Friday, November 30, 2007

Post-Thanksgiving Shopping? ME?

You know what they say about "Black Friday", the day when everyone in the whole world (or anyway this country, apparently) rushes out to work off all that turkey and stuffing by dashing madly to the stores to buy ChristmaChanuKwanzakah presents. There were stories on television about stores opening at 4:00 am and 5:00 am, for early shoppers. There was a film on the news showing hundreds of bleary-eyed smiling people pouring into Target at 6:00 am.

We don't hold with all that. Ridiculous. But we learned that the illustrator of a favorite book of ours, "The Voyageur's Paddle" (David Greist) was going to be at Barnes & Noble on the east side, reading from and signing his book. We love the book; the story is excellent and the pictures stunning, so we decided to brave the mobs and go visit with him.

NOTE: shameless plug, we really love this book. It's about a voyageur, his Ojibway-French Canadian wife and his son. This is the whole cover, showing le voyageur and his son, you can see how beautifully it's illustrated. Oh - and see that red cap on the paddler? THAT, my friends, is a TOQUE, that very item which I spend a great deal of my life knitting. And mine really do look like that, and it's very authentic. (Mr Greist has visited Grand Portage and Pine City, and we share many friends in common.) He didn't ask me to say any of this, in fact - he probably doesn't even read any knitting blogs. It was a lot of fun meeting him and his wife and he drew a little pine forest along with his signature in our book! Well worth stomping into the fray.

Well! As long as we were OUT, we figured we'd take care of a couple of errands.

First, we stopped at JoAnn Fabrics, on account of, I had a flyer from the newspaper that said "50% off any item". I really like some of the yarns they carry, so Mr Dearling humored me and we went in. By then (after noon) it was crowdy but not mobbed.

First, I found me some yummy yarns! On the left, some Debby Mumm: the gold-y stuff is called "Beeswax" and the brown is called "Adirondack". They're variegated, soft and delish. It's 75% acrylic, 23% wool....and 2% "other fiber". Hmmm......aardvark? On the right, four skeins of Bellezza Collection Dolcetto. This is 54% wool, 24% nylon and 22% cotton. It's very soft and snuzzy, and I have some in pink, blue and yellow in my stash. I understand this is discontinued so I grab some when I see it. I made a three-panel Irish Hiking Scarf baby wrap out of it. I hate.... dissatisfied with it, so I'm going to finish seaming it up and give it to the Shelter for a puppysnug. I've begun a replacement, a double-width Irish Hiking pattern in the Debby Mumm. The baby the original was for will soon be two, and in February will have a sibling; I'm making a duplicate wrap in the Beeswax color, and they'll get them at the same time.

But THEN! Mr Dearling saw it: a rolling knitting tote!

It has a large main compartment, a smaller front compartment, long zipper pockets on each side for needles and an outside pocket on each of the side pockets for papers &c. Fan-TAS-tick! It has nice wheels and the telescoping handle, and clearly has space enough for bunches o' yarn, all kinds of room for needles and patterns and books and assorted chazerai (there's also a clear zipper pocket inside the top flap). It was marked $49.95. WHOOOAAAAH, says I - "but wait", says Mr Dearling, "you have that coupon!"

Now, when I "go 18th century" I have to use one of my thousands many wicker baskets, but for Regular Ordinary Daily Knitting? What could be better? For forays to The Sow's Ear, for going to Barnes & Noble -- how convenient is that? And you know? At "50% off", this here is a genuine bargain, what we Minnesotans and general Midwesterners call "a pretty good deal", as in "hey, that's not a bad deal, it's good deal". In FACT -- it was SUCH a good deal, Mr Dearling went up and got another copy of the flyer and we got one for the Lovely Daughter! I took it to her last Sunday when we met at the Ear, and she promptly moved out of her huge, bulging tote bag and into the rolling tote -- everything fit, INCLUDING the empty tote bag!

Here's the main compartment, containing A Lot of Stuff....

and here's the very neat little portable knit-kit which came in the front zipper pocket. It's thick clear plastic, with the yarn holes in the top of each of the three sections in it. As you can see, I have my Perpetual Toque in it. I think it would be nice for some sort of stranding, because you could put one color in each section with the yarn coming out of the holes and they wouldn't get all gnarly and tangle-y and messy. (Of course, I don't know how to do stranding, but if I ever learn, I'm in like Flynn!) is this not a very cool bargain-y after-Thanksgiving-y purchase?

And finally...Mr Dearling's been raving and cooing over the cat who spends his time in the shop of Cecil-the-shoe-repairing guy. "Cecil's Sandals" has been a Madison fixture since I first came here; his original shop was downtown but now he's conveniently near JoAnn Fabrics so we stopped in to Cecil's to drop off Mr Dearling's running shoes. And I got to meet Felix.

Felix is a large, black Maine-Coon-shaped cat. He was sitting on a cushion on a stool, and accepted my petting and stroking and cooing with grace while Cecil waited on Mr Dearling. Then he came over and sat on a chair, and Felix got up langorously and stepped over to Cecil's leg, where he settled himself against his chest, paws around his neck. Cecil stroked him affectionately, and told us friends of his at a local vet clinic had called him "a couple years ago" to say that they had a cat they thought needed Cecil...and Cecil needed Felix. His predecessor, Homer, had crossed the Rainbow Bridge three years earlier. Then Cecil said "Gotta get back to work, old man" and Felix climbed back onto his stool and curled up.

(When I told my fellow knitters about this, they each said "Gee, I didn't know Cecil was still around!" He is, friends, and it'd be worth it to go get new heels on those Birkies; the craftsmanship is superb and it's worth it just to visit Felix!) I'll try to get a picture of Cecil and Felix some time soon.

So....I guess the answer to that question is - yerp, I did go shopping on Black Friday. But not at 5:00 am, for petessakes.

Editor's Note: FIE on me! The illustrator of "The Voyageur's Paddle is David GEISTER; I apologize (with remorse) to him and also to anyone who looked up the book by my erroneous declaration of his name! (Thanks to Mr Dearling for catching my error--it's especially bad because I have a real burr under my saddle regarding name errors &c.) Mea culpa...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mmmm...take a deep breath~~

We have a Standing Order with my former employer. Every year for the past -- oh 12 or 14 years, we have gotten our Christmas tree from him; his family has a wonderful tree farm up by Antigo, Wisconsin where the fresh air grows truly beautiful trees.On the weekend after Thanksgiving, they bring over a tree, either setting it safely inside the garage (if we're out) or knocking on the door (if we're not). They know our house, they know our taste - and nothing will convince me other than that they measure, examine, peruse, interview and admire every single one of their many trees and select the exactly right one for us.

As you can see, it fits the window end of the living room perfectly, and it's exactly the right height. If you put your nose right up to the monitor and take a deep breath, you will smell that rich fragrance unique to firs raised in clear fresh air. The house, so recently fragrant with the smell of roasting fowl, is now absolutely redolent with the crisp freshness of the northern forests. As it warms, the branches will relax a bit, but the scent (every year) lingers deliciously until after the first of the New Year.

But Dale-Harriet! you may ask. I thought you were Jewish! OK - to forestall future confusion, let me put it this way: I believe. I've always celebrated at least the major Jewish holidays (Chanukah, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur), but I tend to not discount the Norse Gods, the Greek gods, the Spirit which imbues all, as the Native Americans believed.

When Lovely Daughter and Sons #1 and #2 were children, we only celebrated Chanukah this time of year. We lighted our menorah (I still do) and had latkes and played dreidl (still do). In those days, the children took their little menorah to school and explained their festival to their classmates, and enjoyed singing Christmas songs, coloring little pictures &c. They gave them to friends, proudly. As adults, their belief systems are their own. But they come over during Chanukah.

When Mr Dearling joined the family, he commented that he'd enjoy having a Christmas tree. I had never had one, so I polled the children. Think about this for a moment: ask a child if he'd like a beautiful, fragrant tree bedecked with sparkling lights and shimmering ornaments in the living room. OF COURSE! So we had our first. I have no conflict with that - after all, the evergreen is a shining example of life thriving in the winter &c &c.

That having been decided, however, we discussed the fact that Christmas is a religious holiday, the celebration of the birth of Jesus (who was, after all, a nice Jewish boy). So we bought a lovely Fontanini nativity set for Mr Dearling: the figures of Mary, Joseph, the Babe in the manger, two angels and three kings. Since that year, Lovely Daughter and I have added a figure every year, and now he has quite the colorful crowd! (The truth? I love setting out the figures and arranging them on the card table and moving them around, and Lovely Daughter and I go out and spend time selecting the new figure, which Mr Dearling then has to identify. Whose are they really? Maybe mine. He likes them well enough, though. Nevermind.)

However, all this excitement has been punctuated throughout by knitting!

On Saturday I collected my dear friend Ginny and we actually found went to join some of our fellow local knitters at a Victor Allen's Coffee Shop. NOTE: I had to ask three times exactly where it was because I'm geographically-challenged I couldn't remember which shop it was, so it was a victory for me to get there!

It was a lovely time! See here displayed, the six squares I finished for Kay of Mason-Dixon; they're 4" squares in Reggia sock yarn. Also see two toques, a red one for a voyageur and a blue one for my friend in Colorado; a scarf I've begun with Paton SWS because I love both the yarn and the pattern so much. (It's the Yarn Harlot's "one-row" pattern.) On the left there you can see another toque on its circular needle - I need to really crank on that one so it can go to the fellow in time to serve as a Christmas present (!)

Incidentally, our tree will remain as it is, unadorned, for some time until we can arrange to have assistance from grandchildren; there's no rush, it's a month until Christmas. Also - our first Chanukah candle will be lighted on Tuesday, December 4th, at sundown. Watch this space - I'll take pictures!

PS SO FAR, the kitties have been *interested* in the tree but no more. I expect no less from Evangeline, but the spritz bottle is at hand in case Lilliane forgets herself. Just in case.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Snow in the Beaver Moon

It's been a long time since we had snow - even THIS much - on Thanksgiving. At the risk of becoming unpopular, may I say that I hope this is a foretaste of a beautiful winter of deep snows. I would like the sort of winter I remember from my childhood (Whooah! Does that make me sound old or WOT?) where the roads are dry after being plowed but the snow is deep enough for skiing and sledding, and at night the huge sparkling flakes twinkle past the streetlights. OK - it's a start. Nevermind.

Of course this is the time of year we think of things for which we thankful; I had written a great list, but your lists are in your hearts, and mine in my heart. I daresay they match with a few differences and additions on each hand.

Our cozy little nest has no dining room, but the table in the kitchen can seat six if everyone is friendly and well-behaved. Therefore, for Thanksgiving, Mr Dearling brings up our Big Table (an ugly utility table we've had forever) and sets it up in the living room. We can seat ten to dine...of course, if Mr Dearling needs to leave his place at the head of the table to go to the kitchen, he needs to go out the front door and around to come in the back door into the kitchen. Some of our guests have to climb along the couch to get to their chairs and the rest have to suck it in and squinch past the television. However, once everyone is seated, it works very well. I think it looks very nice with my family silverware (it's Rogers Bros silverplate, but engraved with a lovely "G" for "Goldish", my maiden name - it was Grandma Goldish's). I also use my wonderful Spode, also Grandma Goldish's at one point, then used by her daughter, Aunt Lois - and finally to me. I cherish it, and only use it for Thanksgiving...although you know what? I may start to use it every day. Aunt Lo did, and it is a shame to let it languish.

OK -- yes, they ARE halloween napkins. With Spode. Nevermind. (The only other choice was paper towels and I MEAN! What kind of dolt would use paper towels with Spode??) Still, I thought it looked a fine table. We had the Lovely Daughter, #1 Son Ben and family; #2 Son with his friend and her 15-year-old daughter and the two of us. It made for a merry table.

Mr Dearling makes the delicious turkey, a very respectable dressing and the wild-rice-sausage dish. Dawn, the well-named lady of #1 Son (and Domanic and Xander's capable mommy) brings her flawless green-bean casserole. NOTE: she uses the GOOD stuff, French's Onions, on top. I make the corn pudding and this year, the pumpkin pie, from scratch. NOTE: the home-made crust, however, was also made by Mr Dearling. Any guesses if he's on my "Thankful" list? He appears on alternate lines on the list. Lovely Daughter brings the pecan pie -- she doesn't care for it, Mr Dearling doesn't care much for it either; MORE. FOR. ME! You can see here, the golden, moist, wonderful turkey, and next to it the Heart Bowl, which I've had for over 30 years and ALWAYS use for the corn pudding, which was my mother's recipe.

As Daughter and I were setting out all this amazing food on the table, #1 Son was watching very closely as each dish emerged. Finally, as we were preparing to sit down, he could hold his peace no more and he said, in panicked tones of dread, "Is that ALL there is? Haven't you FORGOTTEN SOMETHING?" The Heart Bowl was still in the oven, and his sister was headed for it even as he spoke. It's what he comes for, the corn pudding. Every year he tries to talk me into making it on a cookie sheet "so there's more crust!" but hey, I'm Jewish. You don't mess with Tradition, just ask Tevye. Corn pudding is made in the Heart Bowl. I may be short but I'm still The Mom. Shut up.

The meal was fine, and the company better. We all ate prodigiously, everyone eventually wandered off, and the house was quiet again. We prepared a care package with some of everything for our friend Sunawa and her partner, ESPECIALLY thankful that, on Thanksgiving Day, she was able to return home to their little nest, where she can finish her recovery surrounded by their beloved four cats and goofy sweet dog. They called later to thank us - that's one of the best holiday gifts I could have, seeing her restored to a modicum of health.

We did the dishes (I always wash the plates - then if I break one, I'll have only myself to blame!) and Mr Dearling got his yummy turkey soup underway (another tradition). If there's other thing you can always count on at the end of Thanksgiving Day it's a good, comfortable, NAP. Evangeline and Lilliane set the model, and we managed to follow the example very well, thank you. No knitting ensued all day, but it was made up for Friday, you'll see.

It's not lost on me that, in this country, those with the least, those with great need, live lives superior to that experienced by hundreds of thousands of people, our neighbors, who live in other countries. I don't minimize the poverty, bigotry, alcoholism, drug use and abuse that blights the fabric of our country. Grim as it is, there are people in parts of Africa, of India, of Asia who would consider it a great step UP to live those lives. And me? Well, it's not my fault if Donald Trump is jealous of me. I hear he doesn't even HAVE a stash!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve Eve

I'm writing late at night (1:51 a.m., says the little clock in my task bar) feeling moved to jot down a few random thoughts. I was fortunate in having my camera handy when the ladies took up "meat loaf mode" at the other end of the couch; these days Evangeline's been spending considerable butt-warming time, tucked up behind me on my end of the couch. It's nice to be able to reach back and rub a silky ear....of course, I can't actually SEE her (especially since she's usually snuggled on or under my black shawl) and there have been those occasions when I reach back and am greeted with an offended "MROWWR?" as I encounter not the silky ear but the... but her--uhm--well, in this house we refer to it as "the rosebud". When black-kitty Evangeline makes a Social Comment by pointedly walking AWAY from me, tail aloft, tip waving -- it's very clear, that pink rosebud. I try to peer over my shoulder to avoid a Rosebud Encounter.

OK, random thoughts: there have been a couple of requests for more information on the History of Dolls as presented at NAVC; I'm actually working on a sort of syllabus to send to the participants, and I'd be happy to send it along to anyone interested too, upon request. It's not going to be done in the next few days - maybe not even the next few weeks, this being "the holiday season" and all, but it was promised and will be completed and delivered.

There were also queries about the "Chykken Gallantyne" pie. I'll try to put the recipe in a format friendly to this blog. Suffice it to say, the only tricky or cook-y part is the sauce, but I think I can describe it. Keep in mind, it's made with yellow mustard, brown sugar and ginger marmalade, and I don't measure. But I think I can describe the correct appearance and taste. Other than that, I throw in cut up apricots and slivered almonds (toasted is nice but I'm occasionally frequently lazy, domestically speaking, so they're just slivered almonds right out of the cellophane). It's very medieval flavors, although in this case the strong flavors of the mustard and ginger are NOT masking the cloying sweetness of the decaying meat. It WAS, in the Middle Ages. I know. Me too. Shut up.

Furthermore: someone had mentioned the Holiday Knits stamps, the seasonal 41 cent postage stamps. There are four designs: a reindeer, a fir tree, a snowman and a teddy, all knitted in a simple (yeah, that's easy for YOU to say) stranded knit. I bought a book of them and they're adorable! Although I'm a wide user of e-mail, I do love plain ordinary common old-fashioned (outdated?) correspondence on stationery with stamps. "Snail mail", don't ya know.

Incidentally, if you have trouble remembering which means "paper to write letters on" from "unmoving", stationAry is the unmoving variety: it sits on its ASS; stationEry, the letter-writing paper, has its "E" for the envelope. Is that not clever? That's the educational portion of today's message.

Incidentally, the Lovely Daughter pointed out the other night that I start a great many sentences with "incidentally". Yeah, I guess I do.

At the Late-Night Knit last Friday at the Sow's Ear, Elizabeth S.A.B.L.E. brought her Fair Isle sweater, upon which she is in the final stages. If you go look at the pictures on her blog you will see knitting of such delicate design and subtle color change as to be amazing, or as I would describe it, "incomprehensible". I like love the way it looks, and freely admit that it is way past even my aspirations, but I take such delight in looking at it. As stunning as it looks in the pictures, it is (as is so often the case) pale in comparison to the real deal. I consider it a genuine privilege to gaze on such work - and to complete the image: the wrong side is just as neat and tidy as you could imagine, a series of perfect straight little lines, strands, carrying the colors smoothly along. It's such fun to see!

And in closing (it's almost 2:30 am now, and Evangeline is stirring behind me and making little mutterings which I recognize as her suggestion that I remove to bed where she can settle in on the feather tick behind my knees thenkyewverymuch), may I say that I've been watching the Food Channel as I write. Isn't all-night TV great? I'm watching the Semi-Homemade gal preparing a Thanksgiving dinner, of course. She just rubbed her big turkey with butter under the skin - and I don't mind telling you, seeing her hand moving under that pimply-looking bluish-white skin did nothing to pique my anticipation of tasty food. Then she rubbed some greenish herbed butter all over the OUTSIDE, massaging it in with what can only be described as a perverse sensuality. Oh yeah, I'm going to bed.

(Mr Dearling makes our turkey and it's golden and fragrant and flavorful, moist and absolutely perfect...and he doesn't do anything rude to it at all.)

To add final insult to injury there's a commercial for another upcoming special in which the word "feisty" appears on the screen for a split second....spelled wrong. You have to really watch for it, but they have it "FIESTY". Oy vey. Good night.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cap - and REcap

Man, what a week. Ever have one of those times where you alternate between despair and delight? Ever have a week where they alternate day by day? All I can say is, BOY am I glad I'm a knitter, for both times.

To start - last Monday began with a phone call from the partner of my long-time friend, from the emergency room. Seemed the Old Friend (36 years a friend) had developed pneumonia. Considering her asthma - her diabetes - her kidney failure (dialysis three times a week)... this was no "oh nuts I feel crummy". I spent much of every day all week at the hospital. Fortunately, thanks to exemplary medical care and facilities here, she stabilized and bounced back. There was a setback Thursday, but it was traced to something reparable which was repaired. She bounced back again.

That is, first and foremost, the sort of time when it's a true blessing to be a Knitter. I finished some 4" squares for Kay's project little squares, which I found soothing, although admittedly wielding size 2 needles is difficult when one's hands are shaking.

I also had a toque to work on, one at the stage where it's just plain straight perpetual ordinary knitting knitting knitting on a circular needle. "Barely Conscious knitting, I call it; I don't have to look. NOTE: I'm NOT a fabulous knitter, it's just that this is about my 32nd toque. Again, comforting. Soothing.

And the week progressed. It was frightening, tiring, educational, dramatic - and the relief of her becoming stable and rallying actually erupted today, interestingly.

Think of this: you have a child who disappears, gets lost. Your imagination parades before you Worst-Case Scenarios worse than anything Jerry Bruckheimer could come up with. The minutes are months long, you cannot imagine a future further ahead than five minutes and you can't see straight (they call it "blind panic"). Then the child returns home, announcing that he just went home with a buddy after school, forgot to call, watched movies, ate pizza, lost track of the time, no big deal. The relief at having him restored, untouched and unhurt, is almost physically tangible....and then, then it turns to RAGE! "You're FINE? I'll rip your finorkin' head off!!" Human nature,I guess...and after this very trying week, a gentle teasing remark I made to the partner was met with exactly that rage, and I was summarily ordered OUT! (By the partner, not the patient.) I left the hospital, returned home to a welcome afternoon of indolence. No hard feelings, I understand. I'll wait it out. Grim.

Now to the OTHER half of the week, the happy-knitter-tranquil part. First, I finished the Punkin Hats and managed to wheedle, bribe, cajole and sweet-talk all three little boys into putting them on long enough to take a picture:

Domanic put it on willingly, smiled obligingly - but I'm not optimistic about his wearing it all winter. Still, he said he liked it, and left the house with it firmly affixed to his head.

His little brother Xander was more reluctant, and this picture is the third attempt; the first had his daddy holding the cap on his head and the second had him covering it up with his blankie. Not optimistic about his wearing it all winter either. On the other hand, Xander's an Individualist, and at this point is reluctant to wear a jacket either. He may be one of those natural-born Wisconsinites who lives perpetually in denial about Winter. (He will be convinced, either by nature or Mommy, whichever comes first.

And Conner looked at his, pulled it on, and when I said "Now, I know you may not want to wear this every day...." said "No, I really Like it!" Awwwww....

Although you can't tell (cameras are weird guys) his shirt and the cap are very nearly the same color in the real world.

Of course, Halloween is over, and it's very close to December which, in my estimation, begins to lean heavily toward Winter, so autumn caps are going to be "so last week" in no time. Of course, none of the lads is yet of an age to be so fashion-conscious as all that, but you never know. The good news is, I think kids' heads grow less than the rest of them so these may fit them NEXT autumn was well.

And now to the Tranquil and Joyous part of the week (remember I said at the beginning, "depths of woe to tranquil pleasure"?) There were two events this week which were just so darn much fun!

As it had been the Lovely Daughter's birthday Thursday, plans were made to have her join me at the Sow's Ear for the Late-Night-Knit. It was WONDERFUL! It was sort of almost the first-formal-informal-semi-official-official meeting of the Hog-and-Blog Society! To my delight (and tranquility), Molly Bee was there, and Mrs S.A.B.L.E and Beth! The evening wss uncommon merry; Mrs S.A.B.L.E's Young Lad came along (I canNOT say "little boy", he is, I believe, a little taller than I am). He brought along some card tricks which DID amaze and entertain me, and Molly Bee amazed and entertained him with a toothpick trick, too. (She showed Lovely Daughter and me how she did it...I smiled and nodded but the truth is, I think it really WAS magic.) I have a wonderful story you tell with playing cards too, regarding the "suicide king", but believe it or not none of the card decks present were the right kind. NOTE: the Magic Lad had two decks; I brought an interesting deck for him to play with; I brought a miniature deck for him; I always have a bizarre deck in my bag. None would work for my story. I did a rain check. Nevermind.

I did very little knitting, actually, but a lot of bouncing and chatting. I filled Mr Dearling's request and got a nice gift card from the Sow's Ear for Lovely Daughter's birthday (she didn't open the card until she was about ready to leave, so she bought nothing that night, but hey - anticipation's half the fun!). I also gave her a ten-minute massage from our friend Donna who comes to the late-nights, which she enjoyed very much. (Ever notice the eyes of someone who's just had a good massage? Oooooooh yeah!)

Beth of Chocolate Sheep and I closed up the place again - our fellow Hog-and-Bloggers went home at more reasonable times, but we just ... gab, what can I say? We're working on Hog-and-Blog gang signs and trying to figure out some identifying bling...well, I found that the Ear still had little buttons with the Piggly Wiggly logo on (sweet little pig face in a white cap); I bought out the whole stock the remaining four buttons, and we'll wear those on little pins until something more dramatic comes along. NOTE: I need to do this more often so it's not so long and rambly.

I've been thinking about stuff for which I'm grateful. Watch this space.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pies, Punkins and Sprouts

Last week was Pie Week at the Museum. What, did you think a historical museum was some dusty collection of old stuff looked after by a dusty collection of old docents? Well, what if it IS? We still like pie -- think of this as our version of "par-TAY down!" As we werent' scheduled until Thursday, Mr Dearling and I determined to do our baking on Wednesday. Oh yes, you can add "pretty decent baker" to his other glowing accomplishments.

As we had something over 20 lovely green tomatoes on our amazingly productive little plant, and as it was forecast to freeze - FREEZE, none of your "might get a little chilly", we brought in all remaining fruit. I have a variety of recipes for your traditional Fried Green Tomatoes (including the one at the back of the book by the same name...) DIGRESSION: Have you read that? I recommend it highly. The movie was OK too, great cast -- I loved Jessica Tandy anyway, but the book was better. As usual.

ANYway, a little tour around our innernet produced a recipe for "Green Tomato Pie" which sounded intriguing, and Mr Dearling decided to make that. For my part, I wanted to reproduce an old favorite left over from Society for Creative Anachronism days: Chykken Gallantyne. We're nothing if not nontraditional in this house. None of your rhubarb-strawberry here. My Gallantyne contains carefully shredded chicken, Turkish apricots, slivered almonds and a sauce made of yellow mustard, brown sugar and ginger marmalade - Dundee, in the white glass jar. I'm very particular about that.

This is the Gallantyne - oh, and may I add: Mr Dearling made his crust from scratch, as he is wont to do (see above!) and it's flaky and fine. Me? Well now, see, pie crusts come in these wonderful little tubes where you just unroll them, thereby allowing time for knitting. That's what I use. So what???

OK. Finally, KNITTING! I guess it hasn't appeared here so much because I haven't had the chance to do as much as I'd like. Don't you hate that? I also feel like I've been travelling around the world or something. But I did finish the third punkin hat at NAVC, made some progress on the toque (although I had to stop because I'd forgotten the second skein - PLAN AHEAD!)

However - during the course of the NAVC weekend, I was pleased to receive seven (7!) new commissions for toques. Three chaps want red (two a brick or russet, one a brighter red); two requested French Bleu (a somewhat grey-blue) and one fellow asked for a deep, rich green. This last may be somewhat untraditional, but there's nothing to prevent such a thing. Bless his glowing little heart - much as I love all shades of rouge or red or russet or brick, I am tickled by the occasional bold use of another color. Also, I'm going to have the opportunity for using different yarns: the russet color I'll be using Nashua "Creative Focus" worsted in "Brick". It's a bit frou-frou for a voyageur (75% wool, 25% alpaca) but the color is wondrous and it's SO soft and lovely. The green one is going to be Lamb's Pride worsted, which I have well-represented in my stash, because I just LOVE the crisp stitch definition. (Read: I can see my blunders right away!)

Picture me curled up on my end of the couch surrounded by skeins and knitting toques pattern? My documentable, historically-accurate, authentic pattern for a Voyageur's Toque, circa mid-18th century? Well, it goes something like this: Cast on 12. Increase to desired width. knit mindlessly while watching TV, attending lectures, in the movies (yes I have too, leave me alone), riding in the car, dozing....yeah, I really have nodded off and awakened moments later to find myself closer to the stitch marker than I desired length. Then decrease back to 12 stitches, draw up stitches and perform small dance to "Another One Bites the Dust".

Now then, Punkins. I did finish the punkin hats...and I'm actually pretty pleased with them. Aren't they CUTE?? Of course, you can't hardly get more basic, but that was one of the first times I've started caps at the bottom. I almost always start with the increase (see "toques" above) and I rather enjoyed it. Of course, I had to check them out with the Knitwear Authority:

I was glad to see that they passed muster. Mistress Evangeline, in fact, spent the better part of an hour lying on them, sleeping on them, rearranging them, and of course applying (artistically) the proper number of cat hairs, without which no knitting is complete. To my delighted anticipation, I have successfully arranged for all three little boys to stop over this evening (Wednesday) to receive their Autumn Punkin hats AND pose for a series of pictures in them. Do I assume that, like my favorite children's story, "The Cap That Mother Made", they will wear them until they simply don't fit anymore? Well, no. I suspect the bigger boys will tolerate them until they're out of my sight; Littlest Grandson may wear his because he's not quite old enough to make clothing decisions for himself. We'll see, but in the meantime I'll have photographic evidence. (You can get a lot of blackmail mileage out of hats like that when the boys are big enough to bring girlfriends over ::snicker::)

And lastly - the reference to Sprouts: last Saturday we spent the morning at the Museum working with groups of Girl Sprouts...well, Brownies, to be perfectly accurate. They were working toward a "Listening to the Past" badge, and we took them through the Museum pointing out items and telling stories about children in an earlier time. It was huge fun, although talking about "history" is dicey, particularly when everyone in the crowd was born (are you ready?) AFTER the year 2000. Think about it! They'll one day say "I was born after the turn of the century" and they're NOT going to mean La Belle Epoque! It was a lot of fun, actually. We played some "pioneer and Indian games" with them - Jacob's Ladder,Cup-and-Pin, the Game of Graces....and I showed them some poppets, cornhusk dolls, penny dolls, all of which they declared "BETTER!" than Bratz dolls. Oh yeah.

I'm gradually getting back on track...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The World Diminished

I just learned that my former mother-in-law passed away today. I guess "mother-in-law" has become something of a standard for jokes in our society and there are whole books devoted to them. The relationship of a woman with her husband's mother can be fraught with all manner of potential problems; it's sort of a built-in standard that the bride must measure herself against.

This was different.

This woman was born in Iceland, and had been a nurse as a young woman. She always had a most charming accent, melodious and gentle. I met her in the winter of 1970. Her son and I had met in California, and he'd come to join me at the commune I lived in. After Thanksgiving, she telephoned to invite me and my two little children to come back to Green Bay for Christmas with her son. His parents very kindly sent train tickets so that the four of us could visit Wisconsin. We packed up and left, knowing that we wouldn't be returning to California. I had had a downright epiphany during the months we were in California: I am a natural-born, dyed-in-the-wool (so to speak) Midwesterner. I was not, by any definition, a californio and wouldn't be. Her son, henceforth "Mr Ex", had no particular affection for California either, and when we got onto that train with our dried fruits and nuts and genuine Hebrew Salami for the trip, it was with all of our possessions and no regrets.

All the way on the train, Mr Ex taught my children how to say "Good evening, Grandmother and Grandfather" and "Good day, Grandmother and Grandfather" in Icelandic. (Far-Far was American, but we knew he'd understand.) Incidentally, Lovely Daughter was four years old and #1 Son was two. The children of my first husband, they're biracial. Also uncommonly attractive, but I'm their mom. But they are.

Might I add here that returning to the Midwest was the best gift I could've had for the holiday. Living in a commune in a lower-middle-class small community near the Bay Area was hardly experiencing the best California has to offer, but it was a Season thing with me. I discovered that I don't just LIKE the change of seasons, I absolutely require it, for my existence. When we passed into the mountains in the train and I saw snow, I literally wept with joy.

We transferred to a commuter train in Chicago, and arrived in Green Bay mid-evening. The children politely said "Good evening, Grandmother" in Icelandic, and the tall, graceful woman with soft black curls smiled broadly and held out her arms to them, and to me. The ride in their car past the beautiful Christmas lights reflected, sparkling, on the snow was restorative to my soul and delighted the children.

When we arrived at their beautiful home - it represented everything that the commune we'd lived in did not. The home was lovely, comfortable, spacious and welcoming. We were shown to Mr Ex's boyhood room (he slept in his brother's room) and Mother T brought in Icelandic down comforters for us. There was a desk in the room, and in the drawers were Christmas coloring books and new crayons. We were all quite exhausted by the travelling, and were asleep in short order.

The next morning, we woke and dressed and came out to meet Mr Ex's two brothers and have breakfast. You know how there are meals that hang in the memory forever, for a variety of reasons? Mother T had made lacy-thin Icelandic pancakes with lingonberry preserves and an array of superb dishes including oysters Rockefeller, fluffy eggs, sausages and bacon, fresh juice and milk and coffee. After breakfast we went in to admire the Christmas tree, fragrantly piney, all shimmery and sparkly. Underneath it there were a lot of presents; Mr Ex's older brother said they'd all taken advantage of the opportunity to shop for little children. There was a smaller tree downstairs in the family room too.

Two weeks passed in the most delightful way as the happiest time I had had in years, literally. I, and my babies, were welcomed and it was, at every moment, filled with music, laughter, good food and family such as I hadn't experienced since my own childhood home was dissolved.

After New Year's (1971) Mother and Father T (by now "Amma" and "Far-Far") drove us to Madison where we found a very nice townhouse and settled in. Mr Ex looked into going to University; we looked for and found jobs (we worked at an Occult Bookshop, "Sanctum Oeneus", and oh, it was). In August we welcomed Son #2; the next February, on Leap Year Day, we married at a JP in the courthouse.

When my youngest was seven years old, Mr Ex and I divorced. And yet - in spite of that, not one of my birthdays ever went by but that I received a beautiful card from Mother T. She and Far-Far had moved to Virginia years before, and neither that nor the loss of her husband interrupted my birthday cards. Furthermore, we always received beautiful Christmas cards from her - AND Chanukah cards (she knew I was Jewish) and Passover cards and Mother's Day cards.

My #2 son was her first natural-born grandchild - she met him at Thanksgiving, 1972, where he was smaller than the turkey! He was always a great favorite of hers, and she meant as much to him as any grandmother has ever been loved by a grandchild -- more.

I am delighted to be able to report that my son was able to introduce to her his own children, who - whether or not they will remember her, are the beneficiaries of her life.

She was old, and she'd been my standard for kindness, elegance, lady-like manner, courtesy, thoughtfulness and beauty. Hers was a rich and full life. There is a Yiddish belief that there are, at any given time, Twelve Just People on the earth; should there ever come a time when there are not, when Twelve Just cannot be found, God will destroy the world instantly. This woman was undeniably One of the Just.

Goodbye, my dearest, cherished Mother T. I am saddened, my world -- THE world -- diminished by her loss.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Home again! And after having travelled out of town two consecutive weekends, glad to be here. I'm not so much a traveller, having a deep taproot and a true love for my own little nest, my own biffy, my kitties, Daisy...&c &c. Which is NOT to say, however, that I don't have a terrific time when I *am* out and away.

After a nice ride back to the Twin fact just a few miles PAST the MOA where Lovely Daughter and I were LAST weekend...we arrived at the Voyageur Ecology Camp/Boys' and Girls' Club camp. Mr Dearling drove so I could knit. THAT's the way to travel. I was working on my commissioned toque in Cascade 220 "Ruby".

After registering in at the Lodge and greeting lots of friends and colleagues, we went out and found our cabin, seen here. We were in "Screech Owl". It was nice, with the usual camp bunkbeds, a shower and toilet stall, double sink with mirrors - and the usual separate Counselor's Room, in which two of our best friends were tucked. Pretty fine accommodations for voyageurs and the likes thereof. (After the first night, most of the denizens residents of Screech Owl pulled our mattresses off onto the floor - those bunks are intended for people weighing about 50 lbs, and even at 4'11", I'm waaaaaay too heavy for that!)

We returned to the Lodge after settling in, and spent a pleasant evening in good company. I learned that my program was scheduled for Sunday morning, allowing me some time to reorganize my notes, which I appreciated. I was asked if I needed PowerPoint or slides - and I don't mind saying, my heart fell to the ground (Native American expression requiring no explanation). I realized that I had an opportunity for a very showy program with wonderful illustrations, &c, and all I had was my little dolls to show.

Each morning after breakfast, the day's workshop sign-up sheets were laid out so we could put our names in. After the first round, we could sign up for other workshops where space allowed. Now, some of them I really didn't care to take, including Muskrat Skinning. That was limited anyway, to six - anyone could watch :eeeewww: but there were only six opportunities for hands-on. (I repeat -- eeeeeeeeeeww.) I was NOT disappointed to learn that Mr Dearling was interested in silversmithing and so on; I can't imagine...easily...finding ourselves in a position where it would be advantageous to know how to skin a muskrat. Just sayin'.

And so the weekend progressed, with my spending time alone in our cabin trying to organize my notes to improve the program in between other activities.

I did sign up for one workshop on the preparation of wild rice by the native people in the 18th century. The leaders were Karl K. and Mary V. (If you're very quiet, you will here wild applause and shouted kudos, as if borne on the breezes -- these two people are paragons in our 18th century world, recognized as "the authority" because of their extensive and meticulous research...and I feel privileged that they both call me "friend".)

They had the raw rice, a fire for parching, a pit for "dancing the rice", and baskets for winnowing. Those birchbark baskets or dishes are called "makuks" in the Ojibway language, and served as baskets, dishes, storage and cooking vessels in their various shapes. (Yes, Virginia, you CAN cook in birchbark, provided the liquid in the makuk is higher than the flames.) NOTE: Mary V. makes beautiful makuks, and I am the proud owner of two of them. I'll put in pictures at some point - if they were bigger I'd keep yarn in them!

I have to admit, though, I got as far as dancing the rice and was chased back inside because, wimp that I am, I was COLD! In my defense - I did watch from the windows AND I was wearing my favorite (and first) moccasins, which have holes in them. I know that was stupid. Shut up.

I did attend one other workshop - "Beginning Knitting", led by my good friend Suzette. She asked if I'd sit in and help because they'd titled her workshop "History of Knitting", and she knew I'd done some reading on the history. So I sat in and gave as much a synopsis as I recalled from internet reading and "No Idle Hands". (I just got my copy of "Knitting America" the day we left, so I haven't had time to read it yet, unfortunately; I could have waxed much more eloquent!)

There were two young girls, two new knitting ladies, two knitter ladies (who, like myself, couldn't resist hanging around any group of knitters) and an earnest gentleman. As it turned out, we who DID sat with those who HADN'T, and a good time was had by all. And a few times during the weekend I found the gentleman sitting and plying his needles with ever-increasing ease. It was brilliant!

There was a program on an early Iroquois site in New York (WITH powerpoint, quite wonderful) given by a gentleman who had actually flown in for the occasion - his is also a name of great repute and respect in the Living History world!)

There was one about the religion of the voyageurs and other fur traders by our adopted "newphew" Isaac which was fascinating, too (also PowerPoint, brilliant!)

Now, lest you think that these events are dry, scholarly, academic, intense series of workshops about right-hand-left-twist linen thread used in ladies' stays...this is Patrick, the Site Director of Mr Sayers' Post at Pine City, Minnesota and as erudite and wise a person as you could hope to find. Well--the moose looked like it was about to sneeze....

NAVC - I love it!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Leaving Miss Daisy~~~

OK, here's the deal: I read somewhere that November (which it is now, as I write) is "blog daily month" or some such. I thought that might be an interesting challenge, seeing if I *could* write something every day. When I set off to negotiate the Blogosphere I intended to write every day. Remember what the Road to Hell is paved with? Yup, those.

However, I'm defeated before starting, as I will be away from home from Thursday morning until Sunday night (or, possibly, Monday). And this is not a trip on which I can be accompanied by Daisy. NOTE: I name things. Lots of things. My Dell laptop (which I adore madly) is named "Daisy". My flashdrive is named "Ygraine", because it appears as the "E" drive. (Yes, yes, I know "Ygraine" starts with a *Y*; it's all in the pronunciation.) My cell phone is "Heloise" (Mr Dearling's phone is named "Abelard".)

We're going to an 18th century event (hence photograph of the interior of a Fur Post). It's called "NAVC" - North American Voyageurs' Council, and it's a long weekend of workshops, presentations, programs, camaraderie, conversation and fun. It's not a typical rendezvous in that we don't camp (there's a dormitory sort of thing for lodging); it's not open to the public at all; it's more a study sort of situation. The very modest fee covers lodging, many of the programs and MEALS. This is no small thing, as the meals are prepared by a darling girl named Kiri Butter (can you imagine a better name for a COOK?) and her colleagues, and the fare is absolutely first-rate. There are some additional fees for workshops where materials are provided.

Among the offerings are classes in silversmithing - the making of pieces of Trade Silver; blacksmithing, basket-making, moccasin-making -- that sort of thing. There are also programs that are informational, about life in the 18th century, tattoos among the native and French-Canadian population, high wines and brandies of the 18th century - and "A History of Dolls in the 18th Century."

That last? I'm giving that one! Ten years' working at Pleasant Company, a passion for toys and playthings through history and the fact that I am, in Mr Dearling's description, "64 going on 11" provide my necessary credentials. ("But you're a very NICE 11-year-old", says he.) All of the above combine in the following result: I won't be on line or near a computer...including my portable, wireless-enabled Daisy.

A special friend of mine is doing a workshop on Beginning Knitting, however; I won't TAKE take it, but am looking forward to sitting in to learn some finer points of the history of knitting in New France. I'm anticipating a very social few days, good conmpany, good knitting, good food - and (hopefully) a successful program about my dollies.

I shall make notes of the goings-on, the menus, the sights and sounds and stitches - and I'LL report as soon as the opportunity arises. I do mean to finish the third pumpkin hat and either finish or nearly finish the commissioned toque on the needles. (As it's not a "historical accuracy in camp" type of thing, I can continue on my circulars for the duration.)

Bye, Daisy. I'll see you soon. I love you.