Tuesday, January 31, 2012

City Views, Country Dreams

Good afternoon from New York, on the last day of January.

That is what the calendar tells us, but today's weather seems more like what we find in late March.  This winter grows curiouser and curiouser.

On another mild day last week, I met a friend over at The Metropolitan Museum of Art to take a peek at the newly re-installed American Wing.  We concentrated on looking at the paintings, but I was rather charmed by this very large curlew, which I believe was once part of a weather vane, and now makes a dramatic addition to a open wall space.  The curlew is not yet part of the Met's collection, but is on loan.  I noticed that there were other beautiful loaned items on display.  I think that Met curators might hope to eventually win these gems for the collection.

After looking at art, and having a quick lunch and lots of talking, my friend and I took a leisurely stroll in Central Park, where I saw these beautiful little snowdrops.  I always love to see them peeking up through leaves, or sometimes even through a light coating of actual snow.

This week I began a new phase of my life, since I have now officially reduced my work week from five to four days.  The plan is to give me more time for my various art and craft interests, and more time to see friends, cook, bake, read, take long walks...all such pursuits have consistently been curtailed in recent years.

Here's one of my current projects.  I am making myself a pair of socks using yarn that is very similar to some I used for a gift for a brother of mine.  I do enjoy the self-patterning yarn.

On a recent visit to the city's large farmers market in Union Square, I treated myself to a big pot of pink hyacinths, that were just raring to burst into flower.  As you can see from this close up view, the show as begun, and the unique scent is being released.  Spring is arriving early indoors, too.

I've also begun painting some cards for the next major holiday that is just around the corner.  I will eventually post some pictures of those little paintings.

This morning I took care of something that has been on my errand list for months, and replaced my late copier/printer with a new copier/printer/scanner.  I think that I am going to enjoy learning how to use the scanner function.  Right now I am just proud of having been able to set up the machine and have it working.  Once upon a time I would have doubted my ability to do so!

Perhaps you all can tell that I am already quite enjoying my extra bit of freedom  It's my intention to post more frequently.  We shall see how that works out!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Winter has finally claimed our city.  I am so glad to have had this Sunday off, and to have been able to spend most of the blue skied day in hibernation, only venturing out between 2 and 3 this afternoon, hoping that the strong winds will have brought the official effective temperature closer to freezing.

This was not the case.  The wind was still strong, and everyone I encountered along the sidewalks on my quick walk to the grocery market seemed very intent on their own individual destinations.  These folks were not always mindful of their fellow pedestrians, sort of like what happens when umbrellas give us an excuse for bad walking manners on a rainy day.

It was wonderful to get back home and make that inevitable pot of tea.  PG Tips it was.

My apartment is usually very overheated, but today I am grateful for all the heat that the continually hissing radiators are emitting.  Yesss, I am.

Enough of this weather report.

I'd like to show you some of the projects I've been working on in my hours away from my job.  The following photos show a two-toned, popcorn-stitch-accented crocheted hat that I can report has been keeping my head warm this past week.

I made this up as I went along, using a black worsted weight black wool yarn, accented by a dual strand of vintage Rowan 4-ply Botany yarn and Rowan ivory-ish tweed 4-ply.  The overall shape is like a Russian turnip dome building, meeting up with a classic beret shape.

I was also inspired by the pop-up Japanese tie-dye technique called shibori.  I have several scarves made by this intricate method, and loved the idea of making my own modest tribute.

Another of my New Year's projects has been an initial experiment with a medium new to me, acrylic ink.  Perhaps many of you are also fans of Milly's beautiful Drawings from Nature posts?  If you have not visited there, may I encourage you to do so?  She is one of the folks who initially encouraged me to start this blog.

She's a fine artist, who definitely has mastered the use of acrylic inks.  Last week, I made a quick visit to my favorite NYC discount artists' materials shop, and bought three bottles of acrylic ink, in black, white and sepia.  This afternoon, I opened up a page in one of my mostly empty sketch books and played a bit with the sepia and white ink.  I'm being brave in showing you all the results, and hope that in the weeks to come, I'll have much better examples to share.  I did like using the inks, finding them somewhere between watercolor and gouache, featuring some aspects of each of those two media that I have liked.

Now, let me return to another yarn fueled project.  I am knitting a long, fringed scarf as a surprise farewell gift for a work colleague who will be leaving at the end of the month.  I'm using all four-ply yarns, most of which I bought many, many years ago at Liberty's then excellent yarn department.  I do hope that department still exists!

The colors in this scarf are a bone  Botany (same as in the hat) and three different grey tweedy yarns.  All are Rowan yarns, though I think most might no longer be available.

Let's see, what else have I been doing when not at the shop, trying to keep up with certain 2012 resolves?  I'm reading two books.  One is a recent Alexander McCall Smith novel, The Forgotten Affairs of Youth, featuring his philosopher heroine, Isabel Dalhousie.  

The other novel is Heat Lightning, by Helen Hull, published in 1932, by Coward, McCann, Inc.  I was not yet born in 1932, and Coward, McCann, Inc. no longer exist.  However, Persephone Books are going to reissue this book.  I am finding its plot rather like the story line to a classic film of that era.  I see the scenes in black and white, though Ms Hull's excellent writing also exposes all sort of grey.

Perhaps you readers will now sense that this post has featured a certain colorway?

As we all take our additional steps into this new year, le'ts hope for lots of color, more as each day dawns.

Thank you all for your comments.  I continue to be amazed to have visitors from all over the world.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

This New Year is so different from 2011.  Truly, it is.  In early January 2011, New York was still trying to recover from a massive snowstorm.  I clearly remember the depth of the snow, and the energy required to shovel that heavy, icy snow from the sidewalks in front of the shop.  How my muscles did ache for the first few days of that shoveling.  How surprising it was to realize that even though the shoveling continued, the aching did not.

Today's weather was much more spring like, with the temperature almost reaching 60 degrees F.  How odd it was to walk past the skating rink at Rockefeller Center this afternoon, and see skaters in light sweaters and sweat shirts trying to execute their favorite moves on slushy ice.  You can also see the large orange crane that allowed some workers to remove all those glittering lights.  Pretty soon the Tree will be removed from its place of honor.

I was on my way to meet some friends for a long-postponed Christmas lunch.  

Since my last visit to this part of Rockefeller Center, a large Lego shop has opened.  I did not have time to go inside for a proper browse, but loved the sculptures in place over one of the entrances.

Eventually, I reached my lunch destination and met up with my friends, an artist couple I have know for many decades.  We always have much to discuss, and laughing plays a big part of our conversations.

We also brought along the Christmas gifts that we wanted to exchange with each other, and elected to wait to open these festively wrapped packages after we'd returned home.  Too much drama might have ensued if we'd done the unwrapping at the restaurant.

So, after lunch we took a bit of a walk, enjoying the blue sky and mild January afternoon, and then parted with the knowledge that we'd be seeing each again very soon.

I am going to try to be more frequent with these posts, even if this might mean a shorter post.  I'm going to try to change a lot of my routines this year and see if this shake up gives me more relaxation and even fun.  I hope to be able to find some new city views to share with you, as I also explore making some of my country dreams more of a reality.

Best wishes to you all for a New Year that will amaze with its positive possibilities.