21 November 2014

Friday Funny

20 November 2014

Dead Again

deader than dead

I woke up on Day of the Dead (a miracle in and of itself, eh?) to one of the most incredible November sunrises. Sun angle here in my neck of the plains-meet-foothills provides the most colorful sunrises and sunsets in November and April.

I jumped to grab the Big Gun, my Nikon D300, armed with big zoom, to capture the stunning light coming through the snowflake prism on my window.

But the Big Gun had other plans. It was celebrating Day of the Dead.

If at first you don't succeed...
Come on, Little Guy, you can do better than that!

Sunrise with the Little Nikon
That's more like it!

So the unpredictable little Nikon, my P510, had to suffice. This gave the point-and-shoot the enormous burden of taking my mind off my tears long enough to capture that darned sunrise before it was over.

Hope in Black

The little Nikon has trouble with macros and with vivid color, such as this gorgeous sunriset. It can't always focus close, and the manual focus is very difficult to use. Bright colors often are washed out. Using the little camera for these types of shots can be very frustrating or educational. Or both.

The Last Zinnia?

last leaves of autumn

Blown-out Clouds

not bad

final hope

I will get to continue to experiment and learn with the little camera because the big one has to go back to the shop. Again. Six to eight more weeks. At least. If I'm lucky.

I'd already had the camera repaired following our return from the Tour de Lavender in August. I thought all was good in the world when I got the camera back, good as new, eight weeks later.

I noticed the battery life was growing shorter each time I used the camera. But I tried to pretend nothing was wrong. Because, you know, if you ignore the problem, it doesn't exist. Right?

Worst came to worst. The camera wouldn't power up at all on November 1, less than a month after I got it back from Nikon. Through five batteries. The Lizard checked each and every battery. All tested just fine.

It's the camera. Again.

I'm heartsick, but I guess I'm just numb enough from the last close call to weather this storm. The possibility exists the Big Gun cannot be fixed. I'm without it again for another two months, another painful waiting game, during another significant photographic season for me.

The gorgeous autumn color I had to shoot with the smaller Nikon this year taught me to be creative all over again, taught me to try outlandish things to force the little Nikon shots to turn out the way I could see them in real life. Or in my head.

Pearl Pass and Farris Creek Junction
Forcing Macro in Uneven Light

Teocalli Ridge
Forcing Macro in Good Light

Georgia Pass
Forcing Macro in Low Light

Now I'll get the opportunity to do that same substitute college course all over again in winter. I have to learn to manipulate the little Nikon so winter snows do not overpower the powerful light sensor on the smaller camera.

Lifelong learning is a good thing, right? Continually expanding your skills and exploring new territory helps prevent Alzheimer's, right?

May this be the sunrise to a new camera life. Not the sunset on an old, trusted friend. May this season of long winter's nap be the healing ground for the rebirth of and in spring.

Here's to high hopes for my best camera ever. Don't rest too long, Big Gun. Power up and power through, D3-Double 0. I know you can do it!

My first six months of owning a Nikon D300
My first six months of owning a Nikon D300

18 November 2014

Wordless Wednesday

A baby aspen tree!

Not-so-jolly Holly(hock)

Chilled Blue Bedder

Buried Cornflower

Zinnia Lost

Cold Poppy

With All My Snark

cold and exhausted

Sometimes I don't respond to a comment for a day or two because I don't have reliable internet access. Sometimes I don't respond to a comment for a day or two because I need to chill.

It's nearly winter (even though in my neck of the plains-meet-foothills we keep reverting back to Indian summer -- and that's NOT a complaint), so perhaps it was high time I join my hardy outdoor flowers for a nearly freezing night or two and put myself on ice.

weeping tulip

Or attempt to address my emotions with what I hope is a gut-busting response...

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

I've been blogging now for five years, four months and one week. I've been publishing free snowflake patterns since September 2009. In all that time, I've had six anonymous comments that brought me to tears and made me want to quit blogging altogether.

And now, because I've turned off anonymous commenting (due to spam, not because of rude, mean people), I have a new flame to add to the fire of warmth this cheerful, giving time of year.

I recently experienced an email exchange with a not-so-happy reader, and nothing I wrote could calm the volcanic eruption of criticism. On the bright side, at least this person wasn't anonymous.

As I attempted to keep my cool and be professional and understanding, a list I wrote back in 2011 to humor myself after one of the snarky anonymous comments came to mind.

Another Ho-Hum Day in Paradise

Why is it jerks know just when you are at your lowest? Why is is some people think kicking a downed man (or in this case, a grieving snowflake designer) is so pleasurable? Five of the six unfavorable comments came while I was least prepared, able and willing to deal with snottiness. One landed on my blog while we were attending the unexpected funeral for my brother-in-law. The next came while one of my closest friends was dying of ovarian cancer. When my sister-in-law had to be isolated during her radiation treatments when she was battling cancer, I should have expected the meanest comment of all. But I didn't. I should have anticipated another zinger the day I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disorder due to trauma to the disc. But I didn't.

So, when that sixth mean comment arrived and I wasn't writhing in emotional pain and struggling to escape a vacuum-tight atmosphere of hopelessness and discouragement, man, did the humor muscle kick in full bore! I composed a list of potential but unpublishable responses, which in turn enabled me to compose and publish a kind, gracious response.

While trying to chill out during my most recent round of Cafe Mean Expresso, the list came to mind again. Remembering specifically Star Wars-influenced Number Five got me through the roughest part of the exchange, and I was able to blow off my hurt feelings and frustration without returning insults in kind.

Here is my face-saving list from when the anonymean sixth comment seeped through the spam cracks.

How To Chuckle Your Way Through Rude Comments

1. Is there an easy way to put non-handknit, dirty, smelly, used, worn, acrylic socks in the mouths of rude people? Or tie their fingers together so they can't type?

2. Dear Anonymous: Because my sole purpose in life is to please you and because what you want is all that matters in the world, I will now go harass a grasshopper or two. Thanks for making my day! (I'd been berated that week because I'd tongue-in-cheek blogged about stomping on the swarm of grasshoppers devouring my garden.)

3. Um, read the sidebar, which gives step-by-step instructions, plus how to change your computer settings back when you're done, complete with a link for how to easily print without having to change your computer settings. Or be unselfish for a minute and donate to a worthy cause (the fight against multiple sclerosis) and get a whole pdf booklet of snowflake patterns you can easily print on white paper. That's in the sidebar, too.

4. Don't just look at the pretty pictures. Take a minute and read why the pretty pictures are there. You might learn something. Or maybe your brain will explode and you'll be able to leave me alone.

5. These are not the snowflakes you are looking for. Move along.

6. Can you see me rolling my eyes and sticking my tongue out at you?

7. Do a search for free snowflake patterns on easy-to-print blogs. I'm sure you'll come up with something.

8. This ain't amazon.com, Lady.

9. Ante up for my annual secure server fee, monthly internet fees, phone bill (because I am dial-up powered), electric bill, my aging and ailing computer, my software, my sleepless nights, my crochet hooks, my thread and the reading glasses I just had to buy so I can keep going, and I'll consider redesigning my blog to please someone who doesn't give a hoot about anything published here but just the friggin' patterns. For about 10 minutes. If I'm in the mood. That doesn't mean I'll actually change anything, but I do promise to briefly think about it.

10. I'm too busy climbing mountains and riding my bike to respond right now, but take a number, and I'll get right back to you.

11. I'm not getting paid for any of this.

12. Using this pattern without fully intellectually digesting the heavily researched mountain history that inspired this pattern is punishable to the fullest extent of the law.

13. I'm going to write a mountain history next week, and you have to design your own snowflake to go with it.

14. Why don't you invest all the money you've saved by using free patterns to enroll in a beginning computer class?

I felt so much better after I composed this list, I wondered if I should save it and publish it on my blog one day. Laughter is the best medicine. Now if only we could find a way to make it cure cancer and multiple sclerosis...

Immediately after looking up this list and rewriting an introduction, a friend sent me the video below. THANK YOU!!! I had to go to an internet cafe to view it on my phone, but man, is it ever right on target!

17 November 2014

Snowflake Monday

attempting to make a copper afterdip

In August of 2013, I stuck a copper scrubby in a large canning jar filled with tap water and a bit of vinegar. I'd seen what copper does to rocks in the mountains of Colorado, and I thought it might have an interesting effect on cotton crochet thread. For those of you into designer quilting fabric, sort of my own little Cotton and Copper...

My little experiment made the most beautiful shade of turquoise blue in the water! Very similar to the glacial blue I've seen in Alaska and the gorgeous blue of Crescent Lake on the Washington Peninsula.


The color on oxalic acid-mordanted cotton isn't quite as captivating, but it's not bad, either!

Copper-Dyed Thread

Of course, we have a 12,313-foot mountain and a ski area named after the penny mineral.

My first visit to Copper Mountain was back in the mid-'90s. My adopted daughter had been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, and a biopsy was ordered. This kid was so afraid of doctors and dentists, I had to take her mind totally off the procedure the day before. So I took both the kids snowboarding at Copper Mountain. They'd each picked up $40 snowboards at a garage sale late in the spring, and they'd been antsy to try them out all summer and fall. Both kids, already pretty good on skateboards, were able to adapt to the snowboard easily, and Copper Mountain provided a very nice distraction for a very scared little girl.

My second trip to Copper Mountain was the final day of my first Ride the Rockies. My Leadville to Copper Mountain stage was aboard a demo bicycle, the first true road bike I'd ever mounted. I was terrified while on the bike; it moved SO fast down the mountain! After the initial shock wore off, I fell in love with the ease of pedaling a road bike uphill. I bought the road bike I'm still riding today, 11.5 years later, the next spring after receiving my tax return.

13,852 foot Crystal Peak, 13,950 foot Pacific Peak and some Copper Mountain ski runs from Tenmile Creek.
Crystal Peak, Pacific Peak and Copper Mountain Ski Runs by The Lizard

Copper Mountain also hosts the start line for the Copper Triangle, a three-day bicycle ride benefitting the Davis Phinney Foundation, which serves those affected with Parkinson's.

The ski scenes in "Dumb and Dummer" were shot at Copper Mountain. I was working at the newspaper in Estes Park at the time, and portions of the film were shot there, too. My editor sent me to the Stanley Hotel (which also served as an inspiration in the Stephen King novel, "The Shining") to get photos of Jim Carrey. I wasn't a huge movie buff, so I didn't know who he was. I was the laughing stock of the newspaper staff when the sports editor snapped a photo of me and my big telephoto lens standing cluelessly right next to the actor. Lloyd Christmas thought it was pretty funny, too.

Brian, I'd love to have a copy of that photo if you have one!

Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel during my 2013 Ride the Rockies

Copper was first discovered in the area in the mid 1850s, resulting in the name, Copper Mountain. Although the first US Forest Service survey of the area touted the ski terrain potential, the valley at the foot of Copper Mountain, then known as Wheeler Junction, initially was promoted as prime trout-fishing and horseback-riding territory.

Twelve states have mountains wearing the name Copper! Copper Mountain also is the name of a 1983 movie starring, you guessed it, Jim Carrey.

You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!

Copper-dyed Copper Mountain Snowflake

Finished Size: 4 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 8 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line

Copper Mountain Snowflake Instructions, American Terminology

Make magic ring.

Round 1: Ch 7 (counts as 1 dc and ch 5), * 1 dc in ring, ch 5; repeat from * 3 times; 1 dc in ring, ch 2, 1 tr in 2nd ch of starting ch 7 to form 6th ch 5 sp of Round. Pull magic circle tight.

Round 2: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc over post of tr directly below, 1 hdc in same sp, 1 sc in same sp, * 1 sc in next ch 5 sp, 1 hdc in same sp, 3 dc in same sp, 1 hdc in same sp, 1 sc in same sp; repeat from * around 4 times; 1 sc in next ch 5 sp, 1 hdc in same sp, 1 dc in same sp; sl st in 2nd ch of starting ch 2.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Round 3: 1 sc in same ch as sl st, ch 10, * 1 sc in middle (2nd) dc of next 3/dc group, ch 10; repeat from * around 4 times; sl st in starting sc.

Round 4: * 3 sc in next ch 10 sp, 3 hdc in same sp, 3 dc in same sp, ch 3, sl st in top of dc just made (picot made), 3 dc in same ch 10 sp, 3 hdc in same sp, 3 sc in same sp, ch 6, 1 trtr in 6th ch from hook, ch 6, 1 sc in 6th ch from hook, ch 6, sl st in sc, ch 5, sl st in sc (tri picot made), ch 6, 1 trtr in 6th ch from hook; repeat from * around 5 times; sl st in starting sc; bind off. Weave in ends.

I haven't stopped or finished working on my special project; I've just been super busy lately, plus, my Big Gun camera is back in the shop for six to eight more weeks. I haven't been as motivated to take pictures of my growing collection of white snowflakes. When my camera comes back (assuming it will), I expect a big blizzard flurry to rival any real storm when I began catching up in the Flickr gallery! Another prize is on the way, as well, and I'm hoping to award one more before this thing is through.

Copper Mountain Snowflake

Copper Mountain Snowflake Instructions, British Terminology

This is the most challenging translation I've done so far, and I hope I have it right. There were stitches in this one I didn't know how to write!

Make magic ring.

Round 1: Ch 7 (counts as 1 tr and ch 5), * 1 tr in ring, ch 5; repeat from * 3 times; 1 tr in ring, ch 2, 1 dtr in 2nd ch of starting ch 7 to form 6th ch 5 sp of Round. Pull magic circle tight.

Round 2: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 tr over post of dtr directly below, 1 htr in same sp, 1 dc in same sp, * 1 dc in next ch 5 sp, 1 htr in same sp, 3 tr in same sp, 1 htr in same sp, 1 dc in same sp; repeat from * around 4 times; 1 dc in next ch 5 sp, 1 htr in same sp, 1 tr in same sp; sl st in 2nd ch of starting ch 2.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Round 3: 1 dc in same ch as sl st, ch 10, * 1 dc in middle (2nd) tr of next 3/tr group, ch 10; repeat from * around 4 times; sl st in starting dc.

Round 4: * 3 dc in next ch 10 sp, 3 tr in same sp, 3 tr in same sp, ch 3, sl st in top of tr just made (picot made), 3 tr in same ch 10 sp, 3 htr in same sp, 3 dc in same sp, ch 6, 1 qtr in 6th ch from hook, ch 6, 1 dc in 6th ch from hook, ch 6, sl st in dc, ch 5, sl st in dc (tri picot made), ch 6, 1 qtr in 6th ch from hook; repeat from * around 5 times; sl st in starting dc; bind off. Weave in ends.

Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

A link to the blocking template I use is located here. That website has some of the most helpful snowflake information I know of. I also have a link to it on my sidebar to the right. I try to keep all the important links there so everyone will be able to find the information they need.

If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch the snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.

Copper Mountain Lupine
Last Summer's Lupine at Copper Mountain

14 November 2014

Baby, it's the Guitar Man

Yipes!  Stripes!

Back in August, I broke my own promise and started another quilt before finishing existing WIPs(works in progress) because I felt I deserved a pleasant break after retouching hundreds of wedding photos non-stop. I cut up a selection of jelly roll strips from gradient handpaints I'd bought at the Denver National Quilt Festival nearly two years ago and whipped them into what I thought would be a new quilt top instead of finishing my existing quilts first.

Not one drop of remorse or regret! Not a single one! I loved this new top, and I couldn't wait to play with it. I had visions of sugar plums dancing in my head... vertical lines hand-stitched with perle cotton in rainbow gradient shades. I had at least six more ideas brewing like hot chocolate for how to make even more rainbow stripe projects with these delicious handpaints. (I can remember only three of those ideas now, darn it.) Oh, I couldn't wait to get started.

Yet this top was a promise to myself broken; I promised myself again I would not cut into the gradients until I'd finished at least three more quilts. However, this quilt top was now a UFO, an unfinished object, and perhaps I could use the tasty handpaints again to finish the other side. Oh, how tempting!!!

Then we learned my husband's only nephew is getting married. A quilt was in order, and it would need to be finished quickly. It would need to be squeezed in between a very heavy fourth quarter work schedule and all the volunteer projects that pop up this time of year. I kept thinking Broken Promises would be a wonderful wedding quilt if I changed the name because rainbows are a symbol of a promise from God, and a wedding features a bunch of really special promises.

Then an idea popped into my head!

My nephew teaches guitar. Those Promise stripes would be awesome guitar necks!!!

So I made a new quilt front entirely from stash, but not the gradients. I thought it would be neat for this quilt to be fully reversible, spring and summer brightness on the back, and muted autumn and winter hues on the front. Musical on both sides.

Plain Jane Muted Rainbow Front

I cut a guitar from the white leftovers from Broken Promises. Oops, I really have to stop calling it that!!!

I cut a second guitar so I could double the white fabric and keep a white tone for the guitar on the new quilt front. The stripes didn't show through two layers of the white as well as they did through just one.

I planned to applique the white guitar and stitch two more ghostie guitars, just outlines, white on the front and colors to match the stripes on the back, but I needed the neck of the white guitar to perfectly match the alignment of a stripe on the back. I put the layers together with the help of The Lizard, then taped them to my bedroom window so the stripes on the back would show through all three layers clearly. I lined up and secured the white guitar, then put the quilt on my bed with cardboard and my cutting board beneath to stabilize the surface for drawing two more guitars on the back with a water-soluble quilt marker.

I began quilting straight lines from the center, working my way out, until I reached the guitar outlines, then free-motion quilted and appliqued the guitar outlines. I would have liked to quilt strings of connected musical notes in the white stripes, but there just wasn't time.

I didn't plan to fully machine bind another quilt because I didn't really enjoy the process and didn't feel it saved that much time when I used that technique for my last lap quilt, Tickled Pink, but I was running out of time.

I tried the water-soluble glue-basting method this time, and that went much faster (and was far more pleasurable) than pinning the binding before sewing. I think the binding turned out even better than Tickled Pink. I used more of the Gradient Promises (how's that for changing the name and removing the unsuitable adjective???) white leftovers for the binding and again doubled the white layer to maintain the white tone when layered over the stripes in the quilt.

I finished the quilt Wednesday night, and the wedding is tomorrow! Another WIP bites the dust! Oh, maybe that doesn't fit too well for a wedding either...

Umm, I couldn't resist: Another WIP hitched!

Baby, it's the Guitar Man
Before Washing

Guitar Man
After Washing

Guitar Man
Before Washing

Guitar Man
After Washing

This was the first time I got to wash a gift quilt before giving it away. So this is the first time, except for Dancing Lizards on our bed, I've seen one of my quilts washed. I really had no choice with this one, either. The blue water-soluble ink kept showing back up as the water-dabbed marks dried. I assume the color molecules were getting trapped in the cotton batting. Thankfully, washing took care of all spots.

And now I know the quilt can withstand the cleaning process. It will stand the test of time. Now that's a perfect idiom for a wedding!

guitar top

guitar bottom

top ghostie

all lined up

green guitar

Ghostie Guitar

ready to give

The Perfect Gift

Linking up with Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Crazy Mom Quilts.

13 November 2014

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