Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dainty Keepsake Afghan

It's done! and in the nick of time, too. The baby shower was at 11:30 this morning. I finished the Dainty Keepsake Afghan at 4:30 yesterday afternoon and washed it at 10:00 last night. I'd say that was just under the wire. The details: It's Lion Brand Baby Soft sportweight, just short of three skeins. I got the pattern from the Leisure Arts booklet Keepsake Baby Afghans, purchased at Michael's. This is a pretty good booklet; it's not cheap, but there are six baby afghan patterns with no duds in the bunch. Any of them would make a pretty gift and would be enjoyable to make. The photos are clear, and show the body and border stitches in detail. This is a valuable aid to me because I've learned over the years to read patterns, but a clear picture can make all the difference to me. If the pattern is not clear to me I can usually duplicate the look from the image. Unlike knitting, where I am a slave to the pattern, I have great confidence in crochet, probably because I learned when I was so young I have no memory of it. I'll count a million times, usually nearly every repeat, but it takes me no time to memorize a repeat, and if I don't like the way something looks I'll tear it out without hesitation and work it differently. I'm not afraid to fudge a little to get the stitch count back on track, either. I can also tell with more confidence how long it might take me to finish something. I did end up working the picot edging that I thought would be such a pain to do (and it was, but well worth the effort), but I tried about three possible variations until I found one that lay flat and looked good to me. The mother-to-be loved it, and a couple of the shower guests thought it might be fun for me to teach them to crochet (I think so too), so I'd say it was a success. I'd love to infect a few more people with the crochet bug, but I'm not altogether sure my rough and ready skills are up to the task.

Last weekend I cashed in the Lowe's gift certificate I won at our company anniversary party and bought some crepe myrtles and ribbon grass for the empty bed in the back yard. One young man at the first store I visited told me they did not have any yet because it is too early to plant crepe myrtle, but because it's actually just about too LATE to plant crepe myrtle here I was not convinced and motored on over to another store. There I was able to score four young white trees, of the variety Natchez at 75% off. They are about 8 feet tall, and all but one have great roots. I must admit they are very skinny and puny looking at this point. I think they will look just beautiful with the green and white ribbon grass I planted between them. They've been in a week, and all but one have new leaves sprouting already. The slow starter looks good; I expect to see some kind of new leaf action in the next week. Crape Myrtle is a great shrub/tree for this area. It will flower for about three months during the hottest period of the year in every shade of red to white and comes in every size from shrub to tree. It's drought tolerant once established and can look good with minimal attention. Thoughtfully pruned (avoiding the dreaded crepe murder) they can look good even in winter because they have a nice shape and beautiful bark. Even at full price they are inexpensive and don't need a lot of expensive fertilizer. I went out tree shopping in my Focus. When I arrived at my car with 6 bags of mulch, two good sized ribbon grass plants in pots and four trees there was a car parked in front of mine with some people in it. When I got everything in my car without even a leaf hanging out and closed the doors they applauded!

Friday, May 23, 2008

No More Beach Pictures

Ten days at the beach have left me with loads of pictures of beach life which are surely of more interest to me than anyone else. The rest are over at Flickr if you have not seen enough. This year we saw a metric ton of black skimmers. I did not notice them at all when I first started visiting Marco. The first time I saw them they were (to me, at least) a rare treat. I saw them off the beach at sunset and just off the seawall on Capri. This year they are everywhere. They prefer to fish at dawn and dusk when the fish are near the surface. The rest of the day they may fish a bit, but they also spend a lot of time standing around in a big mob on the beach, all birds facing into the wind. Marco has roped off some beach areas to protect the breeding areas used by the birds, and those who presumably are not incubating eggs are hanging out together near the tide line.

Last night I had the pleasure of Miss Vivian's company for a few hours while Mom and Dad took in a movie. She's walking now and while she's not a very fast walker yet she seldom resorts to crawling. I imagine this is because walking leaves both hands free for grabbing stuff. Grabbing stuff is her favorite hobby. In addition to the various opportunities presented by my ordinary household furnishings, I had purchased a couple of toys for her. There was also the dog, who presents almost endless opportunities for grabbing. They about evenly matched. Vivian wants to grab the dog's tail, which is not pleasing to Roxy. Roxy wants to lick Vivian on the face or steal her cookie. Vivian objects to both. The most exciting "toy" proved to be the pebbles in a saucer under one of my patio pots. picking them up, putting them down, passing them from hand to hand, giving them to me, and attempting to get them to her mouth was endlessly fascinating. More pictures, as always, in my Flickr gallery linked on the sidebar.

I'm nearly finished with the body of the blue baby blanket. It does have a deadline - the baby shower and the actual baby are nearly here. I'm hoping to knock it out in time to add a little amigurumi octopus to the gift. It will depend on how fast the border goes. It's not as simple as the body, and includes a picot edging which will be the test of my character. There is something about the last detail of a crochet project that tempts me to leave it off. But the mother-to-be is a very appreciative recipient who asked for a blanket. Katie Lynn is including blankets made by her mother and grandmother in the baby's "trousseau", so I know she will take good care of my contribution. She does beautiful counted cross stitch herself, and I want the gift to match her high standards. Next project up will be a filet crochet doily for a wedding ring pillow, another "heirloom" project to challenge me. The list just gets longer and longer...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Emergency Logan Picture

Jennifer sent me this happy picture this week, which I have to share immediately. For those who might be envious , avert your eyes.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bird Life of Marco

One of the many highlights of my trips to Marco Island has always been the birds I see there. Shore birds are pretty thin on the ground here at home, so every bird I see there is a treat. My favorite by far is the Brown Pelican . Not only is it a beautiful bird (OK, in the eye of the beholder), but it's so much fun to watch. Early in the morning I can watch them on the Marco River catching their breakfast. They plunge into the water for fish - it's a finely orchestrated bit of business, but looks like they are accidentally dropping out of the sky head first. I almost never see one come up without a catch, often surfacing only to find a gull landed on his head hoping to snatch the hard earned catch. Pelicans will return the favor in a way. They hang around fishermen, and the pier in Naples Florida where fishermen clean their catch is a popular spot for pelicans hoping for handouts. In the afternoon I often see long lines of them fly over the balcony, so close that I can hear the air through their wings. Like geese they fly in a formation that minimizes exertion for the group; it's a beautiful sight that never fails to thrill me, even though sitting under a line of pelicans exposes you to the risk of what is quite possibly the worst smelling bird poop in the planet (eats fish and only fish, remember). The Brown Pelican is one of the birds brought back from the edge of extinction by the DDT ban. Because they incubate their eggs under their feet, they were especially vulnerable to the effects of DDT on the shells of their eggs. They came off the endangered species list in 1985, and have been reintroduced to Louisiana (The Pelican State) from where they had completely disappeared.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Return From Marco Island

Marco Island Florida, made famous by Stan Gober as "My Island in the Sun" has given us another memorable vacation. We were blessed with perfect weather every single day - not a drop of rain. We were lucky there, as we're on the edge of the rainy season - in fact I think next week will be stormy there. I've got stories and pictures to share in posts this week, but anyone who is impatient to see the pictures can slip on over to my Flickr gallery to see them.

Friday, May 02, 2008

No News is Good News

It came. The letter from my doctor's office with the results of my yearly checkup. The letter that took so long to get here because their records had spontaneously moved my residence to a spot 10 blocks south of where I actually live. It came and it is not good news. Not awful news - I am blessed with robust health and my only chronic enemy is my own carelessness. Apparently my cholesterol levels are still high. Higher than when last measured, and yes, I know why that is. It's the same reason that my knees are not happy with me, that I am working harder than I want on my bike, that my pants don't fit. My blood sugar is also too high and I'll have to do the dreaded glucose test. Alas, my ideal diet of cookies and ice cream has to go. It will be back to chicken and salad for me. It's somewhat depressing, I must admit, though hardly surprising. Oddly, my vitamin D levels are really low. My bone density test was better than last year, but the low D is not a good thing for my bones. Now that I have eaten the last ice cream in the house as an act of defiance I'll have to do the responsible thing and return to my good behavior immediately.

The latest project on the needles is not technically on the needles at all. It's a crochet baby blanket for Matt and Katie Lynn's Precious Baby On The Way. They are expecting a boy, so I am going with blue. It's a simple eyelet pattern for the body of the blanket with a nice deep border to be added on after the center is finished. Deadline is near Memorial Day, and although it seems that's a long way away and I am rather fast at crochet, I'll be on vacation in Florida starting late next week, so I'm hoping to have it nearly finished before I go. A blanket across the lap won't be a good summer traveling project, so it's not going on vacation with me.

After several years when I was not able to make it fit into my schedule or my budget, this year I will be joining Shana and some friends for a vacation on Marco Island. We'll actually be staying in a condo on the Isles of Capri, with a view to the Gulf of Mexico and the boats passing by from our patio. I can hardly wait. I must confess I had a little anxiety thinking that while I was not able to go everyone had set a standard and routine for our Marco life that would make my Marco vacation something far from my expectations, but I got over it. I just know it's going to be fabulous - we always have a great time on my "Island in the Sun". From breakfast out on the patio to Sunday lunch at Stan's Idle Hour, we have just enough to do while still leaving plenty of time to relax and recharge. Oh, and also soak up some of that vitamin D my body seems to need.