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Archive for January, 2007

A Good Two Classes

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Monday/today was the first day of my term, teaching computer classes to adults (mostly retirees) at Haslett Community Education. I had a wonderful time. I always do.

Teaching is SUCH a high. No chemicals required, beyond the adrenaline my own body creates as I explain things. There is such magic in showing people things they can use, that they did not know yet.

Even in the first class, the basic class where I expect folks to maybe never have touched a computer before… they left thanking me for the class. I can not tell you what that feels like.

I can never teach them all I know, even all they would like to know. I *can* take away the fear and replace it with curiosity and permission to explore. I let them know that if the machine freezes up, it is almost certainly not anything they did. I give them permission to turn off the machine if it freezes (they are very afraid to do that, even when there is no other choice).

And the second class, some of those folks have been with me a year or more now. It’s a wonderful group, they are a little bit of a social club. And I repeat the same things every term that must be repeated for the new people. And they all agree they learn every time (I try to present the same subjects from different angles but it’s repeat and it’s good).

I did get tired about a half an hour before I could go home. It was fine. My voice is doing much better than expected, and though I did have some coughing fits in the car on the way home I think it was from breathing cold air rather than the four hours of talking.

This is what I was born to do. I explain well. I sometimes say I’m a “professional explainer.” This is about computers, about teaching knitting, teaching polymer clay, even writing knitting patterns. It’s just my thing.

Mom and Dad both taught, both my Mom’s parents taught, my aunt (Mom’s sister) also taught. It’s in my cells, and I would not have it any other way.

Some Fun Non-Knitting Blogs

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Timbo (of Timboland and the Swampy Award Alda won) and I have written back and forth a little this week. He was sort of wishing someone else would have awards like he did so he could check out new blogs.

I am not inclined to do awards, I’m not a thorough enough surfer to be fair, but I did send him a list of some non-knitting sites which have made me smile at least once or twice. I figure maybe you folks would enjoy a list, as well. For the most part, they are listed in the order in which I found them.

Of course, Alda’s Iceland Weather Report is first on the list. I read every post, though I don’t get over there every day. I don’t get anywhere every day!

http://icelandweatherreport.com

Patrice Douge, a photojournalist in Florida:

http://www.patricedouge.com/

The cooking adventures of Chef Paz, complete with New York Monday photos:

http://thecookingadventuresofchefpaz.blogspot.com/

Aaron in Africa: my time in Togo (peace corps volunteer):

http://aaroninafrica.blogspot.com/

Bookseller Chick (used to work a bookstore and it just closed):

http://booksellerchick.blogspot.com/

Des chapeaux, just photos of vintage hats, they are unbelievable, extreme, artful, extreme again (this one posts rather infrequently:

http://chapeauxbibitop.blogspot.com/index.html

Ukulele and All that Jazz (Howlin Hobbit, a ukulele/jazz/smoky bar musician in Seattle):

http://www.howlinhobbit.com/sblog/

Plastic Girl (artist in Australia who works in plastics):

http://lianakabel.blogspot.com/

Leigh Witchel (Ballet Dancer/Choreographer, Knit Designer, Cat Lover, Travel Fanatic, expert on saving travel bucks and using frequent flyer miles/points (whatever they call them):

http://www.leighwitchel.com/blog/

Something in Season: cook-local recipes from gluten-free chef, and wonderful stories at times of family:

http://somethinginseason.blogspot.com/index.html

One Small Corner of the World (photography and accompanying poetry):

http://onesmallcorneroftheworld.blogspot.com/index.html

Gluten-Free Girl (from the same author as the above photo/poetry blog… not just recipes and cooking but storytelling including a love story, just a wonderful read):

http://glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com/

Not a blog, but LibriVox is recording many thousands of books in the public domain, into audiobooks. They take volunteers to read/record the books, or you can just go and get something and listen. (Thanks to Brenda Dayne of the Cast-On Podcast for this one.):

http://librivox.org/

Well, that should keep you entertained for a little while!!!

Guilt: So Slow, and Little Focus

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

I just can’t get jump started. I got sick two weeks ago tonight and although I do not feel very bad anymore, I have low energy. I tried to work on patterns and I just do not have the focus to make it mistake-free. (I will bet this post proves the focus issue for me, I’m sorry if it is a little jumpy in the presentation.)

I cooked breakfast, Brian cooked dinner, and after dinner I made a teff and carob cake (it was nearly black it was so dark, and the flavor was OK but it was very dry… I should have followed my instinct to put applesauce or some other vegetable matter in it for moisture and hold-together power). I will try that one again.

Teff is a grain grown in Ethiopia and other places in Africa. It is used pretty much exclusively in that part of the world for their distinctive sourdough-like flatbread.

Teff is gluten free and flavorful (and extremely nutritious) on the good side, and it is a lot like rice flour in its crumbly nature on the down side. I would say baked goods made of teff remind me of bran muffins, a bit rough and a bit rich. I love that sort of thing! I can eat gluten but it is good for me to rotate different foods and so teff is one of many grains I eat during the week. I look forward to Teff day!

Bob’s Red Mill Brand offers both teff grain (tiny tiny grains but not flour) and the teff flour, both of which I can purchase in my smallish city. They offer a good muffin recipe on the back of the package but it calls for egg. I eat very few eggs, at most one per week. So I wanted to make the muffins without that. Baked goods, particularly those which are gluten free, are hard to make without eggs as a binder.

It has taken me since early September to work it out but the last two muffin batches were wonderful. Typically teff muffins dry out and become stiff hockey pucks after just a few hours. The ones I have made the last two times held out much better… today’s batch lasted 4 hours and although they did dry out a little on the outside, that just seemed like a nice crust. I will plan to use all the little tricks I use on the muffins, while working on the basic teff cake recipe, and see what I end up with there. I bet I can do it.

I did talk to Diana today (she got the same bug I did on the same day I did). She took a little longer to feel better, but was able to make dinner tonight and is knitting again.

As for me, I’m knitting a mostly-simple mostly-ribbed scarf as a gift right now. I just can not count or measure or check instructions or knit on gauge. That means work knitting is out. All the work knitting I’ve done in the last 2 weeks was torn out anyway, why go there?

The rib scarf is really forgiving for some reason, and since I needed straight needles for this project I’m using some size 4 (3.5mm) ebony needles which were a gift a few years back. They feel really nice and work well with the smooth merino sportweight I’m using for the project. My wrists do not like long straight needles, though… I needed to stop tonight and rest.

Monday is my first day of teaching computer classes at Haslett this term. I know the material backwards, but I am a little concerned that my voice will be able to handle 4 hours of talking to a dozen people in a computer lab. Cross fingers for me. I may take my lapel microphone. Normally I do not need it for this short timeframe. However, with all the coughing I’ve been doing my voice is tired.

I really do feel pretty decent, I’m just very slow still. I can stand up and walk a bit but I can not sprint. And although I am used to having a very quick mind, I am being humbled in that department this last few weeks. It is good for me.

Once I spent 31 days without any voice at all, doctor’s orders. That was a serious loss though it truly was temporary. The bug I have had this month? Not as bad. Definitely not as bad as total silence for a month.

One must keep all things in perspective. I am trying to not feel guilty about not doing the work I had planned for this month. I’m a bit of a workaholic when I feel well and watching myself knit a non-work scarf on a work day, well, it’s really hard to do. I need to give myself sick days but this is really getting old.

OK, back to the good stuff: So far, Teff muffins rule. Teff cake? Needs a lot of work, but I have done enough experimenting with the muffins that I bet the cake comes around in short order. I’ll report back.

More Socializing

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

You know, after 10 days flat on the couch with a foggy brain, I am sort of “waking up” to my life by seeing people who inspire me. I was delighted to spend several hours with my friend Deb today. What a treat!

Tomorrow my class cancelled so I will work at home. I have SO many patterns in various stages of production, and I need to work on at least one. I’m not well enough to go in the unheated basement and dye yarn but I can sit at the computer and make patterns go forward. I hope the sun shines, that would make it a great day for sitting next to the window in my office.

I am nearly well. I did get tired enough around dinnertime to actually take a nap, but I was out and about longer than I have been yet and I did feel pretty good while I was out. I cough a bit still but I feel about 98% most of the time.

After Deb went home I ran to two different grocery stores (it is amazing what you can run out of when you can not leave the house for over a week). In the course of the day I hit all three of the yarn shops where I teach. When I got home I was down for the count but that was OK.

I also got a call from a friend in Tucson. It was great to chat with her a little while. It just seems to be a weekend of relationship, and that is a wonderful thing.

OK, time to get some serious sleep. I’m happily wiped out.

Sunny Day!

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

I’m just ready to leave for Threadbear to see my friend Deb. The sun is shining, there are no clouds at all.

The trees are still coated in ice from the storm on Sunday night, I wonder if the sun will be hot enough to melt some of it away. Ice on tree branches is always a dangerous thing, branches break and hurt whatever is below them when they fall. I’ll hope the sun fixes a little of that… it is supposed to get to 26F (below freezing for my non-US readers) so it may not work, but I can hope.

I’m off to play with yarn and drink tea and talk and talk and talk. It will be a good day.

A Bit of Socializing

Friday, January 19th, 2007

I spent several hours on Friday with an artist friend. You know, I have relatively few peers in my life, at least in the Lansing area. I make a living as a creative person, between teaching and dyeing and designing patterns and singing and a little dancing.

It is my full-time work, my creative business. I don’t do it to dabble or make a few bucks on the side, I do it to pay my bills. I don’t know many people who can say that in my local life. I need to take my work seriously and keep very focused to make that work out for me. I am absolutely clear that I do not want to go back to a 40hr/week desk job, and therefore I work a lot of hours making this venture work for me.

This woman is also a fulltime artist. She happens to be a painter for the most part. She is incredibly talented and very passionate about her work. She also pays her bills with her creative business, she doesn’t intend to dabble. (Dabbling is fine, I did it for years building up to my current situation, but it’s great to have someone who understands my life right now.)

It was a wonderful day. I just drank in the companionship. We drank tea and ate pumpkin bread I made for us to eat, and talked until it was dark. I think I was there for 4 hours. It was wonderful.

After that I went home and my beloved Brian had cooked dinner. I ate turkey and carrots and parsnips from the crockpot, and steamed bok choi, and it was really good and it was ready to eat pretty much when I walked in. Can I tell you how loved I feel when that happens? It was wonderful.

Then I ran over to Threadbear briefly before they closed. My designer friend Trish Bloom had written to tell me she would be there. It was good to see her. It was also great to just be around other creative people instead of being on the couch for 10 days straight.

My fever is staying away, this is 3 days in a row so I think it’s really gone. I still tire very easily and I have a cough sometimes, though others notice it before I do (it is not uncomfortable, just distracting). I still need to carry a handful of my almost-vintage handkerchiefs with me wherever I go right now, but I feel much better.

Tomorrow is more socializing. Deb/Scarlet Zebra will be in Lansing and we intend to talk and drink tea until we can not have any more caffeine. It will be wonderful fun. We used to take four-hour woman-business-owner lunches a couple of times a year but we have both been crazy-busy in 2006 and barely seen one another. We have much catching up to do.

I was supposed to go to Fort Wayne (Indiana, several hours away) and dance with the Habibi Dancers all day Saturday. There is no way I can dance for ten minutes right now, much less on stage and looking chipper. Much less getting up in the wee hours to carpool to Ft. Wayne. I think it is wonderful I’ll be with Deb instead. I won’t have time to bum out about missing the companionship of the other dancers, I will be busy with my friend. Very very good.

Something Like Normal

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Whew. I’m coming around, I almost feel like myself again. My temp is back to what they call normal and I just feel like I have a bit of a cold. I get so tired, though, and when I woke up this morning it was nearly amusing because I could not stay balanced. I had to catch myself on the wall so I would not topple over. I slept so hard that I just could not rouse myself enough to walk straight. It was a chuckle.

Food is still the most interesting topic of all in my life, though I am knitting a little bit. I made the Sweet Potato oven-roasted fries last night. They were very homely but tasty. I think I still like the rutabagas better, but any root veggie roasted in the oven is becoming a fond favorite these days. Tomorrow we will eat parsnips and carrots, they are good together.

I’m becoming very fond of my root veggies… they are flavorful and they fill me well. They also offer the benefit of being full of good minerals and nutrients. Of course, we eat nothing that is *only* good for us, so it’s great those characteristics underly the good taste. I’m becoming grateful to my food allergies for forcing me to learn about new foods. I am really enjoying the veggie adventures.

I tried to cook fish tonight. Usually Brian steams fish with greens when we want a fast meal. I’m pretty good at ruining fish (I don’t like it much anyway so I can not really tell if it is done until it’s overdone and rubbery).

Tonight I bought two pieces of fresh salmon (I think it’s a luxury I can get this in Lansing any day I want, really). Brian made one and I made the other, they both were fine.

We put both in the oven at 400F. His was in a glass pie pan with olive oil and just a touch of tomato sauce. Mine was in a covered casserole, totally covered in tomato sauce and then I added 3/4 of a can of small black california olives, crushed between my fingers (I like that texture in tomato-based foods). His finished cooking first, maybe 25 minutes. Mine cooked just over 30 minutes, I think.

We ate Brian’s fish because it was done first, and then I divided up the one I made into pyrex freezing dishes. With all that tomato sauce I expect it will taste even better thawed and cooked as leftovers.

We also had brown rice and steamed broccoli. There was a lot of rice left over so I decided to make an off-the-cuff rice pudding. I learned how to do this from my mother, who learned it from her mother.

I took the leftover brown rice, put it in our smaller crockpot, and added some leftover soy milk (half a box, about 2 cups, of unsweetened/unflavored) to it. I never drink the stuff, I only use it in recipes, so I have to really plan in order to not waste any.

I added a little water, some frozen white rice that had been leftover almost too long, and some sweet potato (yes really). I put almost a half cup of light brown sugar in, plus a lot of cinnamon, a touch of nutmeg, and about a tablespoon of good Mexican vanilla. It was sort of swimming in the liquid like a soup when I was done adding everything.

I put the sweet potato and white rice in because I’ve had trouble with 100% brown rice for rice pudding. It just isn’t starchy enough to really set up properly. Adding the (maybe 1/3-1/2 cup) of sweet potato and the appx. 1 cup of white rice to the maybe 2-3 cups of brown rice, added some more fine starch to the mix and made it more likely to actually act like pudding given some cooking time.

I let it cook until it was pretty thick, the soy milk was more like the texture of cream or slightly thicker. The pudding is now cooling in the refrigerator for breakfast tomorrow morning (yum).

I was only out of the house yesterday for 3 hours. Today I was out for 8. Most of that time I was sitting down, but it’s just exhausting to be “on” that much after over a week of being nearly inert. I was grumpy, hungry and exhausted when I got home. The food did really help me turn it around.

Tomorrow is another day, and it’s my official day off. I plan to visit an artist acquaintance who has some clothing she wants to give me… not from this side of the globe. I’m delighted both for the gift and the time I will get to spend with her. She’s an extra-special person and I don’t know her very well, it will be wonderful to chat a while and sip tea.

Tired!

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

I worked one hour today. Of course that meant I had to get up and get presentable and drive there and back. It also meant that I had to get up before Brian went to work, because we determined last night that my battery had gone numb from sitting still so long in the cold.

So I couldn’t fall asleep till my usual very wee hours. I got up five hours later, started the car, took it on a spin long enough to be sure it would restart later. Home, long wonderful bath, figure out how to dress presentably after about a week in jammies. I dressed, went out to get meds that were going to run out tonight if I didn’t get ’em. Worked at Foster Center 1hr, picked up a paycheck while there, made deposit at bank (a most delightful errand indeed, I always love that one).

My bank is literally next door to Rae’s shop so I went in, it had been too long since I’d been in any yarn shop and I was going through withdrawal. Didn’t buy, just sat on the couch for a short while (the shop was closed already, she was doing inventory), and then went home. Too long out, not enough sleep.

I got home in time to chop up sweet potatoes. We decided to try to oven roast them today, because the rutabagas are so good that way. I put those in the oven, Brian steamed perch and spinach, and we had a good though simple meal. I will do the potatoes that way again. They take much less time than rutabagas.

Now I’m going to crash on that couch. I bet I’m asleep in 15 minutes. I do feel as though I’m recovering but I need some more sleep and I am going to be sure to do that for myself.

Coming Out of Hibernation

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

icelight.jpg You know, it’s rough when you get just well enough to remember all the stuff you can’t do right now but should have done a week ago. It’s crazy-making to say the least.

I feel MUCH better today but I’m as dazed as a toddler awakened during a deep sleep. The body moves but in slow motion, my temp is approximately normal (finally) yet the brain is still quite foggy.

I had a heck of a time just casting on 54 stitches for a simple scarf. I cast on once, counted twice, knit and it was wrong, counted again, thought it was right, was wrong again… tried to fix on the needles, finally ripped it out, cast on again, knit one row. That’s the whole story of my knitting thus far today.

I’m still so out of it that I did not realize I had missed the Mid-Michigan Knitters Guild meeting, until it was over. I LOVE this group, they are home. And I always contribute a door prize every month (usually a kit: yarn and a pattern). Well, every month I’m there, I guess. Sigh… if I had thought of it I would have asked someone near my home to pick up a kit on the way there. Pooh. It’s too late now.

Photo: view out my side door (April’s House again), with the full sun shining through the ice-coated branches. Light bulbs almost! So pretty. It was so bright today you could have imagined it was August if you did not look out the window (or hear the furnace running). Diana posted photos today… and if you click on hers, you get a full screen of sunny beauty. I say take the time and revel in this unique and fleeting beauty. 

Congratulations to Alda!

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

Alda of the Iceland Weather Report has won an award. Timbo of Timboland has awarded her with his 2006 Swampy Award for Best Non-British Blog. You go, Grrrl!

I figure if I really like Alda’s work, and so does Timbo, we must have more in common than that. How convenient that I find a list of his favorite blogs just when I’m stuck on the couch.

Nothing like some good new blogs to distract my mind a bit. Yippee! Remember, it’s good to savor the small things, because big things are few and far between…

Small World

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

I am meeting fascinating musicians from all over the world, via MySpace.com, of all places. Brian and I have a Myspace page for The Fabulous Heftones in addition to our normal (much larger/more informative) Fabulous Heftones website.

We, of course, are getting “friend requests” (what an odd concept), mostly from people we already know in the local music community and/or the ukulele circuit. Sometimes it’s family (particularly neices and nephews) and sometimes it’s someone who knows our work from afar. Very occasionally it is someone wanting romance or other excitement that does not interest us, and we do not accept those requests.

It’s pretty cool, really, depite all the fun The Media has been having bashing its weak spots. As we know, anything can be used for good or trouble… I’m finding myspace to be quite fine in my personal situation.

This week, I got a friend request from James, and I did not know who he was. Clearly he is a ukulele player, it’s easy to discern that from his myspace page. He is in London, UK. Wow. How cool is that? So I wrote back with an acceptance. He had also sent a very flattering note along with his request, saying we really were Fabulous, yadda yadda. He made me feel really good that he would know our work all the way from England, and take the time to write. So I wrote him back and chatted a bit.

I said that I love the Internet for making the world such a small place. He wrote back:

“Yes it is a tiny world 20” corner to corner, its all on my PC.”

Wow. Can’t put it better than that, really.

Thank you, James, for sharing your take on it all… and for consenting to let me quote you here. I can sit and dream about visiting London someday, instruments in hand. Unfortunately, they do not yet have international flights that travel via PC screens!

Knitted Graffiti

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

I’m only a tiny bit behind the world… there is a January 11 post with photos of knitted graffiti (looks like it happened in a French-speaking country). I love it! Colorful, and it does not injure the item it is embellishing.

Check out Knitted Graffiti photos!

The Voice as a Musical Instrument

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

Those who read here often have heard me wax poetic before about Seth Bernard and Daisy May. What a team they are. I love them both… and together, of course they strengthen each other in all the right ways.

But I can go on forever about Daisy May’s voice. It is a wonderful instrument. It’s strong, resonant, convincing, but never contrived. I could listen to her sing forever.

The other night when I could not sleep because I just plain hurt (being sick does that to you), I put their album on my portable player and listened on my headphones as I finally fell asleep. Thank goodness for adult lullabies.

Well, today I sat still at the computer and visited youtube.com. I found a few videos taken of this duo (and two friends backing them up) at the Creole Gallery in Lansing.

Often Daisy May will play guitar or fiddle, and she does an absolute bang-up job on either one. But for Shine On, she puts them down. She stands in front of that microphone with a voice as her only instrument. For much of the song, she closes her eyes. And she gives it everything she’s got. Which is to say a whole lot.

As a performer whose first instrument is voice, I am a bit jealous. I have done some acapella (no instruments) solo work before I met Brian, but only on lucky occasions. When we perform on stage, we’re a duo and we really do need both stringed instruments to make the sound filled out well (we don’t have backup musicians, we never have done that, even on recordings).

When I am really really lucky, I get to sing an introduction to a song without playing the bass at the same time. Brian really prefers the sound when I play the bass, and he does listen with a more detached ear than I do. I am self-centered and I want to siiiiiinnnnggg! I can sing so fully when I can close my eyes, as May does, and give it all I’ve got. It’s a luxury and our act generally does better when I don’t give in to that craving.

Yet, if all the stars align just right, we be playing at Altu’s and someone will request “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” This is a personal favorite. I remember singing it to my Gramma Illa in about 1980, when she was too sick to have a conversation with me anymore. I had to work hard not to cry at the end, but it was sort of the perfect goodbye song and I am very happy I chose it.

(You can always sing to someone, even if they can’t respond… and it does get through most of the time… and you later know you did the one thing you could do. Gramma would ask my mom later in more clear moments if I had been there to see her.)

When I sang it to Gramma Illa, of course I sang “Rainbow” solo and acapella. At Altu’s, Brian will play uke and I can close my eyes and go for it.

Some day we probably will work up the song for our official act. We will sing it more often, but I will be playing bass. At least I got the enjoyment while I could!

Now, do yourself a favor and go hear Daisy May sing Shine On, a video on Youtube.com. It’s really wonderful. I can never play it only once. It’s very hard to let this one end. Once upon a time, I could find the entire song on the Earthwork Music site but I do not see it there right now. I do see it on May’s myspace page, though! Go with the video if you have the connection for it. Wonderful.

Photo: I took this shot at Magdalena’s Teahouse on December 10, at a Seth and Daisy May concert that was totally packed. A good time was had by all!

Gourmet Sleuth

Monday, January 15th, 2007

I needed to know the ingredients of a food. I searched. I found gourmet sleuth. There is an alphabetical list of foods/ingredients and substitutions (just click on the B for bulgur wheat, for example, then scroll down alphabetically through the list at left, for the information to show up on the right). Really helpful stuff.

They are a commercial site, and I can not even find the link to the substitution list from the main page. However, I’m tempted to dive in. I have been looking to buy a tortilla press but the ones I could find did not have good photos or descriptions, and I could not tell what I was buying. This site has 73 items tagged as Mexican Cooking Tools. They have Mexican spices, too, but that is in another category. In fact they have all sorts of ethnic foods, broken down by region. It looks good to me, I eat a lot of food not from my own ethnic background(s).

I’ve not done business with them before but have had much luck buying online in general. I may give this a try. Meantime, check out the food list, it’s really great.