Friday, February 28, 2014

No Nap and a Chickadee

Lady K was being difficult this afternoon about her afternoon nap. So I got up and we went back into the living room, watching it snow (and snow and snow and snow).  There were a few sparrows and juncos around the feeder at the end of the patio.  Then this little chickadee flew down to the crab apple tree at the bottom of the yard.  It is still really pretty with some of the apples still on the branches and the snow on the branches.

So there he was, sitting there all by his lonesome.  And then.......

A large flock of waxwings descended onto the crab apple tree.  There was probably about a 100 of them.  At first, I was really excited because I thought "Cedar Waxwings!", which I had only seen 1 before in August.  

But when I got out my Sibley's to verify what I was seeing, it seems these were not Cedar Waxwings, but Bohemian Waxwings.  Which is exciting as they are less widespread than Cedars.

So Lady K is forgiven for not napping, because if she had, then I would have missed this invasion.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Different Snow

One of the things pointed out to me when we first moved to Montana was how I left the heat and humidity behind me.  And this just doesn't pertain to the summer.  It also applies to winter.  The snow here is 'dry'.  There isn't 'wet' snow, which is a good thing.  And this weekend we are expecting another 12 inches of snow.

One thing that has surprised me is that snow seems to 'evaporate'.  And a lack of icicles.  Most of the icicles I have seen are actually on the spruce trees.

And the snow twists into some really unusual shapes, like this 'wave' on top of the fencing in my backyard.

So now I own a snow shovel and YakTraks to keep from slipping.  I have to blaze a trail out to the alley and the trash cans with snow up to my knees.  And I have to shovel a path to the bird feeder in order to put out seed for the birds (and squirrels). 

At least, with the snow, I will be staying inside and working on my homework and taking 3 mid-term tests.  I think I can safely say I am ready for warmer weather.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fruitless February

And the point of February is?  Between the stomach flu coursing through the household and snow piling up outside (more than this little Southern girl is use to), I just don't see the point of February.  I feel like I got nothing accomplished and still have a long list of things to about 8 letters I need to answer.

Stumpy has gotten braver and will sit right in front of the patio door to nibble on seeds that fell from one of the feeders.  I like this picture because you can also see the 'tide' of snow creeping closer and closer to one of the few clear patches on the patio.

Of course, it is this bravery that earned him the shortened tail I am sure.

I am shoveling snow.  Lots of snow.

This is yesterday morning (Monday).  This morning (Tuesday), the horizontal bar is covered in snow. Luckily, it is all dry, light snow, not a wet mass of snow.

But life here in Montana goes right on.  So I am off to work again today.  And more snow forecast for the coming week.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Inventing Wings to Fly Over the Bitter River

This past week has been 'eventful'.  Eventful, meaning on Tuesday, right after I drop Texter off at work at 5pm, I get a call to come get her.  That queasy stomach she had.....well, she threw up on her supervisor telling her she didn't feel too good.  Victim #1 of the stomach flu.  After being up all night, lounging in the bathroom, we took her into Urgent Care and they prescribed some anti-nausau pills and fluids and rest and back home we trooped.  Oh, did I mention they kept her for a bit to give her IV fluids?

Then, later on Wednesday, someone who doesn't need to feel bad, got a icky stomach, along with copious amounts of sinus drainage.  So my time was spend fetching fluids for both my little girls and hoping it stayed down.

Thursday, started out well, in that Texter had made it to the couch and Lady K was a little less clingy. However, at 12:38am Friday morning, I was on my way to the bathroom.  Did you know you could lose about 6 pounds in 12 hours?  Not recommended, but it's possible.

So the three of us have been going from bed to couch to kitchen for fluids for the past few days.  No homework getting done as I can't even summon up much energy to sit at the computer.  But I have managed to down a couple of books during this time period.

The first, is actually the second in a series, titled Bitter River by Julia Keller.

Bell is the District Attorney for Acker's Gap, West Virginia and everything is going to hell in a hand basket.  One 16 year old pregnant girl dead and some mysterious attempted murders to boot.  At 40-something, with the responsibility of being the District Attorney on a small budget in a small town, Bell is often short-tempered and impatient (like so many of us).  Her 16 year old daughter, is living in Washington with her ex-husband after events of the previous year (and book).  And she has to assist the sheriff in solving these crimes.

I could identify with Bell's feelings and her impatience with the small town mentality, all the while she knows and understands it herself.  A good book to read between naps while sick.

But my favorite is by an author I have followed for several years, Sue Monk Kidd.  I appreciated her book, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, and her questioning of her spirituality.  Her new book, The Invention of Wings, also an Oprah pick (which I rarely read them), is a work of fiction based on fact.

Set in the early 1800's in Charleston, South Carolina, Kidd follows the fictionalized life of Sarah Grimke, the daughter of a well-to-do judge and planation owner.  It also twines in the life of Hetty 'Handful', the slave she was given on her 11th birthday.  Telling their story from both sides, Kidd has pieced together a wonderful accounting of both their lives and times.  Sarah Grimke and her sister, Angelina, where actually two of the first female abolitionists and women's rights activists.  Being from the South and wealthy parents made them a bit exceptional on both fronts.

The read is intense at times, especially when you read Handful's accounts of things, but Kidd captures  Sarah's struggle with her way of life and her conscience well.  It was a bit heavy for reading between naps, but well worth the effort. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mid-Month Check Up

It's the middle of the month (or close to it) and I am dismally behind on my list of things to accomplish for A Lovely Year of Finishes.  But I am blaming it on the Olympics!  So while I did cut up the shirts to ready the fabric for cutting into blocks, I started a new project for my Olympic watching.

This is day 2 of my afghan....

First off, of all my endeavors, crochet is probably one of my least proficient.  But I saw a picture of the Lille Matelasse Circular Baby Afghan by Priscilla's Crochet and I so wanted to do all the afghans in her book.

Now her's is crocheted in baby weight and I went up to worsted weight, so mine will be larger and heavier.  But that's fine, since it will be used by adults.  I have never done popcorns and I am already so over them.  But I have 5 more, ever increasing rounds, of popcorn stitches.  I've never knitted into the front or back of the 'post', but it is much like ribbing in knitting.  But it is continuing, with (or despite) help from Lady K.  I'll get back to my other projects shortly - after the Olympics.

These Olympics have grabbed my attention since they are hosted by Russia.  In 1980, I had a Soviet pen-pal and was greatly disappointed for the athletes when the U.S. boycotted the games.  He did send me stamps, pins and a collection of the posters from the games.  Over the years I have given them to a couple of people I worked with who were real Olympic fanatics (they have actually attended several games).  I still have some of the stamps just to remind me of my pen pal and the experience.  But I find myself riveted to these games this year and I am not normally a follower.

So my 'gold' will be finishing this afghan before the end of the month.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Snow is for the Birds

I have probably spent more the past few months on bird seed than I have my entire life.  But with snow mounding up and the temperatures dropping to double digits below zero, I just HAVE to.  And yes, I know they are wearing little down jackets, but still....

The magpies look spiffy still in their black and white 'tux' outfit.  They are my "we will eat anything you put out", challenging the squirrels for cereal and bread crumbs.

I also know that sparrows are considered by some to be a 'trash' bird, invasive, over-populating and driving out native species.  But despite the snow and their reputation, how can you not feel joyous with this....

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Lady K Study

I had the camera out, taking pictures of our ever increasing snow and the birds, and Lady K was my assistant.  So I couldn't resist snapping some pictures of her.  After all, and I can't believe it, she is almost a year old!  This time last year we were finding out where we were moving and when and now she is days away from going from crawling to walking.

She was watching Texter here.  And the birds feeding outside the patio door.  I love that wild hair.  It's finally growing.  Maybe one day she won't be mistaken for a boy when she is all bundled up. 

And here she is, exhausted from all her homework helping, crochet helping, dog helping, bird watching helping.  Sacked out on the couch, covered up with my robe.

Even in black and white, she is still my little cutey.  So serious looking.

This is the look you get when she knows she wasn't suppose to do what she just did.  Or wondering why you are playing with that stupid camera and not her.  

She is getting too old, too soon.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Mandala from the Bathroom

Yep, I was taking pictures in the bathroom (and not what you think either).  I have some plants in there and the shadows in the afternoon light was really interesting.  So from this picture....

This is the amaryllis left over from Christmas.  Just the leaves now, but the shadows on the wall were really interesting.  So I turned it into this....

I love the really geometric look to the design.  And I used the glass in the shower as a texture behind the mandala.  This is one of my favorites now.

Extension Tubes and Macro Photography

One of my first loves with photography is macro photography - closeups of things, particularly flowers.  But I have never been able to get really, really close.  Then I read about extension tubes you add to your camera (as opposed to a $$$$ lens) and picked up one fairly cheap off Amazon.  I had not tried it yet, but decided, why not, in the -23 degree weather!  Seems reasonable to me.

We have a metal table on the patio which is covered in snow for the most part.  The metal is in a mesh pattern and part of the table, where the wind has swept off part of the snow, is exposed and snow is sitting at the junctions of the mesh.

So I get this wild hair to throw on a coat over my yoga pants and top and slap on the extension tube to see what it will do.  I was having issues focusing on items in the house.

What did I learn with my little 5 minute experiment?

1.  It's COLD!  I mean seriously cold outside.
2.  I can get really, really close to the subject matter.
3.  I need to use a tripod.
4.  My depth of field is very small.
5.  Your fingers will stick to a metal table.

I want to play with the tube, removing some of the extensions and using a tripod.  I have a regular one and a tiny, tiny one.  In the meantime, I will content myself with taking pictures through the window where it is warm.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Praying for a Good Book

After wondering whether or not I would find a book that kept my interest for more than a few pages, my prayers have been answered.  Normally, I would do a book review on my book page, however, I am so delighted that my dry spell has been broken.

Once again, I picked this book up as I was checking in books at the library.  I was intrigued by the title alone.  I have heard of prayer boxes, have contemplated creating my own and currently have a basket I made, holding feathers, which I all my 'blessings'.

Tandi, the main character, is on the run from an abusive relationship with her 14 year old daughter and 10 year old son.  They are hiding in the Outer Banks, an area Tandi remembers from her childhood.   So right away the book hits several chords with me.  I, too, am a single mom.  I left Texas (before my kids were born) and moved to North Carolina.  I am familiar with the North Carolina coast, but more so, further south.

Struggling to keep her family together with very little money, she discovers the body of Iola Anne, her landlady.  Iola Anne had passed away in her sleep.  Having left her house to the local church in Fairhope, Tandi is asked to clean up the house so the church can figure out what to do with it.  Since this means the possibility of earning a few dollars and her unpaid rent being forgiven, she jumps at the chance.

During the process of cleaning, Tandi discovers box upon box, mainly shoe box size, filled with letters and clippings and other memorabilia saved by Iola Anne over the years.  Reading the letters Iola Anne has written to "Dear Father", Tandi pieces together an extraordinary live.  These revelations above Iola Anne give Tandi the courage to make changes and take chances in her own life.  

I really loved this little book.  While short in pages, it is long in making you stop and think and wonder what kind of legacy you might be leaving behind.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

February To-Do's

It's that time of the month again, time to announce what I hope to get finished in February for the Lovely Year of Finishes.

So for February, my goal is to work on the back of the 'Fractured Grinch'.  I am going to have to do some piecing on the back rather than using whole cloth for the back.  I have some pinwheels I can make out of the leftovers from the front and one whole block.  

I also plan on the following:

- Fingerless gloves.....only about 10 rows done last month, so hopefully a finish this month
- 'Joy' quilt....two months of blocks to complete
- Cut up the shirts and get them ready for cutting into blocks

Part of my issue is that I have to have things I can do which are 'child-proof'.  There are times when Lady K wants to 'help' and I need something, like the shirts, that are easy to accomplish despite my helper.

And since everyone in the country has seen snow last month, here is something a little bright and sunny.