Saturday, July 14, 2018

I'm a Granny!!!

OK, pick yourself up off the floor... It's ok. Let me explain while you catch your breath...

Remember my big pot of parsley? The one I took a picture of and boasted to you about, regarding how lush it was and how beautiful and what I'd planned to do with it?

Well. Mother Nature had other plans.

The other day, I looked outside and thought, "What the heck? Did Hubby pluck the parsley?" Well, no, he didn't. I went and checked the pot and about had a heart attack. 

At first, I thought I had a flock of monarch caterpillars. Unfortunately, no. 

But I do have swallowtails!! Nine of them. Note: Checking after our morning thunderstorm, I have EIGHT... Wonder if one wandered or was dinner??? 

And the little buggers have decimated my parsley. There were even two of them fighting...if you can call it fighting, because they each wanted the same sprig. 

It was kind of cool to watch, and I filmed a little bit of "lunchtime."  (see below)

If they all survive (and the survival rate is pretty dismal given the number of birds who like caterpillars), we will have beautiful swallowtail butterflies. 

Hopefully, after they've finished the parsley, they'll move to the dill where they were a few years ago. This is the first time that we've had parsley in a tub, not in the netted trug. 

Who knew that they loved parsley? Apparently, they eat it, rue, and a number of other things. Including carrot tops, too. Maybe I can convince Hubby to move them to the back with the carrots? Hmmmmmm. 

Our town will be spraying for mosquitoes; it's the second time, and frankly, I'm stunned that I have these guys - because they sprayed  about a week ago, and I had no idea that the eggs were there. I guess that's why you have to wash your herbs before you eat them?? Urgh. Just the idea of eating butterfly eggs...

Ahem. Anyway. They're spraying so I have to get Hubby to move the pot to the tool shed, cover it anyway, and then cover the existing milkweed and dill. With tarps. Even if I could get them to stop spraying, the drift from other yards would impact what I have already in the garden. 

Lunchtime video
I wish I could actually cover the entire garden -- I've got a huge patch of Brown-eyed Susan, phlox, butterfly bush, two kinds of bee balm - and they're scattered through the front yard. I'd literally have to cover the entire lawn area... I'm pretty sure that won't go over well with Hubby, even if we had the tarps to do it. 

I'm not one of those who'll actually take the caterpillars inside and raise them. I'm not sure that's always a good idea, and we don't have the room anyway. I know, the butterflies are in trouble. But I'm already providing a garden for them. At some point, I have to acknowledge the stats and survival rate. Besides which, I honestly don't have time to learn how to successfully raise them. 

On the Monarch group I participate in, they're really going whole-hog. They have enclosures, they have rooms set aside to raise them, and they are - to me - obsessed. And that's cool. Monarchs ARE having trouble. But I can't do that. I really don't think it's in me to do it, and at this point, I certainly don't think I have the time/money and even milkweed stock to invest in this kind of venture. And I don't think I want to anyway. 

Not my picture...Mature swallowtail
I do sound a bit like, "Well, I have a black friend..." don't I? I don't really mean to sound that way - like I'm rationalizing spurious behavior and excusing myself. I am trying to be more realistic about what I can and can't do. I've had some trouble with boundaries, and I have an awful time with the word "No." As a complete sentence, I mean. 

I'm trying to rectify that. It's not easy. And unfortunately, the swallowtails will have to be the first to "go." I mean, if they all make it - WOW! I have a reasonable expectation that at least one or two will. So that's what it is. 

Knitting Goes On...

I'm on the heel flap of the Green Sock. Trying to move along, and it's going ok. I'm going to push myself to actually complete the pair. 

Then work on the Sole to Sole, which I found in my office. I frogged that one, if you remember. I have Sock #1 - just need to finish that one. As I go on, I'm going to try to get the "singletons" wedged in between other projects. I've really got to get them under control; there are only 2 singletons, but if I keep on that way, I'll have more singles than pairs. Defeats the purpose of wearing my own socks, doesn't it?

I've been trolling Ravelry for a few new ideas, and I have a bunch of stuff in my library: socks, shawls, shawlettes, and hats mainly. 

I think I want to finish the February Lady Sweater first to see if I ever want to do another sweater. I'd also like to do a simple tee - whether it's as a layer or as the thing I'd wear with a skirt or a pair of pants. I haven't decided; but mainly, I haven't found a simple one that doesn't look like it would bore me to tears half way up the body!

What I found last night, to use with this lovely Rembrandt Yarns "Precious Metals" worsted weight is the ultimate in simplicity. But maybe not. It's a pattern called "Grapevine Lace Scarf." 

Yep. A scarf. This is a limited edition color of 218 yards. (Thanks, I've learned that lesson from the Close to You Shawl...) I chose a pattern specifically for under 218 yards - looks like the scarf pattern takes 210 or so. That gives me 8 yards to either cast off, or squish in a few more rows, if I can do it. 

I also have this in sock yarn, which WILL be a shawlette - but I have more yardage in that one. Actually, Rembrandt Yarns was what I used for my first Close to You, so while I love it, and while it seems to look different in every yarn it's made with, I'm going to do something different with this colorway. Not sure what, yet. But it'll happen. 

If you're interested in this yarn, Sandy's at the Indiana State Fair in August, so she's gearing up for that. But check her out on Facebook and if you're in the area, go see her! 

Random Picture...

"Honey, someone broke the elkhound again..." 

Quinn, while still terrified of the fireworks that people continue to blow off (enough, already - it's half-way through July and we're all over it), does have her moments when she's her lovable goofball self. 

I missed the part of this when her rear end was actually closer to Hubby's elbow, as she managed to worm her way down sideways for a belly rub. 

I'm hoping that she calms down; I'm hoping her backside heals from the latest cyst/hotspot. I want her out of her thundershirt and back to being a smiling cuddle-bug doofus. 












Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Prison Crud & It's Done...

So I've got a touch of "prison crud" going and I'm hoping it resolves itself soon. 

Let me explain...

Old Collins St. Prison
We have an old prison in town; it's been shut down for over a decade, and deteriorating like crazy. Squatters, vandals, the odd kids out for a thrill...the place is a wreck. I was in there about 8 years ago for a special tour. 

Promptly got sick and landed in the hospital. Prison crud. 

Coughing, scratchy throat and eyes. Feeling of "crud" in your chest. And blowing your nose like crazy. At least that's my version of "prison crud." 

So the city bought it from the state and is turning it into a museum. It's been used in "The Blues Brothers," and in the series, "Prison Break" so there's a lot of modern recognition. 

Cellblock 
And in spite of "prison crud," I'm going back as a volunteer to help clean it up. The release form would (or should) scare the crap out of you because you're basically letting the city and state off if you contract anything from rodents, radon, spiders, poisons, asbestos, fiberglass, rust, falling debris, and "any and all" other crappy things that can happen. Or as the supervisor last week said, "Pretty much anything in here will kill you - or at least severely hurt you." 

No joke. Between the poison ivy, the buildings decimated by fire, the mold, the asbestos, the (probably) lead-based paint peeling off the walls...add in some structural instability in parts? Yep, it's an adventure. Oh, and don't forget broken glass all over the place. And razor wire. And the fact that, if you're stupid enough (and people have been) and think you're being funny, you go into a cell (which may or may not have been occupied by a vagrant -- at least it was mostly dry and secure), and slam the door. And you're locked in. Just wait for someone to come, with a bolt cutter, to get you out. 

It's going to be a great museum, once it's done. But it'll be done in stages. Unless some money-fairy barfs a big wad of $$$ on us! Which won't happen. But the buzz is out there, and if they open building by building, it'll keep it in the news. 

Razor wire
I was able to take pictures, which the Historical Society may want to use; either in an exhibit or as documentation of what was and how it will have changed. Then, I got to really work; I ended up in the front garden to do clean-up and spent about 3 hours there. Then we moved to the back to one of the buildings, the Commissary, to clean up for the street sweepers to come through. 

In the front, they asked us to "weed around and clean up." Well - there was razor wire. Galore! We were obviously not going to get very far there, and they're eventually going to get some of the folks in the trades to take care of this kind of thing. Volunteers are enthusiastic, but we're not equipped to do some of this stuff. 

I felt kind of bad removing the thistle plants. I know that butterflies and bees love them, but really - the vegetation is out of control. We tossed a bunch of stuff into a vacant spot and called it "The Compost Heap." Historically, the spot we chose WAS a garden in the way-back time. It just seemed more logical than to fill up trash bags and cans with stuff that really could "recycle" itself. We did sweep up glass and bits of stray metal, but that's understandable. 

Double occupancy
This is a double cell. If you notice the slight brown markings along the white tile, this would be where a set of bunk beds would be. Most of the cells in the cellblock we were in were "doubles." I was in one building with "singles," but for the most part, they doubled them up. In one part of the cellblock, there was evidence that someone had been sleeping there. It makes you think that someone has to be incredibly desperate to want to sleep in a decrepit old prison building, risking getting arrested for trespass, notwithstanding the health issues... 

As you may be able to visualize, the commode is actually partially blocked by where the beds would be - just enough for a modicum of privacy, but still visible. As the prisoners would have looked out, they wouldn't have seen another block of cells. This particular catwalk had cells only on one side. 

Commode
No, I wasn't tempted to step inside that double cell. I'm terribly claustrophobic, and even though I knew the guy with me wouldn't shut me in there, it wasn't something I felt comfortable doing. On the last tour I was on, the guard did suggest I step in. I politely declined - it was a solitary confinement cell - with a solid door with only a peep hole in there. Yeah, that cell was "larger," but still... Nope. 

In one of the single cells, I got a close-up of the commode assembly. You know, it looks kind of like something an airline would use in the bathrooms, given a slightly different configuration. 

I found it particularly poignant to see the carton of milk (didn't pick it up to see if it was full or not) and the books there. You kind of had to wonder about who left it like that. 

Was it a worker? Was it from the final inmate to occupy the cell? 

I mean, literally when they shut this place down, it was like everyone finished their shift and walked away. Never to return. 

Door in Warden's Quarters
Or, if you like the space-invader storyline, like everyone was lifted from their spot and just disappeared. Very creepy. 

The architecture was very much "of the time" for the older buildings. There are some slightly modern ones, but for the main building (photo up top there), it's clearly a gothic thing. When I showed them to someone unfamiliar to the building, he commented that it was "pretty fancy" for a prison. 

Yes, it would have been. The craftsmen hired to build the place, with limestone quarried on-site, would have been expert masons, stone-cutters, plasterers, etc. They were artisans and these jobs fed their families. 

So the very fancy doors, the cove moldings, the fireplace surrounds, the walnut balusters? They were very much the fine craftsmanship of the age. 

Workroom in Machine Shop
The more modern buildings inside the wall were a combination of cinderblock and brick. Still quite substantial, of course, but much more plain and utilitarian. Not that they were trying to show off with the front building - I expect that the front was the first building, and the others came later. 

And yes, in case you're curious, I desperately want to be a docent and give tours! I'm a prison geek, I suppose. 

I took several shots in the Machine Shop. The equipment, files and office furniture are still, for the most part, there. Tools are all gone, as you can imagine. Either taken when the place closed or scavenged over the years. I'm not sure how much of this will be restored, but it will eventually all be cleaned out. 

I tried to not breathe too much, if you know what I mean. Because while some of the places didn't have exposed fixtures, over the course of weathering and time, there was a lot of mold. 

And I'm allergic to mold. Of course. 

Burned out office space
At least 3 buildings were badly burned. One of them was the records room, and it was left with just the shell of the walls. Another one had offices in it, but I wasn't able to discern what the rest of the building had in it. Maybe classrooms or places where the inmates worked. It's hard to tell, and I have to brush up on my prison lore... 

The place has stories to tell. The town is legitimately a prison town, in spite of the fact that the town, for decades, wanted to downplay it. 

Guys, you gotta go with what you have. Joliet Jake and all that... But still, there are 3 prisons in close proximity. Let's just face the fact that it's a prison town. 

While we were there, cleaning up, people were POURING in. It's on Historic Rt. 66, after all. And they weren't coming inside; there are signs all around the parking lot talking about the place. People were snapping pictures and really taking it all in. It will be cool to see how it develops. 

And the next time I volunteer, two things: I will wear a mask, I promise. And one of the supervisors will take me up into one of the turrets to get a set of panoramic shots. I just have to be careful where I step...there's a "safe" way and a way that'll make a quick exit to the bottom...

It's Done...

I got the "help me" hank of Stone Tulips, and I thank my "knitting angel" who came to the rescue. I caked it up today and finished the Close to You Shawl. I think I might've gotten into a bind with the addition of the next ball of yarn, but I hope I can block it out.**

Now, I have to figure out what to do with approximately 390-ish yards of yarn. Actually, I have 4 oz. of it, which doesn't sound like much, but think about it - yarn doesn't weigh much! I figure if I "guesstimate" about 390 yards, I'm safe. I looked for patterns for 350 yards, just to be sure. 

I did find a ruffled shawlette that I could make. I really don't want to do socks with it. The yarn has such a definite twist to it that, quite honestly, I don't think it would be comfortable on the feet. 


Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. But it's a strong feeling I have, so I'm going with it. 

I have to block it out yet, and I have to do a fairly strong blocking to make the picots stand out. When I did this shawl last time, the yarn wasn't quite as thick. It was still sock yarn, but it wasn't as dense as this.

We'll see how it takes to a blocking. I think this one will be bigger, and I think it was about 405 yards. It's kind of hard to tell. 

Usually sock yarns have a put-up (how they're sold) of about 420 yards. Ish. I've seen it at around 410 sometimes, but usually it's a tad more than 400. 

This was 400 on the nose. And I used (I really should have measured this) about maybe a yard or two? Hard to tell with a picot bind-off, because it wasn't the whole length. But I'm going to fudge it and say that I have about 390 yards left, just to be on the safe side. 

Even unblocked, I can see that this is much more substantial than the one I made. I hope the recipient likes it. Not only for the color but for the fact that it should be nice and cozy. 

It's not really a "shawl" that you'd wrap yourself in to read a book, or to keep incredibly warm on a cold day. 

This is more like a foulard or a neck-warmer. You wear it with the point down, and wrap the "wings" back and then in front. 

When I get it blocked, I'll model it for you. Or get someone to model it for me so I can take pictures. I really stink at selfies. 

After spending an inordinate amount of time on Ravelry looking for the next phase of this yarn's life, I went back to the Green Traveling Socks. 

I'm about 2 rows from the 7" leg, and I think I'll get to the heel at lunch tomorrow. It's going to be another scorcher, so I'm planning on staying in for lunch. 

Yes, we were on a kick for walking, but honestly, in the heat? It's not cool to come back to work an afternoon shift when you can't really clean up. I love my Young Living Essential Oils Seedlings baby wipes, but they only go so far. And I can tell you that even with a sun-proof umbrella, my hair is a mess after a walk in the upper-80-degree heat. 

Not worth it. 

But back to knitting... I'm still really loving this green now. Don't even ask me why. But I love it. 

**"I can block this out" is a total fallacy. I'm going to have to do some fancy stepping to make that work. Pray to the Knitting Gods and Goddesses that it DOES work. But don't be surprised if it doesn't. 


 

Lunch Tomorrow...

I actually prepped lunch. Sort of. And no, this isn't my picture but a Google of "tuna salad" that mostly resembles mine. I use celery and I love the crunch. Hubby uses straight Miracle Whip and celery. 

Mine is as follows (at least how I made it tonight): 

2 cans Starkist Tuna in water, drained
1 large rib of celery, diced
1 T. brown mustard
1/4 t. ground horseradish
Salt & pepper to taste
2 heaping tablespoons mayo (real mayo)
1 heaping teaspoon DILL relish (not sweet relish)

Mash the tuna, mix it all together. Adjust seasonings as needed. 

I like this basic recipe because you can add hard boiled eggs. You can add garbanzo beans. You can add pimiento if you want. Dill. Parsley. Spring onions. 

The possibilities are endless. 

This will go on my salad tomorrow, with fresh radishes. Yum!! 

Random Picture...

From the floor in the SAC building. Solitary confinement for the most part. A bit of "prison wisdom" that was included whenever you walked inside. 


I apologize for the hi-res pictures. These were taken with the "big camera" because I wanted the shots to be useful for several purposes. 

When I go back, I'll try to get a picture of the floor from the "Prison Break" opener. I saw it the last time I was here. 

This says, in case you can't read it, "It's never too late to mend."

Truer words were never spoken, whether you're talking about life in prison or life, right now, in the US. 

We're broken. I don't think we're beaten. But we're definitely broken. From the inside. That's the saddest part. The life we had is done; we have to rebuild. But first, we have to excise the cancer that's eating us from the inside out. 

We will all have to work for this cure. Otherwise, it won't work. And Heaven only knows what we'll be left with. 

I don't want to even think about it. 














Friday, July 06, 2018

...and I lost...

Lost at Yarn Chicken. Badly. At 5" or so into the bind-off, I realized I was toast. 

Gutted. But - I went on the Shawl Knitting FB group and asked around. Emailed Expression Fiber Arts, and got a reply from Chandi herself! And checked Ravelry, where a lovely knitter had Stone Tulips stashed and was willing to part with it. 

So. One PayPal click later, it's on its way. And I'll finish it up in about 10 days, when it gets here. 

Whew! Thank the Knitting Gods and Goddesses for generous knitters willing to share. 

So then I figured I'd go buzzing along on the Green Sock. 

Stand still, kids... I think I'm liking the green sock now. As I'm knitting on it and I can see the pattern coming along, I'm thinking I might like it. Will wonders never cease? Opal comes through again with a colorway that grows on you. This photo is a tad off - the orange isn't as "coral" as it looks here. It's actually more pumpkin - overtones of rust. And the green in the wider striped bits is a bit deeper. The first orange + white pattern got a bit lost in the tail end of the ribbing; as you can see, it's a more fun pattern in the whole section down toward the needles. 

I found a great pattern for that mohair that Kid #1 gave me a few years ago. I'm not a mohair fan, but he doesn't know that. So I have some burgundy mohair - one hank. And I'd been wondering what the heck to do with it. I found a very simple scarf, done on larger needles. Yes, mindless, but worth the yarn, if you know what I mean. It's on Ravelry, "Quick & Easy Kidsilk Haze Scarf" -- quite literally cast on about 42 stitches on size 4.5mm needles, and knit. Bind off. It's stretchy and airy and lets the yarn "halo" nicely. 

Now I just have to find that ball of yarn. But in the meantime, I listed out my current WIPs. Something familiar is going on here...

Yeah. 

The top three are "Second Socks." 

I can justify why Bigger on the Inside is in "sock time-out." It's tight. Seriously, the "Bowties are Cool" pattern is as bad as "Jaywalker" in its tightness. Even at a cast-on of 72, it's tight on my biker calves. I love the color. I love the pattern. 

I don't love the tightness. 

Sole to Sole: That got frogged. I think I dropped some stitches, so I frogged the whole thing; for the second sock, as I recall, I was only about 2" in so frogging wasn't a huge issue. 

I set aside Petty Harbour to start on the Close to You Shawl. Nothing wrong with it. I was moving along on the leg - I was at about 5" or so and I figured I'd better get skippy and do that project before I ran out of time. 

You know how it goes: "The baby isn't due till November; I have time." "The birthday is at the end of the year and it's only June. Plenty of time." "Who starts Christmas knitting in May?"

Ummmmmm. Time is moving at light-speed, my friends. This time, I figured I wanted to get that puppy blocked before  I was on the eve of the birthday. Because it would've worked out that way. 

So I figure I have about 5 - 6 days to get the yarn; then I can finish it up. I only need about 5-ish yards, but I bought the whole hank. Next up: Search Ravelry for a project using 390-ish yards of this yarn. I'm not saying that I don't like the colorway, but it's not my favorite, so I have no idea what to do with it. Something will come to me. It usually does. 

I Hate the Fourth...

As you all know by now, I've got 3 wonderful dogs. Two of them are terrified by fireworks. 

When I say "terrified," I don't mean normal skittishness. I mean drooling, whale-eyed, shaking, won't go out to pee terror. This is Quinn in the bathroom on the 4th of July. She's been there since July 2, actually. And she's still there. 

Because people are idiots. Because people insist on blowing off illegal fireworks, and not only the little rat-tat-tat ones, but half-sticks and M-80s. Those are mortars, people. 

Here's a little 4th of July trivia for you: M-80s were used by the military to simulate explosives and artillery fire. So then, they evolved into professional fireworks. 

And then, somehow, the idiots got hold of them. And started shooting them off in backyards nationwide. 

Fireworks are illegal here in Illinois. They've been illegal for a long, long time. The larger gauge ones are so dangerous it's not even funny. 

Aside from blowing off your fingers (or your face), they can damage - permanently - your hearing. The guy across the street was blowing them off on the 4th before the storms hit. Hallelujah for the storms, but still - some idiots were blowing off fireworks DURING a thunderstorm. 

I sat on the floor with my older dog for over an hour trying to keep her calm. I gave both dogs a massage with essential oils. I had diffusers going. I gave them CBD cookies. I had fans on high speed to muffle sound. And still. Quinn wouldn't budge. 

We finally got her out of the bathroom and into her crate - she likes her crate in these circumstances. 

All I can tell you is that you should be safe on the 4th of July. You shouldn't shoot off fireworks unless you're a professional. And above all, remember your neighbors: the pets, the vets, the people who have sensory issues, those who are elderly and those with other chronic conditions. 

Go visit your municipal display. Leave us in peace, please. 

If You Don't Like the Weather...

Blue skies, beautiful clouds
...stick around for 10 minutes. I mean it. Usually, it's a joke, but on Thursday, these were the shots actually 10 minutes apart. I saw the clouds, around lunch time, and I thought, "How pretty!" so I buzzed out the door into the heat + humidity (nope, no walk on Wednesday) and snapped this. I went back to doing what I was doing, and then glanced up... to see Shot #2...Went out and snapped that, and heard thunder somewhere off in the distance. 
Thunderheads

Ten minutes later? Stormageddon... 

It bucketed, sheet-rain, sideways. The cloud-to-ground lightning was pretty impressive. Actually, kind of terrifying. The thunder was very loud. The rain was almost louder. 

If you can see in the last shot, right over the restaurant building? You can actually see the sheets of rain coming down, just like a Hollywood special effect. 

Sheet rain
And it just kept on coming. It lasted for well over an hour. The bad thing was that I heard a number of sirens, too, and saw at least 2 ambulances rushing down the street. I understood later that there was a big traffic issue at one of the major intersections a few miles down. It doesn't surprise me. 

And then, when it calmed down, of course, fireworks. Boomers set off in the neighborhood next to the office. Really. See paragraph above on my opinion.

In Thursday night's class, people were joking about how effective our "Yoga Rain Dance" was over the 4th of July holiday. It was effective, but not enough, apparently. 

Garden Glories...

I was at Menard's today, doing my good deed for the church. I bought play sand (jeeze, the smallest bag must weigh nearly 40 lbs!) for the "butt bins" at the church. I cleaned out one (I forgot the one at the front door). Then I put it the required 15 feet away from the door. And the group that meets at the church promptly put it back near the door. 

This does not make me happy and I'll have to address it. 

But. 

That's not the point of this section. The point was I was in Menard's. And I found something beautiful for the garden. This lovely hummingbird feeder was on sale. 

I also picked up some additional hummingbird food. We try to buy the pre-made but without the red dye. The birds don't need the red dye; it's really not good for them. 

We had a "mason jar" kind of hummingbird feeder and it didn't work out well. Bugs, probably ants, got in the feeder despite the very deep "ant well" we had on it. I think the openings were a bit wide and they managed to crawl in. This has smaller openings. The colored part is glass, so that's very pretty in the sunlight. It's under the maple tree, so it's kind of shaded. 

We haven't seen a lot of hummers lately, so I hope that this colorful feeder attracts them. The brown-eyed Susans are starting to bloom, the coneflowers are going nicely, and the pink thing that I can never remember the name of (see it right below the feeder, there) is coming up just as it does every year. The hanging baskets are a bit straggly. The wild mood swings from rain to scorching are taking their tolls on the baskets. But they're hanging in there (ba-dum)... 

And the milkweed. Wow. I don't think I've got monarch eggs after all. But they're feeding something. And we'll have some beautiful pods. 

I remember as a kid having those spray-painted silver and gold and then spray painting Michelob bottles. We'd glitter up the pods and make them into Christmas decorations. We found swamp milkweed all over the place. We'd also do cat tails. 

I expect that, this Fall, we'll have a load of milkweed. I'll have to snag it before it takes over the flower garden. Maybe I should plant some along the south side of the house. Hubby won't necessarily like it, but it's an option. And otherwise? I'll have milkweed to spare, if anyone wants some! 

Random Picture...

Speaking of garden delights, I have to say that while my basil isn't quite spiffy, and my Rosemary is sparse, the parsley? Wow. It's beautiful. Lush, and green, and fragrant. I've used it quite a bit and it's only gotten prettier. It's the prettiest we've had in a long time. I think it's better in the front garden and not in the herb trug. 

I think we're going to have to freeze some of it and maybe make parsley pesto. 

Parsley is a great herb. Yes, it's strong. But it's packed with Vitamin C, iron, and Vitamin K. It's not only good for you, but it's good for your dog! Chopped up in Fido's food, it helps with not only "doggie breath" but also with inflammation. It's antimicrobial - always a plus. And can fight some issues like arthritis. 

I'm going to try it with Quinn. Not sure if she'll eat it, but I'll give it a whack. It might be worth a try, particularly for her cysts. Not sure if cysts are caused by inflammation, but it can't hurt. 

For humans: bone health, an immune booster, full of antioxidants. Helps combat constipation, gas, indigestion. The only thing to worry about, and that's if you eat -- like that whole pot up there -- is that it can cause problems with high blood pressure and water retention. Which is odd, because it's supposed to help with UTIs and keep things flowing, if you know what I mean. Check this link for WebMD for more information. Just so you know I'm not making this up! 







Tuesday, July 03, 2018

It's Serious, Folks...

We are seriously in "yarn chicken" here... I have 14-ish rows to go on the Close to You Shawl. And this is all the yarn I have left... 

I'm praying and knitting really fast (fast for me, I mean). Because it's a proven knitting theory that if you knit faster, the yarn will all work out. Plenty of knitting bloggers have said so, and I'm going to believe them. 

See, this pattern takes 400-420 yards of yarn. I have 400. Of course, I didn't bother to check gauge, because the pattern says gauge isn't really an issue. Well, actually, what it says is "gauge isn't crucial but will affect your yardage."

I'm going with "gauge isn't crucial" and knitting fast. That works. 

I hope. 

If I get too stressed out, I'll switch back to the Green Travelling Socks. Socks are always good for regaining your knitting confidence if it's been battered by the Gauge Gorgon... 

I've actually gotten a few more rows on the Green socks. I'd been bringing them everywhere, and dang it all -- I'm knitting on those things. I want that bag empty and I want socks. Still - I have reservations about the colorway. 

I'm not even sure why I bought it. I must have felt SOMETHING when I bought the yarn. Or was it just the compulsion to buy sock yarn? It's a new-ish Opal colorway, and maybe I couldn't find anything better in the collection. 

No. That can't be right...

Opal always has a colorway that I like. At least one. Usually several. Usually, MOST of them. 

I've gotten compliments on these. Whether it's because I'm knitting socks or people really, really like the color - maybe I'm not seeing it. Maybe I'm jaded with the Plain Vanilla pattern; tired of it again. 

But really? What can you do with this colorway? I could have tried Jaywalker, which is a common zig-zag pattern. But those are notoriously tight if you have "biker calves" like I do. So I didn't want to waste my time knitting something that I can't wear. And nobody else in my family would be able to wear them -- unless I knitted them for The Kid, in his size 11 feet... Maybe I should have done that. 

That would've been great: the mile-long socks (and that's just the heel to toe)...

The Garden Giveth...

The salad I had for lunch the other day had our home-grown romaine in it. 

Let me tell you about home-grown romaine...It's very different from even the organic romaine I've been buying. 

Of course, you can't see it for the avocado and radishes. But it's got a definitely different texture. It's chewy, kind of like kale. It's got substance where the organic romaine I've been buying seems to be getting more and more "iceberg," in terms of being somewhat insubstantial and watery tasting. 

I mean, when I first started eating romaine, it was a really nice lettuce. I could definitely tell the difference from iceberg and even the spring mix I used to grow. Romaine kind of "held up" my salad. 

But not lately. It seems like the romaine has transformed and it's not as filling - or nutritious - as it used to be. 

This home-grown stuff reminds me a lot of kale. It reminds me in the way I have to slice it rather than it "cracking" -- like with the regular romaine, I can snap the leaves into fork-able chunks. This stuff, I had to kind of knife through. And I loved it. It was filling. It soaked up the dressing and made the avocado seem even creamier. And it has as much snap as the radishes. 

Win-win and we'll be growing this again!

Speaking of Food...

This is my take on Nigella's "Pancetta Orzotti." So - I was up late one night, and I watch her specials (often over and over because of the way our TV service works) because they're only a half-hour and usually enough to send me off to dreamland. 

This recipe caught my eye because it actually only takes about 15 minutes, and I love risotto. I just don't always have time to make it. Hubby can make it now, since I showed him how. But if he's pressed for time and I'm pressed for time? No risotto. 

The best thing about risotto is leftover risotto for lunch or breakfast. If not, then dinner. 

You can Google the real recipe. Here's what I did:

Bacon & Pea Orzotti

1 (12 oz) pkg. uncured bacon
2 1/2 c. frozen peas
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 box (1 lb) orzo pasta
4 c. + 1/2 c. of boiling water
1/2 stick butter (unsalted)
Ground pepper
Salt (lightly!!)
Penzey's Tuscan Sunset salt-free Italian Spice Blend
1 handful shredded Parm (fresh, not the crap in the green cardboard container!)

Chop the bacon into 1/4" (ish) pieces. Just slice it right across, and it slices better if it's half-frozen. Place it into a dutch oven or large pot. Saute over medium-high heat till crispy. 

Drain off some of the bacon fat; just have about 2-3 tablespoons left. Turn heat down to medium-low. Dump the frozen peas in, right out of the bag. Stir them around to "glaze" them with the bacon fat, and then dump in the box of orzo, stirring to glaze the pasta.

Add the chopped garlic, Penzey's and pepper. Then pour 4 cups of BOILING water over all of this, and clamp a lid on it. Turn the heat to simmer, and set the timer for 10 minutes. 

In 10 minutes, check the pot. You MAY need to add a little more water; stir it around and see if it's getting toward al dente. Clamp the lid back on and let it simmer for another minute or so, to absorb the water. You want a little bit of "juice" in the pot. 

Turn off the heat. Cut the butter into chunks and toss into the pan. Stir around to butter the peas, bacon and orzo. This will be slightly creamy, with the starchy water. Taste it - does it need salt? Add a bit. Remember, the bacon and Parm will add salt, too. 

Add a handful of Parmesan, and stir it up. Serve. Yum. 

I like to add a bit more Parm on top of mine. Yes, that's my thumb. 

So instead of a 50-minute or so journey toward risotto, this took about 15-20 minutes, start to serving. This is definitely a keeper. 

NOTES:

**You can use chopped ham with this. If you use ham, you might want to add 2 T. or so of olive oil as you saute the ham, just so it adds that "glaze" and taste of the hammy oil to the dish. 

**I will experiment with using shrimp. I think it would work with shrimp, but obviously, you don't want to saute the shrimp that long -- you'll be chewing on a rubber tire. Maybe shrimp AND a bit of bacon? Hmmmmmmmmm. 

**Change up the seasonings. You knew I was going with Penzey's, right? Try Sunny Paris or if you want heat, Arizona. 

Young Living New Product...

So I'm working on cleaning out a building because we HAVE A PRIEST!! We announced it this past Sunday, so I can tell you. She's legit and we can't wait! She starts August 1st. 

Anyway, you have no place to shower. And then when I walk at noon, there's no place to shower. 

I've got these: Seedlings (our baby line) baby wipes. I figured that if you could use it on a baby's butt, I could use it as a "freshener" after a walk or after you've cleaned out a whole room to make space for the priest's office. 

There's 72 wipes in a package. Botanicals and essential oils are tender on your skin AND on baby's tushie. The wipes are nice and thick, so if you are changing a baby? No "wipe failure" while you're cleaning up a mucky butt. 

There's no chlorine, alcohol, parabens, phtalates, mineral oil, sulfates, animal-derived ingredients, synthetic fragrances, or synthetic dyes or colorants. 

Lavender, marigold, witch hazel, coriander, aloe vera, bergamot, Ylang Ylang and geranium...smells lovely! 

I wiped my face and arms down after tackling a huge pile of brush outside and moving stuff around inside. I think I'm taking these to the Joliet Prison when I go there next week to clean up and take some photographs to document the reconstruction of the prison into a new museum. 

Interested in cleaning your baby's bum in a natural way? Interested in having another way to freshen yourself conveniently without harsh chemicals? Leave a comment here and we'll chat!

Families Belong Together...

In the midst of the heat wave,  I was out photographing at a local Families Belong Together march. It was held in a more-or-less traditionally conservative area. But we march there because we want to normalize protest and prove that everyone does indeed have a voice. 

As one of the speakers said, "Protest is patriotic." We need to speak up when we see injustice. We need to contact our legislators. We need to be vocal at town meetings and such. 

And we need to vote. In EVERY election. They all count. 

Lest you think that the community was all "white-bread" liberals, aged hippies and entitled folk, there was a bit of diversity in both the crowds and the speakers. We had a Palestinian woman who's been here for FORTY years... And still, today she's told "go back where you came from." Wait. What? She's a citizen of this country. 

Oh, yeah. She's brown. 

That apparently is the thing. The racists are out in full voice. But they're not going to win. This isn't what we aspire to be. 

Unfortunately, this is what we ARE right now. Wait - you think we're not a racist country, right? Well. What's on the news is that we are. No, not the "fake news." Those people would have you believe that everyone that's "not you" is out to get you. That, kids, is called "paranoia." And they feed people this swill. And people suck it up. 

Maybe they're afraid of their place in the world. Maybe things are changing, in their minds, at "warp speed" and they can't keep up. They're uncomfortable with the changes happening so they're lashing out and letting their inner beast loose.

And that - seriously - is what people all over the world see. The idiots in the red hats, white golf shirts, khakis and brandishing tiki torches. 

Welcome to America - version "ick." 

I don't know about you, but my family came here. My great-grandpa came over because the Russians were invading Poland. Again. He figured he didn't stand much of a chance as a farmer who'd be conscripted to fight. So he came here. He wanted a better life. He worked in mills and factories his entire working life. He was a laborer and happy to be here. 

Hubby's family has much the same story. As do a whole bunch of us in this country. Because unless you're descended from the Native Americans, or First Nations or whatever the proper name is? You're NOT a "pure-blooded" American. 

None of us are. We are all immigrants. Some of us are closer to our immigrant roots, but all in all, we are a country made up of immigrants. 

Feeding the hatred of "the other" is the LEAST Christian thing you can do. And that brings me to the next thing: Firstly, we are not now, nor have we ever been, a nation founded on the Christian religion. Check out this link about the Treaty of Tripoli. It was signed in 1796, and so far, the Current Occupant hasn't reneged on this treaty. 

Though I wouldn't be surprised...

Though he's not all that smart, so he probably hasn't had anyone tell him about it yet...


The second President of the United States, John Adams, signed it. Now that's a Founding Father. 

Read your history. Or you're destined to repeat it. As you can see, we are repeating an ugly portion of our history. 

We are shutting our borders; we are denying asylum, a legal process that has to happen in the country you're going to. Not the one you're in. 

I mean, think about it: If I'm seeking asylum in Canada, why would I seek it in Minnesota? I'd want to LEAVE Minnesota to go to Canada and then beg them to take me in, because I'm in fear of my life, or I'm being persecuted. It's a legal procedure. 

This whole thing about the families being ripped apart is so not what we're about. It's so not why this country was created. But it's so where we're at. 

Kids being held ransom for a stupid wall. 

The toddler-in-chief is effectively stomping his foot. 

And Congress has no inclination to stop him. They're busy dismantling everything they can, in terms of the EPA, social safety nets, those regulations which ensure us a modicum of safety and security, and gleefully handing us over to corporatocracies, which, thanks to Citizens United, are now "people." CU and Mitt Romney... 

For many of us, activism doesn't come easily. For some of us, we think, "Wait, haven't we done this before?" 

Yeah. We have. And it looks like we're going to keep doing it. 

Instead of my usual Random Picture at the end, I'm leaving you with a few more shots of the protest. Yes, we were trolled online and a guy in a truck was harassing some of the marchers. But they trouped on and kept their heads (and their signs) high. 

We have the right to protest. You have the right to counter-protest. You don't have the right to be a jerk.