Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Crazy Aunt Purl in the For-Real!

A little back-story: I had been in touch with KMKat (Kathy) by e-mail in the days leading up to the appearance of Crazy Aunt Purl at the Mall of America, and we planned to meet in the Food Court around 4:00 pm, get a bite to eat and then head down to find seats at Barnes & Noble. As it turned out, it took us a little longer to get to Minneapolis and find our motel; we'd really just gotten settled when my cell phone rang and it was Kathy. She said, as it was 4:00, she was just going down to Barnes & Noble and would save us seats. We arranged to hurry over and meet her as soon as we could.

We got directions, - and as mentioned before, found a parking space in the small lot directly in front of the main entrance of the Mall! Did you get that? Do you KNOW how huge that Mall is, how many thousands of bergillions of people are there every day? And this was in the afternoon. I mean, I always say I have good parking karma, but this was beyond all comprehension.
We hurried in, found B&N and found Kathy. There were nine chairs set up in the Cafe; Kathy was sitting in the middle of the first three, right up in front. She saved us the other two. RIGHT IN FRONT. I would have SO given her my first-born child, however that's the Lovely Daughter. I thought about offering her my second-born, or third-born -- but the truth is, they're a couple guys who, although I'm wildly adoring on them, it wouldn't be a reward for this kind of kindness.

It was around 5:00, so we did have a little time before Laurie was scheduled to appear.
As we hadn't eaten, Daughter went over and got us a couple of sandwiches. NOTE: there's a smoked turkey and cheese sandwich on grilled whole-grain panini bread with dried cranberries in it that is mag-NIFFFFF-icent. Go get one. I am. (Sure hope they have that at OUR B&N....) The Lovely Daughter finished up and went to rejoin KMKat; I don't eat very fast, but I did my best and then joined my new friend and the Daughter.

As the time grew closer, more people began arriving,and the Earnest Young Host kept looking around, getting more and more pale; finally he began dashing around to find additional chairs. As soon as he could set them up, they were filled. The level of excitement began to increase, and the speed of the knitting (almost everyone in the crowd was knitting) increased.

The crowd swelled, and although I am, without doubt, "quantitatively challenged", I'd say there were between 70 and 368,459 people there. There were folks sitting on the floor, folks all behind the table, people all around the walls. And you know what I noticed? EVERYone was smiling, and most everyone was knitting.

Then, finally, the Earnest Young Man stepped up to introduce Crazy Aunt Purl. He had the shell-shocked look of a guy who thought nine chairs would be enough for the signing of a selfie-helpie-knittie book with "Cats" in the title. Hey, I'm sure he was told beforehand, and WE all told him when we got there. Now he knows.

Then - there she was. Crazy Aunt Purl. Standing in front of us - I guess I wasn't surprised she's cuter than the pictures, it's usually like that. But she just beams and sparkles. Her voice is melodic, her accent (well, she doesn't have one, but WE do, so there's a difference) is downright fragrant. Hers is the Southern accent of garden teas in magnolia-scented bowers. She asked, often, if we could understand her, and we all laughed (gee, maybe she couldn't understand US!)

She read out of the book, and now I can hear her voice as *I* read it; what can be better than that? She read the part up to "And that is where this story begins."

Dare I say it? In spite of laughing, I had tears in my eyes. The tears that well up because your heart is squeezed with pride. Because Laurie's blog IS Laurie; because we've shared her achievements, we've worried over the cats, we've admired the new floor, gawped at the zucchini (DARN, I meant to as her to bring me some!). And then when the book came out we sat at that table with her, listening to her husband bemoan the loss of his creativity. And we've sat in front of our monitors, knitting, or hunched over the book with our cups of tea, and we've seen what a girl can learn and draw on and develop when she shakes her shoulders, wipes her nose and stands up straight. If she WERE my daughter or sister I couldn't be more proud of her.

And then it was time for "Q&A", and she seemed concerned that no one would say anything. Now, it DOES take a while, in that sort of situation, all of *US* were so in awe, so star-struck, that it takes a minute......but then there were questions. I wanted to raise my hand, not for a question but a comment: I wanted to shout "Laurie, LIVING WELL IS THE BEST REVENGE!" There were questions about what the notorious (poor, misled) husband is doing, or thinking, and may I say - Laurie answered without rancour, without bitterness, and with dignity and elegance and aplomb. You know, Midwestern Ladies may not have training identical to that enjoyed by Southern Ladies, but the messages are the same. In truth, I am a lady, capable of serving proper tea and behaving elegantly with the best of them. And Laurie? You did proud all the best of Southern Lady-hood going back to the hallowed halls of Tara.

My thoughts? Our young friend was a beautiful bride, and good wife, a gift to her husband. But he didn't do her wrong, not really - he gave her the gift of herself, and gave all girls in identical or similar circumstances the tools to live well, which IS the best revenge. Just sayin'.

Now then - here's where it gets to the beginning of Where I Lost It. Someone asked her a question (wouldn't you know it, even my Daughter can't remember what it was), and suddenly, SUDDENLY, Laurie said, "Where's Dale-Harriet, is Dale-Harriet here?" Please appreciate that I did NOT really act inappropriately! Please go back and read the bit about my being a lady. Please notice that I did NOT flop right out on the floor, right there in the front row. I did not burst into tears. I did not gasp so loud as to get hiccups-and-burps (which believe me are not ladylike and don't ask me how I know).

In fact? I have no idea what I did do. I think I raised my hand, and she said something that indicated she sometimes read THIS, and she said she liked my comments (I think). The truth is, my reaction was exactly like people have felt when they hear things like "Miss America!" and "that's the winning lottery ticket!" and "you get the role" and even "will you marry me?" She said my name. Right there, out loud and in front of everyone. She actually looked for me. And in spite of all these words (you may not believe this although I don't know why) I couldn't begin to express how I really felt. Suffice it to say, that's a moment I won't soon forget. That's a moment I can take out and savor all over again, if things aren't the way I'd like them.

There were other questions, other laughter, other dignified elegant responses. The outpouring of affection - going both directions - made for the rarified atmosphere of friendship, love, camaraderie which binds all us knitters and women and men who share things like cats and yarn and LYSs and UFOs and WIPs.

I admit it, I got pretty stalk-y to take this picture. Don't care, isn't she adorable?
Then came the signings, and I DID get the hug (oh believe me, it was APPROPRIATE) that I'd looked forward to. I got to give Laurie what I'd brought for her: two cow pencils with cheeseheads; two more cheesehead toppers for a set of straight needles, a few postcards (including one that really IS a photo of Madison on a day when it was -37 degrees). There were also the mandatory Badger stickers and a keychain reading "America's Dairyland". NOTE: you know that commercial that claims that the cows in California are happy? Here's why: that morning the farmer went out and told them all they're getting on a train to come home to Wisconsin. FYI.

There were pictures -- I think I look goofy and the Daughter looks so nice (of course, Laurie's a sparkly beauty); the Daughter called me to say she looks goofy and I look nice. Must be a genetic thing. NOTE: we're often told we look alike, my daughter and I - she says "I look just like my mother...except I'm taller and brown." Cracks me up every time she says it.

I read my inscription about eighty-leven times. I love books. I love ALL my books. But this particular book? A treasure. Nothing less. It's going in the bookcase I'm being buried with...don't worry, I have extra copies of most of the books going into that one. I'm just figuring the Egyptians might have been right, and I'm bringing books along to read in the Afterlife.

Eventually we left, wandered off, eventually went back to our motel (I did thank Kathy before she left, but not enough: THANK YOU, KMKat!) I've been turning that event over in my mind ever since, I'm rereading the book, and relishing the whole thing. Incidentally, I got to meet Theresa too (we have a raincheck for a proper chinwag some time in future) and saw lots of other knitters, and all in all the whole event was absolutely capital! All the fun we had that I wrote about yesterday? Spectacular, the whole mother-daughter-laughing-eating-cracking-up-knitting-eating-laughing thing. But the frontespiece of the whole event was that couple hours we went for. If you get a chance to hear Crazy Aunt Purl, on this book tour or any future ones that may transpire, you will find it more delightful than you can anticipate (and if you haven't read her book yet? Shame on you!)

'Nuff said.

Monday, October 29, 2007

You CAN go home - and I am!

I'm safely home to Madison, finally settling down a bit from the excitement of seeing Crazy Aunt Purl - that was such a singular experience that it warrants its very own entry and shall have it.

However, in the meantime - see that house? That's not where I am. Not right now, anyway. But it IS my house. The house I lived in, in Minneapolis, from about 1946 until about 1959 as I recall. It's 4621 2nd Avenue South. When we moved there I was three years old; my father was working at the Minneapolis Star & Tribune (as it was known then) and we moved from a duplex on campus. See the windows on the second floor? The left-hand one was my sister's bedroom, the one on the right (and on the left on the side of the house) was Mommy and Daddy's room. The back window on the side was my room. The first-floor windows are the living room; the dining room was to the left when you went in, and that little part poking out front with the door was a front closet to the left of the door.

From that house I met my best friend, truly my BFF, Mary. She'd come visit her grandparents on Sundays, arriving in her aunt's black car. I met her when we were three - she was playing outside and I was too, and Mommy came to watch me cross the street so I could go play with her. (Incidentally, all those houses are gone now, replaced by a big wooden wall concealing the cross-town highway.) We went inside and she introduced me to her grandparents, whom I called Grandma and Grandpa Hanson all their lives. Mary was exotic! She had blonde hair and blue eyes; she lived in an apartment (never had heard of such a thing); she had no daddy, but lived with her mother ("Mrs Mary's Mom") and her Aunt Dorothy. And she came every Sunday. Eventually they moved to the neighborhood, but when we were in high school her mother remarried and she moved again so we didn't finish high school together.

I loved that house. My room had been the boy's room (and I was sort of "the boy"...Dale, you know - I added the hyphen later). My room had airplane wallpaper on the ceiling, which I adored, and it had a little mop porch too, my own tiny balcony. I can date that period of my life by remembering the wallpaper: the airplanes were flying boxcars and other WWII aircraft.

The Lovely Daughter and I stopped past on our way downtown to meet my sister on Friday. And get this: My house is for sale!! I took a picture of the for-sale sign too, because you know what? I think I'll call and ask how much and so on. Just -- you know, to see. Our chances of a) buying it, b) returning to Minneapolis, c)being invited to perform "Scheherezade" for the Pope are about equal. Still.........

Incidentally, we met my sister at Rudolph's. As in "barbecued ribs Rudolph's". Now, I know, as Jew I'm supposed to not eat pork. Or seafood without fins and scales. I have this agreement with the Lord though. He allows me barbecued ribs, shrimp and the occasional lobster and I'll live as right as I possibly can and won't ever kill anyone on purpose or rob any banks. That being said, ribs are about my most favoritest food. I mean, BAD ribs are ok, and they go up from there - and the pinnacle, the epitome - that's Rudolph's. Kind of unfortunate, because you can't eat ribs and knit at the same time. Although...I suppose I could cast on cotton yarn for a me-sized bib and work on it while eating ribs.

Afterward {burp} we went back to the MOA, staying until 9:30; the stores close at 9:00, but we ended with supper at the Rainforest Cafe. Not bad - and there's a thunderstorm with lightning and rain every 20 minutes or so. (It rained ... over there...we didn't actually get wet.)

NOTE: when we first arrived, after Rudolph's, we found a parking spot in a tiny lot smack-dab-aroonie RIGHT in front of the Main Entrance. See entry about Crazy Aunt Purl; that was the second instance of Uncommon Good Karma on the trip. (Thanks, KMKat, for the first one!)

What'd we see? EVERYTHING! What did we get? Well...heck, Halloween stuff was on sale everywhere. I got some wonderful black tealight candles with flickering red flames, which look fab in my spider-y and ghost-y and lantern-y decorations. I got some terrific socks with roses and stuff on 'em. I think my major purchases were at Bath & Body Works, which we DO have here, but this one was HUGE and had all kind o' stuff our store doesn't, and on SALE! I got a very pretty snowflake scented-oil diffuser, and a pumpkin night-light scent diffuser you plug in. (Caramel scent, and it's delish. I have it in the bif - but may move it, "caramel" isn't quite the right scent for a bif.) And Lovely Daughter and I found hand lotion in our new favorite smell, "Sensual Amber". NOTE: they used to have hand lotion called "Purely Silk"; they've changed the name to "Ultimate Silk" and added little bits intended to look sparkly. May I say, that stuff is the ONLY lotion I've ever found that you can put on and knit immediately. It really IS silky, not greasy. Because I'm paranoid about companies discontinuing the neat stuff, I bought two... a few ...about half-a-dozen bottles in my favorite scents last year. And now this - if you ever see me and you have dry elbows, knees, knuckles, friends, neighbors or pets, just ask. I can silk them right up. Just sayin'.

We also found a wonderful shop with all kinds of teas and Lovely Daughter bought a tin of an amazing, aromatic blend. We examined, perused, ogled, leered at and eyeballed probably everything else in the Mall. There are amusement park rides inside there, you know. Like things where you sit there and they whip you around and sling you up over their shoulders about 40 feet in the air. Lovely Daughter remarked "You know it's not a good ride unless someone blows chunks." TMI. Thenk yew very not at all. Suffice it to say - we didn't go on any. I could've been persuaded onto the carousel or Ferris Wheel, but we didn't. Too much to see, not enough time (although - and I am NOT making this up, at one point the Daughter said, "You know, Mom? I'm about shopped out." (!)

We returned to our motel - OH! I had a little trouble logging on when we first got there (and could almost feel the hives crawling around under my skin getting ready to erupt) but they had a sort of router-booster thingie which, when plugged in, did the trick. Daughter observed that it was a "slow connection" but it really was fine. Interestingly, in this day and age if computer connections take more than a nano-micro-millesecond, we think they're slow.

Anyway, we rose early Saturday morning, had our Complimentary Breakfast, checked out, and hot-footed back to the Mall for a quick scan before heading home. We checked back at a couple of places we wanted to stop to get things for the folks back home (I got some Harry & David Moose Munch, glamorized superior Cracker Jacks(tm) for Mr Dearling and also, at Hallmark, a tin of Godiva hot chocolate. He's not a coffee or tea guy but does love him some cocoa. By then it was 1:00, a little later than we intended to leave, so rather than find the crepe place for lunch we grabbed Orange Julii and headed out.

CONFESSION: I live in dread terror of hitting deer on the highway. You see, I did, once - with all three children in the car (which was a VW Beetle). None of US were hurt, except poor Daughter who, sitting up front with me, absolutely lost it, sobbing for the poor deer. This was long pre-cellphone, but some cops came along; we wound up spending the night nearby - this was in the Dells - and the car was driveable. The deer had crossed the Wolf Road for sure. Mr Dearling and I have also taken out two other deer and about a 25# turkey with "Deerslayer", our '93 Toyota.

So I prefer driving in daylight so I have a chance of seeing them - oh, and FYI: there's no such thing as "seeing a deer". They're herd animals, and NEVER alone. As it turned out, we wound up driving through dusk, The Time of Greatest Risk, AND after dark, but my constantly-muttered prayers were answered and my fleet-footed brothers all stayed back in the forest away from the road. We'd seen something over 23 that had been hit on our way up, and KMKat said she'd seen many of them on her much-shorter ride too.

We got home safe and sound; the only slight "off" moment was that we stopped at A&W in Baraboo where I stupidly consciously and with forethought ordered and ate a chili cheese dog with onions, exacerbated by fried onion rings AND a root beer. Did I say I don't do well with, oh, you know, gassy-tummy-causing foods?

But the effects did NOT kill me, I'm safely tucked in by home, recovered but for the occasional "squee" that escapes me when recalling Crazy Aunt Purl - and facing the realization that it is now four days, and NOT two months, before I have to give my presentation at the North American Voyageurs' Council. {shudder} But I WILL share the Crazy Aunt Purl experience before leaving for NAVC. (Oh, and all I have to do on the second punkin hat is sew on the stem, and they both fit the grandsons for whom they are intended.) See? I did get knitting in here a little bit.......

Friday, October 26, 2007

Brief Interlude~~~

It is morning. It is Friday. Last night the Lovely Daughter and I experienced a series of events remarkable in so many ways that if I wasn't actually remembering, I wouldn't believe it had all really happened that way.

We went to Barnes & Noble at the Mall of America to see Crazy Aunt Purl. You know how you anticipate something....a much-desired Christmas present, the arrival of a new car, a wedding day....and you keep telling yourself that your imagining of it is probably beyond reality, but you hope it'll be nice? Well, it was like that. But ladies and gennulmen, it was beyond the most ecstatic expectations in ways I never could've anticipated. Let me say that I hope all you reading this -- nay, everyone EVERYWHERE, has at least one experience like this in your lifetime.

And I'll write about it all a little later. (Is that a groan I hear?) Here's why: I woke up this morning at 9:57, to find a note from Lovely Daughter saying she'd let me sleep in and caught the motel Shuttle to the Mall of America to begin our day there; call her cell phone when I wake up. Well, I called - and she was, of course, still on the 10:00 a.m. shuttle for the five-minute ride to the Mall! (May I point out two things? 1) she's a big girl and doesn't need her mommy, even to go to the big scary enormous Mall of America; and 2) she's a lot more excited about going there than I am. (Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to it, but not as much as she was.)

By the time we've had our day there and come back to the motel, no doubt shopped out, well-fed and pooped, the events of last night will have settled, sorted, and be in much better order for me to write about. WARNING: any words used to describe it will NOT, I repeat NOT be hyperbole. In fact, I may have to pick up a thesaurus to see if I can find words better than the pittance I know for "good".

C U L8R. (Don't you hate those?)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fine Words...and I Can Hardly Wait!

Short shrift today, I'm in a state of high anticipation (which is NOT the same as "in anticipation of being high", which hasn't applied for more years than you might believe). Oh - and a revelation. Since going to see the film on Pete Seeger I was doodlng around online as I am wont to do, and I went to You Tube. In the search window, I typed in "The Weavers". That was the band Pete played in for some time early on. I was rewarded -- with film clips of some of my favorite songs by The Weavers. I can see why Mr Dearling emerged from the study the other night declaring that he'd spent "hours!" on You Tube watching clips of his favorite bands. One of these days I'm going to make me a cuppa, settle in - and work my way through whatever comes up with Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Woodie Guthrie, the Weavers...Peter, Paul and Mary, Steeleye Span -- and anyone else I can think of. Don't tell me if you know there's nothing in there for any of the above; I'll find it out for myself and move on. THOUGHT: there should be a word for, when you look something up - in a dictionary, thesaurus, website...you get waylaid by surrounding material and wake up next Tuesday. Happens to me all the time in dictionaries. Beware, all ye who enter the OED, for ye shall spend vast bowlsful of hours.

Over the last few days, two quotations fell into my brain; I think one came out of NPR and the other somewhere on the telly. I liked them both and set them down here. I shamelessly do so without citing proper credit on account of, I have no idea what it is. Hopefully this will raise no ire, as I write them filled with admiration. So:

"Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want." and

"May your hives be filled with honey, may your fields be filled with wheat, and may all your black-eyed sheep bear twins."

While I'm at it, let me write my Life Philosophy, by Which I Live, Earnestly:

"It's never too late for a Happy Childhood."

Now then, (and this is the best part): Here you see the start of the second Punkin Hat for Grandson--in which I found a glaring error and frogged (hence wiggly yarn seen to its left) and which I have since finished. The third isn't that far along but IS on the needles.

I am writing this at 2:30 a.m. and if you could see me in five minutes of finishing this you would find me asleep (average bedtime, might I add). In the morning I shall tidy up my suitcase, check the knitting basket one last time, make sure all desired books and magazines are in the tote bag, (have you read "The Secret Life of Bees"? Just started it, it's delicious) and put Daisy (the laptop) into her on-wheels carryihg case.. The reason?

I will get up about 7:30 (average waking time), get dressed, put the above into the car, go collect the Lovely Daughter --and head to Minneapolis to see Crazy Aunt Purl in the genuine and for-real human and alive self! I have some Wisconsinoid items and hopefully a completely-appropriate inappropriate hug for her! Also two copies of her book which, even if she only signs one, will be terrific (the second is going to be gifted to my it's-a-privilege-for-me-to-be-her-friend, Virginia). It's also going to be one of those Mother-Daughter-weekend-bonding things, and the whole thing is just too-too and I'm getting VERY excited!

And there is one more thing about which I'm dancing from one foot to the other about:

The approaching completion of a replica Fur Trade Post at the Museum!! Mr Dearling and I began muttering about how nice it would be some time ago, but then of a sudden (well, moving in the time reserved for bureaucracy) we were told that it was going to be manifested. Here you see some of the items we have obtained, the Husband and I -- typical examples of some of the goods brought to Wisconsin by les francais to trade for the beaver pelts. You see silk scarves; twists of tobacco (we'll take them out of their cellophane wraps); magnifying glasses (which they taught the Indians to use for making fire instantly, in sunshine; fire steels (which, struck against flints, start fires at night or when it's not sunny); scissors and clay pipes. These are but a few of my favorite things the trade goods brought to improve and ease the lives of the Native People, in exchange for furs.

The Post itself is constructed of actual logs, and will have shelves for all of these things and space for much other stuff. It looks so GOOD! And today we were given some flyers to hand out, announcing the "grand opening", being a few days after the first of the year when Mr Dearling and I, in our French-Canadian Voyageur and Metis Indian Woman clothes, perform vignettes, scenes illustrating the exchange of goods and culture which were part and parcel (no pun intended, but it's pretty clever if I do say so) of the early days of Ouis-con-sin.

It's almost more than I can take. HOWEVER! Watch this space, as tomorrow I'll be writing from a motel in Minneapolis, probably still completely wired from meeting my idol, Crazy Aunt Purl (I'll take pictures and write all about it!)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Protest Marches, Friends and Knitting, Then and Now

First - a movie review. We don't go to movies often. It's cheaper to wait and rent them and watch them at home. They get testy if you walk into a theatre in your jammies with a big plate of homemade nachos. I admit, it's a little better now that I get the Oldpeople Price {cackle....it's so much fun getting old}.

Anyway, earlier the week my dear friend Jody asked if I'd like to go see "that Pete Seeger movie." I didn't know there was one. It was at the sort of artsy-flic theatre (Westgate, for the locals). Actual title: Pete Seeger: The Power of Song.

There's something in theatre circles called "regressive memory", I think - it's when something triggers a memory and you experience a full sensory recollection; you can hear, see, smell everything of the instant you're remembering. Ladies and Gennulmen, this film was one long regressive memory. It was like watching through the folky-young-civil-rights-worker-hippie eyes that lived in my head for so long.

And it was good.

Jody and I spent the two hours (give or take) smiling through tears. We weren't together during all that, but still, many of the experiences were shared. Seeing Arlo Guthrie with his flowing silver ringlets and Tom Paxton with his little cap...seeing pictures of Pete as a child, as a bridegroom, building his cabin, appearing in all of those places - appearing before HUAC and never folding--there's no term for the heart-swelling experience the whole thing was. Afterward Jody went home to dust off all Pete Seeeger she had; I'm doing that this minute as I write.

See, I was a Woody Guthrie fan ("old", remember?) and I'm a HUGE Arlo fan....{brief pause as I wipe my eyes: "City of New Orleans" just came on my tape player} and of course Pete Seeger is a part of all that.

Flashbacks: the ride between Greenwood and Indianola, MS, when I was there for a few days during The Movement. Going to churches in Minneapolis, introducing Black Panther speakers. Telling my sister I was pregnant, but it was OK, "we're getting married"...and "he's black." If you want the rest of that story, buy me a cup o' tea sometime; suffice it to say that he and I had the Lovely Daughter and a Handsome Son of whom he was very proud. NOTE: my second marriage resulted in my Youngest Son, of whom I am also inordinately proud. Two "failed marriages" resulted in three people whom I like, love and cherish. No regrets there.

If you're a) old, relatively speaking; b) were "into all that"; c) enjoyed folk music then and/or now -- go see the movie. When I hear it's out on DVD I am SO snapping it up. That's one to watch time and again, and put on to just listen to while doing other things.

After the movie I went over to The Sow's Ear, which I discovered was, in fact, a Late-Night Knit. The place was even more packed than last time! NOTE: Mr Dearling made a comment which has borne fruit: after the last Late-Night Knit at the Ear, I told him about finding fellow local bloggers there, to my absolute ticklement. He quoth: "So...it's not Stitch-and-Bitch, it's "Hog-and-Blog!" So a few exchanged e-mails resulted in my learning that my new friend Beth Chocolate Sheep was going to be there.

She came not long after I got there, got settled and got my Caramel Italian Soda. It was a lovely finishing event to the day; I even treated myself to a massage by my (long-time) friend Donna, who, being a certified and talented masseuse, comes to the Late Knits. She has her special chair in the small darkened office, with tinkly music, and I have to say, it was more than delish (it was also my first-ever experience with a real massage, and I could get used to that sort of thing!).

I was cranking on my second Punkin Hat for Grandsons (see below) and Beth was making a fabulous Christmas stocking for an enormous pupdog; it's red, with little stars and things, and his NAME knitted right in, in white. I love that two-color stranding sort of thing but am intimidated out of trying it myself ... but watching her, it doesn't look scary or horrid or impossible at all...hmmmmmm.

Anyway, we were within 15 minutes of closing the place down, and I enjoyed the whole day-evening experience mammothly.

Now then - as I said, I was inspired by Crazy Aunt Purl's little punkin hats a while back, and got some Lamb's Pride Worsted ("Rust") and some dark green (I think it's "Piney" something, ball band not handy) and started right in. Now - I've never started a cap at the bottom, really; my toques start with the increase end. I settled on a simple roll-brim. Nice, being able to start on circulars. Evangeline is saying "Cute, Mom."

She is also saying "This would be much-improved if there were crunchy bits inside." But I'm actually quite pleased with the way it turned out, and I've started the second. I think I'll make the i-cord stem longer on this one and put a knot in the middle; I saw that somewhere and it was very cute.

Now - the test will be if Xander and Domanic and Conner (yep, I'll be making a third) will ever consent to wear them. Xander will, he's only three; Domanic and Conner are six and possibly already way too cool to wear something like that, Grammy Dale or no. I'll report back.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Leaves, English, Yummies and Caps

Had a very nice weekend; you know, you'd think when you retire you would be less aware of weekends and days off and so on. And then your volunteer job starts paying, and there is a Change. And you appreciate weekends and days off again. Interesting. But I'm not complaining - I earn a little more than a skein of Cascade 220 an hour. And at 20 hours a week, that's a lot of toques.

So when we discovered that we had a Saturday with NO obligations, we decided to take off and travel north to admire the Autumn Colors. There's almost no hint of color here.

What you see here is a souvenir of our lovely day of motoring. That's (the remainder of) a piece of a fresh pie made by a crew of young Amish girls and kept whole and intact until we got home. I meant to take a picture of the whole pie, but because I was greedy hungry, we tucked into it pretty quickly after getting it home. This is NOT, however, the last piece. We're being reasonable.

I love the sight of the cornfields in the sere, standing like wands of gold in rows; I think I almost like them more than the beautiful rich green corn, heavy with the ears. Even though there wasn't much in the way of the russets and yellows, browns and reds and golds, the fields and the darkening forests were beautiful just the same.

On a whim we stopped at our favorite Amish grocery, which we love dearly and try to visit every few months at least. It's mostly a grocery store, but small, and they have a very wide variety of spices, plastic bags of soup mixes, jellies and jams, nuts and grains. They have almost a whole counter of bulk candy at reasonable prices, some which you don't see elsewhere. Remember those thick round pink disks that had three Xs on them and were wintergreen? THOSE! And, they had green ones in spearmint which I hadn't seen before - had to get me some of those. They also have LOTS of flavors of licorice twists (is there a term for those rubbery twisty candy when they're NOT licorice?); I got cinnamon and green apple. (The cinnamon ones are almost gone, but I have NO idea why. I mean, Mr Dearling doesn't like them.) They also had Anise Bears, which are really rich and delicious. You have to like "black licorice" flavor, but I am addicted really love it.

Incidentally they also have other very useful things: lantern wicks, thick cotton black knee-highs, terrific wooden spoons, sturdy black shoelaces and so on.

But I have to tell you - don't go on a sunny Saturday afternoon in leaf-peeping season.

The grocery was MOBBED! Seems like ALL of the "English" come out, and it was hard to find a place to park (I was relieved to see that everyone respected the parking slots for buggies only.) You sometimes hear fascinating things in the Amish market: "Gee, it's a little dark in here, don't they turn on the lights on weekends?" "I wonder why they don't use those scanners like regular stores?"

Of COURSE I knitted while admiring the Wisconsin countryside. Another ace quality of Mr Dearling's: he loves to drive, and always does, allowing me knitting time.
Here are my two current-and-simultaneous projects. The blue one is one of the Perpetual Toques, the orange is a Punkin hat for a grandson. Now then - the toque is actually going to be an experiment, and it's for ME (so that if it's a total bust it'll be MY total bust). My plan is to change from the blue to another color (red? green?) that I have in my stash, and finish it. I THINK the result will be a toque that I can wear in either color, and maybe with the the contrasting edge showing. I know, most people can envision exactly how it'll work out, but *I* have to try it to see for myself. Besides, I'm a Process Knitter, the end result is secondary!

As far as the Punkin Cap goes - it's kind of an experiment too. I've never started a cap at the bottom (believe it or not). I was inspired by Crazy Aunt Purl's darling caps. I'm just making a plain roll-brim cap, and the very top's going to be green and I'll put an I-Cord doodad on top. I've seen gazillions of free patterns for hats like this, but I'm winging it. I'm to the point of starting to decrease, which will involve my performing some dreaded maths. I'll let you know how that works. It's not that I'm generally stupid; I'm just Mathematically-Dyslexic. "Tewtally". So it's going to be a challenge, but I'm honest and I'll photograph the result. Maybe.

And finally - after the very long day, I took a page out of Lilliane's book -- I swear, that girl will win, paws-down, if they ever make Sleeping an Olympic sport.

Notice the graceful curl of tail over paws. The carefully-arranged limbs. The narrow, slitty eyes....oh yes, she knows she's being photographed. Think she sleeps like that all the time? Nawwww

Oh! Lastly of all: this weekend ended Wisconsin Book Week, and we did take in a couple of the (many) offerings. Friday night we went to hear Davy Rothbart, editor of "Found" magazine, and we laughed ourselves...silly! Very entertaining idea, and he's keeping it alive and going. Now his brother Peter's in on the act, singing (very nicely) songs he makes up from the found notes. Check here: Found Magazine Then keep your eyes open! We also went Sunday to hear Erika Janek who has edited a collection called "Odd Wisconsin", which contains very entertaining tidbits. Someone in the audience said "We've just moved here from Tennessee - is it just me, or is there more peculiar stuff here in Wisconsin than anywhere else?"


Edited: do NOT biggify the first and third pictures; I'm just learning to size them and forgot those two!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Happy -- uhm....

Happy Native American Day! This is a brilliant diorama at the Kenosha Museum and shows an old Anishinaabe storyteller, relating the history of his people.

The history of his people changed in October, 1492, when an Italian with a pocket full of Spanish coin, made landfall discovering a New World!

Only he didn't, of course. He interjected himself onto a continent peopled by many nations of diverse people with no understanding of their history, their cultures, their daily lives.

As a Living History Interpreter I've become quite the Armchair Historian; as a Wisconsinite I've developed a passion couched in affection for the territory I now call home; as an Unrepentant Hippie I feel inclined to celebrate the Indigenous People and their histories - and "Columbus Day" seems as good a day as any to do that.

Native American Day is celebrated formally in a number of states - California and South Dakota come particularly to mind. And rather than being a negative thing or antagonistic, it's actually celebrated. To quote from the description of the holiday in Indian Country Today, a newspaper out of the Dakota territory:

American Indian culture is celebrated in a spirit of reconciliation on Native American Day; not as a tribute to the so-called ''discoverer of the Americas,'' but to the indigenous people who live on the continents today. Education plays a very important part in the understanding of the cultures to achieve the goal of reconciliation. (Emphasis is mine.)

I've mentioned (I'm sure) that we're Living History Interpreters...that's an adult scholarly way of saying "reenactors". OK, OK.....we're grown-ups (?) who play at Frenchmen and Indians. We dress up and pretend that it's 1780 or 1810 over long weekends with other kids doing the same thing.

HOWEVER! it really is "reenacting". We study, a lot, hunting down information from legitimate sources, we compare notes, we immerse ourselves in the lives of the people who were here then, both red and white. We each (meaning all my fellow reenactors) study the aspects of the time period of greatest interest, and apply it at our Events, replicating as closely as we can what our personas (characters) would have, would do, would act like...even would think as closely as our imaginations allow. In my case - it's the women's daily lot -- recipes, clothing, herbal medicines, child care....

There are Civil War reenactors, French & Indian War reenactors, Rev War, medieval, Roman, even World War II reenactors (which strikes me as peculiar, being as I was, like, around then...). It's a hobby, an avocation, - and Mr Dearling and I relish our times at Events, but return to the 21st century in between. We "vacation in the 18th century".

I portray a Native American woman, born and raised and living here in the Great Lakes Woodlands; Mr Dearling is a French-Canadian voyageur and trader. Our little camp at events is pretty accurate and I love cooking over my fire and enjoying the company of the friends we often see only once a year. Our favorite trip is to Grand Portage, up in the Arrowhead (or nose) of Minnesota. In the early mornings and evenings (when the visitors to the historic site have gone back to their modern motels and campsites) we gather around campfires, eat our authentic foods, and revel in the woodsmoke and camaraderie. We have what we call "come-real moments" - when all the "modern" falls away, and we are "dancing with the Ghosts of New France".

Here's an admission: at night, when Mr Dearling ("Paul L'Aventure dit Longwalker") is out enjoying the company of his fellows, I creep into my wee lodge, light both of my lanterns -- and knit. I generally work on my ever-continuing toques, the French knitted caps you see on artistic representations of voyageurs. They're often portrayed in red...zee Franch, zey are tres bon, very 'andsome you know, and zey LOF ze toques rouges....but sometimes the dusty blue called "French Bleu" or a deep green. I have a pattern that is documentable: it is a double toque and there's one been found in a shipwreck in icy Canadian waters, perfectly preserved, from the middle of the 18th century! Our fellow reenactors admire them, and I've been able to sell them. I'm proud that my work is sought after, and I'm lucky in that it's an easy pattern which of course I've memorized at this point. It's "movie knitting" - the center part is just plain straight knitting. I use Cascade 220 or Lamb's Pride worsted and usually size 7 DPNs.

Another admission - and please promise me you'll never rat me out -- when I'm at home, or in the car going AWAY from an event -- (shshshshsh) I switch to a circular needle. Oh heck, as long as I'm coming clean here - even when I'm knitting in camp, I use my beloved Clover bamboo DPNs. Why not, you might ask, surely there was wood in New France, surely a woman could have her husband carve her a set.... well, yeah, but there's no documentation. Seems that steel "knitting wires" were brought from France to New France by the middle of the 18th century.

Oh - all right, I hear someone saying "Yeah, but how *authentic* is it for an old Indian woman to be knitting, ex-cuuuuuse me?" {ahem} OK - that's true, and generally that's why I hide in my lodge to knit. HOWEVER! It is NOT beyond the realm of possibility that I might have accompanied mon mari back to Montreal (passengers didn't generally go east like that unless they were the Bourgeoises) but think of this: I've gone back to visit with his family, or having become Christian I might've gone to see the great church of Ste Anne de Beauprais -- while there, I might have stayed in the convent house and les soeurs might've taught me to knit..........hey, it could happen! (I haven't found actual documentation, though, so I'm dicey about knitting in public while visiting in the 18th century. So there you are.)

So - go out today and read some facts about some of the Indigenous People, the First Nations, the Native Americans, the Indians....by way of celebrating the day. (Heck, check out a tribe on Google, or stop by the Wik.) And Happy Native American Day!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Par-TEE (Part Two)

So the other Major Happening at the Sow's Ear party: the winding-up of the Lovely Daughter's afghan. The history - last year she made an ENORMOUS afghan for her beau (a lovely lad who watches a lot of sports with his cats and was delighted to have such a snuggy warm-up for the frozen winter nights we USED TO HAVE here in Wisconsin). But when it was finished, she loved it; unfortunately she had made it as his Christmas present and so it was; fortunately, SHE had knitted it, so she could make one for herself!

So she brought it along to work on at the party, and she made a Discovery. WAS there enough left in her final (and 8th) skein to finish the last few decreases? Or.....was she going to take after her mother (that would be me) and wind up running out with three decrease rows left? I've finally decided that that last teensy bit of the final row that is a different color is My Signature, which sounds much better than - I invariably run out of yarn just a tiny bit before the end of a shawl. Well...only if they're for me, actually; if I'm making them for someone else I plan better.

So we took this picture, showing how much she had left of both the afghan AND how much she had left on the skein. Would she make it? Would there be enough? I told her to knit faster; if you knit really fast surely you'll get to the end of the project before the end of the skein. (She didn't buy it.)


This is the afghan, held UP, held OUT, (held over her face because she hates being photographed). You can't see it all because she's about 5'3" (tall, by my standards) so it's longer than she is. It's also considerably wider than she is. But SHE DID IT! There was still skein left at the end of the afghan. ::WHEW::

Incidentally, there's a new institution at The Sow's Ear, one of which I heartily approve. See, there's a bell on the front porch (along with some chairs and nice places to sit in the lovely weather). And when someone finished a project, Heather goes out on the porch and Rings. That. Bell! So she held up Lovely Daughter's blankie, ran out and rang the bell, and everyone applauded wildly. I was SO proud!

Incidentally, here's what kind of party it was: she rang the bell not once, not twice, but three times during the evening, so you know this is one finishing-up kind of crowd. I guess there are lots of yarn shops (like, DUUUUH) but your humble blogger is absolutely tickled to have such a cozy little nest to go to. Oh - and it also has gobs and gobs of fabulous yarn of every stripe (get it? stripe? like Regia?) (sometimes I crack myself up) and all the needles and tchotches you need for knitting; many, many, MANY books and patterns, and a staff of brilliant, skillful, kind, helpful don't-laugh-at-you-no-matter-what folks, and a whole panoply classes for every "skill level". If you ever happen to be wandering through our "63 miles surrounded by reality" do NOT despair. There is a corner of the Community here with a chair saved for you.

Soiree, Fete, Par-TEE! (Part One)

Last night (Friday) was the Late-Night Knit at The Sow's Ear, my most favoritest shop in the world. Of any sort. Anywhere. (Well...I did love that witchy shop in Salem Mass but that's different.) It was also the Fifth-Birthday-Grand-Opening-Under-New-Management party, and a fabulous evening it was! The cake was darling, an exact copy of the logo we've all come to love, that merry little piggie with her cup of tea and knitting; they even replicated the lettering exactly. As you might imagine, there are darling little piggies all over the shop, tucked in among books and needles and yarn.

The Lovely Daughter got there before me and secured "our table". There was quite a crowd already. Now, "the Ear" boasts a wide, varied array of beverages, both hot and cold. Teas, coffees, Italian sodas, and they also have a menu of delightful little salads and sammiches, just the right fare for a knitting repast. But in honor of the festivities there were cookies, plates of veggies and dip (cold, crisp and delicious), a silver three-tiered tray with wonderful little pinwheel sammiches and - this being Wisconsin - a noble tray laden with several kinds of rich cheese and little crackers. (For my part, I don't bother with the crackers. I eat my cheese straight up.)

This was around 7:00 pm,a good crowd, but it swelled later on. There were small tables placed around among the yarns and even in the classroom and every chair, sofa, nook and cranny was filled with diligent knitters. A high point of the evening for me was when Mrs. SABLE arrived - and introduced me Molly Bee (whose blog I read but haven't met) and a bit later, to Beth in WI (Chocolate Sheep)! We had our own little Cheesehead Blogosphere corner right there, and I don't mind telling you I was honored to be in their company. What fun!

Mrs SABLE and the Lovely Daughter wandered out eventually, Molly Bee not so long after, but Beth and I all but closed the place down, leaving only when the proprietors had taken to wiping down tables and putting feet up.

As you can see, here are the makings of a fine party (all enhanced mightily by first-rate company, might I add). That's the ruins of Lovely Daughter's cake and her brilliant green Italian soda ("Peppermint, Mom, remember I don't like spearmint!") and the last remnants of her skein of "Ranch" Homespun by Lion Brand.

(More of that in next post, added shortly in the name of Better Distribution of Pictures...I'll learn in time, really I will.)

On my side - the remnants of my cake (entirely gone 38 seconds after photo), my Autumn Festival iced latte (it had a better name than that, but think pumpkin spices, cinnamon, whipped cream, whole milk -- I say wotthehell archie wotthehell) and the beginning of my ninety-threeth toque, give or take. Not long after the picture I finished my increases and, lured astray by the Spectre of 21st Century Convenience, switched to a circular needle. I KNOW, I KNOW! Don't be yellin' at me; I don't have to "knit authentically" when I'm to home, for petessakes.

All in all, an evening of merriment, knitting, munchies, fellow bloggers, fellow knitters and one of those periods of camaraderie typical of Gatherings of Knitters. Oh, and yes of COURSE I bought something. Sheesh. I bought two skeins of Lamb's Pride "Rust" and one of Lamb's Pride "Deep Pine" - worsted weight - having been inspired by Crazy Aunt Purl's darling pumpkin hats. I do believe I'll whomp out three of them and inflect them...er...uh...bestow them, upon my three little grand-lads. They're 6, 6 and 3, so hopefully not yet to the eye-rolling stage. Pictures later.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Life is What Happens...

when you're trying to accomplish something else!

It's been a busy few days, accented by something that happens to me occasionally and makes me crazy: I find myself confronted with two or more things that I *really* want to do. In this case there were three...no, FIVE things. First, this weekend contained the following: Cornish Festival in Mineral Point; Civil War Weekend at Wade House; birthday party for son AND grandson; the annual afternoon soiree with an erudite and diverse group of friends and a monthly Knit-In gathering with local knitterly types (and fellow bloggers) which I haven't been able to make yet.

The thing is, of course - you can only do one thing at a time. Well, unless you're talking about reading, knitting, watching television and talking on the phone. (Even then, it occurs to me, you can wind up missing the Big Moment, dropping a few stitches, losing track of the story and agreeing to do something you really don't WANT to do.....)

Well, we'd made our decision. On Saturday we went to the Civil War encampment rather than the Cornish Festival. As a result we ate corndogs and giant pretzels instead of pasties; Mr Dearling watched the very dramatic battle and I enjoyed a quiet time knitting and watching a lady with a mighty fine horse. Lots of people came over to "pet the pony" who took it all with great good humor, gently lipping piles of grass out of children's flattened palms. (When you're 4'11", and there's a big crowd around the battlefield, you might as well sit and knit - I'm too short to see and too old to sit on Mr Dearling's shoulders.) The encampment is only once a year; the knitting is once a month, and I'm determined to join my neighbor-knitters eventually.

On Sunday we decided we'd go to the soiree first for a little while and then go to the birthday picnic. I made a grand bowl of crab-artichoke dip for the occassion...but then we had a Phone Call. It was one of those phone calls that you'd like to rewind and change. A family problem, upsetting but not terminal; difficult but nothing that we won't get through, given some time.

The upshot was that we we begged off the soiree (I didn't feel very erudite) but did go to the birthday festivities, and had a very nice time. We brought pizza for the masses, which was definitely enjoyed, and I never tire of watching the kids running around and playing in the park. And the grandson had a good time too! No, no, I DO mean the grandson. My son, whose birthday was Saturday, turned 40. FOR-TEE. How is it that my children are creeping up in age and I am not? What kind of rip in the fabric of time allows for one's children to be the same age as their mother? We had a long talk about whether or not he's now "middle-aged"; I don't think so, I think he might live to be much older than 80. (I first wrote "...he might LOVE to be...") I'm proud of my children, they're honest and hard-working people and I'd like them a lot even if they were not my own.

I did take pictures, and will post them later on; just now I'm tearing out the door to go transcribe some interviews about LaCrosse - it's for a program on Public Television and I'm really enjoying it. Have I mentioned that I really LOVE transcribing off a dictaphone? I even have two of my own, one with full-sized tapes and one for those mini-cassettes. So...more a little later.