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May 2009

Like a record, baby

Lately I've been doing something to do with spinning or yarn-making every day. Sometimes it's exhilarating, sometimes frustrating, but I'm learning a lot and having so much fun - and that's the point.

Here's what I spun today:

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I dyed it two different colors and blended it together. Next it'll be plied with something else that I haven't spun yet. I can never wait to see how it turns out; I'm so impatient! I have three skeins done and I'm in the middle of a few more. When I get 10, I'm going to start listing them in the shop (which is still empty). I'm also hoping to have a few sets of blank notecards for sale too with my photos on them. I'm pretty sure I've settled on a supplier, I just have to figure out how that all works.

One of the things I've been looking forward to since we moved has finally happened - R set up the record player this weekend! I got this record player in 1986, as a birthday present from my dad. I had already started collecting every Duran Duran 12" record ever made just for the occasion. I still have a few of them (and some Billy Idol).

Maybe we'll have a dance party tonight.

In other news, someone wrote an article on Russian Blues for a website called My Smelly (?!) and used my photo of Zasha in it (yes, they asked and it was ok with me. it's nice to be asked, isn't it?). I think it looks great!

Also, tomorrow I'm planning to post a black and white photo I took recently that I really like. If you have taken any lately that you'd like to share, please come back tomorrow and post a link in the comments. I'd sure love to see!


Grade Four

I've been tearing the house up looking for my birth certificate. Can't find it. But I did find a couple of old report cards that I've saved. One's from fourth grade, which has room for comments from the teacher.

What kind of student was I? Let's see:

1st quarter
Art: "Maya needs to work more freely. She doesn't express herself very well."
Reading: "Maya reads well but she needs to spend more time and put more thought into her written work. Also, she should be encouraged to read more outside materials."
Music: "Maya needs to learn to partiscipate [sic] more."
PE: "Maya works hard. She does suffer a little in wanting to give up. She could partiscipate [sic] better as a team member."

2nd quarter
Handwriting: "Needs work in holding her pencil correctly."
Spelling: "Needs to make sure she finishes her daily work on time."

3rd quarter
Reading: "Needs to take more care in her daily work."

Here are the areas where my teacher said I needed improvement throughout the year:
Is courteous and cheerful
Exhibits self control
Assumes responsibility
Uses time wisely
Works neatly and efficiently
Listens attentively
Shows creativity

Every quarter when I got my report card, I'd read it and be incredulous that she thought such horrible things about me. Every quarter I felt bad about myself, and then I wouldn't want to go back to school. It's still hard for me to read it.

What's funny to me today is that I still think I have shortcomings in those same areas: I need to learn to participate more, I give up too easily, I need to take more care in my daily work and finish it on time.

I'm normally pretty courteous and cheerful and I'm decent at assuming responsibility, but I could use some work with my self control (when there's ice cream in the house), using my time wisely (stop spending so much time on the internet), working efficiently (laundry/dishes/cleaning bathrooms), listening (when asked the same question 10k times by a 3yo), and showing creativity (the list is long and varied).

So what to do? Accept myself as I am? Or keep pushing myself to be what I am not? Is it ok to be flawed or should I work harder to hold my pencil perfectly? I am left-handed so I'm not really sure that's going to happen. Maybe, just maybe, I like my flaws. Some of them anyway.

Here are my 4th quarter notes:
Handwriting: "I have seen much improvement this year."
Math: "She has reached the successful mark in multiplication."
Music: "Maya is doing much better."
PE: "Maya partiscipates [sic] well now. She has grown much this period."

Well, thank goodness.

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I entered this post in Gayle's Monday Memories - please pop over and share your memories with us!


wE lOVE tHE cHAOs

Small, pre-post announcement: I'm really missing my black and white photos. So I've decided to spend more time taking them and then dedicating the first day of each month to them. I'd love for you to join me! On June 1st, I'll ask you to leave a link to your b&w photo in the comments. I'll have more details & probably a little badge & a flickr group later on...

***

I like to think of myself as someone who loves routine. I'm a homebody who loves to bake bread. I want to knit and sew and do crafty stuff with my daughter.

And yet I have lived in six towns in the past seven years. Currently, I have to Mapquest every place I go because streets have started to look the same to me. I'll be driving along and suddenly I can't remember if I'm in West Palm Beach or Knoxville, but then I realize that I'm not in either of them.

As soon as things start to look like they might calm down, we always seem to do something to shake them up again. Like in 2005 when we got pregnant right before we moved to Florida, away from all our friends and family. Or in 2006 when R decided to go back to school when V was 6 months old (and still wasn't sleeping well) and we'd just moved to Knoxville. Or like this weekend when we go to PetSmart to pick up a cat scratcher for our new cat Zasha and walk out with that and a new kitten.

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It just seemed like the thing to do. Don't ask me why.

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Because now we have three cats and none of them really gets along yet. Zasha is none too pleased with Roxy. This is the look she gets when she hears Roxy playing in the next room.

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So she just hangs out either on the bed or under it all day. But I'm doing my best to make sure she gets enough attention. She'll come around.

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At 8 weeks old, Roxy is too young to care what Zasha thinks of her. Grace isn't Roxy's biggest fan either, but she tolerates her well enough. It's hard to resist the charm of a kitten.

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But that's it - no more cats! I promise! We'll have to find some other way to make the chaos - shouldn't be too hard.


Sneaky Weasel winners (yay!)

Whew, what a day! Meant to do this earlier, but here are the winners of the Sneaky Weasel giveaway:

Bella
Darlened
CMV
Kim

You four lovely ladies, please send me your address ASAP.

I wish everyone could have a copy, but if you didn't win and would like to buy a copy, you can get one here at my Amazon store or at your local bookseller. If you do, please let me know what you think if you have a moment. It's really a wonderful book.


Things to do...

There are so many things on my to-do list this week that I thought I'd take an "active break." My plan is to post a picture or two a day for the next week (with the exception of announcing the four winners of my book giveaway tomorrow) so that I can concentrate on some things that have been left undone for too long. I have a hard time not posting here, so we'll see how that goes.

This past weekend, we went to the beach for an all-too-short long weekend. Topsail, NC, is beautiful and not too crowded this time of year. V had the time of her life at the ocean - she didn't want to leave.

So here are the first two of my favorite pictures from our trip.

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v Topsail NC 421


Sneaky Weasel + giveaway (yay!)

Comments are closed - I'll announce the winners later today. Thanks for playing!

***

Does this little girl look like she's in the mood for her mama to take her photo?

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No?!

Let's try again.

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Ok, now that's more like it!

Recently, I got my weaselly little mitts on a really great children's book, my favorite in a while. It's called Sneaky Weasel and it's by first-time children's book author/illustrator Hannah Shaw.

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The premise is simple: Sneaky Weasel is a bully and, when he finally realizes that nobody likes him, he mends his fences and his ways and then there's a party.

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It's a good story on its own, but the illustrations! Oh my! This book is vivid. Right down to the font and word choices, there is a lot of really fantastic artwork going on here. V and I could spend all afternoon picking out things we didn't notice the last time and laughing over just how sneaky that weasel is.

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At 3 & 1/2, V is just now getting to the point where she understands the moral of a story and can begin to relate it to her own life. And we've just scratched the surface of this book - it will continue to unfold for her for a long time to come. Right now, we're just enjoying the book and talking a bit about it in connection with situations in our lives, but there are opportunities here to talk about bullying, apologizing when you're wrong, being a good friend, and what to serve a hedgehog at a party (apparently, they quite like chocolate bars).

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Our favorite part is where Sneaky Weasel comes up with his "being good plan." V likes to talk about how Sneaky Weasel paces around the table and comes up with a few plans that won't work before he finally hits on a solution. We're big on thinking about our problems and talking it out to find solutions and this part of the book is a nice reinforcement. If it worked for Sneaky Weasel, it can work for you.

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We also like how Sneaky Weasel retains some of his sneaky nature at the end. As we all do - even the sweetest among us has a mischievous streak.

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Wait, one more time. Ah, there she is - there's my sweet girl!

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Now, here's the part I'm really excited about - the lovely folks at Random House are letting me give away four copies of Sneaky Weasel. Is that nice or what? This is a really great book and I'm thrilled to give four of you the chance to find that out for yourselves.

PLEASE READ & FOLLOW THE RULES OF THE GIVEAWAY:

1. The giveaway is only open to those living in the US.
2. Please leave a comment on this post if you'd like to be entered.
3. For a second entry, please tweet a link to this post & come back and leave me a comment with the link to your tweet.
4. For two extra entries, blog about the contest and leave me two comments so I can count both entries.

I will close comments on Tuesday morning, May 19th, and announce the winners later that day.

Good luck!

P.S. Don't blame me, her Grandmo bought her the Crocs!

v Sneaky Weasel 020

***

Please join me at Julia's party, Hooked on Fridays, to see what everyone else is hooked on this week!


DressGreen

When I was in my 20s, I had really good skin and not a lot of money. I used to look at the ads in women's magazines and dream of the day when I could afford all the pretty skincare products I saw there. Imagine my dismay when I developed really bad allergies (to "God's green earth," I like to say) and my skin also became super sensitive. The two may not be related, but in my mind, the skin sensitivity is an extension of the allergies.

So there went all the pretty skincare products with their petroleum (yuck) and the parabens that irritate my skin. So for years, I've been buying the big vats of cleanser and lotion that "dermatologists recommend." My problems with them are that a) they come in ugly bottles/jars and b) they last forever and I worry that they get contaminated before I can use them up.

So what's a girl to do? Enter DressGreen.

dressgreen 022

One of the people I follow on Twitter asked for recommendations of shops that sell face lotion without all the yucky stuff in it, and that's how I ran across DressGreen's Green Tree face lotion.

I love the pretty packaging, the fact that there are no perfumes, petroleum, parabens or other ickies, and I love the 2oz size so that I can use it in a reasonable amount of time without worrying that it's gotten germ laden. Also, she shipped it really fast - I ordered it on May 5th and got it on May 8th!

The scent is wonderful too - nothing artificial, just all-natural, botanical loveliness.


At Grandmo's

There's a story famous in our family of me, probably around V's age I'd guess, asking my mother to refill my cup of milk by saying, "Mo moke Mo."

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Years later, when my brother and I heard the story, we started calling my mom Mo.

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When V was born, her first and only grandchild so far, my mom decided she'd like to be called Grandmo.

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And so she is. V loves her Grandmo. There's always so much to get into at Grandmo's house.

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I love it when we get to her house and V runs up to her Grandmo and gives her a big hug and kiss.

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It warms my heart.


Such a (pretty) cliche

There must be thousands of flower photos that look just like this in the world. Still, when I saw them, I had to stop and take pictures.

If I don't see you tomorrow, have a happy Mother's Day.

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I'm looking forward to a card and some French Toast.

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And hopefully lots of hugs and kisses.


Tools of the trade

I've started collecting the tools I need for spinning. It's fabulous fun getting things in the mail almost every day, but I'm just a tiny bit worried about the cost. Well more than a tiny bit, but I'm trying to keep calm and carry on with it.

This is the swift that came yesterday. It's for winding skeins into balls of yarn. I'm still waiting for the ball winder. Maybe it'll come today.

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Nice lines.

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This is the sett gauge I got from Ghstworks. It may be the finest piece of wood in my house. It is super smooth and beautiful. It's for counting the wraps per inch of yarn (wind it around the 1-inch notch there at the end) so you can tell what weight of yarn you've got (fingering, worsted, chunky, etc.)

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And this is my wheel. It's an inexpensive wheel I got used from my new friend Amber. It's from Babe's Fiber Garden and made of PVC pipe and other inexpensive materials. It spins great, is easy to set up and use, very lightweight for traveling, and wonderful for learning on. This is the flyer with the bobbin in the background.

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And this they call the orifice, with a leader yarn ready to start spinning. I must admit that from afar it's not the kind of pretty wheel I think of when I think of a spinning wheel, but I do love the blue. Life is in the details, anyway.

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I loved taking these photos; I think they really show how enamored I am with my latest quest - better than my simple words could express. Things were good before, even when they were bad, but now I wake up every day with more happiness than I think I've ever known. Between loving my family, my husband being happy in his new job and having the space for him to start working on music again (knowing what that means to him), continuing to learn about my camera, and the opportunities I see through fiber arts, I feel like things are falling into place.

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Please join me at Alpaca Farmgirl's Fiber Arts Friday to see what other wonderful fiber artists are up to this week!


Meet Zasha

There's a new cat in town.

Meet Zasha.

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She's a Russian Blue.

And a lady.

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She's very coy.

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And very stretchy.

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Stretchy kitty!

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See you later, cat.

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You can see a full shot of the lovely miss here. She's a rescue cat who has spent the last 6 months in a cage. She's very shy at the moment - and realizes that Grace is the alpha cat. They got into a little tussle this morning. So she's got the spare bedroom to herself and spends most of her time in the closet. I hope that will change soon, as she starts to feel more comfortable with us. I didn't go looking for another gray cat, that's for sure, but I'm glad she found me.

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With this post I'm joining Julia's Hooked on Fridays celebration. When you're finished here, please pop on over to see what everyone else is hooked on this week!


Around the backyard

I just spent 20 minutes in the backyard, pulling vines off the fence that I hope aren't poison ivy. I guess we'll know within a few hours, but so far so good.

I found a couple of things on the ground while I was pulling vines.

This piece of metal.

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This piece of glass (lots of glass, actually, but this was the only piece that was at all pretty. Why oh why do people do that?).

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And this orange fungus growing on a tree stump.

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We also have some fairly aggressive and hungry squirrels. I guess one creates the other.

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A mushroom that's grown because of all the rain.

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And a tomato plant that I doubt is going to make it (my fault).

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Also, these pretty purple flowers that have gotten a bit drowned in all our rain.

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How's your backyard? Good? Mine needs a lot of work. I'm not sure I'm the right person for the job, but I'll give it a try - slowly and probably not this year. Until then, I'll just keep my eye out for what makes my backyard special and try to build on that.


Finding my creativity

Recently I won a contest on Teresa Levine's blog for a set of handmade notecards. Aren't they cute? Teresa sells beautiful handspun and dyed yarns and fibers.

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I've already mailed three of them out. Thanks Teresa - what a treat!

Teresa also kindly sent me a bit of fiber. It's beautiful and I can't wait to spin it. If you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed all my mentions of yarn and spinning lately. Learning to spin yarn has been on my list of things to do for several years now; I've just never found the time. But then I lost my job and that freed up some of that precious time! Now I'm thinking that losing my job was a good thing. Imagine that! After 4+ years, editing someone else's poorly written words had gotten more tiresome than anything.

A couple of weeks ago, I was on twitter and found out that one of my contacts was upgrading her spinning wheel and selling her old one. I bought it and am overjoyed to find something I completely love to do. I'm practicing every spare moment that I have. I've taken one class so far and am planning on taking another one this summer. I hope to add handspun yarns to the Etsy shop I want to start stocking by August 1st (or earlier?). I also plan to have some photo prints there and who knows what else? I've got a million ideas (well, 10 ideas, but that's enough for now).

I never thought of myself as a creative person because I can't draw or paint and I don't scrap or sculpt or sew. I got a camera because I wanted to take pictures of my baby girl, but photography has really been my gateway to a more creative life. Knitting was my next step, and now spinning. I have found that I am, indeed, creative.

How blessed I am.


The Big Chicken

You can't live anywhere near Atlanta and not have heard of The Big Chicken, but until a few weeks ago I'd never seen him with my own eyes.

He's so fabulous, his bright red glory blew out my sky.

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His beak opens and closes and his eyes are googly.

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And on the way home, roadside dandelions all yellow and green.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment on my last post. We're all feeling better than we were a few days ago - Wylie had a nice, long life with much love and his passing left us an open spot to welcome another sweet kitty into our home who has spent at least the last six months in a cage. She deserves far better and now she will have it. More on that soon...


Sad

Sad news on Springtree Road. My cat Wylie, who just turned 18 last week, had kidney failure. We didn't know about it until it was too late. I have so much I'd like to say about my sweet Wylie cat, but the words are floating about my head today while I lie in a puddle on the floor.

baby wylie asleep in candy dish

When I got Wylie, he was a 5-week-old puff of a kitten who fit in one hand. He was in love with me from the start and I with him.

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baby wylie in tissue box

A half-Persian with all the neuroses that come with the breed, he was always my favorite. (Don't tell Grace, though.) He was a fine young cat. Here he is when we lived in Knoxville, after I got my new camera - my best pictures.

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He rarely sat still for a picture and he was dark gray, so he was very difficult to photograph well.

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But I got a few good ones. This look is so him. :)

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Wylie. Wyles, Sir Wyles of Ashencoat, W, Buddy, my middle child.

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He always looked at me with those loving eyes and gave me that loud purr he had. He was my buddy. When I was sick, he slept at my back. When I cried, he purred me to comfort. He never raised a paw to V, even though she stressed him out as often as she was able. I'm better for having known him.

Here he is in the new house, at the beginning of April.

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I'm glad he got to live here in this house with us, even though it was just a short time. I can see now from these photos that he didn't feel well. I didn't recognize it at the time. Even if I'd realized, the outcome would've been the same.

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And things change again.