Saturday, January 26, 2008

..and by Popular Demand~~

The NEXT post will be the third in the series, "Books". I promise.

WARNING: many words ahead! Make a cup of tea and settle in.

Having said that, I've had a couple of requests in the last two days that I mean to take care of right away (and I got a couple pretty neat pictures I want to share too).

First - there was a BIG flap here and there on various other cat-populated knitblogs about something we all saw first at Crazy Aunt Purl's house, the Wonderful Cardboard Chaise Scratcher thingie. Well, when I saw that Chris of Stumbling Over Chaos had gotten one for her (delicious and stunning) black kitties,

nothing for it, Evangeline had to have one too. As you can see, it gives her Magic Eyeballs. She loves it, and often sits on it or lounges on it or admires it from nearby. She does NOT, however, scratch on it.

Lilliane, on the other hand, sits on it, admires it from nearby - and scratches the heck out of it. Even as I "speak", she is having a lashing-of-tail and wild-attacking-of-chaise. She claws and scratches - then sits on it polishing her shoulder.

The verdict? They both, in their ways, love it. I fully anticipated getting another so that there wouldn't be any rivalry-territorial thing going on, but so far they seem to each take their turns with it. I'd have to say it was about $15 well-spent, and I can say that after a week of their enjoyment. (You know spoiled children cats - they get a present, play with it for five minutes and then it collects dust.) CONFESSION: my cats have a small (SMALL) plastic bin full (FULL) of toys. But to their credit, they do pluck them out and play with them from time to time. And they only get new ones whenever I go to the pet store , uhm - when I need to stop at Target for holidays or special occasions. Nevermind.

In other news, briefly - Michael's had a sale flyer in last Sunday's paper (as usual)and it listed something I couldn't believe: Lion Brand "Moonlight Mohair", usual price $8.99/skein (therefore pretty much out of my range of interest) for two dollars ($2) a skein. Now, I've bought two skeins in the past, full price, with the thought of a very narrow scarf knit on # 19s or something. Haven't done anything with it yet (something about TOQUES, you know).

But at THAT price? Well, what can I say? I enhanced my stash to the tune of five skeins - EACH - of three colorways. It's mostly acrylic with a bit of mohair, cotton and "metallic polyester". Makes it soft with a bit of sparkle. While I'd love to start paging through books and patterns -- well, not until the toques are done ! It's described as "bulky" too...for whom, elves? but I think it has some potential, especially for something summery where the sun can show it off to best advantage. I am looking forward to it.

Yesterday, nevermind that it was below zero, we stopped by the zoo to see the newly-acquired Red Panda (ex-QUI-site) and while there, I had Mr Dearling take a picture of me with my BFF Nanuk. There weren't a lot of animals out (and no other people) but actually the two real polar bears did come out to see who was greeting them. But now, see? All y'all in other climates? The weather here, described as "bone-chilling" and "bitter" - it's no problem at all, you just have to dress for it. (Ever wonder why there isn't much courting begun this time of year? Hard to look sexy or cute.)

Now to those requests I mentioned at the beginning.

First, Janna of Knitting Relaxes Me , asked how these oft-mentioned toques work; it is hard to imagine them by description only. Hopefully this will help:

This is the toque, all blocked, and just lying open on the table. As you can see, the "knitted football" description fits. In fact, I suppose if I stuffed it really full of roving before would.....NEVERMIND! (Incidentally - this one's going out Monday and I DO have the next one on the needles. Just sayin'.)

One end of the toque is tucked up inside -- if it's pushed in all the way, you have a fitted double cap. I have a black one that I wear this way - and then fold up the bottom, which effectively gives me four layers over my ears. See what I mean about "dressing for it"? If, however, you only push the end about half-way up, you can flop over the extra on top, giving you effectively a double cap with either a short or long "bag", thus:

Mr Dearling, modeling, prefers a longer toque himself; he still has the first one I made for him (which was, matter o' fact, also the first one ever I made!) NOTE: it is not lost on me, the irony of the fact that Mr Dearling has wonderful thick ringlets....I have waist-length hair but absolutely thin and straight as pretzel rods. If I make a single braid (a la Ojibway, 18th century) it looks like a ridiculous shoelace. I cheat, wear it up and wear a fine silk scarf--as the wife of a voyageur I get first pick of the silk scarves brought from Montreal in the trade goods. Boys get all the good hair.

And now to the last request. There were comments on a blog that I read regularly, written by dear Ryan at her Mossy Cottage. Let's just say that she was feeling very nice about the end of a rough patch experienced by her and her partner -- and consensus in the comments was that everyone was very pleased for them, because Ryan is a very special lady - hers is the Dulaan Project, which organizes knitted goods for people in frigid Third-World areas, which is a big project and a real mitzvah. In MY comment, I said some time I would send her my "Philosophy of Love", and another commentor asked if I might share that. I sent it to Ryan by e-mail, and she asked if I'd post it HERE, so she could refer folks who might be interested. In the all-over scheme of things, (and with Mr Valentine's Day around the corner) here it is.

Love is good.

By "Love", I mean tender, caring, nurturing adoring affection between people of any configuration. So--heterosexual love? Brilliant. Homosexual or bisexual love? Likewise. People and cherished pets? Divine.

The problems in this world are all, uniformly, caused by people who have no one to love, and are unloved/unlovable. People who DO love each other do not always agree, come to impasses, wonder how/why/where? But it's just the simplest of all things - LOVE is good. When I see people holding hands, or snuggling and kissing, or arm-in-arm, I love it. I love it if they're any combination of colors; any combination of genders, any combination of ages. It's ALL GOOD. Love should be relished with one's loved ones, appreciated by the rest of us, and encouraged and nurtured wherever and HOWever it lives.

People who project negative feelings or comments or hatred towards loving people make me very sad. I have high hopes that this "innernet" thing will eventually lead to people meeting one-on-one and becoming fast friends and falling in love - either romantic or loving friendship - to such a degree that there will be no more war. Just as we happily exchange knitting patterns and tips (and quilt patterns, recipes, advice) with friends who live scattered all over the world, perhaps everyone will realize the value in truly sharing with all our neighbors with whom we share this global village.

OK - all soapboxes put away, dusting off the rather dense mush level and calling it a day, I will go arrange my literary comments and offerings for my next post. Two statements which pretty well define me: "But...I digress!" and "It's never too late for a Happy Childhood."

Editor's note: Need I say? Polite people are discreet and genteel in their Public Displays of Affection. Ladies and Gentlemen act accordingly.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

OK - condolences are in order for MY end of the sofa; congratulations are due to the other end of the sofa. As mentoned, I'm not much of a sports fan of any kind. But we Wisconsinites are Packer Backers. (I do have a thing for that cute, grizzled, soft-spoken hero, Brett Favre - but you know, not in a stalk-y kind o' way, and I don't even have pictures of him or anything; however, I do have a cute magazine ad for Sensodyne with him holding a little ice cream cone.) Also, due to antiquated loyalty to the town of his birth (the Bronx), Mr Dearling is a "life-long New York Giants fan". (He's actually not any bigger of a sports fan than I am, and I bet he's never thought of Brett Favre "cute".)

Anyway, as I'm sure will be splashed all over the front page of newspapers as far away as Prague and Mumbai, the Packers did not win. (They didn't lose, the Packers don't do that; just didn't win.) Which means that Mr Dearling's New York Giants didn't not win.

I watched the whole game, minus muckin' great sections in the middle when the wild action caused me to fall asleep ... err... nod off pass out from the excitement. And even I, non-sports-fan that I am, can appreciate that it was a "good game" and it was won in the last few overtime seconds. The score was 20-20 for a long time.

That's OK, next year'll be a new season. (Oh, and Brett? If you're reading this? You will of course play at least one more season, right? So you can lead the Packers to the Super Bowl next year? Yeah, I thought so. Kthxbye.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Toques - and STICKS!

First, one down! I've finished a toque, the one made out of that lovely Nashua yarn. It has a bit of alpaca in it, and I chose it because it was the closest color to what le voyageur said he wanted, a sort of orange-y, rusty red. Mr Dearling was in tow when I went to get yarn for this one, and he clearly had a different image of what "rusty red" was than I did. So I wound up sending three little samples to the voyageur, asking him to select his favorite, and he chose the Nashua. (Nevermind that no voyageur's path EVER crossed that of an alpaca in any way, shape or form, I'm quite sure.) NOTE: you're safe - I've managed to quell a desire to rant about the bane of a reenactor's life, the expression "If they'da haddit, they'da used it." Nevermind.

As you can see, this is a LONG toque; it seems as though the last few requests have been for these. In case it's hard to tell, these look like knitted footballs, closed on both ends. One end is stuffed inside and the extra "bag" is worn flopped to the side in a jaunty way. Generally, the bag just sort of topples - in fact, sometimes they sort of stand up - think "Liberty Cap", which you can see in your doubtless huge collection of illustrations of the French Revolution. The usual length of the untucked toque is about 23"; the long ones are as much as 28".

Here it is, the dramatic END! One more row, then "draw yarn through remaining stitches and pull tight". That's my favorite song, I LOVE drawing the yarn through. Because then I'm done (and can start another). When I'm knitting toques at home (and this is a Confession, don't tell anyone, OK?) I move from the final INcrease to a circular needle. When I get to the other end, of course, it's back to the DPNs to finish up. What this means is that, during the Circular Period, I can knit in the car, in meetings, while watching movies or stuff on the tee-vee. Last night I knitted through a play at the theatre. (A very FUNNY play, by the way: "Noises Off". If you get a chance to see it - or the film version - go for it, but go to the bif first.) I believe I've knitted on a toque while dozing - I could swear I've awakened to find myself closer to the stitchmarker than I remembered being. THAT is scary. I may have got to the point where I'd be well-advised to refuse commissions for a little while. NOTE: would it be weird to ask to be buried with a toque on the circulars in my hands? Seems fitting.....) That was too weird even for me. Nevermind.

Here's his dear self blocking out, and Monday he will be on his way to northern Minnesota, where he will be keeping warm a pair of ears participating in a sled-dog race. When I send these lovely caps out (and they're all going to reenactors who portray men *generally* of the Fur Trade) I include an article by a friend on the history and wearing of the ubiquitous toque by the French-Canadians of New France. I also send a sheet of simple washing-up instructions (although the likelihood of the voyageurs intentionally laundering their toques is probably unrealistic); lastly, I affix a Ste Anne's medal to the bag of the toque with a replica 18th century straight pin and a sheet describing the voyageurs' belief in Ste Anne as the patroness of the canoemen. Ste Anne is the mother of Mary, and there was a tiny chapel dedicated to her just past Trois Rivieres where the canoes paused to offer a mite for a safe voyage. They also stopped on their way home, to offer thanks for a safe return....those who were there TO return.

Oh, and yes, I DO have the next on the needles. In fact, it's 10" already, and the lad asking for this one (may his name be blessed unto the tenth generation) only wants a short one!

But my intention today, before being distracted by all these toques, was to discuss my STICKS. I don't know about you, but I have a lotta knitting needles. A LOT.

I "inherited" a bag of old straight needles from a friend who'd got them in at her antique shop and didn't want them. Most of them are 10.5, interestingly. Many of them are turquoise or pink-y salmon-y; they're plastic or metal, very long and some are crooked. A couple of the sets had been taped together with scotch tape, before it was "magic", and it left icky residue. I've been able to get most of it off - but these are being kept for their nostalgic value. In this, the 21st century, I tend to the bamboo.

I keep my straight needles on my dresser. They're divided between the Long Ones (seen here) and the Short Ones (below). Why yes, those ARE a couple of bamboo backscratchers in there with them. And your point is......?? (OK, OK - see, I have this one spot on my right shoulder blade. It itches sometimes. I scratch it myself when Mr Dearling's not at hand.) NOTE: Mr Dearling knows precisely where that itchy spot is, and gets it every time. There's MUCH to be said for 24 years together - and 20 of 'em married. We lived like crazy hippies for four years on account of, we were crazy hippies.

You can clearly see my size Gazonga needles there. I got them to make something. I cannot recall what it was. I cannot recall if I ever made it. I cannot recall if I plan to ever make anything on them. Unlike the talk, which says they're "lightning fast" and you can "make an Imperial-size afghan in 34 minutes", I find them cumbersome. Having said that, however, - Lovely Daughter made an 8' scarf (yep, EIGHT FEET LONG) in about two hours one Sunday at the Sow's Ear on her size Gazonga needles. I know, I was there, I watched her with these selfsame eyeballs resting even now in my eyeball holes.

I inherited my darling Mother-in-Law's (of blessed memory) sewing box, and I keep DPNs and knitting gewgaws in it. It was in the basement of the house in Franklin Square and when we went, Mr Dearling and I and his two sisters, to sort out the house after Mr Grandpa Dearling passed away, the sisters said they didn't have any use for it. I think I've mentioned being sentimental? Well, I am SO loving this box. It now sits in my living room where I can see it from where I sit on the couch blogging, knitting, watching the teevee. So I keep my DPNs in it, and some circulars; I have my point protectors, stitch counters, stitch holders - and so on.

I do have other DPNs, this isn't the whole wad. C'mon, admit it - I bet you have more than one pair of some size needles too. I have three pair of # 7 DPNs, and probably at least two pair of # 8s. I also have multiples of other needles - what happens is, you're happily cranking along on a project while hanging out at the LYS surrounded by your peeps, sipping chai latte (well, a demure cup of Earl Grey, get real) when someone walks by with a new purchase of yarn. NOTE: the Sow's Ear has wonderful heavy-weight clear plastic bags for new yarn, which can be re-used for lots of other stuff - and through which the yarn shows, even if the fumes are contained.

Time slows, everything goes into slow motion. You can see nothing but that yarn, and you just happen to have, in your nifty Rolling Yarn-y Knitty Thingie, the PERFECT pattern for that exact and precise yarn. There is a moment when everything becomes a blur, and when time returns to normal you find the pattern on the table in front of you, three skeins of that jaw-droppingly beautiful yarn in your hands - and nothing for it, you have to buy new needles because, nevermind you have four pair in two lengths at home, you need to start the new project This. Very. Minute.

I keep my toque needles in here, and as you can see - the aforementioned doo-dads; in the lower part I have my short circulars. I guess one could say that, while I do have needles in various parts of the house, the sewing box holds my needle stash, the best ones. I have some that look like tortoiseshell (some kind of plastic, I'm thinking) that are somewhat flexible and as grippy as bamboo even if they look slippery; I have some old DPNs made of bone that are so sharp it's almost painful to use them, but they're so cool-looking!

Oh - and you did notice the white glass jar of crochet hooks next to the short needles. I do know how to crochet, I have made some crocheted things; at the moment, I use them primarily for edging or to rescue some errant hooligan of a stitch which manages to escape and attempt a getaway. I have a crochet hook that belonged to my mother (!) and a couple of those fine black walnut Brittany hooks and a couple of very old bone hooks. I use small crocheted drawstring bags to keep precious little things in, and one of my Pet Tools is a crochet hook (fairly small) which has a cover. You can affix the cover onto the end making a long handle for the hook, and it's proven incredibly useful for all manner of chores, some of which involve knitting.
NOTE: my friend and weekly "knitting" partner Donna crochets, but doesn't knit. May I say (as there are sometimes separations made between the two crafts) that she is a Master Crocheter and has made great large heavy luxurious afghans on the one hand and airy, delicate beaded doilies on the other. She is also incredibly FAST, and our weekly sessions are a source of great pleasure to me. I doff my (knitted) toque to her.

Anyone have any stories about knitting needles? Funny ones, sentimental ones? I still haven't found a 14" black walnut Brittany size 9 straight needle; eventually I'll find one on E-Bay to replace the one I lost in Colorado. Like geese and swans, knitting needles mate for life, but I think if I can replace the missing one, Mr #9 Brittany will be restored to his former contentment and tranquility. In the meantime he enjoys a place of honor in the Tall Needle Vase where he is consoled and cossetted by the other needles.

Sticks and string - what a source of pleasure. The tactile sensation of smooth needles working in one's hands is right up there with the delicious tactile sensation of stroking the elegance of silk blended yarn - or the comforting oft-present Knitter's Cat. On that note:

I'm watching, Mom - close up that laptop and get back to that toque, you still have four to knit....

Sunday, January 13, 2008

CATS (then Sticks, then Books)

I know, it's not "Caturday", it's Sunday. But I just finished reading a very short little book, "James Herriot's Cat Stories." I ssume I don't need to introduce you to Mr Herriot; his books about his practice as a veterinarian in England are ubiquitous. NOTE: if you are not familiar, get thee to the library. Don't close down your computer, don't put on shoes....go in your slippers and jammies NOW. Oh wait, it's Sunday. OK - tomorrow. To the library. Quick. (Don't admit that you've never read Herriot; depending on the librarian, you could have your Library Privileges revoked. Until 2065, and I don't know about you but I don't think I'll be around that long.)

Anyway, it doesn't take much to make me go all over mushy about my kitties. Herriot talks about folks - some elderly - whose lives are made whole, whose hearts are filled, who find true companionship in the form of a cat or two (or in one case, many). Makes me realize what my kitties are, and leads me to wax eloquent. My cats are my pets. My companions, my entertainment, my amusement - my comfort and my girlfriends. They don't tell my secrets. They're appreciative. Not that they'd say so. So where did they come from?

This is the first day I ever saw Evangeline, and was taken at the "meeting room" at the Shelter. She had a different name, but not for long (my adoption certificate just says "black female".) See how tiny she was? What a long tail? And she'd come in with a littermate and seven kittens, whom they were co-nursing. Too young to be a mom, my poor soiled dove. I never saw her babies, but I did see her sister; she was adopted to a nice long-haired boy at the same time.

Her first day home, I wondered how she'd react to those spots that had been Othello's favorites - an old chair and the front windowsill in particular. He's spent 19 years in those places, so they were clearly imbued with his essence. To my surprise, she settled immediately into them.

She spent lots of time in the window, basking in the sun. I always did feel that Othello had a paw in my finding her, and her acceptance of his haunts reinforced that. NOTE: this is before we had even one cat tree in the window; now there are two.

But during the summer we go to our 18th century events, sometimes for as long as five days, and I worried that my pampered ... spoiled rotten pampered treasure of a cat might be lonely by herself. Mr Dearling wasn't sure; one cat is one thing, but two cats -- are TWO things. He was unaccustomed to pets.

Evangeline grew fat . No...she was more like stout . I guess the truth is, she was rotund , -- well -- reubenesque . The vet put her on some prescription low-fat diet food for cats. And one day, when I had gone out to the vet's to buy her bag of food, there was a cage with four little kittens in it in the lobby. They were cute, even if they WERE brown tabbies and not black kitties. Three had blue collars, one had a red one. Miss Red Collar watched from the platform as her brothers tumbled around on the floor.....and when I walked past, she climbed right up the bars, reached out her paw and hooked the side of my skirts as I went past. I can't say I was yanked back, but the receptionist said "They're awfully cute, would you like to see that one?" As I may've said before, rather than grabbing my fatcat food and receipt and fleeing...I said "Oh sure, what the heck?". About 40 minutes later I left, having decided to bring in Mr Dearling to see what he thought of her. (This, mind you, with the Full Knowledge that the only reasonable thing to do is to bring in a new cat of the opposite sex , no exceptions.)

We got to the office, took Ethel (!) out of the cage and put her down. She climbed up the back of Mr Dearling's jeans onto his shoulder and snuggled around his hair, purring loudly. He gently took her down, petted her, she looked at him with those eyes - and the next thing I knew we were there again, cat carrier in hand, and he was dealing with the financial issues. She was all healed from being spayed - she was four months old - and we began the cautious introductions, with Lilliane (Ethel? Ethel who?) enjoying the privacy of the den, complete with her own litter box and food.

This is one of the pictures during "Lilly time", when Evangeline was grumping around the basement so her new sister/kitten/pet/friend could become accustomed to the house. Mr Dearling was napping on the couch, and Lilliane made it perfectly clear: I was nice enough, certainly good enough to clean her litterbox and feed her...but she had found her Hero, her Manperson, her DA! To this day, she is Da's Little girl.

This is Lilliane's Daily Routine - that would be several times a day routine. Mr Dearling complains, in resigned and tender tones, that she won't let him do anything without demanding her ride-and-rub. Might I remind you, this is a six-pound cat and a 200-pound man. The truth? He enjoys the ride-and-rub as much as she does, and when she begs to be put down, only to run back into the kitchen so she can get back up on the table and demand another ride, he relents, complaining, of course.

My feeling? My cats are the heart of my home, the little spark of companionship, warmth, coziness the extra little element of security, of making it feel perfectly safe and lovely. Whenever I go out, be it to the Museum for a day's work or to a weekend in the 18th century or a knitting evening out - the presence of my precious and pampered Daughter-Priestesses of Bast comfort me. How do you feel about your cats, dogs, frogs or whatever serves as the heart of your hearth?

This is an Extremely Rare Moment - but my favorite of all of the pictures of my kitties. I call it "Entwined".

Editor's Note: it is entirely possible that I'm duplicating kitty pictures through this blog. It's my prerogative as an Elderly Person. Wanna make something out of it?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Time, Marching On~~

I have a new Resolution: keep track of all knitting projects. (Well duuuh, Dale-Harriet, haven't you been doing that all along?) That is to say, of course I keep track of my toques, they're commissions, so I have a little notebook in which I jot the name, address & e-dress of the fellows ordering them. I also note what color they want, the length they select, and perhaps a little note about it (for example, if they won the toque in an auction).

Like, there's this toque. Interesting, because it almost looks pinkish-red, and in truth it's a brick-y orange-y darkish red. If you know what I mean. As you can see, it's very close to finished which is good; the fellow who requested it is going to participate in a dogsled race next month and if ever a double cap would be welcome, that would surely be it.

I mean to finish it tomorrow, which is Sunday. I'm not a very fast knitter but I am steady - I have "Stardust" (the movie) rented, and I watched it once but I mean to watch it again, knitting steadily - should get pretty close to finishing it before the end of the film and then I'll squieege down the decreases and call it good. Or "George", you know. Then I'll be free to start...........the next toque.

NOTE: I got a new commission yesterday, a fellow who lives in Canada. Because there are still four toques in the book, I am going to literally set everything aside and do a Marathon Knit. I'm wanting, bad, to finish the baby wrap adapted from the Irish Hiking Scarf (and then the second identical one in the other colorway) and the Paton SWS scarf, the one-row pattern, also on the needles. The scarf doesn't have a person waiting for it, so it's going to the bottom of the list...but it's still ON THE LIST. Which will be resumed when I have finished all the toques.

I've had sort of a sabbatical from knitting, I discover, having done just a row or two here and there through the holiday season. I regret it. I need to make up for it. I have spoken.

On the subject of Keeping Track, I'm trying to design a page, which I can then print out, photocopy, and keep in a little binder. I think I have everything I want on the page figured out: name of project; name of pattern; needles; yarn (including color, yardage, &c); dates started and ended; then name, address &c for recipient, and a space for any oddments or notes. Am I forgetting anything? I have a sneakly little feeling that everyone in the whole knitterly world has these wonderful little books with every bit of information about every product they've ever done since birth (they probably also have everything in their stash neatly listed, alphabetical lists of every project they're going to do until they croak, perfect Christmas card lists and spices neatly arranged in matching glass bottles in the cupboard.) Well, it's a start.

Speaking of oddments: I sometimes watch "Project Runway", a reality show about these people vying to become clothing designers. They get these challenges wherein they have to draw some kind of garment, rush out and buy a hunk o' cloth, go back to their studio, and then MAKE A GARMENT. They flippantly cut and pin and tuck and fold and sew and then put the completed garment on a scrawny model and get it judged. Big deal. EXCEPT! I cannot sew. I honestly, truly, earnestly, religiously do not sew. There isn't a pattern made that I can turn into clothing. You know the ones that say "Any idiot can sew this tonight and wear it tomorrow!"? Well, dearies - not THIS idiot. I am in slack-jawed awe of them what does. Oh, I have a sewing machine. If I approach my machine, it begins a low growling in the end of its cord, down near the plug. If I get closer, a very shrill, thin little whine starts - I think it comes from somewhere around the clever little light on the back of the machine that illuminates the fabric. If I'm cheeky enough to sit down, place cloth in the machine and prepare to sew, even if I'm trying very hard to exude Confidence and Sewerly Skill - a sort of trembling vibration overtakes the wheel and I hear a mechanical, tinny voice saying SCREW YOU, FOOL! "Your actions are ill-advised. Move back and step away from the zipper foot."

You need more proof? I once took a workshop in which we made little dolls in the style of the Ojibway playthings enjoyed (and made) by little tiny Indian girls during the fur trade. It involved sewing all around the edge of a gingerbreadman-shaped doll of very soft deerskin. In the process I poked my thumb with the needle. Three times. Deep. A day later it was red, swollen and angry, and in no time there were hot red streaks shooting up my arm. I went to Urgent Care and was told that I had either the worst case of blood poisoning he'd ever seen or advanced beri-beri; the prognosis looked grim and I would either a) lose my arm at the shoulder; b) lose my thumb at the joint; c) recover by taking a whole bunch of antibiotics and signing a Promissory Note to the Devil (in blood-from my thumb) that I would never ever ever ever never again try to sew anything. I opted for (c). NOTE: I'm actually pretty good at embroidery, needlepoint and cross-stitch!

One of my favorite words is "GHOTI". Do you know that one? It's proof that English is the most difficult of any language. To wit: that word (GHOTI) is pronounced "FISH". What? you DOUBT me??'s the "GH" from enouGH , the "o" from wOmen , and the "ti" from naTIon . Comprendez-vous? Sheesh.

RANT WARNING: for some reason the landlord of the house next door (which has stood empty since May and still is) has parked an extra car next to the garage, which means that it is right outside my kitchen window - and is therefore what I get to look at when I have my morning cup o' tea. It's ugly. I hate it. Not that the garage itself is sterling, but this just looks crummy and I'm trying to figure out a diplomatic way to say to the landlord GET THE DAMNED UGLY CAR OUTTA MY MORNING TEA!! Key word, "diplomatically". I am, if nothing else, a lady.

And finally, before I unplug my beloved laptop and prepare to TOQUE till I drop -- we finally are getting some fresh, new beautiful snow to replace that lost in the January Thaw, so here are a couple of pictures in our breathtakingly beautiful Arboretum, across the street from which I live. So to speak. I present, for your enjoyment:

Isn't it beautiful? I love Madison.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Happy Ewe Near!

I ask you, what could be nicer for a knitter? I just adore little lambies (although - truth to tell, with mint jelly is one of my favorite ways to love ' that a disrespectful thing for a knitter to say?).

These are NOT sheep; it's Quiviut-on-the-Hoof. See "Resolutions".

So, the New Year has begun. I remember being enchanted when I could write "1953" at the top of my school papers. I imagine it was because I had finally achieved a double-digit age which I found pretty exciting. That was also the year one of my 4th grade classmates whispered "gawdamn" in the back of the room and we were all scandalized within an inch of our lives.

Soooo...some idle thoughts, some observations - and yeah, I'll do a couple of resolutions.

There's a commercial on television here for an attorney, one of those "call me if you're in an accident, I'll get you millyuns and millyuns." I guess the guy's name is HUPY, but every time I hear the commercial, I hear the earnest middle-aged man saying "...everyone suggests I go with MY KEWPIE as my attorney." How can you lose? Oh, the mental images, as the round-bellied naked little wide-eyed darling flaps her wings, bats her eyelashes and approaches the bench. Sorry - I admit to having a Disturbed Imagination. (Mr Dearling says that's a requisite for reenactors, who are adults playing dress-up.)

The big Caucus in Iowa thing is over, and I'm not going to discuss politics here. However - I made that fist-pumping motion when I saw that Obama had won, and said, ALOUD, "So whaddya think of THAT, Willie Carter?" NOTE: Willie Carter (of blessed memory) was my first husband, a black man who was in the front lines in Selma around the time of the Great Selma-to-Montgomery March. And I imagine (see above about imagination) Willie smiling his wonderful smile and nodding thoughtfully. A "man of color" being a viable candidate for President of these EWE-nited States. Don't know as I'd go so far as to say that the scars from cattle prods on Willie's back were worth it, but if that was the currency, payment was made. (No thoughts on imagining official governmental White House stationery reading "President Huckabee"....sorry, it just sounds like a perfect name for a children's story character.)

OK - even though it's well into the first week of the New Year, these things take time. Here, for all to see, are my Resolutions....well, the ones I'm willing to put down for all to see. And guys? No bets on which are kept, if any, or how I do on 'em. That varies, I must admit. I see resolutions as "Intentions", and you all know what we use THOSE to pave. Suffice it to say, if it comes to that, my trip to --Down Below - is going to be very smooth indeed.

1. Write. (But Dale-Harriet, you're writing a blog, reasonably often....) Yes, yes, I know that, thanks for divulging the obvious. No, what I mean here is, let out those fantasy and fairy-tale creatures who are, at the moment, sitting around the cafeteria tables in your brain getting bored and lazy. Finish those Kidlits you have in pieces on various pages and tablets and (dare I admit it?) little computer disks. Store them securely on the hard drive AND in hard copy, to prepare them for....

2. Sending in. By this I mean, find an editor, publisher, magazine or the like, and actually mailing (or e-mailing) said stories off for examination and possible publication. NOTE: I have NO IDEA how to go about this; I do have the Writers' Handbook that tells how, and includes addresses, names, and requirements. Time to get off my lazy butt corner of the couch and actually DO this.

3. Develop a Schedule. By this I mean, establish a Routine. I'm chaotic, jumbled, scattered. I need to set down regular times for myself to accomplish things. I've read that all writers treat it like a job, and establish a regular time during which they write. Yeah, that's what I have to do. And a regular time for going to sleep. A time for tidying-up. Even a time for KNITTING! (Now, I treat it like a reward: Dale-Harriet, if you're a good girl and tidy some and finish your blogwriting and wear a Sunny Smile...THEN you can knit until bedtime.) This sucks; it often results in my NOT spending as much time knitting as I should or want to. (Does this mean I'm not a good girl, don't tidy, not great about blogwriting and wear a Frumpy Frown? Nevermind, shut up and go away.)

4. Be a Better Blogger--&c. By this I mean, write more about...oh, I don't know, the cats? Knitting, perhaps? BOOKS? Yeah, those. This involves becoming more adept at Ravelry, in order to take advantage of it. It involves taking pictures of projects, keeping track of yarns and patterns. It also means noting what I'm reading in a more orderly fashion, and spending more time reading. (See #3 above.) I also need to go through a tutorial or appeal to Knowledgeable Pals so I can do things like position my pictures here better and learn how to put captions; these are things I SO admire in all the blogs I read.

5. Order one skein (smallest available) of Quiviut. That's the yarn spun from the softest under-fur of the Musk Ox, and you can order it from the Inuit or other native people in Alaska who collect and spin it. It's supposed to be the softest, warmest, lightest and most luxurious fiber (and therefore yarn) available on the earth. I want one tiny bit, which I may or may not ever actually knit. I think of it as the "straw into gold" of the world.

That's probably enough, and I really do mean to try to improve at all of the above. I had a feeling that an advantage of a fulltime job was the inherent need for a schedule. When you leave the house every day at the same time and return home at the same time, you tend to compartmentalize the other aspects of your time. When released into the grand world of HAHAHA I'm Retired You Can't Make Me! you find that you need to set your own patterns and schedules. It's alarming how easy it is for me to stay in my jammies all day in front of the tee-vee and playing Faerie Bubbles on Neopia. (Yeah, I know it's a kiddie site. And your point is....???)

I'm winding up here with a list of things I really like, just because I want to. Ready?

I love my dentures. They're all I'd hoped for and I'm very smiley about them. I like Spam. (Grilled in real maple syrup, it's lovely.) I like "working" at the Museum. I like scented oils in my little thingie that has a tea candle in the bottom. I like some shows on the tee-vee. I like my house (even if I do fancy sprucing it up some, which I may eventually -- or may not -- do). I like my feather tick; I'm one of those people who loves lots of heavy covers on the bed. I like to creep in and pull all that bedding up over me - it makes me kind of squeal! with pleasure. Then I scrunch up into a fetal position with my tiny radio and earbuds; I like that radio a lot, and fall asleep listening to it every night. I REALLY like the fact that I can get CBS tee-vee on it, so I can watch CSI or Dr Phil with my ears. Oh, and tea. I really like tea. REAL tea, with caffeine - my favorites-du-jour are Earl Grey (Stash, with Double Bergamot); Celestial Seasoning's "Fast Lane" (EXTRA-caffeinated); Constant Comment, sometimes one bag of Lipton's and one bag of Yogi's Egyptian Licorice made together. I like my little blue two-cup teapot which I fill several times a day.

And there are some things I really DISlike don't care for: that commercial with the fat green guys who proudly announce that they are mucous. That's just wrong; that word makes me feel slightly queasy. (I always kept my babies' noses neatly wiped too. Always.) I don't like e-mail spam. I state here that I'm happy with my pharmacist; I have a Timex watch that I like a lot; I don't have a girlfriend, so no one is unhappy with the size of my tool, member, organ or penis (which I clearly also don't have anyway, even if I DO have a boys' name).

There are many many things I dearly, tenderly, wildly love: Mr Dearling; my children, my precious grandchildren, knitting, reading, barbecued ribs among others....and there are things I definitely, clearly hate: abusive people; bigots; talking on cell phones while driving; wasting intellect (have an ex-husband....well, nevermind); wasting stuff (also among others.

I'd have to say, as 2008 begins, I am contented, happy, curious, interested - and very, very blessed. In more ways than I could even list.

PS - what's a "meme"?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Disclaimer, Cross my HEART!

OK - really will be short: this morning, Sunday 6 January, there was a large unit on "To The Best of Our Knowledge", on NPR -- about Smoking. Cross my heart, I did NOT know this, had no prior knowledge, and was not paid by NPR to post my rant as a classy lead-in to their Sunday programming.

That being said - I encourage you to go to TTBOOK.ORG and listen to the program. It says all of what I was trying to say, with arguments fore and aft.

This is NOT from me having a cigarette in the back yard; it's foggy today. GOTCHA!

Who knew?

Friday, January 4, 2008

A Wild Rant...

...having nothing to do with knitting, reading or cats, and bearing my apology to any who might, by my words, be offended.

Smoking. Cigarettes. Now, I remember "Camel Green" - Camel cigarettes changed their red packaging to green during WWII because some element in the red dyes could be used in the war effort. I remember ads in magazines stating that the cigarette companies were sending cartons to the servicemen in hospitals. I remember the Marlboro Man...and I know that the model apparently died a grim lingering death from lung cancer. I know what it says on the cigarette packages. I've read all the Warnings and read all the stuff about a smoke-free environment.

And I have a problem with it. I diligently taught myself to smoke when I was 19, as a character I played on stage smoked. My father didn't complain (but did say he wouldn't buy cigarettes for me). We sat together in the Smoking Logue at the movies and saw the British "Carry On" films. I think I smoked Parliaments then, because he did (I did TOO buy my own, though).

I was out of high school by then, but I smoked in college. When I had my first child, they took me out of the delivery room where my husband joined me; then they put an ashtray on my stomach and he and I had cigarettes. I never smoked as much as a pack a day. I had an ashtray on my desk at work, in the old days (most of the time they burned out by themselves).

Well, Mr Dearling doesn't smoke, never has. It bothered him, so when he moved in, I quit. I might have a cigarette out with friends after a meal, but I largely quit. I also learned that I'm apparently lucky: if I don't have cigarettes, nothing in particular happens. I enjoyed them rather a lot, but didn't have a problem when I didn't. I guess there are people who drink that way - they enjoy a glass of wine or a drink (or two) now and then, but they don't drink otherwise. I feel pretty bad for people who couldn't take a four-hour flight when they banned smoking on airplanes because they couldn't go that long without.

OK, you have surely noticed, in this day and age smoking is worse than crack , one of the Cardinal Sins, makes you into a whore /robber/ axe murderer Very Bad Person; therefore, smoking is NOT ALLOWED. You get cancer, wrinkles, big feet, and your hair, eyes and teeth fall out. And you will be declared "Pariah" (which Mr American Heritage tells me is a "social outcast" and all that implies.

Now...smoking is unhealthy. It's ill-advised to start smoking if you never have. Kids know that. There's no shortage of publicity to that effect, and of course each pack of cigarettes carries Dire Warnings in clear language right on the pack.

As mentioned above, I "largely quit" years ago. However, in times of extreme stress (a son taken to the hospital), or in occasional social situations, or in moments of meditation, I have a cigarette. A pack of cigarettes lasts me. Months. Weeks go by, without my ever lighting up a coffin nail cigarette. And when I do, I enjoy the experience.

But the current attitude, according to law, advertisements, signs and television messages, is that smoking is illegal; smokers are nefarious people out to kill everyone in town with their malicious, evil and intentional second-hand smoke. And all of that makes me (passive-aggressive that I do not deny being) want a smoke more than anything else does.

Now, the flip side, of course, is that we smokers owe it to our families, friends, fellow citizens and the People of the World to be courteous. Fellow smokers, do NOT light up in any area where it might be offensive or troublesome to another person. But conscious, aware, knowledgeable people who are over 21 (or over 31 or 51 or...say...almost 65 years old) should not be made to feel that they're committing sins, and (this is my final line) if they add one dollar for tax to the price of each pack of still legal cigarettes, as they have here in Wisconsin, then I say add a whomping tax onto the price of hard liquor too, maybe $15 tax on each bottle. I haven't ever read of a smoker veering into another lane and destroying a van filled with a family including children.

There will be no rant against drinking, although I find drunken behavior very objectionable. Social drinking, drinking in moderation, do not trouble me at all. (Confession: I am of the opinion that, upon birth, each Human Being is allotted a finite quantity of booze to consume in his or her lifetime - the truth is, I probably drank my whole allotment up during my college career. Yeah, I know. Shut up. Nevermind.) We basically don't drink now, but have no problem being with people or in situations, where drinking is happening. But I think mindless drunks cause a lot more serious problems than someone hangin' around having a cig, so booze should be taxed to the point where you have to be really really rich to enjoy a drink with your cigarette.

Thus ends my Major Rant for 2008.

Just sayin'.

Editor's note: the passage of a new tax on cigarettes (which I find outrageous, unfair and otherwise totally crapacious) is solely responsible for this rant.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


The best is yet to come! (At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.) Well, well, ladies & gennulmen, as I write, the official year is 2008. TWO THOUSAND EIGHT! I remember thinking it was so cool to write "1950" on my school papers. And I thought it was really exciting, the whole Y2K thing. (Yes, I know, the new millennium really started in 2001. I like my way better.)

I'm optimistic and have high hopes for some improvements in the new year (hello, Billfold? If you're waiting to come home "after the holidays" that would officially be NOW, in case you're watching.)

We went down to the Museum New Year's Eve, where we volunteered to help out; the Museum hosts a party-hat-making activity as part of the whole downtown family-friendly festivities for New Year's. It was a smashing success, we had lots of folks come through and there were high-schoolers,college kids,and families with little kids. The exhibit floors were open too, and (I cannot tell a lie) I spent a chunk of time showing off the Fur Post to visitors.

After we cleaned up, at 10:00 pm, we went over to the other side of the (beautifully illuminated) Capitol where we joined groups of people, families with toddlers and babies and fellow Madisonians, and at about 10:15 pm enjoyed a very respectable exhibit of fireworks to end the evening. We came home to a somewhat abbreviated New Year's tradition: ordinarily, we make a few tasty tidbits that are not typical fare, like rumaki and pigs-in-blankets, otherwise known as "teeny-weinies in crescent rolls"; smoked oysters, maybe crab-and-cheese puffs. Ever notice, fancy yummies seem to be hyphenated?

But this year we just reheated some leftover BBQ ribs and made our New Year's Eve Drink: 7-Up with grenadine and maraschino cherries. (In my case, NINE maraschino cherries.) At midnight, we toasted the New Year and Mr Dearling went to bed. (I stayed up a while watching TV, as is my wont.) NOTE: these are glasses with the Winged Devil on them, actually special beer glasses for drinking Maudite, a fine Canadian beer with a fantastic Flying Canoe full of voyageurs on the label. We had a bottle once. We liked it. Pretty much.

That was New Year's Eve at the Wigwam of me and Mr Dearling. Pretty much like all other years except not so much good food. NOTE: that's how I've always celebrated, starting when the children were small. Shirly Temples all around, fancy nosh, stayin' home. I don't fear the serious drunks on the road. I fear the amateurs, who don't drink a drop until New Year's and then drink themselves into stupors. 'NOTHER NOTE: I will say, Madison provides free rides in several different ways AND I think all the bars provide free sodas and munchies for Designated Drivers. I haven't heard any ghastly tales of grim accidents and drunk driving, so I'm guessing it may have been successful.

I spent New Year's Day in a semi-vegitative state, sprawling on the couch drinking tea and watching "Law and Order" marathons. All day. Did not knit ONE STITCH, did not READ ONE WORD (other than the text on the tee-vee). DID play with, snuggle, pet, feed, pet and snuggle cats. Total waste of a day, and at my age, that's practically actionable....the number of days I have left on This Earth is finite. (No, I'm not going all maudlin and grim, but that IS true!)

Today, being the Second Day of the First Month of Anno Domini 2008 - I am Going Out, to Barnes & Noble (hold on nellie she's comin' in) to sit and knit with my friend Donna. I am packing up my Rolling Nifty Yarnie Thingie as we speak -- and when I return home, I will complete this post, including some form of Resolutions ( insert raucous laughter here) and a Major Rant regarding cigarette taxes. Watch this space.