Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Evening with Horses and a Good Dog

Last night, at Chuck's insistence (for my own good and well-being), Anya and I went to spend an hour with Heffie and the other horses.

Heffie came right over to me when he heard my voice.  He let me groom him all over, scratch his ears, brush & pat his face and neck...  without a halter, without cross-ties, without even a crop!

WITHOUT nuzzling me and demanding peppermints or other treats.

We spent a lot of time with me singing the 'Mom song' to him, and then we walked around the paddock together.  I DID have treats in my hand then, but he did exactly as I asked.  Walked when I walked.  Stopped when I stopped.  Stayed on my right side, fairly close.  Would that my dogs would heel so faithfully!

Then we came back to the NE corner of the paddock and just spent some time BE-ing together.  Nose to nose and chin to chin.

Then Anya and I went down to the ring to watch Bev work with Ebony and someone I don't know working with her paint, Princess.

We watched the horses, Ebony and Princess, and their people, Bev and someone I don't know, who had a photographer daughter along.  We watched the sunset over the pond, behind the fields...

And then we headed home, quietly, happy and fulfilled.

Monday, July 18, 2011


It took nearly three years, but the kids are now truly 'Linnlets!'  

Let me explain.

On Friday (while I was in class), V, D, & Chuck:

1) Drove to the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks (about 2 hours each way),
2) climbed Mount Jo,
3) watched the acrobatic skiers practice at the Olympic Training Center at Lake Placid,
4) swam in Mirror Lake,
5) ate at a HoJo's,
6) drove back to Potsdam.
7) actually came into Betsy and David's house and spoke to them...
8) and then went back to our apartment and to sleep...

On Saturday I realized we'd arrived, however, when I was sitting in a pool in the middle of Lampson's Falls with Chuck, Vika and Diana.

We had
1) gotten lost looking for Lampson's Falls (no panicking girls!)
2) walked the half mile trail to the falls, 3) waded, then swum, in the pool just below the falls.

4) Then I climbed out onto the rocks of the falls, and the others followed me.  There was a lovely little crevice in the rock, with a refreshing pool, and the falls rushing down just 20 feet away...  We all were sitting there and we were chatting and enjoying the beautiful day.

We watched Cedar Waxwings hawking for insects at the lip of the falls, found a few flukes on Vika and Chuck, admired the complexity and beauty of the roots of two big trees that had been blown down, signed into and out of the trail log...

It has taken three years to influence their perspective enough that they could enjoy all these activities!

Family Day THIRD ANNIVERSARY 21 July 2011!

The kids will still be at camp, so we'll celebrate when we all get home.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What I did on Wednesday

I learned on Wednesday about word of families  example kind or file or light or drink. I learned a  spanish word called esta is a spanish word. At school I watch a shrek  movie in ELL.  

Sunday, October 31, 2010

How does he love me? Let me count the ways...

Chuck Loves Gwendolyn

Halloween 2010

Part of Vika's family of pumpkins...  There are at least three more upstairs!

Vika and Diana, 2010, Flash Photo

My husband has left me.  He had to go to California on business.

On the afternoon of All Hallow's Eve.

Not good.  Really not good when you have our children, who love holidays, hate change, hate it when one of us is not at home, and usually cannot manage the stress of exciting events, like Trick-or-Treating.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
But he loves me.

He left me a clean house.

To understand how clean it is now, please look first at photos I took last week for a project I'm pursuing.

Laundry room:  BEFORE
Kitchen:  BEFORE
Kitchen:  BEFORE
Kitchen:  BEFORE

The kitchen:  all the horizontal surfaces are clear!

The laundry:  all the laundry is done, and most is folded and put away.

The library:  he had been culling the stuff in the bookshelves, and has thrown away about 90% of the paper and instructional materials in the worst set of shelves.

The living room:  he went out yesterday and got me a floor lamp that I wanted, not really his style, and also two matching table lamps.  And he didn't fuss about it at all.

Diana's room:  he did an extensive pre-sort of clothing that we have had in storage for the kids.  Sorting by size and suitability.

These are all riches that exceed in value any diamond, any fur, any luxurious vacation (except maybe going to Antarctica...) I can imagine!

This is love, and I recognize it and thank him!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Too much information! Or, how to buy a sewing machine, part 1

 About two weeks ago, a friend asked me for advice about buying a sewing machine.  She started out by looking at the web site of the soon-to-be-local-for-her John Lewis store in Cambridge, UK.  Lots of pretty machines, even available in various pastels, and the prices on the low end look very attractive.

What is the question here?  She’s getting married soon, and is trying to figure out what kinds of wedding presents she and her fiancé would like / might find useful.  So, there are at least two questions here:  What kind of a machine does she need?  vs. the other question:  What kind of machine does she long to own?

Now, I have my prejudices, and they start with the words 'used is usually better,'  continue with 'any Singer built before World War II would be great!' and end with, 'whatever you do, don't buy a modern Singer.'  I suppose I should add, "Almost any older machine can be tuned up or rebuilt for less than the cost of a comparable new machine."  

I confess to having bought a really high-end Husqvarna,  a Platinum 770, in the period right after my father died. Buying a new machine had become an obsession for me.  In my right mind, I would have searched out a Bernina 930!

Another prejudice:  never, ever do what I did and buy a Husqvarna from a dealer located inside a Joann's store.  Having read the article(s) I cite below, I now understand why I got such lousy service when my machine had a problem early on.

Not wanting to be a spoilsport and not wanting to propagate undocumented gossip, I decided to do a little research.  I can hear my friend choking in frustration.  I can hear it in my heart, all the way from St. Petersburg!

First I checked to see what my brain wanted to say about its experiences with various sewing machines. 

Machines I have loved or owned:
1)  I had a Singer Treadle machine when I lived in England.  I loved it.  QUIET!  Stitched forward and back, had different stitch lengths, easy to repair and maintain.  Wish I still had it.  I sold it to a friend who shipped it home when she and her husband returned from England.  I assume it is still in use in Massachusetts.
2)  My Singer 66-16 (built 1940-ish)[1]  which I still have and use occasionally.  Some things – heavy sewing – it does better than anything else.
3)  All of the Husqvarna Viking machines I have owned:  Rose, Lily 535, and Platinum 770.
4)  My friend’s Bernina 930.[2]  She has sewn all of the clothing for her and her family for more than 30 years – and it’s still going strong.
5)  Another friend’s Pfaff (don’t know the model number) with the built-in dual feed foot (walking foot, even feet foot).  Again, this machine is > 20 years old and going strong.
6)  I also have a very old Brother (given to me for Christmas when I was about 10 years old) that I have always cordially hated.  I’m willing to bet NOW that all it needs is a good tune-up, but it lives at my mother’s and I don’t need another machine here right now.  Maybe if the kids start to sew I’ll bring it home and fix it up.

Machines other people love
1)   Many people adore the Singer Featherweight.[3]  Made from 1933 to 1964.  Hint:  they sell for a huge premium.
2)   My friends sew on all sorts of machines, mostly older, although all have money to buy new machines.  The average number of machines per serious sewer is FOUR!  So, in all likelihood, your first machine will not be your last machine or your only machine.
3)  So, an older Pfaff with the built in walking foot (aka IDT)... or a modern Janome or a brand-new Brother... or an early (1950's - 1960's) Kenmore with zigzag (I know a woman who sews couture garments on her 40 year old Kenmore!) ...

What does one really need in a sewing machine?
Different types of sewing machines do various jobs.  

At the highest level, you have (in order of increasing complexity or specialization)
  1. Chain stitch machines, often sold as toy machines for children or as speedy menders…
  2. Straight stitch machines
  3. Machines that include straight stitch, zigzag and built-in buttonhole stitches
  4. Machines that include straight stitch, zigzag, built-in buttonhole stitches and decorative stitches
  5. Blind hem machines
  6. Overlock machines (sergers, etc.)
  7. Embroidery machines

My friend needs a machine from group 2, 3 or 4.

Today regular, garden-variety sewing machines usually have more features than a simple straight-stitch machine.  These machines may be mechanical or computerized.  They usually have some or all of the following features:

Standard features on an adequate machine
  • Adjustable stitch length
  • Adjustable tension on the thread that goes through the needle
  • Ability to reverse direction

Other really useful features
  • Top loading bobbin
·         Flat Bed / Free Arm
·         Separate Length / Width Controls
·         Adjustable foot pressure
·         Buttonholes
  • Ability to add an even feed foot / walking foot (if not buying a Pfaff with IDT)
Other features that I really love
·         Needle Up / Down
·         Auto Lock Seam Stitch
·         Needle Threader
·         Ability to position the needle precisely where I want it.  My machine has 25 positions, at intervals of 0.5 mm apart (total width = ½ inch).
·         The ability (this is available only on computerized machines) to flip a stitch left to right or up – down.

Quilter's machines have extra depth between the body of the machine (where the motor is) and the needle.  This enables quilters to quilt a greater amount of cloth before needing to move the entire set-up.  It also means that the machine is big and big may be a problem:  hard to store, hard to carry, hard to find a place to work on it.

OK, so finally I got down to serious research, and fairly quickly I encountered a sewer with a husband who suffers from TMI syndrome[i].  My friend and I know all about this:  I have one, too!

The owner of introduced her husband with this little essay.

"The men in my life suffer from TMI syndrome. Ask them a simple question and the gears in their heads begin clicking away and before you know it, they’ve expounded for 20 minutes on the form and substance of white bread. You wanted to know if they would like a sandwich.

This little “tic” of theirs drives me a wee bit batty at times. While I like a good yarn and enjoy telling stories, when I ask a question, I sorta want an answer.  Today.   God help me if I need to purchase anything more expensive than say, a new sweater.  Which, incidentally, is when the penchant for verbosity dries up completely.  I say, “So, which one of these sweaters should I get?”  I hear, “Um… what? Sweaters? Why are you looking at sweaters?”  However, if the object of my affection has any moving parts to it, this much I know: be prepared to be inundated with facts and information.  Most of which, I could care less about.

And sometimes, they put this stuff in writing. They won’t shut up. And it’s not enough to point at the thing I want and jump up and down and shout, “That one! I want that one!” Because, even that move will set them off hunting for “more information.” Should you ever wonder when enough is enough… the answer is, NEVER.

I’m not complaining, mind you. Not really. The end result is I tend to get the best there is to offer in my particular price range. No one can claim that the gifts aren’t “well thought out”! But, really… there are moments when the information gathering and expounding is just overkill, and I find myself wondering what it would be like to be deaf. And blind.

In case you were looking to buy a sewing machine and are not blessed with boys in your life who suffer from TMI syndrome … my husband has oh, so, graciously typed up his “findings” for you to peruse.”

So here is the offering from the man himself.  It has eight chapters and taught me more than I thought I wanted to know about sewing machines.  A year or so later, he got out of control again, this time on the subject of embroidery machines.  

The take-away message on sewing machines is this: 

 "And herein lies the truth for purchasing a sewing machine: In general, if you are looking at spending $1,000 or more, the likelihood of getting a decent machine regardless of brand goes up significantly compared to if you spend less. But buyer beware. If you are looking at Baby Lock vs. Brother – look closely – Brother might be the way to go. If you are looking at Elna vs. Janome – get the Janome. But BE SURE you are comparing machines of similar features. Low end Janomes are no better than Singers or Whites. The Viking Huskystar or Pfaff Smart is no better than a Baby Lock or Janome of equal caliber. See how messy this gets? Likewise, the kind of machine you get will vary depending on the feature set you are pining for. A quilter will really appreciate the IDT in a Pfaff. A hardcore sewer will appreciate the quiet and strength of a Viking motor. If you are squeezed on budget but need a machine with cutting edge technical gadgetry like being able to embroider – a Baby Lock or Upper-end Brother offers a lot of bang for the buck."

For reference:  Stitches on my HV Platinum 770


I use 1 / 2, 8, 11, 12, 20, 21, 24, 26, and 29 – 33 fairly often.


I love these, but use them infrequently.

[1] "My Singer 66-16 was purchased by Bertha van Schoick of Lower Squankum, NJ on June 5, 1943 at a Singer store located at 647 Mattison Ave., Asbury Park, New Jersey—I wonder if that is a misspelling of Madison Ave.—and the salesman was George J. Wood, Jr.  I have the original warranty! 
Bertha lived 3 houses down the road from us and when she died, her daughter, who lived across the street from us, sold the machine to me, as she already had a very good, more modern Singer.  I was sewing on a cheap imitation—and sewing lots.  
I have used it to make coats and suits and dresses and slacks and blouses and  blankets and party dresses and swim suits and stuffed animals and doll clothes and pocketbooks and other things.
I was 14 years old when I bought this sewing machine and  I have loved this machine for more than 35 years.  I don't use it much now, but I cannot imagine giving up my old Singer.  My husband doesn't understand this, although by now he knows it's true."

[i][i] TMI = Too Much Information!

Some people water gardens...

It's just past midnight at the end of a very hard-for-me weekend.  Exhaustion is insidious and ultimately commands attention.  I slept a lot today, and watered my soul with tears and silence.

Chuck took the kids swimming and then to dinner with Grandma.  Grandma got to tool around Penfield Wegmans in her electric wheelchair, giving information on the food she would like us to buy for her!

Some people water gardens.  I'm not too good at that.  However, now that I have a little rest inside me, I am watering my watercolors.  It's one of those paint maintenance things that I do from time to time.  It isn't necessary, but it gives me something peaceful and easy to do.  I open each palette and put a couple of drops of water on each mound of dried paint.  Some colors -- Perinone Orange, for example -- become parched and crack open like parched land sometimes does.  Great gullies and rifts.  Others like Amazonite Genuine become dry all through and absorb the water like a sponge.

In any event, paints that have been watered recently are much easier to use in painting.  They re-wet better, and this means that they form better textures quickly.  The way I do it, the paints reconstitute to nearly the same texture as when they came from the tubes...  just a little drier, so that they solidify again when I'm done painting.  When I'm done painting, the big challenge is to keep the palette upright until the paints no longer run.

Sometimes I take a pile of toothpicks and stir the paints in their pans until the consistency is really smooth and I can level the paint in the pan.  I won't do that tonight.  If Perinone Orange, Winsor Lemon and Winsor Red look as unhappy tomorrow morning as they do now, I probably will stir them then.

In addition to soothing me, watering my paints is a good first step when I want to refill the pans.  My tiny (7 color) palette sees a lot of use and I actually use up the half-pans fairly quickly.  My other palettes last a fairly long time between refills, like 6 months or a year or more.  And I never, ever have to water the St. Petersburg / Yarka paints.  The соус (sauce) that St. Petersburg uses seems never to dry out.

I see that I wouldn't 'need' to do this watering of the paints if I painted with one palette and painted every day...

I don't remember when I switched myself to this very limited palette (Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Red, French Ultramarine Blue, Winsor Lemon, Winsor Red, Winsor Blue and Sap Green).  I'm sure it was sometime this summer, maybe in June.  It has been a great learning experience, since it has been about six months since I used any convenience colors other than Sap Green.  I still have a lot of learning to go...

Reading and looking at other people's work has made me realize that I have shortchanged the earth colors.  In their raw states, they don't appeal to me.  But I just saw a mixture of Cerulean and Burnt Umber that produced a most beautiful gray.  I need to learn the earth colors and what they can do.

For the last two days, or more, I have been playing with dip pens, including a bamboo pen that I bought and a bamboo skewer from the kitchen drawer, and now I am beginning to play with some natural sponges.  Not doing anything useful.  Just doodle and splat.  Checking out textures, the effects of wetness / dryness... Oh, yes, and I did try barbering a fan brush to get a more interesting texture with it, but so far haven't improved it much.  :-)

A couple of weeks ago, Karen came home from Asia bearing the cutest thing:  Pentel's Aquash field painting set.  Eight watercolors in crayon form, plus a waterbrush and a palette.  I am still learning to use the crayons so that I get watercolor textures and not crayon textures.  The same problem applied when I tried Carol's Derwent Intense pencils a few weeks ago.  In both cases, the colors are great:  rich, subtle, blendable.  In both cases, I left crayon-like marks on the paper that my Arches squirrel brush could not eliminate.

Clearly I could use something with more scrubbing power and probably move a lot of that pigment off the paper and into solution!  But I am training myself to work with these squirrel brushes because they require a much different attitude on my part.  In the first phase, I had to give up a lot of control...  Even now, 6 months later, I still have trouble getting the water-in-brush amount correct.  Too much and everything runs.  Too little and the brush has no life, no spring.

So, in case anyone reading this has the idea that I spend hours every day painting, rest assured:  it is not so.  But I do spend some time nearly every day soothing my soul with some form of playing with paint!  I have the 5" x 8" samples to prove it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cogito ergo sum...

Cogito ergo sum.  Je pense donc je suis.  I think, therefore I am.

This thought is usually attributed to René Descartes, but Wikipedia has a lot to say on the subject.

This is the ultimate standard we apply in deciding whether someone is alive or dead:  does the brain work?  How much?

I've been turning this idea over in my mind for a couple of days and have decided that my motto must be "I write, therefore I am."  Since I've stopped working for Xerox and since I've stopped going to school, I have little occasion to write anything very long or very interesting...  But I am having an interesting life!  So why am I not writing anything down?

I find, on reflection, that I do write things down.  I write short emails.  Occasionally I write long emails.  I write gobs every day in IM chats with Chuck...  and I write responses to other people's blogs...  I've decided that I and everyone else would be better off if I channeled some of this nervous energy into just writing.  So, I write, therefore I am.

Today I almost am.

This morning I went to the chiropractor.  The last time I went was after my bad fall in the parking lot of the pediatrician's office on the 13th of April.  No wonder my back aches!

Then I went to Barnes and Noble.  I wanted to touch a Nook. Still no Nooks in sight, though.  Sigh.  I'd bet that the people working at the desk behind the Nook sign are even more disappointed than I am.  They tried to get me to 'pre-order' but I'm not buying anything that new and that expensive without getting my hands on it first.

Then off to Joanne's.

I was the itinerant, slightly inadequately tooled, electronics technician.

I installed the new HDTV and the antenna, with reasonable success.  She has 5 stations now.  It seems there should be more stations available than that, but perhaps we need a different antenna.  I need to read the manual a bit and try again tomorrow, as I didn't find WXXI, which broadcasts 3 stations from Pinnacle Hill.

Then I tried and failed to debug the VoIP telephone that Chuck hijacked yesterday when I was in Best Buy, urgently trying to sort out multiple problems with the order he placed on Monday night.  He got smart and got his own VoIP telephone number, but not before he had used his mother's... and hers has not worked since.

I wanted to take her out to coffee this morning, but realized that I had forgotten a wheelchair and (less important) I didn't have any cash with me.

I never made it to Wegmans, so our cupboards are bare.  BARE!  I hope Liz will come by in an hour or so and stay with the kids while I make a much-needed trip to the big W.

And my stop at the bank was 7 minutes too late... to find out where the missing $$$ (the cost of one car) are...  Did we lose a check?  Did the USPS lose some of our mail?  What can we do about it?  Завтра...

Yes, indeed, I have a life, an interesting-to-me life, a busy life, a crazy life, a disordered life...  (Did I mention that Chuck is at a conference in Washington, DC?)  Yes, I definitely have a life.