Paloma Vanessa

Paloma Vanessa, born September 19, 2010

Well, for the past week I’ve been basking in the glorious rays of grandmotherhood!

Welcome to Paloma Vanessa, born Sunday, September 19, at 10:22 p.m, weighing 6 lbs. 7 oz. She arrived strong, healthy and easily. According to her parents, she eats like a machine!

Isn’t she adorable?

Of course she is. And, of course, I will agree because I am her grandmother!

As I’ve shared her pictures with everyone I can find (because that’s what grandmothers do, right?), it’s interesting to hear who people think she looks like. Genetics are a fascinating science and it’s amazing how characteristics pass from generation to generation.

Paloma, which is Spanish for dove, is the beautiful union of European and Latin descents. Her father, my son Josh, carries the German and Swedish heritages we’ve previously discussed, along with a smorgasbord of other European roots.

Her mother, Kathy, is Chilean (this is evidenced by the fact that she was cooking sapopillas and empanadas just hours before Paloma was born:-) Chileans are also somewhat multi-cultural and Kathy is of Mapuche, Chile’s indigenous people, and Spanish descent. She even suspects a spattering of German since blue eyes have shown up in her family.

Naturally, my family thinks Paloma sees our side of the family. Her maternal family likely sees their side.

I see Paloma. I see a beautiful, little girl who is loved so dearly.

Welcome Princess Paloma!


Ruth Larson teaching macrame

“Under the fence, around the sheep, bring it through, and off it leaps.”

As a kid, I remember my grandmother Ruth saying some cute little ditty while trying to teach me to knit. Maybe it was something like the one above. Or maybe it was something different. Or maybe it was while teaching me to tie my shoes—another tricky endeavor involving string and coordination—and it was the “over, under, around and through” verse she was saying.


I eventually learned to tie my shoes. But learning to knit? Now that was another matter (and apparently I wasn’t the only one—see Terri’s comment).

The fact that Ruth’s grandchildren were losers with needles certainly wasn’t reflective of her as a teacher. She was, in fact, a very good teacher and she readily shared her love of knitting, crocheting, embroidery and any other needlecraft popular at the time.

When Ruth settled into small town life in Henderson, MI, (which we’ll soon learn about), she became active in many community projects. Teaching needlecraft was one of them. I perused archives from the area newspaper, the Owosso Argus-Press, and found lots of articles about Ruth Larson, the teacher. The photo above and an accompanying story are on page 9 of the July 10, 1975, archive.

Isn’t it cool that we can click around online and see all this info? (I just couldn’t figure out how to get rid of the yellow search highlights—sorry about that).

ArgusPress.February 4, 1978, Owosso, MI

This article is on page 5 of the Owosso Argus-Press, dated Feb. 4, 1978. Here Ruth is teaching a class sponsored by the Shiawassee County on Aging (SCOA).

Argus-Press.August 5, 1984, Owosso, MINot only was Ruth a well-known teacher, she was also a respected judge for the Shiawassee County Fair. This article appeared on page 7 of the Owosso Argus-Press in Aug. 5, 1984. Recognize any of these names?

Know anyone who took lessons from Ruth Larson? Pass along this blog and ask them to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from her protégés!

knitting baby socks

So, it’s getting to be that time. In just a few short weeks I’m going to be a grandma!

Am I excited? Such a silly question!

Yesterday we had a baby shower for the mother-to-be and, of course, she received lots of beautiful gifts. Many of them were handmade, which makes them all the more special. Seeing those beautiful knit and crocheted items reminded me of my grandmother Ruth. It also reminded me that nine months is enough time to grow a baby but not enough for me to master the fine art of knitting.

But I’ve learned more about knitting, which makes me further appreciate it. I love its history. I love that generations upon generations have been doing this same craft and passing it along to the next.

In the book “Knitting the Threads of Time,” author Nora Murphy writes of the oldest known knitting artifact—a sock from the 12th century that is now in Washington DC’s Textile Museum. According to her research, knitting originated in Asia and the Middle East, and then moved into Europe.

I asked Jan about Ruth and her knitting.

(Just a bit of sidetracking here: Jan is my stepmother, but I hesitate in using that label because she is much too dear for any negative connotations associated with “step.” When she and my dad married, Ruth was 92 and beginning to need extra care. My dad and Jan were there for her. And remember, Ruth is my mother’s mother—I think that makes my dad and Jan two very special people. How many men do you know who do their mother-in-law’s laundry?)

Anyway, Jan is a super knitter. She, more than any of us, can appreciate Ruth’s talent for needlecraft. When Jan was helping me start my baby sock project, she commented that I knit in the same style Ruth did. I was thrilled.

There are two main styles of knitting: Continental knitting (European, German or left-handed knitting) and English knitting (Western or right-handed knitting).

“Your grandma knit the European way,” says Jan, who also teaches knitting. “I would assume she learned from her mother and it would have come from Europe.”

Jan described those who knit in the European style as “pickers” because they pick up the yarn they’re holding in their left hand with the needle held in their right. On the other hand (note the pun), English-style knitters are called “throwers” because they hold the yarn in their right hand and wrap, or throw, it around the needle in held in their left. Jan feels the European style is easier as the knitter ages and her hands become more arthritic.

Jan also told an endearing story. Ruth spent the last two years of her life in a nursing home and once, when my dad and Jan came to visit, they found her sleeping. Jan said, even in her sleep, Ruth’s hands were moving.

“We who knit can understand,” says Jan. “She was sleeping and her hands were knitting. We could have put needles in her hands and she would have worked them.”

I’ve really got to learn this craft.

Socks I knit for my granddaughterSo here are the socks I knit for my granddaughter. My husband’s Aunt Claire (another knitter who should get together with Jan) helped me turn the heel. When I made it through that tricky part, I thought of my niece Bethany who told me she let out a cheer when she turned her first heel. Ah, we elitists who understand the true meaning of a well-turned heel.

I’m pleased with my socks. Except apparently I was a bit off on my yarn and stitch gauging. My granddaughter probably won’t be wearing these until she’s five.

Terri's afghan for the babyMy sister Terri is a talented needlecrafter and crocheted this beautiful afghan for the baby. I love the colors. The shower guests loved the scalloped edging.

Jan's sweater and cap for the babyJan knit this adorable sweater and cap for the baby. So cute!

The sweater Jan knit for the babyLook it these perfect rows of stitches! There’s beauty in such repetition. And aren’t those buttons the sweetest?

Here are a few interesting knitting sites. Please share your favorites as well!

Historic Knitting Patterns Interesting, old patterns as well as links to other historic sites.

Knitting How-To Helpful how-to videos and forum

The Purl Bee Beautiful photography and lots of interesting links

Summer’s Last Hoorah

September 3, 2010

Cousins Carol, Judith and Barbara, 1943

It’s Labor Day weekend and families everywhere are grasping for the last carefree days of summer before buckling down to the long winter ahead.

Labor Day reminds me of camping in Grayling, MI, with cousins from my father’s family. This then takes me to getting together with relatives of both sides and the unique relationship cousins bring to the family tree. Bound by blood but not so “every-day-in-your-face” as siblings, cousins are an important part of a child’s growing up.

We’ve mentioned the large extended family my grandmother Ruth had while growing up. With 11 aunts and uncles on the Hornburg side alone, she was surrounded by a huge population of cousins. On the other hand, Ruth’s daughters Carol and Judith had a much smaller network simply because their parents’ siblings had fewer children.

Isn’t the photo above beautiful? We can look at it artistically and see three little girls lit by the sun in a moment of focused play. We can also look at it historically and see a perfect summation of Carol and Judith’s cousin network: Barbara Jean.

Carol and Judith had other cousins as well—their Uncle Art Larson and his wife Ruby had three children, and their Uncle Clarence Larson and his wife Roselda were foster parents to several children. But according to Judith, it was Barbara Jean who they saw the most. Barbara Jean, who also went by the name Boots, was the daughter of Esther (Ruth’s husband’s sister) and Lloyd Mann, and they lived in Gaines, MI.

In recent months I’ve been thrilled to get together with some of my own cousins—cousins I haven’t seen in years.

My cousin Phil and his wife Kim invited me for lunch earlier this summer. Phil is Judith’s son and as we reminisced, he recalled visits to my family’s home when we both were kids. Now, you’ve gotta know the story of my childhood home to fully appreciated Phil’s recollections. My parents built their home over a period of years, and years, and YEARS. During that time we lived in it and flourished in it’s unfinished state. My mother, Carol, apparently just threw in the towel because not only did she tolerate a home completely out of her character, she also let each of us have a myriad of pets, many of them in the house when they were of the specie that should have been outside.

Phil said he remembered staying at our house and sleeping in bedrooms with only 2×4’s for walls. He also remembered dogs roaming the house at night with their toenails scratching the floor.

Now that I’m grown, I realize such a household was not exactly conventional. I asked Phil how strange they considered our family when they visited in those days?

Phil is so diplomatic. He said they always thought of it as an adventure.

He’s such a nice cousin.

Carol, Judith, and Barbara Jean, 1938

Carol (right), Judith and cousin Barbara Jean in the buggy, 1938

Don’t you just love Carol’s coat, hat and shoes? And that buggy—imagine the value it would have today!

Carol, Judith and Barbara Jean, 1943

Carol, Judith and Barbara Jean, 1943

Another shot of the top photo. Both pictures were taken from the front porch of George and Ruth’s home at 8245 S. Ada St. in Chicago.

Larson Family in Imlay City, MI, 1945

Larson Family in Imlay City, MI, 1945

A visit to the family farm: From left, George Larson standing behind Carol, Ruth Larson standing behind Judith, Roselda (Clarence’s wife) standing behind Barbara Jean, and Clarence Larson.

According to Judith, Barbara Jean’s mother was a hairdresser. Looking at the three girls’ hair, I’m thinking she got a hold of them for a few hours before this photo session. And look at Carol, is she holding…what…a DOG? Little did she know what was ahead in her future:-)

Rachel and Di, July 2010

Rachel and Di, July 2010

This July my husband Glen and I had a wonderful time visiting my Aunt Judith (Ruth’s daughter) and Uncle Art. While we were there their daughter Rachel stopped by. I hadn’t seen her in years and she looked as great as ever.

Art, Judy, Di & Glen, July 2010

Art, Judy, Di & Glen, July 2010

Here’s Art and Judy, with my husband and me. Spending a weekend with them was a great opportunity for meaningful conversation and reminiscing. They’re such special people.