A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter!

I have been blocking Mia's baby blanket today, so that I can mail it off, along with some Disneyland goodies I couldn't pass up. Posted by Hello
I also cut fringes for my rose Prayer Shawl and tied on the fringes to my Echo scarf, having finished it at the airport on the way back (except, being ribbon, I couldn't "cut" it to bind off, with no scissors allowed and my cute sheep clippers failed at nipping anything that wouldn't tear on their own).

Friday, March 25, 2005

Teenwork and a trip to Disneyland

Teenwork is sponsored by the California Friday Night Live Partnership, and brings youth leaders from throughout the state together annually to share what their successes have been and to get recharged to continue their work as youth advocates. Posted by Hello

This is Amanda Page, ready to present her workshop, Every 15 Minutes. She conducted the program at one of our district's high schools last fall. It is based on the statistical fact that someone dies as a result of a car crash caused by a drunk driver once every 15 minutes in the U.S. Amanda is my hero; not only did she put on the E15 assembly practically single-handed, then go out to Teenwork to teach others how to do it, but she has overcome the serious damage alcoholism has done in her life: her father was an alcoholic, causing the death of his best friend in an alcohol-related crash for which he served three years in prison, then dying himself in another crash. One of the most popular parts of her workshop was how to apply the makeup she is wearing. Posted by Hello

Amanda applies Don's makeup. He dressed as the Grim Reaper; in Every 15 Minutes programs, a student is removed from class every 15 minutes throughout the day, symbolizing the continued death and destruction drunk driving causes in our country. They work together with counselors to write their obituaries, and present them along with the video or slide show of a staged crash at an assembly the following day. The program encourages that the youth leaders work together with emergency services personnel to stage a realistic crash scene. Parents, even though they have consented in advance, have often found it to be a very painful emotional experience and have been great allies. My youngest son, Jesse, agreed to portray the drunk driver in 2001, and I found it hard even to watch the video. Posted by Hello

Workshop participants also got to try on the "drunk glasses" which distort their perception in much the same way as being in an altered state. The young man on the left won the race we staged, mostly by being barefoot and shuffling along, but not without lots of weaving and almost falling. Posted by Hello

We rushed from the first Every 15 Min. presentation to set up during lunch for our presentation on Wilderness Challenge. Our assigned meeting room was on the exact opposite side of the complex. Wilderness Challenge is the outdoor recreation and youth leadership program we run each summer. Kayla, Morgan and Nick did a great job showing our powerpoint slides and describing the various rock climbing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, and swimming activities we have done together over the past several years. They also staged a race, using a climbing harness, shoes, kayak helmet and flotation vest. Although their workshop was designed for a smaller room and less people to attend, I was pleased with the interest it generated in people from other regions. Posted by Hello

Questions and answers at the end. Then we ran back and did Every 15 Minutes over again. Whew! Posted by Hello

The conference ran from Monday evening (with a formal opening on Tuesday morning) through noon on Thursday, so we arranged our flight home for Friday morning so that we would have time to visit Disneyland. Nine of us went in together, but we soon separated and headed different directions. Pete, Sandy, Don and I stayed together through the afternoon, caught a great bluegrass and comedy show when we wanted to rest our feet (remember, we had been working all week, especially Sandy, who served on the Dream Team, putting together the conference), as well as riding on Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean (my favorite), and the Haunted House. We had a yummy and fortifying dinner here in the French Quarter. Posted by Hello

We also took a cruise on the riverboat, Mark Twain, and saw this lovely replica. Posted by Hello

Another view from the riverboat. Posted by Hello

We felt very lucky to miss the rainstorms, have lots of laughs, and spend some down time with friends. Kayla and Amanda had to be escorted, along with the rest of their car, out the back way when Splash Mountain broke down, but the three of us had a great time shopping for gifts after Pete, Sandy and Don had gone back to our hotel. Then, they joined up with Kim, Morgan and Nick and went on Indiana Jones twice more as well as a few other rides. I cashed in for the night after the spectacular fireworks display (can you believe they do this EVERY night at 9:25 PM?). Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Hard work at Teenwork

We spent much of yesterday traveling from Reno to Anaheim (two flights) and getting checked in for Teenwork. Don and Kayla wait in line for our flight to Orange County Posted by Hello

Today has been a long day of workshops and presentations, but we feel ready to give ours tomorrow, and are having an energetic time. The highlight of the morning program for me was juggler, Chris Smith, a UCLA student who grew up in El Dorado county, and had participated in Teenwork during his high school years. This guy was funny, and his juggling was awesome (take it from me; we all tried to learn when my kids were growing up and only my stepson Rex made it to three balls, but Chris could keep five in the air at once!).

The weather just turned rainy this afternoon, but while I was walking this morning, I was amazed by all the things in bloom.... you SoCal knitters will laugh at me, but I had forgotten how lush and tropical it can be down here in the spring.

I haven't had a chance to see if I am in walking distance from a yarn shop. Did get to work on both my pink prayer shawl and my Echo scarf during interludes between flights and workshops. The laugh on me came early this morning, while I was struggling to find a pair of jeans in my suitcase without turning on the lights and disturbing my roomate. Groping around, I came upon the extra skein for my prayer shawl, and had to wonder if I had forgotten the jeans in lieu of making room for yarn!

Happy Spring all!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Yesterday was a blur worth forgetting and today just as chaotic, so I am staying up late trying to salvage something good out of the "non-work" portion of the day. Won't go into the bureaucratic snarls and pit fights of teaching right now, having vented to a few good friends, my eldest and my husband, and realized it wasn't helping and I was still righteously indignant, with no solutions on the horizon.

The one bright spot was that I got to wear my new bolero today... my youngest, the smart-aleck nineteen year old, asked this morning "What happened Mom? Did your hands get tired so you only made half of a sweater?!" My fashionista daughter of the ripe old age of 21 chided him about his lack of knowledge regarding womens' clothing and complimented me. The downside was it was cloudy and cold all day, bad picture-taking weather, and I hardly sat still in order to get a picture (actually, one of my yearbook students got a photo of me working at a computer with another student and I didn't even think to upload it. Sigh....). I worked through some of my frustrations this evening by completing my cute little shoulder purse to match. Except I'm not that pleased with the way the bottom corners sewed up. But I do like the size and the double I-cord strap that sets it just at my favorite length to wear on my shoulder.

I put both items in my pile of stuff to pack this weekend to take to Anaheim. Yes, we are finally on our way to Teenwork Sunday afternoon, traveling over to Reno to spend the night and fly out early Monday AM, returning Friday. The powerpoint presentation is burned to CD, I have lots of notes, and the youth got their practice in... I have faith in them that they will overcome any stage fright and rise to the occasion on Wednesday at their designated time, and wow their audience. It will probably end up being one of my best contributions this school year.

I dug out a suitcase, and thought about how it was too small, and I still needed to wash some clothes, and if I put the yarn in for the prayer shawl I intend to finish while down there, I better plan to take one less sweatshirt, and decided the whole mess could wait till tomorrow, when I would pack everything already clean. Besides, hadn't I better check the weather once more? I can't tell if I am procrastinating, or just trying to wait for the stars to shift to a more auspicious position than the one that has been messing things up the past few days.

The Downieville fire victims are getting assistance, and plenty of neighbors were out this afternoon wrapping Lynn and Charlie's house in plastic and large sheets of building wrap, as a winter storm watch is in effect. I sure hope they will get to repair their house. Aaron says he plans to rebuild the Inn. For more on the fire, check out today's issue of The Union, the Nevada City daily paper. I am still shellshocked every time I look at the damage.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Fire in Downieville

I have been ignoring part of my blog's title, and not putting any posts up about community life. Today many of us are wandering around in shock as one of the four motels in our dinky town of Downieville suffered a major fire, which also pretty much destroyed an adjacent family home. Here is a front view of what is left of the Downieville Inn, where nine people lost their homes in a fire last night. One dog perished, and one person got injured. The fire was short but intense. In a town this small (only about 200 winter residents), everyone was close to at least one of the people affected. The Inn's owners, Aaron and Elena, lived in a separate building that was spared the flames. The adjacent Downieville Grocery was also unharmed, being built mainly of brick. Posted by Hello

This photo shows Lynn and Charlie Jakobs' home from the rear; extensive damage. Their youngest son, Joe, is one of my students and escaped unharmed. Posted by Hello

Another view of the Downieville Inn Posted by Hello

View of Inn upstairs showing collapsed roof Posted by Hello

Bolero to Go and Purse to Match

I set in the second sleeve in my Trio bolero last night, and was musing on why so many of us knitters abhor finishing work. I realized I put it off mainly because knitting goes along so much faster and much more mindlessly. I actually have to think about mattress stitching, and making sure I am keeping even pace on the two sides. I have done a lot of hand sewing over the years, even made a long dress with 12 buttonholes all worked completely by hand once, just to prove to myself that I could do without electricity. Somehow, sewing a knitted fabric always seems more daunting to me. I used to feel like a big-time procrastinator, but since I have been reading lots of other knitters' blogs this year, I find that I am certainly not alone.

Well, take heart everyone, I think that the finishing process is much like other aspects of knitting; it keeps getting easier. The Trio ibbon yarn in this project was not that cooperative to get a tapestry needle through; a tendency to want to hang up on splitting the ribbon instead of slipping easily under a stitch. I did one sleeve with a metal tapestry needle and the other with a plastic one, and the plastic one worked much better.

I also completely ripped out the purse I was making to match out of the leftover yarn. It was too wide, and I wasn't going to have enough yarn for it. I am back on track, but obviously was wrong in assuming that Trio would knit up to the same gauge as the Deco-Ribbon called for in the pattern.

It is a cloudy, grey day in the California foothills, and the temperature has dropped back down to the spring temps we usually get; put the sandals back in the closet for a few more weeks. At least I will have a bit longer to wear my sweaters.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Bathroom Remodel and String Scrubbie Project

Thought this would be a good time to fill you in on our bathroom remodel, and the String Scrubbie Project. No, they don't really have much to do with each other, except the commonality of bathrooms. However, in anticipation of having a different program going on in the bathroom this winter, I DID whip up another batch of washcloths this past fall, in tomato red.

We have this 1852 Carpenter Gothic house, on the edge of a very small (dwindled, to be more exact) Gold Rush era town in the Sierra Nevada foothills. When we bought the place in October 1998, the water had been disconnected from the house for many years, and the previous owner had been living in a double-wide for 16 years before moving in with his daughter. Reconnecting the water and getting the system running again was only one of many tasks that took six months of steady work on my hubby's part to make it possible for us to move in.

I painted the concrete floored zinc shower with a special epoxy "tub and tile" paint when we first moved in (neutral beige), but it was time for an update. Also the rotting floor needed to be replaced, and the toilet needed to be moved across the room to give us enough space to put in a clawfoot tub (how had I survived for six years without a bathtub of my own?). Glenn spend a day redoing the plumbing underneath the house, another couple reflooring, and then painted the clawfoot tub on the outside with some lavender enamel paint that we had, adding gold leaf from my art supplies for the claw feet.

The glorious newly-painted tub, with faucet set awaiting installation. Posted by Hello

We went out shopping for floor coverings about a month ago, but were pretty disgusted with the "vinyl" offerings, and disheartened to learn that, while REAL linoleum (Marmoleum is one brand) still exists, it was made in six foot wide rolls, too narrow for our eight foot square bathroom. On the way back home, we decided to paint the floor, which we have done successfully with some of our softwood floors. I dug around and found a large natural sponge, either slated for or left over from some other project, which Glenn could use to sponge paint on top of the deep red base he painted the floor. Presto! Now, it looked a bit like old-fashioned linoleum.

Close up of floor paint, using brick red base with mustard and dark green spatters. Posted by Hello

Once the floor was painted, Glenn could install the tub, and so I went out and splurged on bathing salts from Vitae (great all-natural skin care line based right here in Nevada City, but they don't seem to have a website). I was such a good customer that they sent me home with my purchases in a cute little recyclable tote for my smaller knitting projects - how did they know?! We were able to start taking baths about two weeks ago, even though the faucet set we had ordered on Ebay hadn't arrived yet (hose connected to wall method).

Now that a new bathing option was available, Glenn decided to repaint the shower.

Shower paint drying; note the window frame. We have a very large window that overlooks the small inner back yard and wooded end of our land, for viewing while in the shower or tub. Posted by Hello This epoxy stuff takes five days or more to cure, and the temperature isn't supposed to drop below 65 degrees during the process, so we have had to run an electric heater at night to keep the temp up. Lucky for us, spring came early and day time temps have been warm. We are down to the last day of waiting ahead, then things can return to some semblance of normalcy and we will be content with our bathroom for a while. The towels, walls, showers, new knitted washcloths, NOTHING matches the purple tub....but it sure looks great sitting in there.

Being do-it-yourselfers, we tied a plastic bag around the showerhead to catch drips while the paint cured for five days. Shower curtains were re-installed this afternoon, and we are back in business! Posted by Hello

Now, for the scrubbie part. There is a group of Knitzilla charity knitters making up dishcloths/washcloths/scrubbies (depending on what you call them and use them for) to raise money for Asian tsunami relief. They formed the String Scrubbie Project, and have links to lots of washcloth patterns. Here is another link for similar patterns, for you pattern collectors.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Amy and Mia

Yesterday was Mia's two-month birthday, so here is a photo of her being held by her mama, Amy (my husband Glenn's daughter) and wearing the baby jacket I finished for her last month. Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Messing with the Queue

Wel, it's MY queue after all, so I guess it's ok if I rearrange the order on the things I want to get done. I decided the other morning to stop off at Ben Franklin and pick up enough Homespun to make a prayer shawl for a friend whose husband is undergoing chemo... I just felt like their pressing need was more critical than having another purse or tank top right now, so I have been carrying around this lovely rose-colored yarn and working on the shawl in snatches ever since.

The baby blankie looked at me like I was a disloyal mother, and I tried to hide how irritated I was with it for taking so long to get through the decreases, but valiantly put in a few more inches last night. The sleeves of the bolero sighed and looked longingly at the body as I unpinned them from the blocking board yesterday, but they will have to wait till tomorrow to be joined together in knitted wedlock. The Echo scarf even got some attention last night, but mainly I had to rewind all the loose ribbon and untangle it, and then used a covered hair elastic around the ball to keep the mess back in place, so I only got a few inches done there too. The thoughts of my friends possibly facing death, and being able to provide them with a small measure of comfort in their ordeal are just clamoring so much more. Mainly, their story looms in my mind, and I am anxious to send my thoughts their way as I knit. It is spring here, the time of birth and renewal, and I am grateful not to be in their shoes, facing the possibility of death. I could only aspire to be as brave.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Blocking the Bolero

I am not very big on blocking, I have to admit. I am one of those who mostly wants to sew something together and wear it. Actually, I like to avoid seams in the first place, being a disciple of Elizabeth Zimmerman's bible, Knitting Without Tears. However, I did finish all of the knitting on my Trio Bolero last night, and decided that I should block the sleeves flat before setting them into the armholes (I had already altered the pattern so that the bottom half of the jacket was knitted fronts and back together as one piece, leaving only shoulder seams to sew). The front and neck edges are nice and flat with their garter stitch border with Fizz mixed in, but the sleeve edges were curling up, so I went ahead and dampened them and they are neatly pinned to my ironing board to dry, with the really cool Clover blocking pins. Those things don't bend or break when faced with a thick knitted piece of fabric - I am a fan! This also means I will have the jacket assembled and pictures to post in the next day or so! Yippee... there is spring in the air around here, with daffodils open everywhere and blossoms on our apricot and cherry trees, and I will have a new spring jacket to wear with my white platform sandals I debuted for a few hours in the warmth of the afternoon yesterday.

Monday, March 07, 2005

California Knit Bloggers

As you can see, I am in the process of putting up a button for California Knit Bloggers, a ring whose two main requirements is that you maintain a knitting blog and live in California. I wanted to thank the owner, Jen for doing such a great job describing how to install buttons to your blog, since this is an area where my learning curve hasn't peaked yet. In fact, my technical abilities have been pretty gross lately, I even mistyped my own URL when submitting my application to Jen. Hope that the planets have moved off THAT spot!

I am closing in on finishing up the bolero; will be able to finish the second sleeve tonight and add the trim around the neckline and lapels (or is that too generous a term for the fronts of a skimpy bolero?). The striped baby blanket continues to shrink (as in decreases to the finishing point). I saw a version of the same blankie pattern that my friend Linda (also in Mountain Star Quilters with me) had made as a baby gift for Amy... she used Lion Homespun in light blue. Amy commented on how soft and useful this blankie has been... she can wrap both baby James and herself up in it while nursing, either lying down with him or sitting in a chair, providing them with some discretion and/or warmth as the situation dictates. It is soft, stretchy, and very warm for its light weight, and follows them everywhere.

That was a great testimonial about the value of a knitted gift, and reminded me that, while knitting is process for me, it is also product for the recipient and helped me to keep in mind thinking of their needs as well as my own. I slept on this concept, and while out walking early this morning, decided that my next Prayer Shawl would be for a quilt club member whose husband has just begun chemotherapy.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Mystery Quilt Weekend

I haven't posted anything in a few days, but with good reason! I got to escape for Mountain Star Quilters' annual Mystery Quilt Weekend. MSQ is our local quilt club, based in Downieville, California. Although my bestest friends, Lynn and Peggy, had been members for years, I had resisted joining for a long time. After all, knitting was my passion. I signed on about five years ago, shortly after finishing my MA program, as I finally felt I had a little time for myself after two intense years of working and studying non-stop. I also had a small legacy from my father's death in 1998 to use to buy a new sewing machine and all the requisite tools. I have since also acquired a Singer Featherweight through Ebay for piecing.

A Mystery Quilt is presented in stages. First, you get a materials list several weeks before the event is scheduled, so that you can go shopping or raid your stash (yup, quilters have even bigger stashes than us knitters - one of my friends has a whole room lined with shelves, lined with fabrics arranged by color). You also do a lot of pre-cutting, so that you will be ready to sew, but have no idea of the finished design. This can be either freeing or frustrating, depending on the design and how much of a control freak you are.

I have done four mysteries in the past several years, but couldn't attend last year, and this year decided I would focus on getting the Hawaiian-style quilt I am making for my daughter, Nikki, moved along (This is the same sassy daughter who asked a few weeks back, when I was showing off yet-another completed knitting project to her, if I had "given up quilting entirely"). However, I had reviewed the directions with Peggy, and admired her choice of three fabrics in primary colors, determining that they would make a Provence-inspired quilt, and that the mystery looked to have a good outcome for the quilter, as there were only three main fabric choices, giving you the opportunity to pick fabrics that would look good no matter how they ended up combined.

We all met on Friday afternoon at The Helms' St. Charles Inn, the fabulous bed and breakfast owned by Mark and Tammy Helm, where our Mystery Quilt Weekend has been held for the past three years. (photo courtesy of the Helms) Posted by Hello. I didn't manage to get there till almost 9 P.M., thanks to two lengthy meetings in a row on the other side of the county, and the sewing was in full swing. I was totally burnt out and knitted on the second bolero sleeve, while admiring everyone's chosen color schemes and discussing knitting with Amy, who has just started. She was just starting a cute little purse in pink ribbon from Crystal Palace. It looks like I will have enough Trio left over from the bolero to make a matching purse in this pattern, free on their website.

I was able to unwind but not ready to tackle cutting around my stitched squares; afraid that I would cut in the wrong place because I was so tired. Didn't go to bed till midnight, but did get in a great walk with Lynn along the North Yuba... did I ever tell you guys that I live in the most beautiful place in the whole world?

I got started on my quilting project Saturday morning... I am making 12 large squares of appliqued Kapa Hawai'i designs, six pink orchids and six purple plumerias, all in batik flannels as Nikki requested. However, as I went to wash the beautiful deep purple batik fabric I had ordered around Christmas from Keepsake (now a sister company of my favorite online yarn supplier, Patternworks) I discovered that it was NOT flannel, as ordered. Sheesh, I guess I should have taken it out of the package when it came.... things just went downhill all day from there.

This pattern calls for stitching the pink fabric squares to preprinted fusible interfacing that has the design shapes already on it, then cutting a slit in the interfacing and turning all the design right-side out; nearly impossible to do until I drove back home and got a hemostat from my braiding supplies to poke out the corners and round the curves.

By evening, I was ready to cash it in, but my wonderful friends kept me going, giving me tips, encouragement, food and chocolate. I think I probably gained back the two pounds I lost this week, with all the gourmet food provided by my fellow quilters. Luckily, the club had arranged for Laurel Boggs, our favorite massage therapist and yoga teacher, to come and offer chair massages... at least I had some destressing time!

One of my worst moments came when Betsy and I were cutting side by side and chatting. She asked if I knew who in the club she could borrow a machine from that did satin stitch, so she could complete a machine applique project. We both had brought our Featherweights, which are piecing powerhouses even though Singer hasn't made them in years, and are in high demand amongst quilters. It dawned on me that my other machine, the one I would be needing shortly to machine applique my first orchid in place, was inaccessible, up at the house in Forest City, with the road blocked by snow for at least a few more weeks, and worse yet, I hadn't even thought about this obstacle till this very minute! Where was my head? What in the world had I been thinking?

I decided to adjust my expectations and accept that it just wasn't in the stars for me to get very much accomplished this weekend, but I was still getting to hang out with my homies here by the river. I proceeded to knit some more on the second sleeve and was close to binding off at the top of the cap when I realized I had too many stitches and had neglected to do the armhole bind offs.....sometimes it would be better to just hide under the covers and have the chocolate delivered.

While I was going through one disaster after another, my co-quilters were making steady progress and keeping up a flow of gossip and stories. We all got a lot of laughes out of Mary W. and Mary J. discussing going through their teens as Richmond home grrls....

Here is my first Orchid... laid out pre-stretching, pinning and pressing. Everyone was teasing me about making octopi, can you see why? Posted by Hello

We all kept going till late in the evening on Saturday, with Lynn getting enough done on her's to get the final clue and realize what the finished quilt top was going to look like. I had already decided that this was a pattern I would probably like to make someday; looked like it would make a great wedding quilt if I could pick fabrics to match the person's decor. So, I gathered up all the clues to take home, and knew exactly what was to come (yep, I cheated!).

Lynn dug right in this morning, even though we fitted in another, shorter walk along the river, and was able to get her quilt top pieced together before she needed to leave to run the crafts cooperative shop this afternoon.

Here's Lynn, peering over her finished quilt top and saying, "Don't put me in the picture, I haven't had time to wash my hair!" Posted by Hello

We made her go out and stand on the porch of the Inn so that we could snap pictures. It is much more powerful live and in person, with strong graphic lines and "presence". I was really pleased for her.

Lynn and Shelly had to stand on chairs to hold up Lynn's finished top; the mystery was entitled "The Case of the Patchy Churn" and the final pattern dubbed "Churning Stars". Lynn was the only one to get the entire top pieced during the weekend, and her's has a strong antique feeling to it. Other colorways were equally successful. Posted by Hello

While those die-hards still at it were busy stitching, I was able to press out one of my pink octopi to look like a real quilt block. There IS hope that I will be able to complete this project and like it.

Here is my first Kapa Hawai'i Orchid block, pressed in place and ready for machine appliqueing. Posted by Hello