Practice…

…does not make perfect, but it can produce some pretty images.

It is spring.  Spring sprung early.  So I am trying to remember to take my Pentax out with me so that I can practice my photography skills and use more of the camera’s features.

It is usually set on aperture priority, so the next step is to work on all manual and play with shutter speed.  I fought getting digital camera for a long time.  But my favorite benefit to digital is not wasting film.  I can take the “same” photo with a variety of settings, download the images to my laptop, and see what has come of them so quickly.  And not worry about wasting film or waiting for developing.  So I can pick an aperture setting and change the shutter speed.  Or vice versa.  And just play and see what I can get the camera to do.  Today I threw in some manual focus work, too, as I could not get the autofocus to focus on what I wanted it to.

A few weeks ago the crocuses were still out.

Two weeks ago the magnolia, in the yard of a house that we pass on the way to and from school, was all abloom.

So were the cherry blossom trees at the playground.

Mom’s wisteria were all abuzz with bumbles this week.

And the willow trees, at the winery that M’Lord and I had a date lunch at today, were playing with the water.

A professional photographer I will never be.  But I do like to play with a camera.

A Slayer of Socks

I am hard on socks.

I like socks.  Especially in cooler months.

I don’t like to wear shoes or sneakers without socks.  Sandals are fine, but I can’t stand flipflops.

I have lots of socks.

I have to have lots of socks…

…because I kill socks.

Size 6 1/2 is not a big foot.  So I don’t stretch them out or need larger, longer socks.  In fact, the heels of many socks end up farther up the back of my heel and ankle then actually on my heel.  And, though it happens, heel holes rarely happen in my socks.

The feeling of a sharp nail edge rubbing on a toe, a sock, or sheets, is very annoying, so nail trimming is a regular occurrence.  So no holes in the toes.

Occasionally the elastic at the top will dry out, rendering the socks useless unless you like them bunched around the ankles.

No holes in the toes.  Few holes in the heels.  No stretched out socks.  What is left?

I wear out the area under the balls of my feet.  White cotton crew socks, hiking socks, cute cotton socks with cats or Kermit or snowflakes on them, argyle knee socks…I wear out the area under the ball of my foot.  Not just a small hole but a large worn and thin area.  And this happens fairly frequently.  And not evenly between the two matching socks.

So frequently that M’Lord gave me about a dozen new pairs of cute cotton socks for Christmas.  Which is good because about that many pairs ended up in the trash this winter.  One more wearing and today’s pair will probably be heading for the trash, too.

Those aren’t flour spots.  They are areas where you can see right through to my skin.  This is an odd one in that the heel is wearing through, too.

We don’t darn socks anymore.  Socks are inexpensive and colorful.  Keeping all of the colors to match all of the sock colors would be impossible.  Darning was much more practical, and necessary, when stockings and socks were black, brown, or white, and each person only had a few pairs.  And they were thicker.  The repair seam would not bother the bottom of the foot.  One of the family heirlooms that I’ve been given is a double darning egg, used to shape the heel or toe when repairing those few pairs of stockings.

But the holes that appear in my socks are too big for darning.  They require a good sized patch.

White crew socks, bought by the multipack, can be paired up with other white crew socks who have lost their mates to death by my feet.  But unless I buy two matching pairs of cute socks, I end up with a drawer full of odd, though cute, cotton socks.  The Cub needs only so many sock puppets.

But I need more socks.

Moving Those Feet…

…and legs…and getting fit.

Breathe.

I am a healthy weight for my height.  I surprised my OBGYN by not gaining any weight this past year.  But I am not fit.  I can walk.  I can walk a few miles without my legs and hips thinking of rebelling.  But anything requiring cardio fitness is tough.  I am not cardiovascularly fit.

During grammar school summers I belonged to the town swim team.  I could swim laps for a good long while.  I also owned a bike, a boys 10 speed, and rode around town, which was rather hilly, regularly.  My father belonged to a bike club and would often lead rides on Sundays.  If they were lower level rides I was able to go with them.

In high school I marched, and twirled a flag while I was at it.  We’d practice for hours.

Then came college.  Then a full time job.  My fitness level went downhill quickly, despite tromping, in work boots, around building construction sites with no, or really slow so we used the stairs, elevators.

Then I was introduced to Country Line Dancing.  I love country music, so it was a natural segue after a bad break up.  I started going regularly on Friday nights.  That morphed into 3 nights a week.  I could dance for hours, many dances in a row with no break, including some good fast ones.

Eventually my husband and I bought a house that was much farther away from the club than our apartment had been.  So we started going maybe twice a month.  We also bought bicycles.  I used mine occasionally, but my stamina was in the minor leagues.  Hills killed me.

Then came pregnancy, The Cub, and the need to pay a babysitter if we want to go out.  So no more dancing or biking for a long while.  I would go out for walks, but not on a good, steady schedule.

This fall I began to take longer routes home from or to school than the short, straight there route that I take with The Cub.  I was moving more, at least.  And I do walk at a fast pace.  I timed several of the walk routes so that I knew how much earlier I would need to leave in order to do the longer walk and not be late for pick up.

But I need to get my cardio fitness level up.  My bike needs a tune up and new tires and tubes, at least.  That costs a bit.  But running shoes combined with a small Christmas Bonus could do the trick.  So I did that.  I bought running shoes.

The winter weather has been on and off good for running, but I’ve gone out a few times on week-ends or during the week.  This week, though, I changed my pattern.  Instead of walking the Cub to school, heading home, doing some chores, then heading out to exercise, or walking the longer routes to or from the school, I dressed for running for the walk to school.  Both today and Wednesday were warm enough that my lungs wouldn’t scream at me for running in the cold.  So I walked/jogged home.  Wednesday was a 1.1 mile route.  This morning I took a 1.5 mile route, and actually ran the first .59 mile of it before needing to walk for a bit.  Then I alternated for the rest of the route.  But I did it.

My goal is to work up to just about 3 miles of walk/jog.  We live on a 2 mile loop road.  Miss our house and you’ll pass it again in 2 miles.  Many people in the area use it for walking/running routes.  There are two loop roads off of my loop road that will add .95 miles to the route.  That will put me up to a 5K.

There is one thing about my body that bothers me while running…my butt bounces.  I’m not chesty, so a good sports bra is plenty.  But my butt bounces.  I can feel it.  Ugh.

But to celebrate the good run part and that the spring weather is coming, today I am wearing a skirt.

Books to Save

Borrowed from The Broke and the Bookish….

My Top Ten Books to Save If My House Were Abducted By Aliens (Or any other disaster struck)

I love to read.  But I’ve purged many books that were not favorites or that I would not read again so that someone else may have the pleasure of reading them.  So there aren’t lots of books in the house.  But the ones that I would want to take with me if I had the time to grab them, after The Cub, the server, the fire box, the computers, our wedding albums, and my purse, would be…

1.  My hardcover copy of Anne of Green Gables that I bought at an antique fair, 25th pressing dated 1910.  It still has a paper glued to the front page indicating that “Esther Louise Pickwick Owns This Book”.  I love that some of the pictures have tissue paper pages in front of them still.

2 thru 5.  I’m counting the various series as one book each:  The box of books from the attic.  It contains about 20 Cherry Ames series books, several Bobbsey Twins series books, a couple of Raggedy Ann and Andy books, and a few others.  The Cherry Ames books were my mother’s and are now mine, and I have read them many times.  The others were mine as a child and were all also read over and over again.

6 and 7.  Peanuts Treasury and Peanuts Classics.  Again, these were mine and I read through them many times.  Now I am waiting for the Cub to be able to start enjoying Peanuts.

8. The Annotated Alice and Through the Looking Glass.  This copy of Alice in Wonderland is full of footnotes and explanations of Carroll’s words, phrases, etc.  A very interesting read.  I’d thought that I’d lost it for several years, but found it again a few years ago.  It’s paperback and rather dogeared, but it is one of my favorites.

9.  My recipe binder.  There are several family recipes in there among the printed from the internet and torn out of magazines recipes and I wouldn’t want to lose them.

10.  Hush Little Baby, by Sylvia Long.  It’s the copy that I read to The Cub from.  And I love that it changed all of the buying to other activities.  I still sing it to him at times.

An odd group, but there it is.

A Bookworm…

I love to read.  We read to Liam every night and, many days, in the afternoon.  He is in Kindergarten and is testing at an almost 3rd grade reading level.  Our job is to work on comprehension with him.  So I do a lot of reading.  But…

…I seem to have lost the ability to just sit or lie down and read for a good long while.  My books.  Ones that I want to read.  And I don’t always do my own good job of absorbing what I am reading.  I find myself going back over a page because I don’t remember any of what I just read.

I don’t like this.

I grew up reading.  There was no internet.  We were allowed a certain amount of TV time per day.  I didn’t have a large circle of friends and was often home.  So I read.  And re-read.  Nancy Drew.  Anne of Green Gables.  The Happy Hollisters.  Honey Bunch.  Cherry Ames (as my Mom is a nurse and still has a good amount of the series).  The Secret Garden.  They were all comfort to me and were read over and over.

I could read for hours.

For the record, I hated reading for school – being told what to read and how many pages and having to remember the right things to pass the test on the book.  There were only a couple of books from high school that stuck with me for some reason.

In college I would lose track of time when I should have been studying because I would be reading.  Somewhere in that time period I discovered science fiction/fantasy and began to work my way through those kinds of series.

I could lie on my dorm bed and read for hours.

After college I moved home, started to work, and, again, spent a lot of time at the library and the newly opened Barnes & Noble, finding books to read.  What a wonder B&N was when it first opened.  So many books.  The place is still dangerous to me, though I try to stick with borrowing from the library to keep the spending down.  For now, most of my B&N purchases are for The Cub.  Henry Huggins will soon be joining Bunnicula on his shelf.

For 7 years I commuted to work on the train or the bus.  I got a lot of reading done on the rides home.  Danielle Steele was a big one for me at that time.  Then I switched to a company that was more local and I drove to work.  There went the commuter reading time.  But I still read at home and discovered Nora Roberts and JD Robb.

But somewhere in the past 10 years or so I’ve lost the ability to just sit and read.  Blogs and online articles and magazines are easy.  Short bits of reading that do not take too long.  If I find something that I like I can print it out or fold the page and go back to it.  Recipes pile up to be sorted and possibly made, or put into the recycling bin if I later decided that making them will never happen.  And I can always find it again if I search hard enough.

But a book.  A good book with some depth.  Not a basic formula romance.  That has become a challenge.

My brain wanders to the chore list, the grocery list, the errands list, the “Did I forget to send that form to school with The Cub?” list, the work list.  It loses touch with what I am trying to read and absorb.  I take books out from the library that catch my eye and return them without reading them.  And if they aren’t new books I have 6 weeks in which to get them read.  If I try to read while The Cub is at school I feel guilty, thinking that I should be doing chores or errands so that I can hang out with him when he gets home.  And I find myself zoning out in front of HGTV or FoodTV or some such station, or the internet, after he has gone to bed, instead of picking up one of those library books that caught my attention enough for me to bring it home.

Tonight I am going to work on reading, and absorbing what it is that I have read.  Time to walk away from the laptop and not turn the TV on.  Time to read more of the book that I liked enough the first time that I took it out of the library but didn’t finish that I took it out again and am almost to the end of those 6 weeks.

Here goes.

Wish me Good Reading.

A Use for Dice

I volunteer twice a month in my son’s kindergarten classroom.  Afternoons are math time, so I spend the first hour working with the kids to make sure that they are getting through their work, occasionally refereeing when there is a dispute if they are working in pairs or groups.  About a month ago his teacher gave some of the kids 12 sided dice and some 8 sided, depending on their math abilities, for a “math game”.  One of the kids asked if there were dice with more sides.  She answered that more sides than 12 would be very much like a ball.  After the teacher told me what she needed me to do I mentioned that there are 20 sided dice.  M’Lord, and I on occasion, plays Dungeons & Dragons and other dice based role playing games regularly, so we have lots of dice in the house.  A standard set of dice contains one 4 sided, one 6 sided, one 8 sided, two 10 sided (to roll a percentage), one 12 sided, and one 20 sided.

That night I asked M’Lord if he had any incomplete or old sets that he’d be willing to donate to the classroom.  The next day he gave The Cub a container of about 100 dice of various side counts, including at least eleven 20 sided dice, to give to his teacher.  She was thrilled.   Today I went in for the first time since that day and she was using the 20 sided dice for the math game.  I was really glad to see that she was able to use them.  I commented on them and she said that the other three K teachers have all asked to borrow the 12 and 20 sided dice.  So now we are going to ask M’Lord’s gaming buddies if they have spare or incomplete sets to donate so that there are more to share.

Dice can be ordered in bags of just one size, so if I can’t get more donations I may just order a bag of 20 sided and donate them to the school so that each of the teachers can have some in their own classrooms.

What a great new use for an odd set of something.

A Flowery Dream

I’ve had this odd dream/idea of working in a flower shop, making pretty arrangements.

My allergies have a large say in why I do not work in a flower shop.  We had to instruct the florist for our wedding that no strong scented flowers could be used or the bride and mother of the groom would be sneezing and headachy through the whole thing.  Lilies and hyacinths and eucalyptus do not enter my house and if I wear perfume it has to be on the back of my neck in order to avoid headaches.

In my current life I work on this dream by buying basic bunches at the grocery store and trying to arrange them in pretty, though simple, ways.

Years ago I worked as an assistant superintendent on the construction of the Barneys flagship store in NYC.  It backed up to a beautiful old hotel and we had to rebuild their cart wash room for them as part of the construction.  It was my area.  To get to it through the hotel I had to go past their flower shop.  The florists would let me watch them prepare bouquets and centerpieces for events.  Often they’d give me a rose or other flower to take with me.  There I was, in my jeans, flannel shirts, hard hat, construction boots, etc, walking through the jobsite with my clipboard and a rose.  What a juxtaposition.

There was a wonderful woman who followed her flower shop dream and turned that into a 30 year career of designing the flowers in the White House.  It was not an easy career, but what a career.  I just finished reading her book on her time there.  What interesting stories.  She worked under 6 First Ladies and created more than just floral arrangements.  While I was reading it, she passed away.  I am so glad that she took time out of her retirement to share her stories.  The book is My First Ladies by Nancy Clarke.

I will probably never work in a flower shop.  And I certainly will never end up working at The White House.  But I will continue to buy my grocery store bouquets and cut whatever flowers I can manage to grow (there will be a fence around my flower garden this year and we will plant earlier) and arrange them for me and my family, placing them out of snacking reach of the cats.  It will make me happy.