Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I do not love a short row heel,

partly because I'm so comfortable with the rut I'm in. Working a classic "heel flap" heel is so familiar by now (and also tends to fit me so well), that I generally just launch into it, without considering other options. I don't have to think about it - whereas with a short row, I do. It's not that I don't understand how those other heels to work. It's just that I still have to pay attention to what I'm doing in a more intense way. (Of course, one could argue that this is exactly why I ought to keep working short-row heels until they, too, are second nature. One could argue many things. I may or may not pay attention.)

Part of the dislike, though, comes because I find those wraps so danged difficult to find when it comes time to lift 'em up and knit 'em together with the stitch they've been wrapping. It's an eyesight issue, especially in fine yarn, especially if it is dark or multicolored.

Sometimes, though, you need to stretch a little. Some designs just want a short row heel So I worked this

and by golly it wasn't half bad. I've decided that the most important trick in working a short row heel is to use worsted weight yarn. So much more enjoyable when you can see what you are doing

Of course, this makes for some pretty thick socks, but since this is a Christmas stocking, no problem.

You may ask why I am working on a Christmas stocking on the 30th of December. Lets just say it will be ready for next year, and leave it at that.


On the "getting rid of fifty" front, I'm discovering some of my personal obstacles to shedding stuff. Perhaps this will be spiritual as well as physical endeavor, and exercise in self awareness while I clear out the house.

One of my obstacles is "That's a perfectly good _____ and I might use it some day."

Here (#4) are some perfectly good holiday decorations that I don't really ever have room to display because of all the other perfectly good holiday decorations we have.

Off they go. With a couple of perfectly good napkin rings thrown in for good measure. And a couple more tins I found in the back of a cupboard - they were perfectly good, too.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Quick update

We had a nice Christmas. Dearest Daughter arrived home about 5:00 on the 24th and we spent a quiet evening at home with a simple soup and sandwich supper, then a fire in the fireplace, conversation and opening family gifts. The next morning there were "Santa Gifts" and we watched the Geraldine Page version of Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory", then in the afternoon we went next door to the Brother-in-Law's for a large dinner, and family conviviality.

Yesterday we had a rather long drive to Illinois (heavy fog) to my brother's house for a visit and to pick up my Mom, who had spent Christmas there. It was good to see the niece and nephew who both seem to have grown 4 inches since last summer. Rain and snow on the trip back. It was good to finally tumble into bed a little past midnight.

Today I wrote my thank-you notes., because if I don't get them written before the gifts are put away (or eaten as the case may be) they tend not to get written at all. Since some of the gifts involved chocolate, this leaves a rather narrow window of opportunity.

I also started in on a sort of New Year's resolution. A little while ago I saw a passing reference on someone's blog (Marie's?) to getting rid of 50 things. This sounded like an excellent idea.

So far I have (1) gathered up one stack of clothes that have been unworn for at least two years.

These are now in a bag bound for St Vinnie's. I am counting this as one thing, because I have so much stuff to eliminate that this won't even scratch the surface.

Also bound for St. Vinnie's is (2) an assortment of tins.

They are cute, potentially useful, and collect dust like crazy (and I also have many more that I have not gotten rid of).

And (3) is a stack of books for trade-in at the Frugal Muse.

Not a very big stack, but I do clear off the bookshelves fairly regularly, because it's the only way I can find room for new acquisitions.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

They say that winter arrives tomorrow

I guess it all depends on your definition of "arrive".

Thursday, December 18, 2008

So Much Fun

I'm usually not very good about getting out Christmas cards - a few to immediate family and a couple of old friends - and they are lucky if the cards arrive by Epiphany. But this year I had 17 in the mail, by the first of December to people I have never met in person.

Some folks from the Knitters for Obama group on Ravelry had a card exchange and I decided to join. Boy was it worth it.

It has been so much fun getting a wide variety of cards from all over the country. I just love seeing the different styles people picked/made. Some even had little prizes inside.

This tiny origami heart is so cute!

Thanks Tracy for the nice words about my table cloth. I made it many, many years ago. It seemed to take forever, but won me my only County Fair blue ribbon ever.


And to the rest of you, if making paper snowflakes online hasn't been your thing, check out Tracy's blog for a link to create the fastest (and possibly cheesiest - it's up to you) Christmas sweater ever.

(One way or another, I will provide you with ways to waste time you should be using to wrap presents/bake/take care of your family. If the snowflakes and sweaters aren't enough, check out the "Christmas Hathos" video clips Andrew Sullivan has amassed. You'll have to scroll down though the rest of his postings to get them all. I can't decide on my favorite. Cher? Charo? or possibly this.

I swear I can't get enough of it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snowflake News Flash

OK, the great A-Pazoo (a/k/a my sister), just sent me a link for making paper snowflakes online.

Could be some serious time lost, um utilized creatively, here. It's really fun.

I haven't disappeared,

it's just been a busier than usual week. I subbed for the High School secretary on Thursday and Friday, which meant working at the Library on Wednesday instead of Thursday, plus my regular Saturday morning shift.

My favorite substitute secretary moment was when I picked up the phone and heard, "Hi, did my wife just try to call me?" Uh, I don't know, outgoing calls don't go through the front desk, and so far I don't have a clue who you are so I don't even know who your wife is. Seriously, I just asked who he was, and transferred him to his wife's room. I've decided that just about the most helpful person in the place is the head of the maintenance department, because he generally knows where to find whoever it is I'm trying to locate.
Today we put up the Christmas tree., feels cozy to get that done. We still go for a fresh tree every year, though we no longer go out and cut our own. We've decided that a Balsam is the perfect variety - lots of spaces for ornaments, and the needles are soft enough that they don't scratch up our hands.

And the little village scene went up, too.

Some knitting going on that I can't discuss just yet, and I did whip up a floofy scarf as a gift for a friend who doesn't read this.
Warm, windy and overcast for the last day and a half. Much of the snow is gone. We are supposed to have rain, possibly heavy, later today, than a sharp freeze after that. Fingers crossed here that it doesn't turn into a real ice storm. We'll hope for the best.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Good Morning's Work

I mailed off the holiday packages to my brother's family in IL and my sister's family in MD. Doesn't sound like a big deal - just a trip to the post office. But first I had to shovel out this:

Also scrape about 1/4 inch of ice off all the car windows. Also rake as much snow as possible off the roof. But it wasn't that cold out, and it felt good to get outside and moving. Don't think I've had that much glow in my cheeks since last winter.

Monday, December 08, 2008

OK now I'm totally confused

After this post from Princess Sparkle Pony, I no longer have any clue where I stand on politics, religion or economics. Or maybe I have a clue where I stand, but I'm not sure whether it any longer has much connection with the world around me. My head hurts.

We attended a lovely holiday concert (excellent Puccini - totally dynamite Zion Gospel Choir) in Madison yesterday. I'm going to go lie down and close my eyes and think about that. It will remind me that the term "civilization" may not yet have become completely meaningless.

After that, I think I had better just get back to my knitting.

Post in Haste, Repent at Leisure

Well, "repent" may be too strong a word. "Realize a need for clarification" may be better.

First, thanks to everyone who commented. Lots of food for thought there.

In making my last, hurried, post I didn't mean to imply that I think the automakers should just be handed whatever they ask for, only that I agreed with the author of the WAPO column that in the different responses to Wall Street and Detroit there appears to be a class bias. And I'll admit that my own bias is that it eats at me to think that bank executives are still walking away with huge severance packages while the electricians in Chicago haven't received what their contracts promised. Not saying that I'm right, just that it bothers me. So I support those workers in their efforts to point out the discrepancy.

But the older I get, the more I realize I don't know.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Thoughts Exactly

Why the rush to bail out the financial industry, but not manufacturing? As far as I'm concerned, this column from the Washington Post hits the nail right on the head.

And I'm 100% with the Electrical Workers Union in Chicago (story from The Nation via Yahoo.)

I think I need to go re-read me some Howard Zinn.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Another Little Bitty

Now this was a quick sock. Worsted weight, 20 sts around. I don't think it took more than an hour. No pattern - I was just winging it. Needless to say, it's meant for a Christmas ornament.

Knocked off a couple of "muppet fur" scarves that have gone off to the shop here in town on consignment. No pics, but they weren't too exciting.

It snowed yesterday, and the sun is out today, so everything looks very bright and crisp - I'm finally wrapping my mind around the fact that we are almost a week into December. I have finished what shopping I am going to do - now to get things wrapped and in the mail.....

kmkat and junior_goddess asked how I found the old home movie in the last post. My neighbor, the one who now lives in the blue house, tipped me off to it. I'm not sure how she found it, will have to ask next time I see her.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

OMG! You can see my house from here!

Well, no, actually you can't, because the house wasn't built when the movies was taken.

But you can see the empty lot, graded and ready for construction to start between the house where the action takes place and the next one over. So you can see my next-door-neighbors' houses from here.

This is probably not of the least interest to anyone reading this blog, but I found it oddly exciting.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

We did a lot: (part 2)

But wait, there's more...

On Friday we all headed down to Mt. Vernon. The day after Thanksgiving was probably not the best day to visit here, as the line going into the house was very long. But the weather wasn't bad, and the grounds are lovely. Mom and I were able to duck into one of the gardens as the others held our place, and further on Ann and I dashed over to see some of the outbuildings. The trip through the house was pretty quick, but we did get to go up to the third floor, which usually isn't open.

Mr S wanted this shot to prove to his students that he was really there. Notice that daughter's hair is considerably shorter than nephew's.

The view across the Potomac from this side of the house is breathtaking.

On our way back, Brother-in-Law and nephew took off in one car for the new Apple store in Bethesda (nephew being totally enamored of all things Mac). The rest of us stopped at Arlington Cemetery and walked to the Kennedy graves.

Most of the group went on to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, but Mom was pretty tired and not really able to face another uphill climb. So my sister and I waited with her at the reception center, and watched twilight fall and the lights come up on the Lincoln and Washington memorials. Then home to the Thanksgiving leftover feast, which is almost as good as the Thanksgiving feast itself.

On Saturday morning, my dear friend Gayle and her husband came by for coffee. Gayle recently taught at Stitches (How to Use Japanese Knitting Patterns), so it was fun to catch up on that - and to hear about her trip to the Shetland Islands. She came with a wonderful gift:

That's WEBS Valley Yarns 2/14 alpaca silk blend in Eggplant. Enough for a shawl. Now to come up with a worthy pattern (all my problems should be so pleasant to contemplate). But I digress.

We left for the airport at 1:00 (a good 45 minutes sooner than we would have needed, but who knew traffic would be so light?) Uneventful flight back to Madison, home in B'ville by 10:00. Couldn't have asked for a better trip.

We did a lot in four days:(part 1)

We just arrived home last night from a trip East for Thanksgiving with my sister's family in Rockville MD.
Tuesday afternoon, in precisely timed airport run, I picked up Mr S from work, we drove to Mom's, where we were joined by Lovely Daughter, then dashed to the airport (where we discovered there were not yet long holiday travel lines). Well, I would always rather have more time at the airport than not enough. The flight from Madison took off on time, but we were delayed in Detroit. Landed at Baltimore, picked up the rental car and finally made it to Rockville at about 1:00 am, where my sister (bless her) was waiting up for us.
All slept in on Wednesday (well, all but niece and nephew, who had school in the morning, and brother-in-law who had work). That afternoon we went to a lovely little history museum in Sandy Springs,

and also stopped by the Friends Meeting House, which is 190 years old and still in use (though this is relatively new, as the Society has been meeting there since 1753). Then we met up with my brother-in-law for dinner at a Tai restaurant (yum) in downtown Rockville, and then went in to their beautiful new library.

On Thursday (Thanksgiving), sister Annie drove us all into DC while BIL Lee stayed home to make dinner. Thanksgiving Day is the perfect time to visit the city. The museums are open, the crowds are sparse, even parking close to the mall is easy. We started at the (new to me) National Museum of the American Indian. The building and grounds alone are breathtaking.

We were only able to skim the surface of the collections/exhibits, but enough of a taste to want to go back and see more.

Then off we went across the mall to the National Gallery. Looking over to the capitol, we could see the scaffolding/seating going up for the Inauguration.

You can probably see it if you click the picture to make it big

After lunch, Mr S, Mom and I went up to see the Dutch paintings, while Ann and the kids headed to the contemporary section and Lovely Daughter took off for the Natural History Museum. Again, our visit was all too brief, but wonderful. It is stunning to be able to stand with your nose six inches from a Vermeer or Bruegel or Van Gough and just drink it in. I stared at the colors in the shoulder and arm in this Van Gough for at least 5 minutes, but I could have spent 20, or an hour, or a week. The colors are so wonderful.

We were rather stunned to find that photography was allowed.

After a quick swing past the White House, we headed back to the house for Thanksgiving dinner. Lee is a Serious Cook, and he did himself proud. (Sweet potatoes roasted with olive oil and just a touch of maple syrup are a universe apart from brown sugar and marshmallows and far, far better. Plus the man makes his own cheesecake!)
Off to bed happy and well fed, to a guestroom with good pillows, a stack of books and visiting cats - bliss.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day

A small list of things I am thankful for:
Family, friends, food and shelter, The Gettysburg Address, cats, the employees of our local Post Office who always go the extra mile, Cajun music, Talkingpointsmemo.com and Andrewsullivan.com, Ravelry, the way tree branches look when they are outlined with snow, Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring", snow plow drivers, Bill Moyers, Russ Feingold, Aretha Franklin, poppies of all varieties, water, air and earth.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What I Ended Up Doing

Elizabeth and Junior Goddess Bets both had very clever ideas for filling an old sock draft stopper (and I rather liked Laura's collie suggestion), but here's how it all unfolded.
As I was still mulling over possibilities, I happened to take down two roller shades from two narrow windows. They had never worked quite right, and were starting to look old and tatty looking. Yet they weren't so bad that I could bear to just throw them away. As I was sticking them in a corner for the time being, I realized that they were almost the width of the doors that needed to have drafts stopped. And because they were made of fabric lined with thin foam, and had a narrow ruffle on the end, they had enough bulk to fill out the circumference of a sock pretty well. So I poured about a cup and a half of rice into the toe of one sock and pulled it over one end of a shade.

Repeated with other sock over the other shade end, and there you had it: The lazy women's quickie draft stopper.

The rice in the toes is far enough from the holes in the heels that I think it will stay put.
Laura asked whether I was going to try to match the stripes on the baby socks. I thought about it, but when I started pulling out yarn to get to the right starting point on the second, I realized that I might not have enough to complete it if I did this. So the socks are fraternal, rather than identical.
I was pleased with myself for at least lining up the yellow stripes. I have persuaded myself that this gives a certain "unity in diversity" effect.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Kitty Litter

Play Sand
Split Peas
Dry Corn
Insulation Foam
Fabric Scraps
Dried Pine Needles
Copper Pipe Insulation Foam

Thanks to all for the draft stopper stuffing suggestions. The additional possibilities above came up when I Googled "how to make a draft stopper."

I'm beginning to lean toward the "combination of fluff and weight" concept (a la Molly Bees and Elizabeth). Needs to be heavy enough to stay in place, but not so heavy as to totally stretch the sock tops out of shape, and nothing that would be liable to leak out. Roll some rice/beans/corn in quilt batting ? But would that be heavy enough? Would it be flexible enough? Or should I sew a fabric tube and pour in the kitty litter, then pull the sock tops over it? But if I actually haul the sewing machine out of the attic, and clear off a space on the dining room table to set it up, and sew the darn thing, why bother with encasing it in old sock tops?

And why is it that this idea for thrifty recycling now seems to involve going out and buying more supplies?

Let's see: if I cut the worn out foot off a sock, and sew the cut end of the leg closed, it will probably make a handy dandy dust mitt. Given the amount of dusting I actually do in any given week, those two pairs should keep me nicely suppplied for the rest of my life.

Years ago, I saw a household hint (I want to pin it on Heloise, if you remember her, but that may be unfair) suggesting that one could make lovely plastic place mats out of old shower curtains. Somehow, I found the concept less than appetizing. I bring this up to remind myself that some thrifty ideas, while doable, maybe really aren't so hot.

I still need a couple of draft stoppers. I haven't completely written off utilizing the socks. But I'm mulling it over.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

As the days get shorter and darker

I find myself craving bright colors, so I dug out the brightest leftovers I could find and started in on these.

Looks rather huge in close up, but that's a little baby sock. Almost instant gratification color fix.


I hadn't been to the FreeRice.com website in a while to play the vocabulary game (might have had something to do with a slight fixation on political websites over the last few months), but I popped by a week or so ago. Oh frabjous day! The have added new categories. And the one I just love is "Famous Paintings". They show you a picture, you pick one of four artists. I'm pretty darn good at the Western artists (if only by knowing enough to do some decent process of elimination). Hopeless at the Middle Eastern and Asian. But I love seeing all the paintings.

Now the Chemistry and Math areas, I'm not even going to go there; but I may take a whack at English grammar.

Question: has anyone ever made a draft stopper, and if so, what did you use to fill it? I have drafts under some doors. I have socks that have perfectly good legs, but feet that have been mended more than once. I have a little recycling idea.....

Monday, November 17, 2008

More prizes and a comment response

The mail has been good to me lately. I won some more prizes in the KFO fundraiser raffle. The beautiful skein on the left is 200 hundred meters of Wollmeise worsted weight merino - very soft in lovely denim shades - donated by Julia (juulia on Ravelry). The little white box contains a pair of handcrafted earrings from her Etsy shop, juliaa.etsy.com. I feel almost ungrateful for not showing them, but they are going to be a gift for someone who stops by here occasionally. So do click on that link to see how pretty her work is.

The book on the right is from Margaret Nock, (MargKnittinAround on Rav). Her book, Knit 1 for The Road, is a nice throw-it-in-your-knitting-bag size collection of small projects that are within reach of beginners, but would make great commuting/conversational/waiting room projects for experienced knitters.
They all use worsted weight, and several are one-skein projects. I have one skein of the Wollmeise. Hmmmmm.

My most recent knitting will be a prize going out, rather than coming in. I was asked to contribute something for a local fundraising raffle, so I used some stash yarn for a quick scarf.

I don't care if it is out of style, I still like that paper-tag stuff. We'll see if any of the ticket buyers feel the same way.
Now re the questions on the klub recipe: When I called Lavonne to ask about the process, her first response was "Oh, do you have some blood you need to use?" I was so busy assuring her, no, I just was curious about the process, that it didn't occur to ask where she got hers. I'm rather assuming that when her daughter (a farmer) has a cow butchered they save the blood. I'm also assuming that I could place an order with Hoesley's, the butcher shop in New Glarus. I could do further research, but it's all starting to feel slightly vampirish and I think I will let it go.

Friday, November 14, 2008

So about that Klub

(which around here, at least, is pronounced somewhere between "club" and "kloob"): I first went online and all I came up with were recipes for potato dumplings. So I went straight to the source and called my neighbor Lavonne, who has been making it for her family and for the Yellowstone Lutheran dinner for years.

She prefaced it by saying "I use spices, and some people don't. Some people use bacon in it or suet, but here's what I do."

Mix a pint of blood with a cup of water. Add a tsp each of cloves, allspice and nutmeg and a Tbs of sugar and salt. Scald a cup of milk and melt your butter in it. Then mix in potato buds, graham flour and white flour (I lost track of amounts at this point). Knead until it is real stiff, you may have to add more flour. Cut off pieces and drop in water and boil for a long time.

To serve it, you cut off pieces into a fry pan, and add butter and milk. It makes it's own gravy.

She added, "Some people don't like it, because of the blood, but my family can't get enough of it."

I'm going to try to go over and apprentice the next time she makes it, not because I think I will ever will get into it big time, but because I feel adventurous enough to try it. (And I have to remember to ask Mom if she is familiar with it. I don't remember it from growing up, so I expect Grandma didn't make it, but maybe there were some great aunts who did.)

Lavonne mentioned that "some people call it blood sausage." Though the blood sausage I remember was German style that my Dad would bring home on occasion. That was more like a patty style pork sausage, with blood mixed in. You fry it up the same way, and as I recall it was pretty good.

For anyone still with me at this point, who hasn't gone all totally "Eewww-Gross!", remember that these were foods of peasants/farmers who weren't about to let anything go to waste when they butchered. No one knew how long and hard the winter was going to be.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I may just have to start hooking

I won a neat prize from Amie at Nexstitch.com - my choice of any two of her pdf crochet patterns. The bikini's were out (at least 30 years too late for me to have the bod to wear them). The shawls were tempting, as were the purses. But I have never done anything more complex with a crochet hook than a single crochet edge to a piece of knitting. So I decided I had better stick to things that looked fairly easy, with no shaping involved, and picked the Melted Crayons Scarf and the Galaxy Scarf

When I downloaded the pattern, I was so impressed with how they are written and laid out! The have the standard written directions

But what really blew me away was the row by row photo tutorial.

This is the next best thing to sitting next to the designer and having her talk you through the project. Hoo-Whee, I think I can do this! Plus there are free instructional videos at the Nexstitch site, (in case I really get stuck).

I'm impressed. Thanks Amie! Having seen these, my only regret is that I didn't choose a more complex pattern for one of my two. But I know where to find them now.


Also thanks to everyone who came up with rutabaga suggestions. I may try more than one, preferably involving significant amounts of butter, or cream, or both. Will report on results.

Oh, and Kmkat asked what "klub" is. To the best of my knowledge it is a sort of blood sausage or blood pudding - probably like lutefisk the kind of thing you have to grow up with to truly crave. Confession here, I have never tried it (the meatballs being much more appealing).

Friday, November 07, 2008

Rutabaga Anyone?

On Monday, I stopped in at the Blanchardville Mini-Mall (sounds like a gas station convenience store, but it's really the closest thing we have to a general store) and ran into Ronna, who I hadn't seen in a couple of months. The first thing she said, after "Hi, how ya doin'" was "Do you want some rutabagas?"

My response was, "Um, well, ya, I guess so, a couple maybe."

As we walked to her car, I got the story. Ronna is one of the prime movers behind the annual Yellowstone Lutheran Norwegian Dinner (sorry, no Lutefisk, but they do serve Klub). Last year, Ronna faced a rutabaga shortage, and ran all over Madison from store to store gathering the few available at each stop. And they still ran out before all the dinners were served. That was a problem, because even folks who never eat a rutabaga the other 364 days of the year, do expect them at the Norwegian Dinner. It wasn't a crisis of the same magnitude as running out of lefse would be, but still....

So this year, three different people planted rutabagas in their gardens. Lots of rutabagas. Lots and lots.

So Ronna's trunk was half full of them. And out of kindly feeling for a really good gal, I took a few.

Now my question is, what the heck do I do with them? I mean besides just boiling them up? If anyone has a really tasty rutabaga recipe that isn't too hard, please respond ASAP.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It was a long day

I arrived at the the village polling place (which also happens to be the library-familiar territory) at 6:30 yesterday morning, ready to roll as a new poll worker (or "election inspector" as we are officially known in Wisconsin). At 7:00 the polls opened and there was already a short line of people waiting.

Barb, the other "newbie", and I started out at the registration table. During the course of the day we rotated to other positions - staffing the voting machine/ballot box, processing absentee ballots, checking voter rolls. But most of the time I was doing registration.

The morning saw steady traffic. There was a lull from about 1:00-2:30 then things picked up steadily. From 5:00 - 7:00 things piled up a bit, and some people waited up to 1/2 hour, then traffic dropped way off with the last voter appearing about 7:45. At 8:00 the polls closed and by 9:00 the votes were counted. I left about 9:15.

During the day we had one observer from the county Democratic Party. She didn't stay long, I think just verified that things were going smoothly and that proper procedures were being followed. We also had an auditor from the state, checking to see that we met accessibility requirements. On the whole, we did. She made a couple of recommendations (but what auditor can leave a site without suggesting something - that's her job).

We did a lot of registrations. Most of these were really not new voters: they were folks who had moved or who hadn't voted since the last presidential election and were either unaware of or hadn't bothered with the "new" requirement. (Up until two years ago all you had to do in this area was show up at the polls and sign in with your address). There were new voters, too, young people mostly, which made me happy. The one that made me happiest, though, was a lovely women, probably in her thirties, who had just become a citizen within the last month. She was so thrilled to be casting her first vote, dressed up as if she were going to church or an important job interview, brought every sort of documentation imaginable because you knew she wasn't going to take any possible chance that she wouldn't have the right thing with her.

Election law in Wisconsin is basically pro-voter, tending to give every possible opportunity for a qualified person to cast a vote. Still, we had to turn three people away from the registration table because they were unable to document current residence. It made me feel bad, but when you wait until the last possible moment, and haven't informed yourself of the really quite minimal requirements, there isn't much (anything) that the election inspectors can do.

This is a very white, in many ways very traditional, small rural community: mostly Norwegian and Swiss with a scattering of Irish and German, tending middle aged to elderly. But among the voters were two naturalized citizens: one originally from Peru and the other from Korea. There was a bi-racial lesbian couple. There were young couples who brought their babies and preschoolers. There were guys with their arms covered with tattoos. There were college students who came home to stand in line with their folks, and seniors who came in on their way to the lunch program held in the Legion Hall just across the parking lot. This is what democracy looks like. This is what America looks like. It made me so damn proud.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

So Long Studs

He was a national treasure, because he helped us see that "The United States" isn't an abstration, it is the sum of all it's people, each one worth listening to.

Good obits at The Chicago Tribune and the New York Times.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Baxter says "Thank You"

for all the good wishes. He is feeling much better, hardly limping at all, and has been taking extra pets and treats as his due.

I forgot to mention that the sock pattern is from my I Can't Believe I'm Knitting Socks book. The main yarn is some Opal, and the lace trim is leftover Lorna's Laces "Shepherd Sock".

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Well finally, it's about time

that I finished off the Crest o' the Wave Socks. And I did yesterday at Last Saturday Knitting. Now they are washed and drying.

After knitting the second toe, I realized that I hadn't brought a tapestry needle along - so much for grafting - so I just closed the tips with a three needle bind off.

It leaves a little ridge on the outside, but I thought "what the heck". Did have to leave the loose yarn ends unwoven until I got home.


We had a bit of a scare with Mr. Baxter this week. On Thursday evening, he did not show up for his dinner - highly unusual, usually he's down the stairs at the first sound of the cat food can popping open. So I thought he must have slipped out the door at some time. I went and called, but no sign of him. It was rainy and cold, not the sort of weather he is likely to roam in. I searched the house. I went outside and called again, and again, took a flashlight and searched around the yard and up and down the block.
Mr S and I finally went to bed with very heavy hearts. Owls, coyotes, cars, dogs, traps, a cold rainy night....

The next morning after Mr S left for work, I searched the house again, then went outside and called and looked and looked. By this time we were convinced that he had gotten outside and was in a very bad way unable to get home. I went up and sat at the computer to email Mr S that things did not look good. I turned around in my chair. And there was Baxter sleeping on the futon behind me. It was almost unnerving. He was most definitely not there when I sat down. It was as if he had just appeared out of thin air.

He was very lethargic, and it looked like he had a cut on his front leg. After a trip to the vet it seems that it was a bite, and he has been fighting an infection. He's on antibiotics now and improving nicely. I still can't for the life of me figure out where he was hiding all that night. But that's OK. We're just glad to have him back.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thanks to all who left comments questions about the crumpets

I found the rings in a little kitchen supply store in Madison whose name I can't remember. I only stumbled on/into it because it is next door to the Penzey's spices on University Ave. They items were actually marked as "flan rings" (?), but I recognized their potential immediately. They cost just under $5 each, so I only bought two. As it turns out, two are sufficient, because I can have two crumpets going on the first side (in the rings), and two on the second side (without rings), and that's as much as the griddle can fit and I can handle at once.

They really were good (especially with blueberry preserves). I added just a little Penzey's "Baking Spice" to the batter, which was a nice addition. Mr S loved them, and even took some to work, and bragged them up. Now they are all gone - time to make more soon.

Tracy asked about English muffins. I've never made those (yet), but according to The Joy of Cooking the procedure is very similar. It just uses a different batter.
The Last Hurrah

Most everything has gone to seed or been frost nipped. But up near the front door the Impatience are still going strong, and a lone poppy is waving over the mums, while a couple of orange nasturtiums are nearly buried under them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


It's a rainy day today, and for once I don't have a list of other things to do, so I decided that it was time to try out the crumpet rings.

I mixed up the batter from an Internet recipe. This was pretty easy and quick, even though it did involve yeast. (No kneading, just dissolve the yeast til it bubbles, then mix in the other ingredients.)

The resulting thickish batter is then supposed to sit for 1/2 hour. I probably rushed it by about 10 minutes. In the meantime, the griddle and crumpet rings were preheating on the stove.

Next the batter gets spooned into the rings.

It is supposed to cook until bubbles form on the top and the batter is "set". Then flip them over, removing the rings, and let them brown just a little.

OK, but whoops. On my first try, by the time the batter looked set, the bottoms has burned.

Also, the insides of the first two seemed slightly underdone. So I turned down the heat a little, and poured a little less batter into the rings.

Much better.

It's all pretty much like making pancakes, but slower. Quite a bit slower, actually. But not a bad project for a rainy day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Studying Up

A couple of months ago, I mentioned to our village clerk that I would be willing to serve as a poll worker. She took me up on it, and scheduled me to attend some training sessions. So I spent Friday morning in Darlington at a class for election inspectors put on by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. I went with another woman, Barb, who is another first timer. We both felt a little bit over our heads, not least because by a fluke of scheduling, we won't get the basic poll worker session for another two weeks. But we did come home with hefty manuals. Looks like I have some studying ahead of me.

Barb and I are of opposing parties (a deliberate balancing on the part of the powers that be), but we both pretty much avoided any political discussion and had a nice ride over and back. And we did share a common goal of wanting to help the democratic process and to see that the election goes smoothly and according to proper procedures. Now to go start comprehending and remembering those procedures.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I drove up to Madison yesterday

to have lunch with my Mom and take her to an eye doctor appointment (just her yearly check up). On the way in, I stopped at the Sow's Ear to drop off a charity project hat, and what did I see but Elizabeth's Shorewood Cardigan, displayed on a dress form up front. (You can see a picture here if you scroll down to Nov. 13). It was just gorgeous in person, wonderful use of color, and the pattern is available in the current Knitcircus magazine. That's another of Elizabeth's terrific Fair Isle designs on the cover.

Note to Marie in CA: Knitcircus is a fairly new publication, probably not showing up on the shelves of big bookstores. Ask your LYS if they are carrying it yet....(yeah, that's a plug).

On the way back from the eye doctor, we happened to be passing the Penzy's Spices store, so I had to stop in. I hadn't been in ages. Love walking around sniffing the different offerings, and I had been wanting to try one of their salad dressing blends - I chose Green Goddess, plus picked up some curry power and Baking Spice. Next door was a little kitchen supply store I hadn't been aware of before (maybe they are new?) and found these:

They are crumpet rings! I may have mentioned once or twice before that I am not much of a cook. But Mr S and I do love crumpets. So I'm going to give it a try.

In the evening, I took magnusmog's suggestion and knit on the purplish seed stitch scarf while watching/listening to the presidential debates, and knocked off at least 7 inches.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Blogger's Block

I seem to have it lately. It's not that I don't have anything to say. It's just that everything I want to say these days is political. I've done very little knitting, a little campaign work, and a lot (too much, I'm sure) of obsessively following news online.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Things to Come

We had our first frost on the ground this morning. Just a light dusting, gone by 7:30, but still portentous.

It's been a busy week: dentist appointment Tuesday morning, political pot luck Tuesday evening, which meant cooking in the afternoon. I made Mac and Cheese because 1) it's one of the rare dishes I can make reliably well, 2) it's good "comfort food" for a fall evening and 3) I knew at least one vegetarian would be attending.

Yesterday I subbed again for the High School secretary, so that was a full day gone.

Today, at least this evening after my shift at the library, I may actually get to some knitting. Those sock feet really need to be finished up. And there is a scarf I started over the weekend.
Big needles, seed stitch, nothing fancy at all. But the yarns are pretty. There is a little mohair halo, and though you can't tell from the picture, some metallic silver sparkle.
I'm all excited because the new Knitcircus magazine is out, including in it's contents my little handwarmers. And if you click on that linky, you can see their picture. Wheee!

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Alice Paul 1885-1977
Well, today was Last Saturday Knitting, and that always is inspiring. But what really jazzed me this evening was watching "Iron Jawed Angels", a wonderful HBO video about the women at the beginning of the twentieth century who fought, with incredible organization, determination and courage for the right to vote. I remember seeing ads about this film when it first came out, but we didn't get HBO, so I missed it at the time. Many thanks to CatBookMom for reminding me of it's existence.

ETA: Alice Paul was the preeminent organizer and leader of this movement. There is a good summary biography of her involvement here on, of all places, a US State Dept website.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I still can't quite believe it

This appeared in the mail today.

It's the OOP book my heart has been craving for, oh, ever so long - in perfect, like new condition. It was shoeburyness' amazing prize contribution to the last Ravelry Knitters for Obama raffle. And I won it! I never win anything, but I won it!

If you are by any chance a Ravelry member and politically like minded, a second raffle has started, with some equally incredible prizes (new Louet spinning wheel, personally inscribed/signed copy of Franklin's new book, yarn in personal custom colorway from Black Bunny, many others). The raffle will be running through Oct 31, and full details are here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Visible Progress

As it turned out, the school secretary's plans changed at the last minute, and my subbing gig at the High School got cancelled. But that's OK, because it left me with a suddenly free afternoon yesterday. So I finished the heel flaps and turns on the Crest O' The Wave Socks.

Now I've started the gusset decreases on the first one. Got to admit, I love the parts where the rounds get shorter as you go.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Rather a whirlwind weekend here.

Sat 9:00-12:00 - work at the library
12:10 - run across the street to set up and staff an information table for candidates I'm supporting in the upcoming elections. Saturday was Homecoming - the biggest local event of the year. I was located one block behind the parade route, but strategically between the parade and the football field, so there was a fair amount of traffic moving from one to the other. Not a lot of people actually stopped, but several picked up yard signs. A got quite a few smiles and thumbs up, and only one rude comment - and that from a source that didn't surprise me in the least.
4:30 - went to a party (!). Some friends outside of town had open house/potluck. It's a lovely spot on an open ridge with a beautiful view over the valley. Excellent food. Musical guests bring their instruments so we had some "old time", some Celtic and even a bagpiper. I always run into folks I enjoy, but who I haven't seen in months.

Sun am - sleep in. How can two glasses of red wine make me feel as if I had been on a bender?
2:30 - a large "visitation". One of Mr S's co-worker's father-in-law passed away this week. He had lived here many years, been active in the community in many ways, so the turnout was large, and the line moved rather slowly. People visited and I was reminded again how important visitations and funerals are in a small town for weaving a community together.

Today I will head up to the High School to cover for the secretary from noon - 3:30 (my first subbing gig of the year), then to the library at 4:30 for my regular shift.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Aargh, Matey

I think I saw somewhere that it's Talk Like a Pirate Day. I could be wrong.

Things have been pretty busy chez Baxter so I don't have much in the way of knitting progress. Another inch on a sock, another inch on Hudson River, not enough of either to make it worth posting new pictures.

What is up with Wal-Mart? I was in Dodgeville and stopped in at the relatively new "super" Wal-Mart. I thought that if I could find red, white and blue balloons anywhere it would be there, but nooooo. Also, the store is enormous, but the available yarn selection was about 6 feet of sparsely filled shelving. They are clearly just trying to sell off what little bit they have left. Since their entirely insufficient selection of both yarns and balloons were fortunately located within 20 yards of the entrance, I was able to escape without penetrating any deeper into whatever it is they do have taking up all that space. Man, I miss Ben Franklins.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An Absolutely Nonpartisan Heads Up to Wisconsin Voters

While I believe passionately in the candidates I am supporting, this will not be a partisan post; because I believe equally passionately in the right and responsibility of all qualified citizens to vote.

I really believe in the ideal that Abraham Lincoln lifted up in the Gettysburg Address: "...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

"Of the people, by the people, for the people" only becomes real when the people exercise their right to vote. If you believe in democracy, if you cherish democracy: vote!

If you are not registered, do it now. It is true that in Wisconsin you can register on election day at your polling place. But this is going to be a hotly contested election, with long lines in many precincts. If there are large numbers of same day registrations this will slow the process down for you and for everyone. And by registering now, you can ensure that you know exactly where to go to cast your vote on election day.

If you, for some reason, simply cannot register in advance, go to vote anyway. Be sure to bring valid identification and proof of residence.

If you think you are registered to vote, even if you feel positive that you are registered, please verify this now. Our State Attorney General has recently file suit to challenge a large number of registrations currently on the official precinct rolls (see this article from the Sept. 13 "Capitol Times").
It is very easy to verify your registration status at this State of Wisconsin website. I just did it myself, and it was quick and simple, took much less time than reading through this blog post.

OK, lecture over, except for one thing, bug the people you know to think about the issues, think about the importance of the democratic process, then do more than think, get out and vote.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Misery Loves Company

Well "misery" is probably too strong a term. But, seriously, thanks to everyone who weighed in on the WIP/UFO situation. Special shout out to Firefly Nights who found herself in a similar spot on exactly the same project. Sistah!

I am happy to report that I have ripped back, re-printed my chart (because the first copy had mysteriously gone missing). and for now things are going forward smoothly.

In the meantime,

I've started in on the second Crest O' The Wave sock. I like to alternate back and forth between both halves of a pair, because then I finish both at approximately the same time. It doesn't make the whole process go any faster, but I avoid the "Now I have to go back and start all over" sensation. I do the same thing with mittens.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Where does the slow slide begin

from WIP to UFO? How long does a project need to sit "in progress" but unworked before it tilts fatally into the "unfinished" column? Why do I set something down with the full intention of returning to it soon, very soon, as soon as possible, only to find that weeks later it has sullenly withdrawn to a corner, untouched, glaring at me reproachfully but with little hope?

These are large metaphysical questions my friends. I do not have the answers to them, only hints.

In the case of the second version of the Hudson River Triangle several factors have played their part: the error that now means I must rip back several long rows, the hubris that led me to blithely proceed without a lifeline, the fact that another project with a tight deadline intervened, the impatience to start something new.

Whatever the multifarious factors involved, this

has not progressed one iota in the last two weeks.

Tomorrow I will grit my teeth and start picking back.

dual purpose

I would like to have a new pair of socks.

I would also like to have a picture of the Crest 'O The Wave pair from I Can't Believe I'm Knitting Socks to post on Ravelry. (I didn't have the forsight to take good shots before the original sample went to the publisher).
It's kind of soothing to be just following a pattern rather than writing/knitting/writing/knitting/ripping/writing/knitting.

Friday, September 12, 2008

There have been a lot of "narratives" going on this political season. Telling a story can be a an extremely effective way to make a point. Why else would we have fables, parables, and cautionary tales (stay away from the big bad wolf)?

People just usually find stories more interesting and compelling than, say, analysis of issues or statements of policy.

Part of the power of a story is that it can communicate far more than the details of the surface narrative. If well told, it conveys a whole range of underlying assumptions that are passed on to the listener without ever being specifically named. And in fact, these unspoken assumptions can be the most potent elements in the story's effectiveness.

One story this season ascribes a unique, almost heroic virtue to a woman's decision to raise a child with Down Syndrome. Aside from the fact that this decision is very far from unique (many families have done the same), I have some problems with the unspoken assumptions being communicated in the way that this particular story is being told.

The first assumption is that having a child with Down Syndrome is "a bad thing". (If it weren't a bad thing, there would be no special virtue in "choosing" to raise that child.) I find this assumption disturbing. I don't see children with Down Syndrome as "bad things." Once upon a time they were, indeed, treated as special difficulties, even somehow shameful to the family. But I had thought, perhaps naively, that we were long past that point.

A second assumption in the way this particular narrative has been told is that only a women who opposes legalized abortion would make such a choice. The implication (and I sincerely believe that this is the actual intention behind the telling of the story), the implication is that upon discovering that she was carrying a Down Syndrome child, any woman who does not fight to overturn Roe v Wade would immediately run to have an abortion. I find this deeply, personally offensive. This woman (or more likely her political handlers) is implying that if I knew I was carrying a child with a disability, I would terminate that pregnancy. How dare she? How dare she say such a thing about me?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thought for the day

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams "
-Eleanor Roosevelt

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all, ...."
-Emily Dickinson

Monday, September 08, 2008

That Darn Egg

Marie asked how the darning egg works. Wish I could say it does the darning for me *G*, but it is at least a helpful tool. Basically, it helps stabilize the fabric while the darning is in process.

The egg goes inside the sock. I'm gripping the handle with my left hand, which is at the same time pulling the fabric fairly taught.
If you look closely at the left edge of the hole, you will see that this sock has already been darned once. Normally I would say that the second hole is the signal to just let the sock go and knit a new one. But (for a wonder) this is the only one that currently has a hole available for demonstration.

The first thing I do is work a rectangle of running stitches around the hole to make a frame, or foundation for the darn. It's important to go out far enough to be working on sock threads that are still strong and unworn. Besides helping to hold the sock in place, the darning egg gives a surface to push the needle against. Oh, and the needle should be a blunt one, not sharp.
I would normally use yarn close in color to the sock, the white is for demonstration purposes.

Working up and down over two parallel edges of the running stitch "frame", I lay the "warp" threads. These should be as nearly parallel to each other as possible and fairly close. (That left side is actually looking not so good.) At the top and bottom, each warp thread should go around the thread forming the running stitch. These shouldn't be pulled super tight, because the weaving in the next step will take up some slack, but they shouldn't be loose and sloppy either. That perpendicular thread is just the tail from my first stitch. Pay no attention to it. I will weave it in later.

Finally, I use the needle to weave a weft through the warp threads (pretty much like using one of those metal potholder weaving frames from childhood). One row goes over, under, over under, over. The next goes under, over, under, over, under. At each side, the weaving thread goes around the running stitches before turning around and working in the other direction.

All done. Not the world's neatest job, but you get the picture.