Thursday, January 28, 2010

Don't like the weather? Wait a minute.

A sudden and powerful snow squall hit Lake George this afternoon.

Above, looking out my classroom window at about 1:40 p.m. today....

Then below, ten minutes later...
It's good to be home now, safe and warm, with one Handsome Husband, two obliging lap dogs, a cozy fireplace, and a basket full of yarn to knit.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Things We Inherit

Now that the Overdue Blue (afghan) has been mailed off, I have begun to whittle away at the stash of yarn lurking in dark closets upstairs. Along with the yarn, I seem to have acquired an ample supply of vintage patterns and books. Many of these I inherited from my mother and grandmother.

I love using the old craft books and cookbooks that once belonged to these good ladies. Many of the patterns and recipes have faint notes written on them. Coming across their familiar handwriting on a page always gives my heart a little tug. Both of these ladies have been gone for many years now, but I feel that they are still giving me loving advice when I find a recipe note to "chill longer" or "use less liquid".

The booklet pictured above was my mother's and has a 1953 copyright. It is from the Bernhard Ulmann Company and contains a plethora of basic patterns, a few of which I have used before. With its 30 cent price tag, I can safely say that my family has gotten its money's worth from this original investment.

Apparently I am not alone in my fondness for good old basic patterns. I found a web site that has the patterns from this very booklet listed for free on line. (I note that their edition cost a whopping 50 cents - such inflation!)

Shortly, I will begin making the Classic Mittens from the pattern you can find here. The directions give the knitter a choice of a two needle or a four needle version. I am going to try to duplicate the colors of the Kate Spade mittens I wrote about earlier. Of course, back then they were $75.00 mittens. They are a better deal now, reduced to $53.00.

I have some suitable pink and white yarn on hand for this project. Now I just need to locate a bit of that bright orange. Oh, gosh, I am going to end up buying more yarn, aren't I?

That's OK. Mom Coombs and Grandma Holmes have left me well-supplied with enough patterns to use it all up.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to my sister Ruth Ann!

Today is my "big" sister's birthday. Here all three of us are: That's the birthday girl, Ruth Ann, on the right, partially obscured because she is holding the chubby infant Barbara (me). On the left is our sister Mary.

I think this photo was probably taken and developed by our father, John Coombs, who was playing around with photography as a hobby around that time. The location is likely St. Paul, Minnesota, because that is where I was born.

I have been very lucky with my older sisters. We have remained on good terms for lo these many years. They are both good, giving, supportive, and loving people.

As a small child, I was often the recipient of many creative and generous gifts from my sisters. I remember being delighted by a coconut bunny cake Ruth Ann made at Easter one year. Years later, she made my wedding dress when I was married (the first time.)

Tonight, we three sisters will gather again to celebrate Ruth Ann's birthday. We and my HH* and possibly my son Tom will be going to a nice restaurant nearby that Ruth Ann likes. It will be a small, low-key celebration.

But fair warning, Ruth Ann. Next year is a milestone birthday, so I think we're going to have to pull out all the stops for that one.

However, for sheer pleasure and delight, I don't think I will ever be able to top your Easter bunny cake.
My sister with her two sons and daughters-in-law and four grandchildren.

Happy Birthday, Ruth Ann!
Thanks for being a wonderful big sister.
Love, Barbara
* HH = Handsome Husband

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sunshine (Ahhhh)

Today, I drove to work in something less than pitch dark for the first time in weeks.

At noon, sunshine flooded into my classroom and I wanted to be a cat and bask in it. My boys dawdled with their assignments and gazed wistfully out of the window. Who could blame them?

After my work day at school was over, my friend and coworker Janine and I took a vigorous (for us) walk around the Village of Lake George. Too soon, the sun was slipping behind Prospect Mountain, but at least we got our walk in.

Driving home, away from the mountains, a bit more daylight lingered. And for the first time in weeks, I arrived home before pitch dark.

There is hope...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stitching up a Storm

I finally finished it, that blue afghan you see folded and draped over the sofa above. About a thousand years ago (more like six) I started to crochet this afghan for my daughter to take to college.
Well, life intervened and it sat untouched for months at a time. I'd feel more guilty about not finishing it until now, but she hasn't finished college yet, either. Not that she hasn't been doing brave and honorable work for the US Army in Afghanistan in the meantime.
But here it is at last, morphed now into a housewarming gift, perhaps. May it keep you toasty, my dear.

I had some odds and ends of blue yarn left over so I knitted one hat, above...

and then started another one from yet a different stash of left-over yarn.
I hate to think how old that pink yarn really is. It may be pushing thirty.
My fingers are twitching to start some fancy new project, but I have a guilty secret upstairs: decades worth and bags full of abandoned knitting/crocheting/embroidery projects. I am not proud of this, but there it is. And so before I buy again, I am going to try using up at least some of what is lurking in drawers upstairs. The hats are a start. Mittens, Christmas ornaments, and knitted bags may be next.
Unless life intervenes again.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Adding Insult to Injury

Devoted readers of this blog may recall that the Handsome Husband and I stepped out on New Year's Eve and enjoyed First Night in Saratoga Springs a few weeks ago. Early in the evening, as we were dashing from one venue to another, we heard sirens and emergency vehicles zoomed past us as we crossed the street.

Oh, dear, we thought. Someone has been hurt or taken ill.

The next day, our local paper informed us that a couple of a certain age had been struck by a car as they crossed Broadway, the main drag of Saratoga Springs, during the early evening First Night festivities. Badly hurt, they had been taken directly to Albany Medical Center.

This week we learned that Warren and Katherine Frederick, ages 59 and 60, respectively, have been ticketed for "suddenly entering the road" on December 31. Alcohol, the newspaper tells us, was not a factor. Both Mr. and Mrs. Frederick are due in Saratoga Springs City Court on February 24.

As one half of a similarly-aged couple (the HH* wishes me to re-word this as "slightly younger" couple) who was also zipping around Saratoga Springs that night, I find these charges a bit, uh, harsh. Talk about adding insult to injury!

Welcome to tourist-friendly Saratoga Springs, folks! Next time, Mr. and Mrs. Middle-Aged Couple, just stay home and mail your money in, wouldja please? You need to stop cluttering up our streets with your broken bodies.

* HH = Handsome Husband

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy Birthday to #1 Son!

Thirty-two years ago this day, I got stuck in my driveway in snowy Buffalo, NY. Wouldn't have been a big deal but I was supposed to be on my way to the hospital to have my first baby. My then husband was working far from home that day and was headed back to meet me at the hospital. There were no cell phones then, so I got out a snow shovel and started to dig out my car.

Just then, a next door neighbor came out and I said to the man, "Can you help me get my car out? I need to get to the hospital. I'm going to have my baby."

"Sorry," says he, "I'm late for work." And into his car he hopped and off he drove.

True story.

Why I didn't just call a cab or something, I don't know. I was just so mad that I shoveled like hell and like the Little Red Hen, did it myself.

Five hours later, a handsome baby boy arrived, 23 inches long and weighing in at 9 lbs, 2 oz.

That baby of yore is a fine, tall man today and a daddy himself now.

Happy birthday, John. You are still my favorite reason to shovel a driveway.

Love, Mom

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nice Mittens

These lovely mittens are not mine, but oh they do inspire me. Hand knit of 100% wool, yes, I could make some exactly like this. These particular mittens are from the Kate Spade company and cost $75. Yowsa. Please tell me, who buys $75 mittens? The company does offer free shipping with all orders, however, making them a veritable bargain!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Just before the holidays, I gave my Secret Snowman friend at work some yarn and knitting patterns for mittens. She has been valiantly working at learning how-to, bringing in her works-in-progress for some assistance after school.

Today, as we were working on the pattern, a young lady on my quiz team wandered in, seemed interested, so I handed her a pair of needles and got her started. In seconds, she had the hang of it.

"I like to knit...," said another student wistfully, waiting for the late bus.

Mid terms exams? Fiddle dee dee! Let's learn something really useful!

And so it begins...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Winter Birds and Keeping Count

This noon, the temperature is hovering around 12 degrees Fahrenheit, the wind is blustery, and light snow swirls in spits and starts. The birds in our yard are very glad I ventured out yesterday afternoon to refill all of the feeders. Blue jays and cardinals, winter wrens and juncos, chickadees and nuthatches, finches and doves, assorted woodpeckers, all swoop in and out to grab a bite to eat. I am happy to help them out on a day as bitter as this.

If, like me, you enjoy watching the birds in winter, mark your calendar for the 13th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count, February 12–15, 2010. Click here for more information, materials, posters, etc. Take note, teachers of environmental science: free stuff, neat project.

Tomorrow, it's back to real life: work, that is. January is always a little extra stressful for high school resource room teachers. There are budgets due, midterm exams to plan for, students and staff with the winter blahs.
Still, I count my blessings that I have a job, and better yet, one that I enjoy. Tomorrow may be a little busy, but I will be warm and dry, and I won't have to do any heavy lifting. Great kids to work with, too. Who could ask for anything more?

Click here for the Internet source of the winter birds image, above.

Friday, January 1, 2010

First Night in Saratoga - Happy New Year, 2010!

So it turns out, there's a dance or two in the old folks yet. Last night, the Handsome Husband and I headed to near by Saratoga Springs for their annual First Night celebration.
With literally dozens of acts to choose from at over thirty venues, we hit a mixture of new-to-us performers along with some old favorites.
We began our evening at St. Paul's Lutheran Church (above) with the Heavenly Echoes Gospel singers from Albany, NY. (Click here to find a video link from a performance earlier this December and a better photo than mine.) The HH said they made him want to join a gospel choir.
Next, we saw Sonny and Perley at the Arts Council, performing jazz, Brazilian, and American standards.
By then, it was 8:00 and we popped in to the Cantina Restaurant for an adult beverage and some supper.

Warmed up and well-fed, we headed out for more entertainment. Couldn't get into Caffe Lena (already full) so opted for some old "friends" of ours, Al and Kathy Bain, who the HH and I had seen perform on a very early date together some twenty-six and a half years ago. They've held up well, as, I like to think, have we...

Next stop: the Joey Thomas Big Band at the City Center where we joined in with the enthusiastic crowd for a couple of slow dances. The many couples, both young and old, doing accomplished jitterbugging (below) was impressive. Makes me think there is hope for civilization.
The final performance we watched was a small group from the Lake George Opera singing at St. Peter's Church, below.

At midnight, we joined the crowds around Congress Park for the countdown and some fireworks.

Happy New Year!