Thursday, February 28, 2008

Saved by the PIG!

Identify the mystery picture. C'mon, give it a shot. No? Well, OK, I'll help you out: it's the lunar eclipse, either almost-complete or just-after-complete. And to further clarify - it's the lunar eclipse as photographed by a very acceptable digital camera on the proper night scene setting..... held by someone with a benign tremor . So cut me some slack here.

On the subject of Good Luck, I'd have to say that seeing it, especially since there won't be another until 2011, and the sky was perfectly clear (nevermind the sub-zero temperatures) was pretty remarkable.

But the Good Luck didn't stop there. Remember how I'm down to TWO toques in my notebook, and when they're done I can actually knit something ELSE? These are the last two commissions I got in November at the North American Voyageurs' Council. For variation, I started the one requested in green; I was using Lamb's Pride for this one. I was knitting happily along, watching teevee, and I noticed I was coming to the end of the skein.

So when I could get up again, ....uhm....OK, here's the deal. Lately Evangeline has been creeping in behind me as I sit on the couch, under my shawl. She curls up against my butt and sleeps and purrs and sometimes I reach behind and rub her head. If I get up, it disarranges the shawl, disturbs her repose, and she gets all "you've abandoned me". So while she's tucked in there I try not to get up until a) I really HAVE to, as in a jog to the bif; b) I've fallen asleep on the keyboard and have to go to bed; c) something else happens that necessitates my doing so even if it disturbs her. What? I'm a slave to my spoiled, over-coddled, precious treasure of a feline goddess of a cat? And your point is...........??? Nevermind.

So! When I could get up again, I went down to root through the stash for the other skein of Lamb's Pride I knew was there. It WASN'T! So I began to root through the multitudinous baskets full of WIPs and oddments and new-stuff-not-yet-in-stash. NOPE! I repeated the above, twice, and then had to admit that somehow I had not Planned Ahead, and that I was OUT OF YARN. Well....not actually out of yarn, but apparently out of that particular color. What does a knitter do?

Cast on for the other - and this would be the LAST toque. I got about a third done while preparing for our program Saturday morning. We participated in a Girl Scout event where the girls learned about their communities by, among other things, hearing stories of "local lore" (as told by Mr Dearling and yours truly). I tried to put it out of my mind - the Worst-Case Scenario called "adding another color, finishing the green toque as a simple cap and then casting on ANOTHER toque in a different green ."

I duly knit on the blue toque during our time with the Sprouts, and when we got home, took another dash through all corners, baskets, bins where my yarns are concealed ehrm - hidden ...mmmm...STORED. No luck. For a moment I got all excited and hastily frogged the beginning (only a couple inches) of my BSJ which had been in time out; I hurried in, laid a strand over the toque, (you know what's coming, don't you?) and it was not even CLOSE ! The BSJ (sob) was a rich olive; the toque more a true green.

WEll, by now it was 4:30 on Saturday, and the Sow's Ear closes at 5:00 pm. I put on my coat and mitts, grabbed the toque and my purse....stopped to drop a few treats in Evangeline's bowl....shut UP, I always give her a few crunchies as I head out the door.... and rushed to the Sow's Ear.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don't call it MY LYS for nothing. I got there, rushed in (they were dusting and putting chairs back, although there were a couple of staunch knitters blithely pretending they had hours yet, which always happens). "DEB!" I shouted. "OUTTA GREEN! Lamb's Pride, green something -- Pine maybe??"

NOTE to self: Keep the ball bands, Dummy. Or write down the specs in your cute little Knitting Book. Or...knowing me as I do, BOTH. Thank you.

You guessed it: Deb had one skein of Lamb's Pride, "Deep Pine", color M-172. There was (coincidence? I think not ) a shaft of sunshine splashing on the floor; I draped a strand, and - as Deb noted - it appeared to even have been the same dye lot. That might have been too much to hope for, but I CAN tell you that it's as exact and perfect a match as can be discerned by the application of a human eyeball. Vive la Belle Cochon!

So I'm back in business - did you catch the teensy bit left attached to the toque? Now really, don't Reasonable Intelligent Knitters plan ahead a little better than that? Am I therefore probably NOT one of those things? Well, to my credit, while I may learn slow, I DO learn. (Remind me about this if it comes up again, ok?)

Therefore, on the Knitting Scene, I expect to have both of these toques wrapped up and ready to mail before the end of this coming week. Oooh, and then...and THEN! Where to start?

On Sunday we drove up to Oshkosh to the Trade Fair, as we do (almost) every year. It's usually the most terriblest weather, blowing, freezing, snowy -- this year it was sunny and dry! Colder than a .... well, your choice .... but no problem travelling. We did see a number of special friends, but didn't have nearly enough time for a proper chinwag with any of them, really. Along with purveyors of almost anything ANY reenactor might want, there are a series of lectures; we took in one by a gentleman named Daniel Youngbauer.

He portrays a Meskwakie man (Fox), and after getting a formal education in art and ceramics and that sort of thing, began to research the clay pots made here in Wisconsin by the Meskwakie people. Since then he has been making these clay pots, as close to 100% accurately as research and archaelogy can get him - and they are BEAUTIFUL! Mr Dearling bought me one from him some months ago, and I was very pleased to hear his program. The deal is, you see, he sells them as UTENSILS, and the idea is that they are to be used . While he talked to us about clay, construction, shaping, ornamentation, &c, he had one of his pots on a small brazier just out the door filled with wild rice, which he then shared with us, to prove a) that these pots CAN be used, and b) produce food yummier than you get outta Revereware on the stove. (Both true, by the way.)

Now, the truth is, MY Meskwakie pot has been sitting all artsy-fartsy on the end table. I love it! But I WILL cook in it next summer at events because it is so super-cool. (Also, lovely Mr Youngbauer said if it cracks or manifests some problem because of construction - which can certainly happen with such things - he'll replace it for me).

OK - a Truth here: when we're reenacting, all properly dressed and our little camp is all set up and all, I really relish a detail like cooking in Just Exactly the Right Pot, or using Just Exactly the Right Food. I cook wild rice with dried cranberries flavored with maple sugar, or dried peas and salt pork. It's all part of the fun, trying to replicate the scene properly for the visitors.

(Of course, there's a down side: at this point I can't document the Ojibway or Metis women knitting . I hide inside my lodge at night with my lantern, knitting surreptitiously, hiding it during the day under my wool blankets - feels sort of deliciously naughty. Nevermind.)

Anyway, we did buy a nice large pot for our Fur Post at the Museum; also a bunch of very gay ostrich feathers. There's good documentation (paintings, sketches) of the native men wearing silk scarf turbans bedecked with ostrich feathers, which look I personally favor over the stodgy beaver hats favored by the French!

And in conclusion - I added to my collection of fans (this is painted wood, truly delicious and with the most fabulous "action") and a neat, tidy little basket, just right for my necessaries and perhaps two (or three small) projects. It has a wooden floor, and is a close weave almost in the style of the Nantucket baskets.

I am about to begin a Marathon Knit; I mean to wrap up these toques lickety-quick. ....ehrm - wish me luck!

NOTE: Didn't see any of our voyageur friends at the Trade Fair - NO NEW TOQUE ORDERS! However, to be entirely honest - my friend Audrey asked if I'd knit her a pair of socks. Oh, Audrey, you have no IDEA how glad I'll be to knit you a pair o' socks!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

We live in a diamond!

OK, first things first: you are looking at a Woman with Resolve. (No wait - you're looking at a computer screen. Nevermind.) I think it's a sign of Spring Coming, even though our environs are totally sparkling and glittering. (Do you remember the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses? "...they found themselves in a most delightful grove of trees; the leaves were all of silver that glittered and sparkled beautifully" ...well, that's Madison, February 2008!)

Doesn't look very spring-like, I admit it - and I have to say, I love it. Even the heartiest of my townsfolk are beginning to tire of it - the Lovely Daughter said she has just about had enough. But for my part, I'm loving it, and relishing seeing drifts taller than I am ( insert smart-ass comment about that being no big deal, being as I'm 4'11" and all, here ). Also, it's been long enough that everyone's remembered how to drive in this weather.

But here's the deal: I've been inside all day every day for quite some time with just a few exceptions for work, and so I've been looking around at my nest. And you know what? It has Gotten. To. Me. I probably have the highest tolerance for clutter of anyone on the North American continent...not leaving out my Canadian neighbors here. So I'm going to do a Sweep. I'm going to look into selling things on e-bay because I have some things that I think fall outside of either the Throw-Away bin or the St. Vinnie's bin. When I cull the books, I'm taking some (current novels, &c) to the Sow's Ear where there's a bookcase from which anyone is free to help themselves. Some of the books are going to the Children's Hospital for their library, and SOME are going to St. Vin's or Good Will.

I'd like to have a garage sale too, but a) I've never had one of my own; b) it's a little hard to imagine a yard free from snow at this point; c) I'll have to assess the possibility when I have a better handle on What's Going.

One thing is constant, however: Mr Dearling rarely misses his Daily Constitutional walk of 4-8 miles, regardless of the weather.

His secret for walking when the windchill is -18? "Dress for it." I might also point out that he has his tape player and manages to absorb lengthy lectures on Ancient Greece or Ancient Egypt while walking. It may seem dramatic, the thought of having a brisk walk when it's as cold and icy as all this. Strikes me as healthy. On the NOT-SMART side of the spectrum are those hardy souls I see out there on bicycles . THAT seems to me nothing short of goofy, but that's just me.

HOWEVER! There has been an advantage to all this hibernation: I am 1/3 done with the second-to-the-last toque! And in anticipation, I've gone as far as sneaking down and stroking some yarns in the stash, breathing deeply of their yarny fumes, and glancing quickly -- idly -- over a couple of patterns. Of course, it is not beyond possibility that some gnomes are going to creep out from under the bed (beLIEVE me when I say they could live under there undetected) and frog back a few inches of toque every night so that, like Sisyphus, I am actually re-knitting every day. That CAN happen, I know my fairy tales. Nevermind.

As for this minute? I'm going to pack up my knitting, fill a thermos with melasaneppe, bundle up - and we're going out to find an elevated site from which to observe the expected Lunar Eclipse. I'm as affected by them as the primitive people probably were; I get all over goose-bumpy watching the moon disappear like that. SO glad I can knit in the dark and while watching Something Exciting!

NOTE: I just found out that I have a time reserved to see Franklin for his "1,000 Knitters' Project" at the Yellow Dog yarn shop in Eau Claire!! I can hardly believe it, and I'm hoping to get Dolores' autograph too, if she isn't occupied somewhere sampling local brewskies!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ice - and Fire(fly)

This is a morning shot; I didn't resize so if you enlarge it you'll see the whole deal.
Around in these parts, we know what it means when a) the Department of Transportation and the police say "Do not go out, road conditions are poor"; b) the forecast is for rain followed by slush (we call that our "wintry mix") followed by a nice soft snowfall; c) the Madison Transit buses are kept in their barns from 7:00 a.m. ON! When I see the guys on the teevee saying those things, my bilingual-ness clicks in and my brain automatically translates it to STAY IN! KNIT! KNIT! KNIT!

If you look closely at Lucy (that's my little lilac tree) you'll see each and every branch encased in glassy ice. Imagine that on all the trees, on the power lines - underfoot and on the roads.......we're all well-acclimated to this weather, which means, in part, believing the reports of bad driving and just saying "NO".

This is the back yard tree, bent under the weight of the iced branches .
It's been bent like this since last winter, but this is how it got that way. Don't be telling me "you know, you're going to have to trim that down." I KNOW and I'm dancing around with my fingers in my ears LALALALALALAAA....LALALALAAA you can't make me!" I will do it, I really will, when the City Arborist recommends the best time and comes to do it. But ladies and gennulmen, my trees are right up there with my cats. So please, no arboreal advice.

Those were taken yesterday, while it was still in the rain phase. As if by magic, it cooled off and began to snow in the afternoon, and while the forecast 8" didn't pan out, there were a couple inches of snow over the ice.

So, what does one do when one is charged by law to stay inside (without any ankle bracelets or anything, of course)? All together now: KNIT!! And I am glad to report that another toque is finished (I'll go try to figure out how to post that sort of thing on Ravelry) and another is past the increases and into the plain-knit phase! Do you realize? When THIS one is done I have....let's see...ONE MORE! And it's not a very long one! As I see it, I'll be completely done, entirely toque-less, completely finished..... just in time for the Trade Fair in Oshkosh !

For them what doesn't know, that's a wonderful two-day fair held in a huge building where sutlers and merchants and traders set up their wares appropriate to time periods including the Revolutionary War, French & Indian War, 1812 War, Civil War - and the buckskinner period. We always see a lot of reenacting friends from all time periods and have a wonderful time. It's our time to stock up on maple sugar cakes, dried corn, silk scarves and flints and other things for our personal use. And - (brace your feet on the floor, you may know what's coming) it's where people invariably seek me out and ask if I'll make them "one of those fine wool authentic voyageur toques you're so famous for". Now, if they put it some other way I might feel inclined to say "You know, Target has lovely warm caps in any color of snuggly polar fleece....." But you know, my toques really do have historic documentation, they really are 100% wool, and...and....(sigh) I still enjoy knitting them. For all my mewling, I'm a simple knitter and I enjoy tactile sensations like typing and like just plain knitting for inches and inches. Also it doesn't hurt that the reenactors pay me for them. Furthermore, I think I may raise my price some. I never have before.

The other thing we did as long as we were house-bound was, we made barbequed ribs. I love barbecued ribs about more than any other comestible morsels. Oh - lobster's good...but you know, that's usually prohibitively expensive. Ribs? Well, Mr Dearling got a honkin' big bunch -- ehrm...well, you know what I mean....on sale. There's a panoply of sauces available, and some of them are exceptional. I'd have to say, I've liked almost every one I've tried. But there's one you won't find at the market:

Lovely Daughter's Homemade Genuine Barbecue Sauce.

I don't know if it's the exotic blend of her African-American-Jewish-Lithuanian background or what, but this is, hands down, no question, absolutely the best barbecue sauce ever was. Almost. (Her father's was better; it wouldn't surprise me to learn that she was channeling him when she makes hers.) So I put the ribs in the 250 degree oven at 12:45 pm. I turned them over a time or two until 5:00 pm, at which point I slathered LDHGBS generously all over them. At 5:30 I turned 'em over and repeated the procedure. At 6:00 it was either eat them or chew my arm off. I ate 'em. And they were....well, you know. Beyond description.

HOWEVER! Quite some time ago, the Yarn Harlot mentioned that she enjoyed knitting while watching "Firefly", a teevee series that had been on the Fox network. Lovely Daughter told me it was the best thing that had ever been on teevee, so of course it was cancelled after one season. There was so much fuss made by the fans that a regular movie was made....and both film and series eventually drifted out of the public eye, EXCEPT for the absolutely wild-eyed fans, of whom LD is one. So she "just happened to have" the entire season on four DVDs AND the movie, called "Serenity". I sort o' tried watching the first DVD a while ago, without much luck - couldn't get into it, as we say.

Well, last night I GOT INTO IT. I finished the one toque before I finished the first DVD and was past the decreases and onto the circular needle of the second before I was half-through the second DVD. Let me just put it this way. WATCH IT! It really is excellent for knitting (do you find you knit faster in the tense parts?) and if you like futuristic sort of Star Wars-y stuff you'll love it. She told me I would if I ever gave it a chance. So I did, and I did, and I do.

This is the same backyard tree today, Monday, with the snow overlaying the ice.
It'll be snowing on and off today, but there's nothing to take me outside, so as soon as I hit "publish post" I will be popping in the next installment of "Firefly", leaning back and knitting my second-to-the-last toque. If I remain diligent, it could happen that I could finish it (shshshss...the Knitting Goddess might be listening; better to not tempt her.) I'll report when I send out these next ones - oh, and then - and THEN! I can go wallow around in the stash and pore over patterns and cast on a NOT-TOQUE! Makes me go all over goose-pimple-y. Ewww. Nevermind.

This is the view from my kitchen window. I find it so beautiful - the straight black line toward the right is the hanging wire of a bird feeder encased in ice. And as I write, it's snowing again, big soft snowglobe flakes. Some of us thrive in this weather....

Saturday, February 16, 2008

By all to whom....

...these presents come....So begins a formal document in legalese, or in fancy presentations at Court in the Society for Creative Anachronism: "Be it known, by all to whom these presents come..." Presents. Gifts. Accolades, rewards, kudos. I feel very awkward about them. I know the Deep-Seated-Psychological-Reason behind it, but it's not something I need therapy for. Situations in which I'm faced with receiving presents, &c are few enough as to present (har) no real difficulty.

Having said that, of course, when coupled with my hyper-sentimentality, this becomes a Big Deal. (I may be buried with my first present from Mr Dearling, which he was very low-key in the giving: a copy of "Bartlett's Quotations", which I love and consult oftener than one might think.) NOTE: check it OUT, although be forewarned - like looking up words in a great dictionary, if you look up a quotation you may suddenly realize you feel a little hungry because it's THURSDAY!

OK - last night was the Late Night Knit at The Sow's Ear, and it was a Beach Party theme. There's a new book by Sheryl Theis: "Ocean Breezes: Knit Scarves Inspired by the Sea" . (I'm not great with link stuff, but it IS available at Amazon.) It was also knit-night-with-Donna, a weekly event with my former colleague from American Girl. She actually crochets, by the way - and let me say that if I were as good at knitting as she is with her handy little hooks I'd be make Fasse sweaters and nothing but fitted fairisle sweaters and stuff. So Donna came with me. We also met the Lovely Daughter there.

It was FABULOUS! There were starfish- and crab-shaped spangles on the tables and floor, we were all given flower leis, and it was as close to a Balmy Beach as one can get when surrounded by record-breaking snow depths and single-digit temperatures.

DIGRESSION: no matter the day, no matter the time, no matter the weather - inside my favorite LYS, it is invariably comfortable, warm, friendly, yarn-y, knitty, and nice; the combination of the rich fragrances of coffee, tea and yarn fumes blended with the buzz of conversation punctuated with laughter and the subtle clicking of needles is the ultimate in comfort. Homilies notwithstanding, it has all the coziness inside of a silk purse.

THAT being said - I added a bit to the festivities in the form of three French tarts: a lemon tart, apricot-almond tart and chocolate and almond tart. These were to celebrate my birthday, Valentine's Day (after the fact) and the launch of Dolores von Hoofen's bid for the Presidency. (My campaign slogan: "FOLLOW THE SHEEP".)

I had hardly been knitting but a half-hour when Melinda of Molly Bee's Attic slipped over and handed me a present and card. Again, she was sitting a bit out of sight behind the column (Beth of Chocolate Sheep and Lovely Daughter and I were sitting in a cozy corner, other side of the door).

Then later, when I returned from a little trip to the necessary, I found sitting upon my chair a package wrapped in calico, tied with a beautiful red yarn....and later on, another friend, Jennifer, came over and set a small envelope on the little table next to my chair. What were the contents of these three items?

One might expect family members by birth or marriage to know EXACTLY what a "right present" might be for someone. Precisely what "trips the trigger". But ladies and gentlemen - these are from friends! (Admittedly ladies with whom I share an affinity and more, but still....) Melinda gave me - oh, not four chocolates but a WHOLE BOX of these extraordinary chocolates (and NO, those four are NOT all that's left. There must be one or two ...some...MOST of the box still intact. I just got them last night, I do have SOME discipline! Come ON, gimme a break.)

From Beth - three books on Writing. At a time when I'm starting a Creative Writing class. After making myself a resolution to try for publication this year. At a time when I'm hungry for learning the nuts and bolts. Furthermore - TWO of them are on the resource list from my class (and the third was enormously helpful to HER, says Beth, who IS a writer!)

And last? WELL! You may surely have guessed by now, one thing that delights me ENORMOUSLY - is whimsy . Whimsy is an elusive quality and I think if it disappears from the face of the earth it will take creativity and imagination with it, and the world will cease to be. Jennifer gave me a pig. A tiny, eensy, pinky KNITTED fingerpoppet Pig. He appeals to me on so many levels!

To you all, my knitterly friends, THANK YOU is insufficient; just know that no matter how good a writer I may be or may learn to be, I could never express how much these things mean to me. Know that they mean as much to me as anything I have ever been given by anyone in any of my 65 years.

Editor's note: as if all that weren't "a cup running over" - we were all given scratch cards at the party with a variety of prizes...and I WON a FREE COPY OF THE BOOK! I was going to buy it after finishing the toques! (I've put it in Beth's care until my toques are done because there is SUCH a cowl I want to cast on right this minute.......)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

'Tis 14 February, the Valen-time....

Mr Dearling
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
The while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
Anne Dudley Bradstreet, 1612-1672

I give this poem to Mr Dearling every year, because it says what I want to but haven't the poet's tongue; when I get to heaven I'm going to seek out Mrs Bradstreet FIRST, to offer my heartfelt gratitude. (If you're not familiar with her, go to the library).

This is ourselves as "Mr and Mrs Fairchild, first Mayor of Madison and Wife, 1857" and the pictures were taken in our lovely Arboretum, which, if you come to visit (like in April to see the Yarn Harlot) I will personally show you around! I LOVE the Arboretum - as much as I love Mr Dearling only, you know, in a sort of geographic sort of way. Just sayin'.

Not a historically-accurate picture, 1857-ly speaking.


Where's my pencil....?

On account of, 'cause I'm going to school and I already got homework and stuff! Well -- sort of. My friend Kevin-the-Intrepid (incredible guy who worked last summer in Alaska and sent back fanTAB pictures) discovered a Creative Writing class being taught through MATC - the mightyfine local technical college. He was thinking about signing up, to improve his (may I say considerable ) song-writing abilities, and I, who fancies myself a Writer, have always said "I'm going to take some classes, find writers' groups, go on a Writing Retreat to the Himalya for a year..." No, wait. I didn't ever really say that bit about the Himalya. Nevermind.

Anyway, we discussed taking the class together, and upon checking, Kevin discovered a) that it started yesterday (Tuesday); and b) that they only had one space left -- HOWEVER, we could both go if we liked because someone might drop out. (They did -- Kevin!) Anyway, we arranged to meet for the first class.

"What kind of class is this, Dale-Harriet?" Well, NOT a for-credit type of thing. Our first clue was that it's being taught in a the Madison Senior Center. "Adult Enrichment!" says my brain to me. (It should know - I taught Calligraphy as an Adult Enrichment course at MATC for years.) Now, one automatically makes some suppositions at this point:

1. It's possible every single some of the persons in the class may be, shall we say, doddering, ancient, superannuated, crotchety retirees.
2. There may be an emphasis on ancient history earlier times, by way of nostalgia.
3. There is a SLIGHT possibility that I (and a pretty good possibility that Kevin) may not have a great deal in common with our classmates. (Suffice it to say, Kevin is a recent college graduate, and he's a colleague from the Museum. Cut out that thinking, I am NOT a cougar.)
4. The material may not be appropriate for either a songwriter or a writer of children's fairy tales, fantasy foolishness or memoirs of faeries.

However, we were game to find out, and so we met at the Senior Center at the appointed time and went. The teacher is a nice elderly lady (to keep this in perspective, realize that I am saying she's "elderly" and I just turned 65). She seemed a bit rattled that there were two of us and only one space left in the class, but she gave us both applications anyway. As it was snowing (!), the class was down some four or five people anyway, but included four of the above-mentioned retirees (not counting myself); a friendly woman who cheerfully admitted, during her self-introduction, that she "once wrote something on a piece of paper in second grade about a horse named 'Blackie'"; an interesting woman in perhaps her 30s who described herself as a speaker; and three college girls of Russian or European background - and Kevin and myself. (He perked up a bit when the college girls came in; he was beginning to feel like someone's great-grandson.)

Long story short, as they say, we weren't in very far before Kevin realized that, in fact, there would be little here to benefit him (which solved the problem of the "extra person") and I became Highly Dubious myself. But I have decided to stick it out, because a) I really need a disciplined situation in which I'm forced to write; b) I'm very curious to see how the dynamic of the group will be; and -- oh heck, I'll just say it: I think I'm the most interesting person in there, and I have a strong suspicion that I am NOT, and anticipate learning more about these other folks. So by next Tuesday I must have, in "500 words or less", a story about a time when my writing either brought me praise or got me in trouble.

Actually the LAST session is cited as being about marketing, which is the information I most sorely need, but I have enough Fascination with the Grotesque to see how this all falls out.

And now, some oddments: This is a mural on State Street downtown, which caught both my eye and my fancy. It makes me think of the Harlem Renaissance, for some reason, and shows State Street facing the Capitol. I think a lot of college towns have some version of our State Street, but not can equal it. It's about 10 blocks long, I think, and runs from Library Mall on campus straight up to the Capitol It ties together the two halves of Madison's heart, Academia on one end, Government on the other, and it is this very configuration which is the generally-agreed-upon thing that gives Madison its unique and exciting personality. Madison is described (with considerable pride) by its residents as "63 Miles Surrounded by Reality." It's very liberal here - and we (Mr Dearling and I) think it a capital place to live. (Get it? Clever, non? "Capital" with an A) Oh I sometimes crack myself up. Nevermind.

Next - Lovely Daughter raised an interesting point, and I'd like to know your thoughts. She said that I should reply to comments IN the Comments, rather than by e-mail, so that both sides of the conversation can be seen. I'm happy to do that - what are y'all thinking about that? Better than answering by e-mail?

And....I saw a commercial on teevee for lipstick earlier. I haven't worn lipstick since giving up my Sinful Scarlet after high school (we hippies didn't paint our faces with those chemical artificial horrendous waxy substances). But the selling point of this particular lipstick was the claim that it "plumps your lips up by 30%". Am I missing something here? Girls want swollen lips ?? "None for me, thanks, I'm aging."

WE broke the ALL-TIME DEPTH OF SNOW record here in Madison!! Seems that the deepest snow in recorded history was something like 78.3" of snow; we have officially passed 79" of snow. (That low rumble you hear is the people who DON'T love it, cussing and swearing as they get out their shovels again.) For my part? I am LOVING it. This is what winter used to be like.....(say it with me) when I was a girl ! NOTE: now that I know how to do italics easily, I don't want to forget. Nevermind. At least I didn't say "incidentally...."

Lastly - today we went to a very nice Senior Center (where senior citizens such as MYSELF live)in Lake Mills, and told Winter Stories; it's our Museum Outreach bit that we get to do. It was particularly nice, and we were given two gliding rockers right in front of the fireplace. I DID knit until everyone was there, and it was with reluctance that I set it aside - somehow one wants to knit, when one is sitting in a rocking chair in front of a fire. Sue me.

When we were finished, we thought we'd ride around and check out "downtown" Lake Mills. And what to my wond'ring eyes should appear? A YARN SHOP!

Nothing for it, Mr Dearling pulled over with no coaching on my part, and we went over, past two signs saying "OPEN". But we couldn't see anyone inside and the door, for all of our efforts, seemed to be locked. Clever name, though: Gosh-Yarn-It!

As long as we were there, we went to a charming little cafe three doors down for an early supper. NOTE: we LOVE little Main Street cafes in small towns around about, and this one, Cafe on the Park (across the street from the Square in the middle of town) did not disappoint. After enjoying our meal, we thought we might check the LYS once more en route to the car, and the proprietress was just bringing in the OPEN sign; however, she invited us in. Seems there HAD been a class scheduled for the evening, but her furnace had gone out so she'd cancelled (a little chill wouldn't deter the Hog-and-Bloggers and companions at the Sow's Ear, I'm sure, but she explained that it's a fairly new shop and she thought it for the best).

It's a very nice little shop, with jewelry and such, and YARN, and ...what? What's that? Awww gee, it seems to have followed me home, can I keep it? (Yes, yes, I know - I'm not supposed to be buying any more yarn until I've finished all the toques because if I do the temptation to just -- you know, cast on something will be - compelling) but honestly, there were ONLY three skeins of this stuff, it's 100% Lana Merino Virgin Wool *Superwash*. I ask you, could YOU have walked away? I think not!

Besides that, it's such a riot of colors, and I can hardly WAIT to see how it works up; I'm not good at anticipating such a thing, I have to actually knit it up to see how it'll work. If this isn't a pair of fingerless mitts and perhaps a scarf or cap to match, then my name isn't Heloise P. Hornswoggle.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Woo Hoo! I'm OLD!

I am fond of saying "There have been more changes in daily life between 1900 and today...than there were from the beginning of recorded history to 1900." I'm also fond of saying, (in a sing-song-y voice), "Now, when I was a girl....." Because when I WAS a girl, times were very different. We didn't have a television until I was 10 years old (very few of our neighbors had them). We had one telephone and the number was Pleasant 0026. We listened to programs on the radio. (I STILL LOVE YOU, SGT. PRESTON!!) I remember crying when Mom told me "Baby Snooks is dead". Well...actually Fanny Brice was dead, at the age of something like 89, but I thought she was the little kid on my favorite radio show, and I was horrified; it hadn't ever occurred to me kids could die.

There is one day I don't remember. February 9, 1943.

World War II was raging, and Minot, North Dakota was on "war time" - similar to Daylights Savings, I believe. At St. Joseph's Hospital, around 11:00 pm, I was born!

My dad was City Editor of the Minot Daily News; Mommy was a skillful homemaker, and my sister was six years old. Observe: Mommy looks delighted; I look goofy dubious. NOTE: clicking on these pictures will make them bigger, but also fuzzier. Combination of inferior film during the War and inexpert use of 21st century digital photography (I took pictures of the pictures.)

Frankly, I can't imagine my sister being very tickled to have a little sister - and six years' difference is considerable when you're little kids. We didn't have much togetherness growing up - but she is a great Big Sister, and now as Ladies of Advancing Age, I'd say we're more connected than ever before.

Here we are, my sister Toni and I. Very few of my future sterling qualities can be seen in this picture - although I'd have to say that I seemed to be channeling Dumbo was just MADE for being a good listener. May I add, I've grown into those ears. Truly. Incidentally - oops the Lovely Daughter says I overuse that word frightfully - by the way , Toni has a natural gift for style and decorating, inherited from Mom. It's not just that she's good, it's a gift. She has "an eye", or "the touch".

I've mentioned my interior decorating before (sort of a Hippie Eclectic); my legacy was more related to the bookish bent of the family.

So - as I sit here, at my wonderful laptop computer, watching my nice color teevee, surrounded by two cats, a very comfortable yarn stash, a very respectable library, and My Perfect Husband (OK, so the third time IS the charm; I can't imagine what I ever did to have the karmic gift of Mr Dearling, no kidding!) I have memories of Oofen Blotz, my childhood kitty; a mommy who taught me to knit in 1950; a daddy who instilled in me a deep love of the Written Word and a big sister who taught me to walk and swim, among other things.

My three children (whose births I even enjoyed, hippie Earth Mother that I was) are clever, creative, loving, honest people. I'd like them a real lot even if they weren't my very own punkies. I've pretty much enjoyed my jobs through the years, all some form of secretarial work; I actually LIKE the tactile sensation of typing.

You were right, Mr Johnson, it WAS a good idea to study Typing in 11th grade, so I'd have a saleable skill. Thanks bunches.

So, I view this as really the Last Milestone Birthday. (Well, of course hitting "the big 1-0-0" would be one, but that's perhaps iffy.) Mr Dearling and I are going in Monday to apply for my Social Security, because I CAN! And now, ladies and gentlemen, I am entitled eligible for all those Old People Benefits; I've gotten some since I was 62, but now I REALLY get the lot. I happen to think that's very cool, and if the occasion should arise, I will not hesitate to lay about me with an umbrella shouting "Get outta my way, Sonny!"

But seriously, folks, it has resulted in some pondering. For example - being as it IS a milestone, I thought about planning a birthday party to mark it. (I haven't really had birthday parties, even as a kid.) But -- I couldn't decide what sort of party to have, or where to have it, and anything of a flashy nature tends toward the spendy; the plan instead is to have my kids and THEIR kids over tonight for a Pizza Picnic in the living room.

NOTE: Hog-and-Bloggers, cover your eyes for a moment.

I'm thinking I'll take some cake or a pile of cupcakes to the next Late Night Knit by way of celebration, to share with the knitterly sorts.

OK, Hog-and-Bloggers, you can read again.

It seems that THIS birthday should have Resolutions with it, like New Years. So I've actually made a few, and thought of some Things I Would Like to Do Before I Die (nope, haven't seen "The Bucket List" yet, but the idea intrigued me!).

Laura Ingalls Wilder was first published at the age of 65! So I'm going to try to accomplish that this year. I'm going to literally go through ALL my books and cull the ones that I really don't want to keep. (I realized that there ARE such beasts the other day, and that may be the first step toward the General Purge and Tidy to which I've aspired for a couple of years.) Some of the books are going to The Sow's Ear, our favorite LYS, which has a couple of Help-Yourself bookcases for novels and so on; some are going to collections in senior centers; some can go to the hospital collection and some are going to Goodwill. (Don't knock it, there are GOOD books there - I'll have to donate when it's closed or I'll come back with different books and possibly more of them than I'm donating.)

I would like to learn ASL, polish my knowledge of Indian Sign Language, and study basic French. I mean to try to improve my knitterly skills and abilities. I am also going to start NOW and work diligently to improve my storytelling repertoire and skills.

Things I'd like to do before I die? Oh....see Cirque de Soleil, spend two weeks in autumn at the Mohonk Mountain House, go to a writers' or storytellers' convention somewhere maybe.

HowEVER! My pizza party is just a couple of hours away, so I'm going to shovel out pick up a bit in the living room to prepare.

Just think! I HAVE achieved the Knitterly Stereotype: I'm an old lady, sitting in my rocking chair and knitting while cats play about my feet......honestly? I feel a genuine CACKLE coming on!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Oh, les Bon Temps ROULEZed!

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras!

It's the culmination of Carnivale, where (since medieval times) people let loose, danced and carried on - and then on Fat Tuesday, let it ALL hang out (at which point glassy-eyed gentlemen threw strings of beads at them) and there was much high-powered merry-making. Thanks to the innernet, we can now see fabulous pictures of Carnivale around the world, and - my personal favorite - New Orleans Mardi Gras. At midnight on Fat Tuesday, it all grinds to a full and complete STOP and it is the beginning of Lent, the period before Easter when people set aside something they enjoy. It's a study in discipline which I much admire. (Even though I'm sort of Jewish, I do give something up for Lent every year - this year it's Pickled Pigs' Feet. Just sayin'.) Read the history of the Krewes, the parades, the King Cake - it's a rich and wonderful tradition and I think we all can enjoy and be proud of Louisiana and its Mardi Gras.

I LOVE Mardi Gras and made dirty rice with shrimp for the occasion (eaten out of my new Souper Bowl, and BOUGHT us some beads (no, my shirt stayed where it was, but thanks for asking). In case you were wondering, the rich colors of Mardi Gras are Purple for Justice, Green for Faith, and Gold for Power.

Even Lilliane joined in the merriment - although I MAY have heard her mutter something like "Yeah right, Good Times...I'll show you some rolling..." Some cats are humorless aren't always of a frivolous frame of mind, I guess.

The newscasters seemed to take delight in calling it "Super Fat Tuesday", in reference to the fact that many states were also holding their Primaries in anticipation of the upcoming Presidential Election. One cannot but wonder if Tuesday is going to be huffy about that until July (I know I would!) Other than going all over emotional about a woman and a black man being viable candidates, I tend to be paying only nominal attention to all this. Our Primary will be the 19th, and I'll immerse myself in it all then. I don't discuss politics much (except that I AM anticipating a CHANGE with great relish; it can only improve).

Or so I was saying. Then I went to read Franklin's blog, The Panopticon . And what do I find? There's another candidate in the mix: DOLORES! She has established a whole 'nother political party, the Fibertarians, and I would swear I heard a happy little humming coming from my knitting basket. (Would you believe it? toques in French Blue hum with a French accent, I am SO not making this up!)

If you don't know Dolores (oooooh are you in for a treat), go here...seriously, I'll wait right here: Who's Dolores? . NOTE: do NOT, I repeat do NOT read it with tea, coffee, water, wine or anything else in your mouth. Or drape your keyboard in plastic wrap first. You've been warned.

Having read Dolores' platform, and having seen her wonderful poster (star-spangled thong and all) I have determined to join the flock. "Fiber-related purchases tax deductible "?? Oh, I am So There. Now, I would never attempt to sway anyone's thinking on something as serious as Presidential Elections; I get all verklempt myself with the whole procedure.

But I will say, I now consider myself a red-white-and-blue member of the Fibertarian Party. I'm sending away for buttons; I'll probably tape that picture of Dolores in the car window, and it's my wallpaper. (Bumper stickers? Nawwww....Mr Dearling's not a fan of bumper stickers on our cars. The Grateful Dead bears on the back window and the royal coat of arms of King Louis XV on the side rear window is as far as we go. Nevermind.)

And this morning I remembered our weather forecaster's words of yesterday: "Hey, Mon! Beeg storm she eez coming, Da-hay-hay-hay-o!" (I made up that last bit.) Armed as they are with all the sophisticated Doppler gizmos, scientific instrumentation, fancy advanced degree in Meteorology -- and having an office with window -- they can now tell us what's going to happen, weather-wise, in advance.

At the ten o'clock news they were talking about "worst snowstorm of the year" and "severe winter storm warnings" and so on. In fact, it did start to snow around 2:30 pm. And it kept snowing. Then it snowed heavier. Then it snowed faster. Then I went to bed.

This morning - still snowing. Our program at the senior center's been postponed until tomorrow - it's about Wisconsin Authors and guess what, I'm talking about Elizabeth Zimmerman! Why yes I am too! (Also Sterling North, Ben Logan, Jerry Apps - if you haven't read "Rascal", shame on you; if you like the circus, check out Jerry Apps' "Ringlingville USA".)

Mr Dearling went out to get our second car to the Lovely Daughter so she can get around since the demise of her 1978 Pontiac Phoenix (requiescat in pace) but for my part, I'm staying in, drinking tea, eating leftover dirty rice and starting to call my section of the telephone tree to get out the vote for Candidate Dolores!

Editor's note: that shimmery glow-y thing on the back of our Toyota in the snowy driveway? It's a reflection of my lamp inside. Very cool, very artsy - couldn't have done it, if I were trying.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Ski Races and S(o)uper Bowls

Finished! I finally finished the entry on Books (would that count as "B" if I were doing the ABC deal?) Also, I am pleased to report that I finished another toque (boxed and ready to go); I'm about 1/3 done with the next - and I've received payment for the earlier one! Clippin' along, I am. Just a toque-knittin' fool. I had about decided that I was going to finish those in the book and not accept any more commissions - but you know what? (Pay attention here, I may need you to refer me back here if I start whining in the future.) I find that I do get a sort of rhythm going; once I'm increased to the full number I really can knit without looking, as in while watching movies or teevee, attending meetings, reading (for which I have one of those neat book-holder-upper gizmos, about $5 at Barnes & Noble).

This is my super-cool book-holder-upper enjoying lunch with me when Mr Dearling and I ate at Chili's the other day; it works equally well on the kitchen table at home while I'm reading and knitting. Clever device, this.

Having said that, when we go to the annual Trade Faire in Oshkosh at the end of the month, as we do, annually, I may encounter someone who will be requesting a toque. And I'll be taking my little notebook along.....but, if I DO get a request, I will be very forthright in saying that there are a couple of things on the needles that I'll need to complete before beginning anything else.

Last Wednesday we used our Christmas present from Mr Dearling: we went to the Natalie McMasters concert. She's the fabulous Cape Breton fiddler who we try to see whenever she comes to town. I have seen her with my very eyeballs in my very own eyeball holes - play reels and jigs on the fiddle while stepdancing ! Had I NOT seen this I would never have believed it humanly possible to do that. (I mean, I'm feel incredibly posh being able to do simple knitting while reading!)

Natalie played at our very nice Overture Center, a remarkable theatre venue, and for the winter season they have snowflake patterns on the floor in lights.
This is a very dramatic effect, and we couldn't quite figure out how they're projected onto the floor, but it's a very attractive and festive effect.
The Overture Center is somewhat controversial; it's rather stark from the outside, but the seats in the main theatre are arranged in such wise that there are no obstructed views. (Our seat neighbors pointed out, however, that the rows on our level were VERY long - and we were in the middle of the row. The observation was made that, in the event of a fire (for example) we'd be screwed, as there was no middle aisle. one pause to think. Still and all, a very nice evening.

Friday night was the Late Night Knit at the Sow's Ear, and I had the pleasure of visiting with my Lovely Daughter, Chocolate Sheep (Beth), and Molly Bee's Attic (Melinda) among the merry throng of local knitters (might I add, a brilliantly-congenial group). The Lovely Daughter is knitting up a Feather-and-Fan in dreamy mohair in black (looks like a fuzzy mantilla) and I did make some progress on the Next Toque. Beth showed off her Packer hat on the needles (my STARS that girl is clever, knitting in words like that,seriously!) and the book she is working on, which is one Admirable Piece of Work. As we were arranged, Molly Bee and I were on opposite sides of a large column, so even though we could visit, it was largely "around the corner". Beth and I came nigh to closing the place up again, we always seem to do that.

Saturday was the first day of our Winter Festival, and Mr Dearling and I were slated to appear in our Fur Post at the Museum "in garb" - the publicity said "costumed interpreters", that would be us. As it turned out, the weather was PERFECT - not too cold, and with a nice soft steady snowfall.

Saturday we were "on" from about 9:00 until noon, but we stayed a bit later, as there were still some folks coming through. In honor of the Festival the Museum served hot chocolate on the main floor, and we had a little craft project for kids around the corner from our Fur Post; there was a special exhibit of some exceptional wooden fish decoys made by native artists, and we had some cute little wooden jointed fishies that kids could paint and decorate and take along with them.

To my great delight on Saturday, along came Molly Bee and her husband to visit! They hail originally from the lands of the great Abenaki and Passamaquoddy, and I was excited to show them a bit about the Ojibway and Potowatami and Ho-Chunk from hereabouts. I deserted Mr Dearling (aka Paul L'Aventure dit le Promeneur) to explain and display the goods at the Post, to show off some artifacts - we have some perfectly beautiful twined bags made from yarn unwoven from trade blankets alongside some made from the natural fibers, and I find it exciting to see how the patterns were developed so artistically by the native women when the colored wools became available to them. (The same is true from the translation from the gentle geometric designs worked in porcupine quills to the brilliant floral beadwork, for which the Ojibway are internationally known.) All in all, we had quite a few visitors and were very satisfied with the day. Around 2:00, we changed and went outdoors to see some of the festivities of the Winter Festival.

They block off the Capitol Square and set up a track for ski races. Interestingly, there were racers from Australia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark - as well as some from Michigan and Massachusetts (among others). There were both Men's and Women's heats.

Believe me when I say, these lanky, lean guys were doing some MOVING! My camera isn't very fast, and I took a real lot of pictures to catch even these examples. It had stopped snowing but was still really nice out. We didn't get around to check out the snowboarding or ice sculptures, but from our viewpoint the Winter Festival looks like it might start attracting big names!

We ended the day by enjoying a slice of pizza on State Street (we like Casa de Roma; Molly Bee & Scott went to Ian's...there are thousands , well... hundreds -- oh, you know, LOTS of pizza places in Madison.) By then it was around 5:00, and we set out for: THE SOUPER BOWL!!

NOTE: that goofy person in the long coat, waving with the fingerless mitts (made from Reggia Sock Yarn) in the middle of the line? Me.

This is the long line in the hall at West High School, where the annual Souper Bowl takes place. It's always held the day before that other Super Bowl thing - you know, the fabulous commercials interrupted by a bunch o' guys running around in funny clothes chasing a legless, headless pig(skin). OUR Souper Bowl is a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity,and it works like this: you file in along three very long tables, on which there are bowls. HUNDREDS of bowls, made by ceramacists, potters, artists and (primarily) high school students.

You select a bowl. Then you move down the table a little more, and find a better bowl, so you pick it up and put down the first one. Then you continue along - and find the Best Bowl you've Ever you pick it up and put down the other one.

The line is moving slowly, 'cause everyone is doing that. Then - you find a BETTER Best-er Bowl (shut up, it is too a word). Then I find myself with a perfect bowl in each hand, and the whole thing grinds to a stop. Blue one? Green one? Matte glaze? Glossy glaze? By this time, you're near the end and you're holding up the works.

So... you Make the Final Decision, and proceed to the table where you pay the modest amount of $15 - then on to the next table where you get your choice (Oh NO, another #)$@W CHOICE?) of soups, provided by the best restaurants in town. TOUGH CALL! The soup is put, not into your new Bestest-Ever-in-the-World bowl, but a cardboard take-out bowl (so you don't have to take home dirty dishes; you then proceed to the table where you get another cardboard bowl and help yourself to a fresh, cold, crisp salad and some dressing, and move to find spots at the very crowdy lunch tables, where you immediately begin chatting with the gazillion of your best fellow-Madisonian friends. Bread (in the form of bagels) and desserts (in the form of delicious bars and cookies made by someone's grandma the night before) are on the table, and tea, coffee and lemonade are available nearby.

This is Mr Dearling's wonderful bowl, and as you can see, we like to put our paper bowls in our real bowls - that way the bowls can practice, but they still don't get dirty. Mr Dearling is big on decent-sized bowls worthy of a healthy helping of his Most Remarkable Spaghett' (for which he is justifiably famous).

For MY part - I wanted a smaller bowl, good for hot cereal (you know the kind - whole grain with a quarter-pound little pat of butter and a cup small splash of real maple syrup. Because of the paper bowl you can't see it, but this has a deep cobalt-y blue interior, and it's just exactly the right size. Even after all my indecision at the end of the table, I am happy to report, this is MY BOWL!

So we ended the day with a mitzvah - contributing to Habitat for Humanity; I've added to my cherished collection of bowls, and we had a nice social experience with a few (hundred) of our neighbors. THIS is what I look forward on Super Bowl Weekend.

Oh - and in conclusion (what? I'm NOT being paid "by the word"? well, that sucks!) *ahem* I had a roasted red pepper soup and Mr Dearling had a rich, sweet chili. The experience was enhanced by the performance of a very enthusiastic band of high school students with an adorable girl trombone player who, bless her heart, wore a DRESS. The gathering was too raucous for me to catch the name; suffice it to say, they really, truly, ROCKED.

Friday, February 1, 2008

...and BOOKS!

"Money spent on books is never wasted." -- Sidney S. Goldish, Journalist

Uhm, Hi. My name is Dale-Harriet, and I am a Livreholic. (French- pretty fancy, non?) However, it is the unalloyed truth.

When I did learn to read (in first grade in those days), I read anything I could get my hands on, and I was encouraged and enabled by the above-quoted Mr Goldish, whom I knew familiarly as "Daddy". After dinner in our house, Reading was done - Daddy read the paper, Mommy read "Ladies' Home Journal", big sister read whatever big sisters read.

Reading was always encouraged; I was aware early on that WORDS are like little gems, treasures, and were putting food on the table. Books were to be respected, enjoyed, savored - and the cover of a book is the doorway to wherever the imagination can conjure up. That was what was infused into me, virtually from birth.

Dad and I played a game for a number of years in which he'd leave a piece of paper with a word on it next to my bed before leaving for work (which he did before I got up). I would find the word, and when he came home for dinner I had to pronounce the word, spell it, define it and use it in a sentence. There was the occasional stumper (of course the ever-popular "antidisestablishmentarianism" was one) but it was a great vocabulary builder. (see Free Rice!) I always excelled at spelling, got top grades in English, got extra credit for reading extra books. (Sucked at Math, but hey - the Good Lord invented the little bitty calculator as a Personal Gift to me.)

My house is full of bookcases which are full of books. We have a new narrow six-shelf bookcase in the front hall - in its box, because we don't have anywhere to put it up. (!?) I love kids' books; I have a decent library of books about bears, both wild and teddy. I have some cookbooks, I have a small collection of etiquette books (What's that she says? Etty-cut? That some'at from the last century?)

Sorry. Got carried away.

Out of all the books I have read,- there are a few stand-outs. A couple of books I love so much I think everyone in the WORLD should read them; to that end, I actually have "loaner copies" to share. "Once burned, twice shy" - I try to not bemoan the books I've loaned and lost.

By the way, I'm not linking any of these; half the fun is searching them out. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Nevermind.

Among those:

Kristen Lavrandsdottir by Sigrid Undset.

Actually a trilogy, it's the story of an 11th century Norwegian girl from age seven, through her life, marriage, childbirths to her death; it seems to me to be an accurate depiction of the life and times and is the most evocative book I've ever read. You can smell the food cooking, feel the sea spray and hear the voices. My copy is a single-volume hard-cover; it's available in paperback from several publishers (and the Library surely has them too) My loaner copies are separate paperbacks.

Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

These should be required reading for any true Wild-Eyed Book-Gobbling, Word-Reading person. They're absolutely enchanting and describe an innocent time. In the first, Helen McGill up and leaves her author-brother on their farm to buy Parnassus, a horse-drawn library, from Mr Roger Mifflin (the small, red-haired and wiry). Mifflin has been a "book tinker", carrying fine literature to the rural citizens of America. As a 38-year-old spinster, Helen's ready for something new. "The Haunted Bookshop" continues the chronicle, when - having married, Helen and Roger McGill trade Parnassus for a little bookshop in Brooklyn named "Parnassus at Home". Their lives revolve around books and reading, and it's as pleasant a little tale as can be found between two covers. I re-read them occasionally to remind myself how much I love books and bookstores. The "bookshop" of the title is a place we'd all love to go -- dusty shelves of books with that delicious old-book smell . It has a bit of romance, a wee mystery, and absolute charm.

Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon

WARNING: They made a movie out of this: do NOT, I repeat do NOT! see it. OK, that's my opinion; the whole book-to-film flap can be discussed later. The movie's dreadful, the book STERLING. I like this kind of book, read the genre fairly often, and I did not see the twist ending coming at ALL. (Admittedly I make a point to not overthink these, as the ending's more fun if it is a surprise.) I literally read this book every late August, and love it every time, even though now, of course, I do know how it ends.

The Wicker Man by R Hardy and A Shaffer

NOTE: They made a movie out of this: I DO recommend the original movie with Edward Woodward and Britt Eckland (and "Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle"). The authors were in on the making of this film and it is, to my mind, the very book come to life, softened somewhat for the easily-embarrassed. There was a remake of this film with Nick Cage - do NOT, I repeat do NOT see the remake. Sorry Cage. You're cute, the movie's awful.

When Mr Dearling and I were first courting, we got together to read aloud, and the first book we read was this (he hadn't heard of it; it was already my favorite). We differ in our viewpoints about it, but I find it fascinating. I'll say no more (I hate "spoilers") but if you read it I'd be interested in your thoughts. What I will say is - Mr Dearling calls it a horror story; I see it as a cautionary tale for rigid, inflexible people.

Now - if I were going to list ALL my favorites and give reviews - well, you'd quit reading and I'd be pretty well fried. So I'm just going to mention a few; suffice it to say, reading is one of my Life's Greatest Pleasures, and crone that I am, I have no interest in "e-books" or that sort of thing. I like the heft, the feel of a book, the smell of old books, the anticipation of pages to turn. better than ProComm Plus. Nevermind.)

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. When I had my Terrible Eye Infection I literally had to keep both eyes covered, and I spent two weeks in as total dark as possible; the second day of this Mr Dearling came home with a big bag of books-on-tape and handed me my walkperson. The highlight of the deal was the audio book of CCF, which I listened to about three times. When I recovered, Lovely Daughter pointed out that a movie had been made of this too - and when I could see again I got that. Here's the deal: I now OWN the audio book, the film AND the regular book, and I go back and enjoy each (this is a case of "terrific movie - well adapted from book".

The Birchbark House and The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich. These are kidbooks and could easily be bound in a single volume; I suspect that would make it too imposing-looking for a 4th grader. (Seems like a whole genre sort of fancies itself for middle-elementary-school-age.) This is about a Metis child who lives in northern Wisconsin with her fur trader "Deydey" and Ojibway mother, and is a rich depiction of fur trade life in, I would say, early 19th century. The second moves ahead seamlessly from the first. I recommend this to every 4th grade class I see at the Museum. NOTE: Erdrich has written many adult books too - I have trouble getting through them.

"His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman: The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass . I heard the first touted on NPR with the mention of "sentient BEARS"; needless to say, I went to get it. Imagine my dismay - uhm - consternation delight to discover it was the first of a trilogy. Not an easy read, this is from that new genre that is sophisticated fantasy/fairy tale/science fiction and is right up there with my All-Time Favorites.

OTHERWISE! I adore the Laura Ingalls Wilder books; I like a lot of the American Girl stories; I like a lot of the "Dear America" series. I adore diaries and journals of pioneer women, Indian women, colonial women. I read Shakespeare for the sheer richness of language. I have a variety of cookbooks (especially historical ones) which I adore and occasionally cook from. I have a variety of dictionaries, a good thesaurus (Roget's, are there any others? and not the wimpy "dictionary style" either). Lots of books about Vikings and medieval life, quite a few books on occultism and Wicca - &c. I still have my library of calligraphy books (I taught for years; now my "benign tremor" sort of sticks that up). I have a few books on writing (I do have some children's stories & short stories I've written, just no knowledge of marketing, business &c).

I'm very susceptible to illustration and remember illustrations from childhood books perfectly. Picture books illustrated by K.Y.Craft are worth gazing at over and over for hours - literally. I love ALL Jan Brett's books (in fact, check out her homepage for a real treat, and if you a) have children; b) teach; c) tell stories; d) babysit; e) have grandchildren; f) enjoy arrested development your second childhood...there is a TON of stuff for you on Jan's website. NOTE: when you go to Jan's homepage now, a little trail of hearts follows behind your cursor, I love it!

Matter of fact - I believe I'll do a whole post on children's illustrators whose books I adore beyond reality (Gyo Fujikawa, Trina Scharf Hyman, Nancy Eckholm Burkert). But for now, 'nuff said.

Editor's note: for some reason this took me DAYS to write! I apologize for the delay, no idea why it was so hard. Could stopping to reread stuff figure in?