Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mid-South Pt.4: Nashville, Presidential Houses, And Reminders Of The Past

Connor and I got up pretty early because it turned out the hotel we had chosen was going to have the water off for most of the day due to a plumbing repair that needed to be made. The first thing we decided to do while in Nashville was leave Nashville. I had never seen a Civil War site before, so we headed towards Murfreesboro to see Stones River Battlefield. We read through the museum and did the tour to the different battle sites in the area. I thought that they had done a terrific job explaining the horror of war while also giving voices to those who had been part of the battle.

It was a hot day, but we sat under a tree while I painted and thought about how brave the men who had fought here been. Over three days more than 10,000 men had been lost on either side. It was sobering to realize that people had been willing to charge into cannon fire for their beliefs.

During part of the tour we also drove along what had been part of the Trail of Tears. (The forced Cherokee removal from their own lands.) That patch of land had seen a lot of sorrow in its time.

After an early afternoon of contemplation, we had some more time to burn before the water would come back at our hotel. We ended up driving to the James K. Polk house to learn about the 11th President of the United States. We have to thank Mason for this suggestion. He told us that there was Andrew Jackson's Hermitage to see, but also the "lesser known Polk House." I think he was kidding, but I'm glad we went. Polk's claim to fame was expanding the United States to include what would later be known as Texas, California, and Oregon. He is touted to be the only president to live up to all his campaign promises, including the one where he promised to be a one-term president.

After the Polk House we stopped by a restaurant called River Terrace New Orleans Cuisine. It was open by a couple who had fled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I think it is the best food I ever had. Catfish Étouffée and Key Lim Pie.... yum yum. After the meal, we headed back to the hotel.

The next day was our last in Nashville. Our flight wasn't leaving until the evening, so we made a few stops. One of those stops was at The Parthenon. I didn't realize before we visited that Nashville's Parthenon is the only full-sized replica of the one found in Athens, Greece.

It was originally built for the World's Fair, but liked so much that it was rebuilt with permanent materials. It also includes a statue of Athena inside. Connor liked that even the edges of her shoes has figures placed on them.

After the Parthenon we made a quick trip to the Haus of Yarn where I picked up a little more yarn. Then we drove over to our 7th president's residence: the Andrew Jackson's Hermitage. There was this cutout of the the $20. I think we spent a little too much time making silly faces in it. We really could have used more time to see the grounds.

The price of admission seemed a little high, but I think it was entirely worth it to see the wallpaper inside the Hermitage. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but this wallpaper isn't like anything you've ever seen. It is more like a giant painting of greek mythology. I was impressed. There was an audio tour that was well put together and the grounds are really well kept. We learned that young Andrew Jackson had become a prisoner of war during the Revolutionary War. When he refused to polish a British officer's shoes, the officer slashed his face and hand with a sword. Andrew Jackson had unfortunately also been the one to force the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. He betrayed those who had previously fought alongside him in the battle of New Orleans. There were many more things to learn, and I wish we had more time to enjoy ourselves, but we had to drop off our rental car and make it back to the airport. The flight back home was pretty uneventful, which I was thankful for.

We came back with some fun goodies. First off, the yarn! The left three skeins came from Black Mountain Yarn Shop while the right two came from Haus of Yarn. From left to right we have Fern Fiber Sport Weight dyed with Weld, Fern Fiber DK weight natural color, Madelinetosh Sock in Shire (For my Mother-in-law's socks), and two skeins of The Plucky Knitter Primo Fingering in Ruffled Feathers and En Garde.

We also got quite a collection of patches, magnets, and a puzzle of patches. When I saw the patch puzzle, I just couldn't leave it behind. The patch locations have all been added to the patch map.

All in all, it was a great trip, but we came back home pretty tired. We were happy to go to bed early for the next few nights after the trip.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mid-South Pt.3: Blue Ridge Parkway, Mount Mitchell, And Yarn Of Course

On our first day in North Carolina, I talked everyone into going to Black Mountain. Why? Well, I had to go see Black Mountain Yarn Shop for myself. I'd been following their instagram page for awhile, but never expected to have an opportunity to visit. I left with some souvenirs.

On the way back, we all stopped by the Folk Art Center. Memaw paid me a huge compliment and said I ought to come out on future family trips because all the things I had planned were things she wouldn't have thought to do herself.
See Mid-South Pt.4 for the details on the yarn

The next day we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The five of us climbed up the trail to get a great view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. (you can see the parkway in the background.) The only thing we regretted is that we didn't bring our lunch up with us. No matter, we had our lunch at the picnic tables below.

In the evening we went out for barbecue in Waynesville. I have to say, the best chicken I've ever had was at Haywood Smokehouse. It was so good, I got a meal there the next day.

The next day's adventures took us to Craggy Gardens. The Rhododendron season was at its peak and we hiked up to Craggy Bald to enjoy nature's garden. The whole area was just covered in Rhododendron blooms.

Connor's dad, Connor and I stayed a while longer so I could paint. Connor's brother Mason, who had rejoined the party, and his Mum moved on to do some more hiking. (We pooped Memaw out and she stayed at the cabin that day.)

After Craggy Gardens the three of us walked up to Mount Mitchell. I didn't realize that Connor had never been to the top; it had always been closed when he had been there in the past. I was glad that I painted at Craggy Gardens rather than Mount Mitchell. There were swarms of bugs. We ran down pretty fast after getting this picture.

The next day our adventures in North Carolina had come to an end. We caravanned to Chimney Picnic area and did a nature hike before eating lunch and parting ways. Mason then drove us back to Nashville.

Being a botanist, Mason happens to know of quite a few neat spots. Part way back to Nashville, he showed us Ozone Falls. You could swim in the pool if you wanted. We didn't. The falls are really tall. If you can see in the top right of the photo, there is a man in a hammock.

From there, we had dinner and Mason dropped us off at the airport so we could get our rental car. It was a Sunday and while we picked up the car we learned why plane tickets were so much cheaper on Tuesday. (The day we planned to leave.) It turns out we were in Nashville while the CMA (country Music Awards), Bonnaroo Music Festival, and a hockey final were going on. We decided to stay out of downtown Nashville that evening and instead went to our hotel to pass out.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mid-South Pt.2: Original KFC, Smoky Mountains, And A Cabin Mansion

On this leg of the trip, we joined Connor's parents and Memaw to head south to the Smoky Mountains. On the way we passed by Corbin Kentucky, where the original KFC restaurant was. I got potato wedges.

We drove and drove and drove until we got to the top of the Smokies. Boy was it pretty!

The five of us walked up to Clingman's Dome, which is the highest point in the Smokies. 

It turns out that the Appalachian Trail crosses Clingman's Dome. I'd hoped to get my feet on part of the trail. It sort of felt like cheating, though. We drove much of the way up. 

On our way down the trail we saw a black bear! Memaw hadn't seen one in the wild before. Connor's mum spent the rest of the trip wanting to see another. I spent the rest of the trip hoping that was the only one we would see.

We drove into the evening, stopping along the way to see the Museum of the Cherokee. (It was fantastic.) We ate a Paul's and Connor and I experienced rabbit and pheasant for the first time. Then we drove to see if we could find the Synchronous Fireflies that reside in the Smokies. I think we spotted two individuals, but there weren't enough around to see them do their display in unison. 

We were pretty tired after all the driving we had done, so we drove on to the cabin we had rented in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. When we got there, we were all stunned: it was a mansion. More of the family was supposed to have come, but work schedules got changed at the last minute. With only five of us at the rental, we each got our own floor.

I chose the floor that had the clawed tub. I'd always wanted to use one. I ended up using it every day because I couldn't figure out how to work the shower.

This cabin was our home base and for the next few days we had adventures in the surrounding area.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mid-South Pt.1: Kentucky Caves, Blueberries, and Fireflies

Connor and I just got back from 10 days in the South. We didn't go to the Deep South... more like the Mid-South: Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and then back to Tennessee. 

Our journey started with us landing in Nashville and getting picked up by Connor's brother, Mason. We stopped for a meal and some live music in Bowling Green before reaching our destination for the night: Cave City. I'd read about the cement teepee hotels that had risen in the age of the road trip, but I didn't think I'd get a chance to stay in one.

This one was known as Wigwam Village No.2 and was built in 1937. The room isn't terribly big, but when Connor's cousin ended up driving to meet us, we did our best to get us all in. We couldn't open the front door while everyone was asleep though...

In the morning we had breakfast before taking the Historical Tour at Mammoth Caves. I never thought I'd ever get to visit, but I am so happy we did. We learned about Stephen Bishop, who was a slave. He was asked to map out more of the cave during his time there. What was especially impressive is that his name was put on the map that he developed rather than his owner. The park ranger told us that the only other slave that he knew to have had his name on his own work was Fredrick Douglass.
I took all of one picture at the end of the tour. This is the historic entrance.

Connor's cousin had to go his own way after the tour, but the three of us continued on sight seeing. We stopped by Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, now a monument. We learned that in the corner stone of the moment is a time capsule, which includes a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation in Lincoln's own hand.

Lincoln's family dealt with many land disputes where they were cheated. They moved to a different area, where Lincoln grew up. Another land dispute followed them before the moved to Indiana. What we saw wasn't the original Lincoln boyhood home; it was the neighbor's cabin which was partially restored. There were some original boards and it is thought that Lincoln probably played with the neighbor kids in this particular cabin.

After all the sightseeing, we drove on to Connor's family house and had a cookout with friends and family. We ended up spending a few nights visiting with people. It was also blueberry season, so a couple of us when out to pick some. I found a dragonfly caught in the blueberry net, so I helped him out. He rested a little before flying away.

But the best part was that we came during firefly season! Each night Connor took me out to the fields and we would catch fireflies with our nets and let them light up our jars. We made sure to release the fireflies after an hour or so. One evening we even caught two jars of fireflies each.

I also got a chance to paint a bit. I suppose it is no surprise that I wasn't to capture the magic of fireflies. Ever since I met Connor, I've talked about seeing the fireflies. Fireflies in California are energy efficient... they don't light up.
Other paintings I did on the trip can be found on my tumblr page.

Kentucky was lots of fun, but the next part of our trip was going to take us into the mountains, including the highest peak east of the Mississippi.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Accidental On Purpose Sock Matching

I'm still knitting away on socks. I'm happy to report that the Peeta socks are going well. I've had my Dad try them on twice and it looks like it is the right size for him. (Phew!) Although as I'm knitting, I keep feeling like they are giant. They are much wider than I would knit for myself.

I'm entirely sure I don't have enough yarn for both socks, so my plan is to use another color for the heel/toe. It turns out that was easier said than done. Despite my robust sock yarn stash, I had trouble finding a color that I liked alongside Abstract's Alfalfa color way. I've narrowed it down to either this skein of Malabrigo Sock in the Chocolate Amargo color way or Whimsical Colors Silk Whimsy in the Darkened Forest color way. Any thoughts, fellow knitters?
Left: Malabrigo Sock in the Chocolate Amargo color way; Right:Whimsical Colors Silk Whimsy in the Darkened Forest color way

I've also continued on with my The Big O sock, although it's only seen action while I've been sitting in the passenger seat of the car. It's also looking more and more like this pair is going to match. I can't begin to tell you all how hard I tried not to have them match. It just so happened that when I finished the first sock, I finished the color progression. 

Ok, ok, in the interest of full disclosure, I DID rip out two rows of the sock blank to make the socks match. But having two socks that almost match is far worse than having two socks that don't match at all.

I've also finished weaving another scarf. This one was supposed to be for me, but after finishing I wasn't sure the colors were "me." Connor was quite happy to lay claim to this scarf.
Spun Right Round Merino Worsted in the Holy Crow color way 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Comic Lives

Connor and I have been reading "The Road Back To You" together. It is a book about the Enneagram. What's the Enneagram you ask? It is a system of 9 personalities. The theory is that in childhood you develop one particular type to help you cope with life's difficulties. Here is a list if you want to have a look.

It's been clear that Connor is a solid 9. He is easy-going, peaceful, but also can get lost going to a place he has been to a hundred times. We've had a harder time pegging me. First I thought I was a 3 (The Achiever). Then Mum read the book and thought I was a 4 (The Individualist)... then Connor got ahead of me and thought I was a 1 (The Reformer, but also The Perfectionist). I think Connor might be right. I read the chapter on the 1 hesitantly. (I didn't want to be a 1.) Guys, I think I'm a 1. I have trouble putting work out into the world unless it is perfect. In some areas that is great, like with writing knitting patterns. In other arenas this is terrible, like with the daily comic.

I don't want to reveal something that is less than perfect and this comic is just that. The lines aren't perfectly formed, the lettering is not all even, and I am not perfectly confident that it will be well received. I do think the stories are good, though... so there is that. So, even though I have not got all the comics up, I think it is time share that the daily comic site is up.  I'm not quite brave enough to post the announcement up on any of my other social media locations this time. This will just be between us, here on the blog. The site is called Audry Without An E and can be found at

The site is still being tweaked, but thanks to Connor, it is largely where I hoped to have it. In the long term I hope to have a comic strip post once a day, although the strip will be from exactly a year ago. As of this writing, we have posted July, August, September, and a wee bit of October of 2015.

It's no small job. I've had to scan 160+ pages, clean up the lettering in areas where it was illegible (which takes a silly amount of time to do), then cut up and format each strip. In the original form, there are 4 strips per page, but for the online version, I have to break them down to one strip per page. After all that, I hand the strips over to Connor and he uploads them, titles them, adds tags, and makes sure they post to the correct date. Last night we sat together for three hours just to get 34 strips up.

Currently, I have processed strips through mid-February 2016, but there are still so many more to do. I'm not quite half way done even after spending every spare moment I've had in the last month. I guess what I'm saying is that it is a really big job and I really could use some positive feedback.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

No Moss On This Rolling Stone

It's been another busy week at the Bear Ears household. Connor and I have been working hard to get the daily comic site up and running. It's been quite a job, but we have split up responsibilities and are making lots of progress. One of the things we successfully managed to do was get the banner to line up correctly on the site. (It was a feat, I assure you.) I'm not sure when we will be ready to show everything off, but I think that this year will be the year I finally have a daily comic website.
I've only been talking about having a daily comic website since 2010...

Of course that is not all that has been going on. This past weekend we celebrated a friend's birthday. We hiked, picnicked, and painted. I hadn't touched my gouache paints since last July. It's silly really, but I had painted a hideous painting, lost my confidence, then switched to watercolor because I couldn't bare to try with gouache again. Well, this time around I decided that I wasn't going to tape the edges to make it nice, I was just going to paint and if it was ugly, it was ugly. It ended up turning out quite nice, so I'm a bit sad that I didn't make the edges nice and straight.
I decided to paint a smaller composition rather than a whole landscape. I think that helped me from being too overwhelmed to try again.

I've also managed to finish my Haleakala Socks that have been on the needles since January. It's funny, when I cast them on I immediately didn't feel like knitting them because I just wanted to knit good old vanilla socks. What finally got them knit was the fact that I wanted to wear them. Of course it is too hot to wear them now, but they are ready for when the weather cools again.

I have also woven another scarf. I think woven scarves are going to be a constant theme in the blog for a while: I'm clearly obsessed. When I took the class in February with Deborah Jarchow, she talked about how she could do a scarf in an evening. I thought that was crazy talk, but on my third scarf, I was able to do it in an evening. I was sore afterwards, so I might not try to do that again...

So, what projects could I possibly be working on now? Well, my The Big O socks are moving along quite well. The first sock practically knit itself and now I'm on to the second. I did have to get creative with the heel. I didn't want to lose the lovely color progression that was going down the leg, so I took some yarn from the other end of the sock blank to knit in a heel flap.

I've also cast on another sock. This pattern is called Peeta Socks and I'm using Abstract Fiber O'Keefe in the Alfalfa color way. The pattern is heavily charted, so I haven't gotten too far since all my brain cells are being used on the comic website. It's still nice to have a slightly more complicated pattern on the needles.

I've already mentioned scarf weaving, but I couldn't end a post without showing off what I've got on the loom now. I'm using the yarn I bought at The Black Squirrel: Spun Right Round's Merino Worsted in Holy Crow. I'd seen 783Nora's Cosmic Wonder Dust Scarf on ravelry and knew I wanted to weave a scarf with speckled yarn. Mine is a bit different because I'm using worsted weight and she used fingering, but it is still looking pretty neat.

Whew! I can't believe all that got worked on in the last week. I've been highly productive and I hope I can keep it up. Despite the great momentum, that little voice in the back of your head that tells you that you aren't good enough has moved from being an occasional thought to a constant, loud shout. I've been drowning it out by listening to the Your Creative Push podcast. I highly recommend it. If you don't know where to start, I quite liked episode 203 and 220.

Does anyone else have any strategies to keep that "your not good enough" voice at bay?
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