Wool Gathering 2011

So I’m going to see what happens if I try to do some blogging. It’s been so many weeks that I almost feel like a stranger here, and, of course, I’ve not been around simply because so very much has been happening.

Today, I thought I’d share Wool Gathering 2011 (Yellow Springs, Ohio) with you. It was such a joy to be able to do something that is a special annual treat despite the strain and pressure of my current real life. It sure was hard to believe it had been an entire year since the last event! I also couldn’t believe I walked out of the house without my camera for the first time ever. I knew I was forgetting something, but for it to be my camera tells you that my brain just isn’t all here! Anyway, that means that all the pix are after the fact, with the exception of the one I shot with my phone, which turned out much better than I’d expected. Now I wish I’d have done a bit more of that. 😦 Ah, well…

In addition to the hours I enjoy chatting with vendor friends I see just once a year, time exploring new ideas and gaining knowledge about fiber and using it, and just enjoying the general atmosphere (and when I have it, keeping my camera busy…), cruising through the vendor’s area is always a huge part of the fun. 😉 I really think I did well this year in thinking through my purchases. I saw every booth at least briefly, found virtually everything on my wishlist (except for a particular skein of commercial yarn that I was planning to buy online), and shopping carefully even came home with a few dollars (note “few”) in my purse. 24 hours later, I still love everything I bought, am enjoying the diversity of my choices, and don’t think I made any mistakes, so I’m happy. 🙂 So, what did I bring home? With apologies for the pix, as WordPress seems to be rationing how many large photos I can post at once:

A carved bone shawl pin from Gita Marie. Believe it or not, I didn’t have a white shawl pin!

Paco, a new alpaca for the Hitty crew, which pleases them greatly. He’s ready to shear, and they are ready to spin! Hitty D was out in the pasture with him today, and reports he’s settling in quite nicely.

I picked up a lovely lucet made from Honduran Leopard wood from Margaret Ledrich. She had dozens of beauties from which to choose, so I finally decided to narrow my choices down to just those made from Honduran wood. That at least helped. 😉

Wolle was a new vendor this year, and I was captivated with her yarn, which is gradient cotton thread, 4-strand, untwisted. Sadly enough, she didn’t have the colorway I was desperate to own in the size ball needed for my first choice pattern, but I’m quite fond of my Plan B, and I look forward to knitting it. 🙂 I’m going to keep an eye on her etsy shop in hopes of snagging my first love sometime soon.

I needed two sets of knitting needles for immediate projects. How weird it is that I “need” needles with all those I have here! However, knitting a scarf on needles with 40″ cables isn’t a lot of fun, and since they won’t fit in my needle tote, I’d never gotten around to purchasing 35’s… The size 3 needles are Addi Lace, far from being my favorite needles, but since the only 3’s I had free when I started on the project last week were the Addis I never use, I was afraid to change brands now, so now I have another pair of last resort needles. 😉 The 35’s, which look a LOT bigger in person than they do in this picture, are designed and sold by HPKY, another vendor who got my business for the first time this year – in a big way, as you will see later…

I didn’t have bunny fur on my shopping list this year, but when I saw this angora roving, I just couldn’t walk away from it! I love the teensy specks of color, and I think it’s going to make beautiful yarn. I meant to go back to her booth to buy some plain white at the end of the day, but I got sidetracked then ran out of time.

I barely managed to avoid buying any more alpaca fleece or fiber, which is tough, because Wool Gathering is particularly blessed with awesome alpaca offerings. However, I did finally buy my first llama fleece. Pia was the donor, and she lives at Agape Lland Llamas. I know this looks gray in the pix, but it’s really an intense black, and it’s also one of the softest llama fleeces I’ve touched. Took me a lot of years to get llama, but I think it was worth the wait. 🙂

Since I’m on the topic of fleeces and waits, it’s a good time for me to confess I brought home a sheep fleece, too… BUT just one! I was deadset determined not to bring home any fleece unless it was a new to me fleece. There are usually a lot of really nice fleeces at Wool Gathering, but they tend to be from the same vendors, hence the same breeds. I figured I was going to be coming home fleece free. HAH! Lunabud Knits surprised the socks right off of me by having a yummy, even though unskirted, Texel fleece, and Texel has been on my priority list for a long time! Happiness is…

Thinking ahead, I was pretty sure my anti-alpaca pact was going to keep me safe at Tri-Valley Alpacas, vendors who have sent me home with a “few” pounds of gorgeous alpaca fleece in past years. What I didn’t successfully predict was the new assortment of other goods that were at their booth this year, nor did I anticipate the reaction I had when I put this really great little duffle tote on my shoulder. I’m a pushover for Latin American weaving anyway, and turning into a tote addict, too, it seems. It came in handy yesterday. 😉

The first booth where I caved and made a purchase was also the first booth I came to after entering the gate. Basically, my reserve didn’t last as long as I’d planned for it to hold out. What I can say in my defense is that I could have very happily filled my car in the Wooly Knob tent, but managed to walk out with just one kitchen trash bag of roving dangling from my arm, so… I was affectionately calling this purchase my junk food. After spending so much time this past year washing fleeces, carding, dyeing, combing, blending, etc., buying this enticing stuff felt guiltily wonderful – fast, easy, and (stash)fattening – and I love it! 😀 This is my first Wooly Knob fiber, but what I found interesting is how many people seeing my bag grinned at me and said it looked like I’d been to Wooly Knob. I’m eager to see what I’ve been missing! I got a sweater’s worth (I hope) of the denim blue, and I’m thinking that the white with sari silk will be employed with something else – probably solid – in the end. Beyond loving it, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the black/blue/purple/green striped roving yet.

This might be my most unexpected purchase. It also might be the item that drew the most comments from others the entire day, though I carried it around during only the last 45 minutes. I spotted this Bonnet Basket, woven by Margaret Lou Bickenheuser (contact – mylittlebasketshop at yahoo dot com) well before noon, did my drooling over it, then walked away quite certain I’d seen it for the last time. When I walked back past the booth a little after 6:00, it was still sitting there… waiting… and although I spent a good bit of time trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to take it home, as you can see, I didn’t succeed. I love the walnut inserts and the overall solidity of the basket, and it’s plenty big to hide a multitude of fiber indiscretions. 😉

This is a bit “cart before the horse,” but it was just so perfect… In the HPKY (Hand Painted Knitting Yarns) booth, one of the very first things I saw in the entire show, but the very last purchase I made, I saw a simple garterstitch sweater that I just loved. I’m not making sweaters for myself until I can wear the size I want stay, so I’ve walked away from a lot of sweater opportunities. I’ve also favorited a lot of sweaters on Ravelry! This was my downfall. The yarn and pattern to make the sweater came home with me as a reward – my dangling carrot. When the day comes that I start knitting this, there will be a glow from my grin lighting the skies over Ohio and probably visible 3 states away. 🙂 I adore the colorway, and the featherlight baby alpaca yarn (Rome) is incredibly soft! The yarn presentation is interesting. Somehow all the skeins are braided together into this big megaskein, which will definitely keep everything in one spot. 🙂 I looked on Ravelry, hoping to post a link to the sweater pattern, Ilaria, but there isn’t one up there, so you’ll have to wait a while. It’s going to be so fun using this incredible yarn to do this quick knitting project. I can’t wait! (Have I said that before?)

One of the best places to spend time, IMO, is in the Benjamin Green Studio booth. If you’ve been reading my blog very long, you know I have an impressive collection of his work, including a few “rare” pieces. This year I went with the intention of adding a hackle to my line up of tools and let him know in advance. He went prepared, but ended up selling my hackle before I found his booth. Imagine my shock when he offered to sell me his own personalized hackle instead! I was very honored, and I love my new acquisition. 🙂 The fun didn’t stop there, though. Having seen my wool comb photo from last year, he was horrified that I’d managed to buy the one comb that walked out of his booth with some bent teeth. I was duly provided with a comb tooth straightener, and we all had a good laugh over the whole thing. 😀 The surprises weren’t over yet, though. I’d been bugging him for several years to build a drop spindle lazy kate, and this year he came through for me with a beautifully simple design that works wonderfully and folds flat for storage. I love it! I only have one spindle loaded in the picture, but it does hold two. He also has made adapter pieces that will convert it to hold two bobbins or quills. I added an itty bitty niddy noddy to my pile off booty. I couldn’t resist its 24″ skein size. Like I said, I love shopping Ben’s booth! His only problem now is that he is going to have to come up with something new for me to buy next year! 😉 I have an idea or two for him…

So that’s the end of what I bought at Wool Gathering – except for the typically delicious supper at Young’s Jersey Dairy, which provides the grounds where WG is held each year. What I haven’t shared is the other item that jumped into my car yesterday…

No I have no idea where I’m going to put it at this point! I’ve only been to 4 yard sales all year long, but let’s face it, if 25% of yard sales I went to always netted me things like this, I’d spend more time on the road during the summer!

Having a great wheel is a dream I’ve held for nearly 30 years, and I’m still trying to believe that it has really come true! To find one in working order and with a weasel to boot unexpectedly at a yard sale feels truly miraculous. Yesterday was one fantastic day for this fiber lover!!! 😀

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Re-materializing

I figure that’s a good title, since it sort of looks as if I evaporated this past month. Now whereas I’d love to tell you I’m just home from some delicious, new foreign adventure, I make every effort to be honest here, so I won’t. Part if my MIA time did involve travel, however. 🙂 And although I had a wonderful time, I was doing pretty much everything BUT lazing about! I spent a couple weeks visiting my older daughter. This used to be something we planned often, but when she moved to Honduras, that became a bit more challenging, and when I went to see her there, the focus was a lot different. I do miss going to Honduras terribly, but it was a real joy to have our old times back again, too. 🙂

Since I just has my wonderful Fiber Adventure Week with so much “playtime,” when I packed for my trip, I took important stuff with me instead. To be quite honest, with what I packed, I could have stayed for 3-4 months before I’d have been in danger of running out of work to do. I had a few grand accomplishments and made some great progress on things. It’s amazing how much more gets done when there’s no internet, pets, housekeeping, and in-law attics on my daily schedule. I could use more time like that!

One huge, but no photo, project was working with my daughter to complete 15 pages in a scrapbook I’d assembled with contributions from friends and family in honor of her 16th birthday. The combination of trying to do both a scrapbook and quilt secretly while homeschooling the girls and the fact that there are a lot of procrastinators in the world kept me from getting it entirely done in time for the big day, and somehow we just never quite finished it. It’s very close to completion now, though, and we hope to see it done by the end of the year. One big sticking point is trying to locate a picture of Fairfield Elementary School, which was in Highland, Ohio. The school has since been razed, and hours of searching have so far shown me no pictures. I can’t believe that NO one has a photo, but whoever it is doesn’t seem to have posted it online, and all local sources I’ve checked have come up empty as well.

The yarn I started spinning during Fiber Adventure Week is plied, washed, and fantastic!I was counting on human imperfection causing the colors to change at slightly different rates in each of the three bobbins of yarn, with the hope being a very gradual shift in color over the length. This both worked and didn’t work. The imperfections exist, the shift is gradual, but it was a little bit TOO imperfect, and I reached the end with very unequal leftover singles, leaving me very little solid black yarn. I think I’m going to write to Kimber (Fiber Optics) and see if she can make me a bit of solid black roving.
I ended up with12 ounces, 860 yards of 3-ply yarn, about 11-12 wraps per inch, so roughly sport/DK weight. It’s soft and smooshy and absolutely gorgeous, and I’m SO wanting to cast it on right now! However, I’m trying very hard to be good. Perhaps it needs to be my reward for when I send in my completed Master Spinner homework…

Speaking of which, I spent hours making mini yarn skeins and then started the dyeing portion of that homework. Her stove was giving me fits, though, and I had a few unfortunate occurrences. I finally decided to pack that project in for when I was at home, and I’ve not looked at it since I came back.  Hopefully I’ll feel better about it for having been distanced from it for a few weeks now. No pix at the moment. I’m sure I took some, but must have missed them when I transferred things after I got home.

My other really big milestone was finishing the first panel of my Burridge Lake Afghan. I was “only” six weeks behind schedule when I did that, and I’ve not made up any more time since. I’ve only done one and a half repeats of the center panel so far, and it’s supposed to be entirely done by the end of June. I’ll just say now that it’s not going to happen!

I did some other spinning, some knitting, listened to 3-4 audiobooks, put a lining in my first felted bag, looked at all the scrapbooks the two of us have created, had some great food, slept well nearly every night, finally got to hear her chorus perform live, was taken out for Mother’s Day, and traded what turned out to be a totally dead sewing machine in for an entry level Bernina. In other words, it was non-stop action – the sort of which I wish I could manage all the time! I had a grand couple of weeks, despite most all of it being “work.” 🙂

Then I came home.

It seems that as I was leaving town (and the internet), MyPhotoAlbum announced that they were closing the site at the end of May. I had so very much info stored there and nowhere else… Several years ago, in fairly rapid succession, Yahoo photos and Epson’s photo site both closed down, leaving me in photo-shock. People warned me away from free photo sites, saying that they are very unreliable, and that I should go to a paid set up. Enter MyPhotoAlbum. I spent untold hours setting up beautiful albums and moving all my doll stories to the new location, rewriting as I felt necessary, and when I was done, I was extremely pleased. I absolutely loved that site. In the past three years, hundreds of people have enjoyed my picture albums and stories. Now suddenly, that’s going to be gone as of midnight on Monday. It was obviously a priority for me to salvage all my captions and pix from the site, and it took many hours over the past two weeks to accomplish that job. At this point, I don’t know if I’ll ever put them back online. Twice burned; twice shy. And it’s so much work to get it all set up. On the other hand, I do so love sharing the stories… Anyway, I just thought I’d mention it here in case anyone wants to see the albums one more time before the site closes. There’s a link in the sidebar here.

I have a lot more pix I could take and much more to share, but we’ll have to see how things fit together. I’ve been really busy washing fleece and working on my MSP homework, have some new toys, found new treasures at the in-law’s… loads of things I can share, assuming I can finagle the time. 😉 Hopefully the next post won’t be a month coming… 😀

My Final Souvenir

So July 23, I found myself in a very unusual state of mind. I was heading home from a trip and actually excited about the prospect. Four major trips this year has been an exhausting marathon, and I was more than ready to crash for a few days, then figure out in which cupboard I’d locked away normal life. I’ve not completely unpacked from any of the trips this year, my annual goals are growing mold, I have well over 10,000 emails in the inbox of my most used email account, and I have a desperate need to generate a lot of income – fast. Besides, Chicago, as much I loved what I saw on my first trip there, was stinking hot, which was making sightseeing a miserable chore instead of a pleasure. So it was with a light step (at least in my mind) that I walked out the door of the yarn shop, heading for the bus that would take me to the train to O’Hara airport.

And about 3 heartbeats later, I felt myself floating through the air, anticipating the impending collision with a Chicago sidewalk.

I’m not kidding about the floating thing. I remember wondering why I wasn’t falling faster and harder. My guardian angel did a really great job, all things considered. 🙂 Still, gravity won and I eventually found myself sprawled face down, surrounded by a cluster of people who seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, all asking at the same time if I was alright. Of course, that’s human nature and the right thing to do, but at that moment, even if I could have spoken, I didn’t know the answer, and I thought it oddly humorous. However, once they coaxed me into a sitting position and I saw my leg, I found myself asking exactly the same question, and I couldn’t fault the several who were wanting to call an ambulance. Within seconds of my impact, a totally amazing transformation had occurred on my shin, making it appear someone had slapped a large, thick slab of biscuit dough across the front of it. However, my assets consisted of $21 and an airplane ticket; I had to get home if it was humanly possible. So, with a decidedly foul look at the unmarked, oddly placed step that had been my downfall, I asked my rainbow entourage to help me to the restaurant next door, and before I had time to thank them or even see most of their faces, they’d delivered me and my luggage to a table just inside the door and vanished as quickly as they’d appeared – with one exception. Don (or was it Dan?)had apparently parked illegally when he saw me go down, and he risked a ticket to stay with me for the first 15-20 minutes of ice packs and ice water and post injury shaking. I wish there was a way to better thank him now that my head is clear, and Don in the Loyola polo, if you ever happen to read this, please know you were appreciated far beyond my ability to express it. I’m more inclined to think that God will be the one to orchestrate the repayment, and he’ll probably never know it came from me… but that’s okay. 🙂

The next few hours were a whirlwind of unique experiences and angels wearing skin, and I’m so grateful for every one of them. The restaurant didn’t charge me for any of the service they provided. Though I rarely get her on the first call, when I phoned my best friend, she answered my sobbing call from the bus stop. I desperately needed someone who knew me to know what was happening, not to mention how much I needed to hear the voice of someone I knew. (Doesn’t hurt that she’s a veteran ER/trauma nurse, either!) The fact that a Chicago bus driver stopped BETWEEN bus stops to let me off exactly at the top of the stairway down to the train is definitely miraculous! As I stepped off the bus, a woman appeared out of nowhere and asked if she could carry my bag down the stairs for me. It happened so quickly, I’m not even sure how she knew I needed the help, and then, after she put me on the elevator and said she’d meet me on the platform, I never saw her again, giving much credence to my angel theory. 🙂 The train, though full, maintained just enough space that I could sit with my leg up on my suitcase and under an icepack during the 45-minute or so ride to the airport. Although I had a nightmarish walk shuffle from the train into the terminal, before it was over, a cleaning lady, who spoke only Spanish, rushed to my aid, taking over my suitcase and running ahead to summon me an elevator. I was SO glad I have some Spanish to my credit, as it was fun to see her eyes light up when she found we could converse. 🙂

Once I hit the terminal, things started getting easier, which was a very good thing, considering my flight was to leave in just 50 minutes. There were two TSA agents near the door of the elevator, and while one summoned a wheelchair and headed off to get my boarding pass, the other helped me get to a chair. By the time I was rolled up to my gate, I found that the flight had been delayed by the impressive electrical storm I’d been watching from the train, and though I regretted having to wait, I did appreciate having some time to collect myself a bit. Besides, I was making some really good progress on the scarf I was knitting. 😉 In the end, our flight was delayed nearly 3 hours, but it could have been much worse. The people who were flying to Cleveland saw theirs canceled! The woman beside me was heading there for her brother’s funeral, and my heart was breaking for her to have to deal with all the additional stress this caused. The woman beside her had even more problems. I figure God put me in the right place at the right time, though. 🙂 She was also on the Cleveland flight, and when it was canceled, she got a little panicky. That’s when I found out that she didn’t speak English either! In fact, it turned out in the end that she was from Latvia – and no, I don’t speak Latvian! She did seem to understand a bit of the German I tried, but the biggest service I was able to provide was to offer the use of my cell phone. She asked me to call the number she had written on a piece of paper, and when I reached her relative, I was able to explain the situation to her. We went back and forth several times with this long distance interpreter, then the gate agent did the same, and as my momentary friend headed off to a new gate after getting reticketed, she stopped for a moment with a smile and tears in her eyes to express her appreciation via a big, fat chocolate bar that had traveled with her from her homeland. I was so touched that I about cried!

Sitting for several hours at the gate wasn’t very good for my leg, and it was a bit embarrassing to have to call for a wheelchair escort so I could go to the bathroom and get a bite to eat, but I survived, partially because of the incredibly sweet fellow who arrived to be my chariot driver. He was a gem! Then there was the plane… The Chicago/Columbus hop is short and done on a puddle jumper – 50 seat Embraer. They aren’t comfy under the best of circumstances, and they are miserable under bad ones! I was moved to the bulkhead seat, but it was on the left side, so I had to sit sideways in a too small seat. We didn’t get off the ground for nearly an  hour after boarding, and I had no ice and no elevation – not good! Once we were finally in the air, the flight attendant got her own suitcase out of the cupboard and put it under my leg, and even though there was no food service on the flight, she got me water so I could take my Tylenol. I also started chilling, and she dug out her own sweater to cover me, then when we were near to landing, she prepared an icebag to see me home. That lady deserves a HUGE gold star for all she did to make my situation a little less miserable!

Bad thing is that by the time we landed, my leg had swollen to the point that I was totally non-ambulatory; my knee and ankle refused to flex more than a couple of degrees, and since my knee was bent and my ankle straight, it was hopeless. After the shuttle driver took me right to my car instead of dropping me in the aisle as he’d done the rest of the vanload, a cell phone photo and phone consultation with my nurse friend – not to mention the fact that I’d have not been able to get into my house if I’d gone home anyway – convinced me that I had no choice but to go to the emergency room. Anyone who knows me, knows how hard of a decision that was for me, even though it was an obvious one! I really don’t know Columbus at all, so she got online and found a hospital for me, then looked it up on Googlemaps, talking me into it from her perch in Detroit. The ludicrous nature of going to the ER in this fashion helped take some of the sting out of the experience! The bad thing was that there is a lot of construction going on at the OSU hospital, and they don’t have the ER labeled well. An employee on the grounds misdirected me, and I ended up stuck in a parking garage with no way to get into the hospital. In retrospect, it’s almost hilarious, but at the time, it just caused me to finally break down and bawl. 😦 After driving in circles for a while, I finally parked near an elevator, and Joy looked up the hospital phone number. I would have loved to have seen the look on the operator’s face when I told her I was a non-ambulatory ER patient-to-be, stuck in the parking garage! It took 10-15 minutes, but eventually a security guard showed up to rescue me. He looked like a knight in shining armor to me by that point!

The next 12 hours were pretty typical emergency room stuff, I suppose, but since I wasn’t in pain unless I moved and wasn’t on medications, I actually enjoyed the show a lot between catnaps. I was in a 7-8 bed ward with 2 psych patients, a suicide attempt, a woman who insisted on sleeping instead of providing the necessary urine specimen, a fellow who was asking every few minutes when he could have more pain meds, and the narrator, who gave a rather loud running commentary on everything from his treatment to a jubilant “You’ve got a runner!” when one of the psych patients made a dash for the hall. The woman who wanted to sleep had a few things to say about this monologue, but I have to confess I found it somewhat amusing. It felt a lot like I’d landed inside a TV show at times, and it was good company for my knitting – which came home 21 inches longer than when I’d left home the previous Monday.

So, now I’m home, the accident was 17 days ago, and I’m using a cane instead of crutches, and the past few days, I’ve not needed an icepack. The leg has been – and still is – every color but pretty, and an ever changing kaleidoscope. It’s fascinating to watch the sometimes hourly changes in color as my body slowly deals with the misplaced fluids. I have a VERY impressive lump over my tibialis anterior – the big muscle running along the outside of my shin. It’s impossible to get a photo that shows how big it actually is, but this should give you at least some idea. Keep in mind that my entire leg is swollen in addition to the lump, which is so big itself that it takes my entire hand to cover it completely. The second picture shows my right leg as a comparison.

This photo was taken the second day that there was pooling in my foot. It looks a rather wimpy in comparison to what is there right now. It’s currently about thrice this size and MUCH brighter, but I don’t feel like coping with taking pix at the moment. On this particular day, even the bottom of my foot was discolored – a first for me!

After the first few days of improvement, healing leveled off, leading me to break down and go to a sports medicine center up in Dayton, where they told me everything looks normal, and that I need to be patient. This sort of injury takes WEEKS to heal, not just days. GRRRRR!!!!!! What I am dealing with is an intramuscular hematoma, and the doctor says I may have as much as 12 ounces of blood inside the muscle. That could explain a few things! The bad part of this is that as soon as my leg goes vertical, it starts to swell and hurt, so I’ve been a couch potato for the past 2.5 weeks. Since my new laptop got sick a couple of days before my trip, I can only get online for a few minutes here and there without aggravating my leg beyond my tolerance level. (This post has taken me a week to write!) Good thing is that I’m getting a lot of knitting done; bad thing is that I’m going stir crazy! I love to knit, but I don’t necessarily like HAVING to knit! I’ll work on a knitting update here next, I think, as I’ve been more than a little bit productive. I miss my online friends and connections, and I have SO much I need to be doing… cleaning, remodeling, doll repair, earning some income…

About that break I’ve been needing so badly? 😉

Published in: on August 10, 2010 at 2:51 am  Comments (2)  
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You Surely Couldn’t Tell It

At least, you’d never guess by looking at my blog… but I’m now three weeks home from what surely is one of the most lovely vacation experiences I will ever have in my life. Despite sundry glitches here and there, and a ridiculous amount of frantic effort preparing for the event, all I can say about Alaska is that it truly was splendid! From “big cities” that felt more like hometowns to friendly little villages that made me feel like I could uproot my entire life and move there quite easily, from dusky, fog-shrouded mountains and waterways to the occasional blessing of a beatific patch of clear, celestial blue, from the shrill “Scree!” of dozens of bald eagles to the breathtakingly brief porpoise escort, Alaska positively overwhelmed my heart and soul with memories that I will truly carry with me for the rest of my life. I have nearly 4000 pictures here that will help. 😉

We were away for 15 days, the majority of which were spent traveling aboard the Royal Princess, a smaller cruise ship, which gave us closer access to some sites and ports than the newer lumbering giants can achieve. We like the smaller, friendlier boats, as they seem to encourage easy acquaintance among both fellow passengers and with crew members. For me, that’s a HUGE plus. I love getting to know people when I travel; it gives much more depth to the experience. Many feel they need a larger ship for the activities, but I have to say, I never lacked for things to do onboard, and often I had to choose one offering over another, much to my chagrin. All things considered, I had far less time than I’d expected for knitting, though I did find ways to sneak in more than a bit of time for my fancy – including a rather pleasurable celebration of World-wide Knit in Public Day, parked on a lounge chair beside the pool with several other fiber-addicted passengers. 🙂

FYI – Not sure where to put this, so I’ll drop this note in here… If you are planning to go to Alaska, don’t buy a coat! You will likely need one, but coats and jackets are profusely abundant at excellent prices and in souvenir styles that are likely to have you taking leave of your senses and buying a few regardless of whether you actually need another. Don’t ask me how I know…

Our ports included:

  • Seattle, where we embarked after spending a very nice morning enjoying our first ever Duck tour, an experience that rather defies description, followed by a leisurely exploration of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, in order to earn cancellations in our National Parks passports.
  • Ketchikan, a most picturesque little town that looks exactly as if it had been lifted off of a model railroad. My breakfast that morning was my traditional room service, enjoyed on our balcony (a first time experience for us) under the watchful eye of a bald eagle, who swooped in just as I sat down, threatening to make me miss my first shore excursion in a frenzy of picture taking, while my heart pounded so hard I doubted a one of them would come out clear. How was I to know that just an hour or two later, I would find myself literally in the midst of a flock of 2-3 DOZEN of them, swooping and soaring above and below me as I stood on the deck of the Aleutian Ballad, snapping photos like crazy, all the while believing I’d wake up at any moment to find it was just one of those dreams…
  • Juneau, a state capital with charm, one of the most approachable cities I’ve ever seen. It felt as comfortable as my hometown, actually! I wasn’t overly enchanted with my first shorex here, as it fell far short of living up to the description that had convinced me it was well worth the $200 price tag, but it did net me two of my most treasured photos – one of Stellar sea lions, and the other the only whale tail I saw clearly in the entire two weeks, despite the fact that the whales were feeding heavily.  My afternoon outing was an unplanned surprise, as my original choice was canceled at the last moment. In a desperate desire to do something other than ride on a sightseeing bus for a few hours or go to a salmon bake, I managed to conquer one of my deepest fears and boarded a float plane to go sightseeing over 5 local glaciers, offspring of the Juneau Icefield. After the eagles, I figured I’d more than used up my quota of “thrill” for the trip, but this little venture proved me wrong – and coerced me into capturing nearly 400 pictures in just 40 minutes. You can’t begin to guess how terribly difficult it was to just pick two of them for this post! It was a spectacular experience, and the second of the two memories of Alaska that will forever vie for top position as “the best.” Both the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman Tour and this sightseeing adventure are very highly recommended and well worth the price.
  • Icy Strait Point, Hoonah, Alaska would have had to make a much better show of itself to be a thrill, and it didn’t even have the weather in its favor, as we suffered an afternoon rain, which added quite a damper to this less than thrilling port. For me, it got off to a bad start with a bear watch, which turned out to be a VERY pricey walk in the woods to meet the infamous Alaskan mosquitoes, view one sandpiper, one American robin, and one red squirrel. In case you are wondering, yes, the mosquitoes really do have FAA numbers on their rumps.Although the walk through the muskeg was somewhat interesting, it being a novel terrain for me, my census of fellow passengers over the next few days turned up that the several dozen folks who had ventured out on each of the five bear watches that day showed that not one of us had actually seen a bruin of any color. My suggestion is to do your homework. If the salmon aren’t running, don’t waste your money – unless seeing robins and muskeg are worth over $100 to you. In the afternoon, I took a Hoonah sightseeing tour, then went to a cultural show. Sightseeing in the rain is even worse than the normal bus tour, since it doesn’t even afford the opportunity to jump out for two minutes to snap the same photos everyone else is grabbing. The only thrill I could have had on this trip was lost, because the juvenile bald eagle was frolicking on the other side of the bus, and oddly enough, no one over there was offering to trade me seats (or even listening to the guide at that point, for that matter!) 😉 The redeeming value of Hoonah was definitely the cultural dance performance, nicely and homily presented for the small group of damp tourists puddled on the much larger bleachers in the lodge. It was a very pleasant interlude in an otherwise lackluster day.
  • Kodiak struck me as a very homey place in many ways. It’s not everywhere that a tourist asks for directions winds up with a private tour of the town in a patrol car! I enjoyed my “on my own” visit to the small Alutiiq Museum, but I wish I’d had more time available – and that the items in the museum shop had been a good bit closer to my price range, as there were some really awesome offerings. A few members of the local Su’nash tribe put on a dance performance in the middle of the town late in the morning, and despite the paucity of number and the atypical female drummer, it was nice to see. My afternoon shorex was called a Russian Heritage Tour. Perhaps my expectations were a bit high, having been so enamored with St. Petersburg, but I still think this could have been much better with only a few small changes. First and foremost, the guide, who gives every indication of having developed the entire tour on her own, chose to not take us to the Baranov Museum, which is there for the express purpose of sharing the Russian Heritage of Kodiak. I would have far preferred to see that museum than to take the rather wearying bus trip through the town, which did nothing to focus us on the actual point of the tour in the first place. Secondly – and I don’t know if there is such a place in Kodiak, but I saw them in several other towns we visited – instead of our rushed shopping stop in a local gallery, it would have been a nice touch to have gone to a Russian shop. I’m glad I bought the lacquer box in Juneau instead of waiting! The high point of this tour for me was the delightful Father Erasmus of the Russian Orthodox church in the area, who led us through the church and the seminary chapel. The tea at the end was a quaint and homespun affair in a church basement. The food was far from authentic, at least compared to the fare I had in Russia, but it was tasty if a bit sparse. The entertainment was similar – mostly Russian music, mostly sung in English, well performed by sometimes amusingly costumed musicians who obviously loved what they were doing. All in all, it was definitely less than I’d hoped, but it also wasn’t a Hoonah Bear Watch. 😉
  • Seward was a bit of a mad dash, as there were things we wanted to see in the couple hours we had before our cruise. First stop was the Kenai Fjords National Park office for our passport stamps, then on to the Sealife Center. What a terrible disappointment it was to have to leave there so soon! I highly recommend several hours of exploration in that delightful place – and don’t bother booking a tour. It’s extremely accessible from the city bus that makes constant rounds through town. This is the place to see all the mysteries of the deep up close and personal, touch sea urchins, get photos of puffins… Then when you are done, swallow some motion sickness pills and get on one of the tour boats that will take you on a most lovely exploration of Kenai Fjords National Park! Despite the cold, fog, rain, and general atmospheric gloom, I’d consider this a keeper of a trip. This is where I finally saw sea otters, which made it a hit for me right there. How totally enchanting it was a bit later to be suddenly joined by a small group of porpoises boisterously leading our boat through the swells and thrilling those of us braving the elements and hanging over the bow of our little vessel! I do so hope I can eventually figure out how to share the video I took of that fantasy come true! Equally interested in us for awhile was a small pod of orcas, and we also saw humpbacks, puffins by the dozen more sea lions, and gulls by what was likely the millions in their rookeries! This is an outing to choose by menu. The homemade cookies were great – but the chicken wrap sandwiches and watery lemonade were as dismal as the weather… and the other company offers prime rib and a National Park Ranger… but doesn’t pay Princess a kickback, so…
  • Skagway, as a stop, gets good marks, though the town definitely doesn’t have it all together. It’s a wonderful little place, looking very much like I would picture a gold rush town, but where that digresses from those days is that now Skagway rolls up its streets in the late afternoon, even when there is a cruise ship in port. I found myself with money to spend, an ideal souvenir in mind, and nowhere to buy it! Everything else about this stop was quite good, though, and it’s why I wasn’t in town much earlier. We took a bus trip out into the Canadian wilds, through some picture puzzle scenery and into the Yukon, where we gulped a hurried lunch, panned for gold, and rode on a summer training dogsled (and believe it or not, I actually knit a few stitches on said sled just to say I’d done it!), before heading back to Fraser. There we boarded the White Pass & Yukon Railroad for an inspiring trip back to Skagway, spotting wild caribou and our only grizzly bear of the trip. This is a must do trip, even though it could be improved by skipping Carcross and adding the unsatisfying 15-minute rip through that town to the Caribou Crossing stop. I doubt the people of Carcross would agree with me on that, though. 😉 I will add that the shop at the train station in Skagway is absolutely the single best souvenir shop I’ve seen anywhere on American soil, and I can think of only one I’ve seen anywhere else in the world that might rival it in my mind.
  • Victoria, British Columbia… For some reason, our shore excursion options were just really lacking, and I’m glad I didn’t feel driven to take one. Instead, I ventured out on my own, enjoying a harbor ferry tour and a carriage ride, plus a mini yarnshop crawl. I only wish I’d had more time, as I so wanted to wander through Thunderbird Park… and once I got there, I found that the waterfront around the Empress and the Parliament was inhabited by street vendors with lovely Native handcrafts that enticed me as I rushed past… sigh…
  • Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm Fjord we viewed from the comfort of our ship. Both were lovely and definitely made for enjoyable days, but they also brought some disappointments to one who had expected to see some superb wildlife and the excitement of glaciers calving. In Glacier Bay, there was plenty of cracking and groaning, whetting our excitement, but the glaciers couldn’t be bothered to do more than spit a bit, and my biggest excitement for the day turned into seagull shooting – a la camera. This would be a Black-legged Kittiwake. Wanna guess how I know that? Tracy Arm Fjord was simply magnificent. However, there is a bit of a catch 22 with glaciers, and we got stuck at the wrong end of it. Having been promised that Tracy Arm is where we’d be able to see the big action, I was more than eagerly anticipating this day, especially after the calving bust in Glacier Bay. Well, the glaciers were doing their thing, alright. In fact, they were doing it so well that the fjord was clogged with ice, and it wasn’t safe to take the ship past the last turn so we could actually SEE the glacier. Instead, we got to sit in the middle of a magnificent, ice-filled fjord, messing up the photos of the passengers on the bigger ship which couldn’t get even as close as we did. I didn’t realize just how massive were my surroundings until our ship’s four-passenger rescue boat went out on a photographic expedition and nearly vanished into insignificance in the scenery. It was impossible not to be impressed, glacier or not. See if you can find the boat in this photo. Two hints: 1. It’s orange. 2. It’s partially hidden behind an iceberg. (And you can expand this photo by clicking on it!)

Honestly, this is such a tiny capsule summary of the trip that it scarcely does it justice, but Alaska rather defies any sort of compaction. Just the small part of it I tasted in that two weeks was much bigger and more wonderful than I could have imagined, and I well know that I barely stuck my finger in its wonders! This, for us, was a trip of a lifetime sort of deal, one that has been nine years in the making. Often when something like that has come and gone, there’s a bit of an empty feel, but oddly enough, I didn’t come home flat from this adventure. It was a very satisfying journey, and despite my gripes about some wasted shorex money, I’m content.  However, I’m also already planning my next trip to Alaska! 😉

Finally Finished!

I guess it really didn’t take so long, but it felt like forever. There are so many things on my to do list now, that even the items that take just a half hour to finish seem like I’ll never complete them. Besides, I was in SUCH a hurry to see this done. I’m not disappointed!

I knit this to wear on our cruise on formal nights. I’m not much into glitz and glimmer, but one has to dress up if one wishes to eat in the main dining room on formal nights. My concession this trip was to knit a lace shrug from Kraemer Silk and Silver, figuring that sterling silver twisted into silk yarn should count for at least something on the glamor scale. 😉 I enjoyed working with the yarn a lot, and although it doesn’t show well in photos, the finished fabric has a delightful “diamond dust” sort of twinkle to it. I absolutely love it!

The pattern is Liz Lovick’s Hexagon Shrug, and it was a delight from start to finish. It fits beautifully and feels great to wear. I’m already positive I’ll be making another, but with more of a daily wear sort of yarn. It’s surprisingly cozy, and when I slipped it on in an air conditioning draft, it was just the perfect touch. My biggest pick is that shrugs are tough to block, and despite having tried to avoid it, I ended up with little “ears” where I went from straight to curved along the back edge – sort of like hanger marks on sweater shoulders.

I did make a small change to the pattern when I knit the cuffs. I narrowed them much more sharply than Liz wrote the pattern. In row one of the cuff, I decreased 2 in every 5 stitches, knit row 2, decreased 2 of every 5 in row 3, knit row 4, and then spread decreases through row 5 that resulted in a total of 60 stitches on the needle for the rest of the cuff. This fit me perfectly, and I really like the way it looks. If you make this pattern, you might want to put in a lifeline at the end of the lace and experiment until you find the perfect balance for your own size and arm measurement.

This is the third pattern of Liz’s that I’ve knit, and I continue to be very pleased with her work. Not only does she put together attractive, knitable projects with timeless appeal, but she sizes her garments to fit an extremely wide range of builds. Thanks, Liz!

Wow Weekend!

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending my first fiber retreat, and what a treat it was! It was awesome to be in this small group of people and see so incredibly much talent in one spot, creating some really special projects, displaying at least 7 different skills. I lost track of how many times I had my mouth gaping in amazement in the four days of the retreat.

I signed up for the event last January, thinking it would be the high point of my spring. It would be the perfect way to complete two of the goals on my annual list, so would be well worth the price of admission. Not only have I achieved my two goals, but I went well beyond! Even though it’s now just one part of an incredibly busy spring, I’m more than glad I went.

Target goal number one was to make one pair of socks on my circular sock machine (CSM) this year. With Jenny Deters’ patient assistance, I had my first pair done by the end of the first evening, then I started a second pair solo. By the end of the weekend, with help, advice, and some generous loaning of various tools from Jenny, Kim, David, Lori, and Myra, I made THREE pairs of socks! I couldn’t have done it without them, and I’m going to be grateful for a very long time for all the help they provided! First pair was plain with hemmed top. I used “my ugliest ball of yarn,” which I’d broken out for practicing tubes last year. I figured that since it had been through the machine about 5 times, it was about time to give it a rest. Of course, that means that although my heart is connected to my first pair of CSM socks, and although they are error free (I believe), I also think they are ugly! 😉 But I love them anyway! I’m sorely tempted to frame them instead of wear them. 😉

Next I did a pair of hemmed tops solo, working from the notes I took as Jenny coached me through my numerous practice heels. She did tell me how to do a picot top edge, then had to teach me how to frog, which, it turns out, was a very valuable lesson. Bad thing about these socks is that I used my favorite yarn, and they turned out too small for me. I could cry! I did make it through the project without having to ask for help beyond my notes, though, so that makes them a triumph. 🙂

For the last pair I did, I sort of bucked the advice of the experts and insisted on getting my ribber going. It was tough sledding for most of Saturday until Dave discovered an alignment pin that wasn’t properly situated. After that, it just took a few tweaks and I was ribbing confidently! I’m VERY glad I persevered, as I want to make some cotton blend socks, and I know for certain that I’ll need that ribbing to fit my leg correctly. Note that I used my ugliest remaining ball of yarn, and again they fit…

I guess my next goal is going to be to make socks that fit and I like both! 😉 By the way, details about the socks are available on my Ravelry project page.

My second goal for the weekend was to learn how to spin on a spinning wheel. Now technically, based on some very good advice from a fellow Raveler, I was spinning before the retreat, and my first skein of yarn was entirely solo – and definitely not bad for a newbie. Well… at least it exceeded my expectations… Using part of a Louet Northern Lights undyed wool top, I did this – about 164 yards of approximately DK weight yarn:

Then, still at home, I spun the singles for this next skein out of the same top, but didn’t ply it until the retreat, as it was pretty fine and very squirrely, though much more even. I don’t feel like I plied this one as well, but I’m not sure that, if having washed it and all, it would work to go back and try to make it tighter. I do have just a few yards short of 400, and it is 4 ounces of fingering weight yarn, so there’s quite a bit of work here – and enough yarn to make something real!

On Saturday night after battling my ribber all day long, I decided it was time to spin. I don’t know why, but I pulled out a batt that I honestly did not like. I thought it looked like a wad of hair out of my hairbrush. Several people had encouraged me to try spinning it anyway, promising I’d like the finished product. Whereas I can’t believe it will be my all-time favorite yarn, I have to admit that by the time I was finished with it, I had project ideas floating around in my brain. What I’m most proud of on this skein is that I finally managed to spin fairly fat, and I also was able to do a reasonable job of relaxing my craving for perfection, keep the silk noils actually IN the yarn, and produce a creditable novelty yarn. :o) This batt came to me as a freebie with the lazy kate i bought from CJ Koho on Etsy, and it consisted of nylon glitz, mohair, Border Leicester, and the silk. It’s nice and squishy, and weighs in as a bulky yarn.

A smaller goal I have had for several years was to have someone show me in person how to use my hand cards. Jenny stepped in again, giving me a short, but definitely sufficient lesson on Sunday morning, and I produced two rolags – enough to feel I have a firm grasp on the basics. This may well help me toward my goal of fleece to finished project for this year, and if it doesn’t, Maria’s demo and tips on how to use a drum carder will! I found that I love this stage of spinning – moving the clean fiber into an organized form, ready to spin. But then, I’m beginning to think that every stage has its own little bit of magic! This was just the only thing I’d not done at all, so it was especially fascinating to me. I’ve had a tough time since I’ve been home, as I’ve really been wanting to card wool instead of working on catching up my to do list and knitting for my upcoming trip.

In addition to all the things I went hoping to accomplish, there was a last minute bonus. Jenny offered to teach a class on felting hats – and that’s wet felting, not needle felting or fulling. (If you are beginning to think she is extremely versatile and talented, you are right!) Since I’d never tried this art before and had no idea where to even start, I jumped at the opportunity. 🙂 We started with a stack of alpaca batts, and we ended up with real hats, just needing trim! Me being me, I didn’t do just a plain hat. I decided I wanted to add some color to mine, as plain, dark gray just isn’t good on me. A couple minutes of thought reminded me that I’d picked up some green angora from the sale table and brought some white BFL fleece with me in my spinning tub. Adding some pink wool locks Jenny brought for the class provided me with just what I needed to dress up my batts.

Lots of soap, water, and elbow grease – enough that my pedometer registered over 2000 aerobic steps on Friday afternoon without me moving more than a foot in any direction – produced hats. Felting isn’t for wimps, but what a cool payback for all that work!

This one is mine – dry and ready to trim. Even though I saw it with my own eyes, I still find it hard to believe that I turned a pile of alpaca fiber into this! More fiber magic!

I have some ideas about how I want to trim it, but I will need more time than I have available right now, and since I don’t think I’ll have a good excuse to wear an alpaca hat in the next few months, it can wait. 😉 One thing I’m definitely going to do is to tighten up the edge of the brim and a few other spots that didn’t felt solid, using a felting needle. For some reason, we all seemed to have problems with the layers not bonding well. I have a neat idea for a band. This is definitely a “stay tuned” sort of project!

So you can see that I definitely had a productive and fiber intense weekend. 🙂 If I did nothing else the entire month, I’d have plenty to satisfy me just in this four days, I think. However, I believe I can pretty much guarantee you that isn’t going to happen!

Knitting With Purpose

Thinking about my forthcoming trip, it didn’t take me long to realize that there were some rather definite empty spots in my wardrobe. I’m fine without them in my everyday life, but I would not be so fine without them in Alaska. Some are needs, and some are closer to wants, and I have no idea how much of either I’ll be able to finish before the big event, but I’m giving it a go, starting with the smallest projects of the most importance and working up to larger and down to least importance (in my perfect plan, of course) the best I can manage. Believe it or not, I didn’t even have a proper coat, but I decided to forgo knitting that, and bought a really cool one at the Eddie Bauer outlet. I absolutely could not bring myself to buy a hat and mitts, though. 😉

My first project was the one I deemed most important – a hat. I’d been eying the Thorpe pattern for a long time, but I knew in my heart of hearts that it would look absolutely silly on me. Still, it drew me… So when I decided I needed a hat with ear coverage, I bought myself some chunky Misti Alpaca and spent two evenings knitting one up – sans braids, mind you. I did the crocheted edge that the pattern calls for, but I just didn’t like the way it looked, so I ripped it out and changed to an I-cord edge in a color I didn’t expect to use. The finished hat fits close, and the I-cord holds it cupped around my ears – after a couple failed tries. It’s going to be perfect, and as a bonus, it is incredibly touchable! I used one ball of the main color and just a bit of the contrast. Woolma condescended to model for me. Her head is a bit smaller than mine, and I think she’s a lot cuter in it, but…

Next project was a pair of mitts, knit from my own design, Sightseer Mitts, which I hope to share here sometime in the relatively near future. Although I wanted to make a pair of mittens, I started thinking about taking pix with mittens or gloves on, and knew that wouldn’t work. Then I thought about taking gloves off and sticking them in my pocket and taking a picture and getting the gloves out and putting them back on… Not going to happen! Mitts on the other hand…

These are made with most of the remaining ball of contrast I used on the hat, so both items can be made with just the two balls, and there’s still a bit left over for my Odd Balls Tub. 🙂

The third project I have finished is a vest I’ve wanted to make for years – the Taos Bolero Vest. I loved it the moment I saw it, but haven’t been making myself any clothing, as that would curtail my desire to be slimmer. However… well, I knit this a bit smaller than I’d have done for my size and blocked it under a bit of duress, so it should have some long term potential. I also used Wisdom Yarns’ Poems, which is very affordable, so no guilt. Added benefit is that I found I really love this yarn, so it wasn’t even a sacrifice to use it! And just look how pretty! I couldn’t get the camera to see the colors entirely accurately, but you can get the idea, at least. The area that looks sort of light slate blue is actually a lovely medium teal.

I did learn a few things doing this vest. First, I looked carefully at the balls for the ones that matched color repeat all the way to the center. If they have a twin, there is almost guaranteed to be no knots. (I’m now using this trick when I buy Noro off the shelf, too.) These single strand yarns with long repeats are prone to knots, so it’s worth the time to shop them carefully. I picked two balls that were twins and did my fronts from them, two at a time, so I could be sure they retained some balance, which was important to me. I know a lot of people love the mismatched sides on sweaters and vests, but they leave me feeling edgy. I didn’t obsess over making them absolutely identical, but I did watch to be sure they didn’t get very far off. No problems with these two balls, and I didn’t even have to make any adjustments!

I also chose to lengthen the body below the armhole quite a bit – a good inch and a half. I wanted my vest to end about the same place or a little lower than the waistline on my dresses. I like where it ended up, and to my surprise, I didn’t need any of the spare balls of yarn I bought. (This means I have enough yarn to make the vest two more times – or make something else wonderful from it… blush!)

And the final thing I changed is that I didn’t like the single crochet edge called for around the armholes in the pattern, so I changed it to ribbing. I worked the ribbing with one extra row around the outside edge, and I worked the armholes to match, picking up 85 stitches around each on the size XL. I’m not happy with the ribbing on the edge. The instructions didn’t say to size down needles, and it’s a 3×2 ribbing, so it doesn’t draw up much. Since she says to add a stitch in one spot during binding off, I was given to believe this would be a rather close fit, but instead, I found the number of picked up stitches to be far too generous for the length of the edge, even with my extra 3 inches of edge length from lengthening the vest. Next time around, I’m going to size down my needles, use a different ribbing, or pick up fewer stitches. Also, because of the way this is worked – all stockinette until adding the ribbing after seaming, it curls like mad! If you hate blocking garments each time you wash them, think before you knit this one! Personally, I love my final vest enough to put up with the inconvenience. 🙂

And this is what I’m working on next – The Hexagon Shrug by Elizabeth Lovick – Northern Lace. I’m just going to leave you with a teaser now, but I have to say that although this is far from an overnight project, it’s a great pattern for someone who wants a simple lace project with a lot of wow to it. The Kraemer Silk and Silver yarn doesn’t hurt a bit, either! Can’t wait to see this one finished!

And that’s all you get for now. My list of things to knit for the trip is still pretty long. I’m relatively sure I won’t get entirely through it, but I’m not going to give up trying! Wonder how many other things I have on that list that people could guess… Hmmm…

Honduras Journal – Day 2

SATURDAY, April 10, 2010 – Villa Alicia, near Siguatepeque, Honduras

4:15 am – I am NOT sleeping well at all. A series of discomforting dreams and a lot of pain in my hip joints finally encourages me to get up and take some Tylenol. I glance at the next bed over and suddenly realize that Anita is already up for the day. Groan! Thankfully, I’m able to fall back asleep, and though it’s somewhat restless, I doze off and on until it’s time for me to get up for good.

7:00 am – One of my favorite things about Saturdays is that the now familiar tap on the arm comes a half hour later than the rest of the week. Despite my less than profitable night of sleep, I’m actually awake before it happens, and my Tylenol is still in effect, so I get around faster than usual this morning. I feel pretty good when I arrive in the kitchen five minutes early – until Marissa announces that she’s already cleaned out two of the three refrigerators that are on her Saturday duty list.

7:30 am – Breakfast buzzer sounds, and to my complete joy, the week produced so few leftovers that Anita has made a fresh main dish – Brunch Enchiladas. I’m SO glad!

7:55 am – Breakfast clean up starts. I never cease to be amazed by the speed and efficiency of this process, and I actually love being involved in it. Too bad it doesn’t work like this at home!

8:05 am – The VS (voluntary service) boys take turns leading Saturday morning devotions. Today Keith spoke to us about accepting correction with a right attitude. We sang four hymns, with a slight hitch in the middle of singing time when one of the little boys called out the number of a song no one knew. Sometimes I suspect the children just look for something different on purpose, and though I’m sure most of the songs in the hymnal can be sung by someone or another person here, there are a few that no one knows at all.

8:30 am – Time for speech therapy with Jessica. This is a six day a week project, and the physical therapy is seven days per week. Today it’s like someone flipped a switch inside her, and Jessica is suddenly saying many of the phrases that have been a constant challenge perfectly. Marissa and I are both amazed and delighted, and I slipped Jess an extra graham cracker fishy for working so hard today.

9:00 am – My Tylenol is overdue and I’m starting to notice it, so I take a quick walk back to the room, where I remember it’s also laundry day. Since I came down to Honduras with just three dresses, thinking I was going to be here for just a week, laundry has to happen every other day. I gather my towels and a few odds and ends of Marissa’s and head to the laundry room, finding that Esther has already finished washing all the Saturday laundry for the entire home and hung it out, so there is a washer free for our stuff. I decide it’s best not to fixate on the thought of having that much wash done by 9:00 am, manage to get the washer started without help for the first time, then wander into the kitchen to see what awaits.

9:15 am – So far, so good… no cauliflower duty yet. Marissa sends me to the walk in freezer to get a 4 pound bag of ground beef, which I put into a pan of hot water to thaw. It’s the third time I’ve walked through the walk-in refrigerator this morning, and I’m totally sick of seeing the skinned, headless rabbit lying in the bowl there, so I grab a kitchen cloth and cover it, winning the approval of all the kitchen staff this morning. We are having baked potato bar this evening, so the next thing I do is pull the pan of larger small potatoes from the cooler to prep them. Once they are in the roasters, it’s clear there aren’t enough, so I go scrounging in the vegetable bins for the smallest of the medium-sized spuds. No washer this time; Marissa and Jessica scrub them by hand. I drizzle oil over the lot of them and toss them by hand until they are thoroughly coated. They are done until it’s time to bake them this afternoon. Anita is updating the weekly whiteboard calendar. My throat catches a bit when I see my departure listed for Thursday, and Favi has fun putting “Marissa takes off her cast” on Tuesday. After a bit of a debate, Marissa and I settle on Tuesday as our day off this coming week.

9:45 am – Given the choice of working on veggies or sorting beans, I opt for the beans, delaying what I figure is inevitable for a little while longer. As Veronica puts it, she gets out our “bowl of worms” for us – a reference to the massive bowl of broccoli and cauliflower we have to process today – and Marissa starts working on it. When Veronica’s pie crusts start giving her a bad time, she and Marissa swap projects for a while. Meanwhile, Osiris, who is severely autistic, finds herself in a poor mood and creates a fuss, but happily it is resolved fairly quickly.

10:05 am – Adriana makes my morning when she shows up for her daily visit to the home with her aunt. The moment she sees me, she runs to me and begs to be on my lap. I quickly find out that sorting beans isn’t quite as efficient when one is holding an interested toddler. Adriana is Honduran born, but fostered by one of the Americans who has moved here to be part of the community. Mom is away for a few days, so Adriana is keeping Sue busy instead.

10:15 am – I didn’t have a full meal of beans to do, as I’d already sorted some spares last week, so I’m done already. I need to make another trip to the room, and think on the way that I should bring back hangers to for our dresses. I’m back as far as the kitchen when I realize that I’ve forgotten the hangers, so it’s back to the room again. Hangers in hand, I make it to the laundry room this time, put Marissa’s dresses in one dryer and the towels and such in another, then hang my own dresses up. Oh dear! Can it be? Yes, I guess if I want these to get dry yet today, I need to go back to the room yet again, so I can hang them on the window grill – three round trips in 20 minutes. No wonder I’m tired!

10:35 am – I’m back in the kitchen again, and Lynette has captured my attention. She’s making corncakes for Osiris, who has to eat a gluten-free diet. They smell delicious, and I say as much, then am surprised and pleased when Lynette offers one to me. They are good! I bum the recipe from her and quickly copy it. She says they freeze well and reheat nicely in the toaster. I get a quick milk customer, and Gerald, who is in charge of our farming activities is working in the drawer when I go to write down the sale. I ask if he’ll jot it down while he’s writing his own info on the paper, and he says, “No problem.” I grin and say that I owe him one, and he replies that I can make it up by helping with the milking. He gets an unexpected response from me when I tell him I’ve never milked a cow, but I’ve wanted to ever since I was a child, and that it’s on my “Life List.” Almost before I know what’s happening, I am set to help this afternoon. I almost can’t believe it, and I think maybe it’s good that Saturday naps are after lunch instead of at 11:00, for surely I’d have trouble sleeping so soon. I feel like a child who just discovered a trip was planned to Disneyland!

10:45 am – Another customer comes to the window – or should I say three customers. They want 3 “cartons” of eggs, which around here is a flat of 30 eggs, but I have only one available. I get to practice my new skill of flipping a flat of eggs onto the customer’s tray – an action that still makes me nervous to do, but certainly beats moving them two at a time. Then they want 6 quarts of yogurt, but aren’t sure of what flavors, so I bring the entire crate from the walk in. First the lady tells me to pick for her, but I prefer subtle guidance and coax her into taking one each of the lemon, orange, and raspberry, with the remaining 3 being my favorite vanilla. Then she wants some Monterey Jack cheese. I’m not sure if she wants it with or without peppers, so I bring both. She buys both! Her order totals 387 lempira – by far the largest I’ve ever done – then her friend adds another hunk of cheese, which is another 49 lempiras. Too bad the weasels got so much of the last flock of broiling hens, or I’d have been able to sell her the chicken she wanted, too! If you are wondering, a lempira (lemp for short) is worth about the same as a U.S. nickel.

11:00 am – Finally I get to put the beans on to cook. I’m pleased to go through the steps on my own this time. If I was staying a few more weeks, I might even learn to make beans and rice as well as Marissa now can.

11:15 am – A trip back down to the laundry room to gather the finished clothes from the dryer. I’m very pleased with myself for remembering so early in the day. It sure beats dragging the stuff to the room when I’m so tired after supper! On the way back from the room, I meet Carol, and we get to talking about selling stuff, especially on Etsy. It feels so strange to be momentarily connected with part of my life that has seemed so distant for the past month!

11:30 am – I’m bored silly! There is absolutely nothing to do between now and lunch, and my knitting is clear down in the room. I know that if I go get it, I’ll come back to find a string of customers waiting or some other such thing. I go take a picture of the white board with its mixed messages, then help the pre-lunch dishwashers put away the last of the dishes.

12:00 pm – Finally, it’s lunchtime! After grace, I send an extra prayer of thanksgiving, as it’s our table’s turn to go to the bar first – a definite advantage for Saturday’s leftover lunches. I get a dab of macaroni and cheese, some of Thursday’s fried noodles, and a generous scoop of the tomato and cucumber salad I made that same day. I figure I have no right to complain that I missed the last of Brian’s chocolate birthday cake, since I did so well with the rest of the meal. Favi pays me the compliment of saying mournfully that she wishes I could stay longer, and I find myself agreeing with her. I never dreamed a month could seem like such a short time.

12:30 pm – Lunch is over and the clean up routine swings into action.

12:40 pm – Hurrah! Back to the room, and I’m definitely ready to settle down for my nap. I sleep so much more here, and yet I still covet naptime ferociously! I don’t quite make it through my memory verses before I’m asleep.

2:00 pm – I wake up and grab my current book, God’s Golden Children, to read for a few minutes while I stretch and yawn.

2:35 pm – Back in the kitchen again… I start the ground beef browning, put 14 pounds of beef roast in a big pan of steaming hot water, hoping it will thaw quickly, and try to avoid seeing Lynette chopping this morning’s rabbit into pieces. When Kevin comes in, he comments on wanting it eat “her,” and I groan. Lynette corrects him and says “it” is probably more appropriate at this point. Thank you, Lynette…

2:45 pm – The boys have been down to the river with the VS guys, and on the way back, they have one of the boys call and  beg to have milkshakes waiting when they arrive. Anita obligingly begins producing large quantities of Orange Julius, made with orange juice squeezed from the orchard here and milk from the cows out back. When the boys blow in, there are a couple of curious little girls around, and one of the boys announces, “It’s just for us men!” After they down seconds – and a few thirds – there’s another announcement, “Okay, we’re done, so it’s for everyone now.” I raise an eyebrow – but am also quick to grab a glassful. It’s WONDERFUL!

3:00 pm – As quickly as they came, the boys are gone, and the kitchen is quiet again. I stir the beans I cooked this morning into the browned ground beef, then while Marissa is seasoning them to please, I take over gathering and measuring ingredients for tomorrow’s California Pot Roast. A failure in communication results in me putting the ingredients in the wrong bowl, but after she gives me a fairly good natured bad time about it, she tells me I’ll be happier with it as it is now, because it will save me a late evening trip down to the kitchen, since it will all just go in at the same time now. Then she sends me to the pantry to retrieve the big roaster and the crockpots.

3:50 pm – This is it! I dash to the room for a moment, then back to the kitchen to grab my camera, and head out to the barn. On the way, I stop for a couple minutes by the pond to take some pictures of the herons, egrets, and wild ducks, as well as a cow posing prettily, then look for Gerald. He already has things underway, and I appreciate watching him go through the process for a few minutes, before he says that the next cow in line would be a good one for me to do. I decide that I should approach the job with confidence, even though it is largely feigned, and I am thrilled when my first squeeze actually produced results! Although they use milking machines, the first step after dipping the teats is to express a bit of milk to clean the “pipeline.” All goes well, though I forget to dip her again before I let her out of the stanchion. Oops! I get another chance later on, and I don’t forget the second time. I now have bragging rights for having milked numbers 6 and 21 solo, and I’m grinning from ear to ear. I stay down at the barn quite a while, watching and asking questions until Gerald has finished the entire herd. I’m amused to see the mail order catalogue that allowed the twin calves in the pen across the barn to have an American daddy. Jimmy, who helps with milking, is quite impressed that I actually milked the cows, and says I should do it all the time.

5:20 pm – I dash back to the room to change my dress and scrub up past my elbows in deference to my tablemates.

5:25 pm – Back in the kitchen, I see that Marissa and the others have supper completely under control, and I’m at a loss for something to do beyond sharing my adventure and grinning like a fool.

5:30 pm – Supper buzzer rings, and we take turns at the bar loading baked potatoes with meat and beans, broccoli and cauliflower, and cheese sauce. Turns out to be really good! We end up with two severe bouts of laughing at our table this evening. The first occurs when Favi suggests I could adopt her, but after a bit of discussion, the suggestion becomes Marissa adopting her instead. Marissa points out that she can’t because she’s single. Favi says she could get married, and Marissa responds without thinking by asking her to whom. Favi has a ready answer, naming one of the VS guys, and while Marissa turns totally scarlet and tries not to choke on her food, the rest of us erupt in gales of laughter. We’ve scarcely recovered from that when the bell rings to signal the end of supper, and Jeff announces that Jimmy would like to sing “I Saw a Little Wormy.” Marissa’s eyes grow wide with horror, as she strongly suspects his choice had to do with discovering an escapee in his dinner – an easy assumption, considering how many worms we’ve seen in the past two days. Neither of us is able to sing the song for laughing so hard, but in the end, it turns out to be an innocent coincidence. Whew!

6:05 pm – The ever amazing clean up time begins. In addition to our usual duties, Marissa and I pack a row of 16 school lunch containers with potato bar leftovers for Monday. Then I get the big bowl of the tiniest potatoes from the walk in, and we divide them into two crockpots, toss them with oil, parsley, and garlic powder, and start them cooking for tomorrow’s noon meal.

6:40 pm – News has spread that Marissa and I adopted new dolls, so when we go back to our room for the evening, we do so with an entourage of 9 curious girls. Micah and Malachi get all sorts of attention, but still no middle names. Carla finally wraps her ball of yarn, so they are all done at last. Little Anita, noticing the last of my Coke stash (bought super cheap at Del Corral a couple weeks ago), asks me, “Do you drink every night?” I find it difficult to sputter ANY sort of answer to a question like that!

7:15 pm – Our last young visitor leaves and the room is quiet. Despite my intentions to be focused this evening, Marissa and I manage to be distracted by various little things for a while.

7:40 pm – Okay, I’m back on track and in the shower, practicing my memory verses and scrubbing off the effects of a busy day in the Honduran heat. I’m SO glad it’s been unseasonably “cool” this month!

7:55 pm – I get out of the shower and find we again have company. Veronica and Anita, my other roommates, are here, as well as Esther, Sue, and little Adriana. I finally manage to deliver the sewing needles I brought along when I came down more than three weeks ago, and I get some adorable pictures of Adriana trying to comb out Marissa’s hair.

8:15 pm – It’s quiet again, as everyone has gone except Marissa and me. She heads for the shower, so I kidnap the computer to start working on the Friday portion of this log. Words are flowing well, and I’m having so much fun with it that I want to work straight through to the finish, but that’s not an option. Sigh…

10:15 pm – I get ready for bed, read briefly, then turn out the light. Lying in bed trying to sleep is nearly impossible, as there are thoughts and words bounding through my head, begging to be typed NOW! The last time I look at my watch, it’s past 11:00, and I’m wondering how close I’d be to finished if I’d kept working instead of pretending I was going to be able to sleep. Eventually, I drift off, reminding myself I have to face two sermons, three devotions, and a Sunday School class, all in Spanish, tomorrow, and I need to do it well rested.

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Hope you’ve enjoyed the two days I’ve shared of life here in Honduras!

Published in: on April 14, 2010 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Honduras Journal – Day One

There is no way I could do this for every day, but I’ve always wanted to keep a log of what a day working in the children’s home here in Honduras is like. When a day starts, of course, there is absolutely no way to predict how it will play out, and I’ve finally decided there is no such thing as a truly typical day here. I ended up logging both Friday and Saturday of this past week, and thought I’d share them here on my blog. Today I’m posting Friday, and I’ve scheduled Saturday for tomorrow. Enjoy!

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FRIDAY, April 9, 2010 – Villa Alicia, near Siguatepeque, Honduras

6:30 am – Marissa taps me on the arm to wake me up. I do a poor job of stifling a groan, then start mentally reciting the first ten verses of John chapter one in Spanish, which I’ve been memorizing during the sermons I’m unable to understand, while I try to convince my muscles to function. I can’t give them very long to respond, as I have to be presentable by breakfast time.

7:00 am – The buzzer sounds. I gulp a mug of Coke and two Tylenols and make the 50 yard trek to the dining room as quickly as my aching joints will allow. Sitting down to the table, I discover my worst breakfast nightmare has come true this morning – fried eggs. This is possibly the only breakfast here that I can’t even make a brave show of eating. I fantasize about passing up the main course entirely and going straight for the banana bread and yogurt on the bar, but decide to behave myself and nibble on a piece of toast made from the bread we baked yesterday while I wait for the more grateful breakfasters to finish their eggs. Favi and I exchange a quick grin when “Padre Nuestro” is announced as grace, and I reach for the cheat sheet she wrote for me Wednesday night at church. I wonder briefly if it might have been a better choice for my memory project this month.

7:20 am – The bell announces the end of breakfast, and in a matter of moments, the room springs to life with people clearing tables, carrying their plates, silverware, cups, and serving dishes to the serving bar where the cooks quickly sort the incoming items – dirty dishes lined up by the sink, leftovers into appropriate containers, and ketchup bottles back to the refrigerator. Milk pitchers are emptied into larger containers, water jugs refilled and toted to the cooler, and the dishes are well underway in a matter of minutes. Clean up takes much less time than preparation.

7:30 am – Everyone is assembled for devotions. Today we simply sing “choices” and close in prayer. Two of the men confidently sing the tenor and bass parts in “Search Me, Oh God”, and with the children and ladies adding soprano and alto, I am suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of the music. It’s a moment I could live over and over again and never find tiring.

7:50 am – The school children leave in a clamor of “have a good day!” Marissa hands out party invitations to the preschoolers, then we head to the special education room for Jessica’s speech therapy. It’s good to be back to our normal location after yesterday’s fiasco of trying to do class with her while we three sat on a bunk bed. She did MUCH better today!

8:30 am – As we leave the speech room, we find Rhoda looking for help with Dina’s therapy. Dina is a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome and is missing 40% of her brain. At about a year and a half old, she has varying abilities more in the range of a baby from about 4-8 months old. Marissa helps Rhoda run Dina through a series of patterning exercises while Jessica and I go to the office to copy a paper Marissa wanted for speech therapy.

 

8:40 am – I walk out to our room for a minute, then back to the kitchen to start the day’s work. We are really out of sync today, and end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out precisely what it is that we are making for meals over the next few days.

8:45 am – On the way through the kitchen to her morning special education class, Nerlin, who has severe cerebral palsy, has a seizure. When her mom arrives, she decides to let her have a nap rather than go to school today.

 

8:55 am – Another distraction when Alex arrives in Mom Carol’s arms, wearing the outfit Marissa and I bought in town for him. This is definitely a “Kodak Moment” and requires much fussing over him as well.

 

9:15 am – It feels like we are getting nowhere fast today, and now Marissa gets a phone call. After pacing for a while, I decide to set up for the pre-school party, so I make the 50 yard trip down to the room for the treats and bunny napkins, then set up the table, fill the milk pitcher, and double check my camera.

9:25 am – The weather again forgets that rainy season has not yet begun. We have an intense five minute rain, then the sun is back out again.

9:45 am – Finally some progress toward supper! I load up all the patastes and 4 monster-sized carrots from the garage and bring them into the kitchen to soak in bleach water. Meanwhile, the native cooks have already made substantial progress toward today’s lunch – the pupusas I begged them to make me while I was here. I can hardly wait!

10:00 am – Not surprisingly, 6 little people arrive promptly in the kitchen, then arrive a second time when told they must bring clean hands to the party. Keyla, Karina, Kenia, Sarita, Yesenia, and Jose each pick a song to sing, then we have grace. Snacks of “pink milk” (Strawberry Quik) and Ding Dongs are devoured with delight, but our little guest aren’t ready to leave. They want to play a game, so I learn how to play “Doggie, Doggie Where’s Your Bone?” My pitiful imitation of a preschool voice doesn’t fool anyone!

10:35 am – Back to the far too familiar task of prepping veggies for supper. Marissa takes the pataste (bless her heart!), and I attack the carrots with the slicing side of the grater, then I move on to cutting up a seemingly endless container of baby onions. One of the girls misunderstood at planting time and put out a ridiculous amount of seed, so instead of waiting for them to mature into hundreds of pounds of big onions, we are spending hours peeling and cutting onions ranging from regular marbles to shooters in size.

11:00 am – I’m wishing very much for the normal 11:00 nap, which is being forfeited in lieu of sticking around for lunch today. It will be worth it, I know, but when we aren’t doing much and I’m tired, I have to keep reminding myself about why I’m here.

11:15 am – I get an excuse to dessert my onions for a while, waiting on a customer at the window. She wants a flat of eggs, and we have only 20. Marissa abandons the pataste project to clean 10 more eggs from this morning’s gathering in order to fill the flat.

11:35 am – I’m glad to have another customer. This morning has been ridiculously lazy and I’m feeling antsy! However, it seems there is a run on eggs or something. After I bag two liters of milk, he decides he wants his change back in eggs instead of lempira. Marissa cleans 13 more eggs from the bucket.

11:45 am – Rhoda comes into the kitchen, and Marissa dutifully tells her that we’ve snitched 23 of the “easy to clean” eggs. Rhoda has the job of washing, counting, and sorting the cracked and uncracked eggs this week. Rhoda’s brow furrows as she tells us we weren’t supposed to sell ANY eggs this morning, as they are reserved for a large order. Oops!

11:50 am – Conversation in the kitchen meanders to talk of a couple that has just found out they are expecting conjoined twins. The babies are due relatively soon, and this news is quite fresh even to them. The children aren’t expected to survive more than a few hours. What a sad story to hear!

11:55 am – I finally have the onions done! There is just enough time to clean up, load the slop bucket, and put the veggies in the cooler before lunch.

12:00 pm – The buzzer sounds for lunch, and I waste no time finding a place to sit. After grace, I’m grinning from ear to ear as I eventually finish off four very tasty pupusas, piled with shredded cabbage and red sauce. This is definitely a high point in my 4 week stint here!

 

12:23 pm – It’s strange to just drop my dishes off at the bar and leave the kitchen! However, I’m happy to finally be heading to the room. A quick check for email reveals a note from my neighbor back home, but instead of answering it, I respond to a squall outside out window. The battle over the tricycle resolves instantly when I stick my head out the door, and I suspect I know which party was in the wrong by how quickly she takes off upon seeing me. I come back in to find Marissa in bed, so I flop out across my mattress, aiming to read a short chapter in my book before dozing. Instead, I am paged as having a phone call. Mom calls to share some info with me and get an update on the patient (or impatient). I tell her that Marissa has become totally disgusted with being in a cast and is almost to counting the minutes until her Tuesday appointment with el doctor.

1:00 pm – I’m finally one with my pillow, and barely get started on my memory verses before I’m asleep.

2:10 pm – Marissa and I wake up almost simultaneously. She is ready and out the door a lot faster than I can manage, though. I remember I need to pay my credit card this weekend and figure I should do it now while I’m thinking about it. The phone lines are busy, but I figure it’s better to do this on my cell phone. However, when I dial the number, I get a Spanish recording telling me otherwise. Grrr… Both phone lines here are busy, so I’ll have to do it later.

2:25 pm – I return to the kitchen to find Marissa sorting today’s freshly picked and shelled peas. Remembering my missing sock, I dash down to the laundry room and am thrilled to find it. I don’t have enough clothes with me that I can afford to lose anything!

2:35 pm – Back to work now. I dump all the veggies into the pot to see if we have enough for tonight’s supper. Veronica vetoes adding green peppers, because she seriously dislikes them, and since neither of us can go get them from the garden ourselves, she wins. Marissa sends me to get the leftover lunch cabbage, and thinking it’s in the cooler, I go looking. I don’t find the cabbage, but I find the last coconut raisin cookie and relieve it of its lonely existence. When I find the cabbage, it’s sitting on the end of the counter, and there’s but a spoonful left. Our mixed veggies are becoming less mixed by the minute. The school children flood into the kitchen, turning it instantly from a peaceful retreat into something more resembling Grand Central Station at rush hour, as they clear and repack lunchboxes and claim their afternoon snacks.

2:45 pm – I do one of the strangest things I’ve done since I arrived – help Marissa throw two roasters full of very little potatoes into the washing machine – short cycle, no soap…

3:05 pm – I finally get a free phone line and pay my credit card. I’m extremely grateful that the home has a Pennsylvania phone line via satellite and that it’s working today!

3:15 pm – The clamor of children has dissolved into homework and chores, but we suddenly develop a regular trickle of grinning youngsters all bearing the same exciting news: “Ethan’s dating!” He’s a former VS worker who went home earlier this year. Everyone is very excited!

3:30 pm – Andrea wanders through the kitchen and I just can’t help myself. I ask her if she could pretty please just bring our load from the washer into the kitchen, then almost hold my breath in anticipation, wishing very much I could be a fly on the wall. She’s back in a couple minutes laughing at having found it was a load of potatoes. She good naturedly helps me pick that mess of miniature spuds, now spotlessly clean, out of the tub and carry them back to the kitchen. Seeing what we were doing, Gerald asks if we are going to cook them in the dryer.

4:00 pm – The pre-supper dishwashing crew shows up. I’m sorting dozens and dozens of little potatoes by size for the two meals we’ll be using them, so I start a game with the girls, quizzing them on which part of the plant we are eating when we have our various fruits and vegetables. I ran out of foods before they ran out of enjoying the game.

4:30 pm – Yes! I get a brief break waiting on an ice cream customer at the window. We get the news that the guys are pouring concrete and won’t be in for supper, so the tables, which Marissa had been pleased to have set already, need to be redone to accommodate seating the boys with their moms instead of their VS guys.

4:50 pm – Finally done with the potatoes! I’m sure glad I don’t have to eat any of them tonight. Right now I’m thoroughly sick of potatoes!

5:00 pm – I have a milk customer, and before I get the stuff put away, a second one. Where were these people when I was so bored earlier?

5:07 pm – Marissa checks the rice we have reheating for tonight’s supper – leftover arroz con pollo from last Sunday’s fellowship dinner. It doesn’t taste right to her, and it turns into a major project to try to get it satisfactory – not good considering supper is just 23 minutes away. Meanwhile, I measure the peas for Sunday dinner and blanch and freeze the two quarts that remain.

5:20 pm – Marissa is thoroughly sick of doing the cauliflower and broccoli, and is still fussing over the rice, so I take a deep breath and take over the worm hunting project.

5:30 pm – Buzzer sounds for supper. I’m still trying to finish the cauliflower and broccoli, and I realize it HAS to be done before I eat, as it’s tying up the sink. I sing grace with everyone long distance from the kitchen. It’s impossible to feel good about being nearly done with this project, as late this afternoon, a substantially larger bowl of the same, fresh picked from the same garden, arrived on the kitchen counter, meaning tomorrow will bring more of this less than stimulating activity.

5:45 pm – Finally done with the worm hunt, I move everything out of the way and go out for my meal. The rice doesn’t taste right to me, and the veggie blend is missing something, too. I’m busily thanking God again for the wonderful pupusa lunch, as breakfast and supper have left me very wanting. Then I discover there is a lovely blueberry cobbler for dessert. Suddenly everything seems just fine again!

6:00 pm – The bell rings ending supper. Chairs grumble as they slide out, releasing sated diners, and the ballet begins anew in the kitchen as dozens of plates, cups, bowls, and pieces of silverware arrive for the dishwashers. I notice that the latecomers won’t have much cobbler to share, but there’s plenty of other food left for them. Hmmm… By the time we are done with our part of the clean up, the guys who are washing dishes tonight have begun an impromptu sing along over the soap suds, and I almost don’t want to leave.

6:25 pm – We head to our room with Luci, who wants to see Marissa’s crochet project and wrap the yarn she dyed a couple weeks ago at the party we had for the big girls. We have a nice visit, talking about knitting and crocheting.

7:15 pm – Luci leaves, and Marissa turns on the David Copperfield audiobook we’ve been enjoying. I try not to feel too guilty about the email I should be answering, as I  coax my aching muscles to relax, while knitting a few inches up the ankles of my Rushing Rivulet socks.

8:45 pm – Marissa decides it’s time to turn off the book and take a shower. She’s soon celebrating, as she finally managed to dislodge what appears to have been a small abscess in her tonsils, relieving a discomfort of several days’ duration. I knit for just a little bit longer, then decide I should write today’s journal entry, especially since I missed yesterday. I’ll have to have her help me catch up – hopefully soon. It’s surprising how quickly things become a total muddle in my memory!

9:10 pm – Time for my shower. I’m still amazed that something I’ve considered for so long to be an absolute luxury has now become a very quick, in and out, nightly necessity for me. I still manage to get through my Spanish memory verses thrice before I’m done.

9:25 pm – Stretched out in bed, I read for a while as one by one my roommates’ lights go out. Despite my long day, I’m still not nearly as sleepy as I am tired.

10:23 pm – Okay, it’s time for me to try to sleep. I turn off my light and drift between prayers and memory verses until I’m finally in dreamland.

Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Funny Thing Happened When I Went to Honduras…

Seems I have a bit of an adventure to share with you all. A couple weeks ago, I left my family behind and took off for a short, somewhat unexpected trip to visit my daughter in Honduras. I pre-posted a couple of things on the blog so I could keep up with my weekly posting goal for the year and hopped on the plane with my return tickets dated for 8 days hence. Funny thing happened when I arrived in Honduras, though. When I searched my daughter out at the airport, I could see the top of a pair of crutches. Thinking this was one of her little pranks, I laughed – until I made my way through the crowd. Somehow, the big, blue cast on her leg seemed to be a good bit farther than she would go for a prank. 

Sadly, I was right in that assessment. Turns out that when she was creeking during a visit to the coffee farm, she fell and fractured her tibia (shin bone) and is going to be casted until April 13. Since the other cook was going on furlough at the beginning of April, and Marissa is about half of a cook right now, I’m sure you can guess how my mind started to turn. After a couple of days here, I decided to brave voicing the wild idea of changing my flight, and after receiving the thumbs up from the home front and those in charge here, I re-ticketed for the middle of April – a couple days over 4 weeks here. I still think I must have lost my mind! 

I packed very lightly for myself, bringing all my personal stuff in my carry on bag, so it’s been interesting to say the least. Toiletries are pricy – paid almost $5 for a 4 oz. can of deodorant! And it’s supposed to be hot season, though God has been gracious so far, providing a week of abnormally cool weather to this point, followed by a second one that was also cool enough to bear – a tremendous blessing for me, since I can’t tolerate heat well at all. I don’t even want to think what the bill will be at the parking lot where I left my car “for a few days.” But it’s fun – and it’s odd how much the feeling of the trip changed for me when it changed from being a short visit to see Marissa and the children to staying here to work because I’m legitimately needed.

There have been a lot of things happening around here during my first two weeks – far too many to share in one post, so I’m just going to tell you a few from my first week for now.

Thursday, the day after I arrived, in a brilliant moment of creative problem solving, we pulled an old office chair out of the sewing room. The back had been broken off some time ago, but after three of us spent about an hour digging a double handful of thread out of the casters, we had the perfect wheels for Marissa.

She can now zip around the kitchen doing many of her tasks, and can even set the table. This has been tremendously beneficial. It means she doesn’t have to use crutches too much, and with her wrist having been broken and not treated last year about this time, the crutches were causing her a lot of problem. The things she can’t do – like fetching from the pantry and waiting on milk customers, for instance – I’m able to do, and I am also making up for her being obviously a bit slower at some things.

Friday evening was the school program. It was such a delight that had they offered to start from the beginning and do it again, I’d have sat through it a second time! I’ve never seen anything to match it in the States, and much to my joy, they recorded it and sold CD’s for 20 lempira – about $1 each. I’m probably not going to get out much, since Marissa can’t drive a standard casted and there are no automatics here, but I know I have one souvenir which will be long treasured in that CD.

Saturday we had an afternoon party for the big girls. Instead of our traditional tea party, we divided the girls into two groups. Half of them used Wilton icing colors to dye yarn, which they will be able to crochet into items for their dolls. 

The other half made cards for the other children and staff, sharing appreciation and encouragement, then picked a treat for the people for whom they made cards. Then we switched, so all the girls did both projects. The cards were very nice, with some beautiful and thoughtful notes written, and the yarn dyeing was quite a success, with the resulting skeins being as varied as the girls themselves. It was a great afternoon!

Sunday we did something else that was new to me. We were up and ready to go at about 6:30 in the morning, and we rode with 15 or more people in the truck about 2 and a half hours to a tiny Mennonite church in Macuelizo. There is only one American family there, and the congregation is quite small, but the people were incredibly friendly, and I enjoyed visiting with them very much. We had lunch with Les and Verna – very traditional Honduran fare of beans, rice, and tortillas. I’m glad I like that menu, as one sees it in some form almost daily around here. I suppose I’ll be very full of beans by the time I get back home. Pix show some of the scenery through the Honduran countryside and the little church where we worshipped. The cattle on the road is a very common site.

Monday was a traditional day in the kitchen. However, there was one moment that was so funny I have to share it. I went to help a customer at the sales window, and somehow it didn’t quite register with me when I looked at him that he didn’t exactly look Honduran. I opened the window and greeted him, and he said, “Do you have any milk to sell?” I looked at him a bit dumbly and asked him to repeat what he said, then suddenly realized he was speaking ENGLISH! Duh!!!! It sure was a lesson in how expectations can influence perception. I’m still laughing a bit about that! In case you are wondering who he was, there is a boy’s home nearby, and they come to buy milk from us here. We got a bit of a blessing today, as he’d toted about 15 pounds of sweet potatoes they had to spare, wondering if we wanted to buy some. The timing was great, as our rice bag is about to the bottom. We had our red chicken gravy over sweet potatoes tonight instead of rice, and the rice we sorted this morning is ready for the next time we need it. (We found gusanos in the rice bag, so have to sort it before cooking it now. And if you are wondering what gusanos are, let’s just say they wiggle… )

Now I’m “only” a week and a half behind, but I think this is enough for now. I’ll try to get more posted sometime next week. Online time here is extremely limited, and when I do get online, it’s heavily filtered, so I’m not able to post to my blog as much as I’d like. For quite a while, I couldn’t even access it. I was joking that they were trying to protect me from myself. Of course, even if there weren’t the limitations, I’d still not be able to manage much, I fear. A day working in the kitchen here leaves me feeling VERY old and tired!

I’m leaving what I’d written here and adding this paragraph. I prepared this post the middle of last week, writing it offline on Word. Between my work schedule here, revival meetings, and the frustrating challenges of trying to access the internet, upload pix, etc., it’s even more aged than it was when I first tried to post it. At this rate, I better start on the next one right away! Since I was at least trying, I’m still counting this as keeping up with my weekly blogging. 😉 I have some truly wonderful pix that I’m very eager to share!

For those of you who pray, if you would, please keep both Marissa and me in prayer – Marissa for all the normal missionary stuff, plus for patience with her incapacities and speedy healing. For me, health and strength equal to the task I’ve undertaken, and that things work out okay with my abrupt change of plans, as I’ve left much dangling on the home front, plus have increased my trip expenses substantially. Hope to post again soon!

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