Category Archives: Gardens

a birthday date

Steve’s birthday just past and we made a long weekend of it.  Saturday an outing for just the two of us, Sunday a bit of a family celebration and Monday, by his request- trying and somewhat succeeding to do as near to nothing as possible.

I got entirely dolled up for our brunch outing (possibly more on that later).  It was a gift of sorts.  As we were sitting and eating I caught the eye of a beleaguer looking mother, trying to herd her young ones out the door.  The somewhat desperate look on her face!  It was like I could read her thoughts.  Because they have been my thoughts so many times.  It was a fleeting moment of mixed emotion that basically amounted to, “It must be nice to have the time, space, and energy for appearances.  I’d rather like that sort of luxury myself, but clearly that is not my lot.  I bet you take it for granted.” Just a split second, a glimpse of a thought, before landing squarely back in the world of, “No, no don’t run towards the street!”, “Please get that out of your mouth,”, “People don’t really like it when you bring sticks into a restaurant dear.”  In a way that probably makes me somewhat awful, it was rather flattering to be on the opposite side of this exchange.  Oh, but I empathized with her.  I really and truly did.  In my own jealousy (I guess that’s the best word.  Maybe envy is better?) it’s less about what the other person actually looks like and more about how they obviously took the time to care for themselves.  Which implies that they had the time.  That is what I find desirable and often unobtainable.  And I think I read more into it then I should about priorities and the ease of the other person’s life.  I wanted to go and hug her frazzled self and tell her that she should see me most days, carry a toddler and a bag for her and help with the door.

After brunch we visited a vintage clothing shop.  Which primarily consisted of us identifying articles that easily could have come out of the past wardrobes of our various relatives.  My trying on outrageous glasses and hats to make him laugh.  And my being made fun of for pseudo-secretly harboring an embarrassing desire to wear all of the pink chiffon garments that everyone else finds hilariously hideous.

We walked the sidewalk sale of a funky, artisan town and briefly visited an arboretum…sadly too late to tour the conservatories.  But that was lovely and I wish we had longer there.  Highlights for me included the immense Japanese umbrella pine that Steve is standing under in the picture above.  A big, beautiful 100+ year old ginkgo, and Cinnamon Vine (both pictured above) which I had never heard of before.  I found it by it’s scent which I trailed across the garden.  It’s this sort of intoxicating floral/cinnamon that had me vowing to add it to our own garden.  Then I came home and started to read up on it, learning that it’s considered invasive and you have to plant it every year and do special things to propagate it and so forth, at which point it all started to sound like too much trouble and I figured I’d just be better off occasionally sniffing a spice bottle instead.

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February

Frozen
Enchanting
Beautiful
Remarkable
Unusual
Arctic like
Rosey
Yummy

Calendar stitching and poem by: Galen

We had a mild beginning to winter.  There was snow, but just in a general solid coating sort of way, not a burrow through and where on earth to put it all?  Sort of way.  The kind of snow that people south of us get excited about and we don’t even really notice.  Or bother to shovel.  And then suddenly heaps and heaps all at once.  Now, what?  I don’t exactly know what to make of it, but it’s warm and melty.  A late winter and perhaps now an early spring?  I’ll not let myself get too attached to that idea. I wake up every morning exhausted.  The urge to hibernate is strong.  But as the light strengthens I can feel a boost in my own resilience and I crave more from life.

Every evening that I’m able I bundle Seraphine into a sled and go out for a walk.  I watch the colors wash across the evening sky, no two walks quite the same and often wish for my camera when it’s been left at home, but there is no capturing it.  By the time we get back it’s gone.

Steve had emergency surgery and has been home recovering for all but 3 days this month so far.  He will be fine, but getting back to regular life is slow.  It was a fairly minor procedure, but with a long and painful recovery.

Meanwhile our young one who has been fairing poorly this past year miraculously and inexplicably started to grow well again two days before Christmas.  And for a month there was nothing but increasing strength and joy.  And I set to work trying to reclaim some sense of normalcy in our family rhythms, in our school day, even in how we relate to one another.  Re-entry is a challenge, a very welcome one, but tricky all the same.  The last few weeks things have slipped a bit, with concerning symptoms starting to arise again.  I know not where life will go from here.

I finished my birthday book and enjoyed it thoroughly.  The first part is a memoir including some raw glimpses of depression and a life-style gone ire, but also of hope, deep love, and devotion as well.  The second part would really only be of interest to someone who knows many plants by name and cares about the yearly cycle of a garden and wants to picture different flowers juxtaposed in their mind’s eye, all of which suited me just fine!

February is poetry month here.  One of those little markers of the year that defines the feeling of a month and has for so many years that I don’t even have to plan it any longer, it just is.  Most of the books for the children this year came from the Poetry for Young People collection.

And here is one by Mairi, just because I thought it was rather clever for a second grader…

Mairi
Aren’t
I
Right?
I am!

This is also the season for desperately drooling over gardening books.  I read The Sensuous Garden probably a decade ago now, long before I had ever heard of Montagu, a.k.a. Monty Don, and it made such a strong impression on me.  It’s not about the technical aspects of gardening, nor is it really about design, it’s about how a garden feels, smells, sounds.  It’s about the experience of being a gardener in a garden.  It’s beautiful.  I just checked it out again and it remains one of my favorite gardening books.  I also checked out this one. My goodness.  Total horticultural eye candy. It left me seriously wondering if His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales would let me just camp out in his garden.  I mean it can’t hurt to ask right?

On a different note, I really think I have to find some cold weather climate gardening gurus because sometimes amazing voyeuristic floral profusion is a necessity for mental health in the middle of a string of blizzards and other times, when you are listening to someone complain about winter wearing on and on before turning around to show off their daffodils blooming at the end of February… while you’re still looking at several feet of snow outside…and well… you kind of want to slap that person.  But maybe that’s just me.  I’m not very nice sometimes.  Also our early-early daffodils generally start blooming in the fourth week of April.  So yeah.  There is that.

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Hello

This post has been sitting, half-finished, on my desktop for over three weeks now.  Everything, everywhere just got to be too, too hard and so I stopped doing what I could in order to better manage what I couldn’t.

I’m way behind on Iain’s colorful, crazy, and wild birthday sweater.  The sizing on this pattern seems to be way off.  I already came to the sickening conclusion that it wasn’t going to fit, ripped it out and started again.  Now I’ve finished the back and after stretching it flat, I can see that I’m going to have to pull back all of the shaping from under the arms up, so that I can add in extra length.  Frustrating.  I still can’t decide if it’s going to be kind of cool or completely hideous. Mostly I think it’s just going to be really, really late.

We finally got our garlic in, 200 bulbs, which will not be enough, I can never plant enough.  It was a warm day of golden sunshine that tricked us into feeling like we were deep in the heart of the growing season and that just maybe it might never end.  The very next morning we awoke to heaps of snow, with more accumulating every few days ever since.

On one side of that “curtain” there are three young people working on a play involving a turkey with dish glove feet.  On the other Thanksgiving dinner is being prepared, with Little Miss Two flitting back and forth from one side to the other.

On Thanksgiving proper we did nothing.  We didn’t go for a walk or get down the nice dishes or make a new set of napkins or get dressed up or even go around the table saying what we were thankful for.  None of us had the strength or the heart for it.  We were just beat.  I swore I would do better with Christmas, but my holiday spirit is fickle at best this year.

We laid on the futon and I read my girls book after book; Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast, The Great Pumpkin Switch which I didn’t particularly care for, A Stawbeater’s Thanksgiving which made me sad, The Very First Thanksgiving Day which I like, An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott which made us laugh, and Home Sweet Home which isn’t exactly a Thanksgiving book, but probably should be.

I recently overheard a mother complaining about how she couldn’t take the stress of keeping track of even one library book in her house.  I had to laugh.  We currently have 66 books checked out, with another 5 sitting at the library waiting to be picked up.  To be sure this is excessive, even for us.  But there is something about this season, this year and we keep on coming home with more and more.

I’ve been reading Little Men aloud to Mairi Rose.  It’s one of my favorite books of all time and I always get a hankering to read it at this time of year, probably because it ends at Thanksgiving.  She is reading Gwinna aloud to me.  I just finished Mist on the Mountain, both written and illustrated by Jane Flory, which was a chance library find.  I picked it up thinking it might be a good family read and my goodness, I just loved it so much!  And as much as I loved the story, I think I might love the illustrations even more.  I read it all before discovering there is a book that comes before this one.  I’m so sad our library system doesn’t have it.

I both started and finished my Christmas shopping this week in an intensive and stressful last minute shopathon and am very glad that is over. I’ll happily settle in to some holiday crafting as a pleasant change of pace.

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Off Track

My heart isn’t really in a true Handcrafted Wardrobe post tonight.  My mind it too full of other things, flitting about, unable to settle.  I do have some finished projects, but no pictures, getting photos of myself being rather a bother and a chore at times.  I have been pondering cold weather needs and adding to my cool weather capsule wardrobe mood board.  I’ve been comparing what I’ve made so far to what I’ve dreamed up with that board to see if I’m keeping on track, and I don’t believe I am.  I’ve been teasing out silhouettes in my mind of a Thanksgiving dress in vintage floral print on a deep wine ground.  Then I think, oh slippers for the baby!  And is there enough of that crimson wool for a bonnet as well? Is that costume plan foolhardy or does it truly stand a chance?   And when will I find the time to make it?  Is my lesson plan for the week full enough??  And off I go again…

This weekend was supposed to be devoted to sewing for children, but ended up being all about cooking instead.  We had our first little snow squall, the fire burned without end and the wind howled and howled.  Even now it continues to whip around the eaves and thrash the trees about.

Both our pork and beef arrived this week.  A whole pig and whole cow respectively, except for the bits of pork that are still being smoked.  As a former long time vegetarian, I am still not entirely comfortable with eating meat, though I make a good show of it.  This, I at least believe, is the best way of going about it.  Local, free-range, grass-fed meat from a small family farm.  The price per pound works out to be around the equivalent of inexpensive cuts of conventional meat, only we get all of the cuts down to expensive roasts and porterhouse steaks, along with the reassurance of a good, healthy life for the animal involved and nutritionally superior food for our family.  But it does require freezer space!  Which was on the tricky side and lead to a frozen harvest cook-a-thon.  I made a huge pot of beef stew with all sorts of autumnal root veggies, turned some summer squash puree into a dairy-free cheese and baked a strawberry crisp, using home-made coconut butter as the topping, as per this recipe.  We had the fresh pork chops Saturday night, cooked with onions and pineapple sage and served with orange and yellow chard.  I grew pineapple sage for the first time this year and I find the scent intoxicating.  It has somehow managed to escape harm despite all of our recent frosts and brilliant scarlet flowers are just beginning to peep out of their buds.  I have delusions of somehow finding a way to winter it over in the garden, though I know the thing is impossible.  Perhaps I’ll dig it up and see how it fares inside.

I still have some thawed chard that I think I’ll turn into creamed chard and a couple of jars of shredded zucchini that I haven’t decided what to do with. We also spent almost an entire day rendering lard, which was a first for me.  Eight whole quarts full! I’ve never even cooked with lard before. And maybe, just maybe I’ll finally sew up that skirt full of pins by my side.

Has the season scattered your focus as well?  Do you find a discrepancy between what you like and the items that you make, buy and wear?  This has always been true for me and I’ve been trying to correct it, but apparently without much success.

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Amber Glow

Some pictures from before our trip, some from after; a jumble.  Whirlwind life.  I can’t keep up.  Autumn was just starting to creep in when we left our mostly green land, we came back to full swing blazing glory, fast forward a week and most of the trees were bare and talk of winter suddenly seems natural and fitting.  But where did autumn go?  I must have blinked.

My garden and I are estranged.  It’s an uncomfortable and lonely feeling.  I’m doubtful that at this late date any of my awkward attempts at reconciliation will be fruitful.

We got our very first egg, the day before we left, and have had a small, but steady supply since.  But there has been chicken drama.  Did I mention before that we added to our flock?  I wanted no roosters, we now have three.  Which I guess is what I get for allowing the kids to make our poultry transactions.  Two have been well behaved, one has not and that one of course is an especial favorite of the older boys and something of a terror to younger folks.

A garden inspired dinner; steak and zucchini, with a basil paste and roasted garlic.  I read in a book about cutting zucchini julienne before pan frying, instead of in rounds, because it allows it to actually brown.  Cooked simply this way with just a squirt of lemon juice?  Amazing.  I can not stop eating it.

Turmeric Switchel; looks like orange juice, tastes like burning.  I jest, I jest!  But probably an acquired taste for most, though very helpful for an energy boost and pain relief.

funny little note: I just looked at the recipe again, as I linked to it, and I’ve been making it for weeks with double the spices!  I just may need it that strong anyway.

Knitting has been a whirlwind also.  My sweater, still missing it’s measly button band, was cast aside.  The shawl has been blocked and worn a great deal and loved, but not photographed at all.  By the end of tonight I will have four bonnets in need of blocking.   The toddler sweater needs grafting and steeking; two things I readily admit to habitually procrastinating on, but there is a time limit on this one, so I’ll have to suck it up some time this week.

For all of my talk, I haven’t sewn at all and really must get to it.  I think I may have inadvertently bit off more than I can chew re: Halloween this year.

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cloaked in goldenrod

“She watched her little ones walk around their only world, the one that she was creating.  She hoped that the wars within her would not break upon their delicate shores.” ~Marie Mielke, Soul Gardening: Issue 18

I’ve always been a collector of quotes, but I find I am especially so just now.

Yes, I’m rather obsessed with the chickens.  But mostly I wanted portraits of each of them to include in my garden journal.  One of the roosters tried to crow for the first time a couple of weeks ago and let out this hilarious half-crow, half-squawk that made Elijah and I look at each other and burst out laughing.  It has improved since then….if you can consider loud, jarring noises…occurring regularly…. during the only hours I have a shot at sleeping, an improvement.  Seraphina’s crow is improving as well.  She hides her face in the hem of my skirt and, “ruh-rah-rah-rah-roo”s her heart out.  I don’t know why her face must be covered with my skirt to do this, but apparently it must. Mothers know so little really.

A single golden, glorious day, where, at least for a little while, all seven of us were together and well enough to be out and about.

Our new batch of sauerkraut includes both red and green cabbage, beets and carrots and looks like a big jar of confetti.  For a quick meal last week I seasoned ground beef, kind of as I would for tacos and served it over yams with fried onions, chopped cucumber, and veggie cheese.  That one is going on the meal plan, for ease if nothing else.  Though really it was quite delicious and hearty as well. Radishes, grated carrot, fresh herbs, avocado, all sorts of things could go on top.

Between us, we collaboratively made a new set of napkins.  There were five of us working on them in one way or another, but I think Iain ended up doing most of the sewing.  I have another set in a coordinating print all cut out and waiting for a rainy day.

Our back door has been broken for a while, but it’s now to the point where I can literally put my hand through to the outside.  I found a potentially beautiful wooden one to replace it, but it required a great deal of attention.  Every night for a week, while dinner cooked or the kids did their after-meal chores, I’d go out and work for 45 minute or so.  It’s nearly ready now.

Elijah is trying to grow a giant pumpkin.  It got a late and rough start.  While I don’t think it’s going to end up county fair worthy, it is filling out and shaping up to be the biggest pumpkin we’ve ever grown.

A new nature study necklace for my shop, which is now open, though I’m still in the process of setting it up.

I’ve made a reservation for two nights in November at a tiny lakeside cabin nearby.  It’s to be a big surprise for the children.  I don’t know when I’ve ever needed a vacation more.  I’m now eager to finish my sweater, as I picture myself wrapped in it while watching mist rise off the water, sitting on the cabin porch, steeping in the scent of pine trees, chilled damp earth, and wood smoke.  I only have one button band left to go.  And pockets.  I do believe it shall have pockets.

It’s such a hard season to keep up with posting regularly.  This happens every year around this time.  I think I usually get into a groove again in October?  Meanwhile, I find myself not getting around to it day after day and then putting out these massive monster catch-up posts every two weeks.  Such is life.

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Holding and Held

What to say? Galen has started work on Christmas presents.  Cucumbers and zucchinis are coming in.  The chickens are getting big…soon there will be eggs. It remains to be seen whether or not we will be able to eat them. At a time of year when most other gardens, ours included, are a fiery mass of colors, our front garden is having it’s white moment. It’s calmly beautiful, though short lived.  My favorite crimson rose is about to bloom again.

I’ve barely been knitting at all.  My head is swimming with lesson plans and meal plans and sewing projects and cold weather house preparations to be made.  I’m envious of mothers that have childless periods of time in which to think and work uninterrupted.  I could be so much more effective if I had the mental and physical space to plan and prepare.

The chickens aren’t the only ones growing.  I’m keenly aware that not just one, but two of my children will be able to vote in not the current, but the next presidential election!  I have two high-schoolers this year.  Iain is actively working through the state required steps for getting his driver’s license.  This growing children thing is getting serious!

My “baby” is no longer a baby, but an extremely active, clever and mischievous young girl, perhaps the very 2ist two year old I’ve ever encountered.  Last week when she was doing something naughty and being quite cheerful about it, I told her it wasn’t funny and she looked at me and replied, “I laughin’…”

This week marked a right of passage for my oldest daughter as well.  After many months of comments like, “There are only two people in dance class who don’t have their ears pierced.  You know who they are?  Me and Galen.”  And being assured that having pierced ears makes for a loving sister, with a sunny disposition, who does her chores without complaint and always remembers to put her clothes in the hamper, etc.  We finally agreed to take her to get her ears pierced.

Not being one to take for granted that the conventional way of doing things is always the best way and feeling really uncomfortable with the idea of some random kid at the mall putting holes in my child’s body, I did my research first.  Based on what I read, I decided that a professional piercer using traditional methods (as in a needle, not a gun) was the way to go for our family.

I nervously gave her some relaxing and pain relieving herbs in the waiting room before hand. She didn’t even bat an eye.  She didn’t flinch or whimper or cry, her eyes didn’t well up…she was just totally chill.  That girl is pretty hardcore.  We’re using chamomile tea bag compresses now, in addition to regular saline rinses, to help with healing and reduce the risk of infection.  She’s pleased as punch.  I don’t think there has ever been a gift she’s liked so much.

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harvesting and a sweater for every occation

The garlic is in and at least a few blueberries made it to the freezer.  I had really hoped to make it back to the blueberry farm again by now.  We thought the tiny girl would just park herself somewhere and gorge away, blueberries being her very favorite.  But she took her task very seriously and was determined to fill her own little basket.  She went off on her own (we kept an eye on her of course).  We kept asking if she wanted to pick with one of us and she would reply, “No, I pickin’ with myself!”

It’s birthday sweater season, where my knitting project is dependent on who happens to be in the room with me.  I have one color work sweater where I feel completely certain about the color selection, but nervous about the pattern and a second one where I’m completely at ease with the pattern, but nervous about the color selection.

I actually haven’t started Iain’s sweater yet. My gauge is so horrendously off that I haven’t had the courage to face it.  Ravelry had the wrong yarn weight listed and I was silly enough not to double check with the pattern.  Every time I sit down to try and figure it out I think,”OR I could just pick up one of these sweaters I already have started and have a nice relaxing knit.  Yes, that does sound quite good.”  And I do just that.

It occurred to me that this is my last week of summer in which to accomplish anything.  Next week our schedule explodes and we are thrust into a full scale, full on, hectic autumn schedule.  Where did the summer go???

I’ve been frantically trying to get the house and our lives together, but I’m so easily sidetracked.  My ridiculous mind keeps having nagging thoughts like, “hmm, maybe we should try to paint the bathroom real quick?”  A perfect example: yesterday I sat down on the futon with a basket of fabric to sort through.  As I was cutting off scrappy ends and tossing them into a trash bag, I was acutely aware of the flat throw pillow I was leaning on.  Let’s just say that the situation escalated and Steve came home from work to find me sitting in the middle of a huge pile of stuffing and bits of random fabric, pulling apart packed together fibers and blistering my hands chopping scraps up into teeny-tiny little flecks.  These things happen, right?  I’m happy to say that we do now have three fluffy pillows to recline on at the end of our long hard days. Of course, they are now too big for their pillow cases, so there is that….

I’m sometimes alarmed by how much my life resembles an episode of I Love Lucy.

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“Chook, chook, chook, chook, chook

Good Morning, Mrs. Hen, How many chickens have you got? Madam, I’ve got ten.  Four of them are yellow, and four of them are brown and two of them are speckled red, the nicest in the town.” ~Nursery Rhyme, a favorite with a certain little someone just now.

The coop is complete and now home to eight happy hens (though we are not sure that all of them are hens, two are growing decidedly rooster-ish): Dilly, Captain, Miss Pecks-a-Lot, Monty, Juliette, Buffy, Alys and Vita.  The last two being named by me after two of my favorite gardeners.

Elijah designed the coop and Steve, Iain and Elijah built it.  My sole contribution was to interrupt them when they were making excellent progress to drastically slow them down by requesting they cut scallops in that trim piece, which looked far more charming in my head and far less like the awning of an ice cream shop.  Do I redeem myself at all by relaying that since these pictures we’ve added shutters and I ripped all of the wood for them?  Probably not.

I’m quite enjoying keeping chickens, with the notable exceptions of the pooping on my front steps and eating of my hostas.

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Lil Shepherd in the Rain

In an otherwise dry summer, I feel as though we’ve had a whole season’s worth of rain over the last week.  There were points when I was convinced that the entire house was just going to bob up and float away.  I would lie in bed at night in semi-consciousness listening to the torrent all around me and get the impression that I myself was being washed away.  In a way I kind of adored it.

I made Seraphine a Lil Shepherd vest a couple of weeks ago when I needed a break from tiny sock needles and thin fiddly sock yarn for bitty socks.  She likes the vest (I think it’s the pom-poms) and the socks, which is a huge boon for me because more and more often lately she’s been telling me that woolen items are not soft and that they “hurt”.  She’s very fickle.  There are some items that I consider rough, but she accepts without question and others that are soft as can be and she turns her nose up at them!  Very frustrating for a mama-knitter.  It seems to help for her to see me knitting them.  She always wants to know what I’m making and who it’s for.  Then there is a build up of excitement about this special bit of clothing just for her.  I think that may have been the saving grace of the vest and socks.

I just started reading A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle.  I can’t remember who recommended it?

The salad above is kale with chicken, avocado, black olives and that vegetable cheese I’ve been making (it’s similar to this, but we have our own way of doing it).  That was nice, but I’m terribly disgruntled about food in general lately and sick to death of everlasting elimination diets, which I’ve been on various variations of for the better part of 16 years now.  And I just seriously need a big long vacation from the whole darn thing.  Unfortunately, vacations from eating don’t tend to work out well.  I know there are plenty of ways to make it exciting and delicious, I’m just too everlasting busy and tired to, a) be that creative and b)  actually have the time to make it all.  And the times when I do manage to make something novel and interesting, it takes hours to create and disappears in mere moments because there are so many people digging in.  Alright, end rant.  Moving on.  Here if not in my head.

I’ve experienced a very unexpected knitting/wardrobe windfall!  I had this theory that my best bet, as my kids get older, for insuring that they quietly and happily keep wearing my knitted goods was to be as discreet about their home-made nature as possible….classic men’s wear colors, simple designs, nothing that’s going to call too much attention. In passing Iain mentioned liking brown, so I was thrilled when a shade of brown went on clearance in my favorite, go-to, everyday yarn (the color is “Doe”.  It’s now sold out in worsted, but still available in DK weight for $2.81 a ball, which is a pretty fabulous price for superwash merino!). I ordered enough for a sweater and started planning my simple, non-threatening, fingers-crossed teenager approved, palatable classic.

Imagine my surprise when a week after the yarn arrived he told me he wanted me to make him something “wild” and unlike anything he owns, with as many colors as possible!  Preferably loud, bright, attention grabbing colors!  I guess the joke is on me with that one!  That’s more than alright because the consolation prize for being way off base is that I’m getting a new autumn sweater after-all.  The full coverage warm sort of one that I had in mind, though in a different color and pattern than planned.  I never would have bought the yarn for myself, but since it’s already here…  And I also have the unique, endearing and amusing task of working up a wild and crazy sweater for my son’s seventeenth birthday.  Not a bad deal at all.

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