Sunday, July 27, 2008

One Fair Entry done, one to go

My first Nebraska State Fair craft entry, a crocheted baby blanket, is complete! I'm a little surprised with myself that I finished it this early, but when the entry deadline is August 1 and the crafts themselves have to be delivered to the fairgrounds the week after that, I didn't have a lot of time on my hands.

Even though there's a 20 page entry booklet on the State Fair's website that listed every category of needlework project and various rules and regulations, the entry process itself wasn't too complicated. You can complete your entries online in just a couple of minutes. I didn't realize that needlework entries don't require a fee, yet you still get to purchase fair tickets at a reduced rate! Pretty cool!

It was a little tricky for me to decide which categories my projects belonged in. For my blanket, I couldn't decide if it belonged in the "one color" or "multiple color" category. As you can see from the photo, the yarn has some speckles to it. While it's not a project made of several different colors of yarn, I also didn't feel right calling it a "one color" project. So I listed it in the multi color category. For my pig and piglet project, it had to go in the "other" category of the knitting division.

This is probably one of the first times I will "block" my project. Not a fan of checking my gauge or blocking, I decided because this was for the fair and because this blanket had a lot of picots throughout the last border row, it was worth the trouble to try to do it this time. I fully expected to have a photo of the finished blocked project here, but long story short, I just started blocking it a little while ago and it's not done.

I chose this pattern because 1. I felt I was in a time crunch and wanted to make one I've made before so that I was very familiar with the pattern and wouldn't have to spend time figuring out any tricky parts, 2. it looks more complicated and time-consuming than it is, the most time-consuming part was the very last time around the border, 3. I thought it would look really nice in this yarn.

While I really loved the look of this yarn (Lion Brand baby soft candy print) before I started working with it, I feel like it would've looked better if the pattern didn't have so many spaces in it. I think that detracts from the speckled aspect of the yarn pattern. I have almost 2 skeins left over, so I plan to make something else with a tighter pattern to it so I can enjoy the speckles.

The knitted pig and piglets don't take long to knit, but they take awhile to finish (adding legs and ears and snaps). It would be nice to start and finish them within the next week.

first tomato (sort of) and first kitten photo

Here's our first tomato of the season-one from the better boy variety. It has a little blossom end rot to it, I'm afraid, but I think the rest is still edible. (I call this "sort of" our first tomato because I already picked a smaller early girl that had more rot to it than tomato. I'm not going to panic because it seems like our first tomatoes each season have this, then the rest are fine. I realize I should take more steps to prevent this in the first place.)

Also, the first photo of our outdoor kitten! Mom and kitten have moved out of their hole onto the rooftop of their hole. Look closely-the kitten is batting Itty Bittiest in the face.

Beer Can chicken

We enjoyed our first beer can chicken last week, thanks to Corrie's new smoker/grill combo and his willingness to cook something like that on a Monday night. Not only was the chicken very moist, tender, and had just the right amount of smoke flavor, the extra cans of budweiser didn't taste too bad, either.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Informed Gardener

I came across The Informed Gardener by Linda Chalker-Scott during the BEA conference in May. It was one of the new books the University of Washington Press, whose booth was right across from ours, was promoting front and center in their display.

The beautiful cover first caught my eye, but I first suspected the book might be geared towards gardeners in the Pacific Northwest, since that's where it was published. That wasn't the case, though-it will be a useful book to any gardener in any part of the country. This is a collection of columns that the author had written since 2000 on various horticulture myths and misconceptions. (Her most current columns can be read on her web page.)

The book is broken down into six sections, including Critical Thinking, Understanding How Plants Work, How/What/When/Where to Plant, Soil Additives, Mulches, and Miracles in a Bag/Bottle/Box. Each column is neatly broken into sections: the myth, the reality, the bottom line, and a list of references. One of the myths she dispels is that watering on a hot sunny summer day (like today!) will scorch your plants' leaves. After explaining various causes of leaf scorch (including too little/too much water, salt, and poor root health) she recommends in her "bottom line" section to water plants anytime they show signs of drought and to preferably do that watering in the morning, to avoid over-fertilizing, and to make sure the plant site is optimal for root and shoot growth.

One of the other practices she takes issue with is backfilling a plant or tree hole with soil additives. I've always thought it was a good idea to add a little organic matter when I'm transplanting tomatoes or other plants, but she argues while the roots may grow vigorously for awhile, when they reach that edge between the organic matter and the native soil they may turn back towards the organic matter rather that reaching outward, which establishes a weak root system. She also suggests that the organic matter is too porous, and water will tend to move along to the native soil. Her recommendation is to instead add the organic matter as a top dressing, which you can continue to maintain without disturbing the plant.

I enjoyed this book. It was a fast read that encourages common sense, efficient, and cost-effective gardening. I'll probably re-visit it next spring before I head into the next gardening season.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Week of Kitten Discovery and Near Sporting Triumphs

It's hard to believe I was part of two near sporting triumphs in the same week, but that's what happened. Last Sunday, I ran the annual Lincoln Mile, and even though I was the lead female in the 30-39 yr. old heat for exactly 1/4 of a mile, I couldn't sustain that pace and ended up coming in 4th in my age group with a slower than usual time. Had I just trained a little bit instead of only deciding to do the race the week before, or just ran as fast as last year, I would've easily placed. I've decided this is the last year I come in 4th, I'm winning a Lincoln Running company gift certificate next year.

Last night, our coed softball team played our second summer tournament game in the hopes of making it to the final game where a win guaranteed us a free t-shirt. (Quite the spoils!) Our game was very close, we just needed to find a way to score a couple more runs; we lost 6-5. The good news was we got to go to the bar earlier, and we also didn't have to sit around in the 90 degree heat for an hour waiting for the championship game. Ah well, the fall season will be here before we know it.

In between the sporty heartbreaks, I finally figured out where our outdoor friend, Itty Bittiest, had been the past week. After she didn't show up for breakfast a couple of days in a row, I started to worry that something had happened to her. Then on Monday, she appeared on the porch, had her meal, then scampered around the corner of the house and burrowed into a hole next to the back porch. I thought that was an odd place to go to, then I heard the tell-tale sound of a baby kitty! Itty Bittiest had had kittens!

All week, Itty Bittiest has come out for meals, water, and some petting and stretching, then heads back to her hole. From what we can tell, there's only one kitten who looks like a tortoise-shell like mom. No pictures of mom and kitten yet, but we are on kitten watch now. Tuesday night was very dicey-a strong storm rolled through around 10 o'clock, and water was pouring down the roof by the kitten hole and seemed like it would eventually flood the hole. I stood out in the rain swapping out flower pots to catch the drips (what else is a cat lady supposed to do? I would've stayed out there all night, too), then Corrie came out and crafted a little fort out of a landscape block and the old barbecue grill cover. The rain could then run off onto the patio. Sure enough, Itty Bittiest and baby stayed dry all night. I still wish they'd move to a better home, like on the back porch.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Corrie is on the YouTube

From Saturday night's Zoo Bar celebration, that's Corrie's arm in the lower left-hand corner!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Your Blue isn't Patriotic Enough

I was determined to enjoy a slow-paced Fourth of July at home, which I did, although looking back it seems like a lot happened in one day. I started the morning with an 8:45 bike ride with Terence and Manjit; I thought 8:45 sounded like the crack of dawn on a day off, but I was back home before 11 with 20 more miles to log on my transcontinental trip. Then I baked a sweet potato pie while Corrie smoked pork.

After a stint of practicing my clarinet for tonight's Star Spangeled Spectacular concert at Antelope Park, (struggling to play for an hour without all of the muscles in my face giving out. I have no idea how I used to play 3, 4, 5, or 6 hours a day in college) Corrie and I made our great-tasting Star Spangled drinks. When I was mixing the blue layer, Corrie told me the blue wasn't patriotic enough, so I added more blue food coloring. After careful coaching, Corrie got the order of the layers right as well.

I also finished the long-awaited crocheted cat bed. I thought by crocheting, rather than sewing, the seams together I would get a nice-looking corner to everything. It looked nice on some edges, but trying to single crochet the arms and back onto the main piece was kind of difficult. It's not perfect, but hey, it's a couch for our cats.

Norman waited out the final couch assembly with a nap on the extra foam from what I put inside the couch.

Around dinnertime, I gave my dad a call to see how he was doing and to recall past July Fourths. When we were growing up, sparklers and snakes were the only legal things in Omaha (they might still be) so well ahead of the Fourth before the state troopers were keeping an eye out, we'd make a stop at Rockport on the way back from seeing relatives in Missouri. The parking lots of those two shops were always full of cars with Nebraska plates. My parents followed a pretty conservative budget for fireworks, so we usually got a nice assortment of fountains, sparklers, tanks, parachutes, snakes, and smoke bombs. We were never too interested in most of the stuff that just made noise. At some point, my dad had to start buying festival balls, which would make up the finale of our show every year. Despite very careful and stringent rules placed by my parents, we had one or two fires growing up. My dad only remembers the one time a stray firework caught the bushes on fire, but I think there was also another time when something caught on fire on the roof.

The day ended with me shutting all of the windows and trying to make all of the cats who were hiding under the bed (Norman and Todd) feel better. They were not fans of fireworks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Vote Early, Vote Often

My friend Zip's band, Sarah Benck and the Robbers, is in the running for a spot at this year's Lollapalooza! They entered the Last Band Standing Contest and made it through round 1 (top 100 bands by casted votes move on) and through round 2 (celebrity judges chose their favorite 20 bands) on to round 3, where they need to end up in the top 5 bands with the most votes cast. Those final 5 bands get to go to Chicago to compete live for 2 positions in the Lollapalooza show.

I've seen Sarah Benck and the Robbers (Zip is one of the robbers) perform several times at Lincoln's Zoo Bar. They're a tight group with a style that's a little hard to describe-it's a fusion of blues, rock, jazz, a little funk as well. Sarah has a heck of a voice, and she's a pretty good guitar player, too! They were just included in a writeup in Spin magazine about the Omaha music scene (see pg. 119) as well.

Here's a clip from YouTube, you can also learn more and listen to other tunes on their MySpace page:

So if you like what what you hear or you just want to do me a favor, cast your vote for Sarah Benck and the Robbers here. To prove you're real, they'll send you a follow-up link to click, so don't forget to do that part. You can vote once a day per e-mail account from now until July 13. Let's help put Sarah Benck and the Robbers on the national music scene!