Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey Talk

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. There is so much to be thankful for this year. Friends, family, and beloved pets made it all worthwhile. I'm grateful to have a job that allows me to do good. I'm looking forward to holiday celebrations for the first time in more than a decade. I might even get a tree this year.

My sister and brother-in-law hosted a delicious dinner their home near Milwaukee, WI. We watched football and then A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. I got to snuggle with the nephews, learn more about Thomas the Train, and read books about farts.

Exploring my sister's garden was a treat. The lettuces and Swiss chard are still intact as are most of the herbs. The trees seem so much taller and more numerous in the north. The nearby lake is amazing. The light shocked me the most. By 4:45 in the afternoon, it is as dark as midnight. Most of all, I got to spend time talking to my sister and helping in the kitchen. She's such a good friend, and having her at such distance is a real sadness for me.

Just when I thought it might be okay to go back to Wal-Mart, I heard another sickening story about Wal-Mart pricing practices that are making it difficult for their suppliers to stay in business. So my opinion that Wal-Mart creates poverty was reinforced for the millionth time. If I do buy a tree, it won't be from there.

In unrelated news, my darling kitties were well-cared for by a friend and her daughter. I suspect they were even spoiled. Murphy the Beagle stayed at Mom and Dad's house. Mom laid out some strict rules at the beginning: no dogs on the furniture or bed. Dad reports that by the end of the week, Murphy was not only sleeping on the bed, but his head was on the pillow between Mom and Dad. He sat on the couch with them while they watched movies. Even though they were in good hands, I missed the fuzzy ones something fierce and was happy to see them again. They even let me hug them more than usual when I got back.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No more holes in the wall!

Nearly a year ago, I set about the systematic destruction of my home. Destruction wasn't my goal. The idea was to remove a little wallpaper and put up paint. However, the removal of wallpaper revealed problems that had never been addressed. Some of those issues dated back to the 1930s.

I did enjoy the trip through the layers of wallpaper. Some homeowners preferred paisley and others liked cabbage roses. It was an introduction to them. Most preferred pinks and greens with an occasional touch of silver or gold. The large hole in the wall and the hidden, closet-like room were definitely a surprise.

The sheet rock contractor is an old friend of Dad's. Dad was acting as project manager for questions while I was at work. Murphy the Wonder Beagle stayed with my parents during the renovations. Murphy has been known to zip out the door at the slightest opportunity. I just didn't trust him to behave for strangers. Dad was happy with the situation too since he has wanted a dog for years. He and Murphy went to the hobby shop together, built model airplanes, took naps together and surfed the internet.

A phone call from the contractors to inquire whether I had a black and white dog was quite a surprise. Upon hearing the answer, "No," they said, "Okay, we'll put him outside."

When the contractors arrived to put up sheet rock this week, I came home from work each night to a house that looked progressively more normal. As of today, the walls are ready for paint. The ceilings have sheet rock of the same thickness throughout the house. It even smells new. Not only did they do a great job, but I have the same number of pets at the end as at the beginning of the project.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Knitting and naught

Undoing work goes against my personal credos: 1) it is possible to overthink something; and, 2) just keep knitting. The ruana I'm knitting is officially back to the beginning. This project isn't difficult; however, I haven't knitted much lately and it is a gift. Last week, some of the rows looked odd, and I ripped back several inches. Yesterday, some stitches were off near the beginning. I happened to be a Twist and used the ball winder to frog back to the beginning. It was so much more tidy than winding the ball myself -- almost magical. Today finds the garter stitch border back in place, and the stitches looking quite well-behaved. Deadline: Christmas.

The lack of productivity today was so blissful. Norah, the cat who hid in the basement to avoid the dog all spring and summer, keeps spending more time out in the open. After lunch she climbed in my lap and fell asleep. This hasn't happened since April, and I've really missed it. First I was enjoying it, and then I awakened two hours later with an additional cat and a dog snoring with us. Perhaps moments like this bring me so much pleasure because I prefer to think of myself as a big mammal rather than a human.

The pansies are finally planted with assistance from Murphy the Beagle. Plants look much happier in the ground. I'm not sure what the scientific measure of a happy plant might be, but they perk up, look more erect and sturdy. If the first freeze comes tonight or the big rains, the garden will be ready.

Plans for this evening are leftovers: baked potato, meatloaf, and broccoli. They will be eaten while watching the second half of a documentary about Derrida, called, Derrida. When I stopped watching yesterday, he'd just managed to wriggle out of a question about why philosophers have always pondered love -- he said there was nothing to original to say. The interviewer allowed a graceful change of subject by asking about Plato's interpretation of love. I'd like to think there is something new to say about love, but I haven't managed to disprove this brilliant French man.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Further Observations on Poop

Murphy and I headed back to obedience training this week. Last week I stayed home because my nose was throwing its annual snot fiesta and couldn't be bothered to stop for matters such as dog training. Much like previous weeks, we learned that I am not dominant and the dog doesn't listen. Plus we didn't practice at all because I was in bed due to the aforementioned snot festivities. Scatology was the least of my worries because my nose was out of commission.

At training class, the other owners are so diligent with their dogs. They practice and the dogs listen to them. I've tried chatting with the other owners, but they like to keep their distance. Really, I want to pet the dogs. I'm enchanted with a Cairn terrier who is bright and perky. Another dog looks just like Lady from Lady and the Tramp. I'm not quite on the same wave length as everyone else. They aren't rude -- just very distant. Maybe they're afraid their dogs will act like mine if we fraternize, or maybe they don't find me as amusing as I find myself.

Meanwhile, Murphy's learning how to "park it" on his bed. It was excruciating. The other dog owners were able to have their dogs stay while they walked out of sight. Murphy wouldn't even stay while I was standing next to him. About 15 minutes later, I was flushed, frustrated, and flustered. Someone else's dog pooped, and it was a relief that the instructor was distracted from the distinct lack of obedience I was experiencing. My dog might be out playing Calvin ball for the entire class, but at least he didn't poop in the middle of Pet Smart.

After quietly congratulating myself on not being The Worst, I turned around and the stubborn Beagle had his front paws and his back paws together so he could squat. It was suspiciously like pooping but I dragged him outside before anything happened. I bumped into the other offender and his owner outside the store on a strip of grass. "Stimulating class, huh?" I said. She looked over her shoulder and hurried her dog into the store.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Comfort Food

With the cooler weather, my interest in cooking has increased. This weekend found me digging through cookbooks and hand-written recipes for old favorites that my mother and grandmother cooked: shrimp-rice casserole; sausage, beans, and greens soup; meatloaf. The food tastes wonderful with the crisp temperatures.

The recipes fuel my nostalgia and imagination. Recipe cards in my grandmother's handwriting often have the note "from Mama" at the top. I never met my great-grandmother, but I've heard some stories. She was a spicy, opinionated woman with a good education, but above all, she was practical. She would have found my kitchen ridiculous with the electric stove, the microwave, and the refrigerator. She kept her ice box until the last ice-delivery service stopped in the 1960s and was never fully convinced that a refrigerator and freezer could be trusted to keep the food from spoiling. I like to imagine that I know her a little because of her recipes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

All about the eggs

The autumnal sinus joy has descended along with snot and coughing. People pull out hand sanitizer when they see me coming. I try to keep a respectful distance.

Really this is to explain why Murphy and I were walking down an alley. He needed a walk badly and showed signs of becoming a wild animal without more exercise. I made it a block and a half before I broke into a cold sweat. For a shortcut, we turned down an alley, which all dogs love. It must be some kind of super highway for cats, squirrels, possums, and other dog delicacies. Murphy snorted, sniffled, and made grunting pig-like noises of joy at all of the scents. The yards were surprisingly dog-free, and our little trek was quiet until near the end.

I was startled by a large black dog that jumped up and down behind a fence. In the yard with the dog were six chickens. Six, lovely, free-range hens that all live within a block of my house. I wonder if they would like to share some eggs?

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Sometimes a day has a secret word -- kind of like at Pee Wee's playhouse. Saturday's word was poop. The dog smelled like poop that morning, which made giving him a bath essential. My parents visited later that morning to scoop the kitty litter.

It was good to see Mom and Dad. Dad even helped me rehabilitate a futon that wouldn't fold into sitting position because a toy mouse was jammed into the folding mechanism. One special pair of pliers and a clothes hanger later, he had extracted two toy mice and one pair of nail clippers. Some poor cat lost some stash. I was glad to see the nail clippers again.

Back to the poop. In the afternoon, it was time for a regularly scheduled cut and color. My hairdresser has been cutting my hair for over ten years. She's good at haircuts and good at conversation. I look forward to seeing her.

During the drive to the salon, I simply couldn't shake the smell of poop and finally looked at the soles of my shoes. Bingo! I'd stepped in something intense with both feet. It refused to be scraped off as well, so I parked the shoes outside the salon door. It is very humbling to be barefoot for 3 hours while fashionable and well-shod people are near. The hairdresser enjoyed every minute of it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Homegrown tomatoes

The Ex and I met for coffee today. A year ago, I wouldn't have believed it possible, but we're friends. I enjoy that. We've got over a decade of shared history and talking to each other doesn't require the long story or any footnotes. Plus we're both happier now -- partly because we don't have any expectations from each other. I'm amazed at how important that is to me.

Saying that a person has changed seems silly to me. The Ex is very much who he always was, but he's grown personally. He's paving the way to really accomplish what he wants in his life, and I'm tickled to see how well it suits him. He's just as talented at gabbing as I am, so after two hours of catching up, he sent me home with a bag of homegrown tomatoes. Yum! I warmed them up with some sauteed onions and served it over lentils and rice.

In knitting news, the ruana I'm making for my sister will obviously be a Christmas present. The Addi Turbo needles and the nice wool make for good knitting, but that's quite a few yards of knitting in one week.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ideas to Inspire Fear

These are dangerous times for me. I'm off my game, and the predictable patterns are changing. I pay someone to mow the lawn, which is crazy because I love to mow the lawn -- it just hasn't worked out to be a possibility this summer. I spent yesterday evening hanging out with a bunch of dogs instead of listening to the President's speech on health care. But worst of all, my knitting mojo packed up and left town sometime in the summer.

I've been half-heartedly knitting one pink, white, and green sock. The pattern is the I-made-it-up-variety. Sadly it also belongs to the undocumented category, so it will never have a mate. Recreating it isn't a possibility. The fact that the sad little sock has been in my purse for months and gets knitted about 20 minutes a week borders on Kafkaesque. Right now I'm trying to decide whether I should finish it or if I should put it out of its misery sooner.

Meanwhile inspiration struck. Inspiration with a deadline. (Danger! Deadline!) My sister's birthday arrives in less than a week, and Ravelry has a lovely pattern for "The One Piece Backwards Ruana". The perfect teal, worsted weight Lamb's Pride wool is in my stash. Do I cast on? What if it is post marked on her birthday? She lives out of state so that adds several days in the mail. On paper the timing looks like an ill-fated plan. My fingers are itching. I thought about the project while I was a work. Even if I can finish in a timely fashion by, perhaps, Monday, I'm liable to be incapacitated by knitter's claw. Awww, who am I kidding? It's a terrific plan. I'll cast on.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More about eggs and a doggy update

I may be a little obsessed with those fresh eggs. They taste really good. A coworker said she knows someone who works in our building that sells her eggs. I've got a fresh egg dealer for when the Farmers' Market closes.

Murphy the Wonder Beagle headed back to school this evening for intermediate obedience training. As a 5+ year old dog, he reminded me of myself when I went back to college for computer training in my late 20s. I couldn't abide by chatter in the back of the class room and tedious questions were just annoying. For his part, Murphy will touch noses with the pups but if they wiggle or get excited, he is very sharp with them.

Perhaps he was just focusing on the teacher. He did everything she asked very well. He completely ignored me and wouldn't even look at me. I was starting to get offended until the teacher pointed out that he just didn't like my treats. Apparently the beef liver treats that were all the rage in June are passe in September. The new trend is chicken something or other. And because he's an older dog, he fell asleep in the car on the way home. The dog whisperer is right. A tired dog is a good dog.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Farmer's Market

Each Saturday in the summer the Farmers' Market at 21st and Ridge is open. They have mountains of tomatoes and zucchini this time of year. One person was even selling kohl rabi, which I found very exciting. Without a clear idea of how to cook it, I left it to a more sophisticated cook.

Mostly I enjoy looking and seeing other people who are also enjoying a Saturday morning outside. Rows and rows of fresh herbs and produce combined with home-grown bouquets of zinnias, sunflowers, and Queen Anne's lace are so beautiful.

I haven't purchased any meat yet, but it is tempting. They have local grass-fed, grass-finished beef which has completely eluded me at local groceries and health food stores. No offense to Argentina, but that's a long way from here. Kansas has good beef too. When I make to South America, I'll be delighted to eat the Argentinian beef. The emu doesn't hold any attraction for me, but the bison and lamb are tempting.

The real attraction has been the eggs. The eggs from free-range, cage-free hens that have been scratching around in the pasture all summer are delicious. They have the bright orange-yellow yolks of summer time eggs. Hard-boiled, served with a slice of buttered toast and slices of tomato, they make a very satisfying breakfast. I'm already feeling sad that the Farmer's Market will close at the end of October. I'm not quite ready to start raising chickens myself.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Eating Decisions

A couple of books about consumption have me thinking about how buying patterns influence the way we eat and the dietary importance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also the fruit flies from the last forgotten banana last week have me thinking about intentional patterns of consumption and whether they offer improvements. Some of the things I like most about these lifestyles is that they provide some order and remove some of the chaos. Other times I wonder whether is even worth the hassle. Maybe these systems are too rigid for me to sustain.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver started me thinking about seasonal patterns of eating. She talks about eating food that comes from within a 50 mile radius and she grows a great deal of her own food. The logic is that our carbon footprint is greatly reduced by not requiring shipping and refrigeration of items. It also addresses concerns about the state of the food supply and our health. Eating lettuce in Kansas in December is a biological astonishment, but all of our out-of-state and out-of-country suppliers certainly make it seem very reasonable. While this is the abundant season of corn, cantaloupes, and fresh tomatoes, December should be more oriented toward root vegetables and items with a long shelf-life.

Meanwhile, a book review of America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money came to my attention yesterday. The authors suggest that because 6 out of 10 consumers in the grocery store make impulse purchases, meal planning and one monthly trip to the grocery store are the ideal solution. They too must make allowances for perishables. Bananas, lettuce, and other easily spoiled items are eaten in the first week. Carrots and apples are eaten during the last week of the month. They are able to feed a family of seven for less than $400 a month.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Impromptu Summer Evening

The tomatoes were planted late. So while I've been waiting and waiting for a blossom and hope of fruit, I made an impromptu veggie scrambled.

Sautee garlic, asparagus, and bell pepper. Pour scrambled eggs over the mixture and sprinkle with shredded pepper jack cheese.

It isn't quite the same as warm tomatoes from the garden that are sliced over cold cottage cheese, but it was a very nice substitute.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Typical Summer

The weather has gotten scorching hot and very humid. The plants don't seem to mind at all thanks to copious amounts of rain last week. The animals and I have hunkered down in the basement where the coldest air settles and where the tv is located.

This is a good time for knitting. Right now I'm working on a baby cocoon for a friend who is expecting. The yarn is Berroco Love It, and it just flies off the needles.

I expect to crawl out of the basement again in September when it gets cooler. Until then, keep the iced tea coming.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dog Grooming

The other night, I kept smelling something horrible. First I thought it was the neighbor kid's weed was wafting into the house. If someone smokes a bunch, I've been able to smell it across the street. Then I thought that maybe some laundry had mildewed before it made it to the dryer. Then I thought Murphy the dog had unbelievably bad farts. That was the closest guess.

Murphy likes to find stinky things in the yard and roll in them. Apparently yesterday, he rolled in some aged poop which appears to have a more sophisticate scent than the fresh stuff. It was on his collar and stuck to the fur underneath. Cleaning the collar and a giving Murphy a sponge bath didn't help. He did like the sponge bath.

I put Murphy in the kitchen sink and lathered him up and hosed him down. He was very wiggling and uncooperative. Oscar the cat, who is never allowed on the counter, hopped up and sat just as close as he possibly could without getting wet -- in Murphy's direct sight. I couldn't let go of Murphy or a soapy dog would be dashing through the house, so Mr. Kitty got away with it. Murphy was even more agitated. Oscar just kept watching as if it were a great show. I'm sure if he had any popcorn he would have been eating it too. 

After the bath, Murphy smelled almost normal. The collar, even after being scrubbed and soaped vigorously, still smelled horrible. I was so tired and completely out of patience. To review: stinky, poop, dog bath, kitty insubordination, ruined dog collar. I debated whether the dog should be allowed to go outside to go to the bathroom. I decided that even a repeat of the bath was worth risking when compared to an accident in the house.

The next morning I went to PetSmart for a new collar and took the dog to try it on. His toenails were long, so I thought, "I could trim those but it would another doggy wrestling match." The salon said they'd trim it for him. It rang up at the cash register as a "Pawdicure." The light bulb flashed above my head: I got the dog a fucking pedicure. While he was getting his pedicure, I found a lovely collar for him and a matching leash. I got a good look at him in the collar after we got home. Although the color is good, it is pretty flowery even for a neutered male beagle. He is very metro-sexual now after having his pedicure and his "sensitive man" collar. 

So yeah, I'm questioning my sanity.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A loss in the community

Living in Wichita, KS, the abortion debate can get intense. People talked about the Civil War dividing families, but families here have been estranged over the issue and never recovered from their differences. The abortion protests of the early 1990s left some scars too. Businesses and major roads were shut down. Local government structures were overwhelmed by protesters

I guess I got used to the tension. I am pro-choice and volunteered for clinic defense. The bombs and the shooting seemed frightening but a fact of life. Later on, I didn't even like to discuss this belief in public. It was too much of a liability and too divisive. Most people could guess my opinion on the matter and I theirs. We danced around it. 

Not everyone practiced avoidance. The worst of it happened today. A local physician, Dr. George Tiller, who performs late-term abortions, was shot in the lobby of his church this morning. Dr. Tiller knew so many people in this community, and he continued to do what he believed despite threats to his well-being. 

The sad news has spread quickly. I was knitting at Watermark with Jill, and the news deflated us. She called her mom. I went to see my parents. At my parents house, we huddled around a computer to look at the news reports. I started to realize that he was probably shot in front of his family and people who loved him. It seems terribly unfair. 

Perhaps this was predictable. I didn't see it coming. After surviving clinic bombings and being shot, Dr. Tiller seemed invincible to me. In the end, he was just a brave man who did what he believed. I respect that. Our town will not be the same without this doctor.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Garden Report

The strawberries are ripening now. As with most things, it hasn't been what I anticipated. My vision included me gathering strawberries and doing something with them once a week. Reality looks like this: six or seven strawberries ripen each day. They are not good the next day, and they are not good after being refrigerated. The solution is that I go out to the garden each day and pluck the berries and eat them right there. I put the leaves in the compost heap on my way back inside. 

The weeds are doing well too, but when I sit on the back porch, I close my eyes and I can smell the iris, the honeysuckle and the peonies. This is a fragrant season -- maybe a little sneezy--and definitely sweet-smelling. 

The knitting isn't completely forgotten. Each week, I knit a repeat or two of Knitty's Branching Out scarf. The yarn is a soft, heathered blue. Alpaca. I like to knit slowly and stretch out the finished knitting to marvel at how a person could imagine a pattern, write it down and have it emerge from another person's needles. Maybe I'm just sentimental and mellow from spending time in the garden and the sun. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Atticus the Cat

When I was 23, I decided I needed cats. This was based on two things: 1) I'd pestered my parents for a cat since I was a teenager, and 2) my accommodations at the time had no fenced yard for my beloved dog. (The dog also didn't let my boyfriend--later my ex-husband--in bed with me.)

My ex went with me to a pet store. Where two rescued males kittens were in a wire cage. They were both black and disreputable looking creatures, but I didn't know much about cats. One was gregarious and friendly. The other sat at the back of the cage and looked as unfriendly as possible. The friendly one played with me, and then he went to the back of the cage and licked his brother's ears. 

My ex looked at me and said, "Do you know what you're doing?"

I said, "Of course." This was a lie. I only knew one other cat who would permit me to pet her. She was old and blind, and she still barely tolerated my presence after knowing me for over 15 years. 

What I did know was that my sister had recently moved to another state, and I was miserable being so far away from her. I couldn't bear to separate the friendly cat from his brother when they seemed so fond of each other. 

"I'll take them both," I said to the pet store employees. I was holding the purring kitten, and he was climbing over the top of my head. The ex was simply shaking his head. 

"What?" I asked. 

"Oh nothing," he said.

The pet store employees had a fight over who had to extract the remaining kitten from the back of the cage. That should have been a warning sign, but I persevered and took the grumpy black ball of fluff home with me and named him Atticus. His brother was Trouser. Trouser was delighted to have a home and was very sociable. 

Atticus got out of the cardboard box when he first arrived home and that was the last I saw of him for the next six months unless I extracted him from one of his many hiding places: under the stove, under the bed, on a high shelf in the closet. Then he would glare at me and struggle for his freedom. He especially despised things that I thought were necessary to the
 care and feeding of a cat. Kissing was most hideous of all. Often he would press all four paws to my lips in an attempt to escape.

After I'd gone to bed for the night, Trouser would make a trilling sound. Atticus would answer. I heard them romping through the house, sliding on the linoleum, and crashing into the stove with a bang. 

Gradually Atticus acclimated to sharing a house with humans. He made friends with the ex first. The ex was in graduate school, and he spent long hours studing. The ex would brew an extremely strong cup of coffee, sit on the couch and sip it while he studied and listened to music. I'd come home from work to find the ex, Trouser, and Atticus sprawled on our $25 garage-sale sofa with books of post-modern literary criticism and listening to Miles Davis. Perhaps that was when Atticus first developed his affinity for books. He adored sitting on a good book, and he detested having a good book removed for the trivial purposes of "reading."

Atticus began to make up for his first, silent year. He talked incessantly. He followed me from room to room and meowed in a cranky, rasp meow. He needed to be petted. He wanted to be followed around the room on hands and knees and be petted. (That hadn't been a possibility until my sister catered to him once when she visited.) He and his brother both had sleek, glossy coats by then and looked fierce. He had high expectations and high standards. I always felt that I was a better person when he decided to sit on my lap or when he butted his head against my hands. And underneath the cranky, he could be downright sweet. We worked out a deal where he would let me hug him if I scratched his chin in the proper fashion. After his brother died, he did let me hold him and cry. He didn't even bother trying to get away. 

When the ex left, Atticus was just unhappy. He was at loose ends. He hated Norah. He never stopped fussing. So he went to live with the ex, and he had always preferred the ex. They liked the serious same reading: Kirkegaard, Camus,  Derrida. Admittedly, the ex and his girlfriend have some pretty nice digs. They had a second story, so Atticus could spend his days dropping his toys down two flights of stairs instead of just one. He could sleep in front of the sliding glass door and watch bunnies in the backyard. When I went to visit, he seemed perfectly happy although he did make all of his usual indications that I should crawl around on my hands and knees and pet him. I did. 

Atticus hadn't been feeling well for sometime. He'd always been pretty cranky, and when I visited him most recently, he didn't have the energy to come to meet me. So I went to him. We sat in a sunbeam and I scratched him. He purred. He looked quite ruffled again and not quite as glossy. Last week, the ex called to tell me that Atticus had passed away. He was in kitty pi, which he seemed to prefer when he felt sick, and my ex had been scratching his chin just the right way. The world feels emptier without that cranky old feline. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dirt and Dogs

Spring lured me outside this evening after a particularly draining day at work. The pinnacle of the day was a three-hour meeting. The meeting was valuable, and the information was pertinent. No one wasted time (thank goodness). My butt and I still want a medal. Sitting that long is a challenge. By the time I arrived home, I was certain that I would wind up on the couch immediately. 

Murphy is still here, and he was ready for a walk. He looked so eager and excited that I decided to go for a little walk, which put some life back in my body. Then it was time to mow the lawn and plant a few marigolds. Murphy and I lounged on the deck and surveyed our scrap of dirt. The picture above is a hosta division from my sister called "Guacamole." I hope to make many more divisions of it future years. It would do well as an edging for the shady part of the garden.

Back to the dog, I'm getting attached to that sweet canine. Even Oscar played with him this evening. Murphy's people need to show up soon or it will be a sad farewell for me. Only two people have called about the ad, and he wasn't a match for the first person. The other person wanted to know if I'd lost my "found" Beagle. Apparently, she also found a neutered Beagle with a red collar in the Delano District. We should form a support group for people who couldn't say, "No" to sad, Snoopy eyes.

Monday, April 27, 2009

House Guest

On Tuesday, Shelly tweeted about a small, stray Beagle who needed a place to stay for a few days. He'd wandered across Douglas and ended up at Twist. I'm a sucker for fury, sweet creatures and took him home. He's a real gentleman and not just because he's neutered. He is clearly used to spending his days on the sofa and his nights at the foot of the bed.

He's got a red collar sans tags. A vet scanned him for a microchip, but nothing showed up. I'm sure his owners are frantic, but posts on websites and calls to shelters haven't yielded any results. 

So, he's hanging out at my house until his home is located. I've learned quite a bit about reuniting animals with their owners. The biggest thing I've learned is that it is not easy or quick. The shelters weren't willing to take my name and number, but they did 
direct me to three websites where I posted his information. By Saturday I started to call him "Murphy" because "hey dog" seemed rude.

Most days he sprawls on the floor and chases the cats. (Although Oscar has been known to haul off and whomp him on the nose.) He's also terrified of thunderstorms and insists on being held during them. 

I'm enjoying his company while I work in the garden, but I'm also looking forward to when he is reunited with his owners. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Snow Day

Last weekend, a big winter storm hit town -- snow, ice, blowing winds, and crazy drivers. The weathermen seemed to enjoy making extreme predictions and warning everyone not to leave the house. It reminded me of the Little House on the Prairie books, and how the blizzards descended on that little family. They didn't even have weather forecasts or snow predictions. They just stayed in their little log cabin and kept the fire going.  

I wonder how they stayed in such a small place without knowing what would happen next. I wonder how they managed to be somewhat civil to each other. My sister and I certainly didn't manage that when we were sharing a bedroom. We probably would have turned up our noses at venison and salt pork too.

For my storm preparations, I ran around outside and quickly picked daffodils to save them from the unexpected cold. They had formed buds, but none of the buds were open. Inside, on the kitchen counter, they opened quickly and smelled fragrant. It seemed so decadent. Without the extreme weather, I would have left them in the garden where they would have lasted longer. Instead, I got a burst of beauty this weekend. Some buds weren't plucked from the plants in my  haste to get out of the  sleet. A few days later, after the big melt, the ones that were left behind are blooming despite having survived cold conditions. The lettuce is even more vigorous for having braved the weather, but lettuce is always a miracle plant.

While the garden held up admirably, my pioneer spirit fled. (This is doubly shocking because I spent most of grade school wishing I were Laura Ingalls Wilder. Shut up. She had a bonnet.) Knitting, reading, napping, and eating could only sustain me so long. I was thinking of a venti white chocolate mocha from the nearby Starbucks. My green tea seemed like gruel by comparison.  Everyone took another nap under the down comforter.

And then, because I was trapped inside with my camera, flowers, cats and cat toys, and because I was starting to get stir crazy after having been inside my house for at least 18 consecutive hours, I took pictures of my cats to share with the world. (Eighteen hours can be a very long time. Especially in Sally Knitz years. Without someone to brew my coffee.) Please forgive me. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Green inspiration

I get so sentimental about the garden at this time of year. People roll their eyes, look at their toes, and say, "Um, whatever." It's hard to explain what it is I find so compelling. Sunshine is warm and comforting. Digging in the dirt and holding the crumbling soil in my hands is incredibly satisfying. It is all potential and old friends. Everything is ready to be imagined and re-imagined. The dead twigs and leaves are ready to be trimmed so the new, green leaves are exposed to the light and the rain can reach the soil below.

The plants that return are very welcome too. The peach-colored day lilies from my grandmother's garden are sending up green leaves. A fragrant white peony with frugal red flecks has been in my life since I was a toddler. A division of that plant is sending up curling, rhubarb-colored sprouts.  I'm relieved to see them, which surprises me. I certainly don't lie awake at night to wonder if they will return in the spring. It is more a sense of being reassured that things are as they should be. 

The garden has its drama too. Under last season's foliage, the oregano has stealthily crept through the tarragon plants. A wayward tarragon shoot cropped up on the far side of the oregano. Since the craziness is contained in a raised bed, I'm just going to watch and see what happens. Oregano is a member of the vigorous mint family, but the tarragon is no sissy either.

As of this afternoon, the brussel sprouts seeds and the mesclun mix are scratched into another raised bed. I'm eager to begin harvesting them, and I'm impatiently awaiting the arrival of strawberries. The vegetable garden is full, and this is only the start. The tomatoes and basil may mingle in the flower garden this year. 

See? There is so much to hope for at the beginning of the garden season. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

Woman vs. House

I try not to be superstitious. A suspicious event can usually be explained as a sequence of perfectly reasonable events or even simply be a coincidence. But I'm starting to think my house has its own personality. I'm starting to think that it wants me to just sit still. 

Case in point, I begin to remove wallpaper from the dinning room walls, then the bathroom tile needs to be replaced. Coincidence? Here's more evidence. I begin removing wallpaper from the living room and discover that the dry wall requires extensive repairs. Common enough, I suppose. The toilet required plunging soon after that. (Finally, a task I could accomplish by myself.) And that is probably not too big a deal. Still, I'm exhausted. I know that everything I find and fix will be better for it. I'll like my house better because of it, but my house needs to take a break too -- actually, the house needs to not break for a little bit. Even basic maintenance has the appearance of a home-repair tsunami. 

But there is always a break in the clouds. A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent an email that began, "So, I ordered 9 pounds of Lincoln Locks . . ." I cannot tell you how delightful it is to be acquainted with people who would simply purchase that much wool in one bundle and then send an email about it. She wanted to divvy it up, and I had a very good home for two pounds of the silvery, lambs fleece. Lincoln Locks have a very long staple length and lots of crimp. They will be ideal for my beginning spinning. 

The locks arrived on Saturday. The friend had them in a large box, which smelled very much like the horse barn on my grandmother's farm. Definitely not the milk barn, chicken coop or the hay barn. It smelled like the horse barn. A very fragrant and robust aroma wafted from the box. The other bits of wool I have purchased as locks were scoured thoroughly. These locks were fairly free of vegetable matter, and yet they had a very gamey quality.  The locks were separated into plastic grocery store bags, and as I carried them to my car, I wondered about any lingering odors. I'm especially attuned to possible lingering odors in cars after the wildly expensive crock pot-chicken incident. 

It was late in the evening, but the locks needed to be washed immediately because the cats were prowling. They smelled wild animals. Being the indoor house cats and fierce predators, when they sense any prey larger than a cricket, they are all over the situation. I bribed them with a healthy chunk of locks. They took it to a secret location that they will not disclose to me. This is a location where they can make anything disappear. I am afraid that one day, after many years, this location will come to my attention. Hopefully, cleaning their kitty vault will not involve the Roto Rooter man.

I turned up the water heater to its highest setting and filled the kitchen sink with scalding hot water and lavender-scented Eucalan. My friend had advised me not to mingle the dirty portions of the fleece with the cleaner portions. I had no desire to make it any messier than necessary, so being careful to put the dirty outside tips of the wool at one edge and the lanolin-coated tips at the other side, I filled a colander with the locks and carefully lowered it into the hot water to soak. The water turned the color of dark tea and smells of anything that lamb had encountered wafted through the kitchen. I lighted a vanilla scented candle and resisted the urge to stir the wool. Agitation would only felt it. 

The steady dripping sound became noticeable as did the puddle growing under the sink. I mopped it up thinking I must have sloshed water from the sink. The puddle continued to grow. Further investigations showed a leaking pipe. I emptied the contents from the cabinet under the sink. After sponging the entire area down and disinfecting it, the area under the kitchen sink may be the cleanest part of the entire house. The only imperfection in the arrangement was the plastic tub that the water dripped into. 

By then, I'd rinsed the wool two more times in hot water and spread it out on towels to dry on the counter. I thought about having a temper tantrum, a full-fledged meltdown, but I was too tired. I decided to go to bed. Surely my house would heal itself by morning. 

The house did not heal itself, so I did the next best thing. I called my Mommy and Daddy. They came to visit me, and Dad showed me how to fix the pipes under the sink. Mom drank tea with me and acted as if it were perfectly normal to have a kitchen counter that overflowed with wool. 

Then I ran away. I went to a friend's house where we feasted on delicious food and watched the Oscars. We laughed and enjoyed ourselves. I felt renewed. So, hear this, house of mine. You will be fixed, and I will enjoy it. The Lincoln Locks smell like lavender. They are silvery and fluffy and beautiful. If that miracle can be accomplished, this house can be fixed. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pink Yarn

I'm back at the spinning wheel. I even knitted a little. I missed it so much and had a very hard time putting away the yarn. 

The single-ply pink yarn was spun from a batt of merino/silk. I'm beginning to think it will be years before I am pleased with my spinning, and now that I don't feel compelled to produce anything useable, spinning is more fun than ever. So I just enjoyed drafting the soft pink and watching the yellow silk nibs drift through my fingers. 

What about all of that yarn that doesn't meet my standards? I'm knitting blocks of yarn for a low-fuss blanket. This blanket should be warm, comfortable and durable. Most of all, it will be a humble blanket. If grape koolaid get spilled on it (and I do despise grape koolaid), it will be no big deal. Humble blankets get stains. They get used. They are appreciated for having no pretense. 

Being able to see how the yarn knits does make a difference to me. Imagining the process from fiber to yarn to stockinette is a challenge. I figure that after a certain amount of practice, I will one day be able to estimate, plan, and envision a fiber's best use. Until then, it's kind of like pulling random ingredients out of the fridge, mixing them up, and hoping for the best.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Define Normal

I say this with caution. Life has been normal lately. Seriously. The wallpaper removal from the entire house is proceeding slowly, the cats are still awfully sweet for being carnivorous wild animals, and while the laundry is never finished, a "no clean clothes" crisis hasn't occurred for weeks. And on that note, when Obama is finished stimulating the economy and ending wars, I'd like for him to start a program for clean laundry. Maybe the Department of Clean Laundry (DCL). Can you imagine what our nation could do if we had clean, unwrinkled clothing every single morning? We'd smell good.  We'd be unstoppable. 

A good part of January went to obsessively reading The Twilight books. Fictional characters and historical people are not safe from me. I have a small crush on Edward the vampire. It isn't as strong as my feelings for John Adams or Cicero, but he has his appeal. Edward is hot in an icy cold, vampiric sort of way.

The first few books were loaned to me by friends. I am very proud of being a good steward of books. My mother is a librarian. I know how to open a book and gently crease back the cover and the pages so the spine isn't broken. Alas, the first book, a paperback owned by a Naplover's Bean, didn't fare well during the transport to my house. I turned the corner in my car too quickly and the crock pot chicken, which was sharing the front passenger seat with the book, sluiced right over the book and the seat of my car. (As a result, the passenger seat of the car spent several days at the car spa and I drove around with only one seat in the front of the car. But, hey, its better than sitting on a five gallon bucket in a completely gutted car.) My Bean and her mother were very understanding. The book was still in readable condition and Oscar enjoyed sitting on my lap and licking the pages while I read.

The next book came from Andi. Her book looked brand-new, and I knew it was my opportunity for redemption for my bookly sins. Because I couldn't be separated from my new fling, Edward, I took it with me when I drove up to Kansas City for an appointment. Bringing a book worked out well. I had time to eat lunch and linger before my meeting. The waitress was very efficient and cleared the table of all plates, napkins, and my bookmark. 

I decided not to trust the book's fate to the waitress and took it to the restroom with me. It perched on the back of the toilet with my purse, and when I stood up, the entire fixture lurched and a large splash sprinkled the floor and my shoes with eu du toilet, so to speak. Fortunately, my purse was unharmed. The book, much like its predecessor, was still readable, but a public health hazard. I felt kind of sick because Andi sometimes has galley prints and books that are signed by authors. I dialed her number and said, "Is this particular book special? Because I'd really like to buy you a different copy." There was quite a bit of laughing. Maybe even some guffawing. Finally she said, "Sure. I'd love another copy. What happened?" 

Knowing that I had two very gracious friends was not enough for me to tempt fate again. On my way back into town, I plunked down money for the entire series. Bean got a new book and so did Andi. The others were read only in the comfort of my recliner. I did consume tea, soda and water while reading, and the books were unharmed. My friendships survived. Oscar still prefers the first book in the series. He likes to nibble on it while he drifts off to sleep.

As I said, life is pretty normal. Just the usual deconstruction of sheet rock, wall paper, three vacuums cleaners in the living room, and me in denial in the recliner with two cats and a pile of books. 

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Winter Woolfest in Wamego

Last weekend, a bunch of KIPers piled into cars and drove north to the Winter Woolfest in Wamego, KS. Seeing so many people drive from Hutchinson, Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City to talk about knitting, spinning and crocheting really warmed my heart. I love to see people who are as excited about yarn and roving as I am. This is the Woolfest's first year, and I hope that this festival grows and grows. It has so much potential.

Of course I couldn't resist the alpaca roving from Rivendell Meadows Alpacas. The cream, camel, and mocha colors were evenly distributed down the length of the roving and it was incredibly soft. I like to pet it. That didn't stop me from purchasing a  mossy green merino and silk batt with subtle streaks of deep red. 

The wild ones in the knitting pack weren't even close to exhausted when we finished with the festival. After all of the driving, we decided to drop in at the Yarn Barn in Lawrence where we were able to test drive spinning wheels. (The Lendrum saxony rubbed up against my leg and tried to make me take it home. I resisted.) I settled for a Sacht drop spindle, some silk hankies to spin, and Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' book High Whorling: A Spinners Guide to an Old World Skill. 

Finally we were exhausted and a little dizzy with all of the fiber beauty. We all piled back into our vehicles and drove home. At home while I arranged my prizes on the table for photographs, my assistants sampled the goodies. Norah has perfected the innocent look. Oscar needs practice. Innocence is implausibe with alpaca tufts stuck between one's teeth.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chez Sleepy

Since the "no knitting" until my hands recover pledge, I've settled into a pleasant routine of reading in the evening. The cats appreciate that I'm not dangling yarn in their whiskers and they often join me. Then I fall asleep. That's right. I'm asleep by 8 in the evening some days. I never realized that knitting was a stimulant, that it kept me awake and engaged. I do know that I sometimes cannot fall asleep because I'm thinking about a pattern or a yarn or what I'll knit next. 

The paint color scheme for the living areas in my house has been troubling me too since I'm nearly finished with wall paper removal in the dining room. I fussed and made a half-hearted attempt to find a color-wheel so I could examine colors and see which ones would be most companionable. I got a decorating book instead, which makes basic suggestions, and has a small picture of color wheel in the introduction. I also realized that compared to getting the layers of paint and wallpaper off of the walls, having the dry wall contractor make repairs, and prepping the trim, the actual painting will be very easy and inexpensive. If I really don't like a color, I can paint it again.

The eureka moment arrived with the Pottery Barn catalog. One of the rugs has reds, blues, yellows, and greens. Those were the colors I wanted and finding the right shades was the challenge. So now, I'm going to use that rug as my palette. I probably won't buy the rug, but I am certainly happy to have picture of it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Too much knitting?

Is there such a thing as too much knitting? I'm not inclined to think so. The Brooklyn Tweed scarf in Noro Silk Garden practically knitted itself. (More pictures are over on Ravelry.) Watching the colors unfold kept me knitting and knitting to see what would happen next. The glee of watching this scarf grow out of a very simple pattern still astonishes me, and I've been unable to fully describe it. People who have knitted the scarf seem to understand, and those who haven't humor me. I'm fortunate to have lots of people who humor me -- scarf or otherwise.

One of the things this scarf taught me is that I need to do things that don't involve my hands as much. My tendinitis flares up periodically. My wrists and hands hurt and swell. The typical solution is to take ibuprofen until I break down and go to the doctor. He prescribes steroids and the typical stretching exercises and lifestyle recommendations. Everything is good for a stretch, and then it comes back. It got really bad while I was knitting this scarf.

I have a lifestyle that fosters tendinitis. Here is what I like to do: knit, crochet, spin, type at the keyboard, surf the web, and garden. They all involve small movements of the hands. Most recently, all of the wallpaper scraping combined with the others has triggered the flare up. I haven't been to the doctor yet. I'm still in the whiny, ibuprofen stage. 

New hobbies are on the horizon because I need to rest those easily inflamed hands and wrists. I've been brainstorming about what I will do. I'm not a huge fan of exercise, but I do like to fidget. Fidgeting and tinkering is done best with hands. Some of that nervous energy can be dealt with through actual physical movement like walking and biking and yoga. I might spend more time dreaming, thinking and contemplating this year. Maybe meditating. Maybe sitting quietly with the cats or reading. I have a terrible time watching tv without doing something else (see fidgeting above). There might not be as much tv this year. 

At work, I'm going to think before I type or click. This could have some benefits. Hasty emails are prone to poor grammar and misunderstandings. I may start talking to people in person rather than typing. I may read a chapter about the best way to write a stored procedure rather than jumping straight to the code. Much like emails, planned coding is often better than the fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants variety.

I hope that in a few weeks I will be able to ration out some precious fiber arts time. Everything in moderation, right? I still cannot get my head around the idea that there is such a thing as too much knitting. In the meantime, I'm going to admire the way the colors in the yarn change in the scarf and dream about what I will plant this spring.