Saturday, August 30, 2008

Oh and did I say, "ewwwwww..."?

Visitors to Catalina Island are told that the island is home to at least 400 native plants, and 6-9 that are considered endemic - that is, occurring only here on the island.  Catalina is well known for the buffalo (a non-native animal), but visitors to the island can also learn about the birds, mammals, bats, marine mammals, amphibians, and reptiles that inhabit the island and its waters, along the island's endemic varieties of the shrew, deer mouse, and fox.  So while there is a wealth of material on the island's flora and fauna delivered to the tourists that travel to Catalina Island every year, and some of it is even used to promote tourism - no one ever talks about the great big honkin' bugs!

Seriously - I don't know how many times I've heard someone spout off on the theory that certain species grown differently in the contained borders of an island, adapting to their environment, sometimes flourishing and growing larger than elsewhere.  Personally I think that theory can be applied to the bugs here too, 'cause no where else have I seen insects of the incredible variety and size of some of the critters here! (No, I have not forgotten about the kitten-sized cucarachas in Arizona.  I maintain that those are not insects, they are aliens attempting to colonize the planet.) 

Caterpillars bigger than my thumb - either in neon green & orange or covered in black fur, walking sticks darn close to being branches, prehistoric looking grasshoppers, dragonflies the size of hummingbirds, and yellowjackets large & mean enough to steal a hummingbird's lunch and send it packing.  We got 'em all and so much more.  I have learned to accept this and even find them mildly interesting (except for the yellowjackets - they are evil) when in their own environment.  Which is basically any place outside of my own home. That is a crucial point.

So it is completely understandable why I might have been just a tad perturbed to enter a room and find a very large and many-legged creature strolling nonchalantly up my wall.  And when I say "many-legged", I mean just a ridiculous number of appendages, far more than could possibly be needed for locomotion. And by "very large", I mean freakin' humongous, like something out of a low-budget SciFi channel movie.  And "a tad perturbed" could possibly look more like jumping up and down repeating "eww eww eww eww eww eww eww eww" at a high volume.

After the intruder had been dispatched and fortifying beverages had been consumed to aid in recovery, further research identified the culprit.  Be advised - the following is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, do not click the link if you are prone to nightmares or insect-related phobias.  My uninvited and most unwelcome visitor was an unusually ginormous specimen of Scutigera coleoptrata.

As to this creature being an insectivore, (consuming other insects), which could actually be beneficial to me?  I really don't even give a rat's butt!  I have a cat - that is her job, she is good at it and takes pride in her work.  She considers it the perfect combination of toy and snack.  I would have happily directed her attention to the disposal of the hideous critter on the wall if I thought she stood a fighting chance.  But I had my concerns, kitty may need to bench press a few more pounds and add a few more reps before sparring with anything that size. The Shoe of Death seemed like a much safer choice.

Wanna bet Scutigera coleoptrata gigantus isn't making it into any of the tourist brochures?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Halfway there and still traveling

The scarves, that is.

Back in June I talked about signing up for a Traveling Scarf Project. Very simple concept - a round robin where a group of knitters each starts a scarf and sends it on to the next person who adds a few inches and sends it on again. The scarves continue around the circle, getting knitted on by each member of the group, each eventually returning to it's original owner. The scarf is usually accompanied by a note from the owner, giving some sort of suggested guideline for stitchers to follow, even if it's just a mention of least-liked colors.

In the final count, with the addition of one last minute member, our group came to 16 people. So at this point, having just sent the 8th & 9th scarves downstream to the next person, I'm halfway done. I've seen scarves requesting neutral colors, fall colors, and some that just said bright colors. Some scarves travel with their own yarn but allow any stitch pattern, other scarves specify stitch pattern but not the yarn. It's been an interesting ride so far!

This process of evaluating each scarf - reading the owner's requests and looking at what those before me in the group have done, and then selecting the best possible combination of yarn & stitch pattern to complete my portion reminds me of the design classes I took in college many years ago. Way way way back in time - before I decided to be "practical" and change my major from Art to Psychology. I hope I've done a decent job of creating a section that fits in well with the owner's wishes and the look of the scarf overall, but so far - this is what I've done:

This is a terrible photo, I was so excited on the first scarf that I almost forgot to take a picture and had to grab a quick shot on the bench outside the post office. The stitch pattern is called Swag Stitch and since the owner requested neutral colors I used the same yarn I had used for my starter scarf, Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride in Deep Charcoal.

When the next scarf arrived I saw that the owner wanted "fall" colors so I switched to a dark forest green Lamb's Pride and knitted my section in Window Stitch, also from the Vogue Stitch Dictionary.

On the third scarf I got a bit more daring and tried an Eyelet & Chevron stitch pattern from that same Vogue Stitch Dictionary. I used Patons Classic Wool in Cream and I think it'd be really nice make a really pretty scarf.

The owner of the fourth scarf said she loved color and liked fuschia and turquoise so I put them together, using Lamb's Pride of both colors in a Mock Houndstooth pattern from Mon Tricot's 1800 Patterns. It was really fun and much easier than I'd expected.

For the fifth scarf I went back to the forest green Lamb's Pride and knitted my section in a simple five by five basketweave pattern with a very narrow garter stitch edge.  It's got to be the simplest of all knit/purl stitch combinations and it's a winner every time.

The sixth scarf arrived with it's own yarn, a lovely teal blue Patons Classic Wool, but left it up to each knitter to select their own stitch pattern.  I used the Triangular Rib from the Mon Tricot book.  I didn't love it at first but it definitely grew on me and I'm happy with the finished product.

Lucky number seven scarf arrived when I was in the mood to try more colorwork.  I used Lamb's Pride in both Fuschia and Deep Charcoal for the Mosaic T-Pattern from More Sensational Knitted Socks.  Again, using two colors was easy, and I just converted the stitch patttern to be knit flat instead of in the round, which was just as easy.

The owner of scarf number eight left it to each knitter to select their own yarn, but requested that each section be done in either seed stitch or garter stitch.  I have an allergy to seed stitch so garter stitch was the only option.  Fortunately, I was also planning to attend a local community theatre comedy and this was the perfect knitting for that event!

Scarf number nine said the magic words, "anything goes", and given the opportunity to really let loose I think the end  result was the best section yet.  I used the same neutral cream colored Patons Classic Wool with scraps of Plymouth Boku leftover from other projects to knit a Cage Stitch Pattern from one of Barbara Walker's books.

Phew!  Does that seem like a lot?  It certainly does to me!  But it's going much faster than I'd expected.  Since this started in June and it's now the end of August, I expect in another 2-3 months I'll be posting another update with (fingers-crossed) a picture of my very own traveling scarf, back from its long journey!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's different here

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Many many times, until you are sick to death of hearing it. But I'm sure I'll continue finding new examples. Like this one.

In other parts of the planet - like the bits located just across the water from where I sit, there are all sorts of companies that provide a variety of services.  And the folks that run those companies actually want your business, they'll even compete with each other to get it!  Offering a smorgasboard of nifty incentives - lower prices, faster results, better quality customer service overall - lovely ideas, every one of them.

Yeah, it isn't like that here.

I had a conversation recently with someone who started their own small business here over a year ago and so far, the business is growing and she's doing fine.  But she did mention that she'd been on the receiving end of a little flack from a few locals, possibly related to their own interests in that same "industry" (if you can use that word for something so small).  Because really,  who did she think she was?  Going and starting up a business that would offer a lower price and/or better quality than the existing businesses providing the same service?  (Or as often happens, not providing the service!). Sheesh!

So am I saying that some of our local businesses are ummm....lazy?  Well, yeah.  Either they are completely sucked into the tourism economy concept and expect to have X number of customers delivered to the door from every cruise ship, cross-channel ferry, private boat, or helicopter.  Or they serve the people who live here year 'round and know that they are either one of a limited number local providers for that service, or possibly even the only provider. That's a pretty cushy position to be in, isn't it?  So you can see why the idea of "competition" might be a tad bit distressing.

From my own recent experience in trying to obtain a bid to replace a wooden railing I can offer the results of a sample of local contractors.  The goal was to select only reputable local contractors, and of those only the ones that would take such a minor job, so obviously this is a non-random sample and the sample size is quite small.
  • Contractor #1 - Does not even return my calls.
  • Contractor #2 - Returns my call 3 days later, after a brief discussion agrees to call back and come over the next day.  Never called back or showed up.
  • Contractor #3 - Came over the same day to view and discuss the scope of work, and within two weeks produced a detailed, professional estimate including a 2 year guarantee on any defects of material or workmanship.
Now, does it take a genius to figure out who you wanna have working on your house???

Saturday, August 23, 2008

P is for Prima

Near the end of 2003 after years of giving my time and attention to other people's cats, I decided I wanted a tiny kitten of my own to raise.

I walked into the Catalina Island Humane Society and it was love at first sight:

She had me at "mew".  Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, all big ears and a little brown button nose, when we met she was too young to go home with me right away so I visited her every afternoon, giving both of us time to get acquainted. The volunteer at the shelter named her "Primera", because she was the first of her litter to do everything - truly the leader of the pack.  I decided to shorten the name to "Prima", somehow instinctively knowing that she would need a name that could be whipped out quickly.

Once she was home with me, we bonded instantly and she was such a sweet cuddley girl:

Whose cuteness was overwhelming at times:

Which made up for the times when she was not so sweet or cute!

(Yes, as a matter of fact she IS hanging from a curtain rod by her teeth)

Prima's a big girl now:

No surface in my home is too high for her - tall bookcases, top of refrigerator, even the bedroom door - she "runs" up the front of it and perches on top.

But she's still kind of silly!

Prima loves helping make the bed, she's just not very good at it.  Her mortal enemy is the vacuum cleaner but strangely - she loves being lint-rollered.  Prima has an extensive collection of toys that blink, buzz, chirp, and chatter to keep her entertained but in classic cat style a brown paper bag or a cardboard box is all it takes to really make her happy.

Prima is definitely a prissy princess - she likes everything just so and no changes to the routine. Fortunately for her, with all the changes in my life, I haven't done much traveling in the past few years and I'm home a lot. 

Which in her mind means that I am at her beck & call, available to perform such services as she requests.  One of my most important jobs is turning on the bathroom faucet whenever her majesty decides a few sips of fresh water is desired. I once neglected to explain this vital task to the person who was taking care of her in my absence.  Apparently Prima got the message across as she stood on the edge of the sink, leaned down and delivered her best, "What are you stoopid?" expectant look.  A priceless moment, lost due to lack of a video camera!

Prima is an indoor only kitty, but I've no concern that she'll ever get too chunky as she ages.  She'll be 5 years old in a few weeks and toys or no toys, she still romps like she's 5 months old sometimes.  She zooms around, chasing phantom prey and getting plenty of exercise.  She also practices yoga frequently:

I am incredibly blessed to have her in my life. Whatever I may have given up - indoor plants, lit candles, small fragile knick-knacks - it's all worth it for what she gives me.  And no matter how old she gets, she's still my baby.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Excuse me...waiter?

There's a Morning Glory in my Jade plant.

Do you see that bad boy?

I did NOT plant it there. I just stepped out of my door the other day and there it was.  Bold as all get out, sprouting out of the Jade's pot and wrapping it's sly vines around the branches.

Several weeks ago I talked about some of the plants in the patio of the apartment below mine and in particular, a Morning Glory that seemed hell-bent on world domination. And when I compared it to the Borg, you thought I was kidding didn't you?

Ummm....I haven't seen the cat in a while. I think I'd better check and see what's going on out there.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I carried a watermelon

Just in case you happen to be unfamiliar with that particular expression - I'll explain.  In the movie Dirty Dancing,  actress Jennifer Grey's character gains entrance to a party by helping someone else carry watermelons up the stairs and into the party.  Moments later, upon meeting the handsome dance instructor played by Patrick Swayze, when he asks what she is doing there, all that comes out of her mouth is, "I carried a watermelon".  Of course, she's completely aware seconds later that she's been an idiot - but there you have it - the ultimate foot in mouth moment, preserved in cinematic history.

It has become increasingly apparent to me that I am losing my ability to communicate intelligently with any reasonably attractive single person of the opposite gender.  The plumber, my neighbor, a good friend's spouse, even the guy I cat-sit for - no problemo!  I am smart, sharp, witty and I can go on for hours.  But with the fellow who sat next to me for the first half of a community theatre comedy tonight? Yeahhhh....not so much.  Can't really blame him - I'd change seats after the intermission too if I ended up next to a blathering idiot like me.

There are bright spots in my life however - I won a contest on Peaceful Knitter's blog, my prize was this cute little t-shirt:

"Little" being the operative word!  It fits me perfectly but then, I'm kind of a stick person.  The size tag on this shirt says it's a Medium and I have to wonder - in adult sizes???

But as an extra surprise she sent me this also:

The color is just a gorgeous shiny leafy green, and it is deliciously soft!  I have heard that bamboo yarn stretches so with just one skein I'm thinking this would make a nice little scarf. Pattern suggestions anyone?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Just add a little magic

I like checking out all the newest patterns uploaded to Ravelry and by far my favorite this week is the Ice Cream Pint Cozy (non-rav link).  Because I don't mind admitting, ice cream consumption plays a large part of my summer survival strategy.  As I've whined mentioned in the past, my apartment is a sweltering hotbox.  But no matter how many thermal window covers or strategically placed fans I use, all it really takes to cool me down is a few spoonfuls of frozen goodness.  I also don't mind admitting that in the tradition of those who live alone, I don't usually bother with scooping it into a bowl and just eat from the pint.  So I could get a lotta use out of that particular knitted item!

Earlier this week someone reminded me about a product I hadn't seen since childhood, and didn't even know was still made -  Magic Shell.  Apparently there are now several flavors of this product but even just considering the original chocolate flavor my adult mind can come up with all sorts of yummy ideas that never occurred to me the last time I tried it!  I was doubtful that our tiny grocery store carried Magic Shell, but after a search of the shelves I was rewarded.

So if you take this:

And combine it with this:

You get:

Friday, August 1, 2008

O is for Olive

I'd like to introduce you to someone special!  Olive is a lovely fluffy black Giant Schnauzer.  She is also the recipient of  a rather unique dog accessory I knitted up at the beginning of the summer.  Here she is looking sort of sad, with her teeny little nekkid ankle and paw:

Look,  all better now, and looking ever so spiffy, sporting her brand new "Faux Paw"!

Can you tell which leg has Fun Fur and which is Original Olive Fur? Shhhh...don't tell, it's a secret!

Olive has taught me a lot about big dog life.  Big dog = big voice, big toys, big walks, big tricks, big enthusiasm, big love!

And at the end of day:

Big sleep!  (Awwww....idn't she cute?)

As wonderful as I think Olive is, I think it's only fair to give someone else a little blog time also.

Meet Pepper!  She's a year younger than Olive and I haven't spent as much time with her, but together she and Olive make quite a pair.

I mean, how would you like to have a set of bookends like this in your living room?

Can you tell which is Olive and which is Pepper?