31 May 2007

I'm sorry.. I'd like to return this week..

.. it was too short. :/

Long weekends on both ends - one with nothing doing and the other to be spent traveling and attending workshops - sandwiched three straight days of 9-4 meetings this week. I think that's grounds for declaring it defective and demanding a new one.

There were some good things, though, I s'pose. Like the fact that my tablet is not completely hosed (the blue screen of death was caused by a corrupted wireless driver which has since been fixed and which has resulted in my wireless connection being significantly more stable). And the tomatoes and basil plants arrived this week (and will be planted tomorrow and left to the care of my husband until I return late Wednesday evening):

even if the basil is.. well.. dead:

(Yes, I'll be contacting the company to either get new plants or a refund.)

And I forgot to print the sock pattern for my Sockapalooza pal's socks (which isn't quite the end of the world since I still need to finish the second toe-up sock, but it will not last through an entire 5 day conference).

27 May 2007


Right then.. It's summer (I'm told most people consider Memorial Day weekend the "official" start of summer; for me (and I'd guess most of us in academia) it's the start of summer term, about a week after commencement) and that means it's time to read. Several weeks ago I posted about the books I wanted to read this summer. Some of you may recall that I finished Ghost Map shortly after that post, and Leaving Atlanta quickly followed. So that means Eat Pray Love was next, so without further ado..

I don't think I've intentionally been putting off writing about this one - I have legitimately been busy and traveling and then there was the small matter of my laptop deciding not to boot for a couple days - but I admit to still being a bit unsettled about it. The book is divided into 3 sections - Italy, India, and Indonesia - and is the author's (Elizabeth Gilbert) narrative of her recovery and rediscovery of herself throughout her year of travels. Ms. Gilbert's writing style is very engaging and the opening of the book was immediately gripping; I felt like she was writing from inside my head, which is a bit misleading - I'm not now nor have I ever been in the situation she describes, but I could viscerally identify with the emotion.

And I stayed more or less an emotional voyeur throughout Italy. In India, Richard from Texas jumped out of the pages, living and breathing. We all need a Richard from Texas. My lasting impression of India was that it went by so much faster than Italy. I never went back to actually figure out if there were fewer pages, or if it was just that because of the relative lack of "terrain" covered compared to Italy, it seemed so. But Indonesia.. Indonesia is where I started to emotionally disconnect with Ms. Gilbert. I still can't quite identify which part of Indonesia caused me to pull away - and I don't want to give too much away by listing the options for those who still want to read it - but there was definitely something distancing in Indonesia. And while I still enjoyed the book through to the end, it wasn't a book that left me wanting more.

Which I think is okay, and it rather nicely illustrates the point of the book - a journey to identify yourself. In the end, Ms. Gilbert found herself, and even though I can identify with where she started, and even several of the steps and stages she went through on her journey, in the end she arrived at herself and she and I - and everyone else - are on different paths to different destinations.

And that dovetails quite nicely into Yann Martel's The Life of Pi, which is about a journey of a different sort. Judy G. asked if I liked it; and I did. But not being Canadian means that I'm mostly unaware of the media lovefest surrounding Martel at the moment. Yes, the book was highly acclaimed in the US when it was first released, but that was some time ago and I think it's one of those flash-in-the-pan books for the fickle American readership - it was all the buzz for a few months and now it's available in most half-price book stores on clearance for a couple of bucks (which is, in fact, where I picked up my copy). Which is really neither here nor there, other than to explain that I probably tend toward contrarianism when it comes to the hot new author as well and typically end up working back around to that once-must-read a few years later and get to make my judgement about the story.

And, as I mentioned, I did like The Life of Pi. It was.. real enough without being too much of a stretch. As an allegory, it's subtle enough to skip over if you want to just plow through the story for the sake of a decently told story. And even though they mess with your head a bit at the end, I still liked it even though I'm not sure I'm going to bother to probe, even for my own edification, the depths of the allegory. *shrug*

I'm now about half way through Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (who is also the author of The Virgin Suicides), which I picked up in the Denver airport because I forgot to pack The Life of Pi. It was a book recommended by one of our campus librarians and one I'd glanced at a few times in the past year or so, but never bothered to pick up to read the synopsis. It's not about what I thought it would be, and I have to say that it's not really about (at least so far) what I thought it was after hearing it described. Middlesex is purportedly about the life of a modern hermaphrodite; so far, though, it's mostly about the family history of a modern hermaphrodite, starting with his Greek grandparents in their remote Turkish village and their flight from the burning of Smyrna to 1920's Detroit. It's an interesting story packed with a lot of issues in addition to the probable most obvious one - racial tension in both Turkey and Detroit; immigration; prohibition; guilt; religion - but written so that you don't get beaten over the head with any of them. Unfortunately, because it touches on so much, it can be a bit much for bedtime reading at times, but I won't hold that against it. *smile*

26 May 2007

Plans for the long weekend.

I've been traveling most of this week - Denver Sunday evening through late Tuesday and then Madison Wednesday and Thursday - and while it's been a productive and useful week, I'm very glad not to be traveling again this weekend (especially because I only get seven days at home before I'm off again to Kansas City for six!).

Sometime today I need to run into town to deliver some games to our Garden Gurus, the male half of which will be chaperoning a class of pre-teens on a trip to our nation's capital next week. They're taking the train and, knowing how hard it can be to keep preteens occupied for a long trip, MGG (Male Garden Guru) asked if we could loan them some of our board games. We've sort of collected quite a few, thanks in large part to some friends who have come to spend the last three New Year's Eves with us playing games, and this is just a sampling of what we're sending along for their trip:

Starting on the top left and going what will end up being more or less counter-clockwise: Phase 10, Peasantry, Queen's Necklace, Rook, Carcassonne: The Castle, Carcassonne (original with a couple expansions), Ticket to Ride, Tsuro, double 12 dominoes, the 1910 expansion for Ticket to Ride, and Monkeys!. I tried to pull a selection that would allow for some smaller groups (The Castle, Tsuro, and dominoes can be played with two people) as well as larger groups (Tsuro can go to 8, but most of the rest top out around 5 or 6). I'm contemplating sending Mystery of the Abbey, but I'm a bit worried it might just be a bit too complex for the average pre-teen. And while we have Settlers of Catan and two of the larger expansions, as well as the expansion for 5-6 players, I think it just has too many little pieces that could too easily get lost on a train (and technically, so does Ticket to Ride, but I can't resist sending game about trains along on a train trip!). Similarly, the Catan card game and Jambo (both two player games) are staying home (though I admit that the Catan card game is staying mostly because we just picked up the expansions from Pegasus Games while we were in Madison and haven't had a chance to play it ourselves yet; we also just got Guillotine, which is also staying here for the same reason.) Yes.. we like good games and our friends know it. *smile*

When I drop off the games, I've been invited to peruse the GG's garden for anything that I'd like to add to my own. I already know that I want to get some balloon flower from them, and hopefully some of the small Japanese irises. And some garlic chives (which I think Jack actually already got and just need to be planted). If the weather clears up tomorrow or Monday, I'll likely go plant the seeds for the vegetable garden (I don't want to plant them and then have a thunderstorm roll in right away for fear the seeds will flood out and all clump in one place).

I also plan to round out the packages for the summer swaps I'm doing. I sat down last Saturday before I left and ordered a bunch of stuff for my spoilees and was quite pleased that it all arrived by the time I got home:

I won't go into detail on what's all there just in case one of my spoilees happens to drop by and figure things out (and there are some things that were intentionally kept out of this picture because I was worried they'd be too easily identified by their intended recipients!), but I will say that it's going to be hard to let some of this stuff go! There are just a few finishing touches needed for each of them, and of course, I still need to knit my sockapalooza pal's socks, but I have a couple months for that still.

In the meantime, I finished the first of the toe up socks:

I didn't really use a pattern, but the yarn is Lorna's Laces in Buck's Bar and I just worked the leg until I ran out of yarn. As I realized how tall these were going to be, I added in some calf shaping, which I think turned out pretty well considering I made it up as I went along!

(Thank goodness for Blogger's new auto-save feature! I just accidentally clicked on a shortcut in my menu bar and thought I'd lost this entire post.. Whew!)

And as long as the weather stays chilly and storm-threatening, I snuck a skein of Louet Euroflax in Lilac in with the orders for my spoilees so I can snuggle in and watch a movie (we got both Babel and Pan's Labyrinth from Netflix while I was gone) while making a couple washcloths (modified from the hand towel pattern from Mason-Dixon Knitting) for the upstairs bathroom.

I'm admittedly a bit torn because I'd really love to make hand towels for the new bathroom as well, but the Euroflax is a bit spendy. I've checked out KnitPicks new CotLin, though, and I think I could make a couple hand towels with the Linen colorway using the Royal Plum for accents that would work well and would come in around $7.50 per towel instead of the $20 it would be if I used Euroflax. And if they turn out well, I might just make some for gifts, too.. I know at least a couple folks who have done bathroom remodels lately!

Oh, and sometime soon I need to do a book post. I finished Eat, Pray, Love a few weeks ago, and since have also finished The Life of Pi and started Middlesex. And I picked up a couple new books while in Madison as well - Tayari Jones's The Untelling (you knew this one was coming, right?) and Gabriel Garcia Marques's One Hundred Years of Solitude. The stack on my bedside table doesn't seem to be getting smaller, but I couldn't be happier at having so much good literature to read!

18 May 2007


I might have mentioned here (or I might not have, I don't remember) that my knitting mojo lately has been mostly absent. I have a pair of toe-up socks that is sort of languishing, as is the Blue Willow cardigan, and mostly I'm okay with that. I've been busy doing other things and I know it will come back sooner or later.

In the meantime, though, last weekend I realized that the answer to my snapping lead lines on my tablet weaving loom was yet-another-fiber-hobby: my lucet. Lucet cord is what I use to lace my bodices, and goodness knows that if the cord can withstand the tension of that, it could certainly put up with my tablet weaving tension.

And it does. Quite nicely, in fact. Which means that I'm once again fiddling about with some tablet weaving. I need to do this more often so that I no more about what I'm doing wrong and how to fix it. For instance, at the moment, the lines in my chevrons are feathered, and I think that's because some of the cards are a quarter turn off, or because some of them are threaded backward (don't worry if this doesn't make sense.. it's okay), but I don't know enough yet to know whihttp://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=16435420ch and I don't have the patience to fiddle with it until I find the right answer. So I'm putting up with feathered chevrons, and really, I'm okay with that.

In the meantime, I panicked a few weeks ago when I realized I'd signed up for no fewer than 3 summer swaps. Fortunately, I'm a bit less panicked now (but I am still just a tiny bit worried that Gnorm or Gnuman will show up while I'm in Kansas City the first week of June!) and I think I even have the yarn for my Sockapalooza IV pal *and* the pattern picked out. I'm pretty excited about the pattern.. it'll be my first pair of Cookie A socks, I think, and I love that they're toe up so I can use all the yarn in each skein without worrying about running out.

Unfortunately, the swap I'm feeling the most out-to-sea about is the one that will happen first. I'll think I'll be okay, I just need to either find somewhere online that has a really good selection of dyed roving or a really good shop that has a good selection. I have what I'm looking for in mind, at least in terms of color, but I haven't managed to track down a supplier for what I'm looking for.

11 May 2007

Let's round out the week with some righteous indignation..

This is why gay and lesbian couples should be afforded the same legal marital rights as heterosexual couples.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Minneapolis woman should have visitation rights with the two children she and her now-estranged lesbian partner adopted when they were still a couple.

Nancy SooHoo had faced losing all contact with the 11- and 6-year-old girls, whom she said still call her "mommy," and her attorney said the court's decision is good news for gay parents who have struggled for legal parental rights.

SooHoo and Marilyn Johnson had been a couple for almost two decades when they adopted the infant girls from China in 1997 and 2001, but Johnson became the sole legal guardian because the Chinese government wouldn't allow gay couples to adopt.

When the couple split in 2004, Johnson was left as the only legal parent of both girls.
Yes, Ms. SooHoo will still get to see her kids. No, even though she and Ms. Johnson adopted the children together after having been "a couple" for "two decades", a legal technicality means Ms. SooHoo doesn't actually get joint custody. She's not, in the eyes of the courts or the law, their mother.

Yes, divorce is ugly, even moreso when there are children involved. But even though the divorce rate is reportedly down from a peak in the early-80's, it still seems to be that around 40% of first-time (need I even state that these are only heterosexual?) marriages end in divorce. The courts would never think to consider one of the adults in those families not legally a parent to their children, even if the children had been adopted. Not one, not ever.

Because marriage and civil union is not legal for most of the country, there are no similar statistics for gay and lesbian families, but the law of averages being what it is, my guess is that it's about the same. It might even be lower because of the strength of will and determination it takes in many areas of the country to declare yourself married to someone of the same sex - arguably you'd think about jumping into a gay or lesbian marriage maybe a little harder than it seems some heterosexual couples think about it - but again, no statistics, so all we can do is speculate. (I won't even really go off on the whole "if it were recognized, we could actually track things like this and make decisions based on *gasp* actual data" line..)

10 May 2007

With a little help...

.. from my friends and family (all pictures are clickable thumbnails; click them to load a bigger version):

The yard is, effectively, complete now. We picked up the last two bushes (wine & roses weigela) from a local nursery and planted them Monday. We did the bulk of the mulch on.. um.. Tuesday? I think, and put in the accent bits - the shepherd's crook with the bird feeder and hanging basket of johnny-jump-ups (okay, okay, I know they're really violas), the plant stand with three gerber daisys, and the fire-pit-turned-bird-bath*. I think I strung the twine for the morning glories to climb on Tuesday too.. might have been a different day, though. Now things just need to grow.

The raised beds are now about half full of dirt, with a few more barrow-fulls to get added to each one.

I'm a little concerned that the dirt won't be deep enough in some spots (we threw in some brick edgers that were lying around in the yard unused to try to help with drainage in the beds, but that may have been a mistake because the soil over them is a bit thin now), but it's fixable, so it's not a deal-breaker. The last of the dirt will hopefully get moved tomorrow - I had to stop Tuesday when I couldn't lift the shovel anymore and my right elbow has been decidely cranky since then from the overuse and abuse; since there's no real rush, I took a few days off from shoveling to let it rest and heal up a bit. I'll likely start getting the seeds and plants planted next week - the tomatoes and other live plants from Burpee are expected to arrive on the 15th (except the Walla Walla sweet onions, which are already here).

The crowning glory of the week, though, is the bathroom. Here is the finished tile floor:

And this is what it looked like yesterday:

It's gorgeous. It represents a fair amount of sweat equity - mostly my dad's, but there's also enough of mine in there for me not to feel *too* guilty - but oh, boy, has it been worth it. We finished the last of the trim & got the heating vent in today, so here it is, more or less finished:

We still need to pick up a linen shelf/cabinet for the near corner, and we're looking for a corner medicine cabinet, but will likely have to built that to spec. The window - which until now was effectively blocked by the &#$%(@#*@& plywood that they used to back the &#*%&@#$) shower - needs another coat of polyuerethane and a blind, but I'll gladly get that installed as a final farewell to the ugliness that used to be there (as seen below):

And I realized yesterday as we were hanging the washcloth ring and the hand towel rack that I really rather desperately need some new washcloths! Up to now, all my bathrooms have been a variation on hunter green, so most of my towels and washcloths are darker colors that just don't look right in the new bathroom. They're also all at least 4.5 years old - the newest having been wedding gifts - so it's definitely time! I might have to hunt around for some linen yarn to make a few..

*The fire-pit was thrown by the woman I got my pottery wheel from, out of raku clay, and bisqued; she was moving to Florida and couldn't take it with her and asked if I could test it out for her. Unfortunately, we can't have an uncovered fire in our yard, and the piece is too large for us to pack safely when we go to events, so it's never been tested. However, lining it with a large plant tray and putting some leftover tile bits under and in the tray makes it a more or less effective bird bath. *shrug*

07 May 2007


We've had a busy - and at times back breaking - weekend here in our little corner of Minnesota. Dad is here again this week, so we're working on finishing up the garden preparations as well as getting the bathroom finished. The weather held out - cloudy and not too hot - for the weekend, so we worked mostly on the garden prep.

All four of the raised beds are finished now, and three of them are lined with weed stop around the sides (the fourth will get lined sometime today):

But the biggest change by far is the front yard. I didn't think to take a before picture, but image that the front yard was entirely covered with a variety of different weeds - dandelion, thistle, creeping Charlie, etc. - and was patchy and looked.. tired. Now it looks like this:

It's quite a transformation. It involved cutting the "sod" off the "lawn" - which is far more back breaking than it seems like it should be - tilling the soil under the removed sod, raking it all out even and removing the roots and twigs and other debris, and then laying the weed block, planting and mulching. We obviously didn't get enough mulch, so that's on the list to get more of today, but even as it is it's a *huge* improvement. It will take the plants a few years to really spread out the way we want them, but at this point, the hard work is pretty much complete.

We had a couple near neighbors keeping a close eye on us as we worked this weekend:

Ms. Robin and Ms. Mourning Dove have both nested in the big unknown bush by our front walk. They both seem quite content to let us work around them as long as we don't do anything to threaten their nests. They are, at the moment, the only reason that unknown bush is still standing; it's far too overgrown for the spot it's in and we are planning to remove it and replace it with a mock orange, but the birds beat us to action this spring.

When we first moved into this house, Adam (one of my Garden Guru(tm)s) noticed this small little blue flower that popped up along the side of the house behind the big ugly bushes (which we removed last summer). It was just one lone little flower, though there was another that appeared in the side garden on the other side of the house, too. Yesterday as we were (well, really, as he was) digging through the dirt in that spot to try to remove all the fiddlehead ferns that have invaded, he found it again and dug it up to save. This morning, I found the other one and took a quick picture of it before replanting it by it's friend, along with some Columbine that was also rescued:

I'll bring the picture of the unknown little bulb - which looks like a small, black onion with just itty bitty little roots - up to the Extension office to see if they can help us identify what it is so we can maybe get some more.

Today we're grouting the bathroom tile (we cut and laid the rest of the tile on Saturday) with hopes to be able to reset the toilet by sometime this evening. We also need to run get more mulch and the other two bushes for the front yard, and maybe also the sugar maple for the boulevard. Tomorrow will likely be split between putting dirt (50/50 compost & black dirt, being delivered at 9 a.m.) in the raised beds and getting vegetable seeds started, and getting the vanity in upstairs. I have a feeling Jack and dad will work on the vanity and I'll be out in the garden, at least as long as the weather holds. We also need to get the trim up in the bathroom round the door and window, which will hopefully happen Wednesday, assuming the vanity goes in smoothly.

05 May 2007

Not dead.. just busy.

I figured I'd post to let folks know - especially the folks who've recently pulled my name in one of the three swaps I managed to sign myself up for (really - I can't wait to do them, just not this week) - that I'm not dead, nor have I fallen into a deep dark pit where there's nothing to eat but worms and the occasional squirrel I managed to hit with one of my four remaining (precious) rocks. Work was a bit over the top this past week and this coming week I'm spending working at home - finishing the bathroom and the garden stuff - before running away for the weekend to Fargo (no, that part's not a joke).

To those who have gotten my name - thank you all! I've received all your emails and I promise to fill out questionnaires and respond to any and all questions you might have about my preferences as soon as I can. But first, I really, really need to run off and jot a couple quick emails to those that *I* get to spoil and surprise lest they feel unloved!