Monday, March 30, 2009

*SQUEE* potential and a QQ

I should 'splain , as Ricky Ricardo would say. (If you don't get it - you're young, it's one of those In Jokes of the Elderly.) "Squee" is blog language (blanguage?) indicating that wheezy, gasp-y breathless scream issued in awe and delight. Example: you answer a knock at the door and it's Daniel Day-Lewis; he says "Terribly sorry to bother, but might I please come in for a cup of tea and a chinwag?" Response: SQUEE!! Get it?

Well, I've had a few *squee* moments of late. Sitting and contentedly chatting with Stephanie , that's superior to having an actor at the door (by bunches); getting to have my picture taken with our dear Midwestern Franklin --Oooh yeah, WAY superior to having DD-L at the door. (Yes, Franklin, I do prefer you to Daniel Day-Lewis on a LOT of levels, plus as far as I know he can't knit a stitch!) NOTE: if you have information to the contrary, feel free to pass it along, but it won't change my opinions. Daniel Day-Lewis may have actually galloped through the forest and loaded a muzzle-loader, including using the ramrod, but ladies and gentlemen, he doesn't even KNOW Dolores, and I'm sure about that.

Thing is, those two people count among their downright-innumerable other virtues, the fact that they are both writers . And I? I am also a Writer!

This is pictorial proof, obtained during last November's NaNoWriMo competition, and is an authentic Writer in Situ shot. Please to overlook the sportsman jammies; that was NOT a Good Hair Day; block out the clutter - and yes, that is a skeptical look on Evangeline's face. She's my greatest skeptic ....uhm... critic ...erhm...FAN. Yeah. Fan.

I'll have you know, however, that I DO have a truly gifted author among my close personal friends:

This is David Sakrison, skillful poet (he was my personal Bard in our SCA days) he's been a magazine editor, and his latest book, Chasing the Ghost Birds, is now available at Barnes & Noble! Ffurthermore, he'll be presenting a talk and book signing at the Smithsonian!! (The book is about the International Crane Foundation , which is working, successfully, to salvage wild cranes from extinction. At one point there were 14 in the wild. In the WORLD in the wild. Now there are several hundred. Information from book cited above. My point is, David is a writer.

Now, when I say "I am a writer", I don't place myself in the same category as these authors or knitters , but there is a similarity. I enjoy being on the same spectrum with those folks, though. I AM a card-carrying member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators . What I lack in accomplishment I make up for with enthusiasm and potential! But here's the deal, ladies and gentlemen:

Saturday I was at the State History Day competition, to judge. We do that every year, first for the regionals and then, in May, for the state finals. And this year, as I came in, I saw my friend KB, former colleague at American Girl and now the main Editor of the Wisconsin State Historical Society Press. (They publish books. Bet you surmised....) I mentioned my research about Mary Hayes Chynoweth, and my wonderful tailor-made 1895 walking suit, and my invitation to speak at the Spiritualist Camp, and how I got my own copy of her biography, and how I think she's such a super-cool neat-o lady....and KB, Editor of Wisconsin State Historical Press, said to me:

"You should think about writing about her for our Badger Biography series."

S Q U E E !!

Here's an opportunity, a goal, a project-worth-considering! The effect on me is this: I'm going to organize my research notes in such a way as to be available for me to write; I'm familiar with these books and their format - and better, I think I'm up to the job! "Watch this space"........

And now for the QQ . In transcription for the hard-of-hearing, that indicates a question mark, as in: Would you like to order a pizza QQ

Twitter. Have you twittered? (Or is the correct term "tweet" you tweet?) Do you read anyone's twitters? (Tweets?) Anyone really love twittering? (Tweeting?)

I ask because I'm a tiny bit interested. I have no curiosity about Facebook or MySpace or any of those there, but I'm intrigued by this Twitter deal. And heck, some mighty well-known people twitter. Tweet. (OK, even though it's true, I feel ridiculous writing "I understand President Obama twitters." Or worse: "Did you know President Obama tweets ?) OY!

Any thoughts, experiences, guffaws,suggestions, recommendations or raspberries welcome.

Go for it, Mom, I have faith in you. Also - look deep into my eyes, you want to put some crunchy green treats in my bowl, you know you do....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Big Day Out -- "Good Things Come in Small Packages"

I knew it - in spite of his many fine qualities, my Mr Dearling is (ALSO!) a masher ! (Oh, come on, you had to have seen that coming.) I showed off my wonderful new potato masher previously; as I mentioned, we boiled up some potatoes straight up. Now, with a beautiful, primitive kitchen tool like this, you just don't put the potatoes into Tupperware. I shudder at the thought. But I venture to say that every single reenactor home - up to....say....World War II reenactors (there ARE! I KNOW!) contains at least one enormous wooden bowl. So we got it down, and Mr Dearling mashed potatoes.

It was as we thought. It really IS superior to our regular mashers. It's heavy enough and wide enough to quickly mash the potatoes - and we found that it's very natural to stir the potato down into the middle of the bowl and keep mashing. Truth to tell - the potatoes were smoother and evenly mashed MUCH faster than with anything else I've ever used.

Hmmmmm.....wonder if I could find a butter churn somewhere....or a washboard!

Fear not, friends. As much as I relish spending a few days in the 18th century, I feel no qualms at all using my microwave, indoor plumbing, teevee -- you know, COMPUTER . But I am very well aware that some "old-timey stuff" really is superior to the "improvements". Thus ends my soapbox.

We went to our tours on Wednesday, as usual. I had one at 11:00 (they're each roughly an hour) and Mr Dearling's was at noon. Our boss-lady, knowing our plans to go to LaCrosse, told us we could leave when his tour was over, rather than staying until 3:00. I tucked in for some research after my group left -- and at nearly 1:00, the coordinator radioed me saying that the volunteer slated to give the 1:00 tour hadn't shown up , so "Could you take the 1:00 tour?".

Now - it's a little less than three hours to LaCrosse; the Knit-in-Public was scheduled from noon to 8:00 pm. Whipping out my paper and pencil, I did some figuring, and realized if we left a little later we'd still be there in time to make Franklin's program at 6:30.

OK - I lied. I didn't really do any math. Furthermore, I wouldn't let a group miss a guided tour except in really dire circumstances. But you know, that was one of those It Figures moments.

Anyway, we did actually get out around 3:00, and Mr Dearling put the pedal to the metal (legally, of course) and we found a parking place RIGHT IN FRONT of the library (I generally have good parking karma, but these last few weeks? Uncanny!).

As a result, we were in plenty of time to enjoy some shameless Knitting in Public in the library. There's something so wonderfully companionable about settling into a little knot of knitters. Instantly everyone is exchanging tips, admiring work, asking about needles, &c. It's as if you live in a place where you're fluent in the language but it's not your native tongue - and then you go to a gathering of countrymen and everyone is speaking the same language and when you say "It's just K2, YO, K4 all the way" everyone knows exactly what you mean, can see it in their mind's eye - and is remembering something in the stash at home that would work perfectly.

Besides that, two things happened immediately I arrived. 1) Friend Ann, whom I had never met but we'd exchanged emails about toques, came up and introduced herself; [see photo, right] and 2) a lady came over, said the Yarn Swap was underway, and gave me 6 tickets with which to "buy" some of the yarn! She'd brought a whole bunch, she said, (you got a ticket for each skein you brought) and she didn't want anything else! Now, I'd forgotten my bag of yarn to bring (NOTE: I'm going to ship it up to Abigail at the library, for her kidknit group) so it was very generous, and I did avail myself of a few skeins of acrylic for my preemie caps (I'm slowing down a bit but still hackin' on 'em pretty good) and two of those big CONES of yarn, one cotton, one a lace-weight. I've never used those and I'm curious.

I'd call that a pretty fine "welcome to LaCrosse" moment, wouldn't you?

After a while of friendly knitting, the announcement was made that we could repair to the auditorium for Franklin's program.

NOTE: may I say, it occurred to me frequently during the evening - it was awfully nice of Mr Dearling to drive me there - and help out by taking pictures and keeping me company, and then, on the way home, getting us hangerbers ("Checkers" mushroom and swiss burger and some really fine seasoned fries) and driving us home in the dark. For all of that, and everything else (you know what it is) THANK YOU, Mr Dearling. Baby - you're the best!)

So we went down and Ann and I found some good seats. They were ALL good seats, matter o' fact, and sufficient to the crowd. As we came in, I did see Julie, a Sow's Ear colleague and Cathy-Cate, -- we'd been in contact about meeting there.

There were some presentations of perfectly beautiful community-knit afghans to worthy recipients, and then, Franklin Habit was presented.

I imagine anyone reading this is a fan (probably long-time) of Franklin's blog The Panopticon , and therefore knows him to be a brilliant cartoonist, master knitter, and the hilarious keeper companion of Dolores, the "two pounds of Romney fleece" he ordered (eventually). Franklin talked about his knitting projects, read some passages from his book, and was entirely delightful. At the end, he displayed some of his knitting, to the wide-eyed admiration of us all.

NOTE: when displaying his ethereal shawl, the 1840 Gentleman's Cap and the 19th century Infant Hood (think "angry baby") he tossed them, flipped them, swirled them - resulting in very blurry pictures. I apologize.

While this is fuzzy, it still shows the lightness of this beautiful lace. which floated like cobwebs. He had said it was "easy"....although there are some of us for whom that may not be entirely true. (ME - that would be ME.)

The tassel on the Gentleman's Cap was spinning like a pinwheel on his hand......

Well, we listened, we laughed, we knitted - and it was an absolutely splendid evening. I was SO pleased I'd seen the mention if it in time to actually get there! I'll end with a couple of more pictures of a terrific evening (then I do need to start to get ready for State History Day - we have to report in just over three hours!)

"EASY" he says....yeah, talk's cheap! However...maybe not impossible .......

Here's Cathy-Cate, resplendent. The shawl she's wearing is one of the most beautiful examples I've seen; the delicacy of the pattern and the perfection of the blending colors is unbelievable! I'd say that the shawl with the simple black frock is the definition of "elegance". Also - the piece she's working on is stunning, and do you see that? She's knitting from the SKEIN! I've heard of that, but now I'ves seen it. And the grace of the shimmering loop of yarn on her arm, leading into the fine lacework, is at once a delight for the eyes and an inspiration.

In conclusion, do you notice - standing next to Franklin (allow me a "SQUEE!") I feel like a regular-sized person! There are very few people of a height with me over the age of nine . Can't speak for myself, but I'd have to say that he MORE than proves up my mother's old adage: In this case, "Good things (clearly) DO come in small packages!"

Maybe....just maybe...being next to all this knitterly greatness this month may rub off on me. Now...where's that lace shawl pattern??

(Under the preemie caps, the toque, the dishcloths...........)

Oh yeah.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wowser Wednesday!

I've been thinking about redoing the kitchen, and I think I'll replace the counters with this marble, whaddya think? Isn't it beautiful? I know good marble can be expensive, but gee, isn't the kitchen the heart of the home? (, no, that's HEARTH of the home, and actually it isn't anymore because nowadays everyone has stoves. Well, you know what I mean.

FOOLED YOU! This isn't marble! (I'm sure you believed I'd be putting marble counters in my kitchen....that is SO not where I am!) Anyway, "what is it then, Dale-Harriet?" It's Lake Monona! It's the thinning ice on the lake, as seen last week when we were on the Terrace. But oh, it is beautiful. Here's another dramatic shot:

I call this "The Crack of Spring". While it isn't an actual fissure, this is one of the signs that clearly say "No more ice fishing, lads!" I saw these often when I worked on campus, as we had windows overlooking the other lake, Mendota, and we saw these every year. If you happen to be outdoors when these happen you can hear them, because there's a very loud report like a shotgun.

In the fall, when the days begin to grow chill, there's a day when the entire lake looks like it's boiling and heavy mist rises from it; that's dramatic too. I think one thing I love about Madison is the lakes - Minneapolis has lakes too, so I grew up with them, and I think I've referred to my spiritual connection with Lake Superior. I understand those who live near the oceans and are so connected.....around here we're pulled by the Inland Seas and our little lakes.

OK - now then. IT CAME!! We have an item in our teaching collection at the Museum that I much admire, and to my delight I found a place where I could order a new one of my very own! The site which has them is Tasha Tudor's family's website , which has a modest (but wonderful) shop. Want to see??

Is this not stunning? Can you guess what it is? (I hear your collective groan; everyone knows what it is - but the 4th graders at the Museum haven't a clue.) It's a Potato Masher. We tried it out and I have to say that from MY viewpoint it works MUCH better - yes, you heard me right, much BETTER - than any of those wire-squiggle models or the flat-disc-with-holes models. Now ... I have pictures of it in use. As is our wont, Mr Dearling and I boiled us up a mess o' 'tatoes and put it to the test. But that'll have to wait because I have to go to the Museum.......

...because when we're finished, Mr Dearling is going to pack me and my knitting into the car and he's going to whisk me away to the LaCrosse Public Library (no time for links here) where they are celebrating their "Third Annual Knit-in-Public Day" --- and this evening to cap off the event, Franklin Habit of "Panopticon" fame (google it, again - no time to link) is going to be speaking and signing his fabulous book!!

So I'll report back later on I have to quickly grab some knitting to take along (OY)...oh, and I suppose I should get dressed. Watch this space!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

In Which the Weather Improves

I refuse to say winter is over. The minute I do, the Frost Giants' gnarly icy heads will spin around, fixing us with their blank gaze, and (because it IS March) we'll be in for that Worst of All Weathers: "Wintry Mix". Oh no, I won't say it. I may do a lot of goofy things, but tempt the Frost Giants? I'm not your girl for that.

Last week our friends D & J came to our program at a senior center (it was on Wisconsin Authors and I forgot my Elizabeth Zimmerman books, but I mentioned her anyway). Afterward, as it was quite a mild day, we went out with them for coffee (tea -- I had tea, "the Silent Partner of Cats, Sticks and Books") and then went for a stroll around Monona Terrace. That's a convention center sort of affair designed (for the most part) by Frank Lloyd Wright. There was a lot of controversy about it over the years - it's right on Lake Monona and gobbling up a length of shoreline was dicey. Lots of folks enjoyed fishing along the shore there. I was pretty much prepared to hate it, but I don't. I love it - there, I've said it.

Honestly? I didn't see that guy when I took the picture. He is not dead; if he were, they would've called CSI, and I'd have noticed Jim Brass or Nick Stokes if they'd been there. (Oh for petessakes it's good they weren't there; I'm sure I'd have behaved in a most unbecoming way...think the girls in the audience when the Beetles appeared with Ed Sullivan. Unbecoming.)

However, you can see the stylized lamps. The lower levels, might I add, have walking and bike paths, and there's even a special elevator so you can go up or down the levels with your bike. And it's really a beautiful view of Lake Monona from there.

This is "Wisconsin", the golden lady atop the capital, seen "full front" - she's facing Lake Monona. "Is that a badger on your head - or are you just happy to see me?" You can't really tell from here, of course, but that pointy bit on the center of her head IS a badger. I just love that. Now, the discerning among us point out that it's a rather long, skinny badger who appears to be doing his best otter impersonation, but facts is facts. Is it wrong to feel smug about living in a city with the Only Live-Badger-Wearing Golden Lady on top of the capitol? 'Cause I do, and I'm sticking to it.

There are some other Historical Points of Interest at this site. It's next door to a massive State Office Building, completed in 1932. It's very dense and office-y and official.....and they tore down the beautiful Fairchild home to build it. Just a couple of years ago they finally put up a brass plaque; I'd like to say I was responsible, but all I did was mutter into my oatmeal that there should be a plaque there. Still, I'm glad they finally did:

Mr Dearling gets a lot of mileage asking the kids at the Museum if they've ever gone down there to see the human arm buried there. BIG reaction. I'll put a quick version of the story in my own "Comments" rather than here - the arm isn't there anymore.

How's this for a witness to history? The "men and women" sure the heck wouldn't recognize the place today. This is really understated - and yet, I imagine that those people stopped, and if the weather was nice, enjoyed resting on the hill and watering their teams in the lake, enjoying the forests and game in the area. There were Ho-Chungk people living around the lakes, but they pretty much kept to themselves. I imagine it was a pretty idyllic spot - James Doty certainly admired it when he arrived to map out his "paper city".

I needed my shawl, but NOT a parka, muffler, cap, mittens and boots. The "boots" is a big deal, I'm much happier just wearing my dear old shoes.

Look, Ma, no parkabootsmittensscarfcap, just a good ol' Homespun shawl! Might I add, this is the newest of my Many Identical Dresses, and I really like the color and the cut of its jib. One of my oldest ones, a woven check, is nigh on to disintegrating...I'm going to see if someone can trim off the bad bits and maybe make it into a jumper or pinafore or even a skirt.

There's one other event memorialized on the deck at Monona Terrace, an event with which everyone's familiar but some of you may not realize that it was RIGHT HERE, in good old Madison, Wisconsin! Get this:

Yep! It was Lake Monona, right there, right in the Dock of the Bay. Sad day...and Wisconsin, atop the Capitol, badger on her head, witnessed the whole thing....

And lastly, on the Knitting Front - I'm nearly half-done with the current toque and I'm taking a respite from counting preemie caps. But the addiction is no less - last Friday was our Late Night Knit and in honor of St. Paddy all yarns of green or containing green were 20% off. So I bought four skeins of lovely, soft Debbie Bliss cotton for more little caps. HEY! TWO of them were even green! I'll count and photograph the lot for the next post, how's that?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

THE Day....

ALERT! Pretty long - uh - ginormous somewhat lengthy blogpost ahead. You were warned.

"HANGING OUT". Definition: scrubbed on the washboard, rinsed in clear hot water, squoze through the wringer and hung out , as in "attached to the clothesline with neat wooden pegs". But - ladies and gentlemen, there is ANOTHER MEANING, in this the Year of Our Lawsy 2009. It means "spending time in the fantastic company of one's peeps, one's Most Specifically For Sure PEEPS.

In this case, "peeps" refers specifically to knitters. ALL of us knitters feel the connection. We can be as diverse a group as lovers, dog lovers, people with allergies. Gardeners. Vegans. Carnivores. Workers, retirees. Working retirees. Republicats. Democrans. You get the point.

But if you put up an announcement and set out signs like this:

you're going to get a big passel of 'em and every single one is going to armed with bags and baskets brimming with sticks and strings, and many are going be wearing hand-knits of such brilliance and complexity that the eyes of your humble Author (knitter of toques, dishcloths and preemie caps) WATER.

I refer, of course, to the Madison Knitters' Guild KNIT-IN, a day-long event featuring classes in a wide variety of techniques and skills - with a talk in the morning by The Yarn Harlot . THEN...add in a nice lunch, followed by another round of classes, and an AFTERNOON TALK by said Yarn Harlot...and in the mix? A Marketplace, a large room jam-PACKED with the most incredible collection of yarns outside of.... of....well, the combined stashes of us all (!). And patterns, and knitwear, and stitch markers......OK, I know Y'ALL know exactly what I mean.

Now, by absolute chance I had the day off and needless to say ("needle-less" HA!) I went. Oh, I was NOT "needle-less"; I had my huge tote with the necessary reading matter, notebooks and masking tape (I never go anywhere without my masking tape), my big knitting basket and my purse........and yes, it was verified later: I DID have more with me than Stephanie brought along to fly from Toronto & stay overnight in a hotel. Nevermind.

I got there to attend on the half-day plan; my interests were lunch (oh come on, don't even feign surprise), the Market, and seeing the Yarn Harlot . In reverse order. Here's a synopsis - with a few pictures; truth is, I was overwhelmed, pretty much, and taking everything in -- I only remembered to take my camera out occasionally.

I got there about 10:30 and luckily found a close parking place (see below for further reference to my Admirable Parking Karma). I rushed in and signed up and paid, hung up my coat and wandered around a bit. I took a quick tour through the Market to this end: I saw a pattern I determined to buy, yarns that were completely out of my skill- and price-range (but very easy for me to admire, stroke, and crave) and some neat things like pottery with fabulous sheeps on 'em.

By then it was time for lunch - "you can call me a lot of things, but don't call me late for dinner" - so I went into the dining room. I didn't know very many people (although clearly we were kindred souls) but I was greeted by some dear souls from the Sow's Ear, and old friend from SCA days and a fellow-storyteller.

I invited myself to a table with a couple of ladies and went to get my lunch (very nice salad and some super-delicious cheese lasagna, heavy on the cheese). FYI, there was also a thick, rich-looking meat lasagna too, I'm just a sucker for cheese.

OK. As I was standing in line, Stephanie, AKA Yarn Harlot, came over to me, said she was glad to see me (we hugged)and hoped we could talk later. Allow me a moment to lie on the floor, take a deep breath or two and recover myself. All right, I'm back.

NOTE: I had along a little bag. In the little bag were two bags of guaranteed fresh Squeaky Cheese Curds (heck, she mentioned them in her blog and I had a source for some top-notch ones), some string cheese (isn't that FUN?) and a couple of other things: a gold Wisconsin coin, a Weiner Whistle (I think I gave her one before but one can't ever have too many weinies) and -- OK, forgive me this -- a little enamel pin marking the 100th Anniversary of the Wisconsin State Historical Society. What the heck, a little shameless promotion. Sue me.

I ate my lunch - truth to tell, I propped up a book on Victorian life to read while I ate and took notes. I'm pretty much immersed in research for these museum portrayals so I took the opportunity. However, I realized a bit later that the table right behind me was....a bunch of Sow's Ear staff and friends - and Stephanie!! I slipped over and gave her the bag, nattering something about dessert (I admit it, I felt a bit awkwards-stalk-y, but by the time my feelings caught up to my brain the deed was done). Besides, sometimes, in Wisconsin, cheese IS dessert, am I right?

OK - anyway, everyone finished eating, and here's a little block of time that meant more to me than I can describe adequately, just fancy how you'd feel and you'll get it. After lunch, Stephanie came over and sat with me, and chatted! And I managed to keep my wits, mostly, and it was a friendly conversation Between Two Knitters. Nevermind one is a world-famous knitting author and pretty much acknowledged as the woman responsible for bringing Knitting into the spotlight where it should be, elevated to proper significance. Never mind the other is a plain process knitter of ordinary skill and (I admit it) extraordinary enthusiasm. It was just two knittin' ladies

We talked about yarn shops (she'd visited Lakeside Fibers AND THE SOW'S EAR!! HOORAY!) and pigs (well, I AM a Hog-and-Blogger) and she held my pig!:

I took this picture. Myself. And that's my pig -- have you EVER seen a pig smile like that? Now, I can't help it, I'm going to wax here. Feel free to skip down if you like (after satisfying yourself with gazing at that picture).

It's no surprise that I admire Stephanie; no secret that I have a case of Celebrity Awe for sure. I'm not alone in that. But see, knitters are, as a group, different. As I sat there, a few thoughts went through my mind: Stephanie is about of an age with my Lovely Daughter. (I feel no age difference between the two of us...or between me and any other knitter I've ever met regardless of age.) We have a great many things in common. She's been a doula; I entertained the thought of going to The Farm in Tennessee to learn midwifery. I was a genuine certified hipppie; so is she, albeit a new generation. I think our ideas about women and womanhood, children, music, aesthetics, what's important (and what's not)....are very nearly identical - I feel confident of the things we share in common.

So two minutes after she sat down to chat - my awe stepped aside, and I have to say that I enjoyed our chinwag and visiting as much as I enjoy the evenings at the Sow's Ear with those friends......I felt that it was a mutual enjoyment of friends, women-knitter-mother friends, with many, many shared feelings and experiences - age and distance notwithstanding.

We're ALL connected by virtue of our common activity and the barriers that exist between people in all other venues of life do not exist in our world-wide community of Players with Sticks and String.

Now then - to summarize perhaps the best afternoon of my life: after that, Stephanie and I (!) walked down to the Market and hung out , admiring yarns, chatting with vendors...we stopped at one booth with a very FINE assortment of books (I resisted). There was a good display of all of Stephanie's books, and I pointed them out and said, "Do you see these books? You'd love them, they're absolutely the very best!" and she said, "Oh, I don't know, I understand she's pretty overrated." I said "Oh, no, they're fabulous, take my word for it." (I'll remember that in particular, it was just so much fun!) NOTE: if she was a friend who really didn't know those books I'd have bought her one, I've done that before a time or two!)

We ended at the last vendor before the door, the very one with the pattern I wanted. It was getting on towards 1:00 pm and Stephanie's next talk, so she went off to prepare and I bought the pattern.

NOTE: It's from Black Water Abbey yarns and it's for a small cable-knit bag that I couldn't resist. She had one on display - I asked if she thought it was difficult, and here's how that works: She said "I designed it to teach doing cables, either with or without a cable needle." Two things struck me: I was talking to the DESIGNER herself....and I feel perfectly confident that I'll be able to make it. I'm thinking it'll be a perfect gift, for several people, and I have some yarn I'm going to try one with -- it's Lion Brand 'Fisherman'. Not elegant, but I think it'll show nice stitch definition, and for the first experimental one, adequate.

'Nother note: to my delight, my good friend Donna (whom I'd told about this) had managed to find the place and telephoned to say she was in the auditorium! So I hurried in and found her, and I was so tickled that she made it to the talk! (She's the Master Crocheter, maker of the most beautiful afghans you can imagine - and she crochets lovely things from alpaca for a lady who raises them and sells the yarn. Donna had gone with me to hear Stephanie on her last visit).

Here's the row ahead of us in the Auditorium, all ready to listen to Our Hero;

And here are the folks sitting behind us. Do you notice something?

Almost every single person in the room was knitting (or crocheting). Now, can you imagine any OTHER sort of lecture where everyone would be openly, boldly knitting and NOT be thought rude or inattentive? EXACTLY part of the point of Stephanie's talk - knitting puts us all in the "theta" zone, not unlike that of the Buddhist monks....and spending time in this tranquil, meditative state increases our intelligence, concentration, ability to learn......can ANY of you imagine a more delicious experience? (And for those of you who might not knit...kinda makes you want to take it up, doesn't it?)

Stephanie always takes pictures of the congregation (my term, not hers) with "the sock" at the beginning of her talk. (OH! She took a picture of ME with the sock - I held it in the same hand as I held her sock before, at Yellow Dog...this is a different sock, of course -- rich, perfect, with the neatest heel! They're her trademark, of course, and she actually told me a couple of tricks about dealing with my holey-itis in my socks!)

She spoke, about philosophy, friendship, motherhood, knitting, - for nearly two hours. Speaking for everyone there (I figure I'm qualified to do that) we could've sat for another two....anyway, then she asked for questions.

She told some very funny stories (and I mean REALLY funny) and clarified a few points, and then, and then - someone asked about how she writes.

And she told us about getting the girls off to school, and going to her office, and working from about 9:00 to 4:00, "only surfing during lunch break" (strong woman!).

Ladies and gentlemen, that was the topper, for me.

In her answer, about methods, about her feelings about writing, about being a writer - she answered questions of the Writer Me as surely as if I had asked her personally. Finally the talk was over; I exchanged another couple of ideas with her (so did a few other ladies). Donna and I walked through the Market once more, then she had to leave to meet her husband for an evening out.

As the wonderful day was ending, I went to thank her for such a wonderful afternoon, and chatted pleasantly with a couple of other ladies standing there too. Fellow Wisconsinites as well as fellow knitters. Sisters all! Then I wished Stephanie "safe travels". (We'd talked about some good sturdy Canadian yarn from a place that's been in business for well over 100 years - they still use the "good old colors" and she says it's a good sturdy utilitarian wool. She's going to send me some information about their heritage yarn which sounds perfectly perfect for my toques!), We hugged - and I left.

I left being a more excited knitter, truly inspired; I left being a more determined - and confident - writer. I left with the feeling I'd been with a collection of close friends and colleagues...and that I'd had a wonderful opportunity to spend a rare visit with a dear friend who lives many miles away in Canada.

"But wait - there's more!" Here's how that most splendid, exciting and inspiring day continued:

Overlook the age spots,yucchy veins and wrinkles (yeahright). This is my rubber stamp, given when we gave our tickets to the door staff at the Joan Baez concert two hours after I left the Knit-In! The tickets were Mr Dearling's Christmas present to us. It was at the Barrymore, a lovely old movie theatre-turned concert venue here in town; when we arrived the line in front was about a block long as the door wouldn't open for about 45 minutes. Here is the marquee of the theatre:

This shot was taken - from my seat in our car . Think on that a minute -- because here's what that meant: as we arrived, we found a parking place, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE DOOR! Yes indeedy, a perfect, big-enough, empty parking place. Remember my comment above about my "good parking karma"? I'm telling you, can't top that. Clearly the perfect touch to the end of perfect day! Oh, and the concert? Well, before the doors opened the Staff guy came around announcing that cameras were to be left in cars; that they would, in fact, be confiscated, so no pictures, needless to say. But believe me when I say, the concert was absolutely GRAND, Joan Baez was brilliant, with every single bit of the energy and vivacity she's always had. (Did I mention, this was a 50th Anniversary Tour? She sang many of the songs from the old days of political activism, and ended the concert (after two encores) with the entire audience singing "Amazing Grace" together. I sang through my tears of Nostalgia and Recollection; it was fabulous.

I wish you all at least one day like this every single year of your lives. I went to bed last night a better woman, better writer and better knitter.

Thanks, Stephanie. Thanks, Joan.


Today is going to be a two-post day. First I need to relate some Incidents which struck me as blog-worthy. (Spongeworthy? Naw, that's something else.)

But yesterday, Saturday, requires a blogpost unto itself, the reasons for which you will find made clear when I post it. (I am now officially hiding out from language mavens and English majors, and yes - I DO know what's wrong with that sentence. Nevermind.)

First: today is the Ides of March. So if a bunch o' guys in togas turn up at the door, don't let them in. I haven't heard of roaming gangs of Roman Senators in the streets, but better safe than sorry.

However! It is ALSO the birthday of one of my Favorites: CHARLENE BUTTERBEAN ! For the uninitiated (though I doubt if any of you are), she's the surrogate Mama Cat over at Itty Bitty Kitty Committee. She is the QUEEN of Floofy (with an admitted nod to Miss Flora Underfoot) and has the most remarkable personality: her human mama fosters litters of tiny newborn kittens - and Charlene mothers the lot, time after time, keeping them in line and polished. She's never been a mom herself, but is just one of those incredible nurturing, wise and gentle girls who can tenderly attend to an endless (we hope) stream of fuzzy infants. So go over there and either add to her good wishes or just admire her. While it's true that she's most remarkable I think it's a testament to her human family, too. Every kitten who leaves there for a forever home is so steeped in love and care ... and it's the combined labor of the people and Charlene Butterbean.

Second: Friday night was our Theme Dinner night. I finally made a realization: they can only be on Friday nights, because then Daddy can come along (that would be Son #1). He's driving over the road and doesn't usually get home before about 3:00 am. Well - Late Night Knit at the Sow's Ear is the first and third FRIDAY of the month. Soooo....any sensible person would've figured immediately that the dinners should be scheduled only on the 2nd and 4th Fridays. Right? Well -- that didn't come clear to me until recently, to which I can only say "better late than never". So as I said - last Friday was The Night.

The Theme, as determined by my seven-year-old grandson, was to be "Japan". I didn't arrange any activities (you know how I've said I don't sew? I don't do origami either....nevermind). But I did find a wonderful, short story from Japan to read. The menu was a chicken teriyaki stir-fry, and Mr Dearling (a really excellent cook)was in line to cook.

Now - we had a senior program at 3:30 so I'd set dinnertime for 7:00 pm. These programs are one hour. But only -- we're talking about me and Mr Dearling here, and we got out of there at 5:40. We stopped on the way home and got some sushi (California rolls - I wasn't optimistic about a four-year-old eating raw fish). Bottom line here? We got home at about 6:10. Mr Dearling immediately went into action and so did I -- I got a huge empty bin from the basement and "tidied up the living room" and shoved it into the den and shut the door. Martha Stewart, if you're reading this, NEVERMIND!

Then Mr Dearling Points Out a Problem. (Good title for kids' book?) First a bit of background (did I ever mention I have a major trunkful of I Digress?). I drink cream in my tea. Well, actually "rubber cream" - non-dairy creamer. I like Rich's. A lot. Trouble is, it comes in quart cartons and is always frozen solid. The last few times I've gotten it, I've had to put the carton in a bowl to thaw because the seams split and it leaks. I know this.

What the HECK is this?? You may have to enlarge it, but let me put it this way: it's approximately 3/4 of a quart of rubber cream. On the bottom of the fridge. Twenty minutes before a family dinner. Because some total idiot ... erhm... I forgot to put the carton in a bowl.

See this? This is the contents of my fridge, on the table. Fifteen minutes before a family dinner. Martha Stewart? If you're reading, I agree that it's a good idea to empty and scrub out the fridge from time to time. But you know what? Three minutes before a family dinner and under extreme duress is not ideal. Just sayin'. And no, I don't keep my paper towels in the fridge. Nevermind.

The upshot? I called #1 son and put it off by a half hour; the Lovely Daughter called to say SHE would be a bit late (whew!) and...(get this) even #2 son came! He was a bit late too but in plenty of time. So in spite of Considerable Stress (no, Martha Stewart, a long bath in a tub surrounded by scented candles followed by a massage with Horvath the Hungarian Pool Boy was not an option) we had a very nice dinner. We ate in a circle on the floor out of bowls, with chopsticks, mostly (I have some that are fastened together on the end so even the four-year-old managed). The Pleasant Girl with Son #2 (very nice, we've known for quite some time) said she'd never had such an event - dinner on the floor, reading stories! She seemed to like the whole lot! We ended the evening with sherbet and the story, and while it was later than usual it was a very nice evening indeed!

When all was said and done (and gone) Mr Dearling stacked up the dishes neatly and after reading quietly for a while I washed up and went to bed -- in VERY HIGH ANTICIPATION of the Next Day Coming. Watch this space.


Thursday, March 12, 2009


That's French for "oy vey iz mir!", which is Yiddish for....Well, let me tell a little story to illustrate the meaning of oy vey iz mir .

It was Bridge Club day. The table was set, there was a lot to nosh on, and right at 3:00 her three friends arrived.

They hung up their coats, the coffee was poured and each filled her little plate (heaping - "you should go away hungry?"). As they settled around the table, the first said, "Oy!" To her left, her friend said "Oy vey!" Across the table her partner said "Oy vey iz mir!" Sighing, the hostess picked up the cards to shuffle and said, "Hey, I thought we agreed not to talk about our children this week."

THAT's what it means.

In this case - it refers to the fact that there seems to be a little problem here in my personal den in the blogosphere, in the form of three miles .... nine yards ....well, a real LOT of white space between the end of the text and the end of the post - for which I apologize. When I began investigating I discovered that it's not just me, and therefore not ME , which makes me feel much better, at least. I have accordingly left pleas and messages in several places and am hoping to learn either a) how to repair this; or b) how to find a very tech-savvy kindergartener how to straighten it out.

I do wish I was more knowledgeable about the whole computer-innerwebs deal - but think about it: when I began my working career the typewriters I used went from manual to electric (BOY was I glad!) and I remember well my introduction to the self-correcting electrics. I was taking the typing test for a job with The Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations (DILHR)... the supervisor said "Are you familiar with the SELF-CORRECTNG TYPEWRITER ? Ladies and gentlemen - true story! The ceiling of the office opened, the skies split and beams of light shone down from heaven on high. Down the shafts of light came an angel choir, singing. They were holding those little eraser wheels with the brush on, and as they settled to earth they threw them away......

I've used mimeograph machines where we had to wave the sheets around to dry and we got high as kites from the fumes; I've been introduced to Xerox machines (same angels, but holding bottles of mimeograph fluid, which they threw away).

And I remember the installation in our office in the English Department of the "dedicated word processor", which really was a computer. (We had NO IDEA of anything like the innerwebs, I can tell you.) My colleague in the next office, more advanced in years than I, was resistant and declared she wasn't going to use it unless they got her a lead apron to use. (She came around eventually.)

And I remember being introduced to Compuserve (using Procomm Plus...remember the black screen and green letters?) - there were no angels on that occasion because they were all hanging out in their own offices having real-time chats with angels in the UK and stuff.

I've referred to my unbridled joy upon receiving the laptop - and when I got turned on to the whole WiFi concept and took my laptop of a local coffee house...well, by then the angels barely cast a bored look at my old-fashioned self.

My Lovely Daughter declares I'm being dragged into the 20th century ( yes, I DID say "twentieth" century) kicking and screaming. I unabashedly agree.

Now, where did I put that list of kindergartens........?!!

Your hostess begs your pardon and thanks you for our patience. Watch this pace.

Note: Mr Dearling most earnestly thanks everyone for their kind birthday wishes!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day of Days....

Spring IS coming....eventually!

You know how there are days when the stars line up and everything that happens that day moves to make you the happiest you could possibly be? And you know how sometimes you don't even know that you've had that day, until weeks...or months....or even YEARS later? Well, I'm here to tell you about one of my days like that.

When The Day that I'm referring to happened, I wasn't aware of it. It's likely there was still snow on the ground, and I'm thinking that I was occupied cutting out green shamrocks and that sort of thing. I expect it was a very ordinary day, and at no time during it was I aware of the life-changing events which would shape my future.

Of course, as I was only four years old I imagine that the day included playing outside in the snow, a lunch of buttered macaroni shells and drawing on paper. That might also have been one of the many days I took a book out of Daddy's bookcase and sprawled on the floor staring at the pages (I was convinced that if I did that long enough I'd just start reading).

The truth is, the Major Event was happening around 1,200 miles away. A very pretty girl (born in Niagara Falls of Italian parents) was lying in a hospital, having just given birth to her first child. It was a boy.

As was their custom, they gave him a saint's name. I think it's perfectly fair to say that it was a pretty important day for him, too, but I venture that he was no more aware of it than I was .

We grew up pretty far apart - geographically, ethnically, basically every which-way. But he grew up WELL, nourished and nurtured by a close and loving family with their feet on the ground and a whole lot of sensible. He eventually had a sister, who loves him today -- and I've heard some of the stories of her experiences at the hands of her big brother. And in time, along came another sister. He insists he didn't torment her nearly as much (but I'm betting she still doesn't like being chased around by someone flipping a slice of American cheese at her (don't ask). She loves him today, too.

Tell me this isn't a fine-looking lad, shown with his Grandpa. He was very well-behaved, and says today that if he acted up, his father was well-equipped with successful deterrents.

He was always serious about his studies, and was also gifted with a keen perception of handling money. In high school he was on the track team and performed very well (you should hear the stories about his coach; they don't make 'em like that anymore). (Now there are laws....but I'm not sure they're very worthwhile.)

So anyway, in his college years his sense of frugality paid off and he was able to take a trip to Europe, where, among other experiences, he bought a Masi bicycle (I'll wait while all those in the know gasp in admiration) -- from Old Man Masi himself (I'll wait while the envy subsides and eye-wiping is accomplished).

Fast-forward through some raucous years as a Manager at Eastern Mountain Sports, an advanced and varied education and so on......

He became a very serious scholar and upright man...

shown here displaying the finest of down sleeping bags from EMS, guaranteed to keep you warm in subzero weather. VERY serious.

Which brings us to the next day of life-changing events for me. It was the day on which I, as Baroness in the SCA, had a little potluck at my house, and this boy, grown to manhood and moved by circumstances to Madison, came over, wearing handsome Viking garb (of his own construction, might I add) and we fell into conversation.

I'm sure y'all can see where this is going. The boy that was born in that New York hospital 62 years ago today was moved by experiences, fate, and (from MY perspective) the golden hand of the Creator to fall into conversation with me; the conversation became friendship, which then deepened. And all of this boils down to a clear example of possibly the best possible luck (if you will) to ever befall a girl born 66 years, one month and two days earlier in North Dakota.

There is only one more thing to say:

Happy Birthday,

Mr Dearling!

Editor's note: there is a problem upon which I am trying to work; the rest of my life IS here, but you must scroll down, and down, and DOWN to find it. Excuse me, I'm going to try to find a tech-savvy kindergartner who can help me learn how to fix this........

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fair P(l)ay and Fun


"Clutter? Nawww.....this is our desk . Desks are busy - remember that bumper sticker: 'A Clean Desk is a Sign of an Empty Mind'?" (I made that up, that's a paraphrase, but it's right there in Volume I, Rationalizations for the 21st Century.)

All right. First things first - I was moved by the comment from "Anonymous" regarding the fact that museum staff are underpaid....and I absolutely agree. And it's also true that most museum workers feel passionate about their work -- otherwise they probably wouldn't do it. It's very MUCH like teaching, and we're blessed that there are dedicated teachers - and nurses, and other assorted positions.

But I've left off a major piece from all my descriptions of my position at the Museum: while it's true that I'm "paid staff", and sometimes referred to the fact that I "make almost enough to pay for yarn" -- Ladies and Gentlemen! I am NOT regular Museum Staff . Mr Dearling and I are RETIRED , which means that we separated from our long-term, full-time jobs.

No, my position at the Museum is "LTE" - Limited-Term Employment. It's a State designation, and is pretty much support work based on availability of funds. It's NOT even a regular part-time position, but does have certain benefits: we have full access to University Libraries, &c, as "University Staff"; we also have benefits of access to the State Historical Society headquarters -- and a pretty decent discount at our Museum Shop (if you know me, you can appreciate what a biggy that is!).

There are other benefits -- free admission to any of the historical sites and museums in Wisconsin (we often pay anyway, to support the system), for example.

Our "bosses" - and the Directors and Curators and proper Museum Staff receive competitive salaries, as I understand it (I admit it, I've never asked our Director her salary......) but they're long-time staff, so I believe they're content.

Mr Dearling refers to our jobs at the Museum as "our hobby jobs", which is close -- truth is, we were volunteer docents putting in as much time as we could (I even got a cute little plaque saying "Volunteer of the Year" once).

I don't mind saying, I think I'm good at it. And he's good at it. We've earned a reputation as storytellers, and I'm pleased to say we've both had teachers request that we guide their groups. "Paid what we're worth" -- well, my feeling is that the access to the University libraries and Historical Society Archives would be incentive enough.

I'm glad for your rant, Ms A. Nonymous, because such passion is a good thing in cases like this, is my feeling. I do know the feeling of being shockingly underpaid -- when I was a Legal Secretary, part of my duties included writing out checks for my boss's personal expenses, like his wife's department store tabs. When a friend who was a manager at McDonald's mentioned his salary -- and it was MORE than I was making as a lawyer's private secretary -- it was an eye-opener. (For the record -- I told my boss about that and requested a raise - I had three children, mind you; he said I should post my job in the paper! I did, moved on to a University job, and Joy Rang Throughout the Land.)

OK - 'nough said, I guess, but I wanted you to know, I DO hear you, and concur.

Now then --

STICKS update: Guess what I'm knitting? No, really, guess. PREEMIE CAPS? Oh, man, can't fool y'all. I'm at 35 - and there's one on the needles. They're all variations of that same simple pattern; some are striped, some variegated, but pretty much of a style and size. A few are really tiny, a couple are larger. Can you say "RUT"? But right now, with other things going on - they're perfect. In fact, they're small enough that I can knit surreptitiously in my lap, like during meetings. I'll get my knitting books out shortly - and I'm thinking of doing a "just-from-stash" period.

BOOKS update: I think I mentioned, I ordered the one existing biography of Mary Hayes Chynoweth, finding a copy at ABE Books, from which I've gotten out-of-print books before. I think it'll be no surprise to hear that it isn't a high-demand best seller at present. In fact, they probably didn't print a bazillion copies right outta the bag, when you think about it. So I was very happy to find one, and ordered it (even at around $50, shipping included). The copy I AM reading, in our Archives, has to be fetched out from the Rare Book room, so it's not like I can tote it home.

Well -- before the day was out, I got an e-mail from the seller saying, (I'm paraphrasing) "Neener neener someone beat you to it - maybe they walked into the actual shop and bought it right out from under your grasping research-y hands." In other words, they're not charging my card AND not sending the book.

Was I distressed? Was I bummed? Did I repeat some words which would shock Mrs Hayes Chynoweth (not to mention my parents or children)? All of the above.

THEN -- I went to Amazon, purveyor of all kinda stuff, and found another copy! So I ordered IT right quick, and so far (typing with crossed fingers, toes, &c) so good. I'll let you know when it arrives. Positive thinking along those lines would be appreciated.

NOTE: I had a wicked thought - imagine my taking MY COPY into the Archives, getting all set up - and then pullng out a yellow highlighter....lawsy it would freak out the harridan who was there the other day...snicker snicker . ANOTHER NOTE: I would so not really do that. I'm passive-aggressive is all. Also I would so not really highlight my copy, although sticky notes and light pencil marks may occur.

And lastly - I'm about to get dressed up in hoopskirts and furbelows....for a 45-minute ride in the Subaru to do my presentation. Love it. I'm bringing regular clothes to change back into afters, though. Also - heard yesterday that Chastity Bono is 40 years old. And my new favorite Hated Teevee Commercials (huh?) are the one with the lady that appears to have glowing boobs but is actually just asthmatic...and the soothing, gentle voice saying there's hope if it's "uncomfortable to go to the bathroom". I mean. Seriously.

"Just checkin' to see if we won the lottery, Mom"