Talking Across the Pond: Not Enough Water on This Side, Too Much on That. . .

July 7th

Dear Nora,

Happy belated 4th of July!

Soma’s fish look amazing and sound really tasty and the Lake House looks peaceful and astonishingly sunny, I’ve almost forgotten what the sun looks like. We’ve had torrential rain, followed by more torrential rain, with and without thunderstorms and for a bit of variation gale force winds and horizontal rain. It seems like every time we attempt to put the finishing touches to the shed it rains. The sheer force of the deluge just after the roof felt went on compressed the still squishy tar leaving giant runs over the top surface of the roof. Its not pretty but it is watertight.

It’s not been dry enough to connect the electrics so we can’t do much on the interior until that’s done but its still progressing albeit a lot slower than I would have liked. The pile of timber still to attach is slowly reducing. Hopefully it will be finished in another week and then the great tidy up of the house can begin.

Last weekend I sat on a giant plastic barrel in the middle of a field in glorious sunshine and knitted whilst watching the DDs riding lesson. This week, because of the weather, they went out for a hack, like an eejit I went along for the walk, I’m not entirely sure what, or even if, I was thinking at the time. I was presented with a novice rider on a lead rein and spent an hour and a half alternating between a fast walk and a slow jog. I spent the afternoon recuperating in front of the telly box with the girls. Much knitting was achieved and so the shawl is now a mere eight rows from completion which is jolly good because the rows are sooooo long I’m finding my mind wandering off mid row, rather optimistically I’m hoping to get it finished tonight so that I can finally cast on for Anouk tomorrow. Really really looking forward to that, it will be great to knit with thick yarn on chunky needles and see instant progress, especially after seeing the tutorial on fixing the bag feet which made so much sense and made it look so easy. Its like having you there to hold my hand every step of the way. Perhaps a post on the making of vodka pastry is in order.

My trip to Stash was both successful and unsuccessful. The yarn I’d decided on for the Noni ribbed sweater was a fantastic colour but rather itchy and although there were a few other things I liked nothing screamed buy me… not for that anyway although a dozen sale skeins did leap into my shopping basket. So much for being restrained. My yarn cupboard is now bursting at the seams.

The rest of the week seems to have flown by.

On Monday I got to hold a 2012 Olympic Torch.This is a picture of daughter F holding the torch.

Tuesday was spent roofing the shed.

Wednesday was spent  rummaging around in the school loft in search of 30 specific nativity play costumes. The school loft is much like a domestic loft but with attitude in bucket loads. Everything that needs keeping, but which doesn’t have a home, gets crammed up there and has done since roughly 1950, at least that’s the oldest date on anything I’ve found so far but I’ve yet to venture into its deepest darkest corners. Its full of exciting discoveries, I’ve come across everything from a handmade 5′ high rocking horse to an assortment of used toilets which I can only guess that one of my predecessors kept on the off chance spare parts were ever needed. In and amongst are well over a thousand costumes for a variety of school productions. Trying to find a grey donkey outfit to fit a tall 10 year old is much like hunting the needle in the proverbial haystack. I came across cows and sheep and camels, dogs, ducks, and chickens, but have yet to find a single donkey. Fortunately, I have another week to track one down.

On Thursday I tried a Zumba class, I haven’t laughed that much in ages, I obviously don’t have the co-ordination for fast paced choreographed dance routines, especially not when some equally unco-ordinated sweaty person is hurtling towards me oblivious as to what the instructor and the rest of the class are doing.

Friday was spent catching up on the girls’ homework and attempting to figure out a summer schedule which allows them to do all the activities they want to do whilst D and I attempt to work full time around them. Fortunately, my boss is incredibly flexible which is just as well really.

We spent today at a giant sports warehouse to get a few last minute things for pony camp. We got a little sidetracked and taught the girls to play table tennis in the demonstration area. It all got a little competitive and we were playing for a little over an hour. More than one innocent bystander was assaulted by a stray ball followed up with a rugby tackle to the ankles as a flying child followed in hot pursuit.

For once the house is relatively peaceful.  D is asleep after a 4am start, F is cooking pancakes in the kitchen and B is attempting to sew a name label into her new dressage jacket. I’m hoping once shes managed that she can be persuaded to sew labels into a dozen pairs of jodphurs too.


ps. and you’ll probably laugh….. What is a Bean Queen? Wikipedia seems to think its an effeminate gay man and the Urban Dictionary comes up with something even more bizarre. I somehow doubt that small town America hosts a Gay Pride march on the 4th of July.

pps. here is the finished shawl pre-blocking 🙂 I cast off with 0.25g to spare. I never knew knitting could be so nail-bitingly exciting. This means I can finally cast on for Anouk 🙂 which is precisely what I intend to do before work this morning.

July 11, 2012

Dear Amanda,

I do believe that the Bean Queen is a pretty girl (or a popular, somewhat pretty girl) who has been chosen to represent the bean farmers. The Sugar Queen, for example, is the pretty or popular girl who is advertising the local sugar brand made from sugar beets or what have you. I think for the 4-H program had a 4-H Queen and King.

While you have been having too much rain in your part of the world, we have been having much much too little. Whole neighborhoods in Colorado have been burned to the ground. And closer to home, there have been record high temperatures on the East Coast and through the mid-West. I think the heat is expected to break a bit this weekend but we desperately need rain.

When Soma and Misha got home on Sunday night from our short vacation (I am still in Michigan teaching a workshop and return home mid-morning Thursday), they found our plants gasping for water. The large ceramic pots that we have fish in were way low. . . I’ve decided to let a row of hydrangeas that I planted in a bad spot die (on the low side of a hill but in too much sun and the soil too sandy to hold much water) rather than keep watering them with little or no effect. Lawns everywhere look brittle and parched. Formerly soft blades of grass poke the bottoms of your feet should you go without shoes.

(Later the same day. . . after great workshop and long drive): More letter shortly after a full night’s sleep.


Talking Across the Pond: Graduations, Sheds, Power Outages, & the 4th of July. . .

June 20, 2012

Morning Nora!

I’m planning to sneak out of work early today to go to the knitting group at Stash. Discovered I didn’t have any 8mm needles which was most infuriating. Will be taking Anouk with me so I can finally make a start on her. I’ve been wanting to do it all week but didn’t have the right size needles. It has been an incentive to make major headway on my current works in progress. Always swore I’d never have more than one thing on the needles at any one time but then I discovered the amount of concentration required by lace work isn’t conducive to late night telly watching so I abandoned that idea and now have a few things on the go. Have to be very restrained whilst I’m there and not take advantage of their better than half price end of line sale basket without having something specific in mind.

I think I’ve figured out what yarn I’m going to use to make the Noni Ribbed Sweater but am going to head in the direction of lighter yarn rather than heavier because I can’t get hold of any Worsted weight yarn. Aran wright would be thick and rather heavy weighing in at around 2kg which will be ridiculously hot most of the year(although perfect for wearing around the stables). DK would be more practical, and there’s a lot more choice, but that requires a little adaptation due to a difference in gauge. Guess I should be used to that after Ella. Ridiculously excited about that though but can’t make up my mind whether to go for a deep dark aubergine (egg plant to you) or a dark stormy grey. I suspect I’ll know when I see the perfect yarn.

My husband’s shed is still a work in progress. It rained constantly until Sunday which meant it stayed wrapped up on the drive whilst I did lots of housework on the basis that once we started building it I wouldn’t get chance to do anything else. Sunday was glorious. Got up early and spent a couple of hours getting the floor supports down before taking the girls to their martial arts gradings. Returned home and started building up the walls plank by plank. Its like a giant interlocking jigsaw puzzle but without much in the way of guidance which is how we managed to fit the windows upside down and had to take part of a wall out to flip them over. Finally got the roof on on Monday and started the arduous task of treating all the timber before the roof felt can go on and the floor can go down. Have used about five gallons so far. The house honks of creosote and it needs at least another two coats before we can do anything more. I did vaguely consider doing some before work this morning but figured I should iron school uniform instead which lasted all of ten minutes before the lure of my daughter’s homebaked cookies took over.

Soma’s school project sounds great. Daughter B has just finished a giant project on the Zambezi river which she had great fun researching, I learnt plenty about open coal mines, hydroelectric power stations and game parks. She was rather fortunate in that its an area we’d visited before children so there were lots and lots of photos for her to look at, cue many chortles as she realized her dad hasn’t always been bald and her mother was once wrinkle free.

It sounds like you’ve been even busier than normal. Hope your trade show goes well. Really looking forward to seeing your new bags.

Got to run. It’s 7am. Daughter F is playing football with our big black dog in the field next door and Daughter B is still asleep. Need to leave for work in 40 minutes but am still slobbing round in my PJs.



Dear Nora,

I still haven’t started Anouk. She’s my reward for finishing a giant lace shawl which would be going much more smoothly if I hadn’t tried to do the most complicated bit in twilight whilst tired and refereeing an argument between my daughters. Cue the frogging back of almost a thousand stitches which wouldn’t have been too bad if they’d all be knits or purls but it was a row full of double and triple decreases in a variety of directions….. and being an intelligent kinda gal I did that whilst tired which meant much picking up of dropped stitches too. Its sorted but its taken me four days to do which is more annoying than making the mistake in the first place, whether thats enough of an incentive to use lifelines in future remains to be seen.


June 28th

Hi Nora

This week seems to have flown by.

In between chaufurin’ my daughters to hockey matches, rounders games, two lots of marital arts classes, and riding lessons I managed to spend several hours in church, not out of a sense of religious duty, but because the local craft show was based there. There was some very impressive work by some incredibly talented people but nothing came close to the work of the artisans of the past responsible for the numerous magnificent stained glass windows.

I spent almost as much time wandering round admiring the structure of the building as I did looking at the modern crafts.

D’s shed now has doors and a door frame and more importantly a floor. We still have to felt the roof to make it water tight but it’s either been too wet or too windy to do that. He’s back at work today which means I’m catching up on much domestic drudgery in anticipation of an extra day with Daughter F. as her school is closed to pupils for a staff training day. Not entirely sure what we’ll do although she’s hoping for either a trip to the zoo or the local ice cream farm, somewhere else I’ll have to take you to, which has over a hundred different flavours of ice cream ranging from Christmas Pudding to Toblerone, Tiramisu to Vodka and my current favourite Raspberry Pavlova. I’m thinking a picnic at the top of Moel Ffamau (Mothers Mountain) would be more fun, and the hairball would certainly enjoy it more, and, if she’s content to fly a kite, I can make a start on the first book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.



July 6th – 7th

Dear Amanda,

Please send a picture of the shed!  I am eager to see it after hearing so much about it. I have been busy. TNNA, our big knitting industry trade show, is always a whirl wind. The new designs were well received! As soon as I was home, I coached Soma on his International Space Station report, and we settled on the order of the report and the information he would talk about. My husband put together a power point presentation to help with the order and show pictures. The final presentation was a huge success! The classroom has a smart board, so the power point slide were projected on the big screen. The screen itself is sensitive and works like a computer touch screen. All Soma had to do to move to the next slide was touch the screen. It was great and I was so proud.

All in all, I was in the studio for 3 days before we left for a short vacation in Michigan. It was a mad dash of putting things in order, sending out orders . . . The evening before our departure there was a wild storm that knocked out power all up and down the East Coast. Tree limbs and whole trees down in our neighborhood. We did not have any downed trees, fortunately. Our house had no power for four days. It was difficult to leave not knowing how long we would be without power, but we have wonderful neighbors who looked after the house, garden, 2 cats . . . until power came back in the middle of the night.

Meanwhile, we have been having adventures here in the thumb of Michigan (and none of them involved being near a computer for any length of time, but I am finally finding a moment of quiet to write). I had meant to write to you on the afternoon of July 4th. I had it all planned out in my mind: we got up EXTREMELY EARLY to go fishing. There were thunderstorms over the lake, right where we were planning to go, however, so we didn’t get on the boat until about 7:30 (2 hours later than planned. . . the first part of my plan gone awry!). For the first maybe hour not a single bite. I thought the trip was going to be a repeat of last years almost fish-less trip, but then Soma said, “There’s a fish on that line!” And he was RIGHT. He brought in the first fish of the day.

And he brought in just about every other fish (save perhaps 2 or so), including a “Sheep Head” (far left) and a Catfish (far right).

The end of the fishing trip put us in town just before the July 4th town parade, so we got stuck there as all roads leading in and out were closed for the parade. What fun! We don’t have parades with Bean Queens and 4-H Queens and the local Sugar brand Queens. Just about anyone (so it seemed) with a small business and a truck was part of the parade. Soma watched it all quietly in a seat some locals offered him. The other kids were all dashing about trying to grab a piece of the candy that just about everyone was throwing out of car windows and from the top of floats. My favorite of the parade was this huge farm vehicle below that was advertising someone’s farm business.

Even the undertaker took part. . . in an antique hearse, but they were so late (probably because the car was about as slow as slow can be). Nevertheless, they took a turn through town several times. I wish I had gotten a picture of them but I was eating a tasty sandwich at the time.

As soon as most of the traffic cleared out of town we made our way back to the cottage. Fish for dinner! Misha cooked the fillets in a big cast iron skillet over the open fire–delicious. As soon as dinner was consumed Soma, Misha, and I jumped in the car and made a dash back to Port Austin to wait for the fire works to begin. We found a great parking spot and a great place to watch: right by the water.

The fireworks were set up on a long pier. As we waited, the other people waiting were launching great big floating lanterns into the air. The nights get really dark over Lake Huron, so the lanterns looked beautiful floating away into the sky. Once the sky was really dark the fireworks began. They were fabulous and we were so glad we made the drive to see them.

The next day we went to see a woman named Sharon who lives a bit out of Port Austin proper on an old farm. She used to run a tiny yarn shop . . . that’s how we met. We were up here and I was searching for some 8mm needles. She was the only yarn shop for miles and miles.

A cute little shop in a renovated out building.

We’ve visited with Sharon every year since that first visit (we stayed for hours, Soma (only 3 at the time) found delicious plums on the plum trees, Sharon gave us things from her garden). When I was up here writing Noni Flowers, she invited me to meet all her yarn-loving, fiber-working friends, sent me home with tasty food, invited me to Thanksgiving Dinner with her family when I was alone. This visit I took her a copy of the book.

She’s put the farm up for sale . . . it’s a unique property, quiet (probably like your forever home) and peaceful. A beautiful place that is getting to be too much for her so she’s thinking to move closer into town. I took a lot of pictures because I don’t know if we’ll see her there next year.

Today we close up the cottage and leave. After days of calm water, the wind is fierce today and the water rough. The rock castle we made yesterday has fallen down. Here’s what it looked like right after Soma and I built it (my new favorite past time here at the lake: rock castle building).

Misha and Soma return tomorrow to Maryland. This afternoon I drive across the state to the west side of Michigan where I will teach two workshops, one at a sweet little shop in South Haven, Michigan called Needle in a Haystack, the other a bit farther south in another great shop called Stitching Memories in a town called Portage, Michigan.

Much to do to ready the cottage for our departure . . . laundry to fold, beds to re-make. I always hate leaving the lake . . . Next year we’ll build more rock castles.

Don’t forget to send pictures of the shed!


Gone Fishing . . . Official Talking Across the Pond Post Later . . . Happy 4th!

Truly.  We’ve gone fishing.

We left the house at 5:30 am this morning, July 4th, to go Walleye fishing on Lake Huron. Weather has been curious. Yesterday, the tide came in, went out (extremely), then in, then out. In the matter of 20 minutes. It was as if a giant was drinking the water out of Lake Huron with a straw and then pouring water back in. Of course it was a full moon, or nearly so. Solar wind coming at us, electromagnetic adventures. Might even have been Northern Lights in the UP and Canada as a result. Wish I could have stayed up late enough to see for myself if we could see the lights where we were midway down the mitten thumb. . . the neighbor was out by his campfire half the night hoping for a spectacular show.

As you read this, I am hoping to be reeling in some Walleye, or watching my Soma reel them in. He’s been looking forward to this since last year when he caught the first fish of the day and 7 pounder that beat the one other fish we brought in. We’re hoping to best that meagre number today.

More details later in my letters from and to Amanda!

Happy Independence Day, America!  Happy Celebrations, everyone!