Monday, June 29, 2009

Finches: Their Diner and Nest of Four Eggs

Look what I found in our honeysuckle arbor today: a tiny nest of finch eggs!

I have been feeding finches for about two months from one of those bird feeder net socks. The feeder sock is about five feet from the honeysuckle arbor, so it is a convenient diner for mom and dad and soon-to-be kiddos. There are four eggs in the nest, and I was very careful in not leaving my scent too near the nest.

Catherine wrote this blog post about wrens nesting in cactus, and it spurred me to get a ladder out and look up into the honeysuckle branches where finches seem to be nesting. Sure enough, there were the pretty little eggs in a wee little nest.

It takes 21 days for chicken eggs to hatch, but only 14-16 days, according to Yahoo Answers, for finch eggs to hatch.

What is hatching in your neighborhood?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pink Day Lily Finished!

The pictures above were taken in January, 2009 in Auckland, New Zealand. Don't those colors create a riot in your head? Day lilies come in many varieties and colors, and these were absolutely spectacular. Here is a website that tells you everything you could want to know about this flower: The Day Lily Organization.

I had to try to paint that close up picture of the pink day lily because the colors captured me. Here is the project when I was about midway through painting it in April, 2009:

And it was completed yesterday (except for the glazing process), with a picture of the results below. It took four months to complete, what with my busy schedule of a retired diva.

It is painted with oil based fine art paints, and the picture is on a stretched canvas, measuring 11" x 14". Although I like those pinkish, mauve, purple and red colors, I am thinking of painting another rendition of a day lily in golden yellows, burnt sienna and reddish browns, similar to the day lilies in our front yard:

The canvas is prepared and I 'm about ready to sketch out the flower on it. This painting will be my opus, since the size is 30" x 40". Yikes! My husband was kind enough to spend a part of a day building me an easel large enough to hold that humongous canvas.
Wish me luck in painting it. I may be through with it by 2010, Lord willing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Claire Lace Shawl (free pattern download)

The Claire Lace Shawl, designed by Yvonne Senecal, available at the Caffeineated Knitter for download at NO cost... is... ta da.... finished! Yvonne was kind enough to answer a few of my questions while knitting this little jewel.

The fiber was purchased in Dunedin, New Zealand and is 40 % possum fur, 50% merino wool, and 10% silk. This acquisition was blogged about in February at possum-fur-and-wool-fiber-blend and again at a later posting. Eight skeins were used in the body of the shawl (100 yd/skein).

Some minor modifications that I made to the pattern were to finish off the sides of the shawl in a coordinating multicolor wool and silk fiber. Then a single crochet stitch was added to the top of the shawl, covered over with a four stitch I cord.

This is the top of the shawl shown in greater visual detail. Thanks, the Caffeineated Knitter (Yvonne) and Ravelry, for such wonderful technical support.

Now I'm on to the next shawl project from Meg Swanson's A Gathering of Lace.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"The Scream" by Edvard Munch; Again Surfacing in Grand Junction, CO

Remember the theft of the iconic art ("The Cry", or "The Scream") representing existential angst in the form of a screaming face? That piece of art was created by Edvard Much around 1893. Its actual title is "The Cry", according to Web Museum Paris:
(b. Dec. 12, 1863, Löten, Nor.--d. Jan. 23, 1944, Ekely, near Oslo)
Norwegian painter and printmaker whose intense, evocative treatment of psychological and emotional themes was a major influence on the development of German Expressionism in the early 20th century. His painting The Cry (1893) is regarded as an icon of existential anguish.

A gifted Norwegian painter and printmaker, Edvard Munch not only was his country's greatest artist, but also played a vital role in the development of German expressionism. His work often included the symbolic portrayal of such themes as misery, sickness, and death. The Cry, probably his most familiar painting, is typical in itsanguished expression of isolation and fear.
And from Munch_Museum, a description of the theft almost five years ago is given:
On Sunday, 22 August 2004, two paintings by Munch, The Scream and Madonna, were stolen from the Munch Museum by masked men wielding firearms. The robbers forced the museum guards to lie down on the floor while they snapped the cable securing the paintings to the wall and escaped in a black Audi A6 station wagon, which police later found abandoned. The paintings were recovered by Oslo Police on August 31, 2006.

Above is a picture of "The Cry" and then a close up of the face by Munch is below: look at a rock found on a neighborhood street in Grand Junction among a pile of bigger stones:

Do you see a similarity?

God has a sense of humor, if only we take the time to look carefully.

Monday, June 22, 2009

China Court & Other Read Aloud Books

Written by Rumer Godden in 1961, China Court: The Hours of a Country House was reviewed by The Book Diva at Viewpoints with this quick summarization:

Rumer Godden spins a complex and delicate tale of family, and time, and love. Past, present, and future weave around each other in layers of story centering on an old family home and the generations who live and hate and love there. I first read this story many years ago, and I still find many of Ms Godden's strong characters and unique turns of phrase vivid in my mind. I would recommend this book without hesitation - a re-readable joy.
Prolific reader, blogger, and all around marvelous personality and strong soul Julie, who writes at Forgotten Classics (and two other blogs!) has recorded this book on audio. I have recently downloaded her readings of China Court from this site: complete-episodes-listing, starting at episode number 23.

When downloading, each episode (a chapter or two) is copied automatically into my iTunes account. For some reason, it is saved to my "music" folder. But when saved onto my iPod, it is easy enough to pick up the first episode in that folder and begin listening to the book either in the car or my favorite easy chair (while knitting, of course).

These audible books in the public domain are easy to record onto a CD, or you could listen to the recorded podcasts/books on your computer, although those venues are not so portable.

Julie has recorded the entire China Court: The Hours of a Country House book (over 14 hours of recording time) in a clear voice, that although is not a professionally trained reading voice, Julie's tempo and lack of regional accent is very easy on the ears. What a gift to hear this read, and at no cost to the listener!

Try Julie's website, Forgotten Classics, and spend some time poking around there. She has a lot to offer.

Another of my podcast favorites, Craft Lit, hosted by Heather Ordover from Arizona, spends some time each week talking about things going on in her life (actually, quite interesting) and then either she or other readers read one or two chapters of a book each week. The past month or so, Heather has been reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. As a literature teacher, she has lots to add from her literary background which aids in content understanding.

Here is a listing of books which Heather has read/reviewed since 2008:

Frankenstein; Little Women; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Scarlet Letter (and probably one or two others I have forgotten or missed over the past 18 months)

You can find Heather's recordings at Craft Lit; just look on the left hand side under "Library".

Since April of 2006, Ms. Hardover has recorded many books in the public domain that have been read aloud by faithful followers of her blog. Like Heather says, "If your hands are too busy to pick up a book, at least you can listen to one." She is another amazing woman who has so many stars in her crown, like Julie at Forgotten Classics, it would be a full time job just to shine them.

There is a wealth of goodness at the sites of these two podcasters, and I encourage you to take advantage of them to increase your knowledge of the classics.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dying Alone, a Memorial Cairn

Dying is a phenomenon that is not unusual. Perhaps you have not thought of this issue.

One provocative post can be read at the "Elderly Living and Dying Alone. Sadly, too many of us leave this world with no one at our side. "Elder orphans" are discussed in the article:

"the number of Americans between the ages of 70 and 85, without a living spouse, without any biological or stepchildren, and without living siblings or half-siblings, will total more than 2 million people by the year 2030."

One such person who died alone yesterday was Leona Taylor. Although I did not know Leona very well, the facts were that she had no family still living, having had her husband precede her in death ten years ago. She was 92 years old, and had few visitors come see her in the nursing home other than hospital and hospice staff. She must have been a Christian, since she asked that the Bible be read to her in her last days. And Leona liked dogs. Therapy Dog Libby Sweetpea and I visited her in working with the local Hospice & Palliative Care over the past few months, and knew that only health issues occupied her time during our visits. No funeral services were planned.

Thinking about her life and knowing she had few mourners, it seemed some tribute should be made to her long life.

On my morning walk yesterday, I constructed a rock cairn memorial (a place of meditation and reflection according to Rock Cairns). Although it looks a bit crude, it was made with respect as a memory to her life; it is a tangible awareness that someone is thinking of her as she continues her journey into eternal life.

In Memory of Leona Taylor (1916-2009); Rest in Peace

What will you leave behind as your legacy? It is a thought provoking question.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Microwave Baked Potato Fabric Bags

Have you tried a cloth bag for baking potatoes in the microwave?

Potatoes baked in the fabric really are delicious, and have a different texture than the usual baking process from sticking a naked potato in the microwave.

There is no trick to it (other than using the bag); just wash and dry potatoes. Then wrap them in a paper towel. DO NOT PIERCE SKIN! Place potatoes in bag and microwave, as usual, for about five minutes (for one potato) or until done. You can put up to four potatoes in one bag. Remove the potato(es) from the bag and fluff with a fork, applying your favorite slathering of fattening delicious toppings. They taste like those slow roasted stuffed potatoes popular on restaurant menus.

If you want to get one for yourself or as a gift, you can purchase a baked potato bag here at Country Collectibles Microwave Bakers on the internet.

Or make one yourself with directions from Garden Web.

I was lucky and received one from a relative. This is the one she made: Baking potatoes in a bag is a novel idea, and the potatoes are delicious...there must be some magic in the process!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pictures of Knitting Madonnas

This picture may not be new to you, but after Googling "Knitting Madonnas", this was one of my favorite renditions. It was painted around 1390, according to Howard Schwartz. This website gives a concise history of not only the artwork, but also of the knitting craft.
The above renedition, found at WikiMedia, dates the wood cut at 1400-1410 AD.

Other pictures of knitting madonnas can be found at The Shawl Ministry. This site will link to each US state that has a shawl ministry. This is their picture depicting their mission:

On Flickr, you can click on the link and see the rendition dated from 1345, entitled "A painting of the Holy Family"; it is attributed to Ambrogio Lorenzetti (ca. 1345) of Siena. Size 54.5 x 25.5 cm.

This search was a fun find for me, and the illlustrations can be used in a number of ways with knitting projects.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Creamy Pesto Chicken and Pasta

Here is an easy and quick recipe using pesto sauce with chicken and pasta. How can you go wrong with those ingredients? I came across this recipe over at Purpled Sky's blog a few months ago. It is tasty! (Feel free to use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts for more flavor.)

Creamy Pesto Chicken Recipe

2 chicken breast fillet, quartered and sliced ...or dark meat!
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Prepare chicken slices thick or thin enough for a quick pan fry. Season with salt. Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Fry chicken slices until brown.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup creamer
3 tbsp pesto sauce
pinch of salt

In the same pan, heat olive oil. Saute garlic. Once fragrant, pour in stock. Bring to a soft boil. Add creamer little by little, stirring as you do. Turn off heat; then add pesto sauce. Season with salt.Place the pan-fried chicken slices onto the pan and turn the heat back on. Coat the chicken slices with sauce. Once the sauce starts boiling again, turn off heat.

Boil up your favorite pasta or risotto. Serve atop the starch. Yum.

It is almost time to make bunches of pesto sauce for freezing. This post explains how to make up basil or arugula pesto to freeze and use later.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Preparing Fleece for Spinning: Dog Hair and Alpaca Blend

In knitting-with-dog-hair, written about a year ago, the subject of knitting with dog hair was discussed. It was then I started saving my pups' fur for knitting into a new project. Like the book says, "better a sweater from a dog you know and love than from a sheep you'll never meet". The book Knitting with Dog Hair can be purchased at this site on Amazon. It is on my reference shelf, and is full of information about this rather esoteric subject.

Once the fur was gathered from our two dogs and their home-style groomings over the past 18 months, the obvious next step was what to do with it to get it into shape for spinning. It would need some other fiber to mix in with the fur in order to make a good blend.

Luckily, here in western Colorado, there is a farm with 14 alpacas on it. Shearing time was last week, and new acquaintance Cori Elam saved me enough alpaca fur (all white) for the blending. We rendezvous last night at our first weekly summer Farmers' Market in Grand Junction, and I gave her my bag of saved dog fur. It looked like this, and I had about a pound of it:

This fur will be mixed with Cori Elam's alpaca fiber. Cori's website can be accessed at Cori's Western Colorado Alpacas. She has all kinds of alpaca products for sale. Many of her alpaca fibers are imported from Peru; beautiful products were on display at her booth last night.

Back to the preparation process of the fibers: from the site how to prepare fleece for spinning, easy and concise information was gathered regarding the next steps:

Step 1 Take a chunk of fleece about the size of a basketball. Fill your sink with hot water and some dish soap. Step 2 Put the fleece in the sink and let it sink. If you are impatient, you can gently push it down. Slowly move it around but do not "agitate." Agitation will cause it to felt, making it useless for spinning. .... further steps .......remove the fibers and you are ready to spin.

Another website packed with information about using animals' fur is Spinning Straw into Gold. Take a gander at that site if you are interested in reading about one person's vocation with animal fur products. It is amazing.

But what would a knitted project with dog fur blended with wool look like? Sure enough, that source on the internet Ravelry with over 400,000 members world-wide was my best source for tracking down someone who had pictures AND and an explanation of her process of collecting fur. New friend Avedaggio on Ravelry from Boulder says about her dog Mulan's fur:

My mom has a shih-tzu, whom she keeps long-haired. Mulan’s fur is about 8 inches long. To keep her from becoming a matted mess, mom combs her every day and gives her a bath (complete with blow-dry!) every week. Since Mulan was a puppy, mom had been saving the fur she combed out in little plastic bags, and a couple years back she and my dad took it to the Estes Park Wool Market and got someone to spin it up (this was before I learned how to spin). Then I got 1200 yards of 2-ply Mulan yarn for Christmas! It smelled like Mulan right after the bath. It was so funny when we put a skein on the floor to let Mulan investigate– she sniffed and sniffed, and then picked it up, carried it to her favorite corner and curled around it as if it were a puppy! So cute. I ended up knitting a lap blanket for my mother out of it.

So the next steps of blending the alpaca and dog fur are in process. After the washing, carding, and spinning steps are completed, there should be more than enough yarn to whip up something as special as a Mulan's lap blanket shown above!

(Thanks, Avedaggio, for the use of your picture and your entertaining story.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hellen Keller: "In Light of a Brighter Day" essay in memory of Gale Barnwell

A brief acquaintance passed away this week. In memory and honor of her life, here is a podcast that I would like to share, written by Helen Keller, and found here at This I Believe:
I choose for my subject, faith wrought into life apart from creed or dogma. By faith, I mean a vision of good one cherishes and the enthusiasm that pushes one to seek its fulfillment, regardless of obstacles. Faith is a dynamic power that breaks the chain of routine, and gives a new, fine turn to old commonplaces. Faith reinvigorates the will, enriches the affections, and awakens a sense of creativeness. Active faith knows no fear, and it is a safeguard to me against cynicism and despair.
After all, faith is not one thing or two or three things. It is an indivisible totality of beliefs that inspire me: Belief in God as infinite goodwill and all-seeing Wisdom, whose everlasting arms sustain me walking on the sea of life. Trust in my fellow men, wonder at their fundamental goodness, and confidence that after this night of sorrow and oppression, they will rise up strong and beautiful in the glory of morning. Reverence for the beauty and preciousness of the earth, and a sense of responsibility to do what I can to make it a habitation of health and plenty for all men. Faith in immortality because it renders less bitter the separation from those I have loved and lost, and because it will free me from unnatural limitations, and unfold still more faculties I have in joyous activity.
Even if my vital spark should be blown out, I believe that I should behave with courageous dignity in the presence of fate, and strive to be a worthy companion of the beautiful, the good, and the true. But fate has its master in the faith of those who surmount it, and limitation has its limits for those who, though disillusioned, live greatly.
It was a terrible blow to my faith when I learned that millions of my fellow creatures must labor all their days for food and shelter, bear the most crushing burdens, and die without having known the joy of living. My security vanished forever, and I have never regained the radiant belief of my young years that earth is a happy home and hearth for the majority of mankind. But faith is a state of mind. The believer is not soon disheartened. If he is turned out of his shelter, he builds up a house that the winds of the earth cannot destroy.
When I think of the suffering and famine, and the continued slaughter of men, my spirit bleeds. But the thought comes to me that, like the little deaf, dumb, and blind child I once was, mankind is growing out of the darkness of ignorance and hate into the light of a brighter day.
As an infant, Helen Keller was struck by a fever that left her deaf and blind. But with the guidance of her teacher Anne Sullivan, she learned to communicate through the eyes and ears of others. After graduating from Radcliffe College, Keller became a renowned author, activist and lecturer.
In memomy and honor of Gale Elida Bardwell (February 15, 1940 - June 8, 2009)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Baby Surprise Sweater

That little Baby Surpise Sweater is completed. It turned out smaller than I had hoped, but it gives me a reason to knit another in a larger size. The pattern is available from Schoolhouse Press.

Its dimensions on a size 6 circular needle are: body width at middle: 8.5 inches; length 11.5 inches.

An applied I cord was attached around the edges, a single crochet edging was used for the sleeves, and three purchased buttons in accompanying colors to the yarn (Tuscany Colorway, hand dyed 100% superwash Merino Wool, 330 yr/skein, approx. 4 oz) completed the project.

Thanks, Marie at KnittedGems, for your help in pattern interpretation, as well as from the Ravelry Forum group!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Indian Rope or Indian Hoya Plant

Last year, this post had a topic of the Indian Hoya Plant. Ten comments from readers over past months showed this was a fun plant to display on a blog posting.

Dave says this house plant can grow to 4-6 feet in height. However, this elderly plant has never grown over about 3 inches tall. Its weight does cause it to drape attractively.

This year, sure enough, it bloomed again! Now in its 26th or 27th year in my home, here is a picture of its tiny porcelain looking blooms:

It is still going strong, needs little care and thrives on neglect. It is outside on the patio this summer soaking up the filtered rays and enjoying the high desert air with its lack of humidity.

The free program called picnik helped make the border and text on the picture. It is a fun little gizmo to play with; picnik has my full endorsement!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Three Colors for the Baby Jacket

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket (here is the first link) is in progress.

This is the basic yarn used for the EZ SBJ; 100% superwash merino wool, in the Tuscany Colorway, a hand dyed fiber from ShopYarnLove.

The other two added yarns are DK weight wool in lavender (10% cashmere) and another skein in rose/purple from New Zealand that incorporates possum fur into its merino wool.

Colors did not show true in the picture below, but I wanted to play with picnik, a program that allows tweaking of photos, including borders, text, colors, etc. Here is the picnik picture:

This shows the lavender yarn just being incorporated into the sleeve area above the cuff. It is an innovative pattern, complete with instructions available on You Tube here:

The videos (there are six of them) surely help in figuring out this challenging pattern. Kudos to L2Belt on YouTube for this step by step assistance.