Pulse. Wow!

A few of you who follow me may be aware of my photography sideline, in a peripheral sort of way!  I used to be a professional photographer, but every time I got a good rhythm going with business and clients, we always seemed to be moving.  That meant every time we relocated, it was back to square one.  Several moves ago, I gave up.  In a fit of pique (meltdown combined with a sense of despair), I donated all my backdrops, studio lighting, and a bunch of other costly photo equipment.  I was done.

My advice to anyone who feels that way – don’t do it!  A year after the great purge, I found myself really missing all those costly items that were tossed away like so much detritus.  Do I want to return to professional photography?  Nowadays, it’s not so much a matter of want, but more like a matter of “can’t”.  My eyes are doing that thing called presbyopia (you’ll learn when you get there, if you haven’t already) and it really bites.  I imagine I could continue to take pictures, but I find myself more and more at the mercy of automation, especially when it comes to the focus feature on the camera.  I don’t like losing that control.  So, as of the last five years, my photography has been more personal or commercial stock photography of items.

Do I still buy gee-gaws for my old Nikon D-90?  Nope.  I get by with what I have right now, that is, until you see this on Kickstarter…

I’m a big fan of low-light assists and remote control.  I may have to climb a mountain or go hiking to get that special selfie!!!  And yes, they have my email to let me know when it’s ready for retail sales.  Can’t wait!

Have you photo hounds found any new technology that’s fun?  Let me know! 😉

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So much to say, so little time to say it!

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A lot has happened since my last entry, though none of it has had anything to do with the yarn shop except for the idea that I’m presenting in the YouTube video!  LOL  So, like I ask, talk to me!  Suffice to say, I had a busy few weeks here and I’m trying to put it all in perspective.  The reference book seen in the photo gallery is Knitting Pattern Essentials by Sally Melville.  So far, so good.  I’m one of those kind of people – I’ll read just what I know to get started, then when I get stumped, I’ll return to the book and read what I should have, usually wasting time and resources.  Don’t ask – it’s just my way!!

For those of you not registered on YouTube, I’ve given you the option of a poll:

See you in the funny pages!

International Women’s Day, pt.2: Finding Sally Dawley

After posting the pic of Margaret Thatcher for the International Women’s Day tribute, I felt I should choose another candidate, one closer to home. I just met her two days ago, but her dedication to her cause has garnered kudos and international recognition and my respect.  Her name is Sally Dawley and she is affectionately known around these parts as “The Butt Lady of Auburn”.   This interesting moniker came about in 2014 when she started picking up butts along her daily walk and thus began her odyssey that continues today.

How I came to meet her has its own quirky story.  Don’t worry – I’ll make it brief!  I’m a big Trailer Park Boys fan and have a subscription to their Swearnet website and on their podcast episode #133, they congratulated Sally and asked for help contacting her because they want to talk to her themselves.  That was an unusual request – I’d never seen them do that before.  So, I thought, hey!  I live near Auburn, I’ve got free time, let’s find her!  A cursory Google search came up blank, Facebook zilch and even Duck-duck Go produced no results.  I now understood why the unusual request; she has absolutely zero web presence.  Thankfully, my first action of posting in the Auburn group on FB got me in touch with her.  Thanks everyone!

Our meeting was really unusual, and think about it;  to Sally, I’m some random stranger looking for her, who just wanted to let her know that a group of guys from Canada were looking for her.  Not suspicious at all.  It must have taken a leap of faith for her to call me.  I don’t know if I would have done the same!  When we finally talked the night before meeting, I had to explain that I am in no way affiliated with The Trailer Park Boys (they wouldn’t have me), only a fan who had time on her hands and likes helping people.  Weird, right?  The next morning I showed up at the appointed Starbucks, prepared with my laptop and headphones so she could see what had prompted all the furor.   Sally was amused by what she saw and was definitely game, and I thought, oh, great! mission accomplished.  Then we both looked at each other, and she asked, “What do we do now?”  I laughed and said I would give the appropriate people her phone number…in an e-mail.  She shook her head and explained she didn’t want that kind of information on the internet.  I ended up writing a letter to that effect, where, as far as I know, it’s sitting in someone’s inbox in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

When we were fairly comfortable with each other, we went out into the parking lot and, yes, you guessed it, picked up cigarette butts for about an hour.  Well, I got to use the clicker for the most part and she did the hard work.  During that time I found out that not only does she find butts while she’s out and about, she finds wallets, cash, (she’s collected $900 since 2014!), ponytail hair ties, and of course, used condoms.   And don’t worry if you drop your wallet with your credit cards, $1,000 cash and no ID – she’ll get it to you one or way or another.  She’s scrupulously honest that way, but if she finds a stray $20 here or there, the law of “Finders, Keepers” comes into play.

What saddened me and galvanized my respect for Ms. Dawley was that after about 20 minutes of picking up butts, the magnitude of what she was trying to accomplish hit me.  There was always another butt over there, by this fence post, trapped in the sidewalk cracks, underneath a truck trailer, disguised as dead leaf – it seemed endless.  I asked her if she’d noticed any difference in the volume of cigarette butts she was finding since she’d been receiving some notoriety and the city of Auburn had installed ashcans for smokers in public places.  She shook her head and said, “No, not really.”  Then she remarked how unusual it was to have someone helping her.  I was shocked at this point, and clarified if I’d understood her correctly, in that no one has ever helped her.  Nope.  I had heard it correctly.  Then I was really disappointed.  And really proud of her.  A lesser mortal would have given up well before the 1,000,000 mark.  As we were nearing the end of our time together, I asked her what message she wanted to get out, and she said, “For people to stop throwing their cigarettes everywhere.”  Ultimately, she wants everyone to stop smoking, but as seen through the eyes of this ex-smoker, that ain’t happening any time soon.  Besides the fact that it’s highly physically and psychologically addictive, it’s a tremendously personal decision and you’ve got to want to stop.

So next time you’re out on the town, or anywhere, for that matter, getting ready to toss your cigarette because you can’t find an appropriate place to put it, try field stripping.  That way, you’re less likely to find a cigarette butt in the stomach of the fish you caught that morning, you won’t have to worry so much about your dog eating a stray butt while you’re walking them and making them sick, the birds will have less to line their nests with and the landscape in general will start looking a lot better.

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Of Flooding and Exploding Blow Dryers

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We’ve all heard the expression “When it rains, it pours.”  January was a monsoon for me.

It actually started mid-December with the news of my mother-in-law’s stage IV stomach cancer diagnosis.  With a six-month timeline, Elke* has opted to receive hospice care.  All her life she’s dealt with cancer.  It started in her late 20s, returned in her 40s, again in her late 60s, and with this last bit of news, she said she’s done.  Prognosis was not good to begin with, and she just didn’t want to go through the “cure” again.  Her husband, John*, has been displaying signs of dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease.  He had to be reminded who we were, and yet, most cruel, he’s aware of it right now.  They live in Texas, three and a half states over, and timing was not good.  But it had to be done.

The journey back to Texas was odd.  Any road trip I’ve taken before has always been a good thing.  My husband and I made the most of it, since it was three days hard travel.  My sister, who lives in Bakersfield, was gracious enough to let us use her place as flop house.  We literally spent less than 15 minutes talking to her before we headed for bed, and then in the morning, we hugged one and another and moved on, both going and coming back.  The second day out, I wrote some errant thoughts.  Those long drives gives a person way too much time to think.

January 4, 2017, Wednesday

When the sun is rising, the errant contrail casts a shadow on the higher clouds

Driving east along Interstate 10 to Texas

Don’t know how to feel

Sedimentary, layered mountains Las Cruces

Texas landscape out of El Paso flat

Scrub brush

Minimal traffic

Can use cruise control – indefinitely

Occasional butte, rolling hills

Road stretches out in front of you in gentle, undulating waves

Cerulean sky, painted with high altitude stratus clouds

Harmless, no rain

When sun is setting, the color of the western sky shifts from blue to lavender, then gradually to a dusky plum, all but obscuring the horizon, then gradually, deep purple to the black of night.

Headlights

On the third morning of our visit, I was drying my hair, when my blow-dryer of at least 10 years decides to go out with a bang.  Sparks flew and I had to unplug it to stop the sparks from turning into flames.  The acrid smell of burnt electronics filled our hotel room for at least a day.  I felt it was appropriate, somehow, that it should happen at that time; however, I had spent the night before crying, so it was possible I was just upset.  Saying good bye to something else, even something as replaceable as a minor appliance, really set me off.

When driving back, we ran into the storms in Northern California that we’d been monitoring even before we left.  It was an eye-opener to see the areas around Sacramento, flooded by water that had overrun the bank of the Cosumnes River.  Sacramento has the American and the Sacramento Rivers to deal with and the levies around the city are monitored more closely.  What I photographed was the Cosumnes River gone a bit wild, just south of Elk Grove, a suburb of SacTown.  And then from Highway 99 North to I80 East, up around Applegate, the trucks were pulled over because the road over Donner Pass was closed due to snow.

I was so grateful to be home…because our garage was flooding.  We got some more sandbags (don’t ask) and cleaned up what we could.  Thanks goodness the foundation is concrete, and no real damage was done.

On a lesser, but more immediate note, my husband’s car has stopped running.  The money we would have used to fix that was spent visiting his mother.  It sits in the front of the house, ads running on Facebook, Letgo and Craigslist with no results.  I guess no one wants a mechanic’s project at this time.

There is more to the story, but I will leave it.  Sometimes it’s good not to tell so much, and this is one of those instances.

*names changed for privacy

Let’s Be Honest

Hey, everyone.  How are your holidays going?  Treating you good?  I hope so.  Although this post has landed perilously close to Christmas and, I assume, other holidays, it has nothing to do with them.  Let’s take a break from that, shall we?

I want to take a moment and talk about us liars out there.  You know what I mean.  “Knitting is easy!”  “Crochet is a breeze.”  I’m very guilty of this.  And you’re shaking your head, if not physically, then mentally.  What is she talking about?  Knitting is easy and crochet is a breeze!  Ok, smarty pants.  Maybe for you, and a very small minority, it was a breeze.  Your needles fly under your deft fingers, your hook is moving so fast that it’s a blur and every stitch is perfect.  New techniques?  No problem.

Like the title of this post says, let’s be honest.  Think back to when you first picked up those knitting needles, felt their heft, or gazed wonderingly upon that crochet hook, marveling at the sleek lines and how they turned into…well, the hook.  Some of you may have to really dig in the vault of memories for this, but do it.  Did it feel natural?  Remember that first chain, and how proud you were of yourself.  And then, when you got tired of that, discovering how to turn and create stitches.  Let’s not forget that first successful cast on row.  My tongue worked as hard as my fingers!  Speaking of tongues, we also have our own language.  You think k2tog then yo or dbl through fp means anything to anyone else?

….but, think of the beginner.  How many will give up because it’s just too hard?  For whatever reason, they are done after that initial foray. Their skeins of yarn will either gather dust in some forgotten drawer or be thrown away (gasp! oh, no!) because they’re taking up space. And yes, there are a great many people, who, literally, simply don’t care.  Of course, they will enjoy the fruits of our labors, and marvel at the overall beauty of the gift, but that’s as far as it will go.  However, for us, we wanted to do it.  Whatever our motivation was at the time, we wanted to do it; and we did.  Look at us now –  champions of the crusade!  Not only is it easy, there are multiple benefits to knowing these crafts.

And I for one, think we should respect our hobbies for the honed crafts they truly are.  Will I stop saying it’s easy?  Probably not.  Should I?  Yes, most definitely.  Is all this work worth it?  That, I’ll leave for you to decide…

Natural Knitter or Crocheter

Now this is something I could use some help with!

Now this is something I could use some help with!

While perusing the abysmally small selection of knit and crochet books at Barnes and Noble, I realized something about myself.  I was focused solely on the knitting books.  I thought to myself, Hang on.  Why no crochet?  I did a double take on the crochet offerings and noticed titles about cowls and scarves.  I smiled to myself.  Yea.  Don’t need instruction on that.  I revisited the knitting titles.  There were a lot of subjects that I felt didn’t need further instruction, but conversely, there were so many more that I felt totally lacking.

I have had an on again, off again romance with stranding, and in this most recent flare, Scandinavian designs.  I have made a few stranded items, and I’m still not happy with the results.  I’ve read books, I’ve watched instructional videos and I’ve even asked advice.  Still not happy.  But I’ll follow my own advice, and persevere.  Sooner or later, I’ll get it!

Now let’s talk gloves.  I’m not talking mittens or fingerless mittens.  I’m talking gloves with four fingers and a thumb.  Haven’t made them.  Scared.  Yes, I said it.  Scared of spending a lot of time and effort and getting a sub-par result (reference the above stranding).

Again, I thought about crocheting.  I don’t know all there is to know, and I’m happy with my current level of expertise (advanced beginner to intermediate), but I’m not afraid of anything!

So does thus mean I’m a natural crocheter, which is way easy for me, or does this mean that knitting is actually more difficult?  You wouldn’t know that to look at some people whipping out impossible knit designs who claim they just can’t do crochet.

What are you?  Does one craft come easier to you than the other, or are you fortunate enough to have an innate feel for both?

 

Knitting – machine or not?

Doesn't look like knitting

Doesn’t look like knitting

I made the mistake of signing up for a machine knitting group, thinking it was a regular knitting group.  I have just unregistered, but it got me thinking.  Again.  Am I knit purist or snob?  I don’t think using a knitting machine can be rightly considered knitting.  Is it even a craft?  I’m not dinging the people out there who love to do this.  I know it’s a lot faster to finish a project than hand knitting, but I also know it’s limiting.  I had purchased a machine about three years back because I thought for a minute that I wanted to crank out my own sweaters.  Then I went on YouTube and looked at some how-to videos.  It doesn’t appear to require a whole bunch of…technique.  Is that what a makes a craft?  Practice?  Discipline?  Does it take any of these things to use a knitting machine?  I have no idea, as my foray into the world of semi-automated knitting was short lived.  I didn’t even open the box; I returned it immediately.

Ah. There it is.

Ah. There it is.

I think it depends on why you’re using the machine.  My idea of making my own designs and then making the garment was valid enough; however, while waiting for the machine (I ordered it online), I realized that my passion was not for cranking out mass amounts of sweaters, but the act of knitting itself.  Feeling the needles in my hand, the yarn that seems to automatically wrap around my right hand fingers for tension, holding my mouth a certain way as I fight with a particularly difficult cable, the whole throwing vs. picking technique, continental vs. English, the mobility of it while you tote around your latest pair of socks, sitting around a table with other knitters while talking about knitting! – that’s knitting.

I would like to hear from both sides!  For those of you who use machines, do you use them exclusively or do you mix it up with hand knitting?  For those of you who hand knit, why did you start?  Was it a yarn thing, the finished product thing, a family thing…?  Let me know.