Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day 2013

Wow.  It's been far too long since I wrote a blog entry.  So much has happened since July that it's too overwhelming to think about catching up.  So I'll just mention the missing events as they come up, if they do.  I've been pondering whether I should continue having a blog or not.  Seems like I waste far too much time on Facebook and Ravelry, which leaves a lot less of my online time for actually writing something.  So I'm going to see how I do at making weekly entries for a few months.  If that doesn't happen I may have to take the blog down.

I've become a lot busier with crafts and new activities in the past six months.  Crochet of course, and lately a lot more sewing.  Mostly small things, like bags.  I made two purses out of upholstery tapestry fabric this fall, for Brenda and myself.  I think they turned out pretty well.  There are always little mistakes one makes in sewing that are more trouble to fix than not, but Brenda liked hers, and I really like mine too.  I also made Ken a tote bag for music books and a matching mic bag, out of a red and gold tapestry fabric he chose.  The mic bag stands out a lot more than the typical black vinyl ones, so hopefully it won't get lost or misplaced like the old one.

I also crocheted three pairs of fingerless mitts to give as gifts this year.  It's a forgiving stretchy shell stitch, so not too scary to make for people who aren't around to try them on.  And I finally finished Teri's scarf!  Whew!  I think she liked it.  Of course now I have a bit of vacation after Christmas so I'll be starting some new projects, and working on the older ones I put aside while I was making gifts.

Ken and I decided to try learning Italian this summer.  We're using an app called Duolingo.  He's progressed a lot further than I have.  I kind of put it on hold these last few months but I want to get back to regular practice now the gift-making rush is over.

The other new thing I've started is learning to play piano for the band.  The Bru just lost two members, so they're down to three now.  It means learning chords - something I never did in all those music lessons I had in school.  I just didn't have that kind of piano teacher.  Ken and I play together at least two or three days a week.  It gives him a chance to play tunes at a slower pace than when he's with the band.  My level as an accompanist is still pretty basic, but I have an idea of where I'd like to go with it, having listened and danced  to Scottish and Irish music for over 30 years now.  So I'll keep working.

We are still doing the calorie counting.  He's lost over 30 lbs, and I've lost 20.  I think I've reached a plateau now, but I'm pretty happy at this weight, so I'm content to stick here.  I think Ken is too.  He looks so different than he did a year ago.  Really trim.

Our master bathroom is still a work in progress.  In fact it's more of a hole in the ground than a bathroom at this point.  There's still some tearing out of the existing walls, floor and fixtures to do.  Then we'll have to get the cast iron plumbing replaced, and replace the termite-damaged floor joists and sub-floor.  After that we'll have the much funner task of choosing new flooring, paint and bathroom fixtures.  Yea!  Hopefully our furnace and water pump will hold out until the bathroom is paid for.



Friday, July 12, 2013

Remembering

An old friend is dying.  It won't be long now.  In the 1980's, when we were dating, I was close to his whole family.  But we broke up by about 1989, I moved away, and I haven't been part of his life for nearly 25 years.  Then his sister found me on Facebook.  It was good to get back in touch a little before the end, see that he's been happy in life.  It was a shock to find out about his cancer.  In your 20's, if you ever bother to think ahead to what life might be like, you never imagine your friends ever dying, especially in the prime of life.  It's seems so unfair.

It was from Tim and his family that I learned most of what I know about costume making, research, and hand-work.  They got me started, and I learned the confidence to make things on my own.  He was full of life and creativity, always making things, coming up with ideas for new projects and bringing his friends into them.  I see from comments on his Facebook page that I'm not the only one to have been gifted with little objects either made or enhanced by his imagination.  So I wanted to share a few of them...

 My Elizabeth medal from 1988, part of a limited set given to various friends in honor of the Armada year.
 A decorated toy - wonderful detail.  Each wheel hub has a different tiny sun or moon painting.
The Landsknecht raccoon, costume hand-made by Tim, complete with little beer stein, belt-purse, feathers on the hat, and codpiece.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Gardening

 It would seem that Summer is starting tomorrow.  After four or so days of cooler temps and lots of rain, temperatures are jumping up from mid 80's today to high 90's tomorrow.  The next four days will be over 100 F.  Not my idea of fun at all.

After two days of frequent rain the garden is doing well.  This afternoon I went out to the veg garden and pulled up a whole pile of weeds by hand.  The ground was nicely softened up, so they came out easily, roots and all.  There's still some left, but a large area is mostly cleared now, and I can see where the raspberries are again.  I'll have to dig over the empty ground, but I'm not sure I want to do it in the coming heat.  I guess if I go out early enough it might not be so bad.  We'll see.  The raspberries look a little behind this year, but they're coming on well.  The canes are only about 3-4 feet tall, but I already have one pink raspberry showing.  I'll have to get out there to stake them and put up the bird netting pretty soon.

I've been filling in the empty spaces in the new area of the future cottage garden.  It's kind of a wedge shape following the edge of a future spiral path to the center, so for now I call it the triangle garden.  Anyway, it's doing pretty well.  This is the 'Terracotta' yarrow, and a nepeta.  The nepeta's flowers are bluer than this photo.  That blue-purple color just doesn't show up well in photos.  The iris are probably doing a bit too well.  I need to dig them out and re-plant them more sparsely, but it's such a big job.  I've been putting it off.

The plants I put into the newer section I cleared last May almost all survived.  I think I lost the dark-leaved Aster horizontalis over the winter.  The rose 'Strike It Rich' only has one surviving stem growing out of the root ball.  But it's doing ok and has a good number of blooms.  Probably needs feeding.  The weigela florida almost didn't make it. I thought it was dead this Spring, but then a few leaves sprouted from the bottom.  It's still just a little bunch of variegated leaves, but it's alive.  Guess we'll see how it does this year.  I need to keep it watered!  The purple sedum, geranium 'Phillippe Vappelle', geranium sanguineum, and the shrub (can't remember the name just now) are all fine.

This year I've put in a white campanula, a dark-flowered Brown-eyed Susan, two pink-flowered Snow in Summer, creeping dianthus, geranium biokovo with dark pink flowers, lavender 'Hidcote', two penstemons, agastache 'Apricot Sprite, a late-blooming aster, and the coolest looking sedum I've seen for a while, sedum sieboldii 'October Daphne'.  It forms a mound of pale green leaves with pink edges, and has pink flowers in late summer.  I already had some early summer blooming things in there, so the later-flowering agastache and sedum seemed like a good idea.

In the side garden across the drive I had a volunteer echinacea that self-seeded into the gravel walk from the echinacea 'Magnus' that used to be in the bed.  Last year when the Magnus died (they don't seem to last long) I moved the volunteer into the empty space.  It did very well this season and got a lot of flower buds.  But when they started to "open" the flowers didn't have any petals, just the fluffy brown centers.  So I dug that out, put in some new dirt, and planted echinacea 'Baby White Angel', a lower-growing white variety.  I hope it will do well, and won't shade out the veronica in back of it.  I also put in a new aquilegia I found at D&B.  The leaves are greyish-green on red stems.  The flowers are supposed to be red and yellow.  It may not flower this year, but it seems to be growing well and putting up new leaves.

So far this season the watering has not been a big chore, but it will start getting harder now the weather is getting hotter.  I bought a soaker hose for the new part of the triangle, but haven't put it out yet.  Need to do that.  At least we've got most of the sprinklers working.  Still having a problem with the ones in the side garden, so I have to water those plants with a hose for now.
I have some photos of the new plants that need uploading, so watch this space...

Ken and I are still calorie counting with Lose It!  He's lost 35 lbs so far, and looks great!  I've lost 15.  But in visiting our doctors we found out our bathroom scale is 5-6 lbs light.  I've lost the pounds, but I'm not down to the weight I thought I was.  So I'll keep going for another five pounds or so.  It's getting a bit harder to stick to my calorie allowance as it goes down, but I'm developing the habit of controlling portion size.  I'm hopeful I can stick with it.  It's so different from when I was younger and exercised every day.  I could eat nearly anything and not really gain.  But I'm feeling good and am much happier with my reduced size.  I'd prefer not to go back.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Poetry Month 2013

How the heck did I get into my mid 50's already?  When did this happen?  Younger people may have heard this from the middle-aged or older folks in their lives; I look old to you, but I still feel young on the inside.  It's true.  Inside I'm 25.  Oh, I guess I'm a bit more outwardly mature and measured in my responses to difficult things, and I don't lose my temper quite as often.  I have enough perspective now that I'm able to laugh at my own foolishness or when things don't go my way.  But the essential Me inside my head still thinks she's just 20-something, still gets excited about stuff, upset about disappointments, likes goofing off, going on vacation, laughing with friends.

But in the past five years I've had two or three major surgeries.  People I've known most of my life are dying.  Usually they're my parents' age, but not always.  College friends have children who've already graduated from college for Pete's sake!  Many of us drive sensible sedans or SUVs instead of sports cars (again, not all - I'm looking at you, Georgia ;-).  We talk about our house maintenance woes and gardening.  We've seen multiple pets come into our lives, bring joy, and eventually die of old age.  We struggle with our weight, and getting enough exercise.
It could be depressing, but it's not.  After all, consider the alternative...

So, in this National Poetry Month I've been thinking back to my college years and early 20s.  The silly things I used to do that were so much fun.  Drive hours and hours to a Scottish Country dance or Highland Games in another state.  Spend weeks making period costumes for various re-enactment events.  Stay up until the wee hours playing Fictionary with friends.  Working at southern Renaissance Faire.  I was not a very effective Character player, but I liked the people, and making costumes.

Our games of Fictionary gradually morphed into something we called the Bad Poetry Game.  For your turn you chose a (hopefully obscure) word from the dictionary, and each person had to write a purposely bad poem using it.  We'd often find ourselves in hysterics at the sheer bad-ness we achieved.  Eventually this turned into just writing bad poetry and sharing it with others in our group.  These poems were often short and ephemeral.  I've lost many of them.  But here are two of my favorites...

A Costumed Man
Oh, give me a costumed man!
He enters the room with a flourish,
None else show a better polish.

His gallant bows upon the dance floor,
The set of his shoulders, shape of his leg,
Never for partners has he to beg.

He catches my eye, gives me a wink.
It's all I can do to even think!
He offers his hand, my head grows light.
I'm whirled away by the man in tights.


And this one, from my early days as a Scottish Country dancer.  It started as Bad Poetry, but I liked it and tried to work it into something better.  Not sure I succeeded, but I hope it at least partially captures the romance and enchantment of SCD I felt as a new dancer.

My First SCD Demo (3/1982)
Outside the hall it's raining. California's hills are winter green.
Inside, fluorescent lights set concrete floor to gleaming.
In pleated wool we hover backstage, nervous.
Waiting for the dance I gaze, sightless, at the back of your head.

Around you swirls an evening mist that fills far ancient glens.
Pipers drone and skirl, water slaps loch banks.
Figures drift in fog, a swing of plaid, bonfire glow,
Dull shine on claymore.

You feel my gaze and turn. Our eyes meet.
But I'm lost on a hill I've never seen.
You touch my shoulder -
smells of wood smoke and crushed heather become damp wool and old greasepaint.

A reel is called and we go out together,
into the fluorescent glare and glittering polyester.

April Pots

Planted up some annuals in pots yesterday.  I'm trying a few new things.
This is a new color of callibrachoa, a really dark dark purple.  Along with a new petunia, Pink Lemonade.  Also an African daisy and yellow-leaved potato vine.  I can't wait to see this one grow and fill out.  The petunia is sort of pale yellow shading into a pink edge.  I had not seen it before.

Then a red, yellow & white themed half barrel.  Red callibrachoa, yellow-leaved coleus, white and yellow lantana, dark red zonal geranium, yellow snapdragons, and the leaves in the middle are a dark red daylily.  I got that late in the season last year, so I haven't seen it in flower.  I'll have to keep an eye on this one, as the barrel tends to dry out quickly.  It looks kinda bitsy and silly right now, but it will hopefully fill out well.

Also a new double primrose.  Opens lavender and fades to pale yellow, or is it the other way round :-).  I must get this into the ground when it's done flowering so I'll have it next year.  I like it a lot.





And a pot of viola 'Etain', with yellow and white snapdragons.




A pot of snapdragons with a red daisy.  Not a good picture.  Planted these two pots last weekend, so they've had a little time to get going.

I've also got two pots of dark red zonal geraniums I kept from last year.  They got really big in the house, so I'm hoping they'll take off quickly.

Anyway, doing the pots first not only means I get a good choice of annuals early in the season, but it gets me going on the gardening.  Today I'm going to work on other areas, in the actual ground. :-)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Pacific Northwest Circuit II

In March 2012 we drove west to Portland then up the coast and around the Olympic Peninsula, discovering many beautiful spots and great local beers along the way.  This year we decided on a slightly different route.

On Sunday we drove to Hood River, figuring that if nothing else we'd have a good meal at Full Sail and stay at Hood River Inn on the Columbia River.  We got a different room this time, #165, bigger, with a fireplace, but still on the first floor, right on the river.  The next day we drove to Gig Harbor, WA, and had dinner with a work colleague of mine who lives on Fox Island.  It was good to see Lars again and meet his family.  What a wonderful place to live.  We stayed at the Inn at Gig Harbor, and found Heritage Distillery, just opened in November 2012, right next door.  So of course we had a tiny taste of their gin.

On Tuesday we drove up the peninsula from Gig Harbor to Port Angeles, and took the ferry to Victoria, BC.  On Lars and Dawn's recommendation we stayed at the Pacific Grand Hotel, right next door to the houses of Parliament.  The room was very nice, and actually pretty reasonable.  We were on the 5th floor and had a partial view over the harbor.  That afternoon we walked around town, scouting out places to go the next day.  We ate dinner at Shima's on Wharf St.  Their sushi and sashimi platter was just the right size for the two of us.


Wednesday day we spent the whole morning at the Provincial Museum.  We've both been there before, but felt we'd never had time to see the whole thing.  So we took our time looking at everything.  There was a temporary exhibit of Wildlife Photographer of the Year pictures that I loved.  I'd still want to go again, but it was nice to not rush.

That afternoon we walked around town poking into shops.  We tried the oysters at Nautical Nelly's, and went into Roger's Chocolates.  I found a yarn shop, but a lot of the better souvenir stores I remembered have closed up.

On Thursday we went to Murchie's for breakfast, then checked out of our lovely hotel and drove north to the ferry terminal.  We took the ferry to Tsawassen, south of Vancouver.  We didn't know where we were going to stay, but thought we'd try a hotel at the University.  Unfortunately that didn't appear to be what the leaflet promised, so we drove into downtown (ugh).  Vancouver is much more crowded and developed than it was in 2005 when we were last there.  So we drove over Lions Gate Bridge into North Van and stayed at the same hotel we'd gone to in '05, on Capilano Drive.

That evening the last thing we wanted was to drive into downtown again, so we drove out to Horseshoe Bay and had dinner at The Boathouse.  It was really good.  We each had different kinds of salmon.  Friday we went to Granville Island to the Market.  The drive in went pretty quickly, thank goodness.  We had a great time walking around the Market and some of the shops nearby.  We bought cheese and bread for a picnic later.  I found Maiwa Supply and got some locally-dyed yarn.  Ken found their dyes and colors, and was able to get a few things he might use on violins.  We ate a late breakfast of Thai food, and visited Granville Island Brewing to sample a few things.

That afternoon we'd intended to go hiking in Capilano Regional Park, but the drive back north through downtown took two hours.  After sitting still in traffic for an hour we tried another route east and over another bridge.  We still went hiking but much later in the day than we'd planned.  It was still nice to get out and walk around.  Again we did not want to go back into town, so we found a place to eat in North Vancouver, Rockford's Wok, Grill & Bar.

The next morning we decided to head east on Hwy 3 along the Canadian border.  We stopped in Osoyoos for lunch, and crossed into the US on Hwy 395.  We reached Spokane that night.

Next day we drove south through Lewiston.  Ken surprised me with the view over the bluff down into the city and the river.  I'd never been there before, so we stopped at a viewpoint for photos.  Wow.

After coffee in Lewiston we headed on and got home around 5:30pm on Sunday.  It was a fun trip.  I really enjoyed Granville Island in Vancouver, and I'm sure there are lots of good museums and things to see, but looking back I think I'd rather have stayed in Victoria a bit longer.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring?

How in the world did it get to be March?  I haven't blogged since January.  My online habits are changing.  Getting an iPhone did it, I think.  I tend to look at Facebook on the phone, and poke around on Ravelry on the computer, and email or text my friends w/ either.  But I don't often think of doing a blog post.  Work has been pretty busy these last two months, which makes me even less likely to want to sit at my desk typing on yet another computer.  I worked 11 hours yesterday, mostly getting work reports typed.  Ugh.

We've done a few fun things since January, but nothing spectacular.  I'm looking forward to our Pac NW roadtrip at the end of March.  We're trying a new route up through western Canada.  If the weather doesn't betray us it should be really fun.  We hope to spend time in Vancouver, Victoria, Port Townsend, and visit some friends on Fox Island.

Ken and I are still tracking calories on our Lose It! phone apps.  I've lost 8 lbs since December.  Since I didn't really expect to lose anything, I'm pretty pleased.  It's gotten me back to about where I was before the foot surgery.  But I seem to have plateaued a bit.  I'll have to work harder to get below this weight.
Ken has lost twice as much as me in the same amount of time, even though his calorie allowance is waaay more than mine.  Sometimes math just isn't fair. ;-).

I've started more crochet projects, and finished three of them, as well as a new project bag.  I pretty much made up the pattern for it and figured out the geometry myself.  The "hardest" part was how to put the raw seam edges inside, so there are no raw edges showing in the inside or outside of the bag.  It's nearly reversible, except I didn't make the drawstring reversible.  Might do that next time.

I went into Craft Warehouse a while back, as an alternative to Hobby Lobby, and found I really like their quilting fabric selection.  They have a TON of batik fabric and asian-style prints.  So I've been getting bundles of 'fat quarters'.  This was one of them, a bundle in my least favorite colors, although I still like it.  I just wanted to use something I wouldn't care about as much for my first project bag, in case I ended up wrecking it.  I did learn a few things that I plan to change for next time, so that was good.

I made a heart-shaped lavender sachet crochet pattern with some bargain yarn I got there as well.  Eight skeins for $8.  Four in a pink/red/white two-ply, and four in solid red single-ply.  I'm not sure what fibers each of them are made of, but I don't think there's a lot of wool there.  Anyway, it's the first stuffed shape I've done with crochet.  Closing the gap after stuffing it was the hardest part.  If you look at the photo you can see how one side of the top arch is a bit jaggedy.  Next time I'll put the final seam along one of the long straight sides.  I've got all this polyester batting and a bag of lavender to use up, so I'm going to make more.

I've also started making gifts for Xmas already.  One is nearly finished, and I have another 3/4's done.  I have a whole bunch of things in mind, I just can't seem to work quickly enough.  I've been trying to improve my crochet stitching technique, which has helped my speed some, but I still tend to go more slowly than a lot of the people I've 'friended' on Ravelry.  I guess it's just experience.

Tonight is the monthly Boise contradance, and The Bru (Ken's band) is playing.  I've been calling one dance each month to give the regular caller a break.  It lets me try out easy dances I wouldn't ordinarily teach in SCD class.  In May The Bru is doing a "band exchange" with the contra band in Pocatello.  They're coming to Boise and we're going there.  It should be fun.  I won't be calling of course, but I'll get to dance.




Saturday, January 5, 2013

A New Year

December was very busy.  Didn't feel like it at the time, but somehow it sped by without me having any time to blog.  Of course wasting time on Facebook doesn't help.  It can tend to get in the way of more productive activities sometimes.

Anyway I had a reasonable amount of time off during the holidays.  So I worked on two new crochet projects.  One is on-hold until I can get the recipient to try it on.  The other one is 99% finished, just need to weave in the ends.  It's made of wool/acrylic blend yarn, so I wanted to try steam blocking.  Did a bit of reading on it and it sounded like the way to go, since I've not been overly successful with water blocking acrylic blend yarns.  The steam blocking is one way of "killing" acrylic.  Another way (so I've read) is to run it through the wash and dry.  I've certainly done that with fleece throws w/ no problems.  It makes the fabric soft and relaxed.  But as this yarn has wool in it, and a nice fuzzy halo, I thought this might work better.

I bought a new steam iron today and gave it a try.  Wow!  So simple.  You can see the yarn relax and grow as you steam and ease the work into place.  Here is the result:
I may have been able to coax it even larger, but I didn't want to overdo things the first time.  It's still not as large as I thought it would be, but I like it.  Supposedly steam blocking is permanent on full acrylic.  I don't know if the wool content in this yarn will change that or not, but we'll see.

We had a nice Christmas holiday.  Went to see The Hobbit and Les Miserables during my time off.  Both good films, although I thought they padded The Hobbit with too many chase and fight scenes.  Ken gave me the novel for Christmas, which I (shockingly) have not read yet, although I've read LoTR more than 15 times.  So that's on my To Read pile, probably next in line.

I made a big pot of soup for Christmas Day.  We had the kids here in the morning and my sister and niece here in the afternoon.  The four of us went on an icy-windy walk at Celebration Park down on the Snake River before dinner.  It was beautiful, but there was a snowstorm blowing in, so we got cold after just 45 minutes or so.

 Looking west from the bridge over the Snake River to the Owyhee Mtns.  That's Oregon over there.


Tachy and I, looking at petroglyphs.


Jas with the "typewriter" petroglyph.
                  Our house after some snow.
We were glad of hot soup when we got home that evening!

Hubby and I gave ourselves a recumbent stationary bike for Xmas.  I also got a nice little shop heater for when I'm working in our bedroom, which is typically colder than the rest of the house.  It's been very handy this week as we've barely got up to 20F during the days.  The temps were down to 0F overnight last night.  Our "high" today was 23F, although I'm not sure I believe that.  It was darn cold out.

Ken and I are watching our calories.  We have a litte app on our iPhones called Lose It!  So we've set weight loss goals and are trying to keep to our calories limits.  His limit is higher than mine for now, even though it goes down as you lose.  It's kind of a pain figuring out the calories on food we cook ourselves, but fortunately Ken is good at math.  And it's great how you can find so much info online now.  When I did this in the 1970's it was much harder to figure out calories on things.  We decided even if we can just get close most of the time that'll be ok.  There's been a definite difference in how much food we eat every day.  The fudge, chocolates and cookies from Christmas are disappearing MUCH more slowly than usual.

We started Dec 29th.  I haven't lost anything yet, according to the scale, but I do feel better.  I think it's the reduction in the amount of food more than anything else.  Ken has lost a pound.

Anyway, it's easier to do this together and so far we have not felt overly deprived.  We both miss the snacking most, but it hasn't been super-hard to stick to our goals so far.  I'll be interested to see how well I do, with the thyroid meds making it more difficult.