Tuesday, May 29, 2007

feeling lucky

Apologies for the long absence. I've been having more of the old "why am I doing this?" thoughts about this blog as various other commitments pile up around me like stacks of unanswered letters or papers with "URGENT" stamped on them towering over my desk, all demanding reply and threatening collapse in a messy heap.

Despite the looming demands, though, I am feeling quite happy these days. There are lots of reasons, but just daily life in springtime seems to be the main culprit. It's finally starting to really get hot now, but we've enjoyed weeks of beautiful, mild sunny days full of strawberries and birdsong, and it's hard not to be happy with such natural splendor all around.

Life has also been full of wonderful wildlife sightings lately. On Saturday night, HWWLLB's parents took us to a secret spot to see the Blue Ghosts. They are an Appalachian firefly that gives off a bluish light, soft and low to the ground. Unlike the blinky yellow fireflies you're used to, the light is steady as they hover over the ground.

We drove to the trailhead around 8:30 PM, as it was starting to get dark. Camping is not allowed in this particular park, and the park closes at dusk, so we were happy to avoid being caught by a ranger on the way in. The moon was bright enough that we didn't need any flashlights, and we hiked back to a side trail where folks had heard these fireflies might be. As darkness fell, we watched the yellow fireflies blinking on and off, some rising high into the trees around us.

After an hour or so, we spotted a tiny, soft, eerie glow, bobbing low to the ground. In a little while the understory filled up with hundreds of them, softly floating like reflections of blue starlight on the surface of a dark pond. They transformed a trail where we had walked many times in daylight to a secret, sacred place, far away from people and their noise and lights. It was hard to believe that the tiny lights all around were insects looking for mates. It felt more like a magical, secret night-time city, which I guess in a way it was. We stayed for an hour or so, and then left them to their magical doings.

I mentioned other wildlife sightings... HWWLLB saw a bear while we were hiking on Sunday down from Mt. Pisgah. He was first in line, and startled the bear, a full-sized adult who was foraging just off the trail and went noisily scrambling down the hillside to get away. I heard it but didn't see anything, and was very jealous of HWWLLB and his bear sighting for the rest of the hike.

The other animal visiting us has been a barred owl. This one is in our backyard. We've heard them hooting since we moved here in December, but the other night at dusk he was sitting on the pole that supports our clothesline as we arrived home from work. The next morning, just at dawn, he was sitting in our backyard as mockingbirds and blue jays swooped around him, screeching. He looked relatively untroubled by the anxious littler birds, but didn't stay long, as it was getting bright outside.

I think that some cultures think it's good luck when an owl visits, and some think it's bad luck. I'm calling this particular owl good luck, since barred owls are noisy and frequently heard, but seen much less often - especially sitting on the clothesline!

Some other things I'm feeling lucky about: my Secret Pal. I haven't had a chance to photograph her last package to me while the sun is still shining, but let me describe it anyway. She sent me a big giant packet of wildflower seeds, which I think I'll plant this fall. On the cover are poppies and bachelor's buttons, two of my favorite flowers. There's also a pack of retro red & black stationery, some green tea which I've already taken to work, some more pretty home-made stitch markers, and some great sexy black yarn from Knit One, Crochet Too for a Cabaret Scarf. That will be a fun project! Thank you, Secret Pal!

One last item of good luck: This video is about some of the cool people in the county where we live (I love the Polyphonic Spree soundtrack!). Thanks to Billie (another star in the neighborhood) for pointing out this wonderful project and video, and for making me count my lucky stars to be surrounded by such beautiful people.

Monday, May 21, 2007

immature or child-like?

Saun thinks that the "inner kid" in me is trying to come out. Truth be told, the kid in me is just below the surface, and it really doesn't take much. Saturday night I rode a little plastic trike down a sloping driveway and into a pile of leaves in order to impress a two year-old. But I digress.

Over the weekend, the population of the momerath village grew to five.

the little guy is making a break for it

I like how they're all a little different from each other. Some look calm and happy, and some look extremely mischievous. The ones with the smooth button eyes look particularly stoned compared to the others. Later this week I'll be shipping them off as a gift for someone whose very patient parents will either think these are hilarious or annoying (or maybe a bit of both).

A few years ago, after something extremely mature that I did, my aunt told me that I hadn't changed a bit since I was six. At first I was a bit miffed, but the more I thought about it, doesn't it sort of seem like a compliment?

Another time I went to a conference, and at the end of the conference we had a no-talent show. There was this woman there who did handwriting analysis - she has worked on cases with the FBI and everything. For her no-talent, which was actually a real talent, she handwriting-analyzed everyone in the room. When it was my turn, she said I was "child-like." I'm not sure whether that was based on my handwriting, or on the no-talent that I had helped someone with right before that, where I wore a raincoat and carried a target and she shot water at me from across the room. But one of the things I learned from that night was that the length of the tails of your lowercase g's and y's carry a lot of sexual connotations, and also that guys don't like you to examine the lengths of their lowercase g's and y's.

It's been so beautiful the last few days. An all-afternoon volunteer commitment that I had planned for Sunday fell through at the last minute, hooray, leaving me a free Sunday afternoon to sit outside in the shady part of the backyard and read. I also got back down to brass tacks with the secret whatzit project and broke through on some serious design issues I was having. Hopefully you'll see the finished item soon.

As usual, I'm overwhelmed in projects I'd like to knit. Besides secret whatzit, I've got a secret X-mas sweater on the needles for HWWLLB, as well as the toe-up socks, and there's some Shine on the way to me from KnitPicks for an Isabella, which looks perfect for summer parties at which one might sip mint juleps (I'm hoping to attend a lot of those this summer). I also picked up copies of Vogue Knitting and Knit.1 this weekend, both of which are full of projects that have me fantasizing about color. Since I put away the winter clothes and broke out the warm-weather wear, I've noticed how dull my closet is. It really needs some more color, and there are all these great quick projects that could do the job... I'm thinking burnt orange, grass green, and of course red. Or maybe I should just dye some of the more boring clothes I already have?

The needles are calling... one last thing: I got a great package from my Secret Pal today - she is awesome. More on that later!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

veggie color

garden color 2

Colors serve all sorts of important biological purposes. Mating, hiding, getting caught, attracting pollinators, warning off predators... in the world of garden vegetables, color means "Eat me! I'm full of cancer-fighting anti-oxidants!" (Aside: I like when vegetables use big words like anti-oxidant. I imagine them pronouncing it with an endearing speech impediment or a funny foreign accent).

HWWLLB and I certainly spend more time looking at our vegetables than we do eating them. Not to say that we don't eat them, we do, but we spend an embarassing amount of time gazing fondly at them. I can't take any credit for the delightful rainbow of plants out there; choosing and arranging have mostly been the work of the man of the house. Mainly I pick and eat them. But seeing as how we have such great colors going on out there, I'm starting to think about growing my own dyes.

Wouldn't you love to have a dress the color of this radish?

garden color 3

I'm eyeing the beets that are slowly coming along out there and wondering whether the trimmings from when I eat them (because I intend to gobble up every last beet myself) would produce enough dye for, say, a skein of sock yarn. Hmmm...

T, companion of Shari, brews his own beer, which is a lot like knitting one's own socks and sweaters, I think. This ingenious fellow is now growing his own barley and hops for the beer brewing, which is a lot like raising the sheep yourself (or maybe growing dye plants?). His beers are delicious, by the way, and I find T and his tasty beer quite inspiring. I like the increased integrity of the project that results when you grow constituent parts yourself - not to mention the reduced ecological footprint.

Some dye plants that are also beautiful to grow:
Beets (of course!)
Sweet woodruff

Some of these are plants we already grow in our yard - I've just never thought to put them to work before, besides the usual looking, smelling and tasting good. Maybe I should go find a book on dyeing with plants. Y'all let me know if you have any recommendations!

garden color 4
it won't dye sock yarn, but it sure makes a purty salad

Monday, May 14, 2007

rainy weekend

Due to technical difficulties, the secret whatzit project is taking a little break right now. I had a yarn-usage target in mind for this project, and we are creeping up on the end of the yarn supply, with significant knitting still to be done. So I'll have to rip out the main body of the thing and rework it to be about 2/3 the size it is now, for yarn conservation purposes. Also, I think I lost a small piece of it during some outdoor knitting/revelry recently, though the drinking establishment in question swears they haven't found it. I think they're actually using it as a naughty cosy, but let's not go into that.

With technical difficulties staring me in the face, the only choice was (obviously) to cast on for something else. And now a momerath factory has popped up in my room:

momerath factory

The first one got lonely. Now he'll have a whole little village of friends. You can see some of them lined up here on the windowsill with raindrops behind them on the screen. They're just getting ready to start reciting from Jabberwocky.

I've also cast on for some socks that I'm hoping to successfully knit toe-up, following the inspiration from Ann Budd's article on toe-up sock knitting in the summer issue of IK. Is it just me, or is that article the only thing in the whole magazine worth reading? There wasn't a single design in there that I wanted to knit, and believe me I tried to like several of them, I really did. Anyway, I really like the idea of toe-up sock knitting for the economy of it - I'd like to use every last fiber of my fancy hand-dyed sock yarns and toe-up is the way to make that happen. I'm nervous about the short-row heels, but I think I've prepared myself mentally to make a good show of it at least.

Off to embroider some faces on the new momerath friends...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

what year is it?

Am I back in college?

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic this afternoon, because of my irrational excitement about Björk's having a new album out, and on top of it internet radio is playing the Smiths (I swear it's not a retro station). I've also got a big pile of school-work hanging over my head, since the summer semester has just started - it seems to have started without me. There wasn't any break between the spring and summer semesters, and I just can't seem to keep up the work pace without nice long breaks in between.

But anxiety about school-work makes me feel young as well - some sort of memory deep in the neurons. It makes me want to blow off the afternoon's work, scour the thrift shops and find some great t-shirts to modify. Warm weather is back and I feel a strong urge for some Wardrobe Refashion-ing to spruce up my closet.

I think my yoga class is also making me feel young and springy. I'd been out of the yoga routine since Christmas-time, and even before that, though I was going regularly, I suspected that the flow class I'd been attending might not have been the best for my body and its various over-age-30 aches and pains. But recently I found out about a wonderful teacher who is right in my neighborhood. She is quite talented, and specializes in bone and joint problems, and she's so close that I can even walk to class! She's fabulous, and after five weeks of classes, I feel an old yoga mojo surging in my body that I haven't felt in at least five years. Is it muscle memory?

Or maybe it's food-related: Once I was in a workshop put on by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association called "Grow your own salad bar," about growing greens in your garden, and the workshop leader said something about the way people brighten up and become more energized after eating a big plate of freshly-picked greens. At the time I was dubious, and thought he was being kind of woo-woo, but I'm starting to wonder if that's part of my feeling of physical youthfulness. Our garden is practically exploding with lettuces, and I'm eating a big salad about once a day to try to keep up with the supply.

lettuce sprout
the lettuce of youth?

Could lettuce be what's making me feel so spry? It couldn't be the Smiths...

I'll depart with a picture of the fabulous market bag that bugheart brought me last weekend... it's been my constant companion since then.

market bag

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

old and new friends

flame azalea in the rain, nc botanical garden

A more perfect Sunday would be hard to imagine.

Beloved guests arrived at our house like little elves sneaking in during the wee hours of the morning (noisy elves - they'd had champagne at dinner). Everyone slept late, and in the morning HWWLLB made a special breakfast and we drank a big pot of tea. After much lounging, it was time to go have brunch with two lovely Sew Green compatriots, bugheart and shari! This was a visit I have long been anticipating.

Do you know how it is when someone comes to visit, and you want to take them some place special, some place with incredible food and service that will please them and make them love you forever and also cause them to make a mental note of your impeccably good taste? That's not quite what happened on Sunday.

I suggested a favorite brunch spot for all the selfless and laudable reasons outlined above, only to be met with a rather surly waiter, a shortage of grits and the Official Most Schlockiest piano lounge music of all time. But despite the lapses in service and having to listen to the entire libretto of Phantom of the Opera played lounge-style, the food was delicious and the company divine. I could spend the rest of my days in terrible restaurants with those two ladies. In fact, if shari and bugheart were to invite me to have dinner tomorrow night at Olden Tymes, Chuck E. Cheese or even Hooters, I'd be there in a flash (I'd have beer though, for sure, plenty of beer).

After our brunch we met up with the menfolk for a relaxing, sunny afternoon of knitting, sipping cold beverages and munching on Locopops. mmmm... Locopops. First I had Mexican Chocolate. The pops were so good the first time that later we went back for another - this time I had Mango Chile. Have you ever had a popsicle that burned your mouth for a while afterwards? A tastier irony would be hard to find. Ah, the sweet, cold burn!

There are few experiences that rival spending time with an old friend. Except maybe making new ones. And eating Locopops. All three at the same time, well... I think I had a contentedness hangover on Monday. Every Sunday should be like that one!

Shari is a new friend for me. I have admired her blog and her photographs for some time, and have wondered if I'd ever get the chance to meet her in person, since she lives just a short skip away from me, right here in central North Carolina. She is as sweet, thoughtful and witty as she seems in writing, and she's also spontaneous and generous and really, a very talented photographer. Great photos pop out of her polaroid the way verbal gaffes pop out of my mouth - all the time, and without warning. I loved spending an afternoon with her and bugheart (another of the most spontaneous and talented people I know), and T and Grub and HWWLLB and Johnny, who are getting reduced billing today but are all wonderful and fascinating in their own rights (one day I will write odes to the menfolks). Thank you to my old friend bugheart for introducing me to a new friend! I feel very lucky today.

You may have noticed I didn't take any pictures on Sunday. The official excuse is that my camera batteries died, but the other excuse is that bugheart and shari took oodles of great photos with their unstoppable polaroids, and no further camera-jockeying was really necessary. Get a load of them here and here. This one, taken by shari, really captures the spirit of the pola that reigned on Sunday.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

more surprises

Again, more surprises are coming up in the flower beds of our new yard. This week, peonies!


I just can't complain about any of the surprises we've had with this yard. There are three of these big peony plants with fluffy white blooms and those touches of red inside. They're quite elegant.

I'm giggling as I write this, because from the other side of the wall I can hear HWWLLB talking to himself in the shower. I can't laugh at him outright, because I do it all the time, but it's still funny to hear him saying (with conviction) "yes, yes I think that's right," to himself in the shower. Personally, while in the shower I like to rehearse the speeches that I will never give.

The speech where I accept some sort of award from the Governor and then tell him off for his spineless defense of capital punishment.

The speech where I thank the audience for purchasing record numbers of copies of my book on why everything I like is so great / why everything that annoys me is so wrong.

The speech where the audience is moved to tears and tens of thousands pledge to stop buying food, clothes and plastic crap grown/made in sweatshops and only buy fair trade products or do without.

...you know, speeches like those. Do you practice speeches in the shower? Sing? Tell jokes? I don't know what HWWLLB is talking about in there, but it sounds important.

I loved everyone's guesses about the mystery project. Some of you have a better memory than I do and remembered my touting this project some time back - smarty. The guesses were great: 80's-style legwarmers, a stuffed cat, gloves, an uterus, a hat with tubular ties... all very good guesses, but sadly, all wrong. Hee hee! The mystery continues... for most of us.

I must go and bake something and hoover the cat hair... bugheart is coming! And tomorrow I get to have tea with her and shari! Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

starts and sprouts

The world outside is crazy, but in our backyard things are just right. The veggies in our garden are growing wildly. We've had greens, lettuce and radishes from the garden at most of our meals lately, and tonight the deliveries from our CSA begin. Ah, nature. Even when she's unpredictable, she's so very predictable. The sun rises again, every morning.


I started some pumpkin and melon seeds over the weekend. I wanted to start them in those little compressed cardboard cups, but didn't have any and didn't feel like spending any money, so I made some biodegradeable seed starters out of newspaper instead. I just wrapped a sheet of newspaper around a yogurt cup, trimmed, pulled out the yogurt cup and folded down the top edge - voila! I think they're kind of cool looking. Once the seedlings are ready we'll plant them directly into the garden beds in their newspaper nurseries.

Here's another start from the weekend:


If you can guess what it's going to be, I'll give you some sort of prize. But I bet you can't guess, so it will be a surprise for a Free Pattern Friday some time in May. It's so much fun that I just had to make it a secret. Things are always more fun with an air of mystery around them, don't you think?

And now, at the end of another stressful, unpredictable, roller-coaster day in the salt mines, it's time to go home and pick little green caterpillars off the broccoli plants and say hello to the baby nasturtiums. Thank heavens for green things growing!

lettuce seedlings