Day 3 Avocado Dye Experiment

I forgot to take pictures yesterday, but not so today:

On the left is a sample from the pit dye bath and, on the right, one from the peel dye bath. I may have forgotten to take pictures, but I have been heating both baths up to a steaming point twice a day, which is probably excessive but I’m impatient with these things and heat can only help a chemical process, right? Particularly if it’s a gently heat?

Anyway. I’m surprised at the huge color difference between the two. I expected some color difference, but this is kind of extreme. They are similar – same hue? (I don’t know the right words to talk about this, pardon me.) But different saturations/intensities. (I should really get a color theory book so I can talk about this intelligently instead of winging it.)

In case you were wondering, the pit bath still smells spicy, almost like cinnamon, and the peel bath is starting to smell similarly, with no remaining hints of avocado fruit.

In addition, I failed to mention that I’ve used Hass avocados, which were cultivated by a mail carrier and amateur horticulturalist named Rudolph Hass in La Habra Heights, CA in 1926. Call me crazy, but I’d say he wasn’t an amateur, considering that it is the most popular avocado cultivar in the world.

Edited to add link to Hass avocado link on Wikipedia. As with all wikipedia entries, take it as a starting point with a grain of salt.


Avocado Dye Experiment

I’ve been hesitant to get into dying just as I was hesitant to start spinning my own yarn – I thought “Really. Why bother? Why not just buy yarn?” But … well, I caved in to the peer pressure of Loudoun Needleworkers and now I know why – it’s a way to work with my hands differently from when I knit, it’s a form of meditation, it’s a way to feel connected to the land via the farms that supply fiber. Spinning lead to buying raw fleece, with little further encouragement from my LNW friends, and buying raw fleece has lead to dying.

I’ve drooled over and bought my share of yarn and fiber dyed by independent artists – the color combinations and variations are fascinating, sometimes all the more fascinating because I don’t think I have a great sense of color, which is another reason I stayed away from dying so long. I did try dying with KoolAid a few years ago, which is essentially dying with food coloring. My results were less than stellar (but definitely great-smelling). Acid dyes – chemical dyes – have to be handling very carefully since they are toxic and by careful handling, I mean gloves & goggles & a respirator & plenty of ventilation. I’m not quite ready for that, so I’ve been reading up on dying with natural materials since mid-winter.

This spring, I took a natural dye class with two friends. The class was taught by Sylvia De Mar through The Art League of Alexandria over the course of 3 Sundays. We learned about mordants, which prepare fiber for accepting dyes and help dye bond chemically with the fiber, how to dye using natural materials, and after baths, which can affect just-dyed fiber. I really like the idea of using materials already available to me to dye and have tried dying samples with mint, lichen, and several different weeds. I wish I’d blogged about them or at least kept better notes because I managed to lose track of some of the results – that won’t happen again.

Over the past 2 months I’ve been saving avocado pits and skins in a bag in my freezer to dye with them – they should yield red-brownish red-reddish brown. I got the idea from the dye class; Sylvia mentioned it & one of the other students brought in some avocado she’d been saving. The time we had in class wasn’t enough to get good results (or any results? I don’t remember now). So, using a thread in the plants to dye for group on Ravelry and Carol Lee’s generously shared instructions & observations as guidelines, I’m trying my own experiment which will hopefully get better results.

Mr. Q. has gone along with my avocado-saving swimmingly – we both like avocados and have used this as an excuse to eat them more than usual. We’ve even rooted a few of the pits, which is interesting for us all to see as we now have a small tree in a pot on the porch. This morning, I thawed the other pits & skins we’ve saved, and scrubbed off the remaining avocado with an old toothbrush. I put the pits in my thrifted small dye pot, covered them with water, and brought them to a simmer. While that was cooking, I cut the skins into strips and popped them into an enamelware lobster pot, adding in the remaining stumps of stem (probably 4 or 5 pieces), and starting bringing that to a simmer over medium low heat. Even with this initial simmer, I can already see some color in both pots:

Carol recommends cutting everything into pieces as small as possible to extract as much dye as possible; as you can see, I started chopping the pits with a knife while they were cooling down. I do have a spare blender I could use, though I’m not sure I want to strain what will essentially be an avocado smoothie. By the way, the pits smelled pleasantly spicy as they simmered, almost like cinnamon, while the skins smelled like avocado soup.

I plan to simmer the dye materials every day for at least a week, adding more water as necessary. I doubt that I’ll be blogging about it each of those 7 days but I will take pictures so I can document the progress.

Notes on avocado prep for next time:

  • Clean the skins and pits of any remaining fruit before freezing them. It was a huge PIA to clean the skins and pits of (probably) 15 avocados all at once.
  • Take all the produce stickers off before freezing too. I thought I pulled them all off while I was cleaning them, but a few snuck into the dye bath anyway. I have a new hatred of these stickers since I find them all over the house, where the fruit eaters stick them instead of putting them in the garbage (or on a napkin or tissue or anything but the furniture, FFS).
  • Count the avocado pits before cutting them up. (Duh.)


It’s surprising how little there is to watch on TV on a Friday night. We stopped subscribing to the premium movie channels in favor of Netflix streaming through the Wii, which lately has not been working well (or really, at all). So last night, I was back to my old entertaining favorites: channels without commercials (PBS, TCM, etc) and what I think of as junk food TV (E!, MTV, VH1, etc.). I couldn’t find anything I could switch between to avoid commercials (the Geico guy really pisses me off), so I ended up watching The Golden Stallion on TCM.

The Golden Stallion was released in November 1949, Roy Rogers’ 3rd and final movie of the year. Three movies in a year seems like a lot, but in 1948 he was in 8 movies, 5 in 1950. So what happened in ’48? He was either concentrating on his radio show (1944-1955) or his marriage to Dale Evans (12/31/47), his co-star. In November 1949, my Dad was 5 years old, the first grandson of my great-grandfather. My grandparents lived in a house very close to the family dairy farm in Rehoboth, MA, with my great-grandparents living in the Big House on the farm. Dad told me his grandfather welcomed his company any time – at home, in his office, in the barn. He gave Dad a pony at some point and spoiled him as any grandparent would. My great grandmother subjected Dad to the finer things in life, like getting cleaned up for church and piano lessons, which he hated and was terrible at.

I don’t recall Dad ever talking about Roy Rogers – he did say that when he enlisted in the Marines after high school in 1962, eventually ending up in Vietnam (July 1965-July 1966), that he had John Wayne in mind – I am positive, though, that Roy Rogers was among his heroes as well:

Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:

Donnie, Johnnie, Duke Aug 1951

(Look closer; you’ll see the horse. Also, Dad is sitting in front. Also #2: click the pictures to see them on flickr.)

I imagine also that Great Grandpa Kinne – or my grandparents – probably took Dad to the movies and that he probably saw The Golden Stallion. So last night, I watched the whole thing with a glass of wine and live-tweeted it, included below. Ethan has been my late-night buddy; he was on the computer behind the couch watching something online or so I thought. When I skipped back to catch a line to tweet a quote, he said “Hey! Didn’t we already watch that twice?” letting me know that he was watching it with me. My kids surprise me by being the people I need them to be when I least expect it and need it the most.

(Note that I really just want them to be the people they need to be, as long as they don’t hurt anyone physically/emotionally and love life, I’m good. Because of my relationship with my parents, I walk a delicate line between being interested and friendly, but not a friend – I neither want to ignore them or use them intentionally for emotional support.)

Going my own way, again

First there was roller derby and then came the new job: two of the biggest changes in my life since 2009, the year I went back into therapy & back on meds for depression. Well, one of those new things turned out to be not quite what I hoped for and instead of sucking it up (which I did do briefly, for the record), I decided – was able – have the luxury – to be honest with myself, my family, and my employer: I quit.

It was me, not the job.

It was the commute, not the job.

I haven’t worked since June of 2004, when I went on maternity leave with Henry. That’s 7 years that I have been doing the stay at home mom (SAHM) thing. I was only in the workforce for 9 years (9 years!), with 5 of those as a working mom. For me to go back to work was a sizable transition – a huge transition – one that I just can’t make right now, a transition I’m not willing to make right now. I thought I was, but I need to get my feet wet and get used to the water before I jump from the high dive into the deep-end of traditional employment. 

Traditional employment. You know, a 9-5 (or 8-4 or 10-6) job. You show up, do something there, and they pay you. What’s not to like?

I cannot stand the sensation of being a sheep/cow/stock animal of some sort as I fight traffic (or in Chicago, traffic then people for a good seat on the train) with all the other sheeple doing their duty by going to work. I am not sheeple. I don’t like to be stuck in traffic, cut off, beeped at. My reaction is to floor it when given the chance, like Thursday June 2, when traffic broke up on the Toll Road/Greenway and I went 90, weaving in and out of 3 lanes of lighter traffic to maintain my speed. I’m not sure what the solution is to congestion woes (public transport? alternate fuel/transport? telecommuting? an unrealistic utopian society based on discrete, self-sustaining communities?) but sitting in it makes me think about it (see previous parenthetical comment), which ultimately leads to me thinking about Humanity in general (it’s a blog: I’ll make humanity Humanity if I want to). We’re killing ourselves and the planet. [insert tree-hugger, crunchy granola rant here.]

Being stuck in traffic is like having insomnia: I tried podcasts, I tried playlists, I tried silence, I even knit almost 2 rows one night when the road I was on was shut down because a pedestrian was hit (and is reportedly doing okay) and traffic was more stop than go. It’s too much time to think, too much time when I’m not learning anything or doing anything physical (even mundane housework solves this problem for me).

Too much time on my hands. Wasted time. Time I can spend doing something entertaining, like theorizing the fate of my race. At least I was driving a hybrid car, which is like a smoker using the patch/gum/lozenge to quit.

I know a lot of people who would not be able to do what I did, who would love to do what I did. 1995-me couldn’t do it; I passed up grad school because I thought the people at my job needed me. But 1990-me did it when she got sick (really: I was throwing up, but definitely milked it) and couldn’t finish her last 2 weeks of waitressing shifts at Howard Johnnson’s before going to college. 1999-me couldn’t just quit either; but 1999-me wanted to work because she was an overwhelmed [too-]young mother looking for an escape. Even 2001-me had given up on her own career in favor of her husband’s (money won).

Wait – am I talking about myself in the third person? ::hangs head in shame::

I’m lucky for it to not be just about money, though having health insurance again would have helped all of us feel a little more secure. And I’ve just put a whole load of stress back on Mr. Q, who did an amazing job as Mr. Mom (no one’s woobie got sucked into the vacuum), who has been diligently applying for all the exec level IT jobs he can find and then some.

I don’t know ultimately where or how this will end, but I know I won’t be stuck in traffic or sitting at a desk when we figure it out, or if I am at a desk, it’ll be my Yarn Office desk.

I took over our formal living room and most of the dining room last year (or the year before?). All of my knitting books & girly doo-dads are in one spot, away from the boy-stuff that overtook the library/office. I have 4 windows in the living room, plus a bay of 3 in the dining room looking out over the backyard. My spinning wheel is here, along with an armoire with yarn & fiber. In trying to distinguish it from the other office/library, Ethan called it “your Yarn Office, Mom,” and so it is. And they all lived happily ever after. <— I still have hope.

Roller Girl?

Trying to come up with a roller derby name is hard. I’m not even sure sometimes if I’m really a derby girl/chick: am I fierce enough? Ten years ago: yes. Twenty years ago: definitely yes. So I’m going back to some of the music I listened to (and have continued to listen to all this time) for some inspiration. PJ Harvey’s first two albums really helped me work through some of my rage, if only while into walking angrily across the Cut (campus, basically, for non-CMU people) or glowering on the city bus to my first job at HealthAmerica.

Hardly Wait

Go get the albums and listen to them. Go.

General Craftiness & Brief Thoughts on Japan

Last Friday I had the beginning of a weekend-long surge of craftiness brought on by Mod Podge, not one but 2 pads of scrapbooking paper in the clearance aisle of JoAnns, and a reluctance to toss out tins (Altoids, Sucrets, Newmans Own, tea). I even got some books from Good Shepherd Alliance’s thrift store to use in decoupage.

Decoupage Montage: Front

Click the picture to follow the link to flickr, where I have notes on each tin top.

Decoupage Montage: Back

Ditto on the click-through: the snippet of Whitman is worth it.

I’ve also been knitting my head off. Er, knitting my hands off? Whatever. While knitting, I’ve been watching lots of footage of Japan on CNN and streaming from NHK, Japan’s state broadcaster: the scale of the disaster is overwhelming and that it continues with earthquakes and the failure of fail-safe measures at several nuclear plants … I am deeply concerned about everyone affected. Disasters like this remind me to be thankful for what I have and thankful that I am in a position to help.

Lost Hours

You’ve lost an hour to daylight savings; make it up to yourself by listening to This American Life episode #425: Slow to React. I’ve been listening to TAL since we lived in Chicagoland (2000-2002) and WBEZ was my local NPR station. Since I seem to be busy when WAMU broadcasts it locally in the DC area, tonight I caught up on some of the podcasts while decoupaging a bunch of tins I can’t bear to toss out. I’ll take & post some pictures on flickr once they’re done, probably tomorrow.

One of the stories in the TAL podcast made me angry about it again, Act 1: When I Grow Up. Really, you should listen to that first to see where I’m headed, or just throw caution to the wind (like I would) and read on.

It began the night that my friend Suzanne and I pulled the switcharoo on our parents, telling our fathers we were spending the night at the other’s house. After soccer practice, we walked into town, to Mt. Peg via Golf Avenue, and chose a camping spot to dump all of our stuff. We were free! Free for the night! Free to go to my uncle, Joel’s, party! Free to sleep under the stars! Free to pretend that being 15 and a sophomore in high school is cool (I’ve since concluded that almost no one enjoys their teen years or feels at all cool, or cool enough).

Joel was having a party at my grandmother’s house, the trailer in Beaver Meadow. She’d already shacked up with her boyfriend and he had planned a huge party for … I don’t remember now. His birthday? Octoberfest? He told my Dad & stepmother about it, and they were going to stop by after they got out of work, around 11 or 12. He also told me that I was welcome to come by also, and wanting to be more grown-up than I really was (one of the great labors of my life until I stopped getting carded), Suzanne and I hatched our plan: we would pull a switcharoo (most assuredly not what we called it) and would either hide or be long gone by the time they got there; we assumed there would be other parties to go to that night.

We caught a ride with some older friends and started drinking beer from the keg as soon as we got there. Joel and his friends had a bonfire going, music and a bar (really just the keg, as I recall) set up in the shed/lean-to. I felt safe drinking; I was at my grandmother’s house, a very familiar place, hanging out with my much-older uncle that everyone told me was hot and he was treating me as an equal. My Dad’s youngest brother, Joel, is the same age as my oldest cousin on the Kinne side of the family, the same age as my half-brother. Growing up, he was more of a cousin than an uncle, or perhaps somewhere in between.

I went into the house to use the bathroom, probably after a couple of plastic cups of beer. When I came out of the bathroom, Joel was there. He cajoled me into one of the bedrooms, saying he wanted to talk to me about something privately. I don’t remember what he said before he kissed me, on the mouth, with tongue, and my reaction was, for many reasons, all of which have caused me great shame, to kiss back. Then the rational part of my brain kicked in and I pushed him away, or as away as you can get without being let go of. Trying not to let on how freaked out and panicked I was, and hoping for a strategy that would get me out of the room and away without a confrontation (which I seem to instinctively avoid, even at great cost to myself), I tried to reason with him (and me) that this was wrong. I don’t remember how I did get away, but I didn’t tell anyone about that for a long time. I am still ashamed that I responded in-kind instead of with immediate disgust.

I rejoined Suzanne and our friends, and we continued drinking. Time seems to speed up at parties and before I knew it, I saw my Dad and stepmother in a group of people on the edge of the party. I don’t know if Joel told my Dad that we were there or if he just waited for him to notice us. I don’t remember if Suzanne and I did something to call attention to ourselves other than being drunk; by then, Suzanne couldn’t even walk straight and I had a hard time getting her up to go hide someplace.

My Dad was angry, of course, and probably shocked that I would pull something like that so early in my high school career. He wasn’t going to deal with 2 drunk 15-year-olds, though. He told me to call him in the morning after we slept it off. I don’t remember who called Suzanne’s Dad or if he called my Dad, but upon being found out by my Dad, Suzanne immediately started freaking out that hers would also show up. I don’t remember all of what happened, just that more drinking ensued and that there is a huge gap in my memory of the rest of the night. I don’t remember a lot of the details of the next day, like, for example, where I woke up. But I do remember Joel driving Suzanne and I into town, probably giving us a pep-talk the whole way about the risk we took and now having to face the consequences (though really: I don’t remember).

For the first and only time in my life my parents grounded me. The two-week (or was it three?) sentence was a huge hardship (imagine my eye roll and exaggeration here), considering my budding social life. At the time, I was spending weekends at Dad & Julie’s in Barnard, near the Bethel line, and the rest of the time at my Mom’s, the house in South Barnard.

It amazes me now that I forgave Joel for that initial transgression. It was not instantaneous. I avoided him and Scott – really, any Kinne family function that I could get out of. I was vigilant at first. But then he was there for me; he was the one house sitting for my Mom (really: smoking pot with his girlfriend) the hellacious night that winter when my first serious boyfriend broke up with me and Julie threw me out of the house for the first time (and my Dad let her). He was the one who comforted me & cheered me up the next day. I thought things could go back to normal, or close to normal after that. Normal with some caution on my part.  

Dad and Julie went to Florida every spring to spend time with her family. I had gone along for one of these trips, my junior year, when they went on their honeymoon in Hawaii. But my senior year, they had bred their Newfoundland and there was a litter of puppies that needed to be taken care of and a mama that needed to be fed more often than usual. After another house-sitting mishap for one of my Mom’s friends, which I’ll get to in another post, Julie acted like it was a huge deal to be left with a whole house all alone: she told me she’d talked to the neighbors (not likely) and they would be watching for a lot of cars going to the house (likely). I had something going on after school one day and wouldn’t be able to get home in time to take care of the dogs on-schedule, so my Aunt Sue pitched in and helped me out.

By this point, I’d finally honed in on getting out of Vermont via college, the further the way the better, and had stopped partying as much as I had by December of my senior year. Note that while my grades were good, (I made honor roll or high honor roll for every report card, was taking advanced classes for everything but math & science, and had gotten into NHS that fall), I wonder how much better I would have done with out all the drinking, smoking, pot-smoking (much of it contact high after I figured out that it puts me to sleep), and shrooming (4-5 times, tops). Maybe I would’ve gotten into Brown (first choice, turned down for early admission), fulfilling a not well-thought out fantasy of returning to Providence, where the Kinne roots are. Not that any of this really matters to this post other than me saying: hey, I was still a good kid, even for all of the bad things and not-so-great things.

So. There I am house sitting, perhaps the day before Dad & Julie & the twins are due to get home and who comes down the driveway but Joel. He was out driving and thought he’d stop by. We hugged. He didn’t let go. He gyrated into my hips and tried to get me to kiss him. “Playfully” held my hands behind my back. Told me that I wanted it, “You know you want it, don’t you?” Showing me that he was stronger than I was. I pretended that I was in a movie or on TV: what was I supposed to do next? I ran scenarios in my head of the options available to me. Chief among them were the ones that would keep him calm and me not hurt. While I tried to talk him out of this and convince him that I wasn’t interested and that force wasn’t going to help matters, I looked around for things nearby that I could hit him with. I calculated how fast I could get to the knife block in the kitchen if he let go of me, if I’d make it before he caught me. Contrary to all the movie & TV rape/incest scenarios, I actually talked him out of it. I don’t remember which magical phrase it was, but I could see the change in his demeanor. He let go of me, apologized, and left. As soon as he was out the door, I locked it. I locked the other door. I closed the curtains in my room (on the 1st floor). I kept the outside lights on all night.

The next day, when everyone came home, I couldn’t tell them, not right off the bat. In addition, Julie didn’t see how well I took care of the dogs, that the dishes were all clean & the counters wiped, or that I had borrowed my mother’s vacuum (a really good one with a rotating brush for the carpet). Instead, she focused on the hamper in the bathroom, a hamper I never used, and proceeded to throw me out of the house again after I had the nerve to talk back to her. She timed it strategically, I’m sure: my mother had separated from stepfather #1, the guy in the duplex in Hanover, and while she waited for the lease to be up on her condo in Wilder so she could move back in there, she rented a 2-room apartment in Bridgewater, in the basement of one of her brother’s girlfriends. For the rest of my senior year and the following summer, until I went to college, I slept on a metal roll-away bed just outside the bathroom in the eat-in kitchen, with my mother in her bed in the other room. I couldn’t tell either of them about what had happened until I was safely away at college. And their reactions were very similar to their reaction to me telling them about Scott: we’re not going to make waves by doing anything about this.

Things could have been much worse. The things that happened to me, that were done to me, are on the mild side of all the possibilities of what could have happened and what has happened to other victims of sexual abuse. Still, it has affected my life in ways I’m still coming to terms with. For example, my reaction to Joel making another hip-gyrating pass at me 20 years later when we all gathered around my father in the final weeks of him getting poked and prodded and probed to find out that he had pancreatic cancer. I also suspect that my parents probably wouldn’t have had success doing anything legal about either Scott or Joel. Any statute of limitations has long run out on all of it anyway, and so this is it; talking about what happened in public (or as close to public as I can get) is my only way to fight back and the only way I can warn other people. The weight of other possible victims weighs heavily on me.

But I’ve lost that hour and spent much more than another get the bare-bones (or as close to bare-bones, emotion-free, factual) story out. And though we’ve all lost an hour to spring, we’ll get it back in the fall when we need it most.