Category Archives: Fiber Friends

Playing with Purple

(It’s sunny and mild but still a bit blustery from that low pressure system. I couldn’t get these pansies to hold still for a sharp photo.)

Awfully quiet around here. It’s nice, now and again, to spend time with oneself. After a day or two I consider whether I’m good company or not or if the three-day rule will apply and I’ll start to stink. Doing okay so far. Feeding myself well, reading a couple of good books. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson is interesting although I wish Marconi would hurry up and get his wireless up and running once and for all.  The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is really good but pretty gritty. I chose those because I’ve been invited to join a book club here on the mountain and I figure it would be good to actually read the chosen books rather than turn everyone to the dark side with poker and bonfires as happened with BCMA (Book Club My Ass). It was only a short slide from there to fiber obsessions and now we’re all tangled up with wool projects and too busy to read.

I’m completely tangled up with wool right now, getting ready for another craft fair. I guess it’s not nice to call them Arts and Crap Shows although probably accurate. You know what I mean; some really nice woodcarving, baskets, glass, wool and then a whole lot of bright red and green acrylic toilet paper covers. The other thing about these pre-holiday fairs is that it’s nice to have things that sell well at a certain price point and that’s usually less than something you’ve poured your heart and soul into. Still, my experience tells me that I need to pretty much give up on the money-making end of artistry; I’m currently earning about 1/75th of what I used to earn and I didn’t have all these material costs back then, at least once I’d paid off my student loans. But I’m having fun.

(I just had to look and see if eschewing is a word. It’s not.) Choosing to eschew the traditional red and green, I’m going purple, at least with this week’s projects. It’s a good color for pansies and it’s the color of Advent, which is still a long way off. That reminds me of this funny bit from Catalog Living Blog:

“Embarrassed by their premature arrival, Gary & Elaine’s decorative Christmas trees made their way upstairs to hide for another month.”

In any case, having to make all of this holiday stuff before Halloween is not my favorite creative thing but I’m on it with the scarves and mittens. Besides, I can re-purpose the wine bottles. I’m off to hike along the Blue Ridge and get some exercise while the sun is still out. Enjoy your weekend!

(These mittens seem better suited to a prosimian than primate h. sapiens. In the interest of evolution I think I’ll have to work a little gusset into them and lengthen the thumbs.)

Arrivederci, Italia. All I want for my birthday is a gun.

(The Von Trapp family walked over these. We just flew. Nice view, yes?)

Ha! Kidding, of course, but we are home, safe and sound after the trip of our lifetime together and now I have moved on to bear hunting. I need to do a very lengthy update- or better, a series of short, succinct posts with some stunning photography- but I hit the pavement running and haven’t had a moment to think, which I’m starting to suspect is the new 60. That bit about not thinking. 

(Flying first class has comforts. Getting settled into my “pod” with quilt, iPad, knitting and lavender travel pillow from a certain blogging buddy.)

I’ll definitely finish up with more on Italy because our final two days in Firenze (costing more than the entire rest of the trip) were so full of wonder and beauty and, hmm, 632 photographs but life will have to quiet here a bit first. That happens on Monday when the whole world and one of the two cats leave and Sophie and I can contemplate the fall mountain colors in peace. I will be much, much older then and in need of some quiet time.

Two or three days ago, whenever it was, we arrived at the spanking new, incomplete Sheraton Hotel at the Malpensa airport in Milan to catch a few winks before boarding a 7 am flight to London. Let’s see, 2.5 hour advance check in, no boarding passes or assigned seats yet, it’s so late all the ticket counters are closed…Malpensa airport combined with this new Sheraton that has crammed a zillion rooms onto 3 floors because of height restrictions put our room about 2.8 miles from the nearest fire exit, which wasn’t completed yet in any case. No sleep, from Malpensa to Heathrow to O’Hare. At O’Hare, Rich and I had to part ways as he was crazy enough to keynote a conference in Iowa (don’t ask) the next morning, so there we were, many pounds and bags overweight, oozing ourselves and all that olive oil through customs: “no. no agricultural products. no, not been on a farm. no, no food…” I had a mere 1 hour layover to get off the plane, get through immigration lines, gather the bags, go through customs, recheck the bags, ride the train to the next terminal, kiss Rich goodbye (we were making out like Italian teenagers crammed into the jam-packed shuttle, as though we were saying goodbye forever rather than 24 hours.) Then it was back through security lines that, for some reason, brought to mind the gruesome images of Hell on the Duomo Firenze ceiling, and I RAN another mile to the farthest gate in O’Hare to catch a tiny commuter plane home to Charlotte. And then a 2.5 hour drive back to here.

Here is where my good friend and fellow fiberholic, Kristen has been staying, minding the cats and spinning her heart out while we were away. Here is where she stood up one evening to look out the window because Cloudy had his hackles up and saw, not one but THREE bears two feet from the front door wrestling with the giant paper wasp nest in the dogwood I have been watching grow this past summer. It was a beautiful piece of architecture and the wasps were very peaceful, just going about their business building their own version of the Duomo so I was letting them be. So much for that. One bear stood up on his hind legs and tore it out of the tree and they then shredded it to bits, eating the larvae. I guess they ran out of ground hornet nests. The next night they stood up against the back deck picture window and torn down the heaviest metal bird feeder on the market and carried it off down the hill, smashing it in, along with a second one. But not before they crapped on the deck, in the garden, along the walkway. 

(Who’s been pawing at MY window? asked Mama Cranky.)

Kristen had bearly recovered from that adventure and poured herself a glass of wine when she noticed the cats having a little confab in corner of the living room around what looked, at first glance, like another pile of bear crap. Closer inspection revealed it was a coiled up king snake, although until we confirmed that with a photo, she was convinced it was a Timber Rattler, aka, Canebreak snake. Sophie has the good sense to observe before jumping in with all four paws; McCloud not so much. He was busy poking it and it was busy lunging at him. Kristen screamed to a friend on her cell phone and then bravely shooed the cats and attempted to sweep the poor coiled snake out the front door. That took some effort as he seemed reluctant to cross the threshold to freedom but she finally got him out.

Let’s see, yesterday is a blur. Got to bed about 3 am, got up at 7 and unpacked, did 3 loads of laundry and then we headed out to the WNC Farm market. This was part of a plan to get me quickly back on EST because of events this weekend. Since not thinking is part of the new 60, we bought a half bushel of Roma tomatoes, a half bushel of ornamental gourds, a peck of apples, dried split peas and some southern form of cured pork butt. Then we went on to the WNC Arboretum and saw the bonsai, the handweavers exhibit, the quilt garden, the grass gardens and so forth. And then we came home and of course, something had to be done with those damn tomatoes. You know, she is much younger than I am so she should have known better in the first place, but no. So we canned tomatoes until it was time to pick up Rich at midnight at Asheville airport. 

(Some of Kristen’s carded fiber batts and, why,  tomatoes!)

Now it is 6 am and I’m getting ready to water the house plants and the deck plants before we head off to the long-awaited Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair. Florida friend Cathy is already heading to the airport in St. Petersburg to fly in for this annual event. The airport is across the street from the fairgrounds so I’ll just zip over and get her when she lands. You’ve been around here long enough to know that for me, this is three days of sheep, alpaca, fleece, yarn, wool, fiber and more fiber.

Only crazy people do this crap the day they leave for and the day they return from their long postponed honeymoon. But Italia? Crazy romantic. I will update, promise, promise. If you really want to read a funny series of posts about our adventures in Italy, complete with laugh out loud photos, check out where our neighbor Ken gives a full report. We met up with them for a few days while in Tuscany. Ken is the nut who rode his Vespa 150 scooter across America to raise money for a small school in Ecuador and wrote daily journal entries in his blog. His spelling is worse than mine, but he writes a very humorous, very informative blog. You can find him here at Europe 2010 Diaries.

Gotta run.

La vita e bella

Put an accent mark over that e for me, will you?

As the nights get cooler (41 last night), the days become clearer and this morning is the first morning we see all the way to Cold Mountain. We find that fitting, Cold Mountain, as in, when it’s cold we see that beautiful peak all the way from here, on Little Mount Pisgah. As the nights get cooler, the birds eat more and more at the feeders each day. We literally have hundreds and they empty 3 full feeders 3 times each week. Yesterday we stopped at Wild Birds Unlimited and picked up one bag we had in storage and bought several more during the Fall seed sale and left them there in storage. That works well; we use the free storage plan and don’t have so much of it piled up in the garage for little meece. Give those mice an inch and they take a mile, moving in to scout through the various wools for some luxurious bit to line a nest. It must be like shopping at Luxe Home, finding what is stockpiled here in the way of fleece. McCloud, however, continues to be a great mouser despite his age and slow decline in renal health. Speaking of critters, the bear waltzed across the deck last night. We weren’t fast enough to see anything but her retreating rump once she triggered the motion lights but we think she has figured out that those are only on one side of the house. She made a second pass back on the other side sometime in the wee hours, knocked over the locked can of bird seed and ate most of the new bag, leaving the remains spread all over. She has wiped out three ground hornet nests thus far and we thank her for that, but it’s clear that we now need to pull in the feeders at night and keep the can in the garage.

Speaking of fleece, friend Kristen from BCMA came for a few days last week while Rich was in NYC meeting with ESPN. We had a wool frenzy of sorts, with piles of it all over the studio, the kitchen, the media room. We had the drum carder going a mile a minute, making delicious batts of various fine wools, silks, bamboo, some glitz for sparkle. From there we used the batts for felting and spinning. We did some dyeing (if I were to get near a doctor now she would surely think I’m on the way out; the blue cast to my skin and nails is something to behold) and at night we watched television, vaguely, as Kristen was spinning and I was knitting.

All that effort meant that we a) didn’t get out of our pajamas for 3 days and b) had to stop periodically for fuel. Kristen loves to cook as much as I do. One night we made Killer Shrimp, basically a large bowl of the biggest jumbo shrimp and artery annihilating spicy buttered broth with a crusty soft loaf from Ecce Panis for dipping. The fennel seed (from our garden!) and red pepper make it so tasty and warm. Use really jumbo shrimp or prawns; it’s worth it. Here’s the recipe:

2 tbl rosemary
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 cup white wine
2 quarts chicken broth
8 oz clam juice
3 oz tomato paste
1/2 lb butter
2 lbs shrimp or prawns, tails on


Combine rosemary, fennel. Lightly chop the spices with a chef’s knife. In the end there should still be recognizable pieces of the rosemary, etc.

Place all ingredients except wine in a large pot. Simmer for about an hour.

Add wine. Continue to simmer for a total cooking time of no more than 2 hours.

Just before serving, add raw shrimp. Simmer until shrimp is done, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve in large bowls, each person gets a lot of broth. Eaten with fingers. Wear bibs. Serve with french bread for dipping in broth.

Another night, Kristen made a limoncello semifreddo, which was basically the creamiest lemon-lime frozen custard ever. Look up a recipe online and you’ll see what I mean. Kristen will be back again in a couple of weeks; we are getting ready for a local holiday craft fair, which we affectionately refer to as the “arts and craps” show. Although it’s clear (to us) that we create the finest fiber art ever, we want to recoup some of the money we’ve spent on wool this past year because, after all, there is a big fiber fair here in Asheville at the end of the month and all new opportunities to stock up. So we are making items that will sell. Felted catnip kitty toys!

All of this good food is putting me in mind of Italy. Today I am packing for our “honeymoon”, never taken because we have been such busy bees, and this time next week I will be enjoying lunch on a hilltop outside of Parma, en route to our ultimate destination in Tuscany. There we will park ourselves at Daniel’s and Manuela’s olive and vineyard estate and enjoy day trips all around the area. One night we will enjoy 5 star dining at La Frateria di Padre Eligio in the convent of St. Francis and drink a toast to our marriage and (arrghhh) my sixtieth birthday. La Frateria is part of Mondo X, an organization that speaks to me; I think you’ll enjoy reading about it.

We were a bit anxious about the timing of this trip because there was another major life event looming on the horizon, one I haven’t told you about as I erred on the side of caution. We are grandparents! Rich’s Anna had a son 2 weeks ago today. This is our first grandchild and although we wanted to be proudly broadcasting about it, the circumstances haven’t been appropriate until now. Anna has been in a rough place in her life with many challenges that made having a baby especially high risk and we were very worried, often extremely discouraged. She considered adoption briefly but decided against that and, in the way of many grown children, advice was neither welcome nor heeded as she moved through her pregnancy. Anna went into labor a month early and as I was fretting and fuming, Abby admonished me, rightly so,  to snap out of it, that this was a new life, a gift, a child to be welcomed and loved, a mother to be supported. Baby Kellan wasted no time and came after 3 short hours, weighing in at 5 pounds. A new baby breaks down barriers and changes lives and now, two weeks later (a lifetime!) Anna and her husband and baby Kellan are doing very well at home. He is still on a monitor for apnea but he’s gained 12 ounces and stretched out 2 inches and reports from doctor and visiting nurse are very good. Anna and I chat online about feeding schedules and sleep patterns and those whimsical little newborn smiles and she seems perfectly in tune and madly in love. This has reminded me that babies and parents don’t usually get to pick and choose and that makes life all the more interesting. It has also reminded me that many times parents are able to rise up and do for their children what they can’t do for themselves. We are very, very proud of the start Anna has given Kellan and we can’t wait to hold him as soon as we get back. He looks very much like Rich did as a baby and we think he’s beautiful!

That’s it for now and I need to hustle to get the indoor plants in for the winter and take care of all those things you need to do before you leave on a big trip; for me that’s every single thing from estate planning to sorting through 30 years of photos but in the end I’m lucky to find my passport in time to head out. Have a great week.

Linky Goodness, for better and worse

I’m in a rush today because I have a workshop of too many women to teach tomorrow. It will be nuno felting, wool on silk, a skill that requires a certain “touch” more than anything else, so there’s a learning curve that can be hard to gratify in less than 4 hours. Times eight. Ah, me. But I enjoy teaching so it will be a fun challenge.

Lots and lots of stuff drops unannounced and often times, unwelcome into my online mail box (I’m managing to circumvent a fair amount of hard copy mail by moving around; hopefully by the time we move to Asheville a walk down to the mailbox will result in a piece or two of meaningful mail, rather than 12 trees worth of junk.) During the past week several good things have come across this virtual desk and I wanted to share them with you.

First up (and funniest to me, you may well have seen it), FC over at Pure Florida posted something about his manly man and barely Bear successful fix of the refrigerator door. I, personally, used to love the SNL skit with the  superhero “Middle-Aged Man” who donned his cape and flew around the neighborhood with his pot belly and spectacles armed with every owners manual known to mankind. Me, who never reads directions and dumps those asap. Anyway, speaking of manly men, this ad is winning awards right and left in the media marketing world (of which we know something in this household).

In the “Awwww, unbelievably cute and endearing wildlife department” is this, again from the Brits and National Geographic. (Remember the thermal imaging of the arctic owl hunting that I shared with some of you? Those folks.) All I know is that to be this happy, you are a creature of God and discussions about my relative godlessness aside, I want to come back as one of these guys.

Finally, in the no news is bad news department- brace yourselves. I know I’ve been bracing myself since this incident originally happened and I wrote about it. Spirit, our resident bald eagle at Boyd Hill has-had- been making a remarkable recovery from a broken leg, complete with titanium pins. Truly, for a 24 year old bird, it was simply stunning what was happening, between her true Spirit and the care, skill and love of many rehabbers from here to Alaska. The last two days have not been good. We got her out into her own new mews, with perches a mere 8 inches off the ground and she seemed well and recovering right through Monday when she ate a full diet,  had normal mutes (poop) and horked a healthy cast (pellet). Tuesday morning found her curled and unresponsive in the corner of the mew and she has been in intensive care and guarded condition ever since. She is back with our incredibly gifted, kind and wonderful avian vet who is nourishing her, sedating her and giving her appropriate medication but still, she has had seizures and is not very responsive. Personally, the moment I heard about the break I thought, “That is too much for that old gal. Too much trauma, too much handling, too much anesthesia, too much surgery…” and my heart both broke and braced itself back then. Then I allowed myself to hope for the past couple of weeks but still…I am now back in brace mode. I haven’t gotten this morning’s update yet but I can barely write the end of this post, as it is. I love that bird. A whacky, whimsical, graceful, magnificent creature who greeted me with head thrown back and the high-pitched warble of the American Bald Eagle each and every time she saw me or heard my voice. I haven’t cared one whit that our relationship is based on either the hand that feeds her mullet or the copacetic bright white pate that we share; I love her and she has been my friend. How lucky can a person be to have a bald eagle in their circle of close and good friends. And so, my final link this morning is to Wren, who shares some photos of Spirit in better form, including one of my better photos of her. I’ll keep you posted.

Okay, now that you have been on a roller coaster of emotions (in short, the way my brain works constantly), you  may continue your day. TGIF.