Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spring sprang on my way to get pizza.

I ordered a pizza tonight partly due to hunger and laziness and partly due to the fact that there is a big magnolia tree that I wanted an excuse to walk by on my way to get the pizza. I remember last year when it bloomed. It stopped me in my tracks. The flowers are all huge and meaty and gorgeous and the smell is out of this world, knock me over, delicious. Well, as it turns out, not only did I see the magnolia tree, I also saw a bunch of other fabulous things peeking their little buds out in my neighborhood. I've been missing the emergence because my daily commute no longer involves walking past that part of my neighborhood. I am now very much familiar with other parts of my neighborhood, such as the renovation of a local pub, but there isn't much greenery on my new daily route.

It was refreshing to see all the color and life emerging...makes me antsy for summer vacation!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Resolutions Accountability and Library Thing

Four months in to the year...time to see how I have been doing. I mentioned earlier that I made New Year's resolutions for the first time since junior high school. Part of my reasoning for embracing the tradition this year was that it might actually be possible to accomplish some of them being that I have finished grad school and am no longer constantly drowning in work. My resolutions included getting married (check!), taking my vitamins regularly (doing pretty good!), stretching (booo! not doing so good on that one.), taking dance classes (have taken one so far, but have hopes for more soon), and lastly, joining a book club (YES!).

The book club is awesome. With all the crafting and netflix and living and dogs and such that I try to fit into non-work hours, it can be easy to slack on the area of reading....which would be sad, because I really like to read. At my book club group we talk about the book, which is nice. But, we also talk about other books and book-related websites. I get all sorts of suggestions and scoops from these ChickLit ladies.

One of the scoops of the evening included Library Thing. From what I heard at the group and from what I saw in my quick perusal of the website, I am psyched. It looks like a much upgraded version of the book journal I have been keeping on my own. I also like the community aspect of it...sort of like a Netflix/Amazon/Book Club hybrid. You should check it out and let me know if you make a public bookshelf. I'd like to know what you are reading.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Would you like a slice of cake?

Last week was April school vacation and I spent it in Minnesota. Paul joined me halfway through the week so we could have a million celebrations with our families and friends to mark our recent elopement.
It was a busy and fun-filled week that I won't even attempt to recount here. It was great to see everyone and especially great to have Paul there with me. It was the first time in the 4 years that we have been living in Boston that we visited Minnesota together.
The week concluded with our families getting together for a dinner. It was the first time our moms met. After dinner we were presented with a cake that had one of our goofy wedding photos painted on the top. I cut and served slices of my face for our families. Thanks for having a sense of humor about it, Mom!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sunshine Alpacas of Maine

I went on the Circles trip to the Sunshine Alpaca Farm a few days ago and I am still basking in the experience. It was a long day filled to the brim with amazing things. I can only do it justice by posting an incredibly long post. You are warned!

I love, love, love visiting the source of fibers. There is something slightly spiritual in meeting the animals from which the fiber is harvested and the people who share their world. One can really get a sense of the length of the process and the amount of energy that is put forth to come to the point of a finished garment…from animal to fiber to yarn to knitted garment. At the very least, it demonstrates to me what a good deal I get when I buy yarn, especially yarns from small farms like the Sunshine Alpaca Farm. I came away from the day with a lot of memories, some new knowledge, pictures and a few skeins of yarn (one of which was hand-dyed by me!).

Our trip began with a tour of the barn/animals. As I mentioned earlier, this farm contains a veritable Noah’s Ark of animals including alpacas, llamas, dogs, chickens, angora rabbits, cats, a salt-water aquarium complete with a sea anemone and, lastly, a parrot that meows.
We touched the alpaca undercoat. The top coat gets a bit like a dreadlock, a very hay and dirt-filled dreadlock.

The alpaca got to know my leg, my dog-scented leg.

In the barn we encountered many of the animals including the alpaca. The owners of the farm, Lori and Shawn, educated us as to the different kinds of alpacas, some of the logistics and history of their farm and let us have lots of hands-on time with the alpacas, llamas and angora rabbits. For anyone who is not alpaca-knowledgeable, we learned that alpacas and llamas are both part of the camelid family but alpacas are much smaller than llamas. An alpaca’s back would likely stand about waist high for many adults. When their long necks are taken into account, they are about 6 feet tall. Llamas are more the size of a small horse. Both animals have split upper lips that reminded me of an elephant trunk and both have big, luscious eye lashes. Neither alpacas nor llamas have upper teeth. This combination of facial features results in a combination of beauty and the geek.

Showing off those lower teeth!

Lori and Shawn telling us about their alpaca.

As for the angora rabbits, I am biased. I have a bad childhood memory with rabbits. When I was little my grandma was dating a clown/magician. Part of his act included the clich├ęd trick of pulling a rabbit from a hat. What this meant for my grandma was that he had a pet rabbit that stayed at her house. What this meant for me was that when I visited I was allowed to play with the rabbit. Sounds great, right? Well, on one of my visits I was all dressed up for church (it was either Easter or Christmas, sometime around 3rd grade, the details on this part are a little fuzzy). I distinctly remember how much I treasured the dress I was wearing. It was made of a plush grey velvet with white lace trim and a satiny pink ribbon around my waist. I was ready earlier than the rest of the family so somehow I ended up being offered the bunny to hold until we left. I was sitting on the couch with the bunny on my lap, petting it when something didn’t feel right. The damn bunny had peed and the pee had puddled on my lap until it soaked through my dress! I have held a grudge ever since.
Ok, back to the farm. When we got to the part of the barn where the rabbits live, Shawn took some of the rabbits out so we could touch them. He said that they like to be held and that he and his wife try to hold each of them once a day. I was feeling my heart melt a little bit and it has been awhile since my third grade trauma, so when he offered to hand off the one he had in his arms so I could hold it, I took him up on the offer. Bad idea! In transitioning from his arms to mine it freaked out and scratched me. Then, after settling in to my arms, it randomly freaked out and scratched me again. Grrrr! I’ll knit with your fur, but I won’t love you, darn rabbits!

Angora Rabbit

I also learned that alpacas are quite jumpy/flinchy and they freak out easily, all with the exception of one particularly friendly alpaca named Chili (or is it Chile?). Chili is one of their award-winning alpaca. I could see why, as she was a beautiful color and much more at ease around people than the other alpaca. Taking photographs of the other alpacas was quite challenging because they would jump out of the way or rush at the camera right as I was taking the photo, but not Chili. Chili held her head high and still while looking right at the camera almost as if saying, “Go ahead. I’m ready for my close-up.”

Chili striking a pose.

After meeting all of the animals, we headed indoors for the tour of the mill. The farm processes and spins all of its fiber into yarn and will also process batches for outside customers. The mill is set up in their attached garage which leads into a showroom/office/yarn store and then into the house. Many of the questions posed by our group centered on the costs involved in their operation. It was stunning for me to discover how much each element of their farm/mill costs. An alpaca can be sold for thousands of dollars and each animal has an insurance policy for the full amount of its worth. The milling machines cost in the tens of thousands each and there are multiple machines involved in taking the raw fiber and turning it into a skein of yarn. This goes back to the point I made at the start of this post: yarn is a really good deal!

Lori and Shawn explaining one of their machines.

Sunshine Alpaca yarn
By this time in the day our stomachs were growling so we went to lunch at the Sebago Brewery where I had a chance to get a proper photo of each of the group members:

Alice and Alice

Shawn and Kristina

Lori and Allison

Me and Lori
Another part of the trip that amazed me was to talk to the people who care for these animals. Lori and Shawn love their animals and care for them with the utmost of respect and dedication. Lori told me of the only cria (baby alpaca) they have lost on their farm. With tears in her eyes she told me that she was reluctant to let go and held on to the hope that it would be able to pull through for quite a while. She had gone so far as to bring a sleeping bag outside so she could spend the night keeping the cria warm and bundled in the sleeping bag with her. In a world where PETA is constantly investigating and revealing the atrocities that happen at farms, it is easy to forget that there are plenty of animals that are living contented lives and being cared for with love.

As if this wasn’t all enough, we had one last part to the day in which we dyed a skein of Sunshine Alpaca Farms yarn. We didn’t learn a lot about the technical aspects of dying but at that point, I don’t think I could have absorbed much more information. I was grateful to slop on some dye and see how it turned out. As with so many fiber-related things, I think I could become addicted!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sockapalooza 4, Bonnie B-day and Purty

I just signed up for Sockapalooza 4!

It reminds me of those chain mail letters that I used to get from friends. I always considered participating in those things and thought about how much fun it would be to have my mailbox fill up with envelopes stuffed with dollar bills or brand new underwear (right Jamie?!). All I needed to do was just send a dollar or a pair of underwear to the first five people on the list and a mailbox full of underwear and money could be all mine! Yeah, right. Or, as every character on Grey's Anatomy would put it, "Seriously."

Well, I have greater faith in this exchange than the chain mail letters of decades past. In this exchange, I will get a pal and knit him/her a pair of socks while someone else is doing the same for me. We all release our socks (over 850 participants thus far! 1700 socks!) into the world (via the postal system) on the same day and they travel to their new owners. I have images of sock packages criss-crossing the world on their way to surprise knitters. That sounds like good stuff to me.

On another note, It was Bonnie's birthday yesterday and since she has newly pierced ears, what better gift to give her than handmade earrings.
Happy Birthday Bonnie!

Lastly, a little something purty from my house for your Friday.

My next post will be about the alpaca field trip. I hope it'll be sunny so I can get some decent pictures of all the fibery goodness. I am struggling to get to know my new digital camera. It seems to be picky about lighting.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"My dog jumps at people"

It was a really nice evening weather wise and Tchazo had a truckload of pent-up energy. I decided to take him to our local, unofficial dog park. We were having a grand ole time. Tchazo was chasing after his frisbee, stealing sticks from other dogs, playing "scratch my butt" with the people at the park, sniffing other dogs and peeing on lots of stuff. Our new neighbor arrived with her Rottweiler and I had a chance to talk to her a bit for the first time since our only other encounter. That encounter had consisted of me in my PJs at her door at 2am letting her know that 2am on a Sunday night was not the best time to be having a sing-along, stomp your feet party in the room above my bed. Everything was all great and dandy until everyone had left save my neighbor and I. This was when a woman arrived with an adorable Golden Retriever. She looked like she wanted to talk so we greeted her and she came over with her dog still on leash. The dogs were all sniffing each other and seeming to get along just fine. The lady says to us, "I'd like to let my dog off leash so he can play but my dog jumps on people." As these last words escape her lips I am looking right at her only to catch, out of my peripheral vision, her dog lunging at me. He latched on to my scarf, which was tied around my neck and nearly strangled me until he broke loose of it. I was shocked for a minute and then I look down to see that the only reason he let go was that his teeth had ripped through my scarf. What the hell?!?! "My dog jumps at people" normally means that "my dog is really friendly and likes to greet people with excitement", not "my dog is a crazed lunatic who latches on to strangers at random." Needless to say that we skedaddled ASAP. On our way out the lady, who had let her dog off leash, was heading the same way as me trying to catch her dog because she was afraid her dog was "going to go after" a lady who was walking through the park.

Hey Golden Retriever Lady, train your dog not to jump on people or else keep us nice dog park folks safe by not bringing your crazy freakin' dog there, PLEASE!

RIP Scarf

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Lamb Butter and Egg Licker

If only all weekends were three days long, life would be so much more relaxing and so much more fun. After having the day off on Friday, I met Becky for dinner at a Tibetan restaurant. We ate, we knitted (purple sweater got lots of attention this weekend) and we caught up on our lives. One topic of conversation was marital finances versus dating finances, an area that was much examined between Paul and I this week. I think Paul and I have concluded that a joint checking account is not for us unless we want to spend our lives getting cranky at each other.
On Saturday it was date night, which is something Paul and I need to do more often. We saw Jeffrey Foucault in concert at The Atwood Tavern in Cambridge. It was nice to be out and away from the who-is-walking-the-dog-did-you-mail-the-rent-the-garbage-needs-to-go-out type of talk us old married folks tend to have. We liked it:

Today is Easter. I spent a part of the day hanging out with some ladies that were generously brought together by Beth and Susan.

We feasted on a variety of foods, many of which were linked to the contributor's family traditions. Apparently Chicagoans have the need for lamb-shaped items during Easter, including this lamb cake:

Beth and Susan also put forth a mighty effort to procure a lamb shaped butter to no avail. Lamb butter! That is craziness. When comparing other family Easter traditions I discovered that I was the only one who had Cadbury Creme Eggs hidden for me in addition to regular hard boiled eggs. That might explain why I am amongst the adults who like them. I can see why so many people think they are foul but I dig 'em.
Last but not least, I went to see Becky and Erin who were preparing their Easter feast a few blocks from Beth's. Since I skipped out before the egg dying at Beth's, Erin was nice enough to dye me an egg. I wanted a photo for you all but at this time of night it was hard to find a place that was lit well enough for a photo. So I was trying some shots out around the house. Let me walk you through what happened.

What about in this room where the dogs are?

Yeah. That works but I don't like my hand in the shot. How about on the dog?

Nooooo!!! Don't lick my egg!

Tchazo (the egg licker) is now following me around the house, staring at me, seemingly wondering why I took away his tasty vinegar and dye coated treat.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Field Trip for Grown Ups

Remember when there was nothing more exciting than a field trip day at school? Well, luckily there is a yarn store in Boston that keeps the thrill of field trips alive for adults. Allison, the owner of Circles, just put out an invite for a day trip and I signed up immediately.
Here is what I am going to do at Sunshine Alpacas of Maine:
Please join us as we visit Lori Malloy and her Suri alpacas. We'll tour the farm, the on-site cottage industry spinning mill and hear about raising alpacas for a living. We'll also take a dying workshop and have a lunch from the Sebago Brewing Company. This is sure to be a fantastically fibery way to spend a spring day!
Apparently they not only have alpacas! They have, and I quote, "24 suri alpacas, 5 llamas, 6 angora bunnies, a million chickens, 2 Shelties, 5 cats, an African Grey Parrot named Buddie and 2 crazed people."
I can't wait to get my country girl fix. Do you want to come?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Junk mail or dog treat?

That is the question.

After Party, Purple Success and African Dance

This weekend Paul and I had some friends over for dinner. After we ate we divided by gender and the girl faction made jewelry while the boy faction played with the Wii. I used to make lots of jewelry but have been much more fiber driven over the past few years. It was nice to have someone to make jewelry and drink wine with. The gratification can be so instant with jewelry. Knitting a finished object takes a lot of time, even if it is a small project. I made each of these pairs of earrings in 15 minutes. To be honest that time quote involves many sips of wine, some tool sharing and some jewelry making, so in reality it was probably closer to 5 minutes of actual construction time.

On to knitting...I am making progress on my purple sweater. I am going around and around and around as the world turns. I am sort of a sucker for the mindless working in the round and am enjoying it.

What is adding to the enjoyment is that I took the sweater off the needles a few inches ago to check the fit and IT FITS!!! That is such a relief. I think this will be a very wearable sweater. Simple, but practical. My only worry is that since I plan to adjust the sleeves so that they aren't tapered I may not have bought enough yarn to compensate for the adjustment. I think the yarn is discontinued so it could be a challenge if I need to locate more of it. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I have enough. Maybe you Minnesotans will see me wear it when I visit in a few weeks.
You may think with all this crafting to report that I have just been sitting on my booty, but no no no I have been shaking my booty a bit too. I don't generally make New Year's resolutions but since I graduated from grad school in December I have room in my life to consider some changes I would like to make. One of my resolutions was to pursue dance classes. There is a great dance studio in Cambridge called the Dance Complex that offers just the level of commitment I can handle: None! They don't require any advance registration or schedule commitment. You show up when you want to take a class and pay for it. I went on Sunday to the African dance class and loved it. The first half hour was a warm up (Ouch! My legs have not participated in a stretch in a long time!) followed by a half hour of learning the history of and steps to the dance and a final half hour of dancing to the live drum circle. It feels like a big ole party being there with the drumming and the stomping. My ears were ringing when I left. I can't wait to go back. If you have never tried it, I would suggest it.

It takes a village...

It takes a village to watch over 24 second graders. To keep them in their seats. To keep them from crying. To keep them from saying unkind things to each other. To keep them from stealing from each other. To keep them from yelling. To get their attention. To give them permission to leave the room. To put their bandaids on. To listen to their stories. To calm them down. To make them feel special.
Not even to mention the part about teaching them. Teaching them to read, to spell, to do math, to think on their own, to learn history, science, social studies, social skills, nutrition and anything else under the stars.
It was one of those days where I needed help from the rest of the village to get through. Luckily in my village there are a few kind souls who were willing to help. Even with help it does seem like a losing battle some days.
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