Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Red-Letter Day - definition...


OK, Saturday Mr Dearling and #1 Son brought new couch home. I looked after #1 Son's sons (always an adventure - Master D, age six, read "Caps for Sale" to me, flawlessly; Master X saved my life ... four times ... with his light saber, in a flowing cape printed with teddy bears and bunnies; super heroes are secure in their Mighty Manliness). After, as reported, Mr Dearling got me my very posh new camera. (See earlier post.) Sunday I babysat again (the boys had cold pizza for breakfast, doesn't everyone?) and in the afternoon we went to a coffeehouse and met with our young friend home on R&R from her archaeology work in Cambodia. She's a fascinating girl, a favorite of ours, and we're very fond of her husband too, who is holding the fort here in Madison with their dog James. (James has his own blog.)

Sundown on Sunday was roughly 8:00 pm, and Mr Dearling and I went to Culver's for the ritual end-of-Passover blow-out. Notice: bread, bursting with leavening; yummy grilled Butterburger made of beef; good Wisconsin dairy-type cheese; a few veggies for health (requisite onion, tomato, lettuce)...and BACON. So much for kosher. NOTE: that's Mr Dearling's hand, we had the same meals - and yes, he does "still play with motorcycles", thanks for asking.

And then .... and THEN .... I woke up and it was MONDAY. That's Monday, the 28th day of April, upon which, in the evening, the Yarn Harlot was coming to Madison !

The flurry of activity began as soon as I woke up. First I took my old-lady-morning-pills and had my first cup of tea, with pizzelles. I love me some pizzelles (the anise ones) and hadn't had any during Passover. Then I tidied up some and began to assemble the little things I'd been accumulating to gift Stephanie. I'd been collecting for a while; on her last visit I think I gave her some Wisconsin stickers (she really liked the Badger one and I had to explain - very quickly - about the Cornish miners) and I wanted something more formal for this visit.

Briefly - I assembled a small bag (recycled, we're like that here) with such items as a bottle o' Spotted Cow (I think she got a lot o' local we not ROCK?); a block of 5-year-old sharp cheddar cheese AND a box o' crackers; an enamel pin reading "I Was in Wisconsin"; a gold Wisconsin coin (not legal tender); a mighty fine Sow's Ear travel mug (for disguising beer like coffee); cow pencil; tube of Udder Balm (all right, keep it down back there, it's good for your hands, too); and a very good emergency item: It's a Smile-On-a-Stick. She can look perfectly pleasant even in long airport delays with this handy little item. We all have times when we could use a Smile-on-a-Stick.

Then I started to try to decide what projects to take along. I had volunteered to go early and save seats for fellow Sow's Ear afficianados, other Hog-and-Bloggers. Should I cast on a sock? Take the baby wrap? the scarf? Ah, mais non! I'm near the end of the Very Last Toque (are you listening up there, Knitting Goddesses?) so my conscience won out and I packed my smallest basket with my knitting bowl and the NEARLY completed toque. Friend Donna, masterful crochet-worker, was coming over at 3:00 to ride over with me - she's working on another of her most amazing and beautiful afghans. I figured out what to wear, packed my pockets with required things - and noticed that there were large, soft snowflakes thickly falling ! Stephanie had said she tends to bring Winter with her. It's true! Of course, it didn't stick, but it was a dramatic moment.

OK, Donna arrived, I decided on a flowery dress, and my conscience won out: I'd take my tiny knitting basket and ONLY THE TOQUE. I thought a look of Righteous Piety might go well for the evening (when you don't wear make-up you wear a mind-set). Tote bag packed (my copy of the new book from Amazon - ok, call me a piker; I was into Immediate Gratification and I pre-ordered). NOTE: At the SAME time, I pre-ordered Stephanie's Page-o-Day calendar, due out in June - AND her *NEXT* book, due out in October....this innerwebs thing might be going too far when you can pre-order a book that's not finished yet.

AND SO WE GOT TO BORDER'S! It was about 4:35, and as we arrived we were met by a smiling girl at a table who announced proudly "Just like for Harry Potter, here's your wristband!" YES! JUST LIKE HARRY POTTER!! (but cuter, funnier, and she knits). Very clever plan to ease the book signing. There were also buttons: "Eat. Drink. Knit. - Yarn Harlot Tour 2008".

I had determined to save three seats for fellow Hog-and-Bloggers; we found that the front row was already occupied - but the second row (JUST as good) was not, so Donna and I arranged ourselves over a total of five chairs. Just a few people were there, and this wasn't a problem, by the way. NOTE: there were a LOT of chairs! I think that It Is Happening: the bookstores are beginning to realize that knitters have our own Rock Stars and should not be minimized! When Lovely Daughter and I arrived at the bookstore in Minneapolis for Crazy Aunt Purl, there were nine chairs. I think Border's had allowed for something around 200.

We got settled and our fellow knitters began to arrive. The mood, as you no doubt know, is the same in any like situation - a couple of friends, or a Knit Night at your LYS, or (in our case) at our Late-Night Knits at the Sow's Ear: everyone comparing, sharing, laughing, chatting - it was a Gathering of the Clan, a chapter meeting of the Community of Knitters. I think Stephanie's largely responsible for this. She's brought knitters out of our closets and out of our rocking chairs and made us aware of what was always the case: knitters ARE a family, we just didn't realize it .

Bethie of Chocolate Sheep arrived and settled between myself and Donna, who was saving the end seat for Jen - we knew she was bringing her wee pre-knitter and wanted access in case a Fast Getaway became desireable. I'd have to say both of these ladies were displaying exactly the mood of the entire room. Merriment prevailed!

As the clock moved toward 7:00 pm, the air became charged with anticipation. You see here the reverential attitude of Knitters Waiting for Their Icon. Near as I could tell, all the seats were filled, bags and baskets settled and opened, coffees or sandwiches consumed, and the anticipation became peaceful and delighted. There is a calm settles over knitters as they begin to knit that is the very essence of comfort. (On the other hand, I'm not naive - if someone had stood up and said "FREE MERINO TO THE FIRST FIVE......" you can bet that all semblance of quiet and tranquility would evaporate. Fast.

Doesn't this say it all?

I'm just going to put some Photographic Evidence here (taken, might I add, with my new camera, without flash !

She always begins by photographing the Sock against the backdrop of The Happiest People in Town....

The Border's lady asked if she wanted to sit down, and she said "NO!", bringing a chuckle from all of us who knew she'd been sitting in airports, sitting on planes, sitting in cars....and was NOT about to sit down again!

The whole of her presentation was made with a thin sheaf of papers in her hand; she glanced at them occasionally, went to the next -- but she speaks from her heart, and while we all laughed so much that I was stiff in the stomach for three days, SO much of what she says is mere truth, wisdom, keen observation. She reveals herself as she speaks - and what she reveals is One of US. She's a mom, a wife, a knitter and a writers; she deals with not only knitterly issues but ordinary household daily Awfuls (and she's no lover of the Awful Maths either, although they're not the boss of her!)

She talked about not being taken seriously; she talked about the image non-knitters have when they hear "Knitter" (old lady with grey hair in a bun, sitting in a rocking chair knitting with a cat in her lap). Come on, you know it's true! Then she talked about how we really are, and about how there is genuine scientific documentation that complicated actions repeated over and over are PROVEN to be helpful in the prevention of Alzheimer's and dementia. She talked about the kind of concentrated patience we garner from knitting....well, she talked about a LOT. And it was LITERALLY as if we were all sitting around a huge kitchen table (HERS....or OURS....) There was no separation between US and HER like you see in general Hero-and-Fan situations.

When she wrapped up, she added one small note that made us all even love her more (I'd bet you two skeins of hand-painted lace-weight alpaca none of us would've believed that possible): she said that, in spite of Border's clever plan of colored wristbands so the book-signing could be orderly (it was) SHE was doing the airplane thing (she's obviously had a lot of experience there) and go with the "pre-boarding" plan. To wit: anyone with babies, small children or any other reason that might make it difficult for them to wait around, she would sign THEIR books first.

Ladies and gentlemen, ponder that for a minute. I'll wait. Let it really sink in.

Then the booksigning for the rest of us commenced, and was lovely; we all enjoyed visiting with one another while we waited, and (I had noticed this when we saw her in Eau Claire, too) she does not rush. She chats, warmly, with everyone - and her interest in each of us is genuine. She really IS our friend, our mentor (never mind our idol) and virtually everyone comes away feeling knowing we've been with our peeps, including herself.

The signing of books begins, and besides affording us each her signature in our books, we each got our moment to chat. Furthermore - there was no limit of how MANY books she would sign for each of us! No one took gross advantage, and there again, we were all satisfied! The culmination of the evening was that we each got Our Moment to chat (and when mine came, I felt like she and I were old friends, chatting for a moment on the street - meant a lot to me!).

When our books were signed, our pictures taken, and our knitting bags packed up, we all wandered off to resume our daily lives....improved, might I say. GREATLY improved and enhanced by our visit from the Yarn Harlot.

EDITOR'S NOTE: this post took me all week to write; I have lots more pictures but have reached the limit of my patience at getting 'em WHERE I want, &c. Since the glorious Visit I've done other things about which it's time to write. Suffice it to say, my attendance, the company of all those knitters (ALL dear friends, some of whom I knew before), the delight that is Stephanie, the inspiration to me as a knitter, the comfort of being in a large group of My Peeps ... which phrase I love, and like to say since it's unlikely coming out of a 65-year-old......all of those things had a profound effect on me. I COULD go on an on, but it appears I already have. I think y'all can figure out whatever else I'd say.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

No Pictures.....

Lay-deeeez and Gennulmens! Welcome to the No Photo Moment here at CS&B. No sweet kitties, no wondrous flowers, no WIPs, nothing. In fact.......not even any pictures of my new couch, a very handsome acquisition which replaces the hateful ...uhm... odious ...err...UGLY loveseat-hide-a-bed which I DID love for many years but which had deteriorated out of my affection. (So tell us, Dale-Harriet, how did you really feel about that couch?) But seriously, folks, our lovely new piece of furniture...which it occurs to me may well be the FIRST piece of furniture...other than our bed, which is around 24 years old....we have ever actually BOUGHT, is lovely, comfortable, sizeable and perhaps best of all, cost us the princely sum of $60 at a very nice resale shop, roughly half the cost of a tank of gas. Ignore the wild sobbing, I'll be myself in a moment.

NOTE: I think I've won the weekly prize for the longest and possibly worst-constructed sentence in the blogosphere.

So ENNYWAYS. Not even pictures of the couch. Here's why:

Yesterday, the very day on which #1 Son and Mr Dearling managed the transfer of yuccchy couch to the curb and lovely new couch to the living room, Mr Dearling ALSO took me to select my this-year's anniversary present. And THAT just happens to be....

A. NEW. CAMERA !! Our anniversary is a couple of weeks off, but he wanted me to have some time to learn it before we head out to New York for a massive yarn crawl and historical tour the graduation of our nephew from Skidmore.

Therefore, be forewarned: there WILL be pictures of the new couch, and the kitties, and flowers, of WIPs and stash pictures....oh, and pictures of the visit next Monday of the Yarn Harlot to our very own little village of Madison, "sixty-three miles surrounded by Reality"!


Saturday, April 26, 2008


Remember the Earth day pictures of my ruddy little determined peonies? Well, the next day was another of those days we dream of all winter: low '70s, gentle breeze, sunshine so warm you can feel the Vitamin D being sucked into your skin. On such a day, early in the morning, the peonies have a conversation. Goes something like this:

Peony One: OK, it's time. We can all see over the dead leaves; the Woman has pulled away all the dead effluvia from last year; our wire frame is in position. Everyone ready?

Other Peonies: YEAH! (mumbling is heard: "how come HE gets to decide?" "I thought it was MY turn this year" "Wait, I didn't hear what he said..." "Shut up back there, he said it's TIME" "Oh")

All together: GROWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!

I am not making this up, that's one day's growth. Because of some rearrangement of branches, I think there'll be enough sun on these guys this year that they'll manage more than the usual 2-3 blossoms. I didn't know, when I planted these guys, that peonies need a great deal of sunshine to make flowers. My neighbors all have peonies that bloom so hard it wears them out and they droop over.

The forecast for today is for rain, which is NOT a bad thing. I suspect that everything else will show progress too. The trillium already have buds (I counted seven!) and there are thin spikes all around them which will be lilies-of-the-valley. There's a small area at the back of my yard that is my pride and joy: besides the trillium there's a columbine, a slowly-growing population of jacks-in-the-pulpits (are they not the dearest things?) and all the LOTV. There is a short period of time, and I WILL get pictures, when the myriad violets are in bloom, the "white silver bells upon their slender stalks" are abundant, and those wonderful wild plants are standing proud. I really cherish that little area.

There are also these delicate, beautiful little guys, who grow into ferns. Not a lot of them, just enough to add a real "woodlands" feel to the scene. I have the Overactive Imagination required of historic reenactors, (and, I suspect, writers of children's stories) and that little plot is a perfect habitation for the faeries that I know live in the little toad house back there. I'll try to post pictures of them; sometimes in the dusk when the fireflies are out, the faeries emerge to dance, tend the flowers and do a little gardening of their own.......

I'm counting down. It's still Passover, you see. In keeping with tradition, I made what you see here: a lovely noodle kugel , my mother's recipe. *Dale-Harriet, 'scuse me, but we in the back here don't know what a noodle kugel is.* Why, I'm so very glad you asked! Noodle kugel is a milchig dish, meaning "dairy". It has noodles (I bet you guessed that); it also has cottage cheese, eggs (for binding), raisins, cinnamon and almonds. It's good hot, it's good cold. It's good room temperature. It's good with a little sour cream on. It's good with a glass of milk. If you're having it with tea you can have real cream.

My other "speciality" is Genuine Jewish Mother's Top-o'-the-Line Home-Made Chicken Soup with My Superior Matzoh Balls. Legendary. The very soup Lovely Daughter begs for when she's Coming Down With something. That, of course, is fleishig . I also have a HUGE appreciation for cold boiled chicken, a happy side product of the soup. Of course, with THAT meal, you need to have non-dairy cream, and the only one I've found is Rich's, which does, as a matter of fact, really taste like genuine cream. In spite of separating meat and milk, and having only matzoh, I eat plenty fine during Passover.

By the way, there is a very efficient and complete History of the Jewish People: "They tried to kill us. They failed. Let's eat!"

SHORT RANT: Time was, you could find non-dairy margarine; I think Fleischmann's had one, and there were a couple of other kinds too. Same also with "non-dairy creamer". If you look at "pure vegetable margarine", for example, and you read all that tee-tiny wordage on the back or the bottom, you almost invariably find "WHEY" listed. Remember "whey"? Remember Little Miss Arachnophobe? Guess what, whey is another word for MILK SOLIDS. This year I finally found something; I'm not remembering the name (and it doesn't say on the clever little "individual 8 oz. cups") but it's something heart-healthy. Never saw it before, but to its credit, it does taste all right on matzoh. (Keep in mind, if you run out of matzoh you can cut the box into pieces and eat it with very little notice that it's not the genuine article.) END OF RANT

All of this is fine. Passover ends tomorrow at sundown. Here's another family tradition: after sundown, at the end of Passover, we go out to eat. The family tradition is to try to break every single dietary law...on ONE PLATE! Of course, we're pretty much good at it now. The popular choices usually include pepperoni and sausage pizza or bacon double cheeseburger. You have your meat AND your milk (and pork products) not to mention regular bread. Of course, in order to REALLY break them all there would have to be a shrimp cocktail in there, or an order of mussels or something. But you know, just sayin'.

I'm writing from my son's house - where I'm babysitting for possibly the smartest, cutest most trying , sweetest, most adorable paschkudniks you've ever seen. The smarts they got from Grandma Dale. The rest is direct genetics from their Papa (except a lot of the "cute" and "sweet", which is from their Maman).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!!

Earth Day was born in Wisconsin!! Yessiree, it was the braingem of one Senator Gaylord Nelson, and was first celebrated on April 22, 1970; it's become pretty much worldwide now. (An article I saw said some countries celebrate it on March 21, the start of Spring.)

These are my brand-new Trillium, the first little plants in my back garden; the violets are peeking up a bit, the peonies are valiantly emerging (see below) and today I saw my first, charming buttery little dandelion. I'm sorry, I think they're pretty - furthermore, they're nutritious and a lot of the plant is useful. They get a bad rap.

My entire back yard is covered in wood violets (no mowing!) which are also considered by some mean-spirited dolts plant snobs to be invasive weeds too. Clearly they've never had sugared violets, enjoyed a tussie-mussie or celebrated Wisconsin State Pride. It's our State Flower. So there.

There are a lot of websites providing tips and tricks for being nice to Mother Earth; it's no secret that she's pretty fed up and it's time we start paying attention. There was that commercial in the '70s that showed the Indian man (Iron Eyes Cody) sitting on horseback looking over a trash dump - close-up of his face, with one tear rolling down his cheek. My opinion? That said it all.

Here are my bold little peonies, and while you can't see it too well in this picture, each one has a tee-tiny smile on its rosy face because this time of year the back yard gets a lot of sun. I lost a big tree back there last year so maybe THIS year there'll be more than just 2-3 blossoms on the peonies.

I talk at the Museum about how words like "recycling" and "biodegradable" were not in my 4th grade lexicon; I show them a paper plate and talk about how we use them on picnics and then throw them away where they become GOBBITCH! And we don't be likin' gobbitch. I further say that paper plates may be in museums when they grow up, because maybe by then (and I DO say "I'm making this up") there will be "paper plates" that you can eat on and then put in warm water and they'll just dissolve away, no gobbitch. Maybe they'll be made out of some sort of gelatin. One clever little student suggested they might even be gobbitch then either!

The older I get, the more aware of Mother Earth I become, and while I've always had a green heart (it was a hippie thang, y'know) I'm trying to become greener yet. We do use compact fluorescent bulbs almost everywhere in the house; in our city we get big putcher-gobbitch-here bins-on-wheels, and now identical green putcher-recycling-here bins-on-wheels. We can put in everything into that bin: magazines, paper, cans, glass, &c. No need to separate. I love Madison. I print on the BACKS of pages I don't need anymore and we have a good supply of bags for any and all shopping (in fact, all the groceries sell shopping bags made outta recycled stuff - liter bottles, for example) - and they're all around 99 cents. And you get a nickel or dime credit for each bag you use. I use 'em at book stores &c too.

Not much knitting or kitties or reading today, folks, but Normal Programming will resume tomorrow. Let me leave you with this thought - it's recycled from a poster dated to the Depression of the 1930s:



Friday, April 18, 2008

Dare I Say It?

I'm going out on a limb here....but I THINK it's SPRING!

See these? THESE are one of the reasons that I live in the Upper Midwest, where we have fierce winters that freeze icky huge bugs, where we wind up shovelling 8' of snow, where we get snowed in for days sometimes, obliged to sit on our couches wrapped in blankets, sipping rich cocoa or hot, fragrant tea and spending endless hours in pursuits such as .... oh .... reading . Or maybe even knitting , even if we're not Little Old Ladies (and especially if we ARE).

The change of Season has caused a flurry of non-activity around here. I've been not writing, and not knitting, and not reading -- but I've been THINKING a lot. Oh yeah, and planning. (In anticipation of Spring Cleaning, Purging, Tidying, Organizing....all those words I tend to not even think about all winter.) NOTE: THINKING about those things are often as far as it gets; I usually manage to forestall any actual activities and get back to writing, knitting and reading.

Oh - and tonight I'm involved in the Very Important Job of finishing up the super-delicious barbecued ribs I made last night with Lovely Daughter's Incomparable Sauce. Tomorrow morning I must literally and truly empty and scrub out my cupboards and pack away all the things in there which are TREF (pronounced "trayff"), meaning "stuff that is not kosher, and must therefore be entirely out of the house before the beginning of Passover." Passover starts tomorrow night at sundown, and we'll be going over to our dear friends' house for the seder as we do every year.

As a rather free-form Jew, rather than throwing away my non-kosher food in preparation for the holiday I take the more practical and acceptable stance of selling it to a non-Jew. That way none of it is wasted.

TRUE CONFESSION: Mr Dearling is not a Jew. I pack up all the tref , sell it to HIM (for a dollar; what a bargain!). He then takes it downstairs to a corner of the basement designated HIS SPACE ONLY (as in, "it doesn't belong to me, it is not part of my house in any way, shape or form") where it remains until after Passover, when I buy it back and put it away again.

Tomorrow I will go purchase my food for the eight days of Passover (not usually done on Saturday, the Sabbath; see above, "free-form Jew"), but I really do enjoy this. For one thing, I make a VERY acceptable and delicious Passover foods. Mr Dearling's a big fan of matzoh....I like it too, slathered generously with cream cheese and jelly. And he's not the only one - I'm under STRICT instruction to purchase ONLY Streit's Matzoh:

You probably know the old Jewish fascination with "tradition" -- in our household it extends even unto the short, four-legged Jews. Nothing for it, Manischewitz Matzohs don't make the cut. The cats tend to keep a more kosher diet than we do anyway. During Passover we never mix "meat" and "milk" dishes; the cats eat exclusively a meat diet. No worries.

I'm off to Late-Night-Knit now, hoping to find out if we have any unified plans for the Yarn Harlot's upcoming visit (Hog-and-Bloggers UNITE!) I 'spect the Sow's Ear will be fairly represented. I am already Officially Excited (and I saw her last year in Eau Claire)...furthermore, I'm still Riding the Wave of Excitement gathered from hugging Franklin of The Panopticon not one but THREE TIMES!! (I believe the correct expression here is something like "WOOT!") Watch this space.......more later!

Monday, April 7, 2008

"....equal marriage of the Sun and Frost"

It is the time of year when the native people in this area packed up the winter lodge and travelled to the maple forest where, each year, they came together with family and friends foir the process of making maple sugar. After a winter in isolation, spent indoors near the warmth of the fire, the sweetness of the sugar probably paled in comparison to the merriment of being reunited with loved ones and days spent in company.

It was also a time of intense labor, in which every person able to walk participated. Little ones could gather sticks and twigs to help the perpetual fires under the pots of boiling sap and there were jobs for all. It takes 40 gallons of maple sap, boiling non-stop, to evaporate down into one gallon of maple syrup - and the Indians didn't use syrup. Boiling a little longer made it thick enough to granulate, if stirred vigorously with a paddle, and it was then pushed into round molds cut into a log. The hard cakes of maple sugar can be stored for a very long time.

Last Saturday was one of those days when you know there WILL be a Spring. It was about 64 degrees, sunny and fresh. We had planned to go, as we do every year, to the MacKenzie Center (near Poynette, WI) where they have a large sugarbush and open it to the public for one day. The trees have been tapped, the buckets are full, and they have stations where folks show the tapping, the boiling - how the Native people made their sugar. They also sell t-shirts, &c. (Nature centers NEED fundraisers, I am here to tell you. You've been told.) At one place they have thin slices of dill pickle which have been marinating in maple syrup for three days to sample. NOTE: I looked at them and have to report: Mrs McSkeptic took one - and tried to figure out how I could change my appearance enough to go back a few more times. I'm going to "try this at home".

This is sap being collected in a clear bag; there was no one to ask how long it had taken to draw off this much sap. You can see that it's clear, and also that this is being a very GOOD year. The weather has been perfect (warm mornings, below freezing at night).

I have a little set at the Museum that I use to talk about the Native people making maple sugar in the spring, consisting of a jar of clear sap, a bottle of "genuine Wisoonsin Maple Syrup" and a few hard, puck-like cakes of maple sugar (which was the form the Indians used -- if someone kicked over an open makuk of syrup in the wigwam, well - there would be one mighty angry mom. I can say that with authority because I have a very vivid imagination.

As long as we were there, I had a new, clean jar and the intention of asking to fill it with the sap, to replace the two-year-old jar at the Museum. One of the staff led us to one of the regular buckets which was all but spilling over, and said "Help yourself, we'll probably just tip this out." (They can only boil up so much, they haven't the wherewithal to actually make up syrup. In spite of the fact that it's a rich sugarbush, they only tap a few trees for demonstration purposes.)

This is OUR tree, the source of our sap. The staff fellow showed me spots where it had been tapped in the past, many times. I used a paper cup to dip out the sap into our jar, and when it was full.....I filled the cup once more and drank it down, every drop. The sap is pretty much flavorless. It was cold, refreshing - but the only hint of sweetness in it was only in my Expectation. Someone may know what caused the Indians' discovery of boiling it down for hours and hours to make food (it's a 40:1 ratio, 40 gallons of sap makes one gallon of syrup) but I prefer to muse on that as one of the Great Mysteries.

All in all, an interesting and lovely day, balmy and fun. We did, of course, have the requisite little blob of ice cream with about a pint of maple syrup on it. TRUE CONFESSION: if I have nothing handy to put maple syrup on, I chug it from the bottle dip it directly from a spoon. Deal with it. (When you get to a Certain Age, you really can do whatever you want. Mostly.)

Afterward we stopped at our favorite Amish grocery. They have a lot of things in bulk (plastic bags) at very good prices; they have oddments that are hard to find elsewhere - for example, the very best supply of wicks and caps and things for oil lamps; and the BEST supply of candy anywhere.

It's mostly bulk too, These are anice mints, which are divine; I also always buy pretend twizzlers, which come in a variety of yummy flavors. This time I got Green Apple and Cinnamon. There's nothing like a nice chewy rope-y deal, I always say. They also have really good bulk packages of things like gravy mix and soup mixes. It's always very busy when we're there, although it's admittedly almost all "the english".

Oh, knitting? Why YES!

I found that, as advertised, my clever little knitting bowl does stay stable on the floor of the car, so I was able to make a little progress, at least, on my............on my........can you guess what I'm knittin' here?

It's a toque!!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Nothin' Says Fun like NEW STUFF!

1. A new experience: we went to Milwaukee to see the "Body Worlds" exhibit. Mr. Dearling had gotten the almost-prohibitive expensive tickets as a premium for supporting NPR. It's a large series of human bodies, preserved with some mystic alchemy (there was an explanation; it's alchemy to me). All had no skin. They were standing there in all their muscles and arteries and ligaments. I worried that I would be affected, knowing that they really were humans (read "dead people") but nothing of the kind. They were of such stunning beauty, so fascinating, it was such a remarkable experience. I loved it!

It was apparently a school holiday, and there were a LOT of kids there, especially teens. For the first third, there was a lot of pointing and giggling (they were almost all men, so they had penises and their little testicles on those cords) but after that even they were caught up in the amazement of the whole thing. There were text panels on the walls with beautiful illustrations and descriptions of the research of such people as Leonardo da Vinci, and the people were in natural poses....well, it's hard to describe, but was a truly thrilling, amazing experience.

A friend said to me "That's just creepy, where did they get all those dead bodies?" Well, they had a blow-up of the donation forms and documents, and each one explained with crystal clarity exactly WHAT the donors could expect would be done with their remains; how they would be treated, displayed, utliized. It was thoughtful, careful and thorough. One thing struck me interestingly: they all had their belly buttons, and I found that, for some reason, endearing. I respect each and every person who gave us the gift of their bodies. I won't spoil it for anyone who might be lucky enough to have the experience by being too descriptive, but suffice it to say - if you get the chance and have ANY curiosity about how we're all knitted up, go! One of my all-time favorite quotes was on the wall there:

"What a piece of work is Man, how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty - in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!"

2. The Lovely Daughter, after several weeks of increasing frustration and distress, got a new (to her) car! Her previous car, a 1978 Pontiac Phoenix (I'll wait while you chuckle or gasp in admiration) finally bought the farm. Even her attentive and thoughtful car doctor couldn't save it, it was gone. Now, she doesn't drive a lot. But in this 21st century, few of us live close enough to our workplaces or the market to walk there. She really DOES need a car. She was careful, thoughtful, and clear-headed. She now has a reliable, efficient, functional mode of transportation. (And 'sides, I'd call that really cute. So's the car.)

3. On Tuesday I had my last writing class (they liked my story) and after a stint at the Museum we came home, and I found THIS:

I knew what it was, but it wasn't due until the next day. After several futile attempts to get it open (that box is not smiling , it's leering) I broke down and got out the scissors. In a minute, I'll show you what it is, but first a word from -- ME. I was just loaned the 7th book by author Sandra Dallas, Tallgrass. I want to be her when I grow up; she has an absolute gift with being imaginative and evocative. Before you're at the bottom of the first page (of ALL of her books) you can see the dust in the road, smell the food in the stove in the kitchen and see the colors of the quilt on the frame. Picking up one of her books is, as we say, to "be in a happy place." I hope that's enough of a recommendation because you'll thank me.

4. OK - here is my swag from the last couple of days. The Amazon package was my copy of Stephanie's latest book. I'm sure I'll buy a copy when she comes here at the end of this month (gasp) but I wanted it NOW. That sound is my foot stomping, and the fun of being a grown-up is, (sometimes) you can have what you want NOW! The Dummy book is part of my swag from my Barnes & Noble gift card (THANK YOU MR DEARLING) and fits with my Birthday Resolution. (I've said it here publicly so's to not let myself poop out: I mean to PUBLISH this year!) (Forgive me while I now sit in the corner whimpering for a moment; saying it right out like that is scary ) **sniff** Kthx.

And the third item? Well! Are you familiar with the Knit Witch? Yes, another dear knit-blogger, but she also is a potter (among other talents) and she makes Yarn Bowls. These are ceramic bowls with a hole for yarn, so your little yarn cake can sit in a beautiful place while you knit and not roll all over the floor or toss around in the basket or roll around in your pocket.

5. See? It just holds a cake of Cascade 200 perfectly; the yarn can be slid through the slot into the hole and knitted straight off like mad. What this is, is a wonderful, delicious bit of knitter's luxury, a charming enhancement to the whole process of Knitting. Here's the deal.

When I sit down to knit, I Let Go. I relax, I settle in, and I start to knit...I love the tactile sensation of yarn sliding through my fingers, I love to let my eyes drink in the voluptuous color of the yarn; and...having a darling little bowl with my precious yarn in it is another sparkle of delight to the experience.

Isn't that just totally aesthetically-pleasing? If you want, you can put the yarn through the plain hole, if youi know you're going to knit right down to the end - but the hole with the slit for the yarn is PERFECT because then you can change out yarncakes/projects at will. Oh...there's something else too. I LOVE BOWLS! I enjoy eating out of bowls a lot, I love the looks of beautiful bowls with fruit or candy or mashed potatoes. I even like bowls of paperclips and stitch counters, get the image? And get this: my precious little knitty yarny bowl can be ET OUTTA! So I can knit out of it happily, and then carefully set aside the project and eat me some soup, wash it out, put the yarn back in....Knit Witch points out that they're even good for knitting in the car because they're sort of weighty on the bottom and won't flop around. Also? She has felt on the bottom, so you can set the bowl on Auntie's 17th century sideboard and not worry about scratching. (NOTE: if you have an auntie with 17th century furniture, please see me after the show.)

Along with all this booty (by which I mean "all the neat stuff I got") this week, the forecast is for daytime temperatures of 50 degrees and day next week is going to be partly-cloudy and 58. All of which means (and I dare not say this too loud lest the dwindling frost giants overhear and get pissy about it) SPRING IS NIGH!

Saturday we're going out to the sugarbush to watch (and help) maple sugaring. I'm going to get some fresh maple sap for the Museum. It's clear, you know, and watery, and doesn't taste anything but sort of woody. You expect it to be sweet, when you know what it is, but it's not. The truth is, when the Creator whispered the secret of making maple sugar, it was a really miraculous gift. There might be some other explanation for how they figured it out but that's the story I'm sticking with. Makes perfect sense to me.

Oh - and there's a pregnant man on Oprah. Welcome to the 21st century.