Sunday, March 27, 2016

Ravine Gardens

A red azalea- such a beauty!

It was a treat. Well, maybe not for my son, who was destined to spend four hours in a small classroom reviewing math in preparation for the upcoming ACT exam, but for me it was definitely a treat. My friend Michelle, author of the popular blog Applie's Place, also had a daughter doing the review, so she drove all four of us over to the Palatka location of St. Johns River State College.

After we dropped the kids off, the two of us headed over to Ravine Gardens State Park. It was my first time there, and I had hopes that I would be able to see the ravine wreathed in color from the resident azaleas. Unfortunately, due to the rains the prior day, the park was only about 20% for the azaleas. Nevertheless, I wasn't disappointed. It turns out that, whether it is azalea season or not, Ravine Gardens State Park is well worth the visit!
Steps going down convert to steps going up afterwards. I had to choose my steps carefully!

Where we spent the majority of our time.

We had four hours to explore, but I had to be mindful of myself as well. The climb down into the ravine is easy, but it is no easy matter to hoist oneself back up with compromised lungs. We meandered a little bit (not nearly enough, but it was all I could manage) and eventually made our way over to the suspension bridge where we happily spent the bulk of the time snapping photos and spinning or knitting. There were so many lovely things to photograph, too! First up:  the azaleas. I'm thankful there were still several beauties to enjoy.

But azaleas weren't the only things in bloom...
Water iris

And fiddlehead ferns...

But by far the best find of all was this:

It doesn't look like much, but just take a peek inside...

and you'll see this...

Four tiny eggs in a neat little nest!

Here's a close-up:

The eggs are perhaps 3/4 inch long

We took a few minutes to figure out which feathered creature constructed such an ingenious nest and found it to be the red-eyed vireo. We never caught sight of the mother, but we didn't linger long. Soon enough, we headed back up the steps to find some shelter from a few stray raindrops.
Catch my breath, it's a bit of a climb!
At the top, we found the shelter, laid out the picnic blanket, and pulled out some special projects. I brought along a sweet little spindle that was 3-D printed by Akerworks. It is a mini-spindle with a 6.5 inch shaft, and this little fellow is a long, stable, and fast spinner. It's a delight to handle!

All too soon it was time to go. The kids were nearly done with their class, and we knew they would be hungry. Truthfully, I could have stayed there all day. I'll have to return again, hopefully physically strengthened so that I can better explore it. Until then, I'll have sweet memories to savor of this special day.

Easter Wishes

Happy Easter! He is Risen!

Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?" John 11:25-26 NLT

Thursday, March 17, 2016


I had the week all planned out. Despite feeling poorly (after all, it seems to have been the rule rather than the exception as of late) I knew how my week was going to roll. It included all the normal activities: homeschooling, co-op classes, tutoring, church, chauffeuring kids, etc. as well as a few special activities like a much anticipated breakfast with a friend and a dyslexia evaluation. Yes, I'd been diagnosed with pre-pneumonia that just didn't seem to be improving, no matter what we threw at it. Yes, I was exhausted. Yes, I wasn't quite certain how I was going to pull it all off. But, I had IMPORTANT STUFF to do.

That all changed Monday night.

I had self-diagnosed that in addition to dealing with the remnants of pneumonia, I was also fighting every Longleaf Pine in Northeast Florida which had callously decided to release its pollen into the air and into my allergy sensitive lungs. I called the doctor on Monday, but she didn't have time to see me in the schedule, so I scheduled the appointment for Tuesday after co-op. I never went, however.

I prepared to go to sleep Monday night. I was struggling in my breathing but I brushed my teeth like all was fine in the world. Then I went to bed and found out breathing just didn't work at all lying down. It finally officially scared me.

Minutes later my husband and I were in the van and headed to the hospital. As we drove, my breathing became more and more difficult. I grew more and more scared. Could I be wrong? Could it be a heart attack? Suddenly, all my weekly plans didn't seem so important any more.

The staff at the hospital were obviously better trained at spotting a true emergency than I was as they quickly whisked me back into a room. Drawing a breath in became more and more my intense focus rather than an automatic activity. Concentrate. Inspiration. Expiration. A blood draw was accomplished before I even realized it, and then the questions began:  Did I smoke? (no), Had I had a recent surgery? (no), Had I been on a long car trip or flight? (no). Don't these people understand I'm in the midst of a major allergic reaction? I agonized.

Turns out, my allergies were the last thing I needed to worry about. At some point I had suffered a bilateral pulmonary embolism and could easily have died. This had happened despite having no known risk factors at all. As my head spun and my heart feared, the staff quickly started me on blood thinners and began the detective process. I was incredibly blessed I didn't die.

Alone in the hospital room surrounded with my thoughts, I realized my to-do list wasn't as important as I had originally thought. Instead I turned my thoughts to gratitude- to God for saving my life through the skill of the hospital staff, to my husband who bravely stood beside me and a terrifying diagnosis, and to my friends and family who were supporting me with prayer and fervent well wishes from far away. To love.

I'm so thankful I am still here. I like to think that I would be okay if had returned to God, but I'd be lying if I said that, I embarrassed to admit. The fact is, I feel like I still have so much to do. Maybe God agrees. Earlier in the week I'd been enjoying a rare one-on-one conversation with one of my children as we drove along the highway. "Tomorrow isn't promised to anyone," I reminded him. "Love the people you encounter in your day, every day, despite how you feel. They are God's gift to you." He had been feeling especially challenged by one person in his life, and I understood his struggles. I've been there as well. My brush with death formed that conversation into a crystalline gem for me to keep and remember. My admonition stood for me, too.

I'm grateful I'm still here, wrestling with the massive and mundane questions of life and the universe. I'm thankful to still be a daily presence in my family's lives. I'm mindful things could be different. Love God, love others. That's the way of it. By doing so, we will experience a life well lived, no matter how long.

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind', and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Luke 10:27, NIV

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Downton Abbey

If you are a devotee of Downton Abbey, I know how you feel now that the show has finished up. I don't normally watch much television these days, but Downton was different. Upstairs and downstairs alike fascinated me. I loved the richly painted characters, the beauty and formality of a time long gone, and the gorgeous scenery. As much as I will miss it, I have a parting souvenir. Jimmy Beans Wool planned a mystery knit-a-long to coincide with the release of each of the first eight final episodes, and I decided to take part. All I knew was that it would be a shawl. Each week a clue was released early Sunday morning, and I sat down to work it out through the week. It was a challenge to stay on top of the work, but in the end I managed to do it. I love the result, too!

Completed and blocked!
The yarn is Lorna's Laces Solemate and was specially dyed for the event. The colorway is called Yorkshire Skies. Kristen Ashbaugh-Helmrich is the designer.
View from the back

Happy to be done!
I love wearing this shawl. I've blocked it in my favorite Eucalan wash, Night Blooming Jasmine, so when I wear it, I catch the subtle fragrance. The shawl sits nicely on my shoulders and will be a welcome garment when Florida air conditioning season hits!

Next on my knitting list is Scottish Ale by Cheryl Beckerich. This is a heavily cabled sweater, and I'm knitting it in Cascade Ecological Wool for my son as a graduation gift. Now that I've started the thing, I'm wondering if I'll actually finish it closer to his college graduation! It's a slog to get through it, but I know in the end he's going to love it. It's a very good thing I'm a process knitter!
It's gonna be a while, folks...

Friday, March 4, 2016


I've been knitting again. Actually, in the span of one week's time, I've managed to complete AND block two projects. That's a record for me for sure! The one I want to write about today, though, is Pennant. Designed by Laura Aylor, it's kind of this odd triangulary piece of knitting with holes at one end. It's odd looking but so much fun to knit. The magic happens once the knitting is completed. The holes allow the wearer to change the way it's worn, generating many different looks for the piece.
First day wearing option!
To knit this little beauty, I went on a deep stash diving expedition in my closet and surfaced with two vintage (read, decades old) yarns. The first one my sweet nephew should recognize, as it's the left over yarn from his baby blanket. It's Sirdar Country Style DK and is now retired. The stripe accent was gifted to me by my own sweet little boy who will be heading off to college this fall and is also discontinued. It's Tapestry by Rowan.

Although the yarns aren't exactly alike (one is plied, the other is nearly pencil roving, and one is thicker than the other) I think they worked out really well together.

Laura designed a simple yet engaging pattern, and I know it won't be the last time I work one up. I am thinking it would make a loving prayer shawl gift for someone who could use a lift.
A glimpse of the stripe detailing.
A view of the general shape.
I love the ending of it!