Monday, August 31, 2009

To New York and Back

I just got back from a lovely trip to NY State to see my sister, video my dad's hometown - Saratoga Springs, NY, since he can't get there anymore, and to dig around (literally) Oak Hill, NY, home of my DeWitt ancestors.

I will have pictures and video to put up but they're still sitting on my computer waiting to be processed. I have to piece the videos together to make them coherent (and edit them, too).

One thing I brought back from New York State that I didn't intend to is......some sort of poison oak or sumac - I think sumac. What is so funny is that I didn't get it digging around Oak Hill's cemetary - the cemetary was mowed and it was mostly grass anyway.

I think I got this rashy stuff from the plants around my sister's little house. There are garden flowers, hostas, petunias, lovely plants. But lately there are a few unknowns that have popped up and my sister pointed them out to me with the caveat that she is going to take them out, but hasn't gotten a chance yet.

As I was getting into her car one afternoon, I noticed some quick movement in front of the vehicle - something very small and fast. My sister said it must be a chipmunk because they have holes in the gardened areas around the edge of the house. Like the nutcase that I am, I started looking for the chipmunk hole and was moving the plants aside - including what I think is poison sumac (it sure looks like the pictures I looked up last night on Google). I never found the chipmunk or his hole, but I sure did get a nice case of poison something on the left side of my face and neck. I'm left handed, so I must have touched the left side of my face with my palm. I don't have any poison sumac-y bumps on my palm, but I do on the back of my left hand.

I had forgotten the joys of summer in upstate New York - the thick bushes, the huge trees, the sheer green-ness of everything. I used to get poison ivy on a regular basis as a child, and back then, there was something called, "Zemo" for itching - it was fabulous, but, unfortunately, it is no longer made. I'd slather it all over the left side of my face and neck, but I'm using Cortisone cream instead.

Of course, today was the first day back at work - and I have to explain to everyone why part of my face looks like chicken pox.......I guess I'm just a kid at heart.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Quick Note

I have found some lovely ladies from my past on Facebook. I found Mary Dutkiewicz and Mary Palyo who were my BEST BEST friends in elementary school at St. Joseph's School in Middletown, NY. We slept over at each other's houses and we shared our very early girlish questions and dreams. We used to hold hands and stand arm length from each other and then twirl like crazy at a fast speed around and around - I don't know where we got that idea, but we loved to do that. I think Mary D. was the best - she went the fastest. Ah......the memories are very rich tonight. I'm lost in yesteryear.

Forty years ago this coming weekend (8/15/09 -8/18/09) Woodstock, the concert (I use the term loosely) happened in Sullivan County, NY.

I was 13 years old and had a crush on my girlfriend's two older brothers (who were 15 and 17 respectively) who were in bands and had long hair and were quite cute. They were also pretty wild, but a 13 years old could dream couldn't she?

They, along with their 13 year old sister, my friend, were allowed to go to Woodstock. I wanted to go so badly and I begged my mother who instantly said a firm, unarguable "NO". Looking back, I sure don't blame her - if it had been my daughter, I would have laughed out loud first, asked if she had a fever, and then said a loud, firm "NO". If I had gone, I would have been scared to death between the messy, rainy, muddy, naked, tripped out people and the messy, rainy, muddy, semi-naked, tripped out performers.

In any case, I remember that weekend - I spent the day at my other girlfriend's house in Pine Bush, NY, a very rural community. I lived in Middletown which was a few miles away, but a little less rural at that time than Pine Bush. Today, Middletown is a subset of New York City, but it wasn't quite there yet in 1969. At the top of the post is a map of the route one would take today from Middletown to Bethel, NY - the actual place where "Woodstock" occurred (it didn't occur in Woodstock, NY - very confusing).

Anyway, my friend and I stood out on the road - route 209 - a 2-lane country road, and waved at all the Woodstockians driving by jammed into Beetles and Tie Dye painted vans and rickety vehicles. They all waved back, tooted their horns, made the peace sign, etc. We SO longed to be a part of it, but shortly after that weekend I forgot all about it. Yes, I heard about it in the news, but I didn't listen to news much when I was 13. I remember the coverage of the Vietnam war more than Woodstock. I do remember the adults assessment of Woodstock as a disgusting debacle.

Let's see - I was 13, which means I was going into the 8th grade at a brand new school. I had gotten grades high enough to enable me to enter an "advanced" 8th grade at John S. Burke High School in Goshen, NY (still in operation - has a web site). Historically, the school only went from 9th to 12th grade, but the accelerated 8th grade was brand new, and I was in the first class. It was a little scary because I had gotten used to St. Joseph's School in Middletown. This parochial school went from 1st grade to 8th grade and I was leaving my friends to go to a new school with new people. I started St. Joseph's in 3rd grade due to pressure from the parish priest on my mother to take me from public school to our church shcool. So, after five full years, which, when you're 13, is a large portion of your life, I was going to attend some place new.

But let's remember the summer and not the beginning of school. Let's remember the hot, long days of August 1969 with the faint hint of autumn in the slanted rays of the afternoon sun. Let's remember playing outside all day without a care in the world (unless we got in trouble).

Once I went to high school, I changed. My world changed and looking back, I didn't change for the better. But in 1969, I was 13 years old and I had my whole life ahead of Mary tapped me on the shoulder to wave at yet another jalopy on the way to Woodstock.

Here is an article from my home town newspaper about Woodstock 40 years later.

Indigo Tie Dye

A couple of weeks ago one of my coworkers brought in two little boy t-shirts for the little boy's mom that had been tie dyed with blue and green colors. The colors were beautiful and I thought how much I'd love to do the same to some plain white shirts for myself.

I love indigo and decided to try that first. I ordered the basic indigo dye kit from Dharma Trading - they have EVERYTHING for natural and chemical dyes for all types of material AND they sell basic white shirts in all styles so you can dye them.

Finally, this past weekend I got a chance to mix the dye in a big 5 gallon tub in the back yard. I had to mix in a very smelly chemical called a mordant, which causes the dye to adhere to the cloth. I followed the directions and managed NOT to get indigo dye all over me - I don't know how, since when I paint I always end up covered in paint.

Anyway - I had two purchased and one free white shirt to dye. One was a peasant type blouse, the second was a 3/4 sleeve v-neck pull over shirt and the free shirt came with the order - just a basic t-shirt. Finally, on a whim, I grabbed a white work shirt of my husband's that was in the rag bag because of a stain on the pocket that wouldn't come out. It's a long sleeve button up dress work shirt.

Here are my results. My favorite? The work shirt of my husband's that was destined for the rag bin!!

Above is the peasant blouse. I just wanted it to be indigo blue - no design, so I dumped it in the dye bucket. There is a slight pattern on the sleeve where the dye didn't penetrate all the way - but what the heck - it's home dyed!! The color on the shirt isn't completely even anyway - even when you don't try to fold for tie dye designs - just dump it in - the color is darker in places. It is really lovely - and the blue is my all time favorite blue color. I realized this blue is the same blue of my Pea Vine flowers that I've posted pictures of on here recently (scroll down to the blue-purple flower) - no wonder that is my favorite flower!

Above is my favorite - and it was a last minute throw in from the rag bag!! I LOVE this shirt. I folded it trying to follow directions, but I really didn't know what I was doing. I figured what the heck (as you can tell that is a motto of mine that I use regularly) - and it came out looking like a Hawaiian pattern - like big flowers. If you click on the picture, you can see the - dare I call it - design - better.

Here is the back of the rag bag old-white-work-shirt-turned-fashion-statement. This was the first shirt I wore - and I did get compliments on it. When I told people I dyed it myself and that it had been a thrown away work shirt of my husband's - well, they were suitably impressed (or they were humoring me and seeking to get away quickly - like I always say, "what the heck".)

This is a stretchy 3/4 sleeve V or scoop neck (I can't tell) shirt - I love the way this one came out, too. I tried the swirl tie - take a dowel, place it in the middle of the shirt (which is laid flat) and twist until the whole shirt has been gathered up. Then rubber band it in place. Not too bad for a first time dyer, doncha think?

And finally - the back of the same shirt. Well - there is one more shirt and that is the plain ugh t-shirt. I tried to dye that one just plain old blue, too - didn't tie it. Well, here it is:

This one turned out even more "patterny" than the peasant blouse - I love it! You just can't go wrong with tie dye - even if you don't tie!!

Well - I'm off to work now. If I seem to have more energy - I do. My thyroid was evidently hypo hypo and I needed to increase my thyroid medicine. Once I did - well, what a difference!! I have energy!! Not to mention I think I'm also getting some energy from going to the gym. I did 1 mile on the elliptical machine and 12 laps in the olympic sized pool - yay!! One step at a time......

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Some New Things

I joined a gym last Friday. Again. This one, however, has a pool, so I can swim. When you are heavy, as I am, water is so much kinder to exercise in. I've now gone twice this past week - and I hope that the extreme chlorine in the pool won't turn my dyed blond hair green!!

On another front, it appears that we have early migrants this year - the birds seem to be coming south earlier than I've ever seen before. We have a medium sized hawk that preys on the birds that hang out in our yard - mostly pigeons and doves (not that I want the hawk to catch ANY of them). I've only seen this hawk starting in September/October. I suppose it is possible he lives here year round, but I hadn't seen him for months until about a week ago, so I'm thinking he has already migrated south for the winter.

Also - our bee hive is growing bigger. Yes, we have a bee hive in our back yard. It's all the way in the back by the fence and hidden in the midst of some tall bushes. It's near the back fence gate that allows AT&T people to get to the pole in back of our house. Everybody else on our street has blocked off the pole with their fences - seems we're the only civilized ones that thought to allow access. Yesterday evening around 7pm, I was sitting outside with my big Cockatoo, feeding him and the neighborhood squirrels, grackles, blue jays and red bellied woodpeckers peanuts - and an AT&T guy knocked on the front fence gate and announced where he was from. I told him to come on in and mentally wondered how this would go since we had to walk by in close proximity (within 4 feet) of the bee hive.

I pointed out the hive to him and he immediately said, "that's CRAZY!" and "what happens if you piss them off?" I assured him they are NOT killer bees, since we are around them all the time, mow the lawn around them, etc. - and we proceeded to walk right by them and open the back gate where he did his work. The bees went about their bee business and ignored us. On the way back through the gate to leave, he stopped for a full minute and just stared at the hive - it is indeed SO cool. He then suggested I get some honey, but I'm not THAT dumb. They can live here, but a bee keeper will have to remove them eventually - and HE can get the honey, not me! What you see below is a gourd from North Carolina that was hanging in the tree hoping to attract birds to nest. Two years ago it hosted a hive of bees, but it hosted them INSIDE. When the bees got too crowded inside they left - one day I came home from work and all the bees were gone. I cleaned out the inside of the gourd and rehung it. Now the bees may be inside, but they are building additions to the outside of the gourd. They have built around branches, which are now part of the structure of the honeycombs. It is fascinating to watch. Squirrels and pigeons and other birds go in and out amongst the branches near the hive - and all remains well. I've read about killer bees and how you can't get within 50 feet of them or they attack, they are disturbed by lawn mowers and other creatures like squirrels and birds. Not our bees. I believe they are an escaped hive from some bee keeper because they are very used to people.

Now all I need are a couple of chickens (I'd have to build something to house them in with the darned hawk around) and I'll have a mini-farm. Maybe a few goats for goat milk, except they'd eat EVERYTHING and I'd have no butterfly garden anymore. I joke about the chickens with my husband who looks at me in horror because he knows eventually it will probably happen. I know where they sell little chicks.......hee hee.

Beware - here is a woman who is doing just that (except she has no garden in the back where the goats are) - and she, too, lives in the suburbs!

When I see what she used for a "barn" it got me thinking about chickens again. All I have to do it buy a children's playhouse - and turn it into a chicken house! What a cool idea!!

Below is the caterpillar of a Polydamas butterfly. We have two Dutchman's Pipe vines and that is the Polydamas butterfly's larval plant.

Here is what a Polydamas butterfly looks like, although this is not my picture. The author's name is on the photo.

Finally, below is my favorite garden flower/vine. It is a Pea Vine and the flowers are such a beautiful shade of blue/purple. The vine grows like morning glory - out of control, but I'm keeping an eye on it and will trim it back as necessary. Right now, it is growing up one of the "legs" of our home built trellis - which looks like it was home built and not by people who know what they're doing, either. But so what - once it is covered with vines it won't matter what it looks like underneath!

We have Dutchman's pipe going up one "leg", the Pea vine going up another, and a pink allamanda going up the third "leg". The fourth "leg" is being nicely covered by a red allamanda vine - it makes my eyes go "mmmmmmmm" whenever I look at it.

Here are the two Allamanda vines, pink and red, on the other "legs" of the trellis.