Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Fancy Pants Post-Easter Eggs

I had the chance to try my hand at pysanky/pysanka egg dying last week.

Matt's mom had suggested it as an Easter activity--which would have been more appropriate timewise--but we got carried away eating, playing games, telling stories, etc and it didn't materialize that day.  Still, I was keen to try it and figured better late than not at all.  I haven't seen many in person, but those pysanky eggs look so dang cool
Sharon had made them at least once before--many years back--but it was a totally new skill for Matt and me.  Years ago I bought an elaborately patterned orange egg on a total impulse at a craft fair.  I had no idea how it was made at the time, but knew it sure looked radical.  The really good ones remind me of stained glass and mandalas.
And may I just say:  What a crazy artistic process!  Each egg is SO many layers of dye and wax.  It was like regular Easter egg dying on steroids, in the best way possible.  I had to marvel that some clever Ukrainian had thought of it oh so many generations ago.  As I do with so many, many things.
As a kid I used crayons to draw patterns on Easter eggs before dying them.  The waxy crayon layer would prevent the dye from reaching the egg's surface.  This is the same premise in pysanky.  There is a little more finesse, strategy, and skill involved though.
There is a special wax-applying doodad called a kistka--essentially a tiny metal funnel on a stick--used to create the designs between dye layers for an intricate and multicolored affect.  The funnel is heated and then wax scooped into it.  The wax is warmed by the heated metal and slowly dribbles out the small end of the funnel so you can draw on the surface of the egg.  It took a bit of practice to achieve consistency in wax depth, width, and placement.  All three of us felt like we learned a lot as we went and would probably make even better designs next time.  It was hard to visualize the end result until we'd dyed several layers first.
Take this finished pysanky egg:

  • For that design, Matt made a few wax lines on a plain, white egg using the kistka and then dropped the egg in the yellow dye.  This left behind white lines on a yellow background.  
  • Then he added some more wax lines and dyed the egg orange with the result that there were yellow and white lines on an orange background.  
  • Then he used the doodad to create waxy triangles and polka dots and added it to the red dye.  This leaves the white lines, the yellow lines, and orange triangles/polka dots on a red background. 
  • Then he added more wax triangles and polka dots over some of the red dye and dyed the whole thing black which leaves the white lines, the yellow lines, the orange dots and triangles and the red dots and triangles all on a rich black background.  
This is the same egg as described and pictured immediately above.  Matt is adding the wax triangles prior to dunking in the black dye so that there are red triangles on the finished black egg.  All the dark colored bits is wax.
It is insane.  The fact that the egg changed so dramatically between layers was wild.  That is what made it challenging for me to conceptualize how the process worked and how the different layers built on one another.  The final design can't be revealed until the very, very end when the egg is heated all over to remove the wax.   It was like Christmas, that reveal--what's it going to look like?!?!?  Will it look like what I'd been picturing in my head?!?!  [It didn't, by the way.]
I immediately want to try it again though I am also conflicted about this very non-vegan art form.  Matt's folks ate the eggs--and are not vegan and so would have eaten eggs regardless--but still...  I feel conflicted.  I saw my pal Hannah this weekend and, since I'd already raved to her about the pysanky fun, she brought me six brown eggs from the happy hens at the small farm where she works.  I feel better knowing that these are birds that get to go outside and wander under the Big Sky and who are given special love and attention from Hannah.  Hopefully that will allow me to dabble a little bit more without feeling too bad about it.
It is not a speedy process, especially for beginners.  I only managed to finish one egg in over an hour.  Matt and Sharon each made two.
Next Easter is going to be off the hook with beautiful, jeweled eggs though.  We've made a loose game plan about that already.  I even added a note to my calendar so we don't forget or let time get away from us.  I love seasonal traditions and heritage crafts and holidays.  This seems like a fun annual pastime to adopt.  We gotta get/make us some more of those kistkas though.  It was slow going sharing one between the three of us.  Worth the wait though for such an improbable craft.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

My Five A Day Book Habit

I took Thursday off from work last week so that I could pick Ginger up from the doctor and pamper her all day long. I figured we’d have to spend a lot of time cuddling--she could sit on my lap and I would do some reading.  Really, this is an ideal day off for me.

Matt was kind of razzing me about my book reading obsession, as he does from time to time.  He likes reading, but averages a much more normal 4-7 books per year to my 100+ books annually.  I was trying to defend myself, saying I wasn't that reading crazy...when I had to stop all protestation and just laugh.  There is no denying it.  I am obsessed.  The proof was at my feet in the bag I carry every day.

My daily carry last week was no less than five books.
Two of them I was technically finished reading, I argued.  I still needed to have them handy though.  I hadn't had my Little House book chat with Hannah about By the Shores of Silver Lake and I was still drafting my review of Number the Stars for my Newbery challenge.  ...as if these things made it perfectly reasonable to carry five books at a time.  Matt countered that these pending "book reports" might only strengthen the Beth-is-An-Obsessive-Reader argument.

It was funny.  Oh, we laughed.  He's got me.  I don't even know why I bother trying to suggest otherwise.  I probably wouldn't even need to carry a bag if it weren't for the books in it.

Currently I am reading The Long Winter, The Little Book of Lykke, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  I've been carrying around By The Shores of Silver Lake and Shiloh though for the exact same reasons listed above.  Harry Potter is on audiobook, but I've got Missing May in my bag as I expect to start that any day now.  So, five books.  Again.  It is like a running joke.

Monday, April 15, 2019

IronBear 2019: Running Is Like Broccoli, the Accidental 5K, and Other Thoughts

I finished IronBear 2019--with almost a week to spare.  This both pleases and surprises me.
I started off strong.  I calculated a work out load that would portion out the miles evenly over the weeks so I didn't get stuck in a jam at the end.  Then all that planning got shot to hell when I was laid low with bronchitis in February.  My lungs couldn't tolerate anything in the way of exertion.  Even a single flight of stairs was exhausting.  I really thought those two weeks off would be my Iron Bear undoing.  But no!  Surprise, surprise!  I still made it!
Iron Bear is 114 miles cycling, 26.2 miles running, and 2.4 miles swimming over a two month span.  This baby triathlon is a friendly competition put on by the college where I work and this is just my second year participating.  I think I am hooked.  I'd sign up again next year in a heartbeat.

--If for no other reason than that it makes/forces/encourages/inspires me to run.
(Or, really, let's be honest:  I jog.  What I do is probably too slow to be called running.)
I really want to want run.  It is like eating broccoli.  I know it is beneficial for me and over and over again I keep trying to get into it, to fall in love with it...but I just don't like it.  I really want to!  But I don't.  I've had spells where I thought, yeah, I could be a runner...I even got "runner's high" that one time...but, for me, running never lasts.  My running habits would be described as highly sporadic at best.  At least with IronBear I'd get one marathon in a year which, I figure, is better than nothing.
I accidentally ran a 5K one day though.  That was sorta cool and surprising.  I didn't know I could do that.  I had just set out to run from our house to Matt's brother's house (to meet them there)... and it turns out it was further than I thought.  The funny thing is:  I think it would have been harder if I'd know that in advance.  I didn't realize it was a 5K until afterwards.  I think I would have let the number scare me off from even trying if I'd been forewarned.  Mostly I run one or two miles, max.
The cycling portion is, as I said last year, a snap.  That is if the weather cooperates even a teensy bit.  My typical weekly commute is 23 miles a week which over the duration of the contest easily meets the goal.  As it is, since February was a winter wonderland (and I don't cycle in snow), I did have to step it up a little bit in March.  I cycled home for lunch with Ginger in addition to my regular commute.  This bumped it up quite a bit and I quickly made up the lost time.  I racked up almost 40 miles the third week of March alone.
Swimming I knocked out in five half-mile session.  I can swim a half-mile in about 30-40 minutes and swim laps over the lunch hour at our campus gym.  It is quite the workout, too.   Full body, great for the arms, and no sweat.  I love swimming all around--in any capacity.  Swimming laps isn't quite as radical as hitting a hot spring or lake of course, but still.  I love the water.  I always have.  I really enjoyed the camaraderie with the other noontime lap swimmers, too.  (Though my lack of eye glasses on the pool desk made it tricky to recognize people at first.)
Of the 27 participants there were 9 finishers.  I am pumped to count myself among them this year.
Photos are all sorts of yummy foods I enjoyed during March and April: Fancypants Stuffed pepper from The Grotto, green Ramen noodles for St. Patty's, Asian tofu bowl and elephant spice cake both from Kelly's Thailand BonVoyage Brunch,  Hemp sourdough artisan bread we got at the co-op in Bozeman on a daytrip, pineapple pilaf with toasted almonds, my current favorite homemade cheese which is (incredibly) made from potatoes and carrots, a loaf of Matt's beautiful homemade bread, The Parm on toast is another current non-dairy cheese obsession, a coconut squash soup with blueberries and herbs from The Grotto. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

A New Nickname: Fangless

As a follow-up to Wednesday’s post, Ginger is home.  We’re all very happy about that. Well, maybe not Johnny who keeps hissing at her for reasons that are unclear to me.  I suspect it is smell related.

Ginger is now fangless. We are quite curious to see if she remains effective rodent control for our garden and compost pile.  She also had two rotten premolars.  Poor girl.

We think she looks funny without those long canines draped over her lower lip. But she’s eating and purring and cleaning herself — and on doctors orders gets soft food for a whole week — so her convalescence is going well.  She refuses to leave the basement though. She feels safer down there. It was her refuge when she first moved in and remains her sanctuary in times of stress. I slept on the sofa with her last night, since she wouldn’t come up to bed.

Dental funfact:  House cats have 30 adult teeth. Like humans, they also have what are commonly called baby teeth or milk teeth. Turns out, these teeth are technically called deciduous teeth. Isn’t that brilliant?! I was tickled by the terminology and it makes perfect sense to me. Just as deciduous trees shed their leaves, both cats and humans shed their deciduous teeth.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Ginger Goes to the Dentist, Beth Cries Seventeen Times

I dropped Ginger off at the vet this morning.  She's having a tooth (or two) pulled, poor girl.  I wish I could explain it to her.  I felt retched leaving her there.  I cried, even though I'd given myself a peptalk about not crying at the vet's.  Again.
It isn't even like I think she will die or anything will go wrong, though I won't lie and pretend those extreme, worst-case scenarios haven't crossed my mind.  Even assuming everything goes perfectly though I still get all worked up.  Thinking about her being totally anesthetized is agony to me.  Thinking about her being in pain, getting stitches, about not being there for her, about her confusion....it just hurts my (sensitive, cat-loving) heart.
Because I adore that cat.  She is an angel and the love we share is precious to me beyond all reason.  We worship each other unabashedly.
While she has gained confidence since living with us she is still my sweet, shy, scardy cat.  The one who taught Matt that "scardy cat" as an expression is based in a reality of feline behavior.  She is the one who beelines for the basement or under the bed when the doorbell rings, who comes to me when the thunder claps.  The one to whom we had to prove ourselves (in contrast to Johnny who immediately loved us and was right at home).  Ginger took almost a year to come around when Johnny moved in--and still occasionally has to show JD who is boss.  She's kind of a prissy little Queen Bee.   But she is our Queen Bee and we're going to miss her tonight in the bedtime cuddle puddle.
She is exceedingly leery of dogs, loud noises, new places, strange people, weird smells, other cats.  It was like dropping her off for the worst slumber party ever.  I hated it.
Still, her rotten tooth needs to go.  I hate the dentist, too.  (And I have to go next week...)  It is for her own good.  We're both being melodramatic.  I know that.  I'll say it again:  I know that.
And yet 10am tomorrow--when I can pick her up again--can't come soon enough.  I only hope her mouth feels better fast and that she forgives me just as readily.  I took tomorrow off so I could dote on her and butter her up all day.

Poor sweet GingerBaby.
All photos from January - March 2019
Footnote:  Ginger had to fast in advance of her appointment--8pm for food, midnight for water.  This meant fasting Johnny, too.  They were reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal impressed with us this morning, it goes without saying.  I am surprised Johnny didn't wake Matt up in the middle of the night, "Say, friend...did you know that someone took the food bowls away.  I figured you didn't so...."  They both shot daggers at us when we didn't give them breakfast immediately.  Girls after my own heart, they're very food oriented and routine driven.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Matt Was Right

Keeping a blog is a humbling thing sometimes, in large part because it is a publicly recorded history of how often I change my mind.  How regularly I make pronouncements that I go on to rescind or contradict.  Just as soon as I've got it dialed in I learn something new and things shift.  Change is the only constant, I'm told.

This comes up because I made myself a new wallet just months after declaring the black one had finally "been put to use as intended."

It turns out, Matt was right all along.  The DSO wallet IS too big.  While it was okay in my bag, it didn't slip easily into my jacket pockets.

Plus, it isn't bright and pretty.  I don't care if it is practical (tea stains) I just didn't love it.  In a bit of subconscious planned obsolescence I selected stupidly light colored fabric for the bulk of the wallet though.  ...so it will be tea stained and grubby here in about twenty minutes.  😏  Dummy...
So, the wallet timeline goes:

  • January 2015 - I make my first wallet.
  • Summer 2016 - Using the same pattern I make a butch new wallet for Matt which ended up too large, but he thought he could work with it.
  • September 2016 - He ditches the big DSO wallet for a slim one my dad gave him.
  • Fall 2017 - The slim wallet wears out and I make Matt a new orange one.
  • October 2018 - I buy Matt a locally--but professionally--made wallet since the card slots on the orange one had stretched out.
  • Winter 2018 - I adopt the DSO wallet when mine wore out.  Hannah adopts my trashed old wallet.
  • February 2019 - I make Hannah a fun, bright wallet and immediately start wanting to make one for myself.
  • March 2019 - I decide the DSO wallet is too big and boring after all and make myself a new wallet altogether.
Seriously.  I should have just scrapped the thing back in 2016 and been done with it.  Sometimes my persistence and make-do-itiveness are misplaced, misdirected. In any event, I've got my own Harry Potter wallet and all is well.  For now.  I am sure I'll change my mind about that in due time.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Carrots and Clotheslines

Within the span of the last week we have:

After our exuberantly wintery winter, spring has come at last.  Sigh.  Contented sigh.  What a stupendous, magical time of year!
Other pleasing springtide observations:
  • The Flickers are ki-ki-ki-ki-ing from the treetops.  
  • I require a coat for the morning ride, but by the time I pedal home for the day it can be increasingly found stuffed into the one of my saddlebags.  
  • Seeds are sprouting in the greenhouse beds and garlic pushing up in the main garden.
  • We've opened the windows several times, airing the house after a cooped up winter.  It is so refreshing and clean.
  • It is often colder in the basement than outside again.
  • Ginger is starting to demand access to the backyard now that it is largely free of snow.
  • The greenhouse is a fantastic early season clubhouse.  I spent much of Saturday in there reading and basking in the 85 degrees.  
  • The fruit trees are starting to bud out.
  • As I write this--approaching 7:30pm, the increasing daylight linger yet.
I do so love Spring.  I'll have to meditate on that, actually, because I don't take to change well...and that is what Spring is all about.  That is her specialty.  I should remember that.