Fiber Is Good For You!

We had a healthy high-fiber experience, a glorious autumn day in the Adirondacks!

Not this kind of fiber, silly!

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by Richard Cocks

This kind!

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The Southern Adirondacks Fiber Festival took place this weekend and was a gathering of wool-loving, fiber-lusting hands at home.

The focus was on all things wool, for all wool fanatics.

Lots of sheep:IMG_8457 IMG_8556

And other wool-bearing animals:

Dogs that keep the sheep under control:

Shearing, provided by Jim McRae, professional shepherd. He owns the dogs, too!

What do love most about fiber?

Fleece?

Roving?
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Yarn?

To spin it?

Or my favorite spinning technique!

For weavers, knitters, felters, crocheters, rug hookers . . . for us all. So much wool, so much pretty, so very many loving hands!

All My Life’s A Circle . . .

coconut bark-2All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown

The moon rolls through the nighttime, till the daybreak comes around

All my life’s a circle but I can’t tell you why

The season’s spinnin’ round again the years keep rollin’ by.

As so often happens, I woke up with a song in my head. I think my subconscious provides me with the lyrics, depending on my mood and what is happening in my little piece of paradise.

This morning, the song in my head is Harry Chapin’s “Circle.” I know why.

It’s because the seasons are spinning ’round, and it’s autumn, and candy season has begun.

As I’ve explained before, I sell handmade chocolates, and I can’t temper chocolate for the candy when the temperature is warm. Every spring, when the mercury goes up, I put away the candy-making paraphernalia and my circle spins to other pursuits.

Every September, the circle spins again, I take out my lucky tempering bowl and my digital thermometer, my sugar and butter and chocolate, and I commence to make candies.

I’ve had my first candy foray of 2015 this week. I made a double batch of caramels—about 200 candies—and yesterday I dipped half of them in dark, beautiful Callebaut chocolate. This morning I made white chocolate bark and will dip the rest of the caramels in Callebaut milk chocolate.

(On a side note, there’s a story in the news about someone who worked at Callebaut in Vermont, who hated his job so much he called in a bomb threat, in order to get fired. Never mind, how twisted his thinking was—can you imagine hating a job at a chocolate factory?!)

In the next few months, “candy season” in my world, I’ll make the equivalent of about 500 half-pound boxes of chocolates.

This arc of my circle is pretty predictable. I’ll chop, stir, temper, dip, garnish, package, label, rinse, repeat. And repeat.

I’ll get knickers in a twist about preparing enough candy for the one holiday boutique I participate in, and then I’ll have too much.

I’ll get up in the morning and check Etsy, half hoping to find more candy sales, and half hoping I won’t.

I’ll worry about running out of chocolate or out of half-pound boxes.

At some point, I’ll probably get a nasty sugar burn and I’ll get very, very sick of chocolate.

And, while this arc waxes, others aspects of my circle will wane for now. I’ll have much less time for vintage linens and weaving and blogging and quilting, and I’ll pout about all of that.

I’ll wonder why I do this candymaking thing at all.

But then, I’ll get my first order of the season from the “Queen of Sienna,” a blog friend, fellow seller of vintage lovelies, and loyal lover of chocolate. She’ll say kind things about my candy and be excited I’m back, selling again.

When I do the holiday boutique, people will come specifically looking for something they loved last year or because they heard about the chocolate from a friend. Etsy shoppers will buy candy as Christmas gifts and ask me to include sweet messages to their loved ones far away.

And my family and friends will be pleased when I have extra candy around!

I’ll find I enjoy quiet mornings in my warm space, with the smell of chocolate and caramel and vanilla. I’ll achieve a certain satisfaction from the repetitive motion of dipping caramel after caramel into silky dark chocolate. Zen and the art of candy making.

And, through it all, I’ll know that, when and if it stops being fun and fulfilling, I can put away the lucky bowl and digital thermometer for good. Because the circle of my life isn’t a stone circle, and the seasons can be filled with whatever I choose.

For now, though, I choose chocolate, and candy season.

There’s A New Guy in Town: SmoJo

IMG_7912He couldn’t use one of his front paws at all. He had been abandoned by his owner, an owner who hadn’t done one single thing to protect him against disease or fix his lameness.

He had been lurking around our house all summer. Always skittish, always limping away, as quickly as he could, with his front left paw extended out in front of him.

He was beautiful, with dark gray fur and golden eyes. He had the biggest paws, with extra toes, the size of catcher’s mitts or snowshoes!

So, of course, I fed him.

We “met” this cat well before our new kitten came to live here. At first, we didn’t know if he belonged to someone or was a stray. All we knew was he was hurting and needed help.

He started out distrustful and very skittish. But he was utterly, utterly reliable about coming to be fed. Every morning about 5:30, every evening about 8:30, he’d be in the same spot on the driveway, just waiting.

It took a few days before I could get near him and a few more before I could touch him. Then he let me pet him.

One day, after he’d eaten and I petted him, he rolled over and let me rub his belly. Once we took that step forward, we started working on the next one. I picked him up one day. He looked at me like I was crazy, struggled a little, and then seemed to say, “Oh, okay.”

Another day, I moved his bowl into our front hall and he came in to eat, while I held the door open behind him. A few days later, I let the door close. He freaked and threw himself against the glass, and then seemed to say, “Oh, okay.”

We knew we wanted to keep him and get him to the vet and fix his foot. We took the fateful step of giving him a name, calling him “Smokey Joe.” Along the way, we learned that he had an owner, who was on the verge of eviction from his place down the road.

We predicted, and were right, sadly, that when the guy left, he’d leave SmoJo behind.

We waited. The guy moved out. He left this cat, as well as a kitten and a dog, behind.

As hateful as that was, so many people are truly good. All three animals had homes within a day.

We made arrangements with our vet and one morning, when Smokey came in to eat, I scooped him up and put him in the cat carrier. He panicked and threw himself against the sides and then seemed to say, “Oh, okay.”

Blood tests showed he was free of disease. A physical exam showed that his lameness was a result of an ingrown claw. He is polydactyl, with those extra toes, and one of the claws had grown sideways, deep into his flesh. The wound was abscessed and the infection was tenacious. The solution was declawing, basically amputating, that one toe.

IMG_3887Through it all he was gentle and stoic. He seemed to say, “Oh, okay.”

He recuperated and took antibiotics without fuss. He wore a plastic cone for a couple of weeks. He has been inside, this cat who lived outdoors and had the run of the world, without trying to get out, for 6 weeks now. We let him out yesterday, for the first time, and he didn’t venture out of our sight.

And he has become Gigi’s best friend. He came to live with us about a week after she did. Our other cats are aloof and rather frightened of them both and they have turned to each other.

They play rough.

The calm before the crazy

The calm before the crazy

Fun was had here . . .

Fun was had here . . .

They sleep curled together.

They make us laugh.

Smokey has reclaimed his lost kittenhood and plays long and hard. He loves a catnip hedgehog. And Gigi.

If a cat could feel such a thing, you’d swear he was grateful. Pet him, and he flings himself at your feet, and turns his belly up for a rub.

We’ve told him he is with us for good, that he doesn’t have to worry about being hungry or cold, or living in pain.

He looks at us with those big eyes of deepest gold, and seems to say, “Oh, okay. And thanks.”IMG_8406

Local Style and Manly Hands at Home: The Adirondack Chair

IMG_1870Talk about your manly hands at home! A regular guy was looking for a way to provide vacation relaxation for his family and he created a chair that has become a style icon!

The story goes that, in 1903, Thomas Lee was vacationing with his family in Westport, NY, a small town on Lake Champlain and in the Adirondack Mountains. His family needed outdoor chairs, in order to better enjoy the scenery, so Lee built them some. He experimented with designs, enlisting his family as testers, until he arrived at this:

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That chair, made of wide planks of wood, became known as the Westport chair, which is generally believed to be the precursor of locally-ubiquitous Adirondack chair.

photo by Michael Pekovich

photo by Michael Pekovich

The Adirondack chair is an icon of a place, as associated with my home region as wrought iron is associated with New Orleans or the saltbox house is with New England.

The elements that define the chair are a sharply-raked seat, a high back, and wide and flat arms. While the Westport chair was made of wide planks of wood, often hemlock, the Adirondack chair is made of slats, perhaps because those wide planks were harder to come by.

The slatted Adirondack-style has been around at least since the 1930s, when some of the style variations were patented.

The unusual raked seat of the chairs is said to be specifically designed for use on steep hills, so the chair would be stable and sitter would be comfortable looking down the mountain or hill toward the view.

The wide arms were perfect for those vacation necessities–a cold drink and a book.

The traditional colors were the hues of the outdoorsy setting—medium reddish-brown and dark green, though some chairs were left unpainted to weather attractively to grayish-brown.

In my experience, the chairs are only okay for sitting in—they are kind of hard and those slats are not easy on one’s posterior. The raked seat makes it hard to get out of the chair, especially when it’s set on flat ground.

And, yet, we love them. We all have them, whether in the traditional wood in subdued colors or plastic in colors of the rainbow. You can find the style translated as rocking chairs, love seats, even lifeguard chairs. And, of course, they can still be made by loving hands at home:
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As regular visitors know, I like Adirondack chairs best as photo props, to serve as a focal point and evoke the “summer in the North Country” vibe I hold so dear. In fact, when my sister decided she wanted a photo series of her daughter at “camp,” one photo a year for the first 18 years, an Adirondack chair became the item that always appeared with the child.

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The Adirondack chair has moved beyond the Adirondacks and can be found in summer homes, lodges, and outdoorsy settings all across the United States.

Has this style come to your part of the world?

Now, as we all know, standing up while viewing a summer sunset is nice, but watching that sunset while comfortably seated with a cocktail at hand is always nicer.

Orvis

Remember Me, When This You See

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Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,

Say that health and wealth have missed me,

Say I’m growing old, but add,

Jenny kissed me.

–James Henry Leigh Hunt

How would you have people remember you, when you’re gone? What do you want them to know, to focus on, in their memories?

The sweet poem at the top of the post came to mind while I was writing, a few months ago, about Harriett and the linen cloth she decorated with her handwork.

The man speaking the poem asserts that, whatever else his life held, it was leavened, and defined, by a kiss from Jenny. This attention, this moment, was an essential part of his being and should be remembered as a key to who he was.

Similarly, the tag sewn to the piece of vintage linen I came across said simply, “Made by Harriett.” That’s all I know about Harriett. I only know her through this remnant of her life. I know she was a maker and someone, maybe her, was proud enough to remark on it in this semi-permanent way.

I know Harriett was creative, skilled, and striving to become better at her work. I have tangible evidence of this and, across the years, I admire this part of the person she was.

So, all this gets me thinking—how do I want to be known and remembered? Do you ever think about such things?

I don’t have kids so I won’t be remembered through them. I imagine even people with children might want to be remembered as more than “the parents of X” and remembered by more people than their direct descendants.

It would be good to be remembered as a caring and fun daughter, a loving and fun wife. It would be nice to be remembered as a kind person or a smart person but those impressions are subjective and ephemeral. Who is going to remember, in 100 years, that I was fun or kind to animals or had a Ph.D.? And besides, those things hardly set me apart or make my life notable. I bet most of us could make similar claims!

But I’ve made things no one else has made.

How pleased I would be if, generations from now, someone held a quilt I made, a scarf I wove, a piece of embroidery I stitched and admired it. If they thought that I was creative, skilled, and striving to become better at my work. If they knew, “Kerry made this.”

So, with apologies to the poet:

Say my life was happy, glad,

Built my life and wouldn’t trade this.

Say I lived a lot, but add,

Kerry made this.

Parting Shots of Summer

Summer wanes.

The light changes.

The TV is tuned to golf and college football (We are . . . !)

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I list vintage woolies on Etsy.

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And my thoughts turn to making chocolates.

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The garden keeps on giving.

The birds hum and the dragons fly.

Colors deepen and gleam.

IMG_3899Autumn is on its way . . .