Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fort Ticonderoga

We took the opportunity to visit a fort while we were in the area camping. Fort Ticonderoga is on the New York side of Lake Champlain. I did not know much about the fort except I thought the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont had some Revolutionary War doings there. I was right, but there is more history than that. I won't tell you all of it but there is more.

First, isn't NY beautiful in the spring? I just love mountains and lakes, they seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly.

D and I are always reading the signs at historical sites. Why go there if you're not going to get any of the history?

Cannons they have them! I took way too many pictures of cannons. But isn't the detail work that goes into them amazing? 

I always thought of cannons as plain old hunks of metal that shot out other plain hunks of metal. Almost every one was decorated with some sort of seal. Seems like a great way to know whose cannon is whose. But the detail, wow.

I fell in love with this one the way the patina had been rubbed off. It was amazingly smooth and polished.

See I told you they had cannons! This is only one wall too.

The inner courtyard surrounded by barracks (plus cannons.) They had, well what do you call them? Actors, cultural interpreters, reenactors? Anyways there were people in Colonial dress that would answer your questions. Oddly enough I am way too shy to take pictures or ask many questions of reenactors. One gentleman bid us to come over and discussed how the Colonial armies cooked. Rations which included rice, an onion, salt pork, coffee and hardtack; how the cooking area could be a mile or so away from the camp; how they made more efficient underground cook stoves and other things I can not recall. It was quite interesting to hear someone speak on those topics. I think he really likes working there too.

We also found out the fort, in its current state is largely reconstructed. It fell into ruins and was rebuilt using private funds. I also think it is still privately held by a foundation. Can you see the old wall and the new wall?

 Take a look just to the left of that area and you can see how rebuilding works.

I liked the contrast between old and new here too.

More cannons, Wahoo.

We took a tour and while it was not everything we hoped for it was a nice way to spend a day. They do  a really nice job there, especially seeing photos of the ruins that it once was to what it is now.

On a yippy midwesterners note, we were thrilled to park next to a vehicle that had South Dakota plates on it. Yes, we are such goobers that we even left them a note on the windshield telling them just that. We hope it made their day just as much as it made ours. We don't get many opportunities to see plates from home around here.

I'm off to wave happily in the direction of South Dakota.

Monday, May 28, 2012

On Reviewing

I've been meaning to learn how to review a book better. You know how I usually talk, I liked it and will be reading more by this author or I did not like it and I will never read another story by this author. Well that last blip is not entirely true I tend to be mum on the stuff I don't really like. I figure even if it is not my cup of tea, it does not mean it is not someone else's favorite book. I actually feel this way about one of my sister's favorite books, but I don't have the heart to tell her I hated it. Actually hate is too mild of a word to describe my feelings for the book. And now that I have you wondering which book it was I am going to revert to my normal self and not tell you. I can tell you plenty of other people adore the book. Does that make me a weirdo?

So I've been meaning to learn but had not yet got around to it. Then the other day I was forced to take the bull by the horns. In my post about Gus I talked briefly about Gus liking the sound of my audiobook. I continued on with my standard, I liked it and will be reading more by this author. Only to find out based on my blog stats that the author had read my post and referenced in her own blog.

Craptastic! I was excited to be noticed by someone famous, but really that was my writing that got pointed out to the world? Sadly I must point out now my reaction to having my blog highlighted was to run out to the Hubby who was mowing the lawn saying something like It's so cool, it's so cool. Then I proceeded to email a couple of my close friends and tell them. Sigh, I can go all fan girl like anyone else.

Anyways back to my point, how the heck do I learn to do a decent book review? Google it of course and see what the internet has to tell me. I found a few sites and condensed them into my plan. Ideally here is what I will tell you.

1) General information including; book title, author, genre, and plot outline. They also want the publisher to be listed but since it has never impacted my life who publishes what I will not include that. I have never looked a book up by their publisher. And now I sound all snotty but so be it.

2) Personal reactions; what sticks in my mind, any personal connections, or misconceptions. That one seems pretty loose and in need of refinement so I will work on it.

3) Recommendations; did I like it or not like it and why. This seems familiar to me, I may be able to do this bit. I will of course need to work on the why bit.

So if my posts about books seem a bit formal for a time it just means I am still working on things. Now I'm not trying to be a professional reviewer but I figure if I am going to do something I may as well work on improving myself at the same time. I even joined to see if they have any suggestions on how to write a book review, if they do I can not find it. I have not reviewed any books there other than by the 1-5 star system but I plan to dig around more to see what I like and don't like.

Here is a bag of wool from a festival last year just cause I thought we needed a picture of wool!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ah Nature

I promised a camping story and now I will tell it to you. First I need to tell you about our camp set up. It was a long narrow campsite. We set up our sleeping tent in the back of the site farthest from the road then our dining fly across from the fire pit and finally our vehicle sat in the camp driveway. 

So to fill in the rest of this picture the fire pit is behind me (acting photographer) and the vehicle is to my right, D's left.

Do you have a mental picture of the site? Feel free to fake it if you don't. Anyways we leave the site to go out to dinner because D was brilliant and thought camp set up would take a bit out of us. We did not cook at the site the first night.

We head off to bed but have some issues with the tent being on a slight incline, D felt he was rolling out of bed and I felt I was following him. So after changing the mattress orientation we start to dose off. I was awakened by a pickup stopping at the site's driveway. Since it was early in the season we had the loop to ourselves. The pickup drove on and I went back to sleep, sort of.

I wake up to the sound of rustling in our dining fly, like it is being searched. My heart starts racing because I have no idea how long it has been since the pickup stopped and this noise started. I don't know who or what is out there. I do know I no longer feel safe and happy.

At this point I try to wake D by tap, tap, tapping on him. No response. I try again with a little more urgency tap, tap tap. No response again. I try a third time, this time with all the urgency that is building inside me TAP, TAP, TAP. While I am thinking to myself Dude you gotta wake up!

D wakes up confused till he hears the noise. He knows how skittish I am, you can not live with me for 10+ years without seeing me freak out about some noise or another. He wraps an arm around me and calms me a bit. I start using a finger to stroke the back of his hand. He thinks I am trying to calm him till the intensity of my nervous energy starts to wear away his skin in one spot. His hand was my own personal worry stone, and man I was worried.

The noises are continuing, searching, searching. By now I have convinced myself that it is either a bear or an homicidal freak. D's hand is starting to get tender from all my rubbing, so he leans over and asks me if I want to go to the car. Heck yeah I want to go to the car! The problem is we have to pass by the danger zone to get there. What to do? What to do?

Finally I decide the car is better than our current situation in the tent. As long as I take the keys with me I can drive away. We quietly put on our shoes in preparation to make a run for it. I ask one last time Are we doing this?. When the answer is affirmative from D, the zipper goes down and I start moving. I don't think either shoe made it out of the tent but I was not stopping. (You will be happy to know that I had keys in one hand and Dozer the stuffed horse in the other. I'm not leaving him behind for a bear to get!) I may or may not have been in the car before D made it out of the tent. The timing is a bit fuzzy on this.

When I'm sure D had made it to the car I hit the locks and the lights to see what we can see. Nothing! No eyes, no movement, nothing. The material on the dining fly reflects a lot of light but still?

So there we were laughing in the car at 3 am. We sat and talked till the dawn. It was a bit like high school, sitting in a dark car talking in the driveway.

When dawn came we took a bathroom break and went back to sleep in the tent. Only to be awakened by more scurrying noises. Well it turns out I am not quite as afraid in the day light (No bears in the daylight), I get up to investigate the noise. I see something behind the dining fly that I am pretty sure was not there the night before. It was a plastic bag with a dice game, a couple of batteries, a gnawed on glasses case and a couple of ripped open packages of Swiss Miss hot chocolate mix.

Who can turn down Swiss Miss? How did we miss putting that away the night before? Crap!

So we had visitors checking our clean up work each night after that. We also added a new prayer to our nighttime routine. We're now calling it the bear prayer, it went like this, Thank you Lord for this wonderful trip but we ask you for no bears! Amen

We think the visitors were raccoons and not bears. One even wiped his paws on the towel we left out for him.

Camping it is always interesting.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Things I learned while camping - this time

Yep this trip was yet another learning experience. What fun would it be if we stopped learning? Life would get pretty boring in my opinion. So what did we learn? As mentioned yesterday take less knitting. Did I just say that again? Also keep the knitting simple and washable. Camping is not your normal setup, charts don't work so well and it is dirty in the woods. If it rains then it is muddy in the woods. Make it something interesting but not so precious that it can not carry off a mud stain.

Second, the bike rack makes a great place to unpack some of your stuff but keep it off the ground, you know in the beginning when you still care about your stuff staying clean.

At this point I can not stress the importance of lists too. I was packing things inside and D was packing all that stuff into the car. Right before we left I pulled out my list and started reading off things that should be in the car. When I came to sleeping bags we both paused and looked at each other...neither one of us had grabbed the sleeping bags! That would have been one uncomfortable trip huddled together under my tiny polar fleece lap blanket. Well that or more likely it would have been expensive since I would have whined till we went to the store and bought new bags. I can be pretty convincing when I am cold.

Third, recycling is good too. I made some socks a while back that felted and are now way too small to fit on my feet. So what makes a better pot holder than felted wool? Nothing in my opinion.

They are a tad thiner than the other felted pot holders I have made but they do get the job done if you do it quickly. Plus wool is flame resistant so bonus.

Fourth, I love my little tent! This is not new to this trip but I love her nonetheless. I did notice this time that she was made in Sri Lanka so she is now officially dubbed the Tea Tent. Sri Lanka was once Ceylon where some mighty fine tea grows. The name is just a bit off since we can not actually have tea or food in the sleeping tent, alas. Still she kept me toasty like a cup of tea would.

Fifth, things go bump in the night quite a bit in the woods. Well not so much bump as scurry scurry. I will save my story for another post but we are pretty sure those are some masked bandit paw prints. Do you see the very faint toe impressions on the right print? Shifty Eddie sends his regards.

Sixth, and this one is not entirely new either, the Tea Tent is an awesome place to read a book or nap. Well mostly nap in.

Yes Dozer my little stuffed horse came with us too. He is the perfect pillow when you're trying to read. The boys declined to make the trip with us, I wonder why? Lack of napping spots or something else?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Camping is In-Tents

Whew! We're back from our longest camping trip to date, five nights. We have mostly cleaned up and put away all the gear, but man it takes a lot of effort to take it easy. This is us just fresh at the campsite all excited and clean.

Shirts say Camping is In-Tents.
Yes that is right we now have matching camping shirts! I could not resist these at the store and bought them as a hokey surprise for D. Turns out (as I suspected) that he has an hokey sense of humor just the same as I do. We did not cook out the first night due to set up night logistics and went into town for dinner where we were mistaken for "crew members." What kind of crew we were not told but apparently crew members always wear the same shirts.

Oh, in case you were worried the Yarnkettle crew just will not travel without some of the comforts of home.

We always learn something new each trip and we have a long list of things we will do differently and things that worked just fine. I feel bad just saying this but I will not bring so many knitting projects next time. I brought five and that was after I had talked myself out of at least two more. I still don't know just exactly how long I thought I needed to be gone or just how short my attention span is. We did a couple of day trips and that eats into my knitting time. It is difficult to be the sparkling conversationalist you see here. Husbands take a lot of entertaining, no I think it is that food takes more preparation when you don't have an oven, refrigerator or sink, right handy.

Live and learn people it is the stuff of life. Now don't mind me I'm off to watch a civilizing episode of Downton Abbey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spinning a bit more

I was able to participate in a spinning demo of sorts the other day. A lady at my church was giving a talk titled The Ancient Art of Spinning. I was asked to bring my socks in progress to show what you could do with the yarn you've made.

They were OOOed and Awwed over before being safely returned to me. I must be honest I get a bit nervous when my yarn leaves the safety of my hands. My needles are small and delicate it is too easy for one of then to be misplaced or broken with rough handling. What can I say I am a bit of a worrywart. 

Back to the spinning talk, it was interesting because she pulled bible verses that referenced spinning, and she showed how spinning could be done with even the most basic of tools, even a rock. 

Her emphasis was how we create things that can be found no where else in the world. This art connects us back to ancient times. We're doing same thing that has been done for generations. Although now we have better tools and most of us do it because we like to not because the family depends on us to do it. Which is a relief for me since D has big feet and while I enjoy knitting him things I also enjoy having new things for myself. It feels like his socks take twice the time mine do.

My spinning is suffering right now I have spun two singles and am now plying them together using my homemade lazy kate, While it is working well my enthusiasm is lagging. I think my spindle is getting full and I don't know how to stop the plyed yarn from unraveling if I cut it to make a skein, and start another skein. Guess I will muddle on in my own way. I'm sure whatever yarn I make will be usable, even if it is just to knit cat toys for the boys. Yeah right like that is what I will be using it for. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On reading and writing

I started a new audio book for my drive time. Well I should say I restarted an audiobook. Before I listened to and enjoyed Silent in the Grave, I started The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I must admit the title drew me in. Plus I love the word Guernsey, can't spell it on my own but love it.

When I started the book I found it hum drum. I did not connect with the story. I thought I was crazy for buying an audiobook that is written as a collection of letters. I stopped three letters in and thought some other time.

I can report that was the right decision. If a book or a project or anything is not striking you right sometimes it is best to just put it away and let it be. Most things are so much better when the timing is right. I find now that I am in the mood for a light humorous read when before I was not, I had wanted a mystery then.

So why do I love the book now? They speak of reading like I would speak of it if I were more articulate. Books are old friends to be mourned when they are lost. It is history without being dry. I keep meaning to look up little facts to educate myself but am still lost in the story. It is set in London and Guernsey after WWII. They speak of air raids, rations and enemy occupation. Such big and weighty matters, but with survivor's strength.

I must also say I am loving the letter element too. It seems so much that we have lost our ability to communicate. Well maybe not our ability but our history of communicating. I don't know anyone that keeps a journal, myself included. I always dreamed of later generations finding my diary and reading it with delight. I tried a couple of times to keep one and discovered to my horror that I am not a good writer. I would say things like checked on the cows today, saw my cousins and ate some strawberries from the patch. Oh yeah I saw a snake in there too. And that would be it several days of boring facts with nothing else to draw you in, no story whatsoever.

So I would sigh to myself and tuck my diary away only filled with a few pages of bland daily occurrences. It was not till years later that I found out how even daily household account books can tell a lost story. Still I know that my own ramblings would not have interested the most loyal historian.

Finally I accepted this about myself and moved on, I will never be a writer, I am no Laura Ingalls Wilder. I also will never be tall, it is just who I am.

I know when I started blogging D and I both thought I would do it for a couple of months then quit. It has been just over three years now and while I still struggle with telling a story, I am still typing here. I can not tell you the joy I've had connecting with people, even for a little moment of the day. My blog it makes me happy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Gus Man

Gus and I went for his 3 month check up at the vet's. Dr B said he looks really good. He has picked up a little of his lost weight (Gus, not Dr B) and his fur is back to being the silkiest thing I can touch including silk. I think it all the time but he is one good looking cat.

However his blood sugar was high again, due (we think) to the prednisone. So we're tapering back on that med in hopes that his blood sugar will go down. Gus hates that pill so he is thrilled to see it go. D says the pill tastes bad and this is coming from a guy that will chew aspirin. Yuck!!!

The funny thing with this trip to the vet was the car ride. Gus likes to voice his displeasure, loudly and often. This time he settled in quickly and seemed to relax a bit. I think it is because of the audiobook I was listening to, Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn. The narrator reads in a British accent, since the book is set in London. He seemed especially happy when the French character spoke. Hints of his mother tongue? We like to say his Mother was French and his Father was Russian, since those are the accents that I give him when I speak for him. (Yes I know that I am odd.)

I can recommend the book as an enjoyable mystery tale. I will be getting more of the series. My issue is do I get another audiobook or the Kindle edition? I loved the narrator and enjoyed it as my drive time book so much that I had to listen a bit while I was doing the dishes one night. However the Kindle version is much cheaper, and I have several other audiobooks lined up for my driving time. Hmm do I want to drive and listen or read and knit with the story?

I am finding that I get so much more reading (my first love) done with the audiobooks and Kindle. Sometimes technology is such a blessing. This is coming from one of the last people who is perfectly happy having a dumb phone. I guess I have not felt the need to be able to access the internet from where ever I am. Silly me, I just don't know what I am missing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Eggplant and me

Springtime must mean I need a new shawl to wear. Well that and that basket of sock yarn sitting in the living room is getting antsy. The Malabrigo Eggplant sock yarn got the drop on me and forced me to cast it on. I was a bit surprised since it had been sitting quietly in my stash for a year or more every once in a while it would peep to me and I would take it out and hold it and think about making socks but then it would burrow its way back to the bottom of the stash for another couple of months because really it did not want to be socks. It dreamed of being a shawl but the right pattern had not yet hit my radar so it kept reminding me the it was there...

Then I found the Holden Shawlette pattern by Mindy Wilkes. And I started thinking I need another shawl, I have a wedding to attend this fall and the bride is a part time knitter so a new shawl would certainly jazz up an outfit. Plus air conditioning can be set a bit too low for my tastes and a shawl allows you to adjust your clothing without mussing up your hair. 

So Eggplant and I printed off the pattern and found some needles and we cast on and knit for a while. I was considering going up a needle size to make a tad more draping fabric and a slightly larger shawl but then I just knit on.

Wait do you see it? I made a mistake. How about down below?

My center line of stitches veers off. I think I missed a yarn over or something. I just know it looks wrong and I will fix it. But first let's do a little needle size experiment. I have moved up to 5 mm needles to see what fabric I get with a looser gauge. This way I when I frog it I will be able to tell if I need to start over completely using the larger needles or if I need to rip back to the mistake and continue on with the 4.5 mm needles. 

I think Eggplant just wants to spend more time with me and did that veer itself. It is not like I make mistakes nope knot me. What do you mean that is knot the right not? I am telling you I rarely make mistakes. Oh wait that is not me I make mistakes all the time. Well live and learn!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New spinning toys

I've been knitting more than spinning lately but I still have to show off some new acquisitions. I used a bit more of my bonus at Knit Picks. While nothing I bought is essential, I've learned the value of having the right tools for the job. Knit Picks seemed to be an inexpensive way to get some tools to evaluate what I will use and not use.

First up we have a Niddy Noddy. It is used to skein up yarn in a very regular fashion. Once I measure how long one loop is I will be able to tell the yardage of my hand spun yarn by counting the strands and multiplying by the loop measurement. Seems like a good piece of information to have, right?

I also wanted to try out another type of spindle, this is a Turkish spindle. It can be converted to being either a high whorl or low whorl. I have read that it is not the best example of a Turkish spindle but hey there is my first learning experience. I am planning on using it for plying yarn but so far I am still too in love with my Golding.

And of course since I'm buying tools I should try out some new roving too. A beautiful dark green, which we all know is my favorite. I'll let you know how it turns out.

The other night when I went to spinning group the yarn shop just happened to have some new dyed roving so...

Anybody else have the urge to strap these to the sides of their head and go running after Harrison Ford telling him how much of a insensitive brute he is? Just me? OK more fun for me that way.