International Knitting :: The Tan House Brook Shawl

As many knitters understand, deciding what knitting to bring along for an extended trip is something that deserves a fair amount of thought. Not only do you need a pattern that is relatively simple (traveling, I’m afraid, isn’t a great time to whip out your heirloom lace knit… well at least not for me), that doesn’t take a large number of skeins (luggage size/weight limits are unmoved by pleas from desperate wool lovers), is rather compact (some passengers on an overly-cramped, international flight might frown upon being occasionally poked by knitting needles), but you also need something that will hold your interest and not be complete before your trip back home is over. In addition, it also behoves one to learn of various airport regulations regarding the allowances or prohibitions of getting knitting needles past security—Charles du Gaulle, for instance, does not permit knitting needles on the plane—so you’ll also need to carefully consider which equipment to take or leave at home or pack in the checked bags as appropriate.

Casting On

Equally important, of course, is the choice of yarn. Because you can not bring your entire stash with you, it is necessary to take some time to consider where you’re going and what you’ll be knitting. I would strongly advise against selecting black, worsted wool for a summer vacation in Greece, or a fluffy glittery angora for your eight hour flight. You might think, as a knitter might, that one can obtain yarn almost anywhere in the world and that a yarn shopping excursion sounds like a wonderful use of down time while on vacation, but the sad truth is that even yarn shop owners like to take a break every now and then. So you may just find yourself standing in front of the singular yarn shop on your beautiful get away island staring at a “gone fishing for August” sign in deep despair. This story may or may not be based on personal experience.

My Own Yarn

Which is how, upon the wise recommendations of my most experienced knitting friends, I found myself winding up my very own hand-spun for a beautiful shawl the day before I flew out. Socks and shawls, they told me, are a knitter’s best friends for long, uninterrupted expanses of travel time, shorter lay-overs, and slowly swaying train rides past fields of golden sunflowers. This was the first time I wound my own yarn for an actual knitting project. I’ve been slowly collecting skeins, eking out a few moments to spin here and there, and the collection has outgrown it’s designated spot. It was just about time to find some way of using what I’ve made. I wish I could tell you more about the fiber—I had it all carefully recorded, the weight, the dye house and colorway, the yardage—but other than the blend (panda roving which is a lovely mix of merino, bamboo, and viscosemy favorite spinning fiber thus far), I’m afraid all other info is lost. I’m hoping the band will pop up as I get the house cleaned up, but for now, it will have to remain a mystery.

On The Med

One of the other bonuses of having such wise and experienced knitting friends, is that a few of them are designers! One of my newer knitting friends, Jennifer Lassonde of Down Cellar Studio, offered up her absolutely lovely Tan House Brook Shawl pattern, which fit all the considerations for the right project perfectly. I waited to cast on until I arrived in Frankfurt, trying my best and utterly failing, to sleep on the flight over in attempts to mitigate the effects of jetlag. And I managed a few rows there as well as the subsequent flight and layover to Athens before arriving in Crete, where I discovered much to my delight, that the hotel room my friend and I were to share, had an absolutely stunning balcony over looking the Mediterranean, perfect for sipping coffee, knitting, and napping!

On The Plane

The Tan House Brook shawl is a lovely, lovely knit, just what I needed for both the trip and my second shawl. Rows of soothing ole’ stockinette to help me recover from nearly 20-some hours of travel, before getting into a perfect little bit of textured stiches, just in time to keep my interest while waiting for the flight to land in Paris. I am sure the passengers next to me are also unknowingly thankful for Jennifer’s pattern, since I managed to leave them in peace instead of asking “are we there yet” the number of times I would have if left unoccupied.

And it was a great companion for our train ride across France and into Germany where we met up with my husband’s relatives for their annual family reunion in his hometown.

 

On The Train

I was hoping that I would finish it while I was away, but unfortunately due to the regulations at Charles du Gaulle, where the belief is that knitting needles are weapons of mass destruction and terror and not the tools of peace and charity, I had to pack it in the checked bag for the flight home. I was a little worried about what I was going to do with all those hours of sitting without some knitting within my hands, but that was before I remembered about the in-flight entertainment system and all the movies I haven’t been able to see in the past two years. But I am hoping to finish it up in the next week or so as I find myself sitting on the sidelines watching a few kids kick a ball back and forth for the next few weekends.

And if you do find yourself so very anxious regarding the sitting on a plane for nine hours without anything to occupy your hands, you may find that a skein of sock yarn and a few bamboo double pointed straights mixed in with all your pens and pencils in the pocket of your purse do not seem to cause any alarm, concern, or the forcible removal of said items from your cold, sweaty-palmed hands. This story may or may not be based on personal experience.

 

 

Favorites From France

Pantheon

Stairwell

Chocolate

To Market To Market

Rodin

Rainy Lunch

Sacre Coeur

Eiffel Chics

Eiffel At An Angle

Picnic In the Park

Metro

Notre Dame

Water Travel People

Looksy Locks

Bistro

Seine

Looksy Pathe

Parisian Alley

I waited nearly my entire life to get there. There were quite a number of attempts, none of which came to fruition. But a ten year anniversary seemed a rather opportune moment to try to align the stars, and align they all did. We even managed, serendipitously, to schedule our trip at the same time as our good friends who were also there celebrating their ten year anniversary, which made out time there even sweeter. I was a teeny bit worried that all the years of dreaming might have my raised my expectations too high, but the city lived up to all I imagined.

It might have taken ten years to get there, but it won’t take another ten to get back.

 

Ten Minute Meal :: Panzanella with Cannellini

The weather here has been a bit extreme. Unbearably hot and humid with a drying wind that burned what was left of my hydrangeas, then this week sunny, bright, and cool, with nights that required long sleeves and socks. But it’s still tomato season, and they are having their moment and should be utilized, even if I don’t feel like spending time in the kitchen.

With the start of school last week, and quite a number of adjustments to our schedule—relaxed or possibly even non-existent over the summer—this week, I’ve been a bit tapped out when dinner time rolls around. But there’s only so many days one can eat pasta or pizza, isn’t there?

Luckily, we are all fans of panzanella, which the kids call crouton salad, and we have a few variations that are the perfect thing to make when you don’t really feel like being in the kitchen. This one is my favorite version.

This here is a mix of canned and rinsed Cannellini beans, chopped ripe tomatoes (these are amazingly sweet yellow heirlooms), thinly sliced yellow bell pepper, a handful of parsley, and the leftover, sliced heart from the head of a Boston Bibb lettuce. Mixed together with the juice of two lemons, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

10min Beans N Greens

While that sits for a minute or two, I take some lovely sliced bread from a local baker, slather it with olive oil, stick it in the toaster, then stack and cut it into bite-sized chunks. This is such a time saver! Broiling takes too long, and I can’t count the number of times I burnt all the bread because I forgot it for a few extra seconds. As an added bonus the kids can help with this part while I sliced and toss the other ingredients.

Toasty Bread

First, the bread goes into the bowl… I like it to be the base to soak up all the juice from the tomatoes and lemon and olive oil.

In A Bowl

Then the other ingredients.

Lemons N Oil

Ten minutes. Well, maybe fifteen depending on how comfortable you are with a knife. Super simple, incredibly tasty, and no cooking required (toaster doesn’t count).

 

Mama Son Day

Before the first day of school arrived, before we all got sick and sniffly and miserable, before the weather turned so very cool, before the return to the hectic days of homework and the tyranny of weekly schedules… My seven year old and I took some time off for one day, just the two of us.

Antique Cars

Flume

Fountain Flume

Lily Pad

Frogs

Carnivore

 

Deadly Dinner

Take A Peek

Downhill Engineer

Water Works

Up Up And Away

We walked all around the magnificent acres of the Heritage Museum and Gardens looking at cars, and playing in frog ponds (our favorite part, we think), wandering through the current exhibits, and discovering hidden hollows meant for exploring and building and getting wet and being a kid. He laughed and jumped and ran, stretching those legs of his and soaking up the last bit of clear summer sunshine as I walked more slowly, following his lead and letting him chose which paths to follow. He waited for me around the corners, unseen, and even when climbing up ahead, he checked back when he reached the summit, just a small glance and only once or twice, before running on

The most difficult, heartbreaking challenge of parenting isn’t about the number of times you’ve failed them, how often you’ve lost patience, how many fevered brows and scraped up knees you’ve kissed, or the growing pains you’ve witnessed but can not take away… it is learning how to let them go, bit by bit, even when you don’t know how and you’re not ready.

Hand Held

 

I hope, as he gets older and we experience more of those bumps and bruises known as the adolescent and teen years, that he remembers this day as fondly as I do. That maybe if he doesn’t exactly remember that moment he reached for my hand, that he’ll have internalized the knowledge that mine was there, waiting and ready, for his.

 

Shawl for September

This summer, there has been a fair amount of knitting progress! It is definitely a strange thing to proclaim, that during the hottest, sweatiest months of summer I managed to find some time to devote to wool. Yet that is the truth of it, and I am happy for it regardless of timing. I am certain that my days at Squam in June have had a lasting effect on my ability to continue on with the making, and now even with hectic days of school starting I’ve still managed to sustain some dedicated time for it.

Rondelay

This is Rondelay, a shawl pattern by Jennifer Dassau the writer and designer of The Knitting Vortex blog. It was a lovely little knit. Although it was designed for sock yarn, I knit it up in worsted using two skeins of Souk by Cascade. I ran out of yarn with only the eyelet border to go, which is a scrap ball of what I believe is another bit of Cascade, if memory serves.

Ruffley

 

I actually started this one several times over while at Squam; we had a bit of a rough start, Rondelay and I. We had a disagreement about wording that led to a few days of frustration, and quite a high incident rate of ripping out and casting back on.That being said, it really isn’t a difficult pattern once you get the hang of it, but I did up having to write to Ms. Dassau to ask for clarification. She was incredibly gracious and helped clear up my confusion at one particular problematic spot, which happened early on (possibly row 8?) with my stitch counts once you begin picking up wrapped stitches. So should you find yourself in similar dire straights, I would say that you should knit up to and including the last wrapped stitch, then wrap and turn the next stitch.

At Rest

This is my very first shawl, which might surprise you, and definitely surprises me! What, exactly, I’ve asked myself a few times in the past number of weeks, have I been waiting for? Knitting shawls is lovely. This was a smaller project that seems to fly off the needles; I didn’t have to knit it twice as one would with socks; it’s easy to transport; it doesn’t take a huge time commitment. Of course, mileage varies with different patterns, and I’m not quite up to the ninja master levels of concentration needed for a wedding ring shawl for instance—my children need to be a bit more older before I’ll be ready for that—but right after I finished this up, I threw a few more shawl patterns in my Ravelry queue! As a matter of fact, I’m finishing up a second shawl that traveled with me across the pond that I’ll write about later.

Circle Detail

Rondelay is made up of three circles that are cleverly knit together using an interesting short row technique, and if you’re knitting with sock weight, it only requires one skein. The little circles are fascinating to watch as they grow, especially with the gradual color shift of the yarn. Ms. Dassau has made Rondelay available for purchase through Ravelry individually, or if you’re as fascinated by short row work as I am, she has created a little e-booklet of five short row shawls as well.

Twirly

Due to the interesting construction it gets a little ruffle-y… or maybe twirly is a better word. It’s just sweet really.

Its A Wrap

Looking forward to those cool, crisp Autumn mornings to give it a go and see how she’ll feel all snugged up. It can’t be that much longer, right?

Thoughts of Things and Souvenirs

While our kids were being spoiled by the grandparents, my husband and I were walking around the streets of Paris. It was so nice to have the chance to celebrate such a momentous occasion—the tenth anniversary of our wedding—the way we began it ten years ago, just us two, and I’m grateful to my parents who were willing to lend a helping hand, granting us the freedom and peace of mind to travel so far away knowing our kids would be so well taken care of.

Eiffel

They were far from our reach, but not from our thoughts. I was surprised—then after some thought, maybe not so surprised after all—by how often we found ourselves talking about them, pointing out things they would find interesting, wondering what they were doing at that very moment, making plans to somehow shift our priorities and save some funds so we could travel as one whole big family circus. Traveling with four small kids however, is no small feat; we now exceed the maximum occupancy for one hotel room and it’s not as if Europe is known for their extra spacious rooms. Regardless of its difficulties, I’m pretty confident we can find a way to make it work.

It turns out—thanks to check baggage and luggage weight limits—it is also no small feat to bring home a little something for each of our four. We stopped in a number of shops, every single one of which I found something for at least one of my kids. All the museum shops were chock full of over-priced t-shirts and books, funny little oddities, and of course, tons of crap that would be tossed aside in less time than it took me to type this last sentence. Since I’m the one who gets to clean it all out and throw it in the trash, I needed to find something else to bring home.

The Supplies

In the end, I found a few pencil bags for all four, and at each of our stops, I picked up a little school supply related item. Pencils and erasers from the museums, a few markers from a small shop from my husband’s hometown in Germany, little notebooks and graph paper pads from a stationary store in Paris… I managed to cross off a bit of back-to-school shopping as well as fulfill a desire to offer them each some physical token of how often I thought of them.

The Pencils

Rhodia Pad

The Thinker

They have been much adored by the kids. And even though I paid a fortune for those doggone pencils from the Rodin Museum with “The Thinker” on the top—I put them back the first day we went there because they were so ridiculously expensive—I’m glad we went back the next day to get them… I suppose it’s reasonable to find a better excuse than “I really need those pencils” to get back to Paris next year.

 

 

With Open Arms, Welcome September

It never fails… ever.

August rolls around, the cicadas start to sing, the grass is burnt to a fragrant, golden, late-summer crisp, the shops pull out all the stops for their back to school displays, and my creativity starts to trickle back to life, slowly building into a steady stream that come September is a full-on flood. I welcome its return. Often, I find this time of year more rejuvenating, more full of promise and excitement than the turn of the new year in January. Surely I’m not the only one?

Travel Prep

This summer was so very, very full for us all. There were :: broken bones, or I suppose, just one bone; lengthy stays with the grandparents back in Pennsylvania, European travel to Greece, France, and Germany; ten year wedding anniversaries to celebrate (hence the reason for the grandparents and travel!), garden created just for flowers, a visit to a yarn facility run by family, birthdays galore, visits from new friends just to devote some time to making, creating, lobster bakes, time for socks and sandals (socks and sandals? my goodness who let that happen?)… oh I could go on!

Thems the Breaks

Socks and Sandals

Already there are ambitious plans shaping up for this Fall as well :: a cookbook club, some long-planned and much-needed home improvements, a new photo project or two, more knitting to finish up and even more to start, some amazing fiber to spin, a few rooms to revamp and/or finish up, a much neglected blog to return to, maybe a weensy bit more travel, Christmas projects to begin (I’m determined to get a jump start this year!)… oh I could go on!

I’m really looking forward to diving into all these projects that are floating around my head. Do you have any exciting plans?