Wednesday, May 28, 2014

From the Bookshelf: The Faraway Horses

I do owe you a report/review on The Last Queen, which I promise I'll get to, but I need to get caught up on one final vacation read, Buck Brannaman's The Faraway Horses.  I picked this up (thanks to wifi at our rental house!) on vacation for a nice easy read.

If you aren't familiar with Buck Brannaman, he's the horse trainer who Robert Redford's character in The Horse Whisperer is based on, and he served as a wrangler/trainer/consultant for the horses in that film as well.

While I was mostly interested in this book for the horse-related anecdotal stories about his life (he began as a kid trick-roping prodigy with his older brother), as well as various horse-training tidbits, the human story of a kid who really had a tough go as a youngster and where he is today would be of interest to anyone who likes memoirs, I think.  His mother was a severe diabetic and wound up dying when her two boys were fairly young, although they had already entered the rodeo/trick roping circuit by that time.  Their father, who was an unstable personality even before his wife died, drank more and hit the kids more after her death.  Buck and his brother eventually wound up in foster care and from his account, it was the second chance that saved his life.  His foster parents instilled a lot of traditional, basic good human values in him, including the value of hard work, a kind word, and treating creatures with respect.

The book follows his career as a horse-trainer from his late teens up to the current day, and for someone who personally has had a couple of strong personality horses (albeit ones willing to work with a human partner, but definitely with their own sensibilities about who was right and who was wrong in a dialogue between human and horse), and one horse who had a lot of baggage from his prior career on the racetrack, I really appreciated the stories about working with different horses with different needs.  If nothing else is certain in this life, it's that everyone - horse/human/whatever - is an individual who needs to be approached in that way.

I found this a great summer read.  Interesting, entertaining, nothing too cerebral - and a nice portrait of a man who has devoted his life to working with horses.  Having read his memoir, I'd be interested in seeing some of his classes, or just having him over for dinner.  He seems like a decent, genuine guy who likes horses - hard for me not to like that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

10 on Tuesday: Things I did this weekend

1.  Took some naps.  It was lovely - cool and rainy here for a lot of the weekend.
2.  Worked on my final men's-sized sample for The Book.  Almost finished!
3.  Knit on another Book sample - a shawl this time.
4.  Made some great pulled pork BBQ in the crockpot.
5.  Had a nice visit with friends for Memorial Day itself.
6.  Worked my first set of "real schedule" shifts at my new job post-training.
7.  Finished reading The Last Queen.  (Another post on that to come this week.)
8.  Watched a couple of good movies with D.
9.  Got accepted into the Heart of NM Fiber Festival in late September (woot!).
10.  Kicked back and relaxed!!  The whole point of a holiday weekend, I think!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fairwater Cardigan

Finally some knitting I can actually talk about!  I finished knitting this sample LAST July, if you can believe that, but between one thing and another that took priority, I wound up putting this on the back burner through the winter but finally got the grading finished so it can be released.  

This is the Fairwater Cardigan.  It's knit with a laceweight yarn for the body, and a fingering weight yarn for the garter stitch stripes and bands.  I used Wooly Wonka's Thalia Lace and Nimue Sock, both merino/silk blends, in the colorway Ensign.

The cardi is knit from the bottom hem up to the armholes.  The sleeves are knit in the round, then everything is joined and knit up thru the yoke to the neckline.  I chose to just put buttons at the yoke, but it would work just as well with a row of buttons the entire length of the front.  The body of the sweater is slightly sheer, very lightweight and drapey, and the sweater has a pretty slight A-line shape to it for easy in layering over a tank top, tee or summery dress.

A really big thank you to my friend, Christina, who shot photos for me, and for Amy for modeling for me.

I've been wearing this one quite a bit and it reminds me I need to knit some actual garments in my size to wear!  Something I rarely get to do anymore!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

10 on Tuesday: 10 Things You Want to Try

1.  A really good, really old bottle of wine.
2.  High-level dressage.

3.  Freeform quilting.
4.  Weaving on a Jacquard loom.
5.  Making beef Wellington.
6.  Reading an entire book in it's original language - other than English.
7.  Designing a house.
8.  Watercolor painting.
9.  Horse wrangling for the movies.
10.  Knitting up my entire stash.  (HA!  The least likely to happen on this list!).

Monday, May 19, 2014


We had a lovely weekend here - just about perfect late spring weather.  D and I did some yard clean-up jobs and I am hoping the last of the snow/cold weather is done around here.  (Last week's upper 20s and flurries were very unkind to several things in the veggie garden!)  I replanted my basil, which hadn't made it thru 2 cold snaps, and I picked up a few plants to pop into the boxes on the deck and a couple of other planters we have.

This past week also marked the end of a long-time job for me - my last day was Tuesday.  While I will still be working, it'll be a new company (which so far seems to be MUCH less likely to make me crazy to the level I had been with the old one), and I'm cutting back to 24 hours a week, which is ALSO much less likely to make me as crazy as I had been with the prior schedule.  D and I celebrated with a nice cookout kind of dinner and some wine on Friday night, which was a great way to kick off the weekend as well.

Since my work schedule is moving around a bit (I usually worked 5:30 to 2:00 every day, and now I'll be on 10-4 instead), my new schedule consists of getting up at the same early time, but now I make a cup of tea, sit and knit for an hour, then go to the dye studio for an hour or two, go for a run, hit the shower and then start work.  One trick that I've found works great for me is to allot a certain amount of time - 60 minutes, 2 hours, whatever - to a specific task and then set my phone alarm.  That way, I am not worrying about "Oh, I need to get up and go start X", and I can have a really focused "power hour" on something without distractions.

I'd been using that to good effect with my Book knitting - I've gotten the front and 2 sleeves done on a men's sweater and I'm ready to tackle the front now - plus most of the body of a shawl for The Book, AND started another lace shawl for an indie release in the last week.  This weekend, while I did do a lot of knitting, I also snuck in 90 minutes of sewing time, which felt absolutely great to be doing something just for fun!  I'm still holding out the hope I might have this pretty decorative winter quilt done in time for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary in December of this year, so that's what I worked on.  I didn't feel like sitting and working on applique (of which there is a lot in this quilt), but I did get pieces for some flying geese patches cut and started sewing those.

Hope your weekend was great too!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

From the Bookshelf: A Dark Dividing

While on holiday, I finished reading A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne.

I'm not gonna lie to you - this book is creepy and weird.  I'm not necessarily against those things, but the people in this story are really not right.  The most normal of the characters are the two sets of conjoined twins born 80 years apart that serve as the bookend points for this work.

I read another book by this author that combines historical mystery with historical fiction and some interesting intertwined story lines.  I really enjoyed that book (Ghost Song), which was just the right blend of spookiness and intrigue that I kept turning the pages.  I wanted to like the concept of this book - I just couldn't get there.

The basic storyline is follows a mystery surrounding a pair of conjoined twins born at the turn of the century, whose story unfolds in bits and pieces throughout the book from diary excerpts from their mother, and another set of twins, born 25 years or so ago, one of whom supposedly died very young.  The remaining twin is an artist/photographer who is unaware she ever had a twin.  At the center of the story is a 19th century workhouse, Mortmain, and a novel written about a young girl who is stolen from the workhouse and sold into child prostitution.  Storylines begin to cross as the book unfolds, and a link between the pairs of twins becomes evident as these storylines eventually meet.  In between all of that, you have a psychotic nurse, the other (bitter and slightly "off) second twin of the more contemporary set, a freak show, child prostitution and a hanging.

A disappointment for me for this one.  I was hoping for more of the good and less of the not-good.

Next up, The Kindness of Strangers, Mike McIntyre's account of hitchhiking across America in 1994 with not a penny in his pocket.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

10 on Tuesday: 10 Things You Wish You Knew More About

1.  Graphics.  I wish I had a better skill set for things like creating logos, doing layout, creating ads.  Working on it, but definitely a long way to go!
2.  Local plants.  Growing up back east, I spent a lot of time with my gram who loved to garden and knew the names of just about every plant you could point out to her, wild or cultivated.  Things are different here in NM.  Lots of local plants I just am not as familiar with as I'd like.
3.  Mechanics.  Most cars today are all run via computer, but it'd still be nice to know how to take a motor apart and get it back together with a diagnosis of whatever ails it.
4.  Math.  Exciting, I know.  I have a bad math phobia, helped along by a little numbers dyslexia.  I'd love to have an easier approach to dealing with math in all it's forms - I'm not talking quantum physics here - long division would be enough.
5.  Crochet.  I'll admit it - I have really limited skills here. It'd be nice to know something beyond a single chain with some proficiency.
6.  Pastry.  I'm sworn off the carbs, but I've always envied the gorgeous pastry creations in upper end bakeries.  I'd love more skills in that area, just for bragging rights, I guess.  Most pastry confections I've tried have been candidates for the Pinterest boards of shame.
7.  Perfume blending.  A pretty esoteric subject, but I'd love to spend some time learning more about how different scents layer, how you can get each layer to wear at a different rate, and some basics on the craft.
8.  Computer programming.  Just in general.  How the heck do these things work anyway?
9.  Nutrition and metabolics.  My DH is a font of knowledge, having been essentially pre-med with a degree in physiology, but I'd like to know more for myself.
10.  Early 20th century.  I'm fairly well read on most of the 19th century history, but I definitely could use more time spent on the early 1900s, both US and European history.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hawaii: Part 2

Wednesday, D and I decided to do a little driving tour, so we headed back up the east coast to just north of Hilo to take in a botanical garden.  There are several in the area - this part of Hawaii gets a lot of rainfall and it's definitely more tropical feeling than the Kona side of the coast, so a great place for tropical plants.  We opted for the one without the ziplines and Segway rides; just the plants for me, please.  This garden was originally an estate that has been donated into a trust and it's absolutely GORGEOUS.  It houses all kinds of trees, but also literally thousands of plants, nicely laid out and marked well.  You can spend as much time as you want wandering down the gorge to the ocean, and then back again.

From exotic plants like this hanging from vines....

To some gorgeous waterfalls from multiple little creeks on the property.....

To oddities like these dwarf ornamental pineapple plants.....

We really enjoyed our several hours here.  We finished off the day in Hilo to pick up a few supplies for dinner (it's hard to beat freshly caught seafood right off the boat!), and walked around the downtown marina and park there before heading back to the house.

Thursday, we decided to head off to see the volcano.  We had kind of a circuitous route since the access road that is within a mile of our rental house had been taken over by an eruption in the last 10 years that consumed a lot of real estate including the highway, although there is no lava currently flowing into the sea for viewing in any location.  We trundled out to Volcanos National Park, where you can view the volcanic caldera and see multiple steam vents as well.

We then opted to take the long and winding drive down to the sea (where it was about 30 degrees warmer than it had been up at the summit), so we could hike out and see the petroglyphs. 

There are tons of these scattered throughout areas of the park, but this particular viewing area let you walk through them on a boardwalk so they wouldn't be damaged, and let you see the designs up close.  I really enjoyed this portion of the trip - extremely interesting and filled with history!

Friday was kind of an "in car" day, as we had an evening (9:00 p.m.) flight out of Kona but had to check out of the house around 10:00 a.m.  So we took our time driving back across the island, stopped for lunch, and then drove around Kona and saw the downtown/resort areas of it.  After a LONG commute back, we landed in ABQ around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and headed home.

We really had a great vacation.  Just the right mix of relaxation and entertainment, lots of nice downtime to spend together, and a great way to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary as well!  We both are planning for it NOT to take another 10 years before we do something like this again.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hawaii: Part One

We are back from a week-long trip in Hawaii!  Long-time friends will note my last full week off was when D and I went to Ireland.  Which will be ten years ago as of July - FAR too long for an actual vacation for us!

We vacationed on the Big Island, flying into Kona last Saturday.  We had decided to rent a house for the week, which was actually much closer to Hilo (on the eastern coast), but since we were trying to use D's points with Delta to cover the tickets, we took what we could get and that got us into Kona.  Knowing we'd have about 3 hrs of driving across the island, we also used some of his Hilton points (yeah... he travelled a lot last year), and stayed at the Hilton Waikolola Resort for a night after we first arrived.  We got upgraded to a lovely oceanview room with a balcony for our 1-night stay there.

We woke up to some gorgeous early morning sunlight and hung out for a while on our balcony.  This is really a stunning resort - tons of walking trails and multiple restaurants and some of the few sandy beaches in the area (most are the volcanic rock).  We took our time getting packed up and then headed east through the grassland areas that raise Kona beef, and continued on to the east coast, south of Hilo.

Our rental house was just one lot away from Kehena Beach, which is about 10 miles south of the small (and funky) town of Pahoa.  The beach isn't exactly a "beach".  There is a space with black sand that's about the length of a half football field, but you have to clamber down a pretty steep set of rocks to get there.  It doesn't stop the locals, but D and I aren't really beach lovers anyway, so we were mostly looking for a secluded place near the water to relax and enjoy the week.

Here's the current view from our front deck of the house we rented - a much nicer view apparently since about 2 years ago the lot between our rental and the water fell off into the ocean, taking the structure with it.

The roofline you see over at the left is a covered portico to park the car under since the area is surrounded by coconut palms, banana palms and papaya trees, which have a habit of dropping fruits to the ground in the winds off the ocean.  It was glorious to wake up in the mornings and hear the ocean crashing against the rocks right across the street.  If you walked onto the now-empty lot, here's the view of the coastline and Kehena Beach to your left.

Monday, we mostly took it easy, puttering around the house, doing a bit of grocery shopping, reading a lot.  

Tuesday, we signed up for a great personalized tour from one of the locals.  She's a massage therapist and personal trainer, but Dawn-Marie also does 4-wheel drive tours of some gorgeous out-of-the-way locations, so she picked us up around 9:30 on Tuesday a.m. and took us to five of her favorite spots for snorkeling and seeing the sites.  We hiked through coconut groves and under towering ironwood trees, and she pointed out some of the local sea life - she cautioned us against damaging certain types of coral in the tidepools, pointed out a couple of giant green sea turtles, showed us some crispy citrusy-salty seaweed that was good to eat - and then took us out to some private land she has permission to tour. 

The drive out was amazing itself - I wish I had better photos, but it was a muddy 2-track that we were jostled around on while we drive under a maze of low-lying, intertwined branches.  It was like something out of The Shire - gorgeous and green and lush, but like being in an underground tunnel at the same time.  We came out onto a gorgeous black rock coastline with tons of little hidden inlets of water, where you could safely swim and snorkel.  D jumped right in and tried the water out.

The area has an amazing natural arch formed at the end of a lava tube, and we sat and watched the ocean crash against that for a while, then finally hiked back to the car.  Dawn-Marie obviously knows and loves the area.  She had all kinds of local information to share with us, from native plant life, to native terms and customs important to the local folks.   A busy but VERY fun day!

We capped the evening off with an ordered-in sampler tasting menu from a local caterer (who lives right behind the rental house, so she walked over the trays of delicious-smelling foods - from pork steamed in banana leaves, Kona beef, and a deconstructed local-caught Ahi tuna sushi, to a hand-made macadamia nut ice cream), shared a nice bottle of wine, and enjoyed the company of the local green gecko population (who were mostly outside, but also quite friendly and didn't mind perching on the interior walls to hang out with us in the evenings either!).

More to come.......

Tour de Fleece - Week 2

I'm pretty happy with my progress for the Tour so far this year!  I've been trying to have a goal of 15 minutes of spinning a day, o...