Saturday, 29 April 2017

And Another...

Well, what can I saw? You find what you like and that's what you do. 

Funny enough, these used to be my favourite colours, back when I was in school, though they've never particularly suited me. Mostly I liked brown, I think because I thought it made me blend into the back ground - definitely wallflower material...or maybe just a mouse. I still don't mind brown, thinking of it as a variation of my mouse brown hair.

I think another reason I liked these colours is that my Grandmother (Mom's mom) always liked them. I only knew her with beautiful white hair, but I think perhaps she may have had reddish brown hair when younger. In real life, Mom's hair was likely a middling brown but when I first knew her (does that sound right?), and for all the years until she went grey, she had auburn hair. Both Mom and Grandmother surrounded themselves with earthy colours.

And it didn't hurt that they were way popular in the 1970s, when I was a teen. I don't wear earth colours any more, but these colours of yarn were what I had on hand, so they were what I used - in diagonal rows with brown trim all around.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Another Granny Square Project

This is another of my watching-telly projects for the Age UK knitting group. Granny squares really are about the easiest thing to do with yarn and I still absolutely love playing with the colours. 

About the time I was delivering this, I was trying to exercise more and so I cycled the 3 or so miles to the Comrades Club at Whitley Bay, where my knitting group meets. 

It was a gorgeous day and I couldn't resist stopping to snap a few photos. 

On the way to Whitley Bay

Being able to stop at take pictures - along with not having to pay for parking (£1.20/hour!) - are two huge advantages (not to mention the exercise of course) of cycling over driving. 

I generally drive when a) the weather is bad; b) I have loads to carry; or c) I've let myself run short of time and in many cases I find the car as much a nuisance as a convenience. 

The pier and the Priory
The ability to walk to most places I would generally need to go is now firmly in my list of requirements for a place to live - not that I plan on moving any time soon! Folks in the US - particularly the midwest - never think of this, but my experience is that it adds a lot to quality of life, having that sort of convenience and community.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Synchronised Knitting

So, if I haven't been writing here, what have I been doing besides genealogy? Well, I've made a few things, mostly from yarn ('Wool' is a generic term here meaning all types of yarn, but when I say 'wool', I mean sheep's fur, not acrylic stuff. That said, I mostly use acrylic because it is cheaper and what is mostly on offer for free).

As part of the WI Craft group, I made some 'twiddle muffs' for the dementia charity we were supporting this year. These were made back in September but they only got presented to the charity at the April meeting, where I learned that they had come up with a 'nicer' name for them (?) and they didn't want buttons on any more. Great.  I have to say they are the most boring things in the world to make, but never mind, I did my part.


They are basically a large rectangle, sewn together to make a lined tube. Then you sew things on it that people with dementia can 'twiddle'. Apparently it comforts them. These will likely go to some ladies as men, we were told, prefer brighter, primary colours. So even if one has dementia some of those ingrained ideas stick. 


I was given the yarn to make these with, so all it 'cost' me was a selection of buttons I wasn't likely to ever use. I chose large ones to make it easier to sew them on firmly (and easier to cut off, I guess). Also ones with some sort of interesting shape or texture. 


I dread to think these will all go in the bin, but I guess that is a likely outcome. I do hate waste {sigh}.

I made these while sitting in front of the telly after dinner, something that has come to be an established habit for good or ill. After a busy day pushing myself to do challenging things I find it very relaxing to veg out but to keep my hands busy.  I'm much less likely to snack if I'm knitting (my generic term for both knitting & crochet) and I can make a glass of wine last almost forever. 

If you want an even bigger challenge, can I recommend a foreign programme/film with subtitles? We've been watching two Italian detective shows: Inspector Montalbano and Young Montalbano. There are a lot more episodes for the former but I must admit the younger Montalbano is my preference as he's very pretty, but also because it seems a bit more light-hearted. It is a more recent creation though it is a prequel to the original Inspector Montalbano, so there may be more coming along. 

At first I couldn't knit and watch at the same time, but I've got the rhythm down now. Saying Italian takes a lot longer than reading English, so I just need to get a feel for how often the subtitles change and sort of get myself synchronised. Probably best left to slightly more advanced knitters.

Monday, 17 April 2017

My Dad's Birthday

Today would have been my Dad's 99th birthday. My fascination with detecting his past has been one of several reasons I've not been here of late. I've written before about only learning my Dad was adopted when I was in my mid-50's and when nearly everyone who had first hand knowledge was long gone. I'm pretty certain he never knew he was adopted, though he may have suspected. I think now that my grandparents moved from Minnesota to Wisconsin to keep him away from cousins who might tell him. 

The earliest photo of my Owatonna?

One of the most astounding things I've discovered is that my Dad had an older brother - I had an Uncle Albert. He is likely a half-brother, but who ever heard of a half-uncle?  

The fact that my Dad and I were both only children always seemed to me to be one of the major things that bonded us. Only-ness seemed to be a defining experience for us. No one else I knew understood the joy of solitude - or of companionable silence - in quite the way my Dad did. Something I ran across recently challenged readers to 'describe themselves in one sentence' and while I didn't know how that might go, I knew it would include 'only child' somewhere, maybe like 'Only child, addicted to reading, colour and textiles...' I'm sure there is more, but those are the first thoughts that come to mind.

Strangely, Albert's birthday is tomorrow (but 3 years earlier than my Dad). The part of Albert's story that I know is nearly as sad as their mother's. My Dad was placed in the Owatonna state school (orphanage) when he was 11 months old; Albert was 4. My Dad was adopted 10 months later; Albert waited 3 years to be adopted. So it is likely he always remembered that he was adopted. Whether he understood why these things happened to him I'll likely never know. Albert's adoption records won't be available until 2022. Hopefully I'll be able to get them then, if they still exist. Minnesota seems rather careless with some of their old records as some of my Dad's seem to have disappeared from Hennepin County.

Albert's birth certificate (now over 100 years old and so available on the Minnesota Historical Society website) says his father was named Albert Peterson, born 1876 in Sweden. My Dad's birth certificate - obtained with the help of the Minnesota Coalition for Adoption Reform - has no father listed, not even his given name (which according to the Owatonna records was James). It only gives his birth date and his mother's address. This is a large brick building near downtown Minneapolis (courtesy of Google) and I'm guessing she rented a room there. 

A maternal cousin in Sydney suggested I join an e-group called DNAAdoption, which I did. They are a group of 'experts' who volunteer to help people interpret their DNA results to follow the trail of their birth parents. I didn't ask for help, but I learned a great deal from them, enough to identify my Dad's mom (it takes hours and hours of work, mind). From that e-group I learned about the American Adoption Congress. They referred me to the Minnesota Coalition for Adoption Reform. Amazingly, a lawyer (who is an adoptive parent) contacted me and has worked on my situation for about about 7 months now, obtaining a court order for the release of records pertaining to my Dad's birth and adoption -- all for FREE! - can you believe it? He's a really nice man - I've spoken with him on the phone. He and his wife are visiting Edinburgh in May and I'm thinking it would be lovely to nip up there and meet him, if only for coffee or dinner or something. 

Getting records is all exceedingly slow and my patience has had a good workout. I'm currently waiting for frozen records to thaw (literally). If I get this right, there was a flood in the Steele County (location of Owatonna) archives and freeze-drying paper apparently is a salvage method. Given the anti-climax that was my Dad's birth certificate, I'm not holding my breath (well, as much not as I can). I'm thinking if anything it might tell me more about Grandma and Grandpa, the adoptive parents, and that would be nice, too. [Update: no records there, frozen or thawed, pertaining to my Dad's adoption].

Sometime around Thanksgiving, I finally worked up the nerve to contact some of my Dad's rather distant paternal cousins. I got a great response and they did their best with their local knowledge to help me find out more. One even came up with my paternal Grandmother's obituary (her name was Mary). (More about her next month, on - you guessed it - her birthday). From that obituary I knew where Mary lived in the last decade of her life. 

They also gave me some phone numbers to try for a 2nd cousin (we have the same great-grandparents). It took me even longer - a couple of months - to work up the nerve to ring him. Then I realised we are none of us getting any younger and I'd best get on with it. Turns out he is also a very nice man. [I begin to wonder why I'm always a little surprised by this.] Don's mother was Mary's niece and Mary lived with them from the mid-1960s until her death in 1976. Don will have been in his 20's and 30's and he remembers Mary. We've been writing back and forth as he recalls various details about her as a person. 

It's been an amazing journey - and I'm still on it. But hopefully I'll find time to squeeze in a post here and there!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

This Year's Stack


Gosh, it seems like forever since I wrote a blog post - a month in fact. Well, Happy New Year and all that. I'm always so glad to see the back of the holiday season. I guess that makes me a proper Grinch, eh?

We had a good time with family in spite of an awful cold Bill brought home and shared. We are finally recovering and I have lots of ideas for 2017.

So, keeping up the annual tradition, here are the books (and videos) I got for Christmas this year. Starting at the bottom of the stack:

French Fashion Design Paper Dolls 1900-1950, Tom Tierney.  This was a big surprise from my friend, Lucy. I don't think I will be able to bring myself to cut them out, but they are absolutely spectacular. She knows just what I like!

Half-Yard: Home, Gifts, Christmas, Heaven (4 books), Debbie Shore. I originally saw one of these at the National Trust shop at Knole and was sorely tempted. Instead, I came home and put it on my Amazon wishlist and found a couple of others. I have to say there is a fair amount of repetition in these books, so if you got one or two it would probably be enough. I hope to dive into them at some point during the year and if I can recommend one or the other, I will report back.

A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, Brian Mitchell.  This is pretty much a book of maps and it is all fairly confusing, which is one of the reasons I wanted it. The administrative areas of a country can be those defined by any number of bodies: Poor Law Unions, Catholic Church, Anglican Church, etc. Knowing the right name of the area in the right database can save a lot of time and effort. I can see I need to designate a bookshelf to genealogical resources.

Homemade Gifts Vintage Style, Sarah Moore. Another temptation at a National Trust shop. It looks lovely!

Fashion: The Whole Story, Marnie Fogg and Valerie Steele. I saw this at the Discovery Museum one day when Vivien and I visited. They had a whole selection of fashion-related books owing to the fact that there was a fashion exhibit on display. You remember, I took you there? I've just started reading this and while I don't think there is a 'whole' story that can be told, it does start with the Egyptians. There is a lot to be said for clothing made of simple rectangles...

The Buildings of Northumberland, Nikolaus Pevsner and Ian Richmond. Bill and I often get each other books we both can enjoy. Some one laughed that I bought Bill a JK Rowling and a Jill Paton Walsh book, each that I was looking forward to reading. We both agree that it makes perfect sense to do this sort of thing, given the limited space we have. I can see us planning some days out using this book and another that Vivien gave him, about historical walking tours in Northumberland. 

Starting to Make Bead Jewellery, Julie Ashford. I have jewellery making tools, including a drill I got for Christmas. I have tons of old jewellery, begging to be re-made into something wearable, and a jar full of sea glass and shells. And now I have some basic instructions to get me started. I saw a wonderful book of design in a National Trust shop, but didn't take note of the title and author, sadly. I know loads of crafters who are very skilled at making things, but don't trust their design capabilities. I count myself among them.

Winter's Bone, Daniel Woodrell. I know most folks read a book and then look forward to the film. I like books probably slightly more than I do films and so when I saw that the Jennifer Lawrence film of this title was made from a book, it went on my wishlist. I expect it will be fairly gruesome, mind. 

A Man from Donegal, James Harley. It is a simple narrative of someone who is bound to be a distant cousin, though I doubt I'll ever be able to connect us up. Still, I thought it was worth reading. So many books I don't really need to own, but I really want to read them. Our local library is pretty much dedicated to chick lit and graphic novels, whatever those are.

A Circle of Sisters, Judith Flanders. I spotted this at Bateman's. The four MacDonald sisters in the book are married to Rudyard Kipling, Stanley Baldwin (a Prime Minister), Edward Burne-Jones (a Pre-Raphaelite painter) and Edward Poynter (a president of the Royal Academy [of Arts]). Loads of history waiting for me here!

Inheritance, Robert Sackville-West. If you read the posts about Knole, you'll know about this book. I'm hoping that it's been long enough (and heaven knows there has been enough information stuffed in) that I won't remember too much that this is 'old news'. Somehow I think that's unlikely.

The Terrible Knitters of Dent (video). This was a surprise from Helen, Bill's eldest.  I see I haven't yet blogged about our Thanksgiving in a rented house in Dent... Anyhow, we went for a walk and then had tea and toasted teacakes at the museum in Dent. I had to leave to go put the turkey in the oven and so didn't get to tour the museum with the others. Bill and I watched this last night. It is mainly a couple of elderly ladies, the last of the 'terrible' (meaning, amazingly good) knitters telling their stories. I'll have to write about the terrible knitters some time, but meanwhile you can read about them (there are some videos there, but most of you will need subtitles...).

Belleville Rendevous (video). This has another name, the Triplets of Belleville. If you haven't seen it, you really must. Simon first showed it to us back when we visited him in St Paul Trois Chateau in 2012. We saw it again at Ben's flat when we were cat sitting in Nice. I found it on Youtube once but really thought we should own it. Bill is picky about what he will watch and this is one he will sit still for. I wouldn't say it was a children's cartoon, mind. We watched it New Year's Eve.

The Tales of Beadle the Bard, J.K. Rowling. I can't believe we don't already own every single thing she's written. If this is a fraction as good as the Harry Potter books, I will be well pleased.

I'm aware that I haven't read quite as much this year as I generally do. Blame my DNA results for that...

OH NO!!! There are two more books I'm currently reading that got left out of the stack! And there is no way I'm going to recreate that photo...

Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a Cultural History), David Hackett Fischer. This was a book recommended by a cousin (or to him, I forget which). It purports to describe four separate waves of immigration from four different areas of Britain to four different areas of America and to show how the regional culture of those parts of Britain impacted the development of regional culture in the US. I am currently reading about the Puritans who colonized Massachusetts from East Anglia. It is a very academic book with loads of footnotes, but I'm loving it all the same.

The Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, Shannon Hayes. I'm nearly half way through this wonderful book. It seems so far like a more historical/political version of The Tightwad Gazette. It seems that there is a trend these days for homesteading, ie raising chickens and stuff. I don't recall that Amy Dacyczyn ever mentioning livestock, but she certainly was the person who set me to thinking about consuming less. Except for books, obviously....

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Grandmother's Birthday

Today is my maternal Grandmother's birthday. I nearly forgot, but for an email reminder from Hotmail. Silly of me to be so wrapped up in Family History to be distracted from remembering a person I actually knew and loved. 

I've written about Grandmother over the years. She was a fairly unique character. I used to think she was the only Democrat in all of Oklahoma. Part of what I've loved about family history has been to learn more about the events that shaped the lives and the thinking of people in my family. Grandmother was born in 1898 and grew up fairly poor in Arkansas, one of a large family abandoned by her father. 

My other Grandma (who adopted my Dad) was born in 1890 and grew up one of many in a fairly middle class family in Minnesota. They couldn't be more different in their personalities.

I have a cousin, John, in Buffalo New York who is a DNA wizard, being a retired professor of some closely related field if not that exact one. He slings around terms like iGP, autosome, mutations, crossover and I simply don't speak the language. But I've been learning a lot since getting my DNA test in May. And he's uncovering information faster than I can fill it in on my family tree!

We still don't know who was the father of Grandmother's grandfather (don't even try to make sense of that). But the DNA findings in a large number of projects, including one about that specific surname, indicate that she was descended from a man John calls George the Surveyor. George is originally from Berkshire, England, and apparently was given large pieces of land for surveying the boundary line between Virginia and Maryland. And in some book it shows the lineage of George the Surveyor and how he is descended from Henry III (why they didn't take it all the way back to William the Conqueror, I don't know).

I doubt Grandmother would give two hoots, but with my love of history I thought that was a marvelous discovery!

And on another line, Grandmother is a direct descendent of Samuel Jordan, who can be found in Wikipedia, as well as many family history websites. I'm suddenly getting more interested in American history than I can ever remember being before. Now I just need more hours in the day!

Happy Birthday, Grandmother - and thank you for your excellent family history!

Friday, 18 November 2016

Handwork at Bateman's

So, I was last talking about our visit to Bateman's, home of Rudyard Kipling. I said I found it quite homespun and that I would explain that remark. 

Countries in Europe

I think it was all the examples of needlework I noticed.

Sorry about the reflection! A map of England's counties.

Embroidered maps of England and Europe first caught my eye. 

Parts of the UK. Interesting that the North Sea is called the German Ocean, among other different names.

The Kiplings' bed had embroidered hangings and bedspread. 

I believe one of the volunteers there said a local embroiderers' guild had done a copy of the original or extensive repairs or something. 

Even the ceiling of the canopy was embroidered. 

I believe a lot of this was the work of Kipling's wife, Caroline. I don't know if she will have done the needlework on the bed curtains, but I'm pretty sure she did the piece for the canopy.

The initials RK and CK under a tree of life.

There were a lot of pillows, a footstool or two and a firescreen which all looked to be the work of a busy needlewoman.

I doubt she did the tapestry in the hallway and probably not the curtains, but there are many textiles that have that sort of look.

It is at least one part of what made me think it would be lovely to live there. 

A quilted bedspread in their son John's room.

We get to see a lot of really grand houses as members of the National Trust. 

They are wonderful to walk around and see the history.

Add caption

 However, there aren't many of them that make me wish I lived there, not like Bateman's.

I get lost too easily!