Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One Down...

...far, FAR too many left to go. Hubby says I've got the worst case of SABLE that he's ever seen. And in his opinion, if I should live to work through my stash, I'll be, oh, maybe 429 years old...

SABLE: Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy. My friend Sonda, who was my "enabler" (a/k/a LYS owner and dear friend) had, in her store at one time, a club called SABLE. Many of us were members. 


I. Have. Finished. A. Thing. 

Before blocking
The Shape-It scarf, thanks to my "Snag Sister" friend, is done. It's on the blocking table (a/k/a our massage table) now. I'm bandaged (don't use dressmaker pins - find your blocking pins!), and it's done and drying. 

This was done with alpaca lace-weight, using Addi needles about 6 sizes up from what lace-weight calls for. Size 9, to be exact. And they've been really slippery little buggers. The lace weight has threatened to slip more than once. 

If you recall, I had a HUGE snag. I was having a fit because it was down in the "point" of the scarf, and I didn't really want to rip it all back. I initially thought I'd dropped a stitch, but it wasn't looking right. 

Eucalan soak
I just stuck it in time-out for a month or three, and figured I needed to calm down before I tackled any kind of repair job. I needed to contemplate. And then an opportunity presented itself. My friend "R" asked me to come over and help her get a top-down sweater started. You remember, she gave me that amazing Mongolian lace-weight? Anyway, before I went over, I had a brainstorm. She's a talented seamstress in her own right, as well as being an amazing musician and teacher. 

She looked at it, and grabbed a needle. "Oh, it's just a snag. Let's work it out." And...she did. Whew! 

Soaked and rinsed
This is a Sally Melville pattern - you start at the point, increase to a certain number of stitches, and then make "wings" on either side. You can pretty much fudge this pattern left, right, and center! The woman at the OLD Wool & Co. who clerked there told me about the pattern and ok'd this yarn choice when they were having their close-out before they turned over the keys. 

She had a beauty on that was a tape yarn. I liked this alpaca, because I wanted one out of this and I have about a half-ball left. Maybe a little shawlette left in there - it's amazing how far this stuff goes! It's definitely shawl or wrap yarn - not hat yarn for sure. 

I'm no expert, but let's go through the steps. I bound it off (probably a tad too tightly) and then stuck it in a Eucalan soak for about 15 minutes. Even though they said to not rinse it, I rinsed it anyway. It didn't hurt. The trick to not felting the crap out of this stuff is to absolutely let it soak without agitating. 

Tepid water, a plish of the soak, gently lower your garment into the water, and then GENTLY squish the liquid through the garment. Then set a timer and walk away. Go knit something. Have a cup of tea. 

When your timer goes off, GENTLY (are you getting this???) lift the entire garment up with two hands, so as to not let it droop. Squeeze gently. Then, if you want, rinse it under cool water. Squeeze. Gently. 

Have a large towel ready, lay out your garment, loosely patting it into some sort of shape. Roll it up. Put it on the floor and then step on it. Seriously - step on it to squish out the excess water. Have your blocking stuff set up.

Find your blocking pins. I mean it. I didn't. I paid for it! Regular sewing pins have teeny tiny heads on them. So, when you forget to turn your pole lamps up to "high," you will inevitably stab yourself. Which I did. It was stupid. But I had "Finish Fever" and wanted to get this done. 

I pinned the top center out first - about 4 pins to anchor it. Then I pulled the point down. You can really open this up - and I probably could've gone further. 

This is where the "slightly-too-tight" bind off hurt me. I should've loosened up or taken it to a size 10 needle. But perhaps this will give it the structure or foundation it needs. 

Blocking pins offer you a little more anchoring, though this is my first time with lace yarn. So maybe blocking pins wouldn't have mattered. I could've used my lace wires, but the way the wings lay out, I didn't have the right configuration. Maybe if I do another one, I'll try it. As you can see, it's pretty open, and I really did need another set of blocks. My lace wires are all straight, and I could definitely have used a curved set to pull the point out correctly and get the definition in the triangle part more appropriately set up. 

Unfortunately, since Kid #2 still has his stuff in my one room, I have no floor space where dogs are unable to tread. If I had a dogless household, I'd just stick it in the hall, since it's just me and Hubby - we can walk around a blocking board, maybe! 

Get the point
Anyway. It is what it is. So after anchoring the top, I pulled the point down even more. I ran out of space, so I stuck the needle into the sheet covering the table, and wrapped the excess yarn, which I didn't cut off for this particular reason, by the way, around the needle, to keep that point very obvious. As you can see, there's a slight ruffle along the sides of the triangle part. I'm living with it. According to the schematic, it should be more deliberately straight. But the original pattern also called for something like sock-weight. Not lace... I can deal with the ruffle. It's now a design element. 

So in a day or so, I'll have this ready and will figure out how to model it. Here's more of a close-up for the point. At that time, I hadn't finished pinning out the sides of the triangle. I did tighten up the bound-off edge, but I really wanted to keep the point just as it was till I was done. It won't hurt to weave it in later. 

This can be worn front-wise: place the point over your sternum, drape the bound-off edge softly and then wrap the wings around the back and bring them to the front. It's not as long as the one in the original design, but maybe that's a fault of my bind-off. Though I don't mind. I'm not a big person and I don't want to drown in my knitting. 

More Knitting...

The silk scarf is coming along nicely. I like the sheen, and the lace is really something I could use in a small car-seat blanket or even the bottom of a sweater? Who knows? 

This one is supposed to be about 35.5" long. I don't know if it'll get that long, but anything over 30" will keep me warm. If I can get it to 36" - I'll be even happier. 

This is the first time I'm using this yarn bowl. I haven't been able to use it for the baby stuff or the socks. The bowl is actually quite small, even though it's beautiful. So sock yarn comes in oblong balls, which don't fit well. And the baby yarn is DK-weight, which is too big for the bowl. 

I'm still looking for the perfect yarn bowl. When I find it, I'll let you know. If you find it, please let me know. We knitters have to stick together!

The Perfect Egg...

Probably doesn't exist, but these came darned close! I was given these eggs as a gift. They're from someone who raises chickens locally. Unpasteurized, unhormoned, unchemical-laden. Grass-fed chickens. Local. Small - micro-farm small. 

As I had them handed to me, I realized that, while they're the same size as the dozen or so I have in my fridge, these felt heavier! 

So the other day, when I got home from teaching yoga, I was starving. I had done two classes, back-to-back, and maybe lots of people do that. Well, I know for a fact that many yoga teachers, in an attempt to make a real living from teaching, if they don't own a studio, go from studio to studio teaching classes all day long. 

I'm fortunate enough to not have to do that, but I do sub for my own teachers a lot. Which I did Saturday - an active a.m. class and then my own garden class. I was tuckered out and hungry. 

So I fried these up with some hash. Yum. 

That's all. Just YUM!

Hubby just found a fundraiser where a local animal rescue is selling chicken and duck eggs. Who knew that the person who's allergic to chicken eggs can actually eat duck eggs? That's kind of cool. 

So we'll be saving the link and when we need eggs, we'll see if they have some to sell. Again, the buying local thing.

Yes, I buy from the grocery store, but if I can find a local source? I'll try it at least. 

The Eclipse...

I didn't see much at the eclipse. My brother and SIL went down to Carbondale and she got some beautiful shots. I didn't. This was as close as I got... It was cloudy. 

I will say though - they were right. The texture of the light changed. I was sitting in my office, and noticed that the light changed. Not that "green" stuff you get when a tornado is looming. But it was gold. A shimmery, opal-like gold. I walked outside and looked up, and this is what I saw. 

I'm sure if I'd had a filter, I could've seen more, but I wasn't really sure what we'd see up here anyway, and I was on lunch anyway, so I was monitoring the whole thing on the internet. 

Then there was this... as I was prepping for teaching, I heard a pretty nasty batch of thunderstorms... But I couldn't see clouds. Seriously, out the studio windows, it was sunny. "Thundersun," right? 

So it was brief, but it did rain for about 10 minutes. Then, as the sun continued to shine, I had a brainstorm - which was remarkable, since I was up half the night with the elkhounds and THAT thunderstorm! 

I ran to the back door of the studio and I saw a rainbow. Well, a partial one. It never really did get too intense, but it was there. 

A rainbow and an eclipse all in the same day. Quite a Monday after all. 

I told Hubby that we needed to plan for the next total eclipse. It's 2024....so we have seven years to get the appropriate equipment and plan. I'd love to see it over Niagara Falls, which is in the trajectory. But likely, we'll end up in Indianapolis. First off, it's closer, so Hubby could bring his telescope. Second - Niagara Falls, while I've never seen it, will likely be horrendously expensive. 

We have time. 

Random Picture...

So I'm a member of the Southwest Suburban Activists. One of the group members has a GoFundMe to print these signs, as well as yard signs and car magnets. I bought several of them, and will spread them around as much as I can. 

I've put one at the studio. I'll bring one to church and see who wants to get them, and then I'll arrange to pick more up. 

Is it a game-changer? I don't know. But perhaps if enough of these signs go out and up, people will start to think more about the message. I'm hoping to find an event where I can participate. Peaceful protest is the way to combat the hate and anger. 

It's the only way. Violence begets violence. And unless you're in imminent danger, you don't fight like that. 

I'm not Pollyanna. I'm mad. This isn't the world I wanted for my kids. Crap - it's not the world I want to retire in! But I know I don't want to fight. I want to change people's minds so that we all learn that we can coexist. It shouldn't be that hard. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

...And Then There Was This...

Well. It's been a week, that's for sure. 

The Mango Menace has literally and actually endorsed Nazis. White males, young and old, who feel threatened by "the brown" and anyone else who isn't white and male, are now free to use their tiki torches, wear their "uniform" of khakis and white golf shirts (as their fearless(?) leader wears on his golf outings), along with their cute little red baseball caps, and march against anything and everything. 

Oh, and mow down anyone who gets in their way. Because they feel "downtrodden." They feel "cheated." They feel "threatened." 

They're morons, just like their leader. The Sun Times put it very succinctly. He's a fake. 

Maya Angelou once said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." This is true. He's shown us time and again (4 bankruptcies, almost that many wives) what he is. And what he isn't. 

What he isn't is a moral leader. What he isn't - is a leader at all. What he is is a bellicose bully who rants and raves, and who, when he's in over his head, acts just like the tiki-torch bearers in their "not brown shirts" uniforms. Full of false equivalencies, lies, misdirections and bluster. 

When and how can we get rid of him? A number of Republicans have taken to Twitter to denounce his tepid comments about the riots in Charlottesville. I mean, for God's sake - the man attempted to make Robert E. Lee and George Washington equivalents. They're not. A fifth-grader would probably know that. Apparently, that schooling that his KKK daddy bought for him didn't sink in. Or it wasn't supposed to in the first place. The degree was just something to hang on the wall. 

Republicans, I fear, will not move forward with any attempts to impeach him because they all want to be reelected and there's still enough of "the base" in their respective districts to make that a problem if they talk about Dear Leader in anything but the most glowing of terms. 

We need to get our country back on the footing it once was. We're an international punch line now, more than ever. So before he tweets the nuclear codes for his white-shirted tiki team, we need to get him and his minions under control. 

There's nothing wrong with being intolerant of people who espouse white supremacy views. It's a proven theory called The Paradox of Tolerance. It goes like this: if we do preach tolerance of abhorrent views, eventually those who espouse those views will - and this is proven - destroy us. Tear it all down. Or in Steve Bannon's words, "burn it all down." 

So. Let's figure out how to cut this crap out and nip it in the bud. Now. Before it's too late. 

Join an activist group. Participate. Write your Congress-critters and local officials. Speak up and speak out against hate. 

Those Statues...

So everyone's in a tizzy about removing Confederate statues from public areas. On one hand, I kind of want to say what the Republicans have been saying (screw the high road, folks - it's time to get down and dirty): "We won, get over it."

Even Robert E. Lee didn't want statues. I'm not kidding. According to this article, Lee said that he opposed memorials (except for gravestones for the fallen) because he believed that countries who erased all visible signs of civil war actually healed from the divisions faster. He was probably one of the least vile of the generals, and he fought for Virginia because, as a citizen of Virginia, he felt honor-bound to do so. He kept slaves, and some accounts say he was cruel. But he also said slavery was a "moral and political evil." 

So. To those who are crying about the monuments? Even your guy Lee didn't want them. 

What to do about them? Well, I'm torn. We can't and shouldn't erase or whitewash history. The ugliness has to be kept as witness. So that hopefully we don't repeat it. 

But I think you need to separate "history" from "worship." It's not an easy task, but if we take Lee's words to heart and work within guidelines, we can come to some sort of conclusion. I don't know. I'm not a historian - I'm a person who's trying to make sense of a situation that I never thought I'd see. 


Squishy mail! This is Expressions Fiber Arts, silk DK. It's mulberry silk, baby alpaca and a bit of nylon. It's scrumptious. I mean seriously, I want to sleep on a mattress made of this yarn. The colorway is Fairy Lights. I bought this as part of a "scarf kit" with some points (not many points, for sure, but hey...). And of course, I didn't want to do a "basic scarf" because I can actually knit and didn't want to bore myself to death with 3 or 4 feet of plain garter. I'll keep that for my eventual Dr. Who scarf...

Anyhow, I trolled Ravelry and came up with a 3-version lace scarf pattern that's from a company no longer in business. I chose pattern #3 (the most "challenging" of all of them) and started knitting. The scarf will ultimately be a little smaller than the "basic scarf" in the kit, but it's also got to be blocked in order for the lace to properly pop, so I think it'll work nicely. Maybe won't be so long, but it's ok. It'll be enough. 

As I worked with the pattern, I found it easy to sort of memorize, but like with any lace - you've gotta pay attention! I like the way the colors are laying out. I like the hand of the fabric. I'm going to love the drape. The sheen of the silk is beyond compare, and the halo of the baby alpaca is something that's going to feel so nice. Now, I can just hope that we get a cold enough winter to wear the scarf. It's either going to match (mostly) my parka, or it'll look good with my camel coat. 

My issue will be that, since I've lost so much weight (thanks, braces), the camel coat will be too big. I'll wear it anyway. Maybe I can figure out how to make a belt to wear with it. Or not... 

I've gotta think about that one. It's a custom-made coat, from a student of mine. I think I talked about it when she gave it to me. It was made for her aunt, now deceased, who was, as she said, "kind of busty" and had shorter arms. That's like me. So she didn't want to just toss it, but she felt a little weird giving it to me. I love it. It's very 1960s, with the camel-colored plastic buttons. I don't want to change anything. But I'm going to swim in it. 

In spite of gaining back about 10 pounds. Which I have to work on losing back. I've got to cut down on the sweets. I've started to stress eat.

I need to stress-knit instead. I'll get a lot more done. 

The Park...

I'm sort of on Day Four of a migraine that won't quit. I think I'm at the tail end, but it's annoying. The other day, my chiropractor adjusted me, and then I went to lunch. I decided to take a walk. The headache was kind of in mid-bloom, and I needed to get some fresh air. I'm near a sports park, and I had a rock I wanted to plant... So I found a path in the park, and took a little stroll. 

I'm not sure whether the weather is playing a part in this headache - it can, you know. But so can tightening my braces. And lack of sleep. And crappy diet. And I've been experiencing all of those. 

There was a bridge, so I took it and then took a few shots of the little creek running through the park. And then I thought about where to plant my rock. As part of the Will County Kindness Rocks project, I painted a batch of rocks (and I want to do more). So this one says, "bloom where you are planted." I wanted to put it somewhere kind of appropriate and not totally obvious. But not totally hidden. 

So I stuck it in a hydrangea bush. I'll have to go back next week to see if it's still there. Hopefully, someone picked it up. I have about 7 more to distribute. If you find one, go to Facebook and let them know you've found it!

Random Picture...

I've never watched an episode of "Game of Thrones" -- and I don't plan on it. But I've heard something disturbing. Apparently, there's a "character" in there called a "direwolf." The production is using Siberian Huskies as "direwolves." And so -- Game of Thrones fans will probably go all ape-crazy about wanting their own "direwolf."

Take my advice. 

Don't do it. 

I've had Siberian Huskies for almost 30 years. I'll give you the "don't buy a Husky" sales pitch. It goes like this: Yes, they ARE adorably cute puppies. And they stay "puppy" for at least 5 to 7 years. Even though they grow to be well over 50 lbs., they'll act "puppy" for longer than you want. 

They shed. Twice a year, 6 months at a time. They chew. They have opposable thumbs that come out at night where they will change the locks on your doors and drive your car. And move your furniture. If they think they're smarter than you (and they usually do think that), they'll take over. And that's not a good thing. They don't like cats or small dogs. Or rather, they do: for lunch. They've got a remarkably strong "prey drive" for a dog that doesn't hunt. 

They're not called "Houdini dogs" for nothing; they'll climb out, crawl out, dig out or jump out. The point is, they want "out" - all the time. They love to run. They are not good at recall. If you want a dog who'll come when called, who can reliably be off-leash and who will be obedient to your commands?

You do not want a Husky. 

So do yourself and the breed a favor. Skip the "direwolves." 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What Have We Come To?

My grandparents were first-generation Americans. My great grandparents, who were in my life till I was about 14 (when the last of them died) were immigrants. Ellis Island. 

My great-grandpa on my mom's side left Poland because he wasn't keen on the idea of being conscripted into the Army. He saw that the Russians had guns. And the Polish? Well, not so much. So he left for America. He landed in Philadelphia, and then made his way to Chicago. Seems the idea of coal dust wasn't his idea of prosperity either. 

My great grandmother (mom's mom's side) spoke 4 languages. She raised her kids and learned English by listening to the Chicago Cub games. So now you know how I got to be a Cub fan. It used to bother me when people would think that she didn't "know anything" because she spoke with a heavy accent. She knew, in my young mind, so many things. She came from Croatia. She spoke Croatian, German, Italian and Polish (not necessarily in that order). And English... She taught me Croatian, but when I started school, she insisted we speak English. I'm sad about that. I don't remember much anymore, and my mom remembers almost no Croatian or Polish herself. 

So here we are, direct descendants of immigrants. 

With a mango in the White House, who's got the intelligence, and the attention span, of a fruit fly. And the nuclear codes. 

And we have white supremacists marching in Virginia. People have been injured and died. Funny how there've been no arrests. I wonder why that is. Hmmmm. 

And the best the mango can come up with (seems he lost his tweet-fingers today) is that the violence "is on all sides." 

Somehow, the folks rammed by the car? There was no violence there. At least till the car rammed them. It took the Governor of New York to sound more presidential as he condemned the whole idea of Nazis (for that's what they are - you must see that) marching in America today. 

My uncles fought in the war. My grandfather didn't - truth be told, his health was not good, and while he tried to enlist, he flunked the physical. My second cousins fought in another war or two. The patriotism runs deep in this immigrant-family that I'm a part of, even though we're far removed in this generation from that "immigrant" label. I doubt that my great-grandparents would've passed the Occupant's "test" for immigration - even with their advanced language skills. Which gives me a twinge since the twitter-fiend himself can't speak English all that well...

And there's far too much sabre-rattling. He's threatened North Korea, and now he's threatening China. All to avoid - or attempt to distract us from - the Russian scandal that's brewing. He's trapped like a rat on a sinking ship, and he's determined we're all going to go down before he will. 

That scares me. It should scare any thinking person. What have we come to? What is it with the open, blatant, palpable hatred, racism, and disdain for our basic commonalities and what we used to represent?

I grew up learning that America was a melting pot. The best of my Polish ancestors met with the best of your Irish ancestors, who learned from the neighbor's German ancestors -- and together, we were one people, determined to make life better for the next generation. 

But that's disappeared. Much like the glaciers and the permafrost. 

Can we get it back? How? And how soon?

Peace Rocks...

Will County Kindness Rocks is a project I've become involved in with the yoga studio. Right now, we're trying to get a workshop going combining yoga and rock painting. As you recall, I painted this a while ago. 

Unfortunately, I didn't realize that mid-August was when people started taking their kids back to school (when did that happen so early???). So we cancelled the first workshop and will reschedule it. In the meantime, I'm going to paint more rocks, and distribute the ones I've already painted. 

The group doesn't have a website, but you can find them on Facebook, if you want to check them out. Also, if you see a rock somewhere? Post a picture of it for them and tell them where you found it! 

Given everything happening? Perhaps this is fanciful. Perhaps it's "nothing." But I can't believe we can't start something small and watch it grow. I don't believe it's too late. 


So. This happened. I got squishy mail, and it's a simple project. I was in love with the yarn, so I got it. It'll match my winter coat (which, what with climate change, may never see the light of day if winter is mild...). It's from Expression Fiber Arts, and it's a beautiful silk + alpaca blend. 

I've got a couple of her hanks, and I can't wait to knit them up. Not for socks -- I'm doing shawlettes and this scarf. Of course, she's gorgeous and doing what she loves. 

Sometimes, I'm jealous. Lately, I've been feeling that life's passed me by, and now we're on the brink of disaster and what have I done? 

I know - tomorrow is another day. Thanks, Scarlet O'Hara. I'll try to remember that. It's overwhelming and I feel like I need to climb into a knitting hole or a reading hole. 

Ok, breathing... I went to my friend's house and helped her out with a project. As we were sorting through her stash, looking for needles, I was helping her organize projects + patterns, so that she could work on them without having to continually dig for stuff. She's got some medical problems and wasn't eager to go down to her basement unless someone was there - just in case. 

As we were going through her various totes (and thank goodness she had totes!), she said, "You can have this..." I asked her if she was certain, and she said, "I'm old - I'm probably not going to knit this up. And you deserve it." 

"This" -- this is Mongolian cashmere. From Mongolia. She brought it back when she went on a mission trip to teach music to kids. It's a kilo (more or less). Mongolian cashmere... Now, lest you keel over in a faint - she told me she paid the equivalent of $10.00 for it. Ten bucks. I'm going to keel over in a faint. 

It's so squishy and beautiful! So it's going to turn into a hap, I think. And if there's enough, maybe a very small Orenburg shawl. I have to figure out how to read the patterns for those, since they're not even a traditional "knitting" pattern, but lines and dashes. Yikes... 

And the sock continues. I'm about a quarter of the way down the leg of the second sock. Then, it's back to the February Lady Sweater, and the Soul to Soul sock so that I have two pair in a summer! 

I really have to repair the Shape It scarf. Maybe I'll bring it to my friend (I'm going to visit again soon), just so she can see what's going on. I'm also bringing over my haps book and the Orenburg lace book. 

There will be progress pics soon on the knitting on the needles. I thought I had a couple recent shots, but apparently not. 


Russian Frosting Tips. Not as simple as Pinterest would have you believe. There's a real bit of "finicky" when it comes to the frosting. And thanks, but NOT on mini cupcakes! The tops wanted to peel off... Not cool. So my original recipe for buttercream - needed to be a tad stiffer. I stiffened up the pink, but it wasn't really enough. 

And the peach/orange? It was a bit too stiff. So the flower shapes there didn't quite "blend," where the roses (the pink) blended a tad too much. 

So it's a work in progress. 

Now, in fact, the roses were a piece of cake. So to speak. Normally, you'd do them by piping a cone of frosting, then switching to a rose petal tip, and spinning the cone of frosting on a frosting nail, crafting the rose petal by petal. I've done that for years. You have a little scissor-like device that you can remove the roses with and place them directly on a cake. Or you can do what my dad taught me: flash freeze them and put them on the cake after you can actually handle them. 

To do roses "the hard way" the frosting can be a little more "droopy" so the rose petals roll out a bit. 

For the Russian tips? It's got to be stiffer than I had it. Hubby helped me stiffen up the orange/peach, but I think I overcompensated on that because those are supposed to be fancy tulips. I had some yellow frosting and I was going to use a Number 1 tip to put the yellow on the stamens. But after 48 flowers? It's ok. Nobody will complain. 

But I want to fiddle with them a bit more and try to get the frosting where it needs to be. I also want to do a "cheat sheet" so that I know what each tip does. 

The tortellini salad is done, and all I have left to do is the baked beans, which I can deal with tomorrow after church. Brother is buying Popeye's chicken (change from the burgers/dogs/brats we were having) and Sis is doing potato salad. Now, if the weather cooperates, we should have a good party. Not sure if I'll bring candles. I didn't make 80 cupcakes (not going to happen...)... 

How Does the Garden Grow...

So yeah - the brown-eyed Susans definitely need splitting! They've really taken over that small front bed. The other side is more purple, and I tried to get a few of the bees buzzing around, but I missed. I do think I got buzzed by a hummingbird as I took this picture. They were hanging around the feeders and the phlox (the pink stuff there in the back). I thought it was a cicada or a big dragonfly, but upon reflection -- it was probably a hummingbird. I wasn't really paying attention and sometimes at this time of year, they get a little aggressive when you "bug" them while they're eating. 

I didn't see any butterflies on the dill this year. And the hostas are looking scraggly. I have to thin out the lily of the valley soon. I'll put it over near the rectory when the party stuff is all over and I have a weekend to devote to that garden. Whoever we hire as a new vicar will appreciate a maintenance-free (sort of) garden. 

This is the galardia - or at least that's what my old neighbor Mrs. Silver used to call it. It's a variety of brown-eyed Susan, and it comes back reliably every year. It's compact, and doesn't take over like the stuff in the square garden. It seems like this one likes the corner it's planted in, and it's been a steady pop of color for a couple of years now. 

I've seen this in borders before. I had some in the square garden, but we had a nasty winter and it did kill just about everything in that spot. 

Anyway, this is an easy one to grow, and all you have to do is leave it alone. The smaller birds eat the seeds you see in the seed heads, and whatever's left just re-seeds itself and comes up the next year. It'll bloom clear through till Fall and if the season is mild enough, it'll go till it snows. I've rarely seen this plant droop, where the bee balm, even though it's supposed to be a "native" plant? It gets a little touchy when the weather gets sticky. 

I have two milkweed plants, but they haven't bloomed. On the other hand, I've seen milkweed which has already bloomed for the year. I have no idea - perhaps it's one of those that takes a couple years to get established. I also have the seeds that my friend sent me from the UP. Those have to be planted around the first frost (this ought to be interesting, trying to figure that out), because the seeds have to be exposed to cold in order to establish themselves to bloom in the coming spring. 

Random Picture...

This is what I've been reading (among other things). The short stories are amazing. You get drawn in and you don't want to come out. You get a mental workout trying to figure out the twists and turns. And then they happen and you're surprised. 

Till you think a moment and realize -- "No, that was the genius plan she had all along." 

And then you want to take every word you've ever written and put a torch to it, because you know that even on your best day, you can't write what she tosses in the garbage. 

And then. Because you're a writer. You write. Again and again. And you keep trying. Because words matter. You realize that the only way you can make them matter more is to write more. Write more, write as a habit, write as a mission. Write like you read, write like you knit, write like you sing. Write like you mean it. Write like you breathe. 

Saturday, August 05, 2017

How Things Are Going...

...Well, we're planning my mother's 80th birthday party. The birthday has already happened, but with other stuff (including the birth of her most recent great-grandchild) going on, it got busy. 

So my SIL texts me and says, "What are we doing for your mom's b-day? [Brother] has no idea."

Well. It was HIS idea. And he even set the menu! After consulting with Sis, and agreeing that Brother was a MORON, I texted back with a repeat of the menu and we have it all straightened out. 

I dropped off some cake totes to my mom (shower, baby, which I thankfully didn't have to attend!), and we discussed it. She asked, "Are you letting [Brother] pay for all the main course?" Well. Yeah. You're dumb enough to forget what you said you'd do, you get to pay for it. 

Besides, I'm doing cupcakes, tortellini salad, baked beans and likely something else. For years, I've organized these things - time for someone else to step up... 

I'm making small cupcakes. Mom likes cupcakes. And I'm using these Russian frosting tips. I have 3 of the tips set aside - the complete set is something like 20 tips, and there are no numbers on them, so we have to figure out a way to identify them all, and lucky me - I get to play with all of 'em to see what they make! Mom and I talked, and she prefers the smaller ones - cupcakes, I mean - particularly since this is a LOT of frosting! I'm going to practice, and we'll see how they come out. I'll just fiddle with some waxed paper. I want to get a feel for them. All I should have to do is make a batch of frosting, tint some green and tint some pink, and maybe coral. She likes pink. So - roses and tulips. 

Clean Eating...

I'm working toward clean eating. Or at least cleaner than I used to eat. One of the things is that I have to clean out my kitchen. Today, at the store, I saw this. 

Look at the ingredients lists. I've circled them. Yes, the Daisy costs more. But look at the INGREDIENT in it. 

The store brand is more economical. And the ingredients include something double-starred that says "an ingredient not normally included in sour cream." Yikes... What the heck?? Bad enough that one of the ingredients is cellulose. That's wood fiber, folks. 

I have also cleaned out my cleaning equipment. I've gotten rid of the toxic stuff. I use vinegar and water for windows, I use Thieves Fruit & Vegetable wash on the produce I buy. I use Thieves cleaner for the rest of the cleaning. I use a natural dish soap. 

I've also cleaned out my personal care products. Got rid of everything that I found with formaldehyde (nail polish), parabens, phthalates, triclosan, SLS, toluene, and propylene glycol. 

And yeah - left my shelves pretty bare. But the stuff I'm using? At least I know I'm doing the best I can to "detox" - and I know that in today's world, it's impossible to totally eliminate toxins from your body. But I can do what I can do. 

And it can start with something as simple as sour cream. 

It's a Dog's Butt...

So Quinn's at it again... There's a cyst that's bothering her. I'm using an essential oil and ointment to calm it down. The vet doesn't want to do surgery on it because of the location. 

Tonight, she got a treatment with Young Living Essential Oils Animal Scents line. I cleaned it off, used Puriclean, then used InfectAway and finally, Mendwell. I sealed it all in with just a dab of Animal Scents Ointment. And yeah - she's in the "inner tube of shame," so in order to assuage her doggie dignity, I gave her a smidgen of cheese. 

Her dignity will be further affronted when Hubby trims away some of the hair, so that the area has air circulation. Even though I'm "sealing in" the beneficial oils, the Elkhound double coat is pretty dense, and it can be a problem with wounds healing. 

She's in the bathroom, only mildly offended. Tippi sniffed, but left her rear end alone. 

Each of them got a little head-rub with Lavender, since there are fireworks going off, but they're not as bothered as they were on the 4th of July. Of course, the entire neighborhood wasn't shooting them off tonight either!

I'm hoping that the essential oils work. Many oils are good for animals and many oils are good for the skin (human and canine). Essential Oils have been used a lot. It's something you do have to get your dog used to, and some dogs - they just don't like them. Like humans, they all have opinions. 

I've been gradually introducing them to the dogs, and I think they're at least getting used to them. 

Random Picture...

So I went into the bathroom this morning to brush my teeth. This is my furry grey bathmat (who had her head up and was smiling till she saw the phone...). And somehow, it hit me... She's going on 10 - she'll be 10 in January. 

Our Elkhound group has had a lot of losses lately. The dogs - they don't live forever, and that 15 or so years? Goes by in a blink. And with Tippi? It's less than that because we didn't get her till she was around 2. So we're in the dark with the actual history of her mom and dad, and any potential health problems. 

So far, we've been lucky, though she REALLY needs to lose weight. And no, we don't feed her a lot. She gets fed 3x/day, and in total gets about 1 1/4 cup of high-quality dog food. It's not a lot of food. She got really heavy after she was spayed, and it wasn't because she was getting treats. I don't use a lot of treats. Even in training, I was breaking those things up - practically into molecules!! It's like the weight just gloms onto her. 

Kind of like what it does to me... Hmmmmm. Maybe I was an Elkhound in a prior life??

So anyway. It hit me. One day (sooner than I want - no matter how long she lives), I won't have my furry grey bathmat. She won't be here. My heart actually dropped. 

I've had a few special dogs in my life. She's one of them. 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

For the Love of God...

...someone muzzle this idiot. 

Seriously, I don't usually start off on a tear like this but I can't take it. This post shows that the person who's occupying "The Dump" (a/k/a The White House) -- when he's not golfing, that is -- shows that he's unhinged. 

He's holding a "campaign rally." Really. He hasn't been in office 6 months. He hasn't done anything but whine, complain, and ... golf. Oh, and blame everyone else. 

Look, he won. By some amazingly stupid twist of the universe, he won. And all he's been doing is complaining about Hilary Clinton. 

Now, he wants the special prosecutor to go after her emails. Again. We've beaten that issue to death. In his eyes, though, we're all "picking on him." But WE are the snowflakes?? We have a Snowflake-in-Chief. 

If Mr. Mueller has indeed got enough to put together a Grand Jury, I'll personally be happy to see the back end of the most corrupt family in America. Sooner rather than later. 

OK, that's out of my system. 

I've Looked at Clouds...

Any Judy Collins fans out there? You know the song... Anyway, lately, with the crazy weather we've been having, the clouds have been rather spectacular. This was Monday night after yoga class. 

Today, we had rain, like crazy, and the temperatures dropped to the 70s. Yes, it's still August in Illinois, even though it doesn't quite seem right. For the rest of the week, it's supposed to be "unseasonably cooler" and tonight, it's raining. We're not getting the worst of it, thankfully, but the dogs seem to feel it. I'm hoping for a quiet night. 

This was out the door of my office. It happened about 1:30 or so. KA-BOOM - the skies opened. It only lasted about 3 minutes but those drops were the size of half-dollars. And it continued on and off all afternoon. 

At yoga tonight, we were all laughing about the weather and wondering if we were going to have to go home and water. 

So of course, it started raining just after all the students left. And it kept on raining. It was a fast-moving thing, though, and it's pretty well over with. Which is good. The dogs are relatively calm and I think we'll all sleep tonight. 

I don't know what's up with the weather. All I know is that this Saturday's garden class ought to be very well attended (fingers crossed) because the weather is going to be beautiful. I'm using a nice Young Living insect repellent, no DEET and very lovely on the skin, too. It helps. We are in a garden, and sometimes the midgies and flies are buzzing. 


The sock is done, and #2 is on the way. I have about 1/2" left on the cuff ribbing and then I can zip along with this one. Hope to finish it by mid-August, if all goes well. Then I'll finish the second of the Heart & Sole sock. That'll be TWO pair in one summer. 

Something of a record for me. 

No, I haven't forgotten about the sweater. It's here. And the Shape-It - I have to take that to my friend R and see what she thinks about repairing the snag. I really don't want to rip it all back, but I've got to do something. It's about 3 rows from bind-off and I really want to block it and wear it when the weather turns. But I can't figure out what to do with the snagged bit. I need an expert to look at it. 

I did buy some linen/cotton blend for a little sweater I want to whip up. It's got a slight cap sleeve and lace down the front. It'll be good for at least two, maybe 3 seasons, depending. I got a neutral color so I can wear it with anything. I'll have to pet the yarn a bit and see what I think. Either way, I'll knit it up - it's just a matter of where it's going to land on the list. 

Random Picture...

I saw this at The Fields after my class last Saturday. I showed my friend Alice. Who promptly bought it. Hubby was happy, because he figured it was the only one they had. 

I reminded him that the manager of The Fields and I are friends and that she'd happily order me one... 

I don't think he anticipated that. 

That being said, I'm more interested in paying for my certification course in "Yoga for Healthy Aging" than I am (at the moment, at least) in buying this fountain. 

THAT being said...This would look so pretty among my brown-eyed Susans in the garden... The bubbler has lights in it. And the whole thing is no more than about 2.5' high, which is perfect. And it's all self-contained. Just need a plug. 

Which we have. 

I'll keep you posted. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bread & Circuses...

Of the dozen (or more) ways to describe what's been happening in the USA lately -- or at least the dozen ways not using scatological language, we can say the following:

1.  From Juvenal (Roman poet, somewhere around the late 1st and 2nd century AD), noted for his poems known as the Satires:  "Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt."

2.  From Noam Chomsky, theoretical linguist, cognitive scientist and philosopher: "As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome."

3.  Attributed to Mark Twain (but disproved a couple of times - I'm going with it anyway...): "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It frustrates you and annoys the pig."

4.  Smoke and Mirrors: an idiom for a deceptive, fraudulent or insubstantial explanation or description. 

5.  From Carl Sagan, American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, and science communicator: "Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires intelligence, vigilance, dedication and courage. But if we don't practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us -- and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan that comes along." 

And finally, 

6. From Neil DeGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist, science communicator and television host (NOVA ScienceNOW on PBS): "You can't have people making decisions about the future of the world who are scientifically illiterate. That's a recipe for disaster. And I don't mean just whether a politician is scientifically literate, but people who vote politicians into office."

So here's the thing, kids... This circus of an administration is killing us. We have a purported Tweeter-in-Chief who is easily distracted. Much like a 2-year-old who was given a sippy cup full of Mountain Dew for breakfast. He tweets "policies" only to distract us from stuff like, oh, I dunno - the upcoming investigations on Russia's involvement in our elections. His taxes. His family's conflicts of interest. The gutting of so many necessary programs. The appointment of lobbyists and large contributors to departments such as Education and Interior, so that they can rip those venerable organizations to shreds. 

He can't let go of Hillary Clinton. Dude - much to my chagrin and the anger and angst of millions of us, you won. Get over it. Move on. Try "presidenting" at least once before you're impeached. (Are You listening, God??)

He's humiliating AG Sessions, and much though I don't like Sessions, I'll give him credit for not quitting. Sessions is holding his own while there's a kid in the White House having a tantrum. You know - the guy in the Oval Office. 

He's threatening the senator from Alaska because she voted against HIS wishes and FOR what her constituents need. Amazing, that... I can't see her being bullied, and I can't see the folks in Alaska dumping her because she's giving them what they need. But I've been shocked before. 

And much to my surprise, Mr. Lindsey Graham appears to be growing a spine! It's about time. He's finally putting the brakes on the Nectarine Nemesis. And pardon me, but I can't figure out McCain. Is he voting to open debate on the ACA so he can champion keeping it? Or is he NOT being a maverick, and will he cave to his party, since they seem to have no qualms about kicking over 25 million people off health care, because you know - it's "Christian" to do so. 

"The Base" -- you can't even have a discussion with them. We're so polarized that it's impossible to reason with anyone. I'm starting to believe that he truly COULD shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. These people will vote against everything they need, and justify this incredibly inept moron's behavior by screaming about President Obama. People... Your guy got in, somehow (Thanks, Vlad...). Now - when the government takes your Medicare, let me know how that works for you. When the government strips you of any kind of insurance and pension, let me know how that works for you. When the jobs that were promised don't appear, let me know how that works for you. When the teen pregnancy rate rises, when your spouse dies of a preventable disease, and when polio comes back because you don't believe in science -- let me know how that works for you. 

I don't know how much longer we'll sit for this - or stand for it. I'm not sure how to go about pushing for getting him out of there before we end up in a war or a depression. But then, we get Pope Pence... He'll make the most conservative Catholic look like a hippie. 

I fear for our children and grandchildren. 


So - that last inch before the toe decrease? It's about a million miles long. Seriously, it's like time has stopped. This was last night. Today, I finally - FINALLY - got to the toe decrease. And then I had to go hunt for the directions for a 5-needle toe. All the books I had handy were for a 4-needle, and I wasn't about to chance it. 

I went to my friend R's house to interpret a top-down pattern for her. I should've brought my ball-winder and swift, but we're getting together tomorrow so that I can wind her balls for her. 

I'm kind of itching to finish this sock and get back to the sweater. 

But. Must. Finish. A. Pair. 

I've got too many "singletons" out there now. And if I want to wear 'em, I've gotta knit BOTH of them. I have more socks to knit and I'm wondering if I'm going through a "bored with bland" period. I mean, this yarn is lovely. It's going to be a beautiful pair of socks. But I find myself wanting just a smidge more for a challenge. 

Not sure I'm ready for a cabled sock, but maybe some uncomplicated lace on the cuff? I could do that. Or I've been eyeballing "shorties" that I can wear with tennis shoes. That would be nice. I can do those in "Frankensock" - where I use up scraps. Got lots of extra yarn from the socks I've already completed. 

It's a thought. Just have to push on and get moving. 

The Girls...

I mean the dogs. We've begun using CBD oil for Quinn and Raisa. We're trying to see if it curbs Raisa's aggressiveness and calms Quinn's nerves. Nothing much so far. 

Except that Raisa has determined that, against all logic, she loves Rose essential Oil. Of course. At $100/bottle. And a bottle is 5 ml. Of course she loves it. 

I had a "distance" session with a healer - using Healing Touch for Animals, with Quinn, and it was interesting. I wasn't sure what to expect. I was pretty certain this "Reiki for animals" would be good for her in-person, but the person I spoke to wanted to do a distance session because of timing and scheduling. We do live a couple hours from each other. 

Quinn was kind of "meh" about it, except for, part-way through the session, she perked up, looked around and seemed to sense that someone was close by (besides me). Nobody was there. The person doing the session was far away. 

Tippi with blue crown
Quinn had a relaxing day that day and the healer told me she could use some Frankincense oil. Which, it turns out, she loves. Sacred Frankincense, of course, the more rare one. 

I did use regular Frankincense on her when we thought we were having a thunderstorm. Normally, Quinn's kind of "resigned" when I use lavender on her. She did enjoy the Frank... She bowed her head and seemed happier for me to use that. 

Quinn with red crown
It's a process. Whether you believe in this kind of thing or not, I have to try different things. I don't want her drugged, but she needs some relief from her overwhelming anxiety. 

If this works, I'm happy. If it doesn't work, I haven't wasted anyone's time. The person doing the healing needs a "case" to work on. I have a "case" for this kind of thing. 

I got a couple of new crowns for the girls. Raisa does without - she eats hats. Quinn would walk around the house with it on and doesn't mind. 

Tippi technically doesn't like them, but she tolerates them for therapy visits. This one - I had to whistle to get their attention and take a picture when they looked like they weren't ready to die from humiliation. 

I think they're adorable. Don't you?


It rained. And it's been raining. These past 2 days are the only rain-free ones we've had in about 10 days. The park near my office looked like a mess. We had a relatively mild winter, and we need the water. 

Just not all at once. I had to drive through a neighborhood because traffic lights were out and I'm thinking that just about every house in the blocks I drove by had some sort of damage: a tree limb, a shattered tree, destroyed lawn furniture... It was rough. 

Lucky for us, our idiot neighbor's dead tree is still (miraculously) standing. Though I don't know how much more it can take. 

As I taught through a downpour, this is what greeted us after class... 

We all stopped and took pictures because it was a beauty - end-to-end with the most intense colors at either side. 

Mother Nature sometimes throws you a gift while she's wrecking your yard. It was a beauty and I'm glad we caught it. 

Stencil Art...

Kid #2 is really into stencils. This is what he gave me recently. You think the kid knows me or something?? 

I mean yes -- thoughts and prayers are meaningful. I'm a spiritual person. But -- sitting on your hands and praying won't cut it now. 

We actively have to resist the crap that's piling up on us. If not for us, then for our kids. Those of us with adult children see them having a much harder time than we did. Kid #1 is going to struggle his whole life to save anything. Kid #2 - we used to think that nurses and teachers "had it made" what with guaranteed jobs and pensions. 

Well, neither nurses nor teachers have it made. Hospitals are cutting nursing staffs and schools are impacted by Washington and the various states' budget woes. 

Maybe both kids should've gone into technology, but then again: those jobs also come and go. I really can't think of a profession out there with any sort of security. 

Oh. Wait. 

Professional politician. 

No thanks - I raised them to be independent thinkers. The current herd doesn't always use their brains. See: Lost Election of 2016 for the Dems (who thought they had a "sure thing" and didn't count on the vast impact of crazy), and "How to vote Party all the way" for the Cons... Where you've sold your soul to the highest  bidder, and you really don't care. 

Random Picture...

So at work, we'd been using a chemical air freshener. Ick. I bought this one - it's a very small one, but I'm trying it out. So far, it's working nicely even if it doesn't cover the entire space. 

Technically, this Orb Diffuser can fit in your cup holder, and if your car is new enough to have a USB port, it'll freshen the car as you travel. I have a diffuser in the kitchen, the bedroom and the main living area. I have one in the studio. I use them daily. If this works, I'll bring a larger one into the office. 

My going "chemical free" (or as much as I can, given life in general) has really changed the way I clean and the way I take care of myself. It's made me feel better, not only for the environment, but physically. My skin looks healthier and I seem to sleep better. 

It's important to take care of yourself and your family. I can help. Young Living Essential Oils are a part of my routine, from cleaning to supplements. And you know what? It's just nice to have a fresh-smelling house!