Thursday, December 23, 2010

I can't stop laughing at my daughter.  I'm trying not to, but I just can't stop giggling.

She's walking around the house, carrying her little musical moose, singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", but with her own... creative... words.

She couldn't understand all the words the moose was singing, so she filled in words that sounded close.

We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
And a Happy New Year!

Good dinings we glee,
For you on Pompeii,
Good dinings for Christmas,
And a Happy New Year!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wow.  Total bureaucratic fail at work today.  I guess we won't be doing that wetland enhancement project after all. So much for looking at the big picture.  Let's just keep grazing and mowing it.

Sometimes it's very discouraging being a biologist.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I did a little canning this fall, though not as much as I would have liked.  Shockingly, I didn't make a bit of jam.  Since I still have an adequate (roughly, oh, five year?) supply of jam in the pantry, I think we'll survive.  However, since I bought ten pounds of cucumbers at the last Farmer's Market, I did make pickles!

This is seven quarts of cucumber dill slices.  I got this bug in my brain that I wanted crinkle-cut slices for these pickles, and bought a mandoline.  I've wanted one for years, and finally just went ahead and got one, already.  Plus, the mandoline makes quick work of thin-sliced potatoes, which I hate doing.

When I made the sliced pickles, I kept back the smallest cukes and used them to make two quarts of whole baby dills.  And finally, as an experiment, I made three quarts and two pints of zucchini dill spears and chunks, out of an absolutely enormous zucchini that a friend gave me.  All those zucchini pickles are from one zuccini.

I tucked all these pickles away in the pantry for a month to let them ripen and cure.  Emma and I cracked open one of the jars of the whole cucumber pickles today, and YUM!   Crunchy and fantastic!  Can't wait to try the rest!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yes, yes, I know that Halloween is past and the world has moved on, but I have to show Emma's costume from this year.  It was too good not to share.  Besides, if the stores can start putting Christmas decorations out in early October, I can show Halloween pictures in mid-November.

Can you guess who she went as? 

(Wow, that was a toughie, wasn't it?)

Yes, she was our very own Princess Leia.  This was my favorite costume she's ever had.    The dress, the hair, everything - the overall effect was so completely recognizable.  And the super-terrific bonus?  It was absolutely free and required minimal effort on my part.  The dress is out of her dress-up box (a hand-me-down from a friend), worn with a white turtleneck under it. 

It was the hair that really made the costume, though, those trademark buns.  That is not a wig or clip-on buns, that is her own hair, which is long enough to touch the chair seat when she sits down.  I rolled up each side into a sock bun, using an old pair of her toddler socks as the base of the rolls.  It took all of five minutes.

Even better, the friend we went trick-or-treating with had the perfect costume to go with hers.  This was totally unplanned.

We went to the trick-or-treating costume parade through the downtown shops on October 30, and it was so much fun.  Everywhere we went, she was instantly recognized.  Everyone smiled, and cries of "Leia!"  followed us along the way.

I saw Star Wars when it first came out in the theater in 1977, when I was six.  I think it's great that today's six and seven year olds are still obsessed with it, an entire generation later.

I couldn't decide which was better, watching Emma having fun collecting candy, or watching the people watching her.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

OK.  I think I need to write this out and get it off my chest.  I wasn't going to because it's pretty personal, but it goes a long way to explain why I've been silent for so long.  It was life-controlling, and I had no room for anything that wasn't absolutely necessary.

This is probably going to be more than the world needs to know, but I need to say it, and who knows, someone else in a similar situation may read it and be helped.

WARNING! TMI ALERT! This post may contain Too Much Information!

As I mentioned a couple days ago, I recently had surgery. I actually had two procedures: endometrial ablation and tubal ligation. Having this done was a strangely difficult decision for me, and I'm not really sure why.

The backstory is that I have been dealing with menstrual irregularities for several years, in which I would bleed heavily for weeks or sometimes months at a time. Especially this year, it got much worse and I bled continuously and very heavily from the end of May to the end of October. Thank goodness for my DivaCup.  Often I would lose 3-4 ounces of blood per day, which is more than is lost in an entire "normal" period.  I estimated that I lost roughly three gallons of blood in five months.  I felt like I couldn't go anywhere or do anything because of the bleeding. Of course I did do things, but the bleeding and how I was going to cope with it was always right up there at the front of my mind, the first consideration.   Obviously, this is not a happy situation, either from a physical or mental health standpoint.

The excessive blood loss meant that I developed severe anemia, though I didn't know it at the time. Let me tell you, anemia is not fun. I was tired to the point of exhaustion ALL THE TIME, and felt like I had no reserves at all.  Absolutely none.  At one point in August, I was mowing the lawn and had to stop three times to sit down, catch my breath, let my heart rate return to normal, and stop feeling like I was going to pass out. Our lawn is not that big.

Looking back, I think I've been anemic to one degree or another since I was a teenager, except when I was taking birth control pills. When I was on the Pill, my cycles were clockwork regular, not heavy, and normal-length. If not on the Pill, my cycles were all over the place; irregular and heavy.  On the Pill=not tired. Coincidence? I think not.  I was found to be mildly anemic when I was pregnant, and took iron supplements. But for most of my life, the doctors just told me that in order to fix my tiredness, I should get more sleep and eat more red meat. Multiple doctors told me this.  They just shrugged and told me that heavy bleeding and irregular cycles were just something that some women had to deal with. So I did.

When finally, out of desperation, I went to the doctor again in September, my hemoglobin levels were so low that if they had been half a point lower it would have been considered life threatening. When the doctor called with the blood test results, she told me to get to the grocery store now and buy iron pills and orange juice. Don't wait until tomorrow. That was a little scary.

At my followup appointment, we discussed options. She said that hormonal imbalances were the cause of the excessive bleeding and irregularity, and the most obvious course of action would be to go back on birth control pills. I am not willing to do this, because every brand of pill I've ever tried does bad things to me. Been there, done that. Yes, the regularity is nice, but it comes with grouchiness, depression, weight gain, and generally feeling horrible about myself as a person. So that was not an option.

The second option she offered was to have a full or partial hysterectomy. That seemed a little extreme. I have no desire to go into immediate menopause, or risk the rest of the known side effects like cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. So that was not an option either, not if there was anything else that I could do.

Her third option was the endometrial ablation. This procedure surgically removes and scars the lining of the uterus to reduce or eliminate bleeding. Since it's obviously not a good idea to become pregnant if you have no uterine lining (it would result in an ectopic pregnancy), sterilization is indicated. She suggested tubal ligation.

So why did I have such a hard time coming to terms with having this done? I'm not really sure. Part of it, certainly, is the finality of it. I can never have another baby. Never mind that I have a beautiful daughter, am turning 40 in three months, and Shaun and I don't plan to have any more kids, of course, but still. I destroyed a part of my body, the part that nurtured Emma for nine months. I will never get that back. That part of my life is over.

Then one night, I had a thought. If I had appendicitis, I wouldn't hesitate at all to have an appendectomy. It wouldn't even be an issue. Just do it, fix it. I don't plan on having more children, so what's the problem? My uterus is a part of my body that is not functioning properly, which I am not currently using and do not plan to use in the future.  So I went ahead with the surgery.

Now I've never had surgery before. To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. I was terrified. I had my wisdom teeth out in college, but in the dentist's office. The only other time I've been in the hospital was during childbirth, and that's not quite the same thing. That was a happy occasion, a generative occasion, and I was not losing a part of myself. I was scared, but I was not unconscious and for the most part I felt in control of what was happening to me. In a very real sense, I was doing it to myself.

With this surgery, the doctors were doing it to me. I felt vulnerable. They were going to be rummaging around inside my body and I wouldn't even be aware of it. I will say this, though- deep slow breathing works as well for controlling pre-op hysteria as it does for getting through labor contractions. Seriously, I was nearly in tears when the anesthesiologist came in to talk to me beforehand. I was briefly in tears when they left me alone for 5 minutes before wheeling me down the hall to the operating room. Breathing helped and somehow I managed to hold it together. Then they make you scoot off the gurney onto the operating table, by yourself. It's like going to your own doom. Giant lights. Many trays and carts. Lots of monitors. Nurses tossing around phrases like "Foley catheter" and "intubation".  I'm a biologist, I know what those words mean.  Next time: sedative, earlier, please.

I've never had general anesthesia before, and it's weird. They started a saline IV in the pre-op room, then when I got to the operating room the anesthesiologist added something to make me feel "floaty," then I think he put a mask over my face, and then I woke up two hours later. The anesthesiologist asked me how I felt, and I remember answering "Sleepy." I think I also might have said "leave me alone", but I really hope I didn't say that out loud, because the anesthesiologist was nice.

Once it was over, I was fine. Not too much pain, and I went home 3 1/2 hours after waking up. Which is ridiculous when you stop to think about it. They knocked me out, cut me open, did a bunch of stuff, and then just sent me home. They did make sure that I could keep down liquids and also pee before they would let me go, though. Ah, healthcare.

I slept most of the first day. Surprisingly, I didn't have that much pain, as long as I didn't move around too much. I didn't need the Percocet, or even Advil. I didn't take any pain medication at all after leaving the hospital.  I was crampy from the ablation and the laproscopy incisions (two, from the ligation) hurt if I bumped them or contracted my abs, but otherwise it was fine. I mostly stayed in bed the rest of the day Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday was better, and I even did some laundry and the pile of dishes in the sink. By Friday I was up all day, and feeling mostly back to normal.  My belly was still a bit sore, but I could get up out of bed or a chair and bend over with no pain.  Today I'm feeling a bit bruised, but otherwise fine.

The ligation was much more invasive than the ablation, and had a longer recovery time.  Which is ironic, because it was the ablation that was the primary objective; the ligation was just an "extra" to make sure I won't get pregnant.  If I hadn't had the ligation, I wouldn't have needed general anesthesia, and I would have been back to normal in a day.  Anyway, it's done, and I'm fine.

The anticipation was definitely worse than the surgery itself.  Much, much worse.  Here's hoping the ablation will be effective.  Supposedly almost 50% of patients don't bleed at all anymore, which would be nice, but I'll settle for normal length periods, even if they're irregular.  It doesn't solve the underlying hormonal imbalance, but at least I won't bleed to death.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Friday, November 05, 2010

My goodness, two posts in two days- what is the world coming to?

I wanted to show off my new aquarium. I can't call it a fish tank, because it has no fish in it. This is a freshwater shrimp tank.

It's a 10-gallon tank, set up on September 12 with plants, driftwood, rocks, sand, etc from another tank to jumpstart the establishment of the nitrogen bacteria colony. It ran with only snails (Malaysian trumpet snails, one large apple snail, and one Juga plicifera [a native northwest snail]) for a couple weeks, then I added 29 crystal red shrimp on September 24.

crystal red shrimp

Aren't they pretty?

I've very much enjoyed this tank over the past couple months. The shrimp are now reproducing, and there are at least three little baby shrimp in there now, with many more mommas carrying eggs.

Crystal reds are a recessive mutation of naturally-occurring bee shrimp, which have a similar pattern but black stripes. They are so fun and personable. I love watching them pick through the plants. They have two-sided pincher hands on their front two pairs of legs, and they spend almost all their time grabbing at things to get up tiny bits of food.

Finally, just because it's so silly (and because I figured out how to use Windows Movie Maker to add music), here's a video of the apple snail taking a ride on the powerhead outflow.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Well. So. How the heck have you been? Apparently I needed a break.

Let me esplain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

In the past six months that this blog has been silent:
  • I went back to work, part time, again. It's been slow but relatively steady, and I've been working 4 hours a day on average. We had some personnel rearrangements in my group - we hired two new people, then the senior biologist (my supervisor) left for a new job, we hired her replacement, then one of the first new hires left, and the other was transferred to the engineering group. So we're back with only two in my group. I did get a raise.
  • I completed my first successful season as a vendor at my local Farmer's Market. I went into this with no real expectations for success; I mostly wanted to see if anything sold. My goal was to sell enough to make up the vendor fees. In actuality, the market exceeded my wildest expectations, and we made up the vendor fees in the first three weeks. It was a family endeavor - I had hand dyed yarn, handspun yarn, and woven, crochet, and knit items; Shaun made hand turned wood pens; and Emma made beaded earrings. Of all of us, I am most proud of Emma. My little girl made $401.25 this summer, selling $1-$3 earrings. This was a fun craft for us to learn together when Shaun was away at Friday Harbor for two months teaching. Better than a summer of TV, that's for sure. Anyway, Shaun and I are proud of her and she's immensely proud of herself. She put most of her money in her shiny new savings account, smart girl.
  • As mentioned, Shaun was away in Friday Harbor for almost two months, while Emma and I held down the fort here. I think she had a fun summer, between playing with beads (shiny, shiny beads! The Fire Mountain Gems website is way too much fun...), the Farmer's Market every Saturday morning, and a combination of playdates and daycare while I worked. Having Shaun gone is always stressful and we miss him, but at least we got to go to Friday Harbor twice, to take him there and pick him up. I really wish that Emma and I could have stayed longer than one day each time, but it just didn't work out that way. Maybe next time.
  • Emma and I took a trip to Arkansas for my grandmother's funeral in August, while Shaun was in Friday Harbor. A sad occasion, but it was great to see my dad and my mom's siblings, including all my cousins and their kids. Plus my sister, brother-in-law, and their baby bump! Emma was a champ during all the traveling, as always.
  • My computer suffered a catastrophic failure. I was required to purchase a new one, and getting used to Windows 7 has been traumatic to say the least. My photo filing program, ImageExpert, doesn't work with Windows 7, and neither does WinWeave! Argh! I hate upgrading. The one bright spot about the whole mess was that a wonderful computer tech here in town was able to rescue all the unsaved files off the crashed hard drive. Thank you, thank you!
  • Emma started second grade and turned seven. SECOND GRADE! SEVEN! How did that happen?
  • And last but not least, I had surgery last Tuesday. Nothing too serious, but it will hopefully take care of an ongoing problem I've had for a several years now and which basically ruled my life for the past six months. Another post on this may be forthcoming, unless it feels too personal. I'm currently enjoying four days off work, and being careful not to bump my abdomen on anything.
So there you have it. Of course, there were also all the little things that fill in the corners of life and make it interesting. Going for walks, a couple camping trips, listening to Emma read books, playing math games with her, setting up another aquarium for pretty freshwater shrimp, picking plums and making fruit leather, dyeing yarn, spinning, and all my other fibery endeavors.

I'm really going to try to post more often. I miss having this record.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Well, we're still kicking. And I think we've kicked out the germs. Hooray!

I've been doing a bunch of spinning, and am plotting weaving projects, and trying to get back into the swing of things. I am going to be selling at my local Farmer's Market this summer, and need to keep my inventory up. It starts in three weeks! Eek!

Oh, and I am also starting back at work part-time on Monday. I don't know how long they will need me this time around, but any paycheck is better than none, right?

So, no pictures today, but I'll try to get some up tomorrow-ish. I just finished a really pretty skein of beaded yarn, and it needs to be seen!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I have never before in my life been sick enough to stay in bed so many days. Since last Thursday-six days! This bug has steamrollered me. The only time I've ever felt close to this bad was when I had mono, and I thought nothing could match that level of sore-throatedness and fatigue. Ugh.

However! Things are looking up today. The sore throat is almost gone though my tonsils are still visibly swollen and white, and the fever hasn't come back yet today even though the latest dose of Advil (I switched when the Tylenol stopped helping) was eight hours ago at 3:00 am.

Shaun made me go to the 24-hour clinic on Sunday, and even though the rapid strep test came back negative, the nurse put me on a round of antibiotics. Normally I don't condone this, but 1) I was too loopy with the pain and fever to argue properly, also it hurt to talk, 2) she said that there is a strain of strep that the rapid test doesn't register, and since my symptoms and the state of my tonsils pointed to strep, we might as well cover that base, and 3) since I had fluid trapped in my ears (from the swollen throat) and tender sinuses, the antibiotics would prevent secondary infections, even if the original problem was caused by a virus.

Whatever, I said. I just wanted to get home and sleep.

I've done almost nothing but sleep since Thursday evening. I'm tired of sleeping. I need a vacation from sleeping. I have lost a WEEK OF MY LIFE to sleeping.

But I think I'm finally on the mend. Thank goodness.

In my newly-rediscovered state of awakeness, I was surfing around this morning and found The Hunt For Gollum on YouTube. It's a 40 minute Lord of the Rings fanfilm, and is very well done. Made my day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ode to a Virus

O rice bag, how I adore your heat,
To chase the fever chills,
And Tylenol, thou art a magic pill,
To cool me from one-oh-three.
The headache's throb,
And the grinding-bone ache,
Conspire to keep me limp,
Unable to read,
To blink,
To think,
And my pillow is stuffed with rocks.


Yeah, it's been a fun couple days.

Apparently I was in tears last night, because Naia (my cat) said he was going to get me some Tylenol, but then never came back. I have no memory of the conversation with Shaun, during which I think I did get some medicine, but I quite clearly remember Naia telling me he was going to get the Tylenol. He had a nice voice, very deep and soothing.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

I really don't see how it is possible that 2010 is one quarter done already. I really can't fathom it.

Anyway, onward. I have been jamming again: 4 pints last Friday.


This is Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade, tweaked a bit. Holy buckets. Folks, if you are at all a fan of strawberries, and have ever wanted to try making jam, you have to make this.

My tweaks: I used frozen strawberries rather than fresh because that's what I had, 1/2 cup of lemon zest (instead of 1/4 cup), and 1/2 cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice (instead of 1 tablespoon). I used a microplane for very delicate, fluffy, tender zest shavings.

(Have you tried a microplane? They're GRATE! Har, har.)

I was made aware of this recipe on Ravelry, in one of the canning groups, and resisted for almost a week before I broke down and had to make a batch. I really need to start using more jam, because I have so much already in my cupboard. It's just so much fun to make, and so tasty. Of course, excess jam wouldn't so much of an issue if the other members of my family were open to using something, anything other than specifically Welch's Grape Jelly. Seriously, Emma and Shaun won't touch anything else. Emma tries the jam when I make it, and says she likes it, but then won't eat anything but Welch's Grape on her daily school-lunch PBJ. There may yet be hope for her, but I've just given up on trying to broaden Shaun's horizons. Picky eaters. Sigh.

This jam (it's not really what I think of as "marmalade") is so good. The extra zest and lemon juice I added really amps up the lemon flavor, while still leaving the primary taste impression of the jam as strawberry. The microplaned zest means no bitter zest chunks, and the marriage of these two flavors is sublime.

I also wanted to show off some pickles I made in February. I had about half of a large bag of carrots in the fridge, which were approaching the end of their storage life- don't buy in bulk unless you're going to use in bulk! They weren't at all bad or mushy yet, but I knew that we'd never use them up before they were. I made a roast with 'taters and carrots, but there were still too many left, so I decided to pickle them. Result: 4 pints of yummy pickled carrots.

jam and pickles

These were made using the leftover brine from my pickled mushrooms. In order to ensure that the brine was acidic enough to safely preserve the pickles, and to make up the full amount of liquid I needed, I added an additional cup of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of salt, and half a cup of water to the brine when I boiled it. I sliced the carrots to the height of the jars minus a half inch, blanched them in the boiling brine for ~30 seconds and packed them in the jars. I brought the brine back to a good rolling boil and then filled the jars, put the lids on, and processed in a hot water bath. The ones I snitched on canning day were great, and today I finally opened one of the jars to sample the finished product. YUM! This was a tasty way to avoid throwing out 1.5 pounds of carrots.

One last item to report on the food preservation front:


A neighbor gave up six large steelhead trout, gleaned from a local hatchery's spring spawning program. These are (hatchery-bred, river run) fish that were caught but not used as spawners, and would otherwise have been wasted. My neighbor called at 10:00 at night, asking if we wanted some. She had 40+ fish, and was calling around to distribute them to the community. Of course I said yes, and so trotted across the street to collect some. They were way bigger than I thought they were going to be. Each fish was 2+ feet long, and weighed approximately 8-12 pounds. They didn't even fit in my sink.

So there I was, gutting fish at 11:00 at night. I was going to fillet them, but after making a bit of a hash of the first one, I realized I was too tired too tired to do a good job, and settled for gutting and removing the heads and tails. The fish were so big that I divided each in half. Those six fish tucked in my freezer will give us twelve meals.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Still making progress on the doily, though I took a few days off. Here it is with 35 rounds completed, and 14.75 hours elapsed.

Sunburst Pineapple doily

I have five rounds left. Then each point is worked separately, followed by three rounds of single crochet worked around the entire thing. It's going to take a while.

I do like how the zigzags look, though!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A silly cat moment for you...

It was nice of Naia to apologize to Coco and let her know that they're still friends!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So. Weaving.

wool and bamboo scarf

The more I weave, the more I like it. When I started weaving as an adult in 2002 (not considering for now the potholders I made as a child, and the set of placemats in high school art class), I didn't like warping. For many years I didn't like warping. Measuring the warp, then sleying the reed and threading the heddles and winding it on, and making sure to get the tension tight and even.

Too fiddly. Too time consuming. Too tedious. Just let me get to the weaving part, already! Throwing the shuttle is fun, using the beater is fun, watching the pattern build is fun. I came to weaving from a background of hand needlework (cross stitch, hardanger), so I liked hemstitching and finishing the woven fabric. But if I could have had someone do all my loom preparation for me, I would have been ecstatic.

wool and bamboo scarf

Over the past couple years or so, though, things have subtly shifted. Somewhere along the line, I no longer found sleying the reed to be irksome. Then a few months later, I realized that threading the heddles was OK, too. Time consuming, yes, but not in a grit-your-teeth-and-just-get-through-it way. And I don't have problems achieving even tension while winding on to the back beam, or tying the warp to the cloth beam. I am enjoying the whole process, not just actual shuttle-throwing part.

I still find measuring warps to be the least enjoyable part. But I have high hopes that this is changing too. I didn't think twice about throwing a warp on the loom for Emma, right after cutting this one off.

wool and bamboo scarf

Anyway, as you may have guessed, I've been showing pictures of the scarf I started Friday and finished on Saturday. I twisted the fringe on Sunday, using my standard method of pinning the hemstitching to a line, then separately twisting two bundles of warp threads a certain number of turns with the fringe twister (in this case, 70 turns), making an overhand knot and pinning it to a second line and snugging the knot to that length. When I take the pin out, the two warp bundles ply themselves into a nice round firm fringe. By using this pinning method, all the fringes end up the same length.

wool and bamboo scarf

I wet finished it by agitating for 75 seconds in the washing machine, checking on it at 30, 45, 60, and 75 seconds. I know from experience that this yarn fulls/felts well and very quickly. For this project, 75 seconds was exactly the right amount of time to get a scrumptiously soft and plush fabric that is still drapey and just delicious.

wool and bamboo scarf

The yarn is Jaggerspun 2/18 Superfine Merino, with seven accent stripes of Jo-Ann Sensations "Bamboo," which is a boucle yarn made of bamboo rayon with a nylon binder. It's a bit Muppety if used by itself, but looks fabulous as an accent. This is a great way to use small amounts of novelty yarn.

The weave structure is a simple 4x4 straight twill, with doubled floating selvedges. I love how the boucle loops poke out and stand up from the fabric. They were smooshed into the weave a bit on the loom, but the wet finishing brought them out beautifully. The sett was 24 epi in an 8 dent reed, with no special accommodations made for the boucle.

in the reed: 10" x 68"
off the loom: 9.5" x 63"
after finishing: 8" x 58" plus 5" fringe on each end

The scarf weighs 2.9 oz (84g).

wool and bamboo scarf

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I wove a scarf yesterday, and it came out great, but that show and tell post is going to have to wait, because my heart is bursting with pride. Emma wove all by herself on the floor loom yesterday.

(Please don't mind the fuzzy hat-hair braids. She was playing outside all day. I really do brush my daughter's hair!)

She was watching me weave, and was incredibly intent and focused. When I was hemstitching the end of the scarf, she asked if she could do some weaving too.

Of course I said yes, and immediately after finishing and cutting my scarf off the loom, I measured a warp for her and put it on the loom. It's dark green 3/2 perle cotton, sleyed at 8 epi, and I told her she could use whatever weft she wanted, because it's her weaving.

I found her a shorter chair so she could reach the treadles and off she went. The first two wefts were a scratchy rust nylon and a scratchy purple wool. She had lots of fun with those, but asked me for a softer yarn because she didn't want her scarf to be scratchy. So we decided on a white superwash merino. There's an object lesson in fiber choice for you.

She's doing beautifully, and has about 6 inches of the white woven now. Her attention span is about half an hour (pretty good for six year old, I think), and her selvedges are great!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A quickie post, to show the Aerangis citrata in full bloom.

Aerangis citrata

So pretty!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Moving right along on the doily, with a break over the weekend for some contract spinning.

3-8-10 (2)

This is 30 rounds completed, and 11 hours elapsed. I like how the pattern is working up. The zigzags are pretty, and complement the pineapples nicely.

In OrchidWatch news, the Aerangis citrata has opened! All the full-plant shots I took this afternoon came out blurry, so I'll leave you with this closeup from Sunday, when the first two flowers opened.

Aerangis citrata

I'll definitely have to get a good picture tomorrow, because all the flowers are open now, and it's so pretty!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Speeding right along with the sewing thread doily. Here it is with 25 rounds complete, and 7.5 hours elapsed.

Sunburst Pineapple doily

I like crocheting pineapples. They're pretty, easy to figure out what comes next, and nice and orderly. They can verge on too frou-frou when done in excess, though. I think what hooked me with this pattern is the layers of bold zigzaggy lines between the rings of pineapples. Sort of a more modern look than just lots of frilly pineapples.

The second orchid bud opened! Yay! Aren't they pretty?

and then there were two!

And here's a shot of the amaryllis from yesterday. Each flower is fully 8" in diameter.

"Red Lion" amaryllis

I can't wait to see if the first two flowers will last long enough for all five to be open at once! I'm not holding my breath, though. The fifth bud (you can see it there in the middle) is pretty immature still. Four might be possible, though!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Pretty! Remember a couple weeks ago I posted about the floral happenings around my house? Well, the first Phalaenopsis 'Golden Light' flower has opened, and the second bud looks ready to pop!


And the Aerangis citrata is sooooo close to opening...

Aerangis citrata

Two of the five amaryllis buds opened today, but somehow I neglected to take a picture of them. I'll get those tomorrow.

In crocheting news, the doily is growing. Here it is Saturday night, with 15 rounds complete, and 3 hours elapsed time. Approximately 2 inches in diameter.

Sunburst Pineapple doily

And here it is last night, with 20 rounds complete, 4.5 hours elapsed time, and approximately 3 inches in diameter.

Sunburst Pineapple doily

I find tiny thread crochet oddly satisfying, in spite of the exorbitantly high hours-to-size ratio of these pieces.

Friday, February 26, 2010

I started a new project, of a type I haven't done in a while.

Sunburst Pineapple doily

I'm once again crocheting with sewing thread. This is the Sunburst Pineapple doily, originally published in 1951.

That picture shows the results of an hour and a half of work: 10 rounds.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My dad gave Emma a whole pile of assorted story CDs for Christmas a couple years ago, which he recorded off the 30+ year old records that my sister and I listened to when we were children.

Emma was listening to the "Lady and the Tramp" CD earlier today, and I told her that I listened to those same stories when I was her age, which she thought was very cool.

Then she asked if I still have my CD player from when I was little. I had to explain that we didn't have CDs then, and that I listened to the stories on records.


"What are records?"

She did finally know what they were when I described them, and said that she saw some in the library at school. Then she looked up at me quizzically.

"Are you from the olden days, Mommy?"

Gah. This was so not what I needed to hear two days after my 39th birthday.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I wove off another set of bookmarks last week. This was the purple silk warp I dyed in January, along with some lighter purple silk to use as weft.

The one on top shows the lavender weft, in the sections on the ends. The rest of these have all white weft. There were two other bookmarks from this warp, which used the lavender weft, but I don't have pictures of them since they have already left my house...because...

I recently put some of my work in a gallery of local artists here in La Grande, the Blue Turtle Gallery. In a gallery! Me! In a completely uncharacteristic display of bravery, I walked into the gallery and asked the owner if she would be interested in displaying my textile creations. She was quite enthusiastic, and we set up an appointment for me to show her my work the next day. She said she's been looking for a textile artist to add to the gallery for a while, and was very impressed with what I brought to show her. So now I have woven, knit, and crochet items for sale in a gallery. Eep!

One last thing to report:

I am slowly succeeding in my plan to take over the entire house with fiber fun. This is what used to be the computer desk/bookcase in the dining room, formerly occupied by old textbooks and all our assorted clutter, and sometimes used by Shaun to work on his computer.

The bookcase part of the desk just sits on top and isn't attached, and last weekend we realized that hey, we could take that off and suddenly there's all this SPACE! We moved the bookcase part of the desk out to the utility room counter, cleared the clutter, and now I have a carding station!

Plus, the dining table is now available for actual dining, since the carder no longer resides on it.

I love having a dedicated spot for the carder, and it feels very productive to have everything set up and ready to go. Feel like carding a batt or two? Go for it! Right now I have two large bins of alpaca fleeces under the desk, which I plan to work through this spring and summer. The small box in the middle is for carding waste. On top of the counter, right to left: the carder; carding tools (flicker, batt picker, etc); a bin of "add-ins" like silk, bamboo, mohair, sparklies, etc.; bundles of hand dyed bluefaced leicester top ready for blending; a scale; a bin of finished batts; and my "office", with a desk organizer (pens, tape, stapler, etc) and the printer (with trays in the stand for paper storage).

There's plenty of space to work with the batts, pulling them apart for additional blending passes, and there's space to plug in my computer when I need to print labels or receipts. The dining table is close by if I need additional space for photographing and packaging batts.

It's working very well so far.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I've enjoyed growing orchids for more than a decade. They're just such beautiful plants, with the added bonus of gorgeous flowers. I wanted to share the exciting botanical happenings that are going on at my house right now, with a couple plants in bud.

This is Phalaenopsis Golden Light, which (strangely enough) does not have a yellow or gold flower. It is a multi-species hybrid cross with deep, clear, wine red flowers; about 2 inches across and very substantial and waxy-looking. I bought this plant from a local grocery store in November 2008, in bloom, with two basal keikeis. A keiki is a vegetative offshoot from the mother plant. They are more commonly seen on the node of a flower spike, but can also form out of the main "trunk" of monopodial orchids (orchids that grow only up from one point, not branching).

When I bought this orchid, it had two spikes and was on sale because the blooms were fading. The shorter spike had one flower remaining and no buds. That flower faded in about a week. The other (longer) spike had five flowers open and a bunch of buds. That spike bloomed continuously for the next 8 months. After the original five flowers faded, which took a month (they were still there at Christmas), it would open one to three flowers at a time, each of which would last a month. It was a nice constant display. After the last flower finished, it took a rest. This is typically when the flower spikes are cut off to let the plant recuperate and put its energy into growing more leaves and getting strong.

However, both flower spikes were still green and alive, and I knew that often they will continue to develop. Sometimes the nodes along the spike will even develop into flowering side branches. Anyway, since the plant still looked vigorous and the spikes were still green, I left both spikes on the plant. I couldn't bear to cut them. It grew a nice new leaf over the summer.

A couple months ago, I noticed that the tip of the longer spike was growing again, showing four new buds. AND, three of the nodes on the larger spike are developing into side spikes, one of which has a well-developed bud. AND, the shorter spike also has a node developing into a side spike. AND, there is a completely new spike coming out of the mother plant! AND, there is a completely new flower spike coming out of one of the basal keikis! I've never had a Phalaenopsis bloom this well for me before. It's so exciting! Go, orchid, go!

Also exciting at the moment is my Aerangis citrata. I bought this through the mail from a nursery in Montana in January 2009. It was in spike when I bought it, and bloomed with a spike about 8 inches long and 12 flowers. When those flowers were done, the spike dried up and I cut it off. Cool to see the flowers, but not as exciting as blooming it myself.

About two months ago, I noticed a new spike! It's been slow going, because I'm sure my house isn't as warm as the orchids would like, but it is developing.

This spike developed to about 12 inches long with 18 buds, an improvement over last year. Ha! It also grew a nice big leaf this year, which I'm sure helped. I lost two of the buds, though. One got too dry and/or cold while we were gone over Christmas, and shriveled up (blasted, in plant-speak). The other I accidentally knocked off when I was watering (sob!). The remaining 16 seem to be doing OK, though. You can see the long spur starting to develop on the underside of the flowers. The flowers will be white, about an inch in diameter with the spur also about an inch long.

You can also see another orchid in the background of that last picture, below the one that's in spike. That's Aerangis mystacidii, bought in December 2008. That one came to me pretty young, and I haven't seen it bloom yet. It did put on two leaves this year. I also have Aerangis punctata and Aerangis fastuosa, bought at the same time as the A. citrata. The A. punctata budded once, but it blasted before it could open. Both these plants put on two leaves this year as well. I love my little orchid collection.

Last but not least, my amaryllis is well on its way to blooming.

This is a Red Lion variety, with large all-red flowers. Dad gave this to me for Christmas in 2008, and this is its third blooming for me. Only one flower stalk this time around, but it got a little dry and forgotten last summer (oops) when I was stressed about being laid off again.

Yay for greenery in the house!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

My contribution to the Fifth Annual Blogger's (Silent) Poetry Reading:

by Sue Brady

I loved you before I met you.
That spark
Brought to startling clarity,
Boundless and immediate,
With your first breath.

Realizing this was true and forever,
I still could not fathom its depth.
Resonating between us,
Love building on itself.

You were eight days old and I wept-
For all the rest of your life,
You would never again
Be eight days old.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fact: I like pickled mushrooms.

Fact: Only one grocery store in my town (sometimes) carries them, and they are $8.95 for a 10 ounce jar.

Fact: Therefore, I never buy pickled mushrooms.

I mean, really. Cucumber pickles don't cost that much. Why do they charge so much for mushroom pickles?

Anyway, yesterday I took matters into my own hands.

Button mushrooms were on sale at the grocery store, so I bought two pounds. Emma, who does not like mushrooms in any form, kept saying "Mama, are you sure you need that many mushrooms? That's really a lot." I think she was afraid that's all we were going to eat for the week!

At home, I washed them, cut them in quarters because they were large (though in future I would just do halves because they shrink when cooked), thinly sliced an onion, and simmered the mushrooms and onion in the pickling liquid:

1.5 cups vinegar
1.5 cups water
1 T dry tarragon
1 T mixed pickling spices tied in cheesecloth
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C pickling salt

After the mushrooms and onions were cooked but still firm, I took them out and packed them into hot clean pint jars. I turned up the heat on the liquid and boiled it, then ladled it into the jars, put the lids on, and processed in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.

The result is delicious; better than the store-bought ones and much, much cheaper. Yay me!

I was on a roll yesterday, and after the pickles were done, I had to make some cookies. I read Renee's blog post on Friday, and the recipe was immediately bookmarked.

They are every bit as good as Renee said they are, even if they are from Martha Stewart's website. You really can't go wrong with a recipe that has 8 ounces of melted chocolate and half a cup of cocoa powder in the cookie dough. They're intensely chocolatey.

And actually, they're not as fiddly as a drop cookie to make, despite the chilling and rolling and coating in sugar. I skipped the second dough-chilling step, and Emma and I rolled all the cookie balls at once. We just put them on a plate, and they were ready and waiting to pop onto the cookie sheet. Much less wasted time between batches. I bet they would freeze beautifully as uncooked dough, rolled and ready to bake. I may have to try that next time.

When we tried one each from the first batch out of the oven, Emma didn't say much. When I asked her if she liked them, she was quiet for a minute, then said:

"My mouth is dazzled, Mama."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Not much to report, but I have been doing some dyeing.

This is a total of 1.5 pounds of lovely soft bluefaced leicester wool, dyed in four different colorways. This is all destined for my shop; I'll probably leave some as top, and use some in carded batts. I love the yellow/orange one - so bright and cheerful. Of course, I also like the green one, and the blue one, and the blue/purple one. It was a good day for color. :-)

Also on the drying rack is some 20/2 silk yarn that I dyed purple. The darker one is actually a warp chain, and the lighter skein is the weft. More bookmarks!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I have been remiss in introducing a new member of the family. Meet Coco.

Coco was a stray that showed up outside our house last September. We have an old barn in our backyard, and there has been a semi-feral cat living under it since before we moved in. He's skittish, and never lets us get too close. We did feed him, though. When Coco started coming around, presumably for the food, she was young, and skinny, and extremely affectionate, and kept getting beat up by the resident cat.

Because she was so affectionate, she came running whenever we were outside, and of course Emma fell immediately, irrevocably in love. Though I tried to deny it, I knew I was sunk when Emma named her.

I was Mean Mom for almost a month, since we already have one cat, and didn't think we needed to take on another. Our first cat, Naia, while incredibly sweet and mushy toward us, has always been aggressive toward other cats and I didn't think we wanted to go there.

So Emma was allowed to play with Coco outside (since there were no fleas, obvious infections, or aggression), but Coco was not allowed in the house. Then Coco and Naia started sizing each other up through the screen door. First there was hissing and growling. Then there was looking, then there was sniffing. Then there was indifference. There began to be pressure from the six-year-old to let Coco in "just for a minute" so Naia could talk to her. And yes, I caved. She really is a sweet cat.

Suffice it to say that "just for a minute" turned into "just for an hour or so", then "just during the daytime", then hey presto, we have another cat.

Naia has accepted Coco far better than I would have ever thought possible. They are buddies. Naia is almost 12 years old, and has been a bit creaky for the past year. He didn't jump as easily or as high, rarely played, rarely ran, and generally acted like a senior cat. Since Coco joined the family, he plays bat-the-crumpled-paper with her, chases her, is chased by her, and is better able to jump onto the bathroom counter. It's quite a difference. They get along very well, though Naia is definitely the alpha cat.

Naia always sleeps next to my knees at night, and Coco does too sometimes, but she has particularly staked out Emma's bed.

Often as close to Emma as she can get.

Naia and Coco also are frequently found snuggled up together during the day, either on one of the cat beds, or the couch, or the very cutest, on My Chair.

One or both of them is usually on me when I'm sitting in My Chair, especially when I have an afghan.

This can make it a bit difficult to do anything on my computer, though.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I've been home a lot in the past couple weeks, since I had my hours at work reduced to zero (yes, again). I was limping long at 5-10 hours a week for a couple months before Christmas, then they said "sure, take two weeks off for the holidays, no problem", so we went to visit family. When we got back, I went into work on Monday Jan. 4, and was told that there is nothing for me to work on until probably March. Sigh.

Anyway, I've been home a lot. Hence the recorder obsession. And going to the gym every day. Which are not entirely useless pursuits, I suppose. Funnily enough, the laundry doesn't seem to be getting folded any faster even though I'm home more.

Onward to the point of this post! I did something today that I've always wanted to try. I candied orange peel.

That's three oranges worth of peel, and it is SO much better than the stuff from the grocery store! Super easy, too. I just peeled the oranges (with a vegetable peeler, so as not to get any of the white pith), cut the peels into pieces, and boiled them in one cup of water until tender. Then I added one cup of sugar and boiled until the syrup was mostly absorbed and the peels were almost translucent. I tossed them in a bit more sugar so they wouldn't stick together, and voila! They're sweet and a little bitter, and very powerfully orange-flavored. Quite nice; not overly sweet, and not gummy like the store-bought ones. I think it will be fabulous in quick bread.

I also have been playing with a new kitchen toy this winter:

I got myself a dehydrator in October, when I was given a large box of apples by a coworker. There were too many for Emma and me to eat before they spoiled, so I sliced and dried most of them. I also did tomatoes (again, excess from a coworker's garden), and several batches of beef jerky. The jerky was a huge hit with Emma and Shaun (and me) and disappeared in a blink.

After that box of apples was used up, I received another big box! Apparently, it was a good apple year in Mike's yard. I didn't think we needed more dried apples (since I'm the only one who will eat them), so I sauced the second box. I got my mom's old food mill when we were at Dad's house over Christmas, and spent a day processing them into yummy, yummy applesauce. I had 30 pounds of apples in that second box, and it made 10 quarts. I didn't even add any extra sugar, and Emma declared it was "the best applesauce I've ever eaten." That's a win.

So there it is: the remaining 6 quarts of applesauce (yes, we've gone through 4 quarts in two weeks...), a quart of dried tomatoes, two half-pints of candied orange peel, and a gallon of dried apples. Tucked away safely in my cupboard, and making me feel very smug.

Today, in addition to the orange peel, I started a batch of cranberries drying into craisins; just plunged into boiling water until they cracked, then soaked in orange juice and honey for an hour to sweeten them slightly before spreading them on the dehydrator trays. They've been in there four hours so far, and should be done before bedtime.