Sunday, March 19, 2017

Politics, Cats, and Knitting

Yup. That just about sums it up for me.
Well, there were a few other things too like the weather - which has been bat-crap crazy, but mostly Politics, Cats, and Knitting.

So let's get the politics out of the way.
By the way, still not my fault.
I won't go on and on here because, why bother? This is not where the action needs to happen. The action needs to be out there. Since the first march in January, there have been so many things to do. Miss Mary is now my official protest buddy and we've been to two more since the first one. Most recently the Women's Strike march in Center City.

This one went on so long it was dark by the time we were done. Two hours we marched all over the place. Parts of the route had been blocked off for us, but other parts had not. 
We blocked traffic, marched between cars and made a lot of noise! The chant leaders had bull horns and kept up a good chant the entire time.  
In addition to the protests, I've been writing post cards like crazy. When I first went to pick up post card stamps at the mail post office in Philadelphia the clerk told me they were sold out. Sold out! I printed out oodles of the postcards from the Women's March First Action and a group of co-workers and I have been meeting every Monday to write postcards, commiserate, and plan more actions. 
I will say this; I don't understand what has happened. How did we find ourselves here? It is though we have slipped into an alternate universe and everything is sliding very quickly to the forces of evil. I only hope we can survive this madness. 

I have a new member of the family. Butch has officially moved in. This is not going very well. Jacques and Swee'Pea are not pleased. There is always someone howling, shrieking, growling, hissing, or else pretending nothing is wrong. Here we all are working on perfecting the latter. 

Same here....
But here, it's pretty much the howling, growling hissing tournament. 
Greenies might actually end up being the great peacekeepers of the world. Kitties like their Greenies so much they will come up to within a foot of each other just to be sure to get their little crunchy treats. But as soon as the bag is put away - its everyone back to their corners.

 Butch is a handsome fella.
He finally moved in during a very cold week in February. I had been feeding him inside the first floor kitchen after I came out to get Jacques and found Jacques and Butch both staring at a raccoon who was happily munching on Butch's food. The last thing Butch wanted to do after a nice warm supper inside  was to be kicked back out in the cold with the raccoons. He let me know it and I caved.

 How could you not with that pretty pink little schnoz?

It has been interesting watching him figure out what it means to be an indoor cat. Mostly he has had very few problems adjusting. He inspected the second floor thoroughly, found the bed, Jacques food, the litter boxes, and the toys. 

He loves them and is very playful. He's gained at least a pound since moving in and at first had absolutely no interest in going back outside. I think he was scared I was going to kick him out again. A month and a half later, he is starting to realize I will come back outside and call him. One of the things he hasn't quite mastered though, is how to accept a treat. Instead of taking the Greenie from my hand, he nuzzles it until I put it on the floor in front of him. Jacques and Swee'Pea watch him with looks of, "what's wrong with this guy - take it already!"

 Swee'Pea is having the most difficult time adjusting. I think because Jacques has had so much more time to get used to Butch outside but this is entirely new for Swee'Pea. I try to make sure he and I have alone time and I give him lots of pets and reassurances. But he is more skittish than usual. The other day I found him all bundled up under my sheets and comforter. I didn't have the heart to roust him so the bed stayed unmade that day.

 Mostly I've been knitting in my spare time. I made loads of the pink hats and gave most of them away. I still have a few more to knit for people I've promised them to. I'm partial to that eye-watering shade of pink on the right. I also made one for a favorite professor of mine, who has her own brand of style and so she needed something a little more, um, unconventional. 

I made this one with all my pink scrap yarn and I really like it! I think I'll have to make a few more like this. 

  When I went rootin' around my yarn looking for all of my pink extras, I realized what a mess my stash is. I'm so proud of myself for taking the time to make these origami boxes and organizing my yarn by color! It is much easier to find what I want now. And tangles are kept to a minimum. I think I will have to do this for a few other boxes of yarn, but at the moment, they are being well guarded. 

Last week I took a few days off for a Spring Break. I had a list a mile long, but of course I got caught up in a knitting project which has become kind of a mess.  This is a pattern I've made twice before and really like. I had this lovely ice blue yarn which I thought would be enough but I ran out. I had to improvise on the sleeves, which meant I had to wing-it on the pattern, which is never a good idea. sigh.
  I'm taking it to my Stitch & Bitch on Sunday to see what they think. It's possible that I will have to rip it back out to the armpits and do a different top construction. I hope they approve the choice of buttons though. I went with the big turquoise ones. Although if I rip it out it won't matter because the button holes will also be gone. For now it is hanging in a bag, waiting to travel. 

In the middle of February I taught an endband or headband sewing class which went really well. These are notoriously frustrating for a lot of book binders. So much so that you can buy simple, manufactured head band "ribbon" to glue on as faux headbands. But this is really only suitable for those who have not yet discovered the joy of tying one's own. I'm hoping to teach another workshop in the fall with more advanced headbands. But I gotta learn 'em first. ha! Good think I like doing that. 

An interesting building appeared a few months ago in Center City. I first noticed it when I was going back to work from the dentist. 
It is completely wrapped in this "mural" of dandelions. There is a small circle cut into a window with that when you look through it you look out onto a field of dandelions. It is really cool. Apparently this building was purchased by a group that wants to develop the parking structure next door. And so while they are making plans for that and have purchased this building as part of those plans, in the mean time the building can be used for public artwork. It is a really nice surprise as you walk through town. 

Which brings us to the bat-crap crazy weather we've been having. 
I am sitting on my deck listening to water dripping everywhere. It is a lovely mild 55°F and all of the snow that came down last Tuesday is melting with ferocious speed. Finally.  I'm not complaining though. We had a lovely snow day on Tuesday. The weather was strange though. It was very icy, and when I left the house on Wednesday morning my hedge had a dome of ice over everything. It was really beautiful.  
Thank goodness I had had the foresight to cut all of the daffodils that had mostly bloomed. Instead of finding smooshed flowers after the weather, I had lovely sunny friendly blooms on the kitchen table. 

There are still a few that will bloom once things warm up again, which I am looking forward to.

Why was the weather so crazy? Well, because the last two weeks of February were unusually warm. We had a few days in a row of 75°F! In February! That's unheard of. It was so warm I did some early garden clearing.
Jacques and Butch helped, but Butch was careful to stay on the observation side of the fence. 
I'm glad I held off on my seed starting because it is no fun to work in the snow. Next weekend, I'll go and get some mix and start all kinds of things. Zinnias, marigolds, echinaceas, basil, and whatever else I was saving from last year. The garlic has already come up, as has the mustard. The violets are starting to come as well. I'm going to have to do some serious pruning next weekend too so that roses and raspberries come in appropriately.  
I also applied for a small grant from a local nursery on behalf of my neighbors. The Els have a two small sidewalk plots which are perfect for planting flowers. Last year Mr. El finally let me plant some things in there at the end of July. It wasn't enough time for everything to grow but we've talked and I hope this year we can start earlier. The grant is for some good soil, a few extra plants, and some nice border fencing. We'll see if we get it.  If not, we are still going to put something in there.We'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 23, 2017

More updates on the March.

I am so proud of us! I am so proud of how many Americans demonstrated on Saturday. But even more - I am humbled and honored that so many people around the world demonstrated with us in solidarity.Thank you all.

If you have not seen this compilation from the New York Times, take your time, scroll all the way through, it is worth it.  Demonstrations on all seven continents! Unprecedented.

Too many fabulous photos to choose from so I just borrowed the one taken in Philadelphia. Thanks to Ann for sending the link.

But our work is far from done. It's time to roll up our sleeves and start working. I'm participating in the Women's March 10 actions in 100 days. Step one, write to my Senator. Toomey and Casey - you are both going to hear from me!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

I am feeling so much better today.

I was looking forward to attending the Women's March in Philadelphia. I didn't want to travel to Washington DC but I did want to participate here.

In the weeks prior to the march I was furiously knitting Pussy Hats. I didn't find out about this project until my Stitch & Bitch club met at the end of the first week of January. And even then I wasn't convinced I wanted one.

So I knitted one in brown to see what I thought about it - and it was cute and easy and fun to knit. I decided I should knit some more but in the official project color, pink. When I went to AC Moore last weekend, boy, the pickin's was slim. I agonized over color choice for a while and finally settled on a soft bright pink and a variegated one.
I had a list of people to knit for and I still didn't finish as many as I wanted.

One each for Miss Mary and me,
 Three for my sister and friends.
 And while I worked Swee'Pea kept guard on the finished ones.

On Friday I woke up and decided I did not need to listen to a shred of news. I'm so glad I didn't.

I had errands to run and as I was about to leave the house I realized I wanted to start protesting that day. Why should I wait until Saturday to wear my hat? I put it on.

As I left the gate a young woman, maybe 20ish, peeked out from under her umbrella at me with a big grin. I stopped at school to take care of some things and as I was getting out of my car, I was honked at. Thoroughly annoyed, I looked up to see two women in a black SUV waving and giving me the thumbs up! I waved back. Later at Home Depot, a woman in her 60s walked past me and as just as she left my peripheral vision said, "Nice hat." I turned around and thanked her and we both smiled.

Saturday Miss Mary and I headed over to the rally at Eakins Oval in front of the Art Museum. I must say, Philadelphia has a beautiful venue for such events. The international flags along the parkway are gorgeous. It was wonderful to be with so many like minded people. There was a feeling of happiness that I haven't felt in a long time. I think it was that so many of us came together and that there is power in numbers and that we all realized there are a lot of us who feel the same way. People were out there for a lot of different reasons. My favorite performing group were the Granny Peace Brigade who lead us in song. It wasn't one of the largest marches I've been to but I think that is because we are so close to Washington and I know a lot of people who took buses to march there. There were still 50,000 who showed up here on a cold and foggy Saturday morning.

In the evening, when my sister texted me photos of them in their hats, She said that the Los Angeles march had 750,000 people. I was stunned! That is more that in Washington DC! I looked up the information and saw that they had to march down side streets because there were too many people. I started looking at more information and saw that there were marches all around the world.

And so yes, I am feeling better today than I have in several months. I'm still very concerned. While we have strength in numbers, it is an extremely fragile balance.

But I have a Pussy Hat and I'm going to wear it.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Vacation Week

I took an extra week off to ostensibly "get so much done". 
While I did a lot - I didn't actually get much done. I chipped away at my list and got to about half of things I wanted to get to. 
First was making a huge dent in getting these mittens finished. I've been wanting to make them for more than two years. But with projects for other people and other things needing to be finished first - they had to wait. I started one before heading to California but didn't finish it until I got back here. I had to knit the top several times. And then the cuff was knitted afterward and I didn't have the pink yarn with me. I thought I 'd wanted an orange yarn I had - but it wasn't right. This took some serious doing to get the color variation the way I wanted it. In the end, it was worth all the extra effort and re-dos.  The second mitten is going much smoother but is still quite a project. I'm working on the cuff now and hope to finish them this week. Can't wait to wear them!

The second priority was to make sure the Silhouette cutter was working and it is!!!
I've cut a few things out and am excited to plan some new projects. In case you aren't familiar with these, they are just like printers, except that instead of printing on the paper, it cuts out shapes you have set up in the software that comes with the machine. You can cut paper, vinyl, stickers, and ??? I'm looking forward to finding out.  

I did get to one of the essential projects on my list: fixing the love seat! Remember this crazy project?
Well, I didn't put enough webbing on the bottom and pretty quickly it all popped off. The sofa was really saggy and becoming quite uncomfortable to sit in.
You can see in the above image how much the black part is sagging or popping out.
Last time, I did the whole thing by hand, from pulling out all the old nails and staples, to putting it all back on with a regular old staple gun. This time I got smart. I went to the trusty West Philly Tool Library and checked out an air compressor and staple gun. 
Holy Moly did that make a difference! You just squeeze the trigger and BAMphfft. Staple in. The only thing is the noise. The generator is loud loud loud! But some little ear plugs help.

I wasn't taking any chances this time, the base is plastered completely with webbing. And it's not coming off this either. Ever. Right now I am thrilled. Talk to me when I try to reupholster this sucker again. Then I won't be so happy.
But for the moment the base is flat like it should be and it feels much more comfy.  

Today was Stitch & Bitch our monthly knitting and political discussion group. I really look forward to it. We always bring something to eat and it has sort of become my job to bring the sweetie. Well fine by me. I tried one of the "Cocoanut Pudding" recipes in Ellen Emlen's cookbook. It's really more like a giant macaroon in a pie crust than a pudding but maybe I'm doing something wrong. Tasted just fine though.

Cream 1 cup (two sticks) butter with 1 cup sugar. Add 2T cognac 1t. rosewater and 2T coconut milk beat smooth. 
beat 8 egg whites to a snow, (and here's where I think I went wrong) add 3 cups unsweetened coconut.
combine the two mixtures. I think I should have added the coconut to the butter mixture and then folded the egg snow into that mixture.
Put it into a pie crust and bake for 50 minutes at 350F. I had to tent it after 30 minutes. It's very tasty, but I think it needs something. 

I drizzled chocolate over it but that's not quite right. Maybe I need thicker chocolate, but I was also thinking something very light like a pineapple sorbet. Or maybe even just some lemon zest in the crust could do? Not sure. At any rate - definitely a recipe worth working on.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Good Riddance to 2016 - but not to the silver linings

Here we are in the final hours of 2016 and all I have to say is, good riddance! What a year. Mostly the election is what made it the pits. The lead-up was excruciating. I have an appointment on the 5th to be fitted with a mouth guard because as of October I have been clenching my teeth so badly I can't actually chew. It was really bad until I realized it was stress from the election. Then it became only medium bad. At work I actually had to make myself drop my jaw to relax. The last two weeks of the madness, I could not listen to the news and instead switched to favorite comedian channels on Pandora.
Then the election happened.
And I still cannot believe it. Every time I hear "President Elect Trump" I feel like I am in an alternate dimension and just want to throw up. All of the consequent decisions about our country's future sickens me and I am scared. I am just hoping that some good ol' boys from The GOP can wrangle things into some semblance of normalcy. Otherwise, I truly fear for what we might be in for. Seriously - Senator McCain - hop to! And good grief, where is Arlen Spector when you need him!? Uch - Oy - Augh!
This election is the reason my blogging dropped off so drastically. Much has happened and while I wanted to post - I simply couldn't find the energy. But in the last few hours of 2016 - I have. I reviewed my photos and have found the following silver linings:

1. In August my fabulous tenant made Jalapeño bread again.
 Last year she received some of the jalapeños from my farm share while she was taking care of kitties in the summer. So I gave her this years' crop in hopes she would make the delicious cheddar jalapeño bread again and she did! It is especially good with fried eggs. When I cooked with it this year I couldn't have a cyclops so i put two eggs in and enjoyed the smiley face.

2. As of September, apparently I have a new cat. 
I have been telling people I have two and a half cats. This is Butch. Butch showed up a few years ago as a feral kitty in my yard. He and Jacques tangled often so I decided he had to get fixed and get his shots. It was quite traumatic for him and in spite of the fact that he was so sweet while he was recuperating, he eventually broke out and would not come anywhere near me for the following two years.
This September though, I tried to talk to him more than usual. Eventually I left a small dish with a little food in it for him. I think that did the trick. At first he would only howl at me - in a loud and complaining tone. Eventually he let me pet him and finally I was allowed to pick him up. The epic purring gave it away that this kitty wanted to be loved. He is really beautiful, an almost perfectly symmetrical tuxedo cat. He reminds me of those wall clocks with the eyes that go back and forth with the ticker. He is only half mine because he is going to have to supplement his diet with scavenging and continued hunting of the nasty squirrels in my garden. I feel a little guilty because I'd like to keep him as an outdoor cat to catch the rodents. But he also clearly wants to be part of a family so I am considering allowing him to leave to a loving family. There are two perspective folks. We shall see...

3. My Night Blooming Cereus bloomed. Not just once but almost 10 blooms.

 I missed the first few as previously reported. But the while cleaning the garden in September I noticed a few buds. I watched carefully and as they grew I knew they'd bloom. So at the end of September, Miss Mary and I sat outside one night and watched them for several hours. The scent is exquisite and the change in the bloom is minute by minute. I've pondered why they bloomed this year after several years of dormancy. I wonder if it had something to do with Katie watching over them while I was away in August. I must consult her to see if she did anything special.

4. Throughout the fall, I've been working on editioning my book from 2015, Luminary.

While it sounds fairly straight forward, it is anything but. Ten copies, total 150 prints - but they are sun prints so there are a ton of factors. Clouds, angle of the sun, how much solution I've applied, all affect the final result. Instead of just 150 perfect prints I've done closer to 250.

It is a rather involved production.

Which includes trying to find the best angle of the sun. Then of course, there is always the chance that Jacques will decide to sit on them. 

Or at least the paper for the covers ($22/sheet).

5. I also knitted a lot.
 I made a pair of mittens for my friend Melanie who lives in the fridged Berkshires of Massachusetts. These were so fun to make and it was really hard not to post about them on my blog because she actually reads my blog! I suppose I could have posted without saying who they were for - but I wanted them to be a complete surprise. 
I also knitted a pair of Owlie socks for my sister for Christmas.
I think I have to make myself a pair of these - I love them!

And then I knitted socks with yarn Melanie gave me from her travels to Italy. These are a single skein that knit up into stripes.
Fun, fast and easy! What more could you wish for!?
I also knitted my dad a pair of navy blue socks and Ann got a pair of sea-foam turquoise with a "fish-tail" cable stitch on them. Of course - that couldn't go smoothly. The day before I was supposed to fly to California - I was madly knitting away on her second sock. I finished early afternoon, plenty of time to block and dry it. I hung it by the heating vent so it would be really dry before packing it and didn't remember it until I was on the train to the airport. I was upset that she received a single sock in her box instead of a standard pair. But alas, there was nothing to be done about it. The second sock will travel in the new year.

6. General update on Swee'Pea
Swee'Pea is also doing fine this year in spite of a bout with epiglotitis. Good Grief. That cost me a pretty penny. But he is fine and happily taking his pills and that is all that counts.

7.  My semester teaching was eventful but also fun. I had wonderful students who actually wanted to follow my directions exactly! No kidding! They all consulted each other on "now what did she say, how do I do that?" I was floored. Many wonderful final projects and simply amazing people. In the next semester I'm teaching a class the students lobbied for. An advanced book arts class which is not normally on the schedule. I am flattered and thrilled and really looking forward to the class. It should be lots of fun.
In the winter the Academy of Natural Sciences, which is located next to the college, put out their animatron dinosaurs. We can't figure out if they move on a motion sensor or a timer. Either way it is fun to watch people who haven't encountered them before, start when they suddenly start moving and roaring. When it finally got cold, someone put scarves and mittens on T-rex and Triceratops. I actually laughed out loud. So witty.

8. Christmas in California
My nephew got his new obsession, a trash can. Yes his very own wheeley trashcan to put everything in. 
Now. He also got two Tonka dump trucks because his mommy and I think alike and both got him the same thing. That'll learn me. I gotta consult the mommy to know if he's already getting it. We decided it was okay as he now has one for outside and one for inside - or one for later when the first one is kaput. 
At the moment, Liam decided it really was only good for sitting.  
Grandpa made him a fabulous box of stuff to open and close, switch on and off, buckle and unbuckle and all sorts of fun things.
He decided at the moment the best use for it was to stand on it.

 At the end of the unwrapping the trashcan was once again brought forth to be filled.

We really didn't have to do much clean up at all. Just hand him the paper and tell him it's trash. 
All gone!
At the end of the gift giving marathon, Liam and I looked at pictures and videos of him on his mommy's phone. 

That right there would be the family trademark look-of-concentration. He is clearly "one of us".

I myself received a Cameo Silhouette paper cutter.  And I cannot wait to put it into action!

9. After Christmas my Aunt Lois and I got together so she could teach me how to make Uncle Ralph's mother's Rum Cake. It is a super secret recipe, carefully guarded and only made for Uncle Ralph. When I arrived, my cousin David, who was rushing out on his way out to the airport, implored me to learn to make the cake. It's a family tradition. Well - consider it done David!

This is an all day affair - the secrets of which I will not divulge.
Suffice to say there is baking:
 and cooking:
and inspection.
(that would be Miss Mittens - a big kitty).

And it is all worth it. The cake is delicious. You'll have to take my word for it 'cause I'm sworn to secrecy. 

10. My birthday was wonderful. We started out at an incredible new-ish coffee shop, La Monarcha, Ann's fabulous idea.
My sister and nephew met us there. And he was kind of the star of the show.
There was plenty of trash for him to put away under Grandpa's supervision. 
After breakfast we went for a little walk which culminated in Liam thoroughly inspecting Grandma and Grandpa's mini van.
There were so many gadgets and switches and things to open and close. He was completely entertained for a good 20 minutes.
The day was gorgeously warm at 82°F. We headed to the beach for a few hours and consumed the obligatory In-N-Out burgers while there.
The cup became the perfect beach toy even though there was an entire bag full of other more commercial toys. 
The water was a bit cold and after an initial trial, Liam wasn't really interested in taking the waters again. That was fine. There was plenty of sand for him to scoop and dump, and scoop and dump, and scoop and dump. 

Wishing you all a wonderful 2017 ~ xotara