So Long, Summer

We had a great summer, full of fun camps and new friends for Wyatt, and room for creativity with less driving for me. We closed summer out with a truly wonderful family vacation. Then, back to school arrived with a clattering crash. We're all still adjusting.

When Wyatt was a toddler, I remember complaining bitterly about how hard transitions were. Getting from one place to another, literally and figuratively, when he was a preschooler, was daunting. And you know what? I was too hard on him. Transitions suck for everyone, including me.  I mean, surely you noticed there was no blog post last week. Oh, you didn't? I'm sure you're in good company. I was too deeply in mourning over the end of summer and too busy trying to finish a knitting project to write anything.

Wyatt has been back in school for 7 days; today, he is home sick. Such is the magic of back-to-school. Usually, sick days are pretty boring, but this morning we were treated to a naked guy doing a high-step-saunter past our house. My neighbor called to tell me about him, and to suggest we not go outside just then. Such a good neighbor.

Of course I'll take naked-sauntering-guy (or just boring) over the storms and floods so many people are dealing with right now. Climate change is real, and the effects are intense.

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Last week, in recognition of the end of summer and library due dates, I returned the final third of our summer reading list. All the books were, once again, terrific. In reading to Wyatt, I learned about music and musicians I knew little about (I And I, Esquivel! Space Age Sound Artist, Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow), and Wyatt began to understand about boycotts (Joelito's Big Decision). Wyatt said his favorite book of this group was I And I. He isn't sure why, but I can guess it's because the poetry and illustrations were so beautiful, and because the prose explanations were so clear. We're still reading Rad Women Worldwide, so we renewed that one.

Lest anyone think I only read picture books this summer, I let me assure you that's not true. I joined Audible a few months ago and have recently finished listening to the audio version of the novel, Homegoing, and the podcast, The Butterfly Effect. They're totally different types of work (obviously), but I found both totally engrossing. I also listened to The Sympathizer (it was fine), and Between the World and Me (an absolute must-read-or-listen). Also, I enjoyed Lincoln in the Bardo with my eyes instead of my ears, but I understand the audio recording is remarkable.

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I just started reading The Cooking Gene. I had the pleasure of hearing the author, Michael Twitty, speak at Omnivore Books recently. He was so engaging in person, I wondered how his written word would compare. I'm so delighted that his writing is equally captivating. As one reviewer put it,

Should there ever be a competition to determine the most interesting man in the world, Michael W. Twitty would have to be considered a serious contender. Twitty, a self-taught independent culinary historian who lives in Rockville, Md., is partial to dressing in the period attire of antebellum slaves, picking tobacco to get a sense of how his African American ancestors once lived and cooking using ancient methods so fiery that he singes the hair off his arms and eyebrows. He is a man of substantial girth — and proud of it. He has described himself as “four time blessed” — 'large of body, gay, African American and Jewish.'"

There's a fascinating interview with Mr. Twitty on Civil Eats here. And you can buy a copy of the Cooking Gene (signed even!) from Omnivore Books, or wherever you like to buy your books.

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Speaking of food, well-meaning friends suggested that after a week of vacation in a hotel, where I couldn't cook, I'd be so happy to get back to it when we got home. Guess what? They were wrong. I didn't miss it even once, and getting back to it has been kind of annoying. I have, however, made one new dish, thanks to my aunt's urging. You all know I am no fan of substitute foods (zuchhini as noodles, for example), but this Spice Merchant Cauliflower Couscous is terrific.  I doubt it tastes like couscous, but it looks a little like it, and is a delicious way to prepare cauliflower. Against my better judgment, I even included the golden raisins, and they were actually good. I know. This recipe is breaking all my rules. I'm going to make it again this week.

 

 

The Latest: News and Knitting

This week's blog post was going to be entirely about the knitting patterns I released into the wild late last week. But this weekend, white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, and through their acts of terrorism, they severely injured and killed people, including Deandre Harris and Heather Heyer. The president has, once again, shown us who he is by failing to immediately denounce the neo-Nazis and their actions. I wish I were shocked.

I've read great pieces about how we can respond to the events in Charlottesville, including this one, and this one, about how to talk to children about it.

But a "what happened in Charlottesville" conversation is a tiny part of the ongoing conversation we (and when I say "we," I mean white people, in particular) need have every day with our children. Hate mongers don't get to decide when I address racism (or any other societal scourge) with Wyatt. So today? We continued reading Rad Women Worldwide. We read about Sophie Scholl and the White Rose. Sophie's story is inspiring, remarkable, and so worth your time. I hadn't heard it before this week. Here are some of the things we discussed in connection with our reading:

  • "Wait. So she JOINED the Nazis? Didn't she know they were bad?" (She joined because she didn't know what they were about. When she learned they were about hatred and inequality, she fought them.)
  • "I'm smiling right now because she was so brave making those papers and leaving them around--she could have been arrested for that!" (YES!)
  • "Do the people that hate always lose? Like in that war we talked about, the one before the enslaved people were free, and in this one, the Nazis lost. But if they lose, they don't always get killed, right? So there are still some of those kinds of people around." (Right. We've talked about them before. People who hate other people because their skin is a different color, for example.)
  • "Hang on. So those Nazi people liked people like them. And I'm white like them, so they'd like me, right?" (Ah. Good point. They might. But they don't like people who stand up for others, either. I know it feels good when people like us. But it's okay, and sometimes it's really good, not to be liked. You're safe. Your dad and I and other grown-ups keep you safe. There are a lot more people (like us) who believe in equality and fairness, and we win because we work together.)

We win because we work together. May it be so.

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In lowercase "n" news, I published some patterns last week. (No, there aren't any good transitions from Nazis to knitting. Trust me. I've looked.) My Coastal Urban Trails Collection includes patterns for three accessories inspired by the rugged beauty (and fog!) of San Francisco’s beaches, parks, and open spaces. All three patterns include two versions: one for a bulky yarn and one for a lighter weight yarn.

There's a hat, Nest: Dove (in O-Wool Chunky Merino) and Hummingbird (in O-Wool Local).

There's a cowl, Strata: Mountain (in O-Wool Legacy Bulky) and Sand (in Sincere Sheep Equity Sport).

And there are also boot cuffs!  Footpath: Stroll (in O-Wool Legacy Bulky) and Hike (in Sincere Sheep Equity Sport).

Nest and Strata use a technique called helix knitting (or helical stripes) (like a barber pole!) in their construction. I have included how-to instructions and a link to a video, too. It's hard for me to believe I've been working on these patterns since the winter; no one ever said I was efficient or prolific in this new occupation. I am pretty excited to see how much people enjoy knitting and wearing them.

(If you're so inclined, each pattern is available individually in my Ravelry store, and the ebook containing all three is 15% off through the end of August.)

 

 

 

How to Knit a Bunny

It has been awhile since Wyatt has participated in the craft exchange with Benjamin.

On his last turn, in February, Benjamin sent Wyatt the most incredible felted owl in a nest. And then, for Wyatt's birthday, he sent Wyatt a teddy bear scarf he had knitted, and he also sent him a copy of Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson.

Since about April, Wyatt has been focused on learning to knit. For anyone who has ever tried to learn to knit, you know how slow and frustrating it can be. Even with the rhyme ("In through the front door, running 'round the back, peeping through the window, and off jumps Jack!"), stuff happens that you truly hate. Stitches get too tight, your head starts to hurt, stitches drop, you find that you have wrapped yarn in weird ways that make no sense, and sometimes, you want to scream, "STUPID JACK!!" and then hurl the whole mess across the room.

But, eventually, it gets easier. Soon, you can do two rows without stopping, and some days you can do four. And eventually, after a couple of months, you find that you are so close to having a square, you just keep knitting until your eyes cross and you're there! It's a square! Then you can wander around the house with your knitted square for a bit, hugging it, pulling it by its yarn tail and pretending it's a pet, all the while celebrating that it's a square, free and safely cast-off from the needles.

But then? It's time to make it into a bunny. (I learned how to make a bunny from the parent craft circle.) Here's how we did it.

You'll need: Bunny-colored yarn, white yarn, knitting needles, a blunt tapestry needle, stuffing fluff, a smallish bunny-butt-sized flat stone, and if you want a face, buttons and some pink yarn for a nose.

Knit a Square:

Take your bunny-colored yarn and appropriately sized needles for that yarn to get a nice cushy square. Wyatt has been using some pretty fluffy, low-twist yarn and size 10 needles. Cast on 20 stitches. Knit row after row, maintaining your stitch count of 20, until you have a square. You can check for square-ness by folding a lower corner up to the needle. When you see one triangle with no left-over rectangle, you'll know you have a square. (Or you can use a ruler and measure until the sides are even.) Cast off your square and dance around!

Make the Bunny's Head and Ears:

Take some masking tape and make a triangle like this. Thread a tapestry needle with a length of yarn about 8 inches longer than the perimeter of the triangle. If you can, choose a yarn that constrasts a little bit with the bunny yarn you've used so that you can see your stitches. Using a running stitch (over-under-over-under with your needle), and starting at the left corner, leave a 3- to 4-inch tail and stitch along the outer edge of masking tape from the left corner up to the top, and down the other side of the triangle. Tear off the two pieces of tape where you have just stitched, then stitch across the hypotenuse on the inside of the remaining piece of masking tape.

When your last stitch meets your first stitch, you're done with the triangle. Take hold of both ends of the yarn and gently pull the yarn so that you cinch the triangle together. Work the stitches and fabric gently because you don't want to break the yarn!

The head will appear at the center of the triangle, and the ears will take shape from there. It's so fun when the head appears! Before you cinch it super tight, stuff it with fluff so it's sort of firm. Then take the remaining yarn and stitch the stuffing hole closed.

Make the Bunny's Body:

Using an overhand (or whip stitch), close the bunny's spine. Stuff the bunny's body with fluff so it's sort of firm. Drop in the flat, bunny-butt-sized stone. Using a running stitch, go around the edge of the hole, leaving a tail of yarn at the beginning. Cinch the hole closed, pulling gently. Tie it and stitch the hole shut.

Make the Bunny's Tail:

Make a pompom. I hate making pompoms so much. There are a ton of online tutorials for how to make pompoms. Have a look around and see which one you like. (We go with the two cardboard donuts technique. ) Maybe you'll love making pompoms. Let me know if you do, because I am in favor of anyone but me making them. Trim the pompom to the size you like and then stitch the pompom to where the tail should be.

Finishing:

Weave in any loose ends and trim them. If you want, stitch on buttons for eyes and a little triangle for the nose.

Take some pictures of your bunny before you send it to your friend. Finally, cast on a new square to start a bunny for yourself.