22 April 2014

Ten on Tuesday - Things I Like To Do Outside

My friend Mary Kay periodically posts her lists, and every so often I am inclined to as well.  This is actually from last week, but I didn't see it then and last week wasn't very good for outdoors (due to us getting a snowstorm, yes, in mid-April), so since Carole is on vacation this week thus did not post a new list, I think it is OK for me to use this theme.  My blog, my rules.

Ten Things I Like To Do Outside

  1. Hike
  2. Concerts
  3. Sailing, canoeing, and other boating
  4. Reading
  5. Movies (drive-ins, in the park, someone's back yard)
  6. Baseball
  7. Fair rides (essential part of going to a fair, like fried food)
  8. Ziplines and flying squirrels
  9. Picnics and cookouts
  10. Knitting, crocheting, and suchlike

OK, some of these are things you can ONLY do outside.  And you can add to that list things like flying kites (I am thinking of running some workshops and possibly hosting a kite-flying contest at the Hartford Makerspace this summer), riding horses, climbing trees, and so forth.  There are other things, like swimming, that I couldn't figure out how to fit onto the list but I'll do them inside or outside - like reading, knitting, crocheting, concerts, .....

Some of these I have not done in much too long.  I think I'll be glad I am not stage managing a show this summer!

I'll add another photo from Sunday's hike, just because I can:

21 April 2014

Taking a Hike after Doing Art

I've been a bit overwhelmed lately, mostly because I have over-committed myself.  I was stage managing a play, which included having to provide transportation to two of the actresses and creating props, and a friend was creating the set for this year's Trashion Fashion event, and I wanted to help her.  Well, I like doing art, even though I'm not creative, I do have good construction skills and can follow directions.  Months ago I volunteered to knit four wool sweaters for the Motherless Child Foundation Mittens for Akkol collection, but I put my yarny time to making things to sell at SWAN DAY CT 2014, at which I sold a grand total of one hat.  Even with the extended winter we've had, April wasn't a good time to sell warm things.

This was all after work hours, or sometimes between work hours as March is the end of our fiscal year and we had some heavy deadlines that took up enough hours for two jobs.  In addition to my main responsibilities, I am covering for a colleague who suddenly went out on a Family Medical Leave, and was providing support for a new business bid.  My weeks were already well over forty hours, without the extracurricular activities!

So I am behind in the sweaters.  I should have been doing some catch-up on Sunday, and had planned to work up one on my knitting machine during the day.  But it was lovely weather.  Really lovely.  And although I'd stolen a few hours a couple weekends ago when the weather was truly nice, I haven't had breathing time of my own since the middle of March.  Every weekend was taken up, and of course weekdays were more than absorbed with work and the play - rehearsals, tech, performances.

Instead of meeting obligations, I went for a hike.

There are trails near me.  Really near, such as up the road a bit.  But in all the time I have lived here, I have not taken advantage of them.  Part of them is caution about hiking alone, part is laziness, part is that I always seem overwhelmed on good-weather days.  I decided that excuses were not going to cut it, and after studying maps to figure out the nearest trailhead, I packed a backpack (water, snacks, yarn and hook in case I decided to sit a while, camera) and headed out.

After a bit of getting lost and finally finding an entrance to the trail proper, I headed up the hill.  Up is easier when fresh, after all.  I hadn't planned to do anything in particular, just followed the path.  Taking pictures as I went, whenever something struck me.  Like all the little growing things:

Of course, with our long winter - including snow at the beginning of the week, there many dead things on view:
I found the bleached-white
leaves fascinating.

And most of the trees were playing it safe and remaining dormant, which gave some nice lace patterns against the sky:

Then I spotted blazes, and followed those.  I don't usually do tough bits when I am alone, but the verticals didn't look too tough, and the view was worth the small risk:

Advantage of hiking - bikes had to stay down there:

I also got to see a number of small waterfalls, and a pretty little bit of swamp:

It was tempting to sit and listen to the falls for a while, but I wanted to keep moving, as I wasn't sure how long the trail was or if I would end up doing parts of it again, or getting distracted by a different set of blazes (it's happened!).  I did record a few, here's a very small one.

I found this particular deadfall interesting, it brought to mind a line from a poem I learned in high school ~ "Lying together like lovers in kemmer":


One thing that disappointed me was all the trash along the road I walked to reach the trailhead.  Technically the road is also part of the trail, and parallels the trail which is inside a fence.  The next time I plan to take that road on the way home I will take gloves and two bags, one for trash and one for recycling.  It won't be a huge help, and it won't be permanent, but it will be something.  I picked up some small bits of trash on the trail, and two plastic beverage bottles (one water, one sports drink) and carried them out.  The water bottle might have been dropped, but the sports drink was clearly emptied and left - apparently whatever was in it went to the drinker's arm muscles more than his (or her) brain muscle.

These led to an interesting experience at the end.  I had to walk back of course, since I'd walked to the trail.  I ended up coming out at a different spot and headed up the road to the road off which I live.  I was carrying the trash and bottled, and figured I'd dump them at home, when I remembered a petrol station on the road.  I realized that even if it were closed, there would be a trashbin of some kind, and maybe recycling.

It happened to be open, and there was trashbins but no recycling.  So I opened my pack and dropped the garbage into the bin, then headed on my way again.

As I walked past a packky and bike shop further along the road, a station wagon pulled in ahead of me and the driver called to me.  I recognized him as someone I'd seen at the gas station, walking out of the building to his car as I headed to the trash.  He offered me a few dollars.  Confused, I asked why.

He seemed confused.  "I thought I saw you taking cans out of the trash back at the station.  I wanted to help."

How nice of him!  No, I explained with a smile, I'd picked up some trash on the trail while hiking and needed a place to dump it.  He smiled back at me.

"I just wanted to be sure you have a nice Easter," he explained.

"No worries!" I assured him, and thanked him for his kind intentions.  Then we wished each other well, and he pulled back onto the road, while I continued my walk home.

I'll add to this a new thing I did in April:  I abandoned art.  There is a group that focuses on doing Art Abandonment with the goal of "encourag[ing] random acts of art, left in various locations around the globe. The idea is that folks can make something and leave it for a lucky unsuspecting person to find. Artists can then post locations and photos of abandoned goodies…and finders can let everyone know that they are the lucky finder! O' sweet abandon!"  I'm not much of an artist, as I said above.  I can't draw (I've tried! I've tried to learn!) or paint (ditto!) but I can do structured things.  I plan to do some crocheted or knitted items later, but this weekend needed to do fast things.  So before I went on the hike, I made a few, with packaging I'd picked up earlier in the week.

The bead at left became my inspiration, it was so spring-evoking!  The packaging is easter-printed bags, which have a clear side through which the Art Abandonment tag shows.  The beaded items go into the carrot-shaped egg, which I thought is really cute, then into the plastic bag.

I abandoned two around the building where we did the play, and four others on the trail in places like these:

The weather is supposed stay good, so hopefully they will be found before rain, since I'm not completely confident about the water tightness of the packaging.  Maybe someone will think they are left over from Easter - and maybe some have been found and the Art Abandonment email hasn't been notified.  Every so often, the website posts emails from finders.  Even if I never hear about these, I'll keep abandoning art, just to make the world a little more fun and art-filled.  And even if my art isn't what people generally think of as "art", it will be decorative.  I posted some of the pictures, and several persons said that what I do is art, even if it's not painting - we all do different art.  That makes me feel better.

I'm working on another "new to me" thing that I'll report on later.  It's an all-month thing, and I suppose I should be posting as an ongoing event, but with everything else happening (see above), I've been doing it in spurts and catch-ups and may not be fully done until May.

15 April 2014

Giving it up for Easter & Passover

I don't make a big deal of religion.  I think it is a personal decision for each person, no matter how you are raised, and in some ways I consider what people call "spirituality" to be more important than formal religion.  To quote Abraham Lincoln:  "When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion."

That said, organized religion can provide one with a community and support group, which I have found important when moving to places where I know nobody, or almost nobody.  It's the main reason I joined congregations when I moved to the Dallas area and then to Hartford.  However, while most people identify me as Jewish, I don't exclusively follow that religion, and when in Dallas I ended up spending more time at a friend's church - which has a stronger social justice streak then the synagogue I joined, and those who know me know how important that is to me - plus interesting adult learning and a really nice pastor.  I haven't found a church I like as well here, so I just participate in the Jewish community, at both the Reform congregation I consider my main home, and a friend's Orthodox congregation, as well as organizer of some of our community events.

It might inform you to know that in addition to being raised with Christian influences (my mother went to Jewish Sunday school, Catholic mass, and a Chicago Bears game every Sunday during the season, so those are the three religions primarily acknowledged in my family) including the Jesuits from whom my mother received one of her degrees and among whom she taught for a couple decades, I had three sets of godparents, none of whom are Jewish - one each of Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Methodist.  My parents chose based upon who would raise us the way they would want us to be raised, which included continuing education and to be good people.  My parents don't see this being limited to one religion.

This explanation is important because every year I give up something for Lent.  I try to make it different every year.  One year it was cookies, which is tough because this is Girl Scout Cooky season.  Another year it was candy, tough because I tend to have some always at hand as a nervous thing (I substituted almonds); another year, it was crackers that I have in my desk for a similar purpose.  And so forth.

This year, I couldn't think of what to give up, and then realized I was almost out of bread, so I decided to give up that.  Also no related baked goods.  This makes it tough at my weekly morning bible study, which usually offers bagels or bread of some kind, with spreads.  (I always take the Passover date, and bring in a noodle kugel made with Passover noodles, which people seem to love because it's not the expected matzoh with spreads.)  It's harder for me because so often when busy I grab a sandwich, and this year I have been quite busy with a play and other activities.  I've eaten a lot of nut/fruit bars and yoghurt!

I did get asked by someone why I gave up bread when you're supposed to give up meat. Part of the reason is that I don't eat a lot of meat on a day-to-day basis, so it wouldn't be a real sacrifice to me.  The reason I do this is almost as a test of myself, to see if I can follow through for the full forty days.  I know some people who take the money they would spend on whatever they give up and give it to charity, and I don't do that (I did give all my Girl Scout Cookies to the troops that year, instead of buying any for myself - usually I do that for most of my order and just get a couple boxes for me), but I do like the mindfulness of having to remember "no, I don't; no, I can't."  It also helps to think about people who have to avoid certain foods all the time, or who don't have certain foods available to them for various reasons.

Now it is Passover, on top of Lent.  This means, if you want to be really observant in the Ashkenazic (Eastern European Jewish) sense, no beans or rice or other whole grains. (Sephardic Jews, from the Mediterranean, can eat them because it's the majority of their diet and their rabbis said it's OK.)  I've heard two reasons for this:  One, that because they swell when cooking, they look leavened, which is forbidden at Passover; and two, because they might have been stored in a warehouse with forbidden items and gotten contaminated. I think the latter is the reason that some won't eat peanut butter - the peanuts might have been in a warehouse with flour.  Since peanut butter didn't exist in 19th-Century Easter Europe, maybe it's just too foreign to their way of observance?

I had a friend who, when I mentioned giving up bread for Lent, asked how I expect to perform the required Passover Seder observances with matzoh?  I said that the small amount required for the ceremonials would be OK to me (to borrow from George Carlin, "my observance, my rules") but I wouldn't eat matzoh otherwise until Easter.  I've done something similar a few years ago, when I had an abscess in my jaw and major surgery with bone grafting just before Passover, and wasn't allowed anything crunchy or crumby.  There are a LOT of ways to cook potatoes, believe me!

These few overlapping days will be tough because often I would eat matzoh for meals when I would usually have rice, or pasta, or cereal.  Not possible until Sunday.  My diet is more limited, but in a way this frees me to be creative with what I do allow myself.  And those who know me know how much I love a cooking challenge!  Luckily I also love fruits and veggies, and I am not obsessive about eating only kosher-for-Passover items.  As long as it doesn't contain the forbidden items - grains, beans, rice - and nothing treyf (pork, shellfish, meat with dairy - I'll eat them the rest of the year, but not during Passover or the High Holy Days) I'm OK to eat it.  My meals may include some less-standard items, such as roasted squash (olive oil, slivered onion, and sage) for breakfast, but there's nothing wrong with that.  Think outside the cereal box.

I've dealt with this conjunction many times in the past.  The most interesting was the time I was asked to cook a meal for a group in Oklahoma, about 100 persons, with a medieval theme.  I knew that even if there were not observant Catholics in the group, some would be very observant as part of the character they played.  So I developed a multi-course meal that included Lent-appropriate vegetarian and vegan items; plenty of meat; and not many baked goods.  We ended up with very little leftover, other than the chicken liver pate that was on the first course platters (silly people!), salad (although all the rainbow assortment of Peeps® bunnies and chicks I'd used to decorate it did manage to vanish), and some of the lamb stew that was the third course.  I actually heard that people were surprised to see multiple meat courses come out given the ticket price, meaning they had not read the menus I'd placed at the tables.  I shopped well and can plan well, which is why the lamb was the third course instead of appearing earlier, so that people were stuffed with chicken cooked with grapes and herbs, and beef brisket with dried fruit and root vegetables, and didn't need to eat as much of it.  Dessert was strawberries with optional almond cream - edible by everybody except those with nut allergies, who had to make do with plain strawberries.  Awww.

I just saw strawberries on sale at the grocery, come to think of it.  As is asparagus, so there will definitely be an omelet or souffle on my menu this week, possibly on Saturday.  Yum!

02 April 2014

Three things for March

I tried to get a post up at the end of March, but the laptop I have been using was not cooperative.  I'll add it in a few days, and then complete a link.  This is just a quick post to tell you the three new things I did in March - as you can see, I'm still working on the "update the blog more often" part of my resolutions.  Still, this has been done more often than in 2013.

The new things I did in March were small:
  • March (really, dance) in a Mardi Gras parade.
  • Go dancing at a local club - really, I cannot remember ever dancing at a club, so even though I have gone out dancing many a time, I count this.  They have a monthly "Zodiac Night" and someone I've met recently teased me into going, and I'm glad I went.
  • Hands-on for silk from cocoon to knitting.
I did have fun with the Mawata class, which was at DFW Fiber Fest.  I got to spend one day in classes and one day shopping and visiting with friends, and then had to come home for the start of tech week.  They yarnbombed the convention centre, here are a few of my favourite pictures:
This one is my absolute favourite.

I want the pattern - and to know what yarn she used!

Someone made a LOT of these butterflies!

More pictures when I write about my adventures.