Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring is Sprouting

Spring is Sprouting 

It isn’t spring until you can plant your foot upon twelve daises. Folklore

The side entrance to our house has a place for boots and a coat closet painted Colonial yellow. It serves as a narrow mudroom. Those who enter are greeted with a welcome in cross-stitch.

The welcome was designed in period style reminiscent of a Pennsylvania Dutch Frakur. Like the old folk-art paper frakurs the cross-stitch uses primary colors, tulips, birds, and a large central heart bearing an inscription.

Over the years our family has had seasonal opportunities for hospitality. I would be happy to tell you, sometime, about our series of home classes and the different ways we opened our home. Food was always part of the welcome. 

Whether it was our Shakespeare plays, a speech class, our Beautiful Girlhood get-togethers, or a ladies’ brunch, the kettle was set to boil and platters were arrayed with refreshment. I was reflecting upon those happy, hard-working home school years when friends shared food with us - along with food-for-the-mind and heart. It was my custom to serve tea sandwiches with alfalfa sprouts. Larger sandwiches may accommodate lettuce. But little sandwiches fare better with sprouts.

 Earlier this month I was impatient for spring. I couldn’t wait for spring to start sprouting all the bulbs I had buried. Then I realized it had been some years since I’d taken a few minutes out of my day to make sprouts -inside the house. All in one shopping spree I acquired a pot of faux daffodils for my kitchen windowsill and a sprouting kit.

The kit comes with three plastic lids for different size seeds and for consecutive stages of rinsing. A few teaspoons of alfalfa sprouts are soaked for a few hours and then rinsed twice a day for several days. The instructions recommend keeping the bottle in a slanted position for draining.

After a couple of days of sprouting in a shaded part of the kitchen the sprouts are given a window seat. Leaflets emerge and chlorophyll mysteriously is produced all in one or two days. Using a lid with larger holes, sprouts are rinsed of their casings.

Sprouting can be a healthy edible science experiment for young children. They will enjoy remembering to “make” their sprouts. Wrapping the jar with black paper before the day your sprouts do their sun bathing more dramatically demonstrates chlorophyll production for children.  

I like to sprout lentils, too, for a fresh, crunchy green salad. Goat cheese and/or cream cheese with chives and cucumber make a traditional tea sandwich. A pinch of sprouts adds a dainty springtime interest. (Click to enlarge and you’ll see Tom Kitten on the teacup.)  

Outside my crocus and daffodils are sprouting and my chives are reviving. Very soon the dairy cows in Lancaster County will have luscious green grass to graze upon. I’ve read that milk production in mid-spring (from grass-fed cows) is highest in vitamins A and D than any other time of year. This is one blessing of small farms and green pastures. Isn’t Chlorophyll a wonder?  

Dean’s farm photograph was taken from the window of the passenger car of a train. The Strasburg railroad cars are pulled by a renovated steam engine. There is nothing more thrilling in William’s eyes, than riding on a real “Thomas.”   

 Thank you for visiting,
Karen Andreola

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Little Dabbling for Down the Road

A Little Dabbling for Down the Road

The Pink Stripe is Finished
Someday, I’ll know who the recipient will be - someday down the road. But today it is being saved in Grandma’s Someday Box.

Do you see the sleeves? Don’t they look like little scarves with a bit of ribbing? If you can knit a washcloth or a scarf, in light of the circumstances, you can knit a sweater. Really.

Knit the back and front panels like little scarves decreasing for the neck. Seam the shoulders and attach the sleeves. Fold and seam some more. I referred to Nici McNally’s instructions for finishing. For the first time my seams appear seamless.

Edging the sweater is the tricky part. Nici McNally shares a tip on her DVD for picking up stitches. By following this tip my ribbed edging now lays smoothly.

The finished sweater, with its tiny Beatrix Potter character buttons, rests on a pieced quilt top (above).

The Story of a Toddler Quilt
I’ve since added fabric yo-yos to the quilt top.  They are the same yo-yos pictured in November’s post. I had first cut out hearts to appliqué onto each square but changed my mind. I remembered my lonely pile of yo-yos. “I wonder how well the colors will match,” I thought.

Digging them out of the closet and counting them, I raised my eyebrows in surprise. Not only were the colors in harmony, the pile had the exact number of yo-yos; one per square, no more no less. 

Five years previously I made those yo-yos. I was dabbling for the fun of it (and in my initial yo-yo craze) unconcerned where they’d end up. This year the yo-yos met their destiny. You might be surprised at what a little dabbling will amount to down the road

Because the quilt was only tufted and because they yo-yos were pre-crafted, the project was accomplished in a month of Sundays. That’s all. I tied extra strands of cotton crochet thread to each tuft, to make a sort of decorative fringe that will go fuzzy when washed.

Approximately How Far - Down the Road?
It is good to have an idea of how much time a project will require, especially if it is for an upcoming gift. But when a new interest to dabble occupies you, the amount of time required to complete a project should be secondary.

Some days I dabble. More often I plan. Even when I’ve planned carefully I might have a false start. Have you ever had one? When it comes to knitting I humor myself by calling a false start: “an elaborate gauge.” The blue stripe came to a halt two years ago when I realized, after nearly finishing the back piece, that baby William was already too big for it.

Young children grow fast. I’ve been keeping the stitches “on hold” on a piece of contrasting yarn because I borrowed the needles for the pink stripe. I’ll need to pick up the blue stripe soon because another little boy will be joining us not too far down the road.

A Minute for Cute
I’ve been told that the expected “little boy” is motionless in the womb all night but wakes each morning (and starts kicking) as soon as he hears his big brother’s talkative ramble. Three-year-old William stretched out his arms toward his mother’s stomach, cupped his little hands palms up and said, “You can come out now.”
“He’ll come when he’s ready,” his mother told him.

 A Patient Teacher
Letters in my mailbox reveal: all that is separating my readers from learning to knit is an hour of leisure and a good teacher. I found the teacher. All you need to do is find the leisure. After sitting through a number of instructional knitting DVDs I chose one put together by Nici McNally. 

(My green toddler socks, knit with self-striping yarn, are meant to dress up the photograph – taken on our attic steps.) 

Mrs. McNally is not a hired actress. She genuinely loves to knit and enjoys sharing her skill. She demonstrates each step in clear, colorful close-up photography. The DVD is not preoccupied with the razzmatazz of distracting entertainment. With Mrs. McNally you can take your time to peacefully focus on your knitting. Pause the DVD at her suggestion. “Press play when you are ready,” she says as she guides you pleasantly all along the way.  

Happy Dabbling,
Karen Andreola