Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Return Trip

When we first arrived in Michigan, we headed out to Greenfield Village with my brother-in-law's family. We had such a good time that we decided to take a return trip yesterday. The village is a mix of older historic buildings and living history players. The first time we visited we saw many of the older buildings. A few have curators in them who answer questions and provide information about the time and practices. We also rode the carousel, train, Model T's and horse drawn bus due to the generosity of a stranger who gave us their extra wrist passes (these allow unlimited rides throughout the village). This time we ventured out the other direction to the working Victorian farm. 
We arrived right at dinnertime for the family who resides at the farm during the day. Six of them were sitting down to their midday meal. It was a hearty one full of potatoes, canned peaches and a lot of other goodies. It made most of our bellies rumble. The character actors then told us all about their lives, the home and how they lived during this time period. We walked by the hot wood stove on which their meal was made and helped with the pump outside from which they got their water. They talked about the carpet on their floor. It was woven from rags into rugs. These individual rugs were them sewn together to make the flooring.
We asked questions about how the home made its way there from the original site of the Firestone home in Ohio. The older woman told of moving the home brick by brick. She spoke of layers of wallpaper and fun discoveries about the past. Inquiries were made about the basement food storage and washing practices. Another replied with all the items they preserve while the others chimed in with additional information. It was very interesting to hear about their daily lives and the time. They mentioned the social status of the family and that they were not rich, but rather wise about their finances. This acumen allowed them a surplus to save for more lean times and even loan to their neighbors. 
The barn was next on the path. Merino sheep had just been brought into the shelter. Dave remarked about all the potential yarn. He then talked with Benton and Aine about the horns on the rams. We also saw turkeys and chickens in the farmyard, a cow near the barn and beehives in the pasture. Green beans, yellow squash and okra that had just been harvested sat in a basket by the garden. 
From there we walked toward the artisan area to watch potters, weavers, glassblowers, a tinsmith, and a printer. At each stop we were welcomed and told about the industry. Any questions were met with enthusiasm and interest. The kiddos were shown a hurricane lamp and attempted to blow out the candle with no luck. Eamon was able to work the printing press, and each kiddo received a print. We learned about the individual crafts/arts and the artists who made them.
Dave has rejoined us after a month back at work in Arizona, so he shared his memories of his last visit to the Village. He was in first or second grade and had school for the day in the one room schoolhouse. The kiddos thought it was a bit odd. We decided to find it next. As we looked for the school, we walked and talked to other Village employees enjoying a few facts about the Wright Brothers and their ingenuity as we walked through their home and shop. The kiddos ground herbs int he doctor's office and talked to the person there about medicine during that time and the high fees he charged (despite the fact that he never graduated from medical school). We saw another period farmhouse/plantation and talked to the woman there about slavery during the time period. 
The park was closing, and we still hadn't found the right schoolhouse. As we walked back to the entrance I remembered the big schoolhouse we saw the first time we came. We were going to walk right past it. It was the one. Dave and the kiddos looked in the windows. He recalled the wooden seats and floors. He told the kiddos a few more memories of that visit as we ambled toward the gates. We again closed the place down staying well after everyone else.
The weather was beautiful and the company was perfect. We were again joined by my brother-in-law's family and the addition of Dave could not have been better. I think though we may need to go again. We still have a few things to explore.

Friday, September 28, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - Joining Amanda in a Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Challenge

The cottage was cold for us warm blooded Arizonans. On Tuesday the overnight low dipped to 34 degrees. We were not quite prepared for this. Huddled under our blankets, I texted Dave to find out the forecast for the rest of the week. It would warm up a bit. The lows would be warmer - around 50 degrees. The kiddos were undeterred by the cold and continued their play and exploration. I pulled out the wool sweaters, socks and long sleeves. I wrapped myself in a shawl as I watched them play joining in during games of tag and charades. But I was still cold. I figured they had to be, although all three vehemently denied it.

I formulated a plan. I would make hats. We didn't bring any with us, and I figured it would not be a waste. Our plan is to remain in the colder area of the world for a bit longer. Of course, I probably had yarn for the hats, but I thought picking out their own would be more fun.

On Thursday when we set out for an adventure in Grand Rapids, I programmed the GPS to find a yarn store, and it did. We arrived at Whippletree Yarn, and my kiddos immediately suspected subterfuge. They questioned why we drove an hour  to "just visit a yarn store." They were pleasantly surprised when I told them each to pick out yarn for a hat. The store employee was very gracious and helpful. She asked the kiddos about their winter coats and was surprised when they returned her questions with blank stares. I intervened and explained we don't buy winter coats since we live in Arizona; we just layer! She wound their skeins into balls, and we set off for more fun.
When everyone woke up on Friday morning, I challenged the kiddos to pick out a hat pattern. I had a couple patterns on my computer, so we were set. Each picked a pattern from Bambeanies. Then Eamon decided to challenge me. He wondered if I could knit all three hats in two days. I accepted the challenge.
Benton's hat knit up quickly. His yarn was a bit rough on my fingers, but it went super fast. He was wearing his new hat in a couple hours. Aine's was equally quick. Her yarn was super soft and from Michigan as well. The hat came out a bit small. Of course, I didn't do a gauge swatch, so it is my fault on the sizing. I finished the i-cord ties on the hat Saturday when we arrived back at my in-laws' home. She loves the result and isn't put off by the fit.
The final hat was a bit tougher. Eamon changed his mind when I showed him another hat pattern. I thought he would really like the Windschief pattern from Stephen West, and I had it in my library. He did. After unearthing the right sized needles, I cast on for the hat. With nimble fingers I quickly finished the brim and began the main hat portion.

Unfortunately I had to sleep, so I didn't make my goal and satisfy Eamon's challenge. I cast off Sunday. Three hats in less than three days is still quite good. Now to make one for me. It is cold in my book!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


While at the cottage I did a lot of knitting. In between games of tag, book reading, frog observing and all kinds of play, I knit. I sat knitting on the dock as frogs jumped on me and my red sweater (much to my children's delight). I lounged on the deck with my knitting. I cozied up with children inside while knitting. Lots of knitting occurred while we were away.

I mentioned finishing my mystery shawl yesterday. I love how it came out despite my earlier skepticism over the design. It is different, and that is good. I made two hats while at the cottage as the temperatures dipped. I worked on my red sweater and am now dancing that gentle dance of deciding if the length is just right. I turned the heel on my socks and knit most of the leg. I was busy, and I loved every minute.

Now that we are back, I made another hat, but that is all. It has gotten busier again and things have been a bit tense, but I want to finish the crazy spring socks this week. There is too much fall knitting to be done to worry about unfinished projects. So this week I pledge to finish those socks and begin something new or perhaps just finish up the red sweater which also seems to be languishing. With a completely clean slate, I can return home to Arizona with many new ideas and goals.

edited to add: I had to return A Prayer for Owen Meany, but I checked it back out from the library when we returned. I am still only about 50 pages into it, but I really like it. I am a fan of John Irving though. Reading and knitting this week again with Ginny.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Mystery Revealed

While up north at the cottage, I was able to finally finish my Stephen West Mystery shawl. I had kept up with the knit along until the final clue. When it arrived, I was busy with Olympic knitting. I did take a look at other finished shawls, and I caught a bit of the furor over the final clue. I split my remaining yarn into two balls for each side. Without the use of a scale I just tried my best to get even ones. I  bought more of the solid color, because I was concerned about running out of yarn.
The first side seemed to take quite a long time. I finished it earlier this month and set to work on the second. Knitting on it here and there, it quickly took shape. I think knowing how the pattern developed helped. I was also wondering when the lighter yarn would run out. I kept focusing on reaching 32 stitches, since that is where the first side striping ended. I quickly hit that mark and was able to do one more stripe. Not too bad for eye-balling the two yarn balls. The rest flew off my needles. I wove in the ends and it just need a blocking, but I do love it. I would not usually knit such a piece, and I am glad I did. I learned some new techniques (the german wrap and turn). I call it a success.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cottage Day Trip - Art Prize

While at the cottage, we ventured out for a day trip to Grand Rapids. Our destination was Art Prize, a large, independently operated art competition showcased throughout the city's downtown. When my father in law suggested it, I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. I asked Dave to check it out online, since we were without internet access. He wasn't sure what the kiddos would think. Since rain and cloudy skies were forecasted, I figured it was worth a trip.
I wasn't sure what to expect, but we were enthralled. While looking for a place to eat lunch, we found quite a few exhibitors. The one that first caught the kiddos' attention was entitled "Cloud Zombies." We sat and talked with the creator. The kiddos had some great questions for him. From that point we were hooked. We then passed a huge dragon crafted from recycled materials. We liked the piece most, because it was made by someone from the town where the cottage is located. As we walked we found many other pieces and chatted with other artists.

We spent a lot of time watching two gentlemen metal smithing. Eamon was especially interested in the process. Aine and Benton held several of the pieces, and we all watched in awe as they took a copper disc and turned it into something beautiful. The kiddos kept returning to this display. Eamon is now wanting to find metal smithing classes when we return. I am hoping we find something that will accommodate his age.

They also liked the gentleman with junkyard musical instruments. He had a large musical box roller that he would crank to play music. All of it was made from discarded materials. They kids liked his many xylophones made from granite pieces, 2 X 4 sections, disc brakes, or tools. He spoke of teaching music early. I was inspired to create a xylophone when we return out of 2X4's. So very easy and fun.

When asked, the kiddos were unanimous in their vote for best piece. They liked the woman with the sand castle best. They marveled at her bare feet and elaborate creation. We asked her about her tools, her sand, her bare feet and even what she used to spray her creation (a glue and water mixture). She mentioned that the castle had withstood several rainstorms already. We were amazed at the intricacies of the piece. She told us of all the beaches around the world where she had made her masterpieces.  The kiddos were inspired to make their own.
I was most impressed with everyone's willingness to talk to the kiddos. They were all open and honest with their process, materials and inspiration. Many took extra time with them to answers the multitude of questions the kiddos had. It was quite inspiring.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Visiting the Cottage

For the last week, we have enjoyed the beauty and quiet of my inlaws' cottage. It has been a fantastic week. We all love going to the cottage. My kiddos count down the days every time we visit Michigan. From the moment we arrive to the time we leave the cottage, they are outside running. This year was no exception.

When we arrived last Saturday, the kiddos headed to the dock to search for frogs and snails. They uncovered their frog habitat and set to capturing as many as they could. They named each of them and studied their attributes. They had Huge-o, Gargantuan, Megatron, Betty, Froggy, Froggette, Ted, Tim, Sue, Midge, Maggie and many more. There were more frogs this year, but the snails were a bit tough to find. The kiddos would release the frogs and find many of them again. You would think the frogs would get a little wiser. While Eamon was looking for frogs along the bank, he also found a snake. He called me over and we deduced that it was a northern watersnake with the help of a spotter's guide.
With all the dozens of frogs they caught, one did not survive its capture and release. Eamon wanted to bury it, but we decided instead to build a raft and set it afloat in the water. Eamon and Aine wove together a raft and affixed the little frog. They set it into the water and watched it float away. They talked about the frogs life and how to ensure no more were lost.
Intermixed with frog catching was a whole lot of fishing. Eamon has become quite good at attaching bait and casting. He caught a sunfish and skillfully removed the hook and threw it back into the water. He showed Aine and Benton how to cast and then perfected his technique. No other fish were caught, but there was a lot more hook tying, baiting and casting. I enjoyed watching close and then from a distance as the siblings cast with arms interlinked. They really enjoyed their time together.

The rest of the time was filled with coloring, dock sitting, tree climbing and a whole lot of knitting. The latter part of the week had a drop in temperature intermingled with some rain. This limited the frog escapades. Instead we pulled out warmer clothing and ventured outside again enjoying the cool. They played tag, charades, hide and seek and fashioned a swing with some rope. I joined in for charades and tag laughing as they tried to elude my tag-backs. We ate good food which warmed our bodies and the cottage. We talked, laughed and really enjoyed our time away from the distractions of the internet and the busyness of life. There is talk of going again once Daddy returns before we head home. I think this may just happen as the colors and quiet of the cottage are perfect, and we all love it there.