Sunday, January 22, 2012

One Week Later

I've actually continued knitting.  Many times I've started projects in a whirl of dedication, only to drop them when the demands of working full time press in.  This past week was very busy at work and I ended up having to work six hours on Saturday, something I NEVER do, and won't be doing again for a long time, if I can help it.  Weekends are sacred.  I still managed to sit in the backyard today, take some cute bird pictures and continue knitting so that the back on my sweather is now 7" long.  It has to be 16 1/2" before I change the knitting pattern and begin to get ready for the upper back and sleeves.

We have a couple of Common Yellowthroats in our back yard this year.  A male and female.  These are warblers found all year round in Florida, especially in the Everglades.  Not so much in back yards, but I'm so pleased to host these two.  They are usually bug eaters and shun feeders.  They are not interested in seeds, like the Painted Buntings, the Grackles, Bluejays, Redwings, Sparrows, Doves, Parrots, etc. etc. (in other words, everybody else but warblers).  They strictly like their protein.  Since I don't use insecticides, and I'm getting ready, once birding season is over (and they go back home) to fight an infestation of white fly here, there is plenty for them to eat.
The mockingbirds are different.  They like seeds, bugs, peanut butter, and, I'm proud to say, leftover cooked yams.  I witnessed a fight over the yams.  Mr. or Mrs. Mockingbird were NOT going to let anyone else have any of the orangey, yammy goodness.  We saw the mockingbird in the yard today, and they usually begin to like protein towards the end of winter, when they begin mating and building nests.  For this reason, I put out a big spoonful of crunchy peanut butter on some branches for Mr./Mrs. Mockingbird.  

Imagine my surprise when the little male Common Yellowthroat flitted over to the branches with peanut butter and began sampling.  Not only did he sample, he came back for seconds and thirds.  Below are some pictures of him eating the peanut butter:

The male has an adorable black mask as you can see in the pictures.  They are beautiful little birds.  The female has a bright yellow belly, but no mask.  

Earlier in the day we had a visit from some parrots that rarely come to our yard.  We get the VERY common Monk Parakeets, which are not only in Florida, but, due to the way they build a communal nest, they live all over the country, even in cold places.  Since they all sleep together in a bunch inside their big nest at night, they stay warm.  There are other parrot species in Florida, however, that have established themselves.  It always starts with an escapee that survives, finds a mate and - voila - you have the beginning of a new species settlement of parrot.  There are wild Macaws here, Blue Fronted Parakeets, Red Cheeked Parakeets, and many more.  One of the escapee species here is the Nanday Conure or Black Headed Parakeet.  A small group of them came to the seed feeder in our yard this morning.  We can tell the difference when they are flying in, because their screech is lower and more gutteral than the Monk Parakeet's.  They also sound a lot like the Blue Fronted Parrots and we came out once thinking we would see the Nandays, and there were some Blue Fronteds on the wire over our backyard.  Here is a not too good picture of the Nanday Conures at our feeder this morning.  The second picture was taken by my husband.  They are pretty big parrots - not as big as Macaws, but bigger than Monks.  I love to see and hear them.  They have red legs and all parrot's colors are just beautiful. 

I hope everyone has a blessed week, taking one day at a time and not worrying about tomorrow....

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I have been fighting a low level depression for a long time now.  Many days are wonderful, but the thoughts in the back of my head - the sad ones, the hopeless ones - are always ready to pop out and ruin things. 

I've done two things to combat this.  The most important is the application of this verse - 2 Corinthians 10:5 "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,"

Christ does not want us to concentrate on the tragedies of this fallen world, and since I am a child of the 60's, it's very hard sometimes to NOT give credence to the negative thoughts and feelings I have.  The philosophy "if you feel it, it's real", or "just let it all hang out" is what was ingrained into me in school (of all places - a private Catholic school.....who would have thunk it?) and in the society of my growing up years.  So all these years since then if I have a thought I don't try to cordon it off or control it - I just let it go, and take the consequences.  Well, this year is going to be the year of thought monitoring in my own head.  I forget that The Adversary is always trying to help keep us off balance and to take away our joy in Christ in whatever way is most effective for each individual.  Keeping that in mind, I'm "taking every thought captive", looking it over and then, if it passes muster, letting it go, or, if it doesn't pass muster - out it goes.

The second thing I've done is to stop talking myself out of doing creative things.  Believe it or not, the voice in my head says, "oh why bother - you're the only one who'll appreciate it", or "there are more important things to do" (which I usually end up not doing either....).  With friends like my thoughts, who needs enemies???  Anyway - I have now begun to knit a sweater for myself.  Even in South Florida, it gets cool outside and some work places keep the A/C at insanely cold temperatures, so we actually do use sweaters here.

I searched online and found free patterns at "Lion Brand Yarns".  Below is a picture of the sweater I am making:

The type of yarn recommended is Lion Brand Homespun yarn, which just happened to be on sale at Joanne's Fabrics yesterday.

Here is the beginning of my sweater in the colors I love the most:

The colors that make my eyes drool are indigo blues, some greens and purples.  If those colors are all together somewhere in the right hues, my eyes are so happy they can't tear themselves away from whatever object or objects comprise that combination.

Just touching the wool, handling it and working with it are sensory experiences and I'm letting myself enjoy every single aspect of creating.  Some of my knitting is a bit rusty, so there are a few stitches that look a little "off" because I forgot what I was doing and began to knit on a row I'd already almost completed in perl.  I had to tear out those stitches and redo them - and I don't pick up the stitch with the needle in just the proper way for perfection and no detection of "accidents".  That's ok - I'm not a perfectionist.  I'm happy with "almost perfect", actually, as long as it isn't really noticeable. 

I also treated myself to some beads with which to make necklaces and matching earrings for myself.  This is so incredibly easy to do and the colors and textures can be magnificent.  Here are 2 sets of necklace/earrings that I made yesterday afternoon:

I have to practice my object photography, since - unless you click on the picture to enlarge it - these are hard to really see well.  Since it is such a beautiful and cool day, I thought I'd photograph my things outside.

Such an inexpensive and simple pleasure.  I can't wait to wear these.  Just knowing that I made them will make wearing them more special.  I do have to confess that, just as in the knitting, the clasps on the necklaces aren't professional looking - I need to refresh myself on connecting the clasps to the wire for maximum protection as well as professional appearance.

I used the money my mother gave me for Christmas to buy the wool and the beads above.  I purchased other colors of wool as well as beads, so I have a lot of projects I can work on when I am ready.  

I'm also thinking of getting the indigo dye out again and finding some old castoff white button shirts of my husband to dye and then wear.  My husband also wants me to dye a large piece of muslin for him to use as a photography backdrop.  

Speaking of photography, I offer a few shots of the lovely Spot Breasted Oriole that practically lives in our back yard, as well as a cute little bee that flies sort of like a hummingbird.....quickly from one spot to another, where he then hovers and slowly moves into the flower he is pollinating.

Hope your Sunday is either bright and warm inside or outside, depending on where you live.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reading Lately

Since I had 2 weeks off at Christmas time as well as an extra week when I was sick with bronchitis, I did a lot of reading.

My all time favorite of this holiday season was, "Nothing Daunted, The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West " by Dorothy Wickenden.   The picture below is copied from - don't try to "Click to look inside" - nothing will happen.

This turn of the century (19th to 20th) true life story is interesting historically in it's presentation of the still-isolated sections of the Great West at that time.  While much of the West and the Great Plains had been sadly cleared of it's aboriginal inhabitants and parceled out to white settlers, there were still portions off the beaten track that reflected an earlier, more pioneering time.  Such is the small town of Elkhead, reached at that time only by the famous Moffatt railroad in Northwest Colorado and then by horse.  While many other parts of America were passing beyond the "one room schoolhouse", Elkhead had a brand new school that needed teachers for it's single class of all ages.  Also, while many schools were beginning to require some sort of teaching training and "Normal" schools were educating primarily women to become accomplished instructors, the Elkhead school was happy with 2 young girls from the privileged class that may not have had a background in teaching, but were well enough educated themselves to impart the necessary knowledge to the country students.

One of the young women was the grandmother of the author, while the other was the grandmother's lifelong best friend.  I loved reading about their central New York State upbringing and then their boredom with post-school life.  They didn't want to do the typical thing, which was to get married and have children right away.  They wanted to make a difference somewhere while at the same time having an adventure.  I highly recommend this book for readers that enjoy the history of the American West.

Next, I consulted the blog of one of my favorite people - Coffee, Tea, Books & Me - for "cozy book and film recommendations".

I purchased "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George.  This was a "cozy" book recommendation and I love mountains, so it was a no brainer.  The story was a surprise to me.  Not only does it take place in my birth place stomping grounds - the Catskill Mountains - the time period covered is during my childhood.  A much more exciting childhood than I experienced, and one which I would have LOVED to try - at least for a day or two before getting scared.  The hero is a teenaged boy whose New York City parents let him "run away" to his grandfather's land in the Catskills.  Although the house is long gone and so is the grandfather, the land is still in the family.  The boy makes his way to the land with lots of wilderness training and knowledge under his belt and makes a successful stay for one whole year - 4 seasons worth - in the mountains.  What is "cozy" about this?  His house.  He finds some old growth fir trees and finds a way to partially hollow out a section of the the huge base of one, essentially carving himself out a small home inside the tree.  Using only what he can find in nature he fashions a stove (he finds clay that will harden) with a pipe that carries the smoke out a small hole in the tree.  He makes a bed from strips of bark on a wood platform and finds deer that have been killed by hunters but never retrieved for the bed coverings, as well as clothes and a door to his tree house. (Lest you think he takes the entire dead deer and drapes it over things, he skins it, of course, and uses every part of the carcass he can.) He finds all kinds of plants to eat and catches a baby hawk whom he trains to hunt for him.  The details are fascinating and the coziest part is the first major snowstorm.  Our hero has prepared all summer long for winter with lots of smoked meats and stashes of nuts and roots.  He has a working stove that provides warmth and uses birch bark to write on.  He uses a turtle shell with oil in it for light.  That first blizzard is a whopper of heavy snow, wind and ice cold temperatures, but our hero is warm and very pleased with himself inside his comfy tree house.  Needless to say I loved this story.

Next, I downloaded a free book onto my iPad, which I use like a Kindle (it was my husband's and he has moved on to greater things, so I have inherited the original iPad).  It is called, "Adventures in Contentment, Adventures in Friendship, The Friendly Road" by David Grayson.  This is about a farmer in the early part of the 1900's in New England who leaves his farm and goes wandering incognito.  This farmer is married and his wife tries to talk him out of going on his trip.  My only problem in reading this is imagining his wife trying to hold everything down, doing all the farm chores as well as her own while he galavants.  I'm sorry to say as much as I sympathize with Mr. Grayson wanting to "get away" in this very different way, I feel for his poor wife left behind and in charge.  If Mrs. Grayson had wanted to do something like this, I can imagine the disapproval of everyone at the thought of a woman taking off on her own and wandering the countryside.  Even so, I'm enjoying his side of the story and pushing visions of a very annoyed and put upon Mrs. Grayson out of my mind, probably in much the same way Mr. Grayson does in the story.  Each day he finds someone who invites him to stay to dinner and then to overnight, and these lovely new friends are all assisted by Mr. Grayson in some way, either physically or mentally.  I didn't finish this yet, but the first 6 chapters I have read are delightful.  They recall a time in America when one could do as he did and not only not be afraid of harm, but know that a welcome is just a house away when one is "on the hoof".  I read things like this to escape from the present which is rather awful to me socially.  While I sure do appreciate modern conveniences, I'd give anything to be able to go back in time to a more civilized time.  It's really not all that long ago, actually.....

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012

I like one of the headlines on "The Drudge Report" web site - "Hope the Mayans were wrong."  In any case, I'll just take one day at a time.  Somewhere between Christmas Eve and this past Wednesday I picked up a full blown head cold with chest cough, etc.  My ribs hurt from coughing, but there is only a low fever, so I'm just taking over the counter meds.  I can't sleep at night because as soon as I lie down, I cough.  So I have to sleep sitting up, which hasn't worked well.  

Tomorrow I'm supposed to go back to work after 2 weeks off, so this cold has lousy timing.  I can't smell anything, I'm continually gacking something up or down (phlegm-wise) and the only thing that tastes good is hot hot tea.  I feel like I've been hit by a bus......(although never having REALLY been hit by a bus, thank God, so not ABSOLUTELY sure what that feels like).

All the Christmas things are just as they were on Christmas day and I won't be putting them away probably until next weekend.  That's ok since I love to buck convention and enjoy the beauty of the colored lights long after their prescribed time is over.

Not too many thoughts are squeezing their way through my cold, so it's off to find a comfortable chair and maybe a chance to catch up on sleep for a little while.