Monday, October 17, 2016

On the Stands . . .

It's been awhile since we've taken a look at the stands.  I've let most of the plants come in to bloom because I realized I wasn't going to be going to show this fall after all.  Here's my Champagne Pink - a lovely trailer that's finally growing with the crown variegation in its description.  Certainly in need of grooming, but looking pretty good  :-)

And here is Cajun's McKenna Trail.  It's like a blue snowball!  Definitely a favorite!

And this is Knight Rider, a new chimera from Lyndon Lyon.  I don't always have great luck with Lyndon Lyon plants - I confess I was seduced by the blossom.  If you know me at all - you know that this hardly ever happens.  But it did this time - and you know I really wanted it because chimera's are spendy.  They won't propagate true from a leaf cutting - you have to have a sucker.  That means that they can command substantially higher prices than a regular African violet.

Here is how it was looking this weekend - definitely in need of grooming.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the symmetry was not bad at all.  A number of leaves had to go, however:

 I took those leaves off and then decided to "tease" the blossoms up through the leaves.  This is important for show growing - I think you'll see the difference immediately:

That is the same plant with the six leaves that I marked above removed - and with the blossoms "teased" i.e., gently coaxed upward through the leaves so that the blossom stalks stand up higher in the center rather than laying down out the sides.

I'm encouraged by the symmetrical foliage, but this plant is never going to be a heavy bloomer - each of those bloom stalks has only two blossoms on it.  The beauty of the blossoms makes up for a lot, but that's extremely low bloom count for any African violet.

Take a look:

In my hand is one blossom stalk on K's Tipsy Spritzer:

There are 14 blossoms on that one stalk - some are not even open yet - You can see that this plant is going to be a great show plant  :-)

Here is Knight Rider with the blossoms removed.  Now that they are out of the way, you can see that the plant has that beautiful triangular shape.  This is how you want a growing standard in a 3" pot to look!  Yay!  I'm excited to grow this one out to its full potential even with the low bloom count.

While we are on the topic of blossoms - This is a bloom stalk from Crystallaire:

There are nine blossoms on this bloom stalk - the blossoms themselves are physically quite large.  I've been pretty happy with this plant and I thought it was blooming true to its description:

Crystallaire (4295) 02/21/1981 (Eyerdom) Double medium blue star/white edge. Plain, pointed. Large
If you know about African violets or are learning, please look closely at that bloom stalk and tell me what you see . . .

Here, I'll give you a hand.  This is full double medium blue star blossom with a white edge.  You can clearly see two full layers of petals in this one blossom.

This is a semidouble medium blue star blossom with a white edge.  It looks like a single, but it has that little tuft in the center - that makes it a semidouble.

And this is a single medium blue star blossom with a white edge. A beautiful single star . . .

All of these are on that single bloom stalk - and in fact there was only ONE blossom that was a full double.


You probably know what that means to this show grower . . .  This was not the first bloom cycle so I can be reasonably sure that this plant is no longer stable.  It's not really a surprise - it's what is considered a vintage variety.  It's an old Eyerdom hybrid that was released in 1981, which means it's 35 years old.  Decades of leaf propagation have rendered it not quite itself any longer.  I can't enter this in a show and expect it to do well - it's no longer blooming true to its stated description and points would be deducted accordingly.  A lot of points.  If I wasn't a show grower I would probably keep it because I love me a beautiful star blossom - but I do grow for show, and I have been limiting my collection for quite awhile now - when this one goes, I will be down to 22 varieties.

If you are growing for show it's critical that you check your plants.  Check the blossoms against their descriptions in First Class 2.  Don't be surprised at show!

Here endeth the lesson  ;-)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Sunday Wrap-up . . .

So, the next book that I decided to pound through I actually had to start again because I'd left it so long.  It's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

I purchased this book just after I'd divested a HUGE number of books - in fact, I got it on Kindle because I was afraid to bring another book in to the house  :-D  :-D

I suppose my own method isn't quite as extreme as the KonMari method - if you've followed my blog for any length of time, you already know that I'm pretty much the champion of letting stuff go - if you want to be reminded of one of my past efforts, just click The Great Cleanup of 2010 in the tags over on the right sidebar.  It's actually a bit disturbing that I still have stuff to get rid of . . . but I've just spent the past hour going through my armoire and lingerie chest, and there are at least three bags of stuff to go to the Second Chance Shop . . .

Most of that pile is T-shirts.  Some fit, some don't.  Some fit for 5 minutes decades ago . . . whatever.  I decided I'm never going to wear them and so they are going.

I do have a drawer in the bottom of the armoire for underwear and a few other things that don't currently fit but that I really like - I'm holding on to that stuff for awhile longer.

So I guess I'm not really following the author's directives to get every single piece of clothing in the house out on to the floor, but I am going through everything once again - and next I'm removing things from my closet that do not fit me at the present time.  That's most of my closet, I'm afraid.  But I've been feeling like shifting stuff around and letting more go is really what I need to do at the moment.  So I'm doing it. 

I guess that's why I decided to read this book at this time.  It's also a quick read, which means that I can likely finish it today and knock another of the in-process books off the Unfinished Book List.

In other news of the week, this morning I was watching CBS Sunday Morning and was thrilled that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg - more often referred to lately as the Notorious RBG - was on this morning!  Jane Pauley interviewed her, and it was great.  It's a 10-minute segment and well worth watching. 

Funnily enough - two things jumped out at me that have absolutely nothing to do with what an excellent judge she is.  They were far more personal.  First was the beautiful blue Egyptian lotus pillow in her office.  I had this same pillow for many years! 

Second was her mention of the one and only cookbook she used - The 60-Minute Chef.

Apparently she wasn't the best cook, but she said this book was her one and only.  It was one of my mom's favorites - and one of mine!  It's full of wonderful stories and recipes that take 60 minutes or less.  It's where I learned to bake a potato - but mostly I think I was captivated by the authors' stories of growing up in New York and the people who graced their families' tables.  But I did learn how to bake a mean potato in the bargain  ;-)

I snagged it from my mom and somehow over the years it was lost.  I looked for many years to find another copy.

Used copies are now available on Amazon.

Me and Notorious RBG - we've got some things in common!  I love that!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Different Style of Knitting . . .

I said I might be able to help Janice with her style of knitting.  She has arthritis in her hands.  I'm so sorry about that because I cannot even imagine how much that must hurt.

Janice - I did a little research, and apparently you are likely already knitting in the style (Continental) that seems to work best for many knitters with arthritis, but I do have some info to share with you.  I realize that you probably will not want to change your entire style of knitting, but - apparently - I knit in a style that is not very common, but can work really well for people with arthritic challenges. 

I knit British style, which is no surprise because I was taught to knit by my grandmother who came from Belfast, Northern Ireland.  British style means that I "throw" my yarn, rather than "pick" it as you do in Continental style.  But, I knit British style "supported." That means that I brace my right needle somewhere on my body, keeping it in a fixed position and essentially moving my arm - not my hand when I throw.

This is called supported knitting or supported needle, and is very common on the Isle of Shetland, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, where they use a special tool for it called a knitting belt.  

This photo of knitting belts is from Studio PK (home of The Principles of Knitting which is a very good book to have in your reference library), where you will also find all sorts of good information about knitting with a knitting belt - and which actually enlightened me on some things I've always wondered about.  The following is from Studio PK's "Why Use a Knitting Belt." The bolding is mine.
"Why would you want to strap on a belt in order to knit? Why not just use a circular needle?
Because a  knitting belt holds the right needle in a fixed position, which produces several advantages:
  • Without the need to hold a needle, the right hand is free to act solely as a shuttle, wrapping the yarn and controlling tension.
  • Movements required are minimal, which increases speed, reduces stress and fatigue, and produces a very even fabric. Position of hands and arms is ideal, reducing the possibility of neck and shoulder problems, or repetitive motion injury.
  • The belt can be used for any project, large or small, flat or circular, and in any style, traditional or modern.
  • Purl can be done as fast as Knit, with no change in tension; even the most complicated stitch technique is easy to manage. (I always wondered why people would complain that their purl rows were never even - I have never experienced this problem - I actually like to purl.)
  • Any type of color pattern can be done while holding both yarns on the right, or one yarn in each hand.
  • Small items worked in the round are easier to do because the right hand is up on top of the needle, not inside the small circle formed by the knitting."
To use a knitting belt, you would be knitting exclusively with metal double-pointed needles of various lengths and sizes.  There are plenty of videos on YouTube if you want to see this style of knitting demonstrated.

I don't use a knitting belt, I just brace a needle on my body which I think gives me more flexibility.  I even do this with circular needles.

So - essentially I knit this way without the use of a knitting belt, which is probably why I never cared for double-pointed needles:  I've impaled myself (yes, really) with them more than once attempting to brace them on my body.  I usually brace needles in the crook of my thigh or somewhere on my torso - it depends on the length of the needle if it's a straight, or if I'm using circulars.   I've often wondered if my grandmother used a knitting belt, but I don't have any memory of her doing so.  For most of my life I thought I knit the way I do because I'm left-handed and she was right-handed.  I wrote about it on this blog forever ago.  If you click that link and read my post from 2008, you'll learn that it turns out that I knit the way I do because that's how my grandmother knit  :-)

So - Janice, like I said, you probably don't want to completely change your knitting style, but at least you know there are options.  A quick Google search sourced a ton of into on this topic - you never know - there might be something in there for you to try.  In no particular order or preference, here are a few:

6 Tips for More Comfortable Knitting

Ergonomics for Knitters

29 Tips for Avoiding Knitting Pain

Stitchlinks Troubleshooting Knitting

And now, I need to go and check the thermostat.  Last night got down to the 40s and it's feeling a little chilly here in my office (which is the warmest room in the house  :-) ).

Friday, October 7, 2016

Another One Done . . .

Another book comes off The Unfinished Book List (UBL)!  Yay Me!!

I purchased Already Home after hearing Aruni speak when I was at Kripalu in May 2016.  She's led a pretty amazing life and I've found her words and stories to be very powerful and universal.  In addition, I am always interested in a good story - and hers is extraordinary.  I picked this one back up on September 22, 2016 and finished it today.

Here is what Amazon has to say about it:
"Part memoir, part spiritual guide, "Already Home" not only tells the story of a compelling life - it compels us to create a beautiful life of our own. Continuing the story she began in her bestselling first memoir, "Recovering My Voice", Futuronsky's second book takes us deeper into her history, a past checkered with difficult relationships and the pain of addiction. From Scranton to the Philippines, from her first taste of Manischewitz to her outrageous years as a radical lesbian feminist in New York City, Aruni weaves a rich and honest tale of her extraordinary life. On the road to recovery, Futuronsky finds a spiritual community, a job, a life partner and-most importantly-her calling. Drawing on more than twenty years of teaching and mindfulness coaching at the Kripalu Center of Yoga and Health, Futuronsky shifts seamlessly into her role as teacher. In chapters glowing with both humor and vulnerability, Aruni tackles subjects like training our roving minds, relaxing into our changing relationships to our bodies, and creating our own Articles of Faith. In telling her personal story, Futuronsky tells everyone's story, shedding light on the most universal of all human longings: our longing for home."
I'm not sure yet which book from the UBL I'll pick up next, but I'll make a decision in the next couple of days.

The weekend is upon us and I'm very, very ready for it.  I think tonight is going to be the first really cool night here - down in the 40s.  I'll see how cold it is in the house when I get up in the morning.  I raise tropical plants that really can't be all that cold.  Ever.  African violets stop growing when the temps are outside of the 65-85 degree range.  I push it every winter with the main furnace at 65 and the secondary (which includes the sunroom) sometimes a degree or two warmer.

And tonight is an exciting night.  I was out at lunchtime today, and Chicago is on fire with energy, tourists, and Cub paraphernalia everywhere you look.  :-)  We love our baseball in the Windy City - and we're lucky enough to have two teams.  There's plenty of rivalry between the two - but pretty much everyone seems to be very hopeful that this young Cubs team doesn't know that it's supposed to clutch in the post-season.

Maybe they can go all the way this year . . .  That would be pretty wonderful.

Even this American League fan has been singing the late Steve Goodman's Go Cubs Go all day. It's such a snappy tune it's hard not to sing along  :-)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Another One Bites the Dust . . .


With the completion this morning of my Quick Sand sweater, all sweaters that were in progress are off the needles.  Here it is blocking.  It doesn't look all that great.  It will look better once it's dry  :-)

This one comes off of The Big List.  That means I've only got one thing left on The Big List - the Rhiannon Socks.  They are going to rest a little while longer.  I have two WIPs on the needles - those socks and the Edradour shawl.  Linda the Chicken Lady and I both started this shawl earlier this year.  She's already frogged hers, and I'm contemplating doing the same.  I don't care for the yarn I chose, and as I got going with the pattern I don't really care for it, either . . . so it goes.  It was a good try, but I think I'm going to frog mine, too.

I should cast on some socks for the YOSS group.  I'm trying to decide on a pattern or plain vanillas.  I'll let you know  :-)

Oh - and I did finish (on Audible) Book #4 in the Outlander Series, Drums of Autumn.  I started #5, The Fiery Cross, on Friday.  Here's what Amazon says about it:
The year is 1771, and war is coming. Jamie Fraser’s wife tells him so. Little as he wishes to, he must believe it, for hers is a gift of dreadful prophecy—a time-traveler’s certain knowledge.

Born in the year of Our Lord 1918, Claire Randall served England as a nurse on the battlefields of World War II, and in the aftermath of peace found fresh conflicts when she walked through a cleftstone on the Scottish Highlands and found herself an outlander, an English lady in a place where no lady should be, in a time—1743—when the only English in Scotland were the officers and men of King George’s army.

Now wife, mother, and surgeon, Claire is still an outlander, out of place, and out of time, but now, by choice, linked by love to her only anchor—Jamie Fraser. Her unique view of the future has brought him both danger and deliverance in the past; her knowledge of the oncoming revolution is a flickering torch that may light his way through the perilous years ahead—or ignite a conflagration that will leave their lives in ashes....

Grand, sweeping, utterly unforgettable, The Fiery Cross is riveting entertainment, a vibrant tapestry of history and human drama.
I'm enjoying The Fiery Cross so far.  I'll keep you posted!

And I know you've had that massive bass line in your head since reading the title of this post . . .


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Pomp and Circumstance . . .

I graduated from physical therapy on Wednesday.

(the marchy part starts at 1:55 - this is known in the UK as Land of Hope and Glory)

Six months - The beginning of April through the end of September - Spring, Summer, and in to Fall.  But I'm done now.  I'm at about 90% mobility.  I'll take that.  I could regain even more - I have home PT to do every other day for as long as I can.  I see the surgeon again in mid-October.


In knitting news, today I finished the Nefertem I was working on.  It was a pretty quick knit and I was able to get and 1/2 a pattern repeat out of 400 yards (the pattern calls for 375).  Here it is off the needles:

And here it is blocking:

I have another cake of gradient yarn and plan to make a second one of these, but first, it's back to my Quick Sand.  Time to finish it up :-)

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Road to H-E-Double Hockey Sticks . . .

 . . . is paved with good intentions.


I know now for sure why Joan Anderson says you must leave home to retreat.

I had great plans for last weekend - a personal retreat for myself.  I was going to walk the labyrinth that is not far from me, and I was going to go to the club to get into the water.  I was going to walk around the retention pond for some nature, and I was going to work through some of the exercises in Joan's fourth book, A Weekend to Change your Life: Find your Authentic Self After a Lifetime of Being All Things to All People.  I was going to watch Wayne Dyer's film, The Shift.  I was going to write and goal set, and just generally come home to myself as we enter into fall.

Nearly none of that stuff happened.  Other great stuff happened, but not my planned mini-retreat.

So it's true that it's nearly impossible to "retreat" at home.  The telly calls, and house things call, and it's super easy to stay in your jams and not get out.  And that's exactly what happened to me.

I did watch The Shift again, on Saturday night, and on Sunday morning I watched the bonus DVD features that came with it.  It's even better than I remembered it.  I think that's pretty much the only thing I accomplished from my retreat list . . .

On the bright side, however, I got a lot done on my Quick Sand sweater . . .

. . . but I just had to put it down when I was so close to finishing.  I needed a break from it.  And the socks I cast on for September - a pair I was experimenting with - the colorway looks like mud to me.

 I don't know how something can be so gorgeous in the skein and so not-gorgeous on the needles.  This hardly ever happens.This has been frogged and the yarn will be up on my trade/sell page on Ravelry soon.

I wanted to knit, but neither of these projects called to me.  So I cast on the Nefertem shawl using a Knitcircus gradient that I picked up in April at YarnCon.  I worked on it pretty exclusively all weekend long - and discovered that I'd make an error about halfway through the first repeat on the lace border.  :-S  I ripped it back to the stockinette and started that section again.  I think I'll have enough of the yarn to made a third repeat of the lotus lace.  I'm further than this now - well into the darker charcoal shade you see in the skein.

I made a lasagna using whole wheat lasagna noodles.  It's not very good.  In fact, I ate it for the next couple of days, but I didn't freeze servings.  I discovered - to my dismay - that I was out of oregano, so that could be some of why it wasn't all that great, but I think it was more the noodles.  I eat whole wheat pasta pretty exclusively - except for lasagna.  I was very excited to have found whole wheat lasagna noodles, but they just were not great.  Live and learn (and buy oregano).