Friday, October 31, 2014

A Visit to WNY and a Halloween Parade (oh, and a Waterfall too)

Last week we made a flying visit to see a favourite niece and her family in West New York. Our visit happened to coincide with the neighbourhood Halloween party, so L and I had the fun of making costumes for her two girls. After a few days of intense planning and sketching and snipping and sewing, the costumes were finished.

Little E was a gumball machine (her idea, and it took a bit of doing):

And yes, those are real gumballs. :)

Small C was a ladybug (with boughten wings, though we did make the skirt and headpiece):

Littlest A wore a hand-me-down Elmo costume which required no work at all (whew!). Together they made a cheery trio in red:

In addition to the annual party, L's neighbourhood has a charming decades-old tradition of a Halloween parade.

At 4:00 in the afternoon, after a few streets have been blocked off (with the city's permission), the families walk up to the end of the neighbourhood.

The children gather in the road, while the parents greet each other and admire each others' kids' costumes. (Wow - two plural possessives in a row. Or do I mean possessive plurals?)

The parade is a very casual affair - everyone just walks back down the street to wherever the host house may be, while non-parading neighbours look out of their front doors to enjoy the spectacle.

Each year a different family hosts the party and takes charge of the arrangements, but all the participating families contribute towards the food and merriment.This year the party happened to be at L and M's house. No photos I'm afraid - but there were plenty of games and snacks and pizza. And candy, of course.

A good time was had by all.

~ ~ ~

The afternoon before the party, L took us to see a waterfall.

First we drove to an historic city with a famous name.

There we parked, and walked along a leafy trail. There were frequent pauses to pick up fascinating things:

...and to admire the wildly rushing river.

Downriver there seemed to be a good deal of mist, then the river itself disappeared abruptly. We followed the trail to where the river disappeared....

...and found Niagara Falls.

This is the view from the American side. In the foreground are the American falls; the Horseshoe Falls can be glimpsed in the upper left center (looking like a misty white wall). Those buildings in the background are in Canada - if we'd brought passports we'd have been able to cross over and take photos from there. We didn't bring passports. :)

After gazing our fill at one of North America's great wonders, we headed back up the leafy trail...

Mr. M and the little ones

...then hit the road for home.

Bridge over the Niagara River

Many thanks to L and her family for a wonderful visit.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Simple Beaded Shank Button ~ a Free Pattern with Tutorial

Back in March, when I was working on the Ruth Collar for Interweave Crochet Fall 2014, I couldn't find a shank button to coordinate with the beaded edging. So I messed about with a few extra beads and came up with my own:

Original prototype

Final version as used on the Ruth Collar (I ran short
on the cinnamon-coloured beads, so had to substitute
the clear brown ones. But I like the two-tone effect.)

If you'd like to try your hand at these beaded buttons, here's how.

For each button, you'll need:
(8) size 6° or E beads (for contrasting centers, choose 6 of one colour and 2 of another)
(14) size 15° beads
Beading needle
About 18" waxed beading thread, Fireline, or product of your choice for stringing

Finished button size: 7/16" (11mm)

Step 1: String (1 small bead, 1 large bead) 6 times.
Step 2: Leaving a 4"-6" tail, pass the needle a second time through all 6 beads (in the same direction as the first pass), and draw them into a circle.
Step 3: Pass the needle through the next small bead and the next large bead, then pull firmly on both thread ends to snug up the beads.
Photo 4: Your beads should now look like this, with the shorter thread tail coming out of a small bead, and the longer working thread (with the needle at the end) coming out of a large bead.

Step 5: Thread a small bead, a large bead, and a small bead. Pass the needle through the opposite side of the large bead directly across from the bead the working thread came from. (It may help to think of them as 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock. The working thread came from the 12 o'clock bead, and you want to pass it through the opposite side of the 6 o'clock bead.)
Photo 6: Your button should now look like this.
Step 7: String a small bead, and pass the needle back up through the center bead.
Step 8: String another small bead, and pass needle back through the original large bead. Tug firmly on both thread ends to snug up the beads.

Your button should now look like this, with the working thread back where it started:

Turn the button over, and repeat Steps 5-8 on the other side.

Note: For extra stability, you may (if you like) pass the needle again through all the beads added in Steps 5-8, on both sides of the button. Your working thread should end up in the same place. This step is optional.

When the second side is complete, pass the needle and the working thread all the way around and through the outer ring of beads, ending in the place where the tail comes out:

Tug firmly on both threads and tie with a surgeon's knot.

Weave in thread ends one at a time by taking each thread back around/through the outer beads for at least one full circle. (If you're a bit paranoid about knots, as I am, you can knot them again at this point, then weave in the ends.)

Cut thread ends close to beads.

And there's your beaded button - ready to adorn a crochet collar or any other project:

The large center bead on either side can be used as a shank:

Several of these buttons worked in a row could also make a very pretty beaded bracelet or earrings.

~ ~ ~

You may do whatever you like with the buttons you make from this pattern, but you may not sell the pattern or re-post it. (Links are always welcome.)

Thanks for viewing, and happy beading!

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Birthday Drive and a Sunset Walk

I'm so glad I was born in October. And I'm even more glad that I moved to Wisconsin, where every year Nature throws me the best party ever.

Here's how she decorated for my birthday last week. Sunlight filtered through maple leaves:

Billows of green and gold, with waves of red sumac below:

Silvery glimpses of Lake Wisconsin from a windy hilltop:

Deep rustling leaves:

Gloriously-coloured bends in the road:

Byways carpeted and roofed with gold:

Standing corn and autumn-tinted trees under blue-grey skies:

Rolling emerald carpets:

And breathtaking bluffs:

To top it all off, she put on a smashing sunset:

Look at the lights twinkling out from amongst the trees:

It was a glorious day.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Tallulah Meets a Woolly Bear, Part 2 (the Very Long Conclusion)

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In the previous post: During a photo break on a bike ride with Mrs. M, Tallulah meets a Woolly Bear named W.B. As they stand in the road getting acquainted, a car comes rushing towards them. Mrs. M snatches Tallulah from the jaws of danger, but W.B. is left to his fate. Did the car run him over?

Tallulah takes up the tale....

~ ~ ~

Mrs. M and I stood there, she staring at the sky, me with my eyes shut tight, both of us afraid to look down for fear of what we might see on the road.

Then a small fuzzy voice came floating up. "Hey Tallulah, why are your eyes closed? Did you fall asleep?"

My eyes popped open, and there was W.B wriggling towards us. "You're alive!" I said joyfully.

Mrs. M put me down on the road, and I ran to give him a hug. (Well, I didn't exactly run - I'm a turtle after all - but in my mind I was hurrying.)

"I was afraid that car had run you over," I said. "I'm so glad it missed you!"

"So am I!" he said with a grin. "Now, where were we? I think you were asking me some questions."

"That I was," I said. "And here's another. Before we met, I thought you were a turtle - but then you said you were a bear. And Mrs. M called you a caterpillar. What are you, exactly?"

"Well, people do call me a Woolly Bear, probably because I'm so fuzzy," he said. "But Mrs. M is right - I'm a caterpillar. Or a larva."

"What's a larva?" I asked.

"In my case, kind of an undergraduate moth. I used to live in an egg, you see, but then I hatched, got big and hairy, and spent the summer eating everything I could."

"Kind of like a human teenager," I said. "What do you like to eat, W.B.?"

"Oh, herbs and forbs. You know, the usual stuff."

"Forbs? You eat cars?" I couldn't believe my ears. He didn't look big enough for that.

"Not Fords - forbs. Flowering plants, like milkweed or clovers or sunflowers."

"Oh, forbs. Of course." I nodded my head and tried to look smart, but I don't think he was fooled. "What will you do when the weather cools off and the plants die?"

"Then I'll stop eating," said W.B. "and look for a safe place to spend the winter. When winter comes, I'll freeze."

"Won't we all?" I said. "Come January, you should hear Mrs. M complaining about her chilly neck and ankles. Even I have to put on a scarf."

"No, I mean it," said W.B. "I'll really freeze. The only thing that'll keep me alive is a special substance that my body produces. It will preserve my tissues while I sleep through the winter."

Preserve his tissues? Now I was really confused. Most Kleenex seem to get through the winter just fine without any help at all. But I didn't want to display my ignorance again, so I kept my mouth shut.

W.B. went on to ask, "What about you, Tallulah? What will you do when it gets really cold?"

"Oh, I'll sit around on Mrs. M's desk, and take lots of naps. Sometimes we'll go for walks, and I'll pose for pictures in the snow, or climb trees to see if spring is on the horizon yet. When spring comes and the snow melts, we'll start riding our bike again. What will you do when spring comes, W.B.?"

"I'll thaw out," he said, "then I'll wake up and start eating again. And if I'm big enough, I'll pupate."

"Pupate? What in the world is that?" I asked.

"Well, first I'll make a fuzzy cocoon for myself--"

"Wouldn't it make more sense to have the fuzzy cocoon before winter starts?" I interrupted.

"Not really," he said. "The cocoon isn't to keep me warm - it's a place for me to hide out while I turn into a moth. Kind of like a changing hut."

"Wait a minute. You turn into a moth? What kind of a moth?"

"An Isabella Tiger Moth," he said proudly. "I know I'm not much to look at now, but just wait till I'm a moth! I'll be so handsome you won't recognize me. I'll have champagne-colored wings with tiny black spots, and a beautiful soft furry head. (No more bristles!) My sisters will be even prettier - they'll have peachy-pink underwings."

"I think you're pretty handsome right now, W.B. But what happens if you're not big enough to pupate next spring?"

"Then I'll have to sit around all next summer," he said, "eating and growing as much as I can until the winter comes. Then I'll sleep until the next spring and try again. Some of my cousins, who live up in Canada where the summers are short, can take up to 14 years to get big enough to pupate. I sure hope it doesn't take me that long!"

"Why?" I said. "What's your hurry?"

"What's my hurry?" said W.B. "I can't wait to be a moth! When I'm a moth, I'll get to fly. Just think of it, Tallulah - flying! Instead of sitting in a milkweed eating my head off, or crawling around looking for a safe place to sleep, I'll be soaring over moonlit fields and fluttering in twilit gardens. And I'll get to find a nice girl moth, and we'll start a family .... oh, it'll be great while it lasts!"

"What do you mean, 'while it lasts'? Are you going to turn into something else?"

"Nope - once a moth, always a moth. But my breed doesn't live very long."

"You don't mean...." I couldn't finish.

"I'll get two crowded weeks of glorious life, and then I'll die," said W.B. simply.

This was horrible news. I stared at him, not knowing what to say.

"Don't look so sad, Tallulah," he said. "Being a moth is what I was made for. And I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it."

"Excuse me," said Mrs. M, who had just finished taking her photos. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but Tallulah and I need to be getting home."

I looked at W.B., and he looked at me. We'd only just met, and I liked him so much. I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

"I ... I have to go now, W.B. Will I ever see you again?"

"Let's hope so," he said cheerfully. "I'll keep an eye out for you next summer. If you see a handsome Isabella Tiger Moth fluttering around some evening, waving a wing at you, that'll be me! Better still, keep your porch light on, and I'll come and tap on your window one night."

Somehow this didn't make me feel any better. But it did give me an idea. "Can't you come home with us now, W.B.? We'd keep you warm all winter long. You could eat as much as you wanted, and get really really big before spring. And then I wouldn't have to worry about you crossing roads and getting hit by cars. And I could spend more time with you before... before...." I had to stop. I couldn't say it.

"Thanks, Tallulah, but it just wouldn't work. I'm a cold-weather caterpillar - I need to sleep outside all winter, or I won't develop properly. And don't worry about me crossing the road - I'm almost to the other side now. When I get there, I'll find a nice fallen log and snuggle up under it to wait for spring. Spring! And flying!" His eyes sparkled at the thought.

"It's getting late, Tallulah," said Mrs. M gently. "Time for us to go."

I swallowed hard. "Goodbye, W.B., and good luck. It was awfully nice meeting you."

"Goodbye, Tallulah! Have a good winter, and remember to look out for me next year!"

I gave him a kiss on his fuzzy nose.

Then Mrs. M picked me up and put me in my basket, while W.B. headed for the dry grass at the edge of the road. He turned to wave at us, and we waved back. Then we rode off down the lonely road, leaving him behind.

The world seemed awfully empty without him. I never knew making a friend could make me feel so sad.

When we got home, I told Mrs. M all about W.B. "I sure hope he finds a safe place to spend the winter," I said.

"Me too," said Mrs. M. "And I hope he gets to be a moth next year."

Not me, I thought. I don't want him to turn into a moth. I want him to stay alive.

~ ~ ~

Tallulah stops typing and heaves a turtle sigh. "This post isn't coming out anything like I hoped it would, Mrs. M."

"I'm sorry to hear it," I say. "What seems to be the problem?"

"I wanted to tell people about my new friend, how amazing he is, how much I enjoyed meeting him and learning about his life. I wanted it to be a cheerful post. But I can't seem to leave out the sad parts."

"Blogging is like that, Tallulah." (And so is life, I think to myself.)

"I know people are expecting a happy ending to this story, but I can't give them one. How can it be a happy ending if W.B. has to die?"

This is a poser. "Sometimes happy endings don't look the way we expected, Tallulah," is all I can think of to say.

"But I don't want him to die!" she cries, bursting into turtle tears. Poor Tallulah!

"It's hard to lose a friend," I say, when her sobs have died down. "But maybe we should think about W.B. What does he want?"

Tallulah sniffs, and looks thoughtful. Then she hangs her head. "What a selfish turtle I've been," she says in a low voice.

Then she lifts her head and takes a deep breath. "I'm ready to finish the post now."

I give her a hug, and she climbs back onto the keyboard.

~ ~ ~

When Mrs. M and I got home from our ride, I told her all about W.B. "I sure hope he finds a safe place to spend the winter," I said.

"Me too," said Mrs. M. "And I hope he gets to be a moth next year."

Before I answered, I thought about W.B.'s words: "Being a moth is what I was made for."

I remembered the joy in his voice when he talked about soaring over moonlit fields. The sparkle in his eye as he looked forward to spring.

"I hope so too, Mrs. M," I said. "And I really hope he'll visit us. I want to see him fly."

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tallulah Meets a Woolly Bear (and Conducts a Fruitless Literary Argument with Mrs. M)

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During a stop on a recent Sunday ride, while I was prowling around taking snaps of streams and leaves, Tallulah the Turtle was forming a new acquaintance.
"'Forming a new acquaintance'? Are you trying to sound like Jane Austen?" mutters Tallulah, who is sitting on my desk as I type.
"'Miss Austen,' if you please. And pray, why should I not emulate her style? Was not she a mistress of elegant, rational prose? A worthy example for any blogger to follow," I respond (with some hauteur).
"She was alright, I guess," says Tallulah. "But I don't see why people make such a fuss about her. Her pet tortoise Thomasina* was a MUCH better writer."
"Thomasina the tortoise!" I cry. "Why, all she produced was an unfinished novel with a nonsensical name. Turtles and Tears! Such stuff!"
"Turtles and Tears was a masterpiece in the making!" says Tallulah hotly. "All the reptilian critics agree. If only Thomasina hadn't been run over by a carriage, she would have been a writer to reckon with - much greater than your Miss Austen." 
Oh, the futility of trying to combat an unreasoning literary prejudice! Though filled with just indignation at this slur upon the talents of a recognised genius, I strive for composure, and am presently able to respond in a tolerably dignified tone. "May I remind you, Tallulah, that I am trying to tell our readers about your new friend? Perhaps you'd rather write this post yourself?"
"I thought you'd never ask!" says Tallulah, as she climbs onto the keyboard and elbows me out of the way.

Howdy, readers! Tallulah the Turtle here. Mrs. M having kindly (ha!) handed over the keyboard to yours truly, I thought you might like to hear about someone I met recently. It happened like this:

Last Sunday, after weeks of being stuck indoors, Mrs. M finally took me for a ride. (She claims that her legs have never recovered from the September virus, but I think she's just been slacking off due to the cold weather.)

As we tooled along, I kept seeing these really fuzzy turtles crossing the road. They were few and far between, but you couldn't miss them - all bristly, with black and rust-colored stripes. Plus they were pretty quick on their feet. (Come to think of it, they had an awful lot of feet. More than any turtles I'd ever seen before.)

When Mrs. M stopped for a photo break, she put me down on the road to stretch my legs. And wouldn't you know it, along came one of these fuzzy guys. My lucky day! I couldn't wait to find out all about him. (Enquiring Turtles Want to Know.)

"Hello!" I said. "I'm Tallulah. What's your name?"

"Hi, Tallulah! I'm W.B.," he said.

"What kind of a turtle are you?" I asked.

"I'm not a turtle at all. I'm a Woolly Bear."

"Is that what the W.B. stands for?" I asked.

"No, the W.B. is for William Butler. My parents were big poetry fans," he said. "What kind of turtle are you?"

"I'm a crochet turtle," I said proudly. "One of a very rare breed."

"A crochet turtle?" he asked. "Is that anything like a painted turtle?"

"Not really," I said. "But let's not talk about me - I want to know more about you. For one thing, why are you crossing the road?"

"To get to the other side, of course. Is there any other reason?" (Made sense to me.)

Just then, Mrs. M began making agitated noises.

"Who's that?" asked W.B.

"That's Mrs. M, my chauffeur," I replied.

"What's she getting so worked up about?"

"I don't know," I said. "She seems to be squawking about a car or something...."

Next thing I knew I was being seized and whisked off to the side of the road as a car rushed past at terrific speed.

"What's wrong with you, Tallulah?" demanded Mrs. M. "Didn't you hear that car coming? You might have been run over."

"I was busy, if you must know, talking to the fuzzy guy down on the road." I said. "Why didn't you pick him up too?"

"You know I never pick up caterpillars," said Mrs. M. "I just take their pictures and leave them alone."

"Caterpillars!" I cried. "He's not a caterpillar, he's a bear. Weren't you worried that he might get run over too?"

"Of course I was worried! I worry about all the animals I see on the road. But the car was going so fast I barely had time to pick you up. Is your friend okay?" said Mrs. M, turning me to face the road while she (for some reason) looked the other way.

But I had shut my eyes. "I can't look," I said. "You tell me."

"I can't look either," said she. "I can't stand it when animals get run over."

There we stood, frozen with dread, as the wind rustled the dry leaves on the trees. What would we see when we finally looked down?

To be continued....

~ ~ ~

*Miss Austen's pet tortoise is a complete fiction. Don't tell Tallulah.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014


Early October. Two walks to the park.

The first on a sunny afternoon, before any serious frost had struck. The maples were just beginning to hit their stride, though there were plenty of green leaves still to be seen:

A heron meditates by the water's edge (probably wondering if it should fly away from this oddly-dressed creature who appears to be stalking it with a camera):

Maple sunshine:

Some trees are nearly bare already:

At the softball field, the wind has spangled the fence with oak leaves:

The second walk takes place on a misty morning, after a night of frost. The lake is flushed and mysterious in the pre-dawn:

Why do cameras always shrink the moon? It looked much bigger to my eyes when I took this photo:

This maple has turned completely:

This one still shows a hint of lingering green:

The moon gets tangled in the branches of a bare tree as the sun comes over the horizon...

...casting long beams that light up the maples and tip the pines with gold.

At my feet, a perfect arrangement of pine needles, maple leaves, and a pine cone. This would make a dandy blog header, I think:

(And it does.)

How is October treating you?

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