Brief Trip to Madison Wisconsin

I was in Madison the past few days to spend some time with my 2 nephews. I traveled the day after the big wind event that shut down the airports. On the well-known Picnic Point path (above) at the university, it looked like the stereotypical fall we imagine in Tucson, where there’s no such thing.

Here are Sebastian and Damian, my nephews:

I brought a few balsa wood planes to toss around; Damian just loved them:

After three days of throwing the planes around the yard, they looked in sorry shape were held together with scotch tape; they flew with a few parts missing. Damian has a great photo-smile, but the moment I raised a serious issue he didn’t like, he looked like this:

Basically, he looked like I was threatening to make him eat the plane for lunch.

I took Sebastian to Michael Feldman’s Whad’ya Know radio show:

Some broadcasts are better than others, and this one was a bit sluggish; Sebastian was bored, and I was too, so we left at intermission. We’d conveniently seated ourselves by the closest exit.

Looking forward to my next trip; if I’m really brave I’ll show up mid-winter to ice-skate.

Some Midwestern Bellydance Practice

I’m  in Madison, Wisconsin for a few days to visit with my nephews aged 5 and 12. I’ve always really liked it in Madiso and have thought about moving here; but I’m not convinced I could cope with the long winter . Tomorrow I’m going to a broadcast of the off-beat radio show Whaddya Know and then back home the following day.

Photos of my trip will be posted when I get home. But I will leave you with this link to a bellydance costume site; because my latest investment has been in the turquoise costume–it’s on the bottom row–for a December bellydance class recital. Yes. It’s true. One thing I’ve learned is that practicing bellydance is hard work, and it makes you warm up pretty quick; which is handy in this climate, because Madison WI in late-October is like Tucson on the coldest winter day! I’ve been practicing here during my visit just to feel warm!!

Clearly, if I think this is cold, I may find myself in Tucson for a long time. Yesterday, it was in the mid-40s (not including the wind-chill) and folks were out running in shorts. Geez. I was out on the running path bundled up in hat, gloves and a winter coat!

New Fig Tree

I should be working on my quilt; but I couldn’t pass up another plant sale at the University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension this past weekend. There were mission fig trees at great prices; $12 for a 4 ft tall plant.

I dug up a part of my yard….

..and in went the fig tree and a few hardy desert perennials: moss verbena, and a guara-family plant which I believe is native to Texas.

I also planted a couple of blackberry canes I got at the plant sale. You can see them in the photo below. Blackberries are often a huge, pain-in-the-ass bramble in much of the world; without the right gloves, the plant makes for a painful encounter. One doesn’t think “blackberries” in the desert, but there are a couple varieties that supposedly do well in this climate…so I’ll see how those go.

One last photo here: a view of the dogs. Baxter looks like his usual happy self; but Bearbear appears to be on the look-out, for cats most likely. Because Bearbear exists primarily to protect me from one of the greatest dangers out there: the domestic cat.

Dogs, bees and yarn


It’s the end of a quiet Sunday here in Tucson.

Here’s Bearbear and Baxter as we work together on their sit-stays. We met with a really nice trainer, Mary Ann Coleman, who came to my house last week and helped us sort some things out; she great, reasonably priced, and she’s been doing work with dogs for decades. Baxter has been here a month and we’ve had to work out a few wrinkles. He’s a good dog, but introducing a new dog to the home means we all have to work on a few small details. For example, when I’m getting ready to take the dogs for a walk, I want them to both sit calmly and wait while I get my shoes on, not run around in a crazed frenzy. Now, they both have a good sit-stay while I get ready to take them for a walk.

I also checked on the bees today for the first time in 2 months; the size of the hive seems the same, and I guess I should just be happy they made in through the second-hottest summer on record.

Here’s the inside of the hive:

The entrance on the upper left-hand corner of the photo; the bees have built up comb on the bars on that side, but they still have plenty to grow on the right side:

I was worried about evidence I saw of wax moth larvae on the bottom of the hive; I sent a message to the fellow who built my hive, asking for advice about this:

And here’s a close up of 3 bars of comb in different stages of growth…

as well as some evidence of yucky moth stuff–the white glop there on the bottom. I’ll learn soon if I have to worry about this or not.

I also dyed some yarn today for my quilt:

Delayed by the Art Quilt

Well, I’ve been clearly not posting anything new; but as you can see above, I’ve spent some time working on my art quilt, instead. I’m making progress.

My sister visited recently and suggested I use some pale colors and bright pink colors in large poppy appliques to help the design. I realized I had few fabrics dyed in this color. I tried to make new appliques work with my fabric on hand, but I couldn’t make it work and finally gave up, frustrated. I decided I’d have to spend some time dyeing new colors. Not that dyeing fabric is time consuming–it isn’t–but every hour counts right now because the deadline to submit a photo/application is this Wednesday for entry into January’s Tucson Quilt Show. So I’m spending all my free time getting it ready to photograph.

The first thing I did was tear my favorite quilting fabric–cotton sateen–into small pieces, most about the size of fat-eighths. I then got all the fabric wet in a bucket of water…

…and then wrung out the fabric and scrunched into damp shapes that would fit in the bottom of a quart plastic yogurt container, my preferred container for dyeing. The fabric was scrunched in one of 4 shapes which you can see below, from left to right the shapes are: the general scrunch shape, the spiral twist shape, the sloppy pleat shape and the wadded-up ball shape. They each produce a unique pattern of dye.

Outside on my patio this morning, here are all the containers ready to go…

I added liquid dye to each container; I mixed 5 colors and combined them differently for each one. I use Procion fiber-reactive dyes that are set with soda ash, and I get all my supplies at Dharma Trading Company.

Bearbear and Baxter were there to watch (quietly). Poor Baxter, he’s slapped daily by Bearbear’s tail, seen here wagging in a blur; his tail  is exactly at Baxter’s eye-level. Baxter doesn’t have a tail. 😦

After 90 minutes I topped each container off with about half  a cup of warm soda ash solution:

Then I squeezed out the dye I could, then swirled each piece around a bucket with Synthrapol, a detergent that separates dye molecules in the water so the dye doesn’t move from fabric to fabric. Even so, many people recommend rinsing fabrics separately when you remove them from the dye bath. I haven’t had any problems letting the fabric touch at this stage; the soda ash has fixed most of the dye, too.

Then I put all the fabric–lights and darks–into the washer together. I add a small amount of S and use hot water. Then I’m done!

The fabric looks fabulous. I’m pressing it when I done posting this!