Saturday, January 24, 2009

Are You Watching, Willie?

Willie Lee Carter

Dear Willie,

I think I'm finally together enough to write to you. Of course, as I think I said before, you likely know all about this. Tell me the truth - were you on the train? Were you on the train carrying that black man from Philadelphia to Washington D.C., following the very route that Abraham Lincoln's Inaugural train took? Because I thought you were. I thought you were in the Presidential car with him, and I'm guessing that some ghostly waiter passed around crystal glasses to all y'all sitting there, shoulder to shoulder: you, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. -- those four little girls from the church bombing in Birmingham -- Schwerner, Goodman and Cheney -- well, you know who was there with you. And I'm guessing that President Obama knew you were there too.

On January 20 I got up early and arranged the sofa. I had two knitting projects handy, and made a big pot of tea. I had a notebook and pencil at hand for writing impressions - and I put in a DVD into the recorder (wouldn't you have just LOVED all that stuff?). I recorded from about 10:00 a.m. until some time that evening, and I'll keep the two discs and I'll show them to our grandsons. I also had a big box of tissues...and I didn't knit one single stitch all day, I must admit.

Maybe I'll tuck the DVDs into the pages of the book "Eyes on the Prize". That's the book that went with a terrific special on the teevee some years ago about the Civil Rights movement, and Willie? I swan! There's a picture in there from Selma, and I think YOU are in it!! Well, no, I don't know for sure. You can tell me if you were in that picture, when I get there. Over a plate of those ribs. Don't you be forgetting those ribs.

OK - the Inauguration. (And may I add, I haven't made a point to watch any Inaugurations for some years.) And yes, I cried. I cried from approximately 10:00 a.m. until about 2:00 p.m. They say the Dead hear tears falling for them - I imagine it was downright thunderous up there then, huh?

Oh - there were (by design) a lot of parallels to Abraham Lincoln. Some wise guy pointed out that this is the second time in history that a brilliant orator from Illinois with huge ears became President. But then there was the train (need I say, when I saw Barak Obama standing outside on the bunting-decorated platform at the back of the train, waving -- I wept?) And the Oath of Office was taken on the self-same Bible that Lincoln laid his own hand on for his own Inauguration.

I tried to get some pictures from the teevee, but you know, they're never great. Anyway, here's one - I just include it here because this was in front of my very own eyeballs; I saw this, I watched it, it really happened.

President Barak Hussein Obama of the United States

Yes, I saw it. But you know who else saw it? MILLIONS of people! Truly the largest bunch o' people that have EVER been there in Washington. A lot of them were too far away to actually see, but they had huge teevee screens set up....and afterward (for DAYS afterward) people were interviewed and talked to and even the ones who said they were just about in Ohio at the back of the crowd were glad to have been there, to have "witnessed History". But you know what, Willie? (See, this is the advantage of watching from my own sofa - besides being able to wear my pajamas to the Inauguration) They showed pictures of the crowd on the teevee. And I saw some of those millions of faces: there were people holding infants, and I know it was so they could tell the child they'd BEEN THERE.

You weren't home when Armstrong took his first step on the moon, but I was sitting in that big rocking chair nursing our son, and I got our Lovely Daughter out of her crib, and I pointed all four of their beautiful, large eyes (your eyes, might I add) toward the screen so that I could say to them "You SAW the first steps of a man on the moon." Neither of them remembers, but what the heck, they did see it.

And in that crowd at the Inauguration, just after the Oath, people hugged each other and cried. Black people and white people and old people and young people ..... and there were old people in the crowd. I mean, OLD, like me - like you would've been. There were two old black men wearing "Tuskegee Airman" caps. Can you imagine? And as the camera scanned the crowds, I recognized people who had stood with you in Selma, and who came up from Huff's Houses in Indianola, and who linked arms and sang "We Shall Overcome" all over the South. Dr. King's son was there, and Pete Seeger, and many other notables. But when the newsfolk were out there with their microphones, over and over, were old people with tears on their cheeks, shaking their heads - black people and white people, shoulder-to-shoulder, and the energy and the hope and the optimism swelled up from those millions and wafted over the whole country, and came in through windowsills and under doors and I felt it. And I felt your heart - I could see in my mind, just exactly how it would have looked if we were still in our goofy living room on Blaisdell.

Here he is, Willie! Signing some kind o' paper, one of his first jobs he had to do as PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! I had a teary moment of slightly-hysterical laughter when it occurred to me he was signing the bill for all those pizzas that had been ordered for everyone out there on the Mall. But that's him, sitting at HIS desk in HIS Oval Office. Being, you know, Presidential.

Today is his fourth day of being President. He's been very busy, arranging his ducks-inna-row, and carryin' on carryin' on. His speech was all about how NOW the work begins. It was eloquent, thoughtful - and the one thing I heard it in was that he may be there , but WE are all HERE, and by gumbo all the work that has to be done is going to take ALL of US. After the Inauguration there was a big fancy luncheon (it was for -- you know, the fancypants folks and stuff, but that's as it should be....'specially if he'd ordered pizza for everyone else). I looked up the menu - oh, come on, Willie. You would've done the same thing. And you know what? They ate stuff like Lincoln ate - but President Obama got to eat pheasants from Wisconsin. (Yeah, I know, "big deal" - but I thought it was.)

OH! You wicked man - I know EXACTLY what you're thinking! "If it was me," I can hear you saying, Willie Lee Carter, "they'd have had some good ol' ribs....but (and I can hear you saying THIS as though you were standing beside me) NO WATERMELONS!" Well, if it's any satisfaction to you, neither of your children will eat watermelon either.

Anyway, after all that stuff, Mr. President Obama and the First Lady had to go to TEN different Balls. He spoke briefly at each one, enjoyed a dance with the First Lady, and then went on. He was at work at 8:30 the next morning....frankly, probably neither one of them felt much like sleeping anyway.

Here are a few facts that might have got past you up there, but that I took note of: This is the FIRST TIME EVER IN HISTORY that that beautiful, tall, black woman in the White House is the First Lady of the land. It is NOT lost on our President that his new house was built by slaves - and that it was NOT thousands of years ago. There are children running in the White House again - beautiful little girls (well, a little girl and a young lady) and I'm guessing that they will NOT be inclined to bring a pony up in the elevator like Teddy Roosevelt's hooligans did.

But the bottom line, Willie, is that our wistful wishes have come to fruition, and while you haven't lived to see it, *I* have -- and I'm sure you have too, in your way. Times are "hard" here, they say. A couple of unscrupulous cutpurses have robbed hundreds of people of trillions of dollars (and I mean that literally). Lots of people are being put out of their houses because they can't pay for them. People are being put out of jobs right and left, nation-wide. There's a grim war on (although I feel a lot better for the future of our grandson-the-Marine than I did before). It's going to take a great deal of time and a great deal of work to pull everything back together.......but we have a chance to do it, and that's because we now have an erudite, educated, sensitive, thoughtful, clear-thinking and wise young man in the White House. Oh - and did I mention? He's black.

I took hundreds of pictures; most of them are pretty bad, but I have them. I'm not going to put them all here to show you, because I think you saw it all anyway. But I will end with one picture, the ONLY picture of this left. It was a terrible picture from the start, half-faded and all, and this is a picture OF the picture, but I thought you might get a kick out of seeing it. (Please, tell Father Loesch hello for me -- I assume he's there by now.)

As ever,

Your widow,


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Little Knitting.......

I HAVE been knitting, and I'll show you a couple of pictures. For some reason I suddenly remembered the "Calorimetry" pattern on Knitty . This one is my THIRD, yes THIRD, ladies and gennulmens. The first looked much like this - I showed it to my friend Donna, who MUCH admired I gave it to her.

The second one I made out of that hot pink (!) yarn and gave it to Dawn (I made her a stripey pink-and-black which was wicked UGLY; I did give it to her, but she had to have something else too). The next one I made out of yarn which proved stretchy and it's too big for me. I'll find someone it'll fit.......

Here's the one I made AFTER the too-big one, being determined to have one of my own, and you can see how the button goes. I love the thing.

And then I told Bethie that I'd make her one (in exchange for a recipe for naan - I get the better deal, I think) out of Noro:

I haven't put the button on it yet -- I want a really nice one, and if I can't find one here (can you believe it, I don't have a button jar!!) I'll get one at the LYS, I'm sure. I'm fascinated by the way the color worked up; being as it can be worn either way, you can quite a different effect. (I may make me one out of Noro too...)

The other things that have occupied my thoughts lately are the weather of the last few days (it's better now); I apologize for the crummy photos-from-the-teevee, but you can see the numbers:

These are NOT, mind you, "wind chill". Gets a little nippy here in Cheesehead land. We're hearty here.

And last -- but not least........

Gil Grissom has left CSI! The Lovely Daughter didn't like the ending -- I DID! I was Entirely Satisfied with the whole thing.

Now -- I'm sitting on the sofa. I have my laptop (like you couldn't tell that), I have TWO knitting baskets with projects in 'em, I have a cup of tea, I have an open notebook and my pencil -- and I'm watching the beginning of the Inauguraton festivities. I ma open a new Post and write as I watch -- but there'll be another post, later....when I've had some time to ruminate.

You're here with me, aren't you, Willie?............

Friday, January 16, 2009

Errata! or....CORRECTION!

In a word: I made a mistake, which a nanosecond of looking-around would've prevented. (Isn't that so often the case?) to wit:

The Pioneer Woman (Ree) says right on her contact page that they're in OKLAHOMA.

You know where I said "Kansas" yesterday? Pretend you didn't see that.

Dale-Harriet, who should KNOW at this Advanced Age to check stuff out.

Just a little cool --

OK, this is NOT a recent picture. No, the truth is, as I write I understand it's about -19f. Nineteen degrees below zero. Some years ago a wicked, evil malingerer invented something called "Wind Chill". What that means is, if you're standing outside, naked, and it's really cold out - and there's a breeze, then no matter the temperature, it feels as though it were colder.

(Of course, if you're standing outside naked, no matter where you are, I suspect the wind is not going to be your worst problem.) But it just sounds so dramatic to use that figure, and of course you WHISPER "wind chill", so when someone says "How cold is it there?" you can reply "Well, actually, it's forty-five degrees below zero wind chill." Much more dramatic, you must agree.

But I thought a nice warm view of apple blossoms might cheer up those of you reading from other parts of the country. For OUR part, when it's this cold we Wisconsinites begin to acknowledge the temperature. We might say: "Gee, it's getting cooler!" or "Hmmm, if the mercury drops a few more degrees we may have to get out our winter coats!" Or...."Oh good, seems like all my handknit stuff will get some wear after all!"

Speaking of which - no pictures yet, but I've finished the stripey pink-and-black cap for Dawn, so I'll get a picture of it with the mittens, a nice little set.

And NEWS FLASH! I think my knittin' mojo is back; for some reason I remembered this and decided I really wanted to try one. It looked a) practical in this weather; b) interesting to knit; c) NOTHING like a Dr Who I got out some very pretty variegated yarn found in the bottom of a knitting basket in the den and cast on.

And knit one. Like, in an afternoon, start to finish. It buttons at the back of the neck and I literally sewed on a button and wore it just THAT quick. Talk about a satisfying project! In fact, I loved making it so much that I whipped up another one today, in Dawn's hot-pink acrylic, and I'll give it to her with the striped cap and matching mittens as a sort of extra. I believe I'll whomp me up a couple more, too - I'm remembering all kinds of delicious little morsels of yarn lurking in various stash bins. I'm NOT a fast knitter, so this was quite the treat. I'll do a very knitterly post with all kinds of pictures of FO and WIP and so on.

And now - a reference to a blog I read regularly, just because I think it's such fun. (Now - the truth is, see the blogs I have on my sidebar list? I read those every day, and truth to tell, I read them - and a few others - daily after looking at Cute Overload and I Can Has Cheezburger; I'm not putting a link to those but you can find them on autopilot I'm sure. (As a real English Snob the latter gave me a start - but believe it or not I've come to actually ENJOY "lolcat-speak"....what would my journalist Dad have to say?)

Anyway, the blog I'm mentioning here is The Pioneer Woman 's blog. This isn't an advert or anything, but I just really enjoy Ree's posts, and she isn't even a knitter! What she is is very funny, a sophisticated "urbanite" who gave up an elegant high-fashion life in (I think) Los Angeles and became a ranch wife on a (I think) Kansas cattle ranch with real cowboys. No worries that she'll read this - so let's just go ahead and say "Kansas".

Hers is a very professional-type blog, in sections: "Confessions" (the plain ol' blog part, always illustrated with brilliant photos); "Cooking", in which she puts incredible recipes with LITERAL minute-by-minute photos of each step (BRILLIANT) and then a section on "Photography" at which she excels and shares info for people who know that an f-stop isn't one of the holes on a soprano recorder - and "Homeschooling", which she does with her own "punks" and lists all manner of rescources, ideas, &c.

Even if all you do is look at the pictures you'll be uplifted. I've tried a couple of her recipes (to rave reviews) and admired her four beautiful children ("the punks"). She has a lot of photo resources, like wild mustangs in her front yard, very attractive folks around her and a real knack with the old camera.

Yep, I'm suggesting you wander over for a (very pleasurable) wander around, even though apparently she is NOT a knitter. (No surprise, I have no idea how she accomplishes everything she DOES in a day!) If nothing else, check out the recent pictures of her basset hound, Charlie. Side-splitting. The whole thing is just good, old-fashioned ENTERTAINMENT.

And now, being as it's 2:00 am, I'm going to weave in the ends of the pink "Calorimetry" and sew a button on so it'll be ready for a photo shoot tomorrow.....and then I'm creeping in under the sheet, two blankets, feather tick and two cats. You've heard of "Three Dog Nights"? Well, "Two Cat Nights" are even colder. But when I'm all snorgled down in deep under all the layers it's all I can do to not downright SQUEAL in delight.
And so, for night and until the morrow -- Good Night!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Home is Home!

When the house is all decked out for the Holidays (falalalala and all that), the already small space becomes more than cozy -- downright intimate , you might say. But then, when the tree's been carried out and all the ornaments are safely wrapped in tissue and stored back away and all the needles vacuumed up....well, plain ol' daily home is HOME!

Reminds me of a story (which, if I told before, you may skip). In years past we've called the International Student Association occasionally and invited a foreign student or two to share Thanksgiving with us. It's been unfailingly a completely delightful experience; now that the grandchildren are big enough to sit like normal human beings at the table, we haven't space. But one year we had the pleasure of a young man from Mainland China and his wife.

He had come to Madison first and gotten a modest apartment on campus, and then his wife came. When they got here, the wife looked around my living room (which was nigh on to filled with the big table we set up, having no real dining room) and she declared, "What a a lovely house, so PALATIAL!" If I'm not mistaken, our whole house is about 1100 feet of "palatial".

But they then explained, during dinner, that when the husband had sent pictures of their little one-bedroom apartment to his wife in China she had replied inquiring how many other *families* they would be sharing the space with! Tends to give one some perspective, I must say. If you think of the living spaces millions of people have all over the world (and indeed the fact that a powerful lot of folks are living in little TENTS in refugee camps all over the world), why - I guess she was right, our digs really are palatial! I think of our house as my nest, and it's sort of a bookcase with some knitting space, a place to sleep and a place to cook and eat. Oh, and the biffy; I wonder how many people think, over the course of a week, even, about their biffies. Indoors, efficient, clean, warm -- and have you ever ogled the variety of terletpaper available? Mind-boggling.

NINE DAYS left until the Inauguration, remember, counting down here. I think I may make some of the posh little finger foods generally reserved for New Year's Eve for the occasion, in fact.

By the way - no worries, anyone who might be working, as I'm SURE it'll be rerun -- often -- and I'm guessing the entire event will be on YouTube within minutes, too.

It's also very clear to me that the cat's out of the bag (oh it is to LAUGH) regarding the YakTrax. I have to say, I couldn't be happier to discover that apparently a LOT of other people have known about them, because what a good idea! (I will pass along Randi's warning that they can be slippery themselves on the linoleum in stores. though - when you get to the store, take 'em OFF!) and thanks, Randi, that is very worthwhile advice.

I'm catching up on things here -- last week I went with an old friend (she actually IS a little older than I, if you can imagine; furthermore we've been friends for 37 years!) She retired not long ago, and fills her days three times a week with dialysis - but she's been taking advantage of Opportunities for the Elderly around town lately and if I'm not busy at the Museum I can go with her (legitimately). So we went to the Senior Center downtown last week for Lunchannamovie. This was the lunch -- and you know, it doesn't look particularly appealing, now I see it here, but it was actually very respectable. The fish was baked and mild, and there was good tartar sauce (one of those little packets). The peas were probably frozen, but they were very sweet and delish. The cheesy potatoes could've been hotter but they were fine. I gave my friend the bread, as I'm not very bread-y. But the movie? Well! They showed "Mama Mia", and had popcorn and apple juice in the bargain (did I mention the film was free?) I just watched the movie-reviewer guys on the teevee and they panned it, big-time. Spoilsports.

OH, I agree, Pierce Brosnan can't sing. But you know, he's one of those actors I could watch reading the phone book. The one thing that struck me was, it really looked like everyone in that film looked like they were having a BALL, and therefore, so did I. I like watching people having a wonderful time. (Hmmmm....I may be singularly easy to please, being as I enjoyed the meal and loved the movie. Just sayin'.)

OK, tomorrow is my Writers' Group so I have some work to do this evening, and the weather forecast for the next few days promises "record-breaking sub-zero temperatures", like -40....can you imagine the wind chill? I b'lieve I'll get out my layers in the morning, yes I will.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Steppin' Out --

...and COUNTDOWN! Yes, ladies and gentleman, it's January 10th; that means that in ten days it'll be January 20th. (I'm terrible at Ugly Maths, but I can manage remedial). And what that means is - just about enough time to clear out the sofa, lay in some necessary appropriate munchies, gather at least two knitting projects to have at hand, make sure there's a new VHS, wait. By then I'll have time to find out what kind of DVD I can record on, and I'm thinking that might be more practical. And then -- when the hour is right, when the program starts -- when the Inauguration broadcast begins, don't call me. Don't even talk to me (well, I guess unless you're Mr Dearling I probably wouldn't hear you anyway, but you know what I mean).

I may invite some peeps to join me, or I may not. The truth is, I intend to have, as well as everything else around me, a sizeable box of tissues. (Can I say "Puffs" without putting a little "r" in a circle or wossname? 'Cause I do like Puffs. Sometime I'll tell you why I had to leave Canada because none of the stores carried Puffs.)

HOWEVER! What I'm saying is, besides munching and knitting and recording, I know myself well enough to know that I'll be delicately weeping ...... bawling, maybe even doing the Ugly Cry. As much as the whole nomination and election thing got to me, the actual Inauguration will be an ecstatic culmination.

Will I write afterward? Yes, in fact -- perhaps even *during*, but we'll see. I'm going to try to capture some images from the teevee - and sort through everything I feel because I want to record my reactions. Someday the "eyewitness"-ness of it may be of interest to someone.

Now then - although it's taken this long, I finally have gotten back in the Swing of things.

I took a couple more pictures of the Dr. Who scarf in preparation for delivering it to the recipient (I need to figure out how to get these to my Ravelry deal - that should be a Resolution, figure out how to do all that.) As you can see, the scarf wound up being almost as long as my living room; including the fringe, it comes in at just about 13' even. And for all the moaning and groaning and stitchin' and bitchin' and that the chapter is closing, I'm experiencing a little "dropping-off-the-baby-at-school" syndrome.

Of course,nothing can leave this house without which it's been examined thoroughly by the FQC* team, so I called in the local representative. They're experts, you know, and I have to say -- not that I tried this or anything, but they can't be bribed or persuaded to overlook failings, rest on scratchy wool or tolerate gross inferiority.

*Feline Quality Control - Agent Evangeline on the job

It passed muster, I'm proud to say. Now then - the scarf was commissioned by my former colleague at the Museum, Rick - a.k.a. "Dr. Cryptosis". He has an indy teevee program hosting horror films, &c, and he's very good at it. In fact, since leaving the museum he's taken it up more seriously and nothing for it, he may one day be a nationally-known figure and I can say "I made his Dr. Who scarf!" (He's said, in fact, that he's going to wear it on some future programs, and he'll send me a DVD of it!)

I think it looks quite dashing, if I do say so myself. He was very pleased with it indeed and admired the width, the length, the colors.

Now, a 13' scarf of that nature, 65 stitches wide, is a Project, but it is NOT the equivalent of anything that can be called "fancy" or "elegant" knitting. This is no Orenburg. This is nothing to equal Franklin's baby shawl for his niece, what with the prayer knitted in around the edges. This is no sweater with Viking runes and celtic knotwork cabling. This project required determination, perseverance, but nothing unusual in ability or quality or skill. I don't undervalue the evenness of the edges, the regularity of the tension, but I'm now I'm done with it I'm going to plan out some projects with which to improve my techniques. Just sayin'.

Now then, I mentioned the hot-pink-and-black mittens requested by our Dawn, and showed you Lovely Daughter's contribution on the needles. Well! After a couple of false starts and frogging, I found a pattern with thumbs I could understand at our favorite LYS, The Sow's Ear , of course. I thought to myself how nice it would be to have mittens with a good long cuff:

so I made this. I started one that was just stripes, but they were too thin so I went with the two strands held together. You'll notice that the thumb is--shall we say "incomplete". The truth is, the top of the mitten above the thumb was too short. And the cuff was...well....too long. "Long cuff to stay inside jacket sleeve" is one thing. "Elbow-length mittens"? Ridiculous. So I just plain hung it up. I didn't frog it, ladies and and gennulmens, I threw it away! No,no, of course I wouldn't have if it were cashmere, or merino, or silk -- for heaven's sake whaddya take me for??

However, I WILL say this: it's Caron's "Simply Soft" ("Brites", no less); the pink isn't a color I'd likely use for myself, but as an acrylic yarn I will say, it's deliciously soft, easy to work with, smooth and has a nice drape to it when knitted up. I'm keeping it in mind for future projects because I like it.

This was actually taken a couple of days ago and the mittens are now finished. They're LOVELY! And the matching cap (which IS stripey) is almost half-done. I'll post pictures of the set when I've finished. NOTE: The stripiness is a little thin for the cap too, and I may frog it and use the same double-strands for the cap. It'll be thicker and is soft enough to work well doubled.

I realize one looks pointy and one nice and round; they're the same when you put 'em on. And the *thumb* from that pattern is lovely enough that I can now finish the fingerless mitts I have started. My immediate knitterly plans include a pair of Reggia fingerless mitts to replace the ones I've almost worn out and a few other pairs, some socks,a scarf or two -- all will be told in the fullness of time.

And now for Something Completely Different, for no particular reason at all: I'm going to mention something of which I'm very fond. It's a dish, some comfort food that I've made for my kids when they were little and have recently rediscovered:

This is home-made cream-chipped beef. I serve it in those lovely puff pastry shells which give it an elegant flair. In our family this is known as "Cousin Andrew's Favorite Lunch", because it WAS! My dear nephew Andrew is just a few months younger than my #1 Son, and the first time I made this for my kids (we ate it on toast points in our younger, poorer days) I said to them, "This is your cousin Andrew's favorite lunch." OH YES, I hear you over there, snickering in the corner, and yes, I DO know that it has some -- shall we say, "sobriquets". Yes, this is what everyone calls S.O.S. in college. Keep it to yerseff, please. I like it and enjoy it so there anyway.

And last (but NOT least) -- the aforementioned product discovered, purchased and much-touted by Mr. Dearling. This is something which can make a GREAT DEAL of difference to those of us Advancing in Age getting through these Upper Midwestern winter days:

This is something called "YakTrax Walker", and nope, we're not getting any big endorsement monies or anything, but I think knowing about these things may make a LOT o' people's lot in life easier. What they are is these coiled-spring things in a rubber foot-shaped frame-type deal. They go over your boots or shoes and provide traction for walking on ice!

We had one of those times where it got up to about 38 degrees, a lot of the snow melted, and then (as it is wont to do) the temperature plummeted, inconveniently coating all sidewalks, streets, and paths in the Arboretum to glare ice.

I didn't have to go out, but Mr Dearling did, so he got out his set. He had to walk on both streets and paths in the Arboretum (he's a Steward, I think I'd mentioned, and he patrols on his daily constitutionals sometimes).

Because the frame is flexible, these are available in two sizes which will fit any size shoes. I think they're about the cleverest thing I've seen in quite some time, and I am here to tell you - Mr Dearling's experiment revealed that in his case these things worked really well! He tried tromping along on iced sidewalks and streets, and found that he could just plain tromp like a normal person on a normal surface.

For my part, I don't have any of my own yet because I don't walk outside very much as a rule, other than just to the garage (a few feet) or like - around the Museum where the sidewalks are plowed, scraped, salted and sanded. Still - for anyone living somewhere that gets bad icy, I think these could be anywhere from a convenience to a life-saver, and so I'm mentioning them. He got them at one of those outdoorsy places that has climbing gear, hiking gear, kayaks - that sort of thing, and they were around twenty bucks. That's my unsolicited product review for the year, and they're not even knitterly.

Now I'm going to work on the hot-pink-and-black cap. Photographic documentation to follow.

Correction to previous post: (and I make this mistake every time I mention it) The beautiful pattern that my Lovely Daughter is knitting into the mitten-matching scarf is houndstooth. It is NOT "herringbone", in spite of the fact that I call it that a lot. Ooops!
---Dale-Harriet, apologetically

Friday, January 9, 2009

Is it over???

Are they all gone? No more shouting, running, crinkling more crowds....the Gregorian Chants are put away?

How about that other thing, that stuff on the teevee where they show every single human being in the world (well, of course YOU weren't there, Mom) standing around with goofy glasses and drinking stuff and shouting? That's overwith too? (Although -- you know, we did notice the extra treats that came our way, you're going to keep that up, yes?) I've noticed that it seems to be a big bag of Back-to-Normal around here, but I'm not coming out unless I'm SURE because you know, what passes for merriment to you guys is nothing but UNBRIDLED CHAOS to Lilliane and me. Let's not have another episode of that, all right? All right then.

So where HAVE you been, Dale-Harriet, and what were you up to? Well, I was up to about 4'11" (insert raucous laughter, I'm so funny). But seriously -- I've been languishing, I guess. And I must admit it: I've checked my regular blogs that I read and taken satisfaction from the fact that it seems like quite a few of us have sort of gone all vague during the holidays. But now it's new: a new year, a new beginning, "out with the old, in with the new". I do love the holidays, I'd be lying if I said otherwise, but they exhaust me. And even though it's been 45 years since Christmas 1963 when my cherished Daddy died around 3:00 a.m. on Christmas Day there's always a moment when I feel exactly like I felt when I picked up the phone and heard my poor brother-in-law say "Your father's dead." Sometimes it's just a twinge of recollection; sometimes I spend an hour or so in recollection, but it's as keen these 45 years later. So there's that.

But for the most part, the holidays here are like they are everywhere else, and I'm glad to say we tend to keep out the commercialism for the most part. Presents? We get a good book and a small plaything for each little grandchild and that's it. We also adopt a family and spend some time shopping for items with their wish list in our fists. That's FUN.

We've done this for a few years, and it's always been a single mom with two or three kids. They give us a list with first names, ages, and each puts one or two things they'd much admire to have. There is a price limit, but we sort of use our best judgement. I was super-delighted - the Mommy said she'd like lotions or bath oils. You know, those lovely girlie things that you just NEVER buy for yourself when you're a single mom with kids (been there, done that). So I took myself to Bath & Body Works (you can look it up, I'm not going to link, but it's easy to find if you want to). It just so happens, I LURVE their stuff, and they do have very good sales at holiday times.

DIGRESSION WARNING: See, they make a hand lotion called "Ultimate Silk" (well, I think they might be discontinuing it, so they must have found out how much I like it on account of, isn't that the way it always works?) ANYway. I'm wise to them, so I have probably half-a-dozen bottles of it in various scents, because it smells wonderful, is very soothing on my knobbular fists - and (this is true, I'm not making it up) you can knit IMMEDIATELY after putting it on!! My current pash is "Sensual Amber" -- I think I've referred to it before. If it conjures up images of a lithe, dark-skinned beauty lying on embroidered silks draped in diaphenous garments floating on the musky breezes....the joke's on YOU! Because I'm short, knobbular (see above) and tend to scrunch into a little knot under about 15 lbs of woolen blankets. But I smell terrific!!

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the Holidays at Chez CatsSticksandBooks:

We had considerable snow, which I really LOVE. We did have an unfortunate thaw that reduced it by some, but fortunately it chilled back down and we're almost back up to our record-breaking depths. In case you don't recognise it, this is Lucy, my beloved little lilac bush. Remember this image, because in about four months I'll show you what she looks like in her splended, fragrant glory. Anyone who doubts that there's some form of deity (or you know, deities) can look at my scrawny brown little lilac up to her {clearing throat} in snow and realize that there'll be green and heart-shaped leaves and the world's nicest little flowers on here.

We do celebrate Christmas at our house - notice all the little hearts on the tree? (I might've mentioned this before, like last year - nevermind). Every year I give Mr Dearling a new Heart for the tree. (He hasn't actually gotten the one for this year yet - I'll show it to you and explain; let's just say it has to do with .... well no, he reads this. I'll show you later. Nevermind.)

We also celebrate Chanukah, as I have all my life. This is actually after Christmas; Chanukah goes by the lunar calendar and isn't the same days any year. This year it started before Christmas and ended on the 29th. But I do like the menorah in its full glory -- now, because the lighted menorah is not to be moved, I light the candles when I can be there with them until they burn down (usually not much over a half-hour).

Otherwise, I must confess, I have an electric menorah with blue flame-shaped bulbs. Tacky? oooh, pretty much. But I can leave it alone with cats in the house, dontcha know. I'm not sure what the actual Hebrew prayer is for that one ("Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who -- commands us to plug in the lights of Chanukah?" eeeeeww) but it's safe. Also, the menorah is supposed to be seen in a window from outside - and this one can be (albeit only by the next-door neighbors if they should happen to look)....I'm obviously making some concessions here. The advantage of being your Ethnic Jew, rather than more of a religious one.

By the way, there was a highlight of the Chanukah celebration this year. It seems that the entirely adorable daughter of Kitty Mommy discovered "Honka"; being That Sort of Mommy, they hit the library and read all about it, made their own menorah with little battery-operated tea lights, &c &c. So they came over the last night of "Honka" and we had latkes with sour cream and (Kitty Mommy's VERY superior) applesauce with cinnamon, played dreidl and generally had a marvelous visit! If you read her blog, you'll see that they celebrated "Honka" wonderfully well, and much the way we did when my babies were little. Somewhere I have a wonderful picture of the year that #1 Son helped his little brother (Son #2) light the candles; it was traditionally the job of the "eldest son" to light them, but that year he wanted to share. At the time, #1 son was probably six years old and #2 Son was two years old. It's a darling picture - in fact, they were wearing yarmulkes I'd crocheted for them. (Ah, the Auld Days.)

So anyway! Here are a few pictures from various holi-days : This is my baby, my last-born, and I remember his tiny infant face on those nights when I sat up watching the beautiful snowfall out the window as I nursed him. Someone came and traded him out for this guy with the beard! Seems to me it was a while ago, like - maybe 37 years. You have to watch these things EVERY MINUTE!! (OK, I think he's extremely handsome, truth to tell, and his children are - like their cousins - my hearts.) The lad is bright and clever and often pensive and thoughtful; the girl is a delightful pre-teen (her dad says "not always delightul) and "HA! Taller than you, Grandma!" that's odd or something.

Here's #2 Son and family - next year I'll remember to go for a portrait of THEM (although we did get "formal" pictures of the boys which are eye-wateringly beautiful). We gave the older boy a very cool set of magnetic pieces you can build cars and stuff with (notice DAD enjoying assembling something) and the younger boy a very fine elephant (Folkmanis puppet) which was a BIG hit! He's into ellyfamps this year.

And here, a sight which warms my heart - my Lovely Daughter! She's making a beautiful herringbone scarf in hot-pink and match the mittens and cap I'm knitting for #1 Son's dear lady (she's the mom of those two firecrackers ...uhm.... pistols ...that is, two DARLING little boys seen above). They're not Christmas presents, as she requested them when they were over that day........BUT still. Lovely Daughter wanted in the fun so she volunteered a nice scarf, which this is. ("That pattern's easy, Mom!") Yeah, and some people to trapeze tricks too.

I am glad to report that 1) the mittens are FINISHED; 2) the cap is NEARLY-FINISHED; and 3) I *did* finish the Dr Who scarf and the shawl I was working on. Watch for pix in future.

OK, this is MORE than enough for one day. Tune in later for "the rest of the story", including comments about a product Mr Dearling found that is altogether TOO way cool and some other tidbits. I am glad to say that (as you can see) I survived the holidays mostly intact, and have pulled up my sagging stockings, stretched my back and am back to whatever-passes-for-normal-around-here.

Now I'm off to put up my hair, climb into my hoopskirts and flounder through the snow to go do a program at a senior residence. With a PowerPoint. Yeah, I know. Nevermind.

I'm going to miss these guys when you put 'em away, Mom - they like me, they really like me !! Uhm...Lilliane? It's not really YOU they're adoring. Sorry. But I'm proud of you for not carrying any of them off like last year. Good girl. (Oy)

It is my most earnest wish that the New Year brings you all strength, delight, laughter, optimism and joy - and that, in these times of tightened belts you look around and see a great abundance of the things that are truly valuable. Those riches which fill our hearts are what make us prosperous and rich, and I wish you that without limit.