Friday, January 20, 2017

Weekend Things ~ Mid-January

A lazy-busy, indoor-outdoor weekend.

A four-day weekend for two boys (three-and-a-half for the other one).

Movies out with friends (two!).

A cousin in town.

Ice-skating on the pond (twice!)

A bonfire a the in-laws.

Lazy mornings.

An afternoon movie (Ferngully, with butterscotch popcorn!!!!)

An owl sighting (see that dot on top of a tree about 1/4 of the way in from the left?)

The sort of weekend where the camera doesn't come out at all but we make do with phone photos.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wild Wednesday ~ Moment(s) of Wonder ~ Owl and Ducks

In which I share a Moment of Wonder recorded in my nature journal over the previous week.

This week, I have two moments to share with you, because they were both pretty great and I just couldn't decide.

My niece was visiting from Boston for the weekend, and on Sunday afternoon, we'd all just returned from ice skating on the pond down the road and had settled down for a movie and butterscotch popcorn. The sun was starting to set in streaks of lemon and raspberry, and as I looked out the window at the scene, a large bird flew across my field of vision. From the size of its head, I knew it was an owl. Z spied the tree it had landed in and my niece and I pulled on boots and trekked down the driveway to see if we could get a closer look. As we neared the tree it was in, I thought I detected "ears"—or the tufts of feathers on the head that would indicate it was a great-horned owl. A little closer and it flew off, across our neighbor's field, ears fully visible. We walked partway across the field before it took off again.

This sighting was extra-cool for two reasons: We often hear great-horned owls calling around our house, but we've never seen one before; usually we see barred owls. And, every time my niece visits, we have a neat wildlife sighting. One time it was a close encounter with a porcupine, the other time it was a flying squirrel on our bird feeder. She's wildlife good luck!

The second moment happened yesterday. E and I went ice skating one last time before the snow when he got home from school yesterday. While I ooch my way in a circle around the ice as if I'm at an actual ice rink with a designated direction of travel, he scoots all over the pond and is up and down and up and down, sliding on his knees and butt as often as his skates. At one point, he was lying on his back and said, "Look up there."

A flock of 50-60 birds was flying overhead in a perfect V formation. They were totally silent, so not geese (also, they didn't appear to have long necks), and appeared completely black, so not gulls (I'm not sure if gulls practice such disciplined V-flying). Some kind of duck, I assume. Where did they come from and where were they going? And who can look at a V of flying birds and not comprehend that mutualism and cooperation are inherent traits in nature, and therefore should also be part of human society?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Recycled Sweater Pussyhat Tutorial

You've heard of the Pussyhat Project, yes? It's a movement to provide a "unique visual statement" to the women marching on Washington D.C. on January 21 and give people who aren't able to go to D.C. an active way to get involved. Cool, right? I first heard about it late last week and then all of a sudden my Facebook feed was full of pussyhats. I have friends knitting hats for friends and for marchers and for anyone who donates to Planned Parenthood, and all kinds of awesomeness. I'm not quite that awesome (or energetic), but I thought I could at least knit a hat to wear to the march in Augusta.

But when I dug through my stash I found only a very small amount of pink yarn. I could have gone in search of pink at the craft store, but I didn't really want to knit another hat, when I'm in the midst of a months-long hat-knitting project, and I really really didn't want to knit a pink hat (pink's not my color) [I'm sounding more selfish by the minute, aren't I?] and I'm a really really really slow knitter. BUT!! I can sew and I thought I could come up with a sewn version (I didn't realize at the time that the Pussyhat Project already listed patterns for sewing hats) and I had in my stash a shrunken pink sweater. I could recycle the sweater into a pink pussy hat, which would be a double-whammy (Environment! Women's Rights!!). Awesome! Here's how you can make your own:

You can see that the sleeve on this puppy has already been scavenged for another project.

Materials needed: 
One shrunken pink sweater
Sewing machine or hand-sewing needle

I don't even own pink thread! I had to use this rainbow stuff. Now it's a triple whammy!
How to:
1) Measure the circumference of your head. Divid by 2. Add 1/2. This is your width (W); length (L) is 11".

2) Draw a rectangle on your sweater, W across by L high, starting from the bottom edge (you want to keep the ribbing intact). Cut through both layers along that line.

3) Keeping both layers WRONG side together, sew up 2 1/2 inches from the bottom on both sides, using a 1/4 or 3/8 inch seam allowance, back-tacking at both ends.

4) Turn inside out, so that the RIGHT sides are together and, starting from where your previous seam ended, sew all the rest of the way up both sides and across the top, again back-tacking at both ends.

5) Clip the top corners, turn right-side-out.

6) Fold up the bottom cuff (the 2 1/2 inches you sewed first).

That's it!

Put on your hat and make a crazy face at your camera. Go Pussy Power!
All told, I think it took me about half an hour, maybe 45 minutes, including the head-scratching time of figuring out how to do it.

I happened to have also found a small amount of pink fleece in my stash as well, so I sewed up another hat, from this pattern. It took maybe five minutes, tops, which I'll share with a friend who joins me at the march.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wild Wednesday ~ Moment of Wonder ~ Winter Birds

I made my last nature journal entry on November 8. I had planned to start keeping a tally of the birds that come to our feeder, which I can see very well from the couch where I do most of my writing. But after that, I was too depressed to bother (though I have continued to fill the feeders).

I've thought now and then about taking out my journal, but I've either been too busy or too distracted, or just not in the mood. I'm not actively researching any particular topic of nature study right now, for which I would want the support and reinforcement of keeping a journal, and most of my outside time these days is spent in robotic laps up and down the driveway, trying to get those 10,000 steps.

And then the other day I remembered that Clare Walker Leslie, in her book Drawn to Nature, describes a practice she began when her mother was dying, of finding, and drawing a "daily exceptional image," which brought a moment of peace and light into her life, a connection with nature that helped assuage her grief. I took up this practice, both in sketches in my journal and an occasional wordless photo on this blog, several years ago and called it "Moment of Wonder." I've decided to return to this practice, going out into the woods daily, with my journal instead of my camera, open to what the world has to show me. Each Wednesday I'll share one of these moments with you.

Today, in my first Moment of Wonder walk of 2017, I came upon a small group of chickadees and psssshhh-ed them in. About six little black-caps swooped in to see what I was up to, along with an even smaller red-breasted nuthatch, and, tiniest of all, a quick glimpse of a golden-crowned kinglet. I love those tiny guys and it was a wonderful treat to see one, even if only for a fleeting moment. I wonder, though, if kinglets hang out with chickadees, why don't we ever see them at the feeder?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Duvets for Boys

I've written extensively about my history of and preference for duvet sleeping here (my goodness I can natter on about the most trivial things). So, when E and Z got down comforters for Christmas from their grandfather—white down comforters—I knew they needed duvets to keep those comforters clean, stat. When I was in Target one day last week, I looked at their selection, but they all came as sets, which included such essential items as shams and dust ruffles, and cost $80-$90!!! So I took myself to the sheet aisle and picked up four flat sheets for a total of $44.

I ran the sheets through the wash, pinned them together, right-sides facing (I did not even bother to iron—shh!), and sewed all the way around three sides plus about 1/3 of the way in from each of one short side, leaving a small opening for inserting and removing the comforter, but also hopefully, keeping said comforter from wiggling out of the duvet (when I made my duvet, I put buttons across the bottom, but they didn't work out as intended; I hope the partially closed bottom is a better solution.

The color selection of flat sheets at Target was a little uninspiring—lots of neutrals. For Z, who has a preference for stark, Scandinavian, black-and-white decor, I used gray on one side and coral (which I say is much more red than pink, don't you agree?) on the other, and for E, I used light blue and beige (told you the color selection was dullsville). Of course I got it wrong, and E wants the red and gray. I just can't win, but at least the comforters will stay white.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Weekend Things ~ Regroup

We divided our weekend between quiet but productive at-home time and social events with friends. I spent all of Saturday un-Christmas-ing the house. Everyone else in the house is a lot less enthusiastic about taking down the decorations than putting them up (and, let's face it, they're only lukewarm about the decorating), although C did jump in to help in order to get some footage for his vlog. His method of putting away ornaments, though, is to jumble them in a box for me to sort out later, so I sent him away in short order.

In the evening we joined friends for their annual peace party ("Give Peas a Chance" at which split pea soup and other green legume-based dishes and snacks are served liberally). It felt good to be among a crowd of people who genuinely yearn for peace, though it was difficult to keep the conversations from nose-diving down depressing paths.

Sunday we returned our Christmas tree to the woods. C was reminiscing about how, when he was a kid, they would dismember and burn their Christmas tree, right there in the living room, which to me just sounds barbaric. After all it's done for us, lifting our spirits and brightening home in darkest winter, to chop it up and set it on fire is a horrifying thought.

So we take it back to the woods, where it can provide shelter for critters and, eventually nourish the soil for other little trees. We somehow found the very stump form which we'd cut our tree, and could see, from the discrepancy in trunk diameter between our tree's base and the stump, how very much we'd had to take off the bottom to fit it in the house. Or maybe it shrank.

Sunday evening we had a belated Hanukkah feast with friends. This year I baked the latkes, which made them slightly less work and almost as good as fried (and a lot lower calorie, which means we could eat more of them). While clearing away the Christmas trappings and preparing for guests, I tidied a few corners of the house, a fresh start for the new year. When I was rearranging our ornament storage in the basement, I found a box of knickknacks and photos that have been put away since at least last Christmas. I took them out, dusted them off, and found a frame for one of the family photos Meryl took of us last summer to add to the collection.

I also tidied up the little corner of our living room where I keep my desk. I've been on a perennial quest to make this area work for me (see here, here, here, and here), and while I have often longed for more space, and more private space, and space that's not the first thing you see when you walk into our house, I'm right now kind of happy with my little setup.

I have everything I need for my projects right here—nature journaling and art supplies in the right-hand drawer of the desk, and tucked alongside the tall cabinet to the left, miscellaneous office supplies (and a fair amount of junk that should probably be dealt with) in the left-hand drawer. My field guides and naturalist supplies in and on the little bookshelf, yoga mats, and block, foam roller and acupressure massage mat, and yoga books between the cabinet and the bookcase. In the large basket, I keep magazines I need to read, my binoculars, and other supplies of that nature. One small basket holds my current knitting project. The other I call my "wellness basket." It holds my yoga strap, eye pillows, foot massage balls, hand cream, and other small objects related to health and fitness (the tennis balls are not for playing tennis—they're for making a massager whenever I get around to finding an old sock).

On top of my desk, a lamp, some pens and pencils, the calendar where I record daily weather events and high/low temps, a little stack of things I need or want to do, along with my nature journal and bullet journal (and a little gift bag full of thank-you notes which I swear to god I will finish writing tonight). I also found in the basement an electronic frame, which I used to keep in my office. I rustled up a memory card and have it set up to do a slideshow of our Colorado Trail photos.

I have not once sat at a desk to work since I left my 9-5 job (usually I sit on the sofa), but today, I actually sat here and wrote, edited and did this post! It's like there's something about a clean and tidy space that makes it easier to concentrate.

Friday, January 6, 2017

2016 Knits

In 2015, I set to knit one object per month. While I didn't quite reach that goal, I did get nine things knit up. I did not set a similar goal for last year, lknowing I'd be wandering in the wilderness for two months (and not having the knitting-while-hiking skills I hear the Scandinavians possess), but it turns out I ended up knitting more things in 2016 than I did in 2015—eleven!

Okay, so they were all very small things—a cowl, two baby hats, two pairs of mitts, six potholders (four shown; the other two I gave away as gifts without taking their pictures first). Plus that hat in the bottom left of the picture, which is not done yet, but is much further along than shown. But, they were fun things, cute things, gifts even! And, for all except the potholders and purple mitts, I used up some stash, which is always a good thing.

My knitting plans for 2017: finish that cashmere hat, knit a reindeer hat for Z (like the one in Home Alone—gotta get that done before he's too old to want it); find something to do with all the scratchy wool that's left in my stash (felted slippers, perhaps?); converse slippers for M; I also have an idea for an afghan I'm pondering on—maybe that will be a job for next winter.

What's on your needles these days?
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