Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Just Keep Knitting. Just Keep Knitting.

When I started school in January, I was only 3 blocks away from being done with Gabriel's Geekalong blanket. Now, I'm only 2 blocks away from being done. Argh! Really, though, I love school. And, while school was going on, it was pretty much the only thing I was doing. That's just one of the realities of managing fatigue. I do think I'll get done knitting his blocks before school starts, and probably even start joining them. Here's hoping I can finish all three blankets in time for Christmas. Honestly, I was on track to finish them for Christmas last year before we moved. Moving just takes up so much time and energy! It's a good thing I like moving.

This is a queen sized bed. The joining technique I'll be using will make the blanket 8 inches wider and 14" taller. We may add an extra block and make it 5x5 instead.

This is the stack of blocks completed for all 3 blankets.

My most recent finishes.

I had to buy more stitch markers to make these.

Sometimes, I get a weird need to sew, and go off the knitting rails. This week, I'm making myself a skirt. It was a really easy skirt to make, right up until I got to the buttonholes. There's a reason I have two sewing machines. That reason is that the machine I've had for years keeps getting messed up. Something is wrong with the housing for the bobbin case and it doesn't allow the machine to work properly. I've had it in and out of the shop. Out of desperation, I bought a new machine. Happily, my new machine is a dream to work with. Sadly, because of the type of machine it is, it only does straight stitch. So, I'm doing my buttonholes by hand. It's actually been rather satisfying. I am anxious to finish it, though. I suspect I will do so today.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Bunch of monkeys on the deck.
When our furniture was first delivered and stuffed into the room.

Current configuration

When we moved to Colorado, we downsized from a 3400 sq ft house with loads of storage, 2 living rooms, huge kitchen, large dining room, a sewing room, a workshop, 4 bedroom, 3 bathrooms... it was big. Now, we live in a 1000 sq ft apartment with little extra storage, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and an almost nonexistent kitchen. Honestly, I'm extremely thankful for the amount of buy-in we've gotten from our children for the change. We kept both our couches when we moved, and they barely fit in our living room, but they were old, worn out, and extremely uncomfortable. 

A couple weeks ago, Gary and I abandoned our children for the day and went to the larger city about an hour away to look at furniture. We had already decided to replace our couches with multiple recliners to allow for maximum flexibility when moving out of the apartment. Of course, when the chairs were delivered, they really didn't all fit in our living room. We ended up moving 3 bookshelves to make room. Not only did that make extra room, but it opened the room up to the kitchen/dining room, making the room look better.

A couple weeks ago, we moved our dining room table onto the balcony to give us extra room in the kitchen area. We plan to install a rug, more lighting, and maybe some other things to make the balcony seem more like a room, but it works. We'll add plastic to the balcony come winter to insulate it. In the meantime, we're now looking for something to add to the dining area to make more counter space. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Eighteen Years

Eighteen years is a lifetime. It's the amount of time we consider sufficient to make a man out of a boy, or a woman out of a girl. It's the amount of time we consider sufficient to teach a person what they need to know in order to make an informed decision on whether or not to smoke, and who to vote for in an election. And, it is the amount of time that has passed since my brother died.

I'm not the sort to continually mourn. Most years, this day passes with a slight hiccup, just a small reminder that he's gone and not coming back. This time of year doesn't bring a special pain, just that reminder. 

Instead, my grief comes in small doses, when I want to ask for his help knowing how to comfort a child much like him. My grief comes when I look at my child and know that he would have enjoyed knowing his uncle, or my nephew knowing that he should have had his father. The grief comes when my son wants to talk math or physics and I know that my brother would have loved talking about that with him, or when the boys are playing D&D and I know he would have enthusiastically joined in.

The grief is brief. My mourning is done. But today, I remember my goofy, irritating, smart, slightly neurotic brother. RIP Frank III. I love you.

If you would like to read about the day he died, I wrote about it 4 years ago.

Husband, Glorious Husband

Gary and I have joined the Instant Pot cult. Well, really, Gary has joined the Instant Pot cult. I'm just along for the ride. Frankly, anything that gets delicious food in front of my face is a go for me. In the interest of supporting Gary's Instant Pot habit, I joined a group on Facebook that shares recipes and tips. Sure, 90% of the posts are about yogurt and boiled eggs, but that's okay. We've found some amazing recipes. Tonight, Gary made lamb stew in the Instant pot. Oh. My. Word. That stuff is like crack. The lamb is literally melting in my mouth. He did adjust the recipe to include a quart of broth (that I made in the Instant Pot a month ago and canned in my stovetop pressure cooker) instead of 3 tbsp. It actually makes it difficult for the IP to come to pressure with less liquid.

The Instant Pot puts me in mind of my grandmother, though. Nonnie used her stovetop pressure cooker to cook quite a bit. It seems to me that we've lost some skills through our rush out of the house and into modern day cooking. And, in talking to people in this Facebook group, we have made cooking so mysterious that people are afraid to try things. The Instant Pot takes away the fear that a stovetop pressure cooker seems to give so many people. I suppose that I have the benefit of having grown up with Nonnie, learning to can, cook, bake, and so do not have that fear. Then again, I rarely have fear of things of that nature.

All of my fears are about not getting a 4.0. Sigh. I do love good grades.

If you're interested in the Instant Pot, I can suggest some good blogs that have excellent recipes. And, you can always join the Facebook group. I am especially a fan of a blog that translates Indian recipes into Instant Pot recipes, including an excellent recipe for tandoori chicken. Any other fans? Do you have favorite resources for recipes?

Hiking and Pain- a backpack review

Gary and I have enjoyed hiking for a long time. When I got sick, hiking really came to a halt. Once I started feeling better, we started doing short hikes in terrain that involved little elevation change, mostly at Creasy Mahan, a lovely little nature preserve in Oldham County, Kentucky. The one constant before and after has been back pain. I have never had a backpack that fit me correctly. Mostly, I just had Gary carry whatever we were hiking with, and since those hikes were mostly short, in consistent weather, it was fine that I didn't carry my own pack. Now, however, I need to carry my own pack, and have no desire to experience loads of back pain. Enter Dominic's back pack.

Last fall, when we bought the boys new backpacks, Dominic chose a women's backpack because that's what fit him best at the time. Now, however, he's grown about 6" and it no longer fits him properly. Fortunately, it fits me like a dream.

Yesterday, after we had been hiking for about 2 hours, I realized that I didn't feel as though I'd been carrying a backpack for 2 hours. In fact, I didn't feel like I'd been carrying a backpack at all. The backpack design actually seemed to help support my back instead of pulling down on my shoulders. Glory be. Seriously, I've tried on so many different backpacks in the various outdoor stores we've visited throughout our marriage (Gary's been a member of REI since long before we met) and never found one that fit quite right.

Not only did I not experience any pain, but I was able to shove everything I needed into that backpack- poncho, snacks, hiking boots, socks, sweat shirt, leggings, water bladder, camera, phone, first aid supplies, tissues... I think that was all.

The only pain I have from yesterday is a little hip pain from going up and down the trail. I did roll out my muscles on a foam roller last night and this morning, but this is a huge win for me, especially considering that we hiked for 4 hours with an almost 2000 foot elevation change. Gary wants us to be 14ers. I may just try, but first, Ice Lake.

The backpack I used is an Osprey Mira AG 26 Hydration Pack. I am now looking at their trail packs in the interest of doing some trail camping next summer.

A couple downsides- It squeaks. At first, I thought I was doing something wrong. If someone can walk into a sliding glass door, they can do something wrong with a backpack. But, reading other reviews on Amazon tell me that this is a common problem. I'll take it, though. It's not loud (to me) and it wasn't irritating. Secondly, at some point, Dominic managed to break off the magnet that holds the bladder spout to the strap. I'm not sure if it's a flaw in the design or if Dominic played with it a lot. Regardless, it doesn't reduce the functionality in my eyes.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Pass Trail

Warning: This is a picture heavy post. In fact, all those pictures are the main reason I'm blogging today. Mom needs to see the pictures, no?

This morning, I bounded out of bed at the extremely early time of 9:45, and said to Gary, "Let's hike Engineer today!" To this, Gary responded, "Ummmm, I think it's going to rain." Still, he agreed, and I raced down the hallway waking up children in the hopes they'd go with us. (By this time it was around 11, since the actual first thing I do in the morning is eat.) All 3 of our children replied with definitive nos. So, we set off, Gary, Bear, and me.

Then, we took the wrong trail. I was planning to take the easier, but longer, trail. We really haven't had a chance to do much hiking since getting out here, and I wanted to ease my way into it. Sadly, that is not what happened. Thankfully, it was totally worth it. We had a glorious time, even if we did get caught in a hailstorm. (Maybe I should listen to the man who's been forecasting weather for over 20 years.) Because of the storm, we stopped a short way before we got to the summit of the trail and headed back down the mountain. Sadly, Bear did not get to play in the snow. Next time, Bear.

We did, at least, pack just right. Knowing that we were gaining an elevation of about 5,000 feet from our house, (almost 2000 from the trail head), we brought warm clothes to layer. We also brought rain gear because, well, Gary's a weatherman!
On the way

Started the day in shorts, Chaco sandals, and short sleeves. Ended the day in this and a poncho.

That is snow.

Some of these flowers were taller than me. It felt like walking through a tunnel of flowers.

Wiped out. Filthy. Wet. Loved every minute.

Monday, January 23, 2017

People are Talking

Well, actually, we're not. We're living in a society where people don't talk to each other anymore. Our conversations are much more superficial and meant, frequently, to change the other's person's mind.

Today, one of my professors challenged us to learn to be open to giving up our ideas because we've come to see that your idea is better than ours.

Better conversations, he charges, require hospitality. It's not just being nice (something I excel at), but making room for the person and their ideas in you mind and life. Hospitality requires engaging with them until they inhabit your world and dwell in your mind. It requires being willing to make room for people who are different than you, knowing you will be a different person at the end of the conversation.

I thought this a profound and important idea that I want to dwell in my own mind for a bit.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Fifth Beginning

Is anyone interested in participating in an online book club with me? I'm currently reading The Fifth Beginning by Robert L. Kelly. It's an incredibly intriguing book, and I'd love to discuss it.

With that in mind, I'm going to go ahead and post some of my thoughts from the first chapter, The End of the World as We Know It. (Quotes/notes from the book are in italics. My thoughts are in normal font.)

There is reason to hope. If something can't go on forever, it won't.

This thought got me through the delivery of two of my children. It can't last forever. But, I mostly think in this way in terms of short lived experiences, usually physically painful ones. What would it mean to realize this about everything? How would it change the way we approach each day if we think this way. This applies to both good and bad, large and small.

"In trying to be one thing, organisms reach a tipping point and become something completely different. This is what evolutionary theorists label emergent phenomena." Kelly believes that in addition to the power of competition, altruism and cooperation are essential components of evolution. He believes that the evolutionary process may, in fact, cause a restructuring of society in general to be one based more on cooperation than on competition.

I have recently been thinking about our social structure, specifically in the US, but also the broader world. When, I wonder, do we stop forcing everyone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and start recognizing how important community is for everyone. We are a social species. We rely on each other for things that we can't or don't want to do, but also for emotional support. The idea that relying on someone else for something is a weakness is pervasive, but I do not consider it to be a true idea, or even a good one. Why must we be completely self reliant? Can anyone in actuality be completely self reliant? If you use the roads that the government creates and maintains, are you being self reliant? What about the fire department? At what point does the cooperation stop and the self sufficiency start? Why do we raise our families in isolation? Why do we no longer work as a community to raise our children, care for our sick and elderly, and provide for the common good?

At what point do we decide that it is important to have an educated people? Do we provide for the health and well being of our society as part of a greater cause because we want a healthy society? Or, do we continue to force people to provide for themselves, even when they are unable? At what point do we allow compassion to take at least equal place in ourselves with drive and passion?

These are some thoughts I've been having, and I'd love to talk about it.

A final quote:
Prehistory teaches us that humans excel at solving problems, that evolution has always been remaking us. Of course, as stockbrokers say, past performance is no guarantee of future results. We could indeed be headed to hell in a hand basket. But prehistory tells me that doesn't have to be the case; the future could be ours to make.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Week in Review 1-15-2017

My craft and study space. Not much studying going on here right now.

This was a crazy week. Gary and I both started school full time. Although we were both exhausted by the end of the week, we came through it relatively unscathed and excited for the semester. I also came through it relatively less sore by Friday than I was Tuesday. Wow. I'm going from a pretty sedentary life to walking about 5 miles each day, uphill both ways. Fortunately, I bought some new boots at the beginning of December that are both comfortable and warm.

These tiles make me smile. It feels like the designer was just doodling.

My favorite quotes and observations from the week:

From Spanish-
My teacher looks remarkably similar to a woman I know in Kentucky, has the same mannerisms, accent, and way of talking. She knows of no connection. Also, she uses the contraction "y'all" to signify the plural form of you when conjugating verbs, which amuses me to no end.

The view on my walk to school. Don't be jealous.

From Anthropology:
"That's a whole different bag of rabid monkeys."
My anthropology professor may be my favorite professor this semester, although he's running a close race with my physics professor. And, of course, it's early days yet.

Sometimes, if you can't see the sun, you just need to turn around.

From Physics:
"We're all stuck here because of gravity." Said immediately following a discussion on the fact that many of the students are in the class because they're required to take a science course to graduate.

An observation about the idea that in science, no theory, law or principle can ever be proven, only disproved.- It is a hard ting to accept, that you must always question everything you know, that advances or changes can come at any time. We are a species that likes hard and resolute facts. We have difficulty allowing fluidity into our thought process.

Quintessential desert architecture is all over campus.

From Honors course:
A little background- Fort Lewis, the college we're attending, does their honors program differently than other colleges. Rather than providing core content in more difficult classes, with more homework, more papers, etc, the school gives honors students a minor in philosophy.

My favorite moment with the honors course actually came during our orientation last Saturday. The director of the program described it as, "a community of people who are working to become better people so that they, in turn, can make the world a better place." I love that.

Bear has been with us for a year this week!

From English:
We're studying emojis, not my favorite thing in the world. I'm willing to embrace change, and even to attempt to change the way I do things. However, I question whether we should abandon one thing because another comes along, which may be easier but not better. We are a thinking species. I do not believe we should water down our thoughts to make them easier to deal with.

So, my thought from this class is this, and I would love for anyone interested to discuss it with me:

If we say that people are not reading, do we abandon the written word, or do we make sure people know how to engage with the written word, to struggle with it for the sake of the struggle and growth, to critically analyze the thoughts that are brought about by that reading?


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