Fingerless glove

looking for what's missing... I'm a knitting, spinning, mother of teenagers with a big dog, a small cat, minus the lovely rabbit Meliflua.

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Location: Virginia, United States

Right now I'm listening to "Peace Is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hanh, reading "How to Change Your Mind" by Michael Pollan, knitting mittens, and thinking about casting on a hat.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Reading Tom Sawyer

I just came in from stacking firewood and was scratching mosquito bites & feeling sorry for myself, when I discovered you can check the mosquito forecast! Isn't that convenient? Yahoo's weather page offers it. Just plug in a zip code and it gives you a very serious and professional looking graph as if that's of any use whatsoever. I popped in my zip code and found out -- as sorry as I was feeling for myself -- we only have moderate mosquito levels. Rank amateurs on the mosquito front. The bunny hill. Training wheels. The shallow end. Worse yet, the baby pool.

Still, I enjoyed stacking the firewood. Once the smoke-belching, racket-raising chainsaws & splitters are quiet, I enjoy making a neat orderly stack out of the chaos. I'm good at it. Actually, I'm the best in the house. It takes a developed sense of spatial relationships to make the stack come out nicely balanced so next winter when you pull out a chunk, it doesn't all land on your foot. It takes careful attention to the wood species & sizes, blending big & little, the hot burning maple with the slower burning oak so your fire doesn't get too hot, or too cold, but just right. It takes a keen eye to watch for snakes (to avoid) & toads (not to squash), all the while quietly singing Rolling Stones songs to myself. It is a Zen-like art.

Then there's the anticipation of those cheerful fires when the weather turns nasty, a cozy glow to toast your tootsies. All in all, stacking firewood is satisfying -- a delight even.

Do I sound convincing? Do you think the kids will buy it?

Monday, May 29, 2006

No pony

When I was about 12 years old, I entered an essay contest for Memorial Day entitled "What Freedom Means to Me." The prize was a pony. I am sure (since the prize was a pony) that I wrote the essay of my life. Ironically, a farm kid won.

Since there's no pony this time, the pressure is off.

We're not a military family, but we are patriotic -- in the "don't tread on me" way, rather than the "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country" way. Each of us that wound up in uniform did so by a different route and for different reasons. Mine were probably the weakest; I thought it seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm more of a dove than a hawk, but it turned out to be a fine choice.

In his sermon yesterday, Father Tom -- who seems to have a special insight into the lives of military servicemen ( I think because he served as a chaplain during the Vietnam War) -- made me proud of my military service, and fearful for those in the path of danger.

(When Cassie saw this photograph she said, "Heyyyyyy; you know you like my hat.")

While doing this post, I learned that in spite of having many pleasant memories, I have more photographs of friends in uniform than of me (and none of that dreadful shot from basic training) . After hunting for ages, this photo -- in fatigues and fatigued (I'd just come off my third midnight-to-noon shift of a 3 on, 3 off schedule) is one of the few I could come up with.

Bob, I really loved the ribbons on your 2005 photo, but it couldn't win over the smile in this photo.

So I wish us all a peaceful Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Red Hat and Dog

In the flurry of animals on this blog, some have noticed the sad lack of photos of my own handsome dog. Here he is in all his blond, Fabio-like splendor; the sweetest dog I know (What can I say? He loves me) calmly posing with my latest bit of knitting. The red cap is an Aran experiment for Caps for Kids. I was trying out a heart cable and was not entirely satisfied, but I do kind of like the curly-cues on the top. The photo doesn't show them well but if you check out the corkscrew fringe from Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge, you'll get the idea. Can you tell I am not a pompom fan?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Gail's Top Ten Ways to Kick the Blues'

It's WARW's "Top Ten Weekend." They're the local classic rock station and they're playing a variety of Top Tens. Right this minute it's Top Ten Aerosmith songs. With that in mind, and since I've been feeling a little lonesome for the flatlands, here -- in no particular order -- are my Top Ten ways to kick the blues'.

1 Drive down the road with all your windows down, your sunroof open and your radio LOUD, listening to the opening rifs of Heart's "barracuda" (#3 on WARW's Top Ten Women Who Rock. #1 was Bonnie Raitt)

2 Do a little laundry. As housework goes, it's not very taxing & still brings a sense of accomplishment. If you want to pull out the big guns, hang it outside to dry and take a good deep breath when you bring it in (hopefully not at 10:30 pm in your jammies, having forgotten it was out there until you hear the first sprinkles on the roof), or Swiffer some hard floors, but be careful. DO NOT dwell on how much easier your life would be if you didn't have: a dog capable of producing dust bunnies the size of a canned ham in the time it takes to watch American Idol, children who leave 3 1/2 pairs of shoes under the dining room table & a science experiment on top of it or a cat who thinks any small thing on a horizontal surface would look better on the floor.

3 Shine your shoes. This works especially well on shoes with smooth, closed toes (sandals, not so good). Now every time you glance down at your feet, they're grinning back at you.

4 Talk to someone interesting. Or funny. Or professional (which profession is your choice.) If you're lucky, all three.

5 Have some rhubarb -- muffins, crisp, or sauce will do but pie is the most powerful. For amateurs, throw in some strawberries. It tastes like Spring.

6 Read an essay or two from Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris, Something More by Sarah Ban Breathnach or Read a bit of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. (This also appears on my top ten list of things to do to fall asleep.)

7 Do some little thing about which you've been procrastinating. (Sew on that button, mail that check, change that furnace filter, learn to sail ...)

8 Knit something with really nice yarn in a color you adore, not just something you "should." Alpaca is my preference. If you don't knit (yet), paint or play a musical instrument or work a puzzle or can some jam. Every artist has his medium. (Loved the rainier cherry preserves with brandy & cinnamon.)

9 Brush your hair. Brush your dog. Brush your dog hair (off your suit).

10 Sit up straight. Do those back & abdominal exercises your physical therapist/chiropractor/osteopath/Jedi Master has been begging you to do.

11 Go bra-less. This obviously has more appeal for some than for others.

12 Go to the Paine Art Center in Oshkosh and see the "Electric Tiffany" exhibit (June 3 - October 8). This is probably my priciest suggestion, especially if you have to fly in from out of town.

13 Drink water.

14 Write in your blog, your journal or both.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I've got a (Post)Secret

PostSecret makes me feel human. What is it about anonymous confession that feels so ... so... liberating and scary and righteous and naughty all at the same time? Being based in Germantown, Maryland (beyond regular shopping distance but not too far to go looking for a used car) makes it seem even more personal -- practically in my town.

It's art on a 4 x 6 postcard; the rules are it must be true and it must be something you've never shared with anyone. When I'm bored I try to imagine artwork for my secrets. Then I get bogged down trying to imagine which of my secrets I could even imagine sharing. If I had a decent secret I would have sent it by now. Somehow "I feel strangely compelled to knit baby bootees" doesn't seem like a very interesting secret. (Besides there are people that have figured this out about me. )

So what I'm really wondering: if one of your postcards got posted on PostSecret (as new ones are every Sunday) would you tell all your friends or would you keep it a secret?

PS Actually I do have a wonderful secret (don't we all?) but if I told you I couldn't send it to PostSecret...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I love old photographs

Since I posted a photo of John with his brass airplanes, it's only fair that I post one from his younger years (1951). Do you think those cherries are a bit tart?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bada Bing Bada Boom or Shagadellic Mojo?

The Phantom Fireworks catalog was delivered last week. The names on fireworks are so comfortingly predictable: Circue de Pirotechnique; Guns of Navarone; Red, White & BOOM; Brew HaHa; Skyfest Panorama; Midnight Monsoon... It's almost a kind of poetry; the first time I saw a demolition derby I thought having my name painted in big bold letters on the roof support of a car about to be smashed would be the height of romance.

So I'm thinking about names. While I was in Wisconsin, I went to Jane's Knitting Hutch on Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton. It's a beautiful store: lots of natural light, lots of fabulous yarns, knitted samples of most yarns with an extra felted sample for things that felted, enthusiastic clerks, and the best book selection I've seen short of mail order. It took me an hour to pick out my traveling sock yarn -- Bearfoot in their Wilderness colorway. Time after time, and try as I might to branch out, I'm drawn in by Mountain Colors. (Some have traveling socks; I have traveling sock yarn. I've decided when I can't remember where or for what occasion I bought a skein, then it will be time to knit it.)

If any of my photos inside had turned out, I'd show you this lovely store. Here's an outside peek.

Charming, isn't it? Starting next month, it will be called Iris Fine Yarns ( but her website is still under construction.) I asked the new owner, "Why Iris?"

Mostly because it sounds right for this kind of shop.

It's a good thing I'm not in charge of naming. I thought "Sally Blondie" was elegant. (Sally Brunette just didn't have the same ring.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

More boots

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Time as a dimension

Did you ever contemplate time as a dimension? Bear with me here because I do have a point. We take our physical world for granted, but try to imagine another dimension based on what you know about the difference between, say, 2 dimensions and 3. (Thank you Buckaroo Bonzai. It's all your fault.) When I travel a distance (in this case 912 miles) it makes yesterday seem longer ago than if I'd just stayed home. Time feels so full of stuff that it practically bulges.

Yesterday morning I was waking up in Wisconsin. Since then I packed my stuff, pulled rhubarb, and went to a wonderful funeral for my Great Uncle Clarence. He was 101. When you live to be 101, your funeral can be a celebration of a long life well lived with grief but not so much sadness. It's not hard for me to imagine that Clarence is holding Bernice's hand again just like they did for three quarters of a century.

Then I almost had lunch at The Blind Pig in Berlin (that's BURR lin, Wisconsin not like brr LIN, Germany), had a drive in the country, flew to Detroit, flew to Washington DC, got home at midnight, listened to 2 tapes of Garrison Keillor reading Lake Wobegone Days, unpacked my stuff, went to work, went to the dentist (sans Novacaine. He thinks I'm tough but I can put up with a lot if I remember to breathe and don't have to add hours of numbness to the list of strange feelings from having two people with fingers and tools and whatnot in my mouth.) And threaded through all that was knitting this hat for Caps for Kids:

It's what makes yesterday seem like long ago. Then it was just a green band. Oliver likes the hair. I'm pleased with how it came out (although I'm the only one in the house besides the cat) because I just knit along until it looked like what I wanted. I hope some free-thinking kid gets it and thinks it's groovy.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


I am writing this from Wisconsin after flying in late last night (and boy, are my arms tired). (Didn't think I would stoop that low, did ya?) The flights were pretty vanilla if you discount the heady excitement of having the spacious exit row to myself both flights. Both were a little early, no sitting on the runway unexpectedly, no extra security checks, no tornadoes and pretty smooth except a few bumps over Wisconsin. Kudos to Northwest Airlines for actually serving NUTS! They're such daredevils.

I've come visiting to spend Mothers' Day with my Mother. I think the last time was 1980 so it's a good time. I hadn't told her I was coming, and since I got in past midnight, I crashed at my dear brother's house & walked into Mom's kitchen this morning saying, "I brought your tin back." (At Christmas she sent me a tin of homemade caramels. I'm jonesing for a refill). She said thanks before she did a double take, realized I didn't walk into her kitchen every day and we laughed. A good surprise can be very satisfying. She suspected something was being cooked up but was still plenty surprised.

I'd show you photos of the handsome Rose-Breasted Grosbeak that graced the feeder off and on all day today, but he was camera-shy.

Still, there was plenty of other fun to be had. This is my No Time Like the Present Tour. (You know how rock groups name their tours?) Well, there's no time like the present to visit someone you haven't seen in years.

When I was a little girl we used to get ice cream at John's combination ice cream parlor/car repair/all-around fix-it shop. After asking for a list of the flavors, I always went for a double dip of Maple Nut. As we twirled on the swivel seats at the counter, these airplanes had a place of honor behind it. John was a World War II anti-tank gunner in the Pacific, and during the war, made these out of various shell casings (he mentioned 50 cal and 20 mm, or was that the other way around?) and bits of airplane windshield. The planes swivel, the propellers turn and they are exactly how I remember them almost 40 years after I last saw them. Very cool. He also made a Rosary from Australian coins (their high silver content made them easier to work) with beads of clear red toothbrush handle and airplane windshield using only a hammer, tin snips, hand drill & some three-sided files.

There's no time like the present to check out the progress with the artist on the next mural at the Joint Volunteer Fire Department, City of Omro, Towns of Omro & Rushford,

which just goes to show, there is a niche for every volunteer talent. While we were there, I also saw this:

Twenty-six pairs of brand new Official Fireman Boots. Pretty exciting, eh? (I love this picture & have no idea why.)

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I had the most amazing day yesterday at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

We went to the best Burger King in Damascus, Maryland on the way. The booths were cute,

the tile was perky and best of all, they served breakfast (which Cassie wanted) and lunch (which I wanted) at the same time. We were really having it our way.

We got to the Festival in good time (it's about 2 hours away). The weather was perfect, the lambs were tasty (sorry, I just couldn't resist that. I'm a committed omnivore; what can I say?)

and the crowds were ... crowded.

Then who should I see in Carol's Hillcreek Farm booth but

Vicki (AKA the designer from Heartland Knits. You may have seen her mittens on the back of the Vogue book on felting, or her afghan square in the Great American Aran Afghan [Knitters issue 62].) Blogs will be full of photos from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, of chance and planned meetings, photos of the icons of knitting and spinning, and yet none will be half so amazing as this photo.

She isn't just a knitting designer whose patterns I've admired in books and magazines. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, went to a high school with a graduating class of 100, wandered around the world only to be transplanted in Virginia. Years later amidst a huge crowd, who do I see when I glance over my shoulder but a chum from that high school class of 100 -- Vicki. What are the odds? Seriously? I live one state over & she lives halfway across the country. We are talking 7 fairground-size barns full of booths, dozens more outside under EZ-ups, 4 more barns full of sheep, a show ring, an entertainment shell, sheep dog demos, auction tent... if you were trying to find someone in that crowd it would be iffy.

When Cass & I got home & downloaded this photo, Cassie said, "Mom, you're smiling too big." Who wouldn't? Sometimes God winks.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Hi, Marilyn!

I'm always tickled to hear when someone I didn't know was reading my blog is reading my blog. Now is as good a time as any to let me know by commenting. More news soon.


I'm feeling the effects of too much. Too much sound (5 bands). Too many people (19,000 in one place). Too many miles at too slow a speed. (It took over 2 hours to go 35 miles on the interstate. At least we were crawling slowly enough on the beltway that I got a good long look at my odometer rolling over 100,000). Too many size 2 pairs of jeans with too many skimpy tank tops. These kids all dress like there's a uniform. Boring. A little variety would be nice. Too many breaks (20 minutes of playing then 30 minutes for the next band to set up.)

I took Cassie & her charming girlfriend to a concert tonight -- Fallout Boy. October Fall, From First to Last, Hawthorne Heights & All-American Rejects opened for them. October Fall was mostly noise, From First to Last had the pourest vocabulary (almost exclusively cursing & not even imaginative at that. It really did pour over you), Hawthorne Heights was pretty good (with a complete and refreshing lack of bad language) and All-American Rejects was my favorite. Fallout Boy was too much of the same thing.

The interesting thing I learned was that in such a youthful group, age has a certain authority, almost cachet. We were sitting on the lawn at Merriweather Post Pavilion and when a herd of those size 2 hiphugger jeans would wander in front of me blocking my view and acting for all the world like they intended to plant themselves there like trees, I'd merely tap them, ask them to step aside & they parted like the red sea. Actually I was more like Dustin Hoffman's character Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy, "I'm watchin' here!"

Good night for now. The real excitement of the day was my class with Nancy Bush, Overture to Estonian Lace. It was fabulous but I'm saving that story for when I'm coherent, not at 1 AM.

PS Cassie said, "You're such a nerd" when she noticed I was working on a pale pink baby bootie during a rock concert. I felt complimented.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

When knitters rule the world

There are so many cool blogs out there that I'm finally starting to grasp a concept that has eluded me all my life: you can't read/buy/knit/sew/do every cool thing you come across. I have to draw the line and accept it. This is a tough thing for me because I Am A Saver. My sewing room exemplifies the phrase "10 pounds of sugar in a 5 pound sack." I have to step outside to change my mind. And we will not even discuss how much I have tucked away that smells wooly.

In spite of drawing the line, there are a few blogs I enjoy regularly. One of these days I'll figure out how to list them in a sidebar, but for now I'd like to introduce you to one for a good cause. Check out Claudia's blog (cleverly called and look how she's using biking and blogging and knitting to raise money for MS. I think she just posted this today and she's already 2/3 of the way to her goal. The internet community amazes me. Go Claudia! I have two friends, living on opposite ends of the country, with MS. It affects each of them in a different way but they have something in common. Living is a struggle every day. When knitters rule the world finding a cure for MS will be very high on our agenda.

Now I have to go track down my size 3 needles. Tomorrow I'm spending the day with (trumpet fanfare please) Nancy Bush! (I have 4 of her books. Can you tell I'm a fan?) She's teaching a class for the Knitting Artists of Northern Virginia about Estonian lace. I am so excited but I have to get some sleep tonight because tomorrow night, after all that knitting revelry I'm taking Cass to a Fallout Boy concert. She's dyed her hair turquoise for the occasion. Well, actually just streaks framing her face and it's more green than turquoise. A little color never hurt anyone and playing with her hair keeps her from piercing or tattooing anything. Look for me at the concert; I'll be the one with the little foamie ear plugs and sunglasses. As long as I can "turn things down" I'll have a great time.

PS And the other Nancy, that little tip about 1/2 teaspoon of cider vinegar for an upset stomach? Magic, pure magic.

Monday, May 01, 2006

I was just thinking ...

This morning I woke up after a frustrating dream in which my dream neighbors kept slipping in and stealing strange things that had no value to them, like x-rays.

Then I came across this question (from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock) "If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain the body or the mind of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?" Duh! A stagnant mind is tame and boring and mine at 30 wasn't nearly as interesting as it is now, but an unchanging body ... that's just the packaging so who cares? That's probably not the way the question was intended, but again, who cares? Cassie said "Body" too, her logic being, "You KNOW your body's going to get old & stuff, but your mind, maybe not." She's working the odds.

Then I read a wonderful essay entitled "Seeing is Believing" from Something More by Sarah Ban Breathnach and this quote struck me: "I wonder why love is so often equated with joy when it is everything else as well. Devastation, balm, obsession, granting & receiving excessive value, and losing it again. It is recognition, often of what you are not but might be. It sears and it heals. It is beyond pity and above law. It can seem like truth." -- Florida Scott-Maxwell

Then I listened to a tape from The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin and liked this: "It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end."

Then I saw a little boy, probably about 14 months old, walking (well, almost jogging) with so much concentration, so much purpose, so much determination that his Mother, holding his hand and so dear and central to his being, was just background to him.

Then I read Stephanie Pearl McPhee's May Day posting about the promise of spring, and May Day posies for your sweetheart and a bottomless well of grief for the loss of Janine on this first birthday without her. And I understood.

So I did a color quiz (do you know what color Tyrian is? I didn't but did pretty well with the rest: Cerulean, Verde, Fennel, Amarillo, Cafe' au Lait, Damask, Lapis, Puce, Blanc, Saffron, Cobalt, Noir, Aubergine, Citrine, Loam, Cerise, Sepia, Sol, Maize, Alizarin, Heliotrope, Vermillion, Indigo, & Roan.)

And that's what I've been thinking about today. How about you?