Wednesday, December 31, 2008


When you see that word on a bumper sticker you can bet that someone with a relationship to that vehicle is (or has been) in a 12 step program. Not the case here, though you're free to suggest that if you like. Instead, I'm referring to the past 4 days with no electricity. It wasn't as bad as the Northeast Blackout of 2003, which the Wiki article says lasted for one day, but at our house lasted for 5 days, 2 of which we could not pump gas or purchase batteries anywhere. It was hot, and there was no water or functional potty here, not to mention no AC. And it came on the heels of returning home from my mother's funeral, putting down our cat of 14 years, and my son having surgery on both feet. Dressing changes are hard to do without power, which is needed for running water. But we're not going there right now. We'll just stick to the current blackout which lasted for four days and concluded at 6 PM this evening.....on my birthday. But trying circumstances tend to occur in batches at 'Casa Fiberewetopia', and this power outage was no exception.

The holiday vacation began on Dec. 19 on which we received 12" of snow the very day we were to leave for Pa. for a Christmas gathering with Dh's family. The trip began by sitting on an expressway entrance ramp 2.5 miles from home for 50 minutes while a tractor trailer was towed off the icy ramp. This was at the beginning of an 8 hour drive. Each subsequent ramp for the next 20 miles had a tractor trailer stuck at the top. A warning for sure.

Dec. 20: Found us arriving at my inlaw's home where it was evident that a situation of concern had indeed deteriorated further. That night we checked into our motel with a heating unit below the window that sounded like a jet engine taking off. So I turned off that heat, crawled into bed only to discover that the comforter barely made it to my edge of the bed and any move or turn created a blast of freezing cold up my back or other parts, depending on position. And my pillow seemed to be stuffed with tennis balls. Oh well.....

Dec. 21: Dh gets up first to use the bathroom and I edged over his side of the bed just to check comforter dimensions. There on the floor lay at least 3 feet of extra comforter and my missing 5 hours of sleep!

Later that day, at my inlaw's home for a Christmas family gathering the local paper is spread out on the table. We are all sitting around the table, catching up with small talk, and I gently poke fun at a front page story of the local authorities treating a case of geocaching as a bomb scare. My BIL, an educated man, became extremely agitated and insulted at my humor in front of the entire family and stomps out of the house for a few hours. Okay....happy holidays.

Dec. 22: A relatively quiet but arduous 8 hour drive back to Michigan after a morning with Dh's aging parents.

Dec. 23: Another snowstorm overnight forecast for 1-2" is well over 4". I went to pick up the held mail before heading to an Ann Arbor lunch date with friends. Roads are extremely icy and slippery on the 3/4 mile to the post office so the lunch date is canceled. Spent the remaining part of the day on icy roads trying to get groceries and pick up the cat from the cat sitter.

Dec. 24: Rain on top of 15" of snow equals extremely foggy and icy conditions. Attend 11 PM Christmas Eve service. The sermon: In the Bleak Midwinter. Uhm....tell me about it.

Dec. 25: Quiet Christmas at home with Dh, Ds, the cat...and some fibery gifts. A reprieve!

Dec. 26: We awake to freezing rain and the roads are completely glazed with ice. Ds discovers a slow leak in the front tire of his 6 month old vehicle and heads for the tire store. I slip-slide my way to the salon for my scheduled 9:30 AM haircut, wondering how Ds slip-slided to the tire store on an almost flat tire. We survived.

Dec. 27: Saturday, laundry day and the dirty laundry has accumulated since we were traveling the previous weekend. With sorted laundry scattered on the kitchen floor, I open the laundry room door. Phew!!!! What is that smell??!! Apparently a mouse has died somewhere in the laundry room. Much activity ensued to address the odor in the laundry room as winter storm warnings with high winds were posted for the night.

Dec. 28: 3:00 AM we woke to a loud cracking sound above the high winds and a strange orange light coming through the bedroom window. Three loud pops, a burst of flames, and a visit from a fire truck about 200 yards away and the electricity was officially out. We become keenly aware that there are only 8 hours of usable daylight in our part of the world at this time of year.

Dec. 29: Outside temperatures relatively warm, kerosene heaters rounded up, a trip to the store for water at $.29 per gallon, and a survey of the battery inventory complete, we hunker down for the power outage. Creative use of the library for quick email access and the gym membership for a shower make things bearable. The potty issue is something we have to work out event by event. The games cupboard yielded up Scrabble and a long forgotten game called "Worst Case Scenario" very fitting.

Dec. 30: Temperatures drop and overnight storm warnings are posted again (sigh). I urge Ds to use a little battery power on the weather radio at 4 PM. He responds with, "Mom, I'll give you the forecast:
  • It's dark and it's going to get darker.
  • It's cold and it's going to get colder.
  • And it's windy and it's going to get windier."
Such an optimist I've raised.

Dec. 31: Ds' forecast was right. Despite the kerosene heaters (which we turn off when we sleep) the temperature in the house is ~48 degrees in the warmest spot. It's my birthday...whoopee. I use the last drop of charge in my cell phone to check once again with DTE Energy and the recording now tells me that we should have power in 16 hours, about the time we should be saying Happy New Year. As darkness descended, we see the DTE trucks pulling into the area of the fire three nights before (a charred tree hanging from the power lines). At shortly after 6 PM, the lights flicker and we once again have power.

There's been a lot of time for reflection these past four days. I've thought a lot about people who have much less than we do. Of places in the world where they can only count on power a few hours a week. I've become aware of some areas we can cut back, use less water, less electricity, less energy in general. I'm thankful that most of the food in the freezer is spared, so that there is no waste there.

I've also thought about the saying that: "Our circumstances should be used to reprove or improve us."

In some ways I do feel reproved over the circumstances of these past 12 days of Christmas. And 2008, I hope you feel reproved a little too. Ds said it well when he said he couldn't wait to see the 'A$$" end of 2008.

In many ways, I also hope to improve from what I've learned these past 12 days. And 2009, it is my prayer that you too will be an improvement over the previous year.

If you've read this far, you know that today I am another year older and what feels like many years wiser. I wish you all, dear readers, a Happy New Year with health and prosperity in 2009.

And I promise nothing but fiber in the next post.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

For Light and Peace in 2009

The following essay is by Robert Fulghum, see the credit at the end. I am posting this for two reasons:
1. the news of the bombing in the Gaza strip is so gory and disheartening.
2. we have been without electricity since 3:00 AM Sunday and are likely to be so for several more days (so says Detroit Edison). No power at our house means no phone, no water (no potty), no heat. We are managing, but not happily.

This post is coming from the library. Did I mention how much I love libraries. Now many of them even have little cafe's. How long before they put in showers as well?

Please read on......I think it fits the post holiday mood.

What Is The Meaning of Life?

"Are There Any Questions?" An offer that comes at the end of college lectures and long meetings. Said when an audience is not only overdosed with information, but when there is no time left anyhow. At times like that you sure do have questions. Like "Can we leave now?" and "What the hell was this meeting for?" and "Where can I get a drink?"

The gesture is supposed to indicate openness on the part of the speaker, I suppose, but if in fact you do ask a question, both the speaker and audience will give you drop-dead looks. And some fool -- some earnest idiot -- always asks. And the speaker always answers. By repeating most of what he has already said.

But if there is a little time left and there is a little silence in response to the invitation, I usually ask the most important question of all: "What is the meaning of life?"

You never know, somebody may have the answer, and I'd really hate to miss it because I was too socially inhibited to ask. But when I ask, it's usually taken as a kind of absurdist move -- people laugh and nod and gather up their stuff and the meeting is dismissed on that ridiculous note.

Once, and only once, I asked that question and got a serious answer. One that is with me still.

First, I must tell you where this happened, because the place has a power of its own. In Greece again.

Near the village of Gonia on a rocky bay of the island of Crete, sits a Greek Orthodox monastery. Alongside it, on land donated by the monastery, is an institute dedicated to human understanding and peace, and especially to rapprochement between Germans and Cretans. An improbable task, given the bitter residue of wartime.

This site is important, because it overlooks the small airstrip at Maleme where Nazi paratroopers invaded Crete and were attacked by peasants wielding kitchen knives and hay scythes. The retribution was terrible. The populations of whole villages were lined up and shot for assaulting Hitler's finest troops. High above the institute is a cemetery with a single cross marking the mass grave of Cretan partisans. And across the bay on yet another hill is the regimented burial ground of the Nazi paratroopers. The memorials are so placed that all might see and never forget. Hate was the only weapon the Cretans had at the end, and it was a weapon many vowed never to give up. Never ever.

Against this heavy curtain of history, in this place where the stone of hatred is hard and thick, the existence of an institute devoted to healing the wounds of war is a fragile paradox. How has it come to be here? The answer is a man. Alexander Papaderos.

A doctor of philosophy, teacher, politician, resident of Athens but a son of this soil. At war's end he came to believe that the Germans and the Cretans had much to give one another -- much to learn from one another. That they had an example to set. For if they could forgive each other and construct a creative relationship, then any people could.

To make a lovely story short, Papaderos succeeded. The institute became a reality -- a conference ground on the site of horror -- and it was in fact a source of producive interaction between the two countries. Books have been written on the dreams that were realized by what people gave to people in this place.

By the time I came to the institute for a summer session, Alexander Papaderos had become a living legend. One look at him and you saw his strength and intensity -- energy, physical power, courage, intelligence, passion, and vivacity radiated from this person. And to speak to him, to shake his hand, to be in a room with him when he spoke, was to experience his extraordinary electric humanity. Few men live up to their reputations when you get close. Alexander Papaderos was an exception.

At the last session on the last morning of a two-week seminar on Greek culture, led by intellectuals and experts in their fields who were recruited by Papaderos from across Greece, Papaderos rose from his chair at the back of the room and walked to the front, where he stood in the bright Greek sunlight of an open window and looked out. We followed his gaze across the bay to the iron cross marking the German cemetery.

He turned. And made the ritual gesture: "Are there any questions?"

Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now there was only silence.

"No questions?" Papaderos swept the room with his eyes.

So. I asked.

"Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?"

The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go.

Papaderos held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was.

"I will answer your question."

Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter.

And what he said went like this:

"When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.

"I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine -- in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.

"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light -- truth, understanding, knowledge -- is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.

"I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world -- into the black places in the hearts of men -- and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life."

And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.

Much of what I experienced in the way of information about Greek culture and history that summer is gone from memory. But in the wallet of my mind I carry a small round mirror still.

Are there any questions?


(from the book, It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, by Robert Fulghum, author of All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day Walk About

On Christmas Day there was some sun peaking through:
But most of the neighbors were out visiting:
In the hollow tree no one was home upstairs, nor downstairs:

However several generations stood in attendance along the driveway.
Momma tree basked in the winter sun's golden rays:
Though the wind the night before shook loose the potential for future generations (if the squirrels don't get them first):
And the baby tree is nestled in protection from the wind ( for scale, those are pine needles propped against the little tree in the foreground):
The December sun casts long shadows of us all :
"My what long legs you have!"
"The better to treadle the looms and the wheels!" said the fiber giant.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fourth Sunday In Advent - Winter Solstice

This year the fourth Sunday in Advent and the winter solstice are on the same day.......
The way I've been feeling, I could sleep the whole way through the longest night of the year.

No amount of sleep seems to be enough this week. Which fits the pattern since there is no amount of waking time that will allow me to get everything done that needs doing. I feel a crash coming on.

So, back to the fourth Sunday of Advent where the focus is on Mary. This year we've used the Holden Evening Prayer Service at Advent midweek services which includes singing the Annunciation/Magnificat (click on song 16 of the previous link to listen).

Actually, the prayer which we call The Magnificat appears twice in the Bible. First as Hannah's Prayer in 1 Samuel 2 where the taunted, barren Hannah trusts that somehow God will set things right and she will no longer be barren. Then in Mary's Song as a very young woman who has surrendered herself to bear this child. Reading the stories of both women and their songs makes for good contemplative reading on a snowy weekend.

And here's some background music for you as you do so:

There will be fiber things to post, but not before I've had a chance to watch My Favorite Christmas Movie, so it could be a few days.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

People Look East....

The last full moon of 2008 (in which I was looking east):

The Third Sunday of Advent:
The rose candle is lit as we move from a mood of repentance and prepare to rejoice. The title of this post is one of my favorite Advent hymns that you can read the verses and the history here.

I like the thought of looking east: to see what is coming over the horizon....with great expectation and hope. Perhaps the horizon will be brighter than it has been in the past few months....or maybe even in the past eight years.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I couldn't agree more.....

I can't blame you if you don't care what I think politically and economically. But the fact of the matter is, you're here and you've read what I've written in the past. So, if you're interested in some media that expresses thoughts and opinions that align with mine, here's a little 'link chasing' for you.

First, listen to Jack Lessenberry's interview and commentary for today.

Then go read The Visible Hand the editorial from the most recent issue from Makezine.

You might have to back click on your browser button to get "The Visible Hand" article to come up....but it is well worth the read. (And it is only fair that they would try to get you to subscribe......we still are a capitalist economy after all.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Derivative Work
Remember this....the pattern created by Lindsay over at Storm Moon Knits? First of all the neck warmer pattern is like pistachios. There is no way I could knit just one and be done, or even two for that matter. I'm currently knitting the fourth one, with two more queued up behind it.

And as one thing leads to another, the neckwarmer design led me to play with a design for matching gauntlets:

While working on the design, I discovered that one can indeed graft cables. Not perfectly, as you can see on the wristband of the right gauntlet above. But it can be done reasonably well and without prescription medication!

Here's a view of the grafting in progress with my trusty Knitter's Companion at the ready for visual reference:

And here they are in use:
I've checked with Lindsay and she doesn't mind if I share the pattern with you. I will do so, after I've finished doing the last of the edits on the church directory proof and completed some other necessary household paperwork.

Meanwhile go knit yourself, or someone else, a neckwarmer while you wait.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Random pondering:
  • You know you're in a funk when you wake up in the morning with the lyrics from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon playing in your head (Us and Them).
    And that was before the PBS of special of the same last night.
  • How long will it be before you meet someone who named their child after a verification word? Come on, admit it, you've looked at words like "cgderc" when posting a comment and wondered what kind of person that might be. It's bound to happen, if it hasn't already.
  • Is there any mood that a sip of Galway Pipe Port with a bite of Dove Dark chocolate chaser can't improve? How can I know for sure when no one locally has stocked Galway Pipe for the past year?!
Sorry if I'm dragging you down with me. Here's a little comfort food as recompense:

Valerie's Winter Lamb Stew: (It's what's for dinner)
  • 1 lb. lean leg of lamb stew meat cut into 1" cubes.
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 15 oz. canned beef broth (low fat)
  • 1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 15 oz. can of garbanzo beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger root, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice (or lime juice..your choice)
In large, oven proof dutch oven, brown the first 3 ingredients together in just a tad of canola oil.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Add remaining ingredients, except lemon juice.
Cover dutch oven and place in preheated oven for 1.5 to 2 hours.

Remove from oven, add lemon juice,stir and let stand for ~5 minutes for flavors to meld together.

Serve with a dollop Greek yogurt or low fat sour cream and fresh pita bread.
If you don't live in an area where fresh pita bread is available, any good whole grain bread will do.

Follow with a chaser of Galway Pipe Port* and a Dove Dark chocolate square.

*see above.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different:

Life is good, but the news is all bad:

My home is warm, there is food on the table, and my loved ones surround it.

But in the news are: job loss, home loss, hunger, loss of health, financial crises, and someone is trying to start a nuclear war

I listened to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and still this week's news contained no humor.

I feel like this snow that accumulated on the windshield this week:

Lean into your need for meaning during Advent , a title from a Seattle Times article is the perfect caption for this photo.

Here's the view from the passenger side:

and my caption for this one is: HOPE

"Hope is a in a belief in positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. Hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. To hope is to wish for something with the expectation of the wish being fulfilled.....

When used in a religious context, hope carries a connotation of being
aware of spiritual truth; see Hope (virtue). In Christian theology, hope is one of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity), which are spiritual gifts of God. In contrast to the above, it is not a physical emotion but a spiritual grace." Wikipedia

A loaf of bread is in the oven, and the spinning wheel beckons.

Contemplating the second Sunday of Advent '08.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Answer to Stef's comment and 6x6 me me:
In a comment to the last post, Stef asked if I was spinning for collapse weave. The answer is not really, since collapse is more a matter of the degree of twist in the yarn. Although I do have Anne Field's book in my Amazon wishlist (to help the family out with Christmas shopping).

I'm more interested in playing with the direction of twist. It's been in the back of my mind for years, and when Judith MacKenzie-McCuin talked about it again on this episode of WeaveCast, I bought myself a copy of the Oelsner & Dale book and have been perusing it. This book was written back in 1915, when it was possible to buy plied yarns with bothS and Z plying twist which is not the case today. Most commercial yarns are spun Z and plied S.

Through the O&D book, there are little tidbits about the different effects in the weave when both types of twist are used. For example on p. 15, they talk about a tricot (ie. knit) effect in the fabric when one alternates the twist of the yarn in both warp and weft in plain weave. Then in the chapter that begins the twill segment, there is discussion about the effects the direction (and also the degree) of twist in the yarns will have on the appearance of the twill fabric. I want to play with it and see for myself.

So far I've started the spinning with a heathered browns merino top, spun Z and plied S:
(as always, click on photo to 'biggen')
(notice in these two pictures that spun fiber tends to get just a tad darker and cooler in tone? That's been my overall experience in spinning dyed fiber. It varies somewhat in degree, but can shift the color enough to make for some unpleasant surprises.)

And a peachy-pink heathered medium-fine wool top, spun s and plied z (which loses most of the peach cast in the spun yarn):

It surprised me how difficult it was to shift gears and spin in the S direction. Seems I've picked up the habit of ever so slightly rolling my fingers in the hand that controls the twist. That had to be unlearned before progress could be made.

Also, there is only a slight difference in the size of these wools according to my pocket microscope, but my fingers detect a world of difference when trying to make them into matching yarns.

Here are the two yarns, side by side, S and Z plied.
(yes, the pink yarn will need a tad more plying twist.)

Here's my control card that I'm keeping at the wheel to help me be consistent:
Note that there is also a fine charcoal grey wool that I'm thinking of adding into the mix. It's on the outer edges of the wrapped yarns: singles at the top, plied at the bottom, standard Z/S spun/plied.

It will be awhile (think 2009) before any yarn makes it to the loom. But I'm thinking of a twill scarf for the sampling.

And here's the picture from the 6x6 me me:

It's the Rocky Mountaineer, from our trip to the Canadian Rockies in Sept. 2007. A nice reminiscence on a grey December day.
If you want to play along, the rules are up on Sharon's blog. Join in and let us know!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fabric at last!
So, what do you think? This is the turned overshot warp from 2 posts ago. The ground fabric is black 10/2's cotton, the supplementary warp is #30 crochet cotton. The weave structure is from Bob Owen's article from May/June '02 Handwoven.

As an aside: Bob recently turned 91 and not only is he still weaving, but he is still teaching workshops!

When you click on the picture for bigger, you will notice that every now and then there are some horizontal spots of color. Turns out that the crochet cotton is more elastic than the 10/2's. The warp is threaded 4 ends per dent in a 12 dent reed and the crochet cotton was wrapping around the black cotton. I've since inserted a separate tensioner for the crochet cotton and it seems to be working okay for now. See:
Above was some of the last stuff woven after the added tension on the crochet cotton.

There is a story to the crochet cottons in the project:
A number of years ago, one of the women brought to knitting guild the "fiber estate" of one of her dear friends who had gone on to that great yarn shop in the sky. I wasn't so much interested in more knitting yarns but there was this ~2 gallon plastic bag full of what seemed like a gazillion little balls of #30 crochet cotton in an amazing spectrum of color. Being the magpie that I am, I toted the bag home thinking that one day I would weave something really nice to give back to Barbara as a remembrance of her friend.

First I tried cardweaving with the crochet cotton, but I just couldn't get the colors to play nice together. Then I tried rep weave.......well if you've ever tried rep weave on a jack loom, you know that didn't work. And besides, the colors still didn't play nice together. Then I tried a small format tapestry. That was okay. I could use a charcoal gray cotton yarn to get the colors to play nice with one another. But crochet cotton doesn't cover the warp so well.

Finally at the October Weaving Guild meeting Ken Allen told me about the class that Bob was going to be teaching, but he sent me to the wrong article. Bob was teaching on an article from this issue. Instead, Ken told me it was the article from this issue.

If you click on that last link and scroll down the page, you can see Bob's original fabric. When I saw that fabric, I knew that there was finally a project for that crochet cotton! These will be table runners: one for Barbara, one for me.

One of the things that interests me about this warp is that the crochet cotton is spun S and plied Z, while the 10/2's cotton is spun Z and plied S (as are most weaving yarns). I've been wanting to play around with varying twist direction using my handspun for weaving. This isn't hanspun, but it's a start in that direction.

So, here's one final cheesecake warp shot for you:

And that, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story.

PS: Here's what's left of the crochet cotton. (That would be the medium Longaberger Chore Basket (12" long, 8" wide, 5.5" deep.) You case I have a broken warp or two.
What do you suppose this woman was planning on doing with this much colored crochet cotton?