The Signs Tell You





A short walk from our Cape May rental house is a tiny community garden lushly planted and curated with a mulched pathway.  Those who tend have kindly offered guides to what is planted.  It is a shady retreat from the relentlessly sunny sidewalks along Madison Avenue.



 I am rather taken with the signs.  They are charming yet helpful indicators of what one might find along the way.  

Right now, today, I wish for my own little metaphorical garden to have such signage.  Brightly colored ones amidst the greenery that would show me the way, with arrows pointing to which photography or writing class is right for me at present.  Which cookbooks I might learn most from.  What direction to take my dog training.

How bold am I now in regards to wading through my grief?

 


Every day recently, a writer, photographer, blogger, I follow, links to a class or course being offered.  Soon!  Registration is open!  I have spent considerable time checking each one out.  Each teacher offers inspiration or new sets of skills to learn.  Most are e-courses, available through a series of clicks with credit card at the ready.  Some are highly interactive, some are self-paced and more solitary, with support available.  The two that nailed me in between the eyes are in real time and place, on separate weekends, mornings only, six-plus hours away...

Do I want to sign myself up for something that offers to take me way deep, or do I want to stay closer to the surface and learn in comfort?  Do I want to be immersed, consumed, or is it best to make sure I have ample space for a little of everything?

I could and desperately want to ask you your opinion.  What do you think I should choose?  But most likely, you would say it depends, it depends on what you want, what you are looking for.  All the choices look promising, don't they?










A New Place





Every year we find someplace new to try, even if that someplace is not the slightest bit new.

 

This year, one such place was dinner at The Rusty Nail.  It's part of the Beach Shack hotel on Beach Avenue, and we have driven by it for years.  Our thought was that it was a twenty-something bar scene.  Certainly not for the likes of our small crowd.



 But another parent who spends the summers in Cape May recommended it, and with two thirteen year olds, we gave it a whirl.  My clams were the best of the trip and our service was everything it should be.  It's even dog-friendly, although we did not put that experience to the test!



A Vineyard Sunday




These photos are from our afternoon at Hawk Haven Winery earlier in the summer.  

 

During the summer months the winery hosts Sangria Sundays, an afternoon of music, lawn games, and sangria drinking.   We always pick one sunday to stop by, do a wine tasting, and sit a while sipping a red or white sangria.




It's one of our favorite Cape May afternoons, and as we work our way through our purchased case of wine during the year, each sip brings us back to this scene.

Waiting For Bread





Our annual two weeks in Cape May is not complete without several visits to Elizabeth's clay oven baked bread stand. I was happily surprised to find that last winter she built the structure you see above.





I wrote about my visits last summer in the post, Knowing The Baker.


checkerboard

I keep myself entertained while waiting in line by taking photos of the scene!







playing checkers

You will find Elizabeth selling her clay oven baked breads on Sunset Boulevard in Cape May on weekend mornings.  Her schedule changes at different points in the season.

The rosemary thyme bread remains my favorite, with the sage and polenta loaf coming in as a close second.





Sunset At The Cove




These are the last of my sunset photos from Cape May for this year.


I loved taking and then sharing them here with you.  Even though I never really feel like I know how to capture a sunset from a technical standpoint, I suppose the challenge is part of the adventure and the mystery of being one with the seascape at that hour.










Cape May Part One: The Classics





We just returned from two great weeks in Cape May.  This year marked our twelfth summer!  I have many photos to share in the coming weeks, but I thought I'd start off with some classic Cape May shots.

We could see the water tower from our rental house.  It truly is a good way to get your bearings if you lose your sense of direction.  It sits on Madison Avenue, across from a park.
 


We spent a couple sunsets at The Cove.  The light had just been turned on at the lighthouse when I took this photo.  The lighthouse is located at Cape May State Park, which is at Cape May Point (the very tip of Cape May).

 One year we climbed the lighthouse to the lookout area, which offers terrific views.  Not a big fan of heights, I can't say this was my favorite activity, but Olivia enjoyed the experience!




I came across this inscription (footprints included).  




We rode bikes around town this year.  I rented this pink cruiser.  It felt like a tank, but Cape May is so flat, it seemed just perfect.



That's Olivia in the foreground at The Cove.  The couple to the right asked me to take their photo with their own camera.  I hope at least one shot worked out for them!

Packing My Appetite





I went to Cape May with a good appetite.  Judging by the non-clothing items I packed, I would say I brought with me an appetite for inspiration.  I stuffed totes with magazines, non-fiction and fiction books, camera, sketchbook and colored pencils.

I wanted to be ready for Cape May to seep into my mind.

Into my book bag I tucked In The Kitchen With A Good Appetite, which had been my pool reading.  Enjoying it so much I didn't want to leave it behind for two weeks, it became my vacation bedtime book. I devoured it, finishing before our trip's end.

I knew I wanted to start cooking some of Melissa's recipe's as soon as we were settled back home. The stories preceding each recipe, however, were what pleased me most.  She is at once serious and amusing, and deeply confident in seeking her vision of a dish.

It made me laugh, how she repeatedly admitted how she can never leave someone else's recipe alone, she can't help herself from tweaking it to meet her own tastes and desires. 

Perhaps what surprised me most lies in the types of foods she excludes.  Pasta, grains, muffins, scones, soup, these clearly never played a role in her growth as a cook.  Her preferences shaped by her upbringing and early professional experiences, she holds fast to what she likes.

Her confidence and focus inspire me to pay more attention to flavors and textures I hope to replicate.  Sometimes I think I need to nudge myself beyond my starting points, which tend toward focus on the most perishable items in my kitchen, and be more like Melissa--in-tune with my appetite, deciding what I want to eat and going after it.

Given then, how Melissa cooks according to her own tastes, I shouldn't have been so surprised when I wanted to slightly alter many of the recipes I tried.  I truly expected each to stand perfectly.

It taught me to trust in my own tastes and create a personal vision, using her version as inspiration.

So, I don't toss off the granola recipe I found too sweet and sticky or the fennel frond pesto that caused me to say too salty, instead I have tried again with the season's last fennel bulb in my garden and plan to return to the granola when we have emptied the jar.  The kale salad cried out to me for hazelnuts, but alas, I experimented with the last of my Tuscan Kale until the Fall.  The chicken fingers said meatballs, and I plan to give that a try this coming week.  I don't think Melissa would be offended, I expect she would consider my deviations perfectly in order.



The chocolate ice cream, however, churned beautifully before our eyes and turned out to be one of the best ice creams I have yet to make.  Olivia and I made it together, and then sat on the couch savoring our puddles of richness on a hot Summer family movie night.

I have a bag full of fennel fronds, and may be making fennel frond pesto for some time to come, no doubt finding different ways to use it.  The lovely bed of caramelized fennel bulb and onion will hopefully reappear in Autumn.



Fish Fillets with Fennel Frond Pesto
adapted from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite


1 fennel bulb with fronds attached
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons pine nuts or slivered almonds
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 fish fillets, such as Tilapia or Arctic Char


1.  Chop off the fennel fronds and coarsely chop enough to measure 1 cup (discard or save the rest for another batch of pesto).  Put the chopped fronds in a food processor.  Add the garlic, nuts, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a generous pinch of pepper, and process until finely chopped.  Add 4 tablespoons of the oil and continue to process until the mixture looks like pesto.  Adjust salt to taste.  Set pesto aside.
2. Halve the fennel bulb and pull off any browned outer layers.  Using a small knife, cut the core out of the bulb, then slice the bulb as thinly as you can.
3. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat.  Add the fennel slices, onion, and a large pinch of salt and pepper.  Saute the vegetables until caramelized and softened, about 20 minutes.  (After 15 minutes, you may need to add a tablespoon at a time of water to keep the mixture from drying out while it finishes cooking).
4. Cook 2 fish fillets simply, according to your preferences.  We have both baked and grilled Tilapia and Artic Char with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread the fennel-onion mixture onto two plates, and place the fish fillets on top.  Top with dabs of pesto or serve at the table.

Serves 2
 

Knowing The Baker





I feel with every bite of bread I take that I know the baker.  The experience becomes so personal when I have stood in line, anxiously hoping there will be a loaf left for me, for us, and then finally my turn comes.  I chat briefly with the baker, while making my selections, not wanting to take too long for the sake of the others behind me in line.

She hands me my loaves slipped into paper bags, and as I walk away I smile at the other customers with satisfaction, knowing that we all will have the best bread in Cape May on our dinner table that evening.  Only then do I realize that the loaves I am cradling are still warm.



Meet clay oven bread baker Elizabeth, a Cape May local, who has been selling her loaves along Sunset Boulevard for three Summers. We found her two Summers ago, and last year never made it out on the days she had her bread for sale.

Now, we discovered, she has a following. The line begins forming under the trees by her stand outside her family farm before she sets up at ten. Vegetables and flowers are also for sale, and she told me she planted raspberry bushes since we were there two years ago.



Most of what I know of her is from snippets of conversation and an article in the July 2012 Exit Zero (color) magazine featuring Elizabeth and two other local bread bakers. She learned to bake bread in Germany and has spent time in India. She had someone build her clay oven for her, and she begins baking on sale days at 4:00am.

There are questions I hope to ask her someday about her dough and combination of flours, but would not want to keep those behind me waiting longer than the 30 to 40 minutes they have already been there.

I am by no means bread deprived. Between years of baking my own, and the occasional purchased loaves from Metropolitan Bakery, Le Bus, Baker Street, and Rolings, I eat great bread. None of these artisan breads, however, have the flavor of Elizabeth's bread. The slight charring on the underside and tops of the loaves enhance the herbs and spices she uses with fairly heavy hand, and reciprocally, those strong flavors stand up to the bitterness from the baking method. This bread commands your meal be planned around it. It will not merely serve as support to your sliced tomatoes, cheeses or sandwich fixings. When we have a fresh loaf of Elizabeth's bread, I make dinner according to the flavoring of that bread. The meal's direction eminates from that center.

On this trip, we sampled four loaves (there is a fifth in the freezer). I claim the rosemary thyme and olive oil black pepper as my favorites, Mr. Savory chooses oatmeal molasses, and Olivia can't stop asking for more slices of the rosemary thyme when we have it.

Elizabeth's bread, even if sold at a bakery with employees selling on her behalf, would still be amazing, but the experience of acquiring it (anticipation, commraderie among your line-mates, the eye-popping shades of her farm flowers standing in pails of water, and waiting under the shade of trees) adds a dimension to the bread. On July 4th, (the line longer I than I have ever seen it), a man ahead of me began counting the number of people waiting, and figured that if everyone present bought a loaf, there wouldn't be enough for everyone.  I told the group behind me that if there remained only two loaves when I reached the stand, I would only buy one, so they could try a loaf for the first time. According to the Exit Zero article, customers often will buy the last favorite loaf for another customer way back in line who would never have a chance otherwise.

The first day this season as I waited, I watched a young girl holding two loaves walk away with her mother and dog. They were stopped by a couple asking about the dog, and while her mother talked, the girl sniffed from loaf to loaf and back again, ignoring the discussion about English and American Labradors.

It made me smile observing how Elizabeth's bread reaches both children and adults alike, and I think that sweet scene may exemplify the highest praise.

You will find Elizabeth's stand at 609 Sunset Boulevard, on the right as you head towards Sunset Beach.  Currently, she is there Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 10:00am.  She is usually sold out by 11:00am.

My Cape May





My Cape May is a diverse landscape.  All year I retain the blue and green of the wetlands in my mind.  The lush green of grassy foliage and the blue-grey of the marsh are my favorite colors.  A snowy egret placed just-so, completes the image. 





My Cape May is also full of Victorian brightness:  I love pretty yellow houses with black, green or white trim.  Dotting the tree-lined historic streets are houses in lavender, purple, blues of every shade, and pale pinks.  I prefer the simpler style of the classic Cape May house with weathered shingles and bright blue and white striped awnings fluttering in the sea breeze.  The brownish-grey, royal blue and white stay as etched in the color scheme of my mind, as do the blue and green of the wetlands. Either style of house, the porches are grand and comfortable.



The rest of my beach town is retained in sound and texture.  Sea Gulls both on the shore and blocks inland let me know in my dreams I am not in Philadelphia.  The background roar of waves remains in my conscience and is unlike the blare of a railroad near one's home when it's owner says they no longer hear it.

Voices chime everywhere and bicycles whir up and down the flat terrain.  Thunderstorms crack overnight making Harry bark and set my own heart and thoughts pounding during sleepless hours.  I hear Russian words coming from the house next door, from the fudge and ice-cream shops on the Mall, and along Beach Avenue.



The feel of this Shore is endlessly sandy with sharp beach grasses that slightly scrape the sides of my legs as I go up and down the walkways to the beach laden with a chair, a straw basket holding towels, and rubber balls. 

In addition to the grit of sand that follows me from the beach to the car to the house and finds it's way into my ears and scalp, is the feel of the air.  It's at once heavy with moisture and light with breeze.  It's south-of the Mason-Dixon Line air. 



Cape May, like most Jersey Shores, smells and tastes salty and sweet.  The first is simply in every breath taken and certainly in the mouthfuls of ocean that I receive when tumbled in the rough waves multiple times because I am afraid to dive headlong into them.  Salt Water Taffy might have taken me there more pleasantly.

The sweet whiffs I inhale are from fudge, caramel corn, and candied nuts being made all over Town.  Bakeries preparing morning pastries contribute their part.  The heavy mix of fat and sugar from freshly frying donuts hits straight away upon entering the West Cape May Farmer's Market on Tuesday afternoons.




The tastes of my Cape May go beyond the salty and sweet. They are a mingling of Jersey tomatoes, corn and blueberries from area farms.  They are a refreshing combination of sweet and tart from the red sangria of Sangria Sundays at Hawk Haven, and the slight bitterness of lightly charred bottom and top of the clay oven bread I stand in line for hoping I won't come back empty handed.


In case you come down to Mile 0, here is a list to get you started.  Last year's list still holds--it's just a different Summer with new places to check out and ones we simply ran out of time for.

My Cape May 2012

8.  The Cove
18. Splash
23. Across The Way
24. West Cape May Farmer's Market
25. Hawk Haven Winery

Writing With Sunburned Feet





Hearth Arts is posting live from a cute little beach house in Cape May!  We had a beautiful beach day yesterday, with the three of us all in the water together at one point.

Last evening I took myself for a pre-sunset walk, meandering through little streets. I realized in that one walk I returned with images of the run-down, the Victorian, the charming and the colorful.  This is part of why Cape May never bores me.





This morning we have thunderstorms, and it is giving me the opportunity to sit down at our dining table and be here.  Being here is really the topic for today: writing and blogging while on vacation. 

I'm not alone in this; Mr. Savory is presently sitting on the couch with his laptop, getting in his writing hour.  We talked about how we would manage, keeping up with our goals while away.  Mostly, I look forward to seeing things from a different landscape and sharing what I find with you.




I don't know if continuing here for the next two weeks is taking away from my vacation or enhancing it in some way.  I do know one thing, Cape May never steers me wrong.  If I let what I see and feel here creep into these posts, that can only strengthen me. 

It is empowering to feel that the writing is inside me, and it can be taken anywhere.  It's not rooted to my kitchen chair, at my spot at the table, in our Philadelphia home.

A Walk on the Beach


I've been thinking a lot about salads the past few months. Mostly I'm thinking about composing them, and using their layers of textures and tastes as a reflection of some pretty complex emotions.

I took daily walks on the beach when we were in Cape May, mostly to look for shells and beach glass. Olivia and I also like to check out everyone's creations--sand castles, forts, holes and sculptures. More than anything, though, the walks help me to think and sort things out.

After one of my walks, I sat down with my journal and wrote this.

To think about what comes next is not very comfortable. It feels too soon, inappropriate. But listening to myself when I can, I feel as if I can take a step, lift back a branch to peer slightly ahead. Slightly ahead merely means, maybe tonight I could make a salad from the arugula and radishes I brought from the garden.

When we left for Cape May, we hadn't been cooking for a month. Friends and neighbors had been cooking for us. Everyone kept bringing us salad greens as part of the dinners, and meanwhile my arugula, mesclun and radishes were growing bigger and bigger. Right before we left, I harvested it all and brought it with us.

We packed up all sorts of odds and ends that others had sent. My salads at the beach were compositions of these items, really the best way to make a salad in my opinion. We had a bottle of an orange ginger dressing, all sorts of nuts from a gift basket and some goat cheese. Finally we could eat the home grown greens and radishes.

A Walk on the Beach Salad

Arugula or Spring Mix
Watermelon radishes or any other radish variety, sliced
Crumbled goat cheese
Pistachio nuts, chopped
Carrot ginger dressing*
*I added a tablespoon of light brown sugar to this recipe. I omitted transferring the mixture to a blender, and continued using a food processor.

I made this salad today for my lunch. Three months have passed and we're back to salad greens and radishes. Since I don't have any more of my own at the moment, I shopped at my co-op this morning. I decided on a carrot ginger dressing in place of the orange ginger. I think the combination works well.

We Went Anyway

Every year we vacation in Cape May. For a number of years now it's always been the last two weeks of June. This year, it was a month after Aaron's passing. We questioned still going, but decided that not only was it all planned, but for Olivia's sake, we should go.

It was the same house we'd be staying at, and we could remember Aaron there. We had the idea to invite some friends for part of the time so we wouldn't feel so alone after all the support we'd been receiving at home.

Cape May didn't disappoint, and all our favorite things came through for us, and even some new ones. It turned out to be calming and reassuring in its familiarity. Welcoming, as the places that make you feel really good, are.

I didn't take any photos this trip. It just didn't feel right. So, I tried to make these little collages for you.

Here's our list of Cape May favorites.

1. Poverty Beach. It's where we always go. Easy parking, no meters, clean bathrooms, and a little less crowded than the main beaches.
2. Duckies. Produce, fresh bread, mozzarella, pies.
3. Lobster House. Where we buy fish to cook at the house.
4. Uncle Charley's. Ice cream at the end of the Mall.
5. The Blue Pig. At Congress Hall. Our favorite for outdoor dinners, lunches, too.
6. Harpoon Henry's. Bar-food overlooking the bay. Family-friendly. Go for a walk on the beach after dinner.
7. The whale's Tale. Great kid's toys and books. Also, jewelery, cards, gift items.
8. Madame's Port. Gifts, wind chimes, jewelery, items for the home.
9. Wanderlust. Beach decor for the home.
10. "The Dog Park". On Lafayette Street. Where Harry plays after dinner.
11. Hawk Haven Winery. Sangria Sunday or anytime.
12. West End Garage. Local art, ceramics, jewelery.
13. Cocomos. Miniature golf and ice cream afterward.
14. The rabbits. Morning and early evening they are often out in the neighbor's yard, and probably everyone's yard. I used to always tell Aaron when I saw them.


New to us because we could and needed to make things a little different.

1. Kayak rentals. What I wanted to do for my birthday.
2. The Cove. The beach at the other end.
3. Rowe House Tile. I bought a wall hanging.
4. The Lighthouse.
5. The Cape May Bird Observatory. A great resource.
6. Lake Lily. Cape May Point. A good place to watch birds.
7. Picnic dinner on the beach (remember to go bayside, woops!)
8. Shopping on the Washington Street Mall until 10pm with an 11 year old.
9. Inviting good friends to stay with you for a few days.
10. If you're 11, inviting your best friend to stay with you for a few days.






So Long, Summer

I have been wanting to share this photo since it was taken early in the Summer. The longer I wait, the more the meaning keeps changing.

It was late afternoon when I took this photo of O. slowly scooting towards the Ocean. Late afternoon, time to head back to get cleaned up, make dinner, walk Harry. I remember my amusement because it was such a statement of "I don't want to go!"

It wasn't yet the end of our vacation, so it was just leaving at the end of the day, but I thought, soon, this will mean leaving Cape May for yet another year.

After returning from vacation, the photo began to mean Summer's end and heading back to school.

As the Summer wore on, however, this photo took on a more symbolic meaning having nothing to do with vacations or the beach. It was that pathway O. was carving ever-so-slowly away from me, towards herself.

This Summer was a big one. She turned 10. The training wheels came off her bike. I took her to get her ears pierced. She learned how to knit. She started being the go-to cat sitter and plant waterer for vacationing neighbors, now that the teenager who held that position is sixteen and too busy.

She's a fourth grader. A leader of the lower school, and preparing in earnest for next year's transition to middle school. She carries textbooks and has an assignment book.

Now, it truly is my last chance, the first day of Autumn. I have to say it, even though temperatures will reach the upper 80's today.

Bye-bye Summer.

Making Friends



She's made a friend to boogie board with. I'm surprised, glad, and maybe a little disappointed.

The last two days I would have spent more time swimming with her. Instead, I put my feet up and took out my book. I know I should just appreciate my down moments when I can get them.

No pets Allowed


The owner was firm. No dogs allowed.

We found this house last year when we were in between dogs. It's a perfect vacation rental for us, so we were prepared to make other arrangements for Harry.

On a whim, Husband decided to forward this photo to the realtor, who unbeknownst to us forwarded it to the home owner.

She changed her mind after seeing the photo. Harry was vacation bound!

He's been a good boy so far and is having the time of his life making new friends at the local dog run.

It feels just right to have our little family together.

p.s. The good boy part. Well, in between this draft and posting, Harry threw up on the carpeting...Many applications of carpet cleaner later, and a visit to Swain's, the local hardware store to speak to a specifically recommended staff member there, we tried this.

I think we'll still be allowed to come back next year. Phew!

Unplug Me


This morning I was reading an article in the newspaper about e-book readers, and whether or not they work for book groups.

Individuals who are in favor of them, explained their preferences among the Kindle, Nook and iPad. Some of them described how great it is to bring your e-reader to the beach.

Seriously?

I'm afraid my cell phone and camera won't work again after a vacation at the beach. I can't imagine bringing a digital device like that to a place where I am covered in sand after 20 minutes.

Forgetting about the sand for a moment, I found myself feeling anxious all morning thinking about our relationships to our varying devices.

We have our annual Cape May trip soon, and even if I do have an iPad by then, it is not coming along to Poverty Beach.

I had already been thinking about all the magazines I will buy, mostly food and garden related. I thought that if I plan ahead, I can probably have the excuse to buy both June and July issues. Sadly, no Gourmet this year, however.

I have a novel I keep in the car that I would love to finish. There is also a book I received for Christmas, I might tote along. Yes, I have to stuff them in my beach bag every day, trying not to carry too much, but not wanting to run out of reading material. Yes, there will be sand in between the pages, and the magazine ink will get smeared from my sunscreen, but they're just magazines.

It's the simplicity I worry about sacrificing.

A day at the beach. Umbrella, towel, lunch, chair, sunscreen, sand toys and games. Book or magazine. Cell phone (unfortunately), but A. is not with us at the beach for long periods of time.

All day we swim, dig in the sand, read, collect shells, walk, and play. This is not a beach where people play radios. It is mostly people quietly and happily doing what we do.

There is a timelessness about it. That return for a week or two to absorbing where we are. We often see the same families year after year, even though we don't know them. Everyone just wants to do their thing, day after day, for as many days as we are lucky enough to have it.

Each morning when we greet the beach-tag collector, we take in the first view of the ocean and shore. Every morning it looks a little different, depending on the weather conditions. Maybe foggy, maybe clear-as-can-be. Maybe the sand is already hot, or maybe there is a strong breeze. We scan the water for dolphins.

We might find a creation we made the day before, or perhaps the waves took it away overnight. Regardless, we find our spot for the day, and drop our belongings. Time floats.

Where does a Kindle, Nook or iPad fit into this? Can't we just dig our toes into the sand, lean back under that umbrella, and hold a paperback in our hands, watching the pages blow a little as we turn them, knowing that we are somehow connected to that breeze? What about those days that are so windy that I can only read my magazine lying down on my towel? Isn't that part of what we go there for?

I want to be comfortable, but I don't want every comfort of home. I want it to be different. I want to feel like I've been somewhere.

Believe me, I love my computer, so I can do what I'm doing right this very minute. I've chosen a form of creativity where I need to be online.

But what do I come here with? Tales of my hands in flour, soil, cramped around knitting needles, fingering yarn. I am often dusty, dirty and sticky.

After reading that article, and after I dropped A. off at school, I went for a walk in the woods. I needed to get away, clear my head, feel the coolness from the creek on an already hot day.

I returned refreshed. Eager to plug in and tell you my thoughts.

Keld


Knitting projects acquire a history. Their life spans the time from yarn selection to the final seaming.

As a project grows, the season may change, a holiday may pass, or something I am dreading will be overcome. I estimate how long the project will take and run through the future weeks or months in my mind. I place myself in that future date. Sometimes I am cast into the unknown.

This coat began in early June. I grabbed one of the final days before Summer vacation when both O. and A. were in school to go buy my yarn.

The receipt from the shop for my yarn was dated June 2nd. Two days before O. finished Second Grade, 3 days before her 9th birthday, and 4 days before her all-day birthday party in the back yard.

It was also 10 days before A.'s IEP meeting with the School District to begin transitioning him for September to a new school.

When it was time, I packed up most, but not all, of the green alpaca for our annual Cape May vacation. I took comfort in the knowledge that we were staying within walking distance of the yarn shop in case I needed their expertise.

I did indeed. I learned that the length of the gauge swatch matters just as much as the width. It was in Cape May that I unraveled the first half of the back of the coat when I realized it would be too big. Each project I learn something new, even if it means feeling a little foolish.

After 8 Summers in Cape May, we decided to visit the alpaca farm that every year I read about. Unexpectedly, I ended up in a conversation with one of the owners about their deceased son. She looked at A. and wished us good luck with him on our way out. Then she told me about her son who died in childhood of a fatal form of a related disorder to A.'s. I think of this couple often, and all sorts of emotions stir.

The coat grew over the rest of the long, stressful Summer that was dominated by anxiety of where A. would go to school.

I was only working on the coat in the evenings after O. and A. were asleep, and Husband and I would sit and watch baseball or a show. Any weekend babysitting time was spent working in the garden or hanging out at the pool club with O.

On I knitted, evening after evening, through the second season episodes of Mad Men, the first season of McCloud's Daughters. Through the good news that A. could go to the School for the Blind.

I knitted while wrestling with my "great matter", and the conflicting feelings brought on by the changing plans of re-located close friends, and O.'s best school friend. They were back to visit, but with dual vacation plans there wouldn't be much time to see them before they left again. Yet, they might stay for good. Not sure. Yes, they were staying, but bf was changing schools. I worried for O.

I was still knitting as O. happily returned to school, and A. finally started. The evenings were chilly, and we started closing the windows at night. October came, and I knew I would finish in time for the leaves to drop and soup to be made. I needed to buy more yarn to finish. 2 skeins. I even found the same dye lot. Finally, before Halloween, it was time to buy my buttons. I was almost shaking to be in the yarn store with my coat, all in one piece. There were ooohs and aaahs. Mostly, I think over seeing that beautiful yarn in use.

And then one evening, a weekday evening like maybe 120 before it, I stood up holding the whole thing. Buttons and all. Husband took it and helped me put it on.

"It's heavy", he said. Indeed it is. Heavy with more than than the 12 skeins of alpaca yarn and 3 wooden buttons it is made from.

I wore it last Saturday evening when we went out to the Spring Mill Cafe for dinner. It's a little longer than it appeared in the book, but it felt so soft and warm.

I felt a little glow of pride. I will wear it's complications of craft and history well.