Blogtober Past

Blogtober Past

Those monthly blog challenges are always so hard!  I did pretty well, but not as well as I would have liked.  I missed a total of 7 days, most of them unsurprisingly towards the end.  I’m not sure how I managed to miss two days in a row last week.  I just lose all sense of time.  It’s why I have to automate all my bill paying.  Otherwise I think I just paid my bill when it was really three months ago…  Yeah, I’m a mess.

But the itch to blog more regularly is at least there.  As always after one of these things, it won’t be every day, but it will be more often.

And now it’s November.  No matter how tempting Nikki makes it, I am NOT doing Nanowrimo this year (what moron put it in the second busiest month of the year, anyway?)  Although I am going to start collecting ideas and possibly do my own Nano in March.

Instead, my goal this month is to track my eating every day for the month.  I know how important that one simple tool is for weight loss and maintenance, and I have gotten woefully out of the habit.  My weight has been creeping up, so even though this is a major eating holiday month, it’s time for me to get things back under control.  Yesterday’s tracking only proved my point.  I should be eating between 12-1500 calories a day.  Yesterday I had 2200.  Yeah, that’s a little heart stopping.  Time to be a responsible grown-up again.

How Thin the Veil

How Thin the Veil

I’m spending a quiet Samhain this year.  For our family, death is too close.

This past weekend, the kids went with their dad down to Delaware to visit their great aunt, who went into hospice care last week with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  It was a mixed occasion, acknowledging the passing of a truly kind and loving person but also getting to celebrate the family that she leaves behind.  I didn’t go, just because they didn’t need to be dealing with weird vibes of a former family member while dealing with their own grief.  Instead I stayed home and knit, waiting for the kids to get home in case they needed their mom.  They were fine, of course, but still I worried.  I didn’t have to deal with my first family death in any kind of personal way until I was in grad school.  My grandmother passed when I was in high school, but she was a thousand miles away and I didn’t get to go to the funeral, so it wasn’t until my grandfather died that I had to truly face it.

I know there are more funerals coming, though.  For a family the size of my extended family, we have had relatively few passages.  But health and age are creeping up on all of us.  I try to be calm in the face of our mortality, but some days it’s harder than others.

Sal passed into the Summerland yesterday morning, surrounded by her family and knowing she was loved.  That’s about the kindest death can be.

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Guilt

Guilt

In the spring of 2010, we adopted two kittens from the SPCA.

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Normally I prefer to adopt older cats, as it’s harder for them to find homes, but it had been almost 3 years since we’d had any cats, and the kids had never had a kitten, so this one time we made an exception.

We were lucky to find two littermates, who we promptly named Lewis and Clark.  They were so tiny and sweet, but incredibly independent.  As they grew, they developed their own personalities.  Clark was the hunter.  Our mouse problem disappeared as he got big enough to keep them intimidated, and we would occasionally find “gifts” on our back porch.  Lewis was the explorer, always wandering further and further afield.  They were indoor cats for the first year, but once they were old enough and knew where home was, we started to let them have outdoor time.  Lewis became more of an indoor/outdoor cat.  He would insist on going out every morning when we did, then would come home for a few hours before going back out to patrol the neighborhood again, only to come home for dinner and the night.

But time went on, and when they were about 3, the worst happened.  Clark was hit by a car.  I wasn’t home, so Morgan was the one who got the news.  He did a good job of collecting the body, but he was devastated. The kids all took it pretty hard.  We had our traditional pet burial, with everyone sharing a good memory of the pet and asking him to send us our next one.

Lewis took it hard, too.  He seemed….lost.  Like he couldn’t figure out where Clark had gone.  He moved in with Morgan and became pretty much exclusively his cat.  He spent more time outside, even during the winter, really only being in the house at night.

I could understand that, and I’m entirely about letting a cat be a cat.  I’m kind of a laissez faire pet owner.  For me, pets aren’t children.  They’re animals we share space with.  Cats are hunters and explorers, and I respect that.  We tried a couple of times to keep Lewis in, but he managed to escape every time, and it just became too frustrating for both sides, so we let him do what he wanted.

But I wanted a house cat.  Hence our trip this winter back to the SPCA and the adoption of Hudson.  Who has been a great addition to the house, except for one thing.

He and Lewis hate each other.

I’m used to cats not getting along when they first move in together.  In all my past experiences, after a couple of weeks they adjust and, maybe not become good friends, but at least learn to cohabitate.  Not these two.  Lewis would hiss and yowl every time he saw Hudson, and Hudson would sit and stare at him daring him to try anything, or else stalk him, never initiating contact, just always being in Lewis’ space in a “Mom, he’s touching me!” kind of way.

By the time spring came, Lewis had had enough.  He moved out.  Permanently.

For a while he would still come home, but would never come in the house, just camp out on the front porch.  Morgan and Eric set him up a shelter with food and water there, and would go out and give him attention whenever he’d come around.  By mid summer, though, even that had stopped.

We still see him around the neighborhood.  This is a relief in some ways, to know he hasn’t been hit by a car or anything.  He’s neutered, so he’s not adding to the neighborhood population.  But he won’t come near us.  This hurts Morgan the most, to have this cat who was HIS cat run away from him whenever he sees him, especially when Morgan has seen strangers able to approach him.  I also feel bad because we’re responsible for him, even if he won’t let us take care of him.  If we could, I’d like to catch him and try to re-integrate him into the house, but he won’t let us close enough to try.

It’s hard, mourning a cat who’s not dead.  He’s not yours any more, but you can’t mourn him and move on, either.  You just wait.  And think about how you let him down.

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Parenting Success

Parenting Success

The other day I was talking with Morgan about his life goals, and half jokingly I said he should move to Germany to live with his boyfriend.  He looked very serious as he said, “I want to live on my own for a year first, just to know I can do it.  That’s what you always said.”

He repeated it to our family counselor tonight.

I just about burst.  This was something my mother always told us (well, at least me.  I can’t attest for my siblings.), that you needed to know how to take care of yourself so you never felt trapped.  My ex moved right from his dad’s home into mine, and it wasn’t until after we separated that he ever lived on his own.  He said to me a couple months after he moved out, “I wish I’d lived on my own sooner.  There’s so much I don’t know.”

So yeah.  At least one piece of advice will be carried on by the next generation.

I’m pretty chuffed.

Whistlestop

Whistlestop

My strongest sense is smell.  I have so many memories that get triggered by scents, real and imagined.  But every once in a while a piece of music can do that for me, too.  At church on Sunday, the offertory took me back to the summer of 1976, a pretty unexpected mental trip!

I was 9 years old, living in a small little town in the middle of Michigan.  My baby sister had just been born, it was summer, I had a bike, so I pretty much had all the freedom I could ask for.  This was back in the day when kids’ time wasn’t scheduled to the last minute.  My brother and I would ride for miles in all direction.  We’d go to the river a couple of miles north of us to go wading, or out to the Hush Puppy factory to steal bits of leather, or up to the cemetery to race down the giNORmous hill (Ben wiped out more than I did, but I took my falls.)

The biggest thing Reed City had going for it was the fact that it was the crossroads of two railroads, one running north/south and the other going east/west.  It’s how the town got its start.  There were tracks and sidings all over the place.  We learned that if you put a coin on the track, when you went back the next day it would be squished flat.  Much more exciting to do it that way than in one of those crank machines at tourist traps.

But that summer, the tracks brought the Art Train.

I think my dad took me the first time.  It was parked on the siding over behind the Yoplait factory, three beautiful train cars just sitting there.  My family has a long history with trains (my mother’s father was a railway postman), so getting to go on one for any reason was exciting.

But this one was filled with art.  Real art.  Museum quality art.

I wasn’t a complete hick.  We’d been to museums before, but mostly history museums.  I don’t know that I’d ever been to an art museum at that point.  Which of course was the point of the Artrain project, to bring art to smaller communities that didn’t have their own museums.

I was entranced.

The tour started with a movie about all sorts of art, with a backing track of classical music I hadn’t heard before.  Every time I hear Satie, I’m instantly 9 and wide eyed again.

I can’t even tell you now what the pieces were they displayed.  I think there was a Mondrian, and Tiffany glass, and Calder.  I couldn’t tell you what was actually present and what was in that movie.  I can tell you that I rode my bike back there every day for the whole two weeks the train was there, just staring at everything and feeling the world open up for me.

Reed City has of course changed since then.  The Yoplait factory is still there, but in a different location.  The east/west train line is now a rail trail (if we knew it came out near our favorite ice cream parlor, I think Ben and I might have walked along it a lot further than we ever did!).

But to my surprise, the Artrain program still exists.

It was envisioned as a short term project that has now been going on for over 40 years.  I’m so glad.  I hope some other small town kid has the same kind of epiphany I did all those years ago.

I may need to take the kids to the art museum this weekend…

Jack of All

Jack of All

One thing I’ve heard a LOT in the week since coming home from Rhinebeck: “You knit/spin?  Wow, that’s a dying art!”

Well, 6 million knitters might argue with that.  But I get what they’re saying.

But honestly, it’s hardly the only dying art.  So many things that our grandparents took for granted are forgotten skills now. Car repairs, home repairs, small appliance repairs, all these little things we just don’t know how to do in our disposable age.  I don’t remember ever seeing my parents change their car oil or fix a toaster.  Not that they didn’t, I just never saw it, and it wasn’t something they taught me or my siblings.

Today I ran up against one of those things.

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As the weather gets colder, the kids have been nagging me about turning on the heat.  But I refuse to do it until I get all the windows sealed for the winter.  Living in an old house as we do, there are a lot of drafts, especially out all the original windows.  Replacing the windows would be ideal, but totally out of my budget.  Instead I put shrink plastic on them all every fall and hope for the best.  Xander has a tendency to take a sharp edge to the one in his room every year, despite my threats.  The worst offenders are the windows in our back laundry room, though.  I hate these windows, and one of my long term goals has always been to replace them.  One of the windows won’t stay shut properly, and two of the panes have had chunks broken out of them for years now, which have been patched as best as possible with packing or duct tape.  And the frames are so old and peeling so that the tape for the plastic won’t stick to them.  In a “Give a Mouse a Cookie” moment, I decided repainting the frames would at least fix that problem, so I dug out the oil primer, dusted off the frames, pried off some old hardware, and handed Morgan the paintbrush.  As always, a lick of paint made such a difference!  But it made the broken panes stand out even more.  I was going to just seal them up with silicone, or replace them with plexiglass.  Except one pane of plexi that size (12″ by 24″) was $15!!!  So no.  In a fit of “I can do it myself”, I got glass cut the right size, picked up glazing points and window compound and took a stab at it.

Remember, I have never seen anyone do this outside of a home improvement show.

First off I had to get the glass out.  Seemed like the easiest way to do so was to break them and pull the pieces out.  I put on gloves, got a hammer and a dish towel, and gave the first one a whack.  It didn’t break.  WTF?  Tried again.  Bounce.  FIVE TIMES I tried to break it before it actually went.  Who can’t break a window with a hammer?  This girl, apparently.  Because the second one took me 8 goes!!  Ridiculous.  Finally got it all out and pried out the glazing points and most of the dead glazing compound.  Then I painted all the exposed edges with the oil primer and went to make bread.

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Once that had dried, it was time for the scary stuff!  The two windows face opposite directions, so one I could do from the inside, but the other I had to go out on a step stool to place the glass.  I had Morgan come out with me to hold the glass in place while I set the glazing points.  No dropsies!  It was hard to smooth out the glazing compound properly just because of angles and that stupid top window that wouldn’t stay shut, and I’d left just enough of the old compound in that the glass didn’t sit quite flush.  Grumble.  But it was in place and sealed, although I did have to back fill a little from the inside.  The other pane went in easier, as I wasn’t teetering on the top of a step stool.

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Neither were a perfect job, but it’s still better than it was.  I can already feel a difference in there!

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It’s hard sometimes to get the confidence to try to do these things yourself.  They’ve built up such a lot of baggage as being too hard to do yourself.  But don’t be scared.  Just like knitting skills are being preserved on YouTube, so too are repair skills.  Check out a couple of videos and then bravely go forth.

After all, glass is cheap.

The Battle is Real

The Battle is Real

(Yup, missed yesterday.  Oh well, it was almost a perfect month!)

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The Battle of the Five Armies Shawl by AlterLace

This is the shawl that never ends.  Literally.

I started it a year and a half ago.  Although technically it started in July of 2014 when I spun the yarn.  But the cast on date for this bugger was January 15, 2015.  It was supposed to be a test night for a mystery knit along (basically, you get the pattern in sections over time instead of getting the whole pattern at once.)  I did pretty good for the first 4-5 clues, and I think gave good feedback to the designer.  But then Clue 6 was feather and fan stitch.  I’m miserable at F&F.  So finally I put it in time out to think about what it had done.

I didn’t pick it up again until this summer.

Somehow I made it through the F&F but then I started to run out of my handspun.  I had expected I would, so I laid in a stash of black fingering weight to continue on with.  Except I started to doubt my own judgement on the weight of my handspun, so I decided to knit the commercial stuff doubled.  Got halfway through Clue 8 before I accepted that no, this fabric was entirely two dense (and I’d gone through almost 800 yds of yarn with no end in sight) and ripped it all back to my lifeline in Clue 7 and started it over.

Finally got to the latter rows of Clue 9, and I optimistically thought that I might be able to finish it to wear to Rhinebeck.  But no, each lace row is taking me 3 hours (860 stitches per row, beyotch!), so I gave up that pipe dream.

But I am determined.  The end is in sight.  I am committed to doing at least one row a day until it is done.  I only have 8 rows and the bind-off left.

With any luck, I can wear it for Samhain.

(This is a beautiful and well written pattern, despite my whinging.  Check it and AlterLace’s other shawl patterns out on Ravelry.  She keeps promising us a Sherlock themed pattern…)

If Wishes Were Horses

If Wishes Were Horses

I spent a lot of time on my fantasy farm today.

Actually, I was in the office, working as hard as the lingering remains of my cold medicine would allow.  But a part of my brain was at the farm.

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While we were in Woodstock, Nikki and I agreed that we could be very happy living in the Catskills.  Which, as it usually does, led me to look at real estate.  We have a very small budget and very big dreams, but I did find two properties that I really love.  They’re further west than I would like, but they’re both within half an hour of three college towns, which to me means library, culture and food.  The rest is up to us.

So I’ve been thinking about orchard placement, pasture layouts, greenhouse construction, shop colors, all the big and small things that might go into the place.  Being so close to so many schools, we might be able to barter room and board for manual labor, or offer studio or boarding space in exchange for design or animal help.  I even looked up internet providers for both places.

I’m finding that my criteria for the perfect place are expanding over time.  Originally, I wanted a place near the mountains, woods and ocean (which is why we were looking at Maine), at least 5 acres but preferably more, an older house with at least one fireplace, and at least one cool barn.  I have now had to add to that that it has to be int he coverage area of an NPR station and within half an hour’s drive of a UU church, preferably one with some pagan presence, or at least open to it.  As the kids get older, I’m having to worry less and less about schools.  My job, assuming I can keep it, is one I can do from home, and there are people elsewhere in the department who live far away and only telecommute, so there is precedent for it, which means I have to worry about being in a location with job opportunities.  And working from home would work well with the needs of farm maintenance!  People keep warning me about winters in the places I’m looking at.  Dude, that’s WHY I’m looking at those places!  I need decent winters!

Unfortunately, it’s not happening any time soon.  I need to get the kids through school first.  So three more years minimum.  Unless I win the lottery.  If that happens, I’m not waiting.  Well, yeah I am, but I’ll use the three years to do the renovations on the new place so it’s ready when we are.

Of course, I have to buy tickets…

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Blergh

Blergh

I’m still sick, so have a visual flashback of last week.

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signs of a knitter in residence

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Morning tea in one of the two mugs in the cottage. At least it’s a cute one!

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Cool ironwork on the Colony Cafe.

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Looking out over the Catskills. Very Sleepy Hollow.

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We didn’t even notice these carvings at first. So lovely. I’m glad we did!

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Another shot of Betty the tattoo dog. She was a sweetie. For a dog.

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Maxfield Parrish sky.

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One of the many slate walls behind the cottage. Again, very Sleepy Hollow.

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Saugerties Lighthouse. Such a lovely place. The second floor is actually a B&B! (but totally out of my price range…)

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The Festival before the deluge!

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Believe it or not, I didn’t get enough. I need one more skein of each.

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My final haul, not including two bags of soup mix and one jar of … stuff. Kind of a dip, kind of a chutney. Thing. Yummy, though!

Okay, going back to bed now. Bye!