Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Musings, the Day After

Bratwurst. Under its thick blanket of sauerkraut it's slathered in honey mustard. You can't see it from here, but it's chuckling, take my word for it. It was enjoying its solitude; its twin had already been dispatched. I ate the first one slowly, savoring each delicious morsel - the crunchy charred exterior, then the combined flavors of sweet and tart, the fragrant soft bun. Did I mention that they were Johnsonville brats? Ooooh yeah. And get this: I ate it normally, like a regular human person. Nothing about my consumption of it would have garnered observation.

"So wot?" you ask. Or "big deal". Or ".....and....??" OK, I tell you what. For the last few years I've either avoided Bratfest, or took my ever-present Lexan knife and fork. For the last few years I at nothing that I couldn't eat with a knife and fork or a spoon. Have you ever thought about how much finger-type food we eat? Pizza. Sandwiches. Wraps. Burritos. Cookies, crackers and cupcakes. Veggies and dip. Bagels, doughnuts. BRATS.

Here's the beginning: I developed a Dentist Phobia at an early age. "Aw c'mon, no one likes to go to the dentist" (followed by "of course, it's all different now, it's fine"). No, ladies and gentlemen. We're talking blind panic, an inability to even phone the dental office for an appointment. Suffice it to say, my local dentist (seen as rarely as possible) is sympathetic to the point of agreeing to give me a general anesthetic for a cleaning.

For years I hankered after false teeth. Dentures. Chompers. I would think, "Imagine how easy it would be to brush the back teeth - if they were in your hand." I read ads for denture adhesives, watched Florence Henderson, enjoyed commercials for Polident. And I started asking the dentist if I could get dentures when I was about 45. I was "too young". Furthermore - "we like to save the natural teeth at all costs". But such a phobia doesn't allow for rigorous dental care. One by one, I lost some of the natural teeth. Each procedure was traumatic as only phobics can understand. Of course there was no pain, of course I had anesthetics - but I spent weeks in grim, nauseated anticipation.

OK, fast-forward to the present. I had a series of procedures, several steps, which ended in about last February, with my having a whole mouth full of brand-new dentures. And you know what? They are everything I had hoped for. First off, no one seeing me has any idea I have dentures. (Well...at least until I flash a huge smile and go off about how much I love 'em.) They're not Dazzling Movie-Star White (I'm 64, perfect white teeth would look like...perky 23-year-old ..er...um...well, you know.) Secondly, they fit perfectly, and when glued in with a Very Reliable Stick-Pretend-Teeth-In-Your-Mouth glue, they do not (as the advertising suggests) slip or click. And yesterday I performed the Final Test: I chomped into a great big smothery, mustardy, sauerkrauty bratwurst. And chewed it like a Normal Human Person. THAT is a milestone, a graduation, a coronation. A Celebration. I don't have to carry Lexan dinerware any more. If you know anyone who needs dentures and is worried about it? I'm ready to give speeches and write commendations.

All that aside, we had a blast at Bratfest, as my little grandson picked me out of the crowd of thousands and ran over to hug me around the knees, followed by his mother and My Youngest! A delightful surprise. The highlight for the grandson, age six, was a visit with a perfectly splendid working Police Dog and his partner, a very tall local officer (who, as it turned out, knew My Youngest very well from the days when he hung out at a local teen spot...I didn't ask). I liked seeing the Weinermobile again but didn't enter the Singing Contest.

Had a typical day Museum day today, herding hoppities of fourth graders around - and enjoying the scrumptious high you get from successful theatrical performances. They pay me to do this. As I rest at home this evening I'm slightly aware of the aforementioned "winds", but oh, it was worth it, every juicy morsel. Ah - and I found two skeins of Noro Kureyon (!) and have begun an Old Shale scarf pattern I got off the 'net. I'll try pictures when I get it down. (NO idea where I got that yarn!?!)

Thought for the Day: In 500 years, when archaelogists dig up CDs, what are they going to think they are? (Responses accepted with relish. Not sauerkraut.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007


See this? Bratfest, it says. Memorial Day, it says. Actually, it started yesterday (Friday) and goes through Monday, Memorial Day. "So tell me, Dale-Harriet, how do you mark this holiday and honor our country's veterans?

Two ways. This is one. Bratfest is a local Happening that's been going on for many years. Until a couple of years ago it was held in the parking lot of a very nice grocery store, rain or shine. Each year it was bigger; each year they try to surpass the number of brats sold the year before. Now it's held on the lawn at the municipal coliseum because now it's HUGE! So tell us, Uncle Dale-Harriet, what IS this "bratfest"? Why of course, dear, I'd be pleased to.

They get a ginormous, giganto, humungous and otherwise massive grill, which is on a very long and big flatbed truck. They fire up the grill, and they grill brats (and hotdogs for those who don't want brats....yes, there are some folks who don't). Now, may I point out that they also make some vegetarian dogs too, as I recall. For a dollar you get a grilled Johnsonville bratwurst on a bun and a small soda. (In case it's not evident, this is a major deal.)

The original idea was to raise money for some local charities. Actually, that's still the idea, but now they raise money for a whole BUNCHA local charities and it's become quite swank. Every day they have "celebrity purveyors" (there's some other term but I can't remember it) so here's your opportunity to be handed your brats from local politicians, sports figures, police-chief guys, TV personalities, radio personalities (well, they say they are; how could you know what a radio personality looks like?) You get the picture.

Continuing with the whole swank thing, they have several Condiment Stations where, this being Wisconsin, you have your choice of several different mustards including one devised for the event (I'm a honey dijon-er, myself). They also have ketchup for them what goes that way, and relish and chopped onions and that Absolute Basic Necessity on a Wisconsin brat: sauerkraut.

So you take your brat....well, or your bag of brats....over to the condiment station, tear yourself off a dozen or so napkins and load up. There are, by the way, thousands of people there from opening to close -- but this IS Madison and everyone chats and jokes and comments while loading up, and there's "no pushing or shoving on aisle six". (Actually they have about 12 lines to GET the brats, so there's "no waiting on aisle six" either; it's absolutely beautiful choreography how it all works.)

When you're loaded up you weave your way back to where the Designated Sitter has reserved a spot at a table. There are LOTS of tables, and people move along when finished, so it's never too hard to find a spot. Also, this IS Madison and everyone's very happy to join a table full of folks you don't know. Then everyone sits around wolfing these brats all oozing and dripping with whatever combination of stuff you have under your sauerkraut (really gotta have the 'kraut) and talks about how great it all is, how many times you've been there already this year, how many brats you've had --- then everyone burps politely and wanders off.

Its' a Municipal Obligation to go, to do Our Part in raising the numbers sold. Besides that, it's just a huge merry, festive, gluttonous orgy of lovely greasy grilled sausages. Oh and I'll say it here: there are many culinary delights to be had in this whole world. But in my estimation, few could equal a good fat brat, incinerated, on a nice soft bun with honey-dijon mustard and an enormous pile of sauerkraut on. This isn't a plug for Johnsonville brats - but accept no substitutes. You can grill 'em at home too, or seethe them in beer and then grill them (or broil them if you don't have a grill). It's a summer thing. A Wisconsin thing. And Bratfest? It's a Madison thing.

Note: every year I go, sometimes twice. I always eat two, and have been known to take some home. I really pile on that 'kraut....which gives me the most TURRIBLE case of the winds. Add to that my hypersensitivity to the carbonation in soft drinks, and you have my own personal guarantee for a night spent in the Necessary, groaning, reading and knitting. "Why, Dale-Harriet, do you put yourself through that? And every year??" Ah, grasshoppah, it's worth it. Every delicious greasy 'krauty mustardy bite is like manna. If you're really good all your life, when you die you go to the Perpetual Bratfest - and there is no wind.

Besides, discomfort aside, it's nice spending a night reading and knitting.

Ah, but I said I do TWO things on Memorial Day, and indeed I do. This other is my real Memorial Day event. I get up early and go to a ceremony at our beautiful municipal cemetery at 8:00 a.m. This cemetery, Forest Hill, has some of the earliest residents of the area and most of the notable ones. One one side of the mausoleum is "Soldiers' Rest", in which are 100 graves of Union dead from the Civil War, each marked with a small white stone. On the other side is found "Confederate Rest", in which there are 100 graves, similarly marked, of Southern men who died at Camp Randall, the military prison here in town. There is a small American flag at each Union grave -- and a small stars-and-bars at each of the Confederate graves.

There is a Color Guard composed of Veterans who parade the Colors; there are often remarks by our popular Representative, Tammy Baldwin, and further comments and a prayer by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Then there is a volley fired by Veterans - and another fired by a group of reenactors portraying the Iron Brigade, the soldiers who made a great name for themselves at Gettysburg.

Then the whole group marches down to Confederate Rest where there are other speeches, another prayer, and another volley. The participants shake hands, greet each other and wander off.....except me (and, when he comes along, the Husband).

We proceed up the hill to the family plot of one Lucius Fairchild, Brigadier-General of the Iron Brigade, who lost his left arm at Gettysburg and returned home to serve, in time, three terms as Governor of Wisconsin. (I fell in love with him while reading and transcribing the Fairchild family correspondence and papers at the Historical Society Archives, and have spent every Memorial Day with him since 1996 when I helped a descendent plan a very nice Centennial of his death on Memorial Day that year; Lucius had the grace to die on May 23, 1896, conveniently near to what would become Memorial Day.) The Iron Brigade reenactors march up to the Fairchild plot as well, and there, after a few comments from myself, fire a volley for Lucius Fairchild (and his brother Cassius, also buried there and also a Civil War veteran.)

The highlight for me is that we are also joined there by the completely charming great-granddaughter of Lucius who, at 80, is in better shape than I and who always sprints off afterward for a standing golf date.

So - for Lucius, and for all the soldiers lost in war, your memories are sustained. I surely do wish that there would be no fallen soldiers. I'm an unrepentant hippie who was active in the anti-war movement, but it ain't the soldiers I'm mad at. It's them what sets it all up.

Now, where did I put my napkins?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I'm a slow learner...

but I don't forget. I'm having some considerable trouble learning how to do this. I DID manage to get a picture in (which is, of course, perfectly evident to you) and will Consult my Guru for details on things like, oh you know, putting them where you want them and with captions, stuff like that there.

In the meantime, (per request) here are my babies, Evangeline on the left, Lilliane on the right. Their cat trees are in the front window where they can keep an eye on the workings of the world which, without their ministrations, would surely crumble and fall. This is a rare moment, by the way (especially since Lilly is on Evangeline's Place).

To continue about Lilliane: the Kind and Friendly put Evangeline on a diet. No longer the skinny long-tail, she was .... she had .... she matched the family. Horizontally-advantaged. Mommy-wobbles. So I was going out to buy her prescription dry diet food. (I was tempted to try it myself, but -- naww.) It had occurred to me that my treasure might be lonely on the weekends we were off playing at being in the 18th century, even though the Lovely Daughter was stopping by for food and snuggles; I thought she might miss her own little kitties.

So when I got into the office of the Kind and Friendly to find a cage with four teeny Available Babies, they caught my eye. (C'mon now, you'd have noticed them too.) They were brown tabbies, born there in the office to a mom rescued and taken there. Three had little blue collars. One had a red collar.

I've read cat books, talked to cat people, knew the deal: "If you get a second cat, be sure to get the opposite sex of your resident cat." I knew that. But -- it was the kitty with the red collar who scrambled up the side of the cage and snagged my pinafore as I walked past. When I bent over to disengage her she gave me a big open-mouthed silent miaouw.

Did I grab my bag of diet food, pay me my monies and get the heck outta Dodge? When the Wicked Girl at the desk said "Would you like me to take her out so you can play with her?" did I demur politely and refuse like a Sensible Person? When I sat down on the floor and she crept into my lap and started purring - did I plop her right back in the cage and go home?

I did not.

I spent a half hour rubbing, snuzzing, hugging, romping and playing with her. Finally with admitted regret I said I'd "really have to ask the Boss" and I slunk home. I gently broached the subject to the Husband, who inhaled and said two cats???? But he did agree to go back to the office just to look at the kitten. JUST TO LOOK. We took her out of the cage and she climbed up his shirt onto his back and snuggled under his ponytail. She crept back down into his arms and looked up with her kitty eyes and made teeny mewlings. He signed the papers. He paid his monies. We had to leave her for a few days, during which we could set up a room for her and begin talking to Evangeline about it. And in time, we brought her home.

She spent a couple of weeks in her room with Evvie slinking past the door hissing and swearing; we opened the door a crack so they could see each other - she looked curious and Evangeline, my victorian lady of a cat, used language never bounced off these walls before, in spite of raising two boys here. Eventually we put Evvie in the basement and let Lilliane prowl and learn her house, then traded places so they could become accustomed to each other's scent. (I read the books - although, of course, ignored the part about not getting the same sex.)

After about three weeks, one evening when we were home, I said "You know, this is ridiculous." and I carried Lilliane out and dropped her on the floor. I figured if Evangeline was going to eat her, it may as well be sooner than later. Let me put it this way: 1) she didn't remember ever having babies of her own; 2) she didn't eat her. Time went by, eventually we dared leave them both out when we left the house, and - as you can see - they're both still alive.

A few months ago we had a Terrible Dust-up (details upon request, but suffice it to say that they had a real show-down wild attack fur-flying moment). Against all wisdom (do you see a pattern here?) I got into the middle, pulled Lilly out and shoved her downstairs and shut the door. We were back at the beginning but worse. A call to the Brilliant and Blessed Cat Whisperer at the Shelter led me to release my despair (eventually) and put in a Feliway diffuser. After two weeks (I feared it would take two years) peace was restored! And it was better than it had been. Of late they're found sleeping back-to-back like croissants, and while they don't snuggle I have seen Lilliane deign to a brief face-washing from Evangeline. When I learn how, I'll show you more pictures.

And as I write, Evangeline is actually sleeping in the odd misshapen kitty pi I knit! (With a tip of the sunbonnet to Crazy Aunt Purl, who led me somehow to the pattern!) Note to self: learn how to put all the blogs I read on here too and all the other neat stuff. Check.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Time for Introductions!

OK, time for introductions. I'll start with the "Cats" of the title. (I'm cultivating my "dotty old lady with cats" persona.) They're my pets, my companion animals, my sweet little furry darlings (see parenthetical above). I've pretty much always had cats since being on my own, and am of the mind that kitties enhance a home. I'm very partial to black cats (who religiously spend Halloween in the basement) and my cats are Felinus Indoorinus. When I first moved here (Wisconsin) we had a black cat named Ra. We got him when my youngest twolegged baby was about six months old. At the age of about 13 he developed that boykitty feline bladder problem and we had to have him ....helped across the Rainbow Bridge. The Husband (for whom I'm trying to create a new and better designation: he's absolutely a wonder!) and my oldest son went in with him to the vet's office. I and youngest waited in the reception area. The Lovely Daughter stayed home and knitted a little square for under Ra's head and when we got home we buried him in an antique basket with his head on the square and his favorite toys.

Some time later I was at work (English Department, Undergraduate Majors' Office) and one of the TAs came in asking if anyone wanted a cat. She was preggers, said she (!) and she had a little black kitten. The kitten, Othello by name (of course) was wild and energetic and she was worried about introducing him to an infant. I took my sons over to see him - need I say more? Othello came home with us. It was true, he WAS energetic. Bouncing-off-the-walls-literally energetic. We loved him. He was Felinus Indoorinus too, but he was FAST and he could teleport from sleeping in the back bedroom to out the door in the time it took me to slide a hand out to bring in the mail. He took to wearing a figure-8 harness so we'd have something to grab other than a portion of his anatomy, and he still was sometimes successful in making a break.

The kids grew up, moved out, and Othello became my pal, my buddy. In time he became stone-deaf and, by the vet's description, senile. He was adorable, and kept me especially good company in the period when the Husband was spending a lot of time out east caring for his elderly parents. However - the day came when, the day before we were slated to go out of town for a week, and for the first time in his life, he wandered into the study where I was working on the computer, went into the corner of the room and "used his litterbox"....but of course that was NOT his box. I could tell that he thought it was, though - and I knew we couldn't leave him alone so disoriented (Lovely Daughter comes over daily to care for any feline siblings). So the next morning our Kind and Friendly Vet came over....I gave myself errands to run....and at the age of 19 (nineteen!) he slipped over the Rainbow Bridge hardly even waking from his morning nap. When I got home, he was buried - also in an antique basket, nearby his predecessor.

A month later, when Husband was again out of town, Lovely Daughter came over saying "Mom, c'mon, we're going to the Shelter." NOTE: we have a very fine no-kill shelter. We found there a little black kitty. She was tiny, and had been brought to the Shelter with a littermate (they thought) and seven kittens; both mothers were nursing the whole litter, so they didn't know which was born to whom. (Awwwww.) The kittens, of course, had been adopted almost immediately. I don't remember what they were calling her - but "Evangeline" she became. A tiny little kitty with a very long tail. They let me adopt her as an "adult" (cheaper) although I'd guess she was really only about a year old. They also usually require a visit from all family members before letting a pet to go to its new home....but being as I was an old lady, there was only one other person in the household (although out of town) - and our previous cat had lived over 19 years, they allowed as how I was probably a safe bet.

She's not tiny with a long tail any more. She's definitely large-ish and she grew longer as well as rounder so her tail is, if anything, rather short. The Husband says she's my Familiar; I say we're powerful bonded. She is MY kitty, my treasure, my precious. (See parenthetical above.) Not much of a lapcat except on rare occasions, she prefers to wedge herself in behind me on the couch or in my computer chair. She sleeps between my feet at night, knows that dinner is when the Oprah show is over (messes her up on weekends) and is spoiled. Pampered, Cherished. Coddled. I like to say "It's a wonder anyone can even get into the house, with a cat that spoiled." She's pretty hefty, incredibly soft and silky, and when she runs (such as into the kitchen) she has "mommywobbles". Oh, and she has a large white patch between her hind legs which we call "her naughty spot" and a very attractive white locket under her chin.

Best of all? I told her, upon bringing her home, that she is a Knitter's Cat and therefore must be impervious to the blandishments and siren call of any yarn she happens upon - and so she is! Bless her Sacred Aegyptian Heart.

Tomorrow? Lilliane.

Bonus: A fact about me: I'm an inveterate tea drinker. WITH caffeine. And rubber cream (oh, ok, "liquid non-dairy creamer"). Coffee? Only iced, in the summer - or that incredible thick sweet creamy Thai coffee they sell iced with Pad Thai &c.

Friday, May 18, 2007

When the Moooooon is in the 7th House....

OK, first: I'm very fond of using parentheses (had you noticed?) and I'm also a big fan of the ellipses....know what I mean? And while we're at it--I've been known to enjoy a dash now and then.

Having said that, a great deal has happened since I last wrote. Earlier in the week I had one of those "....and Jupiterrrrr aligns with Mars" moments. When we got home from the Museum I found, in the mail, an invitation to my first grandchild's high school graduation. A teensy bit of background: he was born when my son was 16, and was in our life quite a lot for the first three years. But my son and his mother broke up (amicably, I'm glad to say). In time she married, and my son permitted her husband to adopt the boy. I didn't feel I should inject myself into the new family and therefore didn't, although I certainly never gave off thinking about him.

Fast forward 14 years to one year ago, May of '06. We got home from the Museum (I should make some kind of code for that, I say it a lot) to find a phone message from his mother. Seems he was going to his junior prom that night - and had decided he wanted to come visit his grandma. (!) I'll give you a moment to absorb that (pay special attention to the fact that it had been fourteen years).

OK - they came over. And the dandelion-haired rosy-cheeked blond infant boy had become a very TALL thin dark-haired young man who no longer was the image of my son's infant self. No, he clearly bears the family stamp of my side of the family now! He generously let me take his picture, and when I looked at it later I realized, he looks a LOT like my first cousin! He's a Kohn, after all that. He's also fascinating, reads anime (his aunt will be so excited), he's studied French, he was intrigued by our historical reenactment pasttime.

Fast forward to Tuesday, and I receive his invitation, containing four beautiful formal photos. (Thank you, Grandson, you may not know how much this means to me, but in my typical jewishmother way you can bet I'll gush all over and let you know).

OK, here's the twilight zone part. Later that very same evening, the phone rang. It was the ex-wife of my OTHER son, whom I had not heard from at ALL for six years. We had gone to his 11th birthday (he's 17 now); before that we hadn't seen him for nine years. NOTE: in this case his mother had separated herself from us for many complex reasons, and I had no way to find her. She'd married too, and I didn't know her last name.

So when I heard her voice on the telephone it was all I could do to be casual. I would have been astonished at any time -- but on the very day I had gotten the other grandson's invitation, well! This grandson, hereafter referred to as "C" (the other one is "N"), had decided he wanted to tell me about his future plans. When his mother put him on the phone, it was A Moment. His voice has much of the timbre of his father's, and I can hear the remembered sound of his grandfather's voice, my first husband. (Of blessed memory.) Of course he has no way of knowing that (in my typical jewishmother way, he WILL). He had determined to invite us to come over the Saturday before Memorial Day for a picnic; seems they now own a home on a beautiful lake nearby. I promised to take my album of his baby pictures - his mother said she really doesn't have any. (Didn't ask, don't want to know.)

The Husband says that's all nice but it has nothing to do with coincidence. Silly person! I know when the Creator is plying gifts and I thank Her for it. So, within a short span of time, both of my first two grandchildren have returned to me, and I'll see them both within two weeks of one another. I have to admit, it had been as secret hope of mine that both would come looking for their paternal grandmaw "when they got old enough".

Also this week, Wednesday to be exact, we had our young colleague from the Museum and her fiance over for supper. It was about as enjoyable an evening as we've had for a while. These children are ALMOST young enough to be our grandchildren - chronologically - and yet are very much peers, in fact. Both fiance and Husband have the same name, and we laughed about being between two bookends; as it turns out, they're similar in many other ways as well. They really are very much the younger, 21st-century versions of us. The compatibility and camaraderie were fabulous. I had made a West African Peanut Stew (she's vegetarian) and it turned out wonderfully! In spite of the fact that I forgot to put in the okra (there are those would say that's a good thing) and we forgot to make the brown rice to serve with it. Turned out just fine, as Young Friend and Fiance brought some exceptional yummy bread.

Long talkings, and we sat long enough to opt for dessert. Husband had bought three flavors of sherbet (watermelon, pineapple, lemon) which we discovered was very nice in varous combinations; we also had anise pizelles, another happy surprise.

A wonderful evening with good food spent in the company of like-minded friends - that's the sort of thing that leads me to declare "we are incredibly unbelievably rich; we just don't have a lot of money." C'est vraie, c'est vraie. Oh - and I'm virtually done with my gold Virginia Tech square. Want very much to finish at least one more in order to mail them by the 22nd of this month or so. They're due "before the end of the month".

Sunday, May 13, 2007

It's Mothers' Day, y'all

Happy Mothers' Day to all! To everyone nurturing a child, young person, ill person, old person - this Day's for you!

I woke up hearing rain, and thought "Oh good, Lucy's getting the rain"...and realized my lilac has a name. The instruction sheet from the garden shop says to give her plenty of water; I'm going to call there, too, and see what's the very best care one can give a lilac bush. It is my intention to pamper, coddle and nurse Lucy the way I do Evangeline and Lilliane. Even if she doesn't purr. Lilacs are clearly the Creator's enhancement to Spring.

As I put on my morning tea the Husband said "I have instructions to take you out to select a rolling computer bag. That's your present from the girls." My cats are generous, particularly when it's their Da paying the money. Now, I have a computer bag for Daisy. Daisy is my laptop. Part of the trouble is that when Daisy is in her bag along with a few file folders, book or two, notecards, couple tablets, her power cord, little surge protector deal, mouse, lock cable - the whole affair weighs something around 30 lbs. The shoulder strap is wide and padded and comfortable but I'm 4'11" and there's sometimes a question about which of us taking whom where. You see a lot of folks with those neat little suitcase-on-rollers things, which would solve the problem.

Now - I feel obliged to make an admission here. The Husband and I really relish browsing. We actually make a point to visit grocery stores when we travel, just browsing along to see how prices compare to our usual store, or what stuff they might have that we don't. I was amazed to discover that Bosco, ("the chocolate-flavored driiiiiiiiink") is STILL available out east, where they quit selling it in the Midwest ages ago. What DULLARDS, I can hear you thinking. Not only do I admit it - we actively cultivate it. We truly beat our best average last week though: we spent an hour (60 solid minutes) browsing for ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils. We examined the heft, the colors, tried out the tips, checked out the erasers - you'd be amazed at the variation in casual writing implements. With this record to maintain, we set out to purchase a rolling computer bag.

By the way, the "sticks" referred to in the title of this blog refers, as you surely knew, to knitting. Lest ye think I've forgotten or forsworn, know this: every time I get in the car (unless I'm driving) I knit. I'm making a square for the Virginia Tech project, remember?

To make a long story short, it only took us six hours to select and purchase a bag. We went to five stores and literally sat down on the floor in each, unzipping and examining every pocket of every bag of every sort with wheels. I guess these bags are actually designed for business people who travel. They're made to hold business-type papers and files. They have cunning little pockets for cell phones (I don't have one), MP3 players (never touch the stuff), credit cards (only one, in the billfold thenk yew). And of course they have a section for a couple of clean shirts, tie, dopp kit - everything you need to appear at the meeting looking like an FBI suit with the latest technology. (I'd never be confused for a suit.) Our conversations went something like this:

Me: OK, this one has a good Daisy section, nice places for pens {see above}, a good place for files and knitting patterns.

Hub: These zippers are a little thin, I'm not sure how they'll hold up. What are the wheels made of?

Me: Oh, this is nice, a big section at the back for yarn, and a keen zipper pouch long enough for most of my needles. And there are a couple of mesh pockets for point protectors, measuring tape and related chazerai.

Hub: These are some decent heavy-duty zippers, and one of those straps with a clasp on the end for keys....

Me: Or scissors! You could keep scissors on that.

Hub: OK, so you want a good padded section for Daisy, a space for doodads, knick-knacks and gewgaws, storage containers for your needles, a file section for knitting books and plenty of room for yarn, right?

Me: Right.

Anyone business traveller listening in would have wondered what kind of nefarious activity I was planning for sure. He'd wonder what on earth kind of company I work for....we did notice that the store clerks would sidle up, say "Finding everything you need?" and scamper off without waiting for a reply.

End result? I got a pretty large Swiss Army Knife company bag. Along with a large spacious yarn-and-book section, a good Cool Office Supplies section, all kind o' neat exterior sections intended for things like airline tickets (I can store menus from free wi-fi places) &c. AND! Get this: It has a padded section for Daisy that lifts out, has its own shoulder strap and another zipper section for papers and stuff, in case I ONLY need Daisy and not the rest of the stuff. The bag is the grandma/writer/knitter/reader/office-supply-junkie's dream. And I almost finished the Virginia Tech square between stores! THANKS, Evangeline and Lilliane, Mommy loves your present!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Heart Swells....

This may have to be written in chunks - as I write now, I've just heard a piece on NPR about "Scheherezade". It was an interview with a conductor (don't ask me her name, or if it was Scott Simon who interviewed; when you know me better you'll know I have a problem remembering names) about the various movements and themes in the piece.

As a storyteller, of course, "1001 Nights" may be the touchpiece, the standard, although I assume that impending death would be a powerful incentive to keep a story going. But in my youth my ballet master was a fellow who had performed "Scheherezade" with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. He was a genuine Old School Hungarian ballet master - if our developpe was not high enough, a good tap with his stick improved it. We worshipped him. Each year the school produced a performance, but this was no recital with spangles and tambourines. Oh no, it was a full ballet, at Northrop Auditorium on the U of MN campus, with the the orchestra under the baton of Antal Dorati. The costumes were commissioned from New York, the sets painted by a master-painter.... all in all, a full ballet performance of the sort seen in the old theatres of Europe.

And not everyone was in the performance. Oh, no, you had to wait for that moment when, after several years of classes (and you had to be over 13 so that you had the strength for toe slippers) Maestro would come over during class, tap you with the stick and say, "Yes, yes, start coming to rehearsal next week." That was IT! That meant that you could go to the shop where they fitted toe slippers, and you could begin to go to rehearsals, because you were "in the Company". Furthermore, perhaps the very best of all - you could wear pink tights. If you weren't in the Company, you couldn't wear pink tights.

Where all this is leading is, my first (and as it turned out, only) season in the Company, one of the ballets we performed was "Scheherezade." My role was small, but to this day hearing that exquisite music literally makes my heart swell and my eyes water. Maestro danced the Favorite Slave and his ethereal wife (she of the great gentle grey eyes) danced Zobeide, the Princess. Their costumes were replicas of the old Ballet Russe, all gold tissue and loops of pearls, and his makeup included some sort of gold dust which made him gleam. From my first lesson at that ballet school to the last, when college required all of my time, some of my richest of life memories occurred . Some good (that performance); some sad (I lost my mother while studying there); some profound life experiences (my First Serious Beau broke up with me). So hearing the incredible "Scheherezade" is a whole Event.

Thus inspired, I went shopping for small presents for my daughters-in-law who are mothers. While ambling around Target (a favorite sport of mine) I thought I'd check to see if they had a DVD of "Hair". They did. And it was cheap. I bought it. I brought it home and put it in to watch/listen to while tidying up a tad and getting settled to wait for the Lovely Daughter to come over and knit. It must be some weird moon phase, as watching it and hearing that music ALSO really got to me and I wound up sitting down and watching....and crying AGAIN! I am so past menopause (nevermind the hysterectomy) that I can assure you it's not PMS. But that whole hippie thing and anti-war thing and Viet Nam really gets to me, and when Burger gets marched off into the plane I just lose it. I might think it was flashbacks, but I didn't do THOSE kind of drugs in the '60s. I had two bittylittle kids. Is there such a thing as Severe Nostalgia Syndrome? Well, if there wasn't before I declare there is now. And I've got it bad.

Then the Lovely Daughter arrived, bringing my Mothers' Day present a day early. You will so not believe this: she gave me a LILAC!! No, not a bouquet, a whole real TREE! Even it has some flowers on it already with their amazing scent. You can bet that I'm spending time Sunday nestling it into position in the sunny front yard. I LOVE lilacs....my mother had them in our yard when I was a child and....oh oh, the Syndrome's kicking in again. OK, all in all, I've had a truly spectacular pre-Mothers' Day day. All that and some mighty sociable knitting in the bargain. In the greater scheme of things - one powerful mightyfine day.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Another step in....

Well, it's certain. My name is Dale-Harriet, and I am a Yarn Snob. Now, this makes sense for one who is an artistic, clever, creative, skillful, acomplished (and from where I sit, cute) knitter. I am none of those. Ok, ok, the Husband says I'm cute, but he's biased. A lot.

In fact, I didn't even realize I was a Yarn Snob. Here's how the Truth came to me: I started making squares for the Virginia Tech project (Hokie Healing); the first, maroon ones, are Lamb's Pride Bulky from my stash. They're nice. But I didn't think I had anything that I could describe as "burnt orange" or gold - and then I remembered having started a Harry Potter scarf ages ago. I knew there were at least two skeins, in the wickerthing, repository of oddments. I dug it out and started a square. It's Red Heart worsted.

I started a square in a cool pattern, K1P1 on one side, plain knitting on the other side. It felt...weird. I kept going. More weird. Got about three inches (by 8 - the squares are 8x8). And friends? I threw it away! Oh no, not the whole skein, just what I'd knitted. Note to self: the Museum can use all that yarn - may as well include the maroon - for craft projects. Quick trip to a LYS for some Cascade 220 in gold, and I've started another square. I'm a Yarn Snob.

Now, on account of 'cause this is me, let me say that I think there is a purpose for the RedHeart acrylic worsted. It comes in mighty-fine colors, is readily accessible, economical, washable.... but for my projects, (and believe me when I say "nothing fancy",) it's wool or cotton for me. Heck, I've even boldly changed to Mission Falls cotton for my warshrags. Eh - Homespun doesn't count, I am LOVING that stuff, I started a whole big Fashionista Movement with Homespun granny shawls. Maybe it's the exception....

Ah, confession IS good for the soul. Now then. I've decided to finish up my works-in-progress before I start something else. Last count it was two dishcloths, a sock, a shawl and as many squares as possible. They're a nice in-between. Tomorrow my Lovely Daughter is coming over to watch movies and knit, the forecast is for "Nice", the Husband's going to an archaelogy program of some sort, so we can have a Girlies' Stitch-and-....Chat. (She's my daughter, after all, I have to watch my language). Oh, and I mean to try to learn things to spiff up the old blogaroo, like how DO you get pictures in here. And why can't I read a book with each eye? While knitting?

Toe in the Water!

I'm addicted. To blogs. "Blog" - that is not a word that was in my - I'd like to think extensive - vocabulary, "when I was a girl". I expect I'll be writing about cats (Evangeline and Lilliane, my Pampered Daughters of Bast); about sticks (I'm a "process-knitter", only fair but enthusiastic); and about books, my most serious addiction. Next to knitting. And cats.

How do I feel about this, and about the Internet? Well, I like to say that I'm young enough to really embrace and enjoy this whole computer thing - and old enough to be completely undone by it. The fact that it removes two major obstacles between citizens of the global village (time and distance) dazzles me. I've had real-time "conversations" with a fellow in Australia. Freaky, because to me, he was in tomorrow; to him, I was in yesterday. Think about it.

OK - it's anyone's guess how this will go or where, but after enjoying other blogs that I read SO much, I figure I want to give it a shot. Suggestions, comments, assistance welcomed. Who would have thought I would ever have any such of a thing?