Friday, May 31, 2013

Rosemary

"There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.” 
In years past I have always had some rosemary by the front door.  I love the smell of it; that deep woodsy aroma that always makes me take a moment to pause and count my blessings.  Rosemary is effective in bringing a feeling of well-being and an increase in energy.  It is known as an antidepressant and a tonic to soothe the nerves.  It is a wonderful herb to aid people with anxiety or depression.

Rosemary, like most of the aromatic herbs, is good for digestion which, makes it a wonderful herb to cook with.  I love to steep a sprig of it in oil or vinegar for a few weeks.  The resulting liquid is so aromatic and adds a dash of flavor to roasted veggies or salads.  

I have always loved herbs and how different and individual they can be.  It is one of the reasons I worked so hard for my ND (Doctor of Naturopathy).  In days past I used to have shelves of herbs for physical ailments and spiritual uses.  I miss that.  In the past I had a huge herb garden and I miss that too.  I miss the colors as the plants bloom, I miss being able to take a sprig here or there.  I miss watching nature unfold before my eyes.

You see all of our planters now are home to termite stations and the herbs would be inedible.  So for the past few years I was at a loss what to do.  I bought these containers that have a place for the rain to gather and store.  We've been known to have drought conditions where to water your garden is to break the law, so this container is perfect.  The soil whisks up the water from below and keeps my plants happy even in a drought.  

This weekend I bought six little herbs: rosemary, thyme, lavender, nasturtium, sage and basil.  My wonderful sister helped me haul mulch and plant herbs and it made me feel so...centered to have a garden again.  With there six herbs I can make a myriad of things.  Lavender oil is good for so many things: a few drops in a bath can help to loosen up tight muscles, a few drops in a foot-bath can help with fatigue and inhaling lavender's scent can help to relieve stress and anxiety.

Nasturtium is a great source of vitamin C, stimulates the digestive system and can aid in regulating metabolism as well.  The herb contains the same antibiotic, anti-fungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties  that can be found in mustard.  You can eat the leaves, flowers and seeds as each of these have a different flavor.

Thyme is another of those scents that I just love; I can feel the stress melting away every time I smell that intense aroma.  Thyme has thymol which has antiseptic and anti fungal properties.  It is very effective as a throat gargle for sore throats.  If you can't stand the strong taste then cooking thyme in a nice broth and then straining out the herbs can be very soothing.  Thyme contains potassium, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium and selenium.  Thyme also provides vitamin B6 which helps brain function and resistance against free radicals.   It can be added to almost any dish for a burst of flavor.

Sage has such beautiful flowers.  Sage is a wonderful in a tea for congestion, cough or sore throats.  It is an appetite stimulant that is delicious in sauces, flavoring meats and adding that "special touch" to stuffing.  Also it's beautiful green leaves can be dried and used for smudging which is a shamanic way of cleansing an area or object through purifying smoke.  I love the smell of sage wafting through the house balancing the energies and bringing tranquility to our home.

Last but not least is basil.  Basil is a natural anti-inflammatory, it is good for stabilizing blood sugars, improving breathing and is high in antioxidants.  Spiritually it is connected to fire and that helps to explain the peppery taste.  Basil blended into a paste becomes pesto.  Everyone makes theirs different but I like a lot of garlic, some parsley, a little thyme, black pepper, EVO and a whole lot of cheese.  Blend it all together and let the favors meld overnight and you have a sauce for pasta or veggies that can help to boost the immune system.

Of course this is only a snippet of what each herb can do.  While I have used these herbs for all the purposes that I have stated here:  YOU SHOULD CONSULT WITH A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL BEFORE STARTING ANY HERBAL SUPPLEMENT PROGRAM. 

All material and information presented here is for educational purposes only. The information on this site is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other healthcare professional and is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any condition or disease. 

Sorry, I had to say that.  But everyone is different and people are on medications and have allergies and only a physician can tell you if herbs will work with your chemical make-up.

That said if the spirit moves you, plant some herbs and see what the different flavors do to spice up your food.  I'm having pork with thyme and rosemary tonight that has been cooking for hours and is sure to melt in my mouth.  Yumm!

May your life be full of flavor,
Ruinwen
:)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Do Or Do Not There Is No Try


"To try is to risk failure. But risk must be taken because the greatest hazard of life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, live, and love."
-- Leo Buscaglia
In the past I talked about how I was stuck in this no-win situation.  I was afraid to fail; I was scared to succeed   I had talked myself into a stalemate where I just couldn't win.  But, I'm over that.  I have opened up the flood-gates to the Universe to help me in creating a better self and I am open to whatever they send to me.

I've been teaching, designing, planning a knitting cruise (more on that in later posts) and now I'm honored to be teaching at Knitter's Day Out.  My bio is on the same page as so many wonderful knitters and I'm just kind of pinching myself.  This really is a dream come true to be able to teach in such a wonderful venue surrounded by such amazing talent.

I am doubly happy that I will be able to teach the pattern the Frederick Shawl that honors my parents.  I can't really show the shawl yet so the little slice of linen stitch above will have to suffice for now.  I am so elated with the flow of this pattern.

This is Schaefer's Miss Priss in Gertrude Elion.  Schaefer is one of my favorite yarns for so many reasons.  Their colorways are named after famous women.  The yarn is so vibrant and wonderful to work with.  Sadly, Schaefer closed it's doors last year that is why I have no link for them.  I've been buying all the last stock that my LYS has, since this wonderful yarn will soon only be a memory woven in my projects and sitting in my stash.

Speaking of my stash, I tried to organize it a bit.  I swear I think the wool actually is breeding in my craft boxes; or maybe I just keep buying in my sleep.  Hmmmm.  I'm also working on organizing my patterns as well.  I've been taking all my silly notes and problem solving for my patterns and keeping them in a folder with sides and I put all my swatches in there as well.  That way my whole creative process is right there in one place.

Most of the week I spent organizing; there is always so much to do!  I've been trying to catch up on all the little things that I've let slide and I was able to take care of quite a few of them.

This week I have been happy to eat the produce as it comes in season.  We had such horrible bitter tomatoes this winter that it really forced me to eat foods that were more in season like squash and zucchini.  But now, there are radishes and tomatoes without all that acid available again and it makes me very happy.  I created a little salad for myself with gluten free / dairy free cheese and a safe dressing of berries and vinegar and it was so good.  I love salads.  I just have to be so careful with everything.

Right after Christmas I started a food elimination program to help determine why I was doubling over in pain after meals.  For the first month I ate nothing but all whole foods containing none of the big four contaminants  gluten, dairy, fructose and yeast.  This was a hard diet to maintain.  I found the foods I could eat and that was it.

I started to really look into food.  I've always been conscious about my dining decisions but I really had to dig deep into each food to see what might be lurking inside.  For instance chicken; many chickens are injected with things even though they say "all natural".  I couldn't trust anything.  So this was truly an eye opening experience to my food consumption.

I tested each of the "big four" and if a test was negative I could add that food back in.  It was a long process and now I know that I am dairy intolerant (not just lactose) and gluten intolerant.  This is on top of my citrus allergy which is much more dangerous.

So for the past few months I've been adjusting to this new diet and I've been working out what I can eat.  The biggest thing is cheese.  I miss my cheese; so I've been trying the soy cheeses and I've found one that melts and tastes pretty good.  It comes in a few flavors and I still have to try the cream cheese.  The crumbles melted and stretched like mozzarella should.   The pepper-jack had a nice heat to it and melts like a dream on my tuna.

But my biggest regret was all the deserts that I wouldn't be able to eat anymore.  In rushes Sterling Sweets to the rescue!  Their deserts are gluten free, dairy free, vegan, casein free, soy free, sesame free, peanut and tree nut free, refined sugar free and Kosher!  I find them all so delectable.  My favorite is the Coconut Chocolate Bars...they are like the This-over-that squares my Mom used to make.  I put in an order each week and they come fresh right from the kitchen.

So, all these diet restrictions take getting used to but I'm working my way through them to find a healthy balance.  I've lost that five pounds I couldn't lose and I've been maintaining my weight for about three months now.  At some point I'd like to start working out again but for now I just have to be content with the calories burned while knitting; which for my height and weight is 30 calories per hour.

Have a safe and beautiful Memorial weekend.
Ruinwen
:)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Frederick

Mastery does not come from dabbling.  We have to be prepared to pay the price.  We need to have the sustained enthusiasm that motivates us to give our best.
- Eknath Easwaran

I have been obsessed in trying to figure something out.  Every day I have my swatches, charts and notes out and every day I am defeated by math and the universe.  But I don't give up.  Usually after a week of watching me try and fail my hubby will step in with some great ideas.  If Friday rolls around and I still don't have an answer then I'll ask the knitting girls for some input.  If all else fails; I close my eyes, quiet my soul and pray.

Sometimes it seems that these obsessions of mine are a hindrance; but truly they help to motivate me and propel me forward.  They force me to question and think about things in a way that I might not have ever thought about.

And while I'm in this "special" place where I'm out of my box and my routines I see things from an enlightened perspective.  It was from this "place" that I cleaned my altar room on Saturday.  I celebrated and mourned, I laughed and wept.  I held each of my treasures and lovingly dusted them off and remembered why they were there before placing them back.  I made sure that Mom had her bracelet and Dad had his dog-tags.  I found the letters that were hidden behind his picture and wept again.  All the time I was playing spiritual music and singing when the spirit moved me and this cathartic act of simply cleaning and remembering changed everything.  Time had stopped for me and when I emerged from my cocoon I realized three hours had passed in what seemed like a half and hour to me.

But then life happened and I left the "special" place until much later in the week.  I had been fiddling with an idea that had suddenly popped into my head but there was no real time to test it.  At dinner I showed it to my husband on a napkin and he showed me his idea and there it sat.

After my spiritual bath I usually pick a tarot card and then meditate for a bit before going to bed but instead I looked at my beautifully clean altar and looked into Mom and Dad's eyes and felt a stirring of compassion and love; like a hug but with more to it.  Once again I got out a pen and began to write out the pattern I was trying to crack line by line; but this time, it worked.

So I've decided to dedicate this shawl pattern, Frederick, (which will be kinda "hush hush" until after I teach it) to my beloved parents.

Here is the blurb part of my pattern:

"This shawl is dedicated to my beloved parents who taught me to read at a very young age.  Frederick by Leo Lionni, is a book about a mouse who stored away things for the cold winter days like sunshine, words and colors.  My hope is that on those gray days that pass through our lives you can take out this shawl and its colors will bring you joy."

Thank you Mom and Dad for everything!  You were always there for me; even now I can feel your love and support; your compassion and your kindness.  I love you now and forever.

May your crafts be full of color that make you smile,
Ruinwen
:)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Lives We Weave

Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action.  They must be woven together.
-Anais Nin

In my last post I talked about how my Mom planted seeds in me that have been growing for quite a while now.  My love of knitting has only grown over the years and I suspect it always will be a huge part of me. I believe that it reaches down into my DNA since my ancestors knitted too.  When I visited my Great-Aunt I saw my first glimpse of a stash.  She housed more yarn then most stores I had visited.  She knit every spare moment she had and I was told by a visitor that one cannot leave her house without being gifted a pair of slippers.

So this love of knitting is woven within me; the past and present come together in this beautiful tapestry of fiber, creativity and family.  In my life I seem to be drawn to other crafters who help to weave another row into my life that bring friendship, diversity and community.  My students add another layer that allows me to push myself to learn new things that I can share and to be patient as my students teach me.  Each row, every layer creates an even more beautiful fabric then I could have ever imagined.  Each day offers me new opportunities to learn, to grow and to teach.

In the fiber that I work with surges the elements; air, fire, water and earth.  The sheep eat grasses that have been kissed by the sun, blessed by rain and nurtured by gentle winds.  It seeps into their wool binding them to nature's dance.  That wool is harvested by people, carded, spun and made into fiber.  That fiber is packaged and distributed and somehow ends up in my hands.

The wool I knit with now, like every strand of fiber I have, has a story and people, creatures and elements weave that story into what I now hold.  As I hold this fiber my life intertwines with theirs and I feel the tug of community through my craft.  This is one reason I really like MD Sheep and Wool festival; I love to see the people who are making the yarn that I will be using.  I like to talk to them about their sheep, goats, alpacas, angoras...etc.  I love to hear the care and love that they have for their creatures; it endears them to me and I can feel that love every time I knit a stitch.

I've always wanted to knit some Cormo.  I love a good Merino and the Cormo is in the same fiber family.  It is a cross between the Corriedale and Saxon Merino. This year Bijou Basin Ranch was there to make my dreams come true.  I got Bijou Bliss which is 50 yak and 50 Cormo and feels soft like a dream but full of bounce so I know it will drape beautifully.

Then I found a pure Cormo skein from Lavender Hill Farm and I bought that too.  Note:  I couldn't find any Cormo on their web page right now but they said that they would be carrying it in the future.  They have a ton of other wonderful yarns in a myriad of fibers.  I found out that they are more or less local too, so that was nice to know.  The Cormo is so squishable; I just adore it.  So thank you to the universe for allowing me to experience this wonderful fiber in two different ways!  :)

In other news I'm working on something new.  This is the linen stitch.  A knit stitch that is very deceptive.  It looks and feels like a fabric that has been woven.  Really, I wish you could feel this swatch.  It feels smooth on the right side and would feel fabulous on the skin.  The other side is full of little bumps that you can feel in the fabric.  It is an interesting stitch.

As you can see, I have been playing around with color to see what would happen.  Changing the colors every two rows makes a kind of checkerboard effect; which I think would be really lovely with a solid and variegated yarn alternated throughout the fabric.

Linen stitch is really, really easy IMHO.  Once you memorize where the yarn should be held for the slips, it flows like any other stitch.  This stitch tends to be tight so you might find going up a needle size or two will be helpful in stopping it from pulling too tight and curling.  Also, this stitch is awesome with pooling yarns as it breaks up the colorway and disperses it throughout the rows.

Linen stitch is just two rows over and over.  This is the pattern for knitting on straights.  An even number of stitches have been loosely cast on.

Row #1:     *K1, sl1 with the yarn held in front (WYIF)* repeat ** to end of row
Row #2:     *P1, sl1 with the yarn held in back (WYIB)* repeat ** to end of row

All slips are done purlwise regardless of whether the yarn is in the front or the back.  Each row will end with a slipped stitch and the yarn will have to be returned to the front (purl) or the back (knit) for the next stitch.

On circulars it becomes easier since your purl row is now a knit stitch. Again this pattern is for an even number of stitches.


Row #1:     *sl1 (WYIF), K1* repeat ** to end of round
Row #2:     *K1, sl1  (WYIF)* repeat ** to end of round


All slips are still done purlwise when circulars are used.

And that's it!

There are many ways to bind off linen stitch.

Some people use a knit two stitches pass the 2nd stitch over the first stitch bind off; yet there is many complaints about this edge being too tight.  I find sometimes this can be alleviated by using a needle that is one or two sizes up from the current one used to knit the fabric.

Some knit 2 stitches together and put that stitch back on the needle.  Then the process is repeated until the last stitch.  This will make a looser bind off; but there are still complaints about that as well.

My personal loose bind-off  is to knit two stitches move them from the right-hand needle to the left, slipping them tip to tip and knit them through the back loops.  Move the resulting stitch back to the left-hand needle and knit the next two stitches through the back loops.  Continue in this manner until all stitches are bound off.  This is a really stretchy bind off.   This is what I used in the swatch photo.

Some people bind off in pattern by slipping a stitch, then knitting a stitch and then passing the slip stitch over the knit stitch on the right-hand needle.  Then you would slip the next stitch and pass the 2nd stitch on the right-hand needle over that one and so forth until you had bound off all stitches.  This is said to produce a lovely bind off that helps keep the flow of the linen stitch.

I read a blog of a Russian knitter who found the original bind off she used unsettling and created her own.  Her post on it is here.

In the end it what you prefer; so experiment and find what you like.  I think I will put in a life-line before I start trying the different methods so I don't rip back and make a mess.  :)

Happy crafting!
Ruinwen
:)

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Remembering Mom


Here is the memory board we did for Mom.  I think it captured her life through the years.

This has been a long week but we have been taking it one day at a time.  My sister and I have been inseparable since last Friday and I think we are both working through the grief and trying to celebrate the wonderful woman that was our Mother.

Everything happened so quickly; but that means she didn't suffer and that is a blessing.  

We found a sweater in her drawer that was huge and I fell in love with the yarn.  It was six strands of different colors all knitted together and I thought I could reclaim the yarn.  

This is me and my sis trying to figure out how in the heck they put this vest together.  Not pictured is my awesome hubby who helped us.  It took us SIX hours to reclaim this vest.  Once we started we couldn't stop and it was 1 am when we finally were rewarded with many, many balls of yarn.

So moral of the story is that a vest made of intarsia is probably not worth reclaiming no matter how awesome the colors are.  :)

It was my beloved Mom who taught me how to knit so many years ago.  Forgive me if I've already told you this.  She had me knit a scarf out of ugly orange yarn for the homeless.  I hated my stitches and ripped it out over and over.  But, I finished that scarf and there was pride in that act.

Little did I know that a year later when I passed some yarn I would want to knit again.  The creative seeds that had been planted were growing and shaping my destiny without me even being aware.  I started thinking about making another scarf and the next one I made was black and simple but the yarn was yummy and I didn't rip as much.

Each time I went back to knitting it became more and more enjoyable until I wanted to try something new and that was the purl stitch.  After that, the world of knitting opened up to me like a flower blooming in the springtime.

So thank you Mom for giving me something that has seen me through the hard times and helped me to cherish the good times.  Thank you for teaching me something that reaches down into my roots and connects me with my ancestors every time I make a stitch.  Thank you for giving me something that lets me honor you with each project and every smile that a new yarn brings as I start something or get a new idea.  I love you...now and forever.

My sister and I want to thank all of you for your love and support over the last week.  We are blessed by our cyber family and we send hugs to all of you!

Happy Crafting,
Ruinwen
:)