How Can I Miss You if You Don’t Go Away?


I love this quote, and laughed my head off when I first heard it, although I don’t know who came up with it.  That makes it all the more fun.  My younger sister was breathlessly laughing as she quoted this and other similar quotes, or samples of pseudo country song titles.  As with anything that makes us laugh, there is usually an element of truthful self-examination that allows us to laugh at ourselves where we would otherwise felt rebuffed or insulted.  Or maybe it represents a tiny wish we carry in our heads that we would never admit to. I would have loved to hear the preceding conversation!

I’m not sure you can say the same thing about cicadas. Every 17 years they make their appearance.  As luck would have it, I visited Jersey when they surfaced in 1996, and was exposed to the deadly but fascinating racket.  It prompted childhood memories of summers past. Fortunately when I visited Jersey again this year, in 2013, although it was time for them to join the party, I left before they made their grand entrance.  Not that I don’t like cicadas.  There is a compelling story – Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury – where they play an important role for the main character, Douglas.  Well worth the read.  So while I know that they can drive you crazy with their wings, they do have a role to play in our lives that isn’t always so bad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGuess who finally finished the “scarf” she was weaving?  Only it ended up becoming sachets, refillable, which were gifts for some special people in my life.  I have a few more.  For some reason I was able to cut it all into sections without too much trauma.  Well, it was for a good cause. The sewing part was easy once I figured out a pattern  where they could be reopened to replace the lavender when it runs out of scent.  Disposable tea bags keep the lavender in place.  After I had washed the superlamb and the wax that coated it, the fabric was actually pretty soft and had a comfortable drape.  Live and learn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARemember that shadow-weave class I took?  Well, I ended up with a pretty decent length of 5 inch wide fabric that screamed to have something done to it.  Here you see a square cut of the sample.  There was enough warp for 18 people to walk away with their own samples, and for me to have  eight extra squares to play around with.  There I went with the scissors again.  Some habit I picked up!


I am using a baseball stitch so that I don’t have too many overlaps and thick seams.  I’ll line it and make a purse.  The strap will require a bit more brainstorming.  Plumber’s line comes to mind.  Chains in JoAnn’s seem a little too heavy.  I still have the thrumms, so if I get really creative I can probably use they some way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow before you get to thinking that all I weave is blue, remember that my favorite color is really grey.  Now I am working on weaving a blanket to someone else’s specifications, which is really scary, because usually if a project doesn’t come out for what I had envisioned, I can always find some other purpose.  Creative license.  In this case, the project is a volunteer effort called Ground Cover.  I hope that I will have a positive outcome.  I have 4 different colors that have to be woven separately, in 10 x 10 squares, then assembled to become part of an overall picture.  It’s really quite cool.  Where I have series of solid covers, I am weaving strips and I have two so far that have matched the correct dimensions.  Three more to go!

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La Mia Famiglia Riunita in Jersey

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA long time ago  I used to get really excited about flying in a plane.  New places, new adventures, new people.  These days it’s more like boarding a bus, so I wasn’t too excited about getting back in the air. Eventually the excitement of getting together with my brothers and sisters – that would be all five of us together at the same time in the same place – pushed those airplane blues behind me.  Leaving bright sun and the warm 90’s behind us in Phoenix, Denny and I boarded the tepid skies and landed in Newark airport just ahead of series of rainstorms that would dance across the eastern seaboard during our visit. Mostly everyone was working, or trying to squeeze a day off here and there, so for the most part we were on our own during the daytime.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first night was with niece Liz, her husband Tim and their two cats Mischief and Mayhem.  In between Liz’s place and my sisters were a few sites I hadn’t seen for years.  Guess who used their lifetime senior pass to get into the Thomas Edison National Historic Park, West Orange?  Ah, the privileges of having been around the block a few times.  A lot of cool stuff is located in the Edison Laboratories.  Denny is here playing an instrument made from PCV – nice mellow tones!  The birth of the motion picture industry was right on these grounds.  It was fun seeing all the tools they used to develop what is now a mega-digital experience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have to admit that there were a lot of places I did not recognize – it really hampered getting around town.  Every once in a while a street name rang a bell, prompting mental strolls down memory lane.  The GPS came in handy more times than I care to admit.  After all, these were supposed to be my old stomping grounds.  Yet all those shortcomings were soon forgotten – with Jersey in full spring mode, every where I looked there was some flower or bush that was in full glory and that was a really special treat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApshawa Preserve in West Milford still bears Sandy’s scars, which tested our scouting acumen while tracking the now rustic trails.  Our two hour jaunt was a good excuse to head on to the Dairy Queen we passed while getting lost getting to Apshawa.  And that evening we had the honor to hear my nephew Ryan play the trumpet in the West Milford High School Highlander Wind Ensemble.  They opened for the Ridgewood Concert Band 30th anniversary concert, featuring jazz legend Rufus Reid.  We got to meet Rufus and shake hands – overall it was an amazing experience.  The high school ensemble was incredible – they sounded so professional.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Wedding.  The reason (or should I say excuse?) for the trip.  Rain made good on its threat, but didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.  Thunder during the ceremony only added to the festive atmosphere – we were a joyful crowd, thrilled at being all together to celebrate such a happy event.  No sourpusses or party poopers.  Anne and Adam’s happiness was infectious and shared by all.

Image - Version 2 (1)Can you believe it, after all these years, the five of us made it to the same geographic area at the same time.  Here we are, not so bad for the wear and tear.  This is a post wedding activity shot.  It was Mother’s Day, there was a break in the rain, and temperatures were falling rapidly.  We planted flowers on my mother’s grave, and brought ice cream and sorbet for everyone from Applegate Farms in Montclair, just as in the old days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way to Anne and Adam’s reception, we kept seeing signs for The Sterling Hill Mine in Ogdenburg. Never had heard of it.  Isn’t that the way it goes – you live someplace for what seems forever, you leave, and when you visit you find out about all sorts of things you missed while you were living there.  It was a Monday, it was FREEZING (as in 55 degrees, can you believe it?) and we were under ground (where it was a milder 58 degrees) for over an hour.  It was really interesting.  The irony of it all was when I saw that the stamp mill that was located outside the museum was made in California, by the company that was the original owner of the plant I worked in, and the mill had been used in Arizona, where I am currently living.  I have come full circle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy last job in Jersey (before moving to California) was in Parsippany, right near Morristown, which always held a dear spot in my heart.  They’ve been really busy sprucing up all the spots where Washington, you know, “slept”.  I didn’t feel too bad when I learned that some of these tourist destinations hadn’t been in operation while I was living in Jersey.  While at Edison’s Labs, they mentioned Samuel Morse developed the telegraph right there in Morristown.  So we spent time at Historic Speedwell where it all happened, right along with all the working farm activity during that era. The Ford Mansion and Washington’s Headquarters were in the same neighborhood, so we toured there as well. A late lunch at Pomodora’s topped off the day.  What great pasta!  And the pizza was good, too!

There were so many people and places that I didn’t get to visit with or see.  My profoundest apologies to those I missed.  One consolation is that Jersey will be there, ready for another visit, when the budget says go.

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Shaw Butte

It’s still Spring outside, I keep telling myself, as the temperatures climb closer and closer to the eighties and trampoline in and out of the 90 degree range.  In April, Acacia trees have dropped their yellow furry balls and are settling into green.  Palo Verde trees and Creosote bushes are blooming like a vengeance with their yellow petals and white furry balls.  Bursage bushes blooms purple, enticing the reluctant bees to start gathering nectar for honey.  Ocotillo finally burst their green and launch bright orange tips that remind some of butterflies, others of bird of paradise.  Take your pick.

That said, it was a pleasant 79 degrees as we hit the Shaw Butte trail at North Mountain, Phoenix, Arizona.  This has been my fourth climb there so far.  Five (5) miles round trip, 850 foot elevation change.  Which makes for some good aerobic calorie burning.  It’s gotten a little easier, although I still need to huff and puff my way up the trail.  The great thing is that there are plenty of fantastic views to enjoy from all perspectives.  This trail is a great panorama and worth the climb – don’t let the cell towers scare you off.  Quiet reigns supreme at the top. Butterflies hang out while you soak up the view and cool off with the breeze.

The people at the Visitor Center are knowledgeable and helpful with trail information.  There are some awesome nature photos along the hallway on the interior.

Lace up your hiking boots before it gets too hot!

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Gnocchi, or, The Yolk’s On You!

What fun I had with my friend Karen as we hit Gina’s Homemade to have a lesson on making pasta!  I grew up in an Italian household, so making pasta from scratch is not a new thing for me.  Now, with all the cooking shows and slow cooking movements, I love to explore other methods and learn maybe some new tricks and non-traditional approaches.  After all, it’s not like there are five of us kids hanging around ready to help coat the kitchen in flour.  Now it’s me and Denny, so the portions are smaller. A more elegant and efficient path to the boiling pot is always welcome.

The type of flour used is always a casual mention, a point of mystery, and I am still wondering whether it’s a matter of the 00 or All Purpose, or just knowing what you are doing with the egg to flour ratio.  One woman along my journey said just sift All Purpose about 4 times and you have 00.  It does come out a lot more fluffy!  The flour, that is.

Gina has a nice, sensible approach to making pasta, and has a comfortable (if not crowded “cause the room is small) atmosphere where you are free to excel or just go along for the ride.  Her cheese is pretty awesome, too.  Not to mention the marinara sauce she made.  A bonus in the class is that while we were waiting for our dough to rest, we made gnocchi.  Now that is the all time Italian comfort food dish, at least in my book.  We are talking “knee-OAK-key”,  NOT “ga-knock-ee”.  Yes, pronunciation makes it taste better.

One sacrosanct rule in my family was NEVER use eggs.  Using eggs was considered cheating – weighting down the potato dough needlessly, making the gnocchi rubbery.  Dare I admit what I am about to write?????  Can this be my mother’s daughter that will set the following words down for the world to see?  I ate Gina’s gnocchi that included eggs and it was GOOD.  Light as a cloud.  O my god – is the world as I know it going to end now?  We always used a one-to-one riced russet (Idaho) potato to All Purpose flour ratio to keep it all intact and good.  Gina uses a 2-2-2 approach.  Two pounds of russet/Idaho, 2 eggs (large) and 2 cups of flour.  She rices the potatoes and even rolls the dumpling on the tines of a fork like my mother did.  Ridges make for good sauce adhesion.

My world has changed.  But not my pronunciation!  Mangia!

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Standing in the Shadows or High Noon Weaving

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the reasons I bought my “traveling loom” was to take workshops in the area.  The criteria was that it would fit in my Mini.  With the seats down, and the front seats all the way up, it wedges in just right.  Which brings me to March 21 – 23, when I joined the Arizona Desert Weavers and Spinners Guild  in an “Exploring Shadow Weave” workshop, taught by Jannie Taylor.  For those of you who don’t know about shadow weave, it’s a really cool weaving structure and technique.  Think of the capes woven by Galadriel for the Fellowship in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movie.  I have attempted shadow weave on my own, but with little success.  Success is in the eyes of the beholder, for sure, and I certainly have a very complicated imagination as compared to what I could do on a four shaft loom.  That said, I held my expectations close to the vest.

Not to worry.  My sample pattern wasn’t so bad (except for a treadle tie-up mistake).  There were eighteen looms in the class, so there were plenty of patterns, variations of patterns, and a wide assortment of looms to experiment on.  Four, eight, twelve – even a computer-driven loom (that would be Janie’s, of course) – made for a fiber feast.

You learn a lot about a person when you work on their loom.  It’s like writing code, or driving someone else’s car. It makes for an interesting read on how to treadle or follow the flow of their structure – and it even bleeds into how a shuttle was wound, and the type of shuttle the weaver uses.

The days alternated with making the rounds on all the looms (each with its own pattern and color way), and sitting in rapt attention while Janie shared her wisdom.  Shadows in life are tricky – the trick is to learn how you get a perspective of where you are in relation to any object by reading its shadow.  High noon produces point zero – no shadow.  Symmetry or duplication is based on either creating a mirror image or just reproducing the initial pattern.  Aha.  So simple.  Point or rounded transition.  You get to decide!  Or follow a published pattern.  Either way, it opens a new world of perspective.

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Six Word Memoir

In response to the challenge initiated by Franci Weinstein:

One forward, two back, enjoy view.

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Hiking Through the Land Slide

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReal rainfall this winter has precipitated an explosion of wildflowers this spring in Arizona.  It’s been a spectacular sight, especially since last year (our first winter/spring) it was pretty dismal and barren.  As if by magic, we are discovering new trails in the area that are not only free of cost, but walkable for our level of “expertise” (or not, ha ha).  We were warned that the temperatures would climb to the 90’s, but it capped at 85 during our morning exploration of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Trails.  Morning cloud cover definitely helped and we were able to finish as the sun was breaking through.

Naively, we thought we’d hit the Tom Thumb Trail.  A lot of people talked about it (and now I wonder if they ever actually hiked the trail), so we thought it would be doable.  Well, at 10 miles round trip and a 1,385 elevation change, in addition to an “extremely difficult” rating (people use mountain climbing gear on this trail), we opted for the “moderate”, 5 mile round trip Marcus Land Slide trail.  And it was perfect.

Four Peaks, Superstition Mountains, wildflowers, raptors, incredible rock formations – great memories!

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Driving to the Moon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn mornings when I turn on Jomax driving toward Cave Creek, the moon is sometimes hanging in the early light sky – a straight line target smack in front of me.  It makes me feel like I can drive to the moon if I keep going far and fast enough.  And so it’s going with all my projects in work.  The end is a lot closer than it seems. but they are scattered to the point of no focus.  So I am scrambling to get at least the lace shawl done.  You can see the lumpy mess right here.  Lace is always lumpy until it comes off the needles and is blocked.  This is my second pattern with the same yarn – the first pattern was a disaster on wheels.  This one is working out much better.  I have a fighting chance of getting it done this weekend, and out to the victim – I mean recipient – in time.  Fingers crossed!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the meantime  I am STILL working on the piece that was going to be a scarf and may just turn out to be something else. Another life lesson where something has a different idea of what it wants to become versus what you had planned for it.  Two broken threads.  Technically they’re fixed but I can tell where the break occurred.  I have about 60 inches left to weave, and at 20 picks per inch it’s slow going.  At least I like the pattern.  On the whole I am amazed that I was able to get the warp into a good tension, what with working with such thin threads for the first time.  I attribute my success to the tips I picked up from my fellow weavers at the study group weave-ins we’ve been holding.

My other loom has about 2 yards of warp left from the Exploring Shadow Weave workshop I took last week.  It will make a great sample for the Ground Cover project I signed up for.  I have to figure out the best way to finish the edges so that the squares are easily and sturdily sewn together.  All the yarn is bought and project planning is underway.

Believe it or not, in between all this, I am still making it to Jazzercise three times a week and also getting a good hike at least once a week with Denny.

As Peter Pan says – turn at the second star to the right and fly until morning!

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Off the Loom

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA At long last, the never-ending pillow cover project has been completed.  I started it in January.  All linen, four colors – green and blue in the warp, brown and natural in the weft.  Surprisingly, it didn’t take much for me to take the scissors to the cloth once I finally decided how I was going to sew it.  Buying the pillow forms finally got me going on it.  Sewing the seams on the machine wasn’t bad, either – as long as I followed my mother’s voice (pin, baste, sew) it worked like a charm and the whole thing was done in no time at all.  One wonders what all the fuss was about in the first place!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat said, here is the other pillow I created from the square I made in the February Weave-In.  Using three different warp materials in a stripe format was as interesting approach that I would not try again.  I felt it looked a lot better on a horizontal construction versus vertical.  Many thanks to my cousin Marcella who suggested the trim and how I could accomplish that.  And the backing is a store-bought cotton-linen blend that I got for a steal.  It will do for a lot of other projects in the long term!

Here is the back of the pillow:


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe loom looked so sad undressed that I had to create another warp.  So here is a superlambswool point twill that is much finer thread than I have worked with in the past.  No pain, no gain.  After all the aggravation I went through on the linen, I went to the extreme in the lashing and tie-ups for this project.  So far it is paying off.  I have been especially encouraged by seeing all the great work that is being accomplished by other weavers in the WordPress community. Lots of fun stuff, to be sure.

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Weave-In January 2013

VStreetSceneThere is nothing more wonderful than being able to weave in an environment where there are like-minded people who share your passion and are open to exchange ideas and help.  It takes me back to the thousands of hours I spent sewing with my Mom and sisters.  We shared successes, learned from our failures, and created many things in the process.  Some things came out exactly as envisioned.  Others were improvisations.  Each was uniquely our own.  Copying something wasn’t the point.  There was always some adjustment to the pattern – a way of folding or seaming or finishing that showed our personal hand.  That is what made it special, made it ours.

And so I like to approach weaving the same way.  There are so many techniques and patterns that it can be overwhelming when sitting down to choose one to be your “best friend” for the duration of your project.  Frankly, I do get disappointed when the pattern doesn’t look “quite right”.  Or when I lose a thread because of tension.  But that is when my brain starts thinking and working around the dreaded (and often undefined) Plan B.  That’s when I start to recognize the style that makes that piece of weaving mine.

I see it with my friends when we are weaving together.  Our approaches are unique, guided by our inner inspiration.  And that is why this time I didn’t stress out over the results of my latest project during our second Weave-In.  I had visions of glory with a wall hanging based on a picture I took in Venice in 2004.  Handspun yarn, of many different types, patterned with the colors in the picture would come to life.  I would use a crackle-inspired twill with “Italian treadling”, tying the whole concept together.

Well, I used the most inappropriate warp color with a sett that did not work to balance the warp and I ripped it all out because it was so ugly.  And so humiliating.  And then I used the warp thread as the weft and finished the piece.  How it shrinks when washed will determine what I make with it.  It will be made into something.   It looks rustic.  It is not an indication of my potential as a weaver, although it is evidence of the wisdom I still have to learn in this art.

During this particular session, each of us took a fork in the road we had planned.  Ann’s double-weave pickup took on a new life. Alice worked with a new wool blend.  Sybil racked up sample 4+ with the collapse weave, and Virginia re-sett a conference weaving class piece to experiment with design.  That one tea break or small observation from another person was all it would take to get back on track, or in another and better direction.

To quote Jackson Brown “Don’t confront me with my failures.  I have not forgotten them.”  And I add, because I have learned from them, and embrace their role in my life.

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