Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Arches National Park

After finally making it through the bad storm, we left Monument Valley and headed to Moab, Utah. Our goal there was to tour Arches National Park. While we had visited Monument Valley before, Arches was a new experience for us.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved

This photo depicts The Three Gossips, one of the amazingly many rock formations in the park.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved

True to its name, the park has many arches. This particular formation is called Double Arch. My husband is in the foreground to give you a sense of scale. There is a trail you can hike right up and into the arch formation itself which we followed after this picture was taken.

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Speaking of trails, you absolutely must obey all of the warning signs in the park to protect its natural resources—which we did.

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Here I am in front of one of the arched windows in the park—just so you know we did get actual pictures of us on our adventure. This tree has grown in such a way that it makes a natural chair. I’m somewhat unsure as to whether sitting on it to have my picture taken is considered bad for the park or not.

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While touring around the town of Moab itself, we discovered a yarn shop which I promptly entered. Desert Thread is owned by two sisters, Cathy O'Connor and Rosie Boone. This is a very friendly shop and I really enjoyed my visit. The yarn I bought is for a summer project I’ve started. There is also a quilt fabric shop nearby, but we ran out of time and energy after hiking in the park all day.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monument Valley

Spring break for me is now over and I am back in Florida. I had good intentions to blog our road trip using my husband’s laptop but forgot my blog password. I just drew a complete blank on that, so I gave up. After flying to Tucson and spending a couple of days seeing my sister and some friends, we started driving to Arizona’s Monument Valley area last Monday morning.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved.

By 11 a.m., we found ourselves in a pretty bad storm near Flagstaff. We watched in horror as cars and trucks slid, jack-knifed, and otherwise involuntarily slid dangerously in directions they did not want to go as the roads turned to ice. In a brief span of time, we saw seven accidents and decided maybe it would be best to turn around and go home.

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However, they closed the road behind us and then closed the road ahead of us. We ended up trying a round-about route to get away from the storm and continue to our first night’s destination. This photo depicts ice building on our windshield.

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After driving 50 miles on an obscure Bureau of Indian Affairs dirt road, we finally managed to wend our way to our hotel in Monument Valley ahead of the storm we just bypassed. You can see snow in the distance behind some of the rock monuments.

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Here is what we saw outside our hotel window the next morning. Although the weather was brutally cold, the snow makes the gorgeous valley seem even more magical.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick’s Blessings

Spring equinox is only a couple of days away. Florida is starting to feel more like—uh, Florida—than I’ve experienced over the last few months. For a purportedly warm state, it has been a cold winter. Or maybe it just feels that way to me since I’m a transplant from Arizona.

Spring also means the inevitable pollens running amok as plants join the animal kingdom in doing the wild thing to repopulate the world with their particular species. I’ve decided pine pollen is definitely not my friend as I’ve been sick with sinusitis for over a week and now have bronchitis.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved

Other than required English department meetings and my actual classes, I’ve had to opt out of all sorts of other activities in order to try to get well as tomorrow morning I’m flying back to Tucson to visit my husband, sister, and friends during my college’s spring break.

Although I feel as though a huge pine tree actually fell on me as opposed to just sharing its own form of plant pheromones to irritate my allergies, I did manage to bake numerous batches of traditional Scottish Shortbread for my students in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

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Yes, I do know that St. Patrick was Irish. However, my shortbread mold represents all of the British Isles, so my baked offering works fine. Each segment of the mold offers the following representation: Thistles for Scotland, Celtic Knot-work for Ireland, a Tudor Rose for England, and a Welsh Dragon for Wales.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pink Season

Now that the detritus of winter has been purged, we can enjoy the fresh innocence of springtime as represented by the color pink.

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My mother-in-law and I walked around her yard this weekend admiring new growth emerging here and there. She has more than a hundred azalea plants in her backyard; each plant is covered in tiny pink buds.

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A few buds could not stand the wait and opened their beautiful petals.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved

While it is not an azalea plant, I did knit another chemo cap in a color representative of the flowers. The color synchronization is just a fluke as I had not planned it. However, it does give me pause to think about the sense of new beginnings associated with springtime. I hope that whoever receives my azalea-colored cap be given the gift of recovery and a fresh start in life. It’s pink season.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Chemistry

My homemade vanilla gifts (here and here) this past Christmas were a big success. Based on the feedback and requests from my recipients, I guess this wee kitchen gift is going to be an annual tradition.

Monday found me busy at the kitchen counter measuring, pouring, and mumbling to myself as I manipulated bottles of liquor and disemboweled a copious number of vanilla beans. If my Halloween stuff was not still stored in Tucson, I would have pulled out my witch hat as I concocted my brew.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved

I mixed vodka with rum, brandy, and vanilla beans for my concoction (sans eye of newt). My erstwhile cauldron yielded four huge bottles (1.75 mL each) of homemade vanilla now stored away in the dark recesses of my pantry. Over the months until Christmas, the magic of chemistry will do its thing and produce vanilla extract which will be bottled and packaged for gifting. Who knew something so simple would be so fun and such a well-received gift?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Knitting for Lent

Much has changed in my life since moving to Florida seven months ago. Instead of sitting at home bemoaning the fact that my husband and I are living and working many states apart for now, I’m going out into my new community and embracing all it has to offer. For example, I’ve joined the knitting guild at my church.

Although you can work on whatever good-deed project you choose, there is a need for caps for those enduring chemotherapy.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved

The pattern I used for this cap is Race for Life 2009—Easy Cap which I found on Ravelry. My yarn was Cascade Yarns’ Cash Vero.

Lent starts this Wednesday and continues until April 23. While many people are talking about giving up chocolate or spending money or other such things during Lent, I’ve decided to knit chemo caps as my Lent offering.

Before I forget to tell you, Rachel (see previous post) placed in the top ten at the pageant. We are very proud of her.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The North Carolina Azalea Festival: a Southern Tradition

My family is from the coastal Wilmington, NC area. Each year since 1948, the city hosts the North Carolina Azalea Festival to celebrate spring and the abundant beauty of azaleas blooming all over the state. This event is so important to North Carolina, the United States Congress honored the festival’s long and important tradition during one of its sessions in 2008.

Source: Wilmington Downtown

As part of festival events, an annual pageant is held in which twenty-one young ladies compete for the title of the N.C. Azalea Festival Princess. The 2011 N.C. Azalea Festival Princess Scholarship Pageant is takes place this Saturday night.

Source: StarNews Online

My niece Rachel is one of this year’s contestants. If crowned Princess, Rachel will receive the Beverly Anne Jurgensen Scholarship Award. If chosen as a member of the four-person court, she will still receive a college scholarship. As she will be attending one of our state universities this fall, scholarship money is foremost in Rachel’s mind.

© Carolyn Needham, All Rights Reserved

Part of the selection process involves an interview both before and during the pageant. Here is Rachel trying on her interview outfit.

© Carolyn Needham, All Rights Reserved

This photo depicts her pageant dress.

© Carolyn Needham, All Rights Reserved

During the festival, the Cape Fear Garden Club organizes a tour of the beautiful gardens to be found in Wilmington. Azalea Belles are chosen to act as hostesses in featured gardens and serve as ambassadors for the City of Wilmington during the festival. Each Belle wears a hoop-skirted antebellum dress to represent southern hospitality and reflect the beauty of the azalea plants being honored. Rachel was an Azalea Belle last year.

Although I cannot be in Wilmington to participate in the Azalea Festival events or witness tomorrow night’s pageant, I can hardly wait for my sister’s call to let us know how Rachel fares. No matter the outcome, we love Rachel dearly.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Rose Fern Scarf

For the last three Saturdays, I’ve been learning about fine lace knitting in a class hosted at Unwind the Yarn Shop. We learned to knit The Rose Fern Scarf, a design created by Cynthia Carter of Whistling Beagle Knits. Cynthia, herself, was our instructor.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved. (L) Me, (R) Cynthia

This was the most carefully planned and executed class I have ever taken. Cynthia thought of everything and organized her instructional material in such a way that we learned, applied our new knowledge, and actually managed to execute the exquisite lace design.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved. Cynthia’s beautiful scarf served as our inspiration.

Instead of written pattern instructions, we used Cynthia’s charted pattern—something I had not worked with previously. However, Cynthia included chart reading as part of her class plan.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved. One end of my scarf.

Along with learning various lace techniques, Cynthia shared the history of lace knitting with the class. I love knowing such details as it makes what we do so much richer and honors the artists.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved. Adjacent to the section shown in the photo above is this component of the scarf.

My sister students and I learned about gauge, choosing yarn for lace, as well as what knitting tools will serve us best.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved. The central section of the scarf.

We also learned how to avoid mistakes and, if we do make one, how to apply simple fixes to rectify the situation. Our final lesson was blocking.

© June Scroggin, All Rights Reserved. My blocked scarf.

My completed Rose Fern Scarf will be a Christmas gift for one of my sisters. My yarn was madelinetosh's Tosh Sock superwash merino wool fingering weight in a rich berry color.

If you ever have the opportunity to take a class taught by Cynthia, jump on the opportunity.