Monday, August 3, 2015

Coming Home To Myself

Back in April I hit what I believe was my rock bottom with my allergies.  Sitting in my the exam room for my regular check in, I sobbed to my allergist that my life was just so small and so hard.  Loosing certain foods was almost too much to be born, and I just didn't know how I was to do that for the long term.
"You have to find replacements," she said.
How on earth do I do that? 
When food is so big in my our family...and in our culture?
That little bit of advice - no matter how impossible it seemed in the moment - did sink through, and a month or so ago I made the decision to go to Lowe's Home Improvement to spend some time in the greenhouse.  I'd had a rough few days, and I desperately needed something to help me cope with the stress.  Spending time in greenhouses was something I used to do a very great deal of...until we had children, and like so many things it went by the wayside as my life was turned upside down.
You see, I fell in love with houseplants back in college.  At one point, I even worked for a local florist, and part of my job was to care for the plants in the store.  All through college and for years afterwords I kept many, many gorgeous growing things in my home.  If I had to guess, I'd say that I averaged 75 houseplants at any one given time over the course of 10 or so years.  I loved them dearly, and nothing was more fun or relaxing than spending a day watering, grooming, pruning, repotting, fertilizing....whatever they needed.  Every few weeks I would drive around to all of the local greenhouses, just to see if there was anything new.  It was heaven.
But I had forgotten.
As I walked up and down the rows of plants that evening, I felt something inside of me start to wake up.  I didn't go home with anything that evening, but I went back a few days later and have since started to slowly bring a few new babies home to add to the few that I've had for years.  The crazy thing is that not only has it been very good for my heart and soul, but it's also made our house feel more like a home.
I thought I'd introduce you to all of my green lovelies.  At this point, I'm content with what I have, but who knows...I'm always open to something new.
 I actually bought the big guy from a sale table several years ago.  He's found his happy place in our bedroom, where he's trying to take over.
(and my husband fixed the mirror right after I took this picture...)
 He's been joined by a new snake plant - which I've wanted for a long while.
 Rounding out the group is an antherium I rescued from a grocery store sale bin years ago.  He had grown root bound, so I've upgraded him.
 My husband bought me this giant "space" violet for mother's day.
 My bathroom is home to my collection of orchids.  They love it there, and reward me with frequent blooms.  The one on the left came home with me recently.
 The bathroom also houses a Christmas cactus I've had for several years and two new violets. 
 My BKB and I found this lovely on the sale table at Lowe's for only $12 recently.  We bought him together, split it apart, and now each have about half.  That's right...this is HALF of a $12 plant.  I'm not sure you can really tell how big it is from this angle, but it is a monster, and I adore it.
 My old pothos didn't rebound from it's recent trim like it usually does.  So, I bought two new small ones from the sale table and added them in with the little bit that survived.
 My fiddle leaf fig - I kid you not - is about 20 years old.
 My aloe is a year old.
 Every couple of years my spider plant dies back and I have to start over with some of it's babies.  We've just gone through the dying back phase, and I'm trying to save what's left while encouraging a pot of the babies.
 Chuck and Josh
 Starts from a friend...they need a pot very soon
 Extra hen and chicks should the squirrels get mine outside again.  They come from my parents' farm.
 The best improvement lately has been in my office/studio corner.  It's amazing what some plants do!  I'm soooo much happier with a little bit of green there.
 I went with tough, low-light plants.
 They are in pots the girls decorated for me years ago.
 And, of course, a new philodendron.  I adore them, and I adore hanging plants!
 Which is why I now have two varieties of Hoyas in my kitchen!  I'm really good with them, and can usually get them to bloom.  I've really missed having them in my home.
 I'm also more than a little partial to ivy.  This is the biggest of the new purchases.
 I decided to start small with other ivy varieties.  I'm kind of partial to variegated leaves, and I'm happy to say that I've found the perfect spot for them in this house.
Unusual leaf shapes are a plus.
The tricolors have always been a favorite.
Of the three wee ivies, this is the one that's not new.  It was a gift from church at the start of Lent. 
Violets are cheap, so I always have a lot of them around.

 I try to keep a variety of colors.
 The more the merrier!
 Seriously...I used to keep 30 at a time, and I had grow lights. Promise I won't go that far again!
I love strawberry begonias. I found this one on the sale table, and it needs a bit of tlc.
So that's everyone...for now!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

My TV Confession

It started innocently enough. 

I signed up for a free trial of Amazon Prime so that I could get the 2-day shipping on a few items I needed sooner rather than later...and then I forgot to cancel Prime before they charged me for a year of the service.


About a month after this happened I decided that I might as well go ahead and take advantage of all that Prime had to offer...which, of course, includes their streaming video services.  I'm not actually much of a tv or movie person at all, but hey - I'd already paid for it!  So I spent an evening browsing through their catalog, becoming more and more excited as I discovered plenty of old and new movies and tv shows that I might want to watch. 

And I decided to start with....

The X-Files!

Back in the day, I absolutely loved the X-Files.  It was one of the only shows that I watched religiously, and I kept the faith even when the last two or three seasons turned out to be so very bad.  I was super disappointed when the shows were released on DVD because they were priced way too high for me to justif, and as the show has largely not been in rotation on cable I've been X-Filesless for years. 

What could be better than watching all nine seasons straight through?  (I'm kind of nuts that way....)  Especially when we are getting ready for the brand new X-Files they are filming right now??! I started at the beginning, and blasted through the entire first season in less than a week with a childlike glee that my husband found hilarious. 

Some comments:
  1. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson look like they are having a blast - and like they are having trouble taking their job seriously - in the first few episodes.  They can barely keep a straight face!
  2. Seth Greene!  How did I not remember him in this show?!
  3. In episode 9, Mulder and Scully find a man down on the floor, and he yells, "Get a doctor!"  I find this hilarious...
  4. Especially because in the next episode she's a good enough practicing doctor to be commandeered by a local ER to assist. 
  5. She's not a good enough doctor to understand a lot of the medical science that they discuss on the show.  I know, I know....they have to explain it for the audience...but it occasionally makes her look stupid. 
  6. Tooms!
  7. What the heck was up with the wardrobe department?  Gillian Anderson started the series in gorgeous, tailored suits...and finished in the most awful, baggy suits and trenchcoats.  I know it was partly what was fashionable at the time, but the poor woman looks super-frumpy in the last few episodes.  We won't even talk about her hair, which undergoes a similar transition.  I love that she's not hyper-sexualized, and I love that it's her intellect and personality that is showcased.  But still...she doesn't have to look like she's wearing a potato sack!
  8. For supposedly being such a smart guy, Mulder does some really dumb stuff.
  9. Is it just me, or do they act like they are doing a whole lot more cases together than just what we see in the show?
  10. True story:  We named our oldest 'Gillian' in part because I really admired Gillian Anderson.  Her middle name was the source of great debate, and we only settled on giving her my middle name, Leigh, after my husband decided to break our 'no naming the kid after anyone' arbitrary rule because he wanted her to share something with her mother.  I looked Gillian Anderson up online after watching a few episodes because I was trying to remember when in the series she'd been pregnant...and I discovered that her middle name is also Leigh.  Blew.  My.  Mind.
  11. I'd heard about an X-Files podcast run by an actor who's going to be in the new series, and decided to check it out.  Now, I have no plans to listen to every show (they do rather run on and on and on), but I did get a few gems from the first episode. 
    1. They pointed out that Mulder and Scully like and trust each other from the very beginning, despite the fact that they are set up to be at odds.  That's pretty rare.
    2. They have obvious chemistry, but the show stays away from the sexual tension that's pretty much expected these days....which led to them being the first ever 'shipped' couple.
    3. The technology in the show is pretty hilarious...but if you think about it, it was done just before the internet became a thing, and that really helped.  The show wouldn't have been near so awesome if they could just google everything. 
And with that, I'll thank you for indulging me.  I won't do this for every season, promise! But I did start watching season two tonight....

Friday, July 31, 2015

Summer Reading, Part 2

In which my time was just not my own this month....

1.  The Martian, Andy Weir - I first heard about the Martian (not surprisingly) on Books on the Nightstand, but it wasn't long before it was getting major buzz from just about every book source I am aware of.  On Father's Day our family went to see Jurassic World, and were treated to the trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation.  My oldest leaned to me and told me she really wanted to see it.  I told her that it was originally a book, and that I'd heard lots of good things about it.  Would she want to read the book first and then see the movie together?  YES!  It's a really fun book, and I have to say that it's one of the few book to movie adaptations that I'm truly excited about.  Weir has written a math and science heavy love letter to the human spirit and to the power of creativity and problem solving.  I couldn't put it down!  (I was interested in the accuracy of the math and science, and to my delight there's info in the back of the book about that.  This guy is no slouch.)  The story about how this book came into being is just as awesome.  Can't wait to talk about it with my girl.  (She devoured it in less than three days at the end of the month!)

2.  Uprooted, Naomi Novik (audio) - Interestingly enough, this was a very recent BOTNS audiobook of the week recommendation.  They don't tend to talk about fantasy that often, so it made my ears perk up.  I immediately went to my library's app, and to my delight it was available.  I now want to read everything Novik has ever written.  It was amazing...a grown-up sort of fairy tale based on Eastern European folk traditions.  The audio took a bit of time to get into because the reader had an accent that my untrained ears want to place as Polish/Slovakian of sorts, but once I adjusted I found that it added a lot to the authenticity of the story.  It was original, it was well-written, and it was immensely satisfying!  (I bought a hardback copy to keep!)

3.  The Bone Doll's Twin, Lynn Flewelling - Flewelling was perhaps my last great bookstore find before I switched to ebooks.  (I used to have a knack for finding new my disappointment, the current cover art trends are so offputting to me that I have trouble now...)  I adore her, and this particular trilogy is one of my all-time favorite series.  The first time around, though, I started reading before the series was completed, and had to wait for a ridiculously long time for the last book.  In deciding what to read next, and in looking through old favorites, it was clear that not only did I want to reread these beloved books, but that I also really wanted the opportunity to read them straight through.  And so I started....I cannot even begin to say how much I love this book!

4.  The Awakened Mage, Karen Miller (audio) - And having made it through the awful final chapter of The Innocent Mage, it was time to face this book.  I had forgotten that I'd actually read a little bit into it.  Truth?  I couldn't finish, and I just can't quite put my finger on what the problem is.  I was way into listening, but I hit a point where I wanted to suddenly stop and skim ahead through the book.  I did, and none of it surprised me, and I never went back to the audio.  The best answer I have as to why these books aren't working is that there is a certain joylessness to them.  or maybe a lack of humor?  or maybe they're just too darn depressing.  This is not to say that fantasy books should always have happy endings or be light and sweet....I read plenty of fantasy that is dark and has lots of horrible things in it...but this is something else entirely.  Sigh.   I think trying twice is enough.

5.  Tattoos On The Heart, Father Gregory Boyle - I'd been meaning to read this for quite some time, and finally checked it out from the library.   (I prefer to borrow nonfiction from the library as I usually won't reread it.)  Father Boyle has been credited for helping to reduce significantly gang violence in Los Angeles through his work with Homeboy Industries.  I sobbed my way through the book, which is part memoir and part a lesson on what Christianity should be.  (Just a taste - Christianity is messy, and it should be about love and compassion - and not about judgement.)  Father Boyle is someone who's made a huge difference in this world by living his faith fully, and he's very much someone I admire deeply.  Imagine what a different world we would live in if more of us followed his example.  I'll be buying a copy for myself, and I imagine I will reference it often.

6.  Armada, Ernest Cline (Audio) - This is the newest release from the author of Ready Player One, which is a book that I forced my husband to read because I knew he would love it as much as I did - if not more because he would actually get the pop culture references.  Truth be told, I'm not sure why I like these books so much.  I've never been a gamer, nor have I been the sort of pop culture nerd that Cline is writing for, so you would think I'd have a hard time relating.  Nevertheless, I do enjoy them.  (Might have something to do with the fact that I'm married to a gamer nerd.)  Armada is not quite as good as Ready Player One, but it was still a lot of fun...if sometimes highly predictable.  Of course, part of my enjoyment is due to the fact that Will Wheaten provides the audio narration.  No, he's not the best reader in the world....but he is pretty much the most perfect reader for these specific books, bringing a refreshing enthusiasm and a natural enjoyment of the work to them.

7.  Shades in Shadow: An Inheritance Triptych, N.K. Jemisin - I love Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy, and was delighted to find this collection of short stories based on that world.  Such a beautiful collection.  It's a nice way to tide me over until Jemisin's next book is released. 

8.  Points of Departure: Liavek Stories, Patricia C. Wrede and Pamela Dean - I adore both of these women and their wonderful writing, and had preordered this book without really knowing what it was about.  I was a tad bummed to find that it was short stories (I'm usually smarter than this...) but then was delighted when I started reading the stories.  It turns out that Liavek is a world that was created by a group of writing friends as a place to play in, and Wrede and Dean decided to publish their works from this world together in this book.  I absolutely loved it!  The stories very much remind me of Greek mythology, although they truly aren't.  I may have to track down more Liavek stories. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Le Tour De NO

My grand plans to participate in the 2015 Le Tour de Fleece fell through.
The first major obstacle was that weird reaction I had to spinning the wool/angora blend.  I have to admit, that was extremely upsetting.  Still, I had intended to give it a few days and then test the fiber again to see if it was truly responsible for the headache and itchy hands.  Unfortunately, the weather was against me.  We had a lot of damp conditions that week which led to very high mold counts.  Mold is, as you know, one of my major allergy problems, and I struggled that week with a variety of symptoms that broke through despite everything I do to manage my allergies.  If I had tested the fiber again that week, the results would have been tainted by those problems, so I knew it was going to have to wait.* 
Time was my other enemy.  We've been very, very busy, and I left partway into the Tour to teach at SPEC.  (Check it's an amazing experience!)  As I had met another staff member in my dorm last year who had brought her Lendrum spinning wheel, I had fully intended to take either my wheel or a drop spindle with me.  In the end, though, I just didn't have the space in my car.  As it would turn out, though, I didn't have much leisure time anyway.  I barely touched my journal, my knitting, or my books.  It was a crazy busy week. 
So no Tour for me this year.  I'm more than a little bit disappointed, but it is what it is.
Here's hoping that August is better for spinning!
*I'm going to test the fiber again next month.  August is usually pretty good for me allergy-wise, but once we pass into the fall all bets are I need to get it done asap.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Wrinkle In The Plan

 Le Tour de France started yesterday...and so did Le Tour de Fleece.
My plan was to spin a little bit each and every day, with no particular goals in mind as to what I wanted to accomplish.  It's been a while since my wheel and I spent any time together, and the point was mostly just to get reacquainted.
First...the good news.
I happened to check the Ravelry forums page, which I don't do all that often.  To my surprise, there were a few new responses in the Lendrum group to my questions about my wobbly wheel.  To my delight two new people reported having the same problem and told me about a new Ravelry Lendrum group that actually had a discussion about said problem with info directly from Lendrum about how to fix it.  (The original group met me with a lot of incredulity that anyone could have a problem with a precious, precious Lendrum and more than a little bit of annoyance that I was saying anything negative about the brand.) 
So I toodled on over to the new group, only to find out that wobbly wheels are way more common than one would think.  They tend to be related to the jumbo plying head - about half of Lendrum users love them and the other half hate them, which is news to me.  It makes sense.  If I remember correctly, my problems initially developed after plying a huge batch and I've always fought that plying head a bit. 
The long and the short of it is that I am doing everything right to fix it, and it may just need to be periodically messed with.  I'm not crazy about this...and I'm not sure I entirely trust the wheel...but I feel a million times better knowing it's a known glitch, knowing that others have to deal with it, and knowing that it's something that I can work with it.  I might still call Lendrum at some point, but this is a huge weight off of my shoulders.
With all that settled, I decided to use my wheel to start making a dent in that pile of fiber that was pictured on top of the dresser in my last post.  It's lovely stuff - a fine fleece from a friend in my guild mixed with giant angora.  (Wish I knew actual percentages...I remember what I paid for the fleece, but it's been so long ago I can't remember if it was $7/lb for 5 lbs or $5/lb for 7 lbs.  Not to mention the fact that it was just a giant bucket of rabbit wool...never stopped to weigh it....whoops!)  Suffice it to say that there is a LOT of it.
The first thing I noticed is that it didn't feel as soft and lovely to work with as I thought it would be.  I remembered when that fiber came was like touching a cloud...and this was actually kind of coarse and scratchy.

I should have had a clue then.
Two hours later I had a raging headache, my hands were super itchy, and a wave of exhaustion had crashed down over me.
Uh oh.
Yeah...I'm thinking allergic reaction.
The alpaca problem started with a funky smell, and then progressed to some confusion over why this stuff, which my memory told me felt like a cloud, was so darn rough and coarse.  It's now so bad that I don't dare go into yarn shops anymore because it'll hit my lungs in just a few minutes.  Scary stuff.
To have this problem with wool...that would truly be devastating.
So, I'm taking today off from the wheel, and tomorrow will turn my attention to something like silk, which has little to no chance of causing a problem.  In a few days I'll try this fiber again to see if I have a reaction.  If not, yay!  It was a fluke.  If so, damn.  Some decisions are going to have to be made.
I have some ideas floating around.  I'd noticed the funky smell with the wool from my parents' sheep, and this wool shares the fact that it was also raised locally.  It's entirely possible it's an issue with being locally raised amongst all of the pollens and molds that make me sick.  I've never noticed a single problem spinning more commercially prepared stuff.  Problem is, that could trigger a full blown wool allergy if I'm not careful.
Trying really hard not to be upset about this.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Le Tour

 I've come to a decision.
 I'm going to participate in the 2015 le Tour de Fleece.
The fun starts tomorrow....

Thursday, July 2, 2015


 The blog may have been quiet lately, but my hands have been busy!
In mid-May I started this lovely Estonian piece from Haapsalu Ratt.  In my efforts to use up the stash, I chose a lovely batch of 6 skeins Knit Picks Shadow in Opal Heather.  It can be tricky to estimate yarn amounts with lace sometimes, especially given that it's the one type of knitting where the knitter's preference for look and feel matter more than actual gauge.
When I had first ordered the yarn, I had only ordered 4 skeins.  I was fairly sure that I would like it, and 1,760 yards is more than enough for a nice shawl.  When it arrived, though, I realized that I didn't just like it...I LOVED it!  So I ordered two more skeins.
Now, I shouldn't have been surprised when the yarn arrived and I discovered that the dye lot of the two new skeins did not match up with the four original skeins.  I briefly considered exchanging it all, but ultimately was too lazy decided that it would be ok somehow.
 Now, I'm a pretty smart lace knitter, and after a little bit of messing around with the pattern and yarn I realized that the original four skeins were just the right amount to do the center and the two newer skeins were just the right amount to do the border.  Problem solved!  Even if they were just a wee bit different it wouldn't matter.
So I started knitting....
...and today I hit the halfway point in the center.  Yay!
Which is when I realized that in a recent stash reorganization I'd managed to screw up whatever plan I'd had to keep the two dye lots separate....umm....and I'd tossed the tags from the first two skeins I had used...which I'd wound one at a time...and now I had two different dye lots with two skeins each....and...umm...there was no way to tell which one matched the yarn already used.
It's one of the dumber things my little knitter brain has done.
A 50/50 chance of getting it right is NOT good enough when it potentially means finishing and blocking a shawl before you notice a possible difference in the dye lot colors.  (If you are lucky, there isn't a problem, but dye lots do vary, and I've seen a lot of finished projects that have a weird, sometimes slight, sometimes not so slight color change.)
I was relatively sure I remembered which was which, but I wasn't quite ready to commit.
But then I had an idea....
 And I pulled the book off of my shelf and started flipping through....
and got really, really darn lucky.
Crisis averted!