Sunday, December 21, 2008

I'm whispering here.....

...because it's not always popular to say "BOY do I love all this snow!" But that's the truth, I'm afraid. Since I last wrote we had another spate of snow - I think about 9" or so, and it's all sparkly and quiet and muffled, and wintry and beautiful. This is what Winter was like when I was a girl, and -- well, it might be that I'm about 2/3 Mukwah , "bear", and I do love hibernating. Nesting.

We've been down to one car since Friday - Mr Dearling has these a-MAY-zing ears, and heard something "off" as we were driving home from the Museum, so he dropped me at home and took the car to the shop; sure enough, beloved Deerslayer* needs new brake pads, and you don't be fooling around with that, particularly not in Wisconsin Winter! Truth is, the second car is a luxury, NOT a necessity; it's a convenience, one we're used to and enjoy, though. Actually we don't often use the second car, as Mr Dearling walks. Walks uptown to the Museum (some nine miles)(and sometimes home too). Takes a daily constitutional through the Arboretum (averaging 8-10 miles). And I know it's really Winter because he's taken to wearing LONG PANTS. When it gets down to single digits he grumblingly puts away his shorts.

But you know, if he's going to the Archaelogical Society meeting and I have a Knit Night.......or, conversely, if I am going to the Archaelogical Society meeting and he's going to Knit...uhn...mmmm...well, you get the picture. Wonderful convenience.

* Deerslayer: our wonderful 1992 Toyota Camry Wagon, over 260,000 miles - and she's killed two deer and a 25-lb. turkey. Because Mr Dearling is the Wisest of Automobile Purchasers, he got her at the end of the model year for a very good price, and she has six (count 'em, 6 !) speakers, nice rear-window defroster, outside mirrors you can wiggle around with a knob - and get this: there's a little ring that illuminates for a moment when you get into the car, so if you're quick you can plug that ol' key right in, even in the dark.


(A propos of absolutely nothing - have I mentioned I digress?) In the meantime, we haven't had to go out much - other than one trip to the bookstore for the "books" part of the grandkids' Christmas presents.

What else is new, Dale-Harriet? Well - other than NOT having achieved Finished status on the scarf or the toque yet and having missed Late-Night Knit (on account of the Winter Storm, (yes, if you could see me, I am blushing) or making much progress on the mittens, I have a couple of things to report.

First, I have a new pet! The kitties seem to get along fine with him -- he never tries to get onto their kitty tree or eat their food, although I did have to rescue him from their drinking fountain one day when Evangeline wanted to get a drink.

He didn't have a name for a couple of days - but you know how it is - they sort of tell you what they want to be called? This is Ralph! He was keeping me company in the bathroom before bed and I think he was pretty tired, because it's really hard to get a picture of him when he's not racing around playing with his toys. Mr Dearling says I can keep him unless he starts eating more than the cats do. I have to look up to see how long they live, because I don't want to get caught off-guard and wind up with big vet bills or anything. I don't know how old he is, but he looks pretty healthy. I keep his toys separate from the cats' because I don't want any jealousy.

Second, I did my "Manners, Mending and Morals" program at one of our favorite senior centers last week. I added a few pictures to the Power Point, but I have to see if I can figure out how to add some text to the new pictures in the same font, &c. I need to find a class - maybe at the Technical College - because I'd like to learn some real skill in preparing Power Points.

It is NOT lost on me - the weirdness of appearing as a mid-19th century woman....with a Power Point slide clicker in my hand. But it is an enhancement, having a "slide show", because it makes the whole thing more visually interesting. This is one of my favorite shows - I prefer the ones Mr Dearling and I do together, but it doesn't take much for me to play dress-up and get up to talk. I can hardly wait until we've worked up our program where I can wear this dress and he can wear his 1857 suit. I think we're going to try to write a program about Madison just before and during the early Civil War - something like "Civilians on the Home Front, 1860".

All in all, I'd have to say these are nice times, this season - this year - is winding up rather nicely. Great winter....and we're coming up on the Inauguration. How's that go?

Happy Days?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Have the Code!

Yes, I have the code. It's id by dose. And I can't breathe. I feel like I have a big HORN on by dose.

And I'm feeling under the weather...interesting expression, that. I'm not so much under the weather as under two quilts; under the influence of Vicks vapors; under three cups o' tea - and about to be under the influence of a nice steamy cup of hot lemonade and honey, which is my Solution to the symptoms.

What that means is, two days at home (Mr Dearling's gone to do my tours at the Museum, bless 'm, and I'm glad there aren't so many tours as to leave the Museum short-handed.

But I DO have goals for the week: I'm going to finish the fringe on the scarf, finish the Homespun shawl - and make good progress (hopefully finish ) the first of the mittens I'm making for #1 Son's lady. I haven't made mittens for a while, and I'm going Basic. But she's asked for them, and a cap as well..."without a cuff to turn up". I'm going to do that one top-down and I'll just end with ribbing.

But here's the deal: she said she wanted "hot pink and black". HOT PINK! Let me state for the record, it's a sign of my affection for this girl that I've bought Caron "Simply Soft" in black and in ... are you ready? WATERMELON! I'm not going to take a picture of it because a) I'm not sure the picture would do the glaring ...uhm... garish - that is BRIGHT color; and b) I'd hate to damage my cherished camera. It's designated "BRITES", if that helps your mental image.

You're being spared a Rant here, because I feel punk - suffice it to say that the word is BRIGHT, not BRITE , and cutesy spelling is one of my hot buttons. But I won't go into that here. I'm sure it'll come up again when I feel better. For now, I'm going to take a moment's respite to grumble and cuss..........

OK, I'm better. So -- look it up, if you're curious about the color. I consulted with the Lovely Daughter, and she agrees that "hot pink" is a fair description of it. In fact (another sign of our deep affection) she is working on a project which will, at the point, remain unnamed, as it may qualify as a Christmas project.

Suffice it to say, "Misery loves company." When I've finished the cap and mittens I'll take pictures, though. The black may subdue the HOT PINK.

It's about four degrees out (hey, it's above zero - if I have to go out I'll grab a shawl) but it was warmish over the weekend and we lost a few inches of snow. Luckily (that's my opinion) there is more snow forecast, starting this afternoon. I've experiened green Christmases, and brown Christmases - and the truth is --

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas!

Now I'm going to drink hot lemonade and honey and sniff and sneeze and wheeze. And knit.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taptaptap - is this thing on?

OK, Mom, you've been WHERE?? Because you know, we cats read a lot of blogs, and we were just shy of crossing you off our list....

Yes, yes, Evangeline, you're right and I apologize. It's like - when you've been on vacation, it takes a while to get back in the groove. November was such a whirlwind, what with the novel and all, and just one thing came along after another, and -- well, just in time for the Chaos that is Holidays, I'm settled back in. (Operative word: "back".)

Our lovely Christmas tree was delivered by my friend (and former boss) Jerry, as he does every year. His in-laws keep a tree farm up by Antigo, and when they come down for Thanksgiving they always bring about 100 trees, set them up in Jerry's yard and sell them. We have a standing order, and every year they come by with an absolutely perfect tree after Thanksgiving - it's the right height for our room, beautifully tapered, wonderfully fragrant. As always, it's standing unadorned for a while. Part of it is to celebrate the pagan meaning of the Winter Festival and the evergreen, and part of it is that we wait a few days to bring up the ornaments from downstairs, &c.

I've started off the holiday season this year by attending the annual Tudor Dinners at our Memorial Union on campus. (Thanks, Donna!) It was Donna's idea, and we made an evening of it. The plan was for her to come over and I could drive us both. (Only need to park one car - and she's unfamiliar with Madison.) We'd go to the dinner, return home and she'd stay overnight, so we could have an extended "knittin' night - slumber party", as neither of us had to be at work before noon the next day.

The event is a medieval-flavored dinner, with entertainment by a great chorus; the servers are wearing stylized medieval tabards and caps, and the meal is divided into "courses".
The tickets said the program started at 5:30, so we got the car tucked in and arrived right on the minute. The Main Lounge had long tables of hors d'oeuvres, subdued lighting, and small tables to sit at, so we hung up our coats and investigated.

Oh, I DO love me some fancy little nosh-y things. This was about as nice an array as I've seen. There were little meatballs with a cranberry-barbecue sauce, and a tray of antipasto (yummy little pickled mushrooms among other things); there were various vegetables and dips - and my favorites: rumake, which are bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, broiled -- and little tartlets made with apple, almonds and bleu cheese filling. They were delicious! It was all very elegant, too, and I must report that I only had eight (I'm kidding) TWO little plates - simply because we weren't sure what the supper entailed and I didn't want to spoil my appetite. NOTE: I'm going to try those little tarts, I think, for our Christmas day evening; you can buy those lovely little phyllo tart cups to bake, and it seemed to be minced apples, broken slivered almonds and bits of bleu cheese. Even though I did stop at two modest plates........I did have a bunch of few rumake, because they're very fussy-mussy to make, so I really enjoyed the fact that someone else made 'em.

As it turned out, the dinner was lovely! At the beginning they sang "The Boar's Head Carol" and carried in a large bedecked (papier-mache) boar's head. The meal began with a wonderful cranberry-walnut salad with a sweet-sour dressing (just a hint of red pepper flakes gave it a spunky little ZIP). The star of the meal itself was prime rib - Donna said hers was a bit tough, but mine was literally butter-knife tender. There were some vegetables and mashed potatoes, which I ate some of, but you can eat veggies anywhere. I really enjoyed the meat. There was music throughout, and as it happened our dinner companions sitting next to us were very entertaining. There was actual figgy pudding for dessert, and truly - the combination of wonderful singing, really delicious food, and merry company made for a very festive event.

And then Donna and I stayed up knitting and gabbing and watching teevee until something like 3:00 AM. A good time was had by all!

There's another commercial, which I do like. There's a little kid, and he's wearing a black-and-white knitted cap. It shows him at school, playing baseball (with the cap under his helmet) - and then his mom slips it off of him while he sleeps to wash it. (I think the commercial's for laundry soap.) My Highly-Developed imagination tells me that his grandmaw knitted him that little cap and I think the whole little film is endearing as all get-out. (I don't remember at all what the soap is - so maybe it's not a great commercial, but sure is sweet.)

There's another one (can you sign up to be a Nielsen Family for ads?) - this one shows the mom serving her family baked potatoes - and each has a whole stick of butter standing up vertically in it. That, of course, is for something heart-healthy to use instead of butter. I like THAT commercial because, if you ask me, a whole stick of butter in a baked potato sounds like a very good idea! Thanks for asking!

We had a decent snow, resulting in a couple of Snow Days at the begining of the week. I know it's crap to drive in sometimes, but give me a cup of tea, (the silent partner of Cats, Sticks and Books) a good book, some knitting and a cat and a lovely soft heavy snowfall and I am a Happy Midwestern Woman. The "good book"? "Casting Spells" by B. Bretton. It was an easy read, finished in one cozy snow day. Not brilliant, might I add - I found myself with ideas for changing a phrase here, expression there - but it was entertaining enough.

My Writers' Group met here Monday - well, two came. Because of the dicey weather and forecast for more, our members who live about 45 minutes from town didn't want to risk it. I've thought about bringing my edited pages from my NaNoWriMo novel for their critique, but I haven't gotten to that point yet. I brought another of my short stories - and they gave me a couple of STUNNING suggestions, but said that they thought it was really a good story. I think I'm going to send that one out with my about feeling good about stuff!!

I've had nice days at the Museum this week and all is back in balance. I have good projects to work on, I'll be able to report TWO finished projects before the end of the coming week (you saw it here first!) and the Festive Days of Winter have begun.

More soon.........I promise! (That sound you're hearing? A deep, satisfied, "things are back to normal" sigh.)

I, a Superior Being, will keep Maman on task, because I am a Superior Being.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Fait (Fete) Accompli!

Thanksgiving is past. November is gone. The first snow has fallen. Accomplishments all.

Thanksgiving was nice, with all of the Usual. Mr Dearling tried something new with the turkey: he put it in its little rack on a broiler pan instead of the roaster, so the bottom would be crispy too. At the end he put it in the roaster, so there's be room for my corn pudding. He has a knack, the turkey was delicious. He made gravy from the drippings (with the gravy packet from inside the bird) and it was much better than usual. We also made the wild rice a little differently: instead of including the Scottish Fungal Sauce we usually use (that's Campbell's Cream of Mushroom to you), we made a medium white sauce with sauteed mushrooms, and it WAS much better. Fussier, but it was worth it.

The only glitch was, I left the corn pudding on the counter with a towel over it prior to putting it into the oven; Mr Dearling was out on his daily constitutional. I went to Do Something, and when I came back in, why the towel was IN the corn pudding!! Now - being Highly Psychic, I determined that someone, whose name I will not mention but whose initials are L-I-L-L-I-A-N-E, had apparently investigated the corn pudding. She didn't manage to get into it......oh no, because the TOWEL was in it. I managed to scrape off the pudding and rinse out the towel, but I still think a lot of that melted butter was absorbed into the towel. NUTS!! (It was OK in the end, delicious and rich, but still.....).

All three of my children were here (YAY) and two of my grandsons and their mom, and our two friends-now-family-after-all-these-years. My Youngest, who is having one heck of a Rough Patch (as in "can't get a break no way no how") still came up with a list of things for which he's grateful, and named the best thing of all: "Hope".

Lovely Daughter brought her capital pecan pie, and after everyone left Mr Dearling got a good start on his Annual Turkey Broth; in fact, he's already made a very fine soup from some of it, and he has the ingredients for his famous Turkey Tetrazzini. I, meantime, have already enjoyed TWO "hot roast turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce" which is what I order every time we eat at one of those friendly little eateries in small towns on our travels. That is Mighty. Fine. Eating. (OK, three. I just had another for lunch. Nevermind.)

Here's the first snowfall of the year (well, except for a piddly one that didn't last.) Satisfying, beautiful, soft -- I love it. There's something wholesome about snow, and it makes me feel cozy and nest-y and snuggly; winter's a time for repairing things and knitting and reading and snuggling kitties and knitting. And reading. (See blog title).

It IS December, so that means...let's see, today's the 2nd...that means, in 29 days I can start using my 2009 Never Not Knitting , the Yarn Harlot's daily-page calendar. I got it in June, as I recall - and I am proud to say I haven't even take off the shrink-wrap. Oh yeah, I know: "If you had, Dale-Harriet, you would already have looked at every page. Twice." To which I reply PFHAWWW! (I'd have looked at every page four or five times. Nevermind.)

But there's a bigger reason for the "FETE". A genuine accomplishment, a goal achieved, a finish line crossed:

Now - click on this to enlarge it. Ignore the feeble text; look instead at the lower left-hand corner. DO YOU SEE IT?? See where it says, and I quote: "Words: 50,000"? Remember when I said I signed up for NaNoWriMo? I joined well over 100,000 people world-wide to write a novel in thirty days. There were over 500 LOCAL NaNos. (Or's a personal decision.) And I wrote, almost every day of the month. I DID take a couple of days off....Mr Dearling threatened to cancel Thanksgiving and order pizza if I looked like I was going to disappear into the writing room. But I managed to keep ahead of the game, so that I wasn't really behind at any time.

Here's how I did it. No, the picture isn't out of focus. *I* was. By that time I was starting to look a little bleary around the edges. I didn't do much else, like knitting or reading or bathing. (Ha ha - I did bathe. At least once.)

The end result is that I crossed the virtual finish line. I DID write a novel, actually something over 58,000 words by the time I got to the end. At no time during the writing (at least not after the third or fourth day) did I go back and read it from the beginning; I only read as much as I needed each day to pick up and keep going. I think there's at least one place where the winter melts into...autumn. I learned early on to keep a notebook handy so I could keep track of characters' names, which I tended to forget. I had no idea what was going to happen from day to day, and until about November 28th I had no clue how it might all end.

The only thing I knew was a) it had a little girl as the sort-of-main character; b) there was a sheep in it; c) there was a cat in it. It seemed to take place in Scotland or least, they lived in a croft. I remember now (though I still haven't gone back and reread the whole thing) that there are places where little eyes are watching from the depths of the forest. Who they are, or what -- I still don't know, they never materialized. Let me put it this way: Philip Pullman need not be concerned about any competition from here. HOWEVER, allow me to display this (feel free to stamp, whistle and applaud):

See the guy in the front, in the horned helm? That would be me. I know, I look taller there. It's actually a very small boat.

Oh - and I will be going back over it with a red pen, crossing out the effluvia and circling the literary gems, and I mean to file and polish the remainder and see what I have. Novel? Probably not, but maybe a decent short story. Only winter will be followed by spring.


As a concession to my knitterly friends, who were offering me all sorts of enthusiastic support at the last Late-Night Knit....I feel it only fair to reveal here the last few lines of the story:

....the kingdom still continues as a paragon of tranquility, fairness, joy and love, and if I had not had the delight of visiting it myself, I would not know of all these things!

Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh………..