Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Monday, October 15, 2018

Grand dog sitting

So I am watching these two sweet dogs this week - my grand dogs.  Ragnar, Rags for short, is the white English Bulldog on the left, and Olivia, Liv for short, is the hound mountain dog mix on the right.  Rags came to us as a puppy.  Olivia was a rescue coming to us at approximately the age of 2.  They are buds.

This week my son and his wife are out of town and I am their regular dog sitter.  At times in the past I have kept them at the condo with marginal success.  They are big dogs with lots of strength.  Together they can easily overpower me if they are on leashes.  Individually I can manage them.  But they are really 'house' dogs - not 'condo' dogs - and they don't always understand the noise limitations of living so close to other people.  And they are used to their large fenced in yard - as pictured above - leash walking is sometimes hard.   So I decided to 'live' at their house with them and come back to the condo to visit with my husband each day.

And usually, dog sitting at their house is uneventful ... except when it is not!  Like Saturday.

Saturday I arrived at the house.  My son and his wife had already left.  The dogs were waiting excitedly for me.  A full week of Grandma - who spoils them, and loves them, and gives them treats for just breathing!!

To blow off some of their steam at my arrival, I opened the kitchen slider and let them run in their yard.  I proceeded to get myself unpacked.

At some point I opened the door and called for them.  Rags came running from somewhere deep in the yard at full gallop.  He raced for his water bowl.  He was alone.  No Liv.  I called for her again.  Nothing.  No worries.  She probably was fully engaged with a delicious scent she could not let go of (part hound after all) and I let Rags back out in the yard again.

I walked along the back of the house to the far side of the yard - calling her name, stepping carefully to avoid poop and dodging Rags who was still exuberant.  I didn't see her.  She didn't seem to be anywhere in the yard.  A small little voice of worry crept into my mind.

I turned and started walking carefully back the way I came, looking in the bushes and up the hill.  I was about halfway back when I realized that Rags was circling me and running back to where we had been - over and over again.  Hmm... I turned around and walked back.

When I got to the end of the yard, I noticed that Rags was walking behind a shed and running back out again.  It didn't take long for me to discover this ...

There she was!  Obviously under the shed and stuck!  She had squeezed in a small spot closer to the other side and could not figure out how to back out.  Actually she may have had very little room to make any adjustments except to go forward.

And, of course, Rags was so frustrated because Liv was 'having all the fun' and he couldn't get his chunky little body in that space.  (Liv normally is the brains of the pair - but she didn't show good judgement this time.). I had to take Rags back into the house - because he was 'helping' just too much.

And then I had to dig her out.  When we were done - she could squeeze out and she was very joyful.  Grandma had saved her.  The space, however, looked like this.

Just too inviting for another visit.  
One episode like this was enough for me.  
So I spent some time lifting and repositioning some cement blocks in that space.

That little episode took a few years off my life.  I don't have that many to spare.  But I knew I was getting her out, even if I had to call Rescue 911 - and have the fire fighters come.  

When we were done with this little escapade, the sun was starting to set.

Olivia has proven to be an exceptionally smart dog in many ways since we got her.  
Her vocabulary is impressive.  
She is very careful around my legally blind husband
 and waits patiently for me when she and I are going down my condo hall steps together.

But this day, she let her 'hound brain' take over!!

Love her bunches!!

Even the hound parts.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Words of Charles P. Pierce

I don't know how many of you watched the recent Senate hearings in the confirmation process for the new Supreme Court Justice.  The interviews and the resulting outcome was so discouraging and sad that I thought to avoid any mention on my blog.  This is not a political blog, after all,  and I don't want to offend readers whose opinions are different from mine.

But then I read the words of Charles P. Pierce on Facebook.  

Those words are worth repeating here.
  I hope you feel they are worth reading.

I must warn you ... it won't make you feel any better!

"In my life, I have watched John Kennedy talk on television about missiles in Cuba. I saw Lyndon Johnson look Richard Russell squarely in the eye and and say, "And we shall overcome." I saw Richard Nixon resign and Gerald Ford tell the Congress that our long national nightmare was over. I saw Jimmy Carter talk about malaise and Ronald Reagan talk about a shining city on a hill. I saw George H.W. Bush deliver the eulogy for the Soviet bloc, and Bill Clinton comfort the survivors of Timothy McVeigh's madness in Oklahoma City. I saw George W. Bush struggle to make sense of it all on September 11, 2001, and I saw Barack Obama sing "Amazing Grace" in the wounded sanctuary of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
These were the presidents of my lifetime. These were not perfect men. They were not perfect presidents, god knows. Not one of them was that. But they approached the job, and they took to the podium, with all the gravitas they could muster as appropriate to the job. They tried, at least, to reach for something in the presidency that was beyond their grasp as ordinary human beings. They were not all ennobled by the attempt, but they tried nonetheless.
And comes now this hopeless, vicious buffoon, and the audience of equally hopeless and vicious buffoons who laughed and cheered when he made sport of a woman whose lasting memory of the trauma she suffered is the laughter of the perpetrators. Now he comes, a man swathed in scandal, with no interest beyond what he can put in his pocket and what he can put over on a universe of suckers, and he does something like this while occupying an office that we gave him, and while endowed with a public trust that he dishonors every day he wakes up in the White House.
The scion of a multi-generational criminal enterprise, the parameters of which we are only now beginning to comprehend. A vessel for all the worst elements of the American condition. And a cheap, soulless bully besides. Watch him again, behind the seal of the President of the United States. Isn't he a funny man? Isn't what happened to that lady hilarious? Watch the assembled morons cheer. This is the only story now." ~Charles P. Pierce


I couldn't have expressed this better, Mr. Pierce.

Per Wikipedia
Charles Patrick Pierce[1] (born December 28, 1953) is an American sportswriterpolitical bloggerliberal pundit[2] author, and game show panelist.[3]

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Circle of Friends

Yesterday was my knitting group meeting!

It was my turn to host!  As I prepared I got to thinking ...

Social contacts ...  in the bullet list of a healthy life style for seniors, a circle of friends should be #1 - ahead of medications and shots, ahead of a healthy diet and an exercise regimen.  Ahead of just about everything.  After all ... who really knows what contributes to a long life - but whatever minutes we have in that life, it should include regular time with friends.

I didn't read that idea in a book or hear it on a TV show.  I watched it play out in the real lives of 3 elderly relatives.  Friends would move away or die and the social circle would shrink until sometimes there was no one left.  I remember my mother-in-law talking about her 'friends:' the cab driver who took her to the grocery store every week, the grocery store checker whose line she always waited for so she could 'visit,' the hair dresser who gave her a wash and set every week for years.  These folks were her 'friends' toward the end of her life.  It made me sad and a little uncomfortable knowing just how common this situation is.

So I have made it a priority to take a different path as I got older.

The second Monday of every month 6 of us get together and knit for about 3 hours ... well, it is more like knit, laugh, snack, share .... repeat!  We take turns hosting this group in our homes.  We make time for each other.

Our small group was drawn together by a share interest ... knitting.  The idea of a private knitting circle was birthed through a public knitting circle that I frequented for many years.

In 2010 I joined a new local drop-in group called Columbia Sip and Knit.  When I joined there were only 7  members.  The group met in public places and was open to all.  Because it was held in a public place, folks passing by would often stop and talk with us.  Over time the membership grew from those casual encounters.  Initially we had only one meeting option a week.  Last time I checked the membership stats for that group have grown to over 1000 and there are 5 or 6 choices of meetings each week - different times and locations - something to suit any schedule.  The growth of this group was directly related to the growing popularity of knitting over the last 20 years.

My first Tuesday morning knitting group in 2010.
Early on I volunteered to be the organizer of a Tuesday morning session. I believe that group still meets at a local restaurant.

Beautiful days in our local shopping center court yard.
Three years ago I got restless.  I wanted different things from my knitting group experience.  I wanted stability - not new faces every week.  I wanted true friendships - not acquaintances.  I wanted to develop these friendships into lasting relationships - where not only light casual conversation happened, but where serious and sometimes sad sharing could be safely expressed.  A circle of friends that were committed to each other, made time for each other and not just committed to knitting.

I reached out to another member and shared my idea for this new group.  She felt the same way and before you knew it, we had identified 8 members.  All were excited to start anew within a private framework.

That was 3 years ago!  We have shrunk from 8 to 6 members when 2 of our group moved out of state.  But 6 is good number and we are open to new faces should the opportunity present itself.

I pondered all this as I was setting out the munchies for our gathering yesterday.  Thinking back to our beginning I realized how well it has turned out.  We care about each other - we have shared many things sitting around the kitchen table knitting and we have developed a support system of sorts.

I think it is still evolving and who knows what the future holds.  But a circle of caring friendships is as important to my wellbeing as taking that morning vitamin or going for a daily walk.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Camping in August

So ... did you picture me out in the wilderness,
 sitting by a tent where I slept on the ground in a sleeping bag,
 swatting at bugs, cooking over a fire, 
pooping in an outhouse or in a hole in the ground, 
grubby, hot and sweaty in the humid August heat of Maryland?  

Be honest - you did, didn't you.

Even my son's dogs, Olivia and Ragnar, look on in disbelief at the
thought of their 'grandmother' camping.
In fact they do not see themselves camping either!
Silly person!

Give me a nice hotel room with a balcony over looking a lovely cared landscaping or a comfortable arm chair set by a roaring fire in the lobby with a hot drink by my side and knitting in my lap enjoying the comforts of the 21st century.

But I did take a weekend to ride down with my son's family to
see their version of camping.

The trip to Southern Maryland does take you through
some lovely wooded areas.  But no stopping
to set up a tent.
My son checking the camper before he releases "the hounds."
They appear to be supervising.
Obviously, this is not their first trip!
Their version of camping falls somewhere between the 'true believers' sitting in a tent and the folks like myself who like the enhanced version of camping out in a 4 star hotel with room service.  Their version of camping takes place at Dennis Point Marina in Southern Maryland, where other 'campers' of their type can be found.

Although they have done this for more than 10 years, it never seems to grow old for them.  Recently they upgraded their camper from a fairly standard previously owned RV to a new 'Cadillac' version of an RV.  More space for 2 dogs and a baby and 2 adults to spread out.

Their new home away from home.

Check out their 'tent!!'
Complete with air conditioning, heat and a central vacuum cleaner.

The kitchen - I mean 'cook fire' - is fully equipped with a self cleaning oven, a nice size freezer and fridge, an oven and a microwave.  The sink is located on the center island.

 The view from their dining and kitchen window.

They do have a fire place - electric - no smoke!  Lots of atmosphere.  Above the fire place is a large flat screen TV - and as you can see space to lay on the carpet and play with your baby.

You can enjoy TV or just read a book in the comfy recliners.  There are two.  And there are two other couches that open into 2 queen size beds.  The master bedroom has a king size bed.

And there is a ton of storage.

Needless to say, there is no need for an outhouse.  Although I don't have pictures, there is a very lovely bathroom.  Sink, shower, and flush toilet - complete with toilet paper!  Very civilized.

The 'neighborhood' is pretty cool as well.

Lots of water views.
Space to sit a spell.

Just a lazy weekend doing nothing but relaxing.

Even a place for kids to play, a pool, and an enclosed dog park.

Cute street signs.

And quality time spent with this little cutie!!

Ah! Camping!!

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Struggle is Real - Act 3

Just to review ...

  1. Act 1 can be found here.
  2. Act 2 can be found here.
  3. Pride is bad. 
  4. Tantrums are worse.
  5. Yarn Bee Acrylic from Hobby Lobby is good for crochet - not so much for knitting.
  6. I am 4 months behind on my Christmas knitting.
  7. If you don't know what I am talking about - go back to the top of this list.

Everybody with me now??

Challenge 2 - pick the yarn! (again)
Challenge 3 - pick the color! (again)

Enter stage right ... Caron Simply Soft.  I love this yarn, used it many times in the past and for some unexplainable crazy reason I looked right past it on my shelf when deciding on a yarn for these sweaters.  My old friend ... Caron ... looked back at me from my yarn shelf.  A beautiful bright and cherry pink!  "Pick me" it said.  "I have never failed you."

Eskarina, girl, pink, perfect!

I had one pink skein and the green pink variegated in stash.
I purchased a second pink skein just to be sure I had enough.
While at the store they had a complimentary variegated yarn
 that matched the pink that I like even more.
Bright and cherry for a baby girl.

The sweater requires 2 buttons.  And, oh, these buttons.
They are just too cute for words.

For my grand nephew I moved away from blue (too many bad memories there), to a sweet Burgundy.  I had many skeins of burgundy in my stash but a contrasting color needed to be obtained. I decided to go with a deep charcoal.

The soccer ball buttons were a great find as well.
The next step was to pick up my knitting needles and begin again.

Much better.
 The stitches are even and any minor issues
 will definitely block out.
And I love the color choices better than my first 2 tries.
As you can see I am working on the collar now
 and the sleeves need to be finished.
But I don't have to be a mile away
 from this sweater to enjoy the project.

It amazes me that yarn can make such a difference in the
quality of the stitches.  Not an error can be found - so far!  Ha!

Just a few pictures to prove the point.

I will be very proud to give this sweater away to my
Grand Nephew.
One final note about this sweater - it has not yet been blocked!  Remember, I blocked the other yarn/sweater twice - and could not get what Caron Simply Soft gave me without blocking.  Also the stitch pattern at the bottom has better definition.  With the other acrylic, the stitch patterning seemed to blur as the yarn became fuzzy with use.  (Fuzzy ... another problem with the Yarn Bee Acrylic that I didn't realize till I did the same sweater in Caron Simply Soft.)

Thank you readers for your kind comments in the previous posts about my knitting efforts. My angst about the minor problems I couldn't get past (not one problem, mind you, but many) might have seemed puzzling.  I see that "perfectest streak" in others as they look at their creative works ... and I wonder how can they be so critical of themselves.  The fact is that experienced folks of any skill or art form are their own worst critics.  They know when a product they have produced is subpar.  I am no different.  I want my knitted gifts to others to be "hand crafted" and not "home made" in appearance.  There is a difference in my mind.

I'll post finished pictures at some point, and after Christmas, pictures of the kids wearing their sweaters, but for now this play in 3 acts has a happy ending.  Challenge 4 is ahead - Complete Two Sweaters - my deadline for these is the end of October.  This is the easiest  and "fun-ist" of all the challenges for me.   The decision parts always make me crazy ... the doing parts are my happy place.

I learned a few things from this exercise.
  • Not all acrylics are equal.
  • Yarn Bee acrylic was shiny and showy but splity and slippery - more chances to mess up. 
  • Caron Simply Soft behaves and feels and looks more like regular wool.
  • A "pretty face" (i.e. Yarn Bee) does not always produce a pretty product.   
  • Yarn Bee escaped the trash can this time. I had success with it previously and will save it for crocheted blankets and toys ... and maybe weaving. 
  • Note to self: Whiskey DOES works better than temper tantrums.  😁

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Struggle Is Real - Act 2

Act 1 can be found here!

Now just to review ...
I am an experienced and skilled knitter with many years under my belt.
  I like to think I am able to do absolutely anything if it involves yarn and needles!  

In case you forgot ... pride is never a good thing!

I seem to need that reminder frequently. 
My knitting can bring me down fast ...
into childish temper tantrums!
Sadly, we have not seen the last of those.

Challenge 1 - pick a pattern.  Done
Challenge 2 - pick a yarn.  Done
Challenge 3 - pick a color.  Done 

I began knitting with GUSTO!  (read: happy dance!)

I finished the boy's sweater first.  And from a distance, (say a mile away, ha!) it looks just fine.  

Up close the story is different.  I noticed as I worked a number of little icky things in the knitted fabric I was creating.  Those icky things buggered at my need for perfection.  This was not a difficult pattern, the stitches should be perfect.  All of them.

Something I did messed up these stitches.
But I plowed on.  I ignored the little voice that said "Are you going to accept that?"  My silent answer to that question was - "Oh, those little imperfections will block out."

Ditto - minor for sure but user error!
And it repeated in other places like a spreading plague!  Ugh!

Usually that is a true statement.  Blocking - even blocking acrylic - can make uneven stitches wiggle into place and look normal.  But these samples I am showing are after blocking!  After blocking twice!  As I worked, the number of little irregularities grew, and my frustration grew with it.  But I persisted, because that little voice in my mind couldn't be right!

These little tufts were put in by the manufacturer
when they knotted the yarn.  This skein had a lot of manufacturer joins.
Unfortunately this yarn was not easy to change colors or skeins smoothly
so I opted to keep the tufts rather than making a more ugly join by cutting the tufts out.
After the blocking failed to fix the problem, I actually bought fabric glue to push those little oddities to the inside of the sweater and GLUE THEM OUT OF SIGHT!!   Yes, I had sunk that low.  But as I approached the sweater with the bottle of glue in my hand - my little voice was yelling, "Are you out of your mind?  Glue? Seriously!!  Get real."

I decided to let the boys sweater 'rest' awhile.  A 'time out' seemed like the best choice for me and this sweater.

I began the girl's sweater - with a deliberate effort to make each and every stitch perfect - to avoid the inconsistencies that the boy's sweater had.  (Secretly, I had already decided to do his sweater over again.)  I was convinced that many of the problems in the boy's sweater were due to my carelessness. It had to be me because this yarn is so beautiful, and in many sections it looks just fine.  So it must be me!  That wasn't going to happen again. The girl's sweater would be perfect.  Each and every stitch perfect (damn it all!).  And, again, from a mile way, it is ok.

But close up!  Not so much.  Careful careful careful stitches and still not perfect.  I blocked the girl's sweater at mid point in the knitting just to see what would happen to the stitches.  Not good enough!

Clearly a knitter's problem - but I had been so so careful.

Suddenly in a wave of irrational thought ... I HATE THIS YARN TOO!  I could feel a temper tantrum bubbling up.  Should I just throw it all away.

(Breathe, breathe, breathe.)

This could not be me.  It had to be the yarn.  

(Breathe deeply, chug some aspirin, blink a few times to clear your sight.  Look at the girl's sweater again.  Crap!!)

One and half sweaters completed, all that work and still not acceptable.

(Walk around the condo a few times.  Put the girl's sweater in time out too.  Look at both again in the morning.  Keep breathing.)

The next morning one sane thought filtered into my brain ... I realized that I crocheted with this yarn but never knitted with it - crochet is a very forgiving craft - hides a lot of imperfections.  Knitting - doesn't hide anything.  Knitting errors or irregularities have neon lights, big flashing arrows, and mega horns announcing each and every problem.  All knitters know this.

(Crap, crap, crap.)

This yarn did not deserve to be given away to unsuspecting knitters ... it should be thrown in the trash can!!   Right this minute.  

(Temper tantrum in full display.  Trash can beckoned.  Think.  Go out for a walk until you can act rationally.  And breathe.)

One thing is for sure!  I have not completed Challenge 2 (yarn) or 3 (color.)  I just have the pattern.  It is October, but I have made no further progress since May.

(Maybe instead of breathing - I should try a shot of whiskey!)

Next time ... ACT 3!

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Struggle Is Real - Act 1

The Saga of the Christmas sweaters done in 3 Acts!

I have been a knitter since 1997!  Over that time I have learned a few things - ok ...  a lot of things about yarn and patterns and needles and gauge and blocking and construction.  I am a knitting champ!

You know what they say about pride coming before the fall!

And knitting always takes me down a few pegs
 when I get too full of myself!

Now that there are two babies in our family, my goal is to keep them outfitted in sweaters.  For this Christmas I thought it would be fun to make them matching sweaters.  Matchy-matchy ... you know!

First Challenge: Find the knitting pattern

The execution of that idea was marginally challenging when I tried to find a child's sweater pattern that would work for a boy and a girl.

In the spring finally found a pattern called Boy's Sweater by Lisa Chemery.  At first look it seems best only for a boy.  Despite the pattern name, looking at other knitters' renditions of the sweater proved that it was perfect for a boy or a girl.

photo credit:
Designer sample.

Photo credit:
Sweater by Unicorn
Just small changes feminize a boyish pattern by
another knitter.

Yea!!  Pattern obtained.  Check!

Second Challenge: Select a yarn

This is an easy choice for me.  Since these sweaters are for kids ... acrylic seems like a no-brainer!   But in most of the samples people used wool.  I really feel wool is a poor choice for children under 2:  little people grow through those first few sizes very fast, wool could be an irritant for tender skin, and it takes more effort for the mom to care for wool.  And acrylics today have greatly improved over 20 years ago.  Acrylic it is.  And I have some perfect acrylic in my stash.

Double Yea!! Yarn choice made without visiting a yarn store.  Check!

Third Challenge: Choose colors

While this challenge isn't such a big deal for most people, it is a major hurtle for me.  I am color handicapped! Really.  It is true.

But the color of the acrylic in my stash seemed perfect for matching sweaters.  Rusty orange for a boy and a sherbet orange for a girl.  Perfect I thought. The colors would work the male and the female.  I started the sweater for the boy - discovered I didn't like the rusty orange color after all or the knitted fabric that resulted.  Something about THIS specific acrylic was cursed.  This was my third effort to use this acrylic yarn in projects over 7 years, and all three attempts were a fail.   I had a small (ok, large) temper tantrum that NOTHING WORKED WITH THIS STUPID YARN.  I don't have a picture of the yarn or the knitting I attempted.  I gave that offending yarn away without giving it a second thought.  Truthfully ... I couldn't get it out of the house fast enough!

Then I settled on an acrylic yarn that I LOVED while making the crochet Zookeeper's Blanket.  It is the house yarn for Hobby Lobby called Yarn Bee Soft Secret.  It is a luscious yarn for acrylic:  shiny, beautiful colors and so soft.  I had never used it for a garment but it looked perfect.  I berated myself for trying to use stash yarn that was 'cursed' for our babies.  But I didn't have colors that would work.  I went shopping!!

Here are the two colors I bought for the girl sweater:  Blue Teal and Aqua!  My plan was to use the light color - Aqua - for the body and the darker color - Teal - for the trim like in the second picture above.

Here are the two colors I bought for the boy's sweater: Denim and Light Denim.  The plan was to insert some sport stripes on the chest and the arms in the contrasting color.

Aren't these colors wonderful?
  They are so soft - they feel like cashmere!
They literally shine!
I could not wait to begin.

Third Challenge:  Colors picked.  Check!

Ready to start again. The knitting began!

Next time ... the fail!