Saturday, December 27, 2008

Just Call Me Cranky!

Guess what I've been doing?
Between last night and this afternoon I've carded my way through a mountain of fiber.

It started with just over 8 ounces of superfine merino, continued through 1 1/2 pounds of Llama (that's a whole lot of llama!) and has continued through about half of the seemingly endless Scottish Blackface.
It's not all in this photo, but the pudgy merino batts are the tawny ones in back; 7 of them, each a bit over an ounce. Next is the llama on the left; these are "skinnier" batts, but as big as the carder would hold and there are oodles of them, a huge bagful. And the white clouds are my Scottish Blackface. These are just a few of the mass that lives in its own plastic bin -- the biggest that Wally world had -- I did twelve batts, double-carded. Just call me cranky ! ! !
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In retrospect . . .

I guess I've learned a lesson. The pierogi idea was not so good. Well, yes, it did save me a few pounds, I guess.
On the other hand -- the pierogi from the store were -- good, yes, but -- not like the ones I make. Just different. Except I bought sauerkraut ones, too, and they left a LOT to be desired. Next year. . .
We had a lovely Christmas dinner with friends. We went to their home where we were treated to roast turkey and all the excellent stuff that goes with. The house elf's cheesecake made the trip as well. Somehow two pieces came back home with us along with scads of yummy leftovers that turned into our dinner the next night.
All told, it was a lovely holiday.
My favorite gift -- the house elf gave me a disco ball! OK, a mirror ball to some people -- it's excellent! An eight-inch ball covered with mirror tiles. It mounts on a base that can either sit or be hung, and it rotates. Additionally there is a pin spot that comes with four different color filters. It can likewise sit or be hung. My inner magpie is thrilled. Combined with our rotating christmas tree stand, it's about all I can take!

Monday, December 22, 2008

What WAS I Thinking???

EEeeee!!! The bronchitis mess I had must have affected me more than I thought. It left me delusional or something!
Yes, the pierogi genes have kicked in, but NO, we are NOT MAKING them this year. In fact, today I went to Kielbasa!, a local Euro-Deli specializing in Polish food, and bought some. Only a few to have for Christmas Eve, and I'll be over it.
You see, there is no such thing as making only a few pierogi. Freeze some? Yes, I usually do, BUT. . . !
I heard an interesting comment on TV this morning about gaining weight over the holiday season. It seems most all of us do. But statistics show (don't you hate those darned statistics?) that overweight people gain more than 'normal' weight people. Go figure.
So hey, I know I'll gain some, but I really don't need to make stuff that will pack on more poundage. And I won't have to hear little pierogi voices calling out to be eaten.
No, I'm not going off the deep end. I don't intend to deprive myself this holiday season -- I don't want to be depressed! -- but will try to enjoy myself sensibly.
And The House Elf was mumbling something about a Bailey's cheesecake. . . .EEeeee!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

She may pull through . . .

Yes! There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Don't worry, the train has already run over me, or at least that's how I felt. Today brought somewhat of a return to normalcy, though I thought the first day back at work this week would never end. But I got through it, and now the shining light is the whole next week of bona-fide vacation!
No, not a go-somplace or do-something vacation. Just some time off work to do nothing in particular except whatever I might feel like doing, plus spend some time with my sweetie, maybe take in a movie. Plus he mentioned the other day (and I've felt the stirrings for about a week) that he thought the Polish genes were kicking in. Yes, they do every year about this time. It's pierogi season!
I refer to the Polish traditional Wigilia, the family-based Christmas Eve observance. It remains one of my dearest childhood memories. When all the aunts and uncles and cousins gathered for the evening meal, it was quite a crowd. All the aunts would prepare their part of the feast in advance -- one would bring the soup, another the fish, and so on -- and we'd come around the table and share the bread wafer sent from family ties in Poland.
Now my mom wasn't Polish, but she married into the tradition. And the "official" family pierogi-maker, Aunt Isabel, lived in Pennsylvania, three states away. Needless to say, Mom got pierogi lessons over a summer visit and proved a roaring success. Anyone who has made pierogi knows the work involved, so of course anyone who would make pierogi for that mob was bound to be popular. Curiously, none of the other aunts ever volunteered to make them, always protesting theirs weren't as good as hers (They were right!). So year after year, the pierogi would be made in our kitchen on Christmas Eve Day. I remember Dad and Mom working together all day on them, and the smells of onions frying in butter to slather on them as they were layered in the big roasting pans to be carried to the feast. As I grew older, I felt very important to become part of the process, and Dad readily surrendered his apron, but still hung out in the kitchen to make sure I was doing it right.
As years passed, the family expanded and the tradition went where so many of them do. We sort of kept the observance in our own immediate family units, and we'd send a pan of pierogi over to Aunt Nellie's and she'd send us soup and fish, and so on. But the cousins married and got involved in their new families. Many of us drifted miles and states away. I've never thought of myself as one who grieves over sentiments or memories of bygone days. They are just that -- gone -- not forgotten, but savored, not mourned. Times and circumstances change.
But let me indulge in a bit of seasonal nostalgia. Time to go make a shopping list. Let's see. . . potatoes, cheese, sauerkraut, butter, onions, flour. . .
I wasn't sure where this posting would end up when I started out. I didn't expect this!

Monday, December 15, 2008

. . . and on and on and on and. . . .

Aw, yuck. I'd elaborate, but it'd just be a pity party. I am a pathetic case.
I'm tired of this.

Didn't go to work today. No desire to spread the germs they have obviously shared with me.
'Nuff said there.

Upside: some knitting has been accomplished. Not a lot -- I keep falling asleep in the middle of a row -- let's hear it for dextromethorphan. (I'm sure I spelled that wrong, but hey, I'm sick.)
and I'm about to megadose on Nyquil and hit the sack. DH couldn't find the Original Green stuff; this one's Cherry flavor. Sure tastes red! Looks like True Blood. Mmmmmwahahaha. . .

Saturday, December 13, 2008

AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!

At midnight I felt fine. Kissed DH goodnite and sat up a while to peruse stuff online. By 1 a.m. I knew I something was wrong. Scratchy throat, coughing, yuck!! My voice was squeeeky. Crawled into bed and coughed the night away. I can manage a squeak or a husky croak, but talking in normal tones is pretty much out of the question. Megadoses of hot coffee helped some. Now I am switched over to tea and sucking on horehound drops. My head is not congested. My throat is sore from coughing. My upper chest aches when I breathe and hurts like hell when I cough. I feel mostly okay, but not like doing much of anything in terms of decorating the tree or anything fibery. Just sitting is pretty much it.
I had decided to head to Richmond for the bead show today, but canned that idea when I woke up. There were a few things I needed; shopping online may prevail. Maybe tomorrow I'll feel more energetic. Being able to talk would be good, too.
More tea! More horehound!
Dad used to give me equal parts of lemon juice, honey, and whiskey when I was a kid. He called it tea, but I don't think Mr. Lipton ever came near it. It was hot and good and I slept like a log. Mom claimed it was the Vicks Vap-O-Rub, but I don't know. . . .

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's the Economy, Stupid!

Or -- creativity, cash & self-esteem.

Another craft show is over. I knew it would not be good. It was better than I thought it might be in terms of sales. It was what sold that depresses me. No, it was what DIDN't sell.

Twice a year I participate in the Colonial Williamsburg Employees Arts & Crafts Show. I spend way too much time working on jewelry and accessories for the event. (We're talking months here -- actually most of my free time all year is devoted to the shows.) This year was no exception.
Given the state of the economy and the fact that my employer is in the throes of blood-letting that seem to have no end in sight, I approached the show with a cautious attitude. I tried to have a good supply of small items (under $20) to attract sales. Pins, collage necklaces, copper shawl pins, small purses. Nice things, but not the creative challenge I enjoy when making a unique piece of jewelry or the sense of accomplishment as I take a completed shawl off the loom.

Yes, I did sell a shawl -- my major single sale of the weekend -- and one "nice" necklace. A bracelet and a large pin went, too. The rest was the small stuff, including the cookies made by the house elf. I have to admit, we didn't make much on the cookies; most of the profits were passed out to friends or (gasp!) eaten by locals. Chocolate is a wonderful thing.

Now I suppose I should be happy that I've little stock to replace before the next show. In a way I am, but there's a tiny little voice inside suggesting that I need to make more; perhaps the jewelry I have wasn't good enough -- it didn't sell -- or perhaps not trendy enough, the wrong color, size, who knows???
Common sense tells me otherwise. I'm not the only one who had a less-than-stellar show. Though there was a fair amount of floor traffic, the lookers far surpassed the buyers. I've done the C.W. Employee shows for (about 10) years, and I'm proud to say I've developed a positive reputation with repeat business and referrals. Yet there were not many familiar faces there this time. I also have to consider that some of my colleagues no longer have jobs, much less the money to spend on other than necessities. Indeed, there is anxiety on my part that others of us are moving toward the same fate.

What remains to be seen is how I will respond. Right now I'm in a grungy funk. Depressed. Insecure. Additionally I'm in the creative slump that always (for me) comes after the weeks of preparation and the show itself. I don't want to see another bead or fiber. For at least three more days: there's a bead show in Richmond this weekend! Never mind I don't have any money to spend on beads. I probably won't go, but I am feeling the need to make something. Let's hear it for stash!

So yes, the muse is still there. The self-esteem is badly bruised, but has to admit that it tripped and fell over its own two feet, not someone else's. Depression -- this, too, shall pass.
These are hard times for all of us.

It's the economy, stupid!
41 days.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Grand Canyon of the South. . .




We rode into Breaks Interstate Park where we had a room with a view! This is part of the panorama visible from our balcony.

The event we attended was another motorcycle-related affair, this one sponsored by a group of BMW R1200C Chromeheads. Emphasis was on the scenery (d'ya think??) and good riding. As first-timers at this particular rally, we met new friends and recognized a few faces from other events we've been to over the years.

I find myself once again taken by the incredible scenery. Here's the same view as above taken the next morning:



Now how can you not appreciate that?? A camera can only capture a bit of the moment, and my photos are an attempt to do that. Though far from professional, I think I don't do too badly. The moment is captured for me, and if sharing encourages just one person to look around and really see the true beauty of this earth, then I am happy. OK, enough of that rant.

Bunnies aside, we met this little fellow on the way to dinner, waiting patiently at the lodge dining room door:

Hmmmm. . . are those nose- and paw-prints and drooly smears on the glass? I think he might have been here before, huh?
And bold as brass. He let me get down right on his level and snap several pix: guess he thought he'd be compensated for his efforts. It didn't work. Later we heard that he was indeed a frequent visitor here and had a cache under the stairs. He takes food offered, runs down the stairs, stashes it and comes back for more. When no more treats are forthcoming he retreats to his treasures and stuffs himself. A clever creature. Cute, too.
The next night we were late getting in, and I decided to sit out on our balcony and watch the moon rise. Oh, my! How incredible.
Suddenly there was motion, rustling and foot-pattering. Startling, but obviously nothing large enough to pose an actual threat. I was highly amused to see a young racoon trundling along the balcony railing. Could have been the one in the picture, or a friend. He came up to where I was sitting, looked at me, turned around and headed back the way he had come. Do you think the scent of chocolate is attractive to raccoons, too?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Where Ya Been???

Whew! This Blogging stuff is hard work!

Seriously, my ADD self knew that when I started this blog, it'd be a challenge to keep up with on any kind of regular basis. I was right!

So many things to tell!

Actually I can't possibly remember them all, so it'll be hit and miss -- mostly miss, I"m afraid -- to catch up.

First, apologies to those who may have been following this blog. Many of you know me and that I am easily distracted, highly disorganized, try to do more things that I ought, take an awfully long time to do them, and . . . oh, well. I'm a bit of a lazy bitch at times, too. Oh, look! A bunny!

And so -- New Mexico was a memorable experience, hopefully to be revisited in the not-too-distant future. We'd like very much to retire there someday. Soon!

Where did the summer go? We got back from New Mexico, took a breather for a couple of weeks, then headed out on the bikes for another vacation. First to Buena Vista, VA for A Laid Back Affair, an annual gathering held by the NNMC. It's always a fun weekend, and this year with "Margaritaville" as its theme was no exception. Nice mountain riding, too!

We laid over for an extra day after the weekend, mostly to sober up and find/pack our stuff. Then off again to Cumberland Gap, TN to visit friends. Wonderful country there, and wonderful people too. The wildlife was a bit peculiar, though. Wild turkeys in particular.You'll have to turn sideways to view this properly (technically challenged tonite) and be sure your sound is turned on:

video

As I said, peculiar. We had a fabulous time, saw incredible mountain scenery, went to a yarn shop in Knoxville, ate yummy food and just had a fun time! Thanks, you two!

Time went by too quickly, and we were on the road again, this time to Breaks Interstate Park. Known as "The Grand Canyon of the South," this out-of-the-way little jewel sits on the VA/KY border. Did I say middle of nowhere?

Breaks will have to wait for another time, as it's getting very late and I have to (shudder!) work tomorrow.

And I now have an etsy shop! Ratbiker's Emporium at www.ratbiker.etsy.com

Have a look!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Into the Depths. . .

. . . and so we descended.


This is a shot of our lantern tour group as we began our journey. You can see our ranger guide at the first of several stopping points where we paused for explanations and questions. The lanterns were lit at this point, since the next stop would be in darkness. And oh, yes, the 'lanterns' were single-candle affairs and not much by way of illumination until eyes were well-accustomed to the dark.


The bats use this entrance to the cave, but have chosen to confine themselves to a side chamber where we were not permitted to go. Seems that bat guano fumes are not healthy for humans. It is the decay of the accumulated guano that elevates the temperature in the nursery chamber to around 90 degrees F, which baby bats thrive in.
The hike downward into the cave was precipitous. I don't know the angle of descent, but it was difficult to remain in control and not just go tumbling forward. I had visions of myself rolling down the pathway like a human bowling ball, mowing down people left and right. A scary thought.

It got worse. Not only was the descent steep, but
it got rapidly darker. This photo was the last I was able to take without benefit of flash.
It was soon so dark I couldn't see the path in front of me and there were no handrails to guide by. Getting closer to a lantern-bearer made things a bit easier, then there were finally handrails to help 'steer' by.

On we went, for 1 1/4 miles, for a total descent of some 800+ feet. The fronts of my thighs ached for the next two days!

I cannot begin to describe the interior of this cave. It ought to be rated as one of the wonders of the world. Awesome, magnificent, incredible -- none of these words come close. Incomprehensible is the best way I can think of to describe something like this. We spent a good deal of time exploring the perimeter of the "Big Room," another hike of 1.6 miles. The camera flash was useless, but I was able to get a few video clips that don't show much by way of the grandeur of the space. I won't post any pix here; you'll just have to go there for yourself. It's well worth the trip.
Were it not for the elevators, I would still be in Carlsbad Cavern. No way could I have walked back up the way we came down!

We availed ourselves of the gift shop -- T shirts, post cards, and other small mementos of the trip -- and were on our merry way back into the sunshine. We headed south towards El Paso, along the Guadalupe Mountains and the Capitans, then into the rolling desert plains. I think I have some comprehension of "desolate." What a vast empty place! Mile after mile of -- nothing!
No trees, no mountains, no houses, no cars, not even road kill! Just the unrelenting scrubby desert and the road straight ahead to the horizon. After a hundred and however many miles of bleakness, we came into El Paso. A stop for gas and munchies, and we headed back to Las Cruces.

One more day of vacation left. I had Bead Store as top priority on the day's activities, so wasted no time. I was not disappointed. The women at Unravel had pointed me in the right direction. The bead store was quite marvelous and my flight carry-on gained a couple of pounds for the trip home.

We stopped by Unravel to say our goodbyes and thank the people who had given us so much great advice about the area. We found new and different folks there this time, but no less friendly!

Tuesday morning found us up early for the drive to El Paso and the flight back home.Sunrise over the Organ Mountains from the Lotsaburger parking lot.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Three Days Later . . .

On Friday we left town. No, not permanently, we'd be back. But there were other plans afoot.

The day was beautiful, and we headed east over the Organ Mountains.
Heading over the mountains brought us into the Tularosa Basin, an ancient lake bed which is the location of the world's largest gypsum desert, White Sands National Monument. You may also recognize the name as associated with the missle test range, but we didn't go there, just to the National Park area. The visitor center was only a teaser for what was in store. We passed on the opportunity to get saucers for sledding on the dunes, and opted to drive the scenic loop tour. We started out in fairly vegetated desert, but the further we went, the more vast the whiteness became. We were soon surrounded by dunes. Kids were indeed sledding (saucering?) the dunes. It was surreal to be enveloped by the whiteness and not have it be snow! It looked like snow, and the "feel" and soundlessness of driving on the sand-packed road was eerily similar, albeit 90+ degrees and without the slipperiness.

We were chagrined to learn that there would be a Full Moon Walking Tour that night. We'd be unable to attend because we had an early morning breakfast date miles away. After a brief but fascinating tour, we decided the White Sands deserved a future visit to explore more and perhaps the opportunity for a Full Moon Tour.
We pointed the car eastward again and headed for Alamogordo. We'd seen the curious phenomenon of the desert rainstorms, where you can watch the rain and lightning descending from a cloud not too far away while all around is sunshine and beautiful weather. As we headed into the mountains we were destined to experience one of these storms. It was fairly brief, but very intense, including a torrential downpour, lightning and thunder, and pea-size hail.
Once the rain subsided, we were treated to a pleasant drive into the mountains. After Alamogordo we headed south to Carlsbad and put up for a very brief night. We hit the sack early and got up at 3 a.m. for our breakfast rendezvous with the bats of Carlsbad Caverns. Yes, I said BATS! Thousands and thousands of them. I personally think bats are way cool and fascinating, though I realize not everyone shares this opinion.
At any rate, the event we were to attend was the 51st Annual Breakfast With the Bats. No, we didn't really eat with them. We went to Carlsbad Caverns, about 30 miles out of the town of Carlsbad, where we and a large number of fellow bat fanciers were treated to a humongous burrito breakfast feast by the park ranger staff at 4 a.m.
I was thinking about getting a second cup of coffee when a ranger came through the dining area announcing that the bats were arriving. We hastily scuttled the breakfast remains and filed quietly down the pathway to the Bat Amphitheater where we were seated on stone/concrete benches in the pre-dawn.
By way of explanation, the bats (Mexican Free-Tails) live in the cave, or at least one chamber of it, during the day and spend the summer nights foraging for insects, making baby bats, and doing whatever else it is that bats do. Winters find them migrating further south where they can find food; they don't hibernate, unlike some bat species. Now this is probably more than you care to know, so I'll cut it short. The public are allowed to view the bats from the amphitheater each evening as they leave the cave. But once a year, the park allows viewing of the bats as they return from the night's hunt and descend into the cave opening.
We were cautioned to be as quiet as possible and forbidden to use any electronic devices (cameras, phones, video cams, etc.) out of consieration for the bats and our fellow bat-viewers.
The dawn was perhaps a faint promise in the east when we became aware of the bats. One by one at first, and then in increasing numbers they flew over our heads and down into the mouth of the cave. As the sky lightened we could see their silhouettes as they flew. At my age, their echo-location sounds are inaudible, but the velvety rustle of their wings was fascinating. These bats are not of the tiny 6-inch varieties that populate my eastern habitat. No, their wingspan approaches 12 inches. A few low-flyers moved the air enough to be felt, but I must add that (for you bat-fearers out there) NOT A SINGLE BAT landed in anyone's hair or proved otherwise hostile!
As the dawn became more evident, we saw other sillhouettes in the sky, but these were leaving the cave. It seems that swallows have taken up residence in the rocky hollows near the mouth of the cave, and a strange sort of "shift change" manuever ensued as bats flew in and birds flew out, again I might add, without collisions.
We were among the first 150 people to arrive at the bat event, and were thus offered the opportunity for a free lantern tour of the cave. Our group headed in at 6:30; by this time all the bats were in and the sun was up. We descended into the mouth of the cave and down, down, down into the darkness, illuminated by the faint glow of a dozen lanterns spaced among about 75 of us.
I had a photo here, but it has disappeared and won't reload, so I suppose I shall have to continue in another post. Just as well; it's getting late. Another time. . .

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Month Passes . . .

Wow! Seems like I just can't catch up! We've been on vacation -- twice! The telling of these adventures will occupy more than one post, so I'd best get cracking before I forget too much stuff.
Meanwhile the Olympics go on -- and I'm distracted until the wee hours -- and morning comes too early.
So anyhow . . .
When our friends got home from their trip we exchanged catsitting duties and took off ourselves.
Our destination was Las Cruces, New Mexico. The trip was planned and reservations made last spring before airfares skyrocketed (did I just say that???), so it worked out pretty well. We've been considering relocating (after I retire) to an area with a lower cost of living, and Las Cruces is at the top of our list. 330 days of sunshine per year. Any biker can appreciate that! Hot? Well, yes, but as they say, it's a dry heat. I was amazed to escape the humidity of Tidewater Virginia and experience the desert air. Give me sunscreen, shades and my water bottle -- good to go!
Among our first stops were the local farmer's market where we had breakfast ( a burrito for me and huevos rancheros for John), replenished our dwindling stock of chili seasonings, found some really nice cabochons for my jewelry work, and heard these folks:
videoThey really sounded better than this video indicates, though the guitar player did seem to be in his own zone from time to time. When I put a tip in their box they stopped to talk to me and proved to be quite fascinating.
While we were looking for the location of the market, we drove around the main section of downtown and finally parked in this lot. Imagine my surprise when I got out of the car and looked up at the building in front of me!
Mecca! I'd checked ravelry and googled for yarn shops in Las Cruces long before the trip, so I was delighted that I wouldn't have to search the town for Unraveled. I'd found it! After we cruised the market, we swung back around the corner to the courtyard door. The shop was open for business, and we went in. It didn't take long to discover I was among fellow ravelers! These folks were fantastic. We soon had a list of the best local eateries, complete with hand-drawn maps, and other see and do things, including the local BEAD store! I procured my daily dose of fiber (darn airline baggage restrictions!), exchanged ravelry info, and we were off and running. Here's a shot of the staff on duty that day. There are more of them, as I would find out on a return visit.
BTW, did you know that New Mexico is the only state that has U.S.A. on its license plates? Seems that a surprising number of people think that it's actually part of Mexico! I'd heard folks from Alaska and Hawaii remark that their states weren't always recognized as such, but at least New Mexico is part of the contiguous U.S.
Enough digression.
We thought it might be a good idea to get a feel for some of the local real estate in terms of price, location, and the like. We contacted a realtor who agreed to show us around with the understanding that we were NOT in the immediate market for a home, but would like to get an idea of what we could expect to find in our price range. We were pleased to see several places that we liked, and wished that circumstances permitted us to move immediately when we found one especially lovely home with a mountain view at an attractive price. I suppose there will be another in a few years when we are ready to make the move.
These explorations took us a couple of days, and as you will see, the adventure continues. Stay tuned. . .

Saturday, July 12, 2008

CCCCatsitting

It's been quite a week. I've been catsitting for our friends Jennifer & Jim who've been on vacation. Here you see mug shots of the little darlings I've been entrusted with. First is Nala. My buddy, sweet and affectionate. Also a bedbug, meaning when I come to feed and check on the kitties in the mornings, she is in bed and stays there, along with Mittens whom you'll meet in a moment.
Next we have Ginger. The Hostess. Nearly always at the door to greet me when I arrive and anxious to make sure that food and water bowls and litter boxes are tended to in due fashion. Always the first to check the litter box after it's been cleaned, no doubt to make sure it's up to her standards! A very sociable kitty who enjoys a good body rub.
Mittens is the character of this bunch. She truly believes that if she works on me long enough that I'll relent and open the door to let her OUTDOORS! She climbs on me, rubs against me, licks me, purrs, and miaows ever so plaintively in hopes of getting to go OUTDOORS. She is a sweet kitty, but the cabin fever is getting rough on her, poor thing!
And the matriarch, the ever-so-above-all-this-outdoor-nonsense Killian. I'll just stay curled up here and nap, if you don't mind. You may pet me and rub behind my ears if you wish. I'll purr gently, but don't expect any rash displays of affection. The sweet, little-old-lady kitty.

And there you have "The Girls," as I've come to think of them. I do enjoy cats, and these four are special treasures. Their Humans will be home tonight, so my duties will end and Mittens will get to go OUTDOORS at last, along with Nala & Ginger.
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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Green Yarn, Knitting & the Fourth

I finished spinning the rest of my dyed roving.As predicted, it was a lot greener than the first. Or maybe because it's got a lot less yellow and practically no brown. About 160 yards, just over 2 oz.

It's okay, but I'm not wild about it.
I have reached the point of over-saturation with lace knitting, or even knitting in general. I mess up everything I pick up! I finally got extremely pissed off at the whole mess and decided to have a knitting moratorium until this phase passes. I think I was on overload or something with trying to knit two lace projects at once plus the Jaywalkers and wanting to finish them all. So we'll let it rest for a few days.
We went to Busch Gardens for the Fourth. Took in a couple of shows and enjoyed the aviary where the lorikeets tried to steal John's sunglasses and my earring.


Later we rode the train around the park and ended up having dinner in Italy.
Canneloni! YUM!
We experienced a few showers, but had brought our rain gear (poncho for him & 'brolly for me). The skies grew continually more ominous, and we feared the fireworks show might be in jeapordy. We went to the Festhaus for the eight o'clock show. It began to thunder on the way there, and we had enough time to find good seats when the weather got serious and the place filled up! We did enjoy the show, though, and by the time it was over the rain had slowed to a light drizzle. We joined the folks headed to the "fireworks viewing area" behind the Festhaus and waited for the display.
Busch Gardens has always had a really nice fireworks presentation, and this year was no exception. I was mildly disappointed that some of the fireworks were below our line of sight, and also partly obscured by a tree. I surmise this was due to there being several more viewing areas around the park than in the past, and an attempt to make the display able to be seen by everyone. Nonetheless, the spectacular finale made up for the few we couldn't see. I had hoped to get a little video to post, but didn't want to risk getting the camera wet.
We waited out the departing crowd with ice cream cones in France.
It was a good day.


Fergus says "Hello!"


I couldn't resist snapping a photo of one of our resident pond frogs, Fergus. (Okay, I know I'm a little off the deep end when it comes to animals, but doesn't he just look like a Fergus?) Fiona, the shy one, hit the water with a splash as soon as she saw me headed for the pond. The pair of them were on this rock, a favorite morning hangout. She's a bit larger than Fergus and has quite a bit more green.
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Saturday, July 5, 2008

NOW what's she up to???

I've been messing with this fibery stuff a while now, and keep getting in deeper! The thought of dyeing fiber to spin has been picking in the back of my mind siince I started to spin and saw all the yummy colors of fiber that people were creating.

A couple weeks ago, I got inpired to try dying some domestic wool roving I've had around for that very purpose. (It often takes me awhile to get around to trying something new -- on my own -- because I talk myself into its being harder than it actually turns out to be. Know what I mean?) I used some Wilton icing colors with white vinegar as a mordant. Here are the results:

The wool at the top of the photo was spread out on plastic wrap along the countertop. I poured dye in what seemed an "artsy" fashion, folded the sides of the plastic wrap across the middle to make a long worm-shaped packet, then rolled from one end to make a bun. I microwaved the bun (in a bowl), flipped it and nuked some more. All the dye was taken up except for a bit that leaked into the bowl when I flipped the package.
The bottom roving in the picture was done in a 2 1/2 quart pyrex bowl with a lid. I poured some warm water into the bowl, added the wool and then poured globs of dye over the roving, keeping the colors pretty much in separate areas (Wilton Sky Blue, Lemon Yellow and Brown) and purposely leaving one place without dye. I microwaved this one as well.
I actually managed to emerge from the ordeal without dyeing myself or my kitchen, thanks to plastic gloves and lots of newspaper and old towels. The color all ended up where it was supposed to.
I was somewhat less than impressed by the outcome of my efforts; parts of the roving were okay, parts were garishly blue or yellow, and overall the effect wasn't what I had in mind. BUT . . . what about THIS???

Sorry for the sloppy skein -- it's a personal shortcoming -- but ain't it purdy??? It's very nice in real life. 2 ounces, 140 yards.
Haven't decided its final fate yet; it's likely I will just have it around to look at awhile.
That was the bottom roving pictured. I am currently spinning the top one, which has decidedly more green; I'm not sure I like it as much. The colors bled together more when they were compressed in the plastic wrap and when I flipped the 'bun' .
Now I have the dyeing bug, and lots more fiber!
I see blended batts. . . .

Sunday, June 29, 2008

KALs

I thought it'd be fun to try a KAL (Knit-A-Long). For the uninitiated, it's a group that knits a project together through an on-line forum with a moderator (usually the designer) who posts patterns and gives assistance when needed. In this case it was a Mystery KAL; we knew we were to be knitting a lace stole, but not what it would look like. Pattern sections are given out as "clues" and knitted to solve the mystery. Several friends had done KALs before, and it sounded like fun.

Well. Let me tell you. The first KAL I decided to try turned out to be a bust. It was the first KAL for the designer, too, and I've a feeling she bit off just a bit more than she could chew. Well, at least it wasn't my fault. I growled and whined a few days -- had purchased 1200 yards of Zephyr and a new Addi Turbo Lace circ just for the KAL -- until my good buddies at Stitch 'n' Bitch told me about Goddess Knits KALs. Checked it out, signed up for not one, but TWO of them. The first, coincidentally, called for the same amount of yarn I'd already bought, so life was good. Wow. At least I thought it was. This lace knitting is a whole new thing. Now I knitted Jarred's Hemlock Ring, which was lace on a grand scale (heavy worsted & size 10 needles). I've also done a couple of scarves and a smoke ring with lace weight yarn. And charts, too. So I wasn't a total novice. Now I admit to not being the fastest knitter in the world, by a looonng shot. But this gives slow a whole new meaning. I have also learned the value of lifelines. Never mind it took me three or four attempts to get enough knitted to put in a lifeline!

I was late getting started with the KAL; it had been going a couple of weeks before I joined. Silly me for joining the second one! I figured I'd whip through this one and be ready for the second, which was scheduled to start the week following this one's completion. Hah! Clue 6, the final pattern, was published today. I am two rows shy of completing clue 2 !

Meanwhile, the overachievers (what I call anyone who's faster than I) have been chomping at the bit for the last clue. Here's what I've knitted so far:

Okay, I'll get there. Somewhere along the way a light has come on, and things aren't quite as hopeless as they once seemed. I was determined to conquer this challenge, and I'm too much of a tightwad to not use thirty-five bucks' worth of yarn and needles! (we won't speak of the stash. . . )

So now we are Three Clues into the second KAL. It's a circular shawl, and going to be a lot of fun. Yes, I promised myself I wouldn't start this one until the first was done, but seeing online pictures of others' shawls was more than I could bear. Combined with not a little bit of urging from a certain individual (I won't mention any names, but her first initial is Bereni), I relented and cast on. Since it's a circular shawl, the stitches and rows increase with each group of clues, so the first two clues went really fast. I did clue 1 on Wednesday and clue 2 on Friday. They were quick and easy. Yesterday I downloaded the third clue. Didn't get to it right away, and later found out there was an error in the pattern. The corrected clue was posted today, and it awaits my attention, as well as the last 2 rows of the Other Shawl.
That being said, I should go and tend to my knitting!
I did go to Colonial Fiber Arts in Yorktown this afternoon for Nettie's Sunday Spin-In. We got laughing so hard we nearly peed on ourselves! It was a wonderful time; three of the four of us are "biker babes," quite a coincidence. We need to start some sort of fiber/biker guild.
Now I really am going back to my knitting.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

& Spins . . .





I've finally finished spinning some Louet pencil roving I got at Colonial Fiber Arts in Yorktown last winter. The name of the colorway escapes me at the moment, and I can't find the bag, but it looks like this:



On the bobbin:






And finally, a delightful 725 yards (5.25 ounces) of 2-ply SKINNY yarn! Ask me why I didn't measure WPI? Duh.



I am just happy with it. IMHO, it's the best yarn I've spun yet in terms of consistent thickness and twist. The colors are yummy. I had passed on buying this roving before, but was at Colonial Fiber for a Sunday Sit-n-spin session and decided to chance it. Spun a bit in the shop on my drop spindle and decided it was a keeper. Put it aside for a while to finish other spinning projects. Finally got to it.


Now I don't know what to knit with it, but am toying with a Leaf Lace shawl from Evelyn A. Clark's "Knitting Lace Triangles." I think the yarn and pattern would both be shown to advantage.


If only I could finish the other 42 things(at least) I have going. Let's see -- a pair of socks, three lace shawls, a hat, a sweater for DH, an Einstein jacket, 2 or 3 bags to finish & felt, a vest of sari silk yarn I'm committed to. That's knitting. Spinning-- 2 partial fleeces to finish carding, a pound or so of llama to card and spin, alpaca, bamboo, soy silk, angora, a bunch of icelandic pencil roving to spin & dye (or an EZ Adult Surprise Jacket??), targhee, rambouillet, some hemp tow (toe?) and an ounce or so of hair from a friend's cat. There's more, just can't remember. Then beadwork -- 2 major projects going that need finishing soon, a host of smaller things, and stock to replenish for the fall craft show. Oh -- Weaving--TriLoom shawls to be done for the show as well, and I've got an old rigid heddle loom that's been calling out to be warped for a couple of things. And let us not forget the remains of the skinny yarn roving -- I've spun that quickly and rather texturally with the thoughts of trying my hand at coil yarn or something else artsy to use on the RH loom.


So what are YOU doing to keep off the streets?

Ms. Pixel is feeling a bit more sociable this evening:

. . . And on the Alien Crystal front, the local fauna are not impressed. They continue to enjoy the imported flora during the dark hours, in spite of the glow. And we've observed it blinking/pulsating in the early pre-dawn hours. We figure it's signaling the Mother Ship. . .

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

in the light of day . . .



All has been revealed! The glowing alien crystal has surrendered to daylight and taken refuge among its fellow plastique allies to recharge its solar cell and await the darkness.

Fergus and Fiona (our two resident pond frogs) don't seem impressed by the new additions, nor has the glowing orb served to dissuade the deer population. They continue to devour most of the things we plant, and one went so far as to leave a donation between the pond and the bluebird house this morning. And speaking of bluebirds, our latest batch fledged Monday morning. As usual, I didn't see them; I believe you have to be watching at daybreak. I don't watch anything at daybreak. This is the second batch of young for the bluebird couple this year. It will be interesting to see if they go for a third.

We took a bike trip over the weekend to attend a rally in North Carolina. It's one we try to attend annually, held at High Country Motorcycle Camp near Wilkesboro. The rally is put on by the Airhead Beemer Club, who are BMW riders of Airheads (air-cooled engines as opposed to liquid- or oil-cooled). Anyway, the weekend always makes for some nice riding as well as good beer and great comeraderie. This year was no exception. As always, it was over too soon and we had to head home.
On the knitting front, I am proud to say that I did Knit In Public on Saturday. As publicly (is that a word?) as I could, that is, while at the rally. There were many comments, all positive, and lots of encouragement. It was also brought to my attention that I was using awfully small "string," and that I'd be done faster if I'd use heavier. I guess sock yarn on size 0 needles does pretty much look like string to a non-knitter. The Jaywalkers are progressing. Not as quickly as I'd like, but then I have to keep reminding myself that there will be no second sock!
My Goddess Spring Mystery Shawl is chugging along. Meanwhile, more clues are posted, and [ACK!] the Anniversary Shawl KAL has begun! I have yarn and needles, but am fighting the urge to begin until I've got the Spring one done. That's gonna be hard. It will be easier if I stop now and go knit!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

. . . an eerie glow

We returned from a weekend bike trip this evening to find this floating in our little pond:

video

The frogs defended me loudly while I prodded the thing with a stick.

Whatzit? The basic solar-batteryoperated floating glowing plastique waterlily thingy.

You just can't trust cat-sitters these days.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

S. S. S.

Well, then.

As I've suggested in the previous post, I am now knitting a third pair of socks. Yes, third, and yes, PAIR. The common sense and good advice of my SnB buddies has prevailed. I am now immune to SSS, the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome. Yeah, you guessed it -- I'm knitting two at the same time. And magic looping on 1 circular needle.

Now I have conjoined socks.

Or would that be sock? Imagine my surprise when I looked for the yarn to change and discovered I had been knitting with it. Tink.

I had this sock yarn in my stash from several years ago. It's Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Rainbow colorway. A bit bright perhaps. I chose the Jaywalker pattern (from Grumperina). I thought the zigzag look would go well with the rainbow striping. So far I like it.

These are also the first time I've tried top down. Somehow toe ups are safer feeling; knit until you run out of yarn, then stop. Top down leaves me wondering if I'll have enough yarn to cover my fat legs and feet. I guess I can always make the toes purple or something.

Now I have to figure out what pattern for the Trekking I bought. Pomattomus? Monkeys? Widdershins? Probably one of the three. But I got a sock book from the Library, too. Let's see, I think I have some more sock yarn stashed somewhere. . .

HELP!!! I may be addicted!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

More Socks????

My sock knitting history is long, but brief. Huh? Long because I started knitting socks about 10 years ago. Brief because in those 10 years, I have managed to make two pairs of socks. Yep, 2 pairs. The first pair took six years. They are stuffed away in my knitting somewhere. They ended up being two different sizes; my knitting tension changed over the years. Imagine that! Then I wore them twice and ended up with a big hole in the heel of one. I'm very hard on sock heels plus the socks were knitted of sportweight wool on size 6 needles! Well, that's what the woman at the store said would be a good choice. What did I know??


So, a few years went by, and I was caught up in the craze of self-striping sock yarn. Got two different colorways from Knit Picks (both have since been discontinued), and put them away for safekeeping. No such thing as too much stash!


Eventually I forgot about the tension issues and the heel hole and just over a year ago I started a pair. Got the first one done quite quickly, and was pleased with it. Began the second one and got halfway through turning the heel. . . . . and picked it up eleven months later. It finished up in short order, and two weeks ago I had my second pair of socks!Luckily they ended up the same size, and through a bit of planning they are symmetrically striped. Nonetheless, I publicly swore off socks. It's clear I am a victim of SSS (second sock syndrome).
The cat butt belongs to Ms. Pixel. Her more attractive side will premiere at a later date.
The clothes dryer just finished. That means I have clean underwear for work tomorrow. It's late and now I'm going to bed as soon as I plug in the iPod to charge.
Now I'm aware the title of this post is More Socks. The explanation of that is yet to come. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Now What Have I Done ? ? ?

Yep, here it is. Just one more thing to keep me from constructive activities.
Now I have a blog.
More will follow.