Sunday, January 29, 2017

Much Socializing

Bob and I don't socialize much.  We seem to be content here in the swamp, working on our projects.  But this last week made up for it.

Got a call from a friend we hadn't seen in awhile ("awhile" meaning 17 years, since she left Tallahassee).  As it's starting to happen at our age, an old friend of her had passed away and she was coming into town for the funeral, as was another friend (and we hadn't seen her for 20 years).  Sad reason for flying in, but it gave us a chance to get together.

As I usually do when people come to town, we went to the Museum.  We were fortunate--there were some wicked storms in the area, but they circled around us and we just had a bit of a drizzle.  I love taking people out there because we can do the behind-the-scenes, like getting within a couple of feet of the panthers.  Wandering around also avoids those gaps that can happen in any conversation--when one topic peters out and you haven't quite hit the next one yet and you sit there and smile and go "uh . . ."    We also got to go visit the new guest animals, short clawed Asian otters, which are so stinkin' cute that they ought to be outlawed.  They're little, they look and sound like furry wind-up toys, and they have articulate little hands that will grab anything in sight.  Alas--cameras aren't allowed behind scenes, but there is an official video.
Asian Otters

Then we headed down to the coast for some seafood.  Outz's is a bit of a biker dive, but the food is so good.  As was the conversation.  Sometimes when you get together with friends you haven't seen for a long time, you go over the "good old days" and then you sort of don't know where to go from there.  Other times you just feel like no time at all has passed (except when they show you pictures of grown-up adult people that you remember as toddlers).  You find out where they've been, and where they're going.  And we even got the prize--it turns out that Diane has taken up making pottery.

So pretty!

After we parted we were going to run the week's errands, but the storm was moving in and we opted to keep out of traffic. That meant that Monday was the runaround day (when you work you can run an errand or two after work.  Post retirement, you tend to do 6-8 in a day.  That's a lot of running around).  We got home, put stuff away, put up our feet and had a cup of coffee, when the phone rang.  Diane had misread the time of her flight and was stuck in town for another day.  So  we got a bonus visit)

Tuesday it was down to the coast again.  We had a date with our friend Kim to go kayaking on the Wakulla river.

After the storms of Saturday, Tuesday was almost surrealistically beautiful.  Look at that sky!

That's Kim in her red kayak.

Possibly because of the rain, the current was *really* strong and paddling upstream was rather like swimming in a lap pool.  The reward came after a couple of hours (with sightings of a couple of alligators, lots of birds, and one manatee nose sticking out of the water) when it was time to turn around and we just gathered together, hung onto each other's boats, and drifted back to the landing site.

Off for more seafood, this time as Posey's (another dive).  I was thrilled to see that they had a Jenny Haniver on the wall.  A Jenny Haniver is made by taking a skate (similar to a stingray), making some cuts in it (after it has met it's demise--or at least I really hope so) and drying it to make a sea monster.  I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture, but here's one from the web.

I've wanted one of these things for a very long time (though not enough to buy one sight unseen off the internet) and I've never seen one in real life.   Alas--the owners were not interested in selling.

Kim had brought some yard-sale treasures with her for us--a large (fake) jack-o-lantern for me, and an army helmet for Bob.  She had to pose with the latter in a group selfie (which I believe is called an "usie")

As the saying goes, one picture = one thousand words.  She's just fun to be around.
I'd like to say that we just cocooned after that, but in the middle of all this Bob cracked a tooth and we had to go into town *yet again* to get started on the crown.  And all the cats needed their annual trip to the vet.  Much time in the car this week.
Reading:  Still on "Prehistoric Textiles."  It's a 600 page dissertation so it will take awhile
"Quite a Year for Plums" by Bailey White, loaned to me by a co-worker.  It's of the Southern Gothic genre (once an English major, always an English major) which is characterized by having eccentric characters.  This one had, among others, a man specializing in peanut diseases, an artist who tended to take things from her house to the dumpster (leaving them beside the dumpster with notes on them) when she got stuck on her work, and a women who thought the space aliens would come if she could lay out junk and random stuff in the right positions.  Really a fun read.

Monday, January 23, 2017


And now I'm into 2017, only three weeks late.

Last year I had the blog equivalent of "mission creep."  I didn't post much because I lost track of why I was writing it at all.

I've been doing this for almost 7 years now.  At the time it was a good way to share pictures with my parents, and to let far-flung friends know what was happening in my life.  Some of those friends had blogs of their own.  But things change with time.  The parents are no longer here, and Facebook took over the place of blogs.  And with being able to check in on everyone at once on Facebook, my friends rarely take the effort to go read this.  There are some exceptions--my friend Gill has gently nagged me for not writing--but she's laid up with a broken leg and bored to the back teeth.  I have a cousin in Kansas City who reads it (but hasn't for awhile, possibly because I went so long without posting).  And there is my Mystery Person--someone from Mountain View, California who shows up on my feed from time to time (Hey!  Mountain View!  Leave a comment and introduce yourself sometime).

So if I'm shouting into the emptiness, why bother to shout?

I've thought about it, and decided that the blog is for me.  I could keep a more private diary, but somehow putting it out there (and I do get random hits from all over) makes me write as though I have an audience, even if the main audience is me (and Bob).  Sometimes I go back and pick a previous year at random, and I read about something I did 4 or 5 years ago, and it really brings back the memories.

So the blog will go on.

There might be more "things" in it.  I'm an obsessive maker--I need to be making something to be happy.  Rarely is it anything big but it is constant, and something that I do daily.  It's been this way my entire life--I always had "projects."  When I was a kid and Mom would send me to my room, it really wasn't much of a punishment.  She would come to let me know that my time was up, and find me involved in whatever was the current project.  (She tried removing said projects before the time-outs, but then her announcement of "you can come out now" was often met with "as soon as I finish this chapter."  She gave up on time-outs as a punishment).  If I ever go on a trip, my first thought is "what spinning/knitting will I take with me?"  Second is "what book?"  Eventually I'll think about clothes.

What sort of things?  Mostly will be what my friend Jed used to call "demon thread."  I'm a fiber junkie.  But maybe some other stuff.

So . . . three weeks into 2017--what have I been working on?

For starters, finishing up Christmas.  I have a friend who loves all things cephalopod, so I knit her (out of handspun yarn, of course) a Squid Scarf.  That got *really* tedious.  It wasn't difficult--there was just a lot of it, and with just a little shaping for the gills, it got a bit boring.  And then all of the suckers had to be embroidered on--but it's cute, and different, and she likes it.

One of my co-workers like the mitts that I made from the wool of the museum's sheep and wanted some, so I churned out another pair.

And just a quickie sew job--we sometimes have to dress up to work on the farm at the museum.  I have my own clothes (of course) but we have a selection of dresses there for other people.  But for some reason the aprons disappeared so I made one (the museum ones are plain but my personal one had ruffles, so they wanted ruffles.  Also had to put in pockets--farm wives need to carry keys and cell phones)

Sometimes I have to make something just to get it out of my system, even when I know I won't wear/use the final product.  Things like my Lord of the Rings cloak or my 13-foot long Dr. Who scarf. 

  I ignore that nagging feeling as long as possible, then just give up and make the darned thing.  The latest is a kick spindle.
I spin--a lot.  I have several spinning wheels, and use them when I need to churn out some yarn (such as for the hats/mitts for the gift shop and the Squid Scarf).  For the joy of spinning, of feeling the fibers slip through my fingers, I use hand spindles.  Wheels are faster, but you have to sit in one spot.  Spindles are more portable and you can wander around and spin (such as during my daily walk, which makes me keep taking the daily walk).   So I've been curious about a tool called a kick spindle, which seems to me to take the downside of the two and put them together.  It's a spindle that is on a stand on the floor, and you turn it by kicking it.  So you have to sit in one spot, but it's not as productive as a spinning wheel.  (to see one in action, check out You Tube--  And the ergonomics aren't great--you have to twist to one side to spin.  But I really wanted to try one.  It's not like I can run to my local spinning store to sample (there's a store 5 hours from here but I don't know if they carry them).  So the choice is to a) try to ignore that nagging feeling; b) buy one (@$100) or c) make one.  Obviously I opted for c), got it put together, determined that it works, and that, sure enough, I won't use it.  Can put that behind me now.
There are a few other things in process but I need to take some pictures.
My other goal for 2017 is to read more.  My reading seems to have drifted to being only when I go to bed, which means it takes me a long time to get through a book.  I see by looking back though this blog that years ago I started keeping track of my reading but that went by the wayside.  So--current reading:
Sinclair Lewis, "It Can't Happen Here" written in 1935 as a satirical (?) political novel  that juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press."  It is truly disturbing.  Suggested by my sister-in-law.  Margo--the next time you recommend a book I want it to be about fluffy bunnies.
Karina Gromer, "The Art of Prehistoric Textile Making."  Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron Age textiles from Central Europe.  What can I say--I'm a textile nerd.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


It seems that I've gotten in the habit of celebrating my birthday every other year (maybe I'll age more slowly that way?)  Four years ago I went skydiving.  Two years ago we went to Universal Studios--specifically Harry Potter World.  This year I hopped up to Boston for a few days to visit Mike and Margo.

Mike had just been for a visit for the Halloween Howl, but during those visits we tend to be a little preoccupied with the Howl itself and don't get to visit as much as I'd like.  Besides, Mike had a workshop built several years ago (which he keeps calling his "shed" and  I insist is his "maker space".  He reads too many British woodworking magazines--in the UK a "shed" is where a guy makes stuff, whereas in the US it tends to be a place to store junk.  But I digress.)

It's always hard for me to be away from cats, if only for a few days, but we all thought I'd be OK because they do have a cat, Moonlight.  Little did we know that Moonie would take an immediate and intense dislike to me.  I got glared at.  For three days.  She didn't hide, and she wasn't aggressive (except for a time that I attempted to casually scratch her ears and got hissed at) but she glared (well, one morning I came down just as she finished her breakfast and she barfed at me).  The most disconcerting times were when I got out of bed and opened the door to find her in the hallway glaring at my room.  To assuage my ego, we all came to the conclusion that she really really dislikes other cats--and, of course, despite the fact that I do bathe and wash my clothes, I *have* to smell like a whole herd of cats.  Especially since my slippers by this time are probably 50% wool, 50% cat hair. 

Despite my intentions to mostly hang out in Mike's "shed" we of course had to go to at least a couple of museums.  The Fullerton was having a steampunk exhibit paying homage to the area's history of producing shoes (and odd combination, but it worked) so that was a must-see.

And I had to go visit Mike's museum--meaning the one where he volunteers.  The Charles River Musem of Industry and Innovation--the name about sums it up.  Lots of 19th century tools (from steam engines to fly shuttle looms, printing presses, and Mike's particular toy that he's worked on--a paper-bag-making-machine). (hmmm--too much talking, no picture-taking . . .)

But, as planned, a lot of time was spend playing in Mike's shed (giving Margo time in the house to placate Moonie).  The shed is not large--about 10' x 20'--but it's a good thing it's built on bedrock because he has managed to pack it to the gills.  Lathes, grinders, engravers, all the stuff to make stuff with--it's a heck of a playground.  Not too long ago he had built a machine to do engraving via computer program.  His experiment while I was there was to see if he could replace the engraving head with a small laser.  Which he did, and could burn intricate designs on pieces of wood.  I had just happened (cough, cough) to bring a couple of bone discs with me (I use them for spindle whorls for spinning) and, being that bone is organic, he was able to burn a delicate design on it (have to admit that burning bone stinks a bit).  What I found most charming was the way that the machine "sings" while it's working.


And on my last morning there we even got a sprinkling of snow.


Fun trip, and after I got home I overcame my slight trauma by scratching/hugging every cat I could find--mine, the cat at the feed store, the cat at the hardware store, a friend's cat--just to assure myself that most cats like me.  It wasn't me--it was her.

The rest of December was mostly doing December stuff--getting ready for Christmas (including our traditional viewing of "The Hogfather" while having meat pies and sherry), having Christmas eve with friends, and a quiet Christmas day at home.  Quiet except for a bit in the late evening when we heard a knock on the door (a rarity--out here someone knocks on our door about once every 10 years) and it was a couple of sheriff deputies.

Back story:  When we moved out here we had problems with trespassers in the woods behind the house.  We posted signs, which were of course completely ignored.  Later we took to nailing baby dolls to the trees, which worked quite a bit better.  Seriously--who wants to risk going on the property of someone who nails baby dolls?  But there is a stream on the border of our property and people still tend to paddle down that (officially we own only one side of the stream).

This year, after the Howl, we were cleaning up and got ready to toss an old plastic skeleton--there was only the top half left, and even that was missing an arm.  But--what the heck--we brought it home and took it down to the woods, and hung it where it could be seen from the stream.

Hence the deputies knocking on our door.  Someone was paddling down the stream, saw it, and freaked.  Fortunately the gentlemen of the law thought it was pretty darned funny.  And it's nice that if they had to work on Christmas, at least they got a good laugh out of it.

And that about wraps up 2016.  New Year's Eve was spend quietly at home (although we did manage to stay up until midnight, but opted for a glass of eggnog rather than open champagne).

Friday, January 6, 2017


I really just want to skip the rewind and jump into NOW--but I'm just OCD enough that I have to at least give a nod to November (and, next post, December)

Not a lot went on in November.  The first week or so was to finish cleaning up after the Howl--cleaning and boxing and dragging stuff back to storage.  Not nearly as much fun as dragging it all out in anticipation of making the magic (i.e. entertaining 1000+ people and scaring the heck out of some of them).  It's odd that even people who help out and participate on the trail think that there's some "they" out there who takes care of such things.  One person asked (as she helped me lay out and label costumes) "do they ever wash these things between Howls?"  I looked at her and said "if 'they' is spelled A-N-N, then yes--'they' wash the costumes."  It takes some time to wash, dry, sort, and box them all.

There was quite a bit of spinning and knitting.  Every year Rob and I make a few things (hats and mitts) out of the wool from the museum's sheep to put in the gift shop.  She doesn't have the best fleece in the world, but after it's been washed and combed it's pretty good.  So I washed, combed, and spun until I was really tired of it.  Rob got tired even faster--he knit two hats, and I did two hats and four pairs of mitts.  I actually had a skein of yarn left over (enough for another hat) but I was sort of over it by then.

Then I started some rather posher spinning and knitting.  In Ed Wood's "Glen or Glenda" he defended the idea of being a transvestite because women got all the things that feel really nice--like angora sweaters and satin nightgowns.  Men don't.  Well, why not?   One of my favorite hats is one that I made of a blend of camel down and silk--that's usually used for something like a fancy lace shawl, but I made a watch cap out of it and it's very soft and very warm.   My brother lives in Boston (i.e. cold) and is rather challenged in the hair department, so I made him an equally posh hat of silk and yak (yes, yak. Turns out the big hairy cows have an undercoat that's close to cashmere).  May he wear it in good health.  (Not saying that he has any tendency to be a transvestite.  Love you, Mike, but you would make a really unattractive woman)

(really should get a new wig head.  This one gets used a lot for various projects, usually making masks)
Of course, November means Thanksgiving--which we skipped this year.  No, not really.  We had a really pleasant Thanksgiving with just the two of us.  Some time ago--32 or 33 -- Bob's mother and sister decided that Thanksgiving would be at our house, since at the time we were living halfway between the two.  After that, it was just sort of accepted that we would host it.  With a couple of exceptions (one time his folks wanted to go out for dinner, and niece Amanda hosted it the first year that she and Robert had their own house) we had always done the Thanksgiving gathering.  After his folks passed and mine moved to assisted living, I instigated the "day before Thanksgiving" party for our friends so that I could take dinner into my parents on The Day Itself (ever try to fix T-day dinner for four people with one small microwave?  Yes, it can be done.  I am that good)
But time has done it's thing, and I realized that I didn't *have* to cook the big dinner this year--so I took it off.  Next year we'll probably go back to the "day before" dinner because it's actually fun, but every 3 or 4 decades it's nice to take a break.

Bob has pointed out that there has been a serious lack of cat pictures on the blog recently so he supplied one.  We do have occasional cold days (not often--the saying around here is what we do over the winter depends on whether or not it falls on a weekend) and the cats really appreciate their heating pads, even if they do have to share.
 Fiona, Noko Marie, and Nazgul

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

And did I do the catching up I intended?  Obviously not.  Life keeps going forward, and it's hard to remember what I did yesterday, much less details of months ago.  So I just have to hit the highlights, and move on.  New Year's resolution--keep the blog updated.  If only for myself, to help remember my life.

So--gee--what happened in September?  Anything interesting?  Something . . . oh yeah.  We got hit by Hurricane Hermine.

We feel a little guilty that we came out of it smelling like a rose (not quite--it's still pretty darned hot in Sept. in Florida and without power we couldn't run AC or even fans).  Of we lost power, along with 80% of so of the rest of Tallahassee.  And we're on a well, so without power we don't have water.  But we had many many gallons of water set aside (because I like to be able to flush the toilet) and a gas burner to cook on so we were set.  We were planning on at least a week without power--but it was on in two days.  There were a lot of limbs and trash down in the yard but no damage.

But what still gets to me was sitting on the porch listening to the radio about what was going on in Tallahassee.  The storm came through during the night.  The next morning, with trees down and power lines down and power crews trying to work and no traffic lights--the streets were filled with people driving around trying so find someplace to get coffee and breakfast.  Lines were around the block at one McDonald's that had power.  We were dumbfounded.  Hurricanes are big lumbering monsters--with emphasis on the lumbering.  You get at least a week's warning that they're coming, and that you're likely to lose power.  And yet after the storm centers had to be set up to pass out bottled water because people didn't set any aside.  How about getting a can of Sterno, a jar of instant coffee, and some granola bars?  I don't understand anyone willing to be helpless.

Of course, with late summer storms come tons of orphan baby squirrels--I raised 9 of them.  Usually I don't name my fosters, but I will always remember little Milagra (miracle).  Getting blown out of a tree in a big storm can be rough on babies, and of one litter of four two died the first night, and one little girl was very weak (the fourth was fine).  I got her on Friday--by Saturday she was paralyzed and barely breathing.  Sunday I assumed she was dead until I picked her up and found that she was still breathing.  If I was careful she could swallow a tiny amount of formula.  I did injections of saline solution to keep her from being dehydrated.  Monday--still breathing.  More injections, and I massaged and moved her legs to keep them from stiffening.  This continued for Tuesday and Wednesday--and then Wednesday night I swore that I saw a leg twitch.  Thursday she started waking up and trying to move, and by Friday she was fine.  It was, indeed a miracle.  Eventually she went back in with the others and I couldn't tell which one she was.

(yes, I actually raised 9 of them but you try getting a group of squirrels to hold still for a picture.)

Other things in September and October--I taught a couple of workshops (indigo dyeing and felting) and did the usual programs and working at the Museum.  And, of course, prepared for the Halloween Howl.  It was definitely tricky this time--our trail is "the walk through the spooky woods" and by some miscommunication--the woods had been cut down.  We debated not doing the trail at all, but ended up doing a somewhat abbreviated version through a small area that still had some trees.  Bob and I opted to entertain the line (we still ran 1000 people through on Saturday night alone, so the wait in line was pretty long).  Bob wanted to be a plague doctor this year.  As he is bigger than the average bear, there was no way to find a mask to fit him.  So, of course, I made it--and I was right proud of it.

One of my favorite materials to work with--kid's craft foam.  It took a few tries with paper models to get a mask that fit him, and then some work on the foam to get it to look like leather, but I was quite happy with the results (and yes--plague doctors who had to be on their feet for hours would wear Crocks).  What I loved was that kids would come up to him and ask if he was a plague doctor, or parents would explain to kids about putting herbs in the mask to try to protect the doctor from disease.  Even waiting in line at Halloween can be educational)
While I was working with craft foam, I also made some gauntlets.  A couple of the scenes needed wraith figures, and I wanted something more dramatic than just plain black gloves.  Eventually I regretted it.  The first one was a challenge, to get all the pieces made, textured, painted, and attached.  At 23 pieces of foam each, the other three gauntlets were a bit of a slog.

But they did add a lot to the costume.

As the saying goes, the cobbler's children have no shoes.  I had costumes for the 30 or so actors, the wraith robes (two of them) and gauntlets done, and Bob's plague doctor costume (I also made the robe and hat).  But what about myself?   It's amazing, when you're desperate and don't have much time, what you can do with PVC pipe and some sheets.

The head was a couple of big candy bowls glued together, and the eyes were smaller bowls.  Beak and talons were more fun foam.  The forearms were trash tongs so I could move my claws.  I was inside in a PVC harness, and a piece of PVC ran from a bicycle helmet I was wearing up to the head so I could turn his head.  It was a tremendous amount of fun walking around in this thing, and I had dozens of pictures taken.  I did need a keeper (Bob hung around nearby, asperging people with a spray of herbs from a decorated skull he was carrying, but he kept an eye on me) because-- to put in mildly--both vision and mobility were rather limited.  Totally worth it.