Saturday, February 28, 2009

Forward - into the Past....

1. The Rocky Mountain News , the newspaper in Denver which reported about the Civil War for the citizens of Denver, Colorado......has printed its last issue. I suppose that caught my attention more than most, because my beloved daddy (of blessed memory) was a newspaperman since he was three years old, in 1914. He used to tag along with his big brother Dan to deliver the Duluth Tribune . He went on to graduate with degrees in Journalism -- he was City Editor for the Minot Daily News in North Dakota when I was born and went on to the Minneapolis Star & Tribune where he served in several capacities including originator and editor of "The Minnesota Poll."

So I've been blanking out all the comments about newsprint dying, even though one of our daily papers here in Madison has gone under and is now appearing as a weekly insert in the OTHER daily paper's Thursday edition. If I live to see we know them....vanish, I'll be a very, very sad person.

You've seen this before - it's the absolute archetype Newspaperman from the 1950s (also my daddy, see above). The hats are out of fashion, ties don't look like that anymore -- those typewriters are in museums.......and now the newspaper is going.

It makes me sad.

2. It's now the season of Lent. Reminds me of one of my girlhood friends, Carol, who was a devout Catholic and always gave up candy for Lent. She saved up every piece she got all the way up to Easter - and then shared it out with the rest of us afterward. I think it's a noble idea, giving something up for a whole forty days, so I thought I'd give up some things too, in support of my non-Jewish friends.

I'm giving up rutabaga. I'm giving up watching golf on the teevee. No more hard whiskey. And I won't do any Advanced Mathematics. I don't think I need to report on my successes or failures here; suffice it to say, I'm confident.

3. I think it's time to brag a little about one of my "babies" - the four-leggedy ones. I may have mentioned now and then that our little stripey tabby, Lilliane by name, is a terrible brat ... sometimes difficult. But everyone's good at something, and wee Lilli is absolutely masterful at Human Training. Oh, Evangeline's got a few techniques for cadging crunchy treats, I'll give her that. But Lilliane? Well...check these out:

Keep in mind - this is a seven-pound cat.

"Next, I want you to take me over there, where I'm pointing with my eyes - and keep rubbing."

Now -- this action, which also involves not just standing there but literally a perambulation throughout the house - never ceasing the stroking, petting, snorgling - can last as much as ten minutes. And she manages to get him to submit to her wishes for this several times a day.

WHO owns WHOM???

3. OK, I can't hold back. I am EXCITED!! I think I've mentioned, I portrayed a late 19th-century woman in the Museum during Halloween: Mary Hayes Chynoweth. She was born in 1825 and died in 1912 and lived a rich and full life, marrying twice, having two brilliant and accomplished sons (they became "The Prune Kings of San Jose" as adults) - and in possession of "The Power", which enabled her to be a great healer, preacher, and spiritualist.

There's so much to her (I keep falling in love with all these dead folks) that I posed the suggestion of adding her to our Outreach programs, and going around in character to talk about her life. Our boss liked the idea - and went so far as to arrange for the museum's seamstress to make me a proper outfit for Mary.

Mary Hayes Chynoweth was tall - at least taller than *I* am (I heard that, Daughter -- "everyone over age 10 is.......") and a commanding personage. Well -- Linda the Seamstress has made me a suit of clothes that will absolutely allow me to portray her:

I was worried about the hat. Ladies LOVED their hats in 1895 (the era of the gown) and I am NOT a hat person. I've almost never found headgear that didn't make me look like a toadstool; my little caps and bonnets are ok, but I've never found anything else. Well, ladies and gentlemens - I LOVE THIS HAT! Adore it, worship it, I'm going to marry it and call it George. Sophie. Sadie. Whatever.

I was worried about the hat, bigtime. And the base hat the Seamstress Linda showed me was nothing short of dreadful - with a high, round crown and floppy-ass brim. She told me that she loves doing hats. Well, I had but little faith and am now here to tell you, that lady knows her way around a millinery. Is this hat not spectacular??? Go ahead, biggify it. (Ignore my wrinkles.) It's covered in the same rich fabric the gown's made from and adorned with bows of that stunning gold brocade of the front waist - and bedecked with TWO ostrich plumes (she tells me the black one really IS very old). And she said (to my delight) if she'd FOUND a huge dead bird, she'd have given me a big dead bird. (Very fashionable in those days, I am so not making that up.)

This is the back (like I had to say that). You know that I don't sew a stitch, so imagine how impressed I am with the quality of the tailoring of this suit. The gathers at the back of the skirt, the point at the bottom of the jacket -- the perfect sleeves. It's a medium-weight smooth wool, and the front of the bodice is (as mentioned) a stunning gold brocade. (By the way - the top is one piece -- not actually a separate shirtwaist and jacket, which is authentic.)

I did cadge a full view (Mr Dearling was acting as H.H. Bennett); overlook the little pearl-headed pins at the bottom, it had just been pinned up for proper hemming. There is a small train at the back, as the very best walking skirts had.

"Mrs Mary Hayes Chynoweth, before speaking to a gathering of Free-Thinkers and Spiritualists, November 1895."

I will be getting some beautiful earbobs - gold, I think, perhaps with garnets - and black gloves, and perhaps a small tasteful watch on a gold brooch or long gold chain. I don't expect I'll know until I either Pass the Veil and ask her......or study up on mediumship enough to contact her Over There....but I think Mrs. Hayes Chynoweth will be pleased with my portrayal. Dressed thus, I'm sure I'll be able to carry off her elegance.

Can you believe, I'm being PAID for having all this fun???

Monday, February 23, 2009

Time.....Marches On

That should be said in a deep, newsman-y voice. All together now....GOOD! Now then - I'm going to go back and get caught up; may I say, though, I learned some very fine things about my friend Stephen from a lot of positive comments about him in a memorial website; he touched a lot of lives.

Now then. First things first: I hadda birthday. I am now officially 66 years old. (!) All the birthday cards I got refer to being old -- "You're not old until the fat lady sings", says the one from my Lovely Daughter. And when you open it up - a great, LOUD, alto, piercing, operatic is to laugh (I did!). But I actually loved 'em all, because 1) I LOVE getting older, which means I can be crankier, more assertive, able to pull rank on punks and I get all kinda bargains and Old People prices; and 2) consider the alternative!

This is my lemon poppyseed birthday cake with lemony icing, which my boss at the Museum made for me. (She makes cakes for everyone's birthday!) Now, it wasn't a HUGE cake. But -- well, suffice it to say, I helped myself to a very GENEROUS piece to start with. I mean, there was enough for everyone to get a morsel, but I had a MORSEL! On the top picture, that's my cup of tea -- I have to tell you, a chunk o' lemon poppyseed cake and a cup o' tea - now THAT is a delicious snackaroonie. Yas'm.

Now, I'm not much one on presents; I'm always embarrassed by getting presents -- but in spite of that, I got two presents, and they both made me very VERY happy!

The first, from Mr Dearling, is a pair o' shearling-lined slippers. They replace my OLD pair of shearling slippers, which are perfectly fine.....well, except for the big hole in the bottom of one and the place where my toes hang all out. I'm lovin' the new ones (but I'm not throwing away the old ones - I believe I've described "shmate" here before).

The other present will NOT be shown here, because I do not wish to create violent, throbbing, bitter, envious JEALOUSY anywhere; nor do I want to become vulnerable to any wandering fiberthieves, cutpurses, brigands or hooligans who might be slithering around the neighborhood.

No, I'll just describe it - it's a skein of yarn. It's handspun, a blend of natural fibers (I was so excited when it was described that I don't remember them all, but think "luxurious" and there's tencel in it). It's varicolored, with raspberry, lavender, rose, pink all blend-y and plied feels like pure silk and merino or wossname and is the most delicious skein I've ever seen, and that's NOT hyperbole.

But.......along with being eye-wateringly beautiful and rich and soft and fine, it's a length of hand-spun , from the very hands, heart and wheel of my dear friend MollyBee! This is one of those skeins which will sit atop any other yarns in my basket and be admired, adored and petted. In time it may indicate something it would like to be knitted into, but in the meantime it'll just be trotted out for company's admiration.

Now -- remember I mentioned my finding "green" yarn for my little preemie caps? This is it, "Saving our planet one stitch at a time." Like I think I said, it's old water bottles - oh, and I'm not getting any kick-backs or freebies or kudos or cooties or anything from mentioning this, but I like it. The colors are subtle, it's surprisingly soft and I like knitting with it. It splits - sort of untwists , you know, but if you're watching that's not a problem. Remember I showed you I had nine - count 'em, 9 little caps? Well - I think I need an intervention. I haven't even taken the time to get back on Ravelry and find out where to they go....but -

I finished a few more in the meanwhiles. They're all the same pattern, but I'm experimenting with different colors, different combinations of colors, some different yarns (a self-patterning baby yarn) and some different needle sizes.

They're fun. They're easy. They're quick. They're........

seriously, SERIOUSLY, addicting. See how there are twenty-seven (count 'em, 27 ) there? Well...after taking that picture I found another in my knitting basket. In case you can't see those self-patterning ones too well, I did a close-up:

I'd love to tell you the information on the ball-band, but...well, this is a little embarrassing: the ball-bands are across the room. (So whassamattah, Dale-Harriet, you're so OLD AND LAME you can't cross the room?) Oy, I wrote that! No -- see, I'm sitting on the couch. And Evangeline is curled up behind o' me, tucked all snugly under my shawl, and if I get up -- it'll disturb her.

Awww, come ON! I know all y'all with cats have done something or NOT done something so you didn't disturb the cat. Even Mr Dearling's done that. It's just a little touch of kittyweird is all.

However -- it's an acrylic yarn, very soft, and I used #4 DPNs for these. They're miniscule, soft, and really, really pretty. (I tried them on my Bitty Baby doll and they fit.) I really do like making these little things - I think it's a backlash of Immediate Gratification following that Dr. Who scarf.

So as I said, time's marching on -- but for today, there's only one final thing:


Thursday, February 19, 2009

In which I pause........

It's been a while; I've accumulated some notes about the last week, which had in it my birthday (let's hear it for little old ladies), Valentine's Day, a taste of spring, the return of winter, I've made about 24 preemie caps (nuts, they're like potato chips, I'm addicted). But I got an e-mail this morning, and want to talk about this instead.

This man is Stephen R. Ratterman, late of Louisville, Kentucky.


I just received an e-mail containing a little notice from his local newspaper, announcing that last Friday, he passed away. This is one of those moments where I am pretty much awash in regret, because it was a long time since I e-mailed Stephen -- and guess what? I MEANT to, even the last few weeks. He lived in Louisville, which had a bout of some plenty serious weather, and I was going to write and ask him how he was faring.........but I didn't get around to it.

Stephen was a reenacting friend, whom I met at our online conference on Compuserve, these many years past. He portrayed an 18th century cordwainer, was actually in possession of the proper tools of the trade (some actual artifacts) and he made shoes in the correct 18th century way. He pointed out to me the difference between being a Cordwainer and being a Cobbler -- cobblers repair leather goods, and he said it was a skill and cobblers were really important in the 18th century world. But cordwainers actually built the shoes, and also other leather goods. It was an honest trade, and took skill and a technical knowledge.

And he was good at it - superior, in fact. He took pride in the shoes he made, rightfully. He often participated at the Fair at New Boston, a wonderful 18th century trade fair in Ohio which enjoys a reputation for excellence. On one occasion when we went there, I spent a fair bit of time in his little "shop", and enjoyed watching as he built a shoe, on a last -- and I felt proud to be his friend, when folks came in and he showed what he was doing and talked about 18th century construction of shoes and what it meant in those days.

But there was a lot more to Stephen. We'd met "F2F" on a few occasions: a bunch of us who got together online together regularly managed the occasional "Compu-voo" -- a sort of rendezvous of us cyber-buddies. The picture of him above was taken at a really fun weekend we had in Ohio on our friends' land. Ironically, the pictures of us who were there seem to have been taken BY Stephen, so he's not in them.

Here are the gentlemen, on that occasion - except Stephen's not in it, because he TOOK the picture. (Chap on the left is Mr Dearling; chap in the middle is Jen's husband, Mark - an excellent guy, may I say, who looks 17th-18th century to the life! - and the fellow on the left earned the sobriquet "Biskits"...allow me to say, that man can mix up some flour and stuff, put it in a cast iron dutch oven, slap the lid on and stand it on the coals. After just exactly the right length of time - he takes it up, removes the lid -- and you have to move fast, because the biscuits FLOAT right out. We all stood around with blobs of butter on our knives - and caught them as they rose out of the pot. Let me tell you, that is mighty-fine eatin'!)

I digress. (!)

In the name of equal opportunity, &c, I'll put a picture of we ladies who were there too, what the hey:

Here are the ladies at that event: Marjorie on the left came all the way from CALIFORNIA and is dressed as an early californio; Jen in the middle is the Seamstress Excellente who made my precious 19th century gown - and there's me in my guise of Acadian widow, circa 1800-ish. I was wearing a chemise, two petticoats, a corset, shortgown and apron .... really fat back then. Nevermind.

Anyway, Stephen also had a vast knowledge of the 18th century and a truly refined and polished DROLL sense of humor, that was also quick. He sang and played the guitar, entertaining us on several occasions with a bunch of 18th century songs.

Here's the one picture taken at the Fair at New Boston, and there, behind and to the left, is our friend the Cordwainer, Stephen.

One thing evident from this picture (and we really were having a good time, but it was pretty hot as I recall). Stephen was tall. VERY tall. And very thin. And he had him some knobby ol' knees too, and I believe it was HE who first referred to himself as "Ichabod Crane".

Speaking for myself (and I think the others would agree), Stephen was a good friend, a skillful reenactor, a very well-rounded guy. Besides the 18th century life we shared with him, he served years as a counselor in the prison -- and he'd always enjoyed dancing. These last years he'd taken up Swing Dancing, which he loved and spoke about enthusiastically every time I did talk to him. He was very proud to announce that he had gotten so good that he was teaching in the dance school he went to.

There was more to Stephen, much more - but I knew him as a humorous, intelligent, thoughtful and clever man, who had an unerring sense of chivalry and courtesy. It's been a long time since I had any contact with him....and now, even more than before, I realize that I missed him all that time (when I needn't have) - and I really do miss him now.

I imagine that he's been welcomed into the Company of Cordwainers beyond, and met by his brothers and fellow Masons, and I hope he finds himself in exalted company and relishing joy. For the many things you gave me, Stephen, thank you. And farewell, old friend.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Effluvia and Chazerai


"Effluvia": A byproduct or residue; waste.
"Chazerai": Disgusting stuff, trash (that's the formal Yiddish definition; the truth is, it now means "oddments, junk food, clutter -- you know, CHAZERAI!)

In this case, and this application, I mean simply the thinkings and ramblings of the last few days....for example:

This is one of the things we Wisconsinites live for. The rest of you can have your caviar, your Kobe beef, your puffer fish......we have DEEP-FRIED CHEESE CURDS! (OK, you can put that fact right out of your minds.....we DO know they're globules of congealed milk, rolled in buttery breadcrumbs and dropped into boiling fat - and we do know the little clicking sound as we eat them are our arteries slamming shut. We do know that -- see Chazerai , above.)

Cue theme music: "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things" see here one definition of my Happy Place. Directly before me, my Current Read (in this case, "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle", which I am reading slowly and savoring); above that my very own portion of Deep-Fried Cheese Curds (made even tastier by the fact that they were only $1 for the bag); and Mr Dearling across from me, with his very own bag of them!

I watched a marathon of "Dog, the Bounty Hunter". OK, so it's another dark secret - I'm almost amazed they ever catch anyone - you'd think someone in town would notice two or three huge black SUVs filled with stout blond people dripping beads and feathers (and some skinny ones with mohawks and long earrings - and his WIFE) in town and tip off every fugitive in a five-state area. But I really lost it when I read the disclaimer, which went something like this: "Actual hunters going after actual fugitives... DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME! Aw nuts, and I was just going to get myself a few neck chains and try it....

Mental image: me (4'11", remember) wearing my necklaces - a Thor's hammer, a fleur-de-lys, a little ceramic lamb pendant...driving my Subaru Outback and wearing a sunbonnet and shades. Nope, I won't be "trying that at home".

Bath and Body Works is discontinuing their "Purely Silk" and "Ultimate Silk" hand lotions. These are the only hand lotions I've ever found that I can use and then immediately knit on account of, they really are NOT greasy or sticky. See where I said "discontinued"? There issued from my lips (quietly, I hope) a stream of language that would make Jack Sparrow blush.....but a phone call from my usual shop to a distant-but-still-local shop revealed that THEY had "tons"! So I went over the next day and bought twelve (count 'em, 12 ) bottles of the stuff, all in "Sensual Amber", my smell du jour. I figure that'll last me, maybe until I croak. (Nevermind that I do have about half-a-dozen bottles of the stuff in other scents.) Hmmmm....I'll have handy prizes if I do another contest sometime soon! I love the stuff - but I always enjoy things more if I can share 'em. PS - being as they ARE being discontinued, they're marked way down. Whew!

And last - effectively catching myself up - is this:

See? NINE little preemie caps. I'm using all the same pattern - CO 42, do a few rows seed stitch and then knit up to the top (decreasing where I should). I think they're darling; I'll see where to send them for Ravelry, I think - but I'm on a roll and I'm going to send off as many as I can to the hospital where my Lovely Daughter was born (weighing 3 lbs. 2 oz. at birth and 2 lbs. 11 oz. the next morning). I still have another Calorimetry on the needles, and I've finished my Homespun cowl too, but I am enjoying these wee caps - and I found some Caron yarn made out of recycled plastic bottles, which is machine wash-and-dry-able. It's called "Caron ECO". It's green. Well -- no, one skein is actually "Wheat". The other one is "Spring Moss", which makes it both green and green . Oy.

Nothing like a warm sunbath...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

There was a Game?

I understand there was a football game last Sunday. In MY house I think of it as "that program I tape for the commercials, so I can whip past the big sweaty guys running around." Not a big sports fan at the best of times, I became entirely disillusioned when Mr Dearling told me that a lot of the things you see on the field (yellow lines, shapes saying what "down" it is, &c) are actually computer-generated and are not really there at all. Which begs the question: how about the Big Sweaty Guys? How do we know THEY are really there? Or the football, is there really a football? Well, anyway, I haven't run through to watch the commercials yet, but I must admit, in the spirit of the thing we made up a big bowl of guacamole (well -- the game AND the fact that two of our three avocados were ripe to the point of "use 'em or lose 'em"); we also heated up some of our favorite Santa Fe black bean dip, and while we ate all that with chips we DID watch the actual game. (So far the Clydesdale fetching the stick is my favorite commercial.)

Having said that, I can also report that I have three (count 'em, 3 ) projects on the needles: another preemie cap (my fourth, and I mean to crank out a few more); a sort of cowl thingie out of Homespun, because I can: (Rnds 1-4 Purl. Rnds 5-8 Knit. Rep Rnds 1-8 until it's 23" or as big as you want. (I'm using size 10.5 circs); and yet another Calorimetry . OK, I'm addicted to that last one, I admit it. I really LIKE the things, and getting compliments on it pretty often hasn't hurt either. And it's quick and fun! (Have I mentioned being easily entertained?)

There's an event here that we try to go to every year, called "Souper Bowl". It's a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, held before that football game, and here's how it works. You go to our neighborhood high school on The Day, between 3-8. When you go in, there are tables FILLED with ceramic and porcelain bowls made by art students in all the high schools in town. LOTS of bowls. (I forgot to take a picture of the tables, so intent was I!) You find your bowl. Read "the absolutely perfect can't-live-without-it bowl".

Now - as I move down the table I must look like I'm playing the shell game. I pick one up, carry it along - and then put it down and take another. Then I walk along - and rush back and trade for the first one. Then I continue....and see THE perfect bowl, so I take that and put down the other. Get the picture? Keep in mind, I'm walking between TWO bowl-laden tables. Finally you get to the end, where you pay your money ($15/bowl). Then you go to another table on which there are huge pots of soup, (presided over by Wonderful Volunteers) and stacks of cardboard take-out bowls (so you don't have to take home a dirty bowl which even hasn't been washed and might have been handled by more than one eccentric 4'11" bubbeh and put back). You select a soup and put the take-out bowl of soup into Your Perfect Bowl; you also collect plastic silverware, a styro bowl of salad (upon which you've slobbed a HUGE dollop of that yummy orange "french" dressing, if you're me) and then you go find a spot at the very crowded tables with a few hundred of your best friends:

As it turns out, the ladies across from me ARE friends, volunteers at the Museum! Also - across from me at the end of the table is my Lovely Daughter, whom we always invite. She was an art student at that same school and made some very fine pieces of her own. The empty space across from her was occupied by Mr Dearling, who (obviously) took the picture. And in the background a few more fellow Madisonions enjoying their Perfect Bowls too. (Did I mention lots of art students make 'em?)


This is a bowl that my Lovely Daughter made for me in high school art class. It is my "Egyptian Four-Footed Bowl", and it has real gold toenails and a gold disc in the center of the interior. It's not an eating-out-of bowl, but is always been on display somewhere in the house. Most recently it lives on my bear-book bookcase, with my silver chatelaine & accoutrements in it. Important work! (Don't you love the toenails?) There's something about four little brown feet with burnished gold toenails, I don't know. I wonder what the archaeologists will say when they find it in 500 years?

ANYway! After a brief panic when I had to go back, even after paying, and check just once more , it turned out I did indeed have My Bowl, so we went to get our grub. The Daughter and I had a delicious chicken-wild-rice soup and Mr Dearling had a Baked Potato soup; ours were good, he confided to me that his was luke-warm. "Tasty, though," he declared. So here are our bowls and our Bowls:

This is Mr Dearling's bowl. Smallish size, earthy colors, well-glazed inside and out.

This is Lovely Daughter's Lovely Bowl; it has a deep, rich blue inside, and the natural clay color outside. She walked in, she picked it up - it was a match made in Heaven. Right color, right size - and she, with her practiced potter's eye, pointed out that the proportions were symmetrical. A very nice bowl.

And this is MY Yes-It-IS-Perfect bowl. It's pretty much the size of last year's bowl - and yes, that little bump IS intentional; there were a few others by the same (unknown) artist sporting them as well -- it has a matching bump INside, like it has a little marble in there or some such.

Last year's bowl, with its deep blue all-over glaze, is what I have my oatmeal in every morning, so this year I wanted a light-colored one. NOTE: as I write this, I've had oatmeal (twice) and mashed potatoes (once) in this bowl. It works. It's mine.

And now, my friends, in exchange for my being lazy -- uhmn -- procrastinating ... that is, too busy to have caught even a minute to blog for the last few days (yeah, that's it) I have a reward for you!

In a word: CORNER GAS . The link will take you to the Wicki and I encourage you to read the descriptions of the denizens ....that is, residents, of Dog River, Saskatchewan. This is a show on the teevee, a Canadian comedy -- "check your local listings". Now, HERE it's on at 12:30 AM on WGN, a small, unassuming little channel with oddments on late at night. But I encourage you to do whatever it takes -- taping it, eating espresso beans covered in chocolate and staying up, going to bed at 3:30 in the afternoon so you can get up for it -- so you can see it.

This was another gem recommended by my local teevee-watching, DVR-loving, connoisseur of programming known to you all as my Lovely Daughter. And to my EXTREME delight, her extraordinarily-generous (and interesting) colleague and former roommate Roger loaned me THE FIRST THREE SEASONS ON DVD!!

I won't give anything away here, but suffice it to say: a) the Canadians have a droll humor unequalled even by British comedy; b) I always make sure to finish any beverages before watching; c) all of the episodes are entertaining; d) most of the episodes have several (count 'em, several) moments that are...and this is neither exaggeration nor hyperbole...the drop-dead funniest things I have EVER, in my all-but-66 years of life, witnessed anywhere, anyhow, anywho.

Dare I say (even though I know Mr Dearling looks in from time to time) I'm going on a patient, bargain-seeking hunt, and I WILL, eventually, own EVERY SINGLE season of this show. He isn't much for watching things more than once (well, OK, "Last of the Mohicans" and "Black Robe" are exceptions) but I have already watched the first season twice and am showing it to Donna-my-weekly-stitch-n-bitch partner, so will see each episode at least twice, and next time I have a long knitting project I'll watch them again. In fact, when we've finished seeing the whole set I may give myself a one-day Corner Gas Marathon and get through as many as possible all at once.

Check it out -- you'll thank me later.

Editor's note: $32,000 was collected at this year's Souper Bowl; that's a record!