Monday, June 30, 2008


This week, my two nephews, age 7 and 9, are staying with us. So far, so good. Today we: played outside with the hose, went to Crown Center and Union Station, drove through the Plaza looking for fountains, played video games, explored the sculpture park at the Nelson Atkins, and watched a movie about giant ants (Them!). My goal - get them to bed before 11 pm.

In knitting news: I have gotten past the first chart on my Icarus Shawl. Right now, it has over 375 stitches per row. The shawl grows at the rate of 4 stitches every other row. I just figured out that I messed up a row and will have to pull it back. UGH!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Science and Junior High Kids

Last week and this week, I have been teaching "ecology" to 7th and 8th graders as part of our science camp. Last week we had the girls, this week the boys. I have placed "Ecology" in quotes because our lesson about determining species diversity has collapsed into - what is the insect? what is this plant? Which is fine, but if I do this again in the future, I want them to see that ecology is more than natural history.

Surprisingly, the girls seemed more enthusiastic collecting spiders than the boys. They had no problem with going into the tall grass and though there were screams when they found large spiders, they were really into it. The boys - not so much. They would have stayed at the edge of the field if we would have let them. Though once I told them "The girls last week had no problem getting into the tall grass", they finally went into the grass. While I don't like to appeal to stereotypes, I felt like I had to do something to get them into it. And, I knew it would work.

I have really enjoyed the experience and hope that I have been in some way a role model to these kids, even if it just demonstrating that most insects and spiders won't hurt you if you touch them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Visitng the other side of the color wheel

In balance with all of the cool blues of recent knits, I have also been knitting on the warm side of the spectrum.

Clockwise from the top we have

Icarus Shawl - Very easy lace knitting so far. I actually knit on this quite a lot during my recent road trip and at the conference we attending. I am now someone who knits during conference talks.

Corn Head Scarf - I have started collecting plant based yarns (linen, hemp, bamboo, etc), and I saw this yarn at the recent MisKnits sale. I have also been wanting to knit headbands to hold my hair back in the summer. Perfect timing, and so I came home with corn colored corn yarn (A-MAIZing in the Ducky colorway). I chose a pattern that reminded me of ears of corn.
Purple Gauntlets - I have more to say on these, and I plan to post a more in-depth post soon. Let's just say that there are issues. These purples are warmer in real life than the picture shows.

Love yarn from the Vicki Howell Collection, also purchased at MisKnits. The color is called Peter and Mary Jane (awww, how sweet). It is a blend of 30% silk and 70% bamboo. I am not sure what this yarn will become. I had my eye on a beret pattern, then I remembered I already have an orange beret. Suggestions?

And finally, the newly named "Flame Azalea" socks, previously known as "Candy Oranges". I decided to change the name because (1) this picture of flame azaleas reminded me of the socks, and (2) these are going to Sparkling Squirrel.

The final leg

For completeness, I want to finish updating the highlights of my roadtrip with SS. After the day of plant hunting described previously, we started hotel hunting. We had about the same success rate, in that the first two towns we stopped in did not have hotels. Ok - one did, but the door to the office was locked with a sign that said, "Please call 555-1234 from the pay phone (there will is no charge)". But then there was this semi-scary guy who was involved in a conversation on the pay phone. We decided to move on to the next town. Finally, in Elizabethon, TN we found a decent hotel that just happened to have a Long John Silver's. I know LJS is not the best food for you, but I think SS and I have eaten there for every roadtrip we have been on together. I might be wrong, but it is kind of a tradition. Plus, we were too tired to do anything more elaborate. So we brought our fish, chicken, hush puppies, and cole slaw back to the hotel, watched a couple of episodes of "Top Chef" - a real treat since neither of us have cable at home, and knit. In a phone call to her husband that evening, SS learned of the 4.5 feet of water in her basement.

Despite knowing that a hard day of work lay ahead of us, we had a lovely time on the second day of driving.

We stopped at a winery (which I cannot remember the name of) and took a few minutes to knit on the patio overlooking the vineyard. Most of the wine was pretty good and we ended up bringing some home to Mr. SS.
We did not stop at too many places - we were both tired and we needed to be at the car rental place by 3 pm. We did stop at Tamarack, a huge store featuring crafts and products made in WV. We had also thought about eating lunch there, but the line was really long and none of the food sounded particularly tempting. In retrospect, I think we should have taken the time, because instead, we drove around the sad downtown of, I think, Beckley looking for a local restaurant. We finally found a place (again, I don't remember the name - I need to write my travelogues much closer to the actual days of travel), but it was not good. At least it was cheap.

We took a brief stop at the New River Gorge to view the bridge. You have to walk down lots of stairs.We did find a bird's nest on the way down.
You are rewarded with a wonderful view of the highest vehicular bridge in North America.

All in all it was a great roadtrip. I love traveling with SS. We have covered a lot of miles together and have always had a great time.

The next day - I helped SS and Mr. SS with basement cleanup. It was wet. And messy. And dirty. The national guard came by to pick up garbage from the flood. The fire department came by to wash the layer of mud off the streets. I swept up a lot of water and mud. We were all tired at the end of the day. But, we were all too muddy to take any photos.

The next day, we went to Pittsburgh (I flew out early the next morning), where we ate brunch, watched a Pirates game, and ate Indian Food.

Thanks SS and Mr. SS for your hospitality.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blues Run the Game

Knitting update.

Despite any reference to knitting in recent weeks, I have been productive. For your consideration, three projects in blue.

Blue Republic - Knit in yarn I spun from Bonker's Merino Top. My goal was to knit soft, bulky weight 2-yarn. I am happy with the yarn (though I need to work on consistency) and the hat. It still lacks a button embellishment.

Blue Skies Hat and Scarf Set - also from hand spun. I still need to weave in ends and block.
Close up of the scarf. This time I wanted a soft three-ply yarn. Again, need to work on consistency in spinning.
A secret sock project - the first Christmas present knitting I have finished.
Notice also the ceiling - no hole! Finally after over a month, the hole in the ceiling is repaired. Now we just need to put our living room back together.

In other news - the vertigo has subsided a bit. I actually did some gardening today!

The search for Trilliums, Mountain Laurels, and Rhododendrons

In continuation of the travelogue of Jennifer and Sparkling Squirrel from Durham NC to Glenville West Virgina . . .

We planned to make our trip back to SS's house a two day trip - our mission was to search out cool blooming plants native to the Appalachian Region. We had three main targets were Painted Trilliums, Mountain Laurels, and Catawba Rhododendrons. Our eventual plan was to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).

On our way to the BRP, we stopped at the town of Boone, North Carolina for lunch. Both SS and I were surprised by the town - it was lively, seemingly, progressive, and really beautiful. We ate lunch at Melanie's, because the sign was covered with dancing vegetables.
The service was terrific and the selection was surprisingly varied. As the sign suggests, they have a lot of vegetarian and vegan offerings, as well as plenty of variety for carnivores. Cute decor on the inside - retro, vintage, chic. Later, as we were driving around town, we realized that Boone, NC is home to Appalachian State .

The coolest plant we saw in Boone - this beautiful Solanum, growing as a weed in the hedgerow of the parking lot.

From there we went to Julian Price Park in search of Painter Trilliums. We suspected we were a bit late in the season, but hoped that maybe there was a late bloomer or two. One the trail to the Trilliums we did see - Hawkweeds. I don't know why, but I am really enchanted with hawkweeds. They grow as lawn weeds in that part of the country, looking like delicate dandelions with really hairy leaves (Seriously, if you have hawkweeds in your yard, take a close look at the leaves)
We also saw a club moss.
And lots of buttercups.
We finally did find the Trilliums, but they were not blooming. Here is picture of what we hoped to have found.

From there we drove to Linville Falls, in search of Mountain Laurels. In the parking lot we saw flame azaleas . .

. . . and more hawkweeds.
Up the trail we did find blooming mountain laurels, which I was able to photograph before my camera battery died. Unfortunately, I did not have the spare with me, so I don't have photos of the falls themselves. The falls are worth the hike.

Our next stop was the Rhododendron Gardens - where we hoped to see Rhododendrons. In the parking lot, I became enchanted with these bluets, also called Quaker Ladies.
While we were too late for the trilliums, we were too early for the Catawba Rhododendrons. Imagine this scene full of pink blossoms.
We did see some blooming, but at lower elevations.

One treat at the Rhododendron Gardens was one late blooming Trillium, different species from the painted trillium.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

V is for . . .

Vertigo, which has left me in bed the last 1 1/2 days. This is something I have experienced before, and have been told is due to an inner ear infection. A . . .

Viral infection at that, so there is nothing to do but wait it out. The last time it lasted about 4 days. If I move around to much, I become very nauseous. If I lay on my right side, the room just spins, and spins, and spins. If I keep my head very still, I am ok. Until I get up again. It is incredibly . . .

Vexing. There are so many other things I would like to be doing. Gardening, working on my research, working on my classes for next semester, exercising, . . . you get the idea. This is also going to prevent us going to Steve's family reunion this weekend. However, I am getting a lot of moving watching in. So far I have watched: "From Russia with Love", "Marnie", "To Catch a Thief", and "The

Village". My other main activity, besides staring at the wall, has been reading blogs on the internet. I can't do much typing (too much turning my head), or internet research (again, the need to turn my head to write things down), but I can read blogs pretty easily.

I hope finish blogging about the West Virginia trip soon.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Raleigh, NC

My friend and traveling companion for this trip, Sparkling Squirrel, is in an unusual competition with her family. The goal, to visit all of the state capitols first. This has been an long-term competition, and SS was able to gain an advantage this week - she is know the only one in her family to have visited Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina capitol was only about a 30 minute drive from Durham, where we were staying for the conference. I was honored to be a part of her family tradition.

The capitol
The Presidents from North Carolina
An old water tower

At this conference (Annual Meeting for Economic Botany), I learned about iconography, and how it can inform us how about the use of plants in past cultures.

North Carolina Iconography
Live plants in Raleigh.

We had a fun side trip - only slightly getting lost. We have come to the conclusion that North Carolina does not feel the needs for signs, as we saw no signs for either Duke University or the State Capitol. Luckily, we were, eventually, able to find both.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Plants at Duke

I have a lot I want to write about my recent trip. SS and I left Thursday morning and drove up in the mountains of North Carolina to view to Mountain Laurels and rhododendrons. It was a great time, but on Wed. night, her basement flooded with over four feet of water. We returned to her house last night and have spent the day today cleaning out the basement. I am exhausted. So the long post about the roadtrip will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of the cool plants we say on the Duke Campus.

A view from a gazebo at the Sarah P.Duke Gardens.

Turn-about - Poison Ivy with a disease on it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Jayhawk in Blue Devil Teritory

They are small things.

1. The check-in personnel for the dorms leaving 10 minutes before the listed check-in time was over.
2. Being told to bring towels, when in fact they provide towels in the dorm (towels take up a lot of space in the suitcase)
3. Maps with roads that don't exist, and lacking roads that do, resulting in getting lost.
4. No hot tea, except Lipton. (I have become such a tea snob)
5. A huge splinter in my tea from the stir stick.
6. Getting lost in the gardens.
7. A knitting needle, found broken in the morning when it was perfectly fine when put away the night before (size 1, dpn, wood).
8. The incorrect internet password.
9. Changing internet password on Monday morning without telling us.
10. Really skimpy pillows.

But they do add up. Makes me wonder if the Duke Blue Devil somehow senses that SS and I graduated with Ph.D. from KU.

Actually, most of the people associated with Duke have been great. Today we were lost (again) on campus, and a really friendly woman gave us directions. I am just glad that we are not staying at the University of North Carolina.

Monday, June 2, 2008

On the road to Durham

Yesterday, Sparkling Squirrel (SS) and I drove from Glenville West Virginia to Durham North Carolina to attend the 49th Annual Society for Economic Botany Conference. We drove a combination of Interstates and more scenic routes. It was a good trip - we did see mountain laurels and azaleas in bloom. We did not find a good place to stop and take pictures though.

As we ere driving through White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, we started talking about the fancy resort there called Greenbrier. From what SS tells me, this is the oldest resort in the country, which once catered to Thomas Jefferson. On a whim, SS decided we needed to check it out to see what it looks like. We pulled up to the little gate house, and the very nice security guard welcomed us to look around and enjoy the shops. We drove around and the place was gorgeous, in that perfectly manicured, clean way. Very Great Gatsby.

They had wonderful, vibrant displays of snapdragons. Another highlight was a perfectly manicured croquet lawn. My camera battery ran out, so unfortunately, I did not get many good pictures.
After driving around a bit, SS asked if I wanted to see anything else. My reply - "The bathroom". I had to go and I knew they bathrooms would be nice. We went into the main building, through many of the fancy shops and into the main lobby. Very elegant. The website, linked above, has nice interior shots. The bathrooms were nice - they even had cloth towels for drying your hands.

From there we drove through Virginia, stopping at Napoli's in Alta Vista for a delicious lunch.

I did some knitting along the way. Introducing my newest sock, which I am calling "Candy Orange ", as the color of the yarn and the pattern remind me of those jelly, candy orange slices. The pattern is "Primavera" by S(t)ockinette, which is available as a free download.

We arrived safely at Duke yesterday afternoon.
Tomorrow: The challenges of a Kansas Jayhawk in Blue Devil Territory.