Thursday, May 28, 2015

Yarn Along

Joining Ginny again today to talk about knitting.

I finished the shawl I had been making myself. I really like how it turned out. The pattern is Saroyan and with thousands of other examples to look at, I came up with a plan for a shape that would work for the yarn I had chosen. The original pattern calls for worsted weight. When I found the color of yarn I wanted, it was only available in fingering weight. That was fine, since I pictured this being a lightweight shawl to wear with a specific dress I already owned. The dress needed a little something to dress it up for Mass.

I had recently ordered some blocking mats and wires and was able to use them for the first time to block this shawl. The garter edge was folding under quite a lot and I hoped to correct that. It did fix it somewhat, yet it is still not perfect. (A sort of funny, sort of not story about those blocking wires. The first time I ordered them, they showed up in a cardboard tube that had been ripped in half, badly taped back together and contained only one very bent wire. My husband didn't think to refuse the package and brought it home. The post office would not do anything about it the next day, stating that we did not refuse it. So I called Knitpicks and told them the tale. They sent me a replacement free of charge. This package also arrived in terrible condition, but thankfully all the wires were there, unbent.)

I have been trying to read "The Bird in the Tree" by Elizabeth Goudge, from Ginny's Happy Reading List. I really like it, yet I seem to have so little time to read these days. Also, I am so tired at the end of the day that I only read a page or two before I fall asleep. Thankfully, the library has not asked for it back yet.









Monday, May 25, 2015

Morning

Awakening early, I quietly snuck to the kitchen to start the coffee, and then put the final stitches in my shawl. I will block it later this morning and the anticipation of watching the pattern come fully into its promise is both exciting and sad. Like watching a wounded bird whom you have nursed back to health take flight.

After weaving in the ends, I poured myself a fresh cup of coffee, put on my shoes and coat, and opened the door on the crisp, cool morning. Mornings are like a clean slate. Everything is fresh. The air seems to be cleaner, somehow. Not used up and breathed out without even noticing it's delicious flavor by the rest of the world. Leisurely walking down the hill, I looked off towards the mountains which were shrouded in a silky mist. It seemed they were beckoning to me to come and explore what lay beneath their misty cover. My footsteps were all of a sudden muffled and I glanced down to see a pink blanket of fallen apple blossoms covering the sidewalk. The tree was behind a stone wall, but created a canopy over the walkway. The old house beyond must have hundreds of stories to tell.

It is a holiday and all the shops are closed, excepting the one for which I set out. The bakery. It is full this morning with hungry customers. My order is large, for we have our first overnight guests and that makes me happy. I enjoyed cleaning yesterday in anticipation of their arrival. Of creating a comfortable place for them after their long journey. And now I wait for the house and all the people to awaken. The birds are singing as only they do at the break of a new day. It reminds me of cheerful chatter between friends.

I cherish these rare quiet moments. They renew and fill me with fresh hope.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday afternoon in the woods

Everyone needs days like this one. We awoke and quickly dressed little people for Mass and were out the door with few complaints. Then off to the bakery for breakfast and a great cup of German coffee. A quick trip through the Commissary where we picked up the essentials for the week and the fixings for tonight's dinner. Peter fell asleep on the way home, so while we let him nap, Jack started on a new project (building a model car), Anna finally got to watch her beloved Star Wars with no little people, Therese busied herself with drawing yet more pictures, and I split my time between them and their activities. I was really just trying to be patient for my one request today. A walk in the woods. The last time we all went as a family was in the fall. How one place can look so different and still be breathtaking is one of God's amazing achievements. The weather was perfect, which is rare here in Germany. If you don't believe me, just look at this...

"Aaannd she's off!"





I don't care if they are weeds, I still think they are pretty!


Violets are one of my favorite flowers, for to me they mean winter is over for another year.

It is hard to photograph these two without bunny ears.



We are going to have fun hiking, or else!

One of my favorites of the day



These are my other favorite flowers. I asked Tony if he thought they belonged to anyone, because they were on the back side of someone's fence just off the trail. I was tempted to snap off a couple to put in a vase. Good thing I only took pictures because the homeowner quickly came out to see what I was up to!



These last pictures are from the other day. This is just outside our village and I have been longing to take pictures of the brilliant yellow fields for days, but we have always been on our way somewhere and haven't had the time to stop. I am so glad I did, because they are already beginning to fade.



Monday, May 4, 2015

The Winner

Since it is Peter's old sweater that we are giving away over here, I let him pick the winner. Who did he pick? Well, let's see!

It is a little fuzzy and I just noticed that Jack is photo bombing.

I will be sending that right out Linda!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Yarn Along, A Giveaway, and An Analogy

There are currently two projects in my proverbial knitting bag. Neither are actually in a bag. One sits by me at my desk in the classroom. A row here, a math lesson there. That's how it goes. And so it goes slowly. The other is a gift and therefore it receives more of my attention. It also travels well and I have memorized the pattern, so it is going much quicker. Mondays and Wednesdays find me waiting for the middle two kids at play practice. Much of the time, the youngest two fall asleep on the way. So I put on my playlist, pull out my knitting, and sit in the car until sleepy little people wake up.


The pattern is Saroyan on Ravelry. You can find my notes here.


Joining Ginny, as always.

The Giveaway: When Peter was a baby (how did he all of a sudden become a toddler?), I made him a sweater. I came across it the other day while sorting clothes to give away or put away, just in case. I didn't want to pack it away, possibly to not use it again, thus the giveaway. It is probably a size 12-18 month sweater. If you would like to be considered, leave me a comment saying so. I will draw a name on Sunday.


From November 2013. He was 15 months at the time, but he is a little guy.


Lastly, I have been praying a novena to Mary, the Undoer of Knots. I didn't really know anything about this image of Our Lady, but boy do I have knots in my life!

Here is the prayer I have been saying every day:

Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exist in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exists in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain, and how I am bound by these knots, Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of knots in the lives of His children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with your Son and my Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot.

(Mention your request here)

I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all. You are my hope. O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution, and with Christ, the freedom from my chains. Hear my plea. Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!



That part I highlighted. Yeah. I have been entrusted into Mary's motherly hands by God Himself. I don't know why I haven't thought of that before. I often ask Mary to watch over my own children when I am unable to do so myself. God is our Heavenly Father and Mary is our Heavenly Mother. However lovingly I care for my children, she cares for us even more lovingly. After all, she always says 'yes' to God, so she undoubtedly will always gently lead us to Our Lord.


 As I have been praying and pondering, I keep picturing Mary carefully detangling the knotted mess of yarn that is all my sins and anxieties. Today I thought a little farther. I can be compared to a beautiful new hank of exquisite yarn, waiting to be knit into a gift for Our Lord. A hank needs to be wound into a ball, or you end up with a jumbled pile of yarn. If I let Mary lead me, the ball of yarn will be easy to use. If I struggle with God's plan for me, Mary will have to work with me as a huge tangled mess. Certainly I can be untangled, but how much better if I submit to God's will. Mary is the knitter, gently taking my life and winding it up, sometimes easily, sometimes having to work quite tediously, to eventually present me to God.

 To sum it all up, I need to love more, worry less, and follow God fearlessly.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Most Special Day

I love this time of year. Winter is a distant memory. Everything is bursting into new life in vibrant shades of green. But mostly I love spring because of all the new little souls receiving Jesus for the first time in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Jack is one of those little souls. Oh, he looked so sweet in his slightly too big suit with his hands folded solemnly, looking up at the priest and whispering "Amen". My heart was filled with joy as I gazed at this little boy, who somehow went from a tiny babe in arms to a young boy, enthusiastically anticipating his first time receiving Jesus. He wrote me a letter earlier this week. Full of misspellings, yet full of love, expressing his excitement.

Anna got him a card and wrapped up one of our prayer books. I asked Barbara if she would make a rosary for him. It is absolutely beautiful, as I knew it would be. Jack had our priest bless it right after Mass. My dear friend Misha's son also received his First Holy Communion at the same Mass. She took photos of both our boys. It was very special to me to be able to share this day with their family. We had dinner together that evening and invited our priest as well. Peter was over the moon that our priest came to his house. It was a wonderful evening and truly a most special day.



Melted my heart!



Thank you Barbara! It is exquisite!









I couldn't decide if we look better in color or black and white, so I included them both.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Italy with kids

Monday found us packing the car for our first big excursion out of Germany. We poured over travel books, and the possibilities were endless. How could we pick? But in the end, we settled on Northern Italy. Venice, Padua, and Verona to be precise.

In preparation and to save some money, I made and froze three meals for the crock pot, made three loaves of bread, and packed some of the pantry staples (cinnamon, jelly, etc.). Next time, I will add olive oil and some more spices. We found a house through Homeaway.com again. It was fifteen minutes outside of Padua, with the train station being 3km away that could whisk us to Venice in an hour.

It was a long drive, made even longer by encountering several traffic jams, some blizzard like conditions in the alps, and getting lost in the town where we were staying. It was dark by the time we arrived, the kids were starving, and we were all cranky. We quickly met with the owners of the house, took care of the business of payment and walked across the street to the restaurant. It was 10pm. We ate and all fell asleep straight away.



I awoke on Tuesday morning before the kids and tiptoed down the stairs to make some coffee and to check out our house in earnest. I felt like I was still dreaming, for I was amazed at the beauty of the house and the property. We took our time, eating a simple breakfast and exploring before heading into the town to get some groceries and check out the train schedule. We had lunch and gelato at the restaurant, played outside in the sunshine and then headed into Padua in the car. We first went to the Basilica of St. Justina. The tomb of St. Luke happens to be in this Basilica. On our short walk to St. Anthony's Basilica we got more gelato. Photography inside the Basilicas is prohibited. In St. Anthony's, you may write your petitions on a piece of paper and put them next to his tomb. You may then place your hand on the tomb and pray. There was such a reverent air as people waited their turn to touch the tomb. There were also many relics, including St. Anthony's incorrupt tongue.

We returned home to dinner simmering in the crock pot. Tony built a fire and we had a relaxing evening.

Rustico Lucia, our home for the week

The patio

The orchard


The vineyard



The Basilica of St. Justina

Gelato!

Padua



Basilica of St. Anthony




Wednesday

Slept in again. That is fine, we are on a vacation! This was a day of learning. Learning about the trains, the vaparetto, and the crowds. A nice young man saw that we had no clue and showed us how to validate our tickets, though no one ever checked them on the train. When we stepped out of the train station and saw the Grand Canal of Venice, I was overcome. The kids ran and played right there while Tony figured out the tickets for the vaparetto, which are the public water buses. We ended up buying a two day pass, which paid for itself after a few rides. We found the right vaparetto and headed to Piazza San Marco. We were very hungry and found a restaurant that had a nice view of a small canal and a bridge, so the kids kept jumping up from the table to watch the gondolas float by. Jack touched a gondola that was waiting for passengers and quipped "I touched a gondola. I'm never washing this hand again." The couple at the table behind us thought that was hysterical and we started talking. They were on their honeymoon. So Tony paid for their lunch. When they protested, he told them to wait 23 years and then pass it along.

We started our actual sightseeing with St. Mark's Cathedral. It was beautiful and amazing, don't get me wrong, but there were so many people in line and so many people trying to see all the relics and artwork that I felt rushed. It felt more like a museum than a place of worship. We also got separated from Tony for a while, and spent some time out on the portico waiting for him to find us. By the time we were done there, we did not have time to go to the Palace, so we rested outside in the piazza and the kids played with the pigeons. Then we made our way back to the train station via several gelato stands. The kids stopped at every souvenir stand too. Makes for a slow, whiny walk.

The train back to our station left at 6:42, so we decided to find a restaurant near the house. By the time we found one, parked and got seated, it was close to 9:00. I forgot when ordering pizza for the kids that I should have asked for salami, for they got peppers instead. Four year olds who are expecting pepperoni and actually get peppers on their pizza at 9:00pm are not very good at hiding their disappointment. I found a fun radio station while waiting for Tony to pay for dinner (took said disappointed kids to car) and cheered them up by doing silly dances in the front seat.

Oh, and I left the camera in the car before we got on the train, so I took no pictures this day.


 Thursday

Slept in. (Do you see a pattern here?)  The owners of house were outside doing yard work. Each day, there were more flowers and trees by the time we returned from sightseeing. They even put up a hammock for the kids and let let Jack help with the yard work. We ate lunch outside in the sunshine on our patio before heading to the train. We looked at our travel books the night before to get into Venice with a more solid plan today. We took the Vaparetto along the Grand Canal and got off at the Rialto Market. Browsed the shops, bought some fruit and then took a ride on a gondola. Oh, the kids loved this. I, however, did not. I wanted to sit and relax, but Peter kept trying to go overboard. More gelato as we walked toward the minor basilica S. Maria Gloriosa die Frari. On the way, we found a mask making shop whose owner let us watch and answered our questions. Anna was very happy. The basilica was much better than St. Mark's to me. Not as crowded, and we could go where we wanted. Back to the train and back to the house for dinner. Instead of using the crockpot, I heated the frozen sauce on the stove while the pasta cooked and cut up some cucumber and peppers for a salad.















To pass the time on the train, my kids flattened their juice boxes to make cell phones and pretended to talk to people.


Friday

Took it easy at Rustico Lucia. We went into town in the afternoon to see a castle. Tony got his hair cut by an old Italian barber, who trimmed his nose and eyebrow hairs too! Got more gelato. Sloppy Joe's and green beans for dinner. After the kids were finally in bed, we watched Moonstruck. Perfect choice!







Saturday

We drove to Verona today. The kids and Tony were excited to see the arena, which was built by the Romans and looked every bit like the Colosseum in Rome. We were all very let down however. After paying a fee to go inside, it was completely modernized and there was nothing to tell us the history of the arena. We had also made plans to visit the Museum of Natural History. Now this was worth the admission price. It was an extensive collection and the kids only grumbled their disappointment when we reached the last room and realized there was no more. Headed home and started packing for the long trip home tomorrow. None of us want to leave this beautiful place. I feel the need to find a home with more room to run and explore for our remaining time in Germany.




I think this captures the feeling of disappointment




We could have supposedly seen Juliette's balcony from Shakespeare's play, but the kids were too tired to explore any further, so we picked a balcony and pretented this was it.


Sunday

We drove into Padua for Mass before getting on the road. We attended the sung Mass which was incredible. The hymn for the recessional was Handel's Halleluiah Chorus. Oh my goodness! We stopped in Garmisch to refuel and had dinner with friends. Got home well after midnight. Monday morning came way too early and real life started up again amid the memories of a lovely week.

The view of the alps on the drive home