Sunday, December 28, 2008

2009- more or less the same?

The snow was up to out butts, and we had not seen the ground in 5 weeks. It was definitely time for a road trip to Virginia and a nice visit with DD, DSIL, and DGS. It was marvelous to take the dogs for a walk around to Dunkin Donuts and back. The dogs were happy to go, anytime a leash was offered. On Saturday the 27th, the temperature was in the high sixties. We watched the weather at home, and it rose into the 40's there, as well. It rained at home. Perhaps some of that g--awful snow will be gone by the time we get home.
Aunt Ida called me today, to wish me a merry christmas and catch me up on my cousins' doings. It was a wonderful holiday surprise. I sent her greetings from all my siblings. I am making my plans for the new year. I wonder if I can forego resolutions that involve self-denial or self improvement. Do you think I could just promise not to be any worse than I was last year?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Some unfortunate physics involving knit cotton underwear

It was 19 below last night. It got up to zero today. (That's farenheit, so another 32 degrees before anything actually melts.) We went to our Monday bowling league. Now a bowling center is not an easy or cheap thing to keep heated. Lots of square feet and cubic feet, and big blowers and fans... So the bowling alley does not keep the place heated overnight (except the rest rooms so the plumbing doesn't freeze.)
We got to the bowling alley on Ft. Drum at noon, and the temperature inside was 44 degrees (again, farenheit!) We kept our coats on. I kept my mittens on between frames. Three hours later, we were done with bowling, and the temperature was up to 57 degrees. I made a few unnecessary trips to the ladies' room, just to warm up.
Oh yeah, underwear. In dressing for bowling, I gave consideration to the fact that the bowling alley would be cold. (My estimate was seriously warmer than the alley. Nevermind.) I put on a cotton knit turtleneck and a wool pullover sweater. These two garments generally get along well, acting as one shirt. However, when throwing a cotton knit sports bra into the formula, things get to fighting with one another. I was doing a clothing adjustment after every frame. The turtleneck crept up with each arm swing, taking the sweater with it, and the bra did not allow the shirts to get back down on their own. They had to be wiggled and yanked back into modest compliance. This probably explains why I was not as cold as some people. I was working it!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Has the snow let up?

No it has not. It has pretty much been snowing since Thanksgiving, though the weather has cooled off, so no more power outages from trees falling over with the weight of heavy wet snow. Now the snow is anything but wet. It has reliably remained below freezing for the last 4 days, and the snow (lake effect) keeps coming. Going anywhere is an adventure. The roads are plowed, but not salted, so things are slippery (packed snow on the roads) and visibility comes and goes. When it goes, you'd like to not be on the road. We check the radar before we go to the store (1.7 miles away.)
Our foster dog, Buddy, has been here for the weekend. Since the Old Lady is gone, he finally had permission to go upstairs. (That was her bailiwick, and no visiting dogs were allowed.) I put his bed in my bedroom, so he could sleep in the same room with the rest of the pack.
The dogs went out, the dogs came in, the dogs went out again. And so it went all weekend. It kept the blood from settling in my butt.
When I was not shoveling, I spent several hours sampling on the passap (knitting machine). I really made a lot of progress. DH was working in the shop doing the christmas present thing.
It's fun to wander out to the shop, warm yourself by the stove, have a cup of tea, then go back to my own projects.
Well, it's time to shovel again. This is getting old.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Half a Turkey is better?

The snowfall was gorgeous. The power outage was predictable. Cooking the turkey was the problem.
What a wonderful Thanksgiving day we had. We spent the day hauling firewood in to feed the woodstove in the living room, and sweeping up chunks of snow from everyone's boots and from the dogs going in and out as well. The boy, who is too cool to wear snow gear, was changing out of wet jeans and socks every half hour, and the wet things were piling up. We put stuff near the stove to dry. Gin rummy was played.
Most of the cooking was done the day before, including the cranberries, the squash, the rutabaga, the rolls., the pumpkin pies. We just had to cook a 24 pound bird, make gravy and mashed potatoes. The resources available, and the clock moving steadily onward, figured in the final solution: cut the turkey in half, and cook one half on the gas grill. With the second half of the bird safely in a cooler on the back porch (38 degrees), our fearless grillmaster left the house carrying the roasting pan to the back shed, where the grill was set up, out of the snow. Thirty minutes later, the power was back on.
Cooking was finished in the kitchen. (In the evening, I cooked the second half, and made more gravy, as we all know, there is no such thing as too much gravy.)
I hope your day was as satisfying, though if you did without the snow and the power outage, you don't lose any points.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hope for Chicken Cacciatore. Expect Chili.

In my mother's kitchen, you did not stop your meal preparation to go get a missing ingredient. Actually, you did not stop if you were missing all the ingredients. You substituted. We still recall Mom's recipe for chicken cacciatore: Brown a pound of ground beef. Add tomatoes, onions, celery, and beans. Season with chili powder. Serve over mashed potatoes. We all faithfully follow this recipe.
I was thinking about this yesterday, when DH said, by the way, there are some really great frozen tacos in the freezer. I asked him how he had failed to tell me this last night, as he watched me eat a swanson mexican combo frozen dinner. He had no answer. Actually, his excuse was that he was nearly comatose in front of the tube when I got home from my bowling league, but this is not where I want to go with this post. Back on track!
Oh, yes. recipes. Actually, my chili recipe is constantly evolving. (Sounds much more creative than 'substitute'.) It has gone low-fat (ground turkey) or vegetarian (tofu) or shabby chic frugal (diced pork roast). It has gone 'green' (Verde). Apparently, that's what recipe's do- they evolve. Which leads to interesting questions, like do recipes arise, like life in the premordial soup, over and over again, or does a recipe arise once, and evolve endlessly into a thousand diverse offspring? And who cares?
I plan to make chili on Wednesday. People are driving a long way to visit for the holiday, and they will need something familiar and tasty to eat when they get here. It has to be no-fuss. But it needs to demonstrate just the tiniest shred of having evolved from the last time. Can't say what that will be until it happens. I see some chicken in the freezer.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Birthdays for House Plants

It's official. One of my house plants is old enough to vote. Now I know that most people do not know how old their plants are. Tell me: How can that be? (You don't know either, right?)
It's the Grapefruit tree. Of course, I didn't find her, she found me. One day in November 1990, I was eating a grapefruit. (duh.) One of the seeds was already sprouted. I shoved it into the soil of the nearest potted plant, a very maternal philodendron. It grew and it grew. By the time it was 7 or 8 years old, she lived in a huge pot, and I tried to get her to spend the summers outside, and her winters on the porch. She suffered severe winter kill in her 8th year. Nothing budded in the spring. I was whacking her trunk off to make it easier to get the body off the porch, when .... TOO LATE!!!! I saw the green rim of live just beneath the bark in the very terminal cut I had made. I was miserable. I dragged the tree outside, and went back for the pot. That's when I saw the tiny leaf budding an inch below the cut. She wasn't gone after all.
She just had to start over. I don't prune her. My Big Guy keeps talking about how she needs a good clipping, take out those crossed branches, thin out the limbs where they are too close. I can't bring myself to do it. Who does he want her to get pretty for? I say, leave her wild. She looks good to me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Old Lady's nap

The Old Lady has taken up napping in the dog's bed. This leaves Sally flummoxed, since she recognizes that the cat has higher pack status than she does, and if the cat is in the Sally's bed, the dog cannot get into the bed until the cat invites her. The Old Lady will not be inviting her, as she cannot imagine anyone waiting for an invitation. This is how I know that we will not be able to effectively communicate with creatures from other parts of the galaxy, when they arrive on earth. Maybe they've already been here and left, looking for a more understandable species.
At any rate, the Old lady is in the dog bed only because she cannot jump up on the couch, her preferred nap space. When I do find her napping on the couch, I know that she tried and failed at least twice, before her old, wasting hind quarters could launch her from the floor to the couch. She will not use the kitty steps I have placed for her.
Everything has changed, and nothing has changed. Youth is gone, and with it, the competent comfortable body. Expectations have not changed. I expect to nap on the couch. I will probably use the kitty steps.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Inner Knitter's OCD

Well, I made this shrug- a great color, a wonderful texture. It's huge, and light, and warm. It's up-to-the-minute in-fashion. What's wrong with this picture? My IK is NOT happy with the edge. (You can't SEE the edge, I tell her. You know it's there, she answers.)
There IS a lot of edge to this garment. But you really can't see it when it's worn. IK is worried that another knitter will examine it, and will be able to discount the garment for it's glaring faults, the way IK can, when she sees a garment that she wishes she had made, but upon close inspection, finds the flaws that allow IK to just KNOW she would have done a better job.
It6 was my first shrug, I told her. It was idiot knitting, she answered. After lengthy dialogue, IK and I arrive at a compromise. I will immediately point out and confess the flaws to anyone who looks at the shrug. IK is not particularly thrilled with this course of action, but has to live with it, because it demonstrates that IK is right, something IK is not capable of disputing, ever.
Because IK is very prickly after this conversation, I have to decided make something that IK will not have a problem with. I am considering what that might be. Pie, perhaps. Apple pie. Ala Mode.

Monday, October 20, 2008

When a pain in the ass is a good thing

I always imagine that when I bowl a terrific score, it will be because I am physically, mentally, and spiritually in the zone. Consequently, when I began my first game on Friday, and immediately felt a painful cramping of something deep, deep in my right cheek... Well, no spectacular bowling tonight. There was a serious hitch in my get-a-long, a pinch, a cramp, a strain of some kind deep at the point of my sitting-down bone. You know that stretch that you do after aerobics class, the one where you sit on the floor with your left leg out straight and your right leg bent at the knee, with your right foot crossed over your left leg, and on the floor to the left of your left knee, and you pull left on your right knee and turn your upper body to the right, and you feel that spot loosen up in the stretch? That's the spot.
Anyway, I slowed my approach way down, so as not to aggravate the cramp, and I stretched it out as best I could between frames. I started rolling strikes. My first game had 7 strikes, and a 190 total. My second game was a 220 and I finished with a 212. My 622 series will get me mentioned on the local sports news. ("Yes folks, that sometime 600 bowler that we have not heard from in the past couple years is back...")
All of a sudden, being 62 just got better.
That was Friday night. Today, I bowl in a daytime league, with other retired people. They already know what happened Friday. What will happen today? Will I be able to live up to my newly recovered reputation as a scratch bowler? Or will I be no better than I was before Friday? Expectations have changed. But I don't know that the world has. Am I the Red Sox or the Rays? I'll let you know.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Camping with Zippy

There are weeks that you would pick out to live over again. I'm putting last week on that list.
We took the camper to Letchworth state park- and had a beautiful couple of days in the sunny, warm indian summer. We hiked the trails and I think we got to every lookout. The scenery was stunning, and we had the place nearly to ourselves. (As we checked out on Friday, though, we could see we were in the nick of time- the campers were rolling in, and the extra parking was marked out, and the shuttle stops were already marked, for the giant craft show this weekend.) I already had my treasure. We had wandered into a little 'antique' shop in Mt. Morris, where I found a $15 box of 'sewing items'. There was treasure in that box.
When we got home, I pored over the items in the box, enjoying the company of all the ghosts.
Among tons of other stuff, there were two sets of steel sock needles, in the original wrappers- gilt tipped and imported from England. I am putting socks on one set as we speak.
Why do I like these old things? I think I feel connected to all the people who have ever knitted when I use the old needles. They remind me that I'm doing something useful, and that I love somebody.
I used Zippy on the picnic table, and I must say, I love her more each time I spin with her. Zippy and I filled a couple bobbins of natural grey wool, which I'll get plied up at home. One of the things I am appreciating about Zippy is that I can work several feet away from the orifice. When you have to treadle the wheel, you can only back up so far... I am trying to figure out if there is a real advantage to my long-draw, 5 feet from the orifice style, or if it's just a no-dif preference. I need to ponder that one for a while.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Old Lady's DNR bracelet

Yesterday, I answered a knock at my door, and there was Pat, whom I had not seen in several years. She was on an improbable mission. Her son, Isaac, a 25 year old graduate of West Point, is now in some further military training in Alabama. He has a girlfriend, and he and his girlfriend are going to make the trek to Upstate New York to meet mom (Pat) this winter, just after Christmas. So, she' s not just a girlfriend. Pat makes wonderful felted mittens, usually by felting a recycled wool sweater, then cutting the parts from the felted wool, and blanket stitching the mittens. Isaac wants some as a christmas gift for his girlfriend. But they have to be black and white houndstooth pattern, because that is the 'tartan' of her college. They have been looking, without success, for a wool sweater in the required houndstooth pattern. Pat is on my doorstep because she knows I have knitting machines, and maybe I can knit some 'sweater yardage', which she can then felt to make the mittens. Why, yes I could. We were figuring out the details for the knitting project when I remembered that I had a houndstooth sweater that I had machine-knit in the '80's. The sweater was not black and white, rather it was knit from two natural, undyed wools, one as white as unbleached fleece gets, and another of natural charcoal grey. Pat consults Isaac, and they decide this sweater will do the trick.
A barter is struck. The crisis is over. The clouds part. The sun comes out. Everything is wet and sparkley.
Then the cat wandered into the room. She wobbled to the center of the rug and didn't sit down so much as fall over. She reclined on her side with her feet out straight. This is her habit of the last couple years. The arthritis, especially in her hips, keeps her from walking no further than she has to, and staying upright no longer than necessary. What drives the Old Lady to keep going is her innate nosiness. She is always interested, and has to come and see what you are doing, especially if it involves yarn, and no matter that she must follow you up and down the stairs.
Pat and I reminisced about the Old Lady. Fourteen years ago, I had told Pat that I was looking for an indoor house cat. I wasn't looking for just any cat. I didn't want to raise a kitten. I wanted a cat that was already 3 or 4 years old, reasoning than noone keeps a closet shitter that long. I wanted a female, preferrably already spayed. And, I am partial to calicos. Pat called me back a week after that conversation, and put me in touch with a woman who needed a home for a 4 year old female calico. Ipso Fatso came to my house and has been in charge ever since. She is eighteen years old now. And for the last couple years, she had been called the Old Lady twice as often as she had been called Ipso. She doesn't answer to either name.
The Old Lady's teeth are going, along with everything else. She's contributing to the financial health of the local animal hospital on a regular basis. One of these days...
Meantime, while you are here, if you want it, ask your friends. They've got what you need.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The perils of emulating Brooklyn Jogger

So-From reading brooklynjogger's blog, I heard about the 'Couch to 5K' plan. Sounds so innocent. Sounds so easy. Don't believe it.
Actually, for most people, it will work out well, but some of us must start much further behind the line than 'couch.' That would be me. I was born in 1946 (You do the math). My body fat percentage is north of 30.
After attempting week 1 of the plan, and finding that neither the jog cycle of 1 minute, not the recovery cycle of 90 seconds were working. I slowed the whole thing down, and have now started over with a 40 second jog cycle and a 2 minute recovery cycle. At least I can breathe! I reckon that whenever I get to week one, I will have a party! Maybe Brooklyn Jogger will bring the guacamole.
On the spinning front, Zippy and I finished the alpaca roving, and I have 7 ounces of wonderful yarn to imagine the possibilities with. I am amazed at the speed with which I spun and plied on Zippy! Also on the spinning wheel front, I picked up two old sewing machines and 'harvested' the motors and foot pedals. Zipparina and Zippidy are already on the drawing board.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sharon and Zippy visit the alpaca farm.

It was a cloudy grey, damp day on Saturday. I visited Riverbend Alpacas near Croghan, New York. It appears that all the Alpaca farms are having open house today. I had volunteered to demostrate handspinning. My host, Ellen Chamberlain, has a small shop full of alpaca garments and yarn. She had her loom set up under a tent, and I joined her with Zippy and a more conventional looking spinning wheel.
Quite a few people stopped by to enjoy the open farm. The dozen or so alpacas were charming hosts, and alpaca roving was the obvious spinning choice. Zippy did a wonderful job spinning alpaca. She's very fast, and very easy to control. We spun a lovely single, and plied it up at the end of the day, into a sleek 2=ply fingering weight.
Back in the real world today, DH and I spent the morning taking up the pavers, and digging up the compacted gravel to receive the new concrete steps on Monday. This 'weekend project' has leaked past the middle of the summer and bled right into fall. I have robust leg muscles from climbing into the house without the use of steps, since the beginning of August. I have robust arm muscles from swinging a sledge hammer and shoveling crushed stone. I am still pretty soft in the middle, though. And, in a cruel twist of happenstance, the new bathroom scales are 3 pounds 'heavier' than the old ones. Oh well, at least I can blame 3 pounds on the scales.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Day 6 - (sounds biblical)

Well, well, well. There has been progress. The 31$ worth of PVC pipe and fixtures made a respectable base for zippy. The motor, rewired and renewed in other secret ways that I know nothing about, hums along. the belts will be here tomorrow, so the final adjustments can be made, and PVC things made more permanent with glue. In it's final configuration, the maidens will be shorter, too. Currently using a big rubber band until the 'real' belt gets here.
It Spins! Fast! Beautifully! And, Look, Ma - no feet! (The picture doesn't show the foot pedal speed control.)
I wound up using an old Lendrum flyer, flyer lead, bobbin brake.
My spinner-building partner is all excited to make a better one with a different motor, a nice wooden base and case, and the Louet flyer. I'll keep you posted.

As if getting zippy nearly finished wasn't enough excitement this week, I went the the Genessee Valley Handspinners Guild Fiber Festival. It was held at a county fairgrounds, and vendors and demonstrations filled FIVE buildings. Maybe I saw you there. That was you with the big bag of yarn, wasn't it? Had a great time, with great company. Added to my stash, of course.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Electric spinner- And Away We Go...

Wait until you see this!
To begin at the beginning, I showed my shop guy a flyer/bobbin assembly that has been waiting 25 years to be part of a spinning wheel, and said I wanted an electric spinner. He showed me a sewing machine motor with a foot pedal control that has been waiting 25 years to be part of a spinning wheel. I got chocolate in his peanut butter, he got pb on my chocolate.
We went to Lowe's and bought PVC pipe and fittings: six from column a, two from column b... We bought new lamp wire to replace the shabby old wires and plugs. Looks like we have nearly everything except a belt for the motor to drive the flyer. We have spent $31.69 so far. Of course, 25 years ago, we spent 30 dollars for the flyer/bobbin assembly. Louet jumbo, I think.
This is day one of this project.

Hi, I'm Sharon, and I own too many sewing machines.

A sewing machine is like a hammer and nails. You can use the same tool to do baroque or rustic. My fixation with the tools is not confined to sewing machines. I also love knitting machines. Additionally, I'll put my yarn stash and/or my fabric stash up against anyone's.
I learned to sew in the '60's, a decade after learning to knit. Both have always been a joy.
I have made perfect pants (I'm talking about perfect fit, here), which makes shopping for ready to wear pants just like torture.
I am not a quilter. I always said that I was 'saving' quilting until my retirement. Now that I am retired, I'm feeling more like playing in the same old sandbox, rather than moving my energy and concentration to another sandbox. We'll see.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My stash has gotten away from me - seriously,

So, I just wanted to paint the window. The window in the spare bedroom. Trouble was, I could not get within 6 feet of it. It was behind a barricade of plastic totes, 2 deep, 2 wide, and 3 high. Guess what's in the totes. Yup.

I forgot how much yarn I have. Several of the totes contain nothing but balls and hanks of handpun wool. Some hand dyed as well. A little silk, a little alpaca, but mostly wool. A lot of natural gray and silver wool. A lot of white wool. Some of it waiting for a dye bath, though I just like the stuff plain most of the time.

BTW, the totes do NOT contain any of the machine knitting yarn stash. That is another octopus stored in another spare bedroom.

What I am going to do is paint the window, and put the totes back. But before I do, I'll get the whole mess out and organize it, so that I don't have to visit all the totes each time I'm looking for something. This COULD be a late new year's resolution.

Actually, what will REALLY happen is this: I'll have a fun afternoon pawing through the totes. I might make some notes, but I'll still have to look in every tote each time I'm looking for something. Not a bad thing, really. Not a bad thing at all.