Monday, June 27, 2016

Skirt Darts & Knitting Charts

I know I sound like a broken record, Hot. Hot.  I have been staying inside except for my daily trips to the gym.  Working from home has its perks, and not having to be out in the heat is definitely one of them.  In my free time, I've started a few projects.

I'm taking a class to learn how to sew vintage skirts!  Thanks, Jamaica Thrift Store, for the super cheap patterns.

The class skirt is not a vintage style, but a straight knee-length skirt, very basic.  Well, I'm beginning at the beginning, so it's good practice. 

Look!  My skirt has darts!  And I'm installing a zipper by the weekend.

I've been working on my quilting skills, too.  I sewed this placemat together with hand-cut pieces.  I'm still frustrated by my inability to properly pair patterns/colors, but I suppose practice will improve that.

The most important thing is that my sewing is becoming more precise.  Look at my tidy squares! 

I knitted this (secret) project for a friend, playing with stranded knitting and various color combinations...

...and I'm knitting a pair of mittens for myself in the traditional 'feather and fan' style.

The issue is that I have tiny wrists and have to knit with size 0 needles (aka toothpick width).  They're killing my hands and I think I'll only be able to work on this sporadically.

I'm a puzzle fanatic and probably finish a 1000 piece puzzle every week.

It doesn't take long at all once I sort the pieces into helpful groups.  On the weekend I'll occasionally sit down for an hour and work, but mostly I sit for 20 minutes in the late afternoons and "puzz," as I say.  It's so relaxing after a day spent online. 

I've been trying to take advantage of the in-season produce, too.  I cooked down blueberries and blackberries last week and, when the mixture was chilled, mixed into coconut milk and froze in the ice cream maker for an absolutely delicious "ice cream."  Recipe here

I've mainly been making huge salads for supper every day, which Todd loves.  I am excited about branching out into ingredients that I'm not used to using on a daily basis.  Here are links to some much-loved summer meals around here:

Blackened fish tacos with avocado-cilanto sauce
Quinoa salad with mint, almonds, and cranberries
Shrimp and couscous packets with mango-avocado salsa
Chopped salad with feta, lime, mint, and sunflower seeds
Orzo salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, lemon, dill, and feta
Spring vegetable stir fry with lemon ginger sauce
Greek tortellini salad

I thought I'd be buying a lot of specialty ingredients and only using them once, but it's mainly a steady rotation of fresh herbs and veggies that are used from meal to meal.  While I sometimes grill chicken to chop up and toss in any given salad for some extra protein, it's mainly vegetables, so it's a lot less expensive than the meat-heavy winter stews I make.  Win-win!

That's all the activity around here this week...taking my nature inspiration from indoor things, like fresh eggs from the farmers market...

...and adorable kittens...

(the original Grumpy Cat?)

...or things glimpsed through a window, like this female hummingbird.

Hopefully we'll get some rain - or at least slightly cooler temperatures - soon.  Have a great week! 

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's the...eye of the corgi, it's the thrill of the hike...

Any temperature over 90 degrees F is not conducive to quality hiking, in my opinion.  It's been dreadfully hot and dry here, but we had a reprieve this weekend.  85 degrees F!  Borga, too, has been giving us the side-eye, so we decided to go hiking.

I think we're going to the North Carolina mountains next weekend to hike, but this weekend we stayed close and explored some new trails in Clemson.  I haven't been outside too much this summer, so I *loved* getting to see a few insects.

Here's a mating pair.  Notice how the female is much larger than the male!

Another green lacewing larva, Trojan-horsing it under his load of debris.

Look!  Some clever leaf-cutting insect has incised part of this leaf, folded it over, and secured it with silk threads.  She laid her eggs within its sheltering cover.

Sunlight makes this leafhopper glow as it basks on a stem.

Some sort of caterpillar, making its way up a tree trunk...

My find of the day!  This is a furcula moth caterpillar (Furcula Borealis). 

He's in the split-tail caterpillar family, but what's amazing is how he blends in almost completely with the leaf he's on, which has similar brown splotches.

What a beauty!  Well, sort of.  ;)

He has warning spikes that come out of the tips of his split tail, very similar to the orange spikes that come out of a tiger swallowtail caterpillar's antennae.  He looks imposing, but does not sting or bite.  See his amazing camouflage?

Here's a tiny gold-dusted beetle...

Speaking of tiger swallowtails, I am *almost* positive that this is one of their chrysalises.

I saw the most amazing funnel web.  It went all the way to the ground and the tube had to be six inches long!

(Look away, arachnaphobes!)  The spider within, though, is quite small.

Love seeing the wild blackberries...

...and lots of moss.

At the end of the day, Borga was happy, and I was so glad to have gotten some fresh air and nice time out in nature.

At the home front, our "goz" are now indistinguishable from their parents, whom they stay with for about a year. 

We don't see them nearly as much.  Canadian geese fly at 10 weeks, so it's been fun to hear, and sometimes see, their noisy practice flights. 

The big news, though...we have a NEW BEAVER!!!!!!!

He is just as delightful and playful as any member of our previous beaver family, but I'm so afraid that he's going to get trapped and killed.  We might try to arrange for a preemptive humane capture and release in a safer location.  Meanwhile, though, we're going to enjoy every second of his company!

Have a great week! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Our Fresh Air Pair

We finally finished a major project this past weekend - the fenced-in side yard! 

The before pictures are pretty grim.  The yard is bare dirt, the flimsy fence knocked down by one of our big storms.

We had it mulched, and Todd took the fence apart to repair some of the broken slats.  We rented an auger and drilled holes for our new, much-larger poles.  Meanwhile, I washed and painted the slats, and Todd nailed them back into place.

Todd terraced the left side for better drainage and built two paths, while I planted flowers and filled in the space below the slats with big rocks to keep the cats in.  It looks pleasantly rustic. 

Here's another "almost-done" one...

Todd still has some future master plan for the big posts (some kind of pergola effect, but we're basically DONE!

The cats LOVE it.

It's so nice to be able to let them outside and not worry about them wandering off, or getting hurt by another animal.

They can be adventurous, but not TOO adventurous!

Did I mention that they absolutely love being out in the fresh air?

There hasn't been a lot of that lately, though, with temperatures here at nearly 100 degrees for the past couple of days.  It looks like we have a lot more mid-90s weather in our immediate future, so the cats are going to have to endure a few more days of air conditioning before we head outside again!

Have a great week! 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ceti Eel Appeal

It's been really, really hot here, and it wasn't much relieved by a recent rain.

It's beautiful in South Carolina, with mostly wonderful weather, but June - September is a bit of a trial.  We're near 100% humidity...not too different from Indianapolis...but cool fall weather arrives much later. 

At least we've got some nice flowers coming up.  Our lantana bush has reached about half its eventual height, but still has lots of blooms.

Our butterfly bush is going strong.

Some amaryllis that we didn't plant bloomed in the garden earlier this summer, and now we have these little pitcher plants coming up everywhere.  They're pretty, but how did they get there?

Same with this small patch of daylilies.

These giant shamrocks (3" across!) come up at random times.

This Rose of Sharon-like bush is just starting to bud out.

Our late-blooming gardenia bushes are going strong, and the abelia bushes are starting to put out their little trumpets.

We see a lot of fungus this time of year, especially if we've had a lot of rain.  Sometimes it even pushes up through our blacktop!

 I love seeing more insects in the summer, even this pesky black beetle eating through one of our dogwood leaves.

All over the yard I saw tiny balls of fluff moving industriously over leaves.  It's the debris-carrying green lacewing larvae, a great insect to have in the garden.  See the jaws?

The larvae is hidden cleverly beneath.  He uses his disguise to get close to prey without arousing suspicion.  Genius! I the only one who sees the resemblance to Star Trek's ceti eel

Look away, arachnophobes...this beautiful venusta orchard spider is making short work of this little insect that's stumbled into her web.  I love those colors!

I've only seen our "goz" twice this past week, but it's easy to see that these 6-week olds are pretty near fully grown!  They're nearly indistinguishable from their parents, who still keep a sharp eye on their activities. 

The "lucky seven" are all accounted for, but the second group of 3 hatchlings is now down to a single chick.  We've got foxes and other predators here, so this is a pretty dangerous time for this little guys.

I've been doing  a lot of crafting inside (as time permits), but I hesitate to post future gifts.  However, sometimes the project takes a different direction.  I decided to make a pair of heavily-cabled socks for a friend.  The cables spiral over the heel and cover the front of the sock, all the way down to the toe.  I'm not keen on cabling without a needle, so I'm pretty slow.  Two weeks of night work on these guys and I was not even done with the first sock, and thoroughly tired of cables.

Second Sock Syndrome is a real thing, and I knew that I would never do all that cabling on a second sock.  Worse, I was 8 stitches off somewhere, so the cables on the existing sock weren't centered properly.  I frogged this guy last night and will use the yarn for something else.  I have an embarrassingly large queue on Ravelry (3000+!), so I've taken a little time to go through it and organize for future projects. I've found some long-forgotten gems and feel inspired to take up the needles again soon!

Have a great week!