Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reunion Time

Celebrating the 70th reunion of the Millat Family in Dayton, Ohio was special, as always! My Dad's family has been getting together two times a year (once in summer, once at Christmas), since 1938 and what's amazing is that some that attended this year still remember that first one quite well! Here's what my Aunt Ruth, age 92, had to say, "We had our first reunion right before I married... our Dad preached a little and said he dreamed that God would send his blessings on his children, and all of his children's children, and their children.... and that we would always gather together." (Here's Aunt Ruth and I). "Our Dad" (my grandfather, Gustav Millat) met my young grandmother, Anna Textor, on the steamer Patricia when they immigrated from Germany in 1905. They married, settled in Germantown, Ohio, and bore 14 children (2 died in infancy), raising them through trials and triumphs in the Great Depression in an old stone farmhouse. My Dad, Bob, is the youngest (our son is his namesake), born to my grandmother when she was around 45, a few children after the doctor told her she really shouldn't have any more (Grandpa was in his 50's).

I have many happy memories of egg tosses and wonderful food from all of the reunions I have attended over the years, and am just now understanding how fortunate I have been to have "cousins by the dozens" who have mostly stayed close, very rare in these times of transience. Although four of my Dad's siblings have passed away, I am still thrilled to see Uncle Herb, Uncle Dave, and all five of my Dad's sisters- Aunt Gertrude (Trudy), Aunt Dot, Aunts Ruth and Esther (twins), and Aunt Annie (I tell them all they're my favorite, just as they tell me I'm theirs!). All attended this reunion. Aunt Trudy is almost 98 and just renewed her driver's license, still living independently (and thinking so, as her daughter tells me! They are all German, after all). She made her traditional chicken and dumplings- we always have wonderful, home-cooked dishes every time! I can tell great stories about each one of my aunts and uncles (and countless tales about my Dad), but will save them for another time.
Although we have the common thread of our genealogy, our family is as diverse as any... with many adopted children and the range of variation as in most families... all types of careers, disabilities, homosexuality, some financially successful and not, and with a range of health challenges. The thread that keeps so many attending the reunion year after year is undoubtedly just what my grandparents, Gustav and Anna Millat intended..... love.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mamma Mia!

I don't plan to give regular reviews here, I'll leave that up to my movie buff friend, Mary Beth, who's mind (like a steel trap) can quote great, classic movie lines all day long. I do, however, have to interject my enthusiastic feelings about Mamma Mia!, the first movie in a long time that has made me laugh from start to finish.

Don't ask me where I've been, but I truly knew not one thing about this movie when we went to see it and was happily surprised to learn it was a musical when the characters first burst into song a few minutes into the plot. Since the music, great 70's Abba tunes, was truly from MY early years (as in junior high, roller-rink), I could really get excited about it. I haven't felt quite this way about a musical since Grease came out when I was in high school.

I forsee taking our kids to the movie, and then all of us dancing around the house singing "Dancing Queen" at the top of our lungs with hairbrushes and vacuum cleaner hoses for microphones. It really was that fun, and although it would definitely be classified as a "chick flick", my husband got some big hee haws out of it, too.

Don't pay any attention to the criticism of Pierce Brosnan's singing...

Poor Pierce Brosnan. The former James Bond gamely tackles Abba in “Mamma Mia!” and critics find more entertainment in trying to describe his singing than in the movie itself.
“[His] singing is the best imitation I’ve heard of a water buffalo.”— David Edelstein, New York magazine
“[A]nyone watching Brosnan in mid-delivery will conclude that he has recently suffered from a series of complex digestive problems, and that the camera has, with unfortunate timing, caught him at the exact moment when he is finally working them out.”—Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
Pierce Brosnan (aka. Remington Steele and James Bond) really doesn't have to sing well to be classed as one of the "sexiest men alive", does he? (Anybody notice how all of these critics are men?)

The setting was phenomenal, I must put the Greek Islands on my "bucket list." Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hats, hats...

This is how it always goes with me... I start something I haven't done in a while and then I can't stop! In this case it's really okay (except it is a diversion from my fleece-sorting), as "IT" is felting and I am actually getting a lot done and having fun in the process! It's rare to have much free time in the summer, but the kids are both happily preoccupied with friends and such today and I'm doing my own thing here at the barn.

It's probably been at least 2 years since I've felted a hat, and last night I had the bug and produced this funky thing:
Not my style or colors at all, but as I always have found with hats that I sell, just the right person will try it on one day when I'm set up at a festival or such, and it will be absolutely perfect for them! I've had it happen time and again, no matter how unique the color or style. Just stick around here long enough and I'll show you a picture of that person and that hat!

I have some beautiful brown alpaca batting that I hate to say the moths had gotten to and I really didn't want to pitch it. I picked out the mothy areas and layered it a little heavier than usual, then added some hand-dyed roving to complement it. Here's how it looked when I had about 5 layers stacked and embellished.
(Okay, now I understand completely why so many blog photos have cats in them! This darling, "Jello", was recently adopted from the Woodford Humane Society). She's a natural ham and likes to be in the middle of everything!)

Without getting into a detailed tutorial (you'll find a really good one on the Hat Shapers site), here are some steps in the process:
The fiber has been wetted down with hot soapy water and lightly smoothed by hand.
After the fibers are felting from my increasing elbow grease, I add additional pressure with a bamboo mat and/or bubble wrap and use an electric sander (be sure to use all precautions, especially a ground fault outlet! Read up on all safety issues).
The felt, which I have "worked" on both sides, is laid over the hard plastic hat form or "hat shaper."
I work on shaping the hat to the countour of the mold by hand and gradually get into the creases with the sander.
Here it has been trimmed and is awaiting additional decoration. (See the finished product at the top of the page!) I like to let it dry on the shaper.

I loved how the colors blended but this "Bell Cloche" mold isn't my favorite, either. Hat Shapers, does have a great variety and some excellent tutorials on their website.
By the way, there is absolutely no sign of the moth damage in the finished hat- the felt is smooth and clean. Drying the hat in the sun should kill any possible lingering moth eggs.

Time to get back to that fleece sorting, then get ready for a hot date with my sweetie tonight! (Yes, I do mean my husband)
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

More Fiber Fun

After church I started right back in on fiber sorting, with another two packed-full boxes added to the stack. I do want to clarify that alpacas are really NOT dirty, smelly animals (as I said the fiber sorting job IS), though they are livestock which basically live outside and roll a lot. A lot of the dirtiness of skirting and sorting has to do with the dust and spider webs the bags of fleece have accumulated, and unfortunately the occasional fleece will have mold or moths due to my negligence and lack of space to store it properly. Hopefully, that's all history now that our new barn provides great, clean loft space for fiber storage!

After the hard work, I was in the mood to make something with fiber and decided to make some felted soaps. A new gift shop featuring Kentucky handmade products is opening in Versailles, and they want to carry some of our items including yarn and other alpaca products. I'll give a better description of how these are made in a future post, but wanted to at least feature a few photos of the process and resulting soaps. These soaps are like having a washcloth and soap in one- as you wet it, the soap lathers up and the felted fiber stays intact and acts as a soft loofah.

I was SOOO glad to have my daughter Mirian help- she has a great eye for color and it was fun to make the soaps together.

Later we headed to the river for another Sunday evening cruise, and the kids swam at sandy "Mulholland Beach." Two dogs befriended Mirian and Robert, and couldn't get enough of fetch! It's been great to see my hubby Paul so relaxed during his "vacation at home." We got back just ahead of a quick-moving storm that produced tremendous wind but not a drop of rain.
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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Up to my ears in Fleece!

As a world-class procrastinator, I have let a surplus of alpaca fiber (what I didn't have processed for myself or direct sale) build up for longer than I can publicly admit here.... I had the good fortune of having my friend Mamie (an alias since I haven't asked her permission to use her real name) offer to help me skirt and sort it, as well as box it up for free shipping to the AFCNA (Alpaca Fiber Co-Op of North America). How could I turn that down?

It's a dirty, smelly job, especially in 90 degrees plus weather, but having a fun and chatty friend definitely helped it go more quickly. Last night we got over 60 pounds of our fiber boxed up, a very small dent in a mountain of fleece but a start nonetheless. I do enjoy seeing the luscious colors, since alpaca fiber comes in 22 different natural shades. Here's a large medium brown fleece...
A super-crimpy dark fawn or light brown fleece that I'm showing from Jolly Mon... And a true black....
Actually, white has become my favorite since it can be dyed any color- here's some that I dyed which will soon be turned in to a rug for our new addition.

After we'd had our fill of fleece sorting, we headed to our pontoon boat on the Kentucky River and were greeted by some friends who were fishing beside our boat. We headed off to a sandy spot downriver where the kids could swim and we could picnic, drink wine and tell stories. Time flew, and we had to find our way back in complete darkness- thank goodness our friends had the good sense to have a flashlight on their boat! (My McGyver husband normally has all the right gadgets, but not this time).

I took our herdsire Sinbad to a farm in Stamping Ground this morning for a "drive by" breeding, a follow-up to a visit to a female he bred a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, "Gabby" was still receptive to breeding (she'd have spit at him if she was pregnant) and they bred again. Sinbad felt it was quite fortunate and worth his while to take a ride in the back of my Suburban for such a treat awaiting him!

This afternoon I'm back at it, sorting through fiber and determined to continue chipping away at the pile. Makes me tired thinking about it, I'm gonna go take a nap!
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Break

This has been a truly beautiful summer, and I have to keep pinching myself and trying to remember at those rare times when the kids are driving me crazy.... these ARE the good 'ole days. Not too much going on with the farm that I need to tend to minute-to-minute with my two great helpers, Jamie and Steve, and I'm trying to avoid burnout by taking some vacation time myself at the same time that Paul does (yeah, right!) ... attempting to stop and smell the flowers a little more.
Walking out in the pastures always brings excitement as I check out my potential fall show string- this is our best cria crop yet! (Yeah, I know I always say that, but that's as it should be, constantly trying to improve our herd). This is one of several sentimental favorites, Big Brown (born on Kentucky Derby Day, of course!). We've had 17 crias born this year, with almost that many more due in the fall. I'm usually ready for a break from all that dam-watching by this time of year (most don't need help birthing, but we try to be there for each in case there is a problem). Having newly-installed barn-cams really made the job easier this year, as we could check everybody from the house via the internet!
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