Monday, March 26, 2012

first flyball weekend of 2012

Last weekend we headed up to Cloverdale, BC for the first flyball tournament of the year.  It was really awesome to get to see all of our flyball friends again, as well as to spend the weekend in my trailer - I was bouncing around from excitement at work on Friday morning before I headed out for our trip.  Chris took the day off so we were on our way with the trailer by about 2pm, and with a short stop at Camping World for a new tongue jack we were up in Cloverdale with plenty of daylight left.  And to make things even better, it was sunny and beautiful all weekend long!

Warmups for our fast team, which ran together for the last time this weekend since our friends are moving to Boston in a few weeks.  We've been working on adjusting Ezri's turn, as she's been landing too far to the left and has simply leaned forward and folded over her wrists, which is both dangerous to her health and slower.  This is the prop setup we use for her - a jump board to raise her jump, right straight gutter to keep her from turning wide, and left angled gutter to guide her further to the right on the box.

Looks like the work is paying off!  We'll keep drilling her with the props, of course, but between this picture and improved times in start (3.96, 3.99, and a lot of 4.0's) I'm feeling much better about her performance.  And I got a 0.001 start with her on Sunday!

This is one of my favorite pictures - Pax starting, Ezri in second, and Indigo in third, with all of us clustered together at the 45 foot mark.  It's so much fun to run with a pack like this, and I'm going to miss it so much...hopefully we will build a new pack quickly!

Most of us in our club use ex-pens for our dogs, and this can create the "Great Wall of Jet City" effect seen here. Five e-pens plus a stack of four crates for the terriers...each pen with at least three dogs inside!

This was our eighth flyball anniversary, as it was on March 13, 2004 that Jadzia debuted at this same tournament as the 14" height dog at just two years of age.  She's going to be ten years old this weekend. and she's slowed down a bit and is developing anxiety issues, but nothing will stop her from flyball.  Such a big change from that day eight years ago...Jadzia was so scared she barely ran under 6.5 seconds, and she flipped over and peed herself when a judge came to talk to me.  We attended that tournament (our very first) in my old Chevrolet Impala, with Jadzia and baby Curzon (at just 5 months) on a towel-covered backseat, and I didn't know anyone but the other five people from our club.  This year we attended with our truck and RV, with four racing dogs in the backseat, and I know just about everyone in the region.

Phoebe did well over the weekend, though I think the slight crack in her toenail was bothering her a bit, as she was running 5.8 and above pretty much exclusively on Sunday.  She pulled out a couple of 5.5's and a 5.495 on Saturday though, so that's not bad for an almost 13yo height dog!

And at long last, Phoebe's Region 7 2011 MVP plaque!  She was nominated once before but lost, but this year she was the only nominee and therefore won (though I'm pretty sure most clubs voted for her anyway!).  As irritating as she is, Phoebe is the reason our club has prospered and done well over the last six years, as without that little tank of a height dog we wouldn't have been able to run as often and consistently as we have done.  With Deco handling the fast team, Razer just about ready to handle a team, and Zach successfully debuted, Phoebe's retirement date will be approaching soon once we find a nice retirement home for her where she can be spoiled and not live with border collies.  She's a good little dog.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

spinning in the night

Yesterday I ripped off about a third of my left ring fingernail while getting geared up to ride home from work, so now that hurts (especially when using the clutch on the bike) and I have a band-aid.  I had wanted to spin in the evening while I baked cookies, but due to the band-aid I gave up on that and knitted instead while catching up on "Once Upon A Time" with my husband.  After I got out of the shower, however, I still really wanted to spin, so I sat down for about ten minutes and played with my fiber.

I'm getting much better at spinning a smoother and more even single, as you can see by the cop currently on my spindle.  This is about a total of 30-40 minutes of spinning, most of it last Friday evening while Chris was talking on the phone with his brother and I sat on the couch to keep him company.

This is my spindle along with the bulk of the combed top roving that I bought specifically for the purpose of practicing spinning.  Given how much of the singles I am getting out of the first little piece that I pulled off of the batch, I'm going to have a lot of practice spinning and hopefully some usable yarn at the end of it.  It's now making more sense to me why people buy/sell such small looking amounts of fiber - if you spin it finely and evenly, it really does go a long way!

Incidentally, I'm still learning my terms and how they apply to the different fibers available.  I think the stuff I have right now is roving, but the label says it is combed top, and I'm still not quite sure the difference between them.  That would be a nice addition to a beginning spinners class!

Some of the goodies I've ordered recently arrived in the past few days, including the set of interchangeable circular needles (the tips screw on to the cords and lock with a key, so you can combine any tip size and cord length), a new set of pretty embroidery scissors for my hand sewing kit (so my others can go back on my tool board in my sewing room), two new drop spindles, and a "party game for horrible people" called Cards Against Humanity.  The games is very simple - it's basically like Apples to Apples in how you play it - but the cards and topics are decidedly R-rated and not for the close-minded.

The two new drop spindles are ones I bought off of Etsy primarily because they were pretty, not because I need more of them (though I do tend to collect things when I first get interested in them).  One is made of ebony with inlaid crushed lapis lazuli, and the other is made of bloodwood for the whorl with a maple burl shaft.  While debating how to store and display them, it occurred to me that I had kept a lot of the empty Dublin Dr Pepper bottles from my Christmas gift, and so I washed out a couple of them and will keep the spindles in them when not in use.  The ebony one is about as heavy as the student maple one on the right, which are both lighter than the purplewood one I'm using right now, and the bloodwood/burl one is very light.  I should weigh them for comparison purposes.

Yesterday marks seven weeks post surgery for Curzon, so we're over halfway to the median survival point of 90 days with surgery only.  While he's not fond of posing for pictures before 6am, he's looking great and is doing fantastic - it's truly like he never had surgery.  I have found no additional lumps or bumps on him, he's tolerating the artemisinin/butyrex and Hoxsey's quite well, and his behavior shows zero change from pre-surgery.  He's back at flyball practice now, and this week he ran the superjump exercise (7 flyball jumps in a row at the regular spacing of 10 feet apart, for striding practice), was a practice passing dog, was a "bait" recall dog behind gates for a chaser, and worked up to all four jumps in the bounce drill.  Despite a collision with the green dog he was practicing with (the lab was just so excited he ran straight at Curzon, even though he's been successful with the exercise before), he is showing no issues with any of the exercise or drills and only wants to be let loose to run the course again.  We have a tournament this weekend, and then next weekend we will start putting him back on the box, planning that he will return to racing in the May tournament.

Monday, March 19, 2012

$400 lasted us fourteen years...

When I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment (really the lower level of a two-story house) after my freshman year in college, we had the Laundry Conundrum.  The landlord had a set of inoperative coin-op machines in the basement, and his comment on the topic was he could fix them and we could not bring in our own later, or we could just bring in our own but the inoperative set stayed put.  Not wanting to rely on either questionable coin-op machines or our landlord, my roommate and I picked up a used set for $400 from another student who was graduating and moving on.

That was in 1998, probably around May or June.  Those machines lasted through three years of college, a cross-country move, and another (almost) eleven years of service to Chris and I (and our pets), before the washing machine finally bit the dust on Saturday morning when the agitator stopped working.  I can't say that I'm overly upset about it, as I've been swearing at the damn things to DIE ALREADY for about four years now - I've really wanted to upgrade to nicer front-loading HE machines, but I couldn't bring myself to replace perfectly fine working machines.  So as part of our errands on Saturday (which also involved getting the Subaru detailed with a Groupon about to expire and de-winterizing the RV trailer), we stopped by Sears and ordered a new set for delivery on Sunday.


Chris didn't really have much of an opinion once I told him there was no way I was getting bargain basement bottom-of-the-line machines again, so I picked out the Kenmore Elite HE set that is the current top-of-the-line.  The prices between the three "tiers" were within $300 of each other per machine, and the middle tier was actually more expensive because it was just updated, so we went ahead and got the nicer ones which were a bit cheaper.  I drew a line at paying an extra $130 per machine to have it them in muddy silver (not even a pretty bright sparkly silver, or a nice rich color) instead of plain white.  They have pretty blue LEDs on the front, they chirp cheerfully when powered on or done with their cycle, and there are so many choices for adjusting cycle type that it's ridiculous.  The dryer has an insertable rack for drying shoes or sweaters, both machines have steam options for sanitization or refresh, and the capacity is huge.  The machines have already gotten use with washing sheets and one of the dog beds, and so far so good.  Hopefully they will last us for another 14 years, and by then maybe the new ones will simply live in my closet or dresser and clean things that are put in without any additional effort on my part.  That would be awesome.

Last Thursday (March 15) was the cats' 11th birthday - we got them as kittens when we moved out here in June of 2001, when they were three months old.  I had to throw out all of the bedding in their room a few weeks ago thanks to another infestation of those damn bugs (at least those haven't reappeared in the dog room yet, thankfully), so on Saturday I picked up some replacement beds.  Onyx approves of the pyramid bed for sure, she's barely moved out of it since I brought into the room except when she fell off the top of the wardrobe in it.  After that little incident she sulked in the cat carrier (which has a nice new purr pad in it) for a few hours before trying the pyramid bed again.  I should probably put up some nonskid material to help keep it in place on top of the wardrobe, before she's scarred for life.

Today is March 19th, and last night it was snowing at our house.  This morning the snow was still on the ground, there was some on the road, and the news was full of accidents on the highways and side streets due to the icy conditions.  I'm getting really tired of this - there's record warmth on the east coast (it's been in the 80s where my mom lives), and we're currently running 10F-15F below normal.  And then it snows or ices, which adds insult to injury as then I have to drive the truck to work instead of riding my motorcycle, which is a giant pain in the ass - I don't even get the benefit of going out at lunch, because if I move the truck then someone will take my spot before I get back, and the truck can only fit in half of the first floor due to the height.  Bah.  Hopefully the La Nina pattern that's been keeping us in this cold and nasty pattern for the last 18 months or so will clear out in the next few weeks like the weather blogs say it will...if I don't get a summer this year, I'm not responsible for any actions I take the following winter!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

first quilt finish of 2012

At long last, I have finished the quilt for my niece, Averie!  Originally meant to be a Christmas present last year, I had to put it off as I realized just how much work was going into a (almost) twin-sized quilt especially since she and her brother are young enough that I'd need to have both ready for an event like Christmas.  Her birthday is in March, so that was my new deadline.  Of course, I thought her birthday was March 15, and it turned out to be late last week, so I didn't make her birthday like I intended...but I will make the deadline that I thought it was, as it will be shipped today.

I've spent the last two weeks watching TV/movies and sewing down the binding, and I finally finished it on Monday night (while watching Black Swan, which is an incredibly creepy and crazy movie).  Yesterday when I got home from work I added the label and tossed the quilt into the wash to see how it would finish up.

The final dimensions stayed very close to the pieced dimensions, and the quilt is about 54" wide by 92" long, give or take a bit.  I was targeting 54" x 90", as that's what I had found for twin quilt dimensions when I searched for them back in the design phase, but apparently I found incorrect measurements as most twin quilts are at least 60" wide.  I'm a little sad about that, but there was nothing I could do at that point as I'd already completed the quilting and was about to put on the binding, so it is what it is.  It's definitely long enough, as Chris had to stand on a folding chair to hold the quilt up for a picture!

I did end up with one minor problem on this one, which I didn't really parse until it was too late.  While sewing down the binding, I came across about an 18"-24" stretch where there were apparently tension issues when the binding strip was machine sewn to the front of the quilt.  It didn't seem like a problem, so I went right ahead and hand-stitched the binding down...only to find when I rotated the quilt that you could see similar tension issues on the front.  If I had really thought about it in time, I could have re-stitched the machine part before the hand sewing was complete.  At this point the way to fix it would be to rip out the handstitching, resew the seam, and redo the handstitching, so I decided to wash the quilt and see what happened.

The problem is much less noticeable after washing, hurray!  The binding is very securely sewn in place, so as long as someone doesn't grip that edge of the binding and try to rip it up, I think it will be just fine.  The location of the weird area is down at the "bottom" of the quilt, so if it's kept on a bed it shouldn't be used as a grab point very often, and if the quilt is used as a lap or play quilt then it probably won't be gripped by just that spot all the time.  And worst case if it does come off, I know what to do to fix it.  :)

Yesterday marks six weeks post-surgery for Curzon, or 42 days.  He is continuing to be his own normal and awesome self, being loving, cute, playful, energetic, and a pain in the ass just like nothing happened.  I did manage to make him yelp a bit the other night while messing with his scar tissue, but he forgave me quickly with some belly scratches.  At flyball practice this week we moved up to full recalls over all four jumps (set to 7"), and also started the bounce drill for equipment respect and made it to 3 jumps set at 18" by the end of our first session.  Curzon REALLY wants to go hit the flyball box though, so I don't think we'll keep him away from it for very long - hopefully we'll start some wall work with him either this week or in three weeks.  Next weekend will be hard on him as we're going to a tournament that he's not going to race in - but he'll run in the May tournament, so it won't be long!

I think I will take him swimming at the therapy pool another time or two, and then we'll transition back to the regular "dock diving" sort of pool exercise so that I can take Ezri and Jadzia along with us.  I've really enjoyed swimming with him, however, it's very nice to spend time with just one of my dogs upon occasion - and being able to submerge in 75F water in the middle of winter isn't bad either!

In closing for today, this was posted up on Facebook and it really struck a chord with me - this is exactly what the rabid religious right is trying to say with all of their attacks on women's rights.  It truly disturbs me that a woman's right to contraception and abortion is being questioned in this time, and it disgusts me that Senate hearings about these very topics don't include any women, either giving testimony or making decisions.  Santorum is definitely living up to his redefined name (thank you Dan Savage) with his continued insistence that women are fit only to bear children.  Oh, he doesn't use those exact words, but his actions and beliefs that contraception is unnecessary for "good women" and that all of our country's problems are due to women not staying home with their children are more than enough to send the message.  The other candidates for the Republican nomination are spewing the same sort of vile, bitter hatred towards women that is just astonishing and depressing.

These men want nothing more than to remove women's rights to control their own bodies.  They want to spread a culture of fear under the guise of religion, they want to give more money and control to corporations (whom they consider "persons" unlike the very women that birthed them, married them, and were born to them), they want to deny legal protections to anyone not like them (i.e. white, straight, and "Christian"), and they want to take away support and rights from the very people they are trying to win the election from.  I hope that the American public wakes up soon, because if this loss of women's rights happens, our country will be set back decades and it may never recover.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

spinning class recap

Spinning as in yarn/thread spinning, that is.  Not the exercise bike kind of spinning.

One of the classes I took at the Sewing Expo last weekend was a beginner's hand spinning class using drop spindles taught by Morgaine Wilder of Carolina Homespun.  I have been somewhat intrigued by the concept of spinning for a while, and it was recently brought back to mind when I re-read The Mists of Avalon as the women's work of spinning, weaving, and embroidery is a constant theme throughout the story.  So I signed up to take this class, and I had a very good time and really enjoyed Morgaine's teaching and the opportunity to learn how to do this once-common and basic skill.

I'm not going to attempt to explain or teach the basics of spinning in this blog post, as I certainly don't have the experience or credentials to do so.  I do have a ton of pictures of my learning process during class, however, so here we go.

The first drop spindle I picked out of the box and the first piece of roving, before we did pre-drafting work on the roving to begin the spinning process.  Unfortunately I was too rough with this one when trying to spin a leader and the hook on top of the shaft pulled out, so I had to change spindles shortly into class.

Leader successfully spun and additional spinning of the yarn is underway.

Spin and park method - after putting twist onto the yarn with the spindle, I put the spindle between my knees to hold it steady while I draft out more fleece and allow it to spin into yarn.

First batch of a yarn single complete!

First batch of yarn single off the spindle and wound into a ball.  The next piece of roving to be spun is in my lap next to the now-empty spindle.

More yarn is made from the second piece of roving!  Morgain also gave us samples of three different other fibers (although of course I cannot remember what they are now) to try and spin at home.  Two of them are purple, yay!

Two spinning singles complete, off the spindle, and wound into balls.  The next step is to ply the singles together (in the opposite direction that they were spun) in order to make a two-ply yarn.

Plying the singles into yarn - it was hard to keep those tiny (and uneven!) balls of yarn from flying off my lap and onto the floor!  I see why so much additional equipment can be helpful for something as simple and portable as spinning is supposed to be.

Completed two-ply handspun yarn, on the spindle.  I haven't taken it off the spindle yet, but the next step is to skein it (not wind into a ball) and then very gently wash/wet it so that the wool fibers "wake up" a little and nest together.  This is supposed to smooth out the plies and make the yarn look a lot better, although with my very amateur first attempt I don't know how much it will improve!

I had a lot of fun at the class, and ended up buying another spindle (ooooh purpleheart wood) and some additional fiber and other bits and bobs from the Carolina Homespun booth at the expo.  I've spun up the rest of the main fiber we used in class, and am planning to work on the other samples next and see if I can get more consistent yarn and possibly thinner yarn as well.  This is a physical skill more than it is a mental one, it's all about training my hands to do what I want them to do, and I like that a lot.  Yay for learning new things!

Here is a 5-week post-surgery photo of Curzon.  He's continuing to be awesome, with full health and activity levels as he bounds across the house and plays tug with anyone who will come near him.  Apart from a slight wrinkle in his skin, the scar is almost invisible now, and it will only become moreso as his fur continues to grow in.  That's my boy!

And last but not least, here is some of the pretty fabric that I bought at the expo all cut up using my Accuquilt Go! cutter into 3.5" tumblers.  The sparkly and marbled fabrics are all hand-designed, and the batik fabric was just pretty and in the right colors.  I'm planning to make a tumbler quilt for myself using a wide variety of purples and dark blues, including some of these special fabrics that I like so much.

Monday, March 5, 2012

sewing expo summary

Last weekend was the Sewing & Stitchery Expo, held in Puyallup which is about an hour or so south of where I live.  I've gone for the last couple of years with various friends, and the past two years we've taken off work on Friday to avoid some of the weekend crowds, which we did again this year.  I'm working on learning more techniques of various types and taking more classes, so my sew expo experience this year was two days (Friday and Saturday) with three 2.5 hour classes across them.  I'll go into more detail about what I learned in the classes in a later post - but they were fascinating!

Friday was my main shopping day as my best friend and I wandered the expo together, with a single lunchtime class on "The Biology of Color" as our learning opportunity for the day.  There were so many pretty things to see in the expo hall this year!

Hand-made metal thread stands for using with cones (or spools) of thread.  Flowers aren't usually my thing, but these were just gorgeous, so one ended up going home with me!  It's extremely heavy and should avoid any vibration or "dancing" even when I've got my Pfaff 130 going at top speed, which even my nice metal stand from Superior Threads has had issues with.

I had no idea that drop spindles (for hand spinning) could come in so many beautiful variations!  This shop had lots and lots of spindles of both high whorl and low whorl types, and even some Tibetan spindles (which look very different) in addition to the roving and other accessories needed to spin, needle felt, or knit.  The lady who was running this shop (Carolina Homespun) was very nice and turned out to be the person who taught the "Spinning for Beginners" class that I took on Saturday morning!

This is the total of my "loot" that I brought home on Friday - one of the aforementioned thread stands, a beautiful hand-inlaid wooden box that looks like a quilt block, double-pointed needles and yarn to make socks, a book on spinning, and some fabric for my tumbler quilt.  I've wanted one of the wooden boxes since I first saw them two years ago, so I finally bought one even though I'm not sure what I"m going to do with it yet.  I hope to take a sock knitting class, so I prepared for that by picking up some nice needles and skeins of sock yarn.  The fabric purchases were small, mostly 1-2 pieces from a variety of specialty cloth vendors including hand-marbled fabric, hand-painted metallic fabric, and hand-dyed fabric as well as a batiked dragon set.  They will all be cut into 3.5" tumblers with my Accuquilt in order to make myself a lap quilt sometime this year.

Despite taking two classes on Saturday, the spinning class mentioned above as well as a "Stack it up, Slash it up, Use it up!" quilting class, I did some shopping as well.  I really enjoyed my spinning class, so I ended up with the spindle from that class plus a pretty one, some roving, a wrist distaff, and some small knitting notions.  I added in two new bags (one for spinning and one for knitting), two books (one on handspun yarn and one about knitting socks), and a new light for my Pfaff 130.  Finally, in my quilting class we were given a sample pack of batting from the Warm Company, so that's hiding out in the back.

So, now to keep doing all the things I learned last weekend!  I did a little bit of spinning last night with my new pretty spindle, as well as knitting during downtime in my raid, but I can't do too much "other" stuff at the moment because I only have a week to finish the binding on my niece's quilt before I send it for her birthday!

And to wrap up, a quick Curzon update - he went back to flyball yesterday!  His response to the question "Do you want to go play flyball?" was utterly priceless - high yippy barks coupled with sprinting up and down the stairs until I went with him.  Once we were there he was just full of himself, so excited he couldn't pee before entering the building, and then racing on his flat recalls to the tug so hard I couldn't catch him.  He was even barking *while* he was tugging, which he hasn't really done before, so I'm guessing he was pretty happy!  Before we went home he even got to tug with Desi, an adorable 1yo chocolate lab on our team who's just as tenacious with the tug as he is.  Looks like having him compete in May is going to be no problem - it might be harder to have him *not* compete at the end of March!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

four weeks to recovery...and zoomies

Last weekend marked Curzon's second swim session, which he enjoyed with great gusto - the time it took me to change into my bathing suit was far too long for his liking, as he kept barking at me to hurry it up and uncover the pool.  We spent about 25 minutes in the pool, doing "circle swims" where I would toss the ball, he'd go get it, and then I'd grab him when he got back and turn him to do it again.  Once his tongue got curly (indicating he was tiring), we alternated between resting in the pool on the steps and allowing him to get out of the pool and then jump back in once he was rested.  Such a happy boy!

Day 25 post surgery.

On Monday night, I was sitting quietly at the dining room table eating my dinner, when all of a sudden Curzon jumped up from the antler he'd been chewing with a crazed look in his eyes.  He then took off down the hall at top speed, nailing the u-turn at the end and racing back into the living room, practically did a boxturn off the sofa, and continued back down the hall.  It's a good thing we have carpet!  Several laps later he looked over at me, patently satisfied with himself, and then laid back down to chew on his antler again.

I emailed his surgeon that night, asking if we could reconsider when he'd be allowed to run again.

Tuesday was a day off for me, as I was fighting a cold and since I had to leave work anyway to take Curzon and Jadzia to our regular vet, I gave up and called out and went back to bed.  When I got up later in the morning, the surgeon had emailed me back to see if I could bring him in for a quick evaluation to see if she could release him to start running!  Additionally, she wanted to take some pictures of him to use as a "model recovery dog" for athletic dogs recovering from surgery.  Of course I said yes, and we arranged a time for me to stop by on my way down to our regular vet.

Curzon happily showed off his stretches, bow, and exercise ball skills for the surgeon, and she just shook her head and said "I don't have any reason to stop him from running now," after examining him.  What happy news!  We're allowed to start running him, starting small and building up while watching him carefully, and that includes flyball practice (although just starting with flat recalls for a week or two).  As soon as we got home from the vet, I took Curzon and Ezri outside to play chuckit in the back yard to soon as I picked up the chuckit in my hand, Curzon's eyes just lit up like stars and he took off running flat-out to the backyard.

Happy dog wants me to throw the ball again!

Our visit to the regular vet went well too, as she was also very impressed with his recovery and even commented that she'd not seen such fast fur regrowth before.  I am choosing to take that as another small sign that we've gotten rid of the cancer - his body wouldn't bother trying to grow fur so fast if it was still fighting a tumor, right?  Curzon got his pulse checked and his artemesinin meds confirmed, as well as some acupuncture in his knees.  Jadzia got her blood drawn for a check now that she's been on the clomapramine for two months, and her bloodwork came back great so we're clear to keep on using it with her (50mg once a day in her breakfast).  She also had the tip of her tail looked at, as I had just noticed last Friday that it appeared dislocated or broken, and it is still attached, getting blood flow, and feeling pain response (though not continued pain from the dislocation), so the vet said she was just fine with it the way it is.  I wonder what happened to make it dislocate, though...

Day 28 post surgery.

Tomorrow and Saturday I will be going to the Sew Expo in Puyallup, including taking three different classes across the time there.  I can't wait to see what awesome and beautiful things are available this year, and I'm very much looking forward to the classes - Biology of Color, Beginner Spinning, and Slash It Up (quilting technique).  More posts this weekend!