Monday, May 30, 2016

No Picture

Today, DH and I went into the village, and attended it's annual Memorial Day Parade.  For such a small place; it really is a village, population of around a thousand, maybe, the parade is a big doings.  People come from quite far to see it, and for a half a day, the village swells to more than five times it's normal population.  As DS2 once described it; it is a "Four hundred cars and six hundred tractors" parade, and takes nearly an hour start to finish.  Nearly an hour to parade all of one mile, which is pretty much one end of the village to the other: four blocks.  It is quite the big deal around here.

So, we went to the parade.  We got there about an hour and a half ahead of the time the parade was to start.  If you want to get a good road-side seat, and possibly even one near a shady tree, you have to get there quite a bit early.  We set up our chairs, then walked to a few yard sales going on, and I of course had to go to the library's annual used book sale (where I scored a whole bunch of hardbound  Richard Scarry books as well as a couple of Carl the dog picture books for my "Grandkid Library" at home).

DS1, K3 and Toad also came to the parade.  But did I get any pictures?  No.  I was too busy having grandkids on my lap, and having them point out to me motorcycles and dogs and all the flags everywhere and little kids in wagons  while we waited for the parade to start.  And once the parade did start, well, the very first thing in this parade is the color guard, the riderless horse with the empty boots in it's stirrups representing the fallen soldier, and the local veterans. The eldest ones get to ride in special cars and on farm wagons fitted with folding chairs. Once they get to the center of town, followed by the high school marching band, there is a call for all the veterans in the crowd to please come out into the street and join them.

Once the many, many veterans are assembled, everyone in the crowd claps loud and long.  Then the band plays the national anthem.

It was while they did that, with all the veterans standing and saluting or otherwise in the correct pose for their branch of service while the Star Spangled Banner plays, that I really, really wanted to take a picture.  Because there, just a few yards away from me, in the street, stood DS1, ramrod straight, arms at his side, fingers curled, like the proud Marine he is.  To his left, and in front of him, were many older men, all farmers, all veterans.  To his right, barely tall enough for his little blonde head to reach the hem of DS1's shorts (since DS1 is very tall: 6'3"+), stood Toad, who had followed his Daddy out with the other men.  Toad looked up at DS1, then he too put his shoulders back, and his arms straight at his sides, and made little fists of his hands.  And he stood like that until the band was finished and DS1 shifted his stance to parade rest.

The mama and grandma in me so wanted to bend down, get my phone, turn on it's camera, and take a picture of DS1, Toad, and the old veterans standing at attention.  But I knew while it would be a cute picture, it would also be very irreverent of me to quit my stance of honor and attention to my nation's anthem just in order to get a picture.  Irreverent to the veterans who stood in the street, and especially to those who were not there, all the ones who had died in service to our country.

I am so lucky to have my son standing there, finished with his service, alive and in one piece. I have never personally known anyone who died during military service.  But every one of those men in the street in front of me had friends and brothers in arms who made the ultimate sacrifice.  The lack of a cute picture of my guys at today's parade is a trivial thing compared to what those soldiers, sailors, coast guardsmen, airmen and marines have been through.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.21: Tonight, Maybe

Joining with Ginny for the Yarn Along on a pseudo-summer Wednesday.  Last week we were just pulling out of a cool, wet, and very chilly spell.  Today, it could be summer: blue sky with big puffy white clouds, nice breeze dancing through the leaves on the trees, temperature all ready to 80 degrees before noon. . .  Except, being as I am a stickler, I know it is not summer, it's barely late spring.  No matter what the media says, summer will not be here until the equinox in June.  The weather has decided to finally be nice and warm, but it will be spring for nearly another month.

Meanwhile. . . I have spent very little time knitting in the past week.  That's what happens when I don't sit down until around nine p.m.--very little knitting takes place.

And so, I have not quite finished the second sock of the pair of Hermoine's Everyday Socks I have been knitting for my mom.  I will tonight.  Maybe.  I only have one more pattern repeat to do on the foot, a measly four rows, and then I will be to the toe.  And toes always go so fast.  It's nearly impossible to put down an unfinished sock once you reach the toe decreases.  So I'm pretty sure I will finish the sock tonight.

And then what?  I haven't decided what to cast on next. There are a few possibilities, depending on if I want to give knitted gifts for a few upcoming birthdays in early July.  But for both of those special days, I all ready have a sewn gift planned.  Oh, decisions, decisions.  ;0)

I've actually been reading a book this week; I used to read so much it wasn't uncommon to go through a novel every two days, but it seems like this year I'm barely getting through one a month. My current read is Hannah's Choice by Jan Drexler, a historical Amish fiction.  I have to confess, at first I wasn't sure I was going to read the whole book.  I was having trouble getting into the characters and the storyline for the first several chapters.  But it's not that bad, I kept at it and have turned the corner into "I can't wait to read what happens next" mode.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Why Have an Open House?

This is a post I was actually going to write about a year ago, as we were coming upon the high school graduation of DD2, our youngest child.  But, there was also wedding prep going on at the same time, plus planting the garden, plus work.  In other words, not a whole lot of blogging time.  And so I didn't get it written.  After her graduation and open house it seemed too late, so I didn't bother to write this.

But now, graduation season is here again--albeit I have no offspring graduating from any level of education this year--and I find myself with a few 'spare' hours on a quiet morning.  Plus, the discussion of graduation open houses is still on my mind; being as both DH and I have relatives, friends, coworkers who do have children graduating from high school this year and, as 'old pros' at this high school graduation open house thing, we've been approached for advice.

Here in Michigan, it is pretty customary to put on a party, known as an Open House, for your child when he or she completes their high school education and receives a diploma.  I don't know how long this has been the tradition, I just know that I had an open house when I graduated high school, all my friends had open houses, older cousins all had open houses, and DH even though he lived in a different part of the state also had and attended open houses.

For us, the open house has always been a celebration; a time to get together with family and friends to recognize the milestone accomplishment of a high school graduation.  They are fairly 'simple' affairs, being held at the home of the graduate, with outdoor seating (ie picnic tables, or folding tables and chairs borrowed from friends, neighbors, your church, etc) and a casual self-serve meal available.  That meal could be anything from cold cuts and various salads, to precooked and heated dishes such as sloppy joes, pulled pork, mac and cheese, baked beans, to grilling burgers and hot dogs during the party.  There is usually a display of the graduate's mementos from his or her school years: awards, photographs, artwork, etc.  There is typically also some sort of recreational opportunity for guests such as volleyball, Frisbee, croquet, playing cards, etc. Many of the 'farm' open houses we've been to have also had a bonfire.  Because out in the country, we like sitting around a fire, and we have the room to do so. The guest list can be of any size, dependent on the desires of the graduate and their parents (who are providing the funding, labor, and location of this party).  It is common for the graduate to receive gifts from the guests, typically gifts of cash.  Gifts are not required, of course, but the cultural norm seems to be that gifts are given in much the same way guests at a birthday party or wedding reception offer gifts.  Usually, that gift money is expected to be put toward the graduate's upcoming college education.

Not everyone, however, does it this simply (ie cheaply).  In the last handful of years, we are seeing it becoming more and more common to have the food provided by hiring a local food establishment to cater.  Or by putting in a large order in advance at a take out pizza place, a taco place, a fried chicken place or a sub sandwich establishment.  Some people choose to rent out a reception hall or similar facility rather than host guests at their home (thus avoiding the cleaning required before the party, the borrowing and setting up and returning of tables and chairs, and the cleaning up after the party).  Really, it is up to the parents of the graduate when and where and how elaborate an open house needs to be.

There seems to be, at least currently, a couple of differing thoughts on the purpose of an open house and what is required for one. We are running into people who see the open house not as a celebration only, but as a fund raiser for their child.

We have never thrown an open house with the intent for our kid to receive a bunch of money.  We have the open house as a celebration, as a way of saying "we are proud of the work our child has done to achieve their high school diploma, how they've grown and matured and now will step into adulthood, please come celebrate with us'.  Throwing an open house for any other reason had never occurred to us.

At least, not until after our fourth and final child's open house was over last year.  Shortly afterward, DH was approached by a coworker who had an eldest child entering his senior year of high school.  Apparently discussions with the child's mother about senior year and graduation open house had begun.  This coworker, knowing DH's youngest child had just had an open house, was looking to DH for advice on planning and financing an open house.

Later that day, after DH got home from work, he told me about this discussion.  The coworker, and apparently the coworkers sphere of family and friends, did not see the open house so much as a party you threw to recognize the graduate's work and achievements, but as a way to get cash for the kid.  The general theme DH got out of the conversation was that the coworker figured in order to get a certain amount of cash in gift money, the open house needed to have a certain size guest list, be in a certain type of place, and have a certain type of food.  None of which was the affordable and casual event that DH and I had always been brought up to know an open house as.  The coworker was equating dollars spent in putting on this event to dollars in to his child's pocket.

It was a mindset like that that made me think of a parent of one of DS1's friends, who had grown up in a different part of the US, and was opposed to graduation open houses.  He (the father) kept insisting that it was all about money and did not want to put one on for his child when the boy graduated.  It was a real sore point between him and his wife. She was used to the same simple open houses as I, and did not see it as the money grubbing event her husband was convinced it was.  At the time, neither she nor I could understand why her husband was so vehemently against giving their son an open house.  Now, after DH's conversation with the coworker, I understand the objections well.  If money was the only reason to put on an open house, I'd be opposed too.

It is never up to us to make moral decisions for others.  But, I would hope, that the reason to put on an open house when your child graduates high school would be to celebrate.  Because showering a child with love, and recognizing their accomplishments gives them a sense of dignity and self-worth that can't be bought.  The young adult who knows that hard work and perseverance bring success will go further than one who is focused on money only.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.20: Almost on Target

Happy Yarn Along Day!  It's actually sunny and warm here today (seems like Wednesdays have been dreary and/or cold for most of a month).  I'm joining in with Ginny to see what kinds of knitting and crocheting are going on in Internetland this week.

As for my own knitting, I got almost to where I wanted to be for today's post.  The leg of Mom's sock is finished, but I'm not even half way through the heel flap.  So, I'll either have to do more knitting in the coming days in order to get the whole sock finished by next week's Yarn Along post like I'd planned, or I'll have to revise my plan.

The past week has been really busy for me, and I've spend more time than intended away from home (and without knitting!).  The coming week should be a little less frantic.  Maybe I'll have a finished sock to show off next Wednesday.  Only time will tell.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Phase Three

At least, I think it's Phase Three.  In terms of the major parts of my life, I believe I have just entered what would be classified as Phase Three.

Phase One being the time I spent growing up.  Which would include the beginning of my horse addiction, learning to ride, my first trainer.  Not sure if the second trainer fits in there; I think so, but that really depends on if Phase One ended with my wedding or with the birth of my first child.  Because I got that cart before the horse, and the child came several years before the wedding.  And nearly two years before I began riding with my second trainer.

Phase Two definitely has been my struggling to keep contact with horses and find regular riding time in the saddle while raising my children and performing the home management duties of a wife. Not to mention being major support in the career building of a husband. During Phase Two I studied under my third trainer, albeit somewhat infrequently at times.  And, for the past eight years or so, I rode solely on my own, without the assistance and 'eyes on the ground' of a trainer.

But now, I have moved on.  Kids are grown.  Riding time is much more abundant. DH's career is going well (so well, he's just had a heap more responsibility piled on him in the past two weeks. . .) I'd been thinking of seeking a new, fourth, trainer for about a year when I happened to stumble upon one earlier this Spring.  Not just any one, but a dressage trainer who seems (so far) to have the same ideals and training system as I subscribe to.  Classic, not trendy.   Dressage as an art (art that comes with very hard physical and mental work, but still, an art form) rather than a method of riding in which you toss a particular kind of saddle on a horse and then go ride a pattern in an arena in the quest for ribbons.

I have, in the past few weeks, taken a few lessons on her own horse. Long story, but the barn owner where my horses have lived for the past decade and a half--my third trainer--does not allow other people to teach at her farm even though she herself has been unable, due to poor health, teach for nearly a decade, so I have been unable to take a lesson with the new trainer on my horse.  Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed those lessons, despite them being on a strange horse who is much bigger--say 7 inches taller and quite a bit rounder--than my horse.  The lessons have been challenging and yet simultaneously affirming of my riding skills.  Yes, this is the direction I want to go.  What is that saying?  When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?

I'm ready.  I am so ready.  The teacher has, apparently, appeared.

And so, this past weekend, I moved the Quarter Horse to her barn.  Where he is settling in even better than expected.  He's making new friends.  He's enjoying longer turnout times outdoors, and more grass to eat. His digestive system doesn't seem to be affected by the change of environment (horses can have notoriously sensitive guts when under stress). Even though he's never been worked in an arena with mirrors on the wall (mirrors are an awesome training aide and quite common at dressage barns) he was not spooked by them when I took him to 'our' new indoor arena for the first time.  So far, so good.

awaiting the trailer on moving day

checking out the handsome horse in the mirror

It's a smallish barn as far as specialty barns go; about eight horses and their owners.  So far, I've met about two thirds of them.  Seems to be a nice community with little drama (for some reason, drama, women and horses tend to go hand in hand).  I'm really excited to be a part of this barn. To get back into active dressage circles. To expand my knowledge and riding skills.

Phase Three, I welcome you with open arms.  Or, rather, with elbows at my sides, hands closed on the reins--thumbs up, always thumbs up!--legs draped loosely on my horse's barrel, a deep seat that knows when to be active and when to be passive, head up looking in the direction of travel, and heels down.   :0)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

One Of These Days

One of these days, I'm actually going to sit down and write a whole bunch of blog posts.  Because lately, I keep thinking of all these things I want to talk/write about.  All these things that are going on at and around this little place here currently.  All these ideas and thoughts I want to share. But of course, at the times I think of them, I am nowhere near home and my computer. Or, I am home but am busier than heck and don't dare take a break to sit down and write out a post.  Then suddenly I find that another week has gone by, I'm once again dashing off just a quick Yarn Along post (I guess you could say my big blogging goal this year is to not miss a single Yarn Along) and I kick myself a little for not writing more often.  Because there are so many great (to me, anyway) things I want to write about.

There's raising kids-type stuff, inspired by the latest interactions with K3 and Toad.  There's empty nester stuff, or maybe not-currently-empty nester since DD2 is back home for the summer.  There's homesteading stuff, and pictures of what's blooming, growing, walking, flying, around this little place here in this spring season of growth and returns.  There's sewing and crafting stuff (well, not as much as I wish there was, because I'm not doing much of either so far this month).  There's horse stuff; oh the horse stuff!  So much horse related stuff happening right now.  And there's marriage stuff--not bad, just the 'here's another challenge, now let's pull together and remember we're a team' kind of things.  Not to mention seeking balance kind of stuff, and health stuff and some just plain weird sense of humor stuff.  And housekeeping stuff, oh golly do I need to spend a little more time on housekeeping right now (it's really bad when I ask DH why he's wearing jeans to church on a Sunday morning and he tells me it's because he doesn't have any dress pants ironed and hanging in his closet; it's not like he owns less than four or five pair!)

One of these days, I'm gonna get caught up.  (Said every over-scheduled woman every where). I am.  Yeah.  One of these days.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.19: May's Dish Cloth

Another overcast Wednesday here.  At least it's warmer than yesterday was, and not raining (yet).  I'm joining Ginny for this week's Yarn Along.

I took a break from working on my Mom's socks, and made a dish cloth before casting on for sock #2.  May seems to be zooming along, so I figured I better get my dish cloth made for this month while I was thinking about it.

I'm glad I did, because things seem to be picking up steam instead of slowing down.  Plus, the pattern I chose for this month, Open Star, was a bit more time consuming than most of the dish cloths I've made.  I think I spent three days (well, my knitting time for three days) working on it.  Or maybe four.  I'm not sure.  All I know is that I only worked on a sock in the past two days.

But, I really love how this dish cloth turned out.  Time consuming or not, I will definitely make this pattern again. In the first picture, below, the camera captured the colors pretty well, but not the pattern. The second one is more washed out looking, but at least you can see the 'stars'.

As far as sock #2 of the Hermoine's Everyday Socks I'm making for my Mom, I've just gotten the ribbing and not quite two (of 18) pattern repeats of the leg done so far. My goal is to get to the heel by next week's Yarn Along, and hopefully complete the sock for the Yarn Along after that.  Knitting time is about to get scarce as the days get super long (sunrise about 5:30 a.m. and sunset about 10 p.m. for most of June) and the weather gets nicer and I spend a whole lot more time working outdoors.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

An Unusual Saturday Morning

Unusual, but not uninteresting!

A while back, I had read that our local conservation district was conducting a stream monitoring event at the end of April.  I wasn't sure what all 'stream monitoring' entailed, but I told DD2 about it, being as she is a Wildlife Ecology major and has many natural resources-type classes.  She was interested, but not sure if she'd be done with school for the summer and back home in time to attend.

Then she found out two things.

One, her last final exam for the semester was on the afternoon of April 28th.

Two, being graduation weekend for her institution of higher learning, there was not a hotel room to be had within about 90 miles of her dorm for the night of Friday April 29th.

So, she begged DH and I to make plans to come and get her the very minute she was done with her exam on Thursday.  And we did.  Had no trouble finding a room right in her college town for Thursday evening. Just would have to head for home on Friday morning.  Which worked okay for us, as K3's birthday was Saturday, so we wouldn't have been able to stay in the U.P. Friday night anyway, unless we wanted to miss K3's party Saturday late afternoon/early evening.

Travel plans confirmed, DD2 signed herself up for the stream monitoring on the 30th.  Then she asked if I would like to join her in that endeavor.  Being slightly crazy  of a naturalist/scientific mindset, I agreed.  So she signed me up too.

Saturday morning found the two of us up bright and early, and to the conservation district office about 8:45 a.m.  The weather was cool and cloudy, with rain and high temperatures only around fifty degrees predicted.  And what were the two of us (along with about two dozen other volunteers) going to do for four hours?  Wade around in various streams and creeks of our county, collecting water and muck samples and looking through them for invertebrates.

You know what?  We had a blast.  Didn't mind the weather, never felt cold, didn't think twice about donning waders and hopping into creeks with bottoms of undetermined firmness (the one that I got to be the first person into turned out to be pretty mucky in spots; my entry point found me thigh-deep in muck and suddenly remembering that I've never been fond of deep water.)

DD2 netting around a collection of branches and brush in the water.

Not only was wading and collecting samples from the creek bottoms fun, but picking through the muck/water/vegetation debris samples with tweezers, okay to be scientific: forceps, and finding creepy crawlies--and creepy squirmies with no legs--was extremely interesting.  Maybe you have to be a little interested in microbiology and entomology to call that a good time, but it worked for us.

It took my eyes a minute or two to adjust to seeing movement and life forms in the sludge, but then suddenly the sample tray was alive and I was busily picking tiny critters up with my tweezers forceps and depositing them into water-filled sections of an ice cube tray.

tray of sludge and debris (and aquatic creatures)

ice cube tray with 'bugs'

It was amazing all the little things living down in the creeks that you couldn't see from above the water.  Things like blood worms (larvae of the midge family), which were mostly only about 1/4" long, thin as thread, and bright, bright red.  And caddisfly larvae.  And sow bugs.  And mayfly nymphs, as well as damsel- and dragonfly nymphs.  A few tiny freshwater clams, a few more scuds (which are tiny freshwater shrimp).

caddisfly larvae

caddisfly 'house' (with one hiding inside)

tiny clam

damselfly nymph

The surprising, and not very welcome, find was a small goby fish.  DD2 was the one who found (and netted) it.  Goby are non-native and invasive, and had not previously been found in creeks around here.  So our team leader, who works in natural resources, was quite excited--and a little dismayed--that our group had discovered one.  It was, of course, captured and not returned to the water.  That little fish induced much paperwork (and must be punished, LOL).

Overall, it was a great way to spend an otherwise dreary Saturday morning.  DD2 is even more confident that this is the correct career path for herself.  I learned quite a bit, and am always glad to add to my mental encyclopedia of all things living.

Truth be told, DD2 and I talked all the way home about making/purchasing a net like the ones we used that morning, and doing a little 'stream monitoring' in both the Marsh at this little place here as well as the drainage ditch that divides the back of our woods from the neighbor's farm field on the next road over.  Just out of curiosity to see what life forms are out there, quietly going about their business unseen. We would, of course, practice catch and release. Unless she finds another goby!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.18: One Sock. . . Slight Brain Power Required

Welcome to this week's Yarn Along post.  Joining in with Ginny this afternoon to see what everyone is knitting and reading.

I'm glad to say that I did finish the first sock of the pair of Hermoine's Everyday Socks that I am making my Mom with the yarn she sent home with me at Easter.  The pattern was easy to follow, and quick to knit.

With one exception.  I prefer dpns to circulars when I'm knitting socks.  So, rather than casting onto two circs or doing magic loop, I just divided the 64 cast on stitches onto four dpns and went from there.

Including working about eight rows of heel flap, at which time I realized things just did not look right. The heel flap was beginning to stick out like a sore thumb.  I was positive that wasn't what it was supposed to look like, so I reread the directions for the heel flap.  And reread them again.  No, I was doing it exactly as written.

I looked at my heel flap in progress.  It didn't look like any heel I'd ever seen.

I looked on the 'wrong' side of my knitting, and it looked like what I'd expected the 'right' side to be developing into. Hmm.

"Right" side of the heel looking rather odd.

"Wrong" side of the heel with pretty stockinette stitches near the needles.

I reread the directions again, this time from the very beginning, before the cast on.  And that's when it hit me: because I was working with dpns instead of doing the sock on circulars as the pattern was written, I needed to make an adjustment when doing the heel flap (and the heel turn).  So, instead of starting the flap with a purl row (wrong side if doing the sock on circs) as directed, I needed to start with a knit row, just like every other heel I'd knit on my dpns.

Once I'd gotten that figured out, things went much better.

Now that looks like the beginning of a heel!

So, if you ever want to knit these socks, but you'd rather use dpns instead of the circulars that the pattern calls for, just remember when you get to the heel flap, do it in this order: row 2, row 1, row 4, row 3.  It will turn out correctly.  Trust me, I know.  (And on the heel turn, substitute K for P in row 1, and then continue your turn like always--K on right side, P on wrong side).

One finished sock 
(ignore the tail that didn't quite get tucked behind the sock for the picture).

Currently I am reading an Amish mystery book, Plain Dead by Emma Miller.  It's quite good.  I'm having to make myself put it down and get my chores done, when I'd really rather just read it straight through and find out 'who done it'.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

April Sewing Project

I know, I know, it's May now.  But I didn't get time to post what I was sewing in April because, well, I ran out of April!  And I was finishing my project just under the wire.  The wire being K3's birthday party Saturday evening.  I had a few problems, like forgetting I was using a directional print when I was cutting out pieces, that slowed me down considerably.  Nothing like trying to squeeze in two more of the large pattern pieces onto my then dwindling fabric.

*sigh*  Live and learn.  And remember to start a whole lot sooner next time. And remember that ruffles are cute, but pinning all those gathers takes forever. . .

Anyway, I did get the summer weight jammies made that I had wanted to give K3 for her birthday.  At least, one pair of them.  I have the fabric to make the other pair at a later date. Like, maybe for this summer when DH and I are planning to take the grand kids camping for a week.

I wish I had taken a better picture of them; my cell phone camera really didn't do justice to the fabrics I used.