Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fox Stitch-a-Long, part 7

Hi everyone! Last time I was SOOOOOOOO CLOSE!!!!

Well, a week later and the stitching was DONE! Happy dance time!!!

But I wanted to challenge myself this time... I mean, Fox is one of three William Morris needlepoints, and the other two have been hidden away, stitched but incomplete, in the basement for years. Here they are, all laid out for the first time ever:

It would have been waaaay too easy to just roll them all up... but thanks to this stitch-a-long, I had a "deadline"!

I went out to find backing fabric, trim, zippers, and thread ... boy, fancy fringe trim is expensive. As expensive as the backing fabric I found, and of course I needed much more. 

And in a frenzy of zipper setting, trimming, and sewing ... I finished making up the cushions! More happy dancing!!!

Before you ask, no, these won't be outdoor cushions.... but I couldn't resist photographing them outside in the sunshine on the patio.  Here are the pillows in the order I stitched them. Here's Raven:


And our good friend Mr. Fox:

I am SO HAPPY with how they turned out, and thrilled to see them on my aubergine-colored couch. 

Now, I know what you're thinking. What's next?

While poking around my local thrift shop I found a nice cross-stitch kit that I think my Mom will like. It's much less involved than the needlepoint I've been doing, so feels like a good summer project. The previous owner had done a little work, but it appears that all the thread is there and it has even been sorted. So I look forward to doing this project for the next little while. 

Thanks everyone for all the support and encouragement on this project! 

Now, there are others on this stitch-a-long who will be doing their own happy dances -- click on over to their blogs an you will be amazed at how talented my fellow stitchers are!

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, LucyAnn, Kate, Jess, Sue, Constanze, Debbierose, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Helen, Steph, LindaMary Margaret, Heidi, Jackie, Hayley, Tony, Megan and Timothy.

Our next check-in is in three more weeks!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

reJOYCE! It's Bloomsday!

Last fall when we came up with the idea of reading Ulysses in 100 days, timed to end on or just before Bloomsday, it seemed like a great idea -- a fun challenge. Well, in the end it feels like more of a chore than a challenge, but I sure am happy to have it done!

My reading went in fits and spurts -- sometimes the language and the writing pulled me along at a fast clip, and I gobbled up the pages with glee. And sometimes it was torture and I read and re-read every word in an attempt to process it. And to be honest I doubt I really "get it" -- at least, get all of it.

There are editions of Ulysses that have references and footnotes -- lots of them. It seems as though nearly every word or phrase or at least sentence has a reference. Joyce seems to glory in showing off his erudition -- mixing references to Shakespeare, the King James Bible, Greek mythology, and Irish history in with puns in multiple languages, popular culture, then-current events, and of course  plenty of onomatopoeia (heighho heighho, heighho heighho...).

I'm sure most of the references went over my head, but I did find the music hall songs amusing (kay, eee, double-ell-why) and understood the references to Parnell, Kitty O'Shea, the Home Rule movement, and the foreshadowing to the Easter Rising. So I've got that going for me.

I thought I would spend more time reading in the pub during this project -- something I really love doing, but I only did twice ... both time while Wil was away on business.

When we started planning for this project, we researched which version of Ulysses we should read. The consensus was that the Gabler Edition -- named after its editor, Hans Walter Gabler -- was the most complete and most thorough. Amusingly, a couple of days ago Rebecca (a fellow reader) forwarded me an article Simon (our other member) had sent her about a scholar named Kidd who launched a spirited critique of the Gabler Edition that, apparently, was quite a scandal in the late 1980s.

Kidd put together detailed tables showing "errors" in the Gabler text -- literary criticism was HOT -- letters and articles flying back and forth in the pages of the New York Review of Books. On the strength of this, Boston University set up a Joyce Institute, with Kidd as the chair. The goal? To make a "perfect text" -- "as Joyce wrote it".

But there's one problem -- Kidd never produced the text. Years passed, he was eventually dismissed, and "disappeared". Several former colleagues assumed he was dead, and had died penniless. (He hadn't. But he had moved to Brazil.) Still, reading the article made me feel... conflicted about the edition I had read. Full of errors? GREAT. Not that I would have ever known, but still...

While sitting beneath a portrait of Joyce in my local Irish pub (see picture below -- honest!), I was amused while reading the Afterword. Apparently Gabler was attempting something different from the "traditional Anglo-American approach" ... by focusing more on what Joyce DID -- as in, wrote, edited, commented on -- rather than what he supposedly MEANT in the text. It's an "author-based, rather than text-based edition". I find this fascinating, if the minute of varying typescripts, notes, and editions make my eyes roll back in my head a little.

This lengthy quote by a reviewer of the Gabler Edition essentially nerves as a MIC DROP.

many of the most widely publicized attacks are baed on premises about textual editing that the general reading public takes for granted so that when a critic proves that Gabler has violated these guidelines, his editorial competence is implicitly or explicitly called into question. It takes a reasonably specialized reader to realize that the weakness of such arguments, which seem logically convincing on their own terms, is at the level of the premise, since Gabler does not share many of the premises on which the critique is based. 


The Afterword goes on to explicitly call out Kidd ("Gabler's loudest and most persistent critic"), noting that "all his pages of supposed analysis, and the sixty pages of tables and charts of Gabler's alleged errors and inconsistencies in his 'Inquiry' into the edition managed finally to demonstrate only two errors."

Now, look, criticism is easier than creation -- and perhaps if Kidd had produced his "definitive edition" we would have read that. But it's interesting that Gabler's edition is still seen as the one to read.

I don't think I'll ever read it again. Though I can see why people do.

Regardless, this completes another of my 101 in 1001 days projects -- and feels like a big hurdle to have gotten over.

Next books -- finish volume 1 of Macaulay's "History of England" -- another slow slog for me -- and then Darwin's "Variation Under Domestication"... both big, meaty books. We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

House Proud: We finally stained the patio!

Just a very quick update here ... we've been talking about jazzing up our old concrete patio for a few years now. I didn't want to use paint, but then discovered that there is such a thing as concrete stain that you apply on top of concrete. (I had always assumed that concrete stain was mixed into the wet concrete as it was poured...)

We have been enjoying our own back garden more and more, so decided that this was the year to figure out how to stain the patio. Spoiler alert: it was absurdly easy. 

First we identified the product we wanted to use, and the color. I wanted a rich terra cotta / red color, and found this on Amazon:

We also bought a cheap pump sprayer to apply it. Oh, and of course, we also ended up buying a pressure washer ... which, to be honest, we have already used for other things, like the day when Wil power washed a decade of collected dirt off the entire house...

We mixed the stain at the "thin" ratio: 1:8 rather than 1:4. We followed the direction to shake well, and then filter -- which I think may have filtered out some of the pigment because our first coat was very very thin.

We ended up applying the stain twice ... because somehow our bright sunny day turned to a downpour not long after we applied it, and it washed most of it away. To be clear, this wasn't the stain's fault! 

A second bottle procured, we went at it again -- this time mixing the stain to the more intense 1:4 mix, not filtering first, and just hoping for the best. And the result? Maybe more "ketchup" than "burnt Sienna", but I still really like it:

It's much more orangey in the sunshine (above) than on a cloudy day (below):

But it's fun and warm and has added a really nice pop of color in the garden. Next up: some new accent cushions and a fresh coat of paint on our adirondack chairs!

This was one of my #101in1001 projects, so I am really happy to have it done. That makes 11 out of 101 projects complete, with several more in progress.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Hike of the Week: Boulder River, again

On Saturday we needed to get at least 3 hours of hiking in, so we decided to revisit a trail we had cut short last year. Back in April 2017 we got a couple of miles down the trail and then turned back when it started crazy hailing. 

We arrived at the trailhead behind a couple of other cars, again so happy to have our Subaru as we watched two other cars -- both SUVs -- inch their way up ahead of us.

We set out a little after 8, stopping to register first, of course!

The trail was lovely and quiet, and we had it to ourselves. 

Everything was a million shades of green:

Soon we entered the wilderness, and the trees got bigger.

Soon we reached the pretty double waterfall -- though we didn't spot the earlier waterfall. Overall the trail was drier than last April -- it wasn't until much farther along that we really appreciated our Gore-Tex boots!

As we continued along, the trail moved closer and farther from the river, sometimes giving us pretty views.

We eventually passed the point where we turned back last year, and kept on going ... amusingly, we didn't know what to expect from the trail, or what would be at the "end".

I really loved these little flowers:

And these tiny fern fronds, each with a tiny "fiddlehead":

We continued on along the trail, still completely on our own.

Seriously, look at those little ferns all standing to attention!

Eventually the trail seemed to end ... or at least fade away .... at some very nice campsites on the river. How nice would it be to wake up to this?

We had a snack ("take off your pack and have a snack!"), took the requisite #bootie, and relaxed in the solitude.

After about 15 minutes, we decided to turn back. Met a few hikers headed our way, included two young men resting near a stream, massive packs on their back. We told them how great the campsites looked, told them they were close, and moved on. Then we passed a group of women with daypacks, and then a large family hauling a lot of camping equipment. We said, "Well, those two guys will still be able to have a quiet campsite." And then, another mile or so along, we passed  a large group of kids and some leaders ... who asked us how much farther to the campground. So much for solitude, guys!

We made our way back to the trailhead, surprised by just how many people we passed as we got closer and closer. But as for me, I just admired the flora.

The trailhead was rammed, and I was glad that I had backed into my spot so I could get out easily.

As Wil noted, there's no big "payoff" at the end of this hike, but it's a nice gentle wander through the woods with a pretty river and some waterfalls.

Boulder River Trail

9.4 miles
91699 feet elevation gain

Postscript: That One Guy and the Eels @ Showbox Market

Saturday night we went to Showbox Market to see Eels. And as much as I love Eels and thought they were amazing ... I was really impressed by the opening act -- That1Guy. He's a one-man band of sorts, playing a remarkable instrument he designed and built himself that he calls "The Magic Pipe".

He's funny, funky, and weird. I especially liked "The Moon is Disgusting" ... "the stronger the elbows, the weaker the knees". Listen for yourself!

Saturday was a loooong day, but a good one. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Fox Stitch-a-Long, part 6

Hi everyone -- it's that time again! Hard to believe it's been three weeks -- I think time speeds up in the summer. Just a quick note this time because we're off to a wedding.

Last time I had finished the leaves and done a few stitches of the dark navy background. And now?

So close!!!

I had really, really hoped to be doing a happy dance this check-in ... but I am well on my way.

Just one large-ish area, and the little spaces between the leaves and flowers. So close!!!

I predict that one or two of my stitch-a-long buddies have also almost completed their projects. It's been really fun to see what they're working on and how much they are accomplishing! Check out their blogs here:

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, LucyAnn, Kate, Jess, Sue, Constanze, Debbierose, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Helen, Steph, Linda,  Mary Margaret, Heidi, Jackie, Hayley, Tony, Megan and Timothy.

Our next check-in is in three more weeks!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Today's milestone...

Several weeks ago I spent a silly day on a photo shoot for Planet Fitness, one of my agency's clients. Silly because it was a fun day out of the office playing "model" for a day. In previous gigs I often went on photoshoots, but usually play the role of creative / brand... so being the "talent" was amusing. And, basically, I and a group of my colleagues hung out in a big gym all day, occasionally spending 15 minutes or so on a machine, in a locker room, walking through a door, high-fiving, etc. I can't show you any of the photos here yet -- they haven't been used on the store site or in their social media, so they are still embargoed -- but I'm sure I won't be quitting my day job. Still, a good day.

Eight hours is a long time to hang out in a gym, but I noticed how nice and welcoming the gym was. And then a few weeks later I decided that I liked it enough to join. So after I worked out that I could join online and hardly have to speak to a person (yeah, dumb, but there you go), I signed up on a Monday night and presented myself bright and early on Tuesday morning.

It's been 5 weeks since then, and I'm absurdly proud to report that I've gone every work day -- all 25 of them. As a little accountability project, every day I take a picture of my Tootsie Roll -- did I mention that Planet Fitness has buckets of Tootsie Rolls at the front desk??? -- and send it to Suz.

Nice, eh?

I am sure I won't keep it up forever ... heck, I've already decided not to go on Memorial Day. But it's been nice getting back into the swing of it.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Fox Stitch-a-Long, part 5

SPOILER ALERT: I finished the leaves! I finished the leaves!

There was a lot left to go at the last check-in ... still some green leaves, and almost all of the blue.

But then I finished the green leaves ... AND THE BLUE LEAVES.

Again, it's a little hard to see on the front, but you can see just how much has been filled in on the back!

Oh, and ... I started to stitch the background. I feel like background stitching is probably the most boring part of any needlepoint, but I love how it makes the leaves look even richer and brighter.

Here's a closeup of the top edge -- see how the leaves look brighter next to the navy blue background?

I can't wait to fill the rest of this in -- it's so satisfying!

All of this acanthus stitching and William Morris thinking reminded me of something I read in graduate school -- that the green dyes used in Victorian wallpaper and fabrics contained arsenic and that people were being sickened and even killed by their exposure to them.

I found a book at my library by Lucinda Hawksley, entitled Bitten by Witch Fever: Wallpaper & Arsenic in the Victorian Home.

It's a gorgeous book, filled with rich, full-color images of Victorian wallpapers.

Each chapter cited original sources from the time as they came to the conclusion that the arsenic in wallpapers and fabrics was dangerous, and detailed the eventual shift away from using these dyes. It also gave information on all the papers pictured -- who produced it and when, as well as whether or not it tested positive to arsenic. Again, spoiler alert: all of the papers in the book tested positive. 

The book even included one of my all-time favorite illustrations from Punch -- I had a copy of this at my desk all through graduate school:

I had always taken as gospel the primary source material I had read -- especially the growing outrage in the popular press of the day.

But here's the thing: according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring from 2004 (republished by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2005), the "mass poisoning of Victorians by arsenical poisoning" was determined to be an urban myth. I had gotten caught up in "fake news" of the day ... as clearly, have many historians.

On another note, when we were up visiting the tulips two weeks ago, I picked up an acanthus of my own. Being overly indecisive (and planning some big garden work) I decided just to put it in a big pot for now. I look forward to watching her grow!

And speaking of things that are growing; my fellow stitch-a-long members are also working on their growing projects. I've loved seeing what they're working on and how much they are accomplishing! Check out their blogs here:

Avis,  Claire,  Gun,  Carole,  LucyAnn,  Kate,  Jess,  Sue,  Constanze,  Debbierose,  Christina,  Kathy,  Margaret,  Cindy,  Helen,  Steph,  Linda,  Mary Margaret,  Heidi,  JackieHayleyTony, Megan and Timothy.