Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Goodbye to October

I love this month and I love the many shades of gold on the Nevada landscape right now. Ross Creek Ranch has the most spectacular cottonwood trees of anyone and I am thrilled by them each day as I drive by.

We had exper- ienced rain all through the night so I didn't have the usual sunlight this morning that makes these trees absolutely glow.
Because the road is so windy and without shoulders, that's Eleanor parked up there. It was the first place I could safely pull over to walk back for this picture. Everything, even the grass, is golden right now.
Trotting back to the car I could hear the unmis- takable sound of running water. If you click for big, you'll see the stream from a little high desert spring.
Ross Creek is dammed into three ponds and this is the bottom one, actually leased by a fly fishing instructor as a classroom. The streaks on the surface are ducks. I love our high desert environment, but I respect it too. It's a fickle and unpredictable climate. Our poor meteorologists, they keep trying to predict the weather. It would be a bad thing to bet on.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Weekend Wrap-up

Surely this is what Jimmy Hendrix meant when he sang, "'Scuze me while I kiss the sky." I wasn't a half mile from the house when had to stop for this. I thought it was the end of our rain but I'm happy to say I was wrong.

Lorna's Laces sock yarn is so wonderful to wear, I keep getting tripped up and buying it in the color pathways, even though I know the colors pool when they're knit. This is the third pattern I tried for this yarn. I actually finished one sock and when I pulled in on my foot, knew that I'd never wear it and pulled the yarn back out. I knitted on this yarn the whole time we were on vacation in September, so happy that I'm done doesn't described my feelings. This pattern was given to me by my co-worker/knitter friend. It's the best this yarn could do. I loved the colors in the skein but they muddied when knit up. I'm so glad they're done.

A fiber goal I had for this weekend was to finish ripping out, I mean liberating, this yarn from the back and sleeve of Ian's sweater that Buster had chewed holes in as a puppy. I have already liberated a lot of this yarn. I had used it in two projects.

Free at last, but not really. It's going to take another weekend before I get it rinsed, hung and reskeined. I have swatched the daylights out it, trying to decide what I want to knit. Then in the last Vogue knitting magazine, I found a sweater that was just the ticket. I wanted a jacket with either lapels or a cowl collar. I didn't care for their choice of yarn but I knew the pattern was what I wanted. They don't give row gauge, only pattern stitch gauge. I've written them before to register my displeasure that they only give you enough information to knit the pattern in their suggested yarn. I plugged my gauge information into my Sweater Wizard software and will be able to cross their idea into my pattern, but their attitude really gripes me. It's arrogant. I have subscribed to that magazine for 20 years and my renewal is in with the stack of bills. This time I'm not going to renew.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I wasn't going to stop because I was just so exhausted on my drive home from work tonight, but we never get rain - not never, but it's pretty unique so to get out of the car for pictures means getting wet because I'm not wearing protective clothing.

When I realized that I couldn't take my eyes off the clouds and rather than continue to drive badly, I pulled off onto a wide shoulder to see if I could catch a couple good images.

This is taken from inside the car because I was getting a bit wet. I can't believe that I never get tired of looking at our clouds and that they haven't become "old hat" to me. I hope they never do.
The clouds are to the west of my car and on the east I have this. I'm reminded of the Ladysmith Black Mombasa song, "Rain, rain, rain, beautiful rain." Only where you don't get rain, can you appreciate the sentiment.

I had planned to write on the past weekend, but I'm so happy that it rained, the weekend can wait another day.

Friday, October 26, 2007

By George

Some books I simply enjoy more than others. I loved Cat's Eye, The Time Traveler's Wife and The Life of Pi because they all were fresh fiction to me, new stories, and I felt that way about this one. Simplistically, it's the story of a theater queen who trades her role for theater mother and the far reaching effects of her tentacles of ambition, which make place for many family secrets and skeletons. The author's song writing skills (he's actually John Wesley Harding) make him a master at the turn of the phrase. I especially loved this one: "Everyone trod carefully around this awkward detail, a dog mess that might not smell unless it was disturbed." The following is a review from Amazon:

This second novel by the author of Misfortune (2005) wends its way through a labyrinth of familial idiosyncrasies, grudges, and conundrums. As John Wesley Harding, Stace writes lyrics and performs music, and his folksy style infuses an air of warmth and humor to what is essentially the story of a controlling woman who nearly ruins her entire family. The multilinear and multigenerational tale begins with the last days of an elderly vaudeville ventriloquist, Echo Ender, whose onstage success with her dummy, Naughty Narcissus, ensures entry into the entertainment world for future generations of her family. First comes Echo's son, Joe, also a ventriloquist, who has a dummy named George; he's followed by his flamboyant daughter, Frankie, an actress; and then by her withdrawn son, also named George, who develops his own talent for throwing his voice at boarding school. The two Georges—one a boy, the other a dummy—are the joint narrators in this saga of the backstage failures behind one family's onstage success. The two Georges' stories eventually merge in a surprising conclusion to a novel that most readers will hate to see end. Characters spring to life in the words of the sardonic dummy, whose pointed comments about his wacky family make the book a hoot to read and beg the question, Who's in control, the puppet or the puppet master? Book groups will enjoy sorting out this one!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

And Still More Soap

The Nevada Day holiday is actually Halloween but the legislature got into the picture and decided that it should fall on a Friday so people could have a three-day weekend, which is swell if you work Monday-Friday. This being a 24/7 state, it's good work if you can get it. So today is my holiday and I'm making use of it by knocking out some more soap.

This soap was actually made on Saturday and I'm just now getting around to cutting it, which is a bit of a mistake since it's gotten quite firm. I had to stand on a chair to push the cutter through the block. I also didn't realize that I needed a fresh battery.
After the large block is reduced to three small blocks, it's time to turn them into bars with the handy cutter that I bought on the Internet that slices with a strip of piano wire. I also bought another handy cutter that's supposed to shave the corners so the bars are more friendly to use, but the cutter wasn't so handy. Sharp edged soap is awkward, so to fix them, I use the potato peeler that's in the first picture, a wedding present from my first wedding in 1968.

This finished tray of bars needs to cure for four weeks. I'd like to get an Etsy Store up by the end of November so I can sell my soap online, but with all the angst this past summer, I didn't get a stockpile of soap made to support that goal. Now I'm racing the clock. This is my Bar None, as in, it's the best soap, bar none. The flecks of lavender are from my neighbor but Amy have me a ton of her's, which is now guarding my wool from moths, but will become soap soon.
The mold is lined with waxed butcher paper and ready for the next batch. The pictures come out so much better with a fresh battery. No excuses, it's time to make soap. Besides, I need to take a break from listening to CNN and the SoCal fire news.

I'm tagging blogs as I go now as Leigh suggested I do, but I'm only a quarter way through tagging the old posts so I can index my blog. What a job.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Finally, a Finished Sweater

I finally finished this sweater, for the second time. I bought this yarn over ten years ago from Diane Soucy when she ran the wool room at the Truckee Variety Store and before she was Knitting Pure and Simple. I knit it into a pullover sweater that was so hot and heavy that I was never able to wear it. Finally last year I frogged the whole thing, rinsed the wool, skeined and rewound it, feeling just a little righteous. I have finally completed it and realize that I selected this yarn at a time in my life when everything I wore was denim blue. Now I'm wondering if I have just finished yet another sweater that I will never wear.

I had seen these cast glass buttons at Jimmy Beans Wool and was convinced that they were the perfect way to finish off the sweater. I didn't stop to think that they weigh a ton, and while they would probably be fine on a v-neck sweater, they make the neck flap down on this crew neck. I can't reknit the yarn - the wool is pretty fragged and has lost some of memory. So I guess I need to go button hunting again - or not wear the sweater or just pretend that I don't care that the button is flapping around below my neck. There's a reason I don't know sweaters for myself.

Feeling in need of a little humor, I'm glad I got it from Valerie.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Book Me-Me

I've been tagged for the book me-me by Valerie. It has taken me days to think about how I wanted to answer because the questions are so much fun. So~

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why?

Definitely paperback because I can read them in bed easily and they're smaller so I can have more books. I can never have enough~

2. If I were to own a book shop, I would call it…

I have no idea, but don't think I'd want to own a bookstore anyway. Two of my favorites are Kramer's in D.C. and The Strand in NYC and neither have catchy names.

3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is…

Peter Toohey: "Mr Roark, we're alone here. Why don't you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No-one will hear us."

Howard Roark: "But I don't think of you."

Fountainhead, Ayn Rand (I have always thought of this as the ultimate put-down.)

4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be…

I'm afraid the authors I most enjoy wouldn't enjoy lunch with me! I would be a blithering idiot and certainly wouldn't be able to eat a thing. But to answer the question, it would have to be Margaret Atwood. I found some of the same scenes in Surfacing and Cat's Eye and would just love to be a mouse in her pocket. Of all the books I've read, I had the greatest affinity with Cat's Eye, definitely.

5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except for the SAS survival guide, it would be…

It would depend on the length of my stay so in reality, probably a Bible, but for the sake of the fun of this, Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.

6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that…

I'm not feeling any lack here and just discovered a tiny LED clip-on device this summer that lets me read in bed without disturbing Ian's sleep.

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of…

Vacations! I always leave room in my luggage so I can browse through used book stores and bring home more books.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be…

Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, for her pluck and resilience. I thought of Susan Burling Ward from Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, but she loses a child and I don't even want to go there.

9. The most overestimated book of all times is…

I don't know about of all times, but I think The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and also The Historian by Elizabeth Kostava were both long on hype and short on editing.

10. I hate it when a book…

that I have absolutely loved every page of comes to an end. That's it. It's over - like the Monty Python parrot that is "no more" - like how I felt when I finished Annie Proulx's The Shipping News.

And now for the tagging part - if they are so inclined - I'd like to hear from Leigh and Marie on these questions, and maybe Amy, when she gets back from taking care of her mother's affairs???

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


This picture was taken when we lived in Twain Harte, California and is my favorite picture of Mother and me. I think the posture says so much. Today is Mother's birthday - she was born in 1905. Her father had an exhibition called An Eskimo Village at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair and her mother was his ticket seller. Mother went at life full tackle and sometimes I felt like the cans dangling behind a "Just Married" car, but she saw life like Larry the Cable Guy, "Get 'er done." There wasn't a timid bone in her body. She taught me so much, including how to knit when I was nine. She learned from the Red Cross so she could knit socks for "the boys" as part of the war effort ,and I am thrilled to be a part of those lessons, be it as a grandchild. As for grandchild, her first was born ten months after me. She played piano in a honky-tonk bank, dated a moonshiner during the depression, and lived on a horse ranch in Wyoming, where she broke horses.

Ian and I bought her a Web-TV when she was in her 90s and she couldn't help marveling that in her life time, she had gone from cleaning lantern chimney black,to surfing the Internet from her Lazy Boy. Happy birthday, Mom, wherever you are.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Birthday Surprise

I spent all morning at a library leadership training, then took myself out for a burrito at Tacos del Rey for lunch. Tomorrow is my birthday so when I got to work this afternoon and saw this on the back door to the building, I knew there was only one person who it could be meant for.

Here's my desk. Note that my chair has been replaced by a walker and I have a blow up cane that says "Over the Hill." In front of my computer is a display of books on ageing and I actually checked one out. As for the Sixty Happens banner - here are some of the sentiments:

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. Groucho Marx

Be kind to your kids, they’ll be choosing your nursing home.

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Mark Twain

Age is important only if you’re cheese or wine.

If you want to look young and thin, hang around old, fat people. Jim Eason.

You’re not old, you’re youthfully challenged.

We’re always the same age inside. Gertrude Stein

Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative. Maurice Chevalier

Over the hill…and on a roll.

It’s sad to grow old, but nice to ripen. Brigitte Bardot

In dog years, you’re already dead!

After sixty everything that doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work.

The secret to staying young is love, honesty, eat slowly and lie about your age. Lucille Ball.

It takes a long time to grow young. Pablo Picasso

You’re not 60, you’re 28 with 32 years of experience!

You know you’re getting old when the candles cost more than the cake. Bob Hope

Eat right, exercise regularly, die anyway.

The really frightening thing about middle age is you know you’ll grow out of it. Doris Day

This is the entrance to my work area. It's pretty hard to not know what birthday I'm celebrating. In addition to the black curtain, note the vulture.

My cake is decorated with black roses and says, "Over the hill is better than under it." So why am I laughing?

My own Diana Ross-style chorus is singing Happy Birthday to me. Working with these wonderful people is a present in itself.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Another great weekend

Today was another soap making day. I got the lye solution made and measured my hard oils when I realized that the thing I forgot at Costco - you know that feeling when you're leaving the store and you know you were supposed to have gotten something but you don't remember what? - was olive oil. I can't make soap without it. Ian was headed into town and I told him I needed big and cheap olive oil. Since I had my work area set up, I decided to dye some yarn - what's that expression??? Mistakes are really opportunities??? So this is what I did with mine.

Amy came out before Ian got back so we drove over to Jeanette Miller's for the alpaca festival. (Amy brought me several bags of lavender from her yard, so I put them up in my studio, hoping to keep the moth infestation at bay until I can bag everything with dry ice in a couple of weeks.) It snowed again yesterday but by this afternoon, most had melted and the weather was warm enough that we were able to sit out and spin. These are some of Jeanette's babies - her herd is huge.

Amy and Mim are demon-
strating drop spindling and hand spinning with a wheel. Amy and I ended up driving back to my house to get my wheel because the interest was so big. Besides, we were starving. A little ham sandwich was just what the doctor ordered.

I love the sweetness of alpacas and I especially love a cria and mommy, unlike our aloof llamas. Jeanette also has guard llamas; they have their place - just not in your arms.

Notice the bread board for flick carding. It really does save wear and tear on blue jeans. These locks are pretty felted by moi and require some muscle, but the colors are so great that I never can quite seem to chuck the project. There's not much on the bobbin here, but Linda came to my rescue and carded so much that I've got too much spun to quit.

Don't you love the little pom poms that are actually their back knees.

Jeanette is on the right. These animals are her passion. She told me that when they viewed the property to buy, she committed to purchase based on groundwater for the fields. The realtor asked her she would like to see the inside of the house before she signed the contract. She's living her dream.

It took me many years to appreciate the beauty of where I live.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Soap down, soap to go

It's soap. After my frantic efforts to not lose this batch, it's a huge relief to take off the wraps and see that the oils have saponified, i.e., it's soap. Oh, and the burn on my lip healed up just fine, but it hurt to laugh for a couple of days.
Charlie, my able helper, is checking to make sure that after being unmolded, it is soap on all sides.

The next step is to cut the block into strips. For years I used a ham carving knife, but this cutter I got from the Soap Saloon is much better. The cuts aren't diagonal any more. I'm sure wonky cuts add to the charm of hand built soap, but they annoy me.
And this small, almost invisible box on the right has a strip of piano wire screwed into it so that when I slide the block across, it's sliced into bars. This job I also once did with my ham knife, until I ran across this charming device on the Internet. I bought another cutter from yet another vendor to bevel the edges, but find that I'm happier with an old potato peeler from the 1960's for that task. I bought carrot juice on my way home from work tonight. There's more soap in the offing this weekend.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Charlie got tagged

Cat Zee tagged Charlie for a meme and here goes.

Here's the rules -

* Link to your tagger and post the rules.
* Write something about yourself: something random, something weird, something just plain fun.
* Tag 7 peoples at the end of your post and list their names and links
* Let them know they got tagged by leaving' a comment on their blogs.

1. I have my own dog - I'm probably a dog.
2. I can’t type because my claws are too sharp and I hit more than one key so Mom had to type for me, but I sat on her lap and watched her carefully to make sure it was just right and I purred the whole time to let her know how lucky she was to have me there.
3. I ‘m not so big on the outside, but I’m very big on the inside.
4. I came from a Latino neighborhood and still have a little bit of an accent. It really comes out when I purr.
5. I love to fight through the French doors with the neighbor’s demon dog, Sami, and she’s afraid of me.
6. My favorite playtoy is Mom’s pencils. She has to hide them all from me because I can find them anywhere, flick them out and bat them all around in the house in no time. It’s really fun to drop them in the dogs’ water.
7. Um, I’m tired now – naptime.

Ok. So I tag
1. Claire
2. Neelix
5. That's all we can think of who hasn't done this meme. Charlie wants to make it clear that he's really a dog trapped in a cat's body so he feels at a disadvantage. (I tried to correct his counting but he put his paw down firmly, that it was fine.)