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Jul. 7th, 2014

Hot weekend. No, really.

Welcome to July. I took Jake out for an hour on Friday, and we were both wiped out from that.

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A tired dog is a good dog.

That afternoon, I went to the garden center and got some things for a new garden bed I'm making in the back yard. Last week, I went online looking for jewelweed and fell down the wildflower rabbit hole, and ended up buying a LOT of seeds for various things. So I got some landscaping timbers, some fencing (to keep Jake out), and some dirt. By the time I got those in the car and got home, I was dripping wet. Man, summer.

On Saturday, I taught the aqua bike and the aqua aerobics classes for another teacher who asked me to sub. I went to the commissary and ran some other errands. Not surprisingly, I had to have a nap.

Yesterday, I tackled the garden tasks. I planted a few things I'd gotten, and turned over some of the soil where I'm putting in this garden bed. After I've been in direct sun for 30 minutes, I'm so tired and sweaty that I can barely lift a shovel or a bag of dirt. I got about a third of it done, and the rest can wait. The plants that needed to be in the ground are in the ground. After I recovered, I took Jake to the dog park, and he was ready to go after 30 minutes. It's just brutal outside.

The tomatoes are producing in droves. The squash I planted are not: I have lots of flowers and no squash. I have a squash-like volunteer in the tomato bed, but I don't know what it is. It's not hurting anyone so far, so I'm leaving it alone.

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not squash

Jun. 20th, 2014

Friday, o frabjous day!

Friday is here! It's hot as a frigging sauna outside, interrupted with thunderstorms. The storms do nothing to reduce the humidity: they only make it worse. (This is the price we pay for mild winters.) That's okay, at least I work indoors. If it weren't for air conditioning, I guess I'd have to live in Canada.

I have some manuals to put together this afternoon, otherwise I'll be reviewing invoices, as the end of the fiscal year is upon us. Editorial remarks deleted, because I'm lucky to have a job in this crap economy. A good friend of mine has been looking for work for ages, and stays afloat barely by doing odd jobs (including walking Jake). She ran out of gas yesterday and the cops came to help push her off the roadway, then took her car's license plate because her insurance had lapsed. Her phone's been turned off, as well. Awesome. It reminds me that a lot of folks live right at the edge, and the smallest thing just cascades. I may be bored, but I'm able to pay my bills.

Tomorrow, I'm going with David a couple of hours north so he can got to a big War Practice for the SCA. I will take knitting, reading, and binoculars, and find myself something do once I get there. Hey, there might be a yarn shop in the area, who knows? The main reason I'm going is so that I can drive home afterwards, because he'll be exhausted. We'll get to spend some time together driving up and back, too. We rarely do anything together anymore - he's working all the time, and even if he wants to do whatever I'm doing, he feels like he can't take the time off. That Protestant work ethic is very demanding.

I considered applying for a part-time job opening up here at work, but decided against it. I'd lose my benefits, including our dental insurance. It would also halve my income, which isn't a huge amount, but I do like having it!

In weaving news, I've ordered a baby blanket kit, because one of my cousins is having another baby. I'm not sure when she's due, but I saw a photo of her yesterday and she looks about 6 months gone, so I'm on a deadline. The kit is for two blankets, so I'll even have a spare. Heh. Anyway, I usually crochet or knit for these occasions, so I'm excited to have another way to create things. Weaving's only tedious in the set-up - after that, it's really fast. (I am SO SICK of crocheting baby blankets, ugh.)

In my generation of the family, I'm part of the oldest group. My Uncle Bill's kids are about 15 years younger than me. My cousins from my stepfather's family are even younger. They've been having babies over the past ten years, and I've greeted each with a blankie. I expect I'll need to make more blankets, hats, and booties at some point. I'm just grateful that I'm not close enough to my Kirchner cousins to be on the baby shower circuit. There are a pile of them!

Jun. 12th, 2014

not much excitement around here

So my weeks have been work and meetings, and my weekends are mostly yard work. (My kid's supposed to do that, but he's not speaking to his dad right now. Editorial remarks redacted.)

I did go to an AA function up in Raleigh a couple of weeks ago. I have finally, 25 years after the last time, gotten a service position above the group level. That is, I represent my group at the district level. In AA, all the authority rests with the groups. When decisions need to be made or votes taken, the group rep asks the group, and takes that decision back to the larger district or area, and votes the group conscience. (Ideally.)

I did service work in the local Intergroup in the DC area years ago and detested it. I was much too impatient and judgmental to do committee work. I'm not much better today, but apparently, I can listen to others peacefully, despite my judgmental feelings about whatever. Anyway, I went to the Assembly, voted, and survived. (Knitting really helps.)

Things at work are tight - the financials this year have been bad. I doubt my job's in danger, but two other people whose positions were based on fulfilling a state contract are leaving, now that the state backed out of the contract. (Way to vote Republican, you guys.)

David and I have discussed my leaving here and helping him out in his work. That is not a good idea: we shouldn't spend that much time together and our work habits are completely different. This is a good work environment, even though I am bored witless, and I get pretty good benefits. This year, I doubled my 401K contribution from 10% to 20% of my gross salary. It's not a huge amount, but I'm so glad I am able to do that. Most of my life, I've felt pressed for money, and I don't today. That's priceless, right there. So I will stay here and plug away, and do some admin stuff for David in my downtime, and preserve my sanity and my marriage work on my weaving. Ahem.

May. 23rd, 2014


Last Thursday, Mom and I flew to Boston. We drove to Hartford, CT, to see my cousin William, his wife Nikki, and their daughter Mitzi, who is as cute as pie. We stayed the night and when he mom went to wake her up in the morning, she said, "Where's Aunt Kate?" Good girl, Mitzi. We went further west in CT to see another cousin, Lisa, and had a lovely visit. We were headed to southwestern New Hampshire, to a knitting weekend thing, and we finally got there around five on Friday.

On Saturday, we went to Harrisville Designs. They've been in business since 1830 or so, and have weathered many ups and downs. I have an HD loom. Mostly, they spin yarn, and teach crafts these days. Harrisville is a mill town - Mr. Harris built his mill on the river, then built his home nearby, his kids built their houses, and they had to build some boarding house to house the mill workers. They eventually built another mill building, three retention ponds for water control, and now the spinning mill has been re-built about 5 miles away.

This is the second mill building. The water doesn't go to the building, the horizontal line you see is the damn in front of it.


The wool carding set up is about 100 feet long, and goes from larger to finer combs as it goes along. What goes in is chunks of dyed wool:


And what comes out is 2 mm thick roving (unspun wool):


Then the roving spool is taken to the spinning machines. This was a bank of machines about 50 feet long, one on either side of an aisle.



As the wool goes through the machine, twist is added with both the rotating spool and the little wire traveller on the rim of the spool socket, which whips around to wind the yarn onto the spool.


And finally, here is the man himself, telling us how it's all done.


This fellow is the mill owner, Chip. His family bought the mill and other buildings from Mr. Harris after the Civil War and have run it ever since. The mill closed in the seventies when fashion went crazy for doubleknit, and woven fabric couldn't be given away. Chip has managed by hook or by crook to get the business back on its feet, and his son Nick is working there too, getting his training to take over. Chip's views on business management, the history of Harrisville and Harrisville Designs, the relative value of tourism, and his deep and abiding love for his little New Hampshire town were quite inspiring. I bought 13 skeins of yarn after the talk. I have zero need for more yarn, not that it matters, but I want to support this effort. I might have to take a class up there this summer.

On Sunday, I got up with the chickens and drove to the airport to go to Chicago, to see my darling stepdaughter graduate from high school. David was already there, and we went to the graduation ceremony at the Sears Arena. Finding your kid in a crowd is pretty easy when her hair is contruction cone orange.

Grad 2014


Grad 2014

The child and her besties.

Grad 2014

She certainly is a beauty. I harassed her mercilessly talked to her about going to college while I was there. She's planning to get trained as a massage therapist. I said she could go to community college for two years, get an AA degree in business, and that would help her run her practice. Failing that, I might kidnap her and make her go to school at gunpoint. (Hi, Aunt Jean. The apple didn't fall far from the tree, did it?)

May. 14th, 2014

travelling weekend

So tomorrow, Mom and I are going to New England to see some family and attend a knitting weekend event in New Hampshire. It's a very swanky thing, Friday to Monday. However, I must leave on Sunday and fly to Chicago, because my daughter Sammi is graduating from high school. David's going to fly to Chicago tomorrow and do some recruiting work and visit Sammi. He comes home on Monday, and I'll fly back to Boston and see more family, then Mom and I will fly home on Tuesday. Zoom! I don't mind flying but I detest airports. I'll need to practice my loving kindness meditations while going through security.

Summer has arrived with a dull thud. Hot and humid is here to stay. Oof. I set up a drip hose to irrigate my raised bed garden this summer, and I'm hoping that will do the job. So far, so good - the tomatoes already have flowers. Mmm, tomatoes. I also got two squash plants at the big box store yesterday for the other raised bed. I hope squash does better this year - last year, the zucchini got some kind of rot. I'm hoping the drip irrigation helps with that.

I took the afternoon off yesterday. When my boss denied my request to work 32 hours per week instead of 40, on grounds of budget & office politics, he told me I could take whatever personal time I need. I'm going to do just that. When David was in Civil Affairs, they used to say "if you don't have anything to do, don't do it here!" Anyway, I have plenty to do at home to get ready for the trip, so I bailed. I'll work the whole day today, though, since I have some preparations to make before being out of the office.

Last night, David got an idea for a new sword display.

scottish swords

Careful with the light switches in my house, y'all.

May. 7th, 2014

May already

Not too much to report here. My stepfather and I went to see Bruce Springsteen, another great show. One of the things that I love about Springsteen is that he honestly loves people. His daughter is graduating from Duke this year, and she was at the show. He pulled her up on stage for a quick dance. He's clearly very proud of her (and rightly so).


My co-workers and I toured the Gourd Museum in Angier, NC. This was a reward for meeting our goals for an event held last spring. (Second prize, two trips.)


You can see about half of the display in this picture. It could be charitably described as outsider art. Or ugly as a mud fence.

I went on a kayaking trip, first time in months, with the Friends of the Sampson County waterways.


Great Coharie Creek, in Sampson County. I love our waterways - cypress knees, Spanish moss, birds and flowers everywhere. One of the other paddlers told me a harrowing tale of nearly drowning last year. As he spoke, I noticed he wasn't wearing his life vest. Boy's a slow learner.

This past weekend, I went to the beach for my biannual Women's Serenity Retreat.


Can't beat that. Plus, the retreat leader brought in all kinds of nail polishes and told us to have fun. I haven't worn nail polish in years, but I did this:


It looked more turquoise in the bottle.

Apr. 9th, 2014

More music

So Monday night, I went to see Todd Rundgren in concert. He was at the Carolina Theater in Durham, with three band members and no opening act. He was great, but the sound was bad way up in the nosebleed seats where I was. That's okay, we all sang along anyway. I spent the night at my mom's house and drove home early Tuesday morning. I don't enjoy getting up that early, but I do like seeing the sun rise.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Durham for the Food Truck Rodeo, and to see a NYC band, PitchBlak Brass Band. Here's a video for their single, Virus. Warning, this performance contains rap, but also a smoking-hot horn section. Don't give up. I am not much for rap, but the band is fantastic. I saw a post on Facebook from an arts center in Durham about PitchBlak and the rodeo, and loved the music. I met up with Renee and her daughter Alix at the rodeo. The food I had was okay, but the music and the company were excellent.

A few months ago, I told my cousin Andrew that I didn't like new music. Of course, since then, I've found all kinds of stuff that I like. I just can't find it on the radio, that's all. I get most of my new music via recommendations and links from my imaginary internet friends, and mostly from Columbine. (Those who know him know who I mean.) One thing I got from NPR was Pharrell William's Happy. I guess I'm about the last person in the world to hear that tune. It's a great song, but a terrible earworm - it's almost impossible to get it out of my head. So far, I have managed to avoid hearing "Let It Go," from the movie Frozen. I'm sure it will get me eventually.

Other than that, there's not too much going on. I've been walking Jake and cooking, and sitting around. I've hardly touched my looms, and I haven't been in my kayak in ages. I've signed up for a paddle trip on the Cape Fear River in two weeks. I have no plans for this weekend, and I'm hoping that I can find the motivation to get my loom warped and try doubleweave. Last Friday, I took a spinning class at the Carolina Fiber Festival, where I learned a very important lesson: I don't need to spin. It's bad enough that I use thread to make cloth. I don't need to make my own thread. I'm glad I learned that before I bought a spinning wheel. (I got a flax wheel at an antique store last fall, but it's strictly decorative.) Apparently, there is a limit to my love of string. Who knew?

Mar. 24th, 2014

small, medium, large

On Saturday night, I drove out to Saxapahaw, NC to see Jonathan Byrd. He was the opening act for The Duhks. I'd never heard of 'em, but I figured if Jonathan was opening for them, they must be pretty good.


And so they were. Jonathan's my guy, of course, and I really enjoyed his show. The Duhks, despite the terrible name, are a great band, very Celtic/bluegrass/foot-stomping reels and jigs. There were probably 400 people there. I guess The Duhks had been off the circuit for a while, so their return was a big deal. Still, a pretty small show.

I left before the very end, as I'm leery of driving on the two lane back roads on a Saturday night, especially as it gets closer to closing time. Saxapahaw is just under two hours away. It was a pleasant and uneventful drive both ways.

Sunday, I went to see Asleep at the Wheel play at the Poplar Knight Spot in Aberdeen. This is the third time I've seen them there. The band line up has changed a little bit, but the show was just as great as ever. Here's a photo:


My apologies for the terrible photo - I was way off to the side. Feel free to click through to the full size photo, such as it is. The cowboy hat on the right is Ray Benson, founder and mainstay. The cowboy hat on the right is Eddie Rivers, on the steel guitar. The woman in the center is Katie Holmes, on the fiddle. The bass player is behind Ray. I didn't catch the drummer's name, but he didn't fall asleep once (despite what my dad always days). The piano man, Dan Walters, is hidden behind Ray. They are all great musicians, and they put on a a terrific show.

Asleep at the Wheel has been recording and touring since 1962. They're really big in Texas, but sort of a medium sized musical act. The Poplar Knight Spot only holds 100 people who really like each other, so it was a pleasantly intimate show.

Tonight, I'm going to see Crosby, Stills, and Nash with my dad and his aide. This show is at a stadium, so it's a big one. It's funny to go to these shows - everyone there is my age and older. I've been going to concerts with the same group of people since the 70s. Only these days, I wear hearing protection, and I remember the whole show the next day. Hah!

Mar. 12th, 2014

Buster (Brown)

We are dog-sitting these days. My stepson and his girlfriend/fiancee have a puggle named Buster. She's out of town for three days, and Aiden works 14 hour days out of town, so I volunteered to keep him.

Here he is with Jake:


and in the yard:


He's been to the house a couple of times, but last night was the first overnight. We had a little pandemonium, and it took a while to get everyone to settle down. Then David came to bed after midnight, and that woke all the dogs up again. So I took everyone outside, and then we (me & the dogs) slept in the family room. I laid down on the couch, and Buster popped right up to join me. That couch is not big enough for me, much less me and a 30 pound dog, but we made do.


Buster was overfed by Abby's mom, and he's on a strict diet these days.

Today, David's out of the house all day at a job fair, so I've gone home twice to make sure the dogs are okay and empty. Everyone seems fine, although Dolly is NOT amused at a third dog in the house. There was much huffing and puffing yesterday, but she seems resigned now.

Dolly has taken to leaving the back yard lately. She pushes through the gate and strolls out to the front yard. She never goes far, so it's not a big deal for her, but now Jake is out there too, and he bolts. Three times in the past few days, we've left them out there for 10 minutes or so, only to notice Dolly walking past the kitchen window. The first two times, Jake came right back, and got praise and a cookie for a prompt return. This morning at 7:30, he did not come right back. I whistled, called, nothing. Finally, I got in my car and drove around a bit, and found him a few houses down. I put the car in park and opened the back door where he rides, and he ran and jumped in the car. Phew. So now we can't leave Dolly in the back yard, and I guess it's just a matter of time before Jake figures out that if she can push her way out, he can too. I'm going to try a bungee cord on the gate, and see if that helps. Even if Dolly gets out, if the gate closes up behind her, Jake will be in.

By the way, this morning, Buster let me know something was wrong. I heard him barking, so I went to the door and there he was, a few feet from the open gate. Good boy, Buster! If he'd run off, I would have lost my mind. Buster's a little skittish, but he's a good dog over all. (I had to explain to Abby why I call him Buster Brown - she's 19 and had never heard of Buster Brown and His Dog Tige. Just a baby, that one.)

This whole event is another earthquake in the generational shift: it used to be that Mom and Phil were the Kids going to see his folks, then David and I were the Kids going to visit my folks. Now we have the Kids coming to see us, and we get to babysit the grand-dog. This is both delightful and frightening, together.

Mar. 7th, 2014

cold, cold rain

Since forever, it seems. I'm so over it. It's supposed to clear up tomorrow and hurray for that. Yuck.

Yesterday, David started training a new recruiter for his company, at our house. He's a nice guy, who was in the Army with David. Well, David bought some big fat steaks for dinner, but it turns out the guy doesn't eat red meat. Good thing he mentioned it before cooking. Anyway, I pulled together a big spaghetti dinner out of the cupboard and freezer, with salad, garlic bread and dessert. Shazaam!

I took an online seminar yesterday on the business of being a fiber artist, and here are my takeaways: don't quit your day job; practice, practice, practice; think about bang versus buck; and it's okay to make a profit on your work. That is, weaving scarves can be great, but the warping and finishing work are very time-consuming: can I charge enough for the item to pay for that time? Making fabric and sewing it into something might be great, if you like to sew. Sometimes you can find something small and easy to make, spend one day a week making those in bulk, and spend your other hours working on something more intricate. A thought-provoking talk, and well worth the investment, I thought. It's one thing to daydream about weaving and another thing entirely to make a business plan, weave for production, and market your wares.

This weekend, I'm starting an eight week series of seminars on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. (That title needs some stress reduction, sheesh.) I'm the type who falls asleep at meditation sessions, but I'm hopeful that I'll learn some useful techniques for focusing on the good in my life. I hope that this training will help me to live more peacefully, at work, home, and meetings. I have a hunch that stress is related to being mad about things I can't control. It's just a hunch.

And in a move that should surprise exactly no one, I've signed up for an all-day spinning class at the next Carolina Fiber Festival. I have maintained for years that I don't need to make my own yarn, there's plenty for sale, and yet here I am. No self-restraint, that's me. I got a small flax wheel from a local antique store last fall, on the grounds that it was pretty and I liked it, but had no plans to do anything but gaze at it admiringly.

Flax wheel
Wouldn't you?

I'd say I'd lost my mind, but really, that sucker took off years ago.

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