Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Reading and Knitting Up a Storm...

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you're reading a couple of books concurrently and there's just a synchronicity about them? The books dovetail and you find more depth in the one book because you're reading the other. 

Well, that's going on with me. Remember, a blog post or so back, I was reading "The Cloister Walk" and then I said I was reading a book about congregations in conflict? Well - the more I get into each of them, the more parallels I find. It's like Kathleen Norris (Cloister) is helping me walk through the book on conflict. 

That's not something that happens often, and I'm really rather relishing it. Has that ever happened to you? If so, let me know - I want to know if I'm alone in this quirky thing.

Peace Rocks...

So today I planted another peace rock. This one was at Turtle Lake. I went from work today and drove out to the park. I needed a "piece of quiet" (to steal a phrase from Mary Engelbreit) and I sat on the bench, read a little of an old Time magazine and just kind of gazed. Meditated. Enjoyed the sounds of nature, and what the sky was doing. Then my phone beeped. Seems that funnel clouds were going to be developing. But, per the message, "nothing to worry about" --- because they didn't think they'd reach the ground. 

Illinois. August. Tornado season. Yeah. 

Thanks to global warming (or climate change - but I prefer global warming, thanks - it's more accurate), the weather this summer has been, shall we say, ODD. The month of August in Illinois is traditionally the hottest. 

Not this year. We haven't broken 80 degrees all month. That is not normal. As I was sitting on the bench, I remembered that I had the rock, so I grabbed it and stuck it near the bench. It's posted to Kindness Rocks Will County, so I hope someone finds it and then passes it along. 

Anyway, I then decided to take a small stroll around the area. The light was different, that's for sure. Not quite stormy, not quite bright. It was about 75 degrees but humid enough to feel like it was in the higher 80s - at least to me. 

Though my temperature sensor left the building a few years ago, so I have trouble with hot/cold. 

I took a bunch of shots, and I have to fiddle with them a bit. Turtle Lake is a nice place. We really should go back there to ride the trails. It's near a preserve area where part of it is shut off for certain segments of the year because the birds are breeding. Herons, cormorants, the odd pelican -- it's a beautiful spot. 

When we had decent winters, it was a great place for cross-country skis and snow shoes. 

Anyway, I came back home figuring that if funnel clouds were to appear, I should probably not be near water or an open area. I'm a little superstitious that way. 

Knitting Up a Storm...

After doing a couple of chores and waiting for the aforementioned non-existent funnel clouds, I set about putting a few more rows on the sock. 

I seriously thought about bringing out the scarf, or pulling out the sweater, but I want to get these off the needles and move on, so I figured this would be mindless enough so that I could watch TV, stroll around the internet and just kind of zone out. 

Knitting, for me, even with a complex-ish pattern, is meditation. And I figured if I was going to meditate, I may as well get socks out of it. I do a 7" leg, then I'll do the heel flap and finish it off. 

I should really try a new heel. On the next pair, maybe I'll attempt the Sweet Tomato heel. But when I'm doing a plain vanilla sock, I tend to keep it all fairly ... well, plain. I want to get to a point in my sock knitting where I truly can just whip up a pair without too much bother. I'm good with the cast-on, the ribbing, and the leg. Gotta work on the heel, the turn and then the toes. Everything else is pretty much gravy. 

Random Picture...

All I can say is "Thank goodness for yoga!" What, you say, does this picture have to do with yoga?

Well. Let me tell you. 

As I strolled along the bank of Turtle Lake, I was met by a plethora of grasshoppers. Quite a few dragonflies, too. Many of which were mating. 

Well, I'll leave you two alone, ya know... I didn't see a whole lot of different butterflies, which was kind of strange. The area is surrounded by milkweed, thistle, goldenrod, Queen Anne's Lace and any other number of wildflowers and native plants. I kind of thought I'd see at least one Monarch, or maybe a swallowtail. I saw lots of the white "cabbage" butterflies. And then I saw this little fellow. 

He didn't like me following him. But I managed to sneak up on him without casting a shadow (which was the part that freaked him out, I think). That's where the yoga comes in. 

I took a large step forward with my left foot, bending at the knee. I had my right leg behind me, about 4 feet back, with my foot turned out about 45 degrees. My weight was distributed along the legs, with my feet rooting into the ground, with my trunk over my hips. 

As I leaned forward to position the phone where I could take the picture, I laid my left ribs along my left thigh. I had my phone ahead of me and pointed downward toward the little butterfly. I took an inhale, held it, snapped the picture, and then exhaled. I rose up on the next inhale, hopped my feet together and proceeded to clamber back up onto the decking area where some guy was fishing. 

Photo in high lunge... Oh, and did I mention I was totally unprepared. I was wearing Dansko clogs at the time... 

Thank you, yoga training! 








Saturday, August 26, 2017

Modeling and Modeling...

Like 99.9999% of women, I hate having my own picture taken. I can find flaws which leap off the picture. I am envious of those who are comfortable in front of the camera.

And while I'll preach the Gospel of Body Acceptance in every yoga class I teach, and while I'm perfectly happy about how my body does what it does on a yoga mat, I'm not jazzed at my shape. Even though I know I'm more lucky than most. For the most part, my body works. With minor complaints, it does what I need it to do. I'm relatively healthy - and for my age, I'm not on a lot of prescription meds (actually, 3 to be exact -- I have friends who are on twice that, so I thank Heaven daily). Still, I kvetch. Human, I guess. 

So Hubby took pictures of me modeling the Shape-It Scarf, and while I'm not happy with the body upon which the scarf rests, I'm rather pleased at the scarf itself. I did some judicious cropping, which helps me... and I think shows off the stitching in the scarf. Maybe it could've been blocked differently, but this is my first attempt. And yeah, like Nora Ephron, I'm not fond of my neck... 

I kind of thought this would have more of a "halo" but it doesn't. Maybe upon wear, because right now, it's fresh off the blocking boards. It doesn't pop against the blue yoga shirt...but I figured I wasn't going to change. 

I'd totally make this again, in a different yarn - maybe sock-weight. Maybe that sock weight which I have where I absolutely can't bear it as a pair of socks that'll be shoved into clogs because it's so pretty. 

It was, after the triangle, a mindless knit, and even with a slightly heavier yarn, I could see either enlarging or shortening the triangle, and widening or lessening the "wings." Also, I'd make the wings a bit longer, so I have more to drape. 

Reading...

So Tippi and I do therapy work at the local university and we're stationed in the library. They graciously gave me a library card (to which I was entitled as an employee years ago, and as a multiple-degree alumna, but not so sure otherwise...) and I was able to take out this book.  If you love words, you need to read this. 

I'm a dunce at poetry. My clumsy attempts are met with kindly by Kid the Poet, who generously critiques my work and desperately wants me to understand the beauty of the metaphor and the poetic form. 

And I still resort to prose. I can sling a metaphor in a sentence like an old-time grill cook in a 50's diner slinging hash. But in poetry? I'm lost. I don't know how to read it, I don't know how to write it, and I'm uncomfortable with the structure. My few attempts at poetry in this blog are childish in their structure and clumsy in their phrasing. But if I want to call myself a writer, then maybe I need to do what I've told Kid the Poet:

"Put the crap on the page and then edit." 

Anyway, this is an excellent foil for a book our rector has us reading about conflict in congregations. Church politics (not Church Politics as an upper-level construct but "pew politics") are the worst politics. Congregations have conflict. Humans make up congregations, and humans involve themselves deeply in their religion, whether or not their butts are in the pews. Religion is a flash-point for a lot of things and people hold their religion deep in their hearts. 

So congregational conflict is kind of normal. Sometimes, though, when there's a Big Thing going on, the conflict can create anxiety and it's best to head it off at the pass. So we're reading a book about congregational leadership in times of conflict. It's very interesting and it dovetails nicely with the Norris book. 

I recommend the Norris book. You'll enjoy her prose and it's not "preachy." Unless you want to read into it that way. 

Gardening...

This is now the fountain I want. It's small, but not as stubby as the one my friend "A" bought. It's a nice bubbler, and I think it'll work well in the front yard. Now - convincing Hubby... 

As we work through some unexpected expenses (Quinn's surgery for 4 - yeah FOUR - nasty cysts and the fact that I'm going to need 4 new tires before winter), I know realistically that the fountain is a "want" -- very much a "want." So maybe not this year. But this is what I'm looking for: compact and able to host a wide variety of critters. The smaller birds can perch on that raised dragonfly (you can sort of see it at the upper left of the round surface on the fountain) and the bigger birds can perch on the rim. The water isn't deep at all, but it's enough for a drink and thankfully, the bubbler moves things around so that we don't have to worry about mosquitoes. It's maybe 3.5' tall. No lights that I can tell, but that's ok. 

I had several solar pumps for the various bird baths, but as the front maple grew to encompass just about the entire front yard, it's not totally shady - but enough that the "solar" part wasn't working well. I didn't want to stretch the cords across the lawn because that's a tripping and mowing hazard - but in order to get the light and energize the pumps, we'd had to have put them in the middle of the sidewalk. 

Not a good look. 

I'm going to re-pot an orchid when Tippi and I get back from our therapy gig. Then I'm going to assess how the front garden looks. We have work to do - but not sure how much we'll get to. 

Random Picture...

This was Wednesday - Tippi was out among the students at "Welcome Days" and we ended up back inside when she was totally disregarding her training and searching for "the wild hot dog" -- too much food and too many distractions. No, nobody fed her, but she was thinking about it! 

We're going back this afternoon for a few hours, so the kids can find us and we can remind them that "The Furry Flyer" is back in the house. 

One of the gals in this picture wondered if they could have Tippi come in to replace "Bed-Check Charlie" -- the university's mascot. She said "Charlie creeps me out, and I'd rather see Tippi!" What shall we call her? "Twilight Tippi" perhaps? 




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. 

But. 

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. 

Knitting...

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. 

Knitting...

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. 

Baking...

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.