Thursday, June 30, 2005

Now, about those socks

I went to a local knitting group Monday night. My knitting project for the evening was to pick up the heel flap stitches on Son2's navy blue sock and set up for the gusset decreases. Mission accomplished, and now I'm making excellent progress on the gusset decreases, yay! I'm aiming to finish the sock by the end of the weekend, so this is my project for all spare moments in daylight (it's navy blue yarn...).

In other sock knitting news, though, I frogged (rip it, rip it) my lace sock back to the third row. In other words, I undid all of the lace and started it over. I thought I'd messed up the yarnovers in the first pattern repeat, and decided redo the lace from the beginning. It turned out the same the second time! So I guess my yarnovers were fine. My new thought is that it's something about my tension on that first needle in each new row of the lace pattern. Now I'm trying to relax a bit on that needle. So... I am just now getting back to the point you see in that most recent progress photo. Oh well.

Thanks to our trip to cooler Washington state, I'm planning to wear these socks with my new pale-blue Birk knockoffs. (A friend picked them up for me at a big-box store on clearance for $2.50, woohoo!) That means I'm definitely going to continue the pattern down the heel to show it off more. Most of my shoes are clog-style slipons, so this was my inclination anyway.

I think I've picked a pattern for the surprise socks I plan to knit for my niece who is three and a half. Her father is a firefighter, so I'm going to knit the Six Sox Knitalong's Chutes and Ladders pattern and call it Hoses and Ladders. But I'll do it in pink because she loves all things pink from what I hear.

So there you have it. Progress on all sock knitting projects, one way or another!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Oklahoma's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

I was looking for a new background image for my computer desktop, maybe Oklahoma scenery, and found this great image of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northern Oklahoma, courtesy of the Nature Conservancy wallpaper images. (Nature Conservancy info on the preserve.)

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I cropped the NC image 'cause it had annoying wide top and bottom white borders. I really want to go to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, but I hesitate because I'm not sure how much the kids would get into 39,000 acress of grasses! This photo is great, especially now that my own purple coneflower is blooming in the backyard.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Summer trip anticipation

Later this summer we're going to visit my family in Washington state for a few weeks. The boys and I will be there for about three weeks, and dear husband will join us for a week, during which the whole family (us, my three brothers and their families, and my mom) will spend four days and three nights at a waterfront cabin resort on one of the San Juan Islands.

Our oldest son tells friends he's going to "Seattle" -- which is true enough. Easier to make a connection that way than by saying "Everett", "Ellensburg", "Bothell", "west Seattle", or "the San Juan Islands"!

When I started really doing some research a few days ago (ferry schedule and costs, things to do and see, etc.), my first shock was the typical temperatures for late July into August. I've been away from the Pacific Northwest for nearly 20 years, you see, living in hot-summer places.

Even for eastern Washington, with its hot inland summers, we may want to pack jeans and sweatshirts for the evenings. Now that we're pretty acclimated to the Oklahoma summer we'll need to wear a bit more than t-shirts, shorts, and sandals to handle nighttime lows in the upper 50s F. And western Washington, which has the mildest of summers, will be quite different. I must remember to pack the boys' thermal pjs!

I have a long list of Washington state things to share with my dear husband and sons, but that'll be easy to do, especially since we'll spend time all over the state -- so back and forth over the mountains we'll go. The boys will love going up Seattle's Space Needle and telling their friends, but besides that, I want to share with them:

Forests of evergreen trees
Big city streetscapes (Seattle)
Small Pacific Northwest city and town streetscapes
Green grass in midsummer - hahaha!
A ride on a big, car-carrying ferry among densely wooded islands
Rock beaches and cold saltwater waves
Scenic mountain highways on both the west and the dry sides of the state
Mountain rivers, or maybe just the moss and ferns in west-side suburbs!
My childhood home, block, neighborhood, schools
The espresso stands every half-block except in rural areas, where it's every intersection, LOL!
And plenty of time to get to know their cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandma

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Book stack update

After we thoroughly enjoyed the Chuck Wagon Gathering and Kids Cowboy Festival in the City several weeks ago, I read One Thousand White Women. Now I'm watching TNT's "Into the West" 6-week series. Very interesting and enjoyable. Makes you think, makes you sad and angry.

So... here are the related books that I've acquired from the library.
  • The Big Roundup: an anthology of the best classic and contemporary poetry from

  • The Chuck Wagon Cookbook: Recipes from the ranch and range for today's kitchen

  • Cowboy Life on the Texas Plains: The photographs of Ray Rector

  • Guide to Manuscripts in the Western History Collections of the University of Oklahoma

  • The Modern Cowboy, and Some Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys, essays by John R. Erickson (yes, the author of the Hank the Cowdog series!)

  • Trail drive: a true narrative of cowboy life from Andy Adams' Log of a cowboy

And for both Son1 and me to read (depending on whether he cracks any open!):
  • Boy Settler in the Cherokee Strip -- old book with intertwined stories of a native American boy and a white settler boy

  • Rifles for Watie

  • The Heart of a Chief, by Joseph Bruchac -- I recognize the author as a teller and writer of native stories for environmental educators

  • The Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich -- I've heard raves about this

  • Streams to the River, River to the Sea: A novel of Sacagawea

  • Cowboy, a large-format DK-style book

  • Cowboy Cooking -- info and recipes, for kids

  • Sarah, Plain and Tall -- I've heard it's so good; a planned read-aloud.

  • Little House in the Big Woods, the first in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series; I'm going to try reading this aloud to Son2 since Son1 dismisses the very idea (he and I bogged down in Farmer Boy, about the time he started reading for himself a LOT)

Maybe it's a good thing I live in Oklahoma and we can go visit some forts and homesteads, and call this exploring our history. It's not like I've had, oh, say, Women of the West on my bookshelf for over a decade or anything. Or went on a "West" reading kick a year ago and read a lot of journals and scholarly stuff...

I kept my wits about me, though, and got some completely unrelated reading for Son1 as well. I only have about two weeks before the new Harry Potter sucks him back into reading all of the HPs again, anyway. We'll see how it goes. Certainly I plan to read these books -- most look really great!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Garden pretty bits

See the bee amid the Russian sage?! To the lower right is some volunteer Cosmos. Behind and below the Russian sage is some garden phlox of the same color. Originally the four phlox were in the barrens of one of the seldom-watered beds along the sides of the back yard, where they weren't doing well at all. I moved them to where they'd get watered, an important criterion!
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My garden mantra this year is: hurrah for perennials! The "verbena on a stick", Brazilian verbena, verbena Bonariensis, was here when we bought the house. The purple coneflower (three plants) was a passalong from a friend last year.
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I take pictures for you of the pretty bits of my garden. Most of my garden is... well, mostly in my mind. For instance, here's a long shot of the v. Bonariensis and purple coneflower. You might notice v. Bonariensis reseeds, and did so on the outside of the edging blocks, within whacking range of the mower. Oops.
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On to the front entryway. What to do with Christmas poinsettias? Water them, give them sun, and when the weather gets stably warm, plant a container with them! The tall greenery is a poinsettia that's lost its red leaves. I really like poinsettia leaves, so that's fine with me. To my mind, the missing element is something like a tiny light yellow petunia that would tumble between the lower spider plant/asparagus fern and the upright poinsettias. Hmm.
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Notice the clear orange daylilies have started blooming. This is where I had my morning coffee today, listening to lots of birds and the trees' leaves rustling in the breeze. So nice!
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Book Tag/Meme

Emily at Hazelnut Reflections tagged me a few too many days ago (sorry about that, Emily!). Books, books. I used to be defined by books and reading more than any other aspect of my self.

How many books do you own?
Er, um, I'm not sure. I know I brought 15 boxes of books to our marriage, and I used to be able to say we have about 35 shelf-feet of books. We have about eight boxes of books in the garage crying to be attended to, and 12x3' =36 bookshelf-feet of books, another 3-4 feet of books on the other shelves, and in my office maybe another 3-4 feet. Plus miscellaneous around here in various places. Most of the books, but not all, are mine. Let's say about 20 books per shelf-foot (maybe averaging a bit more than half an inch thick), so my guesstimate is 880 books in the house. Or so.

Last book you bought?
Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam, by James McPherson, a gift for my dear husband. A book purchase is rare, other than for gifts. I worked very hard about 10 years ago to break my habit of buying books to read. Now I rely heavily on the local library, somewhat on the city library, and occasionally I resort to interlibrary loan. At some point I might start using the university libraries as well, yum! For fiction, sometimes I borrow from friends as well.

Last book you read?
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, by Eoin Colfer -- quite fun. Son1 and I read the first Artemis Fowl at the same time a few weeks ago. He went on immediately to read the next three, and now I'm catching up. I finished this one yesterday and started the third book. Fun kids' book!

Five books that mean a lot to you?
Even skipping the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, my list is very faith-oriented. If you'd asked what writers, or what types of books, I'd give different answers...
1 & 2. The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings trilogy gave me glimpses of a world grounded in greater things when, as a child and teen, I knew nothing about faith and religion.
3. The History of Christianity, by Kenneth Scott Latourette, opened my eyes to the breadth, depth, and multitude of strands of Christianity worldwide from its beginning to the 1970s, at a time when I needed to know what was beyond my narrow experience. At two volumes and over 1,500 pages, I gave this book three years and lots of thinking and prayer.
4, 5, & 6. (Squeezing another in here!) Offering the Gospel to Children, by Gretchen Wolff Pritchard, affirmed and deepened my understanding of how to and why enrich the spiritual lives of children. Then Developmental Disabilities and Sacramental Access: New paradigms for sacramental encounters, edited by Edward Foley, and Experience the Mystery: Pastoral possibilities for Christian mystagogy, by David Regan, in a one-two punch, blew my mind and drew me beyond an intellectualized faith strengthened by reason above all else, and showed me that we can experience God and spiritual life without first understanding. Oh, the implications for children, developmentally delayed people, very ill people, and others unable to reason, and then... for all of us!

And now, who to tag? I'm not sure anyone will drop by soon, but let's try... Zelie, Dylan, and Trina.

Lacy sock-for-me progress

Ta da!
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Check out my tiny little fold-up sock-knitting notes, with handy-dandy yarnover diagrams and the four-row pattern I'm following. I'm knitting this sock at swim lessons and baseball until I get the heel flap stitches on Son2's navy blue sock picked up and the gusset decreases set up. From his sock-the-first, I learned that I need to concentrate until I get the decreases set up well. Perhaps sock-the-second will go better (I can only hope!).

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Nearby oil tank fire

Oil tank on fire this morning, about 10 am, a city block from my house. There were flames at the bottom and top of the tank, and smoke from both the bottom and the top. Yikes. View from the west, the distance of a normal block north from my house.
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The fire was out by 11 am, when we headed out for swim lessons. Lots of responders still there, blocking the road and doing whatever they were doing. The road was clear by 12:15 pm when we returned, with lots of water at the sides of the road, a tanker or some such and some pickups near the tanks, and a single fire truck and crew parked at the access from the road. View from the north.
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Distance shot, showing the oil pump and tanks, the road, and some of the responders. From the north.
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Monday, June 20, 2005

Baseball and Tball final spin-up

Tonight both Son2 and Son1 had ball games, and we learned that Son2 has a rainout makeup game tomorrow night. Son1's team started their baseball tournament tonight and lost, so their next game is Thursday night. Son2 has his final Tball game Wednesday night.

In other words, two games tonight, one Tuesday, one Wednesday, one Thursday. And that might be the end of baseball and Tball for this year, unless Son1's team wins on Thursday and stays in the tournament. The cool thing? The rest of this week's games start at 7 pm or later, so we can eat dinner at home beforehand, yay!

The other cool thing is that it turned out Toby Keith, famous country singer who lives in our town, was coaching the team Son1 played tonight. Huh! Whaddaya know.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Front garden in bloom

What IS blooming in my front garden bed near the front entryway (photos from early June): sunny yellow coreopsis, yellow pansies, yellow-tipped russet Mexican hat, and, beyond the Mexican hat, the flat disks of russet-orange-yellow Indian paintbrush blossoms. Rising above them on the right are the beginning buds of daylilies, which started blooming more recently (clear orange with russet throats). Cheery!
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I can't believe the pansies are still doing great (they're tucked under the coreopsis leaves on the left, and past the Mexican hat on the right). Many days in the 90s, and yet they're fine. Wow.

I love Mexican hat. Love, love, love it and I don't know why.
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They asked! Knitting boys

This afternoon my sons begged me to teach them to knit -- ! I rustled up some yarn and needles, cast on for each boy, and proceeded to wear myself out teaching and coaching them for the next little while. They came back to it every half hour or so until after dinner. I did some coaching each time, and in between I'd fix some of their problems so it'd be easier when they came back to it. They're starting to catch on!

Son2 asked first, and now he knits:
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Son1 now also knits:
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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Now that's a bit of canning!

And it was just peachy.
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I'm putting my feet up after a bunch of hours in the kitchen. Pleasant hours, actually, and I wish I had the stamina and the fruit to can MORE!

To my delight, I found my water-bath canner box in the garage very quickly last night, and next to it my box of pint jelly jars. Some years ago when I packed up the canner I had very neatly packed some quart jars with and in it, as well as the jar rack and the jar lifter. Yay! I ran those jars through the dishwasher last night and washed the canner itself this morning. Before I headed to bed last night I also printed various tip sheets from cooperative extension Web sites around the country. There was also a visit to the store early today to get pectin, ascorbic acid, more sugar, lids, and rings, and some pickling supplies.

Because... today I wanted to tackle the case (about 25 pounds) of peach "seconds" that I bought through the local food co-op. Here's what I got done:

1. Got reacquainted with the process.
2. Canned seven pints of peach jam cooked on the stove with pectin.
3. Canned four pints of peach jam or syrup -- we'll see! -- cooked in the oven without pectin. Also a plastic pint-plus container for the freezer, and two quart jars for the fridge (can we say "she ran out of jars that had canning-appropriate lids"?!?).
4. Tried the ascorbic acid/citric acid powder on the last four peeled peaches, sliced -- it definitely prevents them from turning brown.
5. Learned that jam-making and canning are soooo easy, and I want to do more, more, more. Hehehe.

I think tomorrow I'm going to peel-and-slice-and-prep-and-freeze the rest of the peaches, reserving about 10 for two peach pies. I would bake just one pie, but it's the perfect thing to take to the Sunday evening Holy Eucharist-and-grill-your-dinner service. Way more interesting than baked beans or a green salad, and... it's what I have, so it's what I should take. That keeps life simple.

I'm already laying plans to buy another couple dozen pint jars and a dozen or more quart jars for later this summer (blackberries are in already). Hmmm. Looking through my cookbooks I remembered with pleasure that once upon a time, a decade or so ago, I made a purple plum jam with orange liqueur, and a peach jam with brown sugar and rum. I just might have to buy a little rum...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Watchin' a little movie on television

Sometimes a little television is good for the heart, or at least, gets me crying at the end (reminds me of my reading the other day!).

We watched the first installment of Into the West -- seemed good, we enjoyed it. Then, whaddaya know, Gladiator is on! The recent one, with Russell Crowe. I stayed up and watched the whole thing, even though I've seen it and I KNOW about the tragedy and madness, and how it all ends. So terribly sad. Yet lush and gorgeous to watch -- costumes, sets, lighting, the way the movie unfolds, the whole bit.

I realized that for me this movie is equally or more about Marcus Aurelius's daughter (Lucilla?) than it is about Maximus, Russell Crowe's character. Her situation is so incredibly tragic; she is trapped with her insane brother like an insect in a spider's sticky web, and it means her beloved son is sooo vulnerable. You see it all in her face every time she's on screen.

Interestingly, I'm pretty sure that TNT or whoever cut a LOT of gore, 'cause I seem to recall this as a very, extremely, semi-shockingly gory movie but we sure didn't see much of anything in that direction tonight. Not in the opening battle, not in the gladiators' fights. Hm. Makes the movie kind of different, and I think it's a better movie with than without that stuff.

Anyway, I may be a sucker, but I think this movie is quite worth watching. The end, the tragic, inevitable, noble end! Sniff, sniff, sniffle.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Mother of sons

I have three brothers, all of whom now tower over me. I remember my mom joking about and just plain noticing as each got bigger than her (and bigger, and bigger -- she's about 5'3", I think, and they all reached at least 6'2" as adults). My oldest, age 9 1/2, now stands a bit taller than my nose, and I've been remembering Mom's experience and bracing for my own. In late winter we discovered that Son1 could wear my crew socks if he was out of clean socks. They were a bit big, but would do in a pinch. Oh boy.

Last night I paused near the kids' coat-and-hat-and-backpack peg rack, under which are lined up their shoes and sandals. I looked down, and realized that Son1's new sandals were at least as big as my flipflops. His feet might even be bigger than mine by now. Oh. My.

Very mixed feelings. Momma pride in who he is becoming... curiousity as to exactly how big he is going to be! ...and sweet memories of gone-forever tiny pearl baby toes. Awwww.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

One Thousand White Women

This evening I finished One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd, a novel, by Jim Fergus. Tears in my eyes still.

Are you interested in the American West, life as it might have been on the wild Great Plains, women bucking mid-nineteenth-century social mores, fictionalized first-person writing, a new life in a completely different culture, or the beyond-tragic collision of whites with the native Americans? I invite you to read this book. Exciting in the beginning, a fascinating read throughout, extremely bittersweet in the end.

I have heard that Oklahoma, my adopted home, has more native Americans than any other U.S. state except Alaska -- because they were forcibly settled here at the end of the Trail of Tears, for example. I've mostly avoided the Big Subject of the native American experience with whites in North America; I think I'll dare to learn a bit more now.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What to do with today's local produce

We stopped in at the local farm market this morning and spent the cash I had on me -- not quite $10 -- to get: a pound of tiny red new potatoes, a pound of tiny white potatoes; four medium zucchini; five small summer squash; five or six little pickling cucumbers; a quart of local sand plums. If I'd seen the $6-a-quart blueberries earlier, I'd've gotten those instead of something else!

In about a minute I'm going to turn off the computer a/k/a heat generator and head to the kitchen to slice and ice the pickling cucumbers AND several of the little summer squash so I can make bread-and-butter pickles (for the first time!) tonight.

I'll also wash the supermarket strawberries so we can eat them (goodbye pesticides I hope).

Except the boys and I appear to have hit the wall about one minute ago. Since lunch they've been sniping at each other endlessly and I don't have endless patience. It's starting to look like an after-lunch thing that I have no clue as to how to get under control/released with deep breathing and new ideas. I've had them in separate rooms since lunch, so now they're switching rooms.

I'm gonna try to get the pickle stuff sliced and iced anyway. After dinner tonight I want to stew the rhubarb (supermarket) and, separately, the sand plums. Then I can refrigerate them and use them this week or weekend. I don't have enough of either to can, nor is my canning stuff even retrieved from boxes yet, nor do I want to can after baseball games tonight!

Maybe the pickle thing will pique the boys' interest and change their focus... We leave for Son2's swim class in half an hour anyway. After that -- popsicles, a bit of TV, and maybe we can do some reading aloud and dinner prep before getting dear husband for our baseball evening.

Start-of-summer struggle

It was great last week, the first few days of the kids' summer vacation and our radical change of gears. We enjoyed each other, the kids were getting along, and everything was much, much better than the first week of LAST summer (shudder).

It all fell apart this last Monday. Horrible day -- well, afternoon. The kids were crabby, I was crabby, there was no relaxation or enjoyment but miserly crabbing and dissatisfaction with everything, on a background of rush, rush, rush. At the end of the day, when we were going to pick up dear husband from work, we were all nearly in tears and I realized that I felt responsibility for how badly the day had gone though I wasn't sure exactly what I'd done wrong. I told the boys so, apologized, and promised to do my best to figure it out and do better. My first thought was that we can't do three scheduled things in one day -- or at least not on a nearly daily basis; I can't prep and catch up and take care of that day all at once on a consistent basis.

It took me a day or two, but now I think the day was horrible mostly because I had a deadline I was working on in between a meeting, swim lesson, and evening baseball games, and what I needed to do to prep for each of them and make sure everyone was fed. Oh, and I'd forgotten to wash the baseball uniforms. Bleagh. When we got to the games I bought everyone a hot dog to "top 'em off", relaxed and enjoyed the (hot, breezy) summer evening and watching Son1 play second base -- that was fun! And he did pretty well, yay Son1!

Yesterday was better. I hope today will be better still. We're spending all morning and early afternoon at home. I'll do some kitchen work and my table work and a telephone call, all of which I can do companionably with the kids -- except maybe the phone call. I even have a plan for dinner and for laundry. And we have new books from the library to read and/or read aloud. A favorite that Son1 read to us on the way to baseball practice last night is Technically It's Not My Fault: Concrete Poems. Sooo hilarious! We laughed all the way to practice. We have baseball games tonight, so we'll be in those hot summer breezes again, cheering on our boys as the sun slips wonderfully low in the sky.

We saw the tiny moving stars of fireflies above the fields a night or two ago. Summer is well underway.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sock knitting starts to fly

Progress is made! I struggled through the gusset decreases on sock-the-first for Son2. When I finally redid that enough times to be okay with it, the foot went great, and the toe went smoothly too. Wheee!

Right away I cast on for the second sock, and just two days later I have the cuff nearly done. My ribbing on this cuff is much smoother and more regular than the first one! Just four more rounds and it'll be time for the heel flap. I don't think you can actually tell that I did an alternating slip stitch on that first heel. I thought that might be what the mysterious eye of partridge heel was, and I like the look much better; it's more subtle in a nice way.

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Just for fun I'm also using a row counter that I got for free in a bag of "estate" knitting needles I bought from a friend for a buck per pair of straights or circular. These needles, though, are some bamboo double-pointed needles (size 2.75mm, I think) that I got 'cause this acrylic Bernat Hot Sox was sliding all over my aluminum dpns.

I love rapid progress!

Since my knitting needles seem to be flying all of a sudden, I feel more confident about learning to do yarnovers and getting comfortable with the pattern for the socks I'm knitting for myself. Here's a picture of how they've looked for a few weeks, with the caston and two edging rows knitted!

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They'll be a lacy-columns simplification of the New England Sock from Knitting on the Road, in an ivory machine-washable cotton-wool-nylon sock yarn. The aluminum double-pointed needles (size US1, I think) seem nice with this cotton-wool-nylon yarn.