Monday, May 28, 2007

One Event, All Seven Sins....

(With apologies to any Catholics, as I am not one and am merely stealing the concept to illustrate my Sunday)
We've got your basic sloth - between Cummington in the morning, a nap, visit from my father, visit to my in-laws, and a late dinner I did very little yesterday. I did finish the Big Secret Project in the evening, and need to block it. But that's not like a whole pair of socks, or a sweater or anything really productive. As a workday goes, it was seriously light. Then there was some gluttony in the form of Lamb Bits. I love Lamb Bits. I once had a long talk with an open-minded lamb-hater. We decided it's a matter of upbringing. If you were raised on lamb prepared properly, you will probably be a lamb lover in adult life. If you were raised on mutton or in complete lamblessness, you will not like it at all. Mr Wonderful and Girl do not like lamb. Girl can't even stand the smell of it roasting. When she was little, there was no lamb in her life because it was entirely too pricey for a single mother to buy. (She was, however, routinely subjected to liver, which was cheap) Her lamb-free lifestyle is sad, because I absolutely adore it. Roast, chops, stew, you name it. Sheep and Wools for me are really more about a quest for lamb than a quest for yarn.
Then there was a bit of greed. I covet this puppy. I want it. I don't even know why. Not as badly as I want the Golding Precision wheel, but I still want it. I own wheels. I am surrounded by fiber tools of all kinds. I want this wheel. I want to know that I can spin in the car. I want it so badly that I nearly convinced Girl to buy it for herself, knowing that I could use it when she was not around since it uses Ashford bobbins. Bad, bad mother. This is such an inexpensive wheel that it's practically required! I have a Hitchhiker Plan. It involves Mr. Wonderful and a hitchhiker fund. Which brings us to wrath. Mr. Wonderful. Love the man. Really do. To bits. I just get so angry when I cannot bring him around to my way of thinking - that 8 is NOT enough spinning wheels, that 9 is a perfectly sane number and that money is, after all just money. You can't take it with you. You know you'll probably make more in the future. So why not just spend it now? This inevitably leads to skirmishes. Because I am right. Of course.
Now envy.
We dropped some yarn off at a friend's house on the way home. They live in an old farmhouse complete with barn and sheds on hundreds (yes, I said hundreds) of acres in the wilds of Ashfield, Mass. They're the last house on the road and yards and yards from their nearest neighbor. In fact, you cant' see any neighbors. All you can see is this view, this scene all around of trees and grass and mountains.
And a tiny bit of pride, or something like it. It's fun to be recognized, and that's happening more and more. People are beginning to know my name. Then there will be a book...and maybe more people will know my name...and then my head will have to be popped to prevent it from getting too, too big for my shoulders...
Let's see that's six..ahh, yes, the seventh sin. Well, this is a G-rated blog so we'll just skip right over the details on that one.
Anyway - I saw bloggers blogging a blogger, and blogged them. Huelo, if you'd sit still for two seconds...just two seconds. And Jenna and Cirilia. We saw the Elkins clan but I did not get my camera out fast enough. And Chicken Betty, and Gail, and Betsy and her husband who took it on the chin with great grace when his wife of HOW many years introduced another man as "Mr. Wonderful", and a slew of students. Mary Alice brought two pair of cuffs - I now have a true collection, nearly 35 sets of the things, and I will be glad when they are gone from my space, which I hope is Wednesday. I saw a lot of yarn and resisted it all, succumbing to two bars of goats' milk soap. But I willingly enabled others in their yarn and wool procurement. Girl bought a big old pile of fleece from various places for use in felting. I especially love the kit she got from Winterberry Farm.
I am off to New York Wednesday night. Chicken Farmers take Manhattan - film at 11. Amy is coming along, and will prevent me from going out without shaving my legs, spitting in public, shooting squirrels in the park, and leaving the hotel with chicken poo on my shoes. I am going to see very important things for the very first time, like the New York subway system, a large book thing called BEA that everyone says will amaze me, and - most importantly - TIFFANY'S!! Girl has requested that I buy large dark glasses, a croissant, and a cup of coffee and stand in front of Tiffany's very early in the morning for a photo-op just for her. She also requested that I wear a large black hat and black sheaf dress. We'll see. I will unfortunately miss The Harlot Event, which is bumming me out. But I will learn a lot at this author's conference thing on Thursday...and I have always wanted to see New York...and Amy promised me really it's a GOOD thing. I think everyone should go to the Harlot event and tell me all about it, so I can feel as if I missed nothing!
Totally cheesy wish - I want to go to the top of the Empire State Building. Is this not truly silly?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

SHE KNITS! (who knew!?)

First another vacation picture, because it inspired a design and so must be included here. It will be the last one, I promise. Maybe. I think. Naah. There's a couple more in this post. This is Assateague Island with sun on it, taken Saturday morning as we were heading out for Pennsylvania. The day we biked it there was no sun, just wind (gusting to 35-40mph), cold (around 58), and rain (very light mostly), but I loved it there and would go back again in a heartbeat. I saw ponies. I saw mega-squirrels, some sort of Delmarva Monster Rodent (ok, ok, it's just a fox squirrel). But back to the we drove up the peninsula I was struck by the resemblance of the blues and greens of the salt marshes to a skein of yarn I had hanging about in my bag. I pulled it
out and cast on for a sock. It was a top down sock. I hated it. So I ripped it out and started a toe up. Voila! The Assauteague Sock, a toe-up combination of salt-marsh layers and undulating wave pattern. The yarn is Panda from Seacoast Handpainted Yarns. It's a wonderful blend of 60% superwash merino, 30% bamboo and 10% nylon, put up at 400 yards a skein, and I adore it. Love it. Want more of it. The bamboo makes it drapey and lush, while the wool helps it to retain some boing - and I do need some boing in my sock yarn. Adore it. Pattern is my own and will eventually be on The Website for sale, along with three others, hopefully by the first of June. I have to-have to-have to return to Assateague. I'd like to stay on Chincoteague for a week and ride my bike all over it and the adjacent island. Wildlife everywhere. Beaches. Sand. Bike paths that used to accommodate auto traffic so they're wide and smooth and allow your mind to drift, giving you ten feet to recover before you hit a tree.
I was not going to talk about the vacation stuff any more. OK, ok, just one more thing, promise. If there is a sign on a roller coaster that says "You WILL lose your hat on this ride!", believe them. I had it in my hand, not even on my head and woosh, it was gone, right off the Wild Mouse coaster that made Mr. Wonderful green. Mr. Wonderful was not made to go high up in the air and perch perilously on the edge of a crazy mouse track. My lovely orange Gettysburg hat, lost and gone forever, imprisoned in hat-jail at Hersheypark. I like to think that after dark it escaped from the prison walls and ran to Chocolate World and ate all the Scharfen-Berger and Hershey's Cacao Reserve it could get it's little brim on. While we're on the topic of Hersheypark...they've got the nicest wooden coasters I have been on. I loved them. We skipped anything upside down (again. I
really just think I am not made for this activity), and the one that shoots you at about 70 mph straight up and straight down again. We stalked the exit to hear comments, but most people just walked off looking a little dazed and shell-shocked. The most commentary I heard was "You start up the hill and you don't see anything, nothing, man, and then...and then..." but the guy could not say what came next (a big drop? some barrel rolls? what?? His brain shut off at "straight up the hill". That's like getting so drunk that you black out and then try to tell everyone what a great time you had...even though you don't remember it. What's the point?) Give me a good wooden coaster with lots of airtime and a big drop and I am all over it. Hershey divides you into size categories. When you enter the park you stand in front of these measuring posts of varying heights, each labeled with a candy name. Your candy name limits the rides you can go on. Miniatures can go on kiddie rides only. Then there's Kisses, Reese's, Hershey bars, Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers. I'm a Twizzler. And you know what? I am ok with that. I embrace my Twizzlerhood. The guy tried to make me a Jolly Rancher with a big wink, wink. But I love being a Twizzler. I can get into all sorts of places that Jolly Ranchers can't fit. I can snake through crowds unnoticed. It's all good.
Saddest thing about Pennsylvania Dutch Country: little barefooted Amish kids pimped out at a winery selling painted horseshoes and charging for photos of themselves. Best thing(s) - Hersheypark. Free samples at this place called Kitchen Kettle Village. An insane place called The Outhouse which really does make you laugh in spite of yourself, even if it's a living monument to groaners.More knitting, sort of, is happening here. There's something in this bag, but I
can't say what just yet. It's a surprise! It will be revealed soon, although probably not here first. It's first public debut will probably be at the store, in about a week. And I am swatching for two designs for Webs that should fly right along once my final decisions are made. But more on that later. The swatches are dull right now.
Best thing about coming home - Girl started her first pair of socks out of Franklin she dyed herself with Gail. She's using a pattern she stole from my computer while I was on vacation and she's making them for me. I cried.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


This is one of those vacation we should have done with the kids but were too broke to accomplish. And I was afraid I'd kill the boys. I remember well the long drive to Washington DC and back with them. I remember Mr Wonderful (aka Mr Cheap??) paying for an adjoining room in Scranton when we were too tired to make the final push for home just to get a few hours on the other side of a wall from the little charmers. By then we were lucky they were still alive. Dan walked into rush hour DC traffic, just stepped off the curb without even noticing, oh, THE LIGHT? The CARS?? Eric beat on Dan anyplace too public for me to murder him. Girl ... well, actually Girl I don't remember as doing anything which means she either quietly instigated all of the above, or she was just "Being Girl". I think when you're the youngest of four and the other three are all boys it's almost easy to be good. If nothing else you can sit back and remark to yourself on the incredible stupidity of people who actually think mom the nature lover won't notice that they're throwing pebbles at squirrels on the Mall.
Yesterday began at the foot of Skyline Drive at a place called Skyline Caverns. This was a nice one-mile walking tour through a living cave environment. At once point we were 300 feet below the surface, under the Blue Ridge. You're not allowed to touch anything as your body oils will inhibit the growth of formations that occur in the cave. This is the only not-horrible image from the experience. Really glad I bought the ViewMaster. I love ViewMaster. We learned about cave formation in a whopping group of four which was really nice. We got there at opening. We were followed by a huge tour bus that disgorged a significant number of tourists (like we're not?). Anyone who's ever worked in retail, be it donut shop or cavern knows the small shudder of fear that enters your body when you see a tour bus. It's a love-hate thing. They come, they have a great time (and you make sure they do!), they shop like mad, they leave. But they're usually not a particularly quiet group of folks which can be disruptive to people who are not part of their group. I was shakin' in my shoes that we'd be tacked onto their group. The wonderful young lady at the register assured Mr Wonderful (who looked green at the sign of the bus) that we'd tour alone after the tour group had gone on ahead. The caves are beautiful. One warning - twice during the tour the lights go out completely, only for a few seconds. This can freak some people out, especially small children. It really did not bother me which I found odd. And the tour ends with 24 stairs, which I found refreshing and rewarming, but not everyone would agree.
Next we headed up Skyline Drive, which is a National Park Service road that runs the length of the Blue Ridge's northern end. The drive affords lovely views, camping and other activities, wildlife in abundance; nature just an arms reach from your auto window. Sadly I found it stifling after years of hiking in the woods with no cars or roads or guys in uniforms. It felt canned and un-natural. Like nature in a box, all tidy and kept in line by the park service and the long snake of blacktop running through the midle. There's lots to do and see, and it'd be a great plae to spend a summer vacation with outdoor kids. There are cabin rentals, horseback rides, educational exhibits. The Applachain trail runs along the ridge as well and crosses over the drive at many points along the route. Bikes are not allowed anywhere but on paved roadways. The roadways are narrow and lack a breakdown lane. And there are hills. And I hates hills. But, if you're into that kind of thing, the fee to use the drive is cheaper per week than a club membership. We say some pretty serious cyclists climbing some pretty serious hills.
Our next stop melted my little heart right out of my body. I have a bit of a love for a particular wine and a particular winery. Barboursville Winery is well-known in the region; my favorite wine is called Octagon, which has won all sorts of awards, and most recently was served to the Queen on her visit to Williamsburg. (I want a t-shirt printed that says "I loved Octagon before the Queen drank it.") She had the 2001 vintage which I just happen to have in my cellar. The place is just beautiful. All the romantic images of wine country and horse country rolled into one. An exceptional restaurant (closed Tuesdays, wound't you know??) and guest cottages make is a wonderful location to stay. We did not stay, but I did taste. In all I tasted 16 wines. (Sips. And lots of water. That's how.) I found new loves. Their Nebbiolo Reserve should not be missed. For foodees I can see it paired with a nice charred piece of meat. Also the Cabernet Franc Reserve. And the Chardonnay Reserve which is oaked for a bit which totaly changes the wine and imparts more of the complex flavors I love. The Reisling was good as well, off-dry, so more to my taste. The dessert wines were...well...I would not buy a bottle of either. There were two and neither stayed in my brain. They made me miss the Nebbiolo and the Octagon.
During the tasting Mr Wonderful wandered a bit and took some pictures. I was going pretty slow. I am 4'11". 16 wines is a lot, even sipping. Every once in a while he'd come back in and ask how many more we had to go and the guy would send him back out to pet the horses (no joke, he told him to run away and play). He did, and they bonded. After tasting I immediately placed a phone call to my favorite procurer of the grape and gave her a list. I found out that the Massachusetts sales rep has left his position. Back into the shop I went and asked a few questions. I came away with the business card of the sales manager for the winery, so there is hope. I sense that the popularity of the product will increase since the Queen's little visit. I hope I am justified, because I love the stuff. While on the phone I chatted with Mr Wonderful's new buddies. By the way...there's still four bottles of the '01 Octagon at Ryan and Casey Liquors in Greenfield. Just sayin'. And also she's got the Malvaxia which has become so scarce that it's no longer on the tasting menu. It's a dessert wine, but a good one. Feels like honey in your mouth and finishes very clean as if it'd never been there at all. The tasting notes say something about pineapple, but all I get is this luscious sweet apricot flavor.
Next we drove to Monticello, the Virginia estate of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia. That's his self-written epithat. I'd add slave-owner and intemperate nut-job. But then the brilliant ones always are, aren't they? He had a long relationship with one Sally Hemmings, a slave. Upon his death he freed five of her brothers. The tour narrator points out that all five of them had been well-trained while owned by Jefferson, and left fully able to support themselves as a result. I am not sure how this knowledge is supposed to mollify. It is theorized that he fathered all six of her children. While he lived in his lovely estate home with his white daughter and 11 white grandchildren, his other kids were growing up in the cabins, slaves, with their enslaved mother. He was aware of the dichotomy but did nothing to change the situation. One could argue that his contributions outweigh the abuses. I'm a big fan of the Declaration myself, having been lucky enough to be born here and lived a life under the red white and blue, most of it blissfully unaware of the luxury and priviledge I daily take for granted. But it seems sad that his legacy is tainted by his inability to take on the issue of true freedom head-on. He owned human beings. He also died in debt, and the entire estate and furnishings and all were sold, including most of his personal effects. At tour's end we drive past the gravesite of Jefferson and various relatives. I wanted to ask how many graves bore the name of Hemmings, but I already know the answer.
We headed further south east, and landed at Williamsburg, Virginia from whence I write this post. Today we visit Colonial Williamsburg, and possibly Williamsburg Winery, which we can apparently include in a 12 mile bike loop that runs right past our hotel. I think. Anyway It's close enough for a little drive to jump on the bikes!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Can't Afford Souviners?

So here's the bullet - we're on vacation, right? And Mr. Wonderful, God love him, is so cheap he squeaks. I can get small things for Em and Aidan, but that's it. So far, Emily has a small t-shirt and Aidan has a very cool Union flat cap. As I motor on, I find things to give others, but Mr Wonderful won't let me bring them home with me, to wit:
For Malea - really good Mexican, in Virginia??

For Amy - I went, I saw, I ran like hell...

And for Kathy - I found an omelet man. Unfortunately he's at a Holiday Inn...

There's been some very dull knitting involving a marketing scheme which will photograph better when it's all done. And the beginning of one pair of baby socks. In the car we've got four projects that I can't wait to get started on. Tomorrow: the Skyline Drive and some kind of cavern. This sounds cool.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Twisted Knickers All Around

A couple of weeks ago, Katy came to drop-in ready to tackle a project that had twisted her knickers. We all have these. You think everything is chugging along just fine and WHAM, something you missed, or failed to note in time, whacks you full in the face. Katy had a mis-crossed cable. And not a mis-crossed cable under an arm, hiding
invisibly near a side seam. No. Katy had a mis-crossed cable dead center back of an adorable little tank/vest number. After an appropriate period of project time-out, she was ready to meet the problem head one. Surrounded by affectionate support, and fortified with appropriate snacks (sans wine, which I really recommend for this sort of thing, but it is a yarn store, not a living room, and we don't have a liquor license...yet...) There are a few fixes for the mis-crossed cable. There's ignore it and forget it, always a favorite with me on personal projects. There's the
cut and switch method. There's duplicate stitch. There's rip out the whole back and re-knit it. And there's my personal favorite - drop just the cabled stitches down to the error and re-knit them, correcting your mistake. With all of these options presented and researched, Katy chose to drop'em down and knit 'em up again. For me, duplicate stitch will not rest easily in my mind. I will always know that the error is there. Cutting into the cable, while effective, causes my little heart to skip a beat. Ripping out an entire half of a garment makes my eyes water. But dropping 6, or 4, or 8 or however many stitches down and reknitting the boo-boo, correcting as we go? It works for me.
As I said, we were well fortified with salsa and chips - a nice pile of gluten free snacks. A nice hot salsa will release endorphins, and while not the same as a glass of a nice red wine it can have a calming and soothing effect. By the way, interesting to note, the red salsa was labeled hot, while the green rated a medium I believe. In reality the reverse was true. The green one was hotter, not horribly hot, but noticeably hotter than the red. In the end, Katy's knicker twist was resolved without incident, but with much amusement.
Hysterically funny this weekend: While outside, Girl and Tut cavort on the deck, enjoying a moment of bonding with one another.

Aren't they adorable? Just a Girl and her Fowl...

Yet inside the view was not as rosy and sunny and joyful.

These are some twisted knickers. Jealousy. This is jealousy. I think if he ever gets out, the hen is toast.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hug Someone.

This is not going to be the morbidly depressing post it might be if I let my mind wander. I just returned home from a funeral day - a funeral for my best friend's father who died very unexpectedly and relatively young - although in his early 60's he enjoyed apparent good health and was very active and vital. So...just hug someone today.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye