Saturday, June 29, 2013

Where am I . . . ?

Once again, I am struggling to keep up with my life.  I'm grateful that July is nearly here, because other than one 9-day stretch, I don't have too much to do.  That stretch will be a doozy, however  :-D

My big excitement in July will be Bagpipe School.  I can't help but think of it as Bagpipe Camp, though, because I actually went to Bagpipe Camp once when I was a beginning piper.

Who starts piping as a 40-year-old?  Me.  I shared my story here last year, so I won't repeat it now, but since I started studying with Ian again in May via Skype, I am more focused and have more desire to play and play well, than ever before.

I'm not kidding.  I'm even playing the exercises better than I did 10 years ago when I was last in SoCal.  What's more, I LIKE playing them.  I am well and truly a musical dork  :-D

I have been reading a book for work called The Outliers.  In it, it talks about 10,000 hours of practice to master pretty much anything, and I think about all the time I wasted in the last 6 years not playing . . . I know that everything happens in our lives for a reason, and I rarely have regrets about anything - but I really wish I had been playing all that time.  I would have logged that 10,000 by now and more.

Still - you never know, had I been playing all this time, I might not be finding the joy that I'm finding now that I have purpose again where music is concerned.

Joy and purpose - a recurring theme in my life.  Thanks, Mom  :-)

And here I am, thinking about competing next year.  Ian seems to think that if I keep practicing the way have been, that I will be able to compete next year.  This, of course, means that my ass will be covered in plaid . . . I am heartened however, by my most recent trip to the Highland Games a few weeks ago - mine will NOT be the largest plaid ass in view, that's for sure.

And as I look back at my post from last year at this time, I see that I was thinking about Bagpipe Camp even then . . . and then, last weekend I talked with a piping and knitting friend, and she really encouraged me to see if I could find a way to work it out.  Permission from my boss and my work to get time without pay, flights,  money, was there even space left in class?  I didn't really think it could work - and yet,  I couldn't stop thinking about it.  So, Monday morning, I figured I had nothing to lose, so I ran it up the flagpole . . . and then stood back and watched as every single detail fell into place this week so that I can go.  I sent it out to the Universe, and the Universe sent it back to me.  In spades.

Because of where I'm at right now in my playing - nothing could be better than a week of all bagpipes all the time.  I'm not kidding.

I remember very clearly my week studying with the late Lindsay Kirkwood.  He really had an impact on me, and my playing took a quantum leap in that focused period of time at Bagpipe Camp.  I'm reasonably sure it will do that again with a week with Ian and Colin.  Will I be the oldest one there?  Quite possibly.  Do I care?  Hell no.

And so, rather than wait, I fired up the actual pipes.  I've been working consistently on my practice chanter - but now that I'm going to have to keep up in class and with other pipers, I have got to build enough stamina to be able to do so.  It's going to be a challenging few weeks here, Chez A

So, please excuse me, I have to go practice (i.e., I cannot wait any longer)  ;-)

I'm so excited!!!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

178:365 Noro . . .

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Japanese yarn - more of my haul from the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair. I must have needed some color in my life because I went whole hog on the Noro. I particularly love the skeins at the bottom left - they remind me of fall and burning leaves. I'm thinking a hat of some sort :-)

177:365 Googly Eyes

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My mom used to sing a song about Barney Google, with his goo-goo-googly eyes. These balls of yarn reminded me. This is the beginning of a "mystery shawl knit-along." Clue #2 arrives tomorrow :-D

Yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts' Socks That Rock Lightweight, in the True Blood Red, and Pink Granite colorways.

176:365 Day Lilies 3

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They are a sea of gold right now - some already past their prime. Soon they will be gone and only the green remain.

175:365 Garden in the Rain . . .

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After the rain, actually. This is one of my neighbor's front gardens. They are all always gorgeous and when I pass then every day, they always make me smile :-)

174:365 The Calm Before the Storm . . .

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This was taken on the 22nd - they let you in before the Fair actually opens when you are taking a morning class - this is what it looks like before all the people get there.

173:365 Painting with Beads . . .

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This was taken on the 22nd - it's my work area in class :-)

173:365 The Work of my Hands . . .

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I have a renewed fascination for bead embroidery. This is a day's work in the class I took at the fair.

172:365 The Shepherd

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I was at the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair, this this felted sculpture was in the Fine Arts Show. Isn't it amazing and wonderful? :-)

171:365 Train Garden

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My village has been doing a LOT of gardening lately. This new little garden is planted next to the train tracks - I think they hope is that it will eventually grow and block the view. Again - the only shot in the camera for this day . . .

170:365 Day Lilies 2

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They are so beautiful, but so short-lived . . .

169:365 Day Lilies 1

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There are going to be a lot of them :-D I am quite fascinated by them. Stella D'Oro is their name :-)

This was actually taken on the 19th - another run of crazy busy around here . . .

168:365 A Place to Rest . . .

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The only shot of the day - and I caught a little flying insect! On the way to the train.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

167:365 Decisions!

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Tour de Fleece is coming up. That's where we spin during the Tour de France :-D I'm captaining a team and I'm trying to decide which fibers I will use for two challenges.

All of these bumps of fiber are calling to me - but if I want to participate in some of the challenges of my team, I need to pick something that I can spin for socks - and that's looking to be the red/black. It's Merino/Silk - should be very fun to spin. The other challenge is to spin something very different - and that's looking like it will be the one in the middle on the left. I never spin "art yarn," and that's what that bump is all about :-D

Still - that fiber up on the top has been calling to me since I got it in May . . . guess we'll see in another week or so :-D

166:365 Scottish Weather . . . in Itasca

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The Chicago Highland Games are held every year up in Itasca. I love to go and this year more than before because I'm playing seriously again. I listened to a lot of pipers playing in competition - really good for me. I learned a lot.

It rained . . .

165:365 It's in the Bag . . .

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Um . . . the best shot of this day . . . my new T-shirt, from the Highland Games.

164:365 Flowers in the City . . .

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Shot on the 12th (another crazy week here . . . ). I don't know what this flower is, but it's in all the planter boxes along Wacker Drive :-)

163:365 Familiar . . .

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I've shot this view before, but I truly never tire of it. Chicago seems to be a part of me in a way that's hard to explain - I love plenty of other cities, and I could probably live in more than one of them (London, Marrakech . . . ), but I always come home again. Look at it - can you blame me? City of the Big Shoulders, indeed.

Looking East from the Franklin Street Bridge.

162:365 Caladium

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This plant lives in my sunroom. I've noticed a line in this photo - am wondering if it's the lens or my memory card. Thinking it's the latter - time to switch.

161:365 Cityscape . . .

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A cloudy day in Chicagoland. Looking South from the River, on Franklin Street. That tall building in the back is the building formerly known as the Sears Tower, now officially called the Willis Tower - but often referred to by the locals as the Big Willie ;-) It is about one mile from where I am standing at the River.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Some Results . . .

Last week was Week 12 of The Strict Program for Three Months.  I went to the doctor on Friday for more tests to see how it went.

Well, I already know that my ass is smaller, which is a good thing.  I am back down to where I was on the road before I got plantar fasciitis, and in fact, as of Friday had surpassed that number by a bit.  I lost 32.4 pounds in 12 weeks.  That makes me pretty happy  :-)

I got my test results this morning, and although they are encouraging and my doctor seems pleased, it seems to me that I have more work to do.  I'm going to talk them over with a nurse today as I don't always understand the ins and outs of these tests and ratios, etc.

My total cholesterol went from 234 to 210
     (still above the reference range of 100 - 199)
Triglycerides went from 168 to 102
     (well within the reference range of 0 - 149)
HDL (the good stuff) went from 44 to 46
     (well within the reference range of >39)
LDL (the bad stuff) went from 156 to 144
     (still above the reference range of 0 - 99)
The Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio went from 5.3 to 4.6
     (still above the reference range of 0 - 4.4)

One other test that I was interested in was my glucose level.  That went from to 84 to 76.  the reference range on that is 65 - 99.  So, it was OK before, but it's better now. 

So - even though a couple of things are still above the reference range, the doctor says this is great.  I, on the other hand, ever the competitor, would like to see everything within the reference range and my total cholesterol below 200.  So, I think I still have more work to do . . .

I got the go-ahead to be able to have steak and/or pork once or twice a month.  I'm sure I will try it at some point - not sure when, but just knowing that I could have it if necessary makes everything a lot easier for me somehow.  Still, I'm not really changing from being an ovo-pescetarian - at least not right away.  I'd like to keep going and see if by next February when I have my annual physical, if I can get these numbers in what I perceive to be a better place.

I'll let you know how it goes  :-)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Breathe . . .

I've had to remind myself to do that lately. 

I was at the National African Violet Convention in Austin at the end of May and then hit the ground running last week, with stuff happening practically every night.  I just managed to get my suitcase emptied yesterday, and all the plantlets and leaves that came home with me from National taken care of.  I put the leaves down right away last Monday, and then on the weekend I potted up all the plants.  I now have 104 varieties - which is far too many to care for well, but I usually ramp up at National, and then grow what I bring home, letting things go along the way that either don't bloom true or that I find don't like my growing conditions, or that I just don't care for after having grown them awhile.

Lately it has been my experience that a lot of plants just don't bloom true to their descriptions - I don't keep them in that case.  I had a couple do that while I was away - so I got to send them to their Great Reward, freeing up more shelf space. for the newer arrivals.

I've also started piping again.  Seriously.  Thanks to the wonders of Skype, I am studying again with my teacher in Southern California.  He's awesome.  So for the past few weeks, I've been practicing nearly daily (with daily being the goal  :-) ).  Right now, just exercises to get my technique back.  It's going better than I could ever have wished  :-)   We're talking about focused study, tons of practice in both light music and Ceol Mor, with an eye toward competition next summer.

Light music is what you think of when you think of bagpipes  :-)  Ceol Mor, or Piobaireachd, is classical pipe music.

Summer is shaping up to be busy - with friends here off and on all summer long, practice every day, a book to work through with two of my Iona sisters, and plants to grow.

In two weeks I will have been producing my weekly video podcast, All About African Violets, for a year.  I can hardly believe it's been that long! 

Just had a go-round with BlipTV - apparently I no longer meet their terms of service . . . I'm guessing that my original, educational podcast isn't sexy enough for them and it's not "episodic television."  Oh well - their loss.  Unfortunately, however, they told me I would have two weeks to move everything off their server, but they disabled my account immediately.  I'm in the process of moving everything now and have a new server already in place.  So, instead of actually giving me two weeks so that I could upload a final episode and let my viewers on Blip know about the change, it was quite a scramble to get Episode 50 uploaded yesterday.

Asshats.

So it goes.  I'm moving forward, but it could have been a lot smoother.  My friend Tammy, The Proverbial Knitter, has been a great help - Right now, I'm still struggling to figure out how to redirect the iTunes feed.

Wish me luck!

160:365 You're a Shining Star . . .

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No matter who you are - shining bright to see, what you can truly be. Thank you Earth Wind and Fire :-D Hanging from the pot rack in my kitchen where I see it every day :-)

159:365 Lavender

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The week after Convention was crazier than usual this year - another day without a photo. This one was taken on June 9th. Not particularly interesting - on the shelf in my sunroom . . .

158:365 It's Green Here . . .

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I started on some landscape cleanup - two very old viburnum shrubs out front needed drastic pruning. So, in the hope that they will make a comeback in the next couple of years, I did the work today with the help of one of my cousins. All this from only two shrubs. I got a little more than half bundled, and have to bundle the rest before trash day.

157:365 Texas Hot Chili . . .

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That's the name of this Streptocarpus hybrid. Strepts are a cousin of the African violet. I enjoy growing them, too :-)

156:365 Practice . . .

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That's my kitchen table with my pipe practice chanter and my exercise list and some music. Daily practice - regaining technique in my hands. It's an exciting journey :-)

155:365 Heartbreak . . .

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I have a 9-tree stand of Blue Spruce at the very back of my yard. They are all at least 50 years old and about 50 feet tall. They are magnificent . . . or they were. They are dying from the ground up. Something called Cytospara Canker. They are all too far gone to save and will have to be cut down this winter. I practically cry every time I think about it . . .

154:365 Desert-Style Palm . . .

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Another busy day with no photos taken. This one was taken on May 31st. I was on my way to dinner when I saw it - it's a short palm of some sort - well-suited to the heat of Austin.

153:365 Texas Sunset . . .

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Convention time is always very busy - I didn't shoot any photos this day. This one was taken from the window of my hotel room on May 29th. I liked it and decided to use it here.

152:365 A Bizarre Self-Portrait

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The only photo I shot this day - shot by accident trying to film footage for "All About African Violets," my podcast. :-D

151:365 The Moon is Made of Green Cheese . . .

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It's not the moon, it's one of the light globes outside the convention hotel. I had to color-correct in Photoshop to make it look the same green color it was in real life

150:365 Pavé

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A florist-style of design that is just making it's mark in the design division of sanctioned African violet shows. This one was made by one of my best friends :-)

149:365 Old Friends :-)

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At the national African violet convention in Austin, TX. Two friends from my former club in Ventura. So very good to see them and they don't seem to me to have aged at all in the years since I've seen them.

148:365 Fly Away Home . . .

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Not a great shot - but I have to use the zoom. If I get too close, they tuck themselves down in the nest. I wanted to get one photo of them this year. A robin builds a next here every year. These guys are about ready to fly :-)