Tuesday, January 17, 2017

And Still Snow

I had felt since the first weekend in this month that I probably caught a cold from one of the kinders at SMART on Thursday the 5th.  Each day it was a little bit worse, but not terrible, and I was congratulating myself on dodging that bullet - until Thursday morning last week.  The virus threw itself around my knees and wrestled me to the ground.
My regimen became one of read, knit, nap.  Maybe if I had felt better I might have tried to salvage this knitted hippopotamus but trying to attractively attach the 13 pieces together did not produce a smile in my mucus-addled brain and it went into the trash.  The birthday is only three weeks away and I'm working on Plan B with an adorable pattern I got from DIL Missy this past weekend.
I've also started work on the fruits and veggies I want to knit for Olivia and her birthday is six weeks away so no time to lose there either.
Ian has maintained his trail to the bird feeder where business is brisk.  The last I heard the official total for all three storms is 57.5" but it's more in some places and less in others.  We are pretty sure we've have 5' of snow here.  We had extreme snow in Red Rock but this is a first experience for me, this much snow lasting this long.
The weight of the snow is relentless.  You can see our willow bush is flattened creating a tunnel for Sammie's "poop trail."
And poor girl, once she finishes her business in her path she can't turn around so has to back up all the way to the porch.  She went through powder just once and hasn't tried it since.  She was almost buried and I think it scared her.  Driving is disorienting because there are 3' walls (sometimes more) on both sides of all roads reducing the visibility and sometimes the lanes and making a numbing sameness to every street.  I found myself having to pay close attention to landscape markers that I could identify because not all street signs are visible.

Icicles are an indication of an ice dam at the edge of the roof which block the snow from sliding off.  We don't have gutters so at least we don't have that to worry about.  We let these melt on their own since they're on the west side but Ian's been knocking the rest of the down.  Our roof has a steep pitch so we have just one area of concern but son Josh has a flatter root.  When I was out there this weekend, he was shoveling the deepest areas from his roof.  Everyone is exhausted and harried.
The roof of a school building collapsed before school started Thursday morning and caused the closure of all schools since then.  The remainder of that building has since been demolished.  Several schools have damaged structures and repairs are underway while inspections continue.  Missy went to her school last Thursday and they wouldn't let the teachers go inside.  Her school is one of those identified as at-risk.

This is today's newspaper and the hope is that some of the schools can reopen tomorrow.  The secondary concern is that rain and temperatures in the mid-40s are in tomorrow's forecast with expected flooding.  My weaving guild meeting tomorrow is cancelled for that reason.  The city has been a beehive of activity for the past two days as front-loaders are piling the mountains of snow into trucks and hauling it away from parking lots and intersection.
I had this warp ready to weave last week but was just too miserable to do a thing with it.  These are even more pastel than the first set.  If I ever deliberately acquire variegated yarn in the future I will be looking for more contrast in colors.
You can see that the top cone has more contrast in color and value including yellow.  I sure have a lot of it left - not the stash-buster I was hoping for.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Still Snow

 It snowed for the past week but this snow fell on top of the past two storms and quickly became unmanageable.  Ian has kept at the paths in our yard so Sammie has a place to pee.  It's so traumatic for her.  She holds it until she can't and then she desperately sniffs, trying to locate one of her spots.  But for all that, it was an utter joy to have some sunlight today.  The birds were singing and so was I!
Thank goodness we had the good sense to buy a TroyBilt snowblower when we did because they come at dear price now.  Son Josh bought the same model last weekend.  It was the last one in the store and he paid top dollar for it, but was glad to get it.  He said it was from the money he had saved to put power in his shop but then he realized he wouldn't be able to enjoy it if he were dead.  He says that we are now a Two TroyBilt family.
Ian gamely posed with his indispensable snow shovel. You reach a point where there's no where else to put the snow. Yesterday was declared a Snow Emergency - schools were closed, the public was encouraged to stay off the roads, the mayor released all non-emergency personnel and set up an EOC to deal with the large number of traffic collisions.  That is the 4th snow day this school year.  

Our backyard isn't going to get shoveled and doesn't need to be.
However the night before last we were abruptly awakened about midnight by Maddie yowling like I've never heard before, arching her back and storming around our room.  It was unearthly.  I looked out our door and right in the left corner there was a crouched raccoon staring into the house.  Ian was concerned that might have gotten trapped beneath the deck, and was struggling to get out at this end.  Just to be safe the next day he dug out an area in the event other animals might be trapped under.  We don't need to discover we have a ripening raccoon come spring.
As long as I can remember I've heard the expression that "it's too cold to snow," but I'm here to tell you that is not true.
I made the best of my Snow Day Challenge and finished off the towels using variegated yarn.  I'll probably call them confetti for my record keeping.
With the extra 3" panel in the center, these towels are larger than I'm accustomed to.  I think they might be better in a bathroom.  I'm sure they're more absorbent than terrycloth towels.

 I've pulled these together so make another Four Towels from Four Cones challenge with the last cone of variegated.  After five days we are going to be able to get out tomorrow and run our errands so weaving will wait.  Our weather is predicted to warm up on Sunday with several days of rain in the forecast.  That should keep things interesting.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Kicking off 2017!

I started off 2017 by finishing the last couple of towels on this warp.  I can't think of a better way to start a new year than this.  Four of them have sold and been shipped.  I'm not the only one who liked them.
It is still snowing and everyone is doing their best to keep up with it.  School and libraries were closed last Thursday so there was no SMART program.  When I got to the school this week I found that they had implemented a Pilet Program, i.e., Pile it here, Pile it there!  Ian is out with the snowblower as I type.
The cap on our woodstove was clogged and we went 2 1/2 weeks without a fire until our stove guy could get to us.  He's going to change the cap when the snow melts and he can get on the roof but for now we have our fingers crossed and are enjoying the wonderful radiant heat that is so much more comfortable than heat from a forced-air furnace.  Sammie is content now that all is right with the world.  Her days are spent "holding it" as long as posssible and then doing her business as quickly as possible.  I am reminded of my grandmother's description of a spit bath - "I wash everything possible, and then I wash possible."

Since we're snowed in for the most part I planned a Snow Day project - four towels from four cones.  It's still turned taquete but I added an extra block in the middle to break up what would otherwise be two identical blocks.  The variegated yarn has interesting potential.  I have another cone of it that is slightly different and I'd like to try it again but with more robust colors.
I took this from my studio window.  The skylight is covered with snow and I need to use my Ott light in order to see anything.  I can only work until about noon which is when the heat from the wood stove becomes overwhelming.  Hot air rises after all.  It's pretty and cold - 13 degrees at 1:00!

Snow is in the forecast for the rest of the week.  Last year I felt pretty helpless.  I didn't have good snow boots and my footing was terrible.  Ian put his library reference skills to work and found that Keens are reputed to be the best.  Everyone else is clomping around in Sorrels and I can't believe how flexible my boots are and how good my footing is.  I'm passing that along in the event you're in the market for new boots.  My day-to-day shoes are Keens so why not ?!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Year, New Plans

We rang in the new year with last years snow and because of abnormally cold temperatures, it's also this years snow.  I learned the hard way that the slip-on strapless YakTrax don't stay on my snow boots.  I've lost two pair on my walks so my Keen snow boots will have to suffice on their own and I'll just have to stay away from the icy bits.

I've decided after trying to weave with fine yarns and learn to warp them from the back that it simply isn't my cup of tea.  I had warped Arthur with white 16/2 bamboo in huck lace, one for me and one to sell.  I fought with warping from the back even though I was careful and went slow.  After a dozen warp threads popped on the second scarf, no doubt threading errors, I just cut it off and called it quits.  Instead I'm returning to my comfort zone of warping from the front and weaving scarves from my handspun yarns.  I put a three-yard warp on yesterday and loved every second of weaving on it.  It will be done today.
I already have a second warp ready to go.  This is much more fun and it gives me a reason to return to spinning though I have enough yarn in the bin that I won't need to spin anytime soon.  Plus I sell far more scarves from my yarn than from commercial yarn.
I was taking this empty Kleenex box out to recycling when I was arrested by the pretty colors and thought they might be the inspiration for a new dishtowel colorway.

I started with these cones but Old Gold on the left was too dull.
I twisted threads together from the pairs and realized that the ice lilac on the left would get completely lost.
So I substituted the mauve (on the left) and at this point, I think this is my final answer.  Now I'm trying to decide how many towels I want to weave.  My standard is ten.  I guess I'm not completely sold yet.
So in the interim I'll weave towels from these cones.  I've had this cone of variegated yarn for almost as long as I've been weaving but haven't known what to do with it, which is why I'm just weaving four.  I think it's promising, at least in theory.  I'll put the variegated yarn on harnesses 2 and 4 so all the square blocks will be that, plus the solid it's paired with.  It'll either be a hit or a miss.
And then there's Crackle.  It's so pretty that I've decided to try it again this year, but with just two shuttles next time.  I couldn't manage three shuttles and made an error an inch.  This was the first towel and yarn from all three shuttles kept getting caught on the apron rod and breaking at the selvage.  It took a week just to weave this one and I was overwhelmed.  
So for the next three towels I just used one shuttle and tried to accustom myself to the changing treadling each inch and keep track of where I was.  It went better but I still made tons of errors.  The fourth towel was error free until the last inch and when I saw it, I knew I wasn't going to unweave and go back.  None of these are suitable for dishtowels so I'm not going to hem them.  I think I'll sew something out of them, cutting between the bad spots - either a bag or a stuffed toy or...?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Books, Books, Books

Ian has made a tradition of giving me books for Christmas.  I know what's in his gift just as soon as it appears under the tree - a book!  But not just any book.  He spends hours and weeks reading reviews and listening to author interviews until he has whittled down the selection to one fiction and and one nonfiction book.  The 2016 finalists are The Undoing Project: a Friendship that Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis (about the workings of the human mind) and My Name is Red by Orphan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The setting is 16th century Istanbul and it will dovetail perfectly with the book I'm currently reading and loving, The Silk Roads: a New History of the World.

I was leaving for tai chi but got him to take a picture of me and my books this year to replace my Facebook photo which is me and my books from last year.  I think it's a nice tradition.  Here are five books that I enjoyed this year.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi  This is my absolute favorite book of this year.  Deschutes Public Library has a program called Author! Author!, a sort of community reads program, with tie-ins from other institutions like the High Desert Museum, the Deschutes Historical Society and Art in the Desert.  This is the book they've selected for 2017 which means I'll finally get to talk about it in a book club setting.

This is actually a loosely connected collection of short stories moving forward in time, beginning in 1763 with the slave trade on the Gold Coast of Africa.  Each story begins with the name of the individual whose story it is, someone whose parents appeared in an earlier story, and everyone is born of either Effia or Esi, half sisters from different tribes who never knew each other, having been separated from each other by the wars and raids.   The book begins with the tribal wars and proceeds through slavery to the current racial tensions in America today.  The stories are heart breaking and the characters are brave.

Siracusa by Delia Ephron   Two couples vacationing together on a small Sicilian island, five thoroughly unlikeable people.  What could possibly go wrong?  Not since Jonathan Franzen's book Corrections can I remember a book populated with such unsympathetic characters.  There is yet one more, a sixth character and it's around her that the ending resolves.  This isn't great literature but it's good entertainment.  It's well paced and perfect for a vacation read.

The Whistling Season by Evan Doig  The setting is the Big Ditch project in 1909 Montana.  A desperate widower hires a housekeeper for this three sons.  Rose, whose ad starts with "Can't cook but doesn't bite," appears with her unaforementioned brother in tow, a rather peculiar man who becomes the school teacher when that position is unexpectedly vacated.  This was an easy book, some history, some humor, lots of likeable characters and a surprise ending, the frosting on the cake.

Patty Jane's House of Curl by Lorna Landvik:  For fans of Billie Letts and Fannie Flagg

The Nix by Nathan Hill  I struggled with the first two chapters.  I was reading about unlikeable people and couldn't think that I'd enjoy a whole book about them, but I was wrong.  I loved this book, it's one the the best I've read this year.  The characters grew on me but with the underlying theme of Choose Your Own Adventure books, you begin to realize that nothing and no on is as they seem.  And I discovered that the unlikable Samuel became very likable, just a well-meaning, misguided and disappointed man.  Late in the book he realizes that everything he thought he had accomplished was because someone owed his mom a favor - his whole life was a sham.  As a boy he would bookmark a difficult chapter decision and if he didn't like the ending, he'd go back to his bookmark and choose a different ending.  He recognized that you can't go back to an earlier chapter in real life and choose a different ending.

Because the setting is today and also 1968, the story is both historical and political.  I love the way the author wrote parallel stories like Faye's father's pregnancy situation and his rage when he thinks Faye is pregnant.  Samuel refused to accept a student's paper based on principle, then is faced with being asked to put his name as author of a book he didn't write.  According to Periwinkle, idealism is overrated:  that is, if you don't worry about doing the right thing, then you'll have nothing to regret.

This really is a fun book with lots of food for thought.  In the end Samuel and Faye both make do-over decisions on a late voyage of self-discovery.  Or - with the all Choose Your Own Adventure segments in the book, is the ending really just a happy chapter choice that we made?

I'll close with the snowflake my mother crocheted when she was 90.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Making Lavender Soap

We got between 15-18" of snow in that last storm and today is the third day of school closures.  I think the bench in front of our house says it better than my words.  Since we're snowed in I really have no excuse for not making soap and after 15 years of making and selling it, we are finally out.
I know a lot of people who love to make soap.  I'm not one of them.  I just happen to love the soap I make.  First I have to haul everything in from the garage.  And before I can even begin, I have to make an origami box of waxed butcher paper and set it inside my mold.
All the oils including essential oils have to be weighed by pounds and ounces and it's messy.  Oils in winter are in a solid form and have to be cut and placed in a measuring cup in chunks.
Any botanicals need to be milled.
Once the oils are in the pot and are melting on the stove, I clean out the measuring cups and weigh the olive oil.  I add this to the carrier oils after they're liquid and put the pot in ice water in the sink to quickly bring the temperature down.
Then it's time to weigh the lye which I do in grams.  
I weigh the water and put in the pot before adding the lye.  Always add lye to water.  I do this step in the garage because it makes a ghastly vapor that you do not want to breathe.  I hold my breath, add the lye, stir, go in the house and come back in a while to repeat.
I get the oils and lye water to the same temperature, usually 86-92 degrees, and then I carefully pour the lye into the oils and stir with an electric stick.  I like this lower temperature but if you're using fragrance oils, 110-120 would probably be more like it.  This soap is at "trace" which means it's ready to pour.  I added the milled lavender and poured into the lined mold.
Next comes the worst part - clean-up.  Everything is oily and I end up using several dish towels before I'm done.  It's a good thing I have a lot of them!
At this point I've put the soap to bed.  It's sitting on some quilted place mats to insure the heat stays in the mold.  It needs to sit for 24 hours all bundled up cozy like.
I have to admit that it's pretty rewarding to unmold the block the next day.  I don't love cutting this into bars anymore than I don't love making soap.
What I love is using it.  I think these should last us for another year.
My mother made some crocheted snowflakes many years ago. I found some directions online and chose the easiest pattern to make some of my own.  I found a recipe for spray starch online - 2 cups water and 1 1/2 tablespoon Argo cornstarch.  Mix together in a small pan and boil for one minute. They said to put in your spray bottle but I just dipped my snowflakes in the pan and it worked. Snowflakes for a snow day!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Good Equipment

I ordered the weaving bench that Theresa Davies said that she bought and liked.  It's made by Janet Fox, a woodworker in Houston, whose Etsy shop is called Handywoman.  Unfortunately the extreme cold caused the Styrofoam to shatter so I had to clean that up before I could begin assembling my bench.  And you know how that stuff is, full of static and clinging to every surface.

The poplar she used is beautifully grained and I was pleased by the ease of assembly.  I was also pleased by the price tag - $165 instead of the Schacht bench at $350, though shipping was free.  Still it's about half the price and half the size.  I wove on it for a couple hours today and think I'm going to like it.  It does rock a bit but she says in her instructions that it will.  The feet are there for stability.
It's certainly nice to have a bench for each loom again.  I wove on both projects today which I'm more inclined to do when I don't have to move a bench.
Ian and I went to the potluck/party at A6 Sunday evening.  It's a small group because membership is about 30 though Dawn, the director, says that has increased thanks to the new location that brings in more foot traffic.  Afterwards we did a print exchange.  I was reluctant to participate since I'm a beginning student but was encouraged by my instructors so I did.
Some poor person got my student print and I got this astonishing solar print from Jeannette, who was my first instructor.  It's really lovely and Ian wants to get it framed though we're out of walls so something else will have to come down.
The next morning I went in about a half hour early for my volunteer shift and helped Dawn ink the plexiglass plates for a school visit.  We had two tours of 2nd/3rd grade students - 26 the first time, 24 the second.  Each were given the opportunity to make three prints.
We had a space of about 45 minutes before the bus rolled in with the second group.  We took a lunch break then Jane and I cleaned up from the first tour and inked the plates again. Dawn instructed the kids about positive and negative space and how to remove ink to make a picture.  Most of the children were imaginative and bold though a couple were so afraid of making a mistake that they couldn't bring themselves to remove much ink in spite of being sent back to do some more work. Though disappointed they still had fun.
All of the children loved running their plates through the presses.  The large press was a favorite with the boys who stood at either side and spun the wheel.
I facilitated printing at the smaller press which does require some elbow grease.  For the smaller children it took two to turn the handle.  They were like eager puppies every time we stopped the press and I flipped back the felts and newsprint.  Time for the big reveal!  I had fun though wouldn't want to do that too often as I don't love standing on concrete for five hours.
Based on the forecast Ian went to Lowe's yesterday and bought a 24" Troy Bilt snowblower.  This is wetter than our Nevada snow which he always managed with an ergonomic shovel.  Not any more!  We have over a foot of snow right now and are supposed to get another 5" before morning.  I don't think we're not going anywhere for a few days.