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, and, 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 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, 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 - 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.