Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jane: Two books about birds

I've read two interesting books recently--each unique and enjoyable. And each not just about birds. They're also the kinds of books that I read a bit more slowly because I'm savoring the wonderful writing. Then I finish and think "I wish I'd written that."
Birdology by Sy Montgomery was a delight to read. Montgomery is also a children's book author, and she wrote about looking for animals and birds in Papua New Guinea at a time when Eli was fascinated by that country.

This book has chapters about different birds, about Montgomery's relationships to those birds and her research on them. It's very essayistic, with Montgomery relating her experiences and reflections on her encounters with these birds. I especially loved the chapters on chickens (she raises them), cassowaries, and hawks. Her enthusiasm is catching--I'd love to meet her.
I also read Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. I just stumbled upon this book, spotting it in one of the shelves at the public library (the 500's of course). Being a crow fan myself, I picked it up.

Haupt has worked for Audubon and has written on birds before. Although she also uses an essayistic approach, telling of her decision to become an urban naturalist after scorning the "urban" aspect for a long time, she has a different persona from Montgomery. She's more judgmental and political in her approach, bringing up the devastating choices humans make that have devastated our planet. Still, I liked it, because I sometimes feel that way, too.

She chose to write about crows since they are ubiquitous in her urban neighborhood, and following them would give a good insight on how nature and human development intersect. She's all for us becoming aware of how we humans are part of--yet also tend to destroy--nature. I like the way she encourages all of us city-dwellers to become urban naturalists. She even has a chapter where she gives advice on how to do this.

I would recommend these books to anyone who enjoys considering our relationship to other creatures and the natural world. Plus, it's a great way to learn more about birds.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Vacation--Eastward Ho!

In one week and one day, we leave on a 10-day vacation trip out east. Main stops: Cleveland, upstate New York, New York City, Philadelphia, and Gettysburg.

I created a Google map--take a look!

View Summer 2010--Eastward Ho in a larger map

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jane: Yarn stuff

Besides thinking about yarn bombing, I've been doing some yarn stuff this summer. Here are a few projects.

This strawberry necklace is crocheted with embroidery floss. The pattern's from Ravelry, and I did a pin in larger yarn. I like this smaller, more delicate version--it reminds me of the botanical images from tapestries.

I'm still working on a lacy top from Robin Chachula's Blueprint Crochet. It's made with motifs--like granny squares. The yarn is a bamboo/cotton blend that went on sale from Lion Brand just when I was planning to buy supplies for the top! I wanted a challenging pattern that showed off my crochet skills, and this does it.

I decided to make one square a day--there are about 18 squares and partial squares. It'll have short sleeves. I've done the back and one shoulder!
This dishcloth doesn't look very exciting. But it has a story. When my Grandma Hoffman died, I got her workbasket. It had some yarn, the pattern for crocheted mittens, and an almost-finished dishcloth with instructions. At some point, I finished up the dishcloth she'd started before she died.

Recently, I'd considered knitting dishcloths as a way to strengthen my knitting skills. When I saw this pattern, I knew I had to do it--it was my grandma's dishcloth pattern.

The new one is on the right, the one Grandma started and I finished (it's been washed, so has shrunk) is on the left.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Jane: Yarn Bombing

I keep running across Yarn Bombing--read a facebook post about it the other day, then found a BOOK called Yarn Bombing at the library!

Wikipedia says "yarn bombing is almost exclusively about reclaiming and personalizing sterile or cold public places."

I like the idea of the rather domestic art of crochet or knitting being taken to the streets and used to make people think. Like that tank, above. I'm imagining a little lacy cannon-cover, or a doily affixed to the end of a cannon . . .

I'm VERY intrigued, and I think I'll try a yarn bombing project, though my boys are horrified at the idea . . . more later :-)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eli and Jane: Romeo

Look at this funny kitty. He does have legs; they are just very short! He's a friend of Eli's.
Apparently, he is a Munchkin breed cat, which, due to a gene abnormality, has very short legs. He lives with some people around the block from us, and he has been stopping by our house every day, coming up to the sliding doors until someone (Eli) comes out to play with him!
Here, his glowing eyes make him look "evil," as Eli points out! But he's very sweet-tempered and friendly.

This does not mean he is boring. The other day he was in our yard, and there was a bird ruckus. We came out and saw him trotting away with a starling in his mouth. That's fine by us!

Mitzi does not like him, but does not get as upset about him as she does when the next door neighbor's cat comes by. I think she's not sure if he's a cat or an otter.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Jane: Lavender!

I'm surprised my lavender is doing so well. I've planted it outside before, and it hasn't come back. This variety must be very hardy.
The flash seems to bleach out the nice color--the flowers really ARE lavender-colored!

It seems to like its location, with the bricks nearby to soak up heat, and the garage shielding it from the west winds. Plus, there's an anthill right under it--I'm thinking that's good for the root system.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Jane: Bird rescue

The other day, the boys and the kitty and I were in the backyard. The birds--especially a couple of robins--were setting up a ruckus. "It's because of the kitty," I pointed out.

Then we noticed the kitty had spotted something and was going into stalking mode. I looked, and saw a robin fledgling sitting in one of the links of our chain-link fence. Its wing was a bit caught on the fence and it opened its mouth wide when it saw me! The parents were in the nearby trees, still going on about the situation.

I reached in and gently freed the little bird. It moved to my hand, and sat there for a while, its wiry feet clinging around my finger. Then it took off and flew to the garage roof, and on to the bushes in the alley. The parents followed it.

I took Mitzi inside; she was annoyed with that.

The next day I heard another ruckus, this time dominated by jays, but everyone else was chiming in. Usually that's a sign that someone has spotted a hawk or an owl, both of which live in the neighborhood. I looked around but didn't see it. The boys have been hearing owls at night, though--barred owls. We hear the usual "who cooks for you who cooks for you" call often. At night we also get Halloween noises--screeches, gobbling, and all sorts of odd sounds from them!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Jane: in the swim

I swim about 1-2 times a week all year round at the Y, but it seems like summer is really "swimming time." In winter, getting into that cold pool is so hard; in summer it feels refreshing!

Swimming is great exercise for me--it doesn't take very long, and it doesn't require much ability (except what I learned in swimming lessons and required swimming classes in H.S. Phys. Ed. classes). It gets me fit, yet lean--and nicely adds a bit of bulk to my mostly-stick arms :-)I don't need to get together with a team, and here in Cedar Rapids, at least, there are lap lanes available most times of the day at the Y, so I can squeeze in a swim just about any time.

Still, there are some aspects of swimming I just dislike. Luckily I've found some ways of dealing with them.

One is the hair issue. That chlorine really does a number on one's hair, especially if it is, ahem, highlighted. And in summer, my hair is pretty challenged already--what with the high humidity that makes it frizz.

I always use a swim cap, and that helps a lot. I bought one of those silicone swim caps a few years ago, and it's WAY better than the old latex ones: softer and much more durable (usually the latex ones only last a year or less).
Recently, I've also been putting conditioner on my wet hair before I put on the cap. This works great. It keeps the chlorine out and gives my hair a spa treatment!

Of course, I also need layers of "product" once I shampoo after the swim: moisturizing shampoo, more conditioner, silicone serum, gel. . . .

Another thing I always hated was goggle eyes--the ugly indentations goggles left around my eyes after a swim. If you swim early in the day, people all day will be asking you if you're not feeling well!

Solution: new goggles. Look at these!
I'm sure I look very scary or weird in them, but they do NOT leave goggle marks, so I wear them. A friend who does triathlons also got some, so I am in good company.

It's possible I'll swim laps at the outdoor pools this summer. The pool near us has lap swim 12-1. But probably I'll just go to the Y because that's where all my problem-solving gear is!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jane: Rhubarb Jam

Had some stalks of rhubarb left over from last week's pie, so I decided to make some rhubarb jam. I made some last year from rhubarb, sugar, and Jell-o, so tried it again.

Here's the recipe:
6 c. rhubarb, chopped fine
3 c. sugar
1 packet of Strawberry Jell-o

Mix rhubarb and sugar, let stand overnight. Cook, simmering for 12 minutes. Remove from stove and add Jell-o. Put into jars and let cool. Store in freezer until ready to use. Makes about 5 eight-ounce jars.

OK, it's not what your grandmother would have done, but it's what MY grandmother would have done! (She was all for "instant" and box mixes!) It tastes GREAT :-)