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. 

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