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.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wet Cuffs on My Pajamas

It's cooler and rainy this morning, but before getting ready for school I just had to check out the lilacs blooming outside my bathroom window. These are bushes that I picked out a few years ago from the lilac thicket on the other end of our land, and painfully lugged over to plant next to the house. They are an unending source of pleasure when they are in bloom.

And so long as I was out there, I did a quick inspection of some other early blossoms.

Oh, and that second scarf blank is hung up for the last stages of drying. I mixed a fair amount of metallic gold in with the greens and browns and bronzes, but so far the scarf still reminds me a bit of something an Ewok would wear. We'll see.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Just A Little Experiment With Color

I was wandering around Michaels a few weeks ago in an inexcusable manner when I came across a couple of lightweight cotton shawl/scarf blanks on clearance for almost nothing. The suggested use was to add iron-on items and buttons and such, but I thought the scarves would probably lend themselves well to the farmer's market (after a little jazzing up with some of my silk dyes).
I was using the memory of a recent sunset for inspiration - golden ambers fading to deep blue. I noticed, however, that the cotton didn't seem especially absorbent. I twisted the scarf before painting it and figured I'd end up with diagonal light patches, but wasn't sure how the fabric would take up the dye that was being applied directly and enthusiastically on top. This is what I got, after everything dried:
I think I like it. It's almost an aurora borealis effect, with streaks of color on an otherwise fairly bland background. But I think I'll go for more "woodland-type" colors on the other blank.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Mother's Day Portrait

Why is it that my own kids are the hardest onest to photograph? I did my very best to insist that they sit for me in honor of Mother's Day, so I could send a portrait to each of their grandmothers. It was like herding cats to get the schedules of two working teenagers to coordinate with each other, my own availability, and the good graces of Mother Nature. A week late, I finally got them in front of my lens.
Unfortunately, Tasha needed a very long lag time to get ready, and refused to take my first several suggestions for poses. Then Lucas got the giggles, and made a bunch of faces at the camera while I was trying to get the dog to smile. Then he kept trying to go deadpan to compensate.
And wasn't looking at the camera . . . And then the dog blinked . . .
By the time we finally got something I liked, I was ready to throw the camera!
But I keep reminding myself that we won't have too many more times when both kids are home and we're all together. We need to savor them, even if I felt like screaming once or twice.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Neighbors and Carl's Award

I picked up this birdhouse a while back at Goodwill because it was cute, and because I wanted to hang something on that porch hook that would not shrivel if it didn't receive daily watering and attention all summer long. It didn't occur to me that it would actually go into use - I figured it was strictly decorative. Apparently the little brown bird twittering happily from inside didn't get the memo. And from the look of it, he also forgot to measure the door frame before trying to move in the "furniture."
It must be the season for such things, because I've also got two hens (the white one I bought last spring and one of her daughters) industriously incubating eggs. It seems I'm going to have a pile of chicks on my hands in about 5 weeks, most of which will probably have to be given away. Actually, one of my older brown hens went missing about the same time, probably to incubate her own batch of eggs in some little corner of the field or woods. The chances are not great that she will survive 6 weeks without nightly predator protection, but I've had independent-thinking hens beat those odds before. We'll see if we get any Father's Day surprises.

Meanwhile, I took a trip over the weekend up to Green Bay to see Carl receive his award for driving 100,000 miles without incident. The event included a tasty buffet (even by vegetarian standards), and the chance to get to know a really nice group of people. I have always been convinced that truckers are some of the nicest, friendliest people around. This crowd certainly proved the point; our dining companions were a husband and wife pair who drove truck for the pleasure of being paid to explore the continent in what might have been their retirement years, after careers as an engineer (her) and businessman (him). I never did get my hands on the adorable baby two tables over, but had the pleasure of sitting down to chat with one of the trainers and the driver manager after the event itself was over. (In true Carl fashion, we were the last ones out the door, and there were still plenty of stories being saved for next time.)
I have to say that I was also impressed with the company itself. Gordon
Trucking seems to hold its drivers and its safety record in equally high regard, and the younger Mr. Gordon himself had flown in from the West Coast to personally congratulate Carl and the others on their performance.
Carl walked away with a gold tie tack and a clipboard inscribed with his accomplishment. Others in the crowd were being celebrated for higher accident-free mileage milestones - you got an embroidered jacket for 250,000 miles, and I saw a very snazzy watch which the owner had earned for his impressive safety record. The guy with the 4,000,000 accident free miles wasn't there, so I don't know what he got; but Carl was looking carefully at that list of milestones and calculating what it would take to get him to the top of the list someday.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Time to Reflect

Today I spent some time being aware of my surroundings. Appreciating the rain which has so kindly stepped in to water the poor blueberry bush we planted last night. Appreciating how funny the chickens can look, with "the boys" strutting across the field during a random break in the rain and their ladies scurrying behind - and how amazing it is that at least two goldfish survived the winter in my sorry neglected little excuse for a water garden. Appreciating that even though I somehow have developed poison ivy on the web between the index and middle fingers of my dominant hand, I had the experience to know what would help. Even more, I can offer knowledgeable advice to the confused-looking young couple who were in the same drugstore aisle for the same reason. (Ivy Dry, if you're wondering. Some years it's the only thing to preserve my sanity.)

I love quiet rainy days.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Catching Up

Today was a busy day - among other things, I rescued an unwanted blueberry bush from a dairy farmer friend and planted it alongside my Mother's Day blueberry twig from Luc. I have killed a fairly broad assortment of small and large fruit producing flora, but am willing to try again. (On the other hand, the arctic apricot bushes look pretty good, even though Rick ran over the Southernmost one - twice - with the mower a few years ago. And I notice the gooseberries and currents are looking enthusiastic already. Maybe someday they'll grow something besides leaves?)

I did a whole lot of other stuff today as well. I'm not sure why I can't make a nice tidy list of it, since I felt as though I was relatively productive. And despite my best intentions, I got nowhere near my violin, my knitting or even my laundry. But rain is forecasted for the next several days, so I did at least get in a 2 mile walk with the dog.

When we got home, her bed was occupied. The cat believes that this is the proper and natural order of things.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Fistful of Dandelions

Yesterday, Tasha told me tersely that Mother's Day was a "Hallmark Holiday" and that she didn't intend to recognize it. Today, I was called to teach second grade and an 8 year old admirer brought me a gift.

Thanks, kid. They're beautiful.

I Owe You

For a woman who is officially without a job, I'm managing to keep busy. I taught 3 days of high school and one day of middle school in the Cognitively Disabled room last week, filling the remaining weekday by catching up on my household chores and pitching dried manure for the church's community garden. I also found the time to take a nice long walk with the puppy, cutting through my neighbor's woodlands on the way back. The mist was coming off the river, and my shoes were in constant danger of mud, and it was just breath-taking. The whole place looked like an elfin bower.

I took these special for you, and have been meaning to share them ever since. Enjoy!

P.S. Apparently it's hunting season for something. I heard a not-so-distant shotgun blast and decided to get my dark-blue-clothed self out of the dim blue mist. Sybil has given permission for us to walk her woods anytime, but she gives such permission to others as well. I got a phone message from her later that I should maybe stay out of the woods in the mornings for the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Today I am delivering discs and prints for the "Glamour Shots" session from last Saturday. The funny thing is, Pam (no, not that Pam) and I started this project for women who might enjoy the chance to get dolled up for the camera. A brighter shade of lipstick than normal, the confidence of knowing you have a professional on hand to make sure your hair is just right, maybe a cute little lacy thing to wear . . . you get the idea. But more and more, our work is geared towards taking photos of children before they have time to get messed up. It's a whole different attitude, but I'm loving the chance to work with the kids.
This time around, someone even brought in a baby! I didn't have the right kind of stuff to get a baby positioned correctly (and safely), but I found a big old wooden wire spool in the salon's basement. Throw a length of velvet over it, and voila! We took some shots that way, and some with his big sister or his grandmother holding him.I always knew those old hats and scarfs in my collection would come in handy!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tree of Life Anniversary Shawl

At long last - almost exactly a year late - the Anniversary Shawl is done. I don't know how many hours of actual work it took, but the entire process was spread over at least 16 months. The wool is incredibly soft and springy, and it was worth every penny to use "the good stuff" on this project. Tammy has crocheted the last bit of edging on, and I've taken it down to Hilton's Fiber Shop so Jodi could admire the yarn she sold me. I even snuck it into church to show to some choir members, while carefully keeping it out of the sight of it's intended final owner. It's packed away in a bag with a big lavender sachet on top for moth protection, waiting to be presented. And this is the part that scares me.

Originally, it was going to be presented at the church service adjacent to Bob and Glenda's big 50th anniversary party, when all three of their kids would be in town and could take part in the presentation. Having missed that opportunity, the next reasonably appropriate time to present it may not happen for a month or longer. And if something, anything happened to it in the interim, I might not be able to cope. Here's "Exhibit A" on how that could happen:

What you're looking at is the aftermath of another lace prayer shawl. This project was less ambitious, to be sure. I only had about 3 hours into it so far, and it wasn't nearly the stretch of my abilities which the first shawl required. But Luc helpfully let the dog out on her cable so she could tend to her necessaries. This normally takes about 30 seconds, but he decided to leave her out there for 15 minutes or so while he switched over some laundry (and puttered with his video game, I'm willing to bet). The dog got bored, and pawed on the front door until she managed to turn the lever handle. She then dragged her cable with her into the living room and proceeded to have a party with the blue lace shawl and 4 other yarns I had in sitting together in an open basket. This is what it looks like AFTER I spent a good hour untangling the other yarns (and her cable) from the dog-sized heap that was sitting on the floor when I got home.

Lucas wisely apologized and then quickly left for work, bringing flowers with him when he got home. Oh, and the Knitpicks interchangeable needle set I'd been using was in at least 8 gnawed pieces, but I've luckily been able to account for all the metal parts.

So, yeah; a moth, a puppy . . . there's a long list of things that could damage the tree of life shawl and really, really ruin my day. Keep your fingers crossed, and hopefully I'll get to do the hand-off soon. Oh, and if you want the pattern, I could probably cobble it together from my notes. But I'm telling you right now, I am not test knitting it.