Sunday, December 23, 2007

Last Minute Projects

I have noticed very much over the past couple of weeks that postings, both on blogs and on Ravelry, have fallen off sharply among my acquaintances. Can this have anything to do with frantic last-minute clicking of needles and hooks as the deadline draws nearer for gifts to be finished, tidied up, blocked, tenderly wrapped in tissue and bright paper, tied with pretty ribbons? I would think so. Chez Celtic Memory it has been fairly frantic too, but at last we are seeing a tiny glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Nearly there.

Or we would have been, if the idea had not suddenly occurred late last night to make a last-minute gift for someone to whom Celtic Memory has cause to be grateful. Anne runs the retirement home where my father now lives peacefully (he will be 96 in January) and she gives him tenderness, attention and care above and well beyond the call of duty. She is making his twilight years very content indeed. And a little special present at Christmas seemed to be appropriate. (It would have been better, admittedly, if this had been thought about a little earlier, but things have been fairly frantic here.)

It was almost midnight. The next day (today) a trip was planned down to see Papa and leave gifts for the big day. That trip could just about be left until mid-afternoon, but no later. So - not too much time.

A shawl. Not a complex knitted one, beautiful patterns though there are, in abundance. Some other time. Not now. A crochet one then. Used to be able to whip those off in an evening in my heyday. Wonder if the skill has survived? Only one way to find out.

Hunted for a big skein of composite yarn which was an experiment that hadn't quite turned out the way I wanted. I'd blended superfine merino, kid mohair and a strand of glitter into what should have been the most stunning yarn ever, but wasn't, due to the misbehaviour of the glitter. Given the smallest chance, it kinked doubled, stretched, and generally made itself a pain in the neck. Couldn't sell a yarn like that - not every customer would appreciate that glitter runs by its own rules and can't be relied upon to arrive at the finishing line at the same time as everyone else. But if I worked it up myself, adjusting the contradictory lengths patiently as they arose, it would still be a beautiful and luxurious yarn.

Worked for an hour and then went to bed.

Picked it up again this morning and worked flat out for a couple of hours. Ta da! Done.

Well, without the fringing. How much time left? Half an hour?

Viking Knits obligingly helped. Didn't dare use Starmore's Aran - can you imagine the risks involved in asking a book like that to do a mundane job like this?

Ten minutes to spare, so put a quick picot edging on the top to make it look even nicer.

I hope she likes it.

I was SO PLEASED that so many of you logged on to see the solstice at Newgrange! It's the very first year, as I said, that this has ever been done, and it was wonderful to sit here and watch it, knowing so many of my friends were doing the same. It was very clear that morning up in Meath, although down here it was rather mistier.

That tiny triangle of light just above the hill is the sun trying to peek through as it rises over our corner of West Cork.

Here is a picture an hour later, looking the other way from the window. The tree in the centre is just catching the morning light, and far away you can just see that little House on the Prairie in its lonely field.

Speaking of the Little House on the Prairie, my knitting reading over the past few days has been Wilder's The Long Winter. It was very moving to read it again, and realise just how much privation they went through out there, where no food could get in for almost seven months, and they relied on crushing corn in a coffee grinder to make the most basic bread to avoid starving. She wrote from the heart, didn't she? Finished that book now, and on to The Dark Is Rising, to accompany these midwinter days.

There is a rather special and little-known site in West Cork where a very few go to see in the solstice at Midwinter. I'm going to go out there one day soon and get pictures for you. You'll see it almost as soon as I do, I promise. And maybe next year we'll see the dawn in there together? If you did miss the Newgrange Internet experience, I think you could probably still find it in the archive there:


With all the gift knitting to be done, there has been little time for anything else, but oh temptation is never far away. The latest must-do is the utterly gorgeous Schoolmarm Vest from Interweave Crochet (yes, the winter issue arrived at last):

This is so cute with its layered effect. Got to make it and soon. But what yarn? Maybe some of that mousse, double or triple plied? Certainly no more yarn is to be bought. NO. MORE.YARN.EVER!!! (You heard me.)

Angie has been talking on Ravelry about how nice it would be to see a really new knitting book - one on international knitting styles and techniques, incorporating chapters from people in different countries, with illustrations and pictures and history and anecdotes. Wouldn't that be a really nice idea? Rutt's History of Knitting is great, but it only covers the UK. We need a worldwide one now, with all the access we have to each other. I'm all for it certainly, and will be glad to put in my tuppenceworth. Yo Angie, you have some great ideas!

We went into Macroom yesterday, having a little time to spare (this was before the sudden notion of making the gift shawl for Anne). We called to Twomey's in the Square for bird peanuts.

This is Twomey's. You can get absolutely everything here, from rat traps to socket sets, nuts and bolts to dog kennels.

And here is Frank himself, exchanging all the local news and gossip while weighing out the peanuts (and adding in a pack of fat balls for the birds as well, as it's Christmas. We'll make a little festive tree out in the back garden for them with all kinds of goodies so we can enjoy watching them having their feast too.)

Then over to Cotter's Bar for morning coffee. Geraldine was busily serving the shoppers.

She was very interested in the red headband I was knitting (Celtic Braid, couldn't find either of my other two knitted headbands no matter how much I searched, and it was chilly weather, so back to the knitting needles, but of course as soon as I got home, having worked three quarters of the new one, didn't I find both, isn't it always the way?). I'm very proud of the fact that I encouraged this woman, who has been an expert knitter in her time, to rediscover its pleasures. She is now working simultaneously on a poncho for her daughter and a sweater for herself. 'Isn't it terrible to be doing two things at the same time?,' she said in horror. Oh Geraldine, you just wait...

I wish you could come in and share the cosiness of Cotter's one of these mornings while it is all decorated up for Christmas. It isn't actually as bright as it looks here - Richard used a flash - but rather darker and snugger, more intimate. There is a bright fire burning in the grate behind me - you can just see it. And do you know something? When Geraldine sees me knitting, she turns up the lighting in the corner where I'm sitting so I can see the stitches. How nice is that?

Sophy Wackles was depressed this evening.

She said her shares were going through the floor, and was worried that this might mean no festive dinner. I assured her that the makings of the said dinner had already been bought and stored, and she cheered up and went out and bit the postman. Who was bringing me two classic knitting publications, one from 1978, the other from the 1980s, I think, which are going to be savoured slowly over the next couple of days, after which I will share them with you.

Gales are forecast, and as I type, I can hear the wind getting up into howling mode outside. Nice to be snug in here, talking to you. But Christmas Eve tomorrow! I haven't even decorated the tree yet! How are you doing? What are your traditions for Christmas Eve?


Marianne said...

Ack on my missing the webcast.. it would've been 2am here and me coming down with a nasty cold, the sleep just seemed more important.. or rather I just could.not.stay.awake... :^)
Hopefully next year they'll do this again.
My side of the family gathers on Christmas Eve, we'll have good stories to share, as well as great food, with the little ones opening their gifts, then the next day we'll have an early dinner with Bobby's side of the family, they're in town this year... otherwise I would've looked forward to a very quiet and lovely peaceful Christmas day!

Lovely, lovely shawl for Anne, it's beyond wonderful that she takes such good care of your Da.


Barbara-Kay said...

Christmas Eve will find us at Episcopal (Anglican) services at 9 pm. I am a Licensed Eucharistic Minister, which means I assist with the cup at Eucharist. We are too small a congregation to have our own deacon to assist the priest.

There is a family that has an open house from 7 pm till the church services. However, I've been on a strict diet for 10 months. Hanging out around food for 2 hours doesn't sound like a good idea for me. Perhaps next year.

Merry Christmas, and God's blessings on you and yours, have they two feet or four.

pacalaga said...

One of my aunts always throws a party on Christmas Eve, and my mother's whole family (and now some of my father's, and my half-siblings) all gather and visit. Since I am hours away, I only get to see most of them once a year, and it's never long enough. (And, in my true nature, I will be frantically finishing up the last of my aunts' gifts as I ran out of wire with have a votive sleeve to go. Drat.
My half-sister finally bullied my father into a Christmas tree this year (he hasn't had one since Mom died) so we emailed Santa to let him to know to bring the Bug's gifts to Grampa's house.
Stay snug in your house, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday, and I hope Sophy snitches a rum ball when you're not looking. A girl needs a cocktail now and again, you know. I'll have a Bailey's and Butterscotch in your honor. :-)

cindyl said...

Tamales for Christmas Eve. It isn't Christmas here without tamales. And today, celebrating early with my ailing parents and my DH, my brother and sister-in-law and nephew, we had a brunch of tamales and guacamole and gumbo (my Louisiana sis-in-law's contribution), and pinto beans, and two kinds of EXTREMELY hot homemade salsa, as well as pecan and pumpkin pie, digestion improved or hindered by a rousing (almost violently competitve) game of Catchphrase (Shut the Box was played last night). My mom shed tears over her new gold charm bracelet, resplendent with old pendants (some given me by a high school boyfriend forty years ago) and charms, as well as new ones I'd bought along with the bracelet. Her bruised and frail little wrist was very happily adorned. Now on to Christmas with our grown children and grandchildren. Life is grand (as long as we don't run out of tamales!)
Thank you, Jo, for your generous and beautiful (although addicting) blogs through the year. They're grand.
Happy Christmas, everybody.

HPNY KNITS said...

its blustery here in NYC as well. very strong winds for us. its good to be snug reading blogs...
I really enjoy the glimpse of village life.
merry x-mas and happy new year.

Angeluna said...

Oh to be with you for a little trip to Macroom after seeing the sun rise over those rolling hills, checking in at Twomeys (must say I was amazed at what can be purchased in a tiny Irish hardware). And then over to Cotter's Bar for a morning coffee with a warm grate and a bit of knitting. Totally jealous here.

I was lucky to get a wreath on the door this year. Spent today at Central Market with a zillion other people. No dancing in the aisles this time, it was a total traffic jam. The smells were heavenly and the flowers were gorgeous. Could hardly move, but everyone was in a jolly mood and terribly polite. I pack my knitting in my purse so that I can whack out a few rows while waiting in lines. People gawk but they are just envious. Then off to marathon shopping in odd places to avoid the madness. Got my hair cut which was long overdue. All in all, a nice Sunday.

Tomorrow more shopping...for the cats and suet for the birds. A loaf of olive bread at Central Market (they were out today and told me to get there early tomorrow). And possibly another book or two. Nowhere near the malls, thank you very much. Huge Christmas Eve party with the BFs family. Singing carols and then Santa comes every year and the fifty or sixty guests all have to sit on Santa's lap and get their presents. Hilarious. Dash out of there for a black tie dinner at another friend's, surrounded by her collection of Russian antiques. Walk over to an old stone Episcopal chapel for midnight services.

Then Christmas day will mean a quick stop at the DILs family for the grandkids, then to my other son's girlfriend's family for him, then a run by for drinks and presents with my father, then off to the next city to spend the evening at the hospital with my other son. A recipe for insanity? When I moved here, everyone already had their set "traditions" so I have bent with the breeze. And everyone has so warmly included me, it all works out quite well.

Give my best wishes to your father. I'm sure Anne will love the beautiful shawl. And wishing you and Richard the most excellent of holidays.

Anonymous said...

Since I'm Irish I do not make them I have to buy them. Usually I go to a Mexican Deli and pick up fresh made ones. Not this year, we will have to make do with grocery store Tamales. Oh, well. Maybe next year we will be able to get up early on Christmas eve and stand in line with everyone in San Francisco looking for their Christmas tamales.
Have a very Happy Christmas Jo. Look forward to hearing more about your life in 2008

Anonymous said...

Ah, Christmas Eve traditions. . . .

The children all have parts in our church's Christmas Pageant (the littlest is a cow). Afterwards, we usually let each family member open one present. I think we'll have candles and songs, some reading and prayer.

For Christmas Day's meal, each of the kids has picked one dish to have: tacos, watermelon and ice cream (or was it Pringles potato chips? We'll have eaten those already by then...).

Oh, and BTW, after seeing your mention of it here, I bought a copy of the illustrated Robert Frost "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" poem/book. Lovely!

Anonymous said...

I ended up watching the webcast when the sun was rising in Oregon - I slept through my alarms! LOL. But it was great seeing it in synch with our sunrise! (And it'll be on the website for the whole year, people, so if you missed it you'll still be able to see it.) It was so beautiful, Jo, thanks so much for letting us know! Although I was envious about the mentions of an Irish breakfast afters. [g]

My immediate family always had our big dinner and present opening Christmas Eve (Christmas Day was for visiting Grandma after Mass if we hadn't gone to Midnight Mass), so today I am baking Czech kolache and cinnamon rolls, and having a turkey breast and all the trimmings just for me - a nice, quiet, lovely peaceful Christmas Eve! Well...except for all that baking and roasting and dish-washing. ;) But I don't have to go anywhere, I can just do it at my leisure, and boy, will I have lots of leftovers. Sounds darned good to me! [vbg]

Merry Christmas!

Dez Crawford said...

Our tradition is: sleep wicked late, have an indulgent breakfast featuring both cholesterol and sweets, then spend the rest of the day wrapping gifts and making gumbo for Xmas Eve dinner.

For Xmas Eve lunch/afternoon snacks: TWO people mentioned tamales! Make me number three. When I was a kid it was considered a treat to buy tamales from the man with the hot tamale cart. Of course Louisiana was Spanish for the last half of the 1700s, so that's an OLD regional tradition. We have no Tamale Man in Baton Rouge, so I buy them at the local Mexican restaurant.

In the evening we wrap gifts, nibble on a couple of adult beverages, listen to our old Elvis Christmas album, phone distant friends and relatives, and eat gumbo. We make a fire if it is cold enough (tonight it will be). And I knit ... often frantically.

That is a beautiful shawl. What a fantastic last-minute gift. And? I could move to Macroom just for that hardware store. And to knit with you of course. :-)

Merry, Merry Xmas to you all! And I do hope the postman is all right.

Dez Crawford said...

EEk! Almost forgot! We also play play Lennon's "Shaved Fish" to hear "Happy Christmas, the War Is Over."

I wish. :-(

Anonymous said...

Well, it's Christmas morning here so Merry, Merry Christmas from Australia! Normally we go to my brother's in Benalla (two hours north of here) for a few days over Christmas, but this year we've had last minute changes. My brother's grandson had a major seizure last Friday and stopped breathing! So after hospital trips and stays, all of us will be staying in Melbourne, but, as the babe is now home again, we'll be having the traditional roasts with vegies and plum pudding. The whole shebang! Oh, I forgot - there'll be the prawns, too.

My middle son will be having Christmas with his girlfriend's family in Devon, over your side of the world. My youngest son will be with his fiancee's family a few hours west of here (they came here yesterday for a lovely lunch, and brought with them some Swedish visitors). So DH, eldest DS and I will be with my brother's family. It will all work out, and be good.

Although we've wonderfully had some rain here lately, it looks as though it will clear up to be a mild Christmas day.

Best wishes again to you.

ps That was a great idea to make the shawl - and so fast!

Holly said...

All my best for the New Year. I don't think the section of the U.K. to which I am moving is anywhere near as beautiful as your area of Cork.


Meg said...

Have a wonder-filled New Years Jo.

cindyl said...

Happy New Year's! Cheer up, Sophie, stocks are bound to rebound in '08.

Angela Cox said...

T.P. Cotters looks wonderful a perfect place for a knitting group. Happy New Year, A, J and H x

RecycleMicol said...

Oh...such a great update you've given us, Jo!

I'm so living vicariously through you by reading your blog.

I went straight over to Knitty and bought the calendar. Can't wait to get it! Funny...I was just looking at some at a book store for half-off the price today and decided that I didn't like any of them. I don't buy a bunch of calendars each year...just one to go on our kitchen hallway it's great that I didn't buy one earlier.

Your house is darling...and so is your hubby with his precious socks!

Hope to see you again one day,