Saturday, October 05, 2013

WIP Wednesday - Carnaby Skirt

I don't want to talk about the Owls sweater except to say that although DD is quite slim, the sweater is slimmer, and the two will not ever cohabitate space.  I have a week of what I euphemistically call "iconography camp" coming up in 10 days, and I will bring said owl sweater to unravel, wind, and begin the body AGAIN.  Since there is no tv or anything like that, and since the days are spent in intense and prayerful painting, we tend to socialize with each other in the evenings to relax a bit before bed, and knitting is an aid to relaxation.  The body is simple stockinette, so as long as I get the guage right and I am knitting the correct size (OMG, why is this so difficult with this particular sweater?????), it's pretty brainless knitting, perfect for evenings spent chatting with friends. Third time is the charm, right?

So, I have put the owls away for now and have begun DD's Christmas present, the Carnaby Skirt by Nikol Lohr.  Have I ever disliked one of her designs?  I don't think so, and this one is no different.  I really adore it and so does DD and everyone I've shown the pattern to.  I think I may even make a great big one, much longer, for myself.  Maybe not - what a LOT of knitting that would be!

This skirt is really cute and gives a pleated effect by alternating rectangular panels of a small checkerboard pattern with triangular panels of stockinette, and is knit side-to-side so the sizing possibilities are endlessly adjustable.  If you like it longer just add more stitches at cast-on.  It's a very simple, but very clever and stylish design, just as all Nikol Lohr's designs are.  This is maybe the third that I've knitted of hers.

I started this on September 24th, one week ago, and I love it so far!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Work in Progress Wednesday-OWLS

I have a love-hate relationship with this sweater.  Dear Daughter showed me a photo and requested it for Christmas - LAST Christmas.  Yes, that's right, Christmas of 2012.  I found the pattern on Ravelry (Owls by Kate Davies), and purchased it.  I measured her myself.  I could not find acrylic yarn in teal, the color that she wanted, so I used a double strand of worsted and played around until I got guage.  Then I got going - it is knit in the round from the bottom up, so it's a seamless garment.  Got to the armpits and then through both sleeves without any difficulty.  I did lengthen the sleeves like she wanted, joined them to the body, and got to work on the cute little cable owls.  She came home for Christmas, just as I was ready to do the neckline ribbing and tried it on.  It was perfect.  The hips were perfect, the front, the sleeves - everything she wanted.  The back, was gigantic - probably 8 inches too big.  We were both crushed.

After a suitable period of mourning, like two months, I took sweater out and considered how to fix the problem.  I was nonplussed.  If it was knitted in pieces, I would simply reknit the back.  If it did not have the cabled owl pattern, perhaps I could cut an 8 inch wide wedge of knitting out and sew it back up - if I was brave enough, that is, and I wasn't brave enough.  So, I ripped everything out except the sleeves and started over again, but not before I checked the guage of the poor, giant sweater - and it was off.  How could that be?  I knitted several swatches until I got perfect guage.  By this time, Dear Daughter had moved to the other coast, and I asked her to measure herself, since she had been eating healthily and exercising like a fiend, and had dropped a size or two.  Armed with the new measurements and a smaller, newly correct guage, I decided to drop one size and got to work.  I kept checking my guage throughout, and it is perfect.  I'm nearly done - I'm halfway through the owls.  But as I was laying it out to photograph it this morning, it looked quite small to me...   Yup.  The hips are 31 instead of 34, and the body seems short.  I don't have the heart or the time this morning to measure it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


If you have been a longtime reader of my blog, you know that I was obsessed with memes for quite a while.  I am falling off the meme wagon for this one.  Just. Because.

11 things I like to eat:
1. Lobstuh swimming in lemon buttah
2. Steamuz, with juice, of course!
3. Fried clams from Kellys, with bellies, of course!
4. My Grammie's Sunday gravy with roast pork, meatballs, sausage and bracciole over her tagliatelle
5. Prime rib with horseradish
6. Pot stickers
7. Kibbe laban the way my mother-in-law used to make it
8. Thai Drunken Noodles.  OMG.
9. Pate with bacon on top.  OMG
10. Creme Caramel
11. Cannolis

11 things I don't like to eat:
1. Pickled herring in sour cream
2. Banana pudding, southern style.  Blech.
3. Anything with chunks of anchovies, but when they melt into the food, they are yummy
4. Anything that looks back at me - like a whole fish or pig
5. Pink duck breast - poultry really needs to be cooked, KWIM?
6. Boudin sausage
7. Southern style sweet tea
8-11 Still thinking...

11 cool places I've visited:
1. Amish Country
2. NYC
3. Old Quebec City
4. San Francisco
5. Morro Bay
6. Santa Barbara
7. Portland - Home of Powell's Books!!!!
8. Boston Public Library
9. Boston Museum of Fine Arts
10. Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral in SF
11. top of Mt. Sunapee via chairlift

11 things that make me crazy:
1. Adult picky eaters
2. Bad spelling
3. Bad grammar
4. "Axe" instead of "Ask"
5. Most reality tv.  Make that most tv - we have sunk to the lowest common denominator and call that entertainment.  Argh.
6. The far right politicos who are holding our country hostage
7. Waking up via an alarm before my body is ready
8. People who leave their pets outside 24/7, especially my next-door and across-the-street neighbors
9. People who intrude on other people's space by being too loud - yes, this means cell phone users, stereos blasting, and my across-the-street neighbors who yell to each other when they are only a foot apart at all hours of the day and night
10. Aggressive people who invade your space on the pretext of being "friendly" or "polite" - welcome to Savannah, folks.
11. Hot, sticky, humid weather - can you say, "Savannah"?

11 things that make me happy
1. Waking up without an alarm
2. Quiet
3. My daughter
4. Making music
5. Making icons
6. Weekends
7. Lakes or rivers with a mountain view
8. Autumn leaves
9. Christmas trees, fully loaded, the bigger, the better
10. The moment when you first step into a silent church and smell incense
11. Air conditioning

11 movies I love:
1. The Quiet Man
2. Like Water for Chocolate
3. Moonstruck
4. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
5. Some Like It Hot
6. Godfather I and Godfather II
7. The Sound of Music
8. West Side Story
9. Singing in the Rain
10. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
11. Blade Runner

11 favorite books:
1. Jane Eyre - Bronte
2. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
3. Letters to a Beginner - Abbess Thaisia
4. The Way of the Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way
5. Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
6. Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
7. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
8. Mountain of Silence - Kyriacos Markides
9. The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
10. Dune - Frank Herbert
11. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand - Samuel R. Delaney

11 favorite songs:
1. Rachmaninoff's Rejoice O Virgin from vigil
2. Rachmaninoff's Vocalise
3. Glazunov's In the Flesh
4. Carpatho Russian In the Flesh
5. Let My Prayer Arise - Fr. John Platko
6. 2000 Miles - Pretenders
7. Chain Gang - Pretenders
8. I Can't Make You Love Me - Bonnie Raitt version
9. It is Truly Meet - Lapaev
10. Pictures at an Exhibition, especially the Great Gates of Kiev - Mussorgsky/Ravel
11 Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix - Saint-Saens

11. favorite artists:
1. John Singer Sargent
2. St. Andrei Rublev
3. Yuri Gashev
4. Anna Gouriev
5. Nikolai Roerich
6. the entire Pre-Raphaelite School
7. Mark Adams
8. Sondra Freckelton
9. Mikhail Nesterov
10. Franklin Booth
11. Dimitry Shkolnik

11 facts about me:
1. I have lived in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Mexico, California and Georgia
2. I'm an iconographer
3. I am an only child, but I have three sisters
4. I love to hang out near the paint chips - I just love to look at colors
5. I truly swam before I walked
6. I often just intuit things that turn out to be spot on
7. I love to research obscure subjects
8. I have to make music and art or I will wither away and my soul will die
9. I often think I know a better way to do things, and I am usually right
10. My spices are in alphabetical order and must remain so
11. If I can't see things, I tend to forget that they exist

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Work in Progress Wednesday

For the last few years, maybe four, I've fallen in love again with knitting, and have posted about it on this blog.  Some of the knitting websites, blogs and Facebook pages that I frequent are full of knitters talking about their many works in progress.  Tonight, I thought I'd take stock of what I have going:
A lace-weight shawl called Japanese Waves

A cowboy sweater for my friend Carla's grandson which is done except for the buttons, but Colt has outgrown it already.  

Cloisonne jacket for me, but I think it will be too big now that I've lost some weight...

Bramble stitch bag in pretty blue and purple.  What's not to love?
This is my second washcloth in cotton.  I forgot to take a picture of the first one completed.  It's for my church's Christmas Boutique 
Tulip Yoke Baby Cardigan that I did in stripes for a baby girl who outgrew it before I even finished it.  I got cute white flower buttons, too!  Maybe another baby girl will come along.

There is another WIP, which is a chunky teal blue sweater knit in the round, with a bodice of owls made by broken cables.  It was her Christmas present in 2012, but it didn't fit her, so I am in process of re-knitting it.

7 isn't too many, is it?  Is it?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Book Suggestions for Orthodox Newbies

Over on one of the groups I frequent on Facebook, the question was asked what books are recommended for a life-long protestant person who just experienced their first Divine Liturgy.  The answers were, in part, expected, such as The Orthodox Church and the The Orthodox Way, and books by Clark Carlton, but there were a number of books that I haven't read yet.  I confess that my spiritual reading has fallen off a bit in the last decade or so, and I haven't really kept up with what has been published in that time.

When I look back over my Orthodox life, and I can see stages.  When I was 16 years old and searching for God, I found The Orthodox Church by Sergius Bulgakov in the Boston Public Library, quite by chance, and I was hooked.  I now know that God's plan for me was to embark on that journey of theosis, moving toward Him, at that young age.  For the next four or five years, I read what I could find on Orthodoxy, which was not much, and mostly written from a western point of view, but I never experienced Orthodox worship. During my first Liturgy at 20, I fell in love and I have never fallen out of love with Orthodoxy, but I hesitated to leave Roman Catholicism behind and fully  embrace Orthodoxy until I was 24.  Then followed a decade of intense reading of everything I could find, and this mirrored the growth of Orthodox publishers such as Light and Life and St.Vlad's, so there was lots to choose from.  In retrospect, I was still trying to form an Orthodox phronema, and lots of reading served me well. I became a mother in the 10th year of my Orthodoxy, and my focus became my daughter.  Reading deep theological and mystical writings fell away as I dealt with life's joys and tragedies - Oh, I read some, but not the voracious consumption as before.  Each lenten period (there are three each year, for you non-Orthodox), I always chose a book to read, so that was three books a year, plus a few others.  Not much.

After reading the list of recommended books, I see that I am completely out of touch with Orthodox publications today.  So many books that I've never read, and some that I've never even heard of!  I feel the need to compile a list, so here it is, direct from Facebook:

The Truth of Our Faith by Elder Cleopa
The Orthodox Church by Kallistos Ware*
Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells* and FB page of the same name
Let Us Attend! A Journey Through the Orthodox Liturgy by Fr. Lawrence Farley
Divine Energy: The Orthodox Path to Christian Victory by Braun
Becoming Orthodox by Fr. Peter Gilquist*
Partakers of Divine Nature by Archimandrite Christofos Stavropoulos
The Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware*
Light from the Christian East
The Way of the Ascetics*
The Orthodox Church by Fr. McGuckin
A Place of Healing for the Soul by Peter France
Orthodox Worship: A Living Continuity with the Temple, the Synagogue and the Early Church*
Mountain of Silence by Markides*
Common Ground by Dr. Jordan Bajis
Rainbow Series by Fr. Tom Hopko*

Only 17 books listed so far, and I have read some of them already.  Some are calling my name....   I will update this list as people add more suggestions on FB.

Everyday Saints and Other Stories
The Apostolic Fathers, Fr. Jack Sparks, ed.
Orthodox Christianity by Alfeev
Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Fr. Michael Pomozansky
Theology and the Church by Fr. Dumitru Staniloae
The Mystery of the Trinity by Fr. Bobrinskoy
On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius
The Philokalia, Volume 2
Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ by St. Justin Popovich
The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus on the Psalms by St. Athanasius
Divine Energy by Braun

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Upon My Heart

Sometimes I read something so profound that it is incomprehensible to me, and other times, to my great chagrin, I read something that is so very simple, that I cannot get my mind around it.  This journey through life is full of twists and turns, and ups and downs, and through it all, I have clung to the hope that my faith provides, the hope of union and wholeness and joy in the next life.  The difficulty, for me at least, has always been one of ideas  - for a truly authentic Christian life, I can't simply seek to understand intellectually, though that is a good thing in and of itself, but I have to go further, much further and somehow take that intellectual understanding and turn it into being.  This is called theosis, where humans, through their love of God and relationship with Him, become more and more like Him.  This is the sticking point for me.  I just can't seem to get beyond the intellectual part.  So, I am the Apostle Thomas - I can't seem to believe without demonstration in a manner that I can understand.  Yet, Christ says that those who believe without seeing for themselves are blessed.  Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

Maybe that's why I find the idea of obedience so interesting, at least how it is practiced Orthodox style.  Obedience to God does not require understanding.  It requires acquiesence.  I don't really like the modern negative connotations to the word, submission, so I use acquiesence instead.  You have to willingly allow God to be active in your life, and this requires giving up at least some degree of self-determination.  I am reminded of the rich young man who asks Christ, "What must I do to have eternal life?" and Christ replies, "Sell all that you have and follow Me."  The young man is unwilling to do this, and sadly, he walks away from Christ.  Isn't that me?  Aren't I unwilling to give up my own self-determination and my desire to understand before I can believe? So, I read.  A lot. I read about God.  I pray, too, every single day.  I pray beautiful words written by someone else, someone who knew God.  I pray the Jesus Prayer every single day, using my prayer rope, and each "O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" is an arrow I shoot at God, hoping that one of them will hit the target.  I all of this because I am clinging to the idea that if I keep searching in this way, I will find God.  Yet, I have this nagging sense that God cannot be found by my human efforts.  I have this nagging idea that God can only be found by love - if I love Him, He will be more present in a way that I recogize, like Mary Magdalene recognized Christ in the garden.  But, God's presence is not contingent on my recognition of his presence.  He is there whether I "know" it or not.  My issue is how can I love Him when I don't really know Him?  What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

My flopping around in this ocean is exhausting, and sometimes I think that I might be happiest if I ran away from it all to a monastery, where I can focus better, and where I will be forced to deal with my will.  I think about it, more since my life blew up a couple of years ago.  I realized then that there was no one relationship in my life that was necessary to my well being except the relationship I have with God.  Trouble is, that is a non-relationship in some ways.   Yet, there is an element of running away in my desire to go to the monastery.  It is easy to run away from my life in the world, but I cannot run away from me.  I am common denominator in all my problems, and I will be in the monastery, too.  So, I wait.  It is a trial for Mother Thecla, who wishes that I would hurry up and get there already, and that breaks my heart.  But I wait because I am unsure.  I don't want to walk away like the rich young man, so I stay rooted where I am instead, until something happens.  I don't know what, just something that points to direction my life should take.  I am desperately trying to keep my deep dissatisfaction with my work life out of the equation, so I wait.

I read this today, and it is so simple and so profound that I wanted to keep it where I can read it often because I need this reminder.  I don't read the Bible every day, and maybe that is the crux of my non-relationship with God.  Maybe when my heart has broken, and it has, there were no words to fall in.  Food for thought, eh?

Excerpt from "The Bible and the Land of Shades:
Divine Justice and How We Read the Bible" by David J. Goa

The pupil asks the rabbi, “Why are we told to place these words 
upon our hearts? Why does it not tell us to place these words in our 

In fact, the question already lives within the differing translations
of the text. The Hebrew, al-levavekha, means “upon your heart,” but in
the vast majority of the English translations it is rendered as “in your
heart.” It is as though the translators, like the pupil in the story, cannot
understand why it is said “upon your heart.”

Why, then are we not told to place these words, these root
words of the entire teaching, in our heart?

The rabbi answers: “Because,” he replies, “we are unable to put
these words into our heart. All that we can do is to place these words
upon our heart.”

The pupil waits. He has come to understand that the teaching is
about himself, myself, one’s own being. The ideas are about me, here, in
front of the question of myself. Hearing the rabbi’s reply, more of the
question begins to form on the pupil’s lips: Then what am I to do? What
are we to do? But before he can speak it, the rabbi answers.
“Our hearts are closed. All we can do is to place these words
upon our heart. And there they stay . . . ”

“. . . until one day the heart breaks . . .and the words fall in."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Every Stitch is a Prayer

Like many women of my age, I learned various practical homekeeping skills while still in the single digits, things like darning, sewing buttons, patching, knitting, knife sharpening, sewing, knitting, crochet and the less practical crafts like embroidery, crewel, needlepoint, beading and fine hand finishing (my godmother was a tailor).  I learned to measure, to adjust patterns to fit, to sew and alter clothing, and to cook meals consisting of two veggies, one starch, one protein and a fruity dessert without benefit of boxes, cans, microwaves or a take-out menu.  Not only did I learn these things by watching my mother, my aunts and my grandmothers, but many of these things were also required classes in school.  Public school.  Many of the things that I learned, I just don't do anymore, mostly because I don't have time, the need, or the inclination.

These homemaking skills are not commonly practiced anymore, and if they are, they are practiced as creative art forms rather than because these are the things that make every day life run more smoothly.  They are just not a part of every day life anymore.  It's a shame, really, but I fully understand that the go go go pace of our modern life does not allow for homely pursuits.

I am now 57, and my only child is 23.  She has no interest in most of these things, though she also watched her grandmother and I practice them.  She has not learned most of these skills, so she cannot pull them out when needed, or more importantly, wanted, in the future.  At least she sees the inherent value of the quirky, handmade item, lovingly crafted by Mom, but still, she has no desire to learn to do these things for herself.  I don't think her peers are much different.

I've gone through various craft stages in my life, from quilting, embroidery and crewel, to a decades-long obsession with needlepoint, to a decade or so where I sewed all my clothing, but always, I have drawn and painted and cooked and knit, although I put knitting aside when Dear Daughter came along because I loved my mother's sheer joy at knitting for her grandchild so much.

A few years ago, I took up knitting again; somehow it caught me, and I am helpless to stop.  The rhythmic, repetitive nature of the craft is mesmerizing and relaxing, and the click of the needles transports me to a simpler time when I was little and my mother was knitting something beautiful while sitting in her lipstick red leather recliner.  That clickety click is truly the background music of my life.   My mother never, ever simply sat - she always had some knitting, or handwork, or a book in her hands, and I find it hard to simply do one thing at a time as well.  My mind is always running in a dozen different directions, but when I knit, it quiets down and I can focus better.

My cousin Ethel is another person who really, really loved to knit.  I say loved in the past tense, because although she is only ten years older than me, she hasn't been able to knit at all for probably ten or twelve years due to carpal tunnel surgery and arthritis.  She simply cannot do it, and it has created a real void in her life.  She misses it.

I was washing dishes this morning, and the warm water soothed my aching fingers so much.  I noticed that my hands no longer look like my hands - they look like my Mother's hands.  My index fingers ache so much, and they have arthritic knobs in the same places, and are slowly turning and twisting like her hands.  How long will my hands allow me to do the things I love to do?  The things that tie me to the beloved women that went before? The things that make ordinary things like sweaters or mittens into unique works of art, but carry my love and prayers?

Knitting is so profound.