Randomly on a Friday

Well, the gray finally went away…for now.  This time of year in Florida is famous for afternoon thunderstorms that pop up out of nowhere (especially when the seabreezes from both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts collide right over the peninsula), so it could very well be gray and stormy by late this afternoon.  You remember those gray skies from a couple of posts ago?  Well, this morning it is now…

Birds are singing, the street is relatively quiet (I don’t live in the country, I live in the suburbs, but I usually angle my outdoor pics this way to avoid giving away my exact location), and my dog is just as excited to chase the lizards, having finally shaken off her canine ennui.  (And every time I see the word ennui, I now think of Michel from Gilmore Girls talking about his own ennui.)

And as a bonus, here is another pic.  If you look real closely, just above the kudzu leaves, you’ll see the Moon, in its last quarter phase, getting ready to descend down the western sky for moonset.

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Though somewhat faint due to photo quality, the Moon is visible just above center, right above the tips of the kudzu vines.

I will say that though we are sitting in the shade, it is still incredibly humid out here.

Finally, I have a little announcement to make.  Not anything life changing, but it is still worth noting: I have decided to set up my own Tumblr page, for all the random and silly stuff that doesn’t really merit posting here.  It has the same name as this blog (I guess I’m the only Snowless Knitter on the entire internet?), and you can check it out right here.  If you’re a Tumblr-er yourself and like what you see, don’t be afraid to give me a follow, and if I like what I see on yours, I may just give you a follow.  Warning, though: my language may be a bit more…unfiltered on Tumblr.  But so far, I’ve already made a few posts, followed a few blogs, and am just getting acquainted with it.  You may see stuff related to: knitting, Florida, cats, yarn, Gilmore Girls, I Love Lucy, wrestling, and the randomest of the random.

Have a great day, everyone!

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WIPs: 6/14/2017 (or, An Update on La vie en rose et violet)

In which I give to you the latest update on my current Work in Progress.

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Detail from La vie en rose et violet

It’s been a while since I posted some actual knitting updates on here, mainly because I’ve been working on one big project instead of several smaller ones.  As you’ve seen before, I’ve been working on an afghan since March that I lovingly refer to as “La vie en rose et violet” (which is French for “Life in Pink and Purple” and a reference to the legendary song by Édith Piaf, “La vie en rose”).

The last time I wrote in depth about this project, I had been working on the sides to make the dimensions for one large, square afghan.  Since then, I’ve been slowly filling it in, churning out a few shapes in the span of a day or two.  According to my calculations, I will need to make the equivalent of 324 small squares to complete this afghan.  I am nowhere near that at the moment.  However, the 25 small squares I recently added in a checkerboard pattern does put me under 300 total small squares to go (and then some, considering I’ve already completed two side edges of it, equivalent of 18 small squares per side).

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The checkerboard!!!!1!1!!
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The checkerboard and immediate surrounding areas.

I also started a little bit on the lower left side of the afghan, and will probably start filling more of that in next.

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Portion of the lower left side of the afghan; the left edge of the checkerboard can be seen on the right side of the photo.

I hope to get more done soon, and once I have another sizable portion worked here, I’ll do another update.

Until later, and happy knitting (or for my non-knitting followers, happy reading)!

PULSE: One Year Later

One year ago today, something unthinkable happened: a gunman with terror on his mind and hatred in his heart decided to take out his depravity on a nightclub in my birth city of Orlando, Florida.  When all was said and done, 49 innocent souls and the gunman lay dead in that club.  I am, of course, talking about the PULSE nightclub, and that shooting is considered the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

While I did not know any of the victims personally, it still affected me because of the connection I have with the LGBT community, a community from which I have made several friends over the years.  Some of these friends I knew for only a few years before life happened and  we would go off in opposite directions and ambitions, others I remain close with.  It broke my heart when I awoke that morning to news of the carnage that had occurred overnight.  Many of the victims that night were LGBT, but some of them were also friends, family, and allies to their loved ones in the LGBT community that had come to enjoy what was supposed to be a fun-filled evening with music, dancing, and lots of positive vibes.  No matter the orientation of the victims, the friends, families, and those who loved the 49 most dearly have now spent the last year trying to learn how to live with the voids in their hearts that the tragedy created and trying to live a life without their loved ones.

I heard people try to minimize the effect this tragedy on the LGBT community by only referring to it as an act of terror; others ignored the act of terror portion and solely called it a hate crime.  Personally, I think it was both: it was an act of terror because the gunman had a religious/political motive, but it was also a hate crime because he specifically targeted the LGBT community.  No matter the motive, it does not change the fact that 49 souls will never again return home to their families, 49 souls will never again smile and laugh with their friends, and 49 souls will never again feel the many kinds of love that drive us all through life.  The “why” does not and will not fix the “what”.

The way that the city of Orlando came together in the aftermath was nothing short of beautiful.  The (Democratic) Mayor of Orlando, Buddy Dyer, and the (Republican) Mayor of Orange County, Teresa Jacobs, both joined forces to lead the mourning in a city reeling from the darkest weekend in its history (a singer named Christina Grimmie had been murdered in another club in an unrelated incident just 24 hours earlier) and help The City Beautiful get back on her feet, pick up the pieces, and find a way to live once again.  Orlando City SC, our local MLS squad, led a moving ceremony before its home match a few days later where the fans sang along to our national anthem (almost unheard of at American sporting events; fans here usually stay silent during the singing of it), and a moment of silence held when the game clock reached 49 minutes.  (When Orlando City moved to its new stadium this spring, 49 seats were painted in a rainbow color scheme in tribute.).  It has been an emotional year since then.

Orlando, a city that I like to call the “Jewel of the South”, has come quite a way since that night at PULSE one year ago.  My heart is with her as she continues to heal.  If there’s anything about Orlando that is its most incredible attribute, it is that she bends, but does not break in the face of tragedy.  She survives, she advances, she thrives, she embraces.  Orlando is one of the few major cities in the South that has embraced its LGBT community the way it has, in the face of other cities and states in this region fighting to marginalize and keep basic civil rights away from the same community.  Orlando is called “The City Beautiful” for a reason: it’s not just for her physical beauty, it’s also for the beauty in her resolve in the face of adversity and tragedy.  I’m proud to have been born there, and I’m proud to still have a connection to her, 30 years later.  May the 49 souls who lost their lives that night forever rest in peace.

Gray, Gray, Go Away

Florida’s “wet season” has arrived in full swing after quite the dry spring.  For the last few days, the view has pretty much looked like this:

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The southwestern view from my front door; apologies for the subpar photo quality...tablet camera.

And this…

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The view from my front door, looking north.

Even my dog is bored.

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Roxy demonstrating canine ennui at its finest.

From what I gather, it is gonna be like this pretty much through the next week.  Oh boy.

Hopefully I will have some updates on my knitting soon.  I’m planning on doing another photo update once I finish a checkerboard section on the blanket that I’m currently working on.  In the meantime, I’ll tease you with a shot of the blanket in progress in its current home, a Toys R Us bag (selected because it was big enough to hold the blanket).

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Her First Orbit

On Tuesday, June 6th, my little niece will be celebrating her first birthday, the first anniversary of her entering this world and marking the completion of her first orbit around the Sun.  We celebrated her birthday a few days early, on Saturday the 3rd.

What has happened in that first orbit?

I remember entering that hospital room with my parents just a few hours after she was born and nervously approaching her mother to give her a blanket I had knit for her (the Hoover blanket from Knitty).  She was crying her lungs out (probably wondering “What the heck am I doing here?!”), and about the only thing that could calm her down at that point was my brother (her father) holding her and patting her on the bum.  I was too nervous to hold my newborn niece and decided to hold off from it.

The first time I actually held her was about two weeks later, when the new family had finally had some time to settle into their new life.  My parents and I made the two-mile trip from our home to the duplex that my brother’s family called theirs.  It had been many years since I had held a baby as young as her, and I was still nervous.  As my dad reminded me to hold her head above the plane of her body, I finally got a chance to look into my niece’s gemstone-blue eyes.  Her cries had calmed since she was born and had become a somewhat calm baby, and she was no different in my arms.  She looked up at me with a curious look on her face, as if I was a puzzle she was trying to solve.  This curious look would reoccur throughout our interactions in this first orbit.

The next time I remember seeing her was maybe a few months later, when my brother turned 27 last November.  By this point, she was able to lay on her belly, but not crawl.  One of the highlights of this visit (other than the birthday cake my brother’s girlfriend got for him) was watching my little niece sitting in my dad’s lap, him holding her tiny hands and she doing what I can best describe as “baby squats” (for those not in the “Having Raised or Interacted With a Baby” club, baby squats are when said baby stands up with assistance on a person’s lap, and then drops right back down into a sitting position).  She was grabbing at my dad’s shirt (as a smoker, he wears pocket tees on a daily basis, and many of them have screen printed designs on them), and just having the time of her life trying to figure out her Grandpa’s furry face (yep, my dad has a beard).

Regrettably, I missed her first Christmas.  A couple of days before the big day, my parents brought over a couple of presents we had gotten for her online, but I was sleeping when they decided to leave.  I was a bit sad that I ended up missing it, but grateful that I got the extra sleep.

I didn’t see her again until February.  By this point she was crawling and standing herself up with assistance.  And we had seen her again just a few weeks ago in order to deliver her some much-needed new clothes, as she was growing so fast that she was already needing to wear clothes usually meant for 18-24 month-olds (both of her parents are taller than me, which would not surprise me that she’s growing so fast).  At our last visit, she was able to walk around while holding on to something and making baby talk.

Which brings me to today…

Yesterday, we had gotten her some birthday presents (a toy drum, some textured spiky rubber balls, and a toy picnic basket, along with a couple of sets of pajamas and a dress) and we also gotten some ingredients to make a slow cooker baked beans recipe my dad found online.  I awoke this morning to the smell of bacon, which I knew was being cooked for the beans.  My dad had cooked and crumbled the bacon, chopped up an onion, and mixed together all of the ingredients for a four-hour odyssey in our slow cooker before we would take the whole thing to my brother’s house.  We took our turns showering, dressing, and getting things just right for our little trip.  I don’t have any photos of the party, so what you get is a selfie of me waiting for the time to come to leave for the party.

imageAfter a quick trip to the store to get beverages, we made our way down to my brother’s place.  We were the first guests to arrive.  We got the slow cooker plugged in and warming up the beans, while we found a place for her presents.  After a few minutes, more guests began to filter in (most of them from my brother’s girlfriend’s side of the family) until somewhere around 20 of us filled their living room and kitchen, including a baby, a toddler, and a tween (who was the older sister of the toddler).  It was at this point that we learned my niece had finally started walking on her own (although she still needs assistance from tall things to stand up if she falls over).  It was later that I found out she’d only been walking for about two weeks, so she was still learning to straighten out the wobbles, but my…she can run.  We socialized and got to know some of my brother’s girlfriend’s family members, some of us drank beers (myself included…I treated myself to one Yuengling lager, and the rest of my drinks were colas), and we all ate from a delicious potluck spread that included hamburgers that my brother cooked on a charcoal grill that honestly were so smooth to bite through that it was like a hot knife meeting butter for the first time; hot dogs and smoked whole chicken also cooked by my brother on the grill; mashed sweet potatoes with chopped pecans; pasta and potato salads, and one of my favorite foods of all time (any Southerners here may agree with me): some Publix chicken wings, double breaded and deep fried to a crispy but not oily bite with the most tenderly cooked meat for this particular cut of chicken (my goodness, my family used to make a thing of eating these when I was a kid; we don’t eat them as often anymore, but it is still a wonderful treat when we do).

After the food came time for my niece to receive her presents.  In addition to ours, she also received some additional toys, including a baby doll and a ride and push toy shaped like a lion; a few pairs of earrings for her little ears, and a miniature sofa bed with some Disney princesses on it.

Shortly after the presents, her mother placed my niece in her high chair and we sang her Happy Birthday as her own special cake was brought to her.  It was a small, round cake covered in green frosting with red frosting writing and accents: this was her smashing cake.  With a little encouragement, she dug her diminutive hands into her cake and went to town, licking the cake and frosting off of her tiny fingers.  Once the cake was sufficiently smashed, her hands and face were absolutely covered, which meant that her parents had to wash all that off of her.  As she got sufficiently clean, we guests were then treated to our own cake and some ice cream.  The cake was a two layer chocolate and vanilla sheet cake with buttercream frosting, and we had a choice between vanilla and Neapolitan ice cream (I chose vanilla, and it was quite rich).  Not long after that, most of the guests filtered out while my parents and I joined my brother on his back porch and talked and drank cold drinks in the muggy heat.  By the time we got back inside, we were the last guests remaining.  We weren’t in a hurry, so we gathered in their living room as my niece’s parents cleaned up the scene of the earlier party and put the baby gates back in their usual places.  We watched my niece play with her new presents and talked about anything and everything.  It was 7:00 PM before we finally decided to leave, a full 6 hours after her party began, and we said our see-ya-laters and love-yous, taking with us our slow cooker and some leftover cake.

As I sit here, watching my Red Sox play the Orioles, I look back on the experience of my little niece’s first orbit around the sun, and it makes me wonder what is in store for her second.  She officially completes her first orbit on Tuesday.  We each only get a certain number of orbits around the sun, and it makes us all wonder: do we all get the best out of ours?  Because I sincerely hope my niece gets all the best out of hers.

I Feel Pretty? Oh So Pretty?

So, I finally got my hair cut this morning.  I’d been needing a haircut for some time.  I have incredibly thick hair, and I knew that if I was continuously putting my hair up in a bun (normally to keep what seems like tons of sweat from creating Niagara Falls on the back of my neck; I am a notorious head-and-neck-sweater, as opposed to an armpit-sweater or “pitter”), then it was getting too long.  And it was getting way too long.  Long, thick hair and hot Florida summers go together like pure wool and and a washing machine on hot (felting joke for all you yarnies out there).  You risk getting sweat and water and hair products caught in the deeper layers of your hair, it is trickier to comb and brush, and most of all, it is just plain heavy.  My hair was very shapeless and just hanging off my head.  I looked, in my opinion, quite frumpy.  My hair is also quite naturally wavy, and so the wave was occurring near the ends of my hair, but was weighing down the roots.  I was about ready to get rid of all that excess hair.

I went to the salon this morning before we went to get our groceries, and the lady who cut my hair was really nice.  She was probably about my age, had a few tattoos, and seemed pretty knowledgeable about different hairstyles and helped me figure out what to execute what I had pictured in my head.  I knew I wanted a bob, on the shorter side, and bangs.  I hadn’t worn actual bangs since I was about 10 years old, when I started training my bangs that I had worn since my toddler years to lay back on my head with headbands.  I didn’t quite know which bangs would flatter my face and forehead, so she suggested side-swept instead of full bangs.  I felt a little adventurous, so I went with it.  We decided on an A-line bob (shorter in the back, longer in the front) that would help keep my neck cool during the summer, with layers that would complement both the thickness and the texture of my hair.  She said she was actually excited to get to work with my hair, because thick hair is apparently a hairdresser’s dream (much more versatile to style than finer hair, although even thick hair has its styling drawbacks, like any other thickness).  She was not the first hairdresser to say this about my hair, by the way.  It took probably around an hour or so to get it all done, but once I did, I must say that I quite liked the result.  And now you’ll get to see it for yourself.

The “before” picture was taken last week.  My hair is normally not that dark, I took that picture in the shade.  The “after” picture was taken earlier this afternoon, not long after we got home.  I wasn’t wearing my glasses because my current ones need to be replaced…the frames are pretty worn out.  This picture was also taken in the sunlight, with a little cloud cover.  I had also taken some when the Sun was out, but the glare was a little too much for my liking.  In other words, I did not color my hair.  Here are the pics:

Overall, I like how it came out.  The bangs look a little awkward at the moment, but I hope they’ll look better after they grow out a for a few weeks.  Otherwise, this is probably the best haircut I’ve had in years.  Agree? Disagree?

My niece has her first birthday party on Saturday, and her actual birthday on Tuesday.  This will be an interesting next few days.

Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Summer’s Door

This Monday marks Memorial Day here in the United States.  While the day itself is meant to be a somber one (as it commemorates our war dead), this particular day also represents a turning point in our cultural calendar: the unofficial start to summer (the actual summer solstice takes place about 3 weeks or so later).  Many schools end their academic year right about now (some a few weeks earlier, others a few weeks later), the Sun’s rays seem to arrive with greater intensity as our Hemisphere leans closer and closer towards the Sun as our Earth orbits, and especially for Florida, the thunderstorms start to clap and flash and soak us at greater frequency.  It all sounds lovely, but…it’s my least favorite season.

Seriously?!  A Florida-born woman who doesn’t like summer?!  Heresy!  Sacrilege!  Traitor!!!!

Yep, I said it.  I don’t care much for summer.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it when the blue sky is out with nary a cloud in the sky, but…the heat.  The burning, blistering, so-hot-you-could-fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement, don’t you dare walk barefoot on the street or you’ll get blisters, time to get out your Blue blockers on to keep the Sun out of your eyes heat!  We regularly experience temperatures of at least 90° F here during the summer.  If you want to take a walk here, you better bring lots of water.  Shade can come at a premium around here, but it feels oh so good when you manage to find some.  And don’t get me started on the humidity.  Oh yeah, it’s usually not a dry heat around here.  The humidity around here is so ubiquitous this time of year, that it seems like sometimes you need to cut through the mugginess with a machete.

So…what do I like about summer? Well…

The beaches and the swimming pools begin to fill with people looking to escape the heat.  It’s been years since I’ve been to a beach, but I can still recall the briny aroma that comes off of the ocean, and the din of the waves crashing onto each other and onto the sand.  I can recall the memories of minnows swimming around in the shallows as the water beckons them towards the open sea.  I can see myself, swimsuit-clad, just sitting in the shallows, allowing the water to splash over my legs.  I know I’m not a very strong swimmer…I dare not even think of going out too deep into the water.  I watch the seagulls swooping in and out of the sand and waves.  But that scent…I can never get enough of the smell of seawater.

Inland, the trees are resplendent in beautiful shades of green.  The bugs fly around trying to dive-bomb by my ears, as if they know how much the sound of their wings beating against the hot, humid air annoys me to the core.  Gnats attempt to infiltrate my eyelashes as I sit in the shade, knitting, and my dog enjoys her sunbath.  I see her sprawled out on a sunny patch of grass, her nose in the air looking for a scent and her tongue ever-so-slightly hanging out of her mouth…not so much out of heat, but out of sheer happiness.  (Believe me, when she’s hot, her ears warm up and her tongue is hanging way out of her mouth like it’s trying to escape it.). She turns to get the other side of her body warm, as I continue to knit.  The mockingbirds are out in full force, chasing anything and everything that dares to come near their nests: crows, buzzards, even squirrels.  (I can vouch for that: I saw two mockingbirds chasing a squirrel through a tree across the street from me this morning.).  The cardinals, dressed in feathers of red, continue to make their tweets loud and clear…I’m sure their songs are longer than 140 characters.  😉   But what I really notice is the buzzing of the cicadas from the tops of the numerous pine trees that call my part of Florida home.  The buzzes migrate from tree to tree, in a sort of call-and-response echo that I can hear all around me.  First from one tree off in the distance behind me, then they come closer and closer to me, until the closest tree to me is singing with cicadas in one loud buzz.  When these cicadas die and fall off the trees, the appearance of one’s corpse is kinda uneasy on me, due to their sheer size.  They make the beetles that like to crawl near my front door on these summer nights look tiny.

But my favorite part of summer, the one thing that gets me through these long days, is baseball.  I get excited for the games that come on during those summer days.  I scour the TV guide in the hopes I’ll be able to watch a favorite team of mine play.  More often than not, I usually end up watching the Boston Red Sox, a team whose 86-year-long curse was the stuff of legends (of course, rivaled only by the 108-year curse that the Chicago Cubs finally broke last year).  My mother’s family had their roots in New England, and this part of the country holds a very special place in my and my family’s hearts.  Though the Red Sox are no longer the underdogs they once were, they still have me as a part of their dedicated Red Sox Nation, and they are the only American League I regularly root for (or support, if you’re Australian, as I hear that “root” means something very different in Australian English).  In the National League, I cheer on both the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs because of the connection they have to my dad.  When he was just 9 years old, my dad and his family moved from Indiana to Florida, and back in those days the only baseball team you could watch or listen to in Florida was the Braves.  He still waxes poetic about guys like Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, and later on the likes of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, and the Central Florida native Chipper Jones.  The Chicago Cubs, though, were my Granny’s team.  She was a fan of the North Siders for as long as I could remember, until the day she died.  She died only four years before they finally broke their curse.  I am a fourth-generation Cubs fan: in addition to my grandmother, her dad (my great-grandfather) and my dad have also been supporters.  And it wasn’t just them, either.  My dad has cousins who are Cubs fans, and where they come from in Northwest Indiana, many of the people there are Cubs fans.  But enough on fandom.

What I love about baseball is so much more than balls and strikes, hits and runs, batting averages and on-base percentages.  It’s about camaraderie, between fans or between teammates.  It’s about the moments of drama in a close game, wondering if this pitch will be the pitch, the one that could turn a game around for my team.  It’s about memorable moments, whether it’s David Ortíz launching a game-tying grand slam into the Boston bullpen in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS or Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo recording the final out of the 2016 World Series or Clayton Kershaw throwing a no-hitter.  It’s about rising and falling with the tide of a game, and keeping your hands clenched together in hope or prayer until the final out is recorded or a team walks it off.  I don’t get much emotional adrenaline rushes in other sports.  These things help me get through the summer.

I don’t know what this summer will have in store, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens.  Perhaps I will learn to like this summer better than previous summers, perhaps not.  I’d hate to be a seer who knows everything in the future…knowing everything would probably drive me mad.  I much prefer life’s element of surprise.

May your summer be a good one.