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Archive for November, 2008


Monday, November 17th, 2008

It has turned nasty here, with temps hovering right at freezing and mean winds. It’s damp and the wind blows right through anything you might wear. Never mind that my body takes at least a month of cold before it gets used to revving up the heating response.

topperdownstripedstudent.jpgMy feet are cold all the time, unless (as right now) they are on/under a hot water bottle. What did I do without hot water bottles? Electric heating pads are just plain too hot, and you aren’t to use them if you might fall asleep with them on. The hot water bottles are just the right sort of warm (with just hot tap water) to keep the feet happier.

Last year I got my first hot water bottle. My feet were SO much happier! Then last week I gave in to the dream of two… one for feet, one for my lap.

topperdownnoro.jpgI used to have a cat for 17 years, and he sat on my lap and it was just a luxury to have him heat me up while he purred. Now I have Brian (who is allergic to cats) so no cat, and the second heating pad is on my lap right now. Aaaah. No purr, but otherwise excellent.

It requires an adjustment to remember that scraping the car windows is necessary before getting out to work, after a lovely summer of no such thing. I’m not a great planner-aheader but I do get used to it.

I do agree that snow is pretty, and the light does reflect on the white snow. Also, the neighborhood is so much quieter under a blanket of the soft stuff. It’s good sound insulation… this is an active neighborhood no matter what the weather (dogs and kids). That part is good.

But we’re definitely into the longjohns-every-day part of the year. Till March or April, I’m guessing. At least there is knitting… with wool, and alpaca, and mohair, and other yummy fibers. These things make it all better. Lots better!!! What would I do without wool to make me smile?

Hmm, makes me dream once more about knitting wool leggings/pants or wool longjohns. That would be the ULTIMATE luxury!!! Well, that or alpaca, or cashmere blend. Anything warm would make me smile.

The photos are hats knit by my students. The pattern is my very new Topper-Down hat. So new, that the pattern was just loaded on my website (link above) and is in only 2 shops to date, more soon. The pattern assumes you will stripe two colors, but isn’t the Noro Kureyon one-yarn/many-colors version delightful? It’s for a young child, and I’m sure that will go over well!

You can’t buy passion.

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Sometimes people complain to me that they have “too many” dreams about things to knit. Every yarn seems to inspire them, every book or magazine gives them more possibilities. They have so many ideas they can’t keep up.

My response is that you can not buy passion. Whatever you love, whatever it is that makes you dream, this is a wonderful thing. Some people have no passions, and I find this sad. The idea that someone could be bored on time off, does not compute to me. I’ve been bored when paid to do something on the job, but being bored at home has never happened to me.

annasecondpair.jpgSome of us have so many passions, we can never follow them all. I think this is an abundance of riches in the life-enthusiasm department. I think it’s a good thing.

So… if you find yourself with a passion, I say grab it and go! Take the ride where it leads you, and enjoy the moment. Yes, we can buy too much stuff with any passion, and that needs to be in balance with our other financial details and available storage space, but the passion itself is not wrong. It is very right. Passion is not necessarily equal to addiction, and I think sometimes people think they are the same. Passion at its purest is just a fire in the belly for living, and I see it as very good.

And for the record, yarn is cheaper as an entertainment purchase than many hobbies. Look at photography, skiing, ukulele collecting, motorcycle riding, most sports requiring equipment, anything requiring travel. Not only that, if you count knitting as entertainment, the yarn/supply cost per hour is minimal. And you get a finished object when you are done, as a bonus.

Knitting is a lot cheaper per hour than going to movies, and nobody seems to think that movie watching is too expensive. And you never get a scarf or pair of socks when you finish watching a movie or three. So knitters, shed the guilt and seize the passion!

A Passion for Electrical Fixture History

The other day I found myself on a blog I’d never seen before, Bangor Bungalow, where they are restoring an old bungalow (I had one myself, mine was 1923). Somehow I clicked on a link which took me to a page about the history of electrical lighting fixtures.

Let me tell you… the person writing about these fixtures is REALLY into it. Total passion about which fixture is made with a lip or a square edge or whatever. Whether a fixture is really this brand or a knock off. There are lots of photos, lots of links to supporting website documentation, really clear information obviously collected over many years of a burning interest/passion over this topic.

The writer talks in particular on this page about Harvey Hubbell who invented the pull-chain switched light socket. Wow! How cool is that? Apparently his first patent for this is 1896. He has many other patents, and his company issued catalogs up to the mid-1960s. Wow.

The writer talks and talks and documents and goes on. It’s the coolest thing. Because, my friends, you can’t buy passion. And the writer burns with the interest of a historian or a convert. Except clearly the conversion was many years ago, much time to collect real information on this subject and take the time to share it with the world. It’s really cool. even though I’m not so into light fixtures and the history of lighting, I’m really into the fact that this person is.

It’s a bit geeky, a bit history, a bit artful. Maybe some of you will be interested in a peek.

Note added: After Jean Marie left me a comment, I went looking to see if the Hubbell company was still in operation. There apparently has been more than a hundred years with Mr. Hubbell’s name on electrical products, and the company is now international in scope. There is a history page on the Hubbell, Incorporated website.

The photo? Passion for knitting socks. My 14-year-old knitter, A., finished her second pair. She did them without help from me. She did ask how to bind off in seed stitch, but she designed the cuff on her own and did the feet and heels without a single question. That’s passion, my friends.

Dinner at Altu’s?

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Tonight, Saturday November 15, Brian and I will be singing at Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine in East Lansing, MI (map on website). This is a high-quality casual restaurant, the best Ethiopian food I’ve ever had (and I spent over 3 weeks in Ethiopia, eating in good restaurants and friends’ homes). It is a family-friendly place, kids can dance a bit if they like.

If you have never been here before, there is a good variety of food. You can eat mild or spicy, vegetarian or meat. The standard is to eat family style, and use the spongy flat bread (it’s a bit like a sourdough taste) to pick up the thick stew-like main dishes rather than a fork. However, if you do not want sourdough or just prefer an alternative, you can get the stews on a bed of rice, on your own plate with silverware.

My friend Altu, the owner/founder, loves food and she loves her customers. This love and attention to quality are quite apparent in her food. The servings are generous, as well. I often choose to eat half for a lighter meal, and take home half for another meal at home. I love it when Altu cooks for me!

Now, this is not an unbiased review… Altu is one of my very best friends. She is the one who took me to Ethiopia. But we met because I was a loyal customer. Her food was so good I kept coming back. I happened to come in at slow times because of my unusual schedule, and we could talk for a while.

We decidedaltuandlynninalexandria10.jpg to travel to Chicago together at first, and then in 2004-05 we spent 38 days as sisters/roommates while we toured Eastern Africa. We came back closer friends than when we left.

I maintain Altu’s website and I book her musical acts. I’m very much a part of the restaurant. But it all started because I loved the food and kept coming back. Perhaps you’d like to check it out tonight, if you are in the Lansing area.

Out of town? I’ll enjoy the food on your behalf. You can go listen to our music on our website, at least!

Photos: 1) Brian and I as The Fabulous Heftones singing at Altu’s in a previous summer, wearing African clothes I got when Altu and I traveled there. 2) Altu and I in Alexandria, Egypt, on the Mediterranean Sea. Egypt is fascinating… it is African, it is Mideastern, and it is Mediterranean. It is like nowhere else.

Sometimes a Grrrl Must Rest.

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Wow. I had a day where I had only one appointment, teaching kids from 9:15 to 10am. Then I had nobody waiting for me. I had big plans, was sure I would cross many things off my to-do list.


What did I do? I came home and found myself unable to get warm even with a sweater and the furnace set for 72F. I sat on the couch with three blankets and a heavy wool sweater on top of me, and I slept. Like a baby. Like there was no tomorrow.

When I woke up, I did actually finish one thing on the to-do list, which was to finish a pair of legwarmers so that I can have a photo shoot next Wednesday for my upcoming pattern.

I did a load of laundry and a dishwasher load. I put away a few things, but nothing like the wholesale house-cleaning job I had imagined. The desk is still piled high, but it needs to wait another day or two.

A Hot Date at the Grocery Store

Then Brian and I went to the grocery store, bought food, cooked together in the kitchen, ate dinner. I cleaned up a few more random things, again not the major cleaning I thought I’d do.

Actually, I figured out that the thick allergy-free frosting/glaze I’d made for my birthday cake, might be really good heated up as hot fudge over ice cream. So I made some allergy-free cake and we had a dessert I could not eat for the last 5 years.

I’m so happy to have dairy back in my life, and that there is an ice cream devoid of other ingredients that cause me trouble. Stonyfield Farms Organic ice cream is my best friend when I want a real treat! (No eggs, no xanthan gum. It does have guar gum and carob bean gum, but I tolerate those just fine. All their products are certified Kosher, and many are certified gluten-free. What a quality company!)

After Dinner, More Rest

I picked up the house a little more. Then I crashed again, on the couch. I am not a couch potato, we don’t have a TV that is viewable or a VCR or cable. I tend to work even when I’m on the couch with a laptop. But this grrl was wiped out.

I have a very public life. I’m at the front of a classroom or on a stage most days. I love my life, but sometimes one must get off stage and just rest. I wore a brown/black sweater (wool and alpaca and 2% yak, of all things) which is warm but not at all ColorJoy, wrapped up in as much wool as I could, and stayed home for the most part. I even skipped a very fine concert so that I could just let myself rest. Downtime, what a thought!

But Nothing Lasts, and this is Good as Well

Tomorrow is a big day. I teach a group of folks Polymer Clay Gifts at Threadbear for 4 hours, and then I sing at Altu’s. I’m having no regrets about the rest. I guess I regret that the house still needs attention, but there is always Sunday. I only work 2 hours on Sunday.

Oh… the photos? The second one is “Polymer Clay Gifts” class projects.

The first one has a story… about 3 blocks from Rae’s shop, between my house and my work there, I often drive past a house with these wonderful rainbow flower pots. The other day I stopped, rolled down my window and took a photo out the passenger side.

A couple came out to figure out why I was stopping in front of their house. I just called out through my open window “I just love your flower pots, I’m taking a picture.” She was pleased, and invited me to come back again in the summer when she has white flowers in the pots. I made someone smile, after she had made me smile. Cool!

November Flowers

Friday, November 14th, 2008

novembermyrtle.jpgIn Lansing, Michigan, USA, we had a gorgeous, perfect summer. It seemed to only rain at night, and the days were lovely and seemed to last forever. I loved every minute.

I am not a cold-weather grrl. However, the colors of autumn placate me as the temperatures drop. We had beautiful colors this year, and since we have not yet had a very hard frost, some of the trees are still full of crimson or burgundy leaves.

novemberdandelion.jpgLast Tuesday (election day, to jog your mind about the weather in your area), it was really quite beautiful here in spite of the month being November. I went out in the yard and took photos of two myrtle flowers, two violets, one dandelion, two impatiens plants and several petunias (which were drooping but still showed color).

Last Sunday, we got snow. It was wet and warm as snow goes, but we got enough that it stuck overnight. What a change in less than a week!

novemberimpatiens.jpgRight now we do not have snow, it is above freezing during the day, but we are not going back to violets until March, I’d bet. Here are some photos to give you a smile. Notice the brown leaves in the grass next to the flowers… it is definitely autumn here in spite of the flowers’ insistence otherwise!


A Night Singing at Dupont Circle

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

One night when we were in Washington, DC, we decided we would go and play music to folks passing by. We have done this in New York before and it is so much fun!


The weather could have been better, it had rained so the benches at Dupont Circle were wet. Also it was already getting dark by the time we got there (darned autumn) and so it was crucial that we find a good spot where people could see we were there.

First we went to the circle itself (a park inside a large traffic circle) and played a while. The rain did not help us much, and the lighting was poor. We decided to find another spot.


We ended up posting ourselves just outside an area where people came up from the subway, on the sidewalk just outside the traffic circle. This was more opportune, as we got the folks coming up and even a few who were waiting for someone to meet them.

dcheftonessubway.jpg There was quite an assortment of listeners. We saw a few people dressed up for Halloween (this was the weekend before the holiday). We had two guys stop and listen to many songs, who had clearly been partying for quite a while before they found us. They had a great time, but I do wonder if they remembered the encounter the next day.

There was another guy who was waiting for his lady, who chatted with us for a while. We gave him a postcard with our website on it so he could go get some free downloadable music.

In the end, we got pretty cold playing instruments with bare fingers, and we headed back. We found a Japanese fusion restaurant and got hot tea and a little bit to eat before we went back to crash for the night. It was a pleasant experience!

Thanks to Brian’s sister, Jenny, for navigating us to this spot and taking the photographs. We had such a fun time!

Street Scenes in Washington, DC

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

We went to Washington DC, the last full weekend in October. I wanted to see the exhibit of Bolivian Textiles at the Textile Museum, and that exhibit was only scheduled through that Sunday.

Somehow while we were en-route, they changed things and extended the exhibit, I think through sometime in February. (You have time to go… consider a trip!) We were already on the road before we knew of the change, and it worked out fine.

(For those interested, I put up a Flickr slideshow/set, sixteen photos, of our backroad journey the first day. We drove from Michigan to Ohio to Pittsburgh, which was beautiful with autumn colors. Some Pittsburgh photos were on the way out on the second day.)

We stayed with Brian’s sister, Jenny, who has a condo apartment in the Adams-Morgan area. We walked and walked and walked, almost everywhere we went. I love cities, and walking gives me more of a chance to see the neighborhoods.

I have many photos and not enough time to write in detail today. I will just give little captions and let the photos speak. I’ll go into the Textile Museum and other visits, in another post.


Garden in front of what I think was an Embassy, very near Textile Museum. In Michigan we had already dealt with frost, so the flowers were especially welcome.


Neighborhood street, maybe near DuPont Circle.


Building unlike anything in Lansing, possibly residences.


Building with original art deco entry. Beautiful.


Rummage sale inside (Episcopal?) church. Jenny and I found some nice things, Brian had no luck. The volunteers were really nice, and the other shoppers were a blast. Much fun, an unplanned stop on the way to Bolivian textiles.


Front counter at teahouse/restaurant where we went twice. Great teas!


Jenny looking a bit like a flapper upstairs at the teahouse.


Toddler walking away from tiny puddle, in which he splashed for a while.


Kramerbooks, an independent bookstore, Dupont Circle area. This photo is for Deborah Robson/The Independent Stitch, who really loves independent bookstores.


Bikes owned by the City of DC, for a bike-share program. You buy a card to identify yourself for a very low price for a year, no additional fees if you ride a lot. You can pick up any bike at one of several places in the city. You can keep the bike up to a certain number of hours. You can drop off the bike at any of the bike stations, not just the one where you got it. I think this is really a cool idea!

OK, that is just too many photos for one post, anyway. There will be more photos and more narrative soon!

Dance Videos: Mom and Fred

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

My Mom and her beau, Fred, enjoy dancing. They particularly enjoy ballroom styles such as foxtrot, waltz, tango and the like.

They compete in the Polk County Senior Games in Florida in the springtime. (Mom can dance longer than I can… I’m not quite 50 and she’s 74, go mom!)

Fred’s son put up a web page with links to last spring’s Senior Games videos where they danced. If you would like to check it out, the videos are here. I particularly like the Cha Cha video, myself. And don’t miss where Fred pulls Mom through his legs at the end of the Swing video!

Mom had just barely recovered from that mean flu that went around early 2008, and I know she really got wiped out from the event. I think she’s glad she did it, though… they have so much fun! (And they win so many medals, for the record.)

The videos are hosted by our “friend,” YouTube, of course, though the web page is elsewhere. The photo here was taken at The Fabulous Heftones’ CD release party for “In the Garden,” in June 2006. Mom and Fred are at front right, the back left couple is Diane and George if I have it figured right.

Whew, what a whirlwind!

Monday, November 10th, 2008

I have just finished several weeks in a row of just plain running from one deadline to the next. It’s all good, I love my life and my work, but I just plain need a day off.


It looks like I wake up early on Friday, (I’m volunteering with kids) and when I’m done with them at 10 I will actually have the rest of the day to do with as I please. Too bad it’s November (this morning we have snow on the ground for the first time), I would love a day in the hammock on the porch.

Until then, I have happily-filled days of work and relationship. Yesterday was all relationship… I was the honored guest of a party given by my mother, in honor of my upcoming 50th birthday. Speaking of whirlwind, there were so many people in so many rooms of her house that I did not get to chat with as many folks as I would have liked. It was delightful!

The only photos I got at the party were of myself, Mom and my brother Eric together (Cynthia pressed the camera button for us). I’ll put up one of those when I have time to download from the camera.

Meanwhile, the teapot is whistling and I have kids to spend some time with this morning, so I’m off and running!

The photo here, Brian took of me at the Teahouse in DC a few weekends back.

A Fire Escape for Paz

Monday, November 10th, 2008

My internet friend Paz, of The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz, likes fire escape photos. She lives in New York City but has not always lived there. She takes great photos of her adopted city in another of her blogs, Paz’s New York Minute.

I took this photo of a fire escape in Washington DC a few weekends ago (this is the first mention of that trip on my blog, there will be more photos, I promise). I seem to never be caught up on my photos here. I guess maybe I should stop taking my camera with me wherever I go?


This CityGrrl’s Harvest

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

harvestherbs.jpgA few weeks ago we had frost. I had to cut the herbs in the garden, though I was not really ready for them. Then I pulled the smallest tomato plant inside and picked all the rest of the tomatoes, green, from the larger tomato plants outside. (The photo at right shows parsley at top, sad little basil bottom left, sage bottom right.)

I had spent several nights before that time, covering the tomato plants each night with a sheet. Brian would take it off in the morning on the way to work. this was fine when there was slight chance of patchy frost (the plants are up 4 steps on a landing, which is good for avoiding frost). At some point, though, it will frost solidly and one must give in to reality.

Here are the results of my harvest. There are still maybe 6 fruits on the indoor plant. I think it has decided to stop growing, anyway… it must know that November has arrived even though it’s indoors and warm enough.


Previous to this harvest moment, we got merely three red tomatoes all summer. We just got no fruit! So to have this many fruits at the same time, was crazy luck.

I really think that the tomatoes sense a chill in early Septmber and instantly put out as many flowers as they can. I have noticed this now, for several years in a row. It must be a survival instinct for them to do that, make seeds to procreate before it’s too late. Or so goes my theory…

For the record, the tomatoes on the windowsill have been slowly turning red one at a time. We have had about 5 turn red so far, and we have eaten 3 of them. A few look like they may still turn, I may share a few photos later with those. (And the indoor plant? One almost-red large fruit and a bunch of green ones not doing anything.)

I can’t resist…

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

I took some photos of my beloved toddler-friend, Isabel (and her mom, April) one day when we went to Old Town for lunch. There is a tiny park on the corner with simple but wonderful sculptures: metal plates painted fun colors. Each has a hole of a different shape… square, triangle, circle. They are such fun, even adults play peek-a-boo there.

I wish I could post ten photos but I will restrain myself to one. Here’s one of my favorites (Isabel is wearing a Button Hat I knit for her):


Polymer Clay Talk/Demo Nov. 25

Friday, November 7th, 2008

button16blu.jpgI will be doing a Talk and Demo about Polymer Clay at Haslett Public Library (5670 School St, Haslett, MI339-2324), on Tuesday, November 25 at 7pm. The talk is free to the public.

Polymer clay is frequently used to make beads and jewelry, and knitters can use it for making custom buttons for their work as well. However, the medium goes into sculpture, practical items and wall pieces as well.

People make musical instruments with it as one part of the whole, and they use it as inlay for wood items such as drums and even a staircase. Book artists sometimes use it for book covers. I’ve used it as a practical thing, to replace a missing or broken piece of something I am not ready to toss in the trash yet.

I have a lovely collection of Polymer Clay pieces by many artists throughout the USA and will bring some of those pieces with me to the event. I think it is important for a teacher to share many styles with their audience, so that the listeners can take in the possibilities and make things in their own signature style rather than echoing the style of the teacher.

I have worked for the Haslett Library twice before and had a wonderful time. It’s a great, friendly, intimate space for such an event. Local folks, do consider joining me that night!

polyclaycaneweb1.jpg polyclaywhistleweb.jpg

Hug the Kid

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

I got a phone message from friend April. She says that her beloved toddler Isabel, age 4, found the wristwarmers I knit for her last year, and she was “…so excited about them that she is going to sleep with them tonight.”


(Photo is Isabel wearing the original prototype “Chippy Socks” which became a pattern after the kid inspired me… actually, wearing one sock from one set and one sock from the other, in order to get even more colors on her feet at the same time.)