Monday, June 30, 2008

Oooh yeah, the Den!

{Ahem} It is said, in my household, "Martha Stewart doesn't live here." If I were more inclined toward 19th century pursuits (yes, yes - "as opposed to 18th century", I heard that from you in the back over there) I would have lots of samplers on my walls saying things like: "A Tidy Room is the Sign of a Chaotic Mind" or "To Have the Best Seat in the House You'll Have to Move the Cat."
It has, might I add, always been thus. I remember looking at my kitchen floor while holding my infant daughter (and in their turns, each infant son) and thinking, "I can wash and polish my floor. Or I can a) play with my baby; b) read something; c) knit something; d) go to the zoo; d) play get the picture. The only time my kitchen floor had a gleaming glow to it - was the day we moved in. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a slob, really. I once overheard one of my sons reply to a little friend who had come over to play, "It's not messy, it's busy . That became my watchword.

Having said that - I think I've said here before, this is the Summer of the Purge. It has gotten to me; to keep myself honest, I will post about the process, with before-and-after pictures. (You do realize, do you not, that I am fervently praying that you forget all about this, but nevermind.)

So there's the den, happily anticipating becoming a guest room/den/writing room/cool room (it's where the air-conditioner is). Books, papers, files, papers, pigs -- there IS an absence of baskets of yarn; they had already been moved into the living room, where they nestle (still, but nevermind) waiting to go down and join the Stash. The couch-oid is actually a futon, very comfy. (When not occupied by pigs, books, &c &c) I cannot tell a lie - when someone's coming over, it's VERY EASY to slide things in there and close the door. Do that a time or two (OK, 20) and it gets to look like......see above.

I have a desk in there too, upon which to...write. I have a power strip in there for Daisy, and I can take in a stool that puts me at the right height. Here? Well, lets' see. The requisite piles of papers, extra glasses, pictures, headphones, shoe polish, several antique etiquette books - isn't that what everyone has on their desks? NO?? Hmmm!

NOTE: Because that IS what passes here for a guest room, I've arranged the books in there accordingly, and many of them are short stories or collections or picture books, the sort of thing someone might enjoy leafing through before going to sleep. Don't you hate it when you pick up a book somewhere and get hooked - and then have to leave it behind and wait until you get to a library, or you have to steal it....not that anyone would do THAT, but you know. Nevermind. So anyway, that's why I selected the books in there. As part of the Cleaning, however, I rearranged a number of books and repositioned my writing books and reference books and so on, so they'll be at hand too. Now for the great unveiling:

MUCH better! And the books are sorted and rearranged, the futon can be opened and made up easily, there's a box of tissues, the reading lamp works -- all is ready. If you "biggify" you can see my lovely bonnets on top of the bookcase - it looks like Jonny-the-Clown is pointing at them. What? Jonny? Oh, well yeah. He's a clown, probably from the Ringling Bros. I rescued saved bought him at the Museum. (To tell you the truth, I don't know why, don't know where he'll ultimately go....WHOOAH! What a great contest prize!) I'm kidding, I'm kidding!

And the desk? Yep, got that too - I moved the etiquette books to the bookcases. I have sort of a collection, I have a *thing* about manners, courtesy and etiquette, truth to tell, and I adore reading those old books. I have a Power Point program I do on 19th century manners and the ways of women at that time.

I've moved the things under the desk now, and I'm thinking that photo box on the corner might be moved to the bedside table, still thinking on that. But there IS room now for Daisy, my reference and writing books are in there, and all is ready for me to "git down" and do some serious writing. I believe I mentioned - it seems as though my Writing Time is after 10:30 pm; I know that I DO need to separate myself from the teevee and so on. I'm glad I'll be able to do that now. Also - if you enlarge this picture, you'll see on the wall there a drawing of my Neopet, (a Blumaroo) which my Lovely Daughter got for me at one of her conventions. I admit it - I really like the games on Neopia , so that sketch is a real prize for me.

Gee, I'm being kind of revealing, aren't I? Hmmmmmmmm - where'd I put that Dr Who scarf?

Editor's note: I had an error in the 4th paragraph, which I have corrected, with apologies to all and THANKS to Yarndork!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

From There to Here, and more

Cricket dozes (I love her "Edwardian Dandy hair" markings!)

So I had a wonderful time in the Twin Cities. You know how, if you haven't seen a BFF for oh say 20 years, and you get back together...the conversation picks up as though you'd just gone to get the mail and come back in. I got there, I moved in (well, I know it was only a few days, but a girl has to have her book bag, her knitters' rolling case, her knitting basket, her music case for tapes, CDs, tape player and CD player, her little box o' drugs required by old age...what am I forgetting? OH! a few clothes) and we broke out the knittin' and it was Game On! Now, the truth is, the staid, respectable, calm, knittin', writin', readin', museum-guidin' historical-reenactin' cat lady you see before you is NOT the same free-thinking, heavy-drinking, college-student roaring hippie as I was when we were college girls.

Well - she is. I mean, I *am*, but older, mellower, and dare I say cooler than I was. I do believe I've cleaned up good. So has Auntie Barb. Her life has been more professional and "real" than mine in many ways, but our bond is in no way diminished. She too shares her home with two cats (Cricket and Lilly). She too works at a museum (demonstrating spinning, among other things). She too reads a WHOLE LOT. And we like the same foods. So Wednesday evening and Thursday were spent engaging n a variety of those pursuits, accompanied by non-stop talking. Non-stop. Oh - we share another quirk: both nights we were up past 2:00 a.m.

This is Lilly, she of the Probable Maine Coon heritage; she was checking me out and therefore not displaying her breathtaking tail.

Barb figured the last time we actually spent a few days together was 22 years ago; I can't remember, so suspect she's right - and yet, once we were settled in, stretched out, and had yarn and needles in hand, we picked up our conversation as though it had been interrupted for lunch. I was there from Wednesday to Sunday, and can tell you straight up that I left with a determination to repeat the experience pretty soon. For one thing, we didn't get done all we'd planned to do. We didn't, for example, get to the Star Wars exhibit - so I can use that as the excuse to go back before it ends. And there are meals we didn't get to.

There used to be a Chinese restaurant in Minneapolis called The Nankin. It had been there since three weeks before God, because it had been my Mom's favorite eatery since she was a young woman. Barb and I loved to go there, especially for their "Pressed Duck". WELL! Sit down and shut your mouth!! Seems there's a new restaurant run by someone who used to be at the Nankin - and rumor has it that THEY MAKE PRESSED DUCK, the same recipe ! I can tell you, I am SO packing Barb into the car and going there...furthermore, my sister tells me it's near Rudolph's, home of the finest barbecued ribs constructed on this earth. (Disclaimer -- that's other than the ribs made with sauce created by my Lovely Daughter .)
On Friday morning, I arranged to get together with my sister, who lives in Minneapolis. To my ecstatic delight great relief, it was very easy to get to her house from Barb's. The directions went something like: Take the major road from Barb's. It turns into the major road that goes over the river. When you get across the bridge turn right and proceed to Sister's house. (It's a different bridge than the one I always took before - remember the horrendous bridge collapse? Yeah, that one.) So I got to my sister's as though I knew where I was going too.

We headed back out to go to my nephew's house; he lives near Lake Calhoun. Every once in a while there are beautiful lake views on the blog of Chris , a fellow knitter-Minneapolitan who is owned by two cats. As you can see, I got to ride in Big Sister's convertible ! I might have ridden in a convertible before, but I don't remember where or when. Sister loaned me a sunshade like hers, and I felt....gee, I guess the best word to describe it is snazzy . Yep, I felt snazzy. I tried to adopt a casual "I-do-this-all-the-time" look, but you know, I don't think anyone noticed. Everyone who drove around us probably figured I rode around in convertibles all the time. Still, I thought it was a lot of fun.

When we got to Nephew's house, we opened the door and his four-year-old son rushed from the back of the house - and flung himself into MY arms!! (I think his grandma was non-plussed for a moment...but Nephew explained that a) he had told the lad we were coming; b) he HAD seen me before, though it was a while ago; c) I WAS with his grandma, and therefore probably OK. I asked my sweet great-nephew if I might take a picture of him, and he said "Sure!" So I did:

Is this not a major case of Four-Year-Old-ness? The truth is, he's a wonderful boy, as pleasing in manner as appearance, and I hereby issue a warning to the mothers of all three-year-old girls in Minneapolis: there is a true heart-throb among you; in about twelve years, pay attention!

There are also adorable twin sisters, age two, who were rarely moving slowly enough to get a good picture of, but imagine bright, enthusiastic, energetic little girls and you have it. Nephew and I discussed the fact that my children and he and his two sisters are, while not "estranged" with all the negative connotation, pretty much out of touch. My family is really small - my sister and I each have three children. Our parents are gone, our aunts and uncles are gone -- as he said, "It's pretty much just US." So we've made a promise to connect via the innerwebs (how DID we survive without it?) and my kids were delighted at the thought of being in touch with their cousins, too.

We had a nice lunch, Big Sister and I. We're getting together at the end of the month at a hotel in LaCrosse - not as far a drive for either of us as our own homes. (Also it's a "time away", which is fun.) She's bringing her two BFFs from high school, who put up with me tagging along as the nuisance Little Sister, but I've always liked them. It's going to be a very fun time, and I'll report back.

"But Dale-Harriet, did you go anywhere else?" Why, matter o' fact, we DID! And just where do you suppose a couple o' old knitters might go? On a YARN CRAWL! (This is what you were waiting for, n'est-ce pas?)

We first visited The Yarnery , which is actually in my old neighborhood. Now it's pretty much yuppified. My $87/month apartment is now a condo and probably a LOT MORE than that. (It had a fireplace, leaded windows, high ceilings - such a deal! Willie and I were married there, in front of the fireplace.)

One of the funnest things? Well, since her eye surgery (the reason for my going up, remember?) she can see COLORS better! She said it's like a layer of old yellowed wax had been removed and she's appreciating the clarity and brightness a whole lot. Can you imagine a nicer place to sit? I managed to resist saying "I'll have two of each, please. I had visited this shop on an earlier visit, and they're dear to my heart: they saved a signed copy of the Yarn Harlot's book for me. It's a very comfortable shop, and the ladies are helpful and outgoing. It's impossible to get out of a LYS without buying something but I had promised myself to Be Good. (Remember that promise as you keep reading.) But I DID find a row counter thingie you can wear around your neck, which has a LOCK on it! That, ladies and gentlemen, was a must-have, and godsend. I'm doing a Dr Who scarf, remember? This is one very cool thingie. (Barb was sore in need of point protectors too, and found her favorite kind.)

We also found another shop, not so far from "home base": Borealis Yarns . Barb didn't think she'd been before; we both figured we be there again. Can you say "Every time I'm in the Cities!"?

OK - when I got to this wall, I practically made a spectacle of myself, falling to my knees and sobbing. Well. That might be a bit extreme. Let me say this: that is a whole LOT of Cascade 220, arranged in that delicious rainbow-oid effect -- and right next to it, the same thing in Lamb's Pride worsted. Those happen to be my two most favoritest yarns for stuff, on account of I love the colors, it's all genuine off-the-sheepie wool , I get the best stitch definition from it, it's easy for me to use, and it doesn't break the bank. (Unless, you know, you DO buy two of every color. NO I DIDN'T!) But I almost got a case of Roaring Hives thinking about it. And that was the FIRST wall I saw! There are a lot o' walls in there. I admired, I cooed, I ogled, I stroked...I was fine, until I got to this one:

This is a Wall of Noro. Allow me to repeat that. A Wall of Noro . I was struck dumb. Transfixed. Hypnotized. I gawked. I gawped. I bought. What can I say? Now...see that basket at the bottom? Noro SOCK YARN. I've heard about it, I've read about it - I wanted to get down and ask for its autograph. Now, my "socks" are the kind in the pattern book for Teaching the Slow-Witted; I see those beautiful socks knitted by the pros with Eyes of Reverence. But you know - even my idiot socks, made out of Noro sock yarn, are going to be eye-watering. And I'm making a pair for ME ME ME. {ahem. excuse me.} So a skein of it went to the counter where it waited for me.

Here's another shot of that wall:

And yes, I bought some. Some of those shelves are Noro "Silk Garden"; confronted with it like that, just sitting there in all its sultry, mysteriousness, (I swear I caught the faintest hint of patchouli and finger cymbals) I could not resist. And you know, fair's fair - so I bought some of the regular Kureyon too. Now, before ye judge me harshly, (and the reason there's no picture of my plunder) is because some of it is for the Lovely Daughter. Don't you always bring something to your little girl when you go away? Heck, I brought home three hearty catnip plants and a pair of sparkly balls for my furry daughters. Fair's fair.

All in all, "a good time was had by all."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

There's No Place Like..... den, which I am Officially Cleaning Out today. As a result, I'm setting this aside, and will resume and finish the post later. See, I'm all about "incentive" -- my brother-in-law is stopping through and staying overnight, tonight (in the den); it's supposed to get up to 87 degrees today and the air-conditioner is in the (all together now, "DEN"); it's going to be my Writing Room when it's sorted out; and lastly, Dale-Harriet, you can't finish your blog entry until the den is completely done.

Watch this space.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Solstice, diminished

The Solstice is the longest day of the year; there is always a gathering at Stonehenge, which may hearken back to the gatherings held by the pagans, the Druids, in the dawn of time when it was built. Of course, for all of it, we won't really know how or why it was built until we "cross over" and can look up the builders.

It's a time of celebration, of enjoying the daylight, and marks as well the abundance of the Earth.

I especially like the Solstices and Equinoxes because of an interest in the simple agrarian life (admittedly now romanticized), the illustrations in the Farmers' Almanac, that sort of thing.

But for me, this year, the brilliance of the Longest Day of the Year was dimmed, diminished, by a profound sadness.

I have learned that June 18, 2008, my most cherished idol passed away. The world, the country, her family and I - lost Tasha Tudor . The link takes you to a site about her and her family; I venture to say that the instant you see ANY of her delicate little watercolor illustrations you'll say "Oh, sure, I know those pictures!" She's best known as an illustrator of children's books, but how miniscule to the whole is that description.

Ms Tudor lived as though it was the 19th century. She lived in a beautiful old-fashioned home built for her by her son (who used techniques and tools of the 19th century). She had gardens unlike any others, filled with all the flowers and herbs you can imagine; she dried all the herbs and cooked with them. She kept animals -goats, chickens, sheep...which provided models for her art as well as milk and eggs and yarn. She spun and knitted, wove, cooked in a huge stone hearth, and served elegant teas. She loved costumes and dressing up, and I imagine the world has been kept on its axis by the fact that her home was a haven for imagination, curiosity, creativity, and color, and music, and laughter. (She never shrank from things like killing animals for food, and was perfectly pragmatic about the way things are.)

She dressed in a soft and beautiful way: long hems, soft flowered cottons, homespun aprons. Her long hair was always covered with a kerchief, but soft tendrils escaped and framed her face.

She was a beauty as a girl - but to my thinking, as an older woman her beauty was enhanced a thousandfold. I saw a picture of her wearing a small shawl, just over her shoulders - and found a way to knit the same shawl (it's the very simple garter-stitch shawl); I have since made dozens of them and wear them all the time. I have one on the needles even as we speak, requested by one of my young colleagues at the Museum.

NOTE: the pattern, probably known by you all anyway, is: CO 3 / K2, YO, K to end. Keep going until you're done. I make them most often from Lion's Homespun, usually using three skeins. My Lovely Daughter makes them too, sometimes using four skeins - hers are really big and cozy. Tasha's were very small, just to cover her narrow shoulders, although her outdoor winter wear was usually a large shawl or sturdy cape.

She had sheep, and carded and spun from both sheep and goat; she wove beautifully, knitted perfectly -- there was no end to her handwork.

In a word - in my heart, Tasha Tudor was the epitome of Beauty, Grace, Skill - and gentility and courtesy. She was and remains my greatest inspiration for life. She was 92, I suppose I knew this day would come.

You know -- even as I write, I feel a little less sad. The legacy of her beautiful books belongs to me. Oh - and if you're not familiar with her, if you don't know her as well as I do, I beseech you to do this: go to the library. If you love children's books, look up the ones she's written and illustrated. But beyond that, look for her books on heritage gardening, on heritage crafts, her recipe book (she called them "receipts", the 19th century word). She will brighten your days and delight you, and I can say that with perfect confidence. Paging through ANY of her books invariably calms and soothes and comforts me.

Lastly, some other happy recollections. She made dolls - incredible, beautiful dolls who enjoyed a rich and wondrous life. Two of her dolls had a wedding which was featured on the cover of Life magazine, with attendants (both human and doll). She recently donated a collection of exquisite early 19th-century clothing to Williamsburg. And her love for Corgis was legendary. They accompanied her everywhere and appeared often in her books.

She had four children, and I cannot imagine a sweeter atmosphere to have been born into. They won't be reading this, of course, but I hope they realize the sincere sympathy flowing their direction, not just from here but from countless hearts around the world.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I AM a Bold Adventurer!

" Why do you say that, Dale-Harriet?" How good of you to ask. Let's talk about maps. I don't read them. I'm sorry - I've looked at them, but those blue lines that show you the outlines of the states? They're imaginary ! There AREN'T really blue lines dividing Wisconsin and Minnesota. And the roads are not red, and those little pictures of tents? They apparently indicate someplace you MIGHT find a campground, and not someplace there actually IS a little tent. Plus they write things in such tee-tiny letters that I need my magic eyeball (actually a Magnabrite ) in order to read them.

Allow me a slight digression here. (Not that THAT ever happens!)

This is Evangeline with glowing magic eyeballs. Not particularly pertinent, but I love the picture.

Magnabrite (TM, probably)is a clear, round, acrylic thingie that draws light in. You put it right ON the page you're looking at, and BEHOLD! A clear, sharp, bright magnified image of even the tee-tiniest of print or pictures or whatever you have. I had a serious eye problem some years back (and NO, I'm not going to digress from the digression -- just now) and had pretty limited vision for a while; virtually none in my left eye. NOTE: had a herpes ulcer in the eye...yeah, I KNOW!...followed by a corneal transplant. 'Nuff said. ANYway. At that time, I found and bought my first "magic eyeball", and I love it very much. Amongst other things, it allows me to see, up front and personal, the names of the towns and other miniscule information on a map.

Only - not while driving, you see. So when I decided to come to the Twin Cities to visit Auntie Barb (oh, the stories!) I did what any insecure Little Old Lady (yeah, I know, "LOL") would do in this, the 21st century: I got on Mapquest. And I got a map, but only instead of imaginary stuff, it says things like "Go to the corner and turn RIGHT onto Yiffniff Boulevard and go 3.7495 miles. Then turn LEFT onto Oldburntchurch Road and go 124 miles." THAT I can do.

NOTE: You know those little blue-red-and-white shields with big numbers on them you see on the map? THOSE are real! There ARE shields like that along the highway that say "90/94" and "94W" and like that. The Mapquest page has pictures of those shields, and they are right where they're supposed to be! How cool is THAT?

But when you ask someone directions and they say "Oh yah, sure, you go west on State County Road HP North till you come to where the old Olsen farm was until the '50s when they sold to Oesterhus, that was before old man Oesterhus ran off with the waitress, remember? and then turn south for about 1200 feet..." That I don't do very well with. "North" and "South" are arrows on a map to me, and I don't care HOW you drive, there's no way you can go straight up like the "North" arrow points.

So anyway, the shortened long story was that I religiously followed the Mapquest directions, even when confronted with terrifying road signs that said things like "ALTERNATE Route 94W" and I wondered if -- or WHY -- I should maybe consider taking that alternate.

Now, I admit it: when I drive, I talk to my pal, my buddy, my co-pilot , Earnest by name. (I talk to him out loud, by the way - you wanna make something of it? He sings along with the radio, too, but nevermind.) So he says to me, he says "It doesn't say 'DETOUR', now does it? It says 'ALTERNATE'. That means that you CAN take it, to avoid all those threatened possible delays and lane closures and so on." Well, of course, that made sense. And so I ignored the alternates, stuck to the Mapquest plan, and you know? There really weren't any delays or back-ups or so on. And I drove merrily to Auntie Barb's door as though I knew where I was going. Now, do I not ROCK? Am I not a Bold Adventurer?

As it turns out, I *do* have access to the wonderful innerwebs here, and can report that we have been talking a great deal (I remembered the name of a mutual friend from oh, I dunno, 1964?), knitting a fair bit, (Auntie Barb has added needle-felting to her roster of skills, which is sizable) and EATING. Have I mentioned eating? Suffice it to say, we dined on perfectly-prepared barbecued ribs, delicious cole slaw, wonderful potato salad and warm rolls. And now I'm going to take a nap. Or knit. Or both. (Hah! Gotcha!)

There is much to be said for visiting a Kindred Spirit with a Shared History. If the opportunity arises, go for it! (And watch this space for further developments including, eventually, the Trip HOME!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A New Winner announced!

OK - I was unable to get in touch with Randi, whose guess of 58 toques was the closest to the actual number of 63 toques knitted for my Blogiversary Contest. (There have been more since, but at the time, that was puh-lentee!!)

Having said that, I am awarding the prize to the next-closest guess, Yarnhog ! , for her guess of 43 toques.

The prize package consisting of a few items typical of Wisconsin and the circus will be sent out forthwith*. Why "circus", Dale-Harriet? Well, dearie, because as I look back over all that toque-knitting it strikes me as something of a three-ring circus. OK - well, that, and I have a perfectly fabulous cool neat thing with a circus motif that I thought would make a very exciting prize. Circular thinking? SEE? "Circle" -- "Three-RING"? All right, it's thin. Work with me here.

Also: I am heading out tomorrow morning by car (and probably by canoe or ark) to go to the Twin Cities. My Bestest College Friend ("Auntie Barb" to the family), is having some minor surgery, and I figure this is an excellent opportunity to let loose my Jewish Mother Nurturing side, so I can go take care of her for a few days. (Nevermind she'll be fine, and as she spins and knits I have a feeling it may be a few days of wild, raucuous plying of needles and yarns, music and movies, munchies and moments and a powerful LOT of talking.)

I don't believe Auntie Barb has wifi, so I'm not sure how much blogging will occur, but I shall be taking notes and pictures, and the event promises to be filled with all manner of blogworthy material. Auntie Barb and I share an equal passion for Cats, for Sticks and for Books. Plus, there's a fabulous exhibition of Star Wars stuff opening at the Science Museum in St. Paul and there has been talk about checking it out. Oh, and barbecued ribs. (I'm taking Lovely Daughter's incomparable barbecue sauce along.) And probably Chinese food. Maybe a pizza or two. And now I'm going to pack...hmm, I should probably wedge in some clothes among the yarn and books. Thinking out loud here.

*Yarnhog, please e-mail me the Pertinent Details (my profile says "email me") and I will send along your Spectacular Prize Package immediately upon my return! Oh, and so new toque commissions! Dare I say it? I think I'll be ready for them again before fall. Maybe.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Public Knitting Happened and Father's Day did too

Rainless, sunny day brings out Public Knitting at The Sow's Ear!

Yesterday was World Wide Knit in Public Day, so I did! (Did you?) It was a beautiful sunny, breezy day (!) so I got organized to go to the Sow's Ear to knit publicly in front of everyone. Took me a lot longer to get ready than I thought, as I intended to start on the Dr Who scarf; therefore, I had to wind off some of the colors to take along. I decided to wind the first four colors, which will hold me for a little while. I have the chart showing how many rows of each color to do, so I went by that.

There are some tables with jolly umbrellas in the front yard of the Sow's Ear, and a variety of chairs, so we were sitting right out there in front of God and everybody, knitting like mad! There was a lace shawl on the needles, some fabulous socks, my silly ol' granny shawl (hey, I LIKE knitting them, and I have to say, for certain things -- shawls, in particular -- I like Lion Brand "Homespun". Call me a peasant.) NOTE: I actually sort of *am* a peasant, now that I think about it -- furthermore, at my Advanced Age, I'd have to say I'm proud of it!! Returning now to regular programming.

A highlight of the day was that we were joined by a charming girl who introduced herself and pulled up a chair (she was knitting a perfectly stunning Dale sweater) and revealed that she was a "refugee from Iowa!" Seems she and her husband had been evacuated from their apartment - voluntarily, but it seemed like a good idea. So they had come to Madison where she had family - and she'd found the shop and joined us. We were delighted to have her, and all hope that Iowa City and all the other places here in the Midwest that are suffering from the floods, are restored as quickly as possible. It's going to be a long time before these communities are back up to's already a long summer, and it hasn't started yet!

Now then. This very handsome young man is my father, probably as a college student. Where my sister was Mom's daughter, I was Dad's. In those days, fathers were the Head of the Family, Breadwinner, Boss. Men were not encouraged to show much softness or affection, were exempt from a lot of child-rearing duties, and did things like Drive the Car and Pay the Bills. My dad handled all of that skillfully, and in my recollection there was not a lot of huggy-smoochy going on in our house; yet I always felt very loved by my Daddy.

I remember the year 1963 keenly: that was the year that President Kennedy was assassinated; the Pope died; the submarine Thresher went down (all hands on board); and -- my daddy died. He died on Christmas Day, 1963. I was staying overnight at my best friend Peggy's house, and we got a call in the middle of the night from my brother-in-law with the news.

That was the deepest sadness of my life, and still (knock wood) is. I admired my father hugely, and knew that he was admired outside of our house too, but it was only after his death that I learned the full extent of it.

First - he left me a legacy so rich that I think of it often, cherish it always, and it has gotten me through my life - and I believe his legacy is what has made me a really happy and contented woman today; I believe I'm passing some of his legacy on to my children and grandchildren: that legacy is an appreciation for Words, a delight in reading, an enjoyment and enthusiasm of public speaking (in various guises) and such ability with writing as I have .

He was a newspaperman all his life, starting with trotting along behind his brother as he delivered The Duluth Tribune around town in Duluth, Minnesota where he was born in 1911. He worked for the Minot Daily News in Minot, North Dakota after his marriage and through the years of my sister's birth and then mine. In about 1945 we moved to Minneapolis, and he worked for the Minneapolis Star and Tribuine until his death.

He was editor of "The Minnesota Poll", a public-opinion research column - and he was excellent at it, having devised some polling methods of extraordinary accuracy that are, I believe, still in use in various places. When he died we got a letter of condolence from George Gallup! Dad had served as President of our synagogue, and was praised and honored and spoken of with great respect all around. He even appeared in "Who's Who in American Journalism" at one point.

I remember a game he devised - I especially loved it because he only played it with me! Before he left for work in the morning, he would write a word on a piece of paper and leave it on my bedside table. When he came home for dinner, I was expected to define it, spell it, and use it (appropriately) in a sentence. Some of the words were just silly ("antidisestablishmentarianism", of course) but for the most part they were rich, good, vocabulary-building words.

This is my favorite picture of my father, sitting at his desk at the Star & Trib; it is the Essence of him. I was sometimes allowed to go to the office with him on a Saturday, where I was called "the editor" by his colleagues; I was allowed to sit at an empty desk and write on a pad with a black "Ebony" pencil. I adore those pencils to this day and always have them around. As you can see, Daddy typed on a manual typewriter (of course, that's all there was!). He used only the first two fingers on each hand plus his thumb for the space bar, and he was fast.

He was SO fast, that his secretary arranged a race between him and the teletype machine! I wasn't there, but I remember clearly that - while of course the teletype won, his speed was clocked at something over 85 words-per-minute without error . Think on that for a moment!!

Daddy made his living and supported us all nicely by the flow of words -- the rich flow of delicious words, might I add -- and I managed to support my little family by the flow of words too, albeit as a secretary. Maybe I inherited my respectable typing speed from him too. I can only imagine the incredible delight Daddy would have had from computers, and from the miraculous innerwebs. Happy Father's Day, Daddy; I love you and when I'm writing, I can all but see you!

In closing, I'd like to wish a whole year of Happy Father's Days to two young men whose daddyhood I respect infinitely: my two sons are the kind of daddies I like best, imaginative, loving, protective, responsible and not afraid of maintaining standards of behavior. Neither was raised with much in the way of role models (until Mr Dearling came along) and yet both excel at the job of Daddy. You maybe can't see it from there, but I am also giving an enthusiastic Standing Ovation to all the dads whose songs are largely unsung. HOORAY to you!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Reddest of Letter Days!

First - may I wish a HAPPIEST of BIRTHDAYS to Stephanie, the Yarn Harlot . It is her 40th birthday and I'm not the only one who pointed out to her (and so I say to YOU, where appropriate) that turning 40 is the true beginning of the Best Years of your life. I've heard it said that high school is the best. Man, it wasn't for your geeky, nerdy, ballet-dancing kidstory-writing homely egg-head Blogger who once *almost* went to read a historical story under the candlelight, for ambience. NO, I didn't do it. Duuuuh....

As we Metis people of New France say in this our year of 1748-- JOYEUX ANNIVERSAIRE, CHERE COEUR!

Furthermore, today is WORLD-WIDE KNIT IN PUBLIC DAY, so I beseech you, turn off your laptops, your computers, your gizmos-that-you-see-the-innerwebs-on (when you're done reading this post, thenk yew) and take your knitting and go stand on a street corner or sit in a mall or knit in a lunchroom or at a bus stop or at a red light (hold it up high so everyone can see what you're doing). We are *representing*, not only all of us clever men and women plying our needles today, but that long tunnel back into time of knitters.

The earliest image I've ever seen of knitting is the 13th century depiction of the Virgin Mary knitting a tee-tiny sweater on DPNs; I tried to put a copy here, but I haven't gotten to that chapter in "Stealing Images off the Internet for Your Own Selfish Use". You're probably familiar with it. Anyway, we're representing Her too.

I'm rushing off to The Sow's Ear, with a) one sock; b) a shawl; c) needles and wool to cast on for an A4A rectangular shawl; "Rectangular Shawls for Afghani Mothers" and last, but not least - d) yarn and needles to cast on for a Dr. Who scarf. (Yes, I am going to prowl around on Ravelry in regards to same, too.) Call me a glutton for punishment -- I finally get caught up on toques (not so much in demand in the summertime anyway) and what do I do? Commit myself to a two-mile long scarf. "Commit" might be just what I need........hmmm, good idea! Quiet surroundings, no distractions - but I'd start singing old filk songs and wind up in a jolly jacket. No, I'll stay home, thx. I'll report back later with photographic evidence. KNIT ON, PEEPS!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sorting Out ---

OK, time to take care of some Administrative details. PRIMUS: the contest! The winner, as mentioned before, was *RANDI*. Now, it seems she hasn't a blog; anyway, I haven't been able to figure out how to get in touch with her! So Randi, if you're still reading, PLEASE get in touch with me (click on "email me" in my Profile) and I will forward your dazzling array of prizes!

In the event that I somehow do not hear from her by Sunday, June 15, the prizes will go to the second and third runners-up. (Yes, it IS "runnerS-up", not "runner-ups"; you're dealing with a professional here. See illustration.)

SECUNDUS: I'm not proud - I can tell you all earnestly that the comments following my little letter to Willie touched me about as much as anything has for a long time. Thank you. I've mentioned before - this, my 65th year, is the year I mean to Publish. When I said that, I was meaning pretty much my little kidstories or some such....Son #1 actually read it (and may I add, he's NOT a usual reader of knitblogs) and encouraged me to "send it to someone, Mom - heck, 'Readers' Digest'!" for wider readership.

Now, I wrote it for one reason and one reason only. No - two reasons. I wrote it to tell Willie about this historical thing that's happening, and I wrote it for ME, for the blog, because I've been thinking it for a very long time. I guess it is "timely", and I may send it off somewhere, but the other side of the coin is that it's really for HERE. So we'll see. But to everyone who commented, thank you.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Hello, Noah? May I please order.... ARK? It doesn't have to be too big, there's only me and Mr Dearling and two kitties. And 9,500 books. Oh - couple bins o' yarn. A doll or two (5). The odd teddy bear (50+). In the meantime, hip boots, brollies and my kagul will have to do.

Believe it or not, this is my lovely little street, only it looks like a tributary of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER! You've probably read about the bad weather in the Midwest, and I cannot really complain because my little pre-fab house is snug. We have a trickle in the basement, but it's never more than that. (Also, my books are upstairs and my yarn is in rubber bins.) But I have state-mates who aren't faring so well, and there is a lot trouble in various towns in Wisconsin because of serious damage from straight-line winds, tornados and incredible flash-flooding.

Furthermore, the foliage around here is going wild; my sweet little hollyhocks are ginormous, and at the moment are towering over Lucy, my precious little lilac tree. It's still really wet out, but when it dries some ( IF it dries some) I'll take some pictures of it. It is very dramatic.

Friday I went to Late-Night Knit and had a very nice time! It was a fairly small group (well, I missed seeing Mrs SABLE and Chocolate Sheep and also Kitty Mommy but the other regulars were there, and I got a chance to visit with Molly Bee so at least we two represented the Hog-and-Bloggers). May I add, seeing Molly Bee cheers one; she has one of those merry personalities. Also, I always do enjoy hanging out with my Lovely Daughter, who showed me her very clever sock cuff that I'm going to have to try. She has learned how to Kitchener (I hate using words like verbs that way) to seam using the Kitchener stitch, so when I get to the toe of the sock I have on the needles I'll employ my best Jewish-Mother-Guilt-Trip to have her show me how to do that. It'll have to be the best one, she's largely impervious after all this time. Oy.

When I went to get the yarn for the shawl requested by one of my young colleagues at the Museum I found some self-striping cotton Sugar-and-Cream!

So nothing for it, I bought some and started a dishcloth out of it to see how it would look. I also took back out a scarf which had been in time-out, not because it was naughty or troublesome, but really just because something (probably a toque or two) had gotten in the way, and the scarf is "undedicated" -- and of course my beautiful sock.

Incidentally (neener neener Lovely Daughter, I can SO use that word now and then, so there!) the Sow's Ear has expanded their eating fare somewhat. They've always had a variety of delightful beverages of the stimulating and refreshing sort (coffees, teas, Italian sodas) and perfectly lovely pastries. Now they have salads and quiche and stuff. I had a Greek salad that was loaded with olives and feta and hummus and BOY is it yumm-o.
I have to admit, I've been a little slack on knitting of late, and there's nothing like a Late-Night Knit among one's peeps to inspire a new passion for the needles!

I am proud to say, I finished the scarf (that's that delicious Paton SWS stuff, which I love, and the Yarn Harlot's one-row pattern, which I love) AND the dishcloth, which - when done in the usual seed-stitch pattern, makes plain old ordinary stripes out of the self-STRIPING cotton yarn. You see here also the shawl for my colleague. It's Lion Brand "Homespun", a lovely, bumpy, 100% acrylic (I KNOW!!) which I use for the plain granny shawls all the time. They're warm, soft, washable and attractive and I've made bunches of them. So has Lovely Daughter - hers are often larger than mine. I usually use three skeins; she sometimes uses four. I all but started a fashion trend when I was working, and now that I've been wearing them to the Museum I have a new request. NOTE: think on it: shawls are easy to throw over one's shoulders, keep off a light chill and can be set aside easily too. Why'd they ever go OUT of fashion, I ask you? WHY?

{ahem} OK, the color I am using for this shawl is a lovely neutral sort of oatmeal-oid color, called "Rococo". I repeat, "Rococo". Being slightly confused, I looked up the meaning of that word on because I wasn't sure how a neutral oatmeal-oid color fit what I THOUGHT it meant. Here's what they say it means:

A style of art, especially architecture and decorative art, that originated in France in the early 18th century and is marked by elaborate ornamentation, as with a profusion of scrolls, foliage, and animal forms.

"Elaborate ornamentation"??? Wellll....ok. Whatevs. It is a nice color, and it's fun to be cranking along on a good old plain shawl again. I particularly enjoyed working on it yesterday (Sunday) because I put my newly-obtained "Firefly" discs into Daisy and sat and laughed and cried and ogled and knitted and spent the WHOLE DAY thus occupied. Perhaps, at my Advanced Age, I ought not be so cavalier about my remaining days, but my goodness I had a good time. (Molly Bee? Yep - you can have Capt. Mel, I am all over the Shepherd, or ... you know, would be , you know what I mean.)

NOTE: I am mentally writing in a new character: a short grandmotherly sort who oversees the kitchen, spends time with River (that girl needs to KNIT!), does the laundry, reads out loud to Kaylee while she works, makes chicken soup for the get the picture. Wonder if they'd do just one more episode??

On Sunday, we decided to take in the Pirate Festival event in Port Washington, about two hours' drive from here, and as we have friends who love doing that sort of thing we thought we'd check it out. ('Sides, our last initial is "Aaaaaarrrgh".)

There was a variety of good entertainment on stages along the waterfront; this was "The Jolly Rogers", (what else?) who performed a rollicking set of jovial piratical tunes. There were exhibits of fencing and belly-dancing, weapons demos and battles> We did notice several guys who must've been related in some way to Cap'n Jack Sparrow. Lots of braids and beads and gewgaws, and kohl-rimmed eyes. (You're safe, Johnny, in spite of best efforts you're not going to be upstaged any time soon!) There were tents with folks selling all manner of piratical goods, from wooden scimitars (seen in the hands of some short-but-fierce brigands) to an array of really good books on buccaneers and pirates and sailing vessels and lore and so on.

There was some handsome statuary, which I much admired:
I took careful notice of these guys, on account of - I think next year we might try to "dress" and spend the whole weekend. Admittedly, I was feeling sort of glad we weren't camping right then, as it was a tad chilly and the weather looked threatening . This area WAS hit later in the evening by the same wind/rain/flood/storm effect that hit the rest of the state, but we had left by then. But it does look like the sort of thing we'd enjoy just for fun.

Lest you think "But gee, Dale-Harriet, do you really think knitting fits into this whole array of hooliganism?", I can tell you that I had a Very Dramatic Moment involving that very pursuit!

Mr Dearling wanted to take the camera out and get a few shots of Lake Michigan and various activity around the quay, so I found a comfortable bench and settled in for a restorative knit. Little did I know, I came within an INSTANT of being slaughtered, keel-hauled, terrified, captured, robbed and maybe even hugged by a fierce, bloodthirsty, terrifying, cold-blooded Killer Buccaneer who was silently creeping up behind of me! Mon Dieu, what a fate was narrowly escaped, by two very fortunate events: his mommy came looking for him, and Mr Dearling came back!

One activity that would be worth the price of admission was a cruise on the four-masted schooner "Windy", offered a few times each day. There were regular cruises, lovely enough - and also a "Fireworks Cruise" (probably cancelled Sunday) and an "Invasion Cruise", which sounds like the most fun of all. By the way, if you'd like to see the website for this - you know, for future reference for next year, you'll find it here: Port Pirate Festival . I imagine they'll put in for good weather earlier next year, to reserve something better. We left by about 4:30, got as far as Mukwonego and I sobbed, begged, whimpered requested that we pull into the parking lot of a drug store to wait out the downpour. We found a very nice restaurant when it let up some, and I had a favorite of mine that you don't see on menus very often: Chicken Kiev! It's a lovely chicken breast prepared in such a way that when you carefully slice into it, melted herb butter POURS out! For some reason, it was served on a plate with gravy on it. Overkill. On the other hand, it was tasty and lovely and by the time we were done, it was sort of a normal crummy-weather-day rather than a wretched, terrifying, life-threatening destructive-weather day.

As for today, (Monday) - I've spent a quiet day reading, knitting and blogging, and watching very dramatic news footage of houses breaking in half and floating away down a river that didn't exist before this morning....Lake Delton, a popular resort lake near the Wisconsin Dells, decided to leave its accustomed bed and drain itself dramatically into the Wisconsin River and eventually join the Mississippi! Heck of a thing!

This is my lovely little Lilac Bush - in the background! Before it, stand the GIGANTIC Hollyhocks which I expect will be prying off the front door and coming in to watch television any day now - I hope we don't have too much more rain tonight!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Letter to Willie

Willie Lee Carter

Dear Willie,

How are you? I suppose that's a silly question, giving where you are and all. I have to say, when I get there, I hope you'll come and find me. I'd love to meet your daddy, and your cousin Sam Cooke (yes, I've forgiven you for playing his music until I thought I'd go wiggy) and besides, you were always good with directions and can probably show me around. Remember -- I want to see Shakespeare.

But that's not why I'm writing. I'm writing because it is June 4, 2008, and Willie? A BLACK MAN IS THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

Now, you may know that too, but when Barak Obama started his campaign I thought of you first thing. Is it perfect around here now? Nope. Still a lot of problems, but compared to your childhood and young years, it for sure is better. The little boy YOU were learned foul language in the margins of your beginning readers, because the white kids wrote things like "N*****s should die" and "F*** the N*****s" in their beat-up worn-out readers, knowing they'd be given to the children in your school.

I remember we were watching the teevee and you were lying on the floor on your stomach, and I was tracing those black rosettes on your back...there were three of them on your shoulders and one just below your belt, almost on your behind. They felt hard, lumpy, and you didn't go into much detail about how they felt when you got them. But you told me about it -- the day you were out protesting with your friends and the cops came by on horseback with the electric cattle prods and dug them into your back.

I remember your going to apply for a job and coming home right away because "there were a couple white guys there to apply too" and you couldn't believe you had a chance of getting the job....and I remember crying with frustration about it and trying so hard to convince you that it really didn't any difference in St. Paul, MN in 1965. And I remember how proud you were when you got the job (orderly in the morgue of a major hospital) even though there HAD been white guys applying.

I remember how frightened you were when we went to the hospital for our daughter's birth, and how you stood outside the nursery window and a tear coursed itself down your cheek as you looked at her, and how later you held my hand and told me about a girl from your school in Selma who had gone to the hospital to have a baby and was told the baby was born dead, but she and everyone else believed that wasn't true, that the baby had been "done in" by the white doctor.

I remember your Mama's visit (give her my loving best, Willie Lee!) when she couldn't believe watching our neighbor children playing together, all colors of human race, and how she sat out on our little porch and watched a black man and white girl walking their little boy in his stroller and whispering "They'd lynch him fo' sure back home"...and meaning it. (We lived in Minneapolis then, in a very nice neighborhood where there was every combination of human color possible, and we liked it so much!)

I remember hiding in the bedroom and crying, and your coming in and explaining that I might as well just go with it, because your mother, -- my mother-in-law -- was going to call me "Ma'am" no matter what, because she saw a white woman, never mind your wife, the mother of your daughter and pregnant with our second child. We took her downtown but she couldn't go in any of the stores, whether or not she saw other black folks going in and out. Conditioning....many generations of it, are not so easily dismissed.

Willie Lee, I'm so excited about this. You and I talked about how it might be when our babies were grown. Is it like we thought? No....but the potential exists now, and it's a lot closer to reality than when we were sitting in our ol' living room. Our dreams didn't evaporate never to be seen again. More to the point, my opinion is that your scars were not obtained in vain. Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney did not die in vain. The Civil Rights movement didn't create Utopia, but Willie? There is a definite chance (I'm going to do MY part) that there will be an African-American man in the White House, and NOT answering the door or polishing the silver.

Your widow,

PS Our daughter and son say "hello"
PSS And also, when I get there, would you please make me up a plate of your barbecued ribs? Your daughter makes some almost as good as yours, I'm happy to say, but I'll still be looking forward to yours. You know, just so's you can start planning.
PSSS They do have barbecued ribs in Heaven, right? RIGHT???