Tuesday, May 31, 2011

151:365 Yarn Overload

I got a little carried away at the last Wollmeise grab bag update.

Wollmeise is a German yarn that is very popular and somewhat difficult to acquire. It's very popular because of the colorways. The dyer is truly gifted wth her understanding of color and the colorways she creates.

For those of you in the know, these are all "we're different" skeins, and yes, that red is a skein of Lacegarn. It's Vamp - WD. It's stunning in person :-)

Monday, May 30, 2011

150:365 Baby, Baby . . .

I have seen three little beaks poking up in the past few days. So glad they hatched and are growing :-)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Will They Shape Up? Part II

Today, we're going to talk about Symmetry and Condition. Why all this talk about symmetry and condition?

I grow my violets for show. That means that I am more concerned with the shape of my plants than the average grower who just loves some violets around the house. In an AVSA-judged show (AVSA is the acronym for the African Violet Society of America), all plants are judged using a scale of points. For standards, semiminiatures and miniature violets, Symmetry (Leaf Pattern) and Condition (Cultural Perfection) are 25 points each - that's HALF the points. All of a sudden, Symmetry and Condition are looking a lot more important than before . . .

Here's what The African Violet Society of America Handbook for Growers, Exhibitors, and Judges has to say about Symmetry:

"Symmetry is the shape of the plant. The leaves of the plant should form a rosette with the foliage evenly distributed over the entire plant. The foliage should grow straight out from the center of the plant to the edge of the outer leaves. Each row of leaves should overlap the row below without gaps or spaces in the rows or between the individual leaves in a row caused by missing leaves or poor culture However, some cultivars do not have leaves that overlap and in those cases the leaves should radiate like spokes on a wheel."

and Condition:

"Condition applies to the cultural aspect and grooming of the plant at the time is is judged. Cultural perfection is controlled by the exhibitor."

Let's look again at the project plants, Decelles' Triomphe (DT) and Rainbow's Limelight (RL). Just so you know, both of these plants should grow in the rosette formation, not the wheel spoke formation.

The first step in the process is to disbud. That means to remove all the blossoms. Here is DT. Now that the blossoms are gone, you can clearly see (because I marked them in red :-D) some of the things I mentioned yesterday plus some others. The center leaves (top red arrow) are bunched up and not growing nicely. See that middle red line? It's marking an area where there were blossoms under the top row of leaves. You want your blossom stalks to come up through to the top rather than come out the sides.

This large gap is a serious symmetry issue, not to mention the last red arrow, which is pointing to the middle row of "immature" leaves. Immature? This term confused me for years. How can they be immature? They are older than the top leaves! The are termed immature because they never grew to their full potential. You can see that some of the newer leaves are larger than this stunted row below them.

Here's RL. Again, now that the blossoms are gone, you can really see the problems. The first red arrow is the leaf so twisty that it twisted itself upside down!

The middle red line shows the gaps in the foliage where blossoms were growing underneath instead of over the foliage.

And that final red arrow is showing two leaves twisting back-to-back. It remains to be seen if the twistiness can be worked with - some plants just throw a twisty leaf once in awhile.

Let's talk about Condition for a moment - this is the one area that is completely within the grower's control, and it's an area that judges look at very closely (I know I do when I'm judging a show). Condition is all about the cultural perfection of the plant. Neither of these plants have received consistent care, and it shows. I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating: the care your violets receive is directly reflected in their foliage.

Did you get that?

The care your violets receive is directly reflected in their foliage.

It's very clear that I have not been a good violet mama in the past months - and both DT and RL reflect that in their foliage. In the last series I did on Plant Care, I talked a lot (what a surprise :-D) about consistent care in this post. You might want to look it over :-) I'll be repotting both of these plants in the next few days and will pick up the series then :-)

149:365 Memories . . .

When I lived in Germany, everyone had a balcony, and all the balconies had window boxes (bannister boxes?) and they all had red vining geraniums and white petunias in them.

I try to make hanging baskets every year to hang on either side of my garage at the front of my house. And I always use vining geraniums and white petunias :-) Here's one basket about ready to go - I managed to get them both done, and the porch flowers, before the storm :-)

Yes, another storm - bad enough just south of me to have the EAS come on the telly (that's the Emergency Alert System) and say to take cover if you lived in one of the areas. I didn't have to take cover, though.

I got everything done today with the plants Linda and I purchased yesterday. The only thing I still need, is one clay pot to fit in the metal dog that one of my friends got me for my deck when I first moved here. I got coleus to plant in it, but the pot I got is too big.

Here's another hanging basket view. I certainly hope I can keep them alive. I have been known to forget to water them . . . They really do bring back happy memories of a simpler time :-)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Will They Shape Up? Part I

I'm starting another African violet experiment! It will be similar to one I did about a year and half ago, but this time, I'm using plants that I have never shown. Both plants are in 3" pots at this time, and they are both approximately 9" in diameter at their widest points. They both have very serious symmetry issues (one more than the other) and I don't know if they will really shape up for show or not, but I'm going to give it a try and see how it goes.

The two plants I'm using for this little experiment are:

Decelles' Triomphe (7429) 08/26/1990 (Y. Decelles) Semidouble blue-purple. Variegated dark green and white, quilted foliage. Standard (CA 423, 1989).


Rainbow's Limelight (6677) 06/05/1987 (R. Wasmund) Semidouble white bell star/wide green edge. Plain, quilted foliage. Standard.

I've at least seen one great photo of Decelles' Triomphe (henceforth, "DT"), which leads me to believe it will shape up with the proper, consistent care. But I'm really not sure about Rainbow's Limelight . . . (which shall be known as "RL").

Here are some photos of each as they look today. I let them bloom willynilly, and I have not taken very good care of them. I will be repotting them tomorrow and it is my hope that I will be able to get them to shape up.

Frankly - it's shape up, or ship out for these two :-D

Here is DT - it's not a pretty site from a show-grower's point of view. Although the foliage on this plant has the potential to be show-stopping, this particular plant is pretty sorry looking . . . poor symmetry, blossoms growing out sideways, and an entire row of undersized leaves. This view is from the top looking straight down.

Here is another view, more from the side. You can clearly see the row of undersized leaves, and also the blossoms growing underneath the leaves.

Here's one more view for good measure :-)

And now - here's RL . . . where do I start? Really poor symmetry, uneven blossom distribution (mostly because they are growing under the leaves), twisty leaves and a general unhealthy look.

Um. . .

Why, yes, that leaf is growing upside down . . . This one is going to be quite a challenge.

I invite you to follow along - this will be a process that will continue over a period of months. All the photos will biggify if you click on them :-)

148:365 Watermelon Wine

This is a streptocarpus. Its name is Watermelon Wine. Streptocarpus plants are in the same family as the African violet (gesneriad). Sort of a cousin, if you will. I grow five of them in addition to my violets.

I really love the blossoms on this one - they are a good size, at least 2 inches in diameter, and they are quite unique in their markings. It is an older variety, not seen alot. I got the plant a few years ago at the Missouri Valley annual show and sale.

What a great day I had today! My friend, Linda the Chicken Lady (who is currently chickenless) came over to hang out. We got some knitting done, and then drove over to Alsip Nursery to see if she could find a water lily she wanted, and if I could get some vining geraniums and petunias for my hanging baskets. Score! All the way around. We came back with everything we both wanted. And what an amazing and huge place Alsip is. I mean, WOW! They have everything there!! I even got some some accessories that I hope to use in some designs for the Illinois State African violet show!

And then, we met my cousin, ME for lunch and a glass of wine at one of our favorite places, Fresh Starts. Yum! By the time we got back home, it was 3 o'clock! A little more knitting, and then Linda headed home to the north side.

In other news of the day - the baby robins have hatched!! I have not been successful in getting a photo of them poking their little beaky heads up out of the nest, but I've seen them multiple times. They are way cute.

It's still frickin' cold here . . . tomorrow it's supposed to be warm. I'll believe it when I see/feel it. I'm going to put my hanging baskets together tomorrow, though, so I do hope it will be a nice day :-)

147:365 It's a Beautiful Day

Deceptively so . . . it was clear - for awhile, but it never got above the high 40s F yesterday, which is about 35 degrees colder than normal for this time of year. I mean, really - it's almost June and I had my winter coat on again this week :-S

This was taken from the north end of the LaSalle Street bridge, through the pony truss. looking East up the Main Branch of the Chicago River.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

146:365 Ghost Lamp

This funny little photo is of the shadow of the lighting fixture in my front hall. It's original to the house, circa 1961, and it's so retro that I kept it. Two candelabra bulbs, cut glass sides, brass fittings and finials, all reflected on to the wall and the front door.

145:365 Heading Out

It's that time of year in Chicagoland - the sailboats head from dry dock out to the harbors. To do that, many of them have to chug along the main branch of the Chicago River and head out to Lake Michigan. At this time of year, on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m., (and I think on Saturdays, too), the bridges open one after another so the boats with masts too tall to fit under can get out to the harbor.

This is the north end of the LaSalle Street Bridge that has raised up to let the ships pass on their way.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

144:365 A String of Pearls

I like a lot of twist in my yarn :-) When the twist is right it always looks like pearls to me. This is some of my handspun. It's black Blue-Faced Leicester wool from Gale's Art. The colorway is called "Deep Blue Sea," and the colors are much more vibrant than this photo would have you believe.

Monday, May 23, 2011

143:365 Turkish Festival

In Daley Plaza there are many festivals. This week, it's the Turkish Festival. I was intrigued by the trim on her dress and the diamond panels down the back, which were far more interesting than the front . . .

Sunday, May 22, 2011

142:365 View from the Hammock

I power-washed the deck and the gazebo, scubbed the yard furniture and got it all out, trimmed the back yews, filled the bird feeder, scrubbed the security door screens and changed out the storms for them, washed the grill and hauled it around back and up on the deck, and then hauled the propane tank.

My shoes and socks are wet and I'm a sweatpig. I think I deserve my little hammock break . . . and now it's thundering. Glad I got everything done early on - Bring on Memorial Day Weekend and let the Summer Begin!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

141:365 In the Plant Room . . .

This could be pretty much any room in my house, since there are a lot of plants here. But I have a light cart full of African violets in my guest room, and that's where this photo was taken.

I groomed all the plants in the guest room, most of which were in bloom - this is what it looks like when you do a lot of grooming work all at one time. There are blossoms from a lot of different plants - Fresh Air, Smooch Me, Mid-America, Powwow, Sansoucy' Coco, Gail, Milang Skies and Sapphire Halo and probably a few other varieties under all those leaves.

I spent about 6 hours with my plants today - repotting some, and separating and potting up an entire tray of plantlets that had been languishing since last August . . . that's kind of embarrassing to admit, since I'm a show grower and also a Senior Judge for the African Violet Society of America :-D If you look closely, you can see that some of these were actually in bloom under the dome. I didn't keep all those babies - I just kept the best one (occasionally best two) of each variety that was in the tray.

I shifted things around and moved some plants upstairs and some down - it's interesting to me to see how they grow in each location - it's clear that some of the plants do not like the basement light cart. It's cooler down there, so I'm moving most of the variegated plants downstairs because they generally like the cooler temps.

Violets are kind of like poodles in that they come in miniature, semi-miniature and standard sizes :-D I grow mostly standards, but I have a few semis. Minis and I don't get along very well, though.

I always feel better after I do this work - something about having my hands in the dirt, I guess. There is more for me to do tomorrow - mostly repotting now that all the plantlets are potted up. I probably should have gone outside and power-washed the deck, but I didn't . . . but I'm really glad I got this plant work accomplished.

Friday, May 20, 2011

140:365 The Spirit of Electricity

is the name of this Art Deco sculpture. It is on the facade of the Commonwealth Edison Power Station on Dearborn (between Randolph and Washington). The power station itself is a work of art - designed by Holabird and Root and completed in 1931. The sculpture was created by Sylvia Shaw Judson.

I've been finding myself looking at the facades of buildings lately - this one has always intrigued me, and anything that smacks of Art Deco I usually love.

139:365 Marina Towers

That corncob looking building is one of the towers at Marina City. There are two, but I was at an angle where the other is right behind. Marina City was built in 1964. It is one of the first mixed-used residential/commercial buildling complexes in the country.

It has the two towers, an auditorium building that used to be a movie theater but is now the House of Blues, and a mid-rise hotel building that used to be Marina City's office building and is now the Sax Hotel. There used to be a skating rink, but that was demolished to accommodate restaurants on the river. Oh, and, of course, underneath the towers is the marina :-)

At the time the towers were built, they were the two tallest residential buildings and the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world. Marina City was also the first urban post-war, high-rise residentnial complex in the country.

Finally a clear day that was in the 60's. Woo Hoo!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

138:365 Rain . . .

and more rain. It is so wet in Chicagoland - all throughout the Midwest. And cold - it was in the mid-40's again yesterday and the windchill was - well, let's just say that I was wishing for my winter coat.

This tulip is in one of the planter boxes on LaSalle Street. I love its color - the deep pink with a little bit of red on the tips.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

137:365 Robin Red Breast

This isn't a very good photo, but this momma robin built her nest and laid her eggs behind my garage light and I just I love that she's there! Every time I come out the front door or open the garage, she flies away, and then returns when I'm far enough away.

Tonight I got relatively close on my way home from the office, and used the zoom. I managed a couple of shots before she took off. At this time of year, I usually turn off the porch and garage lights before I leave for work - but I've been leaving them on because even though it's a fluorescent bulb, I think it gives off a little bit of heat.

I hope that the babies hatch and are healthy. And once they fly away, it's time for me to power wash the house and Windex the light fixtures - the joys of being a homeowner :-D

Monday, May 16, 2011

136:365 Moonlight Through the Pines . . .

Well, not exactly - they are Spruce trees.

Close :-)

It if doesn't warm back up here soon, I don't know what I'll do - I'm wearing a fleecy on May 16th :-S

135:365 Eclectic Taste . . .

One of the many shelves in my kitchen - all filled with books. Can you ever have too many? Books, that is :-)

134:365 Sansoucy' Coco

That's the name of this African violet. It's a good sized standard with variegated foliage, and a very interesting blossom.

It rained here today - and my day was taken up with yardwork and, unfortunately a visit to urgent care for my cousin, who caught the tip of his finger in the hedge trimmer . . . there was a lot of blood. I realized around 6 p.m. that I had not taken any photos.

133:365 "Urbs in Horto"

That's been the motto of the City of Chicago since 1837. It means "City in a Garden." Today Mayor Daley left City Hall for the last time. He's been the Mayor for 22 years - a year longer than his late father. One of the things he did really well, was to make Chicago even more beautiful than it already naturally is.

There are flowers and trees throughout the urban landscape - these are in the median on LaSalle Street.. My home is really a City in a Garden. Thanks, Mayor Daley :-)

132:365 Big Rain Coming, Big Rain Coming This Way . . .

. . . rain on the rock, rain on the rock, rain on the rock.

The light at the very end of the day - the kind that makes the trees that impossible green. Shot out the car window at a traffic light, on my way back from a wake.

It was a seriously big rain.

(Did you catch the earworm?)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What a Day . . .

Today my cousins came over to help me with my yard. I finally had to get some Weed and Feed - the Creeping Charlie and the Dandelions are at the point of critical mass. So, I went and got that stuff and used my little hand spreader and got the entire front and back done. I sure hope it works. I can't put grass seed down for at least three weeks now - but I will as soon as I can to fill in in some spots.

My other cousin came over too, and brought his weed whacker and hedge trimmer. All was going well . . . can you tell where this is actually going?

Just as he was finishing up, and had, in fact, taken his finger off the button, somehow he got the tip of his right index finger caught in the blade.

I will spare you the details other than to say that my other cousin, ME, who is generally in charge, was freaked out by the amount of blood. I'm not quite sure how I was as calm as I was - but we got it under water and put some Purell on it (OMG - that hurt like a youknowwhat), and I wrapped it in a clean tea towel and grabbed some gel ice for him to hold over it and keep the pressure on, and we piled into the car and drove to Urgent Care.

So, our visit to Urgent Care, an X-Ray and three stitches later, I am reminded why it's so important for everyone to have health care. I am reminded that it is a worthy fight to push for health care for everyone. My cousin currently does not have insurance - the choice was to drive to Oak Forest and sit and bleed in the ER waiting room for probably 8 or 9 hours, or take him to urgent care as a "personal pay." The man was bleeding. And it was really painful, because he was also bellowing - and he's a pretty big guy.

We paid the deposit they required, and I paid for his antibiotic. When the bill comes we'll find a way to figure it out.

I'm so sorry he got hurt - but I remember after my mom died that I caught everything that went around for the next year. In fact, I got the flu (the real flu) three times that winter. I know that the stress of losing his mom is causing this stuff, but it doesn't make it any easier - and it really makes it harder for him in his job search - he was his late mom's primary care-giver, and has been out of the workforce for some time.

If you are inclined to pray, would you please say one for him? And help me set the intention that his job search will be fast and fruitful. :-) Thank you very much.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

131:365 Homeless on State Street . . .

Different people every day . . . I see them with their signs . . . it's an everyday occurrence in the Windy City. It makes me sad. . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

130:365 Make a Wish . . .

That's what we did when we were kids - make a wish and blow the dandelions all over the neighborhood :-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

129:365 My Second Act

That is a photo of me in November 2009 at the Belfast Eye - normally I don't buy those photos they take of you, but I thought it was a pretty good picture of me (a rarity - I'm not particularly photogenic) so I sprang for it :-D

It's in front of a collage that I made - I make them often :-) This one is important to me - among the magazine cutouts are my mom (in the middle with the red hair - my favorite photo of her, it's one I took). Her mom, my grandmother, as a young woman, is above her in the right-hand corner. They are both gone now, and so I like that they are resting on a shelf in my office where I see them every day :-)

I am a first-generation American - My grandmother and my mom were born in Belfast. I visited there for the first time in November 2009. I felt so very much at home . . . someday I will go back again for a longer visit.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

128:365 One Down, One to Go

This is one of what will be a pair. The mate is on the needles now. I knit these from some of my own handspun. I put a pretty high twist in both the singles and the ply, but still it's fuzzing a bit where the cables are the tightest.

The pattern is well-written and also charted, which makes it a pleasure to knit up, and I've been looking for something to make with this handspun - I didn't have quite enough for a pair of socks, but plenty for mitts. :-)

The fiber was pencil roving - an 80/20 (I think) superwash wool and nylon (for strength - as it was meant to be socks). I spun it worsted on my Lendrum folding wheel.

I'm part of an online knitting/fiber community called Ravelry, where I am a moderator of a group called "Year of Stash Socks." We knit socks (and sometimes mittens/fingerless mitts) each month. These mitts are one of the patterns for May, called "Gloriously Cabled Mitts."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

127:365 Too Much Beauty

Today, I and my oldest friend celebrated our birthdays. Every year we go to Gibson's, a nice steak house, and eat red meat, drink pear blossom martinis, and have serious dessert.

We've known each other since high school and she never tires of reminding me that she is exactly one week younger than I am :-D She gave me this card with my present - the text says: "We have too much beauty to keep it to ourselves."

It made me laugh out loud :-D

I'm the one on left (not really, but since I have red hair, I claimed her :-D)

Friday, May 6, 2011

126:365 Fisherman's Paradise

That's the name of this African violet. It's one of my favorites, and I won a Best in Show with it (it was much larger :-) ) a number of years ago.

This is, I think, the only plant that came home with me from Southern California in 2003 that I still have. It's never grown as large here in the Midwest as it did in SoCal, but I adore it. It will always have shelf space with me.

125:365 stikman

For the past year or so, I've been seeing these little men/robots all over downtown. They come in a variety of colors - I've seen white, yellow and red. This one is in the crosswalk at Wells and Wacker.

I did a little searching and found some info from Chicago Time Out Magazine:

"The person responsible is stikman, a mysterious guerilla artist from Philadelphia who’s a sort of art-world Johnny Appleseed: His trademark robot paste-ups have been spotted in several big cities, from New York City to L.A. The figures started appearing on downtown pavement here (crosswalks along Michigan Avenue are a hot spot) in the middle of the summer [2009]. Perhaps stikman did some work while in town for Lollapalooza? It’s difficult to say because we weren’t able to contact the artist directly. The only journalist to speak with stikman was the Washington Post’s Stephen Lowman, who, after a telephone interview in September 2008, wrote that the artist was “soft-spoken and thoughtful.” The only clue to stikman’s identity wasn’t much of a lead at all: He asked to be called Bob."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

124:365 Lion in the Living Room

There are two of these, actually. They are miniatures of the bronze lions that flank the entrance to the Chicago Art Institute, and they live on the piano in my living room. Lately I have been intrigued by the things that make me feel safe and at home, thus there are other bits of life there . . . the lion is the focus, but the other bits - a lamp shade, some of my mom's artwork, some photos, more sculpture (another lion actually!), some books, the shutters - all things that I am happy to have around me somehow.

123:365 On the Other Hand

This is a city view, on the Chicago River looking west - the opposite way from the direction that most people shoot. It was a grey, very cold day (I'm starting to wonder if we are going to have any real spring temperatures at all . . . ), and this was the more interesting view with the storm moving in. I'm on the LaSalle Street Bridge. The yellow boat is a water taxi. They run as long as the river isn't full of ice.

Monday, May 2, 2011

122:365 Pear Blossoms

At least I think these are pear blossoms. I see this tree every day - it's in the park next the train station, and it's just loaded with blossoms. As beautiful as it is, it has a terrible scent to me. Almost as bad as a Russian Olive tree.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

121:365 Stash

My favorite local yarn store is going out of business. This makes me sad. I went over today and did serious damage to my pocketbook. Sweater quantities of yarn for me, and money in the pocket of the owner - there are always bills to pay, even when a business closes.

I got a little carried away, and clearly I'm not stash busting (and I'm wondering where I'm going to put it all . . . ) but I will really miss My Sister's Knits. It was a great neighborhood store. I was always inspired every time I visited. But, times are hard for many - and most think of yarn as a luxury item, whereas I think of it as the air that I breathe. I'm a fiber artist - yarn is necessary to the creative process - and I got a lot of process here . . . ;-)