Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How much are you willing to pay for cheap food?

Michael Pollan in the New York Times asks if modern food factories are related to the recent epidemic of MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant form of staph infection which now kills more people in the U.S. than AIDS. And just why are all those bees dying and what does it have to do with the monocultural mode of modern agriculture?

And just what does sustainable mean, anyway?

Go here for the article.

Catching up

Been quiet around here lately. That's because most of my spare time the last couple of weeks had me staring at this...

But one particular night, I got to at least hear some great music from Meyer and Mcguire at Equal Grounds.

Haven't had much to pay attention to the upcoming holidays, though several projects will hopefully be completed in the next 5 days, since the last paper was turned in, the last day of work is done, and DS is home. But for now, I'm in bed to catch up on some rest!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Win Free Stuff! (Pay It Forward Handmade Style)

UPDATE--Please send me an address to send the handmade items, after you comment, at my45thyear(at)yahoo(dot)com. Thanks!

Meg over at Blog Less has a Pay It Forward exchange, which I joined. Here's how it works:

Like Meg, I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it before my 45th year is over! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.

So, if you are interested in receiving a handmade something from me, leave a comment. It could be something knitted, sewn, food, re-purposed...who knows? You could even let me know if you've seen something here that you like...and I will try to send you something similar!

Consider it my holiday greeting to you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Felt you can feel good about

Well, besides being a bad pun, I suppose that title requires a bit of explanation to non-Rochesterians. The predominant grocery store in Rochester is Wegman's. Some people love it...their displays are beautiful, and you can find anything you could possibly want from exotic produce to fine china to Godiva chocolates. Me...not so much...too big, overwhelming, too much food from god knows where.

Anyway, they had an advertising campaign that theirs was "Food You Can Feel Good About."RocBike team member Adam Durand proved that that's not always the case in his investigation of Wegman's egg farms.

But I digress...I've been finishing some very easy felted projects lately. And I can feel good about it because they're all recycled from failed knitting projects or sweaters bought secondhand.

The messenger bag, above, has me so delighted that it will get its own post, including a little tutorial. But I'm so happy about it that I had to post it right away! I made it last night, in about an hour. More on the bag in a future post...

Remember the summer's laptop cover? It's not very sturdy, so I made another one from a felted sweater from Marianne's Consignments. (When this sweater came in, Marianne saved it for me just for the purpose of felting.) I would never wear it as a sweater, but I love the pattern. I just cut out a rectangle a tad bit bigger than my laptop, by laying out the sweater and cutting from the bottom up. The side seam remained, so I just had to sew up the other side seam, and voila! (Yes, that's my dinner, because I was attempting to blog and eat at the same time.)

And a couple of weeks ago, I took a couple of swatches which I had seamed together and felted, added buttons, cut the buttonholes right in the felt, and now I have some fun wallets (which will likely become Christmas gifts for some friends on my list.)

Also in that picture, a hot pad. One side is a swatch that T. made, and the other is cut from a felted sweater from Goodwill, stitched together with running stitch and a loop for hanging it to boot.

And, an unfelted project in the background above, a simple garter stitch scarf with yarn from Rhinebeck 2005,which will likely be my Mom's January birthday gift. (Mom doesn't own a computer, so no chance she'll find out!)

Let's see...how many finished objects is that? Messenger bag, laptop cover, 2 wallets, hot pad, and a scarf...6 more down!

Monday, December 3, 2007

First Snow

I took this picture with my phone, on my walk to class. I'm sure you notice that no one else is walking to class. That's because either:

a--Some people were already in class by the time I got there, as I was late due to traffic jams caused by drivers who, although they've lived in Rochester for 20 years, forget how to drive in the snow.

b--Other people were even later to class than me.

c--The rest of them decided it was a good night to skip class.

We're having our first major snowfall of the year, and, although I'm not as crazy as Joey Mac or Rochester's Wednesday night Cruisers, I am looking forward to getting out and playing in it, at least on skis, and maayyyybee on my bike.

Now if I could just get a snow day from work and school!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Handcrafters' holidays meme

Sew Mama Sew is promoting handcrafted holidays through its meme, wherein bloggers answer some questions about their own giftgiving. Here are some of mine.

Do you have a favorite gift that you love to give?

Every year I make jams, sauces, pickles, and relishes all throughout the summer. This year, I made more than ever. They're all from fruits and veggies that are organic and locally grown, and many of the fruits are picked by my very own hands!

As an example...plums and peaches (picked at Hurd Orchard) are so easy to pick, that I got a whole refrigerator-full back in July.

If you’re making gifts this year, what are you making?

Oh, I can't tell because they might read this...but every immediate family member gets something that's handmade!

Do you have any good stories about handcrafted gifts you’ve given or received?

My very favorite requires a bit of background. My DS is deeply averse to knitwear. He is more a fan of the torn t-shirt and khakis from Goodwill look, pretty much regardless of the season. Knitting is my main crafting passion, so this has been a source of great consternation. In addition to handmade gifts, we are big promoters of "gifts of time" in our family, where you promise to do something nice for the other family member.

So, three years ago, I got a paper certificate, denoting a gift of time, from him to me. I opened it up, and it was a certificate which gave ME the gift of making HIM a pair of gloves, which he promised to wear, WHEN the weather was appropriate.

What could I do? I made the gloves, he loved them and wore them all winter, and he promptly lost them at the end of the season. Those were replaced by another pair, which we are still searching for as this winter season is upon us!

Do you have any great gift compilation ideas (a grouping of gifts just perfect for certain recipients?)

I do, but I can't share it! Let's see if you can guess. ______ has just discovered a passion for ________, but needs a ______ to call her/his own. Along with the _______, s/he needs a ________to put it in, and a __________ would be a really nice aid in unwinding. (I'll fill in the blanks after Christmas!)

That's all for now! I'll do more questions from the meme as the season progresses.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The life cycle of parenting

Toddler--Child cries hysterically any time you step out of sight.

Teenager--Child finds the time to call you from college approximately once a month.

Toddler--(In reference to toys) Child screams, "MINE! MINE! MINE!"

Teenager--(In reference to friends, academics, their very life) Child screams, "MINE! "MINE! MINE!" (Also to be understood as "NOT YOURS, STAY OUT OF IT!")

Toddler--You fall in love with your child, not comprehending why every person who passes by doesn't stop in their tracks at the amazing cuteness of your precious one.

Teenager--You still love your child, but realize that a reminder from other adults of their assets can be helpful, who tell you what a courteous, polite, and respectful young person they are.

Toddler--You are like "home base" for your child. On the playground, they go off and play, then come back just to connect with you every once in a while to know they're still safe. If they get hurt, you rush to their side to console them. Indeed you might be the only person who CAN console them.

Teenager--In theory, you're still home base. But your presence, while important, is way in the background, and you are required to wait until asked to provide succor. They've got other supports in their life now.

Toddler--You spend half your life trying to get them to sleep, praying for them to take a nap, go to bed easily, sleep through the night, and awaken later than the crack of dawn. You're constantly sleep deprived from trying to get them to sleep.

Teenager--You've had half your night's sleep before they come in for the night, you've put in half a day's work before they get out of bed, and the crack of dawn arrives for them at approximately noon. You're often sleep deprived from trying not to wonder and worry.

Toddler--No matter the tantrum they just threw, they can melt you five minutes later with a look, a hug, an "I love you."

Teenager--No matter the adolescent challenges, they can still melt you, AND THEY KNOW IT.

Toddler--Your heart hurts each time they skin their knee, feel slighted by a friend, or beg you not to leave them for work, school, or any other obligations.

Teenager--Your heart doesn't just hurt. It breaks over and over again as you watch them learn to navigate this crazy world.

The heartbreaking loss of their childhood remains.

But it shares equal space with the heart-filling amazement of who they are becoming.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The problem with sharing your goals with others

...is that they will ask you if you actually accomplished them.

I told colleagues, friends, kids, Team RocBike that I was planning to do my 45 mile bike ride over Thanksgiving weekend. All week, I've been watching the weather forecast, so that I could go on a relatively warm and dry day. Today was forecast to be in the mid-40's and mostly sunny. Perfect!

I woke up this morning with the sniffles, but not to be deterred, T. and I set out. We headed out to the Erie Canal Trail in Fairport, with the plan to bike to Newark and back, until we reached the magic number.

Don't we look cheery and optimistic?

The first 10 miles felt pretty good. By then, I had removed a lot my cold weather gear (fleece, gloves, hat, and sleeves off the biking jacket.) I was very comfortable, in terms of the weather. However, the terrain was not what I expected...(wet) crushed cinders. I expected the cinders, but hadn't considered the effect of the recent wet weather on the surface. At times it felt like I was biking in sand. You can see the mud that's splashed up on my bike (along with the remnants of Thanksgiving's snow).

I caught up with Tanya munching on her apple at Palmyra's Aqueduct Park.

When I told her that we were 1/4 of the way done (the odometer read 11.73), she uttered some words from which I will spare you. She hated biking on the surface we were on. What's more, when we did the math, we realized that we were going quite a bit slower than usual (I was biking about 60-75% of my usual MPH), and that there was no way we could get to Newark and back to the car before nightfall. Not wanting to bike after dark on the unlighted canal, since we both have headlights more useful for being seen by others than illuminating darkness, we came up with Plan B. Bike back to Fairport, have lunch there, then bike on to Genesee Valley Park, on a paved portion of the trail, and BACK to Fairport to the 45-mile mark.

Well, that seemed reasonable. We even biked a bit on the road just to give ourselves a break from the cinders. But here's another thing we didn't consider...the wind. That was the one thing that hadn't seemed perfect about the weather forecast, predicting gusts 15-20 MPH. I didn't think it would be too bad, but we were biking right into it. The last 6 miles to Fairport felt like twice that.

When I started out, I had told myself that if I started to feel like I was really making myself sick (since I had the sniffles), that I would stop. Those last 6 miles, I was feeling pretty achy. When I got to Fairport Village Coffee...

T. was already ensconced with a cup of coffee. We ordered some veggie chili and a portabella panini, plus I got myself a ginger soy decaf latte (all were excellent, by the way). And then we both agreed that we were done for the day. We would have had to really push it to finish before dark. It made me feel a little better that she, the stronger and faster athlete, was achy and tired, too. She had just biked her usual 20-mile route yesterday and had felt fine. We could only guess that the combination of the terrain and wind, quite frankly, were just more than we were ready for, given the time we had given ourselves to complete the ride.

But you know what? It's okay...I have till next May. I wanted to do it now, because I know it will be harder to get out on my bike over the winter months, and I've been cycling quite a bit this fall. But this will be incentive to keep in shape and keep biking! Considering that, until I set myself this challenge, biking 8 miles was about as much as I was willing to push myself, and then only in warm weather, I feel okay about it. It will happen! Can't you tell by the look on my face, at 24.24 miles? p.s. For cycling lessons learned, see my post at RocBike


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Identity politics?

(Cross-posted at RocBike, because some days I just can't decide between the two!)

On the RocBike podcasts, Jason refers to me as the "knitting cyclist." Actually, I should write that as the "Knitting cyclist." Note the capital "K." There are knitters who knit more than me, knit better than me, have knit for longer than me. But that doesn't mean they are a Knitter. Knitting with a capital "K" means you have a Knitting Identity. Inevitably, you have gone through the painful stages of:

--questioning (will my family still accept me as a Knitter?);

--isolation and reaching out to community (where can I meet other Knitters like me?);

--acceptance (okay, I'm a Knitter, now what?);

--coming out and proud (I knit wherever and whenever I please, damn it, and you will just have to deal with it! This phase also often includes the procurement and display of various knitting-related tools, jewelry, and bumper stickers); and

--identity synthesis (yes, I'm a Knitter, but I'm also many other things...don't fence me in).

Today it occurred to me that I may be in the process of becoming a Commuting Cyclist. I needed to run some errands, which could have been done quite easily by bike. But it was a bit rainy, I was tired and pressed for time, and I thought, "Oh, what the heck. I do my part to save the planet. Today I want to drive!"

Wouldn't you know, while in Abundance Co-op, I ran into Jack, still with his helmet on. Oh, the shame!

But it was more than shame that sparked this realization of a newly-forming identity. On the drive home, I really did wish that I had biked. It would have been so easy, it wasn't raining that hard, and the fresh air would have helped me wake up.

I see some more bumper stickers in my future. Do you think they make any that say "Knitting Cyclist"?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Actual news items

Too busy to post much, though lots of stuff is percolating!

Thus, these two items from this week's news.

1. "Senator Alesi introduces bill to ban text-messaging while driving."

That is an actual headline from the Democrat and Chronicle, our local newspaper. My first reaction? "Isn't that like needing a law to tell people to have their eyes open while driving?" Even more astounding (to me), when I said that to my kids, they said, "Do you know how many teenagers text while they're driving?" Apparently they think of it as a loophole to the "no talking on the cell phone while driving" law. The cop can't see you text when you drive by, the same way s/he can see you with the phone up to your ear. Okay, maybe we do need a law that you should have your eyes open while driving.

2. "I was an English major in college, so I was forced to read Beowulf."

That statement came from some critic I heard on the radio, and you should know that I ONLY listen to NPR.

Now that is a little bit like saying, "I was a physics major in college, so I was forced to learn Einstein's theory of relativity."

Geez, just because Beowulf is the oldest surviving epic poem in the English language doesn't mean English majors should be FORCED to read it!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Things I learned this weekend while on my bike

(Cross-posted at RocBike)

--Biking with others makes you feel more empowered on the road and gets you more respect from drivers.

Here's Team RocBike (and friend Liz Henderson) after our Saturday morning ride to Rochester's Public Market.

--Wind Chill isn't just a stat that the TV meteorologists (who take an approach to weather that can only be described as "weather as horror flick") came up with to scare us into watching their forecasts (and accompanying ads).

I left the house this afternoon in 50 degree weather, with only Lycra tights (yes, I do own Lycra, but in my defense it was purchased in the 1980's...and although in perfectly good shape, is in the fashion of the 80's), a tank top, and a cycling jacket. When I stepped outside it was downright temperate. When I started biking, I realized it was a bit windy. My uncovered ears and fingertips were FREEZING! Next time, I'll make sure the extremities are well-protected.

--Give the bike a good once-over every time you ride.

That would be a picture of my rear reflector caught between my back tire and my frame. It came off during today's ride. I was in a rocky area, and I thought maybe I had a rock caught in the spokes. All of a sudden I couldn't move AT ALL. Had that happened in traffic or going downhill...yikes. Major wipeout.

--It's all about the gear.

I finally got some Power Grips (and new pedals) put on my bike by the good people at Full Moon Vista, along with a new helmet, which is much more comfortable and lightweight. So much more comfortable for head and toe.

--Brighton has a new park! I accessed it off the Erie Canalway Trail, just east of Clinton Avenue.

I took DD and DS to many soccer games at Meridian Centre Park, back in the day. They've recently added a trail and boardwalk system (still under construction, I believe) through wetlands adjacent to the fields. Note to soccer and baseball parents: This would be a great place to explore in between games.

--I can't get enough of nature this fall...I find the colors intensely inspiring. I think someone famous already said this, but it seems to me that art is just our inadequate way of trying to capture the inherent beauty (including the starkness of decay and death, soon to come) of the natural world around us.

--Crows start their pre-roosting activity as early as 3:45 pm this time of the year. (That's when they start to gather to fly to their roosting site, where they will sleep for the night.) There's a reason that Halloween decorations always conjure images of crows. This is the time of year, after families have been raised, that they begin gathering in flocks at night. Pay attention the next time you notice a bunch of crows gathering. The noise coming from a large group of crows is quite impressive.

--And one thing I learned, thanks to our car. Sometimes driving is worth it. We drove out to Wayne County to see a Rufous Hummingbird, a bird whose typical region is the Western U.S., who's strayed way off its path. It looked cold!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

One of my favorite people

turned 30 today. Happy Birthday, Anna!

(I loved that the colors of the gift wrap were the same as the last cherry tomatoes.)

Anna and I worked together in a women's center and got to go to a women's march in Washington, D.C., back in 2004.

We worked closely together to bring Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues to the campus, so we had to get a picture of this guy.

I may jest about certain things, but the message on this sign is is a matter of life and death, especially in Africa.

To give you an idea of Anna's personality, here's a little anecdote. In Deaf culture, people are often given name signs which reflect their personality. As a hearing person, it takes quite a while to "earn" a name sign. It took Anna hardly any time, and the name sign she was given uses the handshape for the letter "a" and the hand movement for the word "radical." (Apologies to ASL users for not describing that any better!)

I love your fierceness, Anna! Thanks for the decade of friendship, and here's to decades to come!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

(More) Small and Sweet Pleasures

Keeping up with the blog has made me much more aware of these moments of pleasure, and, since gratitude doesn't always come easily...it's important to take note when it does...

--going to the Rochester Public Market with DD (at HER insistence), where we talked to a local farmer with this charming sign

--the smell of basil from last week's harvest, finally turned into pesto and herbal vinegar

--the last fresh flowers of the season (I think!) to be put into Mary Barringer's vase

--an autumn that won't end (pictures taken in Mt. Hope Cemetery)

--with a dog that loves nothing more than rolling around in the leaves

Friday, November 2, 2007

Why I bike

(Cross-posted at Rocbike)

I’ve been cycling off and on since forever, but when I started working within two miles of my home, two years ago, I began to bike more frequently. It seemed ridiculous to get in my car and contribute to the melting ice caps, all to go a distance that I could get to just as quickly on bike as by car. That led to running errands, visiting friends, going food shopping, all on bike. Since my 45th year challenge, I’ve stepped up the cycling even more. It all started when Pat from the Rochester Bicycling Club wished me a happy birthday, and suggested that I should bike my age in miles.

I thought, I can do that…in fact, I probably could have done it that day (which was my 44th birthday), but it undoubtedly would have hurt. I’m going for the low-pain ride…so, in addition to the daily cycling, I’m going for longer and longer rides on the weekends. My goal is to do the 45-miler over Thanksgiving weekend.

But there are other reasons that keep me biking, beyond the first motivation of cutting my carbon footprint and the second of celebrating this turning point year, in which I can finally feel myself relaxing into the sheer unpredictability of life.

I keep biking because it connects me to my neighborhood, my community. For example, I take night classes at the University of Rochester, also only two miles from my home. Most of my classmates (like me) are full-time employees and part-time students. They say that they don’t really feel that connected to the graduate program, because they drive in and drive out, often in darkness…straight from the parking lot to the classroom, and back again.

On the other hand, I bike up Mt. Hope Avenue, alongside the Genesee River, past the UR tennis courts and apartments, past the library, and behind the academic quad to my classroom. On this ride I think often of my former father-in-law, now gone for fifteen years, who worked at UR for many years. When I first met him, he gave me a tour of the campus and told me its history. I’ve forgotten most of it, but I do remember that where the campus stands was once a golf course. I often picture that golf course and think fondly of him, one of the most loving and ethical people I have ever met.

On Halloween, I saw undergrads in costume heading out for the night on the UR bus, graduate students in the library (probably oblivious to the fact that it was Halloween), and on the way back, I biked parallel with another student heading from campus to our neighborhood. (Actually, I passed her going up the hill on McLean, and since she was half my age, this made me quite pleased with myself.)

It really does make me feel connected to be on my bike, instead of ensconced and climate-controlled in a car. And to be perfectly honest, there’s nothing like bike commuting to give you that slight, “I’m so cool AND I’m doing the right thing” tinge of self-righteousness. I might be overtaken by the self-righteousness if I weren’t having so much fun noticing the changing of the seasons and feeling the strength in my body that comes from propelling yourself rather than letting a motor do it.

And speaking of strength, I’m also noticing a huge leap in my strength and endurance. My 20-mile bike ride last weekend felt like nothing, even without padded bike shorts! (For more on the significance of that last detail, see Hubris.)

As the weather turns cold, I’m wondering if I can maintain this level of cycling throughout the winter. For one thing, I have to dress “professionally” for my job, and carrying the layers of clothing needed to change into, along with the layers I’ll need to wear, feels like a bit much. For another, money put into the current bike to outfit it for winter is money that can’t go towards an XtraCycle next year! I’m counting on the RocBike community to give me the right tips and help me keep the motivation to keep it up!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Frost warning

Sunday morning I learned that there was a freeze warning for the night. That meant I put aside some of my other plans for the day in order to bring in the harvest (but not without finishing that little pumpkin, from Curly Purly, that I felt compelled to make over the last couple of days.)

Mostly herbs (TONS of parsley, also basil, oregano, mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, rosemary, nasturtium, tarragon)

Also, some green tomatoes, green beans, tomatillos, kale, and Swiss chard.

And (probably) the last of the flowers...

I brought the herbs that I'll eventually move inside, along with a "bowl" of lettuce, into my garage-sale greenhouse.

And I noticed that even at the end of the season, Rebecca still looks fabulous.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I DID SO go to Rhinebeck!

Girl on the Rocks is having a fake Rhinebeck contest. Wherein those of us who couldn't go pretend that we went and post about all the wonderful yarn we procured (which is actually from our stash).

You see, all these cool knitters and bloggers converge upon the New York Sheep and Wool Festival at Rhinebeck, then come back and post about it on their blogs which just makes us feel even sadder that we weren't there (although, of course, being mature, we are really happy FOR THEM)...so this is our way of saying, hey, we're cool, too...we have cool yarn, too...we have cool friends, too...look and see...

So, I saw some beautiful foliage on my way down to the Hudson Valley...

stopped and got my fall pumpkin fix...

Once there, I met up with all my pals from Ravelry, said hello to all my friends in the authors' tent, like Stephanie, Ann and Kay, and even Clara, who saved a book for me!

I brought back some amazing yarn, like this from Kristin Thomas (sadly, she has moved on to other things and is no longer spinning)

I have 3 balls of each color...it wants to be some kind of yummy cardigan, I do believe.

And in my spare time, I resurrected this project, based on the Farmer's Market Bag in Weekend Knitting, and a chart with the word for "peace" in different languages from a long-forgotten website.

I got to stay in luxury accommodations, too...

I can't wait to (not) do it again next year!