Saturday, October 31, 2009

Samhain Greetings

Happy Samhain, everyone.

Friday, October 23, 2009


What is it with the month of October? Normally, October is such a good month for me, but this year it feels like one thing after another has been going wrong or somehow getting derailed; other people appear to be suffering similar mishaps.
We're having company tomorrow to overnight, so for the past couple of weeks, things have been moved around, rearranged, taken upstairs, taken downstairs, shoved into storage space, or otherwise removed from the house in an effort to make things tidier. Last week, though, it rained almost all week and was about 40 degrees during the day. That meant there firewood needed to be hauled into the house, the stove needed to be cleaned and the ashes dumped in the garden, and then more cleaning because ash and bits of bark go everywhere. The wood got soaked even through the tarp, which made starting the stove a bit of a struggle.
Then we found out our elderly friend died, which has made us feel even less like doing house-related stuff, let alone have company in the first place. *sigh*
Then there was the Night of the Butter Peeps, which was pretty damned scary, especially since I was outside when the thing was making that terrible racket. 11:30 at night, raining, pitch black outside, and no visible source of unearthly wailing screams would probably be enough to make a few doughty souls flee, which was exactly what I did. I dragged the dog into the house, slammed the door and leaned against it, then fell on the couch and sniffled. I'm not given to hysteria, but I was frightened enough to cry. I still have no idea what the source of the noise was, but after all my research I have a pretty good idea what it wasn't--foxes, deer, owls, raccoons, black bears, rabbits, and possums don't produce such a sound, even under extreme duress. That leaves some twerp pulling a prank or some other animal heretofore unidentified. Mom, in an attempt to cheer me up, decreed that October 15 will henceforth be known as the Night of the Butter Peeps, and that we will celebrate by making a s'more cake with some sort of marshmallow peeps as the decoration.
There have been other annoyances not really worth detailing here, but I'm really ready for October to be over, because hopefully November will be better.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Spirit

Mom got a phonecall today. It concerned a death. For many years, mom was friends with a Hungarian woman who taught French at the university here; mom had been a student of hers, and even after Madame retired, they were close friends.
I remember being about eleven or so when my parents went to Europe for a vacation; since there were no relatives to babysit, I stayed with Frances and her parents, and also with Madame. She would walk me to school every morning and, as we walked, she would talk and I would listen; among the things she spoke of was the complete account of the achievements of Charlemagne, encapsulated to fit the fifteen minutes it took to walk from her apartment above the bakery to the elementary school. After school, she would help me with my math homework and mutter the calculations under her breath, always in Hungarian, while she checked things using a little slate and a piece of chalk.
Years later, we would talk about books and current events; she was scandalized because I revealed I had no idea who Charlie Rose was, and that I didn't watch his show. She would issue forceful pronouncements about the behavior of this president or that politician, daring me to debate with her. I would lend her books on mythology, and she'd suggest something more popular like The DaVinci Code.
About eight years ago, she suffered a stroke that left her partially paralized; she went to a convalescent home and, with the help of physical therapists, was able to regain some of the abilities she lost. Later, she moved elsewhere, and then moved again, this time to Switzerland. She came back for her birthday a few years ago. It was difficult for me to see how much she'd changed from the vibrant, outspoken, strong person she'd been all through my childhood. Her daughter, in the meantime, kept us updated through letters with reports of both progress and decline; other friends who went abroad to visit her at the nursing home in Switzerland also told us how she was doing.
Today we got a phonecall telling us she's dead. Mom took the call and, somewhere between the birth of her friend's first grandchild and a bouncing e-mail, there came the news.

Through her life, she was a dancer, a swordswoman, a nurse, a physical therapist, and a teacher. She was a traveller, a reader, an avid witness to the changes in the political climate. She wrote letters, read books, took long walks every day, and took the time to help an eleven-year-old learn long division. She loved coffee ice cream, tulips and white carnations, believed strongly in the benefits of charcoal tablets, and enjoyed watching sunsets from the window of her apartment above the bakery. She was gracious, generous, a wonderful storyteller and listener, and enjoyed friendships with people of all ages and walks of life.
I'll miss you, Madame.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I Covet You

I'm not normally covetous by nature, but occasionally my desire for soft, squishy yarn leads to my stash approaching SABLE. Due to my current enthusiasm for socks and sock yarn, I've recently acquired a few things that, while I do have plans for them, are so soft and squishy I almost can't bring myself to knit with them; these include the CraftsMeow yarns (okay, I am actually knitting with one of them...) and some Serendipitous Ewe which is earmarked for a pair of socks for dad. I'm not sure it'll be used for such purposes since I also recently found out that at least one pair of socks has been relegated to the back of dad's sock drawer, which I find infuriating. Still, it might end up as a pair of socks for someone, if I can determine who among my vast acquaintanceship might be worthy...
This being said, my I Covet You list now consists of the following:
1. Dream In Color's Smooshy in Butter Peeps (I'm completely obsessed with this colorway for reasons I'm at a loss to explain.)
2. Enchanted Knoll Farm's fingering weight in Dragon's Blood.
3. Pagewood Farm's Alyeska in Ireland.
4. Black Bunny Fiber's Blue-Faced Leicester in How Now (which does not, apparently, come with a brown cow.. go figure.)
5. The Alpaca Yarn Company's Heels and Toes in Purple Rain (No, I'm not now and have never claimed to be a fan of you-know-who. I just really like the interplay of purples in the yarn.)
6. Earthly Hues' Seedling in Foxfire.
7. Fly Designs's Cashmara Sock in Blood Red and Brick.
8. Lisa Souza's Sock! in Wild Things.
9. Three Irish Girls' McClellan in Rhiannon and Kieran.
10. Slackford Studio's Pathway Sock in Pesto.
11. Abundant Yarn's Larrisa Brown Sock in Jules Verne.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Of Imperial Apricots

I recently had a bit of a debacle with some yarn. At the Mountain Heritage Festival, I was lucky enough to run across a booth where the vendor had a basket of handspun yarn for sale for outrageously low prices. I grabbed a giant skein of white yarn and approached the woman; I was sure the price tag was wrong. That much handspun yarn couldn't possibly be a mere eight dollars! The vendor's husband looked at me over the tops of his glasses and said, "She's over spinning. She's into plying now." As if that's an excuse to practically throw away all the beautiful yarn! I still didn't quite believe the yarn was only $8, but I paid for it and left the fairground, my head filled with dreams of using the cochineal or osage orange sawdust I'd gotten at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Fest two years before.
The yarn sat in my knitting basket until I felt like pulling out my kitchen scale. It weighed in at 1 lb 4.4 oz, which really is a whole hell of a lot of yarn... I found a step-by-step article on Knitty and followed the directions for mordanting and dyeing the yarn with cochineal. And then things fell apart: the dye ran and ran. And ran some more. A few people have suggested that the lingering bits of cochineal beetles which are still--ick--lodged in the wool are the cause, and I swear I'm about to attack the stuff with the vaccuum to see if I can get the last buggy bits out that way. I've shaken the yarn outside, I've whacked it against the exterior of the house, shaken it some more, and finally just hung it over the back of a chair. The net result of that particular little venture ended up being more a rose color than the red I was aiming for, and I was a little disappointed.
The little cloud went away today, though, after I broke out the KoolAid and Wilton dyes. A few days ago, I got a ball of white Patons Classic Wool and decided to try for a rich, intense purple. Supposedly, since KoolAid is already pretty acidic, you don't really need to add vinegar to the pot; I did anyway. Vinegar and salt. I didn't want to take any chances with the dye running when I rinsed it. After several dunks in a mix of hot water and hair conditioner (tee-hee), the water stayed clean, so I guess it worked. I hung the yarn up outside to drip dry, then remembered I had a bag of handspun alpaca upstairs in the Tub o' Yarn. What to do, what to do, I thought, and then a little lightbulb lit up.
I've always been pretty indifferent to yellow, but after the September Sockdown, I decided I sort of like it. Not screaming, neon, blinding yellow, but muted, soft, sunny yellow and mustardy Grey Poupon yellow and (I blush to confess) that color known as Butter Peeps. By itself, the lemonade flavored KoolAid is pretty blah; I added a generous blob of Lemon Yellow Wilton dye and got a bright, sunny yellow. A good dunk in another bath of hair conditioner and hot water, and the water was clean. Well! How about that!
The picture is fairly accurate, but the colors are a little more saturated than it makes them seem. It's almost enough to make me want to order some naked sock yarn from KnitPicks or something and take a stab at dyeing some for myself... maybe I'll even put Jacquard dyes on my Christmas list! Or maybe I'll just let it lie and not pick up yet another hobby unless absolutely necessary.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, the yarns Apricus and Imperatrix. Rachael, I blame you for their names. :-P

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

All Hail the Great Pumpkin!

This is what I get for following links. The Forum Funnies had a thread about pumpkins and pumpkin-related stuff, and in one of the posts there was a link to what amounts to a fondue served in a pumpkin instead of a fondue thingie. Now, if all my far-flung friends all happened to converge on the house at the right time of year, I would have a complete meal consisting of nothing but pumpkin things.

Appetizer: The pumpkin fondue thingie with appropriate bits of things to dip.
Soup: Pumpkin soup with cream, sherry, and sausage. Annadamma bread, while not made with pumpkin, tastes vaguely pumpkin-y, so that or some sort of brioche.
Main course: Pumpkin lasagne with Italian sausage and mushrooms. And salad.. I'm not sure there would be pumpkin there, but you need salad... right?
Dessert: Pumpkin cheesecake with a molasses-spice cookie crust. And coffee. Have to have coffee.

The whole pumpkin thing is really making me want to make these, which means I would need to either roast my own pumpkin seeds or find a good source for fresh pumpkin seeds.