Wednesday, March 30, 2011

But wait, there's more!

So you, dear blogistas, thought that my life was about caregiving, fitness, reading, cooking, gardening, knitting, weaving, spinning, making and exhibiting all forms of art, watching sports on tv,huh? with a bit of art consulting thrown in...

But what kind of a life would that be? Narrow! Limited! But no, there's more!

There's also crochet!! favorite ds stitch here, using a lot of different soft and fuzzy yarns to make a shoulder shawl, which has a destination already.

Here it's laid out to show the optical illusion of a triangle form on a straight piece.

And here it shows you how it looks before you glamorously toss it around your shoulders to keep out the endlessly chilly wind in what is supposed to be springtime weather around here.

Just so you know I have a well-rounded and examined life....

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On reading and re-reading

I have a whole bookcase full of books that I read and re-read at intervals, and never lose the pleasure of the unfolding. They all happen to be by English women writers, a fact that occurred to me only when I moved them all recently to a better bookcase.

I read a lot of new items, history, political thought, new art thoughts, essays, humor, new detectives, all that, but still when I'm tired and maybe a bit frazzled, the bookcase of old friends is where I go for a nice read.

Currently, it's the oeuvre of Barbara Pym, most of which I have. For great humor, sly digs, wise ladies making brief and to the point comments, and the author's sympathy with the characters who are being overrun and bossed by other characters, and times of sadness handled with care, she just can't be bettered.

I also love Pym's world, since she has characters moving in and out of other people's books, so that the reader recognizes that person seen across the room, even when the character in the current book doesn't know him. Great depth and sliding doors going on there.

Less than Angels is the current fave, and I came across, again, what I think is simply one of the funniest and most acute comments I ever found in litrachure:

Thought by Rhoda, the sister who lives with her widowed sister, mother of one of the main characters, Deirdre Swan, and who has great social ambitions in her small suburban world, it reflects on her realization, after bringing an ill-assorted group of writers, businessmen, suburban tennis playing girls, students and anthropologists to a supper party, that, well, let's have Pym say this for herself:

"The sentences would be like bright juggler's balls, spinning through the air and being deftly caught and thrown up again. But she saw now that conversation could also be compared to a series of incongruous objects, scrubbing-brushes, dish-cloths, knives, being flung or hurtling rather than spinning, which were sometimes not caught at all but fell to the ground with resounding thuds." Perfect.

That also reminds me of the fight at the township dump in The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! where I think I remember an alarm clock flying through the air, along with various other useless weapons of conflict.

Anyway, if you are not already a Pym fan, it's really worth exploring her viewpoint.

And if you are, comment here on which bits you like best, too.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Felt, the Fiber of the Future

The trees are at that lovely red stage before the leaves open fully, so I had to whip out my trusty digi and capture this one to show HP after my walk, but I digress from the main issue of the day, which is:

Fifty Ways to Felt your Future! see the stock market indexes, commodities exchange, for prices on felt can see how people get carried away once they start on this addictive art form.

Anyway, in the course of finding other sweaters around the house to felt, in an access of enthusiasm, I included two that are very good lambswool, but were far too big for either HP or me, felted them and found that they now fit perfectly!

So he has a renewed jacket, a lovely thing, in fact, Italian made, in charcoal gray lambswool, knitted in a quaker rib, which now actually fits him and looks great. And I have a green short fitted jacket which was once a great big huge jacket that made me look like a shambling denizen of the forest. Now it's more Hepburn than Frankenstein, which has to be a good thing.

So those pieces did not make it into the felt collection.

However, I thought I'd show you the current output of what did:

This little purse, sized for cellphone or other highfalutin piece of electronic wearable gear

goes with the red bag you saw earlier, but which I can't resist showing again, my firstborn bag, you know

And the fair isle piece yielded three bags, which are in fact reversible, clever me, but I prefer the "wrong" side of the fabric to the "right", so that's what I'm showing you here

All this is happening in the intervals of making the bigger tapestry, but my hands need a change of movement to avoid getting all stiff and unhappy. The bags also involved crocheting the handles. The yellow strap is single crochet, but the other two are double crochet, long enough to hang from your shoulder, that kind of thing. I have used Icord in the past but found it stretched and stretched and ended up having to be artfully looped and knotted to work as a strap, so crochet works better here.

So that's the News from the Felting Front. The fair isle bags are for sale, at $25US each plus $3 s and h, and I will send all proceeds to the Japan Relief Fund which is happening here locally. Just thought I'd do my bit. Please email me with your choice, in order to make sure of it, and we'll go from there.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The urge to felt is upon me.....

...cried the Lady of Shalott.....

Anyway, Tennyson aside, best place for him, really, the red vest you saw in the heap of felted sweaters in the last post is now this nifty red bag.

Two front pockets, fancy running and seed stitches adorning pockets and opening, handle made from the ribbing from neck and sleeves knotted together. The top is the ribbing from the waist, and the pockets were cut from leftover bits around the neck and shoulder area. The fancy stitching is from handspun and dyed yarn, part of a wonderful present of a fiber share, from Heather C. Your gift is showing up all over my life, Heather. But it was just right for this -- variegated gentle movement of color, just enough to spark up but not overdo it.

I learned that this type of wool, felted twice (once accidentally by the original owner, the second time on purpose by me) is soft and lovely to handle, but very tough to push a needle through. This is not felt for wimps!

All in all, not a bad beginning. Since felt doesn't fray, you can avoid having to finish off edges. And you can pull the stitching in tight, as I did when I applied the pockets, to make them vanish into the fabric.

I didn't use a pattern, just went by what the item was already asking me to do, really. If I like it enough, I'll give it back to the original owner, since she probably loved this color or she wouldn't have bought a vest in it... so maybe this will find a new home. But as usual, everything I give has to be good enough to give.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Long felt want!

Yesterday, before the snow returned, I got a picture of one of the spreading groups of daffodils in the woods out there, which our family planted in 2001 as a 9.11 memorial. So I thought I'd show you.

Snow and rain are here today, so the focus has to change a bit. Since Maggie, blogista here and in her own very famous right, mentioned the ColorWorks book in her blog, which turned me on to ordering it, amazing for me to actually buy something, but it wasn't in the library, I also picked up a couple of books from the libe on repurposing (!) sweaters from the thrift store. Aside from unraveling and reknitting them, that is.

And got turned on to felting, which I've thought about idly now and then, but haven't tried to do on purpose. It started with a friend at the library giving me a beautiful Pendleton wool vest which had accidentally got into a hot wash, and she figured I could do something with it, then I thought, hm. but what? so the current crop of books is part of the solution. ColorWorks is a lovely adventure in color and texture with samples in various needlearts, and is set up as a workbook for people just embarking on the study of color, very useful teach-yourself book, I'd say, by Deb Menz. It's really well produced.

And one unexpected bonus: HP is no longer able to focus long enough mentally to read his favorite history and archaeology books, but when the Menz book arrived yesterday he wanted to know what it was about, and was entranced with the color layouts, spent quite a while browsing happily in it. The workbook format, with the spiral bindings, is especially good for a person who has trouble turning pages and keeping them open.

Crispina ffrench's Sweater Chop Shop appeals to me a lot partly because she's so intrepid and no-rules, and has a ton of interesting ideas, and Sweater Renewal by Sharon Franco Rothschild, is another bunch of great thoughts. Both books are good for browsing purposes, even if you end up, as I usually do, making something completely different.

And I felted a bunch of thrift store sweaters this morning.

It's really fun to just put them in HOT water, then cold, then a HOT dryer, and see that you get usable material out of it. And get to clean a lot of lint out of the washer and dryer.

So whenever I decide what to do with them, I have materials ready to work with. I like that this is hand sewing time, since felt and machines are not always a happy combo, and felt doesn't fray, if you've done it right, that is.

So this is the latest art adventure. The tapestry is coming along fine, and I painted the warp this morning, so that has to wait till the warp is dry. And I just finished another little thing, not fiber related, which will be a present so I will say no more on that right now.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Takaezu and food

Today I read the obituary of the ceramic artist Takaezu, and if this name is new to you, please look her up. She was wonderful. Made all sizes of clay vessels and shapes, up to enormous. The picture of her in the New York Times shows her surrounded by some of her giant pieces, wonderful closed shapes bigger than she. I've seen and handled some of the big pieces at the local Grounds for Sculpture, where they're on permanent display, and the atmosphere around them has to be experienced in order to understand it.

In her life, she had a wonderful seamless approach to everything she did, commenting that there was no division between making pots, cooking and growing vegetables. All are a good part of an interesting life. All can be art, too.

Interesting that I should have read this after sitting down for a few minutes after a morning of cooking beef stock soup with many vegetables, baking biscuits, making fresh green salad from a lot of winter vegetables, and creating a fruit salad

for HP, oranges and pears, now in season.

This is one of the ways I approach my own life, to try to live each moment and enjoy it and not let worry about future events cast a shadow on today's pleasure. So cooking from scratch is one of the pleasures, and here it's a challenge, too.

HP has little sense of taste, owing to rx interactions many years ago, and has great difficulty manipulating table utensils. So his food has to be organized in such a way that it can be picked up easily with fingers, or a spoon or fork, look interesting, have varying textures and be pretty spicy, too. Art flourishes within limitations, so those are mine. And he loves color, so I look for color interest in his food, too.

Things like adding chunks of tomato in season to green salad, or red cabbage in winter, and shredding a variety of greens, kale, chicory, chard, scallions, dandelions, watercress, to make interesting salads with varying textures and colors.

The current soup is the first time in many years I've used beef bones to make a stock, since we are not into beef for varying reasons.

But the stock is very good, and the drippings from the bones as they roasted, since we wouldn't eat beef drippings on a bet, I chilled and filled with bird seed and put in a suet holder out on the tree outside for the birds.

I know they liked it, since the empty container, totally cleaned, showed up on the grass under the tree after a few days.I expect the squirrels helped, too, since I saw one dragging it about like a shoulder bag as he worked on the last little bit.

And, since the last report on the Painting of the Closet, the doors of both closets in the bedroom have been removed, which makes the room look surprisingly bigger, and one door is now in the living room on the coat closet, replacing the old one which separated the way hollow core doors do, and I've set to work to make hangings for the openings of the closets.

The material is those plastic things that hold together six packs of cans, ironed together, great fun, and threaded onto a tension rod.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Campus visit for a Dolliver

Dolliver Call Me Michelle, signed herself up for today's expedition to Princeton University campus. After all, she pointed out, Michelle O. went here and did just fine, so why not a D? I went to visit the Art Museum on the campus,really, but she was more interested in the ambiance of what she is planning to be her future college campus.

On the way there we passed the supermarket and caught the local high school youth orchestra's fund raiser, with a young cellist giving a spirited rendering of a Bach partita for unaccompanied cello

What with posing under ancient trees,

with Henry Moore in the far distance -- that green metal sculpture, wonderful piece of work.

I insisted on getting that in, since Moore is my homey. Another native of north Yorkshire (along with David Hockney) he's always been a favorite around my life.

There was the requisite visit to the Princeton tigers

which impelled a little boy, seeing her there, to jump up, too

And there was the forsythia newly in bloom

outside the art museum, inside which D. rode in her traveling bag and I respectfully refrained from photography while I basked in wonderful small exhibits of all kinds. This is a hugely well endowed place, with gifts right, left and center from rich alumni, and a changing scene of exhibits. Next up will be Schwitters, and I have to see that, just have to.

Meanwhile I was happily studying Japanese woodblock prints (NJ is rich in these, since there have been Japanese students at Rutgers and other places for ages, with the wealth and the gratitude to make sure a wonderful collection is in place). The best one is at the Voorhees Museum in New Brunswick.

Anyway,in Princeton they have some great Hiroshige prints of Tokyo and environs. Poignant to see these at this moment, but I thought it appropriate to pay my respects by honoring an art tradition.

There were also some great Chinese prints from the early medieval period which look startlingly modern, very abstracted visions of natural objects.

This is the best refreshment in the world, to be surrounded by lovely art which makes you look and think and feel. It's a small museum with an amazing collection from medieval to present day, from every continent.

The campus in which you find the art museum, is enormous, ivy covered buildings all over the place, with gargoyles carved on many of them -- books have been written about the gargoyles -- and curving paths and old trees and a worldclass collection of art around every corner. And today groups of high school kids being hauled around in case they want to apply, I guess. This gave D. the idea that if they could why not a D? okay, so it would be a first, but that's fine.

So she sat at this doorway, figuring it looked like the place you should wait at to arrange to be admitted. Wearing her best spring outfit. I told her she'd better crack the books, not to mention studying her music, if she's going to compete with the high school cellist we saw earlier, to get in here.

After you have an intense exposure to art and buildings, the buildings start to look like art. This one, with the Woodrow Wilson building on the right and the chimneys rising, reminded me a lot of Sheeler's industrial landscapes from the early twentieth century. It's the chimneys that do it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Erin go Bragh from the O'Dollivers

The Dollivers got dolled up in the Green today, and to avoid squabbles, a single scarf was draped over all of them, but Kitchen Witch, in her bright green dress, requested that she be clear of the scarf, to show off her outfit better. The hats, don't ask me, the Ds insisted that they were part of the getup and who am I to argue, the mere photographer around here.

Anyway, Happy St. Patrick's Day to them as celebrates it, which is probably everyone, regardless of heritage. Enjoy the soda bread and corned beef and cabbage if that's your pleasure. Don't forget the step dancing while you're at it. And the banging of the big drums and the playing of the whistles.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Hounds of Spring singing and looking cute

Spotted on today's walk, two Hounds of Spring, one large and loud, one small and cute.

White Fluffy singing hey nonny nonny, sweet lovers love the spring..all carried away with the sudden good weather.

Now the singing's over, Small Brown Dog gets to pose for the camera, showing his best cute.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Caregiving and painting closets

A few days ago I posted proudly that I'd got the lid off the can and the stuff out of the clothes closet, and I was ready to paint. First paint job I've done since HP was in the hospital, two years ago now,and I was wondering several things.

One was that my increasing creakiness might make it a bit more difficult. And my balance might not be as good up my little stepladder. And trying to fit in the work to the needs of HP, not always predictable these days, might be a puzzle.

Anyway, I finally realized the closet was a small job, the paint was ready, and why not take advantage of a low humidity day. I had two segments of about 45 minutes in the afternoon, and there was a soccer match on for HP to be entertained by. Soooo. I did it, and I have the pictures to prove it. I did about three quarters of it, and can easily finish it tomorrow.

In the process, I also found half a gallon of a nice peachy color which I need for a downstairs wall,and now I'm on a roll!

And none of my fears about my hands, pain, balance, etc., worked out in practice at all. It was just fine. And I feel just fine, too. Impossibly smug, to be exact.

I haven't written very much about HP lately, and have had some inquiries, so here's an update. We have had a few health scares, which seem to be okay now, but his confusion grows and his memory is very patchy. Difficult to have a connected conversation which stays in the realm of the real, rather than fantasy. And that is one of the hardest things to cope with Sometimes he gets all agitated when I'm attending to him morning and night in his bed, and can't understand I really can not stop until he's clean and changed.

In the daytime I can't trust that he will sit without trying to throw himself forward, risking pitching out of his chair. He's impulsive and can not remember he can't walk now. I've always seated his chair at a table, which is in front of him no matter where he is, largely so that he has his own dining space, and room for newspapers and glasses and other impedimenta. But it also acts as a safety buffer.

I always work in the kitchen where he can see me, through the pass through, and we eat lunch and supper together, with me next to his table, so he has company, which he likes.

And yet there are many times when he's lucid and content and friendly and things are good. He continues to enjoy some things about his day, loves the cooking around here, enjoys parts of the morning paper. Mornings are likely to be the best times for him, so it's good if he wakes up cheerful, not so good if he wakes up angry and agitated.

I'm thinking I may talk with HS about giving me another couple of days in October to get away. For me it's four days of heaven, for him a couple of personal or vacation days. It doesn't conflict with his own plans, since he likes the rest of his time off in the height of the summer, just when he loves the shore and I don't! but it's getting wearing, and I think I need to somehow find the money to put into a second trip. Anyway, that's on the front burner at the moment.

Particularly since both his doctor and his physio have suggested I think of more respite. They're good observers and I am listening!

Meanwhile, it's very joyful to paint my surroundings and admire it! and then realize each newly painted bit makes the thing next to it looks shabby...

but I have to say, it's very good to have got it done. I like jobs that stay done!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Asian Adventures

The local Asian store is a place of mystery and great produce, much of which is unfamiliar. It's an adventure to shop there, since the clerks speak almost no English, so they can't explain how to prepare and eat these interesting items. The adventure starts before you even get into the store.

Art in the parking lot. These truck makes the run into and out of New York City daily, as the graffiti probably indicates. I love graffiti, and you will notice that the artist respectfully avoided decorating the place where the store name is showing.

So indoors, you run across items like giant papayas

And then on to

Taro root, fortunately labeled in recognizable terms, and you can find out how to proceed with this.

And there's, not a hallstand with walking canes, but a bunch of sugar cane.

And there are the special wrapped pears. Astute observers will note that one of these wrappers turned up as a Dolliver hat some time ago.

But from there, you're on your own. But we've had the best salads in the world since I started cruising the greens aisles.

A small hitch on the way to these pix. I had taken a nice pic of the wrapped pear things, and my camera showed me "out of memory." Now a swift thinker would have realized that this meant no memory. A swift thinker would not have figured that I needed to get home and charge the battery. And find the same "out of memory" happened as soon as I reloaded. And wondered if the camera was losing its essential way in life. Now, I happen to have a backup camera, which I bought second hand via Amazon, for when my frontup camera might bite the dust. The seller generously put a 2G memory card in the new one, and the battery and all.

So I faffed and footled about changing and swapping batteries, charging, testing, and the batteries worked just fine in the new camera, and not at all in the old one. After about an hour of eliminating all possibilities, switching batteries, charging either or both, scientific approach this, to discover why the weird message kept coming up, I got desperate. And found the book of instructions. And looked up the meaning of "out of memory." Or, as HS said when I recounted this pantomime to him "got desperate, huh, Mom? as in reading the freaking instructions?"

Doh. The memory card. Full. Couple of thousand images on it. Poor little camera had been insisting I READ THE MESSAGE and I'd been failing to read for comprehension, until forced to. Entirely possible I should be in a slower camera operators' group. I inserted the lovely empty memory card from the new camera into the old one. Amazing. Worked perfectly. How ABOUT that.

Now, in the interests of keeping the universe in balance, I must note here that my incompitude is more than balanced by the feat of my congressman, Rush Holt, the only member of Congress who really is a rocket scientist. He competed last week in a Jeopardy round with Watson, the computer. Result: Congressman one, Computer nil. Done in the interests of encouraging science education in our schools.

So I more or less balanced out the giftedness of the general region. I bet Rush knows when his memory card needs to be replaced, too. I wonder if he gives classes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Daffodils, crocus and jade

After days of intense thumping rain, today the sun and the worms were out, the beech trees were stretching out in the sunshine against the spring sky

and the daffodils in the woods, which our family planted as a 9/11 memorial, have come up faithfully again, soon to bloom.

The ones on the patio, among the pachysandra, more sheltered, are a bit more advanced.

I love pachysandra. It dresses up the most unlikely places, and plants growing through it are framed. All it needs is yanking out now and then, and I give bags of it away to neighbors who didn't realize you don't always have to buy plant material.

Then the neighbors' crocuses have started up, and I got in quick before the robins rip them apart.

I think they like the yellow bits, because they just tear into them as soon as they open. The longest I ever managed to keep crocuses was two days.

And then the universe brought me a present, in the shape of this little maybe jade maybe something cheaper, carved pendant on a hand knotted red string. Probably a leftover from Chinese New Year, which I found in the middle of the street no knowing whose it was or how it got there, so I took it into my custody.

We've been studying the carving to see what the heck it is about, but can't distinguish any shapes such as rabbit or that kind of animal. It might just be about clouds. If anyone has any input do let us know. It's a nice little piece, and will certainly find its way into something or other around here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Booksales and Birding

The official Outdoorsdoll decided that March is here, and it must be spring. This means first stop the spring booksale at the local library. Where she picked out a handmade blank book

with many pages of lovely mulberry paper which I already have nonbook plans for, and posed in front of what she assumed was

the Book of Dolliver.

Next we repaired to the wilderness preserve, where, as she pointed out, she was already togged out in birding clothes, very muted colors, blending right in, and the pink hat? that was so that if any great big redtailed hawk grabbed her, the rescuers would be able to spot her right away. I pointed out that the honking great pin in the hat was unlikely birding wear, but she in turn pointed out that she was not some schlump who went out birding without jewelry, for doll's sake.

And she was right about spring, because there was a huge gang of redwing blackbirds all shouting joyfully in the trees.

Major cheering sign of spring here. And a large field of Canada geese,not exactly a sign of spring, and I mentioned that we could get a lot closer to see them better, but she had eyed them for size

and decided that up a tree and across a field from them was a perfectly adequate vantage point, thank you.

However, she was happy to get close to the chickadees at the feeders

and in the trees, along with the mourning doves, feathers whistling as they flew off.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Getting the Lid Off the Can

I had a boss who used to say that the hardest part of painting a room was getting the lid off the can. So true. I speak as one who painted, by hand, alone, all alone, every wall in our three story townhouse, one wall at a time. Bird by bird, you might say. Took most of the winter, because it also entailed cleaning, chucking, generally organizing the place at each small stage.

I did this because 1. I don't have the physical strength to paint more than one wall in a day 2. it's much less disruptive to the other people not to have to move all the furniture at once 3. I buy cheapo roller covers, and discard the day's one at the end of the day without remorse and 4. I like doing it this way.

Sooooo, I have been held up for a couple of years from continuing this trend, since it's several years since I was able to pay any attention to the walls, other than climbing them, and certainly no attention to whether they needed a paint job. But in the course of human events, I have been emptying, freecycling and generally organizing upstairs closets which had not been attended to since dinosaurs roamed the earth.

And found they had never been painted since the house was built, over 20 years ago. Soooo, that's next, I guess. Small closets, not the room sized ones I painted a while back, while HP was in the rehab and I wanted to get them done before he came home so as not to expose him to fumes, and they were a big job.

Anyway, since this is inside closets, no need to get fancy about the paint. I'll just use leftovers from other jobs, all of which are pale colors, and won't jump out at me when I open the door. And since one of the closets contained the paint cans, the only place to keep them frostfree, I've been contemplating, for several weeks, in fact, picking a can and getting the lid off.

And today I did it.

So this picture is by way of a brag, and a demo of what needs to be painted and spiffed up before my weaving and knitting supplies find a home in there.

Speaking of weaving and knitting and other artforms, March is Youth Art Month around here, and the town hall and library are packed with terrific art from our local schools, Grade Two to senior in High School, and some of the works are really good. It's a nice way of giving a huge range of kids the chance to show their work with minimum fancy arrangements -- no framing, just plastic sleeves, and staple the work to the walls -- but there's usually a reception and mobs of proud parents roving the buildings, great fun.

Anyway, I am in the middle of a weaving series, small components to make a bigger work, and as I was roving the exhibits yesterday, I was drawn inevitably to this lovely little piece of work, created by a third grader.

Ah, a kindred spirit!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Tapestry Frame

Yesterday's walk yielded wonderful skies and the pale gold of beech leaves in winter. They rustle gently even when there's no wind.

And then back home on the way to working on the pink/red/hot tapestry frame, a funny thing happened. I came over all dreamy about blues and greens and the shore and the sky and committed this little weaving, 11 by 4.5 inches:

It's made from my homespun and dyed yarn, cashmere from a harvested sweater, and linen yarn from a top I harvested and unraveled in the course of organizing my clothes closet to Freecycle a lot of items that I either don't wear, wrong style, or can't wear, they're way too big, yes an unusual complaint, but two years of unremitting crisis will do that to you.

Anyway, back at the yarn, I had a wonderful time with this weaving, using one of the cardboard looms I made a couple of years back. While I was working on this, I was also musing about the other, much bigger weaving. So I realized afterwards, I have two weaving forms going.

And I found that I can leave one piece and work on another at the same time, then go back to Thing One. The blue piece is probably going to form part of a bigger hanging. I expect once I work on the red piece,

the ideas for the other will start up! no, I'm not -- oh, look a bird! -- distractible. Noooooo.