Tuesday, July 31, 2012


My sis-in-law and I went on a Yarn Crawl on Sunday. She crochets, but I do not, although I have been thinking about trying my hand at crocheting for awhile.  The Yarn Crawl was Friday - Sunday and about 12 stores throughout the metro area participated in the event. For each store you visited, you got a stamp on your Yarn Crawl paper and a free knitting or crochet pattern. When you visited 6 stores, (or more) you could turn your paper in for a raffle for all kinds of prizes.

Since I was new to the yarn scene, just about everything was a novelty. For example, all the stores had buttons in tubes with a button glued to the lid. I liked the button display at this store 

And look how the yarn was set up in this store!

I've already had 2 impromptu lessons since Sunday and not only can I create chains, but I can do the single crochet! My sis-in-law gave the lessons and I appreciate her patience in teaching someone who is not only left-handed, but sometimes has the attention span of a fly.  Right now I'm just practicing the single crochet stitch. I'm still working on my form and stitch uniformity. I've also been practicing with different hook and yarn sizes. The thought of trying to create something from a pattern is still intimidating.

Once I master the single crochet, I'll move on to the double- and triple- crochet and then maybe try a scarf pattern. But I also need to learn how to keep my yarn away from furry paws.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Digital Photography: A blessing and a curse for my obsessive tendencies

It started last month when I decided to go through all the photographs I took with my film SLR camera. I had 3 boxes and probably a dozen more envelopes filled with pictures. This activity in and of itself is nothing new.  I will pull these photos out once in awhile in search of a specific picture, or just to reminisce. But something clicked, or went haywire in my brain because I decided right then and there that I needed organize the photos, ALL of them, including the digital pictures stored on the computer.

Sorting through the paper photographs was simple enough, but I got vastly overwhelmed after an hour of looking at my digital photographs. Do you realize how many digital pictures I've taken since 2002? THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS. When I realized I had photographs stored in 3 computers and 2 laptops (the photos from the various computers/laptops were stored in an external hard drive) I stopped sorting. I had to come up with a more specific goal than sorting just for sortings sake. What did I want to do with these photographs? Did I want to print them? Share them as gifts? Sell them?

 I could begin with the 2 empty photo collages I had stashed in the bedroom closet. But how in the world could I pick 2 dozen photographs from a selection of thousands? I got stuck here for at least a week before finally deciding that each collage would have a theme. Coming up with a subject  for the first collage was easy; I would fill it with the photos from our 2010 Alaska trip. Done. The subject for the second collage frame eluded me for a few days before I settled on birds. At least 75% of my photographs are birds and I had only 9 slots and another week passed before I picked the winners for the collage.

Once the collages were finished I decided to create a website to share my photographs and perhaps even sell a few. And that is where I am now, sorting, organizing and deciding on which pictures will go on the website. Every day I spend about an hour (sometimes more) picking photographs from the various folders, touching them up and posting them on the website.

Each folder is similar to unwrapping a gift because there are so many pictures that I forgot I had taken, or I revisit some photo and decide it's not so bad after touching it up. Through the photographs taken over the years I have seen my skill improve and presently I realize that I experimented a lot more then than I do now (which needs to change). I've taken photographs of breathtaking vistas in the Northwest and Great Plains, snapped pictures of the smiling faces and laughter of friends and family, captured the beauty and grace of captive and wild animals and the quirks of family pets.

So much beauty, so many memories, so many pictures.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Sanctuary

In case you didn't know, it's been hot here in the Midwest. Triple digit hot. My city has been breaking temperature records just about every day for the last week, and that is no exaggeration. I've been so obsessed with watering my plants daily that the plant watering invaded my dreams last night.

I've also been so worried about keeping my plants from wilting that I haven't stopped to enjoy the burst of activity the sprinkler brings, until today.

I turned the sprinkler on in the backyard and when I returned inside, I noticed a young Eurasian Tree Sparrow hanging out on a branch that was in the path of the sprinkler. I watched it for a moment before grabbing my camera.
I will insert the disclaimer that I took all of these photos from inside the house through the sliding glass door, where the glass is filthy. I cleaned up the images in Photoshop as best I could, but some of them are still icky.

  Not long after the Eurasian Tree Sparrow flew away, a pair of House Sparrows landed on the branch and either leaned into the oncoming water or bent down to drink from the droplets clinging to the twigs and bark.

I love how this little bird is LEANING into the sprinkles. She did that repeatedly.

I watched the birds for awhile before turning the sprinkler off and going to the Historic Society to, *ahem*, water more flowers. It was already close to 100 degrees when I left for work at 10am.

When I returned home, I sat near the sliding glass door that leads to the backyard and continued observing the life in my backyard. I felt my worries drifting away as I watched the bumblebees work on the Purple Coneflowers, the butterflies flit from flower to flower, the wasps hover around my tomato plants and the birds feed from the feeders and drink from the bird bath.

A pair of young Eurasian Tree Sparrows seemed to enjoy the space under the BBQ grill on the patio. They were using their new found foraging skills, pecking at the leaves and twigs, perhaps even finding an insect hiding under the detritus.  From time to time, an adult would land on the patio and the youngsters would rush the parent, wings furiously flapping as they begged for the tasty morsel in the adult bird's beak.

The hummingbird feeder had at least one repeat customer

And the Goldfinches were frequenting the thistle feeder.

When he wasn't feeding those hungry youngsters, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow paused for a drink at the bird bath.

And a Gray Catbird jumped in to cool off and drink from the bird bath as well.

I often complain about and feel self conscious about the state my backyard is in. Today it struck me that I subconsciously view my backyard as an extension of myself. I'm hard on myself and constantly find fault; I'm not smart enough, popular enough, my house is a mess, my yard is a mess, the list here goes on and on. 

After watching all of the activity in my yard, I decided to cut myself, and my yard, a little slack. Yes, the yard is a disorganized mess of honeysuckle, rose of sharon, poison ivy and a plethora of other unwanted plants, but I'm in the process of organizing and weeding (very much like in my life too) and I've planted flowers that are attractive to wildlife. The very core of the backyard is fulfilling its purpose of being a sanctuary in an urban setting. It's a place for the winged things to come for shelter, food and water. Life out in the wild is hard and I want my non-human friends to have a safe place to make their lives easier.

So yes, I am disorganized, messy, and battle my emotional demons, but I would like to think that my friends, and maybe even colleagues and strangers know that I'm an okay person and can offer comfort from the harsh realities of life. But most importantly, I need to see these things in myself, love my inner core and take refuge there when life stinks.

We, the garden and myself, are a work in progress, but in the meantime, visitors are welcomed.