Wednesday, August 31, 2011


While I get  my breath back after hearing the estimate to replace the pool bladder (bladder... that's what they call the plastic part of an above ground pool... obviously I'm twelve today because the word makes me giggle even as the number makes me wilt),which was irreparably damaged in Sunday's storm, let's talk about books.

I finished Lev Grossman's The Magicians. You might remember that I didn't love this book. I didn't love it even more as I continued on. In fact, the only reason that I finished reading it was to see if #1 the characters ever stopped whining, even for a moment, and #2 the plot ever made a lick of sense. The answer is no on both counts. A lot of people really loved this book. I didn't.

On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed Steve Brewer's The Big Wink. Set in and around California's legal marijuana dispensaries, this caper novel barrels out at the starting gate, and never lets up. The characters
 are extremely well drawn, and the writing is excellent. It's only available via Kindle (and maybe other eReader formats), but my guess is that it'll end up on the big screen eventually. My only quibble is that the ending came rather suddenly, but I just hope that means that a sequel is in progress. Side Note: I listened to much of this book as I worked out on the treadmill, via the Kindle's text-to-speech function. The TTS is not really a substitute for a human reader, though it's not bad. There are quirks though, it cannot distinguish between live (to live) and live (something done live), minute is always 60 seconds, never something very small, and it thinks that maury-who-wanna , a term that came up rather frequently in this novel, is a word.
George R. R. Martin's Dreamsongs Volume II is a companion to Volume I. It's filled with more short stories, novelettes, and autobiographical essays. I really enjoyed the Wild Card story, and now need to read the others (something like 17 books full of them, by assorted writers), and The Hedge Knight, which is a prequel to the Song of Fire and Ice books (A Game of Thrones). The rest were mostly okay, though some of the longer fiction pieces were a slog. I want more more more of The Hedge Knight however. I think those characters are part of a graphic novel series now. (Evidently, there are sequels in print form too, spoilers abound in that link).

Tarzan himself, is not the beast in question in The Beasts of Tarzan, but we're constantly reminded what an primitive hunk of manliness he is. All women want him, and all men want to be him, and Tarzan, the big lunk, is not even dimly aware of either fact. This volume starts off at a run, with Tarzan and Jane's infant son Jack (not Boy- we can thank the movies for that) kidnapped, and Tarzan and Jane on separate quests to find him. It's a rip-roaring adventure, as silly and entertaining as all the rest. There are a couple of continuity errors in the plot, but we won't let them get in between Lord Greystoke and his Lady.

Laura Lippman's The Most Dangerous thing is another in a long line of wonderful books written by a master of the craft. I'm not going to rehash the plot (it's being reviewed everywhere), I'm just going to recommend that you go out and read it.

Oh yeah, and I finished proofing the files of my own book, The Hotel South Dakota. It's the 3rd Tory Bauer Mystery, set during Delphi High School's homecoming celebration. The cover is almost finished, so I suspect it'll be available via Kindle (and other platforms) in a couple of weeks. This is the book where I think I hit my stride as a writer- I didn't want to change any of it as I read, which is a first.  I'm excited that it will be available again. And as with the other Tory Bauer titles, the cover art will be available on any number of items from CafePress.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thisses and Thats

It's all unconnected commentary today.
Janet took my Fair Isle Design class at the Michigan Fiber Festival. It's an intensive, all-day workshop, where I hope that the students come to see designing (especially designing stranded motifs) as simply a series of repetitions. Janet's original hat, which she designed in the class and finished knitting later, is called Cathedral Windows. It's gorgeous!

I had a Gramma/Girl day with Bee Girl over the weekend. She's 12 now, and it won't be long before she views spending a day with me as a chore, so I was especially delighted when she suggested hitting the photo booth. We be stylin'.

Thanks to her eagle eyes, we found a tray of vintage jewelry at a store where you would not expect to find vintage jewelry on sale. We both spotted the Black Hills Gold and silver items immediately. They were tarnished (as opposed to new pieces, where the silver is permanently shiny), which probably accounts for the fact that someone else did not snap them right up. The total for the above haul? $18. Yes, that's eighteen dollars for a Black Hills Gold and Silver ring and a pair of lovely earrings. I did not hesitate.

And though I liked the tarnished look, I am even happier with the pieces after a thorough scrub with baking soda and and an old toothbrush. Bee Girl found a couple of other pieces in the tray, though in the end, she opted to wait and choose new earrings from Claire's for herself. (Side note: I will not tell you how many tries it took to get good pictures of these pieces. Let's just say it was well over 50).

I am not generally a jewelry person, but now that my ears are pierced once again (I get to change earrings finally in 2 weeks), I've been on the lookout for nice, small earrings (nothing but posts for the first year, they say). I'm generally willing to let pieces speak to me- a pin or a bracelet here and there, once in awhile a ring. Nothing extravagant (I'm more drawn to my birthstone, Opal, than I am to diamonds, and I am more fond of books and yarn than I am of any gemstone or precious metal). But I've always been partial to the tri-color Black Hills Gold creations, not only because I live in South Dakota, but because the pink, green, and yellow gold grape leaves and vines designs are so beautiful. Even tarnished, thsee pieces were instantly recognizable. I am thrilled with these new additions to my collection.

I'm still in Spindle Mode. I bought both the Kundert spindle, and the fiber (from Girl on the Rocks- Merino and Bamboo) at the '09 Sock Summit. The spindle on the right has plied alpaca and metallic thread, from the Michigan Fiber Festival.

This is just a nice shot of the spindles. The Kundert is on the left, a locally made oak spindle is in the middle, and my own handmade maple is on the right.

We have here, 1.1 ozs of Merino/Bamboo, 119 yds, and .4 ozs Alpaca/Metallic Filament, 55 yds. The Alpaca will block out without the kinks, unless I decide to knit something where I like the kinks and change my mind about blocking it. Both my spindle spinning and my spindle plying are improving. Practice... its amazing stuff...

And finally, yesterday I made Zucchini Bread. Not content with that yummy, calorie-laden, carb-full goodness, I decided I needed to have some Amish Friendship Bread as well. I have not made this for many years, but I remember it well (especially the lemon poppyseed variation).Here's the recipe, including the starter. In 10 days, my scales will be very sorry that I gave in to this whim, though everyone around me will be very happy.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

And another one...

Take a peek at the picture on the top of the blog... Now look at this one:
I don't know if we can save the tree or not. It's going to need major pruning, at the very least.

Ah, that Mother Nature

While everyone was watching Irene, Mother Nature decided to play a joke on us. We woke up early to big wind, driving rain, and lots of flash and boom. This is what we found after sunrise:


Here's another shot of the ash tree. I'm really going to miss that one- it had such beautiful yellow fall foliage.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The zucchini that ate South Dakota

Our various garden plots aren't doing as well this year as they did last year. The combo of a late spring, a great deal of rain, and then some really horrendous heat (nothing but corn likes a heat index of 118) set everything back by at least a month. That said, interesting things are finally happening.
A friend gave us a single climbing zucchini plant. It took a long time for it to do anything, and it was fairly reluctant to climb the little trellis that we fashioned for it. But it surely did crawl. It not only expanded a good 8' in front of the stalk, but it snaked around the front of the house, another 10'.

It is also setting the most fascinating fruit, which look nothing like regular zucchini. We've eaten one or two, and they're okay, but I suspect they'll be better as ripe squash. Or more fun yet, as dried gourds. We'll have plenty of options, since it's zuking out all over the place- curly fruits everywhere.

My grape tomato plant is huge, and there are hundreds and hundreds of blossoms, but not many sets. By this time last year, we were harvesting bowls full of tomatoes every other day. This year, we've been able to pick (and immediately eat) a handful here and there, but that's it. We may well get another two months for ripe fruit (the plant is close to the house, so it won't freeze easily), but it's going to have to hustle if it wants to catch up to last year's levels.

I started the heirloom tomatoes from seed, and though they're behind as well, I am finding lots of little tomatoes on the vines. We probably won't have enough to can, and it'll be late to dry them, but I doubt we'll have a hard time disposing of them when they finally do ripen. We've picked a few, and... oh my... they're wonderful.

The jalapenos are thriving though. I've already sliced a half-gallon of them (I do them refrigerator pickle style because canning them makes them mushy), and we have many more to come.

I planted something else in this pot in the spring, but it held marigolds last year, and the volunteer flowers overtook everything. At least they're pretty. Pushy, but pretty.

We planted maybe 10 hills of mini-pumpkins, and for our trouble we got lots of vines, and many many blossoms, but only three pumpkins. Next year, we'll plant them in a different place. And I'll skip the mini-variety. If we're only going to get three per season, I'll opt for size over cute.

This little fellow chose his camo well. I wouldn't have seen him if he hadn't jumped when I got close to his hiding place.

I know they're weeds, but I can't bring myself to pull them out.

The cottonwood tree knows that fall is coming.

So do the crabapples.

These marigolds are not accidental. They partied and went a little wild while we were in Michigan.

Finally, while we were in Michigan, the water level in Turtle Creek fell. The water is still higher than normal, but it's a lot lower than the level has been for a year or so. The high water mark is way up on the peninsula, where the dark green starts.

This is A Good Thing. If we're going to get the wild and wet winter that the Farmer's Almanac is predicting, it would be handy to go into it with the water lower than flood stage.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday Tab- Here is Big Sister, Feb. 1950

I have no context for this magazine paperdoll, drawn by Dorothy Camp, and published in February 1950. The instructions are baffling- were girls supposed to draw another picture of this doll? Or were they supposed to draw a different sister altogether. And why use rubber cement to stick cloth to the back of the clothes? Why not just use tabs?

In any case, the fashions are fantastic.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Next on the calendar: North Country Fiber Fair

I'll be teaching 3 workshops at the North Country Fiber Fair in Watertown, SD, which runs from Friday September 16- Sunday September 18.

The class schedule is here, and registration is now open. You can download the 2011 Brochure.

Friday is just for workshops. I'll be teaching a class on knitting a Nordic Christmas Stocking From 1pm-8pm on Friday (with time off for supper... and good behavior). Saturday afternoon, I'll be teaching Writing Patterns for Publication. On Sunday afternoon, I'll be teaching a workshop on Knitting Mitered Square Cuffs.

There are lots of wonderful classes this year, and since I have both Saturday and Sunday mornings free, I may take a couple. Or I might just wander among the vendors, or sit in the spinning circle and catch up with old (and new) friends. Whatever I do, I know I'll have a marvelous time. NCFF is my local fiber festival and it's one of my favorite weekends of the year.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I had no choice

I was so tired on the way home Sunday, that I didn't notice that I'd grabbed a half gallon of buttermilk, rather than 2%, when we stopped for groceries (what? the caps are both green.). I didn't notice it afterward either, though The Hub cottoned on to the switch when he poured some on his cereal.

I'm far too thrifty to run a whole carton of in-date anything down the drain, so there was only one solution:

I've been home for two days, and I'm fairly rested up now, and re-acclimated to my time zone (though nothing can acclimate me to 72 degree fog...), and I know where I am when I wake up in the morning, so I don't know what to blame for the fact that though I googled *buttermilk coffee cake recipe*, I didn't notice until I was putting everything together, that it was, in fact, a recipe for sour cream coffee cake.

I subbed.

It's good.

Trust me on this.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Catching Up- Road Spinning

We left Hastings early Saturday morning. Instead of heading north past Gary, IN, we stayed on I-80 through Illinios and Iowa, swinging up to Albert Lea, MN to catch I-90.
We drove through a storm in Illinois- heavy rain, hail, and lightning drilling not 50' from the car (the thunder was loud enough to rattle the windows). We spotted these funnels trying to form about a mile off. I took the picture with my phone, so it's fuzzy, but take my word for it, both of those things were rotating. We were very glad to get past that little bit of nastiness.

We pulled over in Wallcot, IA for a bathroom break, and to fill the gas tank. We lucked into Iowa 80, the World Largest Truck Stop. The name may be hype, but it surely is a very large truckstop- with a food court (multiple big-name vendors), many shops, a museum, and an on-site dentist, not to mention all of the other things that truck stops are known for: showers, beds, and down-home cooking. It was a fun stop.

We spent the night in Sioux Falls, which was wonderful for the final day of travel, but it played hell on my reserves. We were in the car about 2 hours longer than my sanity could absorb.

On Sunday, we got up early, ate breakfast, and headed home. We went through Mitchell, which has The World's Only Corn Palace, something you're not apt to forget or ignore if you're anywhere near Mitchell. In case you don't know this already, the murals on the outside of the building are made from corn, and only corn- natural colored corn at that- no dyes or artificial coloring. It is actully a pretty cool building, and they change the murals every year, so it's fun to see what new notions they come up with.

I didn't feel like knitting on the way home (write that one down- it may never happen again), so I tried spinning in the car. Amazingly enough, one can spin just fine in a moving vehicle.

Well enough to fill my two larger spindles.

Even more amazing, one can spindle ply in a moving vehicle. Plying on a spindle has always been one of my least favorite chores, but I sort of found a rhythm doing it, and as long as I remembered to go slow, it all went very well. These two hanks were spun and plied between Saturday and Sunday.

On Sunday, I worked on the little alpaca roving balls that I bought at the festival. Since I only had one laceweight spindle with me (the new Greensleeves), I wound the first singles on a pencil, and then continued on with the next color.

They all came out very well (amazing: practice really does make perfect... or at least a lot better than I had been doing). That's 269 yards of wool/mohair 2-ply yarn, 3.8 ozs, probably a sportweight. I think I'll knit a hat and mittens with it (it's not quite enough for socks).

This is 68 yds, and .4ozs of alpaca. I plied the singles with a metallic strand for some sparkle. The kinks will pull out after the yarn is knit and blocked, though it does look rather pretty all boucle-y (I'm going to make a lace scarf with this and one or more of the other alpaca roving balls).

I just like this picture, and wanted to share it.

I'll leave you with this last picture of Michigan roadside beauty. It was a wonderful trip. I hope I can go back next year.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Catching Up- Michigan Fiber Festival Friday

On Friday, I forgot to take pictures during my two classes. In the morning, I taught the Little Tips and Knitting Tricks class. The Michigan Folks asked if I could teach this as a 3 hour class (I usually do it in 2), and that actually worked out really well. The class count was nearly at the max, and the extra time gave everyone plenty of opportunity to practice the new techniques, and to ask questions.

Blog Reader Georgienne (it's always wonderful to put faces to names!) showed all of us an ingenious way to hold our socks on the needles for travel, using just a rubber band and a couple of stitch markers. I'm co-opting this trick for my next class. Thanks Georgienne!

Carolyn dropped by to show me her finished Fair Isle hat. She designed this original hat in our Wednesday class. I think it turned out beautifully, and I hope the other designers will send me pictures of their finished works of art.

The Elephant Ear booth was open by lunch time on Friday. I asked the nice young man for a smaller portion, since I can't eat a full-size EE and I hate to throw such sugary goodness away. This is what he made me. I can't begin to imagine what a Michigan Regular EE weighs.

The vendors had set up between Wednesday and Friday. Such intoxicating wool fumes!

So many pretty things! This is just a fraction of the vendor booths- there were people set up in several barns, outside under little canopies, and many times the number shown in my photos in the main exhibition hall.

I bought this gorgeous little Greensleeves spindle. It's a laceweight Mjolinor- the hollowed out center-weight whorl is made from Bubinga and Bloodwood, and the shaft is mahogany. It spins like a top. I bought this little bag of alpaca roving (each ball is .5 ozs), and I'm going to spin it all up with this spindle.

Gorgeous, isn't it?

I also bought a Fiber Festival hoodie, and a tee shirt. I plan to Represent all winter long.

Here's my finished hat from the Fair Isle Design class. I love how it turned out.

In the afternoon, I had a lovely captive audience for my Writing Patterns for Publication class. We had an excellent discussion, with lots of thoughtful questions from the students. I do love teaching that class.

I lucked out on the weather- it was warm on Wednesday (maybe 84) but we had a nice breeze through the barn where the my classroom was. On Friday, it was a bit cooler. Given that it's August, the temps could have easily been triple digit.

After my last class on Friday, I wandered the grounds a bit, and then went back to Hastings to celebrate my niece Danyelle's 30th birthday. The festival didn't really kick into high gear until Saturday and Sunday, but I had to get back to SoDak, so I had to leave. I had a really wonderful time on our Michigan trip, and I hope to be invited back next year!