Monday, December 28, 2009

A Beginning

Last spring, I knitted blankets for the two older grandchildren for their birthdays. I planned to knit for the two younger ones for their next birthdays. Then it dawned on me the other day that those two birthdays are in January and February, and I had done nothing toward the knitting. I bought yarn yesterday for the January birthday. I'm making the log cabin design. I don't know why some of these color strips look crooked, other than I took the picture in a hurry and did not smooth out the piece very well. They are actually straight. This is my first try at I Love This Yarn, so I hope the blanket will be satisfactory. Wool is out of the question for this particular 3-year-old, and washability will definitely be a factor. I'm knitting as fast as I can. Ironically, I already had yarn on hand and a pattern chosen for the February blanket, but I need to do this one first for the girl who likes blue.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saved by Blocking

And I do not mean the project. I tend to procrastinate about blocking because I find it tedious, but I was determined to block the Josephine shawl before the holidays were over. What could be a better time than Christmas morning since we had our family Christmas early? I got out the blocking board, put it on top of a sheet--the board is never quite big enough--on the guest room bed, and ran lukewarm water and Eucalan into the deep sink in the laundry room. Because this yarn was pretty much an unknown, I was a little nervous about the process. When I turned off the water, the faucet kept up an occasional drip, and I worried that too much dripping might felt something. With that on my mind, I walked back into the kitchen and sat down at the table for lunch. I was, however, keeping an ear out because I was listening for that drip. After a few minutes, I thought I heard a trickle, but I wasn't entirely sure--the television was also on. Then I was sure, so I rushed out to "save" my knitting.


It turned out not to be my knitting that needed rescue. The pop-off valve on our hot water heater had popped, and it had also blown the tube that would have carried the overflow safely outside. Fortunately, we have a big square pan with an outside outlet that the heater stands in. The trickle rapidly turned to a gush, filling the pan more rapidly than the exit pipe would allow, but it was not yet full. DH quickly cut off the water supply until we got things under control. We are without hot water until Monday when the plumber will come, but we also got a good deal on a new water heater yesterday. If this had happened on a work day, or if I had not been listening so diligently for knitting disaster sounds, we could have had a real mess with some damage to other parts of the house.


I did pin the shawl out, but I haven't been back to the bedroom to check on it. I suppose I need to do that today. The natural dyes did not bleed, not even the indigo which rubbed off on my hands while I was knitting.


My husband always says that the hot water heater is the one appliance that we never think about. We conscious of heat and air conditioning, of the cooking appliances and the refrigerator, but the hot water heater sits there quietly doing its thing year after year with the end product taken for granted. I guarantee that when that hot shower becomes available, I'll be properly thankful!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have a Blessed Christmas!


A Prayer for Christmas Morning
by Robert Louis Stevenson

The day of joy returns, Father in Heaven, and crowns another year with peace and good will.
Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wisemen.
Close the doors of hate and open the doors of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil, by the blessing that Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our bed with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake.
Amen

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Verification Word

I know I just posted, but this one was too good to pass up:

aversese--polite phrases used to avoid doing something you don't want to do without hurting someone's feelings

Now for the Blocking

I finally finished a project for myself. This is the Josephine Shawl, from Ravelry. (I really must learn how to link to Ravelry from my blog.) The yarn is what I purchased on our trip last summer. It was a little hard-spun for knitting, but I wanted a souvenir of the trip, and I was interested in the natural dyes. I am hoping that it will soften some and bloom a little when washed and drape a little more when it is blocked. We'll see. The yarn was millspun on site, but it is still a little bit rustic, and I had some trouble making my garter stitch look even. It was almost like trying to knit my handspun.



Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas

Our family gathered for Christmas yesterday at our house. I wasn't as on top of the decorating this year as I would like to have been, but we had a good time anyway. I have noticed that 2- and 6-year-olds don't much care about things like that! Our lunch was fine, thanks to the hard work of daughter and daughter-in-law. My casserole didn't seem quite right, and I've decided that it was because I used a can of store brand tomatoes with peppers that said "milder" instead of the brand-name Ro-Tel in "Mild." Or something else. We had the obigatory family holiday dish as well. In general I like to have a much less formal meal on Christmas so we can visit and let the children play with presents instead of worrying with china and linens. Since the day is over, I can post pictures of the two small Christmas presents that I knitted in addition to the sweater ornaments. Here they are:




Two pairs of Wool Ease socks in Cranberry. I used the Bell Lace Worsted pattern from Ravelry, but my lace came out looking different from the picture. I suspect I may have slipped the stitch as if to knit when I should have slipped it as if to purl. However, I really liked the way the lace looked on the first sock, so I just kept doing what I was doing. I'd never knit worsted socks before. My goodness, they are fast! These are intended for tv watching and keeping feet warm at night when up with tiny children. I included them in packages with a mug, popcorn, chocolaty goodies, and cocoa mix. I also tucked in a DVD--Twilight for my DDIL and The Thorn Birds for my DD.
Early this morning--we're kind of weird that way--DH and I watched Flags of Our Fathers. I was pleased with how faithfully the movie adapted the book which I just read last week, but I found it to be very painful to watch.
Then we drove to Clovis for our almost-weekly "date" lunch, which we shared with our DS and his family at Chili's. We had a great time, and my food was delicious, and my grandson's mac and cheese was evidently superb. The corn dog my granddaughter was eating was ok, too, even thought she was very tired and nap-ready. I'm not even sure what the others at the table ate. We were pretty busy at our end.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas is Coming!

My tree is up and decorated. I switched to a smaller tree a few years back after giving each of my married children their ornament collections. The lights are already on this one as well, so that takes care of much of the work.


I always feel that I have somehow let my mother down when I decorate a tree. When I was a child, in the days of not only real trees but the days of the bigger light bulbs, the ones the size that go in night lights, my mother was a Christmas tree decorating perfectionist. When the tree is real, it is never perfect--probably a lesson from God in that fact. However, she could make the red, yellow, blue, green, and orange lights as perfect as possible. She would string them on the tree and stand back and unscrew bulbs in an effort to be sure that no bulb was next to another bulb of the same color. Then she would move to another angle and do the same thing. Of course, since the tree was not totally opaque, what worked from one angle didn't work from another. The process seemed to take hours and hours to a child, and I'm sure it did indeed take at least one. It was, however, just preparation for the final task of putting on those aluminum foil icicles, one at a time. We didn't buy new icicles every year either. The ones that were carefully removed from the previous year's tree were preserved between the pages of an issue of Life or Look. Anything made of foil was reused. I'm sure that habit was left over not just from the Great Depression but from the sacrifices made during World War II, which was not far in the past when I was born. Thank you for the memories, Mama! . . . and after school this afternoon, first thing, I am placing your Christmas Cat in the entryway!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No Personal Knitting; Christmas Progress

Grocery shopping done!

Someone else's knitting--http://discovermagazine.com/photos/03-the-bizarre-and-brilliant-world-of-knitted-science

My DD sent me this link.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Progress Post

More knitting!

Test exemptions figured and tests prepared and copied. Review sheets prepared.

Living room clutter picked up, mostly.

Still to go--more cleaning and cooking, tree. (Notice how that last comma helps clarify meaning.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Now I'm Knitting?

"Our" Christmas is this coming Saturday. I have final exams to give and grades to do. I have the following preparations completed:
  • grocery shopping, except for the one obligatory "I forgot" item.
  • packages wrapped

I still need to clean, straighten, PUT UP THE TREE, and get the cooking that can be done ahead of time finished. So naturally, I wound yarn and started a knitting project! Makes perfect sense, right? This way, with everything in a disaster, I'm at least calm about it. The project is the Josephine Shawl from Ravelry. I have a little bit of some lovely colors to show off, and I thought this would be a simple way to do it. There are few things more hypnotic and calming than garter stitch.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chicken Sighting!

After a long spell of no chicken reports, I had given up hope. Either the chicken had been killed or captured or had gotten a colorful dye job and taken a job on an Ambien commercial. Then, last weekend, a friend sighted the black chicken about 2 blocks from my house. Since then, however, the weather has not been favorable for chicken hunting. In a week, we've had wind gusts to 80 mph, a morning with black ice, and a snowy day, in addition to some very cold weather. Today we were into the fifties, so perhaps this weekend will bring on another appearance.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Little Bit of Knitting

Seriously. I finished all 4 of the miniature sweaters for my grandchildren's annual Christmas ornaments. Now I just have to make hangers.

Here's a picture of one of them:


You can judge the size by the computer keys, or by the crumbs in the computer keys. It's amazing what a photo will show, isn't it? This picture is a little bit fuzzy because I think I wiggled a little. I can't make pictures of the other two--pink and green variegated and primary stripes--because my camera is visiting relatives at the moment.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Goodbye, Mr. Monk

It was with regret this week that I watched the last episode of the TV series Monk--regret in that I will be missing the show itself and regret in that I am very afraid that the high standards for non-network television set first by that show and followed by a few others will begin to slip. I like detective fiction, movies, and television, but I have often found that the "cozies" don't translate well to the screen. Tony Shalhoub, however, was surprisingly good in his portrayal of Monk. And, yes, I know the series is technically a police procedural, but you must admit that Monk has real ties to characters like Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Shalhoub started out as very good when the show first began a few years ago, but he created a character on screen that grew and changed and became more believable, more sympathetic, and sometimes more UNlikeable as the series progressed. The viewer saw not just a funny, obsessive-compulsive detective who always solved the crime, but a character who could be so wrapped up in his own problems that he was totally insensitive to those around him, who sometimes hurt other people, and who needed the help of others to do what he did best in crime solving. In short, a stereotypical bumbling detective character who could easily have become a caricature became a human being.


Of course, credit also goes to a wonderful supporting cast who matured with the Monk character and to the writers who wrote the parts. The progressively improving quality of the show could even be measured in the subtle changes in set design and wardrobe. I must say that the finale rated as one of the most satisfying that I've ever seen on any series, with not only a sense of better things to come but a sense of completion. I just know, however, that my Friday nights are going to be impoverished by the absence of this program.




Thank you, Tony Shalhoub and the rest of the cast!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

No Knitting Content. . . .

which is probably part of the problem. I am in serious danger of turning into the grinch, or worse. None of this is connected to Christmas, at least not directly. It was a tough week at school, with many interruptions that interfered with the students being able to finish some essays. That wouldn't be so significant except that every single essay must be graded before the end of next week because the next week is final exams for the semester, and I need to figure out exactly who is and is not exempt.





One of the interruptions was the graduation announcement people. They really push the students to buy packages of graduation stuff--a souvenir tassel, invitations, invitation souvenir holders, etc. In the glitzy little brochure, it is easy to overlook the small section that just sells the invitations on an a la carte basis. I feel bad about this because so many of our students are from low-income backgrounds, and I know that graduation puts a big strain on the family budgets.





I've also been having some problem with a knee. It has actually been getting much better with a combination of exercises, support, and ibuprofen. I do, however, still need to be careful with it. This morning my DH and I went to a nearby town for a monthly big grocery shop. I had everything mentally planned out. However, when I got out of the car and walked into the store, I realized that I had forgotten my support device for my knee. I wasn't particularly concerned because I knew that there was a bench to sit down on if I needed to before I got out of the store. I should also add that this particular grocery has always had a rather strange layout, but at least I knew where things were. Imagine my surprise when I got inside and discovered the entire store had been reset. The checkout counters were also new and in the process of being installed, and any benches or seating had been removed! I grabbed a cart and began looking. I successfully negotiated the dairy section. However, I never found some of the things I was looking for in the middle sections of the store. The meat counters were almost empty. The signage was hard to figure out. My vocabulary is far from limited, but changing "toothpaste" to "oral hygiene" and dividing "Authentic Hispanic" from "Traditional Hispanic" was just confusing. Furthermore, the new store arrangement was not any more logical than the old. Why would all soft drinks be in one section except root beer, which was with the candy and nuts? When my DH came in, I actually said that I couldn't stand it any more, gave him the cart, took the keys, and went to the car. The lack of customer service at this business has irritated me somewhat for a while, but we frequently go to that town on Saturdays, so it is handy. If I plan better, I can make a monthly trip to another nearby city where there is an efficiently organized store to shop in. I know that I'm being unreasonably picky about a place that is trying to become more competitive and improve business, but that's the kind of mood I've been in. When a rival chain did the same thing a couple of years ago, they had personnel all over that store helping people find where they had put items instead of just leaving the customers wandering aimlessly.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Adapt and Overcome

Only a rank degenerate would drive 1,500 miles across Texas without eating a chicken fried steak. - Larry McMurtry


Another Christmas project finished!


We were also out of school today for Thanksgiving. This extra Monday is what we get instead of a break around Columbus Day. I often use it to decorate for Christmas, but today I had other plans. Notice the word "had." This morning I worked on some chores, both physical and cyber. I also planned to fix lunch for my husband, the kind he usually doesn't get because I don't want to make that much mess during a work week--chicken fried steak fingers. For those of you not from Texas, chicken-fried steak is a steak, usually round or sirloin, sliced very thin and then tenderized like crazy, dipped in flour and milk and flour again, and fried in a skillet. Cutting the steak into strips before frying makes it fingers. Today I did an extra batch in order to have leftovers for supper, so I was loading the cast iron skillet three times. By the time you get to the third frying, a considerable amount of flour has accumulated at the bottom of the skillet and is getting very brown, so you have to watch carefully so that burned flour does not attach to your finished product. I managed that fairly successfully, removed the last batch of steak fingers to the paper towel to drain, and dashed back across the kitchen to read the Audible.com reviews for some audiobooks that were on sale. I had the kitchen vent on full blast over the stove. I knew I smelled something scorched, but I ignored it, thinking it was just the flour. Well, it was just the flour and grease because I had forgotten to turn off the burner. There was not enough grease for a grease fire, but that flour was smoking like crazy. The vent had kept it away from me, but the smoke had drifted into the living room and the utility. I rescued the skillet to a dry sink, opened the doors into the garage, and tried to breathe. I had 20 minutes to decide what to do about dinner. After a cell phone consultation, here's what we came up with. I grabbed the plate of steak fingers and the salt shaker (turned out that I got the pepper becaue I couldn't see) and climbed in the car. My dear husband came home and got in the passenger seat, holding a plate of steak fingers in his lap. We drove to the local fast food establishment and ordered French fries and a container of gravy, and drinks. We got our order, parked in their parking lot, which is on the corner of Main Street and the highway, and watched locals and travellers come and go while we ate steak fingers off a china plate and French fries from styrofoam. It was a sunshiny winter day like we often have in this part of the country--44 degrees and no clouds--and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.


By the time I got home, the house was still stinky and sort of made my eyes burn a little bit, but no smoke was visible. I left the door into the garage open for much of the afternoon airing things out. Either it smells better now, or my nose has gotten used to it. Then I knitted--hence the finished project.


Add-on for English teachers: A few years ago I was teaching Out of the Dust, a YA novel about this very part of the country during the Great Depression. I was preparing research topics for my class so that we could have some interesting presentations to go along with the book. Teenagers and food always go together well, so one of the ideas was dust bowl/depression food. Much to my surprise, everything I found on line that was authentic to that time period in this particular area turned out to be pretty much what we eat all the time and just think of as regular food. The "depression steak" which I'm sure sounded so quaint to people from other parts of the country is on the menu at practically every restaurant in Texas and western Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico. I've been told that it starts disappearing by the northern part of Kansas, but I've never checked that out. I do know that when I was growing up, if you said "steak," you meant chicken-fried; on the rare occasions that you meant a grilled steak, you specified "grilled." In case you're wondering why this would have been depression food, the tenderizing process makes a little bit of steak expand tremendously, sort of like pounding gold into gold leaf.


Tonight I'll have to finish getting the rest of my grades entered into the computer since they are due for the mid-period grading tomorrow morning. It's great being able to do that from home.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Snow


If you look really hard at the sky, you can see that great big fluffy flakes are falling. I don't know why they are not visible in front of the tree.
We seldom have an early snow like this; in fact, most of our snow is in late January, February, and sometimes early March, so this is a treat. My late-turning pear tree, which doesn't turn red until all other fall color is pretty much gone, really shows up like this. Notice that the temperature is at the point where the snow is sticking to the street but not to the driveway. You would think that asphalt would be warmer than concrete.
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday. Both children and their spouses were here. In fact, I just did turkey and trimming and the girls brought the rest of the food. We had three little girls running, giggling, and generally having a good time, and lots of good visiting and conversation. The oldest little girl even said the Thanksgiving prayer for the meal.
Yesterday would have been my parents' 78th wedding anniversary. They would have been proud of those grandchildren and their children!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's Almost Time

The turkey is in the refrigerator thawing. The celery and onions are ready to chop. The cornbread is ready for baking. And I'm ready for the last morning of school before the Thanksgiving holiday! We don't have a fall break in October, so it's a very long and busy time indeed between August and Thanksgiving. We are out of school on W, TH, F, and M, so this will be a welcome "rest and catch up" time. Our children's families will not be here until Saturday, so that will be our turkey day.

This year we have much to be thankful for--our health, our marriage (32 years next week), our country (even now, when we disagree with much that is going on) and the military personnel who keep us free, friends and colleagues, and above all, our children and grandchildren.

And then there are the little things--the Internet, copy machines, a smart room at school (see note below), freezers, electricity, firewood, and the list goes on and on.

Note: This is a clue to my age. I rushed out of my room between classes last week to go to the restroom, only to turn and rush back in automatically to "turn off the projector." My DVD was paused on the computer screen and being dutifully projected from the ceiling onto the big screen. I was just reacting to the mental image of film burning if it was stopped in one spot. How many years has it been since I've done that to a 16mm film? Since 1980 at least! Next I'll probably try to crank the copy machine!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Knitted Something!


Just so you know. Unfortunately, it's a Christmas present, so I can't say what it is or who it's for or post a picture. I'm going to save up pictures and post them all together after Christmas. The color, however, is appropriate for the season--it's cranberry. And it is finished!

Friday, November 13, 2009

After All, It Was Friday the 13th!

When my son was little, we had a picture book, the name of which I do not remember. The story was about a rancher who leaves his wife at home on the boring ranch while he goes to the small town for excitement. It turns out that the most exciting event in town is watching a turtle cross the street. Meanwhile, back at the ranch—that’s a quote—an entire series of exciting events keep the wife entertained, including, if my recollection is correct, the Presidential helicopter.


While living in our small town is not that dull, there are days when nothing much seems to happen. We tend to get a kick out of the small events.


One morning a few weeks ago, a colleague came into the teachers’ workroom and commented that on the way to school she had seen a chicken trying to cross the road—the highway, in fact. It was a black chicken. That afternoon she saw it in the same place, still trying to cross the road.


Two or three nights later, my telephone rang. My son inquired, “Has Dad decided to put chickens on the lot? There’s a chicken in there.”


I innocently asked, “A black chicken?” Never miss a chance to make your children think that Mom has extrasensory insight, even if the child is 25.


“How did you know it was a black chicken?”



I explained. In the middle of the night, when my husband woke up for his wee early morning hours coffee, I told him about the chicken. I don’t think he believed me. Because of the objects on the lot and some low-hanging tree branches, it was a few days before he spotted the chicken. And even then, his first sighting occurred when the chicken crossed the road at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 60 to eat French fries from the parking lot of the Tasty Cream Drive Inn. This went on for a few days. There were regular chicken sightings inside our lot fence, on the sidewalk outside, and across the street at the Tasty Cream. Then, alas, the chicken disappeared. We all suspected fowl play by a dog or cat. (Sorry, it was too good a chance to pass up.)


About a week and a half after the last reported sighting—by this time we had students who had heard the story—a teacher who lives about 20 miles south of town came in chuckling. Her farmer husband had been down at the Wheat Growers grain elevator and had seen a chicken competing with the usual resident pigeons for spilled grain. She immediately asked, “Was it black?” After her husband gave an affirmative answer, she told him the story and then filed her report with us the next morning.


Elevator sightings continued for a day or so, but the elevator is on the very edge of town by the railroad tracks, and the black chicken had not been heard from again until this week. A student reported a sighting last weekend in the Post Office parking lot. That lot is at the other end of Main Street from the elevator; it is also next to our fenced lot with the low hanging tree and lots of cover. Unfortunately, though, there have been no more sightings. Since it is a black chicken, we had great hopes for an appearance on Friday the 13th, but it didn’t work out. I particularly had hopes, since although I’ve followed the story with great interest, being in on the original conversation, I’ve never actually seen the chicken for myself.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

OOPS!

I try very hard to be accepting of all kinds of people, but the truth is that I do not live in a cosmopolitan, or even metropolitan, area. I'm pretty close to the middle of "flyover country." We don't get a lot of exposure to the more exotic types of humanity, except for teenagers, and we just try to overlook that because they're, well, you know, teenagers.

Yesterday morning I was in Barnes & Noble in the nearest city, sitting in the coffee shop having what is for me an outrageously expensive cup of coffee. (In my town, the only place to get a latte is out of a self-service machine at the convenience store-gas station-pizza parlor-sub shop. No kidding!) I have been keeping an eye out for very small purses with lots of shiny stuff because one of my 2-year-old granddaughters is crazy about them. At a nearby table, facing me, was an adorable little girl of about 5, dressed in a striped t-shirt, jean vest, jeans, socks, and some cute suede clogs. Her hair was neatly put up with a big pink ribbon bow. On the table between her and the woman I assumed was her mother was THE purse! Small, shiny pink, rows of braid in gold, silver, and pearl, spangles in lavender and hot pink. I actually opened my mouth to say, "Excuse me, but would it be too rude of me to ask about your daughter's purse?" And, of course, explain why I was asking. Yes, around here, we do talk to strangers.

Thank heavens, at that moment, the mother reached for the bag, and it was obvious that it was hers. She was dressed in a long black skirt and pink blouse, and was, naturally, seated in a chair. As she was digging in the handbag, she turned toward me, and I saw the rest of the ensemble. The blonde hair that had been on the side facing me had been painted with rainbow colors on the other side of her head. I almost missed it, though, because of the 5, yes, 5, studs sticking through just below her lower lip, the ring IN her lower lip, the nose stud, and the eyebrow ring. I'll admit I didn't even look at her ears. As she stood, her long skirt, of course, raised up and brought her feet into view. She was wearing fuzzy fake fur rainbow striped houseshoes that matched her hair. I am not trying to judge, but I simply could not reconcile such an unconventionally--at least for our location--dressed woman with such an absolutely conventionally dressed child.

Of course, I realize that by daring to write this, I've proved exactly how provincial I am. I would not have blinked if someone in levis, boots, chaps, and spurs walked through, even if that person had smelled like horses and cows and manure. That I'm used to.

No Posting, Little Knitting


I've been in something of a funk lately--extra busy at school, uncertain about private plans, not feeling exactly well, but not exactly sick either, and not knitting much. Here, however, is some "little" knitting. I'm making Christmas ornament sweaters for my grandchildren. I am beginning with one or the other of the various patterns on Ravelry, but since I magic loop, I don't even have appropriate double points, so I'm improvising the rest. I do have the feeling that the hardest part may be making tiny coathangers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Marriage

Being married almost 32 years sometimes leads to interesting situations. Sometimes we spend an evening in almost-silence, but a comfortable kind of silence. Other times we boil over with conversation, much as we used to do when we were dating. This afternoon we both arrived home within minutes of each other and drove into the double garage. Today began cold and warmed up to air conditioner weather, often the case in our climate, so vehicle windows were down. After fifteen minutes or so, we realized we were each sitting in our own vehicle--my SUV, his pickup--talking excitedly back-and-forth across the open middle of the garage. Weird, but nice at the same time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Knitting!


New socks for ME from some sock yarn in my stash. The yarn is Elann Puzzle. I got it really cheap a few years ago in a mixed bag sale. I love the way it worked up, and the socks are really comfy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge


Last weekend, my DH and I watched this movie of Persuasion. I have seen a version that I liked better, but I was unable to find it on Netflix. I had a little trouble getting into this one, but it was a real pleasure watching my husband enjoy Jane Austen. In fact, our watching was interrupted, and he immediately asked me to start the film again because he wanted to see the rest of it.

Lost in The Lost Symbol

I just finished listening to the audio book of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, a book that readers seem to either love or hate. I found my own reaction to be somewhere in the middle. However, I want to write a more in-depth review than I usually post on Shelfari—so here goes.



First of all, because of much of the criticism I have read, I think I need to begin with a disclaimer. I read books like the Dan Brown books for entertainment purposes. I teach literature. I read good literature, both classic and modern. I also read for escape. Brown’s novels fall into the escape category. Other escape writers that do something along the same lines are Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler, both of whom I consider to be better writers than Brown. However, even those men are not literary giants. The fact that for me Brown is escape reading means that I am not really interested in his style or sentence structure or perhaps even the minute details of plot. In fact, part of the fun is looking up some of the places just to check him out. I had a wonderful romp through Rome with Angels and Demons. And the question that continues to bug me after The Da Vinci Code is that after investigating some of the places on line, I came upon information about that church with the sculptures of the knights in the floor—the ones that look like dead bodies. It turns out that according to the web site, it is a big honor to be married in that church—the bride or groom has to be “connected” with a member of the Temple. I suppose that limits the weddings to families of solicitors, barristers, and perhaps judges. I just can’t help wondering how one decorates THAT building for a wedding?



Let me give some of my negative reaction to The Lost Symbol first. I did not find this book as suspenseful as the first two. The part set in the Library of Congress was anticlimactic. Frankly, everyone knows about fictional or perhaps nonfictional ways in or out of that building. It’s been done recently on screen in National Treasure and in any number of mystery and suspense novels before that. I did notice tht the people chasing Langdon, however, obviously don’t read or go to the movies. And they were supposed to be the CIA. If Langdon needed to hide and escape from a building in that vicinity, why not the Supreme Court or even the Folger Shakespeare Library? There’s even a stairway in the Supreme Court building that is modeled on one in the Vatican. Surely that could have been room for some kind of interesting plot twist. People also generally know about the basement private offices in the Capitol. I have read, however, in some books about the Capitol about some archaeological discoveries—a Civil War era bakery?—that could have made for some interesting settings. And, goodness knows, we could have romped through places like Mount Vernon or those rooms under the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington, or something under whatever that building is in the middle of the courtyard at the Pentagon. Instead, we have all that dreary business about that Smithsonian warehouse. The Syfy show Warehouse 13 does that so much better. Surely, the Smithsonian would have a better security and cataloguing system for artifact storage. Furthermore, Brown falls far short of the suspense that Preston and Child achieve with Relic and Reliquary and the other Pendergast novels set in the New York museum of Natural History. In short, I felt this story would have been much more entertaining if it had moved, literally, through more settings that were not so overused.



Another criticism I had was the insertion of long passages of technical data about search engines and computer equipment. I do not necessarily object to long and technical, even if I’m not entirely sure the author knows his stuff. I still feel fairly confident of my abilities to construct a silencer and navigate a submarine thanks to Mr. Clancy’s detailed writing, but that information is worked into his narratives in a way that is utterly convincing. The reader needs the information, and Clancy gives it in great detail. The technical information in Brown’s book is just sort of tossed in there, complete with brand names. Did you notice that when the recession hit the auto makers so hard, television programs sponsored by car makers cut commercial time but always made sure to mention the model of the car or show a logo closeup whenever a car was being used in the show? Some of the technical information in this book had that sort of feel to it. I also feel that at least one character dies unnecessarily because that technical thread is no longer needed and writing the character out of the situation would therefore be just too much trouble.



What did I like about the book? I found that even though it began with the Masonic Conspiracy idea that has been so overused lately in fiction, the unraveling of this plot line is refreshing. This plot line also provides the only setting in the novel which has not been recently overused. I would write more about that, but I don’t want to be a spoiler.



I found this novel to be acceptable escape reading, but I did not find that I had the same “I can’t wait to turn the page” feeling that I had with the other novels. In fact, there was entirely too much of a feeling of “Aren’t we ever going to get out of this room?” Or in one case, "Aren't we ever going to get to this room?"

Thursday, October 08, 2009

No Knitting, No Photos

I'm listening to the audio book of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. Yes, I have read all the bad reviews--deserved and undeserved. No, I do not believe he is a literary giant. Yes, everyone should read the classics. I do. I recognize good well-written literature. As a matter of fact, I read good literature every day. Sometimes I just want plot or fluff or even nonsense. Brown is a good entertainment read. And, just occasionally, you may come across a gem like this one:

Google is not a synonym for "research."

Right now, I'm working with some students on their freshman comp research papers. I would like to tattoo this quotation on the backs of their hands so they can see it when they are at the keyboard. Even though they've been introduced to solid library-based databases, they are out there surfing and not checking the validity of the sources they find.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Is this irony?

The new hand sanitizer dispenser was installed in my classroom today. We've had the bottles for a few years in an effort to cut down on handborne illnesses. The students are really good about using the sanitizer after blowing noses. I suppose the H1N1 issue prompted the dispenser installation. Today also just happened to be the day I spent three periods talking about the Black Plague in connection with "The Pardoner's Tale."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Still Knitting, Among other Things

I will post soon. Actually, this is a post, but I mean a real post with knitting content. I have been busy with some things at our business--bookkeeping--and with some other administrative tasks at school. I have a final observation tomorrow morning, and then most of those things will be over, and I can just spend the rest of the year teaching. Yippee!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fabulous Friday and Productive Saturday

Sorry, I couldn't think of an alliterative word for "productive."

I hit a double on Friday--two beaming 2.5-year-old granddaughters, who live 70 miles apart--each demonstrating the use of her new potty seat. Pride of accomplishment doesn't get much better than that! I also attended a very productive professional conference on vertical teaming Pre-K through Bachelor's Degree, but who cares? In the great scheme of things, the potty chair is probably more important for a life skill.

On Saturday, I altered a jumper that I knitted a few years ago to fit a little sister, I hope. I moved straps over and added side ties to the bottom of the bodice so that width could be adjusted. I don't think my alterations would have worked in a smooth yarn, but this was TLC Wiggles, so the little confetti-like bits everywhere hid a number of little irregularities.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lost in Austen--Jane Austen Challenge #4


The DVD of the British miniseries of Lost in Austen is a very entertaining romp through the world of Pride and Prejudice. I liked the central idea of the piece—a modern British young woman unexpectedly changes places with Elizabeth Bennet, but as herself, not as Elizabeth. The result is something of a mix of a romantic comedy and the gentle satire of Austen, with perhaps a touch of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court thrown in.




I particularly enjoyed the performance of Alex Kingston as Mrs. Bennet; she was always a favorite of mine on ER. Eliot Cowan’s performance as Mr. Darcy was not only a satirical take on Austen’s character, but a wonderful parody of Colin Firth’s performance in my favorite miniseries. Morvan Christie’s performance as Jane Bennet was also reminiscent, deliberately so, I think, of the former film. Since to much of the public, P&P is a movie, not a novel, these references were perhaps necessary.



To me this work was somewhat marred by the unnecessary intrusion of a few extraneous and really gross sexual references that just didn’t seem to fit with the mood of the rest of the film. I know that British humor and television is somewhat different than ours, but those items were a jarring note in an otherwise outstanding performance.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Sports Page

All I know about children’s sports activities is from living in one small town. Our baseball/T-ball/basketball teams are sponsored by businesses. Fees are low. Each team has appropriately numbered shirts in different colors with the names of the sponsors on the back. Therefore, the green-and-white shirts of the ABC Canvas Repair team are quite distinct from the yellow-and-black shirts of the XYZ Fertilizer group. Games are played on weekday evenings, not Saturdays or Sundays because people need or want to go out of town on those days.
I never lived anywhere big city enough to be a soccer mom. However, now my first-grade grandson is playing with a local group of children his age who go to a nearby city to play. Now I am a Soccer Grandmom. I wikipediaed the term “soccer mom” just to see if I fit. I do work outside the home; I no longer actually have to shuffle the children to the event although I do help out occasionally; my minivan years are in the past, but I do drive a small SUV (Which I dearly love, but not as much as I loved my minivan); I may still be middle class although I feel my position in that class is dropping rapidly; I am married. I am thirty-something. Twice. I am not actually a swing voter, but I vote conscientiously and almost never vote a straight ticket. My town is much too small to have suburbs—we probably don’t qualify for any kind of “urb.”




This morning I went to the first game of the season. I did not have a lawn chair or a blanket—I fully expected bleachers. If small town Texas can have bleachers, why wouldn’t small city New Mexico have them? On the other hand, I do have an SUV with comfy leather seats that made it just fine down the slightly muddy back road in back of the soccer fields to park facing the field. I watched in comfort, joined by my son and the player’s 2-year-old sister, who watched in some delight by standing on the console and sticking her head out the moon roof. The biggest shock, however, was actually finding the game. I knew that grandson would be wearing an orange shirt (Are they called jerseys?). I knew that he also has a blue shirt. Dumbly, I assumed his team colors were orange and blue—rather zippy. I considered this when I dressed for the game. My blue shirts were all in the laundry, and I don't own an orange one. Texas high school football has me trained. You do NOT show up wearing the colors of the opposition, even if you don't know what they are. Therefore, I carefully dressed in gray sweats, gray handknit socks, and black shoes. I was noncommittal and without group identity. When I arrived, I looked hard for the orange team. There were, I think, 8 games all going at the same time. ALL the games were orange against blue. How confusing! And how unimaginative! There was also no scoreboard. I have no idea who won, but perhaps beginning soccer is like T-ball in that no one really cares. The point is just to be there and practice some of the skills. On the other hand, watching was lots of fun even though it lacked the everybody-stare-at-one-kid-at-a-time intensity of T-ball.
After the game we split up to run errands. I did my grocery shopping and then sat in the parking lot waiting for the family to show up and Chili's to open and read much of my assignment for the Bible study class that I am taking--the part of Genesis from the call of Abraham to the meeting of Jacob and Rachel. I still have a little bit more to read for this week. I also listened to an audiobook on the way there and back--London Is the Best City in America. Fun so far, but I'll reserve my opinion until I finish it.



I had intended to take a sock to knit, but it is just as well that I did not have an active 2 yr. old and size 1 ½ needles in the front seat at the same time.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Marketing?

If you live in a larger town, a "you" that includes most of the population of Earth, you may not notice the insidious little customized advertisements that appear in the sidebar of some of the web sites, particularly some of the news sites.

Since I live Very Small, Texas, the ads have a flavor all their own. . . .

  • "8 out of 10 doctors in Very Small, Texas, recommend our green tea extract for ingrown toenails." I can't tell you how excited the local hospital is going to be about that. It took a two-year search to hire local doctor number four last year, and we suddenly have six more with no effort by the community.
  • "Local woman in Very Small, Texas, loses 245 pounds on our secret diet." In a town this small, anyone who lost that kind of weight would be featured on the front page of the local newspaper--and I can guarantee that diet would NOT be secret.
  • "Buy local concert tickets in Very Small, Texas" Oh, come on. The only places big enough to have a concert in Very Small are the school auditorium, three or four of the bigger churches, or the city park. Those elementary band concerts are free, churches are not going to turn away people by requiring tickets, and the city park is wide open on all four sides.

Now obviously, the same sites that host this advertising can do better, because waaaay down at the bottom of the page, someone obviously figured out I had been looking at wall ovens and broomstick skirts--and that broomstick search was a couple of months ago. Don't they have some way to figure out that those of us in microcities (like my new word?) can recognize quickly how fake their ads are?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Great Start to the Year!

Well, none of my pessimistic fears materialized. The school year has begun very smoothly. Of course there were schedule conflicts and changes and a few other glitches, but they were handled quickly and efficiently. I am very pleased with my classes and the balance in student numbers as far as class enrollment goes. Because of such a smooth start, we are already "cooking" as far as course content goes. I know that some of the education experts recommend spending the first week getting acquainted and having the students play games getting acquainted with each other. I have found, however, that by 12th grade in a very small town, being acquainted is not usually a problem. In fact, students tend to be know almost too much about each other, mostly because they were all there when it happened. I know a little about this because for 16 years or so, my DH and I not only worked together but shared an office. Sometimes we ran out of conversation at the end of the day, and it was very hard at times not to take work home with us or not to make a work problem personal.

I also had some other good news. The Loopy Ewe, one of my favorite on-line stores, celebrated their third anniversary. I entered the contest on Sheri's blog, and I won one of the prizes. Perhaps I should say I was BLESSED with one of the prizes because this selection of yarns is fantastic.



Yarns, left to right:
  • bellamoden, noel, 1/16 tincture, superwash merino sport
  • Rohrspatz & Wollmeise 100% merino superwash sock yarn in Vroni
  • ATH Yarns, merino/bamboo/nylon in Shades of Rose

Other goodies:

  • a little red notebook full of different sizes of very small post-its
  • a genuine pin from The Loopy Ewe
  • a bar of Green Tea Hand Repair Soap from the Blue Ridge Soap Shed
  • a nice note from Sheri

May I also add how pleased I have been in the past with everything I've bought from The Loopy Ewe, both the merchandise and the prompt service.

I've already searched Ravelry for just the right patterns for these three yarns. I can barely wait to get started.

Thanks, Sheri!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Trying Very Hard not to Be "Half-Empty"

Right now I'm in a position that has been unusual for a few years. In fact, some things are better than I've ever seen them in the entire time I've been teaching. I'm nervous. My normally somewhat cynical self is looking for things to go wrong. Here's an account of what went right for the week:

In Texas, teachers go back to school a week before the students. In fact, students of the younger children tend to be there much earlier decorating rooms and such. I did a little work in the room back in July, and I've done a lot of paperwork tasks over the summer on computer and sent them to myself at my school address, but I wasn't really on-site until this past week. Then the good things started happening:
  • The opening general faculty meeting for the district--breakfast, a little social chitchat, and then the new superintendent covered everything that applied to all campuses so that we wouldn't have to do it in our buildings. We managed all the required legal trainings in record time. He even edited PowerPoints and films so that we only had to watch the parts that we needed to see. Therefore, we could go back to our buildings and work the rest of the allotted time. I got my computers and Elmo set up--it's a projector, not a muppet--a day or two before I expected to do so.
  • In the building faculty meetings were brief and to the point. We had one required training with speakers who came in from the Service Center. The training was good, but they were a little late and then had to do their set up, which wasted my time. If we are going to training at their site, we travel the same highway and leave early enough to get there on time. I would appreciate the same courtesy. That, however, was the only blot on the meetings.
  • We had time included for departmental meetings instead of having to squeeze in planning during our lunches or before or after school.
  • We have our class rolls and our schedules, and our rooms are ready because we had the time between meetings and two other entire workdays to work in our rooms. We have a reasonable plan for taking care of all the student paperwork legalities and a way to keep track of it.
  • My class sizes are reasonably balanced, not too big, not too small, and not grossly uneven.
  • Above all, we have a positive attitude because the emphasis has been on what we are doing right and how we can improve it, what our students are doing right and how to minimize the problems that do occur.

If you're a teacher, perhaps this sort of start is routine for you, but we had a four year period in which we lived with constant criticism, much of it unwarranted and sometimes unnecessarily rude and personal. I just want to hug someone or burst into tears. Please understand that my joy is just not for the teachers, but for the students, coupled with regret for the less-than-what-it-should-have-been that our students received during those years.

Now if I could just find where I stashed those two instruction folders that I always keep beside my computer. . . .


My Review of Eve Walker

Onlineshoes.com

Late in the day, put on the Eve Walker by Propet and go for a quick stroll. A therapeutic closed-back sandal designed for easy customization, the Eve Walker has a hook and loop secured closure system and extra-volume construction for a generous fit. Product features include: Full grain leather and/...


Excellent buy!

The Knitter Texas Panhandle 8/22/2009

 

5 5

Sizing: Feels true to size

Width: Feels true to width

Pros: Breathes Well, Comfortable, Versatile, Durable

Cons: Needs longer strap

Best Uses: Casual Wear, Work

Describe Yourself: Comfort Driven

I love these shoes! I wish the straps were slightly longer with a little more velcro overlap, but otherwise they are great. I did have to modify the heel width slightly, but I have very narrow heels with very wide feet, so that is routine for me. I like them better the longer I wear them. I am buying a second pair of PedEX shoes in a different style, but I also plan to buy an additional pair of Eve Walkers in another color soon. For one thing, my handknitted socks are visible.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Random Act of Unkindness

We were in a nearby town yesterday, and my DH decided he wanted to go to the grocery store. It was not my week to have a list prepared, and I know I have to go next weekend, so I stayed in the car while he went in for "sandwich" things, since I'm going back to school this week and he won't be getting home-cooked lunches. (9 bags of chips?)


I'm sitting in the car in the parking lot in the warm sunshine. By the way, this supermarket will still take your purchases to your car for you.
Here comes a well-dressed lady rolling her own cart out with four or five bags of groceries in it. She pulls up to the back of her late-model SUV (not a judgement--I drive an SUV), unloads the groceries, and then she doesn't return the cart to the ltttle cart slot. OK, I've seen people do that before. I've perhaps even done it myself once or twice. However, she doesn't push it into an empty parking space or up into the space in front so that cars can still pull in, or even just leave it sitting. Instead, she deliberately pushes it up in front of her front door, lifts the rear end of the cart, and turns it sideways, running it into the front quarter panel of the car beside her. This sideways arrangement has to be very inconvenient for her own backing out, and it is just in the position where the driver of the other car probably won't see it until that scraping noise makes him wonder what he has hit. I was watching to see what happened, and I would have removed the cart if necessary before we left the lot, but a grocery employee beat me to it.


I just had to wonder why someone went the extra step to be so deliberately unkind. I can understand someone being in a rush or just too lazy to return the cart although being too lazy is hardly an excuse at a store that will take the groceries to your car. Was this an enemy? Was it someone who didn't think the paint job on the rather modest older vehicle mattered to its owner?


English teachers, I know I mixed verb tenses, but it's the first day of school and I d0n't have time to fix it right now.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Verification Word

shulske--Method of transportation to educational institution used in snowy, mountainous countries.

adready--a program prepared for broadcast with time slots left open for commercials

Thursday, August 13, 2009

School Supplies


Even teachers need some school supplies. Here's my new lunch tote. I suppose I should have made one myself, but I saw this one by Handy Helpers on Etsy, and the fabric looked just right. It is very nicely made, fully quilted, and lined with a nifty fabric. Also, it will be completely washable, unlike many of the manufactured ones that you find at Wallyworld or Target. I think my containers will slip right into it, and the strap will be helpful when struggling to the building with a load of papers and books.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Another Beginning


The beginning of a scarf for the Red Scarf Project. The pattern is The Corrugator, a very simple garter and slip stitch pattern that makes a very squishy, soft scarf. Yarn is Lion Brand Wool Ease in Cranberry. Needles are Knit Picks Harmony, size 8.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Warm and Cozy


The Bearfoot socks are finished and blocking. I gave them a vinegar soak to help avoid fading. That's what it says to do on the yarn label. I love the way the garter rib turned out. I think these will be extremely comfy! Although there are many colors, the socks are dark enough to go with almost anything, which is a plus.


There is also a yarn drawing from Denise for some yarn and Lavender Lemongrass Soap. Take a look at the beautiful shawls she makes. I'm quite envious of her lace-knitting skill.


I have finished another audio book or so, and I'll have reviews posted on the Shelfari shelf in my sidebar.


This week, I'm keeping two of my grandchildren. They're actually being a big help since I have convinced them to do the things that my own grandmother used to refer to as "closer to the ground." As in, "You're closer to the ground than I am, so would you ______?"


This morning we also went to the office to take care of all the employment insurance tasks that need to be done for my cafeteria plan before school starts. They were very sweet, coloring on a whiteboard while I talked with the agent and got my business completed.

tersiv--tur-siv--style of handwriting suited to very brief comments

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Anyone as Weird as I Am?

Are you ever tempted by the word-like combinations that computers create for word verification so that you can post a comment? At first, I only tried to pronounce them. Lately, I've been tempted not only to pronounce them, but to define them and use them in a sentence.
For example:

thooket--a tool for crocheting with exceptionally thick yarn. When the size 35 crochet needle kept slipping, she was forced to buy a thooket to finish the anchor rope for the yacht.

Any suggestions for this one? CLEAN suggestions.

phimpnole

Any interesting non-words of your own?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Thoughts about Harry Potter

My daughter and I watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (hyphen?) a couple of weekends ago. I have been trying to formulate a coherent opinion that explains my reaction to the movie.


First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed the way the increasing maturity of the main characters was addressed. After Harry's teenage angst in Phoenix, seeing some of the funnier moments about being a teenager and falling in love and having really good friends was a welcomed focus in this film.


Like others, I did think the Tom Riddle story was slighted somewhat. I also thought the evil sisters were much too Adams Family/Munster like.


Of course, I loved the scene with Dumbledore and the knitting book, and I thought the cave scene was done well. I did think that the horcrux issue needed a little more clarification, however.


What did I not like? As far as I am concerned, one of the real wonders of this series of books and movies is that it has created such a believeable world. If I were to go to London, I would half-expect to visit Dragon Alley. Sending an owl seems like a reasonably efficient way to communicate. Words and characters have passed into the language. For example, even people who have neither read the books nor seen the movies have something of an idea of the meanings of words such as "muggles."


Therein lies the problem with the latest film: when I left the theater, I had not been at Hogwarts. It was labeled as such. The outline appeared the same. However, the wonderful depth of detail was not there. The staircases did not move. The paintings did not interact. Were the house ghosts present? The scene in the greenhouse absolutely cried out for a few mandrake screams. Even the Room of Requirement lacked mystery.


I hope the last two films will return not only to the compelling nature of the plot but to the wonder of the settings that have created such a magical world.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Proof

Just to prove I have been knitting and not wasting my time cleaning up clutter or dusting:




One sock:

Mountain Colors Bearfoot, Gray Wolf colorway

Garter Rib from Sensational Knitted Socks, modified by the Yarn Harlot's Sock Rules

64 stitches, Magic Loop, on Knit Picks classics, the larger size 1, which I suppose is a 1 1/2. Cable cast on.

These socks began as Black Rose, but the yarn just didn't want to be a lace pattern. The features I love about Bearfoot, besides the beautiful colors, are the smoothness when knitting and the cushiness when wearing. The garter rib makes a cushier top. Now to cast on for number 2.

Also this afternoon a friend brought by a large sack of acrylic yarn in full skeins of very bright colors, almost all of which will be suitable for the blankets I've been knitting for Victory Junction. I'm temporarily taking a break from the blankets to work on some other charity projects and some items for myself, but with these colors added to some I already have in stash, I should be all ready to go when the green flag drops at Daytona in February. Thanks, K & A.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Something New, Something Blue

I'm working on acquiring a new craft. After checking out triloom weaving on the smaller loom I posted about the other day, I was fortunate to acquire a Spriggs Adjustable Loom from Carol Leigh through a destash sale on Ravelry. I have begun my first weaving on it. I'm using some yarn that was in my stash--Paton's Classic in Wedgewood. This is one corner, obviously. What is exciting about triloom weaving is that the other corner is woven in the same process as the warp goes across the loom. It's rather hard to explain, but there are several sites on-line, a group or two on yahoo, and some good books.


This is the loom itself. I do not have a wall to hang it on since my craft room is mostly windows. I tried an easel, but I did not like it. I didn't like having the legs to worry about, and besides, the easel I had (not the Carol Leigh one) collapsed. My wonderful husband figured out a way to use some metal telescoping tubing and make a hanger that lets me use one of the support posts in the craft room. It works great! (The loom could not go directly on the post because there is a step in front of it. The hanger extends the loom out to the edge of the step.) I am not working very fast, and I've had a lot of interruptions this afternoon, but I think I'm getting the hang of the process. I hope I am judging my tension correctly. If I err, I'll have either a really loose shawl or a much smaller shawl when it contracts. That's why I'm using stash at first.



Still knitting--Garter Rib Socks from Mountain Colors Bearfoot
Listening--Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell; The Defector by David Silva

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Something New, Something FINISHED

Look at the lovely new handspun! I won this by sponsoring Laura Coffey on her MS Ride. She is from Pennsylvania. Thanks, Laura, I can hardly wait to use this in a project.





And I finally finished a project--the second blanket for Victory Junction. This is, of course, a Mason-Dixon Log Cabin. I added a couple of strips on each end and an I-cord border to meet the size requirements. I'll be sending this and the previous blanket to the Victory Junction Gang group on Ravelry. They will be delivered in one big bunch. The yarn is Red Heart Super Saver. The blankets have to be very durable and washable for this project. I would like to find an acrylic that is easier on my hands, but those don't seem to come in the bright race car colors that are needed for this project. The Red Heart washes up very nicely and makes a soft durable blanket--and the colors are bright and cheerful.


Remember that I am posting book reviews on my Shelfari shelf in the sidebar of my blog. HOWEVER, my reviews of Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion seem to have disappeared from Shelfari and have been replaced by the Barnes and Noble reviews that go with the edition of the book I have pictured. Ironically, those were the two books that I actually reviewed on my blog, so you can click on the titles above to read the review.
Also, for all you sheepy people, someone just sent me this link to a rather entertaining video:

Monday, July 20, 2009

The "High Plains"

The summer is over halfway over, and I've not kept my promise to write regularly about my part of the United States. One of the things that we have difficulty explaining to people who think they know what Texas is like is that we live at altitude. I remember a few years ago trying to explain to a Swiss tour guide that our party was not going to get altitude sickness at 4000 feet. She never believed that we were used to it. She just kept repeating, "But you are from Texas."



We live on a great geologic formation called the Llano Estacado. The Wikipedia article will tell you probably more than you will ever need to know about the real thing. The altitude of my home is 4019 feet--an irritating height because high altitude baking mix directions vary so much. When we went on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I snapped this picture out the car window as we were going down off the western edge of the escarpment. In the distance you can see across the valley through which the Canadian River flows. This particular spot is between two dams, the ones forming Conchas Lake and Ute Lake.




Now, for how to talk like a native--Don't ever say, "The other day as I was driving down the escarpment," or "down the edge of the Llano Estacado." No native actually says that, even though we know what it means. We even use the phrase Llano Estacado in business and advertising. However, the local term is "Caprock," as in "He's running some cattle over by Forrest just on the edge of the Caprock." Some oldtimers even shorten it to "Cap." They may also apply the word "breaks" to where the land transitions back to lower altitude although "breaks" is also a word applied to any rough land with vegetation. When I was a child, the edge of the Caprock worried me. I regarded being on top of it as the norm, and whenever we drove off of it, on the way to Dallas, for example, I was always looking for the spot where you went back up on the other side, as you do when you cross a valley. I was in school before I got it straight in my head.


Yes, I'm knitting daily. I'm trying to finish my Victory Junction Blanket because it's reached the point of being bulky to have around.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Different Fiber Experience

Because of a demonstration I saw a couple of years ago, I have become interested in the idea of a triloom. I didn't want to make a significant investment, either of the time to build one or the money to buy one, without trying out the technique. This is a 30" triloom made from a kit from Hideaway Homestead's Etsy store. It is plywood rather than hardwood, and I supplied and hammered in my own nails. The yarn is some Paton's Classic Merino that I had on hand. Because it is a variagated yarn, it made a pseudoplaid pattern when woven. The loom has a 1/2" sett, which means that I probably should have used a double yarn, but I was just trying things out.


This is the completed scarf on the loom, with fringe, which I put on wrong but still seems to look ok.





This is the scarf off the loom. I think it "shrunk" about 3 inches. I don't know if that means that I was weaving too tightly. I didn't think so.





The next step is fulling. I have agitated the wool twice in hot water, once with Eucalan and once without. Although it has bloomed some, I can't tell the weave has tightened much. I'll make another picture and post when it dries. Perhaps I should have fulled more energetically, but I am a little concerned about felting since this yarn is sort of the felter's friend.
Did I enjoy doing this project? Yes. It is faster than knitting and uses less yarn and the effect of the weaving pattern on the yarn is astounding. However, I think I would enjoy one of the bigger looms that rests on an easel more. This one is almost too big for a lap loom--very awkward for me to maneuver without knocking something over. Also, I don't have much use for little scarves like this.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jane Austen #3--Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility is one of Austen's early works. The two eldest Dashwood sisters are memorable characters. The book is brilliant, particularly for a first-published novel. Probably because this is an early novel, Austen is quick to tell us about characters when they are introduced rather than showing us the characters in action and letting the reader make judgements about the quality of the individual. One notable exception is the memorable little scene in which we and Elinor first see Robert Ferrars as an unknown and most pettily pretentious gentleman ordering a toothpick case. Only later does Elinor realize exactly who he is, but our, and her, opinions of the man are already formed.


This book was the first of Austen's novels to be published; the novel later titled Pride and Prejudice was turned down. Perhaps this book is less disturbing to the status quo. Willoughby, rather than being an unredeemable villain, is excused from some of his wickedness, even though a modern reader really wants to bring him to the attention of Child Protective Services. Elinor and Marianne each remain basically unchanged and still have satisfactory outcomes. Col. Brandon appreciates Marianne's "drama queen" qualities; Elinor's common sense and steadfastness turn out to be just right for life in the parsonage. There is almost no troubling change in the female characters, even though Marianne does become aware that Elinor would have handled the Willoughby situation far differently if their places had been exchanged.

UPDATE: Courtesy of my DD.

http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/28931

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Knitter's Addition to the Previous Post

In addition to literary analysis of Persuasion, it should be noted that Austen delves a little bit into the therapeutic nature of knitting as it concerns the recovery of her old school friend Mrs. Smith. Since that topic is often discussed on Knitter's Review, I thought it was worth pointing out that it is not just a modern idea.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Jane Austen #2--Persuasion

Persuasion has all the elements of the usual Jane Austen novel--an independent-minded heroine; the reserved man you just know will end up with her; his rival who is too good to be true, at least temporarily; and an assortment of misunderstandings, inheritance issues, and other plot complications. This novel, however, strikes me as being more mature than her earlier works, which is, I suppose, logical. Anne is older. Her family is less amusing and more hurtful. Emma's father loves her; the mother in Sense and Sensibility is admirable in the face of difficulties; even Mrs. Bennet is doing what she thinks is right for her daughters; however, Anne's father does not care for her; the oldest sister is downright mean; the youngest sister is Lydia allowed to hang around and make life painful for everyone in the vicinity. I also have the feeling that Austen must have admired her brother the sea captain very much.

I read this novel by listening to the audio version recorded on Librivox by Elizabeth Klett (Gloriana). Her readings are excellent--and free.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Couple of Fibery Visits

One of the great pleasures of our short trip was getting to go somewhere that had something to do with my fiber interests. I had allotted
a day to get there and to locate them. The actual locations turned out to be on the same road about a mile or so apart, so we spent much less time wandering around than I had anticipated.
The first place was Victory Alpaca Ranch in Mora, NM. I think they show up at some of the big fiber events. I know their web site is quite nice. The only alpacas I had ever seen were in little pens. These animals look much happier:
There were mothers with crias:



The shop with their products and many other gift and fiber choices was lovely. There was a gorgeous shawl that I have a good mental picture of. For sale, they had their own handspun, but it was out of my price range. They also had some roving, but what I saw was either dyed or in very small packs. Then I saw these bundles. Even though they are just carded, and the lady gave me instructions as if I were going to felt, I handspun a little bit of the fiber, and it worked beautifully. I will probably blend with wool anyway, so it will go through the carder again. (If this is the wrong thing to do, will someone please let me know.)


The next stop was on the corner of the turn to Victory Alpaca. The name of the business is Tapetes de Lana. It is a weaving center with several looms, only one of which was weaving at the time, and a new spinning facility out back. They produce yarns mostly for weaving, including very interesting Churro yarn that has lots of personality. The lady did show me some yarn blended from Cotswold and Rambouillet that she intended for knitters. They hope to produce more of that kind of yarn since they have expanded the mill. I bought three skeins of yarn that I plan to use on a triangle loom if I ever get one made. I actually have a small one already. I was also interested in the dye used.


Left to right, these are dyed with madder, indigo, and osage orange. For those of us who know that last one as bois d'arc or "bodark," a very tough wood used in fence posts, the idea of using it as a dye is rather interesting. The wool is Cotswold, spun to a rather firm worsted twist.
This business is a workshop designed to train workers and preserve crafts. They have sort of a fiber club that will be sending out samples of various yarns as they develop their products. They also have some looms and rugs on display at a coffeshop on the Plaza in Las Vegas. We looked at them as well.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

There's More than One Las Vegas!

We took a 3-day, 2-night vacation to Las Vegas. This one:



Las Vegas, New Mexico, a rather unique community located not too far from where we live as the miles go, but more of a distance culturally. We've been through this town several times, but never actually stayed there. Originally one of the Spanish Land Grant towns of New Mexico, Las Vegas became a center for the cattle industry in the late 1800s. Several movies have been filmed there, including one of the hot films of my college days, Easy Rider.



After an easy morning's drive, complicated only by lack of a good map, we arrived in town, only to discover that the good highway map was printed on the back of the "scenic" drive version that we had been using. We had simply neglected to turn it over. Actually, we could have gotten there just fine without a map, I think, but it's always nice to be sure. I had directions to the hotel, but we had a little trouble finding it at first. That turned out to be highly ironic, because in our journeys around town during our stay, we kept looping back to the Plaza without intending to.


Our reservations were at the Plaza Hotel, built in 1882, on one side of the oval Spanish Colonial Plaza in Old Town. The hotel lobby still obviously had the original hardwood floor showing between some nice carpets. When we checked in, we were, of course, given our keys. No electronic-coded, credit-card type keys here--brass keys and a brass key ring, with the identifying hotel insignia almost worn off:






Our room was topnotch, other than the mess we made of it. The furnishings were antique, except for the flat screen tv and the mattress, thank heavens. The ceiling was 12 ft., and the second floor window overlooked the plaza out front. The bed was comfortable, with great pillows and double sheets over and under the blanket. I thought the bedcoverings were somewhat unusual: the bed skirt appeared to be a pleated silk, but the coverlet was a white cotton quilt.





We had dinner one evening and morning breakfast in the Landmark Grill downstairs. Notice the beautiful stencilled border around the top of the room. You can't see it in this crowded picture, but the wainscoting around the room is a Chinese red. The colors worked beautifully together. We had Cobb Salads for dinner, and they were excellent, served with all the elegant touches. The breakfast came with the hotel room, but it was cooked to order.




This crowd was interesting. There were two tables of teachers who were in town for an AP Institute at the nearby New Mexico Highlands University a few blocks up the street--the few blocks between the Spanish plaza and the 21st century science and technology building with the astronomical observatory on the top covering a big leap in time. And just on the other side of the University a block or two is an original Carnegie Library, patterned after Monticello, and still in use. The rest of the room was filled with a group of people who drive Buicks. Big Buicks. They had been at a meeting in Colorado Springs and were taking a week to travel as far as St. Louis together before splitting up. The cars were in great shape, but were not the polished just-for-show classics. We did, however, hear a couple of irate men complaining because the station where they had gotten gas had a canopy that dripped some dew onto the windshields of their cars. One of the cars was, I think, a Roadmaster from probably the 1960s. The trunk was HUGE! Anyway, they were an interesting group to observe.



We did a little bit of antiquing in a shop or two around Old Town and New Town--which is not really new, just newer. My dear husband also took me to some fibery places, which I'll write about in a separate post. Otherwise, we just took it easy for a couple of days, drove around looking at the hundreds of buildings in this town that are on the National Register of Historic Places, and ate Mexican food at a couple of spots recommended by locals. Mexican food is abundant where we live, but we knew from experience that there is a regional difference in food as well.


I could not pass by this shop:



I love a good pun. The store was well-organized, with a large children's section in the back, a used book section, gifts, and current books, as befits a community with two vastly different kinds of colleges and a community college.


I was pleased to find used copies of an Elizabeth Peters that I have not read and two of the Dorothy Sayers books I've been trying to chase down to read again.:



What was my overall impression of Las Vegas as a vacation spot? For our purposes, it was just what we needed. We were not looking for a crowd or for a lot of activities; in fact, we wanted a little bit of peace and quiet for a couple of days. I also think that the Plaza Hotel would be a good place to stay if you were on vacation and had been "doing" Santa Fe or Taos and were looking for a refuge from some of the crowds that plague those places in the summertime. The facilities at the hotel were excellent; the service was good, but it is definitely small town service, not the snap-your-fingers-bellman-to-the-front service of a big city hotel. This is a hotel with a bed and breakfast flavor, which is fine with me.

















Happy Independence Day


I'm sorry this is a little bit late!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Celebrate!

  • A good way to spend the 4th of July--In between loads of laundry and some cooking, I watched ALL of the miniseries The Revolution on the History Channel, followed by the Firecracker 400 from Daytona.
  • The extra tv time let me FINALLY get my February Lady Sweater back to the point before the first frogging. Then I stopped. I'm having to do math, and I wasn't in the mood for all that counting. For race time knitting, I worked on one of the blankets I'm knitting for the Victory Junction Gang Camp--a log cabin in red, orange, yellow, green, blue acrylic to meet the camp specifications.
  • Today I'm packing for a vacation. This is our first in 3 years or so. I need to decide on sock yarn and get my sock bag packed. I'm also going to stick in my spindle and the batts I'm spinning. I'm taking my laptop as well, and if things work out, I will blog from the road with pictures. "If things work out" means that I've never used my laptop with WiFi before, so I hope I can get things to work. The first two days of our trip, we are going somewhere I found out about last winter--lovely old hotel, I hope, fiber-related sites, and some interesting shopping. With reservations--hotel reservations! From there, we will go on to my DH's kind of vacation--totally unplanned, no reservations, no set agenda, which means we may do something fun or come back home and spend a couple of quiet days. For me, relaxing means that I know that when I get to the destination, which I have had lots of fun planning for, there will be a room and amenities waiting for me. For him, that is a schedule and a "have-to" and spoils the spontaniety of being off work. After 30 something years of marriage, we still haven't worked out a change in attitude on either of our parts, so this is a compromise.
  • Edited to add: Travel sock project will be Blackrose socks in Mountain Colors Bearfoot colorway Gray Wolf.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Jane Austen Challenge #1

Being off work and able to watch a movie early in the morning is fun!


I kicked off the Jane Austen Challenge by watching The Jane Austen Book Club. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was disappointed. The premise of women helping each other by using Austen's works, first as a pretext, and then later because they found that the different works spoke to their needs, was an interesting one.


I was upset, however, by one of the storylines. Perhaps because I am a teacher myself, I was horrified by the behavior of the teacher who was becoming romantically involved with the student. All our sympathy was supposed to be with her problems, and we were supposed to feel that she stopped in time--no harm, no foul. Well, I'm sorry, folks. She was already way across the line. I'm just glad she didn't go farther. Not to mention that the little make out scene in the school parking lot (faculty parking lot?) which made them both late for class was ridiculous.


I also noticed that this movie errs, I believe, in the same way other modern readings of Austen sometimes do. She may have commented directly on the ironies of the social system of her day, but she would not qualify as a radical feminist.