money at the grocery store in general, but also because I persisted in using the old adage, “Listen, there’s nothing wrong with chemicals – look at all the non-organic food I ate growing up, my mother too, and look how I turned out!”  To make matters worse, I studied chemical engineering, so I’ve gone around trumpeting the praises of using whatever modern means we have available to get things to be cheaper or lower in fat, sugar-free.  But – without anyone shoving this down my throat, which would have been a sure-fire way for me to be even more impermeable – I’ve seen the light.  First, I began to scrutinize (in following my sister’s lead) what kind of food was allowed to pass my nieces’ lips, not only in terms of nutritional value, but in terms of what was actually safest for them.  Even if I wasn’t sold on the “benefits” of organic food at all, latent doubt did give me pause enough to agree that organic baby foods would be better for the girls – “just in case”.  It took another year or two for this logic to seep further into my brain to its natural conclusion that I – yes, me myself – might want to think a little more about the origin of what I put in my body, chew up, and swallow.  No matter what I’ve eaten over the course of my first 30 years, why oh why would I put anything into my body that has even trace amounts of something I wouldn’t spoon in there on purpose?  Nagging suspicions began to accumulate, and finally I let myself actually read and absorb different viewpoints so that I could form my own objective opinion.  Nowadays I don’t need something to be proven a carcinogen to be wary of it.  If it needs help to grow out of the ground when 50 or 100 years ago it did so without any help, doesn’t it make you wonder?   Why douse it with something toxic?  It’s cheaper, you say, to grow food this way – ah, but we’re still paying for it, more so every day – just not at the grocery.  A lot of other people are making money off of moving truckloads of little veggies and fruits around (ask yourself why the U.S. exports 1.1 million pounds of potatoes annually and also imports 1.4 million pounds every year…hmmmmmm).  Although I’m determined to NOT to beat anyone over the head with this, I can’t help but list the discovery of all things organic on my list here, because it just is something I’ve very grateful for.  More later on what I’m learning, because I won’t be able to help myself – but in the mean time, if you’re curious – check out Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  She’s not shoving anything down anyone’s throat either, which is why I became enamored with her friendly, engaging, fact-based writing style.  Her husband and teenage daughter (now studying nutrition at Duke) also contribute and the collective effort makes this a surprising page-turner.
  • Oh, my knitting, of course – in a world full of stressors (does anyone else feel like their days can turn into a “Space Invaders”-esque challenge where nothing can be allowed to pass by you unaddressed, or else the whole world will blow up?), my humble stitch-laden needles are such a solace.  Cute little furry things they are right now, with lavender mohair all over them, surrounded by Airy’s billowy-ness.  Just a few minutes is all it takes and to start bringing my focus on all things calm and rational back into line.  More than a few minutes is always better, you understand – that’s why I surreptitiously slide as much time with my needle-friends each day as I can.  That and I’m a junkie – I’ve got an addictive habit to support here.

Speaking of a few minutes, I’ve dilly-dallied more than a few with the indulgent rants of my blogging, and now I must…I must…I must increase my bust…(Oh Margaret, where are you now?).  I mean, ahem – I must, I must, I must go do my housework.