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    Tuesday
    Jul192011

    N-Ennui

    I love the French word for boredom—ennui. It sounds so . . . French. At first I thought it would be a good word to describe this summer, but it's not, really, because my to-do list is a thousand bullet-points long and I am far from bored. So I am calling it "n-ennui," because it perfectly describes my state of inertia at the moment. (I am probably breaking a thousand linguistic rules and angering lots of Frenchmen and -women by doing that. Apologies.) 

    The MT job search is not going as well as I had hoped. I tested with one company and got as far as a phone interview, but received a "thanks but no thanks" e-mail from them yesterday. Last week I sent out at least two dozen resumes. I haven't heard back from any of the companies yet. I am told this is pretty standard, but it doesn't make the waiting any easier. I even spent an entire afternoon (3+ hours) testing on one company's website—for many companies, you don't even get to send a resume until you've passed their online testing—only to be told that they weren't hiring right now. Great. 

    The husband has taken his usual zen-like approach and keeps telling me to be patient, that something will come along. In the meantime, I am going to get out Cables 2 out today and start working on it again. The cynical part of me thinks that that is the best way to shake loose an MT job—by going back to knitting. That seems to be how it works. He mused yesterday that maybe I should just go back to knitting altogether, but I spent $4000 on this MT training and I'd like to get some of that back. 

    Don't get me wrong, it's not that I want to abandon knitting (I most certainly don't), it's just that I hate trying to focus on multiple things at once, and I am still looking for that balancing point. But do stick around, because I just got half a dozen patterns back from my tech editor and I'll be posting pics as soon as I make them available. 

    **********************************

    My mother was here last week, so she and the girls and I went on a road trip. We drove over to Spokane on Thursday and did some shopping at Kohls. DD#2 and I like Kohls—we always seem to be able to find clothing that fits us well there. The Kohls in Spokane is the closest store to us. We spent Thursday night in Spokane, then headed over to the Seattle area on Friday so my mother could see where DD#1 goes to college. We did some more shopping (I jokingly told the husband we were touring "malls of the Northwest" on this trip) and spent the night. On Saturday, we headed to downtown Seattle to Pike Place Market and to Nordstrom and Macy's, both of which were having big sales. 

    [Just before we got to Snoqualmie Pass, I pulled in to a large fruit stand so we could get out and stretch our legs. Once inside, I realized that the top two floors of the building held antiques. I am always looking for things to add to my textile collection and I love antique stores. There were lots of crocheted doilies, but I pass those up in favor of knitted items, which are much harder to find. In one of the top-floor booths I found a large knitted lace doily, definitely handmade, and priced at $7.50. I bought it. I don't know who knit it, but now it resides in the textile collection.]

    My sister wondered why we didn't do any sightseeing on this trip. Well, it's because 1) we've done sightseeing in Seattle on a previous trip and 2) when you live in a place with one department store—and a department store that could hardly be accused of being on fashion's cutting edge, at that—shopping in a large city is absolutely heavenly. I almost fainted from delight when I saw the Penzey's Spices across from Nordstrom Rack in Seattle. I've ordered from them before, but how nice to go into the actual store and smell the spices! I came out of there with $30 worth of Indian spices to add to my collection. And in the Williams-Sonoma store, I found a container of citric acid. I am on a cheesemaking kick this summer, and I need citric acid to make a batch of mozarella. Yay! 

    In about a month I get to do that whole trip again to take DD#1 back to school. I plan to stop at that antiques store again. 

    **********************************

    We've had some very warm weather and the plants in the garden have responded nicely. I am so tickled with my lettuce—I have a row of an heirloom variety called "Ruby" and it's almost delicious enough to eat by itself (but I add chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, and bleu cheese to it). That row will all be eaten soon. The husband planted some green oakleaf lettuce which I also like, but he sowed it way too thickly and it's kind of spindly. I am trying to thin it but it's slow going. We also did some succession plantings of both kinds. So far the Ruby is bolt-resistant, so I am hoping to have lettuce for the rest of the summer and into the fall.  

    The peas are putting forth all sorts of pods. I have six lovely little heads of cauliflower. The broccoli has been wonderful. There are little zucchini, and we've been overrun with strawberries. The husband has been out there every day, picking them, washing them, and putting them in the freezer. I promised to make him jam. 

    We had one blueberry plant that was loaded, but the birds picked it clean yesterday. I was not happy. I need to rig up some kind of netting system. There are birds all over that garden, especially after we run the sprinklers. I assumed they were looking for worms, but apparently they like blueberries, too. 

    We spend a lot of time talking about what is working and what isn't and what we plan to do differently next year. He said he saw a sign down the road advertising fresh lettuce for $4 an bunch, so I am thinking that next year I will plant even more Ruby lettuce and we'll have a produce stand in the front yard. 

    **********************************

    Our fire department responded to a structure fire just after midnight last night. The husband only got about an hour's sleep and this morning he went to Missoula to pour concrete. I did a little better—when he left for the fire, I got up and drove into town to the grocery store to get sandwiches and fruit for the firefighters, and after I delivered them I went back to bed. The fire was probably only about a mile-and-a-half from our house as the crow flies, but because two roads in our district are flooded and closed (high groundwater), I had to come home the long way around, which is about 8 miles. I see a nap in my future this afternoon, but first I am going to work on Cables 2. Really. 

    Wednesday
    Jul132011

    Some Kind of Seasonal Disorder

    I am really having a hard time with the seasons this year. If you ask the husband, he will tell you that "Janet's favorite season is the one she's not in," which is sort of true, but this year it's especially bad because Mother Nature seems to have lost her Dayplanner.  

    I like the changing seasons. I like looking forward to summer, and then I get tired of it and fall is a welcome relief. I like winter because I have lots more knitting time. I like spring because it's full of the anticipation of getting the garden in. This year we didn't get spring, and we're not getting a whole lot of summer, either, and I am totally discombobulated. 

    Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Park opens for the first time today—today, July 13!—making it the latest opening in history. There is still snow on the mountains. That hasn't happened in the entire 18 years we've lived here. The peas in my garden are just now putting up blossoms—peas are a springtime crop, not a mid-summer one. We'll be lucky to get zucchini this year. Tomatoes? Don't make me laugh.

    I feel cheated. I know that we have, possibly, about two more weeks of warm weather and then things will start winding down to cold again. Oh, we may have some nice Indian summer days well into September, but it won't be warm enough to ripen the tomatoes. It'll be too cold in the evenings to sit on the porch. A little bit of summer is almost worse than no summer at all. 

    The other piece of this that's bothering me is my lack of productivity. There are 3 other people in this house who aren't usually here during the colder months. They make messes and don't clean up after themselves, and I spend an inordinate amount of my time in drill sergeant mode reminding my older daughter that the pan in which she cooks her eggs won't clean itself. I hesitate even to start working on something because someone will invariably come stand in my office door and ask me if I've seen their phone charger/recipe for whole wheat pizza crust/blue camisole with lace trim, or ask "do we have any lemon juice and cucumbers?" (I don't want to know), or inform me that they need to be somewhere at 5:30 p.m. and by the way, could we pick up so-and-so on the way? Arrggghhh. It's almost as bad as when they were toddlers and I would spend all day puttering and looking busy because if I sat down, the kids would assume I had nothing to do. I even asked my older daughter the other day if she had once seen me sit down from the time I got up in the morning until I went to bed. She thought for a moment and said, "No."

    So every morning I get up and fight with myself for a few moments. I am trying not to hurry time. I am trying to enjoy the sunshine because I will miss it in January. I am trying to lower my expectations for productivity. But I can't help it—there is part of me that will rejoice when September gets here again. 

    Sunday
    Jul102011

    A Weekend in the Flathead

    I worked at Camas Creek yesterday. It was a pleasant day, although a bit on the slow side. Most of our customers were tourists. We had visitors from California, New Orleans, New York state, Canada, and various other places. 

    I've submitted three classes to the fall schedule already, but I've gotten requests for a couple more. I will try and get those submitted soon, although I sort of hesitate to schedule anything else until I get a transcription job. I need to find out how that will affect what I can do and when I can do it. 

    I've discovered that I have a skill that could be very much in demand in transcription. Apparently, very few people want to transcribe for ESL (English as a Second Language) doctors because they are "too hard to understand." We had a lot of training with ESL doctors in the course I took, and I remember saying to the husband that not only did I not mind ESL doctors, I actually preferred them to English-speaking doctors. Even if they speak with a thick accent, they tend to enunciate and not mumble. And their speech usually has a distinct rhythm or "cadence," that is easy for me to pick up (I think because of my musical background). So I am hoping that my willingness to transcribe ESL doctors will land me some work. 

    I did an interesting experiment this week. My sister has just been diagnosed with some food allergies, so I am cutting out a few things to see if it makes a difference. I never felt like I had any food allergies (although I cannot eat raw spinach). But this past week I cut out all bread. In fact, what I've mostly been eating is salads, because the lettuce from the garden tastes so darn good. Anyway, I haven't had bread for a week, but yesterday for lunch I went to the Wheat Montana deli across the street. Lunch was a salad and cup of soup (they have the most awesome Wisconsin cheddar soup there), and it came with a wheat roll. I didn't eat the roll at lunch, but after work I needed something to tide me over until I got home. As soon as I ate the roll, I got an upset stomach. Hmmm. 

    So it wasn't so much that cutting out wheat made me feel better; it was more like eating wheat made me feel bad. Interesting. I'm going to continue the experiment and see what else happens. 

    The husband and I went for a hike last night. We like to walk back in the woods a ways to the place where there is a creek crossing. It's the same creek that runs near our house, and it's water coming off the mountains. The last two times we were there, the creek was too swollen to cross. It was the same last night. I cannot believe how much snow is still up in the mountains. We can't get to one of our favorite hiking areas because there is still three feet of snow in the parking area. 

    They've just opened Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Park. I think that's the second latest opening on record. 

    We're eating strawberries out of the garden. Apparently this is a good year for berries. I was checking out the huckleberry bushes during our hike last night and it looks like there will be a good crop of them, too. 

    I'm off to get some lettuce for my breakfast. Lettuce with dried cranberries, walnuts, bleu cheese crumbles, and bleu cheese dressing. Yum. And a few strawberries on the side. 

    Tuesday
    Jul052011

    Looking for Knitting

    I popped into Camas Creek today and picked up the Mountain Colors yarn for a scarf. I like the stitch pattern I chose a lot, especially because it's a stitch pattern I morphed from another one. I always worry—when designing simple shapes with simple stitch patterns—that I am going to do something that someone has already done. I think this is unique enough that I will avoid that problem. I'll get started on this tonight and hopefully have it done in a couple of days.

    I've also got an idea for an afghan, based on some of the swatching I did the other night, but Melanie has to order the yarn for me. 

    It's good to be knitting again.

    *****************************************

    I said to the husband the other day that I hoped I would have at least one garter snake take up residence in the herb garden. I think the garden always does better with a reptile living there. This morning I walked out to see how things looked, and lo and behold!—a garter snake slithered right past me and went under the oregano bush. Yay! I leaned down and warned him not to wander over to the chicken coop or he'd get pecked to death. 

    The husband asked me if the snake had a name. We have this conversation every year. I think he doesn't remember. The garter snake in the garden always gets named Whistler, because there was always a garter snake in my Aunt Lil's garden and it was always named Whistler. I'm not sure what I will do if I discover more than one garter snake in the garden. We may have to go to a different naming system: Whistler I, Whistler II, etc. 

    Obviously, snakes do not bother me. They bother my mother, who was not happy with me when I brought one in from the woods and accidentally let it fall between the slats on the porch. Oops. Then there was the time I stuck a praying mantis in my closet and it had babies . . . .

    There is a reason I have a degree in biology. And really, I think it's too bad that black rat snakes aren't native to Montana, because I would so put one down in the basement to eat mice. 

    *****************************************

    Here is a picture for you, courtesy of one of my students. From left to right: Jamie (one of my test knitters) me, and Jane, who sent me the picture (thanks, Jane!). I always feel like such an Amazon, even though I am only 5'7" tall. Much of the world is shorter than me, though. 

     

    This was at The Mannings Handweaving Studio, where I taught on June 18. It was a great class. 

    *****************************************

    The transcription job search continues apace, and I think it's going well. There is one company I am currently testing with, and I hope they offer me a job. A lot of the transcription jobs require you to commit to a set schedule or working 1st, 2nd, or 3rd shift five days a week (Tues-Sat or Sun-Thurs). I could do that, but it's not ideal. The company I want to work for simply requires that you transcribe a certain quota during each pay period, and how and when you get that done is up to you. That kind of flexibility is perfect for me. I've done well on the tests so far, so I am hoping this pans out. I want to be able to honor my knitting teaching commitments (and to keep teaching), and in order to do that I need some wiggle room. 

    *****************************************

    In other miscellany, I stopped using shampoo on my hair. I decided to do this when I was in Maryland, because I hate frizz, and my hair totally frizzes during the summer. A while back I switched to a shampoo without sodium lauryl sulfate (Burt's Bees) and it helped, but I decided it was time to cut the cord altogether. I've gotten through the two-week greasy period and now my hair is soft and smooth and not frizzy. I don't even have to use the flatiron on it anymore. This is Very Cool. 

    The husband asked me if the girls have started walking 15 feet behind me because I embarrass them too much. I told him they've been doing that for some time now. DD#2 was horrified that I wore my Vibrams to church Sunday (with a skirt, no less). 

    Isn't it the job of the parents to embarrass the kids? Otherwise, they might not want to move out. 

     

    Friday
    Jul012011

    The Big Gigantic Catch-Up Post

    Today is DD#2's birthday. She and a friend of hers who shares the same birthday (but is a year younger) are having a party tonight at her friend's house. I am in charge of getting the cake. Her birthday is a celebration for me, too, because this is the child I wasn't supposed to be able to have after having leukemia. But here she is, and she is healthy and beautiful, and a mother couldn't ask for much else. 

    We got home Tuesday afternoon, and the past two days have been a whirlwind of grocery shopping and desk-clearing. I thought it would be a good day for some photos, so I took the dogs and the camera with me this morning.

    First, a shot of my foot wearing one of my new Vibram Five-Finger shoes.

     

    I bought these the day before we left Maryland. We went to a store near my MIL's house so I could try them on. Once I had them on my feet, I did not want to take them off. Yes, they are goofy looking, but my hips have completely stopped hurting since I began wearing these. Clearly I am meant to go barefoot (or something close to it). Yesterday, DD#2 and I joined our church youth group to mow a local cemetery and I had to put my boots on to do it. By the time I got home, my hips were screaming again. As I do not want a hip replacement (or two) in my future, I will forego fashion and wear these. 

    ***************************************

    GARDEN UPDATE: My herb garden is looking especially nice this year. It must be all the rain. 

     

    I am just enchanted with my frilly columbines.  

    I have a bunch of columbines in my garden and I let a lot of them self-seed, like everything else. I have 20 baby lavender plants in my nursery bed in the old veggie garden next to this one, and they are all volunteers that I dug out of the gravel paths. I am hoping that one of these days I get some new, never-before-seen variety of lavender and I can name it after myself.

    It's a good thing the husband has nothing to do with my herb garden, because the barely-controlled chaos would likely send him into a fit. The new veggie garden, where he spends all of his free time, is a veritable work of art. There is not a weed to be seen anywhere. This is a view looking southeast. 

    Here is his potato patch, of which he is very proud. He thinks we should have planted three times as much. I am reserving judgment until I see how much we get. One row is reds and the other row is Yukon Golds. 

    We've already eaten some of the broccoli, and it is truly amazing. I like broccoli, but I've never tasted anything like this before. The lettuce (red oakleaf) is equally amazing. I have to give a shout-out to Victory Seeds, from whom I ordered most of my seeds this year. I was amazed at how quickly things germinated and how vigorous the plants are. I will be ordering a lot more from them next year. 

    We're being optimistic gardeners—we put in some grapevines. They are a seedless variety called Reliance. Grapes are iffy up here on the mountain. Down in the valley they seem to do okay, but two of my friends up the road have grapes and they've really had to baby them along. I am hoping that the south-facing slope will provide a good microclimate for these, and the husband said we can wrap them in pieces of old concrete blankets to insulate them over the winter. We also have six blueberry bushes and they seem to be doing just fine. 

    It's now July and finally—finally!—we are supposed to get some decent weather. The forecast is for hot and dry for the next week, at least. Those poor plants need some sunshine. I didn't show you my tomato plants because they look so sad. I hit them with some Epsom salt solution yesterday in the hopes that that would help them perk up a bit. The cucumber plants are still small, and the muskmelon and canteloupe (the husband was being VERY optimistic when he bought those seedlings) are hanging on by their fingernails. 

    We've got plans for a greenhouse, and the husband wants to get one built before winter. It probably won't be heated, but we're going to put it out by the new garden and if it extends our growing season by a month on either side, we'll be in much better shape next year. And maybe, just maybe, we might be able to grow lettuce and spinach in there all winter. 

    One thing I keep hearing over and over again from people who have lived in the Flathead Valley their entire lives is that this weather is typical of how things used to be. When we moved here in 1993, it was at the beginning of a cycle of hot, dry, weather. Cool rainy springs apparently are more usual. 

    ***************************************

    KNITTING UPDATE: I didn't get as much knitting done in Maryland as I had hoped, but I got a few projects finished and that was my goal. My classes were all wonderful. 

    I stopped in at Camas Creek on Wednesday, and Melanie asked me if I would want to design some small projects with Mountain Colors yarn—sort of a "Montana Designer, Montana Yarn" type of thing that we could kit up and sell. I have a bunch of Mountain Colors mill ends here, so I've spent some time over the past few days swatching up stitch patterns. Variegated yarns are hard for me. I finally hit on one combo that uses one of their handpaints and a coordinating solid, but when I look at the swatch I think it really wants to be an afghan and not a scarf. This morning I lucked out and swatched up a two-row pattern using an interesting technique, and it looks like it will be perfect for a scarf pattern. I'd like to come up with one or two more, but at least I have this one and can knock out a scarf pretty quickly. 

    It looks like I may be heading to Kansas in November. The Yarn Barn and I are talking about a weekend full of classes, so stayed tuned. Another state to cross off my list! I've never been to Kansas. 

    I'm also in the process of submitting some class ideas to Camas Creek for the fall. All you local knitters—if there is a class you want me to teach, e-mail me and let me know and I'll see about scheduling something. 

    ***************************************

    TRANSCRIPTION UPDATE: It's almost ironic that now that I've finished my transcription coursework, the knitting business has picked up again. I'm not quite sure why that is, but things are certainly better income-wise than they have been over the past three years. I'm kind of torn—I could probably go back to knitting designing full-time again, but I don't want to waste the time and money I spent on the transcription training. And the bottom line is that I enjoy transcription a lot. So I've got to figure out some way to balance all of this. I am sure I can do it, it's just going to take some creativity on my part. If I could just give up sleeping I'd be golden. 

    Okay. Now it's time to get some work done. Today's schedule includes some pattern-writing and more swatching. 

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