Saturday, May 31, 2008

My Turn, I Guess!

OK, this is my first successful MEME. (I was tagged for one awhile back and had no idea what it was or how to do it; I apologized to the tagger!) But I'm going to try this one. I was tagged by fellow Hog-and-Blogger Bethie of Chocolate Sheep, so I'm going to give it my best shot. Here are the rules:

The rules seem to go like this: The player answers some questions. (I'll say "answer ANY or ALL, your choice".) The player then chooses people he or she wants to know more about and tags those people by listing their names at the end of the post and going to their blogs and leaving a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Also, you let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

(These were gleaned from MEMEs.) I don't know if we're supposed to make up new questions or use others, so sort I'm sort of making it up as I go along. Ready? Here it goes:

What's the last book you read that you thought was really super, inspiring, you'd recommend it to most anyone?

There are a lot, but the one I recommended just yesterday is The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. It's a kid book, about a Metis child in the Fur Trade who lives on Madeleine Island in northern Wisconsin. I haven't successfully made it through any of Erdrich's grown-up books (but I have some and haven't given up on them yet) but this book is brilliant; I mention it to almost every tour group at the Museum. And now I'm mentioning it to you!

NOTE: There's a second book, The Game of Silence , which is a seamless continuation of the story of the Birchbark House; they could easily be bound as a single volume but that might intimidate the age group for which it's intended. But I'm sayin' - get them BOTH (the local libraries surely have them) because, being as they are intended for younger readers, you can whip through the both in pretty short order. They're evocative, interesting, tender, and there's a glossary in the back of Ojibway words. Soon as you're done here, get out and to to the library. Or, you know, if you're like me and are hopelessly weak have no resistance -- that is, enjoy supporting your local bookstores , go buy 'em. They're even not expensive, and I dont' get any kickback or anything, but let's just say if I did I'd order a whole POUND of Quiviut.

Tattoos: yes or no? Do you have any? Tell us! Do you think they're gross? TELL US!

Nope, I don't have any. But to be perfectly honest - I LIKE THEM! Of course, that's not just across the board; I like *nice* ones. Each of my children has tattoos. Lovely Daughter has a beautiful Eye of Ra on her upper arm; Son #1 has -- I think -- some sort of's well-done, not gross, and doesn't show unless he's not wearing a shirt. It's on his upper arm too. Son #2 has beautiful tattoos, including a colorful tiger face and a celtic depiction of the Two Ravens of Odin; he has a new one which I don't remember perfectly but it's in memory of his grandmother of blessed memory, and I'm almost tempted to duplicate it, smaller, somewhere on me. For me? Well -- I've threatened to get the Grateful Dead bears dancing around my ankle. The kids tell me ankle tats HURT. But I may get some sort eventually. Heck - another advantage to being my age: probably where it is has ALREADY sagged!
NOTE: Son #2 asked/told us he was going to get a tattoo when he was pretty young yet...16, I think. Mr Dearling said "Great idea, Son #2. In fact, I'll pay for it!" (Time allowed for open-mouthed gawping from both son and mother.) "Only thing is," continues Mr Dearling, "I get to decide either what it is, or where it goes ." Even at his densest, Son #2 didn't fall for it, and waited until he was a little older before beginning his skin art. GOTTA love Mr Dearling.

Where have you lived?

Not so many as a lot of people have. I was born in Minot, North Dakota (!!) and moved to Minneapolis when I was about two years old. In 1961 I moved to St. Paul to live in the dorm at Macalester. That was GREAT -- far enough that Dad wasn't eyeballing me all the time, but close enough that he could bring me some money over if I needed it. I had an off-campus apartment for my last year there (my second year-- I didn't graduate) and then Mr Lovely Daughter's dad and I moved back to a friendly apartment in Minneapolis. There was a very weird time in there involving a divorce we didn't want and his going off to 'Nam. From there I moved to California, where I spent six months (and learned that I am a Midwesterner .) I met Mr. Dad of Son #2 there; we moved back to Madison, ultimately divorced (oh, yeah, we wanted that one!) and I've happily been here since. Since joinin' up with Mr Dearling, I'd have to say I love it here a lot, and I think I'm fortunate in our cozy little nest. (Madison is actually very much like Minneapolis)

Do you listen to the radio? What are your favorite programs, & on what station?

Pretty much only two stations: Wisconsin Public Radio is on all day Sunday. "To the Best of Our Knowledge", "All Things Considered", "Prairie Home Companion", "Whaddya Know", "This American Life", "Simply Folk", "Old-Time Radio Drama"...and others. The car radio is almost always on WPR too. The other station, which we have and you don't, Neener Neener Neener (unless you live in this area or have a streaming computer which you can clean up that mind right now, you know what it is) is WORT, "Back-Porch Radio". It's our independent listener-owned radio station with a wide variety of cool local programming. The Monday morning show is folk music from all over the world and on Friday Bill Malone has a program. Even in this day and age of so many electronic opportunities, I listen to my radio a LOT. Oh, and I watch the teevee. But that's for another time.

Is there a movie that makes you cry no matter how many thousands of times you see it?

You've got me here. First, a disclaimer: I cry over the Coca-Cola commercials at Christmastime. Got the picture? OK, having said that, historical movies in general can get to me; I shed demure tears into my tissue in "Dances with Wolves", "Last of the Mohicans" and "Black Robe". But the big-time winners are "Somewhere in Time", where I cried openly at the end and sniffled and snurked for about a half-hour afterward, and...."Stealing Heaven". That's the Ultimate. It's a wonderfully-made retelling of the French "romaunce" of Heloise and Abelard, and the fact that it's based on a true story kicks it up a notch. First time I saw that, I hadn't read the story and had NO idea what was coming. NOTE: I was also deep in the throes of one of my last bouts of PMS, and "raging hormones" doesn't even TOUCH what happened to me. In a word (fortunately for all concerned, Mr Dearling was not at home - suffice it to say, my cat-at-the-time fled in terror. As the movie drew to a close.....I quite LITERALLY threw myself on the floor sobbing, a real ugly-cry hiccup-causing sobbing, resulting in my lying on the floor in a pile of sodden tissues with swollen red eyes, a runny red nose and sticky hair. My GAWD that's a good movie.

What snacks do you enjoy?

You're asking a Jewish Mother what she likes for a nosh? OY VEY! I go on binges. (If you hear rumors, remember, you heard it here FIRST!) At the moment I'm on a walnut-chunks-and-dried-cranberries kick. Maybe with almonds. I bought some "trail mix" at Target (yay, Target!) which had those nuts and cranberries -- with little white chocolate chips. I liked the white chocolate chips...because I could find them easily and pick 'em out. So I says to myself, says I, "How dumb is THAT? Make your own!" and I have. Can't say as I notice any improvement in ... you know, regularity or all that fiber-y stuff smiling people on the teevee talk about, but it's tasty. I like savory stuff too -- stuffed mushrooms, smoked oysters. I'm almost afraid to mention *this* for fear of being thought unAmerican, but - I'm not huge on chocolate. I like it sometimes, and say (with appropriate modesty) that I make the finest hot fudge sauce on this whole planet. But I'm no kind of chocoholic. NOTE: my hot fudge sauce on coffee ice cream has been known to make grown men weep. Well - it was my son, and I didn't have any more, but still.

OK - there it is. I'm going to tag Marjorie , and Alyson , and kmkat . NOTE: OPTIONAL! If you think this would be fun, go for it; I will not be offended if you'd rather not. This is sort of by way of an experiment, OK? Another NOTE: this was difficult for me, don't know as I'll be inclined to try it again soon. Just sayin'. Fun, but not like knitting.

Why, Thank You, Thank You!

Brief note, if I may be so bold: I WON! There was a caption contest on Itty Bitty Kitty Committee (you many need to scroll down past some eye-wateringly precious kitten portraits to "And the Winner Is....") which (I bet you could guess this) I won! The picture is Jerry Lee (with the tongue) and Lovell, the orange dreamsicle.

If you're not on to this website - consider yourself educated now. Laurie, the proprietor, is hands- ... erhm ... PAWS-down the most gifted Picture-Takerer of kittens on this side of the Universe, and I peek in on those adorable mites of kittenness every single day.

Thanks, caption voters! prize? a tenderly-warmed heart every day for the rest of the year, guaranteed! I AM a winner! (You can have it too, check it out!)

Editor's Note: two days after this, because of internal problems that could not be taken care of, little Jerry Lee had to be helped by the loving vet to cross the Rainbow Bridge. I love the proprietors of Itty Bitty Kitty Committee and absolutely know that if there were ANYthing that could have been done, it would have been done. No barriers of expense or time would've had any effect. They gave Jerry Lee a day of pure bliss and joy (including playing in the big outside, something Indoor Kitties never have) before allowing him to cross the Rainbow Bridge. I'm going to donate to our Shelter - partly in Jerry Lee's name, partly to honor those loving, caring people in Washington.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Footnote on Fairchild

A little more on my Civil War hero: it occurred to me that I hadn't mentioned, in the caption of my Fairchild photo in my last post, the obvious fact of his "empty sleeve". It's a very good story and I wanted to share it (we tell it to the Museum groups if we have time).

It was in the Battle at Gettysburg that Fairchild led his men into battle, where - unrelenting in spite of great losses, they carried on, earning them the name "Iron Brigade". Also on that occasion, Fairchild took a shot in his left arm which shattered the elbow. The medics were called, and he reputedly ordered bandaging that would permit him to continue on with his men. (I cannot imagine the scene without a catch in my throat: the smoke, the pain and shock of the wound, the shouts of the men around's the "overactive imagination of the reenactor".)

But his men, whose devotion is referred to in countless letters, insisted that he be borne off the field where he would have access to laudanum to dull the pain of the inevitable amputation.

He was in fact taken to the home of a minister in the town of Gettysburg who was a friend of the Fairchild family. There, his vest was cut from shoulder to arm opening and removed, and (we are told) sufficient laudanum was administered and the arm was removed above the shattered elbow. We can only assume some form of cauterization (I'm not taking my above-mentioned imagination there, if you don't mind) and the wound was bound up. There is, in the file, a letter written the next day; the text is thick and black and huge, indicating either the effects of the laudanum ... or the pain as it had worn off, I will assume the former, thank you.

We also read that the morning following his surgery he insisted on stepping out on the front porch of the home to salute his men as they marched past. His dismembered arm had been discreetly buried in the back garden of the minister's home.

Lucius returned to Madison and his family. He was feted as the returning hero he was and, as previously mentioned, in time served three terms as the 10th Governor of the State of Wisconsin. Later in his life, he went into Government Service and served as diplomatic Ambassador in Spain and England; I haven't here at hand details and years, but I do have John Singer Sargent's rendering of Diplomat Lucius Fairchild , which painting shows what a splendid figure of man he was in his later years.

But there is (as you might suspect, what with me telling it and all) more than that to the story. Upon his return to Madison he and Frank took up residence in the old Fairchild home, and the reputation for the very best hospitality continued. But he was troubled...badly "ghost pains". He concluded that they must be caused because surely, when the arm was buried in Gettysburg, it must have been put in a box causing it to be in a cramped position. So he wrote to his family friend and asked that the arm be disinterred and sent to him at home, here in Madison.

The story goes, the arm was returned, and he repositioned it and buried it in his own yard of the house on Lake Monona. The treatment was successful, and he was bothered no more.

Now - when Mr Dearling tells the story at the Museum, he sometimes makes some reference to going to visit the State Office Building now on the former site of the Fairchild home after a heavy rain and looking to see if there are fingers poking up in the flower beds around that building.........the 4th graders absolutely RELISH stories like that! He does, however, continue by saying that, in fact, when the old Governor died his wishes were followed: the arm was disinterred again and buried with him, so that he was "returned to dust" as a whole and complete man.

During the Civil War, as we all know, amputations were the only way to deal with wounded limbs; there was no treatment guaranteed to forestall infection followed certainly by death. It is also known that, in the 19th century, men who lost limbs were considered disfigured, incomplete, indeed "only a part of a man", and records indicate a very high rate of suicide among men who were sure they no longer had their virility and usefulness.

Lucius Fairchild is credited to changing that image, by wearing his empty sleeve pinned not underneath as was the custom, but rather to the front of his coat , as you see in my previous illustration and his Sargent portrait above. He wore it as a point of pride and convinced other veterans to feel the same. There is one biography of Fairchild appropriately called "The Empty Sleeve" by S. Ross. I do not concur with everything he says, but it is a fairly complete biography paying, of course, the greatest attention to the Civil War years.

Lucius and Frank had three beautiful daughters and the Historical Society has a picture of a merry group in the back yard of the Fairchild home, an elderly Lucius and his daughters and some of their young friends. The letters indicate that all of the girls' friends loved spending time during the summer "up at Madison among the Fairchilds".

In conclusion, a note about Frances Bull Fairchild , the beautiful young orphan girl Lucius met in Washington DC and eventually married. She was some years younger than her husband, was Frank Fairchild, and a girl uncharacteristically forthright for the 19th century. My favorite story about her, which I think reveals not only her character but what a fine wife and First Lady she was, is as follows:

It is a little-known fact (I daresay unknown , outside of the state) that, on the day of the Chicago fire, a desperately serious fire obliterated the town of Peshtigo in northern Wisconsin, destroying 2,400 square miles and taking over between 1,200 and 2.400 lives (there was no way to accurately account for lumberjacks, trappers, homesteaders and native people were in the area.

News of the Chicago fire was wired all over the country, and upon receiving the news Lucius was given funds, got on a train and travelled to Chicago to offer whatever aid he could and to see if there might be ways the people of Wisconsin could help. However, he no sooner stepped off the train than he was handed a telegram from his wife saying, in essence, "Peshtigo in flames, all is lost!" He immediately returned to the train and came straight back to Madison. Here is where Frances Fairchild, the lady-like much-touted hostess of the Governor's home, showed her true colors....

By the time Lucius Fairchild returned to Madison, Frances had gathered together as many wagons as she could, seen them provisioned with food and clothing, drafted every available physician in the city of Madison and rounded up a large corps of volunteers -- and sent them on their way north to Peshtigo! She did not wait for her husband's directive or instruction but acted on her own, guaranteeing that assistance was on its way immediately.

By the way - in her portrait Frances is wearing a court gown designed by Charles Frederick Worth of Paris, France, which she wore when they were presented at the Spanish court of King Alfonso XII and Queen Teresa, Madrid, Spain, 1880.

I imagine you can tell now why I'm so enamored and fascinated by this wonderful First Family of Madison and of Wisconsin!

NOTE: If you'd like more information on the Peshtigo Fire in northern Wisoonsin (October 8, 1871 same as Chicago, don't ya know), there are at least three excellent books about it which can no doubt be found in the local libraries.

I will now resume normal programming.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial Day, remembered

Monday was Memorial Day. Let me begin by saying "Thank you" (inadequate as that is) to all of the Servicemen and women. Oh, I know, I've been your hippie anti-war protesting sort; I was always quick to say "Fighting for Peace is like F***ing for Virginity" and other assorted colorful phrases. I'm no less anti-war now than I was then -- but I'm NOT anti-soldier, and I was very troubled by the fact that my friends and college-mates who went off to Viet Nam were not feted upon their return but often encountered idiots asking them why they were so stupid as to go. So I DO honor soldiers, and I do most earnestly mourn the loss of those men and women whose faces I see on the teevee, who are at this point more than ten years younger than my youngest child, and whose losses make the back of my eyes hurt.

I'm in love with a guy. Mr Dearling knows this, and not only condones it but brags about it. The guy I'm in love with is a Dead Civil War Guy, Lucius Fairchild , seen here as a young man returned to Madison from the Civil War. The photo is from 1865; the next year he was elected 10th Governor of the State of Wisconsin, in which position he served three terms.

Here's how it came about: in 1995 I "met" a fellow named Tim Fairchild on line, in a Living History chat room, and when he learned I was in Madison, he asked me to look up his ancestor, Lucius. (Tim was a Civil War reenactor living in NJ at the time.) I did, and found his family plot at Forest Hill Cemetery, the municipal cemetery dating back to the earliest days of the city. This is the obelisk marking the family plot. In the immediate plot are buried Lucius; his wife Frances (he called her, affectionately, "Frank"); his parents, Sally and Jairus (Jairus was the first Mayor of Madison); Lucius' older sister, Sarah Conover; and his older brother Cassius, another Civil War soldier who ultimately died from a wound sustained in battle.

Now, I've said more than once that I'm totally terrible at math. However, when I found the family plot I was able to figure out that - the next year (1996) would mark the centennial anniversary of Lucius' death. And Tim and I began to plan a small memorial service. As it turned out, Lucius had died on May 23, 1896, which falls on or close to Memorial Day each year.

In a word, a year of planning resulted in the following: We held a small service at the graveside for the reenactors of the Iron Brigade, which Fairchild led into battle at Gettysburg. I found a picture of Lucius and had it enlarged and framed (we leaned it against his headstone), I was able to arrange for a small group of reenactors of a Civil War band to come and play, in their Union uniforms, and I wrote a small booklet and had it printed to serve as a program.

I was aided in this by Mr. Thomas Johnson, president at the time of the local chapter of the Sons of the Union Veterans. Tim arranged to fly out for it, and for a brief visit.

The result, in spite of the fact that it was cool and rainy, was a very nice ceremony. We remarked, in fact, that Fairchild had died during a fierce thunderstorm, described in the newspaper of the time as a fitting tribute to a great soldier.....

During Tim's visit I had the privilege of accompanying him to the State Historical Society headquarters on campus where the head Curator took us down into the labyrinthine bowels of the building and showed us, all white-gloved and silent, the vest Lucius was wearing - which had been cut off - to facilitate the amputation of his left arm. We also went to the Wisconsin Veterans' Museum on the Square and the Curator there showed us, again white-gloved and awestruck, some of his uniforms and sashes and so on.

Editor's note: come visit Madison some time; I'll show you the Vets' Museum, our historical Museum (including the best little Fur Post in Wisconsin) and other Very Cool stuff!

During the time between our initial decision and the ceremony itself, I found that there are over 90 boxes of personal correspondence and papers, gathered and saved by sister Sarah...and I began transcribing them. I need to find my notes and resume - I'd like to write an article (or perhaps more) about the Fairchild family. To say simply that they were "Madison's First Family" doesn't do it - they were truly known for their great hospitality, and their letters reveal a warm, loving, educated and interesting family; the truth is, I fell in love with the whole lot of them. Reading people's letters is an introduction, and I felt like those movies where you see someone reading and then you hear the voice of the writer.....

Anyway, since 1996 I have gone every year to the cemetery and planted something nice at the stones before Memorial Day. May I add: on the occasion of our ceremony we had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting Mrs Sally Fairchild Reuter, who is in fact Lucius' great-great-granddaughter. She was near 80 at the time, and an absolute hoot! She comes every Memorial Day too, often before her afternoon golf game. She's very active in the Colonial Dames who are responsible for maintaining and exhibiting the Indian Agency at Portage, Wisconsin, a true gem of an historical site. She explained that she sleeps in the bed Jairus Fairchild brought here from Ohio when the family moved to Madison in 1846! (She invited me over for tea one day and showed me not only the bed but other furniture and paintings and heirlooms of the family, and I just love seeing her. God willing I'll be just like her in fifteen years! I don't see her often, but she always comes out on Memorial Day.)

There's a very nice ceremony here on Memorial Day: at Forest Hill there are two areas designated "Soldiers' Rest", on each side of the main Mausoleum. On the left is found Union Rest, and on the right Confederate Rest. There are 100 stones marking the graves of men who died in the Civil War. (The Confederate soldiers buried here died at Camp Randall, the prison camp here in town, and I find their graves very poignant indeed, as the truth is, they were probably very young, very frightened, homesick and lonely, and likely many died from dysentary and other wretchednesses, far from home and cold.)
At each site there is a small service; there is a small representative group of reenactors of the Iron Brigade, a squad of Veterans to fire a salute (this year I think might have been the first that did not have any veterans of World War II included) and a Color Guard. There are speeches, a prayer and concluding remarks at the Union Rest - and then everyone marches down to Confederate Rest where a similar service is held. There are Confederate reenactors present as well. It's actually very moving indeed....OK, I admit it, I cry my eyes out every year. I usually make it until the playing of "Taps", but then it's all over for me.

For the occasion, small American flags are placed at each Union grave - and small Confederate state flags at Confederate Rest. (See above right.)

Here is the Color Guard forming up - again, this year there were no representatives from WW II, I believe. There was an additional bit this year: the ashes of a very old flag were carried by The Widow (a woman present every year wearing the "high mourning" of the Civil War) and her escort, an Eagle Scout. At the appropriate time, they proceeded to the base of the large flagpole in the center of Union Soldiers' Rest and there scattered the ashes of the flag. Comments were made about those men who "carried the colors" in the Civil War, and how many tales of bravery...from both sides...of boys falling, only to have the flag taken up by another soldier and carried forward again.

Following these very moving ceremonies - since our day in 1996 - the Iron Brigade reenactors form up and march up to the Fairchild plot. This is not part of the "public ceremony" as advertised in the paper, and the only "public" attendees are usually two or three folks who follow along out of curiosity. At the gravesite the leader of the Brigade makes a few patriotic comments about Fairchild and a volley is fired in his honor under the watchful eye of myself and Sally and Mr Dearling - then they march back down to the Union Rest to disband and enjoy the rest of their day.

I like to think that Sally's ancestral family is gathered, watching us all: Sally and Jairus observing their wonderful descendant, sister Sarah nodding approvingly at me, and Lucius, bride Frances and brother Cassius exchanging bemused looks. The last couple of years the leader asks his soldier-reenactors if anyone has any comments before he begins...they never have. NEXT year, I'm going to step up and say, "May I?" and deliver a shortened version of the speech I delivered on our Centennial Memorial Day; it is my earnest hope that I can end by saying something about our own soldiers coming home, but that's just the old hippie talking.

Note: Mr Johnson passed away in 2005; after seeing him on Memorial Day for nine years I arrived that year to see the tripod of muzzle-loaders with his kepi on top and his shoes. I was invited, to join his predecessor and others at a small memorial in the mausoleum. I visit him every year, mindful of his enthusiastic assistance to some ol' lady from Madison who wanted to honor a "dead Civil War guy" on the 100th anniversary of his death. Mr. Johnson was a man of dignity and elegance not seen so much any more, and I really do miss him every Memorial Day.

Monday, May 26, 2008

And the Winner Is..........

RANDI! with her guess of 58 toques! By my best reckoning, and verified by e-mail to Lovely Daughter, the actual number of toques knitted as of the date of my Blogiversary (May 11) was (everyone over there sitting down?) SIXTY-THREE (63) toques. Randi, if you'll e-mail me (address in profile) your information I will send off your Spectacular Prizes!

For those who may not know - a "toque" is a cap associated with the French and French-Canadian Voyageurs during the Fur Trade era. You see lots of pictures depicting the voyageurs in their canoes, and almost invariably they're wearing red knitted caps. A bit of research showed me that the originals looked like knitted footballs; they're then folded in on themselves to the preferred length.

Here you can see how the same toque can be worn in different ways. Well - no, the SAME way, but with a varying length.

The preferred color for toques is "red"; however, within that description you have your brick, your maroon, your burgundy, your ruby.....other popular colors are "French bleu" and the occasional green. Because they're easy for me to knit I really DO (ignore all that complaining) enjoy knitting them.

After making toques for some handsome, studly young reenactor friends of ours (whom we have "adopted" as "nephews") I found myself with requests, and so began my career of knitting toques on commission.

Now, a ship went down in the middle of the 18th century in the icy Canadian waters which effectively preserved much of the contents. The ship was The Machault , and among the wealth of material goods on board was found a knitted toque. My pattern nearly replicates this, which means that I have some historical documentation for it. This is valuable information for historical reenactors, let me tell you. Serious reenactors fancy looking as close as possible to what history tells us we would've looked like, had we in fact lived in New France, circa 17something.

As a result, (if I may say so) my toques became known in our crowd and while I piss, moan, whine, chafe, stomp demur slightly, I must likewise admit to being proud that my toques are enjoyed, and that they ARE "close to the original" to a degree. One of my "nephews" has actually travelled to see the exhibit of items from the shipwreck, and having a knowledgeable eye (and a knitterly bride) he said that it appeared to him that the original had been made of what we would call approximately worsted weight, and probably on larger needles - something like 7s, perhaps. Much easier than if it were very fine wool on those blasted, confounded very thin knitting pins!

THAT is how I've wound up making 63 toques. There have been very few weeks that I did NOT have a toque on the needles. But it happened! I finished the very last toque, which will arrive at its owner's home in Nova Scotia later this week (depending, of course, on how long it takes getting through Customs, &c). NOTE: when I send off a toque, I include a monograph on the history of le toque in the life of the voyageurs; a sheet on the care of the toque (like voyageurs ever had time to run into town and use the laundromat); a description of the importance to the voyageurs of Ste Anne -- and I affix a small Ste Anne medal to each toque with an 18th-century style straight pin.

FYI: I have, for almost each and every toque, used Cascade 220. It comes in a rich assortment of reds as well as proper dusty grey-blues which pass to my eye as "French Bleu" and many delicious shades of greens and natural colors as well. The exceptions have been some made of Lopi Lite (nice, but a tad scratchy) and once or twice Lamb's Pride (although the likelihood of a knitter in New France running into mohair is just a tad on the side of YEAHRIGHTNOWAY and FUGEDDABOUTIT). If you know what I mean. I usually use either #6 or #7 DPNS, but have used #5s and #8s.

I've since made a few dishcloths (the common granny kind); I've made some progress on a baby wrap, cast on a sock (I think the appropriate word here is WOOT! ); made progress on a scarf and dug out my felted slipper pattern.

"But WAIT", as they say on late-night teevee - "there's MORE!" One of my customers sent me a copy of an e-mail he sent to a fellow he heard from. The fellow had apparently seen and admired HIS toque and asked where he got it . Soooooo...there'll be another commission coming around the bend, I ween. ("Ween" is a sort of medieval-ish word meaning "betcha hunnert bucks".)

Therefore! Again, CONGRATULATIONS TO RANDI (I think it's "Blogless Randi") and I will reveal what her panoply of posh prizes is when I know she's gotten them. No way I'll spoil the surprise!

Oh - and thanks to everyone who guessed! And to my fellow Hog-and-Bloggers and dear companions at The Sow's Ear: if you hear me griping about toques, feel free to stick out your tongue and say "You know you love 'em."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quick Reminder, while running....

This, I am delighted to report, is my back yard! The ground cover is wild wood violets, and although they don't show so much, they range from deepest purple to white and this yard is my great delight. (Mr Dearling likes it too - no mowing!)

However, this is a reminder: Today is the last day of my First Blogiversary Contest! The question was, "Guess how many toques I've knitted?" I e-mailed the correct number some days ago to the Lovely Daughter for verification. This is because I am honest, and besides that I'm a Notary Public, which means I am certifiable documentably honest.

DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES IS MIDNIGHT TONIGHT, MAY 25, central daylight time. Why yes, I AM always up that late. What's your point? I am old, and can stay up as long as I want, so there. Even eating Stuff that's Bad for Me.

I am hurrying now, as it is my time to go plant some attractive blooms at the gravesite of Lucius Fairchild, Civil War hero and 10th Governor of Wisconsin, about whom more later. I do this each year and it's a very special time for me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Writing on the Road....

...while I can, because tomorrow I'll be home! I'm going to synopsize here (well, it may not be a word, but I just used it so there. Neener) and devote a proper post to talking about the trip when I'm back in my nest home. I'm also going to try to do me a tutorial or wossname, because I do have lots of pictures and want to share some with you.

I can also tell you that, on these journeys, Mr Dearling drives. Every mile, every hour, every inch. I passeng. I also read, knit or sleep. It is not lost on me that this is yet another blessing I have in Mr Dearling: he likes to drive, for one; also he reads maps the way some folks read romance novels. (More to the point, he understands them. I am strictly a "turn right at the tree that looks like a possum and go until you find that building that used to be a gas station, back when the Olsen farm still had all them cows" kinda girl.)

You'll notice that he does have help from Earnest-the-dashboard-dog. Earnest is not just another pretty face, he's a working dog - it's his job to hold onto those little cards you get in a parking garage, because if you lose that little card you have to pay as though you'd been there for twelve hours. Which is a LOT of money.

I have to say, my intention was to write the day's events every evening, being as the house we all stayed it did in fact have WiFi. And surely you may have noticed...that did not happen. Why not, Dale-Harriet? Are you a lazy slacker easily distractable? Funny you should mention. As it turned out, there were side trips to take, meals to enjoy,sights to see, sites to see, relatives and friends-of-relatives-now-friends-of-ours on the premises. There were a couple of days when all of the above, being a largely healthy-outdoors-y kind of crowd, went out for hikes in the beautiful environs, and I, being largely sedentary less inclined along those lines, spent the day in solitude either knitting (one day I discovered a "Firefly" marathon on the teevee) or actually, really, genuinely writing ! I polished a story I'd written in class, found and continued a story I'd begun a long time ago, and got a start on a couple of other inspirations. By the time everyone had gone to bed, I read all my daily blogs, IM'd with the Lovely Daughter or others, did a little research for above-mentioned stories - and then got to the point where it was either Go to Bed or explain having the keyboard imprinted on my face - and a whole page of whatever letter my nose happened to land on. NOTE: it has really and genuinely and truly happened, and is not a pretty sight and probably wasn't good for Daisy either!

So these words are being written from my bed in a Super 8 in the vicinity of Cleveland, OH and I will sort my notes, tidy up my pictures, and recount the high points of a very pleasant Time Away for y'all. Some thoughts to ponder while you wait:

Walnuts and dried cranberries are GOOD (and no doubt healthy as all get-out, from a "at my age I'm supposed to get a lot of fiber" viewpoint).

Our family members are patient, and didn't complain when we hung around Fort Carillon for what must have seemed like nine hours. (It was actually something over two hours - oh, and for those of you of the British History persuasion, that's "Fort Ticonderoga" to you.)

It is possible to spend five days with eleven people ALMOST "24/7" and enjoy all of their company all of the time.

Price Choppers are good grocery stores.

Mr Dearling (and sisters) (and helpful friends) make terrific gnocchi. By hand. From scratch. And if you ever want to taste better you're going to have to wait until you get to heaven, because their grandma's was reputedly better. Speaking as a nice little Jewish girl from Minot, North Dakota - you're not likely to find better gnocchi on this side of the Great Beyond, so fuhgettaboutit.

Visiting yarn shops randomly across the country is as much fun as I thought it would be. "Details at 11:00".

The gods really ARE skeptical about my visiting Ste Marie among the Iroquois; after three times going only to find it closed, today we actually made it! And it was genuinely cold with a very stiff wind, and we couldn't stay in the outside Mission site very long at all. (But the inside museum part was great and I got some fabulous pictures - digital cameras don't care if it IS cold and windy.)

And lastly: I do most earnestly and sincerely wish we had a Wegman's grocery store out by us. I most earnestly and sincerely do wish that. I even got some Paul Newman wintergreen mints in a tin with a polar bear on it. I am not making that up.
This is a RED trillium (!) as seen by Mr Dearling on a hike on Hadley Mountain.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Year and a Week...and a contest!

First: Happy Mother's Day. (A week late, I know.) If you ARE a mother, chances are it went by so fast you hardly noticed. I remember the Mother's Days of my children's youth - there hangs in my memory a chain of breakfast trays holding burnt toast, rubbery eggs and cold tea. These are descriptors and not commentary. I loved every charred crumb. But the day can be lost in the swirl of diapers, field trip permission slips, pediatrician's offices and puke. (Why is it that when our infants spit up a little bit we croon "Oh, sweetie, does we feel better now?" with no foreshadowing of the same thing happening when he's nine and the 32 hotdogs he ate to outdo his buddy reappear - and always on the carpet, NEVER on the linoleum of the kitchen?) Sorry - that mental image came to ME unbidden, I couldn't help myself.

NOTE: The picture is my Mother's Day present from Mr Dearling. She's tiny, less than 3" tall, this Mother Bear. Her cub is a separate figure, and although it fits in against her, when you set the little cub aside you see that the Mother is the nurturer; all of you mothers of little ones know the incredible depth to which that is true. Children are fed with nourishment in such a myriad of ways, from the milk from breast or gently-warmed bottle to the cheering from the stands - in a pouring rain - for the soccer game, when the little tyke never gets within ten yards of the ball and you're jumping up and down and shouting "GOOD ONE!" So even though I'm writing a week after the actual Mother's Day, I know (and you do too) that every day is Mother's Day.

Here's another kind of Mother's Day - our nephew Dan graduates with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Skidmore College (our reason for being in NY). I admit it, I got tears in my eyes. Mr Dearling pointed out that we should be saying "Congratulations!" to all those parents who made it possible for all those graduates to do so. Congratulations, Geri & Steve! I'd say that's a good job, very well-done.

NOTE: I know, I said I'd be "blogging on the road"...and I - erh...uhm...haven't been very good about it. Something about a large group of friends and family in a lovely house on a beautiful lake in a gorgeous part of New York; suffice it to say, my next post will be photo-heavy (yeah, that new camera works GOOD!) and "detail-y". This is NOT an excuse, but is an explanation. Now back to your regular local programming.

Now to the MEAT of this post! Today my blog is ONE YEAR AND ONE WEEK OLD!! Yep, I've been blogging (sometimes less than more) for a solid year! I can hardly believe it myself, but I started on our 21st anniversary, and here we are. Yes, I hear you, back there at the back: "Dale-Harriet, for petessakes, it's been a whole year and you're still not up to snuff on this picture-posting thing." Guilty as charged - does Intention to Improve count? (Lawsy but I hope so, my whole life runs that way!) I have to say that I really enjoy this whole blogging thing. It's a very good exercise in writing, although I've noticed that when I am, I am often ignoring my cats, my kniting and my reading. Another area for improvement, non?

That being said, I've noticed among the GOOD bloggers (and I read a lot of them with delight and admiration) it's fairly customary to offer, on the blogiversary, a Contest of some sort - and I'm here to tell you, I'm going to follow suit. Because it seems to me (after looking back and rereading some of my own posts) that my life is generally very much like a circus, so the prizes will be related to that.

So here's the contest: Guess how many toques I have knitted? I have e-mailed the answer to Lovely Daughter (who will therefore not be entering, and yes, I do recognize her various aliases and noms de plume) - and the winner will be whoever guesses the closest without going over. The number is between one (raucous laughter) and 100 (hysterical laughter). I will also add that I do NOT currently have a toque on the needles. There IS one I'll need to start up sometime soon, but that one won't count because it's not even cast on yet. NOTE: I am taking a toque-sabbatical; there's no rush for the next and I'm wildly enjoying content to work on other things for a while.

The deadline for entries is one week from today, that being (she shuffles through her ever-present datebook, the loss of which would mean she wouldn't know when to go to the bif) and says " Sunday, May 25 " is the deadline for the contest.

I leave you today with photographic proof that I DID knit in the car on the way here to New York: I finished it in time to be of use and we've used it to do dishes every day. You may recognize it as The Easiest Knitting One Can Do; i.e., a perfect project for mindless driving which results in Something Useful. I've made a lot of Idiot Dishrags on trips (the truth is, I really enjoy knitting I've said, I'm a Process Knitter, always pleasantly surprised when I bind off and discover that I have something !) Also, I'm a Happy Idiot.

And because I'm honest -- or perhaps to prove what I said about being a "process knitter" -- this is a piece I began in the My So-Called Scarf pattern, which I LOVE! I think it's so much fun to knit, even *I* found it easy to memorize, but interesting enough to keep my attention. However... because I'm not so smart -- that is, because I'm a Process Knitter -- I got pretty far, then made a mistake and wound up binding off and throwing it away THREE TIMES more than once. It was not exotic or costly yarn, and while that's wasteful, it really IS just plain fun to knit! Now, if I do that again I'll felt 'em and use them - anyone got any ideas for thick useless little Knitted Square Things? But I recommend the pattern for all of you good knitters out there. Perhaps with the admonition to pay attention or be less lazy patient enough to tink if necessary. Just sayin'.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Birth Day, of sorts...

The Gates of Heaven

This is a very historic building. It was originally a synagogue on Washington Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin, and it was where the Jews in the Capitol fled to mourn upon receiving the news that President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated.

It was saved; I don't know its entire history but it was eventually moved (!) to a lovely park right on Lake Mendota and placed in the loving care of the Parks Department. Today it can be rented, and it sees every possible manner of merriment and festivities of a wide variety of faiths, causes, and celebrations.

It was in this building, twenty-two years ago today, the Mr Dearling and I were married! We had lived together for four years, during which time he proposed to me with some regularity. My thinking during those years went something like this:
"The commitment is clear and strong. We're bonded for life."
"We're a pair of old hippies, we don't need no steenkin' piece o' paper."
"We have everything we could possibly want, what difference would it make?"

That was what I thought...until some time before Valentine's Day 1986 when it suddenly hit me that he was EARNEST! In spite of being a free-thinking, liberal, aging hippie like myself, he had a real streak of traditional which certainly I, as a Jew, should have recognized. And I'd been laughing at his proposals, how embarrassing is that? (Try OY! EMBARRASSING!)

So on Valentine's Day I gave him a card with a fancy sportscar on the front - the license plate said, simply, "Yes". We went to Burnie's Rock Shop to get an engagement ring, and I found a very pretty sterling setting and picked out a wonderful triangular faceted garnet. (Garnets purify the thoughts, clarify the mind and warm the heart.) Unfortunately, though, Burnie couldn't put that stone into the setting I liked, so Mr Dearling chose a soft sea-green star sapphire which, might I add, is as clear today as it was 22 years ago. The planning of the wedding was simple. We decided on May, which was distant enough that his sweet parents could come, and we informally invited my sister and her husband and a few friends. We arranged for the use of the Gates of Heaven (May 10 was a Saturday that year too - AND the day before Mother's Day!). Mr Dearling's sisters and their husbands planned to come too, the one from St. Paul and the other lived here in town.

Now, Mr Dearling had been along for the ride during my children's teen years, and I don't mind telling you, there were times when *I* was ready to stomp out and leave them with him, but I cared too much for him to do that. Besides, I'm ever the optimist. (May I say, on the eve of Mother's Day, my faith was not misplaced; my children are admirable people, though I must give credit where due: Mr Dearling's influence was well-timed and effective.

Interestingly, I discovered that children are somewhat traditional too! MY youngest, #2 Son, literally breathed a sigh of relief and confided that he was really glad "because now I know what to call him." Hadn't occurred to me, but he'd struggled with references or introductions. "This is my mom's...." Now 43-year-old women don't have "boyfriends". Parents don't have "lovers". (Leastwise not where the kids know about it - young teenagers can be turned to granite by the suggestion that they are the result of their parents' know, done IT.) Oh, there were cute names..."MARS Man" was one of my favorites; it came out of California. Are you sitting down? OK: " Man Acting in Role of Spouse." Get it?

But now we were married, Mr Dearling became an honest "stepfather". The Lovely Daughter began calling him "Dad" with just the slightest hint of irony; in pretty short order the irony faded and she's called him "Dad" ever since.

NOTE: do not biggify these pictures; they were taken with a digital camera through the wrinkly plastic sheets covering the original pictures in a "magnetic album", which I think will guarantee their destruction - but hopefully not until we've croaked. My best friend Sue made our wedding cake, with lovely little roses made from flattened gumdrops; it was much more delicious than any other wedding cake I've ever had. In fact, friends took pictures, Lovely Daughter and I made cream-cheese-olive sandwiches cut in little triangles with the crusts off, and as I recall we drank lemonade. What did this extravaganza cost? Love, friendship, laughter and more love. A lot of it.

How young we looked! How...thin! How dark-haired! But let me see - Mr Dearling and his parents were a little late to the Gates of Heaven...because my mother-in-law-to-be (of blessed and cherished memory) went along to the floral-and-teddy-bear shop to get my floral wreath - and was delayed in picking out just the right teddy bear for me. Our officiant was a local character called "Rev Ted" who was a Universal Life Bishop (perfectly legitimate and legal, and he was an astrologer/free-thinker with an open heart and open hands and a good friend in the bargain.) My sister and her husband did NOT come; they had another obligation. But one of my dearest friends in the world was on his way back to New Hampshire from Iowa with HIS new bride, and they DID come! I had two of my three children there - #1 Son was doing a stint in the Navy at the time.

Don't we look cute? And you know, sort of normal? I had to admit, while there wasn't any big major change for any of us, it seemed that the kids especially seemed to relax into the security of a more traditional family.

Why a "birth day"? Because I'll say it here, as I've said it many and many a time over these last 26 years (remember, four together before the wedding) years: from the day Mr Dearling moved in and began sharing our lives, I have felt reborn. I have learned from my husband, and feel myself today to have a confidence, a security, an independence that I hadn't had before. We rarely argue, and we enjoy great discussions. For example, I wrote a story which takes place in Ancient Egypt, and in it I referred to the precious oil being "borne thence on a barque"....Mr Dearling took exception, saying that he believed barques were a form of boat foreign to Egypt, and that another word might be better. Later that day he got on line (whatever DID we do before the innerwebs?) and did some searching.........learning, thereby, that there WERE barques in ancient Egypt and some, specifically, were richly fitted out and used as conveyances for the gods. As we had originated this discussion at the Museum (to the vast entertainment of our college-aged colleagues) he made a distinct mention to them to apprise them of the accuracy (and position) of barques in Egypt.

I guess what all this boils down to is that I am saying "Thank You" to the man who, by making me his wife, gave me an independence, a confidence and security well beyond what I would have achieved on my own. I'm a better writer, a better reader, a better thinker, a better old lady, a better....well, ok, a more enthusiastic knitter. And I savor every moment of every day. It is such that we really enjoy our shared interests and mutual experiences - and relish our individual pursuits and solitary time as well. (We attribute much of our success to the fact that we joined our lives as adults, and didn't ever have to waste time with the game-playing, tense, scary ritual dance that is the Courtship of the Young.)

All's I can say, from my heart, is: Thanks, Mr Dearling. I love you!

And here begins the next wonderful fun of the next 22 years!

Can you say....

DISORGANIZED? Could you guess that about me? OK, here's the deal. I'm writing this on Saturday morning (and yes, it really IS May was pointed out that I haven't always posted on the date my piece was written -- I'm learning here, peoples). I'm going to post a Genuine, Proper Blog Entry later today. I have Copious Notes for it. I'm also making a Resolution, also described in the Proper one. My apology for all of this is aimed primarily at myself: I'm giving myself permission to take a deep breath and start over; my intention of writing every day would seem to have been a trifle unrealistic. (Still, holding to that as a goal may prove advantageous.) Some days, face it - nothing happens. Nada. Zilch. And not even *I* am interested in reading about that! Then there'll be a spate of days where so MUCH happens that I seem to not have time to write. I believe this is what qualifies as "an embarrassment of riches". (Never could quite grasp that - it'd have to be SOME riches before I was embarrassed by it, but that's another deal.)


This is a Major Weekend, I mean MAJOR, so tonight's post will be worth reading. I still haven't learned the managing of pictures here to my satisfaction (thanks for not complaining). That'll be included in the Resolution.

Now I'm off to sort and wash clothes and pack and unpack and pack, as we're leaving at oh-dark-hunnert tomorrow morning for Saratoga Springs, NY. (YES I'm taking *Daisy, there WILL be blogging-on-the-road!) As I may have mentioned, my Packing for a Trip goes something like this:

Select books, DVDs, CDs and tapes to take along; find tote bag for same.
Select yarns, needles and patterns; find small basket for jaunts, larger basket for use in car, and decide whether or not to take the Rolling Yarnassus.
Select books on writing, notebooks, 4x6 cards, pens, pencils and Post-its; find another totebag for same.
Change mind about yarn and replace.
Change books to read, add a book on tape.
Swap out CDs (this feels like a Cajun trip, not a Celtic trip).
Nooo....maybe its a Phil Ochs sort of junket.
No. I'll make the final decision on music later.
Do I really WANT to read all three Terry Pratchett's this trip? Or should I take one of the novels about Mary Todd Lincoln?
Where's my pet pencil? (STOP LAUGHING, this is serious, people!)
If I put my completed stories AND the stories-in-progress on a flash drive, I won't have to take the little floppy disks at all.
Uhm...excuse me for pointing out the obvious, Dale-Harriet....the floppy disks don't work on Daisy. 'member?
Wait a minute - let's rethink that yarn. And - didn't I decide to move that blankie back on to straight needles? Well if THAT's the case...

OK. STOP RIGHT NOW! As you can see, this packing stuff is difficult. But if I don't at least start, I won't get very far. (Yes, I know that's clearly obvious to everyone in the world over the age of nine. Nevermind.)

Oh yeah - I'd best throw in a couple of dresses...some underwear...yeah.

*DAISY: Daisy is my laptop. I name stuff. Nevermind.