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Triumph of the Mundane

Slow blogging at its finest

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Dandelion Blivet – or – I Can Handle the Truth, I Just Don’t Like the Maths

dandelion blivet

A highly technical military term (wink, wink), as my father explained it to me, a blivet is ten pounds of crap in a five-pound bag.

This weekend produced a close-to-real-life example: I took that leetle beety plastic pot out front to hold all the dandelions I’d dig up. Surely there weren’t many so early in the spring. . .

To loosen the nasty weed’s grip on the good earth — the over-wintered ones had roots the diameter of small carrots and I’m not talking baby carrots — I used the Japanese all-purpose garden knife available exclusively, in the 1990’s, from Smith and Hawken. Now available fine big-box stores everywhere.

And pardon the Britishism, too much Masterpiece Theater, but the blivet wasn’t the maths that were getting to me. The truth is, by trading a large chunk of my time for money these days, only so much of anything gets done. This weekend, the dandelions. Not enough time to do a proper weeding. Other items on the weekend to-do list loom large and the hours vaporize quickly. A time blivet of sorts — how much to cram into a too-short timeframe.

The dandelions, however, don’t care one whit about my schedule. And I’m gonna need a bigger bucket.

Is It a Fabric Yip?

Back in the day, yip was the term for a mental hang-up experienced by sports pros and amateurs. Accomplished golfers who suddenly couldn’t swing or their swing suddenly went wonky being the main use. The term was also used for other sports; I recall seeing footage of a catcher who couldn’t release the ball on a throw back to the mound.

While not a perfect use of the word, I call the experience of being unable to bring myself to cut a piece of fabric a yip. It is especially acute when I haven’t sewn anything for awhile or I’m about to cut a special piece of fabric.

charley-harper-fabric

I yipped last week. I decided to make a top from a piece of Charley Harper fabric,and the dilemma was twofold. There was just barely enough fabric and the fabric is a cotton knit. I love wearing knits but sewing them is another matter entirely; I’ve never been completely satisfied with the outcome.

In this case, I created a pattern from a dress-turned-tunic I liked but hardly wore. The dress fabric was lovely but rather thin for the cut. Previously I had cut the dress to tunic length thinking the shorter, lighter result would work better for the fabric but it still just drooped. The Charley Harper fabric has a bit more heft, and thus began the new project.

And then began the fretting. The pattern pieces sat on the fabric for a day or so when I finally took a deep breath, rechecked everything six times and started cutting. Then I pretty much forced myself to finish the project in two days, concerned I’d stall out and the thing would sit there half finished.

charley-harper-tunic-sleeve

And there’s a charming little cheat: The original sleeves have a lovely zipper detail that I doubted I could repeat. Since I was short on new fabric, I simply used the original sleeves and added a matching trim detail to the pockets. Nothing like a well-executed hack!

charley-harper-tunic

Well, I did finish it, and it’s lovely. And since coincidentally the new tunic is red (the project has been sitting around for half a year), well, that’s just a bonus for my Ben Ming Nian.

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Urban Legends of the Trail

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I hear tell a tale of two folks and a dog who done wandered off the paved trail one day and pert’ near disappeared. It was a mighty fine adventure that took ’em ’bout an hour, or possibly much, much longer, to find their way back to civilization.

Seems it all started when them folks and the pup got on the trail only to be  confronted by two unleashed dogs whose disinterested humans followed a goodly distance behind. Leashes, people! Leashes! What in tarnation is so difficult about leashes?! With a large barking labradoodle headed right at ’em, well, the easiest thing to do was head up the dirt trail before things got ugly. Couldn’t be far before that trail intersected with the pavement again; they’d seen other folks re-enter the main trail with their dogs lots of times.

So they wandered up the hill and within a few minutes were surprised at how far away from civilization they felt. The constant presence of street noise on the main trail disappeared. The trail went up and it went down — steeply. It switched back and forth repeatedly to get to the bottom of a ravine, then repeated the process to get back to high ground. And the trail slanted deeply sideways, putting one precariously close to a rapid, tumbling descent with every step. After the third or fourth ravine, well, only the pup was still running strong.Yes, the mini fjords of the Midwest can be taxing on human and, eventually, beast.

And the lady adventurer, well, not having planned on this excursion, quickly realized these were the wrong boots. Oh, they had plenty of much-needed tread, but they were heavy. And while the thin socks were warm enough, her feet slid inside the boots requiring extra effort for each step. She cursed not being more diligent about yoga for the flexibility needed for grabbing branches and taking high steps up, and the balance for taking sliding steps down. But she did become reacquainted with her glute muscles.

Figurin’ the rescue squad might find only their cell phones, she wanted to take more pictures. But her main goal was not going arse over tea kettle down the hillside.

Also with surprising quickness, the nearby rich kids academy (because rich kids don’t go to a school), and the parents’ fancy homes had disappeared from view; all the trio of accidental adventurers saw were trees and snow. And snow and trees. After cresting more than a half dozen hills, houses blessedly reappeared. But these weren’t the same houses visible from the paved trail. And the railroad tracks were nowhere to be seen. Where exactly they were was, and remains, a mystery.

At this point, the couple drew on the wisdom they had gained from many years of riding bike trails: The trail is just as long back to the car as it is going out — only you’ve got less energy. They turned around. Funny thing, though, it was a cloudy day so they didn’t really know which direction they were headed, and pretty much every snow-covered tree looks like the next so every direction looked the same. And there were a.lot. of trees. As well, they had made several choices at Ys along the way, which had to be properly re-chosen on the way back.

Why just look at this Google Earth pic – you can’t even see the dirt trails!

ashworth-park-google-maps

Now even the pup was showing some stress. She’d been wary of the narrow bridges crossing the fingerling creeks on the way out, and was even less inclined to cross them on the way back. And the snow was starting to turn to ice balls between the pads of her paws; her people not thinking she’d need Musher’s Secret on this excursion, left her paws bare. Problem is, that paw problem only gets worse over time and the party came to halt several times on the steep slopes to clean the pup’s paws.

‘Bout now, the fun aspect of this adventure was wearin’ pretty thin. But the car doesn’t get any closer by whining, so they trekked on. First the chimney of the academy appeared through the trees. And soon the Rock of Gibraltar came into view. OK, it was a rough tree stump that reminded the gentleman adventurer of the Rock of Gibraltar. Sorta.

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That was funny on the way out, but it was likely delirium talkin’ on the way back. Soon the car – with its heated seats – came into view. Rarely is a sight so devine. With only themselves as witnesses to these events, the couple and the pup headed home.

So how do I know this tale is true? Well, I listened to them retell it to each other with great animation as they stood in line at the donut shop. Seems the lady adventurer was sure she’d used up all her carbs on the adventure and felt it imperative to replenish. The gentleman adventurer indicated he was feeling the same deprivation.

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Ben Ming Nian or Seeing Red or Don’t Ask Me About My Underalls

what-fresh-hell

This card was made for me by a friend who enjoyed my use of the famous Dorothy Parker line. We laughed when I opened it. Then came Chinese New Year. No one’s laughing now.

For a reason that also includes Bastille Day (for another time), I like to indulge in a little celebration on Chinese New Year: the first bike ride of the season. Because here in the Midwest the holiday often falls in early February when it’s a tad warmer and less icy than January 1, so taking the bikes out now is smarter – or a touch less stupid. This year, the date was immaterial.

Several pop-culture-y sites also make a minor fuss over the holiday, which lead me to discover that this is a Ben Ming Nian for me – my zodiac year of birth. A good thing, you’d think. Not so much. Talk about what fresh hell! Don’t start a job or change jobs, don’t buy a house — or even move, don’t get married. Those are just the things one can control! Every move pretty much torques off Tai Sui, a mysterious power that controls people’s fortune.

Then, in an odd, third-rate-motivational-speech turn, challenges and opportunities may come one’s way “with efforts and firm belief.” I might be able to see the opportunities if I could bring myself to get out from under the bed.

I was ready to brush it off as superstition until I recalled my last Ben Ming Nian, and I wanted to grab a brown paper bag because hyperventilating was a possibility.

What to do? Wear red. Lots of red. Especially red underwear. But I can’t buy it myself; for maximum effectiveness, red clothing must be gifts. Oh yea, I can see the hubs flipping through a rack of panties . . .

If you need to find me, I’ll be back under the bed facing east (another trick to assuage Tai Sui).

What fresh hell indeed. See you in early 2018 — as an added twist of misery, this lunar year has 13 months. Send red socks!

 

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Woodland Worry Walks

winter-trail

On a recent flight I read the airline magazine. A pleasant read, well-suited to the audience and timeframe. The article on forest bathing stuck with me. Forest bathing is a health activity of Japanese origin that is, in brief, a slow, mindful walk in the deep woods. Look around, take in the details, and breathe deeply because apparently there’s some very good stuff in forest air. While I’d heard the term, I hadn’t paid it much attention, but on this short flight there wasn’t much else clamoring for my attention.

Our daily dog walks are not slow, and since we walk the same trails frequently there isn’t much gawking at the minutia. The story brought to the fore how I actually walk in these familiar woods — in cold weather head down to be sure I’m not stepping on ice, (as noted) always quickly, usually discussing daily woes with the hubs. At least twice a week either or both of us gets worked into a froth about something.

Occasionally I snap out of it and snap a pic of something interesting — at least I’m somewhat aware of my surroundings. So while I may be getting the aerobic benefit, I am clearly missing any additional benefits. Plus, these walks don’t take us into anything that could be labeled a forest, just some well-wooded acreage.

On the New Year’s Resolution list: Enjoy the great outdoors. With the crazy pup’s high energy, a key reason for the activity, that won’t happen on the dog walk. But I’m pretty sure nature is available to experience at almost any other time. . .

 

 

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The Eagle Has Landed! or More Bad Nature Photography

“Look – out on the ice. Is those hawks or eagles?”

Another matching bird flies low overhead and lands near the others.

“Eagles, they’re eagles.”

“Let me borrow your phone to take a pic.”

“We’re too far away, you won’t get much.”

“But I’ll get something.”

 

eagles-1

“Let’s walk a little farther down the bridge. We’ll be a bit closer so you can get a better shot.”

eagles-2

“Now you can see them better. Slightly.”

One bird flies away, another takes to the air swooping over the open water closer to the bridge.

“Take a video.”

“By the time I get the phone out again, the eagle will be gone.”

After almost a minute of watching the bird, reach for phone.

Bird immediately flies back to the resting spot on the ice.

Some things are meant to be enjoyed in the moment.

Nature Stinks

The trail we most often use for dog walking runs along a river. Several times a year sections are closed due to flooding, and frequently after a good rain we’re dodging puddles and commenting on which areas have gone boggy. Last year the mosquitoes were almost unbearable. I’m particularly appealing to the little buggers and the hubs would have to wave them off my back as we walked — even after applying a healthy (unhealthy??) coating of OFF!

mushroom

For all the dampness this year, the mosquitoes are thankfully few. Recently what’s almost unbearable is the smell. Not, mind you, at the height of heat and humidity. Rather now, when tempuratures are moderate but the humidity still hangs thick.

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Even the mushrooms keeled over in a day or two.

No Need to Adjust Your Screen or What’s Old is New Again

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We’ve been busy around here: The only way to indulge our good taste in design is to DIY so the living room is getting a fresh coat of paint and new flooring. For the last dozen years the walls were a pale blue and the inset areas next to the fireplace were a light-medium, warm brown. I’ve to a got a thing for accent colors whether the look is in or out. The carpet was the original bland neutral beigey tone, hence my instance on blue walls.

living-room-5

Unsurprisingly, the carpet was showing its age; time to replace. And we had painted the walls white when we built the house. It was a trade: Back then, furnaces and air conditioners were not required to be very efficient, so to get the most efficient furnace and AC we were going to have to pay and pay dearly. Instead, we agreed to paint the interior of the house. Since we were both working more-than-full-time jobs in publishing, we opted for white everything and figured we’d add color later.

Uff da! That was a challenge, and not just in time and effort. Although the builder agreed to the deal he didn’t like it, and he made us pay in ‘accidentally’ messed up freshly painted walls. Oops, crashed into a newly painted wall (happened a dozen times or more). Oh so sorry — not! Then again, he wasn’t a careful builder (fortunately we stopped by the site every day), so perhaps he and his subs were just that clumsy.

Back to today, and back to white. The hubs likes the white, and I’m going for a look I call ‘Midwest Scandinavian.’ The new flooring is carpet tile (FLOR) in a pale blue — just enough color. (Pic to come.) The living room opens to the lately remodeled kitchen, and the rooms blend splendidly. All those years of editing home decorating books paid off nicely, if I do say so myself.

There’s a lot of disruption involved, however, and we’re both surprised at how much stuff has accumulated in the living room. I’ve made a concerted effort to edit; that, too, has made a big difference.

cat-help

So back to white walls and less stuff, somewhat as when we moved in, and looking good. One of our site supervisors agrees.

 

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Seen and Unseen Nature

Sadly, I have joined the ranks of (insert plural pejorative noun of your choice) who carry a phone with them everywhere. To add to the insanity, the hubs put an SD card in the thing so I can take pictures at will with no concern about storage. Snap happy, that’s me. Back in the day, a roll of film did focus the mind. The usefulness/wisdom/point of taking all these pictures is debatable. And the hubs is no help. Take a picture, he says, You can put it on your blog. Sho ’nuff.

What is sure, my future as a nature photographer is nill.

Cases in point: Three pictures that barely capture the intended subject but continue to take up digitial space.

black squirrel

Exhibit A: Black squirrel at rest stop. Center, below the tree and above the side view mirror. Zooming in doesn’t help (any of these) as these are zoomed as far in as possible here; any more and the image falls apart.

deer 1

Exhibit B: Deer in the clearing. Again, center of the image. At least I know how to center the subject in the frame.

suspended leaf suspended leaf 2

Exhibit C: A twofer and probably the most worthwhile of the lot. A leaf suspended on a spider web so it looks to be hanging freely in the air.

Well, I’m glad I got that off my chest. Now, if I could only bring myself to get these off the SD card.

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