Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Perfect Thursday

Sometimes you are given the gift of a perfect day--and it's foolish not to accept it.

It's a couple of days after Christmas--time to take advantage of some days off to do things like catch up on housecleaning, or replacing some rotted boards on the front deck.  That was the plan for today.

But the day was beautiful--cool enough to wear a sweatshirt, but not cold enough to shiver.  Clear intensly blue sky.  There were some other items on the "things to do during the break" list--like go hiking at St. Marks.  We moved that up to the top of the list and took off to hiked the nature trails around the lighthouse.  Perhaps "hike" is too vigorous a word--we wandered.

After a few hours, we drove into St. Marks for oysters and shriimp.  It was still too lovely to go home, so we went to Wakulla Springs.  The problem with living someplace is that you don't get around seeing the sights--so we try to get to Wakulla at least once a year.  Our river boat tour was the last one of the day.  Not only was the light beautiful, but our boat driver was a man who enjoyed his job, and took advantage of the fact that there would be no boats coming behind to give us a much longer tour than usual.  We saw very few alligators (unusual for the Springs) but made up for it in manatees.  I wish I could have gotten a good picture of the cormorant who followed us for about 20 minutes.  Apparently the boat stirs up small fish and the bird takes advantage of this.  We got a great view of how they swim underwater; he would then pop up to swallow his catch.

We came back to the dock just as the sun set and the moon rose.  It was time to go home.

It was a perfect day, spent with the man who is both my true love and my best friend.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


I just had my 60th birthday (gasp!).  To mark this occasion, I decided to cross something off my bucket list:  I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.

OK--to be technically accurate, I did not jump from the plane.  I was strapped to an experienced skydiver, and *he* did the jumping.

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting.  I did rather expect the several pages of paperwork which basically read "you've elected to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and you agree that it's not our fault if anything goes wrong."   I was somehow expecting my training to last more than 10 minutes (mostly "you're along for the ride and let the experienced guy take care of things).

My expectation of a "perfectly good airplane" was not a wee tiny two-seater Cessna that's almost as old as I am.  And it used to be a two-seater.  The seats had been taken out so that 5 people could squeeze in--four jumpers (2 two with large chute packs) and the pilot.  I was packed into the tiny gap between the pilot and the door.  Periodically he tapped my shoulder to indicate that I should bow my head so he could read the instrument panel.

So I'm sitting cozily, knees around my ears, my jump partner sitting on my feet in front of me, and about a mile up it occurs to me that I'm not strapped to him.  How is that going to happen?  Well, it can be done in such a confined area--it just gets a bit . . . personal.

We're two miles up, the checklist is checked, and suddenly the door is open.  Remember that I had been squeezed in between the pilot and the door.  Now I was squeezed in between the pilot and . . . nothing.  Language ensued.  The Tim (my jumper) indicated that I should swing out and put my feet on a little step outside of the plane.  Really?  Like that's going to happen.  But I did--and suddenly the plane just wasn't there any more.

Freefall didn't really feel like falling--it's just a great unobstructed view of the ground which inexplicably seems to be getting closer very quickly.  When you first get ready to leave the plane, the rider (me) is supposed to hang onto her harness and keep her elbows in.  After you're out, the jumper taps your shoulder and you spread your arms out in the free-fall position.  Well--he tapped, and then he pounded a bit, and then he finally reached around and pried my hands loose.

From watching war movies on TV I was expected a big jolt when the chute opened.  It was more of just doing a gentle swing from a horizontal position to a vertical one.  We drifted for a bit--I got to take control and do a couple of gentle turns.  He took them back and did some swirling loops until I suggested that he stop unless he wanted to check out my breakfast Cheerios.

The landing was equally gentle--I just got my legs up and out of the way and let him slide in.

I wonder what's next on my bucket list?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Prepping for Winter

Why is it that as the year is winding down, things are winding up?  Keeping busy--and usually forgetting the camera.

There was the fall Farm Days.  Absolutely beautiful day for it.  I got to spend the day spinning on the porch and got quite a bit of yarn made for an upcoming Christmas gift.  Not a full day's worth--I had to stop a lot and let various children try their hand at spining to get their samples.  I do cheat on that, of course--my hands are on their hands, and for some I'm doing all the spinning.  Others I can take off one hand, and then the other, and they're doing it on their own.  Either way--it's a good photo op for their parents.  But did I think to get a picture for myself?

And Thanksgiving--I got to have two of them.  We had friends over for an early Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday, and then Thursday I packed up all the goodies and we had family Thanksgiving day with my parents.  The cats were thankful for the bits and pieces of turkey that they got, and the chickens were thankful for the carcass (bones are good for them)

Bob's been putting in the winter garden--greens and cabbage and garlic and carrots. We don't get that many cold nights here, but we do get some (it got down to 31 degress last night).  He thought about building a cold frame to go over one of the beds to protect it (an experiment--to see if a covered bed fared better than an uncovered one).  I pointed out that you'd have to move it every time you wanted to weed, water, or harvest (the beds are 12 feet long by 4 feet wide so this would be awkward).  My suggestion was to go bigger--build it over two beds, tall enough to go inside.  The build was super-simple and fun--we put arches of PVC pipe over the beds, then covered them in plastic.  All duct-taped together.  It's not elegant, and we'll probably have to go retape it after any storms, but it only needs to be there for about three months.  All told, it took us about two hours to put it together.  How did people do fast builds before PVC? (The black plastic at the end is there because we ran out of clear plastic)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rosie--The Next Generation

Sunday, November 11, was Veteran's Day.  Bob and I usually ride his jeep in the parade--and I get to be Rosie the Riveter.  It's fun on so many levels: you get to ride in a parade (and people love Rosie).  And you get to remind people that the women back home contributed so much to the WWII war effort.  Finally, and most important, it's heart-catching to see thousands and thousands of people lined up, waving flags, and showing their appreciation to those who keep this country free.

Oops--Sunday was Veteran's Day.  But Veteran's Day observed was  .  I had managed to double-book myself.  No Rosie in the parade this year  :-(

Except . . . .

I'm helping out at the Goodwood Plantation planning for an exhibition they will be doing in the spring.  Another committee member is what we here in the South call "a lovely young lady," Eliza.  Eliza and I had talked about how she likes to dress in vintage clothing, and she had once mentioned that she was Rosie the Riveter for Halloween a couple of years ago.   So I asked her if she could cover for me--and she was beyond thrilled.   So the crowds got their Rosie, and Bob had a charming companion for the parade.  What I found most touching is that she carried a picture of her grandfather in his uniform.

Maybe next year Bob will have two Rosies in his jeep . . .

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cabinet of Curiosities

Another Halloween has come and gone.  Sigh . . .

This year, Jeff and Rob and Bob and I (with brother Mike dragged in at the last minute--I always work him on his visits) banded together to decorate the schoolhouse at the Museum as as "Dr. R. Cane's Cabinet of Curiosities."  What a blast!  The musuem loaned us display cases (which gave an air of authenticity to the whole thing).  We also had taxidermidied animals and casts of skulls of prehistoric animals,along with props that we had made,  so we had a collection of real and artificial artifacts.  We had hundreds of people come through without a single negative comment.  On the contrary--many people thought we were a real museum exhibit (some asked permission before taking photographs), or a professional travelling show.  We often got compared to "Oddities" or "Ripley's Believe it or Not".  We all acted as museum docents, and just made up stories about the "artifacts" (I wonder if anyone going through for a second or third time noticed that they got different stories.  I got the ultimate compliment--one woman was disturbed enough by my Peruvian mummy that Mike had to finally let her know that he was a fake.

and now--back to normal . . .

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October Continues

OK--so it's November.  October was busy.

But not the crazy busy of the last many years.  As much as Rob and Jeff and Bob and I absolutely loved doing the haunted trail at the Museum, we had to admit that it kicked our butts.  We tried to far more than was possible with limited time and limited money and limited people--and we succeeded.  But it took up every spare minute of September and October to plan and build (and a lot of time before that building props) and most of November to tear it down and put it away.   Last year Bob and I broke away by going to Mexico, and Rob and Jeff put up a display on the museum grounds.  But we missed working together.  So this year we offered to decorate one building as a Cabinet of Curiosities.

While we did do some prop building, we also managed to have a more relaxing October than usual.  We went to an alpaca show
I managed not to bring an alpaca home, and only a little bit of fleece (to supplement the pounds and pounds of alpaca I still have hanging around--but it's a lovely color).
We went to the Blountstown Goat Days--a small-town fair.  No pictures, but we enjoyed talking to blacksmiths and the people rendering out pork cracklins and bought homemade soap and food-on-a-stick.
Zack the Zombie was put up at the MacClay Gardens scarecrow display to advertise the Halloween Howl.   He made one of the park rangers uncomfortable, and she eventually tied a bandana around his face to hide his scary mouth.  I heard that she also thought about putting sunglasses on him.

I even got interviewed by the newspaper about our Cabinet of Curiosities.
And we did build props.  My major contribution was my Peruvian mummy.  He started out life as a skeleton from Walgreens, and with a lot of paper mache and paint he ended up like this.
We had to stage some pictures for the abovesaid newspaper article, and, while I didn't send it in, this was my favorite
Bob made a conjoined skull
And I did a vampire killing kit
Next post will talk about the Cabinet of Curiosities--which was a resounding success!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

More Halloween Stuff

We continue building curoisities for the Cabinet of Curiosities.  My Inca mummy took a giant step backward.  I had gotten him to the stage in the last post, put his legs back on, and folded him (Inca mummies were usually in the fetal position.  So I folded him--and he just looked sort of like a Halloween prop folded for storage.  I decided that he was too straight--he needed to be twisted.  So I did some surgery--sliced him up the back, peeled back the paper mache, and aimed a heat gun at his plastic spine.  When it was soft, I gave him a mighty twist.  So then his posture was right--but I had rather destroyed the mache on his torso--that was three days to get it re-done.  But he looks better now and I should have him done in about a week--I had to mold his hands, and mache the bent joints, and do a lot of painting. 

Years ago, Bob made Fred and Ethel, a pair of mummies based on the American Gothic couple.  He fished them out of the rafters and fixed them up and they are now ready to stand guard outside of our display (which will be in a 1930's one-room schoolhouse.

I even knitted a prop.  Not quite the fancy lace that I usually do (and it's not even handspun).  But I saw the pattern and couldn't resist giving it a try--it's just so wrong.

There are more props in the pipeline, so stay tuned.

Not all has been Halloween--I got some pretty fabric with butterflies, and while I was waiting for the mummy to dry, I whipped up another skirt for Mom  (skirts like this are convienient because any pattern shirt you have will go with it)

Finally, the required cat picture.  Fiona surprised us--she is not fond of other cats.  She usually does not acknowledge the existence of other cats in the household.  If she does, it is to leave in a huff or slap them to make them go away.  But apparenly NokoMarie sneaked up on her while she was asleep.

Today we're off to an alpaca festival--stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Prepping for Halloween

It has been pointed out to me that it's been over a month since I last posted.  Oops?  Can I use the start of the term for an excuse?  I had planned on just working in the historic collection--but got talked into teaching a couple of textile labs as well.  And helping out at the Goodwood Plantation for an exhibit they want to do.  Still working at the Museum.  Keeping busy . . .

Margo is the one who nudged me to post--and that's because she wants to see how the kittens are growing. So I'll start with them, and then she doesn't have to read the rest :-)

 RiverSong and NokoMarie are still best buddies--here, on Bob's lap

And NokoMarie and the great Nazgul are buddies.  She didn't seem to notice that while they were napping on Bob's lap he sort of rolled over on top of her.
In fact, it seems that *everybody* wants to take a nap with Bob.  (Unfortunately, RiverSong decided to jump off just as I was taking the picture--but she had been there with the rest).  As long as the cats are scattered around the house it doesn't seem like we have so many of them (sort of like spreading your peas around on the plate so you mother thinks that you ate some of them).  But put them all in one spot and you realize we have a pretty furry household.

(OK, Margo--you can stop now.  The rest doens't have cats)

When Bob's not being a cat-couch, he's been working on his models.  I'll have to make him do a model post sometime to give details (and say what's from a kit and what parts he's built from scratch) but for now here are these:

The first is a Quad .50 AA Stuart , and the second a Toyota Hilux--Libyan rebel truck, modified to carry a Russian made anti-aircraft gun.  It's his paint jobs that amaze me--especially the rust and wear on the truck.

And here's another of his paint jobs.  We're beginning to build Halloween props--we're not doing the haunted trail this year (I mean it--for real--not at all like I didn't do it last year) but we are decorating the one-room schoolhouse and turning it into a Cabinet of Curiosities.  Now we need some Curiosities to go in it.  I'm putting together a vampire killing kit, and one of the items is a small gun to shoot the silver bullets

Now while it would have been nice to go out and buy an approprite gun, the idea is not to go too crazy with the budget.  So this is one of Bob's modifications and awesome paint job.  What I gave him to work with was a $1 cap gun.
Yes--he is that good.

My small contribution is a juvenile Fiji mermaid
And I was requested to rebuild Zack the Zombie from a couple of years ago to use as a scarecrow at McClay gardens (so I added the hat and crow)

At the moment, there are a lot of works in progress--but here's a sneak preview of a conversion process.  I'm taking a Walgreen plastic skeleton and will be turning him into an Inca mummy.  First some muscles (not much---after all, he is dried up) with newspaper, the he got wrapped in a thin plastic dropcloth which was shrunk with a heat gun, and after that some paper mache and his first paint layers.  I haven't touched his face and hands yet because I have to fold him into his pose first to be able to model those.  I did find that hanging him from the clothes line makes him easier to paint.

And now it's bedtime.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Before and After, Cute and Cuter

A couple of posts ago I showed some of my works-in-progress.  I did finish up the peacock shawl. Yay!

The problem with knitting lace is that when you take that last stitch of many thousands of thousands, it's not a "tah dah" moment.  It's more of a "how many hours of my life did I waste on this" moment. 

Knitted lace isn't done when you're finished knitting it.  There's still a lot of work to be done.  It has to be washed, and then you spend an hour on your knees with dozens of pins and brutally stretch it out.

Then you have something worth wearing.  I'm pleased with it, and it's taken me to my next project (yeah, I know there are still 2 or 3 in progress).  This one weighs 3.75 ounces.  I'm wondering how big of a scarf I can make with 1 ounce of yarn.  Stay tuned.

In other areas--I've been working with a new bird at the museum.  This is a kestral--a wee tiny falcon.  And yes--she is full grown.

In the last post we introduced Noko Marie.  Not that we really needed another kitten--after all, RiverSong is only about 4 months old, and the Resident Kitten, with all rights and privileges thereof.  And them comes this stranger.

*And* the kitten was put in her condo!  River was at first a little jealous.  But, on second thought--best kitty toy ever!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

August Mini-cation

We had another mini-vacation this past week--odd how many of them involve scale models.  This time is was the IPMS (Internation Plastic Modeler's Society)--the real biggie of the modeling world.  It meets in different locations each year, but this year it happened to be in Orlando--about five hours away.

As we were in no rush to get there we stopped halfway at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.  It's been many years since we've been there, and it's now an amazing place.  They specialize in prehistoric Florida--our favorite being the fossils.  They have an interesting way of displaying them--the skeletons are all in action poses, and on the interpretive boards there are small statues of what the animal would have looked like (as Bob calls it) "upholstered). (and yes--that is a big scary bird).

They have also recently completed a butterfly rainforest. So beautiful and relaxing.  And no-I didn't take this picture.  We forgot to take the camera in so I'm lifting them from their website.

We continued on to Orlando, and after circling around a few times we found our hotel.  It later turned out that driving in circles would be portentious of Things To Come.  The advantage in this case is that while hunting for a hotel we found a tiny hole-in-the wall Thai restaurant.  My kind of place--maybe 12 tables and the owners are also the cooks--and the food delicious.  And the music incongruous--for some reason they were playing Spanish guitar music.  Odd to be eating pork panang while listening to "Spanish Harlem."

I was fascinated by the juxtapostion of the two Floridas.  Orlando is king of edifices of artificiality.  We were almost within walking distances of Universal Studios (including Harry Potter World).  The sprawling metropolis of Disney World was a few miles away.  But just beyond the fence around our hotel was the "real" Florida.  Swamp.  Waiting patiently like an alligator, waiting to take over again.  I found it oddly comforting.

(and no--we didn't visit Harry Potter World or any other attractions.  Not in August, with thousands of other tourists.  No, thank you)

Friday the real adventure began--getting to the IPMS conference, at the Contemporary Resort in Disney World.  We went through the famous gateway of "where dreams come true"--if your dreams include driving around in circles for an hour.  We apparently missed a cutoff, and anywhere we asked directions we got sent to a different resort, or told a wrong turn, or whoever we asked didn't know about the Contemporary Resort (big building--monorail running though it--that one?).  We eventually got there.

The conference was somewhat bigger than others we have been to.

That's part of one of the vendor rooms.  There was also a hanger-sized room of model displays.  I tromped around with Bob for a couple of hours, then found a comfy chair to settle with my book and knitting.  We met for lunch, then parted ways again.  Our original plan had been to spend about a half-day there on both Friday and Saturday, but after the debacle of finding the place he was damned if he'd try to drive in Disneyworld on a Saturday so  he did a Friday marathon instead.

That left Saturday for my Orlando wish--to see an IKEA store.  I don't understand why Tallahassee doesn't have one, being as we have two universities and a community college and IKEA specializes in stuff for apartments.  Like Disney, IKEA is designed to make you get lost and go around in circles so that you see everything.  Unlike Disney, there are frequent maps and the staff actually know where the stuff is.  Although you can buy whole kitchens or living room suites there, I fortunately was not tempted.  It's all rather sleek Danish modern, and my aesthetic leans more towards Victorian/goth/steampunk.  I did get a neat strip of LED lights that I put on my loom:

Otherwise, we just got an armload of small stuff--LED lamps, some artists mannequins, a wine rack.  We found that at checkout is where customer service ends:  we paid, our stuff was shoved to the side of the counter, and we got an abrupt and somewhat mechanical "have a nice day."  No bags.  So we balanced our swag in our arms, and didn't bother to shop the Swedish food section that, for some reason, was beyond the check-out line.

And thence home.  As always, we enjoy these short getaways (except for the driving in circles).

And then . . . we got a call from our vet.  Someone had found a wee calico kitten on the interstate and dropped it off at the vet's office.  They really didn't want to take her to the shelter--could we . . .?

Never mind that RiverSong is now approaching four months old and entering the Crazy Kitten stage--or that we have four other cats.  Meet Noko Marie: