Sunday, January 11, 2015

fighting winter's blues, one kale chip at a time...

A drive by entry, for the most part, but I hate to write a year-end summary, then not write for months on end. It's been a good year, 2015, so far. Cold as hell, particularly in the past week, but it is winter. I am struck by the whining I hear at my job, about the weather, mostly from people who are NOT native Southerners. Huh...I thought if you were from Rhode Island, or Brooklyn, that you might have seen 30 degrees F before? The incessant bitchery has made me determined to pretend to enjoy winter all the more. I am sucking it up, and cheerfully marching through these gray, frosty days, with the resolve of a sled dog in the Iditarod.

Fake it til you make it, that's my motto this year...that said, I could use a serotonin drip about now. The light is returning, days are incrementally longer, but someone needs to inform my brain chemistry. I grit my teeth, inhale (that's figurative, btw, I'm eating it, not smoking it) the St. John's Wort, fish oil, and vitamin D, and try to get myself to bed earlier, but any minor disruption throws my sleep off, and starts the downward spiral again.

I know things will improve in a few weeks; they always do, and by February, I'll be a lot more even keel. Meanwhile, snow would cheer me! If we are to be in the throes of winter, let it snow!!

Yesterday, I went to my spinning guild's Distaff Day, our annual all-day spinarama, and we were given a challenge for the new year. Each member got a 4oz bag of fiber, mixed scraps donated by a well-known indie dyer in our area to spin and make something, by late March. The scraps were multi-fiber, with glittery stuff, silk, and every permutation in between, rustic wool, superwash, merino, locks, you name it. I took the opportunity to learn to use the guild's drum carder and make some batts out of my bag. There was waaay more fiber than I thought, and I got 5 pretty batts out of it:
Here they are going home in a Krispy Kreme donut bag, because they are so very sweet! I separated the colors somewhat, and will spin a gradient with them, and then I think I might chain-ply the whole thing to preserve the colors. I started spinning the green one this morning, and it was mesmerizing. 

I'm in the process, this evening, of making kale chips in the dehydrator that my sister and I are sharing. We share it seasonally, and pass it back and forth between Atlanta and Roanoke. P has made an excellent batch of jerky, and I'm using this recipe for the kale chips. I had bought 2 bunches of organic kale, but then I managed to fill the dehydrator with only one bunch, so the second bunch will probably turn into kale salad, or just cooked greens later this week, unless the chips are absolutely sensational, in which case I'll ramp up production. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014, the year that was

I've been thinking about this past year for about a month, now, and not really feeling like it was a great year for me. I didn't knit that much, finished very few things, and felt like it was all work and no play. Oh, sure, it beat the hell out of 2013, which with Ella's loss and the death of a friend in October, broke my heart, and 2010 and 2005, and 1986, all of which sucked eggs for various reasons, but really, it felt more like a year in which I started and failed to complete many things.

Upon breaking it down, first as a list of what I did get done, and now, as a month-by-month list, it feels, if not a banner year, at least a year in which I moved in a generally positive direction...
No pix and few links, but a rather comprehensive list of the Big Events of 2014. 

Went to visit Russell Cave Paleolithic site in Tennesee. 
Saw "Gravity." 
I started the ESOL teaching job; a steep learning curve, but it was great to be working in my field, so soon after finishing that certification, and so soon after being told by co-workers that those jobs were really hard to get. I did a lot of training, and a lot of paperwork. 
I painted The Clamcave a wonderful golden apple color, and the ATL got a massive ice and snow storm that paralyzed the city, and gave me a week off from work. 
I started walking Cricket with a muzzle, after some unfortunate dogfights in 2013, which greatly increased my feeling of safety being out and about with him. 

More time off work due to ice and the city being shut down. 
I attended a local Druid Imbolc ritual.
I went on retreat with the knitting guild, way up in the mountains of North Carolina. I got to test my nerve and the CRV's 4wd driving capacity on icy snowy roads. 
I buried myself at work in testing and paperwork, and came home at contract hour every day, because I didn't have to write lesson plans. I went to the gym, baked pot pie, and knitted a lot. I made soap and got more comfortable with the fact that there was lye and hot fat being slung around in my kitchen. 
I traded spinning wheels with a friend, and spent the month spinning on her Ashford Traveller. I missed the Louet, and came to appreciate the Irish tension wheel. 
I buried myself in the Ravelry Outlander Swap annual orgy of crafting, obsessing over Diana Gabaldon's books, and spending more time than was healthy online. 

I went back to teaching, after my 6 weeks of testing children. I found out that I may not have a trailer the following year to work in, and was told I needed find my own space in another teacher's classroom. I did just that, and then learned my trailer was safe...a great lesson in learning to roll with the changes and craziness at my school. 
I baked a spectacular rosemary shortbread. 
My knitters had a special dinner and swap. 
I read Larissa Brown's memorable book "Beautiful Wreck." 
Another Druid ritual, this time for Ostara, held in their beautiful grove, with a simple potluck, and wonderful conversation afterwards.
My dear friends Dave and Dev visited, and we climbed Arabia Mountain, re-connected with another old friend from VA, and generally had a glorious weekend. 

Spring Break!! 
I went to VA to visit P. and see the cherry blossoms in DC. We spent some time at the National Conservation Training Center - P working, and me knitting and hiking. I saw Bald Eagles on their nest. 
I fell in love with the music of The Civil Wars. 
I met up with my long-lost cousin Tony and his partner for an amazing dinner at Cashion's. 
My sister visited, and as usual, we packed "the big box into the little one," with Stitches South, long walks, Jeju Spa, Crayfish Shack, bottle shopping at Tower Liquor, and much extravagant folicking over a 3 day weekend. 
Learned to smoke chicken on the gas grill. 
Bought a used MacBook Air for $200. 

I developed a nasty case of Achilles tendonitis, that made walking painful, and took up 8 weeks of my life. Did a lot of icing my heels, stretching, elevating the legs, and self-PT, and kept it to a manageable level. 
Infused a cucumber vodka, and developed a recipe for cucumber martinis that was life-changingly delicious. Really. I can't wait til spring comes to make this stuff again. 
Celebrated a friend and fellow knitter's 70th birthday, attending her glorious surprise party. 
Ended the school year on a happy note, in spite of having to go an extra few days to make up for the ice and snow days, which I wouldn't have traded off anyway. 
Went away to Gulf Shores Alabama with my mom and the West Virginia cousins for a long beach weekend. Explored funky small towns, bogs and wildlife refuges, fish markets, antique stores and hole-in-the-wall barbecues and cafes all over Alabama en route to and from.
Questioned whether the daily cucumber martini was giving me a drinking problem. Infused another batch. 

Worked another week at school, cleaning out my trailer, finishing the endless pile of ESOL documentation, and attending 2 conferences. 
Went to VA to visit my mom for a few days, and then on up to the DC area to hang out with P, and begin the lengthy process of moving him back down to The Atomic Lodge. 
Started RPG-ing again, in my friend Burdock's weekly Nerd Nite on Tuesdays, via Apple Facetime, resurrecting a character I drew up waaay back in the early 1980's. Reconnected with old friends in the gaming community and generally got in touch with my inner geek girl. 
Did a lot of yardwork. 
Hiked with my girl Mindy on the lovely Johnson Ferry trail, at the Chatahoochee NRA. 
Did not turn on my AC until the end of the month! 
Found a new swimming place for Cricket, but daily swims resulted in an ear infection that took the rest of the summer to clear up. 

Started taking my kayak out again, paddling in nearby lakes and the Chatahoochee river. 
Made goat milk soap, and learned that hot humidity and milk soap curing are two incompatible things. 
Went back to DC to continue the move out. 
Spent a lot of time bonding with VA friends, dedicated 2 days to binge-watching "True Detective." I honestly still can't say whether I loved it, or if it represents 8 hours of my life that I'll never get back. 
Spent a happy birthday with my mom and sister visiting, and going to see The Avett Brothers with P and sis.
Saw the High Museum's "Dream Cars" exhibit, a collection of concept cars - very cool! 
Finished the cucumber vodka, and decided that it was a seasonal drink, and needed to retire til next May. 
Found a raccoon in the front yard! 

Stopped by a yardsale in my neighborhood, en route to work, and found an old Lane cedar chest and a metal hospital cabinet for sale. Loaded them into the GTI and muscled them into my office to hold spinning fiber and miscellaneous office supplies. 
Stopped using shampoo, and switched over to a vinegar and baking soda method of washing my hair. 
Binge-watched 3 seasons of "Girls." Definitely time well spent. 
Started work again, moved to a new trailer and had a lot of drama with my roommate, which eventually resulted in me deciding that I wasn't going to engage in drama with her, and letting a lot of stuff roll off my back. Earned myself the reputation (possibly undeserved) of "extremely laid-back" at my job. 
Spent the entire month at work doing intake and language testing of new students. Met many children who came across the US border unaccompanied, to connect with family members in our community. 
Helped P settle into his new life as retired person. Tried not to engage in drama over the stress of combining our 2 households after 3 years of separation. Generally succeeded. 
Took a class with the Herbalista, and made ragweed allergy tincture. 

Buried myself in work, and experienced much burnout and negativity as a result.
Found a praying mantis on the trailer, and rehomed it into my own yard, where there were more bugs and things to eat. 
Caught the expected school-child crud that lingered on for weeks, not sick enough to take time off, but not well enough to really be at work, either. 
Did a lot of yard work, planting ferns, hostas, laid down some new grass seeds. 
Had a tree service disaster, wherein the tree crew cut down the wrong-damn-perfectly-healthy tree, in addition to the 3 rotted danger-to-the-house trees on the property. Convinced him to waive much of his price for the service, and to do major ivy mitigation work in our back woods property, as well. 
Sprained my pinky toe, an injury which took 6 weeks to heal. An injury which was arguably more painful than dislocating my knee in 2011, because I was not at liberty to spend days in bed, and months in physical therapy, but instead had to ride it out. 

Visited VA, went to the Virginia Fall Fiber Festival with mom and sis.
Went to the AtBot with P and Rox to see the scarecrows.
Picked apples with P up in the foothills. 
Learned to make the baked steel cut oatmeal that defined breakfast for the next 3 months. 
Had a moth scare in my house, which triggered a thorough inspection and fluffing of the yarn stash, but was able to contain it with minimal damage. 
Cricket had his first senior dog check up and got a clean bill of health. 
Saw a deer across the street from our house! 
Took another Herbalista class, this one a benefit for the Herb bus free clinic. Made medicines, teas, and got a lot of valuable information about herbal health maintenance. 
Got a student intern, whom I felt barely qualified to mentor. 
Went to Asheville, NC, to see The Avett Brothers Halloween show. It snowed Halloween night, which was remarkably beautiful, with the juxtaposition of fall leaves and white stuff all around. 

Discovered the glory that is JCT Kitchen restaurant and bar, and their epic fried chicken. 
Did a lot of spinning on my wheel. 
Started buying beer in growlers at local taps businesses. 
Found the best yoga class ever, complete with guided meditation at the end, on a night that worked well for my schedule. Seriously so happy about this. 
Cleaned the house thoroughly, really for the first time since summer. 
Made a terrific Thanksgiving dinner with P. My mom and sis visited for the holiday. 
Spent a great day in South Carolina visiting the SC and New York cousins and my aunt Nicki, who is feisty and wise, at 80something. 
Had our annual Lord of the Rings movie marathon. 
Binge-read a lot of books about Minimalism, and resolved to purge many, many things in the coming year. 

Sent the student intern off for her next placement; a generally positive experience, given both our slammed schedules and work stresses. 
Had 3 admin observations in one week, mostly because they were trying to get them done before 2nd semester. Passed all 3 with good feedback! 
Knitted a lot, though not really for gifts, and little was finished. Winter just feels like time to knit, to me. 
Won a bag of Shetland, and another bag of Merino fibers at Spinning Guild's raffle. 
Saw "The Hobbit." meh. Saw "Interstellar." Wonderful! 
Spent Christmas in VA, a few days of warm weather, hiking and exploring the Shenandoah Valley with P and sister, and good times in my childhood home. 
Visited my Aunt Lucille, a family eccentric.
Visited the AtBot's Garden Lights exhibit. 
Gamed, cooked, and relaxed over vacay, while visioning for the New Year to come. 

That's it. Big innovations included having my husband home again, kayaking again after so many years, the steel cut oats recipe, the cucumber vodka, adopting no-poo routine for the hair, and the new yoga class. I'm looking forward to 2015, and hope to keep the general trend moving in a positive direction. 

Happy New Year! 

Sunday, November 09, 2014

oh what a tangled yoke we weave

Or not. I started Eunny Jang's Tangled Yoke Cardigan, a couple of weeks ago, and was proceeding cheerfully along, on my Asheville trip. I had forgotten to bring my tape measure, but decided to just eyeball measurements. I'm a math teacher, and a lifelong estimator. How bad could it be? Honestly, all my measurements were close to the pattern's recommended sizes, so that part is validating. But upon reading finished project notes, after 8 inches had been knitted, including ALL the boring-but-pretty garter rib on the bottom, I started thinking. (uh-oh, you say, can the analysis paralysis be far behind?) Eunny herself recommends that this sweater be knitted with some positive ease. A bunch of folk who knitted it, mention that it needs zero ease to look its best. I see it, myself, as a "little light layer," to be worn mostly open, or only partially buttoned up. I had started it in a size 42", ostensibly for the positive ease,but I'm notorious for knitting sweaters that end up too big/sloppy, and Rowan Felted Tweed is known for its ability to grow with washing. I got close to gauge, and imagine that upon completion, this sweater was gonna grow. I still wanted a little layer. I started to have self doubts. Plus, I wanted to add some length to it, to accomodate my own long waist, and to do that required some re-thinking of the shaping. 

So last night, I ripped it. 8 inches, and 2 skeins of the felted tweed, ripped out. I cast on again, in the 38" size, which fits me exactly, not accounting for the reputed growth of the yarn. For some reason, I kept messing up on the setup row, and so ended up taking 3 tries to actually get the sucker cast on. Sigh. Now it's presumably back on track, stitch markers placed properly, brand new stitch counter placed on the needle, and my head bowed to my task of knitting some garter rib. Which requires constant monitoring, but lets hope my experiences with the first go-round have made me smarter about how garter rib looks from behind. 

I am holding Felted Tweed responsible for me persevering on this project. It is wonderful to knit with. Rustic, yet soft, and oh-so-pretty. The colorway is called "rage," yet it inspires nothing but love in my heart, the deep autumnal red of oak leaves, and Arkansas Black apples. No pix, now, because I only have an inch of garter rib on the needles. I do not see this as a project that will be quickly completed; there's that scary yoke, for one thing, and my own personal bugbear, the picking up of stitches for button bands, and neckband facing. But I hope that a year from now, I can wear it apple picking, and it will comprise the perfect light layer. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

composed while watching Breaking Bad...

Today is the obligatory "I uploaded some random pictures and captioned them" entry. Composed while bingewatching "Breaking Bad." Avoiding schoolwork, for the moment, anyway. 

 Cricket, reminding us that it's important to relax. Really, he spends so much time in this position. I love it. I adore this dog, who has settled down finally, and has become calmer than ever, who has become P's dog, since he is home all day, now. I can't believe he will be 9, come February.

After this tv binge, I am going to follow Crick's suggestion, and go upstairs for a hot bath; epsom salts, lavender, and baking soda - then bed. Project Z, my endless pursuit of serious sleep, continues.

More Halloween aftermath, snow on the Jack o' Lanterns, in Asheville, at a side street cafe. We spent all day Saturday walking around the city, with the storm howling around us; snow blowing horizontally. We dressed warmly, and ducked into galleries, bookstores, and bars for periodic warmth and sustenance.

Of course we checked out some neighborhoods in the city, namely in West Asheville, and then in nearby Black Mountain, as well. I love envisioning other lives, other possible realities, even though the thought of packing up and moving right now gives me hives. There is a little nomad that lives inside me, though, and occasionally she gets restless...Asheville definitely warrants further study! 

See all this garter ribbing? The beginnings of Eunny's Tangled Yoke Cardigan. I'm using some destash Rowan Felted Tweed, the recommended yarn. Not a bad knit, though it strikes me as miles of stockinette, punctuated by a very scary cabled yoke. But right now, reassuring garter rib, pretty and soft, and then soothing stockinette. I will cross the cable bridge when I come to it. I have been in a knitting doldrum for months; starting things, not finishing them, frogging projects, putting other projects in time out...will this sweater find me my mojo?

Sunday, November 02, 2014

a cold and snowy trip to asheville

After a few years of Samhain coming and going without much change in the weather, it appears that the day was actually the harbinger of winter, at least here in the southeastern US.

Pat and I went to Asheville for the weekend, to see the Avett Brothers play on Halloween night, which they did, in full Wizard of Oz get-up. A different kind of Samhain, and one that reminded me of the giddy fun that dressing up in a costume on Halloween night can bring. It's not something I do very often, these years, but seeing them up on stage, unrecognizable until they sang, it hit me again.
Then, we came home from the concert, checked into our motel, and slept, hard. Next morning...snow. 

Spent the day roaming around in Asheville, tasting craft beers, admiring art in galleries, and generally freezing our asses off in the howling wind and nearly horizontal blowing snow. All this bluster amounted to about 3-4 inches altogether, and never did the roads freeze. 

I love Asheville; like all college towns, it is walkable, and full of lovely things to eat and drink. There's a crazy, creative vibe here, as well as a terrific, folk-tinged music scene. The Avetts call it home, so the concert was extra shiny-happy, given that the boys were coming home after a tour. 

Now. November. A month I used to dislike, but now it, like January, feels like a bit of a fresh start; the pagan new year, given Samhain is the last harvest. Time to tilt toward winter. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

finished object and home improvements

Proof that I do occasionally finish something! These mittens are a pattern that I sort of made up on my own, taking about 120 yards of worsted weight handspun Corriedale wool. One mitten is larger than the other, and the thumbs are wonky, but they are soft and warm. I like the rustic look and feel of them. The wool was "moorit" a reddish brown color of sheep. I started these mittens on my winter knitting retreat in February, knit one, and promptly forgot about them, until two weeks ago, when I decided I simply had to get stuff off the needles. I'm suffering a terrible bout of startitis, and am refusing to respond to it...

We're getting a flurry of home improvements done this next week or so. Today is day 1 of the HVAC servicing; ducts being super-vacuumed and cleaned out, plus a chimney/fireplace cleaning. Next week, the actual heating and AC unit will be tuned up. While our AC is working, it isn't working very well, and we're hoping to put off a system replacement for another year. Keep your fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, the presence of 3 service guys, a giant sucking hose and air compressors are causing Cricket to have a major meltdown. I crated him, but it didn't stop him from growling, barking and hurling death threats to the home invaders from hell - errrr, duct cleaning men. P took him out for a walk, just to keep everyone happy and safe. In retrospect, we probably should have just taken him out before the guys arrived, and kept him gone til the service was done, as they're all over the house right now...

Last week, I had the trees inspected, and was going to set up a trimming of some dead branches and trees off the power lines. The tree man pointed out a big oak on the side of our property and said "that is coming down!!" It wasn't even the tree that was causing me concern, as it seemed overall pretty healthy, with big leafy branches, and an annual acorn production that feeds our army of squirrels. It does grow at a leaning slant, but seemed well-rooted. Distressed, I called in an actual arborist for a consultation, and he and I walked our property, including the unfenced forested ivy jungle part of it. We actually own close to an acre, about 1/2 of which is fenced and more or less domesticated.

The arborist felt the big oak was healthy, and because of its angle of growth, and the lack of erosion around the tree, particularly at its tension roots on the back side, it was safe. But in the overall examination, he felt our big pine tree in the backyard was more of a hazard, as it showed a lightning strike scar, dead wood on high, and holes low down at the base. Further inspection revealed 2 rotted out dying poplars that also needed to go, as they would probably hit the house when they went down...

He recommended that I do the removal and any surrounding pruning in the fall or winter, during their dormancy period, rather than right now, mostly for the health of the remaining trees.

Anyway, I feel like money is flowing through my hands like water, and probably will continue to do so, for the time being. Good news is that I have work for next year, and work I actually enjoy, so that's reassuring. I can always sell stash to put food on the table...amusingly, I have managed to sell a few things recently, just because I idly put it on Ravelry as "trade or sell" status, though I wasn't actively trying to market it or anything. I might list a bit more, just to see what happens.

P retires at the end of this month, and will be solidly established back here by the end of July. Hilariously, he's already getting calls from colleagues about private sector work. He's pretty dead set on a serious vacation, first, as befits someone who's worked for 20 years straight in the same agency. After that, well, we'll see... I will be glad to have my husband home for more than a week or so. We have not lived together w/o him being on a regular travel schedule since 1996, if you can believe that! It will be an adjustment, but a happy one, I think.

sigh...I just got the news that the Atomic Lodge chimney needs repairing and a damper replacement. Arrgh.

Monday, June 09, 2014

summer edition: hello red kayak

Greetings from the other side! As in summer. Oh the solstice hasn't arrived, but summer's most significant indicator: school's out, came a week ago, though I was swimming in paperwork and workshops, so Friday was my first real summer day.

I celebrated by going kayaking early Saturday morning, with my friend Angela, who has a new boat she needed to break in. My own red kayak sees so little action, and I plan to change that this summer.

We put in at a local park with a lake, and paddled around in the flat cool water for a couple of hours. Relaxing and a great way to kick off the weekend. Promising each other we'd scout out other likely urban waterways for paddling fun, after it was over. Angela is also a knitter, and I'm thinking next time that I'm going to bring a sock to work on, though she doesn't seem convinced that this is a good idea. 

Nothing new on the needles, or rather nothing much that I've photographed; I'm making the Forest Canopy Shawl in some pretty handspun. I wanted easy lace that could go somewhere and be semi public knitting without too much drama. I am desperately trying to find my knitting mojo out there. 

P's retirement is imminent, and I'm looking forward to having him here again, while being acutely aware that we haven't lived together without him being on a regular travel schedule since 1995. So having someone around every day will be an adjustment. I'm quite used to being the unquestioned chatelaine of the Atomic Lodge, and I'm hoping to somehow maintain my zen when we encounter this huge domestic shift. P doesn't seem nearly as worried about it as I am, which is typical of his optimism, and usually it's contagious. Sometimes I think we should think about getting a completely different place together, so we could start on a more equal footing...but really, in my world, I want to stop flipping houses everytime someone needs a change. 

 Spinning continues to be my main fiber pursuit these days: 
I spun up this beautiful dark gray shetland over the past couple of weeks. It was a Christmas gift from my mom. Rather, it spun itself, into a light worsted. 8oz =405 yards of the pretty stuff. Two washings in Eucalan, and it still smells sheepy. I'm hoping that tones down a little over time. Our humidity is so intense right now that it didn't dry out completely when I hung it in the bathroom. So I put it in the truck, on the dashboard, and parked the truck in the sun. Now the truck smells faintly sheepy. I was actually spinning for a project, Lisa Lloyd's Tilly scarf. I love her book "A Fine Fleece," which is knitting for spinners, and I would love to spin for one of her sweaters, but for now, a scarf will do. I got the suggested 400 yards, so this is actually dedicated yarn. So nice to have a plan. To the someday goal of spinning for a sweater, I'm continuing to spin up mixed gray BFL, at roughly a dk weight, and just keeping it in my stash. At some point (4 oz at a time) I'll have a sweater's quantity of more-or-less uniform yarn, then I'll get serious. 

Today's project is continuing the deep cleanse of the kitchen. I cleaned the fridge yesterday; it was unbelievably filthy, and now it's pristine. This makes me incredibly happy, and in the mood to keep pushing with the scouring of the house.