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Archive for May, 2004

Happy Birthday, Brian!

Monday, May 31st, 2004

Today is Brian’s birthday. For a woman who usually runs over with too many words, it’s hard to pick the right ones today. Brian is more than a husband to me. He’s my life partner, musical partner, sounding board, anchor. He lights up when I walk into the room. He is just as steady as I am emotional, a very good balance.

I normally bake Brian a rhubarb crumble (dessert) for his birthday (rhubarb is a local plant that makes a very tart pie or crisp, you either love it or you don’t… and we love it). However, yesterday my Mom made Brian some, and today it is already gone. I didn’t think I would be doing either of us any favors making a second dessert in two days. I’ll wait a day or two and then he can have his second “birthday pie” at a more reasonable time.

Today we went to Brian’s family gathering near Grand Rapids. The third of many nieces and nephews graduated from high school this year, and there was a gathering to celebrate that. It was pleasant to see so many of his family members. I had not seen most of them since Christmas time. I thought it was great that we could see Brian’s family on his birthday. He really does enjoy being with the clan. I had a nice talk with one of his sisters about flowers and gardens, and that was one highlight of my day.

When I was talking to people I was knitting on a Fast Florida Footie and when I was in the car going there and back, I knit a swatch in Boa and a fingering weight wool, for my Surf and Turf skirt project. This will be great fun, but I don’t know how I am going to measure my gauge on such a dense and furry swatch. Maybe when I see Sarah Peasley on Wednesday, she might help me figure out for sure how many stitches per inch this is, before I make my grass skirt the wrong size. I would be really bummed if it turned out wrong because I couldn’t measure stitches. After all, you make a swatch to avoid that problem, right??? And this time I made sure to wash the swatch before measuring the stitches, a mistake that cost me precious time last summer (Sarah warned me, yet I didn’t listen that time).

But today is Brian’s day. In a way it was sort of ordinary, in a way it was very special. He is special in any case. (I don’t have many pictures of Brian, so I’m posting this one you may have seen many times before, our promo shot for The Fabulous Heftones. He looks so great here, I can’t do any better than that.)

Happy Birthday, Brian!

Sara has Graduated!

Sunday, May 30th, 2004

My Goddaughter, Sara, graduated from High School today. Mom and I went to her graduation together. Later Brian and I met Mom and Fred at Sara’s open house.

This young lady is just beaming these days. She got her braces off in the last few weeks, and she was doing the expected adrenaline rush about graduation today. She tends to squeal when she is excited. (When she was younger, she would just laugh out loud when she was happy… I loved to see her stand in the door and laugh as I was approaching the house. I felt very welcomed and very loved.)

Sara will have her ballet recital next weekend. I just love watching her dance. I can really see how she is maturing by watching her become more and more comfortable with her dancing, with moving her physical body on stage. I’m very proud of her, but more important, she is proud of herself.

As I wrote to Sara today, when a baby comes into this world, the first time I meet the child I tend to ask them “what will you be like?” And today I was able to see that the answer is a very fine answer, indeed. She is true to herself, she knows who she is, she enjoys life.

And in August we will be taking a trip for a week, to Vermont. We will visit my friend Elizabeth… who we visited in 2001, on the way to Montreal. This time Elizabeth is the destination. I am very much looking forward to our trip. I am honored that an 18 year old girl would want to spend a week with me. Isn’t that just grand? I must have done something right, somewhere.

Congratulations, Sara. You have chosen well, and have become a fine young lady.

Grumpy Me.

Saturday, May 29th, 2004

I guess I “got up on the wrong side of the bed” today. (For non-US readers, that’s a saying in this part of the world, that I woke up with a bad mood.)

It’s mostly my fault, I admit. I stayed up far too late last night, and I had to be up and meet my Working Women Artists friends to take down the show we have had this month, at the East Lansing Public Library. I set an alarm but kept hitting the snooze button. I went out, without a cup of tea first, and have been grumpy ever since

I did stop by JoAnn Fabrics on the way home. Tonight I’ll work my last shift there on the cutting counter, and therefore it is my last day for the small discount they give us on employee purchases. I’ve been eyeing the “Surf and Turf” skirt that came out on Knitty.com last summer. I have tried on a zillion skirts and shorts to find one that fits well at the waistline/hip area. I had a really terrible time finding one but found a good navy/turquoise/white skirt at the resale shop 2nd Time Around in Okemos, about a week or so ago.

Then I debated what yarn to use, because the one specified is pricey and not available in town. If I could get it with my gift certificate at Yarn for Ewe I would be all set, but that was not to be.

So finally I decided I am going to forge ahead. I’ll do it, although I’ll make it a little longer than shown on the site (I’m giving thanks for my smallish hips today). I will do it with Bernat Boa in the blue/green colorway called Peacock. That was one of the yarns I used in the stole I made for my mother, and the color is more my style than yellow-green, yet still green enough to bring up the idea of a grass skirt. The yarn is a decent price for this type of yarn, and I can get it with the employee discount which made the deal for me.

However, this yarn is 100% nylon and does not have a lot of resilience to it (it is better than the polyester Fun Fur, though, plus it’s less bulky and less likely to mat). Thankfully I took that designer-yarn class with Margaret Radcliffe of Maggie’s Rags, and she said that often if you knit a lifeless yarn with a thin strand of wool, it really can give the body it needs. Fortunately, I have a cone or two of aqua and teal fingering weight wool yarns from the warehouse in Eaton Rapids, and I’m guessing the color will blend perfectly. If not, I have some black nylon/wool Brian got me at Romni Wools in Toronto a few years back, also a large cone, plenty of yardage for a project of this type.

I have been looking for an unusual and fun project and here it is, kind of my goodbye discount purchase at JoAnn! I know I will not wear the skirt very often, so I have to see this as more of an entertainment expense than a clothing item. Just the same, I think it might be very fun at a Ukulele gathering to wear a pseudo-grass skirt, don’t you?

I haven’t a clue when I’ll start the project, since I need to now switch gears to being almost entirely self-employed as a wooldyer and knitting teacher. I need to spend much more time in the dye studio than ever before. But perhaps before bedtime I can put in a half hour of relaxing grass-skirt knitting. I hope so.

Oh, my mood is much better now that I got home. They say that if you get out of bed on the wrong side, you should go back to bed and get out again. So since I bought the new Interweave Knits magazine I snuggled into bed for a half hour or so and browsed through it. (Did you see the wire and sequin wedding dress “sculpture” in the front of that magazine? Magnificent. And Annie Modesitt‘s bags with Tinker Toys for dowels? Very fun.)

Then my friend April came over for a short talk, with baby Isabel who was sound asleep and just adorable. I think this day will work out just fine… five hours at JoAnn and then a jam session with the Abbott Brothers band, getting ready for our performance at Altus on June 12. I can’t think of a better way to end my day.

Hope your day suits you, as well.

Louise Weaver, fiberartist

Friday, May 28th, 2004

I just was referred to a web page showing the works of Louise Weaver, a fiberartist in Australia. Some of the pieces showing on this site are animal shapes (sometimes found objects, sometimes she made the underlying shape herself it seems), covered with very fine crocheting.

A piece I really love is this one:

I am Transforming an Antler into a Piece of Coral by Crocheting over its Entire Surface, 1995
cotton embroidery thread, hydrastone plaster
30 X 13 x 13 cm

The site gives her background (under Ideas, Inspirations and Influences) and has other in-depth information as well as good photos. I really enjoyed my visit to this site.

Overdyeing Fun

Thursday, May 27th, 2004

I did it! I just did not like the socks (pair #91) I knit from mostly-white-with-confetti Regia yarn. I thought I’d grow to like them but white sox are white sox and I just can’t deal with it.

So this week when I was dyeing yarn, I dyed the sox also. I sort of scrunched them up although I did not tie them at all, and then I used a 2″ paintbrush to apply dye to just the outer layer of the scrunched sock.

I LOVE these sox! How cool is that? It took a bit of labor and it made my hands all turquoise, but I’m really glad I did it. (I could not find my rubber gloves anywhere that night… don’t worry, I went right out and bought another pair. I really don’t want to become sensitive to dyes on top of all the other things that I can’t tolerate these days.)

I also overdyed a pair of commercial legwarmers I bought at a Target store last fall. They were striped with Navy, heather medium gray, and natural. I overdyed these with a turquoise, but a solid rather than the mottled, tie-dyed look of the socks.

I was not confident this would work. The label for the legwarmers said: 25% Wool, 24% Acrylic, 22% Nylon, 17% Rabbit Hair, 11% Rayon, 1% Rubber. Well, Wool, Nylon and Rabbit Hair dye with my acid dyes. Acrylic and Rayon do not. if I got unlucky, the cream/natural stripe would be acrylic and rayon, and I would be unable to overdye them evenly, as planned.

Somehow I lucked out. The navy now just looks like a midnight blue, maybe slightly more green than before. The cream is now a soft sort of turquoise/teal. The gray is a tealish-gray, very nice. I’m extremely pleased. And since these are very finely knit on commercial machinery, I am guessing the legwarmers will be very wearable for a person like me who gets cold very easily.

Maria Elkins, Art Quilter

Thursday, May 27th, 2004

Maria Elkins is an art quilter I found online today. I love the “Always Establish Who is at Fault” quilt, but don’t stop there, follow the arrows and view her other quilts as well. Lovely work.

Radio Day

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

Tonight is the night! At 88.9 FM (WDBM, The Impact), we will be on the air from 7pm to 8pm Eastern time. This is the MSU student radio station.

The show is City Pulse online. Usually it is hosted by Berl Schwartz (from City Pulse) and Meegan Holland (from Creole Gallery). I understand that Meegan may not be there tonight, which is a disappointment. We really enjoy her company. We’ll have fun anyway, but it would have been even more enjoyable with her there.

I know my mom has her alarm clock set to go off at 7pm so she can hear us. She stopped by unexpectedly today and asked me to go to lunch. I woke up so late that I had just finished a large breakfast, so I told her I’d just drink tea while she had lunch. We went down to the Fleetwood Diner a few blocks away. It was very pleasurable. It’s nice to have her back in town.

The yarn I started dyeing last night is looking good as it dries. I did one alpaca/wool worsted weight yarn (sort of an ecru/light tan yarn, I dyed it with a teal, very subtle and pretty) and one large bump of loopy mohair, which I partially dyed with turquoise, and I’m going to overdye tonight with a second color.

I also dyed two knitted items (a pair of handknit sox and a pair of commercially purchased legwarmers), and those turned out very nice as well. I’ll have photos when they are dry.

In addition, I washed my new two-ply yarn that I spun Monday and Tuesday, and it’s drying as I type this. It’s polwarth wool, very very soft. It was sent to me by a weblog reader, Catharine H. of Redwood City, CA, last March (that’s 2003). I didn’t do much spinning this last year so I didn’t get around to the polwarth until now. I’m glad I finally did get to it.

Unfortunately, I have only about 140 yards of a light worsted weight yarn. I’m going to dye it (right now it is natural white), of course, but I don’t know what color yet. I don’t know what I can do with just 140 yards of super soft, super-luxurious yarn. Any suggestions? My best idea right now is wristwarmers. Perhaps I could use it in tandem with a commercial yarn, as well. Suggestions would be quite welcome.

(Please tune in tonight if you are local, we’d love to have your energy with us during showtime. Catch you soon!)

Small Pleasures: Laundry Day

Tuesday, May 25th, 2004

I’m glad I can find the happiness in small things. Today I finally had time to do some maintenance at home. I hand-washed 11 pair of handknit wool socks, four of which were gifts and seven which I knit myself.

Then I did the machine laundry. In two loads, I washed 19 pair of handknit socks, all of which I knit myself. Those machine-washed socks are about half mine (including the pair in this picture), and half Brian’s. I don’t knit him sox that need hand washing, it just doesn’t make sense. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to make them for me, either! I sure did wait a while to do the work of washing them this time.

No wonder I was out of socks! But hey, there is such delight in seeing all these beauties, each with their own personality. It makes me smile!!!

I tell you, small pleasures make the difference between a grumpy person and a sunny person. Today I choose to be sunny, even though the sky is not.

Fibre Fantastics

Tuesday, May 25th, 2004

On one of my lists, someone posted a link to Fibre Fantastics. This is Julia Bryant, a fiberartist in Toronto. She does Tunisian Crochet, among other things.

I still haven’t tried this version of crochet, although it really intrigues me. It makes a totally opaque and smooth fabric, almost blanket-like (which is no doubt why it is sometimes called afghan stitch). Since one of my primary complaints about crochet is that it is bumpy, and I don’t like to be able to see through my fabric in general, this stitch solves my problems. I once knew someone who made a lot of purses from this stitch, as it was firm and solid. I can clearly see it makes a gorgeous coat as well. I bet it would make a wonderful knitting bag or backpack, and probably would not require fulling/felting to make it dense enough to perform well.

Ms. Bryant makes wonderful coats (see picture), ponchos, you name it. She works with other techniques things as well. You might want to check it out.

Cold Spring, Preparing for Local Radio

Monday, May 24th, 2004

Ugh. It never got up to 60 degrees F today and it is dinnertime. I’m wearing fat wool socks and my feet are still not quite warm. The heat kicked back on in the house. I was hoping to open the front door and get some fresh air, but that will not happen today!

(I just looked outside. It is cloudy and 57 degrees F, and my neighbor is outside in a t-shirt and shorts, with one of those electric leaf-blower appliances. Blowing I don’t know what. I’m sitting here with a full-length wool robe and wool sox. Each to his own, I guess. But just looking at that guy makes me shiver!)

I slept in today, what a luxury that was. Then I chatted with a couple of friends online, both of them in europe. Then I had a leisurely lunch and a long bath. And many cups of tea, throughout the day. Aaah, this is the life. OK, I still need to pay some bills today but I put that off until the relaxing had sunk in well. Makes sense to me! After all, I worked on Sunday so today is my weekend.

I’m doing miscellaneous work things (emails for marketing our music, burning more CDs, working on knitted samples for yarn shops where I will teach) and looking forward to tonight. A few friends are gathering with spinning wheels and wool or alpaca or some sort of fiber. I am not sure what I’m going to spin tonight. I still have some small baggies (half an ounce each) of fiber from a handpainted fiber swap I was in last year. Maybe I’ll take those. Or maybe I’ll dig in there somewhere, I have one box of spinning fiber (as compared to maybe six boxes of yarn) that has a few goodies I haven’t looked at in a long while. Maybe I’ll look once more and see if any of those choices will inspire me. I know I have a nice bag of mohair, I think 4 oz. That might make a good second ply for sockyarn, perhaps. Not sure what I’ll do….

But that is how I will spend my time after dinner. Then come home and do the nightly rehearsal with Brian. We have so many songs to learn! When you record something, you can record it with music and lyrics in front of you. You can’t perform it that way, so there is much learning after the fact.

We are preparing for Wednesday night, when we will be on the local radio. At MSU’s student radio station, WDBM/88.9 FM, there is a radio show on Wednesday nights from 7-8pm, sponsored by the local free newspaper, the City Pulse. We have been asked to be on the show this week. Therefore, we are looking at all our many songs and trying to pick out four pieces that we will do on the air. It is pretty exciting! We were on the show once last summer and it was quite fun. I’m looking forward to it again.

Hope everyone is warm enough today. I heard it is really cold in South Africa right now. It is good for me to remember the blessings I have right now… warmth being at the top of the list! Take care.

East Lansing Art Fair

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

I had fun Saturday. By pure luck, I did not have to work at either Foster Center or JoAnn Fabric. I had a whole Saturday off. I thought maybe I’d go take pictures of my Goddaughter, Sara, on her way to prom. However, the kids decided to do photos somewhere other than Sara’s home, so that made even my evening free.

I took my time getting to East Lansing, and got there about 12:15. I wandered over to where Joel Mabus and Ray Kamalay were playing on the main stage. I ran into all sorts of folks I knew. After all, when you are talking the arts community, this is a pretty small town. It was lovely. I even ran into my mom and Fred!

Wally and Brian played at 12:45 at a stage about two blocks away, so I wandered over there, sort of peeking into the booths. I found one very good polymer clay artist (she combines polymer with Precious Metal Clay, basically a method of forming Sterling Silver… very nice). Her name was Pat Bolgar of Accessory Art (her web page doesn’t seem to be working). We had never met before, and we had a nice short chat. She is from the Cleveland, Ohio area.

Then I went to see Wally and Brian perform (that’s Wally with the guitar, Brian on the right), which was quite fun. I ran across to the MSU fair (more crafts than art… I was after a certain tie dye booth), bought two dance tops and used the restrooms at the MSU Union. Ran into another friend (I told you this was a small town) and then went to help Altu with her food booth.

The truth is, she didn’t really need me. She had four sisters and a friend already handling things well. Sometimes I was able to run for water and occasionally I told people how wonderful the food was. Otherwise I was sort of there for moral support. A sister wannabe. They said to others that I was a sister of theirs, and I really appreciated the love behind that. I really think they are fine people (and beautiful to look at as well, what pretty women they are).

I did also take a little time out to wander over to Nancy McRay’s store, Woven Art and say hi. I always am open to an impulse purchase but she doesn’t have any washable sockyarn (although she has gorgeous yarn for stoles, if I didn’t already have more than my share) so I just said hello. I did run into Daphne/Serial Knitter in the store, so that was worth something for sure.

Then maybe about an hour before the show was supposed to close, the heavens opened and a flood of water came down from up above. At first it was sort of cute, there was a young couple who stood out in the rain together and got soaking wet, then they were splashing with their feet for a while… then they came under the food tent with the rest of us. It was even too much for the adventurous after a while.

That was the end of selling any food for the day, so we cleaned up and went home. Well, Altu and her sisters and her husband went home. I walked a few blocks and saw some amazing drumming, chanting/singing and dancing by a Brazilian-style troupe (Danca Folclorica Brasileira) at the corner of MAC and Albert. They were just wonderful. They apparently are trying to get a group together in East Lansing. If I were not already over-promised, I would be quite tempted. I love drums, singing *and* dancing. You can see that the style of dance is a play-acting of a fight. Someone with the group explained to me that the African slaves when they first were brought to Brazil, started this style. They were not permitted to actually fight so they developed this sort of stylized un-fight as a danceform. I loved watching them.

About when that was finished (the streets were starting to dry out, thanks to the warm temperature and a small breeze), a former computer student found me and we just sat down on the curb and talked for over an hour. It was wonderful to have the leisure to do that! So often we are hurrying somewhere and we don’t take time to connect with interesting people we care about. I thoroughly enjoyed stopping everything to talk with her. We hope to connect again soon.

So… other than getting thoroughly inundated with storms, we had a lovely Saturday. This fair almost always has rain, but this one was more than usual. At least it was not cold rain. We’ll count our blessings.

Oh… in unrelated news, Sunday is Sarah/Handknitter‘s birthday. Do take a minute to go and wish her a good week!

Joy is Mine!

Saturday, May 22nd, 2004

Well, my car Joy is paid off, as of Friday. OK, that’s not exactly an artful life statement, but it may just be a creative one. I was self-employed the whole time I had the car payments. Feels like a big deal to me.

I still feel that this is my ideal car. I like it better than the Jaguar I rode in once, better than my uncle’s big Cadillac. I don’t want a fast car, I want a comfy one that is small (and cute) and has a standard shift and cruise control. Once we rented a larger car for a long road trip, and I was miserably uncomfortable the whole week. This car fits me like a glove, both physically and artfully.

I love this car. What I like best about it, which was a surprise to me, is the automatic door locks. I love saving two seconds getting into the car on a snowy or rainy day! I also love that it is very quiet on the road (I love driving on the highway), and it has a nice stereo to go with that.

How can I be so lucky? After all, I’m not working a “regular” job. But somehow I get this lovely thing. I have made some choices, some compromises, done without some things others consider essential. I did have to work for it, but this was the only car payment I ever had, that I did not grumble about each month. It was worth it.

My last car, Martha G., lasted 14 years and 250,000 miles. I hope Joy does as well. Martha was the first car I ever decorated with stars, which I did after having a dream I had done it. I painted Martha’s stars, eleven years after I got her.

I did not delay putting stars on Joy, she got them her first week with me. I wish I could paint Joy purple, but that idea will wait for a while, maybe indefinitely. That is not a simple thing to pull off. I’m considering more stars, though.

Now Joy is even more living up to her name. It was a good day.

(Don’t forget to come to the East Lansing Art Fair, and get food from Altu, and listen to Wally and Brian play music. OK?)

A Social Night, a Good Meal, an Art Fair

Friday, May 21st, 2004

Thursday night we had dinner at our friend Wally (Pleasant)’s house. Brian has played music with Wally at concerts for many years now, but sometimes we go a while between getting together. Wally turns out to be a great cook! He made us a fabulous stir fry for a late dinner, while we talked and laughed far too late. Yum. It seems when the snow melts, folks connect again. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Wally (with Brian as backup) will will be playing for the East Lansing Art Fair this Saturday. If you’d like to go, here are the details:

Wally Pleasant
Saturday, May 22
12:45 pm (allow time for parking)
Stage West (northeast corner of Albert and Abbott)

Some of my other favorite local artists at the fair:

Joel Mabus and Ray Kamalay
Main Stage (MAC and Albert)
Saturday, Noon

Kitty Donohoe
Stage West (Abbott and Albert)
Saturday, 4:30 pm

The Treble Makers
Stage West
Sunday, 3:30 pm

There are other good acts coming in, but these folks are people I know personally. People whose music I don’t ever tire of hearing. Most of them are playing on Saturday, which is good for me since I’ll be at the fair that day (sometimes helping at Altu’s food booth… please be sure to come by and sample her wares). On Sunday I’m at JoAnn.

The East Lansing Art Fair has a history of rain, so do bring proper gear just in case. Don’t miss the good tunes, though. Come with an umbrella and sing along!

The photo today is a garden about four blocks from our house. We walked to the Fleetwood Diner today and I couldn’t pass this by without taking a picture. I love bleeding heart plants and this is the first one I’ve seen blooming this year.

It is interesting to see how many different styles of architecture you can find within about eight blocks of our house. This one looks turn of the century (like the front half of our house). Going north you find 1920s bungalows for the most part, going south you find 1940’s postwar cape cods. This house is west and only a block from Cedar street, a major connecting road from times when the interstates were not yet established. So in that area right off Cedar, you find older homes with the large wood windows (ours are oak) and nice porches… and with old gardens.

Our yard (I wouldn’t yet call it a garden) has climbing roses that are probably generations old, they tend to move around by their roots and then come up in slightly different spots each year. We also have a “snowball” bush and we used to have bridal wreath/spirea in the front until we replaced the porch a few years back. And there are peonies in several spots. All very old-style garden plants. It’s nice to have them come up each year with no fuss, I like that a lot.

I did plant nasturtium seeds out on the sunny front corner of our lot, and I’m seeing perhaps a dozen (about half) of the seeds coming up now. They have such beautiful leaves! I had planted there last year but too late for them to get established before the hot summer sun baked them each day. This year they are getting good rain right when they are starting up, and I am hopeful. I planted five Stella d’Oro lilies there at the same time, and three are coming up very strong, one a little weak, and one did not make it through the seasons. I think there are lilies I like better, but this type seems to thrive in areas of full, hot sun during seasons of infrequent rain. I wanted some sort of color out at the curb so I thought I’d try these… we will see how it goes.

Well, it’s good that we took the walk early in the day, because right now it is 2:10pm and the sky looks like the sun has mostly set. We have lots of thunder and the rain comes in big waves and then rests before coming in buckets again. It would be a good day to stay home and take a nap, but I have errands to run and a class to teach. I hope you stay dry and warm today!

Tired, and Dreaming of Knitting

Thursday, May 20th, 2004

I didn’t get much sleep last night so I have sort of just followed the schedule today, going from one thing to the next. It’s funny, though, that I keep daydreaming of possible projects. I have gone a long while without being inspired. Warm weather always gives me a big boost of energy and so it’s time! Today even with low sleep I found myself scrubbing the tables and computer desks in my lab. It really does look better, but there are days I wouldn’t notice the need for a scrub.

My current project is a store sample of the Fast Florida Footie for Heritage Spinning. It’s in a gorgeous apricot solid color of Cascade Fixation. I asked Joan to send me whatever she wanted me to use for the sample, and what a great choice she made. It’s very fun. I started the footie last night after midnight and I’m almost ready to do the toe (these are top down). And that is with a relatively busy day today.

I’m obsessing over what sleeveless (or small cap sleeve) top I can make with what yarn, that will look good, be fun but easy to knit, and be the right weight/warmth. I’m digging in my stash to find inspiring yarns, but it’s slow going. It seems I need a big quantity of DK yarn for most projects and I don’t have much in that department. One day at a time, I guess.

My eyes are barely open, I’ll write more later. Enjoy the warmth.