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April 2010

Everything the Light Touches

Remember the scene in The Lion King. . . where Mufasa explains to Simba that. . . "everything the light touches is our kingdom?"

Sunrise

copyright 1994, 1995 the Walt Disney Company

I've always loved that image of Simba, catching a glance at his immense kingdom.  I know that this is how my dog, Jenny, feels when she looks out the window from our house.  She sees her own PrideLands, and believe me, she keeps a careful watch on her kingdom.

Today, in honor of Jenny's 3rd birthday, I decided to share Jenny's Pridelands with you.  Thanks to Google Earth, you can see "everything the light touches" (and a bit beyond!) for Jenny.

JennyLand

The house with all the yellow lines. . . is my house.  Well, actually, for purposes of today's post, Jenny's house - her PrideLands Headquarters.  It is a Dog's Dream House.  You see, Box A, and the yellow line, represent a high fenced backyard -- perfect for an active dog; especially one that is not overly fond of the Sit-Stay command (although we continue to work on it).  

Box B represents Jenny's view from the front of the house.  Now, this aerial photo of the PrideLands may not give you a clear sense of the neighborhood topography, but Jenny's house is located at the top of a cross-slope (definition mid-page).  That means, she has an awesome view of all PrideLands action -- in two different directions.

Then, there are the built-in features you can't buy at any pet store.  Box C is a city lamp post. 

Jenny's yard 002 

And Box D is a fire hydrant! 

Jenny's yard 001  

Can it get much better for a dog?  

Jenny is having a perfect birthday.  She got a great new toy.

Jenny bday 006 

She got a ride in the car -- with the windows down.  She got to do some gardening and chew on some sticks.  She had a visit from two of her favorite people (my mom and dad).  And she got a little bite of my turkey sandwich at lunch.

Jenny bday 007 

And now, we're off on a walk.  Through the PrideLands and beyond.

Jenny at Xmas New Year 010 

It's good to have your own kingdom!


A Definite Trend

Last year, my knitting was focused on sweaters.  Lots of sweaters.  This year, I set out, instead, to knit what I feel like knitting.  Now that we're about one-third into the year, I am noticing a definite trend.  Yes, "what I feel like knitting" turns out to be. . small, addictive, repetitious things. 

Minions.

Cowls.

Birds.

Potholders.

All . . . kind of like potato chips.

I guess it shouldn't surprise anyone that my newest project is right on trend.  Yes.  More small.  More addictive.  More repetition.  This time, in the form of mitered squares!

Pieces of april 015 

This is Vivan Hoxbro's Net Duffel Bag (Ravelry link) from the Spring 2009 Interweave Knits.  I wanted to knit it right away when I saw it last year, but, alas.  I was committed to The Twelve.  This year, though, I'm free!  I cast on while we were in Belize, and I've been pretty much obsessed with the little squares ever since. 

The knitting is not hard. . . but the project requires Much Concentration.  And a few little tricks.  For example, I'm keeping track of which square is which by using coil-less pins and number signs.

Pieces of april 004 

I'm also marking off the numbers of the squares on the chart as I complete them.

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I had a little brain-freeze at square 30.  It took a pair of scissors and a little paper-folding to help me convert a 2-dimensional chart into a 3-dimensional finished object.

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I'm having fun with this project.  It's moving along pretty quickly, and it's certainly satisfying my current addiction for small, repetitious things.  Sometimes it does look, though, like I'm working on some sort of demented model of the solar system. . .

Pieces of april 017 

Don't'cha think?



All the Cool Kids

. . . are doing it!  Here's mine. . .

Wordcloud 

If you want to play with this really fun webtool, just click here and try it for yourself!

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The other hot topic around the blog world today is. . . the Ten on Tuesday: Television Edition.  That one is tough for me. . . because I don't watch much television.  But when I do, I tune in to these shows:

1 -- Mad Men

2 -- Project Runway

3 -- Dexter

4 -- House

5 -- 30 Rock

Hmmmmm.  I guess I only have Five this Tuesday!


I Should Have Known Better

A post with a soundtrack. . .

I love hand-dyed yarns.  I love looking at them, and touching them, and collecting them.

Hand dyed yarn 001 

I actually think of them as "art objects" and I display my favorite skeins in a wicker basket in my sewing room (although I took them out and stuck them in my empty birdbath for the photo above).  I'm a little iffy, though, when it comes to knitting with hand-dyed yarns.

Why?

I really don't like the look of "pooling" . . . which is what usually happens when I knit with hand-dyed yarn.  See this sock?

Should have known better 007 

I got this far a couple of years ago. . . and just couldn't live with the pooling.  So I stuck the whole thing in a plastic bin in the corner of my closet.  I pulled it out this weekend and ripped it out.  Pooling is just not a look I particularly like.

I do like hand-dyed yarns for certain types of projects, though.  I really the like the look (even with a little pooling) in striped patterns. . . like Kirsten Kapur's Ulmus (my Cinnamon Girl).

Cinnamon Girl Fini 012 

Or, I think it works well in little bursts. . . like in Kirsten Johnstone's Se[ven]Circle cowl (my Cowlicious 3).

Cowlicious 018 

And I don't mind a little pooling in a big, broken up pattern like Clapotis (my Clapotis Trois).

Projects 038 

But for socks?  Not so much.  And for a sweater?  NEVER.

So.  What was I thinking, three (or so) years ago when I was entranced by 1600 yards of fingering weight, hand-dyed, merino/silk blend yarn. . . just hanging on display. . . waiting to be touched. . . at the Michigan Fiber Festival?  This yarn was gorgeous.  It looked like a Monet painting.  It reminded me of a garden.  It was heavenly to touch.  I must have been completely intoxicated by the yarn fumes.  Because I bought it.  Knowing that I hate pooling yarn.  Knowing that I had enough for a sweater. 

I should have known better.

Recently, I pulled that whack of yarn out, and rolled it all up (thanks, Mom!), and decided to try a sweater I really, really love the look of:  Hannah Fettig's Lightweight Pullover.

Oh. My.  I should have known better.

Should have known better 001 

Really.  I should have.  This one has it all.  Pooling. . .

Should have known better 005 

Sudden bursts of . . . "new" color patterns. . .

Should have known better 003

that just as suddenly . . . end.

Should have known better 004 

Really.  This color is just Not Me.  At all.   So. . . this sweater has now gone the way of the pooled socks.  The yarn is wonderful; just not for a sweater. . . or, at least, not for me.  The pattern is great, too, and I'll definitely try it again.  In a solid! 

I should have known better!


Crazy-Time

When I got back from my vacation last weekend, the weather in Michigan was unbelievably warm.  Unseasonably warm.  Unnaturally warm.  (Of course, things have righted themselves by now -- and it is back to near-freezing!)  I couldn't wait to get out in my garden and see what was popping up.

I saw the usual suspects for very early April: 

Daffodils. . .

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Lenten rose. . .

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May flower. . .

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Forsythia. . .

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and lawn violets (some people would call these "weeds", but not me!).

April 4 035 

But I also found a lot going on that's . . . well,

Unbelievable. . .

April 9 004 

Hosta crowns?  In early April?

Unseasonable. . .

April 9 019 

My pear tree is about to bloom?  You must be kidding!

Unnatural. . .

April 9 029 

My clematis --- thinks it's MAY!

So.  It's spring.  Crazy spring.  Fickle spring.  Now, not only can I worry about the inevitable frosts and snow still to come. . . but I can also stress because I'm already way behind in my gardening!!!  It's Crazy-Time when you're a gardener!

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Bright gardening notes:

#1 -- Last fall I purchased a rock-bottom-price, clearance-table blackberry bush.  But I didn't know what to do with it.  So, I went into denial, and just left it in the middle of my new garden bed.  Unplanted.  I felt guilty all winter long whenever I looked out my kitchen window.  Because there it was.  Covered with snow.  Still in its container.  Freezing.  Dead.  And even though I only paid $1.75 for it, I still felt bad that I had just. . . let it sit there.

Guess what!

April 9 015 

It's a survivor!  (I still don't know where to plant it, though.)

#2 -- Trillium are one of my favorite flowers.  I always go a little crazy when I find them in the woods in May.  Last spring, I decided to try to cultivate my own little trillium grove.  I purchased a few plugs from a reputable wildflower nursery. . . and watched them wither away to nothing in my garden.

Guess what!

April 9 033 

Three of these little guys are poking up!  I'm pretty sure it's my trillium.  (I'm so excited!)


No Such Thing as Too Many Candles

When I was a little girl, I really liked my birthday.  I got so excited -- about the cake and the presents and the nut-cups and the noisemakers.  I liked parties.  I liked balloons.  I liked passing out treats to my classmates at school.  I liked being a "new number" (because it makes such a difference, when you're a kid, whether you are 7, say. . . or 8).  I liked having a special day, all to myself. 

1st birthday

Here my Dad is singing to me on my 1st birthday!

As I got older, I became more lackadaisical about my birthday.  Once I hit all the "major" status-obtaining (teen-ager) and legal-rights-obtaining (driving-voting-drinking) birthdays, I just sort of lost track of my age.  In fact, I frequently have to ask Tom . . . how old are we again????

12th birthday

Turning 12 -- I swear, our lives were not as drab as the colors appear in this old photo!

I just sort of shifted into a low-key birthday celebration mode.  It wasn't that I had an issue with getting older.  I don't mind getting older at all.  I mean. . . what else are you going to do?  I have always embraced my years.

Birthday

A birthday in the early 80s.  Gotta love that 80s style!

I think my low-key birthday celebrations were more about the calendar.  My birthday falls during a busy time of year.  Often, it's right in the middle of the Easter holiday hype (and sometimes even ON Easter).  It's easy to get distracted by chocolate and bunnies and egg-dyeing.  And then, there was my work.  Before I had kids, I was a tax accountant for a (then) Big-8 accounting firm.  My birthday fell right in middle of the deep, dark days of tax season. . . where I was chained to my desk in the dungeon of my office and couldn't possibly celebrate anything.

Then, of course, there's the whole spring break thing.  For most of our 15 years of family spring break trips, my birthday fell either on one of those manic-packing days -- when your hair is on fire and you are mad with trip preparation. . . or on a travel day when you're somewhere in Nowhere, Alabama (no offense; it's just a long state) with whine-y children and a tired husband and you're lucky you can even remember it IS your birthday.  And don't even get me started on how many times my birthday has fallen in the midst of the Final Four! 

Like I said, it's a busy time of year.  I grew accustomed to - and comfortable with - low-key birthday celebrations.

Until I got cancer.

Suddenly, my birthday seems more important.  It's become a marker for me.  Because. . . I'm still here!  I get to count another year!  Because, now I know for sure. . . having a birthday. . . and getting a year older. . . "beats the alternative" (as they say).  Because the "alternative" . . . is not having any more birthdays to celebrate.  And me?  I want to have LOTS more birthdays!  I want to AMASS birthdays.  I want to embrace birthdays.  I want to be . . . 52. . . and 57. . . and 60. . . and 68. . . and 76. . . and 82.  I want to celebrate.

This year, my 51st birthday fell in the middle of our vacation in Belize.  Not in the harried packing days.  Not in the hanging-around-in-the-airport days.  But right in the middle.  So I could celebrate. . .

with a poolside pina colada. . .

Belize mar 2010 468 

and a beachside margarita (and a Belize beaded bracelet, to boot!). . .

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and a perfect sunset. . .

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So, here's to birthdays!  I vow to celebrate in a Big Way from now on.

51 001e 

There's no such thing . . . as too many candles!



Caribbean Blues

Caribbean Blue.  I know it's a color. . . offered by Lands End or L.L.Bean for their summer collections, usually . . . allegedly representing the tropical almost-turquoise-y blue of the Caribbean Sea.  After spending a week on the Caribbean, I can tell you that blue is definitely the predominant color.  But, there is no ONE "Caribbean Blue."

Everywhere you look, there is blue.  Blue sky.  Blue sea.  Blue pool.

Belize mar 2010 144 

Blue water.

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Blue buildings.

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Blue roofs.

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Blue boats.  Blue sails.

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Blue walls.

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Blue cool.

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Blue pottery.

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Blue shades.  Blue towel.  Blue suit.  Blue everywhere.

Belize mar 2010 315 

But . . . Caribbean Blue?  It's more accurate to call them  . . . Caribbean Blues!


Changes in Latitude

We have a long-standing family tradition: the Spring Break vacation.  After a long, cold Michigan winter, we are usually itching for some sunshine and warmth by the end of March.  So, each year when the kids have their school Spring Break, we pack up and head south.  Usually, we strike out for a "drive-able" location (Gulf Shores, Alabama or Kiawah Island, South Carolina), but we've also taken Spring Break trips to Sanibel Island in Florida and a fabulous trip to Maui a few years ago. Things are not quite the same since Erin went away to college, but we still carry on without her.

Last year, I opted out of a Spring Break vacation for myself -- although, heaven knows, I really needed one!  I had just finished up my chemo treatments.  I felt pretty fragile, emotionally.  I had no hair.  I would've had to avoid the sun.  I wasn't in the mood for a beach trip.  So I sent the boys off to the mountains of Colorado for some skiing/snowboarding instead. . . and I stayed home.  (Which was also nice, in a different way.)

This year, though, I was ready for a Spring Break trip!  (Our last, actually.  Since Brian is a senior this year.)  I really needed a little. . . change in latitude . .  and Belize certainly brought that!

Belize mar 2010 443 

How do you know you've had a change in latitude?   Why. . .

This is the view from your veranda . . .

Belize mar 2010 111 

and, suddenly, wine is NOT your drink of choice.

Belize mar 2010 102

You're not spotting robins anymore. . . but pelicans, instead . . .

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and coconuts are everywhere!

Belize mar 2010 178 

You rent a golf cart to drive. . . instead of a car. . .

Belize mar 2010 136 

because most streets aren't paved. . . and if they are, it's with patio bricks!

Belize mar 2010 288 

On restaurant menus, the Mexican food selections can be found under a "North of the Border" headline. . .

Belize mar 2010 180 

and the food is spicy-hot!  Comatose level!  Caliente!

Belize mar 2010 445 

Cuban cigars are legal. . .

Belize mar 2010 489 

and so is your 18-year-old!

Belize mar 2010 086

And instead of watching your kid glide across a hockey rink, you're watching him sail across the water.

Belize mar 2010 372 

It's nice to get away . . . where the sun shines hot and the breezes are refreshing.  Where the birds sing a different tune. . . and the flowers are blooming.

Belize mar 2010 449 

And you can wear your new summer sweater!  (Ravelry link)

Belize mar 2010 528 

Ahhhhhh.  Nothing like a little change in latitude. . . to bring a change in attitude!


Belize-in' It

Y'know. . . it's really hard to shift back to real-life. . . after Belize-in' it. 

I mean. . . I just spent an entire week with my feet up.

Belize mar 2010 140

I've had nothing to do; nowhere to be; no phone or computer.

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I've been driving around in a golf cart (the preferred mode of transportation on the streets of San Pedro).

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My most difficult decisions have revolved around. . . snapper or shrimp?  . . . margarita or rum punch? . . . pool or beach?

Belize mar 2010 389 

I'm having a hard time shifting back to reality today.  Laundry.  Grocery shopping.  Mail.

Belize mar 2010 379 

I'm missing my mid-day pina colada. . .