Friday, April 29, 2011

365-101 A Climber

Rock climbing is a popular activity in this state.  
If you see a rock, there is a good chance you'll see someone climbing.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

365/99 and 100 Baby in a Basket

Believe it or not, we put the baby in the basket not for a photo op, but just because there was the baby, and there was the basket.  Then, seeing how cute she was, I thought we should go outside and take pictures that would not have a filing cabinet in the background.

I just discovered that photobucket has editing tools, and used "old photo" to make the first one sharable.  It was poorly focused, but too cute not to share.  As soon as I got my focus right, she stopped smiling.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

365/98 They survived!

Muscari, otherwise known as grape hyacinths - I planted these last autumn, and it was such a warm fall, that they sprouted!  When the cold and snow killed the little shoots, I was not sure they'd bloom this year.  Being so lovably hardy, I knew the bulbs would come back next spring, but I was not expecting much of a show this year.  And here they are - looking fabulous.  I love having blues in my garden.  The yellows and pinks and reds all look brighter with blue nearby.

365/97 My tulips are starting to bloom

I love the magic of bulbs!

A little dining room makeover

I've been planning to recover four of the dining chairs for, oh, about a year now.  Yesterday, the final nudge came from seeing my friend's fantastic new pillows.  This morning I head to Joann's to buy fabric.  I have in mind something more graphic, less textural; something more black and white, less red.  (I love red, but I have a red sofa and several red chairs.  Enough red.)

The problem is, I don't love any of the black and white prints available.  One is almost okay, but not okay enough.  Then I spot this yellow.

Um, why?  I ask myself.  This is totally not what I am looking for.  The walls are yellow.  Yellow chair seats will not look great in there....but I really like the graphic design.  It's so happy!

Then I spot this red, but there is barely enough on the roll for my needs.  I love red, but I don't need more red chairs......but I really like this one, and I think it would work well.  Nothing else I see even comes close to these two.  I buy both.  They are on sale, roughly $10 each.

I bring them home, drape them on the seats of my chairs and look at them.  Then I eat lunch, dither about a bit, look at them some more.  It's obvious.

My daughter comes home from school, and together, we do this:
I have two ideas for the yellow.  When I decide which it will be, I will let you know.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

365/95, 96 A Timeless Tale

She's touching me!


(Even BFFs have their moments.)

thoughts on: I Remember Nothing

I Remember Nothing: and Other ReflectionsI Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron is funny.  And real.  She admits that she met Eleanor Roosevelt, but remembers getting lost en route better than she remembers the former first lady; that her feelings were hurt when a friend asked her to bring mashed potatoes instead of dessert to their Christmas dinner; that she is addicted to Scrabble Blitz; and that she is old - not just older, but old.

This slim collection of essays feature recollections, and lack of recollections, little rants about eggs whites and teflon, and what it feels like to look back with both fondness and regrets.

Monday, April 25, 2011

thoughts on: Color Me Confident

Color Me Confident: Change Your Look - Change Your Life!Color Me Confident: Change Your Look - Change Your Life! by Veronique Henderson

I came upon this book at the library while browsing for sewing books and decided to check it out because I have friends who use this system and love it. Now, I have to say, I began with a bias. My natural inclination is to believe that if you like a color, you should be happy wearing it.

This is an update on the Color Me Beautiful system, which used to assign everyone into one of four color groups, named for season. Now it has been expanded to eight groups, not named after seasons. I'm willing to give this my best effort, so when on page 32 I see that all people whose hair has red tones should turn to page 58, I do just that.

Page 58 declares me to be "warm." Page 59 tells me not to wear baby pink, one of my favorite colors. Pages 60 and 61 give me a color palette that includes apricot, stone, and taupe, which all make me look/feel washed out, blah, and sad.

Pages 62 and 66 attempt to further classify me as either "warm and soft" or "warm and clear." The test is to see whether I look better in peach or pumpkin and moss or olive. I already know the answers: pumpkin and moss. This helps not at all, because one is soft, the other clear.

I'm still upset over the no baby pink rule, as pink t-shirts in summer are my happiest choices. Also, they say I should not wear black, which I do often. Also grey. Either this system is flawed or I look much worse than I think.

I decide to move on to the next section of the book. This section is about body shapes, and here I easily identify my "full hourglass" figure, which is basically a chubby hourglass. All the advice here is very similar to the What Not to Wear books, which I find to be sensible. (The books are by the British ladies, not the American duo.)

The final section - finding your style - starts with a quiz. I love style quizzes! Ten questions, six possible style categories. Five of my responses fall into one category. Yes! Consensus! This should be good! According the quiz, my style is "natural." This sounds like it might fit until I turn to page 152 and read that "Trousers worn with flat shoes are your preferred option for maximum comfort and practicality," and, "You have many interests but reading fashion magazines is not one of them."

Truth: I don't really like trousers or jeans and I love looking at style blogs. Give me Vogue over Newsweek any day. They totally lose me when they suggest I wear a tunic over pants for an evening out. Pants! When I could be wearing something pretty and girlie? Never.

The quiz is fatally flawed because three of the questions are about hair, make-up, and accessories. I am minimalist about all three, but that does not mean I want to go about in earth toned loose fitting clothing day after day. Working in the garden, yes, but out to lunch? No way.

So, they got one out of three sections right for me. One was totally off, and one may or may not be correct, but I am not giving up my pink tees in favor of peach.

thoughts on: The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost

The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected AdventureThe Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure by Rachel Friedman

Rachel Friedman's coming of age memoir is unlike many others written today, tales of triumphs over adversity and trauma.  The triumph here is simply growing up, discovering who she wants to be, and taking responsibility for that.  She discovers an adventurous side previously hidden from view, and she ignites a passion in herself for travel.

Her travels take her to Ireland, Australia, and South America, and lead her through the sort of soul searching everyone should do as they sift through the myriad of options that are adulthood.  Throughout, Friedman relates both her experiences as she travels, and her struggles with the never off her mind, "what do I do next" question.

I enjoyed both aspects of her story.  I love to travel, not as adventurously as a 22 year old backpacker, but, still, reading her descriptions of the places, the food, the people does make me want to travel more.  Now.  I don't think I'll be staying at the dorm style divey hostels, but it was fun to hear about them.

I do wish she had shared a little more about what she did immediately after her travels to South America came to an end.  I know from the epilogue and author bio bit what she is doing now, but the story leaves the "what do I do next" question unanswered.  It leaves the reader wondering if she made a decision at that point, or if it took her another few years to settle on a course.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

365/94 A personal goal

One of my goals is to take better candids of my grandchildren than I did of my children.
I am not anticipating grandchildren anytime soon, but I need a lot of practice, so that is a good thing.
(It is a good thing for all sorts of better reasons, too.)

Anyway, I try to snap a few shots whenever children do visit me, which is always harder than I think it will be.  Photographing them requires me to not be actively playing and interacting in my usual way.  For example, holding a baby and taking her photo, it's just not possible, and I'd rather get the baby snuggles.  I am enchanted by building the train tracks, dyeing the eggs, discussing who was the greatest Jedi, popping bubbles, and digging for worms with children.  See why I will need years of practice?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

365/92, 93 Today we dyed eggs and other things.

I invited friends to dye eggs with us today.  
We dyed over ten dozen; they'll be taken to church tomorrow. 
Hopefully the dye will have washed off little hands by then.

365/91 Well trained

You know you are a well trained pet owner when you move the dog bed into the sun so your dog does not have to sunbathe on a mere rug.

365/90 Knitting box, interior

I keep a box with my current project beside my usual seat on the sofa.  I knit when I watch tv and when I am just hanging out on the sofa with my husband.  The box matches the ones that hold library books and magazines, and it has handles so I can move it from room to room when needed.

The Donald tin holds folding scissors, measuring tape, large tapestry needles, and a stitch counter.  When I take a project on the road with me, I grab that tin, the project itself, pop them in a bag and go. 

I solved a blogger problem this morning.

I love how easy it is to use blogger, but I hate how glitchy it is, and how problems do not get fixed.  As my husband points out, it is free.  Expecting fantastic customer service for a free product is bound to lead to frustration.  It does.

One new problem I experienced was getting an unsolicited blog on my dashboard news feed.  This intruder blog was not listed as one I was following, but there it appeared, post after unwanted post.

This morning, I looked the problem up on blogger help, which is not very helpful.  I followed some links, googled a bit.  The advise was that it was tagging onto a blog I do follow.  Since it started recently, I began systematically unfollowing blogs I had been following only in the past few months.  No, that did not help.

As I was doing this, another intruder post appeared.  Grrrr  Then, it occurred to me to look at google reader instead of dashboard.  Voila!  There was that intruder, at the top of the list, pretending it came from a blog I do follow, that I had been following for over a year!  I unfollowed it.  The intruder disappeared.

The blog which it had latched onto was no longer active.  Still there, but the owner stopped using it.

I feel victorious for a change.

Now, if only I could figure out why my own news feed is on serious delay or fix the problem with my own followers feature.

365/89 Sentimental, with hyacinths

This chick with egg is my one and only Easter decoration.  My mother in law painted two of these when my husband was little:  a blue egg for him, a pink one for his sister.  (Remember the 70's?  Ceramics painting was popular then; the Paint Your Own studios are not new, just more upscale.)  I love it because she made it and gave it to us.  Some years I put candy in it, but this year it got hyacinths from my garden.  A few always flop over, so I cut them and bring them inside.  Now, my whole house smells like hyacinths  - lovely!

Padded Bolt Bag, ie Crafting for a Man

I enjoy making things more than I enjoy having things.  So I am always pleased when somebody needs something, and I can make it for them.  My husband needed a bag to protect a rifle bolt, so I made him this padded one.  I made it the same day I was making the afikomen bags*, and stitched up the binding yesterday when we were watching Dr. Who (the new series, not the old ones).

*You never know how your handcrafted items will be received.  I made a dozen of those bags for the seder, thinking they would be saved and reused in coming years.  The kids loved those bags!  The littlest ones who found them did not want to let them go.  They were instantly treasured possessions.....which, as the crafter, thrilled me.  Five of them went home with their finders.  So I will be making more for next year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Six week update on Trixie

Six weeks ago Trixie started chemo for mast cell cancer.  Today was the final dose.  The chemo has had no affect on the tumor.  In fact, it looks a little bigger now than it did six weeks ago.

She was seen by the doctor at the three week point, and it was a rough visit for Trixie.  All vet appointments are.  She is small and has no extra body fat, so every needle prick hurts for a day or so, and the blood draw at that last visit caused significant bruising and soreness that lasted days.  That contributed to our decision not to try stronger chemo drugs, which would have required weekly blood draws and exams, and at most would have added a couple months to her life.

We just couldn't put our sweet little Trixie through that misery.  Right now, she is still a very happy little dog.  We are continuing with the prednisone, a steroid, which should minimize the gastrointestinal distress that is caused by this type of cancer.  That does not require blood tests and doctor visits.

Behaviorally, we do see a few changes in Trixie.  She has less energy than she used to have, but she was hyper before, so "less energy" does not equate with lethargic by any means.  For example, she will not follow me upstairs every time; she will wait for me at the bottom of the stairs when she thinks I'll be right back down.   She still enjoys a good walk, but afterward she naps instead of running all over the house.  She wants more comforting, more petting, more physical attention than before, so whereas she used to lay on the sofa with me while I read, now she prefers to have me petting her or resting my hand on her while I read. 

Thank you to all of you have been praying for my little Trix and asking about her.  I so appreciate both.

365/88 Porch Life

This is my chair, on my porch, but this is not my cat.  We do not know whose cat this is.  All we know is it likes napping on our porch.  It does not like us on the porch with it, but we are wondering if it will get used to us as time goes on.  Will the comfort of the chair be sufficient inducement to tolerate our company?  My husband, I think, would like the cat to sit there with him in the summer when I am away. Trixie goes back east with my daughter and me, so he is temporarily petless.

Nobody gives The Look like a cat.

Drawstring Bags

If the blog were named "Read, Sew, Repeat...." I'd tell you that I whipped up these drawstring bags in 15 minutes, but it's named "Read, Knit, Repeat..." so I'll tell you that I spent all morning making these.  It was a last minute project, the bags are needed tomorrow.  I thought it would take just as long to troll about the stores looking for drawstring bags as it would take to make them.  I'm not sure I was right about that.  I was right in thinking I had all the needed supplies at home, and it was a much more pleasant morning spent sewing while hanging out with my husband and my dog than it would have been driving from shop to shop.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

365/86, 87 An artist's studio

Kirkland, whose studio this was, would suspend himself above his canvas on those straps while painting.  The paint was thinned with water, so it needed to lay flat until completely dry.

365/85 A place to hang your hat.

These are not my hats, or my house, but I love do love hats. 
I also like that front door.

365/84 The Pink Princess Phone

It was the dream phone of my girlhood.  Not that I actually used the phone as a child, but I did wish we owned this phone instead of the boring beige phones that were standard phone company issue.  Guess what?  Every phone I've bought as an adult has been boring beige or off white.  What happened to my sense of style???? 

Friday, April 15, 2011

365/83 Pinwheel Farm

Doll Sweaters: a great way to use up odds and ends

My daughter no longer plays with her Samantha, though, she was wrapped lovingly when put away last year.  She was brought out for me to make sure this little sweater fit, and to photograph it.  It is nice to see Samantha again.

I knit the sweater from this free pattern for my nieces' dolls.  I was hoping I had enough of this blue for long sleeves, but this was as far as it stretched.  I did not knit in buttonholes, because I think fastenings on doll clothing are a frustration to mothers of little girls and I love my sister.

Such a quick little project, it was perfect between blankets.  I'm already eyeing up a few other little bits of yarn, because I have two nieces who are just starting out with their American Girl dolls and several tiny oddballs. 

However, they will have to wait because I cast on a new blanket yesterday.  Baby blue this time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

thoughts on: The Good Women of China

The Good Women of China: Hidden VoicesThe Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran

After reading Xinran's Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother, I wanted to read more of her books. I thought Message was heartwrenchingly sad; Good Women was absolutely horrific. I am stunned by the brutality which was/is commonplace. I am amazed any can survive it.

I'd read memoirs of childhoods during the Cultural Revolution, but none of them shared stories like these. The sheer inhumanity shown here comes not only from the upheaval caused by the politics of the 20th century, but from thousands of years of viewing women as beings without intrinsic value, instruments to be used rather than people to be loved.

The stories recounted here were shared with Xinran when she hosted a ground-breaking radio show in the 1980's/90's, one of the first call in radio programs in China. Listeners would write to her, and call in hours long messages telling their stories anonymously. Many of the women's stories, like those collection here, could not be broadcast on the air, but Xinran could not forget them. I won't either.

Monday, April 11, 2011

thoughts on: The Wonderful Future That Never Was

The Wonderful Future That Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past (Popular Mechanics Magazine)The Wonderful Future That Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past by The Editors of Popular Mechanics

Popular Mechanics has been in continuous publication since 1902, and predictions of the future have always been found in its pages.  Many of those focused on what life would be like at the turn of the next century - the one we are in now.  So it is fun, often funny, to read the predictions and compare them to what our lives are actually like.

Many of the predictions have come true over the past hundred years:  we travel by jetplane; we have computers in our homes; plastics are everywhere; use of gps is replacing maps; and radio movies, ie television, are very popular.  Many, of course, have not:  hovercraft have not replaced cars; no one I know has a personal jetpack; pneumatic tubes did not pan out as a method of mass transit; we have not colonized Mars.  Yet.

Reading all the predictions gives me the post-family-vacation thought:  where ever you go, there you are.  It seems like scientists predicting the future make the same omission I make when imagining travel with adolescents.  They forget that new places or new technology doesn't make new people.  Even if, as predicted in 1950, scientists were able to manufacture candy from our dirty paper napkins and rayon underpants, it doesn't mean people want to eat it.  Designing new towns doesn't mean people won't litter.  We wouldn't be safer drivers if we all had helicopters instead of cars.

Still, we've put men on the moon.  We have refrigerators and freezers in our homes.  Life expectancy has increased by 50%.  We've done some pretty cool stuff.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

365/82 Any Place but Here?

We went to the Anythink today.  (Since you know my feelings about the Anythink, you may be wondering why I still go there:  they have low circulation and subscribe to Interweave Knits magazine.)   We parked by this banner, and I just had to share it with you.  What an advertising slogan:  any place but here!

thoughts on: Edith Head: A Complete Treasury

Edith Head: A Complete Treasury of the Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume DesignerEdith Head: A Complete Treasury of the Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer by Jay Jorgensen

Sometimes, I simply like to look at beautiful things, and Edith Head certainly designed beautiful things.  I skimmed through the text, picking out stories that interested me, but, primarily, I looked at the sketches and photographs of 50 years of costume design. 

An interesting tidbit for you:  Edith Head rarely used patterns and kept her designs conservative (as in not "fashion of the moment") because she did not want the stars to appear out of date by the time the movies were released, which was often a year after filming.

Friday, April 8, 2011

thoughts on: I is an Other

I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the WorldI Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World by James Geary

Fascinating look at how metaphor not only permeates our language, but affects our ability to understand our world.  Metaphor, as it is studied here, goes beyond the literary device with which are all familiar.  It describes an important brain function which enables us to make sense of the world by connecting the unfamiliar to the familiar.

Geary begins with language, how we invent new words using old ones, or give new meanings to old words, and how often we use metaphor (on average, one metaphor in every ten to 25 words).  He discusses how figurative language is used in various fields, such as economics, politics, advertising, etc, and how this influences us.  He shares with us how marketing research uses metaphorical thinking to more effectively market whatever it is they're trying to sell - be it a product, an idea, or a person.  He discusses those who are unable to think metaphorically, and how that impacts their social functioning; traces the development of metaphoric thought in chidren; and demonstrates its significance and similarities cross culturally.   

My description of this book isn't doing it justice.  I found it fascinating.  I especially liked reading about what research has revealed about our brains, how one sense is linked to another, a new concept to one long understood, how easily words can prime us towards desired responses. 

Oh, and as one who loves to read, this pleased me no end:  "Neuroimaging studies show that practical learning, too, takes place whenever we read stories.....Many of the brain areas active while reading are also active when we actually take part in or observe similar situations in real life."  Yes, I always love it when research supports what I already believe, and this is why I have never agreed with "at least she is reading" as an excuse to allow children to read trash.  

Bobblicious: Blanket 7

This, the seventh blanket toward my goal, completes the set of six blankets from the Quick Knit Keepsakes booklet. I have another, bigger, book of blankets I'll be moving onto next.  I've only knit three of its patterns.  One was for this project.

The combination of bobbles and hot pink remind me of bubble gum, thus the name of this one.  If I were in the nursing home, I'd like the hot pink blanket.  I hope the various colors and patterns don't create envy among the elderly.  I read a charity knitting post on Ravelry that suggested making all items the same for charity knitting so as not to have some items more desirable than others, but I think gifting every person an identical blanket would only emphasize their institutionalization.  I'd rather, if it were me, have a blanket different than my neighbors, even if I do think theirs is a bit prettier.  At least I'd recognize my own blanket.

What do you think?

(Lumpy refused to pose under a pink blanket, but was determined to included in Lucy's photo shoot.)

365/80, 81 The mysteries of gardening

Gardening is always a mystery to me.  I plant with no estimation of survival rates.  Last fall, I planted a couple hundred new bulbs and a couple dozen pansies.  Bulbs are winter hardy, and they bloom before my tree leaves, so they seem a good choice.  However, the fall was very warm, and many of them sprouted leaves, so I wasn't sure if they'd bloom this year.

Of the 100 anemones I planted, three reds have bloomed.  None of the whites. 
All of the pansies have sprung back to life.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

thoughts on: Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of the lost daughters of ChinaMessage from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of the lost daughters of China by Xinran

Heartwrenching and invaluable.  Xinran tells peoples stories for them, stories that are hard to hear, but much harder to bear.  The toll on the mothers who have deprived themselves of their daughters is terrible. 

Each story is different.  Xinran shares the stories of women who have abandoned their daughters; who have had daughters kidnapped; who have carefully placed them for adoption, wanting for them a better life; who have killed them.

Xinran lists several reasons why this is all so commonplace:  religious beliefs that demand a (firstborn is best) male heir; land distribution policies that make a family's survival without a son difficult; and the one child policy.  All that I knew, but, did I?  I did not know how high the suicide rate is among women in China.  I guess I did not fully believe that what has been a cultural norm for a thousand years could still hurt so much.  Did I think they were that different from me?  Or could I just not imagine their lives?  Now, I can, and it breaks my heart.

Monday, April 4, 2011

365/79 Then it snowed.

Such is spring in this part of the world.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

thoughts on: The Hidden Gallery

The Hidden GalleryThe Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood

It seems odd to say that a book I read in a couple hours dragged, but The Hidden Gallery did. The story itself, a continuation of The Mysterious Howling, should have been lively enough, but Wood's Lemony Snickett-esque explanations seemed intrusive here, slowing the pace rather than providing comic relief or enhancing the mood of the story. In fact, dragging the story out seems to be the main objective in the series. I would have found it more enjoyable to have the "mysteries" introduced in The Mysterious Howling resolved earlier in the book, and new, more convoluted ones introduced, but, no, everything is dragged out as long as possible. Penelope may have pluck, but she seems a bit slow on the uptake in this installment.

Having said that, I think the story of the mysterious wolf-like children and their governess is an appealing one, and I think many children would enjoy the series, especially young but strong readers. The clues are pronounced enough that a younger reader would feel good about noticing them before the heroine, and offer just the amount of mystery to engage their imagination without making outcomes too obvious.

thoughts on: Baghdad without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia

Baghdad without a Map and Other Misadventures in ArabiaBaghdad without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia by Tony Horwitz

Written before the onset of the first Gulf War, some might think this book will seem dated, but it did not.  It still gives a worth reading glimpse of life and culture in the middle east.  Horwitz and his wife, both reporters, lived in Cairo for two years, and this book collects his experiences while traveling throughout the region.  He focuses on his encounters with locals he meets, which gives the type of read I most enjoy, hearing about daily life, or seeing events through the eyes of an ordinary citizen. 

Unfortunately, the copy I read was the worst print job I've ever seen.  The text was slightly blurred and sometimes misaligned, making it fatiguing to read.  Because each chapter or two described a different country, it was easy to pick up and put down when my eyes tired.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

365/78 Outside Again

The first warm days of spring are such a delight.
We come out of hibernation,
bears emerging from our dens,
ready to be part of the natural world again.

Friday, April 1, 2011