Sunday, April 27, 2008

What's Growing

Back when I was really into gardening, I'd take a tour of my garden everyday, to see what's blooming, what needs pruning and weeding, etc. My big passions were roses and bearded irises. I would spend hours online and buying books about roses, researching which ones to buy and where to plant, the way I do with knitting nowadays.
The other day I noticed that the rose on the mailbox was blooming, so I thought I'd do a little tour and post about it.
So starting at the mailbox, here is Reines des Violettes, the Queen of Violets, the first rose to bloom this year. In the background is the neighbor's house across the street and the red azaleas in her yard.The Reines de Violettes are fragrant, and fragile. If you try to cut off a bloom to bring into the house, it shatters. All the petals fall off. Not good for bouquets.

At the foot of the Reines de Violettes are these Dutch irises. In the background is a bare spot where an azalea used to be.

As we walk down the driveway, towards the house, we pass Henry Nevard, whose big red blooms should open in just a few days:

Henry's a big sprawling mess that I try to stake up, but he just won't behave. I'll have to truss him up against the chain link fence so when mowing around him won't put us at risk of having thorny canes smacking us.
Across the driveway from Henry are these white azaleas. I can't remember if they came with the house or if we bought them. Anyway, I love the white azaleas.

The beds in front of the house used to be thickly overgrown with spikey holly bushes and azaleas. Last year we cut them all pretty much down to 12 inches and they're just begining to grow back. Boy is it ugly, so no pictures.

Here's an example: the last of the tulips by the front door. The blooms have so many petals they look like peonies. They make great cutting flowers,

but not so pretty when left unattended.

At the end of the row in front are these red dianthus. The other stuff are weeds. I should really get out here and weed, but not today.
That's about it for the front yard.

The carport opens to the back of the house and connects to the patio. This is a view looking back at the patio. On the right is the last of the camellias, in pink. Camellias are pretty, but no fragrance. Next to it is the gardenia which will bloom in summer, perfuming the air. And to the left is a Japanese maple outgrowing its space.

In the background is the patio set where we have breakfast and read the paper on weekends, and eat dinner whenever the weather is nice.

Turning back around and heading toward the side garden, I pass a crape myrtle underplanted with irises and lilies of the valley. The purple iris is the first bearded iris of the year. In the background is grass and then ivy. The majority of the backyard is covered in ivy, so there's very little to mow. Thankfully.
And here's the side yard. This bed used to be a vegetable garden. But last year when we started renovating the front yard, I dug up the plants I wanted to save and put them here. The peony's blooming too. That's a surprise because I read that peonies hate being moved and don't always rebloom after being disturbed.

We'll just skip over the weed infested tomato bed and turn to the rose bed. It's up against the chainlink fence and the neighbor's blue pick-up truck is on the other side.

Here's Duchesse de Brabant, one of my favorites. It's just getting ready to bloom. The blooms are perfectly cupped and lightly fragrant but they shatter easily too.

It's a huge plant, about 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Pruning is one of my favorite gardening tasks and luckily roses take well to being trimmed, if done properly.

In the burgundy and white bucket to the left is a rose from the front yard. I think it's Bonica, but once it blooms I'm sure I'll remember.

This one below is Knockout, a very easy to grow rose. No fragrance but pretty cherry-red blooms.

That's it for what's in bloom now. This year I think I'm going to try to take better care of the garden. We're still in a drought so I don't know how much I can do. At least food gardens are exempt from the outdoor watering ban.

Husband and I've been talking about growing tomatoes and I might do some okra too. The only bed we can use we grew tomatoes in last year and we're supposed to rotate beds so the soil doesn't get depleted. But the other beds are holding plants from the front yard, so what to do, what to do...

Maybe nothing. Maybe we'll just wait out this year and see if the drought doesn't break next year.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Husband's back!

Husband's back from his guys trip. He was gone Wed to Sat.

On Thursday he started getting sick and he said the best part was sitting out in the Arizona sun, soaking it up, like a lizard.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A day off

Took the day off today. Felt good.

I had a dr appt at 8:30am and then a noon meeting for an organization where I serve as a board member.

By 9am, my appt was done, but the mall doesn't open until 10am. I'm on the look out for a work appropriate purse that's big enough to hold the usual purse stuff, the baby blanket I'm knitting, and a pad of 8.5" x 11" paper; that will be strong enough to hold all that (a vinyl purse I have gets stretched all out of shape); not be too heavy or loaded down with superfluous zippers and pockets as is trendy; and is not too expensive.

Or I could skip the mall and go to a fiber and yarn shop near by that I've never been to. I printed out a list of Atlanta area yarn shops with location, hours, and phone number, just for these occasions.

Or, I could get a bagel and lox, and leisurely knit and read entire articles in the New Yorker magazine and take my eye off the clock -- okay, cellphone. The articles about vengence as a fundamental human emotion and about elevators were pretty good.

So that's what I did. And what a pleasure it was to read what I wanted, at a pace I wanted, while knitting, and in solitude. Bliss.

I did run to DSW Shoe store real quick, where I saw a few purses I liked, but not the price tags. Then it was time to go to my meeting.

It was a good meeting and again with no time pressure, I was able to stay after and talk with a few other board members and get to know them better.

Husband is out of town, on a guy's weekend trip, so I actually have to cook for myself. Ran to the grocery store and this is what I had for dinner:
  • Baguette
  • Garlicy hummus plate with cucumber, tomato, cilantro, sweet onion, and monterrey jack cheese
  • slice of chocolate cake
  • Merlot
It was quick and easy to cut up the baguette and vegetables, carry all that out to the patio and mix and match flavors from the hummus plate, while enjoying the warm spring weather, the hummingbirds, the last of the daffodils, and the latest edition of Entertainment Weekly.

Not sure if I'll do the dishes tonight. It's only me and the cat and he won't be licking the oniony cutting board anytime soon.

I'm thinking of totally abandoning my usual routine and continue the silence and solitude by not watching TV tonight.

But who am I kidding? There are Law and Order, CSI, NCIS, and other police procedural dramas on and I am helpless to resist.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Baby blankets and beer

This post is about 2 unrelated items.

First, a picture of the other baby blanket I'm working on, for another of Husband's coworkers. This will be their third baby and their first girl.

I was going to make it based on an African pattern, but I think I'm going to go with these alternating squares instead.

I've also started the Mondrian blanket, beginning with the red square. Today I went to a conference and took my knitting. Finally during the last workshop, I arranged two chairs in front of me and cranked away at the garter stitch. Tomorrow's the second and last day of the conference, so more knitting time!

And now the beer. On March 15, Husband and I bottled our first batch of homemade beer, a Dortmunder. According to the German Beer Institute, Dortmunder beer is:
A Westphalian lager that originated in Germany's steel and coal district along the River Ruhr in the 19th century. Dortmunder is the laborer's answer to the elegant, aromatic deep golden Pilsner from Bohemia and the straw-blond, brilliant, malty Munich Helles. Dortmunder is a full-bodied, moderately hopped beer of at least 5% alcohol by volume. It became the favorite quaff of coal miners and heavy industry workers in the first half of the 20th century.
Okay. Well, I can tell you it is hearty, a bit bitter and hoppy, and strong. Husband and I were happy to see that it was carbonated and Husband had a sip or two before I got a picture:

So, success!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Brother Two's Art Show

Brother Two is an artist, a photographer. And he's got an art show in Laurel, MD (between Washington, DC and Baltimore).

All the siblings will be going to the reception on May 3 to support him of course. Below is the press release. To see the pictures, though, go to

Contact: Ruth Schilling Harwood, Assistant Director
Main Gallery: Fluidity — Asian American Artist
Date: April 10-May 30, 2008
Reception: Saturday, May 3, 2-4 pm
Gallery Hours: 10 am-5 pm, seven days a week

The Montpelier Arts Center is pleased to present three artists in celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month. Shinji Turner-Yamamoto, Del Kun “Dave” Chen, and Gen Aihara all have introspective approaches to making art. Each artist brings a fluid, intuitive aesthetic to their work, which is reflected by their individual approaches to materials and inner thought.

Join the artists for a reception on May 3, 2-4 pm.

For Shinji Turner-Yamamoto, the fluidity in his work derives from his search for universal manifestations of connections between mankind and nature. By exploring naturally occurring pigmentation of indigenous materials such as rainwater, soot, vegetation, or animal material found during his travels, he creates works that are visual records of the landscapes and cultures he visits.

The fluidity within the work of Del Kun Chen comes from his use of technology and photograms. In his on-going series, Cubogramy, he develops multiple points of view of objects using a pinhole camera. Through this approach, he looks for universal ways in which human beings process and filter stimuli. The resulting images revolve and shift as if they have been immersed in water.

In Gen Aihara’s work, the fluidity is more literal. Working strictly as a photographer, Aihara photographs water existing within his environment. His approach to composition and color result in powerful real life abstractions. These fluid abstractions symbolize his search for metaphysical relationships and the nature of being.

Born in Osaka, Japan, Shinji Turner-Yamamoto was originally trained in fresco painting at the Kyoto City University for the Arts. He continued his artistic education at the Accademia di Bella Arti in Bologna, Italy. His work is contained in the collections of the DC Commission of the Arts, Sanskritti Foundation in New Delhi, India, and the Pro Artibus Foundation in Finland among others. He is currently represented by the mu project gallery in Washington, DC and resides in Alexandria, VA.

Gen Aihara was born in Hyogo, Japan. In 1995, he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design and Photography from Kyoto University. Shortly thereafter, he came to the U.S. and studied at SUNY-Purchase, graduating with a Masters of Fine Arts in 1999 His work has been exhibited world-wide including Sotheby’s International Young Artist in 2001 and the ISE Cultural Foundation in New York. His work is included in the collection of the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, TX among others. He is also represented by the mu project gallery in Washington, DC and currently lives in New York.

Emerging artist Del Kun Chen is a Chinese American born in Maryland. He began his career as an electrical engineer studying in Taiwan before returning to the US and obtaining a degree in photography from UMBC in 2004. He has since moved to New York and works as a printing technician for Print International/ 291 Digital.

Montpelier Arts Center
9652 Muirkirk Road, Laurel, MD 20708
301-953-1993 410-792-0664
FAX 301-206-9682 TTY 301-490-2329

Mondrian baby blanket

I love making baby blankets. They're small and there's so much room for creativity. It's 2 dimensions (usually) that can hold so much color, pattern, and line. I take a lot of my inspiration from quilts and abstract paintings.

2 people in Husband's office are expecting babies, so I have 2 blankets to make. One I've already started, inspired by African patterns. I'll post pictures soon.

The other one will be a Mondrian blanket.

It'll be a great fit. The father to be is second generation Romanian and the mother's background I don't know. But they're both American. The Romanian flag is equal stripes blue, yellow, and red. The primary colors. The American flag is red, white, and blue.

In thinking about what to do, I thought of Mondrian ( His works are based on the grid (hello log cabin knitting!) and use black, white, red, yellow, blue. Perfect!

Today in Google Imaging Mondrian pictures, I came across a site where you can make your own Mondrian-esque pictures. Here's the link:

This will be fun. In that spirit, I've changed the template to something Mondrian-y.

I still want to make a Sean Scully blanket, but don't know what the parents-to-be's taste in art are. But Mondrian has crossed into pop culture and so I'll be able to scratch that abstract art itch.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

New resolution on gift giving

Yesterday at work, people pointed out the article about the Yarn Harlot coming to Atlanta and joked, oh I'm sure you went, since you're so into knitting.

I knit at lunch and people tease me about it. For Chinese New Year, I gave everyone (all 5 of them) hand knit scarves or berets. They were all quite happy to receive them, as far as I can tell.

I mentioned that I was getting rather tired of people disrespecting knitting because it was something that old women do, and anything old women do are never worthy of respect in American society. The unspoken message being that that kind of attitude is not appropriate for our place of work, a place where our mission is about women's empowerment!

Some people mentioned how their grandmothers knit all the time, and made them sweaters and things and clothes for their Barbie dolls. So I said "jokingly" "See, so you know it's an act of love! But you make fun of the knitter and the act of knitting, and yet you're quite happy to accept the gift I see!" One person had the decency to blush.

So, between that and other disparating comments I've gotten about my knitting (including from my own husband and other relatives), I've decided that I will only knit for people who express appreciation for the time and effort I put into it.

And this goes not only for knitted or crocheted gifts, but also my handmade pottery, painting, baking, and gardening.

For me, the issue goes beyond knitting. For me, all my creativity is related and people who make fun of or dismiss my knitting are not just insulting that hobby, but by extension all my acts of creativity, and the time and effort that goes into it.

That's not to say those people don't get gifts. They just don't get anything I've put my time, effort, and creativity into, things that are precious, have value, and in short supply.

On the one hand, yes, I am crabby and cranky today. On the other hand, I agree with the discussion Brenda Dayne and Annie Modesitt's had on the Cast-on podcast about pricing their work, whether it is Brenda's podcast or Annie's knitting and designs.

The issue is about having our labor and not just the fruits of that labor being valued. And that's part of my feminism too. The issue that women's work not being valued, including my own.

The exception to all this is baby blankets. Babies don't have any opinion on the matter and parents are usually too overwhelmed by the situations and moms by nesting hormones that they don't complain.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another newspaper can't believe people knit

Yesterday, April 6, at 3pm, the Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee came to Atlanta to talk. Below is the article from the local paper.

For some reason, I thought that she was talking on Saturday, so I drove into town, found a parking spot blocks away, and speedwalked to the theater, brushing off some people wanting to get my support for more public transportation (which I support).

The confirmation e-mail I got, but obviously didn't read carefully enough, said that they wouldn't seat anyone once the talk started, so I was really psyched to get to the theatre like 10 minutes before 3pm.

Well, I run inside, see noone at the box office, but blow by it anyway and confront a locked door. So I went to Knitch, which sponsored the event, and asked about it, and the owner said "oh, that's tomorrow."


I browsed a bit, then went home.

Yesterday, I went back to the Hilan Theater, with plenty of time to spare, and this time, there was someone at the box office and the theater was full.

She gave a good talk and I highlighted in purple the parts of the article I liked most.

Article below and pictures at

Knitting is cool? Like a warm sweater
Tongue-in-chic: Crowd at Yarn Harlot event shows pastime popular.
By JILL VEJNOSKAThe Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 04/07/08

They're here. They knit. Get used to it.
Take a half-joking homage to the world's oldest profession. Mix in generous amounts of great-grandma's favorite sedentary pastime. And what do you get? A giddy weekend happening in one of Atlanta's most right here, right now neighborhoods.

"It's like when I saw the Beatles in 1964," Diana Baber of Dallas, Ga., said half-jokingly Sunday afternoon. "Better, actually. This time I didn't have to hitch-hike to get here."

Baber was among hundreds of needle-and-yarn-toting knitters who packed the Hilan Theater in Virginia-Highland for an appearance by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the self-proclaimed "Yarn Harlot" of blogging and book writing fame. All 700 tickets were snapped up within 24 hours several weeks ago, said Kim Nickels of Knitch, the 2-year-old knitting shop on St. Charles Avenue that sponsored the event.

The doors opened two hours early for a "Knit In," where the crowd's nonstop chatter mixed with the clatter of needles laboring over half-finished afghans, scarves and at least one "convertible coat." (Don't ask. It's extremely complicated.)

It was a continuation of what had started when they'd lined up as strangers on the sidewalk and discovered they were all knittin' cousins of a fashion — from the guy wearing the "Man Enough to Knit, Strong Enough to Purl" T-shirt to the mother with a baby and flying needles sharing space atop her chest.

"She's very good at unknitting things right now," Cobb County resident Stephanie Reich said of her 4-month-old daughter, EvieBelle.

Out of the parlor closet
What could be seen as a throwback to a time of quilting bees or hippie communes — "It's our version of Woodstock," Atlanta business owner Karen Jacobson observed wryly of the Yarn Harlot event — was actually a signature moment of new phenomenon. With Atlanta's highly socialized knitting community, as personified by the people who flock to Knitch, at the center of it.

Once a relatively quiet, solitary pursuit done at home, knitting has come out of the parlor closet, as it were.

At Knitch, whose roots lie in an online Meetup group that onetime J. Crew executive Nickels started to "reconnect" with the community she'd lost in the frenzy of modern life, a big kitchen table dominates the center of the store. People are encouraged to drop in and knit for as long as they like, drinking the store's free coffee, chatting with fellow customers and signing up for a wide range of classes and events.

It's good marketing and more, said Marybeth Stalp, a University of Northern Iowa sociology professor who studies "serious leisure" in contemporary society. Savvy store owners like Nickels are using the age-old craft of knitting to salve the very modern phenomenon of stressed-out, overbooked people who can barely make time for themselves, let alone be with others in a social setting.

"The slowing down gives them something they need in a sped-up world," said Stalp, who earned her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia. "By making their knitting more visible in an everyday setting, it's allowing people to value it in themselves and their lives, and in others' lives."

Plus, you get to drink wine — and get your nails done.

Purls and pedicures
At Knitch's inaugural "Purls and Polish" event last Tuesday night, some two dozen women flocked to the store's second floor, where they spent several hours knitting, sipping Merlot and taking turns getting foot massages and pedicures from a team of manicurists from a nearby salon.

Karen Jacobson, a mother of teenagers, chatted with 25-year-old Danielle Carlson, who'd been forced out of her Cabbagetown home by the recent tornado. Maggie Kelly, 30, arranged to meet her mother and younger sister there for several long, calming hours.

"Our culture is so fast, you're supposed to respond in five seconds to every e-mail you get," said Kelly, a CDC employee who's busy planning her upcoming wedding. "When you sit and knit, you're not going to finish in five minutes. And that's a good thing."

Indeed, not even the Yarn Harlot can be rushed. Pearl-McPhee took the stage a few minutes late and launched into a tale of a missed wake-up call and lost luggage (she's cut off from all her yarn!) that quickly had the crowd in — ahem — stitches. The biggest laughs and groans of recognition came when she related some of her experiences with non-knitters.

"They'll say to me, 'Ah sure wish I had time to knit,' " Pearl-McPhee faux-drawled. "And inevitably, the person who says it is doing exactly what you're doing while you're knitting: You're both waiting for a plane, or in the doctor's office or stopped at a red light."

Or, like several hundred people in Virginia-Highland on Sunday, you're spilling off the sidewalk, proudly knitting in front of curious onlookers in restaurants and passing cars.

"It's good for them to see us," said Karen Roman, 47. "Now they know we're not just some little old grannies sitting quietly in front of the fireplace. Now they know we're here."


The Yarn Harlot came to Atlanta to speak this weekend. She spoke on Sunday.

I showed up on Saturday.


So I had to drive back into town again the next day. But it was worth it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008