Sunday, November 07, 2010

More Cornwall wanderings, now that my cold isn't making me feel as nasty.

We went "on holiday" (as the Brits say) to St. Ives, a seaside town on the Cornish coast full of tiny houses on narrow rambling streets. Each little corner you turn on each tiny street (which you share with cars by plastering yourself against the nearest wall) gives a new view of another cute little house or stair or garden.

People here seemed to love their dogs, as everywhere i looked there was a dog or six.

See what i mean about "around every corner"? And the sign painted on the street directs one to the Car Park, where the cars go to play for their holiday.

When i saw the establishment below, i wanted to sing "... Alive, alive- o..." (Okay, so i did sing. i love singing in random places.)


A visual treat around every corner!

This store disappointed me when i realized it only sold clothing--the name promises so much more, like artery clotting clotted cream...or maybe fish and chips...or big hunks of beef.

i wandered through a gallery with several on site artists. i had a great chat with this artist while she was working on a painted portrait of a dog. Seriously, people love their dogs in England.

We watched the local wildlife for a while as we wandered the streets of St. Ives,

then went to have a pub lunch. i love the pubs in England--the ones i've been in are friendly places to take a family, and have pretty decent food and prices.

We sat directly beneath the well-used dart board with its list of dart leagues and players. It reminded me of lots of British and Irish movies i've seen. i assume they rearrange the seating when the darts are actually being thrown.

Ice cream stands and ice cream shops were everywhere, so of course we had to partake sitting on the benches facing the water.

And my tough little grandBrits were happy to be playing barefoot in the sand, even though Grandma julie wore her coat and scarf and often her gloves the whole time we were there.

Beautiful, tranquil, off-season St. Ives was a thing of beauty. Hope i get to see it again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Grandma ice skates with varying degrees of success.

 While at the Eden Project here in England, all three grandchildren (ages 2, 5 and 7) and their parents decided to try out the ice skating rink. Grandma Julie (me) thought she'd regret not trying it herself, since she used to love ice skating as a child, and what could be more fun than joining the grandBrits?

If you can pretend I'm not holding onto the railing I look quite impressive, don't I.
To the left side of the photo Shawn is showing Euan the basics of ice skating,
and to the right you can see Jon helping Ellie get used to the ice.

Elias spent a fair amount of time dangling from Jon like a Christmas ornament on a tree.

Ellie, almost 3, amazed us all by having pretty good
balance on her cute little strap-on 2 bladed ice skates.

Euan loved it, spending most of his time skating without help,
falling down and popping right back up to skate some more.

Grandma? Well, she was quite good at falling down--one time even considering
making a snow angel while laying flat on her back on the ice--but not so good
at the popping back up....

no, for Grandma, getting back up "takes a village."

Okay, so a couple of those falls caused a very bruised and swollen
left hand, and led to a visit to the First Aid booth for an ice pack
held to her hand by gauze wrappings. Plus she now has
an official Incident Report filed in England.

Notice the lovely shade of purple on the left hand.
A great time was had by all. And while I may have come away with bruises on my hand, knees, elbows, and pride, I came away without a single regret.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cornwall wanderings.

across the road from Shawn and Jon's place
I am in the English countryside, Somerset County, specifically. But even in such beautiful surroundings, the locals want to go "on holiday." Sounds so much more festive than "on vacation," doesn't it?

So they find other beautiful places to go, like this:
Cornish coast

More on this later. For now, simply gaze upon the beauty. You see, yesterday we went ice skating while on holiday, and I'm really really sore and tired. ;-)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

About the book Daisy Chain, by Mary E. DeMuth

I just finished reading Mary DeMuth's novel "Daisy Chain," first book in the Defiance Texas Trilogy.

It was a hard read for me.

The story of the small Texas town of Defiance is told through the young eyes of fourteen-year-old Jed Pepper. His closest friend, Daisy Chance, has gone missing, and he's sure it's all his fault. Town secrets come to light during the search for Daisy, and we experience it all from Jed's viewpoint--the viewpoint of a child living in a house full of its own secrets.

I was too captivated by the story to stop reading, since Mary DeMuth has a writing style that wrapped me up inside Jed's head--and there was my pain. Having grown up in a house of secrets myself, the author's uncanny ability to write from within the mind of a child unnerved me. I lived each emotion as Jed did: each moment of powerlessness, shame, guilt or rage. I felt his tentative hope, his doubts.

What I loved most about this book was the very thing that made it hard reading, the author's ability to crawl inside a child's head and stay true to the telling through his eyes. For this reason I highly recommend this book and author.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Saying goodbye to Uncle Joe.

He was my father-in-law's "little" brother. They were tall. Like "how do I hug them?" tall. My father-in-law, Eldon, was 6 foot 6 or 6 foot 7, at that height i couldn't see up there anyway so I'm not really sure. Tall was (and is) their family's "thing."

I'm pretty sure they were each other's favorite brothers out of the 4 boys in their family. (I think they all doted on their beautiful little sis, Mary.) I remember many stories of the boys' escapades when they were kids, crazy stuff like hunting skunks with pop-guns. Country living is so far from my upbringing in Portland, Oregon that I was always fascinated. I mean, the only wildlife I saw was some of the neighborhood kids, and they'd be a much safer bet to hunt with a pop-gun.

As adults they stayed good friends, and I would hear stories of Uncle Joe's clothing factory from my in-laws. We still have an old platform rocker from my side of the family that I slipcovered in sturdy suit fabric brought home to me probably 25 years ago from Joe's wife, Pat. She had her own business running a fabric outlet of leftover fabrics from the factory. (I only wish I could still fit into the coat they sent home to me at the same time!)

My father-in-law meant a lot to me. He was kind and loving to me, and would do things with me he wouldn't with my mother-in-law, like shop or eat tuna sandwiches. He sat with me in silent support through the years of my miscarriages, he helped us build our second story house addition, he called my m-i-l's peanut brittle "peanut brutal" and tuna sandwiches "cat food" sandwiches, but he'd eat them if I made them. And he absolutely without a doubt loved his grandkids.

His brother Joe was that same sort of person. Unfortunately I didn't get to know him very well, but when I saw him a few years back, he was the same kind of sit-down-and-chat guy that my father-in-law was. He had a ready smile and an accepting heart. He had the same sparkle in his eye, and oh he made me miss my father-in-law.

When my hubby and I visited the Alabama family just a few months ago, I got to see him with his great-grandkids--and I loved it. Again, it brought me back to memories of my father-in-law graciously letting my children and foster children use him as a climbing wall. The two brothers shared a lot in their attitude toward little ones and in their quiet faith in God. And if anything, Uncle Joe was even more of a family man.

This is why I know that Joe will be so missed by his wife, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other family and friends. As much as I miss my father-in-law, I have a fair sense of the loss Uncle Joe's home-going to heaven will mean to those still stuck on the ground who loved him.

Goodbye, Uncle Joe. We will miss you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Missing, and no action.

Wow. Apparently i have been brain-dead for a month. Suddenly i realize i haven't put any part of me into this vast blogosphere. So if anyone out there in the world-wide-internet still drops by to see what drivel i have written lately, please check back very soon and i will put something besides excuses in this space.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Losing things (besides my mind.)

This is a bride.

The reason I am using this picture? A photo of my wedding ring with A DIAMOND MISSING would not be attractive. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to a person missing a front tooth.

I was shopping when I noticed it was gone, leaving only a gummy smile in its place. Fortunately Adina was willing to search the dressing room floor on her hands and knees, (I wasn't) but no success. I left a hopeful little note with the manager in the store in case someone happened to pick up a diamond and think, "I should turn this in rather than put it in my pocket!" I reminded myself "it is just 'stuff."

My dear hubby assures me we will replace it. I suggested cubic zirconium might be a better option for me.

But here's the burning question: since this ring is the only piece I own of any significant monetary value, why couldn't I lose a part from jewelry I'd picked up on the Kohl's clearance rack?

Skimmer's Recap: A diamond is after all but a worldly possession that will not follow me to the afterlife. But still, DANG. * sigh*

Friday, August 13, 2010

My love/hate relationship with Sudoku.

"They" say Sudoku will be good for my brain. Nobody mentioned what it would do to my self-esteem.

"They" say "just look for the patterns." But when I ask "WHAT patterns?" "They" repeat, "the patterns," stressing the last word as if it will mean more to me when emphasized. Apparently "They" See Patterns. Probably like the guy in the movie A Beautiful Mind, not saying that all people who can see these alleged "Patterns" suffer from a mental illness, but just puttin' the idea out there...

So I watched a tutorial. How simple "They" made it look! Well, heck, I can do this now! At least THIS "They" could tell me what patterns I might be looking for, instead of just thinking "hmm, i could eat a waffle right about now" every time I look at a Sudoku puzzle.

So I look for patterns. To be honest, "They" say the patterns are there, but mostly I see the potential for warm, melting butter, and maple syrup.


Sudoku. Similar, but oh so different.

When I find the occasional pattern I rejoice. I high-five myself, which always scares the dogs. Then I end up back in the pencil-marking land of "Okay--it could be a 1, not a 2, not a 3, could be a 4, not a 5..." and so on. I repeat this for square after square after square. Then I have to go through the "Is this the only 1 in this row? In this square?" process of elimination, row after row after row.

Sometimes the puzzles are easy enough (some of those easy ones are really hard!) and I finish one. ("Yay! I pulled that off in less than my former time of 2 hours and 55 minutes!") But when I realize I have messed up and will have to find my mistake, I give up. Yes, you heard me, Give Up. It's fine to stretch my brain, it's not fine to test my patience or make me mutter "idiot" to myself under my breath.

I want to see the walls of all you people who "See Patterns." I bet I'd find them plastered with Sudoku puzzles with lines connecting the numbers to find conspiracies, right? RIGHT??

Skimmer's Recap: Loved the movie. But let's face it, not all of us "See Patterns." Or dead people, for that matter. Huh! Two movie references in one post--I must be hip. Ow--fact is, I'm getting a cramp in my hip... Maybe if I walk to the kitchen that will loosen it up. Wonder if we have any waffles...

Friday, August 06, 2010

3 Random things I like.

Genealogy. Even though I spell it wrong every single time and have to fix it, I love genealogy. I use because they make it so easy, and my sister gave me some great photos and information on our family so I could get the family tree started online. Why is it so fascinating to me to find who was the father of great-great-aunt Gwendolyn? (Not her real name, the names have been changed to protect the not-so innocent.) I think it's part thrill of the chase, part the names, and part hoping to see a picture of them. I love the old pictures!! And I just bet those who have gone before were just as crazy as the current group.

Hobbies. I know. Not a huge surprise. But there are so many things I like to try that I end up with an excessive amount of stuff related to all those hobbies that threatens to take away the usable closet/cupboard/drawer space anywhere I can fit it in. Knitting, crocheting, writing, reading, sewing, etc, all accompanied by the magazines and idea notebooks and books I also collect on the subject. Oh--and finding old furniture I love to clean up and use, or my fascination with collecting things like tea cups or pitchers or creamers or other things with spouts (and no, I don't know why!)

Talking to strangers.  Not news to most of my friends, and disturbing to some of my family members, I love chatting with people in line, or people I run into at craft fairs, wherever. I'm a salesperson's dream (plus, they're forced to laugh at my jokes since they're hoping to sell me something.) If I didn't like to talk to strangers there are some great stories I'd never heard, like the lady I spoke to while we were sorting through hobby books, who told me of their family's christening gown that had been passed down and passed down, and each person who had it would add some sort of embellishment to the gown. I love that stuff. Sorry there are no visuals for this one, but I rarely pose for pictures with strangers. Talk to them yes, get photos, no.

What random things do you like?

Skimmer's Recap: Just read the bold and you're good as gold.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Bad Fibromyalgia day Julie is not as much fun as good Fibromyalgia day Julie.

Now, I recognize that fibromyalgia is not what defines me--that, in fact, I am much more. I'm a wife, mom, grandma, knitter, crocheter, scrapbooker, and encourager and friend. But on some days, those bad-fibromyalgia-days, it is what defines my activities.

Good-(and more fun) fibromyalgia-day Julie likes to shop and eat out and go places. She likes to organize things. She likes to plan projects, and sometimes even do them. She likes to work in the garden, relax in the hot tub, craft. (But she never likes to cook.)

Bad-fibromyalgia-day Julie tries to stay positive initially, but once that first 15 minutes of the day has passed, she feels whiny. The corners of her mouth turn down most unattractively. She no longer tries to keep from making unpleasant grunting noises when moving hurts.

Bad-fibromyalgia-day Julie feels like staying cuddled up in a warm bed, because warmth feels good when everything hurts. Bad-fibromyalgia-day Julie wants to have someone bring her soothing, fruity tea and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off, because even bad-fibromyalgia-day Julie can dream. She feels sorry for herself and tells God she Does Not Deserve It, but then, who does?

The trouble is, the bad DAY is usually the bad WEEK or two. There are signs, oh yes, which Julie tries to ignore because she is not such a fan of the bad days to come--the "flare" as it is called. She realizes that suddenly she cannot get up easily from squatting down to find something in the lower cupboard, that she feels more weak this week than last. She ignores it, enjoying the friends she can go see and the shopping she can go do until the flare hits her square in the fanny and she goes down in flames.

The flames affect her ability to think, to move, to plan, to enjoy. And bad-day-fibromyalgia Julie comes to visit for a time, and even good-day-fibromyalgia Julie doesn't like her so much. But if she just hangs on, she knows she'll be back out in the garden or the local yarn shop soon.

Painful flare.

Soon to be painful funny flare.

Skimmer's Recap: Aww, never mind. i'm just whining anyway.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More knitting endorphins.

I said I would show what I'm making with the beautiful MANOS del URUGUAY Cotton Stria yarn. If you're interested keep reading, if you "could care less," go stalk somebody on Facebook.

Again, keep in mind this color is not a great representation. I tried to change what looked like baby blue to the real color, a bright, happy, summer-day turquoise. Now it looks like something psychedelic from the '60s. No hallucinogens needed.

This is a new stitch for me--it's an elongated, airy stitch created by doing multiple yarn-overs between regular stitches.

This photo at least shows the texture and color variation in the yarn. I'm using the stitch pattern from a free Berroco online pattern for a wider scarf ("Fascinate")  to make myself a narrower one. I'm hoping to have plenty of yarn to make a cute little tam out of the same type of open stitch. We shall see.

Cast on loosely the number of stitches you want for width--mine's about 30 stitches on size 10 straight needles, making it about 7 inches wide. My yarn is heavier than the one used in the pattern and has more texture, but it's still a great look.

The stitch pattern goes like this:

Row 1: (Right Side) Knit.
Row 2: Knit.
Row 3: Knit 1, Yarn-over twice, Knit 1, yarn-over twice, keep repeating till you hit the end of your row, ending with the knit 1.
Row 4: Knit 1, drop the yarn overs, knit 1, drop the yarn overs, and repeat, again ending with the knit 1.
(that was the interesting new bit for me--took me a few repeats to get the hang of it without dropping things I did not intend to drop.)

Repeat these 4 rows till you have the scarf long enough for the look you want. The Berroco pattern calls for 66 inches. It all depends on how long you want the scarf to look on you (or whoever) and if you like it doubled and the ends stuck through, or just hanging with a half knot.

Once you get the hang of the whole yarn-over and dropping business, it's a relaxing and simple pattern to knit while watching a movie. I'd just hold off on the buttered popcorn. Icks up the yarn.

Skimmer's Recap: Yup, I'm a wild thing--just tried a new knitting stitch. Feeling a little mavericky.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Knitting endorphins.



Any of a group of peptide hormones that bind to opiate receptors and are found mainly in the brain. Endorphins reduce the sensation of pain and affect emotions.


I've never been one to get an endorphin rush from running/biking/mountain climbing/skydiving--mainly because I lack the drive  to get out of the starting gate, let alone the endurance to reach that awesome endorphin high I've read about. And yet, according to the definition above, I've been an endorphin junky from the start. Since childhood, I've found creating, thinking about creating, collecting ideas for creating, all create me a happy place. That's a place with positively affected emotions that over-rule mental, emotional, or physical pain, without the nasty side effects of an opiate.  And knitting is only one of the forms of creating I enjoy.

Perhaps I should market a bumper sticker that says, "I Knit for Endorphins." It could catch on.

One of my favorite things about searching the WorldWideInterWeb is seeing this sort of thing pop up:

Find Endorphins
Huge savings on Endorphins: Browse a large selection 
& grab a bargain!

In all honesty, I would love to "browse a large selection of endorphins and grab a bargain" but you and i both know, does not carry them. So why tease me?

Anyway, back to knitting and endorphins, I bought some beautiful yarn when I was in Alabama,

at the store below, "In the Making." Great name, eh? The yarn is really a bright, beachy turquoise, but apparently there are limits to my iPhone's photo capabilities.

And once inside the store,

the sight alone of bins full of yarn starts the endorphins rolling for me. 

The particular yarn I purchased has a great story as well--

for beyond its cool name and tag, there's a great back-story to the yarn. The company is MANOS del URUGUAY, which means Hands of Uruguay. It's a "non-profit organization that assembles over 400 artisans in cooperatives scattered throughout the countryside of Uruguay. The aim of the organization is to bring economic and social opportunities to rural women." The yarn is hand dyed in large kettles, creating the striated effect.

I think life is hard if my economic status says I need to cut back on my lattes, and here's a company making an amazing product that is helping women even have an economic status.

I wish the photos could show the reality of the color, texture, and marble-like shading.  The yarn is a Peruvian cotton of wonderful softness. It came in a hank, typical of the nicer (translate: "spendier") yarns. When initially untwisted from the hank it looks like that first picture above, a big loop of loveliness. (And in a new experience, these hanks were tied with the devil's own knot--likely offered to me by God in the interest of teaching me that I may need patience, even in my happy place.)

For actually knitting, an evenly wound ball is much better to pull from and less tangly, so you use one of these:
a yarn swift,
and one of these:
a ball winder, to make these,

lovely cakes of yarn, with the yarn pulling from the inside all neatly and efficiently.

In case you don't know what swifts and winders are, here's a quick explanation. The swift (which looks, I realize, like a badly designed umbrella) serves as the hands to hold the opened hank of yarn so it doesn't tangle--while the winder turns and rolls the yarn into the adorable (yet sadly inedible) cake. The  "real" type of yarn store (one that is all about the fibers and doesn't really offer non-fiber related products and has a cool fiber-related name) usually has the swift and ball winder on hand so they can do it for you if you don't have the equipment at home. Me? I love gadgets. My winder is a simple hand crank while the ones at yarn stores usually use power. Mine was cheaper, and surely cranking by hand must burn off a calorie or two as well?

Next time I'll show you what I'm making with this reminiscent-of-a-summer-day yarn, just in case you're interested.

But getting back to the endorphins, I think I can use knitting--all parts of it from the yarn store to the finished product--as natural pain relief and more balanced emotions. Shouldn't that make it payable by my insurance? Hmm... I need to check into that.

Where do you "browse" for endorphins? What's your endorphin-high of choice? And let's keep it legal, and not too embarrassing, okay? ;-D

Skimmer's Recap: i browse for MY endorphins at the yarn store!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Adventures in gluten-free baking.

I have a friend who also loves to write, and we like to get together for tea (she has gorgeous china.) She also has celiac disease. She's not one to adventure into the land of alternate flours and fussy baking while I love to, especially so we can share a treat with our tea. And if you are experimenting, nobody blames you if it doesn't turn out perfectly, right?

Personally, I had no idea how many foods and condiments had wheat in them. Like soy sauce! Silly me, I always assumed it was made of soy. And my family disagrees with any attempt I make to use a Lesser Noodle than one made from wheat flour since the alternatives have a Funny Texture.

My friend has seen the extent to which wheat rules the Western world, as she can't even eat at some restaurants like Texas Roadhouse (to which I always want to add the word "massacre") because everything has something wheat about it, even the marinades. So bringing pleasure to a friend with a sweet tooth? Right up my alley!

Know anyone with a gluten issue? Here is my more than acceptable recipe for:


1 Cup Sweet Sorghum Gluten-free flour
1/4 Cup White Rice flour
4 Tablespoons Agave Sweetener 
1/2 Cup room temperature, softened butter

the how-to:
MIX all ingredients until fluffy
PAT dough into 5 inch x 8 inch rectangle on rice-floured counter 
     (if the dough is too sticky, sprinkle rice flour on top of the dough to pat)
CUT into 12 fingers. I like to use my pizza cutter, and usually I feel the need
     to poke a design into the cookies with a fork. Makes me feel all bake-y.

See? Pizza cutted. And fork poked. And very irregularly shaped.

BAKE at 325 F for 20 minutes. I'm assuming you know to put the unbaked
     cookies onto a baking pan first.
COOL on pan before removing, since these cookies are very tender and 
     fragile (like me) before cooled.
Remove gently, eat, enjoy.

tasty variation:
Substitute 1/2 Cup almond flour for 1/2 Cup of the sorghum. Nice, nutty taste.

Didn't I almost sound like I knew what I was doing? So redemptive in my cooking world.

Skimmer's Recap: Seriously? It has what, like 4 ingredients?