Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Goodbye Mom.

Margaret Whitestone Riggs 1930-2015

Every generation stands on the shoulders of those who paved the way, and my mother was one of those rare individuals who was a trailblazer. Despite growing up in privilege in the 1940s in a nice house in Bronxville, NY, with a car at 16, piano lessons,a cook and a private school education, she was the only child of two working parents, and I think her vision for her future included giving back to the world. She always wanted to become a doctor, but it was daunting in those days for a woman to excel in the sciences, and to defy traditional expectations of marriage and domesticity.
In pursuit of a degree in biology, she transferred from Gaucher College to the University of Wisconsin, and as luck would have it, went on a blind bridge date with my father. She knew instantly that he was the man she would marry, and brought him back East to meet her parents. My grandmother did not much like this Midwestern boy with the threadbare shoes, and threatened him with a frying pan! But they were married in a small ceremony after graduation, and eventually moved to Hastings in 1957 to raise their three children, and begin a lifelong passion for alpine rock gardening. In fact, she bought her last home sight-unseen, because of the rock ledge, which she and my father converted over the years to a showplace garden of rare and exotic alpine plants, in between traveling all over the world with my Dad to see gardens and enjoy the sights in Russia, China, Turkey, Egypt, Poland, France, and England in her later years.
My mother threw herself into being the best mom possible, learning to cook, driving us around, helping with homework, enjoying coffee with the neighbors and teaching us useful skills: study hard, be nice to everyone and clean your room,which have stood me in good stead all these years. But she yearned for more than just “housewife”, and went back to work in her 40s, taking graduate courses and eventually getting a Masters degree in Human Genetics in 1975 at the newly started program at Sarah Lawrence College. She was fascinated by the issues involved in women's health, and campaigned vigorously for freedom of choice, marching on Saturdays at the clinic in Dobbs Ferry with her friends. She was an ardent supporter of Planned Parenthood, and my parents always worked at the yearly auction in Irvington. In fact, much of her furniture was purchased at the Planned Parenthood auction over the years.
My mom loved her career, and worked as a Genetics counselor until 2 years ago when she retired. She continued to keep up with the latest journals and always knew more than the doctors she worked for, confidently reassuring patients and family alike, armed with knowledge and experience.
My mom was passionately involved with her friends, her kids and her 5 grandchildren, who met weekly for Sunday dinner at her house, where she always fed us and encouraged us all in our pursuit of our dreams, especially scientific endeavors. She was always ready with a baked good for those in need, and called cooking her solace. When times were tough, the smell of banana bread always made you feel better!
My mom was broken-hearted to lose my dad 13 years ago, and in fact had a triple bypass soon after. But she soon adopted two cats, whose antics and predatory habits served no end of worry and amusement, and comforted her so much. It was a challenge to maintain her fabulous garden after my dad died, but she soldiered on, working at her job until 2 years ago when the doctor she worked for retired, playing bridge and keeping busy. She started studying astrophysics a few years ago, and loved to discuss the expanding universe, black holes and cosmic radiation...
My mother was a complicated, generous, brilliant and witty person, who could work a room like nobody I ever saw, befriending and getting the life story of strangers in an instant. She made those around her laugh, and was unfailingly fun to be around, even in times of illness or difficulty. We will miss her laugh and her quick repartee and her reports on the doings of everyone around her. I will miss most her support and encouragement of me, my children and my husband every day.

Jeri Riggs October 20, 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

Still knitting after all these years!

Oh, it has been a while since I blogged, and I apologize to you, my loyal readers! I have been knitting away, though, and post my sweater creations on Ravelry regularly. My most recent project was inspired by my enjoyment of lace knitting, and the fascination I have had for the work of Herbert Niebling, who designed lace in Germany in the 1930-60's and whose patterns have created a new craze as they are being re-discovered by a new generation of knitters. Reprints of his work can be found in the original German, and in English on Ravelry.com and  doilyhead.wordpress.com.
After designing, in fingering-weight yarn, my circular lace vest, "Vestborough", I had worked out the numbers for that gauge, so I thought it might be fun to find a doily pattern that would work as a sweater . It needed to have under 150 rows for my size, and an obvious break around row 60 to insert sleeves. The "Sirius" doily pattern by Herbert Niebling fit the bill, so I knit this sweater. I modified the last 10 or 15 rows to create a more interesting edge, and used a picot bindoff to add a lacier edge, as I had seen my friend Andrea do on one of her sweaters.I also flipped the top half of the edge to reverse stockinette so that when folded back the collar would be right-side out.    Working out how to design the sleeves took a bit of trial and error, as the first sleeve design's lace  was too busy, and I did not want to knit plain stockinette sleeves. A raglan sleeve cap makes the sweater sit better on the shoulders and fits reasonably well with the geometry of the piece, though I think it works a bit better on a pentagonal shape than a hexagon, which is what this design is based on. So, here is the sweater, which looks wonderful on my mannequin! The yarn is a fingering weight linen chain yarn, which I had on a large cone. It took about 1200 yards for the whole thing.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Some say frittata

It has been snowing for days and days, so I have been reluctant to leave the house. Today we had a window of a few warmish hours ( before more slush fell!) so I shoveled a bit and got ready for a visit from my knitting buddies. I had promised them lunch, so I opened the fridge and decided to use the eggs I bought at the farmer's market and make a frittata. This is like a quiche but without the crust, and can be varied as desired. It turned out to be so delicious that I thought I would write up the recipe!

 So here goes: Some Say Frittata:
2Tbs olive oil for skillet
6 eggs
1/4 cup low fat milk
1/4 cup low fat mozzarella cheese,
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese,
handful of cherry tomatoes,
handful of spinach,kale, 1/2 a zucchini, 1/2 an onion, .
Salt, black pepper, oregano,parsley to taste
butter for greasing 8X8 pyrex  ovenproof pan

Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Place 2Tbs of oil in skillet, and saute vegetables until soft. Meanwhile, grate cheeses and mix together. Beat the eggs with spices and the milk.
Grease 8x8 glass pan with butter. Arrange vegetables into bottom of pan and sprinkle cheese on top.Pour beaten egg mixture over top of veggies and cheese. Bake at 400 deg F for 45 minutes, or until edges are browned and eggs are set. You can stick a knife into the center to see if eggs are cooked thoroughly. Turn off oven and let sit for 10 minutes, or remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 3
This can be varied easily by using different vegetables, or adding meat or other delights.

Even Shadow approved!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Mittens and kittens

With the frigid and snowy weather we have been having, my hands have been really cold. I made a pair of felted mittens last week, as you know, but needed to make alpaca liners to have that extra layer of warmth. So, here they are:

It was very warm to knit with cats cuddled up next to me on the couch, and we all are hoping our feral kitten Shadow, will join us, but she prefers to run around. She is furry enough, it seems!

In other news, I knit another cowl, to test the lace design, and I think I like the first design better.But both are lovely and warm! Pattern is Blackbird Cowl, and I'm looking for testknitters, so let me know if you'd like the pattern!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Felt like new mittens..

This winter
has been very cold, and my old favorite gloves are getting worn out. I've tried many kinds of glove and mitten configurations, but the ones which worked best for my Raynoud's syndrome ( painful cold fingers with exposure to cold) seemed to be alpaca mittens inside of polar fleece mittens. So I wondered if putting alpaca mittens inside felted mittens might do the trick also. I knit some huge mittens from one skein of Cascade 220, following this pattern: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/stockbridge-felted-mittens, and felted them as directed twice in the washing machine. They shrunk very nicely:

Above are the "before" photos, and here is the "after":
My plan was to line them with alpaca mittens, but I haven't made them yet. A friend gave me some lovely polar fleece, and I made liners for them, but the combination was too stiff, so I plan to knit some alpaca ones soon. Unfortunately the thumbs are a little too long, but that is fine. Meanwhile, I have more cowls on the needles!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Knitting in circles

I've always loved knitting in the round for many reasons: no seams, no need to worry about end of row issues, and being able to knit until you use up all of the yarn. The ease of circular needles makes it portable and fun, and the amazing variety of needles available now means there will be a needle available for any project.
This winter I joined the BadCat Infinity group, where Andrea is leading us on a merry journey knitting moebius scarves and cowls, with a bit of fractal math joined in. You can see her project details on her blog here:
As is typical for me, I get all excited and then my mind runs to the various alternatives I can see, so with my newly learned enjoyment of moebius knitting, I had to play with the concept and design my own moebius cowl.The trick here is to create a stitch pattern that is nearly reversible, because you will see both "sides" of any stitch pattern with this method of knitting. I had heard about the legendary Cat Bordhi's magic Moebius cast-on many years ago, but had not had the urge to try it before. Luckily, there is a You Tube about it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVnTda7F2V4   It is magical indeed, and the video explains it very well.
 Above is my first attempt at using a reversible leaf lace to work the body of the cowl. I loved using this blue yarn, A Hundred Ravens' Aesir, which is a sock weight superwash yarn dyed in the most glorious colors. This is the "Tardis" colorway, and it is heavenly.
Here I worked a slightly different leaf lace at a bigger gauge in Madeline Tosh "Vintage", and I am trying to decide which stitch pattern I like more. The first one has more texture, and springs back after blocking into a more bumpy effect, while the bottom pattern is a smoother look.The edgings are the same, and I love the pointy edges. Blocking a moebius is tricky, because there is a twist in the cowl, and so you can't block the whole thing as easily as you can block a simple tube, but you do get both edges in the same go, so it has that advantage. When you are done, you are done. The trick I found was to let it mostly dry flat, except for the area of twist, and then re-position the whole thing, spray water only on the part that had been twisted and let that part block like the rest of it. Here is a blocking photo from the first cowl:
Another fun "twist" on knitting in the round!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Snow Fun

It has been a very snowy season already! As someone who does not ski, snowboard,sled or skate, I dread each snowstorm and think only of the terrible road conditions, scary hills, endless shoveling and being trapped in the house or stuck on a hill in my car. On the other hand, it is a good excuse to stay home and work on projects, read, cook or knit, but sometimes one needs a bit of exercise or a reason to don boots, gloves, hats and coats besides the effort of shoveling, which I have to do very carefully because of my neck and arms, which are often in pain and are needed for other things like sewing and knitting! This year I hired a snowplow service for the driveway, but there was still the deck and the walkway to do.
But it sure is pretty.
Recently I ran across the amazing snow art of Simon Beck: https://www.facebook.com/snowart8848 ,
who spends many hours creating his precise and elegant masterpieces. I got to thinking about my huge back yard, and the flat expanse of snow outside, and thought it would be fun to try my hand at “snow quilting”.I had to clear off the deck so I could get to the back yard, and by the time I did that I was pretty tired, but the lure of design was strong, so I envisioned a big flower and set out to “quilt” the snow. I used the big tree as a center, and started walking the design. Ithe snow was a foot deep, and pretty soon it became apparent that running in the snow was easier than walking,because of the effort to pull each foot out of the snow was less at a run. I thought about the line I was creating and that it might be better to walk toe to heel, but worried I would fall down. Then I decided I was stitching the snow, so it was fine to leave space between footprints, so I started running. It was exhilarating to canter through the snow but rapidly exhausting, and I had to stop and rest a lot. As it was 34 degrees out, I quickly became overheated, and sweaty, but I was determined to finish the outline of the design and see what happened before I had to leave for an appointment.
My first design was rough, and messy, but I could see the possibilities, and it was a lot of fun. Finally a winter sport I could enjoy!
Today it has warmed up a lot, and the grass is poking through the melted snow, so the daisy shows up even more:
It is funny, but I find myself captivated by this idea, and the possibilities, and actually looking forward to the next storm, as I now have a way to interact with the snow that pleases me. As long as I take it in short bursts, I might be able to get good at this! And it is less boring than being on the elliptical machine. Last night I had to sleep for 12 hours, and I'm sore, but it was interesting and enjoyable to be outside. As an impermanent and evanescent art form, I suppose it is philosophically interesting, but it supplies a few needed factors: winter exercise, creation of unique designs,infinite possibilities and transient results, which is good because it does not add to my stash and clutter my house. Plus, it is free! Now I am eager to see the snow fall again!