Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

A Dream of Xocolate

Filed under: ABC - Along,Blogfriends — folkcat at 5:37 pm on Friday, January 12, 2007

Yesterday, Gryphon and I set out to do our usual Thursday errands, which include a stop at the Post Office to collect our mail. There was a box in his hands when he came back out to the car. It was squat and brown, with the smirking grin of a famous online shopping site on the side. “Huh?” I thought as I watched him walking, ” we didn’t have anything coming this week, did we?”

As Gryphon came closer, I realized the box looked a little more worn, a little more taped up, than the original shipper would have done.

Gryphon leaned into the driver’s side of the car before getting in. “Do you know a…Mar-jeen?” he asked.

“Oh, that’s Zeneedle!” I exclaimed. Snatching the box from his hands, I started tearing away at the tape. Gryphon calmly sat, buckled in, and began driving.

A luxurious aroma of chocolate filled the car. I opened the flaps, and found a gift bag filled with Xocolate delights.

Xocolate Delights
Clockwise from left: a small box of assorted chocolates; a tin of Dagoba Hot Chocolate; a caramel and chocolate-dipped pretzel rod.

For the mysterious box with the smirky grin did, indeed, contain my prize from the Z is for… contest, in which my name was randomly drawn from all those ABC-alongers who had completed the entire alphabetic challenge.

I gazed in wonderment at the goodies in the bag, then reluctantly set the box in the back seat. We were, after all, just setting out to tend to our chores, and these treats deserve to be consumed at a moment when I can devote my entire attention to them. With all I had planned for the next two days, I’d have to wait until the weekend before indulging.

Last night, I dreamed I was handed the most delicious mug of hot chocolate I’ve ever smelled. Somehow my dream self resisted the urge to sip too soon – a burned tongue would do nothing to enhance the experience, and I wanted to be able to enjoy the flavor fully. The dream ended as I cradled the warm stoneware in my hands, and inhaled the aroma deeply.

Sometime this weekend, I’ll be setting the scene to repeat that experience in real life. Only this time, I don’t want to wake up before actually tasting the chocolate!

Thank you so much, Margene and Anne, for both the ABC-along and this wonderful prize!

Not With a Whimper

Filed under: ABC - Along,Announcements,Blogfriends — folkcat at 12:23 pm on Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Well, now this is a good start to the New Year! Seems I’m the random drawing winner in the “Z is for…” contest over at Zeneedle! Thanks, Anne and Margene!

Real post later as I start to tell about my holidays – see you then!

Z is for ‘Zzy-‘Zzy

Filed under: ABC - Along,Folkcat's Fotos,Spinning — folkcat at 3:56 pm on Thursday, December 21, 2006

Yup, I said ‘Zzy-‘Zzy. Which is short for DiZzy LiZzy. As in, my Lendrum wheel that just came home for the first time last weekend!

I’m still new at spinning on a wheel, and it’s taking practice to learn to draft so continuously, while coordinating your motions with a proper treadling speed. But it’s coming along.

I decided to take some glamour shots of ‘Zzy-‘Zzy to share with you, and I wrote a little musical tribute to go along with them. It’s to the tune of Sharp Dressed Man by, of course, ZZ Top

Spinning Wheel

'Zzy-'Zzy Treads

Two treads, big wheel
And I don’t know just how it’s gonna feel.

'Zzy-'Zzy Wheel

Soft wool, fast fly
I don’t need a reason why.
I’ll be spinnin’ fast, it makes my head reel
Coz every girl crazy ’bout her spinning wheel.

'Zzy-'Zzy Bobbin with Yarn

Romney, merino
Any fiber, I’ll give ’em a go

'Zzy-'Zzy Orifice

And cotswold, tussah silk
I’m spinnin’ fibers just as smooth as milk.
I’ll be spinnin’ fast, it makes my head reel
Coz every girl crazy ’bout her spinning wheel.

'Zzy-'Zzy Flyer

Laceweight, worsted chunk
Thick or thin, no spinnin’ funk!

'Zzy-'Zzy Footman

Ply it, skein it up
Soft and warm, I’ll knit it up
I’ll be spinnin’ fast, it makes my head reel
Coz every girl crazy ’bout her spinning wheel!

'Zzy-'Zzy

Y is for Yankee Webcam

Filed under: ABC - Along,Folkcat's Fotos — folkcat at 1:30 pm on Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A little west of Wilton, along Route 101, is the town of Dublin. I don’t know what else Dublin may ever have been known for, but I know it best as the home of Yankee Magazine.

Another reason I know the place is that Yankee Magazine has put up the YankeeCam, a live webcam showing what’s going on in their parking lot. (If you go to that link, you’ll find the most current image, as well as a guide to the different structures visible in the picture.)

Normally, there’s not a lot going on there. But for those interested in Geocaching, (a live treasure hunt of sorts, using GPS signals to find things), one variant of the game involves locating webcams, getting your picture taken by them, and then posting that as proof that you found the cam.

Sometimes, this involves having a friend at home with the computer that you can call while you’re standing in front of the camera. With the YankeeCam, though, if you can be there right at the top of the hour, the photo is saved at the YankeeCam website for the next 24 hours.

So one day, my friend Vicki and I were bumping around Peterborough (a little east of Dublin), and I had an idea we could pop over and get the picture.

So we did.

yankee webcam.jpg

That’s me on the left in the purple shirt. As you can see, it was a nice, sunny day, May 5, 2005. Our next destination was back home, where I captured the photo for posterity.

The YankeeCam is one of the more reliable ones I’ve seen on the web. Go ahead and check it out. It’d be a great way for you folks in warmer climates to get a taste of white Christmas – assuming we get one ourselves!

X is for…

Filed under: ABC - Along,Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Television — folkcat at 2:10 pm on Wednesday, November 29, 2006

xena12 logo_edited.jpg

I can’t believe I’ve been fretting over what to do for “X is for…!” At least I remembered in time that, in addition to the Connie & Carla movie props and costumes I wrote about before, I own several costume pieces from the popular television series, Xena.

Xena Cotume Pieces on Display

This is how they were displayed in my bead store, back in the fall of 2004. The cropped jacket and the belt are the costume pieces here, and the piece of burlap hanging in back with rattan is actually a prop window covering used on the show.

I never was able to pin the jacket down to a specific character – more likely, it was worn by an extra someplace in a crowd. I did find that the Gabrielle character, Xena’s co-star, wore a top made from the same green beaded fabric in one season.

The belt is the best documented item I was able to acquire. It was worn by a savage warrior character in an episode called “The Price”.

Still from "The Price" showing costume belt

Here we see Gabrielle showing mercy to a dying enemy warrior on the battlefield. If you look at the bottom right, that’s the belt.

The other two costume pieces I have from Xena are these bracelets.

Bracelets from Xena, Warrior Princess

One is strung with simple pressed glass beads on elastic. The other? Even more anachronistically than the first, it’s made of beads strung on safety pins!

How could they get away with that on Xena? The suspension of disbelief, for one. Plus, it was probably worn by an extra in the background somewhere, and if visible on screen at all (I’ve never managed to spot it), it was for only a fleeting moment and probably in motion. So it would look like crude metal and rough gems, if anything.

So there we have it – I was able to come up with a personally meaningful “X”, without resorting to “Xmas” or “X-treme” or anything like that! Yay, me!

W is for William

Filed under: ABC - Along,Folkcat's Fotos,Gryphon — folkcat at 2:35 pm on Saturday, November 18, 2006

The love of my life. The reason why I can do it all. The reason why it’s worth doing it all.

W is for William
Gryphon at his computer, 1998

Other than our wedding photo, this is the oldest picture I have of my husband. It’s taken at least seven or eight years ago; as you can see, his hair is darker and still long enough to put in a ponytail.

I know I call him Gryphon on the blog, because that’s his “alter-ego”. Much the way Folkcat is mine. But his actual name is William Louis Kubeck.

When his parents were expecting him, they thought they were having a girl, so they had no boys’ names ready. Then, he suddenly arrived, born on his father’s birthday. It only seemed natural to name him after his father. As he grew to adulthood, he appeared to be very like his father in every way – physical appearance, mannerisms, etc. Gryphon has often told me he considers himself and his father to be “twins born 32 years apart.”

V is for Vanity Plate

Filed under: ABC - Along,Folkcat's Fotos — folkcat at 12:43 pm on Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gryphon and I just saw the best Vanity plate ever this weekend.

v_is_for_vanity_plate.jpg

No, I’m not going to tell you what it says!

The sad part of the story is, after I took the picture of this great Vanity plate, we continued driving home. I looked over at Gryphon and said, “you know, I haven’t the slightest clue what I’m going to do for ‘V is for…'”

Some days, the brain cells may all be there, but very few of them seem to be firing…

😆

Trivia about Vanity Plates: New Hampshire was the first state ever to offer them, sometime back in the 50’s. It’s said that we have the highest per-capita rate of Vanity plates in this state, with 10% of all vehicle registrations being customized plates. Which ties in with another great plate I saw once, which simply read, “1IN10”.

Here in New Hampshire, we’re allowed certain punctuation marks in addition to numbers and letters. “&”, “+”, “-” among them. Most people just use them to differentiate their “DEBI&” from the already registered, unadorned “DEBI” they really wanted but couldn’t get. I hate when the punctuations aren’t used cleverly – I think it’s the artist in me that sees “DEBI&” and reads it as “DEBI AND” and says, “that doesn’t mean anything”.

Clever uses abound. Let’s say that the fictional NH driver, Andrea, wants to put her first name on her plate, but finds that “ANDREA” is already taken. Just use “&REA”, and you’re set! There was once a used office furniture store in a nearby city that called themselves Surplus Office Equipment. You guessed it – their truck’s plate read “SIR+” .

As for Gryphon and myself, I have a Vanity plate, he doesn’t. Mine reads, not surprisingly, “FOLKCAT”. We’d get “GRYPHON” for him, but it’s already taken!

U is for Underbelly

Filed under: ABC - Along,Folkcat's Fotos,Rats! — folkcat at 1:22 pm on Monday, October 16, 2006

I’ve shared a good number of pictures of the Rattie Sisters here, but seldom have you seen their Underbellies.

This is the sort of angle we usually manage:

Two Squirmy Ratties
Two Squirmy Ratties

Star is the one with the black and white markings on the left, and Sable is the black rattie on the right.

Their Underbellies are as different as their top sides.

Star Rattie Underbelly
Star’s White Belly

Star has an almost completely white Underbelly.

Sable Rattie Underbelly
Sable’s Two Hearts

While Sable’s Underbelly shows that her black fur is actually mixed with brown. Plus, she has two white patches that rather look like hearts! (The top one is obscured by Gryphon’s thumb.)

Be assured, no Ratties were harmed in the taking of these photographs. Though they certainly don’t like being held upside down in any way! Both Star and Sable were quite pleased when they were released, and they immediately climbed up to the highest point they could reach – Gryphon’s shoulders.

Their indignity was not suffered without reward, however. As soon as we were done, they got yummy Strawberry Yogurt Chips. It’s amazing how quickly a slight can be forgotten by a Rattie when Yogurt Chips are involved!

T is for . . .

Filed under: ABC - Along,Daily Life,Folkcat's Fotos,Spinning — folkcat at 3:53 pm on Thursday, October 5, 2006

Trees

I know, I know – I live in New England, it’s autumn, and a week away from the expected peak fall color. How predictable can I be?

Well, I know how lucky I am to live right in the midst of what so many people have to travel miles to visit. Or only ever dream of.

My first autumn in New England, I looked around as Gryphon and I traveled somewhere and said, “It’s like driving through a bowl of Fruit Loops!”

Fruit Loop Trees

And it really was true. At the right moment in the season, with the right mix of deciduous trees, all the colors in Fruit Loops are shown in the leaves. Even the purple and pink.

I’m lucky in that some of the best trees for color are right down the street from me.

Trees in Wilton

This one, for instance, is right across from the Fire Station (which would be just out of frame on the right).

Trains

For one brief, shining moment (okay, a couple of years), Wilton was the focal point of the Wilton Scenic Railroad.

Wilton Scenic RR

This Tourist Train was the dream of local businessman Stuart Draper. He bought a couple of old Budd Rail Cars, had them refurbished, and rode with them all the way from somewhere up in Canada.

The joke was that he sold one of his businesses, the local telephone company, and used the proceeds to buy a big train set to play with. The fact was that Stuart was sincerely interested in developing Wilton as a tourist destination, and the Wilton Scenic Railroad was his contribution to the cause.

And it worked. People came from everywhere for the opportunity to ride these distinctive rail cars through small New England towns, past lakes, and into the fall foliage.

Mt. Monadnock as seen from the Wilton Scenic RR

It didn’t hurt that a decent panaromic view of Mount Monadnack, the most climbed mountain in the world, could be seen from the train, too.

After the 2005 season, we were all looking forward to riding the rails again in 2006. Tragically, however, Stuart passed away from a sudden heart attack in January. The train was his passion, not his widow’s. The Budd Rail Cars are up for sale, with a faint hope that a buyer would want to continue them as a local scenic rail.

Train

Meanwhile, as ever, Wilton still sees the regular passage of working cargo trains. There’s a crossing in town of the type that they’re required to blast the whistle for – two longs, a short, and a long is the sequence. And that whistle is loud!

Twilight

Twilight Moon

Was massively impressed with the colors of the twilight sky as I drove to spinning guild last night, so even as I drove, I tried to capture it with the camera.

The clouds and the moon (that little dot caught in the web of utility lines) made a scene of mottled silvery grays and pale blues. Loved the color scheme. Of course, it was nearly impossible to get the colors right on the camera. (FYI – the band of blue across the top is from my windshield.)

Twists

As in spinning. I decided that, having finished the pink/yellow/orange yarn (which is still waiting to be washed and hung), I should begin another project. So before heading to spinning guild last night, I grabbed this ball of roving and my Lucite CD Spindle.

New Twist - Raffle Prize Roving

The roving is the prize I won in the raffle at the 2005 NH Sheep & Wool Festival. Sorry, can’t tell you what species it is.

New Twist - Spinning in Progress

It’s spinning nicely, though. I decided this time to aim for a 2-ply fingering weight, so I’m working thicker than the bright pastels that I’m also spinning up.

The main technique experiment here is that I’m not pre-drafting the fibers at all – just drafting directly from the rope as I spin. It’s a good test of my drafting skills, I think. And so far, I seem to be passing the test.

Time

No photo for this one, though goodness knows there are enough clocks in the house I could have snapped a shot of.

Time makes the list, though, because it’s a commodity I have precious little of right now. At least as far as my Christmas knitting list is concerned.

I’ve come to a conclusion that I need to step up the focus on the holiday projects. Which for you folks means, fewer pictures of knitting progress for the next couple of months. Sorry!

Thursday

No picture for this one, either. But today is Thursday, and it’s Knitting Around at Panera night.

This group is really developing nicely – we have anywhere from 3 to 6 people every week, and we all seem very comfortable chatting with each other. We’re approaching our first anniversary, too – as of the first Thursday in November, we’ll have been getting together for an entire year. Hooray for us!

S is for Spindles

Filed under: ABC - Along,Spinning — folkcat at 12:14 pm on Monday, September 11, 2006

I suppose it’s an obvious choice for the ABC-a-Long, but spindles were the focus of my few fiber-related activities this weekend.

First up, it was time to make it possible to 2-ply my pink and yellow singles up. With a spindle full of yarn, I needed an easy way to get the fiber off the spindle and into a center pull ball. Luckily, I’ve seen enough homemade Tensioned Lazy Kates on other blogs that I was able to cobble something up for myself.

Cardboard Box Lazy Kate
Homemade Tensioned Lazy Kate

I started with a small, sturdy cardboard box, and removed the two long flaps. The short ones I folded to the inside. I cut a notch in the top of one short edge to on which I can rest the neck of the spindle. Opposite that, I cut a hole in the folded-in flap that the hook end of my top-whorl can be pushed into.

Tensioning Mechanism
The Tensioning Mechanism

On the notched side, I needed a way to keep the spindle from popping up out of the notch. So I poked a hole on each long side. Chaining together three rubber bands, I threaded the ends of the chain through the holes, and slipped a large wooden craft pick through the chains. Some clear packing tape serves to keep the picks in place, yet the rubber band end of the pick is still free in case I ever need to replace the chain.

Homemade Tensioned Lazy Kate in Action
The Lazy Kate in Action

Aside from being so lightweight that I was obliged to hold it in place against the table with my foot to keep the entire setup from popping around, it worked quite well. I was able to readily wind a center-pull ball from my yarn.

As you can see, there’s room in the box to add slots for another spindle, if I need to. I’m not sure it would accommodate my CD spindles, those having a much larger diameter than the wooden whorl ones, but I could always apply the same approach to a larger box.

Colorful Spindles

Look at what blossomed at Chez Folkcat this weekend!

Photo CD Spindles
Colorful Photographic Spindles

No, that’s not seven entirely new spindles in addition to my previous CD spindles. That’s the same CD spindles, decorated with my own photographs. I took CD labels formatted for the inkjet printer, added my photos, laminated them to protect the images, and then applied them to the discs.

The images are: l. to r., front row: 1. Gryphon on a hiking trip, 2. mushrooms in a local park, 3. one of my needlefelted bowls, 4. a pink chrysanthemum, 5. chocolate covered cherries at a local candymaker’s shop. In the back row, you see duplicates of the chrysanthemum and the chocolates.

I did come out of the weekend with an entirely new spindle to add to the collection, however.

Thistle Photo Spindle
Thistles

The photograph is one I took of some thistles last summer. I loved the image, the colors were great and the layout was perfect, but the focus was a little blurred. So I applied an artistic effect to the whole thing to give an impressionistic style to the image.

But that’s not what’s most exciting about this spindle!

Lucite Shaft CD Spindle
Lucite Spindle Shaft

Ever since we made the first of my CD spindles, I’ve been looking at the marriage of wooden dowel with sparkly CD and thinking something was wrong with the picture. I knew we could get lucite rods at a local hardware store – in diameters to match the dowels – and so an idea was born.

The lucite is a bit harder to drill for the hook, but not by much. The synthetic material is denser than the wooden shafts would be. So where the wood shaft CD spindles weigh just about 1.46 ounces, the lucite shaft weighs closer to 1.95 ounces.

Gryphon and I are working on another variation that would give the futuristic look of the lucite rod, but bring the weight down – and even allow a little ability to shift it by a few fractions of an ounce. But that’s not ready for primetime yet, so you’ll have to wait!

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