Sunday, September 20, 2009

Plants - Part VI

It's been awhile since I posted about the African violets. Since May! Yikes! Well, they have been growing all this time, but my summer was busy so I haven't had a chance to keep up this plant series very well - however, it will continue at various times in the weeks and months to come, because African violets are so beautiful and they are EASY to grow!!

Perhaps next I'll choose a plant to grow in natural light (no light cart!) and show you just how simple it can really be :-)

I do want to write this update, now, though, because yesterday was the Illinois State African Violet Society annual show - and as circumstances would have it, I was not able to enter because there were no Saturday morning entries this year and the logistics of a 2-hour round trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe three days in a row was more than I could deal with.

I knew this early enough that I did not focus hard on a pre-show schedule this year. So, the plants did not get increasing hours of light nor any bloom boosting fertilizer, but I did let them come into bloom in their own time, because - hello - they are beautiful, and even a show grower needs to have some beautiful blooms in the house from time to time :-) They are not really show quality because they needed additional grooming and, in addition to the steps mentioned above, I would have also disbudded longer to have better heads of bloom for show - however, I think it's well worth a look at what can be accomplished when a plant that was seriously struggling gets the care it really needs :-)

So - let's start with Gail. Here she was, back in April 2009 . . . leaves drooping and a bad case of powdery mildew.



And here is Gail now, in September 2009.

First, the symmetry on this plant is not as good as it can be - there are some wonky/twisty leaves, and certainly at least one row that had I gone to show, would have come off 12 weeks ago. Also, not a lot of bloom on her right now. BUT - please note the color of the leaves and that this color is consistent throughout the entire plant. I think the difference it quite plain. :-)



Now - here's Melodie Kimi back in April 2009. You might recall the discussion back then about the obvious culture break. I also talked about her open growth habit. In the photo above of Gail, and in the following photos of Mid-America, you can see the standard rosette pattern in which most violets grow.

Here's Kimi now, in September 2009. Again, not too many of her beautiful blue and white blossoms (for all the reasons already noted), but look again at the foliage - healthy, darker, consistent throughout. She's got a couple of twisty leaves, which I will need to work on, and her open growth habit is still quite visible. Although you can't really see it in this photo, I should have turned her more regularly on the cart because she's listing a bit to the right :-) Again, had I gone to show with this plant, the entire bottom row of leaves (maybe two rows) would have come off 12 weeks ago.

Why 12 weeks? Well, I would have repotted one more time then, and done some final cleanup on the leaves and set the plants on a strict, 12-week, pre-show schedule. I will have opportunities to show in 2010, so I'll do some documentation on that process at that time.

And finally - here's Mid-America, back in April 2009. You'll recall I said that she grew pretty well, even with abject neglect. But here she has a bad case of powdery mildew and you can see the rows of leaves that came off - I kept only that nice-looking center crown - about 3 rows of leaves.

Here she is now, in September 2009. Again - at least a row (maybe more) of leaves would have come off 12 weeks ago, but Mid-America continues to pretty much grow herself :-) Beautiful, consistent foliage, great variegation, and a good head of bloom even without the normal pre-show schedule. To give you a good idea - she's about 12" in diameter. Both Gail and Melodie Kimi are around 10" in diameter. All three are in 4" pots. Kimi won't get much larger, but Gail can grow to be a huge plant - at least in Southern California she did - I have high hopes for her here, now that she's getting good care.

I might have told you this already, but when when I first started to grow African violets, I had no real interest in showing, and I didn't know that varieties were named - or that you couldn't show a violet that was what we call a "no-name" (what you usually get at the store - they don't usually come with their names attached unless you get them from a specialty grower).

Anyway - I saw a photo of this particular variety - Mid-America. I thought it was the most beautiful plant I had ever seen and I searched high and low to find it. It was my first named variety, and it continues to be a favorite and is an amazing grower for me. I'm partial to standards and large standards, and I love plants with variegated foliage. I've found that although I can usually grow a semi-miniature, I usually always struggle with minis. Not sure why that is, but it has held true for me for pretty much all my growing history - standards seem to be my forte.

So - my little experiment was successful, and I'm happy I documented it here for you. Something that I have learned over time, is to find the varieties that do well for me. Of course it's always a challenge to grow something that you have to fuss over, but really, in the grand scheme of things, I look for plants that like my growing conditions and want to grow here - there's only one plant that I keep for sentimental reasons, but it's never been as happy here as it was in Southern California. I keep hoping it will be - one day :-)

Here is one more plant that I think is going to be a great show plant for me. It's called Sahara. It was hybridized by Kent Stork. I love his plants, and they are hybridized here in the Midwest. I think it's one of the reasons they do so well for me - I grow at least five or six of his plants at any given time. This one's currently still in a Solo cup and is about 7" in diameter (really ready to be repotted!). I let it come into bloom because I wanted to be sure it was blooming true (it is :-) ). I'm very hopeful for this one as a show plant for next year when it has a little more growth.

I hope you've enjoyed these plants as much as I do. I think my next series is going to be on one of the cousins of the African violet - the Streptocarpus. I have a bunch of them in terrible shape in the basement :-D We'll see if they do as well as the violets did.

If it's not one thing, it's another!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Domestic Witch . . .

So. How about it? My pal Wendi over at The Knitted Squirrel has awarded me and my blog the Domestic Witch Blog Award (for Achievement in Magical Housecrafting). How fitting that it's Emmy night and my blog getting its own award!! At least I think it's Emmy night :-D
I'm not particularly domestic although I'm a pretty magical cook and a pretty good muffin baker, and I know how to do a lot of different kinds of handwork - knitting, crocheting, spinning, embroidery, some weaving, basic Kumihimo and I used to be a crack seamstress, so I guess those things count as housecrafting :-)

I'm not a witch, although I like to think of myself as quite magical ;-) I love Harry Potter, and he's a wizard (cue Hagrid), and I do have some magical socks - they are Balega's and if you don't believe me, go find some and try them out. I really love Elphaba from Wicked. She's a witch and she sings some amazing songs, This one is worth the 4 minutes to watch it and hear her. I also have a very cute pair of red shoes - not ruby slippers, but way cute leather flats ;-) Does that count? What? You say those were Dorothy's? Well, not originally . . . and mine are quite magical!

And you know, I love shows on the telly like the old series, Highlander - they're going along all normal like, until someone comes along, whips out a sword and heads start rolling and lightning streaks across the sky, and suddenly it's all magical. Geez - I think I'm a sci-fi geek :-D

Anyway - I'm jazzed to receive the Domestic Witch Blog Award!! Thank you Wendi!! I'm supposed to pick three people to whom to pass this on, sometimes it seems that not alot of people like to participate in these - still, I liked getting this one and I'm passing it on to:

Michelle at Boulderneigh - she seems magical to me in how she keeps it all together with a family, farm animals and all the other stuff she does - knitting, spinning, baking, home schooling, the list goes on!

Jamie the YarnSnob - she doesn't blog too much anymore, but she's really one of the most creative fiber people I know. She was there when I first sat down at a spinning wheel - a pretty magical experience!

Candy at Somewhere in Indiana - she grows beautiful African violet plants, and has forgotten more about computers than most of the rest of us will ever even know (I'm saving my blown hard drive to take to her to get my photos off - that's how good she is). She makes jellies and jams, and she's even talking about crocheting! Woo Hoo!

So, Wendi, thanks for thinking of me and for this way kewl award!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yeah, Baby . . .





The entire house smells like leather.










I LOVE IT!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A, You Need More Supervision . . .

That's what my friend, Joyce, would say. Just going to upload this photo first and then I'll share the rest of my Stitches 2009 experience. It's quite a haul, I'm afraid . . .

Knitterary and I shook hands on not buying any yarn until the end of the year - and I'm thinking that I'm going to have to wait even longer than that. But if anyone wants to get me MacKintosh Iona Sock Yarn in Gunpowder for a present, I would like it very much :-D

So - that's my haul from Stitches. Linda the Chicken Lady has a great write-up on her blog, and as you can see, I really shopped. This year, however, I did not get much sock yarn, I concentrated on a sweater's worth (or at least a project's worth) of yarn. Let me try to list all this stuff - L to R

That's a darling project bag from Prairie Arts up in Grayslake - I'm thinking there is a road trip in my future in the new year to go up and check it out. They had great stuff in their booth. Then two beautiful baskets from Susan Preuss. That large one was less than $80 bucks, which is a really great price, IMHO. In the little basket and right in front of it is the Buffalo Gold yarn. I traded in some awful yarn and got three skeins for $20 off each one! Yay! Oh, and a free pattern - it's right behind the basket. The little sign up on the top of the sofa is also from Prairie Arts. :-)

Inside the basket are two skeins of sock yarn (the ONLY sock yarn I got), and they are actually double skeins that were half price! Yay! You can't see the colors really well, but one is green (no surprise there . . . ) and the other is beautiful fall colors. Toward the bottom of the basket is a pound of BFL Top from Miss Babs. The colorway is called Forest Afternoon. The stick-like things are Signature Knitting Needles. I tried them out on Saturday, and frankly, I could not tell the difference! All my friends where aghast - What?!?!?!?!?

So, this morning, I went back and asked could I please try them again, but could I please sit down in a chair to do so. They looked at me funny. But if you know me, you know that I have always knit with the right needle braced somewhere on my body. It's just how I knit (because it's how my Grandma knit). I started with the Stiletto tips, which are apparently what most people are crazy for. Not me. I'm a tight knitter, and the girl suggested that I try the Middy tips. Score! I could absolutely tell the difference, and I came home with five pair (they were cheaper that way)! Woo Hoo!!

Moving right along . . . in front of the basket is three skeins of MacKintosh's Iona worsted weight in Gunpowder (see above ;-D). I had to buy that for obvious reasons - but geez, next time I have to READ the Stitches program, because there was a coupon in there for 10% off that I totally missed! Next is some of Tess's Designer Yarns microfiber ribbon yarn. The first year I went to stitches, I bought some of this and a very cute cabled tank top pattern. I have never made it because it didn't really fit me and I was going to have do math to adjust it . . . but it will fit now, and so I bought a little more ribbon yarn and will make two tops - they will be perfect under a suit jacket. Next are four balls each of Tonalita (Army/Navy and Desert Valley) - I'm thinking the Noro scarf pattern :-) In the back is a book, A Stitch in Time. Linda wrote about it and I'm a sucker for vintage stuff . . . I shelled out the bucks immediately - besides, it's heavy and now I won't have to bring it home from the UK when I go!

Down front again, two skeins of Koigu - on sale. I figured I'd see what all the fuss is about. The white in the middle is natural silk/merino (50/50). Enough for a short-sleeved sweater top. There's a cute little Lantern Moon project bag - with all the bags I have they remain my favorite because they are silky inside as well as out and the yarn doesn't fuzz up or stick to the bag. Sitting on the bag is the bracelet I made in the Kumihimo class that I took this afternoon. It was a lot of fun!! Then there are some little notions (point protectors, row counters, a cute little box, etc., and then you see a large amount of milk chocolate brown wool. :-)

This is called Shepherd's Wool, and Knitterary turned me on to it. It was at the Knitting Today booth, and I liked all the things that they had there, very much :-) The Shepherd's Wool is very soft and really lovely. I got enough for a sweater and probably a hat and some mittens. I'm concerned that it might fuzz a bit, but I'm a pretty tight knitter, so I'm hopeful that it will be fine.

Behind that are some patterns for the Mother Bear Project, and the December 2006 issue of Interweave Knits, which I have been looking for! Behind those are two flat bags. They are actually file bags and I got them (they came as a set) because I wanted the green one for a trip I'm taking. I'm thinking that the flowered one will make a nice project bag, even though it's flat.

You think I got enough? Well, there's more. . . Is this not the prettiest jacket you have seen in, like, forever? I bought the kit from Sunday Knits. She had some of the loveliest stuff in the Market. It's called the Ginko and Lotus Fitted Jacket and there's a better photo of it on her website, here. Scroll down a little and you'll see it there. Also purchased there was the kit for the Holly and Poinsettia Mittens (Ravelry link) (keep scrolling on that page - they are down near the bottom), which were in the Winter 2008 Interweave Knits and have been in my queue since - I looked up and saw them on the wall in the booth, and realized I could get the yarn for them there! Wheee!!! I also got a book on Kumihimo (Japanese Braiding) and a Kumihimo disk.

I'm really looking forward to making this jacket - I even sprang for the buttons for it!

You can see why Knitterary and I shook hands on the Stash Busting Wagon. I do have a dispensation for any yarn bought overseas, but since I'll be traveling as light as possible, I don't really plan on getting much (I know, famous last words . . . ;-)).

This is the first year that I attended a class at Stitches, and also the first time I have attended at the Schaumburg location. I didn't think it would be as good as when it was at Rosemont, but I have revised my opinion. The Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center is lovely - I spent two nights in the hotel and my room was fabulous. The gym was great, and all the food I had there was great. The marketplace was smaller (fewer vendors), but I have observed that that has been the case at every fiber event I have attended this year, so I don't think that's anything new.

I think that the best part, though, was getting to hang out with my friends, a number of whom I don't get to see all that often - and a lot of them were there on Saturday! Woo Hoo! Linda, YarnSnob and Rachel, Knitterary, KniftyRed, Becca and Aleta and Karin, Sheri and Janice, and Darthknitter, who got to come up at the last minute! We all had a blast :-) Here's Knitterary, KniftyRed and Karin - a fine looking group, wouldn't you say? :-)

So, it was a weekend of fiber and yarn and friendship and great Indian food (the Gaylord, for those of you who might want to check it out sometime). Staying overnight really added a lot to my experience, as did actually taking a class (I know, like I need another hobby . . . ;-D). My heels are a little sore after all the walking on concrete yesterday, but the Advil and stretching are definitely helping :-)

And this made me smile every time I walked on it . . . who knew commercial carpet could look like the most beautiful fireworks (the blue ones are always my favorite :-) ).

And who else do you know who would take a photo of the floor? ;-D

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How Did THAT Happen?

Michelle at Boulderneigh asked how on earth I could get plantar fasciitis. That's a fair question, and since someone else might be wondering the same thing, I thought I would answer it here.

I've been dealing with the heel pain for probably 5 or 6 months, thinking that it was going to go away, and walking less and less because it was huring more and more - so, clearly, it wasn't going away. I made an appointment about three weeks ago (took me that long to get in) and I finally got to the doctor yesterday. I walk alot, and I do have the right shoes and socks, but shoes wear out. I waited probably a little too long to get new ones and I was using an older pair to walk to and from work every day - not a good idea. Additionally, and probably most importantly, I wasn't stretching enough before and after working out.

My current favorite shoes are my Adidas Supernova. They are pretty hideous, but they are amazing on my feet. :-)

I'm going to be fine - for the next two weeks I have to take substantial amounts of Advil (the wonder drug of the 1980's), and stretch like a maniac. I also have to get liners for all my shoes except my Dansko Professionals (they already have great support). Just doing these things for one day has already made a huge difference in my pain level. I've already set the intention that these treatments are going to be the ticket for me because I'm not interested in the next level (which would include cortisone shots and night splints). And based on my progress just since yesterday (I could get up this morning and walk to the bathroom without heel agony), I know I'm going to be fine.

I just need to be more vigilant and take even better care of myself than I already do :-)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Where Have You Been . . .

Well, I've taken a few well-deserved days off from pretty much everything, including blogging.

But I'm back, and about to hit the ground running tomorrow. My Iona sister, Tori, was here for a visit and we had a great time - lots of end of summer sitting around (which both of us needed), a trip to the Swap-O-Rama, which was supremely disappointing, BTW :-( and a lovely evening spent at Linda the Chicken Lady's on Sunday evening. I took both Friday and today off, and tomorrow, it's back to work for me :-)

I have been cleaning out my closets and getting rid of alot of stuff that either no longer fits or is woefully out of style, this has left a pretty big hole in my wardrobe, so yesterday, we made a trip to Carson's and I did some clothes shopping. I didn't get the jeans I wanted, but Carson's house brand fits me quite well, which is nice because it was all ON SALE!!!! I got two pairs of work pants and five new fall/winter tops for LESS THAN $150 bucks!!!!! ======:-O Hot Dog! With what I have left in the closet the new pieces will get me through the coming months quite nicely. Bonus: Everything was significantly smaller than the last time I went shopping, so that was quite exciting, actually :-)

I had a lot of time to think this weekend with these days off - as mentioned before, I've been running on empty for months. I realized that there was so much left undone this summer even though I did a lot of things I really wanted to do. I didn't read one book all summer long. Those of you who know me in person know that that is highly unusual. I've been spending most of my train time knitting some gift socks - and there is at least one more pair to do before I head overseas next month. So reading might be waiting a little longer, but I'm longing for a good story to capture my imagination and take me away.

Today I've managed to get the laundry done and I went through a boatload of magazines that have been piling up. Oh, and I got nearly all the new yarn photo'd and catalogued on Ravelry and PUT AWAY. This has been quite the stumbling block this summer: Putting things away.

One of the really great things about living alone is that there isn't anyone to tell you that you can't do something. Since I used to be married to someone who couldn't stand a mess anyplace, I've delighted in making a mess wherever I've felt like it - all over the house. :-D I'm also creative - and most art comes from chaos. Thus, there's always stuff all over. I try to contain it in the sunroom, but I'm not always successful. In fact, my sunroom/studio is the worst, with projects and fiber and yarn everywhere.

So, today, a lot of stuff got put away and sorted, etc. This cleanup went well with the little armoire cleaning I did last week, which yielded a full shopping bag of yarn and fiber that I'm going to be destashing in the coming weeks. Probably will put it in my Sale/Trade section on Ravelry and see what happens. I've had good luck doing that in the past, and I have some stuff that I think folks will likely want.

It's fun to make a mess, but, there comes a time when things start to feel out of hand. And I'm a pretty orderly person most of the time - I like to be able to find stuff, and lately, I can't. It's out of hand here, and I'm going to be spending some time getting things organized and put away.

I caught ANOTHER Wollmeise update from The Loopy Ewe - never happened before, and then I caught two in one week. It all came today. Although I will likely keep most of it, I might still have some Wollmeise I'd like to trade (K - I'd like to see if I can trade Wasabi for a color I really want - but if I can't, we can talk :-) ) since, for someone who never seemed to catch any of it on sale forever, I seem to have acquired quite the little stash of it. It's all single skeins, however, which makes it a little difficult to use it for anything other than socks. Looks like a new box of Binney & Smith, doesn't it? :-)

Well, the dryer just buzzed, so I think it's time for the last load of clothes to go in, and for me to see about sorting another few bits in the sunroom :-) Oh, and the new furniture comes a week from today. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy New Year . . .

I still operate on the school year calendar for some reason :-) It's September 1st and this always seems more like the new year to me than January 1st does. School supplies, a new outfit, new shoes . . . don't you remember how much fun that always was? And I always wanted to wear my new wool plaid skirt on the first day of school, and here in Chicagoland it was usually swelteringly hot . . . :-D (Is that a word? The spell check doesn't seem to think so . . . Oh well.)

I'm finding it hard to believe that it's actually September. This year has flown by - as mentioned some time ago, it seems like time is compressing somehow the older I get. It's almost chilly here today - but they say it will be in the 80's by the holiday weekend.

Labor Day - the traditional end of summer. No more white shoes (yes, some of us still follow that convention), although I do confess to wearing sandals after that date. Even so, it's no great loss on the white shoes, because I don't think I even have a pair any more :-D I did pull out my way cute short cowgirl boots on Saturday and stuck liners in them so they won't hurt my feet, which seem to be more and more tender lately :-( Anyway, I'm going to be wearing those shoes a lot this fall. And I need a new pair of jeans. I'd like some Levi's - real denim ones, not those ones that are that really thin fabric denim. That's what my last pair was and I didn't care for them at all.

Well, it's time for me to jump in the shower and run for the train - Happy New Year. I hope you get some really cute shoes and a new wool plaid skirt :-)