Thursday, August 28, 2008


No, no! This is not Evangeline behaving in a bratty fashion (perish the thought!). This is my Administrative Assistant, wedged tightly tucked neatly in on the desk, where she can totally impede be of assistance with any typing done by my right hand. She'd be the first to tell you, if I have any success writing my children's stories, any cleverness involved in blogging, any value in's in direct proportion to how close she is to me at the time.

I'm not actually referring to the fat, juicy, succulent, crisp-charred and delicious morsel enrobed in spicy, flavorful mustard and adorned with icy-cold crunchy sauerkraut we fondly call "Brats" either. Although........ merde! Having written that last bit, and gazed at that photographic image, I have to tell you that at THIS. PRECISE. MOMENT! there is nothing on the face of the globe that I want more than that exact, precise, identical thing. Want? Desire. Crave. Yearn for. Need. Excuse me, I'm stepping away for a brief howling scream weep.

Thank you, all better.

No...the B.R.A.T. referred to in the title of this post refers instead to a diet to which I have been sentenced for "a few days". Now, I know this means "more than one". I fear it means "more than ten", but I'll investigate. OK, Dale-Harriet, what is this, and why are you so sentenced?

A one-word reason: BLECCH. For about a week now, I've been under the weather. Sick? No..."sick" implies you're really out of sorts, you take to your bed with cool cloths on your head, you begin planning your own memorial service, you become familiar with the precise time and distance from the bed to the bathroom. I'm not sick. Well, then, what's the opposite, ruddy and hearty good health?

Nay, I say. There is that little window between the two, where you're not sick enough to get out of work or school, can put off responsibilities with a clear conscience, &c. Nor are you "just a little tired" but able to sum up enthusiasm for your required daily turn. I don't know that there's a name for this particular level of malaise ..although, now I think on it, "malaise" might be just the term.

(Am I digressing? Huhn!) Here are my symptoms...and no worries, you weak of stomach, nothing here will distress you. I'm gassy. I'm gurgly in the middle. I'm (this is the worst part) unenthusiastic about eating. Re-read that last line. Think about it. Ponder it.

So, I did what any Aging Hypochondriac does (well....ok, "hypochondriac" might be a little extreme, but I felt like it this time). I called the doctor. And I described how I felt in exact, precise, colorful, descriptive - and in some places medically-accurate terms. (All those years working at UW Hospital paid off...nevermind that I worked in Plastic Surgery, Otolaryngology and Outpatient Psych.)

"Oh YES," crowed the nurse (of whom I am, might I add, very fond). "You have IT !" Images of creaking old wooden carts rumbling down cobblestone roads came to mind, pushed by raggedy old men screeching "Bring out your DEAD...bring out your DEAD!" Have I mentioned my Overactive Imagination?

Anyway, the prescription is "Eat the B.R.A.T. diet for a few days. Set ya right up."

So...for the time being, I'm restricted to Bananas, Rice,Applesauce, and Toast. Now, the other element to this charmer? NO DAIRY! So, you know, no rice with melted cheese, no toast soggy with melted butter, no bananas carmellized in .... well, you get the picture. There's a Yiddish word for this (isn't there always?): FEH!! That's on the order of "meh" only moreso.

So far, (third day) it hasn't seemed to make any miraculous changes to my off-kilter alimentary canal. Hmmmmmm.....

What's the name of that yoghurt stuff? If it's good enough for Jamie Lee Curtis~~~~

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Farewell, fluffy Figaro.....

Yep, it's true, the kitty's family saw one of our posters and telephoned today. (Probably should've allowed the Lovely Daughter to sort of ... collect them ... on her way home Friday night after visiting to meet the Foundling.)

We had decided a full week would be appropriate; I was thinking we'd take them down tomorrow.

Turns out he belongs to a family just two doors down. Mr Dearling went over to their house after they called, and the kids came back with him: cute nine-year-old twin girls (they said actually their ninth birthdays are tomorrow!) and their thirteen-year-old brother. They were very polite, and admired Evangeline ("She's really beautiful!"). They thanked us for giving him such good care.

We showed them how to give him his eye ointment for the infection, and gave him the carrier we'd bought (pointing out that they'd need a bigger one before too long - it was too small, we discovered!) We gave them the medicine, the box of Kitten Food we'd gotten for him and the statement from the vet declaring him in perfect health, free from fleas or earmites and negative for Feline Leukemia.

We really stressed that the first thing they should do is take him for his ittybittybit removal. The girls had no idea what I was talking about, so I pointed out that if he didn't have that operation, eventually he might start spraying, which is not pleasant (to say the least).

On the envelope containing the statements, Mr Dearling wrote that he should be getting his kitten shots and spayed. I told the kids that the Shelter offers surgery at a very reduced rate.

They also said they didn't have a vet ("they never called back") so we gave them our vet's card. Her office is very close by, and she's fabulous. Seems he had come free from someone who lives on a farm.

They said we were welcome to come visit him any time we want to....and we're going to stop in occasionally for the next few days to see how his eye is doing. And if he's six months old, time's awasting for his spaying.

We tried to show him to Evangeline and Lilliane tonight (before they called) and suffice it to say they were not enthusiastic. But we do know how to introduce, and that it takes a pretty long time. The truth? We're sad. We were prepared to slowly introduce him, and were going to make his vet appointment for this week. While his family is lovely, the kids were polite and seemed really glad to see him, and so on -- I, of course, feel like NO ONE could care for him as well as we do. (Which is punk and I know it.) We will keep an eye on him for a bit, and can only assume that this is how it was to have been.

To the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee: y'all are true and genuine saints, I admire you 100 times more than I did, and I wouldn't have believed that possible. Also - Evangeline has NOTHING in common (personality-wise) with Charlene Butterbean.

We will now resume regularly-scheduled programming.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Update on the Foundling....

\ Huhn??

Well now! Nigh on to unanimous from out there that he should stay! I'm betting that people who read blogs containing the title "Cats"....are cat-lovers. (Thank you very much, Madame Obvious.)

Yesterday we had a gig at the Museum (perfectly fabulous program by a couple friends of ours; David Geister is a remarkable artist and does a costumed program as George Catlin!) and so were gone for a good part of the day.

Digression: one of the books Geister illustrated is called The Voyageur's Paddle , which is a great kid book about a Metis boy that's a historically accurate tale about a family during the Fur Trade. If you have a kid with an interest in that time period (or have one yourself) check it out at the library or favorite LBS.

When we got home, we were both rather played out, and because another advantage of Advancing Age is the Joy of Naps, we each decided to have one. Mr Dearling decided to take his in "the nursery" with Young Mr Foundling. So he slipped in, and I stretched out on the couch where I was immediately joined by Evangeline, as usual.

Sometimes Ev is a lapkitty, but usually she just snuggles up next to me. On this occasion, I got out my knitting, put my head back - and napped. It happens. Fortunately, on THIS occasion I did NOT knit while sleeping, which is ordinarily not successful at my house.

However, all five of us enjoyed our naps until after 8:00 pm, which is significant because the Shelter closes at 7:00; therefore, it was too late to take the Foundling over there. So of course, he had to stay home one more night.

We were off on Wednesday, so took the opportunity to take him back to the vet. He seemed to have a bit of runny eyes, and regardless of his future, Mr Dearling pointed out that he had to have that taken care of right away. We got him an appointment at 1:30, and prior to that went and got another carrier (we have only one, and with two - perhaps three other cats, that's not enough). We also laid in a good supply of Feliway. NOTE: Our personal experience with this has been highly successful - it calms and soothes our girls and ended a fairly serious dust-up a couple of years ago. That's just our opinion; we don't get any kickback or anything, and other people may have had other experiences. Worked for us, though.

We got the Foundling over to his appointment, where the VA AND the vet again declared him "adorable", "affectionate", "delightful". Turns out he has a very common little herpes in his eye and we got some soothing ointment for him. It's not contagious. NOTE: I had *exactly* the same problem a while back which eventually resulted in a corneal transplant - his isn't anywhere near that bad. It flares up in times of stress -- and being homeless for an undetermined period, being caught up and put in a closet, then in a carrier, then in his own room...&c &c - that's enough stress for a flare-up. I know. I have it.

When we got him home we showed him - in the carrier - to Lilliane. She looked puzzled and ran away. We showed him to Evangeline - she hissed a little bit but didn't even stand up. (GOOD SIGN, we're thinking!)

Mr Dearling went out and put up 20 "FOUND KITTEN" we'll wait. We haven't talked about how long, but I figure if we haven't heard by NEXT Wednesday, we will make our final decision about him.

Here's the deal: Mr Dearling said to me, "If you DID decide you wanted another cat, and decided you'd like to have a baby boy..........{drumroll} then THIS IS THE GUY." I'd have to say, this may be a question of getting what I asked for . I think I can deal with it. Next step: very gradual beginnings of tenuous Introductions. (Wonder if anyone will call?)

Editor's Note: Please read Panopticon today! There has been a theft in Chicago; all knitters should be on alert for items being offered for sale!

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Foundling!

There I was, sittin' on the couch, knittin' on the scarf, watching Dr Phil, (I know, I know) when there came a knock on the door. It was my young next-door neighbor asking if I had lost my cat. Now, I hadn't, of course; Evangeline and Lilliane do NOT go outside unless they're in the carrier, as in en route to le docteur.

But there is a fine, handsome Siamese name of Oliver who occasionally meanders through. He has a collar and nice bright tag with his family's phone number, and a few weeks ago Mr Dearling found him and called. They said HE isn't supposed to go out either, but does (been there, done that - Othello was a veritable Houdini). So if we see Oliver and can catch him, we can put him on a leash and carry him home. I figured this must be Oliver, so I took up my leash and followed the lad over to his driveway.

Not Oliver

Mais NON! It was a wee kitty, under the van. I held out my hand and he came straight to me, so I picked him up and snorgled him and he cuddled and purred.

Now, you don't just carry a new kitten into a house where there are two established kitties in residence. At least not if one of them is Mistress Evangeline, wildly-territorial Daughter of Bast who only just tolerates her sister of two years, Lilliane. So the poor little thing was subjected to the following:

1. I put him in a cupboard in the garage - no windows, but plenty of air;
2. I tore into the house and grabbed our cat carrier;
3. I put a bowl of food and a bowl of water into it;
4. I took it out to the garage where there was a LOUDLY COMPLAINING young kitty!

I took him out and dropped him into the carrier, where he immediately began eating the food and purring. NOTE: our carrier is very heavy cardboard with a domed lid of clear heavy plastic, so at least I could see him and he could see out.

After some consultations with Mr Dearling, who was out having his daily constitutional, (see, it's true, for all my resistance cell phones CAN be a real boon!) I took him over to our Kind and Friendly Vet's clinic. They checked him out in a very quick ( free ) way, and pronounced him:

1. Actually a boykit;
2. Entirely free from fleas, ticks or earmites {whew};
3. In good shape, and
4. "My GARSH but he's a sweet little bundle of purrs!"

That last was a legitimate and profound medical opinion, of course. So I bundled him home, where he is (as we speak) ensconced in the den, AKA my Writing Room, with his own litter pan, bowl of water and bowl for food - which he cleaned up instantly. I sat with him for a while initially, and he snuggled into my lap and washed himself and purred, LOUDLY. After a little more snorgling he looked around, curled up on the folded blanket placed on the futon for his lounging pleasure, and fell into the sound sleep of a warm, safe, tummy-full kitten.

Present Status:

I called our Shelter and reported finding him, and e-mailed them his picture. He will stay here for a few days, at least, until either his forever family calls the Shelter, finds out that he's here and calls for him; or we take him to the Shelter where, after all shots and exams and removal of itty bits, he will be adoptable (and doubtless adopted, see medical diagnosis above); OR....he'll be in quarantine here while Evangeline and Lilliane sniff around the doorway - then, after a number of days, are allowed to see him through a teetiny crack in the door, followed by a VERY slow and gradual introduction period.

THEN, if Evangeline seems to be fiercely pissed off but NOT murderous, he may receive a name and just, you know, move in.

Right now Lilliane has sniffed around the door a bit and seems mildly curious. I think her personality is such that she won't be hostile at all....but I'd put Evangeline in the basement while carrying the foundling into the house in the carrier. She hasn't seen him and so far hasn't walked past his room. The only indication I think she's had is his scent on my skirts, and she hissed at Lilliane for no apparent reason. She's VERY territorial, and makes very deep growlings and yowlings when Oliver is outside the window where she can see him.

I was a little surprised by Mr Dearling, however! He said he "might not be averse" to having young Master Foundling stay here, PROVIDED, of course, that the other kitties get used to the idea.

Z-z-z-z-z-z-z (burp) z-z-z-z-z-z-z's all a very big UNKNOWN at Chez My House. Progress reports will follow!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In which I Travel Some....

NOTE: even when there is no photographic evidence, KNITTING IS HAPPENING! I am working on a Dr Who scarf; progress looks like NO progress, except in length. I will document that, however. Watch this space.

I've had two short trips in recent weeks. As a result, I have NOT gone to my beloved Grand Portage this year....I was overnight in lovely La Crosse (see below) and four days in Fairfield, Iowa (see next entry) with two days between each; we were scheduled to leave for a six-day trip to Grand Portage two days after returning from Iowa. I find that I need more "nest time" between trips. Dumb? Ridiculous? Psychotic? Probably...but instead I'm having a good nesting time to home and Mr Dearling is representing us. I'm looking forward to hearing about his adventures and about our friends. Now - La Crosse.

La Crosse, as you might know, is on the river, and is graced with paddlewheelers. The purpose for the trip was to spend overnight at a hotel with my sister and her two best friends since they were 11 years old. I was the Pesky Little Sister all those years, so we four have quite a history. (I'm impressed that their friendship has last so long, and I always enjoy seeing them all.) I actually arrived before them (!) so I checked in to our hotel, right on the river, and then went over to investigate the docks. There are picturesque paddlewheelers on the river there - in fact, it's a stopping-point for the "real" boats, the Queens (Delta Queen, American Queen, &c). It's possible to book passage on those in a variety of ways. Me? I'd like the St Paul-to-New Orleans run myself, with meals in the opulent dining room and entertainments appropriate to the 19th century in the galleries, &c. I haven't checked, but I've heard "$1500 PER DAY " bandied about. No thanks, I'll walk.

I found this dear little pair enthusiastically greeting the "Julia Belle Swain" when I got there, and just went all over Mark Twain-y. It's true, there was a golden age of travel up and down the mighty Mississippi, and it must have been exciting to see the exotic goods from foreign ports unloaded, and quite a treat to watch the elegant travellers come and go.

When I first got down to the river, I met a group of costumed folks (just packing up, wouldn't you know it) who told me they "performed" every afternoon as part of the steamboat scene; one of the ladies said "Well, next time - and do visit the Hixon House, too....." I made a mental note "for next time". It's not so far-fetched, on account of fellow blogger Cathy-Cate lives there, and while there was no time to arrange a meet-up there, the promise of a chin-wag on her turf is strong incentive, along with the historical wonders to be seen there. It's also an easy trip.

"No, Mr. Dickens, I'm NOT paid by the I'll cut to the chase here."

In a word (or 2400), my sister and entourage arrived and got settled, there was much gabbing, and Plans were Made. There was going to be a brief swim in the pool followed by meeting friend Sharon's niece Marla (a local) who would guide us to a good dinner spot, to be followed by a return to the hotel for more gabbing. An ACE plan.

During the swim I but dangled my feets in the pool because I was KNITTING, people! No pictures, but I'm here to tell you, (fortunately) working on a Dr Who scarf has a certain addicting rhythm to it, and I find myself very contented to take it out with little - or no - provocation. NOTE: My sister declared, "Boy, you can tell you wear long dresses, I've NEVER seen whiter legs in all my life!" I don't think it was a compliment, but you know, EH!

NOTE: I hadn't had lunch, so (being as my sister is ALSO a Jewish Mother), she insisted I get "a little something" at the restaurant in the hotel to go, and eat it while they swam. I got a bowl of "SmokedCchicken and Wild Rice Soup". Brief description: warm heavy cream with globules of butter on the surface, lots of tender chunks of chicken and a LOT of perfectly-cooked wild rice. I recommend it. Nevermind I could hear the little clicks of my arteries slamming shut, accompanied by the gentle bubbling sound of my fat cells expanding. I was on holiday. Shut up.

We dined at a place called "Huck Finn's", where I enjoyed ... ENJOYED!! ... some Pineapple Coconut Shrimp, and during the course of the conversation it was mentioned that Sharon's birthday was in the next couple of days. So even though we were all pretty full, we decided to order a dessert to split in honor of the occasion.

Notice, the dear waitress (who was top-drawer, might I add) had the chef put "Happy Birthday (in CHOCOLATE SAUCE, people) on the edge of the plate. Left to right: Jeanne, Sharon's niece Marla, Sharon and on the right, my sister Toni. It seems VERY obvious to me, because I know these people, but Sharon has hands-down the merriest laugh you've ever heard, and it bubbles out of her easily and often, and it's highly contagious. Editorial comment: I LOVE these women! Yeah, even Marla, whom I'd just met. But Jeanne and Sharon were almost as much a part of my childhood as Toni was, being BFFs and all. At the risk of going all moisty-eyed here, this whole junket was one huge treat for me, start to finish. End of comment.

We went back to the hotel, thanked Marla and arranged to meet her the next morning for a brunch-y deal before we all headed home. Then we hung out on the beds in our room and gabbed for a LONG TIME. Suffice it to say, we talked about parents and childhoods and friendship, and it was "a Moment". I guess we're four old broads now, but I still feel like the Little Sister, and I still feel happy to be included with MY BIG SISTER and her friends. Great night, all the way around. (And yes, I was knitting.)

There's one more thing I have to mention here. The hotel had SLEEP-NUMBERED BEDS!! Now, I've seen the commercials. Admit it, you have too, unless you only watch 20 seconds of teevee at a time. And I was curious....never curious enough to stop in to their store at the mall (I don't spend a lot of time at the mall, it's not my scene - and there isn't even a yarn shop there anyway). So here was THE OPPORTUNITY!

So, reading the instructions on our little remotes, Toni and I each stretched out on our beds, and began figuring out "our personal sleep numbers". Let me put it this way: we both came dangerously close to a) laughing so hard we fell off the sleep-numbered bed altogether; and 2) (in my case) almost having "a leetle askident"...I'll spare you the "TMI" but it only made me laugh harder. So here's the critique:

Say WHA-A-A-A-A???

When you press the "down" button,, you can feel the bed getting softer. A teetiny bit softer. I let it get pretty soft, and then hit the "up" button. Sure enough...gradually became firmer, but it was accompanied by a sound that reminded me of the guillotine blade being raised! I'm not making that up, it was a grind-y sort of noise; Toni's did it too. Two facts came to my mind immediately: 1) It's wasted on me anyway; I can sleep on a mat on the floor, on the ground, on any couch known to man, in any short, I'm not fussy enough to need a sleep number. And 2) wouldn't it just be easier to go lie on a bunch o' mattresses and then buy the one you like? I mean, unless someone might like a soft bed sometimes and a firmer one other short, people, I don't get it. I won't be dipping into my yarn money for a sleep-numbered bed any time soon.

After a lovely breakfast the next day at a very nice place (why, I had a wild-rice-cheese-mushroom omelette, thank you, and it was divine) we all hugged and parted ways.

My adventure didn't end there, but let me just synopsize in the name of ridiculously-long-posts-because-SOMEONE-has-been-bad-about-keeping-up. I got a bit lost leaving the hotel (YES, LOVELY DAUGHTER, I SEE YOU SNICKERING OVER THERE, NEVERMIND!!) and found myself coming down a street right next to the aforementioned Hixon House! Furthermore, there was a parking spot right there on the street, it was about 12:30, and the sign said "Open 10-4". Clearly, I was meant to stop.

I did. And had a delightful costumed guide all to myself, a long-skirted lady who clearly loved the Hixons and their house as though she were a family member and lived there to this day.

I assume the regular tour is an hour, they usually are - I was there for two hours, and was permitted to examine things closely and we discussed finer points the whole way. (We hobby historians recognize each other and there's nothing like a Kindred Spirit - it's like when you sit down in a waiting room and take out your knitting and everyone else takes out THEIR's like that.)

The Hixon house was built in the early 1850s. Mr Hixon made his money in lumber, with sawmills (lot of that in Wisconsin, where our many rivers provide easy access from the forests to the mills.) His wife at the time only lived five years, but he married again. Now, Hixon house is highly unique in a few ways. Get this: it was owned by members of the Hixon family until about 1993 when it was donated to the La Crosse Historical Society. Furthermore, because it was so cherished by every single family member (and that to include wives, as Mrs Hixon II had five sons) that the original wallpaper, floor coverings, -- yay, even unto the china and silverware and fixtures....were ORIGINAL, and in good shape!!

The place is astounding. One room has William Morris wallpaper, which - upon merely being cleaned - was restored to its original beauty. Mr Hixon was kind and generous too -- he installed indoor plumbing when it became available, and every bedroom (including those for the servants) had marble sinks with running water. No lavatory bowls and pitchers for him! The Historical Society had photographs of Mrs Hixon sitting comfortably in her parlor - and they restored it to the identical image, with the original items on the mantelpiece, &c. For your armchair historian...and certainly for ME, it was two exquisite hours of joy.

I did take a few pictures, but very few and none with flash -- FYI: flash photography actually degrades fabrics over time, and faster than you might think. If a museum says "No Flash Photography" - pay attention! But there was one room, a very typically-19th century conceit, that I did take a couple of pictures of:

My guide caught me up, as she led the way out of the parlor and toward the dining room, by saying "Mrs Hixon had a Turkey Schnook". Now, I'm Jewish, I know from schnooks. But that one had me -- as I was mulling it over, she led me into a tiny little chamber, spread her arms wide, and declared "Turkey Schnook"! OOOOOH, says I to me. TURKISH NOOK! This view shows the GOLD CEILING. Yep, gold leaf, on the whole ceiling. It was a small, intimate little room where Mrs Hixon loved entertaining one or two lady friends. The couches were covered in genuine Kilim carpeting (like all proper Victorian ladies, Mrs Hixon "travelled the Continent" and brought home wonders from Persia and Egypt, all of which furnished her Turkish Nook.)

This is an interior leaded glass which separated the room from the stairway down from the servants' quarters. There were brass lamps hanging on chains, Turkish scimitars and shields on the wall, photographs of Mrs Hixon and her niece on camels in front of the pyramids. An entirely charming and delightful little room.

Visiting Mrs Hixon and her wonderful home were a perfect instant to end as delightful a two-day journey as I've had in my memory. And yes, there WAS knitting. (I got home safely and in a timely fashion, and am feeling quite the Bold Adventurer. All I need to do now is figure out how to get my own Turkey Schnook....)

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Moment --

Interlude: I've been watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. As I write, I'm watching the relay of the Flame, from the gate to the Cauldron. I missed the first hour of the broadcast but caught the end of it, and the Parade of the Nations.

I'm weeping. I LOVE watching the nations of the world - some countries I've never heard of (with one, two, four athletes only); I was struck by the ineffable beauty of the faces, the diversity of shape, of color, of eyes and noses and lips. I loved seeing the standard bearers of each county waving their breathtaking banners.

I caught my breath to see Yao Min (7-1/2 feet tall!) carrying the Chinese flag -- accompanied by a tiny nine-year-old boy, who was given that considerable honor because of his bravery: in the horrendous earthquake those few months ago, his school was destroyed. He lost many of his classmates...but was himself responsible for saving the lives of two of his classmates. The narrator said he'd been asked why he did go back for them, and he had replied that he was a Hall Monitor, it was his responsibility. He was proudly waving a tiny Chinese flag in one hand and a little Olympic flag in the other. He was moving to keep up with Yao Min -- he barely came to the top of the athlete's leg.

I was moved to tears, deeply, by the slow and stately raising of the Olympic flag with its familiar colored circles. As it caught the breeze and swelled out, I could think of only one thing: why, if all these people can manage a few hours' peace together (although it may disintegrate come morning) why can't everyone keep it UP?

I write children's fairy tales: maybe that's why I CAN imagine a day when, in every single country of the world, on a given day, a flag might be run up a flagpole bearing a white field with five stars: red, yellow, black, white and brown.

I guess it won't be in my lifetime.

A Midge More Madison....

In response to the positive comments about yesterday's post regarding "Beautiful Madison, Jewel of Wisconsin".I thought I'd post a few more pictures.and observations. (By the way: if any of this is information you've seen before, calk it up to my forgetfulness caused by my Advancing Age - that's a down side of it all.) This is "Wisconsin" or "Lady Wisconsin", the gold-clad figure at the top of the State Capitol. She's pointing FORWARD (conveniently the State Motto). Coincidence? I think NOT!

She's holding an orb in her left hand, but her coolest feature is that she has a wreath on her head made of ears of corn, and on the TOP of her head -- a BADGER! What's that you say? It looks like a ferret? IT IS TO LAUGH! Although....I will admit, the animal who posed for the sculptor does seem to have been rather longer, and leaner, than your average pudgy little waddler.

'Member I said this time of year there are flowers at the Farmers' Market? Ayup! Earlier in the season there are lots of pots with seedlings of every sort of flower, vegetable and herb you can imagine. A common sight is folks with bags or baskets filled with produce, ornamented by a few tall stalks of gladiola waving at they walk along. I always think a bulging canvas bag with flowers emerging from one side and a tall thin baguette out of the other looks so Franche , darling, don't you?

I know I mentioned the sun shining through the bottles of honey -- well, I forgot I had a picture of it. Now, I like honey almost as much as I like maple syrup, and fondly remember the snowy-white honey taffy I used to get at the Minnesota State Fair, which filled the head with the fragrance of it even as the sweetness melted on the tongue. When I was a kid and went through my Greek Summer (poor mommy!) I begged and begged for "honey-glazed fowl"; being a sensible Midwestern wife-n-mother, Mom never indulged me. I have, however, since being in control of my own kitchen, made honey-glazed fowl, and have to say it's as delicious as I had thought it would be. (The addition of a little cinnamon and nutmeg enhance the whole thing, might I add.)

LESSON: did you know that things submerged in honey are in a sterile and airless environment? The ancient Egyptians used to submerge their dead in vats of honey until they could get around to dealing with them, as least the rich ones destined for mummification. Furthermore, peanut-butter-honey sammiches are very nice (some folks add bananas, but that's overkill).

I was very glad to hear that I'd brought back warm memories of good ol' Madison....Hyacinth enjoyed living here, Nora was one of many lucky brides married at the Memorial Union. Lee - hope your cold resolves in time for you to visit; it may rain a bit Saturday but Sunday is forecast to be beautiful!

One last bit of excitement from the Farmers' Market Saturday: we found a street artist working, whom Mr Dearling had seen before. (Seems there are a few guys who do this, but it was new to me, I can tell you!)

(That's me in the long dress.) He might have been a tagger in an earlier, wilder life, but his method involves slapping down a piece of paper, and with lightning speed, spraying various colors onto it with his spray paint. By deftly using shields over some parts and dabbing at other parts with shiny crumpled magazine pages, he creates a landscape; he pulls out a little pallet knife and scrapes a bit off here, swipes some off there...the end result is often a sci-fi seascape or landscape.

Mr Dearling commissioned us a painting! The artist asked what my favorite colors were ("Autumnal", I said - "russets and golds, browns and yellows". I added "Forests".) Five minutes later, for REAL, he handed us the painting: dawn over a waterfall with graceful trees bending over the water on each side. Because it was still damp we took it up to our office at the Museum, and when I go up there again I'll take a picture of it to show you. Stunning! A-MAY-zing! Not to mention, very cool indeed.

Yarn Dork: to make the "Indian Candy" from maple syrup, all you need is 100% pure maple syrup; e-mail me and I'll send more detailed instructions. Address in the "about me" bit up top.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hometown Scenes

First - it seems there's a little shortage in postings around the innerwebs... GLAD IT'S NOT JUST ME! 'Nough said.

It may be evident: I love Madison. Over the last few days (when I wasn't blogging) I've been enjoying a few local wonders. The first is the Memorial Union Terrace, which is a Must-See for visitors. The Terrace is right on Lake Mendota, and strolling past the tables you can hear conversations about art, music, quantum physics, contemplative religion, who made it with whom....typical campus fare. I met an old friend there (in town for the day). When he'd gone, I stayed on enjoying the view for a while. I believe there's WiFi there, but I didn't have Daisy along. See those starburst-backed chairs? They're facsimiles of the chairs on the Terrace when the Union opened in 1928! (It was the first student union in the country and has a fascinating history which, if you want to know more, e-mail me.) I used to work at the Union (as Secretary to the Director), but almost everyone in town has worked at the Union in some capacity, it's sort of a rite of passage.

There's a beautiful Rathskeller on the first floor which has great food and is the best place in town to hang out if the weather's crummy and you don't want to sit on the Terrace. NOTE: that implies that we have crummy weather in Madison. We don't. SOME folks might not care for the bitter, frigid cold cooler days of winter or the blasting mosquito-ridden milder days of summer, but none of our weather is "crummy".

This is the exterior of the Rathskeller (which opens onto the Terrace). It really is a beautiful building, and a mainstay on campus. If you happen to be in Madison during the warm months, allow me to buy you a delicious grilled brat smothered in sauerkraut and mustard and an icy beer on the Terrace. It's a ritual (and besides that, I never miss the opportunity for a brat smothered in 'kraut.) I pay for it for days, but {burp} it is SO worth it! There are two theatres in the Union, a craft shop with darkroom, ceramics studio, &c; several reading rooms, two eateries offering all manner of comestibles and an ice cream counter serving famous Babcock Hall ice cream. (Babcock's the Dairy Sciences branch of the Ag School). See, they make this ice cream, "Orange Custard Chocolate Chip" which used to be available only at Halloween but on account of everyone in the world loving it to pieces they have it all the time now. NOTE: now I want me some. And it's late at night and they're not open. Durn.

Because you're not here at the moment (neener neener), here's what you'd see if we were sitting out on the Terrace checkin' out the dudes and chowin' down. Union members can take sailing lessons and then use one of the numerous small sailboats, for free!

Another joy of living in Madison in the summertime is going to the Farmers' Market on Saturday morning (you've already seen some pix of the Concerts on the Square). There are actually a few farmers' markets, but THE Farmers Market is the one around the Square. We mean to go every week, but usually only make it two or three times, unfortunately. As well as being a source of really fine produce, still warm from the fields, there are all manner of entertainments, special interest groups,'s a downright social event. Have you ever seen brussel sprouts "on the hoof"? They grow on enormous stalks and look like little green knitted bobbles all over them. They also tend to be waaaaay delicious, much better than even the fresh ones from the grocery.

The arrangements of the vegetables for sale is downright artistic, and the sun shining through bottles of honey, the discussions going on around one, the variety of things offered (which change seasonally, of course). In the spring there are a lot more flowers in the form of cut bouquets, seedlings and bulbs; midsummer (like now) brings out the hearty vegetables and fruits. I am glad to say that, these days, I can go to the Farmers' Market and buy me some zucchini ....yes, you saw that right. BUY ZUCCHINI! They never mention, at the retirement party, that besides not working you are cutting yourself off from the endless supply of Girl Sprout cookies, mammoth tins of popcorn and tubes of gift wrap at Christmas...and ZUCCHINI!! In case you're interested: I steam them, cut them lengthwise, scoop out the inside and mix it with beaten egg, seasoned breadcrumbs, and cheese. Did I mention cheese? LOTS of cheese. Grated cheeses, and then on top, parmesan. Then I bake them until the CHEESE melts (did I mention cheese?) and serve them with extra (all together now....) CHEESE!

And THAT is why I buy melted cheese delivery units fresh zucchini.

Our annual big purchase is our case of maple syrup. We have a favorite sugar bush, and if they don't have a full case of quart jars at the Market, Mr Dearling goes out on his motorcycle to pick it up. To conclude my Don't You Wish You Lived In Madison/Wisconsin rant, let me tell you about Maple Syrup. (But Dale-Harriet, what the heck does it have to do with knitting? don't give THAT to your cats!!)

Nope. Don't eat maple candy while knitting, and I don't need to tell you why. And SHEESH! Of COURSE you don't give maple syrup to cats. (They don't like it anyway. Nevermind.)

I, on the other hand, like maple syrup. I like cooking with it (glazes for meats, mixed with sweet potatoes, blended with balsamic vinegar over asparagus....). I like using it straight up, like over ice cream. ("Maple-sugar delivery system".) Because maple syrup and sugar tends to come from our climate (I hear they sugar in New England too) it tends to be very expensive and rare in other parts of the country. So when we travel, like to historical encampments, in other areas - we like to take jars of maple syrup as guesting gifts, and they're always well received.

These hot summer days are not going to last forever (!). When the Wheel turns and it becomes freezing cold again (oh yeah, don't delude yourselves, Wisconsinites)....when it DOES, let me share an old Shawnee recipe with y'all: Heat water. Add maple syrup until it's the color of strong tea. Stir gently and drink. (Yes, you there in the back, question? *imagine me cupping my ear* NO! Sorry, Mrs Butterworth doesn't cut it, has to be the real deal.) While you might think it would taste like watery syrup, I am here to tell you, NOPE!! Furthermore, you won't find another beverage, with or without alcohol, that warms you up faster or is more restorative. The Shawnee call this "Melasaneppe", and when you see the first flakes falling (won't be as long as you might think, people), remember it.

You may now resume your regulary scheduled knitting.