Sunday, December 12, 2010

Let's try this again

The pictures. Will blogger cooperate and let me prove that I'd been knitting my tuchus off?

Why yes, it did. Right now on the screen where I'm typing this post, it looks like I'll be able to comment beside each picture. We all know that once it gets published, who knows how it will turn out.

The blue dress and wrap are what I made for the Atlanta Knitting
Guild's annual bear presentation to the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. The dress is made from Caron's Simply Soft with some Fun Fur added in to the hemline. The wrap is Fun Fur. I had them both in my stash, and it gave me a way to use them.

Next, we have some items I made for a swap amongst knitters who knit items for cats in shelters. I'll confess that I haven't knitted any cat blankets for donation yet. As I've mentioned
before, there are so many worthy charities out there, and I just
don't have time to knit for every single one of them. I do make an effort to knit for the local ones.

That said, the swap was to include a handknitted gift for the knitter and her cats. As you can see, the ones I knitted did pass Grey's seal of approval. Once again I was able to use stash yarn. The gal for whom I was knitting mentioned that purple was one of her favorite colors, and I had several skeins, whole and partial, of Plymouth Galway in my stash.

Thank you, Ravelry. I perused my target's favorites and found a hat that I would enjoy knitting. It is the Lotus hat, and the details can be found on my Ravelry projects page.

The mouse pattern was a free one that I found. I bought a mega sized container of fresh catnip to stuff the mousie after I felted it.

I had to take several pictures of the mouse since I thought it was
so cute. The one for my swap partner does have eyes that I embroidered.

Next you'll see a hat I knitted from more of the Simply Soft that was in my stash. This was for admission to a knit party I was attending. All the hats were donated to local charities, either Chemoflage or to the Atlanta Knitting Guild for distribution.

The Atlanta Knitting Guild also supports the Atlanta Women's Day
Shelter, so any hats that may not be soft enough for chemo patients will find good use.

Next, you will see 5 blind mice. My sister in law has started fostering kittens. I'm afraid that I encouraged her onto the slippery slope of cat rescue, and now they have 3 cats and
currently 2 fosters. I thought the least I could do was take her some cat toys. (Honestly, if she were more of a drinker, I'd take her bottle of her favorite beverage, because rescuing animals can be as challenging as it can be rewarding.)

Here is a hat that I have since finished. I can't remember if I've taken pictures yet as the battery died on the camera, and I need to recharge it. More stash yarn.

This final picture is a sock sample I knitted from my very own Chris Sock Yarn in the colorway Butterfly Bush. This is one of the yarns painted to pool if knitted in the proper way.
Have a great Sunday! We're having our high temperature right now. High winds and falling temperatures are on our agenda today. Possibly some snow flurries too. Thank goodness we have food, so let's just hope the power doesn't go out.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Falling off the face of the earth

No, that's not what happened to me.

I've been knitting like a fiend, but blogger is being difficult this morning and acting like it's loading pictures, but it's taking sooooooo looooong. (I'm probably blaming blogger for something that is actually AT&T's fault. We pay for fast DSL, but since my neighborhood isn't one the ritzy zip codes, we get crappy DSL. I'm thinking of switching to cable for the faster internet, and because I just plain hate AT&T. Damn you, Bellsouth, for merging with AT&T!)

Rant over, but I miss real customer service.

Since I have no pictoral proof of my knitting, I'll just mention that I've been quite busy.

I decided to start researching Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and see if I can get some real answers. Don't get me wrong. I think my doctor is wonderful. However, modern medicine has a tendency to treat symptoms, and when one has an autoimmune disorder, you start wondering about what causes it. After all, treating symptoms leads to a cascade effect of adding new medicines for each new symptom, and frankly, that's not something I want to do. Why not see if I can get a handle on what caused the Hashimoto's in the first place and treat it?

Thus, I've been reading Why do I still have Thyroid Symptoms when my Lab Tests are Normal. One of the very first and biggest things is that Hashimoto's patients are gluten intolerant. This is not negotiable. I've got to give up gluten. Hmm, I live on wheat. Breakfast toast for those days when I'm in a hurry. Wraps with tuna or turkey and veg for lunch. Brownies for dessert.

Starting the day after Thanksgiving, I've given up gluten. Ok, I've cheated a time or two. After all, I could not resist the chocolate cake with the gooey chocolate frosting at knitting guild last week. I did finish a few leftovers of squash casserole.

I feel better. I feel lighter in my midsection. I immediately lost several pounds. I mean I lost 3 pounds in 3 days.

I did gluten free, dairy free and sugar free about 15 years ago. I felt great, but it's very difficult to eat that way. I slowly caved and started eating normally again, and the weight crept up. I went in search of the books I'd used back then and started also following the guidelines in Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type. I know some people don't think this makes a lick of sense or even works, but I know it made a difference for me. However, it says for my blood type, no grains at all.

Let's face it. That just plain sucks. This is the time of year when a bowl of warm porridge is awfully nice in the morning. On the flip side, I'm prone to migraines if I don't eat enough protein (meat), and it's wonderful to have a book that says go eat that lean beef. Don't mind if I do.

Needless to say, I've been spending so much time in the kitchen doing food prep. I've purchased foods I've never tried before, and I've cooked couple of them so far this week. Buffalo is actually pretty good. I've got Jerusalem artichokes waiting to be cleaned, boiled and mashed later this week. I try to eat cultured vegetables with every meal. I discovered that dinosaur kale is a little bitter, but it improves.

However, all this food focus eats up (no pun intended) a lot of time. Cooking fresh meals 3 times a day, well, let's say I was so happy to get Chinese food last night. No more egg rolls or fried egg roll wrapper chips for me, but there are items on the menu I can enjoy. I just won't eat very much rice.

I will attempt to get the pictures of all the knitting posted too. I've done a bunch of small projects. I'll give it another try later today.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Catch up time

I apologize for my long absence. As you know, I went to SAFF (Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair) last weekend.

Much earlier this year, way back in the spring, I decided that if I went to SAFF this year that I would take a class. I've been to SAFF two times previously, but as I only knitted at the time, I actually found it kind of boring. Yes, I said it. Boring. As in I finished seeing what I wanted to see in about 3 hours, and I was done. When Keith and I went back in 2007, we had just put Pixel to sleep several days earlier, and Brownie had died the previous month, so we checked out a day early and headed back home.

Fast forward back to the present. During the past 3 years I've increased my fibery knowledge, and much of that is due to hanging around with Gale. She does things like buy a fleece and process it herself. This means she takes the wool fresh from shearing, cleans it, dyes it, cards or combs it and then spins it. A gal's bound to learn a thing or two hanging around someone who does all that.

I've also started dyeing yarns. This has changed the way I look at other people's yarns and rovings. Part of this is also due to Gale. While she can sometimes exasperate me with all the follow up questions as to why I like a certain handpainted roving (sorry, Gale), her relentless questioning and search has caused me to look at yarns and ask myself the same question. Do I like the color, and is that all I like about it? Is the technique different? Is it something that I might want to try myself? Or is it so labor intensive that I will buy from the master? (There is a woman on etsy who does the most incredible handpainted self-striping yarns. My mind staggers at the work that goes into them. As I've taken classes and dyed yarns myself, I know that if she's asking $47 for her yarn, that she's put way more work than that into it. I want to give the Chicken Goddess a shout out for pointing her out to me.)

Sorry for the long digression. Back to the point is that I looked for a class and found one that I wanted to take. It was with Lynne Vogel, one of the Twisted Sisters. Hmm, famous author and teacher meant the class would fill quite quickly. I decided to become a member of SAFF and get the early sign-up.

SAFF is run by volunteers, so I soon thought that since I'd paid for both Keith and I to be members that we should work a volunteer shift. We'd done it once before, years ago, when I joined the Georgia Mineral Society. We'd had fun working the desk, and I knew we could have some fun at SAFF.

I'm going to admit that SAFF was a blast. I had a great time. Lynne is a fantastic teacher, and I encourage you to take a class from her if you have the opportunity. I consider myself at best an intermediate beginner spinner, and this class taught me some very interesting techniques to try.

As for manning the workshops desk, I have to say that Crystal and Nancie were a delight. They stayed cheerful, which is mostly easy to do as many fiber people are good natured, and when faced with a challenge, did so with ease. I would certainly volunteer again. However, I paid for a booth for SAFF 2011, so I won't be able to volunteer. Crystal has asked if she can still have Keith for a few hours, and I said that we'd give him a say. :)

Near the end of our time working, Nancie said the volunteer for the "How to pick a fleece class" was unable to work. Needless to say, I jumped on that. Robin, the teacher, ended up not using me much at all. I had to bounce a few people who wanted to sit in and hadn't paid, and I got to put my hands on some lovely fleeces. Yes, there was one that I didn't buy, and now I wish I had.

Some friends fared better than I did and purchased blue ribbon winning fleeces before the judging had occurred. I was with Steve when he saw his fleece had won. I can only imagine the rush you would feel when your choice is justified so fully by the judges. Gale had also purchased a fleece, and it too had won a blue ribbon.

That's probably enough about SAFF for one day. I do have some pictures, but my hands are slightly frozen. It got down to 60F in the house last night. I was just running the a/c two or three days ago, and I'm not ready to turn on the heat. Let's not forget that I live in The South, and by this afternoon temps will be back in the upper 70's. In the meantime, I suffer from cold fingers, so I'll end here and go sit in the sun for a few minutes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I haven't disappeared

I've been busy!

I'll update in the next day or two with tales of SAFF and some pictures of spinning and knitting.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The further misadventures of Lily

(or why I was cleaning pooped on linens late last night)

I know I've mentioned before that it's rare for both of us to be gone from the house during the day at the same time. It's even more rare for us to be gone for long periods of time at the same time. I'm usually at home or popping in and out when I run errands. Keith gets to do a lot of telecommuting, so our pets have gotten really used to someone being around.

Yesterday was one of those rare days when events conspire against our kitties. My schedule was rearranged (I had an appointment thrust upon me because Keith couldn't go), and my dye day turned into a run here and there with maybe a quick trip home to check the mail.

It's a little after noontime, and Keith is ironing his clothes for work. The linen closet door is standing open a cat's width, but no one had seemed too interested in it. It's stuffed pretty full, and quite honestly, there's not much space for a cat in it. Keith put the iron and ironing board up, shut the closet door and left. It was about 1:20 p.m.

I had to leave also, and I left about 1:30. I did run back home and was there for about 45 minutes before I left again to get some catfood and meet up with some friends for knitting. I didn't see Lily or Monster at the time, but I wasn't worried about either one of them. After all, cats like to find their hiding places and snooze, and I knew they were inside, which was my concern.

So, Keith left around 1:20, and I left about 3:30. Everything seemed calm and normal.

I didn't get back home until about 7:50. I came in and fed the critters. After all, my dinner can wait, but theirs can't. No sign of Lily, but that can be normal. She eats elevated from the others, and her plate had food when I left. I figured she just wasn't hungry.

About 8:15 when I'm walking down the hallway, I hear thumping from inside the linen closet. I open the door, and Lily is out like a shot! Then I notice the smell. Ugh! There's poop somewhere in there.

First things first. Lily needs dinner, and she needs it now. I'm still eating my dinner, so I just leave the closet door open. While I'm chasing Lily off the kitchen table time and time again, I notice she's got cling-ons. One thing about Lily. She is single-minded and determined. She will wear you down. I must have chased her off the kitchen table and countertops more times than I want to think about before she and I reached a compromise. OK, I caved and let her finally sit on a table that she wanted to be on.

Finally I'm ready to tackle the linen closet. I figured that poop wasn't going anywhere, and I could take the time to eat my dinner and digest it. I find that she had a kitty cave on a shelf, and she must have panic-pooped when she realized she couldn't get out of the closet. We've accidentally shut her in the closet before, but we've been home and could rescue her more quickly. I'll admit to always checking the closet, and Keith usually does too, but this time...

I washed one load last night, and I've got a few things that don't look like they have poop on them, but they were in the vicinity.

Did Lily learn her lesson after all this? Hell no! I was in my yarn closet looking for something, and I turn around when I hear rustling. There is Lily trying to get on top of all my yarn bins and behind the winter coats for a new hiding place! Needless to say, I pulled her out with a hearty "Lily Dammit!", put her into the hallway and shut the door to the room. After all, sheets can be washed with hot water and bleach, but wool yarns can't.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sunday pictures are running late this week

This is a side view, followed by a top view, of a hat I just finished. Next is the wrap sweater that I also just finished this week.

I've had a case of finishitis, so I also finished a stoma cover that was waiting for one strap and a fun fur scarf I was knitting to list on etsy.

I do have a couple of more photos, but blogger doesn't like them for some reason. I'll see if I can upload them later.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'm back!

These past few weeks have been unusually busy for me. My to-do lists seems to have mushroomed from doing laundry, buying groceries and dyeing some yarn into long lists of must be done sooner rather than later.

I'll make an effort to keep this post shortish since there are no pictures at the moment, and you probably don't want to read the entire short story of my errands, chores and adventures of the past couple of weeks.

Let's hit the highlights, shall we?

I went with Gale of Gale's Art to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. I went with Gale last year to both this show and Rhinebeck, and I'd been planning only on going to Rhinebeck this year. However, and if I'm repeating myself, I do apologize, this year the Dalai Lama will be here in Atlanta on the same weekend as Rhinebeck. His Holiness or a major fiber event. Needless to say, an opportunity to hear him in person won.

When I called Gale with the news, I asked if I could go with her to Wisconsin again this year. I took a look at the class schedule and signed up for two classes.

People who have worked with me know that I've got a strange brain. We all have different ways that we learn, and while seeing a demonstration of something does help, I can read a book and learn how to do whatever it is I'm trying. However, if I then have the chance to take a class from someone who really knows their stuff, I'll take the class.

The first class I took was how to dye self-striping sock yarn. I think I've mentioned before that what I was most curious about was the math involved. I know how to dye self-striping sock yarn, as I'd read it in a book, but Nancy has methods for determining how long each painted portion needs to be in order to make your stripe so many rows high. Her class was for the hobbyist dyer who only needs a skein or two, not a production dyer, yet I did learn the math part.

The second class I took was soapmaking. This is something I've had an interest in for a very long time, but I now have a much more urgent reason. Lush has discontinued their I Should Coco soap, which I dearly love. Honestly, as much as I love it, I don't buy much of it. At $40 a pound it's a special treat. It's also a softer soap, melting away into a puddle of dried coconut in my shower way too quickly.

The thing that has always held me back about trying soapmaking on my own is the lye. The book I have from the mid 1990's made me feel about as comfortable handling lye as I would handling the nuclear waste from Chernobyl. Lye was my personal stumbling block. There were also all these things that could go wrong with your soap.

I've now handled lye and even survived having a few droplets land on skin. I'm ready for soapmaking here at home now, sometime between the yarn dyeing and that batch of plum jam that I really want to make.

However, a rather odd thing happened in the soap class. The class was full, having had 12 people sign up. Only 10 showed up. When it came time to divide into teams, I found myself alone. In my youth I would have been so upset that no one liked me. As a more mature adult, I did puzzle about it for a minute. Is there some "otherness" about me? I pushed that aside when I let it fully sink in. I wouldn't have any partners to mess with. I actually prefer working alone. I knew in theory how to make soap, and now I could learn how, just like I would at home, alone where I could think and not have to answer any questions. However, one attendee had brought a friend who went and signed up, and she became my partner. I can't remember her name, but she actually was quite good to work with. She was intelligent, understood the processes, and it was great to have someone else to share stirring the soap while it underwent the thickening process. One batch of our soap turned out great, and it's still curing. The other batch did not turn out, and I threw it away after consulting a couple of books. It seems that when she measured out the water for it, she measured by volume and not weight. I'll fully share the responsibility about that as I saw her measuring the water, and I wondered about it, but not enough to grab the teacher and ask. I learned from reading that this is a common mistake among new soapmakers, and it does explain why the second batch didn't behave quite as it should.

All in all, I had a great time. I'll have to write about the food a little later this week.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

World's are colliding!

I'm sure some of you recognize that quote.

This weekend is Dragon*Con. We had thought about going to the parade yesterday, but one of us (not me) has issues with the time/space continuum. Apparently the time when an event starts is really the time you think about leaving the house. We're meeting someone for dinner at 7 translates into we may leave the house by 7.

This time I can't lay all the blame on the vagaries of one's personal relationship to linear time. I was rather wishy-washy about it too. While I wanted to go see the spectacle that is the Dragon*Con parade, especially as I know people who were in it, and I've never seen it except for excerpts on TV, I was reluctant to be in such a crowd.

Anyway, by the time we were ready to go, we'd miss at least half of it, if not more. This led to an interesting conversation we had on the way to the Decatur Book Festival, which we attended earlier than we'd expected. I can't repeat the conversation verbatim, so this is how I remembered it.

I said, "Well, we can go next year." (I'm talking about the parade only here.)

Keith: "We could get a hotel room."

Me: "We'll have to book early."

Keith said, "Maybe we'll go to Dragon*con."

I replied, "Tickets are $100 each."

Keith: "So?"

OK, this is when I pick my jaw off the floor of the car and look around furtively for the aliens who have flipped Keith's brain and are laughing their asses off at me. We go on down the Decatur Book Festival.

Among all the authors there is a young man, Nick Valentino, who has written a Steampunk adventure novel, Thomas Riley. Keith has been hearing about Steampunk lately, as I'll be dyeing a Steampunk themed yarn for the Phat Fiber Sampler Box in October. We talked to Nick for a little while, and I asked him why was he there at the book festival instead of Dragon*Con. He said he was dividing his time between the two. That's understandable. His publisher had a booth there, and new authors, like new dyers, need to promote their wares. For the record, I did buy his book. I haven't started reading it yet, but it's gotten good reviews.

Later at home, I broached the subject of Dragon*Con and asked Keith if he would want to dress in costume for it. His answer was "Yes, Steampunk."

I'm still looking for those aliens. I know they whisked him away in the night and messed with his brain.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cook's Warehouse, have I said I love you?

We took another class yesterday at The Cook's Warehouse. Their classes are so much fun, although grating carrots isn't the most fun I've ever had.

We took Pickling and Brining: Not Your Grandma's Pickle Pantry. After taking the class on canning earlier this summer, when I saw this class, I knew I had to take it.

We were to meet at The Cook's Warehouse in order to carpool down to the Morningside Market and get some of our ingredients. I'd never been there, although I'd driven by on a Saturday or two and thought about stopping. We'd received an email on Friday reminding us to bring cash and a cooler if we wanted to buy anything. I was planning to meet Beth afterwards, so I decided that I wouldn't worry about getting any cash. No credit cards accepted, so I was safe from spending.

Ha! Two vendors of things that could sit out in the car for a couple of hours did take credit cards. I got some locally made granola from Pure Bliss Organics, and a grab bag of soap ends from Hazelbrand Handmade. I haven't tried the granola yet, but I did open up the grab bag and smell all the soap pieces. Those only reminded me of how much I'm looking forward to my soap making class in a few weeks.

There are cooking demonstrations by local chefs also on Saturdays. We watched Chef Gary L. Mennie prepare Roasted pears with speck ham, blue cheese and arugula. Thank goodness they handed out the recipe! Although I'm not a fan of prosciutto, I thought it was delicious, and quite honestly, I'm sure I could find another meat that I'd like better. Maybe a more common ham.

Of course, I couldn't be at the Morningside Market without seeing people I know. One of the women in the class was someone I recognized from when I was working at the local yarn store. I also recognized another woman I knew from there, but as I couldn't remember her name, I let her pass me by. As I was buying the granola, I heard, "Is that Eve under that hat?" from Kim of Knitch. Funny that everyone I knew down there was knitting related!

After getting a danish and latte from Alon's, I was fortified to go back to The Cook's Warehouse and start the class in earnest. (As an aside, almost everyone in the class had ventured to Alon's at some point during our field trip.)

Before we go back to Cook's Warehouse, I should tell you a little more about the market. There are local farmers, bakers and soap makers there. Grass fed, feed range beef and pork are available. How cool is it to be able to talk to the person growing your food? I found the market to be one of those simple and wonderful pleasures. Fresh food and an overcast morning that was a few degrees cooler than it's been lately, along with a delightful danish and great coffee made it very enjoyable.
Anyway, this class was an accelerated version of brining. We honestly didn't have enough time for everything to be brined as long as it should be, but there was a corned beef that had been brining for 5 days and was pressure cooked during class. My mouth is watering thinking about it even now. The aromas being carried upon the steam shooting from the pressure cooker were sublime. I do love savory foods.
However, we do have the recipes, and I understand about brining now. It's one of those techniques I'd actually never thought about until I took the canning class, and to be honest, it was the word pickling in the class title that caught my attention.
One of my favorite quotes, which I'm sure I've shared with you before, is from Ellis Peter's Brother Cadfael. "Nothing learned is ever quite wasted." You can read this quote it The Raven in the Foregate as I don't know which page it's on.
Have a great Sunday!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Alas, no photos!

I've been busy this past week, but not doing much that was photo-worthy.

I've been dyeing yarn. I filled in for a friend at the knit store where I used to work. I didn't do a bit of canning, although I think I'll be doing some more this next week.

I did do a lot of admin stuff for Fiber Charmer - looking for wholesalers of undyed yarn, ordering business checks, printing and labeling yarn.

Hopefully sometime next week I'll have lovely pictures of homemade plum jam to share. I love plum jam, but it's hard to find at the grocery store nowadays. However, there are mountains of plums at the Dekalb Farmers Market, and I plan to purchase a hill or two.

I did find an induction burner on sale at Tuesday Morning this past week. Woo hoo! Now I'll only have to contend with 2 of the eyes going on the stovetop. Hey, with this extreme heat, I'll be thrilled to have one less gas eye burning!

I finally ordered the fancy-schmancy and really expensive Oster clippers to use on the longhaired kitties off ebay a few days ago. Thankfully I was able to get them for about 1/2 of what they sell for at Sally's Beauty Supplies. I discussed it with Keith, and since they are less than the last time we had the kitties shaved by the mobile groomer, I went ahead and got them. I'm a little nervous about shaving them ourselves, but I have someone who come train us, so that's all good.

Oh, that reminds me! I had to bathe Monster the other day. She has long hair, and she's too fat to groom her rear end. She had poopy dingleberries, so I decided to put her into the bath tub and wash her.

Let me tell you that it is a great idea to wear a mask when bathing an angry, poopy cat. I'll preface this by saying don't piss the cat off by trying to clean out her ears, then decide that it would be a good idea to bathe her. She lashed that poop water covered tail like a whip, all the while yowling like she was being killed. Needless to say, I took a shower once I let her out of the tub!

I guess I did have some misadventures this week. I hope I've provided you with a funny visual and a laugh! Have a great week. You can think of me sweating in a hot kitchen while I'm canning plum jam.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Canning and dyeing

Here you see most of the jars of tomatoes I put up this past week. One jar didn't seal, so it's not pictured here. It's in the fridge, about to become some more tomatoe soup. I also had packed a jar full, then noticed that it had a big chip in the top. I wasn't sure where the chip was, so I threw it all out.
The greatest thing about this recipe is that it allows you to can by the jar, so if all I have is enough tomatoes for 2 jars, that's all I need to do. I love having a recipe that doesn't start with

"8 pounds of tomatoes."

I had/have a lot of cucumbers, so I put up more jalapeno-cucumber relish.

I was running low on some of my dye supplies, so I was unpacking the box and stepped away for just a moment. As you can see, Inspector Lily took it upon herself to check the contents for me.

My friend Shari recently suggested that I start compiling all the pictures of Lily for a book, entitled "Lily, Dammit!" I've posted a lot of pictures of her getting into things, and it does seem like a good idea. However, I've got too much on my plate right now, including a bunch of merino sliver and whole 'nother fleece that is at least cleaned, but needs carding or combing.

I'm thinking that Keith needs to learn how to card, comb or spin.
This past week I've been doing some immersion/kettle dyeing, and I've gotten some colors I really like. I'm not sure yet where I'll be selling them.
I'd been working on some ideas for my first knitwear designs, and I'm finding that it's more challenging that I anticipated. Of course, things won't work out as you expected when you change them in the middle. I've just kept knitting. I'll see how this hat turns out. I already see two changes so far I'd like to make, and even though I'm not wild about this one is knitting up, I'll have something I can donate this fall.
Have a great day! It's drizzly, humid and muggy here, but it's cloudy and under 90F, so I'm happy, really happy.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tomatoes everywhere!

My poor garden has taken such a beating with this oppressive heat! Who am I kidding? We've all taken a beating from this heat.

Between the heat and the humidity, my bean vines dried to a crisp before blooming all over with mildew. The cucumber vines grew mildew first, then turned into a gooey, prickly mess. Several of the tomatoes grew with such abandon their supports totally collapsed. I went out earlyish this morning to start pruning away the dead, mildewed and collapsed. I'll tell you, I don't like this heat at all.

I recently decided that instead of giving all my lovely yard waste to the county, that I would start a new compost area in the backyard. We're going to need to augment the soil like crazy after last year's new drain field was installed. As I was taking the bags to far back corner, I found myself thinking about this past year's weather. Our backyard is still a mess. I would have happily worked out there all winter long if it hadn't rained from September through March or April. I don't remember a winter that wet! It rained just about every 24-48 for a good 6 months. I think our sump pump ran practically non-stop during that time.

I don't like the heat. I'm one of those people outside working in a t-shirt when it's 50-60 degrees outside. I'm sweating when it hits 65, and by 68, I'm ready to come inside and call it a day. Our lows have barely gotten below 75 in weeks, and while the yard looks like hell, it also feels like hell working out there.

I'll admit that I'm glad it's August. That means fall and cooler weather aren't that far away. I'm about ready to start my countdown the fall equinox again. I just hope it doesn't rain like crazy all fall and winter.

As for the garden, I'm not ready to give up on it. I plan to start planting things again as it cools down. Until then, I can go out for a little while early in the morning, maybe 5 a.m. when Sassy wakes me up, and finish getting it cleaned up and ready to go.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Peter Frampton and Steve Miller

We saw them last night. It was funny as we had the same seats as we had at Phish, just 1 section over.

We were running on Keith time, so we missed about 30 minutes of the Frampton. He was the opener, and honestly, I wish it had been the other way around. Not to diss Steve Miller, but I just like Peter Frampton more.

You may remember that I was amused by being the way oldest person at the Phish show. We were on the younger side of the crowd last night. It was definitely an older crowd that looked how I pictured the Chastain crowd. You know, lots of tans, bleached hair, gold jewelry, etc. At one point Keith looked around and said, "there are a lot of tanned people here." I replied, "yeah, if I were a dermatologist, I'd be thinking cha-ching."

Just in front of us was a man who may have been about our age, but with his tan and facial lines (he was kind of wrinkly), it was hard to tell. (Honestly, he looked older than us to me, but it could have been the mileage from sun damage.) He was there with a slip of a girl, young enough to be his daughter, and a couple of her friends. There's something pitiful and sad about someone trying to act younger than their age. I sat there, looking at his skin, which seemed fragile to me with it's lines and tan. It looked thin, once again bringing to mind his future need for a dermatologist. I wondered about his relationship with the girl for a minute or two. I felt sorry for him, trying to recapture his lost youth that way. I know, I'm horrible, but people watching can be fun. After all, I know I look odd, sitting there smirking while knitting away on a toe up sock, which looks like a very large willie warmer until the heel is turned!

The other big difference I noticed was the concert odors. Phish smelled the way a concert should - weed, alcohol and vomit. Last night's smelled like the occasional cigarette, whiff of aftershave drifting in the breeze, and somebody nearby farting. Ugh! I'll take skunk weed over farting anyday!

I will admit that I did enjoy it. I've been wearing earplugs to shows for the past few years. I've already got enough hearing loss from the concerts of my youth. What I've discovered about earplugs is they block a lot of the crowd noise and distortion, and I can actually hear the music. I hadn't been planning on going to last night's show. Keith got the tickets at the last minute, and I was racing around, looking for my earplugs. He said we could stop off at Home Depot and buy more, but luckily I found them. This time I'll remember to put them away in the first place I searched for them instead of some random drawer.

Oh, should I mention the music? Those guys can make a guitar wail and sing. Frampton did a cover of Black Hole Sun that was great. While he was playing and singing during Do You Feel Like I Do, Keith said he sounded like Stephen Hawking. Of course, remember that it's us, we decided that he needed to say "Boom shakalakalakalaka..." Hell, just watch what we wanted him to say.

Frampton still has his voice and can sing. The same can't be said about Steve Miller. He's had a little too much fun over the years, and you can hear it in his voice. He had another singer along who sang about half the show, but that was fine. They did some great covers of blues songs. He did ask for donations for his music school, which seems to be a real life school of rock. He even had one of the kids along on the tour who got to jam with the band. The kid, whose name escapes me, looked like he was having the time of his life.

A good time was had by us both. We got out of the house, which is actually quite good as I could stay inside while knitting, dyeing and spinning with movies going all the time and be happy. That would drive Keith crazy!

Now, if he can get tickets for Greenday!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bye bye Fishy

Yesterday we lost our giant goldfish. I wish I could say he'd lived a long life, and I suppose he lived a much longer one than many goldfish did, but I still think it was all too short.

I spent a lot of time researching goldfish and their diseases online yesterday, and I learned just how ignorant we were as fish caretakers. I didn't know just how scientific you had to be about everything, testing the water for just the right chemical balance. I know now, but I so wish I hadn't learned about too high nitrate levels the hard way.

The other thing I noticed yesterday and didn't read because I was hoping all the while for a good outcome was an article about euthanizing your fish! I'm wondering what the emergency vet would think about my coming in with the mini tank and gasping fish.

We spent a lot of time yesterday trying to save our fish. Yes, he probably only cost us about 20 cents when I bought him a couple of years ago. You wouldn't know that by the amount of money and time we spent trying to fix the problem. On Saturday we saw him sitting on the bottom of the tank gasping, so Keith ran out and bought a new aerator. We changed part of the water. He seemed to perk up some, but by yesterday morning, he was looking really bad. That's when Keith started searching goldfish diseases online while I went out to buy a second tank so we could move him while we found what was wrong with the first tank. I also bought that water test kit and discovered what the problem was. We moved him to a smaller tank, changed more water, treated it, tested it again. I went back to Petsmart to get something to treat the nitrate levels to help bring them down because we were afraid that changing out all the water would kill him if the nitrate levels didn't.

It's a very strange feeling to be in the parking lot of the petstore when your phone rings, and you're thinking it must be the news that your fish has died.

Unfortunately, our attempts to save him were futile. I'm sorry he suffered from our ignorance. With all the research I've done on cats and dogs, I never really thought to do much on fish. It seems I was much mistaken there.

Perhaps it seems silly to mourn a fish, but he'd been part of our lives for several years now. He'd gotten so big that we had started looking at larger tanks so he could continue to grow. He seemed to be thriving.

Keith had to measure and weigh him last night. We'd gotten him as a tiny little comet, and he'd grown to be almost 9" long and weighed 8.25 ounces!

The tank is in our front room. It's one of the first things we see when we come into the house. I keep looking at the empy tank. I plan to empy it out, start with fresh water, let it cycle with the plants and the good bacteria, then get another fish or two, along with a fancy water testing kit. In the meantime, I'm going to keep missing our fish.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Letting you know I'm still around

I've been busy the past few weeks, and obviously not blogging!

I posted over on Fiber Charmer what I've been up to, so I won't repeat it all here. I'd like to think once cucumber and tomato season is over, things will calm down, but I kind of doubt it. I've got stuff planned for this fall that I want to learn how to do, and before Gale headed out to Convergence, she told me to watch two videos she had about scouring fleeces, fiber prep and how to dye them. I haven't had a friend give me homework like this before!

So, I'm still around, just enjoying learning so many skills that our pioneer women ancestors knew.

My aunt hooked me up with a pickle bucket from a deli near her house, so I'll be liming cucumbers to make my first ever batch of pickles sometime this week, as well as taking a look at the pressure canner and seeing what parts need to be replaced before I start canning tomatoes.

I must admit, I'm loving it!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Phish and Mr. Peabody's WABAC Machine

An overly long blog entry in which I'll take you into my youth and back into the present, which is now the past.

Keith had gotten tickets to one of the Phish shows here over the weekend. He knows more about Phish than I do, and he had heard some of their music. What I knew about Phish is this - they were a jam band like the Grateful Dead. People followed them around like they used to with the Dead. Also, Trey Anastasio was redheaded like me, and he'd been on the cover of some of Keith's guitar magazines.

Keith asked me if I'd go with him to the show, and I said yes, because I knew he wanted to go. I can always take knitting with me.

Now let's get into that WABAC machine and take a little side trip to my past. We were teenagers back in the 1970's and very early 80's. In fact, I've got a birthday coming up soon, and I'm starting to see 50 looming way too close. I started going to concerts when I was 12 or 13, and boy, back in the day, were they wild! A haze of pot smoke filled the air. Lots of open containers of all sorts of alcohol. I remember one time drinking Boone's Farm slushies that we'd made. I never smoked too much pot myself because I grew up in a family of cigarette smokers, and I just can't stand smoking. I did, however, love the smell of burning pot, so I always breathed deeply at all those shows.

Ronald Reagan came along, with the whole just say no to drugs campaign. I remember going to some shows at the Omni (when it still existed) and finding that security was like the Gestapo. This was in the late 80's, as I remembered we'd brought our own liquor to the AC/DC concert sometime in 85 or 86, so this was after that.

We go to very few shows nowadays. Rarely does anyone come through that we want to see. Tickets are ridiculously expensive. I've got a bit of tinnitus, which I'm sure is the result of some of those very loud shows of my youth.

Let's get back to the recent past. Yes, I'm going to Phish. I'll admit that I sort of hoped he'd be able to find a buddy to go with him instead, but I went. I've got my earplugs (I don't need to lose any more hearing) and my knitting. What non-knitters don't always understand is that knitting allows us to be more patient and actually pay attention to what's going on around us instead of us thinking when in the world will this be over?

Entering Verizon Wireless Amphitheater for Phish was very strange. I felt like I'd entered the WABAC machine and landed in a concert from my youth. All of the shows we attend are geared more towards our age group. (Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, even Billy Idol) Here we were the oldest. Way old. All these kids in wild clothing reminded both of us how shows used to be.

After we got drinks and started looking for our seats, we passed through clouds of pot smoke. Here was a concert that really was like the ones we used to go to! Lots of pot, lots of liquor, everyone was dancing (except for me. I sat down and knitted on a sock. Too hot to dance for 3 or 4 hours. After all, I'm seeing 50 on the horizon, and I need to get my well upholstered butt to the gym.) Keith did get into the dancing. He's in better shape than I am (right now).

During intermission, while Keith went to replenish our drinks, I had one kid ask me if I was enjoying the show. I think my knitting distressed him. I said yes, it was great. (It was. I was enjoying it.) I had another come sit next to me and ask about my knitting. Then I got to hear about his grandmother's needlework. (Ugh, but he was cute.) Now, while I know I'm old enough to be their mom, I was unprepared for the cute gal who introduced herself, thinking that I had brought my adult son to the show. I told Keith when he got back, and he asked, "how did she know you were old enough to be his mom?"

Isn't that just the sweetest thing for him to ask? All I have to do is look in the mirror and see the effects of gravity and time, but he always tells me I don't look as old as my age. While at dinner last night with another couple (who I later found out were a good 17 years younger than us), they said that when you're 20, everyone over 20 looks equally old. Not sure I'm buying that.

I guess we were the "cool parents" at the Phish show. Keith said that he kept getting into conversations with the guys. They approached him, but he's a very approachable person.

I do find I'm having a little bit of a problem with it. As I mentioned, I've got a birthday soon. I won't be 50 this year, but it's getting awfully damn close. I normally hang around people my own age, and it was a little shocking to discover that I do seem older. I can normally pass for a few years younger amongst my crowd, but I wasn't with my crowd that night.

In all honestly, I'm pretty content with my age. What I'm not content with can be changed by actually going to the gym and exercising instead of just thinking about it. As the saying goes, you're only as old as you feel, and I feel pretty young. It's just that damn mirror that says otherwise.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


We absolutely, positively need to check the garden daily for cucumbers. As you can see, if we skip a day, we end up with some monsters! Today I'll pick up a quart of jalapenos, and tomorrow I'll make up some cucumber jalapeno relish. Yum!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

this is pretty fun.

visited 6 states (2.66%)
Create your own visited map of The World

I've also been to Tibet, but it's not listed separately from China. I've had a layover in England, and we landed in Milan to go to Switzerland, but neither felt like visiting to me.

visited 33 states (66%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

I've had a layover in Hawaii, but I don't think that really counts as visiting.

I didn't know it'd been so long since I posted!

I think I've mentioned before that when real life gets busy, blogging falls by the wayside. I'm sorry about that.

After taking that canning class, I find I've done things like buy extra peaches at the Farmer's Market to make some peach preserves.

Our cucumber plants produced enough for me to make these 14 jars of cucumber relish. Yes, I chopped by hand (with some help from Keith) 8 cups of cucumbers. I usually don't mind chopping veggies by hand when I'm cooking, but this was a little too much as there were also multiple cups of peppers, onions and celery to chop.

I'm definitely pulling out the food processor next time!

What I've found is regardless of how hot it is outside (and we've had days the thermometer has hit 97.5 F), it's never too hot to nap beside steaming hot jars set out to cool.

You can see our 14 jars of relish. I can't wait to open one up, but they have to sit for a bit and let the flavors blend.

And we made the discovery that apparently Lily patrols the kitchen counters when we're not around to chase her off them.
I couldn't find her before going to bed the night we made blueberry-lime jam. The important part was that she wasn't in the bedroom because she rarely sleeps all night.
It never occurred to me to look in the giant pot that I had washed and left to dry on the stove top.

I was more than a little surprised by this! (And darn! Now I need to wrestle with washing the pot again!)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lots of meal prep and canning

While taking the canning class at The Cook's Warehouse last weekend, I spied this cute little book. How could you not want to eat such cute food?
I asked Keith what his co-workers would think if he brought a bento box lunch like that to work. Would they tease him, or would they be jealous? We decided they would do both.

Thus, I have purchased some mini cookie cutters, reusable silicone
baking cups, sushi rice and nori over the past few days. I'll need to get some egg molds and nori cutters that will make the little faces, and I'll start making some bento boxes for us both.
I also got 2 1/2 pounds of peaches today. I've got the urge to make some preserves. I do have a lot of prep work to do, and it's not all for the preserves. Many of the bento meals include small amounts of meat, so I've got shrimp to shell and repack, as well as ground meat to measure into 1/4 pound increments and freeze. Then I'll get to do the peaches.
The hat that's pictured above is the second one of the Bobble and Cable hats that I've done. This one is probably for me. I was surprised when I compared it to the first one that I did. The two purples are very nearly the same color, and the hat pictures look nearly identical. (If you're on Ravelry, go look at the two hats side by side in my projects.)
That's all the excitement around here for today. I will mention that as the temperatures creep into the upper 90's today that I've started dreaming about a cave or decommissioned missile silo home again. Believe me, if I ever won the lottery, I'd probably have both types of homes!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A busy weekend

I needed to get a little distance before I wrote about this past weekend.
Last Friday, while Georgia Power contractors were replacing meters in our neighborhood, one of them asked me about dog that he thought looked starved and abandoned. He told me there was no power going to the house when he replaced the meter.

He told me about it because he thought I looked like someone who cared about animals and would do something about it. He was right.

I knew exactly which house he was talking about. We'd been wondering just a day or two before if the people had moved, leaving a lot of junk behind them.

I got on the phone and called one of the neighbors who lived closer to it. (I'm not that close.) He said he thought they had moved out except that one of the teenagers was still living there, or so he thought. I decided to go see the dog for myself. I rang the doorbell, and when no one answered, I walked to the side to look over the fence.
Yes, the dog was there. As you can see, he was very thin and shaggy looking. I came home, called my vet and looked for a rescue who could help him. However, it's late on a Friday afternoon, and my vet's office is the only one I can reach. I get information on how to feed him so that he won't get sick, then I head back over with a small amount of dogfood, a water bowl and a bottle of water.
He's quite hungry. I'll admit that I've been intimidated by this dog in the past. He barked wildly at anyone passing on the street, many times looking like he would leap right over the fence. Needless to say, I certainly didn't want to get too close to him, but I also needed to feed him. I put the dish on top of some junk in the backyard, and he grabbed it to carry it off and eat.
I went back with a slightly larger portion a few hours later. Keith suggested I try a paper plate since the dog had run off with the container I'd used. Well, the paper plate was a bad idea. The dog grabbed it, sending dogfood flying all over the place. The next time I fed him, I used a disposable plastic sandwich container. This time the dog took it gently from my hand. That's how I fed him for the next few meals. I took him the food in a sandwich container, and he took it from my hand.
On Saturday morning I spoke to a different rescue group who were adopting animals at Petsmart. The woman in charge there told me to contact animal control. My county's animal control is actively working with rescues, and she told me that several of the officers would do what they could to help get a purebred German Shepherd rescued. Honestly, I felt very uncomfortable contacting them. I'm sure it's because in the past going to the pound meant the animal would probably be euthanized, but I decided to call.
I had a very interesting chat with the a.c. officer who called me back. She did go put an abandonment notice on the house, and I continued to feed the dog. This was Saturday afternoon and Sunday. On Monday morning I started contacting people again. I found a rescue group who could pay for his vetting, but they needed a foster home. I knew I couldn't be his foster home, and the rescue basically agreed with me. He would need someone who was more familiar and comfortable with German Shepherds. Our April, who passed away in 1999 or 2000 was part German Shepherd, but she was a petite 45 - 50 pounds. This guy is a full sized one, and he'd be like letting a pony into the house, not to mention both of us were unsure of how we would be around him. I'm working on getting him a foster home, contacting some other people and groups, and I go over to feed him.
He's gone. The notice from Animal Control is gone, the dog's gone, and some of the junk is gone. I come home, call a friend who does lab rescue, and she agrees that the owner probably picked him up, but she says call Animal Control just in case. It wasn't them. So, after leaving the dog for probably two weeks, according to some of the other neighbors, they got him when they were about to get cited for negligence.
I know in the past the dog had been cared for, so part of me hopes that this was just a bad time for them, and now they'll care for him again. What I'm afraid of is that they'll just abandon him somewhere else. There's nothing I can do about that.
I wish I'd known about him earlier. Apparently this had been going on for awhile, and when they moved out, I think the dog had been in bad enough shape that he wasn't barking anymore. The folks I spoke to across the street didn't know he was still there as no one had heard him barking in some time.
Well, I did my best, and I know that I can't save them all, but that doesn't stop me from feeling sad about the whole situation.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

This is why you double dig

We've never had vegetables that looked this good before. While Keith had thought I was out of my mind for wanting to do all the hard work of double digging the bed, the other day he was saying that we've never had tomatoes that looked this healthy and thick. All the hard work paid off, or it will once some of those tomatoes start ripening. I saw the first fruit yesterday, and I'm looking forward to eating it soon.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Yarn and gardening

I updated FiberCharmer with so-so pictures of new yarns today. In case you want to go peruse them.
For those of you who don't knit, I've got some kitty pictures today. The weather here has gotten downright hot, complete with humidity, and that has an exhausting effect on kitties, as well as giving some of them bad fur days.

Hmm, I'm not sure why the photo of Hopalong checking out the yarn has turned sideways. It doesn't look like that on my computer. Oh well, take some anti-vertigo meds and don't look at it too long.

Grey found that liriope makes a wonderful, cushy, cool bed for the long haired kitty who is in dire need of a lion cut. Until then, she searches out cool spots, both inside and outside. Inf fact, we can hardly use our bathroom sink as that's been her bed of choice the past few weeks. I have to move her every time I want to brush my teeth. I've given up about the handwashing and just do that in the kitchen.

Lily finds that knocking everything off the top of Keith's dresser and snoozing there, fairly close to the ceiling fan, is the way to go. Well, that is until everything has been knocked off. As soon as Keith finds other homes for all the bits of paper, etc, she decides it's time to find someplace new to try.

Don't let the sweet, angelic face fool you. She's a cunning, plotting cat who would excel at world domination, given half a chance. It's just plotting her next move can be tiring.

In the garden we have more carrots sprouting (finally). The tomatoes are all blooming like mad, so we should see tiny fruit pretty soon. The beans are climbing the trellis now. I've got to get another planter going in order to grow lettuce. I ordered some lettuce that can tolerate warmer weather from Cook's Garden, and I'm eager to see if they really can grow well down here in the Deep South.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It must be time for pictures

I dyed several skeins at a time here.

The two brown and pink ones are very interesting to me. I used the same color dyes, but I used different fibers, different dye methods and different percentages of the dyes.

Here you see Mama and Hopalong snoozing together on the bench. Mama is the feral kitty who got me started on the whole TNR mission. After all these years she rarely lets me get close to her. I think about bringing Hopalong inside since he's turned out to be such a lovebug, but I think Mama likes him too much for me to do that to her.

The hat is a shop sample. It's the Bobbles and Cables Hat from 60 Quick Knits. That book has some great and fun projects in it. I plan to knit one of these up for me soon.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Radish update

As of yesterday, all eight of the radish seeds I'd planted had sprouted. I'm still waiting on the carrots, but I think they have a longer germination time. I'm also wondering if I accidentally planted them too deeply. I'll give them a few more days, then I'll replant them.

I know eight radishes doesn't like much, and it isn't. However, since they grow so quickly you can plant more all season. Also there's only one person in the household who really likes them, so eight at a time is plenty of them. I'd hate to have thirty be ready at one time as many of them would go bad.

I have knitted a great hat in the past few days, and I've got pictures to upload. I think I will need to purchase a model head from ebay. Keith took pictures of the hat on my head. I was having a bad hair day, having napped with wet hair earlier. I was also wearing one of those old, disreputable T-shirts, so all in all it's not a good picture. The photographer has skills, but the model wasn't ready for a photoshoot.

I've also got more yarn to photograph that I dyed yesterday, so I'll post those here tomorrow too.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Waiting for sprouts

One thing about gardening is waiting for the seedlings to pop up. I realize it takes a few days, but I'm sure I'll be outside looking for carrot and radish sprouts several times daily.

I won't bore you with more pictures of my bins filled with dirt, but I did go outside and look. No sprouts yet, but it's only been about 24 hours.

In the meantime, I found this at the Farmer's Market, and I just had to buy it. It's pretty good.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

And some knitting

I haven't done very much knitting this week. I've spent the past 3 days skeining the nearly 20 kilos of sock yarn that I bought on Wednesday. That was a bit tiring, but I had to get it all (or as much as possible) done while I had the skeiner that I'd borrowed. Believe me, a skeiner is on my to get list!

However, I did get a little time here and there. First of all is a sock that I've started with some of the yarn I dyed. I've got to get a better camera! The colors here are close, but there's a luminosity to it in real life that I can't seem to capture.

Anyway, I took photos of the front and the back so you can see how it's knitting up.

Next you can see that I've almost finished turning the heel on Keith's second sock of this pair.

The last picture is the progress that I'm making on my wrap sweater. I've finished the first sleeve, and I've started on the second. I can see that this sweater will need some major blocking to keep the stockinette from rolling so much.

I've been a little worried that I may run out of yarn before I get to the edging around the neck and front, but I discovered that Sublime's Extra Fine Merino DK is very similar (if not the same yarn) as the Zara. They probably come from the same mill. That was a huge relief as I can get the Sublime at Needle Nook if I need more yarn.

The square foot garden

These pictures are from a couple of weeks ago. I know, I've been promising pictures, but I've been actually kind of busy and haven't had the time.

This first is of our compost bin. I have no idea when we last emptied it out, but I know it's been several years ago.

In the next picture you see the black gold that is compost.

Here is our garden bed that has been double dug. See how lovely our Georgia red clay soil is?

The first load of compost shows the contrast between the soil and compost much better.
The final picture is after the entire composter has been emptied out.
I didn't take any pictures of when we added the other soil amendments to it, but we added 3 bags of composted chicken manure, a bag of vermiculite, some sulfur and fertilizer.
I'll add pictures of the happy plants after I go take some.