Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Birthday for our whippet!

Our new whippet leaped into view today, to celebrate Leap Day. As the official dog wrangler of the Ds, NameMe got the honor of bringing him into the parade ring

then bringing him to a shady spot, and posing for a closeup

and introducing him to his peeps

All we need now is a good name for a whippet born on Leap Day. Blogistas, rally round! Oh, and we need to credit Heather C., since a litle part of her gift of wonderful handspun yarn made his body, and another tiny bit of her gift made his red collar!

Ed. note: I keep forgetting to let you know that blogger now has a function where when you click on the first pic in a post, you get a slide show, not hugely enlarged, but okay. To move from pic to pic, click on them. MaryAnn, where are you when I need your help to remind me to keep my act on the road this way??? in joke, MaryAnn having saved me from a couple of bloopers in a little thing I was doing for her the other day. End of ed. note and whine.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Come from Haunts of Coot and Hern, and Crochet Art

Sorry, couldn't resist the quotation, though I can't remember offhand which poet I'm quoting. Literate blogistas are warmly invited to chime in and tell us,though.

Anyway, this is a group of coots I surprised on my walk on the Preserve the other day, local tiny wilderness area, when I went down a narrow path to the edge of the lake, where they were taking baths, why do water birds take baths, in a nice little inlet, hidden by rushes from view.

They took off quickly after they spotted me.

I love coots, aside from their comic name, because they dive and surface where you won't notice them, and they're chunky and toylike, bobbing up and down on the surface of the waves.

Home again, to show you the treasure of crochet I was given via Freecycle the other day. Turns out that, as I thought, every piece really is handmade, some of it virtuoso crochet work, from the older generation of the giver's family. So I'm really happy to honor their work by giving it another surge of life.

Here's one beautiful piece, now under glass on my side table where I sit and watch birds and drink morning coffee.

And here's the group of the rest of it, wonderful stuff some of which I have plans for -- incorporating into wallhangings, creating summer purses, forming into new wallhangings with no further work needed,just to show the wonder of this work.

This is not just the busy work that people used to do, though. This is truly fine work and worth preserving. The family did keep a lot of what they found when emptying a relative's house, and only gave away their surplus. So they did know what they had here, and handled it with respect.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday notes from field and fen and freecycle

These are actual nature notes, for a change, most of my field and fen being all over the place.

The patio continues to be a hub of avian activity, not to mention squirrelian activity. I filled the feeder with a new mix, from Audubon, I think, of fruit bits, nuts and seeds, and now find that the usual suspects have been joined by a whitebreasted nuthatch, very entertaining little guy who always proceeds head down, down tree trunks, usually, in search of insects.

But he, though very unusual for a sighting here, has been showing up daily since I put the new mix out, and I noticed him rummaging through the dropped stuff on the deck to pick out the fruit bits. Evidently they're a hit with his group, because suddenly, gosh, he brought a friend to join in. So now I have them, along with a pair of regularly visiting woodpeckers, downies, and a hairy along with them, too, and a redheaded, most unusual, all noshing on the suet holder, along with the nuthatches,

valiantly teaching themselves to eat from the feeder while hanging upside down from the bottom of it, tricky stuff.

This morning I was woken up by a nuthatch outside my bedroom window running head down, down the stucco, pecking at insects, which is great. If they stick around, they'll help a lot with pests. so my birding started even before I got up this morning.

We have gangs of house finches, those stripy sparrow lookalikes, only they have red heads and chests.

Males have the more vivid coloring, as here.

Females more muted as here

Very aggressive guys, these, and the nuthatch really had to get his timid spirits up to compete at the feeder, but the fruit was even more compelling, and he did it. And the starlings tend to show up in large coach parties..if they were rare we'd exclaim at the sheer wonder of that metallic plumage.

As it is seeing them in the thousands, yelling and shouting, we tend to think oh, them again. This image is impressionistic at best, since there was changing light and a window to contend with. But you get the gist.

And our resident male cardinal

put in an appearance. Mrs. Cardinal and he rarely show up together, who knows why, but she'll probably be along later.

This shoot took place after I got back from another freecycling adventures, this time to rescue a bag full of handmade crochet items, now in the gentle cycle in the machine, and I'll show them once they're ready for their close-up. I do like people who realize that handwork is worth at least giving another chance to, and was happy to venture out in search.

One of the odd things about this state, uberpopulated, most cars per mile on the entire continong, is that there are still odd little remote pockets a stone's throw from Route One, now a six lane highway complete with road rage. This particular place I actually missed the first time, since you have to believe your instructions and slow down when they tell you. Well I did, but not enough, so I had to go around and take another try.

This time I succeeded, and found myself on a kind of farm track, completely invisible from the highway, dirt road winding through the woods, to my turn, another dirt road winding through the woods, with here and there very new large deck houses in view, probably invisible once the trees leaf out, amazingly remote and quiet well, it will be as long as they don't pave the road! and next to the place where I was to do the pickup was a wonderful moss garden, hills and slopes and steps and pathways all brilliant emerald, wonderful stuff, probably perfect for woodland gardens, and a great surprise to come upon like that.

All in all, there's more to freecycling than just giving and getting items. There's experience thrown in, too.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

If you didn't get to Westminster this year, bring it to you!

Aside from serious adventures in fiberart, for which go here I definitely have to get into silly stuff, and here's the latest treat: Knit your own dog!

excellent pictures, nice patterns, and knowledgeable about dogs, too.

What I liked so much is that it's set up like Westminster, the big national dog show in the US, with the different groupings: hounds, nonsporting, working, etc., hilarious, and there's a parade of finished dogs there, too. I can't quite decide who to knit first. But this is a treat waiting for me since finishing Penguin Pete a while back.

Nobody to mention this to the Dollivers, who will all vote on a different dog then want one each. Nor to Elton who's not sure if he likes dogs really. They tend to bark when he's working on his arpeggios and put him off.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Accidental art around my field and fen

Mild day, amazing in February,

which left little choice but to leave all the stuff I planned on doing indoors and hie on out into the sunshine to walk and gawp and take pictures of vignettes that just appeared, no help from me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Breakthrough, another first, a good one

I'm still bumping against things I'm doing or managing for the first time since HP's death, usually upsetting ones, like tonight with HS, having a pizza to celebrate our getting my cellphone operational again, I automatically went for the pizza wheel to cut a slice into little squares for HP,sheer force of habit. Then remembered I didn't need to now.

But today I can report an exciting good first, for a change. As you know, I switched into fiber arts in a serious way in order to continue making art but bringing it into the living room, where he could see and watch and enjoy, and have my company, while I could know how he was at all times, and there were no fumes or concern about work that could not be picked up and put down at will. I had many interruptions, but as long as I could refocus, the work was fine with it.

This involved teaching myself to spin and card and make tapestries, and then I got into knitting and crocheting large wallhangings. But since his death I have been unable to make any of that artform at all. My knitting has been strictly useful, nice socks and that kind of thing. The other had too much weight for me to deal with.

Yesterday, though I suddenly realized I can do this again. I broke through without even noticing it. And today I almost finished a new wallhanging, knitted in heavy twine, knotted and braided, and with a handmade molded paper head completing the concept.

I'm so glad that I could get into this and even make a new,different, hanging. In terms of recovery, this is huge, so even in its incomplete state (the needle it hangs on is one of the pair I knitted it on, will be replaced by a dowel, the braids and curls will have a heavy handmade bead probably at the ends. And maybe I'll color the head a little) I thought you'd like to see it 90 per cent done anyway! I'm so glad this happened.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Chairs and the Tiger

As always reading goes on apace, but the two items that struck me most in the last few days were so different in their viewpoints that they are worth looking at together. One is The Chairs are Where the People Go by Misha Glouberman, ably assisted by Sheila Heti, the other is the best selling Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.

Tiger Mother was the current book club choice, not one of mine, but I read it diligently, and was amazed that anyone emerged from her parenting approach. Aside from my dismay at her making sure the reader knew of her own ancestry and her own achievements, perhaps this is a cultural difference, where self praise is considered a bit of a disgrace, I stayed the course through her philosophy that it's not enough to do your best. You have to do better than anyone else's best! She claims that true enjoyment only comes from being the best. But she does later admit she has not much idea how to enjoy life, really.

What's sad is that she drove her gifted musician daughters to the point where, with achievements all in place, one of them has pretty much given up the idea of a life in music, despite enormous talent, far beyond, I suspect, what her mother could understand. Her notion is that hard work is absolutely everything. She really has little idea of the notion of creating, which requires breathing space and thoughtful attempts without judging every step. But I'll look forward to hearing what other group members have to say about this. And I wonder if she is simply stating what a lot of parents secretly think but don't write books about. Not this parent, but I'm guessing there are other driver parents out there very much like her.

In terms of music,the notion of just working harder and harder may make for great technical skills, but, alas, that's only a part of making music. Understanding it as a language, and realizing that what's printed on the page is only a suggestion as to what the piece is about, that is more instinctive than learned, and doesn't get better the more you hammer on it.

Then, total contrast, comes Misha Glouberman's book, The Chairs are Where the People Go, How to live, work and play in the city, which was dictated to his colleague Sheila Heti, who pretty much presented it as is, since he's such a fluent thinker and speaker he needs almost no editing. And he is seriously worth reading. His ideas about a range of topics are riveting.

I didn't agree with them all, but I loved how honestly he approaches things like living in the city (he lives in Toronto) and how urban improvement seems always to favor the young, affluent, bicycle riders, since they are the ones with the leisure to push for their ideas and the education to speak up for them, without realizing that if they drive out all the little messy businesses and general life of the city, they will impoverish, not improve it.

And he talks about teaching seemingly totally pointless things like how to play charades, and as you read you realize that he's giving you an enormous extended metaphor for living a spontaneous and great life, simply playing the hand you're dealt. He does believe in doing a good job at all times, and expects his class participants or audience to do likewise, but not at the cost of feeling a failure if one other person does better than you.

And how he'd already graduated from Harvard before he realized that the Ivy degree is not about learning and the love of it quite as much as it's about setting up your social network for the rest of your life. At least, as long as you stick around the east coast of the US.

He also gives a wonderful insight when he discovers, in the course of a local government negotiation, that there can be something better than winning. You have to read this for yourselves, don't want to spoil it.

I'd like to see him and Chua on a panel discussion, and see what they might learn from one another. Yes, I'd like that a lot.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Not wanting to get pie on this piece

I finished and stretched the color experiment batik piece, and if you are interested in seeing it, please don't drop pancakes on it, go here

Boudian Cherry Pie

In the US it's Presidents' Day, national holiday on Monday, celebrating Lincoln and Washington. Many years ago, when Handsome Son was little, I used to be sure and make a cherry pie for Washington's Birthday, symbolic food. That was when L and W each had their own birthdays celebrated.

Then the PTB in Washington decided it would be better, probably better for the retail trade, to combine them, dragging Lincoln kicking and screaming into Washington's birthday party and making him pretend it was okay really. Just shows who rated in Washington. Well, I guess the W. lobby was stronger. Or maybe the cherry pie contingent.

Anyway, cherry pie time is here, and you know how it is, if you live alone and bake a cherry pie, unless you have recipients all lined up ahead of time, you will certainly scoff the lot, and you might as well apply it directly to your hips.

And another thought occurred to me, that, this year, on Tuesday, right after the cherry pie caper, comes Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras. When you make pancakes to use up all the fats and good stuff in the house before the start of Lent when you fast and abstain from everything that makes life worth living for forty days. At least that was the original idea of Shrove Tuesday. It also was when you went to confess your sins ahead of Lent, so as to be shriven of them, the other meaning of the name. So you got shrove, then you came home and pancaked out.

What with one thing and another, since HS grew past the age of needing a cherry pie, and other things intervened stopping me from making pancakes for Pancake Tuesday for the last few years, I've been thinking, hm, self, you deserve a couple of nice pancakes. But self says, well, are you just going to ignore the cherry pie motif altogether then? a nice thing, when the father of your country, first in war, first in peace, first into the cherry pie, doesn't get a look-in. Self thought for a moment and said I have a solution.

It's the Boudian cherry pie. Frozen berries, made into a sauce, over pancakes, to be eaten any old time over the next few days. Thereby saving the honor of both the pie and the pancake at a stroke. So here are the advance preparations for this big event.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Knitting in cotton and wire and other hazards

More embroidery on paper looms in my future, I suddenly realize, when I innocently looked over an abaca fiber wall piece that now I think could use a whole new way of seeing things. These things just fall on you, I guess. That would be on paper, not on paper looms, in case that syntax baffled you back there.

Meanwhile, to stave that one off until I have time to think about it a bit, at least to the extent of figuring out how to get at it to stitch, small technical problem, I've finished up and framed, or rather stretched, something totally different. A knitted piece, about a fishnet full of fish, metaphors abound, but I won't literally aim them at you! anyway, if you'd like to see, go here

I realize that everyone reading in here is not necessarily a deadmad artist or art follower, but if you are, enjoy!

Last night was music, with early Baroque pieces conducted by a terrific leader and teacher, who's a solo performer herself, so there's not much she doesn't know. Even when I don't feel like going out at night, it's always great to have gone and had a good time, which I do. Big bonus this year is that we haven't had any weather cancellations at all so far, amazing considering we were thinking about abolishing winter meetings because of road hazards and bringing aging members and conductors over icy terrain to be there. I think that suggestion may have been shelved for the moment.

In case any US blogistas are recorder players and wonder about joining a local ARS chapter to meet and play, they're very friendly people, never had a bad experience, and all the work is sight reading -- the conductor brings it on the night, and you play along. But even beginners are very supported, those of us who've been playing longer playing on their line with them to help if necessary. That's what other players did for us when we began, and we continue to pay it forward.

Also ARS is very generous to good players who are budgetarily challenged. I was lent instruments at first until I could afford to buy my own, to make sure I really liked them. And I've been awarded scholarships to three day workshops which would have been beyond my means, because I was a serious player in several groups, and they like to keep the early music going. Generous group.

It works both ways, though, since I've been librarian for the group, involving housing boxes and boxes of music chez moi and making them available, and I've been the photographer for the group on request. It's so good to be able to get back there now after years of being there in spirit only! and they kept my place for me, were very welcoming, as if I hadn't been away more than five minutes. This is one of the advantages of an aging group -- to them the last few years have flown by like five minutes, anyway!

Well, I wasn't thinking of writing a commercial spot for ARS, but I seem to have anyway!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TAST Week Seven Lazy Daisy

I had already used this quite a bit, so I finished the big silk panel, now all three parts joined into one, and showed some detail showing this stitch, here

Every time I make a link, I thank Mary Anne!! Just to confuse the issue totally, regularly reading and sometimes commenting on this blog are a MaryAnn, a Mary Anne, a Marrianne, a Marian, and maybe more I haven't included here. Just pick out the one you know you are!! and in fact all of them have given me terrific computer tips one time or another.

My Silly Valentines

The Dollivers plunged into the crate of freecycled fabric and decided they all wanted a dress that looked like candy, so they got their wish. Different styles, of course, never do to look too much alike.

And Elton, who has now got into the swing of things, put in a work order for a new brocade hatband and cloak, and took custody of the glass hearts I received as part of a lovely Vday gift,which he arranged on his piano in a porcelain dish. Only the best.

So, suitably attired, he graciously played cabaret piano for us all. Complete with My Funny Valentine, Lullaby of Broadway, Anchors Aweigh, the British Grenadiers -- his repertoire is somewhat limited but nonetheless heartfelt.

And since Valentine's is about friendship, everyone here wishes everyone out there a happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Don't call me, I'll call you...

Back at the ranch, technological challenges abound. My old cellphone was clearly reaching the end of her days, having served me well for several years beyond the expected lifetime, and since Handsome Son had upgraded his to something quite posh, he offered me his old one which was still considerably more posh than my little old pioneering steam driven one. You're supposed to be able to transfer your number and the minutes you already bought to another phone. In principle.

We will draw a veil over the cellphone site's inability to build a website that works, and the hours of time and cs calls HS, himself a computer whiz, and patience personified, had to make.

And now we have the situation where the old phone is disabled, able only to make emergency calls, which is fine, because I plan to donate it for that purpose. The new to me phone now has my minutes and number on it. So far so good, only took several hours of clicking and banging. But it refuses to activate. The account tells me it's active. The site says it's active. But the phone refuses to do anything. Lights on, no-one's home. Funny, I thought the government had a lock on handling people this way...the hard part for HS is that he knows websites and building them, and he can analyze just why this one isn't working very well, adding to the annoyance of feeding it the same information over and over getting only a tiny bit ahead each time..

So here I sit, without any form of phone other than the lovely new one of HS's which he lent me, since it's my only link. Dangit. He will try once again, at his home where there's a landline, to get cs and see if they can undo whatever's not working at their end.

I can only hope that I will one day have a phone that works. One fortunate thing was that I thought of copying all my saved numbers onto a card, which won't crash, a 3x5 card, that is, because they vanished shortly after I did it...of course I can't actually call anyone. Anyway, this is to make sure anyone who might otherwise be calling me be aware that they need to email instead!

Poor me, reduced to the bare necessities of life, a working computer with connections, and a borrowed top of the line cellphone, it's hard.

Several of my friends have had dramatic computer crashes in the last couple of weeks, and at the bank today, their printer quit in the middle of trying to produce a certified check for me, but after the teller had belted it a couple of times and unplugged and replugged, it grudgingly gave me my check. I wonder if Mercury is in retrograde.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mini books, or waste not, want not

After the monotype demo, I brought home the pieces I'd created just to show some techniques, and made them into miniature artist books.

These are very simple to make: each is a folded sheet,starts out about 8 x 5, with a single cut,then, rearranged and organized and stitched in my favorite pamphlet stitch, makes a nice little artist book.

Just a fun thing to do that didn't tax the brain! Origami meets printmaking.

In the middle of this totally inconsequential activity came two nice ladies to the door asking politely if they might speak to me about Armageddon. Irony abounds.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

One Snowdrop, Spring Everywhere!

Not original with me, but adapted from an ancient zen master saying, and reflecting the dazzling display of one and a bit snowdrops on the patio this morning!

Been stitching again, after making quite a few little artist books out of my monotype samples, well that involved stitching, too, but a more serious work has been under way, and if you're interested in exploring and listening to me droning on about it, go here

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monotype madness

Tonight I ran a workshop on monotype making for the local artists' association, and put up a little gallery exhibit of my own work over the years in monotype,

just to show the various ways you can do this.

Our time was limited, so we stuck to black and white, on copy paper, but there was some wonderful artwork, either despite or because of the limitations. It was great fun, since everyone was mad keen and whipping out work left and right. Full house, fourteen students, approximately twice as many as I'd expected, but we'd planned for more.

For me, bittersweet, nobody at home to help me through the crisis of nerves I always have before a teaching gig, nobody at home to help me decompress when I got home. Still in that first year, so many firsts to get through. But it worked so well, it was worth it! so long since I've been free to teach a workshop, it was like coming home to my people!

Setting up ahead of time

Artists deep in consultation and production

Now folding their completed work up in newspapers,classic way to get it home safely without smudging.

And now the group wants to bring their completed work back next meeting to show what they did and what more they've added to it. What have we unleashed?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ancient and Modern

I am not one of your cutting edge tech types. This is my third computer in over 20 years. And I'm on my third cellphone, largely owing to the first two's having been in expensive contracts which didn't stop them from dying on me...then the pay as you go tracfone came into my orbit and I seized on it.

I'm not a big phone user, largely because, as anyone else with a hearing disability will know, the telephone is an instrument of high anxiety. Some voices are clear and easy to follow, others might as well be talking in ancient Sumerian. It all depends on the range of the voice, since I'm missing just a few areas of pitch,damage from childhood measles. I do a lot of lipreading in normal life and most people probably have no idea I have a hearing loss, unless they turn away while they're talking and I have to ask them to start over. Or if they move something and the competing sound not only drowns out what they're saying now, but garbles what they said right before then.

Anyway, it's all very manageable, and when I get a phone I like, I hang onto it. The cell was vital during HP's long illness, for numerous medical specialist calls, being more useful than a landline, I hung onto it.

At this point my ancient tracfone is starting to falter a bit, and I had the opportunity to accept HS's castoff phone. This eventually happens, that parents start to get their offspring's hand me down, or hand me up, items, and very handy it is. This one in particular is geared better to international calls, which apparently my old one didn't like so much.

HS assured me it would be the work of a moment to transfer my minutes and days and number to the new (to me, old to him) phone, and set about doing so at the tracfone website. And found that my phone is so old it doesn't even register on the website any more, and it required the intervention of a human being to do the transfer.

Which he gallantly did this afternoon, waiting and waiting and listening to recorded assurances that his call was important to them, while the operators finished their round of golf, while I embroidered my latest wallhanging, to see which go here

We needed to be at his house, where there's a landline, as well as his new and my old phones. And finally a human took down the name rank and serial number, and will MAIL me the necessary document to allow us to go on line and complete the transaction. Low tech solution. So with any luck, I will end up with a phone that does all kinds of things I don't need, in addition to making vital calls which I do need.

My main concern is whether it will fit into my little cellphone purses I have been be continued once the magic SIM (I thought that was a computer game) card has arrived and we can install the doings.

And my old cell, complete with charger and instruction book, will go the way of other ones, i.e. to the police department to donate to women in danger, so that they can make emergency calls if necessary. I used to send them via a friend to the local battered women's shelter, but I don't have that link any more. However it will serve some other woman well, one way or another.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dogs and Their People

Dropping off large sacks of fabric and other useful nice stuff at the thrift store, I looked across at the next parking lot and saw a happy sight: dogs greeting each other while their people greeted each other.

While the humans were shaking hands and hugging, the dogs were wrestling and doing the canine equivalent.

Then they greeted the humans, very politely.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Material Evidence

More tax requirements today -- a late breaking document showed up, way late for filing, but oh well, it just arrived in the mail, no excuse for the investment house which did it late, actually they were so sloppy over the years I pulled out my tiny account from them last year in annoyance, and forgot I'd done it. Particularly since they failed to send me quarterly returns showing it.

But now I've filed Amended Tax Returns for fed and state. Not too onerous once I got over finding that these guys hadn't notified me, about this item from last July, which,you will remember was about the hospice period for HP, and financial concerns being far from my mind at the time and definitely blotted out since. Anyway, I think finally it's done. For now! until someone else has a bright idea...

However, the universe also had a wonderful gift in store too, a great freecycle offer of fabric, a fraction of which you see here. I am going to donate a ton of the rest of it to the thrift store, wonderful stuff for making little girls' outfits, great novelty fabrics for quilters too, I guess, not useful to me, but no doubt will be seized on by moms and crafters, various other items in colors I'm not into, the donor being big into fuchsia.

But I retained this crate of pieces that will be variously: embroidery backings, frame backings, scarves for moi, goods for Dolliver duds, full of sequins and sparkle. Not pictured here is an end roll of sparkling satin, good for all kinds of purposes, ranging from picture backings to artist book making, to who knows what else. I put everything through a medium dryer with a dryer sheet, which rendered them very fresh and ready to handle.

It's beginning to look as if my summer exhibit will be more embroidery than anything else, at this rate. I'm a helpless prawn on the tides of fate, a prawn, I tell you.