We all know the human female is bor-ing, but today she is also bor-ed. She has decided to catch up on some of her recorded television shows while exploring her Yule gift from the blue-haired goddaughter.
SweetSif on a Cracker. It would appear that she’s playing with her little bits of colored plastic again. (I still fail to see the appeal.) She has hidden the box from us, so I’ve no idea what she’s making. The kit includes a tool for prying the pieces apart. It’s like they know she’s going to mess it up!
I can’t tell from the instructions what this is going to be, Sigyn. Can you?
There are six bags of bits, so it could be almost anything. I guess she is starting with a base of some sort.
Grey bits go under beige bits. Got it.
Ehehehehe! She got to step four and discovered she’d gone wrong at step two!
Those beige bits need to go long sides together, not short sides together. What an idiot!
Sigyn has located the funny white corner pieces the human female needs next.
All right. We’ve reached this point, and I still don’t know what we are making.
Some sort of decorative firepit???
Do you think I should start a fire? Because I think I should start a fire. . .
The human female has started on another portion of the model.
It is even less informative than the previous part! What is that one small part blue? And what is the black rod poking out for?
Now it looks like it might be the stern portion of a ship…
But then what is the firepit for??
Hmm. I’m starting to get a notion…
Sigyn, I think this looks like a tree trunk. With vines What do you think?
Ha! I was right!
The blue-haired goddaughter, knowing well how black the human female’s thumb is, has supplied the wherewithal to build an ersatz bonsai tree.
Under whose shade I will now rest.
Do you wish to know the best part of this afternoon’s project? It’s a little bonus. The human female has discovered that trying to watch TV (far–requires spectacles) and build a model at the same time (near–does not require spectacles) is a sure-fire way to achieve an excruciating migraine.
The human female is quite the stick-in-the-mud when it comes to boardgames. There are a few she’ll play willingly, notably ones that rely on trivia or drawing or verbal skills, or ones that are humorous or require the participants to do silly things.
Today we are learning a new game which involves none of these things. Strategy is required, which means the human female will almost definitely lose. Especially since she is distracted by the pretty game pieces. They are supposed to be Portuguese azulejo tiles, but she thinks half of them look like fabric and the other half like Starburst candies.
Sigyn, have you figured out how the scoring works yet?
The object seems to be to fill the rows on the card with tiles from the round disks or from the discard pile. At the end of a round, one tile from each filled row is moved across to the corresponding space on the “wall” and scores one point for itself and any other tile it touches vertically or horizontally. There are bonuses and penalties for various patterns and occurrences.
I predict (and I am never wrong about these things) that the human male will win, the mother will get up to tend to a meal and not come back, the sister will catch on quickly, and the human female and my beloved will spend most of the game wondering what a Lemoyne Star quilt block is doing in a game about wall tiles.
Sigyn and I are back from our little holiday in Vancouver. We had a good time, but there’s mischief to do at home, so I can’t stay gone forever. Besides, Sigyn has an invitation to Tony Stark’s New Year’s Eve Party. She really, really wants to go. I really, really don’t. And I’ll tell you why.
A) I am not a “Party Person.” This is an established fact.
B) I do not particularly care for any of the people who are likely to be there. Let us just say that we have not always been kind to one another in the past
C) Pretty high up on my list of “Worst Ways to Spend an Evening” is listening to Stark brag endlessly, smirk at everyone, and flirt with anything that has a pulse.
Yet here I am, going. I can deny my sweetie nothing.
Let it be recorded that I finished out 2021 by doing a Good Thing.
Are you sure about this, Sigyn? It’s still not too late to back out…
“No, Loki. It would be rude. I’ve already said we were coming. It’s only for a few hours.”
Sigyn says one of her favorite parts of going on vacation is getting to know new people. I can’t say the same. I barely tolerate the mortals I already know. Meeting more of them sounds like as much fun as having my hair braided by my oafish brother Thor. (When he was about seven, he went through a Pretty Princess phase neither of us really likes to talk about.)
Sigh. For Sigyn’s sake I will paste on my best fake smile and greet the local populace.
I was under the impression that spotted owls were small birds. Clearly I have been misinformed.
All the local wildlife is a bit on the large side.
It wasn’t on my list of things to do today, but I guess we can help these fellows make snowmen. Let’s make it interesting. Sigyn, you help Nutkin over there with his, and I will help Earl with his, and we’ll see whose comes out best.
(later) Well, that was entertaining. Not. Those two long-tailed tree rats proved to have zero brain cells apiece and failed utterly to grasp the notion of piling one snowball atop the other. We ended up with two identical balls of snow. Nutkin’s had a few fewer embedded pine needles, so he was unanimously declared the winner. That is forty-five minutes of my life I will never get back…
This polar bear seems to have more going on upstairs.
She is smart enough to know that if she makes the slightest menacing gesture toward my sweetie or puts so much as one whisker out of place, Ursus maritimus is going to be one individual closer to extinction.
All of this hiking and schmoozing has given me an appetite. Sigyn, why don’t you go ask that jolly-looking hedgehog where we can get a good lunch?
“She says we should eat at her cafe, Tiggywinkle’s. It’s just over the next hill and specializes in mushroom dishes.”
Hmm. I suppose a nice portabello burger might taste good right now. Let’s go. But if I see AmanitaSurprise on the dessert menu, I’m out of there.
(later, after a delicious lunch)
Sigyn, are you enjoying your holiday?
“Yes, Loki, very much!”
Come here and be smooched. Happy Yule, my precious.
This part of Midgard is famous for its forests. Sigyn, being nearly as much a plant nerd as the human female, is keen to trek inland from the beach and “hug some trees.” I have no objection, so after a quick lunch at a likely looking food truck,
we are off to look at some forest giants.
Just remember, dearest, that pine sap is verysticky and does not come out of velvet easily at all.
(somewhere in the woods)
Hmm. I’m not sure I know the local trees. I was expecting Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Sitka Spruce, and the like. All of those are green, but there’s scarcely a green tree to be seen!
I guess maybe the pale ones are Pinus monticola, Western White Pine, and the tall one could be Thuja plicata, Western Red Cedar, but what about blue and yellow-and-pink ones?
I never thought the words, “I wish the human female were here so we could know what we are looking at” would pass my lips, but I really have no clue.
It is quite an unorthodox forest! And look over there, Sigyn!
For the past several years, Sigyn and I have made it a point to get out town between Yule and the New Year. We like to get away from all of the post-Yule bargain-hunting-retail frenzy, the sad sight of now obsolete Yule trees lying on the curb, and the human female’s constant moaning about how much she ate (and ate, and ate).
Last year and the year before, we had very good luck just taking off and going. We found great little places to stay, fun things to eat, and some kitschy little boutiques. We are taking off today for our annual jaunt, and I hope things go as well this time.
I’m not usually one to admit it when I make a mistake, but I have to confess that I sort of dropped the ball this year. I should have made reservations, but serendipity has always been part of the fun, and I didn’t think I needed to. I failed to predict that hordes of plague-weary travelers would all have the same idea that Sigyn and I did. No one seems to have any rooms!
First we checked the little retro cottages we so enjoyed last year.
“All full up. You should call ahead next year.”
We tried the big, fancy ski lodge near Tahoe.
“Sorry, mate. We sold out back in August.”
Well, now what, my love? There has to be something available. What? Are you sure? All right, we’ll give that a try. That does seem to be one of the few parts of Midgard experiencing anything like actual winter weather at the moment.
Shall I teleport us? No? Sigh. Sometimes Sigyn declines to make the best use of my godly powers. It is going to be a long, long trip, but if my beloved wants to spend the next day staring out a bus window and sleeping sitting up, then that is what we will do
(much too much later)
Great Frigga’s Corset! I have never been happier to leave a conveyance in my life. I don’t care what my beloved says, we are teleporting home when this adventure is done. My royal posterior will not tolerate a single mile more on a bumpy bus seat.
Now, the brochure says the cabin should be along this boulevard and around the corner. I still question the wisdom of a beach holiday in the Pacific Northwest in late December, but I never could say no to Sigyn.
Ah, here it is. Number 17. I must admit, it’s kind of cute.
Sitting on the beach in a cape and helmet would not have been my first choice, but if I’m going to do it, better here in Vancouver than back in Texas, where it is 80o F.
And I can stand anything, even beverages with umbrellas, if it makes my sweetie happy.
The church the humans and Sigyn attend is having their annual Yule Party. I was not invited, but where Sigyn goes, I go, especially since the White Elephant gift exchange has been known to get more than a little out of hand.
We are having the party in the activity center of the parish, rather than at a restaurant. While it is quite agreeable to have more room and less noise, it also means fewer choices as to food. I was expecting an entree of pasta or chicken, but the serving line has chips, salsas and queso, tiny empanadas, and some little things made with peppers and chicken wrapped in bacon. Plus a LOT of roasted vegetables.
The humans have been trying to eat more healthfully, so they have taken minimal amounts of the non-vegetable items. Poke, poke, poke. The roasted asparagus is quite nice.
The human female says that she has been very good lately and deserves a little bit of dessert. I could argue about the “good” part of that statement, but I admit that I am curious about what’s on the dessert table.
She has selected a tiny square of lemon bar and a miniature bundt cake.
Great Frigga’s Corset! This bundt cake has chocolate chips!
Oh, dear. It looks as if Sigyn and I will have to eat it for you. Pity.
The gift exchange has new rules this year. As the gifts are opened, they have to be left on the big table where they are all sitting. That’s bad. If we get something good, I won’t be able to hide it and hope the other players forget about it. Each gift can only be stolen once, so we will have to be crafty about how we play this.
(later. much, much later) New rule for next year: No emcee. While the running commentary was funny, it made things take forever. We have ended up with a game which, thankfully, does not involve squishy goats (see yesterday’s diary.)
Hmm. Looks like a game for the sharp-eyed and dextrous. That lets the human female out, but this looks like something *I* could win every time. I approve!
This is not the largest or fanciest city in the realm, not by a long shot, but the local Powers That Be decided that it could be one of the best-illuminated during Yuletide.
So here we all are, in Central Park, after dark, to see if the display lives up to the hype.
Odin’s Eyepatch! I think this animated sculpture is supposed to be the North Wind, but it looks too much like my stoopid brother Thor for my taste. (If you scroll quickly, it’s sort of like watching the lights in motion.)
Thor always was a blowhard.
The North Wind/Thor is blowing us toward the Snowflake Forest.
Do you know, I really can’t see any two alike!
It looks like the rest of the park has a series of lit-up figures. Sigyn, shall we just stroll?
A Santa-hatted alien delivering the Yule pie? Were the designers on drugs?
This bear is definitely on drugs.
Hold tight to my arm, Dearest. There is a whole cohort of elf-alien hybrids up ahead.
I don’t trust any of them!
Ehehehe! The human female says this is a proper botanist elf.
He is pointing out the key characters of the Ligustrum bush–opposite leaves, prominent lenticels, and other boring things. Hush, woman! Can you leave no occasion unruined by your constant twaddle?
It used to be tradition to bring the Yule tree home via horse-drawn sleigh.
I suppose a snowmobile is the modern counterpart? Though there do appear to still be sleighs…
But with the reins wrapped around his neck, I don’t give the poor horse much chance of getting very far.
This tree is going places via that most traditional of conveyances.
Look, Sigyn! Reindeer!
They appear to have been sampling a rather boozy eggnog.
The camels seem to be much more abstemious and dignified as they promenade among coconut palms.
Sigyn is completely smitten. I suspect she will be asking for a real camel for Yule. The HOA may have something to say about that, but I can deny my sweetie nothing, so they can lump it. (Or would that be “hump it”?)
Best part of all these LED lights?
Cool to the touch and excellent for dangling!
They say there are a million lights here. I’m not sure about that (and I have better things to do than count them), but it really is an impressive display. Someone put a lot of thought into the designs. And so many of the light sculptures move. Still photos don’t do them justice, so I made a little movie. My favorite is the Snow Tank that scoops up the snow and fires it.
Inspired by yesterday’s discovery of a box of possibly-a-dyestuff Fringed Puccoon roots, the human female has joined forces with a friend who has a lot of experience with natural dyes. Today the two of them are going to see whether or not the plant really does contain a usable dye. Their hunch is that they will get a purple color, if they get anything at all, though apparently there’s an Asian species which makes red.
So here is the Mystery Box again, now helpfully labeled.
We are working in the friend’s kitchen, a decision of which I approve. Not only is that where all the dyeing accoutrements reside, but it also means that when this business is all done I can simply walk away from the mess. (Not that I would help clean up if we were doing this a home, but this way I won’t have to work around the mess the human female would no doubt leave any time I need to make myself a sandwich.)
Careful, my love! That doesn’t look like anything you should fall into! What is this, anyway?
Ah. The yarn we’re going to dye is soaking in a mordant bath.
Apparently, mordant is a chemical that will help the dye bind to the fiber. The friend has chosen alum, which is relatively safe. Some of the other mordants, such as salts of chromium, tin, aluminum, etc., are quite toxic to humans. Hmm. There may be more to this natural dyeing than than I thought. Might need to do a little research…
Time to prepare the dyestuff. They’re telling me that the usual ratio is one pound of dyestuff to one pound of fiber. I think we may have the right amount.
The bag certainly is stained with purple!
And here are the roots!
They are black and skinny and look like mummified carrots. And this is supposed to make purple?
The roots need to be chopped into itty bitty pieces. Yeah, I’m going to let the mortals do that with their garden clippers.
I’m not about to A) waste magic on this endeavor, B) blunt my good dagger by chopping woody plant bits, or C) give myself a repetitive stress injury turning a whole bag of roots into potentially-useful confetti.
The recipe the humans found for the plant’s Asian relative calls for the snipped roots to be kneaded in water at room temperature until they can be induced to release their dye. This is safer and certainly less smelly than dye plants that need to be boiled or fermented and stink while they surrender.
Squish! Squish! Squish! Sigyn is employing the same technique as is traditionally used for wine grapes–she’s doing a little dance on the bag of wet roots.
Look! Some color is coming out of the roots!
It’s a sort of brownish purple. It’s not a pretty color, but it is A color.
(a lot of kneading later) Let’s have a closer look, shall we?
Hmm. A rather undistinguished purple gray. This is even after adding a bit of acid. The reasoning was that since old herbarium sheets are frequently not acid-free paper and they get the best stains, perhaps the addition of acid would make the dye purpler. Nope. The acid makes no difference at all.
Now we are trying some very low pH washing soda. Sometimes that will skew a dye one way or the other.
That is an even-more-unappealing greenish-brown. The mortals are beginning to suspect that the result of all of this chopping and kneading is going to be a wasted afternoon. I had been planning to sabotage their little experiment, but I may not have to lift a finger!
Still there *is* dye coming from the roots. The humans have started another bag for extraction. Observe the difference–new bag on the right.
We can definitely see some purple happening.
If nothing else, we are making lavender plastic bags!
Rats! The human female, thinking that it would be a shame if the bag leaked after all of this work, has double-bagged the bags of shredded roots. It will be a lot harder to pass off a Loki-induced leak as a spontaneous accident now.
(a bit later) We left things soaking while we all went for lunch. We returned to find this. There is definitely some purple happening!
The dye has been decanted into the dyeing bucket.
What would you call that color, Sigyn? Raisin? There’s a good bit of brown in that purple.
Do be careful!
If you fall in, it’s going to take magic or a very long spoon to get you out again!
It is now or never. The mordanted yarn has been introduced to the dyebath. The friend has added a small skein of silk which was previously mordanted with soy. I did not know that was a thing.
That does NOT look like purple! We are all underwhelmed.
The humans have resorted to the internet for further instructions. Hmmm. That is interesting. Apparently, if the dye extraction is taking too long, one can extract the dye more speedily using alcohol. A quick check of the kitchen cabinets has revealed the presence of some pale tequila and a bottle of vodka, both of which shall be sacrificed upon the altar of improvisation. The water has been dumped out of a batch of soaking roots and alcohol poured in.
Great Frigga’s Hairpins! The effect was startling and immediate. Red dye has started coming out of the already-extracted roots! Even a quick sample is noticeably pinker than what we had before!
Considering that this:
… is all we were able to get out of the first dyebath—and since a lot of that color will rinse out–the humans have decided to make a second dyebath with new roots and alcohol and re-dye the fibers.
So far, this has been a LOT of work for one skein of rather-unpleasantly-mauve yarn.
The vodka is definitely pulling out a redder color!
Sigyn is quite excited!
The yarn in the new dyebath…
Part of the fun of natural dyeing is you never really know what you will get. This is never going to be purple, but it might be a color that is likeable.
We are getting what Sigyn says is a “lovely shade of pale rose” on some cotton fabric.
(The next day)
Well, I didn’t do any active meddling meddling, but it seems that just my naturally mischievous aura is enough to derail the creative process. After a good, long overnight soak in dyebath #2 and a good rinse, the friend reports that the final color of yarn is…
…drum roll, please!…
Light purply gray. Not purple, not rose, not ashes of roses. Disappointment all around! However, dampened but yet undaunted, the human female and her friend are already planning a future work day in which they will do an alcohol extraction of the remaining unprocessed roots and see what happens to the color if there isn’t a brownish cast to the dyed yard from soaking in a water extraction. Hope springs eternal and all that.
Having firmly decided that I don’t desire to be involved in chopping, kneading, simmering, soaking, etc., I will probably skip that day altogether. That does not mean, however, that I can’t simply go into the garage and curse the box of roots…
Hang around long enough and, eventually, even the highly improbable happens. The humans are cleaning out the pantry today. I know! I was shocked too! They have discovered a suspicious Mystery Box way up at the back of the top shelf.
Sleipnir’s Fetlocks! No one knows how long it’s been up there. If it was supposed to be refrigerated, I think I want to be in the next county when it’s opened!
Norns save us. Look at that postmark date! This thing has been up there forever. More to the point, look at the price of postage! You certainly can’t mail a box for that anymore. Usually Smashes Parcels Significantly wants a great deal more than that nowadays!
Let me just weave a little Protect Against Stinkage spell here and we can start solving the mystery… It’s one of those boxes, where the flaps tuck into the sides. They completely flummox the human female, but I know how to open them.
One side done…
The box has been breached. The contents are hermetically sealed.
Sigyn, remember the out-of-datedness and potential putrefaction. Spell or no spell, you might not want to be standing up there when I unzip this plastic bag.
Seriously, sweetie. You’re going to want to get down from there. I promise, you’ll be able to see what it is a lot better once we get the baggie open.
Unzipping in 3…2…
I decided I wanted a better look before I opened the bag. Inside the plastic bag is a paper bag, and whatever is in the paper bag has given it lurid purple stains…
I have a bad feeling about this…
Oh. There’s a note!
“Plant Material–Roots. Lithospermum incisum, Fringed Puccoon.” Are we sure this note is in English?
Ah. The Mystery is partially solved. The human female says she has long suspected that the roots of a local plant, Lithospermum incisum or Fringed Puccoon (a ri-DIC-ulous name!) would make a good natural dye, because they leave purple stains on herbarium sheets when they are pressed and dried. At some point in the dim, dark past, someone she mentioned this to gathered a quantity of roots and mailed them to her so she could test her hypothesis. But, being a botanist of very little brain, she buried it away like an absent mindedsquirrel and promptly forgot all about it.
Sigyn? Sigyn, where are you going?
“Off to research dye recipes!”
Why do I get the feeling that there is going to be some very messy, potentially very stain-y hypothesis-testing going on in the near future?
Time to go hunt up some old clothes. My cloak is wool, and wool takes natural dyes very, very well. The last thing I need is to end up looking like a grumpy eggplant.