sweetfigs   s w e e t   f i g s


                in pursuit of a fruitful life


Monday, July 14, 2008

Rest in Peace Johnny

John T. Duerkop, Jr., June 11, 1948 - May 23, 2008

John was an unusual man. He was kind-hearted, a gentleman, intensely curious about the world around him, and happiest when he was talking about what he had learned.
John T. Duerkop, Jr.

He preferred a slower pace. He liked to drive the back roads, instead of the freeways, because there was so much more of life to see there.
Johnny Duerkop

He liked people. He liked rivers, streams, lakes, valleys, mountains, sunsets, and rain storms. He collected and studied history books, magazines, and maps. He could always tell you what was up the road, off the beaten path, and who had been there in times past. He seemed to know something about everything.
John Duerkop

He liked cowboys and Indians, and cowboy poets. He liked pine trees, flannel shirts, and campfires. He liked horses, fish, and birds.
John Duerkop

He never got enough of the world and what filled it.

He was faithful, loving, and respectful, and we cherished him.
John Duerkop

His body was finally overcome by cancer. It’s been weeks since he passed away, but it is still difficult to believe that he’s not still fighting.
John Duerkop

During the last year of his life, there were many times when it seemed his tired body could not possibly hold on much longer. But somehow he rallied. Setback after setback, he came back. It’s hard to accept that he had such a hard time of it and hard to comprehend his absence.
John Duerkop
John Duerkop

John was supported by a strong network of family, by friends who held him so dear they seemed like family, and by kind strangers who heard about him and prayed, yearned, and willed for him to recover.
John Duerkop
When he finally passed away one afternoon, he was at home, asleep, where he wanted to be, in the West Texas desert. Surrounded by some of those mountains, cowboys, and horses that he loved. His body is gone, but he’s still here, deep in our hearts.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Home Stretch

As we near the end of the month, many of the Ravelry Malabrigo March knit along-ers are done with their projects. If you've been KAL'ing, but haven't announced yourself in the Ravelry group, please pop in. (That link won't work for non-Ravelry members.) Monday is the last day to join! Even if you don't want to knit along, go peek at all the beautiful colors of Malabrigo Worsted.

I made one Amanda Hat out of Saphire Green and one out of the Natural colorway. The Natural colorway is very versatile, but you know I love that greeny greeny soooo much more.

Here they are, before & after the green hat got a wet blocking. In the top photo (before), the green hat is smaller and pointy at the top. In the bottom photo (after), all the stitches have relaxed and claimed their ground:

All I did was soak it for a bit in warm, soapy water, rinse, and then blot it in a clean towel:

Sorry I can't give you a modeling shot. My resident photographer has been in Texas most of the month, helping his brother Johnny get through chemo.

I know David misses his Libby, so over the weekend I took a few shots of her, in her favorite chair, basking in the Sunday sunbeam. She really misses you too, honey.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

mmmMalabrigo March

March has been here all of 4 days and I've already had enough of its freeze-thaw-freeze cycle. Even so, the cold temps mean I can keep knitting winter hats.

Malabrigo March kicked off on Saturday the 1st with numerous knit alongs, including a Koolhaas Hat KAL and an Amanda Hat KAL, both of which I'm co-leading on Ravelry with bluelacefiesta. I lost count of how many knitters are participating, but I think it's at least 50 per pattern.

Here's my Amanda in progress, in Saphire Green (#04):
The colorway reminds me of Sweet Pea shoots in early Spring. Isn't it pretty? And it will really be something to see the rainbow of hats at the end of the month!

Each pattern calls for less than 1 skein of worsted weight, so if you've got a lonely skein of Malabrigo Worsted in your stash, or find one at the Spring yarn sales, please join us. Malabrigo is buttery soft, and put to perfect use in a cozy hat. In fact, I wouldn't hestitate to use it for a baby hat, and rumour has it that 1 skein will even make 2 mini-sized Koolhaas hats.

Added bonus: some of the KAL participants will win prizes! See the malabrigo junkies forum on Ravelry for details.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

FO Report -- Koolhaas

We're back in Chicago after a long weekend up north, and I can say it feels much much colder in Chicago than in the Upper Peninsula. It's windier and humid here!

We spent a good part of the weekend on the numerous cross country ski trails, feasting by the fire, and catching up on naptime.

David said the hand knit I gave him for Valentine's Day kept him toasty, especially on Sunday, when it snowed most of the day.

I used brooklyn tweed's Koolhaas pattern, and about 1/2 a skein of Malabrigo in the Taureg colorway. My only modification was to switch to size 4.5mm/US#7 needles for the decrease rounds.

If you want a Malabrigo Koolhaas for yourself, check out the knit-along that starts March 1st in the Malabrigo Junkies forum on Ravelry. I'm co-leading a Koolhaas KAL and an Amanda KAL, which are part of many Malabrigo KALs starting the first of the month. That means you have two more weekends to shop for Mmmmmmalabrigo!

OK, a few more photos from our weekend in the Upper Peninsula ...

Whenever Garry and Jo's dog, Xena, was out front in her skijoring harness, the rest of us just tried to keep up the pace.
She's a tough little German or Deutscher Jagdterrier. Don't miss her cute little icicle beard.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope everyone has a great day!

Our celebration will be pretty low key because I'll be in yoga class until about 8:30 p.m. We'll have time to do our gift exchange tonight and then enjoy a leisurely meal this weekend in the Upper Peninsula.

We're packing now for 4 days of pancakes for breakfast and cross-country skiing. Yay! We're going up north with another couple and their tough little dog. Temps will be similar to Chicago's, but with 2x the snow and not so many plows. I'm a little worried about the slippery roads and really don't look forward to warming up the house.

One year we all did this (was it last year?), the girls went to wait for a table at the local supper club while the boys drove to the house to shovel the entrance and turn up the heat. On the way back to dinner, the boys skidded through a sharp curve and went off the road and over a small ditch. Fortunately it was all low speed. No one got hurt and we were able to use one car to pull the other car back onto the road. We'll be extra cautious this year. :)

Sorry, but no pics today. There's no light, it's extremely cold, and everything I'm knitting is a secret.

And as always, thanks for thinking of John and asking about him even when you know the news is not so good.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Libby's best friend

My little dog turned eight this summer, and for most of her life, she's enjoyed a midday walk with Alycia.

We get it all in Chicago -- rain, sleet, snow, blazing heat, and wilting humidity -- and yet none of it has made a difference in Alycia's commitment to showing up day after day to walk around the neighborhood with her little buddy.

On the occasional weekday when one of us is home and we cancel the walk, I feel a little guilty, because Libby still looks out the window for her best friend.

When I woke up this morning it was -4F/-20C, but I know Alycia will still be coming over. As a wee showing of our appreciation for her dedication, we gave her this warm wool and silk hat. I confess I wanted to keep it for myself, but I'll be sitting on my arse today in a warm office while Alycia is making her rounds. Brrrr.

Pattern: Fake Isle on Magknits

Materials: Approx. 60 yards/50 meters of Noro Silk Garden in colorway #205, equal amount of Lamb's Pride in M-05 Onyx black, and a few feet of Lamb's Pride in fuschia (no ball band) for the contrasting cast on.

Modifications: used US#5 for ribbing, US#6 for body, and broke Noro as needed to control the colors.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Trudging On

We had a brief reprieve, but the Arctic air is back with a vengeance, and seems to be here to stay for a while. I'm still commuting on my bicycle, but I'm keeping the errands to a minimum and hurrying back to the bike rack before the handlebars and saddle cool off too much. No kidding -- I just compared the forecast for Fairbanks, Alaska and Chicago, and they were almost the same!

Of course it has to be this freakishly cold when my BIL from Texas gets stuck at O'Hare for 24 hours. His oldest has Northwestern University on her short list, so after a hearty breakfast on Friday morning, we headed up to Evanston (in the car!) so that he could take a look around. I'm really glad we did, because he liked the campus more than he expected. When my niece and her momma did the campus tour last Fall, he was on a business trip in South America. I told him Chicago was usually 30 degrees warmer in January, but it's probably tough for him to picture it that way.

Meanwhile, David has been making his own treks back and forth between Chicago and Texas, to take care of his brother Johnny. Johnny wants to be home as much as possible while he's battling cancer and the side effects of treatment, so David is doing all he can to make that possible. Johnny's struggle puts things in perspective for me. The toughest thing I have to do these days is ride my bike in the snow to yoga class...

Lots of cold and time home alone with Libby means I've been knitting. With wool. :) My first FO of 2008 is a hat for my mom. It's super soft and warm, and will coordinate with her dark green coat. Click to make bigger or see other shots on flickr.


Pattern: "Three Tams" on Knitty.

Materials: 1/2 skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Couscous and Noro Silk Garden in #246.

Modifications: I combined Tam A's first 10 rows with the body of Tam C. Omitted 6 stitches from the ribbing, and broke the Noro to control the color changes. It fits well and didn't give me hat head.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Ha! A New P.R.!

Yesterday morning I decided to layer up for the trudge over the train station, beginning with the zipoff pants (so not sexy) I can wear over my regular clothes, and the next the thing you know I was dressed to ride my bike to work. So I rode.

I told myself that if it was too miserable getting to work I didn't have to ride home. According to the bank clock on the corner, it was 3 F /-16 C, so I rode fast and kept my hands in my windproof pogies the whole time, except for once when I signaled a left turn and once when I waved to the other crazy person I saw riding a bicycle. I think people are still off work this week because the traffic was really light and I made good time to the Loop. And it worked! My hands stayed warm and I never got that horrid pins and needles, stabbing, burning, ouch, ouch ouch, kill me now feeling when I got inside.

So I've got a new Personal Record of winter riding. Baaaaaahahahahaha!

Riding home at 17 F/ -8 C wasn't much of a challenge. :-)


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Your Mileage May Vary

So much for burning off some of the holiday calories this morning. It's a bitter 3 F/-16 C out there, which means I'll be commuting on the CTA instead of my trusty bicycle.

I have a great setup for inclement weather -- upright steel frame, full fenders, knobby tires, windproof pogies for my hands, and super bright lights -- but 20 F/-7 C is my limit. When it dips below that, I just can't keep my hands warm. The ride itself is not so bad, because my hands go numb, but warming up upon arrival is too painful. The high today is supposed to be a whopping 12 F/-11 C, so the bike is staying at home.

Wish I could stay home too, with Libby and the Regia Silk that is becoming a pair of socks, but I'm going to work and then my first yoga class of the new year. I'm test knitting a pattern so I can't show you a WIP pic, but I do love this yarn.
P1030976It's a souvenir from last autumn's vacation in Bavaria and Austria. We ended our trip in central Munich, just in time for Oktoberfest and a quick detour to the yarn boutique at the Ludwig Beck department store. I may have to find some more of it, in a color that's more fun than sensible grey.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Hi all and happy new year from the Windy City!

Wow, 2007 was hectic! I've got my fingers crossed that the new year will be a bit more predictable.

We got up early this morning when it was still quiet and shoveled up 2 inches/5 cm of fresh snow. OK, actually David did all the shoveling, while I wrestled with Libby and snapped a few pictures. (Click to embiggen.)
Libby and David on New Year's Day 2008

In the afternoon we went to some friends' for their annual January 1st Open House. I ate way too much, but it was all so good, especially the spicy chocolate fondue served with fresh pineapple, banana, and pound cake. I'm putting the recipe on my list for our own party next year -- it included semisweet and bittersweet chocolates, as well as Chinese Five Spice mix and Chili powder.

We were supposed to bring a batch of mango salsa, but while I was giving the ingredients a final stir, the glass mixing bowl burst into about 100 pieces. Gaaak! Since all the stores were closed for the holiday, we had to scrounge around the house for an alternate dish. Brigaderios to the rescue! (My version calls for 5 tablespoons of Hot Cocoa mix from The Spice House, 1 Tablespoon of white sugar, 1 Tablespoon of butter, and 1 can of Eagle Sweetened Condensed Milk). Delicious, but not exactly health food. Oh well, the holidays are officially over and tomorrow we start eating better!


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Another Step in the Right Direction

Johnny went home to Texas!

We weren't ready to send him off, but he was very anxious to get back to his own place. His original plan was to spend just 1 week in Miami for jaw surgery over the summer, but all the surgical complications kept him away for more than 3 months. Pretty awful, huh? He continues to improve, but of course, still needs a lot more time and help to heal. Who knows, he might even be able to return to work.

Thank you very much for asking about him and keeping us all in your thoughts and prayers. You've been a big help!


Saturday, September 29, 2007

It's Working!

Thanks for looking out for Johnny and sending him the prayers and well wishes he has needed so badly!

With a lot of hard work and so many people pulling for him, he has been able to make the transition from the hospital in Miami to his mom's apartment near Chicago. Mom! Good for what ails ya, right? He has settled in to her place and now enjoys lots of time with her, his sisters, brother, cousins, nieces and nephews, old friends, and even a dog or two.

He's a little frustrated with what, to him, seems to be slow progress. But he is healing and becoming stronger every day. If he keeps on track, he'll be going back to his own house in Texas later this Fall.

So, many thanks, and please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thinking of John

We intended to be in the Upper Peninsula until mid July, but we're abruptly back in Chicago, or I should say I'm back in Chicago and David has flown to Miami to be with a big brother who is very ill.

Big brother John survived neck cancer, but the radiation treatments that helped cure him five years ago broke down his jaw bone, and jaw implant surgery in Miami has led to serious complications. The jaw surgery was actually about 3 weeks ago, but I avoided talking about it until now, partly out of uncertainty and partly to respect John's privacy. He was pleased with the surgery and was about to go home from the hospital, but then suffered respiratory problems and was found unconscious in his hospital bed. He went to intensive care, and was intubated, heavily sedated, and flat on his back for weeks, improving ever so slowly. As an alternative to the intubation and heavy sedation, he underwent a tracheotomy and was gradually weaned from the ventilator. The last he knew, he was about to go home, but as he's been weaned from the heavy sedative, he's learned about this major setback.

John is a sweet, kind-hearted man, who would give you the shirt off his back. He's brilliant, intensely interested in the world around him, and always ready for a challenge. Despite his amazing, encyclopedic knowledge, he's very humble and spiritual. He's a good son, a good big brother, and a good friend.

The family has been sick with worry but cautiously optimistic about John's slow recovery. His body is healing, but his morale and energy are very low. Please help him. Whether you be the type of person that prays, wishes, or sends positive energy, please think of John in Miami. Please use your influence, your powers of persuasion, and the collective consciousness, and please send him whatever you've got. Please help him heal, smile, and come home soon. There's a huge void in the family without him here and we want him back already.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Nature Walk

This year my friend Jenn joined us at the lake for a few days. She picked a good year to see the foxgloves:

This reminds me of the Queen Anne's Lace:

I love all these shades of green:

We noticed about six different types of ferns one morning. This is the medium sized one that likes a lot of sun:

One morning after our walk, Jenn and I got busy making four batches of jam. It took us most of the day to wash and sterilize the glass jars, prepare the peaches, fresh ginger root, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, cook the fruit with lemon juice, pectin, and sugar, fill and seal the jars, and then clean up. While Jenn and I were toiling in the kitchen, David worked on the computer. You would think we would have more to show for a whole day's labor.

We also went kayaking on the lake, and got a bit closer to a little eagle.
Jenn also found a little sunburn and some itchy bug bites. I wish she could stay longer, but she's probably happy to get back to civilization.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Eye Candy Friday

Hi all and happy Friday!

We found these exotic looking mushrooms while taking our morning walk. I love their rusty color, gloss, and gnarled shape. There were about 20 of them and some green mosses growing on a tree stump.
Later I spotted some more on our own lakeside property. This is the first year I've seen these or anything like them. Gotta wonder, are they poisonous?

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