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02 August 2016

Those Old Midsummer Doldrums

I'm back from an unintended blogging vacation, and it's so good to be with you again.  Have you ever felt as though you were caught in a meteor shower, with whizzing rocks falling all around you?  That's pretty much how I felt, the entire month of July.  Judging from the pages of my fellow bloggers, I'm not the only one who took an unintended break in July -- seems like several of us were hit by the midsummer doldrums around the same time.

My first meteor was the weather -- hot, stormy, and humid.  We had several days in mid- and late-July when temperatures soared well above 90°F/32°C, and the heat index (how hot it actually felt, owing to the combination of heat and humidity) went above 100°F/38°C.  Still struggling to get over my cold/bronchitis/whatever, I found the heat and humidity oppressive, and so spent most of the month indoors.  The grandlittles seemed less inclined to play outside.  Even His Royal Yellowness gave up trying to hold court, and succumbed to the sleepiness that hot weather induces.


Among the dogs, the spaniel dislikes hot weather most -- which makes sense, given his dense and fluffy coat.  But even the beagles cut short their games.  This tug-of-war lasted all of fifteen minutes, before both were panting and ready to go back indoors.  However, Lola prevailed in taking the rope from her sister (don't you love that smug expression?), followed by an energetic victory lap around the yard.


The hot weather has also been  good for the plants.  The Japanese beetles have vacated their squatter's paradise on the rosebush, and Mini-Me's beans are growing splendidly.  I doubt they'll flower, having been planted so late, but she's had the pleasure of tending them and watching them grow; and, knowing that this is something she enjoys, we can plan to begin earlier next year.  The chicory that has been wild-seeded in the old maple tree stump blooms a brilliant  blue in the mornings.  The big surprise, however, on the flower front has been the sunflowers springing up beneath the bird feeder!  I can only suppose that spilled songbird seed mix is the reason.  They're not the eight-feet-tall sunflowers famous in Kansas; these are only about two or three feet high, and their flowers (and seedheads) are smaller.  But, nevertheless, they're a glowing surprise at the end of the porch.


I have the sunflowers to thank for one of the best photos I've ever taken of a grandlittle.  Mini-Me was visiting one day, and she was fascinated by the sunflowers -- how they got there, if they would make seeds that we could use to feed the birds this winter.  Had I planned ahead, I would have wiped the cherry juice off her chin (we were sitting on the porch, eating cherries); but so often, a good photograph is more luck and accident than planning.  I absolutely love this portrait of her.


The last weekend of July, the man and I  travelled back to his hometown to see an old friend from college.  She and her mother were en route to Ohio to see family, and while her mother visited with Kentucky kin, we "young folk" rented a cabin at the lake.  (Her mother warned us about drunks and serial killers.  It was refreshing to be the "young people" for a change!)  On our way to the lake, we detoured through the mountains to the tiny little community where my late father-in-law grew up.  The school there was built by the Works Progress Administration in 1930.  I love WPA buildings, and wanted to photograph this one.  The last time I saw it -- which was almost 20 years ago -- it had been sold to a cabinetmaker, who planned to put his woodworking shop in it.  I was so disappointed to find it derelict now, covered in vines, the roof fallen in.  My father-in-law and all his siblings passed through those doors.  If he was still with us, I know he would be dismayed to see it going "to rack and ruin", as he would have said.



Our arrival at the lake was more promising, however.  The little cabin overlooked the marina, where boats of all sizes -- from small, one-motor fishing boats to e-nor-mous floating palaces -- sat at rest.  The mountain rose up directly behind our back door, so we had lovely views wherever we looked.


We stayed awake into the wee hours of the morning: eating lasagna and peanut butter pie, drinking wine, talking about everything and everyone under the sun.  We talked about classmates and professors who have left this life, and we tried to search the Internet (I say "tried" because we had no wifi or 4G connection at the cabin) to look up those once dear, with whom we've now lost contact.  We laughed until we cried, and cried until we laughed, and it was absolutely wonderful.  In the morning, we arose with the sun, packed up the cabin, and went out for breakfast.  Before parting, we took photos to remind us of the weekend -- and to serve as encouragement not to wait seven years to plan the next reunion!

Our friend and the man of the place regale other cabin
guests with a rousing show tune from college theater days.


The last day of July is my father's birthday.  He would have been 114 this year, if he was still with us, and I honored the day by restoring a damaged photo of the two of us, taken when I was just over a year old.


I also took a walk in the morning hours, and saw a sight that, for me, is a bellwether of the eventual end of summer and the coming of fall:  spider webs, heavy with dew, spun among the tall grasses of the hill.  The humidity was so high, my camera lens kept fogging up.  I cleaned it, only to have it fog again by the time I readjusted my focus.  I finally got this photo, which -- I think -- is actually improved by the condensation on the lens.


My hands have not been idle.  I confess that all the tragedies in the news left me feeling very -- well, yes, I felt sad, but I felt more than sad -- I felt as though each succeeding news item jerked the rug out from under my feet a little more.  I realize this is going to sound weird; I freely admit to being an odd little duck.  But I needed to shift gears to a project that was more controlled.  You see, yarn has always had a life of its own, to me.  It responds to the weather, acting differently on hot and humid days than it does on cold, dry days.  When I work with yarn, it's more of a partnership than a master-servant relationship.  The yarn, like my hair (which was naturally curly in my youth), does whatever it pleases; and it's my job to nudge it into shape with knitting needles or crochet hooks.  A yarn project is also dependent upon tension, progeny of the yarn's mood and my mood.  

So I put aside yarn, needles, and hooks.  I dug into a box, pulled out some 28 count linen and my boxes of floss -- and I began cross-stitching.  They say that baking is a science, but cooking is an art; for me, cross stitch is a science.  The fabric regulates the size of my stitches, and the pattern promises a good outcome if one follows directions.  I have two projects hooped right now:  a red and white band sampler, and a little landscape of a cabin in winter.  (Yes, that's my way of coping with the heat, by cross stitching snow on pines!)  I'll share photos when I've finished them.

Before I pulled out my floss, however, I decided to play around with felt.  Snooping around on Etsy, I found a shop of felt doll patterns called Noialand.  You guys, this lady has over 100 patterns in her shop!  They're all cute, they're all downloadable, and they're all affordable.  I was thrilled to find that she had made a Frida Kahlo doll; Frida is one of my favorite artists, and I just had to try my hand at making that doll.  So I bought the pattern for the full-size Frida (she also offers Frida as mini-dolls), and then skipped over to Etsy shop Felt on the Fly to get some 100% wool felt.  So here's my finished Frida, and a list of what I used:


Supplies:
  • "Frida Doll" pattern from Noialand (etsy.com)
  • 100% wool felt from Felt on the Fly (etsy.com), one sheet each of colors White, Black, Goldfish, Sand, and Sprout
  • 100% wool felt pre-cut flowers from Felt on the Fly in colors Red, Hot Pink, and Purple
  • Floss, lace trim, ribbons, safety eyes, gold beads, and PolyFil™ from my craft stash

The finished doll is about 8" tall, and -- as my late Uncle George would have said -- she's "stinkin' cute"!  Two of my friends also bought Noialand patterns:  Joy got the "Robots Charming" pattern, and Maddie got the "Albert Einstein" pattern.  Maddie's life has been crazy hectic lately, and she hasn't gotten around to making Mr. Einstein; but Joy made up her little robot girl, and here she is:


Even if you're not contemplating any felt dolls in your crafting future, I encourage you to go visit Noialand's shop on Etsy.  Her designs are so cute, and they will definitely bring a smile to your face!  Everything from fairies to famous people, birds and beasts, and characters of all kind.

That's about it from the farm!  But before I go, I want to share two more links with you.  You've seen me sharing friend Carrie's handiwork, here and on Facebook.  Carrie is a wicked good crocheter, and she's started up her own blog, Ravel Dazzle, to share her work with you!  You can visit her on Facebook.

The second link has nothing to do with anything string-y, but everything to do with heart and soul and determination.  I have a young friend named Annie, fifteen years old, who has lived her entire life with the challenge of cerebral palsy.  Last weekend, Annie competed in the Miss You Can Do It pageant, an event for girls and women with disabilities.  Annie won the award for the best response to an interview question!  The experience has encouraged her to reach out to others about what life with CP is like, and she's started a blog.  (Seriously, this girl is one determined chick!)  If you'd like to get to know Annie, please visit her Facebook blog, CP Can't Stop Me.  It's guaranteed to inspire you!

Thanks for stopping by, and I'm sorry to have been gone so long.  I'll see you next week!

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