Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Another Experiment

Once I found out that I'd been accepted for the synod choir (and was going to be on camera as well as on stage), I wanted something a little special to wear. The e-mail said we were to wear black bottoms and black, white or red tops, so I decided to try making a red scarf printed with the UCC comma symbol. (Gracie Allen is quoted as saying "Never put a period where God has put a comma." The UCC is running with that thought.)

Anyway, the silk dye marked "brilliant red" has thus far given me shades of coral, but never a really intense red. I decided to make free with the dye, really saturate it. But first I took a note from my 10th grade art class and made a potato print comma. The comma itself was fairly easy to carve with a paring knife and a potato that was past its better days anyway. I painted it with some pearlescent fabric paint and went to work printing white commas on the (then) white fabric.

I figured out fairly quickly that I needed to hold the fabric down with a block while I did the printing, or the potato would slide off the fabric and smear my image. A more experienced person probably would have taped or pinned the scarf down anyway.

Once the prints looked dry, I applied gobs of red dye to the fabric. As it turned out, I should have waited a bit longer; but I kind of like the pearescent glow around each comma from where the remaining paint flowed into the dye.

Anyway, I did it, I like it, and I wore it. A couple people complimented me on it before the service, but I don't think either I or my scarf were actually visible to the audience or the cameras. (When you are a 5' 4" tenor, you learn to accept these things.)

I'm not sure what I'll do with it now, since it's really not an obvious addition to my everyday wardrobe. Maybe donate it to the fall bazaar auction at church?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just A Few Floral Shots

To celebrate the fact that my camera is working properly again.

When I planted this garden I was trying for a look of floral profusion - masses of color mixed wildly together. These days, it looks like an experiment in chaos theory (but in a good way, I think).

The ants come marching one by one . . . . (I seem to have missed most of peony season during my travels. There is a huge drift of brown petals on the ground below the few remaining white blossoms.)

This was a technical experiment. I was able to tighten my focus to bring just the stamens in focus, leaving the petals slightly blurred. Don't know yet if it's aesthetically appealing, but it amuses me.

And On A Personal Note

This is turning into the summer of travel. Besides my lovely visit to Peninsula State Park with Lynn & Jeff, last week I enjoyed a 5 day trip to Michigan for some cousin time and the UCC General Synod in Grand Rapids. And I still have trips scheduled to visit the in-laws in Missouri this weekend, then Maine (in July) and California (in August) to check on my younger brothers and their families.

If you're not familiar with it (and you probably aren't, unless you happen to attend a UCC church yourself), the general synod is the every-other-year convention. I got to sing in the 150-voice choir, accompanied by a real orchestra. There are speakers, workshops, wonderful services with world-class music and liturgical dancers and all kinds of stuff, and a group of booths with an incredible variety of free premiums and items for purchase. Two years ago in Hartford, CT, I went deep on the cause buttons and pens. (My favorite was a rainbow theme that said "Straight But Not Narrow." It sparked some interesting discussions.) This time around, reusable shopping bags were all the rage and I think I came away with 6 or 7 of them. And I may have resisted the fair-trade chocolate, but the fair trade wool yarn in a gorgeous fuchsia color just had to come with me. Four skeins for less than $20, and it's wonderful, soft stuff. No idea what it will be made into, but I'm sure the yarn will tell me when the right project comes along.

My traveling buddy Deb was kind enough to dedicate extra time on the beginning and end of our synod trip so I could check in on the Michigan cousins. We spent Thursday evening at Camp Newaygo and I finally got to try out kayaking. Loved it! And even more, I loved spending time with some of my favorite people.

Austin was very proud of himself for paddling along in the two-person kayak with Bill, and was telling me jokes:
This girl was sitting in class and all the sudden she got
up and started dancing around and shaking her but and
stuff. The teacher asked her what was wrong, and she said,
"I have to get up and move! My but fell asleep!"
"It sure did," the kid behind her said. "I even heard it snore."

We also got to stop for a short time in Hastings to see Cousin Julie and her family. I was really starting to get nervous because my camera had suddenly stopped working on Saturday afternoon. Here I was with my pretty cousin and her beautiful, adorable kids, and my camera wouldn't work!! I figured out the malfunction after I got home, but I'm going to have to get back there for a make-up photo shoot. Those kids are growing up so fast! Patrick (who is going to kindergarten in the Fall) has a new calico kitten, and carries her around constantly. Lauren would melt anyone's heart with those big blue eyes and white-blond hair. And Baby Lauren blessed me with a dozen sweet little kisses. I promised Julie that I'd stay overnight next time.

Catching Up: Headband Pattern, Shawl Variations

Don't know if I told you all about a little incident I had over Memorial Day weekend which resulted in a very needful haircut? Well, my hair is now at that in-between length where I can't put it up but don't really like it down. Besides, with the heat wave we had last week, I needed to do something to get it off my neck. Here was one option I came up with:
Very Easy Dropstitch Headband

circular needle, size 7 or so
less than 1/2 a skein of your favorite yarn
(I used Peaches & Creme cotton - the stuff you use for dishcloths)

Cast on 3 stitches
Work I-cord for about 4 or 5 inches
Increase Row: knit 1, increase 1, knit to end.
Work increase row until you have 13 stitches.
Row 1: [knit 1, YO], repeat until last stitch, knit.
Row 2: [knit 1, drop YO], repeat until last stitch, knit.
Row 3: [knit 1, wrap yarn twice around needle], repeat until last stitch, knit.
Row 4: [knit 1, drop wrapped yarn], repeat until last stitch, knit.

Repeat rows 3 and 4 a total of 18 times.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 once.

Decrease Row: knit 1, knit 2 together, knit to end.
Work decrease row until you have 3 stitches left.
Work I-cord to match your other end.
Knit all 3 stitches together, bind off, and work loose ends up through the I cord.

I made this while sitting through a plenary session at the UCC General Synod in Grand Rapids, and wore it at another session the next day. I think I'll make them in a bunch of colors to get me through the summer!

Meanwhile, here are a few other things I've been working on:
Lynn's favorite colors to wear are purple and grey, and I offered her a shawl after she admired mine during the camping trip. I usually make them out of cotton, but (1) Lynn likes to keep warm, and (2) I had some perfectly gorgeous plum/fuscia/violet Turkish mohair sitting in my stash. (It was practically jumping up and down with it's hand up, yelling "Oo! Oo! Oo! Me!") I combined it with Red Heart Symphony in a smoky grey color and got to work. By the time I was near the end I was trying to figure out some jazzy edge lace or something, when Ann gave me the perfect idea. I love how the feather and fan lace gives it a little something extra while maintaining the visual weight of the rest of the shawl.

Well, I still had most of the final skein of mohair left after the shawl was done, so I decided to make some semi-matching wrist warmers. I guestimated the number of stitches, started off with a 12-stitch repeat version of the feather & fan lace - and ended up with something much too big. Surprise! I finished it off and am calling it a baby hat.

The second attempt seems to be about right. 30 stitches on size 8 double-pointed needles with a 6-stitch repeat of feather & fan. Work in a tube until it's about 7 inches long, then do 4 rows back and forth, then rejoin the circle for a final 4 rows. The back and forth section makes a hole which is about right for the thumb.

More to follow, but I'd better break my efforts up into multiple posts for ease of processing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another Week In Review

I spent 2 1/2 glorious days last week up at Peninsula State Park, catching up with old friends and soaking in the scenery. It was just glorious weather and the lilacs were rioting. The puppy adapted quickly to tent living, and with several other dogs in the group she had lots of positive role models and lots of play time. It really was a situation that just couldn't be beat. And though I hated to leave when I did, I had the consolation of knowing that the weather turned beastly cold and rainy as soon as I was out the park gate.

But I had to get home for the first day of Farmer's Market on Saturday, and it was just brutal. Cold, with threatening rain that turned out to not to be a bluff, and accompanied by the chaos that one would expect for the first attempt of the season. I was late, and my set-up didn't go smoothly, and although there was a surprising volume of customers (given the weather and the lack of actual produce this early in the season) I barely made enough to justify my efforts. When it started raining at 11:00, I packed it in despite the disapproving looks from my fellow vendors.

Luckily, Sunday's graduation events were all indoors and my baby made it across the stage without a hitch. There were a lot of misty eyes when she and the other graduates were recognized in church that morning, but the graduation itself was strangely anticlimactic; perhaps because college is looming so large in her future, and we have the strong sense that this is just another milestone towards a still distant goal.

Along with the big events, we've had a few smaller incidents this week. Somehow a (presumably mother) squirrel and her compatriots got into the roof overhanging our front porch, and from there worked their way into the kitchen soffit and the kitchen/master bath wall. We could tell that one squirrel had fallen down into a gap between a pair of studs and was trying to climb out over the weekend. Rick got into the bathroom ceiling and fished a rope down between the studs, hoping the squirrel would climb up and then get out - which may or may not have worked, since the sounds in that part of the wall were gone by Monday or so. And meanwhile, he applied some tinfoil to the trim piece they'd been climbing up to access the overhang, hoping they'd slide down and be unable to get back up. But by Tuesday or so there was more scratching and carrying on in another section of the wall, and we eventually gave up on the rope concept in favor a low, discrete hole through the sheet rock.

This little guy seemed almost too young to be away from his mother, and despite Rick's best efforts with a warming lamp and eyedroppers of preemie puppy milk, he didn't make it. The whole thing is a shame, but I'm secretly relieved we didn't end up adding a pet squirrel to the menagerie. Instead, I acquired 8 Auracanus chicks from a friend and am incubating them in the same glass cage recently occupied by the squirrel.

Most of them will go to Cousin Kate in a few weeks - but there's a dark chocolate chick with a certain air about him who reminds me a bit of our recently deceased Rudy. I'm not sure what the little guy's name is just yet, but he's probably male and he's definitely staying.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ladies' Night

The chiropractor from my networking group is hosting a "Ladies' Night" tonight, with demonstrations and vendors and such. I've been invited to attend and hawk my portrait work, which meant putting a trade-show type booth together for the first time. Luckily, I have an assortment of tables from my farmer's market set-up, so I just needed to figure out a tri-fold display. What do you think?

Also, I put together a jewelery set for my friend Sara at Sheboygan Monument, similar to the ones I made for Dan's wedding last Fall. In exchange she gave me this lovely garden stone. I'm going to use it as a door prize tonight; I like the continuation of the "stone" theme.

I considered also bringing my bin of matted 8" x 10" art prints, but I'm not sure this will be quite the right venue. I think tonight will be more about making contacts than making sales. Still, I think I'll have it handy in the car, just in case.

And finally, a gratuitous rooster picture. Chester still misses Rudy.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Paging the Magic Elves

Oh, my . . . where do I start?
Well, you know how they say bad things come in 3's? Well, Sunday of Memorial Day weekend my elderly next door neighbor hired someone to work on her yard. That someone foolishly and irresponsibly brought with her a springer/beagle bitch in heat, who immediately took off for my property line and killed Rudy, my longtime companion and all-around favorite rooster.

He was such a handsome boy, full of personality and as social as can be. I was VERY upset, especially since the dog's owner seemed absolutely thoughtless about the whole thing and had been so casual about letting her dog run wild like that. In the end I gave the sheriff a tour of Rudy's last moments and then sent him over to have a talk with her about personal responsibility for one's animals and destruction of "property." Then I dug a grave, which was NOT what I had hoped to be doing on Memorial Day.

The next day (Monday) I had planned to do some weed-whacking, and since our machine is crotchety at best we decided to get a fresh batch of gas/oil to feed it. I wanted to dispose of the bit left over from last fall in as safe and conscientious a way as I could, so I thought I'd burn it with some brush in the fire pit. WHOOSH! crackle crackle crackle . . . . It's a good thing I had my hair back in a knot and my sunglasses on, because the fumes lit in one big ball of flame that caught a bit of my hair on fire!! I'm okay, but it could have been much worse. Suffice to say I won't be burning anything else for a while.

Tuesday I bit into a Mentos candy and broke a tooth. A friend of mine commented that "my planets must be crashing into each other." Wednesday my dentist said that I'd need a crown, but I'd already used up my dental insurance benefits for the year - so I either needed to wait until January or cough up an extra grand. Thursday I played it safe, mostly staying home with a therapeutic pint of Haagen Dasz Green Tea Ice Cream. (Notice how the nutritional information is artfully covered by the cap.) And Friday, I had my previously scheduled root canal on another tooth, which will need its own cap in a few weeks. It still hurts.

Meanwhile, Rick took all of last week off in an effort to get our 1978 VW van in fit condition for a camping trip this week. He was truly heroic with his efforts, but we made the command decision last night that with an untried engine, a suspicious (if small) oil leak, and a battery that may have an internal short, it just wasn't wise for me to take the beast on a solo trip to the very northeastern tip of Wisconsin. Pity - it would have been SUCH a cool thing to do. But instead, I'll be packing up a tent and a cot for the big Peninsula State Park 100th anniversary gathering starting on Wednesday.
Before then, I need to put the house in order for the guests arriving this weekend. (This would be where the magic elves come in. If you see any, please send them over.) I also need to finish post-processing on the family portrait session I did on Saturday at the lake, and teach on Tuesday, and practice violin before my Wednesday lesson, and get a fresh blog ready for one of my clients, and put together a "trade booth" set-up for an event I've been invited to attend on Tuesday evening. Blogging purely for my own pleasure seems a little decadent just now, but I'll try to post van photos and some other updates before I leave town Wednesday afternoon.