Monday, December 3, 2012

I've Been Bad

It has been almost 2 months since I wrote here, and I have no excuse – other than life has been too much with me. We moved, two guilds to look after, teaching, etc. - it all takes time.

I'm in Indianapolis at the moment at my son's house. Spending the week here with my grandson while his Dad plays a week with the Detroit Symphony. In the fall, the Indianapolis Symphony was involved in contract negotiations, as many US orchestra were. They were out of work for some time, finally settled, and are back at work now, but while they were out, the musicians took work where they could find it. Rick (my son) played a week in Dallas, has some future gigs with Chicago Lyric Opera, and this week in Detroit. The ISO is back at work at salaries reduced by 1/3, and the management has agreed to allow the musicians to keep their commitments made during the strike/lock out (not sure which it was).  All I know for sure is that orchestras in this country are in severe distress; this has affected the big 10 and the little 10 alike.

On the knitting front I am struggling to fulfill sock orders for Monterey Yarn customers. They  have to be finished with enough time to Kitchener, wash, and dry them before delivery. Then there is the Christmas knitting for the family. Way too much on my plate. I haven't even started the Christmas baking which is something that I love to do. When I get back home, maybe I can crank and bake at the same time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Room By Room

We are now going room by room, gathering things like pillows, quilts, blankets, etc. and stuffing them in lawn leaf bags. We expect to actually move furniture and stuff like that in about 3 weeks, so it's time to get down to the nitty gritty. We will take over another load or 2 tonight after dinner, so I have to fill those bags so there is something to take.

I must say this has all been very therapeutic. In an effort to finishs some UFOs I found 2 stashes of left over sock yarn - actually, there are 3, and most of the 2 were still in skeins that one could knit from. A couple of days ago I started making balls out of each skein so I can make a rug out of it on the Circular Sock Machine. There is a pattern out there for making miles and miles of I-cord, which you then weave into rug canvas. I saw an example of one and it was gorgeous, so I have begun making I-cord. The CSM, however, can't knit from skeins; the yarn either has to be in balls or on cones, so the left over yarn is all being wound into balls, and when I have time - yeah - like that's going to happen - I can make I-cord with it.

The other point of interest today is that it is my birthday. Yup - the big old 68. Scary how old that sounds. Isn't it interesting that there is always a small part of you somewhere inside that feels about 5. I have an aunt who, in her 90s, resisted moving to a senior facility because she didn't want to "live with all those old people." I'm afraid I feel the same way. In fact, I never felt old at all until my father said to me one day, "Well - you're no spring chicken you know!"  All of a sudden I felt about 125, and that conversation must have taken place 10-15 years ago. Today - I want to feel like a spring chicken, it's my birthday, and I can feel the way I want to.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Victoria Jicha's Tales of a Knitter: Boxes, boxes, everywhere...

Victoria Jicha's Tales of a Knitter: Boxes, boxes, everywhere...: The Present House We are two weeks into a downsizing move. The house we live in now won't go on the market until the spring, and we are ...

Boxes, boxes, everywhere...

The Present House
We are two weeks into a downsizing move. The house we live in now won't go on the market until the spring, and we are trying to get into the new house before Thanksgiving. But there are boxes everywhere ... in both houses. We decided to do most of the move ourselves, which means every day we pack up two cars worth of boxes and assorted items, drive them to the new place, unload, put away when possible, and return home to load up again. Lucky, AJ has a truck so he can take more stuff.

Most of my sewing and knitting supplies are already in the new house, although I am having to fit them into a 13' X 10' room, whereas they came out of a space twice that large. On top of that, the room will also house a desk and this computer. Therefore, efficiency is the order of the day. The only knitting stuff that I haven't moved yet is my circular sock knitting machine, which I am still using. I will move it at the last minute.

Today we took over 6 loads...I don't know how AJ does it... I'm not much help with the heavy lifting. After the first load I stopped at a wine & beer store on the way home, and the clerk was very helpful. He went to the back room and came back with about 8 boxes, some of which still had dividers in them - great for packing wine glasses.

The New House
The recorders and hammered dulcimer have also been moved as have about 50 pieces of Red Wing pottery - some of which are quite large. Movers come next week to give us estimates for moving the furniture. All very exciting. Can't wait to be in one place, however; I'm very close to forgetting what is where.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Won! Well, Almost...

My last post was about the Crank A Thon, and I am happy to report that I won one of the categories. There were 8, if I remember correctly, and I started out cranking regular socks. Then I noticed that no one was making lace socks, probably because they take more time to do. So, I switched, because Lace socks was one of the categories.

The Crank A Thon lasted for 2 weeks from a Tuesday to a Tuesday, and I was out of town for almost a week of that time - a 3 day adventure with my cousins from Wednesday to Friday,followed by the long Labor Day weekend. (We got home on Labor Day.) The big prize was the most overall items, and I pretty much knew I had no chance at that, so Lace was the place for me, and I submitted 3 pairs. The vine lace pattern on the left is the one of which I am the most proud.

In the mean time, we put in an offer on a house, and it was accepted. Now everything is about the move. Our present domicile is way larger than we need, and over the years we have accumulated my mother's dining room set, and my mother-in-law's bed suite and dining room set. Needless to say, we have way more furniture than we can move to the new house.

As I write this I am waiting for St. Vincent DePaul's truck to come pick up furniture that we are donating. On top of that, we have collected antique furniture over the years - mostly oak and mostly massive. I am looking for homes for a printer's cabinet, Hoosier cabinet, and a Yamaha upright piano. I called a local auction house yesterday, and the prices they charge preclude even contacting them again. I think there is an extreme garage sale in my future.

I haven't even begin to think about the craft/sewing room. I have it set up with a banquet table, and old teak dining room table, and the sewing machine table. I have 2 ironing boards and 3 sewing machines and a serger. Ye-gads! I will never find room for it all. The good news is that Andy arrived home from work yesterday with 12 empty computer paper boxes, so I can begin to sort and box stuff up.  Oh - almost forgot - I have 8 garbage bags full of clothes that I will never be able to wear again anytime soon, and they are going to Goodwill right after the St. Vincent DePaul folks come and go.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It's All About Socks

On one of the Ravelry circular sock knitting machine groups there is a 2-week Crank-A-Thon going on, and I committed to crank. Unfortunately I will be gone for the next 3 days and then off to Door County for the weekend.

However, I have done about 8 pairs of socks, and there are several categories to enter in. So far I am the only one cranking lace socks, so perhaps I have a chance in the lace category. No one else is cranking lace socks because they take longer to complete, but I like the look of lace and have developed my own patterns. Here is a pair that I did. Most of the patterns that have been published use the lace pattern all over and staggered around the leg part of the sock, but I like to run them on the outside of the socks.

Also, I leave today for Silver Lake in Wautoma, Wisconsin for a gathering of 5 of my 7 cousins. Should be a lot of fun. It's going to be hot, I just checked, in the 90s, and I don't think the cottage has AC, but there is the water, a float and nice long pier.

I'm not taking the CSM (circular sock machine) to Wautoma, but I will take it with me to Door County over the Labor Day Weekend. I should be able to crank a few pairs of socks then. So - off I go! Have to do the shower thing and last minute packing. Being picked up mid-morning. Have a great day to all who bother to read this drivel, and have a safe Labor Day Weekend!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Teaching Season Soon

Classes begin at yarn shops around the country in September. Well ... they run all year around, but there is much more traffic during the school year. Once the kids are off to school and fall schedules have been established, students begin to sign up for knitting classes in droves. I teach, and therefore, am involved in the course development and calendar at my local knit shop. (Monterey Yarn)

It's an exciting time because it means deciding what classes we are going to offer and what knitting projects will attract students. I am in the process of knitting a scarf for display in the store. It is in Brioche stitch worked the long way with 2 gorgeous variegated yarns.

We are exploring other topics such as knitting with beads, the cabled bag I designed a few months ago, and, of course, socks. We also always offer a 4-course series of basics we call 101, 102, 103, and 104. These numbered courses run throughout the year.

All that is by way of saying I have a lot to do - syllabi to write, projects to knit, and as a result - a very dirty house. Oh well...!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mixed Blessings

Looking north from Cape Foulweather
I'm back home after a week on the stunning Oregon coast, and I must admit that there really is "no place like home." I have such mixed feelings about the week that I'm not sure whether I can put them into words.

Geographically, I couldn't have been in a better place. Oregon is where I grew up, and 'going to the beach' was something that we did when I was young on those days when a hot easterly wind poured down the Columbia River Gorge into Portland and beyond. In fact, our last day there it was 102 degrees in Portland, and in the high 80s on the northern coast - pretty rare temperatures for Oregon. Oh, and did I forget to say that there was not one drop of rain during our entire stay there? That also is probably some kind of Oregon record.

The sound of the ocean waves hitting the beach is a sound I can hear no where else, also the sound of a babbling brook - both sounds are important to me, but not ones I can hear in the mid-west. Water doesn't babble in the midwest - it oozes.  Sorry to all my Wisconsin friends, but you know it's true. I guess sounds are important to me, probably because I was a musician, so being able to hear the water move was spectacular. I actually tried to memorize the sound in my head, so I can pull it up at any time and hear it again.

I was there with my entire family in a rental house that sleeps 12. It was a great house, and each family had their own space. It was absolutely super to watch my grandchildren discover tide pools, sand dunes, the ocean, etc. and we actually flew on the same flights with them. That part couldn't have been better.

The "mixed" part of the trip was that my sister and I could not see eye to eye on very much. At one point the dissension was so bad that I seriously considered coming home early. She and I are the only ones left in our immediate family, and I am saddened that we no longer have each other. I know - 'It takes two to Tango' - and I am willing to accept that I must have a part in the division, but the fact that she cannot accept hers makes any reconciliation impossible. There won't be anymore family holidays or weekend visits, and I can't call her to 'chew the fat'. Actually, years ago she asked me not to call anymore, because she prefers email. So you see - this has been coming for a long time.

Sorry to bring you all down. What a bummer. Let's see if a gorgeous picture of an Oregon beach can make us all feel better.

Pacific City, Oregon (taken from Cape Kiwanda)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Picture Says...

No time for words today - they generally get me into trouble anyway - but a picture or two might do the trick.
Cape Meares State Park

Towards Oceanside from Cape Meares

Monday, July 30, 2012

Family Vacations - eh?

I write this from the Oregon coast in a drop-dead gorgeous house that sleeps 12. The entire family has converged here to spread ashes of our parents, grand-parents, and great-grandparents. While we are here for 7 days, every minute of close living is treacherous.

My husband says that my sister and I have big personalities. I've never been described that way before, but my sister and I can really mix it up, and we have been doing so since we arrived. I guess I would say that we are each super over organized, planned to the Nth degree people, which is OK if just one of us is determining the schedule of activities. However, that is not the case. Oh MY! Unfortunately it is not enough to agree to disagree.

Before coming to the coast, my sister and I went to visit Jacob Avshalomov, seen in the picture above. He conducted the Portland Junior Symphony, now called the Portland Youth Philharmonic, that my sister and I grew up in. Mr. A, as we all affectionately called him, had more of an influence on me than most of my college professors. He taught discipline, orchestral ettiquette, "Look up" he always said. He's 92 now and still has the brightest snappy eyes you've ever seen.              

Friday, July 27, 2012

Victoria Jicha's Tales of a Knitter: I Love to Travel

Victoria Jicha's Tales of a Knitter: I Love to Travel: We leave tonight for a 10-day vacation on the Oregon coast and I couldn't be more excited. The entire family (minus my oldest grandson, wh...

I Love to Travel

We leave tonight for a 10-day vacation on the Oregon coast and I couldn't be more excited. The entire family (minus my oldest grandson, who is working in Maine this summer) is coming, and the week culminates at our favorite beach. I look forward to lots of crab, smoked salmon, and salt water taffy.

My sister and her husband are there awaiting the rest of us to arrive, and she took the picture on the left yesterday at the Rose Gardens just west of downtown Portland.

Everytime I get off a plane in Portland I can feel my total system relax; it just says "Ahhhh! I'm home." Isn't that strange? I haven't lived there in over 40 years, but it will always be home. I think it's something about all the green, the mountains, the water, the vegetation. There is also a pioneer component that lurks below the surface. When I was a kid we studied about the Oregon Trail, Lewis & Clark, and the wagon trains lumbering down the Columbia River Gorge. I know! That all happened a long time ago, but that spirit still resides there. Soon, so will I - for 10 days anyway!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cranking and Catching Up

I have been remiss about writing here but I have been cranking socks and baby hats out with a vengeance. The goal is to have 50 pairs of socks and assorted children's socks and hats ready for the Biltmore Lakes Association Arts and Crafts Festival in October. It will be my first public offering, and I am excited about it. The time span between now and then incorporates a few dates that my husband will be out of town, and while he will be missed, I will be able to get more done when he is away.

I've also started reorganizing my sewing room, so at the present it looks like it threw up. The space is in the basement, and it is larger than most craft spaces. I don't know why it has always been such a quandry for me. You would think that having the room I have it would be easier to keep it clean, but that is not the case. I have decided to divide the space into two distinct halves - a sewing half  and a knitting half.

Next week the entire family converges on the Oregon coast for a family vacation, and yesterday I started a sock on needles (Egad!) so I would have something small and transportable to knit on the plane. I hadn't knit a sock by hand in over 6 months and was shocked at what a slow process it is. I knit socks on 2 circular needles, and just the act of joining in the round and doing that first row reminded about how much I appreciate the circular sock knitting machine.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Personal Retreat

Think about! "Retreat" seems to imply backing away from something, as in "The army retreated". Is a personal getaway a retreat then? a retreat from normal every day life? retreat from problems? Does it mean escape?

I'm not thoughty enough to answer the questions, but whatever the derivation, I'm going on a retreat and I'm going to love it. We have a 5th wheel that we keep in Door County all year around; it is our 'cabin in the woods.' Between May and October you can find us there on most weekends. We drive up (a mere hour away) on Friday night after work, stop in Sturgeon Bay at our favorite Chinese restaurant for a quick dinner, and then drive to the RV. We return to Green Bay Sunday morning with enough time to mow the lawn and run home errands.

This weekend will be the same, except this time I am taking my hammered dulcimer and Renaissance costume. This weekend is the first of two weekends in a row for the Door County Renaissance Faire at which I will be playing. Instead of coming home on Sunday, when Andy is returning home, I'm going to stay for the week in between the two Faire weekends.

As Wednesday is July 4th, Andy is coming back up Tuesday night after work, and he took the rest of the week off. So - the long and short of it is, I will be a widow by choice for 2 1/2 days - sounds like fun. I'm going to visit yarn shops that Andy has little interest in visiting - oh, and there is a quilt shop as well in the area. I'm also taking my sock knitting machine. I've wound lots of yarn and plan to do lots of work while I'm on my own.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It Is Finished!

That is the English title of a rather famous Bach cantata, Es ist Genug in German, the quote based upon the last words of Christ I believe. I happen to feel the same way about this Basket Cable Bag, which you see to the left. I designed it for Monterey Yarn, a local knit shop in Green Bay where I teach, and we will be offering classes in making the bag in the Fall.

I started the project before my hand surgeries, and of course could do nothing with it for about 2 months. Then, as I began to heal, I could knit, but not on this bag, because my hands had lost a good bit of their strength.

The Basket Cable stitch is an 8-stitch cable (4 sts over 4 sts) so it takes a big of hand strength to make it work. When I was finally able to work on the bag again, I could only do a round or two, and then I would have to put it away for another day. Happily, my hand strength is back, and I credit this bag for for that fact. I think it was good physical therapy.

It is lined with plastic canvas panels, plexiglass on the bottom and then fabric over all of that. The lining of the bag was more of an ordeal than the knitting of it. Interestingly, it was knit from the top down. Actually, I didn't know that was what I was doing until the top edge began to curl a bit, and then a customer at the store suggested that would make an excellent top edge. She was totally correct, and that is what I did. Hope you all like it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Computer Woes and Consternation

My 2006 iMac died last week. In the interim my major internet vehicle has been a 10" laptop computer, which I connected to the printer so I could continue to function. This has all been the major foundation for increased eye strain, of course, because I broke my glasses at about the same time. Egad! Talk about things happening in threes. There was a third thing, but I can't remember what it was - probably because it paled in relation to the computer debacle.

I have computer glasses - designed for that special eye-to-screen distance, and while they haven't been updated for years, they have saved my bacon and work pretty well in close-up situations, such as knitting, making socks on the circular sock machine, etc.

At any rate, a new iMac should arrive today. I can't wait - 27" screen and loaded with memory and the whole bit. With my computer activities curtailed, I have had more time for more essential activities. The last post I made here was about Betsy Beads by Betsy Hirschberg, the book about knitting with beads.

This design came from that book, and I completed it yesterday. I think it will look great on a black turtle neck. The book shows it in gold, but I had silver yarn. There you have it.

I have also opened an Etsy store - Victoria's Fiber Creations The name was chosen because I also quilt. So far, I have included some ribbon yarn that needs to find a new home, but soon I will be offering socks as well. Check it out. Plans are to offer custom-knit socks as well. In other words, I will take orders for specific lengths. Lots going on these days. Guess I like it that way.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Knitting with Beads

 A couple of months ago I discovered Betsy Hershberg's new book Betsy Beads, Confessions of a Left-Brained Knitter (XrX). This is one awesome book. I hadn't knit with beads before, and if this is true for you also, this is a great tutor to start with. She takes a straight-forward approach to the subject, and encourages working with left-over sock yarn, at least in the beginning. I love the act of using something from one technique in a new technique, and so I have been happily creating beads for necklaces and bracelets and such. If this topic interests you, I highly recommend this book.

Have a good weekend. I'm off to a dulcimer festival in Illinois. Can't wait!

Monday, June 4, 2012

It Has Been A While

Yes it has...been a while since I last posted. My excuse (all conscientious ladies have excuses at the ready) is that I have no pictures to go with the post. Pictures were always a bone of contention when I was the editor at Flute Talk as well. Oh well, suffice it to say that the past weekend was spent outside doing yard work, and if I ever get my act together, I will post some pictures.

We spread about 50 bags of cedar mulch, weeded, pruned shrubs and roses, power washed the deck (Now it needs a coat of stain. It never ends!), and began taking out about 8 40-year-old Mugo pines that are completely overgrown and mostly dead in the center. AJ got out the chain saw, and I pulled the sawed branches out of the quagmire, and together we hauled them to the curb. At some point the village will come by and pick up the pile, which is about 20 yards long. We finished 4 Mugos - 4 to go.

The good news for the Mugos is that we have to go to Illinois this weekend. I am excited to be attending the Gebhard Woods Dulcimer Festival in Morris, IL. It is a 2-day event with lots of artists, non-stop performances, and workshops. Saturday night features an old-time music dance and it should be gallons of fun. AJ is going too, and we are bringing Jessie, our Springadore (half Springer Spaniel, half black Labradore). AJ has a sister with a summer place nearby, so he can go visit her while I soak up the dulcimer music. Fun, yes?

Since I last wrote I have also developed a passion for sourdough cooking. I've managed to start and maintain a starter and baked a couple of pretty decent loaves of sourdough bread. There is something about cooking from scratch, and I mean REALLY cooking from scratch, that touches my pioneer spirit. I grew up in Oregon after all. We know how to do that out there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Yesterday was a bust ...just couldn't get anything done. I think I had worked so hard on Monday that there just wasn't any energy left for Tuesday. This "being retired" stuff is tricky. Without deadlines to meet and immediate tasks screaming for attention, it is entirely possible to fritter away an entire day, and that's just what I did.

This morning I made a list, and I am sticking to it. Otherwise, I might fall prey to idleness again, which is very unlike me. The deck is covered, and I mean crunchy covered, with helicopters from our Maple trees. They are even sticking between the slats on the patio table, which is teak and also needs immediate attention. First - go to the shed and get the push broom. Second find the hand sander (electric of course) and figure out how to use it. The table must be sanded and oiled.

The cable bag is progressing. I'm at 14 1/2" now and the goal height is 16". You know how it feels when you are close to finishing a project? You keep knitting and keep measuring, and the measurement  is always the same? Well, that's where I am. I think I could work 2 more repeats of the 12-row pattern, and the measurement would still be 14.5".

Well, I can either write about it, or get off my duff and actually do something about it. My choice!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Looking Forward

We keep a 5th-wheel in Door County – about 50 minutes away. We call it our "cabin in the woods", although in reality, it is pretty luxurious. My days of sleeping in tents on air mattresses that are invariably flat in the morning are long gone, so the "Far-V" (my now 18-year-old grandson named it that when he was about 5) is perfect for my arthritic joints. We escape to Far-V almost every weekend, that is until the call of the yard work gets too strong, and then we stay home and work ourselves to the bone.

This Memorial Day weekend we are going to Far-V early and staying late; altogether we will have 5 days and 4 nights! Can't wait. We have planned the menus, and I am shopping and preparing for the venture. AJ has a smoker upon which he plans to do a pork loin, and I have a camp dutch oven, in which I plan to roast a chicken. We also have a small freezer that is stocked with burgers and brats, and the pantry has such staples as canned baked beans and S'mores makings. All in all, we should be able to roll home instead of driving.

There are lots of goings-on in Door County on Memorial Day weekend. Sturgeon Bay has a juried Fine Arts Show, and Jacksonport or Bailey's Harbor, can't remember which, has May Fest. We like to take Jessie to Murphy Park, where she can catch balls that AJ deftly tosses over the water.

Of course, all of this requires careful knitting preparation. I have to pack in such a way as to get everything I might possibly need in the car with me. Enough wound skeins of yarn, tapestry needles, scissors, tape measure, stitch markers, etc. I  plan to be able to finish the cabled project bag this coming weekend – the knitting part at least. The lining part will take more time and a sewing machine. No I won't be taking that up to Door County.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spring in Wisconsin

Tuesday night a fellow knitter from the Bay Lakes Knitting guild was on his way to drop of some yarn for one of the residents at the Bellvue Retirement Community. He called and said he was on his way, so I went out on the front steps to wait for him. It was about 7 pm, and the light was perfect for taking pictures. I ran back into the house for my camera, and these are some of the results.

I just love Allium. Part of it is the color - can't help it - I'm a purple person. The bulbs are expensive, so I don't have very many. They are so regal, don't you think?

Sitting on the front step looking toward the street, this brick fencing with columns is what you see. Again with the purple - Vinca - so sweet and cute. They bloom early and then you have a nice green ground cover for the rest of the summer. If anyone knows how to get the crab grass out from within the Vinca shoot me an email. I usually just give out.

One of my other favorite spring blooms is Euphorbia. The color is unmatchable - chartreuse. Where else in nature to you find this color? Unfortunately in another month it will look gangly probably brown out, but it is gorgeous this time of year. The original plant seems to have reseeded itself around the yard, something that my husband does not appreciate, but I guess it is hardy.

This is the entrance to our front porch, and the Phlox seem very happy there. The taller shrubs in the background are dwarf lilacs and will probably pop this weekend.

When I was cleaning and organizing my craft room a week ago I found some fabric sheets for ink jet printers. Wouldn't these pictures make great quilting fabrics. Think I will have to give that a try.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Red Cabled Bag

I thought you might like to see the Cabled Bag in progress. As you can see the fabric is very dense. The Stitch pattern is Cat's Eye, an overall pattern from Barbara Walker's first stitch patterns book. The cable is an 8-stitch cable (4 back, 4), which is why it is so dense and rather hard on the hands.

Ultimately it will be a knitting project bag, about 16" high. At this time it is about 6 1/2 " high. Notice that the bottom edge really wants to curl, but I think that will settle out when I pick up for the base. I am designing it as I go. The top edge will conclude at the appropriate length and after a "cross" round. I have awesome lining fabric for it and will also use plastic canvas sheets for stiffening on the sides. I plan to have a special piece of hard plastic cut for the bottom.

Here is a close up of the stitch pattern, which is a 12 - row repeat. Cables cross right on row 6 and left on row 12. I am a Continental knitter, but on the cross rows and the the following rows I throw the yarn. It is easier on my hands, and I can work at the very points that way.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Domestication, Ugh!

It is stunningly beautiful here today, and rather than enjoy it, I am running errands, ironing, doing laundry, etc. Dropped the dog of at the groomers this morning at 7am, then went to get an oil change for my car, home to start laundry, ironed 6 tops, planned supper menue, and have two major cooking projects to do before dinner.

I have 6 bananas that are going bad, so it is either throw them out or make something with them. Banana Bread it is. If it is any good I will share the recipe, although it is readily available on the internet.

Also, we are out of dog treats, and my daughter shared a recipe for Peanut Butter Dog Treats that she found on Pinterist. I'm going to try my hand at that as well. .

Yesterday we spread some great smelling cedar mulch on the island bed in the front yard. Need to do the same thing everywhere else. No time.

Knitting, you ask? Well, I worked quite a bit over the weekend on the Cabled Bag I am designing for Monterey Yarn. It is about 8" high now, but that is only about half way. When I first started working on it a couple of weeks ago, the cross-over row and the one after just exhausted my left hand - the one recovering from the hand surgery. Now, I can keep going, and the hand doesn't tire so much. Guess that means I am getting stronger. Always a good thing.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Victoria Jicha's Tales of a Knitter: Knitting for Charity

Victoria Jicha's Tales of a Knitter: Knitting for Charity: The Bay Lakes Knitting Guild of Green Bay, Wisconsin has several charitable projects: chemo caps and baby hats for hospitals drive these kni...

Knitting for Charity

The Bay Lakes Knitting Guild of Green Bay, Wisconsin has several charitable projects: chemo caps and baby hats for hospitals drive these knitting activities. A new endeavor this year has been establishing a knitting group at the Bellevue Retirement Community, an independent and assisted living facility here in town. The project at Bellevue started in January, and upwards of a dozen residents there meet every other week to knit and chat. Two or three Bay Lakes Knitting Guild members attend the sessions, to help, to encourage, and underscore this important group activity. Without guild involvement the Bellevue knitters probably would not have come together.

The guild introduced the knitters there to our charitable knitting projects, and one of the residents has turned out more than 30 baby hats for the newborns at St. Vincent's Hospital here in Green Bay. We provide her with the yarn, and she just knits her fingers to the bone. Each time I walk into the Community Room at Bellevue, the first thing I see is a row of five cute, little white hats that remind me of the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Last night at the guild's annual picnic I was able to present the guild with 18 of these little tot toppers, all knit by the same woman at Bellevue.

What has been the results of this senior citizen knitting project?

  • The meetings have brought residents together. Rather than staying in their rooms, they have been thrown together with other seniors with like interests.
  • They have rediscovered the art of knitting, something several of them had not done in years.
  • They are producing items to donate to others. Often seniors are only on the receiving end of life, but knitting has provided them with an opportunity to give.
  • They have an activity now to fill their sometimes long and lonely days.
If you are in a guild or club somewhere that is looking for an outreach project, I encourage you to look at senior facilities in your area. Contact the activities director and see if they would welcome your involvement. You will be all the richer for it. I know I am.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spring in Door County

We spent the weekend in Door County, WI opening up our 5th wheel for the summer. We keep it in a campground just north of Carlsville. It is our "cabin in the woods" and where we spend most weekends in the summer. Some folks travel the US in 5th wheels, but we just reside in ours on weekends. It never moves. The campground is heavily forested, quiet, and very peaceful. This time of year it is awash in Trillium, and the sight is beautiful.

There are also numerous wildflowers - little yellow ones - don't know what they are called but they are so delicate and sweet.

The local stores are also advertising morels, and on occasion I have found some to harvest. They are a great addition to a morning omelette, but I didn't find any this weekend. We had a lot of rain, which was OK because there was a lot of cleaning to do. We usually are the winter motel for a mouse or two, so everything has to be cleaned thoroughly, which I did most of Saturday.

I got a fair amount of knitting done as well - on a cabled bag I am designing for my LYS. It is based upon the Cat's Eye overall cable pattern in Barbara Walker's first volume of stitch patterns. The cable is an 8-stitch cable, so it is fairly physical for the hands. I have to pace myself, because my left hand still doesn't have the strength it should have after the surgery. If I do top much my wrist hurt, which couldn't be a good thing. Right?

I see the doctor tomorrow. Hopefully he will tell me I am progressing as I should and to knit away with abandon. Finger's crossed!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stormy Weather - There's a Song in There Somewhere

We have had quite a morning here in Green Bay today - the thunder and lightening have been pretty constant since after midnight. At one point it got so dark it looked like night time rather than 10:00 a.m., which is what time it really was. I even shut the computer down for a while.

Then there was a little break with no rain, at which time I scurried around, looking for my shoes, so I could go out and harvest some rhubarb before the next storm rolled in. As you can see, I made it. I think there is a rhubarb pie in our future tonight.

It always makes me think of Dad, because it was his favorite pie too. At this time of year, I would always make 2 of them at a time – one for Dad and one for us. There is a Rhubarb Custard Pie recipe in the old Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, and that is the recipe that Mom always used. Me too, still today, but over the years I have amended it a bit for more fruit in the pie. Of course, if you are going to add more rhubarb, you have to add more sugar, 'cause rhubarb is pretty tart. Anyway, DH loves it, so there will be dessert after supper tonight.

While waiting for the storms to abate I craned out a pair of socks using the ribber. I think I finally have that contraption down, and am beginning to understand the difference between the various sized cylinders. At any rate, my goal is to have 45-50 pairs of socks ready for my sister's Art Fair in October.

I also want to start taking orders for socks from customers on the internet, but that seems to require a logo, price tags, business cards, etc. Way too much work for a rainy spring day.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Successful Crawl (for yarn that is)

Saturday's Yarn Crawl to Milwaukee-area stores was a rousing success. 17 members of the Bay Lakes Knitting Guild left Green Bay at 6:45am in about 5 cars and drove down to Fox Point, where our first store was the Knitting Knook.

My purchases for the day show
restraint, don't you think?
It is in a house just off Interstate 43 and North of Bay Shore. What a find! I've seldom seen a greater selection of sock yarn. The rooms are small, and every inch is crammed with yarn displays of one kind or another. The owner very kindly opened early for our group, and at the end of the day, everyone agreed it was one of their favorite stops.

After that we continued south to Ruhamas, Wisconsin's oldest and largest yarn store. It is located in Whitefish Bay, which is just north of Milwaukee, and it too was amazing. This store also has an entire wall devoted to gorgeous needlepoint canvases and the yarn to work them. They had stunning Fair Isle-type kits from several Scandinavian designers, any one of which I would have been delighted to purchase if I could have afforded it.

After that we caravanned to Brookfield, a western Milwaukee suburb, to Kopp's for lunch. Kopp's is famous for gargantuan hamburgers, to-die-for onion rings, and the best custard Wisconsin has to offer. (Wisconsinites are partial to custard; ice cream is not favored.) I can attest that the onion rings are out of this world.

Across the parking lot from Kopp's is River Boutique and Yarn
a different kind of store with lots of vintage clothing, antiques, and yarn but not the variety we had seen. They have a great sitting area in the middle of the stores with sofas and soft chairs, where knitters can sit and knit to their heart's content. The owner made brownies for us that were awesome. Unfortunately, after the visit to Kopp's, I wasn't very hungry.

Next stop was the Cream City Yarn Shop in Brookfield, which is located in an old bank building. The store is owned by a couple of young women and it has only been open a year. They had a nice selection of yarns and the store space was light and airy.

From here the last shop stop was at Fiberwood Studio in Milwaukee.  A very small store front, they specialize in fibers for weaving and had an entire wall of coned yarn. I was excited about this, thinking they would have coned yarn I could use for my circular sock knitting machine, but alas, their yarns were 2-ply, too light to use in the machine.

Each of the stores had gift bags for us and a drawing set up for the one lucky knitter who would win it. (I wasn't lucky!) They all were very welcoming to our group, and I'm sure made a tidy profit from our visit. The final stop was at The Cheesecake Factory for dinner and then back up 43 to Green Bay. All in all a very jam-packed, fun-filled day of yarn shopping.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Yarn Crawl

I'm looking forward to a yarn crawl of 5 Milwaukee area fiber shops tomorrow - an event set up by the Bay Lakes Knitting Guild here in Green Bay. It will be a long day - we leave in a caravan at 6:30 a.m. That's pretty early to be showered and ready for the day. The best news is that I am not one of the drivers, which means I can knit on the way down and back until the sun gives out.

I couldn't have said that a few days ago. I saw the physical therapist yesterday for the last time. He cleared me to function without the hand brace and basically said I can resume all normal activities. I have begun practicing hammered dulcimer and recorder again, and I am knitting up a storm.

Projects? I have a shawlette about 80-% finished. I am designing it as I go and the only questions left are how long it should be and what bind off to use. The stitch pattern is Cat's Eye, and the yarn is 100% alpaca from a local NE Wisconsin alpaca farm, LondonDairy Alpacas. It is incredibly soft and fun to work with.

I also have a lace sock going on the Erlbacher Gearhart, and a quilt in the hoop to quilt. Too many choices. On top of that, the sun is out and I should really work outside in the garden today. Oh well, I'd rather be knitting.

My husband and I usually go out for dinner on Friday nights. We call it Date Night, and what that means is we go out to eat and then do the weekly grocery shopping. You can tell we've been married a long time, right? In order to do the shopping, I'll need to plan menus for the week. Something more to do.\
Have a great day! I'm off to get the day started.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I've Been Bad

I just couldn't keep up with the A to Z Challenge. There is just too much going on, so I'm sorry if I have disappointed anyone. I'd rather get back to life as I know it anyway.

I have been consumed with Bay Lakes Knitting Guild business, and also, I can knit again - carefully. The hand is healing quickly. The Physical Therapist says one more week of the brace, and then some mild weight training for strengthening. Without the brace I can knit again, and I have launched into two design projects with a vengence.

The first is a shawlette (they seem to be all the rage at the moment) with some oh-so-soft Alpaca from an Alpaca farm in Two Rivers. The second project is a bag that features cables. This also requires some pretty serious architectural considerations, because I want to line the bag as well.

I've been swatching for the cabled bag. At this point all I really know is that it will be red.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kincaid - Father of American Flute School

For me, the letter K elicits the immediate response – William Kincaid. He was the principle flutist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and taught at the Curtis Institute for the majority of his career.

Born in Minneapolis in 1911, he studied flute with Georges Barrere at the Institute of Musical Art. After a stint in the Navy, he spent the rest of his working career in Philadelphia.

Kincaid required his students to keep notes of their lessons, and when I was going to school copies of those notes floated throughout academia, from student to student and school to school. Interestingly they were all quite similar. His teaching method was organized and addressed musical phrasing with a system of numbers that referred to the order of importance of a note. At one point, the majority of flutists in American orchestras had all studied with William Kincaid.

Unfortunately, I never studied with Kincaid, but my teachers were all former Kincaid students. I was just one generation beyond his personal scope. He retired from the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1960, and I entered college in 1962.  That said, his influence on American flute playing was broad and covered the the flute world for over half a century.

Keeping in mind that recording technology was less advanced in Kincaid's day, I was delighted to discover this You Tube link;
it is Kincaid and the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun - a staple in every flutist's repertoire that is included on every orchestral audition today.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jazz Flute

Jazz as a genre is a pretty complicated topic, and I am not qualified to expound on it. Jazz flute, on the other hand, is a topic about which I might have something interesting to say. I was just out of college when I first heard a  jazz flutist who made me rethink my entire perception of jazz in general and jazz flute in particular. 

The flutist was Hubert Laws, and his album The Rite of Spring was the recording that did it. The selections on that album included improvised versiosn of Syrinx, Amazing Grace, and other Classical works. What made me sit up and take notice was the beautiful sound he had. Up to that time, most of the jazz flutists I had heard could improvise 'til the cows came home, but they did it with a less than focused flute tone. This performer was a Juilliard graduate who had studied with Julius Baker. He had his ducks in a row. Many years later I would have the pleasure of interviewing Laws for Flute Talk magazine.

As editor of Flute Talk I met and interviewed several jazz flutists over the years. Three of them just happen to have a You Tube video together. What makes the video special is that each player represents something unique. The players are Ali Ryerson, Greg Pattillo, and Zachary Kellogg. Ryerson, as a female jazz flutist, is unique right there. There just aren’t that many female jazz flutists out there, and she is fabulous. 

Greg Pattillo represents a whole new genre of flute playing; known as the "beat boxing flutist", he developed a style of beat boxing that works on the flute. When the flute world discovered that he was around, they went wild for him. 

Zachary Kellogg is 11 years old in this video. That alone makes him unique. That he could hold his own with Ryerson and Pattillo says a lot about his talent. 

At one time or another, I interviewed each of these players. The video you are about to see was shot in a hotel lobby at a National Flute Association convention, and I experienced their artistry live. I was sitting next to the person who shot the video. (Ryerson is performing on an alto flute, which explains the extra length and the curve on the end of her flute.)

To hear examples of beat boxing go to In this video Pattillo improvises on the Super Mario theme. Enjoy! At the very least I think these takes will bring a smile to your face.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Irish Music

I absolutely love Irish music. There is just something about it that cuts straight to my soul. When we moved to Green Bay I discovered a Irish music jam session that meets once a month in a used book store, and I have been a faithful attendee at that session ever since. I even purchased a whistle so that I could participate, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Wouldn’t you like to know a little bit about music of Ireland?

Irish drum called a Bodrhan
Irish traditional music includes drinking songs, reels, hornpipes, jigs, walttzes, and many more types of tunes. The tunes are usually binary, i.e. in two parts, each part of which generally repeats. Instruments used to play these tunes included the harp, fiddle, whistle, button accordian, and uilleann pipes ( a type of bag pipe). The "rhythm section" is often the Bodhran, a drum like percussion instrument that is played with a wooden clapper.

Luckily for us, the Irish brought their music with them during the great migration of the Irish to this country, and their music was so powerful that it had a huge influence on our own folk music, particularly in the Appalachians.
There are thousands of examples of Irish music on You Tube. I picked out 3 that I like. If you are interested I suggest that you just poke around in You Tube and discover what you like for yourself. The first,, is Morrison’s Jig. This version is an electronic one, but I could hear it on acoustic instruments. The next,, offers a good example of whistle playing, in this instance by Joe McKenna. Finally offers more than one tune all featuring the fiddle.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hammered Dulcimer

The hammered dulcimer, which comes in various sizes, has strings that are attached to a wooden base that is in a trapezoidal shape. The strings are struck with hammers that come in varying shapes and sizes as well. Because the strings are struck, hammered dulcimers are a member of the percussion family.

Hammered Dulcimer by Rick Thum
Interestingly, the hammered dulcimer can be found around the world under different names. In Hungary it is called a cimbalom, Germany a Hackbrett, China a yangqin, Italy a salterio, Iraq a santur. etc. A full list of names can be found on Wikipedia.

It is usually strung in pairs of strings, although there are dulcimers with 3 strings on every pitch. There are 2 bridges, a base and a treble bridge. Confusing to former pianists (like me) the base strings are to the right and the treble strings are to the left as you sit at the instrument. This is the opposite of a piano.

I first encountered a hammered dulcimer at a Renaissance Faire in northern Illinois, and fell in love with it. The following Christmas, my husband surprised me with one as a Christmas gift. I played around with it and basically taught myself to play the way most folk instruments are learned. However, once I retired I had the time to dedicate myself to learning to play it well. Last summer I played hammered dulcimer at the Door County Renaissance Faire, taking development on the instrument full circle.

While the HD has been used in traditional classical settings from time to time, today you find the instrument more in folk situations. Here are some links to follow and some excellent players to listen to: Notice that Ken Kolodner is getting a muted sound on his instrument. This is because he is using a pedal damping system operated by his left foot. The next link is Rick Thum performing Pleasure House Rag: . Finally, listen to Bill Robinson play 12th Street Rag.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The G String

Now stop that!    I know what you are thinking. A G string is much more than a piece of underwear. To start with, remember the post from last Sunday about chromesthesia? Well, to me G is yellow. That’s right. We can start with mellow, yellow, as in G – G Major.

Next, the violin’s lowest sounding string is G. (Violin strings are tuned E, A, D, G from top to bottom, i.e. highest to lowest.) In fact, there is a very famous piece by Bach that has come to be known as the Air on the G String. Wikipedia says it better than I can: 

The original orchestral suite was written by Bach for his patron Prince Leopold of Anhalt some time between the years 1717 and 1723. The title comes from violinist August Wilhelmj's late 19th century arrangement of the piece for violin and piano. By transposing the key of the piece from its original D major to C major and transposing the melody down an octave, Wilhelmj was able to play the piece on only one string of his violin, the G string.”

To hear this remarkable piece, follow this link: . Over the centuries various arrangements of this piece have been performed – for chorus, the original orchestral version, Here is a version for cello and piano at a very different tempo. .  Interesting, eh? There is even a rock version which isn’t my favorite, but it is certainly a different interpretation.

JS Bach
Every year the National Flute Association holds a convention that is attended by anywhere from 2500 to 4000 flutists from around the world. The Closing Ceremonies of the august body is the playing of Bach’s Air on a G String by everyone in attendance. It is an awesome sound to hear that many flutists all playing together.

Many musicians have a close emotional reaction to this composition. The Chicago Symphony has a long-standing tradition of playing the Air whenever a member of the orchestra dies. It is always a very emotional beginning to that night’s concert. 

Many years ago the orchestra was loading onto a plane to fly to Europe for a month-long tour. The piped-in music was playing the Air on a G string, and at least one member of the orchestra got off the plane and refused to fly. That’s how powerful the association was that the musician had about that particular piece of music.

Friday, April 6, 2012

French horn

Indianapolis Horn Section
The French horn is dear to my heart, because my son holds the Assistant Principal Horn position in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. When he was in high school he would play along with recordings of Mahler and Tchaikovsky symphonies; that is what greeted me as I arrived home from work. 
The French horn is a member of the brass family, but sometimes also finds a home in the woodwind family when it is included in a woodwind quintet. The tubing of a French horn is an incredible 12 feet long if it were uncoiled, but and all coiled up so that the player can handle it more easily. (Actually, that isn’t a record; a tuba has 16 feet of tubing.)

The modern French horn is a descendent of the hunting horn, which was used to communicate with other hunters from the back of a horse. In the 19th century valves were added to the hunting horn, which made it easier for players to play in all keys. Horns are either single horns (3 valves) or double horns (4 valves). Orchestral horns are all of the double horn variety, pitched in F or in B flat.

Folks outside the music world may not be aware that there are various horn playing styles. In regards to sound, some horn sections are considered to have a dark sound, i.e. the New York Philharmonic. And others are said to have a bright souns, as in the Chicago Symphony horn section. It is customary for some players to use a bit of vibrato, while others find vibrato quite distasteful.

Wherever you find them, horn players like to congregate into large horn ensembles. There are many examples of this on You Tube. The London Horn Sound is a great example of this phenomenon and the result is amazing. You don’t want to miss this rendition of the Roman Carnival Overture. Likewise, you might also enjoy Tico Tico:

If you would like to meet my son, go to this URL, where he introduces Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5. Then click on this to hear the horn solo that Rick has just told you about. (The conductor is Leonard Bernstein and the orchestra is the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The English horn is not from England

The English horn is related to the oboe and has a larger bore and is longer. Unlike the oboe, it is a transposing instrument, sounding a fifth lower than where the music is written.Why it is called an English horn is a mystery. It’s origin has nothing to do with England. It is also sometimes called a cor anglais, a French name, but it has nothing to do with France either. Made of wood, the English horn uses the same fingering system as the oboe, so it is often what musicians refer to as a “double”, meaning that oboists also “double”, i.e. play the English horn as well. 

It has been a standard member of the symphony orchestra since the Romantic composers began including it in their musical compositions. While there are instances of its use in the mid 1700s, it really came into its own in the 1800s. 

Hector Berlioz included the English horn in Symphony Fantastique, which was written in 1830. One of the most famous English horn solos is the “Going Home” theme from Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

If you have some extra time, check out this performance of Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnola, , a remarkable rendition by the DePaul Symphony Orchestra. The English horn solo happens at about 6:57.