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Archive for February, 2005

Max Does it Again!

Sunday, February 13th, 2005

Max in Canada writes again with another ukulele link: a remote-control lego robot that plays Reggae on the ukulele. Amazing! Check out:

Mike and Jarvis – Remote Control Reggae

Thanks for that smile, Max!

Busy, Busy Saturday

Saturday, February 12th, 2005

Wowie, Saturday was a busy one. I got up early to bake Tony (my knitting buddy) a couple of small birthday cakes (one chocolate, one apple spice… I couldn’t decide so made one small pan of each, not frosted or anything but excellent right out of the pan). It isn’t his birthday for another 9 days or so, but I don’t know if I’ll be seeing him next weekend. *Then* Tony came over at 9am and we hopped into the car and bombed down the road to Chelsea (one hour, one way), where we attended Spinner’s Flock spinning guild.

This guild is extraordinary. Often there are 100 folks at a meeting (once a month, 2nd Saturday), who drive in from all over the region. It is a group of folks, many of whom have fiber animals and many of whom sell fiber-related merchandise (two book vendors, lots of fleece and spinning wheels, knitting/dyeing/needlefelting supplies, you name it).

They have two fleece fairs a year where they sell fiber and handspun items (and items related to handspinning), and one holiday sale where they sell finished goods made with at least 50% handspun/fleece. I have never sold my yarns there because I typically buy commercial yarn and handpaint it. The yarns at Spinners Flock Fleece Fairs have to be at least 50% handspun and I haven’t had enough to participate. That’s fine, since it’s a lot of work… if I have the day off, I go and participate in the purchasing experience with Tony. If not I save money by being somewhere else making a living. All choices are fine.

After Spinners’ Flock, Tony and I came back to Lansing for a brief lunch at New Aladdin’s restaurant. Following that, I had a house call for one of my computer students, to help her figure out a few things on her home computer. Then I raced home so to speak, and changed into dressier clothes (purple and red for Valentine’s Day… I was inspired) so I could be Lynn Heftone of The Fabulous Heftones.

We had a performance at Altu’s again. I love singing for the Valentine’s Day crowd. It was another great group of folks, there were a good handful of friends and family who came out specifically because they knew we were there.

Sharon P and her sweetie Lynn and our knitting friend Emily, and their friend Susan (Suzanne?) were there. Sharon and Emily were both wearing shawls they had knit themselves, and looking mighty fine, indeed!

Regina, our loyal fan as always, was there, and our friend Drew who is in Klezmeroke, and my friend Cher (that’s her nickname that she prefers, I call her by her birth name) from the Arborland Borders knit in group drove in all the way from Ann Arbor.

Brian’s Aunt and Uncle came in from Grand Rapids to meet his two cousins and one cousin’s spouse. They had never been to one of our performances and had never been to Altu’s. It was a great and wonderful surprise when we walked in and saw them there!

At the end of our show, my dance friend Emily and her hubby Bill came in for dinner, as well. This was a big surprise, as they have never come out for our music before. I was delighted to see them!

Anyway… when we ate our magnificent feast after the Altu’s performance, we headed over to Magdalena’s Tea House. Now, I can’t believe I have not been there yet. There has been quite a nice buzz among creative folks in Lansing about this place, and I think they have probably been there close to a year. Yet I never made it over there until this week.

For one thing, I’m a fanatical tea drinker and they have a vast selection of teas to choose from. They also have Knutson Spritzers and coffee and homemade muffins (yogurt and honey rather than milk and sugar… you know that good sort of baked goods, I’m sure).

And the crowd was full of creative folks appreciating other creative folks. We heard “Lily of the Valley” which is two young ladies, Lily and Valerie (what a great name they chose) who sing mostly acapella duets, with beautiful young voices. We heard some skits/commercials (a commercial for kazoos, you gotta love it). We heard Chris Jentoft, the Emcee, spin a story about his bus ride from California to Ohio when he moved to the Midwest (which later landed him in Lansing).

And then it was our turn. We sang four numbers. The crowd was with us for the duration. So often, we perform in a restaurant, where the focus is not the music. Folks listen and then they get their food, they chat, then they listen again. This is as it should be, and we love being part of the scene. But at Magdalena’s they have a stage, and a small space where some folks are in comfy chairs and some are on cushions on the floor (think beat poet teahouse in Chicago… reminds me of one I visited a dozen years ago there).

It looks like many of the folks in the audience are also performers. And many of the folks there are friends/acquaintances. And you sing, and they are right on it, every word. We had applause in the middle of a number (we whistle a duet in the middle of “Singin’ in the Bathtub” which they appreciated). We had eyes glued to us, no distractions, just a wonderful, appreciative crowd. I loved it. And folks liked our act.

It was pretty cool to be in a local environment for the second time this week (after Dagwood’s open mike) where we had folks of all ages, particularly young adults, who heard us for the first time. Our music is ageless, it appeals to people from 3 years old to 103. But young folks have not heard this music before, where someone 73 years old will know all the words to half of our songs. It feels really good to introduce this beautiful, lyrical, magical stuff to new listeners (OK, maybe Singin’ in the Bathtub isn’t lyrical but I would still classify it as magical when we really do it right.)

We were the last act in the show, so after we finished we said hellos and goodbyes… but we were not done yet! We went to a jam session after that, and sang and played and talked with friends we don’t see often enough. We were there past 1:00 am, and got to bed at about 3:30 am. Mind you, that was after a previous night of not enough sleep! I slept like a baby and got up at 8:30, then read a (knitting) book and fell back asleep until after noon. I feel much better now!!!

In ukulele content, Brian wowed them as usual. At Altu’s he did an amazing rendition of his own composition, the Epley Breakdown. Fortunately, he recorded it live and has now posted the recording on our EZFolk.com Fabulous Heftones music page for your listening pleasure. Scroll down a little to find it… it’s there, fourth song from the top.

If there was ever a question about why our act is popular with ukulele enthusiasts, listening to Brian’s amazing uke playing on this cut will answer. Remember when you listen to it… this was live. No overdubs, no choosing of the best track, no note edits. The guy amazes me, and I live with him!

In knitting content, I knit more than half of a second LynnH Watercolor bag in the last 24 hours. It’s gorgeous… mostly raspberry, pink and orange with purples, and a hint of blue hot green for interest. I’m not sure how I had time to do that much, but waiting at a restaurant, listening to a meeting at the Spinners’ Flock, while waiting our turn to perform, while chatting at the jam session, and knitting while Brian was driving to and from events, turned into a good deal of productive knitting.

That was a WONDERFUL day. Just the same, I’m glad we don’t have too many days this busy!

Photographs: 1&2) Fabulous Heftones performance at Altus, photos by Fritz Milhaupt. 3) Fabulous Heftones at Magdalena’s Teahouse, photo by Stan Werbin. 4) Jam Session after performances at a friend’s house. (You should see this lovely house. It’s a red brick farmhouse north of Lansing maybe 10 miles, with horses and sheep. This woman is in my musical circle of friends *and* my fiber/spinning/knitting circle of friends as well.) 5) Magdalena’s Tea House, the band that was playing as we walked in, whose name I do not know.

A Few Websites to Visit

Friday, February 11th, 2005

Well, Max in Canada wrote me and said she found a site for artbooks made of Ukuleles. She read about it on another weblog. (Brian now says he saw it on Boing Boing… written by the author of blog Ukulelia, by the way… which is one of his favorite reads. However, Max is the one who told me about it.) Check out this amazing stuff by Peter and Donna Thomas at http://www.baymoon.com/~ukulelebooks/

Their work reminds me of the amazing artbooks my friend, Susan Hensel in Minneapolis, makes. If you haven’t seen her site, visit http://susanhenseldesign.com

And last but emphatically not least… the artform of good website design. I am not a fan of overdone websites, I don’t like music playing in the background, animated logos or moving things that require this or that plugin. I’ve been on the web since before most women I knew had an email account. I wrote and taught the first “how to use the Internet” class for the Michigan Department of Transportation, when I was working for the computer training company. That is, the first class available to a department that is typically cutting edge on new technologies, and full of really smart, well-educated people (engineers who design bridges, for example).

I am fond of websites that actually figure out what their function is, and go ahead and pursue that function as efficiently as possible. Even some very large sites do a pretty good job of it. One of my favorites is the US Postal Service, where you can order stamps to be delivered to your mailbox, look up someone’s zip code 24 hours a day, find out how much it will cost to mail any type of package to any address in the world, find the closest post office (which was very helpful when Sarah and I were in Chicago this summer) and a host of other useful things.

Well, I’ve been a big fan of Mapquest since the beginning. There have been other map websites that have come and gone, but I have remained loyal to my first love. Until today.

Oh, my goodness… Google has come out with a map site, and it is freaking incredible!!! Check out http://maps.google.com and see for yourself!

The two things that Mapquest got wrong consistently were placing a person’s address accurately on the street, especially if the house number was in the thousands… and it was really fussy about how you typed in an intersection. For example, my mom’s house was placed 5 houses down the road from where she really lives, which placed the marker on the wrong side of a main street. And I had the worst time typing in “Mount Hope Ave. and Pennsylvania Ave.” which is my closest intersection to my house. It was really picky about how to type in Mt. Hope, or something, and it never understood me.

Google Maps gets both of these things right. You can put in a beginning and ending address and it will show you how to drive between the locations… with a better map than the one Mapquest gives. I typed in a few trips and it estimated about right, as far as how long the trip typically takes in good traffic.

It also has a feature to type in business names or types of businesses. I typed in “coffee near Mt Hope and Pennsylvania Ave Lansing” (without the quotes) and it gave me a list of 10 coffee-related businesses nearest our house. It’s amusing, though… we must live in coffee desert-land. The closest place it lists is a coffee wholesaler for offices and restaurants. The next closest is one mile away, and I had never even heard of it though it’s not too far from my friend Ulyana’s house.

The Beaners where I often meet Sharon P in the summertime, is 3.6 miles south. That would be close enough for a bike ride if it were not so dangerous to ride a bike in that busy traffic area. The Beaners where I go with Altu (East Lansing at Michigan and Grand River) is 4.8 miles, and that one is actually a nice bicycle ride although longer.

I’m having too much fun with this map site! Brian is a big map fan, he likes to read maps for entertainment. He is the one who found this site for me. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Photos today: 1) One of my CityKidz! who finished one handwarmer last week. She is doing the second handwarmer in a different yarn… still pastels, still acrylic variegated, but slightly different colors. She forgot her knitting at home on Thursday, so she knit a wristband with a tiny ball of leftover alpaca someone donated to my program. In one hour. She has only been knitting about a month, but is really doing well. She asked yesterday if I’d show her next week how to make a backpack (I’ve had at least five knit by kids in the program over the years). This should be fun!

2) A stuffed cheetah handknit from handspun yarn. I got it in a native crafts store in a mall, in Nairobi, Kenya. The cheetah is about 5 inches tall and 7.5 inches long including tail. He came with a tag which I’ve now lost, which had the name of the woman who knit it. 3) Small/ornament knitted zebra from same women’s cooperative in Kenya, bought at same shop, maybe 3.5 inches long.

I searched the web for the cooperative’s information and found a site based in the USA, www.kenanausa.com where knitted merchandise from Kenyan women (looks like the same group) can be purchased. If you click on the word Cheetah or zebra you can see the merchandise they offer in these categories. Note that even though some of the publicity says it’s all wool, some items are brightly colored and labeled as acrylic. Also note that even though my own animal was labeled “cheetah,” the website puts my guy under the category of “leopard.” (By the way, this one mall/market was the only place I saw handknit items on my entire trip, although I did see a generous handful of yarn shops in Egypt.)

4) Handbag made from bottlecaps, purchased in Nairobi at Masai Market, in a covered outdoor area attached to a large fancy mall. I love this thing, but my hostess did not understand how I could want to take it home! I figure she doesn’t understand how few things in this society are made by hand, and how much I value handwork. 5) Wonderful basket also purchased at same market. It is maybe 18″ in diameter and pretty heavy, a perfect basket to dance with (balancing on my head). I tried on a lot of baskets at the market, and was quite the spectacle… this white girl dancing in the aisle with a basket on her head! It was fun.

Watercolor Bag is Gorgeous!

Thursday, February 10th, 2005

I finished the LynnH Watercolor Bag after a very late night. Class went well. I love the bag, love the class, pattern is together enough for class but not quite polished enough for public sale (it needs more photos, primarily). My goal for the pattern publishing date is next week, I think. After my 2 classes at Threadbear on Sunday and Monday are over, that is.

Isn’t she a beauty? Big enough to carry all the stuff I love to keep with me all the time (camera, walkman, wallet, palm device, at least 2 pair socks in progress). Small enough to not be ridiculous (like the one I’ve been carrying lately). Now if I can only get time to knit the one I am planning for myself!

What else is nice about this bag is that it is significantly less expensive to knit than so many other felted bags. It calls for a single strand of yarn throughout (that makes it lighter weight and I like the thinner fabric better).

This pictured bag takes 3 skeins (all of different colorways) of Noro Kureyon (about $8.50 USD a ball) and about half a skein of Cascade 220 (about $6 or so for one skein). I remember once that I wanted to knit another well-regarded felted knitting bag, about twice this size and calling for doubled yarn. I had to wait until I was given a gift certificate for my birthday before I could afford to buy the yarn. This one calls for a lot less wool, although obviously it is a very different design.

I’m almost done knitting a much smaller version of this bag, but I need to set it aside a while for other sample knitting. I think I’m just going to love teaching this class! It’s simple to knit, even for someone who has not knit much. Yet, it’s a good design with beautiful color. What else could a knitter want?

By the way, I’m doing needlefelted embellishments at Threadbear this Sunday. You can use ordinary wool yarns or loose fiber to make spirals, curlicues, and all other sorts of colorful designs on an already-felted item. Bring a felted bag you find too boring, or a purchased felt beret, or go to the Salvation Army store and buy a sweater that has been put through the wash. You can cut the body of that sweater into two squares, embellish one or both pieces of fabric, and make an incredible pillow.

This is one class where you do not have to know how to knit at all, so bring a creative friend or older child. It does require a very, very sharp needle, and there is a chance you will poke yourself, so if you need to avoid that possibility you might want to skip this one. However, a little safety planning goes a long way and the process is great fun. I’ll try to have a photo for you tomorrow. I’ll try! I have so many things to do on my “day off” I don’t know what I will actually accomplish.

I hope folks join me! Send email to Rob@threadbearfiberarts.com if you want to register.

Hope you like the pic.

Snow Again in Michigan

Wednesday, February 9th, 2005

Well, Tuesday night we went to two bars and had a wonderful time. That is not my usual style, but we heard Klezmeroke at Temple Club and then we went to the open mic at Dagwood’s. Fun all around!

It was Mardi Gras, which we had not realized, so at Temple Club I collected two plastic beaded necklaces (I did not have to do anything unseemly to get them, by the way). Some people at the club were dressed up for the occasion, one wearing butterfly wings. It was a cool scene. The place is pretty darned huge, and we were upstairs which appears to once have been the sanctuary of the Baptist church that built the place. There were a bunch of folks although because it was Tuesday it was not totally jam-packed. We did get to talk to Drew and his wife Bonnie, and our friend Tamineh who plays fiddle for the group and who we rarely see.

At Dagwoods, it also was a less crowded scene than usual, no doubt because it was Tuesday. I have only been there maybe twice before but it was so crowded you could barely find a place to stand. The open mic was quite varied, with old time fiddle and modern theatrical/sexy tunes acted out, two poets, a few singer/songwriters with guitars and then us. Fun all around. We went home smelling like smoke and for once we didn’t mind much at all.

Oh, and I started knitting a smaller version of the LynnH Watercolor bag, got pretty far while watching other folks perform. Somehow my planning ahead is not quite right and it is much taller and not as wide as I expected. I will have to ponder this development before knitting further, and definitely before felting the small bag. Drat! The big one went so seamlessly that I was getting spoiled, I guess!

Wednesday morning I awoke to the sounds of shoveling outside. It has been a bit warmer than freezing for the last few days, and last night it was really foggy on the way home from all the humidity in the air. Well, it finally got back to winter temperatures last night and we got maybe an inch of white stuff. I guess I appreciate the increased amount of light we get when everything is white, but I am tired of being cold. Not that my opinion will change anything! And Brian does the shoveling without fail… so I don’t have to be outside all that much, to be honest.

So he went to work and I made my favorite pumpkin bread. I was born the day after Thanksgiving, which is a huge pumpkin feast. I get pumpkin pie for my birthday rather than cake, because I prefer it. And I regularly crave other pumpkin-flavored goodies. I sort of love it that when you buy canned pumpkin, it lists a single ingredient: pumpkin. Period. No additives, no flavor-enhancers, just plain old, good and dependable pumpkin. How cool is that?

This pumpkin bread is soooo good! I never want to eat anything else if we have any in the house! I have posted an earlier version of my recipe here before, but now I sort of have two recipes. One (the one I make most often) can be enjoyed by folks allergic to wheat/corn/egg/milk/yeast/potato/soy (though it is not gluten-free). I’m allergic to 5 of those 7, and let me tell you, it is impossible to buy sweet snacks at a normal US grocery because everything has corn syrup, egg or milk. Truthfully, homemade stuff is better but I don’t enjoy the messs I make and have to clean up by making it.

Anyway the second recipe can be made by folks who have normal ingredients in a US kitchen… no odd stuff. The first tastes better, I think, but it requires a trip to the health food store if you don’t normally cook this way. Apologies to those outside the USA, I don’t have metric equivalents available for the measurements.

So here you go, for those craving a yummy winter snack:

Crusty Pumpkin Loaf

Allergy-Free Ingredients:
3/4 c Buckwheat Flour (I use Arrowhead Mills brand)
3/4 c Oat Flour (look for gluten-free label if sensitive)
1/2 c Rice Flour
(-OR- substitute 2 cups Buckwheat flour for the above 3 ingredients)
1-1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
1-1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1-1/2 c Sugar (we prefer Brown Sugar, the darker the better)
1 sm can (1-3/4c) Pumpkin (not pie mix)
1-1/2 Tbsp Flaxseed Meal
1/4c Very Hot Water
1/8 c (2 Tbsp) Light Olive Oil (or other non-corn cooking oil)
1 Tbsp Orange, Lime or Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Good Mexican Vanilla
—–

Normal “American” Ingredients:
2 c All-purpose Flour
1-1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
1-1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1 egg
1-1/2 c Sugar (we prefer Brown Sugar, the darker the better)
1 sm can (1-3/4c) Pumpkin (not pie mix)
3/8 c (6 Tbsp) Vegetable cooking oil
1 Tbsp Orange, Lime or Lemon Juice or Vinegar
1 Tbsp Good Mexican Vanilla (use 1-1/2 tsp if artificial)
—–

Preheat Oven to 350F.
If using flaxseed meal/hot water, combine in small bowl and whisk together, set aside.
Mix dry ingredients with wire whisk in large bowl.
Mix in pumpkin, oil, flaxseed mixture if you chose it, juice/vinegar and vanilla, stirring slowly with fork until all flour is moistened. (It may look like this will never happen, but it just takes time.)

Divide between two standard greased and floured bread pans (flour with rice flour for allergy-free version).

Bake for 1 hour until toothpick comes out clean.

Yum! Please enjoy, and let it make you feel warm and comfy inside during these last few gasping months of winter weather.

Photos (please forgive the quality, bars have terrible lighting and my camera has fits): 1)Klezmeroke on stage at Temple Club; 2)Employee of Temple Club (I think) throwing beads down to the crowd from balcony; 3)Jam session on open mic stage at Dagwood’s (Brian is playing my bass at left); 4)Bar and crowd at Dagwood’s, a Lansing institution which was there when my family moved here in the very early 1960’s.

Klezmeroke at the Temple Club Tonight

Tuesday, February 8th, 2005

Our friend Drew writes…

Klezmeroke, we play weird klezmer – influenced tunes.

We’re doing a show for the Icarus Falling theatre group at the Temple Club, Tuesday February 8th, two short sets, one at 9 pm one at 10 pm.

I have seen these guys play (at the Green Door). It’s amazing, high-energy, incredible stuff. Makes you want to dance and dance and dance! Some things stand the test of time and this type of music sure is doing well in that category.

Brian and I will be there. I hope you local folks consider coming out as well.

(We are also considering a run over to Dagwood’s Bar… Kalamazoo at 496, no website. Brian heard that Jen Sygit, a talented local songwriter/performer, is hosting an open mic session there around 10pm. Therefore, we just may do Temple Club at 9 and Dagwood’s at 10. Could be a lively Tuesday night! Especially for a boring non-drinker like me, two bars in one night is a lot of excitement!)

Photo is my multi-colorway Noro bag in drying position upside down! I’m quite pleased how the the three colorways worked out well together. And I am very happy with the size and shape of it now that it has shrunk. Not too big, not too small, and not so deep that you can’t find anything in the bottom of it. It measures 11 inches long, x 7 inches wide x 11.5 inches tall. I was able to block it with a chunky shoebox inside, if that helps picture it.

I’m almost done knitting the miles and miles of i-cord I’m going to use for the strap. Good thing I can knit i-cord in my sleep, or nearly so. Assembly will be later today, after I go out and buy a few things at JoAnn Fabrics.

After looking at the bag, and searching ad nauseum on the Internet making sure nobody else has used the name, I have christened the bag with a wonderful name. It’s the LynnH Watercolor Bag. Does it have enough colors in it to have my name attached? I think so! Pattern is expected to be ready sometime later this week (target date is Thursday). Woohoo!

Much to Do, Much Accomplished

Monday, February 7th, 2005

I don’t know about the rest of you, but these days I could just sleep forever. I get so tired, hours earlier than I’m accustomed to going to bed. Yet when I go to sleep, I don’t seem to sleep longer even when I can. It’s sort of frustrating, because in the previous 45 or so years of my life I could sleep in easily.

That said, I had to get up early today (for me) and make it to my first appointment in the late morning. After that it was a whirlwind of one approintment after another (at least one errand was pleasant, because I got to see Altu and her cousin for a short while). Then I taught two classes in Haslett and luckily was able to pick up excellent food at the new Aladdin’s restaurant near the Meridian Mall. But I got home, we ate, I did a tiny bit of knitting and we rehearsed The Fabulous Heftones. And I’m so wiped out I can barely keep my eyes open. I swear that at this time of year, our bodies try to hibernate or something!!! You’d swear I was a squirrel or bear instead of a human being.

The good news is that while I was making my lunch, I also finished and felted/fulled my new three-colorway Noro bag. It is just plain lovely. I am still working on the handles but you will see a photo of this beauty very soon. I already have yarn for one I will get to keep (someday, after it goes through several rounds of being a shop model).

Photo today is Jim Hall and Cindy Morgan (they perform as Hall and Morgan, including some gigs for Altu’s restaurant). This shot was taken at their workshop at the Mid-Winter Singing Festival last Saturday. The workshop was about songs with the subject of orphans. Well, at least the lady next to me and I wept. It was so sad, and I just kept remembering the children on the streets in Africa, begging for food.

Tears or not, the workshop was very good and the songs were high quality. And the people… well, the people in that space were as top-notch real people as it gets. I was glad to be there.

Goodnight!

Knitting Away, & Tinisha’s First Sock Ever!

Sunday, February 6th, 2005

I have a nasty headache today, so I’m going to share fewer words than usual. (The singing festival yesterday was a true experience of community, in all ways… loved running into so many people I value in my life. I’ll share a photo of that, another day.)

But my Sunday knit class (out of town) cancelled, and so I worked at home today. I am trying to catch up on all my store samples so that I can sell some classes. People just won’t sign up for a class if they can not see a finished project. I’m not sure I blame them, but it is quite a task for someone who keeps offering new and different classes, to knit all those samples for all the shops (I offer knitting classes at 5 yarn shops and one Community Ed program). Crazymaking!

I’m doing my Noro Kureyon felted bag and the colors are wonderful. I had planned to use two skeins of one colorway and one of another, but I lost one of the duplicate balls, so I had to buy a third colorway. It may make the bag even more beautiful, I think.

I thought I’d shrink/full the bag tonight but I am still working on the decreases. Tomorrow I don’t teach until 3:30 so maybe I can finish it then. Crossing fingers on that.

Photo today is Tinisha’s first sock ever! (Tinisha is a High School student I know through the daughter of a friend, and she is crazy nuts like me about knitting… in a good way of course… I love her energy.) The sock in real life is a little more orange and a little less pink than this, but we’re in the ballpark.

This sock is so well-done, the stitches so even and firm, I know she is beaming with pride. She says it is not perfect, and it is true that small bits of it are not done exactly as a pattern might be written. However, I say it is shaped like a sock, it fits, and it is perfect! Her gauge is significantly more even than mine, and this sock will probably last forever at the excellent firm gauge she used.

The next one will no doubt be even more perfect than this, but this one is definitely a prize and she can be justifiably proud. You go, Grrrl! Fantastic Job!

Third Annual Mid-Winter Singing Festival

Saturday, February 5th, 2005

Today my class cancelled (boo hoo). The good news, is that I will be able to make my Habibi Dancers’ extra rehearsals this morning, and then in the afternoon/evening I will go to the Mid-Winter Singing Festival at Hannah Center (East Lansing, Abbott Road at Burcham).

I have never had the fortune to go to this event, it seems I’ve been working or out of town the last two years. The organizers and the presenters are top-notch folks, it can only be great. I am happy I can go this time. It should be fun.

To Everything (Turn Turn Turn) There is a Season

Friday, February 4th, 2005

Wow. My friend Suze told me that things in my life would shift because of my major trip to Africa. I am already seeing this happen and I have only been home for one month. (Can that really be?)

Before I left, I had dinner with a friend who I’ve known since about 1992. We used to work in the same building, and now we have dance class together once a week. We have always liked one another. I just figured (this is silly, I know) that she was such an elegant person, that I didn’t really fit in her inner circle. Well, she is not only elegant but extremely down to earth when life calls for it. And she has lived in Western Africa in the past, and has visited Africa many times.

So before my trip we sat down and had the best chat, and I’m determined to continue more of getting to know her now that I am home. We have more in common (even though she is elegant and I am fairly untamed) than I allowed myself to think. I am done with that nonsense! On to being friends with people who are real and wonderful!

Then there is another woman I’ve known socially for about 8 years. Her husband works with Brian, so we see each other at company events. We talk like crazy every time we are in the room together. Yet we have never taken time to socialize outside of these events. End of that! When I saw her in January, we exchanged email addresses and now we are planning to get together in the next few weeks.

She’s a professional tailor and I used to sew a LOT… we both love fiber and color. She just got a chainstitch freehand embroidery machine (vintage stuff) and so I’m taking over my Egyptian and Kenyan items that have that sort of embroidery on them. I think we’ll have a grand time together.

And then there are you folks. It’s so odd, I get over 600 visitors a day to colorjoy.com, be it the SockTour, my Patterns, Classes, Yarns & Kits or this weblog. And I average less than one comment a day. (I have made 790 posts and received 634 valid comments.) That is, I did in the two years before I turned off the comment feature late in November 2004. I was getting sometimes more than 100 spam comments a day, and deleting them was a real nightmare. When I went to Africa, I knew I could not stay up on all that maintenance so I just eliminated comments entirely.

Yet, somehow, I’m still getting a few lovely folks writing me. They take the time to switch over to their email program and actually email me rather than clicking a comment link. Today I had such nice letters from Jayne, Elizabeth R., Lea-Ann, Lois and Jill (some may have written because of my posts on Socknitters rather than this blog, but at least two specifically mentioned ColorJoy! the Weblog in their notes)! And was it yesterday, that I heard again from Cyndy, who has been as loyal as rain in April.

These notes are like getting a little love letter. It makes my heart sing! And I need new friends right now, because a handful of folks that used to be in my life are not going to be in it much longer.

I am really appreciating today my newer friends in my life. All these knitting folks I hang out with (the ones you see me talk about most here are Sharon P of Knitknacks, who goes out of her way to stay in touch and invite me to tea, followed by Luann C, who doesn’t have a blog but reads here frequently).

And all the other knitters and artists I see more these days, and who are integral to my current quality of life! And all the cool people who show up for the Fabulous Heftones and Abbott Brothers performances. (Two of whom I ran into last night at Wharton Center, how cool is that?)

Thank you all. Thank you for reading my weblog. Thank you for being part of my statistics… I know you are there even when you don’t write me. And thank you over and over again, if you take the time to write every once in a while (that would include Regina, Ken/KnitDad and Sarah P, who write regularly as well). And folks who don’t write as often but still take the time occasionally. It means the world to me.

So what am I doing today, on my day off? Nothing. Knitting a little, reading a little, sitting in the sunny window (cool thing) a little. Watching the rainbows reflect on the walls, from the cut crystal pieces I’ve received as gifts from friends over the years. I’m getting ready to go out for a walk while it’s still sunny and warm. And then for late dinner, we go to New Aladdin’s restaurant and watch a couple of the Habibi Dancers do their thing… and eat great food, and sit and talk with our friends Cynthia and Doug… more friends we’ve known for years, talked to at a zillion parties, and never once made a point of spending an evening together.

Life is short! Grab someone you have always enjoyed, someone you’ve never taken time to sit down with alone, and ask them to lunch. Or coffee, or dinner. But do it! Choose your friends! Make their day. I’ve done it before (once I called Ulyana and said “I am picking my friends and I want to get to know you better). It works wonderfully when all parties know they are actively choosing the friendship.

Do it! Pick up the phone. Spend time with someone you already love, and learn to love them more! Make a new life, choose the change. The only certainty in life is change anyway… why not take an active part in some of it?

Photos: Four garments I purchased in Kenya. All of them are embroidered with a chain embroidery machine. That means the shaping of the stitchwork is done by hand with a machine, versus a computer placing the stitches. It’s the sort of machine which has been used to embroider names on bowling shirts (now that is done with computers more often than not, but you can remember that script I’m talking about, perhaps).

1) Cotton caftan purchased in Mombasa. Tie died with embroidery. 2) Rayon full-length dress purchased in Nairobi. Tie-died with embroidery. 3) Rayon tunic purchased in Nairobi, tie-died with embroidery. 4) Cotton shirt purchased in Nairobi. Printed cotton (giraffes!) with embroidery. (Forgive the photos without a model, I decided any photo was better than waiting for an ideal one sometime in the future.)

Happy Times, Good Luck, Pics of Egypt

Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

You know what? Life is made up of small moments. If we let each moment live on its own merits, we don’t stay stuck in any emotion too long. I am glad for that, because my day started grumpy like yesterday… and it ended just fine, indeed.

One of my computer students at Foster Center and I got talking about the music Brian and I sing. This man has a really encyclopedic memory for these songs. I hope he gets to meet Brian sometime. He had me singing “If I had a Talking Picture of You,” “You’re the Cream in my Coffee,” “Button up Your Overcoat” and a host of others. I had such fun talking to him that I never left my classroom for the half hour I usually take as a break. It was delightful.

Then after work I went to Wharton Center for the Performing Arts. I don’t go there often, as Lansing has lots of entertainment for affordable prices and Wharton is really expensive. However, they had the show “Moving Out” with direction and choreography by Twyla Tharp and music by Billy Joel. It’s an interesting thing, there is not a single spoken word in the whole show. Just music and dance, and nothing else. Since I’m the perfect age to adore Billy Joel and his music, I loved this show. I knew most of the words to all but two of the songs. I was surprised one particular song was not included, it would have fit the story line perfectly in my mind, but they didn’t ask me!

And there was dance, dance, dance! I liked it a lot. I think I prefer some other choreographers, but not much more (OK, Bob Fosse is so incredible that nobody else comes close, but Tharp is excellent). And I got to get a good cry in there, too, right in the middle of the show. I think it is good now and then to just plain cry. So I did, and I think it was good for me.

Best of all: I got the ticket for free. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but when I went to the ticket counter (just as the show was starting, as my computer lab at Foster ended merely an hour before the show) and asked for a single ticket, she said she had a free one I could have. I was thrilled! It was in the very last row, but I prefer the balcony for dancing shows, you can see the locations/blocking of the dancers better that way. So I got a ticket perhaps within a few rows of the one I would have purchased, but I got it for free. I don’t know who paid for it, but I really hope they can feel the good karma that gift entailed. What a lucky girl I am.

Because I didn’t have to buy a ticket, I was able to buy a “souvenir” of the show on the way out. I bought the book by Ms. Tharp, entitled “The Creative Habit, Learn it and use it for life.” I love books by dancers, about dancers, and about the creative process. We’ll see how I like this one, but it’s right up my alley so I’m bound to get something from it. And the woman is super-prolific, so she does know what she is talking about. It’s winter and I’ve been wishing I had something I really wanted to read (I just don’t get into fiction). Now I’ve got it. Something to read when I am sitting on the heat vent, sipping tea.

(Whew! I just had a computer “hiccup” and I thought I lost the above text. I’m usually very careful to save as I work, when I am working on my own hard drive. Saving through the internet is so slow, that I don’t do it as often. My browser literally disappeared from the task bar for a while, but somehow miraculously it re-appeared, still holding my text. I guess today I’m a lucky girl in more than one way.)

And I was extra-lucky to go to Africa. More pictures again today (you folks keep writing me, saying you like the pictures… so far, I believe you). These are all from Egypt… one from Alexandria, one Giza, the rest Cairo.

1) Fruit stand in Alexandria. That is our driver/guide, Nabil, buying us tangerines and guavas. This was just down the street from another picture I showed you about a week ago, on the same street as the fish restaurant. 2) Homes (probably condo apartments) on the way home to Cairo from Giza (pyramids)… notice that each unit can paint the outside of their property any color, even if it doesn’t match the neighbors… this could not happen in my city, where conformity is mandated in places like this. Even the windows on each unit are different styles!

3) Cairo skyline, Christmas morning 2004. You can see it is the second-largest city in the world! Taken from the 19th floor balcony of our Marriott room, where we ate the tangerines and guavas (and pastries) purchased in Alexandria the day before, for breakfast. Pure luxury! 4)One room of the oldest section of Cairo Marriott, a palace built for Napoleon’s Josephine, preserved perfectly. 5) Bread delivery man on bicycle in Cairo’s market called Khan al Khalili, balancing bread on his head. We saw this a lot, but they move so fast this is the only picture I got of it.

6) Christian Chapel in Cairo. We were invited to light a candle, and we did. It seemed very holy there (it is a very old place, lots of marble, tiny, on the spot where they believe Mary once stayed) so I lit a candle and gave thanks for my trip. (That plaque on the wall appears to be written in Greek, not Arabic.) 7) Sunset on the Nile, December 26, 2004. This is from an overlook on the street. We then descended down some stairs about a block from here, and took a sailboat out on the river for about an hour. We watched the sun set from the boat, and the full moon came out. It was wonderful (and I don’t typically like boats).

Happy CityKidz & Pictures of Ethiopia

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

Well, some days are just more fun than others. Today was a little more bother than many, but I did have the greatest knitting Kidz today at Foster Center. One girl finished her first wristband and was mighty proud. Another boy finished the knitting of his third wristband, he just needs to bind off and sew next week. He got variegated rainbow/crayon colored yarn and it made a rainbow wristband. He was very pleased!

I also had a good dinner in the midst of all the bother today. I went to Altu’s just as they were closing but they did have all the pieces for a veggie combo still ready to take out. Yum! I adore Altu and her food. It’s comfort food on a still-too-cold winter day. Actually, it was about freezing today, warm for winter, but I just don’t like any winter at all! Grumpy me, I know!

This weblog, for me, is a positive and passionate activity I do. I try to keep it upbeat and pleasant for the most part. I had a day that was not upbeat enough (not horrible but I have had many better) so that means I’m going to work even harder to give you beautiful pictures. After all, a picture paints a thousand words, and therefore a beautiful photo or two might just turn around a less than optimal day, right?

Here are some colorful shots I took in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They all were taken out of the window of a moving vehicle, and thus some of them are fuzzy. I think they are colorful enough to show them to you, fuzzy or not!

The first photo is a mother and two children. Mom is wearing a typical Ethiopian traditional cotton wrap, children are wearing western-style backpacks, just as the kids do in my own town. In that photo on the left is a blue and white minivan, which is a group taxi (all taxis in Addis are that color). Next is a street scene. The blue boxes on the edge of the sidewalk, are little closet-sized stores, some not currently open for business. Third is a shot of some boys after school, notice that the two of them at the far left are holding hands. Friends of the same sex often hold hands in Africa. It is common, it is normal, and nobody thinks anything of it. Nobody makes any assumptions about personal or love preferences from it.

Next is a shot where you can see someone getting a shoeshine on the sidewalk on the left, and there is a young man going to market (probably, and/or selling streetside) with a wheelbarrow overflowing with grapefruit. Last is a woman waiting to be let into a walled area (probably a private residence) holding two jugs of water. On the driveway between my camera and the woman is a bundle of firewood, probably eucalyptus. She would perhaps have carried that bundle on her back to get it this far. We saw lots of folks coming down a mountain with bundles such as this, either for personal use or for sale at market.

A Good Sort of Busy

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

Well, my voice is totally wiped out from classes Sat/Sun/Mon but otherwise all is very well with me! Tony and I hung out a little bit on Monday. We tried a restaurant we had not tried before, and we clearly ordered the wrong things on a very big menu. We’ll try again before I report back here definitively on what I think there…

He took me to Dancing Crane Gallery on Michigan Avenue after lunch. This gallery is only two blocks from Foster Community Center, but I had not been there yet.

On Monday, they were finishing up hanging a new show for Black History Month. There are two local African-American artists showing, one (George Thomas from Idlewild, MI) in 3-D “box sculptures” and a photographer, Stan Simmons who is from Lansing.

I have seen Mr. Thomas’ work at the Folk Festival during summer. And Mr. Simmons has done some photography work for the Habibi Dancers, although the work in the gallery is very different than the commercial work. As I recall, all the work in the gallery is black and white, depending on composition and contrast to make it sing. And it does sing, indeed!

The opening for this show will be this Sunday, February 6 from Noon to 5pm, during First Sunday Gallery Walk. Both of the featured artists will be there. I’d very much recommend that folks check out this high-quality show.

Tuesday, I had a day off so there is not a lot to report. I did go to Ann Arbor for the knit-in at Borders’ Books at Arborland. I had not seen those folks since the first Tuesday of November!

I deeply love this group and it was just plain wonderful to be there with them again. The group includes folks of all ages, many nationalities and both male and female participants. Most people knit, but some do cross-stitch or crochet or embroidery… any handwork is welcome. And there were some very fine items finished to show off this week, indeed!!!

The photo today is culinary art! Last Sunday (which happened to be National Pie Day), Brian played at a dance and someone gave him this lovely cherry pie to take home. I can not eat pies made traditionally (cornstarch in the filling, for one) but it was a feast for the eyes!