Monday, December 29, 2008


Saturday, we had a photo shoot to do for a magazine layout. It was at an old farmhouse that is on the National Registry. When we pulled up, my eyes bugged out. Perched on a wall ahead of us was a peacock! But that wasn’t the best of it. As I got out with my little digital, I saw WHITE peacocks!

The lady of the house came up to greet the DH, and I asked if I might wander around outside. She kindly said I might, and I discovered I hadn’t seen the half of it. There were at least nine white peafowl, and perhaps two dozen of the brightly colored ones, plus turkey,

Guinea hens, and some I can’t even identify.

The DH took some shots with the good equipment, then went into the house while I kept shooting with my bitty camera. I asked him to ask the owner, Pat, if I might keep any feathers I found; there weren't many, not being molting season, so I thought I wouldn't be depriving her.

After he went in, I managed to get one shot he didn’t; one peacock in full display. I didn’t know the stiff feathers that hold up the corona effect feathers actually make a rattling noise against them. It was so COOL!

Here you can see what prompted the display; a little, but very vocal, Guinea hen.

To me, one of the most fascinating things was watching them trees! As Pat said, "Why not?" Why not indeed, but you just don't think of such large birds flying, let alone doing trees. Aren't they glorious?
I wish I could have gotten closer to some of the white peacocks, but the two pictured above were skittish, and the rest were penned. Unfortunately, the wood beam makes it harder to see them. If you look closely, you can see one of the regular peacocks (can there be a "regular" peacock?) perched on the roof outside. I'm pretty sure it was saying "Nanny nanny boo-boo!" to the captive birds.

The DH got some nice shots inside, including an antique spinning wheel, which is not in use. I'd have liked to have seen it, but I was busy being bird-brained. I don't mind. As the owner and he came back out, she handed me what looked like one of those huge rose arm bouquets, but all peacock feathers! She'd had to catch a bird for a new owner, and usually they stop when you get their tails. This one didn't, and left half its tail with her, and the new owner didn't want it. My lucky day!

I scraped bird crud off my Danskos and got back in the car feeling very content. Yes, I wish I'd been using a better camera, but I still got some nice shots, and so did the DH.

But *I* got the display shot! :::smug grin:::

Friday, December 19, 2008

Back to Life

Much of what I do is actually making my DH's dream come true. No, not THAT dream (although I do :-} ), but since he was a young man, he wanted to be a photographer. He is, and a good one, and I spend my days preparing his work for uploading to the lab, sometimes giving it a bit of a wow factor that is best done post-photography. Like this from a boudoir sitting for a Christmas gift for her hubby. All well and good.

But I have carved a bit of a niche out for myself in our business, and that is restoration work. I truly love doing it, even if some things I get make me smack myself in the forehead and question my sanity. I'm allowed to do that; you are not.

The sidebar work is a good example. SuzyG brought it in for a relative. The original image is about two by two, round, and had to be wedged out of a snowglobe, of all things. There is not a centimeter on it that doesn't have damage, from bad creasing to crazing of the finish. I said I could do it, blow it to about a 5x5 and make it look better if not perfect. They were able to provide another image of the father in the shot, so I could use it for reference and to lift the lower face, which was completely obliterated in the photo.
It's a small representation here, and it certainly wouldn't stand up to a wall portrait sizing, but I'm pleased.

I also got this in recently...a 16x20 of a model for the Hecht company. I think it dates from the late 40s, maybe early 50s. The gentleman that brought it in is from a shop that we photographed for one of the magazines for which we do work. It was the grandmother of a friend of his, and he wanted the same size, as well as a smaller print. This was much easier work, although there was a lot of edge damage, discoloration and tons of flyspecks and dustmarks to remove. See what you think. Wasn't she lovely?

It's wonderful getting to restore someone's memories to the depth and vibrancy they originally showed. Now this lady's image is preserved for generations to come.

Call me Sucker

This is Twilight. Twilight is a cat. A feral cat. A feral cat that mews piteously. We live in a rural-ish subdivision. The lots are all about 2 acres. There are a lot of feral cats in the area; it goes with the territory of lots of farms. We see them hunting around us all the time. They stay out of our way, we stay out of theirs. All's right with the world.

Except for this guy. Although he looks young, we are pretty sure we've seen him hunting in the back yard for awhile. We've even seen him have a close encounter, nose-to-nose, with some deer, which didn't faze either species in the slightest, but left us grinning.

So why, we have to wonder, is he suddenly appearing next to our front door? He shows up, very vocal, letting us know he wants something...but not our touch. Oh, no. "Hisssst!" says Twilight. Yes, we named him. He's a lovely glossy black with just a soupcon of white hair on his chest that, in my whimsical moments, I refer to as his 'stardust.' See the blog title.

It's been getting bitterly cold some days and nights here, and we were worried. While he's made a nice little nest for himself under the bushes you see here, wrapped in some llama fur that wasn't good enough to spin and is now acting as mulch, the weather has been wet and foul. So one morning, I snuck him a handful of dog kibble. He ate it quickly, as soon as I got out of touching range. Feeling like a sap for encouraging him, I confessed to the DH. Turns out I married another sap...he'd already slipped him some that morning too. Bowing to the inevitable, I added a bowl of water to the mix.

A couple of days of this (much to the dogs' dismay; they don't like depredation of their food), and suddenly I am the proud owner of a bag of Little Friskies. But if I'm gonna feed this critter, I'm going to try to tame him to hand, at least. So one freezing night, I kneel on the concrete porch (I refer you once again to the blog title), and strew a couple pieces of kibble, holding the rest in my hand. Twilight eats the pieces on the porch, although he's obviously not happy that my hand is so close. He paces, scratching himself on the bush and rubbing against a planter. I make vaguely encouraging sounds, and he eventually takes a bit from my fingers, nibbling ever-so-gently on my thumb too. A few days of this, and he readily comes to feed from our hands, but still doesn't want to be touched. HISSST! he reminds us.

Every once in awhile we get a stroke in while he's distracted. The dogs are distracting, we find. None of them threaten him, although his back may go up if they bound up too quickly. Twilight and Jack especially like one another. They even do some rudimentary playing when we can get the other two out of the way. DH found he could touch the cat if he was otherwise occupied. So I decided to get a bit bolder. I cupped both my hands, with food only in one. As Twilight ate from my right, I scratched under his chin with my left. He was too greedy to object. He's incredibly soft and glossy for a cat that has been living in the rough.

Now he paces in front of the door, impatiently waiting for us to come out and meowing. He'll sleep up in a Rubbermaid container we have on the front porch that has some odds and ends in it, with a furniture cover on the top. He likes to sun there. He seems tempted to come in but won't, and that's probably just as well at this point. IF we can get him comfortable enough with us down the road, we'll try to get him to a vet for shots and neutering. But that's a big if.

Oh, and the biggest reason I'm a sucker? Although I had a gorgeous black cat growing up, now I'm highly allergic to cats. Breathing trouble, sneezing, eyes swelling shut...all of it. So why am I caring for this cat instead of calling animal control?

You guessed it. Sucker.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Name is Diana...

....and I am helpless against yarn. There. I said it. Do you know why there is no 12-step program for people with knitting (spinning, crochet, cross-stitch,, including chocolate) stashes?

Which is, of course, not to say we don't need one. *sigh*
Yesterday we went up to Frederick MD to visit a home brewing supply store. I gave the DH a conical fermenter as an early Christmas present, early because I know he wants to do some brewing. Turns out one part they sent is the wrong size, so we have to get THAT fixed (grrrrrrrr) but we got some other stuff he needed. As we left, he asked where I'd like to go next.

Hmmm. No idea, but I pulled out my phone and Googled for a yarn shop. Sure enough, I came up with two and one was just a few blocks away. We headed over to Eleganza Yarns.

This is a yummy little shop. Really nice selection, and God help me, a sale table upstairs. Did okay, just a little innocent fondling with the occasion surreptitious wiping of drool, until I hit the sale. Kristi, one of the owners, is clever enough to have interesting swatches made up in the various yarns...cables and the that it's not just garter stitch to look at. The swatch sold me on the last 7 skeins she had of some Colinette Banyan in a Marble colorway. I don't usually care for knitting with cotton, but this is really soft, and I could not resist the colors. Do I have any idea what I'm gonna do with it? Surely you jest. Suggestions are welcome.

Then I made the classic error of touching some Louisa Harding yarns. NOT on sale. Kashmir Baby in white, three skeins, and Kimono Angora, two skeins, in color #4, this really lovely pink/purple mix. I'm thinking of doing a new version of the Fiesta Mittens in these two, seriously decadent mittens. I think the others I'm making now are destined to be a gift for a nosy friend who would surely read about them here.
All in all, a really nice shop, and Kristi and I hit it off well, especially given that I am so not a social animal. I do get a little giddy around masses of luscious yarn, though. I decided against heading to the other yarn shop the DH dangled in front of me, or even Coldwater Creek, after the dent I put in my checkbook. But I love the yarn, and I'm happy. Plus I feel virtuous passing up some alpaca I covet. Alpaca is seriously my kryptonite.
Isn't one of the 12 steps about forgiving yourself? If so, I'm doing the program already.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Treatin' A Girl Right

There's a fiber festival held in Berryville, VA annually at the end of October, but this is the first year I've been able to go. It usually ends up conflicting with the birthday dinner for which my Mom and I gather with other family members. Our birthdays are five days apart, so we celebrate together.

So this year, my faithful DH/Sherpa and I went. It's a small but pleasant festival, nice vendors and a lovely locale. I didn't buy much, some pretty alpaca, and a set of #1 ebony sock dpns (double point needles). Oh, and some nice spicy soap! The dpns were quite pricy compared to, say, bamboo, but I got them for the strength of ebony, and put them into use on the Fiesta Mittens.

Imagine my distress when, as I was working on the last few rows of the thumb, one of the needles snapped about an inch in from the tip. I was disappointed, and a bit ticked, too. I've never broken a needle in my life, and now I break what is supposed to be a very strong one.

I looked up the folks from whom I purchased them, Blue Ridge Yarns, and shot off an email. I expected to be referred to the manufacturer, which would have been acceptable to me. Instead, Linda wrote me back, immediately offering to replace the needle for me. A couple emails back and forth (yes, Virginia, it DOES help to say what size needle I need...doh!) and Linda said she'd get the needle in the mail.

It arrived today, well sandwiched between cardboard...and get this! - TWO needles were enclosed. That is customer service, folks. I'm the first to gripe when something goes wrong, but as I've said before, I'm all about the fair, so I wanted to pay my compliments to Blue Ridge Yarns. BTW, they have nice yarns, too.

Anyone in business knows the adage that a satisfied customer will tell one or two others, but a dissatisfied customer will complain to 12 other people. I'm hoping I'll turn that around for a change. If you do shop there, tell 'em why. NAYY, but I like people to see their good karma coming back at them.

Gee, I hope they don't duck.

Friday, December 5, 2008


I've been progressively more troubled by a trend I've seen over the last few years. I see it on TV, hear it from friends, and get incessant emails on it. And that is the "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" debate.

I am a Christian, mostly in the sense that the teachings of Christ are, I believe, an excellent way to live your life. I do think other philosophies, faiths, creeds, et al, have merit too. This is just my path, however imperfectly I follow it. I'm not big on religion. While I don't necessarily think that it's "the opiate of the masses," I do think religion is an excellent way to screw up faith. Faith? Now that I have in abundance.

All that to say that I simply don't get the aggressively militant "taking back Christmas" crap. Since when is it insulting to be wished happy holidays? Dammit. They want me to be happy! They SUCK!! So what if they don't want to assume what holiday I celebrate? What if they're saying that particular phrase because they're including New Year's greetings? How rude of them. Or not so much.

But no, now we have to turn fact that someone is giving us good wishes into an insult. I've heard people respond to the cheerful "Happy Holidays" with a snarled "Merry Christmas" that sounds more like an expletive. I get emails that accuse people who use the H.H. greeting of trying to steal Christ's thunder. I've seen sentimental claptrap that pictures Jesus as feeling his birthday (which, btw, it isn't...He was born in the spring) is being forgotten. And they all imply that people saying H.H. are some kind of infidels trying to prevent Christians from celebrating Christmas.

Nonsense. I've a few Jewish friends, and I've never seen one of them get offended if someone, not knowing their religion, wishes them a Merry Christmas. None of them feel we're trying to insult them. They accept the kind thought behind it. I'd suggest there are a heck of a lot more important things out there to get angry about than someone caring enough to wish you happiness.

I should know. I manage to get angry at most of them, hence the blog name. But honestly, if I ask myself the hackneyed "What Would Jesus Do?" when confronted with the H.H. versus M.C. controversy? I just can't see Him sneering, "Wish me a happy birthday!" to someone saying Happy Holidays. Dunno what He'd say to Merry Christmas, because of course, He celebrated Hanukkah.

Instead, I think He'd smile, and wish us all Peace. And so do I.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You Better Not Pout

But you will, if you're one of the crafty folk who read this blog. You won't be able to help it, but Mrs. Claus will help Santa understand.

Some background. As you can see at the bottom of the page, I own/moderate several Yahoo groups. Most are knitting or spinning, one is a list for Scottie owners or wanabees. We take other terriers too, as long as they know their place. ANYWAY...a Scottish (Orkney Isle) lady who was doing an instructional KAL (KnitALong) on the EZasPi list happened to mention that she was about to pick up a Scottie from a rescue group. I pounced on that and invited her to join AngelScot. Her name is Liz Lovick, and she is a master knitter who owns and operates Northern Lace.

Every year, our Scottie list does two programs. One is a secret pal-type program that we call Terrier Twins. Simple minimum requirements of four cards (ecards are fine) and a birthday gift, it's meant to be a friendship/support kinda dealy job. The other is a Secret Santa. This year, I've had Liz as my Terrier Twin (it's not reciprocal, she has someone else for hers) and she drew me for the Secret Santa.

Now, I'm no dummy. I'd have happily rigged this as my dear, chicken-fearing friend Tracey accused me of doing. But I didn't. It was pure serendipity-doodah. Liz sent my gift early, since we never know what international post will do. This time it did well. The Tyvek envelope got to me unharmed. Speaking of which, that is some of the most indestructible crap I've ever seen. Yes, you can cut it open, but tear it? Schwartzenegger in his heyday couldn't do it, I'm tellin' ya.

Being a polite lady, I asked on AngelScot when I might open the package. Before Liz could answer, Tracey egged me on to open it...guess eggs don't bother her, just chickens. But soon Liz came back to tell me to go ahead and open it, and her Scottie named Scottie (remember he's a rescue, she didn't do that to the puir boyo) said it would explode in ten minutes if I didn't open the package.

Well we couldn't be havin' that, now could we? Not after she went to all that trouble. So I opened the Tyvek and pulled out a longish white box and a tote bag. One note - when you send things out of this country, you must attach a customs form. The effect of this is basically government Scroogality, because you have to reveal the contents. So I knew from seeing it on the form that the package had a spindle in it, and some 'bits of wool'. I was excited; I love spindles, and if they are both beautiful and functional, they are absolutely for me. Not you. ME.
I opened the box, and a spindle like none I own came out. Beautifully square! For those of you who aren't spinsters (don't GO there), most spindles are round. There was a note from Liz saying the spindle was from the UK's premier spindle-maker, Michael Williams. You can see some of his beautiful wood turning work here. Not just the spindle was inside, but some utterly gorgeous wool (Jamieson & Smith Shetland top)and silk hankies for spinning, dyed in colors I love. My jaw dropped. I've been spinning the wool on it the past two evenings, getting a very fine singles that you can see here.

But generous Liz wasn't done. I turned to the tote. Scotties cavort on the outside - it's from the rescue group she supports, and I love it. But inside! -oh my!! There was a pattern for a Fair Isle hat designed by Liz, and bunches of partial balls of Jamieson & Smith 2 ply Jumper Weight to make the hat. Any knitter worth their purls knows that this is primo stuff. The Ganga of Wool. I was thrilled to bits. As Liz said, she felt I wouldn't mind having partial balls to do the project. Uh, kinda not.

After doing my happy, don't bother checking YouTube...I settled down to look at the pattern and saw this:

She had modified the pattern JUST FOR ME! I was flabbergasted. All these little motifs to replace those in the original pattern, and all Scottie-related. Different head and body studies, and even wee bones...all in my favorite colors again. I couldn't be more touched. Unless George Clooney were within touching distance, in which case all bets are off. Even then, I'd be doing the touching. Pretty sure he'd be running.

Seriously, it is one of the most thoughtful gifts I have received in my life. Right up there with my prayer shawl from Kristina. Think about it. Not only my favorite colors, hobbies, and doggies, but the sheer work of doing those designs. Did I mention? Just. For. ME! As soon as I finish the Fiesta mittens I'm doing, this hops on my needles.

I don't even think you have to be a knitter or spinner to appreciate that kind of effort. It's a better woman than I am that made it, too. Not that that takes much, mind you, but Liz is a pip!