Thursday, August 30, 2007

People Say The Stupidest Things!

It seems that every direction we turn, from our kids to magazines to TV to our friends, people are saying that we, as a culture, do not listen well. If you are having a problem with a partner it is because one or both of you don't listen carefully to what the other says. If your teenager is angst ridden it is because he or she is not understood by his or her parents. The bottom line is that we are losing our ability to communicate effectively by oral and aural means. Life moves at such a fast pace that people no longer eat leisurely meals together, gather around the hearth in the evenings, make an actual phone call. Much communication happens via "a quick email" or a text message. In both cases, vocal inflections and body language, essential elements in human interaction, are absent. No wonder people misunderstand or don't "hear" one another.

Having said all this, there are times when we are better off not listening carefully because quite often, people say really stupid things. Today was the day for "I can't believe s/he just said that" moments.

Thursdays are the day for Spirit of Knitting editorial meetings. We gather at our remote location - the local Borders bookstore. We really do get work done but we also knit, which, as you might imagine, peaks the interest of many who are strolling through the bookstore. Alissa was working on a sock today. A fifty-ish woman struck up a conversation with the three of us. "Oh look. Socks soar on two needles." (A reference to a book by that name. The woman then proceeded to tell us how she hates to sew things together - that she never makes anything that requires sewing seams. After a brief but polite conversation, she then said that she was heading home to finish the front of her sweater. Okay, if you are making a sweater front and you never sew things together, this could be interesting. No back? No sleeves? Or, are the pieces just set in place but not actually connected? Does she not realize how stupid this sounded?

Then, we were looking at a knitting magazine. Alissa came across the following in print: "a cucumber shaped box" Never mind the images that this conjures up. Let's think purely about the geometry of the situation. Angles. No angles. Cucumber-shaped box. Perhaps this is a square peg-round hole issue. No matter how you look at it, this description sounds stupid.

That's not all folks!

BK and I were sitting at a local coffee shop after doing a little set and prop work for Mash.. She was finishing the last few rows of a baby afghan that is nearly 36 inches square and was spilling off her lap to the floor. Her needles were flying in the hope that she could get it bound off before we met Mike and the girls for dinner. Again a woman who was 55-60 struck up a conversation. "Are you knitting or crocheting?" BK replied nicely, "I am knitting." With a burst of energy, the woman exclaimed, "I love to knit!" You love to knit? If you can't tell the difference between knitting and crocheting by the tools someone has in their hand and the look of the yard long fabric, are you sure you love to knit? C'mon. Are you listening to yourself?

Are people so desperate for someone to talk to that they will risk sounding like an absolute idiot just to have a real face-to-face interaction? Perhaps the woman from Borders and the one from the coffee shop could get together. They would have lovely conversations with one another. The two of them could explain to us the cucmber-shaped box. Then those of us who really do listen to what people say would not have to endure stupid moments like the ones that have dominated today. The fact that these three incidents happened all in a day scares me! Maybe the smart people will be out tomorrow. If not, I may have to borrow my daughter's Happy Bunny T-shirt that says, "Make the stupid people shut-up!"

Okay. I know I am sounding like a mean snob, but really . . .

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mixing Work And Play

I have mentioned several times that my older daughter loves to cook - and I must admit she is a fine, vegan, chef. About this time last year, early in the discussion of colleges, she considered applying to the Culinary Institute of America. Though I was confident that if this was the direction she chose to follow all would be well, I did have some reservations. In her case, cooking has always been a way to escape from the pressures of school. Should she make the culinary arts her profession, her place to escape would be gone. The same is true for any of us who make our leisure activities into work.

For me, photography is a place to escape. Most often, the only person I have to please with my pictures is myself. If I am unhappy with a shoot, I have the luxury of deleting the pictures and trying again another day. As a professional photographer, there are no do-overs. Screwing up some one's wedding pictures . . .well, you can imagine.

Tonight I was asked to take some publicity shots for Denton Community Theatre's production of MASH. I take theatre pictures all the time but usually they are for the cast members only. As long as I have at least one good picture of each cast member, people are happy. These are usually candid rather than posed pictures. I am not fond of taking "set-up" pictures, but that is what was needed tonight. I was a little stressed.

To add to the stress, when I got to the theater, I realized that neither of my camera batteries had a full charge. This is the mark of a rank amateur. So, rather than take the photos at the top of rehearsal, we waited until the end which allowed the batteries to charge. Disaster averted.

When I got home, I immediately had to sift through the hundred pictures or so and decide which ten best represented the show. Damn good question! I did get some good shots photographically speaking, but which ones were the best for publicity? I really was not sure.

The show director wanted me to email him the pictures tonight rather than deliver them on a CD tomorrow. We all know high resolution picture files are huge. If they even send, it is usually a very slow process. And, many servers will not allow emails that big to be delivered. That was the case here. The file was undeliverable because it was too big. I had to send several emails with only a few pictures each. So far (keep your fingers crossed) nothing has been returned to me. I am taking that as a good sign.

Even though the photos were staged, I enjoyed talking the pictures. It was a challenge to try to pick the best photos to send . Though editing pictures can be a tedious job, it was not too bad tonight. Primarily because I did not do too much editing - a little cropping and some minor balance corrections. I definitely did not do anything major. Still, the pressure of having to have the perfect picture, from both a technical and an artistic perspective, to send to the publicist TONIGHT, no second chances, was a bit daunting.

Though taking pictures tonight felt more like work than play, no money was exchanged so I suppose technically it was still play. What a relief!

Here are a few of the shots.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Finally, An Answer!

If you are a regular reader here, you may remember my daughter's question from a month ago concerning her appearance and how she was cast in a stage production. Well, she finally has an answer.

Over the weekend, while she was out with a drama buddy from school, I got a phone call from her in which, in a very excited voice, she said, "Mama, I'm a whore! I'm a whore!" I responded like any good mother would with, "I am so proud of you! And, I guess this means you don't look like a boy. " I know I should not be proud of having raised a whore, but . . .Well, maybe this all goes back to that HPV thing.

Really, I am proud of her. Last week she auditioned for two different shows. The first was Dracula. She was happy with her read and felt like she had done the best that she could. The next evening, she auditioned for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Though after she had read for Dracula she was a little more interested in the show, her passion really lies with doing musicals. All of us who call ourselves her family encouraged her to go to both auditions because you can never have too much experience with that part of theater. Two days after the first audition, Erin got a call from the director of Dracula saying that she did not feel comfortable casting her because of her age. This particular script is a bit risque.

She did not put her actual age on her Whorehouse audition form; she put an age range that she thought she could realistically play - 15-22. She is 14.
Erin knew that she had to come across older than she actually is; she also knew that the selection she chose to sing would impact that tremendously. So what did she choose? "Dance Ten, Looks Three" from A Chorus Line. And which 16 measures did she sing? The part that begins with "Tits and ass, got myself a fancy pair . . ." Needless to say, she did not look or sound like she was only 14. And, she got a part in the show.

Once all the casting was complete, she did not end up being a whore. She is in the chorus for the preacher, a towns person, and part of the Texas Aggie drill team, the last requires her to do a tap routine with a )male) doll. But, she really is not a whore!

Despite the whole whore thing, doing this show is a great opportunity for her. She is working with some very talented and experienced older actors. I suppose it goes without saying that she is the youngest cast member. Also, all of her roles are heavy dance parts. In the triple threat, singing, acting, dancing, she feels like her dancing is the weakest. So here is Erin's chance to grow in that area.

The icing on the cake here is that the director who cast her as the gander in Honk is also in Best Little Whorehouse. We'll see if he thinks she looks like a boy in this show!

Friday, August 24, 2007

What Not To Wear

It is rare that I sit down with the intention of watching TV. For some reason, I had nothing that I had to do tonight so I reached for the remote. The first thing that I saw on the Guide was the Miss Teenage USA 2007 pageant. Now I know why I don't watch TV. The choices on the other zipty billion satellite channels we have were no better. I finally settled on What Not To Wear. This is rather ironic because frankly, I never really think about what not to wear. My philosophy is if it is comfortable, wear it.

Tonight's show happened to be a reunion show; eight women, who had previously been on the show, were back to see if they have been able to maintain their new fashion identity. The program began with highlights from each of their previous appearances. The longer I watched, the more amazed I became at the idea that people had come into these women's worlds and completely changed their sense of themselves. I was most surprised at the woman who was told that she could no longer wear her hooded sweatshirt while she was out (in the cold) walking her dogs. Do the dogs really care what she is wearing? Oh wait, we are concerned about what other people have to say about what we wear. Are we really so shallow that if we see a woman out on a Saturday morning walking her dogs in a sweatshirt that we will think no class, uninteresting, unattractive? Or what about the young special education teacher who said that she would rather put her energy into enriching the lives of eight disabled children in her classroom than be exhausted by the time she got to school from going through an extensive ritual of makeup and fashion choice. What is wrong with that? If I were the parent of one of her students, I would be grateful for someone who was more concerned with educating my child than whether or not she was accessorized properly.

Many years ago when I was feeling the effects of lupus but had not yet been diagnosed, I was seeing an internist who walked in to the exam room wearing what we now call business casual. He asked me if I was uncomfortable with a doctor who did not wear a white coat. This particular doctor was much like Dr. House (another show I watch) in his unrelenting search for answers but he was much more personable. I told him that I was much less concerned with what he wore than with what he said and did. I also said that I was not fond of doctors who hide behind their white coats and stethoscopes. Anyone can play dress-up.

It looked to me like all the women who were back on What Not To Wear were playing dress-up. Many of them did not look comfortable at all with the persona they were trying to pull off. What is the point? Why can't we just be who we truly are?

I am a jeans, loose shirt and Birkenstock girl. That translates to an old hippie. The older I get, the less able (or willing) I am to try to pull off the mature adult look as far as fashion is concerned. In fact, last winter when we went back east for my mother's funeral, I had it in my head that I really should wear a dress; needless to say, I did not have an appropriate one. I took my fashion conscious daughter shopping with me. After trying on many dresses, all of which fit in terms of size, Erin finally said to me that I just did not look right in a dress. She was right. I ended up with a navy blue suit - pants and blazer. That was about as grown up as I could handle and it was perfectly fine for the funeral. I must say, however, that I have not worn it since.

I am lucky that I teach in a place where dress is not a big deal. This may be the benefit of teaching in the arts. It is perfectly acceptable to wear jeans and Birkenstocks in our department, at least it always has been. Hopefully that will not change. I think that the students recognize confidence and comfort in their instructors not by how they dress but by how they engage with their students. I don't need the tweed jacket to earn the respect of my students any more than that doctor twenty years ago needed a white coat to earn my respect. If I am worthy of their respect I will get it regardless of what I wear. And if I am not, I will not get it, regardless of how I dress. We are back to that don't judge a book by its cover thing.

So, as I get ready for the first day of school on Monday, I could wear my blue suit. Yeah right. I will make sure that my "good" jeans are clean and that my shirt is not too wrinkled. And, I have new Birkenstocks. I am ready. Hopefully the opinions of me that are formed by my students are based on what I show them of my inside, not the outside.

Having said that, over the summer I overheard one of my former students asking a current student if I still wore all the cool-colored hand knit socks. I can live with being the awesome theory teacher who wears the cool socks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Observations From The Pediatrician's Office

I took both my girls to the doctor, actually the pediatrician this morning for vaccines. Brooke needed the meningitis shot before leaving for college and both girls received the HPV vaccine. Yes, I am one of those liberal parents who, by vaccinating their children against a life threatening illness. is promoting promiscuity. Whatever . . .

The true reason for the visit was not nearly as interesting as some of the observations that the three of us made while in the doctor's office. I will admit up front that these are random findings so don't spend too much time looking for "the point".

1. When we first arrived in the waiting room this morning, there were two other patients waiting to be seen. Both were little boys and both were accompanied by their fathers. I really am not sexist, but it was unusual to see small children at the pediatricians office with their daddies. One of the men was engrossed in a magazine while his son played with the toys in the corner of the office. The other, who was wearing a blue T-shirt with what looked like the Superman logo on it that actually said "Superdad", was sound to sleep and snoring in the seat a few down from us. Another sexist remark - a mother who was asleep at the switch would not earn a "Supermom" T-shirt but rather a visit from CPS! When the nurse came to call this family back to the exam room, Dad snored on. The little boy, who was probably three, came over and grabbed his daddy's arm and said, "Wake up! They just called Christopher. That is me. Wake up! It took dad a minute or so to wake up and make his way to see the doctor. Perhaps they were there to see if narcolepsy is genetic.

2. The office policy seems to be "If you can't beat 'em, join em." So, they always have a Disney movie showing on the TV. As we were watching Tarzan, Erin commented on the fact that in many of Disney's movies, the father figure dies - Tarzan, Lion King, Cinderella. How depressing is that?, she asked. In the back of my head all I could think was that it was preparing the children of all those going to fight in Iraq for the real possibility that they may grow up without their fathers. I realize this is a bit cynical, but truer than we'd all like to admit.

3. As we were leaving, the movie had switched to Cars. Erin allowed as how this movie was gong to create an entire generation of poor drivers. And, "those talking cars are creepy anyway." I think I am raising the next generation of the TV watchdog group. I guess that is preferable to a bad driver.

4. We have been seeing the same pediatrician since Brooke was born 17 1/2 years ago. In all that time I have never been unhappy with any of the office personnel or the care and treatment either of the girls has received. Because we were only there for vaccines today, we saw only a nurse, one whom I have never seen before. Usually the nurses are upbeat and cheerful. Today's nurse, who I hope was on loan from a temp agency was less than cheerful and, well, not quite bright. I think having two children in the room at once was more then she could handle.

Once we established that Brooke needed the meningitis vaccine and the second dose of HPV and Erin needed the first HPV dose, I thought we were good to go. She came back and began with Brooke. "You are getting the first shot, right?, as she plunged the needle into her arm. "NO. The second!" "they are the same." Unphased, she then gave Brooke her other vaccine and Erin hers.

When we were in the office two months ago, I had given the doctor's office Brooke's immunization record that needed to be filled out by them and mailed to U of C. At that time the office was out of meningitis vaccines so they placed the form in her file to be completed and mailed once the vaccines were in. That was today. When I asked the nurse about the form, she looked at me like I had asked her if I could borrow a hundred dollars. She then replied, "What part of this are we supposed to fill out?" By this point, I had lost my patience. I snatched the form from her and pointed to the big orange letters that said, TO BE FILLED OUT BY YOUR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL" She then said to me, "We can't complete this form because she did not have a physical." Again I snatched the form and pointed to the big black letters at the top that read, IMMUNIZATION RECORD. Without a word she took the from back and left the room. As it turns out, she had the doctor sign the blank form (except for the personal stuff that Brooke had filled out) and gave me a copy of the immunization page from her file so that I could transfer the information to the U of C form. It is a good thing that no one took my blood pressure as I was leaving the office.

When we got outside, Erin accused me of being harsh with the nurse. "That is how mistakes are made and people die in hospitals!" I could have overlooked any one of these things but the combination pushed all my buttons. Should we ever encounter this nurse again, the harshness will be increased logarithmically! Fortunately for Brooke, this was her last visit to the pediatrician. She's a big girl now.

So, Erin, I will try not to embarrass you next time, but you know how I feel about idiots, especially when it is your well-being at stake. Sorry! No, I'm not.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Consonance, Dissonance, Division, And Union

Yesterday's sermon at church was preached by our new youth minister. He has been on the staff less than a month and this was his first time to preach to our congregation. Like most who are making a first impression, he "put on his best hat" (or in his case, alb) and gave it his all.

He is a charismatic speaker, so he grabbed my attention immediately. He also used a music metaphor, which kept my attention, maybe too much so. Below is the Gospel reading that he spoke about.

Luke 12: 49 - 56 (NRSV)
12:49 "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
54 He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, "It is going to rain'; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, "There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

In his metaphor, the preacher considered division, as it is used in the above passage, and dissonance as synonyms. The more I think about this notion, the more I believe his premise to be faulty, especially since he chose to use dissonance as it relates to music.

The way I see it, division is the opposite of union - either things are divided into parts or they are one. They are two unique things. Consonance and dissonance are not opposites - they are the extremes of a single thing, that being harmony. Harmony contains both consonance and dissonance and both are equally important to the overall effect of the musical composition. Are both union and division equally important to the significance of a single thing?

In the above passage from Luke, Jesus says that "I come to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were already kindled. I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed." Jesus has brought the power of the Holy Spirit and until all people on earth are filled with it, He will feel the stress of the division which exists between those who have been touched by the power of God, and those who have not. I don't think that it is dissonance that is sounded between these two groups; it is division. Until this division becomes union, there will not be peace on earth. Consonance and dissonance, however, will still be present even when division ceases. Each one of us has a unique relationship with God;therefore, how we each are called to serve God is also different. God may come to you in the perfection of a major triad and God may come to me in the beautiful dissonance of an augmented sixth chord. The point is not when or where God comes to each of us, but that the Creator comes.

In the last few verses of this passage, Jesus gives examples of the unfailing human ability to predict the negative outcome of particular weather conditions. He asks why then can we not accurately interpret the present time? Is He asking us why we can't see that division is like the rain cloud - a storm is inevitable. If we could rid our world of the clouds of division, the "weather" would be much more tolerable. Though there may no longer be devastating storms, dissonance will be found in the extreme temperatures of summer and winter while consonance resides in the mildness of spring and fall.

Perhaps I am over thinking this whole issue, but isn't that what a good sermon is supposed to do - make me think. Even if I don't agree with what was said, if I am forced to look closely at the words of Scripture and what was preached, the sermon was successful. My disagreement with our youth minister's premise does not create division, it creates dissonance. Musically, and perhaps theologically too, dissonance always yearns for and finds its own meaning in resolution whereas division remains true only to itself.

May the ebb and flow of consonance and dissonance fill your world with beautiful music.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Spa Day

Before all you girls, and maybe you guys too, get jealous, it was not me who had a day at the spa, but Serena, our llama. Because of all the rain we had in the spring and travel schedules this summer, we are just now getting to shearing time. It is a bit late, but fortunately we have not had triple digit temperatures until this week.

For most, a day at the spa sounds like a luxury, but Serena is not convinced of that. The shearer came at 9 this morning. Last night, we moved Serena from the big pasture to the small holding pen. That was her first inkling that something not so good might be looming on her horizon. Llamas are very particular about the spot where they leave their "llama beans". None of her spots are in the small pen - another point of unhappiness. We did, however, go for a walk around the yard and she got to nibble a light breakfast of pasture grass and leaves before the fun began.

"What's the problem with a little dust in the coat? It is cheaper than air conditioning. The burs, well, you can brush them out, right? Okay, if you think I need a haircut, then let's do it."

"This better be worth it! I could be out talking to my friends, having a little grass (You know what I mean.), and rolling in a little more dust."

The first cut. Because we are so late with this shearing, Serena's fleece is quite long. It would be very difficult to get it off in one piece for spinning; so this year, we will leave a little on the ground for the birds to gather for nesting material and the rest will be discarded.

"Maybe I will try a new style this year. What do ya'll think of the french poodle look? Okay, okay, they can give me the boring llama cut."

"All done. I am not fond of the hooficure part at all, but the rest was OK. Now that I am all beautiful, do you wanna kiss?"

"You bet, Serena!"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Daytime TV

Because it is summertime and we are afforded the luxury of a little down time, I must admit to watching more TV during the daytime than usual. Mind you I said TV during the day, not daytime TV. Daytime TV is usually considered to be soap operas, game shows, and sleazy talk shows. These are not what we have been watching. The TV is most often tuned to the Food Network, HGTV, CNN, or whatever channel is showing reruns of Law and Order or CSI.

This afternoon Brooke happened to be watching reruns of a show from the 2002-2003 TV season called John Doe on the Sci-Fi Network. Having never seen this show before and having not been paying close attention today, the best synopsis of it that I can give is this: A man found himself in Seattle not knowing who he was but knowing almost everything else. As he sought to uncover the mysteries of his own existence, he also helped the Seattle Police Department solve cases as well. (My apologies to any of you that are fans of this series. I am sure that there is more to it than this)

The episode that was on today was about a 10 year old boy genius who was conceived by artificial insemination after his mother visited a sperm bank. Somehow (I was not paying attention at the outset of the show), this little boy believed John Doe to be his father. One of the things that was integral to determining the boy's father was the intellect that they shared. A series of questions was asked of John Doe to prove exceptional intelligence as well as his knowledge of almost everything.

He was asked if he knew the derivation of the word "nerd". Because the word nerd is as common a word as food and toilet paper at our house, my attention was suddenly drawn to the TV. John Doe responded that the word nerd was first used by Dr. Seuss in 1950 in a line from his book If I Ran The Zoo. I was quite surprised by this.

I am a huge fan of Dr. Seuss. Like most children of my generation, I learned to read with the Cat in the Hat and Sam I Am. Back then, I was familiar with the characters and I had a grasp of the silliness illuminated in the literal stories. A few years ago, I was again drawn to Dr. Seuss. Right now, I can't even remember why. The result was that BK and I wrote and taught an adult Sunday school series on the Spirituality of Dr. Seuss. I suddenly met these characters and stories on a totally different level. Theodore Geisel was a story teller with an imagination beyond compare. I could go on and on about this man and his work, but that would be a huge digression from this post.

Back to the word nerd. I went to my Seuss collection to verify Seuss' use of this word because I could not remeber it in If I Ran The Zoo. There it was in the line, "And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo, and bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo, a Nerkle, a Nerd and a Seersucker, too." Cool! Then I went to the Internet to see if this was indeed the first use of this word in print. Most sources that I found agreed that it was.

Another theory is that the word nerd originated with the word drunk spelled backwards. There was not as much evidence to support this possibility. It was not until the 70's that the word nerd became accepted as part of the English language. Back then, the term was generally applied to a person who was socially inept. Overtime it has evolved to mean a person who interested more in intellect and academics than in the social aspects of life. The latter is certainly how we have come to use it at our house - a place that is proud to call itself home of the nerds.

I am not going to go as far as to advocate more watching of TV during the daytime, but I was pleasantly surprised by the piece of trivia that today's viewing brought.

Power To Nerds!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Domestic Daze

Deep down, I really am a home body. Most days I am perfectly happy at home reading magazines and cookbooks, knitting, cooking, puttering in the yard (if one can call four acres a yard), playing with the dogs, listening to music, and even chasing dust bunnies (aka wads of dog hair) with the broom. I honestly don't mind the tasks of daily living. Having said that, today was a great day!

I should have gotten up by seven to run the tractor around awhile before the temperatures reached 100 degrees. I did not get up that early. That was a good start to making this a nearly perfect day! By nine I was in the kitchen performing my daily beginning of the day ritual - unloading and/or loading the dishwasher. This usually happens before the coffee because the coffee pot is is an integral part to the dishwasher ritual.

Once the dishes were done, it was time for that moment I have been waiting for (since Saturday), the making of the red plum jelly. I have enjoyed the pumpkin butter, but the red plum jelly is the true prize and one has to get it while the gettin' is good!

This is prime plum season so they are really cheap - as low as 79 cents a pound. We started with five pounds of plums. That cooked down to about 9 cups of juice, and yielded 4 pints of jelly. BK and I spent the morning straining fruit pulp, pouring sugar, and stirring the whole sticky mess. It is hard to beat this kind of fun! You know you are a very simple human being when the sound of the jelly jars "popping" after the water bath brings on tears of joy. You laugh; try it sometime!

For some reason, no matter what kind of jelly you are making or how much fruit you start with, there is always a little extra that does not fit in the jars. This may be the kitchen gods realizing that a taste test in mandatory. Even after sticking my finger in the almost cooled jelly to "make sure it is OK", there was still enough for my sandwich - a perfect PB&J - not just any J, red plum J!

As I was coming down from my jelly making high, I managed to finish the second sock of a pair whose first sock was knit about six months ago. I also finished a pair of socks over the weekend. I will post pictures of these as soon as my fingers are not too sticky to handle the camera. I knit a few rows on my Surprise Jacket as well.

Feeling guilty about not rising early enough this morning to tend to the overgrown yard, I did take a ride on the tractor tonight and get about an acre or so cut. It was still hot, but not too hot. I think it was below 100. As I made my way through the tall grass, I was met by all the grasshoppers whose home I was "renovating." Several of them joined me for a ride around the yard. One in particular spent nearly fifteen minutes riding on the mower steering wheel. Maybe there was bit of that jelly lingering on my hands that he got a little taste of. I wish I had gotten a picture of my co-pilot.

I wonder if being thrilled with these totally mundane activities is a sign of old age. If so, maybe getting old isn't so bad. I guess only time will tell.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fall Preview

I really am a simple person; it does not take much to keep me happy. All I ask for is the "right" kind of jelly for my morning toast and my afternoon PB&J. Is that too much to ask? No, it really isn't.

This morning I slept in. I hate to admit that when I got up is was time for a late brunch or slightly early lunchtime. Based on the time, either my usual toast and grapefruit breakfast or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would have been equally acceptable. My dilemma did not come with choosing one over the other but that we had no jelly. Which of the two would I rather eat with no jelly?

My favorite kind of jelly is red plum. Knowing that we were low on jelly, but not realizing that we were completely out, I tried to buy some yesterday at the grocery store. The store where I now shop does not carry ANY brand of red plum jelly at all. What's up with that? In a moment of stubbornness, I did not even buy that grape that will always do in a pinch. Consequently, I was forced to eat naked toast this morning. Though the immediate problem of today's first meal had been addressed, the bigger problem of no jelly still had not.

I know, I will make jelly. I only had one problem, not enough of any one fruit to make the process worth it. Fruit salad did not sound like an appetizing flavor of jelly. But wait! I do have pumpkin. And BK is here. She can make pumpkin butter. This is Erin's favorite and she has been asking for it for . . .well, a long time. It is not the same as red plum jelly, but it is a close second. The only thing that could impede my plan was having no canning jars. A quick trip up the step stool to the top pantry shelf revealed a half dozen jars. That should do. Anything that doesn't fit in these jars we can just eat with a spoon!

One does not usually think of pumpkin in the 100 degree Texas summer; one probably does not think of canning either. Oh well, we did. Though pumpkin is usually considered a fall thing, at our house it is a staple. We eat it all year round. Brooke has a great vegan pumpkin pie recipe and muffin recipe. I have an awesome pumpkin bread recipe. I am not sure whether it is the pumpkin itself or the fact that every recipe that uses pumpkin also uses mega amounts of cinnamon, but in my mind, nothing bad comes from pumpkin - except maybe soup. Truthfully, I have never had pumpkin soup;however, it really does not sound good, especially compared to pie or muffins!

A little canned pumpkin (this is how you know it is summer), some sugar, just the right spices and in a few minutes you have pumpkin butter ready to be put in jars and then in a hot bath. Amazing!

Because my naked toast had not been truly satisfying, I had a peanut butter and pumpkin butter sandwich for lunch. BK joined me and Brooke and Erin had well-dressed toast. There is nothing that beats homemade jelly.

Don't think that I have forgotten about the red plum jelly. Tomorrow we are going to get a bunch of plums, more sugar, and a supply of canning jars. By this time tomorrow, the pumpkin butter will have to share its spot on the pantry shelf with a few jars of red plum jelly. These are not a compatible combination to the taste buds, but on the pantry shelf they are an awesome duo.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Last Look At New Mexico

Thank you to all of you who have stayed with me during this week's travelogue of my adventures in New Mexico. You will be glad to know that today is the last of the series - mostly pictures that did not fit into any of the other posts. Hopefully life back in Texas will get a little more interesting or I am going to have nothing to write about.

No matter what the weather conditions, the New Mexico skies are always beautiful.

These are views from the road between the cabin and Taos.

Here the thunderstorms are rolling in at sunset.

This picture was taken near the plaza in downtown Taos. I love the pottery up on the ledge. Fortunately, none of it was for sale!

THE END. I promise!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mountain Dogs

There are mountain lions and mountain goats, and then there are mountain dogs.

This was Adidas' second trip to the cabin. On his first trip, he was accompanied by our elderly golden retriever Snuggles, who had made several trips before, and Malibu, BK and John's equally elderly pug. Since our trip two years ago, both of these veteran mountain dogs have died. Adidas, having been mountain trained by the best, remembered all that they had taught him. He passed on all of the necessary information to Harley on this her first trip.

The most important piece of information that he shared was that of the canine boundaries. The dogs were good about staying close by unless accompanied by one of their humans. Of less importance but of great canine interest was the hot spot for chasing chipmunks, where to find the best swimming, the location of all the bones so that you can assemble your own forest critter, and how to open the screen door with no human intervention. The dogs were great companions on this trip.

In years past we have hiked up to the meadow, about a two mile hike each way. We did not make this hike this year - partially because it rained quite a bit and also because Erin and I (and the dogs) were the only hiking enthusiasts on this trip. One afternoon, however, Alissa, the girls, the dogs and I headed out for a short walk up to a small waterfall, maybe a half a mile or so. As soon as we reached our destination, we were met with an afternoon thunderstorm. We headed back to the cabin but not before we were all drenched. The rest of the day was spent inside drying off and, you guessed, knitting.

Here is our canine trail buddy.

Actually, Alissa spent much of the afternoon spinning. Please notice the "decor". Like I said, we all got soaked. With no dryer, wet clothes were hung on the line in front of the fire. It just so happens that the line was strung across the living room. Oh well, it was all girls up there - except for Adidas and he did not care.

It is hard to see in this picture, but the roving that Alissa was spinning looked like the colors that were in the hummingbirds that were constantly at the feeders outside the cabin windows.

Once the rains stopped, Adidas was ready to play frisbee. He is such and addict that we had to change the phrase "play frisbee" to "recreate with the flying disk". He had the energy to play 24/7. The rest of us did not.

Harley was not the least bit interested in recreating with the flying disk, but she did enjoy inhibiting Adidas' game. Every now and then she would snatch the frisbee from him. Her favorite thing to do with it was hide with it under the rock table - a place big enough for her but too small for Adidas without some serious excavation.
Harley likes for everyone to think that she is precious, but we all know better!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

High Fiber Diet: Main Course

Because we are all smart people, Alissa, BK , and I all left for New Mexico with ample knitting projects to keep us busy while away. BK was knitting a baby blanket for a little person who arrived just before we left, Alissa was knitting socks from yarn she had spun, and I was making Elizabeth Zimmerman's Adult Surprise Jacket. However, none of us could overcome the temptation to visit yarn shops in Taos. It won't hurt to just go look! Yeah, right.

On the recommendation of someone who came into our local yarn shop, we went to Taos Sunflower. It was like turning a bunch of five year-olds loose at Chuck E. Cheese. Look at this! Feel this! I want to make something with this! Look at the colors! What do you think I could do with this? Which color should I get? Should I buy an extra skein? Yes, it was sensory overload at its best and I loved every moment of it! When the voice of reason finally managed to get through to me, I bought only a hank of beautiful merino to add to my Surprise Jacket, some Lamb's Pride to make a Lucy Bag, and a skein of lace weight yarn to do "something" with. I know it sounds like I overindulged, but you have no idea how much restraint I showed. I really did!

Below is the view as you approach the shop. All of the brightly colored yarns are cheerful and inviting. It gets better on the inside. Not only is there more of the same as far as yarn goes, the staff is equally bright and cheerful.

The whole picture is so full of life.

The yarn is just an extension of the garden.

As we were leaving the shop, I noticed this old wagon.
Hmm. I could buy more yarn if I had something like this to haul it all up the mountain. Then I noticed the unassuming red building in the background. As I walked toward it just to see what it might be, I saw the sign that said "Pottery". Oh no! Another temptation.

I must confess that I was not able to overcome the urge to buy. I just had to have some. There will never be another opportunity to have these one of a kind pieces. Plus, the potter was personable, had a great sense of humor and he had dogs. Every weak spot I have was touched. I was not the only one. BK and Alissa also succumbed. Boy did we have fun!

We all headed back to the cabin with enough yarn to keep us busy in the mountains for another couple of weeks. It is a shame that we had to come home after only a week.

My girls, who had spent most of the week reading and watching DVD's of TV cop shows, got the knitting bug when they saw all the beautiful yarn that we had found. They had opted to go paint pottery of their own at a local studio while we went yarn shopping so they did not share our experience of the yarn shop. After their ooh's and aahs and a little whining about needing something to do with their hands, we all pulled up our big girl panties and sacrificed ourselves to take them to see the yarn on Saturday before we left to come home.

Brooke bought some 100% merino to make herself a hat and scarf. Maybe it is finally sinking in that she is going to freeze her butt off next year in Chicago. Erin found some yarn to make a hat for BK's grand baby who is due in December. Erin finished her hat this afternoon. Brooke is still working diligently on hers.

I am anxious to see all of the finished projects from our yarn indulgence. I hope to post pictures as things are finished.

Oh, one more confession. I was the only one of us who had "dessert". As we made our way back home, we stopped by Southwest Weaving. I bought a tabletop Navajo loom. I have a larger one but I never seem to have time to work on big projects. My rationale was that perhaps a smaller loom would afford me the opportunity to actually finish something. We'll see . . .It has not made its way out of the box yet.

For those desiring a high fiber diet, Taos definitely offers many five star "restaurants".

Monday, August 6, 2007

High Fiber Diet: Appetizer

We had some great food while in New Mexico, but to three knitters, a high fiber diet means lots of yarn!

Early in the week we went to Victory Ranch, an alpaca ranch about thirty minutes from the cabin. We had a great time feeding and petting the animals though in the back of our heads at all times was boy this fleece would make a great sweater (shawl, sock, hat, etc.).We did have the opportunity to buy yarn in the gift shop. Imagine my surprise when one of the handspun, handpainted yarns I picked up had a label on it that said it was from Denton, Texas. It was done by our local locksmith. She makes an annual trip to Victory Ranch to pick up fiber and then spins and dyes it for them. It is nice to know that we can get this fiber locally, but a trip into town is not nearly as exciting as a trip to New Mexico.

These animals, who are a year old, were shorn for the first time about a month ago. The first fleece from an alpaca is always the softest and thus, the most desirable.

As far as I am concerned, the entire animal is desirable!. They have the sweetest faces and most of them have an equally sweet disposition. Faces like this just make me melt.

It always comes down to food. Alissa had the food and these guys wanted it. The grilled corn and banana bread that I made last week had almost the same effect on BK and Alissa.
It takes more than food to get to this little girl's heart. She stood outside the herd while the others indulged at snack time. I wish I could have brought her home with me! I know that is pushing my luck; my buddies had to deal with my kids and my dogs all week. But, isn't she cute!

At night, the ranch is patrolled by six Great Pyrenees who protect the herd of alpaca from coyotes.. Technically, the dogs are "off" during the day so they are free to meet and greet visitors to the ranch. Erin made a new friend in "Zeus".

I am proud to say that i resisted all temptations. I bought no yarn and returned home to Texas with only the animals with which I left and a few pictures of what could have been.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

We're Back

We (the girls, the dogs, BK, Alissa, and I) just returned from a week in the mountains of New Mexico. It was a time of no TV, no Internet, no telephone, a great deal of knitting, a fair amount of work, and some good times with friends.

BK and her sister own a cabin about 30 miles north of Taos. It is an awesome place!

The temperatures were in the 50's at night and the 70's during the day. That beats the heck out of the three digit temperatures expected in Dallas this week.

Once I unpack and upload pictures, I will tell more of the story.

Stay tuned . . .