Pronounced Di-NON-a-kus


Waiting for the paint to dry on the back porch.

The boy decided on his Halloween costume fairly late- he usually has lots of ideas, then settles on something with a few weeks lead time. Not this year- On Tuesday, he decided on dinosaur, specifically a Deinonychus (which I want to day dino- NIGH- kus but he assures me I am wrong. He is the expert.)

You would think that was a week of lead time, but not really, because he had an event Friday. Ack!
His thought was originally a wire framed puppet mask/hat thing, and he sketched and planned, and kept asking me to go wire shopping. He wanted the jaw to contain his candy bag, so people would be throwing candy into the dinosaur’s mouth.
It seemed complicated. And maybe not safe, what with the wires, and the not being able to see, and a jaw full of candy…
On Wednesday night we had a brainstorm. Why not sculpt it out of foam, instead? We made a paper model, and started cutting up a blue closed cell foam camping pad that the kitty has been chewing on.

We chose 2 shades of spray paint- light brown and olive drab, and sprayed in a kind of mottled pattern.  The fact that the pad was scarred and battered by the cat meant that it looks like the dinosaur has been in some battles…maybe that’s just my imagination.

Say, did anyone ever tell you your pupils are round? That’s a dinosaur pick-up line.

The part I love the most is the eye detail- we used some cat’s eye marbles and duct tape to create lids and folds. I put mineral oil on the marbles, so the paint wiped right off.
To make the hinged jaw, I used 2 buttons sewn together through the upper and lower jaw. The Boy can see through the mouth. The lower jaw can tuck into the top to qualify as a hat for events where masks are banned.

Quote of the day, “Wow, Stephen Spielberg would say you’re a naturalist.” I think he meant natural. I hope he meant natural.

Luckily for me, the Boy has just decided that he can wear his camouflage hoodie, so I don’t have to worry about how to make the rest of the dino tail, body, arms and etc. That’s a relief.

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Lemon Ginger Honey


Ginger, Lemon and Honey for a soothing drink.

This summer on Pinterest I saw a recipe for mixing sliced lemon with honey, and letting it age in the fridge. When your throat is sore, you add a spoonful to hot water and sip. I made a batch with chunks of ginger, and it is wonderful. I have researched it a bit, and the original post on Pinterest seems to have come from the blog “A Little Life.” The trouble with Pinterest is that it is hard to find sources for things. Also, the other problem is that it is a time suck. An incredible time suck.

The original instructions said that it kind of becomes “like marmelade” in the jar. It does, kind of. I used it at all stages of” marmeladification” and now that my jar is almost empty, I can’t say I can tell a difference between the first week and now. I do know that after my first cold of the year, my jar is empty, and I am making another batch.

My 6 step method:

  • Scrub a lemon- organic is probably better, since you are ingesting the peel
  • Slice thinly and place in jar- 1 small lemon is good for a pint canning jar
  • Peel and chop a thumb sized knob of fresh ginger root, add to jar
  • Cover in honey
  • Use a chopstick to get rid of air pockets, if necessary
  • Seriously, you don’t have a chopstick floating around?
  • I got a really nice set from my secret santa last year. Secret santas are the best.

See- another one of my “not-really-a-recipe recipes”

As the lemon juice mixes with the honey, it becomes very liquid, then becomes more viscous. My first jar has maybe one more scoop left, which might be a bad thing, considering this cold.

Radical Apple Pruning


 

We have a giant apple tree that has been butchered in the past, then ignored, the butchered again, by the city tree trimming crew. It is probably about 50 years old, and most of the apples are developing way up high, because the major branches go up high, then bend over…after researching a lot, hemming and hawing and reading, online and in books, I have decided to renovate it. Slowly, over a few years, I’ll take off major limbs and train young branches to be the new major limbs, at a more convenient height. Convenient for me, not the squirrels.

Let me tell you about apical dominance… there is a chemical in plants that causes the  buds on the end of every branch to be dominant- it turns off the other buds back down the line. This chemical, auxin, is affected by gravity. If the end bud on a branch droops down, there aren’t many buds that will be activated. There will be buds on the tree up high, before the branch starts to droop. So we have very few apples down where we can reach them, and a bunch up high, which then fall down to be half-eaten by squirrels.

 

Another thing about apical dominance is that when the end bud is cut off,  other bud back down the line are activated. This is good when your pinch back flower chrysanthemums to make the plant bushier, so you get more flowers in fall, but not so good when the city crew whacks back your apple tree on a semiannual basis.

Since it is a standard tree, not a dwarf, it is really big. Branches are growing up into the power lines, and the city crews want to prevent that, but they don’t care much about the tree other than that. Every time the city comes to prune, they take out the center aggressively, which causes it to grow back aggressively. It’s pretty bad. There are seven major limbs, up to about 6 inches in diameter at the trunk, and they have kind of an umbrella effect, going up, then curving way down.
I have thought about it a lot, planning, and checking, and finally decided to take off one of the seven major limbs. Next year, I will take out another, never removing more than 25% of the leaf area at a time. Hopefully this will prevent major regrowth of water sprouts. I wanted to clean up the south side of the tree, since that is where I have recently sited a veggie bed and I wanted it to have more direct sun.

So, I chose my first limb, sawed it, then spent some quality time wondering how to get it down without seriously hurting myself. Seriously. It was tangled in so many other branches that even when it was cut all the way through, it just sat there.  I moved the ladder and made some more judicious cuts, then spent a pleasant afternoon cutting it into reasonable lengths for our chimenea.  Next year, I’ll select another limb from the North side of the tree, and work on that one.

The most helpful book for me in this project, which has mostly been a project about thinking, is Cass Turnbull’s Guide to Pruning. Tons of illustrations, tons of examples, written by a woman on a mission.

Pretty petal baby hat


I had a precious little ball of pink sparkly yarn that I thought might be enough for  a baby hat…but not quite. I was in a bit of denial- I cast-on and started knitting, thinking that lace would stretch it out and I would get most of it done… yeah. No. Rip out and start over, with a bit more pre-planning.

I’m a little obsessed with the sparkly yarn- I have a pair of socks for myself, a pair of socks for someone who doesn’t read my blog, so I can talk about them all I want. I made a pair of sparkly blue socks for Kate as well. I love this yarn. It’s just so subtly sparkly- it isn’t ugly Christmas sweater sparkly, it just has a thin filament of sparkle spun in. Sigh. It is from Knitpicks, if there happens to be a sparkly yarn-shaped hole in your life. I think the gray would be really classy…

Anyway, I had a golf-ball sized chunk of it left, and a great-niece on the way, and I thought, what better use for this perfect little… shoot, not enough.  I wasn’t in complete denial, as I went along I considered ways of making it work. Maybe making it deliberately little- just a beanie? Nah.  Maybe a rapid flat-topped decrease on top, like a pillbox. Nah. Then I thought about it backwards and inside out- what if we considered the pink lacy part to be a cuff, to folded up over a white background? that way the lace would be more defined, and there would be some adjustability in the ear coverage.

My favorite lace pattern is Old Shale, also called feather and fan. It is easy to memorize, and makes the cast-on edge scalloped and ruffly. I originally got the pattern from The Twisted Sister Sock Workbook (not affiliated with Dee Snyder), but it is a traditional pattern- no one really owns it.

If you are considering learning a different lace pattern for a shawl or something, and want to practice, this could work as a swatch, and you have a hat at the end of (can you tell I hate swatching?)

This pattern is adjustable, either by using bigger needles and thicker yarn (perhaps for a big sister?) or by adding repeats to the old shale pattern- each repeat is 11 stitches, which makes about 1 and 1/4 inches in the circumference of the hat.

Some people test really well on being able to visualize and rotate shapes inside their minds, seeing how puzzle pieces go together, spinning parts around in three dimensions.  At least one of my brothers is gifted at this.  I am not.

I had to concentrate really hard to figure out how the heck I would turn this around so that the pretty side of the lace would show through the holes in the lace of the folded up cuff part, but I wouldn’t have to construct the entire hat backwards…. I am sure the mental exercise was good for me.

Then I was sitting next to the hillbilly goldfish pond, enjoying the sunshine, and had a thought. What if I just turned it inside out, and knit in the other direction? Yeah. That works. There is kind of a hole from going the other way, but since I changed colors there, the hole can get filled in with the woven-in ends.

Gauge is not super important here- baby heads come in a wide range of sizes- this is for a baby due in December/January. I would make it bigger for babies born at different times of the year… with my gauge, using this yarn and these needles the hat is 16 inches around. Your mileage may vary.

Squeeee!

Knitpicks Glimmer sock yarn in carnation

Knitpicks Stroll sock yarn in bare

size 3, 16 inch circular needles

Old shale lace pattern- cast on a multiple of 11, join round, being careful not to twist.

round 1 and 2 knit

round 3 perl

round 4 knit two together 2x ,* yo k 4x, knit 2 together 4x*

Cast on 99 stitches in pink and work old shale pattern as written for 3 repeats. (Making the third row perl makes it so the edge does not roll.) Then continue without perling the 3rd row until the piece measures 3 inches from cast on edge- which will be scalloped. Or, if you have a tiny amount of contrast yarn, go until you run out of yarn, as I did.

Switch to white yarn. Turn the piece inside out, so that the wrong side faces you. You will have to go backwards over what you have knit. There will be a slight gap, but you have to weave in the ends if you change colors, so the gap will be filled.

In the next row, knit two together 3x spaced evenly, 96 stitches so that you decrease to 96. Knit stockinette 4 inches, and begin decreases. Place markers every 12 stitches-* knit to 2 stitches before marker*, and knit two together, 1 row plain*. You will hit a point when your circular needle is too long, either add another circular, or switch to double pointed needles. Repeat these two decrease rows until 8 stitches remain- break yarn and sew end through all remaining stitches, then weave in ends.

Wash in wool wash and block.

Start on a hat in big sister’s favorite color…

Two shades of green, and a leafy lace pattern…

Citrus- you can grow that


The leaves are falling, must be time to cover the tomatoes and bring in the houseplants.

Freeze predicted tonight-the radio people keep saying “temperatures in the 30’s” which seems unfairly vague. It is  time to move my pots of citrus inside for the zone 5 fall and winter. and much of spring, if we are honest.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, now 12, I bought a lemon, a lime and an “orange” tree for about 10 bucks, for all 3 from a catalog- don’t remember which one. I thought I was getting a huge bargain- when they arrived, they were twigs.
The biggest was the lemon, which had a trunk as big around as a pencil, and about 4 leaves. The other two were like q-tips. So I planted them and waited.
I didn’t just wait- I had a baby, and watched the baby grow, and taught middle school, and then had another baby and watched that baby grow, and when that baby was walking, the orange tree bloomed.
Heavenly smell, tiny bb sized fruit, that grew to marble sized, then…what’s smaller than a ping pong ball? A big marble? Yeah, big marble-sized. They ripened to orange, but remained small and sour.
Since then, the lemon has produced actual real sized lemons, but not very many, and the lime has produced actual real sized limes, but, again, not very many.
Why bother, then?
They are pretty plants. I have other house plants that don’t do much of anything other than purify the air. When these bloom, they smell amazing, even on the patio. In the Boy’s room, which has the best light, they fill the air with fragrance when they bloom in the winter. The novelty is another reason- one year I brought them to school for the winter, when I had a classroom with windows, and students would bring their friends in and dare them to eat the oranges.
Order them, or if you have a good local nursery with citrus, buy there. Once they are big, they take a big pot- mine are about 12 years old now, and are in 14 inch pots. I use a dolly to move them outside in the spring and back inside in October.
When they come in, spray with the hose attachment of the kitchen sink, under the leaves especially to get rid of any hitchhikers. Looking at this, I realize it might make more sense to spray them outside, instead of in the kitchen, especially if by “hitchhikers” I mean “tiny bugs.”  Which I do.
Citrus like bright indirect light, and humidity. Much like myself. Not too much humidity, though. Dry air can make them drop leaves. It hasn’t been cold enough for the heat to come on very much yet, so there isn’t too much difference in humidity bringing them inside. The Boy’s room has a fish tank which evaporates enough that the plants do okay.
You don’t have to buy a plant, if you are in it to experiment. A neighbor of my mom’s planted a grapefruit seed, or her toddler did, probably close to 50 years ago. It grew big enough that they couldn’t fit it in their house, so they donated it to the public library, where it brushed the ceiling in the children’s section when I was a kid. Don’t know if it is still there.