Archive for December, 2009

Learning to knit

Last week one of the commenters on my blog asked me about when and how I learned to knit and I decided to respond here.  It’s not a long story but it comes with pictures.

My mother was not a knitter.  Maybe in reaction to her own mother, who was a high school art and home ec. teacher, she didn’t sew or knit, though she had an eye for design and color that I envied.

One of my prized possessions, however, is this pair of socks, knitted by my mother for my father.

My mother’s sense of humor is clearly evident in the bell she sewed on the pointed toe of one of the pair; the socks’ lack of symmetry (and lack of similarity to the shape of a human foot) meant they were never worn and probably accounts for the fact that I still have them more than 50 years after they were made.

All of this means that I did not learn to knit from my mother.  Instead, I was taught by a dear friend when I was first in graduate school in Ann Arbor, MI in 1983, otherwise learning to be a geologist.  Knitting was something that I could do when I wasn’t studying that felt productive and didn’t make me feel guilty for avoiding school work.

Since that time, knitting has come and gone in my life.  Sometimes I knit every day, other times I don’t knit for months on end.  A return to graduate school (this time to earn a PhD in education) resulted in another period of intense knitting. This sweater was knitted during my first month in Madison, WI as I waited for classes to begin.

Living in Maine brought on another knitting phase.  I made a lot of things during that time, including this hat (knitted from a pattern designed by the wonderful knitters at the Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, VT)

and this scarf that I dreamed up all on my own.

While in Maine I also took up sculptural knitting, enrolling in no fewer than three classes on the subject and creating all kinds of things including fruit

and eggs.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been knitting a lot since moving to Portland.  One of my favorite recent projects is a collaboration with the grandson of a good friend.  Last spring I received the following detailed drawing in the mail

and made this hat based on his specifications (this picture is of the prototype — I made another, larger, one that I sent to the designer).

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Holiday thoughts

I have mixed feelings about the end of year holiday season.  I love the expressions of thanks and gratitude that people are encouraged to make, the way people think about how to make others happy, the gatherings of family and friends, the food, the festive decorations.

I particularly look forward to spending time with my family:  cooking and eating together, sipping wine and talking late into the night, running through my brother’s neighborhood in the cold mornings listening to old favorites on my iPod, reading to my nephew before bed, starting a new knitting project with my niece.

Yet, this time of year I am also constantly reminded of how fortunate I am.   On these short, cold days I shiver uncomfortably when I see homeless people bundled in sleeping bags under a bridge as I drive past in my heated car.  I remember some of my former middle and high school students who, over winter vacation, had one less warm meal to look forward to every day.  I think about the story I heard on the radio about people begging online for gifts of clothing or toys for their children this year.

In the short term, I try to do things that will make a small difference with donations of time or money to the Oregon Food Bank, the School BackPack Program or other worthy charities and services for people in need.

I also focus on my work preparing teachers and others who will work with young people in schools because I believe that is another way to promote change and make the world better for more people over the long term.

Of course people are not only in need over the holidays and the changes we need to make as a society won’t happen if people don’t think about them year round.  Maybe if we start now, during a time of year when we are encouraged to think about others, we will continue during the rest of the year, when our daily busy-ness makes it more of a challenge.

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Holiday knitting

I’ve been working on some more holiday knitting projects over the past few days.  One of my friends had a baby this summer and, of course, this new family member didn’t have a Christmas stocking.  I padded into the breach and have made three stockings.  One for little Olivia:

and one for each of her parents:

Although I used a patterns for these projects (here’s the one I used for the two “adult” stockings) I had to make a few changes and add my own touches as well.

Now I have to get them into the mail in time to hang by the fire for Santa to find.

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School lunch

If you read this blog at all regularly, you know that I am very interested in almost everything to do with food.  I spend a lot of time thinking about where my food comes from and how to prepare meals that are healthy, tasty and appetizing.

I am lucky to live with someone who shares my love of good food and of cooking and to have other family members who feel the same way.  My sister-in-law is even a personal chef with two food-related blogs of her own (here and here).

Though I am certainly not a chef, my love of cooking and my concerns about food consumption and production intersect with my professional life, particularly when it comes to thinking about how to help children and young adults learn to eat well and to know more about where their food comes from.  I am also interested in how to more closely link schools with local food sources.

My interest in these issues hasn’t gone unnoticed; today a good friend sent me this link to Ann Cooper’s Renegade Lunch Lady website and that inspired this post.

In my own efforts to address these issues, I’ve been inspired by Alice Waters’s exceptional Edible Schoolyard Project to work with teachers to explore the feasibility of planting school gardens and to develop lesson plans that connect food and nutrition with the content taught in social studies, health and biology classes;

I’ve participated in school-university partnerships working to develop programs that make it easier for schools to buy food directly from local farmers;

and I’ve served on the advisory board for a School-based Health Center that addressed concerns about the kinds of snacks and drinks available for purchase in school vending machines.

There are many challenges to this kind of work:  changing kids’ attitudes towards food, making it possible for schools to utilize local food sources instead of relying solely on federal subsidies, enlisting the help of school lunch personnel and finding ways to involve parents and community members in these efforts are just a few.

Given what’s at stake they seem like challenges worth overcoming.

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It rained hard on Thanksgiving here in Portland.  In fact, it was a decidedly un-Portland-like rain that drummed on the skylights and on the deck all day long.

That made it all the more wonderful to wake up the next morning to blue skies and sun.  The weather was so remarkable that we quickly scrapped our plans to visit the Portland Art Museum (we’ll do that another day) and decided to head to the Columbia River Gorge (“the gorge” to people from around here) instead.

Our first stop, and oddly, the only one where I took any pictures, was the Vista House at Crown Point.

Even though the sun had been shining in Portland (really!) the skies above the gorge were grey.  Of course, it was still beautiful.

The rest of the day was equally lovely, with stops at Bridal Veil and Multnomah Falls on the way to Hood River.  Our Maine visitors were delighted to have been able to see a part of Oregon they had not seen before and we were happy to be with them as they saw it.

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