Thursday, January 29, 2015

New Grand Nephew on a Rainy Day

We had a light rain all day here in Casa Grande, AZ. But I spent the day in Scotland with Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser. Have you watched Outlander yet? I read the books almost 20 years ago, but recently watched all eight episodes of season one on TV, based on Diana Gabaldon's book. I found the show to be very well done. The problem is, I wanted more! So I reread the first book in the series. And that's what I did all day.

Before the rain started this morning, Bob finished polyurethaning the two cherry stick shuttles he made for me. Aren't they beautiful?
I am so fortunate to have a handy husband who will make me things! My 28" Ashford Knitters Loom came with one long shuttle, which will not be enough if I weave with more than one color and weave full-width on the loom. Also, since I like to use stick shuttles as pattern sticks for textures and patterns, I will need long shuttles for that as well.

My grandson, Alex, called me today. Unfortunately it was by mistake, when he was showing his mom that he knew how to use the phone. I told him he could call me whenever he wants.  He did play his new recorder for me, doing a fine job with "Mary Had a Little Lamb." The school issued each student in his class one for the school year. Alex told me if he learns five songs he gets to keep the recorder for his very own. I have a feeling he'll get to keep it.

I found out today that I have a new grand-nephew, Oliver. Oliver is boy number three for his parents Lori and Brian. We wish them congratulations, love and joy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

I've been looking forward to this trip for a couple of weeks now. Bob and I took a 2 1/4 hour drive down to Why, AZ to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in the Sonoran Desert.  It's rather a special place because it is the only place in the United States where Organ Pipe Cacti grow naturally.  Here's a picture of one.
As you can see, they get pretty large, growing in clusters of narrow stems that can reach 16' high and 12' across, and take 150 years to reach maturity. They are pollinated by bats.

It was a beautiful drive down to the National Monument, with mountains and plenty of Saguaro Cacti.

Once at the visitors center, I asked the rangers what is the difference between a National Monument and a National Park.  Do you know? A President can declare an area a National Monument, but it takes much lobbying and an Act of Congress to make a National Park. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared this land a National Monument on April 13, 1937.

We decided to purchase an Annual National Park Pass today so that we can visit as many federal parks as we come across.  It is good for entrance fees at national parks and monuments, national wildlife refuges, national forests and grasslands, and BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) as well as Bureau of Reclamation land. I think we can get our money's worth out of it.

We took a walk on a hiking trail around the Monument's campground, which was wild enough for Auggie.  He didn't really seem to appreciate the desert setting, with cacti all around and hot sand. But it was sure beautiful!

The park is home to many animals, including:
  • Mountain Lion
  • Mule Deer
  • White-tailed Deer
  • Desert Bighorn
  • Sonoran Pronghorn
  • Javelina
  • Lesser Long Nosed Bat
  • Coyote
  • Jackrabbit
  • Kangaroo Rat
  • Packrat
  • Quitobaquito pupfish
  • more bird species than can be listed!
  • several species of reptiles, including Rattlesnakes and tortoises
  • several types of scorpions
We didn't see any of these (and some I was really glad NOT to see!) but the bird calls we heard were really beautiful. It would be a great place to camp, and there is a campground with dry camping (no hookups) that would accommodate our sized rig. So maybe one day we will come back and stay for a few days.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Popular Mechanics and my Blanket is Off the Loom

While NJ and New England got a lot of snow today, we in Arizona got a little shower before temperatures rose to the middle 70's. Bob had a doctor's appointment locally, and I stayed with Auggie and K.C.  A tough job, but someone's got to do it.

My grandson, Robby called me the other night to interview me on the subject of dogs.  He is writing his first term paper and needed to interview someone.  After answering his excellent questions, we started chatting about the "olden days."

Now to an adult, the "olden days" are what happened before our times, so I looked up a Popular Mechanics dated January 2015, one hundred years ago this month.  Google Books has these magazines in their entirety, scanned and available to all to read.  I remember Popular Mechanics as a child.  It was full of fascinating subjects and how-tos, a kind of Make Magazine back in the day.

A hundred years ago, I told Rob, you could buy a house from the Sears catalog.  Popular Mechanics had a couple of homes advertised that looked pretty cool. Click on any picture to make it bigger.
A person might discover new and exciting ways to improve the house you already had, like putting in a sleeping "room" that hung out of an upstairs window.  Too bad they didn't catch on.
You could also find a new career between the pages of PM.
Or build yourself a new pair of ice skates.
The magazine even featured an early RV!
I had a lot of fun looking through this magazine. It is amazing what's on the internet.

Later I finished weaving my blanket and took it off the loom to wash and dry.  You may recall I am using my 28" Ashford Knitters Loom--I love this loom!  I am also loving the subtle stripes on this cloth, and I think it will make a great blanket--it's so soft.  Later this week I will zigzag the edges and cut it apart, stitch it together and bind it.
Tomorrow Bob and I hope to go to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bluegrass Festival and Car Show

On Saturday we visited the Pinal County Fairgrounds for a Bluegrass Festival and car show. The weather was pleasant, in the mid 70's with a bit of a breeze, and the fairground was hopping! Bob and I are not really bluegrass fans, but the music added a really nice background to the festivities.

There were entertainers outside as well as inside one of the buildings, where vendors sold all kinds of items from jewelry to handwoven water bottle holders. 

I thought this design was very clever and I may make myself one.

We also enjoyed walking around the quilt show and choosing favorites. These two were my favorites.

But what was the most fun was seeing the old cars, from the Model T to the 70's. Here are a couple that were built the year Bob and I were born.
A 1955 Ford Crown Victoria...

...and a Chevy 210.
When we were graduating high school, these were the cars being made... the 1973 Ford Pinto...
...and the Chevy El Camino...
It was a great day!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The "S" Word

When our family moved to NJ from New England we were amused by the fear that the people in our new area had when it came to snow.  At the slightest chance of the "S" word, as we called it, it became major news.  New Jersey is currently being slammed by a blizzard tonight, so my thoughts turn to the big storms in my youth. In February of 1966 we had a big one, perhaps the biggest storm I have ever experienced. We school children were delighted at its timing; school was closed for a solid week, and then we had February vacation so we had two weeks off. In Massachusetts where I grew up, we had two winter vacations. One always occurred in February (to save a week of heating the schools) and one was in April when we could actually enjoy some nice weather.

But that year, it snowed. And snowed. Somewhere there is a photograph of my Dad standing in the driveway, having shoveled about a third of the way down towards the street. The wall of snow to be removed was deeper than he was tall, and my Dad was 6'1" tall. I remember we were unable to open the front door against all that snow, and had to go out a window to get out of the house.

That was the best year for snow forts! My sisters and I, along with our neighbors, were able to build a truly amazing snow fort that year, complete with tunnels for entry and tall walls to hide behind. It was magical. My Mom warned us, however, to stay out of the street if we heard the snowplow. It was rumored that a small child that year had been killed when a plow threw snow on him and he was unable to dig himself out.

Next door, our neighbors piled up enough snow to make a hill for sledding. And like every winter, we tried flooding our backyard to make a skating pond. Because of the incessant wind, however, we rarely had a nice smooth sheet of ice, so that never really worked well. That year the snow was too deep to try to make a place to skate, but it didn't stop us from trying!

In town was a river that would draw all of us like a magnet with our ice skates. It was a rare winter when a child or two wasn't drowned in that river, as the river was a fast moving one. We were warned never to go there without a parent.  But in 1966 Dad brought us to skate there, as it was cold enough for the ice to hold us. The fathers had shoveled off the ice and had made it as smooth as glass. What fun we had that day! It was a memory I will never forget.

Twelve years later, my first child, Kristen was three months old and New England was again socked with a killer snowstorm. We spent days in front of the TV, watching special news coverage on the storm until we couldn't take it any more. My parents a half hour away lost power for three days, but fortunately we never did in our town.  The roads, however, were impassible, so a State of Emergency was declared. People were stranded on highways for days in their cars until help finally came. Being the true Yankee that my parents had taught me to be, I had stocked up and had plenty of food in the pantry so we suffered little. I was breastfeeding my baby and we had plenty of cloth diapers, so staying in wasn't really a hardship. Apart from my husband losing a week's pay for lost work, we managed just fine. The Blizzard of 1978 was called "the Storm of the Century."

So tomorrow, when New Jersey is digging itself out from under their first major snowstorm of the season, I'll think of those days and smile. It's going to be 75 degrees here, and I don't miss that snow one bit.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Quiet Day

This has been a fairly quiet week for us, compared to last week.  And that's ok. It's nice to have a little down time, time to do a little house cleaning, a bit of weaving, maybe watch a movie and read a bit.

We did have a couple of fellows stop in today. One was here to repair a couple of chips in our windshield that appeared after the last leg of our journey here. And the other was here to appraise the damage done when our tire blew out in November. We had taken the motorhome to Sunbelt RV in Belton, TX to get an estimate right after it happened. Then they kept feeding us a lot of bologna and never followed up with a quote despite our many calls to them. That's one place we will NEVER set foot in for any reason in the future.

So we lost all that time and now that we are in one place for a few weeks it's time to "git 'er done."  This time we at least didn't have to drive to get the appraisal. We should hear back in a few days.

I'm having the loveliest time weaving my blanket, not rushing and enjoying the weaving. I can only do it for about an hour before my back starts to protest, but that's ok. I'll do a little each day. I like to listen to podcasts while I weave and it's very pleasurable.

Bob has made some shuttles for me out of some cherry lumber and they are gorgeous. He just has to finish them with a little more sanding and some Tung oil and they'll be ready to use. I'll post a picture when they're done.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Barney and Rex Trailer

Our usual dog park that we visit daily with Auggie has been temporarily closed for maintenance, so this morning we plopped him in the bike basket and rode to a farther one (have I mentioned that this RV resort has EIGHT dog parks?) We visited with a nice woman who brought her Westie, then rode to the agility park and let Auggie run through the obstacles. There we saw a most lovely white standard poodle, who was just the sweetest dog.

On my fifth birthday my parents got me a dog. I remember the car ride; I was so excited to find out I was getting a poodle puppy. We arrived at the breeder's home, and sat down in her living room. The door opened and this huge brown dog ran into the room and knocked me down. We were on the way home with the dog before I thought to ask, "But what about my poodle puppy?" My dad said, "This is a poodle puppy! He's a standard poodle--they are big dogs." We named him Barney.  I wanted to call him Brownie but my folks vetoed me. I was starting to get the idea that maybe my birthday was just an excuse for THEM to get a dog.

Poodles require a lot of grooming. As I got older I learned to use the clippers on Barney and loved shaping him differently each time I trimmed him. For a while I thought I'd become a professional dog groomer. Sometimes he looked like a bear and other times like a fancy poodle.

Now these were the old days when dogs were not required to be leashed, so Barney enjoyed the freedom of being off-leash when we hiked in the woods or anytime we were on a walk.  I recall the day he actually chased Rex Trailer's horse (Rex Trailer was a local celebrity in the Boston area who had his own cowboy show called Boomtown on Saturday mornings.)
Rex lived in Sudbury, MA not far from the Wayside Inn which was a popular place to hike around.  We were so excited to see Rex riding his beautiful palomino horse, Gold Rush, the same one he rode on his show.  Barney was excited to see the horse, too, and chased him across the fields while we screamed at him to come back.  The horse was faster than Barney, thankfully.
We used to see Rex at different events around town; bowling alley openings, car dealership events, things like that.  I met him several times, but never dared to tell him we were the ones with the dog that tried to attack his horse.

And I made sure Barney always looked different so Rex could not identify him if we ran across him again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Casa Grande Ruins

Yesterday was a free entrance day for our National Parks and National Monuments, so we took a ride out to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, about a half hour away. And what a glorious day we had! The temperatures were in the mid to upper 70's with a blue sky. Gotta love it!

The Ruins were the site of an amazing structure built by the Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert, completed about 1350 AD. No one knows the purpose of this building which stands four stories high and 60 feet long.

 You can see the roof that was built to help protect this building from the elements, almost a hundred years ago. The low mounds that delineate different outside areas were originally seven feet tall but have been worn down over the years.

I walked around outside the walled area and found quite a bit of broken pottery that probably is from that era. I left it there for the archeologists to find one day.

It was red on one side and black on the other side. Very cool!

Our guide showed us this sheet on how long local plants live, which I thought was interesting. The creosote bush can live for over 12,000 years.
And inside the visitors center was a display of spindle whorls of rock and ceramic pieces. Not so different from those used today.

After we got home I spent some time working on my shawl, staying up late to twist fringe. I got it washed this morning--I love the way it came out.
I'm sure I will get a lot of wear out of it.  And I've already re-warped my loom for another project--a blanket to donate to Linus's Blankets for hospitalized children. They will be collecting handmade blankets at the Rally next month.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Our Cotton Pickin' Day

We were looking for something different to do this weekend, so on Saturday Bob and I took a drive over to Caywood Farms in Casa Grande. Caywood Farms raises cotton and in the wintertime they have started to run tours of the operation. We were a group of about 40, and soon we were checked in. Can you find me in this picture?
Our hosts started out with with a little fiddling and some songs about farm life, with help from their grandson.

Next our half of the group went into the film shed and saw a bale of cotton, which weighs about 500 pounds. A bag of pest-resistant seed is next to it.
Our guide, Nancy, is a former teacher and had prepared a very nice PowerPoint presentation for us, to teach us about what cotton farming entails. I was amazed at how much there is to raising, harvesting, and processing cotton! Nancy gave us a handful of raw cotton and I immediately proceeded to spin a little with my fingers. Nancy was impressed.
After the presentation we had the opportunity to take a hayride into the fields, see the tractors and pick a few bolls of cotton.

Everyone was offered a bag of wheat as a parting gift. I told them I didn't eat wheat but would love some cotton, and they gave me this...
...some of which I spin into this!

It was a really fun and educational day. And now I know a bit more about how cotton makes it from the field to our hands.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What's Pickleball?

Friday brought blue skies and temperatures in the low  70's.  It is interesting about the weather here.  Nights are cool, high 30's or low 40's, and it takes until 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon to approach high temperatures, sometimes even later. So women tend to wear shorts or cropped pants with short sleeves and a jacket.  That way you are ready for weather all day.

We took our usual walk with Auggie and then a bike ride to check the mail on the other side of the park.  Bob and I had a nice conversation with someone at the dog park about pickleball.  Pickleball is a blend of tennis, badminton, and pingpong and is played with a paddle and ball.  There are pickleball leagues and pro shops now, and a paddle can be very inexpensive or can cost several hundreds of dollars. Pickleball is big here, and we may go watch a game to see what it is like (although I worry about doing more damage to my knee so I will probably pass on actually playing it.)

I spent a bit of yesterday weaving and enjoying my new loom while Bob ran some errands. I hope to have my new shawl finished in the next couple of days so I can weave a small blanket to donate next month to Project Linus.  They will be collecting blankets at the Good Sam Rally in Phoenix where we will be working, end of February.

Last night Bob and I attended our first Casa Grande block party and had a lovely time.  We are surrounded by people from the Dakotas, Kansas, and Idaho, all super-nice folks.  Bob has started calling us "Taxans" rather than "Texans" because we are residents there for tax purposes. Ha!

Monday is a free National Parks day so looking ahead we may visit a park that day. Not sure what we will do this weekend, but whatever we do it will be better than working :)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

This 'n That

Blue skies today with temperatures in the high 60's! I'm loving this weather.

Let's see, what did we do today? We walked down to the dog park and let Auggie play amongst his peers.  We then returned to get our bikes and did some more exploring, finding another dog park (there are eight of them) and another pool and hot tub. We also found the sewing room which has shelves packed with sewing machines, and an exercise room with bikes, treadmills, weights and Nautilus machines. I took a picture of the golf course--Bob says he thinks it's a par 3, for those who are interested.

We took a ride to Chandler, AZ to visit Lincare, the company that is supposed to be supplying Bob with a C-pap machine. I say "supposed to" because we have been trying since August to get it and the agencies in NJ, Livingston, TX and Mission, TX have only given us the runaround. Perhaps they know that if they drag their feet long enough we will move into another office's territory and they won't have to actually do their job?

We also tried to get a new key made for our Honda, but we need an appointment to do that. I seem to have lost my key somewhere around Christmas time.

Later I started actually weaving. I'm making a white cotton shawl, using a finger manipulated weave called leno. This variation is Antique Mexican Doubles, and I love how it is coming out.

Who knows what we'll do tomorrow?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Warp my New Loom

We are settling right into our new campground. Yesterday we went to the administration building to get our photo IDs which are required if we want to attend any activities here, and got our mailbox key. We took a bike ride all around our huge campground, and visited the dog park a couple of times.  Auggie met "Teddy," a blue merle Mini Australian Shepherd, who immediately began humping Auggie. I told his owner that if Teddy kept doing that, he was going to have to buy Auggie dinner afterwards. ;)

We decided to splurge for dinner and Bob brought home some In-n-Out Burgers. Mine was wrapped in lettuce and Bob got the bun with his. They were good, and a nice change for dinner.

Bob took the orientation course at the woodworking shop this morning, which is required for every person who wants to use the equipment. He was then able to make the two cross pieces for my loom stand so that I could use my new 28" wide Ashford Knitters Loom on it. He did a great job, of course, and the stand is fully functional. I am so fortunate to have a husband who does things like this for me!

It takes a little creativity to direct-warp a loom in this space, but it can be done.

I clamped my raddle to the counter by the TV and measured out eight feet from it to allow room for the warp. I then wound the warp onto the warp beam using cardborard strips as separators, threaded the holes of the heddle, and tied the front onto the cloth beam. All ready to go!

I am weaving a white shawl and will use leno for a lace effect.

I spent a little time looking over today's activities. Check it out (click on the picture to embiggen):

There's so much to do here! Of course, I have my weaving, so I'm not sure how much time I want to spend learning a new craft...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

We Move to AZ

We left New Mexico during a rainstorm that was supposed to hang around all day over Silver City, before turning to snow overnight. Bob had had the foresight to unhook all connections except for electrical the night before, and get all the outside things stowed away in preparation for our trip. So Monday morning all we had to do was unplug the connection, secure things inside, and pull in the slides. And hookup the car--that had to be done after we pulled out of the campsite.

Within an hour of travel we had moved out of the rain zone and only caught sporadic rain showers along the way. The temperatures climbed into the 60's as we approached Casa Grande, AZ, our new home for the next month. We saw some breathtaking scenery.

These two panoramic shots were taken at an Arizona rest stop.

I also noticed beautiful overpasses that decorate Interstate  Rte 10.

We arrived about 2:30 in Casa Grande after about 5 hours of driving (minus a couple of stops--we don't rush!) This place is HUGE, with about 2000 sites, shops, pools, several dog parks, tennis courts, golf courses, lawn bowling, wood shop, craft room, and more. There are a lot of rules, but the place runs smoothly. Unfortunately there is no free WiFi, but you can get Dish Internet for $35/ month which is WAY better than the iffy WiFi typically offered, so I am a happy camper. Ha! I can even stream videos. And we get cable TV--such a luxury!

People seem to be very friendly here, too. And with temperatures in the upper 60's, we are loving the weather here. It's going to be a good month, I think.