bunrab: (me)
This is a really long post about the Howard County fair, so best I put it behind a cut, though I'll leave a couple of pictures to entice you to read.
Week of August 9: the Howard County fair )
Cake display, highlighting this year's Owl theme for Home Arts.
In the 300+ lb. category, which is a very, very good size for this early in the year!More pictures behind the cut )
bunrab: (me)
That's what Frederick calls their county fair. I won't say it was great, but it was a reasonable amount of fun. Frederick is a far more agricultural county than Montgomery, but it didn't have more animals - fewer horses than either Montgomery or the State Fair. Sheep, well, everyone seems to have plenty of sheep and goats and dairy cattle, and there was no shortage here. A decent size poultry barn, not quite the size of Montgomery but certainly far better than the state fair; Sebrights seemed to be one of the fancy chickens of choice, and there were a few of those funny crested ones, and one called a Phoenix because of its tail feathers - looks vaguely like insect antennae to me - and a few Mille Fluiers (why they have to spell that so oddly for chickens, I don't know) which have lovely polka dots. A little pool full of baby ducks paddling around. The rabbits were a disappointment - the entire rabbit section consisted of three lionheads, half a dozen himalayans, and two Jersey Woolies. I will say, Larry is beginning to be able to recognize rabbit breeds; I guess I'm having a bad influence on him. He really goes for the lionheads every time, so I'm guessing that my next rabbit, once Fern is no longer with us, will be a lionhead. (Fern is still going strong - she was approximately 10 years old in approximately April, and she's doin' fine. Skinnier and eating a bit less than when she was younger, but vigorous and bright-eyed.)

Over by Dairy Cattle there was a "Birthing Center" with baby pigs and cows a couple days old, and a couple very pregnant cows waiting to drop any second. Cute pile o' baby pigs!

The Home Arts was somewhat bigger than Montgomery, though nowhere near the State Fair. More quilts than Montgomery, by far, including a couple that I'm pretty sure were in the State Fair. The display of the quilts wasn't good though - most of them were folded far too small. I think you have to be able to see at least 1/4 of a quilt to appreciate it at all, and many of these were folded and hanging over racks against the wall so that you could only see an eighth or a twelfth of the quilt. A lot more crocheted things than Montgomery, too. Many really nice crocheted afghans. Lots and lots and lots of baked goods - we wandered through them counting the Rice Krispies treats (none of those won any awards, amazingly enough). The decorated cakes were pretty cool, including one with so many flowers on it that I pretty much had to just take their word for it that there was a cake under there. And loooooots of canned stuff  - relishes and pickles and veggies (didn't see much jam or jelly at all, come to think of it) - and more relish and more pickles, pickled beets and watermelon pickle and oh, how you can tell this is the 21st century, lots and lots of salsa. I'm thinking that a county as pasty-white as Frederick probably didn't have a lot of salsa entries in the canning category a generation ago. One thing here that I hadn't seen at Monty or the State Fair was quite a few skeins of hand-spun and hand-dyed yarn, including one that was one of the Best in Show winners overall for home arts. And several of the sewing entries were historical costumes.

Free tote bag from someone in the Commercial building, and quite a few free pencils from both Commercial and the Farm & Home building (where the various state and county farm-related agencies have booths, and the Dept of Natural Resources, and so on.) And we stopped and wound up talking to the ladies at the Grange booth for quite a while, and Larry bought the Maryland Grange Cookbook. Larry's grandfather had belonged to the Grange in Pennsylvania.

I forget what the pavilion was called that had a few animals to be petted - two alpacas, possibly the same ones that were at Montgomery, 2 miniature horses, a mother and her six-month old colt, a couple of smallish burros, bunch of geese, one grumpy turkey. Pygmy goats.

One way you could tell that Frederick is more ag than Montgomery or the state as a whole is how much of the space was devoted to the farm machinery exhibits - big chunk of land, lots of other things besides tractors - big metal feeders, things we didn't even recognize... and lots of space devoted to vendors of various sheds and pole buildings. Those were nice, chances to step into some shade and rest. Oddly enough, for the kids' stuff, far more 4-H than FFA - I would have thought that FFA would have a bigger presence here.

And as expected, being several weeks later in the year than the other fairs, the giant pumpkins were in fact much, much larger. Not as large as the Massachusetts State Fair, but way larger than any of the earlier fairs in Maryland - the champion here was 220 pounds. (I don't recall any at the State Fair being over 90 pounds.) And lots more of the small gourds and squashes than the earlier fairs, including some of the largest pattypan squash I have ever seen. Just for fun, a decorated potato contest - the one we liked best was half a dozen potatoes dressed up as Minions. Most of the potatoes were in dioramas to add to the effect, thought there was one potato decorated as a chicken that was good in its simplicity  - the potato had grown pretty much in a chicken shape, with neck and head at one end and a tail-ish point at the other; all the kid did was add eyes and a beak and a bit of color.

We wound up not buying any food - I think we were already fair-fooded out for the season - just some iced tea. We cut our browsing through the Midway a bit short because I was exhausted and Larry had an allergic reaction to something, we have no idea what, that made his hands puff up. They went down again in a couple hours, but it was certainly mysterious. Something someone was using to groom their sheep or cow? Something in the finish on a pole building? Anyway, we even resisted the candy maze guy - we still have candy left from the last two fairs anyway.

Overall: handicapped parking is very good, there's lots of parking, admission price reasonable, a decent fair experience though most of the entertainment was going to be just harness racing, no big acts. Very good on the produce-and-canning areas, decent showing of crochet and quilting, adequate on the animals and that birthing center was a nice touch; relatively small amount of "commercial" outside of the farm machinery and farm supplies areas. Worth spending an afternoon at if you're in the area, though probably not worth driving 50 miles to if you've got your own county fair nearer by. (Actually only about 35 miles from either my or Larry's place.) Since the Howard County fair (the county where I live) is pretty darn small, I will continue to regard the Montgomery County one as my go-to fair, of all those I've been to here so far.  Yes, I have to admit it, though I hate saying anything nice about Texas, but the State Fair of Texas is in fact a damn good state fair, better than the one here. I am NOT, however, going to travel 1400 miles each way to go to that Fair every year!
bunrab: (me)
We went to the animal fair
All the birds and beasts were there

Well, maybe not all, but lots. The Montgomery County fair is a big one, much bigger than Howard County (where I live, and which was back a week and a half ago) and almost as big as the State Fair. In some areas, bigger. Although the State Fair has lots more Home Arts (arts and crafts) it's got a really pitiful rabbit and poultry section, whereas the Monty Cty fair has an entire rabbit barn and an entire poultry barn. Now, I do miss visiting fairs with Steve, who would have looked at every single animal as closely as I do, and talked to every single rabbit, and laughed at every single chicken, but on the other hand, with Steve, I never would have gotten to the Montgomery fair at all - we only went to the State Fair up here. (Back in TX, we didn't make it to the State Fair every year - Dallas is a bit of a hike and hotels are often quite full those weeks - but when we did, of course that's an enormous fair, and some years we went to the Travis County fair, which isn't as interesting animal-wise but certainly had one of the hugest exhibits of new farm equipment I've seen.) And Steve really didn't care about the Home Arts stuff that much, despite that I do all sorts of crafts; it's nice to go through the quilting and knitting and needlepoint with someone who does want to look at it (if not quite as closely as I do).

So we got there shortly after opening, early enough to get one of the closest handicapped parking spots and to have first pick of the rental electric scooters, the availability of which at fairs is one of the great innovations of the 21st century, I think. The one I got was pretty peppy - it did hills surprisingly well compared to some. Not that great a turning circle, but I didn't get horribly stuck anywhere. Today was Senior Citizens Day - discounted admission for those over 62, which Larry took advantage of. One of the neat things about Senior Citizens Day is that lots of the old folks older than us just thought we looked harmless and therefore stopped right next to us at random moments to tell us interesting facts about how the fair was in their day, or to chat about whatever object we were all standing near. It's nice to be able to serve as a harmless ear for people who need to convince other people that they still have something worth saying.

There was a raptor show going on over at the community stage, with some lovely owls, and we stopped by their booth later, too, to peer more closely at the owls. Some interesting information about owl hearing and about owl flying, especially as compared to other raptors. They did have a red-tailed hawk, too.

The rabbit barn was dominated by Dutch, mini-lop, dwarfs, and mini-rex, but there were a couple of multi-colored full-size rex (polka dots in more than one color on white) and one really nice Rhinelander whose ears were a gorgeous tortoiseshell mottle. A couple of Jersey Woolies and an American Fuzzy Lop. And a few Lionheads, which caught Larry's eye. They're still a relatively new breed for showing, and there weren't a lot of them. One Flemish giant, a medium 15-pounder, not terribly big as Flemmies go. There weren't many of the giant breeds at all, that one Flemmie and a couple of NZWs, no Californias and no Checkered Giants (my favorite breed). Checkered Giants seem to do best further north - the Massachusetts state fair always had a good assortment of them when I lived up there. A full-sized angora and a fair couple dozen English lops rounded out the large rabbits. I gotta say, I've never been that fond of the really smushed-in faces of Netherlands Dwarfs of show quality. When we were looking at the Jersey Wooleys I was explaining about spinners who keep them and angoras as pets and then spin their own rabbit yarn.

We made the mistake of going in the "Chilly Mall" (the air-conditioned commercial vendors' building) before we ate lunch, which meant that the pick-your-own-candy booth sucked us in, and we walked through the maze of candy bins and came out with 3/4 of a pound of assorted root beer barrels and Squirrel Nut Zippers and caramels and Atomic Fireballs and so on. Other than that, we didn't spend any money on stuff or souvenirs, just on food, which was, of course, bad for us. Pit beef and sausages for lunch. Hey, at least we avoided corn dogs and fried Oreos. The county fairs have much less fried stuff than the State Fair or the average RenFair - no fried cheese, no fried ice cream, no fried peanut butter... We were too full to try the roasted corn ears and limeade when we got to them.

The Home Arts was, as I said, somewhat smaller than the State Fair, but there were a couple of nice quilts and a spectacular quilted table runner, and quite a few nice cross-stitch pieces. In the knitting and crochet, there were almost no sweaters at all - one women's sweater and a couple of kids' sweaters, that's it. There will be more of those at the State Fair, I'm sure. Some felted pieces that are best described as "interesting." And, there was a spinning exhibition, and sure enough, there was a lady hand-trimming her American Fuzzy Lop, who was mostly hypnotized lying on his back in her lap while she trimmed him. Very relaxed rabbit.

There were not many ducks or turkeys in the poultry barn - just a couple token ones. We saw quite a few sheep and goats being sheared over in the sheep barns, but that's not as funny as watching the rabbits. The only alpacas were the ones in Old MacDonald's Barn for the kids, where there was also one full-grown camel, but no llamas. I guess the camelids aren't as popular in Montgomery County as some places. There was a goat judging going on, and it was interesting watching the kids pose their goats, adjusting their legs a couple inches one way or another. Some nice large horses in the horse barn - a Belgian, a couple American Drafts, and one Clydesdale, and a Percheron who looked a tad small compared to those guys, though Percherons are not a small breed. You can tell I've been to more ag fairs than the average urban dweller; I can tell those apart, as well as being able to spot a Silkie chicken at 100 paces and tell a Barred Plymouth Rock hen from a Laced Wyandotte at 50 paces. I will say I remain as ignorant of cow breeds as ever - I know that Holsteins are the "cow-patterned" white and black ones, and recognize a Brahma, but other than that, I'm just, "oh, there's a brown one, there's a black one." Larry, on the other hand, can tell a Jersey from a Guernsey. His grandad had a farm, and used one of the red brand of tractors - I forget the name of it now, but one of the red ones. Me, I recognize big green, but really don't notice the other brands that much - though when I see the orange Kubota equipment, I can't help but think of kabocha squash, which is a Japanese pumpkin, not an orange one but a pumpkin which makes me think of orange and so... well, maybe that's silly, but I think of them as Japanese Pumpkin equipment.

Anyhoo, around 2:30 the overcast burnt off, the temperature rose 10 degrees in half an hour and I started to worry about sunburn, so we headed back to the midway, ate some fried dough - it ain't a fair if you don't eat fried dough or funnel cakes - and headed home around 3, with Larry a bit tired from doing all the walking and me a bit tired from that last half hour of heat and sun. I feel fairly well Faired.
bunrab: (me)
Write about your favourite knitting or crochet (or spinning, etc) tool. It can either be a tool directly involved in your craft (knitting needles or crochet hook) or something that makes your craft more pleasurable – be it a special lamp, or stitch markers. Is it an item that you would recommend to others, and if so for which applications/tasks do you think it is most suited. Conversely, do you have a tool/accessory that you regret buying? Why does it not work for you?

Wow, I don't really have a favorite tool, honestly. I have a fairly large knitting bag - some friends refer to it as my "war zone" knitting bag, since it is made of the kind of industrial orange Kevlar-ish fabric that professional photographers used to haul their equipment in, when they were visiting such places - but it's not my favorite thing, the way my friend Angela's new messenger bag with a Tardis on it is her new favorite thing. And while I like having a swift and a ball winder, they aren't really favorite things, either. I like my interchangeable needles from KnitPicks - thank you, Larry! - but again, to call them my favorite knitting tool would be to exaggerate. I don't use any one tool or thing so intensively that I could call it a favorite. Nor do I have any one tool I recommend that everybody just has to get and try for themselves. (That's often how I decide to answer the question of my "favorite book" - which one have I been boring everybody to tears by repeatedly insisting they have to read it?)

However, there is something I do frequently wind up recommending to other crocheters, and that's that they investigate the difference between Susan Bates-style crochet hooks and Boye crochet hooks. I personally find that I crochet much better, faster, more even tension and control, less yarn-splitting, with Bates hooks. Many people don't even realize there are different styles of heads on crochet hooks, and that depending on how one happens to hold one's hook, and one's hand size, and preferred types of yarn, the different heads on different crochet hooks can make a huge difference in how easy and comfortable crocheting feels. Boye heads are pointier, and taper gradually down the length of the hook and the throat; Bates heads are less pointy, and the tapering to full width is almost immediate, so that the throat is the same width, all the way along it, and the hook part of the hook is also the same width as the throat. This probably won't make sense to you just trying to imagine it, but go look at them in the store, and compare one of each kind, and you'll see what I'm talking about. I'm not saying that the Bates is necessarily better for everyone, but if you constantly get annoyed using one kind, because poking the head through the stitches seems difficult, or you frequently find yourself splitting yarn, try the other kind and see if that makes a difference.

If it's any help, I use a "knife" hold on my hooks; I don't know whether the use of knife hold versus pen hold affects which kind of head one feels more comfortable with. But it may be a factor. Since many people have noted that I crochet fairly fast (not Guinness Book fast, never been interested in trying for that, but fast) and that I can crochet in the dark, or while otherwise looking at something else entirely, I don't think there would be any point to going to a pen hold I'm not comfortable with, just to try hooks again that I don't like, to see if it makes a difference.

Most of the wooden crochet hooks I've seen - mass-produced bamboo ones, hand-made ones out of exotic woods - have had Bates heads. They may be easier to turn (as in, on a lathe) than the tapering Boye heads, perhaps that's why - but I have seen a very few Boye-style hand-made hooks, so it's obviously not impossible. If you are considering buying someone you know a fancy handmade hand-carved ebony crochet hook as a gift, it would certainly be worth finding out which type of head they prefer first; it would be a shame to spend that much money on one crochet hook and then have the recipient not enjoy using it.

This post will have been entirely unintelligible to anyone who doesn't crochet.
bunrab: (me)
What are your favourite colours for knitted or crocheted projects? Have a think about what colours you seem to favour when yarn shopping and crafting.

After writing this part of your post, look to see what colours you have used in your projects. Make a quick tally of what colours you have used in your projects over the past year and compare it to the colours you have written about. Compare this, in turn, to the colours that are most dominant in your yarn stash – do they correlate?

Now think back to your house animal – do the colours you have chosen relate to your animal in anyway – if you are in the house of peacock, for example, are your projects often multicoloured and bright?


Well, if you've looked at the photos of projects I posted a couple days ago, or if you have seen the photo on my facebook page of the yarn I bought at Stitches this year, there are definitely some colors I concentrate on. Gold, peach, orange-y corals, lots of those. Greens - not bright green, but lots of shades of olive, darker greens, celadon, muted lighter greens. Some darker autumn colors - rust, browns, a bit of tan. And the occasional bit of turquoise or darker blue.

The stuff I make for other people is in whatever colors are handy, or colors I know they'll like, if available cheaply. The afghan for Larry was in blue and white - some solid dark blue Jiffy, and a variegated blue and white - about 4 shades of blue, very short repeats, looks random when crocheted - in a similarly fuzzy store brand yarn, because Larry likes blue. Baby blankets in variegated baby color acrylic yarns - two I finished recently were one in a yellow-green-white variegated, slightly bulky, somewhat fuzzy yarn - the same store-brand fuzzy yarn, in fact; it's inexpensive, comes in huge skeins, inexpensive, and great for afghans that are going to be used and washed. The other baby blanket was two strands held together, a darker peach an a pale peach - it was for a slightly older baby, a year old. Hats for kids in colors kids like, and/or colors appropriate for certain types of animal ears to be attached to them.

My yarn stash has an awful lot of purple in it - some inherited, some purchased. I have in mind vaguely a ripple afghan to use up LOTS of purple, and then I'll inflict it on the next young female person I am due to give something to. Since all girls between the ages of 4 and 12 seem to like purple, seems like a safe bet, and a good way to use up lots. I made a whole bunch of that kind of ripple afghans with yarns of widely differing weights and textures, back in 2006 and 2007; time for some more. Q hook, here I come!

I guess there's some slight relationship between my yarn choices and the House of the Bee - some honey colors, definitely a lot of colors from nature, though not specifically to bees or to the summer season that bees represent. But on the other hand, those sudden pockets of purple yarn, or that bag full of variegated fake-fur yarn in every colorway they made, do represent the flitting from project to project that characterizes the Bees.

There, a knitting and crochet post that actually stuck to knitting and crochet!
bunrab: (me)
According to http://www.eskimimimakes.com/ and my friend Angela, this is Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. We are supposed to pick which "house" we belong to. Well, it's pretty clear that I belong to The House of Bee: Bees are busy and industrious, but can flit from one interesting project to the next as bright and shiny things capture their interest. Yes indeedy, as evidenced by the number of unfinished projects I have, I am indeed flitting from one project to the next.

Pictures of assorted tote bags and plastic bags holding unfinished projects - this is just what happens to be at the surface in two rooms right now; there are more!Pictures behind cut so it won't break your Friends page )

I threw in a couple unfinished quilting projects in there, too.

Now here's pictures of knitting projects I've finished this year:

::yes, this is empty space::

And despite all that, I bought more yarn at Stitches earlier this month. Sigh.
bunrab: (me)
Things I am not catching up on:
Sewing: I'm trying to catch up on quilting projects, some 15 years old now. I am also trying to sort through fabric and reduce the stash some more, which I have been hopping to ADD-like instead of sticking to sewing - and worse yet, as I sort through fabric, I have ideas for new projects, and worse than that, I pull out fabric and start cutting it for those new projects - so I now have three more projects in pieces all over the sewing room, in addition to the already extant unfinished projects. On the good side there, I have pulled out about 40 assorted pieces of stash - from eighth-yards to 2-yard pieces - that I can stand to get rid of, and I have a group that makes baby quilts for charity lined up to give them to, next week - so I will try to find a few more pieces by then. But really, Kelly, stop having ideas for more quilts!

Blogging about books. I've read some, I meant to comment on some; I haven't found the time to both read and to write thoughtfully about what I read.

Knitting. I'm not going to have anything new done for Stitches next week. I have not used one single skein of the yarn I bought at Stitches last April. Granted it's been an unusually busy year, but really, having some 30 skeins of yarn still in its tote bag from Stitches 2012 is sort of evidence that I shouldn't buy more yarn, isn't it? Wanna bet I buy more yarn at Stitches next week anyway?

Condo association stuff: I /am/ going to do the condo association newsletter tonight. And I /will/ fill out and mail the Business Personal Property return before I leave for Stitches, since it's due the 15th. But I am no further along in finding an auditor nor in familiarizing myself with our interesting lawsuit against our former management company than I ever was. And pretty soon the next phase of the gas bill project will be added to the pile, along with the next phase of the washers-in-units project.

Catching up on my CPA CPE: I have 64 hours of mail-order classes sitting next to the computer (out of the 80 hours I need, total, to catch up), and haven't started a one of them, though I paid good money for them.

Unpacking boxes and giving away stuff: this is going incredibly slowly. I still get these little punches in the heart and bursts of tears sorting through Steve's stuff, and I still am having a great deal of trouble picking out books to get rid of without thinking I need to re-read them first. Never mind boxes full of papers such as old bills and greeting cards and souvenirs - those I haven't gotten to at all.

What have I done, anyway? Well, a Mensa friend gave me his old clarinet a couple of weeks ago, and I am making significant progress on that. Learning the fingering from a chart isn't the hard part; learning to look at written music and do that fingering at speed as the notes go by on the page is the hard part. Especially that middle register where the F through B-flat all take place with combinations of just the forefinger and thumb using keys that aren't part of the regular fingerholes. And I have filed all my own taxes, which were a bit fussier than usual this year thanks to selling the house, investing a bit of money, and receiving the lump sum from SSA. And I'm doing a /little/ bit to help out with putting together Maryland Community Band Day which is coming up in June, hosted by the Baltimore Symphonic Band this year. So I'm not entirely unproductive. Just not keeping up, is all.
bunrab: (me)
My niece Hanna came to visit with me for a few days last week, and volunteered to help me go through stuff. We didn't get mountains done, but we did get a couple of very important molehills cleared. First, we cleared off the folding table in the sewing room, so that the guest bed could actually be opened. And then we listed the folding table on Freecycle and found a new home for it almost immediately. (This still leaves me with two folding tables left, BTW, which are folded and in closets rather than unfolded and collecting junk.) Then, we cleared off the dining table, so I can now have people over for tea or even a meal. A few people, anyway - it's still a tiny table, and the dining room is tinier than it should be because of the huge sideboard which I hadn't meant to have follow me here from the house. And then, we started in on a few of the boxes in the box room (the third bedroom, the one which is also home to Fern and the piggles). First, we cleared out a plastic rolling cart - and that's currently waiting for its Freecycle taker to pick it up. Then, I started in on a big box which turned out to be some of my files from the 70s and early 80s - tax returns, check registers, etc - and a whole bunch of cards - birthday and christmas, mainly, also from the 70s and early 80s. Most of that stuff went into the "shred" pile; a shoebox' worth of greeting cards still to be sorted through for personal messages is still in the room. Make a note of that shred pile.

Then, also from the storage unit, a two-drawer file cabinet, full of all of Steve's and my files from the 80s and 90s - every pay stub Steve had ever received from the City of Austin, all our tax returns, all our electric and gas and water bills from Austin, homeowners insurance documents from our houses in Austin...so again, most of that could go in the "shred" pile immediately. Altogether, we filled three bankers boxes of stuff to shred, and one box of stuff I want to scan before shredding, so that I have some small record of it.

And then we took the three boxes of papers over to Sir Speedy in Linthicum and had them run it through their big shredder in three minutes flat, instead of having it sit around the house waiting for me to run it through 3 sheets at a time in my tiny, very noisy, shredder, which would have taken several days of several hours apiece. It was worth every penny to have it disappear that fast, and every penny was still under $20. So it's not still sitting here, silently in the way, reminding me of unfinished stuff. And now I know where I can take the next load of similar stuff, instead of trying to force myself to shred a boxful myself and hating the waste of time. Definitely a victory. Oh, and the file cabinet went on Freecycle, had an immediate taker, and is now out of my way.

And we found three more boxes of paperback science fiction, out of which I kept about 30 books and about 200 went to Goodwill. Stuff that Steve liked that I didn't, incomplete series, nothing valuable or collectible or important. Just straight to Goodwill, along with the contents of an entire box which was full of unopened kits for cross-stitch christmas ornaments. Some of those were expensive kits in their day. But if I haven't gotten to even opening them in 25 or 28 years, I'm not going to - and it's not like I don't see three more similar boxes we didn't get to.

And then Hanna and I met up with Cindy to go to an art gallery opening and a fancy dinner, and on Sunday Hanna came with me to a concert the Montgomery Village band was playing at a retirement community, and then I put her back on a train to Pennsylvania. The whole process of commuter rail and Amtrak is so easy up here, and since Hanna qualifies for disability discounts, it's cheap, too, so I believe we will repeat this a few more times! Meanwhile, she starts back up in her freshman year at Temple next week, so she just has this week to get through at home with her noisy siblings. It is one of the features of being from a large family, that college dorms are downright peaceful and uncrowded by comparison! Fewer people to share a bathroom with! She's enjoying that feature as much as I did my freshman year.

This week, so far, I've done nothing except crochet. I need to take the Christmas tree down, don't I?
bunrab: (Default)
We got started almost on time this morning, and finished the day almost exactly where we planned to be!

Driving south from Statesville, NC, we went of course through SC and then into Georgia, and then from a loop around Atlanta turned west onto I-20. Tomorrow's drive will be 100% I-20 except for getting in and out of RV Parks and visiting friend.

Some observations along the way: there sure are an awful lot of Jesus billboards in the southern states. I rather don't like having a highway billboard threatening me with hell, you know? There are also an awful lot of flea markets - the billboards for those outnumber even the religious ones.

One of the things we passed in SC was the BMW assembly plant in Spartanburg; we did not stop for the tour - no time!

When we crossed into Georgia, there was a big sign saying that "This highway project is part of the [long official name for stimulus bill]" and we said "Yay!" because the highway in SC had been in bad shape, as bumpy as if it were an old log road. The GA highway was nice and freshly repaved. Good use of stimulus funds. Apparently they also went to sign makers, as there were many, many traffic signs about every possible change in lanes, add'l road work, tourist sites, etc.

Entering into Alabama, the NASCAR presence becomes even larger - we are not far right now from Talladega SuperSpeedway. We drove through a small bit of Talladega National Forest, too. Earlier, we had driven past a sign for the Kings Mountain National Military Park, and I had wondered, what the heck is a military park? National historic battleground, it turns out. Not exactly a park. I think the National Monuments rather than National Parks would be where I'd put it - after all, Fort McHenry in Balto. is a National Monument. (And so is the Saguaro area in the Southwest. And there's a sailing ship in the harbor in San Francisco that is a National Park, complete with Park Rangers giving tours. I have no idea how they decide which category to put these things in!)

We had dinner in Oxford, AL with [livejournal.com profile] avanta7 and her husband. The last time we saw them was 5 years ago, when we were in an RV moving from Texas to Maryland. They must think we are like cicadas, emerging from our RV cocoons on a periodic basis. They were in Little Rock then, which was our first-night stop during the move; shortly thereafter, they moved to CA. Well, just a month or so ago they moved to Alabama, so voila! We were able to meet up. And she had a lovely afghan she made for me - it's exactly what I need, and it will make a decent pillow tonight, too. I haven't finished her bookmarks yet. I hope to finish them by the end of this trip - I brought my cross-stitch projects as well as knitting and crocheting with me.

Our RV park is owned and run by a couple of guys who are very talky - I had fair warning when I called ahead on the phone to see about making a reservation; his directions on how to reach the park included a lot of things that "used to be there" and a lot of the history of motels and RV parks in the region. When we got here, we chatted some more - we now have a great many tips on what to look for if we decide to buy instead of rent an RV, and we know more about US Route 78. Luckily, we finished chatting and getting the water and electric hooked up hjust in time. It started raining as we were closing the curtains. The sound of rain on the roof is nice.

Tomorrow: I-20 all the way to Shreveport!
bunrab: (soprano_sax)
We're at the KOA, where, as there was last time we were RVing, there is free wireless internet access.

This RV is fun! It wallows a bit, though not nearly as much as a 29-footer. The 19-foot compact RV is also narrower than standard RVs, so it's much easier to drive down narrow roads. Which we certainly did earlier! Our lunch stop was in Stanardsville, VA, to visit w/ my nephew Michael and his family. Mike and Erika live on an unimproved road off another unimproved road (unimproved is one step up from dirt road; an unimproved road hasn't been paved but it has been graded and had gravel spread on it) off a 1.5 lane paved road. Miles from anywhere. It's a nice house, though, with a lovely wooded setting. Their son Oliver, almost 3, continues to be delightful - I brought him a play blanket I had knitted (it's on Ravelry, where I'm also bunrab, for those of you who are crafters) and he said "Thank you!" immediately without any prompting, and then sat down and started playing on it right away - it's a knitted piece out of superbulky cheap acrylic, that has a stretch oif grey road with a double yellow stripe, a winding river, and a section of railroad tracks knitted into it. And Oliver just happens to have a ton of toy trains and cars to use on such a blanket. The Junebug - their daughter June - has grown a lot in 2 months; she's not quite 6 months old yet.

The drive was pretty uneventful. Some disagreements between one set of maps and another and one GPS and another were fairly easily resolved. No major traffic jams, didn't see any major accidents, or even many state troopers! We pretty much stuck to the speed limit - the posted limit on various roads seems to be a pretty good fit for what feels comfortable in the RV. As I said, it does wallow a bit.

Things we forgot to bring: my handicapped parking tag (no biggie, since the RV wouldn't fit in most handicapped parking spaces anyway), pillows - they don't come with the RV, one provides one's own pillows and linens; Steve's music folder so he can practice. He brought the euphonium, which fits under the table I am typing at right now, and I brought the soprano sax; my bari sax parts will sound odd practiced on the soprano but it works to keep my fingers and lip in shape.

Tomorrow we go as far as, roughly, Birmingham, AL, where we'll have a visit with [livejournal.com profile] avanta2, whom we last saw in Little Rock on our move from TX to MD in the rented RV then! She's going to think we automatically hatch out of an RV every day.

Fairly tired now. A few minutes of mindless knitting (I brought along enough knitting, crochet, and cross-stitch projects for 6 months, never mind 3.5 weeks when I'll be driving a good chunk of the time), and then we wrestle the sheets onto the cabover bed, somehow finesse the pillow lack by using a bag of yarn or something, and fall asleep.

"See you" tomorrow!

Tea cozy

May. 6th, 2009 10:13 pm
bunrab: (Default)
I am inflicting the dreaded homemade tea cozy on my partner in a tea swap!



It's knitted; the top is a flap that opens up; the tea-cup design is part Fair-Isle, part intarsia; the yarn is Jo-Ann's Angel Hair. The fuzziness of Angel Hair combined with the layered strands of Fair Isle should provide pretty good insulation. The design is purely improvised - I "knitted till it looked like a tea cozy." It fits a standard-shaped 4-cup teapot.

Hey, my swap partner SAID she likes purple!
bunrab: (alien reading)
All right, folks, here's my review of Gaslight Grimoire on Amazon.com - there are three others, so you'll have to scroll down to read mine. Any helpful Yes clicks always appreciated. The anthology includes some very funny Sherlock Holmes pastiches, as well as a story where Moriarty is the hero.

Graphic novel: The Five Fists of Science. Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla battle black magic and a yeti. Need I say more? Well, it is rather nice to read a graphic novel that involves neither teenage angst nor caped superheroes, and is an original story rather than a graphic version of an established classic. And anything with Mark Twain in it is going to have funny moments, yes.

Yesterday we went to the Eastern Trombone Workshop down at Fort Myer. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Trombone Ensemble was excellent - about 20 undergrad music majors, and the performance included a couple of original arrangements by some of them. The trombones of the Atlanta Symphony, with a guest tubist. Some good hints from them about playing as an ensemble and matching tones - things that even community band players, and even people who play other instruments, could try and benefit from. The big evening concert was the Army Orchestra, doing four pieces, each with a different soloist. Charlie Vernon, bass trombonist for the Chicago Symphony, looks exactly like what you imagine someone who's been playing low brass for a major symphony for forty years or more would look like. Saturday morning he's giving a solo recital, which we may or may not get there in time for.

Tonight we have tickets for the Baltimore Symphony - they're doing Dvorak 7 - and tomorrow we are going to Ft Myer again for more trombone concerts, but returning to Baltimore in the evening because we have tickets to see the *Canadian Brass* (yes, you may all let out little jealous-sounding "oooh" noises). Then Sunday we will be driving up to the Philadelphia suburbs to see my niece Hanna in another school play - as a freshthing, she is already getting parts they normally reserve for juniors and seniors. I am working on finishing a quilt for Gregory - Hanna is my sister Steph's oldest; Gregory is Steph's youngest, all of 4 weeks old at this point; I believe I've mentioned he's my 38th niece-or-nephew. I will take a picture of the quilt as soon as it's done - it's all basted, so if I can do hand-tying/embroidery-floss quilting in the car tomorrow day, then I can finish the binding after we get home tomorrow night, and bring it with us Sunday.
bunrab: (bathtub warning)
We did xmas twice, first on Thursday with my sister S and her spouse and kids and our parents and some of her spouse's siblings, then again on Saturday, with my brother G and his spouse and kids and our parents and a niece and her new husband, who were briefly in MD visiting, before returning to grad school in Texas; most of us had not been able to get to her wedding, so we were pleased to meet the husband (and his younger brother, who was tagging along for the day). Sister is up Philadelphia way, which meant we got to see the mess that is billboards in Phila. again - they have more Hooters billboards per mile of highway than any other city I've seen. G lives about an hour south of us, near DC.

I made a set of placemats for S, who has been wanting new ones for a couple YEARS now; below is a picture of five out of the eight of them - the green things. The piecing is a faux-crazy quilt pattern, with a few bits of ribbon added, and then they are quilted using cotton batting.


The picture in the frame in the middle of the table is a photo of me and [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet, taken in Vienna, in a frame I painted to sort of match the dress I'm wearing in the photo. This was a gift for my dad and stepmom, who expressed a wish to have a respectable-looking photo of us to add to their table o' family pics - all their offspring, with assorted spouses and further descendents. So now they have one. Here's a slightly closer view of it:


One of the neatest presents we received from relatives was an afghan that sister S and her family made for Squirrel; knowing his love of his John Deere lawn tractor, they found John Deere fabric and a nice fleece backing, and fringed and knotted them to make a lap robe Squirrel can use while watching TV. Nephew Ian, almost-12, did most of the work; Ian loves making stuff, any stuff - car models and Lego helicopters and jigsaw puzzles, and sewing and needlework as well. Anyway, that is a gift beyond anything they could have bought Squirrel with just $$$.

Those red things in the center of the picture above were two dishcloths and two scrubbies (pot scrubbers) I crocheted for SIL Jen - she had requested red, and I made her those items, plus three red quilted potholders and a quilted oven mitt. The potholders and oven mitt are made using a batting which has a mylar reflective layer, so that they really do insulate/isolate the hot object from the hand. Here's a quick view of those:


I made teddy-bear-ear hats for 2 of G & Jen's kids - here's Luke in his, and Kyla in another one that was also supposed to be Luke's, but she appropriated it an preference to the kitty-ear hat I had made her. Oh well.


I made a lot of crocheted and knitted dishcloths, most of which I didn't bother to photograph before wrapping and/or mailing them, but here's one last photo, of the black lace dishcloths I made for Liz:


Things I got for xmas: a big chunk of my Amazon.com wish list, from Squirrel; Odysseus on the Rhine, mentioned in the previous post, is part of it. Also a couple of books from Cindythelibrarian; assorted CDs and a family photo or two, turtlenecks and socks. Funny thing about socks. Clothing is supposedly one of those presents you don't like to get. But socks were a big hit this year. I bought two of my nieces, Brenna and Brooke, socks from the Doorly Zoo, back when we were in Omaha in November, and gave the socks to them for xmas; they immediately put them on! After all, who can possibly resist LEMUR socks? And then, when S and her family were giving me and Squirrel our presents, mine had a pair of socks as part of the gift tag - and I immediately put them on, because the socks I had been wearing were way too warm for how mild the weather was, and the new socks were cotton - also had animals on them. So there was much running around the living room in animal socks for the rest of the day.
bunrab: (bathtub warning)
First, here is the delightful and handsome red river hog:largish picture behind the cut )
That picture is from the side. Now here's a closer one of the head - this is actually a different one of the three hogs that were trotting around their plot of land:another largish pic )
Now don't you all agree that this is definitely an Elf Pig, and that this species should definitely have a role in some forthcoming fantasy?

Finished object of needlework: a quilted table runner for my cousin J, whose wedding we went to LAST October - finished a year after the wedding. There are also four placemats that match the runner. you know the drill by now )
Now I am partway through Cindythelibrarian's curtains, a quilted set for my niece V who got married in July, and I've just gotten started on a quilt for niece J whose wedding we just went to this past weekend. I'm also going to make placemats for my sister S for Xmas. Oh, and in there somewhere I'm attempting to finish a sweater for NaKniSweMo!
bunrab: (Default)
Last week we played three concerts - Sunday the 19th, Thursday the 23rd, Sunday the 26th. This week we both have colds.

Recent reading:
Lost on Planet China - J. Maarten Troost. Shallow, superficial, but funny. Troost's main insight into China: geez, the air is polluted! As in, makes Los Angeles or even Mexico City look crystal clear pure. And the water is filthy. And little kids squat and go to the bathroom in the street as a matter of routine, big city or countryside. And did he mention, the air is so bad you SHOULD be wearing those masks for the air, not the bird flu or SARS? What really struck me about this book is the ease with which Troost travelled through China, hopping on trains, buses, local airlines, with no problems, no police or political minders, no-one trying to steer him away from stuff the ruling party would rather not have foreigners see.
Geekspeak: How Life + Mathematics = Happiness by Dr. Graham Tattersall. Not what the title sounds like - this is actually about how to estimate ridiculous things such as how much your house weighs, whether you love someone more or less than average, and other things that most people hadn't thought to quantify. Of possible interest to Biker Skum, who frequently seem to be trying to measure things that other people don't usually think of.
Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan. The cover illustration is of a map of Manhatten island with an image of a rat, in blocks and streets and parks, overlaid. Usually this kind of eccentric focus on one animal belongs to either eccentric Brits - remember Trilobites!? - or women obsessed with primates. This, however, is an American guy who might almost seem normal until he invites you to spend an evening watching rats in an alley with him. The book is very funny, and has digressions to a pest control convention, and the history of the Black Plague, and other rat-related items. The scary part is how much we humans actually encourage rats without even realizing it; without our help, rats would be as scarce in the city as bunny rabbits.

Very little fascinating in fiction, just the usual next books in series, fantasy that turned out to be not worth finishing, re-reads, etc. One new entry: Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, best known for their space opera set in the Liaden universe, have written an entirely unrelated fantasy, which is obviously the first in a series. Starts out Regency-romance-ish with a vague hint of being another planet where humans have colonized and then regressed to Regency/Victorian era, but then rapidly goes to full fantasy with elves both nice and very nasty. A few unusual types of characters, mainly the Wood Wise - I like them.

Now back to snuffling and coughing and crocheting place mats and dish cloths.

Ketchup

Sep. 15th, 2008 11:53 pm
bunrab: (Default)
Okay, so after the flu in the middle of August and then a week at Sally's inhaling dust, I couldn't stop coughing and I felt even more fatigued than usual; eventually I started thinking maybe there's fluid in my lungs, so I went to the doc. Apparently not fluid, just inflamation, so using steroid inhaler (as of this past Wed) to reduce inflamation; it's working a bit, I guess - still coughing and stuff, but nearly back to only tired all the time instead of exhausted to the point of not getting out of bed.

I got a couple of RL projects done - finally finished a couple of bedside rugs I've been working on for me and [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet, since cooler weather is coming and we may not want to step onto cold floors. I'll try to get pictures of them sometime soon. Started work on wedding gift for my cousin Jesse who got married last September - goal is to finish the stuff (quilted table runner and 4 placemats) and mail them off by the end of this month, a year after the wedding. Still cleaning up bits and pieces at old house; we buried Lamarck chinchilla who passed away this past spring and had been in the freezer, and I put a stepping stone on his grave - I'll take a picture of that, too, when I get a chance.

And there has been reading, as usual:

Book I did not finish: Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light. Forty years ago I didn't make it ten pages in before giving up out of total lack of interest in figuring out who these characters were; twenty years ago I made it about twenty pages in; this time, all the way to page 27 before closing it again. I do not care enough about Hindu mythology and other mythology to follow who these characters are, who is an avatar of who else, who is on which side... I just don't care.

Book I didn't like: White Oleander by Janet Fitch. This was apparently a big bestseller and very popular with book clubs, and it reads exactly as if it were written to be a book club discussion subject, and I don't mean that kindly. Where some reviewer sees a "surprising journey of self-discovery" I see a protagonist who stays stupid the whole way through - she doesn't make the same mistake twice, but she makes new and dumber ones all the time, and never seems to wise up and stop approaching life as a manipulating but clueless slut. We're supposed to care about what she learns from each of her foster mothers, and compare them, but she doesn't ever seem to learn any rational kind of lesson. Even when her own mother gets out of jail, she isn't really happy. This book doesn't really have much of a plot; the character grows older but doesn't grow up; her mother gets out of jail but that's just a small paragraph amidst the general whining and indecisiveness. Bleah. I know thousands of people disagree with this evaluation of the book; clearly, many people are looking more for "emotionally gripping" than for "fast-moving plot and rational characters."

And for stuff I did enjoy: Watchers by Dean Koontz - not great literature, but a fast-moving plot and nice characters! This is the first Koontz I've ever read - somehow managed to not get around to any till now. This one features a golden retriever named Einstein, genetically modified to near-human intelligence, able to read and even converse in writing. Plot also includes a nastier genetically modified character, the Outsider, and along the way we are supposed to compare the Outsider and Vince the mob hit-man, and notice which of them is really less human and kills more people. That part is a bit obvious. But hey, it's a good story, and most of the characters are likeable, and there's a more-or-less happy ending.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This is a novel about a historian who is researching Vlad Tepes, who turns out to be an immortal vampire after all, sort of, only not. It's a very long book, and some of it was longer than need be - in almost a deliberate imitation of Victorian style, there is much more exposition, and jumping back from generation to generation, and words upon words, than is really necessary. Sometimes one can lose track of which generation is taking place - is it our female protagonist as a teenager listening to her father tell about his research, or the father listening to his mentor from a generation earlier, or is it 30 years later? We run through all sorts of minute historical detail from the 1470's onward. I admit to skimming in spots.

Smoke-Filled Rooms by Kris Nelscott - a murder mystery set during the 1968 Chicago convention, featuring a black, male, PI - written in the first person by Nelscott, which is one of Kristen Kathryn Rusch's pen names. So, quite a feat of characterization. Anyway, a decent mystery, though a bit of gory torture of the sort I really don't think could go unnoticed for so long. Much of the plot is timely enough given this election year. I'll probably look for the rest of the series.

The Apostate's Tale by Margaret Frazer - most recent in her Dame Frevisse series, and this one returns more to the priory (convent) after the last couple of very political volumes. The last two were almost entirely about English political uprisings and Frevisse's cousin Alice, and I was not crazy about them; I was glad to see this one get back to the day to day details of everyday life in the fifteenth century. Unfortunately, it's probably the last one, since it ends with Frevisse becoming Prioress, and also it's set in 1452, so any ten minutes now the printing press is going to come along and destroy the priory's book-copying business and only source of income.

Warning: I am going to attempt Twittering. No telling what may show up.

Now to go see if I can catch up on a couple of weeks of unread flist. Speaking of, Chas, your bday present will be in the mail tomorrow. [livejournal.com profile] richspk, speaking of addresses, I need your snail mail address. Email me, plz.
bunrab: (Default)
Watch the gap! is the LIRR's motto, apparently, and they repeat it more frequently than almost anything else. For that matter, Amtrak says it a lot too, although they are more polite and less New York about it: "Please be aware of the gap between the train and the station platform." I've just been in New York again for a few days, visiting my friend Sally-the-hoarder and helping her throw out some more stuff. We got a lot done. The upstairs of the house is *almost* empty, so that it can be recarpeted and repainted and rented out, which will help a great deal in supplying money for doing long-delayed maintenance and renovation to the rest of the house. We put a whole bunch of small furniture items out at the curb, and, since it's the weekend lots of college students are settling in, almost all of it disappeared within minutes. Except for a sofa in really bad condition, cat-pee-wise. Which is too bad, because other than that, it was in excellent condition. Oh well, it will keep the town sanitation department bulk pickup guys employed. And lots more papers went to recycling, and lots more stuff that she's keeping went into clear plastic bins where it can be stacked neatly and she can see what's in them, instead of losing track and buying duplicates. Progress! Next: convincing her to get rid of some of the downstairs stuff, where she has her grandmother's stuff, including furniture, and ALL her parents' furniture, as well as everything that she has purchased over the years. And she claims to love it all, including the 50-year-old lamps with brittle cords and shades that are in shreds. Sigh. Oh well. A little bit at a time.

I got back Saturday. Coming back on the LIRR to get to Penn, there were many, many college students, and many, many open cans and bottles of beer, and much shrieking. Which made the conductor change the announcements a bit: "Watch the gap. And take your crap with you. This means you. Take your beer bottles and crap off the train with you." The Amtrak regional back to here was quieter. Train really is a very comfortable and easy way to travel. And do it late enough at night, and the fares are less than half what they are at peak times.

Today we went to the State Fair, as this is the last weekend of it. I looked at all the "home arts" - needlework and cooking, mainly, and I was interested mostly in the needlework - and we went to the Sheep and Goats pavilion and the Swine Judging pavilion and the Cow Palace - skipped the horse barns, since there were signs saying no strollers allowed past this point, and I assumed that applied to my scooter, too. Yes, same scooter that I took to Europe. It makes wandering around several crowded blocks' worth of fairground doable. Let's see, then a tiny chickens-and-rabbits building, then the Exhibition Hall, with vendors of all sorts of stuff Ginsu knives!, waterless cookware!, handwriting analysis!, Jews for Jesus!, Electrostatic brooms! (we bought one of those); candy apples (I bought a couple of those...), cinnamon pecans, Jack Daniels mustard and barbecue sauce! For those of you not familiar with State Fairs in the USA, this is a pretty typical vendor selection. All sorts of crap, mixed with some good stuff, mixed with booths from the political parties and several government agencies and a few more charities and a lot more crap for sale. Then through the 4-H petting area, which included a very attractive llama and a snooty alpaca. Walked through the Midway a bit, and the food pavilion featuring locally made/grown foods - everything from corn-on-the-cob to lamb sandwiches to pit beef, not just junk food but some halfway real food - to get to the last hall, the Agriculture Hall, which featured lots more state agencies' booths, and a John Deere tractor, plus all the prize-winning individual pumpkins and apples and corn and flowers... chatted with the people from the Maryland Insurance Admin for a while, wherein we shared a few laughs about Inland Marine insurance. I don't often get to talk to other people who think Inland Marine is as funny as I do. Outside that pavilion were the armed forces recruiting trailers, and the Motor Vehicle Admin's trailer (guess how many people wanted to visit that) and the county fire department's safety training trailer. And then a last glance toward the Midway, and we were done. We would have spent longer, but they don't have as much of a rabbit show here as they have at the Texas state fair or the Massachusetts state fair, nor nearly as many hysterical-looking chickens. No emus. No pig races. And we skipped the learn-to-milk-a-cow parlor.

So, now that I'm back from being sick (previous post) and going to NY and going to the fair, I have about two weeks worth of y'all's posts to catch up on, ha ha. If there's something I absolutely need to know, give me a comment here so I can go check it out, 'cause otherwise I am going to just read the last couple days' worth.
bunrab: (kelly2007)
We had a few drops of champagne at midnight - we went to the New Year's Eve Gala at Lorenzo's Timonium Dinner Theater in - you guessed it - Timonium, and saw "And Then There Were None" which ended at 11:45 and then the cast, which were also the waitpeople, served champagne to everyone and we all made noise and sang Auld Lang Syne, and then we split. Dropped Cindy off, passed a wreck on the highway that seemed to have at least one law enforcement vehicle as one of the crunch-ees. Home safe, drink some decaf tea.

Some goals for the new year - not resolutions, but things I'm going to aim toward:
1. I noticed that my 105 books in 2007 list was awfully heavy on murder mysteries, and fiction in general. I think I'll aim for reading at least 25 non-fiction works that aren't crafts books or cookbooks, in 2008; that should be about one every 2 weeks. Expect a lot more pop science books.
2. I've got a list of nine specific crafts projects I have started that I want to finish before too long - preferably, before I start any other new ones. And while I'm at it, use up more of my yarn backlog, and buy less new yarn than last year. It's a goal, not a promise.
3. Cindy wants a crocheted rag rug - start in on one of those after I finish goal number 2.
4. The usual weight loss thing.
5. I've got seven pieces of music that are either still in my head or have barely been started on paper; finish at least one of them to the point of full score and parts! (°Freethinkers March, °Rejoice, °Bad Kitty, °Solemn Fanfare, °Canon on Maoz Tzur, °SAD Song, °Hora, Hora, Hora. That's just enough to remind me what I'm thinking of.)

That's more than enough. And so to bed.
bunrab: (Default)
Just a few things:
Toys to Crochet: Dozens of Patterns for Dolls, Animals, Doll Clothes, and Accessories by Claire Garland. Reviewed on Amazon.com here.
The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews. Latest in her Meg Lanslow series, featuring an improbable but amusing extended family.
Territory by Emma Bull. A rather odd little fantasy - an alternate history western where Wyatt Earp is an evil wizard.

Mostly been reading magazines, having houseguests, and playing with new hedgie, who still does not have a name.

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