14 May 2019

What it was in March to mid-April

Doing a bit of catch-up on the blog.  When I last wrote, the North Texas Irish Festival was just beginning, a weekend later than usual due to international cheerleader competitions that overtook the hotels and Fair Park on our usual (first) weekend in March.  This turned out to be a good thing as the previous weekend's weather was wet and cold and miserable, but the weather on the second weekend, especially Saturday, was spectacular - sunny, warm, and people came out by the thousands.
I didn't get back for the Volunteers Picnic but did get the jacket, which has the 35th year's "Texas Grown Irish Roots" design, and LOTS of pockets.
March was the end of my company's fiscal year, so LONG.  Skidded up to the end of it trying to get deals closed, while also balancing everything else, including my role starting a chapter of (ISC)² which is for cybersecurity professionals.  We're slow starting but determined!

Because I was out of town I missed all the St. Patrick's Day parades and such, but I did a bit of cooking.  Unlike make of my friends who did the Irish-American corned beef and cabbage, I did some traditional Irish dishes:

From the top, soda bread (whole wheat and barley) and butter, braised spinach, roasted onion, poached fish with brown butter and caper sauce, and roasted beetroot with a squeeze of lemon.

Below, my dessert - bread-and-butter pudding with dried fruit.

At the end of March, SWAN Day CT's annual event, featuring women artists of all kinds:  musicians, painters, crafters, performers, and women-led bands.  I love to attend it, and this year assisted BiCi Co.'s "Beyond Gender" group to staff an information table.  This group focuses on women, trans, and non-binary persons in the bicycling community to give them a supportive place to meet, learn how to DIY repairs and upgrades to their bikes, and participate in activities with a community.  Of course, I was able to do a little shopping and listen to a lot of music.

Then in early April was DFW Fiber Fest.  Fourteenth year, and they added a day of classes, and had 95(!!!) vendors.  I took classes and did a volunteer shift, and had fun seeing friends and learning things and tried to keep my shopping somewhat moderate.  Among my classes was a new way to do crocheted cables, how to design my own pi shawl, and how to design a top-down sweater to fit me, which makes me happy because I don't like sewing (I still have trouble getting sleeve caps to lie evenly) AND I am a nonstandard shape so most patterns don't fit me well.  Just learning how to deal with horizontal planes in a vertical fabric was worth the time and class fee.
One of my test things in the crochet cables class.

Yes, there can be a LOT of maths in knitting!  But I can make it shaped like ME.

Start of a pi shawl, pre-pattern.  Lace came next.

While there I went to Rover Dramawerks' 365 Women a Year Festival, which features short plays about women who may not have gotten their full due from history.

The schedule was in two parts, and luckily I could go on two nights (DFW Fiber Fest has a great event on Friday night, so I wasn't going to anything else that night!) and see all the plays.  Definitely interesting, although some of the performances were a bit less interesting than others, all the women featured gave you something to think about and maybe research to learn more about them.  My one complaint was that it wasn't always clear from the title and characters who the woman was, so I've suggested they add her name and birth/death dates at the least to next year's programs.

08 March 2019

February, a bit late, on International Women's Day

I was going to write this in February, but am traveling and couldn't remember the current password, and it took Google several days to send a link so that I could set a new one.  So here it is, International Women's Day, and even though I didn't plan it this way, an update.

(And yes, because I have snarky male friends, there is an International Men's Day - so there.  No saying "well, every day is Men's Day, which is why they don't have one", because they do.)

A quick update on my resolutions:  I finished The Fortune Cookie Chronicles and have recommended it to someone who wanted to know the origins of some Chinese-American food we were having.  The book also talks about chow mein and other well-known items, not just the cookies.

Currently working on charity items due to a delivery deadline.  DFW Fiber Fest is not doing Knit Your Bit this year, so I am going to send the scarves I am making to them anyway, or donate them locally.  Keep Hartford Warm is doing another distribution next weekend and I've donated a number of scarves to them, and a friend's church collects for the local shelter.  I'll get back to my UFOs soon, and I am trying hard not to join Marly Bird's Tournament of Stitches make-along although I am collecting the pattern pieces for the future; I'm already working on Franklin Habit's lace scarf-along, but not in the pattern yarn - I had a special hank waiting for a project like this.

Plus I have added to my want-to-do list, especially after going to Stitches West.  I helped some friends in their booth, which cut down seriously on shopping, which is good because I wanted to save funds for DFW Fiber Fest, where they have lots of terrific indie dyers, several of whom do only-at-DFWFF colourways, which of course I have to collect.  So this is the sum of my purchases:
They had Girl Scouts doing a coat-and-bag check, and of course selling cookies.  The buttons are glass, the Princess Leia being the last one the artist had, the others going on some mitts I am designing.  the Apple Fiber Studio yarn is in a colourway called "Notorious" after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, so I had to buy it.

I had other adventures at Stitches West.  First, I kept very quiet about going, because of this woman:
Alison Hyde is a lace designer and someone who has been part of the KnitTalk list since the beginning.  She goes to Stitches West every year, and when I started talking to my friends about helping, I decided to surprise Alison.  So I had to keep a sharp lookout for her, and since I had to work on Friday which necessitated me hiding out in an upstairs corner of the conference center for some random hours, I was afraid I would miss her.

Serendipitously, as I came back into the vendor hall once things were sorted, there she was!  Alison wrote her view of it.  Mine is that I knew she doesn't hear well, so when she didn't react to me telling her my name, I just held out my badge.  In the photo above Alison is holding some bamboo laceweight that I was saving just for her.  In response, she gave me the last two Meyer lemons she'd brought from her tree, and knew there was a reason she was still holding them after distributing all the others she'd brought.  Alison also had some chocolate she'd made, but I'm allergic to chocolate so she shared with others.  And the next day, knowing I am usually in a very cold and snowy land, Alison brought a wool hate which I think will go nicely with all my winter coats - black, grey, or teal:
It's much more glorious in person.

On Sunday, I had a surprise.  Many years ago, when I went to Santa Clara regularly on business, I was part of an online group of historical reenactors from various periods, one of whom worked as a printer at Old Town San Jose.  She and I got to be friends, and then lost touch after my travel out there abated and she moved to another part of the state.  She was a tatter, and has taken up knitting since we were in touch, because I noticed a very familiar-looking person coming through the booth looking properly dazed and overwhelmed at options.

"Marjorie?" I asked.  And sure enough, it was!
She's wearing both knitted and crocheted items of her own making, and I am wearing the shawl of handspun bamboo that I'd just finished, which is vastly simpler.  We did some catching up and I ended up going to supper with her and two friends, the wife a quilter and the husband who'd spent some time in our booth considering which yarn to get to work with some other he had in stash.  They took us to the kind of place where we were the only anglos in the room, and we all ate as much as we could hold and still had leftovers going home.  Well, they did, as I was in a hotel and heading to Texas the next day for work, so didn't really have the means to keep anything.  Except some of the bread, which became a tasty breakfast at the airport.

So that was February.  March began with a trip to see my grandmother.  Saturday the weather was wonderful so my grandmother and I did a lunch cruise.  The people were really kind and helped get my grandmother (and her wheelchair) on and off the boat and we got a prime window seat.  Sunday we went to my honorary nieces' school production of "Anything Goes".  It was really good, and we had a celebratory Chinese food dinner and cake afterwards.

This weekend is the North Texas Irish Festival, and I'm back as a Performer Products manager.  It looks like we will have great weather for it - the temperatures have warmed up quite a bit from the below-freezing numbers earlier in the week.
I haven't been home since I left for California, and after this I go to Chicago for a couple of days.  Much of this has also been for work, and happily in the Dallas area so I was able to attend a Dallas Winds concert after many years of not being in town on the correct night.  I splurged on a box ticket (still quite inexpensive compared to Chicago and Hartford) and made friends with the people around me, so that a couple invited me to the special donors-only reception afterwards.  It turns out I am well remembered from my days as patron, volunteer, and donor (OK, I do still donate, just not at the same level) when I lived here, so it was a great evening.  They played about twice as much music as was on the official program, with two encores and an unannounced premiere.  I hope work brings me here on the appropriate weeks again, so I can attend more of their concerts.

22 January 2019

Resolutions 2019

January of course leads to resolutions, many of which are broken by February.  I try to not put obligations on myself anymore, since I have so many for work and other things (I'm on two boards, and organizing a local chapter of a cybersecurity professionals group, etc.), so I have found two articles more interesting this year.  One talks about the religious nature of resolutions, and it's not from a religious source which makes it even more interesting.  The author correlates many New Year practices with religious aspects from various religions, and one person quoted points out that "The idea that you're suddenly going to change is a magical idea. Religions are in charge of magic for most of us. This [idea] gets into the popular culture as well."

The other article says we should count blessings instead of making resolutions.  This ties into a number of articles I have seen suggesting that people take a jar, and put in notes about good experiences or happy occasions or blessings or whatever, and then read them at the end of the year to see what a good year it really was.  Some say to do this daily, or weekly, or just whenever.

In that vein, I like this "Alphabet for the Year", as it has many suggestions of things to do that I think can be accomplished:
If you know me, the "get enough ZZzzzzs" might be a challenge, but I'm working on it.

The "Make (cake)" suggestion is a bit reminiscent of the suggestion from America's Test Kitchen that you learn (with their recipes and online classes, of course) how to make three things:  Authentic Baguettes, Souffl├ęs, and Latin American Flan.  While I bake bread, I'm not crazy about baguettes, and I've made flan I consider perfectly lovely, but souffl├ęs are something I've not really done, so I think I may try it this year.  Not making a resolution about it, though, if only because I have to find time to do it when eating with friends (and probably at their house) or figuring out how to scale it down to a single serving.  If I do that, I'll definitely report about it.

It's been interesting seeing what people I know have resolved, and how they are doing, and all the recommendations for what resolutions people should make this year.  One acquaintance said she wants to read a book a month.  I like that goal (it's the "R" of the alphabet above), but finding the time to concentrate on a book can be hard.  I also have three or four almost-finished books that I should finish - maybe that is a more realistic goal this year?

RESOLVED:  Finish the books I have unfinished, including Dreams in the Golden Country (near the end, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory is involved, and I'm almost afraid to finish it), Rookie of the Year (started while at camp last summer, so maybe I should wait until at least spring training to get back to it?); The Fortune Cookie Chronicles (the book in the bedside table at my parents', so I only read it when I am visiting them) which started when an unusually high number of people won the multistate lottery in 2005 and it turned out they had all played the numbers on their fortune cookie fortunes; and The Whisperer which I picked up at a dollar store and had forgotten about until I remade the bed and found it along the other side where it had fallen, so maybe that one I don't need to finish?  BONUS RESOLUTION:  Read at least two more books!

Yes, this sounds like a very low bar for a voracious reader such as myself, but I spend more time on articles and short stories these days.  Plus, I expect - or hope! - to surprise myself with how many books I do read.  And no, I won't go with the belief that you need no more than thirty books in your life; there are so many more reasons to have books.  On that subject, an artist I dearly enjoy created this picture, and I agree with it too:
That doesn't mean I haven't been winnowing out the stash, and will continue to do so in 2019.  It just means that I won't do it if someone is telling me that I should.  I think I'll do a stash-related resolution, though, but something more personal and appropriate.

RESOLVED:  I will finish at least two WIPs/UFOs for me this year.  I have three shawls in various states of work-in-progress that I can finish, an "Omega" in Shawl in a Ball "Feng Shui Grey"; a KAL shawl in blue, purple, and grey that I started during the sabbatical in Madison and want to wear, especially in this cold weather; and one out of handdyed, handspun from a friend and her mother that I bought at DFW Fiber Fest a couple years ago.  I also have UFOs which are the longer-term UnFinished Objects, such as a vest for my grandmother (it's plain and textured and I keep putting it aside to make more sparkly ones for her) and a sweater that was going to a charity group but it's not coming together as I wished and it turns out one of the organizers is deathly allergic to mohair so I am going to frog it and reuse the yarn for other purposes.  That counts to make a UFO disappear!

RESOLVED:  Organize the pantry.  At some point this year.  This probably includes another weeding-out of cookbooks, but I've done well in that regard (as well as not collecting more) over the last year, so I feel hopeful.  I'm also trying to work through the food stores, both in the freezer and dried and canned goods, so I don't have stocked-up things that go bad or end up with multiple packages of similar items, beans and pulses especially.

I found one list that someone posted as a "31-Day Decluttering Challenge" interesting partly on the basis of how many items on the list I do not own:
  1. Old curlers
  2. Old Tupperware
  3. Worn out sheets
  4. Frayed towels
  5. Broken down boxes (you think you’ll use one day)  (RESOLVED:  Use these to deliver items to thrift stores and etc.)
  6. Books you’ll never read
  7. Expired medications  (I take these to the police station, and I do have a bag ready for the next collection.  I am learning to not stock up on OTC medications.)
  8. Thick nail polish
  9. Old makeup
  10. Broken or old glasses/sunglasses
  11. Worn out hair ties
  12. Old magazines  (I seem to keep finding these, and am getting better at sorting through and recycling them, either by putting on the free library shelf at work or in the recycling dumpster.)
  13. Old cell phones  (Oops - found one.  Will scrub and drop off at the Verizon donation bin.)
  14. DVDs you won’t watch or watched and didn’t enjoy  (It was easier to watch DVDs when my laptop had a DVD player, because I'd take them on business trips and watch instead of hotel TV.)
  15. T-shirts promoting others businesses
  16. Product samples (especially the ones from hotels)  (I donate these to shelters.)
  17. Electronics no longer working or no longer used
  18. Old cleaning supplies not used
  19. Scraps of wrapping paper
  20. Christmas decorations you never use but think you might “next Christmas”
  21. Kids plastic cups from fast food restaurants
  22. Sets of silverware you don’t need
  23. Excess umbrellas, especially if they are broken  (I disagree with this, because if you don't have an extra, what happens when you lose one and need it urgently?  Plus I tend to keep one in my briefcase, car, suitcase, etc.  But yes on the broken one, I dispensed with it last autumn.)
  24. Toys that are broken and/or not played with any longer
  25. Framed pictures (unhung)
  26. Old cameras
  27. Worn belts
  28. Excess coolers
  29. Games that have pieces missing or no longer played
  30. Excess extension cords or old extension cords   (No such thing!  And if I did, I've donated them to the local makerspace.)
  31. Old TVs
RESOLVED:  While I am at it, finally get rid of china cabinet and build replacement item, which is lower and should hold as many items, but allows for artwork to be displayed above.

And since people always seem to make health-related resolutions, one of those, because why not?

RESOLVED:   Have one week where my FitBit records both the hourly movement requirement every day and I exceed the exercise minimums.  COMPLETED!!!  One reason that I haven't posted is because I thought I'd be able to accomplish it early in the year, and I did.  My FitBit week starts on Monday, so it's hard to meet this type of challenge while traveling because I may be on a plane or in meetings during the day and unable to get steps done.  In fact, I joke that when I have lots of meetings, the tracker thinks I've forgotten to wear it.  I was home last week, which means it's easier to do the hourly steps because my meetings are by phone.  The only tricky day was Saturday, which I knew would be easy for the exercise limit due to my yoga class, but I was thinking of going to a movie in the afternoon and that makes hourly steps hard.  The timing and shortness of the film might have just worked, but we had a storm coming in and in case some of the early start predictions were correct, I decided to skip it.  Of course they were not right, the storm started later, and I'll have to see "Tea with the Dames" some other time.  I'll try to repeat this week when I can, and not obsess when I cannot.

Now that I've stated my resolutions publicly, I guess I'll have to keep up the blog to report on progress.  In the past, I've made resolutions to blog monthly and to cook from some of my historical cookbooks which I've failed to do, so we'll see how I do with this year's resolutions.  Stay tuned.