altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
So our musical trio ThingamaJig gave its first public performance under that name today. It was the Woodstock Farmer's Market, on the Square. We were up in the bandstand gazebo and though the organizers provide a tip jar it was located where we couldn't easily see who was putting stuff into it (if any.) The two hour performance went well, and I was pleased with the responses I got for my flute playing. But the best came when Gary went through the contents of the tip jar (actually a plastic bucket) after we got home. It was a little money, which when divided up might buy an ice cream bar or a coffee for each of us. But the great thing was this note:



Neal's response (with which I can only concur) was:

"Best tip ever. I am inspired."
altivo: Blinking Altivo (altivo blink)
Suddenly I'm seeing talk about migration from LJ to DW (or other platforms) again. I bailed from LJ not long after the Russians took over, and don't know a lot about what happened to it since then. I've been quite happy with DW but then, I don't insist on a constantly shifting platform that wants to be "cutting edge" all the time even if that means undercutting its own long term users. I have accounts elsewhere (Blogspot, Tumblr, FA, Furry Network, and so forth) but don't really use them or care for the sites. Mostly I keep them to avoid being impersonated by someone else. I do use Twitter with some regularity, but don't consider it to be as effective for real communication.

Anyway, for those who are choosing to leave LJ now and come over to DW, welcome. Dreamwidth has a number of things in its favor. They promised not to try the kinds of wholesale censorship that SixApart fell down on. They promised not to shove advertising in your face. In my experience and exposure (which may not be complete, admittedly) they have kept those promises. I consider that a huge point in their favor. I am happy to pay the annual charge for a paid account, and I encourage any of you who can afford to do so to follow my example. DW staff are helpful and unobtrusive, and the site has very few technical difficulties (unlike some of the dedicated furry sites that I won't single out by name.)

I generally follow back most who choose to follow me, and my DW journal is public, not locked or private. I look forward to reacquainting myself with old friends and perhaps meeting new ones.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Yes, I know, official meteorological spring began a month ago and astronomical spring two weeks ago. But one of our significant measuring points was hit over the weekend: our ducks began laying eggs. The first two are in the fridge along with four more left in the hay storage by the neighbors' wandering hens.

Also, I got some sour jelly beans (Starburst, not the best ever but they'll do) so that annual requirement is met. I think last year I never found any at all.

It has been raining on and off for three days. Coming down fairly hard at the moment. I can hear it on the roof and hitting the skylight in the kitchen as well as dripping into the stovepipe (despite the fancy cap that is supposed to prevent that.)

Music chunterings )

Other than going out to care for the horses, I spent most of the day editing and arranging tunes for ThingamaJig. Tomorrow we should see a little more of the sun, but then they tell us to expect some actual snow. Had enough of that now, no thanks.
altivo: (rocking horse)
OK, we added another gig for the ThingamaJig at local fiberfest. Have to get business cards and website up and running.

I finished up a design for the card yesterday, we printed some and they look good enough. Here's the front side of the card.



Back side has personnel and additional contact info on it, summed up on the temporary page I put up here.

[Late addition: Gary has now added a link on the website page above to our actual calendar of events, which has started to fill up nicely enough.]

In other news, late winter seems to be fading into full-fledged summer, with one day in the 80s already this week. No more snow, but rain and fog are intermingled with warm and sunny.

Neighbors' chickens are scratching up my garden beds and generally making a mess. Their German shepherd was over here this morning digging a hole under the corner of the arena. Same people who in the past have visited two very large hogs on us (two different occasions) and a horse once, and a rabbit that kept escaping and coming over to hide in my barn. Their geese used to hang around here squawking and following Gary about, too. They seem to feel no sense of responsibility for any of this.

In spite of all of this, I feel I'm finally getting the hang of being "retired" and not having to do stuff. Except of course for all the stuff I have to do. ;p
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Too much stuff going on.

The most interesting to me, though (I'll avoid political rants for now) has to do with music.

Current musical developments )

In other news, the neighbors' wandering chickens are back again, as many as a dozen of them meandering around our yards and scratching holes in the ground. Just now we had two roosters in a knock down battle that got our dog Laddie all excited and worried. Gary had to literally kick them apart and chase them back toward home in the end. The way they were going at it, I figured the larger one was going to kill the other if left alone. He had the victim trapped in a fence corner and was stomping, scratching and biting for all he was worth. I'd have turned the hose on them except it hasn't been warm long enough for us to have put it out yet.
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
I've been busy making socks. Why not just buy them? Because when I make my own I get what I want, not what mass producers want to sell. For instance, I wanted some nice heavy and warm socks to wear inside my rubber work boots for barn stuff in winter.

Sock knitting details under cut )

Milestone

Jan. 10th, 2017 05:59 pm
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Last July I finally gave in and went to the doctor to ask for help with my blood pressure, which I knew had been too high for some time. Given that several close relatives eventually died of stroke or aneurysm, this seemed like a wise thing to do. I was relieved to learn that my situation is not unusual, age wise, and in fact responded quickly to some increased daily exercise and a mild generic drug taken daily. My readings have been back to "normal" range since some time in August.

At that time I also committed myself to losing some weight, as I have gradually gained quite a lot over the last few years. My goal was to lose at least 50 pounds over a year's time, and continue to lose slowly after that. I've been lucky in that I found it pretty easy to start dropping pounds just by eliminating between meal snacks and adjusting portion sizes. No great privation has been necessary. Keeping track of everything I eat and actually seeing the calories, fats, sugars, etc. add up each day has been enlightening. I thought I knew what I was eating and the nutritional significance and on the whole I was right, but I had failed to realize how seemingly small things can add up quickly.

In any case, I am so far on track to reach that 50 pound weight loss goal by the one year mark. As of today, I am down 27 pounds from where I started. The difference is perhaps not too obvious in appearances, but in terms of how I feel, how well I sleep, and how much energy I have it is already pretty significant. My sister-in-law, who is a nurse practitioner, advises me that it is much better to lose weight gradually than to go on crash diets to drop a lot of it quickly. I find that pretty reassuring.

Fortunately, we don't indulge in fast food restaurants or packaged convenience foods much. Whenever we do, I am reminded quickly of how dismal these can be for one's health. The amount of sodium in a single fast food meal can easily account for a full day's recommended allotment. Sodium (much of it from salt) has a rapid affect on blood pressure and other health issues, including weight gain due to water retention.
altivo: Horsie cupcakes (cupcake)
Today is the Day of the Rock, an archaic term for the first day of ordinary time after the Christmas holiday of 12 days' length. "Rock" in this case being an old word used to refer to a spindle, the primitive tool used for spinning wool or linen into thread that can be woven or knitted into garments. Some of you may recall a puzzling song lyric: "I sold my rock, I sold my reel, I sold my only spinning wheel..." which in fact uses the word in that context.

In more generic terms, today is the first day on which ordinary household tasks, such as spinning, weaving, sewing, and laundry, are resumed after the Christmas break.

So. Did I do any spinning today? Alas, no, my spinning wheels (3 of them) and my spindles (many) remained idle. However, I did do some knitting and may get some more done before going to bed. We cooked and washed dishes and cared for our animals too, but those things never stop for any holiday. Well, neither does knitting.

We did celebrate the Day of the Rock by going to two stores that were having yarn sales, though. We bought nothing at Michael's, but did get some yarn and tools at Joann Fabrics. I have at least three knitting projects going at the moment and I'm buying more yarn? It was a "bargain." But I'll be honest, it's also a kind of addiction. At least it's not harmful to one's health. I have other addictions too: reading, buying books, a lifelong attraction and attachment to animals of all sorts, playing keyboard instruments (sometimes badly) and so forth. Love me, love my flaws I guess. Fortunately my husband shares many of these to some degree, so we have few problems with it.

As I type this, one of those animals is snuggled up with me on the sofa. Yes, even though I yelled at him yesterday for eating my mittens. I shouldn't have left them within his reach, of course, even though he has rarely done anything like that in the nine or so months he has been with us. He sheds fur, drools water on the floor, and barks too much; but Laddie is a first class cuddler and that gets him a pass on most of his flaws.

Happy Day of the Rock to one and all.
altivo: Gingerbread horse cookie (gingerhorse)
This may seem irrational gibberish to readers who don't cook. But when it is bitter cold outside and chilly inside, baking bread and simmering soup always seems to make it warmer. Plus you get a good supper from it.

Actually, no soup today. But I did make a new kind of bread. We have many, many shelves full of cookbooks. Most of them have been skimmed more than once, but certainly also most of those recipes have never been prepared here. Triggered by some bananas that were past their prime, I went in search of a yeast bread into which I could put bananas. No difficulty finding many such recipes, but most of them were overly sweetened and had raisins or other fruit added. I was hoping for something lighter and eventually I found it.

Banana and Aniseed Bread, recipe under cut )

We had the bread with our dinner salads and pronounced it a keeper. I'm eager to see how well it works as toast.

Somewhat colder today than yesterday. I went out to clean stalls and make up hay nets at about 2 pm, and had to interrupt that work after 30 minutes to come in and get warm again. Despite heavy mittens, my fingers were getting frostbitten. The temperature was about 13°F but the wind chill was probably below zero. I made tea and got warm, then went out to finish. That took another 45 minutes or so, plus the time to put the horses into their stalls and give them supper. Came back inside with painful fingertips and ears again, and that time I had switched to leather mittens lined with fleece and had a knit cap on over my ears. Woodstove is going again, after I cleaned out the ashes and got it started. Feels much better now.

It's cold

Jan. 4th, 2017 05:14 pm
altivo: Commission line art colored by myself (cs-tivo-color)
Even with the extra insulation, new roof, and modernized geothermal furnace, the house is too chilly for me. Thank Epona there are woodstoves and we have wood. I know, it's adding pollutants to the atmosphere. *shrinks in shame, but isn't shivering*

Experimenting with knitting on a frame (also called a "jenny" or a "rake" or a knitting board.) This because husband Gary asked for a sock knitting frame for Christmas and I got it for him. He has tried conventional knitting but didn't persist long enough to overcome the initial lack of coordination that plagues most beginners. I had doubts that the sock loom would solve that, especially since it is designed for fine yarn and lots of stitches per row. However, when I started him on a larger plastic hoop frame with heavier yarn he took right off and has about two feet of a scarf completed. I gave him several instructional books with patterns and he's already talking about afghans. Consequently I figure I'd better brush up on my own knowledge of the process.

Since I've knitted in the traditional way with needles for more than 50 years, the frame seems slow and clumsy. It also lacks flexibility as to gauge and size. But it does work and I see it is possible to do a lot more with it than I had expected. So, socks are underway and we'll see. In spare minutes here and there I can usually finish a pair of socks in a week or so. This first set may take somewhat longer.

In other news, it's cold. Oh wait, I said that already. At least we could see the sun today and it definitely stayed around later before we were plunged into icy darkness.

So, 2017

Jan. 2nd, 2017 11:03 am
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Here it is, the second day of a new year. To all of you who have either newly arrived on DW or are now reawakening dormant accounts you made here at some time in the past, a warm welcoming whinny. It's good to see you here, though I'm sorry it took an earthquake in LJ management to bring you. Make yourselves comfortable. You'll find that DW management is much more like the old LJ we remember from long ago, and in many ways superior even to that.

The horses are tiptoeing about on crunchy ice outside, a remnant of snow accumulated and then melted before Christmas. Today's forecast is fog with possible rain showers, but the thermometer is to plunge again below freezing later in the week. Dismal winter. But at least the days are getting longer already, and noticeably so.

Husband is making pea soup from the leftovers of the Christmas ham: it smells good already and even though the fridge is still stuffed with other leftover tasty things. Unfortunately, I'm still dieting for the foreseeable future, so it takes a while to eat all this stuff up.

As a new year's day project I sorted through the many ephemera that were stuck to the refrigerator door by so many refrigerator magnets that it's a wonder the neighbors' refrigerators haven't been sucked into our kitchen by the force field. Old recipes, newspaper clippings, takeout menus from restaurants that have since gone out of business. It was quite a time capsule. The magnets are still there; the flapping bits of yellowed paper are gone. And yes, there is still enameled metal under there and not even rusty.

So, in honor of the new emigration from LJ, I am doing my own small part to dust things off and post more. I won't call it a resolution because we all know those are doomed to failure.
altivo: 'Tivo as a plush toy (Miktar's plushie)
Or if you insist, "Taco Lasagna." The idea of this arrived via [personal profile] rebelsheart several weeks ago. After he reported that his version seemed to be OK but not spectacular, I took up the challenge. I let it simmer in my head for a while before getting around to the actual experiment.

Here is the result:



Recipe under cut )

Note that I use individual spices rather than prepared chili powder, both because I find it gives better flavor and aroma and because the prepared powder is usually half salt. That's sodium none of us needs.

The result was quite tasty and we rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars. It has some heat, but not the fire of real authentic Mexican dishes. That can be adjusted to your taste of course. As I made it, several of our less adventurous friends would have found it "too hot to eat."
altivo: Blinking Altivo (altivo blink)
Some may have seen me talking about this on Twitter during the summer.

Last May two stray hens (no idea where they came from) started laying eggs in one of our barns. One of them had nested in stacked hay bales, the other on the flat top of a tack room (enclosed closet) about 8 feet above the floor. Both eventually sat on eggs for about 8 weeks without hatching any, and we removed the potential stink bomb eggs and figured that was that.

General birdbrain meanderings )
altivo: From a con badge (studious)
I'm pleased to announce that my story, "Harvest Home," appears in the new anthology Fragments of Life's Heart which is now available from Amazon, Smashwords, Weasel Press, and Rabbit Valley.

I have been writing about my two characters Argos the wolf and Fennec the fox for several years now, but mostly in longer works that have yet to see print. "Harvest Home" is set near the ends of their lives and will actually be their first appearance in a print format.

This collection of short stories by furry authors has been in the works for more than a year, and editors Laura "Munchkin" Lewis and Stefano "Mando" Zocchi have done a masterful job of pulling it all together. The book is available in both traditional print and e-book formats (Kindle/mobi or epub.)

Quite a few more illustrious writers have contributed to the anthology, and you can see the list of contents at any of the links I've supplied above. If you read furry literature, I'm sure you will enjoy this.
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
The house has been empty and quiet since Red left us last November. I keep forgetting he's gone, and saving treats for him and expecting him when I come in from outside. I've been watching the pet adoption sites for weeks. Finally, "Laddie" showed up. He's been featured in the county newspaper every day for at least a week, with no takers. Picked up as a stray, no ID, in Ohio. Rescued from a kill shelter there and brought to Helping Paws here. Today we went to meet him, and I'm sorry he had to wait since New Years because I would have chosen him much sooner had I known. Five years old is his estimated age, and the shelter people think he's a rough collie mix but I think border collie and husky. He's shaggy and cheerful, but not barky. Energetic and really friendly. It was love at first sight and I felt bad about having to leave him in the kennel there overnight but that's the standard policy. They checked our references (mainly our vet) and called after closing time to say we're approved and he can come home with us tomorrow. Here are his photos from the adoption page.





Now to declutter the house, find a doggie bed for him, and pick some toys out of the toy box to welcome him home.
altivo: 'Tivo as an inflatable toy (inflatable toy)
I have recently been seized with a new interest in jewelry. No, not the heavy loads of costume stuff some people wear, and definitely not "precious" diamonds and rubies. But I've always liked simple pieces in understated color, matched to the wearer's personality and mood. This applies to both men and women. A simple ring, a pendant, a bracelet, or even just one earring, properly chosen, can be a fantastic addition.

I have a small collection of such pieces that I wear occasionally. Last spring I bought two or three small items from Black Wolf Jewellery in the Netherlands, and have been very pleased with them. But this made me think once again about making some items for myself or for gifts. (No, I'm not planning to sell anything.)

Details and photos under cut )

I wouldn't have thought that something as insignificant as color preferences would be so consistent over an entire lifetime, yet apparently they are. I may get around to looking for actual statistics on that.
altivo: (rocking horse)
Since I was home all day yesterday and Gary went to a Christmas party in the afternoon and got back for dinner late, I made a satisfying dish that can wait until a convenient time to be served.

Cholent is a slow cooked stew that was created by Jewish cooks in order to be able to serve a hot meal on the sabbath without actually cooking or lighting a fire. The ingredients were put into a heavy ceramic pot, and the lid sealed on with dough. This could then be placed in a hot brick oven before sunset on Friday and left to cook overnight. The pot was retrieved and opened at midday on Saturday, with a complete meal ready to eat inside. In fact, a smaller tin with a tight-fitting lid could be placed inside the cholent pot in order to cook a kugel (pudding dish) to be served for dessert.

I took an interest in Jewish traditional food for a while, and this was one of the recipes that we really enjoyed. My version is evolved a bit, since some of the traditional ingredients are not only hard to get but unappealing to us (beef tongue, goose neck.) The main differences are my use of smoked turkey sausage in place of the traditional beef brisket or chicken, and the addition of some brown rice for additional texture.

Recipe and photo under cut )
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
The good news: It appears that Midwest Furfest was bigger than ever (5600+ attendees, almost 1600 fursuits in the parade, $62,000 raised for this year's charity "Save-a-Vet".)

The bad news: Though I'd agreed to do a panel with Sparf and Tempe O'Kun, and did register for the con, when push came to shove it was simply not practical for me to get there. I had originally thought I could just drive down for Saturday, but it turns out that parking is non-existent or quite expensive in the area, and dubious at night. The panel was from 8 to 9 pm on Saturday, which would have meant returning alone in the dark to a remote parking lot to drive back home.

I don't much care for driving to begin with, and in a congested unfamiliar area, in the dark, this didn't sound at all appealing. So I thought maybe public transportation would be better. Well, it's theoretically possible to get to the convention hotel from my home if I take Metra commuter rail from Woodstock to Jefferson Park in Chicago, and then transfer to the CTA Blue line to get to Rosemont. It's about a quarter mile walk from the station to the hotel. This would have been workable except that the weekend train schedules are sparse (to put it politely) and with the panel ending at 9 pm, there was only a single train to get me back to Woodstock. Miss that connection for any reason (and there are many possible reasons, from time overruns to a CTA delay which is fairly common) and I'd have been stranded. Even if it worked, I would have gotten back to Woodstock after midnight, and likely have had to stand around in a nearly deserted station at Jefferson Park for 30-40 minutes which is never a pleasant prospect after dark. I've had unpleasant and near-disastrous experiences with that before.

So in the end, I gave up on the whole idea. I felt bad about backing out of the panel, of course, but I knew that Sparf and Tempe would manage it just fine. So I sent my apologies and missed the entire convention. The last time I actually attended MWFF was in 2008. The con has nearly quadrupled in size since then, which is good I guess, but makes it so big that I'm reluctant to go at all. This experience makes it even less likely that I'll try again. Friends who were actually there found the crowds so oppressive at times that they had to leave the hotel to find open and relatively quieter space. I'm very prone to claustrophobia, so avoiding such scenes is probably a better choice for me. I was looking forward to the art show, and a chance to hear Fox Amoore live as well as seeing some friends from out of state, but it didn't work out.

On the other hoof, I did get to attend two of my husband's three live performances that took place this weekend. I would have missed those had I gone to the convention. Saturday morning he was with the Kishwaukee Ramblers at the Woodstock Farmers' Market. That evening the Ramblers appeared again at the Boone County Conservation District's annual Christmas Walk in Belvidere. The setting for that event is a park that includes some historic cabins and a one room schoolhouse that has been reconstructed on the site. The Ramblers played in the schoolhouse by lamplight, where visitors to the park could stop for refreshments and warm drinks after touring the cabins and the blacksmith shop along trails illuminated by luminaria set along the ground. Here is a photo of the 19th century schoolhouse setting, with my husband Gary on the left playing concertina and hammered dulcimer.

Kishwaukee Ramblers
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
It's all the name he had. He was part of our daily life for five years after we took him as a rescue when he was six. Red was a big guy, maybe not the brightest dog we ever had but certainly among the sweetest and quietest. He followed us faithfully from room to room as we did daily chores, learned commands readily though he sometimes had a mind of his own, and was always gentle and tolerant of our other dogs and even the cats (who sometimes slept snuggled with him or even on top of him.) He was a hundred pounds of appetite and affection, and we'll miss him for a long time. Eleven years is a long life for a big dog, and he accepted his growing infirmities placidly, struggling but never complaining. A growing failure of his spine gradually took away his mobility until at last he couldn't rise and walk without falling and hurting himself, yet he kept trying. Yesterday he gave up and we knew we had to carry him into the vet's office. There was nothing more we could do but hold him close, say a tearful good-bye as he left us, and hope to see him again, eventually, whole and young once more.



Thanks to all of you who have sent sympathetic comments. I'm overwhelmed now and can't answer every single one, but we really appreciate it. Eventually there will be another dog, but he or she won't be Red. Nor any of the other ghosts who haunt us: Sasha, Tee, Simon, Sarah, Sunny, Max, Amanda, Mikey. All of them loved, all of them sorely missed.

I caved...

Nov. 8th, 2015 05:42 pm
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
It was my intention to attend MWFF on just a one day admission for Saturday. However, that requires a full registration at the door process. Looking at the schedule of panels and events, I see things I might like to do on Friday or Sunday, though I doubt I'll show up all three days. Still for the $20 extra to get a full membership, I can drop in any time during the weekend and get to go through the (somewhat) shorter registration line. So I went ahead and pre-registered today. Depending on weather and driving conditions, I'll probably make it for part of Friday at least, and much of Saturday.

It's getting so that actually staying at the hotel for these things is ridiculously difficult. You have to commit almost a year in advance because the reservation blocks fill up so quickly. As I've been saying for several years, furry conventions are getting too large to be practical. Scary events like the chlorine attack last year at MWFF don't help either. It seems like we should be able to find some other ways to promote gathering and socialization in more moderate sized groups. I know that the UK has "meets" that take place on a monthly basis in some regions, for instance.

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