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.

Oh, joy – a Monday without work.  At least work work, the kind that involves a commute.  Mostly I’ve had a down-low kind of weekend, and I’ve managed to milk it by keeping the lethargy theme steady throughout today.

This weekend I’ve alternated time between knitting (halfway done with that second sock), looking at knitting patterns, and being cozy with family.  The knitting patterns I focused on yesterday were of the baby blanket variety.  One of my closest friends is due with her second baby late this year, and although I don’t know if the baby is a little he or a little she, I figure it’s time to get poised with at least a pattern, if not the yarn and/or a decision to go with a happy unisex color or colors.

I’ve made a couple of baby blankets, the second and more successful of which I posted about here.  The first one, while very nice to the touch and just lovely when folded, was a little challenged in the way of symmetry. 

Aha!  I've come back to haunt you from 10th grade geometry.

Aha! I've come back to haunt you from 10th grade geometry.

It came out trapezoidal.  That is, in the shape of a trapezoid.

I had decided to knit the Favorite Blue/White Blanket, a Bernat pattern available for free.  This was the third or fourth knitting project I’d ever attempted – the first blanket, and the first thing not to be made on fairly big needles with a fairly bulky fiber.  It was certainly my first baby item, and I was very nervous about the delicateness of it all.  

Favorite Blue/White Blanket

Favorite Blue/White Blanket

The US 7 and US 8 needles to be used seemed teensy weensy to me, and as much as I was determined to make a go of this pattern, I found that the notion of casting on more than 60 stitches made me sweat a little.  I decided not to tempt fate in altering the recommended yarn (it didn’t occur to me then that gauge isn’t quite as important for a blanket as it is for a sweater).  I used Baby Softee as instructed, in, you guessed it, blue and white.   It seemed to me if the pattern is called Favorite Blue/White Blanket, better not to mess with Texas.  Blue and white it was.  Good thing the baby in question was a boy.

The trapezoid FO was the obvious result of nerve-induced too-tight tension on the starting end of the blanket.  The stitch was actually very pretty – nice texture, yielding a lightweight fabric that wasn’t too lacy or fussy – but it took me days to get through the first couple of rows.  This wasn’t because the stitch was difficult, but because I was inadvertently pulling each stitch so tightly that none of them would slide down the needle without a lot of elbow grease.  An obvious fix, you say (duh, stop pulling them so tight), but I just thought that these were the inevitable and wily ways of working with smaller needles. 

With progress, my stitches gradually yet increasingly relaxed.  By the end of the blanket, my stitches were loosey-goosey, happily flying off the needles.  Didn’t really dawn on me until it was done that it was a leetle off from a rectangle.  Even blocking couldn’t bring it back into shape – but oh well, it was done, and the myriad of stitches I’d made were ready to embrace that little newborn, no matter how asthetically imperfect the collective whole of the stitches might have been.

I packed the blanket up and sent it off with love to the adorable Q and his mom, who is one and the same Kimlee I visited in Richmond recently.  She was very gracious about the trapezoidal nature of the blanket, and made me feel good about the uniqueness of my humble handicraft.  It made my heart sing when, during my recent visit, I noticed the Blue/White Trapezoid draped across the rocking chair in the nursery.  I took a few surreptitious snaps while everyone was downstairs, and brushed away a little tear of joy at the sweetness of finding it there.

I know, I’m a sap.

So.  Now I’m looking at patterns for the next blanket up to face the vice-like grip of my needles.  Below are my finalists.  Colors may depend on baby gender…or maybe not.  Suggestions welcome on color or fiber, but it’s the pattern that I need to settle on first.  Help me choose! 

Please drop me a comment below with your favorite pattern, or at least your favorite category: 

  1. Something with cables
  2. Something lacy
  3. Something blocky

 Just click on each pic for a closer look.

 

Something with cables:


Shower of Love
Leisure Arts #3219

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something lacy:


Summer Blanket
24-25-48, Gosyo Co., Ltd


Blanket with pattern in Alpaca
b13-22


Curlicue Blanket
Skruddevutts stickade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something blocky:


Moderne Baby Blanket
Mason-Dixon Knitting

Color Block Baby Blanket
Knit It! Magazine, Spring 2007