Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jane: Inspired

On Friday I went on a road trip--a road trip back in time! I went to Macomb, Illinois where Bruce and I lived before coming to Cedar Rapids. It's where we met, actually, and where we got married--at this church.
I spent a wonderful day in Macomb with my friend Judi. We were good friends when I lived in Macomb all those years ago (20!), and we hadn't seen much of each other since then. But that didn't seem to matter--we picked up those conversations about gardens, yarn, pets, books just as if we'd seen each other yesterday.

The idea for the trip occurred to me when I was reading Judi's blog. She was discussing her garden, and I posted a comment that I'd love to help her with gardening and would be glad to take some of her European Ginger off her hands. It was just a comment, but then I realized that I would love to go visit. So I did!

We spent most of the day doing gardening-oriented things--looking at her plants, visiting an awesome nursery in Bushnell, and digging up some souvenir plants for me to take home. We also talked yarn, watched her beautiful German Shepherds run in the yard, and did a little tour of town.

Some of my favorite places in town are still basically the same:
The building where I taught.
"Lake Ruth," the pond outside the building where I taught.

The courthouse, where Bruce and I got our marriage license.
The Maid-Rite is closed :-(

But Robin's Record shop is still there, although she's no longer there. It's now just called Rockin' Records, not Rockin' Robin's Records.
When I got home, I was inspired by Judi's creative and knowledgeable visions of gardens and yarn arts! I planted my new acquisitions: The ginger now has its own colony under the yews.
The sweet woodruff is right near the door where I can see it from the house.

The plumbago has the fence as a backdrop. Judi says it blooms electric blue--it was recommended by a favorite garden writer of ours, Henry Mitchell.

After planting those, I was still in the mood to garden. I don't really have a garden line item in this month's budget for other new stuff, so I shopped my yard. I found some ferns hiding by the air conditioner where no one could see them, so I moved them. I also moved some hosta around.
As for yarn arts, I'm working on another prayer shawl, but when I finish, or maybe while I'm working, I'm going to do something with this pretty chenille yarn I rescued from a thrift shop. Judi and I discussed maybe a short-sleeved cardigan. And I need to try those crocheted socks!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jane: Claes Oldenburg would be proud

Something about this amigurumi made it irresistible to me! Maybe it's the floppy graham crackers.

I sent it to people who truly appreciate campfire food.

More amigurumi later!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Robbie: Ren Fair Pics

here are some pictures from the ren. fair of 2009!

Jane: Guests from Africa

This weekend, The Hope of Africa Children's Choir were guests at our church. The children, who ranged in age from 5-10, were from an orphanage in Uganda.

They sang at all three services on Sunday--wonderful, energetic music with lively, African costumes and dancing. "They're better than the Franklin choir," said Eli (Franklin is the middle school he attends).

The best part, though was that we got the opportunity to have some of the group stay with us! That's one of my favorite parts about this new home--there is room to have people visit.

Our guests for two nights were Marvin, Gabriel, and Brian, and their chaperone, Pastor Richard.

We were just given their "English" names :-)

The three boys were just 7 years old each, and were happy, well-behaved, and loving. When they met us, the immediately hugged us and said "Hello auntie" "Hello Uncle"--apparently this is the way people in their culture address adults.

Eli had fun playing soccer with the boys in the backyard, and Robbie played basketball with them, too. They loved the handheld video games and laughed and exclaimed over them. (They are just learning English, so the international language of sports and video games was very helpful).

While the children played, we talked with Pastor Richard. "Ask me questions," he encouraged us. Well, it doesn't take much encouragement for me to think of questions--I know so little about Africa, I had many many questions.

He told us many things about Africa and about Uganda more specifically. Most of the people there farm, or have small businesses (but about half are illiterate). Malaria is a terrible threat, as is the instability of various countries around Uganda, which is fairly stable today. Several East African countries have formed a coalition, including formerly genocide-wracked Rwanda and Burundi. "Things are getting better," was Richard's reply to many of my questions about those countries that have been in the news.

At the goodbye breakfast held at our church today (Pastor Paul flipped pancakes!), Pastor Paul said that many years ago, people from America went to Africa to spread the word of the gospel, and today, Africans are bringing that good news back to us. "You have become a new face of the gospel," he told the group.

They really were a spiritual blessing to us. And now we will think of Uganda differently--we have brothers and sisters there now!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Robbie: Opening day at the CR pools!

There really isn't much to say about this. The pools were open, so I went, and it was cold...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Jane: Droop

My clematis is drooping. One of them, anyway: my Jackmanii. The autumn one--the one that drooped and didn't bloom last year--looks fine. And Jackmanii was fine--even robust--until just today. I sprayed it with some antifungal spray (organic), so let's see if that does the trick.

Mitzi went out with me to inspect the garden, as usual. She's so funny out there. She doesn't blend in at all with her surroundings with her black and white fur.

She likes to eat grass, of course, a feline Holstein.

Meanwhile, the robin is building a new nest in our magnolia.
It's only about 5 feet up, and very close to the garage, not to mention in a well-used yard. I'm not sure she really thought this through. Every time I come out of the garage, she startles out of the tree with a loud skeet!

I'm thinking something must have happened with that nest on the speaker; they were feeding the babies for a while, but then . . . nothing. No fledgelings, etc. I wonder if something got into the nest from the roof of the house. I did discover a portion of a wing on our patio a few days ago. It looked like a full-grown bird's wing--gray feathers--but it might have been a young one's wing.

We'll see what happens with this nest project.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jane: Mechanical Baby Photo

Here's what Robbie's mechanical baby looked like. I was going to take a photo of Robbie with it, but it didn't happen. I want to point out that I took care of it during Robbie's last Jazz Band concert.

And about that late night baby-tending? It was just payback time :-) Actually, Robbie did very well with that baby, despite his griping.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Robbie: Baby Think It Over

Ok So It's like 11:43 and i'm still awake. On weeknights (or any night for that matter...) I'm not sick, or waching a tv show. In eighth grade, we have to take home a " baby think it over" doll which emulates the inconceninces of a baby. It uses magnets to be "cared for" and bawls when you don't. The worst part is: IT'S GRADED!!!!
Ok. I'd better type this quickly before the stupid piece of shplastic starts whining again.
Anyway. Im just passing the time by cyberventing and playing card games against Luigi on my DS.
If I had set up camp in the basement I could be on my wii right now. :(
Anyway I will probably update in the next six hours...

Jane: Blogging Birds

This spring, a couple of robins started to build a nest above an outdoor speaker that's mounted above our 2nd floor deck. I noticed it when the kitty started to go nuts watching out the bathroom window--there's a bird out there! I took down the nest before the birds got very far with it, but they just started a new one. Well, there's something to be said for indomitable spirit--I left that one up.

In the past week, we've been enjoying watching the mother and father robin feed the babies. It's much more interesting than just seeing her sit and sit and sit on the nest! At least she wasn't making the kitty crazy.

In other bird news . . . I saw this bird in the neighbor's tree this weekend.
I haven't seen a rose-breasted grosbeak in a long time! I very clearly remember seeing one down in the parkway; I must have been about Eli's age, 12. Have I been a bird watcher since I was 12?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Robbie's Lego Showcase

I have recently made some new LEGO creations including a tribute to what makes the world go round. 
Love? No. 
Money? No 
Music? No. 
Google! Srsly without Google, you wouldn't be reading this...
OK. on to the pictures....
A Tahrok (I didn't design this but it's cool)
Spaceship (when you lift the cockpit cover it deploys the rear landing gear)

Same ship on its launcher

One of SecretAgentBobbert's ships
Another sweet looking ship (it sorta remids me of the clone transports from Star Wars Episode 2 crossed with Samus Aran's Ship)
Robot Wearing A Baseball Cap
A design in the Engineer's Mini Notebook for a Pendulum Switch
The Lego Pendulum Switch
The LED in the top (If I hadn't been lazy I would have made a platform for my breadboard and used a 555 oscillator instead of a LED)
Here are the individual letters/\
and here is the finished product\/

It makes the world go round!! W00T

Jane: Lawn and Birds

This is embarrassing. I told my family that I'd apply some weed-n-feed stuff to our lawn this spring. I have a spreader and everything. I didn't do a good job.
Do you see the stripes? :-(

A walk this morning revealed that there are other striped and spotted lawns in the neighborhood, so I won't be shunned, I don't think.

At the old house, I only used organic stuff, WOW Plus, which was not very effective so it didn't stripe a lawn. I thought I'd start out with a dose of the chemical stuff here; maybe I'll switch back to organic--more forgiving!

In the back lawn, which hasn't been striped, this bird was hopping around.
At least I think it was this bird, a Swainson's Thrush. It's one of those thrushes on that page of the Peterson's guide! Not the wood thrush, who's bigger and reddish, but one of the other three. I thought it might be a Swainson's as it has a yellowish cheek.

I love thrushes, the way they run along the lawn and stop, run and stop. I like to watch them turn over the leaves looking for bugs. They're all over our neighborhood, and the common yellowstarts are singing up in the branches where they can't be seen!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jane: How to Have Style

One of my guilty pleasures is reading women's magazines--you know, the kinds that tell you what kind of makeup to buy, show the latest styles, and do those "before and after" articles.

I'm not sure why I like reading them, as I'm not all that stylish of a person. But I guess I care a bit about the way I look, and maybe that's more important as one gets older--you can't just rely on the natural beauty of the young!

When I saw this book at the library, I grabbed it. I like the idea of style better than the idea of fashion. Seems more long-lasting and classy, though sometimes a bit out of my reach. And maybe too time-consuming and uncomfortable.

But this book was great. This is the same designer who has a line of clothes at Target, so obviously he's kind of a "for the people" guy. What I liked about his book is that he found 10 ordinary women and helped them find a style that worked with their lives--what they liked to wear, their very real figures, and their incomes. I like that they were quirky-looking people, and he didn't make them all look the same.

The other thing I liked was that he wasn't all about buying new things. "Shop your closet first" was one thing he emphasized. The other was "shop without your wallet." I guess you do that first, getting ideas of what looks you like. Then you go back to your closet to see what you can create with what you've got. Nice thinking! I've done that already since reading the book--instead of pining away after a cute outfit I saw in a catalog, I looked in my closet and discovered I had something similar already, just by combining stuff I already had!

He also encourages people to stop shopping for cheap stuff (he even told one of his charges NOT to shop for a week--she could only go 3 days--imagine that!) and save up for nice things that will last. Probably his "nice things" are way nicer than what I'd save up for, but still, it's a good mantra.

The final thought I'll take away from this is just to take a few minutes before getting dressed to think about what I'm wearing--think about how to make it look a bit stylish, rather than just throwing things on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jane: Prayer Shawl

This is my latest crochet project: a prayer shawl.

Our church, like many churches, I guess, has a prayer shawl ministry. People in the church crochet or knit shawls which the church then gives to people going through difficult times as a kind of physical embodiment of our care for the person.

I got a prayer shawl when my parents died, and I keep it on my chair in the living room. It's soft and warm, and I think about my parents--and my church family--when I put it around my shoulders.

The shawl I'm making is simple: single crochet one row, double crochet 2 rows for 3 skeins of Homespun yarn. I just made the fringe today before I started the last skein of yarn. The yarn is an ombre called Tudor, and it's been striping nicely.

It's a bit more useful than amigurumi :-) and gives me a sense that I'm helping people with my crochet hook.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Jane: Graduation Weekend

It's graduation weekend at Coe. I will be marching in the baccalaureate procession today at 3. I really enjoy that part of graduation weekend--baccalaureate is a church service, basically, and I am fond of those. Plus, there's always a good sermon by a well-known theologian and awesome music by college music groups. This year, one of my students is giving a speech. And it's not as long as the graduation ceremony, which I've never participated in. (My excuse is that someone needs to watch the boys, and babysitters aren't usually available on Sunday morning!).

This year, I didn't reserve a hood; I'm going to wear my dad's.
I found it when we were cleaning out the house. I remember him getting his degree, and I remember him being at my doctoral graduation. Probably the fact that my father was a professor encouraged me to realize that I could do it, too.

Of course his degree is Electrical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University. Anyone who's up on graduation symbols (get yourself educated at my student Melissa's online article) will notice that my hood's not the right colors for a Ph.D. in English from U of Iowa!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Jane: Testosterone Surges

The other day I saw some male robins in our yard, fighting. It was quite funny. They would hop around on the ground, looking at each other, and then suddenly fly toward each other. They would bash each other with their wings, while flying upward. Then they'd fly away from each other and it would start again. Finally one robin flew off. I guess there's some sort of territory war going on.

It reminded me of our male ratties. They have grown up together, but they sometime fight pretty energetically.
They look like those robins, sort of! I figure they're having some kind of testosterone surges . . .

(When looking for a picture to illustrate rat fighting, I found the coolest page about rat behavior--check it out if you have ratties! It's very detailed and scientific, yet also interesting and lively)

The same day I saw the robins, we had Tae Kwon Do. All the teens seemed to be crazed!
We have about 5-6 teen boys, and now there's a teen girl who's joined us. Somehow this seems to have made the boys even nuttier. There was lots of play fighting, teasing, and yelling. Just like rats and robins!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jane: Planting Season

It turned out to be a nice day today, after some morning showers. So after I finished grading my students' last projects (yay!), I went to the Oakland Road Drugtown to get some plants.

It's funny that a local drugstore has such a good selection of plants. But it does--they set up a tent in the parking lot and truck in new plants each day. And though the selection is good, it's not overwhelming like Peck's, my other favorite place to shop for plants--when I'm not worried about being overwhelmed.

There are two planters on my patio that I needed to plant out. Last year Ken did them, and they were beautiful. I probably have photos on this blog!

This year, I decided to try something different. Though the planters are identical, one is almost completely in the shade, and the other gets western sun. Pretty different situations for plants! So I decided to do parallel pots, with similar colors and some similar plants, but with some differences to make up for the light. I put lamium, spikes, and some coleus in both, and then I chose some plants that would have similar looks for shade and for some sun.

Here's my shade pot.

I put in impatiens and begonias for shade.

My sun pot is here.

For sun, I used a geranium and some callbrachoa, which looks like tiny petunias, but don't have to be pinched.

I also got some herbs--I put fennel, spearmint, and lemon balm in a pot near the kitchen.

Let's hope they all do well.

I put in my tomatoes and basil the other day, too.

Three tomatoes: Celebrity, Sweet 100s (cherry tomatoes), and "Health Kick," a plum tomato. And of course a dozen or more basil plants (we LOVE pesto). They look so tiny now!