Tag Archive | theatre

On stage again: Old Love

After Virginia Woolf closed, I moped around the house for days.  I really really missed that show and that cast.  After about a week, I decided the best cure for a show hangover was another show, and so I auditioned for and was cast in Staged Right Theatre‘s production of Old Love by Norm Foster.

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Old Love is the story of Molly Graham and Bud Mitchell, two mature adults who find themselves navigating love and loss and relationships at an unexpected time of their lives.  Molly is recently widowed; Bud is long divorced.  Bud met and became infatuated with Molly many years ago, and now that her husband (his former boss) is deceased, he thinks the time is right to make his move.  But Molly has no memory of ever meeting Bud, and certainly is not prepared for him to ask her out to dinner while standing at her husband’s graveside.

Yep, it’s a comedy.  And a pretty funny one, once you get past the stalking angle.  Much of the story is told in flashback, with two other actors playing the younger versions of Bud and Molly.

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Old Love cast, L-R:  Nick Fressell as Young Bud/Young Arthur/Arthur Jr.; Allen Stone as Bud; me as Molly; Ilene Miller as Young Molly/Kitty/Kendra

The road of this production from rehearsal to performance wasn’t nearly as rocky as Virginia Woolf‘s had been, but we had some challenges.  First of all, the weather.  It was fucking FREEZING in our rehearsal space, which is only to be expected because it was below freezing outside.  We got hit with a couple of snowstorms; in Atlanta, that means everything comes to a dead stop.  So we missed a couple of rehearsals due to weather.  And our director got the flu, so we missed a couple of rehearsals because he was down for the count.

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Me as Molly, Allen as Bud

Generally speaking, though, it was a relatively drama-free production.  We even got a really nice review.  As mentioned in that review, though, we had to change venues in the middle of the run.  Apparently the church that lent us their performance space forgot to write down that we needed it for two weekends, and booked over us on the second weekend of the run.  So, while we were in the middle of opening weekend, the artistic director and the producers were frantically searching for another venue that could let us in at the last minute so we could continue performances for the second weekend.  They found one, thank goodness, and my family and friends who had tickets for that weekend were able to see the show after all.

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Molly can’t believe Bud has thrown rocks at her window in the middle of the night.

Remember I said “relatively drama-free”? Aside from the mid-run venue change, the chief drama happened on our Saturday performance at the new venue.  We lost power near the end of Act 2.  Instant pitch dark.  Nick and Ilene were onstage in the middle of a big scene and were utterly frozen.  They couldn’t even see enough to move off the set.  Amazingly, our audience came to the rescue by pulling out their cellphones and using the flashlight function to light the stage.  We finished the rest of the show by cellphone light.  And we even made the news because of it!

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Cellphones as footlights

Here are few more performance shots from the show. I hope you like them!

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Kitty (Bud’s ex-wife) fixes his tie.

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Molly and Bud people watching at a Christmas party

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Molly and Bud at the circus

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Virginia Woolf is dead. Long live Virginia Woolf.

The other day I mentioned I’d been absent from this blog for the same reason as the last several times I went AWOL for a few months: I was cast in a play, and what a play it was: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee. As Martha. My dream role.

That was last August.  Our performances were in late October, early November.  What a rocky road this production had!

I was the second actor cast as Martha, because the first actor backed out after the initial read-through, telling the director she wasn’t “comfortable” with the subject matter. Who the hell auditions for and ACCEPTS a role in a play without knowing what the play is about? And a world-famous play at that?  Apparently this woman did. So the director called me and I leaped at the chance.  I had been waiting until I was old enough to play Martha since I first read the play sometime in the 1980s.  I had big footsteps to fill.

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Uta Hagen, originator of the role of Martha — 1962

I was not the only cast member change, however. The original Nick didn’t like the original Martha, and he backed out. The original Honey also left because her parents’ home had been destroyed in the Houston flooding after Hurricane Harvey, and she needed to go down there to help them sort out their lives. Only the original George was left standing.

While our director auditioned for a new Nick and Honey, Edwin (playing George) and I began rehearsals. A few days later, Jamie (Honey) and Josh (Nick) joined us. And we were complete.

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Elizabeth Taylor as Martha in the 1965 film version

Then the real trouble began. Our director gave us strange line readings and odd blocking. He had us wandering randomly all over the stage with no real reason for the movement. He cut rehearsal short and left promptly at 9:30 or earlier every evening, often in the middle of a scene. And then would want to start the scene exactly where we left off when we returned the following evening, instead of at the beginning so we could build the emotion and energy again.

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Kathleen Turner as Martha in the 2007 revival

As actors, we became increasingly frustrated at these artificial restrictions and interruptions to our flow.  I mean, it wouldn’t kill anyone if we stayed an extra 10 minutes or so past the scheduled end of rehearsal to finish out a scene, would it?  And thus, the inevitable happened.

Woolf War I — the Bergen incident

One night, I arrived at rehearsal a little early.  Edwin and our director were already there, deep into a disagreement over the pronunciation of a word.  In the show, George delivers a monologue about his time in prep school when he went out with a group of young men, and one of the young men mishears the word “bourbon” and orders a “bergen” instead.  Edwin pronounced it with a hard G.  The director corrected him and said it should be a soft G instead.  Edwin disagreed and explained his reasoning (with the hard G, it sounds more like “bourbon” than with a soft G, and besides, everyone who’s ever done this play, including the original Broadway production, pronounced it with the hard G).  The director insisted.  I don’t know who raised his voice first, but voices were raised, and both men lost their tempers.  Much yelling ensued.  I bailed out the rehearsal room and literally hid in a corner until the argument was over.

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Imelda Staunton as Martha, 2017 London production

Sometime later, we were off book.  For those of you unfamiliar with the process, “off book” means we deliver lines from memory instead of reading from the script.   The first few days off book are always rough, and actors generally “call” for a line with some frequency — that means we’re asking the stage manager to give us our next line because we can’t come up with it on our own.

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Me as Martha; Josh as Nick

That’s the whole point, though: we ask for the line.  On purpose.  Unless you had our director.  At every pause, however minute, he jumped in and gave us our line, whether we asked for it or not.  We asked him repeatedly to let us struggle for it and call for it as needed.  He ignored us.  And thus occurred…

Woolf War II — Don’t give me a fucking line until I ask for it

Edwin, bless his heart, lost it one night after one too many unrequested lines given.  All four of us were fed up; Edwin was just the most vocal about it.  If I thought Woolf War I was bad, then this was bad times 10, because the director escalated it unnecessarily, yelling and screaming and tossing the script on the floor.  At one point, Edwin walked out and we all followed him down the hall as one of the producers was on the phone to the theatre’s artistic director about the argument.  I overheard him say, “Oh great, now the whole cast is leaving…”

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Clockwise from left:  Jamie as Honey; Josh as Nick; Edwin as George; me as Martha.  Yes, they’re all a foot taller than I am.

We didn’t leave.  We stopped at the end of the hall; we all took a few deep breaths; we talked to the producer for a little while who then mediated a conversation with the director; and then we went back to rehearsal. We finished out the night, the director left, and the cast went out for a drink.

That was the first time we had got together outside rehearsal: our first time to be able to talk as a group about our hopes and dreams and ideas and thoughts about this production without a member of the theatre staff within earshot.  It was an excellent bonding experience.

The next night our director didn’t show up.  We rehearsed anyway.  He didn’t show the rest of the week.  We rehearsed anyway.  A full week after Woolf War II, the artistic director told us the director wouldn’t be coming back and she would take over directing the show.

Directing ourselves

Well, that didn’t happen, exactly.  The artistic director came to a few rehearsals and gave us a few notes, but she was in the middle of auditioning, casting, and directing the show that would immediately follow ours, so we ended up directing ourselves for the most part.  Thank the theatre gods for Edwin and his extensive theatre training and background, not to mention his contacts throughout the Atlanta theatre community.  Several of his friends came to our rehearsals and provided guidance and direction and suggestions for improvement.  We fixed the weird blocking and changed the odd line readings.  On a personal level, I am especially grateful to Edwin’s friend Esther, who gave me invaluable advice and helped me through a few difficult spots with Martha’s character.

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Edwin, as George, laying down the law to Martha

Delayed opening

All this turmoil, unfortunately, resulted in the theatre’s decision to delay our opening by one week because we just weren’t ready.  Josh had gotten physically ill a couple of nights — we later discovered the water we had been drinking throughout every scene was, um, not good.  So he missed a couple of rehearsals due to illness. It’s a miracle the rest of us didn’t become ill.  Lines were still rough; the set wasn’t completely built and dressed; our costumes hadn’t been settled; the sound and light design was barely sketched out.  We did two previews to accommodate family and friends who were coming from out of town to view the show on its original opening weekend.  Those previews went really well and gave us hope for the following weekend and our actual opening.

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From left: Josh as Nick; Jamie as Honey; Edwin as George; and me

And then we went on

Opening weekend was almost anti-climactic after all the drama that preceded it.  We had very small houses, unfortunately, but we played our heart out every night.  You can read a review of our show here.

I’m not ashamed to say I think it’s the best work I’ve ever done.  My Martha was deeply deeply sad; she hurt people because she was hurt.  It was a challenge and a privilege to bring that out and present it to the audience.  I gave our patrons two acts that made them hate her, and one act that broke their heart.

The Sunday after our final performance, the cast went to the theatre one last time to strike the set, and then we went out to dinner.  I cried when we parted afterward.  I don’t usually get misty when a show ends, but this show was different.  My life is irrevocably altered; Jamie, Joshua, and Edwin are forever a part of me.

Goodbye, Martha, you poor misunderstood little girl. Playing you was an experience I’ll never forget.  Maybe someday I’ll get to be you again.  I’m willing if the universe is.

Book review: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and FuriesFates and Furies by Lauren Groff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mixed feelings about this one.

Lancelot, known to his intimates as Lotto, and Mathilde meet when they are in their early early 20s and baffle everyone who knows them — who knows Lotto in particular — by quickly marrying. The novel follows them throughout their married life, from dead broke college students to successful and well-to-do middle age and beyond, first from Lotto’s perspective (Fates), and then from Mathilde’s (Furies).

Good things:

  • The language is gorgeous.
  • After having been married for quite some time myself, I’d say this a reasonably well-drawn and not entirely implausible study of a particular marriage, although not mine.
  • I rather liked both Lotto and Mathilde for the majority of the story. The two of them reminded me in some ways of a married couple I know: a pair who met and married very young; who, to all appearances, are still passionately in love with each other after all these years; who wholeheartedly support each other in all their endeavors, business, artistic, and otherwise. (Special note just in case one or both of them might happen to read this book AND this review: By no means do I mean to imply that either keeps the kinds of secrets that make up the crux of this novel. In fact, I’d be shocked to the core to discover such a thing.)
  • I loved the chronological synopses of Lotto’s plays as a device to show the passage of time. And the synopses themselves made me wish these were actual stage productions I could see performed somewhere.

Quibbles (some spoilers ahead if you haven’t read this): Continue reading

New York, Day 3

Today the dinosaurs wanted to go to the Natural History Museum.  Luckily, we were in agreement with this agenda.

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The object of all this intrigue.

But first, the rest of the subway story…

After breakfast, we headed down into the 103rd & Broadway station to catch the train.  As we went through the turnstile, we noticed our “friend” from yesterday doing the same fast-talking hustle-’em-through-the turnstile act with another couple.  Spouse told the couple as we walked by, “It’s a scam.  Walk away.”

“What?” they said, because they didn’t hear him over TicketScammerGuy’s patter.  Spouse repeated himself, louder.  “Oh! Thanks!”  They glare at TicketScammerGuy and walk away. TicketScammerGuy calls after us and threatens to shove his fist into spouse’s face.  We ignore him and start down the stairs to the train platform; then suddenly spouse turns around and walks straight to the station agent’s booth.  She’s facing the other way — her window opens into the “lobby” area, before patrons go through the turnstile.  He taps on the window until he gets her attention, and points out TicketScammerGuy , who by this time had taken up his position next to the MetroPass vending machine to await his next victim.

Dinos in TR Park (2)“He’s running a scam.”  Station agent looks puzzled.  Spouse describes him:  “That guy over there in the striped shirt and ball cap; he’s running a scam.” She looks over her shoulder in the direction spouse is pointing and enlightenment dawns.  I think she’s familiar with him.

“Thank you,” she says, and she set her jaw with a determined expression.  “We’ll take care of this.”

We never saw TicketScammerGuy again.

*cue ominous music*

Now, in reality we expect TicketScammerGuy took his show down the road to another subway stop, but it’s tempting to indulge in those New York City transit system stereotypes (read: Teamsters/union thugs/organized crime) (yes, I’ve seen too damn many film noir flicks) and think he was “taken care of” in a more, um, permanent fashion. Regardless of the true circumstances of his sudden absence, he no longer disturbed the patrons of the 103rd and Broadway station.

Hunting for Relatives Address 2Our subway stop for the American Museum of Natural History was at 79th Street, and then we walked a few blocks east, toward Central Park. (Sadly, this is the closest we got to spending time in Central Park during the whole week.)  The museum is nestled at the edge of Central Park, and we went through Theodore Roosevelt Park to get to the entrance.

I’ve mentioned the weather was perfect this whole week, yes?  Oh my gosh.  Mid-70s, mostly, with a hint of a breeze, and blue blue skies every day.  Just amazingly beautiful.

Once in the museum, we wandered around the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians for a while — indigenous textiles fascinate me; the woven capes and clothing were incredible; I only wish I could have touched them — then made our way to the café for a snack and a chance to take a thorough look at the map of the museum.

The dinos, of course, were looking for their relatives’ house.  According to the map, their relatives lived on the fourth floor; we decided to start there and work our way down.

Pictures galore follow.

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May we come in?

Not Much Room for Brains

So, cousin, not much room for brains, huh?

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This guy.  Not a good guy.

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I enter the picture unexpectedly.

Might Be Mom

Mom, is that you?

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Did you know these skeletons are usually plaster casts of the actual bones?  Because the fossilized bones themselves would be much too heavy to articulate and display.

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These creatures amaze me.

Family Tree

Found the family tree.

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More amazement.

Might Be Dad

Dad?

We also went into the special “Dinosaurs Among Us” exhibit, which tells the story of the latest innovation in evolutionary thinking: how dinosaurs became birds. It’s fascinating.  Look at these three photos together.

A quick stop for refreshment:

Dinos Stop for Refreshment

And then we headed downstairs and cruised the other floors.  True confession:  I bypassed several of the halls on each floor because my ankles were starting to hurt.  By the time we got back to the first floor, I was dog tired and my ankles were in agony, so I crashed out on the floor next to an outlet in one of the halls to charge my phone while spouse cruised the North American Mammals exhibit.  A passing security guard just grinned at me as I huddled up in the corner on the floor with my charger.

We had theater tickets that evening.  After taking a brief nap at the hotel, we changed into our theatre duds and hit the town once more.

Book of Mormon

Oh. My. Gosh.  The Book of Mormon might be the funniest thing I’ve seen in my life.  Definitely not family friendly, but side-splittingly hilarious.  The Eugene O’Neill Theatre is gorgeous;

Eugene O'Neill Theatre 3

the set was amazing;

Eugene O'Neill Theatre 4

and our seats were perfect. (Yes, we splurged.  Yes, it was worth it.)

And yes, there’s still more to come.

*pokes head in*

I haven’t been here in weeks.  Play rehearsal, performances, plus another go-round with bronchitis have all left me with no energy and no time.  I haven’t even read anyone else’s blog entries; it’s all I can do to stay caught up with my friends on Facebook.

Five more performances of Clybourne Park and done.  Then I’ll be back.  In the meantime, here’s a picture of a goose.  Because who doesn’t love a goose?

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WIP Wednesday: Still Gathering Wildflowers

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I finished up the right front of the Wildflower Cardigan over the weekend and got started on the left front.  You can just barely see the cable crossing that marks the bottom of the flower pocket detail.  I haven’t touched any of the other WIPs that are floating around in my craft room — all of which are either cardigans or socks — and I’m fighting what may be a losing battle to cast on a quickie instant-gratification hat project.

Current Kindle book: California by Edan Lepucki, a collapse-of-civilization/survivalist story of the near future.  I use “survivalist” in the sense that the characters are out there in the wilderness doing their best to keep body and soul together, not in the hunkered-down-in-the-bunker, got-my-guns-n-ammo-n-MREs, looking-out-for-number-one sense that word usually implies.  However, I have just reached a part of the story where that latter definition might come into play.  Good story.

Current physical book: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.  This is the January selection for a Ravelry reading group, and I’ve barely started it.  Although I really like what I’ve read so far, I daresay it will not get finished before the end of the month.

Stitch Along WednesdayCurrently in rehearsal for Clybourne Park, playing Bev and Kathy.  Every time I take a part in a play, I remember why I don’t take parts in plays very often, especially as I get older.  I hate hate hate learning lines.  I want to place my script under my pillow and have the words I’m supposed to say magically appear in my memory through some form of osmosis.

This post is part of the Stitch-Along Wednesday round up.  Click that badge over there to see what other folks have been working on this week.

It’s A Thrilling Thursday Throwdown!

The above blog post title came about because I’ve missed WIP (aka Stitch-Along) Wednesday and Freshly Finished Friday for the last few weeks, despite my best intentions.  This evening I found some time to take a few photos and do a little mental composition; thus, a blog entry!  Ta da!

Said blog entry (that would this one, the one you’re reading, right here, right now) will contain:

  • Photos of an unfinished project!
  • Photos of a finished project!
  • Photos of a project that has yet to be commenced!
  • Yarn p04n!
  • And a flimsy explanation for the recent lack of activity (plus a bonus excuse for a future lack of same)!

Isn’t that thrilling?  Get it, thrilling?  Because it’s a “thrilling Thursday throwdown”?  Oh, never mind.  Let’s get started, shall we?

Mom's Tunisian 18First, the unfinished project.  The Tunisian Terror approaches the end of its crocheting phase.  I have one more solid square to finish in the coffee colorway, two to make in the cranberry colorway, and then eight striped squares.  Once the striped squares are completed, the crocheting is done.  Then will begin the cross-stitch component of this blanket.  Yes, each of these squares will have a cross-stitch design embroidered on it.  Have I mentioned I don’t do cross-stitch?  That’s my sister’s craft.  But, for my mother, I will do my best.

Bryony 5Next, the finished project.

Pattern: Bryony Cap by Tammy Eigemann Thompson; found in Interweave Knits Weekend 2010Click here for the Ravelry project page.

Yarn: Malabrigo Rios, colorway Marte, roughly 162 yards

Needles:  Addi Turbo circs, size 9 for the ribbing, size 10 for the cabled body, and size 10 DPNs for the crown

Satisfaction with end product:  Very pleased.  If this hadn’t been intended as a gift, I’d have gladly kept it.  I’ve never used Malabrigo before, and now I understand why fellow yarncrafters fall all over themselves for it.  It’s a dream to stitch: soft and squishy and satisfying, not to mention flat-out gorgeous.  Pure tactile pleasure! The pattern itself was well-written and easy to follow.  I made a few minor adjustments.  The pattern called for Bryony 6using a US 10.5 needles, but the ribbing in the 10.5 needle was far too loose for my tastes, so I switched to US 9s and cast on the same number of stitches that were required for the cable portion of the hat (rather than increasing after the ribbing as the pattern specifies). After the ribbing and a no-increase knit row, I switched to the larger needle (a 10, rather than the 10.5) and carried on as written. Using the smaller needles meant row gauge was short, so I did two and a half repeats of the cable section to get sufficient height before starting the decrease. The extra half repeat meant adjusting the decreases to get the same pattern effect at the crown, so I shifted the k2tog and ssk sections by…um, I think it was six stitches.

Purple Shawl 1The project yet to be commenced is also a gift.  I want to use the yarn pictured, which is Miss Babs Cosmic Handpainted Sock in colorway Swan Princess, because the gift is intended for a purple-loving person. The pattern pictured, Bellingrath, is the current champion of the Ravelry “what’s in my library?” search.  I’m just not sure it’s the right pattern for a colorway with such high contrast.  I’m afraid the lace will get lost in the color changes.  I have another sock yarn in stash that is a much lighter purple and much more subtle in its color changes, and now I’m waffling back and forth between the two, plus still stalking Ravelry for patterns. Thus, the “yet to be commenced” part of this project.  I suppose one could say that the only thing I’ve decided here is to make something purple for a particular individual.  Thrilling, yes?

And now, the promised yarn p04n.  I’ve been on a bit of binge recently.  Ready?

Yarn Acquisitions 1Wait, here’s another angle.

Yarn Acquisitions 2Some go-to workhorse yarn (the Cascade 220, along the back), some vibrant look-at-me sock yarn (four skeins at the front left), and that gleaming alpaca-rayon blend Folio in a deep charcoal on the right.  Heaven only knows when I’ll get to use any of it…well, that’s not true.  I bought the Cascade because I needed those colors for specific gifts.  The rest was whimsy.  It’s the whimsy that gets me in trouble.  I am quickly approaching SABLE status.  (That’s “Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy”, for the uninitiated.) I’ve already achieved BABEL status.  (That’s “Books Acquired Beyond Expected Lifespan”.)

Harvey 1Speaking of books, I’ve read several good ones recently.  No, I haven’t blogged about them.  Yes, I feel guilty.  But (here’s the flimsy explanation portion of this blog entry), I’ve been busy.  With this.

Yes, that is a script for a stage play.  After three years away, I auditioned for a local community theatre production and was cast as…

The female lead.  Veta Louise Simmons, sister of Elwood P. Dowd, he of the white rabbit fame.

It’s nice to know my acting chops have not failed despite their lack of recent use.  It’s not so nice to realize I have over 200 lines to learn and must be totally off book, not even calling for a line, by NEXT TUESDAY!!!

Harvey 2Just look at all that yellow on those pages.  It’s like that throughout most of the show.

Actually, I have a good grasp of about half of my scenes, and between now and Tuesday night will be spending virtually every moment that I’m not working with my nose buried deep in that script.  I intend to drive my husband insane by making him run lines with me every night when he gets home from work.  I expect I’ll make the other riders on MARTA think I’m insane by constantly muttering to myself while commuting back and forth to the office.

We open in May, so (and here’s the excuse for future absence bit) don’t expect much in the way of activity here for the next couple of months.  I hope to get back here and read some of your entries for Knit & Crochet Blog Week, but there’s no way I can take part this year. *sad face*

Hey!  I have one more photo for you, and would like a little feedback on it.  When I sat my camera on my desk to upload the photos I had taken today, I noticed something interesting in the viewscreen, so I quickly snapped a couple of shots.  After some judicious editing and cropping, I came up with this:

Yarn Book Banner 3Books, yarn, music…pretty much everything I ever write about.  And a pen to indicate the writing.  I’m thinking I might make this photo the banner for this blog.  Or maybe stage a better one.  What do you think?

Freshly Finished Friday(Edited to add:  I’m going to link this to Hard Knit Life’s Freshly Finished Friday.  Well, it contains an FO, doesn’t it?  Click the badge over there to go to the link party.  You know you want to.)