13 December 2010

Book Review: Twice Bitten

The Book:

The third installment of Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series (Twice Bitten follows Some Girls Bite and Friday Night Bites) finds Merit continuing to try to balance her personal life and issues with the more public one of being the Cadogan House Sentinel, a lead guard of one of the three vampire houses in Chicago. The vampires are growing in popularity, causing shifts in the supernatural world that was once hidden away.  The shapeshifters are now convening in Chicago to possibly make themselves public, plus heal old wounds with the vampires from years past.  Merit's master vampire, Ethan Sullivan, has offered her services to protect the Alpha, Gabriel Keene.  No problem, right?  Wrong - Merit not only has to deal with the assassins who are after Gabriel, but also a master who wreaks havoc with her senses and emotions, a best friend (and sorceress) with whom she is on the outs, and finally an offer from an outside group that could put Merit's loyalties to her house in question.

The Yarn:

I have read all three of this series and am happy to say that the storyline is steadily being built forward and sideways where Merit is concerned.  The dialogue Neill has created, especially between Merit and Mallory, her best friend before and after her transformation, is quick, chuckle-causing and normal to any two twenty-somethings.  Age is a definite factor in the vampire world, as those who look young have been around for centuries, and power increases with age.  Merit's quick rise to Sentinel of Cadogan House has caused some challenge since she is so new, and as the relationship between Merit and Ethan continues to heat up, Merit finds that the age difference is still a factor with her master's near four-hundred years of walking the earth.

As a librarian I am really enjoying that she tends to fall asleep with books, does a lot of research again in the House library, and in this book actually runs into the House librarian for the first time. 

Neill does a nice job of having the characters give quick snippets of backstory in the first chapters so a reader picking up this book wouldn't be leaping into a pile of unknown characters and history, but who would want to miss any of the rise of this English literature graduate student turned feisty vampire elite?

The Ink:

Title:         Twice Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires #3)

Author:      Chloe Neill
Publisher:  NAL Trade
Date:        July 2010
Read:        Library Book

10 December 2010

Birthday Wishes

I have told my firstborn's birth story already, so go ahead and read if you want the details of what came to pass fourteen years ago. 

We have made it through another year of ups and downs and everywhere-in-betweens.  She has weathered the changes well, and the transition from little girl to young woman has been no less evident than this year.

I am proud of what she has done, what she has faced, what she has discovered and what the next Turn of the Wheel will bring her.

Happy Birthday niblet.  Mom loves you.

And yes, you will always be my baby girl.

04 December 2010

Book Review: Mockingjay

Note:  Some spoilers in the following review.

The Book:

Suzanne Collins finishes off her highly acclaimed Hunger Games series with
Mockingjay.  After reading the first couple of chapters at a friend's home, I ended up picking up the ebook for my Nook and have finally finished the book while waiting for my Thanksgiving meal to digest.

Katniss Everdeen survived the Games, not once, but twice.  Rescued by the rebels of District 13 but separated from Peeta, Katniss finally accepts that to finally break the chains that the Capitol has on the rest of the Districts, she must fully pick up the mantle as the Mockingjay.  First in the hands of President Snow, now in the hands of the rebels' President Coin, Katniss discovers that being the face to the rebellion is not the same as being in control.  Katniss must deal not only with her pursuit in assassinating Snow, but with her conflicted feelings for Gale and Peeta.  Everything Katniss discovers puts her on the path leading to the final battle at the Capitol, where winning the war isn't the same as winning freedom, and the truth is not always easy to live with.

The Yarn:

Living was a theme that permeated this book: Katniss had to make and eventually live with many choices that resulted in several deaths throughout the book.  Her sense of responsibility for her family, for Gale and Peeta, for her styling team and final squad is in conflict with her own need to make things right for her - to kill President Snow and help the Districts live free from the Capitol's rule.  But with each new discovery that all is not as obvious as right and wrong, Katniss makes a climactic decision after the last battle which changes everything, including her thoughts on who should live and who should die.

I wasn't surprised by Katniss' slant from altruistic to selfish motives of revenge and back, not even when she voted in support of running the Games again at the end.  What did surprise me was how the Gale vs. Peeta storyline kind of washed out.  Who she ended up with was not too much of a stretch, but the lack of dynamic collision between the characters made it seem like Katniss just let life throw the person at her, as opposed to her making decisions, as she lamented about during the conversation Gale and Peeta had about her before the final battle.

I believe that Mockingjay is a solid ending to the series, but I was not as swept into the story as I was with its predecessors, especially Catching Fire.

The Ink:

Title:         Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3)

Author:      Suzanne Collins
Publisher:  Scholastic
Date:        August 2010
Read:        Barnes and Noble Nookbook

30 November 2010

Book Review: Side Jobs: Stories From the Dresden Files

Note: Some spoilers from Changes in the following review.

The Book:

Jim Butcher's Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files (2010) is a collection of stories about Harry Dresden: his world, his work, and the varied characters of friends, family, colleagues and enemies. All but one have been previous published. Highlights include "Restoration of Faith", one of Butcher's first works where readers can first meet Harry, glance at Officer Murphy, and see that Harry mantle of "protector of children" has always been worn. "Last Call" is one of two stories that shines a light on the ever dour but enjoyable Mac and his bar, and Harry's friends Will, Georgia and the rest of the young werewolves bring unfortunate work during Harry's "Day Off". Not all are told from Harry's perspective, as his brother Thomas' lead in "Backup" shows Harry outside of the droll internal monologue that is the normal point of view in the novels.

In the last story, the brand-new novella "Aftermath", which begins just after the final scene in Changes, the view shifts to the ever-present Murphy. We find that Murphy may not be carrying her badge anymore, but her cop instincts are tested to their limits as she steps up to investigate the disappearance of werewolves in the wake of the decimation of the Red Court, while simultaneously dealing with the increasing evidence of Harry's death.

The Yarn:

While I had read most of these stories before in various anthologies, being able to read them all together and in order gave me a more cohesive view of Harry and the intricate web of secondary characters. These relationships are what makes Harry shine in his role as investigator and friend, and I look forward to diving into the stories about each of them as much as I do about Harry. Butcher's continuing development of Harry's brother Thomas, his assistant Molly, and (among my personal favorites) "allied enemies" like the Valkyrie Gard give Dresden a broader life beyond his supernatural PI role. It is because of this large number of characters that I would not recommend this book to those who have never read any of the Dresden Files before. However, it is a great refresher for those (like me!) anxiously awaiting the next book. While "Aftermath" gives no relief to the climactic ending of Changes, it will make the reader resolve to believe as Murphy does, and keep going "until Dresden gets back."

The Ink:

Title:       Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files
Author:    Jim Butcher
Publisher: Roc
Date:       October 2010

25 November 2010

Thanks Giving

I have a lot to be thankful for:

I am thankful for my niblets, who brighten each and every day (even during the times I will not let them darken my bedroom doorstep when I hide under the covers). 

  • I am thankful for my family, who has supported me through the ups and downs of my Life, from childhood to now.
  • I am thankful for my work.  I adore being a librarian.  I may not be in a library right now, but it is still my title by degree and performance.
  • I am thankful for my home.  I have been a year in my house and while it is definitely harder than dealing with a smaller apartment, I feel blessed with two floors, a basement, a yard and with that...
  • I am thankful for my gardens.  While they were not as successful as previous years, I am excited to plan for next spring.  To see my vegetables feed my family, to see my flowers bloom and feed my soul.
  • I am thankful, oh so thankful, for my friends.  At church, at work, on Facebook and Twitter, the web I have woven with these people strengthens and supports me.
  • I am thankful for love: for the ones I love and who love me, past present and future.  For the simple love of my beloved pets, the shiny love of my children, the heartbeat-skipping ardor of being in love.
I hope today finds all in states of thankfulness, in one form or another.

In other news, I have put the finishing touches on a couple book reviews but it was suggested to me that there should be that "personal touch".  I thought about pairing my book reviews with various yarns: was the story as scratchy as unprocessed wool? As flammable as acrylic?  I certainly cannot say my knowledge of yarn would get me far in that, but then I thought about spinning a yarn.  One of the definitions of "yarn" is "to tell a story".  Isn't that what my review essentially does, tell the story from my point of view?

So, my reviews will consist of two parts:  "The Book", which will be an overview of the work, and "The Yarn", which will include my thoughts and highlights. I am sure at times I will have more than enough to say to take on the more formal meaning of a yarn, which is "a long and often involved story or account, usually telling of incredible or fantastic events" (which reading totally is a fantastic event).

I hope you enjoy!  

16 November 2010

Reading, Writing, Reviewing

I read.  I read a lot.  Not as much as I used to when I was younger, I admit, but then I didn't have a life beyond my homework, my art  and my books.  Now, I have a job and niblets and a house and a cat and friends and...well, a bit more than I did in my teen years.  But, I do still have books.  Not as many as I used to keep and cart around, but some that have traveled with me since I was a child.  Hopefully some of those my children will eventually pick up.  I also admit to being a fast reader due to skimming more than reading, at times.

I loved being a cataloger and acquisitions librarian in my previous jobs, as that gave me the chance to buy books for my libraries, to make decisions on what to add to the collections, for patrons (including myself) to have access to and read.  Such joy!   Part of this joy was reading review sources: Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Ingram and even websites like B & N and Amazon.

I always wanted to be one of those reviewers.  However, one thing I never got the hang of in library school was reviewing.  My only experience with it was in my Childrens' Literature course, and I never made my instructor happy with my reviews.  I would compare what I wrote to what I saw in those publications, to my fellow students in class.  I lost faith in my ability to do them, much like I lost my faith in my art when I compared myself to what I saw others produce.

I thought I couldn't write, but here I am putting pieces of me in posts for the whole world to see.  Of course I can write.  I am just my harshest critic.

My current job is out of libraries, but I am still a librarian.  I handle library catalogs and webpages instead of books and CDs.  But I still love reading, and sharing that with other people.  Being a LibraryThing Early Reviewer has made me dip my toe back into reviewing books.  I have also just signed up for NetGalley and received my first couple of items from Harlequin there to read and review.  You will start seeing some of those reviews here too, along the way.

If I can put my thoughts about my work, my home, my kids - all things that I love - here on my blog, why not about something else I enjoy?  Why not?

11 November 2010

highs, lows and all over the in-betweens

Life isn't a straight line from beginning to end, and it seems the last couple of months have wandered all over the place.  I have had to climb a few hills and pull myself out of some valleys, but I still seem to be standing above, looking out over the next part of my Path that lies ahead.  At least as much as I can see.  There has been laughter, and tears, and fun and pain.  There has also been canning, and baking, and cake.

There should always be cake.

The highs:

I have two beautiful niblets that I learn more and more have their own way of viewing things.  I am not always patient and kind, but when I stop grumbling about them not doing the things that I want, I can listen to what they want.  Sometimes, I see the person they will become, flashes of outlook on life and love.  They won't necessarily believe I have been through a lot of what they are going through (Really, I swear I wasn't a grown up, even though I believed I acted like one since about age ten.), but I can try to help them see that what they are going through, they will leave behind.  I can accept their view on what they do and don't do over my own.

Except for their rooms.  They still have to clean them.  I am tough that way.  

Fall has brought us leaves.  Leaves that make big piles to wade through and jump in and hide.  Leaves that will cover my garden beds before the snow (or I guess I should say before a sticking snow, since we have already had our first), leaves that seem to dance when the wind blows.

It also brought us pumpkins.  Honestly, I wasn't going to do them, but the niblets wanted them really bad.  So I gave in.  I was a bit concerned as I had never carved them before, but must say not only did I do a pretty good job, but it was fun.

More high was last weekend and attending the New England Webcomics Weekend with friends.  We started it off Friday night with the "Pub Crawl", where everyone was on the hunt for stickers.  Good thing that in Northampton, no one bats an eye to four people walking through the streets yelling, "STICKERS!"

Also, it seems that our version of a pub crawl includes food, the Catan dice game, and hot cocoa.

NEWW was a blast, and I have new art for my walls and a new appreciation for those who create these works.   

The lows:

I have two cats.  Both have been with me forever, it seems.  Longer than I have had my human children anyways.  They have moved with me all over New York, to South Carolina and back, to Kansas and back.  We have many miles of travel together.

My little cat, Juniper, has had a growth under her leg for several years.  It would break open, drain, then come back.  A couple months ago, it did the same thing.  But this time, it didn't reform, and became an ugly mass.  She was moving slower and looking skinnier too. So, I took her to the vet two weeks ago, fearing a surgery bill that would be more than I could handle.  Instead I was told that she had some sort of tumor, that she had lost half her weight, that her kidneys had shut down and there really wasn't anything to do.  

I brought her home that day.  I explained to my niblets what was going on, and we cried and pet her and gave her as much love as we always had.  Then last Monday I took her back to the vet for the last time.

This is the first pet I have had to put to sleep myself.  It was thought about, but still hit with the Mack truck of unexpectedness that comes with news you really don't want to hear.  My other cat is even older than she was (20 to her 16 years) and I wonder what I will be told the next time I bring him in.  But that won't be for a while.

Last month I also hit the anniversary of the wedding I had last year.  My spouse and I actually got together that day, and went for a drive to a reservoir we had walked and talked at many times before.  We spoke of the present: what we were doing and where we are, we said how thankful we were to have known the love that we were given, and to say goodbye.  It isn't easy to say goodbye, even when you believe you had already done it before.  I guess it is something you can do over and over again.

The in-betweens:

What else do you do during the in-betweens?  You get up in the morning, or sleep in.  You go to work, get the children off to school, figure out meals and doctor appointments and scouts and church and free time (still trying to figure out that last one).  You clean, you cook, you rake, you shop, you visit, you rest...every moment is filled by something.  Because no matter what, Life just keeps moving you forward.

I have canned tomato sauce, ketchup and applesauce this year.  Not complete successes where the tomatoes were concerned, but knowledge gained for the next season.

I pulled up the last of the plants in the garden.  It wasn't everything I had hoped either, but I have the winter to plan, and re-plan and overplan and cut back on planning and then plan again, what next spring will give me.  The flower bed was an unexpected joy, and I hope to continue adding to the beauty it brought this past summer.

I have been reading.  Trying to keep up with the new books by authors and genres I enjoy, trying to discover ways to stretch my budget in cooking and making other ends meet.  Also finding I don't have as much time to read as I wish, and have had to send books back to the library overdue and untouched.  Sacrilege.  

Same with knitting.  I did finish one gift (a week late) and am working on a couple others.  Also saw the sweater I made for my daughter actually fitting her for the first time since I made it three years ago.

I have been all over the map, mourning what has been, celebrating what might be.  I live, I laugh, and I love.  Life isn't perfect, but that isn't what I am looking for anyways.  (Okay, except maybe in clean rooms.  A mom can dream.)

Life is good, and that is enough.

20 October 2010

I am wearing purple

I am wearing purple.

You may have seen a lot of these today - avatars and Facebook photos that have gone purple.  People asking you to wear purple.  It is "Spirit Day", put together for us to show our support in defeating anti-LGBT bullying towards youth.  We have seen too many die these past months.

I feel very fortunate to have not faced this type of pain that these children, and so many others around the world, have and do each day.  I don't have a personal story of my own to tell, but the stories are out there.  As are the messages of hope.  Find them here.  

Or here.  Or here.  Or here.  And here.  And here.  They are everywhere.   

I am proud to show my support.  I am proud to have explained it to my children, with my boy telling me he wished that he had something purple to wear.  I told him he could wear purple in his heart today. 

I am wearing purple.  Are you?

23 September 2010

Life's a Beach


So...Life was unraveling this summer. In ways I hadn't expected. My niblets were safely away from most of the storm swells that crashed on the shore at home. They spent their summer traveling between relatives in NY and IL. The trip to Illinois was a blessing: their first time flying without me, their first time in their terrific aunt's care, first time visiting their dad's parents and extended family in over five years. That is half my son's time on this earth, so I know that changes and catch up abounded.

My spouse also escaped across the states to visit family and friends, finding love and support outside the orbit we had created and were breaking. I had friends that supported and visited me, but I knew that decisions and choices I was making forced me to really take the leap off the cliff and see if I could land on my own. I wanted to put it all down and only be faced with my Self, to find some clarity, to question and hopefully find some answers...and by the time I arrived, I needed peace.

Ferry Beach is a camp and conference center run by the Unitarian Universalists, and my own church does a fall retreat there each year. It turned out they also did several week-long conferences throughout the summer, and it was where I discovered one called In The Company of Women. Which was exactly where I needed to be.

After waffling back and forth for several weeks, I plunked down my funds and planned to camp the entire time I was there. This would be a first for me to do on my own - and it turned out to be just the beginning of those firsts.

I am not the kind of person who sets out on adventures. I prefer to have a firm plan of where I am going, and three different sets and formats of directions to get there. Plus an expectation of what I will do.

I had no idea what I was getting into - and it was more than I could have imagined.

I was welcomed into a group of women who shared their stories and energy and affirmed my twisted Path to where I found myself pointing.

I danced around an altar of feathers - and found my wings.

I walked the beach with a woman twice my age - and feared I could not keep up with her when I discovered we were walking almost three miles of beach.  At 6:30 in the morning. Without having coffee yet.  (If you know me, you know this isn't a good thing. In fact, it is downright terrifying for the general populace.)

Then celebrated that I did it and still made it to breakfast.  And coffee.

I stood with my feet in sand and let the salt water wash over them as they prepared to walk me - literally and figuratively - in new directions.

I laid in the dark of the wooded campground in my tent and listened to the wind, the rain (and sometimes the cars driving by).  Then did it again as the sun rose above me.

I got my arts-and-crafts on by making gourd rattles, tie dye and feather wraps.

I laughed hard enough to stop breathing during Team Jeopardy - and learned to love my body enough to have it painted and photographed.

I spent evenings playing games, reading and knitting.  I spent mornings walking the beach or sitting on the main porch, always with my requisite mug of coffee in my hand.  Surrounded by people, but sometimes alone in my own soul.  And that was a good thing.

I did find what I was looking for: affirmation, relaxation, laughter and understanding.  Company and solitude.  Questions and answers.

I found my Self.

27 August 2010


Image from elephantjournal.com

I abhor unraveling a project, no matter how much it may be screwed up. I am one who doesn't like to fail. Once I start knitting, I expect to carry it through to the end. Sure, sometimes I will put it down, carry on with something else, but usually, by and by, it gets picked back up again and eventually knit into its proper shape. And, if by some chance my gauge is not quite right, that is if I have tried to check gauge in the first place *cough*, a little water and blocking can usually put it into shape.

no matter how many ways you stretch that scarf, chances are it is not going to magically become that sweater you were actually planning on knitting at the beginning. Sometimes you see that your rows are uneven, you dropped a stitch, you lost your place in the pattern. If you are lucky, you can save it and make it either into what it is supposed to be, or at least cobble it together into a suitable piece that while is not your best, it will still be worn.

But sometimes you pick up the needles only to put them down again. Mistakes are made that cannot be corrected:
you run out of your dye lot, you have dropped so many stitches you cannot pick them up, you realize the colors don't actually go together, the yarn scratches your skin instead of sliding soft across it. Sometimes you realize, too late, you don't have enough yarn to complete it. Stitches blur and balls unwind; you realize the only thing you have left to do, before you take all of your stash and toss it out the window, swearing you will never knit again, is to unravel it. Save what you have and hope that another pattern will come along that it is better suited for.

I wish I was actually talking about knitting.

This has been a summer of unraveling for myself, my family, my marriage. Stitches made over the last year have been ripped out and are currently being wound back into their separate skeins. It's not easy to unravel a knitting project that you have invested in; more difficult is unraveling the hearts and souls of people.

All this has pulled me away from this blog for a while, and a lot of the other things that used to keep me grounded and centered in my Life. I am starting to cast on again, wondering what will take shape as I make these first stitches to anchor what will be a new Life project, an unknown Path to follow. But then, aren't they all?

So, to end with a quote that I found this summer:
"All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time." - Mitch Albom, Five People That You Meet In Heaven

I have many more yarns to spin.

20 July 2010

Double Digits

It's been a long road from then to now. My youngest is ten. Ten years old...

I find it hard to believe that it has been a decade since I held this squalling babe in my arms, feeling blessed again. Realizing why the body doesn't remember the pain of childbirth (because I certainly don't know if I'd done it again if I did - ow!)

We celebrate ten years with a plane ride. Actually, the niblets do. They are flying west to visit family; relatives they haven't seen in five years. I am happy for them, excited for their father's family, and a mother's bundle of nerves to be placing her children on an airplane without her.

Happy Birthday sweetheart! Enjoy the ride in the skies.

06 June 2010

In the Dirt

I finally started working on my garden. Last month's project was the raised beds, which I finished.

I did seedstart again this past March, however my squash quickly overtook the space and the grow lights.

While they were able to make it out to the beds, most everything else was too stunted to plant. I have two poor leggy tomatoes that made it. Everything else went to the compost pile.

Note to Self: Remember that next year.

So, into the first bed went the squash, and I sowed lettuce, kale, chard, broccoli, beans and pie pumpkins. I kind of followed the square foot method.
I have a handwritten grid of what is planted where, in hopes that I can figure it out as it grows.

A friend gave me some red onions that she had too many of, and the poor heirlooms. I am not going to stake them, instead letting them vine. There is room.

After a couple of weeks I was noticing tracks in bed and one morning caught a squirrel standing in the bed. While I am sure that the neighbors wondered about the screeching lady in the ratty purple bathrobe running into the backyard...well, then again, by now maybe not. But I reseeded the lettuce, pumpkin, and broccoli in hopes that more will come up. So far so good.

The other bed includes my basil. I seeded three square feet of basil, plus bought one six pack of basil in addition.
I am making pesto this year. Dammit. I also added a couple tomato seedlings that I bought, plus a chive plant gifted from my friend Jen's garden. She also gave me seeds from her plants last year, which I have put in the herb bed. I have enough space left for the potato starts I am going to try this year.

Last weekend's project was finally executed with the gifts from Jen. Besides the chive I took home peppermint, spearamint, lemon balm and bee balm. So, it was time to dig out the flower bed. I decided this year to do flowers and herbs, and found that the southeast corner of the house, right at the front, gets almost all day sun. We have a lot of maples, but a lot of southern exposure.

So, like the raised beds, I dug out the sod in pieces and hauled it away in the wheelbarrow to the back, enlisting the niblets to help shake out the topsoil.

The soil here is a lot rockier, and I may end up mulching it later on. It's been running off with the rain we got the last couple of weeks. However, I got the corner done, and may end up extending it to the front steps at a later time.

I did a mad dash through the local nurseries last Sunday, and picked up the missing vegetables, along with more lavender (I had to leave mine at the old apartment), chocolate mint, foxglove, red and purple coneflowers, plus some new plants to me. A butterfly bush, day lilys, plus my ever present daisies - this time not just Shasta, but Cape and African daisies in shades of purple. Plus one English daisy in "Strawberries & Cream".

Purple, or named for desserts. Yes, I am weak.

I also decided to put in my garden stone. This was made with my son's Cub Scout den. I have had a wonderful time leading them this past year, and have one more year before they transition to Boy Scouts and out of my hands. And what boy doesn't love to play with concrete?

A lot of work has been put in, but the wonderful thing I have learned the last couple of years is that this is not finished. Like Life, my garden is a Journey. I have to be mindful, and present, to make sure that the plants continue to thrive. I have to keep watch, and be patient, and not expect perfection - or even a full harvest. These are lessons I keep being presented with along my Path, and I am grateful for one joyful facet of my Life being lived that way.

09 May 2010

Mother's Day

Today here throughout my country we celebrate Mother's Day. Today was the day I would present my mom with lots of pasta crafts: mosaics, necklaces. It seemed to be the gift du jour in the 70s.

I think things have gotten a bit better now. My son gave me muffins and mocha mix, my daughter a tile mosaic of a wizard riding a three-headed dragon.

My mom has watched my Life flow through many different twists and turns up until now, and just about kept up with them all. We haven't always seen eye to eye on them, but she has my back no matter what. I do know that.

My sister celebrates her first Mother's Day today, when she should have still been counting down to my nephew's due date. But after two surgeries and eight and a half weeks, he is doing well and over double his birth weight.

I remember the adults who achieved the title of "Mom" from my friends and I, after being in and out of their houses as much as their own children.

I adore all my friends who are moms - by blood, by paper, by action, by support; by accident, by chance, by happenstance; and always by love.

I honor the moms that are here, those that are gone, and those that will come when the Wheel Turns again. I also remember that my Path and my feet are upon the biggest Mother of all: this wonderful gift of a planet we have.

We celebrate you all today. Happy Mother's Day.

17 April 2010

Signs of Spring

So, the time has gotten away from me once again, dear readers. It has been one of those months where the weekends sneak up on you, and then proceed to behave like weekdays that are full of plans and commitments, and the next thing you know? It's May.

But not quite yet, so let's try to recap some of what has been going on...

We spent Easter here, which is the first time the kids and I have done that. With a short weekend and school and work the next day, we just knew that trying to head up North for our usual ham and egg luncheon and Easter Egg Hunt with the extended family would not work. So, we established that the Easter Bunny WOULD know where the niblets were (he uses the same address list that Santa does, you know) and then I needed to figure out time to colour eggs.

Of course, I didn't want to do the tablet (that never dissolves) in vinegar and boxes and glitter or stickers or yuck. I wanted to try something different. I had seen plenty of postings on how to dye eggs naturally here, here, and here. But, I ended up using what I found at Serious Eats, because it also covered how to do onion-skin dyed eggs. Those looked really neat, and I imagined using rice and sprigs from my rosemary plant to pattern them.

So, that Friday night (I am nothing if not a procrastinator) I set out to make the cabbage and beet dyes. Quite simple: chop the vegetables up, boil with water, vinegar and salt, and strain. I had just enough cumin in the house also, but thought that maybe doing orange-yellow onion skin dyed eggs would be close enough.

The next morning I started looking at the onions I had and realized that I wanted to test it out first. So, I decided to make one onion-skin bundle, boil it and the rest of the eggs off, then dye the rest in blues and reds and maybe double dye to try to mix.

So, I got the onion skin around the egg (NOT easy), placed some rosemary springs inside to pattern it, and then tied it up in some muslin I had and yarn. I was hoping that the pink yarn wouldn't bleed and make the other eggs tinged.

Little did I know that was NOT what I had to worry about.

So, all the eggs went into the pan to hard boil. I came back ten minutes later to find that the onion skin had bled into the water, thus making ALL my eggs an orange-yellow colour. Oops.

Well, I figured that the other dyes would be able to cover over, or at least blend with them to make different shades, so the niblets and I set to work adding the rest of the eggs to both the red cabbage dye and the beet dye. Then it was off on errands, and we left them there for about two hours. Just to be sure.

From Left: onion-skin accident, onion-skin bundle, red cabbage overdye and beet overdye

All in all, not bad. The onion-skin looked a lovely deep orange, and the red cabbage did overtake and make the eggs a nice blue. It is hard to believe that red cabbage does that. The beets, on the other hand, could not seem to take after the onion dye seeped in. Hopefully next year I can be a bit more careful, because the examples I have seen for beet dyes look quite red.

My seeds are WAITING!

Well, some are NOT waiting!

In other news, I have finally been at work on the garden beds in the backyard. There were no established areas around the house, and the landlord gave me ample freedom to make them. I knew that I wanted raised beds, both for control and for ease of soil amendment. I had picked up lumber and had it cut, and with the help of the family, one bed was framed, set and the sod cut and removed in one afternoon. We have been plagued with cold and rain this weekend, but I was able to do some work last weekend and got half of the other bed cut. Once I loosen the soil down about six or more inches, I will fill the rest of the bed with soil and compost for another six inches. This should give enough depth for all the plants I am putting in.

Last frost date comes up after next week. I am ready to plant!

27 March 2010

Random Thoughts on a Not-So Random Day

I swear, I will have some more detailed posts coming up soon, however until then:

Bee School is going great! No bees have been interacted with yet (being as this is being taught in a medical school) but I look forward more and more to the day that I have my own hive. It WILL happen!

My nephew is doing well. He's at 28+ weeks now, in technicalities. He had to have one surgery, but has recovered well from that. He may not need heart surgery, which would be amazing. He is off the ventilator and my sister held him for the first time this past week. This little miracle keeps shining.

My seedlings are coming up! Not all of them though, which is a little bit of a bummer, but most. New this year for me are zucchini and summer squash, bush beans and sunflowers. I got lumber for my first raised bed last weekend, when it was sunny and 70 out. This weekend is just as sunny, but in the 30s. Brrr...

For anyone else doing some new stuff in the garden this year, dig this chick is doing a Virgin Harvest challenge. She's a blogger who has inspired me in many ways: as a mom, a gardener, a want-to-be sewer. Check her out for more information.

I went, for my very first time, to an Ostara ritual. The coming of spring is a wonderful time to celebrate renewal. My family connected to the First Kingdom Church of Asphodel though their choir performing at our UU church, so we packed the kids up and headed out to their farm. Besides having a wonderful drive through the country, a tour of their farm, egg coloring and a pot luck, we shared in their circle to find Justice and Peace and renew ourselves. Pages were ripped from a journal of statements of the heart to carry through the year, and I felt mine resonated in more ways than one:

The wild places are where we began. When they end, so do we.

I picked up my first gallon of raw milk today. Our city has a delivery co-op from Robinson Farm. I have been wanting to try it for a while now. Reading the pros and cons these last months, I decided that the benefits outweigh the risks. I desire to take as many preservatives and processing out of my day-to-day foods as possible, and this is just another link in that chain. I am having my first glass right now, in fact. It's different. This may not appeal to many people, but I can taste the farm in my glass. I like it, and cannot wait to make yogurts and cheese with it too.

I celebrate today. For all the gifts and experiences listed above, for the sunshine in the sky and the ground opening up. For my beloved family and friends who remind me that love and joy are a part of each and every moment I walk this earth. And for it being my birthday.

I may just eat cake.

13 March 2010

Little Gifts

I have a post to finish on Bee School thus far, and seed starting for the garden, but I have other things on my mind.

Wednesday was a day to celebrate - it was the birthday of a lot of people I know. Old friends, current colleagues. Plus my mother - a most awesome woman who is dedicated to her family. She did her best to make sure her daughters were loved and prepared for Life. I feel very blessed.

She ended up getting a very surprising gift that morning: a new grandson. My sister delivered her son on our mother's birthday. This is her first, but the celebration was much sooner than expected. Because he wasn't due until the middle of June.

However, all things considered - he is doing amazing for being 26 weeks. It'll be a long journey now, as he will stay at the hospital for several weeks until he is ready to go home.

All signs so far point to a good Path, and everyone is shining a giant light of love and devotion to this new little Life to show him the way home.

I went to see my sister, her fiance and the little one at the hospital on Thursday. My niblets seemed small when they were born (okay, except my son, he fooled us all) but I have never seen one like this.

Little feet with long toes.

He's a peanut. And a fighter.

Welcome to the world, little one. Happy Birthday.

24 February 2010

A Wee Bit of Knitting

Yes, finally...a finished project. No more WIP for me!

No, don't look in the basket over in the corner of the living room!

So, I originally picked up the yarn at Rhinebeck in 2008. That was my first trip to the Sheep & Wool Festival and will not be my last. It is Briar Rose Fibers Robusta, and I adored the autumnal colours in it.

I found the Faggot Stitch Scarf pattern online. It is a simple 3 stitch pattern, which made it easy to knit. But I am not a fast knitter. Trust me, ask anyone. (Not those who are still expecting things a year after they were due though. They might be a bit testy.)

I knew that using the whole skein would amount to a very long scarf. Just didn't realize quite how long.

I washed it up quick then blocked it to about six inches in width. As I started pinning it I realized that it was WAY too long for the blocking board, so I doubled it up and started pinning it again. It fit the board length-wise, plus doubled back for another couple feet.

Really, really, long...

I estimate the scarf is around ten feet long. Since drying it has narrowed to about five inches, so the length is great doubled up around my neck.

The colours have also brightened, just a little, so it shines. The open knit of the pattern will let me wear it long after the wintertime.

19 February 2010

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Monkey bread!

With cream cheese icing, courtesy of Smitten Kitten, a fave cooking blog of mine. I decided to make it after reading the entry, which was at 8 PM. And I was going well at the time, until I actually read the recipe and noted the second rise of another hour. And at that time it was almost 10 PM. Sigh...

Then I read about patting it into an 8-inch square and cutting it into 64 pieces. That would be 64 1-inch square pieces. No, I didn't measure it with my ruler this time. These are not cheesecake-swirled brownies, after all. (My Twitter followers will know what that is about. No ruler this time, I was playing loose and dangerous with measurements.)

See? Just fine, even without a ruler.

Still, one must do what one must do.

And for this? I'd do anything. Well, almost.

Okay, with cream cheese icing, I WOULD do anything. Just...don't tell anyone, ok?

So this week has been a vacation week not only for the niblets but for myself. Since the oldest is now 13, there are no vacation programs until the summer for her. This is the first full week I have taken off with the kids, and it has been really good. They spent a three-day weekend up north with the grandparents and saw their dad. I got to drive over three hours to spend the night in my old room at my parent's home plus have the thermostat die and take it to the shop to get fixed because the engine light went on.

Wait, that wasn't the good part..

I sent my kids to some programs on Wednesday. My son went and played games at the JCC, my daughter went to the Art Museum and did her first classes there. I not only got a couple free hours but I had a chance to talk to one of the city counselors who supports urban chickens. We have a game plan. I have a lot more research to do, but I am happy about it. It is good work.

She thought she was hiding.

Yesterday I had a quick morning visit with a fellow colleague and friend who was in town for the Handheld Librarian Conference. While I would have loved to attended, vacation takes priority (plus it was recorded, I believe). She also got the gift of Girl Scout cookies and Monkey Bread with MY monkeys. But I got gifts too!

Hooray for increasing my home library!

The "Raising Small Livestock" books were discarded from her collection, and she knew just who would treasure them. The "American Standard" book is from another friend, all about poultry and published in 1888. Not that I ever see myself raising poultry to be judged, but at least I will be prepared!

Today is the last "official" day of vacation, as the weekend brings around the prep time to head back to work and school. It's been a good week. Besides issues with the car, there was some deep talks with family members and caring for other sick ones, but I am in a good place. A necessary place to face the coming weeks and months of...who knows?

Bee school, open source library systems, urban chicken research, public catalog design, eons of homework and laundry, garden plans...okay, so I know a lot of it. The rest will come as it does.

I'm looking forward to it all.