September 2007 Archives

Purdy stuff from the garden


When we moved into this house, just over a year ago, the garden was in pretty bad shape. Take a look.

before we moved in.jpg

Ugly, huh? I think the landlord may have simple removed all the dying flowers before we moved in, which is why it look so barren.

Since then, we've done some serious work. We removed the flower bed wall that had fallen down, leveled the dirt, and put in a little black fence.

garden now.jpg

This variety of grass is always yellow, this time of year, but it'll be lush again when spring rolls around.

We also planted tons of bulbs and wildflower seeds. Unfortunately, a lot of what we planted over the past couple of months, appear to be annuals so we're not sure how many flowers we'll see before they're all gone. There are some perennials too, which should hopefully flourish after winter.

After much hand wringing our first buds have appeared.

bud1.jpg bud2.jpg bud3.jpg

We now have A flower.


Yup, one big pink flower. Just another couple dozen and it'll actually kinda pretty around these parts.

The plants obscure a little of the view out the front window, but that didn't stop Panda from seeing a trespasser. Can you see him?

look what panda spied.jpg

Ooh, Panda's nemisis.

The rosebush in front has produced a second round of blooms for us. And you know what looks great with pink? A little black and white.



Now, THAT'S purdy.

Back to our old selves


It's so nice to be back to normal. We went for our first hike since Thea's surgery and it was beautiful.

The air in Portland has gotten a nice coolness that makes exercising and hiking, a real pleasure. The leaves are just starting to turn and the skies have been partly cloudy, which suits my light sensitive eyes, just fine.

We decided to keep our adventure local and hit MacLeay park again. On our last hike there, we hit the lower trail. It's a relatively easy hike down and then a mostly flat hike to the end which is paved and handicapped accessible.

On this trip, we hit the Upper MacLeay trail which intersects a myriad of other trails. I have a feeling we could do a month of weekend hikes and never take the same route twice. The trail proved to be a nice little workout for the lot of us.

The girls were antsy to get started.


And Leo needed to get the GPS set and grab the bear grade pepper spray


But once we got started, we all admired the sights.


There was one moment when Leo thought he was going to have to actually use his pepper spray.


These two dogs came barreling at us, full speed, and growling, while we were walking around the neighborhood. Neither was on leash and both were giving our girls the hairy eyeball. The owner made a futile attempt to call them back.

I'm not sure if their intention had ever been to do more than make a little scene, but it all could have ended pretty unpleasantly if we hadn't diffused the situation. Leo and I both got between her dogs and ours and Thea eventually won everyone over with her cuteness.

The owner never did bother to come over and get her dogs, she just stood a block away and called them. I find that rather disconcerting, but perhaps I'm a touch over protective.

In the end, it all ended up fine and Thea was more worn out than we've seen her in weeks.


If that isn't the happiest site you know, you don't have a high energy dog.

See the rest of the pictures, over in my flickr set.

Assessing the skirt progress


It seemed about time to move the skirt to some waste yarn and see how it's coming along. I have mixed feelings


Things I like:
  • The crochet: I think the motifs are cute and hang nicely.
  • The colors: While I don't usually buy these colors for myself, I think they are lovely and the colors compliment each other nicely.
  • The chevrons: Who doesn't like chevron? It breaks up the horizontal nature of the subtly variegated yarn.


Things I don't like:

  • Yarn choice: I feel like the main yarn should be a little drapier. I don't feel there's enough weight to the piece to pull off the effect I'm envisioning

  • Skirts: I don't wear skirts. What the hell am I thinking?

  • Shape: Would a-line instead of straight have been better?

I'll probably finish the piece, just to see how it comes out, but I'm starting to think there may have been a better project for these yarns.

On the plus side, I should have 300 or more yards of the main yarn leftover when I'm done. What will I do with it? I dunno. I'll have it nonetheless.

I've been spinning bits of the Corriedale, here and there. It's been quite relaxing and mindless.


I'm annoyed, though, with my Woolee Winder. It's great, don't get me wrong, but it really upsets my sense of balance that it doesn't load the yarn evenly. Some of it appears to be that the whorls from Schacht aren't perfectly machined. There's an ever so slight gap, but I'm realizing that it's not enough to account for the severity of the imbalance.

Has anyone else who has a Woolee Winder seen this and if so, is there a way to fix it?

spinning_first bobbin.jpg

Oh and Thea had her stitches taken out and has been taking full advantage of the ensuing belly rubs.

belly rubs II.jpg

She's such a little floozy.

For the love of Flickr


I just have to share this most excellent gift I received.

Thank you SO much CraftyKags

My friend, CraftyKags made this gorgeous scrapbook for me.

A page from the scrapbook I A page from the scrapbook II A page from the scrapbook III

Not counting the cover, there are 46 (!) pages of pictures of my sweet girls. What an amazing gift. I'm speechless. Even if we dismiss all the gorgeous paper, stickers, grommets, ribbons, high quality printouts and other accouterments, one can't dismiss the time and love that went into this book. It's a really special gift.

And that's not all my Flickr photos have been doing. I got myself a batch of mini calling cards from MOO.

They come packaged in a cute little recyclable plastic box.

littlebox.jpg opening box.jpg

And inside are 100 little mini-cards with photos on the front and my contact info on the back.

cards_fanned.jpg examples of cards.jpg

I plan to use these as business cards. About 2/3rds have some sort of fiber theme to them, while the other 1/3rd have doggies (oh yes, there is overlap). Depending on the situation, I can pick out a card that is just right for the recipient. Since they are about half the size of normal business cards, they are more environmentally friendly and MOO is committed using sustainable and green manufacturing processes. Yay!

Photoshop Tips II - Levels and Histograms


Most images can be clicked for a closer view

In our last tutorial, we discussed Curves. Today we'll be talking about Levels. Levels can be used in the exact same way as Curves, though the interface is a little different. The cool thing about Levels is that you can actually see a visual map of your image and the colors displayed within.

As with the last tutorial, all the caveats still apply. Your mileage may vary. I'm no expert, blah blah blah, color correction is subjective, etc.

I've chosen a photo and opened the Levels dialog box by going to the IMAGE menu, to ADJUST and choosing LEVELS. You can also access this option by pressing [CTRL+L] or [CMND+L], depending on your computer platform.


This picture of Thea seems a little dark in the three-quarter tones (those between the middle and shadow tones). Her face, next to the couch, seems a bit muddled and lacking in detail. When I pull up the Levels palette, I see my impression confirmed. Let's take a closer look.

Click image to see the tonal ranges

Here we see a graph of the distribution of pixels. On the left, indicated by a black slider, is the shadow area of the image. This image has a large majority of its pixels between the midtones and shadows. At the far right, the highlight point shows absolutely no pixels. We don't have any pure white in this image.

From the Layers palette, I can move those sliders, under the graph, to adjust the tones in the image. We have two sets of sliders we can move. The top set of sliders consists of three tonal ranges. On the left, shadows, in the middle, midtones, and on the right, highlights.

The bottom set of sliders has just a shadow and highlight slider.

Stewie is home!


Our car, Stewie, is back home after being in the body shop for over a month. It's good to have him back, and the shop did a really fabulous job, both dealing with the insurance company and repairing the damage.


Thea has been healing up beautifully

a little chilly.jpg

When we give her meds, we wrap them in peanut butter. She finds it both delicious and infuriating, with its tenancy to stick to the roof of her mouth. I find this amusing. I might, possibly, maybe, tend to squish the peanut butter up on the roof of her mouth, maybe, just to make it last a little longer. I might also be a horrible horrible person.

Actually, we've taken her off the sedatives, but we do still give her a little peanut butter just because she loves it so.


Both girls got some extra special treats from Leo.

Both approve...heartily.


However, not to be indelicate, but we have been experiencing a steady flow of eye watering, paint peeling, make a grown person cry level of excess "air" from the little one. I really can't express just how bad it's been. I'm declaring an embargo on all future purchases of this treat. While the rawhide/pork combo appealed to the girls more than almost any treat we've gotten, the consequences have been too brutal to re-live.

Your mileage may vary.

Most images can be clicked for a closer view

A little caveat before we begin. I'm not a color correction expert, though I do need to know the basics for the work I do. Most of what I've studied has been for print, not for web, though many of the concepts remain largely the same.

Furthermore, images look really different on a Mac than they do on a PC. Most people are on PCs and I'm on a Mac, so while may think a picture looks good on my screen, you might not.

And that brings me to the last point. A lot of color correction is subjective. There are some things that are fairly universal. For instance, a light color cast to an image is usually apparent to most people. but the perfect amount of contrast and brightness may be different depending on personal preference, age and monitor. Did you know that many people's vision yellows slightly with time? Older monitors will often display color much differently than newer models, as well, so there are a great many factors that can impact how you view an image.

Some basic stuff that makes me sound like I know what I'm talking about

While there are quite a few different color spaces, the two you are most likely to deal with and work in are RGB [red, green, blue] and CMYK [cyan, magenta, yellow, black]. RGB colors are those that display on monitors. It's the means by which light produces color. CMYK space is what your home printer generally uses (though some contain additional colors to produce a wider range of shades). If you are familiar with the old color wheel, containing primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, you understand the basics of how CMYK colors work. While the primaries are a little different (not red yellow and blue, but cyan, magenta and yellow,) the way in which colors combine remains largely the same. Add the right amount of yellow the right amount of cyan and you will get shades of green. RGB works in the opposite manner. In RGB, when you have 100% of each color, you get white. Do the same in CMYK you get black. Most of us find this counter intuitive, but when you are making your edits you should not switch to CMYK and back to RGB. You must learn to modify your colors in RGB if you wish to maintain the detail of your image.

I've made this little graphic to help you understand how the RGB colors relate to the CMY colors (don't worry about black)

There are 6 color swatches below. every other swatch is an RGB shade and the alternate are CMY colors. Colors located across from each other are related. When working in RGB, reducing the amount of the RGB shade will increase the CMY shade. For instance, let's say your image has a red cast to it. In some images, this might be interesting, but if you are photographing a lush summer landscape in the day, the red cast will make your gorgeous greens look muddy. Reducing the amount of red in the image will make those greens pop.

So how do you apply this novel bit of trivia? Well, I'm glad you asked. (You asked, right?) I apply this, most frequently in the CURVES dialog box.

For the most part, when I spin, I grab my fiber, pick a whorl and go for it. I think this has worked out for me, largely because I tend to spin small quantities (generally around 2-4 ounces) and I have a pretty limited skill set and comfort zone with spinning. Even my last batch of fiber, which was closer to 7 ounces, came out pretty consistent despite my making little effort to check consistency along the way.

But, like the person who has reasonable success knitting patterns without making a gauge swatch, past successes do not mean future success. I've been holding onto a pound of fiber my parents got me, for over a year, awaiting a time when I felt I had the skill and patience to spin up the whole lot into enough yarn to make something substantial. I'm not sure that I've actually met either of those qualification but dammit, the fiber is gorgeous and I want to spin it.

Spurred on by Amy's great article in Knitty, I decided to try to approach this project with a semblance of a plan and, perhaps, some organization.

A while back, I ordered these Spinning Project Cards (I refuse to spell the last word with a "k" unless someone can give me a good reason for it being spelled that way) by mistake, thinking they were something else.


They are basically index cards with preprinted areas for information you might wish to include about your yarn. I don't think I'll be ordering them again. For the same price, one could buy a pack of 100 index cards and only include the info relevant for the project. I am not saying these are poorly designed. If you like the look of clean, unlined cards, and spin enough that you don't want to have to write out all the labels, this might be totally worth it for you, just not for me.

Even so, I had no normal index cards lying around and no need to waste these. Surprisingly, despite the myriad of fields preprinted, there didn't seem to be a spot to indicate the whorl used so I just slapped that info in wherever.

new project yarn.jpg

If all goes according to plan, I should be producing a 3ply yarn (off of three bobbins, not Navajo plying) that works up to, oh, 14-15 WPI. The fiber is corriedale in a beautiful deep olive shade.

So far, it's spinning up quite nicely. The fiber is well prepared and needs only minimal predrafting. We'll see how long I can spin a plain green fiber before I get bored. Luckily, I always have my spindles.

In doggy news, Thea seems to be healing up well enough. She's still a bundle of energy and I think I'll be as excited to be able to let her play as she will.

Our vet is quite awesome. Check out what we got in the mail yesterday:

award for getting broken.jpg

They took a picture of the little girl, before her surgery and printed out this lovely award. If you click the image, you can go to flickr and find a higher resolution version. Check out the text below the Vet's signature.

We pulled the crate out of the bedroom for use when the two of us have to leave the girls unattended. Theoretically, the crate should be for Thea, when she needs some quiet time.

panda loves her crate.jpg

Panda, however, seems to think it's all hers. Could you say no to that face?

As for the Photoshop tutorial, it sounds like there's enough interest that it's definitely worth my doing it. Getting stuff together, I'm thinking I may have to break it out into a couple smaller, more digestible pieces. Hopefully, the first tutorial will be posted by the end of the week.

Hola, El Matchador


You know how I said that spinning puts Thea to sleep? Well, that seemed as good an excuse as any to spend some quality time with El Matchador.

At first, I thought I'd just spin up enough of my Cotswold to have a skein ready when I run out on my skirt.

right off the bobbin.jpg

But once I plied the yarn and skeined it, I had, what appeared to be, a relatively small amount of fiber remaining, so I figured, what the heck, I'll spin up the rest.

hanging yarn.jpg

The result is a skein that is 297 yards long and a second skein that is 217 yards long. Added to the 225 yards I already have, I have a total of [insert calculator here] 739 yards. That should be plenty to finish the piece.


Thea helped me with the photoshoot. It's nice that we can have both an out of focus AND poorly lit image. She's really an artiste.

two new skeins.jpg

I'm not going to do another whole round up of the yarn, since I've already done one here and it's the same, only different, or whatever. I will say that I continue to really enjoy spinning this yarn. It is well prepared, with only a little bit of vegetable matter and the colors are gorgeous.

In my next post, I start doing the spinning equivalent to making a gauge swatch. Good girl, Marnie, here's a cookie.

Quick question, would anyone out there be interested in some very basic tips for using Photoshop to adjust color and exposure in an image? I'm no expert and I sort of wonder if anyone who can afford Photoshop, already knows it well enough, not to need any help, but if folks are interested, I'd be happy to do a tutorial. Just leave a comment with your thoughts.

Stitches and a weird little leaf


Well, the same night we brought Thea home, she shook off the anesthesia and was ready to play. This was at about 4AM in the morning. We were only very slightly amused. Since then, it's been pretty futile trying to keep her calm. Even giving her a half dose of a sedative in the day and a full dose at night, she's pretty active. It seems to get her kind of high. That is, she walks a little goofy and seems pretty content just sleeping or obsessing over a raw hide bone, but it doesn't totally squelch her energy level altogether. She still will play at the drop of a hat. It looks like she's stretching the skin near her stitches a bit. I'm really really hoping she doesn't pop her stitches.

soooo groggy.jpg

On the plus side, she hasn't been licking them. Small consolation, really.

It just kills me to have to sedate her, but since she'll hurt herself if she doesn't keep still, it appears to be the only recourse. Anyone have any good suggestions for putting a pup in suspended animation, while she heals?

spinnin and snoozin.jpg

One thing that does seem to calm her down is the sound of El Matchador. I've done a lot of spinning this weekend (more on that in a future post) and it usually lulls her to sleep.

She was particularly goofy after the first dose, I gave her. She was a touch wobbly, and then hopped up on the couch and reclined in this position for a good hour.

far out man 2.jpg

I figured that the dose was a touch too strong, so I cut her back to a half, for any daytime hours. The vet said that we might have to play with the dosage to get it just right.

In entirely unrelated news, we have a little mystery.

Leo found this leaf, with a rock and a q-tip on top of it, perched on the corner of our house. There's a little brick facade running along the bottom 3 feet of the house, that juts out a couple inches. Someone had placed the items there.

weird leaf.jpg

We are thinking that it was something the neighbor's kid made for us, but we haven't seen her around to ask. If so, it's a cute gesture, however, if it wasn't from a kid, the q-tip really creaps it up a notch, you know?

Here are the q-tip and back of leaf and rock. We placed them all in a bag, just in case.

weird leaf back.jpg

We have no idea what the writing says, it's a little hard to read, but it sort of looks like the biggest words are, "The King."

Anyway, does anyone have any idea what could have been used, in conjunction with a q-tip (ie, a liquid) to produce the blue writing on the leaf? Hopefully, it's something totally benign.

No belly rubs and lots of rest



Panda and I both missed Thea something awful. She was sad and mopey, so I gave her lots and lots of kisses. She likes kisses.

Of course, Leo and I expressed our concern by calling the vet every hour for an update. Kudos to them for remaining pleasant each time. I like our vet.

Sitting in traffic and waiting for Thea to be brought out from the recovery area, was nerve wracking but just seeing her eyes, as bleary and unfocused as they were, was sunshine.


Leo carried the little one in from the car. Her pink bandage covers the spot where they put in her IV. It also matches her pink stitches. Nice touch.


Panda looked so happy to see Thea but realized right away that Thea wasn't herself and gave her space. We all went out for a wobbly potty break and Thea spent a little time trying to find a nice place to relax. She finally decided on the bed (with a little assistance up, of course.)


She stayed pretty quiet and calm through the night, though she's been a little rowdier this morning. The doctor prescribed her some sedatives, in case she needs them, but I'm still holding out hope she'll remain relatively calm. I'm a shameless optimist.

So thanks again for everyone's warm wishes and concerns. I'm still really new to having my dogs go under the knife and it's good to be reminded how commonplace it is.

Thea update


As you all knew would be the case, Thea is absolutely fine and shaking off the anesthesia as I type. We will be able to pick her up in a couple of hours and bring her home to convalesce.

Thanks for all the well wishes.

Breaking the girl


Leo won't call it, "getting her fixed," he calls it "breaking her." I call it, "getting her guts ripped out." You all probably just think of it as spaying.


Yes, we just dropped out sweet little Stinky McFartToots off at the vet and we are feeling the emptiness of the house and the little nagging anxiety that something could go wrong. It seems far too quiet and even Panda might admit she misses the little scamp.


Since Thea is a high energy girl who'll be laid out for a couple of days, we thought that it was an absolute necessity to give her a little fun on her last night before the surgery, so we took her to Puppy Agility.


We weren't able to go last week and the class dynamic has changed a bit, focusing less on individual obstacles and more on linking obstacles and handling tactics. Thea's feeling her adolescences and was a touch obstinate about the more boring bits and more focused on playing and running off and ignoring me.


Personally, that makes me feel the classes are all the more important for both of us, since it gives us a controlled environment to work through those issues.


And even though she wasn't perfect, we did have a great time.

Anyway, keep your fingers crossed for a complication free surgery and quick recovery. Keeping that little cattle dog contained enough not to pop her stitches may be an exercise in futility but luckily, I have tomorrow off and the weekend to do my best.

Lovely long weekend


Leo and I have put this labor day weekend to good use, if I do say so myself. Since we are renting a house, it's always a struggle to decide how much time and money we should invest in beautification of our humble abode. It's a great little place, but after years of being rented, there's a lot that has gone neglected. This is not the loving little first home, it was originally built to be, but a way point in the lives of folks like Leo and me. Still, never one to shy away from a little hard work, Leo has decided we should get things tidied up, so on Saturday and Monday, we shoveled, we weeded, we hauled masses of toppled brick and we planted a little flower garden that we hope we'll stick around long enough to see bloom once, and only once, before buying our own home. But Sunday, we put aside our shovels and spades and seeds and bulbs and packed up our car for a trip to Manzanita Beach.

On the way, we listened to Harry Potter and I got in a little knitting.


This skirt remains my one mindless piece of knitting, that I can plug away on when I don't want to have to worry about row counters and lace patterns and other distractions.

We were expecting some serious crowds at the beach, and places like Cannon Beach and Hug Point, were, indeed, crowded, but Manzanita proved to be an ideal spot. While there were many people, we never felt crowded or cramped.


The girls had a wonderful time and Thea is really starting to come into her own. Slowly, Thea is building her recall and we are able to keep her off leash for longer without incident. She's still so filled with social excitement that I wouldn't trust her implicitly, the way I do Panda, but she's proving to be a wonderful little girl.


After a quick stop over at Blue Heron to pick up some provisions, we went back to Manzanita and set up camp. We are currently conducting reconnaissance in preparation for a bigger excursion with our friends; Erica and Larry and Jackie and her pup Tulip.


Leo is in charge of setting up the fire.


I am in charge of proving that pups will do almost anything for salami.


Thea was a little scared of the fire at first. Can you see her hiding behind the log?


But she came around after a little while.


We attempted to take a family portrait, by way of self timer.


Twas not so successful.


And as the sun set and the air got a little cooler, my ample tush proved excellent insulation for the not-so-little one.

See more pictures over at Flickr.

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