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Scarlet Quince Ramblings

Cross stitch ... art ... life

Bierstadt and Half Dome
Thursday, December 18th, 2008

I had another browse through some Bierstadt paintings and I was wrong — there is a painting with Half Dome in it, although it’s not exactly a painting OF Half Dome:

It’s called, appropriately enough, The Domes of the Yosemite. I believe this is a view from the top of lower Yosemite Falls, with the upper falls on the left (although we didn’t go up there; the falls were dry). It’s somewhere between this view (Washington Column on the left, guess who on the right):

and Tunnel View (this is the first view of the valley you get driving in):

You have to imagine you’re down the valley and around the corner from El Cap (on the left).

Comparing the Bierstadt view to the topo map, I believe the point jutting over the left side of the valley is Washington Column, the round dome between it and the falls is North Dome, and the sliced-off round place directly in front of North Dome is Royal Arches. I think the largest dome on the right is Half Dome — it doesn’t quite look like it, but there have been massive rock falls from the face since Bierstadt was there, so I think the rock in front of what appears to be Half Dome just isn’t there any more. My best guess.

And by the way, I’m working on a chart of “The Domes of the Yosemite”.

Spam and eggs
Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

This has nuthin’ to do with nuthin’ (as a friend of mine would say), but it’s such a great idea that I had to share. It came in what was essentially a spam email. Here it is: when making devilled eggs, put the yolks in a zip-loc bag instead of a dish to mash them up with the salad dressing and whatever else you put in your eggs.

This makes the eggs fast to mix, you can get ALL the lumps out, and you don’t have a dish to wash afterwards. Snip a corner of the bag to squeeze the filling into the eggs (and you also waste less filling).

I mooshed the filling down a little. I also accidentally discovered that putting the eggs on a paper towel dries the bottoms so they don’t skate around on a plate. I could probably have figured this out if I had ever really thought about it.

The eggs don’t skate when I use my cute egg plate (it’s an egg-shaped plate with depressions for a dozen half eggs). I didn’t use it this time because somehow there were only 4 eggs left in what I was thinking of as a new carton of eggs. The plate empties quickly, but you don’t want to start out with it half-empty.

This bag approach is similar to the Aunt Jemima cornbread mix which comes in a bag in a little pan. You add the milk and eggs to the mix in the bag, moosh it around, squeeze the batter into the pan, and bake. As I recall, it’s not especially good cornbread, but I thought it was so much fun to make when I was a kid.

Monday, December 15th, 2008

In October we trapped a bunch of feral cats and took them to the Humane Society to be fixed. The vet told us that one of the cats had had kittens recently, and recently she started bringing her kittens to our garage to eat. There were only two kittens, which is a small litter. (I hope it isn’t the case that there were originally more and something happened to the others, but we once had a cat that gave birth to a single kitten, so perhaps spotty nutrition accounts for the small litter.) The kittens are absolutely adorable — aren’t kittens always? They are probably about 12 weeks old.

We’re calling them Little Socks and Little Pearl because they look just like their uncle Socks and aunt Pearl. (Yes, we are breaking ALL the stray cat rules — 1. Stray cats will not be fed. 2. Stray cats will not be fed anything but dry cat food. … 7. Stray cats will absolutely not be given a name. We are currently also feeding Coco (the mother of the kittens), Patches, Blinky, Sandy, and Brindle Cat — the mother of all the adult cats except Patches, and the only one that hasn’t been spayed or neutered.)

The kittens pretty much lived in our garage for a while, back in the shelves on an old bath mat. More recently the older cats have been showing them the ropes, the pond in the back yard for water, the leaf pile for other needs, etc. They are very playful, jumping each other, swatting older cats’ tails, playing “King of the Mountain” in the silver maple, and on and on.

After much agonizing about what would be best for them, we captured them and are working on getting them used to people so that they can have homes. (The Humane Society’s adoption program won’t take them unless they are friendly.) I would LOVE to have them here but Lucky, who is very easily stressed, would go crazy if he thought MORE cats might be coming to live here. Instead, a friend agreed to foster them, and they’re currently living in her guest bathroom. (A bathroom is a good place to start new kittens because they can’t get someplace where they aren’t retrievable, they can’t do any damage, and it’s a small space. When we brought Lucky home and let him loose, as he discovered what a big world he was suddenly in, he got more and more panicky. He was much happier in the bathroom until he got used to things.)

At first the kittens were not very happy with the strange hard white surfaces.

But they have quickly gotten more comfortable.
(I wish I could get a picture without the glaring red irises but you can see that Little Pearl has blue eyes — she’s a beautiful kitten.)

My friend and her husband visit them often in the bathroom, and we’re visiting also most days. Little Pearl is already allowing herself to be petted. They have lots of toys and apparently are having a pretty good time for themselves, and I’m glad they’re not outdoors — they were born very late in the year and it’s cold out. So I trust this story will have a happy ending. We’ll probably try to find them homes ourselves without going through the Humane Society — not that I have anything against the Humane Society, but Lucky was there only 5 days and he caught the feline equivalent of kennel cough and almost died, although he was younger and smaller than these two. If we can tame these guys, get them their shots, and send them directly to a good home or two, that would be best.

Update: here’s the latest picture — they are in the bathroom sink.

Large patterns vs small — what’s the difference?
Monday, December 8th, 2008

Several of our patterns are available in two sizes (two stitch counts, which makes the finished piece different dimensions). Many people ask, “How are they different? They look the same.”

In general, we make our patterns as small as possible (believe it or not!) while still preserving the important detail of the original work. Sometimes, though, it’s possible to make a somewhat smaller pattern which is not quite as detailed, but still very good, and a lot fewer stitches. Think about it: a 200 x 200 stitch count pattern is 40,000 stitches. 180 x 180 doesn’t sound much smaller, but it’s only 32,400 stitches. A 9% decrease in the sides (width plus height) results in a 19% decrease in the number of stitches!

So how are they different? Here are a few examples.

Take the Fair Face of Woman comes in two sizes, 197w x 250h, and 315w x 400h. On the pattern pages they look the same. If you click the pictures to see the fixed scale views, you can see that one is larger and one is smaller, but you still may not be able to see any difference.

Compare the eyes.  In this case, all the same features are there, the shading in the eyelid, the lighter blue below the pupil — it’s just that they are larger in the larger version.

An area where a bit of detail is lost is in the beaded bag. Most of the beads are there in both bags — but the one that the fairy’s finger points to is mostly missing in the smaller bag. (It helps to get back from the screen a few feet to see this.) The beads in the larger bag also have a little structure (darker spots in the center of the beads) which is missing from the smaller bag.

As you can see, these are not very momentous differences.

We are also working toward having all of the Lady and Unicorn tapestries in two sizes. Here the differences are quite subtle (given that the original tapestries are so large, many of the details such as the flowers are rather impressionistic even in our larger pattern). Compare two dogs from Lady with Unicorn: A Mon Seul Desir (this is the dog near the upper right corner).

The biggest difference in the two dogs is that the smaller dog’s ear nearly disappears. The smaller dog is a little blockier, too, as there’s less room for shading stitches to fill in the curves. The flowers are almost the same. Consider, though, that there’s a 15% difference between the two charts in width plus height, and the smaller one has 30% fewer stitches!

So: if you prefer a smaller finished piece, or just want to do fewer stitches, you shouldn’t hesitate to do the smaller version of any of our charts. If you really love the picture and want all possible detail, or prefer a larger result, do the larger one. Either way, you’ll get good detail.

‘Tis I
Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Letter II forced myself to finish the letter I before starting another letter just to see how long it took to do this relatively small letter. It took 13 days, but that’s elapsed time, not stitching time. There was a jigsaw puzzle in there, and not much else happens when I’m working a jigsaw puzzle. (This was a Christmas tradition in my family, which I have allowed to bleed over into New Year’s. I think this is the first year I’ve had one at Thanksgiving. It’s a slippery slope. Next it will be Columbus Day, then Labor Day, Flag Day, Arbor Day…)

Anyway, I like “I” much more than I thought I would looking at the chart. (I should look at the cover picture more often.) The decorations sort of remind me of something, although I can’t think what.

Balcones Canyonlands
Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

We went for a walk at Balcones Canyonlands over the weekend. It sounds like something at Disneyland, but it’s really our closest National Wildlife Refuge. It’s habitat for the endangered black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler, but I usually go for flowers or butterflies or just to get outdoors.

This is at Doeskin Ranch; two other sections are really just birding platforms.

Texas is not a place most people associate with fall color, but it exists — you just have to wait until late November. The colors would have been spectacular had it been a sunny day but we were having a gloomy Novemberish day. On the other hand, this time of year the sun is so low in the sky much of the day that it would have been annoying. This is a good year for color — the Spanish oaks, sumac leaves and berries, persimmons, and poison ivy are bright red — the cedar elms are bright yellow. The dark green of the cedars shows them off beautifully (it’s really Ashe juniper, but people here call it cedar). Other trees have already lost their leaves.

This time of year, it helps to have an appreciation for dried plants. Liatris mucronata or Blazing Star blooms in late September, but the died heads are attractive in their own way.

If you look around, the rosettes of next year’s flowers are getting started. This is Erodium texanum, or Texas stork’s bill. It’s a little geranium that blooms in early spring.

The junipers are covered with berries. I’m not a gin drinker but I do like the smell of juniper berries.

We hiked up the Rimrock Trail to start with. It’s a silly name because although they have managed to make the trail very steep, this is not really much of a canyon. Walking along the plateau at the top, we found a new trail (or new to us), the Indiangrass Trail. I assume this is Indiangrass.

The trail winds and winds down the valley and eventually returns to the top of the ridge. They should call it the Cairn Trail. This borders on the absurd, don’t you think?There are two more cairns in sight up to the right. It’s a very easy trail to follow so I can only assume that someone had a lot of time on their hands. Then, about 2/3 of the way along — no more cairns. It’s as if they thought, “Ok, you should have the picture by now — you’re on your own.”

If you go to Balcones Canyonlands in October, it can be a great place for Monarch butterflies. There’s a lot of frostweed (Verbesina virginica) which isn’t much to look at but the butterflies find it tasty! I’ve seen as many as six Monarchs on a single plant.
But they drift on the wind as they migrate so they don’t always get to Balcones. This picture is from another year; by now the frostweed has dried up.

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