Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

A Peaceful and Merry Christmas to Everyone! ~JennySlash

Bright Idea #2


The rather smallish kitchen window is partially blocked by other parts of the house and admits very little light.
The kitchen counters are anthracite grey and the cabinets hang quite low. To complicate matters, the overhead lighting spotlights the stove-top and sink and makes the counters appear quite bleak and forgotten.
For years, I have wanted to install under-cabinet lighting but just haven't gotten around to it. I had placed a small decorative nightlight in the deepest, darkest corner but it wasn't of much practical use.
So, anyway.......
....A few days ago, I was trying to find a place to store two accent lamps from IKEA. They come in packs of two - a smaller one nestled inside a larger - and I had purchased two pairs. One of the pairs is on the dining room sideboard. The other pair was still looking for a home.
I decided to try putting the smaller lamp near the coffee maker and the larger one in the darkest corner. They have a nice, clean look and add a soft glow right where it's needed.
The energy saver bulbs emit a fairly cool light so I countered that with some warmly hued objects in rattan and terra cotta, as well as a few coloured bottles.
Not only has it made it easier to actually see what's in the kitchen but I think it makes the room look bigger.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bright Idea #1

I decided that the family room could use a little Holiday warmth and used a very short string of lights to add a bit of a glow to our fireplace.

We seldom light an honest-to-goodness fire and I tend to use candles, instead. However, as I don't like to leave candles unattended, I seldom bother lighting them.

It scarcely matters, most of the time, because the love seat actually facing a tv and the cold, dark hearth is scarcely noticed. It being the Holiday Season - and very nearly Winter - the hearth was badly in need of some Cheer!

(Note: The string of lights is removed if the candles are lit, because the fire box gets quite hot!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Space Over On MySpace

I've spent the past week listing some unlikely holiday-related movies over at http://www.myspace.com/jennyslash .

(Note: this is not the list that inevitably ends with Die Hard. That list will come later!)

Come visit!

So, anyway.........

..........It's one of those dreary, drecky, drizzly days that let you know it's December.

We're nearly done with decking of the halls but we've still got cards to send and a wreath to buy. I did get the lighted door wardens set out on Monday night and they look very cheery alongside the twinkly Christmas tree. Colours are warm red and gold, this year. Because TonyP wanted to decorate quite early and I always want to keep things up til 12th Night, we decided to go faux.

Since we're actually having a tree, I decided not to do any additional indoor decorating. No last-minute flower-arranging extravaganzas.I would be satisfied if we could keep the place clean & tidy and reduce the number of boots & shoes nesting just inside the door, however. (Why is it that - just at the time of year when one desires a tidy home that can receive visitors at a moment's notice - one's entryway fills with piles of boots and mounds of god-knows-what?)

A few months ago, I decided to assist our local economy by shopping locally (as locally as possible), dining at locally-owned restaurants and seeing live music. The dining and the live music commitments have been a delight. We've attended such diverse performances as the NC Symphony's Holiday Pops concert, NC Jazz Rep's Holiday Concert, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Hege V and Southern Culture on the Skids. We've danced our little tootsies off, dined with friends and even attended an honest-to-goodness company party! As for dining, we've already made it to ACME twice.

My plans for Holiday shopping have also gone quite well. Kitchenworks, as always, has just what I need when I need it. Ditto A Southern Season and The Original Ornament.

This scheme sort of falls apart when it comes to clothes shopping for myself, however.

Whil I was in DC, I surfed a few major department stores and saw some things that I thought would be terrific for the upcoming Winter. I decided to wait until I returned home and look for those same items in the same chains at the nearby mall.

Huge mistake.

For some reason, M*cy's decided to load our closest store with the cheapest-looking cr*p they could find. I looked for the this-season's-fashion that I'd seen in DC but it seems those NY folks think we live in sweatpants around here. They may have gotten that impression from the women's apparel buyers over at B*lk's who have - seriously - fronted nothing but sweats and loungewear. I'm not sure if everyone just decided to write off this last quarter or if they truly think we all live in our jammies. The people who stock the S**thp**nt stores never fail to under-estimate the taste and needs of their patrons. I know times are tough but, cripes, we're in the damn store with an eye to purchase something wonderful - do NOT send us off to order online and please act as if you've heard of customer service.

I despair of the state of retail in this country; I really do. The day of the department store has passed and the omnipresent M*cy's has played a considerable part in its demise. They've dissolved any trace of local character while simultaneously diluting their own brand. I'll probably vent a little bit more about retail matters, at a later time, because I started my retail career at a department store and take poor management, uninspired buyers and half-assed training as a personal affront.

I'm sure you're all trying to get ready to go out to the mall and do a little shopping and spread a little cheer, so I'll leave off venting. But, please: while you're out, do yourself a favor and stop in at some locally-owned shops in your neck of the woods. In them, you'll probably find the retail spirit and customer service live on.




Wednesday, December 10, 2008

So Sorry......

....to disappear like that!

I've been having one computer-virus-related problem after another and really didn't mean to leave everyone hanging!

I finished the semester a few weeks early and we managed to get up to DC for a few days. Nothing rouses my Holiday spirit quite like bus exhaust and Metro air!

To add to the festive mood, we were delighted to see the viewing stands are already being erected on Pennsylvania Avenue!! And, as we won't be able to actually attend the celebration in January, we purchased a few souvenirs, in anticipation of the Inauguration, and joyfully strolled Pennsylvania Ave through a light snow.

I didn't take any pics but TonyP has posted a few.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Happy Birthday, TonyP!!


You deserve the Best Birthday EVER!!



Monday, September 22, 2008

Artwork Currently Available From My Etsy Shop

Water Lily #1 (watercolour)












Water Lily #6 (silvertone ink on paper)






Both pieces are currently listed at my Etsy shop: GalleryJ!


(Please note that all artwork is copyrighted. Thanks.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Textin'

I don't text.

Partly, that's because I've discovered that the texting feature for my mobile doesn't seem to work and it would take time that I do not have to get the situation remedied.

Mainly, however, it's because my nails are too long and my vision is entirely too poor!

I've decided that texting from my mobile would require me to wear one of those enormous magnifiers around my neck - the kind that your grannie probably uses when she does needlework. Not exactly a trendsetting accessory and nothing that I'd be caught dead wearing in public. Unless they make them in black.

As for the fingernails.... I understand why the fashion is for short, short nails. It's hard enough for me to enter the correct phone number - entering an entire message is perfectly ridiculous! I clearly wouldn't last 5 minutes as a contemporary twelve-year-old.

Hmmm.........What I really need is a personal assistant. Someone to text for me.

Must get working on that!

After my polish dries.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Latest Crochet Project




This is my new "Water Lilies" shawl.







I have already made a scarf and pair of mitts, using this yarn and the same stitch pattern. The stitch pattern is comprised of interlocking fans made in double crochet and has long been one of my favourites. Not only does it work up very quickly but it's extremely simple to do. If you can make a Granny Square, you can do this! The only stitches required are: chain stitch, single crochet & double crochet (US).








I was working with an inexpensive yarn that I purchased simply because I liked the colour. As I worked, the variegated patches of greens and blues with ivory fans reminded me of Monet's water lilies. After I crocheted the scarf and mitts, I decided to use the remainder of the yarn to make a shawl to keep my shoulders cozy while I'm studying.








Here is a detail of the stitch pattern.

See how the clusters suggest leaves and lilies?

That's one of the things that I enjoy about crocheting with variegated yarns - they can be used to make really interesting patterns. Of course, if you work entirely in one stitch, the yarn will stripe - just like it does when you knit row upon row. I'm not really a big fan of stripes so I prefer to use those yarns for a more random look.






Suburban Wildlife: Tortoise Edition


This morning, I spotted this visitor to our backyard.
He was moving at quite a clip, too!
All of that stuff about tortoises being slow....sounds like rabbit propaganda, to me!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lightin'

After spending a significant portion of this week clearing brush and hacking away at the undergrowth, I certainly hope that the lovely people who collect yard waste actually make it to our neighborhood before the winds pick up, on Friday morning.

Tuesday, I laid out the new lighting for the back yard and TonyP clipped the lights onto the power cord after work. (The instructions on the box said that no tools were needed but they neglected to mention that the clips can be awfully difficult to attach!) The lights certainly enhance the night-time view of that part of the yard and the result is quite charming. There's even a spotlight on St. Francis!

This was phase two of the lighting project. Phase 1 consisted of replacing the fairy lights on the back porch. Phase 3 will involve replacing the fairy lights in the jasmine arbor. It shouldn't take very long but - with a chance of an approaching tropical system - I'm content to leave that until later in the month!

By the way, I discovered that the drugstore at the local mall had an aisle of fairy lights ( what some readers will know as Christmas lights) in the middle of August!

God! How I love living in a college town!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Just Takin' A Break

I'm taking a bit of a break, in anticipation of what promises to be a fairly intense Fall Semester - chock full o' Human Rights abuse case studies.

Yippee.

A few weeks ago, we got up to the mountains for a couple of days. And, while we were in Burnsville, we stopped in at The Design Gallery. There is always a wonderful selection of artwork and fine crafts at The Design Gallery, so I thought I'd pass along the link to their website , where you can find a map, directions and so on.

In the same building as the Gallery, there's a small gourmet shop and a simply lovely yarn shop - YummiYarns.

Unfortunately, YummiYarns doesn't appear to have a website but this is a link to some pictures of the shop that are posted at The Design Gallery's website. The yarns are so much more than yummi - they're luscious!

The yarn shop is through the gourmet shop and straight on, past the piano.

Piano?



Thursday, July 24, 2008

For Comic Book Fans & Those Who Love Them

Just is case you're one of the dozen people who haven't already heard, TonyPlutonium is clearing out some of his comix.

He is literally giving them away by the handful.

Details are at his purpose-built blog: Take My Comic Books.

(I can only imagine that this is really just so he'll have room for more comix!)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Perfection



I've mentioned elsewhere that I purchased this vintage lovely on eBay.






It's a late 70s-early 80s cotton dress, of the sort that we used to call "Mexican wedding dresses" but they were quite often worn for less formal occasions - like going to concerts or the symphony - and by women of all ages. The basics of the style consisted of monochrome cotton, wide lace and lots of tucks but there were plenty of variations of the style. Some were white and some ivory. Some were embroidered. Some were flouncy and very ingenue. Some were sleek and sophisticated.






All of them were pricey, boutique items and way out of my budget, at the time - the time being Summer of 1980 and the place being New Mexico (and I was broke, between jobs, between apartments and soon to be between relationships).






In much more recent history, I started seeing variations on the style popping up in designer boutiques in Chicago, during the Spring of 2006. I even went so far as to try on a few but the reinterpretations tended to be a bit on the ingenue side. I decided not to invest in one of the new dresses but I still loved the basic elements of the style so I figured I'd keep my eyes open at vintage clothing stores and on eBay and try to snag a vintage dress that I might have glimpsed in a shop window in Santa Fe - some place just off the Plaza.






I didn't expect the dress to be in wearable condition and I certainly didn't imagine it would fit.

Wrong on both counts!
Now, all I need are tickets to the symphony.

So, Anyway.....




...We were in Colonial Williamsburg, a couple of weeks ago, and it just so happened to be during their annual Gardening Symposium - so the timing was perfect for a little photography!








Of course, I took thousands of digi-pics!








Editing them is a pleasant chore - but a chore, nonethess.








Here are a couple of floral shots.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Laptop Related Matters (or "Why I Am Not Mobile")

For a really fine description of the problems that I've been having with my Dell laptop (delivered with a healthy dose of wry humor), please check out TonyP's description of a Sunday spent working on my laptop and his attempt to coax Vista into behaving like a responsible OS.


Note: If it were left up to me, I probably would have shipped the unit back to Dell in teeny, tiny pieces, long before now.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Which Do I Care Less About......

..Dubya's opinion of Global Warming?

Or, the Vatican's opinion on extraterrestrials?

Tough call.

Friday, May 02, 2008

So, anyway.....


....a few years ago, I got to thinking about how so much of my childhood was in black & white & shades of grey. Not only television and newspapers but family photos, as well.
Since then, I've been scanning and playing with photographs of myself, from that era. Some of the images have found their way into paintings but many (such as this one) remain digital.
Part of the process involves distancing myself from whatever memories I might have attached to a particular image or event and approaching the photograph with greater objectivity.
Hopefully.
This particular one - entitled "Toothless" - shows me on the concrete pad of our breezeway and dressed in tunic and turned-up dungarees.
Squinting into the sun....as always!
That balletic motif tunic was rose-pink with black figures. The awful bangs were my mother's idea.
(What the hell was she thinking?)
Today happens to be a fairly important date on my calendar. A day set aside for me to think about my life and to celebrate it.
The black & white parts...half-tones...the faded sepia bits... the scary Kodachrome & Polaroid...the 3-color... the full Pantone range.....
...all of it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A May Basket


Flowers courtesy of my mother.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Birthday!!!!


And here's our Guest of Honour!

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Little Vintage ReVamp





I love doing crochet and this project melds bits from two periods of my crocheting history.
The base for this clutch is a placemat project that I did in 1977. I had planned on making a set but only ever made the one and used it under centerpieces or on the dressing table. The work was damaged during a particularly dreadful move, during which the movers used my collection of handwork and vintage linens to wrap a closet full of corrosive chemicals.

I've been thinking of using this particular piece to make a clutch for some time and finally pulled things together last week.

The clutch is lined with unbleached cotton and the Irish Crochet flowers were worked during my stay in Chicago, during the spring of 2006.



(In case you're wondering, the Battenberg Lace in the background is a small photo album that I decorated with odd bits of ribbon and things about 15 years ago. The vintage train case in the picture was mine when I was a little girl and I carried it on train trips between North Carolina and Minnesota.)

The Boyz

The pride that I take in my short stint at the helm of a live-music club ( back in the mid-80s) is partly due to a band called The Pressure Boys.

When the house lights went down at Rhythm Alley and the stage lights came up, no band got the people moving on the dance floor - or kept them dancing longer - than the Boys did.

The band broke up twenty years ago but, this upcoming weekend, the Pressure Boys will reunite to play a benefit for the fight against cystic fibrosis.

The details about the fund-raiser can be found on their website . Plenty more about the band can be found via the website of author Peter Cashwell , including a link to some photos of band members, past and present.

And, if you've got an ounce of sense, you'll be there - with your dancing shoes on.

I sure will.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

So, anyway.....

.....I had an interesting day at the Spring writing conference on Saturday. Interesting less for the two workshops that I participated in than for the fact that it was such a lovely day to be in Greensboro.

The conference was held on the campus of the University which (if all goes well!) will be granting my Master's in another year.

Now, the nature of my program is such that I am not required to set foot on campus.

Ever.

And don't get me wrong - I wouldn't change that for the world! I love the fact that I can go anywhere and work on my own daily schedule. But the fact is that I enjoy visiting the campus, from time to time. Not only does it help me to feel connected to the institution but - thanks to some massive renovation - it's turning into quite an attractive place.

Outside the student union, there's a prettily landscaped area with a few benches, a swing and a verdigris statue of Minerva. I've walked past the spot a number of times and it has always looked like an inviting place to slam down a coffee and a veggie sub between classes. It's one of those spots that beckon to you through the window and makes it hard to think about anything but the upcoming lunch break.

And, on a sunny April morning, when the fringe trees and lilacs and azaleas are in bloom and you can hardly hear yourself think for dogwoods, there's really no sense at all in being indoors.

Between the morning and afternoon workshops, I sat at the feet of Minerva, drinking coffee and working crosswords. I sat in the sun for two hours and thought about absolutely nothing. There was a light breeze that carried the the sound of chimes, together with mingled fragrances of flowers, old buildings and library books. Rather than look for a clock, I listened instead for the chiming of the carillon. Synchronizing myself to campus time.

The afternoon workshop was dedicated to memoirs and the personal essay.

Outside the window, I was still able to make out Minerva, standing in a garden of fringe trees and lilacs - a place where being an artist and a student and a writer and myself could all weave together.

At least for a couple of hours, marked on the quarters by a carillon.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Carolina Springtime: Completed!










Carolina Springtime:
the Inspiration





I promised everyone that I would post the final results of my first hand-knitted sweater project and here it is!















Getting to this point was a tad circuitous and I'll tell you why. I was basing the dimensions of the front and back panels on one of my favourite sweaters. The problem was that the one that I used for reference was a rather bulky sweater. My own knitting looked quite droopy and blah at those original dimensions.
So.....I cut it up!

If you're used to half-finishing knitting run up on a knitting machine, this won't scare you.


First: I laid the panels out on my cutting board to measure.




Second: I marked the place where I needed to cut. In this case, I was aiming for 3-4 inches of ease plus a seam allowance of approximately 1/2 inch.
Third: I took the panels to the machine. Using a rather small stitch length and carefully following my knitted stitches as a guide, I sewed straight lines on either side of the cutting line. I reinforced the new garment edge with another row of straight-stitching and a zigzag stitch - trying very hard not to stretch the fabric as I did so. (Stabilizer might have made this easier but I didn't have any handy.)



Fourth: I cut off the extra several inches.










Fifth: Keeping in mind the vintage pattern that inspired this endeavor, I chain-stitched the shoulder seams.










Sixth: I joined the sleeves to the body, right sides together. For this, I used a back-stitch.



Seventh: With a running stitch, I joined the front to the back, under the sleeves and down the sides.



And here's the finished sweater!



The next time that I make this pattern up, I will use a solid yarn and be certain to block my swatch before settling on the stitch count. The self-striping yarn is lovely but I wasn't really aware that it was self-striping when I bought it, assuming that the ombre was a bit more random in character. Since I was working on the flat and not in the round, it meant that the stripes would not match up at the side seams and so on. Since this was my first attempt, I'm not overly distressed by the result. And, as it was really intended to wear at-home, the lack of matching sides seams will not keep me awake at night.
That being said, I will probably only use this yarn for projects that are either knitted in-the-round or for crocheted pieces where the stitches would tend to obscure the striping.
The yarn used for this project was Paton's SWS in "natural pink" and the needles were bamboo. The yarn is what I consider a "slow" yarn - that is to say that there is some tooth to it and it doesn't slide off of the needles very easily. Easier to control but a bit grabby - especially with the bamboo needles. Still, for a first project, I found it less frustrating than having my stitches go springing willy-nilly off of my needles! It's a matter of preference, of course. When I crochet, I have an assortment of hooks in different materials and with different finishes that I can select from and I will be doing the same with knitting. I must say that I have a great fondness for the bamboo needles - especially the shorter ones. I have had better success with that type than any other knitting needles I have ever owned.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Shoppin"



Whilst at Roulette Vintage, spotted these lovely sling-backs!


I don't generally buy vintage footwear but these were not only in stellar condition but they fit me!


Speaking of stellar.....


According to the woman at Roulette, the shoes once belonged to a 1940s movie star but she didn't remember who!


Most of the female stars of that era were quite diminutive so the list of candidates who might have owned these 9B (US) heels is not an extensive one.


The shoes are light beige with black patent tips that suggest they were designed to make the wearer's foot look at least a size smaller than it was.


It's a shame that these shoes lack provenance. But, if I have to guess, I'd look for an actress who was tall - at least 5' 8", so she might have modeled. She was probably a bit insecure about the size of her feet. The shoes are Italian-made but purchased from a store in NYC. Maybe she was a New Yorker.
While I'll never know who their original owner was I do have my own guess.

Monday, April 07, 2008

So, Anyway....

....I haven't blogged in a few days because it's been one of those weeks when it's been one fiasco after another.

Some times, things just keep sliding from bad to not-quite-as-bad to sux and then back to bad again and one keeps checking the mirror, to see if the Cosmos has taped a big "Kick Me" sign on one's back.

My patience with computers, universities, deer, wood ticks and Microsoft is at an end and I would very much like it if everything would kindly return to normal ASAP.

Thank you.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Big Badda-Boom

Last Friday, things kinda went haywire on the workstation.

I sorta went berserk, fearing that all of my grad school writing had been lost down a rabbit hole.

Cuz, to be perfectly honest, things weren't being backed up as systematically as they shoulda been.

Like...at all.

Not that the subject hadn't come up - such as when my old laptop began to (quite literally) fall apart. Or when TonyP's sister lost her house to a fire and we began to obsess over what would happen if we were confronted by a similar disaster.

I just never followed up on any of it.

So, some things have been lost but a lot more turned out to be retrievable than we'd originally thought. And a lot more was salvageable from that fragile, antique laptop. The only writings that seem to have disappeared without a trace are the final versions of some of my poems.

But that's probably for the best.

A new computer is on its way and everything ought to be back to normal by the weekend.

Which is the real danger - that I shall become so complacent by the normalcy of it all that I'll forget those awful moments when it appeared that years of work had simply vanished.

Perhaps the loss of a few poems is a small price to pay, if it reminds me to take the time to back up my computer.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Still More Garden-Inspired Ramblings




This morning, I rose quite a bit earlier than usual and was finished with my Morning Prayer/Coffee routine by 9:15!

During my meditation, I was distracted by movement outside the front window. It was an unfamiliar grey kitty, lurking on our front porch and poised to pounce on one of our resident robins. I walked over, jingled the sleigh bells that hang on the door and both cat and robin vanished.



Which leads me to a rather intriquing discovery that TonyP made, when we were switching out the arbors on Saturday.



^ I decided to add a tall japanese fern to this container, for a bit of height.


The jasmine is a favorite nesting spot for robins and, as we were clipping it back, we noted an old nest was still tucked securely among the tangled mass of vines. TonyP was sawing apart the old arbor when something near the old nest caught his eye. He reached into the jasmine and pulled out a cat collar!



Here's the new arbor and freshly-planted containers. I'm also starting a few cuttings from the jasmine. Against the wall, you can see how far along the daylilies are. No spikes yet. >


Evidently, one of the neighborhood felines had been a-hunting robins and become tangled in the vines but the safety collar had come apart, as it was designed to do. When this might have happened - this year, last or the year before - we have no idea.


I'm sorry that I didn't see it happen because I would have loved to have watched a cat climb that arbor!
These pics were taken today, after I spent a few hours playing in the dirt. It was such a lovely, warm day and I couldn't resist!

^ I'm afraid that the pansies that I planted at the feet of S. Francis are a hopeless cause. The deer simply pull them up by the roots! I don't know if the new red hydrangea will far any better but I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Still Feeling All Floral


Mom purchased this fabric when she moved into her townhouse and used it to cover a small, round table in the bedroom. While the room is still done in lilac and lavender, she's dispensed with the table and decided she wanted to have the fabric converted into pillow shams.
My first step was to pull out the hem and stitching from the circular tablecloth. Then, I pressed everything and made up a pattern, based on the dimensions of the pillows. I used a formula from the House Beautiful Seasonal Guide to Decorating with Fabric (long out-of-print) and had to patch together pieces to make up the backs of the shams.
She's bringing the pillows over, later this week, to try them out. I left myself a bit of room to alter the shams, if necessary. But there's almost no fabric left over so - if I have to make adjustments - it'll be tight!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter at the Arboretum

In case you haven't noticed, Spring appears to be underway!


On Easter, TonyP and I wandered over to campus to see how far along the plants and flowers were. We were quite delighted to see a lot of things in bloom - some early and some a bit late. It makes for a delightful mix.

Here's a short walk down the paths of the arboretum - a little touch of Spring to brighten up your day!




That particular saucer magnolia is a rather unassuming tree but blooms with exuberance.


















If you care for hellabores, take a seat and rest a while. Hellabores seem to be quite a favourite at this arboretum and there are quite a few varieties.


















This flowering quince does, in fact, have blossoms ranging from deep pink to almost-white on the same branches.



















I was a bit surprised to see the irises, as mine have yet to send up spikes. We noticed irises blooming in Durham, a couple of weeks ago! I think that the warmth of the pavement and buildings speed them up quite a bit.








Talk about early! There are several of these azaleas that are in full bloom! Most of the ones downtown are budding or just starting to open. (At my house, what azaleas have not been devoured by deer are still barely budding.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Valuable Link

On the off-chance that you are not familiar with the work of Don Marquis, here is a link to the poem: "Warty Bliggins, the Toad". (Which I've put in caps because I am not a cockroach and can reach the ''''shift" key.)

Flower Arrangin'

The front porch still needs to be tidied up and the rest of the plants brought outside for some sunshine.

But I decided to go ahead and decorate our front entrance.

Below, the Moon-Gazing Rabbit appears in the guise of the Easter Bunny.






Perched on the front porch of this twig birdhouse, the toad figurine is so lifelike that one could mistake him for Mr Bliggins, the actual toad resident of our azalea bed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sewin'


This blouse is a test of New Look 6598, size 12. The fabric is a Cranston print based on a Mary Englebreit design and was purchased at Walmart, several years ago. Buttons are reclaimed from who-knows-where.


I've had this pattern for some time but hesitated to make it because I have had considerable difficulty fitting bodices and blouses, in the past.


This pattern features front and back darts and there is a narrow tie at the back to control fullness. It's really a very easy blouse to fit.


Being somewhat desperate for a reliable blouse pattern, I decided to make a muslin of it and I chose this fabric because I had purchased acres of the stuff for a quilt backing and never used it. The fabric is 100% cotton, so fairly easy to work with. Being black and an over-all print, alterations/mistakes would be less visible.


As it happens, the size 12 muslin fits me perfectly, as drawn. No alterations were needed but I did widen the blouse a bit near the bottom - to allow a smoother fit over jeans. I also made the side slits an inch longer because I thought the proportions looked better.


The main difficulty with this pattern was the neckline/collar facing. Try as I might, I have been unable to insert it in such a way as to get the thing to lie smoothly. I've tacked the facing down but I will probably need to draft my own facing pattern before I attempt to make this version of the blouse again!


Other than that, however, the blouse was a breeze!

Some Thoughts....


A young person was murdered.


A student.


A young woman - who was a guest in our community - was murdered.


We're a small town. Small enough that random acts of murder still touch each of us.


Small enough that we are able to remember the names of victims.


Small enough that we are able to remember where they've died.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Yes, It Is March & Yes, That's A Poinsettia


This year, I'm going to try to carry over the poinsettia we bought for Christmas.
It all starts with me cutting it back some time in March.
Seems a shame to do it, since the brachts are still quite pretty.
But, it looks a bit too Christmas-y
And it is March, after all.

So, Anyway.......

I somehow managed to get the front piece of the sweater about six inches wider than the back.

Evidently, I'd incorrectly recorded the number of stitches that I'd cast on for the first piece.

So....I get to do that piece all over again.

Woo-hoo.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Readin'


Book Review: Dead Hunt by Beverly Connor




It’s been a fairly low-energy week for me because I’ve had a nagging case of the sniffles.

Fortunately, before I started getting all sneezy, I’d stopped by the local big box book emporium for some fresh reading. It took some searching but I eventually managed to locate the sole copy of Beverly Connor’s Dead Hunt that the store had gotten in. They only ever keep a single copy of her most recent “Diane Fallon” series in stock and I am beginning to think that I am the only person in town who has read any of her books.

Which is a shame.

Connor writes two “detectives”. The first series is comprised of archeological mysteries, featuring Lindsay Chamberlain. The series is out of print in the US but Connor’s website promises a new “Lindsay Chamberlain” title in the not-too-distant future. If you’re a fan of archeological mysteries, it’s worth seeking out this series on the web or in used book stores.

The second is the “Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation” series and Dead Hunt is the fifth title.

Diane Fallon is the director of a natural history museum in Georgia. She has a background in forensic anthropology and also heads a crime lab that is housed in the same building as the museum. Juggling criminal investigations, small town politics, museum administration and – well – life can be stressful so, for relaxation, Dr. Fallon enjoys spelunking.

In Dead Hunt, Fallon becomes involved in the search for a “black widow” while coping with allegations that the museum is purchasing illegal antiquities. She becomes, simultaneously, the prime suspect in a grisly murder and the target of a killer. And her neighbors are getting fed up with all of the excitement that seems to follow her home.

What makes Beverly Connor’s "Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation" books enjoyable is the way that she crafts mysteries that interweave past and present in unsuspecting ways. Her books are more character- and plot-driven mysteries than strict procedurals. And, they keep you guessing ‘til the end.

Frankly, she deserves more attention than she gets.



(Beverly Connor’s books are available online. For more information on the author, please check out her website. Image of book is from her website at: http://beverlyconnor.net .)

Knittin'



Yes, Folks –

She’s taught herself to knit, by gum!

Well….only just. Barely.

But, a cell cozy, GPS cozy, pair of legwarmers and a Valentine’s prezzie ( scarf for TonyP) makes it pretty much official.

Previous forays into the land of English knitting were frustrating failures. Back in the 70s, there was a short sortie into Continental knitting that was a bit more encouraging. Ultimately, however, it proved just as fruitless.

Not that it really bothered me because I can crochet like nobody’s business. So, I’ve been quite content to admire the work of knitting friends (such as the oh-so-talented Knittin-Gin) without feeling any urge, whatsoever, to make any more attempts at the craft.

So, anyway….last month, I realized three things: 1) TonyP really wanted me to make him something, 2) He prefers knitted articles to crocheted (considers them more appropriate for a guy), 3) my ankles were cold.

Since I was in need of a pair of legwarmers (and crocheting them is tedious beyond belief!) I hied me hence to Fabric & Crap for some ballet pink yarn and bamboo knitting needles. Once home, I practiced with some seriously ugly practice-yarn-with-no-bounce-left-in-it and managed to fumble about until I had completed cozies for my cell phone and the family GPS.

Stylistically, my knitting style lacks provenance. It’s some bass-ackwards fusion of English and Continental, with the yarn held the way I do when I crochet. I wouldn’t dare knit in public, for fear of shocking the more knit-lit but it’s a method that works for me.

The legwarmers worked up very quickly. Encouraged, I purchased yarn for TonyP’s scarf and had it finished and blocked before Valentine’s Day!

My goals for knitting are humble. Generally speaking, I have entirely too many complicated, major projects so any knitting objectives need to be achievable, affordable and not overly ambitious.

I call my current project “Carolina Springtime” because the SWS variegated yarn in “natural pink” reminds me of the dogwoods and azaleas that grace North Carolina each Spring. It is a simple pullover inspired by a 1970s design in Make It with Mademoiselle (1977). My version is only a rough approximation because I am using a singled strand of variegated yarn, unlike the double strand of solid yarn called for in the original design. Similarly, the needle size is different and I opted for a slightly looser stitch. As the design is basically just four rectangles, I’m simply making up panels to the same dimensions as in the original and I want to take advantage of the natural curl at the edges.

Come to think of it…..the sweater would work up just as well in crochet!
( Above and Right: Current "Carolina Springtime" project in Patons SWS, "Natural Pink".)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Drop That Class and Slowly Back Away

I have decided to drop my Spring class and take the semester off.

After spending eleven days circling the classwork like it was going to bite me, I finally realized that there was no way that I was going to do my best work in that class. The subject didn't interest me and, after the bear of a semester that I had last Fall, I just couldn't see myself slogging through this one just to get through to the end.

I'm not pursuing this degree for professional reasons. This entire enterprise is meant to enrich myself and my life - to stimulate my brain - to cultivate my passions and the joy of learning.

The trouble is that I had become so focused on the work and getting the degree that I'd kinda lost sight of those objectives. The last couple of semesters, I've allowed myself to become too other-directed, dependant upon a syllabus and deadlines to get from one day to the next. During my weeks off, I've felt tremendous stress and anxiety because I didn't have someone to set clear-cut objectives for me.

This is only the second time that I've dropped a course since I began grad school. The first, I waited so long that I was a complete wreck by the time that I made the decision. The textbooks wound up flung against a far wall, their spines shattered. It was ugly but not senseless violence. It had become necessary for me to forcibly extricate myself from that particular class.

This time it was quite a bit different. I opened the syllabus and immediately realized that there were other things that I could be doing with my time - even if nothing sprang to mind. Still, I completed the first three writing assignments and prepared to hunker down and just get through the class.

That was when I realized that:
1) The material really didn't speak to my interests
2) I'd already written these three essays several times before, for earlier classes
3) This lack of enthusiasm showed in my writing
4) The professor either sensed this or simply didn't like my writing style. (Either way, I could expect a rather low grade which would ruin my GPA, which is stupid to worry about in grad school - but still....)

Withdrawing from class was a difficult decision but, ultimately, it was based on the fact that I only have three classes left in the program before graduation. One of those classes is in a required category, so there's little I can do about that one. But the other two are in my main area and I really want them to count!

I want them to engage me and fill me with joy!

I want to jump out of bed every morning, excited to work!

I want to love the research!

I want to feel transformed on a cellular level!



Maybe, next semester.........

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Tenth Day of Christmas

Just in case you haven't seen it already, here's the link for this season's edition of It Came Upon A Midnight Weird - Cavalcade of Bad Nativities over at Going Jesus.

Caution: Do not attempt to view while drinking hot beverages or operating machinery!