Thursday, September 30, 2004

Still Time to Join
I'm really enjoying the Six Sox Knitalong where over 700 of us are knitting the same sock pattern at the same time and yet everyone's socks are unique. Different yarns, colors, cuff lengths, heel types, toe types - the only thing every sock has in common is the stitch pattern used.

The October/November sock stitch pattern is Fluted Banister, a forgiving, stretchy, easy to knit, fancy ribbing. I know that because we had a chance to practice the stitch ahead of time by making a toddler or child version of Fluted Banisters for CIC.

For each picture of a pair of completed Fluted Banister CIC socks posted in the Six Sox Knitalong photo section by October 11, the knitter gets an entry in a special drawing. One of the prizes is a 100g skein of Mountain Colors Weaver's Wool yarn in the colorway "Winter Sky." Susan has just announced an additional drawing for a sock pattern of choice from The Knitter.

If you're not a member of the Six Sox Knitalong, it's not to late to join up, knit some cute, quick little socks for a great cause, and possibly win a prize.

If you don't want to join the group but need the perfect pattern for CIC socks, the pattern link is here.

Fluted Banister vest and socks for CICFor each pattern in the Six Sox Knitalong, I've challenged myself to knit a pair of corresponding CIC socks and incorporate the stitch pattern into a warm, wool CIC toddler vest.

This is my Fluted Banister vest and socks, knit, washed, and ready to get sent to the central CIC distribution location.

What is CIC?
Each time I write about CIC, someone asks me what it is.

CIC, Children in Common, is a group of parents who adopted children from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. They were so shocked at the conditions in the orphanages that they banded together to try and help the children that had to be left behind.

It's estimated there are about 700,000 children living in orphanages there.

Winter indoor temperatures in the orphanages hover around 45 Fahrenheit (that's 7 Celsius). That's why CIC requests knit sweaters, vests, socks, in at least 70% wool. I use 100% wool.

The greatest need is for wool worsted weight socks and wool bulky weight vests for the very young children. The older children are taught how to knit for themselves.

The knitted items are sent to a central location (a CIC parent's garage). They are then packed into suitcases and taken directly to the orphanages by couples traveling to the area to pick up a child they are adopting. This prevents the donations from being "side tracked" and sold, never making it to their intended destination.

Hope this inspires you to knit up a pair of CIC Fluted Banisters. They're quick and fun and oh so needed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

To Wash or Not To Wash . .
After reading one of Cliff's posts, I've decided to 'fess up.

I'm one of those horrible women that other women "tut tut" about. I don't always wash my hands after using a public restroom.

I have my BS in Biomedical Science with an emphasis on microbiology.

People with degrees like mine tend to one of two extremes. Either they have germ phobia and attempt to live a sterile life or they understand that the futile fight against germs can cause more harm than good.

We all have a natural flora. There are millions of microbes living all over us and inside us. That's the way it's supposed to be.

When that natural flora is reduced or eliminated, it provides the unnatural flora an opportunity to establish itself. That's why patients on strong antibiotics get diarrhea.

I don't wash my hands in a public bathroom because I want my natural flora intact to fight off any strange germs that may be trying to set up housekeeping on or in my body.

I guess this means I am a little germ phobic - but only other people's germs. My resident germs are welcome to stay right with me to guard their territory.

Do you always wash your hands? Be truthful now.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Flower Questions
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

"Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day - like writing a poem, or saying a prayer."
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Fall bouquetThe above quote from Sunday Brunch reminded me of the pleasure of cutting flowers and bringing them in the house.

This morning I went out and collected a few of the very few remaining blooms in the field.

Most of the plants have turned brown and gone to seed, so I had to hike around to find these flowers, making them all the more precious as winter approaches.

1) If you had a wedding, what flowers did you have at your wedding?

First wedding I had a beautiful bouquet, but I don't remember what kind of flowers were in it. The groom had a good friend who owned a flower shop and she did all the flowers for free.

I don't recall having a choice about what kind of flowers she provided. Or maybe she did ask me and I told her it didn't matter. At age twenty I wasn't into flowers and could hardly tell a rose from a lily.

Let that be a lesson to all young girls: If you don't know your flowers, you are too young to get married.

Violets in the springtime2) What is your favorite flower?
I love almost all flowers. My favorites are the violets that grow wild and bloom in the spring. That is how I ended up with "violet" as my email id and Seasons of Violet as my blog name.

My least favorite flowers are the mums that everyone plants in the fall to extend the garden color season. They are attractive to see but they smell awful.

My father died unexpectedly in the fall when I was in my teens. Many of the flowers at his funeral were mums. Not only was I in shock and in mourning, I had to deal with being surrounded by stinky flowers.

Goldenrod and Queen Anne's lace gone to seed3) Do you have flowers as part of your landscaping outside or your interior decor?
Tons of flowers outside. Most of them wildflowers growing in the back three acres. This time of year they have almost all gone to seed, even the autumn blooming goldenrod and Queen Anne's lace.

The front two acres around the house are very shaded and it is not easy to grow plants with pretty blooms. I plant annual impatiens for a block of strong color all summer.

I'm lousy with house plants, so I only have flowers inside when I pick them outside and bring them in.

4) If you went to your high school prom(s), what kind of flower did you wear in your corsage or boutonniere?
Gardenia, orchid, and carnations.

When I got the gardenia I had to ask my mother what it was - but not in front of my date.

5) Do you like to receive flowers as a gift or do you think it is a waste of money?
I love to receive flowers as a gift, especially in the dregs of winter when there haven't been any flowers in the yard for months. DH sent me a mixed bouquet in March once many years ago.

Waste of money? Probably it was. But it's one of my fondest memories because there was no reason for him to do it except he thought I would like it.

What is your favorite flower?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Quiz Time
It's been a long time since I posted a quiz.

What Is Your Animal Personality?

brought to you by Quizilla

What is your animal personality?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Stupid Woman
There is a stupid lady in one of the doggy school classes I attend. When you first meet her, she appears to be normal. After a few conversations it is obvious that she is Stupid Woman.

The first definition of stupid from Merriam-Webster:

a : slow of mind : OBTUSE
b : given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner
c : lacking intelligence or reason

The lady in question is not slow of mind. She is very quick about making unintelligent decisions and/or acting in an unintelligent or careless manner lacking intelligence or reason. She really is stupid.

Much to my regret, I can't write about the things she does and says. It is too likely that someone from doggy school will see what I've written.

Doggy school is a kind and pleasant place. At doggy school, we all get along. It's not worth risking that peaceful atmosphere to write posts about Stupid Woman. Too bad. You would enjoy them.

What I'm blogging today is perfectly safe. Stupid Woman has no idea she is stupid. If she comes to Seasons of Violet and reads this, she will wonder who I'm writing about.

It won't be me who tells her she is stupid. She's bigger than I am.

Premature Catalogs
Christmas catalogs are arriving in my mailbox. A pox on them! It isn't even Halloween yet!

Last Saturday, September 18, the LL Bean Christmas catalog showed up. Then Monday the National Wildlife and Paragon catalogs appeared in the mailbox.

Yuk! I refuse to look at them and I refuse to buy anything from companies that send out their catalogs this early to upset the few remaining days of summer with thoughts of Christmas.

Are you thinking about Christmas yet?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

School Supplies!
After several weeks of leaving Sunday Brunchers in the lurch without Sunday meme questions to answer, Jeanne let us know that she's too busy with life right now to keep the website going.

The good news is that Sunday Brunch has been resurrected by Erica. She plans to get the questions up on Saturday night, so we'll have plenty of time to write our answers on Sunday. Sounds perfect.

This week, however, the questions were posted late Sunday night, so my answers are late also.

If the first set of questions is any indication, Sunday Brunch is going to continue in fine shape. Thanks Erica.

Questions from Sunday Brunch.

1) Do you prefer wide rule or college rule notebook paper?

College rule when I'm writing paragraphs and wide rule when I'm making lists. Since I do most of my paragraph writing in Word now, all my pads are wide rule.
2) What is your favorite writing instrument?
The two basics I use daily are
  • A #2 lead mechanical pencil with a good eraser.

  • A smooth writing ball point pen that doesn't leave ink blobs. The last pack of suitable pens I bought were Papermate Comfortmate.
3) What is the one office or school supply that you can’t live without?
Pads of lined paper in pretty colors, both small and large size. I use them to write my lists and plan my days.
4) Staples or paper clips?
Staples. Most multiple page documents I want to keep are going into a file until they are tossed out. The staples fit in the file folders without making a bulge.

I also staple the pages of knitting patterns I've printed out from the internet. It keeps them permanently together and in the right order.
5) Describe the contents of the top of your desk.
The closest thing I have to a desk is a table in the back room next to the old couch where I sit, pray, read, think, and make my lists. The table currently contains the following:
  • My primary Bible and Reversed Thunder, a study of Revelation by Eugene H. Peterson. I'm enjoying his thoughts on Revelation while getting more acquainted with that awesome book of the Bible.

  • My Flylady control journal. It has cleaning routines for each room in the house. Now if the fairies would only come and do them.

  • A three ring notebook containing printouts of Menu Mailer from the last three months, including the one for this week.

    Menu-Mailer is a weekly email newsletter by Leanne Ely containing a weekly menu, recipes, and a shopping list. The meals are tasty, healthy, and easy to fix.

    I've been using Menu Mailer for three months now and have been able to maintain my forty pound weight loss while learning how to cook and eat completely different from the old way.

  • Hard copy calendar.

    I've used electronic calendars and found that I enjoy and prefer an old fashioned paper calendar. I use the 5 X 8 size and usually carry it in my purse when I go out.

  • Pencil holder containing pencils and pens as described above plus highlighters, a large sissors and a nail sissors.

  • A skein of Opal handpainted yarn wound into two balls in anticipation of starting the third sock in the Six Sock Knitalong.

  • A skein of green Opal Magic wound into three balls in anticipation of starting a pair of socks for Monette to wear with her green teeshirt.

    It should be only two balls, but there was a knot in the skein. Bother!

  • Printout of Susan's free internet pattern for a Barbie Poncho. It's going to be so much fun to knit this. I just have to figure out when to do it.

    My knitting list is getting way too long. One of the few reasons I'm glad that winter is coming.
What's on your desk/work area that doesn't belong there?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Where's Dinner?
Blue heron looking for dinner in the pondOccasionally we are treated to a visit from a hungry great blue heron. This one stopped by this evening and was perfectly content to keep looking for dinner while I snapped its picture.

Great blue heron are four to five feet tall with a wingspan of up to six feet.

They also wade in our creek looking for food. Sometimes they hunt at night. It's a very eerie feeling to have one of these enormous, prehistoric looking birds rise up out of the water and fly over my head when it's dark outside.

Pansies Planted
Freshly planted pansiesThis is the first time I've ever planted pansies in the fall. According to what I've been told, they will bloom during the winter thaws and in the spring before the ground warms up enough to plant annuals.

One of these pansies smiling at me in February would make my day, so it's worth a try.

The torenia clown mix annuals I had planted in this spot weren't happy enough to keep blooming until the first frost. (First frost here is usually the first half of October.) They went to seed and I ripped them out. Maybe they needed more care than I gave them, but I have little patience with plants that need babying. I won't bother planting torenia again.

The impatiens I planted last May are still blooming and looking great. I plant them every year. No other annual I've tried does as well here as the impatiens.

Making Waves
Making Waves knitted socksThe Making Waves socks are done!

This is the second sock - the August/September sock - in the Six Sock Knitalong.

We're given a pattern to start with. Then we select our own yarn. These socks were knit with Regia Line Steps color 5366 using US #1 Addi Turbo 24" circular needles.

The twisting stitch pattern pulls in, so the 64 stitch cuff was reduced to 56 stitches for the foot.

The CIC vest and socks knit from the Making Waves stitch pattern are here.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Introvert's Lucky Day
I didn't have to alphabetize my spices. The Knitting Meetup was cancelled due to the leader being called out of town. I was going to make myself go just to prove that I could do it. Now that I've been given this reprieve, I'm not sure that I'll sign up to attend again.

Bird Banding
This morning I attended a bird banding session at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Eight of us met in the parking lot and our bird-banding guide took us on a hike to check the mist nets in the marsh. We walked uphill, downhill, and in the mud for over an hour. Then we hiked back to the barn where they do the actual banding. The session lasted two and a half hours. When I got home, I ate lunch and took a nap.

The nets are called "mist nets" because they look like mist. There's a good picture of a mist net at this web site. It also has a good overview of the basics of bird banding.

Our banding guide was an enthusiastic young lady who has been banding for six years. From the end of August to the end of October sixteen nets at different locations are rolled out at dawn each day that weather permits. On a good day, about a hundred birds are caught, banded, and released. The nets are checked frequently. The birds are untangled and put into fabric bags for transporting to the banding barn.

The banders all appear to be very conscientious about keeping the birds safe, as calm as possible, and getting them processed and released as quickly as possible.

It's especially important to get the birds out of the nets before something happens to them. Deer and chipmunks will munch on birds caught in a net.

A storm moved through the area last night. The front took the migrating birds with it so there were not many birds in the nets this morning. A few goldfinches, warblers, a catbird, common yellowthroats, and a yellow bellied flycatcher.

Seeing the birds up close I was surprised at how small and delicate they are. They look much tinier in captivity than they do when they're sitting in a tree.

The warblers accept their fate passively. The chickadees struggle and peck. The catbird bit, but wasn't strong enough to do damage or create pain. Our guide has gotten blood blisters from grosbeaks and cardinals. They have very powerful beaks and they don't let go once they bite.

I'm still processing everything that we saw, trying to sort out my feelings about bird banding and wondering if I want to volunteer to help next year.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Introvert Gets Social
When I was working, I planned for and valued my time to be quiet and be alone. (DH Bob doesn't count. He's another introvert and shares my need for peace and quiet.)

Now that I'm not working, I'm careful to plan for times of social contact each week. It is important to get out among other people.

This week I'm trying something new, knitting with a group. The Kalamazoo Knitting Meetup is meeting Wednesday evening at Applebee's.

I'm signed up to attend without knowing a single other knitter who is going to be there, or how they're going to be dressed, or what kind of knitting they're going to bring, or what kind of snack they're going to order to eat, or how I'm going to find them after I get there.

I'm only assuming they are going to bring their knitting. I've never seen anyone knitting in Applebee's.

And, what do you order to eat while you're knitting? I use knitting to keep my hands busy so I don't eat.

Sometimes I put events on my calendar with good intentions of attending. When the date arrives I think of a compelling reason to stay home. Like: I have an interesting book to read, or I'm tired, or I'm not sure I can find the place, or I need to alphabetize the spices.

Writing about my intention to attend the knitting meetup on Seasons of Violet makes it more likely I'll attend. If I don't, I'll have to fess up on Thursday.

Thursday morning there is another adventurous (for an introvert) event on my calendar: "Fall Birds Up Close. Spend the morning with a Kalamazoo Nature Center bird bander."

The Nature Center bird banders put out nets to catch the migrating birds, band them, and release them.

I know almost nothing about bird banding and I have many questions.

It seems to me that banding a wild bird might not be a kind thing to do. Does the band bother the bird? Does the bird freak out when a human hand holds it and pinches a band on its leg?

And what about health problems caused by the band? When a fledgling is banded, doesn't it outgrow the band? Could the band get caught on something and endanger the bird? Doesn't it get dirty and/or moldy under that band?

If it doesn't rain on Thursday morning, I'll report back on everything I learned about bird banding. Unless I decide I have to alphabetize the spices.

Any thoughts on bird banding?

Saturday, September 11, 2004

On the Wine Festival
Kimmy is almost nine years old. This is the year she discovered the band playing in the bandshell. At her request, we sat on the grass directly in front of it to wait for the fireworks.

Being completely "out of it", I'm not sure what kind of music they were performing. It had a beat and it was loud. I could tolerate it, but I wasn't sorry when it ended an hour after we sat down.

There was a middle aged man in a purple teeshirt dancing right up in front of the band. He was not keeping time to the music. His movements were more comical than entertaining.

At first Kimmy giggled at him. Then she wanted to know what was going on.

I told her he was something like Forrest Gump. She got the message. "Oh, he's mentally disabled." We both wondered if Purple Shirt might get escorted away.

Purple Shirt danced for the entire hour. The lead singer let Purple Shirt play the tambourine for one of their numbers. At the end of the set, the female lead singer put down her microphone and danced with Purple Shirt.

Kimmy watched carefully and learned that being kind can be cool.

And the fireworks were the best ever.

On the Circus
The circus was wonderful and not at all tacky. If it comes to your area, I highly recommend it as quality entertainment. All three generations, Kimmy, Mother, and I, enjoyed the entire two hours.

When I was in grade school (fifty plus years ago) we attended a circus outside in a tent. Even as a kid I recognized that the costumes looked shabby and the animals didn't look happy.

The circus we saw today was completely different. The costumes were beautiful, everything looked fresh, and the animals looked loved, well cared for, and eager to entertain.

There's another performance tonight. If someone offered to take me, I'd go again.

On 9/11
Before the circus performance began, the ringmaster invited everyone to stand for a moment of silence. Year three and I still choked up.

How can W justify the way he is using our military elsewhere while Osama Bin Laden remains a free man?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Tomorrow afternoon I'm driving to Battle Creek to pick up granddaughter Kimmy after school.

It turned out that Kimmy's dad is out of town for the weekend. I was told to keep her as long as I wanted, so we have big big plans.

Friday evening we are headed to the Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival for carnival rides and fireworks.

Saturday morning, Monette, Kimmy and I are going to the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, the Greatest Show on Earth. I just bought the tickets last night and Kimmy doesn't know yet.

When she gets out of school and piles in my car, she always asks me what we're going to do while we're together. I'm looking forward to hearing her thoughts when I tell her the plans for this weekend.

Have no idea what to expect with the circus. It could be very wonderful or it could be completely tacky. Or, it could be both tacky and wonderful.

Anyone been to the circus lately?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Goldenrod and Fireworks Time
Field full of goldenrodIn the fall, the goldenrod rises above all the other wildflowers in the back field and turns the landscape yellow. Some of the plants are six feet tall.

This picture was taken a week ago when the blossoms were new. The golden blooms are on the wan already and everything looks and feels like autumn.

It was an uncharacteristically chilly August and it doesn't appear we're going to get the August heat wave in September, either. Tonight when we took the dogs out for their late evening walk, I had to wear a jacket.

This coming weekend is the Wine and Harvest Festival in Paw Paw. I've been attending for fifteen years and it has always been festival friendly weather. On Friday evening they have a beautiful fireworks display over Maple Lake. For the past five years, Kimmy and I have gone to see them.

This year is the first time the Wine and Harvest Festival falls on the weekend Kimmy spends with her dad. Daughter Heather is going to check with Kimmy's dad and find out if I can pick Kimmy up from school on Friday and take her to his house on Saturday morning. He's a nice guy and we get along well, so I expect him to agree unless he has other plans for Kimmy that can't be changed.

Does your location have a fall festival?

Friday, September 03, 2004

Second Doggy School Picnic
Empty beach at Hagar Park Lake MichiganWednesday evening was the second doggy school picnic at Lake Michigan to make up for the horrid weather we had at the first one.

It was beautiful. The temperature started out in the low 80s (F), the sun was shining, and the water was calm.

Hagar Park is one of the few "dog friendly" Lake Michigan beaches. It is approximately forty miles west of our house. A very pretty drive through the Michigan countryside.

It was hard to decide which little dog to take. Sunny went last time so it was Pappy's turn. On the other hand, Sunny loved it the first time, it was her third birthday, and she is going to miss going to doggy school next week because of Labor Day. So, Sunny got the nod and away we went.

Since it was a weeknight, the beach was almost empty when we arrived. I admit I was surprised - but pleased - to find so few people there. The twenty doggy school dogs were the only dogs there.

Labs having fun at Hagar Shores Lake MichiganThe golden retrievers looked like they were having the most fun. They ran, swam, chased sticks, and shook themselves off on everyone and everything. But the goldens were just more obvious about their pleasure. Every dog there enjoyed the picnic in their own way.

After Sunny and I went down the fifty-six steps to the beach, I was able to lure her out into the knee deep water a few times. Her knees, not mine. The water was about two inches deep at most.

It must have been doggy peer pressure at work because Sunny has never liked getting wet. Sunny is a small, fourteen pound dog. Two inches was a lot of water from her point of view.

After a while, Gail the trainer started giving swimming lessons. I hesitated on letting Sunny participate, not knowing how traumatized she was going to be. But she seemed to be in a receptive mood, so I allowed it to happen.

Gail took Sunny out over Sunny's head, about eight or ten feet from shore, and set her down in the water. Sunny's eyes bugged out of her head, but she held her head up and paddled to shore. Then she ran around the beach in a big circle and came back for more.

When I picked her up to hand her back to Gail, Sunny was willing to go back in the water. She swam the distance and ran her victory loop three more times before the end of her successful swimming lesson.

I really do think that Sunny had as much fun as the goldens. It was just a different kind of fun.

Sunset at Hagar Shores Lake MichiganThe food was wonderful and plentiful. Gail grilled brats and everyone brought a dish to pass.

Two of us with little dogs ate with our dogs sitting in our lap. The rest of the dog owners were amazed that a dog could sit next to a plate of food and leave it alone.

The other small dog was probably trained to leave the food alone. Sunny was unsure enough of her surroundings that she wanted to be on my lap and she knew if she nosed my food, she was going to get set down on the scary ground.

My little dogs are very very smart.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Seasons of Violet is one year old today.

It's been an interesting year with 247 posts and over 6000 "unique" visits. (A unique visit means the same visitor is only counted once per day, even when they visit multiple times in a day.)

I never fooled myself into thinking I would write everyday. My goal was a minimum of three posts a week, and I met that goal. It seems to be a reasonable goal, so I'm extending it for another year - four more seasons.

My biggest blogging surprise was the way nature pictures starting taking over Seasons of Violet last spring.

My biggest blogging thrill is to get comments and know that someone is actually visiting Seasons of Violet. Welcome. Please come back. And leave a comment, even if it's just "hello".

This was the first Seasons of Violet post on September 1, 2003. It was written during last September's ennui. I was in month 9 of a 15 month weight loss effort, I was anticipating losing my job, and many of my long time work friends were getting unceremoniously kicked out the door into a non-existent job market.

Picking a Name
A few weeks ago I made a list of names I might possibly use for my blog. They all included the word violet, because violet is my e-mail name and my Windows theme.

After making the list, I sent it out to some family and friends for their thoughts. Most of them thought that "Violet Blooms" or "Blooming Violet" was the best name because either it reminded them of spring or it indicated that I was blooming. Blooming as in personally growing and becoming a more complete person.

So glad I asked. I do have days when I'm blooming. They are rare and wonderful days.

Many of my days I am just trying to survive. Sometimes I'm depressed and/or tired. Sometimes I feel crummy. Sometimes life seems heavy and hard. Those are the days I need to write the most.

I'm sure everyone will be surprised when I don't use a name containing "bloom". Instead, I'm going to go with "Seasons of Violet" to represent the changing times of my life.

My dear husband Bob, in his great wisdom, picked that name from the start. He knows me well.

It's been a great year. Thank you for coming to Seasons of Violet.