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Amparo Bertram

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October 10th, 2017

08:52 am: Europe Vacation 2016 - Part V - Munich
I do love to procrastinate, but waiting a year to post about the last leg of my European vacation is a rather long time, even for me. (Well, it's not my crowning achievement; I actually planned a last post for my trip to Australia back in 2008 that I kept meaning to write yet never did...)

On Thursday, October 20 (2016), we went to the Frankfurt train station and bought our tickets to Munich. We didn't want to pay for the super-fast train, so we went with slightly less expensive tickets for a slower ride. That also meant we had to spend a while hanging out in the train station waiting for the train to arrive, so we picked up some breakfast snacks at the shops there. One of the items we sampled was Frankfurt's local specialty, apple wine, which was sold in a huge bottle that was more than enough for all three of us.

The train ride lasted several hours, and then our hotel was a substantial distance from the main station (not to mention difficult to locate in a side alley), so it was getting dark by the time we checked in and dropped off our luggage. The weather had also turned quite chilly, getting down near freezing. Our hotel was about two blocks from the scenic city center, so we went for a quick look around. The lit buildings were impressive even at night, particularly the famous glockenspiel.

The next morning, we bundled up and went on a more extensive walking tour. The architecture was amazing, with decorative buildings and elaborate gates everywhere. (Also, the whole day I kept wanting to re-watch the part of Scarecrow & Mrs. King where they are in Munich.)

As lunchtime approached, we started looking for a place to stop and eat. We walked into the famous Hofbrauhaus, but the place was not only packed without a single open seat, there was a constant line of people walking through searching for spots. We merged into the river of people and walked around the raucous interior, but not only was there no chance we'd get to sit anywhere, the atmosphere itself was too loud and boisterous for our taste. We left quickly and found another brauhaus that was more accommodating, where we sampled their traditional potato pancakes with applesauce and various other offerings.

After lunch, we watched the glockenspiel show, then we spent about two hours shopping for dirndls. megory bought a complete outfit, while I picked up a two-piece dirndl-inspired top that can be worn with jeans for a nice casual-festive touch. After shopping the various touristy places, we ended the evening by buying some roasted chestnuts at a street stall. The heat of the chestnuts was quite welcome, as the temperature remained frosty.

We returned to our hotel, gobbled up our brauhaus leftovers for supper, and got all our belongings packed up for travel. In the morning we checked out and dragged everything back to a train station, where we got tickets to take us to the airport. That's where I split up with my parents, as they were traveling back to Michigan via Air Canada (which ended up being a nightmare flight with delays and a stop in the wrong city), while I was getting on a British Airlines flight with a stop at Heathrow on my way back to California. I made the most of my time in the airports, spending as much of my remaining European money as I could on food and trinkets.

And that concludes my 2016 European vacation trip report! It also concludes my series of entries on LiveJournal. I will continue all further updates using my Dreamwidth account.

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September 29th, 2017

08:28 am: Wool wishes
Things have been quite busy around here as the fiscal year draws to a close. I've finally finished the last of my assigned overtime, so my work schedule is now back to normal.

Catching up on events, the weekend of the 16th I was spending all of my free time completing a knitted baby sweater for a friend's baby shower on the 17th. I got it done just in time, and it turned out pretty well for my first project, though I forgot to take a picture of it before I gave it away. (I've worked on knitting other things, but I haven't finished anything else yet.)

Once that was done, I immediately set about designing a cabled sweater for wednesday_10_00's doll. Designing a sweater from scratch is quite an undertaking, particularly since the doll doesn't conform to normal human proportions. So far, I have finished the front half and have started on the back. It's looking nice at this stage, and I'm hoping it will be even better when it's assembled.

Another task I'm working on is an experiment with tie-dyeing yarn. If this color comes out a reasonably attractive shade, I'm planning to use it for my next knitting project. I have my fingers crossed that it will be pretty.

I have a lot of work to accomplish in the garden, and not enough spare time, as usual. The bean harvest is finishing up, and the figs are slowing down now that the weather is turning cooler. That means it's time for planting the peas so they can get a head start before it begins raining and the slugs come out. In the back yard, I had to harvest a bunch of self-seeded parsnips to clear up space to plant out the peas, which I did last weekend. This weekend my intent is to work on the front yard. I have also managed to get the pruning done on my ume and apricot trees as well as the blackberries.

I'm pleased to see that my kumquat trees are covered in blossoms this year. I suspect that they needed the hot temperatures we got this summer, since they've never bloomed this prolifically before. The bees appear to appreciate all the flowers. If I'm lucky, I'll get a good crop of kumquats this winter. I'm trying to root a few grape vine cuttings from the variety that fruited so well for me this year; several of them seem to be doing well, I just have to keep an eye on them because raccoons keep knocking the jars over while stealing my figs. I'm hoping that the roots will grow large enough that I'll be able to plant them out in January.

I have taken a couple days of use-or-lose leave to give myself a four day weekend starting tomorrow. We'll see how much of that time I will end up spending on the yard.

September 4th, 2017

05:32 am: The heat is on
I have been really slacking in my updates recently. For a couple of weeks, that was because I didn't have much to say. I've still been getting hours of overtime at work, and then my reduced time off was spent harvesting from the garden and then preserving, which doesn't make for much in the way of update material.

Then wednesday_10_00 arrived August 14 for an extended stay, and most of my free time switched to doing things with her. We took a trip up to Japantown for some shopping on the weekend, and we've been playing a number of board games.

My new board gaming table arrived (shown here with my neighbor's dog as the model). It has a two-piece top that covers the interior well, allowing it to be used as a regular dinner table. The topper is rather heavy and awkward to move, so I don't know how often I will be taking it off, but it's nice to have the option. Now I just need to figure out what to do with my old dining table.

Aside from all that, I've been squeezing in as much time knitting as possible. I'm trying to make a gift for a baby shower coming up in a couple weeks, and I'm pressed for time. Since it takes two hands to knit, it's hard to combine that with any other activity, besides just watching TV.

We're currently suffering through a record-breaking heat wave. Temperatures have gotten into the triple digits, which is completely nuts for this area. It doesn't even cool down much at night, which makes for a tough time sleeping. It also doesn't help that leaving the back door and windows open to catch any available breezes also lets the mosquitoes inside. ~_~ Thankfully the temperatures should start going back down today.

My crazy overtime schedule should finish up by the end of this month, garden harvesting should be slowing down, plus the baby shower will be over soon, so I expect to have more free time after that. My plan is to get my Munich trip report done sometime near the middle or end of the month and then transfer my entries over to Dreamwidth.

July 31st, 2017

10:38 am: Prep and preservation
I had the best intentions of spending the whole weekend cleaning. Once I started on the kitchen, though, I realized that I had a lot of garden produce building up and not a lot of freezer space left. So I turned to harvesting whatever was ready and canning it for shelf storage. I spent Saturday making 12 cups of plum/rhubarb jam and 6 cups of grape/blackberry jelly, while on Sunday I prepped my cucumbers, onions, and some parsnips for making 4 pints of pickles.

I had always avoided making jelly before, because it seemed a waste to throw so much leftover fruit pulp away. However, since my grapes all have seeds (as do the blackberries), it turned out to be a lot simpler to just let them drain the juice out in a jelly bag than to run the whole batch through a food mill to get the seeds out. I saved the leftover mass of skins and pulp, and I'm attempting to make vinegar from it. We'll see how that goes.

I'm going to have to try to squeeze in the last bits of cleaning over the next two weeks whenever I have some spare time. That's going to be in shorter supply than usual, because they designated a bunch of overtime money to the budget and want to get it spent before the end of the fiscal year. I've been working an extra 4-6 hours per week because of that. It's certainly good money, but it takes away time from doing things around the house.

July 24th, 2017

07:07 am: Four day frolic
I've just finished up a four-day weekend, which I mainly spent cleaning the house. After a moderate amount of filing, a lot of recycling, and a serious game of Closet Tetris, the guest bedrooms are now at least presentable. I still have several boxes of things that I moved into my bedroom to sort through and tuck away, and the living room is cluttered with stacks of empty boxes, and I've barely touched the mess in the kitchen, so the job is far from complete.

I did manage to get the yard watered this week, which it sorely needed because I didn't get to it last weekend. The squash is doing splendidly, I have a few hot peppers forming, and the cabbage is starting to make heads. The grapes are emitting a powerful aroma; I picked two bunches, but they still need a few more days to be fully ripe. It's just always a gamble leaving them on the vine, because the squirrels have an uncanny knack for ravaging them just before I would have picked them.

The bean harvest is well underway. That always makes me happy. The corn did quite well, but Benny managed to figure out that he could pry up the fence enough to squeeze under it to get to the beans that I interplanted with the corn, and he trampled a bit. I'm hoping I'll still have enough of a harvest that I can grind some into flour and bake something with it.

The fig tree in the front yard is so burdened with fruit that all the branches are drooping. I imagine it will keep my food dehydrator quite busy soon. The comb that I can see through the window in my hive is nearly full; I imagine I'll be able to start harvesting honey in another week or two. That will be quite exciting. I'm considering going out to buy some particularly decorative glass jars to store it in.

One of the things I was also doing over the weekend was watching (or at least playing in the background while doing other tasks) and deleting movies off my DVR. I just saw the movie Inception, and of all the crazy scenes, the one that really took the cake was at the very end when the character goes through US Customs. The guy stamping the passport had silver eagles on his epaulettes. The silver eagle is the rank insignia for the PORT DIRECTOR. There is absolutely NO WAY the Port Director would ever sit in a booth stamping passports. Utter lunacy. @_@

July 18th, 2017

04:02 am: I can see (the floor) clearly now
I've been working steadily on unpacking, and I'm down to about half a dozen remaining boxes of things that need sorting, filing, and tossing. I also managed to finish the beta prototype of my newest game design late Sunday night, so that's progress.

I took a day off work to get a four day weekend starting Thursday this week, and I'm hoping to use the extra time to finish getting the house clean.

Despite all the hits the blackberries have taken from the damaging heat wave, the hungry beagle, the typical bird attack, and even some fruit flies this year, I've managed to harvest several quarts. It won't be as much as I had expected to get, but it should be enough for a couple pies and maybe some jam.

I've started picking the first of the early beans. It should be quite exciting this year as I get more variation from my Four Corners Gold x Rio Zape cross. The grapes and fall raspberries are also beginning to ripen, and I'm looking at a huge fig harvest coming up soon.

July 3rd, 2017

07:27 pm: Berries, beagles, beans, and bathrooms
Well, the heat wave I mentioned in my last post did a real number on my blackberries. Anywhere that the berries were exposed to the sun, they burnt to a crisp right on the vine. The ones on lower branches, in the shade of the foliage, managed to survive...but those are the ones the beagle can reach... I will still get some to harvest (I've picked a little over a pint so far), but not nearly as much as I had anticipated.

The plums are just about done for the year. A couple are still hanging on, but between the beagle and the birds, I'm not likely to get my hands on them. I did get a fair number, which depended on picking them about 1-2 days early and letting them ripen in the middle of the dining table where Benny couldn't reach them, but he still nabbed quite a few.

The corn, beans, and squash are all shaping up well. I should be able to start harvesting beans in about two more weeks. The sunflower that I planted earlier this spring is blooming now, with about four flowers open and a few more buds. I'm hoping to get seeds from it, but I imagine the birds are going to be tough competition.

I've been peeking through the window in my hive, and it looks like the bees are starting to fill the Flow comb with nectar. Once it's clearly visible, I'll try taking a picture to post.

I set up a wi-fi repeater this past week, which means I can now get a good signal in my bedroom. That will make it a lot easier and more convenient to use the computer in there, which is the one with my good Adobe software. Once I get through the game design I'm working on for a contest, I'll be able to go back and finish editing all the pictures for my Munich trip report.

I had the city inspector come to do the final inspection on my bathroom, and it passed easily. Yay!

Last Tuesday, I did a demonstration with Brooke as part of the rollout of a big "Don't Pack a Pest" campaign designed to teach people not to bring prohibited items from other countries. A number of media outlets were invited, but I've only managed to find video from a local Chinese language station. Brooke is featured toward the end of the video. Also, several of the meat items on the display table (which I helped set up) were found by Brooke and Benny.

June 18th, 2017

05:32 pm: Everything's coming up berries
It has been a busy couple of weeks. First, I've been whittling away at the stacks of boxes in my bedroom. It's not done yet, but it's looking much better. Second, my neighbor helped me pick up my bamboo door, and I've been varnishing it. I finally put the last coat on today, so it'll be ready to bring in the house tonight.

We're currently in the middle of a heat wave, so I've had to spend more time than expected watering my plants just to keep everything alive. That ate a big chunk out of my schedule. I did get my grapes and raspberries pruned, so that was some progress. It's getting to the season where the yard is demanding, and things need doing RIGHT NOW or plants will die/fruit will spoil/beagles will eat the harvest. The cherries are ready for picking, which I had intended to do today, but as it happened I ran out of varnish and had to make a run to the store for more. I'll have to get the cherries tomorrow; they won't last much longer.

The blackberries are next up. The first ones will be ready in the next day or two. Once they start coming, I'll be inundated for weeks. My Santa Rosa plums are ripening; the trick with those is to catch them when they're completely ripe, but before they fall off the tree to where the dogs can get them. Benny spends a lot of time under the tree, peering upward, just waiting for one to fall. (He's already stripped all the low hanging ones off the branches...)

I've started picking early cucumbers. The earliest beans are starting to produce pods; the rest are in the middle of flowering. The corn put out ears this past week, and I'm hoping I planted them thickly enough that the wind will get them well pollinated. (At least we have no shortage of wind!)

My bees seem to be happy, for the most part. They aren't thrilled by the current heat, but that shouldn't slow them down for long. The hive's population is much stronger than last year.

During one of my shopping trips this weekend, I stopped at a Japanese grocery, and they were selling plant starts for purple sweet potatoes. I never tried growing them before because I always read that they needed more heat than we get here, but what with the temperatures the way they are right now, I figured I'd give one a try. I planted it in the front yard (so a certain beagle can't dig it up). If I'm lucky, it will be nice and toasty warm there.

June 8th, 2017

04:47 pm: The best packed plans
This past weekend, I had all the best intentions of settling down to unpack and organize everything in my bedroom.

Then I got hit with inspiration for a new board game design, about shopping at a farmer's market. So of course I had to take a trip to the local farmer's market for research purposes, and that ate up Saturday morning. Then I had to make a prototype to test the idea, and that devoured Saturday afternoon. Sunday I had to play it, then I had to cram all my regular weekend tasks into what remained of the day. I think I ended up unpacking maybe one box.

On the bright side, the custom door I ordered for my new bathroom is finally done. Now comes the logistics of arranging a time when my neighbor with a truck is free to help me pick it up from the shop.

I'm hoping to get at least some unpacking done this coming weekend. Chances are, though, that I'll keep working on my game prototype. Or spend a few hours in the garden...it's just about time to start picking cherries.

My bees have worked their way up to the Flow portion of my hive. There's a little window in the side, so I can peek in without disturbing them. Right now they're just filling in the cracks with wax, but I imagine they'll start loading it with honey before long.

May 28th, 2017

08:41 pm: Ironing out the details
I spent my time this past week trying various experiments involving adding iron to my natural dyes. I didn't always get the results I expected, but there are a number of interesting effects to explore.

These three yarn examples show some of the colors I was able to get. First I dyed yarn using eucalyptus leaves (bottom right), which resulted in a warm tan color. I dipped this in an iron solution, expecting to get a dark brown, but instead it gave me a dark charcoal gray. Not the color I had hoped, but it is certainly striking. Next I tried a dye made from rosemary, since I have a huge bush of it. By itself, the rosemary only gave a weak, vaguely yellowish beige. Adding a small amount of iron turned the yarn a silvery gray (bottom left). Finally, I used a bright yellow oxalis dye and added some iron, which colored the yarn olive green (top).

So far, I have only been dyeing the yarn either by complete immersion or by partial dipping in the color. I would like to try other techniques, such as tie-dyeing or painting with a brush. Those ideas are going to have to wait until I can find a bit more time.

This weekend I happened to have three days off in a row, Friday through Sunday, which fortuitously coincided with KublaCon. I was able to spend all three days attending the convention. I took big stacks of games with me, though I ended up playing more of other people's games than my own. I did have a fun time, and I picked up a few things in the dealer's room.

Spending all that time at the convention meant that I didn't get much done around the house, though. I'm going to have to work on that next weekend.

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