Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring in the North!

I think I post pictures of snowdrops every year. And if you live in the north, you know why: winter is long, and snowdrops are one of the first signs that spring is finally arriving.

Once the snowdrops bloom over at Brucemore, I know that there will always be something blooming. Next will be squill, then crocuses, then daffodils, then wake-robins . . .

The grass is still brown here, but we got a bit of rain today, and will get some next week. I raked the garden beds yesterday and had 2 big containers of leaves and sticks (put some to compost behind the garage). It was great to be outside. It was about 60--maybe warmer--and sunny! Eli helped me in the yard and Robbie and I rode our bikes to mail a letter.

I also spent some time crocheting these amigurumi paper lanterns.
I got the pattern from Itsy Bitsy Spider blog, which is written by a very talented crocheter from Cleveland! She is donating the money from the patterns to the Red Cross, I think to help Japan. The kanji on the white lantern is the sign for "strength." I guess I did a good job sewing it, because Robbie could tell what it says! (He is learning Japanese in school.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Eli turns 14

We've had a lovely few days celebrating Eli's birthday. He and I made a carrot cake from scratch Saturday afternoon.

He and his friends ate some on Sunday!

(Eli is king of the funny faces. It's an affliction that occurs when a camera is present.)
Monday, he wore his new jacket and shirt, and enjoyed opening gifts: 2 books, a crystal-making kit, and two gift cards.

Can't believe he's 14 already. "Where is that book for the driving permit?" he asked. (Kids can get a learner's permit at 14 in Iowa.) He's motivated--maybe he'll learn to drive before Robbie does!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Boots and Tights

I've decided that there are a few compensations for a long, cold winter. One is sledding, another ice skating. Of course there's hot chocolate. And then there are boots and tights.

This winter I got a new pair of boots which I love so much, I had to figure out ways to wear them! Lots of young women have been wearing boots with jeans tucked in, but that look doesn't work well for me. The jeans get bagged out and untucked around the knees, and for some reason it makes my legs look stumpy and short.

I did wear my new boots with long skirts now and then. That's fun, especially since I have a couple of swoopy long skirts that move really gracefully when I walk along.

But the most fun is to wear boots with short skirts and tights.

You'd think that this wouldn't be very comfortable, but it is. First of all, I am physically incapable of wearing Killer Heels, so my boots all have Sensible Shoe-height heels. Very comfy for walking. Tights today are also way more comfortable then they used to be. I wear thick, opaque ones with lots of lycra and NO control top. Bruce got me a couple pairs of colorful ones that are particularly soft and stretchy.

And of course, the skirt needs to be just right. Most of my short skirts are soft and stretchy, too, like wearing sweats! Or, like the one I'm wearing in the photo, denim. I say they're short, but they're really top-of-the-knee length, so long enough to be modest, yet short enough to make it easy to stride along in those boots.

You may think that pants would be more comfortable than skirts. Not necessarily. Unless they're sweatpants, it's hard for most women to find pants that fit nicely--in the waist, hips, and thighs--and look good! If they fit nicely, they might be uncomfortable to sit in. If they're loose enough to be comfortable when sitting, it's likely that they look a bit dowdy and floppy. And pants bag out at the knees or grab in the crotch when you sit down. In many ways skirts are better. I remember one summer, I never wore shorts--just skirts--because I found them so much more comfortable!

I'm wearing my denim skirt, boots, and tights today despite the fact that I'm not doing anything special. When they're this comfy, boots and tights are fine for days of errand-running and sitting at a computer at home. I'm not "dressing up for" anyone. I just love way they leave my legs free to walk and run along. I love the way they're cheerful and unexpected.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Maple Syrup Festival

We love this festival! It's at the Indian Creek Nature Center, and we go every year if we're in town.

Some years, it's rainy or snowy while you stand in line, but not this year.
They collect the sap on the Nature Center's property. They don't have that many sugar maples, and collect sap from box elder and silver maple trees, too. That affects the taste of the syrup they produce: it tends to be darker and have a stronger maple flavor. I love it!

Apparently, the last few years haven't been so good for syruping. I heard from one volunteer that they only produced 3 gallons last year.

Inside the sugar shack, an older volunteer was keeping sap boiling. Steam floated off the vats and drifted up and out through the hole in the roof. "I hear last year wasn't a good year for syruping," I commented to him.

He looked at me, then leaned in. "It was a damn awful year," he said. He thought that he'd already made more syrup this year than he had all spring last year. "It got warm too fast," he explained. Apparently, when that happens, the sugar in the sap turns to starch, and won't make syrup.
Outside the sugar shack, volunteers show different methods of cooking it down. 40 gallons of sap=one gallon of syrup. They let me stir!
The result: REAL maple syrup!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spring Yarn Fun

New tag! Isn't it nice? It's right there on First Ave., outside Brewed Awakenings.
The weather was actually pretty decent for sewing it up--we weren't standing in feet of snow, like last time.

Most of that tag was crocheted during two events: the superbowl and Oscar night. Thank goodness for slightly-boring TV!

While Ramona, Carol and I were sitting in Brewed, making plans for next time, Carol was inspired by a floor lamp which was decorated with thin metal leaves.

We decided that the next sign post would get covered with crochet, then decorated with flowers and leaves, all knitted or crocheted. It will make for a nice variety of work--and a bit of artistic flair. I am psyched!