Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Back From My Break

I went to Colorado for Christmas this year to spend it with my mother and brother. It was good to see them in person instead of online and over the phone (landline - we're old school plus I do so like a good connection!). We had a lot of fun together, and ate everything that could not escape fast enough. On thing - my brother and I went to see Star Wars, which was (my own opinion) just adequate. Clearly it was a set up for future Disney sequels and lacked development and story. A sales vehicle for toys and other associated merchandise. Fun to watch, but ultimately unsatisfying.

I was fortunate enough to have a direct flight both ways and to have missed out on the horrid delays caused by all the bad weather all over the country. With family in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas and Georgia I had plenty to worry about. So far Cape Cod has not seen much in the way of weather. the little bits of snow and freezing rain we have had has been no inconvenience. Our only complaint is that it's been rainy and drizzly much of the time, but since we have been running a rain deficit all year I am happy to see it. There's not much a gardener can do for large trees if the rain does not come.

My Christmas gifts were uniformly delightful. They were thoughtful or amusing and not so extravagant that I felt embarrassed by luxury. I did get a super nice new tablet and case, but as my old one is about 5 years old and just about used to death we would have gone out to buy one soon anyway. Mom gave me cash, which I promptly dragged her into to Denver to spend.

The one thing I wanted to do in the Denver area besides visit with family was to drop in at Fancy Tiger Crafts. I was introduced to their story via the Woolful podcast, and started following them on Instagram. Their house brand yarn, Heirloom, is all romney wool, grown milled and dyed in the United States. I had a chance to try it because In the Loop in Plainville Massachusetts stocks it. It's rustic and sheepy, and knits up beautifully. I was eager enough to see the store in person to annoy my mother with a daily announcement of my plans to go there with her. She was a good enough sport to go in spite of it being in a part of Denver she had never visited before. It's what you might call an up and coming neighborhood: formerly pretty industrial and leaning towards hipster style.

The store itself is pretty and full of color and light. One side is yard goods and patterns including a wonderful color range of beautiful wool felt, the other yarn, with am emphasis on beautiful colors. In the back it's fiber for spinning or needle felting (for which they have the most adorable kits). A big bookshelf with a nice variety of offerings sits next to the cash wrap/fabric measuring area. I didn't buy anything fancy. What I needed was bout 1200 yards of chunky wool, and since Cascade was on sale at 30% off (!) I found what I needed in Cascade Eco in a beautiful auburn heather that should combine well with other knit accessories already in my wardrobe. I got a little packet of brights for my needle felting; what I have at home is all natural colors and I needed a little something for detail. I picked up a book about knitting and a lovely set of hooks in various sizes for fixing my knitting mistakes. I am really happy with my purchases. The staff there is young, peppy and very helpful. If you get a chance drop in.

I am settling in for my selfish knitting part of the year now. I still have the button wrap on the needles not quite half finished. It will be done soon - bulky yarn and mostly stockinette. Probably I will have yarn left over for mittens and maybe even a cozy hat. Next up Shana's vest, then the poncho which will be my Rhinebeck Sweater, a sport weight Hunter Hammerstein, and a big lace weight shawl for me, interspersed with sock knitting. I'm hoping to have enough yarn for some kind of a cowl to go with the poncho. I have about 300 extra yards, so there is a chance. I am not planning a sweater this year. The lace weight shawl will be my "hard" project.

I'll have to check out last year's goals and compare them to what I have actually been able to do. I think I will have fallen short on a few things. As always!

Friday, December 18, 2015

At Last.

Holy Cow, it's been a long time since I posted. I kept seeing the title of my last post show up in comments and thought there was surely something wrong because I never go that long without posting. Shows what I know.

I've been knitting heavily since my last post, and nearly all I made were Christmas gifts. I think I made nineteen this year, including one crochet project and one needle felted item. nearly all were small in terms of yardage used, but many were fiddly knits that took time. I did finish on time, with plenty of time for shipping, but next year I should really rethink the gross number of knitted gifts! This is pretty much as many as I can manage, and I had to take off a couple of days near the end because of sore hands. I don't like to start earlier than July for gifts, but maybe... For wrapping I had a fair amount of ribbon but no fancy prefab bows, so I used my extra time making pom poms and origami package decorations, plus embellishments cut out from Christmas cards I received last year. Because there is no such thing as too much to do. Because I have lost my mind.

I thought my first project after the holiday portion of the knitting was done might be a vest I promised Shana, but because I am going out of town next week I have decided to start that after I get home from Denver. I want to be sure of a good fit, and that will be more likely if I have the recipient close by. I have had a few more custom requests from a certain family member, but they are pretty small items (boot toppers, neck warmers) which I can squeeze in before or during the vest.  I probably have yarn for boot toppers in my stash right now, and maybe even something suitable for a neck warmer. Right now I am concentrating on a few little items for myself, especially things I want for the coming winter. I have done a super bulky hat and cowl for myself with yarn I bought at Rhinebeck - each took one evening including winding the yarn into balls. Just a palate cleanser to prepare for my winter selfish knitting. Next up are four projects, three of which are already on the needles: A sport weight rectangular shawl from Hunter Hammerstein's new book (not cast on yet, but may be tonight), a plain sock with yarn Sami gave me for my birthday two years ago, a square lace shawl, and a button wrap of a rather improvised design using yarn of uncertain provenance. That yarn is from sheep owned by an erstwhile neighbor of a lady in my Monday knitting group. She likes a soft and elegant yarn; this yarn is quite rustic. It's a lot like Fancy Tiger's Heritage, but a little tighter spun and bulky weight, with a little variation in the dye. Very sheepy, scratchy in the ball but not bad after washing. I did a proper swatch including washing for this one, and weighed it out to see what kind of yardage I have. It will make a cozy and rustic shawl.

Of projects for which I have purchased yarn - three, plus a pattern for which I need 1300 yards of bulky yarn in a single color, and which is destined to be my Rhinebeck "sweater" . It's really a poncho. The new year has not started yet and I may have already bit off more than I can chew.

Anyway, some Holiday Cheer:

Monday, October 19, 2015

My Rhinebeck Weekend

After years of planning (and even more years of wishing) I finally got to go to the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, usually referred to by knitters as "Rhinebeck" because the Dutchess County Fairgrounds that hosts the festival is in Rhinebeck New York. I generally describe it to non-knitters as Woodstock for Knitters, which makes people think it must be really niche, but their average attendance over the two day run is 30,000 people, mainly women, and mainly knitters and crocheters. The festival features all sorts of fiber animals, from llamas to angora rabbits, and every use of fiber animals from lace shawls to lamb sausages. It doesn't hurt a bit that the festival takes place in the stunning Hudson River Valley where fall color is peaking and the weather is generally crisp and cool. There was actually a bit of snow there during the weekend.

Mohair Goats
Sea Colors Yarn
The raw numbers of attendees are impressive of course, but Rhinebeck's importance in knit culture is not just in the numbers. I don't think the importance of this and other regional festivals in the rising interest in single breed yarns can be overstated. The concentration of enthusiasts makes it possible for farms specializing in rare breeds, organic dyes, natural colored fibers, and other specialty products to find a ready market for their wares. Local farms sell raw fleeces, and yarns that may be spun and processed at the farm or at small regional mills. There are mule spun yarns, something that a very few mills can produce, and handspun yarns, yarns dyed in seawater or unusual fiber combinations. These are not yarns produced in commercial quantities. Some are otherwise available only online, or at one or two local yarn shops. Some of the hand dyed yarns really require selection in person as the variation from skein to skein is substantial. Without the regional festivals no one would know enough about the products to seek them out. Vendors of fiber tools find a ready market there as well. Buttons, spinning tools and processing tools are sold there. There are also classes, book signings; sheep dog and shearing demonstrations draw crowds. Vendors of buttons and project bags who generally sell mainly on Etsy have the opportunity to get their wares in front of a large group of buyers who will be able to order with confidence online after getting a hands on introduction to the products. Some yarn stores had booths. Although the stores were selling some commercially made yarns there was a big demand for their products too - not every yarn is sold at every store and this is a great opportunity to take advantage of a selection of yarns and tools not available in your area. This year there were over 260 vendors. The fact that sales were brisk can be judged by the fact that there were long lines at nearly every booth all day.

Fiber Enthusiasts
The best part for the attendees is enjoying a weekend of knit culture. There is the tradition of the "Rhinebeck Sweater" - a garment knit to debut at the festival. Because patterns go in and out of style there is usually a particular sweater that appears in many iterations and versions in any given year. There are also many one of a kind sweaters to enjoy. Knitters stop each other to compliment the wearers' lovely garments and accessories, discuss the quality and oddities of the patterns and yarn used, and make friends. I noticed a large number of shawls on display, many more than there were scarves. Cables and other textured stitches adorned many hats. There are some hats whose patterns will soon be in my library based on how great they looked "on the hoof". Knitters of all ages interact as equals over the shared obsession that will bring thousands to a fiber festival. Many make it a girls' weekend and share hotel rooms for a weekend yarn party.

I've wanted to go for years. I had not lived near enough before to make the trip feasible (although I visited with a knitter from the UK in the coffee line!), but as soon as I started planning to move to the East Coast it became a possibility to consider. A local friend and I made plans a bit over a year ago to make it happen. I did not want to try staying in the area for my first trip (hotel costs are huge), but several local yarn stores in the region sponsor bus day trips and that's what we chose to do. We took the bus from Webs, a wonderful yarn store in western Massachusetts. We drove in the day before, shopped at Webs, and down the street at Northampton Wools, a lovely shop just down the street from our chosen lunch spot. We stayed the night a few blocks away and the next day we were on the bus at 7:00 am & on the road to Rhinebeck.

My haul. That's a tote bag made of a chicken chow bag, not a bag of chicken chow!
Wanda and I had separately pored over the vendor list, visited the vendor websites, and made our list of booths to visit. Our lists were oddly similar, so we shopped in roughly the same buildings most of the time, although we did not make the same purchases. We were both mainly interested in  purchasing yarns from smaller farms and spinneries that are not widely available, and investigating commercial yarns that are not sold in our area. Once you have seen and felt a brand of yarn you have a better idea what to expect if you order on line. My purchases mostly reflected what I had intended for the weekend, including some for gifts and a sweater vest I promised to knit for Shana. Good thing I had a budget and a plan firmly in mind! I've been buying very little yarn for more than a year with an eye to buying something special at Rhinebeck.

Mohair goat - the goat obsession continues unabated

The number of booths and yarns was a bit overwhelming for a first time visitor, and Sunday I spent hours looking over pictures posted by others who attended. While the fairgrounds is not large, the booths are numerous and filled with loads of diverse products. Going back to others' pictures reinforces what I saw and extended the experience. I'll be going back to some of the pictures again for sure. My initial review - well worth the trip. We had a blast!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Feel the Bern

It's long, but if you can't get to a rally maybe you'll want to hear the whole thing. He's not getting as much media coverage as Hilary Clinton's emails, but supporters are turning out in droves.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Notes From Flyover Country

Ann's Chicken Fry House
I currently live on Cape Cod, but I was born in Ohio, moved around the south and southern plains for a while, then lived in Oklahoma City for thirty-four years. I was not my ideal place for me to live; its politics are miles from my liberal Democratic roots, and my marriage was not recognized there until the issue was forced by a Supreme Court decision. Still, there is much to love out there in the southern plains, and I miss some things a lot. I still have family there, for one thing.

I was listening today to a podcast by some people I like and respect - chefs and friends of chefs who live in Los Angeles. People who might go to (really) a special event consisting of an entire tasting menu of Okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancakes) because they are interested in the chef. I'm not mentioning the podcast because I like it and the authors. I will listen again, and it's my own fault because the theme song gives away the hipness of their tastes: a drum solo like the one prominently featured in "Birdman" last year. So hip they can't see over their own pelvises (Thank you Douglas Adams). The topic today was chain restaurants, and a remark was made that it was a revelation when traveling across America that there was nothing they could eat. That went all over me, to use the vernacular of flyover country. Granted the middle of the country is not as screamingly chic as either coast, but there is no excuse for that attitude. For one (small) thing, since moving to Massachusetts I find that it's hard to come up with some of the (food) necessities of life: decent tortillas, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, soul food, Mexican pastries, south Asian groceries, breakfast cut pork chops, grits, properly cooked hash browns or fried potatoes, chilis, properly cooked barbecue,  you get the picture. I have also dined at many fine restaurants and smaller places in the middle of the country where the food was perfectly cooked with skill and love. If the only place they went to eat was Denny's it's not the fault of the towns they passed through; it was their own fault.

I don't live there anymore, but it offended me to think that one could cut down a whole part of the country based on whether or not they were able to provide for the taste buds of a spoiled and lazy picky eater.

Proper biscuits & gravy

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Now We've Got the Place to Ourselves

Yesterday was not only Labor Day,  but also the day the tourists go home. Our little secret that September is the best month on Cape Cod has been leaked, but most tourists and summer people do leave by Labor Day. The weekend itself tends to be busy, and the traffic intense, but it's really the last of the inundation. I may have mentioned that with 220,000 year round residents, we play host to 4-5 million tourists who are here mostly in July and August. They get here via two four lane bridges, and once they are here they find only one limited access highway going north-south, and one east-west which turns to a two lane halfway down the Cape. Everything else happens on mostly two lane roads. What that means for traffic is that you don't turn left in the summer if you can avoid it, and Cape residents have developed their own traffic rules.  If you are turning right and there is someone waiting to turn left at the same road you pause to stop traffic and let them turn before you. If you are turning left or right you let the person exiting the street you are turning onto turn out in either direction. Locals turn out in front of any car no matter who has the right of way. People tend to pass left signalling cars on the shoulder. This is why I do not ride my bike on any road.

Our weekend has been busy - Shana's birthday is Wednesday so we have extended the festivities over the weekend and into the week. Yesterday Shana, Dea and I took a ride from Falmouth Harbor to Martha's Vineyard on a schooner: The Liberte. It's a beautiful ship and we went out on a beautiful day, if a windy one. Labor Day is the last day they do tours from Falmouth Harbor.
They Sail down to Annapolis after that and sail until mid October.  It was crazy rough going out because of the wind and the direction of the tides, but we loved it. Fortunately none of us are much given to seasickness. We left at 2:00, and by the time we came back the excellent clam shack at the dock which was packed with diners when we left had closed for the season. As fall wears on more and more businesses will shut down until next summer.

After our sail we picked up a pizza at Steve's Pizzeria (and more!) to take to Chappaquoit Beach for the sunset. I can recommend the pizza - not too thick on toppings and sauce, with a really good crust made with olive oil. We were hoping they might deliver, but we picked it up on our way out.  The plan was to eat it sitting on the beach and maybe even go in for a dip. Intense wind and big waves changed out minds. We sat behind my car sheltering from the wind, then I went for a walk down the beach. I was glad I had a sweatshirt with me. I always bring one no matter how warm the day is, because the sea breeze is usually quite cool. The winds had dropped a little and the waves were a tiny bit smaller after we finished out meal. Other locals gathered for the sunset and we all applauded when the sun went down.

We got home in time to watch Ohio State dominate Virginia Tech in a game that turned very one sided after Virginia Tech's game but tiny quarterback was injured. Ohio State looks good this year, and their quarterback is the size of a UPS truck.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Labor Day 2015

I my yearly Labor Day post, to remind everyone that Labor Day is not just the day the tourists leave Cape Cod and the end of summer vacation, but the day set aside to honor the American working man, in particular the American Union member. Unions are in grave danger these days, with many forces arrayed against them. Scott Walker has made a career out of union busting, as has every Republican since and including Ronald Reagan. If you like your weekend, your 40 hour week, overtime pay, labor protections for children, OSHA, NLRB protection (however ineffectual) against wage theft and other legal protections you owe it to the union movement. Don't let those gains go by the wayside.

If you want more musical inspiration, The Nation is featuring it's choice of top ten union songs here.

And a little seaside inspiration from the Head of the Meadow Beach. This is one of the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches, a national park created under John F Kennedy to preserve a beautiful part of our national heritage. I probably don't need to remind you that some people would like to see our priceless national parks sold off to private interests (but of course I WILL remind you).

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Just Thursday

My Holiday Knitathon has started. Actually I already have a few items in my gift inventory but I am getting more serious about it. Last weekend I spent two hours of car time working on a sock only to decide I hated it. This sock has now turned back into a yarn ball. No matter how fast you knit or how many hours you have put in, you can't improve a project you hate. If I hated the finished object I would not feel right giving it to someone else, so I would then own a pair of hated (but hand knit) socks. Just wouldn't do. Incidentally, this reluctance to give away imperfect or hated items leads to me wrapping up all my knitted gifts, which are nearly perfect and appealing, with deep regret.

I'm still not finished with my Must Have Cardi, but it will be done in time for Rhinebeck. I did block my Croeso Shawlette, which was knit with a gift of beautiful blue alpaca from my eldest daughter. The knitting had been finished for months, but I put off the blocking as long as possible. On the subject of this pattern: it is a free pattern, and not from a professional designer. I have read that the stitch count as printed differed from the garment in progress. I really can't say, because I mainly followed the repeats by section. The instructions for the center portion were initially confusing - the section it says to knit twice does not mean twice in a row. Once I twigged to that it went smoothly.  If you read the entire pattern before beginning and keep the picture of how the shawl is to look firmly in mind there should be no trouble. If you like free patterns you have to keep in mind that those patterns were probably not test knit or tech edited. You are the one doing that.

Mitzi is taking over more and more of the doggy responsibilities since Roxy is gone. I showered today after mowing my lawn, and as I was squeegeeing the door I was startled to see her laying on the rug outside the shower door. She's never done that before, but Roxy always did.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Still at War With Windows 10

Architectural detail, Fairhaven (I think)
If you have not already done so, be careful about "upgrading" to Windows 10. I think in the long run I will like it, but at this point in the process I am ready to throw my PC into the road and watch cars run over it. It seems that the default setting for your files is read only, if you have any access at all. I suspect that this is because of its improved function with cloud storage, but in the meantime I am suffering through trying to figure out how to get my photos from my camera and phone to the PC. My start menu disappeared altogether, my access to the Edge browser, which replaces the no longer supported Windows Explorer, was gone. The suggested fix for this was to open the start menu and do a long series of things. Hello? Lack of start menu was one of my problems! I finally was reduced to shutting it down by turning it off and getting it to reboot. The first time it just went to sleep and did not reboot. On the plus side, I did restore communication with my wireless printer, so if I could find it I can print it! Every time I try to do something (anything) a nice little chime sounds and a cute little sign appears that says "something went wrong". I have finally figured how to give Windows 10 access to my iPhone photos online, but getting them moved over is a slow process. I can't get access to any pictures after fall of 2014 so far. Fortunately I have lots you may not have already seen, or some pretty enough to see twice.
Sandy Neck

We are still enjoying summer temperatures here on the Cape, and since for many students the school year has started, tourism has slowed down and traffic is much improved. Water temperatures are the warmest they've been or will be, all year.  Abundant sharks provide news headlines every day, making a nice change from "deflategate" and Donald Trump. September is my favorite month. "R" returns to the calendar, so if you are superstitious about oysters you can put them back on the menu. On Cape we eat them year round. This weekend college football returns to keep me company while I knit.

We have another skunk under the shed (Shana saw it). The skunk guy did not credit my being able to tell skunks apart, so he thought he must have caught the only one, although I told him it did not look exactly like the one I had seen. Clearly I was right and he was wrong. I had paid him already though, so the joke is on me. Something else substantial is also hanging around, because one of my few remaining squirrels was run over and laying at the end of my driveway one night. I told Shana if it was still there in the morning I would take care of it (hoping something would carry it away before I had to commit to having a dead animal in my trash can). It was gone before we got up. I'm guessing fox, but that's far from the only option in the neighborhood. Maybe it will develop an appetite for skunk, which it should satisfy next door, where my neighbor seems to have a family member camping in the yard off and on, cooks dinner on a panini press under a spotlight outside and keeps an open compost heap. My neighbor has also moved all the unattractive things from the front and side yards into the back corner which is fully visible from my deck. *sigh*
Chatham Light

I'm nearly done with my Must Have Cardigan. All major parts are done, which means all of the cables are finished. The back and fronts are blocked. Now I have to sew up the shoulders and pick up the button band. The sleeves are both done, but not blocked yet.  The way the pattern suggests, you put on the button band, then the sleeves, then the side seams. I will have to get buttons, but I hope that will not be hard. After weeks of stalling,  I have a shawlette (Croeso) and a knit from last year's Christmas yarn, and a scarf downstairs blocking right now. Yarn for Christmas gifts has been purchased and a little shopping has been done. The less money I have available the sooner I start! Also when a craft show is in town I do try to pick up a few things for gifts while I browse around meeting the makers. I'd rather put my money directly in the hands of the makers than chain retailers. We had Wicked Etsy here for the Falmouth Food Truck Festival and I met some wonderful vendors. There were one or two I "know" from our online interactions who I hoped might attend but no such luck this time.

Provincetown Harbor

I watched the VMA's Sunday night. The main thing that stood out to me was how different the commercials and the sets are from more "adult" award shows. Brightly colored to the point of garish, and ads for "lifestyle" items quite different from those on the old people's shows. I guess "ED" is not a big issue for the MTV crowd. I was rewarded for my persistence by having witnessed several of the things blowing up Twitter the next morning, and an illusory sense of being in the know concerning the young entertainers of today. I would like to point out, however, that Kanye West seems to me to be too long in the tooth to be behaving like such a punk. His speech (as his speeches so often do) makes me wonder about his sanity and anchor to the real world. I can't fault his creativity, and think at times he plays the part of "Holy Fool", but I prefer very small doses, and maybe even second hand.

Things are quiet, and life is good.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fun on the Water

Summer continues in full swing, and the weather is hot and humid. In weather like this we like to be on the water, either on the beach or kayaking. Saturday was our beach day. We had not been out on our boats yet this summer, so Sunday we joined up with our friend Sue for a paddle on Bass River. We left the job of checking the tides to Sue, since she can be trusted not to make a hash of it. Because we wanted to paddle into the marshes we wanted to be sure to get there while the tide was still high enough for us to be able to paddle in and out. Shana and I already had our work cut out for us reassembling our rooftop kayak racks and remembering how to get the boats loaded up. Once again it was only a matter of extreme luck that we did not forget to bring our paddles along.

We put in at Wilbur Park in Yarmouth, which I liked very much. There was adequate parking (a rarity in season) and the area where we put in did not have heavy boat traffic. Once on the water we really enjoyed being out & about. In my opinion, Kayaking is a lot like cycling. You are outside where you can see, hear and smell everything, moving along at a human pace. My boat is so comfortable and convenient. Every time I get underway I wonder why we are not out on the water every weekend. If you stay out of the areas where most of the motorized boats go on Bass River you can have a lovely and serene experience, even on a hot day in high summer. We ran across a couple of motorized boats which were either rentals or owned by extreme novices who did not know how to use channel markers (Keep the red buoys on the right, green on the left) but since they did not actually run us down they were not much of a threat.

Shana and Sue went for a swim once we were finished with our paddle and pulled the kayaks out of the water. Once we were loaded back up we hit Original Seafood for fish & chips - paddling for hours is hungry work. Sue recommended Original, and a good suggestion it was. Fresh, delicious and in generous portions. I had my leftovers for dinner the next day and still did not finish the serving.

When I went to load up my pictures from the day I ran into my first major problem with Windows 10. It refused to read my SD card. I though perhaps I might try hooking my camera up via the USB port, but of course the battery was out of juice and I could not find my charger. Of course the charger was in the suitcase I took with me when we hid from a blizzard in Falmouth last winter. I thought that once the battery was charged I could import the pictures with no problem. Imagine my surprise when that would not work either. Apparently Windows 10 defaults to "You Shall Not Pass". No one has file permissions. Once that issue was addressed, and I rebooted four or five times success was mine. I do like the photo editing module on Windows 10, but some things leave a bit to be desired,

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Thoughts on Trump

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is shaking up the Republican Party. Early on in his bid for the nomination it seemed the official position was that his candidacy was a ruse or a joke and therefore nothing to worry about. His obvious mental problems (in my unprofessional opinion undiagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and impulsive speaking seemed doomed to sink him. It was pretty clear that between the Kochs and the RNC Scott Walker or Jeb! Bush would be the anointed candidate once the formalities of the primaries was over. Since then Trump has been polling better than all other declared candidates. He's out maneuvered the RNC by saying that he would run as a third party candidate if they weren't nicer to him.

Enter FOX, the media arm of the RNC. They have to allow him at the debates. They claim to have a plan to get him under control if (when) he breaks the rules of the debates. And now - they have released some results of a focus group discussing Mr. Trump. I'm sure they have hosted focus groups to discus some of the other GOP candidates, but so far this is the one made public. I think it was meant to erode support for The Donald, to show the lack of unity among Republican voters, and to encourage potential voters to look at the rest of the field. Of course I could just as easily be wrong about this - I often think my opinion is so obvious it must be correct, only to find out that I am the only s=one who sees it that way.

Trump did not attend "Media Night" when all the candidates who wanted to come were introduced. It was probably a smart move on his part - they were all treated as equals and most of them looked embarrassingly weak. The ones who seemed most comfortable with the format are polling so low it does not matter what they did, and the front runners among them looked much worse than anyone could have predicted. Jeb! in particular looked uncomfortable.

This is the focus group video, should you be interested. I think it's worth a peek, as I find it eye opening to hear what people like about him:

I news of less national interest, I have completed the body of my Rhinebeck sweater - the "Must Have Cardi" everyone and their dog knit a few years ago. So far so good. I think the size will be OK and it is much easier to knit than it looks. I think the number of mistakes will not be evident.

We have called a Skunk Guy at great expense to remove the skunk living under our shed. I credit my neighbor's open compost pile for attracting the attention of the skunks and the rat another neighbor had visiting inside her house. So far we caught a baby skunk but no Mama. If we had a bigger property and the skunks were living farther away I would not worry about it, but since my shed is only about two feet away from our deck I can't let them stay no matter how beneficial they might be.

And a picture of general interest (which I actually may have posted before):

Monday, July 27, 2015

Midsummer Doldrums

Well, not quite doldrums. The garden is in its July glory, waiting for me to take some new pictures. Three knitting projects are still on the needles, and two finished objects I have are not yet blocked . Spare time is spent on the beach, reading Anthony Trollop's nice novels about people trying to marry for money.

Politics are already driving me into a rage - I am honestly not quite sure what is so much worse about Donald Trump than the rest of the numerous venal old white men vying for the GOP nomination. Apparently the RNC does not like him, but I suspect that is because he is not already bought and paid for. That we know of.

So. Not having anything much to show off I will treat you to a video of something quite blamelessly cute:

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Into the City

We have long wanted to see the fireworks display on the Fourth of July in Boston, and this year we decided to go. Instead of planning a big trip for ourselves this year we had brought my younger kids out to visit so we thought a couple of shorter local trips this summer would be just the ticket. Shana's schedule leaves her Fridays free, so off we went up the highway to Boston for a weekend vacation.

We stayed at the Kendall Hotel in Kendall Square, where we had not stayed before. Friends had stayed here in the past and we liked the looks of it so we gave it a try. Very nice, one of my favorites, and we will stay there again. It's a converted firehouse with pretty and individually decorated rooms, good breakfast selections, and convenient to the T. The only thing I could say against it is that it is SO convenient to the T that we could feel (faintly) the trains passing below. Not particularly disturbing to me, and I don't think Shana really even noticed it, but for some people it might be annoying. One reason why we wanted to stay there was that it was less than a mile from the Charles River, where we wanted to walk to see the fireworks.

We saw a ball game Friday night (a miserable loss) and came home late. The game plus fireworks after didn't let out until late - we were still on the street waiting to get underground into the subway at midnight. It takes a while for 37,000 people to disperse, and most will be taking the subway. It went as smoothly as such things go, but I did not want to do it twice in one weekend so we and about 100,000 of our dearest friends met up on foot along the Charles on the MIT campus to see the display. The concert and the fireworks barge were directly across the river. While most of the concert could only be enjoyed across the river on the Esplanade, the fireworks portion was broadcast over FM radio. MIT set up speakers so we could all hear the music. There were food trucks and portable toilets there as well. Just about ideal, and the weather was perfect.The fireworks were fabulous. Obviously the best I have ever seen. They started with the 1812, with artillery and a nice burst of fireworks. Then a short break and the show began in earnest starting at about the level a smaller city might use for their finale and increasing in drama from there. It was just splendid! It was so convenient to be able to walk there and back. The nearby streets were closed so it was possible for the gigantic mass of people to get out in reasonable comfort and we were back at our hotel in no time.

Saturday we also visited the USS Constitution. She is currently in dry dock for repairs, so we were not able to tour below decks, but we were there for a 21 gun salute which is done only on the 4th.  We had a light lunch with fruity vacation drinks and did a little shopping and people watching near Faneuil Hall. Later on we walked over to the North End for a sumptuous dinner at Mama Maria's. We were fortunate that the Maitre d' (after a short convo) let us in dressed as we were in shorts to sit upstairs at their tiny bar. Once past that gauntlet we were treated well and our meals were fantastic! I would really recommend it, although if you are expecting meatballs and chicken parm you will be disappointed.

old and new - the Old Statehouse surrounded by skyscrapers

We headed home after a leisurely breakfast to see traffic going off Cape already backing up for miles before 11am. We'd hoped to go to the beach for a while, but by the time we got there no one could get in  - all the parking was taken. The weather today is exceptional and no one wants to leave the beach. It was the only disappointment in a wonderful weekend, but from the number of cars that started coming to the Cape on Thursday it was not really a big surprise. I read my paper on the deck and messed around in the garden instead.

I didn't take very many pictures during this trip. We were mainly focused on relaxing and spending some time together away from our usual routine, so we didn't try to see a lot of new things.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Family Visit 2015

These sunglasses were lost in the sea
This year instead of my visiting Oklahoma City we brought Sam, Alex, and Vivian to Cape Cod to visit us. None of them had been away on vacation for a while - this was Vivian's first plane trip. We loaded up on groceries and entertainment ideas and got ready for our company.

In spite of having a forecast of sunny skies all week we ended up with two sunny days - one of which was pouring rain early in the morning. We wanted to indulge in some beach time, but instead of having swimming days we mainly had "visit the beach for a walk days".  One day when it was sunny enough it was incredibly windy and temperatures hovered in the mid 50's. We did not stay long at the beach even though we had packed a picnic. We did have enough good weather for walking on the beach, and visiting Salem and Provincetown. The weather was fine for Salem, and we were able to stop in Plymouth to tour the Mayflower II on the way. We also walked down the street to gawk at The Rock. The main sight I like to visit in Salem is the Witch Trials Memorial in the Old Burying Point; Sam's favorite was the high school which was one of the buildings used in the film "Hocus Pocus". The drive back from Salem killed any desire to go to Boston for the day. We hit rush hour through Boston and got off in Dorchester to gas up. I must point out that we passed Stitch House twice but I did not go in even once. I probably should have, then we would have been behind the traffic instead of in the thick of it.  One thing I noticed in Dorchester was that there is inexplicably a gigantic bronze statue of a Clapp pear. We passed it twice while searching for a public rest room and I did not see any explanation for it. I had to Google it after I got home. Apparently it symbolizes the people of Dorchester (Whitey Bulger's old neighborhood) in that it has a tough skin but a soft center.

Our Provincetown day turned out fair, and we were able to enjoy a whale watching trip and a climb up the Pilgrim Monument. Many people do not know that the Pilgrims landed first at Provincetown. There's quite a view from the top of the monument, only a little tarnished by the knowledge that you are going to have to go back all the way down.  The monument has no elevator. Sam wore flip flops, which she deeply regretted. She ended up  climbing up and down barefooted. We had good luck on the whale watch - a mother and calf and two other humpbacks who were all willing to show us their tails! The sea was quite rough going out; Sam suffered from seasickness. and the rest of us were cold. Alex was pleased to hear that I did not need to add his sweatshirt to my outerwear. What a gentleman he was to offer it!

Vivian lost a tooth while she was here. She was a bit concerned that the Tooth Fairy might not find her, but that turned out not to be a problem.

I took quite a few pictures, so if you want to see more hop on over to my Flickr Photostream to check them out. There are a lot of them there (and not much editing or weeding out was done).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Goodbye Roxy

The most beautiful ears
14 years ago, when we had just lost our beloved Great Dane Ezra's Sigmund Freud and we were not looking for another dog, Roxy sneaked into our hearts. My sister in law had found her loose on a major road and sent her to live with my ex-husband because while Lori tried to find her owner because Roxy was an escape artist and he had a better fence. After her owner was not found, and she was there looking at me every time I stopped by with our children Roxy ended up coming home with me. Our vet thought she was probably two years old.

She answered to Roxy, but we quickly dubbed her The Amazing Roxanne, Evil Wild Dog of the Prairie. She was a first class escape artist, not only running out of doors and pushing screens out of windows but also digging out from under fences and on one memorable occasion jumping off of a roof to run off. That trick ruptured her ACL, requiring surgery and a stint of rehab in our pool. The substantial bandage the surgery required did not keep her from digging out under the fence and running off on three legs. The knee healed well, but there was nothing to be done with the hip, and it bothered her in her later years whenever the weather changed. She went in and out through the neighbor's doggie door to eat her friend's food, crawled under another neighbor's garage door to eat the cat food June kept there to feed to local feral cats, and could run so fast no one could catch her to bring her home.

Luckily she was very food oriented. We could call her home from a great distance by rattling a jar of treats, and it was easy to teach her tricks with the right inducement. This interest in food also motivated her to jump up on the kitchen counter and eat anything going. After all - "it might be food - if not I'll just throw up". She tried pickles, lettuce, pecan pie (a big hit) and anything else she would get. She could also open cupboard doors and step on trash cans to get at whatever was inside. The bathroom trash can was her special disgusting favorite.

Although she was too small (about 20 pounds) to do major damage, she was resourceful. She managed to climb a book shelf to get and eat a pair of hearing aids. She was able to climb up between the wall and a dresser by bracing her back and feet against the opposing walls to gain access to the cat food we thought we had protected. She was very taken with some perfumes. I had received a box of Lush bath bombs as a treat, which she attacked and dragged around to roll in. Irish Spring was her favorite soap, which she loved take from my son's tub into the living room to roll around in. He had perennially hairy soap. She was a devoted huntress, plucking a blue jay out of the air, and capturing an opossum in the back yard.

When we got her she was very bad on a leash. lunging, barking and pulling. Once we put her on a special harness to train her it turned out she had known all along how to behave, and was thereafter nearly perfect on leash. She was good with other dogs with very few exceptions, and was an easy travel companion. She liked cats, although this affection was not generally reciprocated. She was not worried by new people, and liked visitors, including repairmen. My father in law was one of her favorites. She demonstrated her love by racking him every time he came through our door. She loved my son, and demonstrated her love by biting his friend Jesse on the behind every morning because he came every day to take her boy away. (they walked to school together)

In her last years she seemed to be a tractable and agreeable dog, but still liked to indulge her hunting instincts. We have been bothered by little creatures burrowing under our shed. She thought it might be her life's work to get under there and catch whatever was hiding there. Although pretty much blind and deaf, she enjoyed ranging around the yard following her nose wherever an interesting scent could be found. She proved her worth chasing geese off my in-laws yard with gusto.

Last week the blood tests needed to get her teeth cleaned revealed that she was far advanced in kidney failure, and we had her put down yesterday. Her response to treatment was not adequate to justify keeping her with us any longer. We will love and miss her always, but we are at peace with our decision. She was a grand dog, our Baby Angel and Roxanne Roxannadana, and we were lucky to have her on our lives for so long.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Garden Tour 6/3/15

As promised, a little video tour of the garden. I'll apologize in advance for my terrible video skills. Maybe the next one will be better, but I doubt it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

An Imperfect Blogger

On Lauren's wonderful blog Wearing History Lauren has posed a challenge for all bloggers - to show the imperfections behind the beautiful images we like to put forward for our readers. Lauren was able to match up images with concurrent events to show the contrast. I'll just pass along a little of my context, mainly because I am having trouble finding the pictures I want from past blog posts.

I don't have an aspirational lifestyle blog with pictures of a perfect life for others to envy,

but I still pick and choose what to show. I choose my angles so as not to show the little gypsy camp around my chair when I am knitting and have everything strewn around. My outdoor pictures do not show the amazing chaos of my neighbor's yard or closeups of the garden beds that are looking bad and that I am not sure what to do with. I'm happy to highlight garden failures that are not my fault and to soft pedal the ones I brought on myself with laziness or ignorance. I don't post pictures of myself looking like a weasel (very often) or pictures that show me looking really tubby.

My knitting is often going awry - things get started and ripped back time after time. I make bad yarn choices and have to start over with different yarn. There are yarns in my stash I should never have purchased. There are finished objects waiting for me to block them that I am too lazy to tackle. There are finished objects that are waiting to be torn out because they are butt-ugly.

Everyone loves beautiful pictures of Cape Cod. I don't show the tatty touristy spots and souvenir stands. I don't show the drug problems, the unemployment, the homelessness, the groundwater issues. You can't tell from the beach pictures that the lovely young things lounging nearby are enjoying a long, loud and vacuous conversation dotted with vulgar language to a background of loud music. Seals bite. Flies bit. We are tick central.

I buy too many books and sometimes read too few of them. I go back to reread old favorites when I could be learning something new. I'm fallible and idle, like everyone else.  My dogs bark when I want to sleep. My "baby angel" get lost in the back yard now and eats cat poo (with gusto). I sometimes want to kill "The Little Woman". My car is unremittingly dirty. It's just life.

Read your favorite blogs, enjoy Pinterest, congratulate your Facebook friends on their book publishing, their family achievements, their new house or car, their new job, their Nobel Prize. Just know they are showing their best selves and are not sharing their hemorrhoids, the stupid fight they had with their kids, the leaky roof, the overdraft charges,  They may suspect their spouse is cheating, they may be hiding abuse, they may be posting the only good thing that happened all week. Be kind. Kindness is always the answer.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Early May 2015 Garden Report

Winter has finally and more or less completely given up its grip. I think the garden is behind where it was last year - I'll know for sure when I compare. In terms of size it's bigger. The bed bordering the front walk is new, and I've started on a perennial border along the back fences behind the veggie garden.

Winter losses - looks like two small lavender gone. My fleabane and sweet william have not come back (yet), and the mountain bluet looked small and weak before something bit it off at the ground. I have only half a dozen tulips, and the single one bud that was ready to open was also bitten off. Tomorrow I am purchasing some Repels-all to pour under the shed and dribble around some of the more attractive plants. I would like to have parsley for the table, not to fatten up groundhogs or other marauders. There was some kind of little creature in the yard yesterday - probably a chipmunk - Mitzi is interested but unless it comes inside the fence she won't get a chance. The cat behind us does come into the yard but I think he is only really interested in birds. I lost one veronica from the new front bed, but everything else made it through the winter there, probably because everything, including the hydrangeas, was completely and totally buried under snow up to my shoulders for two months.

Successes - my "tall veronica" which is really something else but was labeled that way doubled its number of stalks from last year. The Liatris is so enthusiastic I will have to start pulling some of it out. I will use some in other places but I will have more than I need. I thought I had moved my baptisia to the front bed but apparently I did not get all the root because it is coming up well in both places. I thought I was taking a chance because it does not like to be moved, but doubled is good. It gets  more sun in the front yard, so maybe it will bloom better there. My peony is much bigger, and the cosmos has reseeded. I don't know about the four-o-clocks; they come up much later. It's hard to believe they would have given up. The shrub border looks (a little) more like bushes and less like a row of sticks now, but is still not big enough to block my neighbor's piles of stuff. His son had a serious motorcycle accident earlier this year, so I doubt he will be moving along this summer. This means the tarp covered pile of his belongings will have to stay.

These are really boring photos unless you just like looking at little stumps. The next round of garden pictures will be much better, and in June I swear I will make a little video tour of the whole thing looking wonderful, so that you get the full effect.