Monday, May 25, 2015

 

The Bucket List is getting Shorter

LANIER BRIDGE, BRUNSWICK GEORGIA

...and we're off!

Resuming our cruising adventure up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), we couldn't have been happier with the beautiful day that dawned. After the long hiatus in Brunswick, Georgia, we went under the Lanier Bridge, turned left and started our travels north .

Our first bit of excitement was just a couple of hours later when we knew we would be passing the waterfront home of our friends. They were waiting for us with their binoculars at the ready. Unfortunately, their property is heavily wooded and we couldn't spot their exact house, but we know that they were waving. They emailed us the fact. Actually, they waved, and waved until
TIDAL MARSHLANDS - GEORGIA
their arms got tired. Seems that they were surprised at how SLOW we were moving along when underway. Yep, a whopping 6mph which just barely gets the wind blowing in our hair.

Because we draw 5 1/2 feet (that is our keel hangs down 5 1/2 feet below the water surface) we have to be very careful about the changes in the tides for our travels. The 6 to 7 foot tidal changes make it so that the channel is too shallow for us at certain times of the day. We watch the tide forecasts (which are never very accurate for inland travel) and eyeball the changes. When it looks right, we start the day and plan for our stopping point that afternoon.

DARK BROWN WATERS AND NARROW ICW
After exactly 2 weeks out we are today tied to a dock right on the ICW at the Atlantic Yacht Basin in Chesapeake, Virginia. We've anchored out in the wilds every night for two weeks by simply pulling off of the marked channel into a river or bay. But we needed to fuel up and to walk to a grocery store for produce and ice cream so we choose to tie up. The bonus is that there is unlimited wifi so I can upload photos and post a blog!

So, you may ask...what do you see along the ICW?  Mostly, when we were in Georgia we wandered a squiggly path through the beautiful tidal marshlands. The land is flat and the temperatures were quite warm down south in Georgia. It turned a little chilly the farther north we travelled.

HOUSES AND DOCKS ON THE ICW
As we moved through South Carolina and into North Carolina we saw a lot more houses directly on the waterway with docks and boats. BIG houses and small. Sometimes there were even mounds of earth with trees on them! Real hills! We also started to encounter miles and miles of houses that all looked as if they had been built in the last few years - almost exactly the same style and building materials used for every house. Cookie cutter million dollar houses - I'd like to know why?

We crossed a special item off of our Bucket List! Many years ago we vacationed with my family in Holden Beach, NC. The ICW could be seen from the upstairs balcony and Jonesy spent many hours watching the boats go by. He made up his mind that someday he would pass by Holden Beach in a boat. AND WE DID!

Most days we have been absolutely alone, chugging along the water, soaking up the scenery. Yes, we have hit the bottom mud many times with our keel. It's not fun, but we haven't actually gotten stuck yet so we haven't had to call a tow boat. The water is very shallow in some places even in the charted passageway and has shoaled over especially where there are inlets from the sea or a little river. Jonesy calls it "tapping the guard rails of the race track" so as long as the boat isn't damaged we keep on racing motoring.
LARGER TREES IN THE CAROLINAS

We've entertained ourselves with watching the wildlife, reading books, studying the depth sounder and multiple charts, and of course knitting. When we are closer to the sea and not moseying around an inland canal, we often see small, dark colored dolphins. These dolphins are very shy and don't come over to the boat to play with us as the ones we've met at sea do.

Large osprey birds are busy with their nests everywhere. They have discovered the safety of the channel marking poles out in the water for their nests. We've seen nests atop several markers in a row. We haven't seen chicks yet, but the parents have been busy sitting on the nests.

At one point in North Carolina, our progress was stopped by a US Navy patrol boat. We were passing through Camp Lejeune and there was a Marine military maneuver taking place where they floated a pontoon bridge across the waterway. It was entertaining to see a tank cross the temporary bridge. It was also interesting how quickly the bridge was taken apart and we were allowed to pass - FAST!

JONESY SETS THE ANCHOR IN THE CYPRESS SWAMP
One night we anchored in a horseshoe curve in the cypress swamps of South Carolina. Right there at the river's edge we saw an alligator lurking among the water hyacinth! Later in the afternoon he crawled out of the water and sunned himself on a log with 5 large turtles. After dark, I went out on deck to see what I could see as I usually do at anchor and I must have scared him as there was a bump on the hull and a big splash! I'm really glad we have a BIG boat which is 5 feet above the water!!


JONESY AT THE PIGGLY WIGGLY
We stopped in the charming little city of Swansboro, NC and dropped anchor right off of the free city dinghy dock. From there we ate breakfast in a great local diner then walked (more like waddled) about a mile up to the grocery store - a real Piggly Wiggly! Of course we also stopped in at the The Salty Sheep Yarn Shop so I could pick up some wool washing soap and fondle the beautiful yarns! Oops! Another project has been added to my queue on Ravelry to knit up.

Many of our travel days have been some of the best we have ever had on the boat. We've had perfect weather and no hitting the muddy bottom some days. Other days have been, well, not so nice. We have learned a lot.

We have learned not to get too close to a swing bridge as some of them open way too slowly (for our liking) and tidal currents threaten to drag us into the bridge pilings! As our mast is 63 feet tall, we can safely slide under the "fixed" bridges, but we have to radio ahead at the draw bridges which often only open at certain times of the day. It's hard to keep a big sailboat stationary when there is wind and current - actually, it is impossible to wait at a standstill.

SOME BRIDGES ARE SCARY
Negotiating a swing bridge caused the only time (so far) that we both said naughty sailor words. Nope, we didn't hit the pilings, but the bridge operator told us that many other boats have done so.

We've learned to simply slow down and enjoy the trip and let working boats and folks in a hurry go right on by us. We've also learned that it is imperative that you have at your fingertips the loud canned boat horn to blast at inexperienced or inattentive boaters and jet ski riders. Sheesh. This isn't Disneyland - it's actually dangerous to drag your kids around on a blow-up toy at great speeds around other boats. We don't want to be part of a calamity so folks, play safely!

BOAT STORAGE HIGH RISE
We've learned that we are much happier if we only travel about 50 miles each day and not push ourselves too much. Long days are no fun, and anchoring in the dusk is too scary especially because we are always at someplace where we've never been before. Yes, we have all the cruising guide books, but depths of water change and we often cannot get this big girl into shallower places.

We've seen many things that have astounded us too. How about this high rise boat storage yard? There was also storage inside of the building in the rear. We watched as a big forklift hauled a boat around the yard. Scary!

TRAVEL TRAILER CAMPGROUND
Check out this campground for travel trailers. We saw several of these types of campgrounds along the way. They are all travel trailers in these parks - no manufactured or mobile homes - just all different sizes of travel trailers. What a great way to spend the summer and fish to your heart's content. This sort of lifestyle is attractive to us voyagers.

So we've crossed off several items from our Bucket List over just the last two weeks. These are:
CROWDED - Very rare but scary

Of course, we are, at the same time, adding to our Bucket List. But that's another story.

Tomorrow we're taking off again and will get to experience our first lock since the Panama Canal transit back in 2008. It's just a little lock but we are a tad apprehensive. No real worries - we'll just chalk it up to another learning experience whatever happens. 

Life is good.

OUT TOO LATE Looking for a deeper spot to anchor


Sunday, May 10, 2015

 

Let the Cruising North BEGIN!

NIKI WIKI with Terry on deck
On a recent windless morning, Jonesy hauled out the jib and mainsail for a pre-cruising visual inspection. All looks good. He made such a racket stomping around the deck over our bunk and cranking out the lines that it woke me up. I knew what he was doing, so I grabbed a cup of coffee (which Jonesy makes every morning in our drip coffee machine) and went out on deck.

We've completed every chore required before we can leave and have fully provisioned the galley. The dry erase white board which acts as our central planning center is completely blank!! There is absolutely no space left in the freezer and food cupboards.

We are excited about getting OUT and zooming along at 6 knots (approx 7 mph) through the wilderness! Along the way we will wave to our friends Michelle and Kenny who have the house on the marsh that I house sat. We've never done that before - so that's a new experience for us too.

Terry on NIKI WIKI trying to wake up
6-MAN LIFE RAFT
One of the last chores that was my responsibility was to make replacement tie-down straps for our 6-Man Life Raft that lives up on the foredeck. The harsh sun of the tropics had damaged the strapping. Should we hit a wake, the dang raft could bounce right off of the boat.

So I took out my trusty 38-year old Elna sewing machine (that Jonesy gave me the Christmas before we were married) and whipped up the replacement straps. Now it is safe and sound. Even though we are planning to stay in the protected waterway, we may still have to go out in the big ocean and we both feel so much better knowing that we have a Life Raft.

After a 2 day delay due to Tropical Storm Ana here on the East coast of the USA, we will be heading out tomorrow morning after taking on fuel, settling up with the marina, and getting rid of every last bit of trash while we still can.
We have a Verizon WiFi hot spot so hopefully we'll have signal along the way and can share some photos.

Now, for knitting and ceramics... I've been busy making another pair of felted wool mittens. I used the exact same yarn, same washing
FELTED WOOL MITTENS
machine, but different detergent. This second pair is MUCH SMALLER! I can just barely squeeze my chubby hands into these. Thankfully, there are kids of all sizes in Kazakhstan who need warm mittens so these will find a new owner.

As for socks, I've been test knitting a new pattern for a friend. I'm not sure when I can share a photo, but I am enoying the process and the feel of the lovely yarn from Wooly Wonka Fiber generously donated to knit for the Kaz kids.

In the meantime, here's a photo of my current take-along sock project. The yarn is Vesper Sock Yarn by Knitterly Things in a colorful self-striping colorway (donated by my friend Michelle for the Kaz kids - thank you!). I'm so very lucky to have friends who have great taste in yarns and also who are brave enough to part with some of there stash to see frosty toes get a chance to be warm.
Hug Me Socks in process

The pattern is a very simple one, and one that I use often. It is my own Hug Me Socks design. Really, it is just 2 rounds of plain stockinette followed by 2 pounds of 2x2 ribbing. Repeat. This stitch pattern creates a thick and textured fabric that has lots of stretch. Stretch is important when making garments such as socks for sizes unknown. I like to make things that will fit a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

So now on to ceramics! I've really enjoyed my hours in the studio of the Glynn Visual Arts Center and am a tad sad to not be able to play with mud while we are cruising. But, I'll dive back in once we return to Brunswick here.

These past weeks I concentrated on making more bottoms for pine needle baskets, and some glaze test color tiles. I'm using a clay body that has more red iron in it than what most of the other clay-players in my group. The glaze works differently over darker clays. So I made some small samples for future reference.

At the spur of the moment I threw together a free-form tray - added some embellishments - and dunked it into two different glazes. One end was dipped in a barrel of shiny brown glaze, and the other end in a satin finish green glaze. The section in the middle is where the two different glazes overlapped.  I love the effect!

Now what should I serve in this? Whatever I decide, it will get used even if it gets broken in rough seas at some time in the future, I'll enjoy it while I have it.
Ceramic Tray Glaze Play


Life is good.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

 

Sweet Sounds and Accomplishments


One bit of advice that I picked up years ago was to "celebrate your accomplishments". Sometimes we get so focused on all the little things that are going wrong, or that simply need to be done, and we forget to pat ourselves on the back for jobs well done. This past week, the crew of the sailing vessel  Niki Wiki have some major project completions that needed to be celebrated.

We have ignition!
Ahhhh - it was the sweet SOUND of success when the big Perkins diesel engine finally got fuel up to the injectors and into the engine! Here's a short video taken during that first minute of the engine running after the big rebuild. It's been many months since we've heard it's mighty rumbling. Jonesy (head down in a red shirt) was still down in the bilge adjusting the injectors when I took this video from the helm.
video

Whooo hoooo! We can now go cruising! Sure, there are still some other projects to take care of before we hit the Intracoastal Waterway headed north, but now that we know that the engine is
purring again, we need to spend some time planning. As Jonesy said today..."It's hard to be in a hurry if you don't know where you're going!" We've pored over the charts and cruising guides and have decided to go for it next Saturday, May 9th. That is our planned "Get out of the Marina" date.

Jonesy next tackled the clean-up of our trusty dinghy named Scooty Puff which has been hanging off the stern of Niki Wiki on davits since last July. Then he mounted the Yamaha 15hp motor on Scooty's transom and got it to fire up on the 2nd pull. We now have a big movable home and small inflatable waterway transportation.

While Jonesy worked on the boat stuff, I've been spending time putting things (mostly my crafty stuff) away into secure cubbies and lockers for the trip. We tend to spread our stuff out in the boat while in a marina, but that's not going to work when we are traveling. Even wakes from passing motorboats can make the Niki Wiki rock and bounce and anything loose will bounce too. I've also been provisoning with the shelf stable items such as coffee, paper towels, cereal, beans and rice, drinks and condiments. We will not be able to shop for food very often and may need to walk a long ways too, Plus it is a lot of work to lug and transport heavy or large items in the dinghy so I like to stock up on the important items.

The Darien Seaport Sweater
Crafty Accomplishments

Ta-da! Here is the completed sweater that I knit for a teenager who will age out of the orphanage in Kazakhstan. The shaping and pattern stitchwork of this sweater is based on the traditional fishermen's gansey sweaters. It is 100% wool, but is a heavier weight (thicker) yarn than the original sweaters were knit from so that it is warmer for the extreme low temperatures where it will be worn.

I have written up the initial pattern notes and charts, but still have to do the size "grading" for multiple sizes so that more knitters can recreate it. That's a big part of the fun for me in the whole knitting process!

The final knitting and blocking of the sweater was done while I was house-dog-dog-dog-cat sitting for a friend. The house sits right on the tidal marsh near to the Darien Seaport. Check out this sweet view of the wetlands from the screened veranda where the sweater dried. For 4 days I played with the dogs and cat, soaked up the view, knit and sewed.

The sewing projects were repairs on our big Shade Tree awnings for the boat and a little awning we had custom made for the stern deck. The tropical sun of the past few years had weakened the fabrics and all it took to produce rips and holes was a fierce windy storm last fall while we were off on our car trip. So I spread them out on the concrete driveway under the giant oak trees with spanish moss swaying and evaluated what needed to be repaired. It was almost too much fun be outside working on a sunny, dry day with temps int he high 70's and loving dogs watching me.

 And there has been more knitting going on (like you didn't know already). Here's a pair of smaller sized socks knit from some yarn generously donated by a fellow knitter. These are knit with Patons Kroy sock yarn which did all the color work for me. I just knit plain socks.

But another pattern caught my eye while browsing Ravelry the other day. Now that I've finished the gray sweater above, I find that I have some extra wool. I've always wanted to make some felted mittens so I did!

The pattern is called "Norwegian Fisherman Mittens" (free on Ravelry) and is very simple to knit. After knitting them I tossed them in a top-loading washing machine with hot water and a couple of winter blankets to have them shrink and felt into a tight, thick fabric.

The Knit Picks Wool of the Andes yarn felted beautifully!
Before and After Felting
 See how BIG the loosely knit mittens were before they were felted? And then you can also see that the finished mittens fit my hand with a nice long cuff and some extra room for a thin pair of liner mittens on the inside. Perfect!

Of course, there is already another pair on the needles. Why argue with success? I have quite a large stash of this type of yarn in many colors so I think this will become some of my cockpit knitting as we travel the ICW.
Remember the ceramic trivets that I shared before? Well I offered one to a friend on Ravelry and here's a picture she took of it in its new home! I also tucked in one of my handmade buttons. My friend offered to send me some of her handmade soap. So now I am using some wonderful, natural soap that smells of Lemongrass. I used to grow lemongrass on the grounds of Mario's Marina in Guatemala so the smell reminds me of those days so far away and not so long ago.

Speaking of Mario's Marina - it is no more. The lease was terminated so the business of the marina was abandoned and all boats had to vacate. It was sure nice while it lasted and many cruisers have fond memories of time spent there and the wonderful people who worked there and became our friends. We spent 4 hurricane seasons (of about 5 months each) at Mario's. Here's a very recent photo of what is left - just the docks and facilities and no boats. Change is inevitable so enjoy the present.

NO BOATS at the old Mario's Marina - May 2015

Life is good.

Photo from Bob and Trish Meredith, s/v Barnacle.





Friday, April 17, 2015

 

No Go

Manatees by the boat dock

The Final Assembly of our boat's engine is complete! Today is Day #2 of trying to get the dang thing started. So far....No Go.

Once you've opened up these diesel engines it's a real pain to bleed the fuel lines and get it to start again. There's only so much battery power (we've even hooked up the "house" batteries to the engine start battery to get more power), so we have to pause and recharge the batteries after about 60 seconds of running the starter motor. While Jonesy studies the repair manual and the internet forums after each try, my part of all of this is to keep Jonesy fed and to sit in up in the cockpit and press the start button every hour or so. It's not looking good - could even be a very expensive repair/replacement of the fuel injector pump. Yet another failed part?

So, we're still in the marina in Brunswick Georgia. But that's not all bad at all! Just last week we had three visitors to Dock #15 here where we have our slip.

See those lumps in the photo? Those are
manatees! There were two big manatees and a cute little one. The adults had their heads under the dock (why? so we couldn't see them?) but the little guy was visible and kept having to come up for air. So cute! All you actually get to see are his nostrils out of the water. No, I couldn't catch it with the camera. 

As these animals are protected we had to be very quiet and not disturb them. So I tippy-toed along the dock and got a photo of my latest little pair of socks for the Motherless Child Foundation.

I'm sure a lot of long-time sock knitters will recognize this older Regia sock wool used for these. When this self-patterning jacquard yarn first came out from Germany I know lots of us added balls and balls of it to our stashes. As we became more experienced sock knitters, we realized that the best way to use this yarn was to knit very simple and basic socks - no special stitch patterns - just boring to knit. Cables and lace designs just don't look good with this busy yarn. So that's probably way I get so much of it in donations for me to knit socks!

Notice the lines on the backs of the manatees? Those marks could be scars from the propellers of boats. As these gentle beasts often hang out just inches below the surface, getting hit by boat propellers is a major threat. Poor babies.

I'm still knitting the sweater for the teenager in Kazakhstan and only have 1/2 of a sleeve to go! But, as you know, I am not monogamous in my knitting/crafts so there were other projects that attracted my time and attention.

This is a "Fur" coat for one of the 18" teddy bears that we knit for the younger kids in Kazakhstan. It was designed by one of the other knitters and I knit this one in Bernat Boa yarn ($1 at the Dollar Tree Store). It is so soft!

It turned out that there was a pair of black mittens needed for a different teenager so I volunteered to knit those up too. I just happened to have some black Knit Picks worsted weight yarn on board and of course I have plenty of time.
It's hard to photograph black knit projects (and black dogs my friends tell me). But here they are in all their dark glory.

When a fellow liveaboard cruiser here in the marina saw my latest ceramics work she made a special request. I had just gifted her a center piece for her pine needle baskets that she makes. She wants to make a bread basket and loves lighthouses so she asked if I could make that for her. Yep.

I'm no artist, but I gave it my best shot. I left it as natural (red) colored clay and used some iron oxide to accent the textures. Then I added the two gun-metal black stripes with copper oxide, and just a splash of glaze on the top piece. For the holes, I used a plastic straw from a juice-box to punch out pieces of clay. The first couple of basket bottoms that I made the weeks before had the holes too small to fit the needles and weaving strings after they were fired (clay shrinks a lot with the 2 firings).

Now, she has taught me how to make the pine needle baskets! Yipppeeee - a new craft and one I've always wanted to try! I so enjoyed going out and finding the long-leaf pine needles too. What a great excuse to wander about a pine forest.

There's some work involved in the preparation of the needles in that you have to remove the sheath from the ends. But other than that, it's really pretty simple. For my first few rounds I used some of her synthetic sinew. This stuff is very easy to work with. Next, I used some nylon twine/cording that I had on board and a different stitch style.

So here's what I have so far....4 hours of work for a novice basket maker. The center is a filigree style piece of metal that came from an earring set. Yes. I have made several more ceramic basket centers and will use those for my next pine-needle creations.

Yesterday, in the ceramics studio I spent a couple of hours glazing the new basket centers, a couple of trivets and a few smaller "accent" pieces. The accent pieces feature some glaze technique experiments for me and the finished items can be used as buttons (for knitting or sewn pieces) or accents woven into baskets or simply as necklace cabochons.

My favorite trivets so far that I've made are the woven clay trivets (as in hot plates/table protectors). I'm hooked on these!! Not only are they fun to make, but I really like how they turn out. Now I need to get some wood or bamboo slices to add "feet" to the trivets. Here is a photo of a couple of them. I'm already using another two.

There's so much to explore with this woven clay strips technique!

Another technique I used to add texture to some trivets was to knit up a simple cable in worsted weight cotton and make a mold (sprig) with it. Then, after bisque firing the mold, I pressed clay into it and then added some gansey-style looking rows. These I simply used the iron oxide to accent the texture on one and copper oxide (the darker one) on the other. A final clear glaze finished them off.

Knit cable pressed to make a mold
First, here is a photo of the original knit piece in pink and white yarn and the resulting mold. The cotton yarn is a little soft and didn't leave much of an impression. I'm thinking that I'll try to knit some items up using a sturdy twine made out of nylon? I want the stitches to hold their shape and not flatten out.

Also, I think the string should be larger. Because the clay shrinks so much the detail gets a little lost. So perhaps going bigger would be better.

You can (perhaps) see that the cables on the trivets below are a raised design - but not by very much. There's just so much more to explore someday.

Life is good.

Trivets with raised knitted cable motifs

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

 

A Dilettante visits Jeckyl Island

ORANGE BLOSSOMS - heavenly
Spring has arrived down here in southern coastal Georgia! How do I know this? Easy - the little orange trees here on the marina grounds are sharing their sweet-smelling blossoms, the migrating birds are passing through in droves, and the azaleas have begun to burst into bloom.

Although we have had some warm sunny days over the winter, the landscape was brown and sleeping. Oh sure, the new season has encouraged little bugs to hatch and feast on us, but heck, we're used to that after spending all those years in the tropics. DEET once in the morning and we're good all day. Yes, it's controversial (because of the chemical) and there are other "natural" products we could use, but nothing works as well and as long as a quick spray of Deep Woods OFF! from the green can. I'd do a commercial for free.

So, once we've prepared our skin surfaces to fend off the neighbors, what do we actually do? Here we are, living on a sailboat in the tidal marshy low country of Georgia with no jobs, grandchildren, nor eldercare responsibilities. Like when we're not watching the comorants, pelicans, seagulls, horseshoe crabs and other wildlife? Well, you know how Jonesy has been spending his time...
Bilge Gynastics and Yoga Stretches

It was a grand day (or actually night) when an 18-wheeler truck pulled right up to our dock and delivered our 100-lb. heat exchanger. Using the chain hoist, we lowered the monster down into the bilge. Next we had to line up the 14 holes on the exchanger with the 14 six-inch studs sticking out the side of the engine. Would it fit? This wasn't the same chunk of metal that we sent away as ours was deemed too corroded to be saved. This was a refurbished part from another engine so there was a chance that we wouldn't have a match.

How about that shiny new pressure cap?
At first the holes and studs acted like they wouldn't line up. I joined Jonesy down into the bilge to take a closer look (I don't spend much, if any time in that scary basement so you know I was highly motivated that day). We wiggled and teased the heat exchanger which was still hanging supported on the chain hoist. No joy. Next, using my knee and thigh, I raised just the back half of the unit perhaps a couple of milimeters, then pushed against it with my belly. Voila! Jonesy pushed at the same time and it slid on smooth as snot. A major milestone in the engine repair had been completed.

Sasha's Sweater
Since then, every day (unless I've whined enough to get him to take me on an adventure) Jonesy has been down in the bilge doing his bilge yoga stretches with his engine. He's been connecting hoses and setting up the fuel injection system for the fuel injectors. We've sent our old injectors out to see if they can be refurbished and are now waiting for the answer (hoping for the repair option as it will save us big bucks).

Me? Well of course I've been knitting. I finished writing up the design of the sweater I'm knitting for a teenager who is aging out of the orphanage in Kazakhstan. As for the knitting, the body is complete and I am now roaring down the sleeves. I did have to order some more Wool of the Andes yarn from Knit Picks and was thrilled that the new dye lot was a perfect match with the older yarn! Plus it arrived a day earlier than promised. Gotta love a good supplier.

And there has been another completed pair of little socks for the younger kids at the orphanage. These are knit with Regia sock wool in a Kaffee Fassett colorway.

As you know, sometimes I like to dabble in arts other than knitting as in the glass fusing work I've been doing. The other day on the blog of a friend (Diane's Corner) I was introduced to a word that perfectly describes my involvement with other crafts. Dilettante; a person whose interest in an art or in an area of knowledge is not very deep or serious. I dabble, piddle, tinker, etc. in a lot of other crafts. I don't claim or expect to be an expert, but I simply love to create new things (even if I don't need, nor have space for stuff).

This month's craft has been pottery/ceramics! What fun! Way back in high school and college I took a few ceramics courses. I was never very good at it, I just enjoy getting my hands dirty playing with mud. My primary goal was to make some buttons for knitting projects. A single, unique button really adds interest to a knit and felted bag or at the top of an open vest.

Anyway, these items are from my first day working in the studio (don't laugh). I didn't know how the red clay would work with the available glazes (other folks were using a light colored or speckled clay) so I made rather simple buttons. The larger circles are unglazed - just have an iron oxide wash on them to accent the texture. What are these for? They are the center bottoms for future pine needle baskets! Now, there's another craft. There certainly are a lot of long-leaf pine trees and needles in coastal Georgia. Some of the gals here in the marina are making baskets - why not me?

Oh, the fern leaf flat piece is a new trivet for me. I'll add some natural wood feet or a base to it. But wait....there will be more coming out of the kiln tomorrow! I would LOVE some suggestions and ideas from y'all for other things I could make. I'm simply working on hand-built pieces these days as the arts center requires 6 class sessions before you can play on the potter's wheel. So I'm not flinging clay across the studio - yet.

The shell bowl was made by simply pressing clay onto a real shell. I had to quickly make a little bowl to hold the beads that I'd made for when they went into the kiln! The beads are for a new BIG fiber arts project of mine.

Jonesy on DRIFTWOOD BEACH Jeckyl Island Georgia
Yesterday, we took a short drive across the marshes to Jeckyl Island which is one of the barrier islands of Georgia. We walked along 3 different long beach areas looking for shells (nope) or fossilized shark teeth (nope). The photo here is of Driftwood Beach. This is the only beach that has
the dead wood on it because it is the one that is getting eroded from the waves and strong currents. Those trees used to be alive on land, but now that land is gone and is beach.

This tree on the edge of the beach is still alive - we know this because it was starting to bud out. The branches and roots of the trees are so beautiful don't you think?

Life is good.


Monday, March 16, 2015

 

Cheating at CHILE VERDE


Niki Wiki in Belize 2014
Many, many years ago when Jonesy was working on Al Unser Sr.'s race car, he had the chance to try the famous Green Chili that was made by "Mom" Unser at the Indy500 race in Indianapolis. Since then, this spicy pork dish has been one of his favorites. So of course, I had to learn how to make Chili Verde for him!

As good as Homemade
Yes, I've made Chili Verde from scratch...fresh green "Anaheim" chilies, tomatillos, and all the spices, but now that I'm just feeding 2 people, I cheat a lot. I've found that I can simply start with a 16oz. jar of Herdez brand Salsa Verde (made in Mexico) that is available at most markets both in Mexico and the USA. This saves about 2 hours of roasting and peeling chilies, washing tomatillos, chopping, pureeing and then finally sauteing the basic paste/sauce and frankly, tastes the same.

Today there is a Chili Cookoff at the yacht club here at the Brunswick Landing Marina and although I know most folks think of the red stuff for these events, I'm taking my Chili Verde. So there nanny-nanny. I even cooked up some lovely dried Peruano beans to add. These pale colored beans (start out light yellow-green and cook up into a light tan color) are favorites in Mexico around Mazatlan and have a mild flavor and creamy texture. I think they go perfectly with the green sauces.

Cheating at CHILE VERDE
2 lbs lean pork cut into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes
2 TBL bacon grease or vegetable oil
1 tsp chili powder
1tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 16oz. jar Herdez brand Salsa Verde
1 7oz. can diced Green Chilies aka "Ortegas"  (NOT jalapenos, NOT bell peppers)
1 tsp onion powder
salt to taste
3 cups cooked beans (canned is fine)
2 TBL chopped fresh cilantro for optional garnish
Sour cream (optional)

Heat bacon grease in a large stockpot or skillet. Add pork cubes, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder and cook stirring often over medium heat until pork is cooked through. Add entire jar of Herdez Salsa Verde, and the can of Green Chilies. Add salt to taste. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 1 hour or until pork is very tender. OR transfer to a slow-cooker/crockpot and cook on high for 2 hour. Add cooked beans to the pork mixture and cook until well heated. Serve in a bowl with tortillas or over rice. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream if desired.

KNITTING CONTENT
"HORNET SOCKS" KAL for Kazakhstan
Of course there has been a lot of knitting activity going on, especially because I am banned from the boat when Jonesy is working in the bilge. You see, I tend to forget when the floor hatches are open and then I fall down into the bilge (I call it the basement). That's not fun. So I take my knitting and go outside somewhere or up to the yacht club if the weather is yucky.

So why is Jonesy working down there? Because our heat-exchanger unit was finally delivered by an 18-wheeler truck, after dark, directly to our dock! Whooo hooo!

There's still a lot of work to be done to put the engine back together again. As Jonesy can only spend a few hours a day contorting his body into inhuman positions and squeezing into spaces where he can't see, it will take a few weeks before we can give the old girl a start.

Here's a pic taken just minutes after we managed to hoist the head into place. It was tricky business...I managed the chain hoist from up in the cockpit (aka Florida Room) and Jonesy lined up the head over the studs on the block. Slowly, slowly we lowered the head - and all is well! As you can see, there is still more work to be done. Jonesy also discovered a bad hose and a couple of bad hose clamps. On a boat you have to have two high quality steel hose clamps at every junction because the salt water is so corrosive. For the cost of a clamp (about $3) you could lose the whole boat. Oh, that's $3 PLUS A lot of bilge gymnastics to get at the dang things.

From the kind donations of sock yarns from other knitters I have been able to crank out a few more pairs of socks while Jonesy works. Above are a pair of Hornet Socks by Heather Walker. This year, Heather is leading a "Knit From Stash" knitalong on Facebook. Stash? Oh yes, I now have enough sock yarn to keep me busy for a long time! The yarn is a yummy donation from Wooly Wonka Fiber. Because the hand-dyeing of yarn process isn't an exact science or automated, there can be mis-dyed yarns. The kids of Kazakhstan will get socks knit in luxury yarn due to this dyer's generosity.

These small socks stuck to a tree are knit from some self-striping Regia wool. I tend to knit a lot of the smaller sizes (these have a foot length of 17cm for a child) because the orphanages have requested "thin" socks. Thin Socks are knit with fingering or sock weight yarns. We also knit "thick" socks with worsted weight yarns and even worsted weight combined with a sock yarn for extra warm socks. Anyway, a lot of the knitters in the Mittens for Akkol group prefer to knit the thick socks and I love to knit the "thin" socks so I knit the smaller sizes.
The yarns for both of these pairs of socks was NOT attractive when still in the unknit state on the ball. Both of them looked like they would turn out as jumbled and splotchy clown barf socks. But, what a surprise I had for both pairs! The yarn turned out to stripe nicely and make some great patterning. That's Berroco Sox on the dark socks and the pink, grey and orange pair is knit from Rellana Garne Flotte Socke yarn.  
Fused Glass Pieces - Buttons? Pendants? Simply pretty baubles?
Pretty bauble for a pretty friend
More glass? Yep. I had so much fun making the first batch that I went back again for a few hours to
work during open studio time. I sent my favorite (purple) piece off to a friend as a little surprise. Although I was a little aghast at the top piece with what looks like a green worm in it, a kind friend suggested that it looked like an undersea reef. Yes! It does! Not so ugly after all.  And I've started back with working with clay again. I just had to get my hands dirty. So far I don't have anything to show yet, but don't be surprised it it's all related to knitting too. Isn't everything? 

Life is good.

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